30 October 2013

firestorm of interest

I shared the above image on Twitter the other day. L-R: Marie Crystal, Dana Sterling, Nova Satori. Commissioned from Neil Vokes in 2005 for my own art collection and to be contributed to Emissaries Vol. 2 as either a cover or filler image for my friend, editor Jonathan Switzer's use. The piece had no given name, so I considered its details for inspiration... The three principles are emerging from a fiery maelstrom or explosion of some type. Notice Marie and Nova's hair? Nova's skirt, the bits of rubble and ash and streaks of atmosphere? The inferno is acting as a vacuum, pulling everything towards its epicenter. The definition of a firestorm. The guns our heroes are toting are unlike anything seen in the TV series. Created by tech-whiz Louie perhaps? I like to imagine this illustration as a scene from the suggested-at guerrilla war staged against the invading Invid in the months following the end of The Masters saga. ('Out of the frying pan, into the fire.') The diva citizens of the Robotech saga kicking ass -- no matter the odds.

Ever since I was a kid, the Second Robotech War and its characters were my favorites. Although arguably the weakest parts of the original television series, they promised so much in worldbuilding and characterization potential. Extrapolating from its source material, I agree with the following observation from Protoculture Addicts #50:
It is ... easy to deduce from the fact that the series recounts the war from the perspective of three young women, that [Southern Cross] was probably created with a teenage female audience in mind. This gives the original show a very special flavor that was somewhat lost in the Robotech adaptation. This is just too bad, because this feminine touch was what made the series interesting to us. (1998, p. 40)

Especially Dana -- "the daughter of Miriya and Max Sterling," a so-called disgrace to her uniform and her heroic parents' memory. Specifically this image -- from the cover of Robotech Art 1 (thanks, Dad) -- captured my imagination back in the day...

Conflicted. About her identity, her purpose, her position. A lively young woman in a devastated world. She's an outcast by nature, neither Human nor Zentraedi. She's striving to live up to the ideal of not just one highly-esteemed parent, but two. And her parents? They left her behind on Earth as a child when they departed on a mission to the stars. Talk about issues -- she puts Marvel's mutants to shame. And yet...

And yet Dana keeps smiling, keeps reaching. She carries with her the poignant memory of something her mother once told her: "Be brave while I'm away. Always remember, you've got the best of Earth and the Zentraedi inside you." (Malcontent Uprisings #4, 1989, p. 3) Appearing in an in-continuity comix story soon after the events of my imagined "Firestorm," she's referred to as "the symbol of allied worlds." (Love & War #1, 2003, p. 3) There's a story there, amiright? Lots of stories.

What a complex, interesting character.

24 July 2013

phoning in classist humor

Mashable shared this ExtraLife comix strip last week and asked: "Which side do you fall on?"

The joke bombed for me, and not because I'm an Android user. I found it classist. The strip presents two stereotypes: The iOS user -- appearing white, male, and in his early 20s -- is well-adjusted, smartly groomed, and willing to spend money. The Android user -- also appearing white and male, but older -- is surly, sloppy, and cheap. The punchline hinges on their physical and spending differences. At the Android user's expense. The stereotype supposes bad character, not a lack of economic options. Apple's gadgets via iOS are a premium (i.e. more expensive) brand; Android's open source lends itself to generic (i.e. less expensive) brands. So, yeah, the joke flopped for me, especially since I've recently been introduced to the comedy-rule concept of "don't hit down" -- it's not good form for jokers in privileged social positions to "hit" those below them on the social ladder. The ExtraLife strip smacked of socioeconomic "hitting down" to me.

So what's the truth? Who are iOS users and who are Android users? Do they fit the strip's caricatures? A brief Google search turned up this article highlighting a Pew/American Life June 2013 report on iPhone and Android phone-user demographics. Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted a phone survey of 2,252 adults (a solid sample size for generalization) and found...

OWNERSHIP: 25% own an iPhone. 28% own an Android phone.
RACE: A relative majority of iPhone owners identify as White. A relative majority of Android owners identify as Black.
GENDER: More women than men own iPhones. More men than women own Androids.
AGE: A plurality of iPhone users are 25-34 years-old. A plurality of Android users are 18-24.
INCOME: 36% of iPhone-user households make less than $50K/year; 40% make more than $75K. 55% of Android-user households make less than $50K; 31% make more than $75K.

If the ExtraLife strip was redrawn to present more generally accurate portraits, then... panel one (iOS) would feature a 30-year-old middle-class white woman and panel two (Android) would feature a 20-year-old lower-middle-class black man. Gadget OSs reflect social class differences on multiple levels. That's not funny. That's thought provoking.

15 May 2013

pro tip: don't be an amateur

Last week I noticed that I still wasn't listed yet as a guest at Midwest Comic Book Association's SpringCon 2013, a convention I've attended more "on" than "off" for years. I am really excited to table at this year's con, since I'll finally have a "real" comix project to promote. (I unfortunately received my comp copies the Monday after the con last year.) So I sent the organizers an email asking about the omission. They got back to me promptly... I messed up.

The invite card I received a couple of months ago had a line of small print: "Please RSVP by no later than April 1st - 2013 (otherwise we'll assume you can't make it)." In the excitement, I had jumped to conclusions and completely overlooked it. Like I said -- I messed up. In my rush to judgment I acted like an amateur. Pro tip: Always read the small print.

The organizers are cool cats, so I'm now on a waiting list in case some other guest is unable to make the show. We'll see.

But I'll be at SpringCon this coming weekend nonetheless. It's a super fun show, and it'll be a nice opportunity to reconnect with fellow comix makers that I've met over the years and network for future projects. My buddy Chris -- who recently moved back to the area from Nevada -- will be joining me, so that will be special. The guest list of not-amateurs is impressive. Looking forward to it.

And, hey, maybe I'll still be able to be one of the "carnival" few.

20 March 2013

billion dollar idea ... not really

A month ago, Rob Liefeld put out an open call for writing submissions. A couple weeks later, he selected three winners' stories to be illustrated by him that will appear as back-ups in forthcoming issues of Youngblood or Bloodstrike. I bit. Along with thousands of others, apparently. I wasn't one of the winners.

But I had fun pulling my submission together. The requirements for consideration were simple: 5-6 page story; featuring Extreme characters; one-page synopsis; sign submission agreement; email.

So... how to give myself the best possible shot? First, follow the directions step by step; many I'm sure wouldn't, so I would. Second, I settled on a five-page story; since it would be a paying gig, I figured five pages would cost Rob Liefeld Inc. less and have the benefit of being less to draw. Third, what character or characters? The only Extreme characters I'm familiar with are the Youngblood team (from the original mini-series and recently remixed Joe Casey/Liefeld collection), Bloodwulf (from Darker Image, which I picked up back in the day), and Tim Seeley's Bloodstrike (I always try to support friends' projects). After some research and a consideration of Extreme's current plans, I chose Bloodwulf -- a relatively untapped character that interested me, and soon to appear as a regular in Rob's re-relaunch of the-recently-optioned-for-a-movie Bloodstrike. Fourth, the story. What would Rob like to draw? I had just finished reading Sean Howe's fantastic Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. In it, former Rob collaborators Louise Simonson and Fabian Nicieza spelled out his interests: "It took me about six months to figure out that Rob really wasn't interested in the stories at all. He just wanted to do ... cool drawings of people posing in their costumes" (Simonson) and "[Liefeld] wanted [New Mutants] to be muscle and power -- and [Simonson] wanted it to be about a group of kids growing up" (Nicieza). Cool drawings; muscle; power. And I know Rob is a dedicated father, so... parenthood? While in the shower the next day, the story fell into place. Finally, per the directions, I limited my synopsis to one page, signed the submission agreement, and emailed the lot to Rob before deadline.

"Billion Dollar Babies"
5-Page Short Story
By Evan Harrison Cass


Bloodwulf is dispatched to stop, by all means necessary, an army of killer babies. The killer babies -- actually mechanized robotic baby dolls (see The Beatles' controversial "Yesterday & Today" baby-butchers album cover and Steven Soderbergh's eerie "Bubble" movie for doll type) -- are attempting to forcibly rob Fort Knox of its gold bullion reserves. Bloodwulf arrives on his hovercycle to find chaos, carnage, fires, and a rampaging horde of babies waiting for him.

What follows is an absurd, grotesque melee and firefight between Bloodwulf and the babies intercut with flashbacks to Bloodwulf’s domestic days as a father... A group of babies unsheathe metallic jaw-trap-like teeth and start gnawing on him; Bloodwulf's own kids swarm aggressively and affectionately around him (“Aww, my little ankle biters!”). A baby throws its mouth open unnaturally wide, exposing a flamethrower in place of its tongue and lets out a flame right in Bloodwulf's face; one of Bloodwulf's kids, while being cradled, violently vomits in his face. A baby or babies piss acid out of now pistol-like genitalia all over Bloodwulf; while changing one of his kid's diapers, the kid pees on him.

Bloodwulf successfully vanquishes the national security threat. Standing atop a mound of killer-robot-baby-doll body parts, he waxes nostalgically: "Now I miss my kids..."

Trademark & Copyright Rob Liefeld Inc.

Like I mentioned, I didn't make the cut. But I was surprisingly pleased with the story I banged out. It delivered both action and heart. My 14-year-old self would have loved it!

04 July 2012


My first real comix gig will see publication later this summer. My story -- "Nimrod's Son" -- is part of an anthology called BREAK THE WALLS - COMIC STORIES INSPIRED BY THE PIXIES. Describing the book's concept, editor Shawn Demumbrum writes:

What story plays in your head when you listen to your favorite Pixies song? I approached some of my fellow comic book creators and asked them to create 4-8 page stories inspired by their favorite Pixies songs. The song acts as an inspiration, jumping off point, theme or mood for the story. Each story varies in style and genre.

The story that plays in my head while listening to The Pixies' "Nimrod's Son" features an autistic alien god and the biblical Tower of Babel. The surreal six-page sci-fi story is being brought to life by my creative collaborator on the project, artist Christian Kaw. I've known Chris for years via Robotech fandom, and I hope to collaborate with him again very soon. Here are the first two pages sans lettering...

I approached Shawn about including our story after finding out about the project, and -- following a review of my script and Chris's sequentials -- he said yes. I may even have another story in a similar forthcoming book he's publishing next year. I'm thankful for the break Shawn provided us (we were a very late addition), and it's motivated me to finally move beyond my anxieties to "make real" the other comix stories I've been tinkering with for years. Crippled baby steps...

BREAK THE WALLS is available for pre-order through Sunday, July 8. We'd appreciate your support. After it's been published, it'll be available for purchase at comix shops and conventions and on Amazon.com.

20 June 2012


A month ago I premiered AMERICAN NARADA: PHOTO+COMIX #1 at Midwest Comic Book Association's SpringCon. The full-color 16-page zine features all 12 photocomix (and the remixed cover comix image) from my forthcoming AMERICAN NARADA: INDIA travelogue.

Inspired by the recent photocomix experiments of Derik Badman, I decided to attempt my own. Not only did it allow me to share nearly 50 photographs from my 2010 India trip and provide a preview-of-sorts for the travelogue, but it challenged me to make sequential sense out of those same photos. In preparing to create the comix, I set three formal rules for myself: (1) restrict each composition to a four-panel grid; (2) limit each strip to one day; (3) present the pictures used in chronological order. Within those rules, I then considered visual flow, color, and theme. It was challenging -- more challenging than I imagined -- but was a very fulfilling intellectual exercise.

Here are three excerpts...

"Fashion - 1/07/10"

"Flower - 1/10/10(b)"

"Baha'i - 1/15/10"

If you're interested in aquiring a copy of the zine, send $4 (check or money order, paid to "Evan Harrison Cass") and your mailing addy to the address below; shipping-and-handling is included. I moved ONE whole copy at SpringCon, so I have plenty still available...

1631 Ward Ave. #7
Hudson WI 54016

01 June 2011


Jennifer "Inkbunny Diaries" Young shares her SpringCon 2011 experience, in the process enshrining me as a character in Bunnshire! Here's a peek...


Well, time to pack... I move back to Wausau for a job on Friday, where I'll be serving animals (for the second summer in a row) at Merrill's Lincoln County Humane Society starting in mid-June -- can't wait!

25 May 2011

springcon 2011

Midwest Comic Book Association knows how to celebrate. This past Saturday and Sunday, MCBA and volunteers played generous hosts to a gamut of comix fans, creators and vendors alike at the 24th annual SpringCon in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Despite severe weather, fun appeared to be had by all. I know I had a great time.

As a guest creator, I premiered -- and sold out of (!) -- my ROBOT MARX book. (Always in-stock and available for purchase online, BTW.) It was a real pleasure to chat with fellow fans and other interested individuals about ROBOTECH, sociological theories, and the publishing process. It was also a real pleasure to visit with my tablemates, Jennifer "Inkbunny Diaries" Young and her husband Jason "Straight Line Stitch" White. We talked about life, religion and family between lulls, and managed the table for one another when the other was away. (Jenny's books are available here; learn about Jason's band here.)

In addition to connecting with Jenny and Jason, it was a treat to reconnect with a few other old friends too. Friend-of-a-friend and fellow Central Wisconsin native, Robb Wadzinski was my first customer; the last time we saw each other was at Wizard World Chicago 2008... now he's married. Old-school ROBOTECH fan and someone I indirectly dedicated ROBOT MARX to ("AX Robotech Fans, Class of 2006"), Chad "Marshall" VanVorst was busy masquerading as Darth Vader with con attraction Star Wars' 501st Legion - Central Garrison, but managed to swing by my table -- in and out of costume -- to chat regularly; we geeked out about our favorite cult cartoon (naturally) and made plans to meet up for a drink at the next MCBA show. And what would a MCBA show be without good ol' Michael "MetroMed" Hutchison? I met "The Hutch" at WWC08, found out he used to live in my hometown (Wausau, WI) in the '90s, and hosted him as a guest-of-honor in 2009 at the comix/sci-fi convention I used to organize. Mike's one of the nicest guys in the industry with a sincere, endearing love for the superhero genre and superhero comix; even though we're polar opposites in many ways, visiting with him is always a joy. (His book is available to preview and buy here.)

As a fan, I had three objectives: Buy Ryan Kelly's FUNRAMA #2 preview-zine. Meet Noah Van Sciver and buy an issue of BLAMMO. And meet Trina Robbins and ask her to autograph my ROBOTECH: ART 2 hardcover.

Between freelance work and parenting, Ryan Kelly has been slowly-but-surely rolling out his creator-owned FUNRAMA PRESENTS comix series. It's always inspiring to see creators dedicated to their own ideas, so I was quick to purchase Issue One ("The Mutant Punks") last year. Issue Two ("Raccoon") is still in-progress, but Kelly did prepare an eight-page "MN SpringCon Preview" zine for the show. I thoroughly enjoyed the peek, and look forward to reading the full issue whenever it becomes available.

I recently became intrigued with Noah Van Sciver and his work following a series of podcast interviews. Between his public front (self-deprecating), his comix ideology ('80s/'90s indie) and his stories (Juggalo love; Joseph Smith bio; kooky chickens), I knew I had to meet him. It took me forever to find his table, but when I finally did... well, Noah is awesome. We shared our run-ins with and admiration for Harvey Pekar; we compared experiences growing up in religious-minority low-income families; and Noah showed me stunning original art pages from his in-progress "Young Abraham Lincoln" masterwork, THE HYPO. I ended up walking away with signed copies of BLAMMO Number Six and Seven, and I promptly poured myself into them. BLAMMO is now my favorite floppy. If you're a comix enthusiast and haven't already, do yourself a favor and buy them. Van Sciver is a talent to watch.

And then there was Trina Robbins. It was a genuine honor to meet and talk with one of comix foremost historians, creators and trailblazers. And contemporary paper-doll creators. In 1987, Robbins contributed four paper-doll compositions to ROBOTECH: ART 2. In 1987, my father bought said book for me as a gift; I've regularly perused its contents ever since. Trina was kind enough to autograph all four selections and her bio/photo in the back. (She was also thrilled to hear my story about how I made my dad photocopy her ART 2 paper-doll pages so I could cut out and play with them as an 11 year-old boy... ROBOTECH is wonderfully subversive that way.) Meeting Robbins provided me a meaningful way to connect both my guest and fan SpringCon 2011 experiences.

As mentioned at the outset, SpringCon's organizers are generous -- hearty grab bags and fun attractions for attendees, free tables and full catering for creators, and affordable space and an open mind for a variety of dealers. Without a doubt, MCBA went out of their way to make it a "Comic Book Celebration." I'm already anticipating their FallCon in October...

18 May 2011

robot marx, the book

Robot Marx - Robotech®, Patriarchy, and Kids' Culture: A Conflict Theory Perspective is now available as a book. I'll be premiering it this weekend at Saint Paul, Minnesota's SpringCon.

Robot Marx -- "The Collected Essays from AmericanNarada.blogspot.com" -- is a 5-inches wide x 7.5-inches tall, square-bound, full-color, 38-page paperback. Sold at-cost, this "Not-for-profit Academic Scholarship intended for Education" publication is available for $5.00 U.S. From the back cover:

When ROBOTECH -- the classic 85-episode "sci-fi soap opera" cartoon that introduced a generation of American kids to Japanese animation -- premiered in 1985, it stood out from its contemporaries. Unlike iconically similar G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS, ROBOTECH's characters lived and died, met and fell in love, and expressed real emotions and evolved as individuals. The program spawned toys, comix, role-playing games, novels, and other pop-cultural artifacts. From the Conflict-Marxist assumption that America is a patriarchal society, ROBOTECH is a fascinating case study: it featured women heroes in leadership positions, a cross-dressing male hero, and an essentially anti-war message, among other subversive elements. ROBOT MARX critiques ROBOTECH, its marketing, and its fandom from this perspective, in the process discussing concepts such as gender representation, diva citizenship, and archetypes. An enjoyable academic expression of fandom.

The book was born from a number of influences. First, last month's "remastered" ROBOT MARX project* re-sparked my latent ROBOTECH fandom. From 2001 to 2004, I edited and published the "official" unofficial ROBOTECH fanzine, Emissaries; Robot Marx was an excuse to indulge in that fandom while being able to provide something new for my fellow fans again. Second, I was inspired after reading Stephen Bissette's Teen Angels & New Mutants to do something similar; I wanted to do for ROBOTECH what he did for Rick Veitch's BRAT PACK. In an admittedly limited way, Robot Marx fit the bill. And third, pulling the book together allowed me to flex my publishing muscles (I have an Associate's degree in Printing & Publishing) in preparation for the forthcoming American Narada: India 1 reflections and comix collection. Using nothing but freeware, Robot Marx was a fun DIY exercise.

Midwest Comic Book Association's SpringCon "Comic Book Celebration" is held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds' Grandstand from 10 AM to 5 PM on both Saturday and Sunday (May 21 & 22); with a canned-food donation, admission is only $10 for the weekend. I'll be tabling alongside friend and uber talented tattoo-artist/cartoonist/designer, Jennifer "Inkbunny Diaries" Young. If you're in the region, I encourage you to attend. MCBA puts on a great show. I'd love to meet AMERICAN NARADA's readers and my fellow ROBOTECH and comix fans, so, please -- if you do attend -- stop by my table and say "Hi!"

Robot Marx will be available for purchase there. The book is also available online via IndyPlanet.

- - -

* ROBOTECH ® and all associated concepts, names, designs, and images are trademark and copyright Harmony Gold USA, Inc. 1985-2011. Application of such for the ROBOT MARX project by Evan Harrison Cass is based on the U.S. Copyright principle of Fair Use for not-for-profit "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." No infringement of Harmony Gold USA, Inc.'s or associated companies' and individuals' rights is intended.

07 May 2011

crime thwarted by friendly neighborhood cass-man

"I was preparing my whole life for this," says area man

RIVER FALLS -- Yesterday, an area man's life forever changed when he caught a would-be thief attempting to break into his neighbors' apartment. The man's amateur sleuthing and gutsy actions have his neighbors christening him a neighborhood hero.

Evan Cass, 34, was reading a comic book Friday afternoon in his Town of River Falls apartment when he heard his neighbors' dogs barking. "It was 4:30. I looked outside and saw that [neighbors] Dustin and Chelsea weren't home. It was go time -- I grabbed my notepad, a pencil and my camera, and headed outside. It was the moment I'd been waiting for."

"Go time" was a month in the making. Cass, who lives upstairs in the eight-apartment complex located on 920th Street, had been monitoring suspicious activity at the apartment below his own for weeks. "Every once in a while, when my neighbors weren't home, their dogs would go crazy. And just like that -- they'd stop. Something was up." Last week, after being awakened from yet another nap, he decided to take the law into his own hands. Next to his gliding rocking chair, Cass placed a notepad, a pencil and a digital camera at-the-ready. The same notepad, pencil and camera he was clutching in that fateful moment.

When Cass looked down from his balcony at Dustin and Chelsea's doorway, he witnessed an adult male trying to jimmy the door with a credit card. "It was green." In addition to the card's color, Cass also recognized the culprit, but needed photographic evidence. So Cass daringly leaned over the balcony railing with his camera and took a picture. What he saw in the picture did not surprise him. "He's a bum. A mooch. He doesn't even put his shoes on properly. So when I saw that first picture, I knew I had my man -- James." The picture shows James' feet and trademark shoe-wearing style.

The 54 year-old James, a creepy hypochondriac who lives in the apartment building's basement, tried befriending Cass in August 2010 when Cass first moved to the 920th Street address. Cass did not reciprocate. "I didn't like him. I had no desire to get to know him better. He made my 'spider sense' tingle, if you know what I mean. I was right." Unfortunately, the photo was not conclusive; it did not display James' face. Fortunately, James continued to try to break in for the next two hours. "It was unbelievable. He'd leave, then he'd come back. He kept trying and I kept taking pictures." Cass eventually got the conclusive photos he was hoping for from his precarious position overhead.

But it was not easy. Events took a dangerous turn when James tried to strong-arm his way through the door with a four-foot crowbar. Asked if he was scared, Cass said: "I'm a lover, not a fighter. That said, I was prepared to kick someone down a flight of stairs if I had to." James made his last failed break-in attempt at 6 PM.

Dustin and Chelsea returned home at 9 PM. Cass promptly paid them a neighborly visit to share with them the criminal timeline that he had recorded in his notepad and the incriminating photographs on his camera. "They were friendly with James," said Cass, "they were the real victims. I wanted them to be the ones to decide what we should do with James. It was the fair and right thing to do." Cass's neighbors ended up called the landlord, Harmon Properties.

"It's a relief," said Dustin. "It answers a lot of questions. We're glad to have a neighbor like him [Cass]. He was all, like, Mission Impossible hanging off that balcony taking pictures."

"Or like Spider-Man in that movie," said Chelsea, "where he hangs upside down and kisses that girl."

"It was awesome. We're going to Target as soon as possible. We want a new lock."

"And I need to replace a month's worth of stolen underwear."

Cass was asked to reflect on recent events in the context of his almost 35 years of existence. What did it all mean to him? He was quiet for a solid minute, then said: "When I was a kid, I was a big fan of [the cartoon] A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and [the children's book series] Encyclopedia Brown. I used to wear Superman Underoos too. So, yeah, I guess I was preparing my whole life for this."

Cass was also asked about his history as a costumed avenger. Did he see himself donning the cape and cowl again in line with the real-life superhero fad sweeping the globe? "It is true that I used to wear a costume. But that was for a public access TV show a lifetime ago. My hometown, Wausau, has its own superhero -- The Boss -- a special-needs kid who patrols the neighborhood by the airport on his bike. But 'real life' superheroes are freaks. I have a reputation to uphold."

Chelsea's comment about Spider-Man was mentioned to Cass. He laughed. "Spider-Man, huh? Well, he was a photographer. And I wouldn't say 'no' if a pretty girl wanted to kiss me. But, nah -- I'm just a guy who caught one of my neighbors trying to break into my other neighbors' apartment. The only reward that I can ask for is that people remember to lock their doors and that justice is served."

Harmon Properties "served" James an eviction notice early this morning.

- - -

CORRECTION, 9 May 2011: Victimized neighbor Dustin was misidentified as Kevin. The online version has been changed. AMERICAN NARADA regrets the error.