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!