Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blog Vacation in order to Live

Hello amazing readership,

This is a notice that I will be out of the reviewing game for the time being. Monday April the 13th I will be up and running, most likely or at least hopefully. I have been a very lazy juggler and I dropped the balls, so I need to back off and concentrate on the immediate entanglement my responsibilities have become. After busy time passes through I am sure to be back and play the one-man-reviewing machine.

Peace and over.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Once Upon a Time ІІІ

It’s that time of the year, where spring affects you in immeasurable ways, so here I am making a commitment to a three month reading challenge, but considering the fact that I am reading precisely what this challenge is about, I won’t have a problem. So with no further ado, here is the Once Upon a Time ІІІ Challenge:

fan-ta-sy: a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting

fairy tale: a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and talking animals, and usually enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events.

folk-lore: the traditional beliefs, legends, customs, etc., of a people, lore of a people; The traditional beliefs, myths, tales and practices of a people, transmitted orally.

my-thol-o-gy: a body of myths, as that of a particular people or that relating to a particular person; a set of stories, traditions or beliefs associated with a particular group of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered.

Those are genres allowed and there are 5 Quests with special demands on how many and what books to read. From all five I am aiming to manage three Quests.

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time III criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

Fulfill the requirements for Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream OR a viewing of one of the many theatrical versions of the play. Love the story, love the films, love the idea of that magical night of the year and so this is my chance to promote the reading of this farcical love story.

Read two non-fiction books, essay collections, etc. that treat any one or more of the four genres covered in this challenge.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So a quick survey?

It is probably a stupid question to ask, but indulge me. I have been running “The Artist Corner” for two months or somewhere around that time and though I have had tremendous fun with it, I want to know whether you, the readers, get a kick out of it all. Being a busy individual myself I don’t have the time, fortitude and nimble fingers to comment on every post, every blog and so on. This can be applied to the majority of bloggers, but it also leaves those, who write and post on blogs a bit clueless, whether their material is received well or whether it is boring like watching paint dry.

So the question stands:

Do you enjoy having a weekly feature interview about art?


Would like it to continue?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Artist Corner: Maeva

This weeks "Artist Corner" proudly presents another French artist, who draws inspiration from and expresses herself with the widely popular anime manga genre. I was left spellbound by her traditional pieces and intrigued by her digital work, so I had to take her interview as soon as possible. So here goes; here is Maeva... *cheers*

Harry Markov: Hello and welco
me to my virtual chair. I hope you have a good time. So once again thank you for accepting my invitation. I don’t recall talking to a manga and comic book artist before, so it is a pleasure, but before we go explore the world of art, let’s start with the mandatory ice breaker. What was your first encounter with art for you to make the decision to become an artist?

Maeva: I don’t recall I ever asked the question myself. I came to it naturally. When I was young, I watched cartoons on tv, and I reproduced all I saw there. I’ve always loved it and the desire to make a living of it came to me very early.

HM: Will you be as kind as to share a bit about yourself? Who is Maevachan and what meaning does this handle carry, when you created your DA profile?

M: For the pseudo (maevachan), my first account on DA was composed of my first and my last name, but I don’t liked to use my last name and I always sign my drawings with my first name. “Maeva” was already used by someone else, and at the time, a friend of mine used to call me “Maeva-chan” all the time, and so I chose to use it as my pseudo.

HM: I rummaged through your website and found out that you have managed to publish two volumes of original comic book material in your country France. Can you tell about your comic book?

M: These are one-shots. The first one “Les Elfes de Miloria” was published in 2007, and the second one “Fleurs de fées” will be out in april 2nd of this very year. Both stories were written by my friend Ylric. I did the drawings and the color of the first comic and the drawings only for the second one (lack of time, I have a part time job in the same time ). I know I still have a bunch of things to practice on my artworks, a ton of things to learn but I’m so glad I was able to publish these 2 stories.

HM: Even though you have two publications I have to wonder how art fits in your life. Do you have a day job or manage as a freelance artist and independent comic book artist?

M: I can’t live correctly with my art and comic so yes, I have a part time job too. Being a freelance artist is a wonderful experience but sometimes it can be really hard. You always have to work on future comic projects and find a publisher who have faith in your work. So when you have no comic contract for some months, you need to have another job that pays your bills!

HM: Who are the artists that shaped your work and made your artwork what it is today?

M: A lot of japanese illustrators like Nobuteru Yuki (Lodoss, Escaflowne …) and Inomata Mutsumi (she is working on some design on the “Tales of” game serie) when I was younger. Now my personal art goddess is Ayami Kojima ~ She is the character designer of the “Castlevania” games published by Konami. I just love her style, gothic, horrific, bloody and graceful in the same time. She is doing lots of illustrations for various magazines too. I also like Eiichiro Oda who draw One piece, for the way he puts his comic on page, it’s so creative and dynamic, a real genius. Well… There are plenty of authors I like, and a long list would be painful to write ^^

HM: It is completely obvious to me that there is a strong Japanese influenced vibe in what you do. How did it happen? How were you hooked to try this direction in art and adopt it as your own?

M: I never asked myself the question. As I already said it earlier, when I was a child, I spent a lot time watching japanese anime on my tv. We had a really popular tv show in France at the time and I discovered a ton of different cartoons. I was so happy to make fanarts, creating my own characters and all. I found in this “japanese style” a way to feel and express myself I never found in another style. For the rest, you draw again and again and again, you practice a lot, you learn new things, you find new authors you really like and finally, after many years, you come to develop your own personal artstyle. It’s all about hard work and passion !

HM: This may be a trade secret, but I will ask nonetheless. To me manga and anime look easy enough to be used to practice as a rookie artist. Of course the simplest things sometimes are hardest. What is the one thing a person should know about manga and anime art?

M: Well… Manga may look simpler than other styles, but as with every style, you have to work hard on it, understanding proportions, etc… I never chose this style for its so-called “simplicity”. Well, the only advice I can give is : WORK HARD !!! ; )

HM: The only connection between all the artists I interview is their love for the fantastical and magical. What is fantasy for you and with what did it attract you?

M: Fantasy for me is related to all the magical creatures, of course. And if I had to pick the creatures I like most, it would be vampires. I love dark atmosphere, horny characters and organic deformations when I can add them on my artworks… and melancholy. I’m really emotional, maybe a bit tortured too in my poor little head, and these kind of dark subjects are those I really like to work on. I also like Elves, because they are graceful creatures. And Dragons. God, I love them but strangely, it’s rare for me to draw them. I know I need to practice a lot with those creatures.

HM: Where do you search for ideas for new projects? For that matter what other art forms inspire your work: literature, music, dance, etc?

M: Music first. I can’t draw without music. It helps me concentrate and have a special “feeling” with the picture I’m drawing or painting. I’m usually listening original soundtracks from movies, video games and anime. I also like to watch a lot of movies. I think they help me to understand how to create a good composition on my artworks in general and more specifically, on my comic books.

HM: After seeing your gallery I come to the conclusion that you jump from digital to traditional art for different projects. Which one is easier to do?

M: I like both and my skills are totally different depending on what materials I use. I think I will answer watercolors because I’ve been practicing it for many years now and it’s the best way to put my feelings in my pictures. I’m not sure I’m really clear here, but I always try to infuse each and every artwork I draw with a special feeling, and it seems people feel this best when I use my watercolors.

HM: In the same line of thought countless people have argued which one is better, digital or traditional. What do you think? Is either of them superior?

M: I think it’s pointless fighting about which is better, the only good way to color is the way you like. Personally I’m a watercolor artist from the start. I wasn’t very attracted by painting digital pictures. But finally I tried and I found a lot of nice ways to color my art with my computer. Now I’m really happy because I’m able to work with 2 different methods.

HM: You are a part of a comic book team and are in charge of art. How does it feel to be working in a team and having to take into account the opinions of others? How does the writer, colorist, artist and all the other work together? Can you share some experience?

M: Well first you need to know that Ylric (the writter of my comic’s stories) is a good and old friend of mine. We like the same things (anime, games etc…) so we have many references in common. It was simple to work together on our comic project. He is the one who starts the project, he thinks about a world, a plot, about the characters too and he lets me know. If I have some ideas I tell him. After, he has to work on the main story, and to put all of this in 46 pages (European comic format). I can work on the pages only when he is done with them (and when the publisher agrees, of course). For “Fleur de fées”, I had to work with a colorist too, so, fist, I explained to her how I saw the colors on my pages. I tried to let her do her job as freely as possible. I gave her indications and tones I wanted her to put here and there but if she had a better idea, I was totally opened to what she had to say. I think it was a great experience for both of us. In the end, my art and her colors worked really well together !

HM: To continue my thoughts, I am curious about forming the sheets and boxes in a page. To a reader putting a story in drawn boxes is the easiest thing in the world. I once thought so too, but you have had experience with it. What’s the science behind successful portrayal of the story in boxes?

M: I’m not sure. I never thought it was hard to do. I mean, when I read Ylric’s stories, I see each case in my head and the way I will draw them. Maybe it’s because I’m reading a lot of manga but the construction of a page comes naturally to me. And thanks to Ylric, I’m free to build the pages the way I want. He only tells me what’s inside each page (+ dialogues) and after, the organization is all mine. The main thing is that you need to cut your sequences and images in a logical way and make good transitions between them, so the reader won’t be lost.

HM: I also have to wonder what your current projects are. What can we expect?

M: I hope I will be able to work on a new comic project soon and I would love to publish an artbook too (to tell you the truth, I have more the spirit of an illustrator than a comic artist). I would love to work as a video games designer too but, let’s face it, this part is going to be the most difficult to accomplish!

Thank you.

And with these final hopeful words another installment of "Artist Corner" ends. Stay tuned for next edition...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“The Word for World is Forest” by Ursula Le Guin

Title: “The Word for World is Forest”
Author: Ursula Le Guin
Series: Hainish Cycle
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 128 pages
Publisher: Panther

Since the Internet has denied me the opportunity to use a ready blurb, I shall revert to a nutshell plot compression. “New Tahiti” is a prospering gold mine of a logging colony for Earth, who during the industrialization has lost its natural forests and is in dire need of wood material. Enslaving the native Athsheans and forcing them into destroying their own fragile ecosystem and abusing them on a daily basis seems like a common practice among the morally loose human military force. This goes until Selver, an Athshean who lost his village to the colony, his wife to a rape and his ability to dream like all in his race, reverses the roles and liberates the colony.

General Thoughts: It’s always a pleasure to have an Ursula Le Guin title in one’s hands and even better when it is a novel from her Hainish Cycle. I decided to return to her since I had two more books lying around from the cycle and it was February, at the time when I decided that I had to participate in the Sci-fi Experience. Considering the length I knew that this title would be somewhat more concise and tightened, developing in a short span of time. My intuition didn’t lie to me and I read a very fast paced and yet tranquil story about revolt and colonization. If this makes any sense at all.

Revolution in life and in fiction is a flash fire of an event that only needs a spark, a last drop to make everything crumble and Ursula Le Guin delivers. I can’t vouch for anything special regarding the prose, since translations tend to lose some of that unique voice, but what shines through is Le Guin’s intriguing storytelling. What makes an impression with “The Word for World is Forest” is that the novel was written in a certain historical context relevant to the generation, which witnessed history in that segment and must carry a stronger meaning to those who can relate to the message. I myself only guessed some references to the real world and that was with the help of the foreword.

Characters & Depth: Thinking about the cast I see Le Guin toy with an interesting idea, which ties together Selver and Captain Davidson, both of whom are adversaries, in a strange bundle. More or less a certain sense of patriotism and duty to one’s nation and people is the basic behavior encoded in the novel. Le Guin portrays the patriot soldier, who is ready to sacrifice all that he has and is in doing what is best for his people.

In the case of Selver slavery and need of a symbol, which will return hope, pushes him through a metamorphosis and he becomes a god in his people’s eyes, a champion to lead the Athsheans into salvation. At the same time we read of the same idea, but twisted and tarnished into something vile and a incubator of all the human sins. Captain Davidson is pure evil, vulgar and primal, and the only villain, who had managed to irritate me and make me want to stab him myself rather than wait for justice to prevail. Atrocity in his eyes is what has to be done. Sacrificing for him means killing his own men, if it meets his purpose and proving himself right means a secret coup. Nevertheless both men are two polar sides of the very same idea. Interesting concept.

Worldbuilding & Believability: Athsheans are an ingenious product of Le Guin’s imagination, which are my favorite from all her creations so far, partially because of their affinity towards nature and then because of their interesting use of dreams in their life and culture. Le Guin presents a society, where spirituality and tradition have prevailed over the need to excel in science and the material. Divided in gender specific roles and matriarchal in nature of government Athsheans coexist in harmony and peace in their communities and the concept of violence, war and slavery do not exist, until humans arrive to colonize. Up until then this species is the picture of a utopia, where intelligent life sustains development and yet manages to continue unity with the environment. The desecration of this purity and the adaptation to the humans’ ways of handling conflict and life is just for me personally a clear message that nothing good lasts and the utopia will remain a farfetched dream.

The Verdict: To be quite honest although it was a well written piece of fiction and had some sizeable conflict and tension it didn’t turn out to be a page turner. I liked it and think it has a lot of sense and sends off a major message, plus the original novellas won a Hugo award, but me and “The Word for World is Forest” lacked the chemistry. Nevertheless I do suggest you read it. You won’t be wasting time reading it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"The Textile Planet" by Sue Lange

We have a peculiar case on our hands people and there is no time to lose. Sue Lange needs us to make her name as big as a bloated elephant. I can’t believe that I kept her on the waiting list for three months just to read three chapters of her serialized novel “The Textile Planet” and that was before I forgot and returned to find nine installments. Sorry Sue, hope you manage to forgive me. Anyways this review will be without structure and utterly free as a bird in tone, voice and making sense. The story has to have a fitting representation after all.

If you have been following the blogosphere, you would know that there is a new mean website, which is offering free fiction by quality writers for readers, who don’t have the capacity to house more books in their homes, like me, but then again I do bend space so anything is possible. To stay on the matter at hand I am talking about the BookViewCafe. I had the pleasure of being introduced to an interactive serialized novel by Sue Lange, which goes by the name “The Textile Planet”. Here is the premise so far:

“Marla Gershe has been the perfect working bee in the fashion industry. She has done the impossible: bend time and circumstances to abide her schedule, cloned herself to be everywhere, anytime and manages to life off on coffee. She is the proof that those who want can achieve anything, but that doesn’t mean she likes it. So Marla starts a small scale revolution only to end up in a hospital with amnesia after a shot to her abdomen. Now with recollected memory and the obligation to return to her workplace, Marla decides to change tactic and run as far away as possible and never return back.”

Not to sound cliché, but this is something else entirely. In Lange’s world everything is big and fashion has escalated in importance sporting a small empire, which is ruled by chaos and a fast motion daily rhythm. The first thing you will notice is that this story has had too much coffee itself and dashes from an event to an event like the “Flash” from DC comics. The prose is compact and Spartan. It sends a buzz of adrenaline through your body and dialogue does not improve. Lines fly like bullets and by the time you are done reading you feel like you have run a sprint. Marla herself is the living computer, which has to process, analyze and solve problems and information at an incredible speed. For some this might be a kill-joy, but I found my brain pleasantly stimulated after reading it.

Considering the fact that the author has managed nine chapters from 32 in total, I am not going to discuss the plot, because so far there is only the foreboding that something strange will happen anytime soon. However I can comment that reading this as a serialized novel fits the full throttle pace fine. As much as it stimulates your mind, it burns a lot of your energy and you need some rest before tackling another engrossing chapter. Plus this is an interactive story with links to edited off parts, which can be read separately, embedded radio files and even a short video. These extras I call the bling-bling accessories.

You can find the first eight chapters compiled in a free e-book; so if you want something a bit more quirky and electric, come to the whacky side with Marla Gershe as your guide. You never know. It may end up being your cup of tea or coffee.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"The Lords of the Sands of Time" by Issui Ogawa

Title: The Lords of the Sands of Time
Author: Issui Ogawa
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 203
Publisher: Haikasoru

Sixty-two years after human life on earth was annihilated by rampaging aliens, the enigmatic cyborg Messenger O is sent back in time with the mission to unite the humanity of past eras—during World War II and in ancient Japan, even back at the dawn of humanity—in order to defeat the alien invasion before it begins. But amidst a future shredded by war, love also waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself?

Classification & Literary Class: This is the second Japanese sci-fi title I had the pleasure to receive and review for the July launch of the new VIZ Media imprint “Haikasoru”. As I stated in my review of “All You Need is Kill” sci-fi in Japanese culture is something beyond the usual understanding of it and the way it is shaped and presented. Some of the characteristics such as density and concentration of content and heavy packed internals resurface, but in “The Lords of the Sands of Time” there is more action, more dialogue, more military strategy and action, plus the trademark dramatic tension.

Though similar to “All You Need is Kill” in its exploration of time, “The Lords of the Sands of Time” explores another spectrum of time: time travel and the alternative timeline theory. For me it was interesting to explore the alternative Earth’s survival strategy and the irony in the whole enterprise that the human saviors are in fact pretty darn good composed androids [AI]. Time is the most speculated and mysterious element in the universe and everyone is free to interpret and label it as they will. In “The Lords of the Sands of Time” author Issui Ogawa takes the reader on a journey through too many time lines, too many alternative Earths too different from our own, until there is no going back from.

Characters & Depth: Considering the length, it would be surprising to encounter more than three or four fairly well developed characters. Yet every name you will read on these pages can easily be attached to a real person. Though Spartan in the storytelling mechanics and scenes, “The Lords of the Sands of Time” manages to create three dimensional characters or so at least I perceive them as. From the protagonist Orville to the secondary characters like Alexander.

Intriguing to read about was Orville’s growth and development, considering the fact that he is not a human, though he is engineered as a replica of the species, yet he fights for this race without any reason to feel burdened apart from the purpose of his creation. In a sense this is a modern Pinocchio, who discovers what it means to be human and for the audience it is the rediscovery of our purpose. But I won’t delve deep into the psychological implications of such a character and the intent of the author.

There is a lot of ingenuity behind the storytelling technique. The novel itself develops through two main storylines. Orville’s desperate attempts to stop the world’s destruction in Ancient Japan and his journey from the future down through time line to time line, losing battle after battle. There are constant jump from age to age, from state of mind to state of mind, yet all feels right and organic. Through this complexity Ogawa builds an almost invisible love triangle between Orville, the shaman queen in Japan Himiko, who shares his bed and Sayaka, the woman to teach him love and the idea of humanity, who remains as a connection to the world he left and won’t return to ever again. Since this occurs mostly in Orville’s heart, being torn like this between past and present, I can say it is at least a subtle triangle.

Worldbuilding & Believability: In this category two major elements play hard to grab the attention and claim Issui Ogawa mastery over the genre. First one is the sci-fi credibility and the mechanics behind the technology and the story behind the invasion. Second one is actual historical authenticity with known facts about the ages Orville has been to.

On both accounts “The Lords of the Sands of Time” offers entertainment for those, who value worldbuilding. As a person, who loves being shown how the impossible in our world would function with iron logic in another world, I had a kick out of the sci-fi elements. Starting with the back story of the survival from the invasion and then moving down to the specifics such as the blueprints of the Messengers and the theory behind time travel, I literally got transported in a world all together. Time travel is an interesting enough hook to read a novel, but waging wars across different time fragments and applying strategy to something so changeable and fickle is a whole new level for me.

History wise, though my opinion is of no consequence, since I am not particularly fond of the subject, I feel that Ogawa did a formidable job portraying human society before the first invasion, during World War ІІ and in Ancient Japan and Egypt.

The Verdict: Despite the cultural differences, which caused me some strange moments to adapt and get used to the methods, I had a fun time with “The Lords of the Sands of Time”. There is not much I wouldn’t give a shot and from the author’s side everything has been tweaked to perfection. Within the pages, there is some small bit of universal truth about the world of man and his mentality.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Artist Corner: Lea Johnson

Another week goes and it is Friday once again. Which means only one thing... [drumm roll] another fantastic edition of Artist Corner. This week the art gods have been generous and sent me a talkative energetic artist. If you ever wanted to tie up an artist and make them spill their guts on the table, Lea Johnson will do that with an ease and a smile. An industrious art school grad Lea is a multi-sided personality and undefined and highly individualistic art style. Listen, relatively speaking, to the blueprints of a budding new artist.

Harry Markov: Thank you Lea for being a sweetheart and taking up my invitation to sit on my virtual chair and share some of your opinions, experiences and possibly even secrets regarding. But before we delve that deep, it’s customary for me to ask ever artist: What was your first encounter with art to inspire you to devote so much time into it?

Lea Johnson: Well, I’ve always been into drawing since I was a kid, but I think there were two people that really made me decide that I wanted to be an artist. The first being my father, he is an amazing artist as well…but he gave up art to raise our family; he always encouraged me to keep with my art and music while being really loving and understanding. Then in high school, I had a really great art instructor that pushed me and kept me up on art. She also really helped me as far scholarships. I still talk to her and sit in on her classes every now and then to keep up on my skills.

HM: Just so the readers like you even more, can you describe yourself in short? Who is Lea Johnson and how did she come up with the interesting nickname lilykane on Deviant Art?

LJ: The nickname…Well, Lea Johnson is unfortunately really common name, and it made it difficult to find a decent email address… And my full first name, most people can’t pronounce, and the people that can never spell it right (yes, Lea is only half of my first name). “Lilykane” I ended up yanking from the games Fatal Fury and King of Fighters after Billy Kane’s little sister—no, not the show “Veronica Marrs”. I’ve had this nick since 1995. As for myself, I’m pretty much a normal art school grad working for the Man. I love music and play three different instruments (piano, drums, and bassoon), and I still play the drums and piano for fun. And of course, I’m a video game junkie. I also love to do karaoke with my friends, playing with my adorable nephew, and writing.

HM: Which artist so far has had an exceptional influence on your work?

I love Andrew Wyeth and Alfons Mucha. Wyatt, I think I probably pull a lot of influence for my color palette from him. It’s nothing intentional, but it’s something I notice every now and then. Mucha, I absolutely love his anatomy and design. Other artists I love are, of course, Falcoon and Takuji Kawano. Falcoon, people think I take a lot of influence from as far as color technique…but I think it’s actually Kawano that I look to more. Kawano is one of the concept artists at Namco. He did most of the character designs for the Soul Calibur games and the later Tekken games, most people didn’t really take notice of his work until he did the artwork for “Namco x Capcom”. He doesn’t get a lot of recognition for his work, but I love the simplicity of his work. His anatomy is a bit more realistic than Falcoon’s; still stylized and elongated, though. And finally, Adam Hughes. Considering how much influence DC comics had on me as a child, Hughes’ work fills me with awe every single time. His pencil works especially. Really, the best way to describe him is a modern-day Mucha. Oh, and Soraya Saga/Kairi Tanaka. Most people know her for writing the script to Xenogears, but her artwork and design work is just breathtaking; especially how she draws the adult anatomy, beautiful diva-inspired women and masculine, strong-jawed men—also, the fact that she was kind enough to email me back and forth for awhile really made me love and respect her work as a writer and an artist.

HM: Judging by your gallery I can see that you pay a lot attention to the human body and form in different poses, but usually most of the pieces carry their otherworldly charm with either wings or horns. What exactly in fantasy and outside of the real world made you come back to these themes?

When I was a child, my mother read to us at night, particularly Grimms’ fairy tales. I find a lot of those themes creep into my work.

HM: Where do you search for ideas for new projects? For that matter what other art forms inspire your work: literature, music, dance, etc?

Music definitely is a huge influence. I grew up in a family full of artists and musicians. Literature, I do love to write and keep of a journal for ideas; I particularly find that sometimes writing allows for things that visual art can’t, they just appeal to different senses that visual artists just can’t influence; the same with instrumental music. But I love reading the works of writers like Stephan Crane and Leo Tolstoy. The language is their works is so thick, like a good oil painting.

HM: It’s also fair to mention that a sizable section of your gallery consist of fanart. Now we both know people tend to judge everything that is fan made like art and fiction to be nothing series, but can I hear the opinion of someone on the other side. Why do you think fanart has taken up such a growing role around creative circles and what can you say to the people, who diminish its importance?

LJ: Fanart is no different than life drawing; it’s a place to find influence and inspiration. It allows for an artist to find a starting place for creativity. I’ve find in my experiences online that many people aren’t even aware of what constitutes as “fanart” or what have you, like people place draw fanart of certain subjects in a lower category than others. But again, everyone has to start somewhere. Artists like Falcoon, Bengus, and the Udon art circle got their start from drawing fanart. And fanart ranges from anything from drawing a favorite character to drawing a portrait of a movie star, which--as I mentioned earlier—many naysayers of the genre don’t even realize that drawing a celebrity is indeed fanart. Those portraits you see in People Magazine, the paintings of kings in museums, even something like Disney’s fairytale adaptions and so on…are all a genre of fanart. It has its place in culture and won’t be leaving anytime soon.

HM: To follow the same thread, why do you personally invest your time in working on recognizable titles such as Tekken, Silent Hill and Resident evil? What kind of artistic need does it fulfill?

I consider it a form of showing my appreciation and love of video gaming. Fandom in itself is a kind of subculture. Unfortunately, it also has a bit of a bad reputation in some of its forms, but I enjoy doing it. It allows me to combine two of my hobbies and loves: art and gaming, and it’s relatively healthy.

HM: Also what is Xeno? I have yet to encounter a name that doesn’t ring a bell.

“Xeno” is just a nickname for the game Xenogears and the game series Xenosaga. The two are not related, except that they have the same creators and many references and nods to each other. Xenogears itself is one of Squaresoft little-known games that has bit of a cult following because of its quirkiness and sci-fi elements. It’s also known for being released half-finished, supposedly. Xenosaga was the follow-up that was released by Namco later. It ended up also being half-finished. But I love ‘em both.

HM: So let’s talk about style. You have stated clear and loud that you are not an anime artist. This I can vouch for because the human body touches reality, but how do you characterize what you do, just so that non-artists can understand it better?

I don’t consider myself an “anime” style artist; however, I don’t make it a secret that I do have some influences from Japanese art. I feel that because I take influence from so many sources outside of the genre I can’t be placed in the anime category. Not only that, so many artists from Japan also draw from sources outside of anime that it’s unfair to say that any stylization that draws on exaggerating anatomy is entirely Japanese. I find that I have stronger influence from Western comics and animation. Plus, I do look at classical art and life for influence as well. I particularly love looking to photography for inspiration for color and design.

HM: With modern technology it is quite difficult to distinguish between what is done by hand and what is tinkered on the computer. I get the same vibe from your work. The fluid line work I figure is done by hand and the coloring is perhaps digitally added. Did I hit a bull’s eye? What materials do you use and how long does it take for a piece usually?

I usually do my lineart by hand, inked. I tend to work with ballpoint pens on heavy stock paper (usually around 65 lbs). It’s cheap, but with certain pens it’s easy to emulate pencil. I mostly use ink to keep from having smudges on my paper and archival reason. Then I scan and work in Photoshop CS3 and Painter X for color. Occasionally, I’ll do straight digital works or completely redraw sketches in Photoshop or Painter. I’ve kinda lost the patience to do that these days with my other jobs that I work, but it’s a good skill to have. Most pieces take anywhere from a couple of hours to ten hours to finish, according to how detailed I’m working or what look I’m trying to achieve. I color and draw with a Wacom Intuos tablet and use an Epson scanner for my lineart.

HM: Is there a certain technique or movement in art you would wish to experiment with?

LJ: I’d really like to get back into painting with traditional materials. My current studio isn’t really large enough for that at the moment, so I don’t do much painting aside from watercolor these days. But I’d like to get back to doing wall-sized oil and acrylic paintings. Currently, I’ve been interested in doing more with collage. I’ve been really into Dave McKean’s work as of late, and I’m really impressed by how he’s managed to be completely original with his style and technique within the comic book industry.

HM: This question is going to encompass quite a lot, I hope you don’t mind. Some artists have a knack for landscapes, others for creatures, while you pay attention to the human body in close detail. How come did the human physique in nudity or semi-nudity stick as a predominant theme in you work and what is hard to draw: the male or the female body?

I find the human body to be beautiful and masterfully constructed. I also find that it’s a shame that outside of pornography and high art, it’s something that’s ignored in most cultures despite that’s part of nature. So, I’ve focused on mastering drawing the human body for the past decade. I actually find the male body the most difficult to draw. I’m not sure why, though I suspect it’s because I’m not a guy myself :).

HM: Another keen observation shows me that you like adding wings to your characters. Does this mean you love angels or love birds?

: I take some influence from Western classical art, so I do tend to incorporate some of the motifs.

HM: How does art fit in your life? Are you a freelance artist or perhaps you have a day job? Have you found professional realization?

LJ: I do freelance illustration and jewelry making on top of working a daytime job for the Department of Health and Human Services—U.S. government work. It does get very stressful at times to try to work both jobs, since the latter job is a government job that demands a lot of my time and attention. Eventually, I’d like to do my art fulltime, but for now I do both. I will say, the government job does give me the satisfaction of being able to help people in need, believe it or not. So, it could be worse. And my bills are being paid, and that’s always nice. Ultimately, my goal is to get into gaming or cinema as a concept artist, though right now I don’t feel I’m the level I need to be in order to do that, so I’m still working on drawing and painting skills while working for DHHS. Plus, doing the freelancing allows for me to be able to do my art while at home, and I’m able to send my art anywhere thanks to overnight mail and the internet. Eventually, I plan on moving back out to the East Coast in order to be able to make meeting clients easier. My dream is to work for Capcom…not that will happen anytime soon, but I can fantasize, right? ;)

HM: I also have to wonder what your current projects are. What can we expect?

LJ: Currently working on a script for a small comic I’d like to draw; hopefully I’ll have the first volume of that published by the end of the year. I can’t really talk about that at the moment, but hopefully I’ll be allowed to here soon :). Most of the other current projects I’m doing right now are things like logos and designs for small companies. Nothing really exciting, but it builds up the portfolio.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to me ramble!

And this is it people. I hope you had a good time and if you ever wondered how an artist is being born and shaped in their medium, to summ it up: It isn't a simple a process.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Michiko to Hatchin"

Anime has a variety of genres, but the holy trinity so far have been fantasy/paranormal, sci-fi and the romantic dramas. In between the cracks fall the so called slice of life and more toned down on fantasy images story lines. “Michiko to Hatchin” slides in between all cracks and enthralls because it’s totally different than the majority of series on the market.

The core in the story revolves around the adventures of Michiko Malandro and Hannah Morenos, who travel through an amazing colorful world based on the fiery Latin American countries in search of Hannah’s father and also Michiko’s one true love Hiroshi Morenos. There are no fantasy or sci-fi elements. Just a fugitive from the toughest female prison and an orphan living the life of fugitives always on the run on a big blue bike.

Every episode is a story on its own, a sort of animated series vignettes, which are connected only through the main purpose of finding Hiroshi. Genre wise the series doesn’t fit in a single category, but uses the very popular slapstick comedy elements and an interesting shade of physical comedy in moments to relieve of tension and the interaction between the main characters, who share personalities; a predicament, which ensues hilarity. Then again we have police drama elements with car chases, assassins, hostage situations, gang wars and lots of gun shooting.

Compelling to watch are the main characters, who also manage to dodge the pretty much popular anime factory. Michiko is a smoldering Adriana Lima with a short fuse, brutish manners, rash and immature behavior, yet with childish naivety and hope that she will find Hiroshi. Hannah is more or less the grown up in this relationship despite being 10 years old and due to her harsh life has matured and later turned into a hard realist with some pessimistic moods. She is prone to burdening herself with all the responsibilities and morality. Their interaction is a recipe for riots, mayhem and turmoil.

Attracting trouble like a black hole the duo passes by a rich and varied group of characters. The human factor in the series is strong and the intent is to show the fractured beings people turn into, when life hits hard. A lying parlor trick fraud of a healer, a former rich girl stripper, a jaded and amoral biologist, developing giant tomatoes and Atsuko Jackson, the detective on Michiko’s tail and also her childhood best friend are to name a few.

The world they inhabit is chaos reincarnated, but beauty can be found in the fractured streets, buildings and people. Overall the series transfix and pull with this mixture of beauty and cruelty, silent despair and stubborn hope.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

“All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Title: "All You Need is Kill"
Author: Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 169
Publisher: Haikasoru

Summary: When the alien Gitai also called Mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he finally sees something different, something out of place—a female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji’s escape or his final death?

Classification & Literary Class:
I had a very hard time starting this review. There is much to say and reflect upon, yet “All You Need is Kill” is unlike most novels the American and the European audience has had experience with. Prose, length, storytelling, characterization, internals and general take on the genre; all these elements create unfamiliar alien scenery, which needs discovering and an adventurous spirit to experiment with the unknown.

Science fiction is as wide as the universe it explores, virtually endless and while the Western culture has taken up the undying space exploration themes, colonization and the such, the Eastern have adopted the apocalypse by aliens/humans and made it their own. Try an anime and you will see what I am talking about. “All You Need is Kill” portrays the final stand of humanity against an invading alien force, devoted to turning Earth into a colony. In a sense this is military fiction, but it doesn’t get boring or falls into cliché.

The Japanese are known for their brevity in literature, mostly with the worldwide celebrated haikus, but their sense to get down to the point and write the distilled and concentrated essence of their topic crosses into speculative fiction. Sakurazaka builds his novel more around the internals of the characters and how they process the occurrences in their life much like a report. Compared to what we are used in the West dialogue is overall scarce and actual combat scenes are also few in number, but Sakurazaka creates the illusion that writing war and combat scenes is like the easiest thing in the world.

Despite its 169 pages by Hiroshi offers a full novel experience much like any title ranging from 300 to 600 pages. This proves to show that length in literature is quite subjective and the page count steps down in importance to the use of words, which combination will reduce an idea or image to one concise power pack to the reader.

Characters & Depth:
Remarkable in “All You Need is Kill” is the rapid character evolution. Keiji on page one is a rookie with no battle experience and meets his death in a cowardly manner, while Keiji from the last chapter is a veteran with steel nerves and body turned into a killing machine. This metamorphosis once you have invested all your enthusiasm in the story is invisible so to say. You pick up a change, but it is so natural given the situation that he is in a time loop and every day is a struggle to end it. But once you stop to think about it you get the wow effect. At least I have. This wouldn’t have worked, if the novel itself was longer.

The story is told in third person POV and changes from Keiji to Rita aka the Full Metal Bitch, who has become a legendary soldier, because a time loop herself. Her role in the novel is quite interesting and dramatic following the guidelines of Japanese sense of tragedy. She highlights the events that occur in the time loop through her own experience, which gives credible explanation to the constant resurrection of Keiji. Being a tough person in the present, by the same rules we are introduced to her own personal anguish and shattered existence. In the end Keiji and Rita represent two aspects of the super soldier, Keiji is the process of hardening yourself and carrying an unimaginable burden, while Rita is the broken person left in the process. There is this yin-yang polarity so to say.

Worldbuilding & Believability: I wasn’t a great fan in the beginning, when I found out this whole book will revolve over a battle that repeats itself around 160 times. I have seen the idea done before in the show “Tru Calling” and in some movies I don’t remember very clearly, so I wasn’t charmed. But then again the focus came on the internal development of the character and how he tries everything to stop waking up every day on the same date before the same battle. If you view it gamer terms, it’s having to reset the same level 160 times and every time gain new experience after failing, try new strategy and develop mad skills.

The Mimics are the core of the very problem. In the book they are described as dead bloated frogs and are basically made out of nanobots and have evolved from a remodeling tool for colonization to weapons. They even have the technology to reset time and are the culprits for the constant time loops. I won’t say more, because the whole situation is definitely more complex than that and offers twists and thrill rides that leave you “awesome”-ing all the while.

Perhaps the last element in the whole world now that we mentioned the aliens and time loops is the so called Jackets. They are your simple full battle armor with major artillery and a constant in the whole novel, plus they create this whole subculture in the army with special training system, slang and all that to make it interesting.

The Verdict: I love it and advise people to give it a chance. Speaking from a globalization point of view, now more than ever we have the ultimate freedom to touch another culture and explore it. So take a chance and see how the other side of the world does it. You know you want to.

IMPORTANT: This novel is scheduled as one of the first releases of the new Viz Media imprint Haikasoru in July, which will bring the popular Japanese fantasy and sci-fi titles into the US Market. So to make it launch with a big bang spread the word and preorder.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Artist Corner: Claudia Schmidt

For this week I have something different. Fantasy being as broad and undiscriminating to ideas has adopted a movement in art, which has been ridiculed and unjustly connected with profanity… People know it as furry art, I call it anthropomorphic art and in my opinion, if done right, it displays a mad set of skills behind the seemingly easy human/animal blend. With me I have artist Claudia Schmidt, who represents for me the top dog in the game and will throw some perspective on the matter.

Harry Markov: First, thank you very much for accepting my invitation. Anthropomorphic art is something I have always found interesting and it was high time I got myself an artist, an expert in the field and strap ‘em down to my virtual chair for some interrogation. But first things first, what attracted you to art? What was your first encounter with art for you to make the decision to become an artist?
Claudia Schmidt: My attraction to art has started in the very early stage of my life. When I was a child, I was a daydreamer and could hardly concentrate on things which weren't interesting to me or which couldn't make me fantasize about things.

As a very young girl I meticulously painted lines or swirls and tried to make everything look neat. One day, I started visualizing my day dreams and started drawing creatures and other fantasy themed pictures that arose from my head but I never took it too seriously. I saw it as a simple hobby at first. Two years ago, I started developing my own style more and more until today.

The last year especially was a big year full of artistic experiences and changes. I want it to go on because art has become a purpose in my life.

HM: Can you tell us about yourself a bit more? Who is AlectorFencer and why did you chose this particular nickname for your DA profile?

CS: My real name is Claudia Schmidt and I was born in March 28 in 1986 in Germany. I grew up near the Palatinate Forest, one of the vastest forests in Germany, where I enjoyed nature and the freedom that a child can have. One day I went back to my home town to study graphics design after realizing that art has become a stronger bond to my life and that the world is open for me.

The nickname Alector was more or less a coincidence because years ago I especially liked the boy's name "Alec" and also had a character for the stories I sometimes wrote. I added "tor" later as I found out that it looks more original and nicer. The last part "Fencer" occured from the storyline of Alector, which is now more than 9 years old.

HM: Which artist so far has had an exceptional influence on your work?

CS: Salvador Dalí was one of my main influences. Before my style changed and manifested, I dedicated my artistic skills to surrealism but I didn't find a constant satisfaction in it after a while. Since 2002, I drew a lot of inspiration and muse from various concept artists and creature designers as it was one of my passions to play around with shapes and colours.
Since a couple of years, the artist and designer Raymond Swanland has become one of my main influences and source of inspiration, even if my works are far away from his style.

HM: Though as much as hate putting a label, I see anthropomorphic art as a part from the fantasy family for the hybrid mixture between human and animal. What exactly attracted you to fantasy first and then to this particular movement?

CS: Fantasy is a great genre in which I can let myself and my daydreaming go. I can paint mushrooms which are bigger than myself and glowing spiders that can fly without being questioned about realism and possibility. I moved to anthropomorphic artwork because it is very fantasy based as well even though it is a completely different genre.

HM: Where do you search for ideas for new projects? For that matter what other art forms inspire your work: literature, music, dance, etc?

CS: Music is my biggest source of inspiration as it seems to support visualizing pictures and ideas in my head before and during working on pictures.

However, I mostly gain inspiration from my surrounding and from nature when being outside or when seeing simple photographs.

When I read a book, it's like a movie plays in my head and I can imagine every written sentence in colour. I guess that's what good books are for.

HM: How hard is it to draw a humanoid figure that has animal traits? To make it look realistic enough there has to be a sense, a fine line between human and animal. Is it generally hard to incorporate the animal and build it upon the human? Have you used anatomy books in some cases or have you always drawn by instinct?

CS: At first it was very difficult because the human and animal aspects have to be litrally merged together so that there won't be a loss of traits of both species. This style requires a lot of research for the animal you want to draw, a lot of practice and a basic knowledge of human anatomy.

I practiced a lot with drawing animals and humans and browsed through galleries of the furry fandom to get an idea how this genre actually works but I unconditionally wanted to develop my own personal style.

HM: From what I see in your gallery you draw on traditional support such as pencils and paper and everything looks hand drawn. Is that correct? What materials do you use and how long does it take for a piece usually?

CS: My gallery also has quite a bunch of digital pictures. Currently, I work a lot with traditional media because I can let out a lot of energy by splattering paint on paper and having dirty yet colourful fingers afterwards. The traditional pieces are mostly prepared with a layer of watercolours on which I add detail with coloured pencils. Mistakes and highlights are painted using acrylics. I want to go into painting a lot more such as acrylics and oil paintings but that will take a lot of overcoming first.

Depending on the size and details, a coloured picture can take me from 30 minutes up to 40 hours and longer.

HM: What do you think about digital art and are you generally tempted to expand into that direction as well?

CS: Digital art is a wonderful medium which is often enough underestimated. Since my gallery contains digital paintings as well I have a lot of experience with it and know that a digital painting can take as much time as a traditional piece. It is a challenge working digitally because it needs practice and a good understanding of the programs that are used as well. However, the possibilities of working with this medium are broad and awesome hence I definately want to expand more into that direction and challenge myself.

HM: Is there a certain technique or movement in art you would wish to experiment with?

CS: Yes. It's concept artwork. What fascinates me about concept painting is that the artists are able to create a nearly realistic image, a happening or a location by their clever way of using brush techniques and strong colours in such a short amount of time.
I am very tempted to combine conceptual artwork with my current detailed style of painting to see what happens.

HM: The most drawn animal so far in your whole portfolio is the wolf. What qualities do you find in this mammal to be featured in so many of your pieces?

CS: Ever since I saw pictures, read books or saw movies about wolves when I was younger, this canine fascinated me with it's mystical aura and deep fascinating eyes. I grew up with a dog which I loved above everything and which seemed to be an inner part of myself - we were something like inseparable friends and spent a lot of time together. Even dogs nowadays are far from their ancestors by look, they still have the social and instinctive features of a wolf.

The wolf also seems to embody freedom and spirituality to humans that's why I seem to be drawn to it in a special way.

HM: The most drawn character is the so called Nature Spirit, an endearing mixture of flora and a wolf. It is one of my personal favorites. How was this character born and why do you return to it so often?

Again I must refer to my childhood because that's where the inspiration and idea of the plant spirit litrally grew in my mind. My mother is a flourist so I was surrounded by plants all my childhood along. Ivy, vine and moss have always been my favourites because of their fast and swirly way of growing.

I wanted to combine nature and spirituality yet I also wanted to criticize the scheming of the humans towards nature and describe its diversity and beauty in combination with a fantastic creature.

It was born in 1998 when I first scribbled myself being able to grow plants faster because I was fascinated by my own first plant, a Sarracenia purpureal (carnivorous plant) which looked beautiful and haunting but I wanted it to grow faster - which it really did later.
Over the years, I started combining those features with animals until today.

I return to the Plant Spirit idea so often because I'm working on a storyline for it and plan to make a graphic novel.

HM: Is there an animal you would wish to try and draw as a humanoid, but so far have not tried to work with? And in your opinion is every animal possible to be used in anthropomorphic art?

CS: Oh, there are quite many. I would love to draw an anthropomorphic Elephant for example because of the awesome possibilities to play with facial expressions and folds of the skin.
In my opinion, every single animal can be drawn that way if you just know how to make it feasible. Soon, I will have to draw anthropomorphic worms for a commission. I'm quite excited about it as it seems to be a fun idea.

HM: How does art fit in your life? Are you a freelance artist or perhaps you have a day job? Have you found professional realization?

CS: My art is my daily bread and fits in my life wonderfully. I'm a freelance artist and enjoy my life style so far. One of my biggest goals is to work together with artists and to get commissioned by well known and professional companies or publishers.
HM: I also have to wonder what your current projects are. What can we expect?

CS: One of my current projects is still a secret but it will be revealed soon enough.
The other one is that I will start working on my graphic novel this summer and another one will be a collaboration with the fantastic musician and artist Blanka Münzberg, with whom I want to illustrate a book and present the pictures whilst she plays the harp and I sing the story along.

Other than that, I am very excited and open for new things to come.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Human society has this little kink to pick up people, put them on a pedestal and worship them as private gods. Business entrepreneurs wet themselves when they hear Donald Trump; young gadget pioneers kiss the picture of Bill Gates and so as you can see every social sphere has its own pantheon. I personally bow down in front several geniuses in literature as every writer in the making does. The Pantheon of Fantasy has names, which have built either the foundations or elevated the quality and reputation to a Nirvana for all readers, but there is one name, which can be spelled as magic. Neil Gaiman.

I know him to be a genius and yet I haven’t read anything, even though I posses some of his works. Now I spent the most enchanting afternoon in my life with his adapted four issue mini-series “The Sandman: The Dream Hunters”. So far I hadn’t had the chance to read anything from the Sandman world and I am not disappointed. An opinion is a subjective material and more often than not I have been disappointed from hefty praise. Neil Gaiman deserves his praise.

In the Dream Hunters we are introduced to an authentic Japanese tale with its shapeshifting animal spirits with mischievous behavior, but good hearts, the demons of the night, the countless gods and entities and a platonic love tragedy. Through manga, anime and even some prose experience I have a certain feel for all that is Japanese and I could have been fooled into believing that Gaiman is in fact native to the spirit of the land.

Originally an illustrated novella, “The Dream Hunters” tells about the love of a kitsune, a shapeshifting fox spirit, for a young monk at a small temple. When a powerful onmyoji, a Japanese mystic with diverse skills, seeks a way to chase away his own nameless fear and wishes to kill the monk in his dreams, the fox begs Morpheus for help and sacrifices her own life in order for the monk to live out of love. However the monk also shares secret devotion after seeing the fox in her human shape and dies so that she could live. Slain by anguish the kitsune seeks revenge and through trickery ruins the onmyoji and afterwards the reader is offered alternative endings to how the story can end. Will the monk and fox be together in the afterlife or not? It is up for the reader to decide.

I can definitely call this a comic book for intellectuals as it carries the distinct Japanese art of applying wisdom to any given situation with great quintessential thoughts that can be applied in our own daily life. Gaiman is a genius and P. Craig Russell adapted the novella in comic book format in quite the captivating way. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to ease a work from one medium into another and still make it work. Plus the art work is beyond words. I am not an expert in line work and color work, but from my point of view as a reader, who is on the receiving end I am with my jaw at my knees and loving it. I am probably repeating myself, but I can describe it as old style Japanese print art with its sense of tranquility.

If I have the opportunity, I will buy the novella and be swept away by the magic of it all. This is something not to be missed.

"Hunted" by P.C. and Kristin Cast: Promo trailer + extras

What if the hottest guy in the world was hiding a nameless evil, and all he wanted was you? At the start of this heart-pounding new installment of the bestselling House of Night series, Zoey’s friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren’t Neferet’s secrets any longer. But an unexpected danger has emerged. Neferet guards her powerful new consort, Kalona, and no one at the House of Night seems to understand the threat he poses. Kalona looks gorgeous, and he has the House of Night under his spell. A past life holds the key to breaking his rapidly spreading influence, but what if this past life shows Zoey secrets she doesn’t want to hear and truths she can’t face?

The House of Night is a thrillingly engaging book series from St. Martin's Press. The series follows 16-year-old Zoey Redbird, who gets “Marked” by a vampyre tracker and begins to undergo the Change into an actual vampyre.

For the first time in hardcover, with a huge initial printing, HUNTED finds Zoey Redbird at her most powerful and in her most important role yet.

The New York Times best selling mother-daughter writing team of P.C. and Kristin Cast again prove why they have become a major force in teen fiction. With over 3 million copies of their books in print, a well-publicized film option, an updated interactive website, daily-growing fanbase, and now a first national book tour, the Cast duo will command your attention with every page turn.

So to sweeten things up a notch, I have a special viral book trailer provided by Zeitghost Media for “Hunted’s” March 10th release:

Now if you still haven't quenched your curiosity , you can find the first chapter posted on the authors' site.

Doesn't it sound interesting?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Wonderland: If it is innocent, desecrate it…

I am starting with fairy tales, even though I am fully aware that “Alice in Wonderland” is in fact a novel. So, fairy tales charm with their innocent magic, naïve and friendly demeanor and though with droplets of sadness and fear are generally the indestructible pink sun glasses that make the world so much better. Who can forget Snow white, the Ugly Duckling, Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast and all those happy endings….

After a while though when the modern generation of horror movies, vampire clans and gothic devotion grew up to drinking age or even before that realized that the Grimm Fairy Tales were in fact the first horror stories [trust me in Cinderella there is much mutilation going on and I read it in German] and so we have seen Snow white dying after a dose of apple heroin and Little Red Riding Hood slaughter people with a chainsaw and Alice in Wonderland get down with a butcher knife in a video game [at least I have seen]. But the comic book industry couldn’t keep their hands to themselves and Alice had to be desecrated again.

Zenescope’s 6 issue mini-series “Return to Wonderland”, the ongoing sequel “Beyond Wonderland” and the three one shots “Tales from Wonderland” take the innocent, magical and illogical Wonderland with its cast and harvests its twisted potential. Alice Liddle, the original Alice, is a grown woman, married with children, but suffers mentally from her trip to Wonderland and attempts suicide after Wonderland attempts to claim her back. After her death Wonderland sets its eyes on her children Calie and her brother, who becomes the second Mad Hatter. With a black stripper version of the classic blue dress Alice spurted, Calie sets out on a survival mission in a Wonderland, which is simply another word for Limbo aka Hell.

Everything you held dear has been twisted… The white rabbit is a zombie. The Cheshire Cat is a lycanthropic monster. The Catterpillar strikes like a distant cousin of the Alien and the Mad Hatter is quite mad. Only the Queen of Hearts is more like herself. She wants heads to keep rolling, but is not afraid to do it herself. Calie, who is Alice version 2.0, looks like a wet dream material and can if needed revert to violence. The plot is simplistic to keep true to the survival horror atmosphere. Calie has to deal with being chased by monsters in the real world and in Wonderland, deal with the guilt of sending her brother through the mirror to limbo and try and keep her sanity.

What I found most interesting however was the total psycho-murderous horror make over in the exterior and the mechanics behind Wonderland and its inhabitants. Writer Raven Gregory is one sick puppy and I love him for his work on the series, which is gaining popularity among its targeted audience. Art tandem Daniel Leister [illustrator] and Nei Ruffino [colorist] create high class crystal clear vision, aesthetical gore and a sultry underlining eroticism, which is quite noticeable though not profane or tasteless. All in all what horror should feel like. I suggest people that like their stories dark and bloody get it now.
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