A couple of summers ago, I reviewed some books, as I am wont to do. One of them was An Augmented Fourth by friend of the Ladies and local celebrity Tony McMillen. Since then, Tony’s written and drawn a comic, Lumen. Since the first four issue arc has just drawn to a close, it felt like a good time to tell you all about it – you can get in on the ground floor of what I hope will be an ongoing series, while still getting a complete story.
The story of Lumen begins with a young man, Esteban Vela, who stumbles upon a suit of armor and a lantern one day after following a falling star. It sounds romantic, except for two things – one, the armor still holds its previous occupant. Two, Esteban lives in the Nocterra, a world enshrouded entirely in darkness. There are no stars, not even falling ones, and being too romantic in a world like this is will get a boy killed. Still, inspired by tales of “the legendary Vaquero Rubus Bramble…the hero who was supposed to lasso the sun,” Esteban decides not only to take the armor, but promptly finds himself embarking on an epic quest.
You see, while the sun is gone, devoured by “the Beast that fell to earth,” there is one source of life and light in the Nocterra – lumen, a glowing substance that allows plants to grow. It also provides energy; it’s the power source for Esteban’s armor as well as the various weapons and mechs designed by his nearest neighbor, Detta the science witch. It’s Detta who sends him on his quest, to obtain the lumen horde in the southern castle. All that stands in his way are giant fungus monsters, the Fun Guys, who thrive in the darkness of the Nocterra. No problem for a hero, right?
The story has many of the best elements of a fairy tale – a magical destiny, a witch, a quest, even an animal companion and a pretty girl – while still managing to feel entirely new and unique. McMillen has clearly spent a lot of time on world-building, thinking through the rules of his night universe and how it operates, and he deploys it brilliantly, through the illustrations and actions of the plot rather than through tiresome exposition. Likewise, the characters all have distinct voices and personalities – I could hear Esteban’s cocky bravado (and its undercurrent of doubt and fear) in my head perfectly.
McMillen’s art is likewise wholly unique, loose and smudgy, yet sharp and distinct when it needs to be. The use of color is amazing in a book about a world cast in darkness, and book three has a multi-page sequence that manages to be clever without being gimmicky. And the Fun Guys – well, no one draws a monster like Tony. Each are named after actual mushrooms – there’s a great single page shot of different types in issue that looks cool AND had me reaching for google to see what a “Gristly Domecap” looks like here on our Earth.
All told, Lumen is an impressive debut comic from a writer I know is only getting better, and I can’t wait for the next arc.
If you want to read Lumen, the first copies are sold out in print but available online at McMillen’s Etsy shop, and the later issues are available either online or here in Boston at Comicazi and Hub Comics. Even more exciting, the first issue is up for FREE over at Tony’s website. So get on over there and check it out!
Smalerie interviews LadiesCon guest Kristen Gudsnuk right before the convention. Listen as they discuss Kristen’s comics, magical girls, and upcoming comics.
LadiesCon 2018 has come and gone. And if you were among the many people to be there as an attendee, volunteer, vendor, panelist, or guest, you know what an amazing day it was. We put a lot of work into planning LadiesCon every year to make sure it’s a great time for everyone involved, but even we couldn’t anticipate just how wonderful this year’s convention would be. Continue reading
This month, we’re talking about tropes! What is a trope? What makes them so effective that they keep popping up again and again? Which tropes do we love? Which ones do we actively seek out?
We’ll be adding a few links to examples of our favorite tropes soon.
Check out previous episodes and subscribe to the podcast on our podcast page.
It can be hard for parents to navigate the shelves at a comic shop, particularly if they haven’t read a lot of comics themselves. The misconception that all comics are for kids is waning, but hasn’t totally been extinguished yet. Luckily, most shops have a section devoted to all-ages books, and staff trained to make recommendations. Here are a couple that I’ve enjoyed, if you need to spark some ideas.
This post is written by a member of our community, Avram Baskin. All opinion expressed are the author’s own.
The other day while I was visiting my local comic book store I picked up a copy of Marvel Universe 1. The cover of the magazine is what will be the cover art for the rebooted Avengers #1.
The depiction of She-Hulk reminded me of drawings of female super heroes in the broke-back pose — an anatomically impossible pose that shows off the characters (usually) large breasts and butt at the same time. The connection is “anatomically impossible”.
Well, in the interest of accuracy, women can look like that drawing, but only after continuous use of steroids and breast-enlargement surgery. With a little research I came up with the name Natalia Trukhina. She’s a pretty close approximation of that picture of She-Hulk. She also freely admits that she couldn’t look that way without steroids.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the first amendment and artistic freedom and I have no problem with women pursuing whatever athletic interest they find fulfilling. That’s especially true because I’m the dad of a 14 year old daughter. But because I have a fourteen year old daughter, I’m aware of the implications of body shaming and the various ways that our culture objectifies and demeans women. There is a difference between a woman choosing to dedicate herself to an athletic goal and a male artist deciding to depict a female character with the combination of an impossibly muscular physique and exaggerated breasts. One is liberating, the other is demeaning.
How do I think female super heroes should look? They should look like normal women who happen to have powers, super or otherwise — like the female super heroes in the movies and on television. I’m especially thinking about that with Black Panther in mind. It’s rightfully lauded for it’s depiction of it’s primarily African-American cast. But it is also iconic because it features five strong female characters — role models for girls of any race.
I think it’s ironic that in the wake of that Marvel movie we get this drawing of She-Hulk, which doesn’t serve any purpose I can see, other than to objectify the character for the purpose of fulfilling someone’s weird masturbation fantasy. Instead of trying to titillate a real or imagined male demographic, comic books should be providing positive and realistic looking images of women that young women like my daughter can identify with.
This post will feature spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War largely in the form of a character study, but also in the form of point of the Infinity Saga story in the comics.
Maybe you have seen Avengers: Infinity War by now, or maybe you haven’t. But surely you have at least heard of Thanos, the Mad Titan by now. When The Goog and I first started dating now 16 years ago, he asked me if I was familiar with the Infinity Saga the way one of those kids with the suits and backpacks (you know the ones) might ask if you have heard about the Good Word. We have been an Infinity Saga household ever since. A big part of what makes this massive event/cross-over story so compelling is not just the coming together of so many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes (and anti-heroes), but that Thanos, as the catalyst, is such a compelling and complicated villain. Continue reading
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk saying that the comics industry has shifted to making social justice a priority in its storytelling, and that “social justice warriors” are ruining comics by pressuring the industry into representing these issues.
What these folks fail to realize is that telling stories about current events and the changes we’re going through as a society has always been a part of comics – as a dated periodical, comic books are necessarily a product and reflection of the times in which they were created.
The earliest days of American comics coincided with the rise of Hitler and the beginnings of World War II, and the heroes of that era and the adventures they had are entirely reflective of that. When the war ended and the economy boomed, the stories became lighter and more imaginative. The 60’s and 70’s brought women’s liberation, the civil rights movement, and a growing sense of eco-consciousness, and characters like Diana Prince, Black Panther, and R’as al Ghul appeared in stories with those themes.
Recently, we worked with our friends at Comicazi to present examples of how comics have represented social attitudes and values, as well as how they’ve changed over the years. Called “Issues on Issues,” it was part museum-style exhibit, with comics from the golden, silver, and bronze ages on display, and part comic salon – an opportunity to discuss the books and their topics with others. Attendees were asked to consider – whose story is being told? Who is telling that story? And how would we tell it today?
Comics aren’t necessarily promoting a particular answer to social problems in America, but like all art, they reveal the hopes, fears, and dreams of the times in which they’re created. The comics displayed here are examples of how these themes have been portrayed in the medium throughout its history. Some of the books we displayed at the event have had a lasting impact, while others clearly missed the mark, or represent views we no longer ascribe to as a society. Still, others were misses in their first incarnations, but have changed and adapted from their well-intentioned but clumsy characters into nuanced, well-thought-out characters. As more people with different gender, cultural, ethnic, sexual, and religious identities are writing and drawing the stories we read, the perspectives and ideas being shown become more diverse and authentic. While this seems to dismay a small, vocal minority of fans, it’s also opening doors for new readers to fall in love with comics for the first time.