Kool Kat of the Week: Space Is the Place: Balogun Ojetade’s Journey from Sword and Soul to Co-Founding The State of Black Science Fiction Convention Which Lands in Atlanta This Weekend

Posted on: Jun 7th, 2016 By:

Official Logo 1The Mothership lands in Atlanta this weekend. No, it’s not a Funkadelic concert, but the first annual State of Black Science Fiction Convention (SOSBFC) at the Southwest Arts Center Saturday June 11 and Sunday June 12. For all the talk about accepting the diversity of the alien, science fiction’s early history is peopled by white super-men protagonists, and some today seem to want to keep it that way if recent controversies in fandom  are any indication. But black writers, artists and filmmakers have been emerging to create some of the most dynamic and innovative speculative fiction today, pushing boundaries and re-imaging earth’s future and space as diverse, complex, uncomfortable, beautiful and inspiring.

SOSBFC aims to bring together the most comprehensive celebration of black creators of science fiction, fantasy, horror and comics to date. Just a glance at the programming schedule is sure to cause sensory overload with the mix of panels, speakers, workshops, presentations and kids’ activities to nurture the next generation of creators and fans–something most cons neglect. There’s also a dealers room and art show, cosplay is encouraged, and there’s even going to be onsite food that’s more than pizza or burgers, we hear – something most cons neglect! Whether you’re into Afrofuturism, steamfunk, cyberfunk, dieselfunk, sword and soul, rococoa, Afrikan martial arts, or just what the find out what the funk is happening, SOSBFC is the place.

Needless to say, our choice of Kool Kat this week was easy. ATLRetro caught up with Atlanta-based writer Balogun Ojetade, co-founder with writer/editor/publisher Milton Davis, to find out more about how Atlanta’s newest spec-lit convention got launched, what’s planned and what’s next.

OctaviaEButler_KindredATLRetro: To many, Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler lit the fuse on an African-American SF perspective, yet W.E.B. DuBois published an SF story back in 1908. Which SF/spec-lit authors were early favorites/inspirations for you?

Balogun Ojetade: My early inspirations were Charles R. Saunders, the Father of Sword and Soul and creator of the Imaro series of novels and the brilliant master storyteller and poet, Henry Dumas, whose short stories “Fon,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Ark of Bones” were the greatest influences on my horror and fantasy writing style as a young man.

Atlanta’s been characterized as a center for Afrofuturism. Can you talk a little about the local community of black writers and publishers? Do you feel like you were part of a movement?

Atlanta is where the now worldwide State of Black Science Fiction author, publisher, artist, filmmaker, game designer and cosplayers collective was founded. As one of the founders of this collective and one of its most active members, I am certainly part of a movement, which is still very much alive. I am also one of the people who founded the Steamfunk Movement, along with author and publisher Milton Davis, who also resides in Atlanta.

Official Flyer 4What’s the specific origin story of SOBSFC?

The origin of the State of Black Science Fiction Convention, or SOBSF Con, began about four years ago. In the State of Black Science Fiction Facebook Group we had a lively discussion about the need for a convention that would not only showcase comic books by creators of African descent, but would also showcase novels, films, artwork, fashion design, cosplay, African martial arts and much more. We wanted to give con goers a full and enriching experience.

It was originally decided that each region would host a convention – one would be in Atlanta, one in the DC / Maryland / Baltimore area, one in New York City, one in Chicago and so on – on the same days and times. We would call this mega event Diaspora Con. Well, certain things happened that let Milton Davis and I know that Diaspora Con was not to be, so we scrapped the idea, but the desire to give the world a convention that showcased black speculative works continued to burn.

In early 2015, Milton and I decided we would host a con that would draw fans and creators of black speculative fiction, film, fashion and fabrication from around the country. We agreed on the name State of Black Science Fiction Convention and then started making plans. By mid-2015, we made our plans public and received positive feedback from hundreds of people who said they would attend such a con in Atlanta and here we are.

imaro_cush_nightshadeDo you think SOBSFC and a greater push for diversity in SF publishing is especially needed right now in light of the Sad and Rabid Puppies Hugo Awards controversy and Internet outrage about a black lead in the recent Star Wars movie?

These controversies and the outrage is nothing new. You have always had and will always have ignorant and fearful people in all walks of life. The science fiction and fantasy community is not exempt from this. There has always been a need for a SOBSF Con and for a constant push for diversity in SFF publishing. The more we push, the more people know we are here. The more people know we are here, the more that know there are alternatives to the racist, sexist rubbish they have had to endure for so long.

SOBSFC is billed as the “most comprehensive presentation of black speculative fiction ever.” There’s a lot going on for just $25 for both days (a bargain compared to DragonCon, most cons).  I know this is a hard question but what 3-5 pieces of programming should con attendees be sure not to miss and why?  

Yes, it is a hard question because the programming is so Blacktastic, but I will share a few that I know people will absolutely be blown away by.

  1. The YOU are the Hero Cosplay Contest: Imagine hordes of black cosplayers of all ages and body types presenting mainstream, independent AND original characters from film, comic books, anime, manga, or of their own design. TOO cool!
  2. The Future is Stupid Art Show: Dozens of Afrofuturistic pieces of artwork by Atlanta’s favorite artists will be found all over the exterior and interior of the convention facility.
  3. The Big, Beautiful, Black Roundtable: At this “Town Meeting” we will present, discuss, listen to and put into effect strategies and collaborations to take black speculative fiction/film/fashion/fabrication to the next level!
  4. The Charles R. Saunders Tribute: We will share stories about how this great man has influenced our writing, his history and great contribution to the advancement of speculative fiction and we will read excerpts from his works, all before presenting Charles with a much deserved award.

 Official Flyer 3Can you talk a little about the writer guests and how they reflect the variety and scope of black spec-lit today?

We have some great guests at SOBSF Con and the authors represent the entire spectrum of speculative fiction. Here are a few:

  1. Valjeanne Jeffers: Writes horror, Steamfunk and Sword and Soul.
  2. Zig Zag Claybourne: Writes action and adventure, Rococoa and Cyberfunk.
  3. Derrick Ferguson: New pulp icon. Creator of black pulp heroes Dillon and Fortune McCall.
  4. Cerece Rennie Murphy: Writes urban fantasy for adult, young adult and middle grade readers.
  5. Brandon Massey: Master of horror and suspense.
  6. Hannibal Tabu: Comic book writer and critic.

We also have authors of Cyberfunk, Dieselfunk, Dark Universe (Space Opera) Afrofuturistic fusions of hip-hop, jazz, blues, time travel, magic realism and urban fantasy and much more. Black speculative fiction is very broad and very deep. Con-goers are in for a powerful experience.

This is a really exciting time for black filmmakers in SF and horror. Can you talk a little about that and how that will be reflected in SOBSFC’s programming?

As a lifelong fan and creator of science fiction and fantasy with strong horror elements and straight up horror, too, I am very excited. The digital age has allowed filmmakers who would have otherwise been unable to tell their stories – stories in which the Black character doesn’t die within the first 10 minutes or die sacrificing himself or herself so the white hero can live on to save the day – to now tell stories in which Black people are the heroes, sheroes and even mastermind villains.

Saturday 20th June 2009. Old Devils Peak Quarry, Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. STILLS FROM WANURI KAHIU'S FILM 'PUMZI'! A 20 min Sci-Fi film about futuristic Africa, 35 years after World War III, ‘The Water War’!   A series of stills photographs taken during the production of Wanuri Kahiu's short film, 'Pumzi'. Wanuri Kahiu, an award winning Kenyan Filmmaker, wrote and directed the film that was filmed entirely on location in the Western Cape, South Africa. These stills specifically were taken on various locations in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa during June 2009. The film is a futuristic work based on a devastated world without water and other precious commodities. The film, set in the Kenyan countryside, questions the price of fresh water, fresh air, fresh food and other commodities and revolves mainly around its central character, 'Asha'. The film also focuses on how to harvest moisture, energy and food in all their varied forms in order to supply the human food chain that depends on these life precious things for their ultimate survival. In the film Asha is a curator at a virtual natural history museum in the Maitu Community located in the Eastern African territory. Outside of the community, all nature is extinct. When she receives a box in the mail containing soil, she decides to plant a seed in it. The seed starts to germinate instantly. Despite repeated instructions from her superior to throw out the soil sample, she appeals to the Council to grant her an exit visa to leave the community and plant the seed. Her visa is denied and she is evacuated from the Museum. Asha decides to break out of the inside community to plant the seed in the ‘dead’ outside. She battles with her own fear and apprehension of the dead and derelict outside world to save the growing plant. Essentially Asha embarks on a personal quest that becomes her journey of self discovery and spiritual awakening that causes h

Many great independent films and web series have been developed, screened and gained massive followings and Hollywood has been paying attention, so now you have the Black Panther stealing the show in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and even getting his own movie. You have Idris Elba playing Roland in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Will Smith and Viola Davis starring in SUICIDE SQUAD as Killer Croc, Deadshot and Amanda Waller, respectively.

And television is even more progressive, giving starring roles to black people in several Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror-themed series and having very diverse casts on these shows.

But again, this all began with black indie filmmakers. To reflect this, SOBSF Con is featuring our Black Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival, which showcases short and feature films by independent creators. Many of the films creators will also be on hand to share their creative process and answer questions from the audience. Just a few of the films screening at the film festival are: PUMZI (award-winning science fiction short from Africa),  DAYBLACK (horror), BLACK PANTHER: STORMS OF CARNAGE Parts 1 & 2 (superhero / fantasy), REIGN OF DEATH (dieselfunk), DANGER WORD (horror; written and produced by master horror author Tananarive Due and science fiction icon Steven Barnes), RITE OF PASSAGE: INITIATION (steamfunk), and a special screening of the science fiction film RETURNED.

13335708_10204767521866576_1909339829978449592_nWhat about comics at SOBSFC? 

You cannot have a science fiction and fantasy convention without comic books! While comic books are not the focus at SOBSF Con – our focus is on all aspects of black speculative creation – most of the creators and fans at SOBSF Con were heavily influenced and inspired to “do” Science Fiction and Fantasy from our love of comic books, manga, animation and anime. Thus, there will be comic book vendors at SOBSF Con and some giants in the industry are distinguished guests, including Dawud Anyabwile, the co-creator and artist of the iconic blockbuster comic book series BROTHERMAN; Marvel Comics artist Afua Richardson, best known for her work in the award-winning and politically potent Image / Top Cow miniseries GENIUS; Tony Cade, comic book publisher and owner of comic book company, Terminus Media; and TUSKEGEE HEIRS creators Marcus Williams and Greg Burnham, just to name a few. The creators and publishers will share their knowledge and experience with con-goers on the Create Your Own Comic Book and Black Craft and Consciousness in Comic Books panels.

Atlanta is known for its cosplay community. Are you encouraging costuming and will there be activities for cosplayers?

We highly encourage cosplay and invite all the cosplayers in Atlanta to come out and join us! We are very excited about our YOU are the Hero Cosplay Contest I mentioned above, and we also have the Cosplay in Non-Canon Bodies panel, facilitated by popular cosplayers, TaLynn Kel, who will be joined by popular cosplayers, JaBarr Lasley and Dru Phillips.

Balogun Ojetade.

Balogun Ojetade.

What else would you like people to know about SOBSFC?

While SOBSF Con offers all the great things you expect from a great fan convention – awesome panels, cosplayers, genre films, a dealers’ room with all kinds of cool stuff for sale – we also have offerings you probably have never seen at any con before, such as Tiny Yogis, a yoga class for children; 5P1N0K10 (SPINOKIO), an Afrofuturistic, hip-hop puppet show by a master puppeteer named Jeghetto; Traditional Arms, Armor and Martial Arts of Afrika; Afrikan Martial Arts for Youth Workshop; traditional African artifacts and soaps, oils and fabrics sold in the dealers’ room; your questions answered through traditional Afrikan casting of lots by the Amazing Identical Ojetade Twins (one is a 13-year-old boy; the other a 6-year-old girl); gourmet pot pies; and, most importantly, a place where you can be yourself without judgment, without rude comments, but with love and appreciation. This is a fun event for the entire family you do NOT want to miss!

Beneath the Shining Jewel CoverFinally, would you like to take a moment to talk about your own writing? What’s your latest work and what are you up to next? Feel free to add where we can find you at SOBSFC!

I am always happy to talk about my writing. For those who don’t know me, I write fiction, nonfiction and screenplays. I also direct films and choreograph stunts and fights for films. As a fiction writer, I am most known for my Steamfunk novels, MOSES: THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIET TUBMAN and THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIET TUBMAN: FREEDONIA; my Sword and Soul novel, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA; and for the STEAMFUNK anthology, which I co-edited with author Milton Davis. However, my novels cover the spectrum of black speculative fiction: Dieselfunk, Rococoa, Afrofuturism; urban fantasy; action-adventure and horror.

My latest work is BENEATH THE SHINING JEWEL, a horror novel set in Ki Khanga, a Sword and Soul world created by Milton Davis and me for our upcoming tabletop role-playing game, KI KHANGA. I am finishing up a Dark Universe (space opera) novel and have a horror short film I wrote slated to begin production in the fall. Finally, in August, comic book artist Chris Miller (Chris Crazyhouse) and I begin work on a graphic novel that is going to blow away fans of manga, comic books and black speculative fiction!

Thanks, so much, for this opportunity and I look forward to seeing everyone at the State of Black Science Fiction Convention June 11 and 12!

SOBSFCON FultonCty

 

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Poppin’ in with Dante DeStefano on Her Way to DragonCon’s Comics and Pop Art Alley!

Posted on: Aug 27th, 2014 By:

dante_heroes_tableTo some, Dragoncon (Aug. 28-Sept. 2) is a five-day visual feast of costumery, to others a cosplay playground. A chance to meet, listen to and get the autograph of a favorite celebrity. Or the ultimate marketplace for all things phantastique. Sooner or later, however, all the Kool Kats find their way to Comics and Pop Art Alley. Two levels beneath the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

Here you’ll find not only top nationally known comics artists but some of Atlanta’s finest creative talents from Kool Kats Chris Hamer to Derek Yaniger, aka DerekART, who designed ATLRetro’s swingin’ logo.

One of our favorite local artists who’ll be lurking in the Alley this year is Dante DeStefano, the dark art mistress extraordinaire of Rag Bone Studio. Dante began her art career as a freelance illustrator focusing on painting with traditional media and illustrating children’s books. She developed a signature style of spooky-cute art, which she displays in galleries and conventions around the southeast United States.

ATLRetro caught up with Dante to find out more about what attracts her to creepy things that go bump in the night, what she’ll be doing at DragonCon and her latest excapades honing her skills as an animator and visual development for film, television and new media.

ATLRetro: How did you get into art and comics?

Dante DeStefano: Like many artists, I’ve been drawing and making things since I can remember. I’ve never been one to stick to any one medium for very long. I love creating and I want to try everything. I’m an illustrator, painter, animator, sculptor, puppet builder and seamstress. I got into making art because it feels good to create and to enjoy the creations of others. My brother, Nic, is also an artist, cartoonist and game developer. He helped foster my love of drawing. I got into comics by visiting comic book stores with him when we were kids.

giant bunny lrWho are a few of the artists who inspired you then and now and why?

My favorite comic when I was a kid was Walt Kelly’s POGO. I didn’t get a lot of the political jokes then, but I loved copying the characters from the strips, and as a native Georgian, the fact that it was set in the south resonated with me. Around that same time was when I heard my first Tom Waits album, THE BLACK RIDER. The imagery that danced around in my head was so vivid. I still draw inspiration from those daydreams and his music. Synesthesia is a great tool for me.

As far as comics go, I discovered Dianne DiMassa thanks to Charis Books when I was 15. HOTHEAD PAISAN is still my favorite comic book. It was my gateway into underground comix. As a young, queer, Italian myself, Hothead became a sort of demented role model for me. DiMassa and Allison Bechdel were great queer cartoonist trailblazers for the pre-web-comic era.

I also admire Wayne White for his uncontainable body of work and multiple careers. From puppets to animating to sculptures, I love artists who to do everything they can get their hands on.

How would you describe your own work, and what might ATLRetro readers be familiar with?

My own work is definitely on the cartoony side. I’m all about designing original characters. A lot of my characters have a heavy Fleischer animation influence. A lot of my paintings and animations feature monsters, freaks and spooky things. I have displayed paintings in some local galleries, including Homegrown Decatur. Readers might be interested to know that I illustrated album covers and T-shirts for Blair Crimmins and the Hookers.

StateHotel_cover webMany of our readers indeed are big fans of Blair Crimmins. Any story behind how you met him and your work with him?

I heard “Old Man Cabbage” on WRAS a few times. Whenever I heard that song, a brilliant haunted house scene that looked like it came right out of Fleischer Studios would play in my head. I didn’t catch who the band was until I heard an interview with Blair on that same station. I bought that album and immediately began drawing and painting the characters that popped into my head while it was playing. I emailed him pictures of the paintings that were inspired by his music. Before I knew it, I was meeting with the music man himself and painting a cover for STATE HOTEL featuring those characters.

There’s so much to do at DragonCon. Why should attendees be sure to visit Comics and Pop Artist Alley?

Everyone should visit the Artist Alley because that is the heart of the so-called “comic convention.” Before costumes, movie stars and parties, there are the artists who come to show you their original content. This is where the creators are, newbies and old pros. Artists’ alley is where you can meet and support artists directly. We come out to table at these cons because we are excited to meet you and to show our work. It’s especially a great way to discover your new favorite artist. Plus, you might be able to get a custom commission right at the con!

style_frame_001_lrWhat are you bringing to Comic and Pop Artist Alley?

I have an exciting new line of limited edition art toys that my partner Colin and I have made by hand. Each one is based off of an original character and hand-painted. I will also have original paintings (large and small), a series of art prints, T-shirts and greeting cards. Most importantly, I’ll be offering sketches and commissions on-site!

Do you do commissions outside of conventions?

Absolutely! This is a great time of year for commissions. I do a lot of them around the winter holidays. One of my specialties is spooky skeleton portraits. I like doing portraits and caricatures in general. If you have any requests, you can send them to dante@ragbonestudio.com.

starlight_mural_screenshotWhat else are you working on now? I understand you have an exciting new animation project.

Yes! I am making a film called MUSEUM OF MONSTER ART. It’s a short 2D traditional animation, based off of MONSTERS, my first art show at Kai Lin Art (Gallery). In this version, a young artist meets a monster who helps draw a crowd of his monster friends to her show. It features a lot of my characters from paintings that I made for the exhibit, both in the characters and the backgrounds. My crew and I are finishing up the rough animation at the moment. I’ll be submitting my film to festivals in the winter, but ATLRetro readers can see more at www.monsterartfilm.wordpress.com.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kats of the Week: Pillage & Plunder, the “Musical Mad Scientists” Rock The Earl While Promoting Raucous Reptilian Love With Gamera and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Posted on: May 19th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer

Pillage & Plunder, “weaned on the teat of comic books, video games, jazz, mathematics, punk and prog” will be rockin’ to the tune of Turtle at The Earl this Friday, May 23! It’ll be a night of mischief and mayhem with a celebration of the release of their debut LP, “The Show Must Go Wrong,” out August 5, along with Atlanta’s Slowriter and Mice in Cars, in conjunction with World Turtle Day! You won’t want to miss Pillage & Plunder’s rockin’ reptilian ruckus at The Earl this Friday!

Pillage & Plunder, Atlanta’s indie-prog/jazz-punk trio is made up of Gokul Parasuram (guitar/bass/vocals), Hsiang-Ming Wen (bass/guitar/vocals) and Noah Kess (drums/vibes). In no way are they newbies to the indie, pop-culture scene, having shared the stage with Tennessee’s indie, “rock n roll fablers” and Mega Man fanatics, The Protomen and Paper Route. They’ve also been rockin’ around town delivering their “rock magic” and “beautiful chaos” at several of Atlanta’s rockin’ venues: The Star Bar, Under the Couch, WonderRoot, Smith’s Olde Bar, 529, the Masquerade, the Inman Park Festival, just to name a few! And they’ve been busy recording since 2009 [2009 – “The Artisan/Blue” single; 2011 – “Look Inside For The Prize” (EP); 2012 – “Summer Days/Hit & Run” single; 2013 – “Goodnight Jack” (acoustic EP)]. Pillage & Plunder is a rockin’ band and chaotic force you won’t want to miss!

ATLRetro caught up with the fellas of Pillage & Plunder, for a quick interview about their rockin’ retro sounds, their love of all things geeky, the importance of the preservation of our 200-million-year-old turtle pals and their August 5 debut of their LP, “The Show Must Go Wrong”.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with the band, take a listen to Pillage & Plunder’s “Summer Days” here.

ATLRetro: What’s in a name? Pillage & Plunder sounds more swashbuckler than comics, retro video games, jazz, math and punk. Is there an adventurous story of rock behind the name? Does “X” really mark the spot? Come on and fill our readers in on how you earned such a name!

Gokul: When we started, we had trouble thinking up good names. Every week, I’d bring new band names to a buddy of mine who’d always laugh at our ideas. This friend always suggested (jokingly) that we name ourselves Pillage & Plunder. It sounded corny and had no obvious connection to our music at the time, but we honestly couldn’t come up with anything better. Ten years later, nothing has changed.

How did you rockin’ dudes come together as a band? Was it rock love at first sight or was there a little shakin’, rattlin’ and rollin’ along the way?

Gokul: Let’s go with rock and roll love at first sight. Hsiang-Ming and I sat together in our eighth-grade history class. We became buddies. Watching movies led to video games and anime conventions, which led to guitars and ultimately to writing/recording demos in our bedrooms. Early Pillage & Plunder rehearsals comprised of covers and jams, but we picked up some momentum as original material started entering our repertoire. We gigged around with a drummer who was a high school friend until 2011, when Noah joined the band. I would describe Noah as rock and roll love at first phone conversation.

How would you describe your sound? We’ve seen the band described as paying homage to ’50s martini lounge, ’70s psych-prog and ’90s pop punk. What should our readers expect when they come to your show?

Gokul: We pay homage to these sounds and more on a nightly basis! It’s the byproduct of having three genre-hopping musical hoarders in the same band. Generally you can expect a lot of variety at our gigs, but all of our songs tend to have at least one big heavy riff moment. Look out for the big heavy riff moments!

We see that you ‘navigated the dreams of Frank Zappa and King Crimson’.  What about these artists influenced you the most?

Gokul: The most captivating thing about the music of bands from that era is this sense that both anything can happen and that almost everything does happen. It’s fun to see artists explore what they can and can’t get away with, and that mindset is more prevalent in experimental forms of music.

Tell our readers a little about how you navigated the music scene.  What drew you to music? Have you always had a desire to play in front of big crowds or was it something you came to love later in life?

Hsiang-Ming: We each come from different backgrounds of music. Gokul started out learning jazz guitar from an early age, Noah was a marching band geek playing percussion and I was an orchestra nerd playing violin from elementary school onwards, eventually diving into guitar and bass in high school. Music is something we all are extremely passionate about and feel comfortable communicating in. We love playing live and definitely feed off the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd. Shows are like a dialogue, and it’s no fun talking to a wall. Or maybe I’m just not talking to the right ones.

In celebration of ‘World Turtle Day’ we see that you’ll be rockin’ out alongside some classic turtle-lovin’ cinema.  We at ATLRetro love our vintage Kaiju flicks, so of course we’re super giddy you’re including 1969’s GAMERA VS. GUIRON, and it’s totally tubular that THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES will be making an appearance as well! We think it’s pretty rad that you’re  not only promoting your rockin’ tunes, but are also promoting the preservation of some rockin’ descendants of prehistoric creatures.  Can you tell our readers about your love for turtles and why you’re interested in promoting and preserving them at this show?

Hsiang-Ming: YES!! This is going to be a great show! I don’t have a really good reason for loving turtles other than the fact thatthey’re AWESOME and have been around since over 200 million years ago! I just learned about World Turtle Day this year by chance and I think any event or organization that promotes the preservation of an endangered species is a cause worth talking about. We decided to do a show about it to have some fun and shed some light on a topic that is largely out of the public’s mind. The TMNT and Kaiju films are an added bonus that we tagged on not only for their pure entertainment value and because they’re amazing, but also to give people something to relate to, because kicking Foot Soldier butt and being an oversized tortoise is clearly something we’ve all dealt with in life. You can learn more about the American Tortoise Rescue and donate to their cause here. 

Can you tell our readers a little about your debut LP, ‘The Show Must Go Wrong’ coming out in August?

Hsiang-Ming:The Show Must Go Wrong” is our debut LP that we’ve been working on since 2012 and we cannot be more excited to finally release it in August! The title comes from an episode of the TV show “Parks & Recreation” that we felt reflected the songs and general mood/state of the band during the making of this album. From parting ways with our original drummer, getting all of our equipment stolen at SXSW and coping with failed relationships along the way, we’ve hurdled through a decent share of obstacles to realize that life will always throw obstacles at you, but you just have to keep on chugging and push forward, even if you make a fool of yourself in the process.

Any special plans for your show on the 23rd at The Earl?

Hsiang-Ming: Yes! We will be playing with fellow locals Slowriter and Mice in Cars who are both amazing bands if you’ve never seen them. Aside from the music, as you know, we will be screening the original 1990 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES film along with GAMERA VS. GUIRON (1969). Local turtle-loving brewers Terrapin Beer Co. have also generously teamed up with us to donate a few cases of free RecreationAle to attending guests [Supplies are limited so come early!]  Also, if you come to the show wearing green we’ll give you a little souvenir to take home with you! A portion of the proceeds from the show will be donated to the American Tortoise Rescue as well. You can RSVP to the event here.

What’s next for Pillage & Plunder?

Hsiang-Ming: After our World Turtle Party on May 23, we will be doing a mini regional tour during the month of June and part of July, prior to our album release in August. Afterwards, we will tour more extensively to promote the new record. On top of that, we are also working on finishing our first music video and have started demoing some new songs for our next album.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

Hsiang-Ming: Before Noah joined the band in 2011, Pillage & Plunder‘s original lineup competed against his old band Colorblind aka Colourblind in a traditional high school Battle of the Bands.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Hsiang-Ming: Q: “Why didn’t Noah Kess answer any questions?” A: “The voice of Noah Kess is too awesome for the universe to handle and has been known to cause black holes. For further inquiries regarding “He who has not spoken,” please e-mail pillageandplunderband@gmail.com”  

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Walker Stalker Convention Shambles Into Atlanta To Eat Your Brains!

Posted on: Oct 30th, 2013 By:

By Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Fans of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, rejoice; most of the show’s cast descends on Atlanta’s Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel and America’s Mart this weekend for the Walker Stalker Convention. The highly rated show based on Robert Kirkman’s award winning comic book series of the same name lenses just down the road in Senoia, Georgia.

Cast members Andrew Lincoln, who plays series hero Rick Grimes, and Norman Reedus – breakout post-apocalyptic heartthrob Daryl Dixon – will appear to meet fans, sign autographs and pose for photos (the last two for an additional fee). Also appearing are THE WALKING DEAD producer and makeup effects supervisor Greg Nicotero, and series stars Laurie Holden, Lauren Cohan, Melissa McBride, Danai Gurira, Steven Yuen, Chandler Riggs, Sonequa Martin-Green, Sarah Wayne Callies, Scott Wilson, Irone Singleton, Chad L. Coleman and Emily Kinney, who is also performing in concert Saturday night. Other cast members are also scheduled to appear, see the website for a full listing.

In addition, actors from BREAKING BAD, GREMLINS, FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and makeup effects artists from the Syfy Channel’s FACE OFF will be on hand. The convention ALSO features a large vendor’s room as well as panels and talks given by the guests, and evening activities including a Zombie Bash Party Saturday night.

Founded by Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier of the Walker Stalker podcast, the convention began life in a Kickstarter funding campaign in June, which raised $16,782.00.  Though the podcasters are based in Nashville, Atlanta was the only city where the convention could take place; the availability of the actors to appear depended on their proximity to the venue. With almost everyone in town for production of the shows’ fourth season, Walker Stalker Convention was go. The pair has said that they expect as many as 10,000 attendees for the convention.

Cable television’s AMC network recently announced plans for a spin-off series for 2015 and renewed THE WALKING DEAD for its fifth season.

Walker Stalker Con takes place Fri-Sun, November 1-3, at Americas Mart at 240 Peachtree St NW #2200, Atlanta. Hours are 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm Friday, 10:00 am to 7:00 pm Saturday, and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Sunday. Tickets are available online or at the door.

Anthony Taylor is a writer and an expert on retro-futurism, classic science fiction and horror films and television, and genre collectibles. He is the author of ARCTIC ADVENTURE!, an official Thunderbirds™ novel based on the iconic British television series by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. His website is http://Taylorcosm.com.

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who Wants to Go Back to Earth Anyway?!: Andrew Gaska Ignites AFTERSHOCK AND AWE into Hit ’70s Sci-Fi TV Series SPACE:1999

Posted on: Apr 22nd, 2013 By:

SPACE 1999, the ’70s Gerry and Sylvia Anderson sci-fi series, returns in SPACE 1999: AFTERSHOCK AND AWE, a 168-page graphic novel from New York-based guerilla design studio Blam! Ventures and published by Archaia Entertainment. Sometimes comics reboots are just about nostalgia, but writer Andrew E.C. “Drew” Gaska has plugged up many of the holes in the science, plot and characterization quite masterfully. Let’s admit that the concept of the moon being blown out of earth’s orbit and then traveling around the galaxy at speeds fast enough to take the crew to other planets was a bit far-fetched. But the show also had an amazing cast including then husband and wife Martin Landau (Captain John Koenig) and Barbara Bain (Dr. Helena Russell), who had also teamed up on MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, veteran character actor Barry Morse (Dr. Victor Bergman) and ultimately sexy Catherine Schell as shapeshifting alien Maya. And the Eagle, well, it was one of the coolest spaceships ever featured in TV science fiction!

ATLRetro recently caught up with Drew, a regular on Artists Alley at DragonCon who nurtured his pop culture roots as a veteran consultant for the digital gaming industry including such hit titles as GRAND THEFT AUTO and the Max Payne series. His current passion is breathing new life into some of his favorite licensed properties from childhood. He penned CONSPIRACY OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (Archaia, 2011), an illustrated novel which solves the mystery of what happened to astronaut Landon, who was also captured by the apes and lobotomized. And next up, he’ll be tackling the 1970s TV series, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY.

Each of these projects is worthy of its own interview, so for now, we’ll stick with Moonbase Alpha. And we should also note that the stunning visuals on the book are thanks to a triumvirate of artists, legendary who produced the book with artistic team Gray Morrow, Spanish artist Miki and David Hueso (GI JOE:STORM SHADOW).

ATLRetro: How did you first encounter SPACE:1999? Was it a childhood favorite or did you discover it later, and what did it mean to you?

Andrew E.C. Gaska: Basically I discovered SPACE: 1999 as a child in the 1970s. My father was a police officer, and he worked until midnight, so I stayed up and watched TV with him during the summer. At 11, it was THE HONEYMOONERS. At 11:30, it was TWILIGHT ZONE. At midnight was STAR TREK. and 1 o’clock was SPACE: 1999. I really only saw the second season of SPACE:1999. I really liked Maya turning into animals. Also, my best friend while growing up had the 24-inch Eagle toy from Mattel. We used to play with it with our STAR WARS toys. I was into all science fiction. I wouldn’t watch anything else except THE HONEYMOONERS and THREE’S COMPANY and science fiction shows. Those were the only choices and really shaped who I am now. Actually…that’s kind of frightening.

I was reintroduced to SPACE: 1999 in the ‘90s by the book, EXPLORING SPACE 1999 by John Kenneth Muir, who eventually did the foreword to AFTERSHOCK AND AWE. It led me to looking for bootleg videotapes of SPACE: 1999, which wasn’t available in any official release at the time. I’d buy bootleg tapes at conventions and got really into it again. Of course, I bought it all on DVD when it came out later  – and again on Blu-Ray!

Concept art by Dan Dussault for SPACE 1999: AFTERSHOCK AND AWE. Courtesy of Blam! Ventures.

How did Aftershock and Awe come about? Was it you wanting to work in the Space:1999 universe or were you approached?

Back in 2005, I formed BLAM! Ventures, my guerrilla design studio, to acquire licenses for creator-owned properties. The plan was to get the rights, get a book about 80% done, and then shop them around to publishers to get released. I went to Paramount and tried to get STAR TREK. I went to Universal, to Fox… I basically hit all the big ones. Of the ones I hit, PLANET OF THE APES was the only one that gave me a response right away. That led to my CONSPIRACY OF THE PLANET OF THE APES novel and its coming sequel, tentatively called DEATH OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, which I am working on right now. One of the companies that we had tried to get properties from was ITV. We approached them about SPACE 1999 and UFO, but they were going through a lot of changes in their licensing department so we could only got so far, and then the interest would drop. Later we found out they were constantly shifting people around in the licensing department, so I gave up on it for a while. Then ITV decided to reboot the entire department, and while they were doing that, they brought in an outside licensing firm. When that firm was going through some old files, they found all the proposals I had sent them. They contacted me and told me they thought the ideas were good for the brand, so we made a deal.

It’s been very frustrating dealing with licenses and getting clients to understand that what we are trying to do is intended to benefit the license, not steal part of it.

Why is a series set in 1999 that never happened still so relevant now, in your opinion?

A lot of detractors say SPACE: 1999 is just like STAR TREK, but really it’s not. STAR TREK is very positive about the future. Space is well understood by the crew that encounters it. Each episode ties things up neatly. There are not a lot of mysteries or outside forces, whereas in SPACE 1999, every episode is a mystery or there is a greater force in play. It could be God if you will, but there is definitely some guiding force that is responsible for getting them in and out of the predicaments that happen to them. I liken SPACE 1999 to gothic space horror. Space is a terrifying place and you never know what is going to happen to you. There’s more out there that we don’t understand than that we do understand. SPACE: 1999 takes its cues from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY [1968] which obviously inspired it greatly.

In regard to the charge that it is no longer relevant, the date was one of the hurdles I had to overcome in writing AFTERSHOCK AND AWE. Most of the advice I received from inside the entertainment industry was all you have to do is change the date. I was like, no, this was supposed to be continuation of the original series. So instead I approached it as an alternate history, like what direction would the world have took if the South had won Civil War or Hitler won WWII. The most obvious difference between the real world and the world of SPACE: 1999 was that we had a moonbase in 1999. It struck me that President Kennedy was so fascinated with the space program, and if he had not been assassinated, perhaps our technology would have gone in that direction rather than in cellular phones and the Internet. What you can do with alternate history is shine a light on specific aspects of our own history that you can’t do otherwise without ruffling some feathers.

Concept art by Dan Dussault for SPACE 1999: AFTERSHOCK AND AWE. Courtesy of Blam! Ventures.

Which character was your favorite to delve more deeply into and why?

That definitely would be Professor Victor Bergman. To me, he is the most likable character in science fiction. My friend described him as a “cuddly Captain Picard.” He’s learned, he’s wise, he’s soft-spoken, and he really cares. He’s definitely the heart of Moonbase Alpha, so he was very important to me. One of the things we do in AFTERSHOCK AND AWE is go into his journals, and I had to make sure the writing sounded like his voice. One of the things that was most gratifying for me was hearing from a lot of fans that they could hear his voice in those journal entries. It’s a shame that [the producers of SPACE:1999 Season 2] kicked him off. They even said that they did so because they thought having an old guy on the show turned it into your living room versus a futuristic science fiction show. So there aren’t any old guys in the future?

AFTERSHOCK AND AWE gave you the opportunity to fill in gaps and inconsistencies in the show. Is there a particular gap or inconsistency that gave you the most satisfaction to explain?

Yes, and it’s probably obvious to anyone who has read it: Shermeen Williams. Basically she’s a character who shows up in one episode [A MATTER OF BALANCE] in the second season of the show. In that episode, she is 16 years old. If you do the math based on the amount of days since leaving orbit that’s mentioned in the episode, when the moon left Earth, she would have been 10. I asked myself, what’s a little girl doing on the moon at that time? In the ‘70s, they didn’t think anyone would notice or care. I found a reason and made it relevant for one of the main characters, specifically Victor.

Drew Gaska. Courtesy of Blam! Ventures.

You mean having Victor as Shermeen’s guardian. Why Victor in particular?

Basically he was older and wiser, so everyone was always looking to him for advice. Victor was always the father of Moonbase Alpha. So I thought, why not put him into that role literally by having him take responsibility for a child? It also explained why [Shermeen] is allowed to get away with so much crap in that episode in season 2. It’s because when John looks at her, he sees Victor. If we get to continue the license, one of we’ll be continuing the series 30 years later, and one of the things we’ll be doing is catching up with the characters. We’ll show flashbacks of scenes that happened in the episodes but that you did not see. For example, we’ll see what Shermeen was doing with Victor throughout the series. She was always there behind the scenes in season 1.

I liked what you did with John and Helena to flush out their back story and lay the foundation for the start of their relationship. Can you talk a little about that?

When you watch episode one, BREAKAWAY, there’s a scene that’s also in the comic, where basically Helena gives John a whole bunch of crap for putting his life at risk. He replies smugly, “I didn’t know you cared.” It seemed like some sort of hint at their relationship status. In the second episode, there’s a back story about Helena’s husband who was a lost astronaut. That set up in my mind where she was coming from. In regard to John’s past, in SPACE:1999 EARTHFALL, by E.C. Tubb, who was a brilliant author published in the ‘70s, he established Marcia Gilcrest as John’s fiancée in a short scene in the beginning. When John learns that he has been made commander of Moonbase Alpha again, she says, “look at me, John, I couldn’t possibly live on the moon.” And she couldn’t, because she was a socialite. Having John deal with these issues allowed me to show more depth in his character. And I was also able to use Marcia to show what happens on Earth. When the moon moves out of orbit, she is on Fiji and gets into serious problems when the tectonic plates begin to shift.

Which leads perfectly into the next question. In the graphic novel, you also explore the impact of the moon’s dislocation on the Earth itself. Why did you think that was important to add to the SPACE:1999 saga?

Two reasons. One was that when Gerry Anderson tried to get the show green-lit from Lew Grade, the producer who funded the show, he had a very strong eccentricity. He said he would fund the show only if we never see anything that happens on Earth, because he had seen too many science fiction shows that happen on Earth. When I heard that, I thought, ‘but there was so much that could be told about that!’ Also, people always complained that the science was wonky. There’s a lot of real science about what would happen to Earth if moon was ripped out of orbit.  I thought that a great way to ground the story in science was to show the effects if Earth lost the moon. There are other comics in which that happened, and which did not deal with the consequences. That makes it fantasy to me, and we are dealing with science fiction, not science fantasy.

Concept art by Dan Dussault for SPACE 1999: AFTERSHOCK AND AWE. Courtesy of Blam! Ventures.

How did you research the science for the book?

The History Channel has a wonderful program called THE UNIVERSE, and there was also a Discovery Channel special called IF WE HAD NO MOON. There are books on the subject as well, but I started with those programs.

Even people who aren’t big fans of SPACE:1999 wax passionately about the Eagle. What’s so special about this spacecraft?

To me, the Eagle is one of the most brilliant designs there’s ever been in science fiction. It looks like it really could be part of the NASA arsenal. It looks like a real space vehicle, but it also looks like it could be a brick in the atmosphere. If you suspend disbelief, it just has such beautiful details such as the spines on its back. In every one of those top 100 spaceship lists on the Internet, the Eagle always is well towards number one. It has endured even more than the show.  With AFTERSHOCK AND AWE, we had a chance to bring in new story elements that work well with the ship.

If you can extend the license, where do you hope to take SPACE: 1999 in the other volumes?

Basically the point of AFTERSHOCK AND AWE was to reintroduce the concept to audiences. There are a lot of people who have never seen SPACE:1999 who would be really turned on by it if they have something new. We’re also introducing a new set of characters who are searching for the lost moon in the next series MISSION ALPHA.  They’ll be passing through the areas of space that the moon passed through and seeing the ramifications of what happened in the episodes. It’s 30 years later by that time which opens the gate to multigenerational survival stories. We have six graphic novels arced out which take the series to its logical conclusion. You will in the end find out what the mysterious force that guides them is, why the moon was blown out of Earth orbit, and why everything has gone down the way it has throughout the series. Whether or not you’ll get to read that depends on sales, so if you like AFTERSHOCK AND AWE, recommend it to a friend. We’ve got some good stories to tell, and SPACE:1999 does not need to be left to languish any longer.

Concept art by Dan Dussault for SPACE 1999: AFTERSHOCK AND AWE. Courtesy of Blam! Ventures.

What else is BLAM! Ventures up to?

My next licensed property that I am working on is BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY [based on the 1970s TV program]. It will be a series of illustrated novels, similar to THE CONSPIRACY OF THE PLANET OF THE APES book. I’m also working on a sequel to Apes that is due out in 2014. And there are some comic properties I am working on as well, so expect to see a lot from BLAM! Ventures in the future!

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s All Go to the Horror Con! Our 10 Best Retro Reasons To Attend DAYS OF THE DEAD ATLANTA

Posted on: Feb 1st, 2013 By:

What are we doing this weekend?! We’re heading down to the Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, one of the most Retro of downtown hotels, to hang out with thousands of horror fans at the second annual Days of the Dead. Last year, we drove all the way to the golf-cart-riding Stepford Wife wonderland of Peachtree City, but was it worth the hour-long commute. Hell, yeah, if only to hang with super-friendly and nice Kate Rambo of ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, aka Dey Young, and have her sign a photo to us “I have never done detention in my entire life”! Alas Dey won’t be there this year, but if anything, there is a larger rogues’ gallery of monster, scream queens and heroes! OK, money’s tight, but where are you going to spend it? The Mall? And besides you have to worry about real zombies there.

1) BUTCH PATRICK! Yes, the original Eddie Wolfgang Munster from THE MUNSTERS, one of our two favorite Retro horror-sitcom TV shows. Sure, he’s more than all grown up now, but we can’t wait to hear any memories he might be willing to share about growing up at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

2) RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD REUNION! OK, who didn’t want to party with a spikey red-headed Linnea Quigley getting drunk and dancing in a graveyard in this quintessential ’80s zombie black comedy. Days of the Dead has gathered Linnea and seven other starts of the cult classic which spawned four sequels. See everyone on stage at a noon panel. Don’t eat people, we say! Brains!

3) RIFF RANDELL! We’re still fantasizing of hanging with the Ramones and blowing up our high school, even after all these years, so we can’t think of anything more awesome than to meet and get the autographs of P.J. Soles who played Joey’s biggest fan in cult classic ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979). In case you’re too young to know this cult classic, get yourself educated by readingMark Arson’s Retro Review here. Oh, yeah, P.J. was in a few other obscure horror movies like CARRIE and HALLOWEEN.

4) HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES/DEVIL’S REJECTS Reunions! Rob Zombie’s two best movies aren’t actually Retro but they sure look that way, being tributes to the over-the-top exploitation flicks of the 1960s and 1970s. DAYS OF THE DEAD has rangled 13, by our count, of the cast, but we have to admit we’re most excited about Mr. Machete himself Danny Trejo, Michael Berryman, who also gave us the willies in Wes Craven‘s THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1966)and Sid Haig, one of those rare B-movie icons and character actors whose career spans the decades from Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s to the chaotic, creepy Captain Spaulding. Quite frankly you scared the sh-t out of us and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you, Sid, as a true master of horror. A reunion panel is Saturday at 1 p.m.

5) PATTY MULLEN! Get ready for Splatter Cinema’s Tues. Feb. 12 screening of Frank Henenlotter‘s FRANKENHOOKER (1990) at The Plaza Theatre by meeting the actual Frankenhooker!

6) DICK MILLER! Poor Murray Futterman can’t escape our favorite feel-good holiday movie monsters GREMLINS (1984) even on vacation. We promise we’ll be polite to the consummate character actor and won’t bring our Stripe along to ruin his con. We also haven’t forgotten that he was in the original Roger Corman-directed LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) and played the police chief in ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

7) GUNNAR HANSEN! Leatherface in the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). He’ll even be on a panel with Marilyn Burns, the only survivor of the original rampage, on Sun. at 1 p.m.  Nuff said.

8. COMICS ARTISTS! Hopefully by now you’ve read our exclusive interview with James O’Barr, creator of THE CROW, who will be bringing along  pages from his new THE CROW: THE ENGINES OF DESPAIR series. If not, check it out here. Also at Days, look for two of our favorite Atlanta-based artists, Chris Hamer, a master of the quirky creature and bonafide Kool Kat, and Jason Flowers, who recently completed work on THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD trading card series for U.K. sketch card company, Unstoppable Cards. All three will be bringing con-exclusive prints and new works, so be sure and seek out their tables.

9) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING! Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre memorabilia and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories. One booth we’ll definitely be stopping by is that of Athens, GA-based artist Jeanne the Maskmaker, who crafts one of a kind visages worthy of the Red Death’s Masquerade Ball.

10) PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES! On Friday night, wear your craziest, creepiest costume to the Monsters Ball at 11 p.m. followed by karaoke at half past the witching hour. Then on Saturday at 10 p.m., Atlanta’s own most extreme Halloween attraction Chambers of Horror presents a concert by Fiend Without A Face  featuring Brent Hinds of Mastodon, followed by the MurderBall and Side Show Party, featuring Captain Stabb-Tuggo and Maybelle’s Sideshow, a Chamber-of-Horror-themed burlesque show, a costume contest, prizes and the Wheel of Torture.

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 1 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 2 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 3 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Door prices are $55 for  a weekend pass and $25 for a day pass. Park at the hotel for only $5 with validation from front desk (valet parking exempted). For more info, visit http://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

 

Category: Shop Around, Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Engines of James O’Barr’s Art: On Returning to The Crow, Heading to Atlanta for Days of the Dead, BLADE RUNNER, Robert Mitchum and His Latest Pin-Up Passion

Posted on: Jan 31st, 2013 By:

The cover to issue #1 of THE CROW: THE ENGINES OF DESPAIR, a six-part comics series which marks James O'Barr's return to his most famous creation. Used with permission.

At the Days of the Dead convention this weekend at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel downtown, horror fans can meet and collect autographs from a rogues’ gallery of actors from a DEVIL’S REJECTS/HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES cast reunions to Butch Patrick, the former child star who played Eddie Munster. Or they can visit the table of artist James O’Barr and pick up an exclusive signed print, preview original artwork from James’ first return to THE CROW in 20 years, and muse about art, favorite movies and the Retro glory days when Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe, full of curves and class, ruled the silver screen.

While quite a few comics creators delve into the darkness, James is one of a handful who cross mediums and regularly attends horror cons as often as comics gatherings. But that’s not the most surprising thing about him. First published by Caliber in the early 90s, then reprinted and completed by Tundra Publishing and recently picked up by IDW, The Crow’s revenge saga was inspired by James’ own tragic loss of a lover. It gained an even more mythic status among fans when Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, died due to an accident on the set of the movie based on the comic. So as the creator of a vigilante antihero with an androgynous mimelike visage and Gothic black hair, James might be expected to be as tough as nails as his own hero Robert Mitchum or as dark and brooding as Trent Reznor.  But anyone who’s met the artist knows that while he’s weathered his share of adversity amplified by years living in crime-ridden Detroit and dwells creatively in the realm of the dark phantastique, James has also come through the other side. He has emerged surprisingly soft-spoken and even with a signature joie de vivre. His most common public demeanor is a smile and a wisecrack, probably more than a little politically incorrect.

ATLRetro spent a couple of hours on the phone with James this week to find out more about what he’ll be doing and displaying at Days of the Dead, as well as what it’s like to be back drawing The Crow after all these years. And yeah, we couldn’t help but ask about his own influences from Will Eisner to Bernie Wrightson, mural painting with Mark Bode, his take on the BLADE RUNNER prequel, what makes Robert Mitchum still so unmatched among men, and find out his current Retro pin-up crush.

ATLRetro: You’re one of the few comics artists who regularly does horror media cons as well. What sets the comic and horror con experience apart for you?

James O’Barr: I am one of the fortunate ones that has a crossover audience since I had a film made of my comics. I don’t consider it a horror film, but it does get grouped in. There’s a lot of surface differences between the different crowds, but in reality they are kind of the same thing – groups of fans all broken up into little subgenres. At a comics show, some guys are just there for the super-heroes and others hate super-heroes. At a horror show, some people are into slasher movies. Other people hate them and love the classic Hammer Films. It’s the same animal but just from a different continent.

Will you be have any new work or prints for sale at Days?

Yeah, every time I do a show, I do a handful of prints, maybe 20 of each that you can only get from me and only at that show. That way the fans have something special that no one else has anywhere else in the US. I have so much material that it’s not difficult for me to pick a new image for each con.

Are you doing any panels or demonstrations at Days, or more body-painting like you did at the dooGallery during DragonCon?

I don’t think I have anything officially scheduled. But the body-painting will be at the show, and I volunteered to paint some more half-naked girls because I had a lot of fun doing that last time. I’ve only done it three times, and it’s a learning process. I’m getting better each time. Body-painting is difficult because it’s like painting with makeup, and it has entirely different textures than paint or ink, plus you’re not dealing with a flat surface. It does make a difference because I when I painted Frankenstein or Dracula on a girl’s back the last time I was there, I had to take into account the arch of her back so it didn’t look like he didn’t have a chin. It’s like Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel where he had to elongate the figures so they would look correct from the floor.

What’s the craziest thing a fan ever did to get your attention at a con?

Just the typical like a woman showing me their tits and people just trying to shock me. I’m not easily shocked. Mostly my fans are very kind and gracious and very polite. I have the greatest fans in world who have stuck with me for 25 years, and because of them, I get to do what I love for a living. So I’m very appreciative.

You’ve said that you wanted to work with Jim Terry (the artist on THE CROW:SKINNING THE WOLVES, the recently released three-issue IDW miniseries set in a Nazi concentration camp) because you liked his “Eisneresque style.” How much of an influence was Will Eisner on your own work and wanting to get into comics?

Will Eisner was a huge influence on me. It was by studying old SPIRIT stories that I learned actual storytelling. Then it suddenly dawned on me that he was taking film techniques and applying them to comics, and no one had ever done that before. So I pretty much took that basic premise, using film techniques in comics for lighting set-ups and camera angles, and I push that as far as I can into comics. As much as movies and comics have in common with each other, they also have so much uncommon or ‘discommon’ between them as well. In comics, you can’t control the timing like you can in a film, but you can slow down the pace of a page by making someone spend more time by putting more images on it. Another huge drawback is lack of sound. You don’t have a soundtrack to accentuate the emotions portrayed in the image. You don’t have the voices of the actors, and you don’t have sound effects, so you have to rely on the reader to supply those in their head. But like I said, it can also be a plus. What’s there is only what you put there, but an actor could spoil a scene or music could spoil a scene or a bad sound effect could spoil a scene. I am one of the few artists who does employ sound effects. If someone fires a gun in my comic, there’s a big boom sound effect. To me, supplying sound effects is an essential part of comics. It’s one of the charms of comics, I think.

If you had to pick five classic comics artist greats to recommend to a new reader, who would they be?

Will Eisner. Harvey Kurtzman. Jordi Bernet is not well-known in the US. He’s from old Milton Caniff (TERRY AND THE PIRATES, STEVE CANYON) school – lot of brushwork and shadows. IDW is reprinting his TORPEDO series about gangsters in the 1930s. There are so many. Bernie Wrightson was a huge influence on me. The way I look at it, Will Eisner showed me how to tell the story, but Berni Wrightson showed me how to light the scene for the most dramatic effect. And probably Dave Sim for teaching me how to include dialogue and sound effects into the artwork to where they are essential, which is why I like Dave Sim.

I still hand-letter all of my comics on the actual artwork. Since we’re talking Retro, I might as well point out I don’t use computers for anything. Everything is ink on papr or paint on paper. Nothing is photoshopped. Even my titles are hand-drawn on artwork – which is a pain because lettering is not my forte. I can do balloons, but with a three-inch font, I inevitably fuck it up. But that’s part of charm of hand-lettering. It’s not a perfect font pulled off a computer. It’s not that I have disregard for PhotoShop and those tools. I see people like Jon Foster who do great artwork with them Looking at his work, I couldn’t tell it wasn’t oil-painted or acrylics, but to me, using a mouse or a keyboard or a tablet would just drain all the fun out of comics. I love draging a brush across a blank page. For me, that’s the joy of creating comics. I sit down with a blank sheet of paper, and everything is my choice. And it has to be the right choice because there is no undo. This may make me a more confident artist than those who use computers. I don’t redo. I know what I want before I sit down.

Mark Bode's and James O'Barr's mural tribute to Frank Frazetta at Clarion Alley in San Francisco.

Do you have any more mural work planned with Mark Bode, and how does working with a spray can on a wall compare to a paintbrush on a canvas?

Every time I see Mark, usually once or twice a year, we plan on doing something. The only difficult thing is San Francisco is finding a place to do it and deciding what we’re going to do. But the four we have done have gotten progressively better. I posted some pictures of the Frank Frazetta one on the Internet, and people thought it was the original, so we’ve gotten really good at it. They all have been tributes to our artistic heroes who have passed away –  Moebius, Jeff Jones and Frazetta. I’m going to be up there later this year, and we’re hoping to do a Jack Kirby one which will be a lot of fun — to do that hyper-stylized Kirby line. The main difficulty is not necessarily working with a spray can but it’s working that large. The shortest was like 20 feet tall, so it involves being up on a ladder and drawing, and it’s hard to tell if something is in proportion without stepping back off ladder and walkg back 20 feet. Mark and I are really good about trading off with one of us painting and the other watching. He taught me everything I know about graffiti art, even though I still do more artistic things rather than scribbles or tags. I have no idea what they say. I would rather do Monet’s waterlilies 20 feet tall than put a line of poetry up there that is so stylized that the lettering is illegible. I like mural work. It’s free, outside and for the public. It’s transient because it will only be there for a certain amount of time. And it’s been great to introduce certain artists, like Jeff Jones, to people who may not have ever heard of them before.

What has the reaction been to the return of THE CROW published by IDW?

Honestly it’s been mixed. The one I’m doing by myself (THE CROW: THE ENGINES OF DESPAIR) hasn’t come out yet, but I think some people were expecting right off the bat that the first book would be mine. The first series looks very rushed, though it had a nice script by John Shirley. THE CROW: SKINNING THE WOLVES book has done phenomenally well. The first two issues sold out, and it’s in its second printing, and I think that’s because I was involved. It sticks rather closely to the kind of thing I do even though Jim Terry was responsible for the artwork.

From the original THE CROW series by James O'Barr.

THE CROW: THE ENGINES OF DESPAIR will be six issues. I’m finishing up the third issue, but I didn’t want them to solicit until the third was done because didn’t want there to be any lags between issues. I wanted them out on a regular basis because it’s continuing story. I have to say I am more than happy with the work I’ve done on it so far. It’s far and above the best thing I’ve ever done. I have definitely learned my craft over the last two decades. With the first CROW book, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I just sat down and let things flow out of me. There are lots of flaws in that book, but I think the love and passion which I put into that work is what made the public love it and kept it in print for 25 years. But there were things in that book that I avoided because I didn’t have the skills to do them. With his book now, if I can think of it, I can draw it. It’s not a struggle at all. With every page, I set a challenge for me. How can I make it more difficult and learn something from this page. Without exception, 60-something pages into it, I’m delighted with every page.

Will it be in black and white like the original CROW or in color this time? And can you reveal anything about the story? 

At the beginning, IDW kind of strong-armed me a little bit, saying they wanted it in color. I said it’s my project and it’s a CROW book, and I think it should be in black and white – or at least the ones I do should be. For me, it adds a certain otherworldly aspect to it with hard shadows. Honestly I don’t see it in the coloring I see in comics nowadays. If it was going to be in color, it would have to be handpainted by me, but I am hesitant to do that. However, that being said, I just did 20 black and white pages of this shootout and then in the middle, added an intermission in color – that kind of 1930s technicolor where everything is in brighter, warmer and hotter colors that don’t exist in real life. So that gives it a very dreamlike feel to it. Since I learned all the rules in the last 25 yrs, now I can break them.

Plus after 20 pages of people getting killed, it’s a nice little break for the reader as well. Still even though they are pretty and bright, happy colors, just them having been done by me has sort of a haunting creepy quality about it as well. Also I think it’s kind of funny that it’s a CROW book, but I am 60 pages into it and birds haven’t appeared in it once. I’m using rabbits this time. Not talking rabbits, but they are the animal in it. I think it’s so close in feel and atmosphere to the original book, all on a much higher level of competence, that people don’t even notice there’s not a bird in it. The bird will make a few cameo appearances.

It all looks really amazing, and in this one, the best character is the Skull Cowboy, that never actually appeared in the movie. The death character is with the woman the whole time. It kind of takes the place of the bird. The bunny man. He even scares me when I’m drawing him, probably because he reminds me a lot of myself. He’s very – I don’t want to say evil – but there are no ambidexterous morals in this. He’s frightening, but he’s a smart-ass and he’s lovable as well. It gives the bride a nice alter-ego to play off of.

I don’t want to give too much away, though. I’d rather that you come by the table [at Days of the Dead] and see what I’m doing and decide for yourselves. But I guarantee no one will be disappointed.

James O'Barr gets happy at his convention artist table. Photo courtesy of James O'Barr.

Shifting gears back to some of the pop culture you’re known for being passionate about, as a big BLADE RUNNER fan, how do you feel about Ridley Scott’s announcement that he’s going to go back to and do a prequel after all these years?

BLADE RUNNER was Ridley Scott’s vision so if he wants to go back and play in that universe, I am more than happy to sit in the audience. I will pay my $15. I really liked PROMETHEUS. I think I am one of the few people on the planet who did. I thought it did no disservice to the ALIEN film. I read somewhere he’s going to connect the ALIEN universe and the BLADE RUNNER universe or make references to both taking place at the same time. Somebody told me he read the script to PROMETHEUS 2 and that there were references to replicants in there. I’m a little skeptical about him pulling that off but I would love to see it. I have no idea what he is going to do, but I would love to see how the replicants got to Earth. He throws it all into one sentence — they escaped from an off-world colony. It would be great to see how Roy and Pris escaped from the planet where they were slave labor. I don’t know who could play those parts now, but it’s a really rich universe he created there and a lot was skimmed over the surface. I have a lot of faith in Ridley Scott. He’s made about 20 films and less than a handful have been bad. He needs to stay the fuck away from romantic comedies, though. The one he made with Russell Crowe and [Marion Cotillard] – A GOOD YEAR – that was just horrific, painful. He’s at his best when he’s exploring fantasy and science fiction and – some people probably will hate me but – nobody does epic like Ridley Scott. Even something like KINGDOM OF HEAVEN that’s factually based has more stunning imagery than all three LORD OF THE RINGS movies together.

What’s so great about Robert Mitchum?

He was the last real man, I think. He was a brute and a gentleman and a real life badass. Jason Statham would last about 30 seconds with Robert Mitchum. He just has such a presence. He’s very subtle, and he never, ever plays to the camera. Laurence Olivier could not say a line without turning to the camera and making a face. Robert Mitchum wouldn’t care if his back was to the camera. He was so charismatic, and he was willingness to take on any role. That was endearing to me. He’d play the hero or the bad guy, he didn’t care. He was truly frightening in CAPE FEAR (1962). THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) and OUT OF THE PAST (1947) are two films I could just watch any time. I do watch both of them once or twice a year. In fact, I just bought the British release poster for OUT OF THE PAST. It was called BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH in London when it was released. That was the original name of the story.

You’ve often said that you admire the style and shape of the classic actresses and models of days gone by such as Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page. Who’s your favorite right now and why?

Right now going through a mild Bettie Page fascination. I purposely avoided the whole Bettie Page parade 10 years ago because I was a little angered and disgusted that all these people were making money off this girl, my artists friends included. So I avoided anything Bettie Page. Just recently I subscribe to those vintage pinup Facebook pages, and I have gotten into appreciation. I see what it’s all about now – all the curves, and there was a really gentle innocence to her, too, where she always looks like she is having fun. I have definitely seen some pictures where I don’t think she had any idea what she was doing, such as the bondage stuff. That’s my least favorite. I love the images of her on the beach. There’s something about her eyes and her smile that is really endearing, and that silly haircut that people are still imitating today. I kind of group her in with Marilyn Monroe. I look at the pictures, and yes, I see all the right curves, but I don’t get aroused looking at them. It’s more endearing and charming to me than anything else. There’s something about both Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe that makes me want to protect them. It makes me want to take on a fatherly role. I have never seen one so I assume it was impossible to take a bad picture of them. There’s some kind of inner beauty there which really transcends the film.

James O'Barr strikes a Mitchum pose. Photo courtesy of James O'Barr.

Given the success of THE CROW franchise, are a lot of fans surprised that you lead a pretty simple life of drawing/painting, writing, watching old movies and hanging out with cats? 

The reality is that I grew up way below the poverty level, and so I have never been comfortable with luxury. It’s not that I don’t think I deserve it, but I don’t need it. Having expensive things does not make me happy. I’ve had a five-bedroom semi-mansion, and invariably I spent all my time in the basement in the dark drawing. There were rooms I never even went in. I like that I lead a very insular disciplined life, and I only bring things in that bring me joy and happiness—books and movies and music and artwork. I don’t need anything else. My cat’s my best friend. He never lies to me. He doesn’t cheat on me. He tries to lie to me. “You didn’t feed me. You didn’t feed me.” “Yes, I did. I did.” Just like dogs, they have unconditional love. My cat is lying on my feet right now. He wants to be close to me. I love dogs, too, but I prefer cats because they’re less needy. I can go away for a weekend, leave cat food, and he will be fine. I definitely like companionship. Being artist or a writer is very solitary. Just to have a little silent partner next to me is very comforting.

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Va-Va-Voom for Vinyl! Amber Lu Plans a PinUp Pageant to Help Save Criminal Records

Posted on: Nov 1st, 2011 By:
By Shellie Schmals
Contributing Blogger
During World War II and the 1940s, a PinUp was more than a picture on the wall. She was a glamour girl captured in an intimate moment. A cheeky expression of surprise reminding our soldiers there was something worth fighting for back home. As war waged on, countless women graced the bunkers in battle – ­Betty Grable, Veronica Lake, Lauren Becall and Ingrid Bergman, to name a few. We see the image of the PinUp Girl every day in popular culture, from burlesque stars like Dita Von Teese to pop tart Katy Perry on tour as a Teenage Dream.

Today, we are also fighting a war of our own ­ the recession. The current unemployment rate in Georgia is 10.3%, which is higher than the national rate of 9.1%. Everyday the reality of foreclosure hits with homeowners displaced and businesses closing.  When Criminal Records announced plans to shut their doors, the outcry from fans could be heard from all over Atlanta. Since September, The King of Pops, Variety Playhouse, WonderRoot and Pamela Caltabiano have coordinated projects to SAVE CRIMINAL RECORDS ATLANTA.

The list of advocates continues, as Amber Lu, a PinUp model and longtime friend of Criminal Records, becomes the producer of the Criminal Cuties PinUp Pageant on Saturday November 5 at 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.). As a benefit for Criminal Records, Amber Lu’s own war on the recession touches on several retro loves we share with her – PinUps and the neighborhood music and comics store – so we had to make her Kool Kat of the Week.

Amber Lu channels her inner Julie Newmar. Hair and make-up by Cherry Dame. Photo credit: Robin Cook.

ATLRETRO: Why a benefit for Criminal Records?

Amber Lu: When I found out Criminal Records was on the brink of closing its doors, I decided I wanted to throw a benefit of some sort to help them stay open.  I have a lot of close friends that work at Criminal, and it has become a home away from home for me. I am a PinUp model myself, so I thought it’d be fun to integrate the idea of Classic PinUps with what is becoming the retro aspect of the modern record store.  Plus, a pinup pageant is a great way to draw people in to the store for the rest of the fundraising events going on that night, i.e., our silent auction, bake sale, photobooth and DJ!!

What qualities are you looking for in Miss Criminal Records 2011?

A real PinUp should have the qualities I like to refer to as “The 3 P’s of PinUp”:

1) Personality! – She should be fun! Playful! Open to talking to people!
2) Presentation! – She should look the part with her hair, makeup, costuming, etc! We are calling for a little ‘twist’ in the costuming dept here for Criminal, being that it’s a comic book and record store, contestants are encouraged to dress as their favorite comic/ sci-fi characters or [in a] music-inspired costume!
3) Poise! – How they carry themselves and relate to others! This, by far, is the most important quality a PinUp should have!! Call me old fashioned, but a PinUp is a lady, and should act like one. The beauty of PinUp for me personally, is the fact that a girl can be cute and sexy and provocative at the same time… But she’s still a Lady! Less is more ’cause it’s all about the tease……

Amber Lu Amazes as Mary Jane, Spider-Man's girlfriend. Hair and make-up by Cherry Dane. Photo credit: Grant Beecher.

These qualities, along with a love for music and everything awesome, are what will help Miss Criminal Records 2011 earn her crown!!

What fabulous prizes will Miss Criminal Records 2011 and Runner Ups win?
PinUp Photographer Grant Beecherand stylist Cherry Dame are providing a free photoshoot for the winner of the pageant! Mother Pucker Lemonade will shoot the winner for a possible ad for their Vodka Lemonade. Lovely Beauty Shop  is providing gift certificates to their website for the winner and two runners up. Artist Scott Blair is providing a FREE personalized sketch for the 2nd Runner Up.

How is Criminal Records an asset to the Little Five Points community?

Criminal Records is the reason I venture into Little Five Points most days… There is ALWAYS something going on there! Bands playing live in-store shows to promote their records… vegan bake sales… Record Store DayFree Comic Book Day… book signings… Asshole Santa every Christmas?! Too many good things to count! I’ll never forget the day I [first] walked up to Criminal Records, when they were in their old location, and I saw the Indigo Girls playing on the curb there! Where else could you see that?!  I was new to Atlanta at the time, and had no idea that shows like that were a regular occurrence at Criminal. I also had the opportunity to meet Michael Cera and, my personal favorite, Jason Schwartzman, due to the fan-girl antics of the amazing Lillian Hughes, who set up a Fan Meet-n-Greet for the movie: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD! Criminal is always on the look out for fun exciting events for comic book and music fans alike. It is a very neighborhood-oriented store and focuses on supporting local artists,  as well as the communities’ well being. Only a few small reasons we need to preserve indie record stores, [and] Criminal Records in particular!!

Some say that vinyl and even CDs are considered Retro now. How are they still relevant  in a world of MP3s and digital downloads?

Vinyl has made a huge comeback in the past few years. Many people prefer its sound to the digitally remastered CDs out there. In fact, most bands nowadays put their music out on vinyl before they’d think about putting a CD out to sell. It is sad to me that CDs have somehow become a thing of the past – “retro” if you will; iTunes obviously changed the music industry immensely, and in my opinion, for the worse. Although I do enjoy being able to have my music available on my phone and at the touch of a button, I can’t help but be sad for newer generations of music fans who may never experience the excitement of going to a record store, discovering a new band, taking their CD home, enjoying reading through the album cover, and appreciating the artwork while they experience the music out loud!

Thank goodness for the Vinyl Revival, but if we don’t do something to protect indie record stores like Criminal Records and Wax n Facts, even vinyl enthusiasts will have nowhere to go.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: Cowabunga at the Plaza

Posted on: Mar 14th, 2011 By:

By Mark Arson, Contributing Blogger

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990); Dir: Steve Barron; Starring Elias Koteas, Judith Hoag, Josh Pais; Screening at Plaza Theatre, Wed. March 16, 9:30 PM; Fri. March 18, Midnight; Sat. March 19, 3 PM

Hardly any fictional universe has gotten rebooted or re-imagined in such a short period of time than that of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Why is that, though? The turtles certainly have remained popular, to the point that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone of any age that didn’t at least know of them. They are basically a pop-culture anomaly, an absurdist parody of serious and gritty comics developed into their own ubiquitous cultural phenomenon. More so, for most of their history, they’ve been marketed as something for children, when they are…well…ninjas that fight with weapons. That is obviously a difficult balance, but kids’ entertainment in the ’80s was all about violence without the violence. As a child growing up I would typically question everything (No, I didn’t believe in Santa. Ever. Jesus neither.) so I couldn’t help but notice how ridiculous it all was. I remember yelling at the screen when a cruise ship sank in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and more lifeboats than possibly could have fit on said boat sailed off, going out of the way to prove that NOBODY DIED. Of course, entertainment for kids requires fantasy, and fantasy is expensive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , ,

© 2017 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress