Green Mountain Comic Expo
This weekend--Saturday, April 1st and Sunday, April 2nd--come see me at table 48 at Green Mountain Comic Expo at the Barre Civic Center in Barre, Vermont.
As always, not a review per se, just me talking about stuff I like and this time, I'm talking about Renda Hitori's OKITENEMURA.
,OKITENEMURA (a portmanteau of the words for "asleep" and the verb for "wake up") is an action-heavy, sci-fi horror manga appearing in Futabasha's WEEKLY MANGA ACTION (where such famed manga as LUPIN III and LONE WOLF AND CUB were originally published) and is available in English on CrunchyRoll.
I had this on my to-read list for a while, a long while, and I wish I hadn't waited, cuz while it's not a particularly deep manga, it's exactly what you'd want from a thriller.
Main character Kanata is a seemingly-ordinary slacker high-school student with a special ability, mysterious even to him. By poking his finger into his ear, hard, he can enter a sort of enhanced state where his vision is so sharp he can see things from miles away. The effort leaves him very drained, however, and he worries about potential side-effects so he does it only rarely. When bizarre deaths in which people's heads transform into animals before going on murderous rampages and then dying themselves, begin to occur across Tokyo, he, like everyone else is curious and terrified. Then, when it happens at Kanata's own school, he reluctantly uses his ability to find more information and gets caught up in the exploits of an organization seeking to put a stop to these weird deaths.
And that's just the first story arc.
You see, Kanata is what they call an okitenemura - someone whose latent potential can be awakened (apparently all humans possess such potential, but most of us won't ever be able to access it, no matter how hard we try), and the External Information Group has been looking for one such as him to study his abilities. As well as the EIG, however, there is also a group called the Singers (responsible for the mysterious disease causing the deaths) that has been looking for him, to exploit his abilities. It's a matter of bad choice versus worse choice for Kanata and when his best friend is struck by the mysterious illness raging through the city, he has little choice but to willingly join up with External Information in exchange for the promise that they'll try to help.
From there, we're lead to further bizarre, sci-fi horror mysteries (mostly body-horror related) and it's basically non-stop action.
I have to say, despite it being pretty shallow, I've enjoyed this series a lot. It moves at an incredibly brisk pace, giving us just enough mystery, back-story and character development to keep it interesting. The writing effortlessly blends these elements together while the artwork balances incredibly-detailed, grotesque horrors and realistic human beings.
It's a great series to sit down with when you just want light entertainment and I hope some American publisher puts it into print eventually, because I wouldn't mind owning it.
New Free Comic: Oblivious
Several years ago, my friends Randall Drew and Jesse Durona put together an anthology called BEYOND MODE 7, featuring comics paying tribute to the Super Nintendo game-system. As a gamer since early childhood, I was thrilled when they invited me to participate, and as a hardcore RPG-player, of course I wanted to pay tribute to the classic games I've enjoyed nearly my entire life.
The result is this comic: "Oblivious". It poses some questions, and possibly answers them, about a few things I've wondered about the lives of all those NPCs in the RPGs I so love.
Click below to read!
Anyone who knows me, at least somewhat, knows I am a huge fan of Alien and the franchise/canon it spawned. While I've seen the movie at least half a dozen times, if not more, I recently had a hankering to read Alan Dean Foster's novelization of the film - a book I've heard called "the greatest novelization in history". I don't agree with that, but I did find it interesting.
First, a huge thank you to my friend Sebastian Piccione for giving me my copy of the book. He's a great guy, no matter what you've heard about him.
When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of novelizations of films. I honestly can't tell you why, but I bought a lot of them, often at the used bookstore my dad was a fan of and to which he took me a number of times. Sometimes, it was films I'd seen and loved, like The Rocketeer. Sometimes, it was films I'd seen and been disappointed in, like Dick Tracy. Others, like virtually all of the Star Trek film novelizations, were books I just picked up because I was familiar with the property. I don't own any of them, anymore, though, so I guess ultimately they weren't that important to me, but it was just a weird little phase I went through.
Anyway, as for the Alien novelization: it's a light read, as you'd expect. It took me perhaps three hours total to read and the plot doesn't deviate in any meaningful way from the film's, aside from including a couple scenes cut from the film version (the goodbye scene between Ripley and Dallas, for example, which made it's way back in on one of the 21st century director's cuts), and the derelict ship's pilot being absent. I found it interesting, though, that Foster added a single eye (or eye-like structure, as he called it) to the face-hugger's description. While reading the novelization, I at first imagined this merely to be a mistake on the part of the narrator, but when I thought about how they're depicted in the films, there's simply nothing that could be construed as being an eye of any sort, so I suppose that's simply Foster's take on the creatures. Additionally, the fully-grown alien has eyes, confirming this being how Foster saw them in his mind, which in the scene where Brett dies, he momentarily mistakes for Jones's eyes glowing in the darkness. Foster also mentions suction cups on the creature's undersides, used to attach itself to Kane. This I honestly found kind of silly compared to the way the things attach themselves in the films.
These are all things, however, that I imagine Foster used either from his own imaginings of written descriptions given to him, or perhaps from early concept artwork for the film - which of course went through many iterations before settling on the versions we saw on film. I'm glad that the final film versions did not have eyes, however, as frankly, it's far more chilling to see that shiny, blank skull "peering" at the camera and/or characters, than "giant, glowing yellow" eyes would be.
What surprised me was the tone of the novel - maybe it's the period in which it was written, or maybe Foster's own sensibilities, but the horror is decidedly absent, compared to the film. The tone, instead, is the sort of dry, by-the-books sci-fi you'd expect of 1950s/60s commercial science fiction prose. A lot of acronyms we're never given the meanings of, a lot of description of step-by-step actions taken by the crew as they perform specific tasks on the ship. Maybe it's meant to add realism, but while it works in a film, it really bogs down the narrative in prose, as it takes you out of the story and makes the reader feel like an uninformed observer who's suddenly become aware they don't belong on the Nostromo's bridge. The scene-changes, where the film frequently flicks back and forth between various crew-members, are badly handled, too, taking the reader out of the story - rather than line breaks (of which the novel has only one), the next paragraph will simply be focused on a different person in a different place. It was jarring.
In addition, the novel feels unbalanced in terms of the "acts" it's divided into. We're 110 pages into the book before Kane is back aboard the ship and placed in the autodoc and another sixty pages before the chest-burster (which has limbs, in this, as opposed to the worm-like appearance in the film) makes its appearance, by which point the book had begun to feel like it was dragging. The remainder of the plot plays out in less than a hundred additional pages, but contrary to feeling rushed, it actually feels lethargic - as if very little is happening and it's being padded out. That is, until we get to the final climactic scenes where the last of the crew--save Ripley--is killed and Ripley makes her escape - all of which, including Ripley's finally besting the xenomorph, is crammed into the last ten pages of the book. It's just badly-balanced plotting.
All of this sounds like a lot of complaining--and it is--but don't get the impression that I hated the novel, because I didn't. It wasn't as good as the film, but it was interesting to take a look at the story from a different perspective and in a different fashion. If I'd never seen the film before reading the novel, however, this book probably wouldn't have enticed me to watch it - so I'm glad it happened the other way around.
Congratulations to my friend Randy Haldeman for the acceptance of his cover-art for our fantasy comic PETTY LITTLE STINGS into the 24th annual Spectrum Fantasy Art Awards book!
The Spectrum Awards are THE major award for fantasy art and being accepted into their annual publication is a huge honor and accomplishment.
Congratulations, Randy! This honor is very much deserved!
A Note of Thanks
2016 Ghastly Awards winners were announced yesterday and sadly, MYTHOS was not among them.
I just wanted to thank, very sincerely, all the people who cast their votes for MYTHOS. The book was a labor of love for both myself and artist Hugo Petrus and both the nomination and the support from readers, fans and friends means a lot.
So thank you all very much and congratulations to winners!
I'm Brandon and I write comic books, prose and poetry. I own dozens of clever and interesting t-shirts.