books

Exclusive Interview: Dan Parent (“Die Kitty Die!”)

Archie Comics fans are well acquainted with their favorite artists, such as Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz, and if you’ve been astute fan, you might have heard about the pair’s upcoming comic book project, Die, Kitty, Dieand the project’s Kickstarter campaign. The campaign’s original $25,000 goal has not only been met, but has nearly reached double the amount originally set, with many heavyweights in the comic book industry joining in to provide special covers and pin-ups.

I’ve been a fan of Parent’s for years, and after having met him at the 2013 Miami Book Fair International, I became an even bigger fan. I’ve interviewed him before in the past, but I was excited and honored when he reached out to me to tell me about Die Kitty Die!. Check out the interview with Parent below, in which we discuss Die Kitty Die!, the Kickstarter campaign, and what fans can expect from this bewitching new series, as well as an exclusive update on that elusive Kevin Keller relaunch. The Die Kitty Die! Kickstarter campaign ends this Friday, Dec. 18, so if you’d like to contribute (click the link above), you’ve still got time!

How did you and Fernando Ruiz come up with Die Kitty Die!?

Fernando and I came up with idea for Die Kitty Die! on a plane trip to Dallas Comic Con last year. We started sketching and writing , and before you knew it, we had a story!

The Kickstarter has been uber successful. How do you feel about the success?

We are thrilled about the success of the Kickstarter. The most satisfying thing is that our fans have supported us and are looking forward to the project.

This project has a lot of popular comic book artists involved; who are some of the artists involved?

We are really lucky to have some great talent on board. Gisele Lagace is our friend, mega talent, and also a great business person. She has not only helped us set up our Kickstarter, but has contributed art to the series. Next is Jason Bone, another friend who is not only a great inker but a great artist too! Phil Jimenez and Glen Hanson are also 2 well known talents who are going to contribute to the book. And then we have superstar artist Darwyn Cooke, who is doing the cover to the trade. I’m his biggest fan, and have been lucky enough to become his friend over the years. When he agreed to do the cover, we were over the moon!

This project also has strong ties to pin-up art, specifically Dan DeCarlo (which makes sense, since both you and Ruiz are Archie artists). What about pin-up art appeals to you?

We love pin up art, as well as fashion pages . And Dan DeCarlo is a huge inspiration to all of us. So if you see signs of dan DeCarlo in our work, that’s a good thing!

What can fans of yours expect from Die Kitty Die?

Fans can expect Die Kitty Die to be a fun mix of romance, adventure, horror and comedy. It’s an homage to the comic book industry , but we also think it fills in a gap that is missing in comics right now. And that is classic comics told with a modern twist, that focus on two important things: Good story and good art!

On an unrelated note: Kevin Keller’s comic is supposed to be relaunching (at last check). What can fans expect from the relaunch?

There is supposed to be new Kevin Keller book, but that has been delayed. I’m hoping to get the ball rolling in that again in 2016!

Die Kitty Die! artwork by Dan Parent (Facebook)

Exclusive Interview: M.J. Fièvre (“A Sky the Color of Chaos”)

One of my favorite times of year in South Florida is November, when the Miami Book Fair International rolls into town. This year, M.J. Fièvre debuted her new book, A Sky the Color of Chaos, a memoir detailing her tumultuous childhood in Haiti and her journey towards understanding her father.

I was excited to learn more about Fièvre’s book and her writing process, and in this in-depth email interview, you can also learn more about Fièvre’s literary process, what she hopes the book teaches readers, and how she came to better understand her father and herself.

A Sky the Color of Chaos is avaiable from Beating Winward Press and can be bought at outlets like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million.

Comic Book Review: “Zodiac Starforce” is Magical Fun

Syopses

• Zodiac Starforce #1

An elite group of teenage girls with magical powers have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures . . . as long as they can get out of class!

These high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests. They’re also battling monsters! But when an evil force infects leader Emma, she must work with her team to save herself—and the world—from the evil Diana and her mean-girl minions!

* A brand-new creator-owned series from Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors) and Paulina Ganucheau (TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors).

* For fans of Sailor Moon, Buffy, and Lumberjanes!

Writer: Kevin Panetta

Artist: Paulina Ganucheau

Cover Artist: Marguerite Sauvage

• Zodiac Starforce #2

They saved the world two years ago, but when a new, monstrous threat arises, can they put aside their differences and become a team again? Hopefully they can; otherwise team leader Emma, who’s been infected by an evil magical force, is a goner! Will the Zodiac Starforce reunite and enter the dark realm of Nephos to save their captain, or will a fierce rivalry on the volleyball court tear them apart?

Writer: Kevin Panetta

Artist: Paulina Ganucheau

Cover Artist: Kevin Wada

My thoughts: I’m a huge fan of Sailor Moon and Magical Girl things in general (like OG stuff like Magical Girl Pretty Sammy, which I think is probably one of the best iterations of the Tenchi Muyo characters). So when I heard about Zodiac Starforce, consider my interest piqued. Turns out the two issues didn’t disappoint.

Zodaic Starforce is what I have hoped for in an American version of the Magical Girl genre. Americans have tried Magical Girl things before, like with Steven Universe, but contrary to popular opinion (especially opinions about Steven Universe), I never took to any American version of anything magical girl/magical person except for Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and even that was spliced with footage from the actual Japanese production. Zodiac Starforce, though, combines the best elements of Sailor Moon and Steven Universe and puts them together in a way that’s enjoyable for everyone. High school drama? Check. Doll-like girls with bountiful, Princess Jasmine-esque hair? Check. Diversity in race, culture, body size and sexual orientation? Check. Action and humor? Check. All of the above make for an enjoyable series for the modern age.

I’m really fascinated by how the series stars mise en scène, with the girls already in acknowledgement of their powers and having disbanded months (or years?) before. They have to get the team back together when they find out their leader, Emma, has been infected somehow and is on a course for death. Astra, the goddess that gave them their powers, doesn’t give Emma or the team any hope, but the team are adamant about saving their friend and saving the world once again from Cimmeria, the villain the assumed was dead. Or is it Cimmeria? Is it another foe taking Cimmeria’s place?

In any event, I thought it was unique to have the series start in the middle and have us learn about the world the more we read. To that end, though, I hope we learn more about the Starforce’s past, how they were chosen by Astra, who Cimmeria is and how she was defeated the first time.

Overall, Zodiac Starforce is an enjoyable series and I can’t wait to get the next issue.

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Cover art for Zodiac Starforce #1 and #2. Image credits: Dark Horse Comics

Comic Book Review: "Archie #1"

Written by: Mark Waid

Art by : Fiona Staples

Synopsis: Change is coming to Riverdale in this can’t-miss kick-off to Archie’s new ongoing series! Familiar faces return in new and unexpected ways in this must-have #1 issue! As the new school year approaches, you’d think Archie Andrews would be looking forward to classes and fun—but nothing is as it seems in the little town of Riverdale. But is this a one-off or a sign of bigger changes awaiting for America’s favorite teens—and the entire town? Find out in this exciting and remarkable first issue!

Queer Coded: Carmilla

Carmilla is a vampire book that, in my opinion, really isn’t as veiled of a homoerotic piece of fiction like Dracula is. While Dracula is couched in mystery and has a fairly strong tug of (suspiciously aggressive) heterosexual love, Carmilla is  full-on lesbian erotica. But also like Dracula, it’s also a piece that functions as a cautionary tale against same-sex love. 

Queer Coded: Dracula

Little known fact: I am a huge vampire fan. I’ve read most of Anne Rice’s vampire books, have watched tons of vampire films and specials, and I was even given a book about the history of vampires in film to review.

I love the idea of vampires so much because it’s a creative and unique way to allow humanity to wrestle with that part of life we’re so afraid of, death. What would it be like to live forever, and if you could, would you want to, or would you rather face the mysteriousness of eternity? Is there life after death? Vampire lore is a great way to come to terms with these questions that plague the human condition.

But vampire lore can be used for so much more than just debating life after death. Vampire stories, specifically Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, have been used to explain (or denounce, depending on how you look at it) “queerness” in society.

I was so intrigued by this alternative reading of vampire stories that I wrote a paper on it way back when I was in college. I had posted the paper on my old site, Moniqueblog, years ago and thankfully, I was able to find it again through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. So, if you want to read my paper analyzing homosexual acceptance and denial in Dracula and Nosferatu, here you go.

(Also, next, I’ll have to write about Carmilla. That book has some intense overtones.)

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Homosexual acceptance and denial in “Nosferatu” and “Dracula”

Dracula is thought of as a horror monster and Halloween icon rather than something more important. However, one label the character has is as a pro-homosexual idol. Author Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, was written during, and pertaining to, society’s outlaw and discrimination of homosexuality, and the multifaceted ideas surrounding homosexuality are present not only in the novel but also in films Nosferatu and Dracula. From analyzing scenes from Nosferatu and Dracula, one can draw the conclusion that Dracula and Jonathan Harker represent acceptance and denial of homosexuality respectively, as well as the views toward homosexuality during Stoker’s lifetime.

Part of the history behind Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula involves his possible intolerance to accept his homosexuality. Talia Schaffer, author of “‘A Wilde desire took me’: Homoerotic History of Dracula,” argues that the novel is Stoker’s attempt to express his true self while combating societal-as well as his own-feelings about homosexuality (“Bram Stoker” www3.niu.edu). Part of this interpretation of the book rests on Stoker’s writing influences. Stoker was known to have admired poet Walt Whitman, who is considered the father of gay culture. Whitman’s poetry often featured themes of homosexuality, spirituality, and one poem, the aptly named “Blood Poetry,” even features blood being used in a way that is reminiscent of the vampiric use of blood-as a means to explore sexuality and release:

Trickle drops! my blue veins leaving!
O drops of me! trickle, slow drops,
Candid from me falling, drip, bleeding drops,
From wounds made to free you whence you were prison’d
From my face, from my forehead and lips,
From my breast, from within where I was conceal’d, press forth red drops,

confession drops,
Stain every page, stain every song I sing, every word I say, bloody drops…

(“Character,” truelegends.info)

Whitman, along with Oscar Wilde (also Stoker’s friend), were highly influential in gay and lesbian culture and identity. Whitman was a great influence on both Wilde and Stoker, and Stoker is quoted as to have said that Whitman was the “father, brother, and wife to [Stoker’s] soul” (“Character,”truelegends.info). In fact, the appearance of Whitman and Dracula are very similar-Whitman had “long white hair, a heavy moustache, great height and strength, and a leonine bearing” (“Character,” truelegends.info), and in Stoker’s novel, Dracula is described as “a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache,” (Dracula, ch. 2, literature.org). A further description of Dracula is given in chapter two:

His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. These protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin.

(Dracula, ch. 2, literature.org).

Aside from the sharp teeth, this description describes Whitman’s appearance very well, as seen in the figure below.

walt-whitman

Fig. 1(workingwithwords.blogspot.com)

A notable fact is that a month after Wilde was convicted of sodomy (the crime that many gay men were charged with in the 1800s), Stoker penned Dracula. According to Talia Schaeffer, the motion to write the book during Wilde’s excruciating trial—a period of “safe concealment or tempting revelation…disguise, half-admission and denial”—can be seen as Stoker wrestling with his emotions as a closeted gay man (“Wilde,” accessmylibrary.com).