Author

Seth Ferranti

Seth Ferranti has 51 articles published.

Pop Star Assassin Kickstarter

in Comics by
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Pop Star Assassin Kickstarter

I interviewed Ed Lavallee, a little over a year ago, for Comics Beat, about his unique take on an Elvis impersonator who has issues, or does he? I  recently ran into him again at Planet Comicon. He now has issue 2 of Pop Star Assassin out and he’s running a Kickstarter to fund the rest of the mini-series. I talked to him about everything he has going on right now for The GR1ND.

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On the Kickstarter page it says, “Pop Star Assassin is a lysergic trip to the heart of American CONSPIRANOIA.” Where did that idea come from?

Ed Lavallee- The idea for Pop Star came about as a culmination of all of the pop cultural influences I loved growing up as a child in the 70’s. I loved all types of genre films sci-fi, horror, action/adventure, but the pinnacle for me was watching Black Belt theater on Saturdays. This was usually a double feature with crazy, over-the-top characters, and even crazier Kung Fu action, but at the same time it was juxtaposed by the hilarity of the badly dubbed English.

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What is Pop Star About? Well Pop Star is set in the 70’s and starts out in Vegas, without giving away too much this first mini series sets events in motion that will change the face of the planet resulting in a very Blade Runner-esque – the only difference it will be brought with 1970’s low-fi gadgetry and tech. Big, bulky, and unreliable. Ray guns, EMPs, orbital weapons platforms, massive rooms full of giant super computers.

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What does Elvis mean to you? Elvis did play a big part of my childhood. He was larger than life – The King of Rock n Roll. His fame was otherworldly, legendary. Part of that plays into the story in the fact that when Elvis died there was so much speculation, an unanswered questions…then the Elvis sightings started popping up and that just added to the mystery and elevated him to god-like stature in the eyes of the world – not just Americans. The tabloids are still running stories about Elvis to this day. Makes for a great story though, huh?;) Ultimately though, Bruce Lee is my ultimate inspiration and almighty idol!

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Check out the Kickstarter here.

A Profile on Ink and Drink Comics

in Comics by
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Ink and Drink Comics started as a sketch meet up group in 2008 for a bunch of local comic book creators and artists that worked at the magazine/website Playback:STL. They would get together once a month on a Thursday to sketch, talk comics, and collaborate. Carlos Gabriel Ruiz pitched the idea of putting together an anthology book for the first Project Comic-Con, but the group needed a theme to unite it. Since the con was going to be shortly before Halloween, they decided on making it a horror book, and six months later their first genre anthology, Spirits of St. Louis, made its debut in October 2010. They ended up selling out of their first print run, which blew their minds. The Ink and Drink crew enjoyed it so much that they decided to do it again, and their second book, the crime anthology Shots in the Dark, made its debut at C2E2 in 2011. The rest is drunk history as the collaborative is still meeting once a month today and cranking out graphic novel anthologies. The GR1ND sat down with creative director, Carlos Gabriel Ruiz, editor in chief Jason Green and deputy editor Steve Higgins to chat about comics, their newest releases and where you can find Ink and Drink comics.

What’s up with the new release Spirits of St. Louis II – Hair of the Dog?

Carlos Gabriel Ruiz-Spirits of St. Louis II – Hair of the Dog, our newest book, just made its debut on April 20th. Having cycled through all of the genres we could think of, Spirits II is the first time returning back to a genre we’ve covered before. It’s a great mishmash of stories in the fine Ink and Drink tradition, and the book features a few ghost stories, some demon hauntings, a coven of vampires, monsters, zombies, and a few psychological horror stories. We’ve had a month-long slate of release parties, signings, and events to help celebrate the release and it seems like the party train will soon be coming to a stop. But the good thing is that Spirits II is now available in finer comic book shops around the St. Louis area and also online at the Ink and Drink Comics Store.

Who is featured in the book?

Carlos– The book features 16 tales of horror to delight and scare our viewers. The regular edition features a cover by Adam Davenport and a back cover by Kyle Morton. The Wizard World St. Louis edition featured a cover by Bryan Ward and a back cover by Jim Mosley. It has an introduction by Bryan A. Hollerbach. There’s a long list of contributors to the book.

What roles do you each play at Ink and Drink?

Jason Green- My upfront role as an editor is whatever people want it to be. Some contributors work in a vacuum and just turn in their submission when it’s done, while others like feedback along the way and I’m always game to read advance scripts and offer advice. I also tend to take a pretty active role at pestering people to contribute and coax work out of them as the deadline approaches. On the tail end, it’s reviewing and copyediting the submissions to hunt out grammar mistakes and misspelled words and gathering together the ancillary stuff like copyright information and contributor biographies. And in addition to writing my own stories, I’ll also frequently pitch in on lettering other people’s stories to help get them across the finish line.

Steve Higgins- I’m pretty much on the same page as Jason, looking over people’s scripts beforehand to give them pointers on how to proceed and checking out the finished art afterward to proofread for errors. I also tend to do a lot of the promotional work for our books. Of the three of us I think I’m probably the most active with our social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. I wrangle people together at the meetings themselves and tend to run the “business” portion of those meetings. I coordinate a lot of the events we attend, like the signings we’ve recently done and our convention appearances, to figure out who in our extensive crew might be available to participate. And of course I write my own contributions to each anthology we do. I’m actually one of a handful of people who has contributed to every book we’ve done (sometimes multiple pieces), which is something the other editors can’t say and that I like to rub in as frequently as possible.

Carlos- I’m responsible for putting the book together from a creative and design perspective. I work with the artists who create the covers and title page illustrations, pitching them ideas on what we’re looking for and vetting their ideas with the rest of the group. From there, I’m responsible for producing the book, from creating the logos, to designing the layout of the book, to getting all of  the story files production ready for our printer. The three of us basically pick the theme for each book and then curate it, reviewing all of the submissions, editing the work, and giving any feedback or notes for each submission. We hold the work to a pretty high standard. Unfortunately, that means from time to time we have to reject some contributions, but that is usually a pretty rare occurrence.

How was Wizard World St. Louis?

Carlos– Wizard World St. Louis was great this year! We had our best con ever, partially because we had a limited edition Wizard World exclusive of our new book Spirits of St. Louis II – Hair of the Dog that featured a St. Louis-centric front cover and back cover. Plus, we now have 13 books available and have developed a pretty strong local following. It’s great to get repeat customers who keep coming back for the newest books because we couldn’t do it without their support. We’re excited to continue putting out a new book every six months.

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What other books does Ink and Drink have out?

Carlos- When we started, we had the idea of doing a book for every genre, in the hopes of having something for every reader. Six years later we now have a book for every genre, plus a book that we put together for St. Louis’ 250th anniversary and a collection of the first three mini-comics we put out for Free Comic Book Day. Also, each book has a drinking pun as a title.

What is the St Louis comic scene like?

Carlos– Thriving! There is a tremendous amount of talent coming out of St. Louis these days. We’re lucky to live in such a great comics town, with a rich history of artists and writers and a flourishing community of newcomers. Plus, everyone is very supportive of one another.  It also helps that there are a ton of great shops in and around St. Louis and lot of public support for comics (as seen by the Comics University put on by the St. Louis Public Library and their recent forays into hosting a comic convention). It’s funny because there was always a good indie comics scene in St. Louis, but we had a hard time finding it until we started Ink and Drink Comics in 2009/2010. Suddenly we went to our first local con and discovered that there were a few other collectives putting out books and meeting together to collaborate. It was eye-opening to see so many people coming together to make comics.

What do you have in the works now?

Carlos– We had our 5th Free Comic Book Day mini-comic that came out on May 7th for FCBD 2016 called On the House – 5th Round: Knights in White Satin. Our next anthology is a book called Hungover – Stories from the Bottom of the Barrel. It is a slight departure from most of our books in that it is not a genre anthology but instead serves as a catch-all for all genres. In each of our previous books, we’ve had people who had a story they wanted to contribute but were unable to because either time ran out or they had prior commitments. This book is their chance to give life to that story. We have a feeling that it may be our largest book yet, in terms of pages, and we hope that it serves as a great sampler to all of the fine genre work that we do. That book is set to debut at Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD, in September.

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As an indie comics publishers what have you learned?

Carlos– Deadlines matter. Each of our books is based around a convention release, so it is important that we hit our deadlines in order to deliver the books to the printer in enough time to make the conventions. The simple truth is that if you put out product on a regular basis, people will keep coming back for it because they come to expect a new release on a regular basis. So many indies shoot themselves in the foot by publishing infrequently and sporadically. We’re really proud to have kept up the two-books-a-year pace for over five years now, plus the Free Comic Book Day minicomics.

Stories matters. While our anthologies are centered around genre, they are built up around stories that offer a wide range in art styles, tone, and subject matter. We don’t require slavish devotion to a format; we just require they be good stories well told. If a story doesn’t go anywhere interesting or if the artwork can’t tell a story, we wouldn’t include it in our anthology. We set a pretty high bar for our books, and if the submissions don’t meet that bar, they’ll be left on the cutting room floor.

Quality matters. It’s becoming much easier to self-publish, which means that there are a lot of comic books being made out there and a lot of good books being put out. If you factor in the somewhat declining market, the competition for someone’s hard-earned dollar is getting tougher and tougher each day. People are willing to support indie comics if they feel they’re getting their money’s worth. It’s important for us to put out a great looking book that is nicely designed, has good production value, and contains great content. We’ve all been to a convention and seen someone’s crudely drawn 10 page mini-comic that they’re selling for $5, and for us, that seems like a pretty tough sale. While someone may pick it up, it’s a hard expense to justify when you can get a full-color 24 page comic for $3.99 and 100+ page full-color Ink and Drink book for $10.

Variety matters. Selling a book to someone who has never heard of you can be pretty tough, especially if you have only one or two of something. The great thing about anthologies is the variety of the art styles and the stories that are contained within each book. We like to say that we have something for everyone, which is especially true now that we have over 13 books in print that cover every genre, including two books that are specifically kid-friendly.

What will the rest of 2016 hold for Ink and Drink?
More cons, more events, more books, and more beer! We have a pretty full slate of future conventions that we’re attending, including Planet Comic Con 2016 in Kansas City, Central Con at the St. Louis Library, Small Press Expo (SPX) 2016 in Maryland, and many, many more. We’ll continue meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month and we’ll keep making new books every six months. We may also have a few beers for good measure.

To check out Ink and Drink comics go here.

Artist Profile: Nathan Gooden

in Comics by
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CME Comics new book Deadeye Begun in Blood hits stores Wednesday April 6th. Set in the American frontier Deadeye, a bounty hunter tracks those responsible for his nightmarish past. But as he hunts his own prey he finds something far worse. Like a Spaghetti Western this graphic novel vividly depicts the old west, its denizens and its landscape. The GR1ND got with the man who illustrated the book, Nathan Gooden, to ask him about his art.

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How long have you been using watercolors as an artistic form?

I’ve been experimenting with watercolors since high school. It was one of the first mediums that I took serious interest in, and I’ve learned to love the technical challenges it poses. To work effectively in this medium, you have to learn to map out a whole composition, brush stroke by brush stroke, before you touch brush to paper. And then you have to learn to adapt to paper, paint, and brush, when things don’t go as planned.

How did doing the backgrounds in this western landscape differ?

I try to keep the emphasis on characters and action. My backgrounds are fairly washed out and low contrast, with little variation in tone, and minimal detail. On the other hand, I paint the characters or action at the focal point of a composition in brighter, more varied colors. There you’ll find the darkest shadows and brightest highlights. This helps to separate the focal point from the background and create a sense of depth.

What type of research went into the artwork?

Research is vital to my process. I can’t draw what I don’t know. But the Internet is a sort-of magic tool for an artist. With it I can seek inspiration for style and tone: here I draw a lot from the great Westerns of the late 1950s and early 1960s, in particular the work of Sergio Leone. And it also lets me familiarize myself with almost any subject. If I need to see what a saguaro cactus looks like at sunset, or figure out what a Civil War-ear Colt revolver looks like when you’re staring down the barrel, the images are somewhere to be found online.

What was it like working with the writer on this graphic novel?

Good work in comics and graphic novels requires close collaboration between the artist and the writer. It’s a marriage of sorts. Like any successful marriage, it requires compromise, but perhaps even more significantly, it requires commitment to your individual values. On this particular project, I’ve known Adrian (the writer) for decades, and we have a level of trust you can’t achieve any other way. So, for the most part, he trusts me to compose the story visually, and I trust him to assemble its narrative elements. Even so, every project has its small skirmishes between artist and writer. Often, these result in the best moments in the book.

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Were you inspired by the Spaghetti Westerns?

I was hoping to give the book a solarized, cinematic feel that evoked Sergio Leone’s best work. I wanted to capture the vastness, and desolation of the setting. As the title suggests, this story begins in blood, and the world just goes on bleeding everywhere Deadeye wanders. By painting the blood in such sharp contrast to the backgrounds, you can see the vein of violence Deadeye carves through the narrative.

I absolutely love working in watercolors and brushed ink, and I can really open up in this medium. But as I said above, it also requires a level of planning, forethought, and planning over and above some other media. While I can put down my Micron pens and take a lunch break whenever I want, if I walk away in the middle of a watercolor painting I’ve just thrown away a sheet of bristol board. The fantastical or mystical tone and visual style of the book was a well-considered choice. Adrian and I planned this from day one. I owe a tremendous creative debt to Sergio Leone, whose work was a touchstone throughout this project.

Check out http://creativemindenergy.com today to learn more.

Author Interview: Sezin Koehler

in Books by
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Crime Rave is a bombastic look into the world that Sezín Koehler created in American Monsters. A kind of fantasy world where Marilyn Monroe is a Goddess and horror, crime and action clash in a combustible mix of farcical fiction which hits hard and resonates. The GR1ND sat down with author Sezín Koehler for a chat about her work.

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Crime Rave defies typical genres and conventions. What are your influences?

I’m a half American, half Sri Lankan Third Culture Kid — someone who was raised outside my parents’ home countries — and a global nomad who has lived in 13 countries and 18 cities around the world. In many ways the physical world I’ve inhabited defies typical genres and conventions and feel like it was somehow “natural” that my writing follows suit.

I’d say my base genre is horror, and I build upwards from there, always inspired by the works of Stephen King, JK Rowling, Louise Erdrich, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, and Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” series, just to name a few.

Specifically for “Crime Rave” I read a whole lot of Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Dashiell Hammett, and other hardboiled crime and thrillers, as well as watched every crime show and movie I could get my hands on, from old to new. I wanted the tone of “Crime Rave” to be reminiscent of crime and film noir, but with my own twist, and it took a lot of reading and listening to get that classic crime voice to become a part of me before I could integrate it into my story in a fresh way.

How did you start writing?

I started reading and writing at a very early age and have first notebooks of poems and short stories going back to when I was 4 or 5. I grew up in a rather turbulent household, so writing for me has always been my greatest escape and most effective form of therapy. Writing has also been the only consistent thing for me over the years and now it’s as vital as breathing. I literally fall ill when I’m not working on one writing project or another. As breaks from long-form novel writing I also write essays regularly for Huffington Post, and this year one of my goals is to get more short fiction out into the world in whatever shape that may take.

Horror, crime, action- how do you formulate your stories and what goes on in them?

I draw inspiration from everything around me (my husband jokes that even a breeze will inspire some new crazy idea), and I’m an avid consumer of books and visual media. Sometimes my dreams even offer me plot devices or movement in my stories. As a feminist and horror fan, I love the idea of playing with tropes from all genres and spinning them on their heads whenever possible. And a big part of my process is the social commentary that lives just underneath the horror, crime, and action. All the events are extremely intentional, and if you know a little bit about horror and feminist theory you’ll have an extra appreciation of my stories.

Describe your writing process from concept to finished process?

One of my friends calls me a Method Writer. My books require thousands of hours of research through reading, watching, until I’m finally “in character” for the story. Next comes writing and rewriting and more rewriting until it all feels right. It’s an exhaustive and often exhausting process. I also spend a lot of time NOT writing or working on a novel, and often that time away will spark major character and plot breakthroughs.

Everything starts with reading, then writing a shitty first draft. I let that draft sit for a few months without even looking at it, and any ideas or additions I make go into a notebook for later reference. More reading and watching while I let that first draft cool. Next comes rewriting the mess into a decent second draft that then goes to my trusted first readers. More reading, more watching. Then a third draft, which goes to beta readers. If I’m lucky the fourth draft is the final, and it goes to a last group of readers, and then I release the book baby out into the world, hoping for the best.

Your novel seems almost like a graphic novel. Was that your intent?

You’re not the first one to mention this aspect of the book! I’m an extremely visual person so I think that has more to do with it than me actively trying to write something that seems like a graphic novel. I have to see things in my head clearly before I can write them, and by the time I’m finished visualizing a scene it is so clear to me it might as well be drawn or in live action on a screen. If only I knew how to properly draw, I’d totally be a graphic novel creator instead of a novelist. And hey, if someone would be interested in working with me to make the book into a graphic novel I would say yes in less than a heartbeat.

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American Monsters to Crime Rave- what is next for you?

I’m currently working on my third novel, a zombie faerie tale set in my old home of Prague, Czech Republic. I took thousands of photos of the city before I moved so it’s been fun reviewing my old home and getting my feet metaphorically back on the ground there. In the works as well is my fourth novel, featuring recurring “Crime Rave” characters in the present day living on Pine Ridge Reservation; my fifth will be a grindhouse horror novel taking place in a gated community in Southeast Florida; and I’m toying with the idea of potentially an entire novel about Marilyn Monroe. In the meantime I’m planning to release collections of short stories as well as essays in the next couple years, too.

Are the fantasy elements in the books a big part of it for you? Explain.

In a way, yes. I grew up with a complicated racial and cultural experience which has left me with the overwhelming feeling of perpetual otherness even when I’m in places of my origins, the US and Sri Lanka. I’ve been drawn to monsters since I could first read because they also seem to occupy that marginal interstitial space outside of mainstream culture, and this has definitely translated into my books through my hybrid characters and also how in my fictional world trauma results in actual superpowers. That said, it’s only been recently that I’ve been realizing how much fantasy shapes my work. When I think of my characters, even the most magical ones, they are so real to me I forget that people like them don’t exist in any known universe, real or imaginary. Being mixed race I never really felt that I had the right to tell certain kinds of stories — mainly because people in my life would actively inform me I had no right to those stories, and for whatever reason I believed them; being mixed can be a tough negotiation — and because my own personal experience was so far from any norm I compensate by making most of my characters ethnic, cultural, and even alien hybrids.

You have famous celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and goddesses that rule over humans. Where do these juxtapositions come from?

Many would argue that Marilyn Monroe is a modern goddess, and one who has maintained that special allure and magic over even recent generations because of her mysterious demise and the fact that she died so young, still with that iconic face. Beyond, having lived in places like Thailand and India where pantheons of gods and goddesses are the majority religious beliefs has made me rather pantheistic myself. I’m also obsessed with Greco-Roman and Norse beliefs, and it was really fun to create my very own pantheon from “American Monsters” to “Crime Rave”, and now beyond both further outward into upcoming novels.

Where is the book available and what are your social media and website links?

“Crime Rave” is available anywhere you buy books online, from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc, ( http://amzn.com/1508667853,

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crime-rave-sezin-koehler/1122636710?ean=9781312788138, https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/575509) and you can snag a signed copy on the “Crime Rave” website, or grab a copy of the ebook on a pay-what-you-want basis on the website as well (http://crimerave.org/). People have also been going to their local independent bookstore and ordering paperbacks there, which is pretty much my favorite story about how people are getting their hands on “Crime Rave”.

You can find out more about me and read more writings on my website Zuzu’s Petals (http://www.sezin.org), follow me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SezinKoehler) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/SezinKoehler), as well as my cabinet of curiosities on Tumblr (http://www.hybridmonster.org), and Instagram (http://instagram.com/zuzukoehler) where I often post pics of my strange little multi-media art pieces. Being a bookworm, my favorite social media site is Goodreads and I actually track all the books I read for novel research on there (https://www.goodreads.com/Sezin), as well as tracking all the visual media research I do for my books on IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/user/ur48165187/). I’m nothing if not thorough!

The Birdlander

in Comics by

Aaron Walther is all about comics. If he’s not writing one of the numerous comics he publishes than he is hosting his Comic DNA podcast. He is big on the local scene and big on helping out his fellow indie creators. Aaron has a brand-new comic out too. Its called The Birdlander and we had a chat with Aaron so that he could tell us about it and all the other stuff he gets up to in his busy life.

What is The Birdlander comic about?

After cataclysmic changes in the distant past, Earth has been repopulated by dinosaurs. Humanity struggles to rebuild it’s once great society, and through the turmoil and chaos, people tell stories of a man known only as The Birdlander. The story follows a young woman named Sumi, who is searching for the eponymous Birdlander for personal reasons. The main theme of the book is “perspective” and how we view ourselves compared to other people. Sumi is attempting to learn everything she can about The Birdlander, and there is no shortage of people who have a story to share about him. The Birdlander, himself, is only shown in flashback stories told by other characters and is depicted differently depending on how the character views him, whether they think he’s a hero, a villain, or just a myth.

What is your role on the book?

I am the writer, letter and co-creator along with my artistic partner, Ed Bickford, who does all of the illustration.

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What other stuff have you done?

For the last five years or so, I’ve been publishing comics at newhavencomics.com. The main series I wrote was a superhero comedy called Zero’s Heroes, which ran as a webcomic from 2010-2015. I also did a science-fiction anthology book called Science Hero, which contained different sci-fi themed comics I wrote. All of these have since been put on hold, as I am retooling my website format and also focusing more of my efforts on The Birdlander.

Tell us about your podcast?

I host a podcast called Comic DNA (which can be found at comicdna.podbean.com and is also on iTunes) in which I and a comic creating guest talk about comics that we like. The intent is not to do reviews because I’m not really interested in telling people what they should or shouldn’t read, nor am I interested in giving out bad reviews, but more to just have a conversation about a comic and discuss it. I try to get multiple guests on each episode, both artists and writers, and not just talk about books that we like, but also books that influence us as creators and give a perspective that’s a little bit more than fun gushing, though I’ll admit there is plenty of that. We will talk about any comic, regardless of genre, age, or country of origin. I like to read all different types of comics, whether they be mainstream, superhero, indie self published comix with an “x”, European comics, manga, or New York Times art snob comics, etc. (though a cursory glance at our episodes will reveal my childhood Marvel bias…) I wish I could do the podcast weekly, but right now it’s on an irregular schedule. I have different guests on each episode, and it can be hard juggling everybody’s schedules.

What do comics mean to you?

That’s an interesting question. I’ve been reading comics my whole life, and from an early age they were the fuel for my overly active imagination. I suppose, in a very melodramatic way, comics mean freedom. Comics are a weird little medium that can often times feel overlooked or ignored, and as a result it has a very passionate set of fans and creators. Compared to other visual mediums, such as movies or video games, the production costs are very small and in many cases can be covered by a single person. Comics have always been kind of anti-social (for lots of different reasons) and they can be really subversive. There’s a bit of a punk rock attitude at the very root of comic creation, which I like.

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What comics did you like growing up?

The single most important comic I read growing up was Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I used to cut out all the Sunday strips and hang them on my bedroom walls. I loved that comic because it was very accessible, with a deceptively clever wit. It was visually stimulating on a simple level, but as a kid, I always felt like it was smarter than me (because it was) and it challenged me. Watterson inadvertently introduced me to many philosophical and scientific concepts that I would not have had the patience for had I been learning about them in school. Apart from that, I was a big reader of Spider-man and the X-men. I was a big Marvel Comics fan throughout most of my childhood. When I hit High School I ditched the “kids comics” and started reading lots of manga. Of course, looking back, most manga is just as juvenile as any of the American superhero stuff, but it was different so it grabbed my attention.

How did they influence your work?

As an adult, I enjoy looking at the craft that goes into creating a comic story and analyzing how different cultures or genres approach it. The one thing I try to instil in most the comics I write (not all, but most) is to create a story that can be as entertaining to younger readers as it is intellectually stimulating to adult readers. That is a lot harder than you’d think! I read lots of comics as a kid, and though they didn’t all hold up, the ones that did (such as the aforementioned Calvin and Hobbes or pretty much anything by Barry Winsor-Smith) mean more to me than anything else in the world.

What do you think about the st. louis comic con scene?

The St. Louis con scene has really grown in the last few years. I’m glad that there is a Wizard World for fans that are into that kind of a show, though personally I am not. I think the best thing to happen in recent years is the St. Louis Small Press Expo. It’s a great little show put on by some really passionate people dedicated to highlighting small press and self published material. It’s not strictly a comics show, but there are a lot of comics there. I was very disappointed I had to skip it last year due to a conflicting schedule, but I look forward to the 2016 show.

What can people expect from you in the future?

I am pushing to have the first Birdlander graphic novel finished by the end of the year. We are serializing it as a webcomic at www.thebirdlander.com. I am also writing a Zero’s Heroes spin off with artist, Kevin Bandt, called The Amoral Stingray, which is sort of an inversion of the Peter Parker style superhero comic. The main character is a teenager who gains superpowers, but instead of becoming a superhero, he decides to become a supervillain. You can read a preview at my personal website, www.aaronwalther.com. The first issue will be finished soon, but we haven’t decided how we’re going to put it out, yet. In addition to that, I am also working on finishing a graphic novel called Dogtown, which was started in Science Hero. Then, of course, at some point I’m working on getting another Zero’s Heroes book done and about a million other projects that aren’t worth mentioning because there’s no telling when they’ll see the light of day.

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Tell us a little bit about your background?

I probably have the most uninteresting background ever. I grew up in southern Illinois, right outside of St. Louis and I spent all my time reading comics and playing guitar in small time bands (though I definitely did more comics reading than guitar playing). At some point, I thought that writing and creating comics was a worthwhile endeavor and have refused to look back ever since

If you like this profile then read about this review on Supreme Team.

Always Late TV by Scott Michael Dunn

in Midwest Filmmaking Profile/Pop Culture by
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There are some who remember going to the “video store” to rent the latest movie on VHS. When DVD’s hit the market, we still rented movies, but crazy red boxes showed up all over the place and we drove to pay a buck to get a DVD dispensed. And then, what seemed like an almost simultaneous launch, streaming emerged. With video stores as archaic as VHS tapes, the long lines in front of the infamous “Redbox” have now dwindled as well thanks to the streaming phenomena we now have access to today. Local, creator/director of Always Late TV. Kevin Edwards, is a forward thinker with streaming information to the masses.

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According to Edwards, “We, at Always Late TV, want this site to be St. Louis’ source for original, home grown shows and documentaries.” Edwards has past productions to thank for the growth and success of Always Late TV.

One of Edwards’ current and all-time favorite productions with AlwaysLateTV.com is his first project: “Local Ambition.”  He started this series in 2013 and has produced four seasons thus far. With season (5.0) beginning in February of this year, Edwards is celebrating over five million views in 50+ countries. 5.0 is currently in pre-production with plans to start actively filming in February.  “Local Ambition” is a reality series with women competing to win the loosely put title “Most Ambitious Entertainer.”  5.0 is also offering $1,000 in cash prizes and potentially more if things go well. The viewership growth, according to Edwards, could expand and allow more prizes and opportunities for the contestants.  Women of all shapes, sizes, looks, and experience levels throw themselves into the mix of this show.

You can stream “Local Ambition” seasons on your computer, whenever you want, wherever you want (bearing an internet connection), and yes, it is free.  With “Local Ambition” heading into production this February with 5.0, here’s a peek at season 4 and the swimsuit round.

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AlwayslateTV.com is recognizably gaining attention locally, nationally, and globally, utilizing regional talent and developing opportunities for those aspiring to entertain.  Edward has a couple projects keeping him busy these days. “Brother vs. Sister” is wrapping up final edits and releasing later this year in May.  Edward is expanding his talent profile from reality streaming with this fictional drama.  The plotline is about a sister left behind to clean up after her brother reveals dark secrets, unmentionables that were never to be shared with the small town they live in.  Dani Jay, a participant in “Local Ambition” season 4, crew member for (5.0), and staring in “Brother vs. Sister” is overcoming physical obstacles (fibromyalgia) and achieving her dreams with her start on Always Late TV.

We had an opportunity to visit with Kevin. He shared some of his thoughts with us about his projects and personal ambitions.  Here’s a little insight into Kevin Edward and AwaysLateTV.

Tell us about your inspiration? The why and what that inspired you as creator?

My inspiration for Brother vs. Sister is hard to explain.  What happens to our main character, Ryan Lancaster (the sister) is loosely based off of what happened to a woman in the town I grew up in.  The decisions that she made came back to haunt her when the town found out about them.  She lost everything and her life, and the lives of her family, changed forever after that.  That true story is the basis for the start of Ryan Lancaster’s character on the show.  Everything that happens after that is fiction.

My inspiration gets harder to explain after that.  I’m not sure why I get a lot of the ideas that I get for stories and characters – but I get them.  I guess that’s all that counts, right?  I usually find that if I sit down and try to write – I’ll get nothing.  When I’m ready for bed; in the shower; or driving – I’ll get my best ideas.  Then I scramble to find something to jot them down on (because I’m still not the type of person who puts that stuff into their phones).

I have tons of sheets of paper in my desk with ideas written on them that I use from time to time to help me write Brother vs. Sister.

I can’t say that the characters or stories on the show were inspired by anything I’ve seen in television or movies.

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How do you feel about the talent base available locally?

A lot of these characters on the show are dark.  Their situations and behavior are pretty extreme at times.  This isn’t the kind of subject matter that you expect a lot of people to be cool with.  That said, I’m impressed at how the local talent have taken these characters, accepted them, and brought them to life.

Some of the local talent that I have been really impressed with are Clayton Humburg, Kalena Schubert, Jaan Marion, Brittnee Bell, Samantha McKimm, and David Sanchez.  These are only some of them.  I’m impressed with everyone on the show, but for the sake of making this short – this is who I listed.  I feel like I should say that.

Clayton plays the brother, Jamie Lancaster.  Jamie is a great villain, because he’s not the kind of person who gets his hands dirty.  He’s not Tony Montana or the Joker.  He’s more like Littlefinger from Game of Thrones.  All of his action is done behind the curtain, manipulating people to get what he wants.  Clayton has done a great job at portraying him and audiences are going to see how much of a cold, sociopath Jamie really is.

I would also like to mention that our talent from Local Ambition impresses me too.  Dani Jay, Alexandra Wantland, and Pyramid Williams were all cast members on our modeling reality series, Local Ambition.  Now they are actresses on Brother vs. Sister.  The step from reality to scripted television is huge and they’ve made the climb.

What’s the newest project and do you have a teaser for us to promote it?

We have two new projects – Brother vs. Sister: Season 1 and Local Ambition 5.0 (the 5th season).  Brother vs. Sister will air in either May or June as the first project of our brand new on demand service that we are launching.  We are very excited about that!

Local Ambition 5.0 will start filming in February and wrap in July and will air in September this year.  It will be our biggest season of the show to date with a cash prize for the winner.

 

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I know this is a tough question but, what is your favorite project and why?

This is a very tough question.  I’d say Local Ambition.  I say this because it has a special place in my heart.  It was the first project Always Late TV ever had and it’s improved every year we’ve done it.  Local Ambition has produced a lot of great talent for us and it’s been a lot of fun to make.

We get to choose a cast and see what happens.  We get to see each of them develop over the course of the show; challenging their creativity, modeling skill, and personalities. It’s an amazing show.

Explain the concept behind Brother vs. Sister and where are you with that show?

The plot is centered around a sibling rivalry between Ryan and Jamie Lancaster.  Ryan had everything she ever wanted, but lost it all when her brother told everyone back at home her deepest secret.  Having lost her job, friends, family, and the love of her life – she has nothing left to lose.  She decides to go to River City to find him and teach him a lesson in revenge.

The show follows two parallels – one with Jamie and one with Ryan.  You get to see characters and side stories develop around these two.  Viewers will see gang warfare; the dark side of the adult film industry; shattered relationships; and broken dreams.

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How would you rate the actors you have playing characters on that show?

Since I’ve mentioned some of them already, I’ll mention some that I haven’t talked about.

Kalena Schubert plays Stacy Hutchins.  She is the ex-best friend of Ryan Lancaster.  After their hometown turned on Ryan, Stacy decided to save her social status and do the same.  She chose her public image over her best friend.  Stacy’s a villain that is going to be very easy to relate to by viewers.  While not everyone can imagine a gun-toting psychopath who terrorizes an entire city, they can picture a small town woman whose interests are more material than anything else.  Kalena is the exact opposite of her character and that’s what impresses me about her performance.  She can completely transform into Stacy and it’s amazing to watch.  Kalena is nice and sweet, but she turns into Stacy, who is a manipulative, spoiled rich brat.

Samantha McKimm is another talented actress.  She plays Luna – Ryan’s new neighbor in River City.  Luna has overcome a lot of struggles in her life, including leaving an abusive ex-boyfriend.  Despite all the pain and suffering she’s experienced, Luna remains positive about her life and does what she can to help others.

When I was watching all the video auditions for Luna, Samantha’s performance stuck out the most.  She was the only one who actually seemed to BE Luna.  Everyone else seemed like they were just reading the lines.  On set, she compliments Ryan’s character perfectly.  While Ryan is brash and sarcastic, Luna is sweet and sincere.  Samantha is one in a million.

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What is local ambition? Describe your thoughts behind that?

Local Ambition is a modeling competition reality series that puts local women from St. Louis, and the surrounding area, against each other.  They compete in themed photo shoots and challenges each week and the women who fall short face elimination.

The show, unlike Top Model or others, takes more of a personal interest in the cast members.  It’s not all about modeling and doesn’t tell women that they need to look a certain way to be beautiful.

Our show promotes body positivity.  Women who of any shape, size, color, or age can participate.  The winner of our last season was Sarah Galbraith – a 33 year old single mother of three.  She was our first plus size model and she competed on the show while being a size 16.

 

There is drama on the show, but it’s 100% real.  Unlike Top Model, or other shows, we do not script or coach our cast to do or say anything.  The drama occurs organically.  I have a great producer for Local Ambition – Hanna Hetz. She was a finalist on our last season and she has quickly adapted to her new role behind the scenes. She asks a lot of great questions and has an eye for this kind of thing. I’m very impressed with her and can’t wait to see what she can do on our next season.  Chris Hoffman is also someone who continues to impress me. He’s been with Always Late TV since 2013 and he’s moved from photographer to cinematographer. He’s adapted very well from still frames to motion pictures.

If you liked this article check out this piece on The Tallent Brothers.

The Hope House: Men’s Sober Living TV Show

in Pop Culture by
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Glenn Langohr spent 10 years in some of California’s worst prisons on drug charges before becoming a best selling author. Now he is to producing a Docu-Reality TV show about a Sober Living Home which shines the light on the process of getting sober and staying sober in a house filled with alcoholics and drug addicts. Picture The Jersey Shore turned up to one million. Everyone that lives in the house has to feed the homeless at a Soup Kitchen once a week and maintain all the other rules, including a random drug test. Glenn works as the advocate in the series bringing in new arrivals, some of whom are just getting out of prison. All new arrivals begin their journey in a small spinner room to see if they are serious about sobriety. The GR1ND sat down with Glenn for a Q&A to discuss the series, what its about and where he is going with it.

What is the Hope House Men’s Sober Living about?

The Hope House Men’s Sober Living is a Docu-Reality TV Show idea I came up with. In California there are over 30 state prisons with over 80% of that prison population incarcerated with drug or alcohol related crimes, or addiction issues. Once a prisoner is released from prison, most go back to prison, but some choose to live in a sober living house. This TV show is going to shine a light on this process.

How did you come up with this concept?

I lived it. I went to prison 4 times for drug crimes that started as addiction and led to heavier drug crimes and longer sentences. One common problem was not having a stable place to live. Sober living homes offer a stable place to live where all who live in the home are trying to recover their lives from addiction. They all have a common goal, to stay sober, get a job, get their families back and focus on healthy dreams.

How did you get the people to come on the show?

I found a sober living home and put together a quick video to cover some of my vision for this funding project. The sober living I chose for the first shoot was already in place. I did add a couple of ex convicts I had done time with who both had previous experience living in sober living homes. I found another sober living home that I want to shoot 3, 22-minute episodes at that fits with my vision even more. At this sober living home, they take people straight out of prison or off the streets, as long as they are serious about sobriety, on a trial basis. This house has a “Spinner” room where the new arrivals start that is similar to prison conditions where there are 2 bunk beds to house 4 men. The entire house has 13 men who all have to donate a few hours a week feeding homeless people at a local soup kitchen, plus they give their testimony in other forums and are drug tested upon demand to stay in the house. Once residents find a job they have to pay about $100 a week to continue to live there. That cheap rent takes some of the pressure off and allows the residents to get their lives back together.

What is the background of all the participants?

Everyone who lives in the sober living home has different backgrounds. Addiction is color blind so there are Black, Mexican, White and Asian races who live in the house. Some have been to prison, some have gang affiliations, some are rich kids who ran out of options.

What does living sober mean to you?

Living sober means living life on life’s terms without any mind-altering drugs or alcohol.

What is the premise of the show?

The Sober Living Home has two managers who maintain the house. All the residents have to follow the rules that include donating time to the soup kitchen, giving their testimony, looking for a job and maintaining all the other rules. A surprise drug test can come at anytime. I am “The Advocate” who finds people who just got out of prison, or elsewhere to live in the Hope House. Some are going to make it and get their life back and move out, some are going to crash and burn and get kicked out or leave, and some are going to be in the process.

How many episodes do you envision?

I am looking to hire some film students to shoot the 3, 22 minute episodes to shop across all the Cable/TV outlets. Getting picked up by one would be the first miracle. Making it past season ONE would be the second miracle. Having a top rated Reality TV show that impacts society would be the third miracle.

Where is the show or house based?

In Orange County, California, right next to LA.

Do you have a substance abuse background? Explain.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been in prison 4 times. My last sentence was for 11 years. During that sentence I started writing my first book on the back of 600 pages of my trial paperwork from court. When I got out of prison, I chose to live in a sober living home to keep my publishing dream alive. So I lived out this process.

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What are your qualifications to do a show like this?

I’m a Writer/Director who knows this lifestyle. I know what it takes to make it and I know what can get in the way of making it.

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Give us a little of your background and accomplishments?

My background: I spent over 10 years in some of California’s most violent state prisons, with 4 years in solitary, for drug related charges that topped out with “Alleged Organized Crime” charges. I became a best selling author of Prison and Drug War books, with over 500 reviews. Here is a list of my prison books in Audio, Kindle and Print. One of my best reviews for my first novel “Roll Call” from Kirkus Discoveries Neilson Media~ “A harrowing, down-and-dirty depiction–sometimes reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic–of America’s war on drugs, by former dealer and California artist Langohr.”

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To check out the sizzle reel for The Hope House go here  and you can contact Glen here.

If you like this piece then check out  The Mad Science Interview with Writer Oliver Mertz. 

 

A Chat with Headliners creator Kevin Strieter

in Comics by
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Kevin Strieter is the creator, artist and writer of Headliners, a comic that introduces readers to a new universe. Headliners is just the first of many series Kevin has planned. You can check out his work at www.headlinerscomics.com. THE GR1ND just sat down with him for an interview about his comic book and all that he has in the works. Plus you can check out some images form the book in this piece. But don’t let us tell it, here’s Kevin in an exclusive with THE GR1ND-

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Describe what Headliners is all about?

The Headliners series is a kick off of the Headliners Universe that features many different types of Heroes, and Villains.  The setting is much like that of the big 2 comic book companies, but because of the events of the Headliners series it will change immensely setting up a vastly different universe that’s ever been in comics before.

What role do you play on this comic?

I’m the creator, writer, artist, letterer, and in many cases the inker and colorist.

What other work have you put out or been involved with?

My only experiences have been involved with the Headliners universe.  Before I started I spent a lot of time studying the literature available about comic books.  Much of the information I studied related to comic book art, but the other stuff included writing, and the overall process of how comics are made.  In some cases admittedly I’m still learning.

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Why should a comic fan check out Headliners?

Headliners is everything that you want the big 2 to be as a unified universe.  You don’t have to strain your eyes to connect my books together, the fit is easy and in some cases necessary to give you that broad unified story your looking for in a unified universe.  The characters are unique in their own way, but you can see some similarities between the comic book legendary characters and the Headliners characters.  I’ve tried to keep the similarities to a minimum to make sure what your reading is a new character and not a rip off of something already out there.

By the end of the Headliners series you will see a complete transformation of the world in a way that has never been done before in comics.  You won’t have to look for danger, because it will be everywhere.  Which is really the point of having superheroes.  Unless there is some catastrophe that requires the help of special individuals, then the local governments and police can handle it.

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Who are the main characters int he book and what powers do they have?

The Headliners series has many different heroes, and in some cases there are some being created.  Here are a few of the main heroes of the Headliners Universe.

Sam “The Samaritan” North, who has a metal alloy that has infected his body.  It provides him resistance to harm in most cases, and makes him stronger than humans.

Calderan, who is a alien,trapped in our Solar system.  He’s able to generate an alien green fire that allows him to fly.

The controller (Amanda).  Alpha Team is a government organization.  Amanda has no powers, but is in charge of managing the superheroes on this team.

Primus – Calls on immortal essence and magic to give him the super abilities he needs to defeat his foes.

Sandstorm – A speedster who got his name from delivering mail across the desert.

Kronos – The legendary Titan immortal who uses magic to defeat his enemies.

Halfmoon (Villain) – A super powered zombie that comes back every month on the crescent moon to only disappear again on the halfmoon.

The Professor (Villain) – A human with magical abilities.

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This is not your typical superhero book or is it? Explain.

Well I think the word typical and superhero are complete opposites when it comes to superhero books, because in superhero books anything goes.  So in that regard, yes it’s a typical superhero book.  In regards to how the Headliners looks and feels, it’s much different.  The settings, and how the characters inter react are much different than the typical superhero book.  In life there are consequences, and unlike other superhero books, the Headliners characters have consequences to all their actions.  That ranges from paying rent to trying to save the world.

What is the process of bringing your characters to life?

Many of the characters mirror me in my life.  Others come from problems I foresee in the Headliners Universe.  Typically I start with an idea, then a sketch.  If I like it, I run it by some people to see what their reaction is before developing a story plot around the character.

What do you have planned next is Headliners a series? a graphic novel? or what?

Headliners is a series, but it’s also a universe.  The Headliners series is planned for 5 books.  The first 2 books are on the Headliners website already (www.headlinerscomics.com).  You can read them now for free. The third book in the series will be posted on the Headliners website mid December 2015.  The best part, it will be posted Netflix style.  The whole book all at once.  Many comic book websites only give you one or two pages a week.  Starting with Headliners #3, I will be posting Headliners books to the website complete.  After the fifth book is complete, the Headliners series will be available as a graphic novel.

In the future there will be Headliners Universe books such as, Primus, Kronos Chronicles, Reapers, and Calderan to start.  Obviously I wont be drawing all of them, but I will be making sure that all stories interlock seamlessly into the Headliners Universe.

Where can people get the comic or check you out?

The best place to get the Headliners comic book is at www.headlinerscomics.com to read it online for free.  After the series is complete there will be a physical copy of the graphic novel available.

If you liked this article check out our preview of Once Our Land.

Once Our Land Graphic Novel

in Comics by
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Peter Ricq is a multitalented renaissance man. Besides releasing music and playing in a band, he also is directing a feature film and putting out Once Our Land, his first graphic novel. He is a man of many talents. I was attracted to the art displayed in his graphic novel and the contradictions between the two main characters, Fritz and Ingrid. The comic is a sort of fantasy/sci-fi hybrid and has a kind of Battle Chasers flair. Peter just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign and the full graphic novel will be coming out in 2016. Until then check out this exclusive interview that he did with The GR1ND-

Describe the two main characters in your graphic novel Once out Land?

The novel focusses on two characters, one named Fritz and the other Ingrid. Fritz is a 62 year old man, a  warrior who carries a big heart. Unlike most warriors, Fritz likes being in the company of others, sadly enough, there aren’t many people left.

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Weapon of choice: A huge stick/spear.

Ingrid is an 11 year old survivor who never gives up no matter the outcome. Ingrid likes to keep to herself although everything changed once she met Fritz. She also has a big appetite, too bad portions are scarce. I based Ingrid off my mother who carries the same name.

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Weapon of choice: Slingshot.

Why did you decide to set the story in 1830s Germany?

I decided to have the story take place in Germany because I’ve always enjoyed old German tales, they are kind of creepy yet still engaging. My mother had a couple classic German books around the house like Struwwelpeter. Struwwelpeter is a children’s book that comprises several short stories with the outcome of misbehavior demonstrated in disastrous consequences in a dark exaggerated way. It was made in 1845.

I also went to see my mother’s side of the family in a town called Rothenburg aub der Taube that is situated in southern west Germany. I went there numerous times growing up and it’s such a beautiful town that I wanted to tell a story with that as it’s setting.

My parents also had a book by the artist Carl Spitzweg, a legendary German painter from the 19th century. I based a lot of things off of his paintings for things such as what people wore in that century and what people had as home appliances and decorations.

You said the monsters were inspired by HP Lovecraft and the Simpsons, care to elaborate?

The monsters are definitely inspired by HP lovecraft, I’ve always been intrigued by Lovecraft creature stories. The tentacles, the creatures, demon from another world, pure evil, it”s good stuff.

As for the Simpsons’ alien’s inspiration, it was more of a joke, I just thought they look like them but totally wasn’t intentional when designing them.

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Your kickstarter was successful describe the feeling?

It feels good when you try hard to do something right and it actually turns out being successful, that doesn’t happen often. I’m very grateful to be living in a time where it’s easier for artists to be independent thanks to the internet and crowd funding networks like Kickstarter.

How long has this graphic novel been in development?

Been a long time, the first chapter was made when I was around 19 years old while I was attending a comic book school back in Montreal in 2000. When I completed it, my brother didn’t believe that I had written it which I guess is a good thing. In 2012, I sent the comic to a french publisher and they loved it but they wanted me to add 40 more pages. The deal they offered me was very poor and they kept a lot of the rights so I decided to do it on my own. I hired my friend Sunny Shah to do most of the second chapter but I later took over because I had more free time. If it were done full time It wouldn’t have taken that long.

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What type of story line do you put Fritz and Ingrid through?

It’s an adventure, action tale. They run, hide, jump, sleigh creatures. It’s a fun story I think, I hope.

You wore a lot of hats on this project, explain?

When doing comics, you don’t need a big production team, it can be a one man job kind of thing. I like having full control and I’ve been doing comics and animation for over a decade so it’s just something I’m comfortable doing.

When is the graphic novel going to be available and where?

It will be available at OnceOurLand.com, as soon as the Kickstarter is over, you can pre-order the book through there. I’m also planning on doing a book Launch tour, in April (book will be ready by then). I’ll be hitting up Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto. I’m also planning on doing New York, Portland and LA. The book Launch show will also have some of the art from the art show I had on Dec 4th here in Vancouver.

Is their any significance behind the title? Please explain?

Creatures have surfaced and taken over the land that Ingrid and Fritz used to call theirs. It isn’t theirs anymore but was at one time. That’s it.

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What other work have you done and where can people find out more info about you?

I’ve co-created, art directed and directed several animated television series. That’s my main source of income. I direct music videos for my bands HUMANS, Gang Signs and Ladyfrnd. I just finished co-directing and editing a documentary feature that is called “Come Together”. We are submitting it to festivals now. I show art on a regular basis and am getting ready to shoot my first dark comedy/Horror feature film next fall.

You can find out more about me and all my work through my website Peterricq.com

I’m hoping this book does well because I would love to write a sequel to Once Our Land. I’ve gotten to know and develop the world and it’s characters deeper and there is a bigger story waiting to be shared.

If you liked this check out the profile on Comics and Bullets. 

From Dirt Track Racer to NASCAR

in Pop Culture by
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When people talk about the world of racing, NASCAR immediately comes to mind. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Danica Patrick are the names associated with the big money sport, but when it comes to dirt track racing and super late models its a different story. A cacophony of dirt racing circuits crisscross this country, acting as conduits to ultimate dream of NASCAR. Funneling the top talent up the hierarchy, after they pay their dues, hone their racing talents and find the right sponsorship.

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Right now there is one kid who is tearing up the circuit, winning all the races and making a name for himself as the next big thing. He hails from Oakwood, Illinois and is only 18 years old. But he has racing in his blood and has been involved with the sport since he was born. Can you say prodigy? Meet Bobby Pierce, #32 Smooth Operator.

“My dad raced forever and kind of made racing a living.” Bobby tells The Gr1nd. “Ever since the day I was born I was at the racetrack watching him and supporting him. By the time I was 8 years old I started racing quarter midgets. Up until then I always wanted to play football. I told everyone I was going to be a football player, but all that didn’t work out. I’m kind of a small dude.”

But in a race car his size didn’t matter. It’s only his heart, his courage, and his technique that counts. Taking those turns at close to 100 mph takes nerve and Bobby has plenty of that. From the time he started racing quarter midgets he showed a prodigious skill and natural ability to win races. An ability that followed him as he graduated to kit mods at age ten and then to the super late models he is currently racing on dirt tracks across the country.

“I started racing crate late models, which is the same as a super late model, but it just has a crate engine which is about 400 horsepower compared to 850.” Bobby says. “Then I moved up to super late models. It was a big learning curve, going through all those classes helped. They always say you gotta start young and its true, if you start young and start progressing you will find yourself at the top.”

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Refuse to lose is the motto stenciled on his car and with 128 career feature victories Bobby takes those words seriously. His visits to victory lane are starting to attract interest from NASCAR. But going to NASCAR means racing on asphalt. A big difference from dirt. But Bobby takes it all in stride. In just his fourth asphalt race at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina, a track known as the birthplace of NASCAR stars, he finished second driving the #88 Speedco Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports.

“I’m a fan of the 100 lap races because you don’t have to hustle the car all the way through,” Bobby tells The Gr1nd.”You can kind of layback and be patient, so you don’t burn off the tires too fast and there’s some more strategy that goes into it. I’d like to try and get some more asphalt races in, but dirt racing is always going to be my favorite to race. But if you can make it big time on asphalt that’s where a lot of the money is at.”

And a lot of successful dirt track racers have made the jump to NASCAR- Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon to name a few. Jeff Gordon even used to race at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois the track where Bobby has won 15 or so features. Even winning four features in a row in late September. An extremely difficult feat in the world of dirt track racing.

“Even if you just have a good run, its a sport that you have to be very humble about because if you think about it you have 25-26 cars that make the feature race and there’s only one winner.” Bobby says. “Its not a sports game where its you versus them. Your percentage and odds of winning the race are kind of low.” And a lot of hard work and preparation goes into it before the car even hits the track, so Bobby and his crew savor each victory.

“Its awesome.” He tells The Gr1nd. “Its a lot of hard work. A lot of blood sweat and tears go into the cars every week and if you tear them up everything , it’s so expensive these days with the sport. But when you get in victory lane, no matter if its a big race or a local show or whatever it is, there’s a whole lot of things that go into it and you can’t really compare it to anything else.” The thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

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In the race car game its like Ricky Bobby said in Talledaga Nights, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” And each win puts Bobby Pierce into a better position to reach the pinnacle of the race car world, NASCAR. “I have always looked up to NASCAR, so hopefully I have a good race in Martinsville and open some eyes there and get a ride.” Bobby says. “Sponsorship in NASCAR is basically the key. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you don’t have the sponsorship and money behind you, you’re not going to make it.”

NASCAR is the dream and Martinsville Speedway in Virginia is a NASCAR track.

“I raced the NASCAR truck at Eldora this past July and ran second in that race. That was my first time ever running any sort of NASCAR race,” Bobby tells The Gr1nd. “It will be different for me because its an asphalt track. I’m going to have to adjust to that.”

Bobby Pierce has a bright future but until he’s on the big stage he will just keep turning heads at the dirt tracks.

“If you haven’t been to a dirt race before then you definitely need to go to one,” Bobby says. ‘If you are close to me, where I’m racing then come. Go to my website  and see where I’m racing and hopefully you can come watch me and come by the trailer and I’ll give you an autograph and talk to you.” You can also get one of his

Reaper two t-shirts with the dual gun toting skull face.

“Everyone that races always has some type of logo and I really like my logo. You see guns and stuff and it sets the theme and the style of driving that I do.” Bobby tells The Gr1nd. And there’s a some history behind his nickname, Smooth Operator, also.

“An announcer gave me the nickname the Smooth Operator.” Bobby says. “My nickname used to be the Short Cool One because my dads nickname was the Tall Cool One. I was thinking I didn’t want to be called the Short Cool One my whole life so some announcer gave me the nickname and it kind of stuck. Thats what you gotta be on the racetrack, you gotta be smooth.”

With over 50 thousand followers on social media Bobby Pierce epitomizes the essence of smooth too. But in the pits he keeps it a family affair. His dad runs his pit crew, builds his cars and both of his parents travel with him to every race. “My dad actually builds race cars, dirt modified and late models. He probably built 1000 modified and 300 late models.” Bobby says. “My dad drives the tractor trailer with my mom on trips and my crew guy Mason and me, we drive the motorhome and it pulls the trailer.”

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Compared to NASCAR, dirt tracks are short and tight and the cars get sideways in the turns. Imagine hitting 100-110 on the straightaways on a half mile track and then hitting the turns at top speed. Bobby says there’s no feeling like it. Being built for speed is what racing is about.

“We’re haulin’ in there when the track is really fast, probably coming in at 100-110 mph because you barely ever slow down.” Bobby tells The Gr1nd. “It kind of throws you back in your seat. The first time I drove a super late model compared to a crate late model it was an awesome feeling. You know that feeling you get when you ride a roller coaster? You’re shooting through the turns and stuff, thats what it feels like. I don’t like rolling coasters though because I can’t control it.” But Bobby loves dirt track racing because he is in complete control.

“The races are thirty laps and a lot of people think thirty laps, thats not very long, but for a dirt race thats pretty long. When you’re in the race car it feels like a long time.” He says. “The track looks like asphalt when the dirt gets hard and when the track gets a shine like that you want to try and not run through the shiny stuff because thats where its slick and it feels like ice. When the track gets like that come feature time, tire choices and what tires to run, whether it’s soft or hard, became a big factor because that could win you the race or lose you the race.”

And flipping the car and rolling it is always an occupational hazard.

“I flipped the late model twice. It was crazy. You just close your eyes and hang on.” Bobby tells The Gr1nd. “I hit the wall in Tennessee head on and did somersaults in the air. It was pretty crazy and the second time I flipped was last year. I hugged the corner and these cars have so much bite. I started barrel rolling. It was pretty sick. I wasn’t sore. Thats the good thing about all the protection and safety equipment we have now.”

The life of a dirt track racer isn’t all glitz and glamor, but as the victories accumulate Bobby Pierce #32 Smooth Operator is putting himself on a crash course with NASCAR. As he continues to pad his resume with victories and attracting more attention from sponsors that outcome is very likely. But no matter what happens, whether he makes the show or not, he will be racing because its in his blood. He loves the feeling of being in the car, hauling into the turns at 100 mph and cruising into victory lane after leaving all comers in his dust.

 

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