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Comic discoveries

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There Will Be Games

I owned a comic studio with a friend in the 90s during the black-and-white/indy explosion. We called ourselves 5th Panel Comics and we had a stable of artists throughout the Midwest doing creator-owned material, much of which we collected under an anthology book called Razorwire - Twisted, Convoluted, Cutting Edge, but we also published a handful of standalone titles, as well. After reading comics since the mid-70s, I'd begun to tire of the constant superhero output of the major entities and was already a big fan of Dave Sim (Cerberus) and Vertigo's output, so that's the kind of material that we stuck to, as well. Of course, like 90% of the comics world, we died in the implosion in the late 90s, especially when Diamond, as the remaining monopoly in distribution, began demanding certain profit levels of anyone they carried. If you didn't make enough money for them, you couldn't get national distribution. Calling John Yossarian to the black-and-white courtesy phone...

Since then, I've lowered my comic intake quite a bit. My pull at my local store (Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor, MI) is kind of a running joke, since there's never anything in it. My list focuses on authors like Matt Wagner, Kurt Busiek, and Warren Ellis who (at least these days for Ellis, who is focusing on movie scripts) produce very little. The other side of it is that I've come to dislike the monthly serial format. Now that everything I'm interested in reading is bound into trade paperbacks a few months after publication, I've found that I enjoy sitting down and reading an entire sequence or story arc much more than maintaining it in my head from month to month. I think it gives a better insight into what the writer is trying to convey. Having been the lead writer and editor for our studio (and still occasionally aspiring to fiction publication), I'm kind of slanted in that respect.

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For example, I read the entire series of Y: The Last Man in trade paperback format and it's one of the best series ever produced in the comic medium, IMO. I've also been reading Northlanders solely in that format and recently read the last production in the sadly cancelled series.

I'm following Vaughan's new series, Saga, and still keep my eye out for Diaz Charles', Blacksad, as well. But I was growing a little restless with my empty pull and asked a couple people at Vault and another local store, Fun4All, in Ypsilanti if they had any suggestions.

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From Vault came Dan Abnett's New Deadwardians. I'm a long-time Abnett fan almost solely from his Warhammer 40K fiction. Abnett and Lanning as a team in the late 80s and early 90s produced some decent superhero material, but as I've gravitated away from that, I've been less and less interested in his output there. But I remain a fan of his Gaunt's Ghosts material for Black Library (the 3rd book, Necropolis, and the 8th book, Traitor General, remain the best) and appreciate how he develops a language for the worlds that he creates. A one-off in the 40K universe, Titanicus, is probably the best example of that. The New Deadwardians has some of that Abnett world-awareness and aggressive pace, even while taking a wryly comedic approach to what is essentially a horror tale. But I appreciate that he's stopped to examine just what the outlook of undead personalities might be. I'm not completely sold on it, but I'm willing to pick up the second collection.

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From Fun4All came Locke and Key. I'd heard of the series and its glowing reviews for a number of years, but I'd always been hesitant to engage it because there is so much awful Lovecraftian horror out there. I didn't want to drop even a dollar on something that would just be your typically turgid hidden-cult-summons-the-nearest-thing-to-Cthulhu story. It is, of course, nothing of the sort and deserves every rave that it's gotten. There's a realism to the characters, especially the children, that creates an instant connection to the reader and propels you forward through the story. I've only read the first arc and I'm a little concerned at the repetitive nature of the concept ("Oh, a new key! Wonder what this door does?") but I'm willing to take the risk on more at this point. Hill's writing is just subtle enough on the fantastical front that I'm not too concerned about running into a Hammer horror film (yes, I know there were some good ones.)

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Also from Fun4All came the Manhattan Projects. The self-referencing wacky premise and smart writing of this story caught me instantly. Following not only the multiple personalities and agendas of Einstein, Fermi, and Feynman but the multiple personalities of Oppenheimer alone is a treat. Not often has the label "speculative fiction" been better applied than here.

So, that's what I'm reading lately. Other than the scintillating Y, this is probably the most I've been enjoying comics in the past decade and only my wallet is complaining.

There Will Be Games
Marc Reichardt  (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Marc started gaming at the age of 5 by beating everyone at Monopoly, but soon decided that Marxism, science fiction, and wargames were more interesting than money, so he opted for writing (and more games) while building political parties, running a comic studio, and following Liverpool. You can find him on Twitter @Jackwraith and lurking in other corners of the Interwebs.

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Articles by Marc

Marc Reichardt
Staff Board Game Reviewer

Articles by Marc

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