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Friday, March 30th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

This week, instead of a full story, I give you part 1 in what could possibly turn into a much longer story. I think I could whip this into a novella pretty easy. Maybe it’s best to call this a tease! At any rate, it’s an experiment in a new kind of character and some story telling from a different perspective than I’m normally comfortable with.

I don’t want to give up all the details here, but I will say that over the past few weeks I’ve had Super Heroes on the brain. That’s mostly thanks to writer/podcast friend Brother D. Derek and I are continually bouncing story ideas off each other to feel them out as well as bullying each other into writing when we’re feeling lazy. Derek’s got some big ideas cooking in the ‘Super’ front and it’s really started to rub off on me. My own novel that I’ve been working on, (slowly but surely) “Bloodhound” is a bit of a Super Hero novel. I tend to like my heroes to be more of the broken and troubled variety than the boy scouts in tights type. I like to think that to take up the cape and fight evil and what not takes a certain type of person that is perhaps…a little dark under the surface. Somebody who’s day to day life isn’t quite what they want so they press on to bigger and better things to try and fill that gap that they feel otherwise. I also think it takes a person with some ego problems to put themselves out there in the public eye, essentially becoming a vigilante because they can ‘do it better’ than the police.

But, maybe that’s just me.

Now, on to “Troublegum”. Troublegum has been rolling around in my head for nearly fifteen-sixteen years now. There was a time, fresh out of college that I was going to write a comic book called “Hall of Zeroes” and I was bound and determined to drag my artist friends into this foray with me. We never did get anything done with the comic itself, but we did do a lot of brainstorming on characters and such, late at night over beer. Good friend Kevin had the original idea for “Troublegum”, a girl unlike others in her school, a girl with special powers and such. I stewed over his idea for years now, always trying to figure out the best way to bring this character to life. Finally, I decided to get off my ass and do something about it. I myself kind of like where it’s heading.

So here is the first chapter of “Troublegum”. Be sure to leave comments, as they’re always welcome. If the feedback’s positive and you folks want more, there may be a serial or a novella in the future!



Warm morning sun broke through slatted window blinds, the light bringing the motes of dust that filled the room of Cheyenne Winger to life. The owner of the room consisted of nothing more than a rumpled pile of blankets heaped upon a ratty twin sized bed crammed into the corner.

“You need to wake up, Cheyenne,” her mother said, optimism in her voice striving to match the hope and happiness that the foreign sunshine brought into the cave of a bedroom. With a purposeful stride she crossed the room, grabbing for the pull string and whisking open the blinds in one fell swoop. “You need to get up, get in the shower and get dressed. Today’s your meeting with the recruiter and you need this to go well!”

Cheyenne Winger groaned as she scampered deeper into her shroud of blankets, fighting for distance from the glaring light that now illuminated her dark sanctuary. “I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to go,” Cheyenne groaned.

The mother glanced back at the window, the motion of the pull string on the mini-blinds as it glided untouched through the air catching her attention. The string drew tight as the blinds began to close, Mother stepped over and pulled the string from the unseen manipulator without a second thought.


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Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

Marvel has had some bad PR in the news here as of late, but they’re pressing on and still trying to sell comics all the same. Recently, they’ve announced a new interactive element to their upcoming books called “Augmented Reality”.

Essentially, as you flip through the pages of that comic you just picked up from the shop, you will come across a panel with a special designated ‘spot’. When you find this, you sit your book down, grab your iphone or android device, load the Marvel AR app and hold it over the spot. Then presto, you get an additional…something that hovers of the page! This extra something could be anything from 3D images, hidden characters or even commentary down the line.

Marvel sees this as adding something akin to DVD commentaries to a comic book but me? I can’t see it as much more than a gimmick. It will be neat the first couple of times, but how long do you really want to carry on switching between the book you’re reading and your phone, taking time to load apps, waiting for the extra content to load on a slow connection, etc. etc.? I can see some benefits here myself; annotations from the author would be pretty slick, sort of like Pop Up Videos for comics. Little extra do-dads like additional artwork and the like just really doesn’t seem like it’s worth a whole lot of effort.

Not to mention; if you’re like me and like to re-read comics down the line? What happens if the the app and AR servers are ever closed down and done away with? You’ve lost that ‘extra content’ you originally paid for.

I’ll give Marvel credit for trying to come up with some value adds and a gimmick to keep people going to comic shops. (Let’s face it, in the digital age, comic shops need help.) I just don’t see this as lasting too terribly long.

Source: The Verge

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Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

Avengers #14 – I’ve never been a big “Avengers” reader but I am excited for the movie! Being the nerd I am, I wanted to be able to go into the flick with some experience under my belt. This wasn’t the issue to jump in on though. With this being a “Fear Itself” issue, it was the end of a story line wrapped around a character I have zero experience with. I’ll give it a few issues and try again. Feel free to suggest a jumping in point though!

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Monsters #1 – Elizabeth isn’t one of my favorite characters in the Hellboy universe, but this is a great setup. Hiding out in the armpit of America with the denizens you’d expect to be there, the book is steeped in mystery as to why she’s there and what she’s hiding from. Pretty exciting all around!

B.P.R.D. Casualties – This one was a dark & moody book, but it’s nice to see Abe fighting with guilt and Elizabeth taking care of him. I believe this is Guy Davis’s last run though, so sad on that aspect. Good book to go out on though!

Captain America #1 – Remember what I was saying about not being familiar with Avengers but being excited about the movie? Yah, scroll back up and read that part down here again. I have yet to see the movie, but I am excited for it! (Watch for a post on the daughter and I checking it out later this week!) This book seemed decent. There was enough to bring me back for more, there were a lot of references to the past I’m ignorant on though. Not enough to scare me off however.

Batman Detective Comics #879 – First and foremost? I love Franseco Francavilla’s take on the Joker here! Creepy! Story wise, it’s more Detective Comics. Nothing new, nothing different. They’re generally good stories though, so that’s a-okay.

Doctor Who: A Fairytale Life #4 – There’s not much to say other than I’m an utter and absolute Doctor Who fanboy. My daughter is too, so we both get to geek out! Book wise, it’s a fun story and wraps up in customary Doctor fashion, so no surprises, just adventure.

Green Lantern #67 – Once again; jumping in at the wrong point. Always a day late and a dollar short. I have no history to go on here other than I enjoyed myself at the movie. (Sure, string me up by my toes and take away my geek card, but the daughter and I had fun. Sue me.) Once again, I’m looking for a good jumping in point for Green Lantern, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Hellboy: The Fury #2 – I wasn’t blown away by the first issue of this book, but number two is shaping up nicely. There’s some rumblings and speculation on iFanboy on what this book means for the future of Hellboy, which makes me a little bit sad. You’ll have to check out their podcast for the details though as I don’t want to spoil anything!

Punisher MAX #15 – I was a huge Punisher fan back in the day and made sure to resurface a bit back during the spectacular Garth Ennis run. Seeing as I’m getting back into things, I wanted to see how the book was looking these days. It’s not…bad. It actually feels a bit nostalgic with art that is reminiscent of the good old days with some brutality that matches Garth Ennis. It may be the wrong place at the wrong time once again, but here in #15 I’m seeing the origin story again. I’ve seen the Punishers origin a million times now, I’m kind of over it.

X-Men Schism #1 – This…this was a great book! The story is setting up for a huge blow to the X-Men universe and has a great dark & foreboding tone. The back and forth banter between Wolvie and Cyclops is good too and feels like a throwback to the old days when I used to read X-Men regularly. The art feels comfortable and familiar too which is nice.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

Brimstone #2 – A little western style horror is always welcome as far as I’m concerned. For “Brimstone”, the story over-rides the art, which is cool since I’m here for the story. The story seems somewhat standard so far, but creepy and intriguing, so that’s a plus.

Danger Girl and Armys of Darkness #1 – I’m a sucker for “Armys of Darkness” sadly. I always pick up these mini-series and almost always wind up disappointed or bored. I have no background knowledge of “Danger Girl” whatsoever, so I’m missing out on the connection here, so this one was most a yawner for me.

Elric: The Balance Lost #1 – I’ve not read Moorcock’s “Elric” novels before (I’m working on it Basham!) but I’m familiar with the character. There seems to be three or four realities going on here, but they did a good job of making it all curiosity grabbing though it was tough to comprehend. I’ll come back for more just to see how this all unfolds!

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Fool Moon #2 – I’ve only read the first “Dresden” novel and I liked it a ton. I don’t know if this story is new or a graphic version of an existing book. Regardless, it’s fun! Harry Dresden is a good character and the zany supernatural stuff that he runs into fits the comic book venue well. I like how they’re playing with the werewolf tropes here too. My only beef? Harry Dresden’s a bit more beefcake that I would guessed.

I, Zombie #15 – Still loving this book! The artwork’s fun and the story seems…kitschy. A bit of a throw back you might say. I’m enjoying it, just need to make sure I stay on it a little more regularly, I’ve been missing issues here and there.

Sweet Tooth #23 – Pardon me as I repeat myself…Still loving this book! This one’s quirky with a nice dark air too it. I’ve really got no guess as to what penultimate end they’re driving to here, which is great. This is one book I truly read every month just to find out what happens!

Uncanny X-Men #538-540 – I’ve been behind on this title, so I grabbed the three most recent. This book has been reinvented so many times, it’s hard to make any judgement historically. I still have fun with it though. Sadly, I jumped back in at the finish of one arch, read through a one off story, then found myself in the “Fear Itself” tie in, so I can’t form a real judgement on it all. It still feels like good old X-Men though. For true enjoyment though, I think I’m staying with “Uncanny X-Force” being my favorite X-Title for the time being.

X-Men #14 – Again, a blind dive into the X-Men pool. I haven’t been reading any X-Titles except for Uncanny X-Force for awhile, but “X-Men First Class” got me hankering for some more mutants. I know that each X-title has their own theme so to speak, I have no idea what plain old X-Men’s is though. This almost felt like a re-hash of an older story line, but maybe that’s the point.

MAD Magazine #510 – This one was a just for fun! I (and my dad) used to read MAD religiously back in the day, so I had to see what was what! The book’s changed a lot, as to be expected as they change talent over the years. It felt good though! Same cornball jokes, same hokey satires. Fun times, fun times. I’ll definitely have to see what the daughter thinks of this stuff!

So here I go, trying to get back into a regular comics regimen once again! Thankfully, I”ll be bringing the daughter along for the ride! I’m totally lost on the x-titles and which ones are good, bad or ugly, so I’m looking for suggestions on what x-books I should be on the look out for! On top of that, I’m open for comic book suggestions in general! Have a favorite title? Leave a note in the comments!

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 | Author: Casey Criswell

For those of you not in the know, the first Saturday in May has now become an official holiday for comic fandom in the form of Free Comic Book Day! Wondering what “Free Comic Book Day” is? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like; free comics!

Setup as a way to bring in new readers and thank old fans in the flagging world of comic book publishing, this once a year event brings free books from participating publishers to participating stores. New fans get free comics, publishers get fresh eyes on their old characters and comic shops (which are already having a hard time of it) are getting potential new customers in the door. It’s a win-win for everybody!

This past Saturday, The Daughter and I decided that we definitely needed to take part in the festivities again. Luckily, we found ourselves up and awake by 10 am, which happened to be perfect timing to get make it to our local branch of Down Town Comics when they opened the doors at 11 am.

For The Daughter, still somewhat new to the idea of events and conventions in the world of fandom was a bit taken aback at the sight of a line at Down Town Comics. Myself, having been a veteran (victim) of a fair share of cons and the like, knew full well that there would be lines involved. Seeing something like a lengthy line can definitely be daunting to an excited eleven year old. Thankfully for all involved, Down Town Comics is a pretty stellar shop and they had things rolling in quick order.

The level of participation for Free Comic Book Day varies from shop to shop. Some set limits to two or three books per customer, some offer up unlimited freebies. To our excitement, DTC is of the latter variety so we were able to load up. This is great for our situation, myself getting back into comics after some absence and The Daughter, discovering the world for the first time. Sure, she’s been reading a few books here and there that I have passed down to her, but with Free Comic Book Day, she gets to take a large sampling and discover what she likes. That’s the way it should be done, isn’t it?

So this past Saturday, a great follow up to The Daughter’s birthday mind you, was pretty grand. We followed up Free Comic Book Day by going to see “Thor” that night and an afternoon of reading comics on the couch. Though we have a long way before we clear out the entire monster stack, we’ve both already found a few books that caught our attention. For myself, Mike Mignola’s “Baltimore” seems pretty great and the “Magic the Gathering Planeswalker II” title was confusing to say the least, but was entertaining as it got rolling. The Daughter found herself drawn to the Captain America/Thor cross over early on with a keen eye on the “Sonic the Hedge Hog” freebie and “Bongo Comics Free For All”.

With all that said, you should be sure to check out the Free Comic Book Day website and mark your calendar for next year. It’s a good time, you get some good stories to keep you occupied and despite what that jock back in high school told you as he stuffed you in your locker; comic books kick ass. It’s a great way to introduce a fun hobby to your kid and fun way to spend the day together.

Thursday, November 11th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

I was highly entertained by Ian Edginton and Davide Fabbri’s recent “Victorian Undead” series that pit the genius of Sherlock Holmes against Moriarty and a host of zombie pawns. It was fun, they capture the essence of Holmes quite well and made for a great little mini series. So, I was both surprised and excited when I found a copy of Victorian Undead II: Sherlock Homes Vs. Dracula on my doorstep yesterday! After all, Holmes and Watson are great in their own right and it’s fun to see them take on various monsters and such, right?

From the publishers:
“A year after the defeat of Professor Moriarty’s revenant horde and the fire-bombing of London, restoration is well under way. Yet, from across the sea, ancient eyes cast their hungry gaze upon the still vulnerable capital…Dracula is coming!

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate the wreck of the ship, the Demeter – its crew missing, the corpse of its Captain lashed to the ship’s wheel – and soon realize this is merely the opening salvo of war from beyond the grave! Don’t miss this start to a bloodthirsty new 5-issue miniseries!”

This first issue? It’s a nice setup. We get to watch Holmes feel smug about his recent victory over Moriarty in the first mini series. We also get a nice creepy little setup for this new foray into the tales of Dracula. At first it seemed as if they were going to bring Dracula into London with the thread bare story of being brought over in a ship board cargo full of dirt a la “Nosferatu” and any number of Vampire stories. Edginton hits us on the final notes of issue #1 with a nice little weighty twist that brings Vlad to the fore front and ties him in with some royal intrigue. All in all, pretty nice.

Set for a five issue run, this mini series hits shelves November 12th and will cost you a mere $3.99. Considering the enjoyment I got from the “Holmes Vs. the Undead” mini? It’s well worth your $4.

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’ve slipped away for a month again, but that happens from time to time. The truth is, I’ve been on a pretty big writing jag on the fiction side of things with a few projects that are shaping up nicely. What that boils down to is that most of my free time has been spent writing, which boils down further too…no time to watch movies! I have gotten some reading done however which is important for any writer to do.

Amongst the scattered novels I’m plowing through a little bit of a time, I received some new trades from Vertigo last week that made for some interesting diversion. The first of these is “A Sickness in the Family” by Denise Mina. I can’t say I’m familiar with the line but Vertigo now as a ‘Vertigo Crime’ series which is essentially your straight up muder mystery type stories. Mina has quite a history with this style of story with her six novels and her stint on Veritgo’s Hellblazer.

“Meet the Ushers. (By the way, this name is no accident). The parents, Ted and Biddy. Grandma Martha. The three kids, William, Amy and Sam. Just a normal, middle class family gathered around the table on Christmas Day. Until they start dying very violent deaths. One by one. As secrets and resentments boil to the surface, it becomes clear there’s more than one Usher with a motive for killing off the others. But in the end, the truth turns out to be far more shocking than anyone in the ill-fated family could have imagined.”

Once we dig into “Sickness”, it becomes apparant early on that we’re dealing with your standard large wealthy family arguing over inheritences. Granted, nobody has died to pass the money on to the children yet, but they’re going to argue about it anyways. To spice things up, we’re given the setting of a creepy old flat with a nasty history and the hopes of ghost stories being mixed in along the way. While standard, the story is readable yet fails to be very innovative. It’s one of those cases where you finish the story and don’t hate the fact that you read it, but you didn’t take a lot out of it either. There’s a lot goign on here in the limited amount of pages Mina has to work in. The nuts and bolts of the story are solid, I just can’t helpt to think that it would have worked better in a standard novel format where Minda could have fleshed out her characters to a more hearty presentation. As they are, they’re a little thin.

As for the artwork by Antonio Fuso, it makes a great companion on the story that is here. The black and white art fits well with the gritty setting and family drama. There are touches of a Japanese influence here and there to help to give the book a different look. Overall, the art really helps the package for me.

“A Sickness In the Family” is an allright read, but I can’t really recommend that you go beat down the doors of your local shop to get a copy. If you happen across a bargain copy or find at your library? Sure, snap it up. Keep in mind however, muder mysteries are generally not my standard fare. If you like some good crime fiction, you might enjoy this book a lot more than I did.

Curious? “A Sickness in the Family” hits shelves on October 13th for $19.99.

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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

IDW Publishing and Wildstorm Comics have joined forces to bring us a little cross over to warm the cockles of “X-Files” fans the world over by pitting faves Mulder and Scully against the animalistic vampires of Steve Niles and his arctic north!

On the bright side, Steve Niles is still here to pen this mini-series, so it’s in good hands. I’m not that familiar with Tom Mandrake’s work, but I can say that he’s doing a good enough job that you can’t tell where Niles leaves off and Mandrake takes over! They’re new at playing with the characters of Mulder and Scully and for this first issue, they handle the task just fine. There’s a minor side plot that is shoe-horned in here for Mulder which really isn’t needed at all but it doesn’t manage to distract from the main story though. So far, so good.

As for the playing in the existing “30 Days of Night” universe? Once again, we’re in Steve Niles’ yard here. He created all of this, so he knows what he’s doing! The story is dark and brooding with some solid setup that tugs ever so slightly at the heart strings and then slaps you with a good bit of gruesome aftermath. Mixing in the analytical skills of Mulder and Scully should make a great addition to the universe though we’ll have to wait to find out.

For a 1st issue, the book isn’t bad but hasn’t quite done enough to make me excited yet. I love the “X-Files”; a lot of people do. There are no hints here that they are going to reinvent that franchise, nor the “30 Days of Night” franchise either. They’re going to give us a nice little ‘fluff’ episode to welcome back some familiar faces. We’ll just have to bide our time to see how exciting this story is going to get.

Two of the most popular horror properties of the last two decades collide in this harrowing 6-issue adventure of epic proportions! Co-writers Steve Niles (writer and co-creator of 30 Days of Night) and rockstar-turned-writer Adam Jones (the band Tool) team with the amazing, moody artistry of industry legend Tom Mandrake (THE SPECTRE, BATMAN) to unleash the ultimate comic culture crossover!

When evidence of a possible cannibal killer in Wainright, Alaska, draws the attention of the FBI, Agents Mulder and Scully draw the less-than-glamorous assignment. But all is not as it seems once the agents are on the ground. Not only has the long seasonal darkness begun to fall, but there’s something unnatural about a few of the locals. And what does a chilling, mysterious black ship have to do with the murders? Find out here! Co-published with IDW.

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Wednesday, July 07th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Ever since Freddy and Jason faced off in their big screen outing back in 2003, horror fans have been salivating over the idea of adding none other than Bruce Campbell’s Ashley Williams to the mix. After all, he’s faced down hordes of Deadites with nothing more than a boom stick and a chainsaw, surely he can handle Fred Krueger and Jason Vorhees!

Sadly, these dreams have gone unrealized cinematic-ally, but the comics world went ahead with the idea and produced Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash. The trio debuted a few years back in a series from Dynamite comics to much fanfare. Since the first outing was so popular, they opted to come back in a joint production with Wildstorm comics to produce a second mini-series. Having been released some months back in the regular monthly form, the series now will be hitting comic stands on July 14th in a collected trade format, which happened to be upon my doorstep just yesterday afternoon!

I’m not going to lie to you; “Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors” isn’t high minded graphic novel fare by any means. It’s not overly deep, it’s not overly detailed. In fact, it suffers a bit if you happened to miss the first mini series like I did. They dive straight into the continuation of the first round with no back story whatsoever to help the new comers limp along. It doesn’t dwell too long on this problem though and the story picks up quick to suck you in and entertain. Like I said, the story here isn’t going to blow you away or compare like something with the depth and quality of “The Watchmen”. It is going to entertain you though, because the story is just down right fun.

Writers Jeff Katz and James Kuhoric do a great job tying the existing characters together and spinning a new story and world around them. The biggest word of note here horror fans; this stuff is far from being canon. If you’re a die hard fan of any of the three franchises, this isn’t going to fit in directly with the existing worlds. It does give you a fun ‘what if’ though if they did happen to intertwine with the Necronomicon being their central pivot. You’ll see familiar faces from each of the franchises show up such as Tommy Jarvis or Nancy Thompson. You’ll also see the forces of evil create some completely over the top mayhem. It’s been awhile since I’ve just plain enjoyed a comic without having to engage the brain too heavily. It’s just pure campy pulp fun.

Aside from having an unwieldy title, “Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors” is a fun little side track and addition to each of our favorite modern monster franchises. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’ll make you smile. When it all boils down, that’s what counts.

Sunday, June 06th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

This past week saw the release of I, Zombie #2 from creators Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, the new hip and sexy take on the comic zombie form. Issue #1 concentrated on setting up the mystery of Gwen and her undead calamity as well as giving us a hint of more to come. Issue #2 takes up right where the first issue left off, diving into the spiraling story lines and focus of the memories Gwen absorbed from the brain she had just consumed.

Issue #1 of “I, Zombie” rocked my world with its quirky characters and it’s hellbent direction of reinventing a lot of the typical monster stories we’re already familiar with. Issue #2 continues the trend though the world rocking has been minimized a bit. This isn’t all that uncommon; writers have to go all out to lure you in with their first issue. After you’re hooked, they delve straight into the story which is what Roberson does here. While the story is still strong and engrossing, it lacks some of the punch that the first issue had for me. We branch off into a few different directions as we start to see the characters separated and being fleshed out. Gwen is still on task and we begin to see where the absorbed memories are taking her which is good. We also have a side story going on with a clutch of vampires running a night time pain ball field and another setup for our resident were-terrior’s friends as well. These side plots are good and they are tweaked enough to fit the quirky setup that Roberson and Allred gave us in the first go around, though in issue two they do pull away a bit from the most interesting plot; Gwen and her just-eaten mental room mate. Gwen is the most compelling character we have here and for me, I’d rather concentrate on her and see the side characters worked in around her. I’m sure we’ll see all of these story lines intertwined at some point in the future and I will most likely be less critical of them when that happens. For now though, it makes the overall story feel a bit muddled when I only want to concentrate on our undead heroine.

Don’t let my words detract from your enjoyment of the story or lead you to believe that I’ve lost interest in the book. I still found issue #2 to be pretty great and a fun read. There are just a few small changes that I’d like to see happen for personal tastes. Again, the problems I have with too many story lines will most likely be resolved as the current story arc carries on and I’ll gladly still be there every week to see where they’re going with it all!

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