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Tag Archive: Mike Norton


   

Review by C.J. Bunce

If there was a Sergeant York or Audie Murphy on the Russian side of the fight in World War II and the soldier was a woman, you’d have the lead character in Sara, a new six-part graphic novel from TKO Studios, a new publisher for 2019 (more on that below).  In Nazi-occupied Russia, the Russian forces are losing.  A small band of skilled Russians snipers is making headway one kill at a time.  The undisputed best of the bunch is Sara, an ex-college recruit reputed to have 300 kills.  She soon becomes the target of Nazi Germany’s own best special military forces.  From Eisner Award winning writer Garth Ennis (Preacher, War Stories and Battlefields, Fury) and artist Steve Epting (Velvet, Batwoman, The Winter Soldier, The Avengers), with color by Eisner and Harvey nominated artist Elizabeth Breitweiser and letters by Rob Steen, the gritty realism, badass protagonist, and top-level artistry is sure to make Sara a contender come award season.

If you’re a fan of Russia or Soviet-era stories like Doctor Zhivago, From Russia with Love, and The Hunt for Red October, or graphic novels Nevsky: A Hero of the People, Red Son, and The Death of Stalin, there’s something in the Sara graphic novel that you’re going to like.  But that’s just the setting.  The real fun will be the callbacks readers will experience along the way.  With a Russian twist, expect the same kind of war experience from watching movie classics like Stalag 17, Sands of Iwo Jima, Memphis Belle, To Hell and Back, and Sergeant York.  Ennis’s historicity and Epting’s adherence to detail anchors the story in a way that will have you feeling like you’re right there in the forest among the soldiers.  This is the story many of us were hoping for when we heard of the Russian espionage movie Red Sparrow.  

As with all new TKO Studios releases, the story is available as a graphic novel in a digital or print edition, or as six issues in a collectible box.  The six issue/chapter shifts are well plotted: an introduction of key characters in the middle of activity and flashbacks to Sara’s military training are all nicely paced to a vintage 1940s war movie style, and the battlefield threat increases gradually culminating in a nicely planned cliffhanger, followed by a satisfying payoff–it has all the beats in the right places.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Image Comics is giving the celebrated Eisner and Harvey Award-winning series Battlepug a giant hardcover collected edition this month.  Written and illustrated by Mike Norton, Battlepug: The Compugdium collects all five volumes of the brilliant webcomic.  A series of humor-filled fantasy/adventure tales with the look and vibe of One Thousand and One Nights/Arabian Nights, Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian, Godzilla, and Ray Harryhausen movies, Battlepug is epic and unique.  Following stories told of the last Kinmundian as he rides his giant pug into the next town and next battle, Battlepug represents the best of the comic book and fantasy worlds.

With 336 pages in all with big 8.5 x 12 inch layouts, this is a book you’re going to keep returning to, fun for all ages.  Battlepug: The Compugdium includes Blood and Drool (the dreaded harp seal and Witch Toad!), The Savage Bone (meet Gil and some underwater types), Sit. Stay. Die! (a skull monkey and a host of giant underground beasts await), The Devil’s Biscuit (encounter a giant turtle spirit!), and The Paws of War (face the giant koala!).

Fans who have already gobbled down the five stories will still want to take a look at the Compugdium, as it includes plenty of great additional content: a gallery of 36 pages of Battlepug art from various artists, 15 pages of sketches, including some Norton layouts and early character images, plus cover art prints from the series.

Here are some great pages you’ll find in Battlepug: The Compugdium:

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One hundred comic book artists have come together over the past year to create the next great joint art project, this time featuring the fan favorite characters of the Adventure Time animated and comic book series.  Last year Wonder Woman was featured for her 75th anniversary.  This year a new group of some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring Adventure Time, penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a BOOM! Studios Kaboom imprint Adventure Time blank comic book cover.  It’s all for a good cause that gives back to, and in effect pays forward comic book creators that came before them.

It’s called the The Adventure Time Get-a-Sketch 100 Project.  All proceeds of the auction of the original artwork will go to the Hero Initiative, an organization that helps out the comic book industry by contributing funds to individuals and their families in the event of medical and financial crises.  Most of the comic creators the fund helps were piecemeal workers in their careers over the past decades or those without any kind of retirement program.

And for those who can’t afford the original artwork, the Hero Initiative is creating a hardcover and softcover edition compiling all the covers that will be for sale beginning May 30, 2018, with proceeds of those books also going to the Hero Initiative.

You’ll find some of the very best Adventure Time-inspired sketch images you’ve ever seen in this group.  Many are from well-known artists, but some of the finest works are showcased by more recent artists entering the industry.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

More than 100 comic book artists came together over the past year to create what is one of the best joint art projects featuring superheroes that has come out of the industry.  And it’s all about the biggest superheroine of all.  Some of the best-known names in the world of comics volunteered an original work of art featuring Wonder Woman, penciled, inked, painted, or otherwise colored on a 75th Anniversary DC Comics Wonder Woman blank comic book cover.  It’s all for a good cause that gives back to, and in effect pays forward comic book creators that came before them.

It’s called the Wonder Woman 100 Project.  All proceeds of the auction of the original artwork will go to the Hero Initiative, an organization that helps out the comic book industry by contributing funds to individuals and their families in the event of medical and financial crises.  Most of the comic creators the fund helps were piecemeal workers in their careers over the past decades or those without any kind of retirement program.

    

And for those who can’t afford the original artwork, the Hero Initiative is creating a hardcover and softcover edition compiling all the covers that will be for sale in June 2017, with proceeds of those books also going to the Hero Initiative.

You’ll see some of the very best Wonder Woman images you’ll ever find.  Many are from well-known artists, but some of the finest works are showcased by more recent artists entering the industry.

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A secret project nearly three years in the making was shared this month with the announcement of a tribute to the artist who created the fantasy comic book series Tellos.  Artist Mike Wieringo, a friend of many, died from a heart attack in 2007 and the industry banded together as the “Secret Friends of Ringo” led by Tellos writer Todd Dezago to create a heretofore undisclosed tribute project and give something to one of Wieringo’s favorite causes in the process.  The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute is a giant 500 page, original graphic novel to be released in two over-sized, hardcover volumes.   It features the artwork of more than 200 of the comics industry’s most popular and talented artists, dedicated to the memory of Wieringo, with all proceeds from this project being donated to the ASPCA.

The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute continues the adventures of characters in the original Tellos series created by Wieringo and Dezago and published by Image Comics (and briefly by Gorilla Comics): Jarek—a young hero with “magikal” abilities, Koj—a tiger-warrior who is Jarek’s partner and protector, Serra—the swashbuckling pirate queen, and Rikk—the fox-thief bent on finding his fortune.  The original comic book series of ten issues ran from 1999 to 2000.  Three one-shot issues followed:  Maiden Voyage, The Last Heist, and Sons and Moons, followed by a three-issue mini-series, Tales of Tellos, in 2004.  Not long before he passed away, Wieringo had talked about working on a new Tellos.

tellos-wanted-vol1   tellos-wanted-vol2

You can only order the books at this link.  Because of they way the group is providing the proceeds to the ASPCA, these books will not be available through any other source.

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Meeting Lee Majors

Hey, looks like we made it!

Five years ago today, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt, Jason McClain, and I had already spent a few months talking through the technical details for the launch of borg.com.  What should it look like?  What should we write about?  How do we get to there from here?  Then it all came together on June 10, 2011, and I sat down and just started writing.  Should this be a weekly thing?  Once I started I just couldn’t stop and we cemented borg.com as a daily webzine.  And readers started showing up every day.  Soon we had hundreds of followers, and hundreds of thousands of visits per year.

The best part?  Working with friends and meeting new ones each year.

We’ve had plenty of high points.  Cosplay took off in a big way in the past five years.   Elizabeth and I hit the ground running at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011 with our Alien Nation/Chuck mash-up and you can find us all over the Web in photos taken by others at the show.  Our years were dotted with the random brush with coolness.  A retweet by actress Alana de la Garza, coverage of Joss Whedon visiting the Hall H line at 3 a.m. outside SDCC in 2012, Zachary Levi calling out Elizabeth for her cosplay at Nerd HQ, interviewing the stars of History Channel’s Vikings series, our praise for the Miss Fury series appearing on the back of every Dynamite Comics issue one month, tweets from Hollywood make-up artist family the Westmores commenting on our discussion of Syfy’s Face Off series, our Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (negative!) review featured on the movie’s website, that crazy promotion for the Coma remake mini-series, planning the first Planet Comicon at Bartle Hall and the Star Trek cast reunion, attending the first Kansas City Comic Con and the first Wizard World Des Moines Con, hanging with comic book legend Howard Chaykin, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels, cast members from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Star Trek, bionic duo Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner.  And borg.com gained some well-known followers (you know who you are) along the way.

sdcc-whedon-c shot

We’re grateful for some great Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other feedback over the years from Felipe Melo, Mickey Lam, Michael Prestage, The Mithril Guardian, Francesco Francavilla, Adam Hughes, Judy Bunce, Mike Norton, Jack Herbert, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, David Petersen, Rob Williams, and Matt Miner, and for creators we interviewed including Mikel Janin, Penny Juday, Tim Lebbon, Kim Newman, James P. Blaylock, Freddie Williams II, Jai Nitz, and Sharon Shinn.

Bunce Alien Nation cosplay x

What did readers like the most?

We amassed an extensive archive of hundreds of book reviews, movie reviews, reviews of TV shows, and convention coverage, thanks in part to the good folks at Titan Books, Abrams Books, Lucasfilm Press, Weta New Zealand, Entertainment Earth, Dynamite Comics, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and several TV and movie studios and distributors.

McClain and EC Bunce

My own favorites?  Sitting down to come up with my own five all-time favorite characters with the borg.com writing staff.

Schmidt and Bunce at PC 2015

Thanks to my family, my friends, especially my partner in crime Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt and Jason McClain, my support team, and William Binderup and the Elite Flight Crew.

Onward and upward!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

For lucky canine-loving fanboys and fangirls out there who subscribe to LootCrate’s LootPets monthly box service, one of the best fantasy comic book series arrived on their doorstep this past week.  Originally a webcomic, the first year of Mike Norton‘s 2012 Eisner Award winning Battlepug was released back in 2012 by Dark Horse in a hardcover version and Volume 1 is now making an appearance across the globe in a trade edition thanks to LootPets.

What is Battlepug?  Norton artfully scribed another story of the Arabian Nights, even told by Sheherazade herself, only in Battlepug her name is Moll, a storyteller recounting the “Tale of the Warrior and the Battlepug” to her two pug dogs.  Norton goes where no one has gone before, recounting the origin story of a Conan type warrior set upon revenge resulting from a certain hell that laid waste to his people, leaving him the last Kinmundian.  And the form of destruction?  A giant (cute), evil (really cute), white harp seal.  And yes, our warrior has his revenge, off-camera beating the seal to death with a giant candy cane.  In taking that revenge he must defeat another oppressor, the king of the Northland Elves, who decrees a life of servitude for our hero.  The king himself is none other than Santa Claus himself, although not referred by that name.

Jadie adventure time shirt for borgdotcom

This all sounds very dark, doesn’t it?  How can it be funny and so good?  It’s in the delivery–putting such untouchables in such unthinkable situations is perfection. And it’s just really good.  I haven’t even mentioned the curse of the thousand angry gophers, the “scribbly scrabbly” crazy man who accompanies our hero, the fate of the witch toad, the almighty God-dog the White, or even the entry of the eager and brave Battlepug into the story.

Back in a review of Battlepug here at borg.com in 2012, I compared Norton’s series to David Petersen’s Mouse Guard, a series of comic books that when compiled read like classic children’s storybooks.  Norton and Petersen have this niche in common with their books–you want to sit down and have storytime.  These guys are among the best Eisner Award winning comic book artists that write as well as they draw, and they are both among the nicest guys in the business you’ll ever meet.  With Battlepug you have beautiful images, interesting and funny surprise characters, and a narrative structure and tale that would fall alongside any other classic tale on your bookshelf.  It’s no wonder Norton was recognized by the Eisner committee–this isn’t only crazy silliness, it’s a story with roots in classic fiction and the beginnings of a character who could hold his own with Conan and Tarzan.

So what else made the LootPets crate this month?

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Green Arrow close up Sook Ryan

We’ve been pretty lucky to both know and regularly cross paths with some great artists who have worked on the many years of Green Arrow stories in the DC Comics monthly series, and others who haven’t worked on the character but created original sketches for us at conventions.  From time to time we have posted original artwork of Oliver Queen and his partner Dinah Lance aka Black Canary here at borg.com.  These include works by Freddie Williams II, Mike Grell, Neal Adams, Phil Hester and Ande Parks, Howard Chaykin, Michael Golden, Mike Norton, Cliff Chiang, J.K. WoodwardJock, and Phil Noto, among others.

We don’t know Ryan Sook personally, but he is one of our favorite cover artists.  He created our favorite cover of 2012, the cover to Mystery in Space #1, shown here.  The awesome sci-fi steampunk girl on the cover just demands her own comic book series.  We ran down some of his best cover work here last summer.

When we had the chance to commission a pencil and ink piece from him for our Green Arrow and Black Canary gallery, we couldn’t pass it up.  The result is simply awesome.

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Hawkeye issue 11   Afterlife with Archie main cover

The annual Harvey Award nominations close tomorrow.  The nominees for best works in the comic book industry are being voted on by comic book creators, with the final award ceremony to be held at Baltimore Comic-Con on September 6, 2014.  The recently combined publisher BOOM! Studios and imprint Archaia lead this year out of the gates with 30 nominations.  Independent publisher IDW Publishing received no nominations and the biggest, DC Comics, received only one.  Probably not surprisingly one of our favorite books, Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye, is a top contender, along with David Petersen’s latest Mouse Guard work.

More of our favorites are recognized again this year: Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie is up for Best New Series and Mike Norton’s Battlepug for best online comic.  Here are the 2014 nominations for 2013 works, followed by this year’s Eisner Award winners for those that may have missed their announcement during the busy weekend of SDCC 2014.

2014 Harvey Award Nominees

Best Writer

James Asmus, Quantum and Woody, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughn, Saga, Image Comics
Mark Waid, Daredevil, Marvel Comics

Best Artist

David Aja, Hawkeye, Marvel Comics
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
Nate Powell, March: Book One, Top Shelf Production
Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Marvel Comics
Fiona Staples, Saga, Image Comics
Jeff Stokely, Six Gun Gorilla, BOOM! Studios

Best Cartoonist

Matt Kindt, Mind Mgmt, Dark Horse Comics
Comfort Love and Adam Withers, Rainbow in the Dark, uniquescomic.com
Terry Moore, Rachel Rising, Abstract Studios
Dan Parent, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics
David Petersen, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Paul Pope, Battling Boy, First Second

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Revival issue 1 cover

You’ve still got a few hours yet.  Get your free download copy of Eisner Award winner Mike Norton’s awesome (and creepy) Revival Issue #1 from Comixology.

It’s part of Comixology’s 12 Days of Christmas event.  Come back each day for a new free digital comic book.  Sweet!

Click here to check it out!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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