Tag Archive: Steve Niles


It’s been an entire year since we last saw a new publication from TKO Studios, the company that brought the Netflix trademark binge to comic books.  Though not as striking and punch-packed as Round 1 from the publisher early last year, the second round of titles had promise.  At last Round 3 is on its way, and pre-orders are now available.  So what does the next incarnation of TKO hold?  First, none of the original series will see their sequels just yet.  But you will have the option to check out three new mini-series, and two new concepts: an illustrated prose horror book and three TKO “shorts.”  Check out previews for all below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With all the Netflix series being rolled out this year, October Faction might get overlooked.  It’s the latest monster series based on a comic book and it arrived on Netflix this past weekend.  Based on Steve Niles and Damien Worm’s graphic novel/comics of the same name, both the TV series (created by Sleepy Hollow and Stargate’s Damian Kindler) and the comics are a darker spin on The Addams Family–the comics even darker than the TV series, which is closer in tone to Riverdale, Charmed, and Stranger Things than, say, Grimm or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Unfortunately it’s not as well-constructed or visualized as any of those series, but it may be worth the time for fans of horror or stories of students with super powers.  It’s the super powers angle that demonstrates how closely linked superhero series are with supernatural and horror stories in the 21st century–Swap out a few words, monsters for malevolent aliens and witches and warlocks for superheroes and you’ll find October Faction has the same story beats as, say The Umbrella Academy or The Boys.  October Faction has an easier to digest, more accessible story than both of those series although the production values lack a certain tightness in editing and cinematography style.  It also could use a soundtrack that better matches the charging, creepy pitches found in Netflix’s three trailers for the series.

This is a story about a husband and wife and their twin 17-year-olds, and how the twins handle learning their parents belong to an age-old network of monster hunters.  Tamara Taylor (Bones, Altered Carbon, Lost, Serenity) is really in the driver’s seat as Deloris, the mom who always seems to have the right firearm close by, joined by husband Fred, played by J.C. MacKenzie, a character actor TV audiences have seen in dozens of police procedural series and movies, including The Irishman, The Departed, The Shield, and Hemlock Grove, as a father who is looking forward to a rest from the monster work.  If you agree MacKenzie is a ringer for a younger Matthew Modine, you might convince yourself October Faction is a prequel to Stranger Things (he also evokes Ed Begley, Jr.).  MacKenzie’s casting is an odd choice, like starring old school Fred MacMurray or Robert Young as a modern, mouthy murderer of monsters.  But he might grow on you.  The kids are more interesting: Newcomers Aurora Burghart plays Viv, an angsty teen who sketches morbid miscellany and can’t understand why she sees things before they happen, and Gabriel Darku is Geoff, her gay brother who is lost leaving behind his old friends for the family’s most recent relocation–and who also thinks he sees the deceased dead.

The level of horror and gore is about that of Shaun of the Dead, enough to establish genre while not becoming a full-on slasher show.  At first this appears to be another story of the Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers variety–black and white good and bad guys and monsters that are evil because ugly, unfamiliar, and different things are always evil.  Fortunately the story catches up in time and the theme becomes that of fellow monster series Grimm, that not all monsters are bad, and sometimes humans are the worst threat of all.

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Heroes Dynamite new series

As part of its opening day reveal of San Diego Comic-Con International 2013 news, Dynamite Comics issued an unprecedented barrage of announcements.  These include a new monthly continuing the NBC television series Heroes and a return of The Twilight Zone in the form of a monthly comic book series.

Comic book writer Cullen Bunn (Marvel’s Fearless Defenders and Deadpool) will be writing the Heroes comic book series, which he describes as a Heroes Season Five, following on the coattails of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files continuations of cancelled series in comic book monthlies.  Airing from 2006 through 2010, the Heroes TV series was watched by fanboys and fangirls everywhere.  The series chronicled the lives of ordinary people whose mysterious superhuman powers brought them together as part of a giant government conspiracy via a certain guy with horn-rimmed glasses played by Jack Coleman.  The series featured a great cast of now well-known actors, including Hayden Panettiere, Ali Larter, Adrian Pasdar, Milo Ventimiglia, and Zachary Quinto.  Claire, Hiro and Sylar will play a big role in the comic book series, according to Bunn.

The Twilight Zone will feature all-new tales of superstition and science written by SDCC 2013 featured guest, comic book legend, and former Babylon 5 writer J. Michael Straczynski.  Straczynski said, “The immediate creative question to be resolved was: how do you transplant or adapt the TV anthology format into comic form?  Individual stand-alone issues don’t give the issue-to-issue continuity you need to consistently bring in modern readers, and if it’s a year-long arc, it’s not an anthology.  The solution: three four-issue arcs that are connected by theme, character, and location… so that in reading one arc you get one side of the story, with its own supernatural or science-fiction elements, then you turn the character around to another character in that sequence who has his or her own story for the next four issues… and then at the end, you connect all of these individual stories into one overlapping tapestry, so you could literally view the book as individual stories as initially published, or layer the pages to create one big story.”

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If you have spent much time at all chatting it up with comic book writers or editors at comic conventions, you have probably heard several mentions of the phrase “creator-owned comic” or “creator-owned project.”  The conversation usually goes like this:

Fanboy: Hey, Awesome Comic Book Creator, what are you working on?

Awesome Comic Book Creator: I am working on a big project right now featuring Huge Comic Character for [insert DC Comics or Marvel here].  [And then they look like they are pondering something deeply as they say:] I am also working on a creator-owned project that I have had in the works for several years.

It was Frank Cho last year at Comic-Con who let us in on a project he had been thinking about for years:  Guns & Dinos, a project he said he had been thinking about ever since an image came to him of an archaeologist discovering an arm with a modern gun in a dig along side a dinosaur.  Guns & Dinos (yet to be released) is a creator-owned project he was trying to generate interest in.

Hitting the stores this month was a new book with an odd title: Creator-Owned Heroes #1.  It’s a collaborative new ongoing book between writing partners Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (who are at the top of my favorite comic writers right now with their All-Star Western series), Steve Niles, Kevin Mellon, and Phil Noto.  The point?  Get away from big publishing house content and bring some diversity into comics–stories you might not see reaching readers from the big houses.

The book features two eleven page stories that will have readers easily coming back next month.  It also has several interviews with the creators in the nature of “here’s what this is all about.”  It also includes photos of the creators with fans at conventions, an interview with a cosplayer who Palmiotti asked to create the costume of one of the stories, and an interview with Neil Gaiman.

The two stories were superb.  We’ll come back to those.

For the first issue of a new type of publication I didn’t have any issue with the interviews and explanations.  That said, I’d rather have more than 11 page stories or a third story for future issues.  $3.99 is a fine price but a comic sized magazine with columnists as opposed to news is not really something I think can last too long.  And I haven’t read much new from Gaiman in the last several interviews with him I’ve seen so that didn’t add much value for me.  I am interested in what these creators think, but are most comics readers readers who just want to read new stories or do they also care about the behind-the-scenes so much?

So back to what is great about this book–two very interesting stories.  First Palmiotti, Gray and Noto take on cool muscle cars in a dismal, futuristic world of survival in American Muscle.  Great title, great idea.  The dialogue is believable, the images make the reader feel the environment.  I just hope future issues focus let us in on the cars themselves (they probably can’t specify actual makes and models because of licensing reasons from the auto dealers).   Niles and Mellon give us one part Leeloo Dallas, one part human-Cylon, one part David 8, one part la femme Nikita, and one part Ultraviolet in their Trigger Girl 6.   That actually should give you all you need to decide whether to check out this one.  I’ll just say the pacing of the story was spot-on and the dialogue and art top-notch.  I also really liked the color choices in both stories.  If this is what creator-owned is, then give us more please.

The publisher of Creator-Owned Heroes is Image Comics.  I’ve always viewed Image as sort of a “fourth network” like Dark Horse and Dynamite.  I do wonder why Creator-Owned Heroes didn’t try something like Terry Moore and his Abstract Studios publishing company.  If you don’t make it big at the major publishing houses I would think Moore has created the model to make it big on your own.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
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