Big changes, new horizons…

After much thinking and heavy thought, there will be momentous changes for the Stranger Worlds journey.

There will be new plans, and a repurpose of its original mission on this grand journey. To discover, and rediscover the worlds of the infinite imagination and beyond. There will be reaching out, with new tools and a crew gathering, to a whole new outlook, and presentation to our findings, to share and bring back so most far our concepts and ideas that only our creative minds can fathom..

Sometimes, that means going a different way. More information will come soon across strangerworlds.com, its social media connections, and more. It all might take a little time to present our pathways, but we will get there….

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology comics adaptation returns with a new volume

Recent news release from Dark Horse Comics:

The comic book adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s best-selling book, Norse Mythology, will continue from Dark Horse, this coming month of June. Eisner-winning comics writer P. Craig Russell, with artists Matt Horak (The Punisher, The Covenant), Mark Buckingham (Hellblazer, Miracleman), Gabriel Walta (Barbalien: Red Planet, Sentient), Sandy Jarrell (Archie, Meteor Men), and colorist Lovern Kindzierski (The Worst Dudes, The Sandman) will team together for the upcoming six-issue follow-up series, Norse Mythology II.

Explore the origins of poetry—good and bad—in this tale of malicious dwarfs, suspicious giants, and the wise god Kvasir, whose eventual fate leads to the creation of a powerful mead that many will fight and die for.

Also available will be a variant cover for each issue by longtime comics artist, David Mack.

“It has been an absolute delight working with the slate of artists assembled for our adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology,” says Russell in a recent DH press release. “Sending the artists the layouts and then seeing their finished pages come rolling back in, each having brought their own unique artistic vision to the page, has been great fun.”

Norse Mythology II #1 (of six) will arrive in comic shops on June 16, 2021.

David Mack variant cover:

The Whispering Dark creators reimagines World War II with The Secret Land

Interesting news from Dark Horse Comics…

Coming soon, from writer Christofer Emgård and artist Tomás Aira, the creative team duo behind The Whispering Dark, return to Dark Horse comics with a new, upcoming cosmic horror mini-series and fictionalized reimagining of World War II in The Secret Land.

It is 1945, and Hitler is dead. Ben and Katherine are supposed to be together, happy. Instead, Ben fights the war in the Pacific with reckless heroism, believing his fiancée to be dead. However, Katherine lives, undercover aboard a German submarine.

As Ben tries to move on, the US Navy receives a message. The Nazis are plotting their return, powered by strange and foreboding technology in Antarctica. When Ben learns Katherine is there, he knows he must go too.

As war engulfs the edge of the world, Ben and Katherine confront the truth about the boundaries of love, and what lies beyond them.

“Ever since The Whispering Dark I’ve been looking to reprise my collaboration with Tomás, and The Secret Land finally provided the perfect opportunity. This mini-series began life as a pulpy horror tale (it does have both Nazis and tentacles in it…), but at its core it’s really a story about commitment, longing and loss. I feel Tomás has conveyed this beautifully through his evocative art and I hope the readers out there will feel the same.” said Christofer Emgård in a recent press release from Dark Horse Comics.

“Chris’ amazing script hooked me from day one and I was eager to flesh out these characters and continue building this terrifying world. Bringing the Otherlands to life has a strange fascination for me, and often I find myself fearful of the very monsters I’m painting, while adorning their abominable visage with teeth-covered appendices. There’s probably no better place to set up the darkest monsters than in WW2 but this time, humanity has upped the game, I’m rooting for them as I draw them! “ adds Tomás Aira.

The Secret Land #1 (of four) arrives June 9, 2021, at the comic stores everywhere. Emgård and Aira’s previous miniseries, The Whispering Dark is available now in collected trade paperback for $17.99.

COMPASS sets new comics adventure, history, and more for this summer

Image comics recently announced an all-new, five issue miniseries by acclaimed writer/creator Greg Rucka (The Old Guard), writers Robert Mackenzie and Dave Walker (Lazarus Sourcebook) with artist Justin Greenwood (Stumptown, The Fuse, The Last Siege) “to take readers on a breathless journey” in the forthcoming Compass, starting in June.

In Compass, readers meet Shahidah El-Amin, a main character who is many things: scholar, cartographer, astronomer, mathematician, scientist, explorer, adventurer, and—when need be—two-fisted fighter. Setting out from Baghdad’s legendary House of Wisdom during the Islamic Golden Age, Shahi’s quest brings her to 13th-century Britain…where the Welsh are whispered to possess the secret of eternal life. But Shahi’s not the only one after it…

“Compass was born out of our desire to tell a story of discovery without colonialism, of adventure without exploitation—something with the verve and energy of the pulps, but with a perspective that hadn’t been seen much in that genre,” said Mackenzie in a recent press release. “Getting there was its own process of discovery, and it’s been a joy to work with co-creators who have the talent to truly unearth Shahidah‘s quest. I’m so pleased to be able to share Compass with the world.”

“This story has been with Robert and I since our earliest days writing together. We wanted to step into a world that felt definably real—but still with the thrills of haunted ruins, ancient wonders, deadly rivals,” said Walker. “Justin found that world immediately and brought it to life, and Daniela, Simon and Greg have all added their inimitable touches to truly make it something special.”

Greenwood added: “Compass has just the kind of energy and fun that I’d been looking for in a new project. The sense of adventure is palpable in every issue and Shahi is one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever gotten to draw. Compass being a teen book is also a big bonus for me creatively, as my kids are finally getting old enough to read comics too. I’ve always enjoyed this type of pulpy action comic but being able to share it with my family is a new and gratifying experience. Very excited to share what this talented creative team has been cooking up.”

“I fell in love with Dave and Robert’s idea the moment they shared it with me. I love stories rooted in historical truth, in facts that have somehow been overlooked or—more frequently, I think—ignored in favor of another, more ‘traditional’ narrative,” said Rucka. “As much as Compass is an action-adventure with all of those wonderful pulp elements I adore, its engine is personal and intimate, ultimately about the friendship between two very impressive, very capable women from two very different backgrounds. As soon as I realized that, I knew Justin was the only artist who could deliver what Dave and Robert were after. I’m very proud to claim a very small part in making this book come to life.”

Compass #1)will be available at comic book shops and digitally across many digital platforms, on Wednesday, June 16th.

Here’s a four page preview in the meantime:

Thanks to Image Comics for the preview, visit imagecomics.com for more!.

The upcoming Little Nemo game, dreams Mega Ran to its soundtrack

The Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends new video game is currently on Kickstarter, based on the very groundbreaking early 1900s Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strips by American cartoonist Windsor McCay, has some new surprises for gaming fans, with an addition to its soundtrack.

But first, a little more about the game:

Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends follows the adventures of a 7-year-old boy in the world of his dreams. Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends finds Nemo and his friends fighting off the invasion of the Nightmare Fiends, who threaten the existence of Slumberland itself!

Featuring hand-drawn, keyframed artwork and animation, Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends combines the exquisite art and wild dreams of the original comic with reimagined characters and new adventures. The game is currently in early prototype form and is tentatively slated to release in 2022.

Pie for Breakfast Studios, an award-winning game studio blending play with the arts, and independent studio PxlPlz recently announced the soundtrack for Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends will be composed by Wayne Strange, a video game composer, vocalist, and orchestrator whose previous work includes score prep work on game soundtracks like Star Trek: The Video Game and God of War: Ascension, as well as arrangements for Materia Collective and Video Games Live.

The soundtrack will also include a guest track by the prolific hip-hop nerdcore artist Mega Ran, whose music blends education, hip-hop, and gaming. He has covered and remixed numerous classic game soundtracks, including Capcom’s Little Nemo the Dream Master (which is an awesome and very underrated classic of the NES 8-bit era).

Mega Ran’s recently released a memoir, Dream Master, that details his personal journey and is named after Little Nemo. Current plans for the soundtrack will see it exploring different genres of music, lending the game a lucid dream-like quality. Backers to the game’s Kickstarter can pre-order a copy of the soundtrack in both digital and CD formats.

Here is the Little Nemo track backed by the Little Nemo NES game music.

Further details of the game involve the control of Nemo and his 3 friends: the magic-wielding Princess of Slumberland, the mischievous clown Flip, and the agile royal guard Peony, an original character created for this game. Each character has different abilities that help them navigate the dangers in Slumberland. The game offers a system that lets players switch between characters quickly, allowing them to use different characters’ abilities in tandem for powerful combinations.

The music and animation look promising for Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends. Check out the Kickstarter and eventual release details at www.LittleNemoGame.com.

Lady Mechanika returns to comic stores and, and raise steampunk brows

Recently announced, the fan-favorite steampunk adventure series by comic artist and storyteller Joe Benitez, Lady Mechanika will return with in 2021 with a new publisher, Image Comics. The adventure begins anew with a special Free Comic Book Day 2021 edition of her first appearance for participating comic shops on Saturday, August 14. Then, a new Lady Mechanika story series launching this September, also from Image Comics.

Lady Mechanika follows the story of a young woman during the Victorian Era who is desperately in search of the secrets to her past—a past that left her with extraordinary, but unnatural, mechanical limbs. Lady Mechanika publishing run began in 2010, carried on with multiple mini series, all then self published by its creator Joe Benitez.

The entire backlist of Lady Mechanika will be made available from Image Comics too, beginning this August with the long anticipated reprints of the volume one trade paperback and hardcover editions. These reprints will join a total of seven trade paperbacks and five hardcover editions of the beloved series.

“I’m very excited that Lady Mechanika is moving to Image!” said Benitez in a recent press release from Image Comics. “We hope this move will provide an opportunity to share the series with a new, wider audience, and also give us more time to focus on our creative strengths while letting the experts at Image handle publishing and marketing. We have so many stories to tell, hopefully this will help us get more of them out faster. The next story arc we’re calling ‘The Monster of the Ministry of Hell-th’ will deal with a piece of Lady Mechanika’s haunted past. Check out a preview of the new book in our FCBD issue!”

Eric Stephenson, Publisher & Chief Creative Officer at Image Comics also added: “We’re pleased to welcome Joe back to Image. Joe got his start at Image, as part of Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow Productions, and he has grown into a phenomenal talent over the years. What he has built for himself with Lady Mechanika is truly impressive, and it’s exciting to be part of what comes next for this incredible series.”

The FCBD 2021 edition of Lady Mechanika will include the stand-alone short story “The Demon of Satan’s Alley,” which first introduced Lady Mechanika and her steampunk world (Lady Mechanika #0)—plus a preview of “The Monster of the Ministry of Hell-th,” the newest story by series creator Joe Benitez which will debut this year at Image Comics.

Contact your local FCBD participating comic shop to learn more about these exciting freebies and more and don’t miss out on the opportunity to participate in FCBD 2021 on Saturday, August 14!

Short Animated Film Find: Burn Out

Burn Out

  • Director, writer, animator: Cécile Carre
  • Published: 2017 online and at multiple short film festivals

Synopsis: S​tella,​ ​a​ ​space​ ​mechanician,​ ​has​ ​broken​ ​down​ ​and​ ​ended​ ​on​ ​a​ ​desert​ ​planet.​ ​While​ ​she​ ​is​ ​in​ ​despair,​ ​a​ ​little​ ​girl appears​ ​out​ ​of​ ​nowhere.​ ​Following​ ​the​ ​child​ ​into​ ​a​ ​tunnel,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​depths​ ​of​ ​the​ ​planet,​ ​she​ ​discovers​ ​a​ ​big​ ​cave​ ​full​ ​of objects​ ​that​ ​belonged​ ​to​ ​her,​ ​reminding​ ​her​ ​the​ ​dreams​ ​she​ ​has​ ​left​ ​behind.

Personal Thoughts:

This full film is short, but says much on the current human condition, how many of us feel deep inside yearning for more. We feel trapped, bound to duty, ever-dreaming, never-quite reaching. There is a struggle that I feel in our protagonists dilemma. But, then a child’s voice brings us forward.

We figure it out, an imagination in the story and from the storyteller, clueing us on the real dilemma. Not the need to fix a spaceship but to fix the pilot and get back on real course. The one she dreamed of as a child, and eventually gave up on. The curiosity, imagination, and drive to return to that childlike wonder and push to something better, is what brings our pilot back to the stars. But not so much to work, but to something new and daring.

“I am afraid to give up my dreams when I grow up”.

That’s a great line, for those who indulge in their desire to explore, travel, see new sights should push that priority above simple mundane duties of getting by. I love the message here.

I also love the animation. Very fluid character movement with an awesome use of space, colors, shapes, taking us viewers away for about 4 minutes, and then beyond for what our memory captures. I love every second. The music also fits.

Director, animator Cécile Carre’s artistic style inspires and amazes. She has art prints you can buy at www.inprnt.com/gallery/carrececile. Check them out!

Creator Spotlight Interview: Daniel Coady: indie game developer, creator, artist, dstnce runner

Meet Daniel Coady, a creative design artist and storyteller from Melbourne, Australia, also a pro full stack developer into computing, graphics and games programming, and more. They are continuously working on multiple side projects while seeking new challenges.

Recently, Daniel Coady released their first game dstnce, a indie game for PC’s via Steam and Itch. At a glance, dstnce can easily be judged for something very simple and goggly cute. But throughout, is a deeper surreal experience, and a test of resilience in a seemingly lighthearted world that centers around isolated, limited small environment that is quite familiar to situations many face in our ongoing Covid global pandemic. Here, is a bit more..

Here is a trailer…

After getting to know them through a series of fun game streams, we had asked Daniel Coady about creating and releasing dstnce, the process of game development, and the fine art of creativity. The answers were insightful, as we learned more in our interview below…

Hello Daniel, tell us a little bit about yourself and your game development inspirations…

I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, be it in my early years when I tried to make a crappy little laptop I picked up for $20 run faster, by installing Ubuntu (this was back when it was still using Unity DE, so my fellow Linux users probably understand how well that went down (haha) or right now where in my spare time I like to learn about cool new tech and play around with emulation dev. So, it’s fair to say that I’ve got come inclination towards technology, specifically programming. As well as this though I always found it to be incredibly important to be able to broaden my horizons so that I’m not just always working on computers. This lead to me to pursue hobbies such as photography, 3D modelling/animation, skateboarding, and music.

So, rewind back to high school for me, back when I used to play way more games than I do now. I had a hand-me-down Xbox 360 which was pretty run down but still functioning, and I also had a shared family PC that while pretty not great by even the standards back then did function… mostly. Around this time I also got my first job so I had all this money, and in turn freedom, to explore what games had to offer. This is when I discovered the likes of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Thomas Was Alone, and Bastion. These games really made me feel things in a way that nothing else did, like it was all genuinely powerful and excellent media. Up until this point I had dabbled in game dev before (started making tiny dungeon crawlers in GameMaker way back when I was like… 8-9 or something) but never thought much of doing it “for real”. This changed everything for me though and I set my sights pretty hardcore on becoming a professional game developer.

So, it was settled, and near the end of high school, I decided to drop out to study game dev. Quite frankly, it didn’t go too well. I didn’t learn much in the way of game dev outside of how to use Blender (which has actually come in handy a fair few times), so most of my time was spent trying to find resources online to teach myself. I soon found a Discord server which at the time was called TairaGames Dev Squad (a server for a YouTuber called TairaGames, also on Discord) and is now called Game Dev 101, and I used it extensively to learn about game dev from others as well as share my knowledge of game dev. Fast forward to now, I’ve spent roughly 3 years in computer science and am about to enter my fourth and final year. I’ve been teaching myself game dev while learning as much as I can from others who are far smarter than me.

That brings us to dstnce, a very different game than what many would expect, which feels abstract in its execution. What were your inspirations in the creation process?

It’s kinda hard to nail down all the inspirations that make up dstnce since it truly is inspired by the various bits of art and experiences I’ve had in my lifetime. There’s a few things of note however which have fairly large, and sometimes glaringly obvious, inspirations upon my game:

Make Yourself At Home – This was a jam game a couple mates of mine, Cat Flynn and Cinder Foster-Smith, made many moons ago now. The entire aesthetic of the game was constructed using vector graphics drawn in Inkscape which I found to be fairly distinct and friendly in tone, matching a part of the vibe I was looking for. Using MYAH! as a reference point, I started off by replicating the art and then tweaking it to get the more clean, almost clinical aesthetic you see in dstnce.

The Rhapsody Tapes – One of my all time favourite albums by my favourite band: Ocean Grove. In general, OG really push a message of being yourself and make it explicit that their music has no right or wrong interpretation. I love this so much, the idea of “the death of the author”, because to me art ceases to be the artist’s meaning and instead is now open to how one perceives it. Everyone comes from different walks of life, experiencing different things which shapes their perspective. Because of this, we as creators should respect that. This is why there is no explicit meaning to dstnce — the game is what you make of it.

The COVID-19 Lockdown – I mean, it’s pretty obvious given the current context. dstnce is heavily inspired by my own experiences during the lockdown and just general feelings I have which have been exacerbated by the whole situation at hand. This said, and only time will tell if this is true, I wanted to create something that is more timeless than just a game based on lockdown. There’s loads of art coming out currently that relates directly to lockdown which is great, but I question how much of it will stand the test of time. Sure it may become an interesting time capsule, some insight for future generations to look upon and understand how lockdown shaped us, but to me dstnce is something more. For me, it also touches upon various topics of abandonment, isolation, and hopelessness that may be found in day-to-day life outside of COVID, and I hope that with the power of retrospect this will continue to be the case for myself and others.

What were the biggest challenges in developing and releasing dstnce for release on Steam?

Oh man, so much. I knew getting a game onto a storefront would be a big ordeal, but it turns out it was even more complicated than I thought. I won’t go into great detail on the process cause it’s pretty boring, but the one thing I will say I wish I did was offer myself more time to sort it out. I had the foresight to fix up the legal stuff at the start when signing up to be a Steamworks Developer, but then I put off actually sorting out the store page and such for dstnce until it was completed. So come the end of development, I found out quickly that setting up the store page and build shenanigans would take a long time. So the game was actually completed roughly 3 weeks before it dropped, with one week spent going back and forth with Valve to get approval for my store page and two weeks being the mandatory waiting period between the storefront going up as “coming soon” and the game actually going live. So yeah, anyone reading this who plans to get their game onto Steam: sort out your store page and do it early. It can be a lot more pain than you may initially think.

Dstnce has parallels with the current lockdowns and quarantines that many of us are feeling. Has developing dstnce affected your dealings with the ongoing pandemic?

Kinda, yeah. It’s actually a recurring theme for me to create things when I am feeling my worst. I find art in general to be a great outlet for me, both to get my feelings “down on paper”, but also so that I can explore where I’m at and get a bit of a better sense of how I’m feeling, and in turn act upon those feelings. In regards to dstnce I think the thing it’s helped me come to terms with most is that these feelings I have aren’t exclusive to me. A lot of folks who have played dstnce and sent me their experiences with it have expressed how they’ve connected with it, and a lot of them relate to the same things that I do. It’s helped me feel less alone in what otherwise might feel like isolating feelings that others don’t understand. Also, it was really nice to see that lots of people decided to interpret things in a positive light 🙂 I hope that positivity spreads.

Are there any plans in new game development beyond dstnce?

Yeah, actually! Almost immediately after completing dstnce I started design work on a new game. I don’t like talking too much on what’s next cause, well, I don’t actually know if this is what truly will be next. What does and doesn’t get completed is totally up in the air so I don’t talk about my projects heaps until they’re well past the pre-prod stage. What I will say though is no matter what I do next, I have zero intention to stagnate. I want to branch out and explore my capabilities to design and create truly wonderful experiences for people to play. This does mean there will not be a dstnce 2, and in fact that I doubt many future games will mirror dstnce all that much. I don’t wanna become a one trick pony, so I’m gonna continue exploring and expanding my horizons.

Thank you for your time, as we encourage all to check out dstnce currently available directly on Steam and Itch.. Also follow Daniel Coady on Twitter @fakemuso, on Itch and their own site at pondo.dev.

A strange look back at the obscure Black superheroes of the Golden Age

I love comic books, and its long, strange history through its mainstream American publishing. Imperfect, by way of how Black superheroes have developed over the many decades, but in an awesome, positive direction. I am a reader of color, of mixed race complexation, yet often identified as Black because of my darker skin tones and facial features. Yet, I haven’t thought much of my representation throughout my many years of reading. I was more concerned with inclusiveness, being part of the grander designs of those comic book multiverses, and that is enough.

Yet, I ponder over some often said comments on the arguable statement of Marvel’s Black Panther, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, being our first mainstream Black fictional superhero. This is certainly believed, since the recent popular and award-winning Marvel movie brought much attention to this previously mid-tier character of comics. It’s probably true, before I research anything.

When we often think Americanized super-heroes of a top-ten tier, we think the most prominent in this modern age – Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Captain America, Wolverine, Hulk. Most of these, have long standing roots dating back through decades of comic book history. All of these have primarily Caucasian appearances, set to their most known popular incarnations.

Since then, we have Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Cyborg, Storm (X-Men), Falcon, Luke Cage, Static Shock, Blade, Black Lightning, and more. All Black and proud, part of a building legacy. And it’s great that we get representation out there for comic readers, especially for those very young and discovering comics for the first time.

In my early years, I discovered my first Black super-hero in the comic pages of 1980s run of The New Teen Titans written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. He was part of a very super-team where all seemed equal, together, a group of young friends with personal problems and gripes, yet also helping to save their city, planet, universe, and beyond. Part of that team, was Victor Stone, better known as Cyborg – a young African America man who became part machine, resulting from a tragic accident. With that, the powers and strength of an enhanced body, and he can a shoot powerful, sonic energy blast from his arm cannon. Cyborg was awesome, and still is. So, he is my first mainstream Black superhero. Storm of the X-Men follows a close second.

Though my readings and early obsessions with big comic book crossover melodramas, especially Crisis on Infinite Earths, Secret Wars, Infinity Gauntlet – I would learn of many more black superheroes. I would read many more comic titles from 25 cents bins, and become obsessed with sourcebooks like DC’s Who’s Who, and Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe. Many more of mine favorites include the Black Racer, Bronze Tiger, Vixen, Bishop, Green Lantern (Jon Stewart), and more

So for this Black history month, I looked back to this recent claim that Black Panther was the first black superhero. Black Panther appeared in Fantastic Four #52, released in 1966 as an African king from the fictional land of Wakanda. He would not be well-known for a while in the mainstream until the recent movie. And, he was far from any top favorite super-heroes as I enjoyed those closer to the X-Men and DC Teen Titans more. I liked the costume, and I like panthers, and that was it. I never realized how significant T’Challa really was, until later on as I enjoyed critically acclaimed runs by Christopher Priest, Don McGregor, Reginald Hudlin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. He also showed up in various cartoons, toy shelves, video and board games in the over the last two decades.

Yet, what legacy for Black superheroes, is known before the arrival of our king of Wakanda? Before 1966, to the Golden era of comics of the 1930s to 1950s?

So, I dug through the awesome archive of human history that is our Internet and its many searchable resources. I also picked through some comics history on my shelf including the highly recommended recent book, Invisible Men, The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books, by Ken Quattro. Here are my compiled findings.

The first Black superhero to hit the niche pop culture of early comic books appeared first in 1934 in the Mandrake the Magician. daily newspaper strips. Lothar is Mandrake’s best friend and crimefighting companion, also an African prince of the “Seven Nations” a fictional league of African jungle tribes. His super power was his mighty strength, stamina, and invulnerability to any weapons, and magic. his early appearances had him featured as a servant with poor English skills. His clothing choice was typical of such depictions of a mighty, yet very foreign African man at the time.

Well, Lothar seemed also a bit stereotypical of the African muscleman. manservant (possibly slave as well). Yet, that was far more acceptable and dignified than racist depictions of Blacks in comics of that time. Among the most dubious was “Whitewash” Jones, a young, very minstrelized patriot who joined Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty in pages of Young Allies, published by Timely Comics in the 1940s (later Atlas Comics, then reborn as Marvel Comics). I don’t count him, or Ebony White (The Spirit, by Will Eisner), or Steamboat (Fawcett’s Captain Marvel series), or any awful racist depictions of the era. They don’t inspire, and held back the potential for better Black superheroes in a time where real life African Americans fought proudly yet segregated, throughout World War II.

I did a bit more digging and found the Red Mask featured in the pages of Best Comics, in 1939 which only lasted four issues, and very short printed. Unlike Lothar, the Red Mark stood alone, featured in his own stories. He wore a simple red mask, and fought bad guys. Weirdly, his skin color changed from cover to cover, and in the pages as well. But, for sure he was an African (edit: correction, not African but likely a Pacific Islander) chief who masqueraded as a heroic masked fighter. Not much else is known.

But then, a real surprise came in 1947 with an obscurity, All Negro Comics – a single-issue, small-press American comic book published, written and drawn solely by African-American writers and artists.

Inside this special issue were multiple stories including “Ace Harlem” was an African-American police detective. The featured superhero was Lion Man, the first Black hero created by a Black man (Geo. J. Evans Jr.). He was “a college-educated African American sent by the United Nations on a mission to a uranium deposit on Africa’s Gold Coast, where he adopted the mischievous orphan Bubba.” Though his character costume was jungle-tribal style attire, it meant to more to inspire black American pride in their African heritage.

Yet, still a jungle-themed man, but with noble intentions at least.

Eventually came Jungle Tales #1-7, released circa 1954 featuring Waku of the Bantu, another African prince protagonist hero who battled sometimes battled supernatural foes. His serialization was part of an anthology of tales published by Atlas Comics (previously Timely Comics, and then soon rebranded as Marvel Comics). Waku was a more developed hero who favored non-violent solutions, yet skilled at martial combat, by writer Don Rico and artist Ogden Whitney. The comic art and storytelling was high quality…

And that pretty much all, ushering in a new Silver Age of comic books to come with the rise of Marvel Comics and the evolution of DC Comics. The Black Panther of Marvel Comics would arrive, though still carrying on the jungle royalty archetype. At least T’Challa wasn’t restricted to a loincloth, and hailed from a nation that was more technologically advanced, yet remained hidden and low-key to prevent the curiosity of outsiders.

The 1970s would play up a new type of African American hero, the urban tough city streets defender with the likes of Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Green Lantern (Jon Stewart), Black Goliath, Misty Knight; major players of the Blaxploitation era. Black Vulcan of the Super Friends TV cartoon, I think, was the first Black superhero to hit the mainstream beyond comic books.

Soon after, many more including the New Teen Titan’s Cyborg, where I jumped in. The 90s brought so many more Black superheroes of all types, including African princes to jump back in. Some would get an upgrade and felt more fitting to our modern era. Even Mandrake’s Lothar developed into more in his character reboot alongside Mandrake in the Defenders of Earth animated cartoon and comics. He was still a loyal bodyguard, but described not as an African prince. According to his action figure package lore, he is a “Ninja from the Caribbean.”

So yes, African American and Black superheroes in general share a strange yet developed tradition, which may not have had the best beginnings, but will remain and continue to represent, and be admired and inspire for centuries to come.

Unreal’s MetaHuman Creator takes digital character-making to its next gen level

Epic Games recently announced MetaHuman Creator, a new software tool based off its Unreal Engine. This new tool can craft hyper realistic faces and next gen body movements and facial animations. For now, it’s in its development phase, and will be open for testing later through 2021.

It’s very detailed, and promises much for potential users…

Epic details much more from a recent news release:

MetaHuman Creator is a cloud-streamed app designed to take real-time digital human creation from weeks or months to less than an hour, without compromising on quality. It works by drawing from an ever-growing library of variants of human appearance and motion, and enabling you to create convincing new characters through intuitive workflows that let you sculpt and craft the result you want. As you make adjustments, MetaHuman Creator blends between actual examples in the library in a plausible, data-constrained way. You can choose a starting point by selecting a number of preset faces to contribute to your human from the diverse range in the database. 

You can select from around 30 hair styles that use Unreal Engine’s strand-based hair, or hair cards for lower-end platforms. There’s also a set of example clothing to choose from, as well as 18 differently proportioned body types. When you’re happy with your human, you can download the asset via Quixel Bridge, fully rigged and ready for animation and motion capture in Unreal Engine, and complete with LODs. You’ll also get the source data in the form of a Maya file, including meshes, skeleton, facial rig, animation controls, and materials.Once you have your asset, you can animate it using performance capture tools—you can use Unreal Engine’s Live Link Face iOS app, and we’re also currently working with vendors on providing support for ARKitDI4DDigital DomainDynamixyzFacewareJALISpeech Graphics, and Cubic Motion solutions—or keyframe it manually. Animations created for one MetaHuman will run on any other MetaHuman, enabling you to reuse work across projects.

So overall, very interesting with high potential for digital artists and developers of the Unreal Engine for games and animation projects. Anyone can delve in more with news updates (and possible beta-testing), and samples (see video below) to use with the latest Unreal update at unrealengine.com.