Comics Reading Review: Steam Man #1

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Steam Man (1 of #5)

  • Writer: Joe R. Lansdale, Mark Alan Miller
  • Artist: Piotr Kowalski
  • Published by: Dark Horse
  • Pages: 32, Publish Date: October 21, 2015, Price: $3.99
  • Notes: Monthly series, First issue is double-sized

Synopsis: 

“The Old West, but not as we know it. Giant steam-powered robots are created to take down invading Martians and armies of killer albino apes in an all-out brawl. The Steam Man, a giant metal man operated by a team of monster hunters, seems to have the town protected and the West under control, until a crazed and powerful vampire comes to town to bring forth the apocalypse! Cowritten by Joe R. Lansdale (Cold in July) and beautifully illustrated by Piotr Kowalski (Sex). “

Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):

Steam Man is a new classic for the modern man, who enjoys a bit of fun and ridiculousness.

Not an original concept, is this idea of a giant mechanical automation powered by ordinary men. Such the idea is mastered in modern days through action dramatic form via our Power Rangers, Gundams, and mostly other fictional concepts of Japanese origins. But here, we have something of a bit more vintage throwback , and seemingly all-American (and not be confused with the Steampunk genre). The Steam Man walks his own way, and there is beauty in every step.

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Here, we look into an alternate time period; a time back to the near end of Frontier Age, moving into an Industrial Age. Dangers arise as a new War of the Worlds develops. Strange otherworldly creatures in their own giant machines wreak havoc, and the Steam Man defends. We also have horror elements, with other evil elements coming in. In a world gone mad, it is inspiring for a giant defender guided by ordinary men to do their best, fueled by hope and courage.

The crew of the Steam Man provides an interesting mix of manly men, of different backgrounds and talents. I hope for expansion among them in character development as the story continues; as I see hints of this within the first issue. Otherwise, I see character development potential especially in our prime protagonist and captain of the Steam Man, whose motive is the greatest of all in guiding the Steam Man (revenge!). That never gets old, in any Age.

 

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But for some strange reason, we have a rush of profanity feeling a bit out-of-place. Could such speech fit for the time?. For me, I feel such words are quite distracting. Still, I suppose it is the writer’s choice and I can excuse it all for the sake of campiness.

The aesthetics are pleasing, with the pencils and colors working together to tell this tale the way it was meant; with excitement and fury in the details and tone. Also included; lots of action, with sudden bloodletting and visual gore throughout. The colors are also outstanding with darker earth tones all around, with the right splashes of red and fire yellow when necessary. The shadings and use of unearthly lights adds an unsettling atmosphere, setting the perfect style for this tale to be told.

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The world of the Steam Man is scary yet inviting to those courageous enough in their reading picks, to often try new things. The first issue walks with a strong start, with plenty of coal in its belly. That being said, I look forward to the rest of this limited series, with hopes that this great concept will continue long after. We shall see. But for now, I stand with The Steam Man.

– Orion T

SW Interviews Empowered comics writer/artist Adam Warren

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Comics writer/artist creative Adam Warren has entertained readers for over two decades with a signature style and wit.

Older school fans may know him from his work with Dirty Pair (Eclipse, Dark Horse publishers), and Gen-13. Since then, Warren produced his style through various comics, often with anime/manga influences combined with humorous tones, while poking fun on modern sexism in comics art. Currently through Dark Horse Publishing, Warren brings us the Empowered superheroine..

Warren’s Empowered series remains his most ambitious creative work to date, released in thick medium-sized trade paperback sized volumes. The pages within showcase the life of the self-conscious superheroine Empowered, whose powers come at the price of shrinking costume and repeat captivity. Empowered is full of action, humor, and fun.

I met with Adam Warren while he was sketching at the Udon Entertainment booth, during the 2015 San Diego Comic Con. We had a chat which led to a revealing look at his Empowered series, and more. The details of this conversation follows:

Hello Adam. First off, it’s awesome to meet you here at the Udon booth here at Comic Con, but now I am curious as to what you have going on with this company…

Warren: Off and on, I have done assorted Street Fighter based work for my friends at Udon. I actually wrote a little something for them in an upcoming project that I am not sure has been announced yet. But, it was a great deal of fun. I have always loved the Street Fighter universe, where I enjoy playing around. It’s always refreshing to do something for my friends at Udon.

So, who is your favorite Street Fighter character?

Warren: That would be Cammy!

Cammy Sketch

Aw yeah!

On to your current Empowered comic book series.. These books are a lot of fun and chock full of campy good times. Where does that energy and inspiration comes from?

Warren: That’s a tough one. It’s a weirdly kind of based on life experiences and things that kind of happened to people I know, with conversations I have had in real life. It’s not obvious, because I never would never do autobiographical stuff in a million years. But, a lot of it is things that I have seen happen, that sort of inspired me to think how friends of mine would react to this kind of thing.

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Emp is partially based on several different women I have known, who kind of dealt with insecurities but overcome them with sheer force of will. It’s a kind of a combo of real life stuff and things I see or read about that, which would be kind of fun to address. The good thing about Empowered is that I can do whatever I want with it. I am not locked into a limited page count or I can take tangents and fun story variants without worrying how it fits into an overarching stream of continuity. Its openness and flexibility that lends itself to whatever I think is appropriate in a story.

That kind answers my second question on Emp. On, if she was directly based on anyone you may know..

Warren: I wouldn’t say directly. When I was doing Magical Drama Queen Roxy, I interviews a couple of friends of mine and I would come up with their perceptions and break out with my own mold of thinking of what a younger female character would do, and Emp is sort of derived from a lot of that work and theories I had when working on Gen-13. In a way, she is sort of an unholy combination of Roxy and Caitlin from Gen-13; a sort of the good girl Caitlin girl crossed with the insecurities of Roxy. In an interesting sort of a way she is that combination of the two.

Your Gen-13 work was awesome back in the day. I loved the hell out of that.

Warren: Thank you very much.

So. you may have you have heard about the recent controversy on that Spider-Woman cover of Marvel Comics with artist Milo Manara. I would love to hear your thoughts on that..

Warren: Definitely. It is a very different audience for us back in the day. I don’t know really..It’s one of those things I should like with the flexibility of Empowered to deal with some of the issues of objectification in its various forms.

We can just leave it at that.

Warren: Yeah, I usually stay the hell out of controversies when they grow online. But, I think that with Empowered, I heard we have a substantial female readership that seems to relate to the characters. I like to hope that I do the best I can to make Emp not nothing but an object. I see her as a human being. I don’t feel it’s that difficult to stay away and not go over the line. But your lines may vary.

But, I do feel there is a bit of meta commentary on that subject with Empowered..

Warren: Yeah, I feel the meta commentary and a semi-deconstruction of varied weird super-heroine tropes that are out there..though we actually traffic in the tropes and say at the time that some people have issues with. But we had pretty good response and really pleased despite the off-putting elements that Empowered is pretty well received by a female readership. I’m happy about that and if I knew it was going to be a continuing series, there would have been aspects I would play down from the very beginning..

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It actually evolved from a bunch of damsels in distress commissions during a time when my career was effectively dead. So, I got bored with that and it got turned into a real comic on what I was thinking on what goes through the mind and what someone has to put up with this crap that super-heroines have to deal with. It’s kind of where the whole series comes from. As it would relate to how someone in that position would think. The entire series derives from that, and it sort of took on a life of its own. I feel it’s kind of humanizing the sort of C-list superheroine…I like to hope.

I think so. Now, I wondering what favorite female characters might have influenced your style on the female form. I have some guesses, and wondering if they match..

Warren: When I was a kid. I didn’t actually care for the comics but was a big Wonder Woman fan from the TV show more than anything else. But, DC Comics was rather boring in the 70s and Marvel was much more exciting.

Hmm…She Hulk?

Warren: Oh yeah..And back in the day, Shanna the She Devil, of which I am actually drawing right now (see pic below). I was reading some of that back in the day. But, there wasn’t a ton of super-heroines coming out in Marvel.

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Ah, I see. Though, I was thinking of Cutey Honey and anime women of that classic era of “Japanimation..”

Warren: I wasn’t thinking anime or manga, until I was a grown-up. I didn’t grow up with any of that stuff. My first exposure to the Dirty Pair wasn’t until I was 18 or so. Clearly the thing with the heroines in manga and anime were much more important and influential to me than American comics ever were, since that point.

Dirty Pair was your first work, right?

Warren: Oh yeah. I was so taken with the characters that I thought they would make a great American comic, and I went lively off trying to develop that.

I loved that work. So, with Empowered: Volume 9 coming out and to those dedicated fans out there, could you share a bit on what to expect in your latest installment?

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Warren: Yes! Volume 9 deals with the the fact due to that Emp is able to access a super alien arsenal. You don’t need to read volume 8 to follow it. But in that aftermath, she is now the literally the most dangerous human on the planet, because of her access to the super weapons. So, in volume 9, essentially all the major super villains in the Empowered universe are coming after her, and she is going to have to outfight and outwit and outthink and outstrategize pretty much all the major super-villains. So, it’s her alone against an endless sea of super-villains wanting to exploit her for access. It’s focusing on her more in than the last couple with Volumes 7 and 8 focused on Ninjette and Sister Spooky. Volume 9 is very much Emp-centric.

So, a silly question for my curiosity. Let’s say somewhere out there a studio with millions of Disney dollars decides to produce a live action Emp movie that could work. Who would you picture as perfect to play Emp? And have you ever thought about this?

Warren: I haven’t actually. I am trying to think..hmm, actually…that’s not entirely true. I think her name is Maika Monroe.. She was the star of It Follows, a recent indie horror flick. She would make a great Emp, actually.

Ah! With Emp or otherwise, are there any other future projects from you in the works?

Warren: After Empowered volume 9 comes out, I am working on a yet unannounced Empowered one shot entirely by me, and I am lining up some other Emp guest artists on some projects. And I am kind of nosing around some writing-only jobs, that I will hopefully pitch to Image. And, I got some stuff in the pipeline I can’t really talk about but with negotiating possible an interesting Empowered crossover..

Oh?

Warren: But, I can’t really talk about.

Hmm. Well, for my final question.. do you have a message to fans, longtime, and potential new fans of Empowered?

Warren: Thanks for every much for the support over the years, as my career has been extraordinarily rocky, but very pleasing too. We got to shows and run into people that were long time fans or new fans who support the work. I feel very honored, and really inspiring to me. I am very glad people appreciate the work..

And thank you, Adam Warren!

Empowered: Volume #9, is out now on the shelves of better retail bookstores and comic stores everywhere, from Dark Horse Publishing. Earlier volumes are also available through retail book outlets stores, and via online apps that carry current Dark Horse titles.

– Orion T

Exclusive Interview – Tim Seeley – The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

STRANGER WORLDS INTERVIEW:

Writer Tim Seeley, of the Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (now on shelves from Dark Horse Comics).

By the Power of Grayskull..

Those words forever echo in the minds through fandom, for over three decades. These words of Prince Adam would begin the transformation from mild-mannered prince of Eternia into the muscle-bound hero, He-Man. Now he and and the Masters of the Universe have an acclaimed 320-page full-color book detailing the art, history, and fantastic insight into this ever-expanding iconic franchise.

The hardcover book was made possible through the dedicated work of writer/artist Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash, G.I. Joe vs. Transformers), and his brother Steve Seeley. Together, they assembled most of the content and notations for this tribute.

At the 2015 San Diego Comic Con, I met Tim Seeley as we discussed The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. We also chatted a bit about his favorite He-Man toys and thoughts on this Eternian pop-culture powerhouse..

From your perspective, tell us about the Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe book, and how you got involved?

Tim Seeley: I’ve worked for Dark Horse for a number of years, on some horror comics, and they got the deal with Mattel to do the mini-comics that were packed with the figures. They knew I was a big fan of MOTU as I talked to my editors and they were sick of me hearing and talking about it,…so when the possibility came up do to an art book, they asked me if I can do it. I was a little busy at the time but I wasn’t going to turn it down. So, what if I work on this with my brother (Steve), who is also an artist and a writer. He and I can get together and be like when we were kids playing with He-Man toys, except we would be writing a book about the art.

So, we got together. Mattel had a bunch of art for us to choose from and they also asked us if there was anything that we thought should be in the book. We picked up a bunch of art and sent it to them. With a group of fans, who curated and preserved MOTU art, called the Power and Honor Foundation and we worked with them to get some of the art. They helped us write some of the sections of the book that were there areas of expertise and in the end we put together this amazing collection of MOTU art covering the toys, the packaging, the cartoon, the comics, the movie, the magazine, and some weird products and cool into one big, massive tome.

Tell us about your own connection to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. How long you have been a fan?

Tim Seeley: So, I grew up in the country. I didn’t have a lot of neighbors when I was a kid. When I was five years old, my grandma got me the He-Man and Battle Cat set. For some reason it clicked with me on the box art, with a sort of lava spewing out of a volcano and some barbarian dude with a giant tiger, and I liked tigers as a kid. And it was the perfect thing for me, and I begged my parents to buy me the toys. The comic that came with the toy was the first comic I ever read and loved it so many times it just fell apart and it put me on the path of comics after that. The cartoon came about 6 months after I got that toy..and it was such a part of me and my brothers playtime. As we were little kids in the country with not a lot of neighbor kids, the collecting of the MOTU of the toys and playing with them, the comics, and cartoon where a huge part of our childhood.

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When I was 13 as 13-year-olds are, I sold my MOTU toys at a rummage sale for $30, all of them. I used the money so I can hang out with my friends at a Brewers game or something. As a 20-year-old I realized, o-crap I miss my He-Man guys! So at 20, I started to collect them again. Between 20-35 years I collected the figures. I had mostly everything except for some European exclusives. But, I have lots of He-Man guys, lots of knock-offs, almost all the She-Ra figures, and that became my passion. I decided I needed a hobby, as He-Man became my hobby.

Which MOTU figures are your personal favorites?

Tim Seeley: Teela is my favorite. As I a kid, I had weird crush on that figure. And then, Faker, the blue He-Man. For some reason on the color scheme of that toy, me and my brother just loved it. To this day we had this weird affection for that combination of orange and blue..just from that toy. Dragon Blast Skeletor, as a kid I loved with the squirting. Sy-Clone was also a favorite as a kid..really cool. The thing is when we were kids, as my parents were nice and bought us all these toys. What we would do is we would try and split them up into factions. We would try for the entire line, but with three brothers. For example, I get King Hiss, you get Tongue Lasher, you get Rattler, and cover all the Snake Men this way. That was a big deal in my house.

In putting together this book, was there anything in particular that surprised or found especially interesting you in discovery?

Tim Seeley: Well, as me and my brother discovered the internet in 1996 or whatever..we already begun collecting information for years..with pictures, anything we could find, we have putting on our discs and hard drives for the past 15-20 years almost. So most of the you’re stuff familiar with, a lot of it on the account of the popular website He-Man.org run by Val Staples, and Emiliano Santalucia who runs the Power and Honor Foundation..we knew a lot of stuff from that. Mostly the fun things we have not seen that were surprises to us were the original marking documents that Mattel had done and they had. It was really entertaining to see how they came up with the boys toy line, and what they thought would make a good boys toy line, which was pretty amazing.

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And also, a segment of the MOTU movie script which was really violent, and had all these notes from the executives that was like..no, it’s a kids show, no severed heads.” We love that stuff and it was something we never seen and that was something Mattel had.. and it was great to just see the screenwriters trying to get away with anything they could and Mattel would be like no, we need to sell these to 10-year-olds..not give them terrible nightmares.

Is any of that in book?

Tim Seeley: Oh yeah, those pages are in the book..the original marking documents and the script page.

Yes! Are there any favorite artists of He-Man your favorite in this book, past and present?

Tim Seeley:  Earl Norem is my favorite past Universe artist. Earl Norem did all the posters that came with the magazine, he recently passed away but he had a long career in illustration. When he took on He-Man he became one of the defining artists on it. William George was also the painter and did a lot of the original packaging art, beautiful stuff. Whenever I saw He-Man, it was his packaging art. Alfredo Alcala drew the original mini-comics, continued to draw some of the main comics, an amazing artist who worked on Conan, was from the Philippines. With fantastic stuff, beautiful art; he really defined what I choose as my art style to this day.

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After so many decades of He-Man being a part of pop culture, what is about He-Man and the world of Eternia do you feel kept such a large fan base for so long?

Tim Seeley: My theory is that is that the toys came first. It was all about the toys, and the selling of the toys and the toys looked cool. They didn’t need a justification. This guy is called Blast Attack and he blows apart, there ya go..that’s the story. And over time, people added to the mythos and there is different conflicted origins for the characters. But the thing is the toys are so flexible that you can add your own story to it. You can choose what to go with one story, any iteration with them could be a different take on the characters.. It’s the flexibility of the figures that I think is very inviting to fans. You can have a favorite character because they are cool. In your head they can have a different story that was in the mini-comic, or the cartoon, or in the DC comic, it didn’t matter.  Zodac the Cosmic Enforcer.. he was a bad guy in some iterations. He was a watcher in the distance for some. It didn’t matter. He just looked cool. So, I think that idea allowed MOTU to be flexible, to able to change to fit and fit the audience. Also, to be very inviting and allow the audience to come in and add their own tale to it.

So what’s next from Eternia for you? Will there be more MOTU projects for you coming?

Tim Seeley: Dark horse is doing an edition, collecting all the mini-comics (from the toys) with the entire history of the Masters of the Universe, which is about 1000 pages. It comes out in November. I have an interviews in that, as I am working on it. It is a great book, with Val Staples (He-Man.org) who is putting that together..beautiful.

For the future, I got to do my Masters of the Universe thing. I was certainly well to write for it at some point with part of my interaction of this as a fan. I feel good about not circumposing my will on it. But if a comic came up, I would certainly like to do a cover or draw an issue. I’m just happy I got to do this art book, and the mini-comics. Now I get to watch the next generation enjoy the Masters of the Universe like I did.

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is out in stores now in hardcover (released in mid-spring) Look for it at all the great comic book shops and retail book stores in your area or online.

– Orion T, (personal favorite MOTU toys are Cy-Clone, Modulok, Tongue-Lasher and Moss-Man.)

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Paul Cornell, Tony Parker – THIS DAMNED BAND comic series

STRANGER WORLDS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:

Writer Paul Cornell and Artist Tony Parker, on their new comic book mini-series, This Damned Band (starting this August from Dark Horse Comics).

Tony Parker, Paul Cornell

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(Tony Parker, Paul Cornell)

We had fun at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con in chatting with Paul Cornell; award-winning writer of comics, novels, short stories and television screenplays (his Doctor Who episodes “Family of Blood/Human Nature” and “Father’s Day” being among my personal favorites).

To my surprise and an awesome bonus, we were joined by Eisner-nominated artist, Tony Parker. Parker has published work with pretty much all the main comic book publishers over the recent years including Marvel, DC, IDW, Image, IDW, Boom!, Dark Horse.

And now, they unite to form this dark comedy mini-series published by Dark Horse, This Damned Band – a tale of rock n’ roll and occult devilry. In person at the Dark Horse booth, they shares with us more on this project of which we asked questions and got some intriguing answers…

From your own introductory perspective, share with us what your new series This Damned Band is all about..

Paul Cornell: This Damned Band is about the biggest rock band in 1974. We like to say in a pretentious British way that they worship the devil only to discover that to their surprise and horror that actually, they worship the devil. It’s a Ghostbusters style horror comedy. It’s told straight to camera like The Office. There are all sorts of different levels to it, as we have people saying one thing and doing another.

Interesting. How did this idea come together for Dark Horse to publish? 

Paul Cornell:  We came together as I pitched it to Dark Horse, and they gave me a choice of artists. Tony’s work is incredible,

Tony Parker: I was very lucky.

What were your personal inspirations in bringing together This Damned Band?

Paul Cornell:  I really like stories where people are very good at one thing, and blindsided by something completely different. Because in this case, they are insisting all the time they know all about better the thing…there is a certain deliciousness to that, I think..

The timing of the early 70s, where the idea of rock music being fresh is an interesting era and a turning point for pop-culture. Then along comes the devil and the idea of this being his music by some religious groups? What was it for these bands, do you think made this connection  as “devil music”?

Paul Cornell:  Well, there was a point in the 70s where occultism is much more pop than it is now and it’s a really interesting time. Dennis Wheatley is suddenly becoming popular again even before the Exorcist, and the Stones recording, “Sympathy for the Devil.” I think there is a part of the counter-culture also seemed to be against organized religion. And that went quite a lot into what a lot of musicians talked about at the time. I’m sure a lot of it was sheer pretense, and that really intrigues me. I think there is something about people pretending to believe stuff which is really interesting.

Tony Parker:  That combined with conservatives saying “that’s devil music!” Okay for devil music we will bring it, in fact well make money off it. So with a big counter-culture, we get all the teen money, therefore it adds into it.

Did either of you listen to any music that were frowned upon by the elders, considered perhaps to be that “devil music?”

Tony Parker:  All music of the youth..that’s one thing about it.

Paul Cornell: That’s what music is for when your 14. But you know, I’m slightly the wrong generation for that, as I was born in 1967..so I was out of my age precisely for the teenage audience, so I missed. But one of my earliest memories is with my brother who is a lot older than me who lived in a squat in London, and I remember going down a flight of stairs and seeing a mural painted on the wall of a cellar which was an enormous devil. I suspect that buried memory has resurfaced for This Damned Band.

I would love to see that turn up somehow in this book, perhaps.

Tony Parker: We shall find out.

Tony Parker: For me ..I lived in a very conservative area so that was anything that wasn’t soft mellow 70s gold. Even though that wasn’t the 70s, it was after the 70s so that was still the devil music. In the 80s and 90s, we had the metal bands, the hair bands, thrash bands, punk bands were all. The only thing that isn’t, (and I love Barry Manilow) that wasn’t Barry Manilow was a tool of the devil.

With your fictional band, Motherfather.. I’m sensing an amalgam of different bands here and there but are there any in particular pop bands for you that eclipsed the others in the bringing to fictional life, this band?

Paul Cornell:  I think there is satire and certain tropes that recur, so in Motherfather we certainly have the Who, the Stones, Led Zeppelin in there..certainly lead as Tony draws them to be absolutely perfect amalgam of them.,, Robert Palmer, Roger Daltrey and Mick Jagger…

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Tony Parker: And that’s why we did it..part of it was because I wanted to people think..I really love Mick Jagger or I really hate  Mick Jagger..so that’s going to affect the story..with more nuances of its got hints of this, or that as a measure of tropes a bit and play with that so they can enjoy the concepts of the character versus the logging in of the specific creator.

As the series progresses, what can us readers expect to absorb of this strange world of occultism and rock music?

Paul Cornell:  One of the joys of this is because it’s all meant to be filmed, there are certain sequences where they couldn’t film it.. So like the road trip in the first issue is related to a local artist who than has to draw it..like when a court reporter has to draw for television on the news. So in Issue 1, the local artist is Japanese..so Tony had the idea of doing it in a manga style.

Tony Parker: Which I never drawn manga before..but I love manga. I am a huge Otomo fan and Matsumoto Shiro, and we are trying to find a manga style that was 1972, 73,74 so that we can fit into that as well..and treat it with respect.

Paul Cornell:  In later issues we go to France so we get some Tintin, and some Windsor McCay in there..

In your plans, is This Damned Band a limited series or are there plans for a continuation for years ahead?  

Tony Parker: It’s a finite series,  and a complete story. I think a lot of people will appreciate that. It’s not a volume 1, with a trailer for 500 issues. You have the whole thing alone which you can enjoy by itself.

After this, are there any future projects to your fans and followers of this work to look forward to?

Paul Cornell:  Coming up in September..I have a novella coming up from Tor.com called called Witches of Lychford, which is about 3 women who are brought together to fight the supernatural evil of a new supermarket chain.

What?! (laughing with interest)

Paul Cornell:  And, I got a collection of short stories coming out in September called A Better Way to Die.

Tony Parker: I can’t say right now but I got a project set up right after this..but I got to say, its got a long history to it..and I’m real excited about it!

My curiosity senses are tingling. I look forward to all that and This Damned Band. Thanks for sharing! 

This first issue of This Damned Band is scheduled to come out on August 5th, 2015 and continue monthly for a limited time. Look for it at all the great comic book shops, stands, and digital apps that carry current Dark Horse published titles.

– Orion T

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