The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

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Elias Rosner

Elias Rosner has 12 articles published.

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Elias Rosner is a Senior English/Creative Writing Major here at Goucher. When he's not stalking the Goucher woods seeking serenity, he's writing feverishly in the hopes something interesting will be said. He's always on the lookout for a good puzzle or story and is still not used to writing about himself in the third person.

Black Bolt Vol. 1: Hard Times Review

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While the Inhuman royal family’s live-action debut last fall was, erm, let’s be generous and call it hot garbage left out on a summer’s day, do not fret dear Marvel fans! The royal king of the Inhumans, Blackagar Boltington (yes, that is his real name) is fairing much better in the comics. Well, better quality wise as his solo-title sees him suffer quite a bit at the hands of the creative team of Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward and the villainous Jailer.

As an introduction to the character of Black Bolt, you can’t do any better than this volume. Collecting the first six issues of Ahmed and Ward’s twelve issue run, the volume is a thriller seeped in cosmic psychedelia complete with a jailbreak, a colorful cast of characters, a deeply flawed main character, and a heartbreaking redemption arc. If you’ve never had any experience with Black Bolt and the Inhumans, the first issue gives you all you need to know through some truly creative and beautiful panels. One such page is modeled after an MC Escher painting and sees Black Bolt walking through the interstellar prison he’s been trapped in. In the background are bits of who he is and how he got here and, later in the series, we learn more and more about his tragic backstory.

Upon first opening the volume, you are greeted by a fairly simple page. The first panel is a black box with some small, white text. It is short. It gives you all you need to know. The next three panels elaborate, slowly revealing that someone has been bound, chained, muzzled. He has no memory of who he is or where he is. The next page sees a voice yell “Name your crimes! Repent your crimes!” before the muzzled man is shocked.

He remembers that he is not a criminal but a hero. A king. He remembers this as he falls into unconsciousness… or something worse. Upon turning the page, the sequence repeats, albeit differently. We know more information this time and as the repetitions continue, we, along with Black Bolt, gain our footing. We began by being disoriented, stuck in the deep black-blue darkness but now, through the patterns, we are no longer confused, and we are ready to escape the cycle. From there the adventures, or more accurately the trials and tribulations, of Blackagar Boltington, the Midnight King, the Most August Ruler of the Inhumans, begins.

In just these few pages, Ward and Ahmed show their mastery of their respective crafts as well as what a truly magnificent creative team can accomplish. Christian Ward’s art is just gorgeous to behold, and Ahmed’s sharp dialogue manages to be funny, heartfelt, dramatic, and most of all, genuine, all at once. Every character is fully realized through Ward’s command of posing and facial expressions. The prison they are trapped within is ever-shifting, massive, and oppressive which Ward manages to capture and convey perfectly.

The comic is bathed in deep neons, both bright and dark, and Ward’s lineless digital art gives the world that constantly shifting feel I just mentioned. He turns every page into a canvas, from the largest battles to the smallest conversations. What is most impressive about his work, though, is his paneling. Let me give an example from Issue four. Crusher Creel and Black Bolt have been chained up and are just talking.
In this scene, Ward does something unconventional for the series so far – he sticks to a nine-panel grid for the Crusher focused flashback sequences. Anytime Black Bolt or present Crusher are in the panel, the comic breaks from the very rigid grid. Let me explain. On one page, the top three panels are laid out as you would expect for that grid: all the same size, all spaced out the same way. Then we get Black Bolt and Crusher talking once again in these skinny panels that are recessed into the center of the page more than the grid panels. Then, for the final panel of the page (which is a shot of a cop car from the past), it is back to the perfect grid panel, placed as if the whole page were a normal nine-panel grid.

The present is visually distinct from Crusher’s past, as one is constructed, a story that has neat delineations, while the other is the present, a messy and tense time. As such, as the flashbacks creep closer to present day, the grid starts to bend and break. There are still nine panels per page but by the second to last full flashback page, the grid morphs, growing to show the increasingly complex nature of Crusher’s life. When we get Black Bolt’s single flashback page, the panels are a jumbled mess, strewn about the page, reflecting Black Bolt’s own view of himself at the moment. Is he a good man? He does not know. Nor does he know how to arrange his past.

Honestly, issue four is probably the strongest of all the issues in this volume and considering all six issues have the same level of quality, that is high praise. This volume and this series is an analysis of Black Bolt, of what it means to be a father, of what it means to be a prisoner. Of what it means to be a good person and how one can reclaim goodness for themselves.
Beautifully written, beautifully drawn and heartbreakingly bittersweet, this is comics at some of its finest. Give it a read.

Featured Image Credit: Google Photos

The Shape of Water (2017): A Review

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Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in The Shape of Water. Photo Credit: The Atlantic

Yes, I am aware that this is a review of a movie that is over a month old. Yes, I am aware that I have missed the zeitgeist of this movie by many weeks. And yes, I am aware that the initial hype that built through the limited release schedule over the course of December has long passed, having culminated in a wide theatrical release in early January. However, I was unable to see the film until recently and, considering how long it has been since it came out, I’ve decided to forgo a regular review in favor of a conversation about the craft of this movie and the commentaries it provides through its set design and character choices.
The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film, is nothing short of a modern monster masterpiece. A spiritual sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon, the film that directly inspired it, the movie takes all the tropes of a classic monster film and filters them for a modern audience. However, this is not a monster movie at heart. There is nothing horrific about this film, save for the small wounds that powerful humans inflict upon those who lack that power. There is no dark reflection of our fears contained within the monster. There is no cautionary tale about the dangers of science or nuclear war. There are only lonely people, trying to find comfort in a world that hates them for the things it perceives they lack. But perhaps that is the horror of the film.
Regardless, there is a theme to the film that is found in these thoughts: the theme of completion. The protagonist, Elisa, feels incomplete; she has been told all her life that because she cannot speak, there is something wrong with her. Her neighbor, and one of her only two friends, Giles, desires love but cannot have it – no man will give it to him in an age of repression. They both require companionship, and while they have each other, it is an incomplete match. They are two halves of a whole but, as the set design reflects, there is always a wall between them.
The Shape of Water also works within its setting to create a world that asks us to examine our fascination with the idealized time that was the ‘50s. Creature from the Black Lagoon came out in 1954, and the aesthetic of this film is a direct commentary on the setting of the original as well as the constructed version of the 50s we have bought into ever since. Our villain, Colonel Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, lives in a perfect 50s home with a perfect 50s wife and two perfect 50s children. It even has the pop art clock that looks like the sun exploding and bright, garish orange walls. He is representative of all the horrible things that mid-20th century (and present day) American cinema has swept under the rug – sexual harassment, toxic masculinity, racism, ableism, sexism, etc. The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of the past but also does not revel in them.
We focus instead on the characters who would have been marginalized and trivialized in Creature from the Black Lagoon instead of the traditional sci-fi “hero” embodied by Strickland. Yes, Strickland is more villainous than traditional Hollywood monster movie heroes, but he reflects the worst aspects of those “heroes.” He is also couched in the “best” of the ‘50s, juxtaposing that which the American consciousness has deemed as “a simpler, better time” with the horrors those pastels mask.
In contrast to Strickland’s “beautiful past” aesthetic, the rest of the film is steeped in dark, art deco architecture and design. Yet, these are the moments and locations that provide the most warmth and humanity. In the dark corners and hidden locations, we find ourselves. We find our humanity; we find out where we stand. These locations are, however, still dirty, still imperfect. And there is no better example of this reflection than in Giles’ obsession with old Hollywood musicals. He needs them to bring meaning to his life, to bring companionship and to distract him from the world he lives in. He cannot handle the reality of the civil rights rallies, preferring to live in a world that is blissfully unaware of the socials ostracization he faces as a gay man. He wants to live within the perfect fabrication he creates with each Jell-O ad he draws. He is a fallible character, willfully complicit in a system that marginalizes others as well as himself because he does not want to see the harshness of the world. He wants, much like we often do, to see the world as an old Hollywood musical: “perfect,” simple, uncomplicated, and filled with problems that have simple solutions.
At its core, The Shape of Water is a romantic drama that just so happens to feature an amphibious man as the love interest. It is a beautifully constructed movie, unapologetic in its inspirations and one of the most fulfilling films I have seen in a long time. If you can, see this film in theaters. It has much to love and much love to give.

Argyle Tempeh

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God damn hipster restaurants with their god damned hipster food and their cutesy names for their cutesy dishes. Poison! Societal Poison! That’s what this place is! God! Ten minutes sitting on repurposed barrels and not a waiter in sigh- Finally! a waiter.

“Oh, welcome,” they say, as if I have a choice to be here. “I’m your dining facilitator, Graysen, note that’s with an A and an E. In that order. We do not use menus here. Instead, we present for you a dining itinerary with three experiences on it. You will not pay for the experiences. Instead, there is a suggested donation of $40 per seat.”

God damn hipster restaurants-

“Your food stylist, Moonstoneshadow, has prepared for you three different locally sourced dishes: A deconstructed Gerald salad, Zucchini spaghetti ala Mace, and finally Argyle Tempeh served with an avocado black garlic thousand island aioli.”

-with their god damned hipster food-

“The animals that have given up their freedom for your meal are Gerald, Mace, and Argyle. Gerald was an antibiotic free, five-year-old hen from the Jamisdale farm where they grew up happy and healthy wandering the vast fields. Mace was a grass-fed, free-rage, gluten-free, organic cow, prepared in a paleo-friendly style. Argyle was a puffer-fish, who lived their life roaming the vast Atlantic Shelf and caught in a humane, low-energy style and delivered to us through a fair-trade network and-”

– and their cutesy names for their cutesy dishes! Like I give a shit where my food came from, so long as it tastes good. Why did Arsonay drag me out to this place? And what’s with the décor? Taxidermy and black and white photos of spoons and half eaten food? Ugh. Fine. Fine. Calm down. You’re doing a good thing accompanying her here. Smile. It’s just one meal.

“-what would you like paired with meal: bitters or tonic water?”

Wait, shit, were they talking to me?

“Uhhhhhhhhhh, you got any coffee?” I ask. Arsonay raises her eyebrows in disbelief. Crap baskets. I guess that’s not a question you ask here. Greysan, or was it Graysen, looks mildly peeved but that could just be their vertical bridge piercing.

“Unfortunately, tonight we only have bitters or tonic water. Anything else would sour the experience.”

Shit on a brick. “Ok. Then I’ll take the tonic water without the tonic.” I flash a smile and fight the urge to scream. Graysen walks away and I turn to Arsonay, who has been playing with the candle in the center of the stump that acts as our table.

“Do you visit here often, cuz?” I ask, warming my face up with another smile.

“Nah. It just popped up in the last couple weeks or so but it sounded so quaint that I had to bring you here on your visit.”

“Oh. Joy.” I say, my confidence in this place waning even more than it already was.

An hour and two dis-, I mean experiences, later and I’m finally finishing the salad. As much as I hate to admit it, the food has been pretty damn good. Graysen appears, two short spears in hand, their tips flat and angled towards us. They take away the now-empty mason jar, replacing it with the spear. They also take the chessboard that experience two came on. On the spear is the tempeh in all its soy block glory. I take one bite of Argyle and suddenly the fish is living up to his name. Arsonay, the spears, the weird-ass taxidermy and black and white images of half eaten food – all are now fitted with a brand new brown and green diamond layer.

Arsonay is screaming something. I can’t tell what it is but I can tell it’s not good.

“Hey. Asshat,” a voice says. I look around to try to pinpoint it.

“Down here, chuckle fuck!” I look down at the spear, which is melting just a tiny bit, and see a whole puffer-fish smoking a cigar. I’d rub my eyes but I can’t seem to move my arms or legs.

“Yeah, the toxin’ll do that. But hey, look on the bright side,” the fish says, floating in front of me, “at least it’s not enough to kill ya.”

I want to yell at the fish but it’d do no good. I’m no longer in the restaurant. Instead, I’m under the sea, staring at schools and schools of silver fish. They’re all so pretty under the sparkling sun, surrounded by all sorts of creatures; pink coral, Acadian redfish, yellow-finned and green-finned tuna, not to mention the vast expanses of blue and black sea. Then, out of fucking nowhere, Argyle is back, but this time he’s suspended in the mouth of a Wobbegong shark. He speaks again, the cigar in his mouth still lit.

“Yeah, not scientifically accurate but what the hey, it’s your hallucination.”

The Wobbegong, a toothless, flat kind of beast, just swims away and I’m left floating. That doesn’t last long as I’m suddenly jerked back to the ground.

I wake up and I’m in the back of an ambulance, the sirens getting ready to murder my eardrums. Arsonay is sitting next to me wringing her hands. I clear my throat and the medic begins doing whatever it is that medics do while Arsonay starts to apologize.

“I’ll be fine,” I tell her, “but next time, I’m picking the restaurant.”

Stanger Things 2: Review

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Halloween: the time of spooks and scares, of tricks and treats, of strange otherworldly monsters and telekinetic girls. That’s right my friends; dust off those conspiracy boards and strap in for the second season to last year’s surprise Netflix hit, Stranger Things. I’ll be doing my damnedest to avoid spoilers, but there’s no guarantee. If you haven’t watched season two (or season one for that matter), proceed at your own risk.

Stranger Things 2 “was a little bit overstuffed…but there was a lot to love about it.” Credit: Google Images

For those of you who don’t know what Stranger Things is, it is a Netflix-original 80s-style small-town horror/sci-fi show. Think of it as a scarier, more supernatural version of Goonies or Stand by Me. Season One introduced us to our main cast and the central mystery/conceit of the show: the Disappearance of Will Byers, the appearance of a young girl named Eleven and her telekinetic/psychic powers, and the Upside Down. It was a tightly constructed season that resolved its main plot while leaving open the doors to expand the world and answer a lot of unanswered questions.
Now, over a year later, we have the answer to some of those questions as well as a whole host of others. Season Two does not possess the tight narrative of Season One, but it does have the advantage of knowing that it’ll probably get a season three. Therefore, it can afford to think on a larger time-scale. A lot of this has to do with the increase in the number of plot threads we get, along with the increase of characters in the cast.
We’ve got the main crew— Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Will— and each of them get their own mini-arcs. Lucas and Max, Dustin and Dart, Will and Joyce and the fallout of Season One, and Mike….is pretty sidelined this season, but considering he was the main focus of Season One, that’s ok. It gave the rest of the cast a chance to grow and to expand, which is exactly what we needed, enabling us to finally see more of the other families.
The other plots are split between Eleven and  Sheriff Hopper (whose plots converge and diverge throughout the whole season), along with Jonathan, Nancy and Steve, who fulfill the fandom’s promise of “Justice for Barb” and resolve their lingering love triangle. I’m glad that the creators addressed both of those issues and hopefully this was the wrap up we needed on those plot threads before we move on to others. This season also brings back everyone’s favorite character: Nail Bat!
On a more serious note, I think this season was a little bit overstuffed with all of these moving pieces, but there was a lot to love about it. Steve’s character arc continues here, and I’m so thankful for the nuance they are giving his character. He could have easily been the shitty boyfriend that he originally started out as in the beginning of the first season, but this season gave him a slow arc of character growth. He isn’t perfect, exemplified by the advice he gives Dustin on how to get girls and his own thoughts on love; but he has moved beyond the sex-obsessed douchebag we were first introduced to.
Bob was also a fun addition to the cast and exemplified peak-Dad characteristics of any character other than Mike’s. But out of all the new characters, new girl Max was the best and a true joy to watch. Her ‘brother’ (whose name I can’t remember so I’ll just call him by his key traits: Toxic Masculinity & Creepy Charmer) was easily the worst part of the season. He served no purpose other than to be an example of the bad guy that Steve could have been, failing to bring anything new to the show; at best, he’s a plot device for Max and Steve.
Speaking of unnecessary additions, Episode Seven was most definitely a misstep for the series. It broke from the established format of jumping between plot points to slowly build tension; instead it spent an entire episode focused on Eleven and Eight, a new character who really irked me. By spending the whole episode on this, we don’t have the layered storytelling we’ve gotten throughout the rest of the show. There were at least three cuts in the first twenty minutes where I expected us to cut away to another storyline to give us a breather, but we never get that. Instead, we get more of Eight and her self-righteous attitude. She serves as a foil to Eleven, as someone who grew up without anyone to hold her back or to teach her anything about compassion. She has no remorse and pretends to care about Eleven, but her only concern is her own agenda (at least at the onset). By the end of the episode, it’s apparent that Eleven’s presence has had an effect on her, but what that effect is is left up in the air. However, the episode was necessary for Eleven’s growth as a character, so it can’t be skipped. While I applaud the directing of the episode and the decision to take a risk, it wasn’t one that panned out.
Beyond that and a few other, smaller pacing problems, this season is very solid. It’s not as focused on the elements of horror established in Season One (which is a shame) but it makes up for it with the development of characters’ depths. Check it out if you haven’t yet, and if you have, get pumped for season three… eventually.

The SPX Haul Part 3

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A couple of issues ago, I wrote about some of the super cool comics and artists I met at SPX back in September. Well, here I return, but this time I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of focusing on the objects and stories I acquired, I’m going to talk about one of the artists I met. I did not pick up any particular work of hers at the convention, but I did pick up a few collections that contained her work. I’ll talk about them another time (I still need to read all the stories in them); instead, I want to talk about the conversation I had with Carla Speed McNeil and her insightful comments.

But first, a quick biography. Carla Speed McNeil is an Eisner and Ignatz award winning comic artist, who got her start back in 1996 drawing a comic called Finder. It started as an ashcan comic (black and white, cheap paper, hand stapled, meant to be thrown away) and slowly grew an audience until the advent of the internet where, after thirty-eight issues, it moved online. More recently, Dark Horse Comics has been serializing the most recent chapters in its anthology magazine, Dark Horse Presents.

Finder was not a huge seller in its individual issues, but it created a sprawling, dense sci-fi world that sucks you in and immerses you deeply into its character’s life. It is widely considered to be a seminal science-fiction comic work.

Source: Carla Speed McNeil

More recently, she has worked with Alex Di Campi in creating a series called No Mercy. It’s a wild ride, and having only read the first volume, I can’t fully talk about it ,but go check it out if you can.

Okay, enough backstory. The reason I wanted to talk about her is because of her passion for comics and because of how much of modern comic history she has witnessed and been a part of. As I said before, she started with ashcan copies of Finder back when SPX was only two years old. From what she said, she’s been at the con since its inception in 1994 (hence the con grandmother comment last time). The con was just a singular room, only a few tables, and made up of a small number of independent comic creators and comic enthusiasts. They traded their zines and discussed what they had made.

Now, SPX is the size of a large hotel ballroom, packed to the brim with independent comic creators and comic enthusiasts. All sorts of creators are there and the amount of creativity, while always high, has only grown. Carla talked on how she had watched con guests arrive, become inspired by the work they saw, and a few years later, have a booth right next to hers.

She talked about how the makeup of the con is changing: diversity has increased and female creators are a large portion of the cons now (they were always a large portion of the guests). She sees independent comics as the future— she always had— and while the comics industry is still plagued with problems relating to its treatment of non-white, non-male, non-straight creators and creations, the future looks bright. There are so many new voices being shared by people who love the medium of comics; hopefully, as the years go by from here, more and more voices can be shared.

I began this article by saying that I would talk about Carla Speed McNeil and what she told me as we conversed. I lied. Well, not totally. A couple months can dull the actual words and parts of the conversation, but the sentiment still stuck.

The makeup of the people buying comics hasn’t changed all that much; it’s always been a diverse group of people. Yet, finding a platform from which to share voices that reflect that audience was difficult back before the internet. The internet has made it easier for people to be connected to the voices that would otherwise have been buried, ignored by the industry.

Now, having had time to make those voices loud and proud, artists can start to be heard by those who would have normally ignored them. They can continue the process of change and to inspire a new generation who will continue the fight and continue to produce amazing art.

These are those voices. Independent comics are the voices of the people and the place where unpolished, fresh, or even polished but still unknown talent can be found.

I do remember the last words that were told to me before I left her table. I had asked what was the best way to manage the con and really get the most of it. She told me to take notes. To pay attention to work that grabs me and catches my eye. To get contact info if, even for a second, I pause and stare at a piece.

“It means they captured something, something you’ll want to follow,” she said.

Welcome to the Jungle

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Welcome to the Jungle. Credit: Google Images.

Welcome back all ye writers, poets, and demons of the night. We have a poetic issue this time, with antoher poem from resident dream-master Talia, and the start of a new, non-fiction section, 6 Word Memoirs. At the moment, it’s short but I hope it will grow with the issues to come. I know there are many great voices out there; my desire is to provide a space for them to speak.
If you wish to submit a piece, a new name suggestion, a comment on our published pieces, or even a comment on me as curator/host, my email is elros003@mail.goucher.edu. If you do write in and you want to see me respond to it/publish it in the next issue, please write in the subject line OK TO PRINT.
Without further ado, I present this issue’s In the Corner. May it inspire and confound the imagination.
Sincerely,
Your horror host – Elias Rosner

6 Word Memoir

6 words. 6. Little. Words. That’s all that’s needed to sum up a life. What you love. What you feel. Who you are. Ca n it be done in six words? Maybe not. But we tried. Do you have 6 words that describe yourself?

Beck Fink: Paint, Animals, Words, Dye, Snow, Red.

Elias Rosner: Solitude, Cats, Stories, Woods, Chocolate, Libraries.

Books on Faith

KATIE MONTHIE

What is faith? Can one have it? Is it earned? Or is it something more? Something….tangible. Katie has her own set of questions and writes it down in her book on faith.
Faith is not defined.
It cannot be melted into a candle,
Then set aflame so as to permeate
A small room with a light scent
Of faith.
It cannot be added into a cake
Either cup by cup
Nor spoonful by spoonful.
Faith cannot even be placed in a jar on a shelf,
Only to be hidden amongst other
States of being or thought that simply
Gather dust.
Perhaps Faith is best measured in words,
And so Faith is best kept in books.
I cannot hold my Faith in one single book,
As so many do.
Instead I find my Faith in the words of many,
Which manifests in my mind
Like an odd collection of works
That don’t quite fit together.
But perhaps that is the nature of Faith:
Some disorder struggling to form
And creating a hope solely, purely
Human.

 

Dreamless Man

TALIA MILITARY

What is better, a dreamless night or one filled with them? Many would say a dream is the only thing that makes the night bearable but remember, nightmares are dreams too.
He woke up from a dreamless sleep
On a Thursday morning.

If he’d had a good dream,
He might have spent some time
Laying in bed, staring at the ceiling
Debating whether or not he should go back to sleep
And try to pick up where he left off.

Had he had a bad dream,
He could have possibly spent an hour
Wondering if life was worth living
When his fears could invade
The sanctuary of his own mind.

If he’d dreamt truly bizarre dreams,
He probably would have spent the entire day
Questioning his own subconscious
Desires and impulses.

But he hadn’t dreamt anything.
There was nothing to
Debate
Wonder
Or question.

He merely pulled back the bedsheets
And prepared for the Thursday
Ahead of him.

 

Closing

And thus we reach the end (so long as you forwent the usual column structure). So, I shall leave you with a riddle and, above, a puzzle.
Without fingers, I point. Without arms, I strike. Without feet, I run. What am I?
May your month be spooky and, hopefully, I’ll see you next time, In the Corner.

The SPX Haul Part 2

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Zen Kitty, Art Credit: Paulina Ganucheau

 

Last issue, I talked a bit about my experience at SPX (Small Press Expo), a wondrous con filled with many fabulous artists and storytellers, all coming to ply their craft and meet their fans IRL. This time, I’m going to get right down to the nitty gritty and tell you about a few more of the cool stuff I found and nudge you in their direction.

Let’s kick this off with something sweet and spooky (and something I teased last time).

Mary Shelley’s Franken Berry by Matt Hickey: A short zine (about four pages) that reframes Frankenstein as if it were a cereal commercial for everyone’s favorite gothic cereal, Franken Berry. It’s humorous and blends the serious tone and language of Mary Shelley’s original work with a rough, black and white art style. I saw the title and, without looking inside, purchased it. Worth every dollar I spent.
The art style, which is an underground comix movement style (purposely ugly and stylized), fits better than it should, and the framing as a cereal commercial had me laughing more than it should have. Matt seems to mostly have short zines like this up on his etsy store, which you can get to from his Instagram Clarissamansplains. Check it out if you’ve got the chance, and a few bucks lying around.

Mini Comics by Abby Howard: A collection of very short memoir style gag comics, all very funny. Most are three to four panels, featuring some aspect of the public personality of the author and her animals: Spoons the cat and Wednesday the snake. If you want to get an idea of what these are like, check out her series Junior Science Power Hour.
Abby is a master of creating humor out of the mundane and horrific. The very first webcomic I ever read, Abby’s The Last Halloween, just began book two and you should all check it out. It’s fantastically creepy, funny, not to mention the artwork is stellar. In all black and white, Abby’s love of horror shines through with her grotesque monster designs and dark storytelling, balancing it out with just the right amount of incredulous humor. You can find her on twitter @abbyhoward.

Innsmouth (Issue One) by Megan James: I’m just going to copy a couple sentences from the introduction to sum this series up:
“A modern day revisionist horror comedy featuring a diverse cast that would be accessible to newcomers and old fans alike. [She] wanted to pay homage to all the things [she] love about the Mythos, but [she] also wanted to take some good jabs at the more troubling aspects.”
And that’s what it is. We open on our main character, a resident of Innsmouth (and a member of its cult), going door to door handing out pocket Necronomicons.
Unlike Abby Howard’s work, which leans much more heavily into horror juxtaposed with humor, Megan James take the humor and leans the horror into it. It’s veers more towards the absurd (one character literally uses one of those wall mounted fish as a walky-talky), but I love it all the same. You can find digital copies on gumroad at sinkswimpress, physical copies from sinkswimpress.com, or follow her on twitter @meg_emmy_james.
“Isn’t the public domain a wonderful thing?”

eet their fans IRL. This time, I’m going to get right down to the nitty gritty and tell you about a few more of the cool stuff I found and nudge you in their direction.

Let’s kick this off with something sweet and spooky (and something I teased last time).

Mary Shelley’s Franken Berry by Matt Hickey: A short zine (about four pages) that reframes Frankenstein as if it were a cereal commercial for everyone’s favorite gothic cereal, Franken Berry. It’s humorous and blends the serious tone and language of Mary Shelley’s original work with a rough, black and white art style. I saw the title and, without looking inside, purchased it. Worth every dollar I spent.
The art style, which is an underground comix movement style (purposely ugly and stylized), fits better than it should, and the framing as a cereal commercial had me laughing more than it should have. Matt seems to mostly have short zines like this up on his etsy store, which you can get to from his Instagram Clarissamansplains. Check it out if you’ve got the chance, and a few bucks lying around.

Mini Comics by Abby Howard: A collection of very short memoir style gag comics, all very funny. Most are three to four panels, featuring some aspect of the public personality of the author and her animals: Spoons the cat and Wednesday the snake. If you want to get an idea of what these are like, check out her series Junior Science Power Hour.
Abby is a master of creating humor out of the mundane and horrific. The very first webcomic I ever read, Abby’s The Last Halloween, just began book two and you should all check it out. It’s fantastically creepy, funny, not to mention the artwork is stellar. In all black and white, Abby’s love of horror shines through with her grotesque monster designs and dark storytelling, balancing it out with just the right amount of incredulous humor. You can find her on twitter @abbyhoward.

Innsmouth (Issue One) by Megan James: I’m just going to copy a couple sentences from the introduction to sum this series up:
“A modern day revisionist horror comedy featuring a diverse cast that would be accessible to newcomers and old fans alike. [She] wanted to pay homage to all the things [she] love about the Mythos, but [she] also wanted to take some good jabs at the more troubling aspects.”
And that’s what it is. We open on our main character, a resident of Innsmouth (and a member of its cult), going door to door handing out pocket Necronomicons.
Unlike Abby Howard’s work, which leans much more heavily into horror juxtaposed with humor, Megan James take the humor and leans the horror into it. It’s veers more towards the absurd (one character literally uses one of those wall mounted fish as a walky-talky), but I love it all the same. You can find digital copies on gumroad at sinkswimpress, physical copies from sinkswimpress.com, or follow her on twitter @meg_emmy_james.
“Isn’t the public domain a wonderful thing?”

Zen Kitty by Paulina Ganucheau: Closing us out is not a comic, but a print. As it’s the title image, I don’t have to describe it, but I will describe Paulina’s other work for you. She’s an artist on Zodiac Starforce and Another Castle: Grimoire, both fantastic series that I highly recommend. She is the most “professional” of the bunch this time, as big publishers have put out her work, and I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about them, especially because the second Zodiac Starforce series is coming out right now and it is *chef’s hand on mouth, kiss motion* wonderful. It’s a western, magical-girl series; complete with a sexy, otherworldly prince villain, who spends most of his introductory issue posing half-naked. It’s a wonderful flip of the script and Paulina’s art sells the whole thing. She has such strong character designs and a great energy for fight scenes. Check out volume one of Zodiac Starforce if you can (the Towson library has a copy or two). She can be found on twitter at @PlinaGanucheau.

I hope these highlights spark something in you— maybe you’ll find a new series you love or a new artist to follow. Who knows. Maybe next time I’ll have another few recommendations from my SPX haul.And maybe I’ll talk about con grandma, Carla Speed McNeil. If I’m being honest, she could get her own article. Keep reading comics y’all!

ELIAS ROSNER

Star Trek’s Return to Television

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In the picture, from left to right: Saru, Michael Burnham, and Phillippa Georgiou (photo credit: Fortune.com)

Warning: Contains Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery

After a twelve-year television hiatus, Star Trek returned with a bang on September 24th, with new and old characters alike. Set roughly ten years before Star Trek:The Original Series, this fifteen-episode series tells the story of a cold war between the United Federations of Planets and the newly-united Klingon houses. Star Trek:Discovery is on a separate timeline from the J.J Abrams rebooted Star Trek film series with decidedly less lens flares.

Bryan Fuller, one of the show’s creators, continues his tradition of giving female leads typically masculine names. The main character is Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green. In the first two episodes, Burnham, the First Officer of the USS Shenzou, is referred to as “Number One”, honoring the character of the same name portrayed by Majel Barrett in the original Star Trek pilot episode. The overarching premise of Discovery is the  Klingons’ finding of a messianic figure in the form of T’Kuvma. Following an ancient Klingon prophecy, T’Kuvma convinces his followers that the Federation’s goals center around usurping the individuality of Klingons, and that the ultimate goal of the Federation is to extinguish Klingon culture. Though T’Kuvma dies by the end of the second episode, his death (and Burnham’s actions) spark a cold war, indicating the beginnings of Starfleet’s militarization.

Discovery is one of, if not the most, diverse Star Trek casts to date. Many fans were thrilled to discover that Michelle Yeoh plays Captain Phillippa Georgiou, at the helm of the USS Shenzou. Georgiou is the first captain of Asian descent; Yeoh keeps her Malaysian accent for the part. Unfortunately, right as fans (myself included) fell in love with her, she was killed in the same skirmish that killed T’Kuvma. Many were incredibly disheartened at her death, claiming that she deserved better. However, I’m hopeful that Captain Georgiou will return. After all, Yeoh is slotted for the rest of the season. She could make an appearance in a  flashback— this is Star Trek— or return fully alive; the second episode makes it very clear that Georgiou’s body was never recovered. One of this season’s plots could potentially involve Burnham attempting to rescue her Captain  while keeping an all out war at bay.

Another highlight of the first three episodes was the preview of Burnham’s origins. Burnham grew up with three very familiar characters in Star Trek: Sarek, Amanda, and Spock. Sarek made an appearance in the first two episodes, to the excitement of many fans, especially at the end of episode three, it’s revealed that Amanda would read Alice in Wonderland to Spock and Michael. Some fans want to know more about Amanda’s relationship with Michael, and Spock’s relationship with her as well. Personally, I’m hoping to see more familial interaction. Furthermore, I’m interested in seeing the other ways Discovery plans on tying in with The Original Series, not to mention, why in the worlds the Captain of the USS Discovery has a tribble on his desk.

One character that caught my attention is Cadet Sylvia Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman. Tilly is very clearly coded as autistic, and many fans are rejoicing in an onscreen portrayal of autism, outside of the usual emotionless man. Tilly possesses a friendly and open demeanor, despite her inability to read other’s emotions well or take basic social cues.

Undoubtedly, Burnham is the star of the show. Although the first two episodes depict her her as a respected Starfleet officer, she eventually goes against Captain Georgiou’s commands in an attempt to prevent a war with the Klingons, becoming the first mutineer in Starfleet history. She is sentenced to life in imprisonment for her crimes and blamed for the start of the cold war with the Klingons. However, in the third episode, she’s granted a position upon the USS Discovery under a captain who’s made it clear he will do anything to stop the war. There are many different ways the season could go, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to have viewers on the edge of their seats, riveted to the TV (or laptop).

JULIANNA HEAD

The SPX Haul: Part 1

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I am an avid comic reader. I’d like to say I have been my whole life, but as with most things, it’s been more of a cycle. Since graduating high school, I have fallen deep into the hole that is the comics medium – both print and web. Surprising as it may be, I have never been to any comic convention prior to attending SPX (Small Press Expo). Sure, I’ve been to a couple cons here and there but never one specifically for comics. Seeing as I’m living so close to one this year, I decided to head over to Bethesda and check out the indie creators and publishing houses that attended the con, thinking I’d see a couple things I recognized, just pick up one or two zines, and maybe grab one of the Ignatz winner’s comic.

Oh boy, was I wrong. SPX, which only takes up the space of one hotel ballroom, was jam packed with amazing creators and creations, and I wanted to talk about a few of them here! Indie creators live and die by word of mouth, so if I can get even one or two more people to check out their work, I’m happy. This is part one, as I picked up a lot of zines and still have yet to read them all.

“Spectral Zone” by Kay D.
A super cool pilot comic about a town swallowed up by the earth and the veritable Scooby-gang of kids who must survive the Spectrums (ghost-zombie-computer virus things). I love the way Kay uses color in her comics and her characters are always so dynamic and fun. I’d direct you to her store, but it’s currently down, which makes getting a copy of Spectral Zone difficult at the moment. However, her webcomic, Oddity Woods, isn’t bound by physical limitations. If mystery, adventure, and spooky woods are your cup of tea, check it out. And even if it’s not, check it out anyway. You may find something you like (@cygullls).

“Waves” by Rebecca Kirby. Photo Credit: Elias Rosner

“Waves” by Rebecca Kirby  
A trippy zine about a woman imagining the world and the people in it while she waits in line at the grocery store. Kirby’s art isn’t for everyone, but man, is it right in my wheelhouse. She creates fluid, amorphous shapes that are cool to look at, making it feel like the world itself isn’t bound to any solid visuals (@reweki).

“Spinning” by Tillie Walden
The final comic I’m highlighting today is actually a graphic novel, a term which is a bit more complicated than it should be. It has a publisher (First Second comics) and is stunningly gorgeous. Billed as a graphic memoir, it’s all about the author and her love of figure skating. I haven’t finished it yet, but if you can get a copy, read it. If not, then check out her webcomic On a Sunbeam. It’s freaking beautiful, not to mention interesting and heartbreaking. It’s good sci-fi and just plain good storytelling. It’s been completed, so if you’re worried about the webcomic update crawl, problem solved (@tilliewalden).

The world of comics is weird and wonderful and I hope that I can share some more with you in the future. I’ve got lots more crazy stuff to talk about (like Mary Shelley’s Franken Berry). But seriously, check out these people (I included their twitter handles for a reason) and their work. You never know what you’ll find unless you go out looking.

ELIAS ROSNER

To Sleep, Perchance, To Dream: A short story

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Note: Your friendly neighborhood editor here, just offering a warning. This story may get a bit intense. As this is the inaugural story, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my warning. Otherwise, enjoy.
A story, a short story about what’s real and what’s perceived. About the world around us and what it contains. About a clock that reads 1:59 AM. Nothing true, nothing false, just a story about a boy and his dog. Or should I say, a child and their pet, or maybe it’s two animals, each affecting each other’s lives in an eternal quest to stay relevant in an ever changing world; changing from eyes closing, warm under the quilt, lying in the dark to standing in broad daylight, ball in hand and a smile on his face. Who’s to say what it is that the boy thinks about the tennis ball that is thrown across the yard, or maybe it’s the dog who’s wondering? It’s hard to tell in these uncertain times, what is real and what is imagined. As the boy ponders this, the dog gets up onto its hind legs and calls out to his pet boy, who comes bounding over on all fours. The boy sits on his rump, satisfied to have been acknowledged by the much older and wiser dog.
The boy called bow, whose human name was unpronounceable in the dog’s language, stared at the sky instead of the green and white ball that was being thrown once again by his master. The boy was distracted instead by the shifting and twisting skies, where the boy, no longer named bow, now found himself. The boy, uncertain of what he was doing, looked around and walked through a large marble archway. Inside the newly found room was a fountain whose water flowed upwards towards the ceiling. On the center of the water spout was a woman, or is it a girl, who was beckoning to the boy formerly known as bow, daring him to come closer. DARING him to move from the spot which he occupied. And the boy, or is it a man, attempted to walk but found himself frozen in place.
Unable to speak. Unable to move except in the slowest of motions, as if trapped in a vat of molasses. Moving his eyes side to side, the child became aware that he was back on his yard and sitting next to him was bow, his trusty giraffe. The child contemplated what used to be in front of him before turning, no longer frozen, to his trusty lion, ruffling his mane. The lion roared in happiness in response while the sky flashed a brilliant green and the boy’s house twisted and turned into shapes that were unknown to the girl, even though she had seen them many times before as her pet lion tramped throughout it. The girl, formerly of a male persuasion, slipped between the cracks of the sidewalk in order to listen to her parents’ conversation in the kitchen. This woman turned around to discover the labyrinthine corridors and hundreds of door that always comprised his house. Wasn’t it always this way in the house? He began to think that something might be off but he soon found that it was merely the hunger that ate at his stomach.
The boy realized that neither he nor his dog had eaten since twelve that morning and it was steadily approaching midnight, although his time in the yard made him think it was merely 1 pm again. Grabbing a box of Chex Mix from the cabinet in his bedroom, the boy climbs beneath the sheets and begins to hand out his food to the neighbors, door to door, and with one step, he is on the gallows, where eyes are boring holes into his sinful mind.
The noose tightens around his neck as time slows down. Why do they hate me, he thinks as his head clears for the first time in what seemed like eternity. The world around him begins to get fuzzy and distanced as the boy sees the distorted faces of those he called friends, all jeering in the crowd, all pointing and saying the same thing.
He can’t quite make out what their lips are saying.
The crowd’s lips melt and merge, the static leaving their throats turning into a vacuum of silence before one sentence resonates within it….you are worthless. Everything snaps back into focus, crystal clear, 4k. They call him false and horrible. They tear at his body with words, each comment making the noose tighten and the boy cry harder. He is unable to scream for help or reason, his voice is empty. The friends and family of the boy stop and stare. They say one final sentence and the boy’s tears run down his face in a never-ending stream. He wants to implore them, to tell them that he is good, that he didn’t mean to make them hate him but they cannot listen for he cannot speak. The crowd merely repeats their sentence, each word cutting a lash into the boy’s arms and finishing the noose. The boy submits, crying, in pain, dead to all but himself; before giving in to even that as he falls from the sky. Falling, falling, falling forever, watching the ground approach and crying. For he knows that when the ground arrives to meet him his troubles are over and the pain will stop. Others will stop hurting because of him, his pain will subside because the others say it will. Closer and closer he sees it, the ground and his dog.
WOOF! The boy’s head is covered in a cold sweat, the clock on the stand says 2:01 AM. He turns over, looking across his small room littered in toys, to his dog and smiles a tearful smile.

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