The Grandfather – Preview

The Grandfather – Preview

1If you’ve read my review of The Lady, you’ll know that I’m a fan of the strange and disturbing work of Michael Patrick Rogers. Luckily for me – and anyone else who enjoys creepy point-and-click games with excellent artwork – his next project has just hit Indiegogo!

This time around, MPR has teamed up with David Szymanski of Fingerbones and comic book artist Stanislav Yakimov to create this simple yet challenging game which manages to feel like a comic book. Each level is introduced by some background information about the titular character The Grandfather, an old man sleeping alone while his cold, unloving wife ignores him in the adjoining bed. He’s an obviously sympathetic character – who of us hasn’t feared that we would end up like that, stuck in not just a loveless marriage but one without the slightest bit of compassion. In fact, one of my favourite songs is about that very idea.

These scenes of his life are shown in a wonderful comic book style that will feel instantly recognisable for any regular reader of comics. But even for those who aren’t fans of the style, the simplicity of the panels and the fact that there are no speech bubbles takes away what many find hardest about reading comics; taking in the words at the same time as the images. Instead a voice-over provides us with his sad story.


Much of the imagery is to do with death and rebirth, often at the same time. This serves to give the character of the grandfather this curiously childlike demeanour, reacting to his wife’s rejection in the way a child might when pushed from their parents’ room after a nightmare. Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he knows any more than we do, especially about dealing with the unpleasantness of life.


The music seems to be a huge part of the story, just as it was in The Lady. The ambient yet sometimes discordant noises are built up by the player throughout the game, giving each game its own individual soundtrack. I imagine mine sounded like the panicked clicking of my mouse over and over.

Although I’ve only played the demo so far, it seems quite similar in game play to The Lady – albeit easier (again, so far). As is usual for MPR, he makes no effort to explain how to play the game or what your objective is, and it can be bewildering trying to work it out (and often results in the mashing of keys and buttons). You’re simply dumped into an unknown room, tasked with progressing…but how? That’s up to you to find out.


It’s always hard to tell how indicative a demo will be of the final piece, and there are certainly one or two technical issues to sort out. But if the artwork, the pacing, the playing and the music stay pretty much the same, I think we’ll be on to a winner with The Grandfather. If you’d like to donate toward the making of the game please head to this location.

Posted by jenny in Miscellaneous, 0 comments
An Interview with Scott C

An Interview with Scott C

The charming Scott C, writer and artist of comic books, children’s books and art director of video games, was kind enough to talk to me about his influences, happiness, and what’s coming next.
Scott C - spidermans-copy
Who were your biggest drawing influences?
Early on, artists like Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, Norman Rockwell, and Heronimous Bosch.  Later on, Lane Smith, J. Otto Seibold, Shag, and Jim Flora. But through the years my influences change as i am exposed to new art and new friends!  My friend Paul Allan had probably the biggest influence on my style after college.
What are your favourite themes to draw?
i enjoy good vibes.  happy characters.  having a good time with one another.  so my paintings often include happy things.  but i do also enjoy uncomfortable moments and pensive moments.  this could come in the form of a mummy contemplating alone on a rock or a knight lying on top of his freshly slayed dragon wondering why he must always do battle and slay things.
If you could illustrate for any author, living or dead, who would you pick?
Ray Bradbury.  I would just love to work with that guy so much.  His stories are my favorite and he seems like a pretty happy and inspired dude.  we’d probably create some nice things together.
You transitioned from games to comic books – was that very different?
Well, i’ve been doing comics alongside my game career, so it has been a sort of compliment to the games.  As the video games became more gruesome, as they did in Brutal Legend, my paintings and comics became cuter.  Working on a game for 5 years, one often needs a break and creating comics was a welcome change of pace.  The Double Fine Action Comics were done as a warm up each morning before getting to work on Psychonauts, our first game.  Really comics are a quicker fix than video games, but creating stories and characters can be equally as satisfying.
How much control did you have in games like Psychonauts and Brutal Legend?
It isn’t so much about control when you’ve got so many talented people working together with like minds.  i was art director on Psychonauts and worked very hard on that game establishing the style and maintaining it throughout, but Tim Schafer had the final say.  and luckily he has amazing taste!  He is the best.  I loved working with him.  Brutal Legend, i oversaw the preproduction phase which was the inspiration stage, getting everyone excited to create this new world.  Lee Petty was at the helm of the production.  But it was a very collaborative process.  everyone had amazing ideas and sometimes i was there to make a decision if one needed to be made, but mostly i was just into getting everyone pumped.
Do you have any advice for artists to break into video games or comic books?
i would say, keep making things on your own!  i got my start in comics by just making mini comics with my friends and going to comic shows. Later i began posting comics online and tumblr.  The online community is an exciting thing to be a part of.  Video games have changed quite a lot since i started in the 90′s.  i would say get versatile in what you can do and try interning first or getting a job at a very small company where you can get real experience.  or just make you own little games with your friends!  that is the best proof that you can do it.
From your book Great Showdowns, which is your favourite Showdown?
Ghost.  I always say Ghost.  Because it is just so silly.  Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze versus the little clay pot dude on the pottery wheel.  Such a happy and sexy moment.
What’s coming up for you?
Well, ONI Press is releasing the second volume and reprint of the first volume of the Double Fine Action Comics.  Should be any day now, unless it is already in stores.  And my third children’s picture book comes out in the Fall called If Dogs Run Free, a story by Bob Dylan, the songwriter that we are all familiar with.  The second collection of the Great Showdowns comes out in the Fall as well. And i am currently working on writing and illustrating my first picture book all on my own!  It is about Hugs.
Let’s talk pipe dreams. If you could do ANYTHING with your career now, what would you do?
Probably make some movies.  I like movies.
Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments
Stumptown Vol 2 #1

Stumptown Vol 2 #1


Greg Rucka brings us back into the world of Dex Parios, female detective and gambling addict living in Portland, Oregon in volume two of his detective series, Stumptown.


In the first volume which started in 2009, Dex was tracking down the granddaughter of a Casino owner in order to cover her own gambling debt. As promised by Rucka, the new issue begins with a new case and a new start – the first page with a full-page montage of the band Tailhook playing to a huge audience in the Crystal Ballroom. Lyrics circle the pictures and an acid-trip explosion comes out from the stage and drenches the images of each band member’s face being picked up by camera phones. It looks impressive, grungy, and leads well into the band exiting the stage – the punk singer refusing to talk to anyone, while the guitarist and drummer head down to the green room to relax. The colours are toned down, but the purple of Mim – the guitarist’s – hair and red of her guitar are vibrant as they let off steam.

On the fourth/fifth page spread, Southworth establishes the setting of Dex’s office as she is settling in. When a man shows up with a job for her, she is charming and businesslike , but turns down the job upon hearing the name of the construction company she would be working as it is owned by Hector Marenco – someone from her past who she refuses to work for out of principle. She is polite about turning the man down, simply saying “I don’t do work for Hector Marenco.” It’s not entirely clear to new readers who this man is, and why she hates him so much, but it serves to show that Dex is a woman of honour; as she rips up the contract she had started to fill in she recites Falstaff’s lament of honour from Shakespeare’s Henry IV. The purple-haired guitarist chimes in with the next line, instantly recognisable to Dex as the guitarist of Tailhook, and at the page’s end a close-up of her face shows her saying dramatically “Someone stole my baby.”

One of the incredible ways this comic is so similar to a detective TV show are in transitions like these – it feels like there should be an advert break after that dramatic line, and when the show comes back we get a double-page spread showing pictures of the bright red guitar we saw in the green room. Mim talks about her love for guitars as art which makes art, for the expensive and beautiful ones she owns, but this particular guitar is her Baby. That’s why it isn’t disappointing anti-climatic to find that the baby is a guitar – instead of feeling like she was exaggerating, Rucka’s writing really hammers in the intense love a musician feels for that one instrument that has always been there for them. It’s because of this, and the fractured art style which really give the feel of an indie comic in style, while still being firmly a detective story. Dex is obviously smart, asking pertinent questions and setting things up quickly to get about her job. A Detective Tracy Hoffman is mentioned a few times, a character from his world who apparently Mim does not get along with. The case has been established, and just to add an extra element of drama to the proceedings, we see outside that the pair are being surveilled by two people in a car. One of them picks Dex to follow, the other going after Mim.

When Dex shows up at the house of Fabrizio, Mim’s guitar tech and the last person to see Baby, he and his wife are under attack by some monstrous-looking skinheads wielding Stanley knives who are also after the instrument. Dex shows her ability to stay calm in threatening situations, inviting the attackers to stab her if they don’t believe her claim that the police will be arriving any second. They fall for her bluff and run away, threatening revenge and it seems that things might be on their way up until the blonde woman who had been watching Mim shows up and points a gun at Dex’s head. The issue ends here, but I get the distinctive sense that this Cathy Chase of the Drug Enforcement Agency will be character as tough as Dex herself. Rucka’s inspiration for Dex was that of the lone cowboy in the Old West – perhaps Cathy will prove to be the sheriff. I look forward to seeing where the story goes, and the progression of the lone ranger/private investigator tone; this seems like a great comic to immerse yourself in the world of Greg Rucka’s creator-own stories, in which he famously writes rounded, in-depth female characters, lead in by Southworth’s ability to create solid locations with personalities of their own. Definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of detective fiction.

Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments
Batwoman #0

Batwoman #0

A Batwoman zero issue is a difficult thing to do so soon after her reinvention. It was in 2006 that the character Batwoman was reintroduced to us, as a completely different person to the heterosexual Kathy Kane who had been invented in the fifties as Batman’s beard and removed as non-essential ten years later. The new Kate Kane is a Jewish lesbian heiress from a military family and Greg Rucka did an incredible job in Batwoman: Elegy of giving off the impression of a strong, determined young woman who is also brutally human in her flaws. On her twelfth birthday she was kidnapped with her mother and identical twin sister, neither of which made it out, and was expelled from the military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as a result of being unwilling to lie to cover her homosexuality. After years of drinking and struggling, she was inspired by a fortuitous encounter with the Caped Crusader and decided to adopt the sign of the Bat herself. Since then she has battled with monsters, been stabbed in the heart, and found that the sister she thought had died was alive, and mad, before losing her again.


When the issue begins, Kane is one the plane again, holding the villain to stop her falling to her death when she finds out that this is, in fact, her sister. The same words and same striking visual images from Elegy are framed by red voice-over boxes as Kane talks to her father in form of a message in the form of a good-bye message. She admits to recording them every time she went out as Batwoman to thank her father and tell him that she loved him. Every time, until she lost her sister Beth again; “The night I started hating you.” This is a really emotional first page that brings you right into the story – we know that Kate’s relationship with her father was the only stable one she had in her life after her twelfth birthday, and the idea that she would hate him is tragic.

The flashbacks to Kate’s childhood are rendered in a simplified style, reminiscent of Bunty comics and showing the intensely close relationship she had with Beth, who was always there to control her when she couldn’t control herself. She remembers with love the way her father had been patient and kind with her after the funeral and became strong for her when she was so angry and afraid. The repetition of the six-panelled pages veers between brief glimpses of her life (sleeping with various women, getting tattooed, meeting Renee Montoya) and slighter longer pieces of Kate confessing her love of being drunk and helpless – because he would be there to take care of her.

On the next page, the old-fashioned block artwork collides with the textured inking that we saw in Batwoman: Elegy as the dark Batman stands over the simpler Kate as he stops her from beating a mugger to death. The full-page spread is beautiful, and if you are a Batman fan you are bound to appreciate the inspiration and awesomeness of the image of the powerful man – but Kate knows instantly that anyone could be under the mask, even herself. So she begins her crusade and soon her father finds out and sends her on a two year training course to make sure that if she wants to do this, she knows what she is prepared for. In Elegy it was mentioned that she had been away training for years, but never explained where it was she had gone; we find out now, and it is brutal to watch her push herself to terrifying limits, both physically and psychologically. She was offered a chance to put her energies somewhere better – to helping sick children in Africa – but turns it down. Her final mission, back again in a the simplified art style, involved rescuing a family from Russian extremists, dealing directly with her own past and fears. When she breaks into the building to find their throats cut, the number of panels increases so we see flashes through her rage – blood dripping from the knife, her face full of rage, the smiling mask on the man who committed the atrocity, and she goes mad attacking him, only just stopping short of killing him. When she asks why, he removes the mask and reveals himself to be her father ensuring that she would not kill even in the most emotionally blinding situations.

J.H. Williams beautiful artwork really kicks in now, with the fantastically iconic image of Batwoman smirking beneath her mask as the monsters of her new life assemble below. She explains that rather than seeing it as leaving Gotham as Kate Kane and returning as Batwoman, she left as his “lost little girl” and came back knowing who she was. She was strong and confident and self-assured, until she found out that her sister hadn’t died. She claims that the moment she became Batwoman was on the plane, when she lost Beth again and realised that her father had deceived her, kept this secret and that she had no one to trust but herself. She signs off by telling her dad she loves him; she doesn’t forgive him, but realises that it is necessary for her to be alone. Becoming Batwoman required picking herself up from rock bottom.

The central story of this is Kate’s relationship with her father, but that relationship is so wrapped up in her traumatic experience as a child and how she learnt to cope afterwards that it’s a vital part of her transformation. The style of writing, as a confession letter to someone she knows will never hear it, reminded me of Batman stories in which he talks to his parents’ graves. In Elegy, Rucka did an amazing job of giving a voice to Batwoman, but in this zero issue Haden makes us really understand Kate Kane in a touching and exhilerating way. Williams’ artwork is always incredibly beautiful and detailed and the lay-out of the pages is easy to read without being boring in the slightest. I’m not sure if it would still have the same amount of emotional pull if I hadn’t already been in love with Kate Kane and Batwoman, but this comic should be a good starting point for a crash-course in the new heroine’s troubled backstory.

Posted by jenny in Comics, 0 comments