Comic Review: Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney

Published: September, 2019
Written by: Ethan Van Sciver
Art by: Ethan Van Sciver, Kyle Ritter

All Caps Comics, 80 Pages

Review:

There was about a ten year period where I checked out of comics from the late ’90s until the late ’00s. But what brought me back was the artwork of the era and primarily, the work of Ethan Van Sciver on Green Lantern. At the time, I didn’t know who Ethan was, I was just captivated by his detail, as well as the colors of those books.

It wasn’t until later that I learned more about him and sought out a lot more of his work and frankly, I always found it breathtaking and it’s kind of responsible for re-igniting my love for the comic book medium.

So when I had heard that Van Sciver was leaving DC due to some bullshit involving politics and comic industry insanity, I wanted to follow him into whatever his next big endeavor would be.

Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney is the first part of a four-part story arc. Also, it resurrects a character that Ethan created while at Harris Comics in the ’90s. Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan of the concept but the art that he showed, leading up to the launch of his campaign was all high quality stuff and some of his best work. So I got in on his crowdfunding campaign fairly early.

It was a hell of a waiting game, however, as this was two months shy of being a year late. While that was frustrating, once I got the book in my hand, all that sort of vanished and I was just ecstatic to have it and to finally be able to read it.

What I saw, page after page, was an exceptional work of art. This was, visually, the greatest thing that Ethan Van Sciver has ever done. Seeing the incredible detail on every single page makes me realize that this needed a lot more time than Ethan initially planned for. Plus, the book doubled in size since it was first announced. That doesn’t excuse it being as late as it was but I hope Ethan has learned from this process and will give us more accurate dates on his future campaigns.

This wasn’t just Ethan’s baby though, as a lot of the credit has to go to colorist Kyle Ritter. While Ethan is a top notch illustrator, Ritter’s colors truly take this to another level. Ritter is absolutely a top talent in the comic book industry beyond just his color work. But I’m so glad that he got this gig, was able to show the world what he was capable of and I’m looking forward to his upcoming StarBlades comic.

As far as the story goes, Ethan also wrote this. However, that’s the one aspect of this project where I had some reservations. Not because I didn’t think he could do it but because he doesn’t have much experience as an actual comic book writer. However, working with a guy like Geoff Johns for as long as he did, he probably picked some things up.

While I can’t say that this is as good of a story as the Green Lantern books that Ethan worked on, this is still a better written comic book than what has become the industry standard in 2019. Ethan very clearly has a vision for these characters and where he wants to take them and it all just comes together and works magnificently.

Although, I’ve heard some people complain a bit about the book’s structure and how it’s third act just kind of ends in the middle of the story. I had no problem with this whatsoever, as it seemed to end in a natural place for a story that is going to have three more installments. I won’t spoil how this ends but it is satisfying, after what the first act in this issue laid out for us.

Ultimately, this was pretty fantastic. Ethan Van Sciver made a damn good comic book and even if the concept itself didn’t grab me, after experiencing it, I’m now invested and looking forward to the rest of the story. That means that this did its job and it actually exceeded my expectations.

Also, I didn’t give a shit about the chromium cover but after seeing it, the cover looks absolutely incredible.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Ethan’s Green Lantern and Flash stuff, as well as the original Cyberfrog run at Harris Comics.

Comic Review: Lonestar: Heart of the Hero

Published: February, 2019
Written by: Mike S. Miller
Art by: Mike S. Miller, Kyle Ritter (color on covers)

Blacklist Universe, 48 Pages

Review:

If I’m being honest, I can’t say that Lonestar was the Comicsgate associated book that I was most looking forward to. I bought it just to see how it was and to review it. But with that being said, it is the best Comicsgate related comic that has made it to my mailbox, thus far.

I didn’t know much about Mike S. Miller until I saw him enter Ethan Van Sciver’s orbit. But as I got to know him through YouTube and Twitter, I was made aware of more of his past work and I do own a lot of the stuff he’s worked on and find his art to be really good.

Now at first glance, one might see Lonestar as a mash up of Captain America and vigilante heroes like Daredevil, the Punisher, Deathstroke (on good days) or the Vigilante. And one might think, “Do we need another vigilante superhero?”

Lonestar is pretty interesting though, as he isn’t just a street level vigilante but he works on a special black ops team that fights supernatural threats like vampires. So there is almost an element of G.I. Joe and classic horror also thrown into the mix. Since these are all things that I love, I found this pretty damn fun to read. And it is also well-balanced between all of these various elements.

This release is 48 pages and the story will be continued in a future volume. But there is enough here to really make you understand the hero, as well as this comic title. Miller did a solid job with the plotting as he gave this character depth, personality and purpose all within this first release. He also established a real threat for our hero to face down the road. The pacing of the story was good and a lot happens in a limited space. I’m not too keen on the dialogue, however. It’s not terrible but it’s also not very good. I think it’s an indicator that these Comnicsgate titles need an editor. I felt the same way after reading Jawbreakers. There just needs to be an extra step where these things can be fine tuned better.

In the end, I like this character and that’s the most important factor in selling me on the idea of supporting future releases.

Mike S. Miller’s art is also the best that I’ve seen from the Comicsgate camp. I think that Ethan Van Sciver’s Cyberfrog will take the cake, once it’s released, but Miller is an accomplished artist with decades worth of experience working for major publishers and his level of craftsmanship is made very apparent just from the first page of Lonestar. His style might not work for everyone but art is subjective and people have different tastes. But this looks like a top book from a top publisher and boasts more artistic skill than a lot of what Marvel and DC Comics are putting out in 2019. That’s not to say that every panel was great. There were a few spots where I didn’t like the perspective or the anatomy.

If I’m being honest, the primary cover of the book didn’t make me want to buy it. The variants were much better. The picture used in this review is of the second cover, which is the one I purchased.

Lonestar: Heart of the Hero surprised me. It really caught me off guard and that’s not a knock against what I think of Miller, it just didn’t immediately resonate with me at the same level as other comic books I’ve backed over the last year on Indiegogo or Kickstarter. But I am happy that I supported it and I will continue to keep an eye out for Miller’s future campaigns.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: I’m sure future Lonestar and Mike S. Miller releases, as well as other recent Comicsgate books like Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers.

Comic Review: Jawbreakers – Lost Souls

Published: February, 2019
Written by: Richard C. Meyer
Art by: Jon Malin, Brett R. Smith, Eric Weathers, Simon Bennett (Book One), Kelsey Shannon (Book Two), Ethan Van Sciver (cover), Kyle Ritter (cover)

Splatto Comics, 120 Pages

Review:

Well, after a very long wait, Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers – Lost Souls has finally arrived. It took awhile to come out but Meyer has kept people clued in every step of the way due to all the roadblocks and challenges that popped up during this comic’s creation to it finally getting in the consumers’ hands.

I’m glad that I finally got it, as I’ve wanted to review it for a long time.

Full disclosure, I’m not a Comicsgater but I get lumped into that label by people who don’t like those of us who question things or criticize the comic book industry. Also, when I reviewed Meyer’s Iron Sights, I upset a lot of those who lean in a direction opposite of Meyer and most of his supporters. But I liked Iron Sights, despite its issues, and gave that one a 6.75 out of 10.

That being said, Jawbreakers is a step up from Iron Sights but I still have some issues with it, overall.

For the most part, the art in the Lost Souls story is pretty good. Jon Malin is talented but I’m not always a fan of his characters. Everything looks very sleek and his characters seem a bit slender and elongated in certain poses. Still, he’s much better than the average bear and he’s only getting better with more high profile projects under his belt. I’m pretty excited about his Graveyard Shift comic, which are now hitting mailboxes.

Brett R. Smith’s colors are absolutely fantastic though. I also love the cover by Ethan Van Sciver and Kyle Ritter.

This release also features two “remastered” versions of older Jawbreakers stories. One is drawn by Simon Bennett while the other is done by Kelsey Shannon, who also did the Iron Sights cover. These two additions to this release don’t look as good as Malin’s work. Bennett’s parts need more refinement. Shannon’s are better but I’m not a huge fan of the style he uses here and it’s not as polished as his Iron Sights cover, which was actually stunning.

I thought the story was decent, as it is similar to a G.I. Joe story with a kaiju thrown in. I love both of those things, so mixing them is a cool idea. However, this isn’t G.I. Joe. I’d say it’s better than what IDW Publishing has done with the actual G.I. Joe franchise in the years since Chuck Dixon stopped writing it but this feels a bit thin.

If I’m being honest, I need to know something about the characters’ backstories. Here they are thrown into a situation and you just go along for the ride. Meyer needs to develop these characters a bit more but since he has plans to use these characters in the future, maybe we’ll get to know them better. Right now, they feel like generic placeholders or those G.I. Joes that would pop up into a story because they had an action figure but they weren’t popular enough to get more than a minor cameo.

This might sound harsh and I don’t mean it to be but G.I. Joe had a lot of toy companies that knocked them off with toylines like The Corps! and X-Troop. Right now, this feels more like The Corps! than G.I. Joe. It is kind of generic but again, that’s probably because these characters need more depth. I need to care about them and I don’t just off of this story.

I do like that this just gets to the action and it’s pretty much balls to the wall from start to finish. But over time, we’ll need more than that. I can excuse the lack of depth being that this is, right now, a one-off action story.

Jawbreakers is a good start to something but it will take some time to turn it into a brand. The problem with that though, is that crowdfunded comics take a long time to create and distribute. This is one of my criticisms of doing comics this way when I’ve lived in a world where my favorite heroes and teams hit my pull box on a monthly basis. It is much easier finding yourself invested in characters and stories that come out with some regularity. I don’t know if crowdfunded comic franchises in the making can succeed in that way. Plus, people lose interest in things when there’s a long wait.

But for now, I did enjoy this. I certainly don’t have any sort of buyer’s remorse. This was a cool experiment and the end product mostly delivers.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Richard C. Meyer’s Iron Sights.

Talking Pulp: Comicsgate and the Sustainability of Crowd Funded Comics

*If you have been following what has been going on with Comicsgate over the last several months, you can probably skip over the long introduction and jump right into the second part of the article. The introduction is to get people who aren’t aware of Comicsgate up to speed on what has been happening.

Part I: An Introduction to Set the Stage:

I have always hated labels but I find my ideals and my fandom in line with the Comicsgate movement. I hate anything called “(insert name)-gate” because it’s been done to death and at this point, it is misused. Initially, it was used as a suffix to label anything that was a scandal. Comicsgate like Gamergate before it isn’t a scandal, it is a push back against a forced social cultural agenda brought on by liberal extremists that many refer to as SJWs (or social justice warriors).

I really don’t want to spend my time on this article talking about SJWs, as all the big wigs in the Comicsgate movement have that covered. But in a nutshell, they tend to latch on to something in pop culture and use it as a platform to force diversity on the masses. No one I talk to or support in Comicsgate has a problem with diversity. We love diversity, which can be found in many major comic book titles going back decades.

Hell, it’s rare to find an old school comic book fan that isn’t a huge fan of the Chris Claremont era of X-Men, where diversity was kind of the whole point. My favorite franchise of all-time was G.I. Joe and that certainly wasn’t short on diversity. As a kid two of my favorite characters were Stalker (a black man) and the Baroness (a woman). My absolute favorite was Shipwreck, whose real name is Hector Delgado, so he’s probably Hispanic.

What Comicsgate people have a problem with is the SJW’s tactics and how they use hate filled rhetoric and intimidation while preaching the opposite. The big thing that people supporting Comicsgate want is good storytelling and for the intellectual properties that they love and cherish to be respected. But if you disagree with SJWs, they tend to call you names like “racist”, “bigot”, “misogynist”, “homophobe”, “white supremacist”, “Nazi”, “alt-right”, “Trump supporter” and whatever other bullshit they can come up with to bully you and paint you as something you aren’t.

I’m none of those things, by the way, not that I should even have to defend myself. And I didn’t support Trump… or Hillary for that matter. I’m an anarcho-capitalist that hates talking about politics because I ran a blog about it for several years until my brain exploded. It then took several more years for my brain to regenerate into something other than pulpy goo.

Anyway, when you try to have rational or reasonable discussions, the SJWs call you more names and then block you on social media because that’s what modern day bullies do. In the old days, bullies at least had balls and would get in your face, physically. Nowadays, the bullies are setting up GoFundMe accounts to get their fans to pay for surgeries to remove their balls (see for yourself). I guess being a writer for Marvel and DC Comics with an SJW agenda isn’t a good paying gig when you need to crowdfund your sex change operation. Point being, comic book sales are terrible in 2018, as the industry is essentially being held hostage by these SJW types. Comic books, as we know them, are dying a horrible death. Seriously, look at Squirrel Girl… who buys this shit?

But with all that being said, there are several people who are now creating their own comics because they no longer want to work within an industry where they aren’t wanted by those who hold the keys to the kingdom. Many conservatives in comics have been harassed and blacklisted. Those who still work in the comics industry that don’t agree with SJW politics and tactics, keep their mouths shut for fear of losing their jobs or receiving even worse backlash.

However, guys like Richard C. Meyer a.k.a. Zack of Diversity & Comics (currently at 81K subscribers) and former DC Comics artist Ethan Van Sciver a.k.a. ComicArtistPro Secrets (currently at 68K subscribers) have spoken out heavily against the SJW types and have created their own projects, which are being crowd funded with great success, unlike SJWs trying to crowd fund the snipping of their genitalia.

Diversity & Comics was the first to come out with his own graphic novel, which is called Jawbreakers – Lost Souls. Right now, this book has raised $362K from 9403 backers, funding 3867% of its initial goal. Ethan Van Sciver followed with Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney, which has raised $436K from 6928 backers, funding 5452% of its initial goal. These campaigns are still open and will continue to raise money.

Now there are other creators entering the fray and that’s what I’m here to discuss after this long winded introduction to get my readers up to speed.

Part II: Moving Beyond the Genesis of Comicsgate:

I have supported Jawbreakers and Cyberfrog. I did it gladly, without even knowing much about the comics themselves, as it is about funding something bigger than just a comic book project. It is about funding a movement and trying to change the industry. As time rolls on and things change and modernize with technology, we don’t have to necessarily buy comic books the same way that we’ve been buying them since, well… half a century before I was even born. To be honest, I still love walking into my local comic shops and buying stuff off of the wall and I think every true comic fan agrees with me there.

Since supporting those two projects, I’ve also found myself backing Cautionary Comics’ Ravage – Kill All Men!, Mitch and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s Red Rooster: Golden Age (the one I’m most excited about) and Richard C. Meyer’s second project Iron Sights.

The thing is, there are more projects out there that I haven’t supported and many more in the pipeline. So that raises some questions worth exploring.

To start, these comic books are typically graphic novel size or longer than standard comics. Plus, they are printed independently without being under the banner of a large publisher like Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc. Therefore, they can’t print these books as cheaply because they aren’t printing mass quantities, month after month, till the end of time.

Printing costs are determined by a combination of things: mainly cost of goods (paper, ink, etc.) and labor. More comics means that the cost of overall goods goes down and so does the amount of labor, as labor is mostly tied in to setting up the press. It doesn’t matter if you set up a press to print 100 comics or 100,000, the set up process is virtually the same. Spreading that cost out over 100 copies is going to cost more per issue than spreading it out over 100,000 copies.

So keeping that in mind, the cost of these crowd funded indie comics is more expensive than that issue of Detective Comics that you bought at your local store. What usually costs $3.99 to $4.99 costs at least $20. Keep in mind that there are more pages in these books but the price is still quite a bit more than the norm.

But realistically, most people will spend more than this. I’ve spent between $30 and $75 on each of these projects. Reason being, there are all types of perks based off of what tier you decide to purchase. So for instance, on Red Rooster I got the $50 tier, which comes to $60 after shipping but it includes a signed copy of the 48 page Red Rooster comic, a sketchbook of unused and conceptual art, as well as a sticker related to the project. I really wanted the sketchbook in addition to the comic, so I spent twice as much as I would have for just the comic alone, which was $25.

The point I’m trying to make here is that these things aren’t cheap. But that’s okay. I gladly funded these projects because I like them, the people behind them and what all of this represents. Tens of thousands of other people feel the same way and so far, these Comicsgate related projects have raised more than $950,000 in less than two months and that’s just the projects I have supported. I’m sure the ones I haven’t backed push the number over a million dollars. Plus, Red Rooster and Iron Sights just started a week or so ago.

Additionally, there is a lot of buzz around these books as most of the creators are helping each other out by promoting different projects than just their own. YouTube and Twitter have been the strongest forces in getting the word out. And since Jawbreakers and Cyberfrog both went gangbusters, everyone is excited and motivated even more than they were a few months ago. This is great for the creators and even better for the fans.

But can this momentum maintain? How big is the market share, really? It is easier to control a few projects and to pinpoint where the consumer should put their buck but what happens when others start jumping on the bandwagon, which is already happening?

Part III: The Uncertain Future:

The thing is, as more projects hit the market, there will be more choices. That is how capitalism works.

However, more doesn’t necessarily mean better and while the creators now seem like a good, solid group of people in this for the right reasons and to help establish something larger for the comic book industry, there are no guarantees in the type of people that could come along next.

I’m not saying that we should be weary? Quite the contrary. I’m all about accepting people with open arms. If they turn out to be a douche, I cross my arms and move on. But everyone should be given the same platform and means to achieve success. I think people should be smart with their money though and not just freely throw it onto every project that pops up. I’ve had to do that with some projects that I was going to help fund simply because of my excitement level for what’s been happening. I’d love to fund all of these things but I only make so much money and have bills to pay; that’s life. Plus, there’s other things outside of the Comicsgate sphere that I want to back just because they’re projects that resonate with me in some way.

Anyway, once the floodgates are open and they’re nearly there, it will be hard for others to have the same sort of early success that Richard C. Meyer and Ethan Van Sciver had with their first projects. Truthfully, their follow up comics might not perform as well either when other projects pop up on Indiegogo or Kickstarter. I hope that the word spreads and that sales continue to increase but we don’t yet know how big this market can be.

Right now, the market is only so big. It is growing, however. I definitely feel like it still has room to expand but that also comes from maintaining the level of enthusiasm people have for all of this.

I found out about all of this Comicsgate stuff through a friend that introduced me to Diversity & Comics six months or so ago. I also started following Ethan Van Sciver after that because I liked a lot of the things he was saying, even if his channel is mostly about Star Wars and I’ve pretty much moved on from that franchise.

I think that it is important for people to share what is happening on social media because in this day and age, it is the best way to get the word out. And people are doing just that, which is why the movement has drastically expanded in the last few months and why Cyberfrog and Jawbreakers are crushing it on Indiegogo.

Wearing your passion on your sleeve is the best thing you can do. And being outspoken against the haters and the bullshit is also important because anyone who supports these guys is public enemy number one to the majority of comic book pros in the mainstream comics industry.

With more people coming into this from the creative side, the pie will have to be cut up into smaller pieces. That’s fine though, because in a free market, the better comics will survive and outshine the ones that just aren’t up to snuff. That’s how it works and I think that most people on the Comicsgate side of the coin understand this. But if the market continues to increase, that’s just more money to go around.

Unfortunately, there are some lesser known creators that are getting all worked up and accusing the more popular guys of stealing their thunder and cutting into their pieces of the pie. The truth is, this shit isn’t going to help them sell more books and no one will really have sympathy for this sort of whiny bullshit. Everyone that’s creating on the side of Comicsgate is working towards making the industry better overall but ultimately, are also working to make their bank accounts larger because that’s what business is.

These people that feel entitled to something just because they have been doing it longer won’t matter in the grand scheme of things and this sort of infighting within the network doesn’t help anyone. Get motivated by your competition and use that as fuel to make a better product; see what works for the successful creators and learn from those successes.

Plus, the success of the bigger guys like Ethan Van Sciver and Ricahrd C. Meyer is what brought more people to the movement. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these two guys. The truth is that they’ve baked a much larger pie for people to get in on. Their presence in this network of like minded people should be seen as something positive, as it does benefit everyone.

Part IV: What the Future Can Be:

I have heard a lot of people make the same connection that I am about to but this Comicsgate movement is very similar to the Image Revolution in the early ’90s. The last time I felt this way about comics was when I was in middle school and seven major comic book creators walked out on their jobs at Marvel to start their own independent company. Their reasons and motivation were different but what they were looking for was essentially the same: a better comic book industry where the creators own their creations and get to make as much money as they possibly can by plying their trade. And in the case of Comicsgate, creating better stories and respecting the established history of the industry.

The biggest difference between this generation’s rebels and the founders of Image, is that these modern rebels interact directly with their customers. They are approachable, easy to communicate with and have the ability to adapt to trends on the fly. This isn’t just about crowd funding money, it is about crowd funding ideas and criticism. It’s also about building the movement. If my middle school aged self could have had conversations with Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld or Jim Lee, I would’ve lost my damn mind. We live in a really cool time.

The SJW creators don’t want to interact with their fans, they want to dictate what their fans should support and call them “toxic” if they don’t follow suit. The SJW way of doing business will absolutely fail and the Comicsgate creators are on the right side of the consumer.

As this continues to grow, the future will start taking shape for the comic book industry in new ways. I don’t think Marvel or DC will ever go out of business, as they own very profitable characters that are essentially the gods and heroes of American mythology. But guys like Ethan and Richard will probably have to start their own companies. Or there will end up being some sort of indie publishing house that will form to take on the duties of printing and distributing these products with more regularity and eventually, at a cheaper price.

This could very well lead to a third major company forming and making the same sort of impact that Image did with their first string of releases in 1992. In fact, this could be bigger, as a large part of the Comicsgate fan base is comprised of people that have been long time fans and are no longer kids buying comics with their allowance. We have jobs, make real world money and are a much bigger financial pot to dip into than Image had with their earliest fans. I understand that the comics industry doesn’t do early ’90s numbers in 2018 but that can change. Maybe this is what the industry needs and the x-factor that can propel it forward for future generations. Especially, when just two guys have independently crowd funded over $800,000 for just two comics in less than two months.

Part V: Conclusion:

There is a lot to be excited about and things have changed for the better with the impact that Comicsgate has made on the industry in just a short time. The SJW creators try to ignore it and downplay it but they’re terrified, which is why they spend all their time trying to undermine it, harass its supporters and attempt to sabotage it at every turn. Just look into what Mark Waid did to Antarctic Press in trying to stop Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers from being published (video on that here).

It is still an uphill battle and a few big victories don’t necessarily win a war. It’s up to the fans and the creators to keep pushing forward in positive ways and to not become swayed by hate filled shitbirds that are just projecting that hate onto normal, well adjusted people. Plus, SJWs have proven time and time again that they’re not very smart and that they’re just cowards that will talk shit and then immediately block you. Ding Dong Ditch was a game for pussies.

It is important to support these projects if you believe in what all of this stands for and if you want to create a comic book industry that is once again thriving and healthy without lame ass identity politics, crappy writing and shitty Tumblr art.

As the train keeps running, spend that money wisely. Buy what you want though. So many new projects are about to flood the market and that’s a good thing because you now have more choices. It’s okay to be selective because these comics are pricier and with that, you deserve to get more for your investment. The cream will rise to the top and with that, bigger and better things for the creators that succeed and the fans that have supported them.

Maybe one day there will be a Jawbreakers or a Cyberfrog movie. Why not both? Why not more?

*The highest rated definitions of “Comics Gate” and “SJW” on Urban Dictionary.