Author Archive for Joshua Unruh

Release Date for The Dragonprince’s Heir (The Dragonprince Trilogy, #3)

We’re excited to announce an official release date for the hotly-anticipated conclusion to the bestselling Dragonprince Trilogy!

We plan to release Aaron Pogue’s next title, The Dragonprince’s Heir, on Tuesday, June 26th, along with the debut epic fantasy Rethana’s Surrender by Courtney Cantrell.

And in case you’re having a hard time waiting, Aaron has shared some friendly recommendations for passing the time until June 26th.

The Dragonprince’s Heir Kickstarter Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DIGITAL REVOLUTION RENDERS COPYRIGHT OBSOLETE

OKLAHOMA CITY – Bestselling author Aaron Pogue is publishing the third book in his successful fantasy trilogy. Given the excellent performance of the other books in the series, this book, The Dragonprince’s Heir, will sell thousands of copies in its opening week and has the potential to make as much money as the first two books put together. None of that is what Pogue wants you to know about the book, though.

“I want to donate this book to artists everywhere,” Pogue insists. “The first day The Dragonprince’s Heir is available, I hope that it’s in the public domain. Just like the first two in the series.”

What makes a successful author, one who was only recently able to quit his day job as a technical writer, give away the ownership to an intellectual property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?

For Pogue, it’s the belief that copyright is a concept that has outlived its usefulness. “Those rights could have made me a fortune. A single movie option could make my non-profit arts foundation a fortune. But we’re passing up that opportunity in search of something better.”

Copyright is Copy Wrong
Pogue believes that copyright has become a tool for exploiting artists. He says it’s time for a cultural revolution where art is valued as art and not as a commodity, but not at the expense of artists making a living.

“Art gets its value from being shared. By keeping art hidden, copyright has become an artificial, ugly, and ineffective thing. It was necessary for a while, but the low production costs and easy market access of digital art changed everything. We have the opportunity to bring back patronage. A new patronage opens new opportunities for art.”

It isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Pogue is already bringing this “new patronage” about with his non-profit arts organization, the Consortium.

The Consortium Model
The Consortium is a non-profit organization comprised of schools and students that will produce art for the community, all while making a decent living. Pogue believes the key to this model is a reinvention of the patronage system that succeeded during all four centuries of the Renaissance.

For anyone unfamiliar with patronage, Pogue has a quick history lesson. “Back then, the nobility and the very rich kept artists on staff. The artists composed beautiful music, created breathtaking paintings, or wrote classic books which their patrons then gave to the world. Much of what we consider culture today was created under this model.”

“But we don’t need mega-corporations or multi-millionaire Medicis anymore,” Pogue says. “We just need art lovers to support an organization like the Consortium so that the Consortium can support artists.”

You can read a more detailed explanation of how Pogue will use the Consortium to bring the plan to fruition. But so far, the model is working. As the organization’s president, Pogue is the Consortium’s first paid artist and also the main source of financial support. The first two fantasy novels in his bestselling Dragonprince trilogy have sold thousands of copies and made a tidy profit. This profit has been invested back into the Consortium to launch the successful publishing arm of the organization, Consortium Books.

“Right now I have 30 dedicated and hard-working volunteer artists,” Pogue said. “They’ve made it possible for us to publish seven writers in addition to myself with over 100,000 book sales across 15 titles in the last year. That’s commitment, and it’s success. But it isn’t our ideal. Not yet.”

Kickstarting the Ideal
Pogue believes that if artists were paid a decent salary for making creative works initially, they wouldn’t have to worry so much about intellectual property law and copyright. That’s all he expected from Taming Fire and The Dragonswarm, the first two novels in his trilogy. Once each title made $30,000, he authorized the Consortium to release them into the public domain.

Even Pogue was surprised how quickly his plan flourished. “I thought it would probably take ten years for Taming Fire to earn enough that I could release it into the public domain. It didn’t even take ten months.”

As of this month, Taming Fire and the The Dragonswarm are both dedicated to the public domain. The Consortium has released them under the Creative Commons No Rights Reserved license.

But Pogue wants more for the third novel. He wants it to be in the public domain from the first day it’s published. And he’s turning to cloudfunding website Kickstarter to make it happen. For the month leading up to publication, Pogue is using Kickstarter to raise the $30,000 necessary for the Consortium to secure the rights to his novel without a single copy sold.

“This is an opportunity to make a statement, to participate in something new, and to show support for an idea that could change the world,” Pogue says. But he doesn’t want any confusion about what this fundraiser is all about. “I’m not asking you to contribute to the publication of a single book. I’m asking you to help make that book, that piece of art, belong to the world. Free and clear.”

How To Become a Part of the Revolution
Whether you are an art lover or simply feel copyright is no longer a useful system, the Consortium would appreciate your help. The easiest way to show your support is by purchasing Consortium art. The publishing arm is funding the organization through published works. The Consortium has both full length novels and short stories, both individually and in collections.

But the best way to support this vision of the future is by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign that will immediately purchase the rights to The Dragonprince’s Heir. Please visit that link for more details on the organization, to look over the contribution rewards, and, finally, to contribute to this revolutionary new idea.

Review: Cow Boy (Graphic Novel)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


Cow Boy is a tremendous read that I’m having a hard time pinning down.

Not my feelings about it, mind you. I loved it. But the book itself is…complex. Yeah, that’s a perfect word. It’s complex, so I can’t boil it down to a one- or two-sentence high concept. That’s probably the main reason I liked it so much.

So the easy stuff first, those so-called “facts” that don’t need to know how I feel about them in order to be important. Cow Boy vol. 1: Justice Ain’t Got No Age is written by Nate Cosby (Pigs, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller) and Eisner and Harvey Award nominee Chris Eliopoulos (Franklin Richards, Pet Avengers). It also will feature several short stories from Roger Langridge, David Gallaher & Steve Ellis, Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener, Colleen Coover, Paul Tobin, and others. The publisher is Archaia, which means it will be a gorgeous, full color hardcover available in bookstores that know what’s good.

So, that’s done. Here’s why the thing is a complex piece.

It’s an all-ages book. I follow Nate Cosby on Twitter and he’s often talked about his commitment to and belief in the importance of all-ages material. I share this belief, and not just because I have children. I share it because there are children in the world. I’m a prime example of somebody who developed a love for reading, literature, mythology, and high adventure because of (superhero) comics and I lament deeply that this isn’t really something that can happen with (superhero) comics for my kids. Or at least, certainly not in the bulk of them as it did for me.

Enter every other kind of comics. Especially this one.

Cow Boy is a Western. This isn’t just because that’s a good backdrop. It’s a Western in that the patois is decidedly Western, the archetypes Cosby and Eliopoulos are playing with are decidedly Western, and it’s a premise that works within the genre conventions of a Western and may not work in too many other genres. The tale follows 10-year-old Boyd Linney as he rides across the West determined to bounty hunt his entire, worthless, double dealin’, no good, outlaw kin. All of them. And there’s apparently a lot of them. And he starts with his daddy.

That’s pretty heady stuff for an all-ages book. Betrayal, familial neglect, gunplay, tough-talkin’, and bounty huntin’ (not to mention a crushing disappointment for Boyd from a corner you do not expect) are all tough concepts to talk to kids about. But that’s why this complex book works so well. Eliopoulos’s art is very well done and wonderfully cartoony. I’ve enjoyed his work in broad, slapstick books before.  But in Cow Boy, it’s cartoony to show just how angry Boyd can get, to show just how mean bigotted townspeople can get, or to show how dismaying it can be to know you’re utterly alone in the world at the tender age of ten.

There is some violence, but most of it amounts to less than you’d get from a roadrunner and a coyote. There is some tough talk, but nothing you wouldn’t want your elementary schooler repeating. Mostly, you get very difficult, very emotionally charged topics presented in a way that gives you an opportunity to discuss them with your kids and maybe, just maybe get ahead of some of their own emotional development. That’s pretty intense. And it’s also pretty great.

All of that is wrapped up in a tremendously entertaining story with a lot of very clever writing, both in the plot and in Boyd’s own turn of phrase. They’re then bookended with short stories of only a few pages from some of the more colorful, inventive, and funny people in comics. Though quick and not always packing the same punch as Boyd’s tale, these shorts are a welcome addition to the book.

I recommend Cow Boy to parents, to aunts and uncles, to teachers, to Western fans, and to anyone who thinks smart, emotionally charged, all-ages fiction is worthwhile and important. Look for it in April 2012 in fine bookstores everywhere.

 

Review: Captain America Omnibus v. 1 (Graphic Novel)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


For reasons only tangentially related to this post, I have decided to read several recent and semi-recent Marvel Comics collections to see how they stack up in terms of overall quality and as Young Adult fiction. The most ambitious of these reading experiments was the first volume of the Captain America Omnibus.

It is 744 pages of flag-themed-spandex-wearing super espionage. It took me days and days to read it. I stayed up late and got up early to do it when nobody was around to take my attention from it. It was worth every minute.

There are a boatload  of people responsible for this book since it collects nearly thirty individually published comic books, but I’m going to simplify it down to the names on the spine. Ed Brubaker is the writer. He’s well known for indie crime books and for runs on Batman and Catwoman, as well as co-creating the police drama Gotham Central with Greg Rucka. The two artists mentioned are Steve Epting, of El Cazador fame, as well as Mike Perkins, best known for, well, this Captain America stuff honestly. But his style is a healthy dose of pulp in the Mignola/Hellboy school that fits the flashbacks to the War very well and works as a counterpoint to Epting’s more realistic style.

The Background

This is a superhero story by way of espionage, but in a way that makes James Bond look like he’s living a life of humdrum boredom. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie and have never read a comic book with Captain America in it, I’ll give you the quick rundown.

Skinny, unhealthy Steve Rogers attempted to join the army to fight Nazis but the recruiters rejected him as unfit. A general saw the strong heart and courage housed in his weedy frame and recruited him for Project: Rebirth, an attempt to create  American supersoldiers.

A Nazi agent murdered the scientist responsible for the project moments after Rogers was exposed to the formula. The scientist died and his research was destroyed in the ensuing fire, leaving Rogers the only supersoldier America would ever have. Now the peak of all human physicality, they garbed Rogers in a flag-inspired uniform, gave him an indestructible shield, and sent him into the various WWII theaters as Captain America.

Joining him was a younger man, James “Bucky” Barnes, who fought alongside him, responsible for all the dirty things war requires but you don’t want to see Captain America do on the newsreels. Their final mission in the war left Bucky and Cap presumed dead, though Cap was frozen at the north pole and discovered decades later by the Avengers. Now a man out of time, he joined the Avengers and continues to fight the good fight as Captain America. In addition to his more overt work with the Avengers, Captain America works with SHIELD, the worldwide peacekeeping and espionage agency of the Marvel Universe.

This volume concentrates much more on the espionage end of the spectrum. Cap; SHIELD Director Nick Fury; Cap’s liaison and love interest, Agent 13; his greatest enemy, the Red Skull; a Russian businessman with reasons to hate most of the above; the Skull’s chief henchman, Crossbones, and his daughter, Sin, who are like the superspy versions of Bonnie and Clyde – all these players and more factor into the epic-in-scope tale Brubaker has crafted around America’s supersoldier. If it sounds like a soap opera starring people who wear loud costumes and might be spies, that’s because that’s exactly what it is. It’s like the nighttime television version of a Marvel comic, only with a blockbuster movie budget since ink is relatively cheap.

What’s more, Brubaker crafts some true twists and turns that caught many a jaded comic book fan by surprise. I can’t really go into them without giving away the best bits of the plot, but needless to say, Bru convinced a lot of rabid fanboys to accept a status quo change that had the potential of being mightily unpopular. All at the same time, he puts together an emotional, relationship-fueled story with the backdrop of ex-Nazis leading modern terrorist groups with reality warping crystal cubes versus black-jumpsuited superspies who hang out with a living legend of WWII.

The Execution

Epting, Perkins, and the rest of the artists all do a fantastic job, although the former two are the real stars. Epting is a master of page layout, fight choreography,  and emotional storytelling via facial expression and body language. Perkins, as mentioned, brings a pseudo-retro style to the flashbacks set in World War II that sets counterpoint to the modern story going on even as it illuminates it.

And because this was on my mind, this is totally appropriate for a YA audience. There are suggested sexual relationships as well as the usual violence you’d expect in a grittier superhero book, but it’s all handled very PG-13. There may be some outliers, but I think most parents would feel it appropriate to read along with their teens.

And therein lies the rub, because this book is filled with teaching opportunities. World War II, the Cold War, the modern War on Terror are all conversations that could be spawned from this adventure story. The philosophy of Just Wars, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, or even the plethora of moral gray areas brought on by espionage itself are also represented. If you buy the series Civil War and read it alongside this book, there is even the opportunity to discuss the current dilemma of freedom versus security. Parents, don’t miss the is opportunity to use a pulp adventure story with sci-fi elements to get your kids interested in American history.

All in all, I’m going to read the next two or three volumes of Brubaker’s Captain America even though all of them are nearly as humongous as this one. With my ridiculous reading list, that’s probably the most powerful recommendation I can give it.

Review: Pigs #1 – Hello, Cruel World (Single Issue)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


I thought I was going to have to give in and review a book without pictures by one of my favorite comic book writers. But instead, Twitter provided and I get to take an early look at Pigs. Thank you, Twitter.

Pigs is an espionage thriller written by Nate Cosby and Ben McCool, drawn by Breno Tamura, with colors by Christopher Sotomayor. Rus Wooten handles the letters and production. As an added bonus, it has a beautiful and suggestive cover by Jock. So, I’m familiar with Cosby and McCool but not closely. Honestly, thanks to Twitter, I’m probably more in touch with Cosby as a human rather than a writer. I know he loves hip hop (I one-sided bonded with him over that) and is putting together a Jim Henson’s Storyteller comic I can’t wait to see. But that’s about all I knew coming into this book; recognized  names but not a lot of work to base an opinion on.

Well, dammit, I’m converted. I can’t wait to see where this thing is going. It’s fast moving, has a clever high concept, and roots itself in history. I’m not sure I have better praise for an espionage thriller.

The writing is snappy and the dialogue is well done.  Every character has a unique voice and I could, even after one reading, tell you who said what just based on the line. With a couple of them strung together, I could have given you a character sketch. The cops sound like good cops, but they get totally schooled by the Cold War maven with ice in her  veins. The operatives aren’t heavily detailed, but their broad strokes are sketched. I already know who I like and who I don’t. I also have strong suspicions of who I will end up liking. These lists are not the same. That’s good character work.

The art is moody and atmospheric. Those are buzz words, so I’ll spell it out. The art is dark with bright colors used in between strong, dark inking. If you’ve ever seen the 90s Batman animated series where they started with black backgrounds and then painted daytime on them when necessary, it feels like that. But the lines aren’t nearly as clean as in animation. They’re scratchy and diffuse. Everyone gets a little fuzzy around the edges and, I bet, that’s actually a mood setter. I suspect nobody will be quite who they say they are or will be doing quite what they think they will as the story progresses.

We move from teeming streets, living rooms, and even funerals in Cuba all the way to police interrogation rooms in Washington DC. The backgrounds are detailed and claustrophobic, even on the street scenes. The art brings tension to the story as everything feels close and will likely tighten like a noose by the time the final page is turned.

The plot. I should probably say something about the plot. From what I can tell, this is the story of a sleeper cell from Cuba with a mission handed down parent-to-child for fifty years. It’s also the story of the cops who are trying to stop them from a successful mission. I’m not sure what the mission is yet, but I can tell you that the last page reveals that it is big. The last page is a great cliffhanger and slap in the face.

Pigs is in fine comic book stores everywhere on September 14. For anybody who thinks the warriors have come in from the Cold War, this book promises to knock their socks off. Highly recommended.

Review: Richard Stark’s Parker – The Hunter (Graphic Novel)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to “Go to hell.”

That’s how the novel version of The Hunter starts and it was retained for the graphic novel adaptation. I considered it a good omen. And I was right.

The Hunter was originally a novel by Donald Westlake operating under the nom de plume of Richard Stark. It has been adapted into graphic novel form and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke. These two guys have an amazing pedigree separately. Together? Well, Westlake is a grandmaster and Cooke is a natural to adapt Westlake’s work as Stark.

Westlake has written over a hundred novels and non-fiction books. He’s won the Edgar Award three times and is one of two authors to win it in three different categories. The Mystery Writers of America named him a Grandmaster in 1993 which is the highest honor they can bestow. He specializes in crime fiction including capers and has branched into sci fi and other genres as well. So the guy is damned talented and if it’s a story where bad people do bad things to other bad people, he seems to get even more talented when he calls himself Richard Stark.

Cooke is an Eisner winning writer, illustrator, cartoonist, and animator. His best known works, before he started adapting the Parker novels by Westlake, were all for DC comics. He did a turn on Catwoman that included a caper story called Selina’s Big Score. He oversaw DC’s reimagining and relaunch of The Spirit. And, most impressive, Cooke did a  studied look at the time that bridged the Golden and Silver Age of comics by way of a well-written and beautifully drawn story called DC: The New Frontier. So the man knows what he’s doing on capers, crime books, and books set in the 60s. That pretty much covers several of the Parker novels and certainly describes The Hunter.

The Hunter was first published in 1962. It introduced us to a man named Parker, a professional robber. Professional robber means smart, ruthless, tough, and willing to do what the job required although Parker has no particular love or squeamishness for killing. The jobs were always heists, bank jobs, or payroll hits. The Hunter finds Parker freshly returning from a double cross that nearly killed him and did wind him up in jail for a while. He was double-crossed by a partner and his wife. Now he’s back and wants revenge. Revenge and his $45,000 dollars. He’s willing to do whatever he has to do to whomever he has to do it in order to get both.

If that sounds familiar as a plot hook then it’s probably because the book has been adapted into film at least nine time. Nine times! Including my first brush with it, Payback starring Mel Gibson. (Which had a Director’s Cut released as well, so it might be ten times if you count them as two different movies – hint: you should.) As far as I know, though, this is the first time that it has ever been adapted into graphic novel form. And, like I said, there’s nobody more perfect for the job than Darwyn Cooke.

I’ve already made it clear, I hope, that I enjoy Westlake’s work, even more when he’s working as Stark. But Cooke has done some of the most enjoyable caper comics I’ve ever read. What’s more, Cooke is in self-avowed love with the 60s and  even wrote a love  letter to the period through New Frontier. Cooke has a style that is perfect for the period with a cartoony style that can do pin-up style ladies…

…just as well as suit and tie wearing hard guys.

If there’s one complaint I have, it’s the way the tonally perfect shadowy art combines with the monochromatic art to sometimes make it hard to tell what’s going on with the action. Everybody is wearing a suit, a lot of times the “camera” is pulled far back from the action, and sometimes it results in not being entirely sure who is doing what to whom. It happens enough for me to comment on it, but it’s really pretty rare. It just sticks out because most of the time, Cooke nails the action just like this:

But like I said, for the most part the art is tonally perfect and executed beautifully. I’ll use the opening twenty pages as an example. It introduces us to Parker at a distance and walks with him as he stalks across the George Washington Bridge. He visibly frightens a woman as he goes past, has a wordless interaction with a waitress, jumps a subway turnstile, hits the DMV, and makes a fake driver’s license.

All of this is done in silence except for the initial “Go to hell.” But we still learn a lot about Parker. He’s angry, he’s focused, and he doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks of him. He’s also a criminal and a smart one. But because each shot is either framed at a distance or as a point-of-view shot from Parker, we have yet to be properly introduced to him. This goes on for twenty pages until, finally, we’re introduced to the man whose grisly, dangerous business we’ll be following for the rest of the book. And he looks angry. No, in fact, he looks downright pissed. He looks like this:

Hell. Yes.

The physical book is as beautiful a package as the art that graces the cover and every page within. It’s a hardcover and the pages are a thick, sturdy stock with a great texture that begs to be read and reread. Just turning the pages is an enjoyable experience that is reminiscent  of yesteryear when books were built to last. The endpaper has a geometric style very much of the 60s so that you’re being told something about the story even before you get to the first page.

Richard Stark’s Parker – The Hunter is pretty much the perfect little volume to introduce you to both Westlake and Cooke’s work. And it’s a rewarding experience as both a story and a physical object. I recommend it highly to fans of crime stories, thrillers, or those who just want to take a walk on the wrong side of the tracks with a bad man indulging in a little hard revenge. And the best news is that Westlake wrote many, many more Parker novels. And IDW Publishing plans on putting most, if not all, of them out as fast as Cooke can adapt them.

Hell. Yes.

Review/Introduction: Celadore (Webcomic/Graphic Novel)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


Recently I had the good fortune to discover a hilarious and poignant webcomic in Max Overacts. Max is created by Caanan Graal and you can find it at his  website, Occasional Comics.

Through various machinations I came into possession of a collected story he’d created for Zuda Comics. It’s about a vampire hunter who finds herself in the body of  a young girl. She has a plethora of sidekicks in a Frankenstein made from other Frankensteins, a shapechanging ex-husband, an indestructible neighbor boy, and the tooth fairy. Together they fight crime…er, vampires!

This thing sounded right up my alley. Plus, I wanted to put a spotlight on a talented individual who I knew was struggling as an artist which is obviously close to the Consortium’s heart. I sat down to read Celadore and give it a glowing review.

The only problem was, it wasn’t very good.

Wait, that’s not exactly true or fair. I had a guess that the book was actually quite good but it had gotten a hack job done on it when it was translated from flash-based webcomic to printed collection. So I contacted Canaan himself to get his perspective.

It turns out I was right. But more on that in a minute.

First, a little background: Zuda was an imprint of DC Comics that specialized in online, flash-based webcomics. This was a revolutionary and exciting piece of news at the time and I was sad to see it fold.

I have all kinds of editorial on why that happened and the quality of the work doesn’t enter into it for even a second. But that editorial is for another time and place. The coolest part of Zuda, to me, was that new stories could compete against one another for contracts. I’m going to send you to the wikipedia article to explain it properly.

Zuda had competitions that were open for comic creators to submit their own eight-page comics. Each month ten were selected to compete by editorial. Users could vote for their favorite and the winner received a contract to continue their comic on Zuda with 52 more screens. When the contract was filled, if the comic was liked enough it could be renewed for an additional “season”. Occasionally an “instant winner” was chosen to receive a contract without having to compete. In July 2008 an “invitational” was held where some well liked comics that had not won were invited to back to compete with an additional eight pages apiece.

Celadore won the May 2008 competition. But by the end of 2010 the Zuda imprint was folded into the new digital publishing arm of DC Comics which has, since then, done sweet fanny adams beyond scanning existing comics. Again, that’s editorial that belongs elsewhere so I’ll move on.

As for the book, Caanan has a clean, cartoony style that is fluid for broad comedy and physical action but also manages to give the faces bigger-than-life reactions.

Despite the cartoonish nature of these facial expressions, there is a great deal of emotional depth in these characters. A mother whose child is missing is just as lovingly and believably rendered as the outrage of a centuries-old vampire hunter at being stuck in the body of an 8 year old girl.

The cast of characters show obvious imagination and cleverness as well as  being an endless source of amusement in and of themselves. Caanan’s writing style is similar to his art in that these characters that are initially painted in broad, often comical strokes wind up showing the deep emotional wells of true characters. All that’s the good news.

The bad news is that this presentation of Celadore makes it difficult to enjoy the story. The panels are broken up in ways that don’t make reading the story easy even for somebody with thirty years of comic reading experience. The art is very, very dark which makes that fluid action I mentioned difficult to follow. Also, some of the emotional scenes are overshadowed, pardon the pun, by the coloring. I read this book twice and did not enjoy myself.

But I usually greatly enjoy Caanan’s work on his site! I read almost no webcomics and the ones at Occasional Comics grabbed me and wouldn’t let go! He knew how to do “page layout” and action and coloring! Something had to be terribly wrong.

So I emailed Caanan and, before I could really  mention my issues, he  explained why they were what they were and how they happened. His candid and conversational emails told me just what I expected to hear.

He and I had to talk about how the medium informs the story you tell. The medium might be a 21″ monitor compared to a 6.6×8″ book or it might be the demands and expectations of a publisher. In the case of Celadore, it happens to be both. Please follow me over to my own blog for the next few posts as I discuss this with Caanan in more detail. Hopefully we’ll all learn something. Especially me.

Review: The Unrwritten vol. 1-3 (Graphic Novel)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


This month I’ve got a choice bit of comic book literature that should be near and dear to people who spend a lot of time thinking about their fiction, be that the fiction they write, the fiction they love, or both. The Unwritten is a story about stories, about the power that stories have, the power that belief gives, and what happens when the power of story and belief is harnessed and twisted by evil men.

First the pleasantries. The Unwritten has script, story, and art by Mike Carey and Peter Gross with a whole bunch of people on finishes and colors, Todd Klein is the letterer, and Yuko Shimizu on original covers.

The story follows Tom Taylor, a grown man living not only in the shadow of his father, Wilson Taylor, missing these last ten years, but also of his fictional self. Tom’s father wrote a series of books about a young boy named Tommy Taylor who discovers he’s a wizard (the Harry Potter comparisons are on purpose and actually messed around with in the fiction itself) and has all kinds of misadventures. The books are an absolute sensation for years and years and have become cultural bedrock.

Tom has been living a fairly comfortable if hypocritical life sucking the marrow from his father’s fictional works even as he resents them, but at the beginning of the story this starts falling apart. He’s accused of not actually being the child of Wilson Taylor but, instead, the kidnapped child of Gypsies raised by Taylor and his mistress. He’s suddenly a suspect in his father’s disappearance despite the fact that he was just a child at the time. The tide of public opinion turns against him as he’s considered a tarnish on the joy of Tommy Taylor. The final straw comes when Tom is framed for several grisly murders by a shadowy organization and is arrested then extradited to France for trial.

All that would be bad enough except that he’s also having visions of fictional characters interacting with the real world and a girl named Lizzie Hexam, a name taken from a Dickens character, insists all kinds of crazy things about Tom, his father, and the messianic plans Wilson had for his son.

The sinister cabal behind framing Tom has been manipulating human history for a very, very long time by choosing which stories are told and which are suppressed. Wilson Taylor discovered the existence of this group and declared quiet war against them. He built up the incredible cult of belief around his son via his books to “weaponize” Tom’s fictional status. Naturally, Tom doesn’t believe a lot of this and tries to ignore it even as it ruins his life.

This is a great story so far and one that left me hungry for more when I finished the third volume (the last until October). I spend a lot of time thinking about fiction and literature working as myths and how belief gives them power, so this was an easy sale for me. Still, we all know of instances in history–Hitler and Stalin come to mind–where stories were manipulated to sway the opinion of entire countries even in the face of facts. Taking that idea and making it larger than life  with a secret society manipulating history on a grand scale is both clever, fascinating, and just grounded in reality enough to be terrifying. The story works on a thriller level as well since Tom finds himself on the run with a mission he doesn’t really believe in through locations both real and fictional but all deadly dangerous.

The art is very attractive and goes a long way to helping get the personalities of the characters across. Tom is drawn petulant and whining, Lizzie is drawn wide-eyed and innocent, the head of the cabal is drawn smarmy and condescending. The covers are fairy tale like and have an ethereal beauty that is also weird and slightly off-putting as only fairy tales seen with adult eyes can be.

The only downside is also the reason I’m reviewing three volumes rather than one. The story is very slow  to get started, though it isn’t a slow read by any means. It’s very engaging and interesting, but it is a while before you glimpse the edges of the “real plot.” After the first volume I found myself wishing it was a novel  so that the story could move along more briskly. By the time I finished the third volume, however, I was eyes deep in the plot and wouldn’t have traded it for anything. After all, a novel couldn’t have told a mysterious character’s background in the form of an illustrated choose-your-own-adventure where the reader makes the decisions. How brilliant is that?

I recommend The Unwritten highly and hope that anybody who picks it up and reads it will email me so we can have some interesting and serious conversations about the groundbreaking work Carey and Gross are doing on this book.

Review: 100 Bullets (Graphic Novel)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


Having completely blown my deadline last week due to extenuating circumstances that included my son’s birthday party and having my guts kicked out I decided to do penance by taking on a monumental task. As an added bonus to this herculean undertaking, I invite you faithful readers to read one of the greatest pieces of neo-noir literature ever crafted.

Today I review 100 Bullets.

All 13 volumes of it. Read More→

Review: Skullkickers vol 1: 1000 Opas and a Dead Body (Graphic Novel)

Joshua Unruh is a writer with the Consortium. He’s also a fan of comics, graphic novels, and tabletop games, and he’s offered to share that experience with our readers in a regular column.

You can read more of Joshua’s work at his site, JoshuaUnruh.com.


I’ve been on a bit of a fantasy kick lately, which is a tremendous anomaly for me. Some years ago I stopped reading fantasy that I hadn’t already read because most of it was overblown, overlong world building rather than character or story building. Rereading Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind in preparation for reading its sequel, Wise Man’s Fear, has reminded me that fantasy worth reading is a thing that can exist.

However, it’s very serious, very mature, and in many cases, very maudlin. This isn’t a complaint, the first book is fantastic and I expect the second one to be  as well. But it does, sometimes, need an antidote. Fantasy needs, to quote our friends across the pond, to have the piss taken out of it every now and then. Enter Skullkickers. Read More→