the silent journey of sam alden’s haunter

It’s no secret that Sam Alden is an incredible cartoonist. Like other top-tier talent, he eventually made his way to storyboarding for Adventure Time, which is like the mothership for people who are great at comics. This post isn’t about Finn & Jake, though, it’s about Alden’s 2014 Study Group Comics release Haunter, a 96-page journey that reads like a dream.

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Anyone who regularly follows Alden’s work is probably like, “yeah, DUH, Haunter is rad as hell.” After all, this was his first long-form work, but it’s also something I just happened to stumble upon at NYC’s Forbidden Planet. The story follows a young woman who runs into an ancient evil while exploring, and from that moment on the two are entwined in a fierce hunter x hunted chase.Haunter01_01.jpg

As the title of this post suggests, Haunter is a completely wordless comic. These are tough enough to pull off even marginally well. Comics are by no means dependent on dialogue or narration, but without them you really need someone who specializes in visual clarity. Alden demonstrates his skills as a soon-to-be storyboard artist with a comic that flows perfectly from moment to moment. When the action picks up, your reading pace follows suit naturally, and Haunter takes a few opportunities to dial it down and change the timing of panels to what’s practically a frame-by-frame piece of animation.

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Sam Alden is some kind of wizard with brushes and watercolors, or whatever was used to create Haunter. Streamlined characters intermingle with deep environments, and the stark black ink outlines are used to great effect, almost like an animation cel. The color scheme is reminiscent of Katsuya Terada’s classic Zelda art. Appropriately enough, it’s also been compared to a video game. I can see that; it has kind of a Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the ColossusThe Last Guardian) vibe to it.

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The act of reading Haunter flies by in a flash, but it’s also a comic I’m more likely to revisit from time to time. Do yourself a favor and pick up this and pretty much anything else by Sam Alden. I also highly recommend his Frontier book, which is available from Youth In Decline. Actually, it’s out of print, but maybe you can dig around and find it somewhere. That’s half the fun!

His site isn’t showing up at the moment, but you can check out more of Sam Alden’s comics on his tumblr.

this bartkira project trailer rules

Some of you may recall that I did some pages for the Bartkira project waaaaay back around the time it was first announced. If it seems like years ago, it’s because it was! My pages don’t come until volume 4, but volume 3 was released in its entirety today, and promotion is going hard in everybody’s yard. So hard, in fact, that they put together an animated trailer that perfectly recreates the Akira trailer with Simpsons characters.

First up, a quick explanation for those of you scratching your heads. Bartkira is a project put together by Ryan Humphrey and James Harvey, among others, that rallied hundreds of artists from around the globe together to recreate Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic Akira manga with characters from The Simpsons.

If you haven’t seen them, here are the pages I did from volume 4.

catch one of my comics in comfort food zine!

Heyyyy… I’ve been busy! Sadly, most of what I’ve been busy with is stuff I can’t post on the blog, hence the lack of updates. Anyway, here’s one for you. I recently contributed a two-page comic to a zine by Lauren Jordan called Comfort Food Zine. The book was successfully funded through Indiegogo, and in it you’ll find a bunch of food-related comics by myself and 33 other artists.

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My comic, naturally, is about bagels. Here’s what it looks like in the book:

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It’s pretty simple. I did it all on paper in brush pen with Photoshop for the grays and a tiny bit of gradient. It was fun.

As far as I know Lauren has had the book with her at various conventions, and will be updating her store with them at some point. If you’re really interested in one you can contact me, because I have about 5 on hand.

That’s it for now! I also still have a very small amount of SLIME minis still available on the bigcartel store.

slime update and mocca grabs

I updated the Slime page on the site today, because the comic is now available at a couple more shops! In addition to Forbidden Planet NYC and Desert Island (Brooklyn), you can pick up Slime at JHU Comics in NYC and Staten Island.

There are under 10 copies left now, so grab it quick, either in person or on the online shop!

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This past weekend was MoCCA Fest in New York, which meant multiple levels of way too many cool comics to buy. I wasn’t able to scratch the surface of what I wanted, but I had a really good time, picked up a few choice comics, and dug the new venue way more than last year’s.

Here’s some of what I grabbed:IMG_1481

Clockwise from top left: A.T. Pratt‘s Good Garbage, Rob Corradetti‘s Artists of Today, Youth in Decline and Jillian Tamaki‘s Frontier #7, Andy Ristaino‘s Night of the Living Vidiots, and Wren McDonald‘s What’s in Brick’s Bag.

quick pitch: super mario bros.

I know Nintendo acts like they don’t want me to write the perfect Super Mario Bros. game, but I have, and they’ll no doubt swoop on this post soon and Shigeru Miyamoto himself will call me on the telephone to congratulate me and give me money.

Here’s a quick breakdown. It’s a 3D platformer just like most of the recent flagship, non-New Super Mario Bros. games, only more in line with Super Mario Galaxy than Super Mario 3D World. In this one Mario and Luigi arrive in the Mushroom Kingdom just in time to find the entire WORLD being abducted. Peach, Toad, and the rest of the citizens are doing all they can to stave off the attack, but they just can’t seem to best TATANGA, the alien antagonist from Super Mario Land.

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Without hesitation, Mario and the rest rush to their trusty one-man planes (like the one from Super Mario Land), kicking off an introductory dogfight stage straight out of Star Fox. It’s a purely for-fun level that the player has no hope of winning, and every plane involved in the fight ends up in a scrap heap below.

After a display of bravado, Tatanga prepares to suck the entire Kingdom away, taking it to another universe Mario and his pals have no way of reaching. And just like that, he and his legion of spaceships and aliens disappear, pulling the Mushroom Kingdom into a vortex and leaving our heroes adrift in a black void atop a pile of smoking plane wreckage.

With nowhere to go, all hope seems lost, until the unlikely, squat dork Toad suggests they all just go to sleep. TOAD ARE YOU INSANE? No, Toad is a genius, because if they go to sleep they can enter SUB-CON from Super Mario Bros. 2, the land of dreams where anything is possible.

The only problem: So many years have passed that Wart is firmly back in power. Thus we have the first half of the game, which takes place entirely in Sub-Con and has players fighting familiar foes like Mouser, Tryclyde, and Birdo throughout an anything-goes dreamscape that takes the scenery of SMB2 and goes nuts with it. It all builds up to an intense showdown with Wart… who is eventually spared. Wart’s ace: Only he knows the way out of his dreamworld that leads to Tatanga’s realm.

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With that, your party of 4 becomes 5*, and you can now choose to play as Wart for the second half of the game: TATANGA’S UNIVERSE. This world has all the bonkers design of the Super Mario Galaxy games with a mix of enslaved and enraged enemies from the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond. Tatanga has been using his time wisely, collecting worlds and harnessing the power of their unique wildlife to run rampant as ruler of his own. He’s taken in the best beasts from Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and even Yoshi’s Island. He outfitted the Super Mario World dinos with riders. He crossed Wigglers with Pokeys. You get the idea.

But there are some creatures he hasn’t figured out how to handle yet. Locked deep within the Towering Prison are the worst, most vile enemies, and Mario and company are going to help break them out, if they haven’t already lost their minds. It’s in the deepest, darkest corner of the prison that Mario eventually finds Bowser, driven mad and ready for a real fight.

Your showdown with Bowser leads into the game’s final act, and by this time there’s a full-on riot in the background of the stages. The enemies of the various Mario worlds you were able to rescue are colliding with Tatanga’s powerful minions, tipping the scales, and you now have a sixth player to choose from before each level: Bowser. He joins the rest of the crew in the final world, culminating in an appropriately explosive final battle with Tatanga that will decide the fate of every world in the Mario universe.

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When all is said and done each world is fully restored, and Tatanga is locked in a high-security space prison. This will, without a shadow of a doubt, be a perfect starter setting for the inevitable sequel.

Make that 6. I’ve gotten multiple reminders since posting that I forgot about Daisy of SML, and yes, she should definitely be playable, as well!