Fresh Romance 2 Kickstarter


In recognition of International Women’s Day, the award-winning, critically-acclaimed romance anthology series FRESH ROMANCE is returning for volume 2!  Their list of exciting creators includes Sally Jane Thompson (The Ruby Equation), Cecil Castellucci (Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure), Sarah Winifred Searles (Ruined), Irene Koh (Legend of Korra), Suzana Harcum & Owen White (Tripping Over You), and Julia Hutchinson; all of whom are creating FRESH stories about interracial and LGBTQ relationships. To learn more and support this compelling anthology, visit the Fresh Romance Volume 2 Kickstarter page.


Kicking at the Darkness

Review by Matthew Nielsen

This time we’ll take a quick look at the 24-page comic book Kicking at the Darkness by frequent Cloudscape contributor Colin Upton. It is a piece of nonfiction set on the European western front of World War II during 1944-1945, at the very end of the war. It primarily focuses on one of the earliest of the Canadian Army’s encounters with victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Upton does an excellent job providing accurate details of weapons, scenery, and other historical elements, while also portraying very relatable characters and maintaining a uniformed and flexible art style throughout. He is able to capture a wide range of human emotions and body languages, which is a nice change from the stiff, mechanical techniques used in such war comics such as Commando or The War Picture Library.

Sadly this book is a special, limited-edition release. In order to get a copy, you’ll either need to visit the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (the organization that published this book) or order a copy from Colin Upton’s own website.  This book may only be 24 pages, but the story within is well worth the read.


Creative Ink Festival this month!

Cloudscape will be at Creative Ink this month! The Creative Ink Festival is a 3-day celebration of writers, readers, and artists on March 31st – April 2 in Burnaby. It features a mix of what you’d find at a conference and a convention, including workshops provided by professional writers on different ways to develop the writing craft and panels with several writers discussing a wide variety of topics. Furthermore, there are readings by authors, displays by artists, an expo of people selling their books and arts, and even Blue Pencil sessions where aspiring writers can receive one-on-one feedback on their writing from professionals.

Cloudscape will have a booth there for all three days, where we’ll be selling our various books, including our most recent anthology – Bones of the Coast. In addition, Cloudscape board member Bevan Thomas will  be delivering a Writing for Comics workshop, giving advice on all aspects of the comic script, from panel transitions to how many words you can jam into each speech bubble.

For more information, visit the Creative Ink website. We hope to see you there!

 


Ghosts

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (writer/artist) and Braden Lamb (colorist) centers around Cat (Catrina), a preteen, moving with her family from sunny southern California to gloomier, rainier northern California. The move is due to Cat’s younger sister, Maya, having been born with cystic fibrosis; the climate is supposedly healthier for her.

They soon find that the small but friendly town they move to has a strong connection with ghosts and the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). This leads to various adventures and challenges as Cat tries to adjust to this new place and with her sister’s ever-deteriorating health.

The book is a fairly short read, but it is filled with fine colouring and clean line art. Telgemeier’s style is like that of mainstream contemporary North American animation, with strong bold lines and vibrant colours. The body language and expressions of the characters are very enjoyable, and all-in-all it feels like an excellently polished piece of work.

I recommend this book – especially for those who enjoyed such animated series as Steven Universe and Over the Garden Wall. It’s fine for adults, teens, children; anyone in the mood for a good little story. Check it out on the Ghosts website.


Moomin and the Comet

Review by Matthew Nielsen

The Finnish characters the Moomins have been featured in numerous comics, novels, animated shows, and even theatrical performances. However, the book we’ll be looking at today is from the original newspaper comics by the Swedish-speaking Finlander Tove Jansson. Moomins are creatures that somewhat resemble hippopotamuses, and live in the surreal valley of Moominland, along with many other unique creatures and peoples, such as the very small young woman Little My, who is in fact not human but a “mymble.” The era the characters live in is somewhat timeless, but you will see modern things such as jam, radios, and guns now and then. The Moomins are very well known in not only their homeland Finland, but also Korea, Japan, and many other nations. In Finland the Moomins can be found on stamps, postcards, stickers, magazines, and everywhere else. Back in 1945, when the first Moomin story was published, Finland was still a young nation, and the Moomins became a big part of the country striving to achieve a national identity.

The particular book I’m reviewing is a collection of the newspaper comics that covers the Comet Saga, and one of the collaborations between creator Tove Jansson and her brother Lars. Tove Jansson based Moomin and the Comet off the second Moomin novel: Comet in Moominland. In this particular saga, a comet is fast approaching earth. The heat is so intense that it even starts drying up the land itself. Moomin, his girlfriend Snorkmaiden, and their friend Little My go forth to find out more about the comet and discover if anything can be done. Even though both the comic and the original novel were written and illustrated by the same person, there are some differences to accommodate the different chronology of the comic. For example, this is the novel where Moomin actually meets Snorkmaiden for the first time, whilst in the comic, he already knows her.

It helps having some familiarity with the Moomins before diving into this particular saga, and if you don’t, prepare to be a little perplexed with some of the visual designs and the world. Despite this, there is always a lot of humour, adventure, and fun. Jansson’s line art is full of expression and freedom, and there are oftentimes creative approaches to panel gutters (such as using an electric cable to divide panels). Because this story was original individual newspaper strips, the pacing is different from, say, a comic book, since some kind of standalone point has to be made every three panels or so.

Though the comic was originally printed in black and white, spot colour has been added for this collected version. This added colour works well for me. I appreciate the distinct ambiance in both the story’s original black and white, and its updated colourised format.

If you’ve become wondering about the surreal, fun and surprisingly true-to-life world of the Moomins, you can find out more by picking up Moomin and the Comet or one of the many, many other Moomin comic collections or novels. To learn more about all things Moomin, visit the official Moomin website.


Seraphim

Review by Matthew Nielsen

Seraphim: A Tale of Love and Courage is a pair of concurrent ongoing webcomics by Anat Rabkin, updated with one page for each comic each week. At the time of this writing, both A Tale of Love and A Tale of Courage have just over 200 pages each.

The two stories are set several centuries apart in a warrior’s guild in Constantinople. Both stories follow young men, orphans who have been taken in by the guild to be trained as knights’ squires. The world is that of an alternate reality: A Tale of Love takes place around the late medieval period, whilst A Tale of Courage takes place in more modern industrial-age times. Throughout the two stories there are occasional parallel moments, such as a shared character’s first appearance occurring on the same chapter and page number of both comics.

A Tale of Love follows the story of Clou, who, aside from being an orphan and squire, is also a very kind-hearted individual. Despite being looked down on by most of his peers, he is also gifted in his academic abilities. So far much of the story has been spent dealing with the challenges he faces in day-to-day life, and the secrets he has locked away within. He has a strong attachment to his knight, Becker, who has enough trouble trying to deal with his squire’s philosophical questions of morality, let alone the other problems that come along the way.

A Tale of Courage centres around Gilad, who is more willing to express anger and frustration than Clou is. The knight he is training under is very different from most. Sir Altor, a blind man who gets around disguised as an old beggar, is a very tough and demanding teacher. As the story continues, we learn more about both Gilad and Altor, and meet some of their friends along the way, including Gilad’s childhood friend Nav.

So far I have very much enjoyed the characters and their development. Rabkin keeps avoiding the traditional fantasy cliches by instead going through different, more interesting, routes. I liked what I’ve seen of the story up to this point and want to see more, as well as find out what choices these characters make as the stories continue. I already have a long list of favourite characters, and can easily picture this story being told in even more detail, such as through a written novel. On top of that, the full-colour aspect is very appealing (including the use of textures throughout the stories).

When it comes to the art and style of the story, I feel that Seraphim could benefit from more world building — not just more detailed background information but also more clues as to just how much impact the characters have in the world. Also, whenever blood is spilled in the story, it would benefit from being grittier and more realistic.

But aside from that, I’m keen to see where Rabkin will take Clou and Gilad next, and so far I’ve very much enjoyed the Tales of Love and of Courage. You can read Seraphim yourself on the official Seraphim website.