Free edu-comic about genomics and stem cells, written by Ken Macleod

Ken Macleod and the European stem cell research consortium OptiStem have produced a CC-licensed educational comic about genomics called "Hope Beyond Hype." It's available as a free download, or as a &gbp;1 hardcopy, with translations to follow in many languages.

'starts with the true life story of two badly burned boys being treated with stem cell generated skin grafts in 1983. We then follow the successes and setbacks of a group of researchers working together to use stem cells to cure blindness, whilst being introduced to knotty issues that are part of the process, including stem cell regulation and the controversial ethical issues surrounding the subject. Whilst some of the story lines sound like science fiction they are in fact all true, despite the fact the script was written by the well-known Scottish Science Fiction writer, Ken Macleod. Comic book artist Edward Ross illustrated the script with his clear, friendly and attractive artwork, whilst stem cell researchers from OptiStem provided the real-life examples of their research and experiences.'

Macleod is a hell of a science fiction writer, and he's awfully good at comics, too.

OptiStem launches Hope Beyond Hype on International Clinical Trials Day (via The Early Days of a Better Nation) Read the rest

Rolling Stone: "Ed Piskor is the Next Big Thing in Books"

Rolling Stone just announced something that we have known for a long time: Ed Piskor (our own Brain Rot cartoonist) is a hell of a talented cartoonist. I have an advance copy of his upcoming book, Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker, and it is a masterpiece.

I'm going to be interviewing Ed on Gweek when his book comes out. For now, here's the publisher's description:

They say "What You See Is What You Get"... but Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle could always see more than most people. In the world of phone phreaks, hackers, and scammers, he's a legend. His exploits are hotly debated: could he really get free long-distance calls by whistling into a pay phone? Did his video-game piracy scheme accidentally trigger the first computer virus? And did he really dodge the FBI by using their own wiretapping software against them? Is he even a real person? And if he's ever caught, what would happen to a geek like him in federal prison? Inspired by the incredible stories of real-life hackers, Wizzygig is the thrilling tale of a master manipulator - his journey from precocious child scammer to federally-wanted fugitive, and beyond. In a world transformed by social networks and data leaks, Ed Piskor's debut graphic novel reminds us how much power can rest in the hands of an audacious kid with a keyboard.
Read the rest

Zombie baseball comic on Kickstarter

Zack sez, "If you've ever seen the sociopathically-detailed artwork of James Stokoe, you'll want to support his new graphic novel written by Mark Andrew Smith, SULLIVAN'S SLUGGERS, which pits a baseball team against an army of flesh-eating monsters. A trailer and information on the book is available on the Kickstarter page -- which has already exceeded initial donation requests in about a day.

Long past their former glory, the minor league Sluggers get an invitation to play a baseball game in a cursed small town. After the 7th inning stretch, the sun goes down, and the dysfunctional teammates find themselves fighting for their lives against a town of flesh-eating monsters!

Now, it's up to coach Casey Sullivan to help his team escape from being the next dish in the town's terrifying feeding frenzy!

Eisner & Harvey Award-winning graphic novel author Mark Andrew Smith joins forces with Eisner nominated illustrator James Stokoe for a gripping roller coaster of a graphic novel, packed with shocks, gore, and screamingly outrageous humor, when America's Favorite Past Time becomes one team's ultimate nightmare!

'Sullivan's Sluggers', Baseball Horror Graphic Novel (Thanks, Zack!) Read the rest

Warren Ellis talks aliens, space travel and the singularity

Matt sez, "Hey, it's Matt at the Disinformation Company, and I thought that you'd enjoy the lengthy interview I did with Warren Ellis for the DisinfoCast. We talk about aliens, space travel, the singularity and more. We even squeeze in a second or two for talk about comic books."

Warren Ellis on The DisinfoCast with Matt Staggs (Thanks, Matt!) Read the rest

Ed Piskor's hacker history comix Wizzywig, the book trailer

Our own Ed Piskor's Wizzywig -- a graphic novel that is a fictionalized account of a Kevin Mitnick-type hacker and his run-ins with the law -- will shortly be available as a beautiful hardcover from the good folks at Top Shelf Comix, who put together the excellent book trailer you see above. Here are my reviews of the original single-chapter volumes:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first two volumes of Ed Piskor's comic-book historical hacker drama, Wizzywig. Wizzywig is the story of Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle, a fictional hacker who's part Mitnick, part Poulsen, and part mythological. Boingthump is a preternaturally bright, badly socialized kid who discovers a facility for technology that's egged on by his only pal, "Winston Smith," a would-be Abbie Hoffman who is obsessed with the potential to use Boingthump's discoveries to monkeywrench the machine.

But soon enough, their roles are reversed, as Kevin's relentless pursuit of knowledge and power scares Winston so much that he tries (without success) to put the brakes on Boingthump's crazy ride through the phone system and the nascent Internet. The story blends fiction and fact, dropping in a Blue Box-selling Jobs and Wozniak (Boingthump picks the trunk-lock on their car and steals a Blue Box) and Cap'n Crunch, along with plenty of fictional BBS scenesters and grumpy computer-store owners. The backgrounds are filled with nostalgia PCs -- Atari 400s, Apple ///s -- and old Bellcore manuals.

The illustration and storytelling style reminds me a lot of Harvey Pekar (with whom he's collaborated on American Splendor), jumping backwards and forwards in time, switching points of view, going inside and outside of the characters' heads.

Read the rest

Alt Cartoonist Receives High Praise from Establishment

Stereotypes abound of the political cartoonists found in so-called alternative papers: the weeklies full of escort ads in the back and snarky commentary in the front. Matt Bors, on the surface, seems to embody the characteristics.

He's scruffy, doesn't own a suit, and lives in Portland. He expresses withering contempt at politicians, mainstream media, and what he views as hypocrisy. He's never made more than $15,000 a year from his cartoons, and supplements that income with illustration, freelance editorial jobs, and, possibly, blood plasma—at least he did in college; he has the scar to prove it.

The 28-year-old Bors was thus a bit surprised this year, and occasionally nonplussed, when he won the Herblock Prize for "excellence in editorial cartooning," was a finalist (with Oregonian newspaper staffer Jack Ohman) for the Pulitzer Prize, and received a Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award.

Jesus Christ, Matt, when did you fucking sell out?

Read the rest

Avengers box-office success shows pre-release piracy isn't necessarily the kiss of death

The Avengers was both widely pirated ahead of release and the most successful opening in box-office history. As Forbes's Paul Tassi notes, this suggests that piracy and commercial success are not mutually exclusive:

An early copy of The Avengers actually leaked out onto the internet a week ahead of release, and Disney was subsequently flipping out about the prospect of the full film being released on the web. Shortly after, the camcorder version had been downloaded a half million times, likely a record for the format.

However, despite setting piracy records, all that’s really happened is that this has shown how much illegal downloads of in-theater movies really does not effect box office tallies. Even if you’re using the skewed math that says every download is a lost sale, the pirates would only make up 0.5% of the revenues of the film so far.

Of course, that’s not the case, and anyone passionate enough about The Avengers to download it a week early more than likely had a desire to see on the big screen as well. Even if pirates are “cheapskates” the way they’re portrayed, cam copies of movies just aren’t remotely in the same league as seeing a movie in a theater. An apt comparison is that piracy of music does not prevent people from showing up to concerts. It’s just not a true alternative, especially for a film as epic as The Avengers. It’s not a full experience watching a low quality variant on your laptop.

The Avengers Demonstrates Piracy's Overstated Effect on Ticket Sales (Thanks, Lis Riba! Read the rest

Disassembled: animated short in which Marvel superheroes have very bad days

[Video Link]

Above, "Disassembled," a wonderful, not-authorized-by-Marvel animated take on Avengers characters and other figures of the Marvel universe by Junaid Chundrigar.

"I decided to make this short animation after drawing some Marvel characters in a cartoony style," he explains. If you like this, you'll love his previous short, "Sheeped Away." More of his animated work here. Read the rest

Forming: dirty Gnostic creation-myth comic of high and lavish weirdness

Forming is Jesse Moynihan's ultra-weird graphic novel about the creation of the universe, filled with cursing, inexplicable violence, grotesque sexual acts, and primitive and strange illustrations. Set in the "Third Age of Total Bullshit," the story tells the tale of powerful aliens who visit Earth in the time of giants, set up camp in Atlantis, and enslave the indigenous giants to mine rare minerals for the galactic empire. These aliens are also involved with Noah, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Lucifer and the Archangel Michael, and a cast of personages more obscure and weird than any book of the apocrypha.

To understand Forming (assuming "understand" is the correct verb here), picture some lost Gnostic text translated by Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob) at his cussin-est, under commission by a delusional would-be cult-founder who cut his teeth on the work of Fletcher Hanks and who really liked drawings of weiners and boobies.

Moynihan walks a fine line between "weird" and "incomprehensible" and between "clever" and "dumb," and manages to stay on the right side of it through almost every one of these bizarre, demented panels. I can't say that I've ever read anything quite like this (though it did call to mind the weirder bits of The Incal). I'm glad I did.

Forming is published by London's NOBROW, whose books are fantastically well-made, beautifully cloth-bound and printed on high-quality, sustainably produced paper (they also publish the much-more-kid-friendly Hilda comics). It's a quality product.

Forming (Amazon)

Forming (Nobrow) Read the rest

Sendak-ian Avengers

DeviantArt's ~AgarthanGuide created this Maurice Sendak/Avengers mashup: "Two things on my mind today: RIP Maurice Sendak. Yay Avengers. Okay- I put together some wallpapers using the original- I tried to make them as big as possible and cover the major aspect ratios. You can download them here. Enjoy!"

Avengers on Parade (RIP Maurice Sendak) (via Super Punch) Read the rest

Science Tales: short comic stories about science, skepticism, evidence and woo

Darryl Cunningham's Science Tales is a fantastic nonfiction comic book about science, skepticism and denial. Divided into short chapters with simple layouts and graphics, Cunningham's book looks into belief in chiropractic and homeopathy; denial of moon landings, climate change and evolution, the anti-vaccination movement, and related subjects. It concludes with a tremendous piece on the forces that give rise to anti-scientific/anti-evidence movements, which Cunningham attributes to the deadly cocktail of cynical corporate media-manipulation and humanity's built-in cognitive blind-spots.

Cunningham has a real gift for making complex subjects simple. If you're a Mythbusters fan, admire James Randi, enjoyed Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, and care about climate change, you'll enjoy this one. More to the point, if you're trying to discuss these subjects with smart but misguided friends and loved ones, this book might hold the key to real dialogue.

To get a taste of Science Tales, click through below for the first five pages of the MMR story, courtesy of publishers Myriad Editions.

Science Tales Read the rest

Joss Whedon on his success

A beautiful note from Joss Whedon to the world, his admirers, and his past self, explaining what it feels like to have directed a movie that broke all box-office records for opening weekend:

What doesn't change is anything that matters. What doesn't change is that I've had the smartest, most loyal, most passionate, most articulate group of -- I'm not even gonna say fans. I'm going with "peeps" -- that any cult oddity such as my bad self could have dreamt of. When almost no one was watching, when people probably should have STOPPED watching, I've had three constants: my family and friends, my collaborators (often the same), and y'all. A lot of stories have come out about my "dark years", and how I'm "unrecognized"... I love these stories, because they make me seem super-important, but I have never felt the darkness (and I'm ALL about my darkness) that they described. Because I have so much. I have people, in my life, on this site, in places I've yet to discover, that always made me feel the truth of success: an artist and an audience communicating. Communicating to the point of collaborating. I've thought, "maybe I'm over; maybe I've said my piece". But never with fear. Never with rancor. Because of y'all. Because you knew me when. If you think topping a box office record compares with someone telling you your work helped them through a rough time, you're probably new here. (For the record, and despite my inhuman distance from the joy-joy of it: topping a box office record is super-dope.

Read the rest

Sweet Tooth #4: post-apocalyptic comic is a tour-de-force of dread

I just got around to reading Endangered Species, the fourth volume of Jeff Lemire's outstanding, post-bio-apocalyptic graphic novel Sweet Tooth (here's reviews of the previous volumes). Damn, this is good stuff.

In Sweet Tooth, a plague has swept the planet. Babies are born as human-animal hybrid "monsters." Adults die off in huge numbers, killed by what is assumed to be the same disease. "Sweet Tooth" is a young boy with deer antlers who is raised in a shack in the woods with his father, a mad (?) holy-man who is consumed with visions. When Sweet Tooth's dad succumbs to the plague, Sweet Tooth ventures into the world and meets Jepperd, a violent rover who seems to take him into his care, but whose motives we readers know to be suspect.

Four volumes in, and Lemire has proved that he can toy with our emotions with the best of them. The characters are flawed and likable, the mystery deep and compelling, the action fast and rough. Most of all, though, is Lemire's incredible ability to instill and sustain a sense of dread in the reader, a delicious horror-movie feeling that something bad is coming, something lost in the shadows and unknowable but dreadful. I've powered through each of these four volumes in less than an hour, unable to put them down. As DMZ draws to a close, it's great to know that there's another graphic novel series in the chute that's so utterly compelling.

If you haven't been keeping up with Sweet Tooth, there's no better time to start -- here's volume one. Read the rest

FILM CRIT HULK EXPLAINS HULK

The New Yorker has invited Twitter hero @FILMCRITHILK to write a great, insightful, ALL-CAPS essay on the attraction of The Hulk in stories.

SO PERHAPS THERE IS A MUCH BETTER QUESTION AT HAND: WHAT MAKES THE HULK DRAMATIC? WHAT ARE WE ROOTING FOR WHEN WE WATCH HIM? WHAT IS IT THAT WE WANT TO HAPPEN IN ANY GIVEN SCENE?

WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE CENTRAL QUESTION: WHAT MAKES THE HULK SO COMPELLING TO US?

HULK WRITES ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME, BUT ONE OF THE ONGOING PROBLEMS OF BLOCKBUSTER CINEMA THESE DAYS IS ASSUMED EMPATHY. IT’S AS IF OUR STORYTELLERS JUST PLOP A FILM IN OUR LAPS AND SAY, “HERE’S OUR MAIN CHARACTER AND WE’RE GOING TO ASSUME THAT YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THEM FOR THAT REASON ALONE. THEY’RE THE MAIN CHARACTER!” … HULK DESPISES THIS TREND. IT TENDS TO GET EVEN WORSE WHEN STORYTELLERS FALL INTO THE MARKETING-CENTRIC TRAP OF “LIKABILITY,” WHICH IS A WORD THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MAKING CHARACTERS INTERESTING. USUALLY IT’S JUST A CODE WORD USED BY EXECUTIVES WHEN THEY’RE WORRIED A CHARACTER IS “DOING BAD THINGS.” AND TO ADHERE TO THE WORRIES OF LIKABILITY IS TO THUS EMBARK ON A FOOL’S PLAY AT DRAMA.

Which gives me the chance to drop in my favorite joke from last weekend, shamelessly cribbed from The Observer: "YOU WON'T LIKE ME WHEN I'M ANGRY. I BACK UP MY RAGE WITH SOURCES AND DOCUMENTATION." -The Credible Hulk

THE HULK ON MARK RUFFALO’S HULK (via Making Light) Read the rest

When Art Spiegelman visited Maurice Sendak

"Childhood is cannibals and psychotics vomiting in your mouth!" Art Spiegelman drew his experience of hanging out with Maurice Sendak in 1993 for the New Yorker, and the magazine has "unlocked" the archival link in honor of Sendak's passing today.

(via Neil Gaiman) Read the rest

Leather "Batman" mask

Ukranian steampunk/fetish leathercrafters Bob Basset have taken a crack at golden age comics with this 1920s "Batman" mask.

Batman mask as it could be in 1920 Read the rest

Webcomic: Face-Skull, a graphic designer with a disembodied, crime-fighting alter-ego

Pat Dorian sez, "Cory blogged about my t-shirts he saw at NYC Comic Con 2011. I took one of my characters from my t-shirts and made a web comic based on him. I thought you might dig it."

The Face-Skull (Thanks, Pat!) Read the rest

More posts