Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Gypsy Omnibus review

by RM Rhodes

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Heavy Metal ran six stories by Thierry Smolderen and Enrico Marini. The first of these, titled The Gypsy Star, was an immediate hit and was followed by the rest of the series over almost the course of a decade.

The art was the obvious draw of the story. Realistic, with an obvious manga influence, Marini could provide a cartoon flip to his line when it was necessary. The color scheme usually balanced a very orange red and a cool blue. The sequential storytelling was often clever and made for a compulsively readable feature.

The main character is called The Gypsy in the first series and Tsaigoi thereafter. He drives his eighteen wheel truck across a futuristic highway that spans the world. Sometimes he’s with his sister, sometimes he’s with other family members, and sometimes he’s alone. It’s a Mad Max setup with an unfortunate ethnic label and none of the pesky fuel shortage limitations.

Tsaigoi is an enthusiastic participant in capitalism. All of the stories are about him driving his truck through a problem area and getting caught up in local events, to his dismay. In every case, the stakes of the story are commercial in nature. And when it is called for, Tsaigoi will strap on his guns and take the fight to the people standing in the way of him getting his product to his customers.

Easily the best of these stories is a yarn about a caper in Germany during the final World Cup game between Germany and France. Germany loses badly due to a penalty shot 45 seconds into the game. Much comedy is made from this state of affairs and, in the end, Tsaigoi’s commercial instincts prove to be very very solid.

Tsaigoi is also a lover. I’m happy to report that every one of his sexual encounters (roughly one per story) is consensual. There is one problematic scene with a parapalegic woman, and one of the main characters is introduced by showing him running away from a giant man who wants to rape him. The way the character is drawn, he could be anywhere from a boy to his early teens. For the most part, though, it’s wholesome entertainment.

It is not difficult to find out what issues of Heavy Metal these originally appeared in, nor is it difficult to purchase them. The new Omnibus Edition of the six stories is, however, a much nicer product than the random handful of issues. It’s a hardback edition with a very nice slipcase. The extras are nice as well – a map of the world, showing the route of the highway, along with several pages of production art and sketches. It's the first thing I've seen from Insight Comics and its a handsome debut. The European edition must have recently been published.

The only real flaw in the production of the Omnibus is the title of the introduction. Dan Panosian remembers Gypsy from the pages of Heavy Metal and references a catchphrase saying that the main character utters when he is surprised or frustrated – “Dracu!” Except in the new translation for this edition, Dracu has been printed as Dracs.

Printed together like this, it is easy to see how well Marini’s art matured over the course of the series. The early stories have a sketchier aspect to the line weights, but the later stories are much more confident. The color got better as well – it’s almost as if the technology improved during the same period as the original publication.

Gypsy is a pretty solid action adventure comic. The creators did their best in the later stories to lean into the skid on the problematic name, but they were stuck with it. If you can get past that, you should be able to relax into the ultraviolence and over the top slapstick of it all. And if you can do that, there is a good chance you'll be very entertained indeed.


Why is this here? It's a long story. Mike Rhode first introduced himself to me when I first started vending at SPX. Over the years, we've talk to each other at Comic conventions around the DC area and never quite get around to sitting down for lunch. 

When I moved to Arlington two years ago, I didn't realize that Mike lived within a mile of my building. Nor did I realize that he lived next door to my girlfriend's friend from college. We also discovered, by accident that we work two buildings away from each other, because we work in adjacent organizations. The world is a very small place, sometimes. 

It really feels that way when I run into Mike at the local farmer's market. Naturally, that's when I pitch him article ideas. I'm reading the entire run of Heavy Metal in public (in blog format) because I happen to own the entire run of Heavy Metal. This means that I'm engaged in an ongoing study of the magazine. In addition, I have a diverse and idiosyncratic reading list that tends towards the weird corners of comics history. Sometimes one circumstance or another results in long articles that I don't really have anyplace to put. Mike has been gracious enough to let me publish them here.

In summary: this is an article about comics from someone in the DC area. 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Meet a Baltimore Cartoonist: A Chat with Spaghetti Kiss's Michael Bracco

Michael Bracco is a Baltimore-area cartoonist who often attends Washington's comics shows. He's frequently identified by his studio's nom-de-plume, Spaghetti Kiss. His comic Creators is debuting as a webcomic next month, but you can buy it in print now.
Mike Rhode: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Michael Bracco: I’m a science fiction geek and most of what I write and draw falls into that genre.  I love drawing robots and monsters and the work revolves around that type of character design.
How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
I am a very analog artist.  I do all of my comic work in sketchbooks so that I can keep the work portable. I work in pen and ink with Zebra brush pens and Microns to do the paneling, drawing and lettering.  I do scan them and use the computer for color but tend to scan tons of watercolor washes and cut them up in Photoshop to make it feel a bit more hand done.
When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
1979.  It actually makes me sound younger to say the year than just the decade.
You attend events in Washington, but don't live here.  What neighborhood or area do you live in?
I am in Baltimore City actually and have lived there for 14 years. I moved here in '97 to go to college and never left.
What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
I went to Maryland Institute College of Art and received a BFA in illustration in 2001 and a Masters in Art Education in 2002.  Other than that my education in comics comes from years of reading them.
Who are your influences?

I do have some comic artists who are huge influences but really I am most inspired by movies.  The greatest challenge to me is to create comics that have the same sense of pacing as my favorite movies.  Movies like The Professional, Alien, 12 Monkeys, Star Wars and so many more have been my biggest sources of inspiration.
If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
Part of me wishes I had got the ball rolling on my career earlier but the 6 years I spent not really getting my work out there in my twenties were the years I cut my teeth and learned the most.  I guess I wouldn’t change much of anything.  All the tough times and challenges, even the really brow beating and ego killing moments are really what ended up defining me and giving me the work ethic I needed to be successful at all.
What work are you best-known for?
Probably my Apparel line and not my comics at all.  I have a very awesome and loyal fan base for the books but the clothing line, Spaghetti Kiss gets all the attention.
What work are you most proud of?
The Novo series.  I spent almost a decade building that world and developing the story and the characters into a 6 graphic novel series.  It was the first thing I published and it will always be my baby even though it has been finished for almost 4 years. 
What would you like to do or work on in the future?
I have been working on a book for the past 2 years called The Creators and have recently decided that I am going to put it out as a web comic.  Up to this point I have always exclusively done print comics and I am really excited to start this new endeavor.
What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
I just try and keep writing until I break through it.  Bad art/writing is just a necessary step in getting to good art/writing.
What do you think will be the future of your field?
I think the independent market will really open up.  The non-superhero book has risen so high in the past decade and I think creators keep bringing new ideas to the table.
What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?
TONS!  I vend at SPX, Baltimore Comic Con, MagFest, Awesome Con, Smudge, Katsucon, Anime USA, Annapolis Con, Collectors Con, Baltimore Tattoo Con to name a few. I also do a lot of craft shows like Pile of Craft, Holiday Heap, Merry Mart, Honfest, Artscape and Crafty Bastards
What's your favorite thing about DC?
The food.  There are so many great places to get a good drink and a good meal.
Least favorite?

On the surface, most of DC’s culture is based around politics and I am not a big fan of that.  It takes a while to go deeper and find the local culture of the city but when you do you get to see what makes DC really great.
What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?
I don’t know if this counts, but I love the Cherry Blossom festival. 
Do you have a website or blog?
My site is and you can find me on twitter, instagram, facebook and tumblr under spaghettikiss too!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meet a Local Cartoonist: Garth Graham

 Garth Graham was at last fall's Intervention con and answered my usual questions.

Mike Rhode: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Garth Graham: I'm a webcomic artist. Right now I'm working on an urban fantasy, before that a slice-of-life comedy strip, next up who knows! Something in space maybe.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I used to pencil and ink by hand, but these days I do everything digitally. I use a Wacom Cintiq, do my line art in Corel Painter and all of my color work in Photoshop.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in '83. I'll leave you to guess which century.

Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?

Actually I live in Virginia, down in Stafford. I came here when my parents moved here and haven't found a particularly compelling reason to move away yet. The greater DC area is very centrally located to a lot of the conventions I go too, and there's quite the wealth of comic artists in the area.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I don't have any formal training in cartooning. I went to Virginia Tech to get my degree in Industrial Design, which overlaps a surprising amount with what I do. But the art and the story telling and all the comic-specific skills are things I've worked at and built up on my own over time.

Who are your influences?

Probably too many to list, but chiefly among them reside Mark Silvestri, Phil Foglio, J Scott Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Douglas Adams, Robert A. Heinlein, Peter F. Hamilton and many many others.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

That's a hard question. I don't really know if I'd change anything. Hindsight says I might have been better off if I had timed some things differently (launching new titles right as the housing market crumbles for instance), but there isn't really a moment that I wish I could go back to and re-do.

What work are you best-known for?

I am probably best known for my series of twisted faerie tale art prints.

What work are you most proud of?

Whatever is most recent. Every new page, every new print. Each piece I feel is better than the last, and that's what I'm most proud of.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

In the future I'm hoping to work on some more sci-fi kinds of stuff. Science fiction is what I grew up on, and while a lot of people consider me a steampunk artist, sci-fi is still my go to source for awesome and wonder.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I go do something else. Anything else. I boot up the xbox, I go for a jog, or go to the gym to do some rockclimbing. Something that works a different part of my brain, or no part at all. I let my subconscious churn it over for a bit and it always comes back to me with a solution.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

I think, given time, all comics will be webcomics. They'll be in print too, absolutely, but the first point of distribution will be digital, will be on the web. I think this will allow for a real surge of independent (i.e. not Marvel or DC) comics into the public eye. The Marvel and DC universes won't be the entirety of what make up American comics in the minds of the general populace. It's going to be a wild trip.

What local cons do you attend ? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Local to DC, I attend Intervention and Katsucon regularly. AnimeUSA is another local con I've been to in the past. I'm hoping to get into SPX next year.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

Let's be honest, there's a LOT of cool stuff going on in DC. Not just history and politics and the center of power of what is arguably still the most powerful nation on the planet, but there's enough social life going on that no matter what your interest or inclination you can find it happening somewhere and join in the party.

Least favorite?

The traffic.

What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?

I've a long standing love of the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, both the one in DC and the big one out by Dulles.

How about a favorite local restaurant?
While not technically in DC proper, I'm a big fan of Piratz Tavern in Silver Spring. Great atmosphere, great food, wenches, sea shanties, fire shows, and belly dancing. What more could you want?

Do you have a website or blog?

Several, in fact! My most actively updated website is, of course, my current comic Finder's Keepers which can be found at . My former site is