3 ‘Grandes’ of Spanish Comic-book Art: Kenny, Rubin & Calderon

Today I bring you something I think is pretty cool: some golden gems drawn on the spot from some top Spanish comic book artist that are not given the creds they deserve outside of my home country. So this is a tribute to their genius and to Spanish comics. If you know anything about me (if you are reading this it is likely by this stage you know something) it should not come as a surprise that a comic book scholar owns things like this. What is surprising is the art work itself. These pieces have also interesting and sentimental stories attach to them, therefore I’ll give you some details about these stories, – and the comics themselves, of course!!

El Misterio del Capitán Nemo (2012) – Mathieu Gabella & Kenny Ruiz

This is actually the piece that started the collection. I first engaged with Kenny’s work when I was in college, with one of his most renown works to that moment: El Cazador de Rayos (The Lightning Hunter). An incredibly touching story about believe, technology, survival and the making of oneself. But this reinterpretation I guess you can call it of Captain Nemo was just amazing. I loved every single page. Although very much a villain, Nemo is fantastic. There is, I don’t know, I guess slight Jaffaresque essence to him that makes him a lovable evil in a way. So how did this end up with me? Well, my parents were living in Toledo at the time and they happened to go to the Feria del Libro in Madrid (Madrid’s bookfaire), where Kenny was doing some signings. That was like 4 years ago now (2013), so very shortly after the comic was actually released.

Continue reading “3 ‘Grandes’ of Spanish Comic-book Art: Kenny, Rubin & Calderon”

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Intro to larping: Strength to The Empire!

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STRENGTH TO THE EMPIRE! STRENGTH TO THE NAVARR! I heard roar from my fellow players thrice, by the third time Podine was crying it out as loud as anyone. I had been roleplaying for 20 minutes by this point as I listened at the meeting my fellow Navarr countrymen and women held, speaking of many thing that brought pain in the last season.  3,000 civilians of our nation who had died from an invasion, to the tale of the Voice of our nation sacrificing himself to kill the heart of a new and terrifying threat. But under it all a stolid faith in the empire and each other. Continue reading “Intro to larping: Strength to The Empire!”

Star Wars Identities (The O2, London, 30/03/2017)

Today we wanted to share with you guys a bit of our adventure to the exhibition that is currently at the O2 in London: Star Wars Identities. If you didn’t know about this thing but want to, here is the link to the web – Pues el otro día estuvimos en la exhibición de Star Wars Identities, y pensamos en mostraros que habíamos estado haciendo. Si no sabéis de que va la historia, aquí os ponemos el link de la página web: http://www.starwarsidentities.com

It was fun!! Yes, the entrance cost was high (£20 normal entry £15 if you can get a concession). But to be honest, we spent like 2 hours in there, and the experience itself is pretty unique. Now, let me say that this is not just a gallery where you go see Star Wars stuff like props and the like. Yes, there is some of that – pictures just further down – but this is also an interactive gallery where you create your own Star Wars character! As you come in they give you like an audio guide that activates in certain areas to accompany certain TV screens giving you info on either the Star Wars universe or the character creation process to guide you through this journey. You are also given this strange wrist band that allows you to interact with some of the stations and creates your own profile for your character. Therefore, whether you are a big Star Wars fan, or someone who likes the franchise, or you are just looking out for a different thing to do, or maybe something to do with the kids, give this a go.

Estuvo divertido la verdad (la entrada cuesta un pico, £20 libras, £15 si puedes sacar ticket reducido tipo carnet estudiante), pero nos tiramos ahí dos horas enteras, y la experiencia es que es bastante distinta, por tanto, creo que mereció la pena. No es simplemente una galería a la que vas a ver maquetas y ese tipo de cosas sobre el universo de Star Wars – también lo hay – ¡pero al mismo tiempo te ofrecen una aventura interactiva en la que creas tu propio personaje! En la entrada te dan una especie de audio guía que se activa en determinadas paradas para acompañar lo que te ensenas en una pantalla sobre Star Wars o sobre el proceso de crear un personaje. También te dan una especie de pulsera tecnológica que te permite interactuar con las paradas donde tienes que determinar ciertos aspectos de tu alter ego. Así que como veréis esto es tanto para grandes como chicos, super fans y gente que simplemente busca algo interesante que hacer.

So, what comes next is showing you bits of the exhibition as well as the character creation process and what I came out with. Y nada más que dejaros aquí con algunas fotos y videos que hicimos durante nuestra peque aventura 🙂

The journey begins and you must choose a race – Lo primero es escoger raza, si no, mal vamos.

Continue reading “Star Wars Identities (The O2, London, 30/03/2017)”

Interview with Burning Games: Creators of FAITH RPG

So today we bring you a lovely chat we had with the guys at Burning Games! You all know them, don’t you? I mean you probably have been eyes-wide open looking out for their new Kickstarter: the Faith RPG core book!! In case you didn’t know, and you are new to this, then let me give you a pointer…
 
In any case, the team at Burning Games took some time out of their super busy schedule to share some stuff with us so we could share it with you. So here it is. We hope you enjoy it, and we hope that you support them in their next amazing enterprise, because it’s gonna rock! 🙂
 
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-This may sound like a bizarre question, but what was first, the egg or the chicken? And with that I mean FAITH or Ether Wars? We are all aware that obviously FAITH came out first. But during the creation process, while you guys were working things out, were there things that perhaps have actually become part of Ether Wars that you originally designed for FAITH or vice versa? We appreciate circumstances sometimes do not allow for projects to work at the speed one would like them to. Was Ether Wars in that case very much a spin-off FAITH, or was there some overlap/parallel creation, or even backwards creative process.
 
Actually the story in this one is a bit different. Ether Wars is published by us, but we are not the game designers. Such honor belongs to Álvaro and Javier, two friends who tried to fund Ether Wars on Kickstarter on 2015, but sadly didn’t make it. We met them at a local convention in Santander, Spain, and fell in love with the game. We thought it would be a great idea to try to bring it to crowdfunding again, and take advantage of everything we had learnt with our past experience. Thus, Ether Wars and Faith have nothing in common lore-wise.

We did entertain the idea of making the game canon, changing its lore to make it fit within the Faith universe, but we abandoned the proposition. There will be board games based on Faith, but they will be custom-made. Corball will likely be the first one.
 

-How does one jump from and RPG to a board game? For many of us perhaps the connection is obvious, and many board game players are also into RPGs, but it is not necessarily a natural connection. So what actually drove you to want to make first and rpg, then a board game? And did the experience of your first project help to create a clearer path for the later? Are there any specific issues you had with FAITH that you tried to avoid at all costs with Ether Wars?

When we first entertained the idea of creating a games company some years ago, it was crystal clear for us that we wanted to do all sorts of games: board games, roleplaying games, and even video games. FAITH happened to be the idea that was most developed and in which we saw the highest potential, and decided it would be our first project. That’s why Ether Wars was a very important Kickstarter campaign for us: if it were successful, it would bring us a step closer to being a real game publisher, and not just “the guys who did FAITH.”
 
The two Faith Kickstarters had a big impact on how we handled the Ether Wars campaign. We’ve learnt how to communicate with our backers, how to contact the press, and how to deal with manufacturers. And yet we did so many things that we’d like to improve! It’s an ongoing learning process, and one that we are immensely enjoying.
 
There’s one thing that we keep struggling with: currency exchange rates. Twice in a row we’ve been hit by drastic shifts in the currency markets, the latest one thanks to the Brexit. With a very delicate political situation everywhere, it seems that we’ll have to include these potential issues in our plans. You can’t be too careful!

Continue reading “Interview with Burning Games: Creators of FAITH RPG”

Interview with James Masino – Artist for War.Co

Okay guys, so we already presented you the amazing Brandon Rollins and War.Co the game ( https://manaburnt.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/interview-with-brandon-rollins-creator-of-war-co/ ) … Now it is only fair you meet the man behind the pen and all the rad art work. Pleased to meet you; James Masino!

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-Thank you for speding some time talking with us James, we really appreciate it as we know you are super busy drawing away like a mad man. So if you wouldn’t mind, to start with, could you tell our readers about what drove you to drawing: why did you choose this path, and how have you pursued your education: courses, experiences, self teaching etc.

I think what’s interesting about this path, is that I didn’t initially choose it. I went to a technical college before going to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) for an accelerated degree in Animation and Concept Development. What I didn’t anticipate was that the “Concept Development” part meant being trained for digital artwork for the creation of concept art. Up to that point, I barely drew at all! Learning it can be summed up by practice, and tremendous failure at first. I even had a teacher sit me down once and tell me to focus on 3D Animation over the Concept Art just because I wasn’t having much success with it. Doing it over and over and over again is what got me to where I am now, and 90% of it was on my own time through self-teaching and practice outside of class.

-Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have any artists that you admire and do they impact your work?

Continue reading “Interview with James Masino – Artist for War.Co”

Interview with Brandon Rollins: Creator of War. Co

Happy Birthday to us 🙂 First of all we would like to thank all of our followers, readers and fans for their support over the last year. It has been truly wonderful and we owe you big time. So for that purpose, we have got in touch with some cool people we know…And today we bring you our own very interview with game developer Brandon Rollins!! In case you are not acquainted with the man, Brandon is the amazing game developer of the card game War Co. We met over Twitter, and we have built a relation with him over the last year. He is a super funny guy, and very committed to his project, always willing to chat with other people about games.

About War.Co what you need to know is that this is competitive card deck game, where you win by running your opponent out of cards. There are different decks you can get to build your game. You can find Brandon’s game here http://warcothegame.com/pre-order/ or through the KickStarter site: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1357102631/war-co-expandable-card-game-0

And now, what you actually want to read about: Brandon, himself and his project.

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Tell us Brandon, why board games? What made you want to be a game developer and how did this all begin?

The earliest version of War Co. goes back to when I was 11 years old and watching Yu-Gi-Oh! on TV. I created my own game based on how I thought TCGs worked based on the TV show.

I’ve had a fascination with games since I was very young, but serious game development is something I only got into recently. I asked myself “why don’t I finish what I started a long time ago?” As heretical as it sounds, getting into modern board games was actually a result of being a designer first, not the other way around. Believe me, I was stunned at just how incredible the board game community has become in the last decade!

Continue reading “Interview with Brandon Rollins: Creator of War. Co”

What Makes Great Horror?

What Makes Great Horror?

 

With Halloween just a few days away I’ve indulged in one of my favourite pastimes- Thinking about stuff that scares the crap out of people.

I’ve given thought to some of my favourite scary books, movies and campfire stories. Which of course led to the obvious question… why is so much of our horror media so bad?
You’ll hear it all the time from scary movie buffs and avid readers. Horror is an incredibly difficult thing to balance, often falling flat especially around the October season where terror becomes the flavour of the month. So why do we still hold it so close to our adrenaline filled hearts?

Because horror lets us explore a part of ourselves we keep locked away. It celebrates the part of us we hide away. But first, let’s first address the elephant in the room…

When we experience something scary in the comfort of our homes or a crowded cinema we do so expecting two things- to be at least startled in the moment, then to walk away from the experience. Probably forgetting it soon after. That is because modern horror is built to make us feel ‘safe’. There is always a moment to relax behind the scares, a time to cool off and laugh at what makes us jump. Horror contains comedy relief, fake-out moments and the opportunity to feel distanced from the art when we walk away. Sadly blockbuster movies and videogames do not want their audience feeling disturbed by what they’ve seen, and funnily a movie that is perceived as “too scary” will be watered down before release to a wide audience (see; ‘Event Horizon’ 1997 for a great example). This approach does not leave anything that sticks with us on a psychological level, and allows us to feel safer about the world we live in- rather than the possible world the story alluded to.

If that’s part of the issue, what are some of the essential building blocks of true horror?
Well just as important as the scare itself, perhaps even more so, is the tension cycle. This is the point in a movie or book where our minds are led into a vulnerable place. The creaking of doors, the rustling of windows, the sound of a running tap. Between the point where our expectations are made and the fright is actually delivered is an incredible stretch of time where our brain’s cannot feel safe- every small thing becomes a possible threat. Shadows on the walls, images in mirrors. It is here where horror geniuses will do work.

I give a classic example of The Exorcist (1973), which not only paced its tension across long periods but also snuck haunting images and unsettling things out of sight. If you pay attention to the shadows behind doors and furniture in this movie, you’ll see faces hidden in the dark watching the audience- now THAT is well done.

The tension cycle is also what allows us to feel that sense of dread even if we’ve already been startled. After enough build-up the payoff of a scare will actually relieve some of that stress, making us feel relaxed despite ourselves. That’s when the pace can begin building up all over again.
The scare itself doesn’t always need to be a jump scare- despite what some movies would have you believe- but instead a slower payoff can add to the creeping feeling. Like the girlfriend rising in the night to watch her partner sleep in ‘Paranormal Activity’ or the dog that isn’t really a dog in ‘Conjuring 2’. Watching that uncertain threat open before our eyes instead of just jumping out at us is not only more subtle, it makes it impossible to find that feeling of rest. We are still trapped in the unease.

Limiting perception also plays a part in the emotions of the audience. As viewers we should never see everything that’s going on, because knowledge breaks the tension. Uncertainty is a weapon of horror, and lots of movies fall into the trap of letting us see too much. Effective horror will often use restricted viewpoints- cameras, hallways, darkness, even just showing an image for a fraction of a second only gives us a limited idea of what’s out here.
Possibly one of the greatest lessons of horror is tied to this very fact- People will always scare themselves worse than you can scare them. Showing only pieces of the greater whole and letting the audience or reader fill in the rest, whether they want to or not, will always be more powerful than showing something on screen.

Outside of the terror itself there are three pillars that determine how much we are willing to care about the scares presented to us: Setting, Mystery and Character.

Setting sounds like a simple concept, simply what spooky place these events are happening in. But creators should never limit themselves to letting a setting be a backdrop; some of the greatest locations in film are the places where horror takes place. The Overlook Hotel from ‘The Shining’, the spaceship Nostromo from ‘Alien’, even the mall from ‘Dawn of the Dead’ are iconic landscapes for cinema. Why else is setting important? Because it builds toward a core element of Horror…

Disempowerment.

The isolation a setting can create is an incredible tool for making us feel disempowered and vulnerable. Humans are a societal species, as a group capable of overcoming any problem no matter how immense, but alone we are fragile. This is why stories often have characters alone in hospitals, cabins, mountains or abandoned towns. These places make psychological connections. Places like asylums and prisons all have negative images tied to our psyche that just the word alone, let alone the visuals, can invoke. By stirring the shared fear of these places the superstitious part of the human mind will fill in a lot of the horror just from the setting.

There are also locations like space, the ocean, the Arctic or even jungles and lost villages; these are great for horror because a primal part of us knows we aren’t supposed to BE there. That the area around us is hostile, sometimes even immediately fatal, and only a thin barrier of security is keeping us alive and safe. A setting like this can create horror without even needing an antagonist, such as in ‘Gravity’ (2013) where the threat of the Where far surpasses that of the What.

So what then of Mystery? As I’ve stated already the unknown is a terrifying place. It’s the part of horror that allows us to fill the gaps and build expectations. The unknown is always scarier, and this is why many horrors lose their edge after the monster/killed is exposed- fading into the mediocrity of sequels. For a master class of mystery I raise you the master of the macabre; H.P. Lovecraft.

Most Lovecraftian tales revolved around a simple concept, the unknowable.
Not the unknown, something we have not yet come to grips with, but forces which cannot be understood. Stories like the Music of Erich Zann and The Shunned House revolve around frightening elements that not only aren’t displayed in full, they are portrayed as being impossible for the words on the page to convey, making it very difficult to frame in movie format (which accounts for very few good Lovecraft movies). But even in his more subdued pieces mystery was core to his work. There was always a question present that rarely- if ever- got a complete answer. How can this effect be used to narrate good horror? That is the work of the Uncanny.

The uncanny is the creeping sense that something is not as it should be. Even if we can’t put our finger on it. This type of mystery can help construct a world around our characters without a single word of exposition, and leave the audience with the question, “”What is wrong here, and why?”
M. Shyamalan conveyed the uncanny to surprising effect in his 2015 film ‘The Visit’ where the suspense came not from blatant danger, but simply the sense that something was… off.
Stephen Lynch is the celebrated master of uncanny with shows like Twin Peaks relying on strange imagery and unnatural speech to convey unease when everything should otherwise seem safe. This makes us question our understanding of what we’re so sure the world is, and how it operates.

This sensation goes even deeper when it comes to human beings. Ask yourself, why are dolls so creepy? Why does the idea of a smile with too many teeth freak us out on such a basic level? Because we have a base understanding of what a human being is. So when faced with something that brings our understanding into question we feel unsettled, unsafe. We’re no longer as certain of ourselves as we once were, meaning anything becomes a possibility.

Any time a horror story leaves us with these feelings of doubt we are victim to its mystery.

The final pillar of our investment comes from the Character. These are not just the buffet of faces we will see offered to the monster over the course of two hours, they are our vessel into the story. How much we engage with a work is largely down to how much we are willing to invest, emotionally, in what we’re being told. Like in all storytelling a character is key to this- but what’s special to horror? What do characters do best here that no other medium can brag?

Characters in horror allow us a proxy. A chance to explore a darker, more fearful part of ourselves that our minds shy away from. The space between what we believe ourselves to be and what we actually are is a terrifying place that horror has always taken advantage of. To use Jung’s psychological term this place is The Shadow. This is where the illusions we put up around ourselves, as a person and as a society, are broken down. Our honest thoughts, true fears and most basic (and horrid) desires? Those are all found in The Shadow.

So these characters allow us to explore that darker side of ourselves. The monster that reflects the worst parts of human nature.  When in horror, either by the threat or the actions of the characters within it, we are faced with the reality of being human.  Some of the deepest horror can make us face these questions we’d rather hide from. This is what made ‘SAW’ (2004) so engaging- what would we do in that situation? Are we so noble to give up our lives, or would we commit atrocities?

Perhaps the best example in popular fiction is James Sunderland from ‘Silent Hill 2’. During the characters plight the town and all the residents met within reflect some element of James’s psyche, mirroring parts of his past and alluding to the mystery of why he’s there. Even the spotlight monster- Pyramid Head- is a representation of his violence and sexual anger. Having every element of the world reflect the conflict of the main character is a very difficult thing to pull off, hence why there aren’t many examples of it, and most stories will simply use characters as a relatable vessel for the audience to hide behind. Both these methods are acceptable, it largely comes down to one question: what are we really meant to be afraid of?

Too many fall into the trap of thinking the threat of the spooky monster is all horror can be. Consider a moment, are zombies all that scary? As a monster themselves, no. They are slow, rotting bodies with ugly faces. We might not want to be trapped in a room with them but comparatively they are much less dangerous than actual humans! But change the focus for a moment- what if it’s not the zombies we’re supposed to shy away from. What if it’s the realisation that the seven year old girl we’ve gotten to know as the audience has been bitten? There is no longer need for creepy hallways, moving shadows or jump-scares from the dark. Just a quiet moment of a parent cradling a 9mm pistol and all the true horror that represents.

So if there are so many options for good horror, why are many scary stories today so weak?
At a purely business level; Hollywood doesn’t want to scare off its paying customers. Movies trying to cater to broader audiences with PG-15 sell in much larger numbers than R-rated, and relying too much on jump scares for that ‘screaming audience’ effect has led to a generation of horror cinema that feels very one-note. Ultimately, it comes down to copying the tropes of spooky stories without understanding the essence of what makes them stick. That horror isn’t just about things that go bump in the night but questions that go much deeper.

Ultimately there are many root issues that unsettle us as animals; Sexuality, insanity, parental issues, racism, even loss of control in our lives. When these issues are brought to the surface they create a genuine unease which is a blanket for horror. One of the most popular horror films of the last few years, ‘The Babadook’, spent most of its run time establishing a painfully uncomfortable relationship between a mother and her disabled child before bringing out the scares.
Why? Because these issues claw at us and make us more susceptible to the basest fear- death. If we’ve already been forced to face issues that so many of us shy away from as human beings we can’t help but experience everything that comes along with it. Which is when the greatest of horrors will present us with a fear for life itself.

That is where terror is found.

 

Happy Halloween.