Exclusive Preview Time - Book Smart #1
By: Dustin Cabeal | 06.14.11 (10:45 AM) | Pulled from: book smart-cover 001c.jpg


What's better than having an exclusive interview with Jimmy Palmiotti? Nothing, but having two exclusive preivews of his upcoming releases is a close second. The first is Book Smart and I'll let the man himself tell you all about it.

Booksmart is an 88 page graphic novel Justin and I wrote and Juan Santacruz illustrated. It’s basically a fish out of water story about an American girl who loses her memory while on a trip in Nepal and the adventure she has trying to figure out who she is and why she is even there in the first place.  I was editing a bunch of books for Kickstart during their initial launch and Justin and I decided to pitch this idea to them and they loved it. It’s one of many of their graphic novels that have done…all of them aimed at an all age’s group of readers. It’s solicited this month and we are very happy with the way it came out. There is nothing like picking up a book and having a beginning, middle and an end. Read the rest of the interview here!

And now the first 6 pages of Book Smart from Kickstart Comics


A Beautiful Gory Display- Kickstart's WITCH

By EJ Feddes On June 9, 2011 · Pulled from:

 The Summer of Kickstart continues this week with the release of Witch.  That’s right, our good friends at Kickstart Comics have another original graphic novel, available at your local comic store, at Walmart, and on Amazon.  They were kind enough to send us a review copy, and it should not come as a surprise that these people put out a fine comic.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I almost never like stories about magic.  Sorcerers, wizards, and magicians generally just irritate me.  (Except in real life, when even the simplest of tricks blows my mind.)  Essentially, I just don’t care about anybody in comics with magic powers, with the exception of Zatanna.   So even though I’ve really liked the rest of Kickstart’s output, I wasn’t excited about Witch.   But man, this book is actually awesome.

Teenage Kylie Woods thinks she’s crazy – everybody else does, too.  There’s a voice in her head, a voice that wants to hurt people.  In a moment of panic, she releases the voice only to learn that she’s a witch and what she heard was the voice of her familiar, Ridley.  In this case, her familiar is an eight-foot tall demonic cat-being.  Kyle comes from a long line of witches, and her life is in danger.  When she meets Aaron, a male witch, she learns about her true nature and the perils that come with being a witch. 

First off, Tony Shasteen’s art is absolutely gorgeous.  The designs of the various familiars are absolutely fantastic – Ridley has a very cool design that feels immediately iconic.  Aaron’s familiar, Lucy, is similarly well-designed.  They just pop off the page.  It’s not just the monsters – there’s a great flow to the pages, and the emotion in his faces is impressive.  It’s quite lovely.

I’m not familiar with co-writers Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, except for the fact that “Terry Matalas” was a character on a later season of 24.  It certainly doesn’t read like a first script, though.  The dialogue is witty, with more than a few genuine laughs.  And there are some great surprise reveals.  There are at least three big “No way!” moments, including the last-page hook that would seem to leave room for a sequel. 

While I’m not a magic guy, I love a good action scene, and Witch delivers.  I especially love the way Ridley and Lucy lurk in the background, sometimes making hilarious threats or failing to understand human behavior.  And then when there’s danger, they become these terrifying avatars of violence.  They go from being come relief to just absolutely wrecking dudes without warning, and I love it. 

There are good emotional turns in Witch – it’s not all monsters tearing witch hunters apart.  The cast is well-realized and engaging.  It’s a great piece of work, especially when a character who seems to be a joke turns out to be important.  I really liked it, even with my aversion to magic. 

The people at Kickstart do a fine job – this is their twelfth book, and they’ve all been really good.  As ever, we thank Samantha Shear and the whole Kickstart crew, and we’re eagerly awaiting their next releases.


Review: Witch


For as long as she can remember, Kylie Woods has heard a voice in her head. Now that she’s coming of age, she’ll learn she’s not crazy, but that the voice belongs to her familiar: an eight foot tall demonic black cat. You see, Kylie is a witch, and witches are nothing like you thought…

Kickstart has been coming out with some great stuff lately, the high point of which, for me, was Witch. I absolutely loved it from the very start, loved the new take on the genre  – especially when her familiar turns out to be a creepy, giant, demonic black cat. Look at the cover for this and tell me that familiar idea is not kickass.

The storyline moves along very well, enjoyable where it might be entirely too cliched, amusing when it needs to be, and Matalas and Fickett handle the drama with a light hand, not making anything too melodramatic. Shasteen’s art is delightful as well. It’s a touch darker than what I truly love, but that quality lends to the general aura the book has; dark enough for the subject matter, but not too dark to turn me off.

In the end, this book is fantastic. Kylie is written as a strong young woman, but not so much so that it feels forced. Kickstart is, in my opinion, at the top of the chain when it comes to strong female leads in comics right now.




Book of Lilah – This could not have hit my nerd buttons better if they planned it.  I mean, a centuries-old order of librarians protects the world’s knowledge and guides human development, cultivating a mystic library that is also connected to every other library in the world.  Oh, and some books unlock the full intellectual potential of anybody who leafs through the pages.  My only regret is that this didn’t come out when I was 12, because it would have blown my mind.

Of course, even at my jaded age, I had a lot of fun with Book of Lilah.  The titular Lilah is a college student who ends up with a very important book after bumping into a shady fellow in the library.  The book basically turns her into the Beautiful Mind guy.  She figures out “Particle Physics.  Entropy.  Electromagnetism.  The Colonel’s Secret Recipe” before declaring she needs “a new math”.  She reads every book on the shelf and discovers that she’s fluent in French.  (So fluent, in fact, she doesn’t even realize that she isn’t speaking English.)  And when she manages to accidentally cross the Atlantic Ocean without ever leaving the library, she comes to the attention of two different organizations. 

It’s not immediately clear which group she can trust.  The monastic Keepers who move between the mystical stacks seem like they know the score, but there’s another group who tells Lilah that the Keepers have held back human development for their own ends.  (Why didn’t Leonardo DaVinci ever build that helicopter he designed?  The Keepers.)  And there’s a rather charming young man who connects with Lilah who seems to be firmly anti-Keeper. 

Lilah breezes along without sacrificing character development.  There are a lot of ideas here,from the secret society to the mystical library, and yet Lilah still seems fully realized.  That’s especially impressive when you consider that we know her for all of five pages before the adventure kicks in.  She’s really a delightful heroine.  And I absolutely love the idea that the Keepers meddled in history to keep humanity from advancing too fast – the fact that this great concept is only the background of a fast-moving adventure story just makes the book seems that much bigger.  If feels like an expansive and developed world, even though we really only see a small part of it.

Best of all, Lilah doesn’t take itself too seriously.  There are some good jokes here – particularly when Lilah is surprised (and sometimes irritated) to discover things that she learned by taking possession of the book.  I particularly like her horror at her pedantic speech on the number of stars in the sky.

Book of Lilah is written by former Pushing Daisies writer Jim Monaco (The second Daisies contributor to write for Kickstart so far), and you can see a little similarity to the show.  Not so much in terms of plot of approach, but just the fact that he creates a likeable character with a gift that they don’t quite understand, and then sets them loose in a world with its own rules.  The art comes from Javi Fernandez (who also drew Kickstart’s Hero Complex), and it’s really lovely.  The characters are appealing and the weird settings are really well-executed.

It’s a fun read, and surprisingly dense – you’re getting a lot of story in here.  It’s an all-around quality book!

Ward 6 – This one had actually been specifically recommended to me back when Kickstart was putting out its first solicitations.  It’s a complex, twisted mindscrew.  The story focuses on five medical ward inmates.  They have no memories of their past, and when they start to achieve awareness, they are “reset” and have to start over as blank slates. 

Here’s the first cool thing about the premise.  The inmates have knowledge, but no personal information.  They can solve complex logic problems, but have no idea who they are.  They are somehow valuable to their keepers, and they have no idea why.  And the complications keep on coming – one of them dies, and then later returns to the group in perfect health and with his memory freshly reset.

This is really fantastic – there’s this great paranoid vibe, and it’s just maddening.  Whenever the inmates make any progress, they end up back at the starting point.  Even if they manage to leave some information behind, it’s incomprehensible to them after their reset.   Their interpersonal relationships, whatever measure of trust they manage to build, that just goes back to zero anytime somebody learns something they shouldn’t. 

I want to be careful of what I say here, because I don’t want to spoil any surprises.  The reveals are surprising and elegant, and it all makes complete sense by the end.  I’m not going to get into further plot specifics here, but it’s really excellent.  The story had me guessing the whole time.  Ward 6 is not a book to be read casually – you’ll want to give it your full attention.  It pays off. 

The writer, Kevin Fox, is best known for The Negotiator, which is a movie I’ve watched more times than I can reasonably hope to justify.  And this is just an excellent script – it’s complicated and engrossing.  He balances a lot of characters and gives us a reason to care about them, even if those characters don’t actually know why that is.  Their relationships are fascinating, as every time somebody is reset, the other characters have to help them rebuild the personality that they remember.  The main characters are collections of their own instincts, held together with the pieces of information that other people can tell them about themselves.  We’ve seen stories of amnesiacs before, but this is five amnesiacs trying to work as a collective and also occasionally losing all of their progress.  That’s a tricky path to take, and Fox handles it beautifully.

Salvador Navarro handles the art, and it really looks great.  Kickstart’s books are printed at smaller dimensions than average comic books, and Navarro packs the pages with small panels and lots of detail.  There’s a lot happening on every page, but it’s clean and crisp and keeps the story moving at just the right pace.

Ward 6 is terrific.  It’s dark, complicated, and deeply satisfying.  I loved it and highly recommend it.

Next time, we’ll take a look at Kickstart’s June release, Witch.  If history has taught us anything, it should be darned good!


Joy and Athena Give The Gods A "Headache"

by Josie Campbell, Staff Writer | Pulled from:; May 23rd, 2011 



Last year, brand new comic book company Kickstart Comics, founded by film producer Jason Netter, promised to change the face of comic sales and distribution by rolling out original graphic novels in both comic stores and Walmarts across the country. This month sees the release of their latest original comics property, "Headache," written by "Pushing Daisies" and "Burn Notice" scribe Lisa Joy with art by Jim Fern, Vertigo artist for "Crossing Midnight" and "Fables."

Taking Greek mythology and turning it on its head, "Headache" centers on Sarah, a young girl locked in an insane asylum for believing she is the goddess Athena. "Everybody says she's crazy, and she's on all these meds that innervate her and is told again and again to repeat, 'I am not a god,'" Joy told CBR News about the graphic novel. "They are basically trying to convince [Sarah] that she's a schizophrenic and convince her she's a weak human."

Of course, it isn't long before Sarah uncovers the truth: she's actually the half-human, half-goddess Athena, locked away by her divine brethren after opposing their plans to destroy humanity. Now wide awake and determined to prevent that fate, Sarah breaks out of the asylum and embarks on a 90-page stint of taking names and, in Joy's own words, "kicking ass!"

"Here is a girl capable of so much. The biggest prison she has is her own self-doubt. In order to become a goddess, she has to first overcome that and realize her own strength," said Joy, summing up the main theme of the graphic novel, the idea for which came to her from a combination of reading "Wonder Woman," real life inspiration from friends and trying to address the "deep, crushing hole in my heart" left by the cancellation of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

"I've been looking for a superhero I could tune into and relate to for years, and when nobody stepped in to take the place of "Buffy" in my poor soul, I thought, 'Maybe I can create somebody!' That's how "Headache" came to be."

While the graphic novel ostensibly revolves around Sarah/Athena, Joy rounds out her cast with a dysfunctional family of gods and goddesses, all of whom have been forced to make concessions to fit into modern times. "Hera is a trophy wife; Neptune is a surfer; Hades has a nightclub called the Styx. I try to keep it so that all of the huge Greek elements had a foothold in reality, to keep the metaphors true and also to make the characters as rounded and relatable as possible," said Joy.

Illustrating this point, Joy touched on Aphrodite, goddess of love, as an example of a secondary character grounded in reality while still keeping magical elements.

"In Greek mythology she is this beautiful face of love. To me, I started thinking what would it be like to be that person? What I realized was, it must be such a curse! Aphrodite's gift is to literally be the face of love, so everyone who gazes upon her sees the image of the person they are in love with," said Joy. The end result is that aside from the goddess herself, no one in "Headache" actually knows what Aphrodite looks like -- other than Ares, who is incapable of feeling love. "When [Aphrodite] looks in the mirror, she sees a middle-aged frumpy person," added Joy.

  Jim Fern illustrates "Headache"

Acknowledging that many writers have tackled modernizing the Greek gods in recent years (think "Percy Jackson and the Olympians"), Joy wanted to approach the story from a distinctive female perspective. "There was a lot I wanted to do with playing with traditional gender and roles," the writer told CBR. Citing Wonder Woman as her starting point, Joy began asking herself what elements made up the iconic character. "The appealing thing to me about Wonder Woman is the question of, who is this woman in tights and leotard walking around? What's her story and how does it resonate with women today? The point of it is, she's trying to figure out who she is. I wanted to do an update of that with a protagonist who was a little grittier and darker and more contemporary."

While Joy worried that a grim, gritty tone would cause editorial to change her story in order to fit the Walmart demographic, she was pleasantly surprised to find Kickstart supportive of her endeavors. "On one hand, it is great to get distribution at Walmart and it's great to get a wide audience like that; on the other hand, I didn't know if there would be a ton of creative interference. Happily, there really wasn't."

Touching on her years of work in TV prior to "Headache," Joy said she believed working with Bryan Fuller on "Pushing Daises" helped fundamentally shape her as a writer. A dedicated fan of his short-lived series "Wonderfalls," upon graduating college Joy was presented with the opportunity to apply for a writing job on "Daises" and meet the creator himself. "I got hired on the first job I ever went out for by Bryan," she said. "It was an incredibly lucky break."

"The two things you learn to appreciate most in Bryan is, beware of clichés and make the world spectacular, but keep the people grounded. You can have wackiness, but the heart of all of Bryan's things is very true and very real. It's people's dreams and people's love," Joy said, explaining Fuller's writing philosophy. "I think working with him has made me a much better writer and much more sensitive to those things."

Four years after "Daises" went off the air, Joy teamed up with Fuller once again to write an original pilot for USA titled "Mind Fields." With Fuller supervising and Joy writing, the "Headache" creator happily divulged the basic premise to CBR.

"It's about a couple of MIT pranksters who, after graduating, are basically private instigators. People come to them with problems, and they use engineering and high-technology to engineer solutions," said Joy. Diving headfirst into the world of genius jokesters, Joy spent much of her time researching various MIT pranks over the years, citing a stunt where students turned the campus into a hayfield as her favorite. "['Mind Fields'] adds that dash of Bryan Fuller, 'Pushing Daisies' kind of flair, so the characters are all whimsical but still grounded and emotionally relatable."

  Pages from "Headache"

With a laugh she added, "They are really fun to write and they are cool people -- and there are octopi and Amish people, too!"

This combination of whimsy and reality is something Joy says drew her to writing in the first place. "I think that sense of wonderment, where you walk out expecting the ordinary and are confronted by the extraordinary, is something that has always interested me, whether in TV or comic books," said Joy.

Though "Headache" has only just hit stores, Joy is already in talks about potential "Headache" television and feature film projects. However, she admitted ] those ideas are on the backburner until her work on "Mind Fields" is finished. And beyond the pilot and her current work on "Burn Notice," the writer is collaborating with her husband and "Dark Knight" scripter Jonathan Nolan on a prose novel. "It's kind of a thriller with a sci-fi twist, which is fun, but my goodness -- writing a book takes a lot of time!" laughed Joy.

The world and gender politics of "Headache" may be complex, but Joy believes her ultimate message is simple: "I would love people to feel empowered by it and understand everyone carries self-doubt, even superheroes. It's a universal predicament. And it's sort of beautiful, it makes triumphs that more triumphant and failings that much more forgivable," said Joy.

Laughing, the writer added, "I hope the ladies like it. I hope they read it and say, 'I'm going to go kick ass!'"

"Headache" is available online through Amazon and in Walmarts and comic book stores across the country



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