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Hey kids,

So I bought and read the latest issue of AMELIA COLE AND THE UNKNOWN WORLD today, a comic I have recommended before, and found an awesome little Easter Egg at the bottom of page 16.

Yep, Officer Freeman is pickin’ up cold, refreshing six-pack of Patrick’s Punch-Up Brew! LOL!

Issue number four  of AMELIA COLE is out now and is written by Eisner and Harvey award winners Adam P. Knave & D.J. Kirkbride, drawn by Nick Brokenshire, and lettered by Rachel Deering. And, as if you needed another reason to be reading this book, all November proceeds of AMELIA COLE — and other MonkeyBrain titles — are being donated to the Hero Initiative! So read some awesome comics and help out a worthy cause!

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Hey kids,

So I don’t usually like to tell you guys what to do with your money. It’s your money. Who the hell am I to tell you how to spend it? If I come across something cool – an awesome new Kickstarter campaign or a particularly cool book or piece of art that a friend of mine made – I might point it out to you, just so you know it exists and let you make your own purchasing decisions. Hell, a couple of weeks ago, when an anthology came out with one of my stories in it, I was even like “Hey, this exists. You can buy it. If you want. Or not. Whatever. I’m not gonna force you.”

But this? This is something different.

Earlier this week, we saw the launch of MonkeyBrain Comics; a creator-owned digital comics line, founded by Chris Roberson and Allison Baker, and distributed through Comixology. Five books were announced and released, with more titles to be revealed next week at the San Diego Comic Con. While each of those books are amazing in their own way, I’m only want to talk about one of them.

Meet Amelia Cole.

“Amelia Cole lives in two worlds — literally. One runs on magic, the other built on technology. When the barriers between those worlds start to break down, Amelia and her aunt Dani must take extreme action. It’s the start of whole new world in adventure, magic, and excitement as Amelia Cole steps forward to do what she knows it right, even when the consequences might be wrong.”

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World is one of those rare and special gems of comicdom.

The first issue hits the ground running, tossing you right into the action, and manages to stay quick-paced and action-packed, interesting and suspenseful, and – most importantly, I think – fun to the end. Like the titular character, you’re never really sure what’s going on or what could possibly come next and, by the time you get to the end, you’re practically begging for that second issue, because the first so beautiful sets up a world where anything can happen that you just can’t wait until everything does.

Here’s where I’m going to stop talking about plot, because I don’t want to spoil a single panel for you – just know that the story is magical in every sense of the word – and instead talk about character.

Amelia Cole is not a “strong female character.” She is a strong character. Period. Her gender has little [re: nothing] to do with what the book is about or anything that happens within it. She is smart and capable, with an inner strength that she herself may not be fully aware of.

But she is not without her flaws. She can be rash and headstrong, reacting without thinking about the consequences of her actions. She makes mistakes. Which land her in some sticky situations. Yet, as strong as she is, she still has moments of doubt, there are cracks in her self-confidence.

Amelia Cole is an attractive young woman, but not “sexy” by the standard “cheesecake” views of women in pop culture. She’s not a waif. She’s also not super buff, either. She doesn’t have six-pack abs, “legs that go all the way up,” a non-existent waist, or breasts that double as floatation devices. She has weight. She has hips. She has a backbone – both figuratively and literally – that conforms to the physics of how the human body can and should move.

She also wears these odd things seldom seen in mainstream comic books: clothes. Like real clothes. That a person would wear. Amelia dresses in jeans, a tank top, a slightly over-sized flannel shirt, and – gasp! – comfortable shoes. This is a girl who knows the value having to move and run quickly. There’s no spandex or form-fitting leather and all of her clothes survive the issue without being torn up and/or off. “Scantily clad” is not a phrase that exists in this world. How original!

Amelia Cole feels like more than a three dimensional character. She is a thinking, feeling human being.

And then there’s the magic. Oh, the magic.

Wands. Energy blasts. Persuasion demons. Ancient runes. Portals. Magic doors. Alternative worlds. Other realms. Bouncy teleportation balls. (Omigod, if and when they start releasing Amelia Cole merchandise, you guys are all gonna want an official “Amelia Cole” Bouncy Teleportation Ball ™! I’m telling you. They’re fun.)

And that’s just in the first issue.

I think one of the best things about Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, though, is that it has a little something for everyone, appealing to a wide and diverse demographic, and it’s rated 12+ so just about anyone can read and enjoy it!

Do you like Harry Potter? Then you’d probably like Amelia Cole. Do you read comics like Phonogram, Runaways, The Immortal Iron Fist, Y: The Last Man, or Atomic Robo? Do you watch TV shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra? Do you enjoy the works of Miyazaki or even Joss Whedon? Then, your probably dig Amelia Cole, too.

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World is written by Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride, two award-winning writers who show their love of comics and story on every page; drawn by Nick Brokenshire, a master of illustration and color who breathes brilliant life into this magical new world; expertly lettered by Rachel Deering; and is available now on Comixology for only $1.99 for 28 pages. (You can can read an eight-page preview of the first issue here.)

With almost a third more content than your average mainstream book, and at half the cost, I urge you to take a chance, pick up the book, and get to know Amelia Cole and her unknown world with her.

You’ll be really glad you did.

Hey kids,

You can now read Jim Rugg’s fantastic Eisner-nominated Afrodisiac for FREE over at the Adhouse Books site!

The actual book is currently between printings and sold out in stores and online but, once the next print run starts, you should totally go buy a copy! It is one of the most fun comics I have ever read!

“I’m already rock hard, baby!”

Frankie

…writer extraordinaire behind Transmetropolitan, Planetary, Fell, Nextwave, and Crooked Little Vein — posted a new blog today and, in it, mentioned my good friend Thomas McKenzie’s debut novel, KnoWare Man!

How did this come to be, you ask?

(OK, maybe you didn’t ask or weren’t even wondering it at all but, for the sake of this blog post, I’m totally gonna pretend that you did.)

How did this come to be, you ask?

Well, it’s a very long story and I really don’t feel like getting into it right now.

Oh, what the hell.  Here goes.

About a week ago, Warren Ellis put that call out on his Twitter account that he wanted any of the sci-fi/fantasy writers who follow him to pimp out their work on his Whitechapel forum; to “show themselves, tell him what you do, provide links to work and information and purchasing where possible.”

So I gave that Scottish bah-stard Thomas McKenzie a call and said, “Hey, McKenzie, ye Scottish bah-stard!  You wrote a book!  A sci-fi book!  And a damned good sci-fi book at that!  Go forth and pimp thyself!”

He did. And it was good.

Then, on this very night, Warren Ellis posted a blog on his website, a blog filled of seemingly random topics; webcomics, art, a DVD documentary, photographs, a couple of books.

As it turns out, one of those books mentioned was Thomas McKenzie’s KnoWare Man, complete with a shot of the book cover, designed by yours truly. You can check it out here.

I, of course, giggled hysterically like little girl for several minutes and then immediately called Tom to informed him of the aforementioned blog and then the two of us giggled hysterically like little girls for several hours.

Thanks to my good friend Judah Thor for passing the link on to me.  For, without him, I would never have seen the blog nor would I have the total sense of entitlement and arrogance that I feel right now!

And, just a reminder, you can buy Thomas McKenzie’s KnoWare Man here for $13.00 or download the digital version for $6.66. \m/

So, yeah, Warren Ellis posted a book cover that I designed on his blog.  What did you do today?

Frankie

…who I met while in New York has, aside from having one of the coolest names I’ve ever heard, a short story in the just-released zombie anthology, Zombiesque.

The theme of this anthology is stories from the viewpoint of zombies, rather than just being about them. Here’s the blurb:

From a tropical resort where visitors can become temporary zombies, to a newly-made zombie determined to protect those he loves, to a cheerleader who won’t let death kick her off the team, to a zombie seeking revenge for the ancestors who died on an African slave ship — Zombiesque invites readers to take a walk on the undead side in these tales from a zombie’s point of view.

He’s already received a very nice review by Heather over at Errant Dreams on his story, “The Confession”:

Laszlo Xalieri’s “The Confession” is another of my favorite tales in this book. It’s a surreal and horrifying take on how a man might rise from the dead… or is it? As a zombie relates his tale to a man who chronicles it for him, details start to emerge that paint a picture perhaps at odds with the zombie’s tale.

You can pick up the Zombiesque paperback on Amazon for $7.99 or read it today by downloading the Kindle edition for only $6.99!

But wait!  There’s more!

Laszlo has also archived This One Time,  a fantastic ongoing collection of cataclysmic moments in people’s lives that when viewed as a group reveal a much larger story.

I’ve only read maybe half of the over thirty (!) This One Time stories, myself.  They’re so good, I like to space them out a bit and read one story every couple of days or so, savoring each heartbreaking syllable.

So there you go.  All you people stuck at home because of Snowmageddon 2011, you now have something to do today.

You’re welcome,

Frankie

Hey kids,

Earlier in the week, I toldja about my friend Tom McKenzie and the release of his first novel, KnoWare Man.  (You did buy a copy, right?)

One thing I did forget to mention in the last post was, aside from from being a truly amazing book, it also has a great foreword written by our mutual friend, Justin “Wayne Chinsang” Shady.

Anyway, today I wanted to share with you my process for designing the KnoWare Man book cover.

When Tom first came to me, he told me that he wanted the cover design to feel aged, like it could have been some generic dusty old sci-fi paperback from the ’70s that you might have found for a quarter in a garage sale or thrift store.  We also discussed incorporating a stylized circuit board motif and keeping the color scheme simple: black, white, and red.

Yeeeeeah, so that didn’t exactly stick…

My first designs were pretty close to what we had discussed, simple circuit board and color scheme…

  

…which we both liked but, when we discussed the idea of a wraparound cover, found it hard to make the design interesting enough to carry over to the back cover and integrate a large block of text.

So back to the drawing board.

I started thinking about how to tie other elements of the book into the cover. 

The story is set in the future, sure, but it also takes place in a small neighborhood cul de sac.  Driving home from work, one day, I made a point of going through some small suburban neighborhoods, pausing briefly around areas with cul de sacs.  Then, I got an idea.

Seen from above – or on Google maps – I’ve always like how the streets of a city, driveways, houses could easily resemble – and be blended into – a simple circuit board.  I raced home to do a few sketches.

To present the idea to Tom, I snagged some images off of Google Earth and photoshopped several mockups of how we could get – not only the circuit board pattern – but also include the neighborhood theme…

    

…and don’t you think that, from above, a cul de sac looks a little like an Omega sign?  Easily plays in with the dark humor and threats of destruction in the book.

I told Tom that we could go with a photo cover, like in the sketches seen above, or a simple line drawing of the image.

Unfortunately, Tom thought – and I soon agreed – that the map cover had lost a lot of the edge we had in the earlier designs.

So back to the drawing board.

At some point, I played around with the idea of getting rid of the wraparound cover all together and running with the generic pocket-size paperback idea.  So I filled the cover with a large sci-fi font, gutting the interiors of the letters so circuit board would be seen inside.

 

I really dug this design but abandoned it before whipping up the spine and back cover, because it bordered on the edge of too generic.

So I went back to the drawing board but, by this time, I was a little burned out on circuit boards and city streets.  Tom and I had many late night phone calls and, eventually, we decided to throw out the circuit board idea and think about the other story elements in the book: cryogenics, the future, Japanese culture, blackmail, threats, neighborhoods, fighting, computers, bombs in the neck, and… cigarettes…

As soon as Tom said cigarettes, it was like fireworks exploding in my head.  I knew exactly how to design Tom’s book cover.

I asked Tom what brand of cigarettes he smoked, back when he smoked, and he said “Djarum Blacks, hand-rolled by the hipster devil himself.” 

 

Having never heard of Djarum Blacks — obviously because I’m just not cool enough, also, because they’ve been banned in the US for several years now — I did a little walking around through Google Images.  This is what came out of that stroll…

 

It was pretty basic, but it worked.  Or, at least, it could have worked.  The black cover would have even played nicely with the idea of the ARAHNA device in the book.

The only downside was that since there was not a lot of reference for the Djarums, I would have had to make up a lot for the spine and back cover and I wasn’t sure anyone would get the reference, since they weren’t a well-know brand of smokes.

So I chose a more well-know brand of smokes.

And, almost immediately, the design sprung fully formed from my forehead and onto my dirty computer screen. 

 

I swapped out the “Filtered Cigarettes” at the top of the original Marlboro package design for “Fa®si Cigarettes,” the futuristic cigarettes in the book that allow the smoker to speak any language, depending on which pack he was smoking.  I also replaced “20 cigarettes” with “20 Japanese Smartsmokes,” since most of the people in the book speak Japanese, and even added a little Japanese rising sun flag design where the Marlboro logo would have been.  I used the same font from the Marlboro logo for the title and “Ultra Smooth Thomas McKenzie Flavor” was a little inside joke that I through in there that Tom actually liked, so it stayed for the final draft.

Aside from some size alterations, there were only very few and very small changes made from the original sketch to the finished product.  

The spine and the back cover I completely made up.  Tom and I had the idea of making the back copy look like a Surgeon General’s Warning.  Aren’t we clever?  And, after one particularly long late-night phone call got the wording just right.

 

And here is the entire wraparound cover, completely finished.

 

It was kind of a bitch and, after every cover idea was rejected, I felt like a complete failure as a graphic designer.  But, once we opened up to new ideas, I think we fell into a cover that we can both be extremely proud of.

Hope you guys enjoyed the process.  Or thought it was vaguely interesting.  Or, at least, wasn’t completely bored out of your skull while I kept on yammering.

And, if you haven’t already, go order your own copy of Thomas McKenzie’s KnoWare Man.  It’s a hell of a ride.

Sitting in his KnoWare Land,

Frankie

Hey kids,

I got some exciting news to share with you today!

My good friend, Tom McKenzie – also known as @TWM71 – wrote an amazing futuristic sci-fi novel, called KnoWare Man.

KnoWare Man is the story of Walton Leese, who lives a life of bored luxury (“tits and speedboats,”) until the moment he pays the price for breaking the cardinal rule: You Can’t Take It With You.

He awakens from a century and a half of frozen horror to a world he no longer recognizes, and no longer recognizes himself. Employed by an organization who wishes to remain nameless, he’s forced by threat of violent death to chip quietly away the thin veneer of civility that keeps his fellow man from behaving like animals until finally he can take it no more…

Unfortunately, he’s just getting started.”

I’m very happy to say that, after ten years of writing, six computers, five drafts, four states, and two operating systems, Tom has finally published KnoWare Man through Lulu.com!

I’m pretty proud that KnoWare Man is finally being release. As Tom’s unofficial editor, I’ve read the book at least a dozen times, each pass better than the last. Not only that, but Tom also – somewhat foolishly – asked me to design the wraparound book cover. Yikes! It took a lot of time and a lot of drafts, but I think we came up with a great design. (Check back here in a few days and I’ll share my process to designing the cover.)

More than that, though, I’m proud to say that one of my best friends has met one of his lifelong dreams and published his first novel. Good on ya, Tom.

So go ahead and pick up your copy of KnoWare Man at Lulu.com and, when you’re done reading it, head on over to Tom’s blog or hit him up on Twitter and let him know how much you liked it.

Can’t wait to pick up my copy,

Frankie

Hey kids!

It’s time for a game I like to call “Buy My Friends’ Book!”

So about this time last year, my good friend Justin Shady and his sister Beth co-wrote a children’s book called “I Beg Your Pardon: The Tale of a Jerky Turkey,” illustrated by the incredible Marla Campbell!

Sadly, due to the publisher cancelling the book, like, just before it was to go to print, “I Beg Your Pardon: The Tale of a Jerky Turkey” never saw the light of day.

Until now.

I Beg Your Pardon: The Tale of a Jerky Turkey” — the story of a jerky turkey named Sage who comes beak-to-beak with his own mortality as Thanksgiving fast approaches — is finally available for purchase through Lulu for only $14.00!

Order your copy here!

Looks delicious, guys!

Frankie