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September 27th, 2013

Vortex #2 Sold Out; One Vortex #1-4 Combo Pack Left

Filed under: Admin,Print Comics — Tags: ,

I realized yesterday that I only have one copy of Vortex #2 left in my personal inventory. So I’m not selling any more individual copies of Vortex #2 and I only have one Vortex #1-4 combo pack left. The combo pack is four dollars cheaper than ordering each issue individually. You can order it in my store.

Vortex 2

Vortex #2 is still available through other stores and distros: Farewell Books in Austin, Birdcage Bottom Books, Quimby’s, Sparkplug, Telegraph Gallery, Wow Cool, and some other places I’m probably forgetting (sorry I’m sleep deprived).

September 24th, 2013

Hypercrystalbaby

Filed under: Life,Manifestos

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve got an excellent excuse: I’m now the father of a beautiful, strong, and healthy baby girl!

Ruby Hensel

It’s hard to describe the swirling flood of emotions I’ve been immersed in in the months leading up to her birth and the weeks since, but I truly feel like my world has expanded immeasurably. I’m also more committed than ever to drawing comics and showing my daughter that our lives don’t have to just be day jobs, shopping sprees, and dreary broken dreams. I want to show her a world of joy, unbearable cuteness, and play. I want to show her a world where she can be whatever she imagines, whoever she is, a world where her choices aren’t constrained or predetermined by patriarchy. I hope that I can live up to my parenting ideals and that, when I fail to meet them, I don’t let that stop me from continuing to try. I hope that she knows I love her and that I’ll be there for her. <3

I’m going to post her when I can – this is my home on the Internet and I won’t abandon it – but if you want to see what I’m up to more regularly, follow my my Hypercastle Tumblr. Even if I won’t be completing another 128-page graphic novel anytime soon, I’m going to make a commitment to myself to draw in my sketchbook regularly.

August 27th, 2013

Drawing for Sparkplug Books

Filed under: Artwork — Tags: ,

I drew a splash page image for the Sparkplug Books site, check it out:

Sparkplug Books drawing

Sparkplug has Vortex #1-3 in their shop.

August 15th, 2013

Vortex #1-4 Combo Pack

Filed under: Print Comics — Tags: ,

I’ve added a Vortex #1-4 combo pack to my store. $20 plus shipping for the complete psychedelic adventure: 128 pages of sf madness, melting forms, digital lines, and thick textures. Here are some photos my wife, Glade Hensel, took of the issues:

Vortex 1-4. Photo by Glade Hensel.

Vortex 1 interior. Photo by Glade Hensel.

Vortex 2 interior. Photo by Glade Hensel.

Vortex 3 interior. Photo by Glade Hensel.

Vortex 4 interior. Photo by Glade Hensel.

Vortex 1-4 back covers. Photo by Glade Hensel.

July 26th, 2013

Vortex #4 Preorder

Filed under: Print Comics — Tags: ,

I sent Vortex #4 to the printer on Wednesday so I’ve put it up for preorder in my store. Here’s a preview:

Vortex #4 Cover and Endpaper

Vortex #4 Interior Pages

The preorder price is a dollar off until I get the books in early August. At that point I’ll start shipping out preorders and raise the price to the same as the other issues.

July 9th, 2013

The Dreamblood Duology by NK Jemisin

Filed under: SF Reviews — Tags:

I’ve just finished the Dreamblood duology by NK Jemisin, and I can unequivocally say it’s one of my favorite fantasy series. These books, The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun, now sit next to LeGuin’s first three Earthsea books and Hobb’s Farseer series on my mental shelf.

Jemisin's Dreamblood duology, covers by Marc Yankus
Covers by Marc Yankus.

Maybe partially it’s fatigue from overexposing myself to Westeros, but the beautiful writing and novel setting of this duology gave me a serious buzz. Although it’s not explicitly stated in the text of the novel itself, but rather in an interview afterwards, this secondary world fantasy takes place on a moon orbiting a gas giant. The gas giant itself dominates the narrative as the banded Dreaming Moon, which rises and sets over a civilization based on ancient Egypt and its neighbor Nubia.

The Great Red Spot of Jupiter
The Great Red Spot of Jupiter. Photo taken by NASA’s Voyager 1 mission. I’ve always been intrigued by gas giants. It would be amazing to live on a moon orbiting one and see it rise and set.

I spent most of my childhood lost in imaginary quasi-medieval settings, so I get their allure, but so many fantasy books seem constrained by these tropes. In the aforementioned interview, Jemisin speaks about the difficulty of making a setting feel real without relying on the familiar tropes of castles and knights, but she succeeds. Jemisin goes even further by throwing out so much of what is recognizably Egyptian – pharoahs and pyramids – instead we get ninja priests and Jungian dream magic. But it’s all grounded by the annual floods of a river enveloped by a vast desert.

The Red Book by Jung
An image from Carl Jung’s Red Book, one of Jemisin’s inspirations.

Another similarity to Earth is that most of the people in this imaginary Egypt, a civilization called Gujaareh, are people of color. Citizens of the Nubian analog, Kisua, use skin color as a sign of social rank – the darker your skin, the more noble your family. There are several characters that an American would identify as white people, but they are secondary characters, Northern barbarians. My mind’s default setting is to imagine that the characters in the novels I’m reading are white unless it’s explicitly stated otherwise. It’s mind expanding to have that assumption, which comes from my privileged position as a white man in America, reversed.

The Red Book by Jung
Another image from Carl Jung’s Red Book.

I wish more novelists were brave enough to take what should be the default premise of a fantasy novel – this is a different world and anything goes – as far as Jemisin has in these novels. But enough about what makes The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun different. What makes them similar to the best fantasy novels is that they have an exciting plot; an interesting, socially integrated magic system; and deftly done exposition. At its beginning, The Killing Moon is a swirl of unfamiliar terms that are slowly defined through dialog and action rather than chunks of exposition. The plot progresses similarly. There are political schemes behind closed doors but we don’t see the truth until the climax. I enjoyed the emotional journey of the characters in the second book better because we see their relationships develop. In the first book, we’re told about the strong, complex love between a mentor and his apprentice, but their bond was formed before the book begins and it doesn’t waver. Although the plots of the books are linked, they focus on different people and have their own resolutions. At the heart of these novels are troublesome moral questions – Can murder ever be justified? What price should a society pay for peace? Jemisin doesn’t give us any easy answers. She looks at these questions through the eyes of many fully realized characters, both male and female, gay and straight, with diametrically opposed yet reasonable viewpoints.

The Red Book by Jung
A third image from Carl Jung’s Red Book.

I highly recommend these novels to anyone looking to explore new territory in their imaginations.

June 25th, 2013

Gabriel Corbera Drawing the Miizzzard

Filed under: Inspiration — Tags: ,

Check out this amazing drawing that Gabriel Corbera made of the Miizzard:

Gabriel Corbera Miizzzard Drawing

I’m a big fan of Corbera’s comics, especially his Monday Suicide series, an out-there mashup of thick black lines, patterns, monsters, and male pattern baldness.

June 21st, 2013

Vortex #4 Cover and Endpapers Previews

Filed under: Print Comics — Tags:

Vortex 4 Cover Preview

Vortex 4 Endpapers Preview

June 14th, 2013

Future Shock #4 and Vortex #1-3 at Farewell Books and CAKE; Vortex #4 Progress Update

Filed under: Events,Print Comics

I’ve dropped copies of Future Shock #4 and Vortex #1-3 off at Farewell Books here in Austin, located in Domy’s old space.

Farewell Books logo

If you’re going to CAKE this weekend in Chicago, Kevin Czap will also have a few copies of the new Future Shock.

Vortex 4 endpapers work-in-progress
I’ve decided to draw the endpapers for this issue. My hand hurts.

I’ve been making good progress on Vortex. I’ve decided that #4 will be the final issue and I’ve pencilled all the way to the end. I’m over halfway done inking it also. My goal is to get the drawing done in June.

June 4th, 2013

Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber – the Merlin Cycle

Filed under: SF Book Covers,SF Reviews — Tags: ,

I’ve now finished the two five-book cycles that Roger Zelazny set in his Amber cosmos, the Corwin cycle, which I wrote about here, and the Merlin cycle.

Trumps of Doom by Zelazny, cover by Geoff Taylor
Trumps of Doom is the sixth Amber novel and the first one in the Merlin cycle. Cover by Geoff Taylor.

From reviews I saw on Amazon and Goodreads, I expected to not like the Merlin cycle as much as the Corwin cycle. Maybe it was because of these lowered expectations, but I enjoyed Merlin, maybe more so than Corwin. While Corwin is a charismatic rogue, Merlin is a fair-minded nerd. I wrote about how Corwin ground the first five books with his contemporary sensibility, but now that I’ve read the next five books, I’d amend that – Corwin is modern noir and Merlin is contemporary cyberpunk. As an example, at the beginning of the first book, Trumps of Doom, Merlin has just quit a computer startup in the Bay Area and is going off to check on the artificial intelligence he built in the hinterlands of Shadow.

Sign of Chaos by Zelazny, cover by Geoff Taylor
Sign of Chaos is the eighth Amber novel and the third one in the Merlin cycle. Cover also by Geoff Taylor.

In many ways, the Merlin cycle parallels the Corwin cycle structurally. We begin on Earth but are swiftly inducted into Amberite intrigue. We go through several rounds of mysterious betrayals and reversals until the true powers behind events are revealed. The plotting centers on family dynamics and, once again, a missing father. Although Zelazny adds layers of motivations, meanings, and metaphysics to his cosmos, the stakes feel lower this second go round. Both cycles end abruptly, but Prince of Chaos leaves many more threads undone than The Courts of Chaos. I see on Wikipedia that several short stories round out the saga – I’ll track those down.

Tim White cover painting for Sign of Chaos by Zelazny
This is the painting that Tim White did for a different cover of Sign of Chaos.

One way in which the Merlin cycle vastly improves on the Corwin cycle is in the portrayal of and roles given to women. The one-dimensional lovers, sisters, and mostly absent mother are replaced with a crowd of vibrant, multi-faceted women. I don’t recall a moment that passes the Bechdel test but Merlin’s complicated (and importantly, changing) relationships with his mother, the mother of his best friend, his ex-girlfriend Julia, and the female demon following him give these novels so much of their depth and drive most of the plot.

French cover of Knight of Shadows by Zelazny, cover by Florence Magnin
This is the French cover of Knight of Shadows, the ninth Amber novel and the fourth one in the Merlin cycle. Cover by Florence Magnin.

The imagery in the Merlin cycle matches and sometimes exceeds the psychedelia of the Corwin cycle. Not content to simply rehash hellrides through Shadow and the silvery gleam of Tir-na Nog’th, Zelazny shows us the stark stage beneath the puppetry of Shadow and takes us to the pit of Chaos. In between we visit the inhospitable cave where Ghostwheel computes on his otherworldly circuitry and the Mad Hatter’s bar.

French cover of Prince of Chaos by Zelazny, cover by Florence Magnin
This is the French cover of Prince of Chaos, the tenth Amber novel and the fifth one in the Merlin cycle. Cover also by Florence Magnin.

One of the visual highlights is the beginning of Chapter 7 of the last book, Prince of Chaos, when Merlin walks his step-father’s sculpture garden. It’s a dim room, lit from the ground up, that seems “of different size and contour depending upon where one stood.” The room was “constructed without any plane surfaces.” As you walk through it, the walls become the floor and the sculptures that are on the floor jut out of the walls or depend from the ceiling. I’d love to explore a space like this in a videogame.

Amber poster by Florence Magnin
This is an Amber poster by Florence Magnin. It uses elements from her covers. She also did other Amber illustrations. You can see a larger version of this poster here.

In some ways, the strength of an author’s creation can be measured in how reluctant the readers are to leave. I’d like to experience more of Amber and Chaos, although I don’t envy those caught in their power struggles.

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