Archive for January, 2013

Something Completely Different

Posted in nature, photos with tags , , , , , , , on January 20, 2013 by vagabondsaint

As those of you who live outside of the Seattle area probably don’t know, Seattle has been under a cloud of fog for the past few days.  (Real fog, not weed smoke.)  Coming out of the house one morning, I saw some spiderwebs in the backyard still covered with fog and dew, and so I decided to get a few pictures.  Enjoy!

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The VS Interview: Katie Cord of Evil Girlfriend Media

Posted in interview, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by vagabondsaint

Good evening, readers!

It’s been a few years since I’ve done an interview, but I got the fedora and dictaphone (ask your grandparents) and Serious Reporting Tie out of mothballs (ask them again) just so I could do this interview!  I’m just kidding; I did this over Facebook chat so I didn’t have to transcribe anything, and I sure as hell wasn’t wearing  a tie.  I was at home; be happy I was wearing pants.

Katie Cord is the founder/publisher/co-head honcho/Evil-Girlfriend-In-Chief of brand-new publishing company Evil Girlfriend Media.  She is also a friend of mine, a fellow writer, and a fellow displaced Southerner (though a far prettier one than me)!

Katie CordKatie Cord, looking just a little nefarious. . .

Anyway, I suck at introductions, so without further ado, my interview with Katie Cord!

VS: What is Evil Girlfriend Media?

KC: Good question! Evil Girlfriend Media is a company specializing in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. We are starting with publishing books but have talks with several companies to also produce boutique items for lovers of those genres. My big dream is to provide books, boutique items, art, music, and video games under our name. That’s why we chose “media” instead of “publishers” as our name.

Sounds ambitious! Why call it “Evil Girlfriend”?

“Evil Girlfriend” is a nickname that my husband gave me when we were dating. I was bullied during my nursing clinicals in school and came home crying. He asked me what I was going to do about it. I didn’t know. He’s an artist, so he suggested I draw out my feelings. When I was done, he said, “Oh my god, you’re my evil girlfriend.” It was the first time I started using creativity as well as not being a nice girl.

I’ve been writing out emotions and drawing ever since.

And I’m not always nice.

I’ll consider myself warned! As you know, there are many other small publishers out there competing for new writing talent. What sets EGM apart from all the rest?

Wow, I know it’s amazing how many small publishers there are out there.

For one thing, our e-book royalties are very competitive. We feel this is very important because it’s what’s causing so many writers just to self-publish. Plus, we pay for anthologies. We are passionate about helping writers succeed. I’ve already set in my mind our first YA [Young Adult book] is going to sell x-amount of copies for my author and we are going to make her known even if means we are up all night selling it all over the place. I’m sure other publishers are just as passionate, goal-oriented, and care about writers, but if I had to ask one of my friends or writers, I think they would tell you those things about us.

So, would you say it is your dedication, not only to the success of EGM, but also to the success of each individual author that sets you apart?

Yes, I would think so. I don’t think EGM will be successful if we don’t consider and nurture every author that comes on board.

We need to have it on our mind that we want every author to be a rock star.

Your dedication to the authors is great, but what about the support staff? The editors, illustrators, and such? What does EGM offer them to set it apart from other publishers?

First and foremost, if you are editing an anthology for us, your name is on it. If you edit a book, you are on the inside of the cover. We want to promote great editors as well.

The illustrator is important too. Without that awesome cover, someone may pass over a kick ass story.

We will even promote the model on the cover if they want. It takes a lot of people to get that book into the hands of the reader and they deserve some credit as well!

Our pay rates are not the same people would receive from a big publisher but we will definitely credit the person for their hard work and promote them.

It sounds like a company very dedicated to making sure that everyone is recognized and promoted for their input. What inspired you to take EGM in that direction?

It’s what I think every person wants in the work that they do. Joseph Campbell once said, “One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” Evil Girlfriend is that for me and [her husband] Anthony. It’s our way of helping creatives become who they need to be, while helping the readers they touch on their own journey. We are all on this journey together, man (said in her best “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski voice).

From Joseph Campbell to The Big Lebowski – that’s an impressive range of influences! Are you looking for a similar variance of influences in your authors?

Yes! We want to provide a diverse range of authors. Of course, the type of work we produce will have to be something that Anthony and/or I would like to read. We read a lot of different things. I’m most interested in those people who can relate to a wide audience while sharing their passion for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Of course, you don’t have to love The Big Lebowski or Joseph Campbell to submit, but how can you not?

Good question! What would you like to say to prospective authors, editors, and illustrators that are thinking of submitting work to EGM?

Submit or contact us! Will we accept everyone? No, it’s not possible. However, if we can give you insight that will help you, or lead you to work with someone else, we will. If we accept you, we want to start a relationship that will give you the ability to do something you love while working with a company that also wants to do what they are passionate about.

So you’ll be helpful even to rejected authors?

Of course, I do not want to break anyone’s confidentiality but we sent out a helpful letter to someone who is just starting out. We gave advice on how to format and re-submit. Also [help with] some things that brand new writers do as mistakes. We are a brand new company as well. We will make mistakes. Karma is a you-know-what.
We like good karma.

Good karma is good! Before you go, please tell us about the anthologies you mentioned earlier.

Our first project is a series titled Three Little Words; each anthology’s theme is based off those three little words so each story must have the elements provided. Witches, Stitches, and Bitches, Roms, Bombs, and Zoms, and Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps are the first three anthologies in this series. They are fun, flirty, but we are not looking for voices that are typical. We would love to see some LGBT stories or gender role reversal. Definitely shake things up bit. Especially in the zombie selection, we tend to see a lot of Caucasians writing zombie fiction as though they would only be the group that survived or deeply feel the effects. That is definitely not going to be true. So we don’t want 15 stories about straight white people in love for the anthology.

Speaking of gender roles, you know that famed producer/directer/writer Joss Whedon is known for his strong female characters. Would you like to see more of those in submissions for EGM as well?

Yes, I’ve been heavily influenced by Joss Whedon. I’ve watched everything he’s ever made that is available. Wouldn’t it be cool if Joss Whedon wrote a short story for us? You think if I beg him he will? Help an Evil Girlfriend! So, yes, we would love those stories.

Can’t hurt to ask, right? Any parting words for the readers and/or Joss Whedon?

Well, for one, Joss Whedon thank you for writing about kick-ass geek girls when I was an overweight unhappy teenager who only survived puberty because of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror creatives. For writers, keep writing; believe in yourself even when you want to burn every piece of paper you’ve ever touched. Have your tantrum and keep going. Creating is painful, but you are doing it because it has to be done. Also, give Evil Girlfriend Media some love by liking our Facebook page and sharing the word. Love to all and keep being evil!

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That’s it!  Thanks to Katie Cord for granting me this interview! Go show Evil Girlfriend Media some literary love by visiting their site, reading the EGM blog, and maybe even submitting some work!

Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

VagabondSaint

Life With Archie: The Bravest Comic On The Stands?

Posted in book review, brilliance, comic books, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by vagabondsaint

AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I posted my last entry (Unhappy Trails:  A Farewell To “Scalped”, 12/13/12), I also had this entry in mind and had, in fact, planned to write it that night.  However, by the time I finished that entry, it was 4 AM, I was tired, and decided instead to write this article the next day.  That next day, I didn’t wake up until after noon Pacific Time.  As a matter of habit, one of the first things I do after waking up is read online news, and after reading of the events of December 14, 2012, I decided to delay this post. I think it’s been long enough now.

I’m going to go ahead and say this:  Life With Archie is the bravest comic book on the stands today.

Why, you ask?

Because they’re not afraid to take a stand on issues.

Take, for example, marriage equality.  (I don’t call it “gay marriage” because that implies an explicit difference between “straight marriage” and other types of marriage, and since all marriage is two people that love each other making a public, legal commitment to each other, I see no need for the distinction.)

Gay characters are not new to comics.  Underground comics have had homosexual acts and characters depicted since the late ’60s. . .but of course, that’s the underground stuff, and who pays attention to that?  Mainstream comics publishers largely ignored homosexual characters until the 1980s, when DC published their first obviously gay character, Extrano (“strange” in Spanish) for the mercifully short-lived series The New Guardians in 1987.  The biggest reveal, however, was that Marvel’s character Northstar, longtime member of the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight, was gay (because he’s already French-Canadian, so why not make him gay?), though his creator revealed later that he was supposed to have been gay from his first appearance in 1979 but wasn’t due to an anti-gay character policy at Marvel Comics.

After that, gay and bisexual characters fell out of the woodwork.  The Authority’s  Apollo and Midnighter were the world’s finest gay couple; Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a major supporting Batman character, was outed as a lesbian by Two-Face; John Constantine of Hellblazer was revealed to be bisexual (though he mostly sleeps with women and is married to a woman);  Hulkling and Wiccan of The Young Avengers were a gay couple; the new Batwoman is a lesbian; and in revising their entire universe, DC Comics made Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-Two  gay (sorry, Jade and Obsidian, the guy who was your dad pre-revision is now gay, so I guess you won’t be coming back for the New 52). . .the list goes on and on.  By 2010, you wouldn’t think a gay character would make news anymore.

But it did, when Archie Comics, long thought of as the most traditional, wholesome, conservative, “safe” comics company out there, introduced an openly gay character named Kevin Keller in Veronica #202.  It made news worldwide that gay had finally come to Riverdale, and at that point, it was a surprising move but not exactly a groundbreaking one.

Until February 2012, when, in the pages of Life With Archie, Kevin Keller married his boyfriend, Dr. Clay Walker.  Gay kissing was still new to comics then; longtime homosexual Northstar had just finally kissed his boyfriend on-panel the year before (after almost 20 years of being out of the closet); although The Midnighter and Apollo had been shown kissing before then, Neil Gaiman had been exploring gay and transgender themes in Sandman, and John Constantine had been in several homosexual sex scenes, they weren’t as mainstream and being written by mostly British writers besides.  At that point, marriage equality was only the law of the land in six states and the District of Columbia, with many many more states having laws on the books specifically preventing same-sex couple from getting married, so it was a pretty bold move for “traditional, wholesome” Archie Comics to make at the time.

Just to add a little more controversy to Kevin and Clay, their story was that they met in the military, when Kevin was injured fighting in Iraq and Dr. Walker had been his medic. . .and this was just after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Archie Comics wasted no time jumping on that subject, and the issue containing the wedding (#16, if you want it; it sells for $20-$40 now) of Keller and Walker became one of Archie Comics’ fastest-selling issues of all time (which is no mean feat, considering they’ve been going for over 70 years).

But that’s not why I call Life With Archie the bravest book on the stands.

(SPOILERS FOLLOW.)

In issue #22 of Life With Archie, Clay Walker is shot while attempting to prevent a robbery. (Had to be the black guy, didn’t it, Archie Comics?) Luckily, he survives the shooting and the would-be robber is captured after being clocked with a hammer by the store’s owner.

In issue #24, Kevin discovers that the unnamed shooter was a previously-convicted felon who bought the gun from a licensed dealer through a “loophole” (it’s later stated that he’s talking about the gun show loophole).  Kevin then rattles off a few statistics (“gun-related homicides are more than twenty times higher than in other developed nations”) and announces he is retiring from the Army to do something about it. . .and his “something” is. . .

Wait for it. . .

Kevin Keller decides to run for the US Senate on a gun-control platform!

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) just proved in November that an openly-gay candidate can win a Senate race; she became our first openly-gay US Senator and was sworn in on Thursday, January 3, 2013.  So you could say the precedent has been broken. . .except that #24 came out in November and was solicited three months earlier (as all comics are), so the story was written before her election, when she was still running a very tight race against Tommy “I’m gonna kill me some Medicare” Thompson.  (It’s worth noting that Tammy Baldwin still can’t legally marry in her home state, though she can have her same-sex marriage from another state recognized in Wisconsin as a “domestic partnership,” so Kevin Keller’s still got one up on her.)

In issue #25, Kevin expounds more upon his gun-control views, states a strong view that the Second Amendment pertains to the right to bear arms for “a well-regulated militia” and asks “why do we need an estimated 200 million guns in the hands of this country’s 300 million citizens?”  (His number is actually quite low; the 2007 estimates are 88.1 guns for every 100 US citizen,which comes out to about 274 million guns in this country, a figure that has no doubt gone up, since there were massive spikes in gun sales every time a black guy got elected President.)

Now, I am sure that some of you are saying that it’s not such a big deal to jump on the gun-control bandwagon now, after what happened in Newtown.  You’d be right; that terrible tragedy has changed a lot of views on gun control for many people, as it and numerous other tragedies before it should have done.

And I’d agree if it wasn’t that Life With Archie #24 came out in November 2012, and #25 hit the stands (and my greedy little palms) on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. . .two days before Newtown.

And that’s why I call Life With Archie the bravest comic book on the stands today:  it took on marriage equality before the 2012 electoral sweep that nearly doubled the number of states with legalized marriage equality with a firm, unmistakable statement of support; it took a strong pro-gun-control stance before the tragedy that catapulted gun control back into the national conversation; and it’s poised to do even more with Betty-and-Veronica rival Cheryl Blossom having been ravaged by breast cancer and now starting up her own foundation to fight breast cancer.

I never thought I’d say this, but here it is:  I wish Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image Comics, and IDW had half the intestinal fortitude that Archie Comics does when it comes to addressing relevant social issues.

Life With Archie: the best-written and bravest comic book on the stands today.  Go read it, it’s brilliant.

VS – 1.6.13