15 Sep

AfterShock Comics’ ‘Undone by Blood’ Heads for Television

Norman Reedus’ bigbaldhead productions is developing the western property.

Ahead of its second season, due 2021, AfterShock Comics’ metatextual western series Undone by Blood will make the jump to television, with bigbaldhead productions, the company founded by Norman Reedus signing a deal to develop the property.

Undone by Blood was born from a place of pure passion, out of a love for Westerns, for myself and the entire creative team. At the outset, our goal was to tell a story that added to the genre by deconstructing its themes, and to make the best comic book we could,” series co-creator Lonnie Nadler told The Hollywood Reporter. “While having your book adapted is the ultimate dream for many creators, it was not for us. We wouldn’t be doing this unless we felt it was one-hundred-percent the right fit. And from our first discussion with Norman and his team at bigbaldhead, it was clear that their passion for the project matched our own with genuine enthusiasm. They understood the nuances, the world, and the characters completely.”

Nadler’s co-writer Zac Thompson added, “From day one of our conversations it was clear we were all drawn to the material for the same reasons. The western genre casts a long shadow over the American film industry and it’s so exciting to create a show that will explore the impact of that legacy while also paying tribute to it. The dual narrative structure of the story makes it perfect for the transition to television. Fans of classic Westerns will get their Sergio Leone tales of justice on the frontier. And fans of quirky Coen Brothers neo-westerns will get theirs too. It’s an embarrassment of genre riches.”

Reedus, JoAnne Colonna and Amanda Verdon will executive produce the series for bigbaldhead, with Lee Kramer and Jon Kramer exec producing for AfterShock Comics, alongside Thompson and Nadler. Reedus is being eyed to star as the series’ Solomon Eaton, the fictional cowboy whose stories mirror the primary action in each tale.

“I’m not going to lie. The possibility of having Norman Reedus play the co-lead of your television show is mind-blowingly amazing, as he’s the perfect fit for a legendary pulp gunslinger like Solomon Eaton,” Thompson said. “Right from the jump, Norman understood Sol like he was an extension of himself. He saw all the things we saw in the character and to be honest, Norman’s basically already a badass cowboy. We couldn’t be more excited to see his take on Sol.”

“Undone by Blood is a special book for us at AfterShock and we couldn’t be happier that we found the perfect creative partners in bigbaldhead productions,” Lee Kramer said. “Norman, JoAnne and Amanda’s creative sensibilities will only help to further enrich this already impactful tale for a television audience, and we cannot wait to get this exciting project underway.”

Rive Gauche Television negotiated the deal on behalf of AfterShock Comics, with Thompson and Nadler represented by Jake Wagner from Alibi.

Reedus will also provide the foreword to the collection of the first Undone by Blood comic book series, Undone by Blood or the Shadow of a Wanted Man, available in comic stores Nov. 4, and in bookstores Nov. 17, in which he writes that the series “excited me in a way that few comics have since The Walking Dead.”

14 Sep

How ‘Knock ‘Em Dead’ Brings Horror to Stand-Up Comedy

AfterShock Comics’ next series is a supernatural horror based in the early days of a comedy career.

As the saying goes, comedy is hard, dying is easy — something that’s never been more true than in AfterShock’s new comic book series, Knock ‘Em Dead — a supernatural horror book about the comedy business.

Written by Eliot Rahal (Hot Lunch Special, Midnight Vista), the series centers around Pryor Brice, a wannabe comedian who’s finding it harder than he’d hoped to break into the industry — until an accident changes everything, and makes it all too clear that there’s more of a price to fame than Pryor could have realized.

According to writer and co-creator Rahal, the series is about “fame, family, and addiction. It’s a supernatural horror story about a stand-up comedian and the grind of trying to make it — the mistakes you make and the people you hurt along the way.”

It’s a story born of his own experiences, he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I began my journey as a writer performing and writing stand-up comedy,” he recalled. “I was a cast member at Chicago’s iconic Lincoln Lodge. And that experience was very formative for me. It’s the time in my life where I made the most mistakes.” He’s looking beyond autobiography for the series, however, naming Stephen King and Jason Aaron as influences, and describing the finished product as “King of Comedy meets The Frighteners.”

The series is illustrated by Mattia Monaco, who explained that he wanted to “convey a sense of speed, dirt and an almost aggressive feel” with his artwork for the book. “I tried to alternate detailed environments, with black and white backgrounds,” he said. “Sober faces, with grotesque, almost funny faces. Sharp shadows with strong lights. All surrounded by lines that become darker with the story itself.”

The series will debut Dec. 2 with a first issue featuring cover artwork by Andy Clarke and Jose Villarrubia, with a variant cover by Tony Harris.

01 Sep

‘Piecemeal’ Launches Graphic Novella Line for AfterShock Comics

The new Cullen Bunn and Szymon Kudranski horror project will debut in December.

When five kids close to leaving high school decide on one last adventure together — and, in the process, discover a human brain in a jar full of murky liquid — it’s the start of a story that includes a building called the Nightmare House and a killer out to build a new body for themselves… piece by piece. Welcome to AfterShock Comics’ latest project, Piecemeal.

Written by Cullen Bunn (Uncanny X-Men, The Sixth Gun), with art by Szymon Kudranski (The Punisher, Spawn), Piecemealisn’t just a concentrated burst of body horror aimed at fans of Stephen King (Bunn cites It and Pet Cemetery as influences on the book); it’s also the first in a line of short graphic novels from AfterShock intended to showcase the creative talent the publisher works with.

The graphic novella is “the story of five teens who are on the verge of starting their adult lives and going their separate ways,” said writer Bunn. “As they visit a local haunted site, they make a startling discovery — a human brain floating in a jar full of disgusting liquid.”

When Jamie, one of the teens, takes the brain home with him, things get even stranger. “Not only does Jamie’s ailing grandfather seem to ‘recognize’ the brain, but Jamie starts experiencing ghastly, prophetic dreams, and some otherworldly force begins to prey upon the kids,” Bunn teases.

Piecemeal “is an exciting project for me, because it’s such a different format. This is a focused tale of terror,” Bunn said of the 48-page one-off release. “It has a very specific goal — to scare the reader! And I’ve used this new format as an opportunity to do some different things with the storytelling. There are some elements of this tale that I think will open up the possibility of a lot of discussion among readers.”

Like much of the best horror stories, Piecemeal has its roots in the author’s own life experiences, as it turns out — if not entirely directly. “Did I find a brain in a jar in an old house? No,” he admitted, “but there are elements of truth to the tale. For example, my friend Doug and I did find a bunch of weird bones, all carved into strange shapes, in an old, crumbling house in the woods. That was obviously the inspiration for the inciting events of this story. But I also drew on the things that worried me and scared me when I was a teen. And Jamie’s grandfather is absolutely a representation of my own father, who struggled with dementia in his later years.”

Piecemeal is the sixth project Bunn has published through AfterShock. He said that he enjoys the risks the company takes on the types of material it releases. “One of the first books I did with them, Dark Ark, is a series that I thought might be too weird for a publisher, but AfterShock jumped on it and we’ve done 21 issues in that world so far,” he explained. “Piecemeal, being such a different format from traditional limited series or graphic novels, is just another example of how AfterShock will try unusual and interesting approaches to getting stories to readers.”

The book, which Bunn described as “a perfect tale for horror lovers,” will be released Dec. 9 in comic book stores and digitally.

 

18 Aug

‘Miskatonic’ Mixes Lovecraft and Noir Crime for a 1920s Story Unlike Any Other

The new series from AfterShock Comics takes a revisionist look at classic cosmic horror tropes and combines them with noir crime and real-world politics.

The first “Red Scare” of the 20th century — when paranoia over the threat posed by far-left political extremists overtook certain elements of the United States — is the backdrop for the latest series to be announced from AfterShock Comics, but Lovecraftian crime book Miskatonic has far more going on than just politics.

Created by Mark Sable (Godkillers) and Giorgio Pontrelli (Dylan Dog), the series mixes terrorist bombings, cultists worshipping ancient gods, scientists hoping to bring back the dead, and — of course — a spooky house where rats live inside the walls.

Sable describes the series as “a 1920s horror/crime book that’s H.P. Lovecraft meets James Ellroy.” It follows Miranda Keller — one of the first female agents of the nascent FBI — and Tom Malone, who might be familiar to Lovecraft fans as a character in the author’s The Horror at Red Hook, as the two investigate a series of bombings. There is, however, more going on that meets the eye.

“At first the terror seems be to the work of radicals, immigrants and other ‘undesirables’ that Hoover wants rounded up, just as he did after a similar series of real life bombings ten years earlier when he conducted the infamous ‘Palmer Raids,’” Sable teased. “In reality, it’s a white supremacist occult conspiracy, and can only be stopped by the very people that Hoover detests.”

That’s a central point for Miskatonic, which Sable intends as a story that will take the brand of horror that Lovecraft is famous for, but reposition it to center the type of characters that the writer famously ignored or mistreated — like, for example, women.

“I’m a huge Lovecraft fan that wants to celebrate what’s great about his cosmic horror while turning some of his backwards thinking on its head,” he said. “I’m also a history buff and a fan of crime fiction, and it’s a chance to tell a noirish tale set against the backdrop of the Red Scare.  There are a lot of parallels between Lovecraft and Hoover’s period and today — a country coming out of a pandemic, about to fall into the a depression and a federal government obsessed with demonizing anyone it deems subversive or alien. It’s a way to explore forgotten history and let the reader draw some parallels with some of the real life horrors we’re dealing with today.”

Sable continued, “J. Edgar Hoover rose to power after the anarchist bombing of Attorney General Mitchell Palmer led to the so-called ‘Palmer Raids’, where Hoover over-reached and rounded up tens of thousands of suspected radicals, many of them immigrants who found themselves deported.   When he took over the Bureau of Investigation, he got rid of the few female agents, one of whom wound up committed into a mental institution.  That was often the fate of Lovecraft’s characters, so I saw away to turn someone they’d see as a victim into a hero, albeit a flawed one, in traditional noir style.”

The series is illustrated by Giorgio Pontrelli with color work from Pippa Bowland. Thomas Mauer letters, and the series has covers from Jeremy Haun with Nick Filardi, and Tyler Crook. Pontrelli, Sable said, “is [a] master of blending crime and horror and he brings our characters to vivid life… even the dead, and undead, ones.”

Miskatonic No. 1 will be released Nov. 11 digitally and in comic book stores. Look below for preview artwork from the issue.

04 Aug

AfterShock Comics Hires New Marketing, Community and Design Managers

Katherine Jamison, Rachel Pinnelas, and Charles Pritchett have joined the independent comic publisher.

AfterShock Comics, the independent publisher behind such titles as Animosity, Killer Groove, and Dead Kings, is expanding with three new hires, The Hollywood Reporter can reveal.

AfterShock, which launched in 2015, is headed by former Desperado Publishing founder Joe Pruett and Mike Marts, the one-time group editor of both DC’s Batman group and Marvel’s X-Men franchise. Unlike the majority of other North American comics publishers, it not only didn’t slow down or cease production during the industry’s COVID-related hiatus, but instead met with creators to increase its slate across upcoming months.

Two of AfterShock’s new hires speak to an increased emphasis on both retailer and fan outreach for the company, with Katherine Jamison, a former freelance writer and editor, signing on as Marketing Manager, and Rachel Pinnelas, who has previously worked at both Marvel and DC in editorial capacities, joining the company as Social Community Manager.

Additionally, Charles Pritchett has been hired as Design Manager for the company, responsible for everything from lettering, logo and brand design, and digital assembly. Pritchett has previously worked with Image Comics, IDW Publishing and Top Shelf Comix, amongst others, and co-founded Frozen Beach Studios.

“Katherine, Rachel and Charles each fill roles and provide expertise critical to the continued growth of AfterShock Comics as both a publisher and a brand,” Steve Rotterdam, SVP of sales and marketing for the publisher said. “There’s lots happening at AfterShock right now and it’s a very exciting and rewarding place to be.”

16 Jul

How ‘Shadow Doctor’ Turns a True Family History Into a Comic

The AfterShock comics series from writer Peter Calloway looks at the lengths his grandfather went through to give his children a better life.

After five years of presenting fiction from the likes of Brian Azzarello, Marguerite Bennett, and Garth Ennis, the latest title from AfterShock Comics offers something truly unexpected — a story based on real life. But then, Shadow Doctoris far from an everyday tale.

“This is my grandfather’s story,” writer Peter Calloway explained in a statement, adding that his grandfather was “a Black doctor that, after graduating in the early 1930s in Chicago, couldn’t find a job at a hospital because he was Black. He also couldn’t get a loan from a bank to start a practice, because he was Black. Desperate, he turned to the only other source of money in Prohibition-era Chicago: the Mafia.”

He continued, “What my grandfather did is something of a legend in my family. He faced enormous obstacles and overcame them, setting his children up for a better life than he had. That’s not to say he was a saint — he wasn’t. The choices he made had consequences for the rest of his life. I guess what I’m saying is that, on the one hand, his story represents the promise of America. On the other hand, it also shows the worst of it. That, to me, is compelling, exciting, and ultimately important.”

With the series, illustrated by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Georges Jeanty, Calloway said that he wants to move away from his family’s tendency to glorify his grandfather’s actions. “He was bold and intelligent and savvy,” he admitted, “but he was also flawed and did things that are, at best, morally questionable. To be honest, that’s the part that my family tends to shy away from — and those are the things I feel it’s necessary to explore.”

Alongside Calloway and Jeanty, Shadow Doctor features lettering from Charles Pritchett, colors from Juancho!, and cover artwork from Mark Chiarello.

The series launches in February next year. Calloway believes that, despite the 1930s setting, the tale it tells remains timely. “These are stories that — even though they are almost 100 years old — are still playing out in one way or another today: from race, to crime, to economic uncertainty,” he said. Look below for a preview of Jeanty and Juancho!’s work, as well as Chiarello’s cover for the first issue.

23 Jun

AfterShock to Release ‘Support Our Shops’ Comic Book

The 48-page special will be shipped at no cost to stores.

Seeking to help comic book retailers struggling to deal with the effects of COVID-19, AfterShock Comics has announced the release of Support Our Shops, a special one-off anthology featuring seven all-new stories.

The 48-page issue, which will be shipped at no cost to retailers, features work by Cullen Bunn, Stephanie Phillips, Zac Thompson, Steve Orlando, Jamie McKelvie, Jerry Ordway, Aaron Douglas, Leila Leiz, Don Kramer, Szymon Kudranski, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt, Gordon Purcell, and Cliff Richards, behind a cover by David Mack. Each story in the issue centers around the importance of comic book stores in their lives, or the lives of fans.

“This benefit book celebrates the central and critical role that comic shops have always played in fostering a love of the medium among fans – many of whom have gone on to become creators in their own right,” AfterShock publisher Joe Pruett said in a statement. “It might be a drop in the bucket, but it’s a hell of a drop in the bucket. These are heartfelt stories, crafted by creators with deep, lasting connections to the comic shops of yesterday, today and, we have no doubt, tomorrow.”

“Speaking and connecting with hundreds of comic shops regarding the challenges they face – as an overall retail channel and as individual and independent business owners – we felt an obligation to give something back, something that was uniquely AfterShock,” added SVP of sales and marketing, Steve Rotterdam. “We’ve always been about creators and their visions, so this was an easy decision.”

Twenty copies per storefront will be delivered free of charge to Diamond Comic Distributors’ 200 top-ranked AfterShock accounts, with the next 300 ranked accounts receiving 10 free copies. Any store not included in these 500 places that is looking for copies is invited to contact AfterShock. Copies will arrive with shipments of product with a June 24 on-sale date.

AfterShock is leaving it up to retailers to decide what to do with the anthology once received, with the company suggesting that copies could be given away free to customers, sold as a way to recoup COVID-related losses, or used as an add-on to particular purchase levels.

S.O.S. is our small way of saying ’thank you’ to all of the wonderful stores that have supported AfterShock since the beginning,” editor-in-chief Mike Marts said about the project in his own statement. “Now it’s our turn to give back.”

12 May

How a Former ‘Daily Show’ Writer Crafted a Slasher Comic

Elliott Kalan’s ‘Maniac of New York’ debuts in early 2021.

New York can be dangerous at the best of times, but in AfterShock Comics’ latest title, Maniac of New York, that reaches a new height — not that the New Yorkers in question seem that bothered, all things considered.

The series, for which The Hollywood Reporter has the exclusive first look, is “a horror story about how crisis situations become our new normal,” according to writer Elliott Kalan. (Hellblazer veteran Andrea Mutti provides art.) “A slasher movie-style unstoppable killer is marauding through New York City, and since nobody knows how to solve the problem, everyone in power has given up and decides to just live with New Yorkers occasionally being hacked to death by an ax-wielding maniac. The series will look at how life changes, and doesn’t change, in the city from different angles — starting in our first arc with a story about an idealistic mayoral aide, a jaded police detective, and a very bad day for commuters on the subway.”

As timely as the idea of settling into a new routine during trying times may be, Kalan said the roots of the series come from a far less likely source.

“The original inspiration for the series was my extreme adolescent disappointment with Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, which promised a citywide metropolitan bloodbath and delivered a couple shots of Jason walking through Times Square in a bad mood,” he admitted. “But beyond that, the New York movies of the ’70s and ’80s, when the city was gross and ugly and exciting and felt like it was full of real people and not just wealthy hedge fund managers. The first storyline is heavily indebted to my favorite movie of all time, the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three.”

Maniac of New York is a far cry from Kalan’s Emmy award-winning work on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Mystery Science Theater 3000 — there’s a lot more death, for one thing — but the comparison comes to life in an unexpected way for the writer.

“The biggest difference is I never have to worry about the budget. Times Square on New Year’s Eve? Not a problem, we can shoot there. Get a whole subway train? Done, no permits necessary. And casting is a snap, because we can just invent whoever we need.”

Kalan said the series is a labor of love. “I’ve been wanting to tell these stories for a very long time. I love New York in the way only a true New Yorker can — with a burning desire to see it fictionally destroyed,” he said. “I’ve never felt previous horror stories really took advantage of the nightmare opportunities the city has to offer, so it’s been exciting to play with all that. And I’ve loved watching Andrea bring it to life with his art after years of the idea living in my head.”

Maniac of New York is scheduled to launch in February 2021.

05 May

‘We Live’ Imagines Final Days of Humanity

The new AfterShock Comics series shows how two siblings negotiate the near-end of the human race.

AfterShock Comics’ latest series begins at the lowest point of humanity, but as its creators explain, the family drama We Live is anything but apocalyptic hand-wringing.

Set in a near future where a number of different events — including climate collapse and a world war to claim dominance over the few remaining resources — have left only a third of humanity alive, the unthinkable happens: a message arrives from space, announcing the upcoming, unavoidable extinction of the human race.

There’s a small sliver of hope, however. Those responsible for the forthcoming genocide promise that 5,000 children will be spared, providing rescue bracelets and placing nine “Extraction Beacons” around the world that will provide safe passage to those present and wearing the bracelets when the end comes.

“We are five days away from Extraction Day when we start the story,” co-writer and artist Inaki Miranda told The Hollywood Reporter. “We follow the journey of two siblings, Hotoro and his older sister, Tala, from their home to a distant Extraction Beacon. What Hotoro doesn’t know is what his salvation implies — if they survive and succeed in reaching the Extraction Beacon in time, that will also mean that he will lose his sister Tala forever, since she doesn’t wear a bracelet and must stay on Earth. The weight of the journey falls upon Tala. She will risk everything to save her little brother, keeping him unaware of the real tragedy that’s unfolding.”

The series, added Miranda’s brother and co-writer, Roy, “is a story about defeat. It talks about a human race that has accepted its own extinction. Imagine what it‘s like to begin an adventure in that emotional state. We have combined two great human conflicts, desperate migration and the consequences of climate change, and we have placed them on the shoulders of two innocent kids. That right there is a fabulous blend of fairy dust and powder in the pockets of imagination.”

Inaki added that this book is one for the current struggles we face.

“We are living a moment where we can’t think in future mode; there are too many variables in the game. Our present feels a lot like walking through fog. And in the middle of all this, we also harbor a powerful human emotion and the sentiment of fighting the adversities: keep walking, surviving, thriving,” he said. “I’d love this book to be experienced as a parallel read, in some magical way,  to all the adversities that we are going through right now. I’d love for Tala and Hotoro’s journey to turn into a part of  the readers’ own journey as well. That’s the magic of storytelling, it’s all about the metaphors that we can re-create and the emotions that we can extrapolate into our own lives.”

We Live, which is from colorist Eva de la Cruz, will launch Oct. 14. Look below for preview pages from the first issue.

28 Apr

‘The Kaiju Score’ Is a Crime Drama With a Monster Twist

What if Quentin Tarantino directed ‘Oceans 11’ with Godzilla in the background?

It’s tough to plan the perfect heist in the best of conditions — and, as it turns out, carrying out the crime of the century in the middle of a giant monster attack is far from the best of conditions. Welcome to the genre mash-up to end all genre mash-ups in AfterShock Comics’ upcoming new series, The Kaiju Score.

The Kaiju Score is a Quentin Tarantino film taking place in some corner of a Godzilla movie,” writer James Patrick said in a statement about the fall title. “You have this giant canvas of a kaiju attack occurring, and as it happens there’s this more personal story going on. And after that setup, it explores how these four characters, who are in just the worst situation in their lives, believe the only way out is to do this impossible thing. This crazy crime. It’s about that desperation.”

Beyond the obvious inspiration of old kaiju movies, the roots of this book lie in an unexpected source.

“It started with Donald Westlake books like the Parker series. I wanted to do something contemporary like those,” Patrick explained. “But when Rem [Broo, co-creator and artist] came aboard, I knew it felt more Oceans 11 and I adjusted. And Elmore Leonard stories when it came to the characters, and Tarantino when it came to the dialogue. I didn’t say ‘I’m going to write this dialogue like Tarantino and ape him’ — I just mean that in a more organic sense [of] I love all of those people and their work, and my own work probably echoes them.”

Visually, the series also draws from crime fiction — and some of Broo’s own earlier work.

“James told me from the beginning that what made him take me into consideration as the artist for this project was a specific splash page from a former comic of mine, Terminal Protocol,” the artist said. “The image was of a character with a cool attitude drawn with extreme perspective angles. Connecting that image with the heist theme, I knew exactly in what direction I should go with the art style. But I wanted to highlight the heist theme in the story, so I decided to go with a clean, limited color palette, and a vintage illustrated poster-like style for the retrospective or descriptive pages of the comic, a style that can be seen in the cover art as well.”

The Kaiju Score will debut Nov. 25. Look below for an exclusive preview of Broo’s artwork for the first issue.

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