Alrighty gang, this will be the first Indie Side series preview/review. There are a lot of great books and comic creators that I would love to talk about. So believe me, this was not an easy choice to make. I've had new books from a ton my favorites (actually a little back logged on my reading), and there is just so much that I would love to share...but I have narrowed my focus, looked at some things, had a few conversations with myself over what I want to do...no straight jackets for me just yet...and decided to go diving deep into the indie pool to bring to you Damage Inc, by James Burton.
A little info on James from his bio for your perusal:
"My work includes editorial magazine illustrator, Storyboard and Conceptual Artist. The Pencils, inks, and lettering for multiple issues for Vampire of the Lost Highway. I am the artist/Co-creator for the art award winning horror series Inheritance. Cover Artist for Nationally distributed Knights of the Dinner Table, and most importantly I am a Father, a Husband and a Level 4 Cancer Survivor."
I don't know him personally, but from my interactions with him on Kickstarter, I can tell you that he is probably one of the nicest and most humble of the various comics creators that I have interacted with. I told him my criticisms and likes with the books, and he came back with a positive response to everything I said. He even took some time to respond to some small talk, which was pretty cool of him. So without further fanfare or adieu, lets talk a little about his Damage Inc series=)
In the creator's own words:
"What is DAMAGE INC.?
Damage Inc.is the story about a group of friends who are a part of a club that hunts supernatural creatures and super-powered metahumans for bounties…
But there is a big problem…
They suck at it.
Every job ends in a gunfight, an explosion and a ton of smack talk."
At the moment there are four issues filled with action, anime references, plenty of explosions, and the aforementioned smack talk. Just to give an idea of some the humor and action that takes place, James has allowed me to share some of his stuff here for your viewing pleasure. He actually said that I could use any imagery in the pdfs that I like in my endeavors, but I am not going to throw the whole thing at you for free. I kind of need you guys to support his work, so we can get a few more Damage Inc books out of him=P
A few snippets from book 4 of Damage Inc for your perusal:
Obviously any good review is going to offer some thoughts on the material over all...what was good, what was meh and so on. My aim here isn't to tear the creator and the work to bits, nor is it to just write a feel good fluff piece. Not that all the creators will be reading these, but those that do, I want to help them to grow in their art and enhance their work. It's important to point out what was done well and vice versa. The art of critiquing is an invaluable tool for growth, so here we go...
First off, I am reading these in the digital, pdf format. As much as I would love to get the actual books in my dirty, greasy little hands, I am usually reading on the go. I appreciate it when a creator offers up their work in such a way, as it makes life a little easier for someone like me who is usually out and about. Second off, James threw out a few Evil Dead references in the books, which scored a win with me right off the bat. Being a huge fan of horror, it was something that I appreciated seeing referenced. Alright, let's get into the actual review here...
Now, the artwork in the initial 3 issues gave me a feeling reminiscent of the old school Chaos Comics, the original Crow comic, some of the OG Vampirella and Red Sonja books, and of course the ever classic TMNT books. It really made me a bit nostalgic reading through these issues. There were a few points where I had to enlarge and really look over a few of the scenes to get a better feel for what was going on, so it was a little bit of a mixed bag for me, but to be fair, I was reading it on a handheld device at the time. Issues 1 and 3 were done in color, with some darker tones and again, it gave me that old school vibe, which I liked. Issue 2 was straight black and white, which again, worked into that vibe of some of those older style comics I talked about. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of straight black and white, but that is more of a personal preference than a critique=P
Book 4, went with more of a greyscale with the occasional splashes of color, which was beautifully done. I felt that style really enhanced the feel of the book. I still had that nostalgic feel, but the images felt a bit crisper and cleaner. If any of you have checked out the somewhat recent Red Sonja book, The Ballad of the Red Goddess, the shading and the coloring choices were very similar to what was used in that particular work, and I just cannot say enough good things about that style. Again, I really feel that bit of creative choice in the art, really helped to sell me on the book. Hopefully we see more of it in future issues, as it really worked well with his art style and the story being told. Speaking of the story...
Story wise, the first issue kind of felt like I was picking up the book a few issues into the series, but it did give us a good feel for the team dynamics. The banter was humorous, and while we didn't learn a whole lot, there was enough of a setup that I wasn't completely lost. Book 2, again felt a bit like I was being thrust in mid story, but overall, it was a fun read. Learning more about Brain and his past, plus dealing with his internal struggles with killing and his role in the team, really kept my interest. Now with book 3 and definitely book 4, I feel like things are starting to truly gain some traction story wise. We were given a fantastic two part story, with some great dialogue and action. I especially appreciated the slight breakdown on the crew and their personalities that happened in book 4. I really feel like I got to know the crew very well in those issues, and we were left with plenty of unanswered questions to keep us hooked and looking forward to the next issue.
The Bang for Your Buck
The pricing for the tiers is about average for Kickstarter comics overall, although for this run at least, the digital level was at a fantastic price. 4 books in pdf format for a measly 3 bucks. He could probably charge more and get away with it, but damn, that is a good way to draw in new people who may not want to get in on the physical tiers just yet, at least not until they get a better idea of just what Damage Inc is all about. The books all range from 24 to 34 pages in length, so again, great price for the amount of book you are getting. While I cannot promise that future entries will run with such a deal, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on to see what deals he does eventually offer up. On average, most Kickstarter books go for about 5-6 dollars for a single pdf, usually running about 24 some odd pages for what you are getting. When they offer up multiple books, it is generally in the range of $10+. So even if he upped the price by a few bucks, you would still be getting a darn good deal.
Of course, no physical rewards come with the digital level, which is about par for the course. I really have no gripes there, since the physical levels require the creators to produce physical books and variety of items that will need to be made and mailed out. He does however offer up a variety of goodies for the physical pledge levels, which range from patches to bandannas to hoodies to even a custom pop figure.
Pretty good bang for your buck and no complaints on my end. It was money well spent.
When I can, I am going to try and get some words from the creators of these books, and drop three little questions on them. I will probably not hear anything from the great majority of them, but Mr. James Burton, the creator of Damage Inc, was kind enough to answer a few of my silly little inquiries=)
What sort of music (if any) do you listen to as you write?
Music I listen to. Good question. I used to listen to Metallica when drawing Damage Inc. Now I curate it a bit. I built a list on Pandora that is part 90's bands like Bloodhound gang, Offspring, Tool, etc to give the attitude I like the team to have, with..... Recent folk music and bluegrass mixed in. The slower music like Lord Heron lets me hear the characters voices a bit more. Instead of just headbanging and gun fights I get to hear things like Cera voicing concerns for her brothers or a villain that's not a villain. You can't hear emotional ranges outside of chaos, laughter and violence when you're listening to "I hope you die!"
Being a horror fanatic, I definitely appreciate the tone and feel of your work. What are a few of your influences for this series or your writing in general?
My writing influences are mostly from GMing role Playing games for decades. We used Palladium Books which always had some horror worked in. Their concepts built the foundation of that part of my storytelling. CJ Carella wrote the most amazing settings and characters for books that still dominate my thoughts, like Nightbane, and a lot of his Rifts work.
As much as I love to see a series just continue on, so I can keep up with the adventures of characters I enjoy, I can understand that some works are envisioned as more of a limited series. Do you see Damage Inc as an ongoing kind of thing, or will this be more of a limited run?
I see Damage Inc. as ongoing where like how Mignola returns to Hellboy but works on other things and comes back to it. There is a series I am working on with my sister about the dream world where children have to deal with things in our world that bled through and some times go in and face their fears. That will interrupt Damage soon. But I'll always come back.
All in all, Damage Inc get's two thumbs up as far as I am concerned.
I appreciated that nostalgic feel I got from reading the books. Plus it has an interesting cast of characters and a fun story to boot. Add to that, James is good guy from what I know of him, and I would love to see this series continued. So go check it out and let me know what you think!
For more Indie Side, just keep an eye on the tracker thread!