Elflord – Issue 01 Preview

Elflord – Issue 01 Preview

Hello folks!

The next Kickstarter project we’re in the middle of running is for the continuation of Barry Blair’s fantasy epic, Elflord. Being closest to Barry and his projects, Mat Nastos is the mastermind behind the writing. Tony Vassallo is handling all the pencils, Sian Mandrake on the colors, and Ed Dukeshire on letters.

This is an outstanding team we’ve got on this book and it’s turning out amazing. So seriously, go check it out and help us fund it!

Here’s the video about the Kickstarter!

You can also check out the first ten lettered pages below!

And please, ask questions and let us know what you think!

Elflord: Past & Future  by Christopher Helton

Elflord: Past & Future by Christopher Helton

Let’s talk today about Elflord a little bit, since a relaunch of it is currently being Kickstarted by the people here at Outland Entertainment. This was probably Barry Blair’s most popular project, I think because of the popularity of the fantasy genre.

Tonally, this comic had a lot in common with the old Rankin-Bass adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There is a general feeling of lightheartedness to the story, but there is a great deal of darkness that lurks just beneath the surface. Like Tolkien’s hobbits, the elves of Blair’s stories reflect a childlike innocence that becomes corrupted by the world around them. It is almost as if this is a metaphor for adulthood or something   Elflordoriginal_3.2Elflor_original5

I will freely admit that there are some uncharitable reads of the Elflord stories, due to the youthful and androgynous manner in which Blair drew his elves…and the situations that he sometimes put the characters into, but I think that is being uncharitable to Blair.

Fantasy was in the air for comic creators at this point in time, probably due to the rising popularity of the Conan and Red Sonja books and magazines put out by Marvel, in addition to the above mentioned Rankin-Bass cartoons. DC Comics was also doing new fantasy titles like Arak or Amethyst over on their side of things. Not only was Blair doing Elflord, but there was the humorous Trolllords comic from Apple Comics (also one-time publisher of Elf Quest) and The Realm from Arrow / Caliber Comics. Not to mention the granddaddy of elf comics: Elf Quest. Much like in fantasy literature, each of these comics had their own approach to fantasy. Elflord blurred a lot of the genre lines by taking parts from more Tolkien-esque high fantasy and the more swords & sorcery approach of writers like Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan).

A lot of the visceralness of the Elflord comics are taken from the swords & sorcery tradition. Characters get drunk in taverns and find themselves in brawls, taking a page directly from the works of Howard. While at the same time, there are immensely huge events happening with kings and nations and powerful magics that provides the backdrop for the stories of the individual characters. Yes, Elflord did draw heavily upon the inspirations of Elf Quest for this, but at the same time Blair filtered all of these concepts through his own imagination to create something unique from its inspirations.

Whether in the classic Elflord stories, or the upcoming Elflord Reborn comics, fans of comic fantasy will find something of interest in the worlds of these comics. There are well-developed characters, with unique personalities, and a rich world with a deep history. There is action. There are intrigues. There are stories that draw in the reader and suck them along through the adventures of the characters. If you are a fan of fantasy literature in comics and you haven’t yet read Elflord, you are certainly missing out on a great adventure.

 

Christopher Helton writes about pop culture, comics and gaming at his long-running Dorkland! blog, and as a writer for the Bleeding Cool website.

 

Check out last weeks’ posts: Barry Blair 101 by Christopher HeltonBarry Blair: What to read first? by Christopher Helton, Barry Blair’s Samurai by Christopher Helton!

 

Barry Blair’s Samurai  by Christopher Helton

Barry Blair’s Samurai by Christopher Helton

In this week’s discussion of the library of Barry Blair, I continue talking about his Samurai comic. As I mentioned last week, this comic combines the cyberpunk sensibilities of the time with influences of anime series like Robotech. The 80s gave us the (second) rise of an Eastern martial arts influence on Western comics. In the mainstream you saw comic characters like Daredevil going against ninja warriors, and Wolverine becoming a ronin samurai.

Keep in mind that in 1986 all of this was still fairly exotic stuff. Manga and anime weren’t as prevalent in America as they are today, what stuff made it to American audiences were fan-made translations of anime series and small press publishers who were doing some of the early manga translations. And people like Barry Blair were taking these fringe items and building something new out of them.

Cover

The first character that we meet in Samurai is interestingly the clone of the protagonist of the series. Hotachi is a giant robot pilot, something fairly common in manga and anime, but where Blair makes this unique is the fact that in this world they make clones because regular people are too big to pilot one of the robots. I’m still reading the series, so I don’t know yet if there is a reason for this (besides Blair’s preferences as an artist). I just find the “no, don’t make larger robots, make smaller people” concept to be interesting because it isn’t something that you typically see. Even in anime and manga the preference would be to use teens or younger people as the pilots. Sometimes, the imagination of an artist takes you places that you wouldn’t normally think to go.

The actual samurai of the title of the comic is Toshiro. Toshiro was the head of Intelligence for the spacecraft Naganata, but after an assassination attempt on him lead to the deaths of children instead, he left to pursuit his own life. At some point before then, genetic material was taken from him and the clone Hotachi was made. Now, Shiro (as he is nicknamed) spends his time with Homer, a family friend who had served with Toshiro’s father in the military, and his twin sister Gennin. When the actions of the story draw Toshiro back into the world of danger and intrigue, it is his sister who is against all of it.

Toshiro’s character is something standard in this genre. He is aloof and emotionally detached, trying not to get drawn back into his feelings for Velvet Black, his former lover and the woman who took his place as the head of Intelligence for the Naganata. He is practically a super-soldier, easily dispatching hordes of faceless mooks (unless the story requires otherwise, of course).

Despite these stereotypes, which honestly weren’t quite as stereotypical at the time that Blair made comics, he managed to create a complex story that draws in the reader. While some things will come across as dated to the contemporary reader, overall the quality of the writing and art hold up well for people who have not already read these comics. Anyone who is a fan of vintage cyberpunk stories, or who likes a good action story with an Eastern influence, will find things to enjoy in Barry Blair’s Samurai comics.

 

Christopher Helton writes about pop culture, comics and gaming at his long-running Dorkland! blog, and as a writer for the Bleeding Cool website.

 

Check out last weeks’ posts: Barry Blair 101 by Christopher Helton & Barry Blair: What to read first? by Christopher Helton!

ELFLORD REBORN : coming to Kickstarter Tomorrow!

ELFLORD REBORN : coming to Kickstarter Tomorrow!

The new series of ELFLORD is coming to Kickstarter Tomorrow!

Barry Blair’s fantasy baby is growing into an insanely action-packed new comic book series from Outland Entertainment.

Written by Mat Nastos – who worked closely with Barry Blair to start this new series – and featuring artwork from Tony Vassallo, this project is part of Outland Entertainment‘s venture: The Barry Blair Library .

Outland Entertainment will provide a collection of approximately 300 issues and over 6000 pages of content collected from over a half-dozen publishers that Barry worked on through the 1980’s and 90’s. Prepare yourself to read works such as Blood N Guts“, “Demon Hunter“, “Dragonring“,  “Elflord” and Gun Fury” for the first time in digital format.

But we want to go further and continue Barry Blair’s legacy, hence the new ELFLORD series crowdfunding campaign. We want to give YOU – the ultimate Barry Blair fan – and also YOU – who just read his name for the first time  – the chance to (re)discover his works and be amazed by the kickass new series he has inspired.

ELFLORD_VariantCover

Mat Nastos Kickstarter-exclusive Variant Cover to Elflord #1. Colored by Jeremy Mohler.

Mat Nastos keeps the story faithful to Blair’s work, while Tony Vassallo illustrates the most exhilarating battle scenes all brought to life by Sian Mandrake‘s colors.

The new ELFLORD series is something every comic fan will not want to miss!

So mark your calendars: the campaign starts this Tuesday, the 16th June.

Tell your friends! And while you’re at it, share it with everyone you know!

Barry Blair: What to read first?   by Christopher Helton

Barry Blair: What to read first? by Christopher Helton

One of the fun bits of writing these pieces about Barry Blair and his comic work is getting to re-read the old stories, in some cases getting to read them for the first time. A lot of people who are comic fans today may not realize that it wasn’t always as easy to track down works of small press books as it is today. When I was a kid, one of the first places that I bought comics from regularly (that wasn’t a drug or grocery store) was actually a used bookstore that sold maybe 10-20 comics regularly each month. I think that it wasn’t until 1985 that I was able to start going to a comic store on a regular basis, and find books that were beyond what was sold at newsstands.

In the case of Blair’s Samurai comic, I am getting to read these stories for the first time. This is why I decided to start my discussion of his titles with that comic, rather than the probably more popular Elflord book.

Blair is probably one of the earliest published Western comic creators to start using an artistic style that was inspired by Japanese manga and anime. Those inspirations really show in Samurai. When I started reading this comic for this series, I was transported back to when I first saw Battle of The Planets and Speed Racer as a kid, and later in high school when I first saw pirated tapes of Robotech. All of these series seeped into the issues of Samurai as I was reading them. More “cartoony” styles weren’t unusual in small press comics in the 80s. Matt Wagner’s style on the early Grendel comics, while probably not directly influenced by manga art, did have a much more stylized approach to the art than Wagner has nowadays.

What is Samurai? It is about a samurai (big shock considering the title), giant robots and their cloned pilots, espionage and intrigue, and big space ships. The story covers pretty much everything that would have been new and exciting to a comic reader at this point in time. Combine this with a vaguely cyberpunk setting, and the comic makes its own gravy.

Now, I am going to go into the characters of Samurai in a bit more detail next time, there just isn’t enough space to introduce the series and go into it in any detail. Luckily we’ve got plenty of weeks to talk about things.

Why should you read Samurai? Well, if any of the above bullet listed items sounds appealing you should check it out. Yes, there are some clichés in the plot and in the story, but I think that comes with the luxury of hindsight and more familiarity with the genre today than we would have had back then. One thing that I really enjoyed was the idea that the reason for cloned giant robot pilots was because they would have to scale down the size of the pilots so that they could fit into the cockpits of the giant robots. The idea that it was easier to create clones of people to pilot these robots than it was to make the robots larger so that an actual person could fit into them just sounds so bizarre that it could almost be real.

Next time we will look at the main characters of Samurai and try to explore the world a bit. Until then.

 

Christopher Helton writes about pop culture, comics and gaming at his long-running Dorkland! blog, and as a writer for the Bleeding Cool website.

 

Check out last week’s post: Barry Blair 101 by Christopher Helton!

Barry Blair 101 by Christopher Helton

Barry Blair 101 by Christopher Helton

Compared to some, Barry Blair had a relatively short career in comics, but it would be an important one. As a writer and artist, Blair was known for producing manga-styled comics through Aircel Comics such as Elflord, Samurai, Dragonring, Warlock 5 and Blood ‘N’ Guts. He passed away in 2010, leaving behind a legacy of comics that we are going to discuss over the new couple of months. In this first column, we are going to introduce Blair’s background and introduce some of the comics that he produced, and that Outland Entertainment is going to be reintroducing to comics fans.

The history of comics is filled with interesting stories of how people became comic publishers. The birth of Aircel Comics is one of those interesting stories. Initially the Canadian company was known as Aircel Insulation, and when the loss of a governmentcontract threatened to dissolve the company Blair convinced the owner to shift the company’s emphasis from producing insulation to producing comics. In 1985 Aircel began publishing, jumping in just as the black and white comics boom ushered in by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was starting.

As Aircel would produce some quality books like Blair’s Elflord and Warlock 5 that would garner attention and an audience. Unfortunately this boom almost as quickly went bust and by 1988 Aircel Comics was having financial troubles. In order to alleviate these financial troubles, Blair would enter into a partnership with Malibu Comics that saw Aircel merge with Malibu imprint Eternity Comics, even though both would still exist as imprints. Malibu is probably best known as the publisher of the initial wave of Image Comics in 1992.

Elflord_original_cover

It was under the ownership of Malibu that Aircel would produce its biggest and lasting hit: Lowell Cunningham’s Men In Black. That Men In Black. Although the comic did not strongly resemble its media offspring, it did spawn the movie and Saturday morning cartoon franchise. The comic was much darker in tone than the movies, and also featured paranormal elements like werewolves and vampire in addition to the aliens that would take center stage in the movies. Blair would edit the comics.

Talking a little about Blair’s comics that we will be discussing in the coming columns. Elflord was a fantasy series strong influences and inspired by Elfquest by Richard and Wendy Pini. In fact, eventually Blair would work for Warp Graphics on various Elfquest titles. This series was high fantasy with a light touch, even though darkness lurked beneath the surface of the stories. Dragonring was a high octane pulp adventure strip, with elements of horror and science fiction. Warlock 5 was a blend of fantasy and science fiction and multi-world travel. All of these comics filtered through Blair’s unique perspectives, as we will see through this column as we explore them and other of his works.

DragonringAndWarlock5

 

In January of 2010, Barry Blair died of an undiagnosed brain aneurysm. His creations live beyond him, an ongoing testament to his creativity, join us as we explore the worlds of his creation.

 

This is the 1st of our brand new series of guest posts. These columns will focus on Barry Blair‘s legacy and are brought to you by Christopher Helton.

Christopher Helton writes about pop culture, comics and gaming at his long-running Dorkland! blog, and as a writer for the Bleeding Cool website.

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos is a versatile artist who always manages to infuse his unique sense of humor into the countless projects he is involved with. He is known by his work as an artist in the cult-classic independent comic book, “ElfQuest”, and as a writer for film & TV as well as for his own novels. Fan of action packed stories with a sci-fi or steampunk twist, you won’t be surprised that from all the children shows out there, he worked for Disney Channel‘s “Phineas & Ferb”.

 

Mat, the big question: what did you want to be when you grow up?

My goal in life, from as early as I can remember, was to be a comic book artist when I grew up. Comics in general were my life: I read them, collected (read: horded) them, drew them…I started and ran the first comic book conventions in Hawaii in the 80s back when I was 11. Comics were my life and my driving goal had been to draw them. That spurred me to go to comic book school out in the middle of New Jersey when I graduated from High School.

I drew comics for a lot of years before transitioning over to film/TV and, eventually, to writing.

 

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I remember my mom reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to me as a child, but nothing specific. I still have the very first comic I was given – “The Power of Warlock” #14. The first real book I remember reading was “The Hobbit” when I was about 6 or 7. That really stuck with me and opened the door to fantasy/sci-fi fiction for me. After I read that any the “Lord of the Rings” series, I went nuts and started reading everything I could get my hands on. Luckily, I had an older brother and mom who were also into that material and I’d read a lot of things they were.

Right around the same time, my family discovered the early Dungeons & Dragons game (late 70s) and I’ve been playing ever since.

 

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I read EVERYTHING as a kid. Pretty quickly my collection of comics bloomed up into the thousands and then tens of thousands (now it rests at somewhere around 150,000 comics). When I was younger, my favorites were Elfquest, X-men, 2000AD, and Legion of Super-Heroes, but I wasn’t picky beyond that.

 

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

I don’t read much in comics these days, and when I do they are generally trade paperbacks versus singles. The art of writing comics to actually be read as singles has become a bit of a lost art over the past 20 years or so and I find it a waste to attempt to follow series in that format. I pick up a lot of omnibus collections of material I was a fan of as a kid.

Outside of comics, I read an insane amount of things – tons of non-fiction, and at least 3-4 novels a week. Still a lot of sci-fi/fantasy more than anything else, although thrillers and any sort of action stories are finding their way onto my reading list as I begin to write more and more in those genres.

 

Who were your childhood heroes?

Most of my heroes were the men (and women) creating the material I was a fan of: George Lucas, Wendy Pini, John Byrne, George Perez, Stan Lee, Piers Anthony, Jim Kelly, Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Chris Claremont…my dad.

 

And today? Who do you look up to? 

I’ve been lucky enough that I still have a lot of the same heroes I did as a kid. I still have most of that sense of wonder and love I had as a kid.

 

Your first published work was in “The Big Book of Urban Legends” from Paradox Press in 1993. But what was the first thing you ever wrote?

My first published writing was a short fantasy story I wrote back in high school. I had an English teacher who was truly a terrible human being who went out of her way to put me down. Her abuse turned out to be a driving factor for me and I submitted a story I’d written in her class (and been given a “C” on!) to Fantasy Digest Magazine. They bought it and I was on my way!

After that, my writing was for my own comics – things like the Cadre, Elfsong, and Fionn.

My first “real” gig as a writer was the screenplay for the low-budget horror flick, “Stinger,” in 2002. Since then I’ve had 8 films produced.

 

Your writing spans from comic books to novels, video games to film and TV. Do you have a favorite?

Writing, in general, for me is a lot of fun. The most satisfying for me as a creator is probably novels because I have complete control over there. Good or bad, with a novel every aspect of it falls onto my shoulders. If it succeeds or fails, things are all on me.

The rest of the mediums all have their own positives, though, and comics will always be my first love. Working with a fantastic art as a collaborator is an incredibly fulfilling experience.

 

You have done the artwork, including the cover art for all your own books. Why?

I think it all goes back to control. So far, I’ve had very specific ideas of what I wanted on the novel covers and the easiest way to get those ideas out was to do them myself.

Does it ever backfire?

Not yet, knock on wood!

 

Your work in the comic world started with “Elfquest” comics for Warp Graphics, right? What made you enter this new universe of storytelling?

Well, my first comic work was on “The Big Book of Urban Legends,” and I had done quite a bit of indy comic work before Elfquest, including working as an assistant to Joe Orlando at the DC Offices while I was in art school.

Comics were my life-long love. Elfquest specifically was my favorite comics. Funnily enough, my biggest goal in going to art school was to draw Elfquest. I had always figured it would take me years (5, 10, or more!) to get a chance to work with the Pinis on Elfquest – they had never let anyone else draw the comic back when I was reading it, so my goal was a crazy fantasy at the time. It was mind-blowing to get a call from Barry Blair asking me if I wanted to work on Elfquest. I was still at the School of Visual Arts when he contacted me and it was easily one of the best days of my life.

There was never a doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to work in comics.

 

“The Cestus Concern”, your first novel, was the #1 best selling Cyberpunk & Sci-Fi Adventure novel on Amazon for 7 consecutive months in 2013. How does it feel to have your work on the spotlight?

It was pretty crazy. Novel writing wasn’t something I had ever set out to do…in fact, when I started writing “The Cestus Concern” I’d never written more than a couple of short prose stories. Sure, I had written a bunch of material for TV/film and comics, but prose was so alien to me I wasn’t convinced I could even do it.

My whole goal with the book (and each once that’s followed) was to write something that I wanted to read. To write something fast, fun, and crazy. It’s been a great to see that so many other people have enjoyed the work as much as they have. As a storyteller, nothing is better than connecting with fans the way the Cestus books have.

 

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

I’ve been lucky to work on a huge number of fun projects, so it’s hard to pick. Right now, the thing I’m the most in love with my Donner Grimm books. The first, “Man With The Iron Heart,” came out at the end of 2014 and I am finishing up the sequel, “The Unweaving,” right now. I love the action-adventure/pulp/weird war universe I’ve created for it and the characters are a lot of fun.

In comics, it’s the new Elflord series I’m working on. The artist, Tony Vassallo, is insanely good and the material we’re putting together isn’t like anything else being done in fantasy comics right now. The series is crazy good.

 

You own the license from Barry Blair’s projects. What made you take that leap?

Barry himself was the reason behind me picking up the rights to all of the material. We had been friends since the early 90s when he hired me to work for Warp Graphics on the Elfquest material, and we had very similar sensibilities . We started talking in 2007 about working together again and one of the things that came up was my love for so many of the characters he’d created, especially things like Elflord, Dragonforce, and Samurai. He said he was done telling those stories, but asked if I wanted to carrying on with their tales on my own. He turned over the rights to all the material to me in exchange for my promise to treat them like my own children.

We had been well on our way to doing a ton of new material together when he passed in early 2010. It was a crushing blow for me and it took almost 5 years for me to get back to the point where I felt like I was ready to start again. To be able to put the work out FOR Barry since I couldn’t do it WITH him.

 

Outland Entertainment is working closely with you not only to bring several of Barry Blair’s titles into digital format but to actually reboot some of them.

What are you most excited about this endeavor? 

The most exciting part of working with Outland is having the chance to bring Barry’s work back out into the public eye. Barry was a creative dynamo who generated a ton of fun material in a dizzying array of genres. He worked in every possible genre you can image: sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, horror, satire, action/adventure, erotica…you name it and he produced work in it.

It’s been a shame that his work has disappeared from the comic industry, especially since his work and company (AIRCEL) was such a huge force in the 80s and early 90s.

Having the opportunity to make that work available once more is a thrill and an honor for me because I was a huge fan of Barry’s work, as well as having been his friend for more than two decades.

 

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I’ve got a lot of work coming out this year. Right now I’m finishing off sequels to both my prose series with “The Cestus Corruption” and “The Unweaving.”

In comics, I’m writing Rob Liefeld’s new “Brigade” series for Image and “Blindside” for Marat Mychaels. For Outland, I’m writing a series based on my Aegisteel fantasy stories with Alan Gallo as the artist; Elflord with Tony Vassallo, and a brand new Dragonforce series that will be drawn by Richard Pace (you heard it here first!).

It’s going to be a fantastic year!

It sure looks like it! Thanks Mat for taking time to let us get a glimpse of your vast creative work!

S.G.

Outland Entertainment brings collection of Barry Blair’s comics to the digital age

Outland Entertainment brings collection of Barry Blair’s comics to the digital age

Press Release: Outland Entertainment brings a collection of Barry Blair’s comics to the digital age

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUMMARY: Outland Entertainment brings a collection of Barry Blair’s comics to the digital age for the first time.

TOPEKA, KANSAS, March 3, 2015 — Outland Entertainment is pleased to announce the release of a collection of Barry Blair‘s comics in digital format for the first time since the 90’s. “The Barry Blair Library” will include approximately 300 issues and over 6000 pages of content collected from over a half-dozen publishers that Barry worked within the 1980’s and 90’s. This includes comics from Aircel, Nightwynd, Davdez Arts, WARP Graphics, and Sirius comics to name a few.

“I can’t begin to explain my excitement to have Outland involved in helping to get Barry’s work back out into the world. He created, wrote, drew, and published some really amazing material, much of which was revolutionary in comics at the time,”  states Outland Entertainment’s Jeremy Mohler, “it’s a shame that it hasn’t been available all these years and it’s going to be a pleasure to help get it back out into the world.”

Blood N Guts“, “Demon Hunter“, “Dragonring“,  “Elflordand Gun Fury” are the first titles you can look forward to (re)discover. You can currently purchase all the number one issues of these series over at the Outland Entertainment website .

In addition to republishing the out-of-print material, Outland will also be working closely with Mat Nastos, the license owner, to reboot select properties. The rebooted properties will start with a new Elflord series, which will premiere as a Kickstarter in late March and featuring a new story from Mat Nastos and artwork from Tony Vassallo and Pedro Figue.

outland_entertainment_update_image_36

Artwork by Tony Vassallo and Pedro Figue.

It will be followed by a Dragonforce reboot later in the year.

“Nothing could please me more than having the chance to help make this new announcement. One of the promises I made to Barry when he passed the rights to his work to me back in 2008 was that I would treat them like my own children. That I would make sure they were handled with the respect and care they deserved. This partnership with Outland Entertainment allows me to uphold that promise and give Barry’s fan-favorite creations the opportunity to shine once more. “Hawk”, “Windblade”, “Kohl Drake”, and all of Barry’s lost children couldn’t hope for a better home than with the fine folks at Outland,” Mat Nastos says.

Whether you are an avid fan who owns all the printed editions or you are new to Barry Blair‘s work, the digital versions will not only preserve a cult comic library but will also provide you an easier way to have all your favorite comics with you at all times.

New issues will be made available monthly.

For more details, visit outlandentertainment.com or The Barry Blair Library page.