Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dart Revisited

I (Jozef) recently received a Facebook post from a comics reader that started a conversation about the comics miniseries Dart, which Black Mermaid Productions worked on and which Image Comics published in the mid 1990s. 

The series revolved around Erik Larsen's famous female vigilante hero Dart who became the leader of Freak Force and used darts as her weapon of choice. Erik gave us a specific brief – he wanted a challenge on her name and indentify within the context of the story, as well as a bar-room brawl scene where she wards off her attackers by using the aforementioned darts. Everything else was up for grabs. 

The first story we pitched was sort of like a cross between Alias and Nikita (well before they came out on television), which featured Dart as a spy who was going to use her darts to assassinate a major baddie while he was performing in an opera or ballet under great security protocols (we're going to have to find the original source material to remember all the details). We do know that Dart wore her darts as fancy disguised earrings with her beautiful evening dress, which is why she sets off the metal detector but looked so innocuous that the guards let her through). 

Erik asked us to re-pitch because the first story didn't completely fit the brief and we came up with an alternative story which featured a team of fashionista superheroes called Blood Chic who help Dart resolve the issue of commercial identify theft and fight off the supervillains called Vogue Attack .

The series sold very well and we made the Wizard Top 100 but the story was met with a mixed response by Dart and die-hard superhero genre fans – some loved it and others disliked it intensely. And we get it! The story wasn't a spoof on superheroes as the dangers were very real, but our heroes didn't exactly stop the world from being destroyed – only a shopping mall with lots of innocent people so the stakes weren't as high as a Superman or Spiderman story. Our own characters were also a little out there, although we really wanted to honour Dart and Erik so we worked hard to get her psychological profile right through a series of flashbacks.

However, what was significant about the story – at least from our point of view – was that it introduced Deathgaze one of the first gay superheroes in comics of the day who unfortunately remains forgotten (that's him in the top cover at the extreme left hand side). The series also featured one of our signature mermaids but that's another story.  We invented backstories with a twist for each of the characters. We don't really know whether we will ever do anything with them in the future, as we want to focus on Elf~Fin, Mermist Seas and another property dear to our hearts. However, we think it's noteworthy to mention that gay superhero characters have only recently come out of the comics closet so to speak and have now been embraced by comics publishers and readers alike, which is pretty marvellous! (As an aside, we also featured a gay couple – Marron and Paffa – in WaveDancers).

To get back to the initial topic of conversation in the introduction to this blog post, we've been given permission to publish the abridged  Facebook conversation here by Stephane. We think it may be of interest to you. We've also published the Dart cover with all the girls he refers to in the conversation (Dart, who is copyright and trademark to Erik Larsen, is the centre figure with the blond hair and silver outfit).

February 2
Hi Jozef
Thanks for accepting my invite. The Dart comics you made is one of my favorite, I love how over-the-top gay and girly it is, completely different from the usual Image comics hehehe
February 3
Hi Stéphane,
I'm glad you liked it in this way. So, what in Dart would you say was over-the-top gay and girly, I'm curious.
Thanks Stéphane.

February 3
Hehe I hope you didn't take it in a wrong way
Well to answer your question, I loved your comics cover at the 1st sight because it looked so different from the other Image comics at that time, super colorful and the characters are super feminine like in a girl toy line.
Your women have plenty of girly details, detailed makeup and the outfits sure are very different from usual superheroes. And the men in the group, well... They sure don't look like your usual male superhero either! They look like girls toys too, but much more gay and sexy lol I totally loved your approach for sure!
I didn't see more about you at that time, without internet and everything.
But I was talking about your Dart comics to a friend yesterday, so that's how I searched and found you on facebook. I have yet to see your more recent work, but Elf-Fin sure looks amazing

Just a bit of nostalgia to give you an insight into our comics publishing history. We're really pleased that these stories are still conversation starters to this day.

PS Another piece of trivia about Dart is that the story featured several lines of dolls and toys. About ten years later, Jozef brought out his own line of fashion dolls. You can see them here on his Deviant Art page.

Real Life Royal Princesses Akin to the Little Mermaid

A Sydney Morning Herald article by Julia Baird compares current day royal princesses with Hans Christian Andersen's famous mermaid, insofar as they need to give up something of themselves and become the centre of relentless scrutiny about their physical appearance in order to marry the prince of their dreams.
Kate Middleton knows her fate, and appears to have stared it in the eye and made a pact, like the Little Mermaid who promised to swallow her voice so she could walk on land and marry her prince. Her body though, has already been stretched by the rack of public inquiry to what must be at times an unbearable extent, despite her public composure. We are all acquainted with her breasts, bikinis, and bumps, thanks to editors who pay richly for snaps of her bare skin.

The article come out in support of UK author and twice Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel who made a controversial speech recently at the British Museum that claimed the measure of a royal princess's worth was merely that of being a royal incubator and breeding machine. She was met with a vitriolic response and severely castigated on her own supposed lack of beautiful physical attributes. 

Feminists like Anne Summers have tagged the article on their social media pages as worthy of dissemination and debate. The well thought out opinion piece by Baird encourages us to approach the subject and enter the fray with common sense.

For most of our blog readers who have been brought up on a movie diet of Disney princesses (who have admittedly moved from passive players to complex heroines of note), we think this cultural exploration on the reality of today's real life princesses is something to explore. We personally think being a royal princess brings privileges but demands sacrifices such as loss of independence and privacy which are a big price to pay.

You can read the full Hilary Mantel speech on the London Review of Books website.
You can read Julia Baird's response "Listen, and let the woman speak" here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Elf~Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed #1 Publication Date Announced

To our many readers who have been following us through our Facebook page or who have subscribed to our Black Mermaid Mermerings ezine, we thank you for your patience. 

Here is the information you've been waiting for for a long time – our target publication date for Elf~Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed #1 is 1 May 2013. It will contain 48-pages (fully coloured) of story and eight supplemental pages of additional material.

We need your help in the decision-making process so we can get you what you want.

Here are our thoughts and intentions...
  1. We would like to release the print series to a world-wide audience but need to go through Diamond Distributors to do so. There is quite a rigorous submission process involved in order for the title to be accepted, and we need to send in a completed comic book sample with the application. If Diamond takes on the book, then it would next need to be solicited to the retailers, In all likelihood, the book would probably not be available  until the fourth quarter of this year. We would probably get it printed in the USA or Canada and publish it on good quality stock in standard US comic book size. 
  2. To get the book out immediately to our readers, we would like to release it in a Direct Exclusive Treasury Edition. This is a larger format than the standard US comic book size and measures around 13" (33cm) x 8.5" (21.5cm). It would be printed on premium quality glossy paper stock with glossy card cover, and would showcase Jozef's sumptuous artwork to its best advantage. It will contain exactly the same material as the standard book but is oversize and the retail price would be higher than the standard version. The postage from Australia would probably be quite high because we anticipate that the weight would exceed 500gm. Furthermore, any US readers would incur an additional surcharge of around $9 per parcel (yes, we know this is singularly unfair but blame the terrorists and the postal security system. See: "Postage Rates to US Rise Over Security Fears"). This means, that the postage to US readers would probably match or perhaps even exceed the purchase price of the book.
So with full disclosure and transparency and all this information in mind, we put it to you. What do you want? 

Here are your choices:
  1. Purchase the standard comic book through a comics retailer
  2. Purchase the Direct Exclusive Treasury Edition through the Black Mermaid Productions / Elf~Fin websites
  3. Both.
Please vote on the poll in right hand column to give us your feedback. PLEASE ONLY vote once so we can get an accurate representation of demand and desire.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Movie Mermaids 6 – Empires of the Deep 3D

Okay... we haven't seen this movie yet because it's not out yet but we're bringing it to your attention so that you can be aware of it. Apparently  Empires of the Deep is a 3D action-advanture fantasy film, and is a US-Chinese co-production.

Angie Han from the Slash Film blog gives us the following commentary on the upcoming epic:  

Remember way back before Avatar came out, when news of its behind-the-scenes woes, budget headaches, and unoriginal plotline had some commentators predicting one of the most expensive flops in cinema history? And then how when it actually came out, audiences were so dazzled by the gorgeous world of Pandora that it actually went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time? 
Yeah, that probably won’t happen with Empires of the Deep, a troubled and terrible-looking 3D epic that was $130 million and three years in the making. The Chinese-American co-production stars Olga Kurylenko as the the queen of the mermaids, or something, who gets embroiled in an underwater war between various sea creatures and sea monsters, or something. The trailer emphasizes fancy visuals over storytelling and character, but the visuals aren’t even that good to begin with. Watch the video after the jump.
You can read more at "'Empires of the Deep' Trailer: Here's What Three Years, $130 Million, and Olga Kurylenko Gets You".

The film has turned up on Rotten Tomatoes, albeit without a rating simply because it hasn't been released yet. However, 69% of the RT audience have said they want to see it. We don't know whether the motivation will be to indict it or to give it an honest go.

This case sort of reminds us of Waterworld, which was made in 1995 and starred Kevin Costner. It's set on post-apocalyptic Earth where the entire planet is underwater due to the melting of the polar ice caps. There's a wonderful underwater sequence where we see a drowned city. However, it's not a mermaid movie and indeed the closest we get to a mermaid is seeing that the Mariner character has gills. Both Jozef and I actually liked the film. It was certainly not as bad as some of the critics led us to believe. The box office exceeded the budget so it also wasn't the bomb that many said it was.  

In the case of Empires of the Deep, we prefer to find our for ourselves!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Aussie Comic Convention Circuit 2013 [UPDATED 01/10/13]

Here's our regular calendar for Aussie comikers to plan their annual comics convention circuit. We've added a few more international ones, as word-on-the-street is that many Australians are going to be making more of a European push from this year. We'll also be adding to this list as we progress through the year because there are several more regional comics festivals coming up, which we are not allowed to disclose yet.  Stop by regularly if you can for further updates.

Angouleme International Comics Festival (Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d'Angoulême) (Angoulême, France): 31 January-3 February 2013 (various venues)
Sticky Institute Zine Fair (Melbourne, Victoria): 10 February 2013 (Melbourne Town Hall)
Oz ComicCon (Perth, Western Australia): 9 -10 March 2013 (Perth Exhibition Centre)
Oz ComicCon (Adelaide, South Australia): 16-17 March 2013 (Adelaide Showground)
WonderCon (Anaheim, California USA): 29-31 March 2013 (Anaheim Convention Center)
Supanova (Melbourne, Victoria): 12-14 April 2013 (Melbourne Showground)
Supanova (Gold Coast, Queensland): 19-21 April 2013 (Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre)
Boston ComicCon (Boston, Massachusetts, USA): 20-21 April 2013 (Hynes Convention Center) 
Free Comic Book Day (World and Australia wide): 4 May 2013 (check with your nearest comic book store)
Chromacon Illustration and Comic Arts Festival (Auckland, New Zealand): 12 May 2013 (Aeotea Centre)
Comic Gong (Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia): 18 May 2013 (Corrimal Community Centre) – website still to launch
Phoenix ComicCon (Phoenix, Arizona USA): 23-26 May 2013 (Pheonix Convention Center, Arizona)
MCA Zine Fair (Sydney, New South Wales): 26 May 2013 (Museum of Contemporary Art)
Supanova (Sydney, New South Wales): 21-23 June 2013 (Sydney Showground, Olympic Park)
Supanova (Perth, Western Australia): 28-30 June 2013 (Claremont Showground)
Oz ComicCon (Melbourne, Victoria): 6-7 July 2013 (Royal Exhibition Building)
AVCON (Adelaide, South Australia): 27-29 July 2013 (Adelaide Convention Centre) 
SMASH! (Sydney, New South Wales): 10 August 2013 (Sydney Convention Centre)
San Diego ComicCon (San Diego, California USA): 18-21 July 2013 (San Diego Convention Centre)
Small Press Expo (North Bethesda, Maryland USA): 14-15 September 2013 (Bethesda North Marriot Hotel and Conference Center)
GRAPHIC (Sydney, New South Wales): 4-6 October 2013 (Sydney Opera House)
National Young Writers' Festival / This is Not Art Zine Fair (Newcastle, New South Wales): 6 October 2013 (Blue Write Disco, The Kensington)
New York ComicCon (New York City, New York USA): 10-13 October 2013 (Javits Center)
Armageddon Expo (Melbourne, Victoria): 19-20 October 2013 (Melbourne Exhibition Centre – TBC)
Australian Cartoonists' Association (ACA) Stanley Awards and Conference (Coff Harbour – NSW): 25-26 October 2013 (Venue TBA)
Supanova (Brisbane, Queensland): 8-10 November 2013 (RNA Showground)
Supanova (Adelaide, South Australia): 15-18 November 2013 (Adelaide Showground)

Please contact us on if you want additional events to be added to this list.