Packs of the Low Country: Chicago Comics Creators Kickstarter Campaign

Packs of the Low Country

PACKS OF THE LOW COUNTRY is a six-chapter graphic novel set in a world where monsters have, relatively recently, become a reality--the dreamchild of creators John Dudley and Don Cardenas, two Chicagoans with a love of the comics art form and a passion for telling stories.

Currently, the two have begun a Kickstarter campaign to put their six chapter tale into a hardcover format, and thus far the response has been positive and on track to meet that goal.

We sat down with Dudley to discuss the origins of this latest entry into the monster-fighting genre, to learn what makes it stand out from its competitors and how the book went from idea to reality.

How did you and Don come together to work on this project?


Thump: The Interview

Thump and Tweeter

A while back, we were privileged to review THUMP: THE FIRST BUNDRED DAYS, a novel concept that presents the 2016 campaign in a new setting. Rather than getting into the policy wonk details of how each campaign was run, Thump's creators -- Brett R. Smith, Timothy Lim, and Mark Pellegrini -- simplified the events to the traditional rhyming style of the children's picture book, complete with illustrations that draw from Peter Rabbit rather than from the editorial cartoon pages of your daily newspaper.

After reviewing the book, and seeing the reactions online of others once the book was released, we spoke with editor Brett R. Smith about some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of Thump -- where he came from, and where he's going from here.

What was the "secret origin" of THUMP: THE FIRST BUNDRED DAYS?


Keeping it Funky: Tom Batiuk

Funky Winkerbean

A few years back, I got to speak with cartoonist Tom Batiuk about the fortieth anniversary of his strip, Funky Winkerbean. And then something happened that doesn't often happen to comic strip artists.

Tom got nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. And then he was a finalist for the award.

The notice came for Tom's work on the Funky Winkerbean strip that focused on a longtime favored character developing breast cancer. The strips were collected into three volumes, to bring LISA'S LEGACY to the world.

So when I was told that Tom was going to be in St. Louis on a book signing tour, I jumped at the opportunity to talk with him a little bit more (and couldn't resist bringing my first four volumes of THE COMPLETE FUNKY WINKERBEAN with me, because it couldn't hurt, right?) about this incredible journey he's been taking through the funny pages.


In Saint Louis, Halloween Means The Dave Glover Show

The DGS Halloween Show 2017

Who doesn't love Halloween? Some cultures love it so much, it's not a night but a three-day celebration. Some towns, like Rutland, Vermont, hold a huge parade. And almost everywhere, kids dress up in costumes and go begging for candy. (Here at Critical Blast, we love it so much we dedicate a monthly feature just to people who put on costumes all year long!)

For Saint Louis, Missouri, the tradition for almost two decades now has been the Dave Glover Halloween Show, on FM 97.1. Dave and his cohorts, Mark Klose, Rachel Zimmerman, and Tony Colombo, comprise the cast of the consistently number one rated radio show in the market, and the Halloween episode is a huge draw.


DragonCon Interview with Nasa Astronaut Garrett Reisman

Earlier today we interviewed NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman who was a member of expedition 16 and 17 on the international space station. He discussed what inspired him to become an astronaut and what space flight is like.



Lizzy Small's Big Night: Live at The Mint, August 23

Lizzy Small

Actress. Dancer. Singer. Songwriter. Is there anything in the entertainment field that Lizzy Small can't do? From the precocious tyke who played the baker elf in THE SANTA CLAUSE 3 to the studious collegian who distributes her distinct sound on SoundCloud, Lizzy has established herself as a creative force in the industry.

This coming Wednesday, August 23, Lizzy is preparing to rock the house at The Mint at 6010 Pico Blvd in Los Angeles. We caught up with the artist on the phone to ask her a few questions about her music and her upcoming acting performances.

There isn't any clear cut division between the music and the acting--you grew up doing both at pretty much the same time. Was there a family influence in the performing arts at work?


Enter the Lost World of Mike Grell: Part Three

Mike Grell

Continuing our interview with Mike Grell, who will be accepting his induction into the Wizard World Hall of Legends this month in Chicago. In this installment, we discuss Mike's work on JON SABLE and stories from the headlines--and Mike's short-lived armed standoff with Nazis! Click here to read the prior installment of this interview series.


Enter the Lost World of Mike Grell: Part Two

Mike Grell

Continuing our interview with Mike Grell, who will be accepting his induction into the Wizard World Hall of Legends this month in Chicago. In this installment, we discuss Mike's work on GREEN ARROW, an effort that arguably set the tone for the CW television series, ARROW insofar as Oliver Queen's shift to a more lethal approach in the use of his weapons. (Click here to read part one of this interview series.)


Enter the Lost World of Mike Grell: Part One

Mike Grell

At the August 2017 Wizard World in Chicago, veteran comic artist and storytelling legend Mike Grell will be inducted into the Wizard World Hall of Legends.

When I heard of the hall, I wondered why it wasn't called the more traditional "Hall of Fame." But after speaking with Mike on some of the touchstones of his career that led to this induction, I have to admit that "Legends" is exactly the right word. We think our readers will agree after they've hear the same stories.

In an interview too big for one publication, Critical Blast is proud to bring you the first of a three-part interview with Mike Grell.





Michele Martin: So Many Characters in One Strong Woman

Every so often, and far too infrequently, the world produces an actress with a face like Michele Martin's -- attractive yet versatile, able to portray just about anybody in any genre. And Michele has done just that, with performances ranging from Shakespeare on the stage to co-starring in horror/thrillers like COFFIN 2, not to mention her copious writing credits.

Michele will shortly be portraying Natalie Wood as the lead in the premiere of AVALON at the Edinburgh Fringe, opposite Sean Cronin (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM) as King Arthur. (The two meet each other as ghosts in the titular Avalon, between Heaven and Earth. Guinevere is going to be so jealous!) But before she hits the boards there, she sat down with us to talk a little bit about some of her upcoming projects -- one of which premieres on an entirely new digital platform!


8 Simple Questions for Finding an Author's Purpose with W. Bruce Cameron

W Bruce Cameron, with Tucker (photo: Ute Ville

One might say that writer W. Bruce Cameron has gone to the dogs -- and the author probably couldn't be happier. The writer of several best-selling novels such as 8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER and A DOG'S PURPOSE has recently released a new touching novel about canines and the people they care about with A DOG'S JOURNEY.

We were fortunate to have a few moments to sit down with Cameron to discuss the titles he writes, the movies that have been made, and even some of the unexpected controversy thrown his way.

1. Looking at your title history, things seem to fall into either of two categories: "Dads" and "Dogs." What's the connection there?

Well, you know, if you're the father to some children, and you're the father to some dogs, there's a very clear emotional connection between the two.


Bob Batchelor Shines New Light on Mighty Marvel's Prodigious Progenitor, Stan Lee

Bob Batchelor in the Spidey Signal

With just a few scant hours until the release of SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, it behooves us to look back on the man, without whom, there would arguably be no Marvel Universe for a Marvel Cinematic Universe to have come. Stan Lee is sometimes a polarizing figure in the comic book industry, but no one can deny the influence he had on the direction it has taken.

And while there are several books and numerous convention tall tales told about the man, Bob Batchelor has set out to provide yet another perspective on the multi-faceted man behind THE FANTASTIC FOUR, THE AVENGERS, and, of course, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. We sat down for a discussion with the author of the forthcoming book, STAN LEE: THE MAND BEHIND MARVEL (September 2017, Rowman & Littlefield) to get some more of his perspective on the living legend.


Jennifer Muro: A Force of Destiny Behind New Star Wars Series

Jen Muro -- Star Wars Force of Destiny

(photos: Ricky Middelsworth)

This week Critical Blast sat down with Jennifer Muro writer for the much anticipated “Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” which debuts on Disney's YouTube Channel today and on The Disney Channel Sunday, July 9, 2017. Jennifer is working on some amazing projects and was able to share some awesome information about all the things she has in the works.

J.K. Elison: As a female engineer and a writer myself, I'm super excited to see strong female characters at the forefront of some new stories in "Star Wars: Forces of Destiny." What have you enjoyed most about writing some of the most iconic female characters from the Star Wars Universe?


DC Super Hero Girls Writer Shea Fontana: “No One is Born a Villain”

If you don’t know who Shea Fontana is, you may want to look her up. She’s a rising star who is most known for her work on the highly successful DC Super Hero Girls franchise.

Having done work on other projects such as Doc McStuffins, Whisker Haven Tales (with the Palace Pets), and the upcoming movie Crowning Jules, she’s been spinning delightful stories suitable for younger audiences.


Wendy Spinale: Through the Looking-Glass, Darkly

Wendy Spinale

I'm a sucker for a remade fairy tale. Throw in that it's going to be a take on Lewis Carroll's Alice characters, and I'm going to be a first-in-line reader.

So when I saw that Wendy Spinale was going to follow-up her steampunk fantasy, EVERLAND, which put J.M. Barrie's characters through a dystopian steampunk adventure, with UMBERLAND, I knew I had to do more than just read the book -- I had to get inside the author's head and share some time with those characters.

Alas, I couldn't fit, so I settled for asking her questions instead.

How did it first occur to you to put these Victorian characters through the Steampunk engine?


Ira Bloom: Hearts and Other Things You Pour Into a YA Novel

Ira Bloom

If you haven't already rushed out and ordered your copy of HEARTS & OTHER BODY PARTS, then you have not yet begun your journey down what is almost certain to be the YA paranormal romance everyone will be reading and talking about this summer. You'll find yourself believing in witches, vampires, demons and other kinds of monsters. What you will have the most difficulty believing is that this novel is the first for author (yes, he can officially use that title on business cards, resumes, and -- shudder -- tax forms now) Ira Bloom. It's too seasoned, too nuanced, and just too good to be the product of the new kid on the YA block. (Oh yeah, and he has a Y-chromosome, too! How rare is that in the YA paranormal romance marketplace?)

We had the privilege of snaring an interview with Bloom before his schedule becomes swamped with such requests. Somewhere along the way, you'll probably see a link to Amazon to pick up this book. You'd be smart to click on it.


In Search of the (Maybe Not So) Lost Testament of Alexander the Great

The Lost Testament of Alexander the Great by David Grant

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Purloined Letter," the hero C. Auguste Dupin outwits the police when he is brought in to consult on a stolen letter being used for blackmail purposes. In the story, the police search an apartment where they know the letter to be hidden, checking the drapes and other unique hiding places that might conceal it. Dupin saves the day when he looks for the letter and finds it sitting out in the open, too obvious to be the object the police sought. The story is often pointed to as the epitome of the adage, "Hiding in plain sight."


In Video Veritas: De-Rigging the System with James O'Keefe

James O'Keefe of Project Veritas

Oscar Wilde reportedly said that you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies. And when it comes to that incestuous Venn Diagram intersection of politics and mass media, there are perhaps few hated more than James O'Keefe, the modern master of guerilla journalism.

This past week, if you watch the news, he's getting harder and harder to ignore, having released a spate of videos capturing operatives within the Democratic party revealing secrets that have caused the rolling of both heads and eyes, depending on where and who you happen to be. But is there more to come? We spoke with the president of Project Veritas about his current operation, and what's next.



Analyzing The Band Analyzed Within

Christians Getting Down!

Whenever you think of metal bands your first thoughts may be Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer and so on but even Christians love to get down and head bang for the Lord. An uprising Christian metal band, Analyzed Within is releasing their latest album and showing just how heavy metal Christians can truly be.




Analyzed Within is comprised of three very talented members.


Killing Reagan Director Rod Lurie: "...Even Democrats Nostalgic for Ronald Reagan."

Killing Reagan Promo

Rod Lurie wrote and directed the widely praised Academy Award- and Golden Globe Award-nominated political thriller THE CONTENDER, which took the first-ever Alan J. Pakula Award. For the small screen, Lurie also created the series COMMANDER IN CHIEF, which was nominated for the Best Drama Series Golden Globe, and for which Geena Davis won the Best Actress Golden Globe for her depiction of the first female president of the United States.

Lurie's latest project is the made-for-television movie, KILLING REAGAN, based off the book of the same name by FOX News commentator Bill O'Reilly, which airs Saturday, October 16, on the National Geographic channel.

Bill O'Reilly's book, KILLING REAGAN, is done in a very "outside looking in" documentary style. How is the film going to be in comparison -- a documentary style or a more traditional dramatic reenactment?


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