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Alternative Comics Beat: Strange Nation #1-6

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

Strange Nation #1-6


Written by: Paul Allor

Art by: Juan Romera

Published by: Monkeybrain Comics

Terror in the tabloids

If there’s one secret delight I had as a child it was looking at the covers of The Weekly World News and seeing images of creatures and characters like Bat Boy. Sadly, I found out too early that these stories weren’t real. Trust me, I had some genuine worries about Bat Boy coming to my house until I was set straight. But afterwards I never stopped to consider what the world would be like if those images and stories weren’t made up, but instead were some of the most important and dangerous reporting any journalist could embark on.

That’s where Strange Nation comes into play.

Norma Park is a journalist for Strange Nation, a tabloid dealing in the very bizarre and weird. While it’s not Norma’s first career choice, she soon discovers a strange plot involving an intelligent sasquatch named Joe, aliens, and doomsday cults. She might not have her prestigious news job any longer, but Norma is following the story of her life.



Comics should be fun

It’s a point that I’ve driven home so many times it’s split my word processor like a nail in a board. Strange Nation is one of those comic books that’s just plain fun. Each issue offers character-building moments from the cast, including Norma, Joe, or Norma’s hawaiian shirt wearing friend Jesse.

And if there’s one thing that will creep you out about this comic book, in the most fun way possible, it’s the mascot-headed thugs. If anything check this book out for the mascot-headed thugs. Seriously, I mean it.

Why it’s a great alternative

Allor and Romera have an original premise that’s got lots of flexibility in terms of story and visuals. While I’m not sure how many issues this series is supposed to be, it could easily move into an ongoing with all of the crazy concepts, stories, and characters that Norma could explore.

It has the same kind of open-world feeling that Futurama had when it started. There’s a solid premise, with rules, but the characters can be put into any situation and it works.



Who would like this

Fans of comics like Skullkickers, Chew, or the new adaptation of The X-Files would enjoy Strange Nation quite a bit. There’s plenty of humor, action, and cool visuals to draw people in from multiple areas of comics. Or, if you’re looking to introduce someone to comics, this would be a good starting point for fans of shows like Futurama, where the premise can lead to just about any crazy kind of stories or characters. The issues are only 99 cents a piece, and all six can be found on Comixology’s website or app.

If this sounds like it’s up your alley then pick up Strange Nation today and get ready to believe the weirdest things the world has to offer!

Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic booksincludingInk Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

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Exclusive: Writer/artist Gabriel Hardman talks about his digital-first story of dog and man, Kinski


It’s the story of a man and his dog, and so much more.

In May, readers of digital comics got to meet the canine Kinski and Joe, the man who finds him. What unfolds from there in this six-issue mini-series by writer/artist Gabriel Hardman from MonkeyBrain Comics by way of ComiXology is both a statement to Hardman’s deep love for and involvement with films and the art of controlled writing in a form other than mainstream superhero comics.

As the third issue gets ready to hit soon, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer exclusively caught up with a busy Hardman and filed this interview.

Cosmic Book News: First, I was a great fan of your work on BOOM‘s Planet of the Apes series. How was that experience, especially since it seemed everything was kept so close to the film franchise “feel”?

Gabriel Hardman: Working on those books was a great experience. Collaborating with artists Marc Laming and Damian Couceiro was fantastic as well as working with everyone from BOOM! like our editor Dafna Pleban. I’m very grateful to Matt Gagnon for giving us the chance to contribute to the POTA mythos. Corinna Bechko (my co-writer) and I just finished up issue 12 of Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm which is our last POTA book. I’m very satisfied with the 20 issues worth of POTA material we put out in the last couple years (including the minis Betrayal and Exile). I’m going to miss the characters we created like Prisca, Aleron and Timon.

CBN: Simply, and for the uninformed, what is Kinski?

Gabriel Hardman: Kinski is a creator-owned, digital-first black and white indie mini-series about a guy who steals a dog. It’s dramatic, full of twists and turns but with a quirky sensibility. At the moment it’s available only from MonkeyBrain Comics through ComiXology


CBN: Gabriel, as a fan of your work, I know this six-issue mini is very much a departure for you.

Gabriel Hardman: Kinski is an opportunity for me to express my sensibilities in a very pure way. I’m responsible for everything in it, writing, art, lettering. It’s all me. Which is not to say this is the only kind of story I like to tell. I’m dying to do more sci-fi along with crime and historical books. It’s no secret that comics have tons of potential beyond the superhero genre. 

CBN: Any influences from other media here? For some reason, as a movie fan as well, the Coen Brothers come to mind when reviewing Kinski #1. Truth, homage?

Gabriel Hardman: The Coens are a good reference point. My biggest specific influences are Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and the Terrance Malick written Pocket Money starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin. It may not be totally apparent but Patricia Highsmith’s novels are an influence too. In comics, I’d point to David Lapham’s Stray Bullets. But all of these are very vague tonal influences. I want Kinski to be its own thing. 

CBN: For those who do not know its glories, explain the black and white storytelling.

Gabriel Hardman: I chose black and white for Kinski because it felt right. I don’t have any deeper analytical answer. I had tried to color a few pages and something about the feel was lost. I have some pretty rigid ideas about visual storytelling but it’s also important to go with your gut. 

Obviously, I’m a big fan of black and white comic art in general. It imposes even bigger limitations on me as an artist but limitations are good. If you can’t track a character by the color of their hair, you have to distinguish them in other ways. But I think you can get a simplicity and atmosphere out of black and white that’s unique and different from color. I’m glad that The Walking Dead has opened doors for more monochrome acceptance among readers. 


CBN: Is it just me, or does Joe seem to have more … er uh … traits that might relate to a dog more than the titular canine does? (That make sense? laughs)

Gabriel Hardman: I think that’s a great interpretation.

CBN: Gabriel, how many have gotten the Klaus Kinski ref? Many film buffs among the readership?

Gabriel Hardman: A good number of readers have gotten the reference. But knowing who Klaus Kinski was isn’t critical to the story, it just adds a layer of texture if you do know.

CBN: What lies ahead for your protagonist?

Gabriel Hardman: A road paved with bad decisions.

CBN: When talking with a writer, I usually reserve this question to promote the art. So … what does Gabriel Hardman’s art bring to the table? Why is it right for Kinski? (laughs)

Gabriel Hardman: I think writer Gabriel Hardman really pushed artist Gabriel Hardman to bring something different to this project. It’s a raw, stripped-down cartooning style, something akin to run and gun guerrilla filmmaking. He’s done a decent job of it so far. 


CBN: Any projects current or future you would like to discuss?

Gabriel Hardman: I (along with co-writer Corinna Bechko) have a one-shot called Station to Station from Dark Horse that ships in August. It’s a modern day sci-fi story set in San Francisco with mind control, dinosaurs and a giant inter-dimensional creature. We hope to follow up the one shot with a Station to Station mini next year. Corinna and I also have an OGN called The Crooked Man, a revenge thriller set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake coming out next year from Image/Shadowline. And our first arc of Star Wars: Legacy is currently wrapping up. It’s set in the future of the Star Wars universe starring Ania Solo, a descendant of Han and Leia. We’ve written the second arc which is being drawn by Brian Thies then I’m back drawing the third arc. That sounds like a lot of stuff when I write it all down!

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Gabriel Hardman for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer our rather nosy M.E.

“Kinski” #3, set to hit soon, is digital-first from MonkeyBrain Comics on ComiXology.

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Your Alternative Comics Beat For April 23rd, 2013

Before we get to the nit and grit of this column I want to apologize for my absence. I’ve been incredibly busy with school, work, and comic book projects of my own (Editor’s Note: Ken won the Top Cow Comics Talent Hunt Contest!). While I’ve stopped doing reviews I still love to recommend books that I find intriguing and think that the rest of the comic community should jump on and read. For my first trip back to Cosmic Book News I want to talk about Theremin #1 from Monkeybrain Comics. The story is written by Curt Pires, the art is done by Dalton Rose, and the letters by Ryan Ferrier. It’s a time travel story with a unique twist that mixes alternative history, an unlikely device, and sets up a really intriguing story.


The first issue follows Leon Theremin as he discovers time travel through frequencies in the new instrument that he would later become famous for. But unlocking this power takes him down a dark road that leaves him at odds with Vladimir Lenin and a horrific possible future. I’ll just say that things get complicated and you should read it for yourself so that I don’t spoil too much.


The usual problem with time travel stories is that it focuses on the technology too much and not on the actual characters. What I really like about this first issue is that we get a strong sense of who Leon is and what he believes. When he experiences time travel it makes it all the more exciting to see him deal with it and move on to the next problem or situation because an investment has been made with him as a person. It’s common that character development gets lost in the shuffle of a story like this, but I was invested the entire time.


Monkeybrain has been putting out incredible digital titles. I was drawn to Theremin because of its catchy cover, the premise, and the awesome gun that Leon is brandishing like a dapper Adam Strange. It’s the kind of comic that doesn’t need any big explanation or backstory, which makes it the perfect alternative to the normal fare. If you’re looking for a break from your regular reading routine and love time travel stories then you should really check this out. I personally can’t wait for the next issue.

(All images taken from

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Your Alternative Comics Beat For February 22nd, 2013: Unfair

Short comic book stories and anthology series are often overlooked in comics today. There is a big achievement in writing a 20-page comic book, but packing a whole story into fewer pages takes even more careful planning and pacing for a writer and artist team. Monkeybrain Comics has been a digital publisher on Comixology since 2012, and they’ve become popular for releasing short stories by various creators. Many of the stories are serialized, while some of them are short one and done stories.

This week’s Alternative Comics Beat features a 10-page one-shot comic by writer Vance Sumner and artist Sandy Jarrel, with the backdrop of a spooky family story.



The story, without giving too much away, is about a man who loses his child after he floats out the window during a storm. The road to get him back is paved with supernatural elements, including talking animals, and ends with an unexpected twist. It’s the kind of ghost story that isn’t horrifying, but touching in the way that supernatural tales can be. The realm of the unknown can make the most human moments of storytelling soar, and Unfair is a story that does just that.


The artwork by Jarrel has a classic style. It’s a mixture of old comic book cartooning and animation-inspired design that makes the story play like a short animated film. There isn’t a lot of room to tell the story, and Jarrel makes every panel count in his collaboration with Sumner. There’s a particularly striking panel near the end where the father shares a moment with someone that is truly tender. The expressions on their faces pulls you back to that magic you felt during animated films when you were younger. To pull that off in general is tough, and to pull that off in comics is a real feat.


Monkeybrain has a variety of titles to choose from, and no two are alike. It’s refreshing to read something that makes a statement, uses the comic book medium so well, but doesn’t feature superheroes. There is a little bit of action, but it’s definitely a story that focuses more on character and the powerful bond that a family unit has together.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that there might be a tear in your eye at the end of this week’s pick. I suggest you roll the dice and see if you can achieve the same level of emotion that I got out of it. For under a dollar, it’s well worth your time as a comic book reader. You can find the issue on the Comixology app under the Monkeybrain Comics section.

Ken Porter also writes comic books with his latest being “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics.

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