Erin Polgreen and Symbolia – Talking In Depth About Digital Comics Journalism

What’s going on everyone? Today I wanted to share an interview that I had with Erin Polgreen, part of the dynamic duo behind the innovative new digital comics journalism magazine, Symbolia. Erin was kind enough to speak in length about the publication, digital comics, industry trends, and the future of the medium and I promise, all of it is pure gold. If you enjoy comics, digital comics, comics journalism, or just want to figure out what the heck Symbolia is, we’ve got you covered. Now on with the show!

Symbolia Logo

I Speak Comics: For all the readers out there unfamiliar with your new digital magazine, just what is Symbolia?

Erin Polgreen: So Symbolia is a digital journal that merges comics and recording to present investigative news stories in new ways. We report stories from all around the world – from India to Zambia to Iraqi Kurdistan – and it’s really a way for people to experience other cultures, places, and interact with issues in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen with print journalism alone.

ISC: Now I’ve never really heard of comics journalism, except for maybe in the work of Joe Sacco, or rather I’ve never heard of a publication that’s specifically dedicated to comics journalism, so I guess, why Symbolia?

Symbolia Cover ArtEP: First off I think that this is a trend that’s been coming for a few years now. Definitely it started with Joe Sacco, but even before that some of the comics greats did work that was either strongly based in fact, or relied on some reporting itself. If you think about Joe Kubert that was specifically focused on, I believe Bosnia a few years ago. I noticed that there was a trend of comics makers that were either trained as journalists or were telling non-fiction stories, and it was kind of an evolution of diary comics on the web. It wasn’t just, “this is my life as I experience it” but “this is the world around me.”

It was coming along with the rise of tumblr and Pinterest and all these social networks really really geared towards visual sharing. Add tablets to the mix and suddenly the environment for visual journalism is very different and the possibilities are greatly expanded. I had seen creators like Wendy McNaughton and Susie Cagle, even Matt Bors or Ted Rall, their work in Afghanistan totally fits within this purview of comics journalism. So I just had this light bulb moment, I went from reading a digital comic on my first iPad to reading a magazine of photojournalism and it just all clicked together.

I’ve been following and working with these comics journalists for some time and I suddenly saw a place and an opportunity and something that we could do that would really brand the field.

ISC: How long have you guys been doing this?

EP: I’ve been following the comics journalism space for the past two and a half years or so and about a year and a half ago and I realized that this was something that I wanted to do so I went out and raised $34,000 and began working on it in March of last year. We just passed our first anniversary of bringing in our initial round of funding. We officially launched in December of last year. We’re still very young and there’s so many possibilities. It’s really exciting.

Symbolia Interior ArtISC: Is there anyone else doing this sort of thing? Doing comics journalism?

EP: Comics journalism is actually fairly popular abroad, and in fact there are comics used as news in India, so this is something that’s been around for a little bit. Cartoon Movement, which is based out of the Netherlands, they used to have an arm of comics journalism that they were publishing but now they’re just editorial cartoons. Symbolia is to my knowledge the first digital publication in the US that’s dedicated to specifically illustration and news.

ISC: I suppose then my next question is, why digital? What do you like about the new medium?

EP: What I love about tablets and specifically in working with digital comics is that with the new retina screen with the iPad you get the same quality of art as you do with a fine print for much less. And not only that, but you’re able to layer on these subtle interactive elements that heighten the mood or allow the reader to kind of choose their own adventure and dive deeper into a story and we do that with everything from easter egg animations that are hidden throughout the piece to interactive timelines to actual soundtracks or music that accompany a piece. In the latest issue (which you can check out here) we pair audio and video with comics to tell the story of a family that is separated because the father has been deported from the US.

ISC: It’s interesting that you bring up interactive elements like video and sound. Mark Waid recently gave a speech all about what makes comics comics, and one of the things that he said was that comics make their own time. The reader chooses the pace of the story. How do you handle that in Symbolia?

EP: That’s totally a great point and ties to our process in that we rigorously test our issues to see what the reader experience actually is and what Mark Waid says is very true, that comics exist in their own time and I use the time “chose your own adventure” very deliberately when I talk about the work that we produce because very rarely do we use autoplay. We use it sometimes as a surprise but we have rules like no more than 20 seconds, the user needs to manipulate or click, it’s their choice to take the story in a different direction.

For us linking and video and audio is sort of an extra layer that provides mood and context but also makes it easier to source our content but I totally agree, comics are their own time. When I’m actually working with contributors and working with pitches I request stories that are timely, like of this time, but not time sensitive. I don’t want something that’s tied to a 24-hour news cycle.

Symbolia Interior ArtISC: What are the kinds of stories that you like to tell? What sorts of stories can readers expect when they start flipping through an issue of Symbolia?

EP: Each issue revolves around a theme that allows us to weave several disparate threads together and I do like to think of Symbolia as providing stunning unexpected stories from around the globe. Our audience is international. The US makes up about 40% of our audience, but we also have readers in Canada, Germany, France, India, and South Africa, so for us, global makes sense.

We want to be connecting people in a community around the world, around the news, and around Symbolia. It’s really a democratic thing. Comics can work for people with many different reading levels and language facility. For us, we do publish our work in English, but it does play well with people who are learning English or don’t necessarily have the strongest grasp yet. They can catch emotion, they can catch situation.

ISC: How do you connect with creators? How do people tell their stories?

EP: It’s open submission. If you go to Symboliamag.com/pitchsymbolia, but it’s also in the side navigation. We’re currently accepting pitches for our Defense Issue and an issue called True Crime, which is going to be pretty exciting. We pair journalists with comics creators and some of our more successful pieces have happened that way, which is really exciting. We also with people like Dan Carino, Sarah Glidden, Susie Cagle, who’s a full-time reporter and illustrator. It runs the gauntlet.

Oh and we pay! They’re not amazing rates but part of me launching this publication was, I have too many friends that are artists, too many friends that are cartoonists that get asked to do things for free all the time. Our rates, right now we’re a startup and we’re growing but we pay and we pay on time.

ISC: Right on, well can you explain your business model?

Symbolia Interior Art 2EP: Issues are $1.99 for subscribers, $2.99 off the newsstands if you just want to get one and be done. This most recent issue is the first issue that’s been for pay so it’s been interesting to see where that’s coming from. We also offer a yearlong subscription for $11.99, so you can get six issues there.

We are currently working with subscribers and we’re going to be running ads. We have ads in our latest issue. It terms of revenue streams, looking at our business model, we have multiple different channels that we’re using: One is subscriptions (content purchasing across the platform), two is advertising, three is merchandising, and four is membership programs. So thinking about the added benefits and what are the different things that we can offer to our very dedicated community of subscribers to sweeten the pot for them?

How much should we charge for a one-on-one training to learn how to do comics journalism? Would we run a weekend long workshop, like The Sequential Artists Workshop or Center for Cartoon Studies to specifically teach people how to do digital comics? These are all different sources we’re drawing from and the overarching proponent for all of this is here at Symbolia, we also want to function as a consulting service, a consultancy, not just for publishers but for creators themselves. To help them find avenues for distribution and to connect with new audiences.

ISC: From your vantage point on the digital comics frontier, what are you excited about? What do you expect from the future?

EP: So what’s interesting is that before I started running my own magazine I was a strategist and worked for a publishing organization and helping them think about what the future was and what was happening out there. That was a really valuable roll, but one of the reasons I left it is that I missed working on the ground. Part of the challenge is that now keeping up is so hard! That said, I’m so fascinated by the People’s E-Book project. I think their Kickstarter campaign is closing in the next week (two days left to donate!). They are specifically trying to create an ebook publishing platform for anyone to use. With a specific mind toward brining zines to the masses, which is totally up my alley.

In terms of different creators that I love and am really excited to see work from them, Tom Hart and Leela Corman out of The Sequential Artists Workshop, they both do fantastic stuff and think about comics and pedagogy in a way that’s just fascinating.

In terms of platforms for publishing digitally, I’ve kind of been watching Vook and am very interested with what the Atavist is doing with their white label software solution.

ISC: Well I think that’s all I got. Anything else you’d like to say?

EP: We’re really excited to be a part of this community and really looking forward to building partnerships with other publishing organizations and creators as we go along. We have big things planned.

Erin Polgreen is co-founder of Symbolia Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @ErinPolgreen. You can get all the official Symbolia news straight from the source at Symboliamag.com.

Want to check out Symbolia for yourself? You can get the iPad app right here! Not really feeling the whole app thing? No worries, PDF versions of the magazine are also available!

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Unlimited Highlights: Wolverine

Unlimited Highlights: Wolverine

What’s the world’s most violent mutant been up to? Oh you know, massacring everything that bleeping moves! I kid, I kid – but not really. Anyway, this week’s highlights star the killer Canadian himself! Marvel’s got this MASSIVE hardcover coming out in June, Wolverine: The Adamantium Collection and to get people hyped we want to give you a small taste of Wolvie’s long and tortuous life.

I gotta say that my favorite issues this week were Wolverine #1 and Wolverine & the X-Men #1. You just can’t beat the sordid tale of love and loss that is Mariko Yashida. And Wolverine as headmaster of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning? That my friends, that is a recipe for a very delicious disaster! So go, read Unlimited Highlights and let me know what you think!

 

The MSU Comics Forum is NIGH!

MSU Comics Forum Logo

 

That’s right folks, the coolest comics conference on campus will be here in just a little over a week and I want to make sure that you know exactly what to expect when you show up. To that end I’ve ganked the Forum’s schedule that me and my compatriots worked so hard to on. Want to know who’s presenting scholarly panels and when? Got you covered. Want to know anything else? Go to our website! And now that we have our Artist’s Alley lineup finalized, you’re definitely going to want to see who’s dropping by. You know, so you can pick up awesome swag!

Feb 18th – Mar 1st , 2013:

Gallery Exhibition – Comic Books and the 1950’s
Location: Residential College in the Arts & Humanities LookOut! Gallery, Snyder/Phillips Hall 2nd floor, Michigan State University

The exhibit will feature examples from The Comic Art Collection housed in Michigan State University’s Special Collections. The Comic Art Collection holds over 200,000 items and is the primary library resource for the study of U.S. comic book publications.

Thursday, Feb 28th, 2013:

Documentary Screening – Wham! Bam! Islam! – 7:30pm
Location: MSU Main Library North Conference Room (4th floor West), Michigan State University

Wham! Bam! Islam! tells the story of Naif Al-Mutawa and his venture to create the first team of superheroes from the Muslim world called THE 99. Following the tumultuous journey of THE 99 from concept to reality, from acclaim to censure, from the edge of bankruptcy to a multi-million dollar animation series, Al-Mutawa dodges cultural minefields and confronts the harsh realities of the global marketplace in pursuit of his vision to bring new heroes to children around the world.

Friday, Mar 1st, 2013:

Keynote Address with Nick Bertozzi – 7:00-8:30pm
Location: Residential College in the Arts & Humanities Theatre, Snyder/Phillips Hall Basement, Michigan State University

Nick Bertozzi, award-winning comics creator and professor will deliver this year’s keynote address.  Bertozzi received a Xeric Grant and multiple Harvey Awards and Ignatz Awards for his cartooning. He is the writer and artist of the graphic novel Lewis & Clark (First/Second).  He collaborated with Jason Lutes on the graphic novel Houdini: The Handcuff King (Hyperion/CCS) and drew Glenn (The Colbert Report/Daria) Eichler’s STUFFED! (First/Second).  Bertozzi is author of The Salon (St. Martin’s Griffin) a graphic novel about Picasso, the discovery of Cubism, and magical absinthe.

He is hard at work on a cartoon biography of Lenny Bruce for Houghton-Mifflin, written by Harvey Pekar and you can read his ongoing sci-fi/fantasy cartoon, Persimmon Cup, for free every week at ACT-I-VATE (http://activatecomix.com). For the past several years Bertozzi has been teaching cartooning at NYC’s School of Visual Arts, as well as teaching stints at Rhode Island School of Design and at The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont.  For more information visit his website at: http://www.nickbertozzi.com/

Saturday, Mar 2nd, 2013:

Artist Alley and Panel Discussions – 11:00am-5:00pm

Location: Residential College in the Arts & Humanities LookOut! Gallery, Snyder/Phillips Hall 2nd floor, Michigan State University

The Forum will feature an Artists Alley with dozens of creators exhibiting their work in comics. For more information on individual artists featured, please reference the Artists Alley page on this website.

Panel: Comics Redefined
Time: March 2nd, 2013 from 11:00am – Noon
Location: Snyder/Phillips 2nd floor classrooms
Description: This panel explores new approaches and ideas in comics through elements of culture, creator, and character.
Presenters and Presentation Titles:
Zack Kruse – Steve Ditko, Spider-Man, and the Romantic Hero
Justin Wigard – It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Edward Cullen!
Andre F. Peltier – (De)Constructing Masculinity in Fan Boy (and Fan
Girl Cultures)

Panel: Golden Age: Comics and Graphic Novel Resources in Libraries
Time: March 2nd, 2013 from 12:15pm – 1:15pm
Location: Snyder/Phillips 2nd floor classrooms
Description: Have you ever wondered how your local library feels about comics?  Librarians deliver a lively and informative presentation on what is available to comics readers at different kinds of libraries across the country, followed by a question and answer session.
Presenters:
Lisa Rabey (Librarian)
Kristin LaLonde (Librarian)
Andrew McBride (Librarian)

Panel: Artist Spotlight
Time: March 2nd, 2013 from 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Location: Snyder/Phillips 2nd floor classrooms
Description: Do you want to break into the comics industry? Are you curious about the trials and tribulations of self-publishing? Do you have process, craft, or other technical questions about comics creation? We have you covered. Our artists will share their wisdom and answer any question you might have.
Presenters:
Nick Bertozzi – (2013 MSU Comics Forum Keynote Speaker, Lewis and ClarkHoudini the Handcuff King)
Josh Neufeld (University of Michigan Knight-Wallace Fellow in journalism, A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge)
Jerzy Drozd (Cartoonist and Teaching Artist, The Front)

Panel: Comics and Journalism: Practice, Publish, Innovate
Time: March 2nd, 2013 from 2:45pm – 3:45pm
Description: A star-studded roundtable of industry professionals will discuss the developing field of comics journalism with a focus on key learnings for up-and-coming creators.
Presenters:
Darryl Hollida (Writer and Founder of the Illustrated Press)
Josh Neufield (University of Michigan Knight-Wallace Fellow in journalism, A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge)
Erin Polgreen (Co-founder, editor, and publisher of Symbolia)

Panel: Documentary Screening of Comic Book City, Portland, Oregon, USA
Time: March 2nd, 2013 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: Snyder/Phillips 2nd floor classrooms
Description: Comic Book City is a documentary film from Shaun Huston which explores the community of comics creators who live and work in Portland, Oregon. It is grounded by conversations with artists and writers about their creative processes and their choices to locate in Portland.
Presenter:
Shaun Huston (Comic Book City, Portland, Oregon, USA)

Web and Digital Comics: Wrangling the Revenue Stream

graphiclyWhy aren’t more webcomic creators taking advantage of digital comics? Tablets, smart phones, eReaders, the way people consume comics is changing and I feel like the brave new future of comics is rife with digital devices. So digital comics should be worth investing in, whether that be learning the technology yourself, or paying Graphicly or some other group to take care of it for you.

However the plunge into the digital comics pond isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. Seeing as I’m not embedded in the industry, I went to talk to an expert on digital comics, Becky Jewell of Graphicly, to see what she thinks about the webcomic to digital comic movement. In the following quick interview she illuminates some motivations and sticking points in the transition process, and I think that when we more clearly realize the problems, we might more easily navigate to workable solutions.

I Speak Comics: So Becky, seeing as how webcomics are already so perfectly tailored for digital readers, why haven’t more creators migrated to the digital comics arena?

Becky Jewell: Some webcomics folks have launched their books on Graphicly, sometimes with the free webstore option, other times, with our paid ebooks (iOS, Kindle Fire) option. Here are some webcomic books that we have running now:

Cover of Gunnerkrigg Court
Gunnerkrigg Court

Think Weasel

Gunnerkrigg Court

Ellerbisms – A Sporadic Diary Comic

Pushing comics to ebooks can be seen as too expensive for some creators, though at Graphicly we are working on making the process cheaper, easier, and faster.

As the technology matures,  more creators will not only step into the ebooks realm, but also creators will be able to fully optimize this marketplace. Overhead alone may be the one thing preventing ebooks from exploding for indies.

ISC: Is it just money though? The extra exposure and extra income seems like it might be worth that large initial investment.

BJ:  It’s worth it! Though the returns can be mid-to-long term. Ebooks can create another venue of exposure for webcomics folks and generate passive income, but not many indie webcomic people are on the boat yet because the industry is so new – which can make it a bit tricky to navigate.

The key is that revenue and fanship both take time to build. Making an epub of your book and putting it up on Amazon can take an hour or less using Graphicly, but getting 7,000 fans to buy the book? Not easy. This can take years to build. Having multiple venues of exposure can help, however. You never know if a potential fan of yours loves reading on Android or on Nook, or on your website, or paper only!

What’s cool about ereaders is that you can tag your self-published books as well. So, if your comic is about a cat who is a nighttime superhero, you can tag it with ‘cat’ ‘superhero’ ect. The search engines for Amazon and iBooks are not yet as saturated as Google — as a result, an indie comic book about a cat superhero would have better chances of appearing immediately on an e-reader if a random fan just writes ‘cat’ into the comics search.

Kindle Fire is also *Just* adding a new comics section, and the same with iBooks. These marketplaces are only beginning to realize that people love to read comics on their devices. It’s odd that it took them so long, but the storefronts are way more in tune with their products than they were one year ago.

 ——

So some creators have migrated their material, but not a ton. It seems like the chief barrier is money, but there are some interesting things on the horizon, and I especially like the idea of tagging your work for SEO purposes. I’m going to try to talk to some webcomic creators in the near future and get their take on digital comics, but if you think you know what’s up or have any thoughts regarding webcomics, digital comics, or anything else, leave a comment!

Becky Jewell is the queen of public relations and customer support at Graphicly.com. You can follow her on Twitter @beckyjewell and she’s got some incredible art on display, and for sale, at her website

Bringing the Thunder: Shazam in Injustice

Bill Batson’s alter ego, Captain Marvel that was, master of the living lightning, Shazam smashes his way onto the already star studded roster of Injustice: Gods Among Us, trading blows with the crimson speedster in the latest Battle Arena footage. The Big Red Cheese looks like a one-man wrecking crew and I aim to break down some of the gameplay in these vids, normals, specials, super, to give you a feeling for how the hero plays.

Shazam Concept Art
Shazam Concept Art

I’m going to tell you right now, I’m maining Shazam. He’s always been my favorite DC hero, and while I wasn’t too enthused with his appearance in MK vs. DC, his Injustice iteration looks absolutely sick. The concept art alone deserves some serious praise. The team at NetherRealm has transformed one of the most classic costumes in comics into an ominously radical harbinger of pain to come.

You do know what I’m talking about right? I’m not a huge fan of the hood, but I personally think that he has the coolest costume of the entire roster. The electricity coming off his gauntlets is brilliant, and I hope they make an honest attempt to include that in-game.

Gameplay
Shazam’s Battle Arena video gives a pretty good indicator of what he’s capable of. He has some pretty quick normals, special moves that give him some very interesting mobility options, EX attacks that really allow for a teleport, a ranged projectile, and possibly a powerup special… Man Shazam’s looking like a bonafide jack of all trades here! But let’s break down some of his specials in a little more depth here.

Shazam Puts Down Supes
Shazam Puts Down Supes

Class Type – Super Strength
The wizard’s avatar is strong enough to take down Superman, so it’s no surprise that he’s going to be throwing around marquee signs (:31) and water towers (1:30).

Normals
I can’t say too much about Shazam’s normals unfortunately. He doesn’t look like he has a ton of range on any of his standard attacks. He has some punches and some kicks. That’s really all I’ve got for you.

Specials
Courage of Achilles (:33): Shazam calls down the lightning, igniting his fists with eldritch electricity. This looks like one of the few power up speicals in the game and I’m guessing it powers up the Big Red Cheese’s already (likely) beefy damage.

Speed of Mercury (:25, :44): I have to say that this teleport is the last thing I expected Shazam to be sporting. I know he had one in MK vs. DC, but he doesn’t really have anything quite like it in the comics. Here can teleport a short distance infront of him, going what appears to be completely intangible (maybe to both physical attacks and projectiles?) and closing the distance very quickly. While great for dodging attacks, this will be a key way to keep the pressure up after knockdowns that send the opponent flying.

Strength of Hercules (:57) EX (1:04): Shazam hauls off, gathering his power, and unleashes a massive punch that, if it connects, causes a wall bounce for a big combo. The punch also has super armor at a certain point, and likely can be used to blast through overzealous mashers. The EX version is Shazam’s stage transition attack and appears to have armor upon activation instead of having to charge the attack.

Power of Zeus (:45): I think we can count on this being Shazam’s go to projectile. He hucks a lightning bolt straight at his enemy’s face. It reminds me a lot of Sagat’s high Tiger Shot in that a lot of characters can probably duck under it. Still, this appears to be his only projectile, so I’m sure it’ll have its place when Shazam feels like zoning a bit.

Lightning Strike (:58): Shazam calls down a bolt of magic lightning from the heavens to strike his foe. When utilized in combos it looks like it keeps enemies aerial long enough to follow up with extra hits, though this may only be possible in the corner. It recovers quick, quick enough for him to combo out of it, and depending on the block stun, this may be a good move to throw out if your opponent likes to whiff things just outside of normal range.

Lightning and Captain Marvel

Lightning Crusher (:27, :49) EX (:37): Reminds me of a combination of Raiden’s lightning flight attack deal and M. Bison’s psycho crusher. Basically he spirals through the air doing damage. Might be good for a quick punish? You’ll notice that the EX version does two hits – the lightning crush, and then Shazam throws them bodily behind him. It almost looks like this might have a hit of super armor, but from what I understand EX moves can really only be triggered on hit so… Maybe not?

Lightning Tackle (:40) EX (:40): Shazam tackles his enemy and they get hit by a big ol’ lightning strike. If this is an unblockable command grab… Oh man I will be happy. However let’s just assume that right now it can only be used in combos. If it scores a knockdown it might be useful as a combo ender. The EX version bounces the opponent up with the lightning and Shazam can follow up with more punishment. I love how fluid his combos look, and his EX moves really add a ton of extra damage opportunities at the cost of lots of meter.

Aerial Slam (:41) EX (:41): Our stalwart hero grabs his foe, flies into the air, and hurls them at the ground. Simple but sweet. In the EX version Shazam spends a little bar to follow them down to the ground and slams into them feet first, bouncing them up into the air for a little extra damage. Like the Lightning Tackle, I’m unsure of the properties of this attack. Does it only work on airborne opponents in combos? Can it be used on grounded enemies? So many questions!

Super Combo
High Voltage (1:52): Prepare for pain. Shazam uppercuts his unfortunate adversary into the stratosphere where he puts on a clinic in extreme electrical prejudice. Amidst stormy skies he lands a few bone crushing blows and elbows them back to terra firma, though before they can hit the ground he snatches them, spins the living crap out of them, and then sends them hurtling to the ground. It looks EASY as crap to land, and could be done off of nearly any EX attack, or even his Lightning Strike. It’s just a simple uppercut. Depending on the damage and how easy it is to build meter, this may be a useful addition to Shazam’s arsenal.

Final Thoughts
I am LOVING the way Shazam looks in this game. His costume is one of the best, if not the best, in the roster and his combos look awesome as all get out. I also like that we can attribute almost every one of his special attacks to the deities that power him. The only people that seem left out are the Wisdom of Solomon and the Stamina of Atlas – Hercules, Achilles, Zeus, and Mercury are all accounted for. Right now, from what I can tell, he’s looking like a very very solid character. He has mobility, projectiles, a teleport, a plethora of useful EX attacks, and an easily comboable super. Prepare to get, THUNDERSTRUCK!

The King of Atlantis Serves up Maritime Madness in Injustice: Gods Among Us

The Sovereign ruler of the Seven Seas, the champion of the deep, the once and future King of Atlantis makes a tsunami-sized splash as Injustice’s most recently revealed playable character. Armed with a trident and decked out in his royal raiment Aquaman looks more than capable of throwing down with best of the game’s heavy hitters.

Guys and gals, I don’t think you understand how excited I am for Arthur’s nautical nonsense! I’ve always been a fan of the character, especially since reading Peter David’s seminal run on the aquatic autocrat in nearly its entirety within the hallowed halls of MSU’s Special Collections Library. Arthur’s seen a much appreciated revival courtesy of Geoff Johns in the New 52’s Justice League and Aquaman series, and I’m happy to see that his badassery has transferred from the comics to the game.

The first thing that I noticed in the trailer was Aquaman’s outfit. NetherRealm has once again done an awesome job adapting the hero’s classic look to the gritty feel of the Injustice universe. The outfit is incredible, keeping the orange scale mail, but opting for what looks like neck/shoulder armor with shark tooth spikes along the neckline, and some cool gauntlets. Can you say warrior king? The only thing I take issue with is the trident he wields. I think it’s awesome that they gave him one, but it looks a little too… industrial? Mass produced? Boring? I could see every grunt in his army carrying one, but I think the King of the Ocean deserves something a little more ornate.

Aquaman fighting his brother Orm
A little something like this

Gameplay
 If we dig into the trailer it looks like Aquaman has options to fight both up close and from a distance. His trident normals give him a distinct range advantage against cast members that need to get in close to do damage (possibly) and he can pester opponents with ranged trident tosses (:11) and underground stab strikes(:10). I don’t think he’ll be winning any projectile wars against the likes of the Batman, Cyborg, or Green Arrow, but it’s nice to see they’ve given him the option to try it out.

You've got something in your eye!
You’ve got something in your eye!

Can he use his trident to anti-air enemies? You better believe it! You’ll notice at :46 he pops up Cyborg, impales him, and smashes him down on the opposite side. That could definitely be helpful for escaping the corner in a pinch. Want to punish grounded assailants? Stab ’em and electrocute ’em (:16). Insert pun about fried fish here. At one point Arthur calls down a lightning strike to fry his foe (:51). I’m thinking that this is an EX extension off of the underground stab strike attack. It’s got that famous NetherRealm sound effect and everything, plus it bounces the enemy up for more damage. Though at that distance it doesn’t look like there’s any way to get anything off of it. Maybe it’ll be more useful in the corner?

I’m thrilled that Aquaman is going to be playable in Injustice. I really am. The running for my main is between him and Captain Marvel (Shazam), though I imagine when Billy’s alter ego breaks out and starts busting stuff up and calling down the lightning Arthur’ll be relegated to my dedicated second. I can’t wait to see more footage of Aquaman and I can’t wait to get my hands on this game!

Unlimited Highlights: The Imperial Guard

5113fafac6f53How much do you know about the Shi’ar’s most awesome fighting force? Oh, next to nothing? THEN GET LEARNED SON! I’ve always been a huge fan of Gladiator, excuse me, Emperor Kallark’s abilities – powers fueled by confidence? Man where can I get me some of that?

And now that Isabel Dare is the first terran member of the Imperial Guard, new Superguardian Smasher no less? I gotta say, I’m very excited for the future. Oh and go pick up Avengers #5 if you want the skinny on that story! Anyway, my favorite book this week has gotta be New X-Men #124. There’s just nothing like the Cassandra Nova storyline. She’s so damn evil and horrible and it’s terrifying.

Anyway, go, read Unlimited Highlights!