I awoke from an amazing dream this Christmas morning. I happened upon a big convention-type audience room full of people and realized it was an Everwinds convention. Everwinds was a short-lived comic I did in the ’90’s that was published by Slave Labor/Amaze Ink.
They were just finishing showing some clips from the Everwinds T.V. show and there was a woman seated next to the screen taking questions. Turns out she played the creator of Everwinds on the show. Some people were asking her questions as though she was the actual creator, which I found highly amusing.
Out in the lobby I approached one of the convention goers who was getting money from an ATM. I asked him general questions about his life, and was leading up to asking how Everwinds had affected him. I didn’t say who I was, and realized he might think I was hitting on him (ha!).
As I was interrogating him a couple in their 20’s, very excited, approached me. I could tell they had recognized me, and the man asked to shake my hand while the woman stood a few feet away. He started to ask me an Everwinds-specific question and I put my finger to my lips and made a “shh” sound, as the other guy I had been talking to was still standing nearby waiting, and didn’t seem to know who I was.
Cut to outside the convention hall, where I was washing someone’s feet. There were other convention goers waiting to get their feet washed too; my hands were puffy and ragged and it was clear I had been doing this for a long time. I don’t remember if any of them recognized me, but it didn’t seem to matter anyway.
Final shot was of the very end of the last day of the convention, and overhead shot looking down at the audience seats. There was only a handful of random people left here and there watching the last presentation.
This is issue #5 of YES FANZINE, published by me, Steve Peters of Awakening Comics, it is a zine dedicated to celebrating the band YES in all of its incarnations. It contains photos of the band, interviews, and fan art.
Some of the highlights of issue #5 include:
-Photos from the 1976 Yessolos Tour featuring Roger Dean’s Crab Nebula (Featuring Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, and Patrick Moraz) -Trevor Horn cutout mask by Brian Payne done in the style of Gentle Giant’s Giant For a Day album -Photos from the 1988 Big Generator Tour -Photos from the 2001 Magnification Tour (Featuring Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, and Tom Brislin) -Remembering Chris Squire by Billy Sherwood -A column by Steve Howe’s guitar tech -Caption Contest winners
“I like hearing mistakes in my music, because it seems to me that people are trying, and that risks are being run.”
—Bill Bruford on BBC’s Sounding Out program, 1972
10 improvised experimental instrumental pieces, each featuring drum loops by Bill Bruford.
Guitar, bass, keyboard, and additional percussion parts recorded by Steve Peters over the course of a week during the lockdown in June 2020.
The descriptions written for each song capture a moment in time, one artist’s experience of a pandemic. Things have already changed since these impressions were laid down, but the unique experience is preserved like a fly in amber.
Without A Net
Black Lives Matter
The New Normal
1. Twenty Twenty
We often hear media pundits speculating on how we’ll look back on the SNAFU that is 2020—quarantines, disinformation, misinformation, monstrous abuses of power, misguided crusades. Well, you know what they say about hindsight…The music in this piece is like the year: starts out straightforwardly enough, but doesn’t take long to devolve into complete nonsense.
2. Boxed Consciousness
Our normal field of vision is so much larger, but we spend so much time (even moreso now that we’re stuck indoors) restricting it to a box we hold in our hands or on tabletops or on our walls…and then divide it further into smaller boxes withing the boxes: comments, links, advertisements…
3. Alone Together
Sociable people are missing the physical presence of their friends and family…fortunately the internet has allowed us to remain in contact. Some people have even been in touch with folks they don’t often speak to. Some are using the opportunity to make brand new connections.
4. Without A Net
All of these songs are improvised, so they sometimes go off the rails at any given moment. Sometimes a song goes great then comes apart at the last moment. Navigating the pandemic is similar—we have no precedent for this experience; we just muddle through and try not to fall off the tightrope.
People have found the arrival of these potentially ecologically harmful Asian hornets to be symbolic of the mess that is 2020 and have included them in their Bingo cards of plagues that have befallen us. I thought it was a badass song title and found the music in this piece to be evocative of these creepy crawlies.
Many of us discovered Duncan Trussell after his series The Midnight Gospel dropped during the pandemic. One episode shows a world powered by meat and populated with meat clowns, based on an actual existing loaf of meat product. I thought the music here suggested a demented circus.
This statement needs to be repeated and emphasized until our brothers and sisters are treated as equals. It is shocking that we are now in the 21st century and that is still not the case. The amount of racists and ideologues out there is heartbreaking.
8. Advancing Unmasked
Almost as disappointing are the people who refuse to wear masks during a global pandemic because they are uncomfortable or because they impinge upon the wearer’s freedom. They say that they are willing to take the risk, but they fail to see that by doing so they put others at risk.
9. The New Normal
If we had a crystal ball a year ago and saw how we are living now, we might be horrified. We accept the way things are because many of the changes happened incrementally over time, like a dictatorship taking over a country gradually by spreading misinformation, militarizing its police force, and sabotaging its postal system.
10. Zombie Virus
During the pandemic I discovered and devoured Kengo Hanazawa’s zombie manga, I Am A Hero, which hugely inspired me. I felt the manic atonal drive of this song reflected the bizarreness of the series and its highly unique and grotesque take on the genre. Our own real-life virus brought all sorts of strange and unexpected zombies out of the woodwork. We can only hope that in the end, this is all to the good.
THE FIRST FRIGHT WATCH ALBUM
The first album in this ongoing project, the eponymous album The Fright Watch (here is the Kickstarter campaign from 2018), had a number of musician friends playing the various instruments, and about half of the songs used Bill Bruford drum loops. Having no access to other musicians during the height of the quarantine, I decided to record everything myself (other than the drum loops, as I’m not a drummer) for the Pictures of a Pandemic project.
BIANCA: When Steve proposed the idea of doing a Comicverse strip I was all for it! It’s been really fun to have them react to things I love like Star Trek, and modern comics and movie controversies. We’ve also have fun having special callers weigh in, who are friends and fellow comics creators as Lekrus! Plus, aren’t Steve’s chibi-esque versions of the crew so darn’d cute?
STEVE: I wanted to do a new Comicverse strip that was more in line with the original idea for the series—a weekly strip dealing with the latest comic book developments that everyone was talking about, one that could potentially appear in the websites and/or newsletters of comic book shops. It was Bianca’s idea to make it a podcast, which is the perfect venue for talk about nerd culture.
In a phone call with Dave Sim, he gave me the idea to try a new approach, and I eventually found out that he was working on Cerebus in Hell? at the same time, which uses similar methods. The technique I came up with after our conversation is sort of like Colorforms for Photoshop. If you’re not familiar with Colorforms, a Google image search should enlighten you.
The background is the setting, and you place your character overlays on top of it to stage your scenes. I’ve been creating a number of facial expressions and body poses for use in any situation. I’ve been posting examples of these and am talking about the process on my Patreon page.
In Comicverse: Subspace Chatter #1, the Comicverse characters take a break from their comedic sci-fi adventures to do a nerd culture podcast, transmitted straight from the comic book shop on the Final Frontier. They review old sci-fi shows like Space: 1999 and Star Trek: The Next Generation, tackle the latest comic book controversies (such as Captain America working for Hydra, the woman-only screening of the Wonder Woman movie, and Doctor Who being cast as a woman), and satirize indy comics (such as Max Ink’s Blink and Cerebus In Hell). 60 pages.
In 2017, we launched Comicverse: Subspace Chatter, a spinoff of The Comicverse in which Rei and his pal Ying the Dragon, owners of a comic book shop in space, do a podcast (in comic book form) about sci-fi, comics, and pop culture.
In this new, second issue of Subspace Chatter, we somehow ended up with an entire issue made up of stories and reviews about either Star Trek or Star Wars. So for our opening piece, we decided to post that age-old question: Star Trek or Star Wars? Bianca wrote responses for many of the Comicverse characters, but we added to the piece by posing the question to followers of the Comicverse Facebook page. Carrying on the tradition started in the first issue, we turned these readers into Comicverse aliens for this piece.
We also turned to our readers for the next story/”podcast”—the Han Solo movie was about to come out and had yet to be given a title. So we asked our readers to come up with a name for the movie using only quotes from the original Star Wars trilogy, with predictably hilarious results!
“Barclay Day” starts out with Rei and Ying doing a podcast entirely devoted to Star Trek’s cult favorite character, Lieutenant Barclay. Ying soon finds himself in a Groundhog Day-type situation, reliving the day of the podcast over and over. He finally decides to create a hologram of Lt. Barclay in order to ask him for advice on how to get out of his predicament. This is one of the most story-driven entries we have done so far in Subspace Chatter, which up ’til now has mostly been reviews and podcasts in comic book form.
For our last two pieces, we turned to our artist friends mentioned at the top of this page for guest illustrations, and Steve did a number of illustrations in his finely crosshatched style, many of which are available here as rewards. The first one is a review of the classic Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe episode, “Crossover”. As with the Space: 1999 review in Subspace Chatter #1, Ying finds himself experiencing the same events as in the episode—when he sees the normally grouchy Rei with a goatee and in a great mood, he begins to realize he’s been transported to the Mirror Universe! Steve’s longtime pal Anthony Casperite drew 3 panels in his wonderful Bill Sienkewicz/Jim Mahfood-type style, plus we got great contributions from Lee Thacker, Max Ink, and Flor de Canela.
Finally, Rei and Ying do a review of “The Last Jedi”. Much like the fans, they have very mixed feelings about the movie. Dre Grigoropol and Corey Bechelli both kindly delivered several illustrations of various TLJ scenes, plus we got single panels from Lee Thacker, Mike Sgier, Bryan Douglas, and Brian Payne.
If you are a Star Trek and/or Star Wars fan, we think you will enjoy these podcast/reviews and our illustrations of key scenes. Thanks for your support!
The Comicverse is a sci-fi romantic comedy set in a comic book shop on a space station, written by Bianca Alu-Marr and drawn by me, Steve Peters. In 2013, we started a comic called Comicverse: Behind The Counter, a spinoff that Bianca wrote for other artists to illustrate. At the time, I’d already started Parallel Comicverses, though I didn’t have a name for it yet. I did know it would feature an alien character based on me named Esteban (a comic book artist that had a small role in the Comicverse series), and that it would be written by me and by other guest writers. Of course Bianca ended up writing part of it too, just as I drew parts of Behind The Counter. The final product, Parallel Comicverses #1, is a softcover black and white, digest-size book, with 80 pages of comics and 44 pages of glimpses at the creative process.
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS: Parallel Comicverses #1 focuses on three things I am passionate about: Star Wars, the music of a band called Yes, and comic books, most specifically a comic called Cerebus. However, since the comic’s stories are told through the eyes of a 31st century alien, these three things are familiar yet…different.
The new comic includes an 18-page homage/parody of Star Wars written by Bianca and drawn by myself and a host of guest artists: Samuel Alexander, Corey Bechelli, Dre Grigoropol, Flor de Canela, Max Ink, Brian Payne, Bob Pistilli, Daniel Sponton, Joe Tedesco, Lee Thacker, Raphael Tiberino, Jason Young, and Caitlin Zellers.
Our version has elements similar to Star Wars but uses Comicverse aliens as the main characters, and also recalls the old Flash Gordon comics that were a big influence on Star Wars. Bianca and I had a huge amount of fun creating it and getting our artist friends involved in the project.
In Esteban’s world, the music of Yes has become a teaching that is passed on, much like Zen Buddhism has been given from master to student over the eons here on Earth. In Parallel Comicverses, the band is called “Yeah”, and look and sound very much like the classic Yes lineup. Max Ink wrote a story for me which shows how Esteban takes refuge in Yes music to get away from the noise and chatter of everyday life. I’ve also done a longer story in which my character has a cosmic religious experience at a “Yeah” concert, which is based on one of my experiences at a Yes show. Here’s a page from Max’s piece:
For the Cerebus portion of the comic, I’ve created a 3-headed aardvark called Cerberus. I decided the best course would be to turn to Cerebus’ creator himself, Dave Sim. Dave has been kind enough to participate in several of my jam comics in the past, but he’s had problems with his hand and had to stop drawing, so I asked him to write a story for me instead. The end result is a 15-page story that is called “Cerberus Conquers The Universe!” and has a lot of in-jokes that I’m sure Cerebus readers will find amusing. It’s been a blast drawing Cerebus characters in their mutated alien forms, and Dave Sim called the finished piece “REMARKABLE” (all caps!) and “Well worth the wait”.
The book also opens with a 24-page prologue (which originally began as a 24-hour comic that I ended up finishing later because I got a little too ambitious…but that is another story!) that introduces Esteban and details the three things he loves, and explains how each have their own controversies attached to them, and how this nearly poisons his love for them, because the 31st century version of the internet has trolls that are 10 times worse than our present-day ones. You can read the prologue here.
The Comicverse is a sci-fi comedy about a comic book shop on a space station written by Bianca Alu-Marr and illustrated by Steve Peters for the past 10 years. Comicverse: Subspace Chatter is a spinoff series in which the Comicverse characters do a space podcast about comics, sci fi, and nerd culture.
In the latest issue of Comicverse: Subspace Chatter, The space station has been put under lockdown due to an alien virus making the usually jovial and friendly aliens, the Varials, paranoid and hostile. The germ of the idea for the issue came during our own global pandemic. Artist Steve was listening to NPR and heard that it was important for us to write accounts of our experiences of quarantine for future generations to know what it was like. Steve felt that artists especially need to capture the essence of what it’s like, as this is a singular moment in history—we’ve never had a pandemic happen with the technology we currently have at our disposal.
In the comic, Rei, Ying the dragon, and friends come up with creative ways to pass the time through their spacecast, Subspace Chatter, which they are recording from their apartment instead of at The Comicverse, which is closed due to the quarantine.
Bianca, being a Star Trek fan (Next Gen and DS9 are her favorites), offered the idea of a spacecast about the viruses of Star Trek, which was dubbed “Trek Goes Viral”. She was curious to go back and see how the show handled outbreaks amongst the crew and other alien species. What she didn’t realize is that there would be so very many viruses to choose from between Star Trek the Animated Series, TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT! It was very labor intensive to comb through each of the episodes, summarize them and pick out some interesting points of interest from the episodes to discuss. Steve helped with some of that too when Bianca came down with virus episode fatigue! But in the end it was well worth it, as Steve drew some detailed, crosshatched illustrations of some of the episodes, along with other depictions by Max Ink, Corey Bechelli, Anthony Casperite, Flor de Canela, Lee Thacker, and Dre Grigoropol.
“Sig City Social Club” is inspired by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Alexander Siddig’s Sid City Social Club, a twice-weekly Zoom meeting in which Sid talks to his fans one on one. The show was created during the quarantine specifically to give fans the chance to reach out to one another, and to give people something to do! Artist Steve was a guest on the show (you can watch it here; Steve is the first guest), and Steve and Bianca got such a kick out of it that they fictionalized it, having Rei go on the Lekru (a species of Comicverse alien) version of Siddig’s show.
Finally, “Sin Kevitch Challenge” is inspired by the Bill Sienkiewicz challenge (check it out here). For laughs, Sienkiewicz posted an old reference photo of himself he had come across in which he’s in the buff and pointing a gun, with a black box strategically covering his posterior. The internet went wild with the image, as hundreds of artists began to using pose as reference and posting the results. As with “Sig City”, “Sin Kevitch” is the Lekru version of the famous comic book artist. Of the three stories in the book, this one is the most loosely related to the real-life quarantine—it happened during that time, and perhaps many of the artists who contributed did so because they found themselves with lots of extra time on their hands.
For “Sin Kevitch”, Steve drew a number of versions and got friends to draw some as well. Guest participants in the challenge were James Windsor-Smith, Lee Thacker, David Branstetter, Michael Anthony Carroll, Anthony Casperite, Matt Dow, and Corey Bechelli. Steve did drawings in the styles of other artists like Michael Golden, Shannon Wheeler, Brian Payne, Dave Sim, Jim Woodring, and Moebius.
THE COMICVERSE #5: LIVE LIKE YOU’RE DYING is the latest issue from Comicverse creators Steve Peters and Bianca Alu-Marr. The Comicverse is a sci-fi comedy about a comic book shop on a space station. At the end of the last issue of The Comicverse, our heroes were returning home after a harrowing ordeal. Issue 5 picks up right where that story left off, with the Comicverse gang arriving and looking for some much needed rest and relaxation.
However, they soon discover that their adventure is far from over. Due to a shocking sci-fi twist, the C-versers discover that it is very likely that they only have 24 hours to live! They set off to live out what could be their final hours to the fullest.
At 72 pages, The Comicverse #5 is the longest issue to date. This new issue is an examination of the fragility of life. We live out our existences never knowing what our appointed hour is, and death can often come unexpectedly. Though this is a poignant tale, it is no somber meditation on mortality. The C-verse characters handle their situation with grace and humor, and they discover new facets of themselves and each other along the way. Ultimately, The Comicverse #5: Live Like You’re Dying is a celebration of life.
Here’s a review of The Comicverse #5 from one of our readers who backed the new issue ittle feedback. People don’t write letters anymore, so we’ve never had a letters column. It’s reviews like this by people who get it, that come every few years from folks like Adam McGovern and Chris Galvan, that really help keep us going!
MICHAEL HUNT’S NOTES FROM THE TUB
I recently received the latest issue of Steve Peters’ and Bianca Alu-Marr’s Comicverse (#5) and eagerly devoured it this morning
.Comicverse is a romantic-comedy set in a comic shop on a space station. There are two main story threads. The budding romance of Rei, the proprietor of the shop, and Aki, a cargo ship pilot, appears to be the heart of the book, while the unfolding mystery of the origin of Rei’s pet/friend dragon drives the series overarching plot.
For all of its “inside comics” references and science fiction pretensions, this is a comic that celebrates the quiet moments in life, the seemingly inconsequential. Its humor is gentle, warm, and character driven. Simple, clean illustrations belie Peters’ characters’ subtly emotive expressions and body-language. Alu-Marr’s dialogue is natural and she handles the many voices of the diverse cast well.
This issue was surprisingly touching and bittersweet. I was taken somewhat aback by how effective and affecting it was. Comicverse just keeps getting better.
The Comicverse #5, published by Awakening Comics, March 2017. Black and white, manga-size, 72 pages.
This is issue #4 of YES FANZINE, published by me, Steve Peters of Awakening Comics, it is a zine dedicated to celebrating the band YES in all of its incarnations. It contains photos of the band, interviews, and fan art.
Some of the highlights of issue #4 include:
-Exclusive interviews with Tom Brislin and Michael Sherwood. -Photos from Trevor Rabin’s first gig with YES. -Billy Sherwood’s YES Tour Diary. -Pictures from YES’s 50th anniversary show with Patrick Moraz and Trevor Horn. -Anderson Rabin Wakeman Tour Photos. -Payne’s Paper Dolls featuring Rick Wakeman. -Comics about ‘Journey To The Center of the Earth’ by Bryan Douglas. -A profile of Steve Howe’s Portuguese 12-string written by his guitar technician.