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A Good Week for Comic Artist Dave Wachter

on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 11:45

Thanks to the World Wide Web, creative types now have numerous ways to produce, publish and showcase their works. The traditional avenue of contracting with a major media outlet still exists, of course, but the opportunity of “doing it yourself” exists as well, regardless if one is a writer, filmmaker, musician or artist. A plethora of websites catering to this independent spirit exist on the Internet, while social media has become a viable marketing tool and crowd funding resources like Kickstarter and Indiegogo can assist with raising the necessary funds. It is a much different world than existed fifteen to twenty years ago, when writers and artists were subjected to the whims of entertainment professionals.

During the week of June 10, 2013, Pittsburgh-based comic book artist Dave Wachter was a shining example of how the processes of the past and present can intertwine and co-exist at the same time. On Wednesday of the week, for instance, Dark Horse Comics—the third largest comics publisher in the United States—released the first issue of a three-part series called Breath of Bones: A Tale of Golem that was illustrated by Wachter. In 2009, meanwhile, Wachter and comic book writer Jim Clark created The Guns of Shadow Valley, an online comic that is a part Western, part supernatural epic saga. With over half of the narrative completed, Dave Wachter launched a Kickstarter campaign on Friday, June 14, 2013, to raise $24,000 for the completion of the project—reaching over fifty percent of that goal within the first sixteen hours alone.

Croaker Begins Filming in Canonsburg

on Tue, 06/11/2013 - 12:38

In Slavic mythology, a Vodyanoy—also known as a Vodnik—is a man-like fish with a long-greenish beard who resides along riverbeds in Eastern Europe. Although tradition states that there are both good and evil Vodnici, the evil version is known to drown innocent humans who stray into their territory and store the victim’s soul in porcelain lid-covered cups. Although the Vodnik is associated with the 1600s, the mythological creature has apparently found its way to the Pittsburgh region during the Twenty First Century and taken up residency in a Canonsburg sewer pipe.

At least that is the basic premise of Croaker, a feature length production current being filmed by writer-director Fred Terling in his hometown. “I went down to Canonsburg and all the different places I’d spent time in growing up on the river, fishing in the creek,” Terling explained to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “All of these memories started to coalesce and swirled around me and I got this idea of doing this film that involved those things.” According to the mythology of Croaker, the Vodnik was created as a curse against the Sirko family of Poland in 1648, and has been resurrected against decedents of the family name now living in Western Pennsylvania. Terling has added a touch of Canonsburg history to the narrative as well by incorporating the radioactive effects the area suffered due to waste residuals from nearby Standard Chemical.

Pittsburgh Thinkathon and Civic Hacking

on Thu, 06/06/2013 - 09:56

For most people, the word “hack” refers to the illegal entry into a computer network with the intent of stealing information or wreaking havoc on the system. A new definition has emerged in recent years, however, as computer programmers and software development engineers have begun to use the term to mean the exploitation of collected data in a way that benefits rather than harms society. In order to facilitate this modern form of “hacking,” forty-eight hour marathons are often organized, allowing technological experts to work together in order to design applications that meet the above criteria.

One such hackathon was held across the United States over the weekend of June 1, 2013—during what was proclaimed “National Day of Civic Hacking”—and Pittsburgh was one of the many cities involved in the proceedings. The resulting Pittsburgh Thinkathon attracted seventy-two registered participants, who were in turn led by eleven representatives of local tech companies. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, proposals generated from the Thinkathon include software applications geared towards assisting students track their eligibility for Pittsburgh Promise, helping residents and visitors find unique locales around the city that are not usually found on a map, and making it easier to for drivers to interpret the varying parking regulations throughout the region.

Game Changer Award Recipient Jesse Schell

on Tue, 06/04/2013 - 09:55

Games for Change was founded in 2004 as way to both facilitate and promote video games that are more than just entertainment but serve as educational tools as well. Pittsburgh game designer Jesse Schell, meanwhile, founded Schell Games two years earlier with a similar goal of creating games that differed from the violent-themed versions that often dominate the industry. These complimentary efforts will now intersect on June 18, 2013, when Games for Change honors Jesse Schell as the first recipient of its “Game Changer Award” during a special tenth anniversary celebration in New York City.

“Through his work, teaching, and incredibly successful talks, Jesse inspires young game designers and students to look at their craft beyond its commercial value,” Asi Burak, co-president of Games for Change, says of Schell. “He has become one of the most vocal voices in support of the transformational power of digital games. And Jesse walks the walk by dedicating much of his studio’s work to educational and social change related projects. Jesse is a perfect role model for aspiring designers, as throughout his career he has led by giving back—sharing his knowledge, expertise and enabling others to excel.”

The Jim Rugg Supermag Tour

on Mon, 06/03/2013 - 09:55

What do Nazi-fighting golfers, killer gorillas, Bigfoot the Monster Truck and Vanilla Ice have in common? They are all part of Pittsburgh independent comic book artists Jim Rugg’s latest release, Supermag. “I grew up in a small town where culture was the local video store,” Rugg explained to Pop City of his many influences. “I’m informed by junk culture, toys and old television, old comics and genre movies, professional wrestling, a lot of low-brow junk entertainment.” Supermag serves as evidence of this fact, a mixture of both new and old creations that have been reformatted into a “notebook” format that explores the many aspects of pop culture, comic books and magazines, and the creative mind of Jim Rugg.

In support of Supermag, Rugg has embarked on a mini-tour that has taken him from Arizona to California to Nevada, with a stop in North Carolina still to come. Two appearances are scheduled for Pittsburgh, meanwhile, the first being on June 5, 2013, at Phantom of the Attic in Oakland with the second coming later in the month at Copacetic Comics in Polish Hill. It is fitting that the Steel City has twin events—which include Rugg on hand to autograph copies of Supermag—as the artist was born in the region and continues to reside here. Although based out of Pittsburgh, however, Rugg’s work has appeared in major comic book publishers like Marvel, DC and Dark Horse, as well as national magazines along the lines of New York Magazine and Wired.