Thursday, February 3, 2011

FYC Replay: White Picket Fences

Continuing the archiving of my columns from the Pulse spotlighting small press and self-published comics. This time it's White Picket Fences from Ape Entertainment created by Matt Anderson, Eric Hutchins, and Micah Clark Farritor.

Enjoy,
chris


For Your Consideration: White Picket Fences by Matt Anderson, Eric Hutchins, & Micah Farritor
By Chris Beckett



The 411:
White Picket Fences
Written by Matt Anderson & Eric Hutchins
Art by Micah Farritor
3-issues, full color
32 pages, $3.50 each
http://www.apecomics.com



What It Is (with apologies to Dave the Thune):

For those who remember enjoying bad science fiction movies on a rainy Saturday afternoon, White Picket Fences will be a wonderfully nostalgic romp. The team of Anderson, Hutchins and Farritor capture the feeling of those classic films beautifully and create an exciting comic tale within that milieu. Set in the 1950s, the story takes place in the town of Greenview somewhere in the Midwestern United States, but not our United States. This is the world that all of those bad (in a good way) black and white sci-fi films inhabit – Them!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. It is into this world that Anderson, Hutchins, and Farritor throw their readers – a world where alien invaders from Venus were handily destroyed by the United States with some help from our Martian neighbors.

Like any young boy, Charlie Hobson yearns for adventure. Warned against setting foot on the old Miller farm (it’s haunted), Hobson does what any inquisitive boy in his shoes would do. He goes right in and explores the dark and weathered barn. Finding no ghosts, young Charlie instead discovers a strange metal contraption encased in a glass pedestal that rises from the middle of the floor after he unknowingly flips the hidden switch (a trowel hanging on the wall). Taking this device home, Charlie is blissfully ignorant of the chain of events he has set in motion.

The next morning, the inhabitants of this sleepy town are awoken by the rumbling of an Army convoy in their streets. The alien trigger mechanism that Charlie Hobson found discharged and took out an unmanned satellite high above the planet. An alarm was sent through the upper echelons of the United States military establishment, and General Horace P. Whitman now leads a cadre of troops into Greenview. The troops are greeted with cheers, and although nobody knows exactly why they have come to town, most realize that something big is looming on the horizon and they should be ready for whatever hits.


Fallout shelters are prepped by some while others go down to the city park to greet the General as the mayor presents him with the key to the city. General Whitman is gracious, at least in public, but once they make their way to city hall he soon takes over, declaring martial law and placing himself in charge. The mayor protests but is unable to do anything and finds his office relocated to a janitorial closet.

As members of Captain Odyssey’s Space Rangers, Charlie, along with his friends Tommy Hamilton and Parker Jenkins, go to City Hall and offer their services. The soldiers’ laughter that greets them is unexpected and embarrassing but does not deter them. The three boys go around to the back of City Hall where Charlie makes his way through the ventilation ducts and ends up an anonymous observer to a meeting between the General and the Martian ambassador. The discussion is tense, ending with the ambassador from Mars storming out as the General berates him. Once they depart, the boy leaves a walkie-talkie beneath the mayor’s desk so the Rangers can learn what is going on. And what the boys discover is that they are right in the middle of this whole thing.

As a bonus, the creators include short back-up features in each issue starring everyone’s favorite space hero, Captain Odyssey. Whether defeating the Mutants of Magmos or saving the Knights of Salamandria, these short stories are fun additions to an already enjoyable comic. Done in the style of old science fiction comics, the ideas and action are big and bold, imbuing this book with that sense of excitement we all felt as kids whenever a new issue of our favorite comic would hit the stands.

The creators of White Picket Fences have really done their homework, or else they were reincarnated. The writing is very authentic; all of the characters talk as if they walked right out of 1950s America, and the inclusion of fallout shelters, the “Red” menace, and dinner discussions about “Jenkins in accounting” all add to the flavor of this series. Couple this honesty with what is also an exciting story that makes one long to be a ten-year-old boy again and you have a recipe for a great book.

I would be remiss if I did not also make mention of the artwork. Micah Farritor’s style matches the story perfectly. The images are playful while also ably grounding White Picket Fences within the time it resides. He too must have done some research in order to make everything look so real. From Charlie’s father in his long robe and pipe, to the old rotary phones and the clothing styles worn by the characters, it is a lesson in attention to detail that adds so much to this tale of adventure and excitement, allowing one to travel back to that age of wonder more easily. Farritor’s style is uniquely his own and I look forward to seeing more work from him in the future.

White Picket Fences is a book that evokes a feeling one cannot find in many comics today. It showcases the fun one can have working in comics, and shares a story of the wonderment these three creators must have felt in bringing this story to life. If you are looking for something new, and something unique, then you should definitely try out White Picket Fences from Ape Comics. It’ll be worth your time.


An Interview with Matt Anderson and Eric Hutchins

THE PULSE: Why comics? What was it that attracted you to this storytelling medium?

MATT ANDERSON: For me personally, comics are hands down the best form of entertainment. No matter what mood I’m in, what time of day or night it is, etc., I can always read a comic. So when I began to develop an interest in writing (around the same time I started reading comics – coincidence? I think not!) I naturally looked in the direction of comic books. While I would love to take a crack at writing a screenplay one day, I am more than happy to make comic books my permanent creative home.

ERIC HUTCHINS: Also, like film, it’s a highly visual medium. The primary difference from a creative standpoint being: If we want to show Martians, flying saucers, massive military mobilization etc., it doesn’t cost millions of dollars in special effects. If we can think it, and Micah can draw it, we’re in business.

THE PULSE: What was the inspiration for White Picket Fences?

MATT ANDERSON: Very simply, I’m a huge fan of both 1950’s science fiction films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and 1950’s Leave it to Beaver type sitcoms. Using those as a springboard, I wanted to create a world where we saw alien invasions, rampaging giant bugs, and other such wacky situations filtered through the na├»ve and innocent eyes of the perfect suburban family.

THE PULSE: With White Picket Fences, you have really captured the feel of a 50s-era science fiction tale. One thing that stands out for me is the dialogue and the cadence I can hear in my mind when I read it. Did this require any research on your part, or does the setting of the story stem from an affinity for this type of story?

MATT ANDERSON: I think it’s a combination of both. The affinity for the subject material was the main driving force behind the writing and the initial creation of White Picket Fences, but as with all things, you have to do your research. Thankfully for me, the research entailed the raiding of my own DVD collection and watching a bunch of movies and TV shows I love!


ERIC HUTCHINS: I mainly got the speech rhythms from Matt; I mean this era is his passion. The hardest part in many ways is accepting “period” specific words and phrases (like “swell” and “neat”) into your writing vocabulary. Once you do that, the characters just take over.

THE PULSE: The artwork adds a lot to the feel of the book, evoking the fun, retro sci-fi tone of White Picket Fences. Was this calculated or a happy coincidence, and how did you find Micah Farritor?

MATT ANDERSON: I’ve known Micah since high school, and we’ve been planning on working together for a long time. Once White Picket Fences came up, he was the first person I went to with it. So in that way, his artwork was very calculated because he was the first and (thus far) only artist to work on the book.

That being said, I really think Micah brings a very fresh approach to what is essentially supposed to be an old television show. If he had wanted to, he could have just coasted through the book by adhering strictly to the look of the movies and shows, but instead he brought all of his own sensibilities to White Picket Fences and still managed to capture the precise feel of the (fictional) 1950’s.

ERIC HUTCHINS: Absolutely. Micah was great to work with as a collaborator as well. We’d write a scene, or a panel, or a specific description and he’d call and ask “what about this,” or “wouldn’t this be cooler.” Well, sometimes he’d call, other times he’d just do it and we’d look at it and go “YES! Why didn’t we write it like that?”

THE PULSE: Do you guys have any other projects you’re working on that you would like to speak about?


MATT ANDERSON: We have a 48 page White Picket Fences special in the works right now. I’m really excited about it because we are offering two 20+ page stories – the first is written by myself and illustrated by Micah, the second is written by Eric Hutchins (co-writer of everything White Picket Fences) and illustrated by the super-talented Tim Lattie – who has recently joined the White Picket Fences creative team. If that’s not enough, the book rounds out with another short story starring Captain Odyssey (who first appeared in the back-up feature in each issue of the first series) – which will be written by Eric and myself, and illustrated by Micah.

In addition to the special, we are currently in the early stages of the next 3-issue White Picket Fences mini-series. Eric and I have the plot broken down, and we are going to be turning the scripts in to Ape Entertainment in early September, so hopefully we’ll have more to say about that soon!

Beyond that, I’ve got several ideas I would love to pitch to DC, I just need to get their attention first!

ERIC HUTCHINS: Matt and I also have a web comic that will be launching soon called Lazy Days, illustrated by Matt Jordan. Kind of a day to day slack fest based on our lives up till now.

If people want to stay up to date on White Picket Fences news, they can check out Ape Entertainment’s website at http://www.apecomics.com and also our ComicSpace page at http://www.comicspace.com/white_picket_fences

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