What is Lumen? Fake Video Game Manuals and The Dorks Who Love Them

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What if it was always night?

What if the sun never came up again? How could the world continue without sunlight? Life needs it to survive but what if there was an alternative?

More importantly: How could I make Green Lantern actually cool? Because Green Lantern sucks.

Not sorry.

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I’ve never liked the guy or his mythos. And out of all these questions that’s the one that really started all this.

Lumen began as a creative challenge to myself, if I was given the job of retooling Green Lantern and making that character interesting to me how would I do it? What would I keep, what would I throw out?

Turns out I’d throw out everything but the lantern.

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Because a hero or an explorer with a lantern, for me, that works. That’s primal. Hell, that’s the tarot.

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But before this story and its hero started coming together in my mind there was one other idea that I’ve had percolating for a long time: I’ve always thought that illustrated video game instructional manuals were an undervalued art form.

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I remember being a kid and pawing through my cousin Ben’s Zelda manual and be totally taken in by the artwork and storytelling therein. I was 7 or 8 and had never heard of The Hobbit so to me Zelda was my first big introduction to fantasy storytelling; at least beyond the Greek Myths I’d read and heard about in school. The format of the manual stuck to me. I have a love for it like I love my album artwork and liner notes for my favorite albums. And as a kid some of the first stories I’d create were video games in my mind. I’d draw out the levels and the characters and keep all the pictures together in big stacks. Those were my manuals.

Well, I got a little better at drawing since then and I have written a couple novels, so maybe it was time to try creating another make believe video game?

Which brings me to Lumen. This project is still far out but I’m really excited to start the conversation about it. I don’t wanna reveal too much of the story as I think it’s better to learn that from the manual itself but here’s the basics:

Lumen is the story of Esteban Vela. A young man living in a world of perpetual and unnatural darkness. The world has been this way for a millennium, the sun is now a myth. All after a falling star called “The Burning Beast” collided with the planet, destroying the empires of man and changing the atmosphere with a mysterious new layer known as “The Shroud.” The Shroud is what keeps the world permanently in the dark. But in addition to throwing the world into shadows the  Burning Beast also provided the new source of light and life for those lost in the dark. Lumen, a sort of land algae that emits a powerful glow begins to grow from the deeply imbedded core of the Burning Beast and into the rest of the world. This “Heart of Lumen” becomes the source of all light and life in the Shroud covered world which comes to be known as the “Nocterra.” Lumen is a living, harvestable substance with many uses and many of its characteristics and workings still not fully understood. Under its new light the world changes, new things grow. Some of them dangerous to the remaining humans…

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Under The Shroud with the light of Lumen evolution becomes rapid and humanity finds itself rivals with new races better suited to live in the Nocterra. Anglermen, feral and carnivorous beasts who use the spindly glowing lures growing from their backs to entice foolish humans hunting for Lumen in the wild,  wait in the shadows. And while they are fearsome the anglers are only the most well known of the dangers as so much of the Nocterra remains unexplored by what remains of humanity.

And what remains has changed… To better survive the Nocterra people have evolved to possess night eyes which shine in the night like the eyes of other nocturnal mammals.

Civilization has changed as well, survival has become key and most of the human world lives under the protection of the Nocterra Kingdom and its Lumen lit walls. But there are others who live outside the safety of castle walls. Hermits and madmen, ravagers and rebels. And of course the poor. Esteban Vela is sixteen years old and living outside the wall of the castle when he hears whispers that the Lumen is dying. Everywhere the glow is leaving. Panic hits and humanity rushes out into the dark to gather all the Lumen they can carry while it still lasts and the anglers lick their lips and wait to devour them all.

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One night Esteban sees a falling star, a small burning star of Lumen and he runs after it. Whether to use it for himself, to keep him alive in his cave or maybe to barter with to get him access inside the kingdom walls? He doesn’t have much time to think, he simply runs after the star. And when he finds it he also finds a strange suit of armor and a lantern. And that’s when the game begins…

Lumen is going to be illustrated instructional manual for an 8-Bit video game on the Alucinari Game System released in 1987. It’s going to be full color, have tons of awesome character designs, action scenes, item catalogs, maps, lists of bosses, allies, levels, dungeons (calling ‘em calabozos in this game) and tons of other stuff. They’ll be tons of crazy weird art and two stories: The first, the story of Lumen that unfolds as you play the game. The second, the story of Lumen the game and its console The Alucinari Game System and its sordid, controversial and possibly occult history.

That’s the idea at least.

Here’s some more rough sketches and idea fuel:

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Here’s some inspiration behind Esteban’s armor:

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Oh, and:

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And back to some more weird stuff of mine:

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better-5

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Review: Notes From the Shadowed City by Jeffrey Alan Love

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(Jeffrey Alan Love ‘s artwork gripped me the instant I saw it. If you’ve liked any of my newer pieces of artwork know that I’m using techniques learned from watching Love work online and reading interviews with him where he breaks down how he makes his textures. I found out about his art simply by looking up artists who use Pilot Parallel Pens, these are the pens I’ve been using lately and I’m quite taken by them and love to see who else uses them and to what purpose. Anyways, on to the book!)

This is a tremendous book. Lyrical, phantastic, whimsical, and surprisingly affecting for a book about the cataloging of magic swords.
The artwork here looks like scratched dreams engraved on tarnished medieval walls. But it’s the story that really makes the book work. Shadowed City nails the isolation of being an outsider in an unknown city, something anyone who’s moved to one can relate to. The city in this book just happens to be one full of masked swordsmen, winged sentries, other living floating cities replete with writhing tentacles, kings, wizards, and everyone, everyone wearing horns.

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This book feels like an invitation into a mythic fully realized other realm.

With Notes from the Shadowed City Jeffrey Alan Love has announced his intentions as a storyteller and visionary. So in other words, take note.

You purchase the book direct from the publisher here.

Or  through Amazon.com here.

Chicken Showers and Cursmudgeons: Boston Comic Con 2016 Wrap Party

 

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This was my 3rd Boston Comic Con and I did the worst I’ve ever done at this show.

I also had a fabulous time.

To explain: At cons I get a table, table costs money, most shows I make my “table money” back selling my books and prints and whatnot. Last year at Boston Comic Con I actually sold out of my book and made a nice stash of extra cash. I enjoyed this. This year I did just okay, made maybe 2/3rds of my table back but still, I had a good time.

I went home with ink stained fingers (a result of putting artsy smudges over my art) and still hating humanity but only as much as I love it.

Mostly I had a good time because I go to these things not just to sell my stuff and make my table money back at least (that is nice though) I go to get out of my fucking cave and see what my work does to people when they see it.

To see someone freak out over one of my prints, to watch them paw through my portfolio of originals and see the expression on their face change, to see it light up when they turn the page; to watch them read the back synopsis of Nefarious Twit and tell me, “This sounds great.” that’s the stuff I’ll go to conventions for.

I also go to talk to the rest of the folks who are busy practicing alchemy in their own caves. All my friends at Bad Kid Press who I share convention space with, all the talented creators who I’ve gotten to know in the Boston scene, all the pros who I get to talk shop or watch create on the spot; I learn something from everybody. And we find common ground.

Highlights this year for me:

Erik Larsen

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I’ve been reading Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen since it came out 20 years ago, met him once before in New York City, and this weekend my friend Jeff told me his line was finally gone at the end of the last day of the con so I frantically tried to draw my version of The Dragon for Erik to have but I kept screwing up the fin! So I went for one of my personal favorites from The Dragon’s rogues gallery (and an easy one to draw) and drew up Mr. Glum and me and Jeff walked over to Erik’s table and I gave him my scribbles. Larsen’s a totally nice guy, thanked me for it and asked me what pens I use and then talked to us about his own tools of the trade; even showed Jeff and I some of his pages and where he used his different tools.

This is a man who drew some of the first Spider-Man comics I ever read.

That’s why I go to cons.

Chicken Showers

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It was a very hot and sticky con this year, it was 95 degrees outside on Saturday in Boston, and we at Bad Kids Press might have had the hottest corner of the con (air conditioner was deader than disco hanging above us) so by the end of the day on Saturday I was a sweaty, hungry husk of a comic book creator. I take the train and then a bus to get home from the convention center so it’s about an hour and some change until I get back to where I live. I packed a nice little lunch for the con but didn’t have dinner at all so when I got home I immediately dropped all my art supplies, threw off my sweat-soaked clothes, tore open the fridge and grabbed a piece of chicken I cooked the night before and promptly took it with me into the shower and there, with no shame whatsoever, devoured it like some sort of feral, loofah using king.

Chicken showers are glorious; do try them if you have the chance.

This whole ordeal, this was a highlight.

Baby Groot is my Homie

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Guess what else was, I know a baby who’s become internet famous. My friends Dave and Tracie have a baby named Charlie and these cruel caregivers are constantly dressing up this little crumbsnatcher in various outlandish garbs. The child is too young to walk or voice his protest so he could not stop his folks from dressing him as Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Photos were taken at the con and now Charlie’s beautiful mug has taken over the internet and has been featured on Entertainment Weekly and whatnot. Oh, and the director of the movie himself tweeted the pic of Charlie as a reveal of how Groot will appear in the sequel.

That, that is why I go to con.

Also, I was 5 feet away from Gillian Anderson as she walked past me.

That is why I do anything.

So I can tell my 14 year-old self, “Dude, you’re never gonna guess what happened.”

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Welcome to the Oblivion Suite

This book is better than the bee’s knees, it’s the goddamn hornet’s shins.

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“1977, Figgy Pudding is the biggest prog rock band in the world.

But their success came at the cost of their former leader Vix Bixby’s sanity…

Now the remaining band members have been given the chance to save Vic from the clutches of his own creativity by entering the realm where ideas come from…

…the Oblivion Suite.”

 This is the long awaited second printing of my and Catalina Rufin’s comic book Oblivion Suite. Basically, I did a super small print run for Boston Comic Con and sold out in three days and then had no more copies. Then it took me a while to pony up the funds for a larger second printing, plus I had to get on the ball as an artist myself and produce my own color pinup to desecrate the pages within. But now it’s all done and dandy and it’s a damn fine looking funny book, folks.

The book is 75 pages of pure prog rock madness featuring the expressive, whimsical and dreamlike artwork of Catalina Rufin.

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Working with Catalina on this book has been a blast. Their imagination and boundless love and knowledge of all things prog is sprinkled throughout every page of this work.

And just to put a little extra mustard on it, we’ve got 5 color pin-ups included within the Oblivion Suite proper. These are from a small menagerie of comic book artists, each with a distinct style and feel that allows you to see the world of Oblivion Suite through a drastically different lens.

Sort of like cover songs.

But only the kind that DON’T suck.

Here’s Jesse Lonergan‘s version of the lads from Figgy dropping prog bombs on some adoring crowd:

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Here’s some chicken scratch from an eight year old with a moustache named Tony McMillen that’s maybe refrigerator worthy if you squint your eyes hard enough:

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Spencer Hawkes shows us the Figgy boys checking out a real stare case. (Shut up, that was funny):

22Ryan Quackenbush’s conjures Bowie meets Blade Runner alchemy for this concert poster for Frankie Gideon:

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Patt Kelley gives us a peek at the boys swimming for the stars, preparing to pass through the black:

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Lastly, I have to give a special thanks to my friend and frequent collaborator Dan Singleton. Dan designed the logos for this book and they class the joint up something fierce. That dude is a snazzletooth tiger and I’m not afraid to tell him that to his face. Or type that on the internet.

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So you’ve checked out the dreamy art, laughed or scoffed at the Spinal Tap meets Velvet Goldmine dialogue. Now that just leaves getting to know the band and the cast of our story:

Wyatt Sink, the control freak lyricist and keyboard player.

Zachary Rai, guitar god and voice man, though he can’t write a decent tune himself to save his life.

Ruford Gibbons, the drummer. In Catalina’s own words: “Precious manchild, stoner extraordinaire.” Yeps, that’s our Ruford.

Frankie Gideon, the outrageous glam rocker and possible adversary to Wyatt and the Figgy lads. Frankie is a cocktail with equal doses of Bowie, Bolan and Peter Gabriel for added spice.

Vic Bixby, the shattered and strung out genius at the heart of the Figgy universe.

And finally, Mista Bizness, the moustached, bowler hat donning sinister gentleman replete with snakes for fingers who has leapt off the album art of Oblivion Suite, Figgy Pudding’s latest concept album, and into the real world offering the band an invitation to save their former leader and dear friend Vic. But of course, with Bizness there’s always a price, so what will it cost the band?

Dunt dunt dunt!

But in all seriousness.

Dunt.

Oblivion Suite, 75 pages, 15 Bucks; which includes domestic shipping. To get your copy email us at tonymcmillen@gmail.com

Thanks.

First Look: Oblivion Suite

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Oblivion Suite is the story of the band Figgy Pudding, a 1970s progressive rock band offered a Faustian bargain allowing them to enter an alternate dimension based on their own music and concept records. There they’re given the chance to save their former bandleader, the enigmatic, brilliant and quite mad Vic Bixby.

Oblivion Suite is also a comic book created by myself and artist Catalina Rufin. Catalina is ridiculously talented and loves and knows more about progressive rock than any person who wasn’t actually in a prog band has any right to. Check out some of the artwork, click on ’em to embiggen and turn them into a slideshow:

Catalina has infused everything on these pages with so much damn charm and imagination, it’s been a really unique experience for me to witness Catalina conjuring up all of my descriptions and transforming them into a living breathing world, and I’ve loved every second of it.

Our story owes a heavy debt to the Pink Floyd mythos involving Syd Barett’s breakdown and the subsequent spectre he cast over the remaining band members and all of their later works. But Oblivion Suite is also its own thing and draws from a lot of prog rock hearsay and lore as well just good old-fashioned comic book creativity.

In other words:

We made a lot of it up.

Right now we have almost the entire book up on Tumblr and will be sharing more pages as the book progresses (Get it? Get it? Naw… you don’t get it…) Eventually we’ll collect the book into a proper edition with all sorts of bells, whistles and whackadoo cool-fangled other stuff.

Until then, read it on Tumblr from page 1 or just check out some random pages. Dig on the dreamy art, laugh at the Spinal Tap meets Velvet Goldmine dialogue. Most importantly, get to know the band and the cast of our story:

Wyatt Sink, the control freak lyricist and keyboard player.

Zachary Rai, guitar god and voice man, though he can’t write a decent tune himself to save his life.

Ruford Gibbons, the drummer. In Catalina’s own words: “Precious manchild, stoner extraordinaire.” Yeps, that’s our Ruford.

Frankie Gideon, the outrageous glam rocker and possible adversary to Wyatt and the Figgy lads. Frankie is a cocktail with equal doses of Bowie, Bolan and Peter Gabriel for added spice.

Vic Bixby, the shattered and strung out genius at the heart of the Figgy universe.

And finally, Mista Bizness, the moustached, bowler hat donning sinister gentleman replete with snakes for fingers who has leapt off the album art of Oblivion Suite, Figgy Pudding’s latest concept album, and into the real world offering the band an invitation to save their former leader and dear friend Vic. But of course, with Bizness there’s always a price, so what will it cost the band?

P.S. That tasty band logo was designed by Dan Singleton, he’s the best.