Featuring the Webcomics and Graphic Novels, Fantasy and Sci-Fi by Mark Oakley!
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What is, Thieves & Kings?

“Thoroughly engrossing self-published black-and white fantasy saga. [. . .] This is a story for fans of Bone, Elfquest, Nausicaa, or Harry Potter to fall in love with; highly recommended for teen and adult fantasy readers everywhere.”

   -The Library Journal

Learn about Mark Oakley and his work!

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Mark’s sci-fi Web Comic!

Stardrop! Featuring the space Princess Ashelle living on Earth.
Bi-weekly webcomic!

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Articles of Note:

How to Stay Sane in an Insane World - Top 3 diet changes (not what you think!)


MadMax and Tomorrowland - Reality Splitting Decisions...


Star Wars the Force Awakens - JJ Abrams is a Lightweight


The Mysterious meta-Jenny


I Will Not Hate Because You Want Me To


Response to Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing


Art Software Review - OpenCanvas 6


Why Facebook is an unreliable tool for the Self Publisher


Three Questions from a Beginner Cartoonist


Comics in the New Media ~ How to Publish Comics on Tablets and eReaders Without Getting Ripped Off


Mark at the Movies:Superman, Man of Steel. Propaganda to dim the spirit and fan your fears.


Mark at the Movies: What do, Mirror Mirror, Hunger Games and Cabin in the Woods all have in common? More than you think!


Drawing Democracy


365 Days of Digital Cartooning - Drawing Comics on a Tablet PC


UPDATED!
Tablet button bar Button for Photoshop / PaintTool Sai / MangaStudio5


Photoshop CS4 vs CS5 Speed Comparison for Tablet PC


Photoshop Speed-Up Trick for Digital Art


Portable Drafting Board - Drawing Comics Outdoors

 

 
   Stardrop. . .
Connect with me on Facebook!
Mini Mysterious Theater. . .

Jen Jacobs, aka, "Regular Jen" is in her student apartment.
 
She has just returned from a successful shopping excursion to the local thrift store. She found cute skirt and a flashy pink top for which she paid altogether only $8.59. —An unbelievable steal when compared to the average sticker price common in any modern fashion boutique. —And neither article of clothing bore any defect or trace of having been worn by previous owners. Jen wonders how this is possible and suspects the local thrift store might be involved in some kind of racket.
 
Now, a skirt and top like these are by no means the sort of saucy ensemble Jen would normally feel comfortable wearing around town, (though Ashelle had been so excited that she had managed to convince her to wear them home from the thrift store. A daring and somewhat anxiety-hued bus journey was the result). So no, not regular day clothes to be certain, but they will compliment nicely her on-stage persona.
 
Jen Jacobs is the lead guitarist in the super-cool, all-girl 80's punk rock band, "The June Rocks!".
 
The fact that both the 80's and the mass popularity of punk rock have long since faded into fond and slightly embarrassing memories in the collective human awareness before Jen was even out of junior high is of little consequence.

 
scene 1 scene 2

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STARDROP



Please become my Patron! It's super-easy; see Patreon to find out how. -Now, don't worry; everything will remain free to read here, (many of my readers do not have credit cards, after all). But I'm a full-time cartoonist and I need to pay the bills. There are hundreds of folks reading, so those who are able, please consider chipping in with as much or as little as you choose. Even a buck a month would be a blessing! Those of you who have already extended your support, oh my goodness, Thank-You! It literally means the world to me!

Also.., Jenny Mysterious is now LIVE and will have regular weekly updates! Yessss! Been a long time coming. Jump to her section below. Thanks everybody!

New Episode #278 - Next Episode, Thursday Feb 9th
webcomic Stardrop by Mark Oakley www.iboxpublishing.com

                        

 


Digital Editions Now Available


"High Resolution For Tablets!"
$8.25 CAD
Download Stardrop Volume 1    Download Stardrop Volume 2

-No DRM -No Hassles -Super High Quality -Whole Books with all the extras!

Technical note: I'm using a new sales system for this which doesn't require all kinds of complicated filling out of forms and such. The back-end magic is worked by Gumroad, an awesome new on-line system designed just for digital content; easy payment, reliable delivery, no mucking around. -And holy smokes! They play fair, taking 5% + 25 cents per transaction. Are you paying attention Apple and Amazon? This is how it's done.


NEW! Stardrop eBook
Now Available!

(See the Studio News (below) for the scoop on this!)



Tip StarDrop's cartoonist!

Visit the Australian StarDrop Mirror.
(Thanks to Andrew and Katherine for their wonderful support over the years!)

 
 
   Jenny Mysterious. . .
Read the latest stuff before everybody else. Become a Patron!

February 25th, 2017
New Pages posted - 166 to 169
I've decided to publish the long-talked about Jenny Mysterious free on-line, with new pages every week, starting right now! BUT I am asking folks to become Patrons. Please support my comics with as little or as much as you choose with a monthly subscription, (even just a dollar would be fine!). It's really easy. See my Patreon page for details.

-Check out the cool perks!

Thanks everybody!


webcomic Jenny Mysterious by Mark Oakley www.iboxpublishing.com
    

Please Vote! (You can vote for both Jenny and Stardrop without conflict.) Thank-you!
    New: Reader's Art!


 
 
   Thieves & Kings. . .

Sample Chapter from, Thieves & Kings, Volume 3, "The Blue Book"

Thieves & Kings, page from the graphic novel series by Mark Oakley www.iboxpublishing.com

Thieves & Kings is not a webcomic. It's an all-ages fantasy/adventure graphic novel series which I've been working on since 1994. It is nearly done; I hope to wrap up the story in the 7th volume, (currently in production). The chapter featured here offers a good example of what it's like to read Thieves & Kings. --It's a peppy sequence, and it contains both regular comic pages, and some text pages. It doesn't show much of the title character, (Rubel) and none of the Shadow Lady, but Heath and Varkias carry the show quite nicely. I do hope you enjoy this sample of my work!

 
 
   The Walking Mage. . .

The Walking Mage webcomic #2 - Fired

The Walking Mage is a complete story. Originally it was done in black & white, (which you can check out here, if you like). I wanted to experiment with color and so began by using a computer to color the Walking Mage for its print release. After a few panels I decided that it would be a lot more fun to paint it by hand, and so switched to water-color around episode six.

The story itself is quite a good little yarn; funny and pointed in many places, as political satire ought to be. I was actually quite surprised to learn this! I found myself laughing out loud in several places. --I don't know why this story in particular was so hard for me to accept, but it was. I avoided reading it for several years after it first went to press. The ending is rather abrupt, but it was a serial strip, after all.

So anyway, after having let this web-comic languish in the digital attic, I've decided to pull it out and post it again for all the world in its full-color glory. This is the first time the Walking Mage has been available in full color on the web. I hope you enjoy the adventures of Quinton and Varkias. Cheers!

 
 
   News From the Studio. . .

Mark at the Movies!

 

June 21st, 2013


Okay. Fine.

Let's do Superman then. "Man of Steel".

I'll do the short review first:

Don't go. Instead, head outside into the sunshine and spend some time with friends. Maybe go to a park and throw a frisbee around. Or hang out at a coffee shop. Or go for a walk. Or a bike ride. The real world is a lot brighter than the inside of a theater, and you can find genuine warmth and kindness if you want. Revel in life! Smell the air and fill your spirit with good stuff. You'll feel great!

The end.

Okay. Now for the long review:

First of all, let me be clear: I came away from this popular film feeling shaken and miserable. Man of Steel wasn't an innocent piece of entertainment. It was propaganda, both political and spiritual. Out and out mind control, or an attempt at any rate. So yeah. Yuck.

From the first moment of the story, our subconscious is directed thusly:


The name of Christopher Nolan's production company is the last word we see before the opening scene, big, grim and bold across the screen: "Syncopy".

I don't have to tell anybody who knows anything about the internal workings of the subconscious that your brain isn't seeing some clever word combination about technical movie processes like audio synching or film copying . I mean, yeah, it might see that, but it's also registering the term, "Sin Copy". (And as it happens, the word "Syncopy" wasn't chosen because of its etymological proximity to technical film industry words, but rather, according to Wikipedia, "The name Syncopy Films derives from "syncope", the medical term for fainting or loss of consciousness."

Oh, lovely. That's not creepy at all.

Anyway, a few seconds later we are treated to the pained cries of Superman's mom going through birth labor. Largely indistinguishable from any of the media's frequent portrayals of torture, she and her husband are in agony, howling into the cold darkness. (Who gives birth in a cold, dark alien chamber anyway?) Is Superman the "Sin Copy"? I dunno. It doesn't matter. I'm not going to bother reading too much into that, but for goodness sake, when I make books I put an effort into thinking how the subconscious might interpret word and visual combinations, because it really does make a difference. I don't want my readers feeling creeped out and uncomfortable for reasons they can't quite put their finger on. I find that keeping an eye on those sorts of connections and smoothing them out when I see them makes for a better reading experience. So purposeful weirdness or just ignorant craftsmanship, Man of Steel manages to launch from the wrong foot right at the get-go.

And so mom is howling in protracted pain for a good quarter minute or more, thus engaging our fight or flight response, our automatic and ancient amygdala brain structure getting several of its buttons pushed all at once, hard. -Which, by the way, is well-recognized by the ad industry, (and propaganda masters the world over), as being one of the most effective means of overwhelming the rational Neo Cortex and thus opening up the mind to deep and lasting suggestion.

So that's the sort of film we're dealing with right from the start. Thanks guys. I settled into my chair with a deep sigh and braced myself for the next two hours and twenty minutes, hoping that maybe I was just being overly critical. (Yeah. I wasn't).

Here are the points which jumped out at me. There are probably more, but I'm feeling a bit dreary just contemplating writing the rest of this article, so I'll keep it brief...


First: That's not an "S" on his chest. No sir! It's a symbol which apparently means, "Hope". (And yeah, it sure looks 'hopeful' to me. Not tarnished and demonic at all.)

And Hope? Seriously? We're going there? Well, yes, evidently. And it's repeated many times. Superman is all about Hope. Lovely 'Hope'.

And may I ask, when was the last time the media branded our brains with the whole "Hope" parade?

Take your time.

Indeed, I'd say there are a couple of loose connections which can be linked up in the subconscious with regard to the Obama government. Questions of legal citizenship. Sure, he may have been raised in America, but where was he really born? (Kenay? Hawaii? Krypton?) "I was raised in Kansas, General, I'm as American as I can get." But whatever. That's a little off the deep end. The "Hope" thing is what kept jolting me throughout. It was barely even subconscious. I kept wincing every time I heard the hackneyed, insincere word.

Second: The whole film was filled with mean and angry emotions. Nothing happy, ever. Go ahead; count up all the happy moments, all the bright spots in the film and then drop that number beside all the angry/fearful moments. Can anybody think of even one point in the film which genuinely engaged a single happy emotion? I can't. That's thoroughly amazing if you stop to consider it. Nearly two and a half hours of condensed sadness.

Oh, but maybe it was sort of happy when Clark and Lois kissed? -Which didn't make any sense to me, by the way. Because, what's the first thing you do upon surviving your entire city being destroyed, having your adrenal glands maxed out and your friends barely scraping themselves from the pavement? I don't know; maybe shuddering and dealing with the effects of shock and trauma. . ? Maybe I'm just thin-skinned, but that would certainly be my first reaction. It's what I was going through in my seat, anyway. I sure as heck wasn't overwhelmed by affection and the feeling that a passionate kiss was even remotely the correct response to the given stimuli. But who knows what the Hollywood folks think is normal?

Even Clark's Mom. . . it's a small thing but it caught my attention; She's answering the front door of her farm house and their dog is yapping excitedly. Mrs. Kent, classically an icon of warmth and good American values, in this tiny moment, gives a sharp command to the animal to be quiet. It's a tiny thing, but come on!

Clark's father loses his temper and barks at little boy Superman sitting forlorn in the back of the family pickup truck. He tones it down to a patient affection. It's Kevin Costner, after all. We love Kev. But even when expressing his love for the child, he was strained and sad. Couldn't we have seen them playing catch, running with the dog, laughing on a Summer day? Sharing ice cream? Anything like that? Nope. All hard stuff, all the time. Drama! That's reality, folks. We live in a dark and miserable reality, and don't you forget it!

I mean, Jeez. They had two hours and twenty-three minutes, that's a long film. Far shorter films seem to have no trouble covering a wider spread of emotional responses. And think of it; the producers had to actively choose what to put in every million-dollar scene, had to hand-pick every human expression for that whole length of time, and at every juncture, that team of jokers chose to serve up nothing but terseness, meanness, anger and sadness. They chose every ugly emotion. The whole film is just saturated with the stuff.

Third: This wasn't a superhero film. It was a disaster/monster movie. It was scary. Cities were destroyed. People died by the thousands. Never before has Superman seemed so. . , terrifying.

Cast in dark hues, even his costume is spooky.


Remember the original Christopher Reeve costume from the 70's? Well, they've certainly re-envisioned it for our modern times.

Those of us old enough to remember Superman III, (the one with Richard Pryor) featuring the infamous appearance of the "Mean Drunk" Superman, may also recall how the film makers impressed upon us that something was 'off' about our hero. They made a second costume which was dark and dull, (though even it remains bright compared to the getup in Man of Steel). Even back in the 80's, film professionals knew that color could be used to affect an audience's emotional state. Flash forward to 2013, and the fine Hollywood designers went and did it on purpose. Do they hate us? Do they want us to feel like garbage?


Oh, and there's this one shot of Superman using his heat vision for the first time. His head looked like a glowing demon with burning red eyes. I've hunted around the web for a still capture of that particular shot without success, (it's hard to find anything but press release images). I did find the one below, which is about par for the course. Fire from the eyes. A genuine fire and brimstone demigod.


Also. . , I noted a couple of shots which looked a whole lot like those of New York on the day of 9-11, with buildings tumbling and people running away from advancing walls of debris and dust. I mean, the shots were brief, but they used the same camera angles and composition and everything, jabbing at the subconscious, asking us to recall the horrors of that day. Re-igniting deep fears.

Speaking of buildings being smashed up, I couldn't help but notice that Superman was visiting as much damage upon city blocks and grain silos and gas stations as were the villains. With the exception of a couple of nominal scenes where he'd catch a falling helicopter pilot or advise people to get inside, (as though being indoors would provide any safety given that buildings were being torn apart like paper constructs), he appeared to have an absolute disregard for the safety of the humans inhabiting the cities and towns where he conducted his battles.

In normal Superman comics, he would often make a very determined effort, commenting specifically about it in his thought balloons, to divert whatever conflicts he was involved in out to some canyon or sparsely populated area exactly so as to minimize property damage and injury to innocent bystanders. But not in this film! BAM! CRASH! BOOM! It was wholesale destruction and reckless disregard from the first punch to the last.

That wasn't particularly "super" of him, I thought.

Oh, but it was nice of him to tell Lois to stand back as he leapt into the air in that one scene. "No, a little further back," so that his pavement cratering, zero-to-one-thousand mph lift off effect wouldn't rupture her soft parts. What the hell, Superman? Can't he, you know, lift off slowly and then accelerate from a safe distance like a responsible alien so as to avoid vaporizing his friends? -And yes, actually, he was entirely capable of this seeing as he could manage the trick of flying slowly in other scenes. So really, what are we to take away from that? I'll tell you what I took away from that: "Watch out, little humans. I'm not going to moderate my behavior for your sakes." --Not so much a, "Stand back and give me room to Be All That I Can Be!" More just a casual disregard, which is somehow more unsettling.

And then he killed a guy.

Deliberately. He gave one savage twist of the villain's head and broke his neck. Superman.

The thing about this which really strikes me is that I didn't even notice the out-right wrongness of it until much later on. At the time, I just took it as normal.

For those you not intimately familiar with the last 70+ years of comic book history, allow me to point out that one of the founding principles of Superman is that he is not a killer. -Sure, I have no doubt that the more minutia-attuned comic book geeks among us could pull up one or two misguided examples of Superman murdering somebody, but by and large, NO KILLING is as fundamental to Superman as that big red 'S'.

So. . , what was that all about? Was it another one of those idiotic arguments for having to do the wrong thing for the 'right' reasons in the same way American torture has been sold to the public through endless ticking time bomb scenarios played out on every major TV drama since 9-11? Like I said, the most disturbing thing about it is that I very nearly missed this little wedged in message entirely.

But I'll tell you what I didn't fail to notice: By the time I got to the end of the film, I was ready to invest heavily in some Lexcorp stock in the hopes that something could be done about the Alien Menace. Seriously. I could really see Lex Luthor's perspective on the whole issue for the first time.

Man of Steel was one messed up, creepy, fear-fest of a film. So my question is. . , why? What's really going on here. . ?

Well, as it happens, I have a few thoughts on that as well:

When it comes to media, people tend to forget that the Subconscious doesn't book-end or segregate its experiences. Everything goes into the same pot. -Which means, global media events of all sorts happening at the same time can have an effect upon each other, complimentary or otherwise. And what else was going on when Man of Steel burst into the public awareness?

Well let's look and see. . .

First of all, one of the biggest stories running is this whole NSA Edward Snowden wiretapping thing.

Wooo! The shadow government is reading your email! Every major news outlet is in an ecstasy of discussion and debate over this.

And it's all complete nonsense, I might add. We've known about governments wiretapping for years, (remember Echelon?). Snowden's pantomime of "Whisleblowing" (I think he's probably an NSA asset, what with his professionally created video and even-keeled demeanor, like he's working from a talking points script), hasn't really brought up anything the informed news reader didn't already know. Digital surveillance has been going on unchecked since there have been digital communications. Why suddenly make a big stink about it now?

Well, again, what's the take-away? In conjunction with this Superman film, what message do we receive?

Like Obama's government and the NSA, Superman can see and hear everything. Remember those weird x-ray vision and super-hearing scenes? He doesn't *want* to, but gee whiz, he's just going to have to deal with the fact that he's all powerful, all seeing. He may be a terrifying, unstoppable alien, but he's nice! He's nice! (Oh, god, let him be nice...)

Out in the real world, the NSA and their super-surveillance capabilities are not, I think, what they are suggested to be. I don't care what massive server farms the NSA are running, the job of sorting through the daily petabytes of data is a monumental task which I doubt can actually be of much use in terms of actively monitoring your phone calls in any useful way. The math doesn't add up, there aren't enough hard drives on the planet and there aren't enough human operators employed to effectively track even a small part of the whole picture. That is, I get the feeling that the media affair around the subject is designed more to frighten people into self-limiting their own behavior by thinking that Big Brother is hovering at their shoulder than it is any indication of the true power of their surveillance capabilities. If the Nazi experience of fascism offered any indication, then it should be noted that their intelligence systems (IBM's Jewish bloodline-tracking machines aside) were by no means all-powerful, and depended largely upon the regular citizenry *thinking* it was a greater threat than it really was and responding accordingly. People were persecuted and arrested not through the application of genuine intelligence research, but simply through the German people accusing and turning in their neighbors of their own accord.

So the media is making an attempt, it appears to scare us with the specter of an all-seeing, all-powerful "Hope" guy, who has terrifying powers, but hey, he's really nice and he only wants to love and care for us. So be scared, be very scared, but know that they have your best interests at heart. And stop thinking too much.

And speaking of UFOs. . .

Were we speaking of UFOs? Well somebody was. Who was it now?

Well apparently it was ALSO just about two weeks ago that the hon. Paul Hellyer, former Minister of Canada's National Defense, testified to "knowing of four alien races actively visiting Earth for thousands of years."

Great. The former Canadian Minister of National Defense, in a big cabinet meeting, (I don't know what he was doing in a big cabinet meeting if he's a former minister, but whatever.), speaking his mind about the UFO phenomenon while lots of respected government ministers listened seriously and applauded his courage for addressing the difficult subject with such forthright conviction to the speaker of the house.

Most people in the main stream would of course miss such an event, but those with an interest in the subject immediately recognized this kind of news item as being quite bold and unusual.

-And again, loaded with nonsense, imho, dripping with the nuts and bolts materialist space-brothers here to save us from ourselves line of snake oil.

Anybody who has dug into the subject of UFOs and paranormal weirdness in earnest and who has a healthy bit of critical thinking available to themselves will have by now recognized what John Keel, author of the "Mothman Prophecies" (The book, not the vaguely related movie), surmised after spending a decade pursuing the subject high and low through his old school pencil pad and tape recorder brand of investigative journalism; these lights in the sky, apparitions, weird phone calls, electrical disturbances, abductions and men in black, etc., are not an outer-space thing at all. It's much less straight forward than little green men (or Kryptonians) from outer space. Rather it's spiritual and inter-dimensional and altogether damned bizarre until you start to re-examine our accepted models of physics, spirit and reality. -Not something we are encouraged to do, as it might cause billions of people to realize that living the life of a slave is by no means actually necessary.

And thus, with these three media events, several bases are covered. If you're apt to be scared of anything, then the media circus of the last three weeks, (including the NSA Snowden guy, UFO Canadian Minister Guy, and Superman to stitch it all together), will have served to compile and fan your fears. -And then offer you the calming suggestion that your all-powerful, duly elected administration of Hope is here to take care of you. To protect you from the various boogey men.

Just so long as you stop thinking and stop complaining about your rapidly eroding civil rights. And whatever you do, don't ask why May and July have been among the coldest, wettest and most dreary on record. Or why England is going to have to import a few million tons of wheat instead of export it this year. Don't think about that stuff.

The government is your Superman. All powerful and here to keep you safe. And you can't do anything to stop him/it anyway, so you might as well settle in and quit complaining. Just be happy the authorities love you.

Movies and UFOs and terrorists aside, THAT is the bottom line as I see it.

"Shut up and accept our control. Fear is Love. War is Peace. Please don't string us up for being the incompetent psychopathic lot we really are."

And please return your 3D glasses as you make your way to the exit.

Thank-you, citizen.

 

-Mark Oakley
June 21st, 2013

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