Sexy comic book girls. Yeah, for me, it doesn’t take much. I mentioned, in a previous post, that Josh Howard (not the basketball player), best known for Dead@17, is my favorite comic book artist because he draws the most adorable sexy girls ever. Well, it’s true. I mean if I could draw girls as adorably sexy as he does, I would … well, never mind what I would do. But, aside from the sexy aspect, I love Josh Howard‘s style which is very distinctive. I’m not a connoisseur of comic book art – I can’t tell Jim Lee‘s drawings from Greg Capullo‘s, but, I can tell Josh Howard‘s art from just about anybody’s. In addition, his characters are as well-drawn in his engaging stories as they are on the pages. His comics are dialogue intensive, but, action-packed!
Josh Howard is currently working on a 10-year anniversary Dead@17 deck-building card game, which looks pretty awesome. Check it out on his blog by clicking right HERE. Anyway, his work is certainly worth talking about. So, let’s talk about ALL of it …
Dead@17 is Josh Howard‘s signature work, of course. The first series, originally published in 2003 by Viper Comics, introduces 17-year-old Nara Kilday and her best friend Hazy Foss. One night, after Hazy drops Nara off, at home, Nara is killed by a mysterious assailant. A few days later, Hazy is attacked, in her bedroom, by “zombies” (which are actually dead bodies possessed by evil spirits), but, Nara appears, in a schoolgirl uniform, with an ax, and saves her. Noel Raddemer, whom Hazy believed was an FBI agent, also shows up. He explains that he is an agent with a group called the Protectorate. He tells Nara that she is one of the Resurrected, and, that only she can prevent the coming of a demon lord known as Bolabogg. Nara, of course, vanquishes Bolabogg, and, in the end, embraces her calling to fight demons. Dead@17 was an awesome comic debut!
OK, in Dead@17: Blood of Saints, 19-year-old Violet Grey, plagued by voices in her head, kills herself, and, like Nara, is resurrected, but, unlike Nara, she aligns herself with Bolabogg, who still lives. Violet kidnaps Hazy, and, as expected, Nara comes to rescue her, and, hopefully, to prevent Violet from becoming Bolabogg‘s bride. Violet sprouts demon wings, attacks Nara, and carries her up into the night sky, dropping her miles away, allowing Violet to become one with Bolabogg. Nara returns, but, it’s too late. In the end, distraught Hazy suggests that Nara just go, while Violet, now pregnant, boards a bus.
In Dead@17: Revolution, Nara and Noel, on the road, encounter Joan Darc, one of the Resurrected and a friend of Noel‘s, who is part of a group organized to fight demons called Heaven’s Militia. Their current mission is to kill presidential candidate Senator Vic Alcasan, who also happens to be Bolabogg, reborn, in the flesh, from Violet Grey‘s womb. Nara aligns herself with Joan, and, confronts Senator Alcasan, in his home, and, all hell breaks loose. In the end, Joan sacrifices herself to save Nara, killing Bolabogg, while Nara sacrifices herself to save Hazy who is pregnant with Elijah‘s child. Oh, Elijah is Hazy‘s boyfriend whom Nara once dated.
In Dead@17: The 13th Brother, rebellious 17-year-old Asia Black nearly dies in a car crash, but, is mysteriously revived, finding herself amidst the war in Heaven as demon Belphegor attempts to free the 13th Brother from his prison. Asia, mortally wounded, is compelled to go to Nara Kilday‘s grave, where she dies, but, Nara is reborn to continue the battle. Meanwhile, Hazy, working as a stripper, is kidnapped by Belphegor to unlock the Abyss, and, free his prophet. But, in the end, Nara defeats Belphegor when Asia reveals herself, co-inhabiting Nara‘s body, together as Gemini.
Dead@17: The 13th Brother is my favorite of the first four books, and Asia Black is definitely my favorite character in Josh Howard‘s Dead@17 universe. Asia has long, black hair which she always keeps back in a ponytail, and, before she died, wore sexy librarian glasses! Yeah, I know, she’s just a comic book character. Whatever. Anyway, the first four books are collected, very nicely, in Dead@17: Ultimate Edition, published in 2009 by Image Comics, Josh Howard‘s current home. This volume is a must have for Dead@17 fans, and, a fine place to start if you are new to this comic series.
Other notable Dead@17-related works, up to this point, include Dead@17: Protectorate (a prequel to the first series, written by Alex Hambly with art by Benjamin Hall), and Rough Cut Vols. 1-3 (a series of short Dead@17 stories by various other comic writers and artists).
But, Josh Howard continued his saga at Image Comics with Dead@17: Afterbirth (in which Nara/Asia, as agents of the Zodiac, must protect Hazy who has inherited the Key to the Abyss), and Dead@17: The Witch Queen (in which Nara, after being forced to kill Hazy, is banished to Purgatory). The final Dead@17 series is slated for release in early 2014, according to Howard‘s blog.
Josh Howard has also created a few non-D@17 comics, including The Lost Books of Eve (Viper Comics), a fantasy adventure involving Adam and Eve, and Black Harvest (Devil’s Due Publishing), an sci-fi story involving a girl, Zaya Vahn, who disappeared 3 years ago and mysteriously reappears in Jericho, Texas. Both comics are also steeped in the religious themes that are prevalent in all of Josh Howard‘s work.
In addition, Josh Howard has filled several volumes with sketches and drawings for fans, including the awesome collections: Hips & Crossbones: The Art of Josh Howard, Volume 1 (2005) and Mosh Girls & Monsters: The Art of Josh Howard, Volume 2 (2006). In Dead@17: Pin Ups (2012), Howard illustrated his characters in various scenarios as suggested by fans, including in the DC Comics and Star Trek universes. My favorite is “Evil Dead@17”, in which Nara is Ash (Bruce Campbell) from Sam Raimi‘s classic low-budget horror film The Evil Dead (1981), with Hazy as Linda, Ash‘s girlfriend, in the cabin, keeping the evil dead at bay in the cellar!
Finally, watch this very well done Dead@17 fan film, directed by Mark Steensland, and, starring Jessica Ciccone as Hazy and Katelyn Gracy as Nara. It’s very true to the first issue of the first series. Watch it here:
The official movie version of Dead@17 has been in the works for years, with Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), at one point, possibly slated to play Nara Kilday. Hopefully, the movie adaptation Dead@17 will get made, one day, along with the often-delayed movie adaptation of Hack/Slash.