“Here is the quintessential New York survivor’s story, told with warmth, humor and vibrancy.  And there’s even a chase scene.”

Junot Díaz (Drown, This is How You Lose Her, Pulitzer Prize Winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)

Hey readers — my first published comic, THE STARS BELOW with artist Rich Ellis, is now out from Monkeybrain Comics!

You can buy it here for just 99 cents!

Buy it during the month of November, and a portion of the proceeds go to the Hero Initiative!

Here’s an interview with me and Rich on the ComiXologist Podcast!

And here’s what people are saying…

“This is terrific! It’s like the best wordless picture books I used to love as a kid!  The artwork…is amazingly good.”

David Small (Caldecott Medal Winner; National Book Award Finalist, Stitches)

“THE STARS BELOW is the best single-issue comic I’ve read in months. REALLY great. Check it out!”

Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Daredevil, Thrillbent.com)

“Read Zack Smith’s beautiful comic story THE STARS BELOW. You’ll get warm fuzzies. And love a bird.”

Brad Meltzer (The Tenth Justice, Identity Crisis, History Channel’s Brad Meltzer’s DECODED)

“‘The Stars Below’ by Zack Smith and Rich Ellis – simply lovely. Favorite book of the week.”

Bryan Q. MIller (Batgirl, Smallville)

“You did a GREAT job. A++

Kevin Church (The Loneliest Astronauts)

“Great job, guys!”

Gabriel Hardman (Thunderbolts, Planet of the Apes)

“A wonderfully little story about birds, the world, and seeking new heights & new discoveries. I loved this, the art is great. Cheap, fun, totally worth it.
“Rating: BUY
IT

Aaron Meyers, Two-Headed Geek Comicast

“It’s well-done. I’m impressed with creators that can do wordless stories without confusing or boring the audience, and I’m particularly taken with the panels where the bird gets stars in its eyes. There’s even a chase scene!”

-Johanna Draper-Carlson, Comics Worth Reading

“I had a feeling that I would really enjoy this comic. I was not wrong, as this wordless story from Zack Smith and Rich Ellis was at times a fun little adventure and other times very poignant, and a nice little story about how even the littlest of guys can strive for more, and how sometimes there is a little wonder just around the corner for each of us. Ellis’ art fit perfect for the story, as his cast was very emotive (very necessary for a wordless story) and he did a really great job of selling some of the points that readers needed to reach for a bit more.

“Altogether, this is about as much as you could possibly want from a $0.99 comic, and something that I’d be glad to share with audiences both young and old. Highly recommended from yours truly, and it’s a lovely little tale that is better experienced than written about.

“Final Verdict: 9.0 – Buy”

David Harper at Multiversity Comics

“I want to thank Zack Smith, Rich Ellis, and Monkeybrain Comics for making this available. It is charming from cover to cover and a feast for the eyes and imagination […].

“The artist, Rich Ellis, is the artist on Chris Roberson’s MEMORIAL for IDW. According to writer, Zack Smith, Ellis knocked this thing out as a fresh graduate from art school and before working on MEMORIAL. It is an impressive early effort by a strong talent. Smith, himself, has crafted a unique vision here that stands strong as an independent work in a crowded marketplace of super-heroes.

Monkeybrain is making this comic available digitally for only 99¢ at this link. At that price, everyone out there should buy a copy. And, hey, why not buy one for your nephew and niece as well. This is good for all ages and is excellent.”

Keith Howell, AICN Comics

“The Stars Below (link)
“This one-shot written by Zack Smith and drawn by Rich Ellis (of IDW’s Memorial) is probably the strangest of the bunch this week. Not that it’s particularly gruesome or preposterous, but the story it tells is something not often seen in the realm of comics. The Stars Below follows a pigeon (not a Disney-esque talking pigeon, just a normal pigeon) who gets kicked into a planetarium where it sees the stars for the first time. Since the urban canopy of New York prevents him from seeing the stars, he sets out to perch on the tallest building he can find to get a glimpse of the real thing.

In a medium of capes, guns, boobs, gore and spells, finding a comic that’s simply about a bird trying to fly to the top of a building may seem ‘quaint,’ but the story really picks up when a falcon attempts to make the pigeon his lunch. Smith’s story is some classic story-telling fun and Ellis is able to capture a great deal of emotion in a pigeon’s face, even without spoken dialogue or a single thought balloon.”

Andrew Leslie, Freakin’ Awesome Network

” A beautifully illustrated fable that is sure to a spark a sense of wonder in children and adults alike,The Stars Below is a brief but worthy chapter in the annuls of Great Animal Comics and undoubtedly the first (maybe the last?) to make a hero out of a Pigeon.

Grade: A.”

Matt Sargeson, Weekly Comic Book Review

Once again, you can buy the book here!

Advertisements

From The Independent Weekly

Stitches: A Memoir
By David Small
W.W. Norton & Company; 329 pp.

The second graphic novel to be nominated for the National Book Award, David Small’s memoir of an unhappy childhood is the best David Lynch film David Lynch never made.

Using negative space, chiaroscuro and well-chosen slashes of gray, Small captures the perspective of his younger self, surrounded by towering, monstrous adults who literally gave him cancer, leaving him unable to speak for years. The sequences aren’t told so much as they are presented as lucid dreams, reflecting the fear, confusion and defiance of a child who doesn’t completely understand the world.

Small, principally known as a Caldecott-winning illustrator, makes a stunning debut into adult works with a book that’s the equivalent of a good therapy session—one that leads to a joyous catharsis as young David finally receives the comfort and understanding he so badly needs. In theory, it might not sound like a feel-good story, but in practice it’s one of the most uplifting works of the year. —Zack Smith


Goth Girl Rising
By Barry Lyga
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children; 350 pp.

Many authors write about the high school years they wish they had; Barry Lyga writes about high school as most people actually remember it. Like the late John Hughes, he sets all his stories at the same small-town high school, but where Hughes emphasized comedy, Lyga focuses on the hell that is the teenage mind—filled with insecurity, guilt and an attitude that combines self-hatred with hatred for everything else.

Goth Girl Rising is the sequel to the first book in this sequence, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, where the comic book fan of the title entered into a potentially dangerous friendship with Kyra Sellers, the Goth girl. Now back from a stay in the hospital, Kyra resumes her life of shocking people, stealing cars and arguing with her widowed father, while half-heartedly plotting an ineffective “revenge” against Fanboy, whom she sees as abandoning her.

Filled with topical details (Kyra spills out her insides in blank verse and unsent letters to author Neil Gaiman), Lyga writes teens so real that you wish you could tell them they just need to let go of their anger and bitterness. Luckily, they’re usually smart enough to figure this out for themselves. —Zack Smith


The Magicians
By Lev Grossman
Viking Adult; 416 pp.

Lev Grossman knows science fiction and fantasy. As a book reviewer for Time, he’s heavily promoted the idea that we live in a world where “the geeks have won.” But the geeks don’t exactly win in The Magicians, a look at the fantasies of childhood from an adult perspective.

The first part takes a group of teens through a school for magic, where the friendships and couplings play just as big a role as spells and potions. In the second half, they find themselves adrift after graduation, only to retreat into a Narnia-esque fantasy world where quests and dungeons don’t solve neuroses and insecurities.

The fantasy detail is as fun as the relationship material is insightful, and The Magicians offers a lesson for those who graduate from Harry Potter and its ilk: Fantasy can help you escape reality, but only you can escape your own faults. Now someone just needs to teach Twilight fans a similar lesson. —Zack Smith

Juliet, Naked
By Nick Hornby
Riverhead Hardcover; 416 pp.

Nick Hornby’s already having a great year with his successful screenplay adaptation of Lynn Barber’s An Education, and he continues his streak with his latest novel, Juliet, Naked.

Combining the themes of music-obsessed males from High Fidelitywith the female protagonists of his more recent work, Juliet concerns a college professor obsessed with a reclusive singer-songwriter, the long-suffering girlfriend who dares to pen a negative review about his new disc of unreleased acoustic (“naked”) tracks, and the singer-songwriter himself, who likes this review and begins a correspondence with the girlfriend.

Though Hornby has fun satirizing obsessive fans and Internet culture, the book’s themes deal more heavily with the redemptive power of self-expression—whether it’s breaking out of a lifetime’s rut or being reminded that there’s still potential within you. And it’s also terribly funny. —Zack Smith

By Zack Smith
 Memoirs about unhappy childhoods are common, but David Small’s Stitches  is anything but.  Growing up with emotionally-distant parents, Small developed a cancerous mass as a result of his father constantly exposing him to high-powered X-rays.  The result left him barely able to speak above a whisper. 


But gradually, Small was able to find his voice – both literally and figuratively – and go on to a successful career as a Caldecott Medal-winning writer and illustrator of children’s books. But he recently stepped into darker and more personal territory with Stitches, his first graphic novel.

We discuss his acclaimed book at Newsarama, which you can read here.