Trevor Mueller’s Albert The Alien Goes Back To School

Albert the Alien is back for another round.

Trevor Mueller’s character, the first exchange student from another planet, debuted in an educational anthology before getting spun off into a popular webcomic in 2013. The webcomic was collected into Albert’s first trade paperback, “Albert the Alien Vol. 1: New In School,” in 2014. Now Mueller is taking Albert back to Kickstarter for the second volume of his adventures, “The Substitute Teacher From Planet X,” and joined Project Shanks.com to talk about the book, Kickstarter, and cartoons.

Reid Kerr: Thanks for taking a couple of minutes for Project Shanks.com, you’ve already had one successful Kickstarter for the first volume of Albert the Alien, now you’re coming back for the second round. Is this Kickstarter less nerve-wracking than the first one?
Trevor Mueller: I thought this second Kickstarter effort would be less stress (and hopefully, a little less work) than the previous. Nope, I was wrong there. But perhaps that’s more aligned with my own nature and expectations than the reality of how the platform works.

My experience with Kickstarter, funding comes in fits and spurts. Typiclaly the first and final week are your strongest. During our first week this year, we made about 33% of our total goal. There’s a lot of hype and you get the loyal fanbase to jump right in and try to get the rewards that have a limited volume first.

Albert The AlienDuring weeks 2-3, you get a lot of what I call “the trickling effect.” People come in because they hear about it from somewhere, and they like the project. These weeks tend to be the new fans or people who heard about the project through someone else, and they want to check it out.

The final week will be filled with people who were waiting to see if it could get funded, or who wanted to be the person that puts it over the top. We had that last year, too, and it was awesome when it happened. But the whole time we were waiting for it to happen, I was on the edge of my seat.

Reid: How great was the feeling when the first volume’s Kickstarter came through, and you were able to take this character you’ve written in several forms of media all the way into print? Was it a dream to be able to hold the book in your hand after seeing it on the screen for so long?
Trevor: It was one of the greatest feelings ever when volume 1 got funded. We had put so much effort into the book, into the video, and into the Kickstarter that by the time we reached the end, it was a huge weight lifted. Kickstarter is a project that you put out there, so it’s a little nerve wracking to see if it will find a loyal following. You hope that there are enough interested people to help support and fund the project. And when that happens – man, it’s awesome. But there is a better feeling.

I do a lot of self-publishing. When I had just printed my first book and was holding it in my hands, I asked a good friend and fellow comic creator friend of mine, “Is there any better feeling than holding a book you made in your hands?” And he said, “Yes there is. Seeing someone else with a copy of your book in their hands while they wait in line to buy it.” He wasn’t wrong. And that’s what Kickstarter provides – an opportunity to put the book in the hands of people who love and support the project. And that’s probably the best feeling in the world.

Reid: Albert the Alien is a wonderful webcomic. It’s funny, it’s warm, and it seems like there’s something in there for everybody. Is it a challenge writing for kids and adults, and crafting something that’s interesting to both?
Trevor: Awww, thanks. Albert is a ton of fun to write and work on. Writing an all-ages book is a unique challenge because you want to tell a story that appeals to adults, but that’s also appropriate for younger readers. However, I’ve found that writing stories for kids is also quite liberating. Kids tend to be more open to the fantastic, and so my imagination can come up with fun and wacky scenarios for the characters to deal with.

In volume 2, for example, Albert takes his first field trip on Earth and has to do battle with an evil mummy king. I’ve found that telling stories like this tends to be very nostalgic for the adult readers we have, since it reminds them of watching cartoons when they were growing up. And the kids love it because you get a story about an alien trying to defeat an evil mummy king!

Reid: You’ve said before that you really loved Saturday morning cartoons. Were there any of your favorites that you can see influenced Albert the Alien?
Trevor: I don’t know that any one show influenced Albert the Alien. I remember back in the day that cartoons told a fun adventure story, and they had a moral or a public service announcement (PSA) at the end. Some kind of lesson that was important for kids to learn. I try to do a little of that with Albert.

Albert has strong themes around friendship and anti-bullying messages, so it’s important to me to include a little message in there with the adventure. The message is usually related to the theme of the tale – be it around peer pressure, sticking up for your friends, or dealing with conflict. But our focus is always on telling a fun story, first and foremost.

If I had to compare Albert to any cartoons, I’d say he’s like Phineas and Ferb meets Jimmy Netron. It’s wacky alien adventures at school and at home, that are fun and funny and warm your heart.

Reid: Was there a comic book or a strip that you read when you were younger that made you think, “I want to do this?”
Trevor: I read a lot of comics growing up, and all of them helped influence me. I loved the action of X-Men, the intrigue of Batman, the hilarity and wit of Calvin and Hobbes, and the inginuity and style of the Image books.

I read just about any comic I could get my hands on when I was younger, but the first series I remember collecting was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. I loved the cartoon, but this comic series was so different. It still had the crazy stories and the characters I enjoyed, but it was stylistically and tonally very different. This was fascinating to me to see the differences between the cartoon (which I admit to having discovered before the comic), and this darker edgier comic series.

Basically, I fell in love with storytelling and visual narrative, and I’ve been making comics ever since.

Reid: When you’re doing a webcomic and you only release a page every Wednesday and Friday, does it affect the way you pace your story?
Trevor: It does. I always try to end my pages on a joke or a cliffhanger. With a print comic, you typically try to make a cliffhanger every odd numbered page. The reason for this is because odd numbered pages are the pages you have to turn, and your job as a writer is to get the reader to want to turn the page. But in the web it’s a little different. You have readers returning weekly or monthly or whenever they get the chance, and you want to entice them to read more. Either going back to the beginning, or coming back next time the story updates.

Doing it this way definitely makes for a more exciting story overall, especially when it is finally collected in print. The readers have really enjoyed it.

Reid: What’s next for you and Albert after Volume 2 of Albert the Alien? More Albert? Are there any other projects in the works?
Trevor:  Definitely more Albert! I’ve already started work on volume 3 (which will be called “Homelife,” and will show Albert’s life on Earth outside of school for a bit). We’re going to have some fun adventures, like:

— “Bring your kids to work day,” where Albert and his friend Gerty get launched into space!
— Albert’s first sleepover, where he gets his friends stuck inside a video game!
— And also Albert’s first Halloween, where he accidentally turns his friends into the monsters they’re dressed up as!

In fact, we have some rewards to get drawn into some of these stories in our current Kickstarter.
Other than Albert, I have a couple of older reader titles I’m also working on that will be out later this year. I’m doing an older readers story called “Los Ojos,” which is about a hitman who doesn’t see people when he looks his targets in their eyes – he sees angels or demons.

I try to produce a handful of self-published work every year, and also a few stories that are published by other people. I did a short story earlier this year called “The Fan,” which is about a woman with supernatural powers and an unhealthy obsession with the lead singer of a band. We made the story intentionally short so we could include a bit of a “how to make comics” in the back. It includes all of my notes, beat sheets, outlines, and script pages. As well as my artist’s layouts, pencils, and inks. This way, readers can see how a comic book gets made.

I have a few short stories coming out later this year as well, and hopefully some bigger projects I can’t talk about just yet. But soon!

Thanks to Trevor Mueller for sitting down with Project Shanks.com. Trevor can be found online at www.AlbertTheAlien.com, and the second volume of Albert’s adventures is currently up on Kickstarter.

— Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife likes to remind him. He is also an award-losing writer whose first book, “The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape” is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.

Remembering Stuart Scott (1965-2015)

By Chris Stuckey
Editor-in-Chief

By now you have already heard the terrible, awful, heartbreaking news about a man who left us far too soon. Stuart Scott hung up proverbial the mic for the final time on Sunday and moved on to the SportsCenter studio in the sky. Cancer took him from us, but he is so much more than another face of the battle still being fought. Stuart Scott was a dad, an ex-husband, a boyfriend, a television personality, and to all of us with cable or satellite…a friend.

stuart-scott-passes-away

Stu started with ESPN in 1993. I was five years old. That means I have not personally known ESPN without Stuart. The duo of Stuart Scott and Rich Eisen was one of my favorites on SportsCenter. Stu is, was, and always will be cool…cooler than the other side of the pillow some might say. He appealed to my demographic but not because he was trying to. He was 100 percent authentic, whether you liked it or not. [Read more…]

David Liss Goes Creator-Owned With “Angelica Tomorrow”

Writer David Liss (The Spider, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear) is going creator-owned for the first time with his new six-issue series, Angelica Tomorrow. The series features art by Allen Byrns (Broken, The Price), and tells the story of a teenager whose life is changed by an amnesiac cyborg assassin. The first issue is available now on ComiXology for $1.99. Liss was kind enough to sit down for a quick interview on the eve of the book’s release.

AT-Press-PromoReid Kerr: How did the idea for Angelica Tomorrow come about? How did you come to collaborate with Allen Byrns?
David Liss: I’d been wanting to work on a creator-owned project for a while. I had a great meeting with the guys from 215 Ink when I was at New York Comic Con a few years back, and they offered to help connect me with an artists, which can be the most challenging thing for a writer. I spent some time trying to develop a concept I liked, and when I sent it to the publisher they forwarded me samples form perhaps a half dozen artists. I loved Allen’s style, and I thought it was a great fit for the project, so we got to work. [Read more…]

PSDC Movie Review: Nymphomaniac Vol. 1

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)

I have a love/hate relationship with Lars Von Trier. I think he’s a talented filmmaker and a terrible human being. The few films of his I have seen caused me to run through the gamut of emotions – fear, anger, boredom, sadness, and wonder, just to name a few.

Nymphomaniac

I can never say I “enjoy” his films like I would say I enjoy films like National Lampoon’s Animal House or Die Hard because those are films designed to be entertaining. Von Trier doesn’t want to entertain you. He wants to make you think, he wants to make you feel, and sometimes I think he just wants to punish you. This is why I keep coming back to the man’s work the way I do the works of Michael Haneke or Pier Paolo Passolini. This is why I was excited for Von Trier’s latest epic – Nymphomaniac. [Read more…]

PSDC Album Review: Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

By John Baggett
PSDC Review Board Chairman

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Rating: **** ½ (out of 5)

Against Me! has been a band that has been on the peripheries of my punk rock fandom for the last decade but only in the last few have they really registered with me. Their major label albums New Wave and White Crosses really pushed them into my consciousness (despite having heard their track “Sink, Florida, Sink!” on the Rock Against Bush compilation.)

They really made headlines and grabbed my attention in 2012 when frontman Tom Gabel made a surprising announcement – he was transgendered. Since then Gabel has come out as a woman, donning the new moniker Laura Jane Grace, and beginning her transition. [Read more…]

DFW Radio Personality Kidd Kraddick Dead at the Age of 53

Multiple sources have confirmed that Kidd Kraddick, a radio legend from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, has passed away from an apparent brain aneurysm. He was 53 years old.

Twitter went abuzz on Saturday evening when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban posted this tweet.

Several more media outlets have confirmed the tragic news. We are still awaiting an official statement from his show.

UPDATE:

An official statement from YEA Networks has been released…

“All of us with YEA Networks and the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning crew are heartbroken over the loss of our dear friend and leader. Kidd devoted his life to making people smile every morning, and for 21 years his foundation has been dedicated to bringing joy to thousands of chronically and terminally ill children.

Kidd passed away today in New Orleans at a golf tournament organized to raise money for his beloved Kidd’s Kids charity. He died doing what he loved, and his final day was spent selflessly focused on those special children that meant the world to him.

We ask that you respect the privacy of his family and his colleagues. At the appropriate time, we will release more information about the cause of death.”

UPDATE:

Via the Kidd Kraddick Facebook page…

“Kellie, Big Al, J-Si and Jenna will be live tomorrow (Monday) at 8am ET / 7am CT for a short while to share their feelings regarding Kidd’s passing.”

UPDATE:

Via NOLA.com…

“Popular radio and TV host Kidd Kraddick died of “cardiac disease” according to preliminary autopsy results released Monday by the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office. Investigator Tommy Evans said the cause of death is still under investigation.

Pathologists are awaiting the results of toxicology tests. Evans said the autopsy, performed Monday morning, did not turn up any other abnormalities. “Heart disease was evident,” he said.

Kraddick, 53, died Saturday while in Gretna attending a golf tournament fundraiser of his charity, Kidd’s Kids. Kraddick fell ill while at Timberlane Country Club in Gretna and was taken to Ochsner Medical Center-West Bank in unincorporated Gretna.

Kraddick lost consciousness in the vehicle on the way, Evans said. He was pronounced dead a short time later at the hospital.”

Keith Olbermann Making Return to ESPN, Hosting Late Night Talk Show

Keith Olbermann is making an unlikely return to ESPN. The news broke on Wednesday.

Keith Olbermann now not only faces the challenge of making a new show succeed, but making sure his latest television venture — as previous ones have — won’t end badly.

Olbermann will be bringing his opinions, and controversial past, back to ESPN to host a late-night talk show on ESPN2, based in ABC’s studio overlooking Times Square. The show, called “Olbermann,” will debut Aug. 26, airing at 11 p.m. Monday-Friday.

ESPN made Olbermann’s two-year deal official Wednesday. Last Friday, the Daily News reported exclusively that a deal was in the works with ESPN and that he was in serious discussions with network brass.

Olbermann’s first time around at ESPN (1992-97) was replete with back stabbing, management confrontations, a suspension and other assorted niceties. Olbermann once referred to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters as a “godforsaken place.” – NY Daily News

To say Olbermann is polarizing would be an understatement. He was not loved in his time at ESPN and his political commentating career has only increased the number of people who don’t care for him. He is smug. He is smarter than you and likes to point that out. As far as his newest is concerned, a short run would not be surprising. Late night talk shows on ESPN have not had much success in the past and there isn’t much reason to believe that Olbermann’s new show would break that trend. Give it a year then we will see where Olbermann ends up next.

‘Stump the Schwab’ Star, Stats Guru Fired From ESPN

Longtime ESPN stats guru Howie Schwab was laid off today. Were you a fan of ‘Stump the Schwab’ on ESPN?