The X-Men Meet…Archie

When I discovered the art of Nick  Bradshaw I was blown away. I saw a few pieces he had done on ComicArtFans.com (CAF) including a cover he did for the HERO Initiative charity auctions and I had to interview him for CAF. One of the most appealing things about his art was his sly similarity to one of my favorite artists and one of the best ever, Art Adams. Nick’s unique style is sometimes unfairly labeled an Adams clone but the fact he himself loved Art’s style and was influenced by Art’s inking style does not take away from Nick’s own distinct look of cartoon modernism. The cross-hatching in the inking style is what really makes it pop like Adams.

X-Men: To Serve & Protect #1 original cover art by Nick Bradsha

X-Men: Second Coming #1 original pin-up art by Nick Bradshaw

 

Two pieces of published Marvel art I was lucky enough to acquire directly from the artist along with a special bonus I’ll always be thankful to Nick for…

You can check out both of these images in greater detail on my Comic Art Fans gallery.

What sets Nick apart even further for me is what a great guy he is. Along with his professional work and donating constantly of his time and talent to the HERO Initiative, Nick also found time to create a wonderful piece of art for me to give to my sister-in-law as a birthday gift. When I found out about Nick’s affinity for the Archie characters I had to ask if he would create a piece for my super-heroic sister-in-law and business partner, Ellen, who is a diehard fan of all things Archie. I loved Nick’s take on the Archie characters he did for HERO and was blown away by the piece he sent me for Ellen – seen partially inked below…

Ellen Meets The Archie's for her birthday at Pop's

So take some time out and check out a real good guy of the comic industry’s work and look for more of Nick’s talent on the upcoming X-men Annual and on his gallery.

Best,

JV

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Life Imitating Art: A Conversation With Real Life Comics Hero Jerry Robinson

When I heard that a true comics legend – Jerry Robinson – was auctioning off two pf the most important pieces of original comic art ever to be uncovered I had to try to talk to him. Luckily the folks at the ComicConnect.com auctions were able to put me in touch with him. While the auction will be ending on December 1, 2010, Jerry’s story will be one the lasts a very long time…longer than the eight decades his comic book story has already been going on.

Detective Comics #69 original cover art by Jerry Robinson.

The historic double guns Joker cover above by Jerry Robinson is just one of a pair of iconic images of classic American art form that will be sold this week for the artist by ComicConnect.com. The other will be his cover to Superman #14 by Fred Ray.

Jerry has done just about everything an artist can do in the industry and then some – not the least of which was co-creating The Joker and Robin, the Boy Wonder. For Jerry, a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a journalist and he has enjoyed a momentous journey. From  a career that happened by chance to creating some of the world’s most memorable characters to real life heroics and actually making life altering differences in the lives of his friends and colleagues.

I had set out to interview the man and put it in print for you to read but after an hour plus conversation I decided to let you hear the man himself tell his own story in his own words. It gave me great joy to just sit back and go along for the ride. Please take some time to listen to this remarkable man tell you a remarkable story. It includes heroes (and even a villain), passion for a romantic era in American culture and the emergence of comics as a true literary art form from a pioneer with the foresight to call it so.

Panel Surfing is thrilled to chat with comics legend, Jerry Robinson. Be prepared as it is a long conversation at an hour and twenty minutes, but it is well worth it as Jerry crams that 80 minutes with 80 years worth of comics industry insight. Truly inspiring and enlightening. Just click on Jerry’s name above for the full conversation.

 

Superman #14 original cover art by Fred Ray

If Jerry Robinson were playing Texas Hold ‘Em he’d be going all in with a pair of bullets. Here is his other ace – the gorgeous patriotic cover to Superman #14 by Fred Ray. Listen to my conversation with Jerry (click his name above) to learn the amazing story on how he wound up with this cover.

As a long time fan and student of the comic book medium as a storytelling tool and the industry getting to talk with Jerry Robinson was like a Masters crash course in comics and a real treat. Many thanks to Vincent Zurzolo and Stephen Fishler of Metropolis Comics for making it happen along with Jerry’s son Jens as well as Jerry Robinson.

Keep on Panel Surfing,

Jason Versaggi

Reading (Comics) Is Fundamental

Those old RIF PSA’s ringing in my head as I decide to talk about what led me to appreciate comic art in the first place: Reading.  Comic Books were how I learned to appreciate reading, how to love reading. I read any and all comics I could get my hands on from the comics on my favorite toys, shows and movies like G.I. Joe, Transformers and Star Wars that eventually served as my gateway drug to the world of super hero comics.

I knew about Spider-Man, and Superman, and Batman, and Captain America as a young boy having followed whatever adventures lived through syndicated television and sure the colorful comics I saw caught my eye but until you get that all important allowance or paper route comics weren’t as accessible 20-30 years ago as they are today.

Now I am well versed in the Marvel canon and can teach courses on the history of the Marvel Universe both fictional and the real life history from the creators point of view. Lately I found myself wanting to read more and learn about how other creators told their stories so I decided to embark on a reading tour of all things comics not published by Marvel. There’s tons of good reading out there. I’ll talk about some of my favorite indie reads in an upcoming post but right now I’d like to focus on DC.

 

I have always loved DC's Sci-Fi super-heroes like Adam Strange and Captain Comet.

For me I have always had a working knowledge of the DC Universe and collected and read the comics in the 80’s and 90’s with many of my favorite titles including Batman, Detective, Swamp Thing, Animal Man and Vigilante.  I am a sucker for the old school stuff. I love the nostalgic Golden and Silver Age stories and characters but I just never got further than Green Lantern and Atom’s early adventures in Showcase comics with regard to DC. Now I have my collection deeply invested with Marvel Comics with many near complete runs of all the major titles. I don’t have the financial resources nor the space to start up a DC collection. However, since I love original comic art and the beauty of the black and white pen and ink page I have decided to start reading all of the DC classics from the start in their line of Showcase Presents trade paperbacks. Low risk, high reward if I like the stories and I can get them in bulk for a low price. If I don’t like a book it just cost me the price of a paperback. I am starting out with some old favorites that I am currently enjoying like Adam Strange with Superman and Green Lantern on deck but I am casting out to my comics friends in cyber space. What titles do you recommend? What should I be reading in DC canon and what will I not be able to put down? I’d love your feedback as I continue to…

Panel Surf,

JV

Unmasking A Costume Player: The Body As Comic Art Canvas

As I evolve as a fan of the comics medium and as the fandom of that medium evolves with me I discover the art of costume play, or “cosplay”, or as I used to refer to them: Trekkies.  For me the only people who used to dress up in full regalia at cons were Star Trek fans. Now, you go to an event like the New York Comic Con and you will see more fabulous and diverse costumed fans than you will plainclothes fan boys and girls. One of the best at costume play is a comics journalist and rising star in costume play and modeling. Panel Surfing is thrilled to chat with the super-talented and super-beautiful super-heroine on demand, the lovely Elizabeth Amber.

The beguiling Ms. Amber as Wonder Woman

Jason Versaggi: Tell me a little about where you are from and where you grew up.

Elizabeth Amber: I’m born and raised in New Jersey but originally we were from the area around Newark, that part most people think of when they hear the words “New Jersey;” but when I was 10 my folks moved us out to the countryside near PA. Our neighbor down the road has sheep in her front yard, there’s an acre between us and the neighbor to the north and we worry about things like hitting deer with our cars and bears and coyotes eating our pets.

JV: Were you always into comics?

EA: Actually, I was not always into comics. As a kid I rarely got them but I would read my brother’s RICHIE RICH or BUGS BUNNY although I loved the pocket books of comic strips like B.C. or FAMILY CIRCUS. I was really into coloring books, Barbies and cartoons. When I was a teenager and leafed through my brother’s INDIANA JONES and X-MEN, all I cared about was the art (and it was the late 1980s with some less than stellar art). I didn’t get my own pull list until 2006. I had been in several comic shops looking for presents and was treated like garbage; I drove past Comic Fusion for about a full year before daring to go in. Then I finally did; discovered it was co-owned by a woman named Stacy, now one of the very best friends I have. She talked to me for 45 minutes that first day explaining all about Wednesdays and pull lists and crossovers. By 2007, I was mingling at cons and writing for Dynamic Forces.

JV: What were your favorite characters or titles? What else did you like to read?

EA: I have drastically changed my subscriptions in the past 12 months. Usually I do that once a year just to get the feeling for different things. My Top 3 books are: TINY TITANS, THE LONE RANGER, and LOVE AND CAPES. I’m also really vested in the older universe of Matt Wagner’s GREEN HORNET: YEAR ONE line which has a couple books. Mainly, I’m switching over to trades and mini-series. I try to review regularly and post at YouTube.com/amberthestylist with exciting things I’ve discovered like MADAME XANADU by Matt Wagner, THE ALCOHOLIC by Jonathan Ames or SWEETS by Kody Chamberlain.

JV: What is Cosplay? How did it start? How did it start for you?

EA: I don’t know the full history of “cosplay,” per se but people have been donning costumes for centuries through rituals and celebrations. If you ever see pictures from a Mexican Day of the Dead, you’ll see some remarkable stuff. Then there’s the American biggies like Mardi Gras and Halloween. Of course for us nerds, it’s comic cons. The term “cosplay” is a spill over from the kotaku subculture of Japan (anime/manga/lolita) and it just means “costume play.” It seems that a lot of people (usually a much younger crowd) are into the “play” part where they act out skits and stay in character. I rarely see this in mainstream American comic costuming. Steampunk costumers are also much more inclined to be in character but they usually develop original characters and I’ve never heard them use the term “cosplay.” It’s a specific subculture term and honestly, some people who dress up in mainstream costumes hate being called a cosplayer and prefer costumer.

JV: How much work goes into creating one of your costumes? Describe that process.

EA: I’ve learned to hate certain aspects of building a costume like making boots, gloves and accessories in general. That’s always the time consuming part and the moments that bring me to tears. The little details of accessories take so much longer than making the suits. I’ve also learned that if there’s a costume somewhere on my To Do Someday list that I keep my eyes open for parts; Rogue for example was actually a two-year project because I keep looking for gloves, a jacket and boots that I liked. To make the suit only takes me two days.

Designing for myself is much easier. I actually don’t enjoy designing suits for people unless they just so happen to be my size, which is rare. Believe it or not, I’m a terrible artist so I usually sketch out something really rough paper or I take it digital by going into City of Heroes and creating a new costume in there to get a sense of where the cut lines will go and which colors I like.

I start with a base pattern, then have to apply the new cut lines for color blocking. I usually transfer from that pattern onto scrap fabric so that I’ll have a working fabric pattern which can be reused. I test on scrap spandex and try to get initial fittings to make adjustments to the pattern. Then it gets done on the final fabric, normally. My Star Sapphire is actually the mock-up stage on fabric I hated but I wanted to wear something new at the CGS Supershow so I wore it and hated it but it was new at least.

JV: You are essentially a 3D work of art walking around Cons. What was it like the first time you put on a costume and strut through a Con?

EA: The first time was a really fun experience because it was a small show, the old Steel City Con, where a large group of people I only knew online were getting together. We had formed our own fan club for WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO (and we’re still together to this day). A lot of us created our own characters; I was going to audition that first season and chickened out so it was the whole reason I created a costume. Wearing that with a group of really accepting and wonderful friends was an amazing experience. When I wore it to NYCC, it was different. No one knew who I was. Several people complimented me but I found out they thought I was dressed as someone from the original BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA just because my colors were the same.

JV: Who is your favorite character you have portrayed?

EA: I have three favorites: Wonder Woman for being easily the most recognizable female character; Firestar because she’s very specifically from my generation so when fellow geeks recognize me, it’s a great feeling; and Susan Storm of the Fantastic Four because she’s the character I probably most relate to which is ironic since I hated the F4 when I was little and found them dreadfully boring.

JV: Who is a character you have yet to envelope yourself in but are dying to?

EA: Wonder Woman’s villain Circe. I am in love with the Dodson design and I would feel great in that costume. It just looks out of my skill set so I’ve never tackled her. She’s magical and quite often, more like the “anti-hero” where she just wants what she thinks is best. That’s different than being crazy and evil.

JV: Name a few characters you are working on adding to your repertoire.

EA: I am hoping the costume I’ll work on over the winter is Phyla-Vell from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. I actually don’t know much about her yet because I have only read a few issues. The Annihilation arc sprawled through it and I find epic crossovers to be so daunting (usually annoying but not always). And I don’t want to dress as a character I know nothing about, so I will definitely be doing homework on her if I decide to go through with it.

Despite my fear of spiders, there is a spider themed lady that I’d like to be. The Black Widow from the TWELVE not from the AVENGERS. She is extremely powerful; people fear her; she is free with her sexuality and orientation; and she has a badass costume.

The new Batwoman is another that I’m not sure I can ever pull off because of the complexity of the accessories. I know a lot of other people who can make them for me but it’d be a matter of having the ability to hire them for it. For kicks her villain Alice would be a fantastic costume, but talk about complicated! I know I couldn’t put that one together.

Plus, I’m always thinking of someone from a Lantern Corps, probably an original character.

JV: Who are some of your biggest influences as an artist? As a journalist?

EA: I’m part a great community called The Superhero Costuming Forum which has been instrumental in getting me this far. We have some sisterly sites like the League of Lanterns and League of Heroes and Replica Prop Forum too. My biggest influences are my close friends there. To start with though, it’s my mother; she always made our costumes and she bought me a sewing machine to get me started back in 2006.

As a journalist, that’s pretty easy. One of my best friends Jill “The Nerdy Bird” Pantozzi writes a lot of fun columns and her reviews brilliantly showcase the vast knowledge she has of DC Comics. I’m such a newbie that I don’t have all that history to draw from when I write. For me to get a great interview or a decent article, I end up spending a lot of time doing research when someone like Jill already knows all that and knows what to ask. She’s great in written, audio or video format. We both spent a lot of time in broadcast radio and have migrated to the web. The only people besides Jill would be Blair Butler and Chris Gore both from G4TV for all the same reasons; they know their stuff and they’re great on camera.

JV: Your super power is obviously devilish sex appeal in massive quantities. What is the lamest line tossed out at you at a con? Any horror stories from battles with fanboys? Other Cosplayers?

EA: This is the first year of the con circuit where I didn’t have a husband next to me at all moments holding my stuff so for years I wasn’t hit on. If I was, I didn’t notice. This year at NYCC, the worst was some young teenage boy who was doing a scavenger hunt. He showed me his list and asked me nicely if I could help. So I’m thinking, “aww how sweet.” Then he points to a line reading, “brental floss.” I had to ask him what it meant it and he said it was to get a picture of a girl’s thong. I was dressed as Amazonia from LOVE AND CAPES, which is a very wholesome comic book; and while it was true that the “slave Leia” inspired design meant I was wearing a thong I gave the little creep a firm response that there was no way in hell he was getting that picture. I should have been smarter and asked to have a picture of him and his friends then showed security but I didn’t think of it until afterwards.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience with other costumers. I do get really annoyed when there’s a shark-frenzy type of situation involving a group of manga/anime kids. They just tend to grate my nerves when they are in such large loud obnoxious groups. The Star Wars folks hang out in large groups but they’re dignified and pleasant to be around. I think it’s just that such a huge part of the manga/anime material attracts immature kids.

JV: What are some of your upcoming events? Where can fans see you and your work?

EA: The annual superhero fundraiser I help with is this very weekend. We do a full two-day Superhero Weekend featuring one day of Wonder Woman Day. Oct 23-24, 2010.

After that is Oct 30, the Great Allentown Comic Con, where I’ll be a guest to judge their costume contest. It’s great that it’s nice and close to my home so I can easily drive and it’s the first time I’m being added to an actual docket as a “Guest.”

As always, I make announcements on Facebook, Twitter and AmberUnmasked.com.

JV: You have just spent an entire Con Weekend as the Black Queen from the Hellfire Club and you are dying to just throw on some sweats and unwind with a pizza and a movie. What’s on your pie and what’s in your DVD player?

EA: Whole wheat crust pizza with vegan pesto sauce (lots of garlic), soy cheese and really good veggies. I tend to unwind by playing marathons of my favorite TV shows like Castle, Monk, Psych, House, Dead Like Me, or Batman:TAS.

A Boy And His Con

Writing is a hard business. Telling a descriptive story that people get caught up in either reading your words or listening to you speak is not easy. Brevity is key and yet how can anyone be descriptive enough and brief at the same time when it comes to the devourer of world’s Galact-er…New York Comic Con.

Outside the Jacob Javits Center: The Super Team Who Came To Dinner

I have not been to San Diego Comic Con so I won’t pretend this show is any more vast and impressive but it has to be almost its equal. Your senses are guilty of the deadly sin of gluttony just by walking in the doors, if you can get in the doors. First you are assaulted with the multi-media monopolies: Marvel, DC, and the video game industry. There are many second tier publishers nipping at the heels of the big two with ambitious booths from Archaia, Dark Horse, Aspen, and Boom! Studios.

I was lucky to stop at the Atlas Comics booth and chat with publisher Jason Goodman. Jason shared with me the new creative team on the next title in the Atlas relaunch of Wulf as none other than Steve Niles and Nat Jones. Quite a coup for the upstart company.

I hacked my way through the throng like I was Danny Trejo and took in Artist’s Alley in all its crowded splendor. Just enough time to watch some folks sketch and say hello to my buddy and con sketch maven Buzz.

The calm before the storm: Buzz in Artist Alley before sketch list opens to public.

There are plenty of new comics and trade book sellers represented here with the biggest of those being home field advantage winner Midtown Comics. However, if you look hard enough you will find numerous vintage comics dealers on the outskirts of it all. The old money, if you will, whose furnaces are stoked with four-color gold in the form of slabbed copies of Golden and Silver Age comic rarities. These dealers are staging a resurgence thanks to CGC and are fending off the ever-increasing Cos Players with many costume booths closing in to squeeze the comics, toys and art dealers for space.

As for the original comic art there are lots to be seen by all with great piece on display from dealers like Mike Burkey, Albert Moy, Anthony Snyder, Cool Lines, Spencer Beck and many others. Even the esteemed founder of CAF, Bill Cox , was in the thick of the comic art fray at Mike “Romitaman” Burkey’s booth.

You have to imagine this is what Sodom & Gomorrah must have looked like and just hope God lets it slide this time because it is tremendous fun and an experience not to be missed.

Chris Samnee: TMA (The Mighty Artist)

One of the most popular artists skyrocketing up the Marvel depth chart is Chris Samnee. His soothing nostalgic style will make you yearn for the Marvel Age of Comics. Chris took some time out to chat with Panel Surfing about his work on Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Verily.

Jason Versaggi: Where are you from? Tell me a little about your background.

Chris Samnee: I grew up in DeSoto, Missouri, which is a small town about an hour south of St. Louis.  I moved to St. Louis after high school and this summer my wife and I moved to Portland, Oregon.
JV: Were you a comics fan growing up?
Chris: Absolutely!  I got hooked on comics when I was little, 5 or 6 years old, when my grandma bought me a three-pack of Batman comics at the drugstore.
JV: What did you read as a kid? Any titles or characters that were favorites?
Chris: I loved Batman and anything Batman-related like Batman and the Outsiders and Teen Titans.  I got into Spider-Man around age 10, and from there got into other comics.

 

Batman by Chris Samnee from the collection and CAF Gallery of Brian Jones

 

JV: Your style is very evocative of the old Marvel House Style days of John Romita. I think your look on Thor:The Mighty Avenger draws some parallels to Marcos Martin’s Spider-Man. Who influenced your style?

Chris: Artists like Alex Toth, Milt Caniff, Steranko, Romita, Sr., Kirby, Mazzucchelli and Steve Rude have definitely influenced how I draw.  I’m not sure all those influences come across in what I do, but I definitely like the cleaner, simpler art of the Silver Age artists.
JV: Have you been compared to any artist’s? Did you set out to try to ape some different looks and how did your own distinct style develop?
Chris: I’ve noticed with Thor: The Mighty Avenger, I’ve gotten quite a few comparisons to Toth, Mazzucchelli and Darwyn Cooke – all of which I’ll gladly take!  I’ve never really tried to copy any one artist but I always find myself taking bits and pieces from artists that I admire.  As for my own style, it wasn’t something I set out to develop, it just kind of evolved with each project I worked on early in my career.  I really started out working on black and white books, so that probably accounts for some of the heavy shadow work and negative space I use.  I still feel like I’m fairly young in my career, so I’m sure my style will continue to evolve with each new project I do.

 

Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Chris Samnee

 

JV: What projects have you worked on that you had the most fun with?
Chris: Well, I can honestly say that I’ve never had more fun than working with Roger Langridge on Thor: The Mighty Avenger.  I’m drawn to the more goofy, fun, Silver-age influenced titles, so this one is right up my alley.  Every moment of working  on Thor: TMA has been a joy.  I also really loved working with Jeff Parker on X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas and with Paul Tobin on an issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man.  They’re also creating such fun stories, again, exactly the kind of stories I pick up as a reader.  I loved working on The Mighty (DC Comics) with writers Peter Tomasi and Keith Champagne as well.
JV: Where can fans currently see your work?
Chris: Well, monthly in Thor: The Mighty Avenger (issue 5 is out next week).  I also did the art for Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale, an OGN with Joss and Zack Whedon which will be out through Dark Horse at the end of November.  I post sketches on my blog almost daily ( http://www.chrisssamnee.com ) and regularly contribute to a group art blog called Comic Twart  ( http://www.comictwart.com ).
JV: Are there any future projects you are working on that you can talk about?
Chris: Just continuing to work on Thor: The Mighty Avenger along with a few covers for other titles.
JV: If you could relaunch a character or book who would it be? Which title would you love to do an epic run on?
Chris: I’d love to relaunch Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, but as Superman’s Wife, Lois Lane.  I love Lois and Jimmy and of course, Superman.  I think a book like that would be a ton of fun to work on.  I’d love to do an epic run on Batman.
JV: What is your creative process like? How and where do you work on an issue of Thor: The Mighty Avenger?
Chris: Well, I get script from Roger and read through that a few times.  The first read-through is just to get a sense of the story.  On the second read-through, I make drawings in the margins and start to work out my thumbnails.  From there I do 4″x6″ thumbnails of each page and send those off to my editor for approval.  Once approved, I print the each page’s thumbnail at 11 x 17 size and lightbox them in pencil onto bristol board.  Those get sent to my editor for approval.  Once approved, I then ink each page with brush pens.  At this point, I’m still doing everything traditionally.  As for where, I have a studio/office in my house where I work almost exclusively.  I have difficulty working around other people or in a place with a lot of distractions.
JV: Do you prefer full script or Marvel Style? Describe the interaction between you and your editor(s).
Chris: Full script!  I actually don’t think there are many writers who still work in Marvel style.  In fact, I’ve only seen one Marvel style script the entire 15 years I’ve been working in comics. I actually like to know what the writer has in mind for each panel, and I like to see the dialogue so I can have the characters “acting” appropriately for what they are saying.
As for interaction with editors, it really varies from editor to editor.  My process is pretty much the same regardless of what editor I’m working with.
JV: Who would you geek out at a Con?
Chris: Since I’ve done so many conventions, I’ve actually been really lucky in that I’ve met so many of my heroes already.  I remember being nervous to meet Mike Mignola (who I met at C2E2 this year) and when Steve Rude reviewed my portfolio about 5 years ago.  Those might have been geek out moments!
JV: What is up with your twitter icons hat? Is that your hat or is it just worn by your avatar?
Chris: Nope, that’s the hat I wear.  I’ve worn it since I was a teenager.  It’s probably the easiest way to recognize me at a show.
JV: Your work has created a mighty Asgardian hunger so you order up a pizza and take a break with a movie: What’s on your pie and what are you watching?
Chris: Well, I’m lactose-intolerant, so hopefully no cheese!  As for the movie, you can’t go wrong with Superman: The Movie or Indiana Jones or King Kong.  I can watch those any time.
Thanks for chatting Chris! We look forward to more awesome work on Thor: The Mighty Avenger. If you can’t get enough of Chris and want some more Samnee you can purchase his art from his Etsy store and you can also follow Chris on Twitter.
Go surf some panels,
Jason

Highlighting Art On Comic Art Fans

Well I finally get to play around on my favorite site on the World Wide Web: ComicArtFans.com. The good folks at CAF, namely Bill Cox and Chris Haggard, are letting me pick out and comment on some of the best pieces of comic art that is housed in the online galleries on CAF. The largest and finest collection of comic art all under one digital roof. It is a veritable museum of the medium.

Here is the first piece I chose to spotlight. Enjoy.

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