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Welcome to the first page of Track 3 of ‘Free Mars.’  This week is a little surreal for a few reasons.  First, the page itself is kinda trippy.  I think you’ll agree.  Nic has done some amazing stylized versions of our girls; they almost look like children’s book versions of Vikki, Taryn, and Sam.

Second, I just realized that we’ve hit 30 pages and over 230,000 hits on the website.  Pretty big milestones for a humble webcomic.  I know I say this a lot, but I don’t think we’d have gotten this far without you ladies and gentlemen.

Lastly, C2E2 is just over the horizon and that means our print edition will arrive in a few weeks.  I still don’t know how we managed a Dan Abnett foreword.

There is a musical pairing this week, but we’ve hid it within the page itself.  It might be a little esoteric, but this scene should seem familiar to at least some of you.  Let’s do this, the first person that gives me the correct song, based on this week’s page, gets a free set of mini-prints sent to them.  You can post your guess here or email us .  I’ll check the time-stamps if there’s multiple correct answers.  Good luck,

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With a couple weeks off between Tracks 2 and 3, we decided to post a few extra pages of work.  First, we have a companion piece to our Vikki Grimm Interlude.  In this piece, we get to see Samantha enjoying some downtime; relaxing in her micro-hab with a good “book”.  I think the specs give her a new look, very academic, if a little hipsteresque.  She’s probably smarter than Vexx gives her credit for, in any case.

The text this week is not written by me, but by none other than Nicolas R. Giacondino, the noted Argentinean artist.  Nic asked me if he could write a short excerpt from a book by a famed Martian revolutionary and I thought it was an excellent idea.   We agreed that Sam, of the three, was most likely to be reading something like this.  It wasn’t lost on me that the subject matter becomes a little more poignant coming from an Argentinean.  We had to edit the text quite a bit to fit on this page, so we’re including Nic’s full excerpt in the FM-verse section.  It’ll be up this weekend and I encourage you to check it out.

I think Sam is listening to something suitably chill.  So I’m going with Cut Copy and ‘Take Me Over

Speaking of music, I put together an iTunes Playlist where I’m collecting some of the songs mentioned in these posts, as well as songs/artists that inspired The Sisters Grimm.

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Here endeth Track 2.  In a homage to the potboiler, we’ve got a bit of a cliffhanger.  Our heroine has had a bad week or so and it certainly hasn’t ended any better.  I love how Nic’s got little bits of burning debris falling around her.

Nic and I discussed the music pairing at some length this week.  We didn’t completely agree, so I’m posting both choices.  Nic is going with Pink Floyd’s ‘Goodbye, Cruel World.’  Obviously a classic and I admit that it does work well with this grim (no pun intended) panel. Though I personally find that entire album to be a bit of a naffing downer.  Full disclosure: I’m not a huge Pink Floyd fan.  Maybe I just never got over Syd Barrett’s departure from the band.

For my own part, I’m taking a different approach.  I see my pick this week as the end credits song for our second chapter.  So I wanted a little irony; something poppy and upbeat.  Plus this song has been stuck in my head for like a week (I blame the XM).  The Primitives’ Crash.

So Marsers, Track 2 is in the can, the print version of these first two chapters is en route to the printer, and C2E2 is right around the corner.  Stay tuned for more news (big news) coming soon.  In the mean time, between today and the start of Track 3 ‘Volcano Girls’, we’ll be posting our print cover and another ‘Interlude’ piece.

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PAGE EIGHTEEN.  Interior commercial freightlifter TK-421.  First, since it’s still technically Thursday in parts of the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving!  When the first colonists settled Mars in 2128, they celebrated their first year’s algae harvest with a feast. And though their hab unit violently depressurized later that evening, most Martians continue to honor their ill-fated celebration to this day….

I know I say this every week, but I absolutely love this page.  First, and this is admittedly my fault as the writer, we’ve seen quite a bit of brooding and anger from the girls.  This week, however, Nic gets to show our heroines having some fun; relaxing.  I think the panel with Sam laughing is great.  Second, Vexx’s vibro-blade came out perfectly.  It is the right amount of baroque combined with the right amount of techno.

This week’s music pairing comes from Nic:

“Jardin de Cecile from ‘Juno Reactor’. It’s got a very nice electronic-alien vibe, and I actually inked and coloured this listening to it.”

Finally, I said last week I would list a few of the webcomics I’ve been reading regularly.  I’m probably like many of you and I tend to go back and read online comics once a month, but these comics have definitely kept me coming back.  In no particular order:

Spy 6 Teen

If you liked Buffy (or any other Joss Whedon show for that matter), you’ll dig this comic.  Tim Simmons does a great job keeping this genre fresh.  This is a great example of art and story working together.

Girls in Space

It is hard to describe James Spence’s sci-fi comedy.  I like to think that Samantha from SG would read this comic and love it.

The Horror of Colony 6

The guys at Webcomic Factory do some great work.  They are naffing prolific as well.  And while I read most of the site’s offerings, I am a total sucker for sci-fi horror.  It has some great atmosphere and B movie quality to it.  Is that Vincent Price?

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I sort of envisioned this as the stowage class on the Titanic (foreshadowing?).  Refugees, miners, and punk bands on the lam would use commercial transport as a cheap alternative to the more expensive mag-lev lines.  Or the ultra-extravagant passenger liners, like the Cyclopean Wind mentioned here by Sam.  Probably also a good mode of transport for the more nefarious types; I don’t think you need to go through a body scan to take this trip.  Nic captures the gloomy, industrial feel of the cargo hold of this hauler perfectly.  Not a environ Vexx is used to.

In webcomic news, the 2010 Webcomic List nominations are open.  I’m not going to tell you who you should vote for ‘Best New Comic’, but if you’re involved in the comics/webcomics industry (there’s a webcomic industry?), I recommend voting for whichever comics you’ve enjoyed this year.  I think the more nominations they get, the better it is for webcomics in general.  I’m certainly no expert, but next week I’m going to compile my favorite webcomics of 2010, if you’re interested

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The girls are “on the lam.”  Though, at this point, I think they see it more as an excuse for just getting out of town.  I really love Sam’s outfit here.  Nic enjoys changing up the “costumes”, while retaining a specific thematic look for each character.

The commercial freightlifter foot note is a little tribute to HHGttG.  I’d like to include more of these as the series progresses.  Whataya think?  I hope they give Mars some additional depth/character.  Sort of like our background pages.  Speaking of which, we sould have a new one of those soon on the Martian Mining Guilds

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PAGE FIFTEEN.  Track 2 begins with a cool shot of Olympus City’s harbor.  This is really the Red Planet’s hub for travel and commerce.  I think Nic has nailed the bustling chaos of the main spaceport here.  The scale really works, too, with the Martians dwarfed by the various liners and cargo loaders.

Nic was a little worried about his vehicle designs, but I think he was unnecessarily concerned.  They’ve got a cool “boxy” look.  And their engine configurations have a little of the Betty (Alien Resurrection) going on.

I also love the girls’ “stealth” fashion.  This is their idea of keeping a low profile.

Fashion, in general, is a big part of the comic.  Nic and I have talked a lot about what the characters wear and Nic has an almost Euro sensibility.  In fact, I like to think that Luc Besson would dig this comic.  I realize I just sort of referenced Luc Besson twice.

In other webcomic news, Warren Ellis has invited webcomic creators to post a few pages and a synopsis on his Whitechapel Forums.  I’ve looked through a few of the pages and there is some very cool stuff.  If you get a chance,

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CINEMATIC POSTER.  One more week until ‘Track 2′, but we’re not leaving you without your weekly Grimmtainment.  What can I say about Nic’s latest offering?  The goal was to do a “cinematic poster” for the comic, mainly because we thought it would be cool, but we also wanted to offer our loyal readers a limited edition print.  This would give you guys a piece of cool art and potentially help us keep the comic going and, theoretically, help pay for a printed version of Sisters Grimm.  And t-shirts.

So stay tuned for details about getting one of these for your self.  Next month for sure.

So, happy Halloween, gremmies.  I know it’s probably a little premature this year, with only a few months of comics, but I expect to see some Sisters Grimm costume pics next year.  I’m already working on my Kessler overalls….

Finally, got word today via Perez Hilton (via Jessica) that Shirley Manson is working on a new album with the band.  So Garbage returns.  Huzzah!  In honor of this great news, I think this week’s music pairing needs to be ‘Cherry Lips.

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INTERLUDE.  As promised, gremmies, Nic and I wanted an “intermission” piece while we’re working on Track 2.  Nic titled this illustration ‘Interlude.’  I call it, ‘Vikki in Repose.’  In either case, you get a very cool and somewhat personal view of our heroine.  Is there downtime on Mars?  Hope you dig it.

The song is my contribution.  Is it autobiographical for Vikki?  I wonder.

I’ll be posting a few more concept sketches from our “spin-off” Adepticon comic this week on the Twitters.  It takes place in the same Sisters Grimm-verse, but centers on a smuggler and a rogue ‘bot.  I’m excited about it- finished writing it today.  Stay tuned for more info.

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PAGE FOURTEEN.  And, fade to black.  I wanted to say “star wipe”, but I think “fade to black” works better here.  In any case, that’s the end of Track 1.

I think, looking back through these 14 pages, I’m pretty happy with the pacing.  It’s tough to do all this set-up and character introduction and still keep the plot moving.  I think the real trick is having Nic’s art tell part of the story; every page has something interesting going on and he refuses to waste any space.  I feel like, even after just 14 pages, Mars has a definite look and its denizens have a certain style.

So what’s next?  Track 2 ‘Band on the Run’ starts in two weeks.  We’re taking an extra week so I can do one more script edit and Nic can catch up on some of his non-Sisters Grimm work (he does manage to find time for other projects).  But we do have a nice “Intermission” piece already done, so expect a Friday update next week as usual.

We’re also working on a limited edition print, a cinematic-style poster.  It’s coming along nicely and I’m sure our Twitter followers will get a preview soon.

Finally, we’re also working on a little spin-off comic for our good friends at the Adepticon game convention (  We’ll have more news as things develop.

So thanks to everyone who’s been checking out the comic.  It’s sort of a relief to finish the first chapter.  Someone told me that a webcomic doesn’t get taken seriously until after a couple years of regular updates.  I hope that’s not true for us.  I hope we never get taken seriously.

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