July 12, 2006 / More →
Finally saw Superman Returns on Sunday night. Went with my old comic-geek fanboy buddy Steve Taylor, who, in the end, said he didn't like it! Ouch. Mostly because he wasn't into the religious allegory.
To be fair, there were some pretty long stretches in this baby where i was bored stiff. Example: Lex Luthor's Kryptonite/Crystal palace erupting off the east coast. Sure the effects were stunning and grand, but holy crap some of these scenes were coma-inducing.
Also, the weird connection to the first two flicks by Richard Donner, with several almost scene-for-scene reinterpretations, made this seem like watching Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness all rolled into one movie.
As for the religious stuff, that was actually some of the best stuff. The allegory way beyond mere Christianity (or any world religion for that matter), into the larger realm of mythology, both classic and contemporary. The crucifix money shot of Supes drifting powerless in the atmosphere was almost worth the price of admission, on its own. The Hero's Journey, and all that.
The actors rocked, the look was lush and right on the money, the sets all fine and dandy. But for me, if there was any recent criticism of the movie that i would share, it's the almost disturbing devotion to the Donner films, which led to a lack of originality. It was perfectly executed, and yet something was lacking. Sort of like JLO.
In any case, i loved it all around. I really liked Kate Bosworth... a real surprise. Routh was solid, if not a little boyish now and then. Loved Spacey and Posie. I had a big grin on my face for most of the film, and that pretty much says it all.
•Â Then last night, i went with one of my interns, Chris to the pub/theater a few blocks away, to see the classic Deliverance. I hadn't seen this existential nightmare since i was a wee lad. (Literally, i remember being about 13 or 14 when one of my parents took us kids out with some other friends to a drive-in to see this.) I didn't remember much of this besides the banjo scene, and now i know why … it must have fucked me up in such a big way that i had to purge it from my psyche altogether, or leave me ruined at an early age. Mom, what were you thinking?!?!
Seriously, i'm amazed that this film isn't mentioned more often as one of the pantheon of greats. Just great storytelling all around, and a scary indictment of the human condition. Jon Voight turned in a brilliant performance, and actually conveyed such a realistic drunken scene, that i almost wouldn't doubt for a second that he was actually wasted off his ass when filming it.
I don't know much about the making of this (and now i want to), but it seems like it may have been one of those "journey" films, ala Apocalypse Now, where the crew and cast were living what they were creating.
And the hillybillies, well, yeah... oof.
July 8, 2006 / More →
Once again my buddy Gary Butler makes a strong personal recommendation to me, and yet again i have a new jones for more entertainment to dig on, when i simply don't have time enough in the day to think straight as it is.
Not long ago, you see, Gary sent me a really crummy bootleg of the recent retcon of Battlestar Galactica. About an hour in the disc started jumping erratically, and even skipping whole chapters; so much so it was unwatchable. I'm convinced now that Gary sent me the bum disc on purpose to prove how compelling this show really is. The very next day i went out and bought the Season One dvd set (which includes the mini-series as well), just so i could see how it the opening scene ends. Holy crapola, what a great twist!
Just got done watching the first regular episode, and i have to say that this is absolutely riveting television. Hands-down the best contemporary sci-fi on tv (well, along with Firefly, that is) since Next Generation, oh so long ago. I will admit i was very skeptical of this series when it premiered, if mainly because there has been zero science fiction that suited my tastes in years and years and years. (Again, excepting Whedon's Firefly, which is so singularly unique, i don't put it in the same category.)
I love the idea of the new model cylons, and especially the hot, sex-starved, god-fearing blondy, who gets under the skin of the bad guy, the scientist Dr. Gaius Baltar … the stand-in for the old bulb-headed bad in the original. (I'm guessing, anyway. I haven't seen that stuff in so long, and i can't recal for sure. I'd wager it hasn't held up too well. Although i'll ALWAYS love the old spaceships, and the cyclons themselves.)
The cast is superb, and just how Loren Greene carried the show in it's first incarnation, Edward James Olmos is beyond incredible in this role. Tough, responsible, warm, and a true leader. This guy is a rock. (Wish we had "real" leaders like this running the show.)
The President (something like the 43rd in command, after the home planets were decimated along with the old Prez and the next 40-odd in line), is played with aplomb by Mary McDonnell. Apollo and Starbuck, and even the deck-hands, all stand out. There's no dud on the crew. (Like the original annoying blond who used to stand next to Worf on Next Generation. Man, i was so happy to see her bite it. What was her name?)
But what really rocks me is just the verisimilitude of the show. Everything just looks and feels plausible, unlike shows like Babylon 5, Farscape, or Stargate, all of which have such a cheesy veneer to them. (I've never been able to sit through a single episode of any one of them, so i won't cast judgment... they're just not my gig.) And the scenario rings so much more true than any of Trek shows post-Next Generation.
I. Am. Hooked. Thanks, Gary!
• Read a few things over a 4th of July break spent at my mom-in-law's lake-house. Most note-worthy was the excellent Bob Haney interview in the most recent Comics Journal. Great stuff, from a grizzled old DC vet who passed away a few years ago. A hot-headed guy with a wonderful sense of humor, and not afraid to call a spade a spade.
•Â Also read volume one of the new Southland Tales prequel graphic novels, by Richard (Donnie Darko) Kelly. It's pretty bizarre, like i expected, and when the next volume comes out, i'll re-read this one again. Pretty original, if not entirely easy to follow. The art by Brett Weldele is simply gorgeous. And no, i'm not just saying this because Brett drew our own Surrogates. I just dig his stuff. People have compared his work to Ben Templesmith … a fair comparison, and another artist i like (30 Days of Night is killer) … but i think Brett can paint circles around Ben. He's got the same flair for color , mood, and atmosphere, but his line art and storytelling are both, well, better.
In any case, in spite of some negative reviews about the debut of Southland Tales at Cannes this year, this prequel piqued my interest, and has me really looking forward to the flick. After all, Donnie Darko was a big-time sleeper, and now it's a legitimate cult phenomenon.
•Â Lastly, i read the recent Modern Masters from the superb TwoMorrows press, spotlighting my old hero John Byrne. This was a great read, and the featured interview was one conducted by Jon Cooke, originally intended to run in an issue of Comic Book Artist. In his prime, Byrne was a god. And so inspired i went out and picked up the first four issues of his recent retcon of The Doom Patrol. His art was actually very nice, inked by Doug Hazelwood i think(?), and his story had some good ideas. But it just smelled and tasted so much like a late-80's - early 90's, by-the-numbers comic book, i just couldn't buy into it. (Especially when right afterwards, i pulled my Doom Patrol Archives off the shelf, and marveled at the goofy fun and the absolutely stunning art by Bruno Primiani. Why that guy isn't mentioned in the same breath as his Silver Age comrades is a freaking crime.)
Anyway, sorry John. That said, i will track down the first couple issues he did (again with a more detailed inker than himself) of Action Comics, penned by Gail Simone. We'll see. I'll let you know what i think.
June 29, 2006 / More →
•Â My friend, cartoonist Gregory Benton, lives in New York and recently participated in a fabulous gallery show (curated by cartoonist Jason Little) in the city called OPOLIS, at the Flux Factory, that essentially creates a miniature 3-D city, and also incorporates comics. This is a hugely ambitious show that i wish to god i could see in person.
•Â The site description reads:
OPOLIS presents Comix-Fluxture-as-city. Opolis is an imaginary city, located in the Flux Factory main space. Individual city blocks have been assigned to individual cartoonists and illustrators. These cartoonists have designed the buildings and environments that will fill the city blocks (an apartment building, a looming office skyscraper, a library, a public park…) with invented characters that are the citizens of Opolis.
OPOLIS is the third manifestation of Flux Factory’s annual “Comix Fluxture” exhibit. These exhibits have brought cartoonists and illustrators into the gallery to create comics narratives that also function as installation art. The ongoing objective of the series is to create works of art to be read intimately…as a comic strip…but also contribute to an overall installation spectacle.
• If you live in New York, get your ass on over there!
Following is an email and photos i received from Gregory, reprinted with his permission. The comic strip that Gregory himself created for his "building" (which you can see in these photos), we'll also reprint in its entirety in the next update of our comix section on this site.
• If Gregory's name sounds familiar, then you may have read some of his comics goodness here on our own comix section. or it's because of a wonderful comic he did for Slave Labor a long long time ago called Hummingbird. It's lusciously drawn and a real wild read. Since then, he's been doing more painting than anything else, though he has been doing some funky-cool historical comic strips that none of us will get to see. Some lucky students will though. His comics work these days is full-color bliss. Here's hoping that one day we'll all be blessed to see more.
•Â Meanwhile, i'm leaving for a long weekend down at my awesome mom-in-law's fabulous lake-house, down by the Oregon Sand Dunes on the coast.
• Gregory Benton writes:
Finished up the building & comix I had been working on. The opening was excellent. Good crowd, great reception. I was interviewed briefly by the NY Press, if anything comes of that, I'll forward it to you. Info on the show can be found at www.fluxfactory.org.
The building dimensions are 6' wide x 4'deep & 7.5' high. Medium: Styrofoam, acrylic enamel & Digography. As far as content, comix run on the two long sides (front & back) with paintings & sketches along the sides.
June 26, 2006 / More →
The entire family here at Casa de Warnock has been sick like dogs. A freaky virus that has every one of us exhibiting different symptoms, in addition to a few shared. Add to this our old house (with NO air conditioning) and 100Âº days, and it's the outright Portland Misery Festival right here. Whoo hoo!
That said, i have been working with Chris to wrap up the new edition of From Hell and get it to the printer. So not all is lost.
I did read a new(ish) comic a couple days ago, and it's a doozy. I'm talking of course of Kevin Huizenga's OR ELSE Vol. 4, published by the great Drawn & Quarterly. And it's yet another gem, from one of the most under-rated cartoonist working today. Kevin is (or was... maybe he's moved?) part of a thriving comics collective in St. Louis, which includes a number of stellar talents, including Dan Zettwoch and Ted May.
Where most reviewers focus on Huizenga's command of his formal skills, and how he applies them to the stories he tells, i'm actually more drawn into his work for his ability to capture small moments; his ability to convey a palpable mood and setting that feels like you've been transported right there. He's been doing this for years, going way back to his formative mini-comic, Supermonster.
In other news, i must say my inner geek is totally fired-up to find a postcard at MoCCA announcing the release of the long-awaited, previously defunct fantasy anthology edited by Jeffrey Brown, called Elfworld. The buzz around this book has been big for years, and knowing that it's coming out warms the cockles. It's being published by a newer outfit called Family Style.
June 21, 2006 / More →
Down two breezy games to none against the Mighty Mavericks, and down by 13 points in the third quarter in Game 3, the underdog Miami Heat, under the dominating will of Dwayne (the clear MVP) Wade, have won four in a freaking row to win the NBA Finals. And in Dallas no less.
I would have liked to have seen either team win (since the Suns weren't there), but in the end, the better team won. Miami stepped up their defense like were amped on crank, causing the normally in-control Mavs to scramble, lose their rhythm, and miss shots.
This has been the best Finals i've seen in years. (Though my favorite playoff series in the Modern Era was the Western Conference Finals a few years back between the Lakers and The Sacramento Kings.)
I loves me some hoops, but i'm breathing a heaping inhaler blast of relief right about now, knowing that i won't have to watch any more sports for at least a few more months. (Well, except for the World Cup.... and maybe Grand Slam Tennis.)
And moving onto some comics news, i must say what a surprise it was to take my weekly trip to one of my favorites comics websites, Ninth Art, only to read that this was to be their last issue. Andrew Wheeler was the guy i knew personally involved with the effort (though i did meet Antony Johnston at SPX a few years ago), but there were a lot of people who made this site what it was.
Also in this volume, their annual Lighthouse Awards, with the Publisher of the Year category going to the well-deserved Oni Press. (Two words. Scott. Pilgrim.)
What i loved about Ninth Art was that it had interesting, well-considered (if not stubbornly opinionated) content, excellent interviews and reviews, and most importantly, a Unique Voice. It had super simple design, but was more than effective. I HIGHLY recommend that readers traipse on over and check this out.
Kudos on a great run, folks. I'm truly going to miss ya. I hope that you're able to leave the site up for archival purposes, as did my last favorite, now-defunct comics weekly site, Savant. Best of luck with the next gig, for all of you.
June 18, 2006 / More →
Shoot... so hard getting back on the horse when i've been away. To recap the last ten days.
MoCCA. good. Sales were down a little from last year, but hey …Â the crowd was steady, the vibe was groovy, and we were in New York, so that's o.k.
Good times at the Top Shelf booth. We had Alex Robinson, Tony Consiglio (whose 110PerÂ¢Â debuted), Lilli Carre (Tales of Woodsman Pete debut), Rob Venditti, Andy Runton, Jeremy Tinder, Chris Duffy (from Nickelodeon) pimping Grampa & Julie, the aforementioned Liz Prine and Aaron Renier, and of course, Papa Chris.
Publisher's Weekly wrote:
"...Lilli Carré was in Top Shelf's booth to sign the biggest debut of the show, Tales of Woodsman Pete…and they sold 125 copies of it over the weekend." (Subscription required, i think.)
Saw lot's of friends, partied pretty hard (the Barcade party by Sparkplug fucked me right up), played foosball at the Fantagraphics party, ate some lame and some great grub. Walked a lot. Rode the subway more times than i can count.
Stayed two nights at Aaron Renier's pad in Brooklyn (as did Liz Prince, in from Boston), and my last night at Gregory Benton's beautiful place on the Upper West Side.
I visited a plethora of bitchin' comics shops (Rocketship, Forbidden Planet and Jim Hanley's) and bookstores (The Strand and Virgin Megastore), and amazingly only spent $30!! I'm shocked and amazed. (The big ticket item, volume 2 of The Times of Botchan manga reprint, by Jiro Taniguchi [author of The Walking Man] and published by Potent/Fanfare.)
Meanwhile, once again my amigo Gary Butler asked me a couple geeky questions recently, and i thought the communique worthy yet again some bloggity fun.
On Jun 16, 2006, at 11:25 AM, Gary Butler wrote:
I am not a fan of Grell's writing at all. I enjoyed LONGBOW HUNTERS at the time that he did it, and felt that it evinced a (dare I say) maturation in his style. But I can't say that it aged well at all. (Still own it, mind.)
As i mentioned in an earlier email, when i was 15 i was a HUGE fan of Warlord, but i just never liked his superhero stuff. In fact, i hated it. I'd totally lost it for him with Sable (The assassin who moonlights as a children's book author? What the fu.?), and never even picked up on Longbow Hunters when it came out. (Although i bought it a few years ago after i'd read a seemingly enlightened review of it, on how much deeper it runs than it's credited for. Bullshit. I sat down to read this thing and literally couldn't get past the first 10 or 15 pages. Just horrible stuff.)
Gary Butler wrote:
You a CONAN fan at all? Me, not so much. Never read the Howard. Hated the Arnold movies. Never got into the Marvel stuff. I have the entire Dark Horse run and have read maybe a third of it; it's clearly top-notch stuff, but consistently fails to make me want to immerse myself, so I have to figure that Conan's just not m'man...
HUGE Conan fan, starting with the paperbacks with the Frazetta (and a few Boris) covers when i was but a wee lad. Those were great, especially the visceral writing of Howard himself. Hated the Conan movie... yeah, like this wimpy kid was forced into slave labor pushing this wheel around for ten years, and now he's a freakishly buff fighting machine... god that's so lame.
Anyway, i LOVED the long Marvel run by Roy Thomas and John Busceme (inked by Ernie Chan). Really beautifully drawn and well written fantasy. In fact, it's some of the tiny amount of fantasy i have in my library at all. The Dark Horse reprints of these are awesome, and well worth picking up. All the way through the first ten volumes. (And up until they reach issue #100, after which the magic flame burned out and quality plummeted.)
If you try any more Conan ever, go straight to the source and read the originals by Robert E. Howard.
Gary Butler wrote:
Now, early Cerebus, *there's* a charcter...
Waaaay late on this bandwagon, and at about the time i was about to dive in, he launched his screed against womankind (i think it was called Reads?), and now i have no desire to ever read Cerebus.
June 9, 2006 / More →
New incredible work by Martin Tom Dieck in Strapazin. If you don't know this guy's work, i highly recommend seeking it out. Strapazin is a comics anthology /review magazine out of Germany and/or Switzerland. (I think they have offices in both, but i'm not exactly sure where the World Headquarters are.) The focus being what we call Lit Comics... sort of a polar opposite of our own Wizard magazine (which my inner fanboy loves quite enough, thanks).
Very happy with Jeffrey's cover painting for I Am Going to be Small.
Off to New York. Thanks for the ride, Steve Lafler!!
June 7, 2006 / More →
June 4, 2006 / More →
Cartoonist and long-time friend Garret Izumi and myself drove two hours hours south yesterday to the University of Oregon in Eugene, to see a lecture by Scott McCloud. Apparently it's only the third or fourth time he's done this particular talk, although as tight and perfectly executed as it was, i almost find this hard to believe.
The lecture was broken down into three parts. The first, a brief overview of his forthcoming third academic book, Making Comics, was prefaced by a fast-paced and delightfully funny author biography. McCloud's deft use of Powerpoint as a storytelling medium in itself is unparalleled.
He then talked briefly about a formal comics theory he calls The Four Tribes, representing different schools of thought and emphasis about the medium (if i recall, essentially Craft, Story, Formalism, and The Auteur), and how these various schools can and do overlap. This part of the talk blew my mind. I can only hope that he makes a book collecting these ideas one day. (And offered to publish said book if he ever needed to find a publisher for it.)
Lastly, he talked of course about his love of web comics … a topic which he discussed at length over the second half of his last book, Reinventing Comics. In Reinventing Comics the tone McCloud used seemed at least in part to intimate that web comics were THE future of comics, and print comics merely a sadly dying breed. He now seems to have tweaked this view, acknowledging the limits of web comics (mostly technical limitations), while at the same time admitting merits of comics as printed matter. No more "either/or" proposition.
Where Scott DID sell me on the merits of comics viewed through the new web-based format, is on the idea of the internet as primarily just a new tool in the toolbox for telling stories with words and images. He's clearly given this a great deal of thought, and no matter where one might stand on this debate, McCloud's ideas are absolutely a critical part of the discussion.
Truly a brilliant mind. This was a thoroughly riveting Powerpoint chalk-talk. Thanks, Scott. Kudos also to my old prof Ken O'Connell, for his continuing mission to infuse his enthusiasm for comics into the curriculum at U of O; and especially to the head of the Comp Lit program, Lisa Freinkel, for bring comics into the literary fold.
It's kind of an unexpected, though not unreasonable twist in finding a college market for comics. We've been trying to quietly sneak comics in through the Art School for so long (and all this time to their utter disdain), who would have imagined that in the end, it would be the Lit Department who've opened the door. If Lisa and Ken keep this up, Eugene might just become a thriving Sister City to the Comics Mecca that is Portland.
• Meanwhile, here's a delightful illustration by German cartoonist Mawil (creator of our own Beach Safari), for the wedding invitation of Sebastian Oehler, who works for the German comics publisher Reprodukt.
Congrats! Sebastian, your wedding gift from the U.S. is in sending fellow Deutschlander Dirk Nowitzski and the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA FInals for the first time in their history.
•Â Yes, that's right... the table has been set. The run & gun Phoenix Suns ran out of gas, and without the shot-blocking presence of Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas they just couldn't keep up the pace. For the Title, we'll be watching the Dallas Mavericks vs. the Miami Heat (also in their first trip to the NBA Finals). Even though i'm sad to see the Suns fall, it'll be nice to see some fresh faces in the Finals. My call … Dallas in seven games. Shaq is playing quite inspired, and Dwayne Wade is a future Hall-of-Famer, but i think they'll eventually go down to the mighty Mavs.
June 2, 2006 / More →
• The freaking Phoenix Suns, who had a kick-ass third quarter tonight, led by the hot shooting of Tim Thomas, caved and lost to Dallas in this Game 5 of the seven game series. Dirk Nowitski had 50 points! Shit! I'm amazed the Suns weren't quicker to double-team this one-man wrecking ball. This time of the year i get so fired up with hoops fever, that by the time the Finals are over, i'm exhausted, and glad for the season to be over. (But not so much as my wife.)
•Â International Comics Ambassador John Weeks has uploaded yet another fine installment of his wonderful Comics Lifestyle. A former staffer at both Dark Horse and (maybe?) Fantagraphics, and a stalwart in the Australian and New Zealand scene from years ago, John has spent the last few years working in Cambodia, and is, on the side, feverishly attempting to document the comics scene there. Boy, the world could use a few more good men like this.
• Took some books in the other day for trade at Powell's City of Books (one of the most glorious bookstores in the universe), and picked up a luscious coffee-table art book called Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, edited by Dan (Ganzfeld) Nadel. Essentially, this entire volume provides stellar samples of work by cartoonists who toiled in the trenches like their more well-known comrades, but just never received the same attention. It's a really fabulous book, and most importantly, Nadel chose to showcase entire story strips, so that the reader isn't limited to just bits & pieces. The only flaw in the whole book was the weird inclusion of underground legend Rory Hayes. Not that Hayes' work isn't worthy (even though i feel it's the weakest work in the whole, and just not to my taste), but more that it sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the work in the book. Still, this Abrams release is well worth every penny. I can only hope that it does well, and that we'll see more archival books like this in the future. Well done, Dan.
•Â Recently wrapped up the run of Ed Brubaker and (in this last three issue story arc) Greg Rucka's unbelievably good comic Gotham Central. Wow. What a damn cool series this was... easily the best cop drama that i've ever read in comics. The conceit …Â how does the Major Crimes Unit operate in a grimy city littered with super-types …Â is a no-brainer, which i can't believe took this long to come along. "The Brube" and Greg Rucka (who either traded story arcs or collaborated on them together) were really in their element with this series, and the early issues drawn by Michael Lark are nothing short of world-class. That said, while he started out a little shaky, regular replacement artist Kano, along with the sturdy inks of Stephano Guadiano, really developed an excellent style that lended itself perfectly to the book. I hope DC has the wherewithal to finish collecting the entire run into trade paperbacks.
•Â Another sweet "pop single" (a perfect term coined by Warren Ellis for one-shot gem) is the Oni Press Free Comic Book Day effort this year, called Free Scott Pilgrim. This comic shouldn't be as good as it is, given that the narrative is fractured, and the reader is dropped into the story willy-nilly (both qualities also shared in the graphic novel series) … but in a similar manner of cartoonists like Paul Pope, the sheer blistering energy in this comic negates any story inconsistencies. Bryan O'Malley's art too is a fluid blend of contemporaries in the lush Craig Thompson school, fused with a healthy dose of manga influence. Great stuff, and very highly recommended.
•Â Reader Ron Swintek wrote in:
"I've been enjoying your Hey Bartender blog for a few weeks now, and since you were just lamenting the lack of topics, and I've been meaning to make a request anyway...
"Awhile back, you alluded to the problems you guys have had bringing From Hell back into print, and wondered aloud if anyone really cared. I keep my ear pretty low to the ground on all things From Hell, and haven't really heard the deal with not having this book out during Alan's most popular time here on Planet Earth. I, for one, would love to hear the whole, sordid tale.
"Keep up the good work on the blog … yet another X-Men Omnibus convert, here, thanks to your comments!"
Thanks for writing, Ron.
O.k. Here's the dilly. Eddie Campbell had been self-publishing From Hell through his imprint Eddie Campbell Comics, up until two years ago when Top Shelf took it over. Up until then, we were just handling distribution. When Top Shelf picked it up i did a little tweaking to the design and added flaps to the cover. It looked great, and sold through pretty quickly. Then the fuckery started.
The printer that Eddie had been using for the life of the book theretofore, Prenney Litho, had just received a $20,000 advance from ourselves and co-publishers Knockabout from England for another printing, when they informed us that they were filing for bankruptcy. Oh joy. (Flashbacks of Black Tuesday and the Twelve Hour Miracle popped in my head.) Unfortunately, they also had the only extent film for the book, and when the owner told us that he was planning on restructuring, and to hold on until then, we really had no choice but to sit back, cross our fingers, and hope that this would happen. Months came and went, and still we heard the same sad song.
Clearly, we were in a bind. Finally something happened which forced our hand. Prenney up and disappeared entirely. No phone, no email, no website, no 20K, and no book. Zippo. And so it was at this point, that Eddie Campbell had to dig out the master photocopies that he had made (having long since sold off the original art for the book) and began scanning. How long this took, i'm not sure, but it must have been a long long while. After ten years, i've done my share of scanning, and i can tell you firsthand, there are few things more mind-numbing than this.
Move ahead, eight or ten discs containing the scanned art arrive here for me to work with, and as i began the (also) long and grueling process of cleaning up Eddies scans (a necessary process, erasing defects like stray pencil marks, gobbed-up white-out, hairs, dust, and what have you) i discover yet another problem. It seems that as Eddie was burning discs for me, his computer was in the process of dying. The result of which, at least a third of the files were corrupted. (Most often manifested by weird lines running arbitrarily through the pages, making them unprintable.) AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! Make it stop!
So finally, after all of this, i'm just days away from sending this to our own trustworthy printer, Lebonfon (formerly a subsidiary of the behemoth Quebecor), hopefully in time to make San Diego.
May 30, 2006 / More →
I don't get much feedback on the blog, so at times i'm not sure what to write about. I've pretty much whittled things down to basketball (which most people probably don't care about, but bare with me, it's over soon), comics and movie reviews, many revolving around my own inner fanboy proclivities, and of course, happenings in the wide world of the comics industry. Hoping to bring a human face to Top Shelf, and perhaps mildly entertain a few readers along the way.
A couple days ago, i received a validating letter from Mr. Alan David Doane, maestro of Comic Book Galaxy. Thanks, Alan.
"You talked me into it [X-Men Omnibus]; I was sitting on the fence because of the shrinkwrap and Marvel burning me with badly reproduced shrinkwraped shit before. Just wanted to say thanks for your description of the book, you showed me it was really what I wanted it to be, a well-reproduced edition of my all-time favourite super-hero comics... can't wait to dig into it!"
And again, believe it, if the Claremont/Byrne era is among your favorite runs of spandex comics, you will NOT find a better edition of this material. 'Nuff said.
And speaking of, went to see X-Men: The Last Stand last night. Basically, it kicks ass. You can't know how relieved i am that the director-who-wasn't-Bryan-Singer, didn't totally blow this for me. (Like how Lucas single-handedly destroyed his own legacy with "the prequals.") Sure X3 is flawed, but the flaws don't mangle the continuity and believability of the characters, or the world-building Singer set up …Â plus there are numerous storylines and/or moments torn from the pages of the X-Men comics, from all eras (including Master Joss Whedon's current fine run), for schooled fanboys to love. But i wonder, how much do non-literate-in-the-mythology movie-goers dig this film?
The two real missteps i caught both concerned character and • SPOILER WARNING!? • both were in the scene where Magneto is looking to rescue Mystique, and he's throwing around cars, trucks and semi's like a symphony conductor [AWESOME]. First, when Jamie Madrox totally and completely out of character from the comic, is sprung from a holding cell, and on a whim agrees to join Magneto's little club, with a glib "yeah, sure... why not?" Lame. Clearly the writers needed his power for a crucial scene further along in the story.
And then the big grievance i have, was when Magneto just blows off Mystique because she's been injected with "the cure," her powers suppressed, and reverts to human form. I don't like it. He never would have turned on one of his own like that, being (even in the "super-villain" sense) a man of honor. New director Brett Ratner screwed up here, because instead of showing any shred of humanity in this scene, he made Magneto into a Pure Evil villain, an unfortunate turn from the shaded, nuanced, and INTERESTING character he was in the first two films. Still, that scene at the end? Loved it.
To a lessor degree; i was disappointed in Peter (Colossus) Rasputin's wooden character; annoyed about most of the new characters (except for porcupine-boy); and underwhelmed with the general pacing... just too much stuff happening for a two hour flick. (Bryan Singer's faux pas, which carries over into this film, no fault of Ratner, was casting Halle Berry as Storm. What the hell was he smoking when he thought of this?!) And then whatever happened to the powers-negating kid who was the source for the cure itself?
Otherwise, i think X3 rocked hard. It's a very fun, if not a pretty dark film. I mean, major characters dropping like flies. Damn! Favorite line, Kitty Pride calling Juggernaut a dick-head. Check it out. Oh, and if you go see it, make sure you stay through to the very end of the credits. Wow.
May 26, 2006 / More →
I was browsing yesterday at Things From Another World here in Portland, and the manager Brady was the first retailer in town to let me take off the shrinkwrap on the recently released X-Men Omnibus, before i even considered buying it. (Thanks, Brady!) This sucker is a freaking behemoth, clocking in at over 800 pages, and given the $100 price tag, i wanted to see how they did on the production. Because i'd be maybe a little disappointed if it was sub-par.
(Aside. I sold my individual issues of the classic Claremont/Byrne run years ago, when Marvel announced that they'd be issuing deluxe hardcover editions in their normally high-quality Masterworks series. My mistake. While i did indeed purchase said volumes, the production (up until vol. 4) is atrocious. The scans are faint, with some of the more delicate art dropping out entirely; the coloring looks like someone who had just discovered Photoshop, and believed that this new-fangled computer coloring was superior by default. In a word, and i'm sad to say this, but volumes 1-3 of the X-Men Masterworks SUCK.)
Well i'm here to tell you, Marvel has more than made up for past transgressions. The Omnibus edition is absolutely flawless. The paper stock is heavier, opaque, and has a subtle ivory tint. The line-art reproduction is tight, and the coloring is as it was originally done. PLUS, they include the letters pages too, and the whole thing is oversized. And collecting 40 issues like this, if you break it down by today's average cost of a floppy comics book at 3 bucks an issue, it's really a great bargain. It would actually cost WELL over $100 by todays standards, for 40 issues of a comic.
This one book has leapt into my Top 10 all-time favorite collections and/or graphic novels ever. I can't recommend this enough, if you have any love for super-hero mythology.
And in hoops: How about the Phoenix Suns! After a grueling seven game series against the L.A. Clippers, they come to Dallas all beat up and bruised, play a merely o.k. game in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and still managed to steal a win, with .05 seconds left on the clock. I don't think anyone saw that coming. If you like basketball, or ever did, and you have cable t.v., this is awesome entertainment.
May 23, 2006 / More →
May 21, 2006 / More →
My pal Gary Butler wrote this to me a few days ago. My utterly fanboy reply follows.
"Hey, here's a really interesting blog posting about John Byrne and a never-written West Coast Avengers story circa 1989. Best, G"
I've been reading comics for a long long time, and while Byrne is a bad parody of himself now, and frankly, an embarrassment to comics, in his prime (which peaked on his run with Claremont on Uncanny X-Men) he was simply astounding. He did some amazing work on many titles during a solid 10-15 year span: Captain America, Marvel Team-Up, Iron Fist, Fantastic Four, Superman, and even a fun short run on Hulk, not long before Peter David took it over. And for me, the West Coast Avengers was his last hurrah (along with his OMAC mini-series at DC a couple years later), before he lost it forever. Back when his ideas for the mythology were more important than stroking his now-immense (dare i say, planet-sized), living ego.
And while WCA wasn't epic in proportion per se, it was …Â with the unfortunate exception of Wonder Man's mullet …Â really solid super-hero comics, with some interesting continuity tinkering. It was also one of the last projects which he actually cared about drawing with any real panache. The reveal scene at the end of an early issue in this run of WCA, where Wanda finds the Vision dissected on the table, was totally killer. His android insides splayed out like the formaldehyde-stinking frog i squeamishly dissected back in high-school.
Ha! Am i geeking out or what?!
(I guess i could justify my interest in the West Coast Avengers by bring up how Byrne's story idea, of Wanda maxing out here hex powers to "imagine" her twin children out of thin air, is the nugget from which the current super-star Brian Bendis informed his own Avengers Disassembled, and the following House of M. But no... there's no excuse.)
Currently listening to:
Pearl Jam (eponymous)
Neil Young Living With War
Tool 10,000 Days
Picked up a few dvds yesterday at a local used place. They have $5 shelves with titles that come in en masse: Collateral (the most recent Michael Mann flick, and believe it or not, a fine performance by his royal freakness Tom Cruises); About Schmidt (by Alexander Payne, with classic Jack Nicholson; and for an extra 5 bones, and still factory-sealed, Chinatown, a neo-noir classic, and one of Nicholson's greatest roles ever. Oh, and today i was weak, and bought Seth Green's masterful Robot Chicken. If you're a fan of Twisted Toyfare Theater, by the Wizard guys, then you'll LOVE this show. Sick and wrong, and perfect fanboy fare.
May 17, 2006 / More →
I've been so lame at this blog thing, as of late. How do some of these cats put in so many hours on a non-paying gig like blogging? I've gained a huge new respect for the folks who put in the time writing considered thoughts on the comics medium and the industry through which it flows.
Moving right along, if you don't dig hoops, then move on to the pretty pictures up ahead.
Now, i'm a Phoenix Suns fan, first & foremost. I have been for three years or so... since they picked up Steve Nash at point guard, to be exact. Seriously, i love this team. I like the style of ball they play. I like their players. Guys like Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Leandro (The Brazillian Blur, fastest guy in the NBA) Barbosa, and newly acquired Tim Thomas are all great loads of fun to watch. Game Five is starting right now... gotta run.
(And imagine how they would be playing if they had the injured Man Child and Kenny Thomas playing in their line-up!)
But at any rate, if there is one thing this series has done, it's also made me a fan of the Los Angeles Clippers. With old-school, smack-talkin' leadership by Sam Cassell, the inside presence of the studly (and likable) Elton Brand, young kids like Shawn Livingston, and vets like Catino Mobely... they are a team of the future, and one to watch.
In the end though, neither one of these teams will beat the Juggernaut that is the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. Mark ("i'm richer than most 3rd-world countries combined) Cuban has finally put together a real contender. And kudos to Avery (The Little Tyrant) Johnson for whipping these guys in defensive hound-dogs.
O.k. On the comics front, last week i sent two new books out the door... keep your eyes peeled for James Kochalka's SuperF*ckers #3 and Lille CarrÃ¨'s Tales of Woodsman Pete.
And in a day or two i'll have the expanded reprint of Jeffrey Brown's cartoon tour de' force I Am Going to be Small, also heading out the door to our friends at Lebonfon.
* Now for some fanboy goodness. Here's a listing of books DC is listing for Fall release. The one's i have my eye on picking up are listed in italics. To which i say, curse you DC Comics! I love this archival work coming out right now, but alas, it's all maybe too rich for my blood. I might be able to score half of these.
Re: Archival work. At this moment, DC is simply shredding Marvel (and Dark Horse as well) in the category. DC's Showcase series has allowed them to re-release some seriously wacky and cool comics. Metamorpho? Yes!
• INFINITE CRISIS HC
• ENEMY ACE ARCHIVES VOL. 2 (Kubert, Russ Heath, Neal Adams, etc.)
• JUSTICE VOL. 1 HC
• SHAZAM FAMILY ARCHIVES VOL. 1
• SHOWCASE PRESENTS: BATMAN VOL. 1 (Infantino at his artistic peak)
• SHOWCASE PRESENTS: CHALLENGERS VOL. 1 (Kirby, Bruno Premiani, Wally Wood, etc.)
• ABSOLUTE NEW FRONTIER (Darwyn Cooke's epic masterpiece)
• ALL-STAR SUPERMAN VOL. 1 (Sublime)
• NEW TEEN TITANS ARCHIVES VOL. 3 (Part of my personal Holy Trinity)
• SHOWCASE PRESENTS: PHANTOM STRANGER VOL. 1
• ADAM STRANGE ARCHIVES VOL. 2 (More delicious Infantino and Murphy Anderson)
• BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT ARCHIVES VOL. 5
• SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SHAZAM VOL. 1
• SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL VOL. 5 TPB
• SPIRIT ARCHIVES VOL. 20 (I've got everything post-WW2)
• GOLDEN AGE DR. FATE ARCHIVES VOL. 1
• NEW TEEN TITANS: TERRA INCOGNITA TPB
• SACHS & VIOLENS TPB
• SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER VOL. 1 (Kubert, Doug Wildey, etc.)
Finally, several weeks ago, i posted some rough sketches that Aaron Renier had done, one set for a promotional postcard pimping his excellent graphic novel, Spiral Bound, and the other, the Top Shelf Christmas card for later this year.
Here are the two finals, for your eyes only. Can this guy draw, or what!?