August 25, 2014 / More →
Will it be the Rust Belt governor who eats chili dogs with the guys at the John Deere factory or the rock-ribbed senator with a quarter-century of statesman’s gravitas? The quadrennial pageant is upon us, and for all the hoopla, you’d think our vice presidential hopefuls were auditioning for the second-most-powerful job in the country.
Would that it were so. The old saw goes that Americans vote for president, not vice president, and history bears that out. Voters gave George H.W. Bush the White House in 1988 in spite of his still-mystifying VP choice of Dan Quayle. The junior senator from Indiana accepted his nod like a child receiving a puppy on Christmas morning — and then gaffed his way to having his head handed to him by Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in one of the most memorable live television moments since Alexander Butterfield divulged the Oval Office taping apparatus.
With rare exception, the American vice presidency has long been our national afterthought, a place where naked ambition goes to die — and a heartbreaking 8 feet from the finish line.
The office has been so ill regarded that, for the first 176 years of its existence, America went without a sitting vice president for an astounding total of 37 years.
Given the rickety caliber of many of the men to hold the office, it isn’t surprising that, until the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, the country placed so low a priority on how its unexpectedly departed vice presidents were replaced.
Everyone knows the story of Vice President Aaron Burr being indicted for murder in two states for the dueling death of Alexander Hamilton, but few of his successors proved to be men of appreciably greater character or capability.
Thomas Jefferson chose for his second vice president former New York Gov. George Clinton. Clinton had been circling the drain for eight years before he became Jefferson’s VP. He was hard-pressed to complete his gubernatorial farewell address in 1795 because he had “been so long in dealing in speeches that I found it extremely difficult to draft one for the last session without committing plagiarism.” New Hampshire Sen. William Plumer said of Clinton: “He is old, feeble and altogether uncapable. ... He has no mind, no intellect, no memory.”
Nonetheless, Clinton was selected again for the second slot by Jefferson’s successor, James Madison, and in 1812 became the first VP to die in office.
Madison followed his puzzling choice of the ancient Clinton with the brittle Elbridge Gerry and, in 1814, earned the distinction of being the first and only president to have two of his vice presidents die in office.
Gerry’s successor, Daniel Tompkins, under President James Monroe, was beset by personal financial difficulties and was so frequently inebriated that he couldn’t attend to his minimal duties. Noted one Senate observer, “He was several times so drunk in the chair that he could with difficulty put the question.”
President Abraham Lincoln’s disgruntled first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, abandoned Washington and returned to his native Maine, ultimately enlisting in the state’s Coast Guard. While Lincoln was putting himself in harm’s way visiting Gettysburg and Antietam, America’s second-highest officeholder was serving his riven country on plebeian kitchen duty.
Richard Nixon passed on Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller to tap unknown first-term Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew as his running mate. A Washington Post editorial called the selection “the most eccentric political appointment since Caligula named his horse a consul.” Agnew was driven from office when it was disclosed that he had carried into the White House a kickback deal made with a Maryland building contractor, accepting bundles of money in meetings with his liaison at his office in the Old Executive Office Building.
There were well-intended picks who wouldn’t have survived a modern vetting. President Franklin Pierce’s vice president, William Rufus DeVane King, brought to the office his purported longtime romantic relationship with the man who would become the nation’s only bachelor president, James Buchanan. The foppish and flamboyant King was referred to in Washington as “Buchanan’s better half,” “his wife” and “Miss Nancy.” To applaud Pierce’s choice as a pioneering stand for diversity would be giving him too much credit, and in any event, he overlooked the crucial issue of King’s health: King was dead of tuberculosis before he could even take his seat in Washington.
Some of the best picks have known how far beneath their pay grade the office was. Theodore Roosevelt made plans to enroll in law school, as he was certain he would have little to do in his official capacity. President Woodrow Wilson’s VP, Thomas Riley Marshall, quipped as he neared retirement, “I don’t want to work. I wouldn’t mind being vice president again.”
The nominees’ VP picks are going to fall very soon, but like the proverbial tree in the forest, don’t be surprised if they don’t make a noise, no matter how many of us are waiting to hear it.
August 22, 2014 / More →
I posted an article titled "A Shared ‘Vice’" on my Tumblr blog, Chez Brett.
Finally, since Alison Hallett is leaving the Portland Mercury, i thought this might be a good time to pull out her interview with Bill from August 23, 2012. They talk about Joe Biden and then nominee with Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan. As the mid-term elections loom closer, we're no doubt going to start hearing more about potential presidential tickets. Here comes the circus!
August 14, 2014 / More →
The last in our three part series on Wayne Shellbarger's courtroom sketch art. Excerpted from Kevin Bohahnis' cover feature article on Wayne in Courtroom Sketch Artist magazine.
"Wayne would go on to enjoy the apotheosis of his career in 2009 with his unprecedented selection to sketch his own trial—“like getting to pull the switch on your own electric chair” he marveled in a 2010 interview for the documentary, Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance and the notoriety for his subsequent misdemeanor conviction for the attempted assassination of the Vice President-elect."
Wayne is traveling from San Francisco to Portland in just a couple short weeks, and will be in attendance at our Veeps movie premier at Cinema 21, as part of the Portland Film Festival. Learn more and buy tickets here. Come on out and rub elbows with the courtroom sketch artist tasked with sketching how own trial!
August 13, 2014 / More →
As promised, here are more of Wayne Shellabarger's terrific courtroom sketches.
From Kevin Bohahnis, writing in Sketch Art Monthly magazine"
"Wayne achieved even greater renown within the courtroom sketch art community in 1999 when a hardware store owner in Omaha appealed his 1998 conviction of fraud and elder abuse on the grounds that his depiction by the courtroom sketch artist for the Omaha World Herald had made him “look like Liberace” and unfairly biased the jury of 9 men and 3 women against him. Though he didn’t know Wayne’s name, he gave clippings of Wayne’s previous sketches to his attorney and asked that he petition the judge to assign Wayne to sketch his appeal. The judge denied his request, but this was the first and only known motion of its kind in the history of American courtroom sketch-related jurisprudence."
August 12, 2014 / More →
(Excerpted from Sketch Art Monthly.)
"Wayne made his mark early in courtroom sketch art. He was just 22 when he was tabbed to sketch the trial of a “Mayor McCheese” from a Cos Cob, Virginia McDonaldland who assaulted four teenagers who had been taunting him and trying to steal his sash and pince-nez. In a courtroom reveal that made national headlines, the “Mayor” turned out to be a 3-time Tony Award-winning Shakespearean actor who had crumbled under the duress and humiliation of moonlighting anonymously as fast food and minor league sports mascots to make his exorbitant monthly alimony payments."
Wayne Shellabarger, on how he got into courtroom sketch art: “That Perry Mason episode was there for me, every day, and in some ways, became my mother.” (Excerpted from the film of the same name.)
To learn more about the venerable and, unfortunately, dying art form of courtroom sketch art, check out this excellent video.
August 7, 2014 / More →
Well good golly, i wish i could have been at ComicCon, if for no other reason than to buy Pete Sickman-Garner — one of the longest tenured Top Shelfers — a couple rounds at the bar. His heartfelt cartoons really capture life at the busy Top Shelf Empire. Life doesn’t get better than this, folks.
Don’t forget to vote for your favorite nominated comics in the annual Harvey Awards. (Deadline is August 18.)
July 25, 2014 / More →
If ya didn’t know already, rock star cartoonist Nate Powell is attending ComicCon. Nate was nominated for yet another Eisner award for his is exquisite artwork in March: Book One. He’ll be talking about his work on the Top Shelf panel in about an hour from now.
Friday July 25, 2014 12:00pm - 1:00pm
There’s a lot happening with March, so try to keep up. And check out the gorgeous cover just announced for March: Book Two! (That's some sweet cover design by Nate and Chris Ross, eh?)
- The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in Columbus OH will be displaying some of Nate Powell’s stunning artwork for March in their exhibit, The Long March: Civil Rights in Cartoons and Comics. August 16 – November 30, 2014. The show features roughly 25 of Nate’s pieces-- most of which are from March: Book One. A 4-page sequence from March: Book Two is included, plus the color "burning bus" piece from the front cover.
"The exhibit… explores the tensions, struggles, and victories from multiple perspectives, including mainstream daily newspapers and the black press.
"The public is invited to a free curator’s program on the opening day, August 16, with Jared Gardner, followed by a book signing in the BICLM lobby with the illustrator of March, Nate Powell."
Also, on Monday, September 15, Congressman John Lewis, Nate Powell, and Andrew Aydin, will be discussing the Civil Rights Movement and the experience of telling Congressman Lewis’s story in the graphic novel March, as part of Remembering the Act: Archival Reflections on Civil Rights, on display at the Thompson Library Gallery from September 15, 2014 – January 4, 2015. More news forthcoming.
1858 Neil Avenue Mall
- Here’s a terrific segment on CNN with Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aiden, talking about March: Book 2.
July 24, 2014 / More →
And damn, i wish i could sit in on THIS panel tomorrow afternoonl: Top Shelf Productions Featuring Kevin O'Neill and More!
Top Shelf will we be covering some general news, and Kevin O’Neill will be there too, talking about his work with Alan Moore on League of Extraordinary Gentleman.
July 21, 2014 / More →
Chris Sheridan has been working steadily on his serialized, “guided-view” digital-comic book Motorcycle Samurai for about a year now, and damn if it ain’t cool as heck, mixing a heady blend of various genres into one rad cocktail; there’s Motorcycles and Samurais of course, but also Elvis, Westerns, Crime, Post-Apocalypse, and Girl Gangs. All lusciously drawn, colored and executed in a psychedelic pop-art style.
Adrockington at Animockery says, "The art is very loose and incredibly appealing. Sheridan’s color choices and backgrounds are spot on… The panel transitions are some of the best I’ve experienced. Sheridan combines strong images in unique ways… The story is wonderfully intriguing and loaded with subtle humor."
And here, Comics Alliance ran a long art set of material, including this sweet Star Wars art.
July 3, 2014 / More →
Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something is off to the presses very soon, and it’s no secret how much i love this stuff. I’m too old to have grown up with The Transformers, and so Change-Bots was my initiation into that world. He provided your gracious bartender with some great process photos of an interior spread in the new book. Thanks, Jeffrey!
Here’s the final cover, and a wicked cool trailer from the original book can be seen here.
Jeffrey was interviewed by Robots with Coffee not too long ago; a quick and fun read.
Meanwhile, it’s not too late too late to order Two Point Something Something from your trusty LCS (Local Comics Shop). Do it, or admit fealty to the dreaded Fantasticons!
In which i catch up with the authors of God is Disappointed in You, Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler
June 24, 2014 / More →
Really cool news! Pre-orders are available for the “audiobook” of God is Disappointed in You. Soon you’ll be able to hear the Voice of God, and he sounds like Dr. Venture (voice actor James Urbaniak) from The Venture Bros. The official release date is July 22nd.
Shannon is currently at work on a new 32 page Too Much Coffee Man story for Dark Horse Presents, running as 4-8 page chapters, which they’ll eventually collect in one volume. Check out this old-school cross-hatching!
Shannon has also done 20 pages of breakdowns for a short story he’s drawing, written by Mark, called Traveling to Mars for Fun and Profit.
If you haven't read God is Disappointed in You, well... shame on you! It's not too late, AND it's available in a plethora of formats too.
Top Shelf's Humble Bundle steal of a deal ends soon. Humble Bundle is a pay-what-you-want, DRM-free package deal for some sweet-ass digital books. Frankly, your Luddite bartender still reads his comics on paper, but if you prefer digital devices, who am i to hold you back from a smashingly good deal.
This particular Humble Bundle deal — which expires in just under 24 hours — contains five rad Top Shelf titles: From Hell, The From Hell Companion, Wizzywig, Too Cool to Be Forgotten, and March.
Um, yeah… From Hell alone is worth the price of admission, as thick, chewy, and all-consuming as that is. Plus you get Eddie Campbell’s wonderfully written From Hell Companion book, a DVD-style, behind-the-scenes “making of” recounting one of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time.
March: Book One has been the talk of the town, and with good reason. A #1 New York Times Bestseller. A #1 Washington Post Bestseller. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Need i go on? Needless to say, besides that it’s gorgeously drawn with compelling storytelling, it one of those “important” books, co-written by legendary sitting Congressman John Lewis.
Years ago Ed Piskor — currently an Eisner nominee for his recent book Hip Hop Family Tree — started self-publishing Wizzywig, the epic tale of Kevin "Boingthump” Phenicle, and his world of phone phreaks, hackers, and scammers. I read the first two volumes and fell in love. I think this is Ed’s magnum opus, and the deliriously lush design by Chris Ross makes this book sing.
Too Cool to Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson’s most recent masterpiece, is most known for it’s time-travel conceit, which send its protagonist Andy Wicks back in time, to relive, well… heck, i won’t spoil it. Anyway, what always stuck with me the most was the way in which Alex expertly handled the death of Andy’s father. Powerful. I cried. The stuff of life.
The deadline for Eisner voting approaches, so i reached out to the Top Shelf family members currently nominated for awards. Learn more about the awards here.
Zander Cannon burst onto the indie comics scene around the same time i did, way way back in the olden days, before emails and internet as we know it, with his epic fantasy adventure The Replacement God, published by Slave Labor. He went on to do layouts for various mainstream comics artists who obviously weren’t schooled on clear storytelling, and a stint pencilling Alan Moore’s comics Smax, part of the America’s Best imprint.
Zander and the other Cannon (unrelated), Kevin Cannon, have been working together for years in Minneapolis as part of Big Time Attic, and together they launched Double Barrel together, one of the first serialized digital comics, which is where Heck (Eisner nominee for Best Graphic Album—Reprint) was originally serialized.
Zander also writes terrific advice on comics, including this great piece titled Everything I Know About Storytelling I Learned from Star Wars.
Brett: What’s new?
Zander: I just attended SpringCon here in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and it was an amazingly good show: very comics-focused, a lot of good guests, and of course, all the other cartoonists in town that I never get to see. And then this weekend I'm invited to attend a local My Little Pony show on the strength of my having done one incentive cover for the comic. Who am I to say no?
Brett: How are the kids doing? Summer break is coming up, and as a dad myself, life sure makes a major shift in mid-June. Any family holiday plans?
Zander: One big holiday is that we are going to all be going to San Diego for Comic-Con, which is a first for my son, who is 6, and a thing we never thought would happen again for my wife, who is not a super-comics person. But with my book Heck nominated for an Eisner award, we just couldn't miss it as a family. I expect they will visit relatives and go to the zoo and the beach, and I'll be in Artist's Alley (FF-08, as it happens).
Brett: What’s the latest book(s) of yours that came out, and is/are forthcoming book(?) too.
Zander: Well, my last book is Heck from Top Shelf, of course, but I've been doing a lot of layouts to speed up/tighten storytelling for artists at DC and Vertigo. As a day job, you can't beat it, in my opinion. I've also been working on a project called SAGA (not to be confused with the comic Saga) that is a government funded project to help veterans deal with problems related to PTSD by making comics about their experiences on deployment.
Brett: Can you talk about any stuff you’re currently working on for down the road?
Zander: I'm writing and drawing an unannounced creator-owned series for Oni that will begin next year (2015). Essentially it will be a lot like the work that I did on Top Ten; a hyper-referential, character-based ensemble drama/comedy. Except this one is about giant monsters.
Praise for Zander’s Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize Honor Book, Heck:
"This, my friends, is what I consider a perfect comic book." —Four Colors and the Truth
That may have been the best adventure graphic novel I’ve read all year." —Optical Sloth
"Pulpy yet poignant" —Jason Heller, Onion AV Club
"Such a deft ending that it elevates the work even higher." —Jeremy Nisen, Under the Radar
"Heck is one of the most interesting and soul-plumbing graphic novels of 2013." —Hannah Means-Shannon, Bleeding Cool
"Moody and exciting" —Noel Murray, LA Times
"Combining exotic adventure with real human emotion" —Mark Schultz (Xenozoic Tales)
"Quirky...Challenging...Wonderful” —Mark Flowers, School Library Journal
“Phenomenal... My favorite graphic novel of 2013." —Bryan Lee O'Malley
"Heck is one of the best horror comics I’ve ever read." —Rhymes With Geek
"This book is magnificent and overwhelming and searing, and it stares right at the monsters that you can shoot with a shotgun and the ones that you can't." —Antick Musings
"A literary novel in dime-store clothes." —Locust Moon
Heck made it onto many "Best of” lists for 2013, including: Graphic Novel Resources, Bleeding Cool, Darling Dork, Robot 6/Comic Book Resources, Paste Magazine, Uproxx/Gamma Squad, ComicsAlliance, Graphic Novel Universe, 30 Extra Lives, LilithFilm, Locust Moon, Velocity Comics
In the civilian world, in the “real life” outside of comics, people mostly know Jeffrey for his incredibly funny and heartwarming Star Wars books, Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess, and Jedi Academy. Honestly, i’m not sure who loves them more, myself or my 9-year old son, though if the amount of times read matters, then my kid wins hands down; he's read Jedi Academy dozens of times to my one.
Mind you, i’ve never been fond of tongue-in-cheek parodies and spin-offs, but Jeffrey Brown really “gets it,” be it his loving tribute to Transformers (by way of Incredible Change-Bots) or his spot-on Star Wars material.
Brett: What’s new?
Jeffrey: The biggest thing going on for me lately is still Star Wars, with two more books (Jedi Academy 2 and Goodnight Darth Vader) coming out this summer, and working on two more for next year. I was at BEA last week and was happy to hear people mention not just the Star Wars books, but also last year's A Matter Of Life, which I'm still pretty proud of. Today I'm off to Toronto for some signings, which should be fun!
Brett: How're your boys doing? Any family holiday plans?
Jeffrey: The kids are great! Oscar is reading on his own now, and is building a comics collection. Simon is walking and climbing now, so we're constantly turning around to find him on top of chairs and tables. This summer we're going to Maine for vacation, which is always fun. Not sure if I'll run into James Kochalka there, again…
Brett: What’re the latest books of yours that are out and/or forthcoming?
Jeffrey: Kids Are Weird is the most recent, which is all about funny things Oscar has said. And later this year should finally see the release of Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something, which collects all the anthology, mini comic, fan club newsletters, and other random art from the past seven years.
Brett: Can you talk about any stuff you’re currently working on for down the road?
Jeffrey: Right now I'm working on a new middle grade series called Lucy & Andy Neanderthal, which I've done a ton of research for and am enjoying working on.