May 8, 2006 / More →
Finally got a chance to read a few things i picked up on the early-season convention circuit:
Soft Smooth Brain #7, by Bwana Spoons. This is one hella kick-ass book. I've been a fan of Bwana Spoons' comics and zines going waaaay back to his seminal Ain't Nothin' Like Fuckin' Moonshine. But this issue of S.S.B. represents a monumental leap in his stylings, reminiscent of Ron Rege or some of the old Fort Thunder peeps. Really solid stuff, and highly recommended. For more info check out www.grasshutcorp.com.
Paperdummy, by Peter Conrad. A mini-comics collection of short autobiographical one-page strips. Ironically, Top Shelf helped spawn a glut of really truly horrible auto-bio comics, with the release of James Kochalka's Sketchbook Diaries. (Which i feel have yet to be bested in this genre.) That said, Pete Conrad has done a wonderful small body of work, which has tons of charm and very witty insight. I'm really impressed with this mini, and hope to see more. I'm reminded of Sean Bieri's Jape comics. Nicely done.
Things Fall Apart. This is the third collection of miscellaneous drawings by Mike Huddleston. Holy fuck, this guy can draw!! Mike did The Coffin (with Phil Hester) with Oni Press a few years ago, Deep Sleeper (also with Phil Hester), Mnemavore (with Ray Fawkes), and is currently drawing a Manbat mini-series written by Bruce Jones. Amazing chops on this cat, all of which is worth tracking down.
Captain America 65th Anniversary Special. We've got the Brub (Ed Brubaker) writing, with Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin crafting spectacular art on an espionage story that goes back to WWII, and a team-up with Sgt. Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos. I haven't read the first collected edition of Ed's run on the regular series yet (though it is in my to-read pile), but if it's half as much fun as this, then i can't wait to dive in. This is a great example of mainstream comics that rock.
Meanwhile, how about those Phoenix Suns, coming back from a 3 games to 1 deficit against Kobe Bryant's L.A. Lakers!! What a killer series this has been. (I LOVE to see the Lakers lose.) Next up, Suns vs. the other L.A. team, the Clippers. Should be good.
May 3, 2006 / More →
First of all, with the news that Lost Girls is at the printer, we're starting to get some buzz. The first 2-part interview that rolled out was conducted by Kurt Amacker over at Cinescape, and it is awesome. Alan really explains how and why this book is so important. Check it out.
Second, as per his usual excellence in blogging, Steven Grant throws in some fabulous insight into the history of comics culture in his new column, and how that has affected scheduling. And i mean that in a not-so-good way. He uses Grant Morrison's 7 Soldiers of Victory as a current example, but this is a widespread problem in mainstream comics;Â announcing and soliciting comics before the work is done, only to lose big face when the book is due, and it's not ready for consumption.
Actually, this is the very same reason why Chris and myself decided, almost a decade ago, that we wouldn't serialize comics at all. In fact, in a sense, we sort of broke the mold, with the decision to not serialize the mammoth Blankets. That (coupled, to be fair, with the phone book Cerebus volumes that Dave Sim has been releasing for forever now), has lead to the current trend for releasing anything and everything in the comics-brick mode. (Maybe i'm talking out of my ass, but i think not. Readers feeling i am talking out of line are welcome to write in, and i'll post their response here.)
Lastly, in the better-late-than-never category, here are the few pics i snapped at APE a few weeks back, before my camera battery died.
Kristen Siebecker and Alex Robinson
Renee French (Wha..?)
Sequential Tart Adrienne Rappaport … Queen of the Beer Taps.
May 1, 2006 / More →
Well i still haven't had much time for extracurricular entertainment, and i haven't been able to keep up with juicy comics industry developments either, but i did read just now a very inspirational (if somewhat depressing) essay by the great investigative journalist Bill Moyers, A Time for Heresy. If you have any interest in reading more about the real world in which we live, this essay might open some eyes. Especially as it pertains, given Moyers' professed and upstanding Christian Values, to the hypocrisy of the movement of the modern religious right to marrying church and state, all the while acting against the very values they profess to hold.
Oh, and i suppose, in all fairness, i can't say i haven't seen anything... during this final stretch of pre-production on the New & Improved edition of From Hell, i found myself rather enjoying a 48-Hour Nickelodeon Marathon of Miami Vice. I know, i know... i'm dating myself (hey, i am 40 years old, after all), and yes much of the trappings of this show are dated as well. But that said, if you can get over the pastels and Phil Collins tunes, it holds up pretty well. You can see where Michael Mann cut his teeth on this tv show, and episodes from the early seasons especially have plenty of gritty goodness. (Including the offing of Crockett's original partner, Jimmy Smits, the sacrificial lamb, whose death was necessary to bring in the laid back Tubbs.)
Plus, in just the several episodes i caught, there was a plethora of guest stars (who at the time i originally watched these, back in college, i had no idea who they were), including: Frank Zappa, Pam Grier, Steve Buscemi, Willy Neslon, and the latino crew-member from the second-to-last (and lame) Star Trek spinoff. Oh, and Edward James Olmos as Lt. Castillo was just a supreme bad-ass.
I really can't believe i liked watching these again as much as i did. So sue me.
April 28, 2006 / More →
Yes, it's been too long since i last posted. Post-APE has been chaos. I've had nary a moment to enjoy much tv, film, or reading as of late. Good news is … GASP!! … Lost Girls actually went out the door to our printer in Hong Kong over a week ago!! I seems like forever that we've been working on this book, and given the nature of its content, i'm VERY curious to see what kind of reaction it will get.
Meanwhile, i did pick up the newest Marvel Masterworks yesterday, compiling the last run of X-Men comics, before it was turned into a reprint title, and then relaunched and turned into the mega-franchise it is today. Neal Adams may be off his rocker now, but back in the day, this guy could freaking draw like nobodies business. I LOVE this stuff!! (This brings the reprinting of Adam's Marvel and DC work almost up-to-date, at least as far as his "big runs" go. But he did a plethora of stunning covers, one-shots, fill-ins and what have you... i'd love to see this collected as well one day.)
But what surprised me in this X-Men collection, was how much i enjoyed some of the work by Werner Roth and Don Heck. I'm guessing it must have been the solid inking, because both of these guys are pretty hit or miss for my tastes. The only drawback to the collection was some very poor reproduction, especially the line art, which is noticeably jaggedy. No surprise here though... Marvel has long been the weaker of the Big Two with their reproduction quality. (Although DC handily loses the production values game to Marvel, what with their shitty newsprint for the bulk of their trade paperbacks.)
Anyway, enough inner fanboy. I'm just hoping that this post will inspire me to get back to this on a regular basis again. Until then, enjoy this recent photo of The Kid, at a family event last weekend.
April 17, 2006 / More →
Back at the ranch, life is back to sort of normal. Deadlines. Sick kid. More deadlines. Etc.
To recap the last couple weeks, i'll try and make it short:
• Emerald City Con. Seattle. Pretty good day one, not so good day two. I still love the show, and will continue to attend. Shows promise.
•Â Three day break.
•Â APE (Alternative Press Expo). San Francisco. ROCKED! Best APE ever, easily. Good to see The City back on its feet again.
• Co-pilot for both trips, Bwana Spoons chokes on water and pukes in my car, when we're a mere two hours from home, at the end of the long-ass roadtrip.
• Adjustment from chiropractor, Dr. Jay. Ahhhh.....
•Â Lost Girls.
I've only had a chance to read a couple items that i scored on the road, with many MANY more still unread. Kazmir Strzepek's The Basilisk, a fabulous fantasy mini-comic with a nifty screenprinted cover and thread stitching, is a hoot. Kaz's work in generally is really strong stuff. In fact, his super tiny mini-comic The Mourning Star, is the best comic no one's read in the last two years. Just fabulous sci-fi fantasy weirdness, with great characters an a fun compelling story.
You can find samples of his work here.
(Note: The Basilisk is a short strip that was originally drawn for Jeffry Brown's now-defunct Elf World.)
Also, Scott Morse generously (no surprise there) gave me a copy of his stunning new board book, Noble Boy, a biography of animation legend Maurice Noble, told in a similar children's book manner as the Kurosawa parts of his Top Shelf book, Barefoot Serpent. This is a truly deluxe package. Kudos to Scott and co-publisher Chris Pitzer over at AdHouse Books. I'm pretty sure this is Scott's first release for his newly formed company Red Window.
(Here's hoping that one day we'll see Scott dive into his "next" Top Shelf book, Lyrical Whales.)
Oh, and i also picked up and read the Joss Whedon/John Cassaday 12-issue masterpiece run on Astonishing X-Men. Holy god what a fanboy's dream this book is. It's got everything: the return of Colossus; Kitty Pride; the Fastball Special; the Danger Room; the Danger Room gone all Hal on us. I'm actually only a recent convert to Whedon, getting the bug first (or actually, last) with his most recent film, Serenity. This ass-kicking film led me to the abandoned tv show Firefly, which in turn led to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, which i now have even my wife addicted to as well. (We're into Season 5.) I saw a t-shirt at WonderCon this year that pretty much sums up how amazing a visionary this guy really is. It read, "Joss Whedon is My Master Now." No truer words can be spoken, as the once mighty George Lucas falls from grace with his absolutely abysmal new Star Wars travesties.
But the beauty of Whedon's vision could only have been realized by the jaw-dropping panoramic artistry of artist John Cassaday and colorist Laura Martin. This powerhouse duo could be working on the lamest book ever …Â say, Power Pack or something … and i'd pay for the opportunity to see it. I'm out of superlatives. Trust me, this is great stuff for any X-Men junky (different yet on par with the mind-bending Grant Morrison run), super-hero fan, or acolyte of the new "widescreen" school of comics.
I can't wait to see their next run.
April 6, 2006 / More →
Yeesh, i feel like i'm 60 freaking years old. Having a bum back really sucks, eh? Anyway, off yet again early in the morning, mi amigo Bwana riding shotgun. Being a ten-over the speed-limit driver, i can blast from Portland to San Francisco in ten hours. Then on Friday morning, i'm picking up a mini-van, so i can tool on south to Santa Cruz, for a signing at Atlantis Fantasy World with Alex (Tricked) Robinson and his wife Kristen, Renee (The Ticking) French and Jeffrey (Every Girl) Brown. It'll be an all-day affair, so i suspect i'll be pretty beat by the time we get back to the city. In fact, we'll most likely roll in too late to make the Last Gasp pre-APE mixer. I think it's at their warehouse; if you've never been, it truly is quite the experience to walk the isles.
APE itself is Saturday and Sunday. Should be fun, since we'll also have several other Top Shelf peeps showing up, including Jeremy (Cry Yourself to Sleep) Tinder, Aaron (Spiral-Bound) Renier, Liz (Will You Still Love Me?) Prince and Jennifer (eponymous) Daydreamer.
Saturday night should be a kick too, given that i'll be Guest Bartending at Isotope Comics in the early evening. I'm really looking forward to this, since i haven't given the old can a shake in a long while. Also, i haven't been to the new location yet (since they moved from the Sunset District); James & Kristen are some groovy folks, and i heard the new store rocks.
Swing on by, i'm making my favorite cocktail, la margarita!! Ai ai ai!
Coming home on Monday, and then … get this True Believers!!Â …Â i'm putting Lost Girls together and sending it TO THE PRINTER!!!!!!
Wrapping up the office now, followed by the Daily Show, and maybe i'll be able to drag myself to bed.
April 4, 2006 / More →
Home late last night from Emerald City Con in Seattle and home for three days before i hit the road again for San Francisco and the Alternative Press Expo.
Left Portland early on Friday. My co-pilot, Bwana (Pencil Fight) Spoons, who has been on more road trips with me than anyone, ever. Bwana is an incredible painter, zine-maker, cartoonist, publisher, and just all around cool cat. Check out his goods at the tres chic Grass Hut Corps.
The sun was out, so the drive was smooth. Seattle was gorgeous. (Seattle is fun when it's murky and damp, which is most of the time. But when it's sunny, it's absolutely one of the most beautiful cities around.) First stop Zanadu comics, downtown, so i could deliver a small re-order. Zanadu (which has a second location in the U. District), is an amazing pair of stores. Incredible overall range of books …Â almost exclusively books, with only the most recent floppies … where i'm always guaranteed to find some rare funky book i've been looking for.
Another incredible store in the U. District, is Comics Dungeon. It's a little dingier and low-fi, but just as full to brimming with comics goodness. Check 'em out if you're ever in the Emerald City... but make sure you allocate at least an hour, because there's so much to take in.
Next in our downtown leg, a brief visit to three trippy little shops in a row, right next to the Moore Hotel, Fancy (which sells jewelry), Schmancy (toys), and Pants (ladies undergarments and accessories). Lots of nifty hand-made items, and nifty retail spaces in themselves.
After a quick bite, Bwana and i headed over to the football stadium and got our table set up. And i'm a dumb-ass, because now that i'm blogging, i should be taking the digital camera for snap-shots.
Finally, Bwana left to go stay with Shawn Wolfe (yes, the smoking hot designer), while i went to spend some Q.T. with my old pal Dave (who was on the crew team with me back in college), and his delightful family, Julie, Aiden and Angus. (The boys are a kick, and attended their first comics convention this weekend, costumes and all.)
Saturday, the show itself started out gang-busters. There was a giant line snaking around the building to start, which always bodes well. The mood was generally good, and the sales, while not brisk per se, were steady... until about 3:00 p.m. or so. (Which was, coincidentally, the same time as tip-off for game one of the Final Four games.) But overall, decent first day.
That night, however, was one for the ages. Off to Pike Street Brewery for dinner with Garret Izumi, Scott Mills, and my old intern (and current freelancer) Carlos. Sure, Pike Street is a little lacking in charm, but their beer is outstanding, as was the heaping pile of nachos i consumed. Plus, we got to catch the second half of the UCLA game, as they stomped on LSU. (Only to get crushed just tonight in the finals, by Florida.)
Stumbling out of the restaurant and into Post Alley (a freaking awesome cobblestone alley which reminded me of old European streets), we immediately ran across a true spectacle, which i christened The Gum Wall. Like a veritable rainbow, literally thousands of wads of gum were plastered over about a ten foot square section of the alley wall. It seemed like a good omen, so we stopped for a "break."
At which point we noticed a darkened, inconspicuous doorway, with a sign which read The Alibi Room. We said what the hell, and went in for a peek. Wow, what a slick little restaurant/club this was. The decor was something right out of a New York Style magazine, but the clientele was just regular folks. Even the Pretty People seemed down to earth, and without raging egos. We drank scotch, and it was good. Recommended.
After that, Garret and Scott split back to their hotel, while Carlos and myself trekked around a break in, and then back into in Post Alley again (where the Pike Place Market stands), and into yet another magical little place called The White Horse. Met up with some pals at Image, Joe and Eric (Stephenson), comics super-star Rick Remender, and his lovely wife Dani. I also met the very friendly and unbelievably talented Luna Bros. Really really nice guys. The clientele here was decidedly more "sophisticated" seeming, the small room surrounded by dusty books, and the bar menu with only a small handful of bottled beers and a few wines by the glass. Being more of a draft beer guy myself, i chose an interesting sounding beer, and... fell in love. Some kind of Scottish heather ale. Big full nose, and a soft, malty-sweet roundness that tasted simply divine. I wanted to stay for another, but this was our night to "leap forward" into daylight savings time …Â i would be losing an hour of sleep. Not wanting to work the show the next morning with a raging hangover, i decided that discretion was the bettor part of party valor here, and went back to Dave's for the night.
And speaking of, it's already after 2:00 a.m. now... so to make a longer story much shorter. The show on Sunday was a bit slower. The sun was out, and when the sun comes out during early Spring in Seattle, people tend to opt for sunshine. Got to catch up a wee bit with various peeps. Bob Schreck, Matt Wagner, Diana Schutz, Scott Allie, the Image crew, Jason Hall, David Lasky, Gary Groth, Eric Reynolds, and Zuniga & Jen from Fantagraphics.
Also, salivated over a super-rare hardcover edition of Dan Clowse' masterpiece collection called Pussey!, culled from his brilliant Eightball comic book. This is the only book i don't of his oeuvre, most of which i have in their hardcover editions. Alas, this baby was priced at $200. A little too rich for my blood. (I do belive Eric told me that Fanta is planning on a new softcover reprint later this year. This material is funny-as-shit, and come recommended.
The show ends, Bwana and myself grab a bite at a tasty pan-Asian place, and head back to P-Town. To wrap, the consensus amongst those i polled is that Emerald City has great vibe, gets good guest, and yet still has room to improve. Certainly, with such a low overhead for myself to attend, it's a gimme. Thanks to Jim Demonakos, and the rest of those who make this show one of the good guys.
March 30, 2006 / More →
Leaving early Friday morning for the Emerald City Con up in Seattle, so i won't be posting for a few days.
Meanwhile, our own Rich Koslowski (Three Fingers and The King), sent me an impassioned email a day or two ago, about how much he was blown away by a recent concert he and his wife Sandy attended. With permission, i'm reprinting it below. (Thanks, Rich!)
[From an email by Rich Koslowski]
Sandy and i went to the Queen + Paul Rodgers concert last night and i feel compelled to tell you all that you absolutely must see this if you have the chance!
i have been the biggest Queen fan since i discovered them way back in 1982 (ish) when i snuck a wrapped christmas present my older brother, paul, had for me under the tree down to my room, slit it open along the side so i could slide it out and then put it back without being noticed and in the black of night hastily placed it on my turntable and sampled a bit of it before quickly putting it back in its wrapper taping the cut and placing it back under the tree! i only heard one song, "We Will Rock You!", but it was enough! from that day on i had discovered a magical world of music i had never before known. from there i went on to devour anything and everything i could find that they produced...and i loved it all.
when Freddy Mercury passed away in 1991 i was deeply saddened. devestated he was gone and that there wouldn't be any more Queen”“”“their music, their genius, and the fact that i'd never had a chance to see my favorite band live in concert. but then a couple albums came out posthumously...this helped a little.
when i heard about this concert tour (Queen + Paul Rodgers) a couple months back i was interested and definitely wanted to go but i was more than a little bit...concerned. i had mixed feelings about whether or not it would be any good. I'll be honest, i didn't know if the three remaining members with a new frontman”“”“established though he was”“”“would do Queen, as a whole, justice. without freddy?...like i said i was concerned. then i disovered that Brian May and Roger Taylor would be the only two of the three remaining Queen members doing the tour. no John Deacon. i was a little bit more concerned. bummed. i love John Deacon.
so, sandy and i went to the concert last night with more than a little bit of trepidation. we went out for a very nice dinner before going, though, had a wonderful meal, a little wine and started feeling pretty good.
once we got to the venue and saw the vendors handling the tour merchandise i got a little excited. i bought a tour program and a coin with the tour logo on it. the fans were standing 12 deep to buy this stuff by the way. haven't seen that kind of fervor over merchandise in a loooong time.
the crowd was about 5000-6000”“”“not the stadium sized sold out venues they use to fill back in the day, but strong nonetheless. and the crowd was more...mature than most concert crowds i'm used to seeing (i should mention at this point that i've seen well over 200 concerts) which made us both happy. we knew that we'd be able to comfortably sit and enjoy most of the show. so we sat down and had a beer while we waited the 20 minutes for the show to start, watching the people slowly fill the seats. we were still a bit concerned. we discussed, beforehand, our mutual "mixed feelings" and now we just sat and waited. i was a blank slate...i had no expectations whatsoever. i only hoped that they wouldn't embarrass themselves in any way. isn't that a terrible thought?
the pre-show music was good. set a nice mood. the intro music when the lights went down was surprising. Eminem?! what the ...? but it fit. and it was altered...Brian May? he is a genius with mixing sounds. my heart started pumping...i got goosebumps and a small smile crept across my face. would i be pleasantly surprised tonight?
what happened next completely took me by surprise. i heard the sound of Brian May's guitar start the wonderful "Tie Your Mother Down" riff and i started to cry. not bawl or anything”“”“i'm far too manly”“”“but i got choked up. over the course of the next 3 hours i would get "choked up" about 8 or 9 more times. it was the single best concert i have ever seen. sandy agreed. Freddy Mercury can never be replaced but this was, in a way, even better than if he were there. i know that may sound ridiculous to some”“”“and i would have said no way if you'd have told me that beforehand”“”“but it's true. this was an inspiring tribute of sorts. inspiring beyond description. and they did it flawlessly. absolute professionals. they didn't go over-the-top with tributes to Freddy, or try and pick a lead singer who sounded just like him...they just went out there and sang the absolute shit out of the best songs ever made. it was so unbelievably moving i can't even describe. the version they did of "Hammer To Fall" is, alone, worth the price of admission...absolutely beautiful.
so, if you're even the most mild of Queen fans (or Bad company for that matter.they did four great BC songs) you really should go see this concert. if you are a bigtime Queen fan you absolutely owe it to yourself to go! after what i saw last night...i would never forgive myself for not going. trust me.
i've never lied to you before.
rich and sandy koslowski
Oh, and for the hard-core Queen fans out there, i highly recommend you head over to cartoonist Mike Dawson's website for a sneak-peek at his forthcoming graphic novel, Freddie and Me, an autobiographical journey of a big Queen fan. It's really kick ass work, and i can't wait to pick this up when it's done.
March 28, 2006 / More →
Just back from a late-night flick with my pal Mario at the pub theater The Laurelhurst, just a few blocks from my house. On the big screen tonight? Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The verdict? Brilliant.
For years and years i've been listening to people rant against Thunderdome, as the only suck movie in the Mad Max Trilogy. And while i concede that the '85 score is pretty dated, and there may be a couple too many cuddly moments (especially compared to the first two films), i call bullshit. George Miller continues exploring the themes he started in Mad Max and Road Warrior deftly and with aplomb. If you can move beyond the over-produced gloss of the film itself (as was the case with virtually all major media in the mid-1980's), Miller's ideas pertaining to a post-oil, post-apocalyptic world now seem downright prescient. (Plus, NO Ewoks!!)
Consider, Mad Max episode one, peak oil is in the past, and the strains on a civilized society are cracked at best, law and order succumbing to biker gangs reeking unchecked destruction around them. Mad Mad: The Road Warrior segues a few years into the future. Oil and water are the new precious commodities, and civilization as we know it have pretty much disappeared. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, then, Max's hair down to his ass, and the rise of new communities: the feudal Western-minded Barter Town (cynical as hell) and the egalitarian city of the Lost Children, representing a more naive (re: hopeful) attempt at reestablishing a new way of life amidst the wastelands. Beyond Thunderdome in particular is a superb anthropological meditation on both dawning civilizations and how religion develops around them through myth, and handed down stories. (I love how the Legend of Captain Walker is based on an airline promotional View-Master reel!)
And look at us now... the Middle East, looking more and more every day like the fabled End of the World scenario dreamed about by fundamental religious wingnuts; water disputes in third world countries, with international corporations "buying" the water sources and forcing the indigenous peoples to pay for their own right to freely drink THEIR OWN freaking water!! I'm telling you folks, for all the cautionary tales we have in the canon of popular entertainment, we have as many freak-bots out to ignore said tales and rule the world.
Pig-shit (methane gas) as the fuel-source. "Pig Killers," illegally bagging swine to feed their families, forever shoveling carp. I love these details. And the requisite car-chase, as Max and crew make the escape from Barter Town, still kicks major amounts of ass. (My favorite customized vehicle? The cowboy-mobile, complete with spotted cow hide.)
And moving right along, last night i finished reading the 6-issue mini-series by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards sci-fi thriller The Question. This is REALLY excellent comics, based on the creation of Steve Ditko. But for a change of pace, the ret-con treatment to bring it up to date, makes it (in my mind) better than the original. Veitch taps into contemporary events, what with the ultra high-tech surveillance and data-mining. Veitch delivers yet another valuable cautionary tale, but it's Edwards who truly brings it home. His art in this series if some of the best in this industry, world-wide. My guess is that this series will not be collected, which a shame. I can only hope that it receives some award nominations, as it's a rare example of a fine work amidst the myriad spin-offs, mini-series, and/or one-shots by the majors, that stink up the gutters and overcrowd the marketplace.
For the record, i'm a wait-for-the-trade guy, but mainly only when i have a sense that it will be collected anyway. (Can anyone say, Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely All-Star Superman?) But, since this has been Top Shelf's modus operandi since our inception, this probably isn't a big surprise to most readers. As a publisher who entered the game AFTER the crash of '94/'95, it's never made fiscal sense for us to serialize what we instead release as "original graphic novels." But as a voracious fanboy of comics, with a serious limited budget, i refuse to knowingly buy something twice, when my preferred format is in collected form, with a spine, and in hardcover if possible.
That said, as in the case of The Question, or the Jason Hall/Cliff Chiang Creeper mini-series, or even Gotham Central and Sleeper as they were coming out; if i'm not sure that a book will eventually be collected, then MAYBE i'll buy the floppies. And for those who say to me it's my DUTY to buy the floppies, IN ORDER for the trade to have the market to warrant a trade... well to you folks, i'll send my one-day-a-week daycare bill for wee little Carter.
And lastly, this afternoon while The Kid was napping, i FINALLY read Local #1, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly. In a word, awesome. I've been a Wood fan for years now, and Kelly's work is a perfect fit for this very interesting story. Besides that i'm a homeboy of the featured town in this debut issue (Portland, OR), the structure of the story was inspiring. Sort of a Rashomon-esque narrative, but instead of pov's from various players in the story, it's different scenarios played in the head of the protagonist, Megan McKeenan. This is a mini-series from my friends at Oni Press, and truly well worth your time. Now i just need to get my paws on #'s 2 & 3.
March 27, 2006 / More →
I was recently forwarded an essay written from the School Library Journal, written by a school media specialist (librarian?) who has discovered how absolutely compelling comics can still be for kids (who generally simply don't have any exposure to comics), and what great educational tools they can be.
It's a wonderfully comprehensive article, easy to understand for the uninitiated, and chock full of anecdotes and recommendations. Including several Top Shelf titles: Owly, Pinky & Stinky, and Monkey vs Robot.
The article was written by Allyson Lyga, and published in School Library Journal Vol. 52, Issue #3, March 2006.
Here are two fabulous excerpts. The first provides an example of her firm grasp of what makes the medium tick, while the second is a testimonial which centers on Andy Runton's Owly.
* Brain Food
I always like to say that, educationally speaking, graphic novels give
the brain more of a workout per sentence than any other type of media,
including conventional books. That's because as a reader takes in a
graphic novel's print and art through a series of panels, word balloons,
and captions, the reader's brain is bombarded simultaneously with the
graphic novel's characters, setting, plot, and action. So if a parent or
teacher claims that reading graphic novels isn't much of a challenge for
a child, hand him one. Explain how the brain works to comprehend the
story and how it detects the subtle nuances of the characters' facial
* SINCE I STARTED STOCKING OUR SCHOOL LIBRARY WITH graphic novels six
years ago, I've discovered that kids love them...
Of course not everyone thinks graphic novels are wonderful. Some
teachers, parents, and even media specialists wonder if they're even
appropriate for young students to read. Are graphic novels really worth
purchasing? Or do they just pander to kids' wants without meeting their
educational needs? To best answer those questions, let me share a
typical experience I had with one of our third graders, a below-average
reader named Bryonna.
Bryonna checked out a copy of Owly, one of our most popular graphic
novels, earlier in the year. She came up to me before class and held it
up: "I love this book," she said. "It's my favorite book!", I was
thrilled and wanted to know more. "It's a story about friendship, and
there aren't any words in the book," she told me. "I read the story to
my two-year-old sister, and she loved it, too!", "How did you read a
book without words?", I asked her. Bryonna explained that when she
looked at the pictures she thought about the words the characters were
saying and she visualized the words in her head. Then, when she read the
story to her sister, she created the dialogue and story based on the
March 25, 2006 / More →
No excuses for not posting these last few days, but damn, so much happening. As i wrap up everything on Lost Girls, i needed to make PDFs of each book for Staros to do a final review of... each book as a PDF is over 500MB. This is so huge, it was bogging down my computer so badly, i couldn't perform any other functions. Crazy crazy stuff. Needless to say, this last minute stress is so worth the fact that we're THIS close to sending the book to the printer. It's been a long long time coming.
Meanwhile, waiting for cds to burn and what have you, i got caught up on a little reading.
• Papercutter #2 (Tugboat Press).
Edited by Greg (Clutch) Means, this is the little anthology that could. I'd say this is the most vital of all current anthologies at the moment -- in part because it's so unassuming, and given it's smaller, mini-comic stature, so much less pretentious in this age of excessive & gratuitous anthologies.
The cover and lead story are by a cartoonist new to me, Becca Taylor, and boy do i love this strip, title "Cherchez la Femme." Told in a unique montage style, and rendered with a fine line and occasional grey-tones, Becca's tale jumps through time and ostensibly tells the tale of a controversial actress's life story. But lurking beneath this simple plot lies a subtext that explores gender roles in Hollywood, the hot & cold trajectory of celebrity, and a scathing indictment of the role of the media in all of this. Excellent.
Next is a fabulous mystery fairy-tale called "Criminal Intent," by Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin, which could almost be called an "Elseworlds" story about Catwoman. It's a simple enough idea, about a hottie cat-burglar who steals not just jewels and what have you, from a small (British?) town, but also the hearts of the townsmen too. But what makes this strip really cook is Colleen's incredible art. Coover is developing a style of magic realism that border's on sublime, reminding somewhat me of Hope Larson's beautiful work. Colleen Coover is the real deal, and i can't wait to see what she does next. That is, after the release of her collected Oni book, Banana Sunday.
Last up is a cute little 3-pager by Liz Prince, "Ghost Buddies," that stretches her single-page strips as seen in Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed?, and works towards developing a slightly longer narrative. Fanciful and fun, it's great to see Liz getting more of her work out there, knowing that her admiral goal at the moment is finishing school.
•Â Comic Effect #44.
Jim Kingman's Comic Effect is an old-school zine about one man's love of comics, and it can be quite infectious. While he holds the door open for other contributors, ultimately the zine is fully infused with Jim's sensibilities, and his proclivities towards Silver Age DC Comics. There are occasional nods towards a variety of subject matter, including a props for a few Top Shelf books, but for the most part, it's an unapologetic love fest for men-in-tights comics. (Which is why i love this zine so much, being a fanboy myself.)
But the essay that grabbed me most in this issue, is a treatise by Jason Sacks on DCs ill-fated comic book from the late 60's (under the experimental editorship of Carmine Infantino, i believe), of Joe Simon's wacky Brother Power the Geek, #1 & 2. After a little bit of background, Sacks goes on at length to describe the contents of what can only be called a Dada-esque ride, comparable to some of the more esoteric works by our contemporary madman Grant Morrison.
Now, i realize there's probably zero chance that DC would ever collect these two issues into one prestige format book, but for the record, i'd buy it!!
•Â Not sure if anyone cares, but here's what i'll be looking to pick up come June, from the new Diamond Previews catalog. But first, can i just say how absolutely freaking stupid the new "Spider-Man" costume looks. Wow. This is really really lame. (I haven't read anything about it actually... certainly none of the comics. And i don't intend to, no offense to the WFH creators.)
From front to back.
- Absolute Kingdom Come. This is how Alex Ross (whose work is fascist, according to some) should be seen. Especially the wildy over-the-top shit like this. (His "serious" comics, with Paul Dini are played WAY too straight, and suck pretty bad, for my tastes.)
- Seven Soldiers of Victory vol. 4. I'm waiting until this is all collected before i dive in, which is how i prefer to read finite projects.
- Showcase Presents Elongated Man. Worth the price of admission for the Gil Kane Batman back-ups alone. Wacky wacky stuff. This is a perfect example of why i'm liking DC's b&w phonebooks so much more than the Marvel Essentials. (Plus they have better trade dress and overall production values.)
- The Eternals oversized hardcover, by Jack Kirby. 'Nuff said.
- Daredevil vol. 5 oversized hardcover. The end of Bendis' definitive and superlative run. Just amazing comics. (I hear The Brube is doing well out of the gate as the new writer taking over with this title. Looking forward to it... here's hoping Marvel will continue with the hardcover collections.)
- FF / Iron Man: Big in Japan tpb. Seth Fisher's final major work, drawn on location in Japan. Worth buying for the pictures alone.
- B.P.R.D: The Black Flame. Guy Davis is amazing.
- The Artist Within. Greg Preston's BRILLIANT collection of photographs of cartoonists in their own studios. This is a book that got away from us... we simply dropped the ball with Greg, and he (rightfully) bailed to Dark Horse. I literally cannot recommend this book enough. Every portrait is a masterpiece. Order one now.
- The Comics, by Jerry Robinson. I've been looking for a good-condition copy of this highly regarded historical tome for years, and now the wait is over. Beautiful cover too.
- Fear Agent: Re-Ignition tpb, by Rick Remender and Tony Moore. Tony Moore blew me away with his work on the early issues of Walking Dead, and Rick made me laugh my ass off at WonderCon this year, so i'm jumping in blind.
- (maybe) The Drowners, by Nabiel Kanan. I've heard nothing about this, and since his work is hit or miss for me, i'll wait until i hear something about it. Anything.
- Skyscrapers of the Midwest, by Josh Cotter. A new issue of some fabulously deranged comics. Gets under the skin, it does.
DRAWN & QUARTERLY:
- Get A Life, by Dupuy & Berberian. One of the French greats, by a team who is virtually flawless. Can't wait to be reading this. Good job D&Q.
- Maybe Later, also by by Dupuy & Berberian. A production diary of sorts, breaking down the odd way in which they divide their duties.
- Pussey!, by Dan Clowes. The only collection of his Eightball oeuvre i don't already own, FINALLY back in print. Goddamn funny comics.
- Bardin the Superrealist, by Max. Fanta gets into the euro-reprint game, this one by the Spanish master.
- Comics As Art. A history of Fantagraphics, by ex editor-in-chief of the Comics Journal, Tom Spurgeon.
- Passionella and Other Stories, by Jules Feiffer. I have a battered old softcover edition of this, and would love to have a nice new hardcover. Kudos. (This is hands-down my favorite era of Feiffer's career. His acerbic handle of the neurosis of the Cosmopolitan 50s is wonderful.)
Tommyrot: The Art of Ben Templesmith. When this guy is on, he's astounding. In the Impressionist school, his work on the 30 Days of Night trilogy (with Steve Niles) rocks.
- Wally's World. Vanguard has a varied track record with their production values. If this looks good, who can't resist an illustrated biography of Wally Wood.
- Art Out of Time, edited by Dan Nadel. Well Nadel is really cranking out some great stuff these days … including a feature on Renee French in the current issue of Print magazine. And this glorious looking art book, highlighting 30 (mostly) unknown American comics artists from the first 2/3rds of the 20th Century looks to be a must-have reference. (Crossing my fingers that the production values kick my ass. But if it's as nice as Nadel's zine, the Ganzfeld, i have nothing to worry about.)
Still want to mention some nice comments about Andy Runton's Owly series in a recent edition of the School Library Journal. Next time.
March 22, 2006 / More →
Continuing my critique of the Comics Journal #273, i was into the Firing Line section; there two more reviews in here, including a rather ambiguous one of our own Legend of Wild Man Fischer (by Dennis Eichhorn and J.R. WIlliams). But it's a review for John Porcellino's brilliant graphic novel Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man … published by La Mano and originally serialized in John P.'s seminal mini-comic King Cat.
For the uninitiated, King Cat is one of the greatest comics ever, mini-comic or not. There is a humanism that runs deep in Porcellino's work; an appreciation for the natural world and a sense of place; a compassion for life. I'm reminded of Sand County Almanac, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aaron Cometbus, Neil Young, and Pablo Picasso. And yet he so so uniquely singular. His book has been regularly coming out for longer than i've been reading indy comics (going on 20 years or so), and is up to issue #66, by my last count. If you have never read this work, you're really missing out.
Moving back to the review, which was a glowing review, and fairly interesting... until a throw-away comment turned the writer's argument upside down.
[Oooops! I have to run out for a happy-hour date with a couple pals, throw down a pint or two, and i'll continue then.]
O.k, back to the Porcellino review. Near the very end of this review, the writer comments on how he feels that John P.'s intent was, that any sense of awe about life in general is misguided, but in this case only because of one isolated series of events in John's career killing bugs. The reviewer, Tim Kreider writes, "In this haunting coda Porcellino renounces the Kochalkan pose of wide-eyed-wonder-at-the-magic-of-the-world as so much self-deluding bullshit..."
At this point, i have to ask, who is the self-deluding bullshitter. It is here where Kreider betrays his grasp at the bulk of Porcellino 's work in his attempt to (for whatever personal reasons) bash on themes that both Porcellino and Kochalka share, and disrespect the work of James Kochalka.
Kochalka is indeed somewhat of an optimist. But a cursory glance at virtually any single issue of Porcellino's King Cat with yield an strikingly similar world view. That there is indeed magic in the every day.
To check myself, i just pulled out my run of King Cat comics, and the second issue i grabbed (#54) leads offf with a story titled "Secret World." The narrative is basically a wordless montage of images of John, his cat Kukok (named after former Bull's forward, the Eastern European player Tony Kukoc), and his pal Zak, as they coast through the day … romping through fields, walking to the city, drinking coffee and enjoying the moment. The last page has the only narration, which reads, "The secret world is the ordinary world. Buddha nature is always fully formed."
And John P/'s comics are FULL to brimming with this very "wide-eyed-wonder-at-the-magic-of-the-world." So to use a derogatory reference to the comics of James Kochalka, whose themes virtually mirror those of John Porcellino, in order to support a singular and specific observation by John P. in Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man, is bullshit of the highest order.
Kreiner's hatred for Kochalka either outweighs his appreciation for John P., or else he's simply not very familiar with his oeuvre. Either way, it makes for a poor, biased and self-defeating review. So sad.
To wrap the TCJ series here, i'll just say that Dirk Deppey conducted an amazingly entertaining interview with Eddie Campbell, erudite and raconteur to the end. What impressed me most about this affair, was how well researched Dirk was in his preparation.
Prefacing the interview is an appreciation for Eddie's work in general, and a nice piece by Rob Vollmar titled "The Importance of Being Bacchus."
In the end, as always with the Comics Journal, any specific problems i have with this issue are super-ceded by the general excellence throughout.
NEXT: Second issue of Paper Cutter #2, and Comic Effect #44.
March 20, 2006 / More →
Cleaning up scanned pages in Photoshop of the digital From Hell files Eddie Campbell sent to me, made from master photocopies he made back when the book was first finished. (He's sold all of the originals long ago.) Most of you have probably heard the troubles we've had trying to get From Hell back into print, after a long long wait, so i'll spare you the details. (And if you haven't let me know, and maybe i'll post to the blog about it.) Needless to say, it's a real bummer that we don't have the book in print for the first crush of heat for Alan Moore, emanating from "V" For Vendetta.
Anyway, i working away and thought i tune into Meet the Press for a little background noise while i'm doing so. Wow, what an episode.
*** Spoiler Alert!!! Balls Found to Reside in "Journalist" Tim Russert's Scrotum After All***
First on was General George Casey. Now, i've seen Casey on television many times before, but it's been a while. He normally holds himself together pretty well. But lo and behold, Russert came out with guns blazing on this, the third anniversary of the Iraq war. He asked pointed questions, held his ground, and held Casey to account for rosey statements made in the past about how smashingly everything had been going.
What i witnessed would have been amusing, but given the implications, i'd have to say my emotions are now running a little more to the disturbed side. Casey was literally squirming in his seat, stuttering and talking in circles. At one point his eyes started nervously darting off-camera, as if looking for a safety line from one of his handlers. Very very surreal, and decidedly not a feel good moment. Read the transcript here.
(Second up was Congressman Jack Murtha, his balls firmly in place, continuing his plea to reassess the situation, redeploy the troops in the region, and figure out a better plan … ANY plan … before more American troops are needlessly endangered.)
And now onto more thoughts on the Comics Journal #273. Continuing a tour through the Newswatch section. (Last episode i mentioned the first entry in Newswatch, the very well considered and executed piece on creator contracts with corporations, and the like.) Moving along we have a short piece on the news that the Harveys are, once again, changing venue, from MoCCA to Baltimore. A decent piece, especially considering i don't recall reading anything remotely in depth about this anywhere else. The Harvey Award deserves some stability. Best of luck to Marc Nathan with this endeavor.
(For the record, while i agree that MoCCA had some problems, and the price tag was WAAAY too steep for attendees, and the sit-down meal a bit extravagant, i have to confess that i had a rip-roaring time the last time i attended, two years ago, hanging out with Chris [AdHouse] Pitzer and Robbie [iDW] Robbins. Maybe it had something to do with the really hot girls walking around with free samples of various liquor concoctions, paid for by some fancy vodka manufacturer. I think it was Ketel One or Skyy. They just kept coming around. It wasn't my fault. At any rate, needless to say i got a wee bit tipsy, and i must say i had more fun at this show than i've ever had at the faaar tooooo loooong Eisner Awards.)
Next in Newswatch, a piece on the struggling, yet "restructuring" Alias Comics Enterprises. It seemed a good set-the-record-straight type of affair, but to be honest, that was one story i haven't been keeping up on, so i'm hardly qualified to formulate a response.
And now we're up to Journal Datebook section, edited by Greg Stump. For those who don't read the Comics Journal, this is one reason (IF you consider yourself a hard-core comics lover) you should. Basically shorter news soundbites, you find more not-quite-mainstream news information here than most of the web-comics content combined. (Although to be fair, Tom Spurgeon is graciously filling this gap quite nicely at his superb Comics Reporter site, with similar type news items that no one else deems otherwise newsworthy.)
Headlines include: Robert White, Artist for Archie Comics, Dies; Luckovich Causes Stir with Iraq Cartoon; and (Zak) Sally Leaves Low (indy rock band) to Focus on Solo Endeavors. (More on Zak Sally's publishing imprint, La Mano next post, in my response to a review of John Porcellino's stellar Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man graphic novel.)
In the Firing Line section (reviews) this issue, several entries, the first a really ambiguous slam/appreciation (?) about being a Neil Gaiman fan. Perplexing stuff. This is the sort pseudo-intellectually, poorly reasoned, ultimately meaningless type of dross that always seems to bring TCJ down a notch or two. Even if valid points might be made, the snarky attitude just serves to distance the reviewer from the reader.
Next in the Firing Line, Rich Kreiner offers ample evidence as to how good and why Frank King's sublime Gasoline Alley was so amazing. And believe me, it really really is spectacular work. Go pick up Drawn & Quarterly's first collection of the daily strips, titled Walt & Skeezix. (You can thank me later, it's really that good.)
(So tired... More to come.)
March 18, 2006 / More →
As i mentioned a few days ago, i thought the blog would be a great venue for me to spill some thoughts on the second most recent Comics Journal; the one with the Eddie Campbell cover feature, #273. (They are releasing these way too fast for me to keep up.)
First, let me just say up front that i LOVE the Comics Journal. I think it's fair to call the Comics Journal, since the time that Gary Groth bought the Nostalgia Journal about a hundred years ago, was and is the single most important journalistic magazine about the comics medium and business that we've ever seen in North America. It's been coming out consistently for much longer than i've been reading (i started reading in earnest in about 1990 or so), and even when it was suffering its weakest and meanest incarnation (under Milo George, IMHO), with lame interviews, untimely news, and vitriolic reviews, there was still enough going for it to make it downright vital. And now, under the helm of Dirk Deppey, it's reaching towards heights i haven't seen since the Groth years. (Gushing done.)
Issue #273 starts with the ever-lovin' Blood & Thunder, the letters section. Tom Spurgeon (editor of the Comics Reporter), given a chance at the "last word" on a series of critical "report-card" overviews of various comics websites (by news editor Michael Dean) later on in the magazine, shows class by posting his "last word" up front in B&T so that in fact, Michael Dean can have the last "last word" in his own defense. An honorable decision by The Spurg, and indeed his response is very pointed.
(Just for some context; this series of articles were across the board absolutely brutal, accusing each of the websites [including Newsarama, the Pulse, the Comics Reporter, the Beat, and Lying in the Gutters, to name a few] as not living up to Dean's expectations of journalistic integrity as investigative news organs.)
Spurgeon comes out swingin' and in a nutshell blew a gaping hole in Dean's entire conceit (and one to which Dean himself freely admits); which is that not a single of the targets in his reports has ever laid claim to be "investigative" news sources in the first place. Dean then spins large amounts of fuzzy logic (isn't that called Bullshit?) in his defense, and as a result, his wrap up of the entire series has been entirely deflated and rendered all but meaningless.
And THEN, in his introduction to the final segment of "Online Comics Journalism: Does it Exist?," wherein he gives right to the "last word" to the website editors themselves, Dean has the temerity to take that "last word" away from them, by preemptively responding to their responses before the reader even has a chance to read them.
And THIS, in a nutshell, has been my big beef with the Comics Journal since the first issue i ever sat down to; no matter how long an issue may have been been debated (many debates lasting for several issues), and how absolutely wrong or misguided they have been proven to be, they ALWAYS throw in the last word, and NEVER admit to guilt. (It sounds like the Bush Administration, doesn't it? But that's an unfair comparison, since the Comics Journal has never been responsible for so much fuckery and death.)
Every single editor and/or story-writer (who's been the subject of debate) has done it, as far as i can remember. This bias has always left a bad taste in my all these years, beyond journalistic prerogative and leaning towards belligerent.
So anyway, my report card on this series of articles? C-
But then, on the flipside, Michael Dean's first article in the Newswatch section (a self-explanatory piece called "Comics and Corporations: Creativity Under Contract") is superb. A well-researched and well-considered examination of some recently leaked creator contracts, and a bit of reaching back in time to provide context. This is is why i do so love TCJ, in spit of my previous protestations.
And -- oh my!, it's past 2:00 a.m. So tired. Next, i'll start with discussing the Journal Datebook.
See you then.
March 15, 2006 / More →
Spent a long crazy weekend in Phoenix, visiting Aunt and cousin and family. Left cold and raining Portland on a 6:30 a.m. flight, looking forward to a pleasant 70 - 75 degrees in the desert, only to arrive, and it's unseasonably f*cking COLD & WET!! (The entire suburb i was in, called Gilbert, was flooding in the margins.) What gives?!
Then to make matters worse, in the middle of the weekend, seven out of ten of us got either a freakishly-timed 24-hour flu, or a nasty case of food poisoning; up all-night for a fun puke-fest, and/or, well, purging while NOT puking, if you get my drift.
And to top off the trip, a handful of outreach calls to the local comics shops (where i surreptitiously first ask if they have BLANKETS in stock), turned out horribly. Absolute bust. Makes me realize the continuous uphill battle small publishers face in reaching direct-market retailers. (To date, by far the best store that i've been to in the Phoenix area is Ash Ave. Comics [Tempe]. If anyone has information on any other really stellar comics shops in and around Phoenix, PLEASE let me know. I'll post it to the blog, and get in for a visit next time i'm down.)
On the plus side of our descent into March Madness in the Desert, i got to watch a couple Suns games (the second of which was a rare win by my hometown Trailblazers, the best underachievers in the league), AND i got to read the second most recent Comics Journal, #273: The Eddie Campbell interview issue.
I'll write about my thoughts on this issue over the next few days. (As my headline said a few weeks ago, I Love the Comics Journal, i Hate the Comics Journal... but mostly i LOVE it!!)
Lastly, GREAT post over at The Hurting about how much Marvel & DC play a sucka's game vying for direct-market market share with their big d*cks, er... i mean "events," but in so doing still manage to keep a boot heel on the neck of the fringes, and diminishing the reach of far too many intelligent, sophisticated, illuminating and beautiful works.