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!?
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