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.