February 8, 2007 / More →
Yesterday marked the 13th Anniversary since Jack Kirby died. No doubt, considered to be the heart and soul of comics, he most certainly was the King. As it happens, my Mom died on the very same day, also 13 years ago. She was an amazing woman -- her influence shaped my world, and her belief in me helped me become the man i am today.
So here's to Jack and Donna. I love you guys.
February 7, 2007 / More →
It seems like i've been saving neat stuff as i stumble across it, then updating every five days to a week. I think this is the most productive i can be on the blog, so i hope it works for any readers who may be out there. Fun things follow.
• Went to the launch party here in Portland on Friday, for Jacob Covey's exquisite illustrated bestiary, aptly titled Beasts!. The show was at Bwana Spoons' fabulous art space / gallery / store Grass Hut, on east Burnside, and it was PACKED. I saw lots of comics peeps there, and was particularly fired up to meet Mr Covey himself. In short order he is quickly making a reputation as one the finest designer /art directors in all of comics. Witness superlative work on Fantagraphics books like Popeye, Dennis The Menace, and Beasts! itself, a flippin' masterpiece of design, perfectly married to its stellar contents. Congrats Jacob and Bwana.
• I love a good magazine. Sorry to read about the demise of The Drama, which i only just discovered with its last issue. Still great stuff coming out from FLAUNT and SWINDLE, two of the most consistently excellent style mags. LOVED the first issue of GEEK magazine (which i think i already wrote about), and just found a new-to-me culture mag called DEATH & TAXES. This last one is similar in tone to the original run of the late great GIANT, and has actually replaced GIANT for me, since it changed hands and went down the toilet after issue 12.
Bwana Spoons' excellent PENCIL FIGHT is rolling along, with the third issue sporting a superb cover feature about Carson Ellis, hands down one of my favorite contemporary illustrators.
• Feast your eyes on these gorgeous watercolors by Gregory Benton.
• James Kochalka is having a gigantic show of Little Paintings at Giant Robot NY. He's painted 150 paintings for this show, and they're some of his best ever. The opening is Saturday, Feb. 17 from 6:30 to 10:00 pm. Then at midnight, he's having a rock show at Cake Shop, nearby.
•Â Perusing NUDE magazine, i read a review of the film, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait DVD After discovering this great soccer player only this last year in the World Cup, i was instantly spellbound. I REALLY want to buy this on dvd, but as far as i can tell, it's only available in Region 2 format, when i only have a Region 1 player.
In any case, i asked soccer buff Gregory Benton about this, and while he'd never heard of the film, he did send me this link to a great YouTube vid with Zidane. Then from that i found another one. Superb ballhandler, this man, and so fun to watch.
If anyone knows if this is available in Region 1 format, please let me know.
February 2, 2007 / More →
•Â Recommended. Cartoon Modern. An essential book for designers and stylists. This is one of the most stunning books i've ever seen. Amid Amidi (the maestro behind the excellent magazine Animation Blast!) has pulled out all the stops, and created an amazing book on animators from the fifties who have arguably had more influence on contemporary cartoon art than any other movement in the 20th Century. Lush with illustrations and illuminating history, i will tell you unequivocally, if you enjoy 50s design and art styles, then you will LOVE this book. It's outstanding.
•Â Bruce Parsons directed a fabulous documentary about Jeffrey Brown. I'm told it will be entered into several film festivals. Jeffrey Brown fans, keep your eyes open.
•Â Rob Goodin of Robot Publishing has a revamped website up and running. Check it out!
•Â Wow, one of my favorite political essayists, Molly Ivans, died today. She was only 62 years old. Man, that sucks.
•Â My sister Nicky and i went to see Pan's Labyrinth. Holy mama, achingly beautiful. I really don't know what to say, except see this movie.
•Â So here's some cool new images.
January 26, 2007 / More →
I've been watching so many movies of late. In fact, i think my film-to-comics ratio is pretty out of whack. Not that that's a bad thing, really.
•Â Just last night i headed to the Laurelhurst Theater, grabbed a pint of Bridgeport IPA, and settled into a late-night screening of Little Miss Sunshine. I'd heard very mixed reviews, and frankly, i loved this flick! The characters were fabulous, and the actors across the board were amazing. The little girl who played Olive was unbelievably excellent. Films like this that can capture little tiny moments of the infinite, through subtle emotional dramas really float my boat. Kudos to Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris on a wonderful first effort.
•Â Requiem for a Dream, directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Whoa. I'd heard about this film for years. And now i can say that it's one of the darkest yet most beautiful and humanistic films i've ever seen. The story launches with all the well-meaning in the world, then slowly crescendos towards a nightmarishly horrific ending; masterful filmmaking, especially in the way in the stories of all four main characters were interwoven. I've never seen the actor Jared Leto (who is a dead ringer for Jesse Recklaw), but he and the rest of the cast were superb. Incredible haunting music, featuring the Kronos Quartet. The cinematography, by Matthew Libatique is breathtaking. If you have a strong stomach and can handle dark films, this examination of addiction, in all its forms, is highly recommended. Many thanks to Alexa for tipping me off to this incredible film.
•Â Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder.
Yet another fabulous film noir classic and, according to the short film in the extras, one that really helped set the table for the wave of noir that followed its release in 1944. At first i wasn't as taken by Fred MacMurray or Barbara Stanwyck as i was by Michum and Greer in Out of the Past. But that was really just the brilliant set-up, throwing me off base. Needless to say, not 30 minutes into the film the leads start their spiral out of control, and the performances knocked my socks off. I really don't know how i can gush much more about the greatness of film noir. How the villains aren't even really villains, but just everyday people who make a bad decision, followed by another and another, overtaken by greed and lust. You know, tapping into the darkside we all have buried within us.
•Â On the political front, Greg Palaste explains in chilling detail something Bush made passing reference to in his State of the Union; the totally unconstitutional desire to create a federal citizen profile database. More Orwellian freakiness by the commander-in-chief.
• Nifty show in Vermont, news item courtesy of James Kochalka
• Here's a large version of Craig Thompson's amazing art for the new Menomena record, and a link to hear the entire record as streaming audio. What's hard to tell here, is that those red areas are actually die-cuts. This is a mindbending illustration job by Craig. Seriously. I mean, the album is a wonderful slice indy brainy indy pop, but the cd case alone is worth the $10 price tag i saw this going for.
•Â Finally, how cool is this cover for Matt Kindt's forthcoming Super Spy.
January 24, 2007 / More →
First, a sneak peak at the early stages of our forthcoming sampler book, with a spiffy by Jeffrey Brown. Super cool stuff.
Beautiful on the Inside: Renée French’s The Ticking
Review by Mark David Nevins, January 2007
It is likely that the average person in this day and age does not often employ the word “ticking.” Unless in reference to a clock, and even then probably not that often, because how many clocks tick anymore in our digital age? Ticking is, of course, the heavy and coarse cotton fabric used in manufacturing the covers of mattresses, and if there’s any ambiguity in the word’s meaning as the title of Renée French’s latest work, then the first few pages of the book clears it up right away: there’s no title page to be found, but rather a series of five drawings of swatches of that tough striped canvas you see every time you change your sheets.
Renée French is a gifted artist who sometimes creates what could best be described as children’s books which should under no circumstances be given to children and which tend to make adults feel rather uncomfortable. The Ticking is a picture story full of mysteries, not the least puzzling of which is the significance of its title. Other than the first and last pages of the book…extended end-papers of a sort…mattress fabrics do not seem to appear anywhere. However, to be fair, beds do play an important if not prominent role in the story. Poor monstrous little Edison Steelhead doesn’t have the luxury of coming into this world in a bed: his mother dies in childbirth on the kitchen floor. But some of his happiest moments are spent (alone) in bed: drawing, reading, talking to his various puppets and imaginary friends. And his story (at least this chapter of it) ends with a horrible discovery, when he’s interrupted in bed during a moment of reverie in the hotel room he comes to call home. Like some of French’s other creations, Edison is bizarrely disfigured on the outside but intelligent and gentle on the inside. Over the course of this tale he eventually finds peace with himself, but he does so by and large without anyone else’s help, unless you count his little sister, a chimpanzee who sleeps comfortably tucked into a proper human bed, blankets and all.
Just like the stories she tells, the work of Renée French is rather difficult to describe satisfactorily. The description “dreamlike” is often used, but The Ticking is at once more strange and less nonsensical than most dreams tend to be. It reads as a nightmare experienced with great tranquility and in slow motion. The films of David Lynch offer a good counterpoint to her work…and Edison even resembles the creature in Eraserhead a bit. Like Lynch, French is interested in exploring the unsettling and mysterious things that lie just below the surface of the normal and mundane, the way the ticking of a bed lies under the layers of linen. In 1919, Sigmund Freud made a rare foray into literary criticism with his monograph Das Unheimliche, and it might be said that French has devoted her work in the comics form to an exploration of Freud’s concepts of foreignness and the uncanny. That essay by Freud makes great reading alongside French’s oeuvre, by the way.
French’s work is both shocking and poetic, and with every book her stories seem to become simpler but also deeper and more moving. Books by Renée French come along far too infrequently, and she clearly grows and evolves as an artist from book to book: here she employs pencil drawings as deft as she has ever executed, which are punctuated by what appear to be dry-point etchings that offer a surprising additional perspective on the tale’s elusive themes. The Ticking leaves the reader with a feeling of mellow introspection…a peacefulness in spite of the weird and sad events that plague poor Edison. As French matures as an artist, and as we mature with her, perhaps we are becoming less repelled by her monsters and her fascination with physical violence and bodily functions because we recognize that the things she is trying to show us are in fact metaphors for our own lives…although not necessarily those aspects of our lives that we are most comfortable thinking about or tend to disclose or talk about much.
After several readings of The Ticking, I’ve come up with my own personal meaning for the book’s title. When I was very young (and French has now caused me to reflect on my childhood while thinking about her book), I could spend hours on my bed, losing myself in the patterns in my bedspread or in the texture of the pillow’s fabric (or, indeed, in the ticking if I pulled up the corner of the sheets). I would discover universes in the dust-motes swirling in a ray of light coming through the window, or in the swimming after-images I could create by squeezing my eyes tightly shut. Time stopped in these moments, and for the first instances in my young life I found myself asking questions such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” and “Am I really loved?” and “What will happen when I die?” In the rush of adult life it’s far too easy to forget the perceptions and insights we were able tap into when we were children…the wonder and fear brought about by our bodies and our emerging consciousness…and I am grateful to Renée French for giving us the occasional opportunity to see again, new, through her eyes.
January 18, 2007 / More →
Vegas was fun AND quite productive for Chris and myself. (Although it was so friggin' cold, we were both unprepared and froze out little tushies off.) We've mapped out the bulk of '07 and into '08. Stay tuned.
On the flight there i read the three volumes of Dylan Horrocks' wonderful Atlas, published by Drawn & Quarterly. Like his previous comic series Pickle, Atlas is a bit of a catch-all book. It has a longer running narrative (in this book, "Atlas: A Life of Emil Kopen"), as well as mish-mash typical of single-author anthologies. In the first issue, it was a James Kochalka piece, and in issues 2 and 3, the serial titled "Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen," a thinly veiled autobiographical strip concerning Sam's (Dylan's) years-long cartoonists' block. Both serials are, true-to-form, blindingly brilliant. I really hope … for Dylan's sake and the sake of comics in general … that he gets his shit together and starts cranking out the pages, because Horrocks is truly one of the world's elite cartoonists.
Let's go Dylan!
The night we flew in we went to see one of the world's best Elvis impersonators, Trent Carlini. He was shorter than The King, but he sure had the moves. Saturday night we saw Penn & Teller. We were late (thanks to an incompetent curbside service at our hotel), but P&T really impressed. Very funny and very very smart. Even their promotional imagery was excellent, and quite ubiquitous; their b&w mugs appearing on billboards, taxicabs, and in print in every brochure in town.
Oh, and we ate like king's every night (ahi tuna / steaks/ sushi), each time at one of the plethora of amazing restaurants in the MGM Grand. Mmmm... food.
And we certainly didn't want for hospitality or service; many thanks to Matt O'Brian from City Life: Luigi, the sommelier at Shibuya, and the beautiful waitress Alexa, a film student from San Diego. (Luigi, make sure you call me for a pub crawl if and when you come to Portland.)
On Saturday morning, while i was sleeping off a serious hangover, Chris went to the Wynn hotel, and hooked up with Elvis' right-hand man, Joe Esposito, the foreman of the Memphis Mafia.
On Sunday afternoon Matt took us off of The Strip to go see the infamous comic shop Alternate Reality. And an excellent store it is, with a tasty selection, including almost the complete Top Shelf line. Nice work, Ralph!
• It snowed here yesterday, so my sister Nicky and i took Carter on a little snowy walkabout. His first one, and he had a blast. (Though he couldn't quite figure out how to keep his fingers in his gloves.)
• Gregory Benton is part of yet another show in New York. This is a piece for a show in Brooklyn curated by Rich Jacobs. The concept is "blue ballpoint pen drawings on 8.5 x 11 paper". It has to do with going back to school & doodling your way through existence.
Cinders gallery in Brooklyn. The opening is Friday, Jan 19 from 7-11PM. The show runs from Jan 17-Feb 18. Some great artists involved: Jordin Isip, Eric White, Melinda Beck, Rich Jacobs... just to name a few.
• For all you Italian speakers out there, here's a nice review of James Kochalka's American Elf.
January 12, 2007 / More →
•Â Off to meet Staros in Vegas tomorrow, so we can map out 2007 and into 2008. While Chris and i both love working at home, and have no real problems working across the country from each other, the one thing that we just can't do so well over the phone and/or internet, is heavy planning. It's the kind of thing that has to be done face-to-face, and without interruption. (Which is also why we rarely have the time for deep planning while we're at conventions together.)
•Â Based on The Brube's enthusiastic recommendation in Criminal #2, i went out and bought Out of the Past, the classic film noir with Robert Michum. Of course, Michum is a freaking stud. He gets burned once, and then from there on out his steely resolve is absolute. The guy has ice running through his veins. But really... oh my god, Jane Greer. I'd never even heard of this actress, and let me know tell you, it's a crime. Her performance here is literally mesmerizing. Quite possibly the most intense femme fatal i've ever witnessed in a film. She smolders, she struts, and even while you know she's nothing but trouble, you can't help but want her more than anything in the world. If you like classic film, you owe it to yourself to watch this asap.
•Â Was sent Ezra Claytan Daniels' wonderful new greeting card set, Loaded Blanks. Each card is a one-page comic strip, and the word balloons are blank, so that the giver (or receiver) can fill them in to their own liking. They really turned out swell. Contributing artists include: Vincent (King Mini) Stall; Aaron Renier; Hector Casanova; Tim Degner; Tom Herpich; Ezra himself; Becca Taylor; Grant Reynolds; Jeremy Tinder; Dash Shaw; Alec Longstreth; and Dave K.
•Â Here's a teaser webpage Renee French set up for Micrographica. It has just a few images from the book and the mock up. This is going to be a sweet little book. I'm so happy to be publishing Renee's singular visionary work.
January 9, 2007 / More →
Just a few things worth checking out.
Excellent advance reviews from Johnny Bacardi, about our Next Four New Books. [James Kochalka's American Elf vol. 2; Jeffrey Brown's Feeble Attempts; Aleksander Zograf's Regards From Serbia; and Jeff Lemire's Tales From the Farm.]
Why i loveYouTube reels, and why net neutrality is so important:
James Kochalka has two pages of American Elf comics in issue #9 of SWINDLE.
Matt Rota has redone his whole website. There are about seventy images up, almost all new and done within the past year. Really really fine work.
This is pretty cool! Renee's map of her upcoming book Micrographica.
Renee was featured in an excellent podcast interview by Charlito and Mr Phil over at Indy Spinner Rack.
January 2, 2007 / More →
Just returned from three weeks in Australia, so i'll try and do a quick recap. (I've got to show at least a few photos, right?)
Australia. Summer. Hot. A week in Sydney, five days in Perth, then four more days in Sydney. Lots of Chinese food and BBQ. Drank like a fish, ate sweets all day every day, and gained six pounds. (Ouch.) Took Carter to see The Wiggles in person, and he had the best time of his life. He also really went apeshit at the Sydney Aquarium.
Met with Lisa's cousin Allie and her man Ash in an all Belgian Beer restaurant. If there is a heaven, this was it. Started off with a 500 ml mug full of one my all-time favorite beers, Hoegaarden. Then i had a crisp new beer, the name of which i can't remember, but the alcohol percent of 9.5% i do recall. Finished the night with a cherry-infused Kriek. And the food was great too. Yummy.
Totally got into cricket on this trip, and watched some amazing play by the Aussies to take back the Ashes (a tiny but all-important trophy) from the dreaded English, in a multi-day "test." This is an interesting sport. Since i got my dose of rugby last time i was in Fiji, now i need only get into some Aussie-rules football, and my Australian sports trifecta will be complete.
Reading material on the trip:
• The Surrogates. That's right, i finally read the very book i published last Summer (i didn't edit or do any production on this whatsoever, so it was all new to me), and it rocks! Rob and Brett have crafted a beautifully stylish and entirely fleshed out world, and a prescient cautionary tale. I only wish it was twice as long... perhaps we'll see more one day?
• Comics Journal no. 278 and 279. (Bill Willingham and Joost Swarte cover features.) And my love/hate relationship rolls on...
No. 278. Interesting interview with Willingham. He's got some bizarre politics i'm not real keen on, but i dig his ideas nonetheless, and when he also does art for what he writes, he's excellent. Three reviews that (not surprisingly) negatively reviewed Lost Girls, is called a "round-table," although i always thought that a round-table was a group of people discussing a topic TOGETHER, a back & forth. A nice yet qualified review of Renee French's The Ticking, and a nice bullet-review of Jeremy Tinder's Cry Yourself to Sleep rounds out a nicely represented batch of Top Shelf reviews.
Superb wrap-up posthumous interview with Bob Haney, a grizzled vet and DC Comics writer, and responsible for some crazy cool shit, like Metamorpho. He was a witty guy with sharp mind. Loved how he let fly with himself, and didn't care about stepping on anybody's toes.
No. 279. The Swarte interview was fine, though it was rather short, and i would liked to have heard more about his early development as a cartoonist. I was pleasantly surprised by the Johnny Ryan interview. Some good reviews (including a bash on Jeffrey Brown's Every Girl is the End of the World for Me, and some kind words for Aaron Renier's Spiral-Bound). I really loved Donald Phelps' overview of Cliff Sterrett's Polly and her Pals, and especially the piece Trina Robbin's did on a long-forgotten creator named Lily Renee, a Golden Age artist who did some amazing work featuring sexy, smart, and empowered heroines.
• Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal, issue #'s 1 and 2. Holy crap, these two guys are one of the best teams working in contemporary comics. Their 12-issue series Sleeper was a conspiracy infused, crime-noir super-hero masterpiece. While it was indeed tied into super-hero continuity (the "Wildstorm Universe," also responsible some awesome stuff, like The Authority and Planetary), i think it read splendidly own it's own.
Criminal on the other hand, is a straight and hard as it gets; pure 100% crime fiction, and not a whiff of spandex. It feels like classic noir, and looks like a contemporary Michael Mann film. Truly superb so far. It's beautifully designed too, also (i believe) by Sean Phillips. If Marvel isn't using a high-powered publicist to pimp this book to a wider audience, beyond the insular world of comics, then they have their heads up their collective ass. Because if comics are to ever reach the elusive "real-world" audience … which will have to be sans men-in-tights … this is as good as it gets.
It's one of the very very few books i EVER buy both serialized and (eventually) in trade paperback formats, if for no other reason than to support the creators and to help guarantee a collection.
• Peter Bagge's HATE Annual #6. More freaky goodness with seminal punk rock comics superstar Buddy Bradley, and his motley crew of misfits. You either love or hate HATE, and after all these years, is still LOVE it.
• Michael Ambrose's Charlton Spotlight No. 5. This issue spotlighted the insanely prolific Charlton stalwart Joe Gill. This one guy wrote tens of thousands of pages of scripts for a company with known mostly for their shitty printing. He tells unapologeticly how he initially took this particular gig (for way less than market rates at the time) because as basically a staff-writer instead of freelance writer, he was guaranteed a regular paycheck to support a healthy drinking lifestyle.
Also some articles about the work Ditko did for Charlton, including Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and The Question. For my tastes, believe it or not, Ditko's work at Charlton from the early stages of his career up through, and past, his gig on Spider-Man is some of his best. Especially the stuff he did (most of which was in fact written by Joe Gill) on the horror titles. Hallucinatory and fun.
• Always on the search for nice book designs while i'm traveling, i stumbled across the work of an author i've read lots of great things about named writer Elmore Leonard. (His book Rum Punch was adapted by Tarantino and called Jackie Brown.) The jacket designs are what compelled me to pick up both Rum Punch and another book called Unknown Man #89, which were resting along with maybe two or three other crime fiction novels by Leonard, all with a luscious shared design scheme. Mostly all white over-sized paperbacks, each had the author's name a spot-varnished silver at the top, underneath of which was the title of the book, embossed, and using a color pulled from the spot illustration. Just below center was a four or five inch tall illustration than ran across full-bleed, from side-to-side, given it the effect of a movie screen. Tiny yet effective pull-quotes we added at the very bottom. The top of the spine of each book also goes the dvd route by adding a postage stamp-sized image from the cover. A nice element indeed. (And something Oni Press has been doing for years themselves.) The back cover lists the cover designs to Ghost, and the cover illustrations to Tim Marrs. If only American book publishers cared this much about design.
And as gorgeously designed as the books were, so too was the actual book i read on the trip, Unknown Man #89, written in 1997. I love how his characters are such normal people, who end up in wild scenarios that seem totally plausible. Not sexy at all, but gritty, chewy fun. I can't wait to read more by this guy.
I found this book at a tiny but wonderful bookshop called New Edition Bookshop in Fremantle, Western Australia. They had a copy of Jeffrey Brown's Unlikely on a modestly sized, but tasteful wall of face-out graphic novels. If only all indy booksellers were this savvy.
In Sydney i revisited a gorgeous bookstore called Ariel. I'd been here five years ago and forgotten about it entirely. This boutique bookstore carries mostly fancy artbooks, gift books, and a very few graphic novels (including Jordan Crane's Last Lonely Saturday). They had a copy of Lost Girls under glass, retailing for $175 Aussie!! I picked up a stunning book called City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912 - 1948. My god some of these people looked rough & tumble.
• On a totally different note, i've said this before, but allow me to repeat, that Tom (The Spurge) Spurgeon is the King of Bloggers. His Comics Reporter was the one comics-related blog i went to first whenever i checked in from Sydney. Recently he's been conducting interviews with some of the most important people in comics, most of whom mostly working out of the spotlight. Admirable also is his willingness to reach outside his personal tastes with a fair amount of objectivity.
• Eddie Campbell has been adding some seriously divine posts on his blog about the creation of From Hell, posting reference photos, sections of Alan's Script, etc. Besides the inherent interest of the subject matter, Eddie could wax poetic about taking out the trash, or blowing his nose, and he could make riveting reading out of it. In fact, Eddie is such a good writer, that i feel like a tool rereading some of my blog entries. He's got the magic touch, that's for sure.
Hopefully he's also busy archiving pages of his Magnum Opus, the autobiographical series Alec, which we hope to be releasing in one or two mammoth collected volumes in the next 12 - 18 months. (Maybe for a San Diego 2008 release? Eddie?)
• There's a choice Renee French interview up at Indie Spinner Rack. Oh, and they've also got a great interview posted with inkstud Sam Hiti.
December 12, 2006 / More →
• Gaze in awe at this wonderful step-by-step breakdown of how Dan Zettwoch created this AMAZING poster. Wow. In fact, every image in this blog is stunning. Genius. Dan is one of my VERY favorite cartoonists -- buy his comics!!
• Big thanks to Van Riker at Barsuk Records; we're doing a cross-promotion with Craig Thompson (who designed the album art for the new Menomena record), and Van and myself did a swap, so we could bone up on each other's work. So for a handful of graphic novels i received a handful of discs, all bands i've never heard of. There are a couple that blow my mind. Crazy cool stuff.
Jim Noir: Tower of Love. Crisp vocal harmonies and uplifting pop. Like G. Love on five hits of ecstasy. Like softened-up and mellowed-out Beach Boys. This is one for the hipster AND the hipster's mom. Very highly recommended.
I've heard so much about Portland's own Viva Voce, and this was fun to hear. A few of the tunes on this release, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, didn't float my boat, but the ones that did really really rocked.
Rocky Votolato is the front-man's super cool name, and the name of the band. The record is Makers, and this too is a great great record. An acoustic singer/songwriter delight.
I also got an advance listen to the new Menomena record, Friend and Foe, and it does not disappoint. This is one of the freshest bands i've heard in years, and their chops are so tight. Complex arrangements played to infectious perfection.
Craig Thompson created one of the single most amazing cd cases in the history of music for this record. You really have to see this to believe it, and if you are a fan of Craig's work, then this is worth the price of admission alone. Unfortunately, i can't find this cover online, so you'll have to TRUST ME. You'll come for the artwork, and stay for the mind-bending music.
• Yah!! Aaron Renier has a bitchin' new website, courtesy of our own awesome webmaster, Nate Beaty. Check it out!
• Oh, and finally, before i bid adieu for a few weeks, a recent pick of Carter Grant.
December 10, 2006 / More →
Well crap, i've just so freaking slammed... i can't believe it's been a week already. Still though, been digging some good stuff lately.
• First, the new issue (#67) of John Porcellino's sublime King-Cat. To be honest though, the first half of this recent volume was too self-reflective for my tastes, and suggests that John's been going through some deep changes in his world. And that's o.k., because the last strip slayed me, and is exactly why i believe John P. is an American Treasure. Titled "Feels Like A Good Day," this is Porcellino at his best; observing the world around him, soaking in the beauty of just being alive and in the moment. Only Kevin Huizenga and James Kochalka are capable capturing these little moments in a similar manner.
"Under the flickering leaves, the light and shadow, like a dream … The cool breeze... Feels like a good day... Feels like reality."
• Also, the one-shot (?) Batman/Spirit by Jeph Loeb and Darwyne Cooke arrived with much anticipation, and it's fabulous. I'm pretty hit or miss with Loeb (a guy whose work i like in direct relation to the artist with whom he's working... i dig ALL of the collaborations with Tim Sale), but in this he makes good juju with the team-up. But the real star is Cooke. This guy is so good it hurts. But this flimsy little comic book pales to what is arguable my favorite comics in my modest collection of books...
• The Absolute New Frontier, written and drawn by Darywn Cooke. Holy mother of god, what an incredible fucking masterpiece of comics goodness. Granted, the story is merely excellent (while not quite in the pantheon of all-time greats), but his art and storytelling should become legendary, if fate is fair. This is the kind of comics that even non-fanboys can only drool over. (Hence helping turn them over to the geeky dark side.) Rivaling X-Men Omnibus and certainly in my Top Five Desert Island Picks, this is a book worth pestering your retailer to crack open the shrinkwrap, if you might be waffling. Trust me.
• Catching up on The Walking Dead, written by Robert Kirkman, and published by Image. My pal Joe at Image graciously sent me the latest two issues. Yes, this is the SINGLE book that i love so much i just cannot "wait for the trade." Some of the VERY best entertainment in any medium today.
• Took a bunch of stuff in for trade to Powell's City of Books today, and picked up the Dedini book by Fantagraphics. Damn this is amazing! An infamous cartoonist working for Hugh during the golden age of Playboy, Dedini's work has NEVER looked as good, and has never had this many pieces collected in a single volume. Cheesecake girls almost as vivid (in their own cartoony way) as either Frazetta or Jack Cole. Stunning.
• Watched The O.C. with The Wife last night, and i'm happy to report that this fourth season is a return to fine form. After the melodramatic death of the whiney-ass Marissa at the end of last season, the rest of the players seem much less distracted. Ryan is actually pretty fun. Indeed, Marissa's little (but equally hot) sister is infinitely more interesting and complex. (Season three wasn't a total bust though, since the Mom-leaves-for-rehab episode featured Seth giving Kristen a copy of Blankets.)
• So we're taking off for Australia in a few days (to visit Lisa's extended family), and we scored such a coup. Little Carter isn't too big on t.v., which is great, but he is a freaking addict of The Wiggles (their songs stick in my head for days... arrggghh!!), and we're taking him to see them live in Sydney!! The little guy's gonna shit his pants. I foresee hundreds of mini temper-tantrums after the last curtain falls, wanting the show to never end.
• Oh, i won't have a computer, so except for maybe one more before i take off, i probably won't post until after New Years. Happy Holidays all around.
December 3, 2006 / More →
•Â Schlepped The Kid off with a sitter tonight, and had dinner out with our friends John and Catty. (Also parents of a 2-year old boy.) Oh man, how nice it was to dine in peace. Speaking in actual complete sentences, whilst sipping cocktails and eating fine food. Moms and dads, you KNOW what i'm talking about.
• Lots of stuff going on. The family is getting ready to leave for Australia in just over a week, and i've been feverishly checking things off of my to-do list. I will have two new books off to the printer (Aleksander Zograf's Regards from Serbia, and James Kochalka's American Elf Volume 2), and two books "in the can," and ready to send to the printer when i return. (Those would be Jeff Lemire's Tales from the Farm, and Jeffrey Brown's Feeble Attempts.) Many thanks to Chris Ross for a stellar production job on American Elf.
Meanwhile, intern Jacq is helping with a publicity campaign for all four books, and will be working in my stead … answering emails and what have you …Â while i'm gone (scuba diving with sharks off the coast of Sydney).
•Â Promotional art Jeff Lemire has provided for his forthcoming, and very ass-kicking Essex County trilogy.
• A few nights ago i read a delightful little short story by my friend Georgene Smith Goodin (and published by her husband, and my pal, Rob Goodin, under his label Robot Publishing), titled The Fish Keeper. A sad love story that has at least a small amount of truth in the fiction, about a fish keeper and his quest for companionship. Featuring beautiful spot-illustrations by Rob, Georgene hits another one out of the park with this truly wonderful chapbook. Highly recommended. For more information, click contact on the front page, and send an email request. (Georgene's first chapbook, The Suicidal Dog, is available too, and also well worth reading.)
•Â Jeremy Tinder will be doing a collection of shorts with us this Summer, titled Black Ghost Apple Factory. Here is the cover, tres chic!!
November 29, 2006 / More →
• First off, just returned from the movies with (ex-intern) Chris, where we had our minds blown clean off, having seen Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. Holy Dio help me, how mightily doth they rock!!
Seriously, if you like The D, you'll love this flick. If you don't like The D, well... i'm not sure what to tell you. Because i love Tenacious D!!!!
• Let's all welcome Mr. Eddie Campbell to the blog world, with his Fate of the Artist: A Blog in which The Author Appears as Himself. Eddie is so very erudite, and one of the greatest raconteurs comics has ever known, and his blog is already off to a great start. (In fact, it's so well done i've got a bit of blog-envy myself.)
His recounting of the debacle that was the reprinting of From Hell is superb. Wonderful stuff, Eddie!
• Next up, a call for submissions for the second volume of the Portland Funbook. This coloring book is a fabulous primer on hipster Portland artists, and while only Portlanders can submit, i thought the call itself was worth showing.
• As is my want, i pretty much fall asleep on my office couch every night before bed, after my eyes can't stand the strain of the computer screen. Sometimes i'll catch up on submissions, but as often as not, i'll do what i love most … read comics. Here's what i've had a chance to read lately.
Batman and the Monster Men, by Matt Wagner. Yet another minor masterpiece by Mr. Wagner, this time around, an adventure taking place early in The Bat's career. The villain of the piece, none other than the freaky Hugo Strange, whose appearance is so ghastly, that he embarks on genetic engineering experiments in a quest to become beautiful. (And hence the source of the Monster Men themselves.)
Also, an early love interest for Bruce. I liked this because it showed the slow evolution of how and why Bruce began to see the futility of letting Love into his life. Unlike someone like Peter Parker, who doesn't want his loved ones hurt, as his foes might leverage their safety against his own, Bruce Wayne just doesn't want his mission in life impeded upon. It's not so much that he's selfish per se, but that he's just one determined mother fucker.
Wagner's art … with Dave Stewart's luscious colors… is bitchin' as always. He really understands the fundamentals of comics storytelling (i.e. how to move the narrative forward, panel by panel by panel), and the story moves along like a great clip. The only downside is that the excellent developing mystery is not fully resolved at the end. I'd read that Matt was working on another Batman mini-series, but i wasn't aware that it was continuing straight from this. I only hope DC has the wherewithal to collect the entire story in one volume at some point.
Meathaus Volume 8: Headgames, edited by Farel Dalrymple, and published by Alternative Comics. Yet another splendiferous outing for anthology lovers like myself. Farel's package design and general art direction is gorgeous, and probably more than half of the stories really sang to me. Of these, the bulk of which were much more non-linear than i prefer. Either my own tastes are evolving (likely) or else these strips were stellar (also likely). Standouts include: "Floorpunch," by Becky Cloonan; "Polite Winter," by Kenichi Hoshine and James Jean: (untitled) by Dash Shaw; "What Youth and Beauty These Creatures Bare," by Matthew Woodson; "Ape Theory," by Jim Rugg; "Mind Game Thief," by Jim Mahfood; an untitled autobiographical piece by Nate Powell; "A Collection," by Joseph Beldon; and "Barch and Belf," by Farel himself.
November 25, 2006 / More →
Thanksgiving was swell. Drank Makers & Ginger all day, ate like a king, and FINALLY beat my sneaky little cousin-in-law Taylor at chess, after years of smack-downs. Sure she's only 17, but she's a real smarty-pants.
• Got this note from Matt Madden today. Recommended. Matt is one of North America's leading formalists in comics, and his work is a blast. I don't know if they are in print (i kind of doubt it), but Matt's Terrifying Steamboat Stories was one of my very favorite mini-comics back in the day. He also did the amazing Constructivist cover for Top Shelf Volume 6.
"Just a quick note to let you know that I have a new blog. I'll be regularly posting news about my projects, sketches, and the occasional other odd or end.
Bookmark it or subscribe and enjoy."
• On an entirely different note, i wanted to point out some props Jeffrey Brown received in the brand new Wizard mag. His book collection I Am Going to be Small, was given the Funniest Shit of the Year title. Staff writer Rickey A. Purdin says:
"As sad and introspective as Jeffrey Brown's auto-bio comics like Clumsy can be, this tiny 384-page bible of one-page gags guarantees uncontrollable giggles on the opposite side of the emotional spectrum. From killer babies to jerkwad siblings, these dumb jokes for smart people will have you peeing yourself with every turn of the page."
• Speaking of Wizard, i presume that my fanboy tendencies are made pretty clear on this blog? Yeah, i love spandex when done well. It's what i was weaned on, and even as i moved onto independent comics, my jones for the capes never waned.
So i found a used copy of the Spider-Woman collected hardcover titled Origin, by Brian Bendis and some other fiction writer (Brian Reed), and the Luna Bros. Now, i'd heard and read some disparaging comments on this book, ranging from simply, "it sucked," to "meh..."
Well i loved it. Having been a true-believing Marvel Zombie since the mid-70s, it was impossible for me not to have come across this character. When i did, it was usually with the attitude that she was a cash-in on Spider-MAN (which is obvious), and mostly boring. I do remember digging some funky issues of her solo title that i picked up because they had an X-Men tie-in, with crazy cool art. (Was it Steve Leialoha?) At the time i thought it was o.k, but still, i knew zippo about the character and her past.
Soooo, reading this Bendis book was less of a reboot per se for me, than my first real exposure. Granted, the series may not have lived up to the advance hype the book had behind it, but ultimately, i think it received derogatory reviews because it had the unfortunate timing to be released during a mainstream comics (Marvel and DC) glut of epic crossovers and myriad lame spin-offs, unparalleled since the Jim Shooter era at Marvel. In this type of environment of bigger than the biggest of all big lives tsunami storytelling (rapes, heroes vs. heroes, etc.), any of the smaller, character driven books will fall short by default. Every one is hopped up on crossover sugar highs, and just want more of the same.
Which is sad, because Spider-Woman: Origin is really freaking good stuff. Great premise, good dialogue, intrigue, Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, and most importantly (and arguably why i bought the book in spite of less-than-stellar reviews), incredible luscious art by the Luna Brothers. These are the cats behind two great Image books, Ultra and Girls, and there work is just stunning to take in. (I happened to meet them this last Winter at the Emerald City Con in Seattle, and they are as nice as they are talented.)
Worth checking out, especially when it's released in trade paperback.
November 23, 2006 / More →
• I must say, i do love the Thanksgiving holiday. There's certainly been a lot to be thankful about here at Top Shelf. We've had a really good year, in no small part because of our entire league of amazing creators, designers, letterers, interns, and production staff. Hats off to you all. And big love to Alan and Melinda for allowing us to work together and bring Lost Girls finally into print. It's been a long slog, but i think well worth the wait.
And heaping mounds of thanks to Demeter, the Greek Goddess of The Bountiful Harvest. My family has always been pretty traditional with Thanksgiving, in bringing family and friends together to eat until our bellies bulge. Oh yeah... bring it!
• Finally, thanks to Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books, a god among men, whose publishing skills are astounding. I just finished the last in his Project: Trilogy, three themed anthologies that just rule. The latest is Project: Romantic, and damn does it rock. If you can afford to kick down for the hardcover, it's worth the price alone for Jim Rugg's amazing endpapers, featuring none other than the ultra bad-ass, Afrodisiac. (See below.)
There's some great shit in here, including the fine introduction by Bill Boichel & Jim Rugg, and two standout strips; "Sewer Girls," another juicy post-apocalyptic tale by the inimitable Kaz Strzepek; and a twisted beauty, "The Fart of Love," by Mr. Rob Goodin.