Hey Bartender! pg. 28

catching up on a few things

June 2, 2006 / More →

• The freaking Phoenix Suns, who had a kick-ass third quarter tonight, led by the hot shooting of Tim Thomas, caved and lost to Dallas in this Game 5 of the seven game series. Dirk Nowitski had 50 points! Shit! I'm amazed the Suns weren't quicker to double-team this one-man wrecking ball. This time of the year i get so fired up with hoops fever, that by the time the Finals are over, i'm exhausted, and glad for the season to be over. (But not so much as my wife.)

•Â International Comics Ambassador John Weeks has uploaded yet another fine installment of his wonderful Comics Lifestyle. A former staffer at both Dark Horse and (maybe?) Fantagraphics, and a stalwart in the Australian and New Zealand scene from years ago, John has spent the last few years working in Cambodia, and is, on the side, feverishly attempting to document the comics scene there. Boy, the world could use a few more good men like this.

• Took some books in the other day for trade at Powell's City of Books (one of the most glorious bookstores in the universe), and picked up a luscious coffee-table art book called Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, edited by Dan (Ganzfeld) Nadel. Essentially, this entire volume provides stellar samples of work by cartoonists who toiled in the trenches like their more well-known comrades, but just never received the same attention. It's a really fabulous book, and most importantly, Nadel chose to showcase entire story strips, so that the reader isn't limited to just bits & pieces. The only flaw in the whole book was the weird inclusion of underground legend Rory Hayes. Not that Hayes' work isn't worthy (even though i feel it's the weakest work in the whole, and just not to my taste), but more that it sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the work in the book. Still, this Abrams release is well worth every penny. I can only hope that it does well, and that we'll see more archival books like this in the future. Well done, Dan.

•Â Recently wrapped up the run of Ed Brubaker and (in this last three issue story arc) Greg Rucka's unbelievably good comic Gotham Central. Wow. What a damn cool series this was... easily the best cop drama that i've ever read in comics. The conceit … how does the Major Crimes Unit operate in a grimy city littered with super-types … is a no-brainer, which i can't believe took this long to come along. "The Brube" and Greg Rucka (who either traded story arcs or collaborated on them together) were really in their element with this series, and the early issues drawn by Michael Lark are nothing short of world-class. That said, while he started out a little shaky, regular replacement artist Kano, along with the sturdy inks of Stephano Guadiano, really developed an excellent style that lended itself perfectly to the book. I hope DC has the wherewithal to finish collecting the entire run into trade paperbacks.

•Â Another sweet "pop single" (a perfect term coined by Warren Ellis for one-shot gem) is the Oni Press Free Comic Book Day effort this year, called Free Scott Pilgrim. This comic shouldn't be as good as it is, given that the narrative is fractured, and the reader is dropped into the story willy-nilly (both qualities also shared in the graphic novel series) … but in a similar manner of cartoonists like Paul Pope, the sheer blistering energy in this comic negates any story inconsistencies. Bryan O'Malley's art too is a fluid blend of contemporaries in the lush Craig Thompson school, fused with a healthy dose of manga influence. Great stuff, and very highly recommended.

•Â Reader Ron Swintek wrote in:

"I've been enjoying your Hey Bartender blog for a few weeks now, and since you were just lamenting the lack of topics, and I've been meaning to make a request anyway...
 
"Awhile back, you alluded to the problems you guys have had bringing From Hell back into print, and wondered aloud if anyone really cared. I keep my ear pretty low to the ground on all things From Hell, and haven't really heard the deal with not having this book out during Alan's most popular time here on Planet Earth. I, for one, would love to hear the whole, sordid tale.
  
"Keep up the good work on the blog … yet another X-Men Omnibus convert, here, thanks to your comments!"

Thanks for writing, Ron.

O.k. Here's the dilly. Eddie Campbell had been self-publishing From Hell through his imprint Eddie Campbell Comics, up until two years ago when Top Shelf took it over. Up until then, we were just handling distribution. When Top Shelf picked it up i did a little tweaking to the design and added flaps to the cover. It looked great, and sold through pretty quickly. Then the fuckery started.

The printer that Eddie had been using for the life of the book theretofore, Prenney Litho, had just received a $20,000 advance from ourselves and co-publishers Knockabout from England for another printing, when they informed us that they were filing for bankruptcy. Oh joy. (Flashbacks of Black Tuesday and the Twelve Hour Miracle popped in my head.) Unfortunately, they also had the only extent film for the book, and when the owner told us that he was planning on restructuring, and to hold on until then, we really had no choice but to sit back, cross our fingers, and hope that this would happen. Months came and went, and still we heard the same sad song.

Clearly, we were in a bind. Finally something happened which forced our hand. Prenney up and disappeared entirely. No phone, no email, no website, no 20K, and no book. Zippo. And so it was at this point, that Eddie Campbell had to dig out the master photocopies that he had made (having long since sold off the original art for the book) and began scanning. How long this took, i'm not sure, but it must have been a long long while. After ten years, i've done my share of scanning, and i can tell you firsthand, there are few things more mind-numbing than this.

Move ahead, eight or ten discs containing the scanned art arrive here for me to work with, and as i began the (also) long and grueling process of cleaning up Eddies scans (a necessary process, erasing defects like stray pencil marks, gobbed-up white-out, hairs, dust, and what have you) i discover yet another problem. It seems that as Eddie was burning discs for me, his computer was in the process of dying. The result of which, at least a third of the files were corrupted. (Most often manifested by weird lines running arbitrarily through the pages, making them unprintable.) AAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! Make it stop!

So finally, after all of this, i'm just days away from sending this to our own trustworthy printer, Lebonfon (formerly a subsidiary of the behemoth Quebecor), hopefully in time to make San Diego.

The end.


yeesh... more x-men?

May 30, 2006 / More →

I don't get much feedback on the blog, so at times i'm not sure what to write about. I've pretty much whittled things down to basketball (which most people probably don't care about, but bare with me, it's over soon), comics and movie reviews, many revolving around my own inner fanboy proclivities, and of course, happenings in the wide world of the comics industry. Hoping to bring a human face to Top Shelf, and perhaps mildly entertain a few readers along the way.

A couple days ago, i received a validating letter from Mr. Alan David Doane, maestro of Comic Book Galaxy. Thanks, Alan.

He writes:
"You talked me into it [X-Men Omnibus]; I was sitting on the fence because of the shrinkwrap and Marvel burning me with badly reproduced shrinkwraped shit before. Just wanted to say thanks for your description of the book, you showed me it was really what I wanted it to be, a well-reproduced edition of my all-time favourite super-hero comics... can't wait to dig into it!"

And again, believe it, if the Claremont/Byrne era is among your favorite runs of spandex comics, you will NOT find a better edition of this material. 'Nuff said.

And speaking of, went to see X-Men: The Last Stand last night. Basically, it kicks ass. You can't know how relieved i am that the director-who-wasn't-Bryan-Singer, didn't totally blow this for me. (Like how Lucas single-handedly destroyed his own legacy with "the prequals.") Sure X3 is flawed, but the flaws don't mangle the continuity and believability of the characters, or the world-building Singer set up … plus there are numerous storylines and/or moments torn from the pages of the X-Men comics, from all eras (including Master Joss Whedon's current fine run), for schooled fanboys to love. But i wonder, how much do non-literate-in-the-mythology movie-goers dig this film?

The two real missteps i caught both concerned character and • SPOILER WARNING!? • both were in the scene where Magneto is looking to rescue Mystique, and he's throwing around cars, trucks and semi's like a symphony conductor [AWESOME]. First, when Jamie Madrox totally and completely out of character from the comic, is sprung from a holding cell, and on a whim agrees to join Magneto's little club, with a glib "yeah, sure... why not?" Lame. Clearly the writers needed his power for a crucial scene further along in the story.

And then the big grievance i have, was when Magneto just blows off Mystique because she's been injected with "the cure," her powers suppressed, and reverts to human form. I don't like it. He never would have turned on one of his own like that, being (even in the "super-villain" sense) a man of honor. New director Brett Ratner screwed up here, because instead of showing any shred of humanity in this scene, he made Magneto into a Pure Evil villain, an unfortunate turn from the shaded, nuanced, and INTERESTING character he was in the first two films. Still, that scene at the end? Loved it.

To a lessor degree; i was disappointed in Peter (Colossus) Rasputin's wooden character; annoyed about most of the new characters (except for porcupine-boy); and underwhelmed with the general pacing... just too much stuff happening for a two hour flick. (Bryan Singer's faux pas, which carries over into this film, no fault of Ratner, was casting Halle Berry as Storm. What the hell was he smoking when he thought of this?!) And then whatever happened to the powers-negating kid who was the source for the cure itself?

Otherwise, i think X3 rocked hard. It's a very fun, if not a pretty dark film. I mean, major characters dropping like flies. Damn! Favorite line, Kitty Pride calling Juggernaut a dick-head. Check it out. Oh, and if you go see it, make sure you stay through to the very end of the credits. Wow.


classic x-men

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.


new reneè french art

May 23, 2006 / More →

Reneè French's work speaks for itself. Astounding. If you haven't read her most recent graphic novel, The Ticking, you really should. Here are some recently illustration's she's done. Dig.


fanboy stuff

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"

http://goodcomics.blogspot.com/2006/05/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-51.html

Brett responds:

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 … with the unfortunate exception of Wonder Man's mullet … 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
Wolfmother (eponymous)
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.


better late than never?

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 Carrè'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.


(Jeffrey's cover rough)

* 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!?


view from the commander's chair

May 10, 2006 / More →


some cool things i read

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.


a few things this time around

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; 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.


Aaron Renier, Liz Prince, and Jeffrey Brown


Jon Lewis and Jennifer Daydreamer (two members of the seminal Seattle Scene from the mid-90's, including Jason Lutes, Ed Brubaker, and Tom Hart.)


Kelley Seda, Chris (AdHouse) Pitzer, and Scott Morse.


Kristen Siebecker and Alex Robinson


Renee French (Wha..?)


There's Top Shelf Webmaster Nate Beaty, on the left, pimping his truly excellent comic book BFX.


This was my view, mixing margaritas as guest bartender at Isotope. Their new digs are much more spacious than the one in the Sunset, but true to form, it still got PACKED.


The lovely Kirsten Baldock (and yours truly), who so graciously shared her Sacred Bar Space. (Inside bartender thing.)


Sequential Tart Adrienne Rappaport … Queen of the Beer Taps.


a time for heresy

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.


not dead yet...

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.


eleven days later,

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 … 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.


on the road again...

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!! … 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.

Later, kids.


in between days

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 … 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 … 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.


off to see the wizard

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!)

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[From an email by Rich Koslowski]
hey friends!
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.
best,
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.