Hey Bartender! pg. 22

shark week!

August 5, 2007 / More →

Shark Week is wrapping up on The Discovery Channel, and all i can mutter is "whew!!" If this were Shark Month, or god forbid, Shark Year, my life would effectively be over. Done. I can't get enough of these magnificent animals.

If you dig sharks…and even if you think you don't…some of the programs i've been attached to this last several days have been insanely, impossibly amazing to watch. Hello, have you EVER seen the Great Whites in Southern Africa BREACH when they snatch seals from the surface?! Wow. There's lots of great clips on YouTube.

(This is from Amos Nachoum at Big Animals.)

Check out this link (made of still photos), at Eric Cheng's Journal.

Or how about the two different guys who were getting snuggly with Great Whites and Tiger Sharks? One of whom was putting Tiger Sharks in a state of "tonic immobility," effectively rendering the shark nicknamed "Man-eater" completely homeless. The other one free-swimming (sans scuba gear) with both Tigers and Whites.

Too cool for words. Sharks have been tragically misunderstood, and are being killed off at a staggering pace. This type of mind-bending research is integral a better understanding of these perfect predators, and their effective conservation.

•Â And just so there's some comics content, here's a few beautiful watercolors by my ComicCon roommate, and creator of Korgi, Christian Slade. He made these during his trip to San Diego.

Thanks, Christian!

This one he did looking out the 7th floor window of the Embassy Suites, on Eddie Campbell's bed, looking out on the harbor.

These are from the legendary zoo.





new guy

August 3, 2007 / More →

• Hey Top Shelfers (Shelf Toppers? Shelfheads?), here's a post from the battlefield a few days ago, courtesy of New Guy Leigh Walton...

I'm blogging to you now from sunny San Diego, where the weather is gorgeous, the crowds are endless, and the costumes are uncomfortable (Gorgo
from 300? Really?). And, of course, there's comics everywhere. Yes, it's the comic world's Christmas, Vegas, and Senior Prom all in one, the San Diego Comic Con International.

Top Shelf's booth is an island of sanity in the sea of madness. It's my first time at the show, and I'm staying here in the Top Shelf Zone as much as possible. As much as the big story seems to be the convention's immense size (this year being even bigger than usual), I've been glad to discover that it's not overwhelming. We've got a constant stream of folks coming by the booth, so I never lack for new folks to talk to -- but that's just it; the traffic in this part of the hall is mild enough that I can actually carry on a conversation with everyone who comes by. Over in the big TV/movie/game/sculpture pavilions, good luck finding space to breathe, let alone get to know somebody.

That's been the real treat for me -- the interaction. I've never been in such a great social environment as this, with a never-ending army of happy and excited con-goers coming up to me and asking about these books that I love. And these aren't smelly basement-dwellers in bulging Klingon armor; they are, without exception, bright, friendly, very cool folks of all shapes and sizes who love stories and pictures and that magical picture/story Reese's cup we call comics. Some of them are long-term Top Shelf fans eager to pick up the latest wave of books from this season; others have never read our stuff but have heard good things about us or are simply drawn to the style of one book or another. We've passed out countless copies of our huge FREE sampler book and then watched those same folks come back the next day, eager to buy! Top Shelf has always been about creating a genuine relationship with our fans, and I think we've made a bunch of new friends this week, the same way we always do -- one at a time.

But Top Shelf is not the only game in town! Behold, I have been to the San Diego Comic Con, and I have seen great wonders:

I have seen a grown man changing the diaper on a baby in a Wookiee costume (the baby, not the man). I have concluded that the Sci-Fi Channel has soaked their promotional flyers in LSD, because they sure did spend a million dollars on a several-acre amorphous blob of silver plastic illuminated by fifty computer-guided party lasers -- it helpfully curves up from the floor to form nooks in which to lie back and gaze at the psychedelic display.

I have seen guys in white robes walking around wearing backpacks which emitted both hip-hop tunes and videoscreens on poles. I have seen a movie display several dozen feet tall where the name of the movie was conveniently obscured by the giant sign saying "PROMOTIONAL GIVEAWAY TOKENS REDEEMED HERE." I once found my path blocked by a mob of a hundred people, who (I soon realized) had gathered to stare at an amputee booth babe with an M-16 for a leg. Meanwhile I was able to walk right up to Tom Scioli's table and tell him how much his artwork blows me away on the incomparable GØDLAND. Then I turned around and bumped into a dude staring at a painting of Jean-Luc Picard that was so reverent that I think Leo III rolled over in his grave complaining of idolatry.

Update: the Sci-Fi Space Rave theory is confirmed - a staffer just came around and distributed ring pops.

Check back later for a panel report from "The Many Faces of the Graphic Novel," including FOUR different Top Shelf creators!

Peace, love, and visual narrative,
Leigh


post-san diego

August 2, 2007 / More →

It's so nice to sleep more than six hours in a night, in my own bed, and not wake up hung over to the gods. It's over... San Diego ComicCon was, as ever, an overwhelming morass of comics geeks, costumed freaks, star-fuckers and pop-culture thrill seekers. And while i was perpetually exhausted, i loved every minute of it.

For some very odd reason i can't pinpoint, the floor seemed less crowded than in years past, and yet our gross receipts reflected much more. Also, i felt like the vibe amongst the like-minded vendors in our little corner of the floor was overall fabulous. I heard much lip-service to the problems inherent in this show, but smiling faces belied the disgruntlement.

Intern Leigh Walton impressed my partners Chris and Rob. So much so in fact, that we hired him on the spot. Leigh will start part-time doing publicity and marketing. (Look for an official press release soon.) He's also doing a guest-blog on "Hey, Bartender" later tonight.

The Eisners were less painful than in years past, even though we didn't win any awards. (Renee French was awarded last weekend however, with an Inkpot Award for achievement in comics.)

I love seeing so many old friends, and meeting new ones, although it's hard to get in more than a short conversation here or there.

The CBLDF party was my favorite party this year, hands down.

My intern from last year, Jacquelene Cohen, who now works at Dark Horse, was assigned to be the "handler" for Joss Whedon!! ARRGGGHHH!! I'm so jealous! I'm a total Whedon-head. Moreover, I'M the one who turned Jacq onto Buffy and Firefly!! Anyway, kudos to Jacq.

I haven't had time to read many con reports, but i really enjoyed Steven Grant's "Permanent Damage" column over at CBR, and of course, the phenomenal reporting and commentary by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter.

Brain is still fried...

• First Thursday is back tonight at Floating World Comics here in Portland, featuring spaz-rock cartoonists Corey Lewis and Brandon Graham. 20 NW 5th Avenue, (downtown, right off of Burnside), from 6 - 10:00 p.m. Should be fun. These guys can draw like muthas.

• Jeff Lemire is a cool guy. I love his comics and i love his terrific blog! How awesome are these drawings he made for San Diego!

• Chris Duffy, the mastermind bending the minds of our youth with the work of indy cartoonists in the Nickelodeon Magazine's Comics section, is the subject of an interview with Brian Heater over at The Daily Cross Hatch.

• I picked up a boatload of fanboy items at the show, including a couple back issues of the great great in-house fanzine, The Amazing World of DC Comics, an old old issue of Rocket Blast Comics Collector (which Scott McCloud informed included on his second ever published work, in an article written by Kurt Busiek), a super-funny issue of the wonderful (Fred) Hembeck comic magazine, and the newest issue of revived EC fanzine, Squa Tront.

I'll make a more comprehensive list of neat stuff as soon as i'm a little more caught up.


off to san diego... freak-scene that i love

July 24, 2007 / More →

So i just received a package with the BRAND NEW Fall 2007 Season of books from First Second (thanks, Gina!!) and it's a doozy! An amazing line-up featuring Johann Sfar, Lat, Sarah Varon, Gipi, and the long-awaited Laika, by Nick Abadzis. WOW!

They'll be set up at booth 1635 in San Diego. All of these books are worth picking up. This has to be there most solid season to date. Under the sharp editorial guidance of Mark Siegel, First Second continues to impress. Kudos.




Meanwhile, Top Shelf will also be pimping our wares at San Diego in full-force. Chris and myself will continue our 10th Anniversary Celebration with a dozen cartoonists in attendance … all available to sign their new releases. Also, Renee French is no less than an honored guest of the con, and will be appearing on two panels.

Drop by the booth, meet the whole gang, and pick up a free 10th Anniversary Poster and Seasonal Sampler while you're there!

On Thursday from 12:30 - 2:00 Renee will be on the panel titled The Many Faces of the Graphic Novel, along with fellow Top Shelfers Andy Runton and Jeffrey Brown. Saturday, from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. is the Renee French Spotlight panel, in a conversation with Dan Nadel of Picture Box Inc.

Featured authors this year include:

Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change-Bots)
Renee French (Micrographica)
Matt Kindt (Super Spy)
Jeff Lemire (Tales from the Farm)
Andy Hartzell (Fox Bunny Funny)
Jeremy Tinder (Black Ghost Apple Factory)
Christian Slade (Korgi)
Andy Runton (Owly)
Robert Venditti (The Surrogates)
David Yurkovich (Death by Chocolate)
Jose Villarrubia (The Mirror of Love)
& last but definitely not least:
Eddie Campbell (Fate of the Artist)


he does the things a spider can...

July 19, 2007 / More →

• O.k. so i saw Spider-Man 3 a couple nights ago, and while i seem to be bucking the trend here, i'm going to come out and say that i LOVED it!! I won't argue about some of the details that were critically reviewed … where DID the Venom alien come from?; the Flint Marko character could have used more devolpment; yeah, "dark" Peter Parker was pretty freaking dorky; maybe there were too many storylines... But i feel that the genius of Sam Raimi and the heart of the story were right in harmony with my own personal Spider-Man. Slice out the song & dance routine (even though the story WAS being told marvelously here), and you've got one hell of a kick-ass action flick.

And i'm a guy no less, who always HATED Venom. It was so way far after my time. (Same with Big Wheels AND Transformers.) But as a vehicle to bring out the Dark Side of the Force in Petey, it served its purpose deftly.

So sue me! Viva Spidey!!

James Kochalka:
"Here's some paintings I did while I was at Monhegan Island in Maine. You can't go anywhere without running into someone doing 'plein air' painting, so I joined in the fun. It's been an artist's colony for over a century I believe, and most of the important early american landscape painters worked there."

Beautiful work, James!




• My good friend Steve Ryan did the color painting of Alex Robinson's cover drawing for his forthcoming fantasy book, Lower Regions. Steve has been featured now in four issues of Heavy Metal, and i KNEW he'd be perfect for this gig. My inner fanboy is absolutely in love with this artwork!

Jason Little and Myla Goldberg have made an addition to the family, along with little Zelie... introducing Kestrel Xesca Goldberg Little.


• The Spurge interviews Graham Annabel at The Comics Reporter. Good stuff.

• Sarah Morean reviews Jeremy Tinder's new mini-comic at The Daily Cross-Hatch.

• The new Funbook is ready! The release party will be the 8th of August at Holocene. Show Me the Pink is headlining (their last show ever!). Old Growth, Here Comes a Big Black Cloud, and Mustaphamond will also be playing. There will be giant posters to color with crayons galore. It will be also serve as a fundraiser for the genocide intervention fund.

The Portland Funbook #2 is 80 pages of coloring & activities from over 60 of Portland's best artists. Each issue will contain: an 80 page book with contributions from 60+ local artists, a 7" vinyl record with 12 one-minute songs from local musicians, 4 stickers, 1 temporary tattoo, and two 1" buttons and. Each book costs $5. $1 from each purchase will go to The Genocide Intervention Network.

• Finally, though i simply don't have the time to give these a proper review, the following new books in the collection come highly recommended.

The Rise and Fall of Yip the Wonder Dog, by Andy (Fox Bunny Funny) Hartzell. I found this at local comics & coffee shop Guapo. It's a delightful, wordless mini-comic with a tasty screenprinted cover, and published by Global Hobo.

Breaking Up, illustrated by Christine Norrie. Admittedly, i've yet to read this book yet (written by Aimee Friedman, published by the Scholastic imprint Graphix), but Christine's artwork is literally stunning! Wow. In the league of today's best female cartoonists, like Carla Speed McNeil and Colleen Coover, Christine is really really really one to watch.

Strapazin #87. The new issue of the brilliant Swiss comics magazine Strapazin arrived in my po box last week. I'd give my left pinky finger for this to be released (in English) to a wider North American audience. if you've ever wondered what the rest of the world's comics look like at their best, look no further than this.

The Chronicles of Conan volume 12. To a 14 year old, wimpy-assed Brett, coming off of his "fat" years, discovering first the pulpy paperbacks and then the Marvel comics featuring Conan the Barbarian, this escapist fantasy was a salve on my tender ego. Dark Horse has been reprinting the entire Marvel run, beginning with the early Barry Windsor-Smith issues, and up through the brilliant John Buscema stuff. For my tastes, Buscema is as much THE Conan artist as Frazetta. His work on this title was sublime. And with this 12th volume, they bring my nostalgic run to a close, since after the epic Belit: Queen of the Black Coast saga, the comic's quality control quickly plummeted. But holy shit, these 12 books Dark Horse has done are sweet. The coloring is as good as it gets, and as far as i'm concerned (no offense to any of the creators involved), the new Conan comics don't hold a candle to this stuff. Thanks to Jeremy Barlow at Dark Horse for hooking me up.

The Art of BONE. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. I really didn't imagine that the "art of" book for Bone would be anything special. Especially help up to the incredible Art of Hellboy and Art of Will Eisner books, also helmed by Diana Schutz (and designed by Cary Grazzini) at Dark Horse. I was so wrong. This is a masterpiece edition, and the perfect coda to the sweeping saga of Bone. Simply outstanding. Diana, i really owe you one.


bill moyers

July 14, 2007 / More →

is a total stud. I just watched tonight's episode of Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS, and it was an inspiration. At issue, "Tough Talk on Impeachment." Guests were Bruce Fein, a nationally and internationally recognized expert on Constitutional law, and John Nichols, author and political journalist who's been writing the "Online Beat" for The Nation magazine since 1999.

Consider, a host of attacks on the very constitution itself, from executive privilege and signing statements to extraordinary rendition, from the Plame leak to the suspension of Habeas Corpus and unwarranted SPYING on U.S citizens!!

THINK about just this short list of transgressions (and there are many MANY more), and the implications they hold. By Bush's self-proclaimed rule, he could, for reasons of his own, label YOU an enemy combatant, kidnap you from your home, spirit you away with a hood over your head to an unknown secret location on the other side of the globe, with no communication to or from anyone else … let alone a lawyer … and then set about torturing you.

THIS is constitutional? What gives? Or how about Bush's recent commutation of Scooter Libby followed by his subsequent order to Harriet Myers to spurn congress and NOT respond to a congressional subpoena, because he declares the authority not to? Our Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves. Hello, impeachment!

I worry about what kind of neo-fascist state my almost 3-year old kid might grown up in, if this behavior doesn't change... it truly frightens me. John Nichols said it well, when comparing the people of the U.S. to those of the Roman Empire and its state of mind which led to its collapse, by pointing out the difference between those who CHOOSE to live like good little subjects, not paying attention to the matters of state, letting themselves be entertained to death, with those who choose to live with a strong sense of civic duty, and demand responsibility of their elected leaders. Man, what's going on right now burns me so much! Too bad the corporate owned media refuse to fulfill their obligation as the Fourth Estate, and to hold our leaders accountable for their actions in the press, else more citizens might be as peeved as i am.

It's been at least a few months since i last wrote to my Congressman and my Senators... tonight's the night, baby!

It's been i think over a year, when the Republican-controlled Congress fuc*ed over PBS and Bill Moyer's brilliant program called NOW was cut in half, since he left the show itself and the spotlight, seemingly dispirited. Well Bill is back, and it's a better world for it. Check out the weblink for this particular episode and educate yourself. Then call or write your congressional leaders and demand action, that they uphold their duty and protect our laws and Constitution from a derelict Executive branch, as they were sworn into office to do.

• O.k., now that i'm down from the soapbox, here's some not so uplifting news making the rounds on the blogosphere... Comics are broken! No, comics aren't broken at all … the BUSINESS of comics is broken. This is the sentiment with the recent announcement that Cold Cut Distributors are selling their company. This does indeed suck. I've known and worked with Mark Thompson for over a decade. He will be missed.

And, like Slave Labor publisher Dan Vado (as read on The Comics Reporter), i have to admit to being somewhat cynical about all the hoopla and hype that the new graphic novel model in the book trade, coupled with a "healthier" direct market are indicators of stability across the board. When in fact my experience would seem to indicate that the glut of Marvel and DC titles currently flooding the market, as well as an overabundance of weak comics everywhere else has created a situation where it's really very difficult to get much support from the retail community for indy comics, except for only the biggest A-List books in a given season. (And certainly not entirely via the fault of the retailers themselves, what with non-returnable sales [in the direct market] understandably inhibiting a willingness to take risks on new titles, creators, or publishers.)

Granted, there are more excellent comics coming out now than maybe in the history of the medium, at least in North America. But with so many hundreds of books in print, the ratio against the good stuff is by orders or magnitude.

Yeah, a precarious state we find ourselves in. I wish there were some answers. Clearly there needs to be more efficient methods of both retail and distribution. I love what i do, so i want a healthy marketplace. And God only knows, i'm NOT a believer in comics' sole future domain being online. I want to hold a book in my hands, feeling its pulpy goodness, the smell of ink on my fingers. And those are the kind of books i want to publish.

Dean Haspiel has a new website dedicated to none other than his alter-ego, the beatnik super-hero Billy Dogma!

Rock!

• JULY SUPER SPY!

Tonight was the Super Secret Spy Art Exhibit at Subterranean Books. Wish i could have been there.

Matt Kindt’s newest art show ENIGMA MACHINE opened tonight … and was also a book release party to celebrate the release of his new book Super Spy. The show will run through September 9th.

Here’s what early reviews of Super Spy are saying:

“...one of the best comics I’ve read.”

“...invokes the feelings after reading Speigelman’s MAUS.”

“These spy stories are filled with pathos and longing -- Amelié meets Alfred Hitchcock in comics form. It transcends traditional spy fiction.”

• I've got a bunch of nifty books i want to mention, but i'd rather get even this short update uploaded. So stay tuned for some really cool books.


headline edition

July 9, 2007 / More →

by Lode Devroe! Today 8 July 1947:

RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region!

Read more.

• The Center for Cartoon Arts has graduated its first class. This is great news.

James Sturm's press release:

The Center for Cartoon Studies graduated it's first class in May so what better time for one of my infrequent updates. As the school takes on a life of its own it has been increasingly difficult to write updates. At one point I felt like a new parent: I could wrap my arms around the school and understand its simple needs. I could show pictures and write about everything the baby was up to. The school, now a toddler, is stomping all over the place, in nine different directions at once and is kicking up a lot of dust (and still leaving me sleep deprived)!

So without further ado (or strained metaphor) here's a brief update:

Graduation: After two years of hard work, the pioneering class of eighteen "seniors", graduated on May 19! Parents and loved ones came to White River Junction from all corners of the country to celebrate the graduates' achievements. One highlight of the spirited and emotionally charged day was the great Patrick McDonnell's commencement speech. Patrick's comic strip Mutts is a true gem (and so too, not surprisingly, is Patrick and his wife Karen).

I Know Joe Kimpel: This site was created by CCS alumni Adam Staffaroni and Emily Wieja to showcase (and sell) the great work produced by CCSers. If you are curious to see what this next generation of cartoonists is making check it out.

CCS Now Offers Master of Fine Arts Degrees: This is huge for the school. Huge. Here's the skinny.

Summer Workshops: Beginning Monday July 9th, our third summer offering workshops for ages 16 and up. A second week (beginning July 16) was added due to demand. Participants came from as far away as England, San Diego, and Texas. There are a few spaces left if you or someone you know is interested. They are a lot of fun.

CCS, The Movie: Extremely talented documentary filmmaker Tara Wray's next project: CCS and White River Junction. Check out the trailer featuring CCS students, faculty member Steve Bissette, Art Spiegelman, and yours truly.

CCS Book Projects: CCS is involved in various publishing projects including working with Norton in redesigning Will Eisner's landmark instructional books. CCS's first book with Hyperion Books for Children, Houdini, The Handcuff King, by Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi is out in stores and is receiving rave reviews. The next book in the series, Satchel Paige, Striking Out Jim Crow, by myself and Rich Tommaso, will be released in December. The third book in the series will be Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino. The Houdini book can be ordered through Amazon. You can get a great read and support the school in one fell swoop.

Greeting Cards: CCS student work will be featured in a line of greeting cards next summer produced by Sunrise Greetings (an independent subsidiary of Hallmark Card). It was great working with Sunrise… the students sold lots of work and the cards look great.

Looking Forward: Next fall CCS is honored to have Jason Lutes as visiting faculty. Jason is the cartoonist responsible for the amazing graphic novels Jar of Fools and Berlin. Other guests will include Lynda Barry, Drew Weing, Eleanor Davis, Alison Bechdel, and Gary Trudeau. And that is just for the fall! And also in WRJ this year will be CCS's third Fellow, T. Edward Bak. Thanks to the LEF Foundation for keeping our fellowship program rolling along!

Congratulations: To Sam Gaskin and Alexis Frederick-Frost, two members of CCS first class who won the prestigious Xeric Award to publish their own comic. Tp the CCS's Sundays' crew for producing Sundays, a beautiful anthology that was one of the "buzz books" of New York City's MoCCA Comics Festival ( all these books available through Joe Kimpel). To fellow Vermont cartoonist and CCS visiting artist Alison Bechdel, on the success of her amazing memoir Fun Home. And Congrads to Phineas Roy Ollie, CCS managing director Michelle Ollie's new son who came early, in time to witness the CCS graduation.

• There's some great stuff in the current Diamond Previews catalog (although thankfully less than normal), including the following items i'll keep my eyes open for.

… Sunday Press (the guy who did that mammoth and gorgeous Little Nemo book) is releasing volume one of the oversized Gasoline Alley Sundays, in full color. It's called Sundays with Walt and Skeezix, and makes a perfect companion the series Drawn & Quarterly is producing with the b&w dailies.

… And original Goon graphic novel by Eric Powell (from Dark Horse), is on its way, title Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker. Eric is one of the most outstanding cartoonists in a field overflowing with fine creators. And The Goon is just wild campy fun.

The Hanna-Barbera Treasury, by Jerry Beck. Jerry and Amid Amini run the wonderful cartoon blog Cartoon Brew, and this book looks to be a treasure trove a cartoony goodness.

The Completely Mad Don Martin, from Running Press. Whoo hoo! My god i loved Don Martin's comics in the pages of MAD when i was growing up. This looks to be a set not unlike the beautiful slipcased Farside and Calvin & Hobbes collections Andrews McMeel issued a few years ago. And if memory serves correct, this will be the first in a series collecting work by the second generation of Mad creators. (The generation i grew up on, including the great Sergio Aragones and Al Jafee.) Man, imagine the entirety of Sergio brilliant Mad Marginals!

… Finally, the long awaited Jack Kirby biography which Mark Evanier has been working on forever. Titled Kirby: King of Comics, this is perfectly timed to appear alongside the way overdue deluxe Kirby collections making the rounds these days.

• Gregory Benton sent a follow-up email (with pictures) of the following show at Space 1026, SCAB ON MY BRAIN!, which opened last Friday, July 6.

Space 1026 presents "Scab On My Brain!", a group exhibition curated by New York artist Jordin Isip. This assembled group of twelve artists use their own unique and personal visual vocabulary to create figurative narratives that are both allegorical and psychological. In some works humans can be beastial, weak, imperfect, and vulnerable as they journey through imagined lands, in others, the protagonists may be quietly heroic in seemingly mundane and everyday environments. But whether these images (drawings, paintings, silkscreens, and sculpture) are multi-layered, oozing, cacophonous, and hyperbolic or understated, minimal, reserved and poetic we are compelled to enter realms devised by artists with distinct sensibilities.

Jordan Awan, Gregory Benton, Kiersten Essenpreis, Jordin Isip, Aya Kakeda and Liz Lee are based in New York City.While Carl Dunn and Evah Fan also have strong New York roots they now live in Providence and Los Angeles respectively. Mariano Ching and Louie Cordero live in the Philippines, James Kirkpatrick in Canada, and Nate Williams in Argentina. Space 1026 presents "Scab On My Brain!", a group exhibition curated by New York artist Jordin Isip. This assembled group of twelve artists use their own unique and personal visual vocabulary to create figurative narratives that are both allegorical and psychological. In some works humans can be beastial, weak, imperfect, and vulnerable as they journey through imagined lands, in others, the protagonists may be quietly heroic in seemingly mundane and everyday environments. But whether these images (drawings, paintings, silkscreens, and sculpture) are multi-layered, oozing, cacophonous, and hyperbolic or understated, minimal, reserved and poetic we are compelled to enter realms devised by artists with distinct sensibilities.

Louie Cordero, "Horns, Strings and Harmony", 14" x 11", ink on paper

Finishing "The Day of the Humans is Gone" (named after a Plasmatics song on the Maggots: the Record record.) 2007, oil & enamel on wood, 24" x 48"

Here are more pics from the show. (Thanks, Gregory.)

Front view of Carl Dunn's piece & Florence.

Watercolors by Gregory.

Hmmm..., ah yes... Mmm Hmmmm...

Space 1026

• Nick Abadzis has started a new blog.

• Jim (JH) Williams sent me a link to a fab new multi-artist website called Naked Fat Rave. Check it out!

• Master letterer/designer Todd Klein has a new website.

• More super cool art by Jim Mahfood.


listening as i write to the tasty

July 1, 2007 / More →

new record by Queens of the Stone Age, titled Era Vulgaris. If you like your rock fuzzy, guitar-heavy, hook-laden and a little dissonant, then these cats have produced yet another gem just for you.

• MoCCA was, as per usual, a mad crazy aweome comics show. How could it not, taking place as it does in New York City. Any reason to "have" to go to New York is a good one.

I stayed again with Gregory Benton and his lovely lady Florence, in their swank apartment on the Upper West Side. Many many thanks to them both. Lots of beer drinking, soccer watching and good eating to be had. I made trips to St. Mark's Books, Forbidden Planet, more pubs and clubs than i can count, a league soccer match, and of course, the convention itself. I also spent some time getting to hang out with the affable Jeff Lemire, who stayed out a couple nights at Gregory's too. I'll tell you, this Canuck can throw down some serious pints!!

The show kicked ass, but the highlight of the weekend had to be our 10-Year Anniversary party at Gstaadt. We had an amazing cake made by some famous NYC pastry chef (anybody know who this guy is?), an open bar, and a large catered food spread. Piles of thanks to Kristen and Eliza for their hard work getting the whole thing together. At one point the joint was so jumpin' (and roasting hot) that people were spilling out onto the streets. The venue was amazing, the bartenders all hot, and the cocktails delicious.

I wish we could do this every year, but … OUCH! … that bar tab was a doozy!!

One fabulous score of MANY at the show was Craig Yoe's choice Life is Short, ARF is Long special edition, a VERY vertical, short run (50 copies) comic featuring art and comics drawn in the same proportion. The little masterpiece measures roughly 5" wide x 14" tall. Viva l'ARF!

Craig also has a great slide show of pics from MoCCA, on his ARF! blog. Funny and smart captions too.

• Before heading home, i travelled north to Montreal for two nights and three days to visit my pal Patrick Jodoin. (Who's bald head some readers might recognize from the convention circuit in his alter-ego as the rep for Lebonfon Printing.) We tooled around for two days by bicycle, and wow, what a gorgeous city. The old World's Fair Expo Center, Old Quebec, churches, restaurants, Mount Royal, and so much more.

I scored some great French comics (by Gipi, Blutch, and Frederick Peeters) at a small bookstore chain called Librarie Renauld-Bray. I would have loaded up with so much more, had i only the room to carry it. Thank the gods there's no store like this in Portland.

Like Vancouver B.C. and Toronto, the streets were clean, the people were friendly, and with half the city speaking French, Montreal was even so much more European in flavor. (And the way the girls talk... ooh la la.)

Not surprisingly, we drank like fish every night, and traded publishing industry war stories.

On my last day we had the honor of visiting the Drawn & Quarterly offices, and then were treated to lunch by them, eating a yummy Indian meal with Chris (Oliveros), Tom (Devlin), Rebecca (Rosen), Jessica (Campbell), and their intern (from the CCS) Alexis Frederick Frost. D&Q is one of the handful of very key influences that inspired me to become a comics publisher, so this was pretty big to get to visit the headquarters.

• Cute podcast review at Pulp Secret of three recent Top Shelf books, with some fun little skits thrown in. Good editing as well.

• Went out with Steve Lafler to go see a late-nite showing of Hot Fuzz at the Laurelhurst Theater. With Shaun of the Dead in their cap also, it's clear now that the auteur team of (director / co-writer) Edgar Wright and (co-writer / actor) Simon Pegg just "get it."

On the surface the plot is a simple buddy movie / crime procedural / mystery / dark comedy / thriller. What's that?! Like Shaun, Hot Fuzz is a perfectly blended mish-mash of every two-bit genre to ever hit the big screen. Combining bits & pieces straight from (and in loving homage to) classics like Sergio Leone, Rosemary's Baby, Sam Raimi, Helter Skelter, John Woo, L.A. Confidential, Michael Bay, splatter-horror .... whew. It also has a meta-take on Bad Boys II and Point Break thrown in for maximum comedic effect, with a truly perfect scene. All the while there remained an absolute commitment to giving this film its own unique identity.

This on-fire duo have wrestled the mantle of over-the-top genre pastiche from former master Quentin Tarantino's limp hands. (Who's half of the recent Grindhouse was more boring than a fucking Golden Girls marathon … scenes featuring Kurt Russel as Stuntman Mike notwithstanding.)

In the end, what makes these two films so special, are the themes of friendship, honor, and heart, which go mostly ignored by so much of today's "entertainment."

With director Wright slated to direct Bryan Lee O'Malley's phenomenal Scott Pilgrim (published by Oni Press) in 2009, i'm already salivating.

• It's official … my two-pronged hoops fantasy has come to fruition!! We drafted big-man Greg Oden AND dumped over-paid slacker Zach Randolph, both on the same night! Whoo hoo!

• A nifty zine/comic floated my way this week via the Big Pond, and it rocks. Gareth Brookes from London created Mediocralypse. It's an old-school type of effort like i used to read, in that it stretches the boundaries of what you can attempt in a low print-run mini, that you can't maybe with big expensive books. Very much a zine at heart and form.

The chops are great in here too. Everything is really quite nicely drawn.

Check out his website Appalling Nonsense for more info.

This art here is part of Gareth's contribution to a hit or miss anthology called Banal Pig. His strip is beautiful, and reminds me of Jeff Zenick's work.

•Â If you're in Portland this Thursday evening, swing by Floating World Comics for the co-book signing with Jeremy Tinder (for his Top Shelf floppy comic called Black Ghost Apple Factory) and Douglas Wolk, for his book Reading Comics.

I'll be there kind of early, because i'll have the kid with me!


end of an institution... r.i.p. punk planet

June 21, 2007 / More →

Dan Sinker, he who is Punk Planet, sent out a mass email announcing the last issue of this seminal magazine, which eventually fell victim the ruthless powers-that-be (new postal mass-mailing regulations, anybody?) which seek to kill the independent voice.

Punk Planet was, in my book, one of the greatest magazines ever. It covered basically any and all categories of independent entertainment, from music and film to literature and comics. More importantly, PP was also a champion cultural journal which discussed the politics of the day in informed and impassioned essays, articles, and what have you. Kudos to Dan, and all of the folks involved, on a stellar run.

The good news is that PP will continue on as a web magazine, as well as publishing the occasional book.

Recent PP editor and long-time comics head Anne Elizabeth Moore will be floating around with the end of the print mag, taking a break doing not much of anything, and i for one can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!

• Nick Bertozzi is a cartoonist who for some reason doesn't get the props he deserves. One of the brightest talents working today, he's well-loved by industry insiders and critics alike, and i can only hope that with two high-profile books of his out right now, The Salon and The Handcuff King (about Harry Houdini), the general readership for fine comics catches up with the Joneses.

The Daily Cross Hatch has a three-part interview with Nick, the first two parts of which you can read here and here.

• Volume one of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus line has arrived, and it is awesome!! There's a bit of a debate over at the Marvel Masterworks message boards, about the paper stock used. Normally, most of Marvel and DCs expensive (and luxurious) archival books are printed on high-end, acid-free offset paper. For the price paid for many of these (some topping a hundred bucks), this is not an unreasonable demand. For whatever reason though, DC chose to print these Fourth World books on what appears to be a high-grade newsprint. Yikes! That said, besides that we're looking at $50 for an almost 400-page, hard cover, full-color book, i can't imagine this looking any cooler. Kirby's shit simply sings on a newsprint printed page (which i'm almost certain he planned for at the time he was creating this stuff), what with his chunky art and patented Kirby Crackle.

The design on this book is stellar. (Although sadly, not credited.) Riffing on the school of big, splashy uber-design which Chip Kidd has made so popular (though by no means invented), i have to say, i'm in love with this. I read those crappy b&w editions of the Fourth World DC put out a few years ago, and while i loved the material, the presentation sucked. Plus, with this new reprint project, the stories (represented over four different titles) are being presented in the order of publication, exactly as they were rolling fresh out of the brilliant mind of King Kirby, arguably at the zenith of his powers.

Seriously, i haven't been this excited for a book since the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus. If you like super-hero comics, this is truly a "must-have" item.

• There's a lengthy new interview with David Yurkovich at Comix Fan, about his upcoming benefit book for veteran Marvel scribe Bill Mantlo.

•Â Slow new-comics-day today... only picked up two books, and they couldn't possibly be more different … oversized HC Ultimate Fantastic Four vol. 3 (over-the-top widescreen action fare) and manga masterpiece, Yotsuba&! vol. 4 (cute cute cute).

• I'm outta here.... off to New York City for MoCCA, followed by my first ever trip to Montreal. See you next week.

* And finally, a call to arms, from Comic Book Legal Defense Fun Executive Director, Charles Brownstein:

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund urgently needs your help. This August, the long-running case of Georgia v. Gordon Lee will finally go to trial, with court costs expected to hit $20,000.

For nearly three years the Fund has defended Georgia retailer Gordon Lee, seeing him through multiple arraignments and procedures, and racking up $80,000 in legal bills. The charges stem from a Halloween 2004 incident in which Lee handed out, among other free comics, an anthology featuring an excerpt from the critically acclaimed graphic novel The Salon. The segment depicted a historically accurate meeting between 20th Century art icons Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, the latter depicted in the nude. It was a harmless sequence, no more explicit than the nudity displayed in the award winning Watchmen. Yet because the title found its way into the hands of a minor, Floyd County prosecutors hit Lee with two felony counts and five misdemeanors. The Fund eventually knocked out most of the charges, but must now defeat the two remaining misdemeanor counts of Distribution of Harmful to Minors Material, each carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.

The case is slated to go to trial the week of August 13. We urgently need your support in order to wage the best defense possible against these remaining charges, and that means raising the $20,000 that the trial is expected to cost. Here's how you can help:

Make A Monetary Donation: Every dollar counts, so please visit the cbldf.org and make a tax-deductible contribution today. As a thank-you for making a donation of $30 or more, the Fund will give you a brand new t-shirt displaying the text of the First Amendment in the shape of an American flag. Show your commitment to free speech, and your support for this very important case.

Join The CBLDF: Now is the time to join or renew your membership in the Fund. Your member dollars provide the baseline of support that we need to perform our casework, and defend your right to buy whatever comics you wish. If you join now with a basic membership of $25 you will receive a CBLDF Member Card, featuring new Groo art by the one-and-only Sergio Aragones, as well as a subscription to our news publication Busted!, and special admission to CBLDF events across the country. If you join at a level of $100 or more, you will also receive one of the new First Amendment t-shirts.

Donate Original Art & Collectibles: With summer conventions upon us, the Fund needs original art, high-grade comics, and other collectible items to make the most of our summer auctions. Please e-mail cbldf1@gmail.com for more information about how to donate to our auctions, or with a description of your intended donation. If your donation is accepted for our summer auctions, you will receive a letter of acknowledgment and a 2007 membership. To ensure that your donation is received safely, please do not send physical items until accepted by the CBLDF.

With Gordon Lee's freedom in the balance, the CBLDF needs everyone who values Free Expression in comic books to do his or her part to support this very important case. Please visit www.cbldf.org and make your contribution today.

Donations

Membership


a week and a day later...

June 16, 2007 / More →

Alan David Doane posts a thoughtful 2-part essay on the state of the industry, and the state of comics shops over at the Comic Book Galaxy blog.

I must say that i echo Alan's thoughts here as if they were my own. The dismal failure of 90% of the comics shop owner/managers to provide comics to a wider audience is mind-boggling to me. I won't say retailing is easy, by any means, but neither is it a rocket science.

So many times i've visited stores in new cities, with nary an art-comic on their shelves, where the dork behind the counter says, "Well, they don't sell." Duh, dude!! If you don't have them, people can't buy them! I'm not talking about somewhere in the middle of Kansas, i'm talking about super liberal college campuses (like where i went to school in Eugene, OR), where alternative comics would thrive.

One time, i checked back on a store who had purchased some comics from me at our standard wholesale discount, to see if they needed a restock. Sure enough, the comics had sold, but when i asked if he'd like more, he mumbled, "Thank god those are gone," as if he'd finally rid his store of a flea-infested stray dog. He MADE MONEY on my comics, but acted as if i were putting him in a bind. What the fu*k!@?

And sadly, in as much i think Diamond runs a very tight, friendly, and professional ship, i'd also agree that they aren't doing much by way of educating the retail community, or providing tools to help stock for a broader audience. They too cater solely to the men-in-tights and event cross-overs crowd, for short term benefit at the expense of long-term health. (And let's not get started on Previews.) Like David, i wonder if (direct market) Diamond, and by extension Marvel and DC … in targeting and serving mainly aging fanboys … won't eventually feel the pinch of this short-sighted thinking, and see the number of in-store consumers, as well the number of direct-market comic shops continue to dwindle, even as graphic novel sections in the book trade swell, in response to the most diverse and hungry real-world audience as the industry has ever seen.

It's somewhat hard to believe, but having polled other indy publishers, we've come to the conclusion that "maybe" 250 comics shops in North America represent 90% of our direct market sales. There's possibly 3,500 comics shops (or some weak iteration thereof, in the form of a baseball card store here or a hobby & games store there), and it's difficult not to wonder, and dream "what if?" even half of these shops truly knew the scope of PROFITS to be made in the emerging market for non-spandex comics? What would happen? Are you high? Our bottom line would quintuple! Our books would break-even right out of the gate... gasp, we could afford to nurture our talent for what they really deserve, improve production values, attend more international comics festivals, .... ah, the list goes on.

(Dream on, Brett.)

• Here's one for the "formalist geeks" in comics... Tom Hart writes in a recent email:
"Having recently seen Lars von Trier's The Five Obstructions, I found myself excited and inspired by the challenges and compelling dialogue that develops between the two artists. So I have asked formalist and friend Matt Madden to challenge me with 5 similar obstructions for my daily Hutch Owen comic strip that runs in two papers, in New York City and Boston.

"Bear in mind I create one of these a day, and they have to be printed at about 6 inches across, but aside from that, I've asked Matt to force me to upend my own patterns.

"Matt offered the first 'obstruction' this weekend and I've probably already failed it, but it's been posted at the address below.

"You can track the entire project (it will probably last a full week more) here and then see it in print the following week in the newspaper or online.

"Feel free to watch me flail around desperately."

Sequart releases the first book in their new line of reference books, from the Sequart Research & Literary Organization, called Grant Morrison: The Early Years.

From the press release:
Grant Morrison redefined comics in the late 1980s and early 1990s from his trailblazing creation of ZENITH, through his metatextual innovations on ANIMAL MAN, to his Dadaist super-heroics in DOOM PATROL. Along the way, he explored the Batman mythos with his multilayered masterpiece ARKHAM ASYLUM and the literary GOTHIC storyline.

According to the book's author, Timothy Callahan, "the book explores the unifying themes of Morrison's early work, providing a close analysis of stylistic and structural techniques..."

Grant Morrison: The Early Years examines five of Morrison's works in detail, using plain language to open up Morrison's sometimes difficult texts and expands the reader's appreciation of their significance, creating a study accessible to both Grant Morrison aficionados and those new to his work. An extended interview with Morrison on his early career rounds out the volume.

Brett says: Whoo hoo! I'll definitely be checking out this baby! I'm a huge fan.

Here's what the Bush-licking Neo-Con think-tank guys have wanted all along.

• And yet another theme song for a Top Shelf book comes our way, along with an excellent interview with Jeffrey Brown, speaking about Incredible Change-Bots, courtesy of Pirooz Kalayeh.

Pirooz is the author of the graphic novels GOLDEN ASHTRAY and WHY DO MEN DO STUPID THINGS FOR ASS?. He makes music with THE SLIPSHOD SWINGERS. His blog is called SHIKOW. He lives in Seoul, South Korea.

• The art from James Kochalka's Little Paintings 2 show at Giant Robot SF is now up for sale online.

• Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes do a fun online comic strip set in a public library, called Unshelved. They recently did this excellent strip about Owly as part of their Book Club, which promotes books within the actual strip! Thanks to Jim Demonakos for the tip.

• Here are some pics that Jeff (Tales From The Farm) Lemire took of the Top Shelf window-display at Forbidden Planet in New York.


As well a picture of his booth at the Windsor Art Show, and the 5' x 9' painting he did of some of the characters from Ghost Stories (the follow-up to Tales From The Farm, and the second book in the Essex County trilogy).


This is a great example of a cartoonist who understands the value and import of getting out there, and getting his work to the people. Like the old adage says, one fan at a time.

Finally, i finally found some time to read the new anthology Syncopated Vol. 3, edited by Brendan Burford, and i must say it's a delight. I've always been a sucker for well-told historical comics, and this book (Burford's stated goal is especially in providing first-person accounts) succeeds admirably. I actually enjoyed virtually every strip, but there were a few stand-outs. First, yet more from the brilliant mind of Nick Bertozzi. He's been doing more and more material like this, and i LOVE IT! (Nick, looking for a publisher to collect all of these?) Greg Cook turns in more elegant, understated and sublime cartooning. And youngster Jim Campbell provides my favorite strip in the book, with a rollicking story about a young Teddy Roosevelt.

I think i read that Brendan will be at MoCCA next weekend, so i'll have to pick up a copy of issue #2, which sports this gorgeous cover.

Reading Syncopated inspired me to dig up two bookmarks i had buried here on my desktop, essays that Tom Spurgeon had written, one about the death of King Features head-honcho Jay Kennedy, and the second about a wunderkid whom Kennedy had groomed to succeed him if and when the time came, named Brendan Bruford. Impressive. This young man seems to have a bright future ahead of him, and i wish him the best of luck.

Thanks to Tom for two fine essays.


June 7, 2007

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Alex Robinson will be doing a short fantasy comic for us later this year, called Lower Regions. (You read it here first, folks.) If you've never had the opportunity to read Alex's fantasy stuff (like the strip "One Gold Coin," in his mini-comic Tales of Action and Adventure), then you are in for a real treat.

Here is Alex's rough of the cover for Lower Regions... sweet!!

Comic Geek Speak did a swell multi-person podcast review of Blankets.

Gregory Benton just returned from a trip with his lady to Italy. Here are some gorgeous sketchbook drawings. Thanks Greg!

Compiano

David

Firenze

Milan Airport

Minotaur

Minotaur 2

Piacenza

Roma

• I just found out Jeffrey Brown will be doing a signing at Giant Robot in New York, the night before MoCCA!! Nice.

Friday, June 22, 2007, 6:00 pm ”“ 9:00 pm

Giant Robot Gallery
437 East 9th Street
Between 1st Ave. & Ave. A, in the East Village
New York, New York 10009
(212) 674-GRNY (4769)

gmy.net

• The new Diamond Previews is out. Here's what i'll be picking up (in addition to my Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image books, too numerous to list).

P. 212: AdHouse Books' The Ride Home, by Joey Weiser. I've read this book, and i LOVE IT!! Order this book above all else! It won't disappoint.

P. 216: Alternative Comics' Miriam, by Rich Tommaso. I've been a fan of Rich's work for over a decade now, and i dig everything he does.

P. 230: Archaia's Inanna's Tears, written by Rob Vollmar, whose Bluesman i really enjoyed.

P. 239: Avatar has new issues of two new Warren Ellis series, Doktor Sleepless and Black Summer, and they both look AWESOME! Don't tell him i said this, but while i'm a "wait-for-the-trade" guy, that should not discourage you from picking these up, if you're a floppy reader.

P. 269: Derf (of Derf in the City) self-publishes My Friend Dahmer. I've read this too, and it's super. At only three bucks, it's soooo worth it.

P. 299: Fantagraphics releases two books i'm salivating for in Steven (Ribs!) Weissman's Mean, and a bitchin' looking Hank Ketcham cartoon art collection, Where's Dennis?

P. 324: Microcosm gets it right, and after years of fuckery, amazing ink-stud Nate Powell's work is FINALLY back in print, with one of the year's most important collections, Sounds of My Name. Sounds effectively compiles the entirety of Nate's Walkie-Talkie series and miscellaneous stories. In a just world, this will end up on next year's Eisner ballot for collected edition of previously published material. Nate's lush world is dazzling dreamy stuff.

P. 395: Rock star comics crit, Douglas Wolk gets his first book, Reading Comics and What They Mean. Also, Paul (The Man at the Crossroads) Gravett's FOURTH luxurious retrospective, Cult Fiction. These are certain to both be "must-have" tomes in the reference library for any of the comics cognoscenti.

P. 362: Our own book, Super Spy, by Matt Kindt. This book is really really really really good.

Matt's doing a special promotion if you pre-order his book by June 30!! Free ink & watercolor sketch!!

Craig Yoe's third Arf masterpiece, Arf Forum, is out and again, i'm floored by this incredible deluxe magazine. This is a near-perfect effort, and somehow reminds me of Mazzuchelli's classic anthology Rubber Blanket. If you've never had the Arf Experience, well then get on it!

Jim Mahfood released a small print-run mini at APE a few months ago, called Ask For Janice. In which he rolls out, documentary comics style, the story of the Beastie Boys / Dust Brothers masterpiece, Paul's Boutique. He follows up with annotations of every song on the record. Choice.

• Also debuting at APE and which i finally just read, Greg Means' Tugboat Press Papercutter #4. Featuring, Sarah Oleksyk, John Porcellino, Venessa Davis, and Nate Beaty, Greg kicks down with yet another might issue of my favorite ongoing anthology in all the land. Papercutter rules!

• I read the first two issues, absolutely adored them, and then decided to wait for the trade of Warren Ellis' fabulous detective series FELL. Wow! Image did a limited hardcover, and it's really impressive. The tpb looks beautiful as well. With art by Ben Templesmith at his finest, this is great shit, and i can't wait to dive in. Oh, and Warren's smashingly "widescreen" geekfest, Ultimate Galactus Trilogy came out in oversized hardcover from Marvel. I read these in trade form, and this collection is even bigger, with big action art, and big big ideas. Fun stuff.

• Was on a four-day holiday this last weekend in Bend, and i made time to visit what i believe to be their only real comics shop, Pegasus Books, owned and operated by Duncan McGeary. To be honest, for a small town comics shop, i wasn't holding my breath for anything spectacular. Oh how very wrong i was. This is a truly excellent comics shop, and one that actually competes with the best that Portland has to offer.

While it's a little cramped, the space is used wisely, and the layout couldn't be better. The first section you see when you walk in the door, is real-world genre art and reference books for Fantasy, Film-Noir, Crime Fiction, Sci-fi, etc. But what makes this section brilliant is how he segues these genres into the like-minded material available in comics. So the horror section becomes the horror comics section.

Also right there at the front of the shop is the kid's section. A no-brainer, i think, but i'm amazed at how many comics shops give kids (only the freaking FUTURE of the industry), short shrift.

I was really impressed, and showed my enthusiasm by dropping some serious dough there, picking up the following: the new issue of Wizard; a Marvel Adventures Avengers ashcan, written by rising start Jeff Parker; the out-of-print Thor: Vikings, by Garth Ennis (which i read while The Kid was napping, and LOVED it!!); also by Garth Ennis, the first tpb of Boys, with art by Darick Robertson; a totally impossible to find Spanish language collection in the Todo Max series, El Canto Del Gallo, by world class cartoonist (and super nice guy) Max; and finally, an art book called The Paperback Art of James Avanti.

The paperback artist field is one i'm relatively new to (having only recently "discovered" the incredible Robert McGinnis), and this book is outstanding. Commercial artists like Avanti and McGinnis should be as widely recognized as stalwarts like Rockwell, and maybe, with rich books like these, someday it may happen.

Anyway, if you find yourself in Bend, Oregon for a little R&R, yuo could do worse than to visit this fine store, at 105 Minnesota Avenue. Duncan also writes a fun blog.

• Hoops talk... if you don't like basketball, then move along.

Also while on holiday this last weekend with the wife and kid, and we went to visit some friends one evening. At one point i asked the husband if he minded if i popped on the tube so i could see a basketball score. (Game 5 in Detroit.) He said he was an ex-hoops lover, and not having seen any playoff action for a few years, said sure.

We found the right channel JUST IN TIME to see Lebron BLAST past defenders like they were standing still, with a mere :03 seconds left in regulation, and throw down a thunderous slam dunk, to tie the game. Damn, it was epic.

Then, over the course of TWO overtimes, i witnessed before my very eyes, a literal changing of the guard. Where the Cavs were hungry and aggressive, the Pistons looked tired and almost disinterested. What the heck happened to Tayshon Prince? Or Chauncy Billups? They certainly didn't act like they came to play at all.

The Cavs do indeed however have an excellent defensive philosophy, and after learning that coach Mike Brown worked under Spur's coach Gregg Poppovich, it all makes sense. The Finals will be a slow as molasses, grind-it-out defensive affair, to be sure.

It's interesting though. As great as The Spurs and the Cavs are defensively, i was struck more than anything while watching the Suns, the Jazz, and the Pistons all lose their respective series... i truly believe that as important as defense is to winning a championship, even more important is the WILL to win. And all three of these teams looked like deer in the headlights, as they were taken out of their comfort zone, and their will to win slowly ran dry, like a deflating basketball. Where were Leandro Barbosa, Shawn (The Matrix) Marion, and Boris Diaw in the Phoenix series. Or Andrei (AK-47) Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur in the Jazz series. (Props to rising star, point guard Deron Williams, for keeping his team even remotely close in any given game. His will to win was palpable... sadly, other rising star Carlos Boozer was wildly uneven in the series, and not as affective as they would have liked.)

Yes, great defense can slow down good players. But a WILL TO WIN allows GREAT players the ability to crush great defense. Just look at the Spurs' Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobli, the Holy Trinity of guys who want to win. They will NOT be stopped. Or LeBron... man, after his timid first two games, he came out reborn, a man on a mission, and nothing could stop him as he dismantled the dazed Pistons. Beautiful, man.

Meanwhile, back in Portland, Blazermania is starting to explode again to a fever pitch not felt since the days when we had not only great players, but stand-up, likable players too. In the early 90s, the nucleus was Clyde (The Glide) Drexler, Terry Portland, Jerome Kersey, and Buck Williams. They made two Finals appearances, but just couldn't make it over the hump. The home town STILL loved them all the same.

Then General Manager (Sith Lord) Bob Whitsitt came along, with total disregard for the character of the team's personnel, and thus began the long hard road to converting the Trailblazers into the Jailblazers. Can you say Isaiah (J.R.) Rider, Rod Strickland, Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Rueben Patterson, Qyntal Woods, and Zach Randolph? Thugs all.

(That said, when he's behaving, i actually really appreciate 'Sheed's game quite a bit. Ditto Zach.)

Then you've got Damon Stoudamire, who while not a hardened criminal per se, was stupid enough to go through an airport security metal detector with skunky weed wrapped in TIN FOIL shoved into his pants!! Good god, what a dumb-ass!

Now along comes the miraculous first draft pick, and (presumably) Greg Oden, the greatest Big Man in a decade or more, plus some excellent, stand-up, youthful players like Brandon (Rookie of the Year) Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge, and things are looking up up up. Plus with the rumor mill spreading word that Zach Randolph is now nothing but trade-bait, perhaps for once (now that they could be legitimate contenders AND he's no longer their "number one"), he'll get off his ass, shed some of that "baby fat," learn to play defense, quit whining, and play with purpose. (It's a long-shot, but damn this kid has so much natural talent.) Hopefully the 'Zers will keep forward Ime Udoka (a real balls-to-the-wall hustler and stellar defender), guard Freddie Jones (a native Portlander and former high-flying Duck), and center Joel Przybilla (who is a great baller when he's healthy).

As for the rest, i couldn't care less who goes. Nothing personal, but i could totally live without underachiever Darius Miles, aging players like Raef LeFrentz and Jamaal Magloire (who i LOVED back when he played with Mashburn and Baron Davis back in Charlotte), or the much over-rated Martell Webster.

While Phoenix is still my favorite team, it sure would be nice to once again scream, "Go Blazers!"


May 31, 2007

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Off in the morning for a short family vacation, to central Oregon. Bend, to be precise, sagebrush and pine on the wind, the high dessert. It's been a long time. Looking forward to it.

•Â Last night i read a neat column by Robin Etherington at Comic World News, about BD Fugue, a comics shop in Lyon, France.


Check this shit out... they have a full bar!! And they also have one of the best blogs ever.

This is the first post of his new column, "Comics Have Never Been So Much Fun." Robin, you're off to a great start! This is a phenomenal feature.

Jim Mahfood event.

• One of Wayne (I'm Totally Helpless) Shellabarger's pals, RW Hessler adapted and directed a radioplay of Robert Bloch's Notebook Found in a Deserted House. I listened to this on the drive home from APE a few months ago, and i will say it was spectacular. A superb adaption. Oh, and Wayne did some killer cover art for the disc. Check out The Hermetic Order of Arcana for more information.

• I finally had some time to dive into the Comics Issue of Nerve. Full confession, i loath reading comics on a computer screen. Really. It's nails-on-the-chalkboard to me. I can't stand waiting for a page to slowly load, little by little, like a curtain descending. That said, there is some seriously excellent work here. Kudos to the editors, and of course the creators.

Stands-outs were the Paul Pope strip, excerpted from his forthcoming book through the brilliant AdHouse Books. And an outstanding new piece by Andi Watson. Good god, Andy just keeps evolving in front of our very eyes. In this particular strip, "Haunted, "the story is vintage Andy and a delight, as always of course, but his art takes a loose, Euro turn, with a real cartoony style a la, la Ligne Claire, and 50's-ish blocky colors via Photoshop. Man, this is a masterful treat.

Plus the likes of Chynna Clugston, Jim Mahfood, an insanely wicked page by Leah Hayes, and interviews with Alison Bechdel, Peter Bagge, and Evan Dorkin. There are essays, articles, and in the archives section, a Lost Girls interview with Alan Moore.

In fact, there's so much great content here, i'm going to have to bookmark this, and keep dipping into it as time allows.

My secret desire though, is to have a printed version of this in my hands. Feel the pulp in my hands, breath deep the intoxicating ink... a guy can dream.


May 29, 2007

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I’m currently building our house ad for Diamond Previews this month, and while we’re listing the long-awaited Elfworld anthology, i don’t have as much room as i’d like to run more information on it. So what i’m doing here is lifting this info straight from the Family Style website.

Family Style is proud to be publishing the long-awaited Elfworld Vol. 1 in Fall of 2006!

Elfworld is the brainchild of indie-comics superstar Jeffrey Brown; an anthology of fantasy-themed comics by a wide range of alternative, independent, and self-published cartoonists. Although there was a lot of interest in the comics community and tons of submissions poured in, Brown found himself deluged by his more pressing assignments, and unfortunately Elfworld was put on the back burner for what promised to be an indefinite time.

At last year’s Alternative Press Expo, young cartoonist (and member of the Family Style artistic collective) François Vigneault bought a copy of The Basilisk by Kazimir Strzepek. “He told me that he had originally drawn it for Jeffrey Brown’s anthology, which was actually the first time I had heard of it,” says Vigneault. “My first thought was that I wanted to contribute to it, but then Kaz told me that Jeffrey wasn’t ever going to do it, so I had the audacious thought of editing and publishing it myself. I approached Jeffrey and asked him if he was planning to finish Elfworld, and if not, if I could have it. ”˜What’s your address?’ was his response!”

The first volume of Elfworld consists almost entirely of submissions created for Jeffrey Brown’s original anthology and selected by François Vigneault. The 96 page, black-and-white book features fantasy-themed stories from over a dozen artists from across the indie-comics spectrum: Jeffrey Brown, Martin Cendreda, Erik Nebel & Jesse Reklaw, Matt Weigle & Sean T. Collins, Ron Regé Jr. & Souther Salazar, Grant Reynolds, Liz Prince, K. Thor Jensen, Jason Overby, Ansis, Dalton Sharp, Jason & Jody Turner, and Dave McKenna. It sports a new, fully-painted cover by Jesse Reklaw, and is designed by Jonas Madden-Connor (another member of the Family Style collective).

The stories range from lyrically beautiful to absurdly funny, and each author approaches the fantasy-inspired subject matter in a unique and often unusual manner; the overall result is a book that is sure to please those who love the fantasy genre outright, those for whom it’s a guilty pleasure (old D&D manuals hidden away in their closets?), and anyone with an appreciation for independent comics. “It seems like the perfect time for this kind of project,” says Vigneault. “Jonas [Madden-Connor] and I have been working on our own fantasy collaboration for almost a year now, and I feel like I keep seeing new work that has a sort of fantastic bent, everything from Basewood by Alec Longstreth to Crickets by Sammy Harkham. It’s like everyone’s on the same wavelength.”

François Vigneault is currently soliciting submissions for Elfworld Vol. 2 (currently planned for 2007), and Family Style intends to publish another book annually thereafter.

Rob Vollmar and Marvin Perry Mann are nearing the end of their FREE serialized webcomic, Inanna’s Tears, at Modern Tales. It’s a tautly written, beautifully drawn period piece set in ancient Sumer. Word is, the free online strip won’t be free for much longer, before moving to print with Archaia Studip Press. Now is the chance to read it for nadda, before they start charging for it.

Like Rob said, “if you are interested in religion, women’s issues, goddess worship, feminism or ancient history,” this story is something you might want to check out.

• Tom Spurgeon just posted the single best San Diego ComiCon Guide of all time, over at The Comics Reporter. Excellent!

•Â More nifty DC fanboy art by Jeff Lemire.


• Last week i read X-Men First Class Special #1, written by Jeff Parker. There’s a short story and cover art by the almighty Kevin Nowlan, who, like Michael Golden, i take what i can get, because he’s not what one might call prolific. Plus shorts by the fab team of Nick Dragotta and Mike Allred, and one drawn by classic X-Men alum Paul Smith. Best of all (and maybe a hint of things to come when Marvel puts out it’s indy-creator anthology), Colleen Coover draws a series of snappy daily-type strips that are a real hoot. If you’re as disgusted with the current state of lame X-Men mythos (Peter David’s X-Factor notwithstanding), then this is a nice little snippet of old-fashioned fun. I’ll totally buy the tpb of the regular series when it comes out. Jeff Parker is on a freaking roll, what with this and his just completed Agents of Atlas hardcover. Go, Jeff, go!

•Â Even though is i've mentioned several times before in this very blog, that George Lucas has turned to the Dark Side in the last 15 years or so, i still worship the original trilogy, and you can bet your ass i'll be watching this on Wednesday night.

• Finally, check out the nice start-to-finish cover Steve Lafler made for his next comic book, Cat Suit. I assisted as art director, and let me tell you, this was fun to work on. Nice work, Steve-O!!




May 26, 2007

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In the recent Hutch Owen comic strip, author Tom Hart begins an exploration of his recent time in France. This is a supremely funny comic strip.

"Hutch Owen in France" (running in the New York and Boston METRO and online) has Hutch landing in France in the middle of the recent presidential election over there. Strips about France will run at least four weeks and later will explore the French cheeses, learning the French language and just how darn beautiful and gracious it is over there. Which is harder to deal with than it sounds...

Tom's written a few elaborations, explanations and apologies on his blog.

• Jeffrey Brown has a neat comics contribution at the Poetry Foundation.

• Jeff Lemire did these two JLA drawings just for fun. I love it so much when indy cartoonists draw super-heroes. It's as good as peanut butter and chocolate.


• Lego-freaks rejoice! How cool are these custom legos of Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore. I nabbed this image from The Ephemerist, and Johanna Draper Carlson (she of Comics Worth Reading), informs me that the creator of these mini-masterpieces is one David Oakes.

• Click here and check out the super swanky digs where we're throwing out 10-Year Anniversary Party, on Saturday, June 23! It's a place called Gstaad, at 43 West 26th. Hot damn! I can't wait for this! Odds are, if you show up at this party after, say... midnight or 1:00 a.m., i'm going to be well and shitfaced.

• The Hickee gang is doing a gallery show here in Portland. Whoo hoo! These guys kick ass.

"The Hickee Trunk Show"

"The locks come unclasped and the lids are lifted, as the Hickee crew, expose the treasures of their trunks this June 7th! The bizarre, humorous, sensibilities of the long running Hickee comic series get a chance to air out on the walls of Pony Club in Portland, Oregon. Hidden wonders from Scott Campbell, Graham Annable, Joe White, Razmig Mavlian, and Nathan Stapley will be on display from June 5th to June 30th."

Opening Reception: 6pm-10pm Thursday, June 7th, 2007

June 5th-June 30th, 2007

Pony Club
625 Everett Street #105
Portland, Oregon, 97209
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 11-6

• Recently watched The Proposition on dvd. Damn, this is one fine film. It's an Australian made film, which explores the Aussie version of Empire Building, as bleak as our own history. In this case, the native inhabitants are the Aboriginal peoples. I'd heard lot's of comparisons to Peckinpah with this film, but to be honest, i just don't see it. (And i LOVE Sam's work.) This movie is as unique a Western as Jim Jarmusch's sublime Dead Man, and the extras on the dvd are super. This comes highly recommended. Guy Pierce and all the actors kick ass, and with screenplay AND music by Nick Cave, i mean, come on!

• Political junkies check THIS out... investigative journalist (who U.S. newsmakers shun, because he's a "real" journalist), Greg Palast, scored Rove's "missing" emails, and found evidence of the 2004 Election theft, which DOJ Liaison Monica Goodlin actually slipped up and mentioned in her testimony this week. Congressional Committee members however, dumb-asses that they are, completely missed the reference. How many of you know what "caging" means? If you want to learn more, it's worth checking out.

•Â And basketball junkies, while The Suns lost in six to the Spurs last week, all is not lost in my own hoops world, my actual home-city Portland Trailblazers (the very best underachievers in the NBA) beat the odds with a 5% chance, and WON the NBA Draft Lottery. And the top two players are absolutely future hall-of-famers, in Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. This is great news... BUT

Don't forget that this is the same team who twenty-three years ago picked a center named Sam Bowie ahead of some young phenom from North Carolina named Michael Jordan, with the second pick. (First pick being Houston's monster center Hakeem Olajuwon. Now, Sam "who?," you might ask? Fucking EXACTLY!!! "Nuff said.

Know this, almighty powers that be, the most dominant and championship-winning teams in NBA history (excepting of course, the one exception of Jordan himself), have been centered around Big Men. Most recently it's been Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, and Tim Duncan. And when the Blazers won their single title, it was around the presence of UCLA Deadhead and stoner, Bill Walton. (One of my favorite announcers out there currently.) The Big Man is the core of any defense, he protects that hole at all costs.

Two words, please:

Greg Oden.


super stud... er, i mean, super spy

May 18, 2007 / More →

Let's talk about Matt Kindt. Matt is a personal favorite of both Chris and myself, and we feel that he's yet to be recognized as the amazing cartoonist and storyteller he is. His forthcoming, full-color book Super Spy is simply stunning. It's a great read, and is highly recommended.

Here's more information about the Marvel Comic show, of which Matt is a part.

Four-time Eisner Nominee Matt Kindt is bringing the new interactive art show and book release party, Enigma Machine, to Subterranean Books on July 13th at 7 pm. Mirroring the mystery of last year’s successful show Dead Drop, Kindt is back with more art, more mystery and more clues. The show will feature over 1,000 panels of original art as well as new pieces designed specifically for the Subterranean space. But come prepared with paper and pencil and disguise because the exhibit is more than it seems. Hidden within the art and the exhibit and throughout the store are coded messages and hidden correspondences that will lead the careful observer to personal rewards.

In addition the art and paintings, the show will also premiere Matt’s new graphic novel Super Spy ”“ a 300 page full-color epic that interweaves the every-day lives of several spies during World War II. The show begins July 13 and will run for a month, with an opening party and book signing at 7pm on July 13th. The location of the show: Subterranean Books, 6275 Delmar, St. Louis, MO 63130

• Julia Wertz who does a funny comics zine called Fart Party has also edited a fun little mini-comic anthology called I Saw You.... It's a collection of "missed connection" ads from Craig's List and other papers, as interpreted by a plethora of cartoonists, including the likes of Peter S. Conrad, Joe Sayers, Elijah Brubaker, Shannon Wheeler, Greg Means, and many many more.

Brand new to me, is the work of Laura Park... this is gorgeous stuff. I love her art.

he original plan was to make two mini-comics versions, and hope to find a publisher, but it seems like she'll be able to maybe skip the second mini, and go straight to book form, as SF-based publisher Manic D. Press has expressed interest in publishing it already.

Julia tells me she's still looking for contributions, though. To learn more check out her Missed Connections blog.

Others, by Will Dinski, is a sweet little package.

Tomasz Kaczynski's 3-issue mini-comic series (Trans-Alaska, Trans-Siberia, and Trans-Atlantis) is an excellent treatise on modern philosophy, with existential inner-ramblings not unlike what often keeps me awake.

The cartooning and the read is truly excellent, but it's the blissfully cool series trade dress that caught my attention in the first place, near the end of APE, as i made my way on a quick trip around the convention floor.

He's also got a pretty damn cool blog, called Trans-Atlantis.

Lucha Noir is an artbook by Rafael Navarro, storyboard artist and comic creator (Sonambulo), and Keith Rainville's, editor of the zine From Parts Unknown.

I met Rafael waaay back in 1996, when we were table neighbors in the Small Press Ghetto at the San Diego ComiCon. I've seen him throughout the years, and said hello at this con or that, but to be honest, back when he was getting started with Sonambulo, i had ZERO idea what "lucha" was, as so while his comic was really beautifully drawn, i simply didn't get the concept.

At APE this, when i went asking for Rafael to do a drawing in my Kirby's Fourth World sketchbook, i bought Lucha Noir, which collects the collaborations between he and Keith Rainville in From Parts Unknown; ringside sketches from actual lucha wrestling matches, character designs, spot illustrations, book covers, and the like. Rafael's stunning animation chops (in the Bruce Timm school), are on fine display throughout, and now, armed with some context for this age-old Mexican tradition, i'm scouring Portland comic shops looking for the first Sonambulo trade paperback.

Lucha fans and animation junkies alike should love Lucha Noir. (Oh, and BIG props for such a cool title.)

• I tracked down a copy of Comics International #201, the first under new management and editor Mike Conroy. I listed my beefs with the previous incarnation of the mag [too many cut & pasted press releases, thin content, etc.] and i'm happy to report that the new mag is a marked improvement. There are noticeably more feature articles, interviews, and what have you; but what strikes me as a real strong new addition is their running of lots of sample art, and even more cool, pencil art and developmental sketches from current comics. There's a beautiful section of art by Alberto Dose with work for the Desperados book he's doing with Jeff Mariotte.

It also enjoyed the short feature on writer Jason Aaron, and his series called Scalped. Now i'm intrigued, and depending on final reviews, might seek out a trade paperback, if one ever appears.

Granted, it's not perfect; a lot of the smaller news items are uneven, and by today's instant-news-on-the-internet, already dated. Plus the reviews section is so heavily weighted towards spandex... but then again, i'm just an indy guy, of course i'll grouse about that.

In the end, there's enough solid, entertaining and informative content here in this new issue, that i'll keep reading. Kudos to Mike. Good work.

• Just read one of the new mini-comics by Nick Mullins, called Holiday Funeral. It's actually two strips thrown together in one book, but they aren't paired together without intent. In fact, read together the two parts in the book create a somber and affecting story. Nick has always been one of the more formalist-thinking cartoonists i've known, with his long-running Litmus Test, and with this book he's taken an enormous leap forward, by using this formalism at the service of a truly beautiful narrative. Wonderfully drawn in a 2-color pallet (black & blue) tackles the subject of death and dying, and how younger people are affected by it. About how those who are dying (in this case, a grandparent) are reaching out, and yet how oftentimes younger family members are unable to relate, or the tools to deal. At least in our culture, it seems like anyone under 30 or even 40 years old has a difficult time grappling with this situation, and in Holiday Funeral, Nick explores this with sublime elegance. Excellent. Nick's best work to date.

• And... what's up with this French book, Sept Psychopathes. (Which i believe means, Seven Psychopaths.) From the mammoth French publisher Delcourt, i occasionally receive a current catalog, and in this most recent, the plug for this book. The writer is Fabien Vehlmann (who i've never heard of) and art is by, quite possibly, my absolute favorite artist working in comics today, be it indy or mainstream, Sean Phillips. Now, Sean can make even a lame script sing and dance because of his skills, but fortunately for us, he's been working with some great talents like Ed "the Brube" Brubaker (on books like Sleeper and Criminal) and Robert Kirkman (Marvel Zombies).

Here it looks like he's drawn a story in the same vein as the classic war film, the Dirty Dozen. Here though it looks another standard WWII setting mixed with a fair dose of X-Files weirdness, as Churchill recruits a gang a crazy assassins to take out Hitler. Please please please, someone tell me that Dark Horse or Wildstorm or somebody will publish this here in the U.S. Please?

•Â Finally, check out this cover Aaron Renier did for Ariel Schrag's anthology Stuck In The Middle. I guess there's a launch party for this at Rocketship tonight!.