Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I think everybody gravitates to the hilariously off-key version of "Eye of The Tiger", but for me the funniest scene in the movie is when young Marjane is walking down the street and she passes a gauntlet of street sellers whispering their black market music wares; mostly it's bad prog-rock but the laugh comes when one guy whispers "Richael Jaeckson."
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Joe Quesada: Colbert is a true American hero. He's said so on TV, which means it must be true!
Certainly stranger things have happened both in comics and real world politics: In Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' legendary Watchmen, Richard Nixon was a 4-term President still presiding over the USA in 1985. And as recently as 2008 a completely unknown secessionist mayor of an Alaskan town of a mere 5,000 was elevated first to governor, then chosen as a Vice Presidential nominee for one of the two major parties. This at a time when the country had been bankrupted by her party, was engaged in two seperate wars with trouble brewing all over the globe, and her only foriegn policy experience is that on a clear day you can almost see Russia from remote Alaskan coastline.
Colbert for President, and that's the word!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
THE NEW YORKER FESTIVAL
October 3-5 2008
Here’s a reason I wish I lived nearer to NYC.
The legendary New Yorker magazine hosts an absolute feast for readers, writers, and even comics fans. Huge literary figures attending include Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Joyce Carol Oates, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Elmore Leonard, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro, Junot Diaz, , and Paul Theroux.
Also Stephen Colbert, Clint Eastwood, Oliver Stone, Tommy Lee Jones, Martha Plimpton, and Rage Againts The Machine’s guitarist/activist Tom Morello.
Comics fans get treated to some heavyweights too.
Saturday October 4, at 4pm you get “Drawn Together”: Lynday Barry in coversation with Matt Groening. Barry will likely be discussing her latest book an illustrated comics instructional “What It Is” as well as her forthcoming book “Nearsighted Monkey.”
But you’ll have to choose because at 4:30 the same day comes “Breakdowns: Comix 101” with Art Spiegelman. Not certain what the discussion specifically entails but Spiegelman has two new books coming out this month. One is a children’s book “Jack in a Box” and “Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&!.”
At 10 pm you get an amazingly rare chance to hear from Italian comics legend (and New Yorker contributor) Lorenzo Mattotti, alnog with Charles Burns in a discussion with Francoise Mouly. The two artists will discuss the new animated film “Fear(s) Of The Dark,” a compendium of animated shorts about phobias.
Mouly first published both Mattotti and Burns as co-editor (with partner Art Spiegelman) in RAW.
Spiegelman and Lynda Barry will also do book signings on Sunday October 5.
Plus Dawn Upshaw talks with Alex Ross!! Um, okay, not that Alex Ross, but rather the music critic and author who shares a name with the comics artist.
Things I also attend if I could: Tom Morello talks with James Surowiecki. Oliver Stone with critic David Denby (sure to cover Stone’s wacky-looking new bio-pic “W” about our country’s worst president). Stephen Colbert (from my hometown) talks with Ariel levy. Also talks with Rushdie and Murakami, and NY’s high-minded literary critic James Woods.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
So Buenaventura Press has listed all the participants in Sammy Harkham's much-ballyhooed Kramers Ergot 7.
Funny I remember Mart Cendreda when he was sending out stapled issues of his little mini Random Milk to be reviewed in my own sloppily stapled zine edition of TCI. His style was all over the place then. Meanwhile TCI dissed Josh Simmon's early minis only to make an about-face based on his fine story in the True Porn anthology and since then he's gone on to be published by the evil Fanta empire. Finally Tom Gauld was another unknown on these shores but I remember my pal Nick Abadzis really touting Gauld's talents when we hung out at SPX, as well as several other British artists struggling in the very small pool of the UK indie scene. So it's nice to see Gauld getting some recognition these days as well.
Monday, September 15, 2008
As a comics fan I'd want to buy that book. Hell, I'd still read it multiple times even though I conducted the interviews.
In these days when all manner of comics instructionals litter book store shelves and GN's are all the rage, there's still a paucity of good criticism and certainly interviews in book form. Although I've become well aware that non-fiction book publishers have a decided preference for "narrative non-fiction", it seems ludicrous that there are so few collected interviews along the lines of the Paris Review, but with comics luminaries instead of novelists. Especially when you consider that many of the interview subjects are wildly in-demand by both comics and book publishers.
Of course now that I've floated this (obvious) idea some savvy publisher will probably swoop in and publish an interview collection featuring many of the same artists. TCI has been poached so relentlessly by far more well-heeled late-comers that its almost become a sick joke.
Anyway...contact me. comicsmag at yahoo.com
Sunday, September 14, 2008
A prose magician, Mr. Wallace was capable of writing — in both his fiction and nonfiction — about everything from tennis to politics to lobsters, from the horrors of drug withdrawal to the small terrors of life aboard a luxury cruise ship, with humor and fervor and verve. At his best, he could write funny, write sad, write sardonic and write serious. He could map the infinite and infinitesimal, the mythic and mundane.
Like Mr. DeLillo and Salman Rushdie, and like Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith and other younger authors, Mr. Wallace transcended both Philip Rahv’s famous division of writers into “palefaces” (like Henry James and T.S. Eliot, who specialized in heady, cultivated works rich in symbolism and allegory) and “redskins” (like Whitman and Dreiser, who embraced an earthier, more emotional naturalism), and Cyril Connolly’s division of writers into “mandarins” (like Proust, who favored ornate, even byzantine prose) and “vernacular” stylists (like Hemingway, who leaned toward more conversational tropes).
Friday, September 5, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Your 2008 reads like a sexual maniac's slavering fever dreams: a world where the daughters of prominent families bare their midriffs with no fear of social censure, where unnatural coital devices hang in general stores next to legitimate medical needs and where even more depraved debaucheries are delivered into homes via wire, much like a milkman delivering the day's sustenance.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Also as noted by the photos of Harkham taken at Charlotte's '08 Heroescon (as well as the guest list) from this past June, it's interesting how that convention went so suddenly from being just another fanboy-drenched persona-non-stoppa on the art comics circuit, to the SPX/Mocca/APE of the South (thanks to co-organizer Dustin Harbin's Indy Island). I had a fine time there (despite next to nil sales) in 2005 and hope to return with something new in 2009. Not that I've exactly been working on anything in the lengthy interim.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Nice Lynda Barry interview by GR Editor (and Tyra Banks' go-to guy on Asian issues) Martin Wong in the latest Giant Robot (#54). Martin asks good questions but one that is beyond cliche and I roll my eyes every time I a variation of it (which is basically every time a female cartoonist is interviewed anywhere), is this one:
GR: Is it ever a challenge to be one of the few women in comics? If not due to gender politics or a mostly male readership, then just because dorky comic guys might get sweaty when a female is nearby? [ugh, a particularly odd question for Barry who, while a great cartoonist, isn't exactly the kind of woman that even the dorkiest "comic guys" will get "sweaty" over. Barry's answer, however, is as refreshing as her comics]
Lynda Barry: It was heaven for me because I love dudes. Ever since I was little I was friends with boys. I was always very comfortable around a lot of guys except when they wanted to get near the super girlish girls. In that situation, I was a liability. I understood why my dude friends leaned toward their beautiful flowers until they fell."
[Thank God it was Barry on this topic and not Coleen Doran!]
Barry on Gary Panter: The genius Gary Panter is The Mind Opener. He opened Matt Groening's mind and Matt threw the mind-opener device to me. And it wasn't pot!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
So despite all the accolades, and the fact that I like Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, I've never gotten around to watching 30 Rock. But while watching my life steadily drizzle away today (forming a small puddle of worthlessness) I watched the first episode of Season 2 over on HULU.
So delightful it was that I started watching the second episode and hence the comic connection in this exchange between Alec Baldwin and his rival Will Arnett. Arnett, whose character is gay, results to a church practice to "cure" him of his gayness in order to marry the homely daughter of the chief NBC executive, and thus become his likely successor.
Arnett: Are you familiar with the Church of Practicology?
Baldwin: You mean the cult that was invented by Stan Lee?
Arnett: No, I mean the religion founded by the alien king living inside Stan Lee. See it's my faith in practicogy that has let me uncover my true straight self.
Obviously a riff on the utter absurdity that is Scientology, and a religion founded on Stan Lee is no less believable than one founded on a mediocre science fiction writer (L. Ron). Not only did Stan co-create a whole universe of lesser gods to rival Greek mythology, but he wrote the line good enough to found an entire religion around "With great power comes great responsibility". He even has his own godlike signoffs "Excelsior!" And 'Nuff Said!" (with godlike finality).
And what did you think that whole True Believers thing was about anyway.
There's yet another funnybook connection in 30 Rock in that Judah Friedlander is a cast member. You might remember Friedlander's uncanny portrayal of Genuine Nerd Toby Radloff (Harvey Pekar's sidekick) in the brilliant film adaptation of Pekar's American Splendor (still probably my favorite comic book film).
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Having faced the inevitable writer's rite of passage (multiple times over): In other words form letter rejections from both publishers and even the occasional literary agent, is it mere snotty envy that I take delight in EW's review of Andrew Davidson's debut novel The Gargoyle? Actually I think it's more a matter of being perplexed how a book described as "eye-bulgingly atrocious" and sporting prose "worse than your average Dungeons & Dragons blog" would garner a $1.25 million advance from Doubleday.
Granted loads of rotten genre novels get published but the bidding wars are usually reserved for stuff that is at least competent. This doesn't sound like the case with Davidson's debut. I haven't read it and have no intention of doing so but based on the few brief examples offered up by EW critic Gregory Kirschling The Gargoyle contains prose so purple that Davidson should expect a call from Prince's tailor wanting to turn his words into fabric.
The premise is decidedly "high-concept" (in Hollywood parlance that means an often lowbrow, idea that doesn't seem as blatantly derivative as most other Hollywood ideas...for instance Danny DeVito as Ahnold's "twin" brother leads to the movie Twins; such is high concept).
Davidson's high concept is a novel narrated by a coke-addled porno actor (no that's not it...wait for it) who after a tragic self-inflicted accident lay in the hospital for the book's initial 200-pages having a verbal debate with a "bitchsnake" that inhabits his spine (yes, that's the stuff! Paging David O. Russell).
EW quotes this hideous bit of alliterative prose that Davidson no doubt thought was well clever: "The sibilant sermons of the snake as she discoursed upon the disposition of my sinner's soul seemed ceaseless." Somewhere Papa Hemingway is sharpening a hunting knife with Davidson's fingers in mind.
But for a real howler, reviewer Kirschling excerpts this instant classic from Davidson, describing his main character's love interest eating vegetarian pizza in the nude: "A cheese strand dangled from her mouth to the edge of her left nipple and I wanted to rappel it like a mozzarella commando to storm her lovely breasts."
Reading that line makes you wonder if Davidson intended to write comedy. Either that or he truly is the Ed Wood of novelists.
Still while I may laugh at Davidson's hilarious ineptitude, it's he who is the millionaire based on a debut novel, and me who wonders how many more miles I can drive with the gas warning light perpetually lit in my dopey used car. Pass the mozzarella.
Dash Shaw has gone from near anonymity even in the insular little comics community to being praised in major magazines for his phonebook-sized 700-page graphic novel The Bottomless Bellybutton. The latest high praise comes from Entertainment Weekly which grades BB an "A" whilst recommending it to fans of David Foster Wallace and Joyce Carol Oates!. The "meticulous poignancy of the richest graphic novels." The kid is like 25 and truly loves the comics medium so it seems unlikely he's going to decide it's too labor intensive and piss off to illustration or the video gaming industry or something (even though he designs board games for his own amusement) so the possibility of him creating an amazing body of work over the next several decades is not far-fetched.
Unfortunately (or not depending on perspective, frankly I found it mostly boring) PP went under just one issue after the Shaw interview ran and the entire interview which was online seems no longer available.
The website of Shaw's evil new publisher Fantagraphics snags this blurb from my Punk Planet interview --
"In the insular comics community, Shaw has made a name for himself (and a good one it is) by willfully eschewing the mainstream to follow his own decidedly original and peculiar muse." – Punk Planet"
Whitney Matheson who writes for USA Today apparently read the Punk Planet interview and it turned her onto Shaw's current book (at the time) The Mother's Mouth.
"The Mother's Mouth by Dash Shaw (Alternative Comics, $12.95) -- I read a piece about Shaw in Punk Planet and had to grab a copy of this graphic novel, which was originally supposed to accompany an album by Shaw's band, Love Eats Brains. The story follows a librarian who travels home to New Orleans to take care of her dying mother. There, she falls for a singer who idolizes Michael Jackson. The whole thing is haunting, sad and mesmerizing."
Finally, Dash was kind enough to draw portraits of people he wanted to thank for being supportive of his career thus far, and while I just call 'em like I see 'em and acknowledged his talent early on simply because it was so blazingly obvious. I don't know the other five dudes in the picture but I know the jackass bottom right (arrows courtesy of Dash) all too well (and yes I loathe him as much as everyone else). Pretty good likeness even despite the zombie-esque qualities. Or maybe those are spot-on too?
(scroll down this blog for more commentary about Bottomless Bellybutton)
Check out a very fine 20-pg preview of BB right here at New York magazine.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Wall and Piece
Copyright is for losers™
Note from the publisher this book contains the creative/artistic element of graffiti art and is not meant to encourage or induce graffiti where it is illegal or inappropriate.
Banksy’s advice to fellow taggers and creative types:
Its always easier to get forgiveness than permission
Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful people with talent, leave the house before you find something to stay in for
Try to avoid painting in places where they still point at aeroplanes
Graffiti writers are not real villains. Real villains consider the idea of breaking in some place, not stealing anything, and then leaving behind a painting with your name in four foot high letters the most retarded thing they ever heard of
The easiest way to become invisible is to wear a day-glo vest and carry a tiny transistor radio playing Heart FM very loudly. If questioned about the legitimacy of your painting simply complain about the hourly rate
Crime against property is not real crime. Ppl look at an oil painting and admire the use of brushstrokes to convey meaning. People look at a graffiti painting and admire the use of a drainpipe to gain access.
The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only aout wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.
Best defacing of a Banksy stencil.: Converting his Mona Lisa with rocket launcher in Soho in 2001 to Bin Laden with a launcher (they do share similarly subtle smiles)
Best location of a Banksy: The side of a cow…I love animals and would never laud or advocate anything that caused harm, but the cow didn’t look traumatized, probably enjoyed the attention, and maybe its fame will keep it away from the slaughterhouse
Worst location of Banksy: Tagging the Placa del Veronica statue. But upon further review he just tagged it with his name while all the other garish defacing was done by others, so actually this is retracted.
I thumbed through one of their line of regional Street Art series (I believe it was Brooklyn, but they also have books on Paris and the U.K.) and I was struck by some of the most pathetically amateurish art I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean primitivist genius like Basquiat or intentionally naïve stuff of Keith Haring or comics artists like Kochalka or Jeffrey Brown. I mean stuff that looks like it was drawn by clueless teenagers and/or extremely amateurish and derivative bubble-tagging (you know those fat letters that used to be the bane of the NYC subway system pre-Ghouliani? [sic on purpose]). And this wasn't in some cheap paperback with the raggedy bulk paper and bad binding either. No it was a lushly-produced book that certainly didn't come cheap and yet was filled page-after-page with utter garbage. Whose idea was it to waste paper on this shit? And how the fuck does one get a seemingly sane publisher to bite on such nonsense?
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The interview is by the guy who founded toy manufacturer Kidrobot, and in part to promote a pair of new toys designed by Pope (one of a number of media that Pope is dipping his fingers in lately).
Paul Budnitz: Totally. There's this literary influence on all your work. I don't know what to say about that, just mentioning it. It seems like literature is a giant influence for you.
Paul Pope: Yeah – and the great sci-fi writers like P.K. Dick or Ursula LeGuin are able to write about the "human experience" through their stories, while at the same time doing all the stuff we want from sci-fi. Fitzgerald is the same in that sense. It all started gelling at that time, added to the prism of manga, I started to get some good ideas.
Paul Budnitz: It makes your work feel much more mature than the average comic. And you're not doing the psychological thing that Alan Moore does. Your work is a bit enigmatic, I mean your stories, and the art really supports that. It seems like you're not afraid of an unsettled narrative.
Paul Pope: No, life seems unsettled, I try to put that in my work. You walk outside thinking about bills and fall in love. Or get hit by a car, life is chaos. I sometimes chafe at the clean-cut ending in a story. I love a good, sweeping good-versus-evil thing like Flash Gordon or what have you, but I also love the chaos of David Lynch.
Friday, July 18, 2008
The visuals are interesting, albeit with a dose of the odd blue screen sterility of Snyder's prior films. But the immediate impression is that much like 300, Snyder's reverence for the source material promises as faithful an adaptation as possible right down to frames of the film perfectly mimicking panels from the comic. But where Frank Miller's 300 featured a story every bit as spartan as its main characters and thus could be easily encapsulated and contained in a single film; Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbon's tale is deeply layered and filthy with detail. So can Snyder edit such a work down and get more steak than sizzle. Either way it will be fascinating to see the end result.
"For a good part of the film when [Batman and The Joker] embrace in a free fall of souls--one doomed, the other imperiled--you may think you’re in the grip of a mordant masterpiece.That feeling will pass, as the film spends too many of its final minutes setting up the series’ third installment. The chill will linger, though. The Dark Knight is bound to haunt you long after you’ve told yourself, As it’s only a comic-book movie.”
I’ve become more interested in seeing the film as a result of critics raves rather than the dull-looking previews or certainly the prior, well-done, but still mostly unmemorable, film.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
There's an audio (and text) review from Kenneth Turan here.
And Nathan Lee's review excerpted below.
"...moral nuance and mythic resonance, are everywhere on view in Hellboy II, a rare blockbuster with soul. Del Toro brings a meticulous artisanal attention to his material, suffusing it with uncommon subtlety and care.
And for all its comic-book gobbledygook — the plot is sheer delirious nonsense — there's a mischievous, childlike wonder to Hellboy II, a guileless belief in itself and its audience. It's a summer joyride that remembers the joy."
Thursday, July 10, 2008
For the Hellboy films del Toro goes beyond Jack Kirby-influenced Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and cites Kirby himself as the primary influence:
“Kirby’s monsters were incredibly silly--creatures with massive teeth wandering the streets popping cars in their mouths like popcorn.”
Del Toro’s favorite superhero is Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s Swamp Thing (which may bode well for an actual decent film adaptation that goes beyond the C-movie quality of the original films).
As a kid in Guadalajara, Mexico, Del Toro would buy the latest issues and “never complete the [bike] ride back. I would always stop half a block away and read it on the sidewalk.”
Mark Millar on his Top Cow comic Wanted (and the currently in-production Kick-Ass) being adapted by Hollywood:
“It’s brilliant. Some poor sods did all the hard work on the script. The Wanted comic only took me eight weeks to do six issues. It’ll probably have a sequel, and possibly a third sequel. And we get paid…even though there’s no [more comics]. It’s obscene! And when we go to Universal Studios we could go on the rides without waiting in lines.”
Saturday, July 5, 2008
FROM THE TCI ARCHIVE:
SON OF SLOW JAMS David Choe (self-published)
When I met my soon-to-be retail sales rep, Tony Shenton, for the very first time at SPX 2000 David Choe’s name inevitably came up over the course of our brief chat. I say inevitably because not only was Choe the cover artist and featured interview in the issue that Shenton was staring at on my table, but also because it was Choe who had recommended me to Shenton (who was already in the artist’s employ) about six months prior. Shenton told me that he considered only two people involved in comics to be true geniuses; one was an essayist/journalist who I knew primarily from a single unfortunate email encounter (and no, not anyone from The Comics Journal), and the other was David Choe. Now flash back a few weeks prior to the Expo: A debate is raging on the always-acerbic tcj.com message boards, and at the center of the storm is Choe’s eight-pager “Wanton Kill Dorado”, a story that opens with the following observation “It was that time of the year when the sun shined bright and when you rode past certain trees they smelled like cum.” And yet the real sticky wicket had nothing to do with Choe’s interest in bukakke, but rather with the perception that Choe’s story, which features a brazen and obnoxious Korean skateboarder enacting some revenge on a thuggish group of black kids about half his age, was racist.** One wag (a mini-comics creator himself) went so far as to suggest that Choe took a “good deal of care to differentiate grammatically between the groups using currently accepted terms, ‘the Korean’ (capital "K") and ‘the black’ (lower case "b").” Concluding with what seemed like a rhetorical question: “Coincidence, or dangerous stuff? You decide!” (Note that a few sentences down I will take the same “care” in capitalizing “Korean” while leaving “black” in lower case. Hopefully this won’t prove particularly “dangerous” to anyone.)
Of course, nothing conclusive about Choe’s intent or character ultimately came out of the debate; but I must say that it would be incredibly surprising if Choe, who was particularly outspoken in his TCI interview about other artists who he feels perpetuate Asian stereotypes, was in fact committed to perpetuating stereotypes of other races with any sort of malicious intent. For its part, Son of Slow Jams again casually confronts issues of race, although unlike “Wanton Kill Dorado,” racial confrontation is not the focus of the story. Of course a particularly interesting historical footnote to Choe’s commentary on racial dynamics is the fact that Choe is a Korean-American who’s lived most of his life in Los Angeles. And anyone with even the foggiest memories of the LA riots which followed the Rodney King verdict, is likely to remember the exposure of the violent rift between the Korean and black communities in Los Angeles. Especially given that in many cases Korean grocers were specifically targeted by black rioters due to racial animosity and jealousy.
All that said, if Son of Slow Jams truly sucked, I wouldn’t hesitate to say so. After all, Choe himself seems to revel more in criticism than in praise (not that either shapes him). But newsflash for the nay sayers, wannabes: It doesn’t suck!
David Choe is a savant when it comes to inclusion of closely-observed scraps that not only add depth to his characters but also to the chaotic world that they inhabit. This is just as evident in SOSJ as it was in its parent book. Early on there are casual, but detailed, asides, like the one about “Nicky The Retard” wearing a “cheap imitation” of checkered Vans called Coasters which come from Payless Shoes; thereby adding layers to a character who only occupies a single page. Choe also continues to skillfully build his Dixon Ticonderoga alter-ego, always making him more than just a one-dimensional skate punk. For instance, for all his nasty attitude and street cred, Dixon still isn’t afraid to jam to the wistful Irish pap of the Cranberries “Linger”, even if he doesn’t exactly come clean about it to his rap-loving black friends.
Artistically, Choe rummages through techniques and styles like no one else in comics. And while it’s his frenetic, sketchy pen-line that gets most frequent use, there is also the occasional detailed still-life in pencil, heavy-handed charcoals, blurred pages that no doubt draw from the guerilla-Xeroxing techniques of Aaron Cometbus (who’s tutorial on manipulating photocopies is included in SoSJ), and the sporadic manipulated photograph. Each technique used in a way that facilitates Choe’s story, thus not branding him too much of an art school showoff (although he certainly is that).
Another aspect that clearly separates Choe from the pack (as demonstrated in all of his prior works) is his fearlessness and personal honesty (or if it’s not naked honesty, it is at the very least a willingness to portray oneself in a less than favorable light). Of course, this is something of a bastion of the autobio comic. By now chronic masturbation has become less a bold revelation than a tired cliché to autobio-saturated fans. But aside from R. Crumb, not too many cartoonists so readily confront issues of race without proselytizing. Yet Choe’s comments on race are so gleefully tossed off and left behind, that they seem entirely unselfconscious and never calculated with any moralistic
Son of Slow Jams ends in a simultaneously violent, yet strangely joyous and cathartic fight between Dixon and a “truly fucked up girl”, and with a final, mundane, aside from Dixon-- “Later that night I had a steak dinner, with a slice of pie for desert[sic]. I felt much better.” It’s Choe’s way of saying that it’s vastly preferable to live life, to truly experience it, (embracing even its traumas), than to simply be a cowering spectator. And to that end Choe seems determined in all of his comics to engage and involve his readers; whether by challenging their own prejudices and perhaps exposing his own (often infuriating them in the process) or simply by testing the limits of which they’ll laugh at truly cruel humor; or even by trying to turn them on (given Slow Jams sexual content). Thus readers of Choe’s work are less spectators or dispassionate fans sitting back in their seats with a mere expectation of casual entertainment, than active, often prodded, participants, in a rather shaky, sometimes uncomfortable emotional roller coaster that is just getting under way. Troubling or not, it’s always a ride worth taking, especially given that its engineer is something of a mad genius. TCI
Monday, June 30, 2008
I don't own any of his books nor did I follow his work closely, but I remember quite a few years back seeing a profile of Michael Turner as a hot new artist at Image with a photo of a smiling handsome guy who if I remember correctly was into activities that didn't involve being chained to a drawing table or computer 16-hours a day; things like karate and snowboarding. In other words a new breed of comics artist and a veritable picture of health.
So even though I didn't know Michael Turner I felt crestfallen reading an interview earlier this year which described the artist as incredibly upbeat even as he had to constantly shift positions because of the pain he was suffering from the onset of cancer. But recent reports had suggested Turner was in remission and was working again so it's terribly sad to read that he succumbed to cancer over the weekend.
From Jonah Weiland at CBR:
We here at Comic Book Resources are very sad to report that artist Michael Turner has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 37. Aspen Comics’ Vince Hernandez told CBR News Saturday morning that Turner passed away Friday night at 10:42 Pacific Time at Santa Monica Hospital in Calfiornia. The news spread quickly at Wizard World Chicago, during what would have otherwise been a riotous night at the hotel bar, the mood suddenly turned somber with remembrances of Turner from friends and acquaintances. A minute of silence will be observed during Wizard World Chicago Saturday afternoon.
Turner is an artist best known for his work on books like “Witchblade,” where he got his start in comics, moving on to titles such as “Black Panther,” “Superman/Batman” and his very own creator owned series “Fathom” and “Soulfire” through his publishing company Aspen Comics. A prolific artist, he’s done work for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and has provided covers to some of the best-known comics published in the last ten years, including Brad Meltzer’s “Identity Crisis.”
In 2000, Turner was diagnosed with cancer -- chondrosarcoma in the right pelvis, which resulted in his losing his hip, 40% of his pelvis and three pounds of bone. What followed was 9 months of radiation. The cancer has gone into remission and returned multiple times since he was first diagnosed.More details concerning Turner’s passing are forthcoming. Those wishing to send their condolences to Michael Turner's family are encouraged to send them to:
Aspen MLT, Inc.
C/O Michael Turner
5855 Green Valley Circle, Suite 111
Culver City, CA, 90230
Aspen MLT, Inc.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I had no real intention of seeing Wanted. I wasn’t impressed by the previews or certainly the fact that the film was based on a comic by Mark Millar; but I was desperate to see something, and I didn’t really want to ask for a ticket to Kung Fu Panda without a date in tow, so Wanted’s number just came up.
Two hours later when I walked out of the movie I wasn’t certain whether I’d been hoodwinked. Was that movie awesome or just pabulum that messed with my equilibrium (and sense of taste)? Truth is it was awesome pabulum. And, while not seeking out reviews of the movie, I found them anyway in both Rolling Stone and New York magazine and both critics were also wowed.
Wanted takes elements pieced together from several films. From The Matrix--not only tracking the bullets’ flight and bending them around objects to meet their intended targets which is just a reverse twist on Matrix characters bending backwards to avoid them, but also the mundane-to-soul-crushing existence of James McAvoy‘s accountant who would be The Chosen One. From Fight Club in both the revelry in brutality and also the first person narration. And from the clunky Da Vinci Code comes a lot of gibberish about a secret cabal and the general beatific look the textile mill/lair that looks like a cathedral.
The initial narration and dialogue is clumsily heavy-handed, certainly nothing profound, and lacking entirely in Chuck Palahniuk’s pugilistic poetry so perfectly blended into Fight Club. But as the McAvoy’s character gains steam the movie grabs you by the throat and the dialogue suffices and any desire for profundity is obliterated by the furious symphony of action Director Timur Bekmambetov throws up on screen. The action requires that even the most basic laws of physics be damned, but then complaining about outrageous sequences involving flipping cars in a movie where bullets bend like a Beckham free kick is a bit silly. This is still fantasy after all, brutal, blood-spewing, side-of-beef-style fantasy. And reality will be the last thing you care about during the mindboggling sequence featuring a train and a chasm.
McAvoy is terrific in a performance reminiscent of Edward Norton in Fight Club, as he convincingly transforms from tread-upon office nerd to confident, lethal assassin. The viscerally brutal training regimen that McAvoy’s character goes through is fun to watch partly because there’s relief at the end of each session via both a healing paraffin bath and Angelina Jolie’s otherworldly beauty onscreen. For once Jolie is in an action movie that doesn’t suck (Lara Croft, Mr. & Mrs. Smith etc. etc. etc.) and she is intensely sexy while rarely wearing anything remotely revealing. Morgan Freeman is always good (often great) but he’s on cruise control here, basically playing a Morgan Freeman-type even though this role has a little more juice and surprise than the typical Freeman-as-wise-saint roles he’s played so many times before.
“Kickass“ and “badass” are terms usually applied to anything that has a requisite number of rote explosions and car crashes. As much as I hate those one-word superlatives served up by idiots incapable of a coherent thought or a complete sentence, they actually fit here. Wanted wins.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Check out NPR's review of Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat 2 and enjoy a 7-page excerpt featuring Sfar's exquisitely beautiful artwork. This is the sort of exemplary European storytelling that washes away memories of that hyper-slick, empty fantasy and T&A garbage we once associated with Europe primarily because of Heavy metal magazine (Moebius and a few others excepting).
Monday, June 23, 2008
Although I'm nowhere near NYC I have a habit of reading New York magazine regularly (The New Yorker less often) and thus is came as a huge surprise to flip open the new issue with Hillary's mug on the cover only to find Dash Shaw's "handsome but sallow face and stringy dark hair" draped across the whole of page 59 of the magazine. Dash's Bottomless Bellybutton is hailed as the "Graphic Novel of The Year" by writer Dan Kois.
"In October 2006, Gary Groth was sitting in a booth at a comics convention in Bethesda, Maryland, when he was approached by an earnest young man who pressed upon him the manuscript of a graphic novel—over 300 pages in comic-strippy black-and-white. Groth’s wariness was not assuaged by the man’s assurances that the pages represented less than half of the book he planned to write. “It was a goddamn lot,” Groth recalls of the first third of Bottomless Belly Button, the graphic novel then-23-year-old Dash Shaw presented him. As head of Fantagraphics Books, Groth has published such luminaries as Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware; nevertheless, he’s despised by many in the comics world for the bellicose reviews in the magazine he’s run since 1976, The Comics Journal. "
As mentioned in an earlier post, when I talked to Dash back in 2005 he had apparently submitted to Fantagraphics but had yet to get any response. That was in June of that year but but October '06 a visit to SPX and dropping 300 pages on Groth's lap apparently did the trick.
This little extra bit appears as an online adjunct to the story as Dash talks hypothetically about how he'd handle more mainstream offerings.
Shaw tells us that if Marvel Comics called him and asked him to draw Ghost Rider, "I would be like, 'Hell, yeah.'" But what's Shaw's vision for the skull-headed superhero best known from a crummy Nicolas Cage movie?
"I think Ghost Rider should really be drawn as if the target audience is people in motorcycle gangs," Shaw told us. "Totally badass tattoo imagery. Because right now, it just feels like he's a superhero who rides a motorcycle. So I really see that as having a crazy oddball aesthetic, culled from tattoo art." Shaw's already drawn a Marvel hero, though — his whimsical and sad version of Dr. Strange, for an upcoming Marvel indie creators' anthology, was loved by some and hated by others when Shaw posted an excerpt on his blog this winter.You can read the entire piece conveniently online HERE.
And you can read a 20-page excerpt from Bottomless Bellybutton here (just scroll down a bit)
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Praying before a library bookshelf “Authors bless me, for I have sinned.”
“It’s been three months since my last novel . And I didn’t even finish that one.”
She admits that she reads “for work” in a panel showing her hand on a copy of Maus as if it were the Bible. It sits atop Persepolis and Jimmy Corrigan. She then goes over her checkered past as a reader, having read Huck Finn for a $5 reward from her father but eschewing the Count of Monte Cristo once she discovered juicier texts like Erica Jong's Fear of Flying.
The comic ends very cleverly with a split panel in which Bechdel pulls Jhumpa Lahiri’s highminded Interpreter of Maladies off the shelf while she thinks the audience is still watching her, but then the second panel shows her opting for Harry Potter having assumed she’s “off camera” and being annoyed to find that we’re still there.
(there's a photo of Bechdel holding the issue in question on her blog, linked above)
Other graphic novels to be listed as "new classic books":
Maus is #7
Watchmen is #13
Persepolis is #36
Sandman is #46
Michale Chabon's novel Kavalier and Klay #53
Jimmy Corrigan #54
It's got nothing to do with comics but a novel I really like Haruki Murakami's
Wind-Up Bird Chronicles lands at #10.
Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic meditation The Road was #1
Thursday, June 19, 2008
During the three years that Noel Sickles wrote and illustrated Scorchy Smith, he revolutionized the field when he moved away from the heavy black outlines predominant in the comic strips of the day. He adopted storytelling techniques from the motion pictures, while relying on brushwork to create a looser, chairoscuro representation of people, action, and scenery. Pete Hamill observed, "Sickles was the first artist to use the brush boldly, in an impressionistic way."
"Scorchy Smith became a primer from which a multitude of comic book and strip artists cribbed mercilessly for decades," writes Jim Steranko in his introduction to the book. Longtime Spider-Man artist John Romita Sr. says, "The whole industry was copying from Sickles."
Shogakukan Inc., one of Japan's leading publishers, caused a stir after it was hit with a lawsuit earlier this month by Makoto Raiku, a mangaka whose works have appeared in its weekly Shonen Sunday.
Raiku charges that Shogakukan lost 5 of his color pages from the manga series Konjiki no Gash!!, which was carried in the magazine from 2001 to 2007.
Konjiki no Gash!! was later adapted into an animated television show. (which airs here as Zatch Bell).
Raiku said the publisher failed to return the five color drawings following the end of the series' run. Shogakukan offered to compensate him 500,000 yen for the loss, but Raiku demanded 3.3 million yen in restitution, including a price tag of 300,000 yen for each of the missing artworks. Raiku is believed to have based the figure on bids for similar works on Internet auction sites.The media have covered the lawsuit, but have focused on the superficial question of whether original manga works have artistic value.
The writer of the piece Makoto Fukuda points out that verbal abuse can be an accepted aspect of how an editor deals with young mangaka. Additionally he points out that while Japanese editors and artists disagree on whether Raiku has a good case, most seem to agree that his page rate was far too low for a well-known and successful mangaka.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
It wasn't so long ago that Craig Thompson's Blankets made a huge splash not only because of its quality but because of its 600-plus page mass. While there have been few such cinder blocks of singular comics stories (ie. not collections) unleashed since, there seems to be little amazement surrounding the massive girth of Dash Shaw's 700-page effort The Bottomless Bellybutton. Of course it's quality, not quantity that matters, and I haven't read the book, but Shaw has already established an impressive track record for fine, eccentric work (see Goddesshead, and The Mother's Mouth).
Interestingly when I interviewed Dash back in 2005 he said he had submitted work to Fantagraphics and was disappointed that he had gotten no response. I found this surprising both because of the quality and undeniable iconoclasm of Shaw's work. At the time I told him to be patient. Obviously the Evil Empire eventually came around (they are rather slow in their "discoveries") and The Bottomless Bellybutton is now Shaw's first published work in the "big leagues."
Listen to the interview with Dash Shaw at HeroesCon 2005 here.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This "Summer Fiction Issue" (I guess that means I'll have to read it at the beach) features a short story by one of my favorite prose writers, Haruki Murakami, and the story is illustrated (albeit sparsely) by perhaps my favorite cartoonist of all time, Jaime Hernandez. Of course since Jaime is the consummate cartoonist his illustrations tend to be rather toothless when not tied to his storytelling and his own characters (which in a way is as it should be).
There's even a small single-panel comic in the back featuring a classic Jack Kirby monster.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
This just came via mass-email from Maestro Choe (whose wondrous travel show Thumbs Up, I was watching in fits of convulsive laughter with a friend last night). All I can say about the documentary is: It's about damned time! And, I wish I was in LA.
The nightmare is over just in time for another one to begin, the cameras have stopped rolling the documentary is finished,if you happen to be in los angeles on june 21st you should come out and watch harry kim's documentary about my bullshit life, almost a decade in the making , I thought I could slip this one through the cracks of my parents sight, however my new nightmare, my parents have just figured out how to use the internet(google) and they are internet stalking, and they're favorite subject is me, so they found out about the LA film premiere (thanks harry ! I cant thank you enough for choosing L.A. my parents hometown for the premiere of your fucking movie, you fucking asshole) as well as my gambling problem amongst other things, if you are a sick fuck, and want to watch the slow motion car accident , which is watching my parents watch their son act like a complete fool and watch footwear fall out of women's asses, on the big screen on opening night. From this moment, There is nothing I will ever write, draw, photograph or paint , that ends up online that will ever escape my parents sight.. Great. A few days later me and harry are catching a flight to munich ,for the german premiere of the movie at the Munich Film Festival on june 26th, it should be interesting, because I haven't been to germany in a decade, and this german guy, Patrick I met in the congo jungle in 1995, and then try to get at me in 2002 impersonating the vicemayor of Frankfurt, said if I ever step foot on german soil, is gonna send the Russian mafia after me. He's tried every few years to contact me, I vowed revenge after he fucked me over in that godforsaken jungle all those years ago, I'm on my way bitch , come and get me.
Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe
(USA, 2008, 92 mins)
Directed By: Harry Kim
Los Angeles artist David Choe's kaleidoscopic work can be playful, confrontational and sexually frank. His personal life is no less complicated, as revealed by close friend Harry Kim, who documented Choe's life and crimes from 2000 to 2007. From the manic highs of commercial success and dinosaur hunting in the Congo to the self-destructive lows of Japanese jail sentences and bouts of self-doubt and depression, what begins as a gleeful portrait of a bad-boy artist slowly becomes a poignant celebration of one man's journey, both artistically and spiritually, toward his own uncertain salvation.
Saturday, June 21st 9:45pm(world premiere!!!)
Majestic Crest Theatre $12.00
Sunday, June 22nd 4:00pm
Mann Festival Theatre $12.00
Thursday, June 26th 4:30pm
Mann Festival Theatre $12.00
, June 26th 4:30pm
For ticketing information please phone 1-866-345-6337 or email
Giant Robot's Eric Nakamura has seen the film already and gives a brief summary of it on his blog
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Muslims seem increasingly intent on solidifying Islam's position as the most humorless and vociferously hostile major religion on the planet (no mean feat). Now that the smoke has cleared (literally) from the burning of the Danish Embassy and death threats leveled against Danish cartoonists, a new tempest in a teapot emerges and this time the grievance is even more stunningly inane.
From JapanTimes online comes this article:
CAIRO (Kyodo) A scene from an animated version of a popular Japanese comic book has sparked an outcry in the Muslim world, where some fear it could fuel a backlash not seen since [Danish] publications carried cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
At issue is a 90-second "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure" video segment that depicts Dio Brando, a villain, picking up a Quran from a bookshelf and apparently examining it as he orders the execution of the hero and his friends.
Sheikh Abdul Hamid Attrash, chairman of the Fatwa (religious edict) Committee at Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni authority, based in Cairo, called the cartoon an "insult to Islam."
"This scene depicts Muslims as terrorists, which is not true at all," he said. "This is an insult to the religion, and the producers would be considered to be enemies of Islam."
To prove his point that Islam is in fact a peaceful religion Sheikh Attrash ordered that everyone associated with the anime be immediately put to death in as peaceful a fashion as stoning allows. (Ok, that part is extrapolated, but the "enemies of Islam" statement all but seethes with the threat of physical peril if the producers don't immediately capitulate, which of course they did. Message Sent: Terrorism works, kids.)Responding to the accusation, the Shueisha official said it was "a simple mistake."
"Neither the original comic nor the animation intends to treat Muslims as villains. But as a result, the cartoon offended Muslims," the official said. "We apologize for the unpleasantness that the cartoon may have caused and will carefully consider how to deal with religious and culture themes."
The official said one of the animators came up with the idea of using an Arabic book to give the scene a more authentic feel, as the villain was hiding out in Egypt. [seems reasonable enough, eh?]
Even at age 85 Stan Lee remains in perpetual motion. Lee is now foraying into manga and anime collaborating with Japanese creators in both mediums. This includes the manga Ultimo with Shaman King creator Hiroyuki Takei, and a new anime series for Japanese TV with the title Hero Man which will be animated by heavyweight Japanese studio BONES. Stan talks with Patrick Macias about his latest venture HERE.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Best of all thanks to iMeem you can listen to The Pixies "The Happening" and "I've Been Tired" directly on the blog. One thing I've found is that as big of a disappointment as 1991's Bossanova seemed at the time (in the tsunami wake of Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, anything less than another masterpiece would disappoint), the songs hold up now.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Widely respected comics retailer Rory Root of Berkeley's Comic Relief passed away a few days ago at the age of 50 following complications from surgery for a ruptured hernia. Rory had apparently been in poor health for quite awhile and counted diabetes among his health issues.
Living 3000 miles away from Comic Relief's base in northern California, I didn't know Rory personally, but he was one of the first retailers to order The Comics Interpreter back in its nascent stages as a sloppy little zine. The one time I spoke to him on the phone was under odd circumstances, in which I had to ask him to please remove an insert I initially included in TCI #4 Vol.1 from the order he had just received. Sounding more than a bit tired and flustered, Rory was quick to tell me that I could call him any time...any time but on Wednesday that is, which was new comics day and the very time which I called the shop even as it was swamped with that day's deliveries.
We also crossed paths many times on message boards in which Rory was always thoughtful and opinionated. On one such message board Rory was kind enough to declare TCI a "great interview zine" which I of course took as meaning that our reviews weren't up to snuff. Even with such limited exposure, Rory always felt like an important ally on a landscape where allies , especially among retailers, are few and far between. But Rory never seemed like a retailer so much as simply a patron of the medium.
To that end he made a lot of friends in comics. There's a plethora of memories from readers, artists, and friends on the Comic Relief site (linked above). And also a typically comprehensive list of links to memorials and tributes at The Comics Reporter.
Probably the best of these that I've read, one that really brings Root's personality to life and makes his loss more palpable is this one by Jesse Hamm. There's also an audio clip on the site of a 2007 panel featuring a discussion between Scott McCloud and Rory.
On his blog Neil Gaiman wrote:
"I've known him for nearly 20 years. And he was fifty -- only three years older than me. Last time I saw Rory I told him I'd stolen his omnipresent bucket-size cup of coffee for Mrs Higgler in Anansi Boys. He was introducing me at a speaking event, something that made him uncharacteristically terrified. And I told him about the time I'd popped into Comic Relief
when he wasn't there, because I was walking past and I thought I'd wave, and had come out having bought $300 worth of books..."
There's also a blog where the question is asked if Root was the inspiration for The Simpson's Comic Book Guy. Root got wind of the post and this was his reply:
Nah,when I first met [Simpsons creator] Matt [Groening] long, long ago I was quite a bit thinner and beardless. And I generally avoid ponytails, just at conventions were it can get just a bit warm on the floor.
And while I can be a tad sarcastic at times; I actually like helping customers find the right book for them.
But in the spirit of the GWS, “Worse Stereotype ever!”
That's perhaps the strangest title of an article I've seen in recent memory. And an Israeli scorpion, no less. Read the complete article on WIRED online now.
Honestly hoping for the best for Senator Kennedy who regardless of his foibles is one of the few Democrats who over the entire course of his career has kicked against the conservative pricks regardless of whether he was in the minority or not.
And if you think this post has nothing to do with comics; well perhaps you're forgetting what happened when a certain spindly lad was bitten by a radioactive spider back in the 60's.
Monday, May 19, 2008
If you can help legendary Marvel artist Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula, Iron Man, Daredevil) please go here for details. Colan is the latest in a long line of aging and ailing comics creators to struggle with soaring medical bills and pharmaceutical costs under the United States' barbaric, survival of the richest, healthcare system.