Monday, June 30, 2008

Very Sad News: Artist Michael Turner Dead at 37

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

A remembrance over at the studio blog gelatometti which includes Jim Lee

Saturday, June 28, 2008

WANTED: Review

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

Nine Inch Nails rehearsals

Nine Inch Nails rehearsing Echoes is muy delicioso. I love the interplay of guitars, synths and the programming. Plus it's just great to see Robin Finck back on guitar after all this time.

Check it at PitchforkTV

The Rabbi's Cat at NPR

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

Dash Shaw in latest New York magazine

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


Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is #68 on EW’s list of "new classic books" and better yet Bechdel contributes a fine four page color comic “Compulsory Reading” to EW reflecting on both her love of books and her ambivalence toward the dog-eared classics that everyone says are a must-read.
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

Laced with nothing but juicy influences from the likes of Pratt, Pope, Sickles, Caniff, Herge', Jaime, and Quitely, I really like the work of Croatian artist Tonci Zonjic. He already looks like a perfect fit for a Vertigo or Oni project. Check out his work.

The Art of Noel Sickles

IDW Publishing has announced the publication of a deluxe 394-page hardcover collecting the entire run (1933-1936) of groundbreaking artist Noel Sickles on the Scorchy Smith comic strip. The latest addition to The Library of American Comics, an IDW imprint, Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles is edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, whose work on The Complete Terry and the Pirates has earned him two 2008 Eisner Award nominations. The title will be released July 30, 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."

Reknown Manga Artist gets The Kirby Treatment From Publisher

Some interesting insight into the relationship between Japanese comics artists (mangaka) and their editors and publishers at The Daily Yomiuri.

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

Your sentence: Picking lent from a Bottomless Bellybutton

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

Adrian, Haruki & Jaime together at last

I actually read New York magazine faithfully, and The New Yorker only occasionally (maybe not enough pictures?), but what's not to love about the current issue of the Yorker with yet another plaintively beautiful Adrian Tomine cover.

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.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

David Choe's Dirty Hands finally to premiere

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
Documentary Competition
(USA, 2008, 92 mins)
World Premiere
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

Konnichiwa Japan

I really like Grand Theft Auto IV's responsible, family-friendly new direction.