Friday, August 29, 2008

slavering fever dreams

Lore Sjoberg creates this brilliant rejection letter over on Wired online.

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

Harkham's Ergot

Nice short interview by Tom Spurgeon with art comics sweetheart (who all the erudite boys wanna go out with) Sammy Harkham over at The Comics Reporter related to the forthcoming massive $125 Kramer's Ergot #7 (published by Buenaventura Press). Harkham is very talented and tasteful, of course, but he also seems to be the most insanely deep-pocketed self-publisher (despite Buenaventura's recent involvement) in recent memory.

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

Lynda Barry Loves Dudes

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

Stan Lee, Founder of The Church of Practicology

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

Michel Gondry: The Hardest Panel To Button

Michel Gondry, director of the brilliant Eternal Sunshine, and numerous great music videos for The White Stripes, Bjork, and many others, has now drawn his own minicomic. And at a glance Gondry's pretty good cartoonist as well. (But would I say that if he wasn't Michel Gondry?) See for yourself on New York magazine's online comics section The Vulture which gives us a 6-page preview.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (or laughter is the best medicine)

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, David, and Joyce

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

Street Art Book That Doesn't Suck: Banksy's Wall and Piece


Wall and Piece
Century Books

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.

Street Art That Sucks

Prestel International publishes some nice art books covering everything from North Korean poster art to Egon Scheile and Peter Hugo's award-winning photography book The Hyena & Other Men.

That said...
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?