Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Fatwa Edict: Bad Cartoon Characters Not Allowed to Read The Quran

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?]

Read the full article here:

Smilin' Stan Joins Jaunty Japanese

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

Wired Blog asks: Does M. Knight Shyamalan Have a Thing for Pixies?

Read the tenuous, but undeniable connection here.

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

Rory Root: Rest In Peace (1958-2008)

Rory Root (left) with Larry Marder in 2007

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!”

"Could Radioactive Scorpion Venom Save Ted Kennedy?"

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

Gene Colan Needs Your Help

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.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fantagraphics Kisses The Diamond Ring

Comic Experience retailer Brian Hibbs writes an excellent dissection and summation of the impact of Fantagraphics just-announced exclusive distribution deal with Diamond. It would be disingenuous(to use TCJ's favorite word) to describe Fanta's deal with the distribution monopoly as anything other than a complete and utter sellout. Having given lip service to rebellion against all the medium's ogres and evil empires (from mainstream comics and creators, to Wizard, to Diamond) Fanta has slowly but surely jumped into bed with all of them--publishing special editions devoted to artists (like Frank Miller) whose work the publishers have publicly acknowledged hating; sending all manner of Fanta product to Wizard for review; and now, of course, going exclusive with Diamond.

While the move is more symbolic than anything else, that symbol is of capitulation and the acknowledgment that as the publishers go gray their retirements have become vastly more important than their ethics. Almost no one would begrudge them that, of course. Except these are the same guys who made their names lacerating, excoriating, and at any opportunity humiliating creators over the years who opted for bigger paychecks than the chickenfeed offered by doing more "personal work" in indie comics..ideally for them.

Sure it's hypocrisy but as the publisher has made piles of money from the likes of Charles Shulz reprints and porn comics, there are few if any in the medium willing to direct much more than the mildest criticisms, and far more who will all but prostrate themselves with the hope that they'll be the next anointed by the publisher. In an industry rife with incestuousness and cowardice, Fantagraphics was once one of the few publishers who via their journalistic tool, The Comics Journal, was willing to call some of the medium's most unethical, yet powerful, entities to the mat. But those days waned years ago and now that Fanta/TCJ is essentially little different than the entities they once scrutinized and often crucified, who remains as the industry's conscience? Everyone has sold out. Everyone is compromised. Everyone has ulterior motives. And anyone with even the faintest amount of leverage holds a grudge even when the criticism is valid.'s to the monopoly.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

5 Blogs (minus 1)

At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon asked: "Which five blogs of comic book characters would you read?"

Trying to think of five I realized how low my interest threshold for most comics (and the characters that roam through them) really is. But I finally scraped up five possibilities.

The Crumbs (R., Aline, and Sophie are the dominant characters in their own comics)--I want to read the sequel to the Zwigoff doc. I want to read Robert's freshest rants against Western commercialism and the joys of fat-bottomed girls. I want to see Nationals Lampoon's Crumb Family Vacation: Destination France. Date of return? Never!

The Silver Surfer--A bit stoic but the guy has seen the universe from atop a surfboard. His Lonely Planet Guide To The Cosmos has to be trippy.

Tex from Love & Rockets--The fat, bespectacled, black punk rocker is one of the sweetest-natured characters ever created. But of course nice guys just get their asses kicked. Still, dude traveled the country in punk bands and had a threesome with Penny and Hopey. He’s got amazing stories to tell.

Batroc The Leaper--Zees eez ze blag av Georges Batroc. Nevah drop ze soap in ze Foreign Legion showair.

Um, I'll think of a fifth one at some point. Really I will.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Santogold goes down smooth

If you love M.I.A. as much as I do you'll surely like Santogold also. Certainly the global vibe is reminiscent of Maya but Santo brings plenty of her own flavor and influences to the table, and she's more of a singer.
Background music for this page? Why Everything's Gone Green, of course. Check it.
How hard is it to throw a fucking smoke grenade?

WIRED digs BatAnime

Maybe because the first (last...most recent...previous) live-action film didn't really move me, I find the look of the animated Gotham Nights more compelling. The fannish Wired blog seems to agree.

"From a visual point of view, this is the most stylized Batman that's come out of Warner Bros.," explained Batman lifer Alan Burnett in a press release. "What they've done is really eye-catching, and it truly expands his world. Their visualization of Gotham City is stunning, and it's very interesting to see how they've envisioned Batman, his environment and his action and movements.

Burnett is joined by famed comics scribes Greg Rucka and Brian Azzarello, as well as cinema and TV writers Josh Olson (A History of Violence), David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Jordan Goldberg (The Dark Knight). But the new visionaries of this iteration, as with eye-popping, brain-crunching Animatrix, are the mostly Pacific Rim directors hired on to stylize Bruce Wayne's superego for the 21st century, including Shojiro Nishimi, Futoshi
, Hiroshi Morioka, Yasuhiro Aoki, Toshiyuki Kubooka and Jong-Sik Nam.

It's by far the darkest
Dark Knight ever to hit the screens, large or small."

Go here to watch more in-depth shit as a bunch of DC creators discuss.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dave Stevens

I was shocked to learn that Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens passed away March 11th, 2008 from complications of leukemia at the age of 52. Here's an interview with Stevens in 2001 from Comic Book Artist. And an excellent remembrance of Stevens by Filmmaker Scott C. Clements
Giant Robot entrepreneur Eric Nakamura's short list of documentary films that made a difference to him

The entirety of The Pixies classic Doolittle is coming to Harmonix Rock Band videogame. I have never played Guitar Hero or Rock Band. But I will now undoubtedly, unequivocally, positively have to buy and play Rock Band (one day when I have some cash). I wonder how playing will affect my appreciation of one of the greatest records (Surfer Rosa is equally fantastic) and bands ever? I dunno, but I wanna find out. Debaser, Gouge Away, Tame, Monkey Gone To Heaven, Wave of Mutilation...every song here is a gem. Finally I can wail and riff along with the great Joey Santiago and Black Francis on something other than a scarred tennis racket.
Here's a delicious acoustic version (el nino, you say)

And here's what it looks and sounds like on the game

Panting Panter, Feral Farel, Lethal Lethem & CogNocenti

Never expected to see Gary Panter art on a Marvel comic but here's his inimitable stuff on Omega The Unknown, with Farel Dalrymple interior art as well.

Panter talks with author Jonathan Lethem about his latest eponymous collection. 5/13 7pm at the Strand Bookstore 828 Broadway, NYC.

Cover by Farel Dalrymple

There's also a short review of Lethem and Dalrymple's work on Omega in the current issue of the always pricey ($19.50) Print magazine. Interestingly the Print review is by Annie Nocenti, who unless there's an incredible coincidence, used to be a regular Marvel editor/scribe, although back then she went by the less exciting "Ann Nocenti." Interesting Wiki entry says the following: "She is noted for her left-wing political views which, particularly during her run on Daredevil, caused some controversy among fans who didn't agree with her politics." She also was editor at High Times for a year. That a former editor for New Mutants would end up editing High Times and writing for Print. Who'da thunk it.

Check out Farel Dalrymple's delicious livejournal blog

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Death Note review on NPR

NPR discusses the "Killer Penmanship" of the popular anime Death Note.
Listen HERE.

Alan Moore Drops Dirtbombs

Neil Gaiman and the sartorially resplendent Alan Moore.

NPR's "Song of The Day"

"The disc's best track, "Leopardman at C&A," features an unlikely collaboration: Its words were penned by comics writer Alan Moore for use by his friends in Bauhaus. But Collins sets them to his own brisk Bo Diddley beat, so Moore's evocative depictions of a corporate world fallen into savagery ("We'll start a Jaguar cult and dress up like an XJ-6 / Turn our CDs into wind chimes turning slowly in the breeze") are showcased at their funny and despairing best. It also doesn't hurt to have Collins' deep, dry vocals; the buzzing, twitchy, fuzz-draped guitars; and the two rhythm sections pounding out a rough-and-ready tribal beat, reminding listeners that it's an urban jungle, not an urbane one."

Hear the Dirtbombs song HERE

Man, I like the opening bass and drums, and those slashing guitar riffs remind me of The Damned. Vocals sound a little Bauhausian and the rhythms like Adam and The Ants.

Speed Racer at NPR

Listen as NPR's Morning Edition discuss the Speed Racer anime (audio file) as the Wachowski brothers glitzy movie reaches theatres.

Gustav Klimt was the modelfucking man

[article from Entertainment Weekly]

BBC Videos seven-disc set “The Private Life of a Masterpiece” reveals the delicious and sometimes tawdry details of those classic masterworks of the past.

For instance Klimt worked wearing his favorite blue robe with nothing on underneath and kept a bevy of barely-clad redheads milling about to service any “pressing” needs when painting all those details wearied him. As another respite he also sketched the girls and by the time he finished The Kiss (1908) he had a collection of over 100 nudes.

In 1924 the National Gallery of London bought the seventh and most famous version of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers(1888) for 1,325 (British) and have subsequently made over 2 million just on Sunflowers-themed postcards and tea towels. If I remember correctly the anime Samurai Champloo did an entire episode around Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (the main characters were after all searching for someone named the Sunflower Samurai after all).

Edvard Munch: The lettering in the sky on Munch’s The Scream reads in Norwegian “This can only have been painted by a madman.” Scholars have no idea whether Munch wrote this himself or it was scratched in by one of his detractors. Regardless Munch went on to create 105 versions of The Scream (which I think answers all questions about his mental state).

Monday, May 5, 2008


[Buy TCI #4 with David Choe's first print interview on Ebay right now November 2008 as mentioned on his blog]

For all the jealous naysayers who once said David Choe was just a flash-in-the-pan, more style and controversy than substance, here's yet another glaring indicator of how successful Choe's art career has been since he won the Xeric Grant and released his first (and only) proper graphic novel, Slow Jams back in 1999: a copy of Slow Jams (cover price $4) just sold for $152.50 on Ebay (see the auction here).

While you can find the debut books of most Xeric winners in bargain bins, Slow Jams sold out it's print run and Choe's rabid fan base (most of which exists outside the parameters of comics) now vastly exceeds the copies available, making it one of the hardest comics under ten years old to find. I'm not much of a collector but after seeing this auction I'll have to dig up my lone copy of Slow Jams and slip it it a protective bag. Ditto for my only copy of the vastly more rare Son of Slow Jams which most people don't even know exists.

Back in 2000 in his first extensive print interview in The Comics Interpreter #4 Vol. 1, Choe talked about receiving the Xeric grant.

"I wish I could show you my grant proposal. It was on ripped out, lined notebook paper. I think when they asked me how much funds I'd need (can't exceed $5000) I wrote "I'm gonna need $5000 cuz I know I'm gonna need it." I sent it out in such a hurry to meet the deadline and it was so messy I couldn't believe I won it. Not knowing when to quit, I called up Xeric immediately and asked for more money. They said "no". Initially one of the ladies there even asked me to send in the "finished artwork" thinking that what I had sent her were just sketches (which is what they were I guess).

It's refreshing to know that sometimes talent can speak for itself (no goldleaf binder and asskissy cover letters needed). Sometimes..

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dave Sim Teaches Tracing, Pencil Sharpening

Strangely halting narration from Sim as he discusses his process on his post-Cerebus book Glamourpuss. The trials and tribulations of tracing from fashion mags, how to use an electric pencil sharpener, and the wisdom of Al Williamson. Notice the slightly eerie child-sized Cerebus figure standing alone in a room at the 2:10 mark.

Soup and Binding (fresh ground pepper?)

Oddly fascinating discussion in a diner between a barely audible Chester Brown, Dave Sim, and Rob Walton.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Choe works over Jim Lee, Quesada scolds TCI

Saw this awhile back and it's certainly interesting. Dave Choe does his own painted take over Jim Lee's pencils for a published cover for Superman #214. Working from the exact same tight pencils, what a radical difference in Choe's image. Here's what Jim Lee said on his blog.

Here is an incredible painting fellow Korean artist David Choe did over a printout of my pencils for the cover to Superman #214.

I just love it. It's different and I am sure not every fan will feel the same way but I love the energy, the colors, the intensity most of all.

In general, David's typical work is difficult to describe; part graphitti, part porno, all out passion. Some of you may be familiar with his work as David just recently did the cover art for the latest Linkin Park and Jay-Z album.

He is and has been a huge comic fan and over the years, we have become friends and try to get together several times a year. One time, we happened to be in NYC at the same time, and I got a chance along with Ale, Lee and Carlos to see David paint live on a giant wooden board in front of an audience at a church/dance club. Another time, we were all hanging out in my backyard, talking art as I grilled burgers and pulled out old art from my art collection.

Anyway, he did this for the hell of it but I like it so much that I have to figure out a cool project to do together. I think the style would better suit a character like Batman, Deathblow or Constantine, no? The mind races with possibilities. I just need to find the time in the schedule...

What's also interesting about this whole thing is that in his interview in The Comics Interpreter (Choe's first print interview way back in TCI #4 Vol. 1, 1999) Choe blasted Lee (along with a number of others, notably Adrian Tomine) for portraying an asian in one of Lee's series as the stereotypical brainy geek. But years later Choe admitted that his beef had been squashed--Lee was far too big to likely even notice or care about Choe's slam--and the two have since become fast friends and mutual admirers.

An interesting sidenote to all of this is that way back when I did TCI #6 as a tribute to The Brothers Hernandez I was soliciting comments about Los Bros work from a wide variety of creators and industry types and among them was Joe Quesada. The Editor-In-Chief of Marvel was actually a big fan of Los Bros work and was glad to discuss them until he learned that Choe was also participating. Quesada and Choe had recently had a massive, bitter falling out over Choe's dismissal from Marvel's NYX proposal that he was pitching with Brian Wood. Choe's proposal was typically extreme, featuring considerable dollops of sexual deviance and drug use which unsurprisingly wouldn't fly at Marvel. Choe's response to this rejection was a vicious email that circulated widely all over the internet. Quesada proceeded to dress me down for giving Choe a forum in the magazine and refused to participate. Quesada at the time said he would never work with anyone that associated with Choe or gave him a forum. It's also worth noting that when I posted on Wood's Delphi site saying that perhaps Choe and Wood had been naive to really think that Marvel would ever go forward with such an extreme proposal regardless of what Marvel was saying at the time; Wood immediately deleted my post even though it was basically defending he and Choe, for fear that it might upset his masters.

I mention all of this because while I think Quesada is a perfectly nice guy, I always thought his edict would only apply to a tiny magazine like TCI and would never apply to the likes of Wizard, assuming Wizard ever did a feature on Choe. The point being that it's an absolute certainty that if Jim Lee wanted to do any work for Marvel right now that his friendship with Dave Choe would be a complete non-issue; and not simply because a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but because most people operate under situational ethics and as long as Jim Lee is hot shit he can befriend whoever he chooses without any detriment to his career...but TCI cannot. Oh well, the more things change the more they stay the same. But an interesting story nonetheless, eh?

Who summons the Whiiizzza!

So Wizard has reached 200 issues and they celebrate with a cover that looks like a box of laundry detergent with little more than a big neon "200" on the cover. Obviously showing you would be better than telling, but I haven't been able to find an image online...yet.