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Friday, June 30, 2006

Look, Up On The Internet, It's a Kerfuffle! -- Christopher Butcher takes people who should know better to school on the basics of journalism. Being that Butcher is one of the two or three most insightful comics journaliasts alive, you'd think they'd listen, but the comments section of that post reveals a little nanny-nanny-nanny-neener-neener-neenerism, and also my two cents.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Comic Book Holocaust by Johnny Ryan.The Comic Book Holocaust -- Johnny Ryan is review-proof in the same manner as Rob Liefeld or Geoff Johns are review-proof. The work is what it is, it's always of about the same quality (not that all the talents just named are at the same level of craft, to be sure, just that there's an astonishing consistency to each of their oeuvres), and nothing any critic ever says is going to ever either impact the future work of the creator, or much affect the opinion of people who like what they do. (All right, Geoff Johns is the only one of the three whose work I find nothing to take pleasure in, ever).

If you've never read any Johnny Ryan comics, his Angry Youth Comics from Fantagraphics is a regularly-published series featuring all the things that make Ryan Ryan. Although Loady McGee and friends are not found in The Comic Book Holocaust (published by Buenaventura Press), you'll find many of the same themes, props and gags: snot, shit, floating vaginas, violence, sodomy, racism, huge testicles, tiny penises, regular penises, huge penises, stuff like that.

The high concept of The Comic Book Holocaust is that Ryan takes one page for each strip, and each strip eviscerates a different comic strip or comic book. Whether your sacred cows are The Avengers, The X-Men, Rebecca and Enid, Maggie and Hopey or Hi and Lois, no one is safe from The Comic Book Holocaust. The joy is found not in the juvenile shock-jock dick-and-shit jokes, but in the relentless assault on all comers, deserving and not, and in the bizarre, virtually random events the storylines of each strip eventually hinge on.

My favourite punchline in the whole book is "I'm no hero! I just like to drill glory holes in oven mitts!" If it's the only gag that made me laugh out loud, that's one more laugh than 110 Percent gave me. I did find myself smiling throughout The Comic Book Holocaust, though, because it's hard not to grin at stuff like Dr. Strange making love to an interdimensional portal, only to end up connected at the cock to a parallel version of himself -- Mark Millar should be so lucky as to be able to do that in the pages of Civil War; further, Millar has nothing on Ryan when it comes to rape.

Why is Johnny Ryan so dirty? Why is he so mean?

A better question might be, why are his comics so addictive? I know some people find his work reprehensible. The Comic Book Holocaust is a pretty good argument for the idea that there's more at work in his head that what appears on the surface; in fact, it's hard not to come away from the book thinking he is some kind of comics scholar, in his own twisted way. You can't tear this many icons a new asshole without knowing precisely what makes them tick, first. Which, for my money, puts him far ahead of the likes of Geoff Johns and Rob Liefeld.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tony Consiglio's 110 Percent.110 Percent -- I've loved a lot of Tony Consiglio's previous work, but I found nothing to like in his newest work. As graphic novel misfires go, they don't get much bigger than this.

The story is about a distasteful group of middle-aged hags trying to hold onto their youth and vitality through their devotion to a boy-band plainly based on N-Synch, or any of the other generic groups created by some marketing genius and composed of talentless pretty-boys. Said hags lie, scheme, steal and neglect their families and friends in order to pursue their dream of seeing their favourite band, or getting their new CD early, or whatever it is they can do to prove they are the band's biggest fans.

Along the way we're treated to the poor fat woman whose officemates think it's hilarious to stick their dicks in her face while she's bent over, then remorsefully ask her to bake a cake for them, which she brings to a party that otherwise ignores her presence. But before you feel too much pity, she's shoplifting and scheming behind her friend's back. Another of these harridans virtually ruins her young daughter's life by her blind insistence that the daughter loves the band as much as she does; at one point the daughter has something very important to tell her mother, but talk of the band drowns her out. Maybe she's pregnant, or dying. Or something. We never find out, and really the daughter and her put-upon father are the only sympathetic characters in the book, but that suggests a level of nuance and complexity that does not exist here.

This is a one-dimensional story about meaningless ciphers, with some gratuituous doggy-style sex scenes thrown in for laffs. I didn't laugh, except at myself when I realize immediately after finishing the book that I actually said out loud "Well, that fucking sucked." I honestly can't remember the last time a work rang so untrue, and took such great pains to do so.

Tony Consiglio has long been clearly influenced as a cartoonist by Box Office Poison's Alex Robinson, and he even cutely name-checks the fake band from Robinson's far-superior graphic novel Tricked at one point in the story. I'm guessing Consiglio, who apparently wasted took years to create this new work, was somehow inspired by Tricked. Instead, 110 Percent feels like a bizarre inversion, unlikeable, dull and directionless. 110 Percent has precisely nothing of value to say, and takes wastes entirely too much of the reader's time, money, patience and goodwill in its attempt to say it.

I've waited years for Consiglio to turn out a new graphic novel, and this one arrives with an audible thud, an unwelcome wrong turn in what had seemed a pretty promising cartooning career. It's unworthy of his previous work, unworthy of its publisher, and unworthy of your attention.

Available at one-quarter of the cover price is Consiglio's much better Doublecross collection, which remains highly recommended.


Alison Bechdel's masterful FUN HOME.Fun Home -- The very best graphic novels ever created -- a category Alison Bechdel's Fun Home fits comfortably, assuredly into -- are gripping, immersive and literate. As I experienced Bechdel's Fun Home, I found myself comparing its masterful blending of words and images to some of the most accomplished comics I've read in my lifetime.

Bechdel's arresting visual ingenuity recalled Will Eisner's most skillful techniques in some places; her visual wit on par with Eddie Campbell. Her fearless attempt to recreate the hidden, broken life of her family is worthy of the graphic memoirs of Robert Crumb. Her narrative ambition and storytelling confidence put me in mind, above all others, of the very best works of Alan Moore, from From Hell to Watchmen to The Birth Caul and Lost Girls.

Not that Bechdel's work in any way imitates or even emulates these peers of hers. Rather, the powerful way she exploits the potential of the comics medium to tell her life story (and that of her father, and how they converged, and how they diverged) pushes both autobiography and comics forward in the same ways some of the medium's most accomplished creators have done before her. Bechdel has raised the bar for anyone who puts pen to paper with the intent of explaining and exploring themselves and the world they came out of, and up in.

I'm embarrassed to say I did not know what a gifted cartoonist Bechdel is; her ink line is loose, easy and confident, a bold and pleasing style somewhere between the meticulous Rick Geary and the breezy Lynn Johnston. Crucially, she is a master at depicting both interior and exterior environments, lending an enormously authentic air to critical scenes throughout Fun Home. When we're in the baroque family home of her childhood, we're really there amid the decorative treasures her father obsessively collected. When we're gazing out over the Hudson at the Bicentennial, it really is 1976 and we're somehow in New York City. There's no unconvincing background or shaky sense of place at any point in Bechdel's story.

According to an interview provided by the publisher (Houghton Mifflin), Bechdel extensively researched her life story using old letters and diaries (actually used in the artwork thanks to her canny, organic use of the potentials of Photoshop), and the author's efforts at presenting her story as honestly and forthrightly as possible lend a paradoxical air of sceptical verisimilitude. She admits throughout that these are her memories and perceptions, and goes to great lengths to show that her memory -- all human memory -- is an unreliable tool at best. Stories are worth creating, telling and remembering, and as Alan Moore has said, I agree that in some way all fictions are true; but just as great art can come out of possibly unreliable memory, great (or at least comforting) truth can be lost in the hazy mists of receding time. It's this convergence of time, memory, recollection and the acknowledgement of loss that makes Fun Home the truly great graphic novel that it is.

Bechdel's Fun Home recreates the nonlinearity of human consciousness on the page, piecing together the sections of her tapestry to show where her father's life (and in particular his secret homosexuality) intersected with her own coming of age and coming out of the closet. I thought of Alan Moore's Big Numbers when I considered the way she was able to draw parallels and find intersections that might have remained forever hidden even from herself, had she not created Fun Home. Her father's love of literature, likely something of an escape from the oppressive era in which he found himself a gay man, was passed on to his daughter, who came of age in a time, thankfully, when it was somewhat more acceptable to be what you are born as, whatever that may be. A time in which the revelation of secrets might actually not cause you to consider staging your own death out of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, or possibly, ultimately, sheer exhaustion.

Fun Home is a memoir, a mystery, and a masterpiece. It is, by far, one of the very best graphic novels yet created, and a work that will linger long after you finish it. Bechdel's life story is uniquely hers and universally all of ours, and it is worthy of all the attention, analysis and praise its readers can shower on it. Most of all, it is a great novel that cries out to be read and demands to be talked about. Because if people could have talked about the issues contained herein at the time her father was alive, he might still be alive today to read his daughter's story, and tell us what he, himself, thinks of it. I'd like to know what he would have to say, but I never will.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Lucky -- Gabrielle Bell draws in a minimalist style somewhere in-between John Porcellino and Ariel Schwag, a style that a Drawn and Quarterly press release refers to as "unadorned." To be sure, she's not a "bad" artist -- if the stories she tells in this collection (to be released in the fall of 2006) rose above "mundane" (another word used in the same press release, although I invoke it not quite in the spirit I am sure was intended), I can imagine finding Lucky quite charming, or at least entertaining.

There's a vocal subset of devoted corporate superhero comic book readers who think the terms "comics" and "superhero comics" are synonyms, and dismiss books like Lucky as "indy filth" (sometimes with a wink, sometimes not). There's nothing filthy about Lucky (although the author does some nude modeling to raise needed cash); in fact, it's practically chaste in its depiction of the life of a young woman living in New York City. She frequently shares her apartment (and almost as often, her bed) with a gentleman named "Tom," but we never see them act as anything more than friends who occasionally share the same space. We don't know the nature of their relationship, and so presumably it's not important. Late in the book, Tom is replaced by "Tony," who expresses his love to Gabrielle at one point, but we have no idea what sort of love it is to which he refers.

Lucky is, I imagine, the sort of "indy filth" that so rankles fans of superhero comics. Those folks come to their comics expecting things to happen -- you know, Hal Jordan killing the Green Lantern Corps, Wolverine having his adamantium skeleton ripped out through his pores, Kitty sleeping with Colossus, Superman and Big Barda making a porno movie for an intergalactic sleaze peddler (coincidentally named "Sleez;" Dickens had nothing on John Byrne); nothing much happens in Lucky. Well, very late in the book a hole in the bathroom wall seems to turn into an all-devouring black hole, but you know, I read that part of the book already (I think in Mome), and I wasn't all that impressed the first time.

Bell is that most frustrating of autobiographical cartoonists -- she seems to have the chops to tell us things about her life (and therefore our own lives, in the best-case scenario), but instead she tells us things about her day. She models nude, then breaks down crying in the dressing room. She hints she finds it unpleasant and/or boring, but tells us no more.

Panels from Gabrielle Bell's LUCKY, coming in Fall, 2006 from Drawn and Quarterly.

I'd like to know how someone who is an artist finds facilitating the art of others so upsetting -- I can believe being nude in front of strangers for hours might be upsetting, even for an artist who likely has drawn or painted live, nude models before, herself -- but all she does is report the modeling, and the weeping, drawing no relateable emotional line between the two events. Bell keeps a critical piece of knowledge from her reader, either not wanting to share it, or not knowing it needs to be shared to be comprehended.

Not every incident related is mundane or incomprehensible; a nine-page sequence where Bell sells her comics on the street allows us a glimpse of the frustrations of peddling your wares to the public. Unfortunately, the climax of the sequence falls back on an Inside Baseball moment where Bell is confronted by a passive-aggressive superhero comics fan, overblown and obnoxious, and frustrated by Bell's refusal to hand over her personal contact information. After the somewhat upsetting incident, she is reassured by Tom that she is a good person. We don't know if Tom knows about the incident, or is just randomly reassuring people that they are good -- from the presentation, favour the latter.

Another promising sequence that doesn't achieve its narrative promise involves Bell giving art lessons to a pair of sexually precocious 12-year-old boys. They amuse with their provocative dirty talk and intrigue with their choice of art subjects (the view of the outside world from inside the vagina among them), but Bell does nothing more than tell us what happened.

Roger Ebert likes to say that movies are not about what happens in them, but how they happen. Lucky, ultimately, seems to be about what happens to Bell, with little insight or analysis in a genre that fairly begs for at least one of those, preferably both. Otherwise one is left a little bored, and wondering what's up with Kitty and Colossus these days.

Yes, Lucky is mundane and unadorned, but with enough flashes of wit and potential to be truly frustrating. I would read more comics created by Gabrielle Bell, but I would be fueled more by hope and optimism that she finds more to say in her work, than by excitement grounded in my previous immersion in her work. "There should be more here," as my friend Steve used to say. There really should.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Flight Volume Three -- 350 pages of spectacularly coloured light fantasy, lots of children, teens, anthropomorphic animals, clouds, trees, kitties, swords, and the guy who colours Jeff Smith's Bone reissues for Scholastic Books. As you'd expect from those books, he can set a wondrous tone (of the undersea world, here) with a vivid, convincing pallette. The drawings themselves are...okay. The story is, as with almost all things Flight, cute, quick, and insubstantial.

Panel borders must be getting very expensive, because lots of the folks in here eschew them altogether. Better to afford the copious dragons, fairies, mysterious forests, old houses, and funny hats. Prices on those must be plummeting; lots of 'em in Flight Volume Three. I think there was an ogre with a snaggled tooth; oh, dear.

I find myself not remembering much about the book already; just yesterday, discussing the Flight phenomenon with a key industry figure, he told me he couldn't remember anything from Volume One, which he read when it came out. "Not even the obnoxious Scott McCloud text piece?" Nope, he didn't even remember that ridiculous essay-from-the-future, which put forth the even-then dubious claim that many of the folks associated with Flight would someday be regarded as masters of comic art. Maybe someday, over the pretty-coloured rainbow.

What else is in this third volume? Great production values. One guy who draws like a cross between Craig Thompson and Tomer Hanuka. Becky Cloonan, far less interesting here than in Demo, but slightly more interesting than American Virgin.

One guy kind of draws like John Byrne, a story about a subway attack that isn't, coloured by editor Kazu Kibuishi, whose own story continues the trend for a third volume of being one of the few you'll remember anything about a year from now. Bannister -- a cartoonist I noted in my comments on Volume Two -- draws his piece here very well. Draws a convincing bus, great iPod headphones, and a cute girl. Like the very best of anything in the three Flight volumes, it is, at best, an audition for a possible gig as a cartoonist. Looks like you might have the stuff. Are you ready to show me some real comics?

What I take away from Flight, all three volumes now, is that it is much very pretty ado about mostly nothing, and this newest volume is another big slab of potential talent, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The dress is pretty, but I've seen it before.

I know there are a lot of undiscerning people who think these books are the future of comics. They aren't. And if they are, they need to start proving that with actual stories featuring those hoary old cliches of depth, weight, character, conflict, history, personality, individualism, and/or passion. Passion for something besides accomplished colouring and knowing how to tell the printers how to reproduce your work spectacularly well. There's a metric fuckload of visual craft here, but not enough true comics art to fill a mid-sized Tupperware bowl. "Comics are just words and pictures," according to Harvey Pekar. "You can do anything with word and pictures." I wish this gang would get started.

Time to jump out of the nest and see if you can really fly, Flight crew. By which I mean to say, do you have any stories worth reading? Better yet, worth telling anyone about?


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Shenzhen -- Canadian-born Guy Delisle is a natural storyteller whose gift for observation of the significance of even the smallest moments makes his travelogues a joy to read. Like his previous Drawn and Quarterly graphic novel Pyongyang, Delisle is on assignment in the animation industry over the course of Shenzhen, working closely with people whose language he cannot understand, but game to try new things in the culture he finds himself immersed in. "I feel like Tintin," he exhuberantly informs us at one point, and one comes to appreciate just how much reward there is in being a widely-read comics reader.

After deducing that a hotel maid has been listening to his CD player while cleaning his room, Delisle tells us "I wonder what she thought of the latest Portishead CD. In fact...I often wonder what they think in general."

Even in our own cultures, our own towns, our own homes, communication is often a shaky proposition -- give Delisle credit for being able to not only survive, but thrive, in his own way, in a place where ordering fish for dinner can result in being served an unappetizing plate of pork lips; where a young man trying to learn English is so eager and insistent to hold a conversation with Delisle that when Delisle switches to French (he is from the French-speaking part of Canada and currently lives in France), the man persists without noticing the change, finally giving up only when Delisle loses all patience and tells him to "fuck off." It's a surprising but human moment that demonstrates why Delisle's stories are so appealing -- there's never a sense that he is trying to mold his own depiction, only report on the events he observed and participated in, and whatever happens, happens.

Delisle is able to convey a great amount of detail (and suggest even more) through the choice of moments he shows us. Invited by a fellow animator to come over for coffee on Christmas, Delisle tells us about the Chinese animator's apartment: "There is no decor. The hospital-green walls are neon-lit. It's totally bare except for a huge leather sofa facing an equally huge television that he turns on the moment we walk in." The seeming bleakness of the setting is turned on its ear in the next panels, as Delisle tells us "A strange poster is tacked over the TV. It's a photograph of a French-style table setting, with little plates nested in bigger ones, a porcelain tureen, silver cutlery, etc. All things you never see here...it must seem so exotic to him." Then, crucially, Delisle pauses to give us a full-panel reproduction of his impression of the poster. The change in art-style, for just a moment, gives us profound insight into the man's appreciation of the poster, his reasons for hanging it so prominently in his living space, and Delisle's understanding of all this, presented so efficiently and brilliantly in just a handful of panels.

It's a stunning moment in a narrative packed with winning sequences; I could go on -- the missing doorman, the great relief of "spaghetti and meatballs!" But the joy in Shenzhen is your own delight, discovery and interaction with Delisle's story. You should experience it for yourself.

There's a rewarding underlying sense of structure to Shenzhen, a structure that allows the reader to feel he has experienced something of the journey with the author. Small moments along the way pay off later on, perhaps the least of which has the greatest impact in the book's very last sequence, an echo back to Delisle's arrival in Shenzhen, and a confirmation of, if not the universality of human experience, at least the universality of hotel room design in China.

Download a PDF preview of Shenzhen, coming in September, 2006 from Drawn and Quarterly.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Last Day of Spring -- Ideally, Spring would be filled with sunny skies and comfortable temperatures; and maybe it was, but I work during the day so at best I emerge from my job at 5 PM and look at the sky and say "Seems like it might have been a nice day." That happened maybe three or four days in the past three months.

It seems like there were a lot of storms; just yesterday a thunderstorm descended on the place I work, knocking out power three or four times and dropping huge, cascading sheets of rain on the area. Then the storm passed, and the air seemed clearer, but it was still fairly dreary.

My use of the term "ideally" above is a bit of a projectionist generalization; it's what I assume is most people's ideal Spring weather. I actually like it overcast and in the 50s, what most people would call "gloomy and cold," but I know I'm a freak. Working ten years of overnights has left me somewhat averse to bright sunshine, and I am definitely increasingly less comfortable the higher the outside temperature gets past 60 degrees. Indoors, anything past 72-74 gets the dustmites working their evil allergy magicks, and I start sneezing. These days I rely on Claritin to control that as much as possible; that's about a dollar a dose vs. the $100.00 monthly in co-pays to get the prescription allergy meds (pills and an inhaler) that my doctor would prefer I use. I simply cannot afford a hundred bucks a month for allergy pills, or much of anything else for that matter...

Damn, rambling again, and nothing about comics. I did just read Godland #11 this morning, which might be the last issue before a multi-month hiatus? I think? Anyway, it continues to be an energetic and wonky Kirby pastiche (one that Kirby probably would have hated, or at least not loved terribly much) that delivers some minor-key superhero pleasures on a regular basis. Considering how few pleasures that companies we actually expect our superhero pleasures to come from actually deliver, I suppose that, at least, is something. I accidentally ended up with the first issue of the Detroit JLA arc of JLA Classified last week, and holy hell, that was some shit-awful comics. Ending up with that was the price I had to pay for following the Ellis/Guice and Simone/Garcia-Lopez arcs, I guess. That's the one consistent thing I have learned in 34 years of reading comics: Marvel and DC will always punish you eventually for any joy you manage to honestly derive from their publications.

Looking forward to the forthcoming League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, solicitations for which are popping up here and there around the comics internet. If I were wealthy I certainly would plunk down the major coin being asked for the Absolute Edition of DC: The New Frontier by the sublime Darwyn Cooke, but alas, I am not wealthy. It's a book well-deserving of the format, though, and in a fairer world it would have been released in this format to begin with, in my opinion...I think that's my opinion, anyway -- as noted previously, I seem to be rambling.

I hope you enjoy this last day of Spring. My daughter has a white-water rafting field trip today, my son is psyched that there's no more homework for the few days remaining in the school year, and I am off to work. Hi ho, hi ho.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day 2006 -- A very good day, indeed. My wife and I packed up the kids and drove north into the Adirondacks, and although we followed the wrong road (State Route 9N instead of 9, faulty memory of a trip we took about this time last year) and ended up in Ticonderoga (Home of the #2 Pencil), it was a beautiful ride (thankfully the air conditioning was working in the car, because it was hot and humid outside), and we stopped a few times and took in the natural beauty of the Adirondack Park.

We stopped for lunch at a great little diner in Schroon Lake, and then kinda-sorta got lost again on the way home, but in that great we-don't-hafta-be-anywhere-anytime-anyway kind of way.

Lots of fun this weekend. Not much comic reading, although I can tell you that the one-two punch of the Luba: Book of Ofelia and the final issue of Luba's Comics and Stories made for some of the most emotional and moving comics reading I have done all year. Both are highly recommended.

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A CBS Pharmacy -- Stories like this one about Sav-On Drugs being bought out by another chain are just one of the reasons I love Mark Evanier's blog.

When's the last time you came out of a pharmacy with a story like that?


Saturday, June 17, 2006

More on Toth and Krigstein -- The following letter is from a reader named Daniel, in response to my post The Ghost of Toth:

I have to respectfully disagree with your recent posting about Alex Toth and your comparison of him to Krigstein. I love Krigstein's work (I have both of the Fantagraphics books you reference), but Toth was, by a wide, wide margin, the single greatest and most innovative cartoonist the medium has yet produced. As a draftsman, a designer, and a storyteller, no one has yet surpassed him. He is the only cartoonist whose work has literally made my jaw drop when looking at it, and he
did it again and again and again.

Krigstein brought a complexity to the medium when it was in its (relative) infancy. Yet Toth's work was equally (if not more) complex. The difference was that he pared his work down to its barest essentials till it was as simple as it could be. It almost seems like an oxymoron, but the complexity of Toth's work was masked by its simplicity.

Based on everything that I've read, I think there is a dichotomy in the assessments of Toth's work between the views held by practicing artists (cartoonists, illustrators, designers, etc.) and the views held by the lay audience. The people who always praised Toth the loudest--in life and in death-- were other artists: Darwyn Cooke, Kevin Nowlan, Mark Chiarello, Steve Rude, Bruce Timm, Howard Chaykin, Ronnie Del Carmen, Paul Grist, etc. As a practicing illustrator and graphic designer
myself, I think it takes someone who is a practitioner of the arts to understand just how unbelievably hard it is to do what Toth did, especially since he made it look so easy.

In some of Krigstein's best stories ("Master Race" comes to mind first) it looked as if he was showing off on the page, and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense. It was as if he was raising a flag for everyone to see and take notice of exactly what the medium was capable of producing. You can almost see the blood, sweat, and the tears on the page. Toth, on the other hand, made his work look effortless. He never
showed off. There was no flamboyance in his work. He used the bare minimum number of lines, panels, shapes, and images. He was like the master craftsmen who made Shaker furniture: the work is perfect at first glance as well as at 100th glance.

Anyway, as I've written before, I love your site and enjoy visiting it.

I stand by my opinion that no artist has done more to (to coin a phrase) push comic art forward than Krigstein, but if Toth is behind him, it's by the narrowest of degrees, and as I noted in my earlier post, a lot of the perception involved is down to the circumstances of the availability Toth's work -- I'd gladly pay just about any price for a book on Toth that is as comprehensive and well-produced as B. Krigstein Vol. 1.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Ghost of Toth -- At Warren Ellis's message board The Engine, there's a very good discussion about the legacy of Alex Toth, both in terms of his influence on comic art, and what is and isn't available for modern readers.

When I think of Alex Toth's art, three stories come immediately to mind -- Bravo for Adventure, which was a superbly drawn backup series in one of the 1980s Warren black and White magazines, perhaps The Rook or 1984; the Superman/Batman team-up Toth pencilled and Terry Austin inked that appeared in a DC annual somewhere around 1983; and an aviation-based war story that appeared in an EC Comics titled edited by Harvey Kurtzman, either Two Fisted Tales or Frontline Combat.

My memories of Toth's art coincide with the thread at The Engine because, as you may have noticed, I can't remember exactly what title and issue number any of those stories appeared in. Contrast that to another masterwork discussed in the thread, Bernard Krigstein's "Master Race," which I know appeared in Impact #1; or Lee and Kirby's "This Man, This Monster," which I immeditely remember was published in Fantastic Four #51. Or "Ice Haven," which was featured in Eightball #21.

Those latter three stories are all great examples of the very best of what has been accomplished in comics, and information about them is seared in my brain. Yet, where some of Toth's best work appeared somehow has not been so specifically imprinted on my brain. Why is that?

As noted in the thread, he did a lot of stuff for a lot of publishers, but it's hard to pin down anything you'd call a landmark run (perhaps his Eclipso, which is invoked in the thread, but I think I've maybe seen one of those stories, in an old reprint somewhere, and no real impression remains).

Digression: I just remembered another fantastic example of Toth's artistry: A Black Mask story that was a backup feature in an Archie superhero title in the 1980s; The Fly? How many of those did he draw? 2? 3? End of digression...

So Toth's influence was pretty wide -- as mentioned in the thread, we'd hardly have Steve Rude without him, and countless other very good artists have learned volumes by studying the way Toth used black ink and negative space -- but it seems unlikely any publisher would be able to put together a truly representative volume of the very best of the man's art. Too many copyrights, too many publishers, too many stories, not enough landmark moments or key runs.

I don't agree with the poster in The Engine thread that claims Toth was more of an innovator than Krigstein; I don't think the next ten guys in line thought as much about what could be done in comic art or accomplished as much, with as many obstacles in his way, as Krigstein did. And luckily Fantagraphics has two enormous and vital books dedicated to Krigstein's achievements, B. Krigstein and B. Krigstein Comics, which are mandatory reading for anyone who wants to enter a discussion of the peaks comic art has reached, and the potential yet untapped.

But Toth was a master artist, there's no doubt about that. If I were writing it today, certainly I would include him in my essay Ten Great Comics Artists, but perhaps it's this diffusion of Toth's impact over time that led me to neglect to include him.

It's telling, though, how many of the artists on that list demonstrate at least some, and in one case very powerful, influence by Toth's artistry.

I'd love to own the thousands of scanned pages Steven Grant talks about in that Engine thread; maybe someday, it will be legal and possible for such a project to happen, whether on a CD ROM, or more preferably in print, where Toth belongs.

In any case, at least people are talking about him again.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person -- Miriam Engelberg's "Memoir in Comics" details in a sardonic, straightforward manner her battles with cancer over a period of years. The book seems built-to-order for the segment of NPR's audience that is into a certain kind of graphic novel, and certainly Engelberg is an NPR listener, with frequent references to the network's programs. If she hasn't been vetted by Fresh Air, surely she will be by the end of the month.

You're not going to buy Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person for the art; Engelberg's text introduction details her early, abortive attempt at finding a collaborator to draw her comics. Ultimately she took matters fully into her own hands, and if the result is a potentially less elegant visual depiction of the events herein, it certainly is more immediate than just about any other style could easily to imagined to convey. Think of a slightly less experienced John Porcellino and you'll have a grasp on the style of the artwork. A quick glance at a page of colour art on the site (link likely to change, from the looks of how her site is set up) tells me that the book would have been considerably more effective visually if it had used that sort of colour, as it makes the flat images pop out more, but again, this is not a book you're buying to luxuriate in the art. You're buying it to learn about Engelberg's life and her battle against breast cancer.

Millions of people have experienced cancer, to be sure, but depictions of the endurance of illness over time are rare in comics; Pekar's My Cancer Year and the online-comic-gone-graphic-novel Mom's Cancer are the only other ones that come readily to mind. Engelberg's style of storytelling is firmly in the Pekar mold, a series of observational anecdotes with a powerful cumulative effect lending verisimilitude and a sense that the reader has learned, if not volumes about what it is to suffer a serious, life-threatening illness, at least a lot about the author's particular experience.

Engelberg keeps her tongue in cheek even in the darkest moments, reflecting with wit on such matters as the reaction of friends and acquaintances to her cancer, her own reaction to the disease in herself and others, and the various manners in which she attempted to distract herself from her ordeal while deepest in its tumult (hence the "Made Me A Shallower Person" in the title).

It's not a fun story, per se, but it is compelling, dramatic and at times very funny. I would not have expected, going into the book, to find myself laughing out loud, but there are moments where Engelberg's observational skills allowed no other response.

At some time in your life, you're very probably going to know someone with cancer; hopefully it won't be you. But as a journal of the experience, Engelberg's book is invaluable in the way it lets you into the thought process a cancer survivor goes through, and it's hard to imagine someone reading this work and not coming away at least a little better informed, if not better prepared.

Visit Mirian Engelberg's website.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Codename: Black Death #1 -- Did you see the season finale of The Shield a few weeks back? It featured one of the most shocking, visceral and disturbing moments in the show's history, as one of the least-ethical characters on the show murdered another far-from-innocent character in a particularly gruesome manner.

It was, as I said, shocking and disturbing; my wife actually was yelling to no one in particular, "He did not just do that! No way! HE DID NOT DO THAT!" And unlike me, my wife never yells at the TV.

But she was so immersed in the story and so outraged at the horrific act she just witnessed, because for the past five years The Shield has delivered "unique characters and compelling stories," something likewise promised in a text piece in this first issue. The Shield gives us what it promises. Codename: Black Death does not.

The reason I invoke The Shield as I reflect on Codename: Black Death is that there is a scene in this first issue similar to that memorable scene on from the show's season finale. In Codename: Black Death #1, we see a prosecuting attorney and his family wiped out by a bomb planted in their car, in order to put a halt to the case against a banker whose business is said to be a front for a huge money-laundering operation. With the help of a high-placed politician, the family is killed, and the underling who pushes the button setting off the explosive device that takes their lives chuckles "Heh heh heh, problem solved."

Now, the basic construction of the scene on The Shield was the same; the victim of the explosion is the only person who can testify against the Strike Team. The victim is not planning to, but the killer who takes the victim's life doesn't know that, so there is a layer of irony and drama added to the scene. Again, elements totally absent from the similar scene in Black Death #1.

Crucially, though, is the aftermath. On The Shield, the killer's grief and remorse at what he has done is palpable; you know that the second he's committed the murder he wishes more than anything that he could take it back. He did what he did because he is trying to protect his fellow crooks, men he loves like brothers. But he loved his victim, too, so there's an element of very human conflict introduced into the moment.

Contrast that, if you will, with "Heh heh heh, problem solved." The nameless, faceless thug who carries out the execution of an entire family feels nothing about what he has just done, most likely because the writer of the scene has thought nothing about what a real person might feel about carrying out such an horrific act.

Codename: Black Death is two-dimensional and sub-professional, but I can't say it isn't readable. I actually read it twice, wanting to be sure I had a handle on just why it's so unimpressive. It is typical of most amateur wanna-be superhero comics, in that it puts the origin story of its protagonist far ahead of the inclusion of any true human drama or attention to craft that would in any way distinguish it from more professionally-produced superhero comics.

In short, the world does not need Codename: Black Death, Agents of Talon or Devil's Claw, the three titles that are forthcoming from the ironically named Triumph Media Entertainment, LLC." There are plenty of superhero comics out there already, and virtually all of them are better than this.

The last time I gave a negative review to a comic that lamely emulates corporate comics, I actually got a phone call from one of the creators who wanted to explain to me what I was missing in his comic. I think in the course of that call that I actually was able to explain to the guy what he could do to at least make his book marginally better. So remembering that conversation, let me emphasize that I am sure that all the creators involved in Codename: Black Death are working as hard as they can to make the book as entertaining and compelling as they can.

The problem is that their very best is nowhere near the level of even Marvel or DC's most mediocre talents. While the people who created this comic book may someday make very good, professional superhero comics (as meager a goal as I might find that, personally), they have not done so yet, despite the claims of their text page. Codename: Black Death is the sort of thing that I imagine someone like Erik Larsen or Todd McFarlane was creating in their bedroom when they were 11, but thanks to the fact that it was much harder then to get a work into actual print, the only people who had to read it were friends and family members, who no doubt praised their work to the heavens, because they loved little Erik and Todd very much.

Comics like Codename: Black Death should be created in private and enjoyed the same way, as a way for their amateur creators to work on their craft and eventually perhaps even improve themselves. They should not be sent out into the marketplace full of promises they don't keep, with the expectation that everyone will love it as much as their friends and family told them they did, at the same price as much better comics that actually deliver on their promises, however limited those promises may be.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Five Questions for James Kochalka -- I last interviewed James Kochalka in January of this year, and while updating some stuff on my Kochalkaholic! blog, I noticed just how much has happened in Kochalka's career in the short few months that have passed since then. So I decided to once again ask him a few -- five to be precise -- questions about what's happened and what's about to happen in his life and career as a cartoonist and musician.

1. It's been announced that the long-awaited James Kochalka Superstar CD Spread Your Evil Wings and Fly will be released this August 29th. You and the band are planning a tour to coincide with the release of the CD; give me your best and worst-case scenarios for how the tour might go.

We're really planning a couple long-weekend length mini-tours. The first one, we'll do four days in a row nearby here... maybe Boston, Providence, New York City, and somewhere else close? It's amazing that we've never done anything like this before, and simple and pedestrian as it is.

For the second mini-tour we're looking for some insane fan or comic book store or college to front us the money to fly wherever they are, and then we'll build a tour around it. Similar things have happened before. A fan in Norman, Oklahoma flew us down there for his birthday one year, and last year a comic book store in Houston, Texas and the college radio station at Rice University teamed up to fly us down for
some show.

Best case scenario? This is all I'm really looking for: we all have a great time, band and audience. I'm hoping just to break even, but we expect to actually lose money.

I guess... worst case scenario... I can't take the strain of playing four shows in a row and I lose my voice, the shows are poorly attended and we lose money on the trip, and then while we're sleeping on the floor of some insane fan's apartment and they kill us in our sleep.

2. The song "Hockey Monkey" by yourself and The Zambonis was the theme song of a Fox TV series called "The Loop" that debuted this year, and the song has gone on to gain significant radio airplay. How this experience has affected your life and your work?

It has not really affected my life and work in any way whatsoever, that I've yet noticed. We got $25,000 for the song, but we split that five ways. Certainly the song was heard by millions and millions of people, but it hasn't led to huge sales. It did give us inroads to commercial radio. Up until now, my stuff has only been played on college radio, but after the show premiered we took a chance and sent the Hockey Monkey single out to 400 commercial and modern rock radio stations. Of those, I think about 20 or 25 started playing it. Most significantly, the SIRIUS satellite network started playing it on their most popular music channel, Alt Nation. It quickly climbed the charts there, eventually becoming the #1 most requested song. It's still way up there, it's been high on their charts for a couple months now. They've played the song HUNDREDS of times, it's unreal.

Now, I will get money from BMI for all this airplay and television play eventually, but I don't know how much. BMI's payment schedule has like a one-year delay. So this time next year I should know what it all adds up to.

3. This week sees the release in comic shops of the third issue of your teen superhero team comic Super-Fuckers. What can followers of your comics work look forward to in the next few months?

Oh, other than the third SuperF*ckers (#277)? Nothing, I guess. I'm working on the fourth issue right now, I'm halfway done with page 12. It's too early to tell with issue 4, but issue 3 is absolutely gruesome! Gruesome is my new cool word I'm going to start using to replace "awesome."

I forgot, there's a great comic in the booklet for Spread Your Evil Wings and Fly. That comes out August 29 in the USA, and a day earlier in the UK. Anyhow, the comic is titled Genius in the Basement, and it's about a monster living in my basement. But it's really about me.

In the fall, Book Two of American Elf will come out, unless Top Shelf goes out of business before that. It will collect all my diary strips from 2004 and 2005, in full color no less.

I'm also just finishing up my first children's book for Random House. It won't come out until August 2007, and we're not sure what the title will be. It juxtaposes alternating pages of verse and comics. The editing process is really intense, but we've hammered my usual loosey-goosey storying-telling style into something as solid as the great classic childrens books, I think. Here's a few of the titles we're looking at: Squirrelly Gray and the Magic Nut, Squirrelly Gray's Rainy Forest, or When the World Was Gray. Actually we've got a list of dozens of titles, so many it's impossible to choose. I think we'll go with the most simple... just plain: Squirrelly Gray.

4. For the past year or so you've been an instructor at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Tell
me what you've learned about cartooning and cartoonists as a result of your work there?

Here's what it really takes to be a great cartoonist: You've got to have the fire and the will-power and at least a little spark of genius. I knew that before, though. It's exciting to be a part of the school, though. It's just fun to teach. It's fun to help them become better cartoonists. I'm not down there a lot, but I love it when I am. It's inspiring.

5. A few years back you quit your job at a Chinese restaurant (and even did a comic about it, coincidentally enough called "Quit Your Job") to devote yourself full-time to your comics and your music. If you could go back in time to your last day at that job and tell your younger self what the next few years would be like and maybe give him some advice, what would you say to that younger James Kochalka?

That would be weird and scary, to meet the younger me. Meeting an even younger me than that, maybe college age would be the scariest of all. But I suppose the younger me would be scared too, so it would all even out.

Anyhow, I had no idea making a living as a cartoonist would be so goddamn easy. I didn't need any advice, all I needed to do was work hard and hustle, and I did that. Now... if I could go back and meet the much-younger me instead, maybe I could teach the much-younger me how to knuckle down and how to hustle and I could've jump-started my career a decade earlier.

Visit James Kochalka's americanelf.com.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Great Advice for Good Bloggers -- I'd say the Christopher Butcher model is most reflected in this piece on blog post frequency by Eric Kintz. Butcher may not post every day, but it's almost always compelling and link-worthy.

Participants in the new mini-phenom of co-opted group blogs [Blog@Newsarama, Comics Should Be Good] would do well to read this essay. I've bookmarked both of them and even linked 'em in the sidebar, but honestly the dozens and dozens of posts they've racked up in the past week all run together in a blur when I try to think about them. [via Lost Remote]


Friday, June 09, 2006

Jaxon Dead at 65 -- I was sorry to read at The Engine the news that Jack "Jaxon" Jackson has died. He was a true pioneer of the graphic novel form, and I hope that his passing results in more of his work coming back into print for readers to see just how gifted a storyteller and historian he was.

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Wonder Woman #1 -- As much as the past couple of years' worth of Big Events at Marvel and DC have failed to entertain me, I had hopes cracking this open that a new era would begin for one of comics' most iconic characters, that a writer (Allen Heinberg) who had done such a great job on the initial batch of issues of Young Avengers would once again surprise me and make a comic I thought I wouldn't be interested in much more than I expected.

Unlike Young Avengers, there's nothing here to bring me back for a second issue. In point of fact, it seems the book is aimed squarely and solely at people who've been buying up those infinite Crises and Houses of M; the pandering to the fanboy portion of the audience is about all this issue has going for it.

When George Perez recreated the Wonder Woman mythos a couple of decades ago, he was careful to develop a supporting cast of genuine human beings for Princess Diana of Themyscira to interact with, all the better for readers to relate to this Amazon warrior as the foundations were being laid for her new era.

Here, though, there's barely a real human in the book; the ones that are there are mere background and window-dressing, and the one person you'll think is a genuine human being is, well, not so much. By the end of the story you'll realize there's nothing here but baiting and switching; the Wonder Woman of the cover and first page isn't who new readers will expect, nor will she be anyone that they will ever have heard of. Longtime readers will know who she is and maybe even be thrilled at the prospect of a new Wonder Woman, but in that case, why start over with a new #1?

More to the point, though, is that there's nothing human or compelling that happens in this story. It's strongly tied into the distasteful events of DC's recent history, with the obligatory flashback to Diana's murder of Max Lord, the machinations of a trio of under-motivated and ill-explained villains, and absolutely nothing to compel any but the most already-committed of Wonder Woman readers to come back next month to see where the "story" goes from here.

It feels editor-driven, as if Heinberg's skills are being restrained and impaired by the mandate to include elements A, B, and C of the established Wonder Woman mythology, but element S is a fakeout, and the only charge I got out of the book at all was a bit of amusement from the image on the very last page, which panders to fans even older than I am, and I remind you that I turned 40 last January.

Oh, the art. Well, my disinterest in the story is such that it hardly even matters, but if you enjoy the slick professionalism of Terry and Rachel Dodson, here's a big serving of it. To date, they always seem to draw well, but never anything I can actually say I am interested in.

So no, I'm not the audience for this book, and although I will give my copy to my 12-year-old daughter now that I am through with it, I can't believe she'll be blown away by it either. There's no clever hooks, no compelling drama, just some pretty pictures and a lot of nods to people who would have bought this whether it was Wonder Woman #1, or #473, or #811.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bluesman Book Three Preview -- Check out the gorgeous artwork of Pablo G. Callejo in a preview of Bluesman Book Three at The Pulse.

And I note with glee that Bluesman writer Rob Vollmar is hinting at a new, remastered and expanded edition of The Castaways over on his blog.

Rob and Pablo make great comics, 'nuff said!


ADD Blog Hits The Big 0-4 -- It took me a while rooting around on webarchive.org, but this page has my first-ever ADD Blog posting, from four years ago today. The reason that page isn't in the archives in the sidebar over there on the right, as you may or may not know, is that eventually this blog mutated into its own site, addblog.com, before coming back home here to Comic Book Galaxy. Therefoe this is the third or so incarnation of the blog, and the fact that it works at all is a minor miracle given my technical abilities and the whims of the Blogger interface.

I do want to thank Neilalien for all his advice, technical help and suggestions over the years. In addition to being one of the longest-lasting and most entertaining comics bloggers, he is also unmatched in his knowledge and understanding about how the internet and blogging works (or should work). It's very possible I wouldn't still be doing this if not for his friendship and help, so, thank you, Neil.

Thanks also to my friend and fellow-Galaxy co-conspirator Christopher Allen, whose friendship, feedback and occasional wet-noodle lashings have been invaluable in how I approach my writing, my blogging, and my waitresses (hah!). Seriously, Chris and I have been doing this thing together and seperately for a long time now, and getting to bounce ideas off a noggin as sharp and observant as his has been a genuine thrill and a real education. I still want to be Chris Allen when I grow up.

And thanks to all of you for reading this blog, whether you're just visiting for the first time or you actually remember all the way back to June of 2002. Remember how big cell phones were way back then? They were enormous! Ha ha!

Anyways, thanks for stopping by these past four years here at the ADD Blog!


Five Questions for Jason Marcy --Jay's graphic novels are autobiographical, blunt, occasionally dirty, and funny as hell. He's a keen, often furious observer of human behaviour, but his love for his family and his affection for the work of James Kochalka both speak to a more whimsical and human side that was on spectacular display in his well-received third book in the Jay's Days series, Pasta Shop Lothario. That most recent of his graphic novels delved into both his fascination with his s teenage co-workers and the birth of his son -- see, the guy's a perfect example of the dual nature of man.

Jason Marcy's a buddy of mine, so there's your disclaimer. No, wait, there's even more self-interest at work here, I have a story in his forthcoming book MY DAY IN THE LIFE OF JAY, a mostly-true recounting of the long weekend my family and I spent with Jay and his wife Kris and son Xander last year. Not that I expect to get anything back from my participation in the project except the pride of being a part of a book by one of my favourite cartoonists. I caught up with him this week to get the scoop on his new books, and to tip you off that these are going to be fun, entertaining volumes you'll be glad you picked up.

Cover art to MY DAY IN THE LIFE OF JAY by Jason Marcy and Friends.1. What did you learn about yourself from the stories turned in for MY DAY IN THE LIFE OF JAY?

That people seemingly like me more than they hate me! I was really okay if folks wanted to go open season on me in a bad way, and it didn't turn out like that at all. Not that people didn't get in their licks mind you, but I was touched by the feeling expressed in some of the works. Ron Gravelle's comes to mind, and of course Joe Meyer's. Jeremy Kaposy handed in a top notch dissection of the "Jay experience" in my mind, kind of an eye opening thing really.Even Andrew Foster came through in the end with a bitingly real Jay moment.

As for those who either only know me through my comics or through cons, well, they were great. Chip Zdarsky, Kagan McLeod, Ben
Shannon...hell they were all great pieces. In the end it was an amazing experiment, so much so that I've now turned my attention to a book with my scripts/other folks art, like a Harvey Pekar project.

2. You've recently been working with cartoonist Chip Zdarsky on your book design, what have you learned from Chip?

Chip is very much a perfectionist, and he's been hard on me, y'know? "Why did you do this like that?" and "How come you don't know this stuff, Jay?". He's been great actually. In fact, all the guys from the Royal Academy of Illustration and Design have been awesome in their support of my little efforts. No doubt I've
exasperated Chip a lot, but he's been very patient and helpful. I'm miles ahead with my understanding of Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign because of him, and in a very short period of time.

3. You're going the Print on Demand route for your two new books after working with a number of small-press publishers. Tell me what brought you to POD.

It's really how the other books were done too. I decided on POD because right now it facilitates my immediate needs, which is low print run graphic novels at reasonable prices. I don't need say a minimum of three hundred books for a couple of thousand dollars. If and when I solicit these books, I'll go from the orders and print exactly what I need. A lot of people have been haranguing me on this, but riight now, it makes financial sense to not over order a book, and POD gives me the freedom to order whenever I need product with minimum hassle.

Cover art to JASON MARCY'S BOOK OF HATE by Jason Marcy.4. Your other new book is JASON MARCY'S BOOK OF HATE. Tell me what fills you with hate more than anything else in the world.

Huh. It's hard to say really. I often get filled with petty jealous feelings over others success. I really hate that part of me. In the big wide world, I'd probably say general intolerance, and again I cover my own times when I feel that type of thing too. The book really covers a lot of what HATE can mean to me, I think.

5. I get as excited about a new Jay Marcy comic as I do about one by Harvey Pekar, James Kochalka or Robert Crumb, just to name three creators whose work, I think, has been an influence on yours. And yet, you haven't achieved the readership levels of those perhaps better-known cartoonists, and you've talked about that on your LiveJournal and in your comics. Yet here you are with two new books on the horizon, plugging away. What keeps you making comics after all these years?

What else am I gonna do? If I keep plugging, maybe someone'll take notice and say,"Hey, that bald guy ain't half bad." and come and rescue me with a book deal or something.

Comics are in me to be done, so to speak. Gotta create, gotta use my voice to let the world know I'm here in a way I can. It's this or catching chickens as a side job. Hey, that may pay better.

Visit jasonmarcy.com.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Start Your Own Comics Shop -- Jim Crocker of Modern Myths in Northampton, Massachusetts is one of the smartest comics shop owners I've ever had the pleasure to meet, and runs probably one of the top ten greatest comic shops in the country.

And now he's sharing his business plan with prospective comic shop owners.

Here's a hint...if you can't get through all 18 pages filled with excitement about how great his ideas are, you're probably going to fail as a comics retailer.


Chris Staros Talks Lost Girls -- In a thoughtful and frank discussion at Newsarama, Top Shelf Publisher Chris Staros talks about Lost Girls, including the legal issues and the risk-taking aspect of publishing such a large, expensive collection. (My own thoughts on the book are here).


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Roger's Talking Equal Marriage Rights -- And I talk back. Click over to Ramblin' with Roger.


Jay's Hates -- Did you know autobio cartoonist Jason Marcy is actually prepping two new graphic novels? In addition to My Day in the Life of Jay (stories by Jay's pals about Jay, story by me in it, also illos by my daughter, blah, blah, blah -- you ARE gonna buy a copy, right?), Jay is also about to release Jason Marcy's Book of Hate!.

Here's a look at the cover art.

Order early and often, gang, these are gonna be some major fun funnybooks, and great summer reads.


Warnock on McCloud Lecture -- Brett recounts what Scott McCloud is talking about these days over at Hey, Bartender! The Top Shelf Blog.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

An Infusion of Vitamin ADD -- If you enjoy my writing -- hey, you're here, right? -- you might be interested to know I have added a ton of my older opinion columns to the commentary page and quite a few previously unlisted reviews to my brand-new alphabetical ADD reviews archive.

So, if you ever wondered what I thought of a bunch of comics I forgot ever reading, never mind actually reviewing, check 'em out.

Keep in mind many of the opinions you'll read are quite a few years old, and may not completely reflect my thoughts circa 2006 CE, but, I kind of got a kick out of scanning through the ancient archives...


Friday, June 02, 2006

New Jay Marcy Interview -- Over at Stumblebum Studios, the spotlight's on Jason Marcy. I cannot wait to get my hands on his next book, My Day in the Life of Jay, which, not for nothin', includes a story written by yours truly and illustrated by Jay his own self. Having that in my hands is going to be one of the coolest moments of the year for me.


Warnock on The Hell of From Hell -- Over on his ubercool blog Hey, Bartender, Brett Warnock looks at the difficulties Top Shelf has had republishing From Hell, which to date is the most complex and rewarding graphic novel ever to be published.

In the same post, Brett takes a brief look at Dan Nadel's Art Out of Time, and feels the same way I do about the oxymoronic inclusion of Rory Hayes's work in the volume. Brett must have better eyesight than I do, because he is the first person to comment on the book who doesn't mention the difficulty of reading the newspaper comic strips that are reproduced way too small throughout the volume.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Art Out of Time -- Dan Nadel's hardcover art book surveys some of the wonkiest, almost-forgotten comics of the 20th century.

There's some wonderful stuff in the book, but most of the newspaper strips are reproduced at a ridiculously small size. Art Out of Time should either have been larger, or the strips excluded in favour of comics that more comfortably fit the format.

Probably my favourite stories in the book were by Bob Powell and Howard Nostrand, two journeyman artists who are showcased in truly bizarre little stories. This was also my first exposure to HERBIE THE FAT FURY, and found that, uh, not as entertaining or interesting as some people apparently have over the years.

I also found Rory Hayes much less interesting than I had previously heard; his inclusion in the book doesn't really make much sense, but, Nadel tries to explain it away in the text.

I may sound more negative than I mean to -- I think the plusses outweigh the minuses, and it's a great package of rarely-seen works by some pretty strange talents. The biggest flaw is the small size of the newspaper strips, but virtually all of the comic book material included is of interest in one way or another, and the design and production values are outstanding.

The Spurge had a nice preview of the book recently.


What I Learned from 52 #4 -- Dan Jurgens doesn't know the meaning of the word Avatar.


The Isotope is Five -- Big congratulations to James Sime and the gang at Isotope, celebrating their fifth anniversary today. James is one of a handful of comics retailers working to (you guessed it) Push Comix Forward within the direct market, and that he's made such progress over the course of the past half-decade is well worth celebrating. Here's to five -- or fifty! -- more, James!






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