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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Butcher on Script Writing -- Back from Japan, Christopher Butcher goes into detail about the creation of a comic script he wrote, for the Belle and Sebastian tribute collection. Included are lots of background details, art (including photo reference used for the story) and best of all, the entire script. Click on over if you're interested in how comics are made, it's a great piece.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Story of OH! -- I've had an advance look at a new adult webcomic called The Story of OH! by Charles Alverson and JL Roberson, and it looks fantastic. Click the image for full-size...

Here's the scoop from JL himself:

THE STORY OF OH!...is somewhat parodic, and a chance for me to indulge my love of the great Guido Crepax, whose version of the original O is what started me down this seedy road of adult cartooning. But by far the greatest honor in this, for me, is that it represents my second occasion to work with my special guest writer, the one, the only, Charles Alverson! In addition to his longtime work in journalism, Charles is known as the editor, under Harvey Kurtzman, of the legendary HELP! Magazine. Even more famously, he has collaborated twice with director Terry Gilliam, having written the screenplay for Jabberwocky (still beats Holy Grail in the Dark Ages Comedy category hands down), and the original draft, called “The Ministry,” of what became Brazil. But he’s one of the world’s great humorists no matter what side of the Atlantic he’s on at the moment. Charles, via Jabberwocky, is one of my biggest influences, so it’s a huge kick to get to draw his work.

The strip will be available at Adult Web Comics beginning tomorrow, so click over, bookmark that page and keep an eye on what looks to be a visually stunning new webcomic.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Monday Briefing -- Mmm, blood work this morning. Fasting blood work. Man, was I ever hungry when it was over. Plus, I could hardly pee in the cup at all. I feel like Garfield saying this, but it's definitely Monday.

* I've never really gotten into his comics, but that doesn't stop me from recommending Tom Spurgeon's insightful interview with Steven Weissman. Actually, I found the look into why he does what he does and how he does it quite interesting.

* By the way, Eightball #22 is not pornography. I have no idea what this teacher's motives were in giving it to a young student, but I can tell you what my motivation was when I gave it to my daughter, who was about the same age at the time: Ice Haven is one of the very best, most literate and entertaining stories ever created in the comics artform, and should be mandatory reading for everyone. Period.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Darwyn Cooke Comics Journal -- I meant to mention this in the previous post, but it deserves its own post anyway.

The new Comics Journal features an extraordinary interview with animator/cartoonist Darwyn Cooke. It's one of those long, detailed chats the Journal does so well that makes you want to go re-read everything the subject has ever created. Reading it, I was really struck by that retarded piece Mike Sangiacomo once wrote about how styles like Cooke's aren't suited for superhero comics. This interview proves rather the opposite. Cooke is an iconoclast and a visionary of the very first order, a young buck (relatively speaking) with the sensibilities, instincts and talents seen in very few creators in comics history. To my way of thinking, he stands a a modern peer to geniuses like Bernie Krigstein, Alex Toth, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby and Gil Kane. His work is a tribute to the very best of what has come before in the artform, and a signpost of the very best of what might come in the future. Kudos to Michael Dean, Markisan Naso and everybody at The Journal for delivering one of the most important, enlightening and entertaining interviews in the magazine this year (or any other).

There's other good stuff in there too, of course, including a good interview with Ernie Colon, who was a favourite of mine from his Richie Rich days and pretty much anywhere I could find him from there. He always struck me as a synthesis of Walt Simonson and Gil Kane's styles, and he has a lot of interesting stuff to say about the industry, especially his days at DC.

I also like the letter from a creator who had been reviewed in a previous issue by Galaxy alum Rob Vollmar. Rob is one of the greats of comics criticism circa 2007, and now everybody can see why.

Saturday Morning -- Yes, I think I am feeling better, thanks very much. I made it through the entire work day yesterday, and even went out with my wife after work for a nice meal and a trip to the funnybook store. I still have a bit of a cough, but keep your fingers crossed that that doesn't turn into anything worse, as it often does.

Confidential to CA: I was having dinner with my wife when you called last night, sorry dude. :-(

Funnybooks: Black Ghost Apple Factory by Jeremy Tinder is sweet, funny, touching and thoughtful. Even a bit emo, to borrow a word from my daughter, who has never heard of Emo Phillips. It's a really solid collection of short stories that kept me amused and engaged all the way through. I liked Tinder's earlier Cry Yourself to Sleep, but Black Ghost is even better.

More funnybooks: Second issue of Ellis's Doktor Sleepless entertained me. It's not as brutally entertaining as Black Summer, and there's a lot of Ellis going on about cell phones and social networks, as he is wont to do. But I'd rather read that than anything at all by most of the people writing for Marvel and DC these days. I also picked up Ennis's new western thing Avatar is publishing, but I haven't read it yet.

Also funnybooks: I'm almost done reading My Life in a Jugular Vein by Ben Snakebite, about whom I can find virtually no information online. It's a collection of daily diary strips by a 30-ish punk rocker who lives in Austin, Texas. It's a bit samey after a while -- almost every strip has him making out with a cute girl, eating Mexican food, working at a video store or touring with one of numerous punk rock groups -- but like James Kochalka's diary strips, Snakebite lets you into his world with his whole heart. Sometimes he comes off like a dick, sometimes he seems like the greatest guy in the world. And he always makes me hungry for Mexican food. His art and writing are a little like John Porcellino's, so if you like King Cat, you may really dig the comics of Ben Snakebite.

Not funnybooks: El Mexicano in Hudson Falls, New York is probably my favourite Mexican restaurant in the world right now. I'm a long way from Austin, obviously, but El Mex is the most authentic Mexican food I've ever had, a family-run place that has never, ever served me anything less than extraordinarily wonderful food with a great atmosphere and amazing service. Worth a trip from anywhere in a hundred-mile radius, Roger. (Assuming you like Mexican.)

Hmm, any more funnybooks? I got the new James Sturm's America collection from D&Q but have not cracked it open yet. It collects three of his powerful takes on life in America, and having read them all, I can tell you that it's essential reading if you've never dug into his stuff.

Still feeling better, 10 minutes after starting this post. Amazing. Well, my big plan for the day is to pick up some groceries and get a haircut. It looks like a lovely day outside, so I'm gonna pop a Claritan and venture out into it. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sick as a Dog -- A pretty severe allergy attack earlier this week seems to have turned into a chest cold...or maybe pneumonia. So I've been in bed most of the past couple of days, but I wanted to check in with a couple thoughts...

* Steven Grant is the latest to weigh in on the failure of Wildstorm's Highwaymen. As always, Grant makes some apt observations. And as I mentioned in my review of the first issue, and Grant seems to agree, "It has all been done better before." I found the first issue boring and utterly unengaging, and when I left it laying on a table where all the members of my family might find it (something I often do with books I don't care for but that someone else might like), it went untouched and unread for months before I finally threw it away. I know the writer recently examined the possible causes for the title's failure, but the fact that "Maybe it wasn't as good as I thought it was," wasn't on the list doesn't speak well for his self-reflective faculties, and therefore his chances of longterm success in comics.

* The new Superman Doomsday straight-to-DVD movie is a blast. Bruce Timm is heavily involved, so you'd expect it to be good, and it is. Very. I pine for the glory days of DC Animated series on my teevee, and so miss the voices that brought these characters vividly to life over the past 15 years or so, but Adam Baldwin as Superman, Anne Heche as Lois, and James Marsters as Lex Luthor (the hardest part to inherit, from the extraordinary Clancy Brown) all do fine work. Best of all, the movie is far better than the comics that inspired it. It's on sale locally for 20 bucks, and is a steal at that price.

I think I'm going back to bed now.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Numbers Game -- This started as my answer to a question on the CBG message board: "Why does Jeph Loeb keep getting work in superhero comics?"

To have a career in superhero comics, you must possess at least two of these three attributes:

1. Be talented
2. Meet your deadlines consistently
3. Have friends in the industry (or, a recent alternate to this one, be considered famous outside comics)

Loeb is obviously a 2/3. See also Johns, Straczynski, and Meltzer, the other fan-fiction-writing cancers on superhero comics. I was going to include Bendis, but at one time he was a good writer, a former 1/2 who became a 2/3.

Alan Moore in his glory days was a 1/2. So was Kirby, Kane, and most other people you would think of as masters of the artform who also toiled within the superhero trademark maintenance machine.

The ones that really aggravate fans are the 1/3 crowd. How many creators can you name that are talented, but always late, yet they're forgiven and continue to receive assignments because they have friends in the industry or are considered famous outside comics? Bryan Hitch, Kevin Smith, Frank Quitely...who else?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Paul O'Brien is Not A Comics Critic -- Shocking, I know, but it's a conclusion I came to some time ago. And Dick got me talking about it in the comments after this excellent post.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The View from Six Years -- Today marks the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. I remember vividly, as I am sure you do, where I was and what I was doing six years ago today. And five years ago today, in 2002, when I wrote the first version of this essay.

At that time I said "my righteous rage at the opportunists that have used September 11th to further their own hidden agenda will do no good. You either realize how vile the people running this country are, or you do not. It's not as if any real effort to disguise their base thuggery is even being attempted. As long as you wrap yourself in the flag, and nude statues in blankets, it seems anything goes, and most of it is being done quite obviously, with a snide contempt for a depressingly compliant populace."

Not much has changed. George W. Bush and his illegal government -- illegally placed into office in late 2000 and raping democracy ever since -- have continued their monstrous misdeeds, unindicted and unpunished. Maybe that will change. I certainly hope so, at this late date. Estimates are that a million lives or more have been lost since the illegal and unnecessary Iraq war was launched. Lost not only to combat, but to the poverty and disease and other "unexpected consequences" of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Not that Saddam Hussein was a bad man; he was. But the murder of one monster by another is hardly cause for celebration, particularly when my nation's fate remains in the sweaty, miserable hands of the surviving monster.

I love the U.S. and I realize that it used to be one of the best, most free nations on Earth. Used to be. Therefore I am deeply ashamed that its citizens have continued to tolerate a blatantly illegitimate, democracy-despising and greed-driven junta that has used the awful events of September 11th, 2001 as justification for suspending the civil rights of U.S. citizens, murdering foreigners and lining the pockets of their political and industrial allies.

If I have one hope left, after over a half-decade of the televised rape of my nation, it is that I live long enough to see the thugs, monsters and bastards that have fucked up my country -- from Bush on down to his sniveling partners in the mass media -- that I live long enough to see them indicated and brought to justice for their crimes against democracy, decency and humanity. If there's one thing that the 21st Century is crying out for here in its infancy, it is a mammoth market correction in the political arena that ends in Nuremberg-style trials televised across the globe and enforced by an international body empowered to enforce U.S. and international law on this most lawless of regimes.

I continue to hope that people will take the time to learn the truth of our world post-September 11th and recognize what Bush and his gang of thugs have been up to ever since. The people who are running the U.S. continue to try to use ignorance and fear to put forth their own obscene agenda, but as the rats desert the sinking ship and a precious few lawmakers investigate the possibilities of impeachment -- the very minimum acceptable possible response to the past six years, for my money -- still, I have hope that things will turn around.

But as it stands, six years on, the evil at home is still strong, and far more damaging than any foreign enemy. If it makes me unpatriotic or unsympathetic or uncaring to point it out on this of all days, there it is. On this of all days, when we remember the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11/01, the best way we can celebrate their memory and respect their sacrifice is to work to remove the power from those who have committed far worse atrocities against humanity and against our democracy every single day since that awful Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001.

Six years on, I still fear that our national will is too weak to do what obviously must be done. If Bush and Cheney are allowed to finish out their illegitimate terms of office and retire to lives of wealth and leisure without punishment, without consequence, and without justice, that will be an obscenity and a crime many times worse than the obscenities and crimes we all watched six years ago today.

Six years on, I am angrier than ever, and my nation, which wants to believe it leads the world, is more lost and far from its ideals than it has ever been in its entire history. It's sickening, how far we've fallen, and how little hope there remains of ever truly setting things right.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Monday Briefing -- In which I try to catch up on recent goings-on...

* I was really, really surprised by how much I enjoyed Buffy Season 8 #6 from last week. I was enjoying Joss Whedon's writing and dreading Brian K. Vaughan's arc, both because it was notWhedon and because Vaughan is generally not my cup of tea. But damn if he doesn't capture the voices of the characters extremely well, and the plot itself is worthy of Buffy mythology overall. The single off-note for me was Faith's anatomy on the final page, which looked just slightly inhuman, but the story itself is very, very good and gives me hope that all of Season 8 is going to be as much fun as the first few issues have been.

* Have you been checking out Christopher Butcher's amazing photos of he and his husband's Japan trip? They are some amazing shots. Here's Day One and Day Two.

* What are you doing tomorrow? Have you had enough yet?

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