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Monday, September 29, 2008

 
Ebert on the McCain/Obama Debate -- Roger rarely gets this political, but it's a great piece that thinks a lot more about last week's debate than I bothered to do.

I think McCain's contempt for Obama, and for every unrich and/or nonwhite person in the country is beyond obvious; it is, in fact, the key plank of his platform, and the platform of his party, The Party That Wrecked America. But as I have painfully learned over the last eight years, what is obvious to me is obviously great to millions of people who have supported Bush's violent, cynical destruction of a formerly great nation.

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The 50 Things Meme -- Started by Spurgeon, continued by Frug and Brady, and here's my list, with a modified key first:

Plain - I don't have at all
Bold - I do have
Italics - I have had in the past but sold or lost or traded away
Underline - I have, but not in its originally published form

1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library (as much of it as I have been able to find/afford)
2. A Complete Run Of Arcade
3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics (I can never get enough!)
4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s
5. A Barnaby Collection
6. Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary
7. As Many Issues of RAW as You Can Place Your Hands On (wish I had kept these so bad it hurts)
8. A Little Stack of Archie Comics
9. A Suite of Modern Literary Graphic Novels (kind of the entire purpose of my life)
10. Several Tintin Albums
11. A Smattering Of Treasury Editions Or Similarly Oversized Books (My Superman vs. Spider-Man from 1976 is the one comic I have owned the longest without interruption, i.e., selling and then later reacquiring; everyone should have Storeyville)
12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series
13. A Few Early Comic Strip Collections To Your Taste (I only have the first Fanta Popeye volume at the moment)
14. Several "Indy Comics" From Their Heyday
15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books
16. At Least One Comic That Failed to Finish The Way It Planned To (Big Numbers and 1963 come immediately to mind)
17. Some Osamu Tezuka
18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series (I'm counting the Tatsumi D&Q hardcovers)
19. One Or Two 1970s Doonesbury Collections
20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover
21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped
22. A Selection of Comics That Interest You That You Can't Explain To Anyone Else
23. At Least One Woodcut Novel
24. As Much Peanuts As You Can Stand
25. Maus
26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks (I have tons of Crumb, but only Gotta Have 'Em as far as sketchbook stuff)
27. The original edition of Sick, Sick, Sick.
28. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics
29. Several copies of MAD
30. A stack of Jack Kirby 1970s Comic Books
31. More than a few Stan Lee/Jack Kirby 1960s Marvel Comic Books
32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix
33. Some Calvin and Hobbes (I have the Complete Calvin and Hobbes, plus the 10th Anniversary book Tom talks about and a few other strays)
34. Some Love and Rockets
35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber (did you know the cover to this issue is the best superhero cover of the past 20 years?*)
36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue (I have French Authority albums that are beautiful, and Italian Mazzucchelli collections, ditto)
37. A Nice Stack of Jack Chick Comics (used to have most of these; lived in the South)
38. A Stack of Comics You Can Hand To Anybody's Kid
39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics (I have as many of them as I can; hey, have copies of Miracleman 15 and 16 you'd like to trade?)
40. A Comic You Made Yourself (thinking of the story I wrote for My Day in the Life of Jay, illustrated by Jason Marcy)
41. A Few Comics About Comics (McCloud, of course, comes to mind, but I love Huizenga's thing for the Center for Cartoon Studies)
42. A Run Of Yummy Fur
43. Some Frank Miller Comics (I have a lot of the good ones, and also stuff he's done in the past 20 years)
44. Several Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man Comic Books
45. A Few Great Comics Short Stories
46. A Tijuana Bible
47. Some Weirdo
48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres (I should hope so, being more of a comics reader than a superhero "fan")
49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two
50. A Few Collections From New Yorker Cartoonists

* Meta-humour for longtime readers

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Friday, September 26, 2008

 
All You Need to Know About Minx -- Here's Christopher Butcher with the informed analysis about the implosion of DC's Minx imprint.

I didn't like the two or three Minx titles I tried, but I was well aware that they were in no way aimed at me, so I didn't really hold it against them.

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Songs for The End of the World -- Here are the lyrics to U2's The End of the World:
Haven't seen you in quite a while
I was down the hold just passing time
Last time we met was a low-lit room
We were as close together as a bride and groom
We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time
Except you
You were talking about the end of the world
I took the money
I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You lead me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You...you were acting like it was
The end of the world
(Love...love...)

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You...you said you'd wait
'til the end of the world
And City of Dreams by the Talking Heads:
Here where you are standing
The dinosaurs did a dance
The Indians told a story
Now it has come to pass

The Indians had a legend
The Spaniards lived for gold
The white man came and killed them
But they haven't really gone

We live in the city of dreams
We drive on the highway of fire
Should we awake
And find it gone
Remember this, our favorite town

From Germany and Europe
And southern U.S.A.
They made this little town here
That we live in to this day

The children of the white man
Saw Indians on tv
And heard about the legend
How their city was a dream

We live in the city of dreams
We drive on the highway of fire
Should we awake
And find it gone
Remember this, our favorite town

The Civil War is over
And World War One and Two
If we can live together
The dream it might come true

Underneath the concrete
The dream is still alive
A hundred million lifetimes
A world that never dies

We live in the city of dreams
We drive on the highway of fire
Should we awake
And find it gone
Remember this, our favorite town
And Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street:
Looking down on empty streets, all she can see
Are the dreams all made solid
Are the dreams all made real

All of the buildings, all of those cars
Were once just a dream
In somebody's head

She pictures the broken glass, she pictures the steam
She pictures a soul
With no leak at the seam

Let's take the boat out
Wait until darkness
Let's take the boat out
Wait until darkness comes

Nowhere in the corridors of pale green and gray
Nowhere in the suburbs
In the cold light of day

There in the midst of it so alive and alone
Words support like bone

Dreaming of Mercy Street
Wear your inside out
Dreaming of mercy
In your daddy's arms again
Dreaming of Mercy Street
swear they moved that sign
Dreaming of mercy
In your daddy's arms

Pulling out the papers from the drawers that slide smooth
Tugging at the darkness, word upon word

Confessing all the secret things in the warm velvet box
To the priest, he's the doctor
He can handle the shocks

Dreaming of the tenderness, the tremble in the hips
Of kissing Mary's lips

Dreaming of Mercy Street
Wear your insides out
Dreaming of mercy
In your daddy's arms again
Dreaming of Mercy Street
swear they moved that sign
Looking for mercy
In your daddy's arms

Mercy, mercy, looking for mercy
Mercy, mercy, looking for mercy

Anne, with her father is out in the boat
Riding the water
Riding the waves on the sea
These songs would be my soundtrack for the end of the world.

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What Comes Next -- Watching the news this morning, I would expect unless some deus ex machina solution to the collapse of the financial system is announced, we'll start seeing runs on the (remaining) banks -- look for ATMs as empty as the gas pumps in the south -- quickly followed by martial law, and the endgame of the Bush nightmare, a suspension of the election (proposed before, in 2004) and an extension of his illegal Presidency, which literally has destroyed the country.

How extraordinary to see longtime Republican shill Ed Rollins totally throw Bush under the bus on CNN this morning, saying his administration is not a "lame duck," but a "dead duck." Will Bush stand by idly while his party blames him for the end of America? Or will he grab all the power he can like the madman he is, and always has been?

I can't tell you how much I wish I felt like writing about funnybooks right now.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

 
Ordinary Human Poverty -- Go read this.

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At 1:20 in the Morning I Kind of FEEL Like The Walking Dead -- Long day of training on a new system yesterday, which was immediately preceded by a sleepless night of not feeling terribly well. Bad combination, although the training went very well and was immediately followed by pizza.

I really like this Tom Spurgeon review of The Walking Dead. I haven't kept up on the title in recent years, but it's one I am tempted to jump back in to from time to time, both because it's not superheroes, and because its craft elements are absolutely rock-solid.

Anybody watch Monday night's Big Bang Theory? Is Sheldon not the Spock/Fonzie/Kramer/President Bartlett breakout character? The scene where he comes home zonked out on milk and valium ("I drank milk that tasted funny") was so funny I've watched it four or five times now, and it still makes me laugh ("I'm Batman. Shh!")

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Monday, September 22, 2008

 
America Nationalizes Its Banks and Runs Out of Gas -- Here's a good piece from Time Magazine on the nationalization of the U.S. financial system, and a CNN iReport video on how the country is beginning to run out of gas. And here's Jim Kunstler on the whole sorry catastrophe.

The government's shell game (which cup is our last ten cents under?) is the last gasp of our formerly wealthy nation. Remember The Clinton Era surpluses? I bet you'd allow him all the blowjobs in the world if we could have that cash back now.

My friend Brian asked me the other day what he should do with his 401k. I suggested buying a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and using whatever's left for toilet paper.

Unless McCain or Obama have space aliens hiding in the wings with a way out of this mess, it won't be long before that's all U.S. currency is good for.

The only thing that surprise me now is how quickly this is all happening. I knew Bush and his cronies in the Party That Wrecked America were robbing my children of any hope for the future, but I had at least hoped to not be around to see the abject misery that the entire nation is on the very edge of falling permanently into.

UPDATE: Here's a very good basic primer on what's been happening over the past few weeks. And The Fart Party talks to Douglas Rushkoff about the end of the world.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

 
This May Be It -- You really have to wonder, when The New York Times even gets it enough to print this quote:
"We’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally."
As Lindsey Buckingham once sang, it's not that funny, is it? The entire must-read article is here.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

 
Nick Locking's Dirt Cheap Trades Sale -- Nick's a good guy and the host of The V message board, and also hosted a CBG mesage board for a time. He's giving up his library of trade paperbacks (and some HCs) dirt cheap. View his list here. He is in the UK, so I have no idea what shipping might run you, but at prices that cheap, it might still be well worth it even if you're outside the UK. And here are his eBay auctions.

If you see something you like, feel free to email Nick at nick.locking@gmail.com.

 
Kunstler on Lehman and Merrill -- Great piece from James Howard Kunstler on yesterday's market-blasting financial news.

Related: Dmitri Orlov on Survival of the Nicest.

Will there be a Christmas, 2009?

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Look Out, Monsters in Stores Tomorrow -- Well, the better ones, anyway. Read my review of Look out, Monsters and if it sounds like the sort of thing you like (hint: it is), tell your retailer you want a copy.

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Landmarks -- Just noticed that A Criminal Blog has just passed its two-year anniversary, and if you click over now you can read about Incognito, a new series coming from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

Also, this is ADD Blog post #1,401. Boy, are my arms tired, etc, etc.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

 
Tina Fey as Palin on SNL -- If you haven't already seen it, here's the great Tina Fey/Amy Poehler Palin/Clinton skit from Saturday Night Live this past weekend.


 
Quote of the Day, End of the World Division -- From an unnamed Lehman Bros. executive, quoted at CNN:
"This looks like the end."
If you think he or she is only talking about Lehman Bros., you haven't been paying attention.

Barring an infusion of capital from some other dimension, the ongoing meltdown of the "financial sector" (also known as "the thing that makes it possible for you to feed your family") is one of the most compellingly bleak stories I have ever seen the world turn a blind eye to.

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gold starsWe Are All Made of Stars -- I used to give out a grade with each of my reviews, based on a five-point system. Some critics do it, some don't. I used to, and I don't anymore, feeling that most works worth talking about are probably more complex than a five-point system and deserve to be discussed as such, not boiled down to such simplistic terms. Not to mention that a five-point system that allows for fractions (2.5 out of five, for example) is really a ten point system, which is more points than anyone should need to describe whether a work is worth experiencing or not.

The always-brilliant Roger Ebert shares his thoughts on ratings systems in criticism, and I guarantee you that if you're at all interested in criticism as criticism, you will find vast acres of food for thought in this piece.

I give it a well-deserved thumbs up.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

 
Harvey Pekar: Conversations -- I was very pleased to receive my contributor's copy of Harvey Pekar: Conversations yesterday.

The book, edited by Michael G. Rhode and published by University Press of Mississippi, includes quite a few interviews with the creator of American Splendor, including one I conducted a few years back.

Pekar is one of the best writers in comics, and his honesty and humility always come through whenever I have the chance to talk to him. I haven't read the book yet, but I have no doubt it will be a pleasure to read, and likely re-read many times in the future, just like Harvey's comics.

Buy Harvey Pekar: Conversations (Conversations With Comic Artists Series) from Amazon.com.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

 
The View from Seven Years -- Today marks the seventh 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 seven years ago today. And six 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. The clock is ticking on the chance to officially censure Bush and Cheney with impeachment; we could do it for Clinton's uncontrolled libido, but not Bush and Cheney's uncontrolled war of lies? 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 and the smirking, complicit corporate media that have made it all possible, and made a fortune doing so.

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. Int he past year it's also become apparent that Bush and his cronies in industry, finance and government have dismantled the economy of the nation and placed us all at the very brink of an economic disaster unlike any the world has ever seen. Untold poverty and misery are breathing down our necks now, with cute names like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The US will keep handing a free pass to these giant cash vampires until there's nothing at all left for the vast, devastated lower and middle class.

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 all 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, 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. Sadly, here in the year 2008, there doesn't seem to be enough ethics or will left across the planet to ever make it happen in time.

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 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 -- more and more, Dennis Kucinich seems like the Very Last American Hero -- and impeachment being the very minimum acceptable possible response to the past seven years --
I have a fading hope that things will turn around.

But as it stands, seven years on, the evil at home is still strong, and far more damaging than any foreign enemy. The Republican National Convention, a meeting of The Party That Wrecked America, was protected by government-funded, jackbooted stormtroopers that looked and acted as scary as anything in you'd find in fiction. The photos accompanying this article literally make me sick to my stomach. How is it that these officers can justify their actions? How can they go home at night and not throw up from disgust at their complicity and compliance? Is this all we've come to, after over two centuries of struggle for democracy?

I am not unpatriotic. On this of all days, when we remember the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11/01, and the many more hundreds of thousands who have died overseas with the 9/11 murders as obscene, deceitful justification, the best way we can celebrate their memory and respect their sacrifice is 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.

Seven years on, it still, unbelievably, appears that our national will is too weak to do what should and obviously must be done. If Bush and Cheney, and Rove and Rice, and all their allies and co-conspirators 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 seven years ago today.

Seven years on, I am angry at our national shame and disgrace at allowing the last seven years to happen without any real opposition or alternative. My nation, which once led the world and at least pretended to aspire to freedom and democracy, is more lost and far from its ideals than it has ever been in its entire history. Barack Obama and Joe Biden strike me as empty, vapid choices offered up in a cynical continuation of the same, gamed system we've been under for years. And yet, they are the only hope we seem to have at all. It's sickening how far we've fallen, how little most people seem to be aware of that fact, and how little time there now remains in which someone, somewhere might somehow begin to restore justice, freedom and democracy to a nation that seems interested in none of those things.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

 
Happy 42nd Birthday, Star Trek! -- Today is the 42nd anniversary of the original NBC broadcast of Star Trek, or as the young 'uns probably think it was called, Star Trek: The Original Series.

Coincidentally, my wife and I watched the Next Generation episode "Relics" last night, the one in which Scotty is rescued from a 75-year transporter loop and brought into the 24th century.

I can remember that episode bringing a tear to my eye back when it was originally broadcast, and other than the heavy-handed "Make Scotty feel relevant, Mr. La Forge" subplot, its sincerity and overall excellence pay great tribute to what was so great about Star Trek.

I grew up in the 1970s watching the reruns and the animated series, and watched every episode of TNG and DS9, only growing weary during Voyager's run. I recently watched quite a few Enterprise episodes, and overall I feel very positive about all the series, and I am greatly looking forward to the JJ Abrams-directed movie when it comes out next year.

Happy Birthday, Star Trek.

 
Chris Allen on Blake Bell's Ditko Book -- Go read Chris's take on Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko. Makes me want to read the book again. And Speedball, strangely enough...

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

 
30 for Saturday -- Since I didn't discover Tom Spurgeon's latest Five for Friday, "Confessional," until Saturday morning, I'm ineligible to send him my answers anyway. So I'll post my answers here, and break the rules by answering all of them instead of one from each group.

Favorites

1. What is your favorite stand-alone publication of the last five years?

At the moment, I think Louis Riel by Chester Brown.

2. What is your favorite ongoing serial comic that's published an installment in the last three months?

Criminal.

3. What is your favorite webcomic?

American Elf.

4. What is your favorite ongoing newspaper strip?

This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow. The alt.weekly Metroland that it appears in around my neck of the woods is the only newspaper I read.

5. What is your favorite comics web site that is not a link- or commentary-blog?

Barry Windsor-Smith.com
.

Comic Shops

6. What's the best experience you've ever had in a comics shop?

Finding a store that cared enough not only to stock something for every comics reader in my family, but to actually look and feel like it wanted my entire family to shop there: Modern Myths in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Happy 6th anniversary, Jim and company!)

7. What's the worst experience you've ever had in a comics shop?

Watching the owner of the store tear up free Spider-Man comics in front of a young child who came in and asked if he had any Spider-Man comics in his store, on the first Free Comic Book Day. I wish I was making that up.

8. List the names of the comics shops that have been your shop in your lifetime of buying comics.

FantaCo, Albany, NY
Unicorn Comics, Saratoga Springs, NY
Electric City Comics, Schenectady, NY
Spa City Comics, Saratoga Springs, NY
Earthworld Comics, Albany, NY
Comic Depot, Greenfield Center, NY

9. If a comic shop has opened within 50 miles in the last two years, what exactly makes you think it will or won't survive until a fifth anniversary?

Comic Depot opened, I believe, within the last two years (give a take a few months); I believe its owner's approach to the store as an actual, professional business (clean store, stocking more than just superhero comics, opening on time, welcoming and skillfully handling special orders, offering receipts and having a return policy, even a bathroom, for pete's sake) will allow him to maintain and grow his business.

10. What is something you've done in a comics shop you're sorry happened?

Not saying something to the Spider-Man-destroying comics shop owner the moment it was happening.

Greats

11. Who is the Greatest Living Cartoonist?

Barry Windsor-Smith.

12. Name the female cartoonist highest up in your personal pantheon.

Renee French.

13. Name the cartoonist with a non-white South American or African heritage highest up in your personal pantheon.

George Herriman.

14. Who is the world's most under-appreciated cartoonist?

Diana Tamblyn.

15. Name a cartoonist you know is great but whose work you find hard to enjoy.

Kim Deitch.

Nostalgia

16. What was the first comic that you remember buying after the last time you stopped buying comics?

Avengers #1 by Kurt Busiek and George Perez.

17. What comic do you plan to revisit one day?

Probably the entirety of EC's output.

18. Name a comic that was even better when you tracked it down than you remember it being the first time.

Batman Year One.

19. What is the worst comic in your collection that you keep for reasons other than its quality?

Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man. Issued in 1976, it is the oldest comic in my library that I have continuously owned.

20. One word only: what is your primary non-comic association with comics?

I am sure I could answer this if I knew what it was asking.

Self-Improvement

21. What one site not your own or a friend's does CR not in your opinion cover near enough?

The Fart Party.

22. Name a comics figure this site has never interviewed you'd like to see interviewed.

Barry Windsor-Smith.

23. Name a comics figure this site has interviewed you'd like to see interviewed again.

Joe Casey.

24. Name an under- or unreported news story from your perspective.

The sex harassment stories coming out of San Diego.

25. Name a resource this site could house that would be valuable to you.

Detailed, sorted archives going back to the beginning of the site.

Bonus Section: Not Comics

1. What is your favorite sandwich?

Probably a Reuben.

2. Name three US vice-presidents in the order that they occur to you.

Dan Quayle, Walter Mondale, Dick Cheney

3. Name a movie that shouldn't have been remade and a movie that should be.

Shouldn't: The In-Laws. Should: Point Blank with Ed Brubaker writing the screenplay, David Lynch directing, Kyle MacLachlan playing the Lee Marvin role.

4. Otto Graham, Joe Montana or Tom Brady?

Those are football players, am I right?

5. If you could have any middle name in the world not "Bronislaw," what would it be?

"David."

Friday, September 05, 2008

 
Guardians of Justice Frame Job -- Here's my Guardians of Justice lithograph (by Bruce Timm), as framed by AC Moore and hanging on my bedroom wall.



I've been in love with this image since it was the cover to the Dwayne McDuffie issue of Write Now, and am thrilled to finally have it framed and hanging in my home.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

 
Another Great Ebert Essay -- Here Roger Ebert weighs in on his favourite movie, and comes up with another indispensable piece of writing. Not a day goes by that I don't feel profoundly grateful that Roger Ebert has struggled through his health problems of the past few years and come out of it as great a writer as he ever was. Perhaps better, in fact, since his recent essays seem so informed by a passionate will to experience, relate, and connect.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

 
Top Shelf is Giving It Away! -- Well, not for free, but for three bucks. Now, you can't beat paying three bucks for some of the best graphic novels of the past decade. The scoop:
To celebrate The Surrogates movie wrapping principal photography, surviving San Diego, and all the cool new summer and fall releases, for the next ten days -- thru Friday September 12th -- Top Shelf is having a giant $3 graphic novel web sale. When you visit the site, you'll find over 125 graphic novels and comics on sale -- with 90 titles marked down to just $3 (!) and a slew of other key titles just slashed!

To go directly to the list of items on sale, just click here:
http://www.topshelfcomix.com/specialdeals

But here are a few sample sale items:
-- $3 Books: Comic Book Artist, I Am Going To Be Small, Lower Regions, Regards from Serbia, plus 90 more!
-- $3 Books: Alec - After the Snooter, The Mirror of Love, The King, Fox Bunny Funny, That Salty Air, plus 90 more!
-- Slashed Prices: From Hell Hardcover, Lost Girls, Blankets, Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Owly, Korgi, and more!
-- Slashed Prices: Super Spy, Essex County Trilogy, Incredible Change-Bots, The Surrogates, and more!
-- Freebies with every order: Yearbook Stories, The 2008 Top Shelf Sampler, and Owly & Friends!

Please note that Top Shelf now accept PayPal (as well as Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and Discover -- all secure), and that this sale is good for "direct market" retailers as well (and comic book shops will get their wholesale discount on top of these sale prices).

http://www.topshelfcomix.com/specialdeals
How amazing is that? Off the top of my head, I would say you would be insane NOT to buy any of these for three bucks: Alec: After the Snooter, The Mirror of Love, and That Salty Air are all no-brainers at that price!

Plus bargain prices on other great works like From Hell (in hardcover!), James Kochalka's hardcover edition of American Elf Vol. 1, and Lost Girls? And I have to say, getting Chris Staros's great autobio comic Yearbook Stories for free to boot makes this sale a very good deal, indeed. Click on over and throw them some money, willya?

Monday, September 01, 2008

 
Abandoned Cars -- Tim Lane's fascination with what he calls "The Great American Mythological Drama," comes along at the perfect time, the beginning of the end of the automobile era. The title Abandoned Cars couldn't be more resonant. I abandoned mine three years ago, although I still rely on my wife's for trips of any length. The arrival of the peak oil phenomena and gasoline prices unthinkable to comfortably numb Americans has begun to make Lane's title truer than it would have been even a year ago. Have you noticed how many more people are bicycling or hoofing it these days? Lane's romanticism for American Mythology, therefore, arrives at just the right time.

My childhood memories of family trips smell of cheap diesel fuel at roadside truck stops. They're painted in the gaudy primary colours of worn-out convenience stores, and there's a peeling South of the Border bumper sticker slapped on them. I can't remember the address of the first house I lived in, but I can vividly remember the day my parents (and dozens of other drivers) bought bad gas on a highway in the south and had their vehicles break down less than a mile from the gas station. Lane would have liked to draw the sight of all those inconvenienced Americans bewildered by their suddenly disabled motor cars. Turns out there was water in the gas. The gas station's parent company ended up buying my parents (and dozens of other drivers) new cars rather than replacing the destroyed engines in all those, well, abandoned cars.

Abandoned Cars is a thrilling collection of short stories infused with the elements of Lane's obsession: Elvis, old cars, beat-up diners and sleazy bars. Lost loves, hobos, boxcars and crushing regret. Almost-pretty girls using every drop of their sexual power for the brief season they possess (and are possessed by) it. The book is flanked by haunting duel images: Skinny Brando and Fat Brando; no more evocative summation of the American Catastrophe is needed, or even possible. Lane's America has gone to seed. Its better days are far behind it, a promise that seemed always on the horizon until one day we noticed it was long, long past. Irretrievable; gone, baby.

Lane's strongest visual influence is Charles Burns, but you'll find a little Daniel G. Clowes in the way he sets a scene with detailed portraiture. Burns and Clowes both are quintessential chroniclers of America's losers and victims, and so Lane's evocation of their styles seems a good fit. He owns what he's doing, here, though, building on his influences and allowing his themes to suffuse both his words and pictures. There's a little bit of the feel of EC Comics to Abandoned Cars, too, like Jack Kamen could have turned something like this out, if he really had anything of his own to say in his comics work instead of merely illustrating Gaines and Feldstein's ideas. I can't help but think that if Harvey Kurtzman had been at the top of his creative power right now instead of when he was editing Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, he would have admired the hell out of Tim Lane's work and dedication to a single subject.

The game is up and America is fucked, and although we've known it was coming for years, the moment now is obviously and undeniably upon us like a hurricane on the gulf coast, or a sub-prime meltdown on the housing market. Abandoned Cars shows us both the appeal of, and the monumental fraud at, the heart of the now-ending American era. At one point, in one of these stories, one of Lane's characters longs to "Jump a train -- any train moving." Lane takes us back to a time when it was still possible to do that, before our current era when the trains, and planes, and automobiles are all coming to a halt and the options are running out. But unlike the news media, he knows it's a false romanticism and that all the chips have long ago been cashed in. As the same character later realizes, "Maybe I've had it all wrong...the wrong idea about everything." In these two sequences, Lane sums up the entirety of the American experience. If only our leaders spent as much time pondering the powerful myth and tragic errors of our nation.

Buy Abandoned Cars by Tim Lane from Amazon.com.

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