Monday, July 12, 2010

A Fistfull of SPX 2009 part 2

It's SPX (Small Press Expo) in July!! I have been meaning to post more of these to finish up the haul I got at SPX last year, but the road to hell is personally paved by ME and MY good intentions specifically. I imagine that other people's good intentions are paving other major thoroughfares. So with no further introduction here we go.

SPQR Blues -by klio (Carol Burrell) is a 'Generally Quite Serious Sword and Sandals Epic Under The Shadow Of Mt. Vesuvius' The table for this comic was one of my favorite tables to visit at SPX. Everyone there was friendly and fun and enthusiastic for their product, etc. It was a real pleasure to pop by periodically and chat, say hello again, and also tell them which exit to use etc. (remember, I was working as a volunteer). I bought the first three chapters in print form, and am glad I did. I like having the print, I like buying things to support creators that are talented and nice and especially who put out a good product. The printing is ok, but does not do justice to the quality and the crispness of the art. klio is a very talented cartoonist and her skills have definitely continued to develop and improve. Follow the link and check it out. Online is definitely the best way to view this. The comic has humor and drama, and looks to hold some mystery and intrigue as well. It takes place in Herculanium, and has a pretty sizable cast of characters, but focuses on Felix, a soldier returning from the legion, and Mus, a younger man that Felix once cared for when he was younger. Mus passes himself casually off as perhaps being younger than he is. I am only through the first chapter, but there is already a connection with the characters and a desire to know more, which si a great thing for a story to elicit in a reader. I look forward to reading more. I like the print, but there is so much going on that it is a bit tight on the page. Online it is even prettier (I felt obligated to add that, as I am not really ragging on the print version)

It may also be a fine thing to point out that while the comic had a brief hiatus, it started back up and is rolling along.

Pinstriped Bloodbath - This comic was my personally selected winner for coolest cover design / packaging. I imagine that every year I will have one of these. My first time I went the honor belonged to one of Falynn Koch's pieces that was cooler than the average fare. In 2009 it was this one. Pinstriped Bloodbath had a cover that was a double breasted pinstriped Suit jacket with a blood spatter as an outer cover. The inner cover that is visible under the jacket is a white shirt and red tie. There is a paper band that is illustrated and touts the book as an Anthology of Gangland Violence by Chicago Cartoonists. There are 8 different stories in the volume, which is edited by Jeff Zwirek, and has small art pieces by Ivan Brunetti and Josh Cotter for the contents and contributors pages. The stories themselves run the gamut from really abrupt short pieces, to longer ones on a variety of subjects. My favorite both in art and subject matter is a several page piece by the editor that focuses on the historical facts around the use of the Thompson Sub Machine Gun in Chicago crime. The art is great, it is an interesting story, and the footnotes are really informative. I like this collection a lot. There are only a few items in it I don't like, and the total package certainly makes up for that. It's a good idea executed pretty well.

Girl Ninja Presents Corporate Ninja Saga - Rebecca Simms, Story by Patrick Lewis - I thought Girl Ninja was pretty funny when I picked it up at a previous SPX. I also liked the vibe at the table at the time. There was a group of people selling their various projects and everyone was friendly and talky. It was enough good will to make pick up this comic when I saw it this time. In this we get Girl Ninja vs Corporate Mind control... ninja style. Once again it is fairly rough. This time it is just one side of the page, stapled 8.5 x 11. The art is a slightly rough manga influenced style, and it is cute and funny and works fine. I go to SPX to get a fuller range of variety in production and styles, etc. I continue to enjoy this. There is almost a hint of the sort of cuteness you get in the comic Empowered, without otherwise being related to that... It's a feeling I get from it that is a positive one.

Style and Grace #1 - Mike Jasorka - Mike was also one of the highlights of the show for me. He was exceptionally nice, and very willing to talk about his work. Chatty and fun work well for me. The comic is pretty funny. Las Vegas, 1982 Jimmy finds out that his Mom is getting married to a pimp. The pimp wants Jimmy to take over the business for him. It's all so bright and clean. It is sort of like the South Park where Butters becomes a pimp. This pre-dates that, but the humor is similar which isn't a bad thing at all. Mike also has work published in Rinksider magazine and has a roller girl related project in the works if I recall correctly.

Mix Tape and Piece Meal - Nate Beaty - I picked up two mini's from Nate Beaty. He was also responsible for one of the short but very good entries in Pinstriped Bloodbath as well. Piece Meal has two stories in it. One is called Blanks and is about awkward sexual and interpersonal dynamics among teens, played out in one evening. Yasek Loop is a sort of lush and ethereal dream sequence, or maybe not a dream sequence that starts with a fall from a very tall platform in the woods, and works in seemingly spectral animals and the noncorporeal. Mix Tape is about a sequence in his life involving the making of a mix tape and that sort of awkwardness involved when you put yourself out there like that. It's a well done cartoon. It shows a lot in the art and rings true.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Alcoholic

I can't recall when I purchased this lovely hardcover graphic novel, but I do know that it took me more than a year to get around to reading it. In the time between buying it and reading it, I picked it up a number of times, I even carried it with me on a few trips where I thought I might have free time to spend with the 136 page story of Jonathan A., the titular alcoholic, but I never got past the first few pages. This is a thing for me sometimes. I assume there are plenty of others who love reading, and are attracted to a specific book or story for whatever reason, and then can't get into it enough to get through it right off. For me the process goes that sometime in the future I will generally notice the item on the shelf, pick it up, and then be unable to put it down until I am done. That happens more often than I care for, and certainly was the case with this as well.

Jonathan Ames wrote the Alcoholic, and Dean Haspiel provided the art, including the cover. I wasn't kidding about the volume being lovely. it has a cover that is well designed and interesting, and underneath the cover is the title etched into the book inside the outline of a bottle. I never thought I would feel this way, but I really like hardcovers. I love them. I don't have that same feeling about slip covers though. I think that slip covers seem a bet excessive, and just get in the way of getting to the comics. Hardcovers themselves though are kind of classy. I am getting away from the focus of this post now, so I will pull myself back to it now.

As someone whose life has been impacted by alcoholism in one way or another, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, which follows the life of Jonathan A. from High School, where he first got drunk, on into his forties where he may or may not have learned enough to overcome his basic nature. It takes a wholly unapologetic look at his life, and just presents the events. The narrator is aware that he is narrating. He is telling you the story initially of everything in his life that lead him up to a specific point. Eventually the narrative catches up with the timeline and proceeds from there.

I find that I particularly like the approach taken with the story. There are several main things that are carried through most of the book. One is his attraction to and love for his best friend. They act on the attraction, and then find themselves moving away from each other. Another is a relationship that turns into an on again off again thing that he can't free himself from. His writing and professional / creative career is another, and finally his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and the inevitable detox that he puts himself through. Everything is really just plainly presented. There is humor, but no attempt to explain away anything really. That's not to say there isn't any insight, there is just nothing approaching an attempt to rationalize the destructive behavior.

I found this story really resonated with me. It echoes an awful lot of things that I worry about with myself, and behaviors that no matter how much I understand the negatives, and know better, I still find myself always gravitating back to. I think that's the beauty of this, and where some of its real value lies. Just like the story offers no resolution for the issues, I found no great insight into my own condition, but seeing that reflection there is a pretty useful and thought provoking thing.

The writing is well done. Fairly horrible episodes are presented with some sense of humor. The art is very good. I like that it is a light style without being too cartoonish. It doesn't make anything less ugly than it is, but it resists being grotesque. It also allows the places where there is beauty to show through nicely. I'm glad I picked this up when I did, even happier that I finally read it. I think it deserves the good reviews it has gotten.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Talkin' 'bout floppies

The Tick New Series #4 - Benito Cereno and Les McClaine need to be nominated for stuff... Go on comics community... get off your butts and nominate them for stuff. The Tic New Series has been nothing but top notch writing and art for 4 issues now. I don't think it matters where you originally jumped on with the Tick, this comic handles the character in a way that should make everyone happy (including critics and people who have never heard of the character before. This issue takes place on Patrol Night, which has been rescheduled as Board Game Night due to the intense rain that is flooding the city (unbeknownst to seemingly everyone except the Tick and the legions of water based heroes and Villains that have gathered for the most epic undersea battle the world has ever known!) If you like funny, or have ever liked the Tick, give this a try.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 - Batman meets Blackbeard and the Black Pirate. This is a perfect setup for a tv show. It's like Voyagers and Quantum Leap all mixed together with Batman. I have loved all three of the issues so far. I really don't care where this fits into anything or even what the setup really is. Batman is lost in time. He pops into a new time when there is an eclipse. Somewhere in the future heroes are trying to find him, and are unearthing clues that he is leaving, or that are left by others from the times he visits. That would kill as a tv show, and it is pretty awesome as a comic. I don't buy everything that is Batman. I buy very little Batman, even though I love Batman. I think this series is a fun homage to the character.

iZombie #2 - This isn't on my pull list, and will probably stay an impulse buy for me. I like the idea, it seems a little slow getting into part of the main thrust of the series, but in two issues, it can't be faulted for establishing things. I like the characters, Gwen, the titular Zombie is a good character. The idea of being a zombie that eats brains so as to not devolve, and who gets the psychic baggage of the brains previous owner, is a great idea. Having her best friend be a ghost only makes things better. There is a lot of interesting stuff here, and I really like Allred's art for this. It works perfectly. This may move to a trade wait for me, but we'll see.

Heralds #4 & 5 - These got their own post

The Last Unicorn#2 - Absolutely beautiful. Regardless of having watched the movie a good number of times, I am still hooked on this.

Invincible#73 - I have read a good bit of early Invincible (maybe the first three hard cover collections), but I haven't read it in a long time. When I heard about the Viltrumite War, it was because of the upcoming Guarding the Globe mini that will focus on what happens on earth when some of its top protectors are away. I figured if I was going to read that, I should also keep up with the front lines of the conflict as well. I am not disappointed. So far the arc is really good. Invincible is a neat title with a bit of a different sensibility than most. It looks bright and colorful and fun sometimes, but then it is also about the bloodiest thing I have read. It's Super Hero stuff, but there is a lot of intimate character development, and sometimes a character just has to lay on a planet healing for a few months. No criticism on this, I am really loving it. It makes me want to go back and fill in what I missed.

Avengers #2 - I hate WonderMan in this. I guess I don't know if there is something from his recent past that really justifies how he is portrayed in this, but although I never liked the guy much, and feel he should stay locked in a vault in the 80's, I didn't hate him. I like the lineup in this a lot, and love Marvel Boy, but we'll have to see where this goes. Oh Know what villain I detest more than any other except maybe Carnage and Mr. Sinister... That's right Apocalypse. Man I hate that guy. Not that I am mentioning him for any particular reason...

Atomic Robo v4 #4 - Another great volume of Atomic Robo. My loyalty to this series and this creative team are theirs to lose. That said, I think I like the volumes that are a more cohesive storyline better than this, but I enjoyed each individual issue a great deal. This series ends on what seems like a setup for something else, which sort of gives it that feeling you got at the end of Back to the Future 2, like it was a commercial for the next thing. I have no idea if that will be the case, and we certainly got to see and have fun with a lot of the supporting characters Robo works with. Good writing, funny stuff and great consistent art. I am looking forward to more already.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I'll start with the comparison right off the bat. I liked Marvel Divas a lot. There were some aspects I didn't love, like a sort of dumb name, and sort of misleading cheesecake covers on a book with sensibly drawn ladies done in a light, slightly quirky style. The story was centered around sort of soap opera standard plot points, but that wasn't a negative to me. I liked Divas because it was humanizing. I thought it presented at least a somewhat 'realistic' take on a group of likable female heroes that came across as having a more or less genuine sort of friendship and personal interaction with one another.

Divas was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and drawn by Tonci Zonjic. Heralds is written by Kathryn Immonen with art by Tonci Zonjic and several others. One huge difference, and I appreciate it a lot, is that Heralds has absolutely beautiful cover work by Jelena Djurdjevic. These are very nice covers and none of them is in the realm of cheesecake. Women are shown with the figures they have in the comics, but none of them are relegated to sex kitten poses.

I already mentioned the second major piece of this. It's written by Kathryn Immonen. Nothing off of Aguirre-Sacasa, but this is an excellent comics writer paired with an excellent cover artist, and what's this... they're both women. I love the writing in this. I think the characters come across as real, and it isn't bogged down on any one emotion or mood. There is a great deal of playfulness and humor in this as well as action and emotion. That to me is a formula anyone should be able to appreciate.

The story starts with a group of Marvel ladies in vegas to help Emma Frost celebrate her birthday (This was orchestrated by Scott for her). It isn't long before the crew is fighting clones released from a S.W.O.R.D. facility and the story gets rolling from there. It isn't my intention to give away much here, other than what a cool thing this series was. I don't really care where it fits into the grand scheme of things, but I would love to see more like this. It has gotten me thinking a lot about how super heroes act in comics vs how real people act, with regard to their interactions and motivations, etc. I don't have a lot to say about it yet, but it does have me thinking.

I love the art in this, but it is a bit inconsistent. I am not sure exactly what role each of the artists had, or if the number of artists had anything to do with this feeling for me. There are also some places where it becomes difficult to tell some of the characters apart. It wasn't major, but I did get a little turned around a few times. I am also not sure if all of these people would be hanging around, but it works, and I think it's justified well enough.

If you haven't checked this out, and aren't put off by good comics, or books that feature women as strong and diverse characters, I recommend it.

The pants are a LIE...The truth is out...

Clearly, the evil masterminds at DC comics have executed this entire 'Wonder Woman finds pants in her drawer and decides to wear them for a change' scandal as a way of keeping us from seeing what is really going on. They are shutting Zuda down. I am a big fan of Zuda, but I guess I am not surprised by this. I love the creators that they had, and the sense of community and accessibility that they brought with them, but I will love those creators wherever they go.

The thing I didn't love, and the thing that seemed to be the beginning of the end, was the ugly and awful gamesmanship played by some of the competitors in the competitions and/or their supporters. It was pretty ugly stuff. I was sorry to see that go. I don't really care what DC does now. I will support any good project that gives access to new and different and exciting creators and their creations, but that fact is independent of any specific publisher.

I wish every individual affiliated with Zuda the best of luck in the future, with whatever comic endeavors they pursue. I have no idea how specifically this news impacts anyone, but like I said. A lot of pretty great talent, and pretty stand-up folks flowed through there, no matter what you thought of the site or the competition, etc.