May 31, 2012
May 30, 2012
May 29, 2012
May 28, 2012
May 27, 2012
This Column Originally Ran On Comics Bulletin
Jason Sacks and Daniel Elkin are back again to examine, celebrate, and mourn some of the weirdness that was comics past. After spending the last few weeks going through some of the odder 1970's Marvel Comics output, today they turn their attention to a short lived series that lives on in the heart of Jason, the wild Western adventures of one Bartholomew Alouysius Lash. Both Jason and Daniel got their hands on DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS BAT LASH and the result was the following conversation.
Jason Sacks: Will he save the West ... or ruin it?
You could kind of say the same thing about me. I'm a handsome rogue, aren't I? AREN'T I?
Daniel Elkin: Yes. Of course you are. Of course you are.
You know, as I was reading DC Showcase Presents Bat Lash, I kept expecting someone to answer the question whether he would save the West ... or ruin it. I never really got an answer on that.
Sacks: It's one of those deep philosophical questions, like Yam you who you yam, or can a person be happy with old and slightly upsetting animatronic creatures in their house?
Elkin: Blow me down, that's fodder for a couple of different columns. In the context of THIS column, though, what do you think the answer to the question is?
Sacks: Well, you know I'm a fan of these comics, else I wouldn't have recommended them to you, so rather than influence you with my biases, what do you think the answer is?
Elkin: I guess he saves it, doesn't he? Bat Lash's foppish mannerisms, powerful right hook and prowess with a six-shooter brings all sorts of eventual calm to the chaos that he seems to fall into on a constant basis. Of course, his misogyny may not have helped the Women of the West, but I guess back then that wasn't as much of a concern.
May 24, 2012
Greg Boyd, from his Amazon Bio page: "Though I cannot claim to have been raised by wolves, the strangeness of my family life did contribute to the blend of humor and surrealism readers have found in my writing. Certainly anything is possible and stories happen all around us. Driving through the fog one morning years ago I found a toddler walking in the middle of the deserted road. Like many of my characters, I travel along the indistinct frontier between imagination and reality."
A visual artist as well as a writer, check out his web site
For more about his various projects, check the archives of his blog
Chard deNiord is the author of three books of poetry,Night Mowing (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005),Sharp Golden Thorn (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003), andAsleep in the Fire (University of Alabama Press, 1990). A new collection, The Double Truth, was published from The University of Pittsburgh Press in late 2010. His poems and essays have appeared recently in the following journals: New England Review, Literary Imagination, Salmagundi, American Poetry Review andThe Hudson Review. He is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Providence College and cofounder of the New England College MFA Program in Poetry. He lives in Putney, Vermont.
May 22, 2012
May 21, 2012
May 20, 2012
This Column Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human. Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns, and a couple of Miller beers, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.
Today he and his friend Jason Sacks found 2009's The Rock-afire Explosion by Brett Whitcomb and Bradford Thomason
Elkin: Before there was Chuck-E-Cheese there was Showbiz Pizza, which basically functioned under the same business model: Provide mediocre pizza, many flashing lights, an arcade and beer for the adults. Then unabashedly overcharge for all of it. The difference between Chuck-E-Cheese and Showbiz Pizza, though, and the subject of this documentary, was the animatronic house band, The Rock-afire Explosion.
The Rock-afire Explosion is really three documentaries in one. At its center is the story of Chris Thrash, a small town Alabama part time roller-rink DJ trying desperately to hold on to a “simpler time when life was not so complicated,” whose obsession with the Rock-afire Explosion led him to purchase his own “show” from the company that originally manufactured them for Showbiz Pizza, which he subsequently set up in his own house.
The second idea explored in this documentary is the fan culture that surrounds the Rock-afire Explosion and the lengths they have gone through to form a community.
The third part of this film focuses on Aaron Fechter, whose Creative Engineering, Inc was entirely responsible for the creation, manufacturing, programing and licensing of the Rock-afire Explosion. At its peak, Creative Engineering was purported to be making around $20 million in profits and had a full-time staff of over three hundred employees. Then, in the early 90's, Showbiz Pizza merged with Chuck-E-Cheese in a bid to cut overhead costs and save the company. With visions of future licensing deals and the strong desire to keep control of his intellectual property, Fechter refused to give up his copyright on the characters he created for the Rock-afire Explosion. There was a subsequent “concept unification” as Showbiz Pizza merged into Chuck-E-Cheese, and the Rock-afire Explosion was removed from all the restaurants. The Rock-afire Explosion finds Fechter wandering the halls of his eerily abandoned factory, Creative Engineering's now sole employee.
The film's press release claims that the documentary is an “eccentric portrait of childhood memories, broken dreams, and the resilience of the human spirit … a look at the importance of nostalgia, ever-changing media culture, and the eternal quest to stay young.” While these are all certainly aspects of the film, this is not really what I saw the movie being about.
For me, The Rock-afire Explosion is a documentary celebrating both fan culture and creator rights.
Sacks: Who knew that there was a fandom for something as odd and obscure as animatronic creatures that were shown at pizza play lands? I'd never given much thought to the people who created those annoying singing creatures at my local Chuck E. Cheese before I watched this documentary; now, well, at least I have given them more thought.
May 19, 2012
May 17, 2012
May 15, 2012
The Following Review Originally Ran On Comics Bulletin
What is a person to do in the face of absolute desperation, when everything in his or her life has turned to shit and the very world in which he or she lives in is on the verge of complete collapse? For Noah Van Sciver, in his new full length story from Retrofit Comics, 1999, the only thing left for that person to do is to try to reach out, to connect, to love. But what happens when that, too, is doomed?
May 14, 2012
At my house, the first Saturday in May has always been one of our favorite holidays -- FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. This year was markedly different for two reasons.
1. Instead of an epic Comic Shop Crawl through the Sacramento region, this year's Free Comic Book Day was limited to only one shop, Empire Comics Vault in Sacramento.
2. This was the first year that my son, now 14, decided he was too cool to join his dad on a Comic Shop adventure.
Needless to say, Free Comic Book Day lost a little of its shine for me this year because of his decision. And no matter how fantastic a job Ben and the fine folks at Empire Comics Vault did in putting on an amazing day at their shop, Free Comic Book Day 2012 will always be remembered around here as THE DAY DAD WENT IT ALONE.
Anyway, I picked up an arm load of free comics (which I subsequently distributed to my students on Monday), and I wrote some quick reviews on a few of them for Comics Bulletin.
You can read those reviews after the jump:
May 13, 2012
This Column Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Classic Comics Cavalcade
Essential Werewolf by Night #1
Jason Sacks and Daniel Elkin are back again to examine, celebrate, and mourn some of the weirdness that was comics past. After spending a few weeks going through the wonderful work of some of Steve Gerber's 1970's Marvel Comics output, today they turn their attention to a comic that “creeped the shit” out of Daniel when he was wee, Marvel Comics' Werewolf by Night. Both Jason and Daniel got their hands on Essential Werewolf by Night #1 and the result was the following conversation.
Elkin: FIRST NIGHT!
Sacks: Must find the woods! But no, I can't because someone is always chasing me!
Elkin: And I must KILL them!?!?!?
Sacks: That Werewolf, he's a really feral dude. Killing is his thing. You want a werewolf who doesn't kill?
Elkin: I want a werewolf who is aware when the full moon is during the month and what time the sun sets. Geez -- somebody get our hero, Jack Russell, a lunar calendar and a wristwatch! You would think he would get a handle on this after the third or fourth time he changed.
Sacks: Pretty much every woman can track her monthly cycle, but Jack Russell can't even ask his sister for advice?
Elkin: HA! Oh man. This Werewolf by Night ... I found I had to suspend my disbelief at such a high level when reading this that I found it very difficult to come down off of that state and enter back into reality when I put the book down. And to think I found this so horrifying when I was a kid. The comic, that is, not suspending my disbelief.
Sacks: I kind of had the opposite reaction. I had so much trouble suspending my disbelief that I had trouble getting into it.
May 9, 2012
May 5, 2012
THIS INTERVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN
Two things stand out in the comic book work of Australian comic book artist and writer Frank Candiloro, his propensity for putting a brain-bending twist on classic American genre tropes and his unique art style -- what I've been referring to as his "German Expressionism, wood-block print, indie wonk vibe style" in my reviews of his books, The Widowmaker and Blood Across Broadway.
Frank was kind enough to agree to the following interview in which he talks about his background, his influences, the Australian comic book scene and the trials of self-publishing through his imprint FrankenComics.
Daniel Elkin for Comics Bulletin: I hate starting interviews with boring questions, but since you are not yet a household name, can you tell us a little about your background?
Frank Candiloro: I came spiraling into this world on June 26th, 1985, in the cultured and sophisticated heartland of Melbourne. Growing up, I didn't have a lot of artistic interests or experiences, but I remember reading quite a lot of books and started writing my own stories (influenced by movies and books that I was reading at the time) when I was 15.
At the age of 17, I started to gain an appreciation of cinema and filmmaking, watching films like Seven Samurai, The Godfather and Pulp Fiction, and that was what led me to pursue a career in the arts. I started making short films, which led to making stop-motion animation, which led to studying 2D animation at the Victorian College of the Arts as part of the Film/TV school. It was there where I began to start drawing and where I also developed a love of comic books; it started with reading graphic novels such as Mausand The Dark Knight Returns, [where I was] enraptured by the cinematic method of storytelling that these books would use and which influenced the illustration style I would use to this day.
CB: So, why comics?
Candiloro: Originally, I was a 2D animator and had a love for comics in general, but I was reluctant to pursue making them; it was hard enough finding animation work in Australia, let alone comic work.
In 2009, I saw an online ad that was seeking submissions for a horror/adult anthology called Yuck! by James Andre of Milk Shadow Books. After speaking with him, he encouraged me to submit a comic for it, and thus began my series Millennial Monsters (which was sort of Robert Crumb meets the Universal Monsters of the '30s). That was published in four issues of the anthology.
After that, I decided to turn an animated series proposal that I was pitching, The Adventures of White Wolf, into a weekly superhero webcomic. With the regular practice I was getting as a result of doing that webcomic, I became enthralled with the medium and decided to start publishing my own books under my label FrankenComics. I've been making comics ever since!
CB: From the two books of yours I've read, The Widowmaker and now Blood Across Broadway, I think it's safe for me to say that you have a very distinct artistic style. As that is one of the first things people notice when they see your books, can you talk a bit about how you developed it? Who were your influences?
Candiloro: Being a massive Batman fan at the time, my three biggest influences were Frank Miller, Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke. Their styles were sleek, stylish and kinetic with a sense of design, action and purpose. Given that they all had influences from the Golden and Silver Age of comics, my style also took from artists such as Dick Sprang, Chester Gould, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Jack Cole, C.C. Beck as well as the animation done by Max and Dave Fleischer. When I first started doing comics (and animation), I was attempting to replicate the kind of "pop-art" drawing that the above artists did, using a thick bold outside line with smaller inside lines.
When I started making my comic The Testament of Doktor Zeitpunkt, which was influenced by German Expressionist films such asMetropolis and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, I decided to do a more angular, cubist kind of design to reflect the nightmarish, expressionistic art seen in those films. I was only going to use that style for that particular comic, but people responded very positively to it, and I realized I'd be foolish not to keep using it, so I continued to draw that way for the rest of my comics, developing it more and more until it became the style you see now.
CB: Based on both The Widowmaker and Blood Across Broadway, you seem to have an affinity for American genre films of the 1930's. Is this true and, if so, how did this develop?
Candiloro: When I was 17, I went through a phase where I watched a lot of gangster films such as The Godfather, Once Upon A Time In America and Goodfellas, which led to me watching crime films from the 1930s and 40s and subsequently led me to watching just about any kind of film from that era. Reading old Dick Tracy and The Spirit comics as well as watching the Fleischer Superman cartoons also contributed to my love of all things 1930s.
I couldn't really tell you exactly what it was about that era that continues to fascinate me and influence my work. Maybe it's the fact that it's a time so removed from my own, or it's the elegance and glamour of it all. At any rate, I'm amazed by it.
CB: What's the comics scene like in Australia?
Candiloro: I've only been in the scene for two years, so I don't know much about it prior to this, but recently there has been a huge explosion of talented Australian artists devoted to making quality, professional local comics, particularly here in Melbourne. The majority of Aussie comic artists pursue self-publishing in order to get their work out there, so the downside of that is no editorial presence. However, there have been a few locals who have started their own comic publishing labels to counter this, such as Gestalt Publishing, Black House Comics, Milk Shadow Books and FEC Comics, so hopefully that presence will become much more prevalent in the oncoming years.
Because the scene here is relatively small, we've formed a tight-knit community and we're very supportive of one another. As a result, it's inspired more people to make comics. Although none of us can really retire from our full-time jobs just yet, it really is an excellent time to be a comic artist here in the Land of Oz
CB: We are big proponents of creator-owned properties and self-publishing ventures here at Comics Bulletin, and we try to do our part to get the word out to help some great books gain a wider audience because we know how hard it can be producing your own work. What are some of the challenges you've encountered as a self-publisher?
Candiloro: Apart from the usual trappings (printing costs, time, etc), a big setback for me in particular is that it's very difficult to get my comics to stores outside of Melbourne. Usually, I send a pile of books to either interstate stores or overseas and never hear back from them, and given that they cost a lot to print out, I'm reluctant to keep doing this. Fortunately, though, I'm able to sell them online, which is where most of my interstate/overseas sales come from.
The other issue is that, naturally, your comics are going to be alongside the American and European comics, as well as the other local comics on the stand, so you're in direct competition with them. It can be hard for a reader who's picking up Batman or Spider-Man to glance at your independent book and decide to take a chance with it. It might intimidate some, but I think the competition is a good thing. It challenges you to better your art so it can stand side by side with the other excellent comics out there.
CB: What advice would you give someone thinking about going down the self-publishing route?
Candiloro: To quote Ra's al Ghul from Batman Begins: "You must make yourself more than just a man." In other words, you need to treat publishing your own comics as if you were running your own publishing company, which is more or less what you are actually doing. It's important to produce as many comics as you possibly can. With each book you make, set a deadline for yourself, as this motivates you to actually finish the book instead of dawdling and procrastinating over it. Decide on how many books you want to make in a year and organize a schedule accordingly (e.g., you'll make Book 1 by the end of April, Book 2 by the end of August, etc.).
Although, yes, this will cost you quite a bit to print your own books, if you're realistic and sensible with your goals, then it'll come to you quite easily. Don't be overzealous and print out 3,000 copies of your first book, as realistically you won't see a return on it. Opt for 80-100 copies instead, and if you happen to sell out, simply order more! Find a professional printer with reasonable rates and establish a good relationship with them; this will work wonders for you later on.
Most importantly, take them to as many stores and outlets that'll stock them as you possibly can. Make sure they're available at any place or venue that a comic reader will see them. It sounds like a lot of work, but if you are devoted and passionate about making comics, then this will pay off big time in the long run. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you publish your first book.
CB: What are you reading now?
Candiloro: I have a regular comics pull list with titles from Marvel, DC and the like, but in particular, Image Comics has been producing some excellent, original material, such as Saga, Manhattan Projects, Severed and The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. I also like to read a lot of local comics that my friends have produced. Milk Shadow Books, in particular, has produced some beautiful, stellar graphic novels, such as It Shines and Shakes and Laughs by Tim Molloy and No Map, But Not Lost by Bobby N.
CB: What's next for Frank Candiloro?
Candiloro: I'm currently trying to finish up my next comic, Thicker Than Water, for release sometime in May. It's my fairy tale interpretation of slasher films from the 1980s. Also, I have three more books that I plan to make before 2012 is out. I can't say too much about them, but they're in the same horror/expressionism vein that my previous work explored. 2011 was a big year for FrankenComics, but 2012 is going to be even bigger!
May 4, 2012
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN
At the tender age of 27, Australian artist Frank Candiloro has a vision of what comic books are as well as what they can be, and, in his very distinct manner, he is slowly exploring these ideas.
Blood Across Broadway is the latest offering from Candiloro's Franken Comics imprint. Like TheWidowmaker before it, this 70 page comic (graphic novel?) features Candiloro's signature black and white “German Expressionism, wood-block print, indy wonk vibe” style art, but in this book he is able to work in new layers of subtly and emotion that show an artist really coming into his own.
The plot of this book treads some familiar ground, but while this ground may be familiar, it is from three different warring nations and is made into a mud-pie that tastes like ambrosia.
May 3, 2012
THIS COLUMN ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN
Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human. Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns and a couple of Miller beers, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.
Today he and his friends Jason Sacks and Nick Boisson found 2008's Playing Columbine by Danny Ledonne and released by Emberwilde Productions.
Elkin: America's innocence was further eroded on April 20, 1999. It was that day in Littleton, Colorado that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School and killed twelve students and one teacher, while injuring over 20 others in the worst High School shooting in American history. Following this came a period of reflection where we as a nation tried to make sense of the tragedy. Fingers were pointed. Books and magazine articles were published. Movies were made. Laws were enacted. Artists responded. The public held discourse.
Then in 2005, using entry-level middleware, Danny Ledonne created a 16-bit role-playing video game called Super Columbine Massacre RPG! where players took on the roles of Klebold and Harris on the day of the massacre. Ledonne posted it as a free download and after a half a million hits, the game sparked enormous controversy.
Playing Columbine is a documentary that Ledonne made about the debate surrounding his game. It also gives him a platform to explain his reasons for creating Super Columbine Massacre RPG! in the first place. As it is Ledonne's own film (released by his own production company), it has a certain agenda. While in the process of laying out that agenda, though, Ledonne's film raises some rather profound questions about the press, the gaming industry and American morality.
Boisson: I have been playing games for as long as I can remember. Longer, in fact. I was born in the late-'80s -- when the home video game console was becoming a thing -- and my parents had bought a Nintendo Entertainment System for their first-born, who could not stand up, feed himself or speak a single word. There are pictures of me holding an NES controller in my hands at the age of one. I grew up with video games being a monumental part of my everyday life. Take a shower, brush my teeth, go to school, come home, play video games, get yelled at by my mother to do my homework, do my homework, eat dinner, play video games, go to sleep, rinse and repeat.
Video games, to this day, still hold as significant a role in my everyday life. Granted, I am about to be 24 and have a full-time job, but playing video games are still something that I do and something that I know I will always do.
I have also, believe it or not, never killed anyone. I have never gone hunting (human or otherwise). I have never fired a gun. I have never wished for everyone around me to die by my hand in some fantastically violent manner. So when some idiot says something like, "Video games were the cause of the Columbine massacre and the Virginia Tech shooting and children running wild, having unprotected sex," I find it a bit hard to take them seriously.
Yet, the Jack Thompsons of the world keep popping up to make life as vanilla and inoffensive as they can possibly make it, and people are actually listening. If there is one thing that Ledonne did -- both with his game and with this film -- is start a discussion on free speech and how anxious many are to take it away without reason or purpose. Honestly, it is a frightening thing. More frightening than anything found in Super Columbine Massacre RPG! by far.
Sacks: The self-defined moralists will always find a scapegoat for anything that they are offended by. You know why the Columbine Trenchcoat Mafia were able to kill their classmates, or why the Virginia Tech or Montreal killers were able to kill so many people? Because they had access to semi-automatic weapons. If they couldn't access guns, they wouldn't have been able to kill. But of course in a world where the NRA has the majority of our political system in their pocket, the idea of banning guns is completely beyond the pale.
And of course everyone turns away from the idea of bad parenting being a major cause; busy parents being too lazy or arrogant or stupid or plain damn busy to check in on their kids and see how they're doing. And it's not the fault of busy overloaded teachers or of former friends or current classmates too caught up in their own lives to take action. No, those sorts of factors hit too close to home. How can parents control their kids in this crazy sexting, internet-everywhere world with ubiquitous and continuous communications? It's all too much for anyone to handle.
So the self-defined moralists turn to the arts, as they always do, and as always they confuse coincidence with causality. Of course video games inure kids against violence. Of course games like GTA make rape acceptable and of course Columbine Massacre RPG! is the worst offender of all. Just look at the name of that game! It scans well on the scroll at the bottom of Fox News, it offends Middle America, it's in your face, obnoxious and confrontational. It's scary. Whether any of this is true, our 24/7-news cycle demands immediate gratification, immediate definition of good and evil. Screw the facts. Opinions are what matter – no matter how ridiculous those opinions may be.
As CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein has said, it's the duty of each generation to offend its parents' generation, and it's the responsibility of the parents' generation to figure out why they are offended. There should always be a tension between the edgy art of one generation and the next. In 1976, the Sex Pistols offended; in 2012, they're kind of cute and kitsch.
But the self-imposed morality zealots are always with us. In the '30s they went after films; in the '50s they went after comic books; in the '60s they hated rock and roll and in the '90s and '00s they went after video games. Never mind that all of those art forms simply reflected society back to the people consuming it. By God, the world was turning to hell in a hand basket and only these self-imposed zealots were going to same America from evil overriding it.
Those zealots have always been wrong, and they're wrong here, too.
Yeah I know I just climbed onto my soapbox and let loose another manifesto, but the kind of reflexive moralizing found in a movie like this really offends me. I was repulsed by the idea of a game like Columbine Massacre RPG! but it absolutely serves an important purpose in the world today.
May 2, 2012
This animation by Globaïa shows the incredibly numerous road networks, shipping lanes, and flight paths that encircle Earth. The animation is part of the Welcome to the Anthropocene project, an educational web portal focused on humanity’s increasing impact on Earth. There’s also a narrated version of the animation which provides some historical context.