Jason Sacks: Well blow me down. I know Zack and I have read Popeye before, but have you read these original strips before, Daniel and Danny?
Daniel Elkin: No. This was a first for me. I did watch quite a bit of the cartoons as a child, though, so that was really my frame of reference.
Danny Djeljosevic: There was this one time I reviewed Volume 4 (Plunder Island) for Comics Bulletin, which speaks to how accessible these comic strip collections are -- you can pretty much start anywhere.
Zack Davisson: Jason has been to my house and seen my Popeye shrine. I've been a fan of Segar's Popeye for about as long as I can remember. I started reading them when I was about 5 or 6. My Grandfather had a Smithsonian collection of old cartoons strips with tons of Popeye.
Fair Trade Comics is an ongoing series where Comics Bulletin looks at creator-owned comics that you can read without guilt or moral compromise.
Keith Silva: Let's get sticky. We all crave stickiness, in fact, we have to have it. What "it" is … well, that depends. Stickiness is the "it factor" -- one's ability to select a particular sandwich, dish detergent or lover over every other. Malcom Gladwell has made a fortune explaining stickiness. If advertisers, marketers (and their shareholders) could bottle one thing, it would be stickiness.
Nothing is perhaps stickier than art, in this case, comics. There's that Seinfeld episode when an editor at the New Yorker tells Elaine Benes: ''cartoons are like gossamer and one doesn't dissect gossamer.'' Elaine replies: ''Well you don't have to dissect it. If you can just tell me why this is supposed to be funny.'' Stickiness isn't about dissection and it's not subjective; stickiness is the why. Local sticks. Here's why.
After years of not reading comics, I realize how insincere (and ignorant) I sound when I hear myself say, ''Local is the best comic book I've read in a long time (25 years to be exact).'' It's true and still … Local was suggested to me by my friend Justin Giampaoli on Twitter (@thirteenminutes) because I was enjoying Wood's work on Conan the Barbarian. Local and Conan are worlds apart, but they come from the same place. Both are stories about finding one's way in the world, the search for knowledge and the circuitous route one takes to gain experience.
At the same time I was reading Local I was starting to get these… feelings. I suppose it happens to every comic book reader, that, I dunno some sort of spider-like reflex, some sense that the capes aren't your crowd. I don't have an axe to grind against Marvel or DC or costumed heroes for that matter. As I read Local I began to realize that I was (sorry) home. I began reading comics during the black and white revolution of the mid-'80s. At the time I was more concerned with whatever young, mutant, martial art, anthropomorphic animal dribbled down the shelves of my local comic shop. A seminal experience to be sure; and even though many of those comics choke giveaway bins now, their otherness was a full-throated howl that comics could be different. So, I'm hard-wired for black and white art -- Ryan Kelly's Local work transcends the form, no, really -- and creator-owned work, I own that, that's not what makes Local stick, unless (maybe) you're me, in which case we should talk. Local tells a human story. It sticks because we are all locals and we are all in search of a place to call our own.
Jamil: Alright, Elkin, let's journey through the rabbit hole. I'm sure you got the complimentary LSD that came withStovetop, and we should be just sober now enough to examine this creative look at the nature of reality through the eyes of Muppets.
The extremely animated, almost familiar, world is what popped out at me at first. Despite the characters being little clowns and muscular rabbits I felt pretty comfortable in Stovetop even in all its weirdness.
Daniel: Comfortable is not a word I would have used any time during my reading of Stovetop, Jamil. I kept thinking the book was going one way, be it a commentary on the creative process or an exploration of the nature of the self, but then it would zag out on me and take me someplace else entirely, all at this frenetic pace, almost as if Lance Ward had eaten the acid before he began and was hallucinating this whole thing as he was creating it.
Not to say that is necessarily a bad thing, mind you, because somewhere in this book, I think, lies those moments of abstract profundity that acid gobblers tend to reach (only to forget about or discount entirely when they come down). But it seems to be a wandering and winding road that Ward makes us sprint across to reach that other side.
Superhumans with neural implants may belong to the realm of science fiction for now. But the day is fast approaching when technology offers us abilities beyond our wildest dreams (or darker than our worst nightmares). PhD in Robotics and NYTimes best selling author Daniel H. Wilson had a conversation with us to discuss the near future reality of brain implants that make us superhuman.
I've always said that nothing fucks you up quite like family. Apparently, Aussie comic book creator Frank Candiloro agrees with my sentiment.
His latest comic, Thicker than Water, is advertised as "a 40 page horror comic which incorporates tropes from the slasher genre and giving a fairytale spin to them." This seems like a pretty good, though incomplete summary of what this book is about. Mostly, this is a comic about family.
There is both a sweetness and a brutality about this book, and the juxtaposition is, at times, hard to wrap your head around. The art, which is the center of all of Candiloro's books, only adds to this miasma of conflicting sentiments. As you can see from the images accompanying this review, Candiloro's art does not lend itself easily to feelings of joy, sweetness, or tenderness. It is hard to embrace the innocence of childhood when that child is, for all intents and purposes, rendered flat and untouchable by the artist's style.
As a lover of American literature, for me the name Flannery O'Connor evokes the thick voice of the South as it used to sweat all over the more grotesque aspects of the American Dream. O'Connor's use of language could both embrace and destroy in the same sentence. Her novel Wise Blood defined a certain gothic sensibility for me, and it continues to be a touchstone for comparison for any new thing I read that affects even the slightest of drawls.
Needless to say, when I heard that Fantagraphics had published Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, my upper lip moistened slightly with excitement. One of my favorite American authors augmenting her craft with her visual sensibilities? It seemed like a no-brainer, a must-have, a need-now. What I got in the package of Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, though, was a conundrum.
Do you believe in the orderliness of events or is your day only ordinary? Have you ever thought that sequential storytelling shackles the intimacy of creativity? What did you make of The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #4? Did you find the warmth of the arts and crafts room with its redolence of paste comforting that summer you went to the camp by the lake, the one run by the Catholics? When you see a gimmick or gimcrack, do you look past it or do you appreciate its novelty? Can you spot allusions to Lovecraft? How do primary colors make you feel?
Dreams, squirrels and videotapes. A man dreams of a squirrel and then - backed up by battery of machines - mounts an inquiry into the apparition of squirrels in other people’s dreams. Traumdeutung is an animation about the global reserve of dreams while crossing the border between documentary and surreal.
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 Popatopolis by Clay Westervelt
Elkin: The focus of the documentary Popatopolis is the making of a movie called The Witches of Breastwick. Yes, that's right, The Witches of Breastwick. Why make a documentary about the making of a B-Movie Exploitation Film? Well, director Clay Westervelt took on this project for two reasons. First, this was one of the first times that a full-length feature film was made in only three days, and the process of that undertaking alone is worthy of documentation. Secondly, and most importantly, The Witches of Breastwick was directed by the legendary B-Movie film maker, Jim Wynorksi, and his story is more fascinating than anything he has ever filmed.
Jim Wynorksi has, according to the film, “directed more movies than Martin Scorsese, and produced more profitable movies than Jerry Bruckheimer.” You may know him from such fine B-features as Chopping Mall, 976-EVIL, Dinosaur Island, Munchie, CheerleaderMassacre,Return of the Swamp Thing or The Bare Wench Project. Wynorksi's formula for a successful movie is simple. Make sure it contains both “a big chase and a big chest.” He makes exploitation films. They follow a certain set of rules. Yet somehow, Wynorksi's films distinguish themselves above the enormous trough of movies of this genre.
As B-Movie King Roger Corman says about Wynorksi in Popatopolis, “He has never lost his enthusiasm for film. He is a better director than he thinks he is and is capable of doing more than he's done.” And this, I think, is the central point of this documentary and what drew me to it in the first place. Wynorksi is an artist (although he casts himself as the kind of artist who “paints Elvis on velvet”), but he has let his lack of confidence limit his range. He discovered that he makes pretty good soft-core porn movies, always within budget and always on time and he has made a comfortable career doing so. But as the technology has advanced, the expectations in both budget and turnaround have changed. Now, instead of taking months to make one of these films, Wynorksi is limited to THREE DAYS.
And because he is not willing to challenge himself, because he does not see himself as a serious artist, because he is afraid to fail, his art suffers. And suffers. And suffers. Until he is down to a crew of two and is hiring porn actresses as his leading ladies.
This, I think, is the central theme of Poptopolis. As an artist, your art is only as successful as the challenges you take on. Great art is made under a sense of doom, that it could all fail, and it is the courage to try that brings forth the beauty. In a way, Jim Wynorski's story, as seen in this documentary, is, in fact, kind of a tragic tale of success.