March 30, 2013

Review -- SHADOWMAN #5

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Shadowman #5
(Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher, Lee Garbett, Roberto De La Torre; Valiant)
Once again, I find myself jumping into a Valiant comic having no idea what is going on. I don't know the characters, I don't know the universe, and I don't really know much about the creators. Given all this, besides wondering why the hell CB is even letting me review this book, you may ask how I can say anything of any validity about it.
Because oooooo.... voodoo.
And also, isn't it the mark of a good issue #5 of a comic book if it is engaging to someone stepping into it for the first time?
Shadowman #5 is one of those books.

March 27, 2013


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 2012's Greedy Lying Bastards (out in theatres March 8, 2013) directed by Craig Scott Rosebraugh AND 2013's Occupy Love directed by Velcrow Ripper
Elkin: So the world's gone to shit. We are on the brink of both an economic and environmental disaster of epic proportions. The signs are everywhere: on the news, out your window, in your bank account, and under your feet. As you get to the point at the end of the month where you are either paying for gas with dimes or wondering if those bumps in the inside of your mouth might be cancerous, you look around into the eyes of all the people you know and love and you see your own frenzied stress response reflected.
We all know we are on the precipice.
So we either bury our heads -- sit in the drive-through lane at Whataburger for five minutes with the heater turned up high while thumbing through the latest Bed, Bath, and Beyond catalog -- or we make vain vows to ourselves to simplify and reduce and reuse that make us feel good about ourselves until we opt for the plastic bag at the Piggly-Wiggly because it's easier to carry up the hill. 
But it doesn't have to be like that. I'm just projecting my own insecurities, right? There are people out there that are actually doing something in the face of this tumult and trying to make the world a better place.
Really, there are.

March 26, 2013


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Faction 1 Kiwi Comic Anthology
(Ned Wenlock, Ant Sang, Damon Keen, Christian Pearce, Jonathan King, Ralphi, Nani Mahal, Czepta, Matt Emery, Karl Wills, Mark Holland, Roger Langridge, Tim Gibson, Mukpuddy; 3 Bad Monkeys)
4/5 stars
New Zealand comic book creators are making their presence known and everyone should celebrate that fact. The folks at 3 Bad Monkeys are, and their crowd-funded anthology Factionshows us why. Their mission statement seems to be pretty straightforward: "We want to show off the beautiful work that is being produced in New Zealand to a wider audience, as well as helping to inspire a new generation of kiwi comic artists and writers."
This anthology features the work of fourteen New Zealand comics creators, some of which are mind-blowingly original and all have whet my appetite for more. Of the fourteen, three artists featured in Faction 1 are of particular note.

March 22, 2013


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Uncanny Skullkickers #1 
(Jim Zub, Edwin Huang, Misty Coats; Image)
4.5/5 Stars
Skullkickers is one of those books. You know the kind. They're the ones that are awesome on pretty much every level, from the storytelling to the art to the packaging to the marketing. Everything works. Yet writer Jim Zub and artist Edwin Huang obviously thought they could do better. So they decided to follow the more "professional" publishers with a "relaunch" and a new concept. The cover of this comic proudly states its intent: "WE FIGURED OUT WHAT OUR SERIES WAS MISSING: ADJECTIVES!
Thus was born Uncanny Skullkickers #1.
Which is actually issue #19 of Skullkickers. But you don't need to know that, because this is aJUMPING ON POINT! It's a NEW NUMBER ONE! It's UNCANNY!
Oh... it is.

March 21, 2013


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin.

Justin Giampaoli: As if Tom Kaczynski wasn't already an innovative voice and talented enough creator in his own right (Beta Testing The Apocalypse is currently garnering well-deserved critical attention, including an interview/profile piece right here from Comics Bulletin's own Nick Hanover), he also channeled an entrepreneurial spirit, joined the Small Press Renaissance currently underway, and launched a boutique publishing house called Uncivilized Books. I've very favorably reviewed about half a dozen books in the line to date, of particular note is James Romberger's cataclysmic environmental cautionary tale Post York, which tickled my post-apocalyptic Achilles Heel real good.
But, it was an innocent looking book called Eel Mansions by Derek Van Gieson that lingered in my thoughts long after I put it down. We track story coils unfurling from Armistead Fowler's conscripted service. It's a hypnotic descent into a foreign world lurking just below the surface of our own. It contains twinges of government conspiracy, secret occult cabals, lyrical humor, a dash of music references, and a tendency to subvert familiar character archetypes and to reclaim hipster parlance. The rustic paper stock that Uncivilized Books trades in lustfully swallows up Van Gieson's inky inky art, as mysteriously intertwined story threads slide effortlessly into your gray matter, with a sense of recognition just on the periphery of understanding. There are hints of memory, of longing, of nostalgia, and a devilish flirtation coaxing you to the edge of narrative climax. She wasn't so innocent. She's a very inky girl.
As a follow-up to our somewhat polarizing roundtable discussion of The Coffin: 10th Anniversary Edition, I asked Comics Bulletin's own sandwich connoisseur Daniel Elkin and hot off the pull quote press Keith Silva, indie aficionados both, if they'd be up for discussing Eel Mansions for our next joint venture. Yes, I have questions for these two. So, guys, what did you think? Tell me about your trips (pun intended) to Mill City, and your first impressions of Eel Mansions.

March 19, 2013

Cheap Thrills -- THE H.A.R.D CORPS #13

This Column Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for the local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week Daniel Elkin heads on out to Empire Comics Vault in Sacramento, CA and grabs a comic from the bargain bin (for 25 cents) to see what kind of bang he can get for his solid quarter. These are those tales.

February 20, 2013 – paid 25 cents for:
Published by: Valiant Comics
Written by: David Michelinie
Pencils by: Yvel Guichet
Inks by: Rodney Ramos
Colors by: David Chlystek
Letters by: Rob Johnson with Joe Albelo
Editor: Bob Layton


December of 1993 brought us NAFTA, id Software's Doom, Wayne's World 2, Schindler's List, and the album Lethal Injection by Ice Cube. It saw the re-election of Omar Bongo as President of Gabon, and the death of the legendary Frank Zappa.

December of 1993 also brought us the publication of The H.A.R.D. Corps #13 from Valiant Comics.

It's an old adage that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. That's hard to do sometimes with comic books. My initial reaction to this cover was something along the lines of …. mmmm … OK ... Brown.

Not really a lot of dynamism here, nor any particular eye-catching wonk to inspire an impulse purchase. A matter of fact, this cover is kinda off-putting, kinda icky, kinda “what were they thinking”. I mean comic books are, in part, a strong visual medium and, in a sea of titles, it behooves the publishers to use the cover of their book to make it stand out. Even though brown may possibly be the most beautiful color in existence, I don't quite see how this cover does that. I'm sure the marketing department at Valiant had loads of words they used to justify this decision. But brown? Then again, it works for Cleveland.

Let's just jump in, shall we?

March 14, 2013


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

(Maciej Sienczyk; Biedriba Grafiskie stasti/Mini Kus!)
There are odd things occurring in Latvia. Nobody seems to understand this better than the Riga based publishing house Biedriba Grafiskie stasti who publish the anthology kuš! (pronounced koosh!) which they started in 2007. As they say on their website, "The aims of kuš! are to popularize comics in a country where this medium is practically non-existant and spreading Latvian comics abroad." They also publish mini comics, and the focus of this review is one of those, Mini Kus! #12 Historyjki by Polish artist Maciej Sienczyk.

March 12, 2013


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin.

Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth #2
(Ken Kristensen, M.K. Perker; Image)
 4.5/5 Stars
This title continues to be one of my favorite this year. The team on this book are layering all sorts of different meats and cheeses and using all kinds of spicy condiments to serve up one hell of a sandwich, and you know how much I like sandwiches.
Our boy with a bag on his head is back, and this time, Todd, The Ugliest Kid on Earth, is in jail, learning the ropes, making friends, being targeted for a shanking, chasing butterflies, and picking up the soap. Once again Ken Kristensen and M.K. Perker have gone out of their way to skewer sacred cows, punch the gut of pomposity, and provide some pretty good chuckles along the way.
While our titular Todd's perambulations in the pokey are the focus of most of this issue, Kristensen has a few other story lines to season the stew. Todd's dad is all hot and bothered for soap opera star Belinda Fairchild whose embrace of Scientology made her "breasts larger" and her "vagina smaller." Todd's mom enjoys the "advances" of a big-chinned opportunist. A new headless girl's body has been discovered to the dismay of the Chief of  Police who had already arrested Todd for the crime. Finally, there is the axe murderer himself who, in his only appearance in this issue, is upset by his Domino's Pizza delivery being late. 

March 8, 2013


This Interview Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin.

Welcome back to part four of our four-part interview with Don McGregor! In this part we discuss topics including the Killraven graphic novel, Yellowstone National Park, amazing comics art and the difficulty of creating innovative layouts.
CB: So how did you end up getting the offer to do the graphic novel?
McGregor: The answer is Archie Goodwin.
Archie was the first editor I ever had at Warren. The first story to be published in Creepy was edited by Archie and drawn by Tom Sutton. I thought it was always going to be like this. Tom drew everything I asked for in "The Fade-Away Walk,” POV though sniper-scopes, continuity shots, reverse angles.
The Fade Away Walk Don McGregor Marvel Killraven
I was lucky to have Archie as an editor. His comments were always about how to make your story better and not about the story he would have written. And he always came to me with courtesy and a clear idea of what didn't work.
One of the early stories I did for Warren touched on abortion. I wasn't living yet in New York City, I was still in Rhode Island. But I already realized there was areas comics did not touch. As a writer, a storyteller, you learned simply by realizing what you did not see or read in the books. Anyway, I touched on abortion and then ran away from it, figuring it was enough to get the subject into the story. I had a frightfully silly ending. Just God-awful! Right now, just thinking about it makes me cringe.
Archie called me and asked why I would do this to my story. We discussed it and he was absolutely right. I told him to send the story back I would rewrite it completely. I will always love Archie for saving me from having to live with that story. I would still be so embarrassed. Archie never took your work and changed it without you having a clue that your story was being altered. He called you. He let you rewrite it.
Archie earned the respect of so many talented writers and artists, in fact I would think with most anyone he ever worked with.

March 7, 2013


This interview originally ran on Comics Bulletin
Welcome back to part three of our four-part interview with Don McGregor! In this part we discuss topics including the smoldering Volcana Ash, the amazing The 24 Hour Man, Orson Welles and auteurism!

CB Daniel: The character Volcana Ash, that was some smoldering sexuality that you added there.
CB Jason: Good choice of words there, Daniel.
McGregor: Yeah, I loved her. I liked Volcana a lot. Volcana's definitely back in "Final Lies, Final Truths, Final Battles.” I looked around for the script pages, knowing you guys wanted to do this, but I didn't find them. They're somewhere in my filing cabinets. There's so many times over the years when these books and the other series were being discussed that I don't know exactly where everything is.
I did find, I think the very final page that I was going to write for the "Killraven" series. It's just draft copy.

March 6, 2013


This interview originally ran on Comics Bulletin

Welcome back to part two of our four-part interview with Don McGregor! In this part you'll read about P. Craig Russell's rude introduction to the politics of the Marvel Bullpen, racism in the comics field in the 1970s, and much more.
Comics Bulletin: The series transitions from Gene's beautiful issue to the beginning of Craig Russell's book. Craig's work he started out pretty raw, but then he immediately becomes spectacular.

: Absolutely. We talked about this earlier with the other books. Here's how Craig Russell ends up on "Killraven:”
Unlike Billy Graham and I, who were friends, though I repeat, I did not get to choose Billy to drawn the Black Panther as I did with him later when I created Sabre. I did not know Craig.
I had heard Craig being talked about in the Bullpen, before he was assigned to draw "Killraven.” There was some real backlash to an interview Craig did with a fanzine. I don't recall all the details, but Craig had drawn an Ant-Man story and he didn't like what Marvel had done with some of his artwork. And he talked about it in print.

March 5, 2013


This interview originally ran on Comics Bulletin.

Don McGregor's writing was always special. His work at Marvel during the Bronze Age was some of the smartest, most passionate and articulate of any writer from his era. Don wrote some of the most realistic action heroes ever. Don's characters have real emotions, not comic book emotions. They feel physical pain and emotional pain and speak profoundly about all of those pains.
We're delighted to present a massive four-part interview with the great Don McGregor that will run all week, similar to our multi-part interview with Don about his work on the classic Black Panther series. Enjoy part one of the reminiscence and be sure to come back tomorrow for the next part of our conversation.
Jason and Daniel for Comics Bulletin: How did you get involved with "Killraven" and what were you told about the book when you took over?

: I can answer that; I just have to try to organize the sequence of events and recall how the decisions were made. I wasn't aware of all the factors that influenced the decision editorially to give me "War of the Worlds' and Jungle Action to write.
Essentially, I was told I would be writing both series at the same time.
If you were working on staff at Marvel, the editor-in-chief would have staff meetings. I don't recall these happening on any schedule, just when new procedures were going to be discussed, or if the company were expanding the number of books done, topics along those lines. During those meetings, for those present, if talent were going to change on titles, or if someone at the meeting was going to be given a series to write, that's when you would find out about it.
I hadn't been at Marvel long in editorial (basically proof-reading reprint titles) to realize that there was a mostly unspoken rule, but there nonetheless, that if you were a writer and you worked on staff at $125 a week, you would eventually be able to supplement your income with writing assignments.
I later learned long after, when I was no longer writing either the Panther or Killraven or Morbius or Luke Cage that there wasn't much belief in my abilities as a writer and that I would be given titles that were marginal sellers at best and in genres that weren't known to sell well in the comics medium.
Jungle genre titles weren't doing big business in the 70s. The head people were trying to track everything. It had certainly been noted that Joe Kubert's Tarzan had died. If you had the King of the Jungle character fail with talent like Joe, it was apparent to some that jungle titles were going to die.
Thus, Jungle Action, which had essentially been a reprint book, but would now have new material with the Black Panther, was one of the titles given to me during that particular meeting. I had no idea that was going to happen before the meeting.
Now, there was the same general thought about science fiction comics; that they weren't giant sellers in the comic book marketplace.
In the case of "War of the Worlds," it I my impression that they did have high hopes for this series, but when it changed creative talents for its first three issues, it didn't take a prophet to see the writing on the wall, to paraphrase Paul Simon in his song "The Sounds of Silence."

March 4, 2013


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 2012's A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman directed by Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett.
SacksSo, Elkin, last time in Convenient Truths, we looked at a documentary of Dr. Jack Kervorkian, an insightful and thoughtful profile of a very serious man who frequently saw himself to be a real person of vision, carrying insights that few other men had. Kervorkian often felt himself to be a bit intellectually superior to his common man. He seemed at times to feel like a man on a mission to bring truth to the world, most especially in his insights and approach to the important issue of assisted suicide. Truth was incredibly important to Dr. Kervorkian and he always saw himself as a kind of evangelist for mankind to arrive at greater insights into the world about important matters.
And now, as they say, for something completely different.
Graham Chapman was about as different from Jack Kervorkian as I am from Jay-Z. Chapman was an entertainer, a storyteller who seems to have been predestined to a life of pure fun and hedonism. His life was all about hilarity and escape, about the joys of pleasure above all. Chapman deliberately rejected a safe and conservative life as a medical doctor to work on the footlights, have fun in the theatre, become a member of Monty Python, and have as much sex and alcohol in his life as possible.
A Liar's Autobiography is a tremendously eccentric look at the life of Graham Chapman. This film adapts Chapman's book of the same name, in which the famed Python member tells some tales – occasionally even true tales – about his life. The film features around a dozen animated segments that tell the story of different eras of Chapman's life, all in different styles and with different approaches to the material.
When I first heard about this movie, I was excited to see it. I was intrigued by the eccentricity of this film and thought it might be a clever way to tell the story of a very unique performer who has had an especially unique approach to his career and life.
Unfortunately, this film just didn't click for me. In fact, it had just the opposite result on me than I had hoped it would have. I was ready for this film to make me laugh, giggle and chortle while I also enjoyed the wonderfully wacky animation in each of the segments. Instead, the animation distanced me from the story. The use of different animated studios and styles had the effect of making me less engaged in A Liar's Autobiography, giving the story a real fit-and-start style that lurches from wacky humor to extreme tedium to crushing sadness. In the end, the endless stream of shaggy-dog stories became rather tedious for me.
Elkin, you told me that you disliked this biography, too. Why did you have problems with this film?