July 31, 2013

Review -- DAY MEN #1

Day Men #1
Writers: Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Rating: 4/5 stars

I may be breaking new ground here, but in order to do a short review about BOOM! Studios' Day Men #1 by artist Brian Stelfreeze and writers Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson, I need to address a review of this book that Andy Khouri wrote for ComicsAlliance. In effect, I will be reviewing a comic by reviewing a review of that comic. There may be a term for this, but right now I don't know what that is.

Day Men is a vampire/mafia book. The vampires in this story use “Day Men” to do their bidding and business during the sunlight hours to keep things running smoothly. The story revolves around David Reid, a Day Man who works for the Virgo family, and this first issue spends most of its narrative on exposition, setting up the beginning of a war between vampire families. What is most notable about Day Men, though, and what sets it apart from the myriad vampire comics out there, is the work of Brian Stelfreeze.

July 29, 2013


Reloaded from marieke v on Vimeo.

Animated Musicvideo for dutch duo Baskerville

July 26, 2013

One of My Favorite Comics Critics: Ken Chen

The Following is a short piece I contributed to an article called  I Don't Know Why You Wanna Impress Christgau: 10 of Our Favorite Comics Critics on Comics Bulletin in response to conversations we have been having about what is lacking in comics criticism in general.
Ken Chen
Ken Chen

Horror is political precisely because the realm of the political is horrifying.” This is how Ken Chen began his May 9, 2013 column on DC Comics' announcement of Hellblazer's cancellation for The New Inquiry. As a critic, Chen used this as an opportunity to not only talk about how much of an influence the character of John Constantine had on him personally, but also the commentary Hellblazer itself made about the England of Margaret Thatcher. As he wrote in his piece, “Hellblazer represented an attempt to use genre fiction as a way to more accurately describe right-wing ascension.” Through his critical eye, Chen saw Hellblazer, specifically Jamie Delano's run on the series, as “unmistakably about forcing the reader to go from being a voyeur of genre horror comics and to become a witness of her own terrifying political conscience.”
As a critic, Chen saw the cancellation of Hellblazer as indicating a true shift in mainstream comics. While comics have become less niche and more culturally resonant, the “room for oppositional comics” becomes “restricted.” Hellblazer, in effect, had to be canceled because its true purpose was no longer possible. As well, since Thatcher left power, “no Hellblazer writer has grappled with how to imagine an oppositional space in the age of nominally left-wing conservatives like Clinton, Blair, and Obama.”

July 24, 2013


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Quantum and Woody #1
(James Asmus, Tom Fowler, Jordie Bellaire; Valiant)
 4/5 stars
Valiant Comics continues to prove that its relaunch was a good idea with the release of Quantum and Woody #1.  As Woody himself says when he accidentally sets off the Dynamo Systems in Zone Theta, "Ooo... Shiny."
Quantum and Woody #1 plays in a familiar sandbox. Two brothers, one an over-the-top, by-the-book law enforcement type and the other a ne'er-do-well, lovable, quipping rouge, are acrimoniously brought back together by their father's mysterious death. In the course of taking matters into their own hands, they are accidentally zapped by some kinda super power ray which, I guess, gives them super powers. It's your buddy cop story stitched up inside your basic "origin" tale -- like I said, we've built a lot of castles and moats in this sandbox before.

And it's obvious that Asmus and Fowler know this, but they use this knowledge to their advantage and use the tropes inherent in these formulas to propel the story. We already know this and that so they don't have to go on and on telling us why. Which frees them to have fun. And this is a fun book. A lot of fun.
Early on in the book, Asmus has on of the newscasters in this book ask if Quantum and Woody are really heroes or "dangerous overgrown children causing trouble?" The answer to that question is "Yes" -- these characters will be heroes, but, like all heroes, to do so they have to be "dangerous overgrown children" as well. Because heroes step outside of the expected, normal, don't-want-to-get-involved day-to-day behavior that we all, as adults, display constantly and consistently. We think that given the opportunity to be heroic, we would certainly step up to the challenge. But we're kidding ourselves. We won't and we don't. We bear witness to horrible things happening around us all the time, and continue to walk into the store, the office, the classroom, our home, without really doing anything about it.

July 23, 2013

Review -- MegaRobot or Why We Love It When Giant Robots Blow Shit Up.

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
When I was in the third or fourth grade I would often distract myself from the tedium of the Texas brand of traditional factory style rote education by drawing robot battle comics. These things would be epic in scale -- huge explosions, endless rounds of ammunition, buildings being destroyed, shit flying all over the place, people screaming -- and they reflected the obvious discontent and disconnect I felt towards my role in the system, as well as my puerile drive to fuck shit up (of course).

Giant robots breaking things. There is something attractive about the concept, right? It persists (Pacific Rim) and has become almost part of our cultural consciousness. Why? Does it reflect the fact that we still need gods in our lives even though science has made us incredulous? Is a giant robot a science based mythological hero, one that we can get behind because... you know.... science? 

Or does it reflect our unease with the pace at which we are cocooning ourselves in technology? Is the giant robot breaking shit on a grand scale a projection of our sublimation into a digital existence, our fear of losing control as we technologically advance our lives, blurring work and entertainment and consciousness into one flashing screen after another?
These are big questions, which makes sense, as these are, after all, big robots.

July 22, 2013


Pipeline Lizards #1
(Alexander Enlund)
4/5 stars
So there are these four lizards, right, named Dohdo, Laxton, Sulky and Flags, and they find this strange pipeline running through the land of the lizards. Nobody knows where it came from or what is inside, so these four lizards decide to follow the pipe to see where it goes. This is the premise of Swedish writer/artist Alexander Enlund's Pipeline Lizards, what may be my new favorite digital comic.

I found this book on Comixology Submit, but it turns out it's a web comic too, and thank goodness for that, because when Pipeline Lizards #1 ended, I needed more!  Pipeline Lizards is goofy and surreal, as well as full of interesting characters and a thick sense that there is some larger idea at work here. Enlund has found the perfect container for the story he wants to tell, and, as these lizards go through the stages of their journey, he gets to unpack more and more of what he wants to tell you.
As I read more small-press and web comics, I keep coming across more and more singular takes on the monomyth. There's something exciting about seeing enormously creative people working within the context of the familiar and making it a forum for their unique vision. Enlund does a great job of this with his story.

July 16, 2013


On Tuesday, July 2nd, Comics Bulletin's Publisher, Jason Sacks, and Comics Bulletin's sandwich aficionado, Daniel Elkin, wandered into the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco to experience Image Expo 2013, “a single day event that invites fans of Image Comics to join influential members of the press and comics retailer community for the first look at WHAT'S NEXT from Image Comics.” The following is a recap of that experience.
Elkin: Image Expo 2013 has come and gone and I'm still trying to wrap my head around what the whole experience amounted to. This odd press conference/marketing ploy/mini-con/rumpus stands out for seemingly not really knowing what it wanted to be, yet pulling it off almost flawlessly.
All sorts of things occurred during the day which added to the dichotomous nature of the experience. From the very start, Eric Stephenson's keynote address struck the right balance between a stockholder's meeting and fanboy circle jerk – lauding the unique role and successes of Image as a publisher, while gushing over creators and their upcoming books.
A haphazard merch table was set up for eager consumers to pay for and drool over a plethora of Image offerings and exclusives. It seemed to be doing a brisk business throughout the entire day's programing with little to no fanfare, while all the time enshrouded in an attitude of “Hey, check out some cool shit while you wait around for something to happen somewhere...
And then there were the panels where Image employees talked to individual creators about their work for Image (ESPECIALLY how it differed from their work at DC or Marvel), followed by a short Q and A session from the crowd. These panels were relaxed, chummy, a downright loveable. They were kind of like a family event, where proud dad gets to talk to their kid about what they've been doing lately while simultaneously looking for investors. These panels were sales pitches as much as group hugs.
While the panels were going on, upstairs other creators were doing handshakes and book signings for long lines of fans. While I didn't stand in line or get anything signed, this part of the Expo seemed calculated, obligatory, and antithetical to the whole feel of the thing.
And then there was the fact that the whole program consisted exclusively of a bunch of white men.....
I don't know....
It was a weird experience all around. Entertaining, informative, engaging, but weird all the same. Before we get into the specifics of the event, though, I was wondering what your overall sense of Image Expo 2013 was, Sacks?
Image Expo 2013
Sacks: As you know, Elkin, I flew down to San Francisco for the day this year just to experience Image Expo in all its glory. I remembered how much I'd enjoyed the previous Image Expo in Oakland a year or two ago and was anxious to relive that experience. The first Image Expo is still one of my favorite conventions I've ever attended. There was tremendous access to creators at that Con, the very large hall was friendly and filled with a good Artist's Alley and a wide range of retailers, and the afterparty was fantastic. For all intents and purposes, Image Expo 2012 was just a smaller and slightly more specific version of a standard comics con.
Of course, this year's Image Expo was a very different animal. It was intended and planned as much more of a PR and marketing event in which exactly what was promised actually did happen – a group of prominent Image creators were walked onto the stage, where they did nice presentations and informal Q&As about their books and their approach to doing a book at Image.
And while that was very nice and interesting since the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was a very lovely theatre and had good acoustics and comfortable seating, it also left a major of void at the center of the event. I kept wanting there to be more there there, to quote Gertrude Stein. As you mentioned, this was a weird experience.

July 15, 2013


This Review Originally ran on Comics Bulletin
Justin Giampaoli: Jim Morrison is The Lizard King. 
David Bowie is Ziggy Stardust.
Beyonce Knowles is Sasha Fierce. 
Paul Pope is Pulp Hope. 
Pope's alter ego is known only to the true believers in his religion of comics. You need only whisper it to the comic book cognoscenti and await a look of comprehension. He's an elusive creator to casual fans of the medium, serving as a basic litmus test for "who's in" and "who's out" of my personal circle in the industry. God, I've become an elitist snob. You'll find the "Pulp Hope" persona adorning Pope's fiery red studio stamp he uses to personally christen original art. PulpHope is also the name of his gorgeous coffee table art book, published by AdHouse Books. For anyone who managed to grab Pope's Oni Double Feature story in the late 90's, he also acquired a double-entendre name provided by an accented South American lover, "Pole Pop." Altar Alter egos are a basic conceit in the world of comic books. In the oeuvre of artist Paul Pope, they step further and build toward the primal power of myth. It doesn't matter if he's dealing with the enduring urban legend inBatman: Year 100, Hope Sandoval-cum-HR Watson in the Martian adventure THB, or the pulpy sci-fi origins of the superhero genre itself in his Wednesday Comics strip Strange Adventures, the myth is the thing.  
Presidential speechwriter William Safire wrote about manned space travel: "In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood." Pope shares the belief expressed by fellow shamanic creator Grant Morrison, that of the superhero paradigm as modern myth. Listen to him discuss Batman: Year 100:

"I wanted to present a new take on Batman, who is without a doubt a mythic figure in our pop-psyche. My Batman is not only totally science fiction, he's also a very physical superhero: he bleeds, he sweats, he eats. He's someone born into an overarching police state; someone with the body of David Beckham, the brain of Tesla, and the wealth of Howard Hughes... pretending to be Nosferatu."

The distillation of these archetypes into a singular sequential elixir is about reliance on myth as fuel for storytelling.

This foundational literary topos surrounding myth is essential to discussing the works of Paul Pope, and The Invincible Haggard West is no exception. Before the main feature concerning Herculean demi-god or god-like superhero Battling Boy may commence (original graphic novel debut on 10/8/13), there must first be a story establishing lineage with the proto Titans who serve as forebears. In myth, there must be death before there can be rebirth. Billed as a "limited edition sneak peek of Battling Boy" in the indicia, The Invincible Haggard West is a faux final issue functioning as a prequel, as a teaser, as a call-it-what-you-will one-shot. Final Issue! #101 prominently features "The Death of Haggard West." It's publishing slight-of-hand used to cue the end of that fiction-within-a-fiction period, which never actually existed, yet we're meant to believe it did ("thanks to all the fans for following his exploits all these many years"). It's a glance at things past. It sets the stage as prelude. It contains hints of what's to come. It's a method for establishing that foundational mythic belief system. 
I've always wanted to see Pope's riff on Mister Miracle, so it's impossible for me not to look at this Haggard West cover and see Orion from Kirby's New Gods. Pope never denies the Kirby connection. In fact, he openly cites influence from Caniff, Toth, Pratt, Herge, and Kirby. This myriad of styles is evident in Haggard West. Amid the Art Deco street lamps in Acropolis (an overt clue re: Greek Mythology), West swoops down from the sky to save kids in peril like a god damn steampunk dragonfly. This adventurer is equal parts The Rocketeer, Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon, Adam Strange, James Doolittle, Nikola Tesla, and Ernest Hemingway. He's there not only to save the kids, but to save the future, to save his own legacy. Haggard West exists in the liminal state between generations and genres. He bridges the gap as pulp and sci-fi roots transitioned to superhero dominance; he's there as the Golden Age gives way to the Silver Age. There's a tight zoom panel of West's bullet ridden scarf signaling the end, one that deliberately lingers for a beat, the symbolic death of an entire generation of adventurers. The somber two-page spread of his monument follows, punctuating the loss. The Titan has fallen. The nightmares have won. But it's merely a platform to launch from. Our god, our hero,Battling Boy, is on the way.

July 11, 2013


SubWars from SeanSoong on Vimeo.

director :SeanSoong(http://seansoong.diandian.com)
Original music: 〃囍〃[Ayo_Chen](http://www.china-wave.cn)

July 9, 2013

Review -- A Twelve Minute Revolution in Just Reading

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
A Twelve Minute Revolution in Just Reading
(Darren Hupke, Vincent Tang)
4/5 stars

Here's the deal -- At 7:30 Lukas is shot. His experiment incomplete. By 7:42, there will be a revolution. A Twelve Minute Revolution in Just Reading was Darren Hupke and Vincent Tang's Kickstarter darling and now it's available on Comixology. It's a quick six-page story about a Nazi scientist who, as he comes to the end of some sort of project, is pierced by a bullet. He spends the rest of the comic not only trying to see his work to fruition, but also getting revenge on whoever shot him, all before he dies, all in twelve minutes.

Sounds simple enough, right? It's got that Kiefer Sutherland kind of thing going on, maybe. Perhaps you're rolling your eyes, thinking to yourself, "Haven't I seen this all before?"
But this little book has a kicker of an ending that gives you the big old middle finger, wags it in front of your eyes for a moment, and then laughs and laughs and laughs at the look on your face. Hupke pulls off this trick effortlessly and with an enormous amount of glee, signaling that not only does he know what he is doing, but he's having the time of his life doing it.

July 6, 2013


Timelapse video of Shane MacGowan's portrait being painted by Irish artist Vincent Keeling Soundtrack: 75 seconds of Fiesta by The Pogues

July 5, 2013

Gesaffelstein | Pursuit

Gesaffelstein | Pursuit from DIVISION on Vimeo.

Directed by Fleur & Manu
Produced by DIVISION
Editing, grading & compositing at Home Digital Pictures
SFX by Machine Molle & Mathematic
Label: Parlophone

July 4, 2013

Louis Armstrong on Keeping His Chops

Interview by Michael Aisner and James R. Stein
1964. Ravinia near Chicago
Originally aired on WNTH - Winnetka, Illinois

July 3, 2013