Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Goon: Chinatown

No spoilers, just some impressions of Eric Powell's hardcover, the new Goon: Chinatown And The Mystery of Mr. Wicker follow:

The Goon: Chinatown was released last week and fills in a lot of the Goon's backstory. Eric Powell has been doing The Goon (creator, writer, artist) for some years now and there's six trade paperbacks collecting the other Goon stories. A person could pick up any volume or issue of The Goon and get a complete story (kind of similar to how it doesn't matter a how lot if you read the Hellboy or Sin City trades out of order).

The Goon is basically a hillbilly zombie comic usually with an emphasis on humor. The Goon: Chinatown doesn't have any of the usual humor, but it is a very strong story that fills in some of the blanks of the character's history. This is a very beautiful production and the only problem I have with the book is that there are no page numbers (a big pet peeve of mine).

This is an interior page from The Goon: Chinatown. There's a powerful sequence towards the end of the book in which Eric Powell shows the luxury that doing this story in an original graphic novel format affords, that would have made readers of the comic (if this were done in that format) feel like he was just padding the story.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sky painting!

Today has been mostly an overcast day here in Vegas, but the good thing about that is when the clouds start clearing and does so around the time the sun sets, we get skies that look like this. Just another reminder about why this is my favorite time of the year.

This photo was taken a few minutes after the one above. I wish there was a way for people to be able to click on these photos here on my blog and see them bigger, but that doesn't seem to happen anymore. When I first started this blog in June, you used to be able to click on the photo and it see it at a larger size, but either I've been using up too much space or I'm doing something different when importing photos here (as anyone who knows me knows, I'm fairly computer illiterate).

This is the same sunset reflected in my store's front windows.

While looking at this sunset, it really looks like someone splashed paint through the sky. For some reason seeing this sunset made me think of the great documentary on artist extrordinaire Frank Frazetta, called Painting With Fire, which I highly recommend checking out.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Extraordinary signing pt. 2!

Are these people having a great time at Alternate Reality Comics closing stop of the Kevin O' Neill signing - does Galactus eat planets (a nod to last week's Simpsons with it's many great comic book geek nods that we got to share with Kevin who wanted to see Alan Moore's appearance)!?

Little Davy Smuckers Johnson told me that he wants his parents, Heather and Scott, to read Black Dossier to him at bedtime!

The guy in dreads holding a sketchbook is uber cool Brent Cooper who celebrated his birthday at the signing by getting a great Mr. Hyde sketch from Kevin!

And here we have the last few lucky people getting their Black Dossiers signed. I want to say again how gratified I am that so many people are picking up Black Dossier because like the previous two League of Extrordinary Gentleman volumes and other Alan Moore works, I know that they'll be highly entertained and enriched after their reading experiences.

Group photo before Kevin and Dawn (Kevin's girlfriend, the lovely blond on the left) continue to do the Vegas thang (they understandably wanted to do their own thang after their crazy week, especially Dawn who had never been to the U.S. before). Dawn bought these awesome red and white vinyl boots in San Francisco around the corner from Comix Experience that you can partially see in this photo (yes they do look like Wonder Woman's boots)! The guy in the photo on the left is Derrick, who owns Comic Oasis also here in Las Vegas and one of the tour stops (Derrick is an altogether great guy and has a great store).

After the signing, Kate and myself, along with my friends Joel and Joseph (who also helped me out greatly at the store during the signing), Derrick and his artist friend Charles Holbert, Joel's wife Sandra and our new friend Jennifer all had a great dinner at Toto's Mexican Restuarant. A wonderful end to a wonderful signing and wonderful day!

Extraordinary signing pt. 1!

To say that my Kevin O'Neill (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier) signing was fantastic is an understatement! Kevin wrapped up his crazy breakneck tour of the U.S. at my store (8 days, 9 citiies, 10 stores!) and still somehow had the energy to draw a sketch in everyone's book!

Michelle was the first person in line and she got an awesome Mina drawing. Note the cool 3D glasses people are wearing (included in the Black Dossier for the incredible concluding chapter) ! Jason is too cool to wear the 3D glasses (ha-ha)!
I just want to say that I have the BEST customers at my store and want to thank everyone who came out for the signing! I'd also like to thank everyone who bought Black Dossier at my store, but couldn't make the signing. Black Dossier exceeded my expectations of how well it would do, making it already one of my very best selling books in my 12 years as a comic store owner in only a week of it's release.
The signing continues! Kevin was at my store for two hours and he signed and drew for people the entire time without taking a break!

More Kevin O' Neill enthusiasts wearing their 3D glasses (don't drive with these things on kids)!

Kevin O' Neill definitely puts the "Extra" in "extraordinary"!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy B-Day Mother Box & Alan Moore!

Mother Box is a creation by Jack Kirby as part of his Fourth World concept (New Gods, Darkseid, Mr. Miracle, etc.) he did for DC in the 1970's. Mother Box is the name of the supercomputer that a lot of the New Gods use. I bought my Scion XB in November of 2005 and it was ready for me to pick up was November 18th, which I remember (being the huge geek that I am) because that day is Alan Moore's birthday. I've named my car Mother Box because of course, the Scion XB is shaped like a big box (and they have a lot of room which is great for when I pick up all of Wednesday's new comic day boxes from UPS).

Happy Birthday, Alan Moore! This photo of Moore is from Wikipedia, it's not him signing at my store (actually he's really reclusive and basically doesn't leave Northhampton, England).

On tonight's episode of the Simpsons, Alan Moore will be on the show as himself (except as a yellow cartoon version!) along with Art Spiegleman (Maus) and Daniel Clowes (Ghost World). The premise of this episode is that a rival hipster comic store store opens across from the Android Dungeon and those creators appear at the new shop. The Simpsons crew even flew to England to tape Alan Moore's lines, this episode should be a blast!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Black Dossier - no spoilers!

Following are my impressions of Black Dossier:

I started reading The Black Dossier last night and planned to stay up all night to finish it, but after about three hours I was getting increasingly tired and couldn't focus on what was going on. So I spent about three more hours finishing The Black Dossier this morning. I wanted to read this as soon as I could because as many of those reading this blog know, I'm a huge Alan Moore fan (also insanely jealous of people who got the book before me last week - I'm looking at you Jason H!) and I wanted to partake in discussions about the book that are already taking place on the internet and elsewhere.

Heidi MacDonald in her online column, The Beat (which she does in connection with Publisher's Weekly), described The Black Dossier as "dense and delightful." defines the word dense as: "intense; extreme or difficult to understand or follow because of being closely packed with ideas or complexities of style." I think Black Dossier encompasses both of these definitions because while reading it was enjoyable, at the same time it is definitely not a book that one can read without using much of their grey matter and is as far removed from being a conventional graphic novel as can be imagined.

Black Dossier is a graphic novel in the purest definition of graphic novel. It does have sequential passages that read like a "normal" comic or graphic novel and has pictorial content that is "graphic" (and not of a violent nature), but it also reads like a complex novel in which the reader has to put elements together to grasp the big picture. Black Dossier is over 200 pages, but it also has many pages of "just" prose that are important parts of the story and are entertaining in their own right as Moore writes sequences ala Shakespeare and prose in the beat poetry style popular in the 1950's and early 1960's. Alan Moore has said in an interview that Black Dossier started as a source book, but added that all source books are crap, so while Black Dossier is a sorce book of sorts cataloging various Leagues throught history (and from France and Germany), it has a narrative structure, albeit a pretty unique narrative structure (should we expect anything less from Alan Moore?).

I could go on and on one talking about specific sections of The Black Dossier that I enjoyed, but for now I just want to single out Moore's chapter towards the end which he writes in the beat poetry style as amongst my favorite (and I think it helps if you actually read that section outloud to better grasp what he's doing and saying) as well as the 3-D concluding chapter (cool glasses included), which besides being fantastic visually (as is the eclectic art by Kevin O'Neill throughout the book), has great ideas that are great ideas onto themselves, not just as means for the conclusion. I hope that anyone who reads this entry isn't intimidated by how long I've said it takes to read Black Dossier or when people describe it as dense, because ultimately I believe that everyone who reads Black Dossier will upon finishing feel like they've been part of a great journey.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dossier in 2 days and...

Only two more days until the long awaited League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier is released! Black Dossier is a 208 page hardcover book with an all new story exploring League of Extraordinary Gentlemen groups throughout history with Mina Harker and Allan Quartermain as our travel guides. This book will have a 3-D conclusion (glasses included) that's supposed to take 3-D to new places, a naughty Tijiuna bible, and is surely going to be the writerly (is that a word!?) and visual treat of the year! Sorry to be such a hype-monster!

In related Black Dossier news, I'm happy to report that I'll be one of the store hosts for artist Kevin O'Neill's crazy 8 days, 9 cities, and 10 store tour of the United States (he's from England)! Kevin's tour starts this Wednesday in New York City when the book debuts and ends at my store one week later (so we'll have gotten a chance to read it before his visit). Kevin will be at my store next Wednesday, Nov. 21st, from 5-7pm (he'll be at Comic Oasis here in Las Vegas from 2-4pm for those of you who live out that way and find that to be a better time and I'll vouch that Comic Oasis is one of the other good comic stores in Vegas). I hope everyone who's enjoyed previous Leagues (and the new one) come out and lavish ego strokes upon Kevin, because artists work in a mostly isolated environment and they do appreciate feedback (and he'll be happy to sign any of your books). Kevin O'Neill's other character that he's most known for is Marshall Law, an even more extreme version of Judge Dredd and a dark satire of superhero comics that will be getting a huge collection from Top Shelf next year (also the company that will be publishing future League of Extraordinary Gentlemens).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sweeney Todd

Friday night, Cristina (one of my best friends) and myself went to the Las Vegas Academy prduction of Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The Las Vegas Academy is a Las Vegas high school that is art-centric and all the students that attend have to audition before being accepted as a student. Another of my best friends, Kim, recently transferred as a biology teacher to Las Vegas Academy and she knew that I liked musicals so she lined me up with tickets to the big show - and quite the big show it was!

Prior to seeing this production of Sweeney Todd, I knew little of the story, with my first introduction to it being in a great comic book horror anthology called Taboo. In Taboo #6 (1992) there was an insert of a comic adaptation that Neil Gaiman and artist Michael Zulli were going to do. Taboo closed up shop before the comic adaptation of Sweeney Todd happened and for whatever reason Gaiman and Zulli never took their idea to do this story as a comic anywhere else, which is really a shame because it's a great story and would have been greatly suited to their talents.

Sweeney Todd started as a penny dreadful (kind of like the pulps in the early part of the 1900's) in England by Thomas Priest in 1846 and has since seen many incarnations, most notably as a musical on Broadway in 2005 with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (that went on to win several Tonys) and as an upcoming movie by Tim Burton, with Johnny Depp as Sweeney. Having just watched the trailer, it looks great visually (as most Burton movies do), but I'm a little concerned that it's not going to be as much of a musical as I'd like it to be.

Sweeney Todd, as performed by the Las Vegas Academy, was / is very much a musical, with the characters breaking out into songs almost from beginning to end as means of telling the story. I was blown away with the fact that this was a high school production and I even joked to Kim that these are just older actors posing as high school students. The singing, music, acting, sets, costumes, and overall production values were top notch and I'm still amazed that these students could put on a production of this caliber and also attend their classes. The theatre itself is also impressive, especially with it's huge orchestra pit that I didn't even know existed until Kim showed me during intermission (I thought the music was recorded)! Sweeney Todd was played by Philip Cerza, who was great and I half jokingly told Kim that he would make a great Wolverine (probably due to the way his hair was styled).

Basically Sweeney Todd is about what its subtitle suggests: "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", a dark, sometimes comedic tale of a serial killer barber (it takes place in the late 1800's), so it's a perfect vehicle for a Tim Burton production, but I'd recommend if you're able to at any point to catch a live musical production of Sweeney Todd. I especially liked one of the songs that advocates / celebrates cannibilism and one of my favorite lines in Sweeney Todd is: "The history of the world is to eat or be eaten."

Heroes, the comic

This week the Heroes hardcover, which collects the online comics that were done while the first season of Heroes aired, arrived. I think it's a really nice production and think that fans of the show will like this book as it is a good supplement of the characters and we get some back stories that reveal how things on the show have gotten to where they are (most of the stories, if not all of them are written by writers of the tv show). I hadn't read the online comics (I don't really like reading comics on the computer) so all of the stories were new to me. My favorite story was the second one in which we learn how Hiro got his name.

Speaking of Heroes, the tv show, this season has been a little off. I thought it was just me that was feeling this way, but recently I've been hearing more and more of the same reactions and that ratings haven't been what they were last year. Kate told me that one of the head writers even admitted that this season has been off. I was surprised to hear that because usually one doesn't hear a writer say anything negative about their work, especially while the work in question is still being produced. Hopefully this will lead to a correction that will re-strengthen the show. At the same time I wonder if the writer is just coming out and saying this in reaction to what more and more of the audience is saying and if opinions weren't so negative, would he have said anything and what were the writers original plans with where things were going (if in fact writing changes will be made to swing things around)?

Here's what I think is wrong with Heroes: Too many new characters and or characters in which there's no progression from episode to episode (the new characters, the Wonder Twins, for example), New York City looking like it's been destroyed again, time travel with its countless paradoxes (Hiro's story), and too many plotlines going on that just seem to be teasing viewers each week in hopes that there'll be some resolutions to them and or how they all fit together.

I think the same thing happened with Lost (the tv show), with its introduction of new mysteries and new characters without giving viewers any payoffs and that show started losing it's audience (they lost me). I've heard that Lost turned things around and I think this was because of it's shrinking audience voicing the same complaints, but for me it was too late, because the show I once enjoyed (Lost season one) was gone and it seemed like they were just making up things as they went along.

With Heroes, I'm giving it until the end of this season (who knows when that'll end though with the writer's strike) and if it doesn't have a really strong conclusion wrapping up a lot of what's been introduced this season thus far, I won't be back for the next season. I thought most of last season was really good, but felt the conclusion wasn't very satisfying and probably could have used another episode or two. How long should a viewer or reader keep watching or reading a creative production before that production goes south or until it gets better?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Today, in England many celebrate the fifth of November as Guy Fawkes Day. Guy Fawkes, on November 5, 1605 attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliment in what was called the Gunpowder Plot (do you think he had some problems with the government!?).

Following is a verse from a contemporary condemnation (actually read by many, including anarchists, as a celebration) of Guy Fawkes:

Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes was one of the main inspirations for a lot of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V For Vendetta, and early on in the graphic novel V actually succeeds in blowing up the Houses of Parliment (England in the book is under Facist rule, unlike the Conservative rule portrayed in the movie).

One of my good friends, Todd Murry, is lucky enough to have his birthday on Guy Fawkes Day, so I'd like to shout out Happy Birthday, Todd! And I know what his wife, Brandi, is getting him for his birthday and I can't imagine him not totally loving it because besides it being really cool, it just serves as another illustration of what a great thinker Brandi is (I'll share a picture of the gift here on a future entry when I get an up close chance to see it)!

Kim Deitch

As part of the Sixth Annual Vegas Bookfest this past weekend, Kim Deitch was one of the guests. Saturday morning Deitch gave a presentation on his origins as a cartoonist accompanied by a slide show from some of his comic work. In this photo Kim is holding up a drawing he did of his character Alias the Cat, which I was happy to buy from him after his presentation.

Kim Deitch had parents who strongly felt that a creative pursuit was the strongest ideal a person could attain. His father worked for years in the early animation industry and was an aspiring comic strip artist himself. While growing up, Kim aquired an interest in early comic strips (he was born at the end of WWII) and through his brother's continuing interest in superhero comics, Kim was there at the beginning of the Lee, Kirby, and Ditko Marvel era. Kim never did have a desire to do superhero comics, but one day in the 1960's New York, he was introduced to an underground comic strip called Captain High and thus began his over three decades as an alternative cartoonist.

As an aside, Kim Deitch attended the Pratt Institue briefly after high school, but quickly didn't connect with what their ideas of what art was or is. On thing that stayed with him from Pratt that he shared with us at his presentation, was their motto: "Be true to your work and your work will be true to you". I think that is a great motto no matter what line of work a person does.
Kim Deitch, at my booth on First Friday, holding his graphic novel Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Kim's most recent graphic novel is Alias the Cat which is about his wife and his collecting of antique cat figures and the interesting people one meets in those circles. Kim's recent comics work deal with obsessions and fascinations with the past, specifically the 1920's and 1930's (also recommended is his Shadowland graphic novel from Fantagraphics).

This is an example of the crisp detailed line work that is typical of Kim Deitch's art (be sure to click on page on the right for an enlarged view). At his presentation Saturday, Kim recounted stories of doing what he calls "reality comics" for Details and Maxim of all places - I'll be looking for those and hope that someday they are collected.

First Friday / Vegas Bookfest

This past Friday I had a booth at First Friday which this year was tied in with the Sixth Annual Vegas Bookfest. First Friday is an arts event held in the downtown area of Las Vegas the first Friday of every month. It's been a while since I've gone, but I had a blast and will definitely be going back more often.

My booth was right next to the stage so I got to hear local band Clydesdale play (I've had their cd, but haven't gone out to see them live before last Friday). They played two sets and put on a fantastic show. Their sound is kind of in the country and western vein (and not that pop country crap they play on most radio stations) with a rock edge and sultry vocals by Paige Overton. Check out: for upcoming local shows updates and to listen to some of their songs.

One of my favorite things about having gone out to First Friday was seeing my old friend Keir (who designed / drew my store mascot Epstein). It was good catching up with him and meeting his friends Jennifer (who reads this blog at least semi-regularly - thanks and it was good seeing you again), and two other of his co-workers (whose names I'm spacing on - damn my vanishing brain cells - oh well at least I remembered Jennifer's name!).
Gilbert Hernandez, with his wife, Carol, and their daughter Natalie, at my booth. Gilbert, is of course, one half of Los Bros Hernandez, creators of Love and Rockets, the grandaddy of alternative comics (and still going strong!). Gilbert also released the graphic novel Chance In Hell recently and has a mini series through Dark Horse called Speak of the Devil. Across the street from where my booth was, in the Arts Factory, there was an exhibit of comics art and Gilbert along with Andy Hartzell and Kim Deitch had art pieces on display.

Andy Hartzell, former cartoonist for CityLife and Las Vegas Weekly (now living in the Bay Area), former self publisher of mini comics including Monday and Yip, the Wonder Dog, holding his display sign for his new graphic novel Fox Bunny Funny published by Top Shelf. Fox Bunny Funny is dialogue free, told entirely in sequential drawings, and is about "what happens when a secret desire puts you at odds with your society?" Andy also was at my store this past Thursday for an evening signing and that was a good time.

I would have been happy being at First Friday even if I didn't sell any books, but I did find some good homes for good comics so that was an extra bonus. I saw a good number of people who come to my store, saw some old and new friends, and heard some good tunes - further proof that Vegas isn't the cultural wasteland that some would have people believe! I thought it was a good idea to tie in this year's Bookfest with First Friday because it definitely reached a new audience.

Steve Ditko is 80!

Steve Ditko turned 80 this past Friday, November 2nd. Ditko is known mostly as the co-creator / artist of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and while he drew a good number of issues of both of these characters in the 1960's, he left the titles because his vision of where he wanted to take these characters differed from Stan Lee's. Steve Ditko has always been a very private person and has never taken part in any interviews. To understand the mindset of Steve Ditko, it helps if you've read the works of philosopher / novelist Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead), as he shares a world view with her. The Ditko character that is closest to Rand's writing is his Mr. A, which is his even more extreme version of The Question, another character he first worked on at Charlton (both of these characters were Alan Moore's inspiration for Rorschach from Watchmen).

After Ditko quit drawing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, he still worked on other Marvel titles, but also worked for DC, Charlton, and other independent companies. Amongst the countless characters Ditko created and drew was Shade, The Changing Man which he did for DC in the mid 1970's and this title was a great showcase for his illustrations of otherworldly realms.

I love Steve Ditko's art because of his flair for drawing fantastical dimensions and characters, the sheer amount of drawings he'd have on a single page and his excellent story-telling skills, but mostly for the way he'd draw "normal" people (especially their clothes with just the right folds and lighting). When Ditko drew someone that was scared or happy, it REALLY looked like that person was scared or happy. While I'm sure that Steve Ditko won't see this blog entry (or even keeps up with anything on the internet), I hope he knows how much enjoyment his art and creations have given to so many people for almost 50 years (!!) and how infuential his art will always be.

In June of 2008, Blake Bell and Fantagraphics will publish a book titled Strange & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, which will be an examination of Steve Ditko, the artist. Go to: for updates on the book and a very comprehensive catalog of Ditko's work and news.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pink Vader!

I was reading this thread on costumes over on a retailer forum and someone posted a link to this little girl from Texas who didn't want to just be Darth Vader, she wanted to be a PINK Darth Vader! Well that rules! Maybe if Star Wars Episodes One, Two, and Three had used a pink Darth Vader they would have been better. I used to be a huge Star wars fan, but the last three were so horrible, oh well, Star Wars is Lucas' baby so of course he can do what he wants with the property.

Go Pink Vader!

Happy Nevada Day!

Actually, Happy post Nevada Day, as Nevada Day is on the same day as Halloween. Nevada Day, for those of you not living in Nevada, is the day that Nevada was admitted into the United States as a state (October 31, 1864). How cool and befitting is it that Nevada joined the United States on Halloween!?

This photo is of my friends Camila (on the left dressed as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo - Camila even drew on her mustache and uni-brow!), Martha (on the right, cosplaying as a character from the manga Vampire Knight), and her daughter, Lilly, dressed in her pretty purple costume.
I'm really bad with names so I don't remember who the viking gal is. I'm wearing a Greatest American Hero cape (it came with the box set of the tv series my friend Joel got me last year) that probably isn't real visible from the front.
The little green lizard guy is Jillian (spelling?) being held by his papa, Barney. Jillian also had on these really cool matching green shoes, but my other picture of him didn't come out so great.

Me and little Davy Smuckers Johnson - he's dressed as a bumblee bee (I caught him in mid-flight!).

Thanks to everyone who wore costumes yesterday for Nevada Day!