Monday, January 28, 2008

blurry ComicsFest pics

The lovely wife, Kate, behind my booth at Saturday's ComicsFest at the West Sahara library. The mini convention was a great time, attendance was even better than expected, and I was having such a good time chatting with people and selling books that I mostly forgot to take pictures. So I only have these three photos of not so great quality from the event (and I had a perfect opportunity to take a photo of special guest Greg Rucka when he was at my booth, but didn't, sob, sob!).
Me with my good friends Todd, Brandi, and MJ. Five local stores set up at the show and they all seemed to be doing well. I heard the panels and workshops were also well attended.

MJ Murry attending her first comics show. She'll be attending her first San Diego comic-con this summmer so hopefully ComicsFest was a good primer for her! Seriously though, while ComicsFest was nowhere near what San Diego comic-con is, from my perspective (and from the other dealers I talked to and the people that attended) the West Sahara library put on a great show, it was well organized, and an all around fun exposure for many of what the comic book medium has to offer. Take a bow Andrew, Katrina, and everyone else at the Las Vegas library system who made this event happen!

Dead Like Me

Dead Like Me was a two season Showtime series that aired 2003 and 2004 and was created by Bryan Fuller (who created my present favorite television series Pushing Daisies and co-created Wonderfalls). Dead Like Me is a dark comedy-drama about grim reapers.

I didn't watch Dead Like Me when it aired originlly because I didn't have Showtime, but I had heard good things about the show and meant to check it out at some point. It was Pushing Daisies (and realizing that Bryan Fuller was the creator of both shows) that made me finally get around to getting the two seasons of Dead Like Me. The pilot episode is two hours in length, with the rest of the episodes being the standard hour in length. The show gets going right away and I think that if you like the first episode you'll like the rest (and I was totally sold on the show by the end of the pilot when they used one of my favorite songs during the closing scene). I'm only on episode six and think the show has good character progressions and I especially am looking forward to what ultimately happens with the central character's family.

Friday, January 25, 2008

a great quote...

I just got The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and he dedicates the book to Douglas Adams (The Hitchhicker's Guide To The Galaxy) in memoriam using a quote by Adams:

"Isn't it enough that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What I learned today

Three actresses that played Annie in the stage productions of Annie that went on to become famous actors: Sarah Jessica Parker, Molly Ringwald (she almost seems typecast for that role), and Catherine Zeta Jones (she was Molly in the British production of Annie).

Now if you're ever on Jeopardy and that question comes up you'll be good to go! This fun fact was sponsored by Sirius Satellite Radio channel 77, their Broadway Show Music channel! I wonder if Sarah, Molly, or Catherine has ever read a comic book?

Rucka & Comicsfest!

This Saturday, January 26th, from 11am - 5pm, the Sahara West Library (9600 W. Sahara Ave. 702-507-3630) will host ComicsFest. ComicsFest is free and will have workshops and panel presentations by people within the comics industry as well as a dealers room, and a drawing for free books. There'll also be representatives from TokyoPop, Dark Horse, IDW Publishing and other publishers. Amongst the comic creators that will be at ComicsFest are: Steven Grant (Punisher, Batman, Two Guns, Badlands), Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules), and special guest Greg Rucka (who'll be on a panel talking about his work at 1pm)! So wake the neighbors and bring the kids because ComicsFest will be a fun time and the bigger the support for functions like this is, the greater the possiblility for more such events happening in the future!

Following is an interview that local writer Jarret Keene conducted with Greg Rucka recently. Jarret Keene is much more insightful than myself and asks great questions so I'm thankful for his permission to reprint his interview here.
Women warriors

Don’t call comics scribe Greg Rucka a feminist — his heroines might hurt you

By Jarret Keene

Take writer Greg Rucka’s creator-owned comics published by Portland indie press Oni — Whiteout and Queen & Country — and put them under a critical lens. One immediately notices surface similarities. Both titles feature tough female law-enforcement protagonists who love their jobs to the point of near-madness. They are romantically inert. They are prone to mutilation at the hands of adversaries. They abuse alcohol in order to deal with the strain of their occupations. And, for reasons only they can understand (or not), they push themselves deeper into isolated environments, into those arenas where there are no lifelines — only target sightlines.

For example, Whiteout’s Carrie Stetko is a U.S. Marshall struggling to escape the memory of having killed a rapist convict. She finds solace in the crushing ice of Antarctica until someone winds up dead in her jurisdiction, and it’s up to her to figure out whose face has been rendered unidentifiable with an ice hammer — and who the murderer is. Queen & Country’s Tara Chace, meanwhile, is a SIS (British intelligence) officer who works tirelessly to impress her ops director, Paul Crocker, a man of cunning intellect and not above doing the CIA’s dirty work in exchange for certain information. Good thing SIS has a full-time shrink to deal with Chase’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Otherwise, they might have a real problem on their hands.

Whatever you do, though, don’t try to affix the “feminist” label. Rucka doesn’t like labels.

“Don’t mistake gender for character, don’t mistake race for character, and don’t mistake religion for character,” he says during a recent phone interview. “I like writing strong women characters, sure. But it’s because I prefer heroes who don’t have it easy. With every protagonist, there’s always an internal battle going on in addition to the external battle. Sometimes I think the internal battle is more interesting than the outer one. With Queen & Country, though, Chace’s ability to deal with the world is clearly dysfunctional. But the question that’s worth asking isn’t: ‘Why is she a woman?’ It’s: ‘Does being dysfunctional make her better at her job?’”

And then there’s the question of, well, the Question, a.k.a. Renee Montoya. Montoya, an alcoholic ex-cop turned costumed vigilante, is a DC Comics character from the Batman universe that Rucka is currently casting in a limited-series title, Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood. (Rucka has also scripted Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman titles for DC.)

“The Question is coming up from a previous low point in her life,” says Rucka. “In Crime Bible she’s at the best level she’s ever been, at least psychologically. If there’s a feminist argument to be made, it’s that I’m going to the women characters as brutally and honorably as anyone else. If I’m going to write a scene in which Batman is kicked in the face repeatedly, then I probably should do the same for Wonder Woman. There’s a lot of ground to be mined as far as depicting women in traditionally male situations, because it really hasn’t been done before. The only agenda I bring to the writing, though, is to try to tell a fun story.”

Queen & Country is more than fun; it’s engrossing, leaving the reader no choice but to hang on every cliff with characters like espionage agent Chace. But for every admirable character, Rucka always provides a few that are morally repugnant. Chace’s boss, Crocker, for example, is someone who’s not above dispatching his agents to take care of a petty vendetta. Despite his fierce loyalty to his people, Crocker is, once your break him down, an evil bastard who, like the current American neoconservative movement, doesn’t believe or care that Islamic extremism is fueled by Western imperialism. He just wants his agents on top.

Which leads this book critic to ask Rucka if he’s politically neoconservative.

“Frankly, writers who bring their politics into their writing are boring,” says Rucka. “Crocker is a zealot, and I don’t like zealotry in any shape or form. I don’t like situations where no one is willing to compromise. Extremism breeds extremism. Having said that, I’m not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. There are times when you have to spill blood — your own and of others. With Islamofacism, you can dress it up as American imperialism if you want, but at the end of the day it’s intolerance that drives them. If I have a political agenda, it’s that I’m not a fan of people who don’t accommodate others.”

A fan of literary writers like Tim O’Brien, and Joyce Carol Oates, the Eisner Award-winning Rucka (whose Whiteout characters will soon be appearing in a Hollywood film adaptation) says what he most loves about the comics medium is the inherent collaboration.

“One of the great things about comics is that any comic I write is going to end up being a collaborative work. It’s one of the beauties of the art form. A writer can’t do it alone. What a good comics artist does is tell the story visually.”

Greg Rucka appears at the Las Vegas Comics Fest on Jan. 26 at the Sahara West Library (9600 W. Sahara Ave.) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Info: 507-3630. Admission: free.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dustin & Derek signing

Dustin Nguyen, holding a sketchbook for which he just completed another of his great Batman sketches. Dustin is the new artist / penciller half of Detective Comics (he also does the beautiful covers in lush watercolors).
Derek Fridolfs, showing the fantastic sketch he did of Red Skull for the other Derek (friend and owner of Comic Oasis)! Derek is the second half of the new artist / inker team on Detective Comics.
Dustin and Derek made those who showed up at the signing on Sunday very happy by producing fantastic sketch after fantastic sketch. These are artists that entered the industry with very exciting, distinctive styles and it's going to be exciting to watch them evolve and draw their way through the DC universe!
Thanks Dustin and Derek for coming to my store for this signing and thanks to everyone who showed up!

Acme Novelty Library

Chris Ware, writer and artist of Acme Novelty Library writes and draws one kind of graphic novel narrative; one that is populated with sad characters living sad lives, but drawn with an incredible attention to the small details.

Acme Novelty Library #18 is a hardcover graphic novel of about fifty pages (maybe it's more apt to call this a graphic novelette), but while fifty pages may seem like a not very substansive length for a graphic novel, this is not a slight creation at all, because after reading it, the reader feels like they've experienced a big part of the central character's life. The front cover of Acme Novelty Library #18 doesn't have an illustration that suggests what the story within is about, nor does it have a title, it's almost as if Ware is trying not to have an audience for this book.

Ware writes characters that are the opposite of fantastical, they are people we all know on some level and they never have happy endings. One could argue that that is rather one -noteish of Ware and this shows that he doesn't have any range, but I'd counter that this is just an example of a creator reinforcing his world view and attempting to understand what goes on in the heads of these down-trodden people. I can't remember the central character being called by her name and just now, flipping through the book, the only name she's called is "Nanna", by the kid she watches and his father and maybe that's another way in which Ware is presenting her as the everywoman who's going nowhere special in life.

Reading about "Nanna" is very unrelentingly depressing, but at the same time I cared about "Nanna" and wanted to know what was going to ultimately happen to her even though I knew that the end of this journey wasn't going to go where I wanted it to. So even though Ware's work is depressing, I think his books are still excellent examples of this medium because he doesn't take shortcuts in telling his narratives and his story-telling prowess both in visual layouts and just regular people dialogues are almost without par. Acme Novelty Library #18 is a good introduction to Ware's work, but be prepared to bring out your reading glasses because there is so much information on almost every single page (plus the lettering is very small) for which the "normal" way one reads comics isn't going to be enough. Also you might want to have a lighter, more fun comic such as Scott Pilgrim or Groo ton hand to serve as a chaser for the reading experience that is Acme Novelty Library.

A lot of spam!

Kate and I saw Spamalot at the Wynn Saturday night (thanks Joel and Sandra!) and had a great time! Spamalot is based on Monty Python's Holy Grail which is a very funny parody of the Arthurian legend. Eric Idle wrote Spamalot (title is of course a play on Camelot) as well as writing the score and song lyrics with John Du Prez. Spamalot is a musical and the Wynn has a great theatre, the sets were great, costumes were great, and all the performers are top notch.

I used to be a huge Monty Python fan (starting with the BBC television series a million years ago called Monty Python's Flying Circus), but haven't re-watched any of their movies in years. I thought that Spamalot would just be a collection of sketch comedy pieces like their television show, but I was happy to see that it was a musical, because as everyone knows, I love musicals, especially odd musicals.

While I'm on the subject of spam, when I ate meat (a million years ago), I actually really liked spam. I was surprised to find out that Kate has never tried spam and she still hasn't eaten that can of spam that Joel and Sandra gave us with the tickets (maybe I'll raffle it here at the store - grin)!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Caucus for comics!

Tomorrow, Saturday, January 19th, Nevada will be doing the caucus thang. There probably won't be any candidates that will admit to reading comics (grin), because that's way too much of a liberal, outcast thing to do and they don't won't to alienate all the masses that are afraid of the truths contained in comics (grin).

SERIOUSLY though, I'm more excited about this year's presidential election than I have been in years. I think on the Democratic Party side, there's not a candidate that I would have a problem with if he or she won. I also think a Democrat has a great chance of winning this year because unlike the last two elections, the Democratic Parrty isn't trying to be like the Republican Party (it even seems like the candidates are no longer afraid of being called liberals) as people really seem to want a change from what has been delivered the past three years.

Until I read this week's Las Vegas CityLife (a local weekly newspaper) I wasn't real clear on what the differences are between a causcus and a primary. Basically a caucus is funded by the political party and a primary is funded by the local or state goverment. Primaries are more similar to how a person votes when they vote on the general election, but caucuses involve people going to their precient destination and then gathering under banners according to who they 'd like to see become the candidate and then speakers can try to persude others there why they should also choose that person as the candidate.

I have several problems with the way the political campaign process works, but my biggest problem with the whole system is the INSANE amounts of money it takes to run a successful campaign (just think of the more productive things that could be done with the money that is being spent on campaigns). I'd like to see all the candidates get the same amount of money to work with and with all the candidates getting the same length of time to play out their campaigns, similar to the system that England has, but that's not going to happen. Another thing that isn't going to happen is a third party winning a presidential election in this day and age (although I would have bet against the Berlin Wall coming down and most of communism having ended in my lifetime from happening so there is still some hope). Also with the way caucuses and primaries taking place earlier and earlier in the year, what ends up happening is some candidates end up dropping out before most of the other states even get to consider that candidate (like Biden and Dodds). Caucuses also are kind of akin to peer pressure groups in that some people may vote for a candidate that wasn't their first choice because the union they belong to may be there who want them to vote a certain way (for example). Some would argue that the present system is just a kind of survival of the fittest and that those candidates who bow out are just not representative of what the people want, but I'd argue that a big part of it is them not having endless pools of money and or that the media hasn't embraced them. Candidates taking money for ther campaign from lobbyists is also something I'm opposed to because again most lobby groups throw around huge sums of money with expectations that once they've helped fund a candidate and that person wins, that candidate has to put that lobbyists interests on their agenda.

Sadly, our present presidential campaign system isn't going to change any time soon because they are so entrenched in the United States political system. Since I do live here in the U.S. and I can't change the way things work, I'm going to caucus tomorrow. I'm hoping my presence and hopefully a large turnout in the Nevada Democratic caucus will continue to prove that people really want change to happen. Right now, while I like Edwards and Kucinich, I'll be in Hillary's corner (even though she too has taken money from lobbists) as I believe with her as a candidate (or Obama), a huge signal would be sent to people here in the U.S. and the world that the U.S. is really serious about change and would inspire people from all demographics with the possiblities of what the U.S. could be. It could be argued as to whether change will really happen with Hilary or Obama as our President, but I really think there's more of a chance of change happening with them at the helm than with the other candidates (especially with any of the Republican candidates, except maybe Ron Paul, but his ideas are too radical to be accepted by the masses and especially Republicans).

So even though none of the candidates will come out and say they like comic books and people should support them (comic books), I'm still pretty excited about this year and what the outcome will be come November. I also still think that it is important to vote even in light of what happened in 2000 and 2004, but I'll throw my hands up in the air in defeat if things ultimately mirror the end results of those years.

Upcoming Nguyen / Fridolfs signing!

This Sunday, January 20th, from 2-4pm, artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs will be signing at my store, Alternate Reality Comics, here in Las Vegas (of course).

Dustin and Derek are the new artistic team on Detective Comics (written by Paul Dini). Dustin has also pencilled Authority (a great twelve issue run with Ed Brubaker), Wildcats 3.0 (with writer Joe Casey), and just finished a six issue run with his inker buddy Derek on Superman / Batman.

Visit Dustin's great blog for some more samples of his art at: and stop by on Sunday to lavish ego strokes upon him and Derek, get books signed, and they'll even do their drawing magic for those that show up live in person!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joel's X-Ray eyes!

This morning I picked up my friend, Joel, from one of those places where they scrape your eyelids, charge you a good sum of money, and hopefully thereafter you'll see better without the need for glasses or contact lenses (I've heard this is called Lasik surgery, but really it's still eylid scraping!).

Joel said already he can see much better and that by the time he wakes up he should be about as close to 20/20 as he can be. After I drove off from dropping him off at his house I was thinking that he reminded me of a 1963 movie by Roger Corman called X: The Man With The X Ray Eyes, in which this doctor experiments with X ray vision and things go horribly wrong. I'm going to guess that things aren't going to go horribly wrong with Joel's eyesight, it's just his sunglasses over the protective gear they put around your eyes so that you don't rub them, made him look like that guy in that movie. Now maybe Joel will get around to reading all of those unread comics he's got piling up!

If you go over to youtube and enter in "lasik surgery" in the search field, the first video that comes up is a good creepy look at how it's done (and like Joel said, it looks like something out of Clockwork Orange!).

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Satchel Paige

I don't know what would bore me more; watching a game of football or a game of baseball, but I've liked movies about baseball (Field of Dreams and Bull Durham) anime about baseball (Princess Nine, about a female baseball team - highly recommended), and now with Satchel Paige I've liked two graphic novels about baseball. I didn't know anything about Satchel Paige before reading this graphic novel, but now I'm even interested in reading his autobiography Maybe I'll Pitch Forever, if I actually had time to read books without pictures (I still read a couple of novels a year, but just keeping up with my comic reading doesn't leave me with much time for other reading).

Satchel Paige became a professional pitcher in baseball in 1924 and continued doing so for decades. Because of segregation, Leroy "Satchel" Paige did most of his early baseball playing in the Negro Leagues, where he basically just pitched for whatever team would pay him the most that day, week , or month.

Satchel Paige Striking Out Jim Crow, is the new graphic novel by writer James Sturm (who wrote and drew another great baseball graphic novel a few years ago called Golem's Mighty Swing and wrote the Eisiner winning Fantastic Four graphic novel Unstable Molecules) and artist Rich Tommaso. Tommaso's art style is a cross between Seth (It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken) and Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) and being as those are two of my favorite artists, I knew that Satchel Paige would look great visually (the use of duo-tone coloring also adds to the visual appeal).

With as interesting of a character as Satchel Paige was, I'd think that it would be pretty hard to make a boring book about him, but still I'd like to thank Sturm and Tommaso for bringing this legendary player to my attention. Reading this book just further saddened me with the level of racism that has existed in our country and how despite this, Satchel still became a pioneer in baseball (Joe DiMaggio called him "the best and fastest pitcher I've ever faced") and how he took his time at the plate, doing things the way he wanted to, while at the same time being a great entertainer and inspiration for many. The introduction and notes before and after Satchel Paige are also great and informative, but I'd recommend reading them after reading the graphic novel itself as I think that they give too much away from the actual story (I have this problem with synopsis' and front and end descriptions on novels and graphic novels also).

Satchel Paige is published by The Center For Cartoon Studies (they also published the excellent Houdini: The Handcuff King), of which James Sturm is the cofounder and director of.