Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Drink & Draw pt. 2!

This Thursday, May 1st at Mickie Finnz (425 Fremont St. on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd.), will be the second Las Vegas gathering of the Drink and Draw Social Club. The fun starts at 7pm until the booze and or drawing paper runs out! If things play out as they did at the first Drink & Draw that was such a smashing great time last month, there'll be prize "drawings" held every half hour or so throughout the night. The contests aren't based on who draws the best as Drink & Draw is just about having fun. They'll probably have a theme or two to kick start what people draw, but you could of course draw anything. Even if you're not a drinker or "drawer", Drink & Draw is a fun way to hang out with others because the creative energy just charges the whole place (and they've got a good menu if you get the hungries)!

A little movie called Iron Man, that a few people are eager to see, is opening the same night (with some theaters having an 8pm showing), but I hope that doesn't stop people from going to this Thursday's Drink & Draw. Actually If you're going to an Iron Man viewing (and it is getting good early reviews), I'd think that going to Mickie Finzz for the Drink & Draw before or afterwards would be a great way to have a geektastic evening! Go to www.myspace.com/drinkanddraw_vegas for more details.

And for those of you reading my blog who were paying attention last week when I said I'd blog today about Free Comic Book Day coming up this Saturday, May 3rd, well I'm going to move that post to Thursday so I hope you don't take off points from me!

Life Sucks-graphic novel

On the flight back from St. Louis Sunday night I read the preview copy I'd gotten of Life Sucks by writers Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria, artist Warren Pleece, and colorist Hilary Sycamore, published by First Second. I'd gotten this preview copy of a Life Sucks a couple of months ago and was really looking forward to reading it as I've enjoyed works by Jessica Abel (writer and artist of La Perdida, Artbabe and Soundtrack) and Warren Pleece (True Faith; Garth Ennis' first comic work, Vertigo's Deadenders, and the excellent, overlooked, short-lived, left of center boy develops super powers DC comic Kinetic). So when I got the preview copy I was eager to dive into it and did so, but after almost twenty pages I was kind of disappointed and just put it on the back burner of things to read.

Well I don't know what kind of bad day I was having or what bad drugs I was on when I first tried to read Life Sucks a couple of months ago because when I started reading Life Sucks Sunday night while waiting for my connecting flight I was immediately drawn into this great graphic novel.

Here's my no spoiler capsule discription of Life Sucks: Life Sucks is a very different take on the vampire genre; it's humorous, has great characters, and doesn't go into normal vampire territory. The central character of Life Sucks is Dave Miller, who works in a convenience store, is a shy vampire that doesn't want to kill to get his blood fix and has a huge crush on this hispanic gal that shops in the store he works in. There's other characters in Life Sucks who are also vampires, but what made Life Sucks so enjoyable for me was that the characters who are vampires are really just like regular people who just happen to need to drink blood. So people that like comics with slice of life rhythms and people who like stories with vampires in them that aren't just gore fests (not that those kind of vampire stories aren't enjoyable also though) will find much to enjoy with Life Sucks' rich characterizations and fluid nice clean lined art (and especially fantastic coloring hues). Life Sucks comes out in about a month and I'm happy that I got past my funky first try at reading this and can say that Life Sucks will have a long shelf life at Alternate Reality Comics!

photos from an airplane

Since I didn't get a chance to take many pictures in St. Louis, I was happy that I'd gotten a window seat on my return flight Sunday night. In St. Louis, most of Sunday was rainy so it was cool to be up in the air at about 7pm that night just before sundown.
Obviously I'm sitting right betrween one of the plane's wings and engines. The clouds were really beautiful and just being up amongst them put me in a really happy mellow mood.

I just wanted to dive into these clouds!

A break in the clouds as the sun begins to fade. This is somewhere between St. Louis and Chicago.

training in St. Louis

This past weekend I'd gone to St. Louis for an intensive two day training session on this new POS (point of sale) system I'm going to have at the store to further streamline operations at the store. The POS system will allow me to have better management of my ordering, sales, customer info, and really just a plethora of data at my fingertips. I'll have my hardware, inventory, and customer data entered in the next couple of weeks so I expect that by the second week in May I'll have my new POS system raring to go.

My distributor is creating a POS system presently that was supposed to debut this past October, but now they're hoping to roll it out this summer. I went with this system called MOBY designed by Ben of Star Clipper Comics in St. Louis along with his friend Mark. MOBY has been used by some distinguished comics stores for five years now, it works on both PCs and Macs (I use a Mac), and plays well with other distributors. I went to St. Louis so that I could get one on one personalized training from Ben and his lovely wife AJ and Mark. There was a lot of info to take in and with all the time it's going to take to enter my store's inventory and customer base to the system that's more than a little intimidating, but I know it'll be worth it once I'm done doing that.

I'd never been to St. Louis before and really didn't do anything around the city (other then go to a couple of places to eat) as I got in late Friday afternoon after a crazy day of traveling to get there (a long story) and Saturday and Sunday were devoted to learning MOBY. The first picture here is one of the few photos I took after eating Saturday night of this beautiful tree in the downtown area where I was staying. After the training session on Saturday, Ben drove me past this awesome huge park in St. Louis (I think he said it's the biggest public park in the U.S.), which was also near the St. Louis zoo, art museum and history museum. We also went past the Washington University there which is comprised of several buildings all of which were architecually beautiful. The greater St. Louis population is about 2 million, which is much bigger than I thought and the city and housing neighborhoods I'd passed by looked like they had a lot of character. I'll definitely b returning with Kate at some point to St. Louis to properly explore this city.
This is a HUGE Uglydoll lounging in one of the front windows of Ben and AJ's amazing store Star Clipper.

Ben and AJ's Star Clipper Comics is one of the most classiest and diverse comic book stores I've ever been to and they have a great eye for creating a visually attractive store. Star Clipper Comics is located right in the center of a very hipster part of downtown St. Louis and I'd say it's a must visit place for anyone visiting St. Louis. Thanks for all the hospitality and MOBY POS training Ben, AJ, and Mark!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Other Side

The Other Side is an aptly titled graphic novel because it tells two parallel stories about the Vietnam War, one from the point of view of a U.S. marine soldier and the other view being that of a native Vietnam soldier. The Other Side, which came out in 2006, is the comics writing debut of Jason Aaron, who's the cousin of Corporal Gustav Hasford USMC, who was a Vietnam Veteran and wrote The Short-Timers, which was adapted by director Stanley Kuberick in his excellent Vietnam War movie Full Metal Jacket. Actually, I think The Other Side works as well as it does because it is essentially an ode to Full Metal Jacket.

The other half of The Other Side creative team is artist Cameron Stewart (he of Vertigo's Seaguy fame, of which there will be another installment later this year with Grant Morrison), who puts so much humanity into his art that it would be hard for any book he's drawing to not be at least good - so here on The Other Side, coupled with a strong story, Stewart's art really gets a chance to shine. In the extra features in the back of The Other Side, Cameron Stewart presents some photos and a journal of the trip he took to Vietnam in the summer of 2005 before he started this project (and there's sketches also).

I also wanted to give another early heads up for Free Comic Book Day which is next Saturday, May 3rd (I'll have a bigger blog entry on Free Comic Book Day next Tuesday) and in celebration (and in addition to the free comic books) I'll be having a 20% off sale on graphic novels (for which The Other Side is applicable of course)!

Thor Ages of Thunder

Next week Thor Ages of Thunder, a done in one Thor special arrives by writer Matt Fraction, and artists Patrick Zircher and Khari Evans. Actually to be specific Thor Ages of Thunder is one story told in two parts with a follow up to the story continuing in Thor: Reign of Blood. Having said that, I'd still call Thor Ages of Thunder a really good self contained issue (I've read the preview copy sent to retailers and just wanted to give a heads up for those who don't normally read Thor, but like a good story, especially a good story in the fantasy genre).

Patrick Zircher draws the first half of Thor Ages of Thunder and certainly the pages and cover shown here will attest to his artistic prowess (part two of the story drawn by Khari Evans is nice and perfectly suited to his part of the story, but it can't help but fall short after following Zircher).

Thor Ages of Thunder, in a nutshell, is a two part story about two eras of Ragnaork (the Norse end of the Gods) which also involves the Enchantress. Thor is one of those characters like Dr. Strange and Wonder Woman who are hard to substain long series before readership dwindles and as I've mentioned before this is largely because of their huge power levels (thus making it hard to come up with situations or villains to put them up against) and because often their backgrounds are hard for readers to identify with and or have a frame of reference for. While I wish that there was a writer that could better involve Thor within the Marvel universe, I do think that writer JMS over on the new semi-regular Thor title (being that it doesn't ship monthly, but what does these days?) is doing a fantastic job of straddling the fine line between the mythology of the character and the "real" world setting that has sold even me, with my usual aversion to fantasy and mythology based stories. Matt Fraction, here in Thor Ages of Thunder, also does a bang up job with a story rooted in the fantasy genre which also works as a great introduction to the character of Thor that doesn't require the new reader to know a lot of backstory.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

JH Williams III art

JH Williams III (Promethea, Seven Soldiers, and sometime Batman artist) will be doing an upcoming issue of Jonah Hex (a consistantly good book with great self contained stories just about every issue).

These three images show the evolution of his cover for Jonah Hex.

Why isn't JH Williams III a millionaire!?

The Arrival

Brace yourselves, because I'm going to turn up the hyperbole to twelve (yup, I'm even going past eleven)! The Arrival, by Shaun Tan, is one of the most beautifully illustrated graphic narratives you'll ever lay your eyes upon. Everything about The Arrival is a thing of beauty. This is a book that definitely demands the hardcover format it's in and on whichever rack, bookshelf, or table upon which it rests, a person will not be able to resist being compelled to look at it.

The Arrival is an immigrant story told entirely through lush sepia photo realistic illustrations (it's worldless, but the art speaks volumes). Actually, Art Spiegelman (Maus) describes The Arrival better than I ever could via a quote on the back of the book "Tan's lovingly laid out and masterfully rendered tale about the immigrant experience is a documentary magically told by way of Surrealism."

Just about the only way that The Arrival will not win this year's Eisner (it came out towards the end of last year) for best graphic novel is the sad possiblity that a lot of the stores don't carry this book and or the creative people in the industry (those who vote on the Eisners) will not have seen it. The Arrival is a book you can show anyone (regardless of age or nationality) as an example of what is possible through sequential art.

The Drifting Classroom

This week the last volume of The Drifting Classroom (#11), the horror manga by Kazuo Umezu, came out and I'm happy to report that the ending was a worthy one. The Drifting Classroom is about a grade school that ends up vanishing from the city and ends up existing in a world in which some catastrophe has occurred making said world a barren, harsh, alien place to live. The Drifting Classroom volumes are shrinkwrapped, but really the horror isn't as explicit as the Berserk manga. The horror in The Drifting Classroom is three-fold: firstly the cast of characters are just kids with very few adults around other than the teachers and staff at the school, secondly they don't know if and how their school and they themselves will ever return to the world as they knew it, and thirdly they are living in a hostile environment that makes just surviving difficult.
The Drifting Classroom was done by Kazuo Umezu something like thirty years ago, but if I didn't know this from reading notes on the manga, I never would have guessed that it wasn't a new production - that's the mark of a great work of art. I always go into reading a last volume or chapter of a series with some concern that the pay off will not live up to the stories build up. So I'm happy when upon finishing a series like The Drifting Classroom, it has an ending that doesn't just wander off or not even really conclude, rather it enhances everything that's come before and you know that you'll be revisiting that story again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Morrison & Quitely

Pairing writer Grant Morrison with artist Frank Quitely is one of those peanut butter and jelly or strawberry and banana combinations in that alone each of the units is great, but together they're all kinds of wonderfulness.

WE3 was a three issue Vertigo series that Morrison and Quitely did in 2005 (now collected in a nice trade paperback) about the military designing animals with machines to be used in combat situations. The story mostly focuses on a dog, cat, and rabbit that try to escape this secnario and it is one of the most brutally sad stories about animal experimentation that I've read.

Frank Quitely draws fantastic animals, fantastic machinery, and has fantastic storytelling prowess. I'd say that WE3 is Quitely's finest work to date because he's really gone all out in terms of panel stucture giving the story the brutal intensity that Morrison's script demands. For a while now there's been talk of a movie adaptation of WE3, but I really don't see that happening unless it were done by Japanese animaters in a hyper real style ala Ghost In The Shell (and not that Polar Bear Express or Beowolf "animation" style that I think just looks like a video game).

The past year or so, Morrison and Quitely have been working on All Star Superman (it's on issue #10 and their run will go to issue #12). All Star Superman is just a really good Superman story that doesn't take place in regular continuity. Actually with some of what Morrison is doing with the character, especially in the latest issue (cover shown here), such as exploring how a character with the power level that Superman has would change the world, this couldn't be a continuity title because if the DC universe were to actually reflect a universe in which super powered beings existed they would lose a lot of their current customer base. I'd argue that they might gain a new audience, but a book like All Star Superman is an example of thinking outside of the box that most super hero comic creators aren't capable of emulating on a monthly basis and what happens when the original creator that's thought of these wild concepts leaves is followed by someone of lesser creative chops (this happened on Authority post Ellis and Millar, with only Brubaker's twelve issue run being a worthy successor)- well what happens is really lame attempts to duplicate what's come before. This is probably one of the reasons DC never went with Alan Moore's 1980's revision of the entire DC universe titled Twilight (look it up online as his whole treatment is floating around there somewhere and it's all that).

Presently there is one collection of All Star Superman, but as much as my capitalist self wants to say don't wait and pick up the six issue collection and the single issues, I'd wait until sometime late next summer (probably the fall of 2009) for the nice big twelve issue collection of All Star Superman (or if you're already getting them as they come out, they make nice gifts or introductions to comic newbiews as you get the big collection for yourself). All Star Superman will go done in comics history as one of the great runs on Superman and people will be re-reading and talking about Morrison and Quitely's incarnation of the character for a long time.

I can't post an entry about Quitely's Superman without mentioning that yes his characters have odd faces and this does cause some people to put the book back on the rack. Quitely's super hero (and most of his people) faces are not idealized, pretty characters, but I think that's part of the charm of his art and invariably even those who have a hard time with Quitely's drawings of faces can't stop picking up books he draws because of his fluid storytelling skills. I'd also say that Quitely's art looks as great as it does largely due to the mad coloring skills of Jamie Grant.

Epstein illos

This wonderful color piece was done by the amazing Lark Pien

(http://larkpien.blogspot.com) last year for me and is titled: "Alternate Reality Comics...how it all began." I didn't even ask her to do this - she just handed this to me at last year's Wondercon!

This is one of my favorite artist interpretations of Epstein (that's my store mascot's name with the original drawing by Keir Eastveld) by artist Joe Matt (Peepshow). For a couple of years I had a sketchbook that I'd take around with me to the San Diego convention and would ask artists to draw their versions of Epstein. I stopped doing this though because I felt guilty about these artists doing this for free being that the character design is so busy and I've got quite a few drawings in my book so no need for me to continue being greedy! Maybe at a future Las Vegas Drink and Draw I'll have the people that show up take a crack at doing their version of Epstein (I forgot to mention that the theme of last month's Drink and Draw was for people to draw either Iron Man or a mermaid).

Kinky Boots

This morning I watched one of the best "feel good" movies that I've seen in some time. Said movie is Kinky Boots (thanks for the recommendation Todd Huish!) from 2005. The cover of the Kinky Boots dvd states: "If you liked The Full Monty and Calender Girls, you'll love Kinky Boots", well I've seen The Full Monty and I can say that Kinky Boots is similar in some ways without being dervivative.

Kinky Boots is inspired by a true story and takes place in Northhampton, England (the very same haunting grounds of uber comic scribe Alan Moore (I wonder if he's seen this film - I think he'd like it). It can be said that Kinky Boots goes down some predictable paths, but really the story and characters are so enjoyable that you'll just go where the story takes you and be happy for having done so by the time it's over. If you watch this, I'd recommend not reading the back of the dvd case because it gives too much away - I'm just going to say that Kinky Boots is about a shoemaker who has to reinvent his business because of hard times. Rent, buy, or Netflix Kinky Boots, I'll give it the money back guarantee!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Library book fair

This past Saturday, the Clark County library on Flamingo had a book fair which featured local novelists and had about eight local book stores as venders (including my store and Comic Oasis). This is my second year participating and while I think it's a good time and like supporting events like this, I do lament that the turnout isn't greater than it is. Last year it was on a Sunday and I thought the low traffic flow was because of that day so I thought that this year's being on a Saturday would have result in a bigger turnout. There was people coming to the library and the event all day, but I'd think that even if the promotion for this event was just done via fliers in the valley's entire library system that more people would come out.
Mostly I was getting the word out to people that were there about the upcoming annual Free Comic Book Day, which is happening Saturday, May 3rd. I also passed out extra free comics to people that I had left over from previous years so hopefully more people will get turned on to the great storytelling medium that we call comic books!

Speaking of the Clark County Library on Flamingo, this November 6-8th, they'll be having a comicsfest and while all the details haven't been ironed out yet, the huge guest that they have confirmed is Neil Gaiman! A full list of guests and events for the comicsfest at this library will be a few months away yet, but I'll post updates as I hear about them.

Drink & Draw

Last Thursday was the first Las Vegas Drink & Draw that was initiated by Justin Newberry (writer of the upcoming graphic novel Super coming out from Aberrant Press later this year - I've seen several pages of this and it looks great - check out www.aberrantpress.com). Drink & Draw started as a monthly artist get together in Los Angeles by comic artists Dave Johnson, Dan Panosian, and Jeff Johnson (they put out a gorgeous art book from those monthly meetings through Image last year naturally called Drink & Draw and they hope to do a Vegas version in the future).

In this photo from left to right are the three sponsors of the first Vegas Drink & Draw, Jay from Maximum Comics, Derrick from Comic Oasis, and Ralph from Alternate Reality Comics. Jay and Derrick are great guys and they have great stores so I'm not going to tell you where they are in fear of people deserting my store for their four color offerings (grin)! This is us inside Mickie Finnz the bar where Vegas Drink & Draw happened.

Holly (she works at Comic Oasis) with her uber cool Iron Man holding up a shot glass drawing and Charles Holbert Jr., resident artist and friend of Comic Oasis' Derrick holding his great drawing of Holly. I already knew that Charles was a great artist (he has a short story appearing in the Sentinels Anthology coming out in June), but I had no idea that Holly had some great drawing chops (I looked through a notebook of hers with her illustrations and immediately hated her!) - look them up on Deviant Art online.

So the plan is for Vegas Drink & Draw to happen every first Thursday of the month. I didn't find out about it until just about the twelve o'clock hour last week so other than having fliers in my store, I wasn't able to do much promotion for the first one. Having said that though I (and Jay, Derrick, and Justin) was very encouraged with the turnout. I'd pick Mickie Finnz (on the corner of Fremont St. and Las Vegas Blvd.) as the regular location if it was up to me as I thought the bar has good space, very good tunes, and good brew (and they serve food so smokers have to go outside the bar, but the outside of the bar is cool also). Anyone can come to the Drink & Draw and you don't have to draw, but it's fun to do so even if you don't think you're that great (and who knows maybe with enough brews they'll bring out your inner Jack Kirby, Rob Liefield, or Brian Bolland!). Paper is provided and prize drawings are held every half hour so how can you go wrong (just remember to drink and draw responsibly)!? I'll hopefully have more info shortly about the second gathering so stay tuned and sharpen up your pencils and pens!

As I'm finishing this entry, I had a customer while looking at new arrivals, order a strawberry banana pancake to go from IHOP over his head phone system! I think that's the first time a customer has ordered food while shopping at my store - and who knew that you could order to go from IHOP!? Actually if I wasn't a vegan, a strawberry banana pancake would sound pretty good!

Alucard in a box

As those of you who have cats know, most cats just love to get into boxes or bags. This never becomes not funny or cute to us cat people. Alucard just about always does something to amuse Kate and myself (fortunately he doesn't walk across our upstairs stair beams anymore though because that always looked like an accident waiting to happen). Call me a simpleton if you must, but one of my daily joys in life is when Alucard curls or stretches along side me on the couch and sleeps (or when he digs himself into our unmade bed in the mornings or lies upon a pile of towels).

This concludes my cat interlude, I'll now be returning to more comic centric entries...