Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy B Day Alucard & Nevada!

Today, Alucard, our black cat (staring up at my bee antena) turned seven. Actually he may be eight years old and his birthday probably isn't really October 31st. Anyway I first saw this black cat, who we later named Alucard after a character in the great anime Hellsing (it's also Dracula backwards), on Halloween morning of 2001 in our backyard when I was making coffee (that's why we call today his birthday). We saw him in our backyard a few other times the next week or so and thought that our other cat might like a companion while we were gone during the day (turns out she really didn't) and I'd always wanted a black cat and although I don't believe in "signs", how cool is it to see a black cat on Halloween!? Kate put lost cat notices on surrounding mailboxes and no one claimed him so Alucard has been our prisoner ever since (when we took him to the vet, he was estimated as being a year old). Sadly he likes Kate more than me, but he does tolerate my shenanigans. Alucard is a great cat with a lot of character who always amuses us and Kate often lovingly tells me that he's my fault.

Also Happy 144th Birthday Nevada!

Oh and my unoriginal Halloween costume is actually one I wore several years ago because I never gave wearing a costume today or going out to a costume store much thought. I like to think I'm just being green by recycling this old costume (the ska hat is new though)!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cheney & Bush aren't gay & that's okay

Yesterday I wore this shirt which was painted by comic book artist Alex Ross (Kingdom Come, Marvels) a few years ago. Right away when a person sees someone wearing a shirt like this, you know what their politics are and the person wearing said shirt knows they're going to get comments from people they encounter. Knowing my customers as I think I do, I was pretty sure that just about all of them would be on the same page as me regarding my shirt and my politics so I wasn't expecting any negative comments for wearing that shirt.

I'm sure I have some customers who aren't Democrats, who think homosexuality is wrong, and or just don't share any of my political leanings, but I haven't had anyone offering their rebuttals to my positions. I try not to hit people over the head when sharing my political beliefs, but I do have an Obama Hope poster hanging in my store, I have three different Obama shirts I wear from time to time, and I've been wearing an Obama button every day for at least the last couple of months. Whenever someone asks me about my support of Obama or me being a vegetarian (vegan), I'll (to the best of my ability) discuss why I've made those choices, so I certainly hope that anyone who feels (thinks) differently will try to engage me in a dialogue.

Well yesterday I was more than a little surprised when one of my friends whom I've known a long time (even though we no longer hang out very much) said: "Cute shirt, it almost makes me not want to shop here anymore." He was in the middle of talking to another of my friends (Kyle, singer in Nine Fine Irishmen at the New York, New York casino) here at the store and the store was pretty busy at that time. I didn't say anything back to him because I was busy ringing up people and I was actually shocked that he said that. Now I shouldn't have been shocked because I know some of his religious beliefs (which I think came into his making that comment more than as a political reason of his), but I also know that he holds some liberal ideas that don't go step and step with his religious beliefs.

It's often said that one shouldn't discuss politics or religion in mixed company and one shouldn't air their politics in their place of business because you run the risk of alienating / losing customers. I don't agree with this because I think more communication should be taking place between people about important things and not just the superficial things (such as a show we watched last night or a sports team's performance) we talk about most of the time when we see our friends or anyone else we talk to.

Anyway, I didn't confront my friend about what he said yesterday and I really wanted to because I think confronting someone about their beliefs is good for everyone. I've not been the best at confronting others in the past and I've always felt bad about it upon reflection as I'm certainly not doing the positions I hold any favors, nor did I communicate with the other person in a significant way, but I think I'm getting better in this respect and in turn getting better at communicating why my choices are what they are.

So next week, when I see my friend who made that comment about the shirt in the photo above, I'm going to ask him what he meant by what he said. I'm going to approach him in a manner that hopefully doesn't come across as if I'm attacking him for his positions because of course he's entitled to his opinion, I just would like him to try to make me understand where he's coming from. It's also very possible that I'm blowing his comment about my shirt way out of proportion and he was just joking and or was grossed out at the idea of Cheney and Bush kissing (is there anyone who doesn't think that's gross - grin!?). And it's also true that all of us have dicotomies within what we say and what we actually practice, but the more we recognize this and talk about our thoughts on topics such as homosexuality, the better we'll be to see the fallacies in some belief systems and then change them.

If I find out that my friend said what he did because he thinks homosexuality is wrong, well I'm going to have a problem with that. I can understand not liking the idea of homosexuality as a personal choice, such as not liking brussel sprouts, but to extend your dislike for homosexuality towards the belief that others should not be in homosexual relationships if that's THEIR choice, well that's just wrong - I think that line of thinking is as wrong as being racist or a misogynist.

I'm amazed with this being the 21st century, that everyone can't see how wrong opposition to homosexuality is and that hopefully not too far in the future, people will see that legistration that regulates what sexual orientation a person chooses for themselves, is as ludicrous as not allowing women or black people the right to vote. Two states that I know of, California and Arizona, have on their ballots this November, a question that would make gay marriage unconstitutional, and sadly I'm not too encouraged that they won't pass, so America still has quite a way to go before it's truly a country with equal rights for all of its people. Communication and confronting people who hold these opposing, outmoded beliefs, is the key to making this discrimination obsolete.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Joker: Azzarello & Bermejo

No spoilers:

Today the long-awaited new hardcover Joker graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo arrived and it is worth the wait. This book is a mere $19.99 for 122 pages and comes shrink wrapped (actually most hardcover graphic novels come this way). Actually, while this isn't an all ages book, it's not as mature readers as Azzarello's Vertigo title 100 Bullets.

The first thing a person looking through this Joker hardcover notices is the artwork as Bermejo just takes his usually great art to a whole new level (pardon my hyperbole!) - I rarely do this, but this is one of those books that I think is worth it just based on the art even if the story wasn't good. Except the story is very good and it's been too long since we've gotten a Joker stoy that is worthy of the character. This is as dark, edgy, and maniacal as it needs to be and makes for a worthy companion to Heath Ledger's excellent portrayal of the Joker in this year's Batman Dark Knight movie. There's also a great line of dialogue by the Joker about where to hide that I won't spoil that makes for a nice payoff.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Michelle Obama Live In Vegas!

Tonight Michelle Obama had a campaign stop at a local park here in Las Vegas and this visit was on the heels of her husband's stop at a local high school only two days ago. I haven't been able to make any of the other campaign stops by Barack or Michelle Obama because they were during my store's hours so I was happy to be able to attend this 9pm visit by Michelle (just hours after she recorded her guest spot on the Jay Leno Show airing later tonight).
Michelle Obama, as anyone who's heard her talk, is a great speaker. She talked for at least a half hour on health care, the economy, and the war in Iraq, without using a telepromter as a local newscast reported. The same newscast talked to people who said Michelle's speech was even better than her husbands on Saturday (which I wasn't able to attend).
The crowd was great and of course really fired up and it was a fantastic night to be outside. Although, yes, going to one of these campaign stops involves waiting around for a few hours before the main event, I thought it was totally worth it because I know that everyone that was there will be all the more supportive of the Obama Presidency.
Having heard Michelle Obama talk in person, I think I'm going to change my vote to her! Seriously though, she is a highly intelligent, passionate person and I don't think that the idea of her actually running for President some time after Barack, is a crazy thought at all. As some of you readers of my blog may remember, originally I was in Hillary Clinton's corner as the Democratic choice, not because I didn't think that Obama would be a great President, but rather because with his young age, I knew he'd have another shot after Hillary, but tonight I thought more about how things played out between Obama and Clinton and I now think that Obama really is the better choice as his Presidency will be the road to change this country needs.

The best ever Watchmen review... not written by me, instead it's written by Isabella Burtan over on Newsarama Burtan is a newbie to comic books / graphic novels and although she goes to Harvard, her writing doesn't have a boring, pretentious, or cold academia quality, rather as her review of Watchmen illustrates, Burtan, conveys perfectly and humorously what reading Watchmen for the first time is like. If I could write half (or even a tenth!) as good of a review as Isabelle Burtan has done with her Watchmen piece, my blog would be a lot more insightful!

The above cartoon with Peanuts characters as Watchmen character is by artist Evan Shaner.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

funny tattoos

This obviously isn't a tattoo, but rather a photo of the actor on the 1970's show Fantasy Island who's character name for some reason that I don't know was Tattoo. It would be funny to get a tattoo of Tattoo, but I'm not going to even though I'd win in one of my circle of friends!

Over on this comic book messageboard I was on today they were talking about / showing their tattoos - so, no, this isn't my new tattoo!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Starbucks week 24 - open!

Today, after six months of construction, my new neighbor, Starbucks, is open for business. I want to say off the bat that I think it's a great looking building (interior is nice also) and I'd also like to tip my hat to the construction team as they really got this building up in a hurry - I even saw them working on Sundays.

So being that it's the first day of the new Starbucks I had to get one of their first cups and welcome them to the neighborhood. I had the venti (extra large) Pike Place coffee and it was okay, not the best coffee I've ever had. It's named after Seattle's excellent outdoor / indoor downtown market, Pike Place Market. Anyway, I'm not saying it was bad, just not my favorite flavor and I think next time I'll try whatever their daily coffee selection is. I don't drink any of the fancy euro coffee drinks (especially as most of them have dairy in them, although I guess I could have some of them with soymilk), but I do like to try different types of coffee (with one or two packs of Splenda, depending on the size of the cup) and not having been into a Starbucks in awhile, I was happy to see that all of their drinks aren't $5.00 (mine cost $2.10). I don't know if they're doing this for everyone who comes in and buys a coffee (or for how long they'll be doing this), but they gave me a 2.5oz bag of a blend called Caffe Verona Bold (and they gave me that before I introduced myself as the owner of the comic store a stone's throw from them) so I'll be trying that at the house tomorrow morning.

I've only been drinking coffee since I turned 35 a few years ago and generally I'll just have one cup when we wake up to get a kick start on the day, but every once in a while I'll have another cup at some other part of the day - I'm crazy that way! To date I haven't found that one kind of coffee that is a favorite, so maybe with Starbucks being a hop and a skip from my store, through them I'll discover my elusive, favorite can't-live-without coffee blend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Unknown Soldier - arrival

Vertigo's new series, Unknown Soldier, by writer Joshua Dysart and artist Alberto Ponticelli, arrived at all finer comic book stores today and although I've already read the first two issues and did a blog entry on September 13th, I wanted to give another shout out for the title, especially as it's such a tough market for new titles.
Here's an endorsement by Preacher writer, Garth Ennis: "A story with teeth, unafraid to confront some horrific truths about the world we live in, Joshua Dysart's Unknown Soldier is a comic that genuinely matters." This incarnation of the Unknown Soldier takes place in present day Africa and if you know anything about the political climate and horrors going on there, well you then have some idea of what this new series is about.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Vegas Comicfest Nov. 8th!

As if the first week in November wasn't going to be exciting enough with the election November 4th, four days later, on Saturday, November 8th, here in Las Vegas at the Clark County Library, the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival will be happening from 11am - 3pm! So if you've recovered from all of the celebrating from Barack Obama's huge win November 4th (and really I don't want to hear any malarkey about how I'm jinxing the outcome by stating this in advance or that things could still swing around, because this is the 21st Century so we should wash our hands of superstitions and with the idea that Obama's not going to win - if that's even a possiblity of happening at this point, then however bad people think things are now, multiply that by one hundred), here's details for LV Comicsfest:

Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival, November 4th (Saturday), from 11am-3pm, at the Clark County Library (1401 E. Flamingo Rd., off of Maryland Parkway), free to all! The Vegas Comicfest is happening in conjuncture with the Vegas Valley Book Festival that kicks off Thursday night, November 6th, with a keynote address / presentation by Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Stardust, Coraline, and his just released new novel, The Graveyard Book) at 7pm at the theater within the Clark County Library. The theater within the library is pretty sizable, but Neil Gaiman's audience is pretty large as well, so they'll be passing out wristbands on a first come, first serve basis. On Saturday (November 8th), comic creator guests will include Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets, Sloth) with his daughter, Natalia Hernandez, signing her comic book debut, The Adventures of Crystal Girl, Steve Niles (30 Days Of Night), Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited cartoon and Justice League of America, the comic), Steven Grant (Badlands and Punisher), Gary Groth (publisher of Fantagraphics), Chris Staros (publisher of Top Shelf), and David Hajdu (author of The Ten-Cent Plague, a novel about the comic book content scare of the 1950's).

There'll be several different panels with the above mentioned creators from 11am - 3pm (Saturday, November 8th), as well as signings, free comic book movies at their cool theater, and a sales area representing Las Vegas comic book stores. Michael Chabon (author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel about American comic book roots), will be giving the closing keynote at 6pm in the theater (wristbands start at 5pm), so this is seriously the Las Vegas comic book event of the year and you'll be sad if you miss it (I'll be sad also if I don't see a lot of people at the fest sharing their love of comics with others)! I have flyers here at my store with more info (or if you just want to grab one to put on your refridgerator as a reminder) or you could go by the Clark County Library and they'll answer any of your questions you may have about the event.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

a comic book for everyone?

I just had one of the strangest calls I'd ever gotten here at my store. This woman calls from the Venetian, a hotel here in Las Vegas, calling for directions to my store (that's not the strange part). Then she says she's looking for a manga (actually she asked for an anime and I had to explain that anime was Japanese for animation and manga was Japanese for comics just to make sure she wasn't looking for a dvd) for her son who's very anti gun control (her description of her son) that specifically has characters who are anti gun control. I told her that there are many manga series that feature characters using guns, but none come to mind in which the characters take a postion on the use of the guns. She said thank you to me for my info, but I don't think I satisfied her need (her son's need) for a manga series that takes an anti gun position and I'd be really surprised if she comes to my store. I'm mostly of the opinion that there's a comic or manga (same thing of course) for whatever genre or topic a person likes to read, but this call has shown me otherwise - unless anyone reading this can point me in the direction (name of a title) of such a comic / manga.

Before this call the strangest call I'd gotten here at the store was someone calling asking about real estate. The name of my store is Alternate REALITY Comics, but this person who called asking about real estate read the name of my store as Alternate REALTY (and over the years I've actually had a handful of people make such a call and I know that they weren't prank calls)!? The reply I want to make to people who have called me about this is "Yes, I've got some great real estate for really cheap in this alternate dimension slightly to the left of ours", but I just tell them that they've called Alternate REALITY Comics and I just sell comic books. I do wonder though how these people have stumbled on my store name and then thought to make an inquiry about real estate when the word "Comics" follows "Alternate Reality or Alternate REALTY as they've read it." Oh well, back to my monthly order - maybe I should look into buying some real estate in another reality and or create a comic featuring characters foaming at the mouth about their opposition to gun control!

Edited two hours later: So the woman who called me earlier did come in and she was just determined to bring her 25 year old son back a "little thinking of you" book, so I directed her to a manga called Gunsmith Cats, a manga by Kenichi Bonoca about two American gals (they're called girls on the back cover) who own a gun store and are explosives experts who also do some kind of bounty hunter work. I've heard that Bonoca, the creator of Gunsmith Cats, is a gun enthusiast and makes sure he gets all the details right, so I like to think I found the closest manga that her son would like based on her description of what he likes. Now that I think about it, another long running manga, Golgo 13, about the world's greatest assassin, would probably have worked also. And it turns out that this woman was really nice, she just would have had an easier time of finding something for him if she knew the titles of some of the mangas or animes that her son has liked. Whew - now to get to the Marvel part of my ordering for the month of December (Marvel has WAY TOO MANY TITLES coming out in December)!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Astral Project

Last week DC's manga line, CMX, debuted the first volume of Astral Project, written by Marginal and drawn by Syuji Takeya. The central character of Astral Project is Masahiko, who discovers he can project himself out of his body and exist unknown to others in an invisible realm (astral projection). He also meets two other people that can astral project and through them, tries to understand how he can do this. This happens shortly after Masahiko finds out about the mysterious death of his sister and then takes the last cd she had on her player when she died and listens to it. Well I don't want to give away too much more about that, other then to mention that the jazz artist on the cd, Albert Ayler, was a real life musician (I looked it up online). Ayler lived from 1936-1970 and was a pioneer of a form of jazz called "free jazz" (he played alto sax). From the little reading I did so far about Ayler he led a very interesting life and I'll be interested in seeing how Ayler fits into Astral Project as it progresses.

Astral Project comes sealed with a parental advisory label, but I didn't read or see anything in the first volume that warranted that, maybe the label applies more to future volumes as it is written by Garon Tsuchiya under one of his aliases, "Marginal". Tsuchiya wrote the Old Boy manga of which was made the acclaimed and very disturbing Korean revenge live-action movie of the same name. I haven't read the manga, but the Old Boy movie is one of the more intense movies I've seen in the past few years (and if you haven't seen it, don't look up any info on it, just watch it - you won't believe where it goes!). If the Astral Project manga comes anywhere close to what Old Boy is, well the mature label and shrink wrap are totally justified.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Breakdowns is a new release by Art Spiegelman, the creator of the Pulitzer-Prize winning Maus. Actually, Breakdowns isn't entirely new, it was originally released in 1978 as a collection of short stories that Spiegelman had done for various underground comix in the 1970's. This new edition of Breakdowns does feature about twenty new pages by Art Spiegelman, is in a gorgeous oversized (10"x14) format, and has outstanding production values throughout. Before I talk more about Breakdowns, I'd like to share some of my thoughts on Maus.
Maus, is primarily Spiegelman's memoir of how his father (and mother) survived the Holocaust, but Maus is also about Art Spiegelman's relationship with his father.

Reading Maus was my first exposure to the horror that was the Holocaust. I went to high school in Munich, Germany (it was an American school - I was an air force brat) and I remember going on a school field trip to Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp, where we were given a tour of where the (mostly) Jewish prisoners slept and ate and there was a big room with photos. I vaguely remember a feeling of unease during the Dachau field trip and being sad after seeing those photos, but at that time I didn't grasp the horror of what was going on in the Nazi concentration camps. I attribute this to the poor history books used in schools which largely just relate cold facts without putting the events into a context that young minds can process. So it wasn't until I'd been out of high school for several years and read Maus, with Spiegelman's father recounting his memories of being in Auschwitz to him, that I understood what the Nazi regime was doing to people.

A three page short story in Breakdowns from 1972 is called Maus and while the art style is different than the style he ultimately used when he did his 300 page Maus graphic novel (originally two separate books that collected the chapters that ran in Raw, an anthology comic book magazine), this early Maus story definitely shows Spiegelman knew this was a story he had to tell. Another short story in Breakdowns is called Prisoner On The Hell Planet, about Spiegelman's mother's suicide and this story he also used within his larger Maus narrative (but here the art is much bigger). The new material frames Breakdowns and includes an excellent sixteen page sequential story that is Spiegelman looking back at his formative years as a cartoonist and a six page afterward autobiography. Breakdowns is expensive ($27.50) for "only" 72 pages, but this is book really is a must have for one of the pioneers of autobiographical and experimental comics and nothing within these pages has a dated quality. In Spiegelman's previous work, In The Shadow Of No Towers, he commented that he doesn't think he has another long work like Maus within him (and I'm sure that the highly personal nature of Maus took a lot out of him as well as the fear of how to follow such an acclaimed book), so books like Breakdowns, in which we just get "small" doses of Spiegelman's comic genius will have to suffice.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Burma Chronicles

Burma Chronicles is the third graphic novel travelogue by cartoonist Guy Delisle and is about the year he spent in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar. I enjoyed Burma Chronicles as I did Delise's Pyongyang (his Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China didn't leave much of an impression on me) because I'll probably never visit those countries so reading about his immersive experiences living in those oppressive countries gave me a much better sense of what living there entails than from what I knew about those countries before reading these graphic novels.

Guy Delisle lived in Pyongyang and Shenzhen for a year while he was a supervisor for animation studios there and he was in Burma for a year working on his graphic novels. When Delisle wasn't working on animation or comic book projects in those countries he does as Joe Sacco, comics' other comic book journalist (excellent cartoonist of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde) does, which is to live amongst the local people and then produce graphic novels about their experiences.

Burma borders China and Thailand and like Pyongyang (North Korea) is a very oppressive country. Burma also has many regions that are very impoverished and is / was one of the countries that Doctors Without Borders provides medical services to (Delisle, while in Burma, lived amongst some of those doctors and traveled with them sometimes when they went out in the field). Before reading Burma Chronicles I hadn't known that drug use in Burma is amongst the highest in the world and as Delisle states "In my humble opinion, it suits the government fine. They'd probably prefer to see young Kachins stoned to the gills than taking up arms and joining the ranks of the resistance." Learning about countries such as Burma and Pyongyang in which personal advancement is next to impossible, poverty is so prevalent, and just daily living is such a grind, makes me appreciate that although conditions such as the economy and the present political climate here in the U.S. are amongst the worst that they've ever been in this country, there are many people in many countries around the world that have it much worse (and I'm not saying that people should here in the U.S. should just accept what's going on, just that everyone needs to increase their perspectives because the United States is not the world).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Emiko Superstar = ugh

Emiko Superstar is a new Minx graphic novel by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Steve Rolston and while I was reading it I was thinking that this book wanted to be what another Minx title, The Plain Janes, is and that is a good coming of age story with the central character trying to make their transformation through art. My problem with Emiko Superstar wasn't that I thought it was similar to The Plain Janes, but that none of the characters were especially interesting or were handled in such a way to make the reader care about what happened to them.

While reading Emiko Superstar, I was also thinking of a discussion I had with Kate when it was first announced that the Minx line would be discontinued. Kate's argument was that most of the Minx titles featured stories that were preachy, with characters that learn some kind of moral lesson and not the kind of story she (Kate) sought out as a teenage reader. Well, Emiko Superstar proves her point, even though I still stand by my argument that just about anyone who read the two best Minx titles, The Plain Janes and Good As Lilly, would enjoy them (although she's probably right that they would be bought for teenage girls rather than something they'd think to select themselves).

Actually I didn't want to just write about what a dud I thought this book was, I wanted to talk specifically about something Emiko, the central character of Emiko Superstar does that transforms her. Spoiler alert following! Emiko works as a babysitter and she finds a journal / diary that was / is written by the mother of the boy she watches. So she decides to PLAGIARIZE the whole diary and present it as her creation at this gathering of artists / performers and their audience. Emiko copies every word from the diary, calls it "Suburbia", and the reaction to it is very favorable. Nowhere in the book when Emiko does this is the word "plagiarism" named nor is the reader or Emiko left with the impression that plagiarism is bad. I think plagiarism is a pretty serious offense and I think that any young readers of Emiko Superstar will just think that stealing other people's writings (or ideas) is okay as long as it advances you as a person. I have (had?) a friend who discovered that a friend of theirs had plagiarized complete ideas from another person and presented those ideas (word for word) in an outlet as if they were their unique ideas so my friend stopped talking to that person (the plagiarist was not confronted by my friend and I don't know if the plagiarist realized that someone discovered this or if the person who was plagiarized ever knew that that happened to them, of which I'm two minds of, but who amongst us hasn't been confrontational when they should have?). While I think Joe Biden is generally a fairly intelligent person, I'm surprised that his previous plagiarism incident (when he ran for President years ago) hasn't been brought up as a character assault towards him. Maybe plagiarism isn't so bad anymore!?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama & McCain comics

Today IDW released an Obama biography comic book and a McCain biography comic (there's also a flip book that has both under one binding).

Except for the covers (and your milage may differ on that depending on whether you like cover artist, J Scott Campbell's new too much like bad caricature art style), both of these comics are good primers of both of the 2008 Presidential candidates.

The Obama comic is written by Jeff Mariotte and drawn by Tom Morgan. I thought the art was fine, but I wish someone like Paul Gulacy would have been available or interested. I hadn't read Obama's two books so wasn't real familiar with his background other than what I'd read about him and his mother (an interesting person, sadly she died in 1995) in Time magazine. As any even semi- regular reader of my blog knows, I was already going to vote for Obama, but reading this comic about Obama's history would have sold me if my mind wasn't already made up.

The McCain comic was written by Andy Helfer and drawn by Stephen Thompson. The art here is fine, more photo-realistic than the art in the Obama comic, except sometimes it comes across as too static (whereas the art in the Obama comic is sometimes too cartoony). I'd already known quite a bit about McCain (mostly from a Biography show on The History Channel), but this comic serves as a good overview of how McCain got to where he is today (although if I was going to nitpick, even though I think a lot of McCain's life has been admirable and fascinating, sometimes it was a chore to read this comic because there was too many text captions per page). Anyway, I think McCain has led an interesting life (and obviously an especially difficult five years when he was tortured as a POW in Vietnam in the late 1960's), but I still don't think that makes him qualified to be President of the U.S.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Arab In America

Arab In America was a 2007 release, but I don't recall ever seeing it available from my main distributor, Diamond Comics, so I just received it from Last Gasp a couple of days ago.

Arab In America is an autobiography written and drawn by Toufic El Rassi. While I'd say that as an illustrator, Rassi doesn't have a style anywhere close to that of other autobio comic artists such as Joe Sacco, Rutu Modan, Alison Bechdel, or Eddie Campbell, the art doesn't distract from Rassi's objective with this graphic novel, which is to show how much prejudice exists in the U.S. towards anyone with an Arab identity. In Arab n America, Rassi also does a good job of chronicling how most people in the U.S. don't even know that Turks, Iranians, and Pakistani people are not Arabs (Rassi was born in Beriut, but grew up in the U.S.).

I will admit that my knowledge of the Middle East situation isn't that great so Arab In America was a good resource for me, specifically where Rassi explains how "Israel has one of the world's most sophisticated militaries and living standards on par with Western Eupope, yet the U.S. gives them about 3 billion dollars a year in military and economic aid, more than any country on earth - more money than the U.S. gives annually to all of Sub Saharan Africa, the world's poorest region." I'd recommend Arab In America just based on how well Toufic Rassi details the hypocrisy that the U.S. has employed in its involvement in the Middle East. If more people were aware of facts such as those presented in Arab In America, they'd understand one of the many reasons the U.S. war in Iraq is such a farce.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Comics Industry For Obama

Over on Newsarama yesterday they had an interview with Sarah Grace McCandless, the creator and website moderator of Here's their mission statement in McCandless' words from the Newsarama interview: "It's a central meeting place where Obama supporters across the comics industry can mobilize, with a focus first and foremost on doing a get out the vote push, followed by fundraising efforts for the campaign." Writer / artist Eric Powell (The Goon), did the artwork for the logo. I also love the tag line on the website: "Let's make sure the good guy wins" even though I don't think McCain is really a bad guy, just not a good guy to be the President of the U.S.

I think Comics Industry For Obama is a great idea, I just wish it had been thought of earlier because it seems so obvious. So far there are just about 140 members, including comic creators such as Laura Martin, Mike Mignola, Jimmy Palmiotti, Mike allred, Andy Diggle, Steve Niles, and Denys Cowan. I'm thinking that most of the comic industry (like most people in the entertainment / arts community) are of the Democratic persuasion anyway, so why not get together and proclaim their support for Obama? The website has a good no-frills design and hopefully as more people in the comics industry hear about this, they'll join in and encourage others to do so as well. They have a facebook and myspace page, but myspace annoys the hell out of me (I can't get past the horrible busy design layout that is myspace) and it seems like the only dialogue tha happens on myspace is people saying "thanks for the add."

Warning, soapbox time!: The only thing I don't like about Comics For Obama is that one of their objectives is to raise money for Obama's campaign, with artists doing sketches and donating artwork for auctions for that purpose. I don't know what the total amount of money has been raised for the Obama campaign is, but I do remember that they proudly announced that they raised 66 million just in the month of August! That's just for one month - I think that amount for a whole year is an insane amount to spend on a campaign. I'm sure that the Republicans have similar (if not higher) amounts they're raising and using for their campaign, but either way, dollar amounts like that are gonzo. As Kate has reminded me, television ads are expensive and all the people involved in the campaign need to be transported to this state and that state, but really aren't there enough people just volunteering their own time and resources canvasing their neighborhoods to get out the word? If Obama can't defeat McCain November 4th just based on Bush and the Republican's record the last eight years, well all of the television ads and hopping from state to state are just really expensive window dressings or parties for the already converted.

What if Obama and his campaign used the money they raised and gave them to organizations and programs that would do something productive with those crazy dollar figures (the same applies to the Republicans)? Certainly there are many worthwhile organizations and programs that could really turn their operations around with a few million dollars and wouldn't the press from that show that Obama (and the Democratic party or the Republican party if they went this route) was a making-it-happen candidate, not just talking the talk candidate? I realize that Obama isn't taking matching government funds for his campaign or taking money from Washington lobbyists or political action committees (rather he's getting his insane dollar contributions in smaller amounts from more people) and I admire him for that, but 66 million in one month is still insane. Running for office in the U.S. needs to be seriously overhauled, it needs to cover a span of something like just six months and all of the candidates should have the same amount of not more than 5 million (total for their whole campaign) to run their campaigns. Presently as Mark Twain said we have the "best government that money can buy," except even with all of the crazy money it takes to run a Presidential campaign (and other political campaigns in the U.S.), we still don't end up with the best government.

The Alcoholic

No Spoilers:

Yesterday, Vertigo / DC released The Alcoholic, a new original hardcover graphic novel by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel. I read the first forty-five pages at the store between customers, read some more last night after watching the long awaited return of the best show on tv, Pushing Daisies, and finished it this morning before my morning jog. The Alcoholic is fantastic! It reads very much like an autobiography (but don't let me saying that scare you away if you think autobio is usually boing) and the central character shares the same name as the author (on the liner notes on the back of the book it sates that the character "bears only a coincidental resemblance to the real-life writer" - yeah, right. Anyway regardless of how much of The Alcoholic is true, the reader is drawn into Jonathan's world immediately as the book follows Jonathan as he takes his first drink all the way through his later adult life, imparting on the reader the whole range of emotions as we see his life as an alcoholic unfold.

The Alcoholic is novelist Jonathan Ames' first graphic novel and he came out with all cylinders firing, helped to a great extent by artist Dean Hapiel, who does the best art I've ever seen by him (and I'll have to admit that I previously wasn't a very big Hapiel fan). 136 pages, hardcover, for only $19.99 - this will surely be amongst the front runners in next years Eisners. Now I wish I had a good German dunkel (dark) beer!