Tuesday, December 30, 2008

my top 10 graphic novels of 2008

This past year was a fantastic year for original graphic novels so I'd like to present the first in what I hope will be an annual tradition, my Epsteins (my version of the Eisner Awards) for top ten of the year. The title will be followed by the creator (or creators) and then the date for which I originally blogged about the entry if you'd like to read about why I think these books are the best of the best.

1. Alan's War by Emmanuel Guibert, blog entry November 12th
2. What It Is by Lynda Barry, blog entry May 31st
3. Acme Novelty Library v. 19 by Chris Ware, blog entry November 10th
4. American Widow by Alissa Torres and Sungyoon Choi, blog entry August 7th
5. Solain by Asano Inio, blog entry November 10th
6. Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle, blog entry October 11th
7. Too Cool To Be Forgotten by Alex Robinson, blog entry July 17th
8. Me And The Devil Blues by Akira Hiramoto, blog entry August 13th
9. Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabriel Soria, and Warren Pleece, blog entry April 29th
10. The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel, blog entry October 2nd.

While things from my perspective this past year were great on the original alternative graphic novel front, on the superhero periodical side of the industry, this past year has been an especially bad one for the caped and long john set. All of the events were big duds that once again aren't paying off with good endings onto themselves, rather just leading into the next event.

The superhero comics I have enjoyed this past year were: Thor, Hulk (even though the whole "red Hulk" thing is being dragged out), Marvels Eye Of The Camera, Daredevil (has started picking up with the new Lady Bullseye story arc), Invincible Iron Man, All Star Superman (the only Morrison of the year that's made sense to me), Umbrella Academy, and Mark Millar's Wolverine and Kick Ass (both of which are always horribly late and not because of Millar). My pick for most overlooked superhero comic is Madman by Mike Allred (which I think is getting better and better and maybe only really qualifies as a "superhero" title because the lead character wears a costume).

There was a lot of great new editions of classic comics from yesteryear such as the Howard The Duck and Tomb of Dracula Omnibus', and the Jack Kirby Omnibus' that DC has been doing.

SGT. Rock The Lost Battalion by Billy Tucci has obviously been a labor of love and Vertigo's new Unknown Soldier series has been very good. Into next year I'm looking forward to Bendis and Maleev finally starting their Spider Woman series because their four year run on Daredevil was amongst that character's best stories and in my opinion Bendis works better with more grounded characters, not big groups of super powered team books like Avengers or Secret Invasion.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Quest For The Missing Girl

The Quest For The Missing Girl is another great self contained manga graphic novel (334 pages) by Jiro Taniguchi. Two previous works by Taniguchi have been released by publisher Fanfare / Ponent Mon, The Walking Man, in 2007 and The Ice Wanderer, in 2008, both of which received Eisner Award nominations.

The Quest For The Missing Girl
, like The Walking Man and The Ice Wanderer, are mostly quiet reflections on everyday living and the world around us. This doesn't mean that Jiro Taniguchi's narratives are boring or slow, instead they show us as the best slice-of-life fiction or non-fiction does, that real life is full of wonder and mystery. Many people who don't usually read manga think that all manga art is the same with the characters being mostly children with big eyes, so I show them Taniguchi's magnificent art prowess (also on display in The Quest For The Missing Girl of course) and that usually gets others to see the diversity of styles that Japanese cartoonists employ. Basically The Quest For The Missing Girl is exactly about what the title says it is, with rich characters and a pace that doesn't let up - a story that would also make a great movie.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

O SpinnerRack, O SpinnerRack...

...Wie treu sind diene Blatter! That opening is for our German friends, who first started the tradition of having a tree in the house to celebrate Christmas (Tannenbaume, which is German for Christmas tree). But everybody knows that, right!? Anyway we can't have a tree at our house because we have three cats. One year I did put up a tree and our black cat, Alucard, had a fun time climbing through it. Well I can't stand when my cats have fun, so no more trees in the house!

So a couple of weeks ago, Kate half-jokingly said we should decorate our spinner rack in the house and the next morning I did just that, to her surprise. Exactly the kind of white trash thing a comic store owner should have in the house, so this will be the start of a new tradition for us. The opening of this blog entry was also stolen from Kate's livejournal entry from a couple of weeks ago.

I'd like to shout out "Happy Holidays!" to all of my friends, all the people who insist on giving me money for new comics here at my store (who I also consider my friends), and everyone who reads this blog. This year has been really bumpy for way too many people I know (and even for those people I don't know) in many different ways so I certainly hope things swing around next year (I'm optimistic that they will, although it'll probably be slowish). I was mentioning to Kate the other day that this past year, more than any other year that I can recall, has been the year in which the most life-altering changes has occurred to people I know so I hope this only happens next year in the positive sense. This year was also what I had called early on in the year as "the year of the baby" as I know soooo many people who've had babies this year (yay, future potential comic book readers!). So because it bears repeating, "Happy Holidays Everyone!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

goodbye Barb

I didn't want to write this entry, but the more I've thought about this the last two days, I couldn't NOT write about this. I hope anyone who's known Barb won't think it's inappropriate for me to write about this here. I'm still trying to process this sad news that a mutual friend shared with me on Wednesday, actually I don't think I'll ever really be able to process Barb not being around. I've been alternating between being really sad / shocked and being really angry with not being able to change this from having happened.

Barb didn't have to die, she was certainly waaaaaaaay too young (31). I'm not going to go into details as to what happened (not that I know a lot of them myself), but I've got to think that anyone who's known Barb, was saddened and shocked to hear about her death. Barb had a lot of friends and a really strong bond with her sister and her mother and any one of us would have been with her to help her with whatever she was going through had we known. I just saw Barb last Friday night at a local pub a group of my friends goes to and she seemed to be happy and I was talking to another friend on Wednesday (who also worked with her) and he said that just a couple of days ago they were sharing things that they wanted to do in the future.

I've known Barb for a number of years, but I didn't know her as well as some of her other friends, but I think her death shows that NO ONE really knows anyone else, hell a lot of us still don't know our own selves. I'm trying not to think too much about what led Barb to her death, I'm just sad that Barb was experiencing so much pain that I wasn't aware of or could do anything about to help her with.
For as long as I've known her, Barb's been involved in theater (and a really good artist / painter also, which I didn't discover until years after I'd known her), but mostly Barb was always a fun person to just be around, she definitely tried to live life to the hilt, and she would always be there for you if you needed her to be. I already miss Barb and the magnitude of Barb not being around hasn't even totally sunk in yet.

Right now my heart is breaking whenever I think of Janice (her sister), whom I've known longer than I've known Barb and her mother (whom I don't know that well, but from what I've heard is a tremendous person). Janice has a heart the size of which I couldn't even begin to describe to people that don't know her and as I've mentioned, she was always REALLY close to Barb. Whenever I've thought of Janice these past couple of days, it has taken everything within me not to break down emotionally in front of customers here at my store.

The best tribute I know of that I can do and implore others to do in Barb's memory is to tell and show those you love how much they mean to you and to extend every kindness to even people you don't know, because even if you're not experiencing hard times, someone is and as everything really is connected, others' hard times affect all of us. This Sunday, (December 21st) Barb was going to celebrate the Winter Solstice so if those of reading this (even if you never got to meet Barb) could send some positive thoughts out that day, I like to think that Barb will be aware of them.

Barb, you were loved, you had to know that, and you'll always be alive within all of us that have known you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow on new comics day!

Yesterday (Wednesday, December 17th), it snowed more than I ever remember it snowing since I've lived in Vegas (I moved here in 1980). The snow started before twelve in the afternoon and continued until just about 8pm.
This is my car at about two in the afternoon. Watching snow fall is a pretty unusual sight in Vegas, let alone it actually sticking.

My car at 7pm when I left the shop. I had to actually scrap a lot of snow off my windows before leaving - doing that on a regular basis would get really old in a hurry.

It wasn't snowing when I first drove away last night, but after I got on the 215 via the airport tunnel, big flakes started falling, in a sideways pattern, making visibility not so great and it was even hard to separate one lane from another. Fortunately the traffic was pretty sparse by then so I just drove 40 MPH, keeping a good distance from the car in front of me. It's been quite a few years since I drove in snow like that (the last time was years ago when I was coming back into Vegas from Prescott, Arizona) so that part of the snow yesterday wasn't exciting in the good way.
Our house this morning (Thursday) before leaving to open the store.

The backyard with a nice helping of snow covering everything.

As I write this entry it's 4pm in Vegas and although the sun is back out and there's no evidence of yesterday's snow, it's still about 20 degrees below where we should be (but considering we had above average temps throughout November...).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Batgirl's ear broke"

Yesterday, one of my customers, a woman accompanied by her two young sons, reminded me that her daughter purchased a Batgirl action figure from me last year. Well I didn't remember that right away, but then she told me that one of Batgirl's "ears" had broken off and that I was nice and exchanged it for her (I was glad that I had a replacement figure because I don't stock figures too deep generally). Her mother went on to tell me that her daughter was really sad when that happened as she was really looking forward to having a Batgirl action figure.

When this woman that was in yesterday described her daughter being upset about her broken Batgirl, I did remember her daughter first telephoning my store to ask what she could do about her broken Batgirl. When I told her to bring it in and I'd exchange it, she came into the store with the broken Batgirl in a little box with a little white cloth upon which Batgirl was lying and I remembered thinking that this girl really cared about her Batgirl figure and was really upset that her "ear" broke. I took the broken-eared Batgirl from the girl and gave her a new one and explained to her that they (DC) doesn't make their action figures to be played with a lot, that they are mostly for display (for older kids or adults I would go on to explain that DC in exchange for making figures that aren't designed to be played with much, has figures that look nicer than Marvel's figures, which with their multiple ball joints allows them to be more posable for the trade off of sometimes awkward looking figures).

After the woman left yesterday, I thought to myself that I wish I'd have just let the girl keep the broken Batgirl in addition to the new Batgirl instead of collecting it from her to call in to my distributor for a damage credit (I don't remember if I ever did get around to calling in that damage). Anyway I was happy to hear from her mother yesterday that her daughter still prizes her Batgirl action figure (they probably should be called inaction figures) and I was happy to hear a personal account that further illustrated for me that kids of all ages (and not just boys/guys) have strong attachments to these modern day mythological characters.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


About a week ago a friend of mine, Camila, sent me a link to this new documentary, Inheritance, that was going to air on PBS. I didn't read the link in depth because I was doing something else and then forgot about it until I got home last night and Kate had recorded it for me (and she didn't even know that I knew about this movie, but she does know that I watch and read a lot about anything related to the Holocaust).

Inheritance is a documentary by James Moll which is about how two women from very different backgrounds were affected by the Holocaust. This is one of the very most powerful, amazing documentaries I've ever seen about the Holocaust. Click here for a preview: http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2008/inheritance/ but you can also watch the entire movie on the PBS P.O.V. website until January 4th.

One of the two women that Inheritance is about is Helen Jonas, who was a young girl during World War II and part of her story is told in the Spielberg movie, Schindler's List. Helen was the girl that was selected by Nazi commandant, Amon Goeth, to work in his house at the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland. The other woman at the center of Inheritance is Monika, who was born just after World War II in Germany. Monika's father was that same sadistic Nazi commandant, Amon Goeth, who "employed" Helen (in Schindler's List, Amon Goeth is played by Ralph Fiennes, and one of the most disturbing things he did, shooting prisoners at the concentration camp from his balcony, is shown in the movie).

Monika never knew her father as he was hung for his war crimes when the war ended and she didn't get along with her mother, whom as an early scene in Inheritance recounts, doesn't want Monika calling her mother, so Monika at a very early age just called her mother by her name, Ruth. It wasn't until Monika was eleven years old that her grandmother told her what a monster her father, Amon Goeth, was.

When Monika found out that Helen was still alive, she tried to arrange a meeting with her to somehow come to terms with what her father did. Inheritance shows that Helen agreed to this meeting so they both went to Krakow, Poland, where the concentration camp was (Helen has been living in the U.S. and Monika still lives in Germany). Understandably, this meeting was especially difficult for Helen who lived through that horror, but it was also difficult for Monika, who through an accident of birth, still feels guilty of ending up with the father responsible for much of Helen's horror at the concentration camp and throughout her latter life.

It may seem like I've "spoiled" a lot of Inheritance, but seriously, I can't begin to express the power of this documentary and how important records of the Holocaust still being made are because genocide is still occurring in the world we live in, most infamously in Darfur, Sudan. For more information about genocide around the world today and what you can do to prevent this from continuing go to: www.ushmm.org (The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.) or www.savedarfur.org.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Essex County trilogy

Finally, a comic about hockey! Actually these three graphic novels, Tales From The Farm, Ghost Stories, and Country Nurse, by Jeff Lemire, feature hockey pretty heavily, but this trilogy, Essex County, is more about lonely people in living in small towns.

I feel like my description of these graphic novels doesn't do these books justice, so I'll just add that any one of these three graphic novels is a really good quiet book, by which I mean that they don't have forced drama and you'll feel good after finishing them.

Each of these three graphic novels could be read unto themselves, but they definitely have a progression and there are continuing threads featuring the characters and locals that adds up to a bigger picture.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Epstein stylin' pt.3!

One of the things that keeps a lot of peoplle coming back to their favorite super hero comic book characters is seeing different artists doing their interpertations of those characters. So with these different versions of Epstein that Ron has drawn and made fantastic looking signs of for my store, I feel like I had several artists contributing!

This image of Epstein as Rorsach (from Watchmen of course) was one of the first drawings I'd seen by Ron and I knew I had to have him do me up some more for the store and he knocked every illustration out of the park!

Ron, thanks for these great illos, they really add to the visual dynamic I'm going for with my store. I hope you and Beverly have an uneventful trip back to Ohio, but that your return is everything you want it to be. I'll see you on the interwebs!

Epstein is stylin' pt. 2!

I can't count the many ways that Epstein as Astro Boy rules! As a refresher for those who haven't read earlier posts about the origins of my mascot Epstein, I told my friend, Keir Eastvelt, who first drew Epstein some 13 or so years ago, that I wanted a lizard wearing ska attire, exuding attitude and I named him Epstein after an in joke from a group of friends of mine.

Epstein as Tin Tin is also one of my favorrites and I hope it's one of yours also!

Okay, again, we have Epstein as a character who really has nothing to do with comics, but I HAD to have this image of Epstein as one of the Super Mario Bros in my store!

Click on the photo to the left of the more tradional looking Epstein on top of comic boxes and you'll get some idea of how much work Ron put into this piece. It actually needs to be seen in person to really see how multi-layered this piece is. So come on down!

Epstein is stylin' pt. 1!

This is artist Ron Horsley and his mug shot. Ron recently graduated from The Art Institute here in Vegas and has done these fantastic re-imaginings of my store mascot, Epstein (seen here in this three part entry). Ron and his wife Beverly are sadly (for me) leaving Vegas to go back to Columbus, Ohio this weekend, but I hope to still keep in touch with him in the future for other visual punch-ups here at the store.

The drawing that Ron is holding is Epstein looking to hitch a ride to Ohio (click on photo to enlarge).

Okay the Bob's Big Boy mascot has nothing to do with comics, but Ron (and myself) was hard pressed to think of what character Epstein should mimic that would represent alternative comics. But don't you just think that this is just a fun look for Epstein!?

SGT. Rock The Lost Battalion

The second issue of SGT. Rock The Lost Battalion came out yesterday (cover image here on the left) and one has but to look through either of the first two issues and they'll be impressed upon that this is a labor of love by Billy Tucci, the writer / artist of this mini-series. SGT. Rock The Lost Battalion is inspired / based upon the true story of the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit, made up largely of Japanese Americans, in WWII , who suffered high casualties, but were also the most decorated military unit in U.S. military history.

Anyone who's read my blog entry from September 10th will remember how I recounted hearing Billy Tucci talk about this SGT. Rock project at the Diamond retailer summit and how passionate he was to bring this part of history to more people's attention and his passion and attention to detail definitely shows in the two issues that are out thus far. I'm doing good traffic with the book at my store, but I hope that it does well across the board because Tucci would like to write a regular SGT. Rock comic illustrated by various artists (like DC's Jonah Hex). I'm sure that the collected volume of Billy Tucci's Sgt. Rock The Lost Battalion will do especially well, but I think this is very much worth getting in monthly installments as well as the collected volume because you can then pass on your single copies to others after you've gotten the collected volume for yourself (or vice versa). Additionally the first two issues would make great stocking stuffers for your dad, grandfather, or anyone who wants to learn about an important part of U.S. history