Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kavalier & Clay & The Escapists

A few years ago I started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and for whatever dumb reason, didn't stick with it (I probably only read about 50 of its 639 pages). So early this past November when I was at the Miami International Book Fair I saw a copy there and told myself I was going to buy my own copy and commit to reading the whole book - after all it was a work of fiction paralleling the roots of the American comic book industry and it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001.

So I just finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay yesterday morning and yes it is very much AMAZING and of course totally worthy of having won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. A part of me is still very surprised that a novel set in the early days of the comic book medium in the U.S. won over all of the other fiction novels of the year 2000 (and I'm sure it didn't win because it was a slow year for fiction) as the comic book medium (especially superhero comics) is usually regarded as being the "red-headed stepchild" of the art world. Certainly this perspective is changing and has largely, gradually, since Moore & Gibbon's Watchmen and Spiegleman's Maus (which has been the only graphic novel to date that has won the Pulitzer Prize), and this has not been truer this past decade as there has never been a period with so many literary and artistic comic book creations as in this past decade. Until I started this blog entry today, I hadn't looked at when The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay was published and I was surprised it was as long ago as the year 2000, but I think this fact supports the fact that the comic book medium has gotten out of being regarded as just an escapist (no pun intended) genre in full force this past decade (and ironic that my last blog post of the decade is about a novel that came out in the first year of this decade!).

Before I get into some of my impressions of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, I want to offer two apologies: the first to my friend Joel (who first loaned me his copy years ago that I never finished), for not sticking with this great book upon his recommendation in the first place, and secondly and most importantly, to the novel's author, Michael Chabon, for not trusting in his obvious love for the comic book medium and its creators, specifically the founding fathers of the U.S. comic book industry.

I'm thinking that the main reason I didn't stick with The Amazing Adventures of Kavlier & Clay was because I had read and know so much about the origins of the U.S. comic book industry circa the mid / late 1930's, and I just thought what could I get out of this book that I didn't already get elsewhere, in numerous books I'd read. Well of course I couldn't be more wrong, because while The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is very much about the genesis of the U.S. comic book industry (with Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay being the fictional counterparts of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman), anyone who reads this book, will find out in short order that The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is about so much more. The other three themes present throughout The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay are: the Jewish immigration to the United States (or attempted immigration before and during World War II), the "secret identities" we all have, and escape, both in the physical sense, but more importantly in the mental sense, which we all look for in varying degrees.

While The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay has as its setting and center the birth of the U.S. comic industry, (often called the Golden Age of the medium), prior knowledge of that era (up through the Senate investigations into comic book content and its role in juvenile delinquency) is not essential to one's enjoyment of this book. Having said that though, I can't stress enough how I feel that The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is essential reading for anyone who loves the comic book medium, especially superhero comic books. While reading the beginning of this novel, I was thinking that Michael Chabon probably could have reduced the page count by some 300 pages, but the more one reads The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the realization sets in that Chabon has introduced seemingly unrelated plot developments that are VERY important to the book's entirety (after all Chabon didn't just win the Pulitzer Prize for being able to write a 639 page novel - grin). Actually the title of Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (the central characters and the two words preceding their names) is also significant and something that I wasn't aware of until I got about three-fourths of the way through the novel (I have been known to be a little slow at times). I couldn't be happier to have read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and of course give it my HIGHEST recommendations.
A few Years after The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay novel was published, Dark Horse got the rights to make comics based on this novel. There are three trade paperbacks that collect short stories set in the Kavalier & Clay "world" by a who's who of some of the best comic book writers and artists of today, but for my money and recommendation, I want to give a huge shout out to Brian K. Vaughan's The Escapists (drawn by Steve Rolston, Jason Shawn Alexander, Philip Bond, and Eduardo Barreto), which is a fantastic extension of sorts to Chabon's novel. Just as Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is his love letter to the comic book medium, its creators, and origins, so too is The Escapists, Brian K. Vaughan's love letter to this medium and makes a wonderful companion to Chabon's novel (but a person could read The Escapists unto itself as I first did years ago and enjoy it without having read Chabon's novel, but seriously don't short change yourself in this fashion!). I'm surprised that no one had taken away my comic store retailer license for not having read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay until just now!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I saw this over on Heidi MacDonald's The Beat Publishers Weekly blog today and just had to share - they don't call him The Punisher for nothing!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wednesday, Dec. 30th; Fillbach brothers signing & other exciting happenings

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 30th, here at Alternate Reality Comics, I'm having a year end celebration, with the main attraction being a signing by Matt and Shawn Fillbach (writers and artists on the Star Wars Clone Adventures digests , Maxwell Strangewell, Roadkill, and Werewolves On The Moon Versus Vampires) which is happening from 4-7pm. All of the Fillbach brothers books will be 30% off the entire day so I'm thinking that's a great inexpensive way to get some highly entertaining comics for yourself or for people you like to share comics with.

The cartoon at left is a little Merry Christmas comic strip Matt and Shawn sent me, but in case anyone reads that comic strip and thinks they are angry cartoonists, well having talked to them a couple of times, I'm here to tell you that they are very much the opposite of angry cartoonists. So come on by Alternate Reality Comics from 4-7pm tomorrow, get some of your Fillbach brothers books signed (and or purchase some of the ones you don't have for 30% off!), visit with them, and lavish ego strokes upon them (they also live here in Vegas, so whoever told you that Vegas is an artistic wasteland was lying!).

In addition to the signing, I'm going to be open from 11-7pm, with tomorrow being the release date of Blackest Night #6 and everyone who stops by will get a free Marvel Siege prelude comic and a free Marvel 2010 calendar, in addition to my trade paperback sale (with added savings tomorrow only) and an extra special deal that will be revealed to all who show up for my end of 2010 bash!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Original Johnson & Ali

Earlier this year The Comics Journal had an interview with one of my favorite comic book artists, Trevor Von Eeden, which besides being a great insightful update on how Eeden feels about the comic book medium and his place within it, he talked about this online comic he'd done on the first black heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson. Being as I don't like reading comics online, I was happy when I'd heard that IDW would be publishing said book, which came out this week, called The Original Johnson.

The Original Johnson, written and drawn by Trevor Von Eeden is fantastic. The first thing one notices when one looks through The Original Johnson is the dynamic art, with Eeden's great layout sense that is never hard to follow and evokes the art styles of Neal Adams and the power of Jack Kirby's art without being derivative. The art and coloring on The Original Johnson practically leap off of the page as they should when dealing with such a powerful figure such as Jack Johnson.

I hadn't heard of Jack Johnson before hearing about this project that Trevor Von Eeden was doing, but he lead a life that was very forceful, which forced him to grow up in a hurry, as he lived in a time when the U.S. was still fairly freshly dealing with the end of the Civil War (Jack Johnson's father was a slave until the Emancipation). I'd highly recommend The Original Johnson as a great graphic novel biography of this dynamic individual (Jack Johnson, of course), who lived a very charged life, even if you're not a fan of boxing. The Original Johnson is very much a mature readers graphic novel and the only minus I'd say about this book, is that it is book one of two (volume two comes out in May), but this first volume does end in such a way that, while you'll want to read the next one, it does have a kind of closure as well.

Since the theme of my blog entry today is on boxing, I'm happy to report that DC announced yesterday that next year they'll be bringing their 1978 Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali treasury sized comic back into print. Without spoiling the story for those of you who haven't read this (being that you're not as ancient as myself - grin), I'm just going to say that something happens within the stoy that deprives Superman of his powers, which is only fair because otherwise Superman would just have to flick his fingers at Ali and the fight would be over. Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali is legendary mostly for the superlative hyper realistic artwork of Neal Adams, but the story by Denny O'Neil is entertaining as well. More details about size the the new edition and pricing will follow in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Alec "The Years Have Pants"

This week, Eddie Campbell's definitive edition collection of his autobiographical comics, many of them with the title Alec within them, arrived, aptly titled Alec "The Years Have Pants" (A Life-Sized Omnibus). This fancy huge volume collects comics that Eddie Campbell wrote and drew as far back as the early 1980's (but even then his cartooning skills and comic book autobio voice were already in top form) and with its page count clocking in at 640 pages, Alec "The Years Have Pants" adds up to hours of entertainment and insight through Campbell's reflections on his daily life (Alec is actually a stand in character for Eddie himself) covering a span of about thirty years.

If you're only familiar with Eddie Campbell from his art accompaniment to Alan Moore's word wizardry in From Hell, Campbell's autobiographical comic stylings are amongst the very best within this "genre" of comic books. Those that have read Campbell's autobio work before will be happy to have all of these stories in one place in addition to a brand new 35 page story exclusive to this handsome volume. Just in time for the holidays (for your loved ones or a huge treat for yourself)!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dec. 30th celebration, Fillbach brothers signing, & more...

Wednesday, December 30th, here at Alternate Reality Comics, there'll be an all day end of 2009 celebration, with the main attraction being a signing by Matt and Shawn Fillbach, from 4-7pm. The Fillbach brothers (as they are known collectively - grin!) have written and drawn Roadkill and Maxwell Strangewell, both published by Dark Horse, as well as several stories in the Star Wars Clone Wars digest comics. I'm having a 30% off sale (to tie in to the Dec. 30th theme) on all comics / graphic novels / digests by the Fillbach brothers, until the end of the year, so I'm thinking this is a great way for people to introduce themselves to some great comics and or get some of the ones they don't have already (plus they make great stocking stuffers)!
A couple of other attractions happening on Wednesday, December 30th, is the release of everyone's favorite event book in years, Blackest Night #6, and everyone who stops by the store that day will receive the following free items: a new Marvel Siege origin comic, a Marvel 2010 calendar, and an Avengers ID card so that you can get into all finer establishments! I'll probably have some other things going on that day that I haven't thought of yet (as if the above wasn't exciting enough - grin!), so mark your calendars for Wednesday, December 30th from 11-7pm (with the signing by Matt & Shawn Fillbach happening from 4-7pm)!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ditko & Stevens & Vess!

This week is a fantastic day for people who love great comic book art, with the release of The Art of Ditko, Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer The Complete Adventures, and Drawing Down The Moon The Art of Charles Vess having arrived to beautify comic store and personal book displays / coffee tables everywhere!

The Art of Ditko is 206 pages of fantastic obscure short stories drawn by Steve Ditko from the 1950's and 1960's, in a full color over-sized hardcover with stellar reproduction throughout, lovingly put together by Craig Yoe. This Ditko collection comes out hot on the heals of Fantagraphics' Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives V.1 so it's been a great year for people who love the art of Steve Ditko (and I don't even want to talk to you if you don't - grin)!
The long-awaited The Rocketeer The Complete Adventures hardcover and deluxe over-sized edition also arrived, newly beautifully colored by Laura Martin, who was selected by Dave Stevens for this project before he died.
The regular hardcover is a great value at $30, but the deluxe edition really re-defines the word "deluxe" - and I know I often say such things and sound like a hype machine, but everyone who looks at the Deluxe Rocketeer will immediately see that I'm not just talking out of the side of my hat (and there's an extra 130 pages of Stevens production art in the deluxe edition). Both The Art of Ditko and The Rocketeer hardcovers are from IDW.

From Dark Horse this week is the third eye candy art book release of the week, Drawing Down The Moon The Art of Charles Vess, which is a 200 page hardcover collection of paintings from one of the masters of fantasy art. Too much great stuff!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

ha-ha, hurm!

This is my friend Jason (who lives up in the Northwest), from this past Halloween. This is one of the funniest Halloween costumes I've ever seen!

For those of you that read my blog who have never seen the 1970's television show Welcome Back Kotter, well you probably won't appreciate how funny this costume is, so just go out and buy some of the show on dvd or netflix them for some high octane fun!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

J.H. Williams III: artist of the year!

Well anyone who has read my blog with any regularity already knows that I think J.H. Williams III is one of the very best artists working in comics today, but in this week's Wizard magazine (their year end best of issue) they proclaim him to be the artist of the year! J.H. would probably have a much easier life if he took shortcuts with his art or drew in a style that was "easier" and more fan friendly, but he has NEVER taken shortcuts, rather he's always pushing himself to find new ways to interpret a comics page or cover. J.H. doesn't just stick to the standard panel following panel layout scheme that most comic artists employ, but he's always done his experimental gorgeous art in such a way that isn't hard to follow in story terms. I'm happy that he's getting a bigger audience that is appreciating / understanding what J.H. does with his art.
The two pages I've included here are from the most current issue of Batwoman (Detective Comics #859), which is the second part of the three part Batwoman back story / origin that J. H. and Greg Rucka are doing. For the flashback sequences, J. H. has been drawing in a style evocative of the style David Mazzucchelli used when he did Batman Year One. The concluding chapter comes out December 23rd and this is easily shaping up to being one of the best origin / back stories for a character that I have read in years. Click on the images of course to see them in their full screen glory.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Daytripper - looks to be a great new Vertigo series!

Today the first issue of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon's new Vertigo series, Daytripper, and a very strong debut it is. From what I can gather from reading interviews with Ba and Moon, each issue of Daytripper will be fairly self contained, even though each issue will make up a bigger story that they are telling. Daytripper's central character is Bras, a writer, with Daytripper being the story of his life. I think a person could read the first two pages of this first issue and know whether this is the kind of story they usually gravitate towards, but even if it's not, I'd bet that those who read the whole first issue of Daytripper will be back for the next issue.

For an interview with Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (who previously collaborated with Gerard Way on the Eisner winning Umbrella Academy) click on and scroll down their features page.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the road to god knows...

the road to god knows... is a new graphic novel written and drawn by Von Allan, of which I just received my store copies yesterday. This is a really strong debut featuring great characters and a fine illustrative style about a subject, mental illness / schizophrenia, that is close to creator Von Allan, as his mother lived with this. The central character of the road to god knows... is Marie, a teenage girl whose mother is schizophrenic. As if it's not awkward enough just being a teenager, Marie lives alone with her mother (her father doesn't live with them), but Von Allan's the road to god knows... doesn't sensationalize his characters or the subject matter, rather he just portrays how people try to live with this. While the road to god knows... has some sad scenes, this graphic novel isn't overwhelmingly sad, thanks to the addition of another character, Kelly, who is a great friend to Marie.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Bronx Kill - advance look

no spoilers following:

Last week I received an advance copy of The Bronx Kill, a new Vertigo Crime graphic novel written by Peter Milligan and drawn by James Romberger. Of the Vertigo Crime graphic novels written to date this is my favorite thus far and features some of the best writing that I've read from Peter Milligan (Shade The Changing Man, Enigma, Face, The Extremist, The Eaters, Human Target) in some time. I'd rank The Bronx Kill up there with the best of two of my favorite crime fiction / mystery novelists, Max Allan Collins (Stolen Away, Butcher's Dozen) and Lawrence Block (A Ticket To The Boneyard).

The Bronx Kill is about a writer / novelist, Martin, who is in a writing slump until something happens to his wife and then the book he's working on starts to mirror / seem to influence events that are occurring. The characters, style of writing, and plot development within The Bronx Kill, read very much like a novel which just happens to be illustrated to great effect by James Romberger (Seven Miles A Second), an artist who we don't get to see enough of.

Look for The Bronx Kill in finer comic book stores March 17th (wow, until I just now looked that up, I hadn't remembered it being that far away from release!).

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Distant Neighborhood vol. 2

Last week the second, concluding volume of A Distant Neighborhood arrived and I'll say without any qualifications that it, like all of Jiro Taniguchi's comic book / manga creations, easily ranks at the top of the finest in this medium (he's also written and drawn The Summit of the Gods, The Walking Man, and The Quest For The Missing Girl).

I posted a blog entry on the first volume of A Distant Neighborhood on Thursday, October 1st, but to recap, A Distant Neighborhood is one of those "person gets to go back to their past as their younger self - would what they do in the past change what happens in their future" stories and the conclusion is every bit as satisfying as the road that leads to it. Does Hiro (the character who ends up in his past as his fourteen year old self) manage to find out why his father left his family from that time period and is he able to alter the way that plays out (yes the second volume answers these questions, but I'm not going to deprive anyone of discovering those answers for themselves by revealing them here)? I really can't see anyone glimpsing at Tangiguchi's art (cover shown above) and not wanting to immerse themselves into his books.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday graphic novel sale!

Here at Alternate Reality Comics, I don't have any $600.00 plasma television sets or $500.00 washer & dryer sets for Black Friday, but I like to think my graphic novel sale is even more exciting (grin)! The sale starts today and runs until the end of December, so come on by if you're not exhausted from going to the big box stores or want to avoid that scene altogether. Just my way of putting the reading back into the holidays and pricing graphic novels at a price point that gives people's pocketbooks a break (also as thanks for patronage at my store throughout the year).
Details of the sale are spelled out pretty clearly here at the store and I'm fairly certain that anyone, regardless of what kinds of comic books they like, will find a graphic novel for a ridiculously low price to gift to others (or have a hard time not keeping for themselves!).

End of my crass commercialism blog entry, thanks for considering Alternate Reality Comics for your gift getting needs and I hope all of my friends and people who read Ich Liebe Comics have a wonderful rest of the Thanksgiving weekend!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful all year round

I had a great Thanksgiving today thanks to all of the prep Kate did making the big meal (that included Tofurky, which seriously everyone should try), the company of our friend Rob, and Kate's brother John.

I'm fortunate to live in a country in which much is possible that isn't possible in so much of the world. I know some people view people giving thanks on Thanksgiving as being similar to large expressions of love on Valentine's Day, but I think that giving thanks on Thanksgiving Day should just be the punctuation day of thanks that we give all year long for the people (and things) we are thankful for (just as I view Valentine's Day day as the punctuation day for expressing love to our loved ones).

In no particular order (because it is somewhat silly to give rankings on thanks and many of the following are obvious regarding where they'd be ranked regardless of which order I place them in) today I especially reflected on the following people and things in my life I'm thankful for:

My wonderful, beautiful, smart wife, Kate, who understands, loves, and tolerates me, Kate's family, whom I embrace as my family, our cat trio, AMP (Alucard, Moto, and Pixie), all of whom daily comfort and amuse us, my many friends that, while we don't often get together as often as I or they wish, comfort me just knowing that they consider me their friend and like being around me, the many people I've met through having my comic book store, whom I consider friends also as I see many of them on a weekly basis (and seriously I'm not just saying that in a capitalist sense), and the comic book industry with all its levels, be it creators, publishers, distributors, and the comic book retail community, all of which is the key component that has made it possible for me to be as thankful as I am and to have the people around me that I have.

The think I'm not thankful for on a personal level is my faulty memory which has probably caused me to omit someone or something from my above thanks that I'm going to go "Doh" about within five minutes after posting this entry.

Thanks to everyone who reads my blog, please hug and say thanks to your loved ones for / from me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Steve Niles signing - awesome!

Yesterday, Alternate Reality Comics hosted a signing with Steve Niles and a great time was had by all. Thanks for everyone who showed up to share with Steve Niles how much entertainment his comics / prose work have provided to them. Thanks especially to Steve Niles and the lovely Micheline for coming to my store and making existing and new Steve Niles fans really happy!
There was a steady flow of people throughout the two hour signing, great conversations about Steve Niles' many great comics, such as: 30 Days Of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark, Giant Monster, Batman Gotham County Line, The Ghoul, and Freaks of the Heartland (the man is a writing machine!) was engaged, and people supplemented the Steve Nile comics / graphic novels they already had by purchasing more at my store (mucho thanks).
As per usual I wish I'd taken more photos, but I was busy making sure that the signing was running smoothly and helping people that were buying the new comics that arrived yesterday (much thanks also to Jim McKenzie for helping me out with the register - I would have been especially crazy if it was just my wired lo carb Monster drinking self at the shop!). I As I've mentioned before, I probably should have someone else taking photos, but last night as I was thinking about the whole taking of photos at signings and not wanting to be too intrusive, I realized that in the future I should just ask my signing guests if it's all right for photos to be snapping away during the event (something that seems like an obvious yes, but one shouldn't assume things and it really is, in retrospect, easy enough and courteous to just ask).
Again, thanks to all who made the Steve Niles signing successful and a great way to kick off the holiday season here at Alternate Reality Comics!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Steve Niles signing tomorrow!

Just a heads up that Steve Niles, one of the finest horror writers out there, is going to be at my store signing, Alternate Reality Comics (in Vegas, of course), tomorrow, Wednesday, November 25th from 5-7pm. Niles is most known as the creator of the vampires in Alaska classic 30 Days Of Night, but his comic book writing also includes: Simon Dark, Batman Gotham County Line, Aleister Arcane, Freaks Of The Heartland, Remains, Criminal Macabre, Dead She Said, City Of Dust, Giant Monster, and his new great series with legendary artist Bernie Wrightson, The Ghoul. And until the end of the signing tomorrow at 7pm, I'm having a 20% off sale on all Steve Niles titles! Hope to see all that are in the area for what is sure to be a fun time!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Year Of Loving Dangerously

Ted Rall has been cartooning and writing and drawing graphic novels since about 1986. Rall's graphic novels are of the autobiographical, nonfiction, graphic novel journalism variety, with a few of his best being My War With Brian (an encounter with a bully in school in which he ends up fighting fire with fire), To Afganistan and Back and Silk Road to Ruin (these latter two feature Ted Rall putting on his Joe Sacco hat and going to the countries the graphic novels are about and getting into the thick of things). Rall's single panel comics appear in many outlets such as Time, Fortune, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. He's long been a very controversial cartoonist, and while I don't always agree with his views (such as the ones he has about President Obama or Art Spiegleman's cartooning abilities), I admire the way he puts himself out there. Toc check out some of Rall's panel comic cartoons go here:

Ted Rall's new graphic novel, The Year Of Loving Dangerously, was just released two weeks ago by NBM and clocks in at about 130 full color pages, wonderfully illustrated by Pablo G. Callejo. The Year Of Loving Dangerously is a memoir of Rall's New York experience during 1984, in which he was expelled from his senior year of college (and the specifics of how that happened is beyond crazy), loses the love of his life, and becomes homeless. He "solves" his homeless problem by getting into a series of sexual relationships with women which gives him a roof over his head for any given day / night depending on which girlfriend he's with. While The Year Of Loving Dangerously may read to some as Rall being a braggart of his sexual prowess and or ability to seduce women, ultimately Rall shows that that year wasn't always as glamorous as it sounds on a surface level and that sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. The Year Of Living Dangerously is definitely entertaining on a vicarious level and also a great snap shot of New York City circa 1984.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rick & Zena & Florida pt. 2

Zena, myself and Rick (left to right) in one of my favorite ways to take a photo, by means of holding it in front of yourself without looking through the view screen (there's now a digital camera on the market that has a view screen in front of the camera as well as in the back, but I think that takes the fun out of these kind of photos). This shot of the three of us was taken at Keating Beach, outside of Hollywood, Florida.
While we were at this beach on Sunday afternoon, there was a good amount of people there, but it wasn't wall to wall people. I managed to take this photo of the expanse of the ocean between people amassing on this part of the beach.
Myself and Rick (on the right, hamming it up in the typical Rick fashion) with our new friend outside of this Mexican restaurant we had lunch at along the beach called Mamacita's. It was fun to watch people going past us on the beach and at one point, two young gals stopped and danced in front of us to the music that was playing from the restaurant. I would love to live right by the beach (any beach would be fine by me).
Doesn't this photo just have Florida written all over it!?

Rick, Zena, and myself, had a fantastic afternoon at the beach, mostly walking along a great length of it alongside the ocean (Rick and I got in the water a bit, but mostly we were just enjoying a great long walk and chatting). After lunch as we walked back to the car, we discovered that this beach was having a Turkish festival and we watched a belly dancer for a while, which is not something one can do every day of the week (and is even more special when you just stumble into such a festival without knowing about it in advance).

During the week I was visiting Rick and Zena in Florida, Miami was holding their International Book Fair, which Rick and Zena had been to the previous two years. Rick and I went on Friday and the three of us went together on Saturday. Although Rick and Zena thought the Miami International Book Fair wasn't as big as the last two, I thought it was an excellent festival (well we all thought so, regardless of size differences from previous years) that had a great number of authors present giving presentations and doing signings, many varied book vendors, and also a big representation of some of the cartoonists who did some of my favorite fiction and nonfiction graphic novels from this past year. I'm going to do an in depth blog entry about this festival sometime next week, but for now I just want to state that if you're in Florida the second week of November next year, you have to go to Miami's Book Fair (as an added bonus, the temperature the whole week I was there was in the 80's).

Thanks Rick and Zena, Cali (their cat they adopted when they were in Nebraska), Spook (their other cat that they adopted when they lived in the Azores), and Florida for making my six day visit there such a wonderful, relaxing experience! And thanks to Spirit Airlines (an airline I'd never heard of before but got me to and from Florida in one piece) for not playing Frank Miller's Spirit movie on an endless loop (they didn't play it at all thankfully - not that they have movies on their plane at all)!

Rick & Zena & Florida pt. 1

My friend, Rick, who I've know since 1995, and myself at the Everglades National Park in Florida. Photo taken by Rick's wife, Zena (and yes she's the original Zena, not to be confused with television's pretend Xena - grin).

This past week I spent a week (well six days) with my good friends Rick and Zena in Florida, a state I'd never been to (Kate couldn't get off work). Rick and Zena live in Pembroke Pines, which is kind of between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami (but actually closer to Ft. Lauderdale). It was great to catch up with Rick and Zena, who graciously opened their house to me and took time out of their schedule to show me many of southern Florida's charms.
If you click on the photo here, you can see a bird within the Everglades having a little snack. Nature in action.

Florida has many beautiful birds that you just can't see anywhere else outside of going to the zoo. This beauty striking a pose is a blue heron.

When people think of Florida and the Everglades specifically, one of the first things that comes to mind is alligators and crocodiles (and as I found out from my Everglades visit, Florida has the only environments in which they share the same terrain, other than zoos). I was happy that I saw this napping alligator while I was at the Everglades (Rick and Zena told me that they usually see a lot more there).
The Everglades National Park, like most National Parks in the United States, is a great place to go to get away from over stimulated fast paced big city living and witness the many forms that nature and the animals / plants that inhabit them take. If I get another life or two after I do a long stint living as a surfer dude by the beach (it would also help if in my next life I knew how to swim), I'd also like to work at and live near a National Park.

Rick and Zena are two of the best people I know on this planet (they also have two amazing daughters) so it was great spending a week with them. One of the evenings while we were hanging out / chatting at their house we watched the last two episodes of season three of Torchwood Children of Earth and while I thought the way the premise was a bit wonky, this show is very well done, engaging, and makes me want to check out more. We also watched The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which I somehow hadn't seen before and it was an excellent documentary on my favorite Beatle. I brought Paper Clips, a documentary about a school in Tennessee that comes upon a unique way to teach students about the Holocaust, with me, because I hadn't seen it in a few years and I like sharing this with others.

Besides just visiting with Rick and Zena, one of my favorite things we did last Saturday night was go to a Unitarian Church about forty minutes from where they live to attend one of the folk concerts that place has the second Saturday of every month. Rick and Zena told me they'd been to see shows there many times and they heard some great largely unknown folk acts there. We didn't know who was going to be playing before we went and that was part of the attraction for me. When we got there, we saw that they had two couples on the bill (Jennings & Keller and Scott & Michelle Dalziel) so that further upped my interest level. During the first hour both couples played five songs each and then in the second hour, the four of them got on stage and although one of the couples had just recently moved there from Iowa, they did a set together that seemed like they'd been playing together for years. Both couples had just met each other, but anyone in the audience could tell that the four of them would quickly become great friends - actually they'd remarked onstage words to the effect that they were having so much fun and I thought they were going to give us back our money as they were having a better time than the great time the audience was having. A truly magical evening and fun time was had by all. Go to: and, click on music and next to their song titles, click on the arrow and you can listen to some of their songs.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Vegas Comicfest 2009!

This past Saturday
the Clark County Library (on Flamingo off of Maryland Pkwy.) presented the second Vegas Valley Comicfest in conjunction with the Vegas Valley Book festival. I'd say easily, without any qualifications, that everyone seemed to be having a great time and while I thought that last years' event was solid, this year was even better so I find that very encouraging on a lot of levels.

As an added attraction at my store's booth at the Vegas Valley Comicfest, I had as my guests, Matt and Mike Cossin (Matt, the artist is in this photo seated, with his brother Mike standing next to my sign), the artist and colorist of Boom Studios new title, Hunter's Fortune (of which I wrote a glowing blog entry here about a week ago). They sold a good amount of copies of their first issue of Hunter's Fortune at the show and Matt was busy doing sketches for people almost the entire five hours of the event!
A wee lad holding his Deadpool sketch that Matt whipped up for him (Deadpool seems to be the new Wolverine in terms of popularity). I was feeling a little guilty with how busy Matt was with the sketching, but he told me he had a great time chatting with people and hopefully turning on new generations to the wonder of the comic book medium. Between selling books at the event I also had a great time talking to Matt and Mike (they're such positive, energetic people) and watching Matt draw.
A gathering of people outside of my booth visiting other vendors at the Vegas Valley ComicsFest. In the future, I need to have a person other than myself taking photos of events such as this because I didn't get a chance (or remember) to take as many pictures as I would have liked to.
My great friends the Fagel family, left to right: Harry, his wife Leilani, Samuel, and Jake up front. It was warmer than I thought it would be, but better that than it being windy and I think that it being such an unseasonably warm day, brought out the families. At the Vegas Valley Comicsfest there really is something for everyone, with local comic stores such as myself (Alternate Reality Comics), Comic Oasis, and Maximum Comics showcasing some of the finest and different kinds of stories comic books tell, panel programming that featured comic creators talking about a wide variety of subjects, free movie screenings (such as the locally produced Thor At The Bus Stop), and creator signings.
Kate and myself surrounding Matt Wagner at my store, which I gave him a tour of after dinner Friday night. Matt Wagner, started off making a name for himself in comics in the 1980's creating, writing, and drawing Grendle and Mage. He's written and drawn waaaay too many great comics since then, so I just want to mention some of the great books he's presently writing or has finished in the last couple of years: Madame Xanadu (for Vertigo), Zorro (for Dynamite), Batman and The Monster Men, Batman and The Mad Monk (the latter two, he also illustrated), and the upcoming Green Hornet (also for Dynamite, by the artist who does their Sherlock Holmes series). Matt Wagner was the guest of honor of this years' Vegas Valley Comicfest and Kate and myself were quite fortunate to have had dinner with him Friday and Saturday night as he shared stories of people he's known within the industry the past twenty-five years or so (and if I share any of those stories with anyone else, I'm sure he'll turn me into a nice rug!).

As I like to attend to my booth whenever I set up at an event and interact with people who look at the books I bring, I didn't attend any of the panels or movie screenings and hardly got to visit with any of the guests (other than Matt Wagner and writer Steve Englehart, who signed my copy of Batman Strange Apparations). I did get to briefly chat with Gilbert Hernadez (Love and Rockets), Mark Evanier (Groo), Chris Staros (publisher of Top Shelf), Dan Vado (publisher of Slave Labor), and Gary Groth (publisher of Fantagraphics Books) briefly, but I didn't even see Kim Dietch (Alias The Cat!) or Cecil Castellucci (writer of my favorite Minx title Plain Janes) , although I had people stop at my booth to purchase a book by these cartoonists or stated that they just got something signed. Some of the local artists who did stories and art in the new publication, Drunk, were also present as was Pj Perez, selling the first issue of his online comic, The Utopian and I heard that they did well and had a fantastic time interacting with the people who came out on Saturday (and moved a good number of their books!).

I'd like to thank everyone who attended the event and made it the great time it was, thanks to Tony and Teresa for bringing Spencer Brinkerhoff over to my booth with a copy of the book he contributed to called The Beatles - The White Album (after their album of the same name, said book being illustrations by artists with their images inspired by Beatles songs) which was my favorite purchase of the day, thanks to the Thor At The Bus Stop brothers for giving me copy of their dvd, huge thanks to the creators who were a big part of the event, to the volunteers who made everything run so smoothly, to my wife, Kate, who moderated the Matt Wagner panel and took care of the Comic Book Legal Defense table, Lauren McCubbin (Rent Girl) and artist Deryl Skeleton (Star Trek) for the portfolio reviews and panels they moderated,Matt and Mike Cossin for helping make my booth an exciting place to be, Derek of Comic Oasis and Jay from Maximum Comics for being the other two great local stores who find good homes for good comics, and mostly a big tip of the hat to event coordinator Suzanne Scott and her cohorts, Aziz and Katrina for making Vegas Valley Comicsfest 2009 possible and a great success all around!

See everyone next year!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

monsters - the flip side of erotic freedom

monsters is a new graphic novel by Ken Dahl about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), or more specifically herpes, relationships, and coming to terms with telling others true things about yourself. Just this morning as I was finishing reading monsters knowing I was going to write an entry here on this excellent graphic novel, the irony of this entry appearing right after my entry on Alan Moore's 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom serves as an example of perfect planning on my part (except, I DID'NT plan to practically read these two books back to back and write entries on them in that order, and additionally, Alan Moore's new book is about pornography, not sexual relationships people have and what could happen). Having said that though, just as I feel Alan Moore's 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom is must reading on the topic of pornography, Ken Dahl's monsters should be essential reading for everyone as cartoonist Jeffrey Brown (Clumsy, Sulk) says on the back cover "for anyone who has had sex, is going to have sex or wants to have sex."

monsters is an unflinching, graphic (graphic in that things a person would not rather look at are illustrated, but they need to be), highly informative and entertaining graphic novel about HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) and STDs in general. Ken Dahl, through the characters in monsters, shows that many people have STDs that they aren't aware of (and of course they range in severity and the ability to pass them on to others) and how difficult it can be to come to terms with the realization once you discover you have an STD. The characters in the book, like just about all of us, have a had time telling others important truths about themselves for fear of what other people's reactions will be. But as Dahl shows in monsters, the ramifications of not being truthful (especially about something as serious as STDs) will be awful for others you're involved with (and yourself, unless you don't have a conscience). monsters shows that having STDs isn't the end of the world (although I'm sure it can seem that way when you first discover you have them). Yes STDs can be horrific and uncomfortable to experience both physically and mentally as you have to tell others, but as with almost anything, educating yourself and others about what this means going forward is of the utmost importance and WILL allow a person to live within that reality in a better place than if you just ignore / deny the reality of your new situation. monsters is often really funny also and although many would not think about reading a book (or comic) about STDs, seriously monsters is anything but a chore to read.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alan Moore's 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom

25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom is a new hardcover prose book published by Abrams. This book is "only" 90 pages in length, but Alan Moore, being the wordsmith he is, manages to compress the evolution of eroticism / pornography to its present forms in such a way as it doesn't feel rushed in any respect. In 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom, Alan Moore brilliantly writes about how written works and images of eroticism / pornography throughout history and how cultures / societies dealt with the expression of eroticism / pornography, is a big part of how those cultures / societies developed (or didn't).

Moore's thesis in 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom is that eroticism / pornography have always been a part of the landscape of our world and it's not going to go away and if more countries were to handle pornography as countries such as Denmark, Holland, and Spain have (by not hiding them in dark corners), then the problems that some perceive pornography to be the cause of (sex crimes) would not be as prevalent as they are.

I don't know why the title of this book was chosen, other than it does describe what 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom is about, but the beginning of the book starts with the title, Some Thoughts Concerning Pornography, which of course would have also worked as the title of this book. Moore looks at pornography from some of the early artifacts found by palaeo-anthropologists, through the ancient Greeks, the Dark Ages, the Victorian age, on through to the 20th century examining periods such as the 1960's with the counter-culture embracing / creating the sexual revolution and feminism. Along the way Moore discusses the import such figures as William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Robert Crumb, Russ Meyers, and even the "raunchy" Tijuana Bibles (short self published early early mini-comics that had cartoon characters engaging in sexual activities) had on people allowing them to embrace and or think about their sexual inclinations. Alan Moore even discusses how our internet age has more people engaging in pornography, commenting about its access "In cyberspace, no one can hear you climax." Classical paintings of eroticism are liberally shown in their full glorious splendor throughout 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom, as well as photographic nude images. I'd like to see 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom as essential reading for everyone as it handles its subject matter in an intelligent, thoughtful fashion, while also being immensely entertaining.

I'd like to quote a section of prose from 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom to illustrate the power of Moore's prose and what a huge thinker he is:

"If we could redefine erotica, restore it to the venerated place in art that it was once accustomed to, this might defuse a number of our personal and social tensions with regard to sex in much the same way it seems to have done at the dawn of western civilization. Realized properly, pornography could offer us a safe arena in which to discuss or to air ideas that otherwise would go outspoken and could only fester in our individual dark. Our sexual imagination is and always has been central to our lives, as individuals or as a species, and our culture might be much enriched, or at least more relaxed, if it acknowledged this."

Alan Moore's epic length novel (said to be over 1,500 pages long!), Jerusalem, can't come soon enough for me (I believe it's still at least a year away though).