Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Presidents of the United States

This week IDW released a great looking book by artist Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Wormwood, and Welcome To Hoxford) called The Presidents Of The United States.
All 44 U.S. Presidents are included all the way through to President Obama. Alongside every excellent artistic rendering by Templesmith are facts pertaining to each President.
Included is a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Art of Paul Duffield

This week Avatar released a nice inexpensive ($3.99), comic art book, called The Art of Paul Duffield, showcasing Freakangels artist, Paul Duffield's art (of course). Pages and pages of lovely images.

I'd have to say that Paul Duffield has quicky become one of my favorite artists. His style reminds me of Josh Middleton, but Duffield does great work and does it on a regular basis (I understand that not all artists can produce on a nine to five schedule, but there are some artists whose work you see so infrequently that makes us art lovers go through withdrawals).

I don't know what Paul Duffield has done before being the artist for Freakangels, but as more and more people discover him, he's going to be quite the hot ticket. He's been doing Freakangels online with writer Warren Ellis (six pages every week!) and a couple of months ago, Avatar released the first print volume of Freakangels, of which I already gave a huge thumbs up to in a blog entry last year.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Final Crisis? What Crisis?

No Spoilers following:

Bah. So Final Crisis #7 came out yesterday and while reading it I was still confused as to what was going on and how this matters to the rest of the DC universe. I would have been okay with this event series if it was entertaining in its own right like Superman Red Son, but there was just too many things going on without any one of those story elements having any frame of reference for the reader as to why they should care. Really the whole series has been a chore to read. Grant Morrison (the writer), often has too many ideas that he introduces in any one of his stories without fleshing out those ideas before going on to his next big idea (for good Morrison stories check out All Star Superman, Filth, Animal Man, and Doom Patrol. I guess I'm just not taking the right drugs (actually the only drug I'm ingesting is caffeine).

The art in this last issue by Doug Mahnke was mostly good (I'm guessing that because he was brought in at the twelve o clock hour to do this issue is what required the multiple inkers for this issue) and I think he would have been a better fit for the whole series over J.G. Jones (who didn't even do all of the previous six issues). I hope that those who bought Final Crisis at my store got more enjoyment out of this "event" than I did and I hope that it doesn't sour you on DC superhero comics (but I could understand it if it does).

I wish I had photoshop skills to insert a drawing or photo of Superman sitting in that lounge chair in place of that guy on this cover of that Supertramp album that accompanies this blog entry - now that would be comedy (but maybe it wouldn't be as appreciated by those who aren't as familiar with Supertramp as I am)!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tears Of The Desert

Tears Of The Desert A Memoir of Survival In Darfur is, as anyone who knows anything about what's happening in Darfur, a powerful non-fiction novel about the horrors people living in that region of Africa are experiencing. Halima Bashir (with journalist Damien Lewis), the author of Tears Of The Desert, lived in Darfur up until she was able to escape in 2006. Bashir recounts her life as a little girl growing up in a happy, loving family in Darfur, excelling in school (just going to school was a major difficulty), and the horrors that she had gone through (both physically and mentally) before she was miraculasly able to escape.

I'd first heard about Tears Of The Desert (which was first released in early or mid 2008) about a month ago while watching the Today Show one morning. Over the next couple of weeks I tried to find it at local book stores, but after not finding it (and asking for it by name) in four big box book stores, I ordered it from Amazon. I mention this because I think it is sad that a book of this importance wasn't stocked at the four book stores I went to here in town (Vegas, a city of something like 2 million people). I might be out of Maus or Watchmen for a week or two at most, but I can direct people to a store within five miles from mine in which a person could purchase either of those books instead of waiting for me to have it back in stock. I realize that "regular" book stores have way more titles competing for shelf space than comic stores do, but for four big stores in a big metro city to not have Tears Of The Desert in stock, makes me understand why some of them are experiencing difficult times and why more people are turning to Amazon instead of supporting their local markets.

Anyway, I wanted to read Tears Of The Desert because while I knew that horrible things were happening in Darfur, I wanted to read a personal account, such as this novel by Halima Bashir, to get a better understanding and context for why this is happening. I'd have to say that I, like Halima Bashir, still don't really understand why this genocide is happening (besides the age old "reason" of one group of people not liking another group of people and or the desire to have those people's land), other than to more fully appreciate that an end to these atrocities is of the utmost importance because too many have already lost their lives and too many people are living in horrid conditions. As many regular readers of this blog or people who know me are already aware, I'm drawn to stories (be they in graphic novel, book, or movie form) about the Holocaust. Sadly nothing can be done to undo the Holocaust, but the world should have learned from the Holocaust that genocide should never happen again. It's also true, sadly, that history just about also repeats, but action needs to occur in Darfur to cease this horrible cycle of history to repeat. youtube link is a great call to action that any one of us can easily do to give a voice to those whose voices aren't being heard. The simplest thing to do is write a postcard to President Obama titled "Save Darfur, end the genocide" adding your voice proclaiming that the end of this genocide should be amongst the top priorities of this administation. Address postcards to President Obama, c/o: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500.

One fact that I was unaware of until I read the epilogue of Tears Of The Desert is China's blocking a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions on Darfur, as they support the Sudanese regime (and China also supplies arms to these agressors). Why is this true? Oil, is the answer sadly. I need to do more research on China's role in what's going on in Darfur before I make up my mind as to what action I'll take regarding my findings in relation to China, but I can already guess that the U.S. hasn't looked into this probably because of the increasing amounts of debt that we as a country now owe China. Certainly the Chinese people are unaware of China's involvement in Darfur as their government is very restrictive about which infomation the people receive.

For more information go to: and Reading books like Tears Of The Desert helps us appreciate that although people living in Darfur have very different lives from us, really we have more in common with them than we do our differences and for an entire region of people to be eradicated as is being done to the people of Darfur is a huge blight on us "civilized" societies and the world will be poorer if this genocide is allowed to continue.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ruins & other good comics this week

This week I liked a higher percentage of the superhero comics that I read than I have in some time.

Ruins is a new edition of the long out-of-print Warren Ellis two-issue comic written in 1995 and is the dark, evil opposite of Kurt Busiek's Marvels. Ruins features a lot of Marvel superhero characters, except instead of becoming characters with great powers, the "accidents" that made them the characters they are in the regular Marvel universe, here everything gets twisted with horrible results (but is demented fun to read). This new edition is an affordable $4.99 for 80 pages, but I wish Marvel would have made a nicer production with this re-release of Ruins that is more worthy of its contents.
This week's Superman Batman annual is written by Len Wein (who wrote lots of great fun comics for Marvel and DC in the 1970's and 1980's) with art by Chris Batista, and inks by Mick Gray and Jack Jadson. This is just your basic textbook example of a highly enjoyable self-contained comic featuring a villain that is a composite of Superman and Batman. This comic also has some great character bits and some good odd humor. Len Wein is also the guest writer on Justice League of America this week, which features the villain, Starbreaker (corny name, but he has a high power level that makes him able to go up against the JLA). Some may find this issue of Justice League of America a bit old school in that it maybe reads a little like a comic from the 1970's, but I liked it because it wasn't as needlessly convoluted as I think too many superhero comics have been lately.
The new creative team on Supergirl, writer Sterling Gates and artists Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne, have been on this title for four issues now and I think this book hasn't been this enjoyable since the end of Peter David's Supergirl from a few years ago. I don't really like the idea of thousands of Kryptonians now being around (even though they're no longer on Earth), but so far even that aspect of the title hasn't annoyed me and whomever this new Superwoman (featured on this month's cover) is, looks to be an interesting development and after reading the last page of this issue you'll definitely want to be back for the next issue.
The newest Hellblazer (issue #251) is the debut of new writer Peter Milligan and he's off to a fine a fine start. If this is going to be the same Peter Milligan who brought us Shade The Changing Man and Enigma (two other great Vertigo series he wrote) and not the Peter Milligan who wrote The Minx (a short lived confusing series also from Vertigo), than this title should be in good hands.

The second issue of Superman Beyond: Final Crisis by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke didn't have me scratching my head as much as when I read the first issue a few months ago and had some great sequences within, even though I couldn't begin to explain what actually happened to anyone. This is supposed to lead into next week's Final Crisis #7, the conclusion of that mess of an event which I don't suspect will make sense either, but it'll have nice art as Doug Mahnke is doing it (who did the art on this two-issue Superman Beyond), and I think he would have been a better artistic fit for all of Final Crisis, as J.G. Jones, while a good artist, isn't generally a good big screen superhero artist.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama!

Today is surely an historic day for the United States and I couldn't be more elated with the promise that is the Obama era. Although I've followed politics for as long as I can remember, the Presidential election of 2008 was only the third I'd voted in (because I only became an American citizen in 1997). I and many others I know or have heard of, have never felt as passionate about one of our Presidential candidates as we have about Barack Obama. With President Obama I feel that our country will truly be on the path to real change happening for more of this countries' people.
So good night and good riddance to this incredible blight on the U.S. that Bush and his crew has been - I still can't believe that he was elected TWICE.

As I and many others have said, change isn't going to happen overnight, but with President Obama, that new day is not only going to happen, its roots are here now, as people all over the world, young and old, from all walks of life, see the true possibilities that lie within the United States for the present and future.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parade (with fireworks)

Parade (with fireworks) is a graphic novel (actually a graphic novelette as it's "only" 64 pages in length) written and drawn by Mike Cavallaro. I only wish that Parade (with fireworks) was longer, but it's still a very rich, mostly true story about a family in Italy that takes place in the early 20th Century during a period of Socialist and Fascist party divisions.

Mike Cavallaro's art evokes that of Seth (It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken - one of my very favorite graphic novels) and that's not a bad style to emulate in my book. Cavallaro also does the coloring and even though I like black and white comics, color is an important part of this book and the story would be greatly diminished if the coloring wasn't as strong an element as it is in Parade (with fireworks).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

even Spidey has to go

Is this the greatest piece of merchandising ever or what!? Yesterday, Cooper, a customer and friend, gifted me with this, which he said he'd gotten at some Japanese store. I was busy yesterday with it being new comics day so I only thanked him profusely for this great addition to my store, but I was unable to ask him more about the store from which he'd gotten this before he had to leave.

Seriously, how did this get licensed from Marvel!? Actually nowhere on the packaging is there any copyright stating that this is a Marvel character, even though they also use an illustrated image of Spider-Man. On the packaging, in English, this is called a "Toilet Shaking Toys", even though it's a head bobber. So as if it's not odd enough to have a toy of Spidey on the loo (except maybe it could be used to potty train small kids), this "toy" also bobs its head back and forth (it's solar or light powered so as long as the lights are on his head rocks back and forth)! Maybe Spidey has some kind of OCD!? Anyway, it's now taking the place of this other head bobber that I had next to my MOBY POS computer / register on the front counter and it has already amused several people (small children love to try to make a head bobber's head go faster)! I've just been telling people that the book he's reading is whatever my pick of the week's arrivals is (which this week is SGT. Rock #3).

Wow, I actually had a blog entry this year that didn't mention Alan Moore! Doh! Actually how cool would it be if Alan Moore wrote a Spider-Man comic - I think the only thing cooler would be if Moore wrote a Dr. Strange comic!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stories shape the world...

So I'm re-reading Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run (collected in six trade paperbacks) and I wanted to share a passage that illustrates why I exalt Moore as much I do (this is from the second collection):

"There are people. There are stories. The people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth. Stories shape the world. They exist independently of people, and in places quite devoid of man, there may yet be mythologies. The glaciers have their legends. The ocean bed entertains its own romances."

I think in some ways that passage is a precursor to Moore's concept of Idea Space that he introduced in his run on Supreme (a terrible Superman copy book that Rob Liefeld created which Moore made into an enjoyable homage to the Superman comics of the 1950's and 1960's). Stories and ideas aren't real in the tangible sense like physical objects (unless they are published in books or some other medium), but as Moore put words to, stories and ideas are very real no matter how seemingly outlandish as long as the people who create or follow those stories and or ideas believe in them. While most people don't believe superheroes are real in the sense that their relatives are real, a good number of people do invest more time following the adventures of Nightwing (for example) or thinking about this or that character or idea than they do about Bob, their third cousin, whom they've maybe met once in their life so to them Nightwing or this or that character, story, or idea is more "real" to them and means more to them in their lives than a cousin they hardly ever see, let along think about. Characters, stories, and or ideas that we invest time in are components of the person we are and are part of the blueprints upon which we interact with the world and people around us.

Anyway, I don't know if my ramblings in the above paragraph made any sense, but it's my attempt in trying to convey that Alan Moore isn't just a master wordsmith, he's a writer who thinks about things within our world in a new light and in turn, infusing his readers with new ways of looking at their worlds.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Alan Moore on Sale!

Okay, so Alan Moore really isn't on sale, but here at my store, Alternate Reality Comics (in Las Vegas, Nevada, not Las Vegas, New Mexico), all Alan Moore graphic novels are on sale for 20% off for the entire month of January!

So as we all gear up for the Watchmen movie, now is the perfect time to try out some Alan Moore books that you haven't read, like Promethea (five amazing volumes), A Small Killing, Yuggoth Cultures, and Hypothetical Lizard.

Everyone already knows that Batman: The Killing Joke is the definitive Joker story, but maybe you know someone who liked the Dark Knight movie that hasn't read this.

Alan Moore's Swamp Thing was the first book he did for the U.S. and while it was (and is) highly regarded by those who have read it (six volumes), I think that Moore's Swamp Thing isn't as celebrated as it should be. I think this is because when people see the Swamp Thing books they just think of the bad movies or can't imagine how a title called Swamp Thing could possibly be good. Well what Alan Moore did with Swamp Thing was he took everything that other writers did with the character and made them make sense and elevated the character to being an earth elemental (I've probably talked about this before on my blog, but this does bear repeating and some people may have not read my earlier post). Moore's Swamp Thing was also the template for Vertigo and I think as good as Gaiman's Sandman was, that Moore's Swamp Thing is a better on so many levels (and I don't think I'm saying that being a huge Alan Moore enthusiast). Seriously, for anyone who's on the fence about picking up or trying Moore's Swamp Thing, this title is a total money back guarantee book as I know that everyone who reads the first chapter of the first volume will be drawn in.