Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life, released last week here in the U.S., is an epic 856 page autobigraphical manga graphic novel by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Published by Drawn & Quarterly, A Drifting Life is cartoonist Tatsumi's account of his formative years producing and submitting manga in 1945 through 1960 when he was well on his way as one of Japan's foremost manga cartoonists.

In addition to depicting his rise as a cartoonist, Tatsumi in his A Drifting Life, tells his story as it unfolds interwoven with some history of Japan and the rest of the world for added context. A Drifting Life is a fascinating look at how much a part of Japan's entertainment culture is devoted to manga, the way in which manga artists work (especially when compared to U.S. comic artists, with manga artists seemingly almost overwhelmingly more prolific), and the cultural differences between the Japanese people when contrasted to the way we live here in the U.S. A Drifting Life will surely be on a lot of top ten lists as 2009 closes and I hope with its publication we will see more manga that is not just of the fantasy, science fiction, or romance genres.

Watchmensch & Whatmen?!

Watchmensch is a very funny biting satire involving creative rights and Alan Moore's rift with DC, played out in one single comic over the framework of the entire Watchmen graphic novel. There's some pretty hard digs at DC and at comic creators who have signed away their rights to their creations, but overall this is definitely a comic that Alan Moore would approve of. Rich Johnston, the writer of Watchmensch (also of the infamous comic rumor site Lying In The Gutters), has long been an an Alan Moore enthusiast and he's definitely done his homework with Watchmensch, covering just about all of the sordid details of what transpired between Moore and DC. The interior art by Simon Rohrmuller is excellent also in his ability to mimic Watchmen artist Dave Gibbon's art style and panel arrangement.

Whatmen is a fun Mad magazine styled parody of Watchmen by writer Scott Lobdell (who was the head editor of Alan Moore's ABC line - CORRECTION: Actually writer Scott Lobdell mostly wrote X-men comics, I was thinking of Scott Dunbier - thanks for catching my flub Jason Lovin, your no prize is in the mail!) with fun and funny art by Alejandro Figueroa. I enjoyed both of these satire / parody books, but Watchmensch has more weight (being both funny and actually saying something).

JH's Batwoman, a must buy!

Okay I'm going to go into full hype mode here so strap yourselves in. In June, DC Comics will release Detective Comics featuring Batwoman, written by Greg Rucka and fully illustrated by JH Williams III for twelve issues. I've been lucky to have seen finished art for the first two issues several months ago and I'll say with no qualifications that even if the story stunk on toast (which it won't because Rucka has written some great comics and novels), JH William's Batwoman is going to finally be the title that puts the spotlight on what an amazing artist he is to a much larger audience.

Sure there will be really nice hardcover and softcover versions of JH's Batwoman, but I can't see anyone who looks through the first issue wanting to wait that long. Additionally you could get the comic single issues for yourselves as they come out and then when the nice collections happen, you could gift your single issues and turn on more people to what's sure to be one of the very best looking comics of the year. Of course this will be a huge money-back guarantee book here at my store, so you have nothing to lose. I really can't imagine why anyone who sees the first issue of Batwoman that comes out in June not picking it up and loving it and I'm not just saying that because JH is a good friend of mine. And as great as it looks in black and white, I can't wait to see it in glorious color by Dave Stewart.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Presenting the new Batman & Robin!

I found this photo over at Project Rooftop, this site that has contests of people redesigning super hero costumes and contests of people dressing up. I think this one rules!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Memphis pt. 2

The five photos here are of Diamond's new warehouse in Olive Branch, Mississipi, of which Kate and I took a tour Saturday afternoon (along with other comic store retailer members of ComicsPro, the industry organization of comic store retailers). Diamond's new warehouse is fifteen minutes from their previous site, but at 600,000 square feet is better than double the size of the old site in Memphis. Diamond started moving their new warehouse over a month ago and since then the reorders that all comic stores have placed have been subject to a lot of turbulence such as arriving much later then they previously would, increased shortages and overages, and a whole slew of items that have been confirmed as in stock but which havn't been delivered after weeks of said confirmation (I'm looking at you Scott Pilgrim volume 5!).
I don't think these photos really give one a real sense of how massive Diamond's new warehouse is. We were given the tour after operating hours, of which I can understand because of safety reasons, but I think we would have gotten a better understanding of the whole operation if there was a way to have witnessed this warehouse while a week's shipment was being processed. But just having been on a guided tour of this new huge warehouse, which is fully automated (bar scans, computers, and head sets which employees wear, communicate what needs to be picked and where it is in the warehouse versus the old paper lists method) has given me an understanding of what a huge operation this move has been and why there are delays. So while I understand that there will still be a few more weeks of turbulence involving our reorders until this new warehouse is fully intergrated, I'm confident that once this warehouse is close to 100% functional, that Diamond's operations should be much better equipped to serve the comic stores that rely upon it.
The first day of business at the ComicsPro meeting in Memphis was generously sponsored by DC Comics, who were represented by Bob Wayne and Karen Berger (and other DC staffers such as Fletcher and Vince). Karen Berger started the presentations with an upcoming Vertigo projects presentation and with their new original crime graphic novels, new prose novel for Fables, and really promising new series such as The Unwritten (by Mike Carey), Greek Street (by Peter Milligan), and Jeff Lemire's (he of Top Shelf's Essex County fame) Sweet Tooth, Vertigo looks like they'll have the stronger lifeline that they've been looking for. Bob Wayne is DC's Vice President of Sales and he's been with the company for a billion years. Actually I can't rememeber a time when Bob Wayne hasn't been with DC and I was commenting to Kate that it's going to be a sad day when DC and Bob Wayne aren't one and the same (which almost happened a few years ago, but when some retailers heard of that possiblity they made DC realize how important they felt it was that they not go that way). The fact that Bob Wayne owned a comic store for years, years ago, is also a big part of why DC has a better understanding of retailers than other companies.
I haven't gotten a chance to go over all of my notes I'd taken during the various workshops and meetings I attended during ComicsPro Memphis, but following are some of the things off the top of my head that I'll be doing for my store to better serve my customers. I attended a meeting on comic store design by Eric (from Chicago Comics) and he had some suggestions for simple visual things that could be done that I hadn't thought of previously and which I'll be excited to implement in my store in a couple of weeks that I think will punch up Alternate Reality Comics. The other really valuable meeting I attended was presented by Gary (of Laughing Ogre) and Phil (of Colisieum of Comics) on the subject of cutting costs and streamling your budget. I learned several things in this hour long panel (even though this was the panel I SO wanted to leave early because my drinking binge the previous night was catching up with me) that will not cut services to my customers, but will instead allow me to get rid of dead weight parts of the store and actually fine tune my operation.
On the first day of this year's ComicPro's meetings we broke into sub groups focusing on different aspects of our industry that we'd like to see changes occur within. I chose the committee that is proposing to offer our services to new creators and publishers to review their books for consideration for future publication. We are still really early in our discussions on how this will work, but I'm excited to be a part of this group and even though this group isn't even a week old, we've already got some great ideas that say to me that this isn't just going to be an "all talk, no show" group, rather this is going to show what an important part of the industry ComicsPro is. Last year at the ComicsPro meeting my main objective was learning more about MOBY (the point of sale system I now use at my store) and that has been greatly valuable to me streamling my store, but this year with my being part of this review group within ComicsPro, I finally have a goal to work towards that will allow me to contribute to the future of the comics industry as a whole.

Memphis pt. 1

This past week (Wednesday thru Sunday) Kate and I attended the ComicsPro comic store retailer trade show in Memphis. There was a lot going on related to ComicsPro that made it difficult to sneak away to do anything touristy in Memphis during the day, but I was determined not to just be confined to the hotel.
Thursday night I missed a small group of retailers and DC people that ended up going into town (which wasn't just a hop, skip, and jump from our nice hotel), so I hung out in the lounge area of the hotel Friday night after dinner and after not being able to find anyone interested in going into town, I took matters into my own hands and at 10:30pm hopped into a cap headed for Beale Street.
Beale Street wasn't as big of a street as I thought it would be, but there definitely was a lot going on musically in that relatively small area.

After listening to some of the music being played inside the street's bars / clubs, I decided to hang my hat at this joint called Club 152, which had this great three piece funk band playing (never did catch their name unfortunately). They were playing what sounded like mostly original songs to me (I wouldn't swear to it though, because even though I know a lot of different kinds of music, I haven't heard everything) in addition to some great covers of songs by Prince and the Digital Underground. This band was really really good and that much was apparent way before I had too much "fun" with alcohol.

I started off with a Corona and then chased that with four or five Vodka and Red Bulls. I forgot to mention that Kate also wasn't up to going downtown, so everything that happened thereafter was her fault because I had no adult supervision. Time just slipped away, the band and crowd watching was too much fun, and about two and a half hours later I somehow made my way out of the club.
I took this photo of myself sometime before leaving the club, but I didn't see this photo on my camera until Saturday morning and I have zero memory of taking it. I do remember getting in a cab and telling the driver "Hilton Memphis" and then very drunkenly somehow remembering my room number at 2:30am where Kate helped me navigate the room which was spinning like crazy. Even though I woke her up, she now gets to rib me forever with tales of my drunken ramblings of how much I loved her and how unworthy I was. I rarely drink more than a couple of drinks as I'm a lightweight and I hate getting sick from said actions, the last time I was on a bender like this was New Year's Eve 1999 when I "won" the welcoming in the year 2000 pool (there wasn't really a pool, but I was amongst the least expected to do that).
I don't remember calling a taxi or even leaving Club 152, but I'm pretty sure I didn't get back to my hotel in this fine ride. Actually I'm pretty lucky not to have "lost" a big amount of money, my camera, or phone, as I wouldn't have been in any condition to do anything about those things leaving my possession. So I definitely want to tip my hat to the fine people of Memphis who didn't take "advantage" of a dumb person full of booze such as myself, rather just letting me on my merry drunken way.

Anyway, I woke up just after 9am that morning (so we both missed breakfast, not like I would have gone), thought I felt "all right", got showered and dressed and headed to the first meeting of the day. I was glad I went to that meeting because I got some valuable info out of it (more on that on my entry Memphis pt. 2), but I SO wanted to leave early. I knew I wasn't going to make the next couple of meetings or lunch and thought that I should just "rest" in the room until the Diamond new warehouse tour later that afternoon which I wasn't going to miss (and didn't). So being that it's almost ten years between my "too much fun with alcohol sessions", I wonder where I'll be for my 2019 bender!?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What weapon should I have?

My last customer tonight, a nice young guy who has been in my store several times, was telling me about this sci fi store here in town that makes custom light sabers. He was all excited that he was going to get one similar to the one Obi Wan used (from Star Wars for the three of you reading this that don't know who Obi Wan is - that's right I'm looking at you Sierra!). That's cool for what it is, but not somethiing I feel the need to own (I didn't share that thought with him) and I thanked him for sharing this info.

After he selected some books and was at the counter to pay for them he told me that the weapon I should have is a soul reaper. I had heard of that, but couldn't place it so I asked him what that was from. He said it was from Supernatural and I said "Oh yeah, that's one of my wife's favorite shows, I watch that sometimes and the episodes I've seen this season have been really good." He then paid for his purchases, I thanked him and then it was time to close the store for the night.

Now I'm wondering how many other people, friends, customers there are that think I should have a soul reaper? I'm sure this customer wasn't implying anything derogatory by saying I should have a soul reaper, but really do I look like a guy that should have a soul reaper and in my line of work when would I ever need such a weapon!? All in all a good way to close my work day and I really do love my job and customers (and I hope no one thinks I'm making fun of a customer by sharing this, I just wanted to share an experience of what comic store workers encounter soemtimes - and no this isn't a typical interaction).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hiroshima pt. 2, please read...

Teesh, who's in Japan studying, wrote up a blog entry titled Hiroshima part two and I hope everyone clicks and reads and shares this piece with others. It's some truly beautiful writing about a horrific part of our world's history.. I'm glad I read this at the end of my "work" day because on one level I feel drained (in a good way though) after reading this. I also wish I could write with a tenth of the quality that Teesh displays in that entry. Seriously, it is a long piece (but long in the good sense) and even though she doesn't do paragraph breaks (which I know annoys some), what Teesh writes about and the way she does that will stay with you.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cartoon, the play

Last night I went over to the Onyx Theatre (953 E. Sahara #16 in the Commercial Center) to attend a performance of Cartoon, which was written by Steven Yockey. The Onyx Theatre is a nice fairly new little theatre (low on frills, but high on intimacy) headed by John Beane, who also directs many (if not all) of the plays there, including this Vegas production of Cartoon. The resident theater group of the Oynx call themselves The Insurgo Theater Movement ( and after watching them in Cartoon, I'll definitely be looking forward to their future productions.

Cartoon is an experimental piece about violence and fascism and although I didn't "get" everything that was going on, it wasn't the kind of experimental that is just mostly annoyingly clever. Cartoon as staged by the Insurgo Theatre was funny and highly entertaining and when the violence erupts it's pretty hard-hitting (no pun intended). The crowd favorite character is named Rockstar, who's played by Paul Mattingly, but in his big furry outfit, even if you know Paul (as I do, through my store), you'll forget that it's him (and while his character doesn't have a lot of stage time, Paul proves the idiom that it's quality not quantity that counts). Seriously, the whole cast was really good (with great costuming, make up and set design) so I'd recommend checking out one of the last two performances of Cartoon (it runs through March 14th).

The Insurgo Theatre Movement's next play at the Onyx is The Insect Play, which was written by Josef Capek and is a satire / examination of World War I from the Czechoslovakian perspective.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A great essay on Hiroshima...

A friend of mine, Teesh (actually she's one of my good friend, Sierra's, best friends, and I only knew Teesh as a teenager when she lived in Vegas and she'd come visit me with Sierra), is in Japan studying and recently she went to Hiroshima. Yesterday she wrote a great essay on having visited that historic city which, in a lot of ways, ended up defining the latter half of the 20th century:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Now that's a big comic book!

Kramers Ergot v.7 came out last year and right off the bat I was opposed to the very idea of this comic book, from its hefty price ($125.00) to its elitist contents (me saying this is probably funny to some people who know me with my elitist tastes in entertainment). I hadn't seen an actual copy of it until I went over to my friend's (Todd Murry) house a couple of months ago and he had bought one from a small company called Amazon. Anyway when you see a copy of this huge comic book (16 x 21) you can't not see it as an art object.

Kramers Ergot v.7 is an almost 100 page (so that comes to more than one dollar per page) comic book anthology with numerous alternative comic cartoonists contributing not more than three pages each. Like most anthologies the actual content varies from good to bad and I think that even with excellent contributions by artists such as Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Ivan Brunetti, that a lot of this book is just of the throw-away variety that wouldn't justify a twenty dollar price tag for a regular sized graphic novel collection (meaning work by pretenders to elitism that gives elitism a bad name). But here in this glorious over-sized format, everything looks impressive and seems to be pushing boundaries. I'm still kind of annoyed with the price as it will exclude a big section of people who would like its contents from being able to justify shelling out that much (and I've always liked the idea of comic books being the affordable art form for the masses - even though sadly with cover prices of the periodicals going up that is less true).
So after seeing my friend Todd's copy of Kramers Ergot v.7 I made it a point to see if I could still get a copy for myself from Comic Relief The Comic Book Bookstore (one of the premier comic book stores in the U.S. - they're in Berkeley), who had a booth at the San Francisco Wondercon a couple of weeks ago. I was happy to find that Todd (the new owner of Comic Relief after its founder, Rory Root, died last year) had a couple of copies left and I was more than happy to throw some money his way and was especially elated to read in the contents page that this book was dedicated to the memory of Rory Root, Dave Stevens (creator of the Rocketeer and responsible for the revival of Bettie Page's popularity), and Will Elder (Mad magazine and numerous EC comics), three giants of the comics medium who died last year. So while I wouldn't buy several pricey books like this, I'm glad to have this on (warts and all), being shown a physical copy by my friend Todd, and buying it from another Todd (of Comic Relief, natch).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

San Francisco Wondercon 2009 pt. 2

If GI Joe was about characters like this gal in her GI Joe costume, I might actually care about the upcoming movie. Actually the movie may turn out to be good for what it is, but I've never was into GI Joe as a kid (different era) so the whole fascination for things GI Joe or Transformers related things just makes my mind shut down.
A great Batgirl costume with the old Batman television camera angle in full force!

Trina Robbins (in this photo on the left of course), was one of the first underground female cartoonists and wrote many books about women in comics. Until I looked her up on wikipedia just now, I hadn't know that she designed Vampirella's costume back in the late 1960's (how did I not know that!)!

In this photo is Trina's long time partner, Steve Leialoha. Steve Leialoha has been an highly acclaimed inker since the 1970's (working on such titles as Warlock, Howard The Duck, Spider-Woman, and Star Wars) and is known by most comic fans today for his excellent inking on Fables. Leialoha is also an excellent artist and one of my favorite series by him was Trypto The Acid Dog.

Last Friday night after the first day of Wondercon, there was a benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco and Kate and I attended that. In addition to the uber cool Watchmen movie props and original artwork they had on display from that series, they had an entire room focusing on the fantastic art of Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula, Howard The Duck, Night Force, Daredevil, and really too many more titles to mention). Steve Leialoha inked Colan on Howard the Duck and there were several Howard pages on display (I don't own any Howard originals, sob, sob), most of them from the collection of novelist Glen David Gold (his Carter Beats The Devil is EXCELLENT and has some nods to his love of comics). The only Howard original on display that was from Leialoha's collection was from issue #11 and I was surprised to see that it had a notation of in addition to being inked by Leialoha, Neal Adams and Bernie Wrightson contibuted their artistic wizardry to that page as well (this wasn't mentioned in the credits of the comic when it was published)! I saw Steve Leialoha in the lobby Friday / Saturday morning after the Watchmen sneak screening and after asking him what he thought of the movie (he mostly like it), asked him about that page from Howard I'd seen earlier and he told me that Adams and Wrightson were visting him at his studio at the time and wanted to draw over Colan's pencils, so of course he couldn't say no!
Just some cool "I don't know what they are exactly" things I saw while walking the convention floor.

The funniest shirt I saw at the convention.

San Francisco Wondercon 2009 pt.1

San Francisco Wondercon is like the little sister of the crazy huge San Diego Comic-Con. Wondercon is much more relaxed with about 25-30 thousand people versus Comic-Con's 125,000! The hugeness of Comic-Con has its pros and cons and should be experienced at least once, but Kate and I are thinking that we're going to make Wondercon our main convention (and thus skipping Comic-Con this year to make room for other people). Actually Saturday of Wondercon was pretty dense with people on the exhibit floor and it felt like Comic-Con and the air flow could have been better, but a person could still walk the whole exhibit floor in a couple of hours.
This lovely lass is sporting the movie version of the Silk Spectre costume.

A female Comedian (in the center or course). I wish I'd asked her and all the others who wore Watchmen costumes if they'd read the graphic novel already or if they were just attracted to the characters from what they'd seen from the movie (which they hadn't seen while they were working on their costumes). One would assume that if they went to the trouble to make those elaborate costumes that they read the book, but a lot of people just like superhero movies and will glom onto the characters from that source.
I asked R2D2 why the Star Wars prequel movies were so bad, but his reply was just a series of robotic noises and I didn't have a translator with me.

I wonder how many women have dressed up in the slave Leia costume since Return of The Jedi? I don't see how people who dress up in costumes (especially the ones guys with cameras fixate on) actually get to enjoy conventions because they're always getting asked to have their photo taken - but of course all of the attention they get has to be part of why they do this in the first place.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Comics Journal & Lynda Barry

I've been reading The Comics Journal for years and while I no longer seem to have the time to read everything from cover to cover like I used to, I still am happy for its existence as it is the only publication that discusses this medium with anything approaching real criticism and analysis. One criticism that people levy toward The Comics Journal is that it is too elitist, which is true, but it's also true that the medium needs a forum which presents a dialogue of this medium's finest creations that go toe to toe with the finest of any of the other "real" art forms like novels, gallery art, and or movies. My biggest problem with The Comics Journal is that they seem to pick an image for their covers that only appeals to those that know that particular artists' work and doesn't compel people who might like that artist or the contents within to actually want to pick up the magazine (it's almost like they're trying to sell as few copies as possible).

The greatest attraction of The Comics Journal is usually their massive in-depth forty plus page interviews with comic book creators. The two interviews in the newest issue, with Lynda Barry and Frank Quitely, are amongst the shortest they've done in a while (13 and 6 pages respectively). Actually the Frank Quitely interview is so short that I'm wondering why they even bothered. Even though the Lynda Barry (fantastic cartoonist of One! Hundred! Demons! and What It Is) interview is only thirteen pages long, it still is a great look into the mind of one of the most unique comic creators ever (seriously click here:, read any of her books and you'll have discovered a unique voice / style). And although Lynda Barry has some thoughts on the nature of creativity and the imagination that are similar to Alan Moore's, I'm fairly certain she hasn't read any of Moore's works, but I sure would like to see the two of them in the same room bouncing ideas off of each other.

There is one twenty plus long interview in the newest Comic Journal with Dash Shaw (cartoonist of last years 720 page graphic novel Bottomless Bellybutton) that I haven't read yet and am looking forward to doing. This issue also feature several comic creators with their picks of the best of last year and there's a few seems that I was previously unaware of. The annoying thing about this best of 2008 part of this Comics Journal is that it wasn't all contained in one part of the issue, rather it was inbetween the various interviews for some crazy reason.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who reads The Reader?

Firstly I'd like to apologize for my lame attempt at being funny with the title of this entry. I finally saw The Reader a couple of weeks ago and the next day bought the book because I wanted to see how it differed from the movie. This blog entry will have some very minor spoilers of the novel and movie, but none that most people couldn't figure out for themselves just from watching the trailer.

I thought The Reader worked very well as a movie, it had great acting and told the complex story very well. The movie hasn't gotten the best reviews, with it only tracking at 60% favorable, but not having read any of those reviews yet, I can't see why it wasn't better received. Basically the set up of The Reader is that a young guy (about 15 years old), Micheal, ends up having an affair with a much older woman (she's about 30 years old), Hanna, who he later finds out while attending a trial as part of his law schooling, was a guard at one of the concentration camps. At this point it had been several years since he'd seen her and finding out about this part of her past with all that he'd shared with her, just totally blind-sides him.

I don't know if I could say whether I liked The Reader better as a novel (called Der Vorleser when it was originally published in Germany in 1995) or as a movie because they both have their strengths. I am glad that I saw the movie first in this case, although I might have felt differently if I'd read the book first. There aren't any great differences between the book and the movie, but the book, even though it's not real long (it's only 217 pages) manages to flesh out some of the details (as novels are often wont to do) with a prose style which surprised me with its visual richness.

I thought both the novel and movie did a great job at communicating how the Holocaust affected German people that didn't even have any direct involvement in the atrocities committed during World War II for many years afterwards. Thinking about this now, I'm going to guess that some reviewers or people who saw the movie may think that The Reader downplays the horrors of the Holocaust, but as a recent documentary on PBS that unearthed a journal and photos of some workers at one of the death camps shows, the people working at the camps were not all monsters, they could do horrific things during the day and just act as if it was another job that needed to be done. That is why I think The Reader is so powerful, as it illustrates that the most seemingly "normal" person has the capacity to do horrific things.