Thursday, January 28, 2010

Amelia Earhart This Broad Ocean

Amelia Earhart This Broad Ocean, is a new graphic novel written by Sarah Stewart Taylor and drawn by Ben Towle. A quick aside regarding the subtitle of this book for those of you, like me, who thought that "This Broad Ocean" was odd: The word "broad" has been used as a slang word for woman, but as the liner notes in Amelia Earhart state, "this broad ocean" was what Amelia Earhart called the Pacific Ocean.

Amelia Earhart This Broad Ocean isn't a graphic novel biography of Amelia's whole life, rather it focuses on her crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1928. Actually this should be called a graphic novella because it's "only" seventy-five pages in length and I mention this not as a slight to Amelia Earhart This Broad Ocean, just that even though I enjoyed this look at one of Amelia's triumphant flights (and the attempts leading up to her success), I just wanted to read more (and fawn over more of Ben Towle's great line work). I want to add that this book was produced by The Center For Cartoon Studies Presents, who also brought us Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow and Houdini: The Handcuff King, two other great graphic novel biographies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kick-Ass, finally!

Kick-Ass #1 came out in April 2008, so here it is about 21 months later and finally Kick-Ass #8 has arrived. Every issue has gotten later and later than the previous issue so it actually seems longer than it has been (not that 21 months isn't a long enough time for eight issues to come out). Anyone who's a fan of Mark Millar written titles just has to accept that whatever the title is, it's going to be late. This time though, Millar had finished writing Kick-Ass a loooong time ago and artist John Romita JR. (who is one of this mediums greatest artists and most disciplined when it comes to being able to meet schedules) kept being interrupted from finishing Kick-Ass to work on Marvel universe regular superhero titles which were more deadline intensive and which he's contracted for (Kick-Ass is creator owned by Mark Millar & John Romita JR. and just published by Marvel).

For those of you reading this that haven't heard of Kick-Ass, read the comic, or seen the previews for the upcoming Kick-Ass movie in April, Kick-Ass takes place in our world, a world in which there are no super powered people. This kid, Dave, who reads a lot of superhero comics, wonders why no one puts on a costume and fights crime. So he does this and gets his ass kicked. After recovering from his ass kicking, Dave meets some other kids who are doing the same thing, like Hit-Girl and then the fun really begins. Kick-Ass is just a very fun, very R-rated comic book that really does some different things with the superhero / supervillain dynamic.

Kick-Ass #8 (which features the cover subtitle: When Titans Pimp-Slap!) concludes the first story-line (of which the movie is based on) and the ending does indeed kick ass! I was disappointed by the ending of Millar's otherwise great Wolverine Old Man Logan, so I'm happy to report that the first Kick-Ass story-arc is great all the way around. Every issue of this series has gone to multiple printings and was just about the best selling comic everywhere when it came out, but if you don't already have the previous issues, you'll have to wait until 2/17 when the hardcover collection arrives. Mark Millar told me a couple of summers ago that the movie follows the comic fairly closely, and having seen three trailers, I'm thinking that if the movie is anywhere close to as good as the trailers, well Kick-Ass the movie should be quite the fun ride. Kick-Ass the movie will be rated R, which it needs to be if it wants to come close to the tone of the comic, but even with an R rating, I'm a little concerned that the movie ending won't play out as the end of issue #8 does, which I think is a perfect, unsentimental ending to this pull-no-punches comic.

Afrodisiac; Jim Rugg

Afrodisiac is a new very funny graphic novel by cartoonist Jim Rugg (Plain Jains, Street Angel) with assists by Brian Maruca. Afrodisiac is a work of blaxplotation, a type of entertainment that was popular during the 1970's. You'll either "get" it or you won't, but for those that appreciate what Rugg is doing in Afrodisiac, they'll be laughing their asses off and get some great cartooning as well.

Unfortunately, I only ordered a couple of Afrodisiac on my initial order which arrived today, so I won't have a restock until two weeks (and I'm crossing my fingers that Diamond, my distributor, has copies in inventory read to be sent out). The reason I ordered so conservatively on Afrodisiac was because I initially thought that this would just be a one note graphic novel (and it kind of is, but Jim Rugg plays this one note really well) and I didn't think its audience needed to have this in the hardcover format this book is in. Well color me dumb, because Afrodisiac fires on all cylinders, is in full color, and has great production values throughout so the $14.95 price for this hardcover is a great deal and I don't think people will flinch at the price when they flip through this book.
This second image here on this entry is the actual cover of Afrodisiac and as great as this book is, I think that this is the wrong image to use as the cover. Maybe if the title had been on the front of this book this image would have been okay, but I think there's any number of other images from within Afrodisiac that would have really gotten people to pick up this book. I still think though that once people look through Afrodisiac and see what Rugg is spoofing, they'll be sold on getting this book.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rasl & Echo intermission

I feel bad that I haven't been blogging that much for the month of January and feel equally bad that I haven't given shout-outs to Jeff Smith's Rasl and Terry Moore's Echo (at least I don't remember talking about these titles here on my blog previously - if I have it's been a while).

Jeff Smith, of course is the alternative / independent comic book poster guy for the breakout success he had with his epic Bone series (collected in nine beautiful full color graphic novels and one massive 1,300 page black and white volume). Bone was an all ages, timeless journey quest saga with equal doses of humor and adventure. As successful as Bone was, with its multiple collected printings, Jeff Smith could probably just live off of those royalties, but he has been kind enough to create another comic.

I'm going to "borrow" a description of what Rasl is from the fine folks over at Comixology, in which they said that the title character, Rasl, is an inter-dimensional art thief. Rasl is a far removed from Bone as a comic could be, so Smith gets extra points for not just repeating himself (and Rasl isn't an all ages title). A big part of the newest issue of Rasl involves Tesla, the scientist from the late 1800's who worked with Thomas Edison for a time before they had their differences and split. Rasl is getting better and better with each issue (the newest issue is #6) and with one collection out thus far, I give Rasl a high recommendation for being a finely drawn, highly engrossing, very different comic book.

The other big alternative / independent comic book success story cartoonist is Terry Moore, who is most beloved for his Strangers In Paradise series, a series basically about three people and the crazy turns their lives and relationships took also has had multiple collections. I'm going to shock some readers of my blog though (and not just for shocks' sake) by stating that while I think Terry Moore has always been a fantastic sequential art illustrator, his stories and paces he put his characters through in Strangers In Paradise didn't work for me a lot of the time (I was looking for something story-wise more like Ghost World, but that's like my dumb-ass not liking the movie Slumdog Millionaire because I expected a different movie from what I'd heard about it before seeing it).

Anyway, Terry Moore's Echo, is also about as far removed from Strangers In Paradise as Rasl is to Bone and for that I want to also tip my hat to Terry Moore for not going the easy way and just making more Francine and Katchoo comics and I have no story reservations with Echo. Echo is about a woman, Anne, who gets this experimental robot skin fused on to her, but this isn't your "typical" superhero comic, as there isn't superhero slugfests or supervillain activity, rather, Terry Moore has created a comic book that has about the highest level of intrigue - what's going to happen next - oh man that's the last page of this issue!? comics being produced today. Fortunately, Terry Moore isn't just a great cartoonist, he's also somehow able to do this book on a six week schedule. There's three Echo trades out so far and also gets the big Ralph Ich Liebe Comics ! recommendation (and I wouldn't lie about a thing like that!)!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Loverboy; Irwin Hasen

Loverboy is a new graphic novel by Irwin Hasen, who worked at DC Comics for a number of years up until the Silver Age (right before 1955) on characters such as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and co-creating Wildcat. After being let go from DC, Hansen went on to create the comic strip Dondi, which ran in newspapers from 1955 until 1986!

Loverboy is actually two books for the price of one, with the first 94 pages being an illustrated account by Irwin Hasen of his love for long-legged women and how this love of his was sometimes challenging because he was "only" 5'2" in height, and the last 30 pages of Loverboy being Hasen's recollections of having started working in comics during the Golden Age and then moving to comic strips, which as he states, he was more suited to.

Loverboy isn't the "typical" autobiographical graphic novel in which the cartoonist wallows with accounts about how they were done an injustice by the industry (which truthfully, sadly, many a cartoonist in this industry, especially in its formative years, weren't treated very well) or how the cards life dealt to them resulted in hardships. Rather, though Hasen was very aware that his height wasn't "average", he didn't let this stop him from being a ladies man and the life of parties and he relates these sides of him rather matter-of-factly and with much humor throughout Loverboy, with the last few pages of the illustrated story being especially poignant.

Loverboy is highly entertaining and all the more amazing when one remembers that Irwin Hasen didn't write and draw this book until he was 91! - that's right, 91 years old! Of course this previous sentence shouldn't be read as if I think a 91 year old person can no longer write or draw anymore, I just bring up this to illustrate that I don't know of any other cartoonists who were or are still cartooning at that age. Yay for Irwin Hasen!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bicycle Diaries; David Byrne

David Byrne is one of my very favorite musicians, so I was ecstatic when my friend, Cristina, gifted me his new book, Bicycle Diaries, which I didn't even know was forthcoming. Most people probably know David Bryne as the frontman of The Talking Heads, but as much as I like The Talking Heads, I think David Byrne's solo work is even better and I can't stress enough how everyone should go out of their way to see him perform live if you should ever get the chance, as he put on one of the best live shows I've ever seen (and to my surprise he even does Talking Heads songs which are especially cool with string orchestra arrangements).

David Byrne really is quite the renaissance man, as he's worked in music (and he's produced and plays many diverse musical styles from around the world), film, theater, and opera, so it should be a surprise to no one that he's also written books. Bicycle Diaries is his latest novel, which is a collection of journals he's written with his musings on bicycling around the world in addition to his musings about cities he's been to around the world (and not all of these musings are bicycle centric).

As Bryne writes in Bicycle Diaries (he travels with a folding bicycle, bicycling as a mode of transportation allows one to navigate within a city on a more personal level than driving in a car does. Certainly some cities are better suited for bicycling than others, but even here in the U.S., more and more cities are becoming bicycle-friendly. Years ago I used to ride a bike as my main source of transportation to and from work and elsewhere, mostly out of economic necessity (this was before I bought my store), but sadly don't ride a bicycle today, other than the stationary one I use in my house for an hour a day five days a week (upon which I read most of Bicycle Diaries on). I only live about seven and a half miles from my store (the same distance I used to commute back and forth to work on a bike pre-owning my store), but a big part of that route is on the freeway (no bicycles allowed) and if I were to use surface routes, the distance each way would be over ten miles. Additionally, while there are areas of the greater Las Vegas such as Green Valley and Summerlin, that are more bike-friendly, most of the city, as it has gotten larger, has I believe, gotten less bike-friendly and thus more dangerous for bicyclists. Besides the good workout riding a bike around town provided, I miss the connectedness with my commute and the environment that Byrne talks about that bicycling provided (however I don't miss how a lot of drivers don't give much space to bicyclists or people that yell at bicyclists when they pass them to scare them as a source of entertainment).

So even though Bicycle Diaries isn't a comic book or graphic novel (grin), I would highly recommend this book to anyone who's ever rode a bike and or to people who like the eccentric musings of David Byrne, who's one of those individuals who's able to look at simple everyday life environments and people in a way that prompts others to see them in different lights.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daytripper #2!

Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, the creators of Vertigo's excellent new series Daytripper, in their On The Ledge column, in the first issue of Daytripper, talk about how each issue of this series is about different time periods in the life of their character, Bras de Olivia Domingos. So each of the ten issues of Daytripper will be self contained forming a bigger picture when it's done.

Having read Daytripper #2, I totally enjoyed / loved it on its own terms, but not really seeing what it may have to do with the first issue (which isn't important for one's enjoyment of this issue or seemingly of any of the issues). It wasn't until I re-read Moon and Ba's On The Ledge column and talked to my friend Rob about the issue that a hypothesis of what the bigger picture of Daytripper is started forming for me. All I'm going to say is that Moon and Ba saying that this book is about different periods in the life of their character Bras, isn't as clear cut as that statement seems on the surface. Additionally, Moon and Ba also describe each issue of Daytripper as a piece of a bigger puzzle so that should be kept in mind when reading this series, but even if you don't remember that while reading each individual issue, Daytripper isn't inaccessible at all, rather it's one of those rare comic books that gives you a complete story EVERY issue and will further reward those who think about the sum of all of the individual issues and how everything is connected.

Daytripper #2 is subtitled "21" and is about Bras, a friend of his, and a woman he meets on a visit to Salvador. Here's the opening passage from this issue which also works as a universal truth:

"And there he was, dreaming about the future. It looked liked bright and right and ready for him. And there was no scary mystery to it and it was right around the corner. Then Bras woke up and realized that, when you turn that corner, that future you have written and wished for is not always there waiting for you. In fact, it usually isn't at all what you expected... around the corner there is just another big annoying question mark. It's called life."

I couldn't be happier with Daytripper and if the next eight issues' quality is of the caliber of the first two (which I would bet is the likely scenario), this will be getting my highest recommendations month after month.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Chill

The Chill is the latest in Vertigo's hardcover black and white crime graphic novels and features the comic book writing debut of novelist Jason Starr, with artist Mick Bertilorenzi, who has an art style similar to Eduarto Risso (100 Bullets). The Chill is very much of the crime fiction genre, with just the right balance of supernatural ongoings that enhances the story without being cliched. I feel like I'm doing a disservice to The Chill by not elaborating upon it here, but I'm at a loss at being able to say anything more, so I hope you, my dear readers of Ich Liebe Comics !, will just accept this entry as a "notice me" shout out to take a look at The Chill because it is a strong entry within the crime comics subset.

Shutter Island

Shutter Island is a new graphic novel, published by TokyoPop (who look to be experimenting with comics other than their usual manga fair to great affect here) with painted sequential art by Christian De Metter, adapting the 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane. The movie version of Shutter Island looks like it's finally going to hit theaters this February, directed by Martin Scorsese and staring Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, and Ben Kingsley. If the movie comes anywhere close to being as engrossing as the graphic novel version of Shutter Island is, it should be a good movie, but even with the caliber of people involved with the movie I'm a little suspicious of it as it's been long delayed.

I'm just going to give a little capsule summation of what Shutter Island is about, because this is definitely one of those stories that is best experienced as it unfolds, with as little prior knowledge of what's going to happen as possible (one of those "don't watch the trailer as it may give story elements away" stories / movies). If you like suspenseful stories with great art, well Shutter Island will take care of you.

Shutter Island takes place in 1954 and is about an investigation by two U.S. marshals who are looking for an escaped mass murderer, from Ashecliffe Hospital, a federal institution for the criminally insane. The entire story takes place on this remote island upon which Ashecliffe Hospital lies upon and makes for a great backdrop for the mystery that ensues.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Where's Red Dragon!?

For years, up until early last year, I've had an inflatable wall Red Dragon head (from Jeff Smith's excellent Bone comic book / graphic novel series) hanging up at my store. The picture on the left is the only image I could find of Red Dragon (other than images from the comic) as I looked everywhere online for a photo of the inflatable version with no luck. Anyway, sadly my inflatable Red Dragon started losing air, so I took him home, put it in a tub of water, only found one hole (which I taped up), but it was still losing air so he had to go to a landfill.

Everyone loved the inflatable Red Dragon, even though some people who haven't read Bone would think it was a moose instead of a dragon (and I can see how they'd think that). No one loved the inflatable Red Dragon more than Julian (he's probably five or six years old), who's the son of Barney (a long time customer here at my store and a really great guy - but that probably describes all of my customers, except that they aren't all guys). Anyway, I didn't know how much Julian really liked Red Dragon until I no longer had the inflatable Red Dragon hanging at the store. Since Red Dragon has been gone, every time Julian comes into the store with his dad, he asks "where is Red Dragon?" and I just tell him that he's at my house because he's "sick".

Today Julian was at my store with his father, Barney, and asked me if Red Dragon was still sick and I told him yes he was. When Julian wasn't in earshot, I told his father the real reason I no longer have the inflatable Red Dragon at my store so it'll be interesting to see if Julian asks about the Red Dragon the next time they come to my store. Will I have to fess up to Julian about Red Dragon and will he think I'm a Red Dragon killer!?

It's certainly interesting what kids choose to remember (well even adults for that matter)! Thank you Jeff Smith for your excellent Bone saga (a great timeless, ageless, humorous, journey-quest) and for the inflatable Red Dragon which provided many years of great service here at my store!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dodgem Logic

Yesterday I was happy to receive from the postman copies of Dodgem Logic, a new zine / underground that Alan Moore is involved with that debuted this past November. I missed the secondary solicitation, which explains why I'm only now getting this, but as soon as I saw that a fellow retailer (Cliff Biggers in Atlanta, Dr. No's Comics) had some extras, well I had to get some as I didn't want to wait for my other copies to come in March.

Dodgem Logic is magazine sized in full color with 40 pages for only $3.99 and also includes a full length CD titled Nation of Saints 50 Years of Northampton Music (of which Alan Moore sings on the first track). Like other zines / underground magazines that have been around basically since printing has existed, Dodgem Logic is a collection of short pieces by various collaborators. Alan Moore starts off the first issue with a six page history of underground magazines / zines, that is for my money worth the cover price of Dodgem Logic all be itself (he also writes and draws a one page comic strip, that didn't resonate with me, which I mention for those who think I just love everything Alan Moore does - maybe I'm too slow to get what Moore was going for in that strip). Melinda Gebbie (artist on Lost Girls of course), writes a two page article on feminism and how it often didn't live up to its aspirations. There's a couple of recipes also within, so if all of the above doesn't suggest how eclectic Dodgem Logic is, I don't know what would. Dodgem Logic seems to have a Northampton focus (that's where Alan Moore lives), but I'm unsure if this will be true of all of its issues, but that's irrelevant as no matter how you slice it, there's definitely sillier ways you could spend $3.99 for material as diverse as what's between the pages of Dodgem Logic.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Footnotes In Gaza

Just before 2009 wrapped up, Joe Sacco's Footnotes In Gaza arrived, making an already great year for original graphic novels even better. Footnotes In Gaza is a 400 page hardcover graphic novel published by Metropolitan Books, written and drawn by comic book journalist Joe Sacco. This graphic novel along with Robert Crumb's The Book of Genesis Illustrated (a literal adaptation of that portion of the Bible, which I haven't read yet) really are in a class by themselves and in my educated opinion, would be at the top of anyone's top ten lists of the year as well as shoe-ins for best graphic novels of 2009 (although my favorite graphic novel of last year is still Logicomix).
Joe Sacco in Footnotes In Gaza, as with his previous graphic novels, Palestine, The Fixer, and Safe Area Gorazde (for which he won an Eisner), doesn't just examine the conflicts his graphic novels chronicle, he lives in those regions amongst the people to truly get the ground floor perspective. Anyone who is familiar with Joe Sacco's artwork can immediately see his attention to detail and how he immerses the reader into the environments his graphic novels are reporting upon, giving the reader of his books a perspective that they can't get from other media's coverage.
Joe Sacco returns to Palestine in Footnotes In Gaza specifically to examine / interview any people that are still alive (and actually remember) a conflict that took place in Rafah in 1956 (called The Suez Crisis) that left 111 Palestinian refugees dead, shot by Israeli soldiers. Many of the people Sacco interviews / talks to wonders why he wants to focus on this event in their past, when, as is mentioned repeatedly in Footnotes In Gaza, "events are continuing", but as Sacco explains, his hope is that if that 1956 incident is understood, it'll help people understand what is happening in Palestine and Israel today.

Following is a particularly strong passage from early in Footnotes In Gaza, in which Sacco conveys the difficulty that occurs when chronicling a "minor" incident / conflict in history:

"History can do without its footnotes. Footnotes are inessential at best: at worst they trip up the greater narrative. From time to time, as bolder more streamlined editions appear, history shakes off some footnotes altogether. And you can see why... history has its hands full. It can't help producing pages by the hour, by the minute."

One doesn't read a book like Footnotes In Gaza to be entertained, rather it is read with the hope that upon finishing it, that a clearer understanding is attained about the subject matter. Ultimately though, even though I thought Footnotes In Gaza was excellent in Sacco's cartooning ability and voice that makes the Palestinian people and their struggles and historic conflict with the Israelis people real and gives a context for the events that happened there in 1956 a framework I wasn't previously aware of, I still can't wrap my head around the horrible things (such as their back and forth suicide bombings that have killed countless men, women, and children and destruction of people's houses) that the Palestinian and Israeli people have been doing to each other for over fifty years now and I can't see how their differences will ever be resolved. So even though I don't totally understand the Palestinian / Israeli conflict (do they even understand it?), I'm grateful for Joe Sacco's Footnotes In Gaza for his determination that events in these countries and what's unfortunately still happening don't just get dismissed as footnotes within history.