Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Plane Story; Kevin Sacco

The Plane Story is a debut graphic novel by commercial artist (advertising), Kevin Sacco. The Plane Story is dedicated to cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, who along with cartoonist Will Eisner, are the two artists that Kevin Sacco's cartooning figures and themes in this graphic novel most resemble.

As to why Kevin Smith titled his autobiography The Plane Story, isn't something I got from reading this book, but I did enjoy it, even though it maybe reads faster then a graphic novel about a life lived (and how he got to his present point) should read, in my opinion. As I've stated, I did enjoy The Plane Story and hope that Kevin Sacco does some more comic book narratives, but I just wish this graphic novel had a little more weight than it does.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sad, sad, sad...

I just read that comic book and animation writer, Dwayne McDuffie died. From early reports that are coming in, he died yesterday from complications from a surgery he had. Whatever happened (and I don't know what he was getting surgery for), Dwayne McDuffie was only 48 years old and that's waaaay too young to die. The only time I met him was back in November 2008, when he was a guest at the Vegas Valley Comicfest at the Clark County Library (that's where this photo is from). If I remember correctly, it was Derrick, of Comic Oasis, who was instrumental in Dwayne McDuffie actually coming out to Vegas for our Comicsfest that year (Kate and I, being that we've been on the planning committee for the past few years with Derrick, loudly echoed our support that Dwayne McDuffie would be a great guest - and he was).
Just about everyone who reads comics and watches some of the best in animation already know that Dwayne McDuffie had (damn, I'm having a hard time writing about him in the past tense) many credits to his name, including creating Static for DC Comics' Milestone line, writing Damage Control (one of my favorites of his comic books) for Marvel, and writing most of the episodes of the very, very excellent Justice League Unlimited cartoon.

It looks like Dwayne McDuffie's last script writing will be the adaptation he did of All Star Superman that came out today from DC Comics animation. I was really looking forward to watching this tonight, but now it's going to be a sad experience. I'm not a religious person at all, but it's times like this that I hope there is an afterlife so that Dwayne McDuffie can entertain the people there as he has here on this mortal realm for so many years and will continue to for years to come as new generations discover his work. The comics industry and animation have lost a great voice, with the passing of Dwayne McDuffie. Sad.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friday night's all right for meeting new friends!

This past Friday, over at Buffalo Wild Wings on the northwest side of town, Brieanna Brock (as seen here in this first photo with her husband Heath, who has a Thor fixation - grin), organized a drink and draw for people to meet some of her artist friends who she brought in for the Maximum Comics / Alternate Reality Comics signing and Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth benefit this past weekend.
Derrick, who owns Comic Oasis, was at the shindig, with his friends, artist Charles Holbert, and Lauren (here in this second photo with Derrick), who is Charles' art agent and also works with Desert Wind, a local comic grading company. I had never met Lauren previously, but we had a great chat and just further serves to show the quality of people Derrick surrounds himself with.

Derrick, between his Coors Light (haha - sorry to be a beer snob!) chatting with Brieanna.

For those of you who haven't met Charles Holbert at Comic Oasis (he does a lot of art for Derrick's store) or at any other art event around town, in this fourth photo is Charles, with an UBER cool drawing he surprised me with when I got to the Friday thang! It's hanging at my store (Alternate Reality Comics, of course) on the original art wall hall of fame!

A not so great, but kinda funny photo (notice artist Eric Basaldua with his mouth open, full of food!) of some of the people who were at the drink and draw. It was also good to see Jeff (another one of the Comic Oasis lads), Justin (from Battlezone Comics and also grand marshal and founder of the Las Vegas chapter of drink and draw and a damn fine artist as well!), Jason, and a bunch of other people who were there (I didn't write everyone's name down, nor did I get a chance to talk to a lot of people there). Jay, From Maximum Comics intended on coming, but he had another engagement that extended longer than he thought it would, but I heard that his Saturday event with the visiting artists was well attended, a fun time, and raised a good amount of donations for Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.

Sunday artist jam & benefit pt.1!

As I mentioned above in the entry above, this weekend was a visiting Arizona artists signing / artfest / charity benefit that Maximum Comics hosted on Saturday and Alternate Reality Comics hosted on Sunday.

Brieanna Brock (look her up on facebook), who wears many hats, both figuratively and literally, as she cosplays as many comic characters, including ones from Zenescope, is Rave theater's first Saturday of every month midnight scream queen host (she goes by the name Selena, Mistress of the Ring when she does that), and contributes to, in addition to just being an all around great promoter of artists and all things fandom related, is friends with all of the many artists who came into town this weekend, and she made this whole event possible.

Here in this first photo is Jamie, with a BEAUTIFUL Red Sonja piece of art he commissioned from Eric Basaldua!
Artist Eric Basaldua (has done artwork for Top Cow titles such as Witchblade and Darkness and many covers for Zenescope) with his gal, Amanda Wink (who's cosplayed as Zatanna,of course). Eric is happily showing off the bottle of rum that Jamie brought him (here's a hint on how to get especially great art from Eric - bring RUM!)!
This happy attendee of my first Sunday event EVER at Alternate Reality Comics, got an awesome Wolverine print done by Eric Basaldua!

Pat, checking out some art from the Arizona artists side of the event area (we segregated Eric to a table opposite them as he's from California - grin).

From left to right, artists April Reyna, Jean Arrow, and Andy Bohn. I was amazed at the quality of art that was done by all of the artists, as they were working on very little sleep, from two previous nights of doing the Vegas thang!

Sunday artist jam & benefit pt.2!

Eric Basaldua with Kate and myself, holding the bottle of rum we got him. Another patron of the arts who isn't in any of my photos here, Gary Rabuzi, also brought Eric a bottle of rum, and as Eric said upon seeing the three bottles "Now I've got my breakfast, lunch, and dinner lined up!" Did I mention that Eric likes rum!?

Andy Bohn did this great piece of art showing some different Robins for Jason!

Just a little shot of some of the people who made it out to Sunday's artfest / signing / benefit. Thanks to everyone who came out and made the day the success it couldn't have been without you! I was a little nervous about what the turnout would be, being that Sundays are amongst the store's slower day, but the artists were happy with the amount of people who came out and a good amount of donations was raised for Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (and Maximum Comics, who hosted the artists on Saturday had the same results)! My hat is being tipped to the Las Vegas comic fan community!

This is artist Alfred Truijilo, who's done artwork for Zenescope, holding his FANTASTIC original art donation that was one of the raffles prizes to raise donations for our chosen charity. All of the artists donated pieces to be used as raffle prizes, so I'd like to thank them all for doing that - I know the people who won them on Sunday will give them great homes!
Artist Jean Arrow, who did this awesome piece of art for Jason, who's one of Las Vegas' foremost supporters of the comic book community here (he actually visits all of the valley's comic book stores to make sure none of us step out of line - grin!)!

Sunday art jam & benefit pt.3!

Brieanna Brock (event organizer), cosplaying as Phoenix from the X-Men (I don't know if she was Phoenix in honor of her Arizona artists friends - I just thought of that, but she was probably waaaay ahead of me), with her friend, Victoria Paege, an actress and model, who also wears many hats at, and lucky old me!

April Reyna did a very fun drawing of Epstein for me that will also be on the original art wall of fame here at Alternate Reality Comics!

As the event ended, I had the idea of getting this group shot in front of my store, but I forgot to tone down the sun, which is was stabbing us in our eyes. I think it's funny that Brieanna / Phoenix seems most bothered by the sun, as you'd think she could have done something about it!
Brieanna holding the Claremont / Byrne X-Men graphic novel in which Phoenix becomes Dark Phoenix, so we've got a before and after thing going on here!

Thank you, Brieanna, Heath, Eric, Amanda, Alfred, April, Jean (and Jean's husband), Andy (and Crista, Andy's girlfriend), and Victoria for coming out to Vegas, for the great art, and for the making the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth benefit a big success! Thanks to everyone who showed up at Maximum Comics and Alternate Reality Comics and got some cool art and made the donation amount we collected possible, and everyone who showed up at the drink and draw on Friday! And last, but not least, thanks to Paul Thompkins and Jason Lovin for helping me make the day run as smoothly as it did!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

ComicsPRO 2011 pt. 1 of 3!

ComicsPRO is a comic store retailer exclusive organization that was formed to give a unified voice to concerns that comic book store retailers have with our publishing partners in this industry and to find ways in which we can all make our comic book stores even more fun and efficient. Last week, this year's meeting was held in Dallas and with many more new members and publishers being present than in previous years to communicate how things can be better on both sides of the fence, the future looks really solid from my perspective for the comic book industry.

In this first photo here is Dan Didio, co-publisher of DC Comics, with Jon Cohen, of Beyond Comics in Maryland (or did I get them mixed up - grin!). All of the first day I had wanted to get a photo of the two of them together and I'm thankful that they agreed to doing this photo instead of just slugging me!

I've known Jon for years, from previous retailer get-togethers, but I never really got a chance to speak to Dan Didio on a one to one basis, until the next night when he was sitting amongst myself, Kate, Jud, from Earth-2 Comics, Richard, of Zeus Comics, and Jay, from Maximum Comics during dinner. Dan graciously listened and talked to us during and after dinner for a good lengthy stretch. Before talking to Dan Didio last week at the ComicsPRO meeting, I didn't get much of an impression that he was the best person to be in the position he's in at DC Comics. Well, I'm here to eat my words and state that Dan Didio IS VERY passionate about making DC Comics a big force in this industry. I wish that everyone out there who owns a comic book store, is a comic book creator, or comic fan, could have been listening in to his dialogue with us about where things are within DC and the industry as this would show his naysayers what he's up against.

I'd like to state to any comic store retailers who happened to have stumbled onto my blog here, that aren't already ComicsPRO members, that I've had many such one on one conversations with people in this industry (such as Dan Didio) over the years at ComicsPRO meetings that aren't possible to the same extent in any other setting, convention, or online forum that I've been a part of. The value of these direct conversations with fellow retailers and other industry people can't be stressed enough.

The staff at the Doubletree worked really hard to have vegetarian and vegan food options. Most places have a really hard time making breakfast vegan options, but as long as they have fruit and bagels, I'm happy!

I'm going to admit that when I first heard that Todd McFarlene (creator of Spawn and owner of some very expensive baseballs) was going to be one of the guests at this year's ComicsPRO meeting, I was skeptical of what he could say that would be of any worth to myself and the organization, but as soon as he started speaking I knew he had been around the comic industry block a few years, you could tell that he really had an understanding of the business side of the comic book industry, and had many interesting promotional ideas that comic stores could do. I seriously could have listened to him talk all day!

Another great vegan dinner the Doubletree kitchen crew put together!

Me with my winning CBLDF auction bid on a plexiglass drawing Jeffrey Brown (Clumsy, Unlikely) did of Wolverine. CBLDF stands for Comic Book League Defense Fund and this nonprofit organization exists to defend the first amendment rights of comic book store retailers, comic book creators, and publishers. This unique, fun piece of art will be on display at Alternate Reality Comics in the very near future when I find just the right place for it!

ComicsPRO 2011 pt. 2 of 3!

Last Saturday night, after the ComicsPRO meetings ended, Chris Powell of Lone Star Comics, organized a tour of four Dallas comic book stores. Here in this self photo taken on the bus as it departed is Kate and myself (from Alternate Reality Comics in Vegas, of course) in the foreground and on the top left is Jay from Maximum Comics (another Vegas store - he's got two actually) and Derrick from Comic Oasis (yet ANOTHER great Vegas store), with Gary Dills of Laughing Ogre Comics trying to muscle in on the Vegas posse (grin!) on the very far right. Derrick and Jay are good friends of Kate and myself and being as we're all busy with or own stores, we don't get to get together with each other as much as we like, so we got some good hanging out time done in Dallas. And we all got to do some good visiting and sharing of ideas with other fellow retailers, even though they weren't from Vegas (double grin)!
The first store we visited was Keith's Comics and here's Keith welcoming us into his store. Keith's Comics is enormous, which you can't tell from the exterior, it's VERY long and a person could get lost looking at all the treasures within.

I apologize for not having better (or more) photos here on this entry that would give you a sense of these stores if you haven't had the pleasure of visiting yourself, but I will have more interior photos on my Alternate Reality Comics, Las Vegas facebook page tomorrow (blogspot doesn't allow for more than five photos per entry, that's why this ComicsPRO report is in three parts).
The second store we visited was Chris and Richard's Zeus Comics and it is a beautiful, fun store. Zeus Comics is a great example of a modern comic book store, whereas Keith's Comics is a great example of an old school comic book store done right.

In this photo above from left to right is: me (Ralph, natch), Chris (Zeus Comics), Kate, and Richard (Zeus Comics)
The third store on the tour was Wayne's Generation X Comics and this was also a VERY large store with gaming being a very big part of their operation (but comic books were well represented). Wayne and his wife made ribs for those of us that weren't vegetarians or vegans and Kate (not being a vegetarian) was very happy.

In this photo above you can see within the window to the meat room at Generation X Comics, Derrick from Comic Oasis on the left and Chris from Lone Star Comics.
The tour ended at Lone Star Comics, which is another LARGE comic book store (well we were in Texas, where they seem to do everything king sized!) and this store also had a big gaming section, but they also have a large, very nicely displayed selection of the diverse cross section of genres comics encompass. I love their graphic novel shelves!

I want to thank everyone at all four of the stores on the tour for being so hospitable to all of us. Please remember to check out the Alternate Reality Comics, Las Vegas facebook page tomorrow for more photos of all four of these fab Dallas stores!

ComicsPRO 2011 pt. 3 0f 3!

Boom Studios!, brought out an RV that was filled with brews to the ComicsPRO meeting, and although it was parked in the Doubletree parking lot, everyone managed to not spend the entire weekend within said RV (as tempting as that was)! I think Boom Studios! wants retailers to remember the RV experience when placing orders for their titles, which isn't a trick they need as they publish a wide variety of a lot of what's great in comics today!

Here in this first photo is me and Kate on the right, with Chip Mosher from Boom Studios! to my left and his boy wonder at Boom Studios! to his left (sorry I'm a putz and can't remember his name - I blame it on the Blue Moons!) and Jay from Maximum Comics (Vegas & Henderson) in front of all of us in his Hammer Time! shirt!

Another shot from inside the Boom Studios! RV featuring Stuart Shreck (DC Comics sales guru) and Kate.

John Munn of Comic Book Ink, Kate, and Joe Field from Flying Colors Comics (also creator of Free Comic Book Day, of which this Saturday, May 7th will mark the 10th anniversary!, and President of ComicsPRO).

Joe Field (Flying Color Comics in Concord, California) with Barry from Southern Fried Comics in Hattiesburg, Missouri, who will be celebrating his store's one year anniversary in August!

Calum of Strange Adventures in Halifax, Canada (also a ComicsPRO board member), with Amanda Emmert, who owns Muse Comics in Montana and is the engine of ComicsPRO (seriously, she's like the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of ComicsPRO and all the other board members always say that the organization wouldn't be were it is today without her).

Well that wraps up my ComicsPRO meeting overview, but it doesn't wrap up what I took out of the meetings and I'm anxious to get cracking on the notes I took to power Alternate Reality Comics further into 2011 and beyond for many more years! I want to close by once again suggesting to comic book stores reading this that aren't already members of ComicsPRO to visit and consider joining because there really is strength in numbers and I'm sure there's things you're doing in your stores and or ideas you have about the industry that we could all benefit from. And I hope I've imparted upon you all what a fun time is had in addition to the valuable meetings.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Original Johnson v.2; Trevor Von Eeden

How many ways is there to say how fantastic something is? However many ways there are, they all apply to Trevor Von Eeden's two volume graphic novel biography of Jack Johnson, called The Original Johnson. This was the second great graphic novel that came out last week (the other being Psychiatric Tales that I've got a blog entry below this one) that I read Sunday on the plane back from the Dallas ComicsPRO comic book store retailer meeting this past weekend.

Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the whole world and as Trevor Von Eeden shows in The Original Johnson, he wasn't just powerful in the ring. Being that Jack Johnson was a black man living in the late 1800s and early 1900, he lived in a time that was very racist and many didn't like that a black man was the champion of "their" sport.

People sometimes shy away from biographies because they think they're just boring retellings of history, well there seems to have been nothing boring about Jack Johnson's life, rather he seemed like a force of nature, thus The Original Johnson is VERY exciting. Trevor Von Eeden's art is also very raw and primal and is the perfect style for the power that was Jack Johnson.

Mike Gold, in his equally excellent afterward to Trevor Von Eeden's The Original Johnson has this to say about where we are as a nation almost a hundred years later:

"But we really have made some progress. Lynching is way down, and there's a growing and viable black middle class. We even allow black doctors to have white patients, and in some neighborhoods blacks and whites can swim in the same bodies of water. Who knows, maybe in another century we'll even let Americans of African descent join the Tea Bag movement."

The Original Johnson isn't preachy at all in its depiction of racism, instead it shows how farcical and embarrassing racism is and how little people who hold those views are. Did I mention that The Original Johnson is excellent and fantastic!?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Psychiatric Tales; Darryl Cunningham

On my return flight from the ComicsPRO comic store retailer meeting in Dallas yesterday, I read Psychiatric Tales, one of two excellent graphic novels that came out last week. Psychiatric Tales is written and drawn by Darryl Cunningham and is subtitled Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness, which is exactly what this graphic novel is about, from an insider's perspective, as Cunningham, the cartoonist worked as a health care assistant in a psychiatric ward.

I do enjoy many escapist comic books and graphic novels of the super hero variety, but my very favorite kinds of sequential art productions are in the non fiction, autobiographical vein. So I knew that if Darryl Cunningham handled the subject matter of Psychiatric Tales in a thorough fashion, that this was going to be a book I was going to want to read. I'm happy to say that Psychiatric Tales exceeded my expectations and this will be a graphic novel that I'll be able to easily recommend for years.

Darryl Cunningham writes in his illustrated introduction: "Psychiatric Tales is intended to be a stigma-busting book. This is because fear and ignorance of mental illness remain widespread in society." I strongly believe that anyone who reads Psychiatric Tales will have a new understanding of the various kinds of mental illnesses that people have. I'm sure everyone knows or has known someone with a mental illness and reading Psychiatric Tales will make it easier going forward when this arises again in our lives (and yes, even depression is a mental illness, an ailment that a lot of even "normal" people experience to varying degrees).

Darryl Cunningham's art style as the interior page above shows, is minimalistic, but I think it perfectly communicates the subject matter of Psychiatric Tales. I especially was moved by Darryl Cunningham's last chapter, of which I'm not going to discuss, because I think it's better read not knowing what that last chapter is about, so with this in mind, please don't read the back of Psychiatric Tales when you look at this graphic novel.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Arizona artists visiting Vegas event!

Time to mark your calendars for what's going to be a fun time at Alternate Reality Comics that could very well redefine what a fun time is! Sunday, February 20th from 12-4pm, I'll be hosting several artists from Arizona, California, and Las Vegas!

Here's the line up: Eric Basaldua (artist on comics from Top Cow and Zenescope), Rob Duenas (Penny For Your Soul), Alfred Trujillo (Zenescope artist), local artists Jean Arrow, Andy Bohn, April Grady Reyna, Tosh Delaney, Shelby Robertson, Brieanna Brock (Zenescope cosplayer and contributor on the website, Victoria Page (contributor on and cosplayer), and Michael Duran (who cosplays as Superman on the Las Vegas Strip)! It's a good thing I moved my store to a bigger space!

This event is your chance to get some uber cool art sketches from some amazing artists, purchase a raffle ticket for your chance to win a piece of art from these artists, and there'll be additional raffle prizes from Alternate Reality Comics, and the much beloved .25 cent back issue sale! All proceeds from the back issue sale and all raffle tickets purchased will be donated to the Nevada Partnership For Homeless Youth (Safe Place), a local charity that assists teens who have become homeless and or are having difficulty in their lives.

This event is the brainchild of Brieanna Brock, who recently moved from Arizona to Vegas. Brieanna is bringing her skills in helping out at Arizona conventions and is looking to make Vegas an even more exiting place for comic book fans than it already is. Not only is this lineup of artists going to be at Alternate Reality Comics on Sunday, Feb. 20th (from 12-4pm), but they'll be at my buddy Jay's, Maximum Comics in Henderson (just down from the Sunset Station) on Saturday, Feb. 19th (12-4pm), and to continue my talking about this whole event in a backwards fashion, they'll be at Buffalo Wild Wings (Craig and Commerce) for a Drink and Draw on Friday, Feb. 18th from 9pm until the alcohol runs out!

So you get not one, not two, but three chances to visit with young up and coming artists, cosplay people, and other lads and lasses who love comic book art and comic book fandom! I hope that everyone who is reading this Ich Liebe Comics! event entry will come to either the Friday Feb.18th night hangout, the Saturday Feb. 19th signing at Maximum Comics, the Sunday Feb. 20th signing at Alternate Reality Comics (my store's first Sunday event!), or better yet - all three meet ups and show Brieanna and these visiting artists that Las Vegas comic fans know how to have a fun time! Tell everyone you know about this Presidents Day weekend Arizona Comic Book Artists Event here in Vegas! Those of you who haven't heard of the Justice League of Las Vegas can ask Brieanna what it is about and how you can be a part of it!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vietnamerica A Family's Journey; GB Tran

Vietnamerica is a new 280 page color hardcover graphic novel by Gia-Bao (GB) Tran, published by Villard about his parents, who are from Vietnam, and their journey to America in the 1970s. Vietnamerica is a complex narrative, fitting for a complex country (Vietnam) and America's involvement into that countries war / conflict in the 1960s and 1970s.

I was really looking forward to reading Vietnamerica when I first heard about its release because while I had a historical knowledge of Vietnam, I was hoping that this graphic novel would give me a first hand, personal perspective of what living there was like, especially during the Vietnam War. Vietnamerica did accomplish this to an extent, but ultimately I didn't connect with it as much as I had hoped I would, as it doesn't have the personal, emotional resonances of Maus or Perspepolis. I think that this is partly because GB Tran, the creator of Vietnamerica, was only coming to terms with what living in Vietnam and the Vietnam War (he was born in the U.S. a year after his parents arrived here) was like by the time he gets to the end of his graphic novel and I definitely wish there were at least a couple of chapters more.

I'm sure I'll appreciate Vietnamerica more upon another reading and I definitely believe that GB Tran is a cartoonist to watch in the future. Tran's art is lush and evocative of the best of Craig Thompson, of Blankets fame. I am somewhat concerned that my Ich Liebe Comics! entry here on Vietnamerica reads as a lukewarm review, but I really do think this is a solid autobiographical graphic novel, I just was looking for a little something more and hope that people still take a look / read of Vietnamerica.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Scenes From An Impending Marriage

Scenes From An Impending Marriage is a new hardcover graphic novelette, by Adrian Tomine. Scenes From An Impending Marriage is a reworking of a book Tomine gave to his wedding guests and is a cute (although not in the annoying way, wedding things of this nature can be) and works as an entertaining production by Tomine until he releases his next sequential art production (which like the work of Daniel Clowes, is becoming less and less frequent).

While Scenes From An Impending Marriage doesn't have the subject matter weight of other Tomine graphic novels like Summer Blonde or Sleepwalk and Other Stories, or the fine clean art line Tomine has perfected, it is packaged in a nice hardcover format for only $9.95 that offers a nice look at the private life of Adrian Tomine and what he's been up to lately (he even has a daughter and lives in New York City these days!).