Monday, December 31, 2007

Blue Pills

Last night I was happy to have read Blue Pills, a new graphic novel by european cartoonist Frederik Peeters, as it's probably the last book I'll get a chance to read before 2007 wraps up. Blue Pills, was a very strong book to wrap up the year for me and I'd easily put it in the top five graphic novels I've read this year (the other four graphic novels in my top five for 2007 in no particular order are Alice in Sunderland, Black Dossier, Exit Wounds, Alias The Cat, Town of Evening Calm, and MW - wait that's more than five - oh well I guess there was more great graphic novels this past year than I thought and I'm sure that I'm forgetting some, probably in the next few days I'll have an entry for my picks for 2007).

Blue Pills, is subtitled "A Positive Love Story", and being as two of the characters within Blue Pills are HIV positive, the subtitle has a duel meaning. Blue Pills is actually a graphic novel memoir as it is a true story by writer / artist Frederik Peeters. Blue Pills is not just a great love story, it's a great people story full of humor, sadness, small questionings on the meaning of life, and full of love. The art style is evocative of Craig Thompson's style (Blankets) who also contributes a great quote about Blue Pills that sums up how amazing this book is: "This story that could be whiney, self-pitying, and melodramatic is instead passionate and celebratory in his gushy brush lines."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

One More Dog!

No Spoilers following:

The fourth and concluding chapter of the last Spider-Man storyline by JMS and Joe Quesadsa came out yesterday and it's even worse than I thought it would be. I was looking forward to the three times a month shipping Amazing Spider-Man that will follow this arc even fearing what I thought would be the final outcome of One More Day (the actual title of this mess, which others have suggested should have been called One More Delay because this was originally supposed to be over in September). Well, now I'm concerned how good Amazing Spider-Man can be post One More Day because even though the upcoming creative teams look to be really good, they're left with a very messy, backwards turn of events.

Ugh, One More Day, is a huge punctuation mark for what is wrong with most superhero comics, and that is that no progression should take place in the character's lives. I realize that because these characters will be around for many years they can't age too dramatically, but I really think that a good writer could work around this and make the stories still be entertaining without going backwards. I think Amazing Spider-Man will sell well at least for the first three months with Marvel's new three times a month schedule as readers will want to see where they go and how these new creative teams will handle Spidey, but I think ultimately unless the dumbness of One More Day is addressed within upcoming Spider-Man stories, that sales will start drastically falling before the third quarter of 2008 (and if there isn't regular really good creative teams on Amazing Spider-Man, sales will fall even faster as people don't want to just buy a title that has constant rotating creative teams especially if the caliber of that talent starts getting used up).

I'm putting the awfulness of Spider-Man One More Day up there with previous missteps in the character's history, such as Aunt May (and Norman Osborn) returning from their deaths the first time (back in the mid 1990's) and the missing / kidnapped baby of Peter and MJ that Marvel is just ignoring as ever happening (both that they had a baby and that it ended up being shittingly written out of the book). History will not be kind to One More Day - actually as more people read this and share their comments, the present won't be kind to One More Day either. I hate having one of my last posts of the year being negative in tone, but this is such an f-up of a story that I just had to vent.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Stan Lee is 85 today!

Stan Lee is 85 years old today, so raise a glass of your favorite beverage in celebration! Stan Lee, is of course, the co-creator of just about every Marvel character. I got to meet him briefly at a signing at Comic Oasis (one of the other good comic stores here in Vegas), this past May and I was amazed at how energetic he was. Because there was a lot of people at the signng (of course), all I got to say to Stan Lee was thanks for all the years of entertainment and as he signed my Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus (which collects all the Spider-Man stories he did with artist Steve Ditko), he said to me "I hope you enjoy it!" Marvel Comics would definitely not be the same (possibly wouldn't exist) if it weren't for Stan Lee's writing (mostly his dialogue strengths) and the way he made readers feel like they were part of the club. Thanks again Stan Lee and Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Winter Solstice!

I don't know what the exact date is for this year's winter solstice, but it is winter so I'm going to say that any day in the winter season is winter solstice. I'd also like to wish joy and peace to everyone for whatever reason they celebrate this time of year.

Wow, it's been over two weeks since I've posted on my blog! I've been incredibly busy getting ready for the season (I'm sure just about everyone shares that feeling) and prepping the store for my leaving for nine days. As many of you who read my blog know, Kate and I are up in Washington DC for our 10th anniversary. Anyway, I've missed posting here and I just wanted to chime in today and give a special thanks to everyone who has read my blog these past six months.

I've missed posting here (I've been posting at least two or three times since late June) as I find that blogging is a great way to process things I've experienced and share them with others. Besides finishing up the shopping thang that fuels our democratic way of living (and yes of course it can be argued that consumerism is a bad way to run the engine of a country, but I haven't been shown evidence of better ones), I've found pockets of time to still do some comic reading and anime viewing (the latter mostly while working out on my stationary bicycle) with Tezuka's epic manga MW and the anime Beck being standouts. My friends, Cristina and Frankie joined me for an excellent Bjork concert Dec. 15th and we even managed to get right up front at the rails so we were about 6 to 8 feet away from Bjork for most of the show. Bjork, besides being her incredible elfish self, had a ten piece female horn section that added to the awesomeness (and I'm usually not that big of a fan of wind instruments). Bjork closed with an excellent new song called Declare Your Independance, which I'd recommend listening to on Youtube or wherever. My friends the Alvarez family, had their dad go in for heart surgery on Dec. 20th, and Cristina told me that the surgery went well so hopefully Florencio will be up and around soon (he gets stir crazy pretty easily). My fellow manga and anime and all around great friend Rachelle, also got her BA at UNLV in geology degree in a ceremony (that I was sadly unable to attend) last Friday, but her college adventure isn't over. And my friends in Miami, the Tuckers, Rick, Zena, Nicole, and Lorraine are spending the holidays together as Nicole and Lorraine are on their college breaks (some of you may rember me talking about the Tucker family back in July as they hosted me and Kate on our fantastic trip to Germany in May when they were still living there).

Kate and myself have been here in Washington DC since last Wednesday and we're having a great time. We love this city with its rich history, the dramatic architecture, and the wealth of things to do that are all relatively close to one another. I can't imagine visiting the many memorials and museums in Washington DC and not feeling history wash over you. My favorite museum on this visit was the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which as anyone who is even vaguely aware of the horrors that happened during World War II, is a very powerfully sad, but well done museum / memorial to the Jewish people.

Today we're taking an off day from visiting museums, partly because just about all of them are closed, but also to recharge for the next couple of days. Kate also thinks she may be coming down with a little cold so she's trying to nip that in the bud. If she's feeling better later this afternoon, we hope to get out and see No Country For Old Men (which I understand is a great uplifting holiday movie, ha-ha).

Well I'm going to do a little reading of the Comics Buyers Guide magazine before seeing about getting something for lunch (having already read the comics I brought with and having finished the newest volumes of the excellent mangas Emma, Drifting Classroom, Monster, and the previously mentioned 600 page Tezuka crime-horror manga MW). Thanks again for those of you reading my blog and for all of you who have shopped at my store where I've made many of my best friends that are living both in Vegas and around the country.. I hope to have at least one more post before the year closes (probably Sunday) with some more comic centric reviews and impressions.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Ice Wanderer

The Ice Wanderer by Jiro Taniguchi is a new English collection of a great manga graphic novel with five short stories inspired and done in homage to novelist Jack London (The Call of the Wild, White Fang). The stories contained within The Ice Wanderer deal with man co-existing with sometimes brutal environments and man against other animals on this planet.

Tangiguci's line work, as is clear from the page to the left from The Ice Wanderer, is crisp with a capital "C" and anyone who enjoys Adrian Tomie's art (Optic Nerve) will also enjoy the work of Jiro Taniguchi. Whereas Tomine in his art mostly just concentrates on people and uses shadows and lighting to convey moods and atmosphere, Taniguchi is actually a more rounded artist, in that his backgrounds, be they of cityscapes or nature, have their own character and speak volumes unto themselves. I'd also recommend The Walking Man, another excellent manga graphic novel by Taniguchi that has been translated into English and is a great quiet story about a man just walking through his little village and reflecting on the simple beauties in everyday life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Moon Knight Annual?

Last week Moon Knight Annual was released. Basically Moon Knight is Marvel's version of Batman. Moon Knight was created in 1975 by Doug Moench and artist Don Perlin, but it wasn't until Moench was joined by artist Bill Sienkiewicz, that the character would go beyond just being another Batman type character. Sienkiewicz started his comic book art career with a style that was heavily influenced by Neal Adams, who had a realistic style, but it wasn't until Sienkiewicz started drawing on influences like artist Ralph Steadman, that he took his art to an exciting new level that really changed how a lot of people looked at comic books (especially super hero comics).

A couple of years ago, Marvel started up a new Moon Knight series, but it quickly lost steam as it became one of those late titles and didn't live up to it's early promise. Well last week's Moon Knight Annual is a return to the kind of edgy Moon Knight stories I remembered Moench and Sienkiewicz doing. The writer on this done in one story is best selling crime fiction author Duane Swierczynski with his comic book debut and the art is also by a newcomer, Jefte Paolo. This was a great little revenge story in which Moon Knight isn't even really neccesary. I wish that Swierczynski was the regular writer on Moon Knight, but I just did a little search on what he's got coming up and he's going to be the new writer on Cable (!?). Cable is an X-Men character whom I think is one of those characters that almost is the exception to the rule that any character can be good depending on who the creative team is - meaning Cable really is a throwaway character that no creator of note cares about (Joe Casey and Laddron had a little run on Cable a few years ago that was good in a Kirbyesque kind of way). Maybe Duane Swierczynski is gong to be writing Cable because he can do anything with this character. I think after this Moon Knight Annual, I'll definitely be reading the first couple of issues of his Cable to see if h's a great new voice for comics that I think he may be.

By the way the Moon Knight cover here is not the Moon Knight Annual, rather I chose a great Sienkiewicz cover from yesteryear because the cover of the Annual is somewhat lame and doesn't suggest how good the interior story is.

Zombie's Calling!

One of the best comics (graphic novel, really) that I read this past Sunday was Zombie's Calling by Faith Erin Hick's and published by Slave Labor Graphics. Just when you thought everything had already been done on the zombie front along comes Zombie's Calling! Zombie's Calling actually came out November 14th and being as that was a huge release week (with a little book called Black Dossier arriving in addition to thousands of other titles), I only got a chance to quickly flip through the book. Before I knew it, I'd sold out of it before I got a chance to read it and it wasn't until about a week later when I read Rachelle Goguen's rave review of the book in her excellent blog Living Between Wednesdays (this blog was recommended to me by my friend Nicole, who attends Shippingsburg University in PA), that Zombie's Calling made it back on my radar.
As Rachelle mentioned on her blog, Zombie's Calling will definitely play well with people who enjoy Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim. Faith Erin Hicks, the creator of Zombie's Calling, like Scott O'Malley, is also from Canada, and Zombie's Calling is in the same manga sized format as Scott Pilgrim and is just as kinetic, funny, and entertaining, with great characterizations, but isn't derivative.

The central character in Zombie's Calling is Joss, who starts off as just a fan of zombie movies, but quickly becomes a take charge character because she knows "the rules". Zombie's Calling gets started right away and while this is a complete story, I hope that Hicks has a follow up planned. I'm sure that Zombie's Calling will do well as soon as the rabid Scott Pilgrim and zombie fans hear about the buzz on this book! Visit for updates from this exciting new cartoonist.

Where's Santa!?

This past Saturday, December 1st, Vegas had another Santa Run, which is a benefit for Opportunity Village. They were also trying to break a world record for number of people gathered dressed as Santa so along with your registration fee you got a Santa suit. Well I saw people with runner / walker tags that numbered over 11,000 and before the run they announced that they had gotten about 8,000 people registered (and people could also register after the run / walk). At 8,000 I believe the record was already shattered (held by Liverpool, England, but they were also doing another run this year). I haven't seen any official numbers yet, but as you can see there was a sea of red down on Fremont Street this past Saturday.
Everyone looked to be having a fun time, but the beginning of the run / walk could have been orgainized better as it was really hard to get out of the pack if you weren't at the very front. I was kind of surprised to find out that this run wasn't timed like all the other 5k's (3.1 miles) held around town. Oh well, the main objective was to raise a lot of money for Opportunity Village and have fun. I'm also guessing that maybe this event wasn't timed, rather it also just served as a warm up for people that were running in the Las Vegas Marathon which was on Sunday.
As you can imagine it was cool to see so many people dressed as Santa (there was even dogs dressed as Santa - cats wouldn't put up with that!). I wasn't with this group, but they seemed fairly harmless.
And the 5k Santa Run is about to start (15 minutes late)! Wow, being in a crowd this huge reminded me of the San Diego Comic-Con!

Pictured with me is my friend Man (pronounced "mon" as in "Mon-El" and yes that's the correct spelling except the letter "a" should have those two little dots, called umlauts, above it). This is only Man's second 5k and I think if she keeps at it she'll have a better time than me before too long (this year I've run 5k's in about 24 minutes, which is about a 7 minute something mile, but I've run it in as fast as 21.18 minutes)! As you can see from our Santa suits (or lack of) the run really plays havok with the ability of wearing the whole outfit the entire time!