Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rorschach does San Diego

I should be posting my San Diego convention blog entries in the next day or two as I get caught up here at my store, but for now here's a great blog by comic book writer Neil Kleid (Brownsville, Ninety Candles) If you haven't read Watchmen, you won't get that blog, but if you have you'll not read a better convention report (and for those of you who haven't read Watchmen yet, you have until March)!

Claytor interview & signing Friday

Following is an interview that Las Vegas CityLife journalist Jarret Keene did with Ryan Claytor, creator / cartoonist of And Then One Day (reprinted here with permission). And for those of you reading this who haven't seen my post on Ryan and And Then One Day yesterday (the entry below this entry), Ryan will be signing And Then One Day at my store tomorrow from 4-6pm and entertaining all who show up with stories about the big wacky San Diego convention and comic stores across the U.S. that he's signed at over the years.

Matters of perspective
Ryan Claytor puts new spin on autobiographical comics
LAST weekend, Ryan Claytor attended Comic-Con International in San Diego, along with hundreds of other international comic-book creators. But Claytor wasn't there to promote his latest work-for-hire stint on a major property character like, say, Captain America, X-Men or Batman. Rather, he was there to represent his own unique series of autobiographical comics, including the beautifully designed And Then One Day #6 -- The Autobiographical Documentary. In other words, in a sea of commercial sci-fi enterprises, there was this unassuming guy at a table, hawking comics about his life.

"I can't relate all that well to imaginative space travel," Claytor admits during a recent interview. "But I can relate to everyday life, ordinary people and the quest for understanding ourselves as individuals and a society. That's one of the things that keeps me coming back to autobiography as my genre of choice."

For Claytor, another exciting aspect of autobiography in comics is it's a nascent, largely unexplored art form. Many folks, even comics enthusiasts, don't realize the first autobiographical comic appeared less than 40 years ago. This is a genre that still has living founders, which is rare you if consider the majority of art history textbooks.

"As an artist, the fact that there remains so much room for exploration also makes autobiographical comics an attractive genre to investigate," he says.

And Then One Day #6 definitely adds a new twist by rendering the perspectives of others. Claytor got his friends and family to agree to answer a series of recorded interviews in a room by themselves. They were asked questions about Claytor, who then transcribed the results into comic-book form. Sure, it's a lot of talking heads, but the way he captures a range of facial expressions -- confusion, hurt, boredom, grief-- is incredible (and not something one expects from an industry known for its grim-faced vigilantes). The process took a year and, not surprisingly, some of the responses caught him off guard.

"It was enlightening, and you should only undertake it with the thickest of skin," he confirms. "One interviewee in particular still apologizes to me every time the subject of my book is brought up. I have to reassure this person that a candid response is exactly the kind of answer I wanted. It makes the book read as authentic -- a little uncomfortable, a bit humorous -- and revealing so that the audience doesn't feel punches are pulled."

The most heart-wrenching moments in ATOD#6 are when Claytor's mom speaks emotionally and lovingly of her son. Claytor admits her responses were difficult to transcribe. Her tape was the last recording he listened to, because he knew it would be emotional to hear what she had to say.

Yet as affecting as certain moments are, others demonstrate how supportive the art-majoring graduate students of San Diego State University have been to Claytor, and to each other, in the last couple of years.

"There was a tight network of students from a variety of disciplines in my department," says Claytor. "I had no idea this would be the case going in. I think it's partially luck, because you never know who the other students will be, since everyone is applying concurrently. But I think an equal part is about being a proactive participant, interacting with students and faculty both inside and outside one's own emphasis."

Indeed, Claytor's comics, published by his own Elephant Eaters imprint, can often be academic-oriented. But he doesn't take offense at the suggestion his work might be better suited for a college classroom than a gathering of superhero-worshiping nerds at a comic convention. Having just launched a 10-state summer book-signing tour on the way to new digs in East Lansing, Mich., he is surveying the best comic shops in the country.

"Capes and tights are still every shop's bread and butter income," he observes. "But the best stores take time to nurture an independent, small-press section and sometimes even a 'local creator' section."

Claytor believes the industry is currently experiencing an unprecedented influx of thought-provoking books right now. Still, retailers wishing to promote small-press books walk the tightrope of providing interesting material, yet taking a gamble on whether or not there will be a large enough audience to support unusual books. For his part, Claytor says that, despite the personal nature of his work, he tries to make his comics accessible to as many people as possible.

"I hope my books strike a common chord with readers, enough so that they can relate to some of the situations, philosophies and sentiments expressed."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And Then One Day - signing!

This Friday from 4-6pm, I (Alternate Reality Comics), will be hosting one of Ryan Claytor's And Then One Day signings on his way to Michigan (he's a California native).
And Then One Day is a great autobiographical comic that Ryan Claytor has been doing for the pst few years and unlike most autobio comics, it's not depressing (not that there's anything wrong with that kind of autobio comic and I like a lot of those). Claytor has three really nice inexpensive (but high quality) collections out of And Then One Day so come on out and show a great up and coming cartoonist some love before he leaves the Southwest!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tori Amos' Comic Book Tattoo

Today Image released Comic Book Tattoo, a massive 476 pages 12 by 12 anthology with 50 comic book stories based on or inspired by Tori Amos songs for only $29.99. This is a truly gorgeous book and is one of the best looking comic book anthologies I've ever seen. I'm going to guess that this will be one of THE books at the San Diego convention, but you can also get it at your favorite comic store!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

San Diego Calling!

Last night I finished packing for the San Diego Comic Con which starts tomorrow and lasts until Sunday. I hope the luggage handlers don't throw my suitcase around too much or Alucard (our cat pictured here) is going to be really pissed when we get there (grin)!

I need to review the panel programming, but off the top of my head I'm most excited to see Lynda Barry and tell her how awesome I thought her new book What It Is is and also showering praise upon Alex Robinson for his new excellent graphic novel Too Cool to be Forgotten. And Saturday is each day and that's often worth the whole trip straight up. I'm also looking forward to going to the Jack Kirby tribute panel on Sunday to represent with my Big Barda tattoo.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight - no spoilers!

Kate and I saw Batman The Dark Knight today with our friends Kyle and Man and we all liked it a lot. The movie moves along at a pretty good pace early on and I'm thinking that it's a good movie, but not a great movie, but then it reaches a point where it becomes great and just keeps getting better. Even if the rest of the movie stank (which it doesn't), it would be worth seeing just for Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker. Heath's Ledger's Joker is totally psychotic and will go down as one of the great villains of cinema. This isn't just a good super hero movie, but like others have said, it's a really good movie that gives the viewer something to chew on beyond the big budget action sequences and seriously this movie should have been rated R as it really puts the "DARK" in Dark Knight. I still wish there was a way to make the Batman costume look more like the comic book version, but the armored bat suit didn't impair my giving The Dark Knight a big thumbs up and Christian Bale is especially good again as Bruce Wayne.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Too Cool to be Forgotten

Now is this a great cover, or what!? It's only fitting that Too Cool to be Forgotten has a cover that will just demand that people pick it up from amongst the sea of other comic books on the shelf because Too Cool to be Forgotten is EXCELLENT in every respect. This is my other early front-runner for graphic novel of the year, with the other one being Lynda Barry's What It Is. Too Cool to be Forgotten is a $14.95 125 page hardcover book that is a great follow up to Robinson's other two graphic novels Tricked and Box Office Poison.

Too Cool to be Forgotten
is about a middle aged guy who reluctantly goes to a hypnotist to try to quit smoking and ends up in his past - 1985 high school, with his middle aged memories of his life in 2010 and the events that led him to that point intact (but he looks like he did when he was in high school). He wonders if he were to change something he did the first time as a teenager, would that change things in the future (or his former present) for the better or worse?

Whom amongst us hasn't thought about what we would do if we could relive high school and what affect would making these changes do to us and people we now know (whom we may not know if things in the past were altered)? Alex Robinson perfectly examines what a person who finds himself thrust back into time would think about and or do and as if handling this premise with so much attention wasn't enough, Robinson then goes on to construct a powerful ending of which I'm not going to say anything about because it is better upon self discovery. Too Cool to be Forgotten is one of those rare books that doesn't make one wrong turn and upon finishing reading it you'll just want to share it with others and wonder why there aren't more great comics like this.


In addition to the happy, happy, joy, joy that saw the release of the Howard The Duck Omnibus this week, the other great trade paperback release collecting a great from yesteryear is Zot! by Scott McCloud of Undertanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics fame. This collection which is priced at a mere $24.95 for 575 pages collects all of McCloud's black and white Zot! issues. Zot! originally ran as a color comic for ten issues, but these aren't included in this volume as McCloud believes those were just the training wheels for the Zot! reboot of which this fine edition contains.
I actually haven't re-read Zot! since I first read them when they came out from 1985-1991, so I can't tell you what it's about in a nutshell, but I remember loving this book for its characterizations of the two central characters, Zot and his girlfriend Jenny, and that there were several really powerful scenes involving them. I vaguely remember that Zot was from another dimension which had science that was advanced from Earth's and that he met Jenny (from Earth) when he somehow crossed dimensions. I'm happy to have all of the black and white Zot! in one book and look forward to sitting done and revisiting a book ahead of its time.

Anyone who's read Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics knows what a master McCloud is of this medium and Zot! is a perfect example of a timeless, ageless comic that guys and gals will enjoy. Go to: and enter Zot in their search field as they have several pages from the book that a person can read.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

get REAL!

Real is a new manga release by Takehiko Inoe, who also created, wrote and drew Vagabond, a great samurai manga and Slamdunk, a hugely popular basketbll manga (and anime) in Japan. Real is about wheelchair basketball and is drawn in the same fine line realistic style as Vagabond. If you're in the camp that thinks that all manga is the samewith characters just having big eyes, all the characters being kids, that all manga is fantasy or science fiction based, I'd recommend Real and or Vagabond as two examples of how different manga can be. Presently Real is on volume seven in Japan and Vagabond is on volume 28 (but Viz will be releasing newer volumes of Vagabond that collect more volumes into one book).

Howard the Duck Omnibus!

Today the uber huge all encompassing Steve Gerber Howard The Duck Omnibus came out and it is a stellar collection worthy of this great comic book chararacter from the 1970's. Steve Gerber created Howard the Duck as a throw away character in a Man-Thing storyline in the early 70's, but shortly thereafter he asked Stan Lee if he could give Howard his own title - Stan Lee said yes. Howard the Duck was hugely popular in the mid 70's as the everyman approach resonated with people that were looking for something different from the standard super hero comics and Gerber's satire of popular culture and politics of the time were spot on.

In addition to some of Steve Gerber's best writing, the Howard The Duck Omnibus features great art by Val Mayrik, Frank Brunner, John Buscemea, Gene Colan, and Steve Leialoha.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dave Sim's Secret Invasion!

The first issue of Secret Invasion had as one of its dumb variant covers (I hate variants as they create such a have / have not scenario) a blank cover designed so that people who bought it could have their favorite artist draw something in the white space provided.

So for whatever reason I was surfing around websites about Dave Sim yesterday and saw this piece that I'm sure someone commissioned because there's no way Sim would have done a drawing of this quality for free. I think it's a fun illo and shows what a great artist Dave Sim is. As Dave Sim signs on this cover, this piece is a homage to two comic art giants Steve Ditko and Barry Windsor Smith.

For more great Dave Sim art stay tuned for glamourpuss #2 which I believe comes out 7/30 (although there's a slight chance it may be out next week).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Coraline - P. Craig Russell

P. Craig Russell, recently adapted Neil Gaiman and Dsve McKean's Coraline and like anything Russell does, it's beautiful. Coraline is about a little girl who finds a passageway in her house that leads to an alternate reality of sorts in which things are more than slightly off. At first she's attracted to the way things are in this reality, but she finds that this new other reality isn't what she really wanted.

Coraline is a gorgeous hardcover 185 pages production by Dark Horse. Russell will be doing an adaptation of Gaiman's Sandman Dream Hunters later this year and Coraline will also be a movie later this year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hellboy II - no spoilers!

I saw a sneak preview of Hellboy II The Golden Army last night and I'd give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. Actually while I liked it almost from the start more than the first Hellboy movie (which I thought looked good, but was really boring and I couldn't get into any of the characters) anyone who knows me, will know at which point in the movie I was totally sold on Hellboy II and couldn't help but enjoy the rest of the movie. Hellboy II isn't Pan's Labyrinth or The Devil's Backbone good, but it's a solid, entertaining big budget action film that actually has engaging characters and a story with some heart (things that I thought were missing from the first Hellboy). I also liked very much the new addition to the BPRD crew.

I now actually feel like giving the Hellboy / BPRD comics / graphic novels another chance because while I've always liked the art within, the few stories I read didn't do anything for me (and I know too many people with discriminating taste that LOVE these books - and I sell a good amount of them!).

Monday, July 7, 2008


Shirley is a new manga by Kaoru Mori. Actually it's a new U.S. release, but it was the first manga by Mori, who went on to write and draw seven volumes of Emma, a Victorian period piece, about Emma, who's a maid, romance, and class differences in society.

Shirley is a single manga volume with several short stories and is a good, solid introduction to Kaori Mori's work which evokes master anime master, Hayo Miyazaki films such as Whisper of the Heart and Kiki's Delivery Service (in her notes at the end of Shirley, Mori mentions Miyazaki as an influence - and it was her characters similarities as well as lush background to Miyazaki's work that first prompted me to pick up Emma).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Starbucks week 8

Still moving at a pretty good clip is the construction of the new Starbucks that is kind of in front of my store, except thankfully not directly in front. As one can see from these two photos they now have the framework up and while I'm still surprised it's not bigger, the height of the building is higher than I thought it would be making me wonder if it'll be a two story Starbucks.
In another odd development, Yoshinoya, the Japanese restaurant over by my store (which used to be a Pizza Hut) closed unexpectedly about a month ago. While I wasn't impressed with the place, it looked to me like they were doing good business and no one is talking about why they closed. I've heard that a Mexican restaurant may be taking over that spot, but I've got no confirmation of that yet. I think a Mexican restaurant could be good, but there's already a few of those just here on Maryland Parkway.