Thursday, August 28, 2008

John Totleben, an artist spotlight

One of my favorite comic book artists is John Totleben and anyone who has seen his work can understand why. John Totleben is mostly known for working with artist Steve Bissette and with writer Alan Moore on Swamp Thing and for penciling and inking the third book of Alan Moore's Miracleman. All of book three of Miracleman (titled Olympus) was amazing in every respect, but it wouldn't be anywhere as legendary as it is without the contributions of John Totleben's art. Unfortunately Miracleman is almost impossible (and expensive) to read as it's not in print because of all the legal complications surrounding the ownership of the character (enter "Miracleman" in Wikipedia and you'll see how convoluted the rights situation is).

This first page of art (above, click on image to see it larger in all its glory) is from Swamp Thing #29, titled Love and Death, which is one of the creepiest issues of any comic ever. John Totleben mostly worked with artist Steve Bissitte on Swamp Thing, but their working relationship was very different from the way most artists and inkers work, in that they would alternate what each of them actually contributed to the finished page. Steve Bissette is a great primal artist, who always had great innovative layouts, but anyone who is familiar with Totleben's art knows that with his fine ink lines, Totleben was the part of the equation that made the art really jump out (and Totleben is a great innovative layout artist as well). Even if you haven't read Love and Death, a person looking at this page of art can just see (and feel) the horror that Abby is experiencing (particularily in the last image on the bottom right). Totleben is one of the great masters of horror comic art, but he could also draw scenes of incredible beauty. My biggest gripe with the Swamp Thing collections is that they weren't re-colored because the coloring on this book was really loud (not in a good way) and pages such as this one lost a lot of their power because of the coloring process used at the time (in a perfect world I'd like to see all of the Alan Moore Swamp Things collected in black and white).
This page featuring Green Lantern, Superman, and Deadman was penciled and inked by John Totleben for a one shot book called Legend of The Green Flame, written by Neil Gaiman (various artists did the different chapters and Totleben was one of those artists). From this page, one can see Totleben's gorgeous page composition and his fine line brushwork is also superbly evident.

Sadly, John Totleben isn't a very prolific artist as he has a degenerative eye disease that has made him legally blind. He still draws, but it's very difficult for him to do so as from what I understand he has to have his eyes very close to the page he's working on and thus he has difficulty seeing the whole image he's working on. Today John Totleben's income from art he does is mostly from fan commissions and recreations of art he did over twenty years ago as he sold most of his original art before the ebay age in which his original art (the rare times one sees pages or covers of his pop up there) commands HUGE amounts of money. Before ebay opened up the original comic book art audience, people could pick up really nice Totleben covers and pages for just a couple of hundred dollars and now they go for one thousand dollars and up (mostly for the sheer amazement of Totleben's artistry, but also because there's not that much Totleben art out there).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So I saw The Spirit tonight...

...and I thought it was horrible! No spoilers following:

Tonight over at the Rave movie theater here in Las Vegas, the first advance screening of The Spirit, written and directed by Frank Miller, was held and Rob (a friend who's my new helper in processing the week's new books), had gotten two passes Saturday when he and his wife went to a movie there. I was pretty exited because The Spirit isn't set to open nationwide until December and I thought from seeing two trailers that it would be a fun movie ala Sin City or fun to goof on like that show Mystery Science Theatre did to bad movies.

After seeing the trailer I thought that Frank Miller's Spirit wouldn't have much to do with Will Eisner's creation which I thought was kind of odd as I know that Miller respects Eisner. I'm going to guess that Miller thought what he was doing was updating the character for today's audiences. I don't have a problem with movies based on comic books differing from the source work as long as the changes are entertaining and make sense unto themselves as I realize that movies and comics are two different mediums. Anyone who goes into Miller's movie Spirit expecting it to evoke what they like about Eisner's comic version will be seriously disappointed, because while I think the movie has some nudge nudge wink wink homages to Eisner's work and other comics, the movie felt nothing like any of the Spirit stories I've read. Again, if Miller's Spirit movie was entertaining, I wouldn't have minded, but...

Who is the intended audience for The Spirit? A good amount of the visual look of the movie does look like Sin City the movie, but it doesn't have the overall visual originality or stylistic flair that Sin City did. The dialogue and narration is embarrassingly bad (and I don't even think it would even be fun to make fun of). The fight scenes aren't even enjoyable in an over the top way like Kung Fu Hustle or even Sin City the movie. Actually Miller did nothing new with the fight choreography and you'd think with all of the great fight scenes he's written and drawn in comics (or even just watching Kill Bill or working on Sin City) that he'd bring something exciting to the screen. I can't see any amount of fine tuning going on after test screenings that could make the Spirit movie good and as is Miller's Spirit plays like a mix of Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy and Sin City the movie without the ingredients that made those movies good fun and visually exciting.

Rob and his wife said they enjoyed the movie (and would see it again) and my friend Cristina thought it was on the plus side of okay. I really think that Miller's Spirit won't do that well at the box office (as it will not appeal to large cross audiences) and while I realize that a creator can't hit it out of the park every time at bat, I think it'll be awhile until Miller gets to work on such a big project. So I was saddened upon The Spirit ending (even though I was glad it did finally end) because I wanted to spread the word on how entertaining I'd hoped it would be, not be Mr. Negative.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beijing Olympics - my overview

I didn't get to watch anywhere close to what I'd hoped to watch of the 2008 Olympics even though I watched some of them every day. The most exciting athlete of this years games for me was Usain Bolt from Jamaica (he's in the center in this photo). Bolt won the 100m and 200m in record times and also won gold in a relay. He made it look almost effortless and looked like he was having a great time.
On the flip side, the saddest moment of the games for me was seeing Lolo Jones (second from the left) hit the second to last hurdle in her run to go from what looked like a sure win by her, to end up in seventh place. One night last week I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep and that's when I saw her event amd what ultimately happened.

Overall I enjoyed the Beijing Olympics, even though it seemed like the only events I saw were swimming, diving, track and field, and beach volleyball. I wished I'd seen some tabletop tennis and badminton, but I probably should have looked at the televison schedules and planned better. I thought the closing ceremonies were okay, but nowhere near as incredible as the opening ceremonies and I'm not nearly as optimistic about China as a country as the NBC announcers tried to make a case for. I'd feel differently in that respect if China had granted some permits for the people that applied for permits for protests (they had 77 permits, none of which they approved) and if they'd have brought that "ugly" girl (I hope she leaves China and becomes super successful) out at the closing ceremonies as an apology for using another prettier girl (who lip synched) at the opening ceremonies. I think we'll know within five years whether this new face (the Beijing Olympics) that China was trying to present to the world will alter the way they actually act in the world arena and or whether the rest of the world's perception of China has changed.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Love...

...Little Baby Ducks This song, by Tom T. Hall from the 1970's was playing in my head while I was thinking of the following entry (Tom T. Hall also wrote another great "simple" song called I Like Beer, but I think these songs speak volumes and are great happy songs).

So I'm doing my monthly order here at the store and someone dares to interrupt me by buying some great comics (Planetary, Me and the Devil Blues, House of Mystery, Walking Dead). Actually, of course I love interruptions like that because I love when good comics find good homes. I can't say the following enough, but I love my job selling comics, what's not to love!? While I lament that readership of almost all print media is down as there is so many other forms of entertainment that vie for people's attentions and attention spans are diminishing with the flood of information and stimulus that exists today, I love that there are people who still love this wonderful medium called comics. I also realize how fortunate I am to have as my occupation that which is one of my greatest passions in life (comics of course) as just the smallest percentage of people are able to have a scenario like this in their lives. I love turning people on to great comics and I love talking to people about comics that they've enjoyed. I love that the preview for Watchmen is turning a LOT of people on to one of Alan Moore's greatest works and I love that I've met so many great people here at my store.

All this love I'm feeling today is especially heightened today due to my only sleeping three hours last night - I "blame" that on the Drink & Draw and then meeting Cristina (newly back fom China nearly a week now) and some other friends at the Beauty Bar. The aforementioned somehow added up to how Tom T. Hall's I Love... popped into my head, so I thought that those of you reading this who haven't heard that song should give it a listen.

Important addition: I especially love those of you who read my silly little blog!

Millar & Harris Drink & Draw!

From right to left: Mark Millar (writer of War Heroes, Wanted, Kick Ass, Fantastic Four, Wolverine Old Man Logan, Ultimates, Superman Red Son, Authority and lots of other titles that make readers and comic store registers happy), Derrick of Comic Oasis here in Las Vegas, me, and Tony Harris (artist on War Heroes, Ex Machina, and Starman). After this photo was taken, Mark, Derrick, and Tony beat the crap out of me for not hamming it up in front of the camera like they did!
Todd, a friend of mine, with Mark and a little product placement. Kate and I call Todd, Happy Todd, because he's always happy when we see him (and it's a way to differentiate him from the other Todds we know).
On the left is a cool little illo that Mark did for Kate and myself (Kate had something else going on last night so she wasn't present). Then Tony did the great drawing on the right for us while he was telling a funny story of how a local paper where he lives (Macon, Georgia) was doing a local interest story on him and the Ex Machina that he was working on at the time was the gay marriage issue. Tony often works with models so two guys he knew (who weren't gay) were posing for him for the kissing page of that issue and they were all over each other trying to freak out the reporter / photographer from the newspaper.

I'd like to thank Derrick (of Comic Oasis, of course) again for being a host store here in Vegas of the War Heroes tour and putting on a special Drink & Draw afterwards which Mark and Tony graciously attended. I wasn't able to get away from my store for the signing portion of Mark and Tony's visit at Derrick's store, but I heard from a few of my customers who were there that there was a HUGE turnout and it was good to see a good crowd show up for the Drink & Draw afterwards. This was Mark Millar's first time to Vegas (he's from Scotland) and it was cool that he and Tony spent time hanging out for a few hours at the bar (after doing a three hour signing!) chatting and drinking with some Vegas comic afficianadoes before they did some other late late night Vegas thangs. I'm sure they got no sleep and it should be interesting to hear how they hold up today at LA for their Golden Apple signing. Mark Millar's also got a lunch date today with Richard Donner (the first Superman movie director) and as he's a HUGE fan of that movie, I know he'll get his second, third, and fourth winds (plus he's Scottish so drinking and lack of sleep is something they get taught in school)!

Anyway I (and everyone else that was there last night) had a fantastic time chatting with Mark and Tony and friends and customers of my and Derrick's store at the Drink & Draw. Kate and I had a nice chat with Mark Millar one night at a bar in San Diego during one of the late 1990's conventions and I didn't think he'd remember me, so I was blown away when Mark first came up to the bar and said hello to me and asked about Kate! I'm not here to brag that I "knew" Mark Millar before Authority put him on the map and then shortly afterwards he started getting the fat Marvel money, but I do want to say that having followed his work for so long, it's great to see that over the last eight or so years he's gotten the audience he deserves. I was also happy to see that he's back in great health after a long illness he had - actually he looks just he did when I saw him back in the late 1990's!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Las Vegas Wetlands

Yesterday I went to Las Vegas' best kept secret, the Las vegas Wetlands, with my friends Camila, Evan, and Frankie. The Vegas Wetlands aren't completely done (I think they started in 2000), but they have the first phase open (free) from dawn until dusk (vistor center open from 10am-4pm) and it's located at the far east side of Tropicana, just past Boulder Highway.
This was only the second time that I'd been to the Vegas Wetlands and both times, without even trying, I saw wildlife that you don't see anywhere else within the city limits, like this desert cottontail rabbit in this photo (click photo to make larger and see the rabbit better). Leave the guns at home please!
When the whole Wetlands project is finished it'll encompass six miles, but seriously there's already a good amount of land with good trails where you can see environments that you wouldn't think would (or could) exist out here in the desert.

For more info about the Vegas wash project and the wetlands, visit as they have a great site that explains what and why the project exists accompanied with great photos. I'm sure at some point they'll start charging to go within the Wetlands, but as long as it's not as much as what the Springs Perserve charges, it'll be worth it if that's what it takes for this place to continue to be a great retreat from the big city that is Las Vegas.

Mark Millar interview and...

War Heroes is a new Mark Millar production (Authority, Ultimates, Wanted, Superman Red Son, Chosen, Kick Ass, 1985, and too many more to list) with artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) published by Image. The scenario behind War Heroes is that the goverment is giving people who sign up for the military superpowers and we the readers get to watch the wackiness that ensues from there. The image accompanying this entry is by local artist Thomas Thomey who won the contest for an upcoming cover for War Heroes!

Mark Millar and Tony Harris will be at Comic Oasis this Thursday (details at the end of this post). Rumour is that Millar and Harris will be at a Drink & Draw event later that night at On The Rocks so call Comic Oasis for more info. Reprinted here with permission is an interview that Jarret Keene did with the crazy (but fun) Scottish writer, Mark Millar (this interview is in this week's CityLife coming out Wednesday evening):

Comics scribe Mark Millar envisions enhanced recruitment techniques

By Jarret Keene

Like the best literary writers — George Orwell to name one — comics author Mark Millar envisions a dark world nearly upon us. The Glaswegian is among today’s hottest writers, especially in light of summer blockbuster Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and based on Millar’s 2003 graphic novel. Following a string of successes for Marvel Comics (The Ultimates) and DC Comics (Superman: Red Son), he now unveils War Heroes under the Image banner. The concept is simple: With America’s War on Terror growing bloodier, the U.S devises a new recruitment enhancer: injecting enlistees with super-soldier serum (shades of Captain America’s origin). Ad slogan: “Be the Weapon.”

Too bad the folks wishing to be transformed into WMDs are so messed up, physically and mentally. Take, for instance, wheelchair-bound Ohioan Sam Wollenberg, whose family berates him for earning his college education only to throw it away by … walking again. Oh, and risking his life as a soldier. It’s a powerful offer: If you were handicapped and could be transformed into a superhero by enlisting, would you?

“Fuck, yes,” says Millar during a recent interview. “Are you kidding me? I would pimp my sister for superpowers. Give me powers, Uncle Sam, and I’ll fight any war you want!”

Millar is no bloodthirsty neocon. Still, judging from the first issue of War Heroes, the story perpetuates the notion that Arabs armed with nukes and chemicals are dreaming of ways to kill Americans.

Millar shrugs off the criticism.

“All my previous work suggests I make Tim Robbins look like Dick Cheney,” he counters. “Do you really think I’d write a book like that? Re-read the opening, and you'll be able to see the subtext of what’s really going on here.”

He’s right. War Heroes chronicles an effort by seven friends to scam the government by signing up for superpowers — and then doing something awful. The political situation is background, the story itself simply entertaining.

“And what could be more entertaining than seeing superpowered Arabs slicing through fighter jets with their swords?”

Not much, which explains why Millar is a sought-after talent: He loves to write ripping-good yarns. Having cut his teeth on British comics, Millar admits he was inspired to enter the industry after meeting Alan Moore (V for Vendetta) at a convention in the ’80s. Pretty rad for a preteen.

“Insane, I know,” he says, looking back on it. “Sending a kid to a hotel filled with sweaty, single men in their 40s seemed like a bad move on paper, but I was mercifully unmolested.”

Millar says he was more into the American products, mainly because “Americans seem glamorous when you’re growing up in Scotland.”

“You people had cars, homes, jobs and all your own teeth,” he jokes. “But I did read a lot of British comics when I was very young. The stuff was weird in hindsight — a football strip called ‘Billy’s Boots,’ about a young lad possessed by a dead footballer whenever he tied up the laces on his old boots.”

It was British comics giant Grant Morrison (The Invisibles) who served as mentor. (Millar claims they spent much of the ’90s drunk.) Millar was just out of school and Morrison had just cemented his reputation at DC.

“My career pretty much didn’t start until 2000,” Millar admits with humility. “I wasted 10 years, but had a laugh.”

His work has always been considered extremely violent, but lately Millar’s stories border on the nihilistic with Wanted and Kick-Ass. Again, he makes no apologies.

“If I said it was a commentary on violence, I’d be sniggering at the same time because, let’s face it, when you write a scene about a bullet taking four panels to pass through a human head, you aren’t thinking about the social commentary. You just think it looks fucking cool. Real violence is obviously horrible, but these are comic characters or highly paid actors. It’s great watching bad shit happen to them.”

And if his old idol Moore still complains that superhero comics are too dark, Millar doesn’t care. Make them darker, he says.

“Moore said all that after finding his greatest success with Watchmen, one of the darkest books of his generation. There’s a certain guilt that seems to hit creators after taking these characters to the max, but the weird truth is that the greatest sales and greatest excitement comes from the dark stuff. My own experience is that the darker you make the material the more popular it is, both creatively and commercially. Who am I but a humble writer? I can’t argue with the readers.”

Millar is currently touring the U.S with War Heroes artist Tony Harris, making an Aug, 21 stop at Las Vegas specialty shop Comic Oasis, so you may want to have Millar sign a copy of another high-profile project he’s simultaneously toiling on: Old Man Logan, a post-apocalyptic take on X-Man character Wolverine. In it, supervillains have killed off the strongest superheroes, and Vegas, now controlled by Kingpin, has been re-named Hammer Falls, because, well, that’s where The Mighty Thor was vanquished.

“I am going to Vegas now for the first time in my life,” concedes Millar. “My only training for this is a lifetime of alcohol abuse. I can’t wait. This is how Catholics see Rome and Buddhists see Tibet. I am finally coming home.”

Mark Millar and Tony Harris sign War Heroes
Thu., Aug. 21, 4-7 p.m.
Comic Oasis
3121 N. Rainbow Blvd.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Me and the Devil Blues

Me and the Devil Jones (subtitled The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson) is an incredible new manga (well newly published and translated here in the U.S.) by Akira Hiramoto and published by Del Rey. This huge first volume (525 pages) is just the first of from what I gather from the liner notes at the end of Me and the Devil Blues is still ongoing in Japan.

When I first saw Me and the Devil Blues listed in my distributer catalog it sounded interesting as I thought it was a bio piece on blues musician Robert Johnson and even though I only like the blues in really small doses as a musical subsection, I like comic biographies on almost anyone. So when Me and the Devil Blues arrived a couple of weeks ago I was initially disappointed to find that the life of Robert Johnson was only the springboard for this series as Hiromoto goes off on some really fantastically strange tangents. I overcame my initial disappointment in short term as the art in Me and the Devil Blues is fantastic, kinetic, very expressive, and highly atmospheric and the story and characters are every bit as engaging.

Blues musician Robert Johnson died when he was only 27 years old back in 1937, but was highly influential for years afterward, not just in blues circles, but to rock musicians such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, and Bob Dylan. The movie Crossroads is based on the myth of Robert Johnson's life. I was so impressed by Me and the Devil Blues that I'll be checking out some of Robert Johnson's music and looking for Crossroads.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing's opening ceremonies - WOW!

I hope everyone watched last night's Beijing's 2008 Olympics opening ceremonies, because they were awe-inspiring! Right from the top, I want to mention that I think the amount of money spent is obscene (like the money Hollywood throws around on movies and the amount it takes to run for political office in the U.S.), but at the same time I'd say that maybe if everyone watched Beijing's opening ceremonies, maybe world peace would be attainable (sorry if I sound like some kind of naive idealist - more of my thoughts on this further on in this entry). Anyway, just on a visual level, Beijing's opening ceremonies were worthy of any superlatives one can think of for being excellent and breath-taking. Early on in the ceremony as we first see the drummers (a total of 2008 of them! - some of them in this top photo) the viewer knows that they're watching one of the most amazing productions ever staged.
The sheer scope of everything that was done (including the new uses of amazing visual technologies) in the Beijing opening ceremonies was mind-boggling, like China, the country as a whole. Look up any facts about China, its population size, the countries far-reaching history, its political climate yesteryear and today, and really think about them and you'll start to understand what an historical period this is for China and the rest of the world.

China's population is four times the size of the United States', they have over 100 cities that have populations of over one million, and the rate of change that is occuring within China is going to not only present unique challenges to its people, but to the rest of the world. I was talking to my friend, Cristina, the other day (via email - she's still in China until next Sunday) and I mentioned that many in the U.S. think the world revolves around our country (well most super-power countries probably think this), but I really think that within the next fifty years, that the world may very well revolve around China. How China deals with their ever growing population and rapid rate of change, expecially post their Olympics, will certainly impact the whole world.

The NBC commentators for the opening ceremonies in Beijing repeated what we'll hear more of in the next two weeks and that is that the Beijing Olympics is their coming out announcement for the rest of the world for their country going into the 21st century. I'd like to think if China as a country could apply what they did during their opening Olympic ceremony to how they make their country work for all of their citizens, then they will be a truely magnificent country. I'm not saying that parts of China aren't already magnificent, but presently there exists a HUGE divide between the have and have nots (compounded by the rapid rate of change there) that is leaving a lot of China's population in even worse scenarios then before these developments.

It can be argued that this is the natural course of progress / advancement, which even the U.S. experienced during the Industrial Revolution, and that in the long run China's people as a whole will be better off than they were before, but when you're dealing with a country on the scale of China with such an immense population (think about how much bigger they'd be if they didn't have a one child restriction), more thought and planning needs to happen to insure that their growth / rate of change doesn't become a negative development for them and the rest of the world. I realize that my saying if problems like attaining world peace could be solved by a country or countries working together to produce crowning affairs of beauty and the human spirit like what was done in these opening ceremonies is simplifying things, because certainly there are seemingly endless vaiables involved with running a country, but watching those ceremonies and thinking about all the people and logistics involved can't help but make me think that humane solutions for these bigger world concerns are possible if only thinking outside of the box was applied like they were to putting on the spectacle that were the Beijing opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics.

The Beijing opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics will surely come out on dvd and it really is something to be experienced (I can't even imagine what it must have been like to have actually have been a part of the production or to view it live in that arena). Originally I wasn't as jazzed to watch this Olympics with all of the doping that is reported some of the athlete's do, but while watching the opening ceremonies I came to the realization that not EVERY athlete is doing this and the Olympics really are a great source of inspiration for what the human body and mind is capable of when extreme focus and training is applied. I'm looking forward to watching many different Olympic events in the next two weeks and seeing athletes from the U.S. and the rest of the world attain new heights and hopefully through these games, countries and people will work more in unity.

Julieta Venegas live!

Last night I saw Julieta Venegas with my new friend, Theresa (my Sunday store guy, Paul's girlfriend) at the Joint (not my favorite venue, but it was fine last night) and she was fantastic. I first started listening to Julieta Venegas a couple of years ago when I bought Limon Y Sal at Zia's just because I was looking for something different to listen to (and because I was attracted to the cd cover image of her - I'm shallow that way!). I liked it and got a couple of her other cds, not realizing that she was huge in Latin parts of the world. At first it looked like maybe this large fan base she has wouldn't show up at the Joint, but after the opening artist, Ceci Bastida (who was also good), left the stage, the place filled up in a hurry. As with most live shows which are largely general admission, it would have been nice to have had some more space between people, but once Julieta Venegas started singing, the place just came alive and it looked like a good time was had by all (although I wouldn't have allowed cameras to take pictures during the show as some people just held their cameras up the WHOLE show). Counting Julieta Venegas, there was fifteen musicians on stage, with a variety of instruments that gave the show a nice eclectic mix and even though I didn't understand a word she was singing or saying (I'm sure she was singing about me though), I'm here to recommend listening to Julieta Venegas (and or seeing her live) without any reservations.

I've never posted a Youtube video here, so I don't know if the link I copied will contain a video image of Julieta Venegas, but if not you should be able to click on the following address and see one of her big songs (and the video features beastiality, kinda!), Limon Y Sal.

Friday, August 8, 2008

is this wrong?

So I was wandering around the interweb this afternoon and somehow came across comic artist Nikki Cook's blog (or live journal) and she had this photo / image as one of her entries (and I don't know how she first "discovered" this).

Isn't the world a crazy place!?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

American Widow - forthcoming

A few months ago, someone from the Random House Publishing Group posted over on the CBIA (a comic retailer's forum) that they would be sending out a few advance copies of American Widow and asked for any interested retailers to email them to be put on the list for one of those advance copies. As it had been a few months since I put in my request, I just assumed that I wasn't going to get one of the advance copies. Well yesterday my mail carrier delivered a package with a Random House address and I knew that within was my advance copy of American Widow.

Written by Alissa Torres, American Widow is her true story of how her husband, Eddie Torres, had died on September 11, 2001 in the attack on the World Trade Center. Eddie Torres, an immigrant from Colombia, had only just started working for Cantor Fitzgerald the day before and Alissa was seven and a half months pregnant. American Widow is a 224 page $22.00 hardcover graphic novel, published by Villard, and distributed by Random House, to be released September 2nd. Illustrated by Sungyoon Choi, American Widow is his long form comic narrative debut and is very impressive (previously he's mostly done illustrations for The New York Times).
After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I was surprised that there were not more books like American Widow, and while there were three really good 9-11 comic book anthologies (the proceeds of which went to the Red Cross and 9-11 charities) done by catoonists with their feelings and responses to that day, there hasn't been a personal account of that day that comes close to what Alissa Torres and artist, Choi, achieve with American Widow. American Widow is a heart-breaking account of what a horrible tragedy does to those that are left in its aftermath.

Thank you Alissa Torres for sharing Eddie's life and I hope that with the publication of American Widow that more people who were close to that day, share their loved one's stories because certainly these are the type of stories and lives that will cause readers to think about every day people and the world they live in, in different ways.

Joker's cat

Now this cat would probably be a real pain in the ass. Someone showed this to me last week and I had it on my desktop so I wanted to share it with those who haven't already seen this somewhere online (in case PETA is reading this, I'm sure that this cat has been photoshopped!).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

new kitties!

A friend of ours, Joseph (who rents our condo), just became a truck driver and as he was only going to be in town three or four days a month he was going to send his cats to a shelter. While we weren't going to get another cat (or cats) for a while yet, at the same time I knew if they ended up at the shelter that their chance of being adopted probably wasn't too great, so I told him we'd take them in.

Last Wednesday I made the kitty transport and both of the new cats are still wigged out by their new surroundings. The grey cat is especially shy / scared and tries to find the tiniest corners or hiding places and even when we've blocked them off, she's mangaged to find new ways to hide herself or get past our barriers. We put both of them in one of our small rooms so that they wouldn't be overwhelmed by the whole house (and so the grey cat wouldn't have countless hiding places). After a couple of days we brought out the mostly white cat and she hung out in our bedroom, but when Alucard (our black cat) goes over to check her out, she just hides under our bed and stays there until we close the door and she's sure that Alucard isn't around (and Alucard isn't even being as agressive or bossy as I thought he'd be - he's just being curious).

Tomorrow morning we're taking both new cats in to the vet to make sure they're okay before introducing them fully to Alucard, but my hope is that they're okay after which I plan to put all three cats in one room so that they can attempt to deal with each other before opening the door to the room where both new cats are presently and opening the whole house to them. I realize that they won't all get along overnight and that the grey cat will especially try to find hiding places all over the house, but we suspect that it'll take a long time for both cats to feel really comfortable around us, Alucard, and the house. We think this is due to neglect largely from Joseph, not that he didn't care about them, just that he wasn't around much and when he was he didn't try to get them out into the open more and interact with them.
We re-named the cats because the names Joseph gave them were truthfully kinda lame - Katie and Kittie, not to mention that they sounded a lot like each other so even if one was to call one and they responded, they'd have a hard time differentiating between which cat was being called. As most people know, cats don't really respond to names like dogs, so since we were the cats new caretakers, they get new names and if they don't like them they can just try to escape (ha-ha). I named the grey cat Moto, I don't know why, it was just the first name that popped into my head as I was trying to "talk" to her. Kate named the mostly white cat Pixy, again not for any real reason based on characteristics, just that she liked the sound of that name (I do too). Pixy will come up to us if she knows Alucard isn't around and even Moto (the grey cat) will come up to us to be petted once we get her out of wherever she's hiding so I like to think we can all be one big happy family at some point!

Starbucks week 13

Continuing the saga of the development of the new Starbucks that's going to be my neighbor:

So last week the orange phase of the building happened (insulation). They've also got a lot (if not all) of the wiring and pipe work done inside the building.
Concrete has also been poured and the sidewalks and driving areas are starting to take shape. From what I've heard they could be done as early as late September, but if they don't finish until November they won't open until January. And I got confirmation that the Stabucks a block away by Einstein's Bagels will be closing when this one opens and the employees there will move over.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

San Diego pt 4

Pictured here is Jerry Robinson, who created the Joker and drew Batman for many years starting from his first appearance. Jerry Robinson was one of the panelists on the Thursday Golden Age and Silver Age cartoonists panel that they have every year at the San Diego convention. One of the highlights of that panel this year was when Robinson recounted his involvement in getting some long overdue monetary compensation for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (the creators of Superman) and a credit byline for them in the Superman titles. Robinson had wanted them to get a bigger annual pension, but as Siegel and Shuster's health wasn't that great at the time, getting a settlement agreed upon while they were still alive was the priority. I'd love to read an autobiogaphy or biography on Jerry Robinson and am surprised there isn't one yet.
One of my favorite people these past few years at the San Diego convention is San Francisco small press artist and painter, Lark Pien. I get at least one of her little paintings each year. This photo is of Lark mimicking the character in the painting of hers I bought for a friend here in Vegas (Derrick, of Comic Oasis, who intitated an arrangement that makes comic retailer's lives run more smoothly).
I took this photo of a fantastic illustration of Kull drawn by Marie Severin one day while I was wondering around booths that had original artwork.

Another photo I took while wandering around looking at art. This is by Tom Yeates, a vastly under-rated artist, who sadly hasn't done any comic book projects in some time.

I like attending the Eisners and even though they run really long, I think they're important and I can't think of any way to make them shorter (except this year most of the presenters weren't as "on" as the presenters were last year and the magic theme was lame so things on that front could probably have been fine-tuned). For me the Eisners this year didn't have nominations or winners that I felt as passionate about as in previous years (I thought there was some great works in comics last year, but this year's Eisners reflected that less for me than in previous years - like Blue Pills not even being nominated) - and I thought that P. Craig Russell's artbook retrospective not winning in best comics related publication sucked balls (and not in a good way!).

I had a good time at this year's convention, but not as good as last years. Actually I have more fun at San Diego in the evenings after the convention is over and on beach day Saturday. I think that I just get overwhelmed too easily and miss the days when the convention's attendence was under 30,000 (not the 125,000 it is now). Sure there's pros and cons pertaining to large and small conventions, but I think that the San Francisco Wondercon (which happens in February) is more relaxed and thus more my speed. I do think that the San Diego comic con should be experienced at least once and that if you avoid the tv / movie panels / booths and just do the comic book parts of the convention you'll be less stressed (but still not able to do all of that contrary to those that say that there's not much comic book programming / booths at this show). Will I go back next year? Right now magic eightball says "outlook not so good", and maybe my absence will make room for those who haven't gone previously.

San Diego 2008 pt. 3

One of my other very favorite things about going to the San Diego comic con is to go to the beach which I've been doing with friends every Saturday for the past few years. Sure you miss things going on at the convention, but you also save maoney by not being on the convention floor and hey, it's the beach.

This is me and Harry Fagel, the beach party host with the most (I would say the most alcohol, but you're not supposed to have alcohol on the beach so I'll just say thanks for the fruit punch!)!
This is my tattoo of Big Barda paying her first visit to the beach. I did make it to the Jack Kirby tribute panel on Sunday and his grandson, Jeremy, was there so I gave him a couple of photos of my tat to share with his family.
Me and my good friend Kim, whom I've known for a really long time - this was her second time at the beach with me and we had a blast.

The beach gang after eating dinner after the beach part of the day. On both sides of me are members of the Fagel family and over to the far right is Kim and her friends Colby and Teresa, with her daughter, Sierra. I wore my Greatest American Hero cape (which came with the box set of the tv show that my friend Joel got for me - it's his birthday today, so happy B day, Joel!) to the beach (and a couple of mornings while jogging in downtown San Diego) just because I'm starved for attention.

As we were walking back to Harry's beach place we saw this cool Star Trek motorcycle. I miss the beach already.

San Diego 2008 pt. 2

One of my favorite things to do at conventions is take pictures of people in costumes. From my vantage pont at this year's convention, I didn't think that there were as many people in costumes as previous years, but that's probably because I just wasn't in the right places.

This costume is my favorite that I saw, I don't know what it has to do with comics or anything or what she's doing with her hand (maybe trying to make it like a frogs? - whatever it looks cool!). I like to imagine that all of her clothes have animal themes!
I saw this lovely Death and Aquaman couple at the Watchmen panel. Sure Aquaman shouldn't have sneakers on, but as long as the guy wearing the costume is having fun, who cares and I like to think one of the rules of the San Diego comic con is that costume wise, anything goes.
Kate dressed up as Mazikeen from Vertigo's Lucifer. She had people coming up to her thinking she was Typhoid Mary (from Daredevil). When she went over to Peter Gross' (the artist on Lucifer) table, he told her that she had to go over and show Ryan Kelly (who inked Gross on Lucifer) and he was floored because he'd always wanted to see someone show up dressed as that character. To further show syncronicity at work, Kelly had a painted piece of the character which Kate was happy to purchase (pictured with her here).
Here's a kid doing the Green Lantern thang old school, meaning the Golden Age's, Alan Scott version.

Magneto and the Scarlet Witch, great costumes - I wish the guy dressed as Maneto was holding a huge magnet though.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Lynda Barry San Diego 2008

My absolute favorite 2008 San Diego convention moment was getting my copy of What It Is signed by Lynda Barry.

Lynda's panel (which was in a big room and had a big crowd, I'm happy to report) was on Friday and it was one of the best panels I've ever been to. For anyone who was at that panel who was unfamiliar with her comic work (or her novels), I know they were still highly entertained by Lynda Barry's stage presence and one would easily think she's moonlighted as a stand up comic. She started by introducing herself by singing some lines from Coal Miner's Daughter, albeit with some altered lines to reflect her life growing up and she closed by singing a song without opening her mouth (I hope that these two bits somehow end up on youtube)!
On Sunday I made sure that I'd get my book signed by Lynda Barry and tell her how much I loved her work so I went over to the Drawn & Quarterly booth (the publisher of What It Is) and stood in line. She was very gracious to all of the people in line getting their books signed, but she seemed especially nice to me as I think she sensed what a huge fan of her work I am. I've been to a lot of conventions and have met a lot of comic book creators (most of them are really nice and appreciative of their fans), but I'd have to say that my face to face time with Lynda Barry will be amongst my very top memories of the people I've talked to within the comic book community. After talking to her I was on a high for the rest of the day!