Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hunter's Fortune

One of the pleasant surprises amongst this week's plethora of comics released, was the first issue of Hunter's Fortune published by Boom Studios. The title of Hunter's Fortune basically is the description of what this comic is about. Hunter Prescott is the central character, whom as the first issue unfolds, is a slacker, direction-less young man, always having to scrounge for money, until he finds that he had an uncle who recently died with said uncle declaring in his will that Hunter will inherit his vast fortune if he can find a certain object he's quested with.

The Hunter's Fortune story is by Andrew Cosby (who created Eureka), with a script by Caleb Monroe. As good as Hunter's Fortune is in terms of story, with good characters, an interesting premise that gets going right away with good doses of humor throughout, I'd like to spotlight the artist, Matt Cossin, who makes his comic debut with Hunter's Fortune. A little disclaimer, before I talk about Matt Cossin's art: Matt and his brother Mike (who
colors Hunter's Fortune) have been customers of my store for a number of years now. Anyway, I've seen a little of Matt's art before seeing / reading the first issue of Hunter's Fortune, but nothing that prepared me for the level of cartooning that Matt displays here.

Matt Cossin's art has everything essential to good sequential storytelling that makes for good comics, such as being able to distinguish characters from one another, good panel to panel flow, actual backgrounds, a range of character expressions, and an understanding of perspective. Mike Cossin (Matt's brother), the colorist of Hunter's Fortune, uses color graduation to great effect and his hues greatly contribute to the art looking as strong as it does. I hope to see more cartooning from Mike and Matt Cossin after Hunter's Fortune, and I'm happy to see a couple of local guys hit a new book out of the park as they have (seriously, I'm not just saying this because they live here in Vegas and shop at my store - stop by my store and check out a copy and you'll see I'm not just talking sideways!).

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Ghoul: Niles & Wrightson & upcoming signing1

No spoilers following:

The Ghoul is a new comic coming out from IDW November 25th, written by Steve Niles and drawn by legendary horror artist Bernie Wrightson. Having enjoyed Niles and Wrightson's previous collaboration, Dead She Said (also from IDW), I was eagerly awaiting The Ghoul and was surprised to have gotten a preview copy this past Saturday of the first issue. For the three of you reading this that aren't already sold just on the basis of this stellar creative team, here's my sound bite capsule for what The Ghoul is:

The Ghoul is a really large hulking man who has lived for over a hundred years who is employed by the FBI for his expertise in handling crimes of a supernatural nature. The other central character in The Ghoul #1 is Detective Lieutenant Lloyd Klimpt, who while investigating a series of Hollywood murders ends up working with The Ghoul because of the nature of the crimes committed.

Steve Niles is most known to comic book readers as the writer / creator of the excellent vampires in Alaska comic, 30 Days Of Night, but he's also written a series of crime fiction novels, in addition to other comic titles such as Simon Dark, Freaks of the Heartland, Bad Planet, and Batman: Gotham After Midnight. The Ghoul artist, Bernie Wrightson, is most known to comic book art lovers for his seminal work on Swamp Thing and Warren Magazines in the early 1970's and he's considered THE horror go to artist if you want highly atmospheric, creepy visuals (actually, speaking of creepy, he did the graphic novel adaptation of Creepshow years ago).

As if getting a preview copy of The Ghoul wasn't exciting enough for me, writer Steve Niles called me up a couple hours later, inquiring whether I'd be interested in hosting him for a signing to launch The Ghoul! So I'm happy to announce that Steve Niles will be signing at my store, Alternate Reality Comics (here in Vegas of course), Wednesday, November 25th (which is when the first issue of The Ghoul debuts). Signing time still needs to be finalized so stay tuned for more details (but mark your calendars for November 25th)!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What A Wonderful World!

The two volume manga, What A Wonderful World!, by Inio Asano (who also did the excellent Solanin manga that Viz Media released earlier this year), arrived this week. What A Wonderful World! is made up of several short stories focusing on characters living and wondering about their current paths in life / relationships and their future. I'd say that people who enjoy the comic book voices of Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings, Summer Blonde) and Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, Ice Haven) and the films of Wim Wender (Wings Of Desire, Land of Plenty), would be totally up for Inio Asano's reflective looks at everyday existence.

The central theme of Inio Asano's manga on display in What A Wonderful World! and Solanin, is that life has its high points and its low points, but mostly everyday life is a series of quiet events filled with a kind of sameness and the way a person comes to terms with that fact will determine how they're able to deal with living with that reality (this reality will be vastly different though of course if you're living a life of poverty or live in a part of the world in which the opportunities present in most free market / capitalist societies such as the United States aren't available).

A passage from volume two of What A Wonderful Life! that is at the core of Asano's creations:

"Maybe you and everyone else is right, and this world isn't all that wonderful. But just as familiar sights look different when seen from the sky... Just as even when it's raining, blue skies spread out above the clouds...Don't you think that the way you see the world can change depending on how you perceive it? Oh, what a wonderful world. Even if it's a lie, if you believe it...maybe you will feel happier than yesterday. Right?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Art of Osamu Tezuka

The Art of Osamu Tezuka by Helen McCarthy is an absolutely gorgeous comprehensive biography on one of the most creative minds of the 20th century. In addition to a time-line of Tezuka from his early family life, going through medical school, before finally deciding that he was going to create manga and anime for the rest of his life with photos and examples of his art throughout his career, The Art of Osamu Tezuka, also has a forty-five minute DVD that shows Tezuka at work. From this enclosed DVD, one gets a sense of how busy Tezuka was, how passionate he was about his art, how many people were reliant on his creations, basically what a giant Tezuka was to the comic / manga / anime artform.
Osamu Tezuka is mostly known in the United States as the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba The White Lion (which Disney's The Lion King was based on / swiped from). I couldn't even begin to enumerate all of the manga and anime creations that Tezuka produced, but amongst my favorites are BlackJack (the renegade doctor), MW, Apollo's Song, his Phoenix series, and his Buddha. I'm going to use an excerpt from Helen McCarthy's preface as it gives a better sense of what a huge creative force Tezuka was than any number of words I could string together:

"Tezuka was sometimes called the Walt Disney of Japan, but he was more like Walt Disney, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Tim Burton, Arthur C., Clarke, and Carl Sagan all rolled into one incredibly prolific creator."

Tezuka started creating manga and anime for young people, but he went on to create stories crossing all genres for people of all ages. The Art of Osamu Tezuka is an over-sized hardcover with 272 pages (many of them in full color), published by Abrams Comicarts, for only $40.00 (I realize that forty dollars isn't a small amount no matter how you slice it, but when one sees / reads / experiences this book, they'll understand that this book with a DVD could have easily been a lot more).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Search

The Search is a sequel to A Family Secret and its story focuses on Esther getting re-acquainted with her long-lost friend Helena and recounting what happened to them and other friends and family of theirs during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. Yes this is another Holocaust story and there is a lot of Holocaust stories that already exist in many different mediums, but this was a horrible part of the world's history and there are many more such stories that need to be told. The Search, as with A Family Secret, is a work of fiction about the Holocaust, but other than the characters used in these books, the events are historically accurate and certainly what happens to the characters in these books sadly also happened to people who lived and died during the Holocaust.
The Search is written by Ruud van der Rol, Lies Schippers, and Eric Heuvel and drawn by Eric Heuvel and is also produced by the Anne Frank House (in Amsterdam), with 60 pages in full color for only $9.99. While The Search is a sequel to A Family Secret, it can be read unto itself as there is a recap of events that happen in A Family Secret. Both of these graphic novels would serve as excellent introductions to young adults to what Jewish people experienced during the Holocaust.

A Family Secret

A Family Secret is a fictional graphic novel about the Jewish people of the Netherlands during the Holocaust, written by Menno Meselaar, Ruud van der Rol, Hans Groeneweg, and Eric Heuvel and drawn by Eric Heuvel. This is the story of Jeroen, a young boy, who while going through his grandmother's attic, finds some things relating to his grandmother's Holocaust experiences. From that point, Helena explains to her grandson what happened during that horrible time in history.

A Family Secret is a full color 60 page graphic novel (for only $9.99) produced by the Anne Frank House and while it is primarily intended for young adult audiences, people of all ages will find A Family Secret to be an engaging and powerful reading experience.

Geppi's Museum part 2

A GORGEOUS original by legendary Captain Marvel (Shazam) artist CC Beck. This would be truly priceless unless you're Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. This is the piece I'd most want to have out of everything I saw at Geppi's Museum.

Another great original, this one by five legendary Batman artists, Jerry Robinson, Shelly oldoff, Murphy Anderson, and Neal Adams.

I want to read both of these comics right now!

I think these two books are actually pulps, not comic books, but they have great cover art of course.

Want, want!

Having finally gone to Geppi's Museum, I can say without reservations that this is a MUST see experience and my favorite part of our Baltimore trip!

Geppi's Museum part 1

Last week Kate and I went to Baltimore for the Diamond Comics retailer summit, but mostly as an excuse to visit another city we hadn't been to and finally check out Geppi's Museum. Geppis's Museum houses a fraction of Steve Geppi's comic / pop culture collection and there are priceless artifacts of the comic book medium and pop culture in every turn you take in this 17,000 square feet, amazing building. Steve Geppi is the owner of Diamond Comics, the main distributor for the comic book industry.
Geppi's Museum focuses mostly on original comic book (and comic strips) art and has a very nice collection of rare classic comics in its collection, but it also showcases other relics of pop culture, such as toys and movie posters from yesteryear.
I seriously got chills just being in the midst of these comics from the dawn of American comics (Action Comics #1 is from 1938). The presentation of everything on display at Geppi's Museum is of the highest caliber. I'd seen some photos of this museum when it first opened, but like most anything, just seeing a photograph comes nowhere close to seeing everything in Geppi's Museum in person.

A Superman Muscle Building Set!! How many of these do you think still exist in any condition!? As a reminder, if you click on any photo on my blog, that photo will enlarge to full screen size (ah, what a marvelous age we live in).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New website for my store!

I've been wanting to update my store website for some time now and my artist friend Ron Horsley must have been reading my mind as he made me a new site totally unsolicitated. I really couldn't be happier with it and for those of you who read my blog, but haven't been to my store, there's a nice photo tour (just click on the store photos icon) at:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trotsky by Rick Geary

Trotsky is the newest biographical graphic novel written and drawn by Rick Geary, who has done other notable bio-graphic novels on Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, J. Edgar Hoover, Jack the Ripper, and Lizzy Borden. Rick Geary's biographical subject matters often are the victims or are the cause of horrific violence, but Geary always shows this in a non sensationalistic fashion, while at the same time not shying away from what actually happened. Rick Geary, in his unique narrative writing voice and illustrative style, also manages to compress a large time period of history into his graphic novels without them feeling rushed or as if he edited certain events.

Trotsky, is of course, one of the central architects of the Russian Revolution in the early 1900s, was an avid follower of the ideas of Karl Marx (so was of course an opponent of Capitalism), whose biggest opponent throughout his life was the other large figure of Russia at the time, Lenin. Rick Geary, in Trotsky, fleshes out the life of Leon Trotsky (his name at birth was Lev Davidovich Bronstein), showing that he was more than just one of the faces of communism who had to deal with many instances of personal tragedy and I was especially interested in reading that Trotsky's life path crossed with Frida, the legendary artist of Mexico. Trotsky is a hardcover graphic novel published by Hill and Wang and I think serves as a great introduction to the cartooning of Rick Geary for those who aren't already familiar with him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grandville by Bryan Talbot

The first thing thing that will be impressed upon anyone who picks up Grandville by Bryan Talbot, is what a gorgeous production this is in every respect, with some of the very best art and coloring you'll have the pleasure to experience. Amongst the inspirations for Grandville, Talbot lists Sir Arthur Doyle, Rupert the Bear, and Quentin Tartintino, which should give those curious about what Grandville is as to what kind of book this is. Bryan Talbot is a master comic book writer and artist, who never repeats himself as is evident with his earlier graphic novels The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Heart of Empire, The Tale of One Bad Rat, and Alice in Sunderland.
Grandville is a steampunk, anthromorphic (talking animals), murder mystery adventure for mature readers that takes place in an alternate reality / history England and Paris and every page is an entertaining, charged read. As realized as the story is that unfolds within Grandville, Talbot's art is the true star here (along with the coloring) and this is a graphic novel that one could look at repeatedly and always find new delights. Grandville is a full-colored 100 page hardcover published by Dark Horse for a mere $17.95.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Logicomix An Epic Search For Truth

Logicomix An Epic Search For Truth, a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and other logicians, is amazing, enriching, and totally engaging. Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, who both have backgrounds in mathematics and science, have written Logicomix in such a way that doesn't overwhelm the reader with mathematics and dense philosophy, while at the same not dumbing down any of the big ideas the books subject matter deals with. The artists of Logicomix, the husband and wife team of Alecos Paradatos and Annie Di Donna, draw this graphic novel in a wonderful cartoony style that definitely is a big part of why Logicomix is as great as it is.
With a title like Logicomix An Epic Search For Truth, one may think that this is going to be an incredibly dense, pretentious book that would be chore to read. Logicomix is anything but pretentious and dense (well it can sometimes be dense, but in a good, engaging, expand your mind way). Bertrand Russell, a mathematician / philosopher, is the main subject of Logicomix and the goal of this book being an examination of his life and ideas. Logicomix also explores other logicians like Russell's student, Ludwig Wittgenstein and through them define what logic / logicians study, which is the pursuit of methodical thinking (using the foundations of higher mathematical concepts) and trying to make order out of human behavior.

Doxiadis, Papadimitriou, Papadatos, and Di Donna, the four cartoonists of Logicomix, also interject themselves throughout their graphic novel, but not overtly, rather they do this in a manner that helps the reader understand the big ideas they are dealing with and put things in a kind of context within history. I especially liked their musings on madness and its role / existence that it shares with many logicians and that Russell himself wrestled with in his life. The way in which Logicomix is told is multi-layered, which mirrors its subject matter (the logicians and their ideas) in their complexities, while also showing that Russell and the other logicians were also human and thus not perfect.

Logicomix An Epic Search For Truth, is a 350 page, full color graphic novel, for a mere $22.95 and I hope that it doesn't get lost amongst the other great graphic novels that have been released this year. Logicomix won't get the attention that Cooke's The Hunter received and most comic book stores sadly won't have even ordered this, but a work of this magnitude that isn't afraid to explore big ideas in an entertaining manner, should be loudly heralded.

Possibly the greatest week for graphic novels ever!

I'm still making my way through reading this week's graphic novel arrivals, but I seriously can't remember there ever being so many great and diverse ones coming out in one single week. Here's a roll call: Book of Genesis by Robert Crumb (which I may attempt to read at some point even though I've tried reading the Bible before and it did nothing for me), Trotsky by Rick Geary, Johnny Cash I See A Darkness by Reinhard Kleist, X-Men: Magneto Testament by Grek Pak and Carmine Di Gianomenico (softcover edition of a powerful Holocaust story which despite its title fortunately doesn't have any superhero stuff going on), The Summit of the Gods and A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi (which I blogged about the past couple of days), Refresh Refresh by Novgorodoff, Percy and Ponsoldt (a graphic novel adaptation of a short prose story about three boys whose father is off in Iraq and they've lost communication with him - this is getting good reviews, but I didn't think it really explored its premise very well and read way too fast), Cancer Vixen by Marcia Acocella Marchetto (new softcover edition), Logicomix An Epic Search For Truth by four European cartoonists about mathematician / philosopher Bertrand Russell and other logicians (I'm almost halfway through this book and it may shoot to the very top of my favorite graphic novels I've read this year - a more thorough blog entry will be happening later today or tomorow), Ball Peen Hammer by Rapp and O'Conner (a post apocalyptic scenario that I wanted to like way better than I did - that makes two books from excellent publisher First Second this week that underwhelmed me with the other one being Refresh Refresh, but of course it could very well just be me), Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles Vol. 3 by Neil Swaab (a very funny demented comic strip collection of a loser guy and his talking stuffed teddy bear), Best American Comics 2009 (hardcover short comics anthology edited by Charles Burns), The Discworld Graphic Novels (adaptation of Terry Pratchett fantasy novels, The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic), Buffy The Vampire Slayer Vol. 5, High Moon by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis (from DC's online Zudu imprint, this looks like some kind of werewolf / cowboy hybrid), Berserk Vol. 31 by Miura, Power & Glory by Howard Chaykin, Absolute Promethea by Moore and Williams III (of which I had an entry for here earlier this week), Batman The Black Glove (softcover version of a great Batman story by Grant Morrison and J. H. Williams III), Hellboy Library Vol. 3 by Mike Mignola, Sleeper Season 2 by Brubaker and Phillips, Fables The Deluxe Edition Vol. 1 by Willingham and Umbrella Academy Vol. 2 by Way and Ba! There was also a Yaoi title and three Marvel hardcovers that really don't need to be in that format (they may not even really "need" to have been collected).

Any four or five of the above listed graphic novels coming out in the same week would have been a pretty big deal, but for this many to come out in one week (and most of them of such a superlative quality and added price points for most people who don't have infinite pocketbooks) is somewhat akin to the movie industry and the way they back load all of their Academy Award contenders for release at the end of the year. Usually the various comic companies (especially Marvel) uses the last week of the month to try to crowd comic store shelves with their comic book periodical releases, but as happy as I am to have seen so many great new graphic novels this week, I'd rather releases get spread out better so that this feast or famine for discriminating comic book readers doesn't happen as often as it does. With graphic novels, releasing them all at once isn't as bad as releasing tons of comic titles at once though because at least with the better graphic novels most of the publishers will keep them in print for a good stretch and they're usually easy to reorder. Anyway, I think that the above listing of graphic novels that came out this week would make great additions to people's gift getting / receiving lists.

Back to reading Logicomix An Epic Search For Truth for me!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Summit of the Gods

Two great Jiro Taniguchi graphic novel mangas this week! The second one I'd like to put a spotlight on is The Summit of the Gods, of which the first 300 page volume came out this week (it'll be a total of five volumes). The Summit of the Gods is based on a novel by Yumemakura Baku and starts off with photographer Fukamachi, who while on a trip with some Japanese mountain climbers, finds a camera that may have belonged to George Mallory (who attempted to conquer Everest). Fukamachi's investigation leads him to finding out about some other Japanese climbers and their adventures with various mountains, mostly in Japan. This manga (and the novel it's based on) is fictional, but it's rooted in history and I think it's one of the most exciting narratives I've read in recent memory (and I'm not a mountain climber, nor do I play one on tv), with the always excellent art of Jiro Taniguchi.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Distant Neighborhood

Jiro Taniguchi is one of my very favorite cartoonists so I was especially happy to see the arrival of a new book by him, A Distant Neighborhood, along with the plethora of great graphic novels / trade paperbacks and comics this week. A Distant Neighborhood is about middle-aged Hiroshi Nakahara, who one day ends up in his past as his fourteen year old self with all of his memories intact. Yes, this type of story has been done before (most recently by Alex Robinson in his excellent graphic novel Too Cool To Be Forgotten), but what story hasn't been done before? And with this story scenario, there are many ways in which a writer / cartoonist can bring new things to readers. Anyone who's read some of Taniguchi's previous graphic novels such as The Walking Man, Quest For The Missing Girl, and Ice Wanderer, knows that he is more than adept at delivering a great story.
Taniguchi isn't just a great writer, who creates stories that have a lot of drama in them, without that drama being forced or over the top, he's also a great illustrator who somehow can draw great people, great naturescapes and cityscapes with varying perspective shots without any of the separate elements overshadowing each other.

A Distant Neighborhood is published by Fanfare Ponentmon and will be in two volumes here in the U.S. when it's completed. I read A Distant Neighborhood while on my exercise bike this morning, with Alucard (our black cat) sleeping alongside / underneath the bike so that made for a great way to start off my day.