Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dear Dad; Ky-Mani Marley

About a month ago, Ky-Mani Marley was at a local Barnes and Noble signing his new book, Dear Dad. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the signing, but Deanna, one of my customer's (Marc) wife, who works at said bookstore, got me a signed copy.

Yes, Ky-Mani Marley is one of Bob Marley's sons and yes, Dear Dad, is partially about Bob Marley. Because Ky-Mani had a different mother than most of Bob Marley's children, and sadly because there was a lot of drama because of that fact, Ky-Mani didn't grow up with the benefits that one would think being a son of Bob Marley would entail. Thus, Dear Dad is mostly about how Ky-Mani grew up like a lot of kids who grew up in Jamaica did, which was being very poor (in the financial sense as Ky-Mani emphasizes).

Ky-Mani and his mother, when he was about eight years old, moved to Miami, to be with other family members who lived there. As Ky-Mani recounts in Dear Dad, when he was a kid living in Falmouth, Jamaica, there was nine people living in a two room shack-house with the kitchen and bathroom (which had no plumbing) being outdoors, but when they moved to Miami, they lived in the ghetto (Liberty City), in an even smaller "house" with seven other people. So the American Dream couldn't have been farther away for Ky-Mani. Ky-Mani never felt family poor when he was in Jamaica as a little kid, as there was a lot of love all over his neighborhood community and as poor as they were, they never went hungry. Moving to a ghetto in Miami though, resulted in Ky-Mani dealing weed and other drugs even before he was a teenager as he was thrust into a violent, volatile world that most of us can't come close to imagining.

Dear Dad isn't the big sob story that one would imagine growing up in such conditions would result in, but rather a book that Ky-Mani Marley wrote, not to dwell on the inequities that he had to live with that Bob Marley's other children didn't, instead he wrote Dear Dad to try to unify the Marley family under Bob Marley's One Love credo (basically Ky-Mani is saying people need to leave silly drama out of their lives). The other big thing that comes through in Dear Dad is Ky-Mani's utmost respect and love for his mother and all she did to make himself the person he is today. Ky-Mani today is a musician, a path he didn't see happening early on in his life and he's started a foundation called Love Over All Foundation (www.loveoverall.org) to help children who come from impoverished environments to have opportunities that others have.

I'd highly recommend Dear Dad for Ky-Mani Marley's naturalistic conversational writing style, as a window into growing up in an environment that is so alien to most of us, and as the great love Ky-Mani has for his family and the father he barely knew. Next time Ky-Mani comes to Las Vegas, I'll be sure to be in his audience and hope that he continues to write books as well as music.

Invincible Gene Colan

This blog entry is the 500th entry (edited to add that this is not the 500th post - my apologizes to those of you keeping score) here on Ich Liebe Comics! which I first started three years ago, back in May, 2007. So I'm going to mark this occasion by writing about The Invincible Gene Colan, a new book that spotlights the amazing artwork of one of my favorite all time artists, Gene Colan.

The Invincible Gene Colan is a hardcover, 131 page, full color (other then when Gene Colan's penciled pages are reproduced) Marvel produced book, edited by Clifford Meth. Since this book was published by Marvel, there's no art from other companies that Gene Colan worked for, but he did do most of his comic book artistic work for Marvel so there's definitely lots of great Gene Colan artwork within this volume. My only criticism of The Invincible Gene Colan is that it could easily have been three times in length because he worked in this industry for something like sixty-four years! Gene Colan is about 84 years old and his health has been declining, but last year he drew what will probably be his last interior comic book art, for an issue of Captain America (issue #601 written by Ed Brubaker) and it was of course amazing!
Gene Colan has drawn numerous Marvel characters, including long great runs on Daredevil, Iron Man, and Dr. Strange, but for me and many others, the Marvel title that was perfect for Gene Colan was Tomb of Dracula, which he penciled for seven years, with writer Marv Wolfman. Tomb of Dracula is one of the best portrayals of vampires that I have seen in any medium and this would not have been the case if not for Gene Colan's dark, atmospheric art.

One of my other favorite Marvel comics in the 1970's was Howard The Duck, written by Steve Gerber, and while he wasn't the first artist to have drawn Howard, he drew more Howard The Duck comics than any other artist and his style is deservedly the most associated with the character. I've talked to Gene Colan at a couple of conventions and he always spoke highly of Steve Gerber's writing and that drawing Howard was amongst his favorite drawing gigs he'd done over the years.

Gene Colan has always said that the main source of inspiration for his artistic style came from the cinema. As fellow artists remark in The Invincible Gen Colan, Gene Colan is an artist's artist and while many have tried, it is hard to ape his art style. I've always thought Gene Colan's art style lends itself more to real world / real people stories (Ragamuffins and Detective Inc., both written by Don McGregor) because he can so perfectly draw the way a person moves, the way their clothes fit, and the environments they live in, so well that gives the reader great frames of context. This doesn't mean that Gene Colan can't also draw comics with fantastical characters and fantastical environments because one has only to look at his Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel runs to see that he is adapt at drawing those kind of comics as well. Gene Colan is also a master at inventive panel layouts and the way he totally understands how to light a page which is what makes his work so immersive for the reader and why writers loved working with him (additionally, Gene Colan was able to do all of this at a pretty prolific rate that many artists today and yesteryear can't come close to equaling).

As great as I think The Invincible Gene Colan book is, especially covering the span of the artwork he did for many Marvel Comics, I hope someone else does a companion art book looking at his artwork that he did for other companies such as DC (Night Force, Wonder Woman, Phantom Zone) and Eclipse (Detectives Inc. and Ragamuffins).

As I wrap up my 500th (which I've since been alerted to as being wrong - but Gene Colan still rules!) Ich Liebe Comics! blog entry, I want to again thank everyone who has ever read my blog (and those of you who give me feedback) and to thank those of you who've gotten their comic book jones on at Alternate Reality Comics, here in Las Vegas over the past 16 years!

p.s. Even though the date on this post says Tuesday, March 25th, I did just write it today, Friday, March 28. I sometimes will upload images for a blog entry I want to do, but don't have time to actually write about just then (which is also why this entry appears before my entry on Dear Dad, which I just wrote yesterday, even though it also has a date of Tuesday, March 25th). Thank you - as you were!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

saturn apartments

saturn apartments is a new manga series by Hisae Iwaoka about people who clean the exterior windows on a space station. One of the first questions that comes to mind with this premise is: If this space station is so advanced to actually allow people to live there full time, couldn't they have made self cleaning exterior windows or robots that will clean those windows? Actually the cartoonist kind of does address that, but mostly if you're going to enjoy saturn apartments, which I did, you're going to have to just accept that people cleaning exteriors on a space station is a job that needs to be done by people.

In the future setting of saturn apartments, people don't live on Earth anymore as it has become endangered, thus people have to live in this huge satellite that orbits Earth in order to preserve the planet. A class system exists on this satellite, just as class systems exist / existed on Earth, with the higher classes residing on the higher floors.

The central character of saturn apartments is Mitsu, whose father was a window washer who died, leaving Mitsu to have to take over from him and quit school. While I wanted to like saturn apartments more then I did, there are some good sad moments within and despite my rambling, aimless entry about this manga in which I'm trying to say something worthwhile (and flopping), I do think that it's a series that others may like (I don't know how long this series is, actually I thought it was a single volume when I ordered it originally, but this can be okay as long as it's not padded like this entry - sorry!).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Silverfin: Young Bond

Silverfin is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel of the same title with art by Kev Walker and written by Charlie Higson (who also wrote the novel). Silverfin is about young James Bond (yes, THAT James Bond) when he first started adventureteering.

I'd never really been into the James Bond character (I think I've only watched one or two of the movies) and I wasn't familiar with the creative team of this graphic novel so when the Silverfin graphic novel came out originally in 2008, it completely fell under my radar. Fortunately, one of the wonderful patrons of my store ordered a copy from a recent Diamond Previews catalog and when it arrived this week, I took one look at the art by Kev Walker and knew that I had to read this. I'm really glad I did, because this was a totally fantastic adventure / mystery story, that wasn't reliant on me being a James Bond aficionado (but those that are will probably get even more out of this graphic novel). Silverfin is published by Disney / Hyperion Books, so yes, it is an all ages graphic novel, but like Jeff Smith's Bone, it plays to audiences of all ages without being cute or simple.
I've seen some of Kev (or Kevin as he's sometimes credited) in some superhero comics, but none of his art that I've seen previously prepared me for the quality of art that Silverfin has. I'm going to guess this is because, in Silverfin, Kev Walker pencils and inks himself as well as does the coloring. In Kev Walker's art that is on display in Silverfin, I see elements of artists Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Jason Lutes (Jar of Fools, Berlin), and Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze), and I can't think of higher praise to lavish upon Kev Walker. Just click on the interior page above as Kev Walker's art certainly speaks for itself.

Silverfin is 150 pages in length, in full DYNAMIC color, for only $9.99, so if that's not the deal of the day, well I don't know what is. Alternate Reality Comics will make sure to keep Silverfin in stock and is hoping Charlie Higson & Kev Walker do more Young Bond adventures (and or collaborate on another project)!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Daytripper #6

Another adventure of Bras, the obituary writer, titled "33", by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, Daytripper is the best comic being published today. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Seriously, you'll only give yourself a headache by avoiding this comic. For those trade-waiting on Daytripper, there's four issues left so I'm going to guess the collection will be out in October or November.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta 1928-2010

My friend, Rick, just called me with the sad news that Frank Frazetta died this afternoon at the age of 82, seemingly of another heart attack. Even though Frank Frazetta had led a long rich life and had a couple of other heart attacks, this is still very sad news to me and to everyone who loves fantastic art.

Frank Frazetta's artistic contributions to the comic book medium and fantasy art are without equal as he was an Artist with a capital A (not just a great fantasy artist, but a FANTASTIC all around artist), he was hugely influential to many artists, and his paintings were never just static posed images - they told entire stories unto themselves. If you haven't already seen the excellent 2003 documentary on Frank Frazetta titled Frazetta - Painting With Fire, I'd say now would be a great time to hunt down a DVD copy.
I first started reading comics on a regular basis back in 1975 (I was 13) and one day I was in the B Dalton bookstore at the Boulevard Mall here in Las Vegas (back when it was the premier mall in town) and I saw this collection of Frank Frazetta paintings published by Bantim Books (they went on to do four such collections). I hadn't heard of Frank Frazetta previously, but when I saw these amazing paintings of his (especially his women), how could I not buy that book? And like anyone who first discovers the amazing artistry of Frank Frazetta, I became a life-long fan.

What better way to launch the Vampirella comic magazine in 1969 then by having Frank Frazetta do the cover!? I didn't buy this when it first came out, but I ordered it in the late 1970's when it only cost twenty dollars to do so and it is one of my prized comic book possessions.

This is a painting Frank Frazetta did of his wife, Ellie, who died almost a year ago. Ellie was Frank Frazetta's muse, model, and center of his world, so sadly when she died, many had rightly predicted that Frank Frazetta wouldn't be far behind her.

I haven't been online since earlier this morning (or had the news on since earlier), but I can only guess how much sadness the news of Frank Frazetta's death is bringing to so many people because even though he led a long life, his passing is truly the end of an era. Fortunately, Frank Frazetta created so much art in his lifetime that will continue to awe and inspire future generations of art lovers.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Tale Of One Bad Rat

Dark Horse, this week released a new collected edition of Bryan Talbot's The Tale Of One Bad Rat, in hardcover (surprisingly it wasn't previously available as such). As Bryan Talbot explains in his afterward, The Tale Of One Bad Rat began as his ode to the work of Beatrix Potter and the English Lake District, but as he started to develop his central character, Helen, and her back story, which involves sexual abuse, The Tale Of One Bad Rat became a graphic novel about sexual abuse, but it's not just a story about victimization

The Tale of One Bad Rat was originally a four issue comic book mini series and was first collected in a trade paperback in 1995, went on to be translated in several different languages, as well as winning an Eisner Award. I think that too may books / graphic novels are put in hardcover, when a softcover version would suffice, but The Tale Of One Bad Rat is definitely hardcover worthy (and a mere $19.99!) as it is every bit as excellent as it was when it was first released.

Thus endeth another entry that doen't have anything new to say about a great cartoonist or graphic novel (because one can just do an internet search on Bryan Talbot and The Tale Of One Bad Rat to find much more insightful musings then I can come up with), but I like to think exists as one of my blog entries that hopefully prompts people to take another look at the cartoonist or graphic novel I'm spotlighting that they may have overlooked because, yes, there really is a LOT of great comics and graphic novels out there and The Tale Of One Bad Rat is one of those graphic novels.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965; JOE KUBERT

This week at finer comic book stores everywhere, the new graphic novel by comic book legend and extraordinary artist, Joe Kubert, titled Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965 arrived. This new hardcover graphic novel (200 pages) published by DC Comics is a fictional account by Joe Kubert (who both writes and illustrates Dong Xoai) of events that happened in Don Xoai, in June of 1965.

Joe Kubert did extensive research on Dong Xoai and communicated with the soldiers of the Special Forces Group (Detachment A-342, 5th Special Forces Group Airborne) that were in service there during the time this graphic novel takes place. Dong Xoai was critical within Vietnam because several roads that moved men and material between war zones intersected nearby. The Special Forces unit was stationed there to secure Dong Xoai against the Viet Cong and to train / supply the Vietnamese strike force.

The art style that Joe Kubert employs in Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965, is more of an illustrative style and while this graphic novel isn't done in the traditional sequential panel borders format, the events that unfold (and the art itself) are more organic for these artistic choices that Joe Kubert has made for this book.

Anyone who has read, watched, or heard any accounts of the Vietnam War know that it was an especially difficult conflict and what happens in Dong Xaoi, in June of 1965 was no exception. Just as there can't be too many stories about what happened during World War I, stories about what happened during the Vietnam War are important because of how divided people of the United States were with the U.S.'s involvement, that many are still trying to sort though today forty years after these events occurred. There's over thirty pages after Kubert's Dong Xaoi, Vietnam 1965 narrative, with photos, from the Special Forces team that was there which provides the historical context for this graphic novel.

At this year's Wondercon San Francisco comic book convention, which was held the first weekend of April this year, the highlight for me was meeting Joe Kubert (this photo is from that convention), getting one of his new sketchbooks, and telling him how much I've enjoyed his many contributions in the comic book industry. At the Joe Kubert and Adam Kubert panel at the convention moderated by Mark Evanier, I was also happy to be the first one called upon during the question session and I think Joe Kubert liked that I asked him to talk about Dong Xaoi, Vietnam 1965 because he went on at length about how he first got the idea to do this graphic novel.

Joe Kubert is 84 years old, has worked in this medium for over 75 years (!!) on characters such as Hawkman, Tor, and SGT. Rock, a character he worked on for over thirty rears and has won numerous awards for his cartooning work. Joe Kubert also wrote and drew many graphic novels such as Yossel, Fax From Sarajevo, and Jew Gangster, in addition to running his comic book art school, The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, which he established in 1976 with his wife. The fact that Joe Kubert has worked in this industry for over 75 years is amazing unto itself, but what's truly amazing is that he is still producing work on the caliber of Dong Xaoi, Vietnam 1965 and that he can still draw with a flair that is still miles above what most artists can ever hope to attain (both in quality and sheer output). I've said the preceding not to discourage other artists, or to degenerate other artists, rather to show that cartooning, or any kind of art, doesn't have to just be a young person's game.

Monday, May 3, 2010

City of Spies

City of Spies is a new fantastic all ages graphic novel written by first time graphic novelists, Susan Kim and Lawrence Klavan (both of whom are acclaimed and award winning writers in other mediums) and drawn by Pascal Dizin, also making his graphic novel debut. This is quite the debut graphic novel for all three creators, as City of Spies just oozes with great characters, a great plot, and lots of adventure, humor, and tugging at the reader's heart.

The central character of City of Spies, is Evelyn, a Jewish girl of about ten years of age, who is sent to spend the summer with her aunt, Lia Spiegleman, who lives in the Germantown section of New York City, circa 1942. Evelyn writes and draws a comic journal called The Amazing Adventures of Zirconium Man and Scooter! (of which episodes are show throughout City of Spies), which is seemingly a thinly veiled version of adventures she'd like to have (she draws Scooter as she looks).

As entertaining as Evelyn's comic is, for me the adventure that Evelyn gets into outside of when she's doing her comic is even more interesting, which involves her meeting a neighbor boy, Tony, and the spy activity they come across, the way their friendship develops, and Evelyn's changing relationship with her aunt. For some crazy reason, I've never read any of Herge's Tintin, even though I love the look of Tintin, but City of Spies, to me looks and reads like what I think Tintin comics are. City of Spies (which was originally going to be titled Germantown, a title I actually liked better) is published by First Second, with 172 pages in full color for only $16.99. I certainly hope to read more comics by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan and can't wait to see what artist, Pascal Dizin, does next. To see more art by Dizin, check out his website at: www.dizin-art.com.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

FCBD version 2010 - a smashing success!

The ninth annual Free Comic Book Day came around yesterday and at Alternate Reality Comics, it looked like a fun time was had by everyone that came to get this years offerings!

This first photo is of Aziz, one of the many discriminating readers who shop at my store, with a little Iron Lad upon his shoulders (I think the lad is Aziz's nephew) - cute!
Some of the people that were part of the first wave as the doors opened. This year I reconfigured my store to better display the Free Comic Book Day selections and that worked out much better than the set up I've had in previous years that created a bottleneck at the front door.
Hitwoman and a Jedi Master (Kate and Christie) were my muscle for the day, greeting and directing people to the Free Comic Book Day selections. Thanks also to my friend Rob Perez for all the prep work he helped me with, for overseeing the sidewalk back issue sale I had, and for helping me put the store back together after all of the excitement, and to Jim McKenzie, who took care of checking people out at the register during the early half of the day. Things definitely wouldn't have run as smoothly as they did without the above mentioned assistance (and friendships)!
More eager Free Comic Book Day arrivals!

These two young girls couldn't even wait until they got home to read their selections - almost brings a tear to my eyes (grin)!

Every previous year of Free Comic Book Day has made the first Saturday in May one of the very busiest days of the year at Alternate Reality Comics, and this year was no exception. Actually in previous years, the busiest part of the day happened during the first four hours, with people continuing to come in the remaining four hours, albeit not in such big spurts as the first half of the day crowd. Yesterday, the first half of the day was still the busiest part of the day, but there was more of a continuous flow of people coming in the entire day versus previous years.

Thanks to Joe Field (the creator) of Free Comic Book Day, to Diamond Comics, to the publishers, to the creators, and all of the people who came to Alternate Reality Comics, for making this the fun event it is! I hope everyone discovers some new favorite comics out of this year's selections!