Month: November 2010

Comics Can Be Anything: The Cookbook Edition Take 2

Proving once again that the innovative spirit moves quickly on-line, what I thought would be the first comic book cookbook looks to be imminently trumped by Web Comics: What’s Cooking? from TGT Media. This is a 96-page book with over 60 webcomics creators contributing recipes and comics. Best of all, proceeds go to American and Canadian National Food Banks. To help pay for printing costs, so that more money can end up going to these charities, they have set up a Kickstarter page with a deadline of Friday, December 17, 8:54 AM EST. That page also has a video trailer that unfortunately won’t embed on WordPress. You can pre-order the book for $25 $20.

Now having done two blog posts on the topic of cookbooks in graphic novel or comic book form, I should probably point out that I can’t cook. I mean, really. A good day is successfully toasting my English muffins in the morning. I don’t so much make my lunch as I assemble it from pre-packaged food-stuffs. And correctly heating a microwavable meal for dinner (or as I still like to call them, TV dinners) takes more concentration and focus than I care to admit. So that’s the extent of my cooking prowess. But I can think of a few people who might like this.

And again, as with The Dirt Candy Cookbook, I think it’s a fantastic idea – using the power of sequential art to show how a recipe is done. Comics may just seem like ways to tell superhero or funny animal stories, but they have an efficiency and clarity as a communicational tool that is difficult to match. Smart companies have been using them in instruction manuals for years. I know nothing about guns but I feel like if I ever had to shoot World War 2 zombies with this gun, I could now figure it out. Heck, comics can even be used to teach you how to make your own mini-comic. So of course they can be used to show us how to cook food.

I said it last time, and I’m going to say it again: comics can be anything.

(via Robot 6)

The Magic Meathands at the Westside Comedy Theater

This Friday at 8 PM, the Magic Meathands and I will return to Santa Monica for another show of improvised comedy at the Westside Comedy Theater! Also performing: improv groups The Waterbrains and Mission: IMPROVable. $10 gets you in for all three shows! Click on the big meaty hand for more.

Friday, Dec. 3, 8 PM
Westside Comedy Theater
1323-A 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica CA 90401

Tickets: $10

Improv is stalking me

This past weekend, Nahleen and I drove a couple hours east of Los Angeles to the 7th Annual Apple Butter Festival in the Oak Glen community. Located about 5,000 feet up the San Bernadino Mountains, there is a definite New England small town vibe, especially with the changing autumn leaves. (Yes, certain parts of southern California can actually get that cold, if you know where to go. In fact, the area had snow on the ground the following night.)

Amidst all of the apple-themed shops and food, there was also a Wild West style stunt show that we were able to catch. The True West Stunt Team does staged gun play and fisticuffs around a 5-building shanty town set (saloon, bank, jail, etc.).

We were told early on that we were seeing a brand new show. (We were later told that it had been choreographed about 20 minutes prior to us sitting down, which didn’t quite seem to add up right. They had been performing two or three times a day since Friday, and we saw the last show on Saturday. Maybe they do a different show every time?)

Anyway, they had a good start, and it looked like they would be good enough to pull this off. And they would have too. But then Murphy’s law decided to smack everyone upside the head. Just about everyone’s guns failed to fire. So we had people standing on the roof of a buildings where they were supposed to be shot off and fall to their “death”. But no “bullets”.

So at this point, as performers, they had two choices. (more…)

Comics Events in LA: Week of 11/28/10

You don’t have to sit at home alone reading to get into comic books and graphic novels. There are always great events going on that celebrate the vitality and creativity of comics. Just here in Los Angeles, there are more events I can ever make. But I try, and so should you. You never know what you’ll discover.

Here are some local Los Angeles events coming up that celebrate the sequential art form.

This week:

Wednesday, December 1: NEW COMICS DAY! Find your local comics specialty shop.

Wednesday, December 1, 8 PM: Comics podcast Bagged & Boarded: Live! returns with Matt Cohen and Brendan Creecy for a broadcast at SModcastle, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90038. Tickets: $10.

Wednesday, December 1, 8:30 PM: Talking with Gods, a documentary on comics writer Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman), will be screened at Hi De Ho Comics & Books with Pictures, 1431 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica 90401. Tickets: $0. (more…)

A day to give, not just to thank

Tomorrow the United States (the American one, in case you weren’t sure) is celebrating Thanksgiving. So the blogging may stop for a few days. So I’ll leave you with this overly flowery, overly sappy message until I get back. Enjoy your foods!

Thanksgiving is a day we typically use to give thanks. While I’ll be doing plenty of that too, I’m going to stop short a bit and just give.

At around noon o’clock tomorrow, I will be performing with the Magic Meathands at a church in Inglewood that reaches out to the at-risk and homeless community. The church will be giving them a Thanksgiving meal, and we’ll be giving them some entertainment.

We do a lot of these kinds of shows, and I couldn’t be happier doing them. When I tell people about it, I think some people think it’s quaint. Some have a look on their face similar to how they would respond if their grandmother was getting involved in community theater. Good for her. She’s getting out and doing some cute little play acting to occupy her time. It’s not “real” theater of course.

As far as I’m concerned nothing could be further from the truth. These kinds of shows are challenging. Most big time comedic performers flat out couldn’t do it and don’t do it. They probably wouldn’t want to do it because they would sense how instantly humbling, demanding, and ultimately risky it is to engage an audience that is more concerned about immediate survival than catching the latest  TV show or movie. Remember, these shows are improvised. There’s no script, there’s no second take, there’s no cutting to commercial, there’s no warm-up act, there’s no one coaching the audience when to clap and when to laugh. We are flying without a net. And when things don’t click, you really know it.

So why do these shows? Because when things do click (and at this point, we’re pretty dang good at making sure things click) the reward is so much greater. The shared experience of laughter can be powerful and never more so than when that laughter gives temporary relief from overwhelming troubles. In those moments, no one is homeless or unemployed. No one is fighting addictions or emotional instability. I’m no longer the performer, they’re no longer the audience. We’re people agreeing together that life is surreal, weird, and funny. We have become a spontaneous choir of laughter. And from that transformation, we as a group have created joy. And if people in such desperate situations can find joy, there is hope.

Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful for what you have. And find a moment to give.

13% of comics made by women

There are likely more women making comics in North America today than ever in the history of the industry. Never has there been a greater variety of creative voices and material. It’s a great time to discover comic books.

But just because it’s better than ever…

Comics material produced by women creators only makes up 13.2% of comics released to retailers and book stores in November so far, according to Ladies Making Comics. This excludes manga imported to North America and web-comics, which would no doubt boost that number significantly.

The comic book world is still very much a boys’ club. The industry was started by men, most of the material was created to appeal to boys and men, most of the businesses have been run by men. Of course there have been exceptions, but they were just that: exceptions to the rule. So the fact that the percentage is in the double digits should be celebrated. Just 10 years ago, I suspect that number would be half that number.

And more of the good news is that more and more female creators are no doubt inspiring new female creators that are growing up on some excellent material, so a mushrooming effect will take place. It’s frustratingly slow and there are still a lot of maddening obstacles, but I believe it’s happening. Nowhere more so than with web-comics, it seems. This is an amazingly fertile ground for fostering imaginative talents and they don’t have to break into a male dominated corporate structure to be seen. They just have to be good, produce material on a regular basis, and have some savviness with social media. And then you get things like Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton, Girls with Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto, Stop Paying Attention by Lucy Knisley, Fart Party by Julia Wertz, Templar, Arizona by Spike, Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran, KinokoFry: A Collection of Comics by Rebecca Clements, DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Diary by Erika Moen (which has sadly come to an end but is still a fantastic read), and many more. Have any favorites?


Magic Meathands sketch comedy video #4!

Written, directed and edited by Nikki Turner, and starring Shane Boroomand and Travis McElroy, with Mary Benedict and Liz Gill. There’s also a quick appearance by me in the crucial role of the Ticket Taker.

This was the most production heavy of the initial batch of videos we made, complete with green screen and CGI velociraptor with missile launching arms. We had to cut the velociraptor because he kept blowing his lines.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy! We’re having a blast making these for you, and more are in the works. Stay tuned! (Or… stay internetted. Or whatever.)

Magic Meathands Original video #3: Pants – A Nightmare
Magic Meathands Original video #2: Fun and Games
Magic Meathands Original video #1: Eddie the Enforcer

Comics Events in LA: Week of 11/21/10

You don’t have to sit at home alone reading to get into comic books and graphic novels. There are always great events going on that celebrate the vitality and creativity of comics. Just here in Los Angeles, there are more events I can ever make. But I try, and so should you. You never know what you’ll discover.

Here are some local Los Angeles events coming up that celebrate the sequential art form.

This week:

Wednesday, November 24: NEW COMICS DAY! Find your local comics specialty shop.

Wednesday, November 24, 8:30 PM: The Meltdown 5: Surprise Thanksgiving Show with stand-up comics Will WeldonBaron VaughnMatt KirshenEd Salazar, and Rob Delaney, at Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90046. Tickets: $8.

Friday, November 26 & Saturday, November 27, 9 AM – 9 PM: Thanksgiving 2-Day Sale with 50% off most product at Golden Apple, 7018 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90038. Tickets: $0.


Open Call for Laugh Makers, Joy Givers

The Magic Meathands Comedy Ensemble have really been picking up steam lately, which thrills me to no end.

Last night, as part of our expanding Comedy Outreach Project, we did an hour-long live show of improvised comedy for a group of women at the Alexandria House here in Los Angeles. We had tons of fun, and really look forward to our next show there in February. Tonight we’ll be returning to the Joy Center at the Hope for Homeless Youth in Echo Park. We perform there once a month and have made some great friends. It’s always a good time. The Meathands’ Comedy Outreach Project is a big part of the group’s mission, and our base of regular organizations that we visit is growing. We bring comedy to people who may not have the means to come to us. We bring laughter to the greater Los Angeles and Southern California community, instead of holing up in a theater somewhere expecting people to come to us. It is a tremendous gift for both us performers and our audience.

That’s not to say we don’t do the more traditional shows everyone can attend. Every first Friday of the month we perform at Mission IMPROVable’s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, opening for the hilarious Waterbrains. We also have regular appearances at The Spot Café & Lounge in Culver City, including our popular Family Friendly Night every second Saturday of the month with Jump Start Comedy Improv. I’m extraordinarily lucky to have this outlet where I get to perform to a live audience usually once a week, sometimes more. Seriously, this is like manna from heaven for someone like me. (No surprise I’ve done well over 100 shows with the Meathands.)

I’m also getting to stretch other creative muscles. Through our recently launched sketch videos program, I get to write, produce, direct, and edit comedy shorts. Hey, I’m actually using my college education! What a concept! This program is sure to grow in the future, and we’re already talking about doing a web-series.

OK, so you get it. I love the Meathands and I’m a big suck-up. Yay for me. Well, if you’re in the Los Angeles area and this sounds like something you would also enjoy, we just so happen (complete coincidence, I’m sure!) to be holding auditions for new members. If you’re interested and are a comedic actor/improviser 18 years or older with training in performance level improvisation, email your resume to our director Bill Johnson. Workshop-style auditions will be held on Monday, December 6 at 7 PM. Callbacks will follow the next evening, Tuesday, December 7. See here for more information about being a main company member of the Magic Meathands.

Mark Millar’s Trouble: Pedophilia the Marvel Way

Some geek scouring of Amazon revealed a listing for a hardcover collection of the 2003 Marvel Comics mini-series Trouble by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson scheduled for release on June 8, 2011. Yup, that’s the cover of the first issue from 2003. Classy, no?

Mark Millar has made a significant name for himself, most notably to the public at large for being the creative mind behind the Hollywood movies Kick-Ass and Wanted, both based on comic book mini-series he wrote (the former with artist John Romita, Jr., and the latter with J. G. Jones). (Terry Dodson is also a pretty popular comics artist, having worked on characters like Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and the X-Men.) So it makes sense for Marvel to mine its back catalog for material with Millar’s name on it. But I have to admit I never thought this comic would ever see the light of day again.

The concept is that Spider-Man’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben, while teenagers and not yet married, go on a double date with Spider-Man’s future parents to a resort in the Hamptons for summer vacation. It’s never explicitly stated that’s who they are (no last names are ever given), but the intent is pretty obvious. The story soon turns into a very special episode dealing with teen pregnancy.

As if that wasn’t blasphemous enough for longtime Spider-Man fans, Marvel inexplicably decided that instead of comics art on the covers, each of the five issues should use uncomfortable pictures of young girls in bathing suits, like the one creeping you out right now. The idea was to have French photographer Phillipe Biabolos mimic the covers of romance novels in an effort to draw in female readers. Idea and execution don’t always stay on the same path.

You see, this comic was supposed to help resurrect the long stagnant romance genre in comics, which was huge in the late 1940s and early 1950s, bringing in tons of female readers. But in 1954 the comics industry felt pressured to create a self-censorship board following some heated Senate hearings on the dangers of comics to America’s youth. So romance comics became boring and people stopped reading. By the 1970s the genre was dead. Flash forward to 2003, and Marvel Comics realizes that drawing from a demographic consisting of just over half the population could be a pretty good strategy. So they decided to give romance comics a go again. And then proceeded to royally botch it up with creepy covers of possibly under-age girls and an unnecessary connection to Marvel’s superhero mascot.

The series, conceived and written entirely by men who work almost exclusively in the superhero genre, failed to find an audience in comics shops. Many of those stores had very likely never tried to sell a romance comic before. And let’s be honest, they had an uphill battle. I have a hard time imagining someone who would be interested in romance comics feeling comfortable buying something with that cover. It’s got Pedobear written all over it.

As you might expect, it was lambasted by readers and drew a lot of critical ire at the time. In fact, it faired so poorly that the softcover collection of the individual issues, which would have been distributed to bookstores so female readers might actually discover it, was cancelled. Who knows? Maybe book stores took one look at it and refused to carry it. Regardless, the aborted graphic novel seemed to be an unspoken message of “Forget it. It never happened.”

And yet, here it comes again. Has it aged well? I guess we’ll find out. I’d love to hear Mark Millar or Terry Dodson’s thoughts on the comic now with some time passed. Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and former Marvel publisher Bill Jemas were also heavily involved in the concept and design of the comic, so I’m curious about their thoughts as well. Any regrets? Any realizations that maybe this could’ve been pulled off better? Or did everyone just overreact and misread everything?

(It should be noted that sometimes these super-advanced Amazon listings end up being completely wrong. So it’s entirely possible this never comes out. But it’s a good excuse to revisit this failed attempt at reaching female readers. Quite a few major comics publishers have plenty of examples. And sometimes they even get it right.)