Month: May 2011

Comics College reveals Essential Reading of Comic Book Masters

One of my favorite regular columns is the monthly Comics College by Chris Mautner at Robot 6, hosted by Comic Book Resources. Each entry is a great introductory overview of what’s best to read from the great comic book masters and why they are so good, making this a fantastic source for newcomers or people who’ve always wanted to expand their reading. It also covers their lesser known work and stuff that maybe should be avoided.

The great part of the column is that it is looking at masters from all over the art form of comics. It’s not just superhero creators, or just alternative comics creators. It’s both those, as well as manga, newspaper strips, underground comics, euro-comics, comics journalism and more.

This month’s subject is the Norwegian cartoonist simply known as Jason. This prolific creator tells funny genre mash-ups with a deadpan economy of dialogue and understated emotion with characters struggling over love and guilt. Next month, George Herriman will be featured. His classic comic strip Krazy Kat is among the most highly regarded in the history of comics.

The Comics College column debuted in August 2009 and has covered the following comics masters past and present (click on the link to be taken to the column):

  1. Los Bros. Hernandez (Love and Rockets)
  2. Jack Kirby (The Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World)
  3. Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Phoenix)
  4. R. Crumb (Zap Comix, Book of Genesis)
  5. Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Mr. Punch)
  6. Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Acme Novelty Library)
  7. Lewis Trondheim (Dungeon, Little Nothings)
  8. Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine, Frontline Combat)
  9. art spiegelman (Maus, In the Shadow of No Towers)
  10. Eddie Campbell (Alec: The Years Have Pants, The Fate of the Artist)
  11. Harvey Pekar (American Splendor, Our Cancer Year)
  12. Kim Deitch (The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Shadowland)
  13. Kevin Huizenga (Ganges, Curses)
  14. Hergé (Tintin)
  15. Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts)
  16. John Stanley (Little Lulu, Melvin Monster)
  17. Seth (George Sprott: 1894-1975, Wimbledon Green, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken)
  18. Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City)
  19. Joe Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine)
  20. Jason (I Killed Adolf Hitler, Hey Wait…)
  21. George Herriman (Krazy Kat)
  22. Jack Cole (Plastic Man, Betsy and Me)
  23. Adrian Tomine (Summer Blonde, Scenes from an Impending Marriage)
  24. Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, We3)
  25. Jessica Abel (La Perdida, Artbabe)

UPDATE: I’ll keep updating the list over at The Comics Observer as Robot 6 posts new entries.

In Recognition of Memorial Day

Our Army at War #13, August 1953 (Art by Bernie Krigstein, published by DC Comics)

The 1812 War, Fall 2011 (Art by George Freeman, published by Renegade Arts Entertainment)

Civil War Adventure, May 2011 (Art by Gary Kwapicz, published by History Graphics Press)

It Was the War of the Trenches, February 2010 (Art by Jacques Tardi, published by Fantagraphics)

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #6, August 2006 (Art by Joe Kubert, published by DC Comics)

Two-Fisted Tales #27, May 1952 (Art by Harvey Kurtzman, published by EC Comics)

Last Day in Vietnam, July 2000 (Art by Will Eisner, published by Dark Horse Comics)

Gulf War Journal, August 2004 (Art by Don Lomax, published by iBooks)

Dougie's War, August 2010 (Art by Dave Turbitt, published by Freight Design)

War Fix, June 2005 (Art by Stephen Olexa, published by NBM Publishing)

This Friday is brought to you by Epic Snuggling Kittehs

Skip to about :30 for the cute explosion but the first half with twitching open-mouthed napping kitteh is adorable too. (Thanks, Kat and Lisa and about 20 other Facebook friends!)

Things to do in LA this weekend:

MUSICRhino Records Pop Up Store returns to Los Angeles for a special series of concerts to benefit The Recording Academy’s popular music community services charity MusiCares. Opening night features Bob Forrest‘s Thelonius Monster at 10952 Santa Monica Blvd. in Westwood, Friday, 8 PM. Suggested donation of $5-$15. The entire series runs March 27-June 12.

COMEDY – The X-ecution: Final 7 and the Magic Meathands‘ Kathie Bostian is still in the running! It’s elimination-style improv comedy with $500 and meetings with top talent agencies at stake. Find out who gets eliminated and who moves on to the next week at The Improv Space in Westwood, Friday, 8-9 PM. Tickets are $10.

COMEDY – I perform improv comedy with the Magic Meathands in a tag-team show with Long Beach improv group Held2Gether at The Spot Café in Culver City, Saturday, 8 PM. Tickets: $7.

COMEDY – I perform more improv comedy with the Magic Meathands in a big variety show spectacular with Victorville improv group Darwin’s A-Team, comedian Ahmed Bharoocha and musician Bob Mitchell, at The Talking Stick in Venice, Sunday, 8 PM. FREE!

Web-Comics About Comics

I have long wanted to start a web-comics hub where creators could talk about the issues of the wild and wacky world of comics using the language of comics. I’ve always thought that was the most obvious and natural method to tackle the oddities and challenges of the industry, whether it be behind-the-scenes politics, reactions to comics of the day, op/ed pieces on the business, interviews, whatever. All of it in the compelling and powerful language of sequential arts, the very language at which these creators excel. Why have boring text articles when talking about comics? Heck, I’ve even got the domain name ready to go. I just need… oh you know, money, time, resources, creators/contributors. Silly little things like that.

In the meantime, there are other comics online that are doing similar work on their own. I love that they exist, so in case you don’t know about them or forgot the link, here are the ones I know about. You should check them out! If I’ve missed any, I’d love to hear about it. Add it in the comments section or email me and I’ll add it in.

The Rack, 2007-present

The Rack by Kevin Church and Benjamin Birdie

While other web-comics had commented on comics, like PvP by Scott Kurtz, Penny Arcade by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner (and plenty of one-off online comics too), to my knowledge, The Rack was the first web-comic series strictly about comics.

The comic launched February 2, 2007, as part of Kevin’s Agreeable Comics network of web-comics. (He’s got to be one of the most prolific web-comics creators.) The strip tells the story of the eclectic staff of a comic book store. The focus is more on the characters in the store with occasional reactions to what’s going on in comics, but it definitely has a retailer perspective.

Comic Critics!, 2008-present

Comic Critics! by Sean Whitmore and Brandon Hanvey

Debuting June 18, 2008, the strip follows fanboy Josh Sands and indie snob Marissa Goldman and their circle of friends as they obsess about, deride, and generally laugh at and with the shenanigans of the world of comic book publishing. A lot of the focus is on superhero comics of Marvel and DC but it also looks at other aspects of the industry. Unlike most web-comics, the strip is formatted for vertical scrolling and doesn’t limit itself to the newspaper tradition of 3-4 panels, which allows them to pack their strips with multiple comedic beats and really build to punchlines. Some of the strips might be a bit too steeped in the inside headlines and scuttlebutt, and they don’t provide links or any commentary on what they’re riffing on, but there’s still plenty of good material to chew on for those with a more general pop culture awareness.

Comic Critics is probably my favorite, partly because I found out about it before The Rack (thanks to Brian Cronin’s Comics Should Be Good blog, which also runs the strip) but also because it does what it does really well.

Let's Be Friends Again, 2008-present

Let’s Be Friends Again by Curt Franklin and Chris Haley

Following only a few months later, LBFA is about two friends (essentially, themselves) who really like comics. Some of the strips aren’t directly talking about comics but they are definitely immersed in the geek culture associated with most comics. The strip will also step into realities parodying current events, like Captain America falling for email forwards and Hawkman getting incensed on Bill O’Reilly over Superman renouncing his US citizenship. The strip mostly follows the more traditional 3-panel format with what is now the standard website layout for web-comics with an easy navigator to previous strips and a brief comment from the creators and a comments section.

Franklin and Haley also contribute Comics, Everybody!, an intermittent web-series of “funny because they’re true” recaps of the ridiculously convoluted histories of most superheroes for Comics Alliance, as well as other extra material. Talented guys, clearly.

Gin and Comics, 2010-present

Gin and Comics by Ryan Fisher

Starting in early 2010, Fisher’s Gin and Comics follows three roommates (two guys, and a girl added recently) attempting to be adults while surrounded by comic books and pop culture. The comic itself is a bit rough around the edges, but the experience is enhanced by the site’s coverage of the material it is satirizing, essentially doubling as a comics news site and web-comic. Moreso than the other two, this strip focuses more on the relationships of the characters and their reactions to comics news.

Like LBFA, the strip uses a familiar navigator and 4-panel layout. Fisher accompanies each strip with commentary to give some context on any references made.

Our Valued Customers, 2010-present

Our Valued Customers by MRTIM

Not exactly a web-comic, but definitely funny and definitely a great source of humor and spot-on observations. Begun March 1, 2010, this is a series of single-panel sketches of actual customers that frequent a comic book store that for obvious reasons has been left unrevealed. Heck, maybe it’s your store! Even if it isn’t, you’ve probably met some of these people.

Our Valued Customers is a parade of unique characters that a comics retailer probably sees on a daily basis. The people represented here are definitely not shining examples of the world of comics. Instead, the cartoons serve as a reminder that there’s still a lot of room for improvement in how a vocal section of fans conduct themselves and represent comics.

The Gutters, 2010-present

The Gutters by Ryan Sohmer, Lar deSouza, et al.

The newest addition, debuting June 12, 2010, is a unique strip with a different approach to making web-comics. To my knowledge, this is the only strip that uses a different artist for each day’s page or strip. They have a rotating stable from which they pull and they also bring in other artists to contribute one-off entries, all coordinated by art director deSouza. They’re always on the look-out for new artists, whether it be in person at comic book conventions or through their submissions page on their website. Because there isn’t a consistent writer/artist team building a chemistry in their work, the strip can be hit-and-miss, but the unconventional format keeps the strip fresh and vibrant.

Each page is self-contained and parodies an aspect of the industry, usually focusing on Marvel, DC and other high profile publishers and events of the faithful weekly readers. Each page also includes commentary from Sohmer and links for more information on the topic(s) of the day (although the layout of the site makes it easy to completely miss the links). There’s also a pretty active comments section.

Two Improv Comedy Shows for Memorial Day Weekend!

The Magic Meathands (with me!) are performing twice this weekend in two special team-up shows for bonus laughs!

Saturday night, we’re at our old stomping grounds, The Spot Café and Lounge in Culver City. We’ll be joined by Held2Gether, an improv group based in Long Beach, for a tag-team show starting at 8 PM.

Sunday night, we debut at The Talking Stick in Venice for a very FREE show! Yes, that’s right! FREE! It’s so FREE that I have to use all caps whenever I type it! We’ll be joined by Darwin’s “A” Team, all the way from the faraway nation of Victorville, California. Plus, comedian Ahmed Bharoocha! And even musical accompaniment by Bob Mitchell!

I tell you, there aren’t enough exclamation points in the world for all the exciting aspects of these two shows. (See? I ran out.) Hope to see you at one or even both.

Hello Lonesome screens at Cinema Village

The award-winning comedy written and directed by Adam Reid (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter trailer, While the Widow is Away short film) screens at Cinema Village in New York City starting this Friday.

With an enchanting mixture of laughter and longing, the worlds of six flawed yet endearing individuals are woven together as they explore those age-old human desires: to love and be loved.

Single urbanite Gordon (Nate Smith) meets Debby (Sabrina Lloyd) online and finds their new relationship put to the ultimate test. A suburban widow (Lynn Cohen) gets much more than she was looking for when she loses her license and leans on her neighbor (James Urbaniak) for support. And in the country, successful voice-over artist Bill Soap (Harry Chase) starts to make amends for being such a lousy father. Sparkling with wit and humanity, Hello Lonesome is the first feature film from writer/director Adam Reid.

Click for more pics of Christopher Trudeau on the set of Hello Lonesome

My first college roommate Christopher Trudeau handled lighting for this movie. I love having talented friends. It’s so much easier than pretending they’re good at what they do. Imagine how awkward that would be. “Oh, good for you! Look at you, doing… what you do!”

Chris was probably the first person I met whose creative perspective I admired. It’s unique, a little off-center and unconventional without losing accessibility. He’s quietly driven and talented, and when those don’t work, he’s smart enough to fake it. He’s also wickedly funny. And I desperately hope he will write and direct his own movies again soon. Fortunately he hardly uses the Internet as if he were an old person, so he’ll probably never see this.

That aside, this movie looks right up my aisle. Funny not because of cheap laughs (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but because of authentic characters. Can’t wait to see it. If you’re not in New York, like me, the movie will be available nationwide on Cable Video on Demand starting June 1st.

Looking at the Eisners: Nominees for Best Limited Series

Today we’re taking a look at the nominees for the Best Limited Series category. This is a comic book series that, similar to a TV mini-series, runs for a set duration, usually around 4 to 8 issues.

The 2011 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards released their nominees for excellence in comic books for the previous year recently. A panel of 6 judges made up of professionals throughout the industry selected the nominees. People throughout the industry will now begin voting on the nominees. Winners will be announced at the award show put on at this summer’s huge Comic-Con International convention in San Diego. The Eisners are basically the comic book equivalent of the film industry’s Academy Awards, TV’s Emmy Awards, music’s Grammy Awards, and theater’s Tony Awards, so it deserves a closer look.

I’m breaking down the nominees in each category, providing context and background info, and giving links to Amazon and other sites so you can buy your own copy, if possible. I can’t read everything, so lots of this stuff passed by me or is on my way-too-high to-read pile, so I’m going to avoid saying what “should” win. (I’m also pretty bad at predicting award show winners, so I’m not going to bother embarrassing myself.) Please feel free to post your predictions, preferences, opinions, or questions.

Best Limited Series

Take a closer look with the click through: (more…)

This Friday is brought to you by Roly-Poly Kitteh

That kitty kinda looks like my kitty!

Unrelated news: There’s an update to the status of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stan Lee and The Governator.

Things to do in LA this weekend:

COMEDYThe X-ecution continues and the Magic Meathands‘ Kathie Bostian has made it to the Final 9! Last week, she won immunity thanks to audience support, which meant she was automatically safe and performed with the improv group The Board. Will she make it this week?  It’s elimination-style improv comedy with $500 and meetings with top talent agencies at stake. Find out at The Improv Space in Westwood, Friday, 8-9 PM. Tickets are $10.

END TIMES – The Rapture is supposed to happen on Saturday, everywhere. 3% of the population will be called to heaven. Earthquakes will spread across the planet “as the sun advances”. Life will be generally crummy for the remaining 97%, presumably, until the world will finally sputter to an end on October 21, 2011. So, stock up on water, I guess. If you’re one of the Left Behind and looking for something to do, there’s always Post Rapture Looting.

ENTERTAINMENT – The 2nd Annual Silver Lake Jubilee is this weekend with tons of music, comedy, comics reading event, interactive theater games, and lots more, Saturday and Sunday. Performances will be held under the bridge at Sunset and Santa Monica Blvds. in Silver Lake, starting at 10 am each day and going late into the night.

BENEFIT – A collection of 20 scantily clad women will be washing cars in their bikinis to raise money for the victims of the tornado in Alabama. There will also be live DJs spinning music and a live podcast noon to 3. The Alabama Tornado Victims Charity Fundraiser Bikini Car Wash will be at Norm’s 76 gas station on Sunset in West Hollywood, Sunday, 10am – 6pm. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Tuscaloosa Disaster Relief Fund, run by the Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce. Suggested donation: $10 & up.

Comic Book Storytellers on How They Became Pro

Comics writer Michael “Frick” Weber (The Field on the Edge of the Woods) has partnered with digital comics provider Cloud 9 Comix to create a series of quick interview videos with a plethora of mega-talented comics artists and writers talking about how they discovered they wanted to work in comics and how they broke into comics.

The first two episodes were posted last week, and are made up of on-camera conversations held at last month’s Pittsburg Comicon.

Interviewees, in order of appearance:

  • Loran Skinkis (writer/artist, Electric Owl; artist, Star & Stripes)
  • Sean McKeever (writer, The Waiting Place, Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, Teen Titans, Funky Winkerbean)
  • Pat Olliffe (artist, Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Girl, JSA Classified)
  • Scott McDaniel (artist, Batman, Daredevil, Green Arrow)
  • Chris Yambar (writer, Bart Simpson Comics; writer/artist, Mr. Beat)
  • Terry Moore (writer/artist, Strangers in Paradise, Echo; writer, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane)
  • George Pérez (artist, Crisis on Infinite Earths, New Teen Titans, Avengers)
  • Louis Small, Jr. (artist, Vampirella, Codename: Knockout)
  • Talent Caldwell (artist, Fathom, Wildcats: Nemesis, Gen13)
  • Gary Morgan (artist, The Field on the Edge of the Woods, Henry)
  • Ron Frenz (artist, Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Superman)

(via Robot 6)

Now That Arnold’s Scandal Is Out, What of The Governator? [UPDATE]

The Governator, developed by Stan Lee (artist unknown, unimportant)

In case you haven’t heard, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger secretly fathered a child with a member of his household staff nearly a decade ago. That secret was kept even from his wife, former First Lady of California Maria Shriver, until just recently. The two had announced a separation following 25 years of marriage last week just prior to the information being made public.

Yes this makes for sudsy gossip for some but what does it mean for Schwarzenegger’s plans to enter the world of comic books? At the end of March, he announced through Entertainment Weekly that a combination comic book and animated TV series would launch starring the former Hollywood action hero as a crime fighter. The character and concepts were created in collaboration with Stan Lee, co-creator of such flawed and troubled superheroes as Spider-Man and tons of other Marvel Comics characters. While Stan Lee will forever be remembered for his classic work with seminal artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in the early 1960s, he remains remarkably active today. Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment helped develop a new line of superhero comics for Boom! Studios and even superheroes for the NHL, to name just two recent projects. He’s even a prolific Twitterer.

So will this scandal sink The Governator? Perhaps cause Stan Lee to distance himself from the flawed and troubled Arnold who may no longer be the best example of a real world hero? According to the LA Times today, probably not.

An outline obtained by The Times says the lead character was to juggle the responsibilities of being an “action hero” and “family man.” One potential theme was to have been when Arnold’s mission was complicated by “remembering to buy Maria a gift for their anniversary.”

After the couple confirmed their separation last week, [Stan] Lee told the Associated Press that plans to include Shriver had been dropped, and that the break-up wouldn’t affect “anything at all, except we can probably have a lot of girls having crushes on our hero as the story goes on — which we probably would have done anyway.”

That quote, given prior to the recent revelation, seems a little harsh now in light of the scandal. For now, I’m sure all parties are waiting to see how public perception evolves, and with so much put into The Governator so far, will try to launch it anyway. If it lands on a network and makes it to print, how will it be received? Will it become the next Spider-Man, or the next Stripperella? I bet Maria Shriver has an opinion.

UPDATE, 5/20/11: This morning, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lawyers released a statement that his acting career was now on hold while he dealt with “personal matters”. That was followed by another statement from the production companies behind The Governator:

“In light of recent events, A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have chosen to not go forward with the Governator project.”

Less than two hours later, the statement was revised to saying the project was “on hold.”