Month: June 2011

What are the Ten Best Comics ever?

What is the absolute best of the best comics? What is the art form’s canon?

Robert Stanley Martin of the comics criticism and commentary blog/magazine The Hooded Utilitarian has been polling the minds of comics creators, the comics press, retailers, educators and other relevant people to answer that question. Suitable material can be comic strips, political cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, anything that can be considered sequential art and/or the combination of words and pictures to express something.

I’m told they have over 100 lists from several continents submitted so far. I was invited to submit my list, which I just did, even though it’s a completely and utterly impossible task. At the end of the month, they’ll shut the door and start the counting. So if you are in any way involved in comics, answer this question: What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant? Be sure to read the full guidelines. Then send your answers to bestcomicspoll@gmail.com with a brief explanation of your credentials. In August, they’ll start to unveil the results, followed by the publication of everyone’s lists. I’ll reproduce my list over here, along with what I wish I included, embarrassing omissions and my reaction to the results.

Me to be Contributing to This

If you missed last night’s ComiCenter show with me on the panel, you can see a low-res video here. An HD version will follow.

And just in case I came across as a total superhero hater on last night’s show, I’ll take this opportunity to announce that I am contributing something for the second issue of Rocket Boosters, a fanzine celebrating the Marvel Comics character Nova the Human Rocket. The issue will also feature contributions from Marvel Comics writers, artists and editors who have worked on the character over the years, as well as a previously unpublished story. The electronic ‘zine is edited by Doug Smith, who runs the wonderful Nova Prime Page. I also contributed a little something for the first issue from a few years ago, which you can download as a PDF here.

Here’s the cover for the upcoming issue:

Appearing on @ComiCenter today live at 7:15 PM PST

I’ve been invited to be a panelist on today’s live web broadcast of ComiCenter, a comics industry discussion show. The episode goes live tonight at 7:15 PM Pacific at GeekWeek Live. Follow along online and you can submit questions through GeekWeek’s chat.

We’ll likely be discussing the massive news of DC Comics relaunching their entire superhero publishing line in September and their new digital comics strategy, as more details have been released over the last couple weeks. But really, who knows? I could spend the entire hour attempting puppetry of the penis. It’s live internet TV! Anything can happen!

The weekly show is recorded live at Brave New World Comics in Newhall, California. So if you’re in the neighborhood, stop in, be a part of our studio audience, and maybe buy some comics and/or graphic novels!

If you miss the live webcast, the episode will get posted on YouTube by Moopsy Productions about 6 days later. I’ll be sure to embed the video here once it posts.

The show is hosted by Atom! Freeman, a sales and marketing consultant in the world of comics and co-owner of Brave New World, and Bryan Daggett, who also hosts the Geek Week podcast. The first episode had an excellent conversation about digital comics with writer and digital advocate Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and comics journalist Andy Khouri of Comics Alliance. They’ve also had horror writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), writer Sam Humphries (CBGB: The Comic Book, Fraggle Rock), The Panelists‘ academic Charles Hatfield (Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature) and many more impressive people have served as guests.

Tragically they’ve already jumped the shark and asked me to be on their show. Tune in tonight!

How to Make a Graphic Novel: reMIND reveals the process from web to print

Hey, let’s make a graphic novel! They’re the cool new thing and it’s easier than trying to turn a big idea into a movie.

Not so fast, Trigger. A graphic novel isn’t just a movie script and storyboards slapped together as a book. It takes a lot of time, commitment, and money. And there are a lot of difficult lessons to learn. What lessons? Ask graphic novelist/animator Jason Brubaker. He’s been learning, and sharing those lessons, as he makes his graphic novel reMIND, which will debut at this year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. (Although I understand The Comic Bug in Hermosa Beach had some copies that sold out within a day. Check with them. Maybe they’ll get more before Comic-Con.)

His website reMINDblog.com has a Making Graphic Novels section that explains exactly that – great material for process junkies, fans of behind-the-scenes extras, and for people interested in making their own graphic novels. Learn how to make money with webcomics, how to design your book for publication, how to color and letter, whether to self-publish or go after a larger publisher, how to get a literary agent, selling on Amazon, the best website hosting and blogging services, web vs. print, how to make money online, how to advertise smart, how to win the Xeric Award Grant, how to make over $12,000 through Kickstarter, how to collaborate with others, and lots more. What’s great is that he is openly sharing his personal experiences with a startling level of transparency. And let me be clear. These aren’t just vague articles giving you the high points and a “go get ’em!”. He really gets into the nitty-gritty, explaining exactly what worked and why and to what extent, and how to do it, all in a very helpful and clear headed tone.

And it is that same spirit that he shares the first three chapters of his graphic novel online and it is great. These were originally posted over the last couple of years as they were completed, with the caveat that the final printed graphic novel may have changes and/or corrections. There are also some guest strips to tide us over while we wait for the rest of the story next month.

This Friday is brought to you by Don’t Like Surprise Kitteh

Things to do in Los Angeles this weekend:

COMEDY – The X-ecution: Final 6 and we’re still rooting for Kathie Bostian of the Magic Meathands! 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: $10

MUSIC – Singer/songwriter Maureen Toth launches her debut album Shine at Molly Malone’s in the Fairfax District of LA, Friday, 8 PM. She’ll be joined for an acoustic set with blues/folk guitarist Bernie Larsen, bassist David Sutton and drummer Butch Norton. Tickets: $10

COMMUNITYThe Great Wall of Los Angeles Bubble Bath is looking for volunteers. Help clean up the longest mural in the world (1000 feet depicting the history of Los Angeles from pre-history to now!) by gathering with others at the Great Wall of Los Angeles in Valley Glen, Saturday, 10 AM to 4 PM. If interested, email felipe@sparcmurals.org or call 310-822-9560, ext 10 at the the Social and Public Art Resource Center and leave your name, phone and email.

COMEDY – I perform family friendly improv comedy with the Magic Meathands at the The Spot Café & Lounge in Culver City, Saturday, 8 PM. Opening for us is the South Bay improv troupe Jump Start. Tickets: $7 ($3 for kids 12 & under)

THEATERPulp Shakespeare answers the age-old question, “What if Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction was written by William Shakespeare?”, at the Actor’s Circle Theatre in West Hollywood, Saturday, 6 PM and Sunday, 7 PM. Catch the previews of this show right before it officially debuts at Hollywood Fringe next week. Tickets: $10

Webcomic A Life In The Clouds uses Twitter to mix story into our modern world

A Life in the Clouds by Mike Vennard and Shawn Decker

A new webcomic debuted last week with a unique twist on incorporating the environment within which webcomics exist: the internet, specifically social media in the form of Twitter.

A Life in the Clouds by writer/letterer Mike Vennard, artist Shawn Decker and colorist Omaik debuted on May 31 and is updating nearly daily. Looking reminiscent of autobiographical comics from the 1970s and ’80s like Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, the strip chronicles one man’s struggles with unemployment.

But perhaps more significantly, it also utilizes a very modern device, both in and outside of the story. Each page’s narrative caption is not just a snippet of the main character’s inner thoughts, they double as what he is posting to Twitter. And post them, he does. You can follow @DavidMawyer, where each of his captions are tweeted to the world, along with links to each page as they go live. This obviously doubles as a smart marketing tool, but the character and comic are truly products of the social media age, using hashtags, memes and tech geek references as part of the character’s language to add a touch of dry humor to what looks to be an otherwise sad and lonely journey to which all too many people can probably relate.

It doesn’t always work flawlessly (the friend request reference on page 3 doesn’t quite work since it’s not like there’s a sexual partner request for people to use as an alternative) but it’s an interesting way to incorporate elements of the modern world and a compelling experiment. This kind of integration and live participation is a definite strength of webcomics that should be explored more. I assume this isn’t the first. Are there other webcomics out there similar to this? Post them in the comments below so we can check them out.

Family-Friendly Funnies on Saturday

The Magic Meathands welcome you, your kids, your siblings, your neighbors, your co-workers, your parents, your in-laws, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents! When we say all-ages, we mean all-ages.

This Saturday starting at 8 PM, it’s our Family-Friendly show! We’re joined with fellow improv comedy performance group Jump Start for 2 hours of comedy at The Spot Café in Culver City. Tickets are $7.

It’s Foreskin Man! With the power to make you really uncomfortable!

Foreskin Man trading card

Foreskin Man (art by Gledson Barreto): Suddenly Batman's flying rodent motif seems perfectly healthy

In case it isn’t obvious, I love comics. There is truly an endless supply of amazing stories and art. On the other hand, there’s also an endless supply of weird stuff of dubious quality and/or purpose.

Meet Foreskin Man!

If only I were kidding. Look closely to the picture on the right. His chest symbol is actually the silhouette of the tip of a penis. Sadly, it’s not a comic about a guy that was bitten by a radioactive penis. It’s not even a porn comic, which would at least make it good for a few laughs.

The first issue of this comic came out last year, but it’s getting a whole new round of coverage with the recent release of issue #2. The San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and LAist covered it last week within the context of efforts in San Francisco to pass a bill that would ban circumcision for children under 18 years old. Apparently 7,743 people in San Francisco think this is a real issue that needs to be addressed, so the bill will actually be on the city’s November ballot. If passed it would result in $1,000 fines and jail time up to a year for those that have children circumcised, even for religious reasons. Purely a coincidence, but Foreskin Man was created and written by Matthew Hess, the president of MGMBill.org, an activist group seeking to get this exact kind of legislation passed on the basis of human rights.

Yes, that’s right. Foreskin Man is a propaganda comic against circumcision. And as bonus points, it’s racist! The second issue depicts the Aryan looking Foreskin Man stopping ridiculously sinister Orthodox Jews from circumcising an infant. The Anti-Defamation League released a statement on Friday decrying the online comic for its “grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes”.

You can read the comics at ForeskinMan.com [link corrected] and decide for yourself. Personally, I’ve learned that if you want to stop someone from having their child circumcised, it is perfectly fine to abduct said child and hand them over to some shifty biker gang. This is much less traumatic and emotionally damaging than a surgical procedure the baby won’t even remember. But read it for yourself and decide whether the comic is simply using exaggerated character types typical for the superhero genre to illustrate their… point, or whether they’ve gone too far and should just… cut it out. Or off, as the case may be.

Full disclosure: I’m circumcised (and feel fine, thank you).

The Starmind Record puts dramatic twist on improv and aliens

I have a guest appearance in episode 6 of The Starmind Record.

Web-series tend to be short comedies. Performance improv tends to be comedic. So this project is a bit unusual: a dramatic web-series improvised around outlines and a mythology written and created by writer/director Tennyson Stead of 8 Sided Films. And to add another level, the show utilizes compelling mysteries that reminds me of the addictive narrative that drew in fans of shows like Lost. It was a great experience to work my improv muscles in a new way, more focused and goal-oriented for a dramatic scene, and more subtle for a camera.

Because of the serialized nature of the show, it’s probably best to watch the episodes leading up to the one above. They’re each about 10 minutes long and are building a cool mystery around a possible alien visitor found by two documentarians played by Gerard Marzilli and Charlotte Gallagher. Matthew McCallum plays the mysterious Dean. This episode also features Shanna Beauchamp, Lisa Russey and Cesar Ramos

Here are the previous episodes:

This Friday is brought to you by Gravity Defying Kitteh

Things to do in and around LA this weekend:

COMICSReed Gunther Release Party! Celebrate the debut of the all-ages cowboy comic book from Image Comics with creators Shane and Chris Houghton who will be signing and sketching for free. Plus a giant snake! At Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood, Friday, 7 PM – 9 PM.

COMEDY – I perform improv comedy with the Magic Meathands at the Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, Friday, 8 PM. Immediately after us will be the always hilarious Waterbrains and Mission: IMPROVable. Tickets: $10.

ACTIVISMSlutWalk LA is the latest in a series of demonstrations across North America in response to a Toronto police officer who advised students to not dress like “sluts” as a safety tip to avoid rape. Believing that “those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception,” participants will begin in West Hollywood Park, Saturday, 12:00 noon.

COMMUNITY – The Long Beach Basket Brigade has their 3rd annual fundraiser to help families in and around Long Beach. Silent and live auctions, Texas Hold ’em and Bunco Tournaments, and a fine dinner all help to raise money. At The Grand Event Center in Long Beach, Saturday, 6 PM – 11 PM.