Month: September 2011

Friday is Brought to You by Bear-Attacking Kitteh

Watch out for the rogue foot about halfway through.

REMINDER – Less than 100 tickets left for Drama After Dark: A Night of the Macabre with Poe and Gorey, which I am in along with many other talented actors at the Huntington Gardens, Saturday, October 8, 6:30-9:30 PM. Tickets are $35.

Graphic Novel gets reviewed in comics form

Michael Cavna reviews Habibi using comics (click to read)

Michael Cavna of The Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs blog posted a wonderfully illustrated review of the new graphic novel Habibi by Craig Thompson. I really wish this would happen more often.

I’ve said this before in the past. I love when people in comics use the language of comics to talk about the world of comics. What better way to express oneself. And Cavna presents fantastic evidence to support my case. As he puts it, “it seemed only right to respond with pictures to one of the year’s best comic projects”.

Cavna runs an excellent blog, so it’s easy to forget he’s also an amazing artist. His syndicated comic strip Warped ran in major newspapers across the country, including our own Los Angeles Times, from 1996 to 2003. It’s clear from this that he needs to do more illustrated content for Comic Riffs.

In his review, Cavna weaves together the various threads that led to Habibi. From Craig Thompson’s health problems with his hands following the release of the acclaimed break-out graphic novel Blankets, to his mid-west fundamentalist background. From Thompson’s personal response to 9/11 and religious anxieties that followed, which led to an interest in studying the Qur’an. Arabic writing in turn fed into Thompson’s interest in calligraphy, which informed much of the design of Habibi. Drawing from Arabian NightsHabibi is, as Cavna puts it, “a story of wounded love between a eunuch and a prostitute”. But more than that, it is about Thompson learning to embrace and embody being a man, about sexual trauma, and ultimately about healing. Cavna ends his review intertwining visual motifs of Blankets and Habibi, and calls the latter “a visual masterwork”.

How to Find the Webcomic for You

Screen shot of inkOUTBREAK's reader

The internet is a big place. Discovering a webcomic can be next to impossible unless you’ve determined to comb the intertubes for an entire weekend, or you visit just the right sites. Fortunately, there’s a promising new alternative called inkOUTBREAK that doubles not only as a portal to discover new webcomics, but a way to bookmark your current favorites so you never miss an update.

Sure you could subscribe to an RSS feed, but what if you’re at a different computer? Or have no clue about RSS thingies? Or just don’t really like RSS feeds? inkOUTBREAK lets you follow webcomics you like and takes you to the specific website that houses the webcomic, so you get the entire experience. And every time your favorites update, they’re at the top of your screen. Plus, it does what RSS feeds can’t, it recommends new webcomics to discover. Through the use of customized tags, you can specify the kinds of webcomics you’re interested in. Combine that with the “bump” of a thumbs up you can give strips you enjoy, you also get a suggested stream of webcomics, somewhat similar to exploring music on Pandora Radio.

I’ve just never been a fan of RSS and my email inbox gets pretty cluttered, that I’m reluctant to subscribe to webcomics that way. So this is great news to me. Thanks to inkOUTBREAK, I’ve been able to find several webcomics I lost track of because I’d forgotten the title after some late night internet-wandering (notably Amazing Super Powers). And I’ve already discovered some new ones I’m liking (such as I am Arg!, this surreal Cat and Girl, and this visual treat on Ellie on Planet X). And I’m very happy to be able to read some of my favorites without having to remember their update schedule (like Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and The Abominable Charles Christopher).

Having said that, it’s not perfect. It’s still in beta after all. Some of the navigation to work out your settings, like tags and favorites, isn’t the most intuitive to me. You definitely have to be willing to tinker around with it a little bit. Because of just how many webcomics are out there, even a site like this can’t be expected to have everything, especially right out of the gate. But there are a few surprising omissions, as well as some of my favorites that are missing. No Hark! A Vagrant, no Max Overreacts, no Sheldon, no Destructor, none of Kevin Church’s Agreeable Comics, no Now It Can Be Told (or any of Act-I-Vate, for that matter). You get the idea. And unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a way to suggest webcomics to be added to the service. (It looks like that option used to exist but now the creator of the webcomic has to do it themselves.) Friends with Boys is there but something in the code seems messed up. I’m sure a lot of this will be fixed in the near future.

But it’s a promising start and a fantastic idea. For more on the site, check out this walk-through.

MetaMaus reveals Why Comics

MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman (click to buy at Barnes and Noble)

Art Spiegelman‘s Maus is a really important graphic novel. So much so that it seems kind of silly to feel the need to even point it out. In actuality, it’s a really important book that happens to be a graphic novel.

In case you’ve never gotten around to checking it out or actually don’t know, Maus is the story of Art’s strained relationship with his father, and the elder Spiegelman’s experiences in the Jewish Holocaust of World War II. The first of two graphic novels telling the entire story was released in 1986 and earned a metric ton of accolades. The second followed in 1991, which brought on another wave of critical praise and recognition, including a Pulitzer Prize Special Award. While the Pulitzer Prize has a category for editorial cartoons, the prestigious award for excellence in journalism and the arts had never recognized comic books and hasn’t since. It was one of the most significant steps forward for comics to start to be seen as a legitimate form of expression and art in America. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, it was also one of the most high profile examples that comics didn’t have to be about superheroes. Aside from all of that, it’s a really good read.

Now 25 years later, Spiegelman returns to his most well-known work for a companion book MetaMaus. Included is a new comic by Spiegelman, as well as tons of archival documents, early sketches, and a bonus DVD that includes recordings of his father, and much more.

In excerpts heard in the below trailer, Art Spiegelman talks about why he chose to use comics to tell this story and he talks about the maverick and underground nature comics held for a long time, and still do in some respect.

I really liked the satire magazines, the comic books that made fun of the culture around me. Those were the ones that really seemed to be talking about television, advertising, politics in a way that said primarily the grown-up world is lying to you. And this was the Rosetta Stone that would let you kind of break the code and see what was really going on in the world.

MetaMaus will be released on October 4.

 

Comics and Graphic Novels at this year’s West Hollywood Book Fair

10th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair

The West Hollywood Book Fair is this Sunday, October 2nd, and a good number of comic book and graphic novel authors, artists, publishers and retailers are taking part. There are plenty of panels and events, which all include signings immediately after. Here’s a look at what’s happening:

Programming:

The Comics, Graphic Novels & More Pavilion will have panels throughout the entire day. Good discussions will be held to examine how comics are attempting to diversify their readership, as well as the rise of graphic novel anthologies and young adult graphic novels. There will also be a look at comic book adaptations of the worlds of Jim Henson and a broader look at comics getting adapted to film and TV. The day is then capped off with a live podcast covering Superman’s impact on American and world culture.

11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Diversity in Comics panel. Former TokyoPop senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl moderates; panelists: author/illustrator Leland Myrick (Feynman), manga editor/writer Troy Lewter (Priest, Cabin in the Woods), and writer Kimberly Komatsu (Womanthology, In America’s Shadow).

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm: The Rise of the Graphic Novel Anthology. Comedy writer Asterios Kokkinos moderates; panelists: Kazu Kibuishi (editor of Flight, Explorer), DJ Kirkbride (editor of Popgun), Nicole Sixx (contributor to Womanthology), and Michael Woods (editor of Outlaw Territory).

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm: The World of Young Adult Grapphic Novels. Lillian Diaz-Przybyl again moderates; panelists: author Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes), writer Deborah Vankin (Poseurs), and editor Barbara Randall Kesel (Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives, Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales).

2:45 pm – 3:45 pm: Jim Henson and Comic Books: Putting Puppets to Paper. Writer/editor (and Henson specialist) Tim Beedle moderates; panelists: The Jim Henson Company‘s Director of Product Development Jim Formanek, writer Brian Holguin (Dark Crystal), consulting editor Joe LeFavi of Quixotic Transmedia (Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller, Return to Labyrinth), and writer Heather Nuhfer (Fraggle Rock).

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Comics to Screen & Back Again. Moderated by Sax Carr and Blair Marnell of Crave Online’s The Idiot Box podcast; panelists: writer/editor Len Wein (Swamp Thing, X-Men), executive story editor/writer Deric A. Hughes (Warehouse 13), and writer Sam Sarker of Johnny Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil (The Vault).

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Inside the Comics Industry: Superman. A live broadcast of the Fandom Planet podcast hosted by comedians Tim Powers and Sax Carr; panelists: artist Jon Bogdanove (Superman: The Man of Steel), writer Elliot S! Maggin (Action Comics, Superman), and comics historian/cartoonist Scott Shaw! (Oddball Comics, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew)

The Current Events & Hot Topics Pavilion will also include some comics mixed into their “traditional” book discussions. Writer Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier) will be one of the panelists for The Way of the Gun: Fascination & Fear in Fact & Fiction, moderated by writer Gary Phillips (Cowboys). Other panelists include novelists Naomi Hirahara (Blood Hina: A Mas Arai Mystery) and Adam Winkler (Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America).

The popular Amulet series of graphic novels by special guest Kazu Kibuishi

The Teen Stage has a live author interview with Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes, Janes in Love), conducted by blogger and book reviewer Chelsea Swiggett. The two will discuss Castellucci’s two graphic novels, as well as her popular young adult novels like Rose Sees Red.

Events:

Young Adult author Cecil Castellucci will also be exhibiting her collaborative narrative project Literary Diaspora at the Fair. She mails (yes, old fashion mails!) out words to visual artists and images to authors who then create something inspired by what they received. They then mail it back to her to add to the growing stories. So far comics artists Becky Cloonan, Joe Infurnari, Chip Zdarsky and others have participated. Cards returned so far will be displayed at the Fair, and visitors might even find a card in a books asking them to participate. Check out LiteraryDiaspora.com for more on the project.

Live Art with Billy Martinez – Indie comics creator Martinez will produce art at the Indie Comics Creators Booths all day long. Booth: C 19-22

How to Make Comic Books & Zines Workshop – The Indie Comics Creators Booths will hold workshops and tutorials all day long. Booth: C 19-22

Special Guests:

Cecil CastellucciThe Plain Janes and Janes in Love graphic novels, as well as YA novels Boy Proof, The Queen of Cool and Beige. Official site.
Kazu Kibuishi Amulet graphic novel series, Flight comics anthology. Official site.
Deborah VankinPoseurs graphic novel, LA Times staff writer. Twitter.

Exhibitors:

Archaia Entertainment – Publisher of graphic novels Mouse Guard, Return of the Dapper Men, Jim Henson projects like Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal, and much more. Booth: C 4-5
The Comic Bug – A great comic book store in Manhattan Beach. Booth: C 1-2
The Devastator – A quarterly comedy magazine with comics, funny writing and other wackiness run by editor-in-chief Geoffrey Golden (Cracked, National Lampoon). Booth: C 19-22, Table E
Eyedraugh Comics – Independent comics publisher located in Fontana. Booth: C 19-22, Table A
Neko Press Comics – Art studio, school and publisher run by La Mesa-based illustrator Billy Martinez, who will be producing live art all day long. Booth: C 19-22, Table H
OMGcow: A Comic Diary – An autobiographical web-comic by cartoonist Sheika Lugta of Long Beach. Booth: C 19-22, Table A

The WeHo Book Fair is happening this Sunday at the West Hollywood Library, which is itself having a grand opening the day before, and the neighboring West Hollywood Park, at N. San Vicente Blvd. at Melrose Blvd, this Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm.

The Comic Archive shows comic book creators creating

The Comic Archive has been putting up video interviews with comic book creators looking at how they create comic books and graphic novels.

Interested in how technology was changing the way comics are being made, comics inker Michael Furth started interviewing comic creators on camera and putting the results up on YouTube. About a year later, he’s still going strong. What makes these particularly unique is that most of them show the artists actually working in their studios instead of just talking heads talking about it.

He recently posted an interview with graphic novelist Craig Thompson, creator of the mega-hit autobiography Blankets. His long-awated follow-up Habibi was just released by Pantheon Books. (Unfortunately this is a talking head interview, but fortunately Thompson gives some good answers.)

To give an example of seeing an artist in their work environment, this next one is cartoonist Anna-Maria Jung showing how she uses Photoshop. She also discusses how she learned composition techniques in designing a scene from animation.

The Comic Archive’s website and YouTube channel have more interviews totaling over 100 videos. Most creators have multiple videos which make for more digestible installments. Other featured creators: Khary Randolph, Wes Craig, Dean Haspiel, Chip Kidd, Steve Rude, JM Ken Niimura, Phil Jiminez, Paola Rivera, Rick Geary, Denny O’Neil, Yanick Paquette, Art Thibert, Zander Cannon, Tim Bradstreet, Steve Niles, Marc Deering, Joe Sinnott, Joe Kubert, Dexter Vines, Cliff Chiang, Cameron Stewart, and Brian Bolland.