Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
I finally came across the hardcover of Omega the Unknown, published by Marvel Comics in 2008. It was written by Jonathan Lethem (w/Karl Rusnak) who I knew from his first novel "Gun With Occasional Music" rather than his more famous "Fortress of Solitude". His name to me was like that of a hipster literary rockstar.
The art was done by two of the best indie comic creators from the last decade. Farel Dalrymple of PopGunWar, his work has a honest beauty to it, every day fairy tale quality to it. Along with Paul Hornschemeier, of Forlon Funnies, who's work is hauntingly somber and sentimental. Both artists can present the fantastic as mundane mythology.
This combination was enough to sell me on the purchase. How could I miss out on these creators coming together to create a Marvel comic. Omega the Unknown was one of those odd 70's series that I've heard of but regarded it with a cryptic oddness.
Then I found out that it was co-written/created by Steve Gerber, who is about one of the most fascinating and stalwart comic creators who has done more great things than he is recognized for. This was a ten issue series in 1976 that had a quirkiness to it that the comic industry tried to mold into a generic superhuman brawl book.
I've never read the original series, and in a way I don't necessarily need to. This current ten issue series skirts a sort of remake/sequel thin line just as the writing and artwork pushes what is mainstream comics. A lot is left to the reader's interpretation, and in its own way it's a little clunky and meanders a bit along the way, just as any good auto-bio comic or indie flick does.
The story revolves around a mute alien in a costume fighting robots, but only as a backstory to the tale of a child raised by robots sent off to live in the big city to confront his destiny: to save the earth from invading alien robots. There's also a gloryhound hero called The Mink who has a rather unique and realistic approach to millionaire superheroics.
The series reads as an exploration of cycles within superhero literature, as well as in life itself. It gives us a young hero origin laid under the story of a fish out of water, robotic genius, adjusting to life in Washington Heights, NYC. It confronts school bullys and their victims, showing us the battle of villains against the weak, and what happens when the meek are introduced to the superhuman.
It leads to suicide, which is handled realistically, if not cold and emotionally detached. The main character even meets with the dead boy's soul and everything is matter of fact. But nothing is cut and dry with the badguys here, except the replicating robots that are infecting and replacing humans, and even they are treated as more passive, zombie like swarms, devoid of deeper thought.
There's overtones of mythology complete with a labyrinth, superhero meta tropes such as the "Over-Thinker" parodying Marvel's "The Watcher", a spectator and occasional omniscient narrator. It feels to be almost kind of trite in its plotting at times, but it wins you over with the art and the genuine realness of the characters.
There's a great commentary with select panels from the original comic in the back that give some insight into why Jonathan Lethem and his co-writer, Karl Rusnak, loved the original series enough to bring us an updated version. Also, Gary Panter's guest art when Omega details out his origin in comic format is amazing.
The book itself is goregeous, with a well designed cover, nice organic style to it that clashes with the slick colored pages and high production values. It really is an opposing forces parallel throughout every aspect of the book. Top it of with a quote on the back from Michael Chabon, author of Pulitzer Prize winning "Kavelier & Clay", and you've got the mainstream graphic novel with the most indie cred around.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
1. Amazing Spider-Man #615:
Simply put: one of the best written Spidey comics to date. Superb. Javier Roderiguez continues “The Gauntlet” by next having Spider-Man battle Sandman, and while not a single punch is thrown in this issue, Roderiguez had written a stellar story that involves Spidey using his detective skills. The subplot involving J. Jonah Jameson (building off of last issue’s amazing ending) is, alone, intriguing enough to keep a reader interested. Buy this. While a comic that’s published tri-monthly may lose something in the switch between writers, this does not occur with Amazing Spider-Man 615. Terrific issue.
2. Dark Avengers #12: I’ve said before that I love the way Bendis writes The Sentry. He excels at it in this issue. The story is phenomenal, and a character I’ve never heard of, Molecule Man, is presented as possibly the most powerful villain in the Marvel U -- until The Sentry shows us his true power. Again, buy this. An incredible issue that sets up Marvel’s next big event, “Siege”.
3. Captain America Reborn #5: I’m looking forward to this series finishing because I think the conflict of two Captain Americas is much more interesting than the concept of bringing Captain America back. It’s a fight we all knew was coming, and now we have it -- except it feels too trite, too forced, and too clichéd. Wait for Brubaker to finish this “event” before returning to the regular Captain America series.
4. Ultimate Armor Wars #3: I love Warren Ellis’ writing. Here, however, it’s forgettable. I’m reading this series because I’m interested in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. While I like it, I’m not pushing anyone towards it because I feel nothing will be gained or lost by sticking with it.
5. Spider-Man -- Clone Saga #4: The original Clone Saga was what got me in to comics. I know -- a pretty crappy entrance. But, I was intrigued by the back story, and how the writers had used a pretty insignificant part of Spider-Man’s background to build a new character and a new life for him. It was Marvel’s first attempt at a Spider-Man reboot. While it didn’t take (for a myriad of reasons), it was, I feel, partially responsible for the Ultimate Universe. Plus, I still have a thing for clones. So, I’m reading this series because I’m curious to see what Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie are going to do. Otherwise, don’t waste time on this. Read the summaries online and save yourself the money.
1. Locke and Key Crown of Shadows #2:
Joe Hill has become a surprisingly adept comic book writer. I read his novel, Heart Shaped Box, and felt that it was a typical first novel -- neither bad nor good. I hope, however, he sticks with comic book writing because he can craft a hell of a story. If you haven’t been following Locke and Key, I recommend picking up the trades. Gabriel Rodriguez captures Hill’s timing perfectly, and both men have been able to create a lucid world filled with fantastical elements. Read this. Well, read the older issues, then read this. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
2. Ghostbusters Displaced Aggression #4: I can’t tell if there’s a cult love for Ghostbusters, a true love of the material, or if it’s just the “in” 80’s thing. I love that IDW published a Ghostbusters mini-series; I wish they would make it a regular thing. It would be fun to read about the Ghostbusters in their prime, showing them doing what they do best -- capturing ghosts. It’s the formula that worries me. Heroes meet villain; villain destroys heroes; heroes regroup; heroes defeat villain by combining forces. I would prefer a few stand alone issues rather than complicated arcs that involve Gozer over and over. The movies have spectacular montages that could be explored in more depth. What IDW really needs is Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis to pen a Ghostbusters tale. The people who are trying to imitate the material are not succeeding.
1. Green Lantern Corps #43:
I’ll give you two reasons to buy this issue. 1. Guy Gardner becomes a red lantern, pulls off the arm of a yellow lantern and stuffs it down his throat. 2. Mogo returns (Mogo is a planet sized green lantern). I professed my love for Peter J. Tomasi last week. I picked up GLC this week because he penned it, and I’m not disappointed. Plus, DC has been able to put some pretty stellar artists on their Green Lantern comics. It’s a good mix that makes the series so incredible. Keep up with “Blackest Night”. It’s DC’s shining moment.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
I'm writing this in my boxer-briefs, BTW...
Influences… Wow. The first music I remember is an Elvis 8-track that we had in the house. It was a live show from the chubby-druggy-Elvis days. But, I still loved the drama of it all; the horn section and the crowd. I’ve always loved a performer who can put on a good show. That goes for any musician regardless of the style or genre they fit in. If someone does a good show, they’ll get my attention. The second record was the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack. I’m sure there were more in the early years, but those two really stuck with me.
As for straight musical influences… I’m weird. I don’t listen to a lot of music. I find an album I like and will listen to it for months and months at a time. I tend not to listen to much indie or unsigned music – simply because I don’t take the time to filter it. If it lands in my lap, and I’m compelled, then I listen. It’s rare that an album “gets me” though.
Growing up I went through some weird music phases. The first band I ever was introduced to was STYX. My uncle gave me their album “Cornerstone” and I’d go on to collect all of their records until Mr. Roboto killed their vibe.
I moved on to Bryan Adams and collected everything of his that I could find. Back then, imports were a big deal to me and I loved finding them in the record shop. They’d have cuts on them that didn’t make the record.
I moved pretty quickly into the 80’s hair-metal scene. Bon Jovi, Dokken, Ratt, Def Leppard, Tesla, Whitesnake, David Lee Roth, Van Halen, even bands like Journey… Big hopes, big dreams and big hair. I saw all of those shows. My depth of psyche was pretty shallow back then. I was perfectly content to listen and imagine being on the road with those guys.
The hard part was evolving out of that to find that music happened in places other than stadiums and arenas.
Later I got into Sting and then backward to the Police. In college I went back to all of the classic rock: Zeppelin, Stones, Doors… I’d move from album to album. Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, Pat Metheny’s “Secret Story”; Coltrane, There was no rhyme or reason. Something would just hit me and I’d pull it apart over and over again.
What made you decide to pursue being a Musician?
I’ve always wanted to play for people. The decision to be a musician was made for me when my DNA was written. I spent most of my younger years dreaming about it and even playing at it a little. Then I spent my middle young-adult years pretending to grow up – ignoring it. That was disaster. I was miserable. You can’t fight what you’re born to do. Even if what you’re born to do is banal and not exciting.
For some reason, I have an unceasing desire to write and play music for people. I had to grow to accept that. Now I’m doing my best to transition into making a living at it while balancing my family life and other responsibilities. It’s not easy at all. It can be downright frustrating. But, it’s the road I’m traveling.
What drives you?
“Why not me?” That drives me. My dad is an immigrant who lived and succeeded in finding and fulfilling his American dream. Why not me too? right? There’s an inner drive that cannot be explained. It’s just there. I’m trying to channel it and listen to it, so that it can guide me – rather than overwhelm me.
But other things drive me too. I love when I see a great artist nail it. Springsteen is a huge inspiration lately and just hearing him play makes me want to write better and do a better job.
When I hear a great song or see a great show – I want do that too! The first thing I do after a great show is pull out my guitar. I always feel like a kid again when that happens. The excitement moves me to play.
I’m not gonna lie though; sometimes it’s freaking hard to motivate. Especially when the last show was empty of folks, or if I wasn’t selected for a showcase, or when I’m spending more and more money out of my pocket, and not making it back.
I know how many people are out there. There are so many talented artists that no one will ever hear. Why is that? There are lots of reasons, of course. But I do think that some of that is the artist’s ability to make enough good noise and draw attention to them. I’m very inspired and driven by folks who can master the business aspect of music along with their writing and performing. I’ve got a lot to learn in that regard.
Have you been compared to anyone? If so, how does it sit with you?
Sure! I’ve been compared to lots of folks. Most guys with guitars get the same things even if they’re not really on point. James Taylor, Cat Stevens, John Prine, Jim Croce, John Mellencamp, many more… I don’t know if I agree with all of them.
Some comparisons are way out (Neil Diamond – for example – I love that one). But that’s OK too! If someone is thinking about me and a multi-million-album-selling-artist at the same time – that’s nothing to complain about. We all like to put new things into old boxes. It helps us feel safe. I do it all the time too.
I’m grateful that there are folks out there who take the time to think about it rather than dismiss it.
Walk me through your creative process.
It starts with green M&M’s and ends with me shaving my back with a blunt razor while tiny angels throw marshmallows at me.
I don’t write all the time. I tend to write in batches and spurts over time. Actually, I don’t really feel like I’m writing at all. Rather, I sit and listen when the spirit moves me. I put my hands on the guitar and something starts coming together musically. Simultaneous to that, I start hearing melodies and rhymes and syllables. The song is out there, but I’m kind of reeling it in. If I listen well, then the song is usually written quickly and it also usually sticks around longer. If I labor over it, either I’m trying to hard, or my life-experience hasn’t given me the tools I need to properly bring it in.
When it’s time to write, I feel a push. Once, recently – I even got downright angry. It was like having a baby. I had to write at that moment and “POW!” the song just popped out in like 10 minutes. I love when that happens.
Life gets in the way in the space between the songs. I don’t sit around doing nothing when I’m not writing. There are shows to get ready for, practices, marketing, designing, tons of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. If anything, I’m probably missing a lot of songs that are looking for me right now. I’m trying to rectify that and look forward to some quiet time between now and Christmas to finish up the music for the upcoming album recording sessions.
OK, so you are preparing to write a new song. Nothing happens. What do you do?
It’s rare that I sit down without a drive. But, it does happen. More often, I feel a song coming, but I can’t seem to get it right. That can be frustrating. As musicians, songwriters, sometimes we think that the last song we got was the LAST song we’ll get.
That’s just not true. I used to believe it, but thankfully I’ve developed some faith. If the song is not there, or it’s not coming. Then I’ll play a little while, rehearse some older material, or just put down the guitar and walk away.
Any new projects?
I’ve sent about 20 songs to my producer, Evan Brubaker, for the next record. We’re recording it over the first two weeks of January 2010 and it should be released in late March. I’m also grateful to have a booking and PR/Management team in place to help me grow my reach a little. This should hopefully give me more time to focus on writing and performing.
Any advice you could give to someone starting out?
Listen more than you talk or play. There’s guidance out there and you’ll miss it if you’re babbling on or thinking you know everything. You don’t know shit. Neither do I. I’m just trying my best to go with the flow – rather than fight the current.
Always follow your heart. Write better songs. Love and connect with the people you play for. You’re gonna make tons of mistakes and wrong turns. And you’re gonna want to give up a lot. Don’t give up. But, do forgive yourself often.
Jim Morrison or Iggy Pop?
Jim Morrison – absolutely.
Tom Waits or Nick Cave (minus the Bad Seeds)
Tom Waits – I never really listened to Nick Cave or the Bad Seeds.
Come on… Godzilla is real. Clover is a figment of movie imagination. Godzilla’s got class. Clover couldn’t pick up Godzilla’s poop without a stand in and a CGI animator.
Shameless Plug Time:
Come along for the journey. Everyone is welcome!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Mark Waid is one of my favorite writers, so usually I'm biased when it comes to reviewing a comic he wrote. Amazing Spider-Man is building up to something, and I'm glad Waid is the one behind the wheel. Spider-Man has a group of foes which occasionally band together to be known as the Sinister Six. This is a build up to a similar story (I think). So what we have here is Waid empowering Electro in a way that makes him seem extremely dangerous to the point where, when he was off panel at the end, I assumed he had escaped and I felt a tinge of disappointment that Spider-Man's efforts were for naught. The end of the comic is pretty shocking (no pun intended), and I'm glad Waid was the one that delivered. If you're a Spidey fan, I'd pick this up. I see an impressive storyline in the making. Paul Azaceta's art adds to the mess of the situation. He's good at maintaining the chaos that Waid is writing.
2. Action Comics #884: First off, Pere Perez and Bit do a fantastic job on the art here. They capture the agony of Nightwing, and the ache of Flamebird. Greg Rucka is a wiz when it comes to comic writing. The issues here are leading up to Superman #700, and Action Comics is only ten issues behind, so I feel like something big is on the horizon. I feel the weight of a convoluted storyline, however, and I wouldn't recommend this title unless you're interested in what's going on in the Superman universe right now.
3. Red Robin #7:
5. Ghostbusters: Past Present and Future (one shot): I love IDW. They publish the greatest stuff! They have recently undertaken a Ghostbusters series that is . . . okay . . . and my problems with it are reflected in this issue. While I love the idea of a Ghostbusters comic book, Rob Williams writes Venkman as the consistent comic relief. It gets tiresome. Ray, Egon and Winston do little here to contribue to the story. While I got a chuckle out of some of the references penned in this issue, I feel that the strengths of the other characters is dropped in place of a few (not well done) cheap laughs. I do hope, however, that IDW continues to publish a Ghostbusters comic book because while I would love to see a Ghostbusters 3, I feel the comics can capture the best elements of the movies and condense them into interesting, one, two, or three part stories.
6. The Walking Dead #68:
P.S. Some big comic book news came out this week as well: We heard that the Vulture may be the villain for Spider-Man 4, Bruce Wayne--much like Captain America--is lost in time and DC will explore his travels through history in a brand new series entitled "The Return of Bruce Wayne."
DC has also announced a new series called "Earth One" that will retell the origins of it's major characters 75 years after their creation. J. Michael Straczynski and Geoff Johns will pen the tales of Superman and Batman (respectively) and Shane Davis and Gary Frank (respectively) will illustrate. While I'm not familiar with Shane Davis' art, I know Gary Franks' art very well (he's one of my fav's) and you can Google his art for Bruce Wayne's Batman costume. Check it out. It's worth the price of admission.
Of course, the sponsors of the event (Desert Island and Picturebox) had great spreads of artwork, books, etc. I did a few laps to check everything out and dropped off a few of my own books at the Secret Project Robot table (because they are awesome and took some because I wasn't able to get table space). I was drawn to Leslie Stein's table because of her cute felt owl pins, (and perhaps because I subconsciously recognized her from Mother's?) but came away with issue 1 of "Eye of the Majestic Creature," which is pretty awesome and definitely worth checking out.
L. Nichols of Jumbly Junkery also had a great spread of screen prints and books. Jungyeon Roh was another highlight in my opinion, I had never seen her stuff before and it is really beautiful. Her work is colorful and poignant and whimsical and serious all at the same time. Really, everything there seemed to be worth a pause if not a full out stop and chat. For a first time fest, this one was pretty great and it reminded me of all the things I really liked about King Con minus all the stuff I really didn't like about Big Apple Comic Con.
I wish I could have gone to some of the talks, but I had another commitment. The weather was a definite downer because I probably would have gone back to Secret Project Robot later on (which is an awesome place in general) for the panels, etc. if it had been nicer. So basically I'm super lazy and don't own a raincoat. But really, this fest was inspired and inspirational and it not only brought a lot of super-talented, passionate people together, it brought them together in a cohesive, easy and fun way. Thumbs up, right on, way to go!
For more reviews of the show check out The Beat (part 2 here) and The New York Post.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
We also score an interview with Bobby and Peter Timony, that's right the Timony Twins of Zuda Comics fame! We chat with the twins about Zuda and their instant winner "The Night Owls."
Intro: "Polite Dance Song" The Bird and The Bee
Outro: "Write Club Theme" Scott St. Pierre
That's what the Mystery Team has to deal with in the new independent film from Derrick Comedy. The Mystery Team, consisting of Jason: Master of Disguise, Duncan: Boy Genius, and Charlie: Strongest Kid in Town, are used to handling cases involving pies and missing bikes, and usually involves shaking down some kids on the playground, which was all fine and dandy when they were kids themselves, but now, on the brink of graduating High School, the team refuses to give up the dream of being Oakdale's #1 Kid Detectives.
Insulted and humiliated by everyone, they just need that one big case to put them back on top again. That's when young Brianna hires the team to find out who killed her parents. Wait, what? Murder? In Oakdale? Brianna & Kelly, her older sister, just moved to town and now they're parents are killed in cold blood. But never fear ladies, for the Mystery Team is on the case, right?
This is the first feature length from the group who brought us such epic comedic short films such as: History of the Drunk Dial, The Young F@#kables, and countless others (about 30 or so). CAUTION: from most of the videos I've seen, they're at least PG-13, if not R, or X for inappropriate use of swear words.
With Mystery Team however, it gets an R rating for crude sexual content, nudity, language and some drug material, but it never really feels that bad or inappropriate as the lead trio are so wholesome, even as 8 year olds curse them out, and strippers with scars grind up on them. In fact, the shady side of this small suburban town is one of the funniest aspects of the movie. I knew this stuff was going on somewhere in the town I grew up in, but much like the Mystery Team, I was too oblivious and innocent to know it.
And that's the other aspect that makes me love this movie, the sense of innocence and boys' adventure. I grew up devouring Encyclopedia Brown and eventually tried Hardy Boys, but it just wasn't as hip as Encyclopedia Brown was; after all he was a rogue kid detective with the nerdiest/coolest nickname ever. Better than Leroy, that's for sure. Mystery Team really captures that feeling of being a kid and riding your bike around town, getting into all sorts of danger and excitement, whether it was real or imaginary.
Now, first and foremost this a comedy, even though it delivers on the mystery aspect (as it should seeing as mystery is in the title), and judging from the odd smoky aroma of the audience I take it that this movie will fall into the cult-stoner-comedy category. It really is one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long while, and has a plethora of classic quotes, "Did you f@#k this bread?!" being my all-time favorite quote from maybe this decade. Some jokes seem like they might wear thin, and the Derrick Comedy crew see this and stop it there, so all the jokes seem pretty fresh, with one or two exceptions.
The movie really delivers on every level, and only really slows a bit towards the end of the second act as the team inevitably disbands, but as soon as they reunite it's back on like Donkey Kong! It's fun, a good mystery, and harkens back to the days of youth, running amuck with your friends, getting into trouble. All the supporting cast are great, as it seems to be comprised of mostly UCB graduates (with even an appearance by Matt Walsh) and is extremely well directed which really enhances the comedic timing of Donald Glover, D.C. Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Aubrey Plaza and the rest of the gang.
If you're in NYC you have until this Thursday to check the movie out at Quad Cinema, and if you see it twice, bring your ticket stubs and join SWORD CLUB! Yes, that's right, you'll get an inflatable sword, hand numbered, and be on the DVD as a member of Sword Club! If you don't live in NYC, be sure to click on the link on either the Derrick Comedy site or the Mystery Team site to demand it in your city. Looks like Albuquerque, New Mexico is up next on Dec 11th, then Chicago, Illinois on Feb 4th.
So go and enjoy, and be proud of the elitist you are when all the kids are saying how great this movie is once it gets worldwide distribution, and there you'll be, straight up making with your inflatable sword and props on the DVD.
Ps- If you're not in NYC and you can't wait, maybe this Mystery Team short film will tide you over til then:
Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
1. Superman: World of New Krypton: James Robinson's writing is hit or miss, and this week, it's a miss. While Geoff Johns introduced what I think is the interesting premise of New Krypton, Robinson has crafted a dull tale about Superman spending time away from Metropolis on another version of Krypton, the recently freed Kandor. If you're a fan of Adam Strange, I'd pick this up. Otherwise, save the $2.99. This is a series of non-earth shattering events.
2. The Mighty:
I don't know much of the writing Peter J. Tomasi has done, but he's crafted a pretty damn good story. While the dialogue can get a bit melodramatic, Tomasi's story of Alpha One, a Superman like being with a very dark side, continues to impress me. If you haven't been keeping up, I recommend finding this one when it's put out in a trade (unless you want to collect the back issues). It concludes in a month, so you have four weeks to catch up. It's one of the best "non-canonical" stories DC has put out. Worth the money.
3. Blackest Night: Flash -- I normally skip the side issues of a "comic event," but this one is written by the Blackest Night scribe himself, Geoff Johns. So, is it worth it? If you're a Flash fan, probably. If you're an average comic reader, not really. Nothing great happens here to advance the blackest night plot, and while Johns adds depth and personality to the Flash's rogues, you won't be missing much by missing this title.
1. Dark Tower: The Battle of Jericho Hill -- I have to admit that I've been utterly disappointed by Robin Furth's writing and Jae Lee's art at this point. As a "Tower" junkie, I would have been much happier to see a more lucid version of King's world. What we have here is the beginning of the end, so to speak. In Wizard and Glass, Stephen King shared some of the Gunslinger Roland Deschain's world. In Wolves of the Calla, he gave us a quick peek at the final stand of the gunslingers (similar to the fall of Jedi in Attack of the Clones). But while Jericho Hill is imaginative and captivating, it's still Robin Furth writing, and not Stephen King. If you haven't picked up an issue of The Dark Tower yet, don't bother. More of the same here. I would only recommend buying it if you're a Tower fan. If not, save yourself the four bucks. You'll get more out of gum and candy.
2. Dark Avengers Annual: Bendis does his usual thing here. He crafts a story that is neither bad nor good, but which you know has a greater place in the Marvel U. Not really worth reading unless you've followed the series so far. However, if you're interested in crossover events, I'd pick this up. It's a prelude to "Siege", the next great Marvel "event" (similar to Civil War, World War Hulk, and Secret Invasion").
3. Siege: The Cabal
-- Remember New Avengers #7? The comic that introduced the secret Illuminati of Charles Xavier, Namor, Black Bolt, Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and Dr. Strange? You have a similar bridging vehicle in Cabal. It's meant to set up "The Siege," a story where Norman Osborn makes a play for Asgard, the home world of Thor (which happens to be floating above Kansas). This is definitely a story worth reading. I find Bendis to be one of the best comic writers of our day. He has an ability to write to the strengths of his characters, and The Cabal is no different. We see Osborn at his most arrogant (and nuttiest), Doom at his most egocentric, and The Sentry (one of my favorite Bendis written characters) at his strongest. I'll always recommend a Bendis title for the fun dialogue play, the clever action sequences, and the character development. Spend money on Siege -- I think it will turn out to be one of the best stories of the year. Whereas most "events" are presented as something planned years ahead, I believe it with Bendis. When Secret Invasion came out, he was able to point out the moments in New Avengers #1 that hinted at the return of the Skrulls. At least with Bendis, you know that you're getting a fully plotted story. You only have to worry that Joe Quesada doesn't have the stones to follow through with Bendis' intended plan. (Google Bendis' original plan for Secret Invasion; it's mind boggling.)
4. Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man: I'm a fan of the Ultimate Universe, and I think everyone else should be as well. Marvel has breathed new life into characters grown stale with convoluted story lines and poor writing. While I find Lafuente's art the most distracting part of this title, I still enjoy Bendis' writing (read the above review of "Siege: The Cabal"). Bendis is at his usual best here, setting up future story lines and introducing new conflicts. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is a fun read. Since it's only at issue 5, now would be a good time to catch up with what's going on in the Ultimate universe (if you don't know, it's horrific and ballsy -- something you would never see in the regular 616 universe).
5. Spider-Man Noir:
Eyes Without a Face -- Okay, here's what I've REALLY wanted to get at. I've enjoyed the Noir universe the same as I've enjoyed the Ultimate universe. It's a blank slate, especially for new readers. What works best here is the confines in which David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky have to work. The story takes place during the very beginnings of the FDR administration, and the ways in which the writers choose to adapt their characters to the setting is pretty impressive. In the first arc of the Spider-Man Noir series, Hine and Sapolsky introduced us to Norman Osborn, a gangster known as The Goblin. Working in league with him is a half-human, half-vampire like creature called The Vulture. In "Eyes Without a Face," we're introduced to Sandman and Dr. Otto Octavius. While Sandman hasn't really developed as a character yet (enough to show how he is or isn't the Sandman we all know and love), the way in which Hine and Sapolsky have solved the issue of Otto's eight arms in the 1930's is pretty ingenious. I don't want to give anything away here, so I'll just tell you to buy this title. It's a fun read and we're given three or four different plot paths which will be explored. I've enjoyed the hell out of the Noir series, partially because I am a fan of Noir art, but also because one can see how much of a challenge it is for the writers. And it's easy to see how much fun they're having crafting and adapting the world of Spider-Man for the depression era US.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
With all the new readers/listeners out there in internet-ville I figured I'd take this opportunity to say hello, welcome, and tell you all a bit about ourselves.
My name is Kurt Christenson and I formed Write Club earlier this year with my life-long partner in geekery Tim Mucci, who took me to my first comic book store nearly twenty years ago. After the economy went bad and I was laid off, he wanted to podcast and I wanted to talk about comics. So we got together in his apartment about 8 months ago and decided to start recording ourselves as we made sense of the comic book industry.
A lot had changed since I last read comics regularly, so we needed a format to dissect all these changes and examine them, work out the best way to strike if we were to take our comic careers to the next level. There's nothing like taking a break from the thing you love for awhile to make you re-appreciate everything you first fell in love with about it.
I made the decision to start writing comics on New Years Day 2001 after being a longtime reader of Warren Ellis' Come In Alone articles on ComicBookResources. I wrote a few scripts for myself and then hit up Digital Webbing and found a new comic book company called JJAMS that was looking for a writer for a series of one-shots. I wrote three 28 page one-shots, NightDreamer, The Night, and Maracas, all based on generic superhero tropes that I added my own spin on. They came out great and I got paid $50 a script. Then I start a four issue mini-series, Texas Rangers, which I only completed 3 issues of when the company folded due to mismanagement of funds. Shame, as the artwork for the books looked great.
Feeling invigorated by the quick success (I got paid to write within the first 3 months of deciding to write) I went back to Digital Webbing, and wrote a series in 5 page segments for the anthology they started publishing at that time Digital Webbing Presents. I found an artist and my modern day Kung Fu Master vs SuperVillains story took shape, but it never saw print in the end, so I lost the artist's interest and was back at square one. So I wrote a bunch of new scripts as I prepared to start hitting up comic book conventions to network.
My first con as a budding professional was WizardWorld Philly 2001. I sped all the way from Long Island to Philly in order to make it there for the first workshop of the con. At 12:30 that Friday I ran into Buddy Scalera's Networking For Comic Creators panel. Here he broke everyone up into groups depending on what you wanted to work on. The superhero group lined one entire wall, while the crime, horror, and my little group, action/adventure, were placed here and there. That's when I met Chris Chua.
We all flipped through the artists' portfolios as writers told their ideas. As I saw each insane drawing after drawing in Chua's portfolio I was blown away. This kid was amazing. It ended with a full color shot of the Hulk eating his own leg. He was too good, I was just a novice, juat a beginner, I wasn;t good enough to work with him, although the other artists in the group had a long way to go before they were ready to do some serious sequential work.
So I left without giving him my packet of scripts. In fact, I utterly failed. I got intimidated and ran away from what it was I was here to do in the first place; find an artist and create comics. I felt bad for myself the whole day at the con but that night I was determined to find Chua the next day and give him my scripts. So I went back the next day, and while looking around I stumbled across Grant Morrison standing in the middle of DC Comics' booth. Now, Grant Morrison is not only my favorite comic book creator, the writer of my all time favorite comic series, The Invisibles (which he was just wrapping up at this time), he's also my personal lord and savior. I had him sign my Invisibles #1 and his prose book Lovely Biscuits (just to prove that I was an elite superfan) and got my picture with him.
That's when, reeling and stumbling away, high on Grant's ethereal being, I ran into Chris Chua. I ran right over and talked to him for a bit, seemed we had a good amount of similar interests as far as action movies went, and so I gave him my scripts. A month later we began working on a new take on my modern kung fu vs superpowers story. We made it in the future, more of a Mad Max/Road Warrior desolation mixed with old school super kung fu. A few months later Samurai Jack debuted on Cartoon Network and we knew we were on to something.
And so Legend of Liquid Fury was born; our scarred, young kung fu warrior, Wulong, his wise, father figure Master Tze, his brothers, mighty Mao, and stealthy Jian, his childhood love and Tze's daughter, Wei-Lin, the evil General Zhao and his powered minions, mountainous Yama, electric Raiko, and fiery Kaego, were all born through my words and Chris' ink and white-out. Over the years we developed a 200+ black and white graphic novel about revenge and coming back home too late, being unable to make right the mistakes of youth.
We released three versions of the first act through DreamWeaver Press. The first two were full sized and we printed 100 copies of each. These were mostly given out to any and all professionals we could talk to at comic conventions. We debuted the first issue at the National in NYC and gave the first copy to Joe Kelly who read it and loved it. So much so, that when San Diego rolled around he invited us to sit at his ManOfAction table (with Joe Casey, Steven Seagle, and Duncan Rouleau) right next to Richard Starking's Comicraft/Active Images table. We even had a meeting with Starkings at that con to talk about Active Images publishing Liquid Fury.
But it wouldn't be. Just as the art was finished, Active Images stopped publishing work. However they were nice enough to create our own font for us based on Chua's handwriting and wished us luck. As we finished up Liquid Fury we did see our work published in an anthology out of Brooklyn called Reflux. I still have the copy of Previews that solicited the issue in which our first story appeared. Also at the same time we met a bunch of other artists that were hitting up the same cons as us and we joined forces, forming TenTonStudios.com, which is just about reaching it's 5th anniversary this month.
At this point I sort of had a mid-life crisis (at age 27), quit my job, ended a 7 year relationship, and moved to NYC. I needed to live a life of adventure for awhile, and so I did. I moved to the Lower East Side, went to Colombia and L.A., got a tattoo, climbed a mountain, and went to a million events and open bars. At this time I was in the middle of writing a novel, that read more like a collection of short stories, essays, journal writing, called The Tower of Brahma based on a screenplay I started in college. I knew there was 64 chapters, based on the I-Ching, that I'd have to write before it was over. And as I finish up the last three chapters you can read a new chapter every Monday as I near the end.
I became burnt out, on life, on writing, on creating anything after that. I gave up on reading comics, on the idea of creating them, and as a last ditch effort to move forward I decided to go back to school. Fall 2007 I enrolled in classes at New School University and began the process to get my Bachelor's Degree. Finally. I read the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid and wrote papers on them. I saw all sorts of classic films and broke them down, saw what made them work. I took a class in superheroes and what that means in today's world. And as I prepared my final project for that class, a 20+ page paper on the Return of Barry Allen storyline and the Flash legacy (just as Flash: Rebirth was about to be released) I rediscovered my love for comics books and it reawakened my desire to be part of that world, to leave my mark on the history of comic books, just as comics have left their impact on me.
So I helped fellow TenTonner Doug Hills write and letter a comic for his daughter where she teams up with Spider-Man and the Flash. Here was my chance to write a fun adventure, an all-ages romp with two of the best superheroes in all of comicbookdom. Once I got past the intimidation factor of not only writing two of my favorite characters but also a real kid, I found the true joy of piecing a comic together bit by bit; first imagining the scenes, seeing the art Doug created, then dropping text on it and making the characters come alive.
As Tim and I recorded each episode, then began writing articles for the blog, I began to see the comic industry much clearer. I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I heart comics. I slept on top of them for 4 years. I know them through and through and can out geek almost any person I meet who's "into comics". This truly was my destiny. So I finally got over myself and decided to start from scratch and re-letter Liquid Fury (I lost nearly 50 pages while backing it up last Xmas), as I prepare a new digital comic with my good buddy and Write Club supporter from day one, Reilly Brown, and now I'm addicted. I'm writing scripts constantly, and every other waking moment is spent reading comics to catch up on continuity or to write reviews or watching cartoons/movies for inspiration for new ideas. As the New Year approaches, the ninth year since I first decided to write comics, I hope to end this decade long adventure with a slew of my work published finally.
This is what Write Club means to me, unbridled creativity and a means to keep me on track, to maintain the motivation to keep writing, even on those days when I just want to lay in bed all day long, or go out to the bar for a drink. First comes writing, then comes life. And the more I do this, the more the writing becomes the real fun, the joy of creating superseding all else. I'd like to invite all of you reading this to be a part of Write Club in whatever way you'd like. What is it that you've always wanted to do, wanted to create? How can Write Club help you make that come true?
We're here for you, you weary traveler of the lonely path that is beset before the creative individual. We want to help.
We Are Write Club.
You can keep up to date with the progress of LEGEND OF LIQUID FURY on my new blog where you'll get to see some behind the scenes stuff, sketches, "lost" pages, and more.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I've known Colleen Harris most of our lives. Her brilliance has only been matched by her charisma and penchant for being a total tattooed badass.
“Process” makes it sound like there’s a lot more planning than I usually have! *grin* usually I get caught up in writing a poem, and it sparks a certain obsession. With God in my Throat, I became really attached to the idea of the exiled daughter, and about how God makes decisions about our lives. Sometimes I reach back for a memory, and a flood comes and so I have to write ten poems instead of one. Mostly I sit down and start writing. About seventy percent is crap, and so the challenge is to dig through and find the thirty percent that’s worth salvaging, and crafting it into something that shines around the original idea. Some poems take me years to polish and get right. Sometimes they come out full-formed and need just a minor tweak. I will say that the more I write, and the better I am about writing regularly, the better my writing gets.
Gonesongs is nearly complete, it’s a collection focusing on how our understandings of relationships, love and betrayal change as we grow from children into adults, and how we reconcile the family relationships we want with the ones we get. A good portion of this was my creative thesis for my recently completed MFA at Spalding University. I’m still lassoing a few stray poems into their proper places, but I expect this one will be done by New Year’s Eve.
The second one is tentatively titled The Green of Breakable Things, and it’s a very different sort of poetry from what I usually write. If I had to jam it into a sentence, I’d say that it’s a series of semi-surrealist meditations on the objects in our lives and the impact of memory. I lived in Kentucky for nearly ten years after leaving Long Island, and there are a lot of echoes of Kentucky’s landscape and weather in this collection.
The third manuscript is a collection of persona poems, which vaguely resembles my first published book, God in my Throat: The Lilith Poems, which was a full length collection of persona poems in the voice of Lilith. This one is so far the least formed. I started out with poems from the perspective of various goddesses, then started including fictional female characters, and now some real people and some men’s voices have crowded in. I’ve decided I’m just going to keep writing as they come to me, and I’ll deal with getting it into decent manuscript form once they peter out and stop haunting me!
First, read. Read as much poetry as you can get your hands on – new poets, the old canon, everything. You’ll get a better sense of craft, of why you like the poetry you like best, of the art of the line break, of form and free verse, all of that. Too many poets refuse to read poetry because they think it will affect their work – it’s supposed to affect and inform you. The master painters first trained by imitating their masters, and picked and chose from the skills they learned before developing their own masterpieces, and poetry is much the same.
Second, community is essential. Find other writers in your community to share your work with, to develop programming like reading series and workshops with. Having like-minded people with which to share your writing dreams is essential. Developing within your community an audience to appreciate writers’ work is essential to everyone’s success! Other countries give much more support to their artists than the U.S. does – poets read to sold out soccer stadiums in Russia and other countries, and writers can be fully funded and make a living off their work alone. It tends to be harder to do here in the United States, where we have the freedom to say whatever we want, but often lack the support to make a living out of it. Building relationships within the writing community and then connecting that to your larger community or neighborhood is essential. Your work doesn’t come alive unless someone is reading (or listening to) it. Cultivate appreciation of the arts.
Third: Submit, submit, submit. Unless you don’t want to be recognized until after you’re dead, in order to participate in the published-writers world, you have to submit your work. It helps to read the journals to see where your work will best fit, and this helps you get to know various editors. You can’t make a splash – big or small – unless you toss some stones into the pond.
Lastly, I would remind new writers that writing is not a competitive sport, for all that the contests would have us believe that. We are a family. Writer and MFA program director Sena Jeter Naslund has said countless times to her students that our competition is not beside us in the classrooms, or workshops, or readings. Our competition is in the library. Don’t write to “beat” your contemporaries. Write to join your literary forefathers.
Now for the serious stuff!
Who would win in a fight...
Kurt Vonnegut or Hemingway?
While it might be a tie (they could bore each other to death), I vote Hemingway. Crazy people have incredible strength. Plus, he had a shotgun.
Bea Arthur(before returning to The Force) or Optimus Prime?
Bea Arthur, hands down. She wins at everything.
Shameless Plug Time:
Colleen S. Harris is a librarian at North Carolina State University. Her poetry has appeared in The Louisville Review, Appalachian Heritage, Wisconsin Review, descant, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Birmingham Arts Journal, 66: The Journal of Sonnet Studies, and various others. Her first full-length poetry collection, God in my Throat; The Lilith Poems, is available from Bellowing Ark Press. Colleen goes by “warmaiden” on most online social networks, and can be reached at warmaiden [at] gmail.com