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Category Archives: comics

The handful that read this will know that the Barricade has been an area for tumbleweeds. Jase has gone AWOL and I have been too for the most part. Between work, trying to get a PhD done, visits to hospitals, epic bike rides, soccer, AFL, etc etc, it has been hard to find time for anything.

So here is a catch up post, with some brief highlights and lowlights:

Movies:

Tropic Thunder… what a disappointment. I was geared up to love it, but felt like I missed the joke. I think I laughed 3 times… actually it was 3 times… I can count them.

Hellboy 2… I didn’t get this either. I won’t say it was bad, I just didn’t dig the vibe of it. I am not a massive Hellboy fan, but thought this would be OK, but it was just meh

Music:

– New Kings of Leon… what a shame… I dig KoL. But not this one. To me it sounds like 11 times the same song. I will give it more of a crack, but I can’t see this one getting high rotation.

– New Mogwai… this just sounds like Mogwai. So I really dig it.

King Khan and the Shrines… an “on a whim” purchase in Missing Link. Man did I make out like a bandit. The new album “Supreme Genius” is GOLD. I knew a bit about them, and had some tracks from a split LP they did with the Dirtbombs, but man, this is 16 awesome party tracks. Has not left the car in days. Get it now!

– New Okkervil River… see Mogwai review above (but substitute the word “Mogwai” for “Okkervil River”)

Gigs:

– Nope, none.

TV:

Arrested Development… I am late on this one and finally caved since everyone says “you will love it”. I am half way through season one. Can’t say I love it. I like it, but not love it. There is something a little self-conscious about it for mine. But I like it enough to keep watching.

Other:

– Jase got me into Mike Allred and Madman comics in a big way. While I can’t say the current issues of Madman are amazing, they are still really interesting, and he is a great artist and a great writer. Allred’s X-Force I really dug too. And Dead Girl is just way too cool.

So that is it I think. New Drones is out tomorrow. Woo hoo! The big one of the year for me. I will be at the record store at 9 (well, close to that). And Wall-E tonight. Giddy up… the wait for this has been toooo long.

… muttler

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thoreau at walden Thoreau at Walden (Hyperion/CCS), John Porcellino.

Throwing all objectivity aside, this book is great for three reasons:

1. I had been meaning to read some Henry David Thoreau for a while, but didn’t really know where to start.

2. John Porcellino is one of my favourite comic creators at the moment. I picked up “Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man” on a whim, and liked it even more than I thought I was going to.

3. Hardcover, two-color process, an excellent introduction and extensive notes. It’s just a handsome package all round.

I was aware of John Porcellino’s self-published King-Cat Comix for a while before seeing it: the style and subject matter instantly reminded me of Kevin Huizenga, so I naturally thought that’s where he was taking inspiration (kind of got that back to front though). It’s not difficult to see why John Porcellino is so well loved by critics, fellow creators and the fans alike. The simple, thoughtful linework and stripped back minimalist layouts are pretty compelling themselves, but it’s the stories that really caught me. At the risk of sounding like an emo moron, there is real heart in the stories, a gentleness and appreciation for small things that doesn’t seem forced or self-conscious.

Who better to illustrate a book about naturalist and transcendental philosopher Henry David Thoreau? The afterword notes that all text is taken from Thoreau’s writings, as well as providing a good reading list and endnotes with further detail on certain events in the comic. So much care has been put into this that I couldn’t help but get swept away.

If the purpose of this book was to get people hooked on Thoreau, then mission accomplished.

shigaBookhunter (Sparkplug Comics), Jason Shiga.

This book is pretty amazing, for a range of reasons (the cover is one of them). It seems like I say this for every second thing I read, but I wasn’t totally sold on Shiga’s art style – and I do remember reading Fleep a while back, so I knew what to expect. The whole geometric cartoonish -ness is a hard sell on me, but every other element of this book is so well crafted that you start to wonder how it would work if the art was any different. The thing I liked most about the art was the expression the main character, Agent Bay, wore through most of the book: this surly, unimpressed kind of squinting hard-ass glare, I loved it. I like to imagine that I look like that.

Bookhunter is the somewhat dramatised account of a 70’s library investigation into the theft and counterfeit of a valuable antique book. I know it sounds exciting, but really, it is. It’s like an 80’s action film, in book form.. about a book stolen from.. a library.. I’m astonished at how Jason Shiga manages to make this story so thrilling. But the characters are all so deadpan serious about everything, it’s hard not to get immersed in their world. If you’re at all interested in the making of books, and who isn’t, then you’re in for a ride.

As with Fleep, you can read Bookhunter online but Sparkplug have done a great job on the print copy (and Dylan is a real nice guy).

Rocketeer

I saw earlier this week via Drawn that Dave Stevens died on Monday. He was 52.

He was an incredible artist, notoriously critical of his own work, and probably most remembered for The Rocketeer and his “good girl” pinup art, particularly Bettie Page. Many others have said much nicer things already (Heidi MacDonald, Mark Evanier, Gilbert Hernandez), so I just wanted to add how much The Rocketeer meant to me. I would’ve been a teenager when the film version of The Rocketeer came out. Released only a few years after The Last Crusade, it felt in many ways like a continuation of one of my major childhood obsessions: Indiana Jones (the other being Star Wars.. Lucas owned my childhood). The film sparked an enduring interest in the 1930s and Art Deco that led me to another great obsession, although this time in adulthood: Raymond Chandler.

Rocketeer GN It also started a somewhat embarrassing fascination with comic movie adaptations (I have a pretty terrible collection – just ask me), and set off an early interest in the themes that Mike Mignola processed into Hellboy many years later (it wasn’t that much later, but I didn’t read a Hellboy comic until 2003 or so).

And that brings me to Dave Stevens: around that 2003ish period, I stumbled onto the comic pictured to the left right. It’s a collection of the original comics by Dave Stevens, introduced by the similarly period-obsessed Harlan Ellison. To his credit, it feels like something written back then – everything about it is a loving homage to the architecture, machines and sense of adventure of the period. In reading through the book you can see that Dave breathed every minute detail of it, and the film where he acted as co-producer and had a cameo as one of the journalists after the “Rocketeer” appears, was so incredibly lucky to have his support and keen interest.

I didn’t know Dave Stevens personally, but I’m grateful for what he gave me.

Zombies CallingZombies Calling (SLG Publishing), Faith Erin Hicks.

First things first, she’s wielding a spork on the cover. A spork! (I must’ve seen that cover a dozen or so times before realising)

I’ve been reading comics on and off for probably 20 or so years, but there are (embarrassingly) few artists that I could easily recognise at first glance. I’m happy to say that Faith Erin Hicks is definitely one of them: her style is refreshingly different, and more interesting for it.

It’s safe to say that there was some hype attached to Zombies Calling when it was released, and it’s easy to see why. Comparisons to Scott Pilgrim are fair, but only because Faith Erin Hicks and Bryan Lee O’Malley are both young, intelligent and depressingly talented. Beyond the passing stylistic resemblance, I see a much stronger similarity in the self-aware storytelling, and the detail of their characters: young, intelligent and filled with pop culture, much like their creators.

I think I’ve been avoiding all things zombie since reading a few issues of The Walking Dead.. it was certainly very compelling, but there’s a sadistic quality that makes it difficult to enjoy. Zombies Calling is like the other side of the same coin – a much lighter touch, thoroughly readable, and yet still maintaining many of those zombie-movie conventions in a playfully self-referential way.

SLG has a great 15-page preview. If you like what you see, you should also check out Ice, Faith Erin Hicks’ semi-regular web comic (currently up to page 185).

Multiple warheadsMultiple Warheads #1 (Oni Press), Brandon Graham.

While I wait for TFAW to send the copy of King City vol. 1 I ordered about 3 months ago, here’s a quick review of Multiple Warheads. First, the art is just amazing. I think my first contact with Brandon Graham was a preview of King City over on Tokyopop’s site, and I was instantly a fan. If you’ll excuse the cliche, it’s like a melting pot of manga and crazy futuristic, graffiti awesomeness. Everything is so meticulously designed, from characters to what they wear down to the least obvious background elements – there’s always something to look at, and always more to come back to.

The writing seems reminiscent of underground comics: lots of big themes, a world utterly disconnected from our own, but familiarity in how the characters live and interact. I don’t want to give away anything, so I’m saying nothing about the story here. Except that the wolf dream was a major highlight.

Not unexpectedly, I loved Multiple Warheads, and can’t wait for the next issue. Read a massive 18-page preview over at Oni Press. Just a sidebar here, how good is Oni? It seems like everything I’m vaguely interested in has a huge preview up on their site. The standard 4-page preview a la Dark Horse is good, 8 or so pages (SLG?) is compelling, but 18?! That’s basically money in the bank (ie. my money in their bank).

I’m interested in fellow Meathaus‘er James Stokoe’s similarly styled Wonton Soup, but it looks like every copy in the immediate universe has been sold. I’ll keep my eyes peeled. Oh, and you could read the 39 (that’s right, 39!!) -page preview at Oni.

It’s almost 3 weeks into 2008, so it’s high time to get the baggage of 2007 boxed up and stacked in the garage. I meant to write a Best Comics of 2007 actually in 2007, but alas.

I got back into comics in a big way last year, taking up my first subscription since .. well, ever. I probably owe this to the DCP and their gentle reminders (Comics Industry: take note). Anyway, for all that I’ve been reading, there wasn’t actually a great deal of it that came out in 2007:

1. Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together (Bryan Lee O’Malley) Hands down winner, keeps getting better with each volume (now up to #4). If you haven’t gotten into this yet, then start with Free Scott Pilgrim from FCBD 2006. The whole comic is online, it don’t cost nothin’! I’ll wait here until you’ve read it. Done? Now go buy the books: Bryan Lee O’Malley deserves all of your money.

2. Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil (Jeff Smith) Where have I been? Bone is wrapped up, and apparently being re-released in colour. Or as a single volume (I think I want this one). Monster Society of Evil is a respectful update and re-imaging of the origin of Captain Marvel (DC/Fawcett), with the expected Jeff Smith-isms added in. I loved it, especially Tawky Tawny, a talking tiger.

3. The Arrival (Shaun Tan) I’m cheating here, since the hardcover came out in 2006 and I didn’t read it until this week. The “crossover hit” of the year? Shaun Tan comes from a traditional artist/childrens illustrator background, and had only recently gotten into graphic novels himself while working on this project.I was skeptical about it, but The Arrival is utterly charming, a fairytale without words. Read some words about The Arrival on Shaun’s website, since the book has none. My favourite scene was the Giants.

4. Shortcomings (Adrian Tomine) This one feels like cheating as well, since (for those who read the comic) the story started in Optic Nerve #9 back in 2004 (was it really 2004?), and only concluded in #11, mid-2007. This is, undoubtedly, his most complete story. It even has an end! The racism theme was well played, for me. I’m always looking forward to more from Tomine, but I have a feeling that Optic Nerve #12 could be some time away.

5. Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E Vol. 2 – I Kick Your Face (Warren Ellis & Stuart Immonen) Again, cheating. I picked up the comics instead, but I felt like this book was noteworthy as the only Marvel comic I’ve enjoyed in about 10 years. Well written, funny, and great art.

Notable monthlies:

  • Usagi Yojimbo (Stan Sakai) is my comic nutrition, the most consistently well written and well drawn comic you’re ever likely to read. If you think this is just a funny animal book, then you are sadly mistaken.
  • The Mike Mignola ride (with John Arcudi, Guy Davis and now Duncan Fegredo and Jason Armstrong), aka Hellboy/BPRD (and now Lobster Johnson), is still a great read, and although we all lament Mike’s decision to step back from drawing, his writing easily makes up for it. They could basically spin off their own company.
  • Fear Agent (Rick Remender, Tony Moore & Jerome Opena) had an amazing year, with a move to Dark Horse and the release of The Last Goodbye. You can still read Fear Agent #1 at Newsarama, but this is only a taste of how good things become 10 issues later.
  • Andi Watson‘s new comic, Glister. I would buy anything that Andi makes, but this seems oddly timely, since it’s a kind of fairytale with all-ages appeal. I’m hoping to introduce my girls to it soon.
  • Mike Allred came back with Madman Atomic, a new Madman series at last, and the stories have been typically crazy and awesome so far.
  • Finally, the much hyped Umbrella Academy (Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba). I’ve heard it described as The Royal Tenenbaums meets the X-Men. I’ll probably reserve judgement until this mini ends, but I’ve had a blast so far. I think comic people are just annoyed that a famous musician can also write comics that don’t suck. Good for him.

I’ve been following a few web comics since last year, too. Some highlights:

2008 will be the year of Jamie Smart.