31 May 2011

THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN

La Val's, date unknown

28 May 2011

WHEN HEROES GO DOWN

Music lost another hero today: The legendary Gil Scott-Heron has died at the age of 62. His albums Pieces of a Man and Free Will are pretty much essential listening, but this track, "The Bottle," is one of my absolute favorites...

27 May 2011

GERONIMO

If you like The Like, bassist Laena Geronimo has a new band called Raw Geronimo, and if you live in the Bay Area, they're coming your way this June...

26 May 2011

INKY FINGERS

Following up on a post from a few days ago, here's the inked version of that sketch for the upcoming project I'm working on, along with another finished piece the artist I'm collaborating with sent this morning...

25 May 2011

RIGHT UNDERNEATH IT

Paul Weller is 53 today.

I've been listening to him for just over three decades at this point: The Jam, The Style Council, the solo records. Seen the film, read the book, wore the loafers, had the haircut. I have ticket stubs from over 20 lives shows. Considering Weller's recorded 20 albums and 70 singles, it seems silly to try and distill 34 year worth of music into a single list of 10 favorites, doesn't it? Well, instead of doing that, I'm going to focus on the top 10 songs I consider to be "hidden gems" from a solo career that is now nearly twice as long as his stints in The Jam and TSC combined...

1. "Leafy Mysteries," (Illumination, 2002)
2. "The Start of Forever," (As Is Now, 2005)
3. "The Ends of the Earth," (single b-side, "Wild Wood," 1993)
4. "Golden Leaves," (single b-side, "Come On/Let's Go," 2005)
5. "Brand New Start," (single a-side, 1998)
6. "Picking Up Sticks," (Heliocentric, 2000)
7. "It's a New Day, Baby," (single b-side, "The Changingman," 1994)
8. "Push Button, Automatic," (single b-side, "It's Written in the Stars," 2000)
9. "As You Lean into the Light," (A Heavy Soul EP, 1997)
10. "Love-less," (Heliocentric, 2000)

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Chan Marshall

24 May 2011

THE KING

Maybe it's just that I started reading comics smack dab in the midst of Jack Kirby's return to Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, but I've always loved the covers he did for Fantastic Four between '75 and '78. Kirby did a staggering amount of covers during that period – I count 185 – all whilst generating six different series: Captain America, The Eternals, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Black Panther, Machine Man and Devil Dinosaur. That's 84 issues over roughly three years – which breaks down to 28 issues a year.

Oh, yeah: He did a Silver Surfer graphic novel while he was at it.

And in the midst of it all, he basically knocked out 100 additional covers, some rather middling, others –including some of the FF covers below – somewhat stunning...

23 May 2011

IT'S NOT YOUR BIRTHDAY ANYMORE

...but here's another top 10 list in your honor, dear Steven, this one a more standard list of favorites from the solo years:



1. "Tomorrow," (Your Arsenal, 1992)
2. "Suedehead," (Viva Hate, 1988)
3. "All You Need is Me," (single a-side, 2008)
4. "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris," (Years of Refusal, 2009)
5. "Driving Your Girlfriend Home," (Kill Uncle, 1991)
6. "At Last I Am Born," (Ringleader of the Tormentors, 2006)
7. "Hold on to Your Friends," (Vauxhaull and I, 1994)
8. "Irish Blood, English Heart (Your Are the Quarry, 2004)
9. "The Operation," (Southpaw Grammar, 1995)
10. "Maladjusted," (Maladjusted, 1997)



22 May 2011

YOU WERE GOOD IN YOUR TIME

Steven Patrick Morrissey is 52 today, and while it's his music that made him famous, he also has a hell of an eye for design. The sleeves that adorned The Smiths' singles and LPs were some of the most visually distinctive of the '80s, impossible to mistake for anything other than a Smiths release. Working with designer Caryn Gough, Morrissey came up with a look that has often been imitated, but never quite matched. The choice of imagery, the muted palette, the simplicity of the typesetting... It all tied together something close to perfectly. So, in honor of his birthday, here are my top 10 favorite Smiths sleeves:

1. "Bigmouth Strikes Again" (single, 1986)

2. "William, It Was Really Nothing" (single, 1984)

3. "This Charming Man" (single, 1984)

4. "That Joke isn't Funny Anymore" (single, 1985)

5. "Shakespeare's Sister" (single, 1986)

6. The Smiths (LP, 1984)

7. "What Difference Does it Make?" (single, 1984)

8. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" (single, 1985)

9. "How Soon is Now?" (single, 1985)

10. Hatful of Hollow (LP, 1984)

21 May 2011

THIS IS THE END

...or so some would have us believe. Cue top 10 list, blah blah blah blah...


1. Time Zone - "World Destruction," (single a-side, 1984)
2. XTC - "This World Over," (The Big Express, 1984)
3. Working Week - "Apocalypse," (single b-side, "Surrender," 1987)
4. Elvis Costello - "Waiting for the End of the World," (My Aim Is True, 1977)
5. The The - "Armageddon Days (Are Her Again)," (Mind Bomb, 1989)
6. Funkadelic - "Wars of Armageddon," (Maggot Brain, 1971)
7. Alice Coltrane - "Battle at Armageddon," (Universal Consciousness, 1971)
8. Elvis Costello - "Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)," (Mighty Like a Rose, 1991)
9. The Clash - "Armagideon Time," (Black Market Clash, 1980)
10. REM - "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," (Document, 1987)

20 May 2011

ALL NIGHTER

In other comics news (and coming out somewhat sooner than anything I'm working on): David Hahn has a new miniseries called All Nighter coming from Image next month. It's David's first "real" work for Image, and I'm glad to finally have him working on a project here. (The first of two this year, in fact.) I've been following David since his Private Beach days, and think he's just remarkably talented. If you're unfamiliar with his work, All Nighter is as good an entry point as any, but he's also doing the Suicide Girls comic with Cameron Stewart and the Grant siblings, Brea & Zane, and it's also worth hunting down the Vertigo series Bite Club, written by Howard Chaykin & David Tischmann.

Anyway.

An earlier version of the cover is floating around online, but we just got the final version in and I wanted to post that here, on account of it being awesome. Hats off to Ryan Hill for the fab colors, and Image's own Drew Gill for the logo.

SKETCH

It's been a long time since I've actually done any comics myself. The last thing I wrote was Long Hot Summer (the digital version of which is available here), and that came out in 2005. I've been (slowly) working on a new series, though, and I'm hoping to finally have that out in 2012. In the meantime, I thought this sketch of one of the lead characters was really lovely. I'm working with an insanely talented artist on this and literally everything he sends makes me incredibly lucky to have such an amazing collaborator.

More to come.

19 May 2011

LOST WEEKEND


New video from Art Brut's upcoming album, Brilliant! Tragic! – due out in the UK on Monday. In the US, it's Tuesday. Wherever you are, it's awesome.

Love the one comment on the YouTube page. I love YouTube commenters. Actually, I love everyone who leaves comments online. At some point, I need to do a whole post on just how much I love them. Their, erm, work needs to be recognized.

18 May 2011

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Sade Adu

17 May 2011

KNOW YOUR CHICKEN


6/21 Seattle, WA - Neumo's

6/22 Vancouver, BC - Fortune

6/23 Portland, OR - Doug Fir

6/25 San Francisco, CA - Bimbo's

6/26 Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood Bowl

(w/Yellow Magic Orchestra)


7/12 Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Bowl

7/14 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall

7/16 Toronto, ON - Mod Club

7/18 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom

7/19 Washington, DC - Rock N Roll Hotel

7/20 Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall

LOOKING BACK

There's a great Website called Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics that includes, amongst other things, an index of all comics published by DC and Marvel (plus a few other publishers, here and there), from 1935 to present. Erik Larsen originally brought it to my attention a couple weeks ago, pointing out how neat it was that someone could look up his/her birth month and see all the cool comics on sale back then. (Captain America #100, Daredevil #38, Fantastic Four #73, Incredible Hulk #102, Showcase #73, Strange Tales #167 and Thor #150 were the standouts the month I entered the world.)

After mucking about with the index a bit, though, I realized that what was even more interesting was how easily I could track exactly when I started reading comics and in what order. What's kind of fascinating, too, is how random my very first comic seems, especially in the context of everything else that was on the newsstand that month. My Dad bought my first comic for me in July of 1975, from some roadside convenient store near the end of a long trip from Louisville, Kentucky to Tacoma, Washington, and for whatever reason, it was Incredible Hulk #192. Not Amazing Spider-Man #149 (how he could pass up two Spideys duking it out above the title, "Even if I Live... I Die!" I'll never understand), not the first issue of Jim Starlin's celebrated run on Warlock or the death of Thunderbird in X-Men #95, but Incredible Hulk #192. Looking at it now, the title seems like something of a misnomer, because there's nothing even remotely incredible about that particular issue. Somehow I liked it enough as a seven-year-old to come back for more.

But not immediately, because trawling through this index, I realized that I didn't get my hands on another comic book until October 1975, a full three months later. That comic was considerably cooler: It Jack Kirby's return to Marvel Comics with Captain America #193. Of course, I didn't know who Kirby was at that point, why he was back or when he had been, but that comic was way more awesome than my first and the beginning of a lifelong admiration for the King's work.

My next comic was not Captain America #194, though (I didn't even get another issue ofCap until #209, over a year later), but Marvel Team-Up #43 that December, featuring Spider-Man and Dr. Doom battling a demon during the Salem Witch Trials alongside the Vision and the Scarlet Witch. People talk today about how important it is to spell everything out for new readers, and I mostly agree that it's necessity to make your storytelling as clear as possible for the uninitiated, but at the same time, it was pretty mind-blowing being thrown into the middle of a story like that. Time travel! Heroes teaming up with villains! Demons! Witches! Androids! Avengers! Android Avengers! I was finally able to get the next issue of a comic I liked, too, so as 1975 became 1976, I wound up with Marvel Team-Up #44, along with the oversized Superman vs. Spider-Man.

Next up was an issue of Marvel Double Feature reprinting a Captain America story from the tail-end of his Tales of Suspense days in the '60s and it seemed like I was back on the one comic every couple months plan, but finally, in April of 1976, something gave and I got a whopping nine comics: Avengers #149, Fantastic Four #172, Invaders #7, Iron Man #88,Marvel Super-Heroes #58, Marvel Tales #69, Marvel Team-Up #47, Marvel Two-in-One #17 and Marvel's Greatest Comics #64. Since comics were still being picked up for me by my parents, I have no idea what prompted that particular uptick, but from that point onward, I was getting most of the comics I actually liked on regular basis, particularly Fantastic Four, Marvel's Greatest Comics and Marvel Two-in-One, thanks to my rather immediate (and rabid) enthusiasm for Marvel's Fab Four.

I could say I never looked back after that, but as I explained in an earlier post, this was just the beginning of an on-again/off-again cycle of collecting comics that continues to this day.

What does all that mean? Probably not a whole hell of a lot to anyone other than myself, but going back and examining how my lifelong love of comics got its start is a genuine pleasure. If nothing else, it's just nice to be dust off the memories associated with all these books and drill them into a concrete timeline.

16 May 2011

AN OLD CRICKETER

As previously mentioned, Shirley Lee's second solo album, Winter Autumn Summer Spring, is due out on the 13th of June, but he's released a new single, "An Old Cricketer (For John Peel)," ahead of that and I love the accompanying video. Something about the simplicity of it, combined with a record collection to die for, makes it rather fascinating.

I should also note that although I've never lived in the UK and therefore wasn't able to hear John Peel directly, his importance as a radio DJ and the impact he had on so many people's lives has always resonated with me. I guess KROQ's Rodney Bingenheimer would be the closest equivalent to John Peel I've listened to firsthand, and that was in the mid-to-late 1980s, somewhat after his prime. I've wondered before how kids today are introduced to new sounds – not just current stuff, but all the amazing music recorded over the last 60 years or so – and I'm guessing very few of them get to experience something quite as magical as a John Peel blasting some incredible song over the airwaves...

15 May 2011

YOU TAKE THE DARK OUT OF THE NIGHT

Rolling Pin Donuts, date unknown

13 May 2011

FAME

12 May 2011

IT WAS ALRIGHT

I was chatting with some friends about Free Comic Book Day and we wound up sharing stories about collecting comics when we were younger. That got me thinking about something I'd written years ago, when I was managing editor of poor, doomed nextplanetover.com, and while it's not exactly a hot button topic at the moment, I thought I'd dust if off and share:

I was never made fun of for reading comics when I was growing up. Which is in no way to be interpreted to mean "I was never made fun of when I was growing up," because I was. I was tall, skinny and awkward, I had braces, and since my family had moved to the Pacific Northwest from the South, other kids thought I talked funny. Of course I was made fun of.

But not because I read comics.

In a way, that's kind of a shame, because that's the kind of experience that would no doubt make for some highly entertaining reading. Unfortunately, while I managed to get into a decent number of violent and bloody fist fights throughout elementary school and beyond, I never had the piss beaten out of me because some young sociopath-in-the-making was upset that I was reading the latest issue ofMarvel Team-Up. It just didn't happen, and I'm truly sorry if you've been waiting with some eagerness to hear that it did.

The thing is, most of the kids of the kids I went to school with always seemed to think comics were alright. Not all of them read comics, mind you, but whenever they saw myself or one of my friends reading comics or drawing characters like the Hulk or Iron Man in the margins of our workbooks, they were usually pretty interested. They wanted to know what was happening in the stories, they wanted to know if we wanted to draw comics ourselves one day. Frequently, someone would ask to read an issue ofAmazing Spider-Man orIncredible Hulk and there were even instances where a comic or two would mysteriously disappear only to turn up a week or so later in some, ahem, interested party's desk.

What happened most of all, however, was that other kids would ask one of us to draw them a picture of...well, just about anyone. Spider-Man. Captain America. The Thing. Superman. Sgt. Rock. Wonder Woman. Casper the Friendly Ghost. Some other kid in class, but dressed as a superhero or a witch or something equally silly. And my friends and I were always happy to oblige, because as much as we enjoyed reading and looking at our comics, nothing could beat sitting around drawing. I don't think any one of us even gave the slightest bit of consideration to actually writing or drawing comics professionally at that point—we just loved to draw.

At one point during elementary school, other kids would actually pay me and a friend of mine, Jerry Watson, to draw original covers for existing comics. We'd been drawing new covers for comics we'd lost the real covers to for a while and that was something that apparently impressed some of our classmates. They'd bring in tattered old copies ofAvengers or Fantastic Four, we'd flip through them to get some idea of what was going on in the story and then Jerry and I would draw and color a new cover and tape the atrocious little masterpiece to our client's coverless comic for the bargain basement price ofone dime. One week, we made a whole dollar.

I'm not being modest when I say these replacement covers looked uniformly terrible, though I can still picture the horrific image of "our" cover to Incredible Hulk #189 today and believe me, Herb Trimpe was in no danger of losing his job to either of us. Ever. It's not that we were bad artists—by all accounts both Jerry and I drew better than average for eager young lads of nine or ten—but we had no sense of composition, no eye for color. And we were coloring with crayons using a bizarre technique in which we would color our work (rendered in pencil and ballpoint pen, of course) and then scratch off as much of the crayon as possible to give the colors a less crayon-y look. Thinking back on that practice now, I'm not certain there was much of a difference, but guys like Jerry and our friend Robert Thomas swore by it.

Anyway, this was the environment I grew up on comics in. I know—it sounds like I was raised with Anne of Green bloody Gables or something, but that really couldn't be further from the truth. My school was smack dab in the middle of what has traditionally been considered to be one of the worst neighborhoods in Tacoma, Washington. A lot of the kids I went to school with came from troubled homes and some of them were already hardened beyond belief. By the time they entered fourth grade, there were fights, kids stole from one another, and I quickly lost track of how many kids would arrive as new students only to quietly disappear a month or so later. Though I have fond memories of living there, Shangri-La it was not.

But no one ever bothered me about comics. When we were instructed to bring something to school for free reading hour and I brought comics, no one—not even my teachers—said a negative word about it. If I showed up for school with my homework in Mead folders bearing images taken from various Marvel comics, the other kids asked where I got them. Same with my Marvel lunchbox. Comics were all right. Comics were cool. No one thought they were for dummies. No one really associated them with geeks or losers or nerds.

And that's not to say that I wasn't any of those things. I certainly don't feel that was the case, but I had problems with kids who didn't like that I got better grades than them or who thought my shoes looked stupid or who just plain hated the way I looked. I even got in a fight once because I wouldn't admit that the Doobie Brothers were the best band in the world. But whenever I hear someone roll out that old chestnut about how comics have always been "socially unacceptable," the province of the boy at the back of the class, perpetually unable to master "real" books or get along with other kids in any kind of meaningful way... Sorry, but I just can't relate.

11 May 2011

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Joanne Whalley

10 May 2011

STUFF

Here's something else I've been collecting lately: Marvel Comics stickers made by Topps back in the mid-'70s. There were two sets, each containing 40 stickers – one came out in 1975, the other in '76 – and I'm currently eight shy of completing the first. I can't recall if I ever had a complete set when I was first tracking this down as a kid, but I do remember buying pack after pack and trading them with my friends...

Even cooler than the stickers, though, were the checklist cards, the backs of which made up a nine-piece puzzle of the cover to Fantastic Four #100. I bought so many packs of the stickers, I was able to complete the cover several times over, even taping one set together and using it as the cover my own version of that landmark issue. I still love that cover (and I recall being dumbstruck by the fact that it was hanging in Jack Kirby's kitchen the first time I visited his home back in the '90s), but after imagining how cool the story for that comic would be over the course of many years before finally getting a copy, it really couldn't have been a bigger disappointment. It's cool to have all the checklist puzzle cards again, though.

The puzzle for the second set made up the cover to Conan #1, and that's next on the list after I find the rest of the stickers...

09 May 2011

TRACING IT BACK

Oh boy, another interview:

This one is kind of cool, because each participant gets to choose from six different standardized Q&A forms. I chose the set of questions dealing with my profession ("The Work Questionnaire"), so it wound being a bit of a look back as opposed to the typical "this is what's going on with Image Comics right now" sort of thing...

08 May 2011

MOTHER DEAR

I rather doubt Neil Hannon wrote this specifically for Mother's Day, but if there's a more appropriate (or lovely) song for this particular holiday, I haven't heard it:

HIT PARADE

1. Art Brut - "Axel Rose," (Brilliant! Tragic!, 2011)
2. Shirley Lee - "One Day We'll Get Married," (Winter Autumn Summer Spring, 2011)
3. Fleet Foxes - "Lorelai," (Helplessness Blues, 2011)
4. Simon & Garfunkel - "Fakin' It," (Bookends, 1968)
5. The Beat - "Big Shot," (I Just Can't Stop It, 1980)
6. Lush - "Untogether," (Spooky, 1992)
7. Miles Kane - "Quicksand," (Colour of the Trap, 2011)
8. The Rascals - "I'd Be Lying to You," (Rascalize, 2008)
9. James Dean Bradfield - "Kodochrome Ghosts," (single B-side,"That's No Way to Tell a Lie," 2006)
10. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - "Invisible Red," (Class Mythology EP, 2011)

06 May 2011

REARRANGE

You like Arctic Monkeys, right?

How about Alex Turner's Arctic Monkeys' side project, the Last Shadow Puppets? You like them, too, right?

Well, Miles Kane was the other bloke in the Last Shadow Puppets. He was also in the wildly underrated Rascals, and he presently has a fantastic solo record out called The Colour of the Trap and "Rearrange" is the newest single from said LP...


But wait, there's more...

05 May 2011

MEXICO

04 May 2011

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Audrey Tautou

03 May 2011

THEME

I'm guessing someone in editorial at Time is a hard and fast subscriber to that old maxim, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," because their upcoming Bin Laden cover is number four in their ongoing series of covers celebrating of the world's greatest super-villains. And you know, nothing says "that motherfucker's finally dead" like a red x across the face, right?