30 June 2012

BABY'S IN BLACK

"Instant classic" is one of those phrases that is frequently overused in film, record and book reviews, but it's a more than suitable description of Arne Bellstorf's new graphic novel, Baby's in Black. Set in Hamburg. Germany during the early '60s, it's essentially the story of how Astrid Kirchherr and Stu Sutcliffe met and fell in love, but more than that, it's about five young men refining their skills as musicians in the dingiest corners of the Reeperbahn. And it is absolutely wonderful.

As noted in an earlier post, I read a lot of of rock biographies, and as a lifelong Beatles fan, I've read about John, Paul, George and Ringo more than anyone else. In fact, the story of The Beatles – how they came together, their rise to fame and how they reshaped not just music, but popular culture, before their sadly inevitable split – is probably my favorite story of all time. Even when told poorly (and there are a lot of bad Beatles books out there), it's a gripping tale. When told right, it's just as compelling as the very best fiction.

Bellstor's graphic novel definitely falls into the "done right" category, taking one of the earliest and most important chapters of the story and infusing it with such sensitivity and attention to detail it would appeal to even the best-read Beatles fans. Better still: Bellstor handles his source material so well that it becomes more than a mere retelling of Beatles history, and instead stands on its own merits, as a story that could be enjoyed by virtually anyone.

It's one of my favorite books of the year, and whether you're a Beatles fan, a comics fan or you're just looking for something great to read – I'm willing to bet Baby's in Black will be one of your favorites, too.

That's just how instant classics work.


29 June 2012

AIN'T NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING

We're at the halfway point in our yearlong "Experience Creativity" campaign, and with June rapidly winding down, I wanted to continue my monthly rundown of the ads.

June was the 20th anniversary of Todd McFarlane's Spawn, so it only made sense to start the month off with Big Toddy. I've mentioned before that I like how some of these ads show how different artists approach their work, and the different levels of technology involved, but I think this image of Todd using his Cintiq is probably something of a revelation for many. Todd isn't 100% digital – he goes back and forth – but the quickness with which he incorporated new tools into work really impressed me. I think everybody has a set impression of what Todd's like, but something I've always respected about him is his incredible versatility, not just as an artist but overall. 

Skullkickers creator and writer Jim Zubkavich – or Jim Zub as he often prefers to be known – sent in a ton of amazing photos, but this one was my favorite. Jim's reading over a Skullkickers script he's just finished here, and like thinking, it's an important step in the creative process for any writer. Every writer reads and re-reads what he or she has written, making sure it's just right, or that some important element of the plot hasn't been left out, or that the dialogue reads correctly. Even the most successful and assured writers spend time considering what they've written.

Rob Guillory is the artist behind the insanely awesome Chew, and given how twisted that book can be, it's probably a little shocking that Rob (like writer John Layman) looks so damn normal. Rob's a great guy, though, and he has an amazing work ethic. Something worth noting, too, is that the pages in the background are from the issue of Chew he's working on. A lot of artists pin pages up on the wall as they complete them, so they can take in the overall flow of the issue and see if anything's missing. As more artists move to digital, it's a practice that is becoming slightly less common, but there's something really wonderful about seeing a whole issue's worth of pages tacked up on the wall in an artist's studio.

Finally this month, we have Eric Jones, artist on the relatively new Danger Club. Eric and writer/co-creator Landry Walker are long-time collaborators – they did Supergirl together over at DC – but Danger Club is their first Image book. Because I think of Landry and Eric as a pair, I'd initially thought it would be neat to do a shot of the two of them together, but later thought better of it. Even though comics has a long history of creative duos – Siegel and Schuster, Simon and Kirby, Lee and Kirby, Byrne and Claremont, and so on – one of the strengths (I think) of this whole campaign has been the focus on individuality. The overall structure and design of the ads unify them, not the actual images, and each creator has an opportunity to stand out on his or her own terms. Crowding a writer and artist together into an ad would undermine that, I think.




HELP!

Chynna Clugston-Flores is nothing short of awesome. Her books Blue Monday and Scooter Girl are long-time favorites, and honestly, there isn't enough of her work on the shelves these days.

Turns out she's run into a bit of computer trouble recently – i.e. the damn thing crapped out on her – so she's taking donations for a new one. If you want to help out – click here.

28 June 2012

DEADLY BEAUTY

Check it out: It's the gorgeous Sean Phillips artwork for the limited edition bookplate for the Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me trade paperback that was released yesterday.

I got mine at the midnight launch for the book at Los Angeles' Meltdown, but if you're in the UK, there's a similar event next Saturday at Gosh in London...

IMITATION

Sincerely, we're very flattered.

27 June 2012

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Lee Hyori

26 June 2012

WAIT

...didn't they just finish a war? Isn't that what Avengers vs. X-Men was? If it wasn't, then what was it? Wasn't that the big event for the year at Marvel? Or was that big event just a precursor for another big event, that will at some point lead into yet another big event?

MOMENT OF TRUTH



How is it that a piece of fiction aired on television can often tell more truth than anyone actually involved in new or politics in this country?

And why is it so many of us are willing to just sit back and accept the lies we're told, over and over again, on a daily basis?

An absolutely brilliant distillation of exactly where we are right now.

24 June 2012

SUNDAY'S PRETTY ICONS

Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger... just because.

THE HISTORY OF ROCK 'N' ROLL

I just finished reading It's Different for Girls: My True Adventures in Pop by Louise Wener, and I have to say, whether you're fan of Sleeper in particular or you just have fond memories of the Britpop boom of the mid-'90s, it's an absolutely fantastic read. Just as frank and conversational as Wener's Sleeper-era interviews, I found it as difficult to put down as some of my favorite novels. Or, as more often the case these days, my favorite biographies.

Music biographies in particular have really captured my imagination over the last decade or so. I'm not sure if that's down to the quality of the books themselves or if there's just a greater quantity of books about my favorite bands available, but I do love reading them. Right now, I currently have no fewer than three on my nightstand awaiting my attention, and I think Blur bassist Alex James' second biography, All Cheeses Great and Small: A Life Less Blurry, is up next.

Before that, though, a list of my top favorite rock biographies to date...

1. X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Ray Ravies (1995)
Described as Ray Davies fictional autobiography, I bought this when it came out and then went to see Davies read from it alongside stripped down versions of various Kinks Klassics in a setting that would later become the basis of VH1's Storytellers. The reading/show (which I attended with Image co-founder Jim Valentino) was excellent, but it's the book I remember most. Fascinating reading on a number of levels, not least of which was the rumor he supposedly fashioned his story as fiction to cleverly avoid any lawsuits from some of the key figures in the Kinks' story.

2. Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon by Tony Fletcher (1998)
After The Beatles and Paul Weller, I've probably read more books about The Who than any other band, but hands down, this is the best. It's the earlier parts of Moon's life and Fletcher's vivid descriptions of England in the early '60s I recall the most, but the overall attention to detail Fletcher lavishes on his subjects life are is what makes this such an engrossing read. Oft-repeated anecdotes aren't merely recounted, they're fully investigated and sometimes even debunked in an effort to present Moon's life as it actually was. That such a talented and flamboyant character ultimately came to such a sad demise remains on the greatest tragedies in rock 'n' roll history, and the sensitivity with which Fletcher drives that point home makes this book nothing short of a triumph.

3. Stoned: A Memoir of London in the 1960s by Andrew Loog Oldham (2001)
Andrew Loog Oldham was the manager of the Rolling Stones throughout most of the '60s. As the man who guided them to fame, there are obviously parallels between him and The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, but as this and it's follow-up, 2Stoned, reveal the Loog was a different animal altogether. As with Dear Boy, Stoned is a detailed portrait of 1960s England and Swinging London in particular, not just in terms of the music scene of the time, but the burgeoning Mod scene Oldham found himself at the vanguard of. That his story intersects with that of Epstein, Mod messiah and early Who manager Pete Meaden and everyone from Phil Spector to the Beach Boys, Small Faces and more makes the first two of what Oldham claims will ultimately be a trilogy essential reading for any fan of '60s rock.

4. The Jam: A Beat Concerto by Paolo Hewitt (1983)
A bit of a sentimental favorite this one, as I got when it was still relatively new. Written by Paul Weller's then-close mate Paolo Hewitt, it's not a warts-and-all affair by any stretch, but it's packed with tons of photos and was something akin to the Gospel on the Mount for heartbroken Jam fans in the wake of the band's 1982 split. Re-issued in 1997 with an inferior cover, but the original version is still the best.

5. The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles (2000)
Compiled on the back of the successful television miniseries and albums of the same name, The Beatles Anthology is more or less The Fabs' story in their own words. Lavishly produced with hundreds photos and enough detail to please die-hard Beatlemaniacs whilst still remaining accessible the casual fan, it's not the final word on The Beatles, but it comes close.

6. Life by Keith Richards (2010)
People tend to kid about Keith Richards' death-defying feats of daring when it comes to substance abuse, but the joke's on them because the man's memory is either more resilient than his drug-battered body, or he long ago made it a point to write everything down, because this book is nothing short of remarkable. My only quibble is that if former manager Andrew Loog Oldham can fill two books and counting with his account of the '60s and life with the Stones, then Keef could definitely have spread his own amazing journey out multiple volumes.

7. Bit of a Blur by Alex James (2008)
True story: I once provided Alex James' with fire. It was during their show at the John Anson Ford Ampitheatre in Los Angeles back in 1995. My friend Robert Lacko and I awkwardly ran into Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree before the show and then buoyed with enthusiasm by that meeting, we somehow managed to push ourselves to the front of the stage for what remains my favorite of all the Blur shows I've seen. During a break between songs, the ever-louche James put a cigarette in his mouth and gestured for a light, and since I happened to have a lighter on me at the time, voila – Blur's bassist was leaning down toward me from the stage, ciggie in mouth. One wrong move and I could have burned that damn perfect fringe of his clean off. Thankfully, I had a steady hand, Blur continued being one of the greatest bands of all time, and once they ceased operations in the early 2000s, James emerged via the written word as a somewhat more thoughtful sort than anyone could have possibly imagined. Not surprising, then, that his autobiography isn't just good, but bloody great.

8. It's Different for Girls: My True Adventures in Pop by Louise Wener (2010)
My favorite thing about this book is that apart from the photos on the front and back, there isn't that obligatory middle section with band photos. Scratch that. I have lots of favorite things about this book – starting with Wener's wonderfully conversational writing voice – but the whole no-photos thing immediately stood out. The fact that magazines and photographers were constantly trying to get her to pose for photos less than fully clothed (which, to her everlasting credit, she didn't) and interviewers regularly asked her how it felt to know her male fans masturbated to images just underscores the strength of her decision to let her story speak for itself. And as it turns out, the story itself is pretty great.

9. Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head by Rob Chapman (2010)
There are many sad stories in the annals of rock history, but that of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett's is right there at the top of the list. Dismissed by some as merely an acid casualty of the '60s, Barrett's story is altogether more complicated than that. Rob Chapman does a good job putting this tortured genius' strengths and weaknesses into perspective following Barrett's death in 2006.

10. Everything (A Book about Manic Street Preachers) by Simon Price (1996)
Relentlessly fannish and Price's overly clear adulation of the band can be a tad off-putting at times, but a treasure trove of information nonetheless and even after 16 years, still the best book on the Manics out there. That said, an update is long overdue.

20 June 2012

19 June 2012

BLACK CELEBRATION


So, I read The Walking Dead #100 yesterday.

As you might have expected, it's good. It's really good, in fact – probably the best thing Robert Kirkman has written to date.

It's also incredibly unsettling: There's one particular scene in this issue that actually turned my stomach. If you've read the book over the years, you know Robert has no qualms about putting his characters through hell or making his audience squirm. I won't go into specifics, because there are new readers discovering the series all time time, but trust me – life has never been easy in The Walking Dead.

Issue #100 is somewhat different, though, at least to my mind, because what happens in this issue is fairly unprecedented in terms of the sheer display of brutality. It affected me so deeply, I had to go back and re-read it almost immediately. And then I read it again later the same day. When I left work and met up with some friends that evening, it was so at the forefront of my mind that I brought it up in conversation two different times.

As I described the discomfort that one scene caused me, one friend made a comment about not really understanding the whole zombie craze, and it struck me how many people still associate The Walking Dead and its success with zombies. But really, it's not about that at all, and the events in this issue underscore that more (and perhaps, better) than almost any other, because you know what? There's hardly a zombie in it.

And that's what caused me to bring The Walking Dead #100 up a second time as we sat and talked.

Of all the horrific things that have happened in The Walking Dead over the last 100 issues, almost none of them have involved zombies. In fact, I'm trying to think of something truly terrible – I don't just mean scary or shocking – that had something to do with zombies, and I'm blanking. And to be more specific about what I mean, there's a pretty disturbing scene in #41 that features a zombie, but what happens has  almost nothing to do with the zombie and everything to do with the person involved.

The darkness and horror in The Walking Dead comes from people. The things people do to each other, and the things people do to themselves. The vilest acts in this series, the most grotesque images – all of them of them are focused squarely on humanity's almost insatiable penchant for cruelty. Yes, people are occasionally bit and killed by zombies – some completely devoured – but the real pain is inflicted by the people attempting to survive in this nightmare world.

On one hand, it's a testament to the sheer blackness of Robert Kirkman's imagination, but more than that, it's a commentary on who we are and what we're capable of. The stories may be fiction, the fruit of  some dark tree Kirkman can climb better than most, but his characters are all too real. The things they do, the choices they make, the hurt they inflict – none of it is particularly far-fetched. Take the zombies out of the equation altogether and it's just us, doing what we've done to each other for centuries.

What makes The Walking Dead so vital – the deep, dark secret behind its success, if you will – is that it's about people. People you can relate to. People you can sympathize with. People you can root for. People you can hate. People you can fear.

That's why, at 100 issues and counting, this book can still cause me to wince with pain, to look away in disgust or to shake my head in sadness or shame. I may not be able to imagine what it's like to live in a world overrun by zombies, but there's not a thing these people have done that is beyond my realm of comprehension.

The zombies are just window dressing.

18 June 2012

THE SONGS WE WERE SINGING

Sir Paul McCartney is 70 today.

70.

It seems like just a couple years ago that the press was happily reminding us that Sir Paul wrote "When I'm 64" way back in 1966, when he was but 24. As it turns out, the hoopla over that was a full six years ago. Time doesn't just fly as you get older, it breaks the sound barrier.

I've been alive almost as long as Paul McCartney has been a star. The Beatles were the first music I remember hearing, and when I was old enough to start buying records myself, I didn't care about John vs. Paul or any of that bullshit, I bought records by both. Actually, you come 'round mine, and there's solo records by all four of them amidst the dueling walls of vinyl and CDs. 

Those who were there at the start of it all say it was like the difference between black and white and Technicolor when The Beatles burst onto the scene in 1962, and as someone who tumbled out into the world a few years later, it's hard to imagine the world without them. People joke about the seeming immortality of Keith Richards, but as the years speed by, only sad inevitability awaits. I'd like to be raising to toast to a robust Sir Paul at 100, but the odds are against it.

On the bright side, his music will always be with us, and that's something I couldn't be happier about. Conventional wisdom has long been that Solo Paul has always had less to recommend than Beatle Paul, but that said, I had the damnedest time narrowing my solo favorites down to a single top 10 list. I did it, though, and in celebration of the great man's 70th, here they are:


1. "Maybe I'm Amazed," (McCartney, 1970)
A powerhouse of a song, even today. The live version by Wings is great, and the Faces do a pretty impressive cover, but the original is virtually peerless as far as I'm concerned. Especially in the overall context of the album – his first away from The Beatles – it's just incredible. There's a lot of homespun experimentation going on, and while there are some good songs, but coming almost at the very end of the album, this turns the whole affair into a great statement of intent: "I'm having fun on my own, but check out what I can really do!"


2. "Coming Up," (McCartney II, 1980)
It took 10 years to get around to doing a follow-up to the completely solo McCartney, but the second time around, experimentation was just as essential. This time, though, must of that experimentation was with synthesizers and studio effects, and the infectious "Coming Up" is easily the most upbeat and accessible of the results.

3. "Junk," (McCartney, 1970)
Written whilst The Beatles were in India during 1968 and originally earmarked for use on The Beatles, it somehow failed to make the grade for that album or its follow-up, Abbey Road. I'm not sure where it would have fit in on the latter, but just off the top of my head, I can name at least half a dozen songs on the White Album I would have loved for it to take the place of. Either way, those records' loss was McCartney's gain, as it's one of the high points of that first solo album.


4. "Another Day," (single a-side, 1971)
There were no singles from McCartney, but this came out not long after and more or less provides the blueprint for the rest of McCartney's '70s. Some might say that's a bad thing, but as far as Paul's breezy pop songs go, this one's among the best. Name checked by Lennon in his McCartney vilification rant "How Do You Sleep?", but hardly worth the bile if you ask me. 


5. "Great Day," (Flaming Pie, 1997)
Originally recorded in 1992, this was thankfully held back from 1993's wretched Off the Ground, and closes out an album critics and fans alike considered a triumphant return to form in fine fashion. Featuring just Paul on guitar with light percussion, it could just as easily be an outtake from McCartney.


6. "Friends to Go," (Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, 2005)
Produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, this is probably my favorite of Paul McCartney solo record, even beating out McCartney and McCartney II. While there isn't a "Maybe I'm Amazed," a "Coming Up" or a "Waterfalls," the overall quality of the songwriting is remarkably high for an album made 40-odd years into an already remarkable career, and there's a consistency here that seems to have eluded McCartney for most of his post-Fabs projects. This particular song was inspired by Paul's friend and fellow Beatle, George Harrison, and to me, actually sounds like Paul trying to write a George song. Every time I hear it, I can imagine George singing it, and while I don't know if that was the original intent, I think it's a lovely idea.


7. "Run Devil Run," (Run Devil Run, 1999)
At first blush, a dozen or so early rock 'n' roll covers recorded with the likes of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Deep Purple's Ian Paice doesn't sound particularly promising, but I love this whole album. Songs made famous by Elvis, Chuck Berry, Larry Williams and Carl Perkins rub shoulders with each other but never butt heads, and the two new compositions by McCartney himself, "Try Not to Cry" and this track, fit right in. And if you ask me, this hell raising rocker is actually the standout track.

8. "Teddy Boy," (McCartney, 1970)
Another track that was almost a Beatles song and originally earmarked for The Beatles. I'll take this one over "Rocky Raccoon" any day.

9. "Waterfalls,"  (McCartney II, 1980)
Just a wonderful piece of songwriting. 


10. "Pipes of  Peace," (Pipes of Peace, 1983)
I find a lot of Macca's output from the '80s and the '90s pretty cloying. Things started off well enough, but post-Tug of War, I don't think he recorded another album worth owning until Flaming Pie, with Flowers in the Dirt being the possible exception. Even so, there are songs here and there that appeal to me, and even though this one is from a particularly fallow period ("Say, Say, Say" with Michael Jackson and "We All Stand Together" with, erm, The Frog Chorus were fairly emblematic of where Sir Paul's head was at at the time), there's something about the melody that has stuck with me over the years. I really like the intro, with just Paul and the piano, and while the lyrics are somewhat simplistic, the overall message is nice. The way the strings swell up at the end is quite affecting, too.

14 June 2012

13 June 2012

A GOOD IDEA

I came across an interesting* comment yesterday:

"A lot of these creator owned indy books are little more than story boards for a movie pitch IMO."

The Internet is largely fueled by anonymous opinion, very typically of the uninformed variety, but despite the fact I take issue with the validity of this particular statement, I'm going to leave that alone for now. Instead, I first want to address the pejorative nature of the comment, because the point being made here is that creator-owned books are somehow less worthy of attention because they're just pitches for movies.

So, let's play along and assume that actually is the case. Let's pretend for a moment that virtually everyone writing and drawing creator-owned comics is only doing so because they want to shop their ideas around to Hollywood, so they can be turned into television shows and movies. Or both. Let's say these creative people are so driven by ambition that selling comic books simply isn't enough. They don't just want their stories to reach comic book readers – they want them to reach the world. They want as many people as possible to read their stories, to look at their artwork, to experience their creativity.

Is that so wrong?

Is wanting to expand the audience for your creative endeavors beyond the  relatively limited horizons of the comics market really a bad thing?

And have we seriously arrived at a place where it's okay to cheer corporations on as their comic book properties are adapted for film and television, but any and all attempts by individuals to do something similar is scoffed at?

Because here's the thing: Disney and Warner Bros. do not put money into Marvel and DC because they want to make a bunch of great comics for the fans. They do it because they want more Bat Man movies, more Iron Man movies, more Avengers. They do it because they want more cartoons, more video games and more toys. They do it because it's easier to sift through the decades worth of creativity in Marvel and DC's back catalogues than figuring out how to come up with something new. 

I mean, do you really think it was a coincidence that Avengers vs. X-Men launched right before Avengers hit movie theaters in May?

Somehow, though, it's okay to cheer for Marvel when Avengers makes millions at the box office – not even the smallest amount of which is shared with the estate of the series' co-creator – but comics by independent writers and artists who want to retain control of their creations and profit from their the mainstream exploitation of their work "are little more than story boards" for movie pitches?

Even if all anyone producing creator-owned comics wants is to have their comic book stories turned into movies, that's a pretty disgusting double standard.

Guess what, though? The vast majority of the men and women creating their own comics are doing so for one reason: They're storytellers.

And that's not "IMO," I say that from experience. 

I'm not discounting the existence of creators who generate work with the express aim of having it optioned – I have met some of them, I know some of them, I have worked with some of them – but they're in the minority. Most people in comics simply want to tell stories and develop their ideas, either through words or pictures. They aren't that fussed about the movie part. If it happens, great; if it doesn't, so what? The main thing is making comics.

And making a living from comics.

Everybody in this business, regardless how much we all love comics, is here because we want to make money. From the most noble amongst us to the most craven, we all want to make money telling and selling stories, and the writers and artists doing work for hire at Marvel and DC are no different from the writers and artists creating their own characters – they want to make a living doing comics. No matter how you cut it, comics is a job, and whether it's measured by comic book sales or ticket sales, everyone is aiming for appreciation and success.

But like I said, it's a double standard, and worse, it's a double standard primarily applied to the men and women in comics who actually have the guts to do something original without working for someone else. I don't think John Layman would disagree that it takes more courage to bring something like Chew into the world than it does to write a Godzilla miniseries. Far from being "little more than story boards" for a movie pitch, Chew was an idea John loved so much he was willing to try it, even though he fully expected it to fail.

If you look outside comics, there is original new fiction of all stripes – and novels are adapted into films and television shows even more frequently than comics – but are the writers behind those books being accused of generating new ideas simply to pitch to other media? 

Or is it just that certain comics readers somehow feel threatened by the fact that not all writers and artists want to filter their creativity through someone else's characters and ideas?

Ultimately, a good idea is a good idea. If that idea takes on a second life a film or a TV pitch – where is the harm? And if it passes all the hurdles it has to in order to actually wind up on in a movie theater or on a television set, how is that a bad thing? It was a good idea and those came up with it deserve to profit from it, not be denigrated for wanting to exploit its success.


* = By "interesting," I mean, completely ill-informed and somewhat douche-y.

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Julia Ormond

12 June 2012

SPRING

is awesome.

07 June 2012

LIFELONG PASSION

One of my best memories from elementary school is having Dandelion Wine read to my third grade class. The name of the teacher who read it to us way back then in the 1970s is lost to me now, but I can effortlessly picture myself sitting there, listening in rapt attention as the story unfolded.

The name of the book's author stuck with me, too, because when NBC began advertising the television adaptation of a sci-fi novel called The Martian Chronicles a little while later, my ears pricked up at the mention of Ray Bradbury. I don't remember if my Mom already had the book or if I pestered her into buying it, but I still have the same knackered copy in my possession today. I couldn't tell you a thing about the NBC's adaptation, but the book itself was a classic and remains one of my all-time favorites.

I don't read science fiction much these days – in fact, it's rare that I read fiction at all these days, unless it's comics – but I tore through a ton of it when I was a kid. And as much as I enjoyed the work of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Phillip K. Dick and too many others to list here, there was always something about Ray Bradbury's stories I just liked more.

As an adult working in comics, I loved the fact that Bradbury was a fairly regular fixture at the San Diego Comicon. I never actually met him, but I recall seeing him there. Ray Bradbury walking down one of the massive convention corridors. Ray Bradbury on the escalator. Ray Bradbury at the Marriott.

Sadly, my most vivid memory of him from the con is from a few years ago, Ray Bradbury in a wheelchair, looking more frail than I would expect of anyone attempting to navigate the massive wave of humanity that crashes over the con floor nowadays. On one hand, I thought it was incredible that he was there at all, given his poor health, but on the other, it made me nervous, because if you've been to the show, you know what the crowds are like and how easy it is for someone to be jostled around. I couldn't put a year on when that was, but it was the last time I saw him at the convention. 

The last time ever, as it turns out.

It's often said that it's a tragedy when anyone dies, but Ray Bradbury passed away quietly in his sleep at the age of 91. He didn't die tragically. He died victoriously. He lived a long, wonderful life doing what he loved, and those he didn't infuse with the urge to go out and tell their own stories, he at least inspired to read, to imagine.

My friend and co-worker Jonathan Chan directed me to a great quote from Ray Bradbury that accompanied one of his many obituaries. It's such a wonderful epitaph, attempting to follow it with more clumsy accolades would just seem insincere, so I'll close with some truly inspirational words from the great man himself:

"In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in the mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior."

REAL GOOD THING

Bought this yesterday:


I've been a fan of Michael Cho's work for years – you check more of it out at his blog – and the drawings in this book are some of my absolute favorites.

Kudos to Chris Oliveros and Drawn & Quarterly for publishing this awesome little book.

06 June 2012

WEDNESDAY GIRL

Norah Jones

05 June 2012

THE FUTURE HAS BEEN HERE 4 EVER

It seems almost impossible to compile a complete list of all the insanely awesome creator-owned books that combat the notion that comics are doomed to exist only as backwards-looking corporate cash grabs, but here's a start...

30 Days of Nights by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
100 Bullets by Brian Azzarrello and Eduardo Risso
100% by Paul Pope
Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware
Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower
Alec by Eddie Campbell
America's Got Powers by Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch
American Born Chinese by Gene Yang
American Elf by James Kolchaka
American Flagg by Howard Chaykin
American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzuchelli
The Astounding Wolf-Man by Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard
Astro City by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross
Atlas by Dylan Horrocks
Bacchus by Eddie Campbell
Battlechasers by Joe Madureira
Black Hole by Charles Burns
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Beanworld by Larry Marder
Beast by Marian Churchland
Beasts of Burden by Jill Thompson
Berlin by Jason Lutes
Black Kiss by Howard Chaykin
Blue Monday by Chynna Clugston
Body Bags by Jason Pearson
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson
The Bulletpoof Coffin by David Hine and Shaky Kane
Captain Victory by Jack Kirby
Casanova by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
Channel Zero by Brian Wood
Choker by Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Cerebus by Dave Sim
Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Codeflesh by Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard
The Coffin by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston
Concrete by Paul Chadwick
Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips
Crimson by Humberto Ramos and Brian Augustyn
Daytrippers by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
Demo by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
Deadenders by Ed Brubaker, Warren Pleece, Richard Case and Cameron Stewart
Deep Sleeper by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston
Dreadstar by Jim Starlin
Echo by Terry Moore
Eightball by Daniel Clowes
Elephantmen by Richard Starkings, Axel Medellin, Möritat and many others
Elfquest by Richard and Wendy Pini
Empowered by Adam Warren
Essex County by Jeff Lemire
Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris
Fables by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Fear Agent by Rick Remender and Tony Moore
Fell by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith
Finder by Carla Speed McNeil
The Filth by Grant Morrison and Chris Weston
Fortune and Glory by Brian Michael Bendis
Freak Angels by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield
From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
G-Man by Chris Giarrusso
Girls by The Luna Brothers
Give Me Liberty by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons
Glamourpuss by Dave Sim
Gødland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
Goldfish by Brian Michael Bendis
The Goon by Eric Powell
Grendel by Matt Wagner and many others
Groo the Wanderer by Mark Evanier and Serio Aragones
Grrl Scouts by Jim Mahfood
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Hark! A Vagrant Story by Kate Beaton
Hate by Peter Bagge
Hawaiian Dick by B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin
Heavy Liquid by Paul Pope
Hell Yeah by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz
Hellboy by Mike Mignola
Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura
The Interman by Jeff Parker
Invincible by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker
The Invisibles by Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell, Phil Jimenez and many others
It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken by Seth
iZombie by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred
Jetcat Clubhouse by Jay Stephens
Jinx by Brian Michael Bendis
Kabuki by David Mack
Kane by Paul Grist
Kick Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.
Kill Shakespeare by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col and Andy Belanger
Kill Your Boyfriend by Grant Morrison and Philip Bond
King City by Brandon Graham
La Perdida by Jessica Abel
Laika by Nick Abadzis
Last of the Independents by Matt Fraction and Kieron Dwyer
Leave It to Chance by James Robinson and Paul Smith
Liberty Meadows by Frank Cho
Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodrigeuz
Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez
Lowlife by Ed Brubaker
Madman by Michael Allred
Mage by Matt Wagner
Maus by Art Spiegleman
The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra
Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank
Ministry of Space by Warren Ellis and Chris Weston
Morning Glories by Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma and Rodin Esquejo
Mouse Guard by David Petersen 
Mystery Society by Steve Niles and Fiona Staples
Near Death by Jay Faerber and Simone Guglielmini
Nemesis by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
Next Men by John Byrne
The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman
The Nocturnals by Dan Brereton
normalman by Jim Valentino
Optic Nerve by Adrian Tomine
Orc Stain by James Stokoe
The Originals by Dave Gibbons
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman
Peepshow by Joe Matt
The Perhapanauts by Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
Pop Gun War by Farel Dalrymple
Popbot by Ashley Wood
Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
The Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
The Pro by Garth Ennis, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Promethea by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III
Rachel Rising by Terry Moore
Queen & Country by Greg Rucka, Steve Rolston and many others
Rasl by Jeff Smith
A Red Mass for Mars by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim
The Red Wing by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra
Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee
Rocketo by Frank Espinosa
Rubber Blanket by David Mazzuchelli
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Salamander Dream by Hope Larson
Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M Guéra
Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen
Scary Godmother by Jill Thompson
Scene of the Crime by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scooter Girl by Chynna Clugston
Scud the Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab
Secert Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons
Shadoweyes by Ross Campbell
Sharknife by Corey Lewis
Sin City by Frank Miller
The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
Soul Kiss by Steven T. Seagle and Marco Cinello
Spawn by Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo and many others
Spooked by Antony Johnston and Ross Campbell
Strange Girl by Rick Remender, Eric Nguyen, Jerome Opena and many others
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode by Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore
Strangers In Paradise by Terry Moore
Stray Bullets by David Lapham
Stumptown by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth
Super Dinosaur by Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard
Supercrooks by Mark Millar and Leinil Francis Yu
Supergod by Warren Ellis and Garrie Gastonny
Superior by Mark Millar and Leinil Francis Yu
Supermarket by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson
Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell
The Sword by The Luna Brothers
Tank Girl by Alan Martin, Jamie Hewlett and many others
Tellos by Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo
THB by Paul Pope
Three Days in Europe by Antony Johnston and Mike Hawthorne
Torso by Brian Micahel Bendis and Mark Andreyko
Transhuman by Jonathan Hickman and J.M. Ringuet
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson
Turf by Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards
The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
Ultra by The Luna Brothers
Usagai Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore
Wanted by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones
Wasteland by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten
We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Wet Moon by Ross Campbell
Whiteout by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber
Who Is Jake Ellis? by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic
Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse by Ben Templesmith
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
Zenith by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell

There are obviously tons of great things I'm forgetting, so if anyone wants to email me with titles to add, I'll try to update as I can.

04 June 2012

SHEENA IS A T-SHIRT SALESMAN


Future of the Left are back.

Thank god for Andy Falkous.

03 June 2012

SUNDAY'S PRETTY ICONS

Andy Warhol and Jerry Hall

01 June 2012

THAT'S ALL YOU NEED

Here's all the Before Watchmen you need:

If your local comic book shop doesn't have a copy on hand, you can get it here.