Another day, another pile of trades! This time around I’ve got a very cool haunted house story starring a longtime DC scare characters, a comic adaptation of a film I haven’t seen and a trip to Mega-City Two drawn by one of my favorite artists working in comics now!
I wrote a piece about the Walking Dead Board Game for CBR.
I’ve talked to Todd McFarlane a few times and he’s always a pleasure. This time was about Haunt for CBR.
I also did a fun list for Topless Robot about the best comic book watering holes.
My friend Sam made these awesome R2-D2-themed wings. They are awesome, as I said.
Kevin Huizenga showed off the cover to Ganges #4 last week. That should be a great comic.
Drawn & Quarterly‘s having a sale, go pick out something pretty.
Brian Moylan’s Gawker post about the most recent episode of Real Housewives of New York is amazing. Need proof? “She’s just reaching into that Jonathan Taylor Thomas Trapper Keeper brain of hers and pulling out these crazy things to say that make no sense. They’re about as appropriate to the situation as a light dusting of glitter, which is what Kelly would like to sprinkle over everything—and then give it a slap bracelet.” Boom. I’m jealous both at how funny Moylan is and the fact that he gets paid to be that snarky.
A new Aerosmith record being recorded? I’ll believe it when I see it. (via Rolling Stone)Phil Noto‘s Thundarr the Barbarian artwork makes me wish that someone was making comics of old cartoons like these.
Wired‘s piece about The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Paul McCartney’s long-time interest in electronic music is pretty fascinating.
I’m definitely curious about Esquire‘s recipe for the Arnold Palmer martini. Now I just need a spare liter of vodka and a half cup of black tea…
This “Plastic Villains” T-shirt I saw in Shirtoid is pretty awesome.
I don’t want to get too excited this far out, but I like the sound of the American Gods TV series being six seasons with a huge budget. Let’s hope it does well enough to not only make it to TV but also last longer than the two to three seasons HBO tends to give things. (via /Film)Ulises Farinas‘ Doctor Strange commission makes me wish there was a really good Dr. Strange comic out there.
Finally, Robot 6er Michael May has a really interesting piece about comic companies perpetuating this myth that there’s a huge plan in place for their universes. The more embedded you become in the industry the more you realize this is true. The fact that he based the piece on a How I Met Your Mother bit makes it all the better.
SHORTCOMINGS (Drawn & Quarterly)
Written & drawn by Adrian Tomine
Collects Optic Nerve #9-11
Adrian Tomine is a creator I’ve heard a lot about from my more indie-oriented comic friends. I even remember when Shortcomings came out in trade format in 2007. Actually, I remember when it was announced the book was coming out a few months before. I was working in the research department at Wizard at the time and if memory serves my buddy Sean Collins was going to write about the book for Book Shelf (the monthly trade review section of Wizard at the time). I loved writing for Book Shelf and reading it, but I also hated that section because it meant a full day of me sifting through boxes in the hot, stuffy comic book library trying to track down certain issues. For the most part we didn’t get advance copies of the trades, so we would just get the issues together and read them all together, asking the companies if there were any extras of note. I developed a bit of a system, writing the cover date month on many of the long boxes, which worked out pretty well, but it was never an easy task, especially if the books were sought after by other folks which meant they would be all out of order. It might surprise some that the Wizard library did in fact include Optic Nerve, but since the book had a non-traditional shipping schedule it took the longest to track down. For whatever reason, possibly bitterness, I didn’t wind up reading the book.
Until now, thanks to a D&Q sale that I took advantage of, ordering Shortcomings along with the first Walt & Skeezix Tinpan Alley volume. The book stars Ben Tanaka a generally caustic dude in a relationship with Miko who winds up heading to New York for an internship. His friend Alice, a skirt-chasing lesbian, seems okay with his general assholeishness because she’s used to it, but it comes as no real surprise when he starts having trouble getting a hold of Miko and tries to start flings with his punky coworker Autumn and later Alice’s friend of a friend and “fence-sitter” Sasha, neither of which are destined to go anywhere. Alice heads out to New York in order to clear her head, finds something that Ben just has to see and the pair of them find out what Miko has really been up to in the Big Apple.
After reading the book in a single sitting, I’m not really sure what to think of Shortcomings. It’s not bad, by any means, but it left me slightly flat. I think one of the reasons for that is that the comic has a lot of echos back to Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Chasing Amy. Ben works at a movie theater, hates his job and seemingly everything else, but doesn’t want to leave it, he doesn’t have any further career aspirations and seems unable to make a real change in his life. He also starts dating a lesbian who has a more varied sexual history than him and things work out until something happens and they break up in a big fight. I don’t want to imply that Tomine borrowed those elements from the movies, but I have trouble thinking of anything else when those elements are put into place in close proximity. I have seen those movies a LOT by the way. One of the guys at the movie theater even notes that Jay and Silent Bob Strike back is one of his favorite movies. I can’t tell if that that’s a subtle form of what the Lost writers called “hanging a lantern” on the festivities (i.e. drawing attention to something in-story that the reader/viewer might be commenting on in the real world) or a dig at Smith (is the soon-shushed guy who also likes Fight Club and Reservoir Dogs being silenced because he’s one of those dudes who never shuts up about movies or because his favorite movies suck?). I’m probably thinking way too much about all this.
I’m also getting a little tired of reading indie books with unlikable characters as the leads. I’m trying to get through Jimmy Corrigan and am having a ROUGH time of it (he’s such a sadsack loser, I’m having trouble caring about him whatsoever). Ben’s nowhere near that annoying and he does remind me of a younger version of myself and plenty of my friends, but that whole “bitching about everything and thinking it’s clever” mentality has been annoying for years to me at this point. Luckily, I don’t equate an annoying and hard-to-like character like Ben with bad writing and Tomine does a great job of turning things around, getting me to actually wind up on Ben’s side by the end of the book. He might be kind of an ass, but at least he wasn’t a huge liar. That’s way worse in my book. Plus, I dug the character of Alice and even more so, her lady friend Meredith, who winds up being the most likable, non asshole-ish character in the bunch, probably because she’s slightly older and definitely more mature than the others.
On the positive side, the story is well told, the characters well rounded for all their craggy exteriors and the art well done in a simplistic but expressive pen and ink style. Had I not seen some of the elements previously, I think the story might have hit me a little harder in the heart or gut. As it is, I dug the story, laughed a few times here and there and had a generally good time with the proceedings, but I wasn’t overly wowed. It felt like an indie movie, but, again, not one I loved, just one I liked.
Speaking of movies, I have a lot of respect for Tomine for having a story in mind, writing it out and turning it into a comic book. Anyone with that level of creativity and follow-through is aces in my book. I wish I could do something like that. He’s actually a lot like the aforementioned Kevin Smith in those regards in that he took something he loved and turned it into his job, something that I think many people want to do, but much like Ben Tanaka, don’t have the guts to drop everything and actually attempt. In Tomine’s case, according to his bio on the D&Q page, he actually started Optic Nerve when he was 16 and has turned it all into a career. I love that kind of ingenuity and spirit and even though Shortcomings didn’t floor me, I like the story and the artist enough to give some of his other work a try. What should I read next?
THE WILD KINGDOM (Drawn & Quarterly)
Written & drawn by Kevin Huizenga
Collects sections from Supermonster #12 and Or Else #4.
I was really excited about Kevin Huizenga’s The Wild Kingdom, especially after reading and loving the first three issues of Ganges. After immersing myself in this year’s most interesting indie books for a gift guide over on UGO.com, most of which I haven’t read, I decided to actually buy some books and actually immerse myself in a few indie books I’d heard good things about or enjoyed previous works by the creator. So, I bought Wild Kingdom, which had just come out, Black Hole and Jimmy Corrigan. I was impressed with Wild Kingdom‘s presentation, the cover is rad, and the book itself is actually a little hardcover that reminds me of books I had when I was a kid.
I really wish I understood/liked this book more than I did on the first read. I just don’t get it. The book is supposed to give some inner meaning to the world of nature, but I didn’t pick up on any of that while reading. Instead of being a full-on story, the book consists of a series of stories told that are supposed to relate to each other on a kind of esoteric level, many of which star Glenn Ganges. Between faux commercials for the Hot New Thing 2 and lots of appearances by writer Maurice Maeterlinck, but over all it felt really obscure and cerebral in a way that didn’t quite grab me like moments in Ganges did. There were bits I liked throughout, but I can’t say I enjoyed this as a complete work because so much of it either didn’t make a lot of sense to me or just wasn’t all that interesting (like reading an excerpt from one of Maesterlink’s books). I’m not saying the book is bad, I’m just saying it wasn’t really for me at least on this first reading.
I wish I had read Chris Mautner’s Comics College on Kevin H before purchasing or borrowing the book from someone else. He rated it as “Avoid” not based on the quality of the work but on how dense it is. For whatever it’s worth, Huizenga’s interview over on Avoid The Future didn’t help clear things up, though it is an interesting read. Overall, I wish I had done a little more research and bought the Curses collection instead, but maybe another reading down the road will change my mind.