Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Review: Jeremy Tinder mini-comics

At last year’s Alternative Press Expo (APE), one of my favorite experiences was going to Jeremy Tinder’s table. It was the first one I hit, right inside the door and up the stairs, and I picked up one of his mini-comics and started reading. It was a short one, as all his comics are, and I loved it. I ended up getting, if I remember right, six mini-comics and a sketch of Blanka from Street Fighter II for five bucks. Nice!

This year, Tinder had upgraded. All his comics were two bucks, and while they weren’t any longer, they were printed with better cover stock. Behind him, mounted on the wall, were 50-some 4” x 6” paintings he had made especially for the show. The package deal this time around was $25 for all ten comics and a painting, plus he threw in a sketch of Mario riding Yoshi. It was the most money I dropped at a single table this year, and now I wanna talk about the great stuff I got for my hard-earned dough. Here are some samples of his paintings - I nabbed the one on the bottom right.



A word about Tinder’s style before I go book-by-book: his comics are generally 5 to 10 pages, drawn and written in a simple, crude style that should appeal to all the folks who tell me Craig Thompson and James Kochalka are great comics artists. While I’ve been entertained by Goodbye, Chunky Rice and Monkey vs. Robot, I think this style is best suited to the distilled whiskey shots Tinder provides. You can only play the crude-n-cute card for so long at a time before it begins to feel like an affectation, and Tinder strikes a perfect pitch that always leaves me both satisfied and hungry for more – and where Thompson and Kochalka both have a “deeper meaning” thing going on in their long-form books, these comics are lighter and funnier, a bit like Jeffrey Brown’s Miniature Sulk, which I recently reviewed here, and the moments of insight are more low key. While Tinder plays in an aesthetic sandbox similar to the folks I’ve mentioned, he definitely has his own voice, and it’s funny, sweet and pretty bizarre.

A Very Special Christmas Comic 2 is a good example; it’s the sequel to last year’s holiday Shaq adventure, though we go Shaqless this time around and instead get a zombie Santa. That’s right, a couple of kids find Santa dead in an alley and magically bring him to life. The result is sort of a creepy twist on the Frosty The Snowman story, and the ending made me cringe, laugh and smile in a matter of moments. Loved this.

Helmet Kid is about a young boy putting on a metal helmet and fighting crime with Kraft singles in his pockets. He’s a smartass and a doofus, and the dialogue works really well in this one. Funny as hell.

Shawn is basically a visual gag about an office employee who looks like Pac Man. Funny, quick read.

Rotten Eggs is one of those classic Kids At War In The Neighborhood stories. Tinder has a great grasp on the meaningless rage of children in groups, and this was both funny and oddly insightful without being precious.

Robots Don’t Say “I Love You” is a savage scene between a robot and his girlfriend. This was probably the meanest Tinder comic I’ve read, but it works (and cracks me up) because it’s completely ridiculous watching a human woman in a “relationship fight” with a robot.

Creepfolio: A Portfolio of Scary Drawings is exactly what it sounds like; it’s not my favorite, because I really enjoy Tinder’s writing and this is strictly an art piece, but these are indeed creepy designs and the monstrous dude in the Lindsay Lohan shirt is a classic.

4 More Years probably displays pretty accurately what last year’s election was like for a lot of people, as a group of friends sit on the couch watching the television results and cursing. I cringed at the start, as I’m generally phobic of political humor (which I find usually has no sense of humor about itself), but Tinder pulls it off with another absurd robot moment that had me laughing out loud.

What Do We Do Next? is a clever bit of self-reference, as this comic is the result of an experiment Tinder conducted with a class of high school students he teaches. Its basically a jam comic, with Tinder kicking it off with the first two pages and four of his students contributing pages that pick up where the last left off. This has limited success for me as a reader, because while some of the students’ work is clever and funny, some of it is just too crude to be clear, and one of them doesn’t seem to speak English very well. That said – how awesome is this? Jesus, I wish I’d gone to a high school where they did stuff this cool. I asked Tinder about it at APE and he said the school basically lets him teach however he wants to; hot damn!

Finally, Andy Saturday and His Dear Friend Jim in: Love/Hate is the most heartwarming of the bunch, and the most likely to appeal to those Thompson/Kochalka fans I was talking about earlier. It’s the longest story here and follows two friends through a day of misunderstandings (both angry and harmless) and realizations. None of the realizations are completely accurate, and at the end neither one of them knows what actually happened, but the resolution doesn’t suffer as a result – instead, it feels more real and resonant. It’s rare that two people completely understand one another, but that doesn’t have to stand in the way of friendship. This was a sweetheart of a story, perhaps a little too saccharine for some, but in the context of the rest of these comics I thought it capped everything off really well.

Tinder’s promised me he’ll be back at APE again next year, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll have for me. I highly recommend you take the time to track him down yourself and see if these don’t appeal to you as much as they do to me. In the meantime, you can check out his website at
http://www.livejournal.com/users/jeremytinder/.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Preacher and Beer (Spoilers!)

“I tell ya, Molly, I’m gonna have to buy some Charlie Chaplin DVDs. I fuckin’ love that guy.”

“I don’t understand why Garth Ennis has such a problem with him.”

“You mean that scene in the bar—“

“Yeah.”

“—when Jesse and Cassidy are talking about him versus Laurel & Hardy?”

“Yeah.”

“That pissed me off, too.”

“Can I have a sip of your beer?”

“…”

“What?”

“Really? I mean sure, go ahead, but—

“Well—“

“—you’re drinking beer now?”

“Well, last night? When you were at the Isotope and I went to Zeitgeist?”


“You said that was a cool place, right?”

“It’d be right up your alley. They played Tom Waits twice in a row.”

“Hoo.”

“And it’s just the kind of place where you have to drink beer, and I think I’m starting to like it.”

“I thought you hated it.”

“I just hate it on your breath. But drinking it, I don’t know… it kinda makes you feel… healthy.”

“HOLY CRAP, you finally understand! Oh, it’s best with Guinness! You can practically feel your body thanking you when you drink it.”

“Anyway, that scene with Jesse where he’s talking about Chaplin… I mean, nine times out of ten, when he’s Setting Everybody Straight and he’s so fucking sure of himself, he’s right on.”

“Totally.”

“But that one time out of ten, he goes too far or it’s just something stupid—

“Like picking on Chaplin.”

“—like picking on Chaplin, and you start to wonder – Are you just blowing smoke up your own ass?
I mean, he’s a cool role model character and everything, and you can tell Ennis sure has has a fuckin’ boner for him, but it’s just too much sometimes.”

“I’m telling you, it's Cassidy's story.”

“I know.”

“That letter he writes Jesse at the end? The P.S.?”

“I know.”

“That letter’s made me cry more than once, y’know.”

“I know.”

“And the part where Jesse takes his hand and he punches him—“

“OH, GOD!”

“—I felt like throwing up. I was physically sick.”

“I know just how you feel. It was totally… it was like you said in your blog, it was totally visceral.”

“Hey, do you still wanna do your idea?”

“You mean—“

“Yeah, the Preacher idea? Take a long weekend and some chairs and go sit in the sun with a bottle of bourbon and some ice and just read the whole series?”

“Well, I thought we could make a road trip out of it. Go somewhere like up in the mountains or something.”

“We gotta do that.”

“Soon as the weather gets better, baby, I’d love to.”

“Okay. I’m gonna go get a beer - you want one?”

“No, I just like sipping yours.”

“All right, well I better get two then. Hey, you wanna watch some Charlie Chaplin with me this weekend? Maybe The Gold Rush?”

"Sure, baby."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Interview with Elk's Run artist, Noel Tuazon

Elk's Run is an incredible new series from Western Tales of Terror publisher Hoarse & Buggy. You may have read my glowing review of issue one way back when I got a hold of an advance copy; you may have seen all the amazing support this book has gotten on messageboards and from creators like Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis and B. Clay Moore.

Or maybe you haven't been so lucky just yet.

If you've never heard of the series before, take a look at my review and browse around the H&B website for just a minute; this is an excellent new book that really deserves your attention. One of the selling points for me has been the incredible artwork, and that's why it was such a pleasure to be able to interview the series' artist, Mr. Noel Tuazon. Let's have a look at what he had to say.

Sean Maher: Let's start by giving our readers a little personal information. Tell me something really embarrassing about Elk's Run writer Josh Fialkov.

Noel Tuazon: Josh is a BIG fan of pan flutist, Zamfir.

SM: Now it's your turn. What about you?

NT: The most embarrassing thing about me is that I waited almost 2 hours just to get Ace Frehley's autograph.

SM: How did you become a comics artist? What drew you to work in this medium?

NT: I guess it started back in college (Erindale and Sheridan College). A friend, Dominic Bugatto, who's a wicked illustrator, introduced me to works by Jeff Jones, Mike Kaluta, Wrightson, Sienkiewicz, etc. This was kind of new to me since when I was younger I tended to care more for the characters or the book's subject matter rather than the artists of the comic books. From there I began drawing the odd strip for the college newspaper. The drawing style tended to lean more on the cartoony side. Towards the end of college I was sending samples out to editors and comic artists just to get their opinions and also hoping to get the odd assignment. Unfortunately I've yet to become a full time illustrator and still do my full time job working in a warehouse.

SM: Who's your greatest inspiration? Not your biggest influence, not the person who's work you admire or want to emulate the most. I mean the person who keeps you fired up, who fans the flames of that passion for comics. When you're feeling down and tired, the thought of them gets you back on your feet and ready to fight. We all know that comics self-publishing is full of those difficult moments, so you've got to have a secret weapon somewhere in your life. Who or what is it?

NT: What drew me to comics was that it was easier than making a movie. I guess working at a series of boring, non-art related jobs gets me still fired up when it comes to my passion for comics (and, add to that, children's books and editiorial illustration). I just don't want to end up becoming the type who does his or her 8 or 12 hour shift then goes home for a meal then down on their asses watching reality TV shows.

SM: How did you get involved in the Elk's Run project?

NT: I think it was a link on Steve Niles' web site which connected me to Hoarse and Buggy Productions. I saw their project, Western Tales of Terror, advertised and decided I should show my comic page samples in hopes that I would be able to illustrate WTOT stories. Josh saw my work and decided I would be suited for his little project, "Elk's Run".

SM: Describe your working relationship with Josh Fialkov. What's your collaborative process like?

NT: So far it's been Josh e-mailing me the scripts. I read them, draw character designs if they're needed, then it's off to doing the roughs layouts in inks. These roughs are then e-mailed off (five to six pages at a time) to Josh and Jason for evaluation. Once they're approved, it's off to the good paper (Bristol) for the final version.

SM: What can readers find in Elk's Run that they can't find anywhere else?

NT: Readers of "Elk's Run" will find no silicone breasted women.

SM: What do you think is special about the book?

NT: What's special about the book is that its "heroes" and "monsters" are not in costumes but rather in everyday clothing and settings. Plus, of course, no silicone breasted women.

SM: Is Elk's Run your first professional work?

NT: My first professional work was actually in a Cerebus reprint in 1989, which featured single page comics as backups. Other works include the two issue "Arianne" (written by Rafael Nieves) for Slave Labor and later reprinted by Moonstone Books and some anthologies (Taboo Especial, Dennis Eichorn's Real Stuff, Reactor Girl, Drawing the Line, Frecklebean Comics, Fleshrot 2, and Fleshrot Halloween Special). So, it's been off and on between me and comics within the last 16 years.

SM: What's your "day job"? How do you pay the bills while you're fighting the good fight and making comics? How do you balance the two?

NT: My day job is as a shipper and receiver for a small bridal gown company and the only art related full time job I've ever had was doing storyboard revisions for an animated company here in Toronto called Nelvana. I manage to balance the the day job and illustration by dedicating about an hour or two on the comics during the weeknights and five hours or so on weekends.

SM: Describe your process, and get into some detail for our aspiring-comics-genius readers. Everybody's got a technique that works best for them, a pattern they work with; what's yours?

NT: The technique I employ when starting on the final art is roughing out the pencils with blue non-photo pencil including the panel borders themselves. Then I straighten the borders with a ruler before going over them with a thick marker. Sometimes I'll even start inking images in the panels before inking the borders. I should note that I rarely draw tight pencils but just go straight into the blue pencils.

SM: What have been your most important resources as an independent comics artist? Influential books, sources of information, mentors, materials - what could you not do this job without?

NT: For influence and inspiration, I've looked at the works of Jeffrey Jones, early Wrightson, Kaluta, Mazzuchelli, and now within the last two to three years it's been EC reprints featuring artists such as Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, etc.. Additional books include ones on James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, Andrew Loomis' instructional drawing books, and, last but not least, the drawing instructors at this small animation school in Toronto called Studio M.

SM: What is the most important lesson you'd like to pass on to other independent artists, based on your experience thus far?

NT: The most important lesson is to probably expect to do some projects for small wages or even for free. Also, keep practicing on your drawing skills even if it's only for a few hours or minutes per day. Keep away from manga!

SM: Do you have any other projects lined up after ER? If not, what kind of material would you LIKE to work on?

NT: No projects lined up for now after ER's run but I do have an illustrated story appearing in one of Graphic Classics' anthologies (Adventure Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Twelve) sometime in July. It's an adaptation of a Damon Runyon story.

SM: What is your greatest ambition in comics?

NT: My greatest in ambition in comics is to draw anything from weird fiction to even superheroes.

SM: Finally, tell me your drink of choice and name something horrible (or hysterical) that happened once when you were drinking it.

NT: My apologies for my boring answer to this one but I'm more of a water and juice drinker. As far as I can remember nothing horrible or hysterical has happened to me with regards to those drinks. Whew! I need a drink.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Stray Bullets Volume 2: Somewhere Out West

David Lapham continues releasing Stray Bullets in trade collections that are smartly organized and value-priced – veering dramatically from his previous trade program in both regards – with Stray Bullets Volume 2: Somewhere Out West, which contains the second seven-issue story arc in this brilliant crime series.

This arc is easily the most outlandish of the four-and-a-half that have been published thus far, centered (as the title suggests) somewhere out west. Four characters – Virginia Applejack, Beth, Orson and Nina – have fled from Baltimore, where the last arc took place, and experience their new life on a skewed, surreal level, in a desert town where the populace expect the coast of California to sink into the ocean ANY DAY NOW and leave them soaking in the luxury of beachfront property. The artwork begins to take on a more impressionistic style (though only when appropriate) and a number of new, cartoonish characters appear to balance the relative normalcy our heroes bring along with them.

Lapham begins a number of important developments in the series with this arc, beginning with the real introduction of his second-most-important character, Beth. We first met Beth very briefly in the first arc, as she barged into the life of young Orson, a buttoned-down mama’s boy who had just started to learn what the violent world of Stray Bullets had in store for him. We got the vague impression then, and it’s developed at length here, that Beth is savvy to something the rest of us are not; she’s a flawed character, to be sure – arrogant and selfish and addicted to danger and adrenaline – but there’s also a fierce confidence that suggests she’s seen some unbelievable situations in her time and that she's learned how to handle herself under fire. What’s most impressive (and effective) about this is that nothing is explicitly spelled out. There are a few odd references to the past, vague allusions to her past relationships with characters and rough situations she’s obviously survived, but for the most part this impression is made entirely through her response to the here-and-now of the story. It’s incredibly layered storytelling that manages to not only develop the character and add an explosive, exciting ingredient to the story being told, but it creates a sense of history that always draws me into a story. I’m always completely sucked in by stories that clearly exist in a world bigger than themselves, that leave cracked-open doors to legends and wide expansive futures. Stray Bullets began doing this with its first issue, but Lapham’s grip on his craft had grown so much by the time he got to these stories that the reader doesn’t see him at work anymore, and it feels seamlessly built into the stories’ present.

As I said, Beth will prove to be the series’ second most important character, an adult foil to its very most important – young Virginia Applejack. Virginia’s influence in these seven issues is relatively small, and she disappears almost entirely in the third arc, but her role here is an important if unobtrusive one. For now, she’s here to observe. While the story told in this arc is self-contained and exciting and crazy, it will also serve later in the series as a premise, an element of Virginia’s past that not only lets us know what’s going on with her character, but will also give us a vague idea of what Beth’s past was like; we’ll use the experience we’ve seen Virginia go through to estimate what Beth has been through, and the mistakes Beth makes as an adult become a sort of ominous prophecy for Virginia. We suspect, though, that Virginia has some greater reservoir of intelligence than Beth, and that’s the central tension of the series – will Virginia live the same destructive, doomed life as Beth? Is that her in the trunk in the series’ first issue?

We’re driven to truly care because we can see how the world of Stray Bullets tests its characters; Beth, bold and strong though she is, is clearly a product of her environment, a changed person for all she’s been through, living more by trying to outfox the rules that have been set for her than by her own rules. Virginia’s on the other end of the spectrum for now, watching everything unfold through her child’s eyes and calling foul where she sees it, unaware of any real need on her part to change. Stuck between these two is Orson.

As I said above, we last met Orson as he was completely freaking out. He’d just started to really see the uncontrollably violent world in which he lives, and he was scared out of his mind and angry. When we meet him again in this arc, we see a good boy trying to be a bad man; he’s in love with Beth and, for now, Beth only cares about herself and her fun. Again, we get vague reference to history – Orson, in an amazing night of drunken bravery, has somehow pulled one over on the series’ ubervillain-in-absentia, Harry. They’re on the run now, and Orson has sobered up, and must wrestle with his fearful desire to maintain a low profile on the run from Harry and the certain death he represents, while Beth barks at him about being a real man, complaining (as does everybody who knows him, it seems) that he’s a boring dork. With his life on the line, but the woman he loves pushing him, what choice can he make? Orson’s story is the real tragedy of this arc, because he’s so clearly out of his element, and he has a much more grounded, pedestrian moral compass than any other character. He’s completely unequipped to deal with the dangers of the life he believes he’s chosen, though he’s obviously been pushed into it by forces both more powerful and more adult than he is.

After a number of more surreal (and often silly) adventures in this western hideout, with Orson shuddering at every loud noise for fear that they’ll be caught by the evil forces they’ve run from, he and Beth are finally called to answer for what they’ve done in an explosive 48-page closing issue. This is a climax as they should always be done, full of uncertainty and terror, action and blood, defining character moments and permanent consequences. The action takes us all around this new world they’ve built for themselves, crossing paths with all the new characters and doling out cruel fates with heartbreaking levity. When it’s finished, we realize the silliness of this arc had an intangible thread of gravity running all through it, and the consequences echo throughout the rest of the series.

It’s an exciting and powerful conclusion to the arc and reminds us that Stray Bullets serves dual purposes – to entertain and to engage, to make us think and feel while we’re shouting “Holy shit!” at every amazing turn of events – and caps off Exhibit B in my ongoing argument that this is the best series currently in publication.



Reference: my review of Stray Bullets Volume 1: Innocence of Nihilism

Bookshelf Comics

A fun new website has launched called Bookshelf Comics - full of information and reviews for squarebound comics - prestige formats, OGNs, TPBs, HCs, and whatever other acronyms you like for describing comics you put (crazy as this might sound) on your bookshelf!

I'll be contributing reviews, and I'll link to 'em from here every time I do. Today I've got a new review up for Jeffrey Brown's Miniature Sulk, so take a look and explore the site!

Of course, I'll be continuing to update here on The Zealot's Lore with reviews and more, starting with a follow-up to my review of Stray Bullets Volume 1: Innocence of Nihilism with a review of Volume 2: Somewhere Out West. Watch for it later today.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

War Cry

I love the hell out of comics. I love ‘em so much I started up a blog just to write about ‘em whenever I could. In the spirit of putting some gas back in the Zealot’s Lore tank – that is, juicing myself up for a second wind of more regular entries – tonight I’m gonna talk a little bit about why.

First of all, comics are unbelievably entertaining. They can take me anywhere, show me anything, any time I want. As I discussed in this entry, they strike a unique balance between providing the world of the story for me and demanding my participation in its creation; my mind is the motor and comics crank it up. All I have to do is let it run. Unlike film, I’m never irritated by the special effects being choppy here or too flashy there, and I’m not at the mercy of the artist to sit through anything – I can pick it up and put it down and move the whole story at the pace that best fits for me. And unlike straight prose, I’m not visualizing something by myself in the dark; I know I’m seeing what I was meant to see. And the potential there is unlimited. I’ve never found a medium that took me to so many different places with such smooth flexibility.

Comics make me feel like a kid. I read The Incredible Hulk and I feel the same sympathy for poor persecuted Bruce Banner I felt when I was eight; and I feel the same elation when he rises from within himself against the world that torments him to show he is the strongest one there is. I believe the Hulk is the strongest one there is, like other people believe in great football teams, and his every victory is my victory. Everyone’s got a super-hero that means something to them, who they’re always rooting for, and who’s silly spandex fights get their blood pumping. A lot of folks really identify with poor bad-luck Peter Parker. For some folks it's Batman or Wolverine. The Hulk is mine; and like any kid, I'll put my favorite up against your favorite any damn day of the week!

At the same time, comics make me feel uniquely grown-up. I’m in on something nobody else is in on. And it’s smart. They’d like to fool you by putting pictures in with the words, sure. But I’ve never read a prose book like Stray Bullets, or Sin City, or Planetary, that communicated in such a complex language, balancing the plain and the subtle in so exciting a way. I’ve never seen a movie as shockingly visceral as Preacher or The Ultimates or White Death – oh, film can physically shock me in a way impossible for comics, sure, but the flipside to that coin is that I know the limits of what’s happening in a movie; if the alien jumps out, I know just what it looks like and how scary it is. The Saint of Killers is limited only by my brain’s ability to imagine fright. The closing pages of White Death are as terrifying and hopeless as I’m able to conjure in my own mind. Most other adults don’t get the opportunity to realize that. And they never push their imagination beyond what the movie tells them.

I love comics because they’re pretty much the only medium that can get away with being totally ridiculous and still taking itself seriously. The Infinity Gauntlet was one of the best times I ever had in my life, and it’s totally absurd. I’ve laughed out loud reading Shaolin Cowboy, which has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen – but it’s absolutely, unflinchingly itself, and it has nothing to apologize for.

I love comics because of the community that’s sprung up around them. I love talking about comics with my friends, enjoying everything about them that I’ve already said and more, and I love the truthfulness behind people’s passion for it – folks might get into movies to become famous, or into music to get laid, or into literature to get respect; folks get into comics because they love the shit out of ‘em.

Just like me.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A free set of ADAM STRANGE #1-8

I'm giving away the complete Adam Strange mini in a thread over on Millarworld - all you have to do is buy some other awesome comics and I'll hook you up. Check out the link for details:

http://www.millarworld.net/index.php?showtopic=49042

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Review: Malsaine #1

Tonight I’m taking a look at Malsaine #1, written by Manny Blacksher with art by Barry Hughes, and published by Imprint Comics.

The superficial stuff that occurred to me immediately: it’s a fine value for the dollar. The cover price is $2.95 for 32 pages without ads. The story itself is a bit shorter than that, depending on what you consider “the story” – there’s a lengthy text-only introduction that reveals itself to be the opening lines of the story, which is an interesting tweak. And at the end, there are a few pages of mock-up old-timey advertisements, and a one-page faux newspaper story. It’s printed on a nice, thick paper with a glossy coating, just slightly smaller than the standard 7” x 10” format, and reads in the “landscape” format as opposed to “portrait,” and thank God, it’s stapled accordingly (can’t tell you how irritating it is when this isn’t the case and I have to read a comic like I’m looking at a Playboy centerfold).

As for the actual content – it’s unusual. I’ve not read anything quite like this recently, though I have a feeling it’ll strike a familiar chord in many readers. On the surface, this is about a kid named James going to a new school in a town called Malsaine in the southern United States. He challenges his English teacher in a class discussion of Huckleberry Finn, meets a pretentious jazz aficionado named Lucius and gets invited to a concert. As the issue closes, he thinks about going to the concert. Along the way, publisher Dave Hendrick tells me, “The book's about all those things we went through as adolescents, finding your identity, falling in love/lust, isolation and rebellion, there's also a hefty amount of magic realism, ghosts, jazz and foul mouthed ravens to keep everyone happy.”

Strange, no? I’m not used to comics stories being told in such an ambling, relaxed pace. I think it works, though, and largely because this style belongs in this setting; Malsaine itself seems a relaxed Southern town, content to move in its own time and hiding massive secrets that only the erosion of time will reveal. The story reflects that personality, and it’s a consistency I always enjoy. The old-timey American gothic feel is also voiced in the scene between James and Lucius as they discuss music; we expect James to respond to the namedropping of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis with contemporary examples (say, Queens Of The Stone Age) but instead he names Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis; whether this is meant to characterize James as an old-fashioned sort or establish the world of the story as vaguely timeless is unclear, but either way it brings a funny air of respectability to the tale, as well as a clear division between the world of the story and the world of the reader. Again, odd, but comforting.

The artwork, like the writing, is unusual but feels familiar. It’s a very blocky, impressionistic style, and the colors are rich and alternatingly psychedelic and mundane. I’m not sure what impression this is supposed to make, honestly; for the moment, it serves mostly to reinforce that sense of relaxed anxiety the book is promising. The style doesn’t convey action or sequencing very well, but we’re not given any content that requires it; instead, it reinforces the tension between movement and rest. The consistency between these two creators is remarkable, especially given their geographic distance from each other (writer Blacksher being an American southern gentleman and Hughes being a Dubliner).

The opening pages, as I mentioned earlier, are a written introduction that turns out to be narration. Whether this intro is meant to be an omnipotent “writer’s voice” or the internal monologue of our Hero isn’t clearly spelled out, but it functions much the same either way: this book clearly aims to be a story about stories, literary analysis made literature. It’s not at all like Neil Gaiman’s similar effort in the Sandman epic, but fans of that series may enjoy what is on the table here. The narrative builds suspense that is then left in the background for the remainder of the issue; discussion of the classic fairy tale tropes, the location of the forest as a testing ground where characters are clearly determined to be good or evil, lends some suspense to James’ distant window-gazing into the woods near his home.

Other themes are introduced here, but aren’t much developed yet. James’ monologue about the travels of Huck Finn and Jim the slave makes an interesting point about Mark Twain’s take on society, but it’s not clear how – or if – this is supposed to apply to this story. Similarly, the scenes between James and Lucius don’t seem to really have a purpose; am I being too goal-oriented? Too impatient? Perhaps. Could very well be; I am, after all, a Yankee. It may be that the creators are trying for now only to set the mood and introduce the players, and in that regard they do fine work here. And while I found the mock-up "Society Page" at the end pretty dull, I really dug the closing line: "Only the Future will tell, and I for one can hardly wait to hear it speak."

I don’t believe this is readily available in the United States, but the publisher seems happy to send individual copies across the pond. If you’re curious, shoot an e-mail to
malsaine@imprintcomics.com, and tell them I sent you.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Filthy Lying Irish

"Hey, honey - did you finish writing your review for tonight?"

"No, I think I'm gonna do it in the morning. I had a rough day at work today and I really just wanna veg out."

"What? So you're not gonna write anything?"

"Don't really feel like it."

"You should write something about me."

"..."

"What?"

"You're not a comic."

"Just go on there and say I made you spend tonight with me. Tell them about all the garlic I got ready for your salmon. Or tell them how I just shaved my legs!"

"Um--"

"Just put me on there. People like that kind of thing. You have to put some of yourself into these blogs, so people get an idea of who you are."

"I guess you're right. I just feel like kind of a wanker writing a blog about how my day went and people I know and shit like that."

"Just shut up and go write something about me."

"Okay, baby."

"I'm gonna go put on Les Miserables In Concert."

"Okay. Can we watch The Wire when I'm done? I heard it's really good and I rented the DVD."

"Sure."

"I love you."

"I love you too, baby. Now go write something while I make a bagel."

When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drum...

Mmmm... hotlinks...

Just received an e-mail from Phil Parr over at "Hey Grown Ups - Comics!", letting me know he's giving away the Complete 30 Days of Night slipcase hardcover, the first Sandman hardcover, and the first twelve issues of Supreme Power.

I'm not real familiar with his site, but I thought it might be worth your time to check out his contest and maybe get some free comics.

Stay tuned later today for a new review... this one from across the broad Atlantic.

Meantime, I've got some weekly bought-n'-thought reviews up on Millarworld.

Oh, and the Jimi Hendrix of color flatting, rising star Josh Richardson has been interviewed over on Sequential Tart. You've heard of In The Trenches, right? The column detailing a foot soldier's advance through the ranks of professional comics? If not, check it out right this minute, and start with the archives. Once you've done that, take a look at the gentleman's first interview.

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com