Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cheap Thrills - NANOMAN #1

Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin
THIS COLUMN ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN
In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for the local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week Daniel Elkin randomly grabs a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang he can get for his two-bits. These are those tales.

September 21, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
NANOMAN #1
Published by: Gettosake Comics
Story by: Frank Fletes and Jeremy Love
Pencils by: Jeremy Love


THE GURNEY!

It was the year 2000. We had survived the onslaught of Y2K, yet were disappointed that we weren’t living in some sort of techno-utopia with no wars, synthesized food, animatronic prostitutes, and flying cars. At the end of the year, America had elected George Bush to be our 43rd president.

Sometime in the midst of our celebrations and disappointments in the year 2000, Gettosake Comics released Nanoman #1.

My on-line research uncovered very little information either about Nanoman or Gettosake Comics. All I know about Gettosake is that they hailed from Elk Grove, California, and they had a really cool name.

Gettosake Comics seemed to have high hopes for their four issue Nanoman mini-series; they seemed to be trying to position themselves as one of the leading publishers of comics produced by African-Americans that featured African-American role models.

I found Nanoman #1 in the bargain bin with all the other high hopes, relegated now to the detritus of pop culture.

Nanoman #1 opens “Somewhere in the Artic Circle…”


“RUNCH!!” may be my new favorite comic book sound effect.

So here we go. My biggest complaint about Nanoman #1 is its derivative nature. This comic’s narrative is full of tired clichés. It got to the point where I started to count. Won’t you count along with me?

Tired Cliché #1: Hidden Arctic Base accessed through technology. Check!

Tired Cliché #2: Once inside the Hidden Arctic Base, a character reveals his or her face in a close-up shot.


Check!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Poets You Should Know - David Berman


David Berman was a teenager in Dallas, Texas in the early 80's.  

Personally, I feel that this experience warped him into the man he is today.

He was the frontman for his band, The Silver Jews

He doesn't do that anymore.

He is a poet and he updates a blog occasionally.

After the jump, you will find one of my favorite poems from him.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Read This Comic - WOLVES by Becky Cloonan


Wolves by Becky Cloonan may well be the best comic I have read all year.

Cloonan is tearing up the sequential narrative world right now. Her tagline is "Comics Rule Everything," and she seems to really mean it. Her work on Vertigo Comics’ American Virgin with Steven T. Seagle was what first brought her to my attention, but it was her work on Demo with Brian Wood that really made me wide-eyed with admiration of her as an artist. She is an amazing talent, and the rest of the comic world has finally catching up to her. She’s teaming up with Tony Lee to produce a MacGyver series for Image Comics, and she’s putting her touch on Marvel’s Doctor Doom, working with Nick Spencer on a four-issue series Victor Von Doom featuring a teenaged Doom.

Wolves is Cloonan’s self-published comic. The book contains approximately 300 words in about 80 panels of beautiful black and white art which span 24 pages. Within the confines of these limitations, though, Becky Cloonan is able to tell a complete story full of all the depth and emotion of a book 20 times its size.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Books for Neurotic Children - DON'T FEED THE WORRYBUG

THIS REVIEW ORGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN


Andi Green was a young artist of note
who captured in paintings what she’d emote.
The emotions that swirled around in her head:
happiness, anger, and feelings of dread,
all would be realized there in her art
whimsically rendered, all full of heart.

Then one day someone said to her face,
I’d love to see these on my child’s bookcase,
and thus was born her series of books
written for children using rhyming for hooks.
The series was called the Worrywoo Monsters
and were filled with emotions made creatures to ponder.

The latest entry in this series for kids
is all about worry and what it forbids.
Don’t Feed the WorryBug is this book’s title
and it is all fun and not for the idle.

The story concerns a monster named Wince,
the Monster of Worry and quite a prince.
This blue, long-eared creature spends all his time fretting
and his worries feed a bug nobody is petting.
As Wince’s worries grow larger and bigger
so too does the bug (which looks like a chigger).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cheap Thrills - NECROWAR #1

Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin
THIS COLUMN ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN
In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for the local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week Daniel Elkin randomly grabs a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang he can get for his two-bits. These are those tales.

September 14, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
NECROWAR #1
Published by: Dreamwave Productions
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Adi Granov


THE PLANET IS SOUP.

I can’t believe I have to relive July of 2003 for this week’s column.

July of 2003 was when Nike bought Converse for goodness sake. It was also when Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA operative in the Washington Post by that stale loaf of moldy bread Robert Novak. It was when that 86-year-old still-driving-and-drooling motherfucker had a “senior moment” in Santa Monica, CA and hit the accelerator instead of the brakes mowing down ten people, including a three-year-old girl and a seven-month-old boy. It was also when Pat Robertson called for a “massive prayer offensive” to try to stack the United States Supreme Court with conservative justices.

July of 2003 saw the deaths of Buddy Ebsen, Bob Hope, AND Barry White. It saw the cancelation of Digimon: Digital Monsters and the premiere of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Viennese doctors even transplanted a human tongue in July 2003.

All of this and, thanks to that yokel in the flight suit a few months beforehand, we were still under the impression that in Iraq, “Mission Accomplished”.

Honestly, even if July, 2003 was a cute puppy I would still have an urge to piss on it.

Into this mess of a month came Necrowar #1 from Dreamwave Productions.

Do you remember Dreamwave Productions? Founded in 1996, Dreamwave cut its teeth on Transformers, spewing out all sorts of series based on the franchise. Then in January of 2005 they went belly-up and stuck their freelancers with some of the company’s debts.

Because of this and the fact that I had to remember July of 2003, I am already predisposed to hate Necrowar #1. I will rise above this petty subjectivity, though, as I am a professional and it is my mission to examine the work for what it offers in and of itself.

So Necrowar #1 starts like this:


Ummmm…. ok?

There’s a boy and he finds a dying man. Really, you know that’s how I want my entertainment -- disturbing, bloody, and totally out of nowhere. Please continue, Necrowar #1.

In the next couple of pages, the narrator ruminates on dying. His name is Damien Arnaz and he says that all his life he’s “been chasing death…” He goes on to reveal the tragedy of his life. His parents died in a “road accident” when he was young and this, coupled with the dying man discovery, seems to have given his life meaning insofar as it compares with death. Pretty heavy stuff, actually, which gives Arnaz a layer of characterization I was not expecting.

Arnaz has joined the Alliance Forces in order to court his own death and ends up being part of an elite force. He blames this fact on a woman.


Ashley Colt, specifically.

Now I have some problems with this Colt character right off the bat. First off is her name. By calling her Colt, are we as readers supposed to instantly internalize that she’s a bit frisky? Second, look at her. What’s with the hand on the hip? Is she a subconscious fashion model that just can’t help but pose? And finally, what is that garbage she is babbling? Is she supposed to be ironic and therefore clever? Or is she serious and therefore kinda creepy? I don’t know, but after all of Arnaz’s waxing about death, Colt’s sudden appearance throws me.

Or maybe that was the point, to provide the juxtaposition between death’s brooding nature and life’s sexy posturing? Is Simon Furman not pandering but playing with metaphors? Hmmmm…. Maybe there is more to Necowar #1 than I expected.

Monday, September 19, 2011

SCIENCE!





Minute Physics provides an energetic and entertaining view of old and new problems in physics 
-- all in a minute!

Friday, September 16, 2011

SEE THIS MOVIE! Bulletproof Salesman

Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human.


Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns, and a couple of Miller beers, I curl up in front of the TV and delve deep into the bowels of Netflix Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.


Today I found 2008’s Bulletproof Salesman co-directed and co-produced by the husband and wife team of Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein for Pepper and Bones Films.


This documentary is about war profiteering, but it is not the kind of profiteering you probably conjure when you hear the term. Fidelis Cloer is an armored vehicle salesman.

Cloer’s tag line is, “I sell a good feeling.”

Through the course of the film, though, Cloer begins to realize that even though his products are not directly killing people, the demand for his product is indicative of how unstable the world has become. It is this realization that makes the documentary engaging on a universal scale.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sometimes Chickens are Really your Enemy


The It's Effin' Science team compares the damage from shooting a handgun at a bulletproof vest to the damage that comes from launching a chicken at it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago


I was teaching at a comprehensive High School that day and the news was filtering in.  
Things were still a little wonky in terms of our understanding.  
We all knew something horrible had happened, though.

After the principal made an announcement over the PA 
telling students they could go home if they wanted to (or something like that) 
a Freshman girl sitting in her desk in the front row 
looked up at me and asked, 
"Mr. Elkin, is this the Rapture?"

To this day, I wonder if the answer to her question was "Yes."

Go Read This Book




Friday, September 9, 2011

Can Poetry Matter (Poets You Should Know)

Stephen Dobyns

I've been thinking about writing poetry again (prodded by Mercury Girl) and I can't settle into it. 

False starts and misfires
Too thick or too runny
Clonking or clanking.

Then I found this poem by Stephen Dobyns (I wrote about him before here) and I shared my pain.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cheap Thrills - KADE: RISING SUN #3

Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin
This Column originally ran on COMICS BULLETIN

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for the local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week Daniel Elkin randomly grabs a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang he can get for his two-bits. These are those tales.

August 31, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
KADE: RISING SUN #3
Published by: Arcana Comics
Written by: Sean O’Reilly and Jay Busbee
Art by: Christian Duce


THE SAVAGES SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF BRUTALITY. I SCREAM IT.

July 2009. It was only two years ago, but doesn’t it seem so much longer than that? It was only two years ago that there was that televised memorial for Michael Jackson, there was that really long total solar eclipse, Karl Malden died, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opened in theaters (so did Bruno, but the less we say about that the better). In July 2009, the Sci Fi Channel became Syfy, Madonna was performing on her Sticky and Sweet Tour, and Tool was back doing shows after a two year hiatus.

July 2009 also saw the release of Arcana’s Kade: Rising Sun #3. This was the third installment of a four part mini-series featuring the immortal demon hunter Kade. I found it in the bargain bin.

Why it was in the bargain bin, though, completely eludes me, because this is a pretty good comic.

Kade: Rising Sun #3 opens onto action peppered with musings on how a warrior understands battle.


According to Kade, “Battle is not part of man’s soul; it is a man’s soul.” While this may be an oversimplification of a very complex concept, it is pithy enough to cause me to pause, it is concise enough to send me into a momentary reverie on the nature of man. Is this true? Are we, as men, fundamentally predisposed to violence? Is our veneer of civilization a hindrance to our self-actualization?

These are core questions that I unavoidably had to confront from reading the very first page of this comic (and, unfortunately, remain answerless). That’s a good sign, right?

The question remains, though, will the comic be able to keep up this pace? Or will it burn out after igniting so brightly?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Your Chicken Enemy (Willie Nelson Sings Coldplay)


Coldplay's haunting classic 'The Scientist' is performed by country music legend Willie Nelson for the soundtrack of the short film entitled, "Back to the Start." The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future.

Friday, September 2, 2011

SEE THIS MOVIE! You're Gonna Miss Me

Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life.  That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining.  Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human.


Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns, and a couple of Miller beers, I curl up in front of the TV and delve deep into the bowels of Netflix Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.

Today I found 2005’s You’re Gonna Miss Me by director Keven McAlester.


You’re Gonna Miss Me is a documentary about Roky Erickson, “the great lost vocalist of rock and roll.” Roky was the lead singer and charismatic front man for the pioneering psychedelic rock band The 13th Floor Elevators. He was an absolute force to be reckoned with in the mid to late 60’s until his life turned completely upside-down due to his mental instability.

The film begins with a moment from the court proceedings in which Roky’s youngest brother, Sumner, is trying to wrest guardianship of Roky away from his mother, Evelyn. During the proceedings, there is an intimation that the last 35 years of Roky’s life has been filled with tragedy.

The film then cuts to the 1966 performance of the 13th Floor Elevators on the Dick Clark show. Roky is bent over his guitar and he is singing their hit song, You’re Gonna Miss Me. Roky’s voice is a one/two punch of visceral howling and moaning and the performance is absolutely captivating. You get the sense right away that this young man with his guitar is someone you need to sit up and take notice of. Here was a young man who was going to shake up the music industry.



As the performance fades out, the film then cuts to July, 1999. An overweight, unshaven, dirty looking man with fingernails desperately in need of trimming is going through the Publisher’s Clearing House mailer with glee and intensity. Then he is captivated by an old, faceless Mr. Potato-Head. It only takes a moment for you to realize that this broken man is the same person as the vibrant rock god performing in the earlier black and white clip.



The juxtaposition is shocking and you are left asking how this happened? In thirty-five years, what brought this man down?