Friday, October 28, 2011

Cheap Thrills - SATAN'S SIX #2

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.

October 19, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
SATAN'S SIX #2
Published by: Topps Comics
Written by: Tony Isabella
Art by: John Cleary


TEETH!

May of 1993 could well have been one of the most uneventful moments in history. As far as I can tell, the only event of significance was that Eritrea and Monaco gained entry into the United Nations, and who the hell has ever heard of Eritrea?

Sure, PJ Harvey released Rid of Me, but this was also when movies like Hot Shots! Part Deux and Super Mario Brothers opened in movie theaters.

Nobody really all that notable died, except for the show Quantum Leap, and everyone was so bored in May of 1993 that 80 MILLION of us tuned in to watch the series finale of Cheers.

Hell, I think I was even living in Minneapolis, MN in May, 1993.

Into this vacuum of excitement, Topps Comics snuck onto the shelves a little gem called Satan's Six #2.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review of ZAHRA'S PARADISE

THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON COMICS BULLETIN


Sometimes comic books capture a zeitgeist. The pro-democracy movements in the Middle East, the world-wide Occupy protests, the general sense that the priorities of those in power are counter to the interests of those disenfranchised, all point to the fact that people are tired of not being heard.

Zahra's Paradise, a new graphic novel from First Second Press by Amir and Khalil, captures this feeling. It is about the peaceful protests that occurred in Iran following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2009 reelection and the subsequent brutal government crackdown. Specifically, it follows the journey of a mother and son, as they search for Mehdi, the eldest son, who disappeared from Freedom Square in Tehran.

The background to the story is the June 12, 2009 presidential elections in Iran. There was a heated race between incumbent Ahmadinejad,and the reformist candidate, former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi. On election day, reports of voter irregularities were everywhere, and the following day Ahmadinejad was declared the winner with a staggering 63% of the vote. After this announcement, both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi declared themselves the actual winner of the election, and the Mousavi camp openly challenged the results. Ahmadinejad claimed that this accusation was actually an attempt by foreigners to undermine the Iranian government. There was a promised recount on behalf of the Iranian Guardian Council while protests began in major Iranian cities. It is said that nearly three million people took part in a rally on June 15th.

In the midst of this unrest, on June 18th the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, declared Ahmadinejad the victor. This unleashed government forces on the protesters and ushered in a crackdown where thousands were arrested and beaten, and dozens were killed. Those that were arrested reported being brutalized and tortured, and many of those arrested died under “mysterious circumstances” while in prison.

It is within the context of these events that Zahra's Paradise unfolds.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review of YIDDISHKEIT: JEWISH VERNACULAR AND THE NEW LAND

THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN

I was raised by Jews. My grandparents were born in either Belarus or Poland and, as very small children, fled to America to either escape persecution or to try to make a better life for their families. They brought with them their religion, their culture, and Yiddish. As they assimilated, all of these things began to wane. My parents have only chunks, and I have even less. But I do have memories, especially of my grandparents speaking Yiddish when they didn't want me to know what they were talking about.

Yiddish is a language of rich sounds. It is a language of comedy. It is also a language of pathos.



In his introduction to the comics anthology Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and The New Land edited by Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle, noted author Neal Gabler says:
Yiddish may be the most onomatopoeic language ever created. Everything sounds exactly the way it should: macher for a self-appointed big shot, shlmiel for the fellow who spils the soup and shlmazel for the poor guy who gets the soup spilled on him, putz for an active louse, shmuck for a hapless one (as in "poor shmuck”), shnorer for a freeloader, nudnick for a pest. The expressiveness is bound into the language, and so is a kind of ruthless honesty. There is no decorousness in Yiddish, nor much romance. It is raw, egalitarian, vernacular.

Yiddish is a mutt. The language is an intermixture of German, Polish, and Hebrew that relies on grammatical rules of its own devising. The people who speak it are the Yiddishkeit ,and their language reflects much of their sensibility about life. There is sort of an optimistic fatalism to the Yiddishkeit. Things are the way they are. They may get better, but if not, you got what you got. Oy! “Hope for the best, expect the worst,” as Mel Brooks put it in his song The Twelve Chairs.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cheap Thrills - Rune #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.

October 12, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
RUNE #1
Published by: Malibu Comics
Written by: Barry Windsor-Smith and Chris Ulm
Art by: Barry Windsor-Smith


SOMETHING FROM MY DREAMS KILLED MY DAD!

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was in January of 1994 when I found out that NBC was going to debut The Cosby Mysteries. I can't tell you that because... well.... I wasn't excited. I could care less. Nobody else could either. It only lasted one season.

But January, 1994 wasn't all about Cosby. No siree. This was when NAFTA was established, when Tonya Harding got her ex-husband to club Nancy Kerrigan in the knee, when Shannon Faulker became the first woman to attend The Citadel, and when Lorena Bobbitt was found not guilty by reason of insanity for cutting off her husband's willy.

House Party 3 and Cabin Boy were released into movie theaters. The Meat Puppets released Too High to Die.

January, 1994 saw the passing of Cesar Romero, Harry Nilsson, and Telly Savalas.

It also saw the release of Malibu Comics' Rune #1, part of the hard-pimping marketing campaign of their Ultraverse line.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poets You Should Know -- PAUL LEGAULT


According to the October 15, 2011 Saturday Poetry Series from As It Ought To Be:

Paul Legault was born in Ontario and raised in Tennessee. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Virginia and a B.F.A. in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn, 2010, winner of the 2009 Omnidawn First/Second Book Award) and The Other Poems which is forthcoming from Fence Books in 2011. He co-founded and co-edits the translation press Telephone Books.

I'm reposting the same poem that ran on As It Ought To Be (because it is excellent) after the jump.  I hope neither they nor Mr. Legault has a problem with that....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Watch This Movie - THIS SO-CALLED DISASTER

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 2004's This So-Called Disaster by director Michael Almereyda.

This is a film about a playwright coming to terms with his story and actors struggling to be true to his vision. It is one of those behind-the-scenes documentaries that focuses more on process than story. In this film, Almereyda takes his viewers into the world of the great American playwright, Sam Shepard, as he runs his actors through the final three weeks of rehearsals before his play, The Late Henry Moss, opens at San Francisco's Magic Theater in late 2000.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cheap Thrills - KICKASS GIRL #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.

October 8, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
KICKASS GIRL #1
Published by: Neko Press
Written by: Billy Martinez
Art by: Billy Martinez


WAKE UP! YOUR EYES DECEIVE YOU.

August, 2003 in France, the father of two teenage French tennis players is arrested for drugging the boy’s opponents so his boys would win their games. Later in the month, Pete Sampras announces his retirement. Strange coincidence?

There is a tremendous heat wave in Europe during August, 2003, and Pope John Paul II urged Catholics to pray for rain. During the same month, Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy for Governor of California. Strange coincidence?

There is a major power outage in the northeast of the USA and Beyonce’ wins and MTV Music Video Award for Crazy in Love in August, 2003. Strange coincidence?

Ween releases the album Quebec in August, 2003, the same month Hilary Duff releases Metamorphosis. Gigli opens in theaters and Gregory Hines, Wesley Willis, and Charles Bronson all die. What was going on in August of 2003?

I did some research and I figured it out. August, 2003 is when Neko Press released Kickass Girl #1, and that explains everything.

At the time, Neko Press, based out of La Mesa, CA, was the baby of artist Billy Martinez. Martinez has worked in comics since 1996. He is still going. I have never heard of him.

Billy thought up the concept for Kickass Girl in 1998, but wasn’t able to get a script together until 2003. He claims in the last page of the book that "this book is about me… this book may be about you." If this is true, I am kinda scared because this book is weird, off-putting, violent, and wrong on so many levels. If this is about me, then by golly I need some serious therapy.

Let me explain why.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Poets You Should Know - Larry Levis


According to PoemHunter.com:
Larry Levis was born in Fresno, California, on September 30, 1946. The son of a grape grower, he grew up driving a tractor, picking grapes, and pruning vines of Selma, California, a small fruit-growing town in the San Joaquin Valley. He later wrote of the farm, the vineyards, and the Mexican migrant workers that he worked alongside. He also remembered hanging out in the local billiards parlor on Selma's East Front Street, across from the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks.

Levis earned a bachelor's degree from Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) in 1968. He went on to earn a master's degree from Syracuse University in 1970 and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1974.

Levis taught English at the University of Missouri from 1974-1980. From 1980 to 1992, he directed the creative writing program at the University of Utah. From 1992 until his death from a heart attack in 1996 he was a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, which annually awards the Levis Reading Prize in his remembrance (articles about Levis and the prize are featured each year in Blackbird, an online journal of literature and the arts).

Levis won the United States Award from the International Poetry Forum for his first book of poems, Wrecking Crew (1972), which included publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. The American Academy of Poets named his second book, The Afterlife (1976) as Lamont Poetry Selection. His book The Dollmaker's Ghost was a winner of the Open Competition of the National Poetry Series. Other awards included a YM-YWHA Discovery award, three fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His poems are featured in American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets (2006) and in many other anthologies. Larry Levis died of a heart attack in Richmond, Virginia on May 8, 1996, at the age of 49.

According to me:
Larry Levis is fantastic.

Read one of his poems after the jump.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Poets You Should Know - James Tate


According to Wikipedia:

James Tate (born December 8, 1943) is an American poet whose work has earned him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst[1][2][3] and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

According to me:

James Tate is awesome.

Read one of his poems after the jump.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cheap Thrills - PHANTOM JACK #5

Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

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 28, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
PHANTOM JACK #5
Published by: Image Comics
Written by: Mike San Giacomo
Art by: Mitchell Breitweiser


AND TRUTH IS THE GOD WE WORSHIP.

The final report of the United States Intelligence Committee stated that regardless of the CIA's assertions to the contrary, claims about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in the build up to the Iraq War were unsupported by available intelligence. The Butler Review into England’s intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction said that UK sources used unreliable information and were seriously flawed. Both of these reports were published in July, 2004. This was the same month that 60 Americans died in the conflict in Iraq.

July, 2004 was also when the US Department of Homeland Security asked the US Justice Department to look into the legal ramifications of postponing the upcoming presidential elections because they said terrorists might disrupt them. July, 2004 was also when, in its final report, the 9/11 Commission harshly criticized American intelligence agencies for their failures.

It was in July, 2004 that the UN revealed that in parts of Africa life expectancy had dropped below 33 years due to AIDS.

That summer Marlon Brando died, Jimmy Buffett released his album License to Chill, and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle opened in the movie theaters.

Into this miasma of suckage that was July, 2004, Image Comics dropped a comic called Phantom Jack #5. Seven years later, I was unlucky enough to randomly pull this dreck out of the bargain bin.

And thus was born this week’s Cheap Thrills.

Phantom Jack #5 starts off, thankfully, with a little background information on the inside of the front cover. The story so far has revolved around a New York City newspaper reporter named Jack Baxter who can become invisible at will (I shit you not). Jack’s younger brother, Cassidy, has been taken prisoner in Baghdad in March, 2003 before the start of the war to "liberate Iraq." Jack goes all invisible rescue mission and meets a lady named Madison Blue, who also can turn invisible.

What are the chances of that?

Right before issue #5 begins, Jack and Madison have rescued Cassidy by "taping the three of them together in a sort of invisible sandwich," or at least that's how the writer describes it.

You’ll see what this means.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Interview with Comics Writer BRANDON THOMAS

Brandon Thomas: Manipulating Time

THIS INTERVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN


If you haven't heard of Brandon Thomas, then it's time you took note. Recently, the talented Mr. Thomas was announced as the scribe of the new Voltron series for Dynamite, as well as a mini-series spinning out of Project Superpowers. Last month, I had the good fortune to review the collection of his creator owned comic, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury about which I could not say enough good things.

Recently, Mr. Thomas was kind enough to answer a few questions I had for him about his background and his influences, as well as some of the nuts and bolts behind the creation of Miranda Mercury.


Daniel Elkin: For those who are not familiar with you and your work, could you tell our readers a little bit about your background, where you grew up, what were you like as a kid?

Brandon Thomas: I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and spent my childhood completely obsessed with the Star Wars trilogy, cartoons and baseball. I started "writing" around eight or nine years old, plotting out these little in-between episodes of my favorite shows, and all throughout school I was that kid who would take a minimum page count for any short story assignment and obliterate it with relative ease. Also, my most important possession at that time was probably my library card. I still remember how amazed I was when they told me there was no limit to the amount of books you could check out at once. Comics didn't get into the mix until I was 12, but when they did, they quickly went to the front of that aforementioned list.

Elkin: How did you end up choosing creating comics as a career?

Thomas: My father took me to my first comics shop in 1992, and it was all downhill from there. For years, we'd take monthly trips back there and I'd spent almost an hour in the store picking up any and every comic that I wanted. And despite spending a ton of time writing short stories and the like, it never occurred to me that writing comics was a real option, and I was confident that I was headed for a career writing adventure novels. Until I went to a panel at a Chicago con that writer Chuck Dixon was giving called "The Ten Commandments of Comic Book Writing." I know it sounds overly dramatic, but that hour changed my life and set me on the long, winding path to becoming a comic book writer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Watch This Movie - A FAMILY UNDERTAKING

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 2004’s A Family Undertaking from first time filmmaker Elizabeth Westrate


A Family Undertaking is a documentary that examines the home funeral movement while also casting an unblinking eye on how Americans deal with death.

Americans like to live in denial.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Poets You Should Know - Robert Perchan


Robert Perchan was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up there.

Educated after a fashion at Duke and Ohio Universities, he taught for the U.S. Navy’s Program for Afloat College Education (PACE) on ships deployed in Rota, Spain, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Western Pacific Ocean before moving, in his words, “onward and awkward.”

His poems, stories and essays have appeared in scores of literary journals in the USA and abroad and a number of them have been included in anthologies published by Dell, Black Sparrow, City Lights and Global City Press.

 He currently resides in Pusan, South Korea.

He writes some good prose-poems.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Poets You Should Know - Peter Wortsman


Peter Wortsman is the recipient of the Beard’s Fund Short Story Award, and a 2010 Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin. He is the author of A Modern Way to Die: small stories and microtales and two stage plays, The Tattooed Man Tells All and Burning Words.

His numerous translations from the German include Posthumous Papers of a Living Author by Robert Musil (Archipelago); Peter Schlemiel, the Man Who Sold His Shadow by Adelbert von Chamisso (Fromm International); Telegrams of the Soul: Selected Prose of Peter Altenberg (Archipelago); and Travel Pictures by Heinrich Heine (Archipelago).

One of his prose poems (a good one) can be found after the jump.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Poets You Should Know - Nin Andrews



Nin Andrews’ third book Why They Grow Wings won the Gerald Cable Award and was published by Silverfish Review Press in 2001. Andrews is also the author of The Book of Orgasms, recently reprinted by Cleveland State University, and Spontaneous Breasts, winner of the 1998 Pearl Chapbook contest. She is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council grant and has published work in many literary reviews and anthologies including Best American Poetry (1997 and 2001), The Best of the Prose Poem, The Virginia Quarterly, The Paris Review and Ploughshares.

She lives in Poland, Ohio with her husband and two children.

She writes good prose-poems.