Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cheap Thrills - TOMB OF DARKNESS #10

This column originally ran on Comics Bulletin
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.

February 15, 2012 – paid 50 cents for:
TOMB OF DARKNESS #10
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Stan Lee (?)
Art: Ed Robbins, Bill Benulis, and some other guy


AAAAEEEEEH!

Horror comics are an interesting sub-genre of the comic book world. Unable to rely on jump-scares or atmospheric soundtracks, creators of horror comics must master the art of building tension and be able to plumb the depths of the collective unconscious in order to unearth our deepest jibblies.

It ain't easy to do. It takes talent to be creepy in comics, and there are only a handful of people who can pull this off well.

Why am I talking about this? Because this week's Cheap Thrills pull was a tattered and torn copy of Marvel Comics' Tomb of Darkness #10 from September, 1974.

Ah yes, September of 1974, when the corpulent, cigar chewing, bald men who made the Television decisions of the times finally made some good ones. Land of the Lost, Rhoda, Chico and the Man, Police Woman, and THE ROCKFORD FILES (one of my all-time-favorite shows) all made their debuts, and lordy, lordy, lordy weren't we all the better for it.

Also airing in September of 1974 was a made-for-TV movie called Born Innocent, starring Linda Blair, which featured the first broadcasting of an all-female rape scene.

In music, The Jackson 5 released their album Dancing Machine, Supertramp released Crime of the Century, and Tavares released Hard Core Poetry. Uriah Heep's Gary Thain was also electrocuted on stage in Dallas, Texas. So there's that.

It was September of 1974 in Ethiopia that Emperor Haile Selassie is deposed, creating some serious Rastaman Vibrations.

Meanwhile, in America, then Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee was raiding the old Atlas Comics vaults trying to turn a new nickle off of old weirdness. This lead to the publication of Tomb of Darkness #10, a compilation of five short horror pieces from 1950's comics like Adventures in Terror, Uncanny Tales, and Adventures into Weird Worlds, repackaged with a snazzy new “zombies hate hippies” cover by Larry Lieber.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Interview with Patricio Clarey - Artist on Archeologists of Shadows.

This interview originally ran on Comics Bulletin.
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to read and review Archeologists of Shadows Volume 1. While reading the book, I was captivated by the unique artistic vision of Patricio Clarey, and I had to find out some more about his background, his process and what's next in his career. Even though English is not his first language, he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Daniel Elkin for Comics Bulletin: I don't know if you read my review of Archeologists of Shadows, but I was absolutely blown away by your work on it. I've read a little bit about you on the AOS site and what you wrote in the back of the book, but I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about your background as an artist and whether or not you always wanted to work in comics.

Patricio Clarey: After I graduated from fine arts and moved to Spain, I worked on building a series of projects for four years, writing scripts and creating conceptual art for a motion picture I had an idea for. Because of my lack of skills, means and tools, I had to put those projects away and reconsider what to do from scratch and from a more realistic point of view. It was at that moment, being as honest as possible with myself, when I realized that my major skill is drawing. Then I met writer Lara Fuentes and together we began to work seriously on making comic books.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Poets You Should Know -- ALES DEBELJAK

From Wikipedia:
Ales Debeljak was born in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, then part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He graduated from comparative literature at the University of Ljubljana in 1985.  He continued his studies in the United States, obtaining a PhD in sociology of culture at Syracuse University in 1989.

He was later a Senior Fulbright fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He also worked at the Institute for Advanced Studies Collegium Budapest, the Civitella Ranieri Center and the Bogliasco Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanitites.

Since the mid 1980s, Debeljak has taken an active part in civil society movements. He has been one of the co-editors of the critical alternative journal Nova revija. He has also participated in the social liberal think tank Forum 21, led by the former President of Slovenia Milan Kučan.

He is currently a professor of cultural studies at the Faculty for Social Studies of the University of Ljubljana.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Convenient Truths -- GNARR!

THIS COLUMN ORIGINALLY RAN ON COMICS BULLETIN
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 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, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV to find out a little bit more about all of us.

Today he and his friend Jason were sent a copy of 2010's GNARR! directed by Gaukur Ulfarsson.


Elkin: GNARR! is a documentary following the 2010 Reykjavik, Iceland Municipal elections and, more specifically, the candidacy of The Best Party's Jon Gnarr for Mayor of Reykjavik.

There are a few things you need to know before we go any further in our discussion of the film.

First: In 2008, Iceland suffered a complete economic meltdown thanks to the collapse of all three of the country's major commercial banks. This led to Iceland teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy. Heretofore, Iceland was seen as an economic superhero and the envy of the world as the populace was living high on the hog off the fat of the land while they rubbed their swollen bellies and feasted on the riches they had amassed. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under them as everything went tits up in the financial sector.

On top of all this, in 2010 Iceland was covered in volcanic ash thanks to the eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull.

Needless to say, the fine people of Reykjavik became awful grumpy and less than pleased with their elected officials at the time, and, as elections approached, they began to look for an alternative to pull them forth from this miasma.

Enter Jon Gnarr, Iceland's most cynical and controversial comedian. Taking the pulse of the situation, Gnarr created The Best Party, a comedic performance art piece focused on “the power of silly thinking.”

Gnarr said, “After the collapse and its aftermath, I started reading the local news websites and watching the news and political talk shows – and it filled me with so much frustration. Eww! So I wanted to do something, to fuck the system. To change it around and impact it in some way.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cheap Thrills - OGRE #3

This Column Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
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.

February 8, 2012 – paid 50 cents for:
OGRE #3
Published by: Black Diamond Publishing
Written by: Phil White
Art: Pete Ayala


CARE TO TUMBLE WITH THE “SHE DEVIL” IN THE SHADOWS OF THE MOON?

Other than the death of George Peppard coupled with the cancellations of both Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Arsenio Hall Show, May 1994 signaled a number of new beginnings.

Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president.

After seven years of labor, the Channel Tunnel between England and France opened up to usher in new era of globalization.

Instead of curb stomping him to death, Illinois chose to be the bigger man and execute “Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy via lethal injection.

Also in May, 1994, Weezer released its self-titled album, the Beastie Boys released Ill Communication, and Anal Cunt released Everyone Should Be Killed.

Hell, even Epic Megagames released Jazz Jackrabbit for PCs operating DOS in May of 1994.

Things seemed pretty sweet back then. We were fat and firmly ensconced in our Barcaloungers, rubbing our paisley sweater covered bellies and watching our bourbon scented pipe-tobacco smoke curl against the popcorn ceiling tiles of the living room. We were even able to swallow the film releases of Beverly Hills Cop III and The Flintstones and seemingly emerge unscathed.

Way under the radar, though, in the lugubrious pit of “good intentions melded with a lack of talent”, Black Diamond Publishing released issue number three of their four part mini-series called Ogre to a thankfully indifferent audience. Had this comic gotten into more people's hands, it is my feeling that it may have altered the entire gestalt of our national consciousness.

Not in a good way.

Things would have gotten ugly.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Poets You Should Know -- CRAIG CZURY

Born in Kingston, Pennsylvania in 1951, Craig Czury is a contemporary poet who grew up during the economic decline of the northeastern Pennsylvania coal mining region. Much of the inspiration for his poetry came from this depression-stricken area.

Czury has written several collections of poetry, including Janus Peeking and God’s Shiny Glass Eye. He now teaches poetry in schools, prisons, homeless shelters and community centers. Czury currently lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Review of MONDO #1

This Review Orignally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Ted McKeever has been making comics since the 1980's and he can always be counted on for keeping it weird. His new Shadowline/Image Comics mini-series, MONDO, continues in that tradition, this time in a Golden Age format featuring glorious black and white art.

Catfish Mandu radioactively enhances chickens at a poultry plant. He appears to have some guilt about this. When the inevitable poultry accident occurs at the plant, though, Mandu becomes Mondo, a hulking behemoth coursing with power, and who knows what the hell is going to happen after that. Whatever it is, though, let me assure you that it is going to get weird.

Chickens have always slightly unnerved me and I know I'm not alone when I say this. It's something about their jerky head movements or beady eyes. They always seem to be watching you, waiting to leap for your face and do ungodly things to your soul. McKeever capitalizes on this sensibility throughout the first issue of Mondo. His thick black lines, wonky perspectives, and constant stylistic changes kept me riveted and off-kilter as I turned each page. I knew it was all leading someplace, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it would end with a.... well, you just have to read it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cheap Thrills - DAN DARE #6

This column originally ran on Comics Bulletin
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.

February 1, 2012 – paid 50 cents for:
DAN DARE #6
Published by: Virgin Comics
Created by: Frank Hampson
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Gary Erskine
Colors: A. Thiruneelakandan
Letters: Rakesh B. Mahadik


DAN DARE NEVER LIES.

In May of 2008, there was all kinds of bad mojo floating around the continents.

Seriously.

An oil pipeline explosion killed 100 people in Ijegun, Nigeria. Bombs went off in Jaipur, India killing 216. A 7.9 scale earthquake hit south-west China and killed over 69,000. Cyclone Nargis killed over 133,000 in Myanmar. Harvey Korman and Sydney Pollack died. The shows Lil Bush and Beauty and the Geek were canceled. Then Bloom Blox is released for the Wii.

Still, amid all this May 2008 death, there was a brief of flash of life. This came in the form of Virgin Comics release of Dan Dare #6.

It seems to me that this was enough to keep us all going.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cheap Thrills -- ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECTACULAR

This column originally ran on Comics Bulletin
This week, Cheap Thrills celebrates its anniversary!

I've been writing this column for a little over a year now, from its previous incarnation as Two-Bit Comics on Pop Culture Zoo, to its current format as Cheap Thrills here on the wonderful Comics Bulletin.

Pulling comics randomly from the Bargain Bin has certainly been an adventure. Sometimes I've unearthed some dusty and forgotten gems, other times I've had to try to suppress my gag reflex as I took a sizable bite out of a fecal sandwich.

Throughout it all, I've learned some things about what makes a comic good, and other things about what makes a comic fucking awful. I've seen the incredible possibilities the genre offers, as well as how, in the wrong hands, it can go terribly, terribly wrong.

After a year of writing this column, I've come to rely on three truisms:
1. Every comic is possibly somebody's first.
2. Just because you CAN make a comic book, doesn't mean you have to.
3. Comics Can Be Awesome!

I'd like to thank the fine folks here at Comics Bulletin for giving this column a home, and I'd like to thank you for reading it.

I'm a gumbo. I'm a two-headed whale. I am flailing arms akimbo as the wind hits my sail.

The following is a reprint of the very first column I wrote for this concept way back in January of 2011.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Poets You Should Know -- CECIL HELMAN

(from Poetry International) Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Cecil Helman qualified as a medical doctor before moving to London to study social anthropology. Over the years, he has managed to combine his writing career with 27 years as a family doctor for the National Health Service and academic posts in London and abroad. He is a recognised expert on medical anthropology, specialising in the cross-cultural issues involved in illness and medical (and other forms of health-) care. He writes fiction, non-fiction, prose poetry, essays and academic texts.

Helman’s interest in the prose poem arises naturally with the synthesis of his cross-cultural research. In his use of the genre, he draws out its echoes of traditional myths, tales and legends that persist in even the most advanced societies.

Cecil Helman’s poetry has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies in the UK, the USA and South Africa. His recent memoir, Suburban Shaman: Tales from medicine’s frontline was BBC Book of the Week and serialised on BBC Radio 4 in March 2006.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Poets You Should Know -- MICHAEL MARTONE

Michael Martone is currently a Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Alabama where he has been teaching since 1996. Before that, he taught at Syracuse University, Iowa State University, and Harvard University. He lives with the poet Theresa Pappas and their two sons Sam and Nick.

Martone was born and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He studied at Butler University in Indianapolis and graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English. He is also a graduate of The Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University.

Martone is the author of five books of short fiction including Seeing Eye published in September of 1995 by Zoland Books as well as Pensées: The Thoughts of Dan Quayle (Broad Ripple Press, 1994), Fort Wayne Is Seventh on Hitler's List (Indiana University Press, 1990), Safety Patrol (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), and Alive and Dead in Indiana (Alfred A. Knopf, 1984).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Poets You Should Know -- TOMMY OLOFSSON

(from wierszewmetrze) TOMMY OLOFSSON (b. 1950) is a Swedish poet, writer and deals with theory of literature. His doctoral thesis, received in Lund in 1981, is a comparative stadium of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Martin Birck's Youth by Hjalmar Söderberg. He worked as a literary critic in the Svenska Dagbladet, He is an expert in the field of style in a New Bible’s translation in the Biblical Commission. Since 2000 he has been an academic lecturer. Olofsson is an author of several books on literature and poetry collections. He was awarded the Tegnér literary award in 2005.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Review of HARVEY PEKAR'S CLEVELAND

Living in the country as I do, I tend to romanticize urban living with its easy access to museums and operas, vast public libraries and arenas, enormous used book stores and public transportation. I constantly find myself looking out my window longing to replace the endless rows of pines with skyscrapers.

Harvey Pekar romanticized the city too, and his latest posthumous release, Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, is a love letter to his hometown that is as much a reflection of Harvey as it is of the history of the Cleveland, Ohio itself. In the postscript of this book, Jimi Izrael writes, “Cleveland's a tough, slightly bowed, achy, gray, crotchety, charitable town with moments of brilliance and unexpected, often ironic laughter. Like Harvey.” As Harvey hammers through the history of his beloved Cleveland in his imitable tight didactic style, he also tells his own story, and it is in this intersection that you find the heart of this book.

Sure, Pekar has told his stories before, but here, in the context of Cleveland's story, they somehow take on new resonance, new meaning, as if without the backdrop of Cleveland itself, there never could have been a Harvey Pekar. From his telling of it, his life seems to have mirrored that of his city, with all its ups and downs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Classic Comics Cavalcade: The Essential Defenders vol. 3

This Column Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

As promised (or threatened) last time, Daniel and Jason are back to talk about Steve Gerber's mad genius work on the classic Defenders comic, this time including angry deer, a Soviet super-heroine, inexplicable villain plans, and of course Bozos!

Jason Sacks: So . . . Steve Gerber. Genius or madman? Or both?

Daniel Elkin: I'm thinking, after going through Essential Defenders #3, that he was a mad genius. I've read my share of strange comics, but this collection rates way up there in terms of weirdness.

Sacks: Perfect choice of words, because that's how he referred to himself in '76. The Howard the Duck for President campaign in '76 was sponsored by "Mad Genius Associates"

Elkin: I forgot that Howard the Duck ran for president in '76. Hmmmm . . . after watching the debates tonight, I'm wondering if he would be a viable candidate this year. People might confuse him with Ron Paul, though.

Sacks: Wauuugh!

Elkin: So, where to start? The Headmen? Bambi? Nighthawk's brain in a saucer?

Sacks: I told you yesterday that these comics literally left me on a high after reading them. Nearly every line, every comment and every scene was just so perfectly realized for me. A creator truly at the top of his game throwing all kinds of crazy ass shit at the comic reader, one after another, until you really had no choice but to just float along with the insane rhythm of the work.

Elkin: As I was reading through this collection, I had to keep stopping and smacking my head. I kept saying to my son, "Read this, you have to read this." He started to get a little freaked out by the 7th or 8th time.

Sacks: LOL seriously?