Saturday, March 31, 2012

Comics Necropolis - Part Three

This Column was a collaborative piece done with Steve Savage (The Boss at Fan to Pro)which first ran on Comics Bulletin.

So Dan and Steve are still on their tear about the idea of a Comics Necropolis - an on-line resource and eventually archive for odd, obscure, weird, and lost titles. Last week they talked about how it might work - well the next question is, "what's a good business plan?"

Not that we're like prodding people or anything. No, not at all. We're inspiring you.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cheap Thrills - WORDSMITH #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.

March 21, 2012 – paid 50 cents for:
WORDSMITH #10
Published by: Renegade Press
Written by: Dave Darrigo
Art by: R.G. Taylor


I THINK THESE COMICS COULD BECOME POPULAR...

I want you to think back to August of 1987. Go on, I'll give you a moment....

You thought about having the Time of Your Life, didn't you? You are the kind of person who could never forget Johnny and Baby going all Romeo and Juliet on the dance floor.

No wait, you remembered being hot, sticky sweet, from your head (head!) down to your feet.

Or were you waiting for the whole world to answer right now just to tell you once again who's bad?

There may be a few of you out there who are still have the dark memories of mourning since August of 1987 when Clara Peller asked for the final time before shuffling off her mortal coil, “Where's the Beef?”

Of course, if you are like me, you think of August of 1987 and you want to “get 'em all jacked up on whiskey” and then, after careful consideration, “turn the mad dog loose.”*

After today, though, I hope that when someone asks you to think back on August, 1987, you will fondly remember it was when Renegade Press published the tenth issue of their black and white comic book, Wordsmith, as it is the little gem that I pulled out of the bargain bin this week.

A quick history note via Wikipedia (thank you) about Renegade Press. This was a comic book imprint that was started after publisher Deni Loubert divorced Cerebus creator Dave Sim. I'm assuming that the separation was a bit acrimonious, as all of Aardvark-Vanaheim's titles (except, of course, Cerebus) left to go with Renegade.

Wordsmith itself was written by Dave Darrigo, who in 2010 was inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame at the Joe Shuster Awards. The series lasted for twelve issues, got some rave reviews from the likes of Harlan Ellison, and was apparently reprinted TWICE by Caliber Comics.

On March 21, 2011, I found issue number 10 of this series in the bargain bin.

Why?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Interview with Sharon Lintz - Author of Pornhounds.

This Interview Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
I recently had the good fortune to read and review Sharon Lintz's Pornhounds #2 for Comics Bulletin, and I was struck by the originality of its voice and its brave take on the subject of breast cancer. As I said in the review, “What starts off as an exploration of loneliness, personality, sexuality and creativity is transformed by the end of the book as a statement of survival and hope.”


I wanted to find out some more about its creator, and Sharon Lintz was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her influences, how women are portrayed in comics, and what the future holds for her.


Daniel Elkin for Comics Bulletin: I don't really know how else to ask this question, so I'll just come out and ask it: Why Comics?

Sharon Lintz: After I produced Pornhounds #1, I was hooked. But you know I've often wondered what originally inspired me to write the script for Pornhounds #1 to begin with, and I really can’t remember any "a-ha” moment. I do know that I'd tried writing about that time of my life in prose form, but that it had never quite worked for me. I also know I was going through a crazed period of reading comics around the time I wrote Pornhounds #1, reading stuff like The Watchmen and V for Vendetta and The Invisibles and The Preacher, and on and on, lots of titles that are generally considered classics but that I hadn't yet read. So comics were on my mind then, a lot.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Convenient Truths -- SHUT UP LITTLE MAN!

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 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, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.

Today he and his friend Jason Sacks found 2011's Shut Up Little Man by Matthew Bate.

Elkin: Shut Up Little Man is a documentary about the underground audio verite phenomenon that occurred when, in 1987, two young men in San Francisco (Eddie and Mitchell) started recording the drunken arguments between their neighbors and started distributing the cassette tapes to all their friends. These friends began sharing the tapes with their friends, who shared them with their friends, until finally, as the film's web site states, it created “a cult following, spawning sell-out CD’s, comic artworks by Dan Clowes (Ghost World), stage-plays, music from the likes of Devo and a Hollywood feeding frenzy. For the newly famous Eddie and Mitchell, this would be a life-changing experience that would see them ingested into the belly and fired out the orifice of the pop culture beast.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cheap Thrills -- ALONG THE CANADIAN #2

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.

March 14, 2012 – paid 50 cents for:
ALONG THE CANADIAN #2
Published by: Obion Comics
Written by: Joel Rivers
Art by: Joel Rivers


AFRAID OF SNAKES! YOU AIN'T AFRAID, ARE YA BOY?!

Sometimes it is hard to believe that May, 2004 was actually almost eight years ago. I mean, I remember it like it was yesterday. Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, Fahrenheit 9/11 won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, both Shrek 2 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were packing folks in the movie theaters, and Megas XLR debuted on Cartoon Network.

Both Friends and Fraiser said goodbye in May of 2004, Phish announced that they would be breaking up at the end of the Summer, and Tony Randall died.

In May 2004, both Skinny Puppy and PJ Harvey released albums, Nintendo officially announced what would later be known as the Wii, and from Portland, Maine, Obion Comics publishes Xeric Grant Winner Joel Rivers' black and white Western tale, Along the Canadian #2.

According to their website, The Xeric Foundation is “a private, nonprofit corporation established by Peter A. Laird, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Planet Racers which offers financial assistance to committed, self-publishing comic book creators and qualified charitable and nonprofit organizations.” This, though, will be the last year they will be doing this. Anyway, the fine folks at the Xeric Foundation saw in Joel Rivers enough talent to award him a grant to pursue his dream of publishing his 6 issue mini-series about the Old West. Today, I found it in the bargain bin.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Comics Necropolis - Part Two

This Column was a collaborative piece done with Steve Savage (The Boss at Fan to Pro)which first ran on Comics Bulletin.

Last week, Steve and Dan told you about their Voltron moment, when all these seemingly disparate thoughts came crashing together to form a giant ass-kicking robot of an idea. That idea was something we started calling Comics Necropolis.

If you missed the column last week (and shame on you), basically Comics Necropolis would be a digital archive of obscure comics that have gone out-of-print and are not owned by any existing large publishing house. This would be something that would add value to the world at large (and could actually become a self-supporting entity) as an archive of what didn't work, a place to revive lost books that should have garnered more attention, an opportunity to get a broader sense of the history of comics, and an opportunity to understand the march of technology.

Yes, there’s the chance for this to be a place of oddities and weirdness, but jokes aside, the value is quite high.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review of THE MOON MOTH

This Review orginally ran on Comics Bulletin

For genre fiction enthusiasts , especially those fond of Science-Fiction and Fantasy, the name Jack Vance resonates as one of the unsung geniuses of the craft. In his life time he won Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards and was named Grand Master by the Science fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

He even received an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America. Still his name barely raises an eyebrow of recognition in the larger public consciousness, unlike, say, Ray Bradbury or Philip K. Dick. Hopefully, with First Second's publication of the graphic novel The Moon Moth, which is based on Vance's short story of the same name and adapted by Humayoun Ibrahim, this preterition will finally come to an end.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Classic Comics Cavalcade: THE ESSENTIAL MAN-THING 2

This Column Originally Appeared 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 MAN-THING comic. This time exploring Marvel Comics collection: Essential Man-Thing Volume 2.

Daniel Elkin: Wow – I see why they call this "Essential" Man-Thing.

Jason Sacks: Man, what an amazing book, huh? The first volume only hinted at the completely insane brilliance that was right around the corner.

Elkin: No kidding -- Essential Man-Thing #2 took on some pretty heavy topics -- went some very strange places -- and (god help me) really made me think about stuff.

I love saying "stuff" by the way.

Sacks: Essential Man-Thing #2 is so full of stuff that its stuff is full of stuff - if you know what I mean by that stuff

Elkin: That was profound. So profound that you've thrown me off. Where should we start?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Comics Necropolis - Part One

This Column was a collaborative piece done with Steve Savage (The Boss at Fan to Pro)which first ran on Comics Bulletin.
The power of the internet, beyond the immediate access to pornography and pictures of kittens doing cute stuff, is that you can combine powers with others. It's like a giant conceptual Voltron.

Last week I mentioned how Daniel Elkin's ventures into the Bargain Bin had inspired me to come up with a business idea - an archive and storehouse of digitized oddball comics. This idea combined Daniel's Cheap Thrills experiences and my eternal love of history and strange things. I figured I'd write it up, post it, and then move on to something more.

Then Daniel and I talked. This is when the Voltron phenomena started.


The more we talked about it, the more we fleshed out the concept.

So what you have here is Daniel and I's proposal for how this idea can become reality – if someone will run with it. You know – someone like you. That is a massive hint.

The idea? We call it "Comics Necropolis."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cheap Thrills - JUGHEAD #206

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.

March 7, 2012 – paid 50 cents for:
JUGHEAD #206
Published by: Archie Comics
Written by: Frank Doyle
Art by: Dan Decarlo and Samm Schwartz



IS THERE ANYTHING MORE DUMB-THICK-STUBBORN THAN A GUY WHO WON'T TAKE HIS BEST FRIEND'S ADVICE!

So, as I mentioned in last week's column, I bought some old comics off ebay from Too Much Coffee Man's Shannon Wheeler. Though they are not technically randomly pulled from the bargain bin, they are awesome, truly Cheap Thrills, and they will be the subject of the next couple of weeks of columns. I am still singing the song: It's my column. I can do what I want to.

This week's choice from Wheeler's Wonders comes from July, 1972.

The summer of '72 was a time full of tension. Hanoi Jane Fonda was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. George McGovern was nominated for President at the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. A ceasefire between the British and the IRA collapsed after British troops killed five people (three of whom were teenagers) in Belfast. The Nixon Administration started paying off the Watergate Burglars to keep them quiet (ultimately paying them almost half a million dollars).

George Carlin was arrested in Milwaukee, WI for doing his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” bit.

Like I said – there was tension in the air in July, 1972. Brilliant photographer Diane Arbus killed herself. Bobby Ramirez (drummer for Edgar Winter's band) was stomped to death in a Chicago bar because his hair was too long.

Jimmy Cliff released the soundtrack to The Harder They Come, while Curtis Mayfield released the soundtrack to Super Fly.

Actress Elizabeth Berkley was born.

Also in July of 1972, seemingly as a response to all this tension, David Wong of Eli Lilly found that fluoxetine seemed to inhibit uptake of serotonin without uptake of norepinephrine. Thus was born Prozac.

The country seemed like it was coming apart at the seams there in July of 1972. Thankfully, Archie Comics had the proper panacea. This was when they chose to publish Jughead #206. After this choice was made, America went back to feeling groovy and One Million Moms let out a collective sigh.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review of KOLOR KLIMAX

This Review Originally Appeared 
There are strange things going on in Nordic comics. And when I say “strange”, what I really mean is bug-eyed gibbering crazy. And when I say “bug-eyed gibbering crazy”, I mean shit verging either on lurid incomprehensibility or sweet unfathomable genius.

How do I know this? I know this because I just finished reading Fantagraphics new anthology, Kolor Klimax. This 250 page full color soft covered book, edited by an equally odd Matthias Wivel, features the works of twenty-two comic artists from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, none of whom seem to have anything in common except for a penchant to present their own personal idiosyncrasies.

And there is some wild stuff in this anthology. From Bendik Kaltenborn's “The Great Underneath,” a surrealistic story featuring a biography of Meatloaf, a man in an orange suit, and a talking dog, to Peter Kielland's wordless black and white comic called “Mr. Pig in 'I Own the Night'” which deconstructs the endless drudgery of a nine-to-five existence in a manner that filled my head with liquid thoughts, this anthology is all over the place in terms of themes, styles, and sanity.

There are some particularly stellar pieces in this anthology, though. Of particular note are Johan F. Krarup's “Nostalgia,” which is a wrenching tale about a man in crisis told in an almost emotionless manner; Mikkel Damsbo and Gitte Broeng's “Relocating Mother,” a rumination on the power of place and identity; Christopher Nielsen's “Escalator,” a visceral metaphor for the role fear plays in maintaining the status quo; and Joanna Rubin Dranger's “Always Prepared to Die for My Child,” to which any new parent can easily relate.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

ADVANCE TAG-TEAM REVIEW: Supurbia #1 (of 4)

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin.
It was an advanced Tag-Team Review I did with Jamil Scalese

Jamil: I cut bullshit. That's just who I am. I don't think I could do this comic reviewing thing without having that quality. So, I want to be completely frank with the audience and I say that when Daniel and I read the solicit for Supurbia we weren't exactly excited at the prospects of reviewing this new book from BOOM! Studios. Here is that solicit for curious parties:

What goes down when the capes come off? Meet the "Real Housewives" of Earth's greatest super-team, the Meta Legion! It's the egos, the tantrums, and the betrayals of the super set. Find out what happens behind the masks as superhero families are faced with the sordid problems of everyday life - and then some! From rising star writer Grace Randolph (Marvel’s NATION X, HER-OES) and hot new artist Russell Dauterman, this series takes the familiar super-team and turns it on its head with a scandalous, TMZ-fueled look at what it's like to live with a superhero!
Not badly written, but words phrases like "Real Housewives", "TMZ-fueled" and "the sordid problems of everyday life" don't exactly whet my palate. I read comics to escape that shit. The title seemed like another attempt to garner female readers by pandering to things executives think they like. I wasn't expecting much.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Idea and the Form: An Interview with Okla Elliott

This interview originally ran in the Spring 2012 issue 

Okla Elliott has recently published his debut short story collection, From the Crooked Timber, through Press 53. Currently, Elliott is the Illinois Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois in the fields of comparative literature and trauma studies. He also holds an MFA from Ohio State University. In 2008-09, he was a visiting assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. His drama, non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and translations have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Natural Bridge, New Letters, A Public Space, and The Southeast Review, among others. He is the author of three poetry chapbooks—The Mutable Wheel; Lucid Bodies and Other Poems; and A Vulgar Geography—and he co-edited (with Kyle Minor) The Other Chekhov.

The seven stories and one novella that comprise From the Crooked Timber are, in their way, representational of Immanuel Kant's dictum, “From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made,” from which the collection takes it title. It is a collection of stories about, as Elliott says, “human crookedness and all the noble and desperate and pathetic and cruel and generous things we do to come to terms with that crookedness.” These character driven pieces follow the down-and-out and the damaged as they try to make sense of their past, their present, and how they fit into the world in which they find themselves. Through this, the stories provide a peek into what it means to be human.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Okla Elliott about his background, his development as a writer, and his process.

Daniel Elkin: Let’s begin by talking about your background a little, as that seems like a logical place to start. In my research about you, I found that you are from Argyle, Kentucky, and that your generation of siblings was the first in your family to graduate high school and enter college. Can you elaborate a little on your formative years, especially in terms of how you think they have influenced you in your writing, your politics, and your world view?

Okla Elliott: Well, it’s easy to over-emphasize this kind of stuff—embarking on a trite faux-psychoanalysis session and explaining everything from my creative life to my choice of breakfast cereal via some childhood event—so I’ll try to avoid that. At the same time, it’s easy to shrink these sorts of things, to ignore them as inconsequential details from the past that one has “overcome” or whatever, even though they are completely present with us all the time—so I’ll try to avoid that as well.

The first effect of having parents who never graduated high school was that my father instilled in me an intense seriousness about learning. There’s a way in which kids whose parents are doctors and professors and the like can sort of downplay the gravity of education. It’s taken for granted maybe. Or maybe it’s a sort of rebellion in some instances. But for me, education has always been an unalloyed good. Education can make a poor boy from rural Kentucky into a successful lawyer, or it can make that same poor boy from Kentucky into a writer who gets the opportunity to travel the world and study fascinating cultures, languages, literatures, etc. So I guess I have always taken my studies seriously because I saw them as my way out of a life of poverty and ignorance.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cheap Thrills - THE HANDS OF SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU #17

THIS COLUMN ORIGINALLY APPEARED 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 29, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
THE HANDS OF SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU #17
Published by: Marvel Comics
Breath by: Steve Engelehart
Movement by: Jim Starlin
Form by: Al Milgrom


BUT I'M CARRYIN' A MONKEY, JIM

So I bought some old comics off ebay from Too Much Coffee Man's Shannon Wheeler. Though they are not technically randomly pulled from the bargain bin, they are awesome, truly Cheap Thrills, and they will be the subject of the next couple of weeks of columns. As the song goes: It's my column. I can do what I want to.

The first of the Wheeler Wonders comes to us all the way from the swinging 70's – April, 1974 to be exact.

April of 1974 was when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run in Atlanta, Stephen King published his first novel (Carrie) under his own name, the Ray Harryhausen film The Golden Voyage of Sindbad was released, and the greatest straight man of all time, Bud Abbott, passed away.

Did you know that Penelope Cruz, Victoria Beckham, and Da Brat were all born in April of 1974? There is probably some joke I could make about this fact, but I'm feeling too old right now to be particularly funny.

Anyway, April of 1974 was when the band ABBA won the 1974 Eruovision Song Contest with their song Waterloo. Van Halen played their first show on the Sunset Strip, and Queen played their first concert in North America (in Denver, CO – opening for Mott the Hoople – heh). A frighteningly coke-ganked David Bowie released the epic album, Diamond Dogs, in April of 1974, reminding us that “This ain't Rock and Roll, this is Genocide!”

And lastly, not content to be merely flotsam following the tidal wave of Bruce Leesploitation crashing onto the shores of America, finally, in April of 1974, Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin, and Al Milgrom's dreams came true when The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu got his own title (shucking off the shackles of its previous Special Marvel Edition Featuring chains), starting at issue number 17.

And what better way to inaugurate the new title then with Blackjack! The man not even KUNG FU can SMASH!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review of Pornhounds #2

This review originally ran on Comics Bulletin
Pornhounds 2 is about identity, connecting, overcoming, and transformation. Sharon Lintz's 54 page, black and white, self-published comic is about her work as a writer and editor at a porn magazine. It is also about her personal journey through breast cancer. Throughout the comic, Lintz treats each subject with both dignity and humor, infusing each page with her strength of character. What starts off as an exploration of loneliness, personality, sexuality, and creativity is transformed by the end of the book as a statement of survival and hope.

Pornhounds 2 takes up where 2006's equally engaging Pornhounds 1 left off, following Lintz as she gives a “behind the scenes” look into the porn publishing industry. The first three stories in the book are pretty straight forward, but within these shorter vignettes Lintz takes her rather desensitized view of the barrage of pornography and, through her own transformative creative process, is able to turn flesh into spirit, desperation into a need to connect, and exploitation into rumination. Of particular note in this regard is the section titled “Letters” which features the art of Emanuele Simonelli. Here, Lintz presents actual letters written to the magazine from various men (many of them desperate, alone, disfigured, or in prison). This section could easily be exploited or presented in a manner that would fuel a particular agenda, but Lintz ends it tenderly, once again focusing on her themes of identity and connecting.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Classic Comics Cavalcade: THE ESSENTIAL MAN-THING

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 MAN-THING comic, this time including a sad clown, a demon bitch wife, a barbarian coming out of a jar of peanut butter, a fascist who wants to build an airport, several lesser demons, and a sprightly young witch named Jennifer.



Daniel Elkin: For whatever knows fear, burns at the Man-Thing's touch

Jason Sacks: Great tagline huh?

Elkin: I love how they are able to put it into every issue, as well.

Sacks: I think my favorite is when the gator gets burned at the touch of the Man-Thing

Elkin: Man-Thing seems to enjoy smashing reptiles against trees, doesn't he?

Sacks: You would, too, if you had to share your swamp with them. I mean, he may be a shambling mockery of human anatomy, but the Man-Thing has standards.

Elkin: Heh. Then again, Man-Thing doesn't actually "enjoy" anything, does he? Or does he? What's up with Man-Thing?

Sacks: This is probably the greatest comic book ever about a non-sentient being.