Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review -- FLUTTER

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Flutter
(Jennie Wood, Jeff McComsey; 215 Ink)
Sometimes the best way to woo the girl of your dreams is to become a boy. Especially if you are a girl to begin with. Or maybe you're not a girl. Maybe you're not even human. Still, though, if you're wild about a girl named Saffron, and she just mad about boys, it may be best to approach the relationship from the male perspective. Or maybe not. Sometimes these things get so confusing, right?
There seems to be all sorts of intriguing things going in the 24-page first issue of Flutter from 215 Ink. Writer Jennie Wood seems to be playing in a huge sandbox filled with grains of gender roles, super powers, government cover-ups, teenage angst, family dysfunction, homophobia, gay marriage, race relations and love. While it sounds like there is a lot of sand in this box, Wood has the moxie to pull it all together, each grain falling into place as if through a carefully constructed hourglass (wait... am I mixing metaphors again?). 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review -- TODD: THE UGLIEST KID ON EARTH #1

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth #1
(Ken Kirstensen, M.K. Perker; Image)
I know it's cliché to say it, but Ken Kristensen and M.K. Perker are bound and determined to put the "fun" back in dysfunctional. Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth #1 may well be the most fucked-up funny book I've come across in years. Neither of the creators seem to give a rat's ass about being politically correct or worried in any way about whether or not they are offending anyone. A matter of fact, they seem to be going out of their way to offend EVERYONE in this book. But it's so off the wall bejezus wonked that it's hard to get pissed at them, because while they are dealing with all kinds of just plain horrible shit in this book, their tongues seem so firmly planted in their cheeks (or up America's ass) that all you can do is laugh.
And unless you take yourself far too seriously, laugh is what you will do.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

For Your Saturday.

Make sure you’re watching with the English subtitles on. The lyrics are as lysergic as the visuals.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Convenient Truths -- PAYBACK: DEBT AND THE SHADOW SIDE OF WEALTH


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 2012's Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth directed by Jennifer Baichwal.
SacksWell, Elkin, I think we needed this one. After watching a series of documentaries that felt a bit unprofessional and unfinished, we finally have chosen a documentary that's an extremely professional and thought-provoking look at a complex philosophical issue.
Jennifer Baichwal's Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth is a product of the National Film Board of Canada and is adapted from a book by the great Margaret Atwood, one of the finest and most interesting writers of our time and a true Canadian national treasure. And, as expected based on its pedigree, this film does not disappoint on any level.
First of all, I have to say that Payback is beautifully filmed. The cinematography on this project is really wonderful – and again a very nice change from the more amateurish videography we've seen recently. The film takes us from the Western State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania all the way to the lands of Northern Albania to explore its concepts of debt, stopping along the way to explore places like migrant farmland in Florida, the Gulf Coast in the wake of the BP oil spill, environmental activism in British Columbia and a very interesting lecture hall in Newfoundland.
Secondly, I was fascinated by how intellectually curious this movie is. It's ambitious not just in its geographical diversity but in director Baichwal's solemn and thoughtful approach to respecting the thoughts and opinions of the people that she presents. There's a wonderful sense of intelligent people sharing intelligent thoughts that can literally change the way that one perceives the world. I came out of this movie with a tremendous number of philosophical ideas to explore – ideas I hope we can dig into as this essay goes on, Elkin, because that's one of the truly wonderful joys of doing this column with you.
And thirdly, and perhaps most of all, I was fascinated by the different ideas of what it means to be in debt in our world. As a man with a mortgage and car payments and all the other bills of normal middle class bourgeois life, I'm used to thinking of that prosaic existence as being all would up in debt. But this film stays doggedly away from the easy topics to explore on this topic. InsteadPayback explores much more complex topics around the concept of debt: blood debt based on murder, revenge and tradition; the debt to society when one commits a crime; the debt of a criminal to the people that he robs; the debt of mankind to the planet that we continue to ravage.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review -- SOCK by Box Brown

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Sock
(Box Brown; Retrofit)

Box Brown calls Sock a "mini-comic about a guy who is his own worst enemy."  Basically, it's about an unnamed protagonist who careens through a house party getting more and more loaded on a variety of psychoactive substances. That's about it. Not much in terms of  theme or action or gravitas, and yet, somehow, Brown is able to take this simple story and relate it to the basic human condition. 
The hero of Sock is an everyman, desperate for approval, desperate to connect, desperate to transcend mundanity via the only vehicles available to him: beer, blow, boobs, and weed. There is a journey/quest motif at the heart of this comic, but it is ultimately upended by both the hero's hubris and one too many 40s.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Convenient Truths -- COLOR ME OBSESSED

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 2012's Color Me Obsessed, directed by Gorman Bechard.
SacksThe Replacements were one of the greatest bands of the 1980s, a brilliant combination of four complicated and difficult personalities that produced amazing music, often in spite of themselves. Whether you start with their earlier and more raucous albums – and the 'Mats at their best were really amazingly raucous – or with their mid-career masterpieces "Tim" and "Let It Be," Paul Westerberg, Chris Mars and the Stinson brothers embodied a snotty, who-gives-a-shit attitude that embodied the punk rock ethos while being thoroughly, completely, their own thing.
And this attitude was also what caused the band's downfall. When you don't give a shit about all kinds of aspects of your life, you start to lose track of the important things. You allow your impulsiveness to control your brain and for your own flaws to cause success to never really happen for you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cheap Thrills -- JON SABLE FREELANCE #34

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.
December 31, 2012 – paid 50 cents for:
JON SABLE FREELANCE #34
Published by: First Comics
Created, Written, and Illustrated: Mike Grell
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Lynn Varley
Editor: Rick Oliver
BATHE IN PURE WATER TO WASH AWAY THE HUMAN SCENT.
In March of 1986, The New York Times charged that United Nations Secretary General and Austrian Presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim was a Nazi. Microsoft Corporation had its IPO. The Navy found all seven bodies of the Space Shuttle Challenger's astronauts dead inside the crew compartment. Van Halen began touring with Sammy Hagar. Husker Du released Candy Apple Grey. Janet Jackson released Control. Metallica released Master of Puppets. Lady Gaga was born (this way).
If you put March of 1986 in a cauldron, you could probably foresee Macbeth's fate. It was that potent. Chaos and Havoc seemed to be dancing a minuet on the world stage, and we, the poor unsuspecting public, were getting trodden underfoot. It was a time of cacophony, less like Walt Whitman's Song of Myself and more like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. It was amazing more of us weren't struck deaf right then and there.
This may have been because also in March of 1986, First Comics published Mike Grell's quiet masterpiece, Jon Sable Freelance #34 – a comic noted both for its quietude and its use of brown.
I like brown. It's my favorite color. It is the color of the primal force by which all other colors fade by comparison (I'm especially looking at you, Orange).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Best of 2012 -- BULLETPROOF COFFIN: DISINTERRED

This Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred
(David Hine, Shaky Kane; Image)
When Keith Silva and I originally reviewed David Hine and Shaky Kane's 2012 miniseriesBulletproof Coffin: Disinterred, I wrote the following:

It is so easy to become complacent, to become lazy in our thinking, to define and label and box and construct a priori while ignoring what is actually in our hand -- especially with art, where sometimes what has been created is so outside our experience that we must indolently rely heavily on our intellectual past to make sense of the present or else go mad in the face of incomprehensibility.

This is where this series took me, writing ponderously about my own laziness as a reader, fighting against Hine and Kane's buoyant obfuscation, trying to put pieces together while accessing aspects of my thinking that I had not thought before.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Convenient Truths -- DR. BRONNER'S MAGIC SOAPBOX

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 2006's Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox directed by Sara Lamm.


Elkin: I had just graduated from college in 1989 and I was bumming around the East Coast, couch surfing and trying to find an elusive purpose to keep moving forward. I was staying with this young lady I knew from school for a couple of days, plotting my next move and one of the things I most remember about her house was that she had this crazy liquid soap in her shower. It was peppermint and it tingled like nobody's business, but what was most remarkable about it was its blue and white label literally covered with 30,000 words spelling out these totally whacko quasi-religious admonitions and exhortations culminating in the phrase ALL ONE! ALL ONE! I distinctly remember standing there reading this damn thing for what must have been ten minutes or so, water splashing off my back, trying to wrap my head around what this soap was asking of me. Finally, I got out of the shower, found the young lady who owned this soap, and asked her what the deal was. She looked at me kind of incredulously and said, “Oh that? That's Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap.”
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox is supposed to be a documentary about the story of the man behind the soap. I popped this one on the old Netflix because I remembered that young East Coast lady and her soap, and I was intrigued to find out more about this whole story. From this film, I got the rudiments of his tale, but even more I was left with a thousand new questions than before.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Toasters -- EVERYWHERE


Everywhere is a documentary film about the street artists known as “The Toasters” who have been “obsessively” placing their toaster image around the world since 1999. It looks at “the origins of their work, the preparation and execution of some of their most recognisable pieces as well as exclusive interviews.”
Since 1999, before the term ‘Street Art’ was even conceived, the acclaimed Toaster image has been prolifically and obsessively placed across the world by three people. Using stickers, posters and stencils on the streets along with banners in football stadiums and flags at music festivals their iconic Toaster has appeared ‘Everywhere’.