Tuesday, December 18, 2018
According to numerous press sources, director and actor Penny Marshall has passed.
Like everyone else my age, I grew up with Laverne & Shirley, where Marshall played a working class girl cohabitating with her best pal, Shirley, as they had weekly misadventures for years on network TV.
She disappeared briefly, only to re-emerge as a director of a number of movies I saw and liked in formative years, including Jumping Jack Flash and Big. Honestly, I've thought of her more as Director Penny Marshall for decades at this point, and it's a remarkable two-part career she was able to pull off.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Format: Amazon Streaming
Hal (2018) is a documentary about prominent 1970's film director Hal Ashby, best known these days for, probably Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Coming Home and Being There.
Thursday, November 29, 2018
I started reading All the Answers (2018) a couple of weeks ago, got ten pages in and realized that I wouldn't have time to read it cover to cover in one sitting, the way one generally wants to watch a film, and so I put away the book and picked it up again when I had uninterrupted time.
Written, researched, drawn and lived by Michael Kupperman, a cartoonist and artist I've followed for well over ten years at this point, the book is more than a minor pivot from a particular brand of humor comic that I would fail to capture here if I tried (and what is explaining a joke, anyway?) - this is also a biographical and autobiographical graphic novel. I believe Snake n' Bacon strips were my entree into Kupperman's work, followed by Tales Designed to Thrizzle - something that should be a staple in any comics-studies course. And, of course, Mark Twain's Autobiography, 1910-2010.
Monday, November 12, 2018
I am, like everyone, mourning the loss of Stan Lee who passed at age 95.
But. What a world we live in where everyone is mourning a comic book writer/ editor/ huckster! What an amazing guy we had with us for almost a full century!
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Comics artist Norm Breyfogle has passed. Reported here by The Washington Post.
When I got into comics, like any 10 or eleven year-old, I didn't really know how they worked. I had no guidance, and no one was around to explain them to me. We had spinner racks at the grocery, shelves at drugs stores and 7-11, and however B. Dalton and Waldenbooks wrangled their comics that week.
Pretty quickly I went from just grabbing random comics to gravitating to Uncanny X-Men and Batman comics, especially once I figured out that I could get two Batman comics every month with Batman and the oddly named Detective Comics.
It was a hell of a time to get into comics. What was okay to do in art was changing fast.
Monday, July 16, 2018
Man of Steel 6Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Jason Fabok
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Josh Reed
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen
Editor: Michael Cotton
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Comics creator Steve Ditko passed this weekend at the age of 90. As you may know, Ditko co-created Spider-Man and was responsible for the art chores and certainly deserves co-writing credits with Lee on the early years of the wall-crawler's adventures. He was behind some of my favorite Spidey villains like Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, Doctor Octopus, and - of course - Green Goblin. Not bad.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: (mostly) Ivan Reis and 2 pages by Jason Fabok
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Cory Petit
Editor: Michael Cotton
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Well, it finally arrived.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
So, it's weird that Forbes.com is where DC announced that Brian Michael Bendis is taking over both of the main Superman titles, right?
I mean - just that tidbit alone is probably worth a full blog post about comics vaulting their way into mainstream culture and something something what is happening at Forbes.com which is supposed to be a business and economics interest site?
It's also weird that Bendis is taking over *both* Superman and Action Comics, right? I mean... he's just getting to DC. You'd think he'd want to putter on a couple of diverse titles or something, get his feet wet... but, nope. Both bi-weekly Superman titles. (One expects we'll continue to get Supergirl, Super Sons, New Superman, and Superwoman... or something.)
And while I am more than game for Bendis on one or both titles, or some Super-title, I am also a bit crushed to be losing Dan Jurgens on Action Comics and Tomasi & Gleason on Superman. They've put so much love and effort and imagination into those comics the past 18 months or so, I genuinely wish they'd spin up Man of Steel and Adventures of Superman again and just keep giving us more Superman.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
If you're a Monster Kid of any stripe, you know the work of Basil Gogos. Whether from his work painting covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland to album covers, Gogos spent the back half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century as king of a niche others are just now entering - illustrative portraiture of cinematic marvels and monsters.
Yesterday I became aware of the news that Basil Gogos has passed beyond this veil of tears. But of this I am certain - his work is now as much a part of Monster Movie fandom as the films, actors and creators. His uncanny visuals have been wonderful additions to pop-culture and modern culture itself.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Gerry has informed me, and social media - from Paul Kupperberg to Paul Levitz and Elliot S! Maggin - confirms, that Len Wein has passed.
A report at CBR, Newsarama, and we are certain the reports will be in the hundreds.
My ear is not to the comics social media ground the way it once was, and I confess I didn't know he was ill. When his fellow Swamp Thing creator, Bernie Wrightson, passed in recent days, I'd known of Wrightson's illness in part because of announcements and some of his work stopped that I was reading. Wein had recently returned to the DC stable and I hadn't heard.
I just check Comic Vine, and Wein has 1640 credits on comics to his name between credits for writing, editing, et al.
69 seems far off when you're in your twenties. When you're in your forties, it seems very, very young and very unfair.
But Wein left an incredible legacy, and was a huge part in the shift in content and tone that led to modern comics. From his contribution in creating Wolverine and Swamp Thing to his work on establishing X-Men in much the way we think of them today, to great work on Batman and practically every other character in comics.
I can't say anything that Wein's peers and friends won't say with more grace and with far more meaning than myself. I encourage you to read the tributes which are already appearing. But I will say he will always be remembered, his work loved, his contributions honored and the folks he inspired who came after him owe him a great debt of gratitude for paving the way to a new kind of comic - which, in turn, changed our culture.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
You're going to see the names Jack Kirby and Jacob Kurtzberg a lot today. Jack Kirby is the pen-name of the greatest comic artist and creator to grace this orb we call planet Earth.
Here, on the centennial of his birth (August 28th, 1917), it's possible to suggest that Jack Kirby may be one of the most important artistic and literary figures of the past 100 years. The recognition came late, decades after his passing, and, still, his name is hardly a household word. But the creations he unleashed upon popular culture from the 1940's to the 1990's would either be taken up directly by the public (at long last), becoming part of the parlance, or influence generations who could never produce that same spark of imagination, but built either directly or indirectly upon what he had done before.
There are Kirby bio sketches out there a-plenty (but no definitive monograph that I'm aware of), a magazine dedicated to the study and fan-splosion around his work, and Mark Evanier - who apprenticed under him - has become the living memory of his professional life while his grandchildren have taken up the cause of preserving the memory of the man. Now there's a virtual museum (which deserves a physical location), and a charity it's worth considering giving to sometime. And a slew of collections and books celebrating Kirby's influence and work.
Kirby was not first in when comics became a way for kids from the rougher neighborhoods of New York picked up a pencil or ink brush to start bringing in bread, but he was there really early. He was a workman who put everything he had into the work, comic by comic, year by year, becoming better and better. As they tell you in art-school, master the rules before you start breaking them - and that's what he did, finding his own unique style, his own way of creating action and drama, and eventually shattering what it meant to create a comics page.
Taking from mythology, from science-fiction, from films, from his colleagues and the bottomless well within, Kirby created whole universes, pockets within those universes, and held the lens to each character, bringing the internal life of gods, men and monsters to life.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
It has been a long, long time since I've talked much about Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby, but when I came across a black and white collection back in late 90's, one of that series one of New Gods, the comics hit my psyche like a runaway freight train.
I'll talk more about Kirby's Mister Miracle and New Gods soon (I'll be doing my own salute to King Kirby before his 100th), but today I want to suggest you guys get onboard with the new Mister Miracle series by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, which hit shelves on Wednesday.
I admit, I've not read the duo's other work to date, though I've been meaning to pick up their Vision series for at least a year. But...
As comics keep relaunching with new #1's, I'd suggest that both publishers and creators take note: this is how one starts a series.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Saturday, October 22, 2016
God. Dammit. 2016.
Comics artist Steve Dillon has passed.
Dillon was one of the finest comics artists of the past few decades, mixing an illustrative quality with cartooning and pitch perfect sense of tone and a moment. Not only did he have one of the deftest pencils when it came to capturing the exact, perfect expression for every character in a panel - something I assume he did effortlessly as he did it in every panel - but his ability to change pacing, to whip between romance to horror to comedy within a single page remains unparalleled and may never be matched.
His pairing with Garth Ennis was a boon to the medium, from Hellblazer to Preacher to The Punisher. I don't just consider Preacher a seminal comics work of its era - I consider it a seminal work of its era - full stop. That said - not recommended for all audiences, Mom.
Monday, May 16, 2016
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the first issue of Kingdom Come, the prestige 4-issue, oft re-issued, comic by creators Alex Ross (artist) and Mark Waid (writer).
It's extremely difficult for me to state how much of an impact this comic had on me as a reader at the time of it's release. In fact, I'd argue it was one of the comics that came out at a particular time in my life that tilted me from an interest in comics and enthusiastic readership to... whatever it became. Further, I'd say that Kingdom Come stands as one of the key books that pushed me from thinking Superman was pretty neat to... whatever my deal is with The Man of Steel today.
By 1996, I just wasn't that interested in superhero comics. It seemed like a lot of books were trying to pull things off that weren't working, and, honestly, at age 21, glancing over the covers - a sense of creeping embarrassment hit me for the first time in my life in regards to comics. Not for the hobby or comics themselves, but it seemed that, in the mainline superhero books, writers and artists and the companies themselves had a vision they were trying to execute, and that vision felt like a 13-year-old trying on their dad's suit thinking they could con the bank into giving them a loan.
By '93, a brave new world of tough, militaristic, snarling characters had flooded the shelves. New publishers had arrived with fully formed concepts and universes, clearly either inspired as "extreme" versions of existing characters, or taking their cues from the artwork on heavy metal album covers (which, you know, how could you fault them?). And at DC and Marvel, familiar characters were getting changed and rebooted (see: Azrael Batman) to reflect the times. To me, the stories themselves lacked anything resembling narrative sophistication or substance, taking a Canon Films approach to violence and vitriol and mistaking it for maturity. The plots were sophomoric at best, and adding spiked shoulder pads to pre-existing characters did nothing to sell me on their new grittiness. I'll never forget cackling my way through the 1994 Dr. Fate reboot, Fate, wherein the hero turns the all-powerful helmet of Dr. Fate into a knife. So he can cut things! To the extreme!*
Meanwhile, Karen Berger had set up Vertigo at DC and was putting out Hellblazer, Shade: The Changing Man, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, The Invisibles, and, of course, Sandman and Sandman Mystery Theatre. I didn't think I had to look too far to see characters who were telling me they were for older readers - they simply were the sophistication (or what passed for it) that felt like the proper heirs to the Moore legacy.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Just yesterday we heard that Darwyn Cooke had entered palliative care in the last stages of cancer, and by the time I went to bed, the internet was telling me we that we have lost Darwyn Cooke, comics artist and writer.
2016 seems intent on taking my favorite artists from the world before their time.
It seemed to me Cooke was properly appreciated by comics enthusiasts, and a favorite in the creator community as a solid guy.
His art is making its way around the internet, and you won't have to look far for the next 72 hours to see all of us posting our favorite pieces. I'll focus here on his DC work and his work with Richard Stark's Parker novels.
Perhaps the best known of his works is DC's New Frontier, the Jet Age re-imagining of the origin of the Justice League of America, featuring all the mainstay players and some more-forgotten characters of the JFK/ pop explosion era of DC. If you've never read it, it's available out there in print and digital. And, it was adapted into a feature length cartoon film a few years back.
Cooke's art tilted toward iconographic cartooning, and fit no house style at DC, even as it clearly fit the aesthetic and mood of the DCU on the sunniest of days. Both retro and modern, his style borrowing heavily from the pop-art style of late-50/ early-60's illustration, with the nuance of line to manage expression and convey more in a face than 95% of comics artists.
During an era when DC Comics and comics in general are on a swing back toward projecting a world view of fire, chaos, and gnashing teeth for all of their characters, Cooke still found a place in the comics world to show a DC Universe infused with hope.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I have an employee who is into geek-culture stuff in a way that doesn't include actual comics. She likes horror movies, Army of Darkness, and watches the TV shows and movies based on comics. She just finished watching Daredevil (so say we all), and she was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt with art from the 90's cartoon while she was talking to me about the show.
"You know," I said, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a by-product of Daredevil."
She eyed me, somewhat skeptically.
"Frank Miller made ninjas cool in comics via the Daredevil comics run they're adapting for the show. After that, ninjas were everywhere in comics, but Miller did them best. It was the 1980's and Eastman and Laird were drinking beer and figuring out what might be popular for a comic and, hey, NINJAS. The 'Teenage Mutant' part is referring to some X-Men stuff. New Mutants, I think."
The look of skepticism was giving way to a bit of fear.
"Yes, I think you can argue that Bruce Lee started the craze, but in comics, I point to Frank Miller."
"Yeah," I said, refusing to let it go. "The crazy turtle uses sai, right? Elektra! That's Miller. What's the name of the bad guys the Shredder works with?"
She felt a trap. "The Foot?" she ventured.
"Uh huh. And the name of the ninjas in Daredevil?"
"Right. Now... let's talk about how Frank Miller is responsible for Batman v. Superman."
She was not impressed.
"Directly or indirectly, Jack Kirby and Frank Miller are responsible for everything in media right now," I concluded.
I don't think she bought a word of it.
In general, I'd argue the conversations the comics kids are having online these days don't seem to talk so much about what's happening in their comics as they do the characters in broad strokes, undergrad 101 media criticism of race and gender (which I welcome) and the creators, like they're following demi-celebrities who might talk back to them.*