Archive for July 28, 2009

Quick reviews of things I’ve been neglecting

One of the most awesome thing about keeping a blog like this is that people send me e-mails, asking me to check out their comics. And I love that because it’s always something I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. So it’s really not fair to these people that I tend to do a really bad job at getting around to mentioning their comics here in any sort of timely manner. I apologize. (But keep sending me e-mails of your stuff! I do look and I get to writing about it eventually.)

Here are three that the creators sent in within the past couple of months.

Emily Steinberg’s Graphic Therapy consists of confessional stories about the mundane surrealness of every-day lif — a Jewish girl dating a someone she says “was a perfect walking rendition of a Hilter Youth poster.” She “borrows” her brother’s dog rather than just getting her own. The chapters here ramble a bit, stream-of-consciousness style, but it’s all so entertaining and funny that I tended to forget about that. She’s just offering slices of her life.

Her pen-and-ink drawings are done with such witty self-awareness it’s never uncomfortable. Her experiences are particular to her, sure, but it’s easy to relate to being too self-reflective and constantly analyzing life.

Joamette Gil‘s Blackbirds is about a world that’s basically like ours, except people have wings. But some people only have one wing, like our main character Dante. Dante is coping with finding his own independence while coping with poverty and discrimination. But he does discover that not all of life is difficult as he makes a connection with a fellow one-winged girl named Jezebel.

This shows a lot of promise. Gil’s artwork is sparse and airy with simple, strong lines. This is, as of right now, just a one-shot comic, but I like the premise quite a bit and I hope it’s something she revisits.

Ethan Young’s Tails follows a vegan animal-rights activist who starts a cat rescue in his parents’ home and the misadventures that ensue. Young’s art is loose in a playful way. While I’m biased toward the subject matter, this is a lot of fun and I’m enjoying Ethan’s adventures.

Young originally self-published this work and has now put it online and while he still needs to iron out some navigation issues, those are small complaints. I’m glad he’s sharing this work with us.

I am always amazed at the diversity of comics that are out there right now and I think this batch proves that nicely. Thank you to Emily, Joamette and Ethan for bringing their works to my attention.

So some sort of comic book con just happened?

Around the time San Diego Comic-Con was gearing up some annoying life things started to take hold so I wasn’t really following the news all that closely. But here’s the most random roundup ever.

New Bone is always awesome. Annoying sexist contests are not (thanks, Electronic Arts for not wanting my money. I don’t have a lot of it so it’s always nice when someone tells me “Yeah, don’t spend it with us”).

I am pro TRON Legacy (I am, of course, pro-Moebius, pro-Syd Mead and very much pro-Daft Punk).

I know Comic-Con hasn’t been completely about comics for a while now, but really, why was Glee there? That’s not even a genre show.

Nothing else really excited me, but like I said, I really didn’t follow any of the news all that closely. Give it a couple of days to sink in and maybe I’ll realize all the awesome things that happened.

Jump to Japan

Last weekend, after consuming a wonderful selection of beer at Bell’s Brewery‘s Eccentric Cafe, we wandered over to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, mostly to check out the Jump to Japan. It’s obviously for kids, but it was still fun. I mean, they have a more-or-less life-sized Catbus (which I happily posed in, as you can see) which was basically the major reason I wanted to go.

It does cover the history of art and culture in Japan in a fun and hands-on way — you can create your own animated sequences, draw (well, trace from templates) manga characters and also learn about older forms of art, like the process behind Japanese woodblock prints and the history of a couple of culture holidays.

The exhibit is designed well and the connections between the past and the present are clearly made. The whole thing is probably more interesting if you’re 7 years old, but I did love seeing the comparisons between still shots from My Neighbor Totoro and photos from Japan.

The exhibit is a traveling one (it’s been around for a couple of years now) and is up at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum through Sept. 7. The website doesn’t list where it’s going next, but I hope it finds another home because I’d love for more kids to get to see it.

Art Spiegelman at MOCAD

I was recently in Michigan visiting my brother and enjoying the abundance of wonderful (wonderful!) beer they have there. But during a break in the drinking, we also managed to visit Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, which currently features an exhibition of Art Spiegelman’s work, focusing on Breakdowns.

It’s not a large exhibit, but what’s there is good. I liked seeing Spiegelman’s process — his sketches on graphic paper, revisions to the text and panel layouts — and how it all would come together in the final strip. While I never thought his work was really just thrown together, he’s much more of a technical artist than I thought. I’m glad I got to go.

The exhibit is up through July 26. Spiegelman himself will be at MOCAD on Wednesday. It’s $7 and I think tickets are still available (I see no indication anywhere otherwise). I, however, will not be since I’m back home (and sadly back at work — vacations are never long enough).

MOCAD is a neat space and I’d like to go back when I’m in Michigan again.

Review: Marvel Divas #1

Today, Big Planet Comics was having a 20% off sale on everything in the store. Because what’s more American than buying comics? Not wanting to fight DC traffic, we went to the Vienna store and it was full of guys and guys only. There was one other woman in there, briefly — obviously a girlfriend — looking kind of uncomfortable. It wasn’t that anyone was saying anything inappropriate — it was just full of guys.

And I was buying Marvel Divas #1. I was carrying it around as I looked at other things in the store and I was feeling … not exactly ashamed, but I was kind of feeling “No, no, I totally like other things too! This is research, this is going to be better than it looks …”

I don’t know why I particularly cared because I know enough about comics to be confident in my purchases. I think it was just that the cover is completely embarrassing.

So, yes, the comic. It’s better than you probably think it’s going to be. Is it life-changing? No. But it’s fun, and I think that’s all it needs to be.

It’s a little exposition-heavy as we get a pile of relationship and character backstory, but it does work, as Patsy Walker, Monica Rambeau and Felicia Hardy each share their troubles with men over drinks after fleeing from Patsy’s book launch party. It’s something women would do. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa keeps the pace moving and they all talk like friends, with gentle teasing and sometimes criticism. They feel like girls I’d like to hang out with.

Nothing much happens until the final three pages when Angelica Jones walks in, crying. The girls rally around her to find out what’s wrong, and she reveals what I assume is going to be the major plot point — she has cancer — in a surprisingly emotional scene (even though I knew it was coming.

Tonci Zonji’s art is playful and animated, making what would otherwise be static scenes of people talking into something dynamic. He communicates the characters’ emotions amazingly well, with body language and facial expressions. The panel when Angelica first appears, holding her purse to her chest with a tear-stained face, beautifully shows her devastation. While Aguirre-Sacasa’s writing does elevate traditional romantic-comedy conventions beyond the usual, Zonjic’s art is really what makes this book.

I think it’s sad that Marvel really screwed up when they announced this. If people do pick it up, I think they’re going to go into it with the wrong attitude and I don’t know if this issue is really strong enough to overcome that. I did like it quite a bit, but it was about what I expected. It’s just a light-hearted diversion, though, even if it is a good one.