Friday, August 29, 2014

Firewords has arrived!

The newest issue of Firewords Quarterly, with my short story "I Gotta Get Outta Here," arrived earlier this week, and it looks amazing.  There's some great imagery and art direction in this issue, and the fiction is pretty great too.  Here's an image of the two-page spread for my contribution:

If you'd like to get a copy, go to Firewords' online store - HERE - and purchase your own copy.  Or wait for the digital edition, which should be hitting soon.  And thanks.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Happy Birthday to the KING!

Jack Kirby would have turned 97 today, and all across the internet, fans and creators alike are celebrating the man who stands head and shoulders above all other western comic creators.

A young Jewish kid from the rough streets of Depression-era New York and a veteran of the second World War, Kirby was a force of nature whose imagination seems to have been limitless.  There are many creators today riding on his coattails, working on the myriad characters he created or co-created:

- Captain America
- The Avengers
- X-Men
- Darkseid
- Captain Victory
- the Fantastic Four
- Fin Fang Foom
- Thor (for Marvel comics)
- Nick Fury
- the Forever People
- Kamandi
- Challengers of the Unknown
- Galactus
- Silver Surfer
- the Incredible Hulk
- etc. etc. etc.

These creators love to play in Kirby's "sandbox," paying homage to the artist who invigorated the comics medium with an energy and a boldness that launched it on the path of popularity that has now seen its influence blast into the film making business in a manner not thought possible fifteen years ago.  And yet, their fealty falls short because they are not adhering to Kirby's first rule of comic creation - go make something new.  That, as much as anything is Kirby's lasting legacy.

I was first introduced to Kirby with the Super Powers mini-series and toy lines of the mid-1980s.  This was unfortunate.  I remember being unimpressed with his art.  I thought it was ugly and didn't adhere to the idealized "realistic" imagery of a John Byrne or a George Perez (still my favorite comic artist, whose work tugs at my nostalgic insides any time I see a new book from him).

Years later - and I wish I knew what prompted this, because it was a full-on re-evaluation of multiple silver and golden age artists, on my part - I finally "got" Kirby.  It may have been a result of hearing Jon Bogdanove speak affectionately about Kirby and his influence and his versatility, along with an analysis of what it was about his Marvel, and subsequent DC, work that spoke to me.  The energy in the pages, the characters bursting from the panel borders, elongated in extreme kineticism, large than life characters that refused to be penned in by these artificial boundaries.  I saw it.  I understood it.  And I appreciated it.  Very much.

Since then, I've done my best to educate myself on Kirby (i.e. I've read a lot of his comics that I missed out on before, and big props to Marvel & DC and their relatively recent repackaging of Kirby's early works into lovely hardbound collections).  His art - and the adventure and imagination present in his stories, particularly his 1970s work for DC - is a wonder to behold.  There's nothing as satisfying, for me, as reading a Kirby comics, whether it's something new (to me) or something I've read before.  The layouts, the expressionistic figure work, the energy - it's all pure bliss.

There's a part of me that regrets not grokking to Kirby earlier, but that is mitigated by the fact that I now have more opportunities to enjoy his work while also realizing there's still a wealth of great stuff I can look forward to.

Happy Kingday!     BOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!


Friday, August 22, 2014

SIN TITULO by Cameron Stewart

Cameron Stewart is a fantastic artist.  He came out of nowhere, for me, when he worked with Grant Morrison on Sea Guy.  I loved his clean style and ability to convey emotions through a limited amount of lines.  Seriously, great work.

So, when I discovered he was doing a webcomic, titled SIN TITULO, I checked it out.  Spurred by the discovery by the main character, Alex MacKay, of his grandfather's death a month earlier, Sin Titulo is a maze of realities that weave in and out of one another, dragging readers down myriad rabbit holes with little explanation.  With the updates consisting of single, eight-panel pages, each time, Stewart had to reintroduced and then punctuate each page with a cliffhanger or a revelation or a new mystery.  And he managed that with great facility.

Dark Horse collected the web series into a nice hardcover, which is how I finished reading the story, as I am a poor one to keep up with online comics.  The biggest question I had, with this story that had dream sequences that fed into the memories of another, seemingly random, character, which wove into the story of MacKay's grandfather and an orderly from the retirement home where his grandfather lived out the rest of his life, was whether Stewart could stick the ending.

Rest assured, he did.

And as impressive as Stewart's art is, I was more impressed with his writing in this book.  The pace of the book, teasing out the various narrative threads that appear to have tenuous connections, at best, with one another, was masterful.  He offered the audience just enough to entice them without giving away too much.  And the way he manipulated not just the ideas and the scenes, but the words with which he explained things, was wonderful - a real joy to read and experience.

Sin Titulo is a great book, and if you are a fan of comics, you should definitely check it out.  I don't know how you could be disappointed.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CELEBRATED SUMMER by Charles Forsman

For one so young, and so early in his comic making career, Charles Forsman is a highly confident and assured cartoonist.  He allows the images to tell the story, lingering on small points in the narrative, infusing his stories with a pace that adds to their emotional depth and tone.  He did this with The End of the Fucking World (TEOTFW), and he does it again with Celebrated Summer, from Fantagraphics Books.

A graphic "novella," Celebrated Summer is a reminiscence on that final summer of childhood between two close friends.  We follow them as they drive the highway, heading for the boardwalk and the ocean, in a last attempt to retain that innocence of their youth.

Their interactions feel genuine - unsentimental in a way that feels true to that state of being after you've finished high school and must consider what comes next.  The friends argue, share memories, and get lost, all rites of passage that anyone reading this book have experienced, and in this way, Forsman grounds his characters while allowing his audience to easily identify with them.  It's a fine line, and he walks it deftly.

With deceptively simple lines, Forsman also manages to create characters who, again, feel real.  I am certain there are some who look at his work and think of it as too simplistic (I've heard that criticism directly), but they are looking at it through a "wrong" lens, in my opinion.  He manages to evoke subtlety and pathos with a minimal amount of lines, and does it in a way that belies his youth.

If you've not checked out Forsman's work before, this would be a great place to start.  Then, if you appreciate this, as I think many fans of smart comics would, then you should check out TEOTFW, also from Fantagraphics.  You won't be disappointed.


Monday, August 18, 2014

DUST by John Bergin

A collection of short comic stories created by Bergin from the mid-90s up to the present, DUST is a must-have for fans of serious, dark, and sometimes disturbing comics.

Friends with James O'Barr, creator of The Crow, Bergin is a multi-talented artist - writer, artist, musician, animator - who (and this may sound cliche) forges his own path.  The stories found within this new collection are singular, engaging, distinct works that will worry your emotions raw.  Bergin's visions are scratchy and dark, with a sense of whimsy subtly dropped in to add to the pathos.

I would purposely set the book aside for days at a time, savoring the most recent story while anticipating the next one, wishing to extend my experience of DUST, knowing that I could always come back to something riveting and emotional each time.  And the book never disappointed.  It was, like my collection of Borges short fiction, a book I did not want to end.

Having read a couple of issues of ASHES, Bergin's 90s comic from Caliber Press, I was prepared for the imagery I would find inside.  If you are familiar with O'Barr's "Crow" then you have a good idea already, since these two friends' work is similar in tone, if not identical in execution (which would not be half as satisfying).  What I was not ready for was the high level of the writing.  And, in that, I don't necessarily mean the ideas or the manner in which the stories were told - I mean the actual words utilized by Bergin.  He was able to paint pictures and incite emotions with his words alone, images and feelings that were heightened by the imagery accompanying them.  It really was a master course in how to create moving, haunting short comics.

I can't recommend this book enough.  And I must thank Mr. Phil (from the late, lamented Indie Spinner Rack podcast) for introducing me to Bergin's work with the inclusion of the artist in the second ISR anthology - Awesome 2: Awesomer.