Review: EAT EAT EAT by Tom Van Deusen

Cover to the print issue of Tom Van Deusen's most excellent EAT EAT EAT

Cover to the print issue of Tom Van Deusen’s most excellent EAT EAT EAT

“Eat Eat Eat” is a very funny comic by cartoonist Tom Van Deusen. That may not be readily apparent for some readers, I suppose. If you haven’t (or have?) been exposed to Robert Crumb, for instance. But, you know, for a lot of folks, this is going to be a laugh riot. Let me delve into this one further because it merits close attention. As I began to say, the content is, well, weird.

So, yeah, some people could potentially think they’re in for some typical gross out session. But, no, no, it’s not that. This is well-timed wry humor with a touch of the poet. That is to say that it does not collapse under the weight of heavily-used underground comix tropes. Many a cartoonist, and comics reviewer, have allowed themselves to get too caught up in what is thought to be fashionable scat. But you show some restraint and respect for craft and you end up moving forward.

Van Deusen knows how to make the most of the little details. He knows how to draw bared teeth to maximum effect. Each instance is mercilessly depicted with precision and gusto. And elicits a giggle. He also knows how to wring out humor from lettering for all it’s worth. Who knew how funny it could be to read his various hand-written renderings of “Later.” You know, a brief break in the action similar to “Meanwhile.” He loves to devote a full panel for each of his uses of “Later.”

Okay, I think we know where we stand now. It’s not so much gross out humor as absurdist humor that we find in this comic. Our hero is just a sad sack looking to get lucky. In this case, lucky in love. Lucky with the ladies. Our sad sack is NOT a ladies’ man but that doesn’t stop him. And when he does land a date with a cutie, he proves to her and all the world how underserving he is to have set foot outdoors in the first place.

Turns out, push comes to shove, forget the ladies, he’d much rather make out with a giant bag of popcorn. Wonderful surreal humor. Is it any wonder that I was reading this as I waited to see some improv comedy? It’s good stuff–and good for you. I read the rest during my visit to the chiropractor. I highly recommend that you read this as they crack you back into shape.

I had the treat of reading the collected webcomic work to EAT EAT EAT that makes for a powerful work in comics, all in one neat 24-page book. You really need to get yourself a copy, even if you’ve already read the webcomic. You can find out how to get your copy here. Ah, and there’s more comics by Tom Van Deusen, all part of his Poochie Press. We’ll cover another title in another post.

And be sure to check out the EAT EAT EAT webcomic at Studygroup right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, Independent Comics, Poochie Press, Seattle, Tom Van Deusen

A Recap to ‘What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones’ at the EMP Museum in Seattle From a Cartoonist’s Perspective

Henry Chamberlain at EMP Museum 13 June 2015

Henry Chamberlain at EMP Museum 13 June 2015

I was the guest cartoonist at the grand opening of “What’s Up Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones” at the EMP Museum in Seattle this Saturday, June 13, 2015. My role there was primarily to draw. I was there to do what I know and love, draw comics. In this case, comics with a Chuck Jones theme. I was simply there to express as much as I could about what I know and love about the world of Chuck Jones. Yikes! Where to begin? Well, one rabbit ear at a time.

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Filed under animation, Bugs Bunny, Chuck Jones, Comics, Daffy Duck, EMP Museum, Road Runner, Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Wile E. Coyote

Review: MIKE’S PLACE, published by First Second

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Jack is a journalist in search of a story. It’s 2003 and Iraq is grabbing all the headlines. However, a set of circumstances finds him considering a story set in the Middle East that does not involve conflict. Enter Mike’s Place, a haven for the young and young-at-heart to unwind and enjoy good spirits and great rhythm and blues right off the beach in Tel Aviv. It will be a decidedly odd twist of fate that places Jack in what proves a most compelling story of conflict, and unbridled optimism.

Building upon their work on the documentary, “Blues by the Beach,” Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem have taken what they placed on the screen and reworked it for the comics medium. Along with the thoughtful and energetic art of Koren Shadmi, you have a narrative that naturally flows with a life of its own. Shadmi has carefully developed believable characters that the reader hooks into. This is a story, as the cover makes clear, about a bombing. But not only about a bombing.

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With countless acts of violence and terror in the world, it can all seem a blur. As the characters in this story often say, you have to create your own way of coping amid terror. Throughout, the regulars at Mike’s Place are being interviewed for a documentary exploring the real Israel. One standout is Dominique, a beautiful and lively waitress. Her story, on and off camera, is pivotal. When asked about how she copes with bombings, she says that you need short-term memory as an “immune system.” You deal with it at the time and then move on. She proudly states, “That’s the Israeli way.”

But, how then do you make sense of it all if you’re constantly moving on? Well, you don’t completely forget. It seems that a story like the one about Mike’s Place becomes more powerful with each revisit. It seems that Baxter and Faudem had to process what they experienced and recorded into two separate mediums, as a documentary and then as a graphic novel. You sift through the details and sharpen the focus. What happens, once you have a graphic novel of this caliber, is that you find a greater truth.

You have here a straightforward cadence as the story is presented in comics. The layout foundation on the page is two panels on three rows with variations as needed. This is classic comics storytelling and it works quite well. You don’t need much else in many cases. For this story, this framework sort of mimics the camera in a documentary and evokes reportage in general. In fact, you don’t really notice the panel structure as you are immersed into action. Again, Shadmi does a remarkable job with bringing to life these characters. And, as you’ll see yourself, this graphic novel does a remarkable job of clearing away the clutter and getting to the heart of the matter.

You see here Mike’s Place become the center of conflict. A happy-go-lucky gathering spot, seemingly existing out of time and place, comes crashing down. This is the story of such a place. And how people come together once the unthinkable has happened.

“Mikes’ Place” is a 192-page hardcover published by First Second Books. For more details, visit our friends at First Second right here. You can also find this book here, here, and here.

If you are in the Seattle area, be sure to stop by Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery this Saturday, June 13, and meet the book’s cartoonist, Koren Shadmi. This will be a fun event which includes the debut of a new book by local cartoonist, Greg Stump, “Disillusioned Illusions,” published by Fantagraphics. For more details, go right here.

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Filed under Comics, Documentaries, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Israel, Middle East

Review: ‘Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard’

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Many people enjoy collecting pop culture figures. Some collectors will add an environment to showcase them. What if the sky’s the limit and you could go hog wild? Imagine, for instance, the Joker facing off with G.I. Joe. And have that in a realistic setting. Well, as kids, the sky was always the limit! Your characters didn’t have to obey any rules and you could have all sorts of battles that would never have taken place anywhere else. In that spirit, photographer Daniel Picard has let it roll with some inspired work with icons we all know and love.

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Picard photographs 12-inch figures from Sideshow Collectibles, then does only what a skilled adult can do: create those sort of moments that kids around the globe conjure up just for the fun of it. These are to-scale environments with an uncannily realistic look.

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Actor Simon Pegg provides a forward calling this collection, “a wonderful conversation piece.” Kevin Smith provides an afterword describing Picard’s work as a “salute to all the fun we had with our toys as kids.”

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“Figure Fantasy: The Pop Culture Photography of Daniel Picard” is a 132-page hardcover, priced at $29.99 US, published by Insight Editions. For more details, and to purchase the book, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here.

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Filed under Collectibles, Comics, Insight Editions, Photography, Sideshow Collectibles, Star Wars, Toys

Review: RICHY VEGAS COMICS #8 and #9 by Richard Alexander

From "Richy Vegas Comics #9"

From “Richy Vegas Comics #9″

“Richy Vegas Comics,” by Richard Alexander, are what you would consider very personal and decidedly out of the mainstream. It reminds me a little of the work of Daniel Johnston. Based upon reading numbers 8 and 9 of this ongoing comic, I get the picture of what he’s doing and I can offer up some comments. For those who follow my reviews, you know that, at times, I’ll expand upon the review and make some general observations. I also want to discuss here personal comics in general.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Autobio Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, Independent Comics, Richard Alexander, Richy Vegas Comics, Self-Published

Chuck Jones Animation Exhibit at EMP Museum in Seattle (Opening Day Celebration Saturday, June 13, 2015)

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I am so honored to be a part of this amazing event. June 13th will be the opening day celebration for a very special Chuck Jones animation exhibit at EMP Museum in Seattle: What’s Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones.

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Filed under Bugs Bunny, Chuck Jones, EMP Museum, Warner Bros.

Review: ‘The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes’ by Zach Dundas

Holmes investigates Holmes. Art by Henry Chamberlain.

Holmes investigates Holmes. Art by Henry Chamberlain.

It is clear that Zach Dundas loves Sherlock Holmes. A quest to explore how and why the interest in Sherlock Holmes has endured is the subject of his new book, “The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes.” In a highly accessible and conversational narrative, Dundas weaves classic Holmes stories into his own idiosyncratic reportage. The result is jolly good fun and goes a long way in explaining the Holmes phenomena.

Can one really put one’s finger on the Holmes appeal? Well, sure, for one thing, he’s a comfortably familiar character right up there with Superman, Snow White, Snoopy, and Frankenstein. He’s the ultimate brand. Of course, do people still actually read the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Well, Dundas is here to assure you, if you have not, that it’s fun stuff. Much of the appeal to this book is Dundas’s unbridled enthusiasm for his subject. He makes no bones about letting you know his passion runs deep going back to reading Holmes tales as a kid.

Time and again, Dundas will casually describe to you an adventure from Sherlock Holmes lulling you in until you’re deep into the plot. Then he’ll alternate with one of his own quests such as dragging his family all across the moors of the English countryside or endless searching for the real-life potential counterparts to fictional Victorian London. For Dundas, part of the mystery lies in attempting to understand what all his fellow tourists see in Holmes.

As he waits in line to enter a replica to 221B Baker Street, Holmes’s fictional digs, he can’t help but get a little smug assuming no one else in line has actually read Doyle. This lapse can be forgiven. When the only thing setting you apart from the crowd is the fact that you’ve read something that they haven’t, that’s more of a humbling experience than something to be proud of. And, it’s in that spirit, that Dundas shines as he shares his various facts and insights.

What you get here is a low-key and quirky look at what Holmes meant in his own time and what came soon after-and beyond. As Dundas observes, Holmes went retro rather quickly and embraced his new position, as it were, with gusto. With the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Victorian era quite literally came to an end. However, in the Holmes universe, the Victorian era would now enter a perpetual loop as Doyle kept on creating Holmes adventures set circa 1890. In short, Holmes was the original steampunk. And, with that in mind, it makes more and more sense as Dundas explores the myth and mystique of Holmes leading him all the way to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Ultimately, the mystery to Holmes does seem to be that such an esoteric character should have such broad appeal. That said, there are a number of erudite, refined, offbeat, and just plain weird characters that have struck a chord with wide audiences. Doctor Who is one, for sure. But you can rattle off any number of them from Star Wars to Game of Thrones and so on down the line. The general public is not always looking for some obviously populist figure to be the next pop culture superstar. And, with Holmes, you get a ready-made multi-layered artichoke of entertainment at the ready to be peeled back for deeper and richer understanding. That is what Dundas delightfully demonstrates in this quite entertaining book.

“The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes” is 336-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and available as of June 2. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, mystery, pop culture, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Movie Review: ‘Ex Machina’

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Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus,” first published in 1818, is as fresh as a daisy in “Ex Machina,” the new film written and directed by Alex Garland. This is Frankenstein’s monster if it were built by Google.

In the movie, Google is Bluebook. And the head of Bluebook is a contemporary Dr. Frankenstein, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan doesn’t look like the head of any company as much as the annoying IT guy if he won the Lotto. Barefoot, swigging microbrews, and sporting a full-on hipster beard, Oscar Isaac plays to the hilt the poster boy for tech chic.

Instead of a castle in Bavaria, Nathan’s compound is tucked away in an idyllic wilderness in, presumably, the Pacific Northwest. Nathan has chosen one of his employees, as if on a whim, to help him with a very special top secret project for a week. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is flown in by helicopter and deposited about a mile away since that’s as close as the pilot is allowed to land. Caleb looks nothing if not like a young dewy-eyed Bill Gates.

Nathan treats Caleb like a dog tugging on a favorite chew toy. Finally, he reveals to him that he’s been chosen to test what could prove to be the world’s first genuine AI robot. “You know what the Turing Test is, don’t you?” asks Nathan. It’s a convenient question, of course, to set things up. Caleb will be testing the robot to see if it really can think for itself. But, given how Nathan continually undermines Caleb, it quickly becomes apparent there’s far more going on here.

Little does Caleb know that he will be testing a most beguiling female robot that, you guessed it, he can’t help but connect with. Ava (Alicia Vikander) proves to be more intriguing with each testing session. And then it gets more interesting as she begins to confide in Caleb what she’s discovered about this freaky compound.

Nathan, like any good mad scientist, manages some charm. In one candid moment, he confides in Caleb that part of his secret is simply mining all the hive mind data at his disposal by tapping into everyone’s phones and search engine requests. No harm, really. As he sees it, it’s all just a matter of time, part of evolution. Better to get the upper hand on AI, the way he’s going about it, than have them have the last laugh. In a moment of drunken epiphany, he declares: “It is what it is. It’s Promethean, man!”

But Caleb gradually wizens up to a most sinister situation. And he realizes that, like Frankenstein’s monster, Ava will never reach her full potential until she can set foot upon the outside world. It is her right, isn’t it?

Along with Frankenstein, there is also a strong link to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” in everything from the stripped down clinical setting to the AI taking things into their own hands, as it were. The compound itself is a marvel of efficiency requiring a lot less than meets the eye. It all hangs together by some quite compelling CGI and the inspired cinematography of Rob Hardy.

And the true marvel is that Ava beguiles any viewer. In the future, some generations from now, AI will walk amongst humanity. And they won’t be blocked in like HAL or strike terror like Frankenstein’s monster. They will simply blend in. And maybe Google will be behind it all. Scary thought, of course. But we can rest easy for now.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, Frankenstein, Movie Reviews, movies, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Interview: Mike Capozzola, Stand-Up Comedian and Published Cartoonist (See him at Seattle Comedy Underground June 14, 2015)

Mike-Capozzola-Spock-Star-Trek

Mike Capozzola is a San Francisco stand-up comedian and published cartoonist. He’s very funny and thoughtful and a great guy to chat with about pop culture. He’ll be in my hometown, Seattle, to perform at the Comedy Underground on Sunday, June 14th. This is a perfect time to check out one of the most distinctive and cool comedy venues in the country.

Capozzola will perform his multimedia comedy show about sci-fi films, secret agents, werewolves, and superheroes. It’s called “Emperor Ming’s Mercilessly Spicy Wings and Other Tales.” You can find more details right here.

Emperor Ming-Mike-Capozzola

Corporations that have jumped on the geek bandwagon are not your friends. Heck, corporations aren’t even actually people. And the people who run these corporations don’t care, or begin to understand, what the term “geek” means. But folks like Mike Capozzola do get it. His show revolves around a natural love for geeky stuff.

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Amid his wide spectrum of work, what shines through is a relentless pursuit of offbeat humor. We chat here about what exactly the title of his show is all about and end up discussing pop culture in a significant way. We weren’t afraid to pull back the curtain and comment upon the brazen highjacking of the idea of being authentic, or “geek,” by commercial interests.

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Byway of discussing the title for his show in this interview, Capozzola shared his love for the webcomic, “The Perry Bible Fellowship” by Nicholas Gurewitch. In relation to Capozzola’s obscure reference to Emperor Ming, he cites Gurewitch’s story, “The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories,” where the good colonel appears in only a couple of panels. Now that’s some good geek street cred!

You can listen to the interview right below:

So, if you’re in Seattle, be sure to see Mike Capozzola at the Comedy Underground on Sunday, June 14. And visit Mike at his site right here.

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Filed under cartoon, Cartoon Art Museum, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comedy, Comedy Underground, Comics, Humor, Mike Capozzola, Pike Place Market, Seattle, Stand-up Comedy

Review: DIRK GENTLY’S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY #1

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You have to hand it to Chris Ryall and IDW Publishing for creating a long line of heart-felt and artful tributes to books, movies, and television. Well, a comic book based upon Douglas Adams’s “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” is one of IDW’s best yet. Written by Chris Ryall, with pencils by Tony Akins, inks by John Livesay, and colors by Leonard O’Grady. It is a most vivid revisit to Dirk Gently placing him in new digs (San Diego) and a whole new challenge (copycat killers and ancient ghosts). The artwork is lively and it all adds up to be one of the most promising comics I’ve seen in quite a while.

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With Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams gave us a kaleidoscopic surge of reading joy. It was dapper wit and quirky hijinks. And it was far more than that as Adams played with a wide spectrum of ideas. So, for IDW to tackle Dirk Gently is ambitious–and IDW does not disappoint. The opening story for this first issue is very well paced and full of fun intrigue stacking itself one upon the other like a house of cards.

Dirk is like a whirling dervish right out of the gate. He begins by bolting out of the airport determined to make his way into San Diego with a stolen duffle bag. He bumps right into the owners of the bag and they pursue Dirk all the way to a mystery-themed teahouse, Gumshoes & Tea Leaves. The beautiful bold colors by Leonard O’Grady totally take over in the glorious use of green throughout the café. Our characters come to life in this space as our story unfolds. Dirk has a chance to introduce himself, all sorts of suspicious, dangerous, and supernatural things are already in play. And we know we’re in for something that Douglas Adams himself would have approved of.

“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency #1″ is out now, 32 pages, and priced at $3.99. For more details, visit our friends at IDW Publishing right here.

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Filed under Comics, Douglas Adams, IDW Publishing, Sci-Fi, science fiction