Yoshihiro Tatsumi, RIP

Yoshihiro-Tatsumi

“Sensei is dead.” When he clicked on the email, that is all that the esteemed comics authority Paul Gravett had to read to know what had happened. Some will say that the work of the master cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi (1935-2015) has brought them to tears. That’s quite a tall order. But it is certainly plausible. The world of comics, as you may know, is more than one thing. One aspect of it can be so rarified to make the most glamorous and refined creatures on this planet pale in comparison. That’s what you get when certain people communicate with, “Sensei is dead.”

Just imagine getting a text with, “The king has died.” It’s a bit surreal. And, I’m sure, not what Tatsumi would have wanted. Yes, for authorities on comics, and regular everyday fans, Tatsumi knew his manga. He was a master of the more introspective gekiga. He was no king and yet he was a king. Take away the veneer of reserve from the most venerated authority on comics and you’ll find a child looking up in wonder. At least, I hope so. That would have come easy for Tatsumi. His comics are down to earth and irreverent. But, then again, he would likely have respected any goodwill gesture. “Sensei is dead.”

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“A Drifting Life” is the epic autobiography of the manga master. Arguably, it is Tatsumi’s work that has inspired graphic novels as we know them today. With “A Drifting Life,” you follow Tatsumi on his journey of self-discovery spanning 1945 to 1960 as he strives to attain the skills of his own manga idol, Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Apollo’s Song, Ode to Kirihito, Buddha). The book is designed by one of today’s leading cartoonists, Adrian Tomine. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Gekiga, Japan, Manga, Paul Gravett, Yoshihiro Tatsumi

DVD Review: THE ACKERMONSTER CHRONICLES!

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There’s an early moment in Jason V Brock’s documentary about Forrest J Ackerman (1916-2008) that sums it up well for science fiction’s journey to legitimacy. Dan O’Bannon, the writer/director for “Alien” and “Return of the Living Dead,” recounts an episode in his childhood. He is running off to school when his mother admonishes him to be sure he’s not carrying any science fiction with him! Oh boy, what a memory. It goes to show how people looked upon science fiction as something subversive. And they’re right. There is that quality and, of course, that’s something to embrace and celebrate. Back in the early days, as science fiction was coming into its own in pulp fiction and beyond, there came along an individual who would prove to be a perfect spokesperson for the genre, Forrest J Ackerman. “The Ackermonster Chronicles!” faithfully presents to you a vivid picture of a world, a people, an art form, and a person who led the way.

Nothing gets lost in shuffle here. One seemingly disjointed thing connects with another. The elegant and the unsavory lay down together. Science fiction had, some say still has, a bad rap for having too close an association with pop culture and hanging out with other genres like, God forbid, horror. But we’ve come such a long way. In fact, today, we really have a much better perspective. We, at least the more enlightened amongst us, can see so-called literary fiction as a genre, like any other, and not something so up on high. Yes, we value excellence. The problem used to be that any other genre was spat upon and kicked to the curb by the elite literary chieftains. Not so much today as we find countless combinations and recombinations among all genres. And, anyway, great work will ultimately transcend any label you attach to it. The thing is, you need to be open to anything and the work of people like Forrest J Ackerman have helped make that possible.

So, who was Forrest J Ackerman and what did he accomplish? Ackerman provided a way for the general public, especially a younger generation, to tap into a vital art form that had been getting short shrift elsewhere. We’re talking about a huge world, a whole universe, of creativity. Ackerman did the heavy lifting to create a more level playing field. He collected, he documented, he distributed, he promoted, he displayed, he shared. As the founder of the magazine, “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” he opened the flood gates to all manner of fandom and scholarship devoted to a huge facet of culture. This involved monsters, aliens from space, bloody horror, and science fiction. It was a determinedly do-it-yourself gung-ho approach as well as a tempered and highly sophisticated endeavor. He was the literary agent for numerous big name talents including Ray Bradbury, A. E. van Vogt, and Charles Beaumont. The Ackerman archives compromise 200 complete collections of magazines, 50,000 books, and countless one-of-a-kind items. For over 30 years, his home served as a museum open to the public for free. He coined the term, “sci-fi.” He co-created, with Trina Robbins, the legendary character, Vampirella. To sum it up, he was a one-man gateway.

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What Jason V Brock does with this documentary is let all the significant players on the scene simply talk and let you in. This is essential viewing for students of pop culture, science fiction, and art-making in general. This film will prove most useful to any aspiring writer, especially those down a primrose path to a university Creative Writing program. Wipe away any elitist inclinations you may have. Things are not as they might seem. Those things that go bump in the night may prove to save your life.

You can get your copy of “The Ackermonster Chronicles” by visiting our friends at JaSunni Productions right here. And, as of this writing, I have more to share with you about the multi-talented Jason V Brock. We’ll get to that in the weeks ahead. For now, if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area this particular weekend (Sunday, March 22), then go check out the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show. You’ll find Jason V Brock there along with a number of other highly talented individuals. Visit the show’s website right here.

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Filed under Documentaries, Famous Monsters, Forrest J Ackerman, Horror, Jason V. Brock, JaSunni Productions, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Review: WE CAN NEVER GO HOME #1

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There’s the often quoted title to the Thomas Wolfe novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Without ever reading any further, you can come up with your own ideas on not being able to go home again. For Wolfe, that meant that home would never be the same. In the new comic, “We Can Never Go Home,” published by Black Mask Studios, there’s that extra tinge in the title that elicits images of bridges that have been burned to a crisp. Well, thank God for evocative titles. And this comic lives up to it. With plenty of blood and fireworks, we follow Madison and Duncan on the first leg of their road to self-discovery in this first issue.

The toughest nut to crack with an unknown comics title is, well, the fact it is an unknown. That brings to mind Donald Rumsfeld. He said something about there being known unknowns and unknown knowns. If the man read comics, instead of waging war, just imagine what a better place this would be. Anyway, my point is that a totally unknown comics title is the last one asked to the prom. It’s tough. You don’t want to hype the hell out of it either as that can backfire. Nothing can be left to chance. So, that title alone, “We Can Never Go Home,” steps up to the plate.

Why is going home not an option? What could have happened that’s so terrible that going home would be the last thing you’d do?

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These two teens have a whole lot of trouble to deal with. You can tell, right away, in their sad and confused eyes. It would have been a struggle but Madison might have managed to get by. But not Duncan. Both have what you’d call super abilities (think X-Men) that they have yet to master. And both were never meant to socialize with each other except for a chain of events that locked their destiny. Duncan, a so-called nerd, happened to spy on Madison and her brute of a boyfriend, Ben. Since that frantic meeting between the three of them, Madison split up with Ben. And Ben split Duncan’s nose. Ah, teen romance.

Writers Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon provide a credible mashup of teenage romance and superhero adventure plus a good mix of crime fiction. The artwork by Josh Hood provides a nice clean and precise line. He does a great job playing off static poses evoking teen angst and cool.

Both Madison and Duncan are deeply hurt and so wrong for each other. But fate keeps pushing them closer together. Madison can call Duncan an idiot all she wants but, when it comes down to it, she needs him. Duncan is such a mess that he seems beyond redemption and yet he keeps fighting. You’ve got a whole new Bonnie and Clyde thing going on here and it’s got my attention. Not bad for such an unknown title.

But, really, this is not an altogether unknown unknowable unknown. Go visit Trip City and you’ll find Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon’s webcomic, MENU, the story of a boy and a dog wandering the wastelands of a future America as they try to keep each other alive in a world running out of food. And check out Josh Hood and his artwork including JLA: Scary Monsters and Venom.

YOU CAN’T GO HOME #1 is published by Black Mask and available as of March 25. For more details, visit our friends at Black Mask Studios right here.

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Filed under Black Mask Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews

Webcomic Review: DAWN OF THE UNREAD

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DAWN OF THE UNREAD is a graphic novel webcomic exploring Nottingham’s literary history created by James Walker. Now, this is quite an impressive project in its specificity and its execution. The underlying mission here is to spark the imagination of new readers and have them rediscover the world of fiction and, most importantly, their local library! To that end, this webcomic is interactive and contains very compelling content. A new installment is published on the 8th of each month. Let’s take a closer look at some of the previous chapters.

Above: Artist Francis Lowe discusses his collaboration with Adrian Reynolds for their “Little Boxes” chapter, published on 8 June 2014.

In “Little Boxes,” you are treated to a variety of interesting facts about Batman lore with a Nottingham connection. Did you know, for instance, that Wollaton Hall was Wayne Manor in one of the Batman films? Well, the focus here is the nearby village of Gotham. And, yes, total Batman connection beginning with Washington Irving bestowing that nickname on Manhattan. We end up making a detour to H.P. Lovecraft. This is a very cleanly drawn comic with just the right touch of whimsy.

"Little Boxes,"  by Adrian Reynolds and Francis Lowe

“Little Boxes” by Adrian Reynolds and Francis Lowe

Read it here.

Above: Cartoonist Steve Larder, with Alan Gibbons, discusses bringing Geoffrey Trease back to life in “Books and Bowstrings,” published on 8 January 2015.

With “Books and Bowstrings,” you get it all. Steve Larder, author of “Rum Lad,” provides a punk aesthetic with his quirky artwork. With the help of some literary ghosts, byway of Sherwood Forest, the local libraries are on their way to regaining the old spirit.

"Books and Bowstrings" by Alan Gibbons and Steve Larder

“Books and Bowstrings” by Alan Gibbons and Steve Larder

Read it here.

Above: Illustrator Amanda Elanor Tribble discusses her collaboration with Aly Stoneman for their chapter, “Ms. Hood,” published on 8 December 2014.

“Ms. Hood,” takes up a contemporary Robin Hood theme to great effect. The artwork is bold and engaging. The story manages to fit in a lot of food for thought.

"Ms. Hood" by Aly Stoneman and Amanda Elanor Tribble

“Ms. Hood” by Aly Stoneman and Amanda Elanor Tribble

Read it here.

“Dawn of the Unread” is an interactive graphic novel for PC, Mac, iPad, tablet and mobile. Be sure to visit right here.

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Filed under Books, Comics, Education, Libraries, Literacy, Webcomics

Review: INVISIBLE REPUBLIC #1

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It is 2843, in Avalon in the Gliese System. The Malory regime has come to an end and nobody cares to celebrate. There are always journalists who wish to report on the scene and they’re not welcome here. So begins an intriguing new comic, “Invisible Republic,” published by Image Comics.

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Like the fall of Saigon, it’s a mad scramble for those who want to, and can, get off the remote moon of Avalon. For those less unfortunate, a life full of more struggle prevails. Enter Croger Babb, a literary journalist among the press. He’s the novelist that the other newsies look up to. They’ve given up on pursuing this story while Croger is only getting started. He just picked up an abandoned manuscript off the street by one Maia Reveron that is a gold mine for the right reader.

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The story and art to this comic is something to behold. Great creative team: written by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko; art by Hardman; colors by Jordan Boyd; design by Dylan Todd. If you’re seeking out something refreshingly quirky, this is it. A world comes together quite efficiently here. In the span of just a few panels, you’re off and running.

And it’s when Croger finally gets to sit down with his new tome that the story really takes off as we follow Maia, and her cousin, Arthur, on their journey on Avalon some forty years prior. It’s a remarkably well-paced story and lets you take in details as it builds up to crackling action. The artwork certainly drives the narrative as much as the text with vigor. It feels like each facial expression and each backdrop pulls you in. And then our story takes another turn as the character of Arthur comes into sharp focus.

The creative team of Bechko and Hardman have also created “Heathentown,” a horror story set in the Florida Everglades. And you’ll want to look up Gabriel Hardman’s “Kinksi,” a wild romp of a dognapping tale.

“Invisible Republic #1″ is available as of March 18. For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

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Review: IVAR, TIMEWALKER #3

Variant cover art by Brian Level

Variant cover art by Brian Level

Fred Van Lente (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four) knows how to spin a yarn. In “Ivar, Timewalker,” he takes us on a time-traveling adventure full of heart. With one of these stories, you’ve got to have a device or portal or some kind of method. Here, we’ve got the Tachyon Compass. And you’d better have compelling characters too and we do with Neela and Ivar. You see, Ivar seems to have gone rogue. And, Neela, who has been pursuing him, has also fallen in love with him. Go figure. These things happen. If it’s not attempting to kill Hitler, then love is in the air.

Back with his partner, artist Clayton Henry (Archer & Armstrong), Van Lente rolls out a daringly gritty and funny tale. It’s a balancing act, for sure. Neela is quite the spitfire and takes her fire spitting seriously. And you need a sense of humor when you delve into some Nazi torture. It gets a bit bloody but it’s all one of a piece and makes sense within context.

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So, while in hot pursuit of Ivar, Neela loses him and gains a stalker, The Lurker. With Issue 3, we find Neela desperately trying to get back on track. She stumbles upon Gilad, Ivar’s brother from another life, and nearly sideswipes Hitler! And then there are these creatures from the fourth dimension who would like to have a word with Neela if only she’d hold still long enough. Pretty good stuff.

IVAR, TIMEWALKER #3 is available as of March 18. For more details, visit our friends at Valiant Entertainment right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Fred Van Lente, Time Travel, Valiant Entertainment

Review: ‘Moomins on the Riviera’

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So, what is a Moomin, exactly? Well, they’re hippos. And their large faces act like masks that hide facial expression. They’re terribly enigmatic when you think about it. They’re also very isolated as they don’t normally wander far from Moominvalley. But they’re not meant to be spooky although they do have their weird habits. For instance, they save all their dirty dishes under the sofa until there’s a good rain to wash them clean.

Moomin is an odd and wonderful world of comics. Truly, one of the best. Do kids pick up on the enigmatic quality? Oh, sure. That’s part of the magic and charm. If you are new to the antics of the Moomins, just think of them as some of the most fanciful creatures to grace a comic strip. This animated feature honors the original work by Tove Jansson. With “Moomins on the Riviera,” directors Xavier Picard and Hanna Hemilä bring to life all the magic and charm from the page to the screen.

Most of the major Moomins, from left to right: the Snork maiden, Moomintroll, Moominpappa (in hammock with top hat), Moominmamma, Little My and Snufkin.

Most of the major Moomins, from left to right: the Snork maiden, Moomintroll, Moominpappa (in hammock with top hat), Moominmamma, Little My and Snufkin.

So, knowing that the Moomins are a strange lot, a change of scenery is not such a bad idea. And they may as well live large and end up on the Riviera. Of course, with Moomins being a bit out of touch, this is strictly a hippo out of water kind of story.

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The Moomins will win you over. This is a fun and whimsical tale of how these hippos stumble into high society. In the end, both hippos and all who meet them are the better for it. If you’re looking for a feature perfect for the whole family, this is it. And its sense of style and odd humor will keep adults entertained right along with the youngest of viewers.

“Moomins on the Riviera” was released in Finland and France in 2014 and makes its North American premiere on March 22, 2015 at the New York International Children’s Festival. For more details, visit the official website for the film right here.

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Filed under animation, Comics, European Comics, Finland, France, Tove Jansson

Review: LISA SIMPSON’S GUIDE TO GEEK CHIC

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Behold, “Lisa Simpson’s Guide to Geek Chic,” a new book by Matt Groening, published by Insight Editions. And, check this out, this book is part of the Vault of Simpsonology. Yes, once you’ve enjoyed this book, you can move on to books focusing on other Simpson characters.

Ah, but first, there’s Lisa Simpson and her particular view of the world. How about a periodic table, according to Lisa Simpson? Or her idea of what should be in everyone’s emergency kit. The Complete Works of Shakespeare, perhaps?

While this will win over any young reader, I have to say that this item transcends any age demographic in a very appealing way. This is, indeed, the perfect gift for anyone.

“Lisa Simpson’s Guide to Geek Chic” is available as of May 5, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Insight Editions right here.

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Filed under animation, Comics, Insight Editions, Matt Groening, The Simpsons

Art: SPRING LIFT

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Here’s a new painting I did entitled, “Spring Lift.” First day of spring is this Friday, March 20! This painting incorporates thoughts of Seattle in the spring and the Macefield Home, a symbol of resistance.

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Filed under Art, Ballard, Edith Macefield, Henry Chamberlain, Illustration, Painting, Seattle

Fire vs TV (Part 1) Gadzooks: By The Straps of My Yoga Toga

Henry Chamberlain:

Words to live by!

Originally posted on Shamagaia:

"Meat Sock Mojo" Copyright L. Neale 2014

Writer’s Note

Dear readers. This is the first in a series dedicated to definitively clearing out my writing vault, so stay tuned for Fire vs TV Part 2 and more coming soon…ish.

Below is one of my all time favourite pieces of mental luggage. I have been dragging it around for years. Occasionally I patch it up, put a slightly new handle on it, and shove it kicking and screaming back up into the overhead compartment to see how it flys. In this most recent incarnation, it’s been de-clawed and house-trained just enough, to give a sense of my growing calm-clarity and bloggish presence as it accords with my current process of inner-alchemy.

Many thanks to you all for your continuing support and inspiration. Much Love and deepest respect!

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yoga toga 30zombie-tv

There’s a quote lifted from ancient Indian Yogic philosophy, that runs a little something like this: “when all is well with…

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