Review: TALES OF LYLA #1 & #2, published by 10 Forward Productions

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Van is just a journeyman wizard. And Pendle is a sorceress. The two of them have paired up and their prospects seem favorable, once they solve a most disturbing case of missing animals. It’s easy to get immersed into the world of fantasy conjured up by Amit Tishler, the creator of “Tales of Lyla.” With co-writer S. Frivolus, he has brought to life a mashup of Adventure Time, Dungeons and Dragons, and the Brothers Grimm. The artwork by Luke Ellison, with colors by Kristen Roberston, is lively and whimsical. It’s a winning combination of fanciful and grotesque.

What about those missing animals? To best understand this curious crisis, our story splits its time between the present and the events of one year prior. By going back one year, we get answers to some questions. And we also get questions that may have answers back in the present. Through this back and forth, we get a richer story with plenty of intrigue. We learn that Pendle is not so innocent as she is in too deep regarding the cause to all the animal disturbance. And we learn that Van is not quite as wimpy as he might seem.

With two issues in, Tales of Lyla shows itself to be a fun read with a keen sense of humor. This kind of work, with characters exchanging pithy remarks and various wondrous elements at play, is very appealing. It’s the bedrock of good comics. I love the quirky opening scenes with Van and Pendle stumbling into a village inn with only plans of falling asleep after a long day’s journey. That’s when they get their first bits of information about the animal caper.

Turns out somebody has been making off with sheep and geese at the inn. Right before Van and Pendle’s eyes, the innkeeper becomes aware that his own tenants are the one’s missing animals. Well, who ever said his tenants could keep animals in their rooms?! So, feathers fly, if there were any to fly. For the moment, Van and Pendle only care about sleep. With a room suddenly made vacant, they can do that, but not for long. Missing animals are not exactly new to them. This goes back a year when animals did not just disappear. They came back reassembled in a hodge-podge of their former selves!

Tales of Lyla comes to you from the animation studio 10 Forward Productions. You can purchase digital issues of Tales of Lyla through Amazon right here.

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Filed under 10 Forward Productions, Adventure Time, animation, Comics, Comics Reviews

Review: ‘Lucifer’s Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club’

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Anything has the potential for being turned into compelling comics. Here’s another example: “Lucifer’s Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club,” published by Motor Books. This graphic novel is a fictionalized account of the sort of action that Phil Cross has witnessed as a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club since 1969. I love the gritty straight-forward approach to this book. You’re placed right into the action. The new guy is either going to sink or swim. It’s a tough club to join but the members are sort of rooting for him. They’re not so bad after all. It’s what can happen when you’re in the club that can get messy.

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Written by Phil Cross, with Darwin Holmstrom, and illustrated by Ronn Sutton, this is some good honest storytelling. Frenchy is a young man set for adventure. He loves motorcycles. He has some problems with authority. And he needs some direction. He stumbles upon a pool game with members of Lucifer’s Sword Motorcycle Club. After a brief misunderstanding, they vote on it and decide to make Frenchy a prospect, complete with his own jacket labeled, “Prospect,” just as a reminder. Little does he realize right then that he’s starting at the bottom rung as the club’s janitor. And that’s the least of his worries as he quickly must prove himself against a rival club and much more.

You are invited to join a motorcycle club, byway of this book, and you can see for yourself. The story moves fast but it’s also careful to bring you in with various details. You get a sense of how this social group behaves. Left to themselves, they’re just fine. But, push comes to shove, they’re ready to defend themselves. Frenchy learns that the hard way but he’s a quick learner.

“Lucifer’s Sword MC: Life and Death in an Outlaw Motorcycle Club” is published by Motor Books and you can find them right here. And you can also find the book at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Phil Cross

Review: THIS IS GAUGUIN, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Paul-Gauguin

We think of Paul Gauguin when we think of the stereotype of an artist running away from it all to an island paradise and going native. Well, at least that used to be the dream. Paul Gauguin certainly lived it. He remains the most celebrated example even if the details cast a shadow on his work. His was a most eccentric artistic and personal journey. Written by George Roddam and illustrated by Sława Harasymowicz, this is a complex story told in a clear and concise manner.

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Born in Paris in 1848, Paul Gauguin came into the world during an uprising that would have made the Occupy movement blush. It led the family to flee to another familial branch in Peru, but not before Gauguin’s father died of a heart attack. In 1855, the family returned to Paris but Gauguin’s love for the tropics ran deep. Fast forward a few more years, Gauguin’s life reached critical mass. He had allowed himself to enter into a career as a stock broker and had married Mette, a young Danish woman from a respectable family. They had children, five in all. However, he was developing into a very capable artist. In time, he would establish himself among the great Impressionists of the day. And an inevitable conflict would arise.

Teha'amana, Paul Gauguin's 13-year-old lover

Teha’amana, Paul Gauguin’s 13-year-old lover

We look at Gauguin’s work and it feels all part of a whole. The depiction of young women from Brittany eventually makes way for the depiction of young women in Tahiti. Gauguin follows his idealistic and romantic notions. In the same way that he mistakens the traditional head-dresses of the Breton women as significant, so he goes on to project wisdom and nobility upon the Tahitian girls he meets. There is one girl in particular, Teha’amana, only 13 years old, who he takes as a lover. She proves to be very silent. Gauguin sees that as a sign of great wisdom. More likely, it was a child’s reaction to becoming sexually involved with a grown man. Gauguin explained the relationship as part of the local custom.

What we remember most of the work of Gauguin is an unapologetic embrace of primitive culture. His work is a unique offshoot of the Impressionists’ aim to depict daily life. This book does a capable job of providing context to the most celebrated case of an artist going native.

Learn more about this new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Impressionism, Laurence King Publishing, Paul Gauguin

Review: THIS IS Dalí, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Salvador-Dali

Salvador Dalí is another artist that we feel we know. We can think of one of his paintings of melting time pieces in the desert and instantly identify with Surrealism. Dalí is a prime example of an artist superstar. Much in the same vein as Warhol, his persona was a formidable brand. Unlike Warhol, the antics of Dalí could often cloud the actual work. If you pore over a number of Dalí paintings, then you see something deservedly ranked at the top. Without a doubt, there was both Dalí, the eccentric, and Dalí, the master artist.

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In “This is Dalí,” we get another wonderful pairing of scholarly and lively writing by Catherine Ingram and compelling illustrations by Andrew Rae.

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Laurence King Publishing, Salvador Dalí, Surrealism

Movie Short Review: C.T.R.L

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and

Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) and Philip (played by Mathew Blancher)

Here’s the synopsis: “A young man’s attempt at a first contact with a love interest is hijacked in a most entertaining way.” Hmm, so what happens? Well, things look promising at first. Sophie (played by Helena Dowling) is about to walk past Philip (played by Mathew Blancher) but not before something big happens. And that something big is likely to add up to this film short going viral.

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What’s it take for a video to go viral? “C.T.R.L” is brimming with charm. It’s an unexpected treat: a mashup of street performance, music videos, and silent movies.

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi)

So, we’ve got a potential case of star-crossed lovers. But, lo and behold, in the background lurks trouble. Seated nearby in a cafe, Tom (played by Jack Everson) and PJ (played by Moe Bargahi) control the destiny of the young man and woman byway of some wicked app that can manipulate their every move. Dance mayhem ensues.

Director Mariana Conde

Director Mariana Conde

This is a triumph for new director Mariana Conde, creative/executive producer Stu Grant, and choreographer Damien Anyasi. Here’s what Mariana Conde has to say about her short film: “I believed in C.T.R.L from day one. It was a risky idea but that made it even more appealing. I could grasp the potential and the bigger the risk, the bigger the achievement. It’s a visionary short that will add another spark to the discussion of how far we are willing to take technology. From young professionals looking for a quick shot of entertainment, to dance enthusiasts, gamers, kids and a more mature audience in search of something different, C.T.R.L will appeal to a vast and varied audience.”

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

Storyboard Art by Vitor Hugo

The performances are exquisite. You’ll root for Sophie and Philip as they follow their fate. And you’ll hiss at Tom and PJ, the fiendish villains. This short work is truly worthy of mention. It provides a nice uplifting vibe with an urban attitude, a decidedly English style.

Where can you find out more about this film short? Go here. And, of course, be on the look out. You’ll be seeing more of C.T.R.L.

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Filed under Dance, film, Filmmaking, Music, Short Film, Video, Viral Video

Review: THIS IS BACON, published by Laurence King Publishing

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Francis Bacon is a little bit less well known to the general public than Warhol and Pollock but every bit as powerful. Bacon was the product of the vibrant and gritty London Soho scene of the ’50s and ’60s. It was a world of rough trade and intellectuals. It was a bubbling cauldron of sexual liberation and creative abandon. Bacon quite naturally exemplified the zeitgeist. Having been caught by his father as he was reveling in wearing his mother’s underwear, he was summarily kicked out of the home at age 16, left to fend for himself. He wasn’t involved with art at the time, never had formal training, but art became his outlet, and he mastered it.

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The British contemporary art scene was more introverted than the American. It really wasn’t pop as much as personal. Its answer to Abstract Expressionism was a return to the figure and to the self. Along with various other artists exploring the inner life, like David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj, it was Bacon who took this soulful approach to some of its greatest heights.

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Funny how some people mistake Francis Bacon with the great philosopher. And how ironic that this artist, by the name of Bacon, would come to paint on, in part, the theme of meat.

Part of Laurence King Publishing’s This is Art series, this little book packs a lot of valuable information. It is quite a compelling narrative, written by Kitty Hauser with illustrations by Christina Christoforou. It will prove inspiring to any artist working today. Here’s a little taste of the text:

Bacon’s training took place not at art school but through the voraciousness of his eye, and the extremity of his experiences. He liked to observe human behaviour, especially when it was governed by instinct rather than convention. His relative lack of a formal education meant he did not make the usual kinds of distinctions between life and art, or between high culture and low. His mind and his studio were well stocked with images from a multitude of sources – cinema, medical literature, art galleries, everyday life – and some of these images inevitably found their way, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, into his paintings. ‘Don’t forget that I look at everything’, he said. ‘And everything I see gets ground up very fine. In the end one never knows, certainly I myself never know, what the images in my paintings are made up of.’

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Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Francis Bacon, Laurence King Publishing

Review: THIS IS POLLOCK, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Jackson-Pollock

Jackson Pollock can still be a slap in the face for some art elitists, and that’s just as it should be. In a lively new art series by Laurence King Publishing, we get a clear picture on one of most significant artists among the Abstract Expressionism movement.

I was at a party, only a few years ago, when a discussion on art began to take shape. Our host, I recall, had a problem with any art outside his traditional taste and this guy, although young, was already quite a conservative old fogey. He lambasted Pollock. I, in turn, explained to him that Pollock’s drip paintings were, in part, a complex dance with paint. Many have attempted to emulate a Pollock drip painting and have failed. The best I could get out of my friend was a nod and wink and his suggestion that I had a perfect conversation chestnut to use at parties. Of course, he was dead wrong. Pollock is no party favor.

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I wish I had this book to hand out to everyone at that party. Maybe it would have changed minds. Maybe it would have provided information that was new and compelling. As in her book on Warhol for this series, Catherine Ingram tells it like it is. She gives us an intimate picture of Pollock growing up, albeit a rather bumpy ride. And she fills in the gaps on how Pollock grew as an artist and how he came to lead the charge in contemporary painting. His drip paintings would prove to not only take the art world by storm but the general public as well. Peter Arkle provides poignant as well as whimsical depictions of Pollock’s life in the graphic novel-style presentation.

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For an artist with a reputation for being a “bad boy,” Pollock actually desired solitude. He found that in the woods of Long Island, along with his wife, the artist Lee Krasner.

Pollock remains a powerful force even today. All it takes is the latest “rediscovery” of his paintings. You can read about one of Pollock’s earliest drip paintings returning to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice right here.

Learn more about this fun and informative new artist series by visiting our friends at Laurence King Publishing right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Book Reviews, Books, Jackson Pollock, Laurence King Publishing

Interview: Jason V Brock and the World of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Jason V. Brock

Jason V Brock

Jason V Brock is an author, artist, and filmmaker who finds himself in a very interesting place in pop culture. For starters, he has created two well-regarded documentaries that focus on two very different men, both great contributors to science fiction, horror, movies, television, and the arts in general. One is Charles Beaumont. The other is Forrest J Ackerman. We chat about them and the creative process. How do you create art? One rule of thumb: Do it yourself! We begin with a look back at Brock’s childhood and how he, a child of the ’80s, grew up with the DIY ethos. In Charlotte, North Carolina. That’s where Brock cut his teeth on comics, retro cinema, vintage LPs, pulp fiction, and Playboy. Brock began working at his local comic book shop at the age of 13. His dad was a writer and graphic designer. It sounds like an idyllic way to grow up, right out of a Ray Bradbury story.

Charles Beaumont and Robin Hughes on the set of “The Howling Man”

Charles Beaumont and Robin Hughes on the set of “The Howling Man”

Speaking of stories,there are so many stories to cover just in Brock’s documentary on Beaumont. Take the case of the short story, “The Crooked Man,” by Charles Beaumont. It is a classic today that was highly controversial for the time, circa 1955. It imagined a society where homosexuality was predominant while hetrosexuality was outlawed. The story was bought by Esquire but subsequently was not published. It turned out to also be too hot for the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. But when Playboy published it in 1955, then that same story became okay, more than okay. Charles Beaumont sold his first science fiction story, “The Devil You Say,” to Amazing Stories in 1950. By 1954, he had written the first work of fiction, the landmark work, “Dark Country,” to appear in Playboy in 1954. This kicked off over a decade of Beaumont stories in Playboy. Writing for movies and televison soon followed including some of the best episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” All this, and so much more, before his life was cut short at 38 by a mysterious illness.

And, that gives you some sense of what to expect in Brock’s “Charles Beaumont: Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man.” You can find that documentary as well as Brock’s documentary on Famous Monsters of Filmland’s former editor, Forrest J Ackerman (Uncle Forry), “The AckerMonster Chronicles!” right here.

We also chat about Brock’s work in editing and writing his own stories. This led us to discussing a unique pairing of talents. In the course of working on the Beaumont documentary, Brock got to know one of the members of the Southern California Writer’s Group, William F. Nolan. They struck up a solid friendship. When Nolan was at a turning point on where he wanted to live next, it was a reasonable choice for him to move a bit further north from Bend, Oregon to Brock’s neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington. It turned out to be a natural fit and Brock and his wife, Sunni, could not be happier to share meals but not only that. Bill Nolan became family and you look out for family.

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Among Brock’s impressive editorial work, there’s the recent anthology, from 2014, “A Darke Phantastique.” This is a 730-page lushly illustrated collection of some of the best dark horror fiction around with more than fifty stories, poems, and one teleplay. This includes Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Case of the Four-Acre Haunt”; Paul Kane’s “Michael the Monster”; William F. Nolan’s “The Last Witch”; Nathaniel Lee’s “The Wisest Stone and the Zoo”; Derek Künsken’s “The Buddha Circus”; E.E. King’s “Three Fables”; Jason Maurer’s “In Your Dark: Differing Strategies in Subhuman Integration Through Monster Academies” and S.T. Joshi’s “You’ll Reach There in Time.” “A Darke Phantastique” is published by Cicatrix Press and you can find it here.

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And another recent anthology, out this year, is “Disorders of Magnitude.” This is a 336-page overview of the genres of horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. It will prove useful to anyone who wants a better understanding of the roots of one of today’s dominant forms of entertainment and art. Included in this collection are essays, reviews, and interviews. Brock studies such dynamic figures as H. P. Lovecraft, Forrest J Ackerman, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Rod Serling, and William F. Nolan. This collection also includes filmmakers Roger Corman, George Romero, and Dan O’Bannon, and such fantasy artists as H. R. Giger. “Disorders of Magnitude” is published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. You can find it as Amazon right here.

You can listen to our conversation by clicking the link below. For anyone interested in writing, filmmaking, and creativity in general, there’s something here for you. Enjoy.

And be sure to visit Jason and Sunni Brock at JaSunni Productions to find out more about their products and services right here.

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Filed under Charles Beaumont, Documentaries, Forrest J Ackerman, George Clayton Johnson, Interviews, Jason V. Brock, Rod Serling, Sci-Fi, science fiction, The Twilight Zone, William F. Nolan

Review: THIS IS WARHOL, published by Laurence King Publishing

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This week we will consider Laurence King Publishing’s exciting new artist series in a graphic novel format. We begin with “This is Warhol.” We will continue with Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, and end the week with Paul Gauguin. How often have you started the week with Andy Warhol and ended the week with Paul Gauguin? Well, you lucky duck, this is your week. These are all iconoclasts and each of their work continues to reverberate. Among this group, we feel closest to Warhol, despite the fact he was personally quite distant. We think we know him. But, as this book clearly demonstrates, there is much more than meets the casual observer.

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Catherine Ingram writes with great enthusiasm and confidence in her subject. She weaves a compelling narrative in such a concise manner, never wasting a word. As she’s describing Warhol’s childhood, she is deftly planting seeds that link us to the vision of the leading figure of Pop Art. Andy, the child, is gazing upon his neighborhood church’s icons. As a Catholic, the icons are powerful figures for Warhol. As an adult, he will take that same level of emotional attachment to his depictions of Campbell’s soup cans and Hollywood stars. But weren’t these repeated images from pop culture simply statements about an empty and shallow society? No, Ingram makes a case for much more being said.

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Filed under Andy Warhol, Art, Art books, Laurence King Publishing, Pop Art, pop culture

Review: EI8HT #1

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Oh sure, anybody can travel back in time but Joshua is also equipped with a device that enables him to communicate back to the future. Pretty cool, except he can’t remember anything when his ship crash lands. It’s a spooky desert terrain that’s not ringing any bells for our hero.

And, truth be told, Joshua isn’t much of a hero. So begins an intriguing new comic. “EI8HT,” story by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson, is one of those quirky lean and mean adventures that’s a lot of fun to sit back and take in.

Artist Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire) has that slicin’ and dicin’ style of his. His faces are like masterful pumpkin creations with a strategic slit here for a mouth and two sharp marks there for eyes. The same with backgrounds and assorted backdrop, all direct and razor-sharp. I like the way he draws dinosaurs too.

There are definitely plenty of dinosaurs where Joshua has crash landed. Writer Mike Johnson (Supergirl) gives us a tight script with a neatly stretched out premise: This is what happens when a sadsack is enlisted into a clandestine time travel experiment and is lost in some other dimension not too far from The Twilight Zone. In this case, this no man’s land is known as The Meld and it’s supposed to be a place where past, present, and future converge.

Do you want to know why this comic is entitled, “EI8HT”? Well, you can read the preview pages at Dark Horse Comics. I’m guessing there’s more meaning behind that. It does make for an awesome looking logo. I’m guessing we’ll deal with infinity later on. For now, it has to do with memory and it looks like this story is going to have a lot of fun with that theme.

Like the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, a lot of the enjoyment comes from just taking in the scene. I think that’s exactly what we’ve got here and we’re in good hands.

EI8HT #1 is available as of February 11, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics