Review: WELCOME BACK #1 (of 4)

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WELCOME BACK, published by Boom! Studios, is a sly philosophical action-packed comic. It is part sci-fi, part horror, and part youth against the world. Mali is an intriguing main character. She’s 26 years-old and doesn’t have her act together yet, although she has plenty of solid reasons for that. Being the step-daughter of an infamous serial killer will do that.

In the course of this first issue, we come to see that, in fact, Mali is right on track to meet her true destiny. Christopher Sebela’s script is a perfect story of a most unlikely heroine. And Jonathan Brandon Sawyer’s artwork is very fluid while also well-balanced. All the figures move about in a well-defined space. We believe in Mali right out of the gate.

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There’s a nice easy-going quality to this story which happens to also be pretty dark. Chalk it up to a hip depiction of the resilience of youth. Mali will need to be ready and able to bounce back from anything once she’s gotten a clue as to what is up ahead for her. As it turns out, she is a warrior who has lived countless other lives. Who knew? Not, Mali, not right away. But all the clues have been adding up. Meanwhile, there’s Mali’s perennial rival, Tess.

What I like most about this comic is that it is fearless. It has quite a lot going on. It’s one of those what I’d call an “umbrella comic,” one that can manage to hold anything under its title. Lookit, Mali and Tess have been battling it out since the dawn of battles. As Mali says herself, “there’s no winning. The victor takes themselves out, following the target into the next life.” Now, that’s a bold and fearless premise. This comic is up to the task.

WELCOME BACK #1 is a four-part series and is available as of August 19. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews

Review: KING #1, published by Amazon Publishing’s Jet City Comics

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It’s all in a day’s work for King as he yet again searches for the “life seed” and avoids being eaten by some mutant. King is the last human survivor of the apocalypse. And that doesn’t mean he can do whatever he wants, not when the entire fate of humanity rests on his shoulders via the bureaucracy that is the Los Angeles Department of Reclamation. Funny stuff thanks to critically acclaimed comic book writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (The Bunker, Echoes, and I, Vampire). And it all jumps out vividly thanks to superstar artists Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Beyond). Where did this crazy good comic come from? It’s from Amazon Publishing’s Jet City Comics!

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KING is truly an exciting comic in all ways possible. It’s a trip into a wild, hilarious, and incredibly awesome world. For seasoned comics readers, and newcomers alike, this one will blow you away with its combination of wit and beauty.

I’m really impressed with the audacious irreverence to Fialkov’s script which often will evoke a spoken word authenticity with its spontaneity. Don’t we all want our hero to succeed and lead everyone to the Garden of Barbara Eden?

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Check out the above panel excerpt. King is describing the perennial quest for the life seed. And here, out of the blue, he says it can sometimes involve a sexy creature but, all too often, is more about a rock with some purple sparkleys. Who thinks like this? Very funny.

King’s journey is nonstop whipsmart action and sharp humor. It’s going to be a sheer pleasure to keep up with this series as this first issue is impeccable.

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KING #1 is a 31-page comic and is available as of August 19, 2015. The KING graphic novel is a Kindle Serial published in five issues for one price of only $5.99. This serial will run for a total of five issues, with each issue delivered monthly at no additional cost until the collected series is complete.

And, of course, you can always get the paperback when it’s available on January 20, 2016 for only $14.95. Check out the details by visiting our friends at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Publishing, Bernard Chang, Comics, Jet City Comics, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Los Angeles

Seattle Hempfest 2015: Community, Activism, Music, and Vaping

If you want an inspiring call to action, then listen to Stephanie Viskovich, a longtime cannabis activist who has formed The Viper’s Club, a political action committee with the goal of entirely decriminalizing cannabis in the United States. The eloquence and passion of Ms. Viskovich was appreciated by her audience at this year’s Hempfest in Seattle made up from all walks of life, young and old. Hempfest took place this year from August 14th through 16th at Myrtle Edwards and Centennial Parks.

Hempfest is a great tradition here in Seattle dating back to 1991. There has been change but there’s still a long road ahead. It is less than three years since the passing of I-502 and the so-called “legalization” of recreational cannabis. But, as Ms. Viskovich points out, you can still be charged if you are found to have more than an ounce in your possession.

"Echo," by Jaume Plensa, the latest addition to the SAM sculpture garden, resides over Hempfest.

“Echo,” by Jaume Plensa, the latest addition to the SAM sculpture garden, resides over Hempfest.

It is still a long road ahead to fully ending the prohibition of cannabis in the United States. Seattle Hempfest provides a vital role of educating the public and spurring them on to action with a peace-loving gathering that is part state fair, a music festival, and an old-fashioned BYOC cannabis garden. There is so much to cover on the subject of cannabis. Where to begin? The profound health benefits of CBD? How about the fact that our military veterans are still having trouble with obtaining medical cannabis? The list grows long very quickly. For this feature, I am doing my best to touch on various aspects of cannabis and highlight some exciting items.

New ways of engaging with cannabis are taking root. For a younger generation, there are more options. Some are happy to keep it old school with dry herbs. For others, it’s oils and waxes, cannabis in a more concentrated form. Walk down among the vendors and you’ll find various rigs for dabbing. There is the intense monster, The MiniNail, from Full Tilt Technologies. Or maybe you prefer something more sleek and high tech like The Prodigy from Spry.

The Atlas vaporizer from Vuber Technologies at Seattle Hempfest 2015

The Atlas vaporizer from Vuber Technologies at Seattle Hempfest 2015

And then there’s the vapes! The popularity of vape pens, portable pen-like vaporizers, is undeniable. The Oxford Dictionary selected “vape” as its Word of the Year in 2014. Among the vape pen vendors at Hempfest this year, one that stands out is local company, Vuber Technologies. I had the opportunity to try out their Atlas vape, for wax and oil concentrates, and it totally works like a dream: very easy to use and it produces quality vape.

The vapors from the Vuber Atlas are light, smooth, and robust. A little goes a long way so all it takes it just a “dab” of wax applied near the coils. The Atlas has a dual-titanium coil heating element wrapped around a ceramic core that provides a flavorful experience. The battery is a sturdy 900 mAh solid-state. The Atlas comes with an additional atomizer, a mount for your pen, a container for wax, and a dabber. For an additional price, you can add a globe atomizer.

Tommy Chong at Seattle Hempfest 2015

Tommy Chong at Seattle Hempfest 2015

Wander around some more and KASHI hemp clothing will catch your eye. Or maybe Gogo Pipes. Or how about meeting legendary comedic talent and activist Tommy Chong. And, once at Hempfest, you’ll also want to join the cannabis community in a significant way by getting the Leafly app. It’s true that one part of Hempfest is a trade show but it’s put together with plenty of authenticity. And it’s easy to take for granted all these various interests gathered together in a safe and supportive environment.

Plenty of music to enjoy at Hempfest, for sure. From the mellow acoustics of Jessica Domingo to the headbanging heavy metal of Jahai, there is a lineup here that holds its own with Bumbershoot. Seriously, Bumbershoot, the granddaddy of music festivals, would not turn its back on any of the performers at Hempfest.

Seattle Hempfest 2015

Seattle Hempfest 2015

I end this feature where I began with thoughts on the road ahead. When Stephanie Viskovich invited her audience to visit the booth of legendary cannabis advocate Ed Rosenthal, I had to go over and pay a visit. I got Ed to autograph a card. And I promised to spread the word about The Viper’s Club. If you would like to help decriminalize cannabis, visit The Viper’s Club website right here. And, if you’re in Seattle, be sure to attend Canna Comedy Night all in support of The Viper’s Club at Laughs Comedy Spot on September 27th. Details are right here.

As Stephanie Viskovich states, the issue of cannabis comes down to a human rights issue. That simple fact is resonating with people all the more in the U.S. and around the world. So, if you’re new to all this, or if you have considered attending, be sure to visit Hempfest next year as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Keep in mind that Hempfest costs over $1 million dollars a year to produce. Be sure to donate at the event and through annual memberships. Visit our friends at Seattle Hempfest right here.

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Filed under Cannabis, Health, Lifestyle, Marijuana, Seattle, Seattle Hempfest, Stephanie Viskovich, Trends, Vape Pens, Vapes, Vuber Technologies

Preview: HENCHGIRL #2

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October sees the return of HENCHGIRL, by Kristen Gudsnuk, published by Scout Comics.

From Diamond Previews:

Check out the comic that io9.com calls “A terribly fun read!” Mary Posa hates her job. She works long hours for little pay, no insurance, and worst of all, no respect. Her co-workers are jerks and her boss doesn’t appreciate her. He’s also a supervillain. Cursed with a conscience, Mary would give anything to be something other than a Henchgirl. Playboy billionaire Greg Gains is holding a masked ball for the elite of Crepe City; Mary and the Butterfly Gang have orchestrated an infallible heist to infiltrate and relieve Gains of his gains. What could go wrong?

HENCHGIRL #2 is listed as Diamond Previews Item Code: AUG151680, will be in your local comics shop on October 28th, and is priced at $3.99. Find it in your current Diamond Previews.

Be sure to visit the Henchgirl site right here.

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Filed under Comics, Diamond Previews, Kristen Gudsnuk, Scout Comics

DVD Review: EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION

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“A compelling, provocative and enlightening glimpse into the complex and sometimes contrary world of cannabis legalization in the United States. All of the controversy, infighting and emotion that is inherent in democracy is included in this fast moving example of what it takes to exact reform under the iron fist of pot prohibition. Any serious reformer, cannabis enthusiast or student of history will want to take the time to view this historic time capsule of a film.” – Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest

Seattle’s annual Hempfest is this weekend, August 14 thru 16. It’s an exciting time for Hempfest as history continues to be made on the road to one day fully bringing to an end the prohibition of cannabis in the United States. With that in mind, there’s a great documentary on the initiative that made recreational marijuana legal in Washington state.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is an essential documentary on the tangled road to legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state. We follow the key players and get an in depth look at the campaign for, and against, Washington Initiative 502 (I-502) “on marijuana reform,” an initiative to the Washington State Legislature, which appeared on the November 2012 general ballot.

Keep in mind that medical marijuana is a different issue. There are 23 states in the U.S. that have legalized it starting with California in 1996. Washington state legalized it in 1998. The distinction is all the more significant given that the push to legalize recreational marijuana would end up threatening the position of medical marijuana. This is where the conflict arises among folks who would seem to be on the same side. A great focus for the opposition to I-502 was its nearly zero tolerance provision regarding driving under the influence of marijuana. This placed medical marijuana users in a no-win situation no matter how well they might argue against it.

This is a lesson in politics as much as marijuana. In order to make this initiative palatable to the average voter, the creators of I-502 believed that sacrifices and compromises had to be offered up. What the documentary makes clear in various segments is that the I-502 machine was geared to be the best possible chance to pass reform. This means victories by increments. And it also means making a case that will appeal to the widest audience.

Now with the stage set, there are three main figures that keep this political drama interestng. On the I-502 side, we have two charismatic leaders: Alison Holcomb who represents the legal work behind crafting the intiative; and Rick Steves who helps the campaign by taking from his capital as a well-known travel expert and allows himself to be the face of I-502. If the opposition had a face, it was definitely that of John McKay, a longtime advocate of medical marijuana.

We find Mckay is a somewhat disagreeable personality but consistent and quite reasonable. What he has is an authentic connection to the subject. Both Holcomb and Steves make no bones about not being cannabis users. Only in a documentary like this do you have the luxury of being able to scrutinize that disconnect. In one segment, we see Steves playing to a conservative crowd in Eastern Washington. He caters to their prejudices by saying in a mocking way, “Hey, if I want to hit my bong and stare at the fireplace for the next three hours, that’s my right.” This gets hearty applause. The damage continues to be done in regards to any real education on marijuana. However, a number of vital votes may have been won that night.

We see Holcomb in another segment in a similar mocking way suggesting she should create a marijuana leaf design on the top of her latte. If she knew anything about marijuana, she would have been able to speak to marijuana’s sativa strain being a great alternative to caffeine. No, instead, the lattes she regularly consumes are quad shots with considerably jittery results as opposed to the clean and non-jittery high of cannabis.

And so it goes, we find that the I-502 supporters are not there to fully embrace weed. But that is, oddly enough, perhaps all for the best to get things done. The motivation for change is simple and compelling: the tragic number of people in jail for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. And these numbers are significantly African-American. I-502 would prove to be a less than perfect solution. But, after it won voter approval, it immediately helped in changing how we make criminals, and ruin the lives, of many people. Prior to the effective date for the new referendum, 220 marijuana cases were dismissed in King and Pierce counties. No one can argue with that kind of progress. However, the imperfections and compromises of I-502 will lead to the end of medical marijuana dispensaries by 2016. Not a small price to pay for the sake of progress.

How do you stand on the issue of marijuana? This documentary will help in getting a better sense of the legal fight still ahead. For now, we can take some solace on progress being made. I will provide you with coverage of this year’s Seattle Hempfest. So, come back for that and a whole lot more. After viewing this documentary, it adds to the enthusiasm to witness and be part of the social change all around us here in Seattle.

EVERGREEN: THE ROAD TO LEGALIZATION is available now on DVD with plenty of bonus material including a resource guide for helping support the fight for marijuana’s legitimacy. Go to the official website right here.

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Filed under Cannabis, Marijuana, politics, pop culture, Seattle, Seattle Hempfest

Review: ‘HILO: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth’ by Judd Winick

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When Daniel Jackson Lim first encounters Hilo, the little outer space alien, he sees a boy his own age flat on his back after falling from the sky and making a cataclysmic impact. He reaches out to him and – Snap! – there’s a mighty electrical charge that compels D.J. to scream, “Aaaah!” The die is cast. This becomes Hilo’s favorite word! Aaaah! Perfect as a greeting, a sign of approval, or just whenever. And so begins Judd Winick’s magical and hilarious all-ages graphic novel. And, yes, this is truly all-ages as adults and kids alike will groove to Winkick’s humor which evokes Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.”

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Here at Comics Grinder, I do my utmost best to bring to you an appealing mix of content geared to adults as well as content geared to children. And, as I’ve often said, it’s really great when you find a shining example of a bona fide all-ages comic. If you’re familiar with Judd Winick, you know that he has a healthy sense of humor as well as a thoughtful and caring side. Check out this interview that Whitney Matheson did with Winick right here. It goes back to Winick’s time on MTV’s “The Real World” in the ’90s. During the show, Winick became close friends with his housemate, Pedro, the first “Real World” housemate living with HIV. Winick would go on to create a graphic novel about Pedro entitled, “Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned.”

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It’s a combination of irreverent and energetic storytelling, bold artwork, and a great heart that makes this boy-out-of-world adventure so worthwhile. Readers will be won over long before Hilo has a clue as to what his destiny is to be.

The next adventure will be entitled, “HILO: Saving the Whole Wide World.” Yes, there will be more after this initial adventure, “HILO: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth.” And it only makes sense. It takes a while for Hilo to figure out what’s going on.

“HILO: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth” is a 208-page full-color hardcover published by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. It is available as of September 1, 2015. For more details, visit Penguin Random House right here. You can also visit Random House Kids right here.

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Filed under Children, Children's Books, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Judd Winick, MTV, Random House

Everyone Can Enjoy Cosplay at PureCostumes.com

Deluxe Darth Vader Adult Costume available at PureCostumes.com

Deluxe Darth Vader Adult Costume available at PureCostumes.com

Cosplay is for everyone at PureCostumes.com. It can be anytime and anywhere. If you feel like dressing up as Darth Vader, just go for it. I know I’d like to. And there’s so much more to find at this unique outlet for all kinds of costumes.

Steampunk Fantasy Adult Costume from California Costumes available at PureCostumes.com

Steampunk Fantasy Adult Costume from California Costumes available at PureCostumes.com

Let’s say you’re into steampunk, PureCostumes.com has got you covered with the steampunk costumes by California Costumes. The key is in all the details and this year will see a bunch of new styles that are sure to please any steampunk enthusiast.

Pinky Pie Adult Costume available at PureCostumes.com

Pinky Pie Adult Costume available at PureCostumes.com

Keep browsing and you are bound to find something that strikes your fancy. Maybe you’re a fan of My Little Pony. Then check out all the options, from the youngest fans to adult fans, at PureCostumes.com.

Spider-Man costume available at PureCostumes.com

Spider-Man costume available at PureCostumes.com

Or maybe you’re looking for something classic, like a Spider-Man costume. You can find it right here.

Minions costumes available at PureCostumes.com

Minions costumes available at PureCostumes.com

With something for the whole family, PureCostumes is definitely your one-stop-shop. So, the next time you’re feeling like cosplay, go visit PureCostumes right here.

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Filed under Comic-Con, Comics, Cosplay, Costumes, Halloween, Holidays, Lifestyle, pop culture, Purecostumes.com

Review: ‘The Sunderland Volume One: Schism’ by Jon Renzella and Eric Weiss

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The Sunderland Volume One: Schism” is the first in an epic trilogy of graphic novels set in a dystopian world. It will be followed by “Solitude” and “Thermidor.” This is quite an ambitious work and I salute, artist Jon Renzella and writer Eric Weiss, the talent behind this 450-page book of black and white woodcuts and text.

From the introduction:

Society is fractured. Life for most is a desperate struggle. Natural Resources are scarce and the discovery of a miracle source of new, clean energy only serves to deepen the cracks. As the planet reaches breaking point, the sudden appearance of two mysterious pillars…

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It’s a very intense and vivid world that Renzella and Weiss have created. If you enjoy comics with a social commentary bite to them, then this is something you’ll want to check out. The creators of this book live and work in Taiwan and so it is interesting to keep that in mind as a subtext.

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The Green movement is in disarray. The average citizen doesn’t stand a chance. And the Petrolol corporation just keeps chugging along. The narrative can be rather dense at times and so can the artwork, but it grows on you. This is a byzantine journey crowded with numerous characters confronting chaotic and enigmatic challenges. There is no hero. There is no clear resolution in sight. The story just is. But out of that jungle we find numerous graceful and poetic moments.

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“Schism: The Sunderland, Volume One” is published by Lei Press and printed in Taiwan. It is available through Jon Renzella’s website. You can find it right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, China, Comics, Comix, Dystopian Fiction, Dystopias, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Self-Published, Taiwan

SHORT RUN 2015: See You in Seattle on Halloween

Short Run poster by Jim Woodring

Short Run poster by Jim Woodring

I have the happy news to report that Comics Grinder Press has been selected as an exhibitor at this year’s Short Run Comix & Arts Festival on Saturday, October 31, 2015.

For those of you who follow the independent comics scene, you know that comic arts festivals are its lifeblood. And Short Run is essential. If you are in Seattle, come down to see Short Run at Fisher Pavilion in Seattle Center on Halloween. The event is free and runs from 11 am -6 pm.

Be sure to keep up with Short Run as they will have other events planned beginning on Wednesday, October 28th. And, keep in mind that since this is taking place on Halloween, there will be plenty of treats for the kids.

I am thrilled to be a part of Short Run and I am excited to join in on all the fun. There will be more updates as we get closer to the main event and there will be a recap once the festivities have wrapped up for another year. For now, mark your calendar and plan on joining us at Short Run.

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Filed under Comic Arts Festivals, Comics Grinder, Comics Grinder Press, Comix, Jim Woodring, Seattle, Short Run

Review: ‘The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism’

Mark-Crilley-Realism-2015

You may know Mark Crilley from his manga series, “Miki Falls,” or his series with Dark Horse Comics, “Brody’s Ghost.” Or you may know him as the internet viral sensation. Crilley’s drawing demonstration videos have received well over two hundred million views on YouTube. You’ve probably seen them. The challenge is to create hyperrealistic versions of common objects that look just like the real thing—something humans have been trying to do for thousands of years. The French call it “trompe l’oeil.” And now the secrets behind creating this art have been collected in one book so you can see for yourself what it takes to do your own hyperreal drawings.

The Realism Challenge is easy in a lot of ways. Just follow the step-by-step instruction, and you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve. Even if you don’t fancy yourself an artist, getting to see the process is fascinating. But chances are that, once you become familiar, you’ll want to try your hand at it too.

Toast--from The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley--2015

We hear a lot about the hyperreal world we live in. The realistic work of Mark Crilley is perfectly in step with a zeitgeist that revels in intense, vivid, and urgent reality. That said, realistic art is as timeless as the pursuit of realism.

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“The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism” is published by Watson-Guptill, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It is a 160-page trade paperback, with 200 illustrations, priced at $19.99 (Can $23.99). You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Art, Art books, Comics, Hyperrealism, Illustration, Mark Crilley, Penguin Random House