Tag Archives: Art

Review: ADVENTURES ON A DESERT ISLAND, published by Centrala

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Greetings from Central Europe. Did you know that some of the most intriguing comics are made in this region? Consider Polish cartoonist Maciej Sieńczyk and his latest graphic novel, “Adventures on a Desert Island,” published by Centrala. It brings to mind The Beatles’ 1968 animation masterpiece, “Yellow Submarine.” This is quite an oddball journey spiked with cerebral whimsy.

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Maciej Sieńczyk offers us an average man, frayed around the edges. We don’t know much about him other than he’s middle-aged, with thinning hair, decidedly unathletic, and timid. We never learn his name. We spend most of our time inside his head. He’s supposed to be on a desert island for most of the story but it’s the internal monologue he is having with himself that is the main attraction.

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Our main character is a stranger in a strange land. The strangeness comes to us from various sources including actual Polish history, folk tales, and local stories. There are, for instance, observations made on obscure Poish devices like a primitive military ferry that proved inefficient or an awkward farming implement that proved obsolete. In Sieńczyk’s hands, with his cockeyed ethereal drawings, the familiar and mundane become fanciful things more suited to a dreamy Neverland.

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One strange story blends into another with jarring jolts along the way. For instance, there’s the tale of two men who fancied a drink of pine sap. One faired well. The other found his throat sealing up from the sticky sap. In the throes of his last gasps for air, he was miraculously saved by an old village woman who promptly sat on his face and peed into his mouth thus breaking the deadly pine sap seal.

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This is also a story about life at middle age. You may still feel young. You may even still look relatively young. But Death is already nipping at your heels. Oh, it’s only little nips. But those nips weren’t there in younger days. Now, life seems more urgent and a greater attempt is made to grasp it in all its complexity and absurdity. That’s what our main character has been up to. He’s realized life for what it is, a bunch of adventures on a desert island.

Originally published in Poland by Lampa in 2012, “Adventures on a Desert Island” is now available from Centrala. Visit our friends at Centrala right here.

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Filed under Centrala, Comics, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Maciej Sienczyk

LA Journal: iO West and the World of Comedy Improv

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Comedy is a serious business. Let that sink in for a moment. It’s a dangerous business too. Why else would some people rather have an eye poked out than stand up on stage and let it all hang out in the world of comedy improv? One of the best places in the whole wide world to answer such questions, and so much more, is iO West.

I laughed, and learned, so much from my visit to iO West. And it left me with plenty to process and incorporate into my own life, comedy-related or not. Let’s just say that what goes on in improv applies to life in a myriad of ways. Want to be a better problem-solver? Improv has got you covered. Want to be more creative? Improv all the way. Oh, yeah, want to be a better comedian, actor, and/or writer? Improv! Lucky for you, iO West is not only the place to see improv, it is also the place to train in improv. It also happens to be the place all the winners go to, like Amy Poehler. You know, the coolest and most successful comics and writers on the planet.

Go with your first instinct. That’s the golden rule. You think you’ve got something funny to say? Say it! Blurt it out and see what happens. You can see how that would apply to other aspects of your life. Everything under the sun, really. Don’t be afraid to go with your first thoughts. That’s what I got to see at a high level of skill. These were performances put on my teams of comics. Each team takes the stage and begins with a cue from the audience. They’re given something to work with and then create a narrative. How about the scintillating theme of…condiments? Or the alluring topic of being called a…schmuck. What is a schmuck, really? Well, a loser. This process of making with the funny is known as “Yes, and…” or “The Harold.” What it all comes down to is that this kind of contact sport comedy is as good as its players.

Heyday

Heyday

King Ten

King Ten

I took in a couple of sets from two fierce and hilarious House Harold teams, Heyday and King Ten. The key is trust. Each player makes a leap of faith that what he or she blurts out will be caught by another player and will either continue or be redirected or will be discreetly obliterated.

The object of the game is to not think, or not overthink. Do that when you’re writing. Just write. You already know this. But it always helps to remember that. You just do it. You edit later.

An improv team is both writing on the fly and editing on the fly. Heyday and King Ten are master storytellers able to create whole worlds from a single audience suggestion. Each team is made up of stellar players, like Heyday’s Mort Burke. I knew I’d seen him before somewhere. I saw him at the Seattle Improv Fest a while back. I really appreciate his droll style. If you’re performing at iO West, you’ve got the chops after many years of hard work, like Karen Graci, who is part of King Ten and is also an instructor at iO West. She has a distinctive bubbly vibe to her. Well, like I say, each player has his or her own unique qualities.

For me, I would love the danger of performing on stage. You would feel naked on stage, wouldn’t you? Ever have that dream where you’re naked while in a classroom full of students? Usually, you’re also taking a final exam. What does it mean? You want to bare your soul? You want to be, if you aren’t already, a nudist? How about: Everything is peeled away and you’re being tested. I have that dream a lot and I like it. I think it means I want to challenged. Reminds me of a comedy show I recently saw in Seattle and one set had a comic incorporate a confessional narrative with actually stripping down to nearly nothing. There’s a need in performers to expose a greater truth, let people see them raw. Yes, comedy is a serious business. It’s also an empowering business. Brings me back to the concept of “Yes, and…

iO West is located at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard. If you are visiting Los Angeles, you need to go here. Did I mention the great drinks at great prices? Yes, you can order from the comfort of your own seat while watching the show too. If you want great comedy, if you want a taste of the real LA, then visit our friends at iO West right here.

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Filed under Comedians, Hollywood, iO West, LA Journal, Los Angeles, Seattle Improv Fest

LA Journal: The Hollywood Museum

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Like any great museum, The Hollywood Museum has earned its reputation. It is Hollywood’s attic, with the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world. The museum, featuring four floors of breathtaking exhibits, is home to more than 10,000 authentic show biz treasures to delight any movie lover and anyone interested in the history and glamour of Hollywood.

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Like the ocean, the limelight is a force of nature without feelings. It just shines. A few mere mortals become stars under its beam. A select few of these stars, like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, feel the radiance and the burn of the light and then transcend it to gain immortality. The Hollywood Museum proves to be a most attractive venue to gaze upon, and learn about, the stars.

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A most charming fact about the museum is that it is housed in the former legendary Max Factor salon. That was a veritable dream factory! You will see beautiful exhibit rooms in what once were the three separate salons for treating blondes, brunettes, and redheads. From there emerged such iconic beauties as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lucille Ball.

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It’s uncanny how the Max Factor connection is inextricably linked to the museum on many levels: image, beauty, stardom, style, fashion, and glamour.

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Max Factor and Marilyn Monroe certainly go well together.

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There’s a wonderful mix of permanent and temporary exhibits on view. “Tyrone Power: Man, Myth & Movie Idol,” closing this weekend, is an excellent show covering the actor’s life and work in great detail.

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You won’t leave without adding numerous new movies to your must-see list, like “Marie Antoinette,” starring Tyrone Power and Norma Shearer.

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You will rediscover, or discover for the first time, such stars as Theda Bara.

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You can easily wander through the memorabilia and absorb some history on the run. Check out the replica of the Lasky-DeMille Barn, one of Hollywood’s first film studios. You won’t leave without having a fuller appreciation of Hollywood.

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The Pee-wee Herman exhibit! Yes, this place is full of surprises.

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If there’s room for Pee-wee Herman’s suit and bike, then you know this is the right place.

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Whatever your taste, there is something for everyone at the museum. While I’m a movie buff who favors old Hollywood, you’ll find young Hollywood here too for sure, like the above exhibit for “The Hunger Games.” There is so much more I could have covered. I didn’t even go into the Hannibal Lecter exhibit. You’ll have to come see that one for yourself.

The Hollywood Museum is in the Historic Max Factor Building located at 1660 N. Highland Ave. at Hollywood Blvd. For more details, visit our friends at The Hollywood Museum right here.

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Filed under Hollywood, LA Journal, Los Angeles, movies, The Hollywood Museum, Travel, Travelogue

Charlie Hebdo

Charlie-Hebdo

Those slain in the Charlie Hebdo attack are in our thoughts and prayers.

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Filed under Charlie Hebdo, Comics, France

Le Cagibi and L.B. Cole at Fantagraphics Bookstore in Seattle, January 10, 2015

"Black Light: The World of L.B. Cole," published by Fantagraphics Books

“Black Light: The World of L.B. Cole,” published by Fantagraphics Books

If you are in Seattle this weekend, get yourself over to Georgetown and the monthly Art Attack. Then go right over to the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. This Saturday, you have two special treats at Fantagraphics. You can enjoy a slide show lecture on L.B. Cole, the all-time great artist of proto-psychedelic comic book covers. And, there will be a workshop conducted by visiting artists from Le Cagibi, an engraving studio in Lilli, France. This all takes place on January 10, from 6 to 9 pm. Visit our friends at Fantagraphics right here. More details follow:

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Georgetown Art Attack, Seattle

Review: ‘Here’ by Richard McGuire

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What if that snarky comment that you thought was so clever was preserved forever, and not on some server, but in the very room that you first gave thought to it? What if every thought, every act, everything, in that room, were saved forever, beyond deletion? That is what this graphic novel is about. “Here,” by Richard McGuire, invites you to observe one particular spot through hundreds of thousands of years. Often, we see that spot as a room, a living room, in a house. But, at other times, it’s wide open to the forces of nature, both in the past and in the future.

Considering that all of time is fair game for this story, with all the vast possibilities, we do spend a considerable amount of time, a relatively brief speck of time, in a room. It’s that space, when it once was a room, that would seem to be significant. We relate to a room best, especially one in or around our own time. The ability to dwell, just dwell, in a room is the cornerstone of civilization. And the last one hundred years or so have been a golden age for room dwellers. That’s the lifespan of our main character, a living room. It helps to anchor us, being in a relatively familiar room. In this narrative, we observe a cast of characters also anchored, biding their time, wasting their time, anchored by conformity, domesticity, and convenience. What is anyone really doing? They’re dwelling.

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It’s the little things that count, we are told. But it’s the big things that really get our attention, once a myriad of little things have taken place. Little. Big. Lives are made up of both. As McGuire observes, there sure are a lot of little moments. Even the big moments aren’t so big. We see a lot of accidents take place among the characters. Accidental moments that go off with a bang. A man slips from his chair. Another man falls from a ladder. The biggest incident seems to be a man struggling to breathe, perhaps having a stroke. In all that time, that space has one noteworthy moment, a visit from Benjamin Franklin. And that, my friend, is life, in a random little space, and is par for the course.

McGuire finds the compelling within what seems quite the opposite. A random little space, what does it really matter? Ah, well, humans have loved and lost and lived over many generations upon this stage. And, if you observe the flickering images long enough, you find patterns and you find something of a story, a universal struggle. McGuire’s style is wonderfully lean, low-key, and pared down. It has as much to do with comics and it does with painting, easily evoking the world of Alex Katz, peopled with lost souls floating along in the suburbs. In the end, though, it’s all about comics as the interplay among panels heats up and we learn all sorts of things all from the vantage point of one spot somewhere in New England.

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What is impressive about this book is that McGuire took a clever concept and fully followed through. As you open up the first pages, you know what may follow. Will he pull it off? I mean, look, he’s set up a premise, a room with a year in the caption box above. Is he going to really take us for a ride and have the years change in interesting ways and have us see that space in interesting ways? Yes! That is what McGuire accomplishes. And, if that’s not enough for you, then you’re one cold snarky so-and-so. The premise is ambitious and the vision is sincere. These are not things to take lightly.

The idea is that McGuire has taken us on a new kind of ride. That was the goal when this graphic novel was first just a six-page work of comics in 1989, in “Raw” magazine, volume 2, number 1. That was certainly a postmodernist shot in the arm for comics. “Here” articulated an intriguing storytelling tool with how it arranged a number of panels on a page all taking place at different times. Of course, it’s not completely new. Comics, after all, by its very nature, involves panels playing with the notion of time. Still, McGuire was introducing something new into the comics landscape. He was offering up some original ideas on points of view. He was also playing with tempo. And, he was most certainly fascinated with the quotidian, an almost morbid fascination with the minutiae of life. It was something new and in step with a rising sensibility to celebrate the mundane and everyday. His particular take on things would be taken into other directions by Chris Ware.

“Here” is a beautiful realization of an intriguing concept. It is a pleasure to read.

“Here” is a 304-page full-color hardcover, published by Pantheon Books, an imprint of Random House. You can purchase it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Chris Ware, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Pantheon Books, Random House, Richard McGuire, Time Travel

You Can Video Chat with Pee-wee Herman for Free! Next Video Chat is January 21, 2015

Pee-wee Herman

Pee-wee Herman

Who knew, Pee-wee Herman is a man of many talents, including blogger. “My Log by Pee-wee Herman,” has got it all. It is zesty, peppy, and consistently run. What more could you ask for, right? For example, Pee-wee Herman recently shared this story with his readers about giant birdnest loungers. That’s a perfect blend of wit, pop culture news, and birdy fun! And now you can video chat with him and it’s free!

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Pee-wee Herman. I think we all love him. I do. And I think it’s pretty awesome to see that he’s more than happy to interact with his fans. He’s gearing up to Skype with you! The next video chat is on January 21, 2015! For now, get ready, get set, and join the Pee-wee Herman VIP Premium Diamond Platinum Club. It’s only one million dollars to join. No, just kidding! It’s free, totally free!! Check out the details right here.

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Book Review: ‘More Than Human’ by Theodore Sturgeon

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Perhaps when we think about science fiction, in general, we may still get lost. Even today, there are well-regarded writers in that genre, of great literary stature, who are due for a wider audience. In the case of Theodore Sturgeon, I am certain that, once a follower of his work, there is no turning back. What “More Than Human” achieves is nothing less than to inspire the reader. Its very purpose is to do just that.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Hive Mind, science fiction, Theodore Sturgeon

Comics Grinder Comics Top Twelve Lists for 2014

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My parting thoughts for 2014: I always end up warming up to these end-of-year lists. This is based upon the batch of work that got reviewed here at Comics Grinder this year, what ranks as notable for one reason or another, with links included. I look forward to keeping to a quirky and offbeat path and see where it leads us this time next year.

I have separated things out into three main categories: Graphic Novels, Comic Books, and Small Press/Indie. I hope you will find this list useful as you look back on the year and consider what lies in store for us in 2015.

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Bohemians: A Graphic History “Inspiring.”

World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014 “Enlightening.”

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy “A most relevant book.”

Truth Is Fragmentary “A persistent vision. Masterful depictions of the everyday with sly humor.”

Andre the Giant “Brown builds a case for a subject worthy of exploration. Andre the Giant proves to be a true hero.”

The Hospital Suite “Honest depictions of struggle told with simplicity and clarity.”

Megahex “Pure Genius.”

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil “Sweet and fanciful with a nice satirical bite.”

The Wrenchies “A new generation’s ‘Quadrophenia’ with generous helpings of ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.’”

In Real Life “One of the most intriguing graphic novels of the year.”

Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe “Tranquil sincerity.”

The Collector “A masterwork by Sergio Toppi.”

The Wicked + The Divine

The Wicked + The Divine

COMIC BOOKS

Gotham Academy “Delivers the goods.”

The Witcher “Nicely paced chills.”

The Fade Out “Poetic and provocative noir.”

Lumberjanes “Compositions that slice right through the page.”

The Multiversity “From high concept to gut level action.”

Nightworld “Brainy, bawdy, and full of good laughs.”

Sirens “Playful, ferocious, and just plain fun.”

Loki: Ragnarok and Roll “A rock ‘n’ roll theme that gets it right.”

Dark Engine “Highly imaginative. All-out beautiful.”

The Wicked + The Divine “Gorgeous and audacious.”

Thomas Alsop “Great supernatural theme and premise.”

The Empty Man “One really good scare.”

Drag Bandits

Drag Bandits

SMALL PRESS/INDIE

Cats In Service “Quite an amusing and spooky tale.”

How I Made The World #1 “Very personal, conversational style.”

Towerkind “A true page-turner.”

Amelia: A Monsters & Girls Book “A funhouse of offbeat terror and mystery.”

Welcome to Nursing HELLo “Confronts reality head-on with quick smarts and with a heart.”

Drag Bandits #1 “This is like a truly fancy dessert or souffle, delicate yet full of life.”

Debbie’s Inferno “Great deadpan and droll humor.”

Facility Integrity “A wonderfully droll style.”

Trepanation “Both hilarious and informative.”

Study Group Magazine #3D “Fun and informative and so much more.”

Gonzo Cosmic #1 “Superhero comics grounded in a more plausible sensibility.”

Saltire “Welcome to Scotland’s first superhero, Saltire!”

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Filed under Comics, Comics Grinder Best List, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Lists

Interview: Miss Lasko-Gross and HENNI

Miss Lasko-Gross, photo credit: © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Miss Lasko-Gross, photo credit: © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Miss Lasko-Gross has been creating comics since high school. A collection celebrating 20 years of her work, “Miss Lasko-Gross: Some Short Stories 1994-2014,” is available on comiXology. She has been published by Fantagraphics Books, A MESS OF EVERYTHING and the YALSA nominated ESCAPE FROM “SPECIAL.” Now, Lasko-Gross embarks on another storytelling adventure, HENNI, published by Z2 Comics, a new series of stories about rebellion.

Henni-Miss-Lasko-Gross

HENNI is a young female in a fanciful world. She is an anthropomorphic character, a cat-like creature. In the same spirit as Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, and Jim Woodring, this is a strange, yet familiar world that Lasko-Gross has created. It’s a place that demands obedience and will not tolerate any questions. Well, Henni has a lot of questions to ask. She tries to maintain a low profile but she also knows that there’s a whole other world beyond her homeland’s gates and she is going to venture out. She does. And so Henni’s adventure begins.

It was a pleasure to get to chat with Lasko-Gross. We begin with thoughts on how her past work flows into her current work. We discuss the process of making comics. We talk about what it’s like to work alongside a spouse who is also an accomplished cartoonist, her husband, Kevin Colden (FISHTOWN; I RULE THE NIGHT). We also talk about her inclusion in the traveling exhibit, “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women.” And we talk about working with the boutique graphic novel publisher, Z2.

Listen to the podcast interview right here:

“Henni” is a 168-page graphic novel and will be available in comic shops on January 6, 2015 and in bookstores on January 20. For more details, you’ll definitely want to visit Z2 Comics right here. Formerly known as Zip Comics, the newly launched Z2 Comics is run by Josh Frankel and is the place to find some of the most exciting comics available, including the work of Paul Pope and Dean Haspiel.

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Filed under Comics, Comixology, Fantagraphics Books, graphic novels, Interviews, Miss Lasko-Gross, Z2 Comics