Tag Archives: Books

Kickstarter: Comic Book People 2: Photographs from the 1990s

 Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson, and Dave Gibbons at the 1991 San Diego Comic-Con.


Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bernie Wrightson, and Dave Gibbons at the 1991 San Diego Comic-Con.

Jackie Estrada is a Comic-Con legend. She knows everybody. And she’s photographed everybody. Her work has appeared everywhere, including the recent PBS program on superheroes. She’s been a supporter of Comic-Con from the very beginning and administrator of its Eisner Awards since 1990. She has vivid recollections and has documented them in her first book, Comic Book People, which covered the ’70s and ’80s. Now comes Comic Book People 2 which covers the ’90s. It’s a perfect next step in seeing the history and behind-the-scenes fun that is Comic-Con International in San Diego as well as the Chicago Comic-Con, WonderCon, the Small Press Expo, and APE. And you can make this new book a reality by joining in support of the Kickstarter campaign going on now through March 13. Join in your support and visit the campaign right here.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Comic-Con International, Comics, Jackie Estrada

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

Review: THIS IS BACON, published by Laurence King Publishing

This-is-Francis-Bacon

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. Or, more than likely, 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

Review: THIS IS WARHOL, published by Laurence King Publishing

Andy-Warhol-Laurence-King

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

Book Review: ‘Dimension of Miracles’ by Robert Sheckley

Art: Henry Chamberlain

Art: Henry Chamberlain

Robert Sheckley is the writer the cool kids know about. Everyone has heard of Douglas Adams. But it’s Robert Sheckley who first wrote the sort of absurdist science fiction that we associate with Adams. He became known for his satirical stories in sci-fi magazines in the ’50s and ’60s. And among his novels, “Dimension of Miracles,” published in 1968, is one of his best. Meet Tom Carmody. He’s a mild-mannered civil servant living in New York City. A likable urban professional suffering from pangs of boredom. That is until one day when he is awarded the grand prize in the Intergalactic Sweepstakes. Little does he know, his life will never be the same and, most likely, he will never see Earth again.

Once Carmody accepts the reality of having a visitor from another dimension at his door, it’s only a matter of a few more leaps of faith before he finds himself deep in outer space in the company of Melichrone, a god. This comes about after a mishap at the Galactic Centre leads to Carmody having no way to get home, unless perhaps he finds a way home. One of the funniest scenes in the book is when Carmody, an atheist, must come up with a new purpose for Melicrhone who has found being a god to be too limited, a job best suited for a simple-minded egomaniac.

With Melichrone’s help, Carmody makes his way to the next round of obstacles and challenges that lie ahead. These include meeting another god, Maudsley, who is potentially just as dangerous as Melichrone but also susceptible to being charmed. All the while, Carmody has the Prize in his possession, which brought him to the deepest recesses of space in the first place. The Prize is a shape-shifting entity that loves to chat with Carmody. It proves useful in getting Carmody out of trouble that it helped to create.

The name of the game to finding one’s way home is to pinpoint the right Earth since there are a multitude of variations. Pick the wrong Which, What, or Where, and you’ve landed on the wrong Earth. Carmody experiences a good bit of that. Each time, he has a safety word that allows him to try again. All he has to do is yell, “Seethwright!” That’s the name of the wizard who helps Carmody towards the end of the book. Of course, one Earth looks and feels very much like another Earth. It could be a matter of too high a concentration of the schmaltz and glitz of over-commercialization. When do you know when you have found just the right amount?

If Robert Sheckley were not compared to Douglas Adams ever again, that would be fine. Well, it does keep Adams on his toes. Better yet though, Sheckley can just as easily, and more precisely, be compared to Franz Kafka. There’s a dark and melancholic current running throughout his work. The good thing is that he can’t help but want to make you laugh and he does this quite well with an accessible style and a quick wit.

Robert Sheckley’s “Dimension of Miracles” is part of an ongoing collection of works reissued by Open Road. You can find out more here.

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Filed under 1960s, Book Reviews, Books, Robert Sheckley, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Interview: William F. Nolan, Pulp Fiction, and the Art of Writing

William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Art: Henry Chamberlain

William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Art: Henry Chamberlain

William F. Nolan is a writer with a brilliant career. Stephen King has acknowledged Mr. Nolan as “an expert in the art and science of scaring the hell out of people,” and Ray Bradbury has spoken of Mr. Nolan’s ability “to create an atmosphere of ultimate terror.” Crafting an interview with him can take a variety of directions. You could focus on race car driving, movies, television, horror, or science fiction. I chose to talk about genre fiction, specifically the pulp era, as Mr. Nolan is an authority on that subject. And, of course, we made our way to the biggest title that Mr. Nolan is attached to, Logan’s Run. He co-wrote, with George Clayton Johnson, the original novel and has gone on to write further Logan’s Run novels as well as the pilot episode to the television series.

Imagine yourself a young person with big plans to embark on a career in writing. It’s the 1950s. You’ve made it out to Los Angeles. You grew up reading pulp fiction. You adore it. Max Brand Westerns are the best! But you also love hard-boiled detective stories. Who better than Dashiell Hammett to deliver on that score, right? And then there’s science fiction. If only you might meet up with your hero, Ray Bradbury. Wouldn’t that be the tops? Sure enough, you meet Ray Bradbury. Not only that, Mr. Bradbury takes you under his wing and helps set your writing career on a high-flying course. That would be your first published story, “The Joy of Living”, in If magazine in 1954. Welcome to the life of William F. Nolan.

We focus on three major writers and, in turn, see how Nolan learned from them, adopted their techniques and tenacity, to become a professional writer in his own right. We talk about Ray Bradbury and his penchant to pay it forward with other writers. “We all support each other,” Nolan says. We talk about Frederick Faust, known as “Max Brand,” among other pseudonyms, and his uneasy relationship with fame. As for Faust’s all-time famous title, “Destry Rides Again,” it paled in comparison to his devotion to writing poetry, which never sold. It’s a similar case with Dashiell Hammett. Despite his wildly popular “Thin Man” stories, he wasn’t satisfied and had hoped to develop writing beyond his genre, but never did. Oddly enough, despite any reservations from Faust or Hammett, all three of these writers are held in high regard. But only Bradbury was to live to see and appreciate his place in fiction as well as his notoriety.

It’s a perplexing predicament to be, or aspire to be, a writer. “The problem is that most students of writing are lazy,” Nolan points out. “They want to become Stephen King over the weekend. Well, you can’t become Stephen King over the weekend. Stephen King couldn’t do that. People have some idea that he’s always had it easy and been rich. But, no, he spent ten years writing and struggling before ‘Carrie’ came along and made him a tidy sum of money.” And far be it for a writer to always be the best judge of his own work. As the story goes, King threw away the manuscript to “Carrie” in a fit of frustration. He tossed it into a waste basket only to have his wife fish it out and persuade him to send it to his agent. Good thing he did just that.

“Writing is like a roller coaster,” Nolan says. But he is also inspired to share the fact that hard work will pay off. What best illustrates this is just talking shop with him. For example, you get great insight exploring the work that Nolan has done with George Clayton Johnson. Among the dozen or so writers that Nolan has worked with, it is with Johnson that he wrote his first teleplay and, years later, his first novel. It was to be firsts for both of them. In 1959, Nolan and Johnson wrote their first teleplay, “Dreamflight,” for “The Twilight Zone.” It was never produced. Thanks to the jet age, the show found itself with one too many airplane-related stories. It’s since been printed in the anthology, “Forgotten Gems.” And it is a gem, a modern day take on Sleeping Beauty.

In the intervening years, Nolan and Johnson would continue to grow as writers, in no small measure due to the collaborative process they developed as part of what became known as The Southern California Writers Group. And so they did work together again, including two unproduced “Star Trek” teleplays, finally leading up to one of the best collaborations ever, the original “Logan’s Run” novel.

As we closed out our interview, I asked about upcoming projects and William F. Nolan is, at 87 this March, as busy as ever. On his list of top priority items, he included his longtime friend and collaborator, writer/artist/filmmaker Jason V. Brock, who is set to work with Nolan on a new Logan’s Run novel that will deconstruct what has come before and is entitled, “Logan’s Fall.” Also on the list: “Images in Black,” an edited collection of Ray Bradbury stories with an African-American theme; “A Man Called Dash,” a definitive biography of Dashiell Hammett; “Soul Trips,” a collection of Nolan poetry; and a Nolan horror collection for the series, “Masters of the Weird Tale,” to be published by Centipede Press.

Just click below to listen to the podcast interview. Enjoy:

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Filed under Dashiell Hammett, Interviews, Logan's Run, Max Brand, pop culture, Pulp Fiction, Ray Bradbury, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Theodore Sturgeon, William F. Nolan

Review: ‘The Sculptor’ by Scott McCloud

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“The Sculptor,” the new graphic novel by Scott McCloud, published by First Second Books, has an appeal linked to the author’s passion for his subject. Let’s say you’re a struggling artist. You moved to New York City and vowed to make it big. Once there, you learn that merit alone is no guarantee of success. Like Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” where an idealistic young man must come to terms with real world politics, another Mr. Smith, in this case David Smith, in McCloud’s story, must come to terms with not only the machinations of the real art world, but with just about everything else to boot! This, dear friends, is a true coming-of-age tale in the best sense of the word, full of questions, magic, and wonder.

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For those who appreciate the details that go into creating a work such as this, an involved comics saga that you usually find in the pages of manga, this is quite an achievement. McCloud brings his A game to this ambitious work. You’ll find an impressive attention to detail in characters, backgrounds and compositions. It’s all condensed into a most pleasing style. We get a nice clean three rows of panels per page as a base from which to detour from. Lots of fun use of bleeded panels and interplay with screens. McCloud makes many interesting choices with fading out backgrounds and text in order to underscore various elements. And McCloud is no doubt sensitive to pacing and, at times, you’ll find panels taking on the tempo of animation.

Layer upon layer of immersive storytelling reveals a compelling relationship between our hero, David, and a young woman, Meg, who stumbles upon his path. But first, before the girl, there’s the deal that David makes that he probably could never truly regret since it’s his main reason for existence. He makes a deal with Death to gain, what he believes to be, his rightful place in art history. He’s obsessed with making his mark on the world and nothing else matters more than that. McCloud has a great time with the Faustian fable. David is doomed right from the start. He gets 200 days with the power to create all the sculptures he’s ever dreamed of creating. After that, it’s curtains for David. Whether or not David was ever cut out for immortality is sort of besides the point. His wish has been heard and granted. He never expected to meet someone like Meg so that complicates matters. The story that unfolds finds us on a journey with a young man still discovering the meaning of life while already with the power to achieve his wildest dreams.

A healthy distrust for the contemporary art world and the story of an idealistic young artist are certainly things that Frank Capra would have agreed with. That’s not the whole picture to what McCloud has to say even though it is easy to see him just rooting for honest forthright artists like his main character. It turns out to be more complicated than that. McCloud also sees one very mixed up kid in his main character. It all adds up to a satisfying read. It has a sentimental quality that’s appealing in its own right.

“The Sculptor” is a 496-page trade paperback available as of February 3, 2015. It is published by First Second Books and you can visit them here. You can find “The Sculptor” at Amazon here.

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Filed under First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Scott McCloud

Review: ADVENTURES ON A DESERT ISLAND, published by Centrala

Centrala-Maciej-Sienczyk

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