Tag Archives: comics

Review: DEAD VENGEANCE #1 (of 4)


If you’re a fan of gritty and fantastical crime noir, like The Goon, then here is a comic for you. I like nice touches of authenticity in a period comic: the hats, the cars, the buildings. It’s Detroit, 1940, and it feels like it. “Dead Vengeance” is a four-issue story with a grisly, yet whimsical, premise: our hero was killed a decade ago by the villain’s henchmen but he’s somehow managed to come back to life.

Bill Morrison (script and pencils) is having a good time with this material and it shows. Keith Champagne (inks) provides bold and energetic linework. I think this comic will prove to be a fun ride. Our story begins at a ramshackle carnival and we find John Doe, our hero, among the freaks on display. He’s supposed to be the corpse kept preserved in a tank. That is, until some boys walk up to him and recite what they believe is a spell to bring him back to life. And then he does come back to life! The whole look and feel to this comic just screams 1940s pulp magazine.

This one is a breezy little tale that is fun to look at and enjoy on its own terms. As you’ll see, there’s a whole sordid, and entertaining, story behind what led to John Doe becoming a corpse on display in a carnival.

DEAD VENGEANCE #1 is a 32-page comic book, priced at $3.99, available as of October 07, 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

Interview: Jonathan Lethem and THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015

Jonathan Lethem self-portrait in introduction to The Best American Comics 2015

Jonathan Lethem self-portrait in Introduction to The Best American Comics 2015

Jonathan Lethem is the author of nine novels, including “Gun, with Occasional Music,” “Motherless Brooklyn,” “The Fortress of Solitude,” and most recently, “Dissident Gardens.” He is this year’s editor for the annual, “Best American Comics.” Lethem’s 2003 novel, “The Fortress of Solitude,” famously references superhero comics. In 2007-2008, Marvel Comics published a ten-issue comic book collaboration between Lethem and artist Farel Dalrymple. It was a revisiting of one of the most unlikely of superheroes from the 1970s, “Omega the Unknown.” In 2013, Lethem collaborated with artist Raymond Pettibon as part of a collection of the artist’s work.

In my review of Best American Comics 2015, I speak to this year’s focus on comics as art. Series editor Bill Kartalopoulos brought in the idea of including Raymond Pettibon and it’s an exciting move toward further establishing comics as an art form in its own right. It would seem to many of us that such an assertion is no longer necessary. But every bit helps to make known to all readers the endless possibilities for comics. In my interview, we talk about Pettibon and his place in both the art world and the comics world. And we take a closer look at what comics are all about in the first place.

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: I was reading over an interview you gave in 2008 and I wanted to quote a little from it. You said: “What I do in book after book after book is smash together — as urgently and as adamantly as I can — things that feel verifiably real everyday: textures, stuff of the prosaic and dreamlike material.” Is that the spirit in which you took on your editorship of this year’s Best American Comics?

JONATHAN LETHEM: That’s a great question. I like that quote. I don’t always love hearing myself read back to me but that one stands up. It sounds like what I feel that I do. Of course, I didn’t think of the editorship as having to reflect my aesthetic as though this were like a novel I was writing. You know, it extends from my position as a member of the audience, as a fan, as a responder, of other people’s work.

I’ve always seen a lot of continuity between the reader and the writer. There’s something in between like a member of the bookstore staff putting together a display, or a deejay setting up a set, or that overused term, “curator.” Helplessly, I’m grabbing at things that interest me and pushing them up against each other to make interesting vibrations between them. So, I guess it is like that quote. It is similar. The book ended up including things that are surreal, or magical, or fantastical, along with stuff of grubby ordinary life.

HC: This is your own personal journey through comics. I’m thinking of what Bill Kartalopoulos, the series editor, had said about this year’s edition being less of a survey than last year’s. I suppose each editor is going to bring different things to the next volume. This is your own take on the current scene in comics.

JL: Bill was tremendous about handing me a lot of rope. Obviously, he’s immersed in a field in a way, on a year to year basis, that I could never dream of being. He was brilliant in getting me up to speed and informing me of context. He was a pair of super-binoculars. He also wanted the book to be mine and not lead the horse to water too often. He said he wasn’t passing along anything he wasn’t interested in but that it was going to be too much and that I would need to carve out a vision from all this stuff. He was a great sounding board. He helped guide me to my decisions. For a while, I was floundering around. It’s overwhelming. The field is so huge and so hyper-kinetic in the kinds of energy and ambition being expressed.

HC: So, going through that mountain of books, impressed upon you the enormity of possibilities for comics.

JL: Yeah, I really did feel that. I guess that my selections reflect a kind of a sense of wanting to force the reader to experience, in some ways, the same exciting calamity of possibilities that I experienced. I wanted to reproduce the sensation of “What the hell is this?” Comics are so many different things right now: so vibrant, so many chances are being taken, so many fantastic experiments are being conducted. I started to think that this wasn’t just one thing. It’s a gigantic art form with brilliant juxtapositions and perplexities encompassed within.

Excerpt from "No Tears, No Sorrow," by Eleanor Davis

Excerpt from “No Tears, No Sorrow,” by Eleanor Davis

HC: Looking at this year’s Best American Comics selections that you made, it runs the gamut from a more straightforward approach, like Eleanor Davis, to a more unconventional approach, like Henrietta Valium. And it’s all comics. I think you did something very significant this year by, in a natural way, bringing forward the understanding that comics is an art form. Now, one of my pet peeves, and you may agree, is when a gallery or museum labels something as only “comics-related” when, in fact, it is a work of comics, pure and simple.

JL: Yeah.

HC: And here you have Raymond Pettibon’s work on the cover of this year’s Best American Comics.

JL: Somehow, I got in there very early and that was a piece of good luck. A little feeler that series editor Bill Kartalopoulos put forward was that he had spotted this recent work of Pettibon’s and he sort of dared me to agree with him that it really was comics, just like you say. I was the right recipient for that little piece of provocation. I was already a big Pettibon fan. I wrote something for him, so we had collaborated on that a few years ago. The results were published in The Believer. And that was a comic. I thought of it explicitly as four panels. I wrote for him a four-panel really bizarre and over-loaded comic to do. Raymond being Raymond, took that into even stranger directions. When Bill asked what I would think of Pettibon’s work in a comics context, I was absolutely on board. As an opening exchange, I think it set the ground for how the rest of the book was going to feel to us, that we’d agreed to this slightly audacious definition of comics. And then it comes first circle with the invitation to Raymond to be the cover artist and his agreeing to do it.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon's "The Credits Rolled," 2013.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon’s “The Credits Rolled,” 2013.

HC: When I was reading this year’s Best American Comics in a cafe the other day, a barista made that “What the hell is this?” comment. And it was in a very supportive tone as he was very familiar with Pettibon’s work. This would be interesting: What can you tell us about Raymond Pettibon? How does he see himself within a comics context?

JL: I have met him a handful of times. And I would say that he is dodgy in the extreme, with a great disinterest in facing questions like that directly. But his work is eloquent. His work incorporates giant chunks of response to comics as one of the key American vernacular visual languages. Along with film, the covers of pulp paperbacks, and tabloid photography, his work devours comics as a source. You have images of Superman, you have hints of Krazy Kat. There’s that Vavoom character from Little Lulu. I think, to him, it’s a question that is too obvious for him to engage in. And here is where I’d feel a lot of native sympathy myself in terms of my own writing and how it engages with comics as a zone of vitality and American language all its own. Comics just begs to be responded to by other art forms. So, what the Pop artists did, by grabbing onto that comics energy, is akin to other artists, like Philip Guston, or Raymond Pettibon. What I’ve humbly tried to do a couple of times in my writing is that, somehow make literary prose just to the tune to the energy that you find in a comic book or a comic strip panel. I think it’s a natural response. You see that today among artists, an understanding that comics are crucial, alive, and part of the American cultural stratum.

HC: You see all sorts of creative people fascinated by comics narrative. You teach creative writing. Do you suggest comics to your students?

JL: I have done that and I also have dealt with some independent study students or thesis writers working on the subject of graphic novels. I haven’t yet assigned a comic as a text in a seminar class but you’re making me think that I ought to do that. It doesn’t seem out of reach to me. My seminars have included film assignments in the past so it would be completely of a piece with that.

HC: I want to reassure everyone that this is not simply a survey, although it is in some sense. It’s definitely a wonderful guide to what’s been going on in comics in the last year or so.

JL: I hope so.

HC: I love how you keep an irreverent tone. It’s respectful but fun. I mean, your introduction is a comic and it’s hilarious. I love the character you created, even though you say it’s derivative.

JL: Well, most good characters are derivative. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

HC: One thing I recall from creative writing class is to avoid being portentous. And I believe that most good comics have a lightness to them. They can be anything but they need to strike a good balance, and avoid being portentous.

JL: I’m with you on that. Ironically, the portentousness that I mostly shied away from was largely found in the mainstream superhero comics–which I couldn’t quite relate to. For the present crop, I wasn’t clicking with it. Often, this is because there is a slightly artificial heaviness to them. It’s sort of a role reversal from grown-up stuff being found among the underground and graphic novels and the funny books being there for kids. But, actually, the mainstream comic book companies are producing a lot of very jacked-up grim stuff. And, as you say, some of the most sophisticated or beguiling suggestive work that you can come across includes a certain levity or a sense of the absurd. Some frivolity is in the mix.

HC: Let’s consider some of the work included here. One that quickly comes to mind is Megan Kelso.

JL: Yeah, Megan Kelso was a great discovery. She’s so sly. It appears to be very straightforward work but the degree of compression, the way she can do so much with such a small number of pages, is very, very literary in fact.

From Julia Gfrörer's "Palm Ash"

From Julia Gfrörer’s “Palm Ash”

HC: Another intriguing selection is Julia Gfrörer.

JL: That’s another intricate and evocative piece. That was a total discovery for me. I hadn’t come across her work anywhere before.

HC: I’m familiar with her work. She’s definitely on the rise.

JL: Well, she should be.

HC: It’s nice that it was printed in the book on green paper.

JL: Yes, it was a pamphlet on green paper. One of the interesting things about work like this is that it has the quality of being an artifact. Some other works in the book were either bigger or smaller than the anthology pages. Or would be silkscreened or some other printing process. It’s only an approximation to the original when we fit it into the anthology format.

HC: What would you say about your readership?

JL: More than usual, I’m on the edge of my seat to meet my readership. I know the sense of being stakeholders the comics audience has. I wonder about how they will respond and probably argue with this book in certain ways. I’m really interested in what will come out of that and what I’ll learn. I think it was crucial to feel that I was being dropped into a universe and trying to do justice to this last year. It was like a flashbulb strobe image of the landscape. My volume was one in a conversation. It was instructive to study the last few years of the volumes and see the different kind of statements that people are making with the editor’s position and the different senses you get of what the competition in the field feels like at any given moment.

HC: I wonder if cartoonists see it as a contest. I tend to think that they’ll appreciate that this volume is, like you say, part of a conversation.

JL: Well, you know, everyone who makes things is waiting for that gold star. It’s a neat job to be able to give out the gold stars once in a while. You also want to let people know that there were hundreds of submissions that were clamoring and knocking on the door to be included. In some cases, the selections were determined upon what went together in making a book out of it all, making it all flow, and making it all interesting in context. There are some pieces that I fell in love with that didn’t make it into the book.

HC: It must be great when you make these connections while putting the book together, like the two pieces with a Wonder Woman theme, one by R. Sikoryak and the other by Diane Obomsawin.

JL: There was going to be a third Wonder Woman piece, by Ron Regé Jr., but lawyers stepped in and squelched it. I was trying to give as much of a glimpse into Wonder Woman as possible especially since there had been a couple of nonfiction books on Wonder Woman in that same year.

HC: And you ran into difficulty with getting a work in by Steve Ditko.

JL: That one went down to the wire. And it led us nowhere. So, somewhere, out there, there’s a compendium worthy of Steve Ditko.

HC: Well, God bless him. Thank you for your time, Jonathan.

JL: Thank you, Henry.

You can listen to the podcast interview by clicking below:

“The Best American Comics 2015” is a 400-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and is available as of October 6, 2015. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Anthologies, Bill Kartalopoulos, Comics, Interviews, Jonathan Lethem, Raymond Pettibon, The Best American Comics

24-Hour Comics Day 2015: HOTEL HOTEL and The Fremont Troll!

My 24-Hour Comics Day Adventure at Hotel Hotel hostel has been accomplished!

One of the flyers promoting my 24-Hour Comics Day drawing marathon at HotelHotel PizzaBar

Here is my 24-hour comic for 24-Hour Comics Day 2015. I hope you enjoy it and get a kick out of what I call “24-Hour Comics Logic.” It kicks in just when you need it. I’ll have more to say in another post later this week about Hotel Hotel, the venue for this year’s 24HCD. For now, thanks so much to the support of Hotel Hotel hostel and our friends at Comics Dungeon.


























Filed under 24 Hour Comics, Comics, Fremont, Hostels, Hotel Hotel, Hotel Hotel Hostel, Hotels, Seattle, The Fremont Troll, Travel

24-Hour Comics Day 2015: A Fremont Theme at HOTEL HOTEL

Here I go again! My latest 24-hour comics adventure begins now!

Here I go again! My latest 24-hour comics adventure begins now!

Let the games begin! For those of you out there who don’t know about the annual 24-Hour Comics Day, here is a link to the founder of all this creative craziness, cartoonist and historian Scott McCloud. Check it out right here.

This is the official site for the annual 24-Hour Comics Day taking place this weekend around the world. Check that out right here.

And I’ll see you back here in 24 hours!

And, if you’re in the Seattle area, stop by at my latest 24-hour venue, HotelHotel PizzaBar, right here. I’ll be drawing up a storm all night long. Just ask, and you’ll find me. Most likely, just walk right in and I’ll be there.


Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, 24HCD, Comics, Hotel Hotel Hostel, Seattle, Travel

Review: WONDER WOMAN EARTH ONE by Grant Morrison–well, not quite yet.

Finally, "Wonder Woman Earth One" by Grant Morrison. I nearly fell out of my chair when I found out it was released!

Finally, “Wonder Woman Earth One” by Grant Morrison. I nearly fell out of my chair when I found out it was released!

Yes, “Wonder Woman Earth One” has been out since April but I had completely lost track. It’s been years, and years. You know, since the first teasing out of news of Grant Morrison possibly writing a Wondy book. He had said he’d turn her into the woman she was always meant to be or some such hogwash. I mean, who cared about the faux psychoanalysis, really? But Grant Morrison is a solid guy with a fun and creative mind. He could write something interesting, perhaps too interesting! So, that’s why DC Comics settled upon giving him an Earth One story to do, something that allowed him to flex his muscles and ooze his juices as he pleased–and it would remain outside of proper Wonder Woman canon or whatnot.

Alright then, so what did we end up with?? All of you comics geeks already know, right? But I don’t care so much about superhero comics. Well, I sort of take that back. It needs to be interesting! Do you get that? I know a lot of you out there do get that. Okay, here is where I leave my placeholder. I will drop in an ellipsis, a bunch of dot, dot, dots, like this “…..” and that lets me know to come back to it in due time. You know why I’m telling you this? Because I just realized I won’t be coming back to this for yet another long, long while. How about April 12, 2016!!

The following is the latest teaser from DC Comics. Read it and you’ll find the familiar Wonder Woman origin story. So, I’m not sure why Grant Morrison would need to tell this retread of a tale. Is a story that so closely follows canon a story that requires a writer like Grant Morrison who is only supposed to be summoned to completely blow your mind? Well, just saying:

Following tradition of Superman, Batman, Teen Titans comes Wonder Woman Earth One in 2016. Earth One is a series of Graphic Novels set in a new universe separate from the current DC Universe.

From the masterful minds of Grant Morrison (FINAL CRISIS, THE MULTIVERSITY) and Yanick Paquette (SWAMP THING, BATMAN, INC.) comes the most provocative origin of Wonder Woman you’ve ever seen — a wholly unique retelling that still honors her origins.

For millennia, the Amazons of Paradise Island have created a thriving society away from the blight of man. One resident, however, is not satisfied with this secluded life — Diana, Princess of the Amazons, knows there is more in this world and wants to explore, only to be frustrated by her protective mother, Hippolyta. Diana finds her escape when Air Force pilot Steve Trevor, the first man she has ever seen, crashes onto their shores. With his life hanging in the balance, Diana ventures into the long forbidden world of men. The Amazons chase after her and bring her back to Paradise Island in chains to face trial for breaking their oldest law…staying separated from the world that wronged them.

Thought provoking yet reverent, thoroughly modern but still timeless, the power and courage of Paradise Island’s greatest champion — Wonder Woman — is introduced in this new addition to DC’s New York Times best selling Earth One original graphic novel series.

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Filed under Comics, DC Comics, Grant Morrison, Wonder Woman

Review: ‘The Best American Comics 2015,’ Editor, Jonathan Lethem; Series Editor, Bill Kartalopoulos

Henriette Valium's "Lâcher de Chiens" from Descant 164. Is it comics?? Yes, it is!!

Henriette Valium’s “Lâcher de Chiens” from Descant 164. Is it comics?? Yes, it is!!

For this year’s BEST AMERICAN COMICS, with guest editor Jonathan Lethem, the speakers were turned up to eleven, all the windows were smashed, and the ceiling collapsed as the comics medium made a pretty nice step forward. I am talking about this imaginary line that’s been dividing comics from fine art. In the past (or still present), if I saw some compelling comics on display in an art gallery or museum, I would need to second-guess on how to describe it. The gallery or museum, the authority figures, had decreed that the work on the walls was “comics-related,” not simply “comics.” That’s always bothered me when I read “comics-related” on a label attached to a work that could simply be identified as, embraced as, “comics.”

Consider, for example Lethem’s inclusion of Henriette Valium, generally described as “a comic book artist and painter.” Valium is something of a hybrid, not easily pegged. In the right context, you can call him a cartoonist. You could also just call him an artist. His work is out there, way out there. It simply does not neatly fit into the conventional comics world or the traditional art world. And yet it belongs in both. The sample that Lethem has chosen demonstrates a masterful uninhibited expression. It’s powerfully visual and, while not a traditional or coherent narrative, the words carry weight. So, then the question becomes is this a comic that is “art-related” or just comics. Let’s embrace it as comics!

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon's "The Credits Rolled," 2013.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon’s “The Credits Rolled,” 2013.

And then there’s Raymond Pettibon. If there is anyone who stands out as having their work labeled as “comics-related” by the art world gatekeepers, it would be him. Pettibon began his art career as an in-your-face punk. Pettibon created some of the most awesome, creepy, and wonderfully enigmatic art that was chiefly used to promote bands. Over time, his art went from the streets to the gallery walls. It was cool matter-of-fact images of all sorts of sordid things. I never thought of it as exactly being comics and yet, as a cartoonist-painter, I totally related to it. If it was “comics,” then it was of a more experimental stripe–without even trying to be or fully aware that it was! It was just great. Today, I believe, it would be accepted as some form of comics. So, the timing is perfect to see this move forward.

Excerpt from "No Tears, No Sorrow," by Eleanor Davis

Excerpt from “No Tears, No Sorrow,” by Eleanor Davis

To be sure, the bulk of the work here adheres more closely to the principles of sequential art. For example, Eleanor Davis provides a more straightforward narrative. Her piece in this book, “No Tears, No Sorrow,” follows a group of participants in a workshop to learn how to cry. It is a beautifully paced comic with a nice spare look. While the characters and setting are very concise and minimal, it speaks volumes to our conflicted notions of expressing emotion.

Excerpt from "The Good Witch, 1947," by Megan Kelso

Excerpt from “The Good Witch, 1947,” by Megan Kelso

Another piece that knocks it right out of the park is “The Good Witch, 1947,” by Megan Kelso. Like characters from a novel by Carson McCullers, these are mysterious, sad characters that we deeply want to know but will only be allowed in after thoughtful consideration. Megan Kelso is not “old school” or “traditional.” She just knows how to weave a good story. And that’s what you’ll find here, a tidy number of immersive and compelling comics.

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

As series editor Bill Kartalopoulos explained in an interview with Publishers Weekly, this latest BAC is not meant to be a straightforward survey of the best comics of the last year. Although, if it’s not a survey in some sense, then what is it? Well, it’s the guest editor’s take on the currents of comics. Fair enough. And, as long as we’re getting a collection that is being faithful to some notion of a survey, I’m all for that. Basically, it comes down to the series editor providing the guest editor with a mountain of books and, from that mountain, a collection emerges. This is Lethem’s take on comics. We see that, yes, comics come in many varieties. And with such an esteemed and thoughtful guide as Lethem, you are in good hands to make some wonderful discoveries and connections.

“The Best American Comics 2015” is a 400-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and is available as of October 6, 2015. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Anthologies, Bill Kartalopoulos, Comics, Jonathan Lethem, Megan Kelso, Raymond Pettibon, The Best American Comics

24 HOUR COMICS DAY 2015: Cartoonist Henry Chamberlain at Hotel Hotel, in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood

Excerpt from a new work by Henry Chamberlain

Excerpt from a new work by Henry Chamberlain

For those of you in Seattle, come see cartoonist Henry Chamberlain at the HotelHotel PizzaBar on Saturday, October 3rd, drawing all night long for 24-Hour Comics Day. Ask and he’ll draw you into the comic.

Henry Chamberlain-Hotel-Hotel-24-Hour-Comics

Hotel Hotel is one of the best boutique hostels in the world, located in the heart of the quirky Seattle neighborhood, Fremont, also known as “the center of the universe.” This will be another great 24-Hour comics. We thank the sponsorship of Comics Dungeon. If you’re looking for the best comics selection and knowledge advice, visit our friends at Comics Dungeon right here.

What can be better than an exciting locale, a comfortable and hip environment, and good company all around. If you’re a local, you’re always welcome at the HotelHotel PizzaBar. And, if you’re planning a visit to Seattle, check out our friends at Hotel Hotel, located at 3515 Fremont Avenue North, right here.


Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, 24HCD, Comics, Comics Dungeon, Fremont, Henry Chamberlain, Hostels, Hotel Hotel, Hotels, Seattle

Review: THE NEW DEAL by Jonathan Case


We begin Jonathan Case’s new graphic novel, “The New Deal,” in New York City, 1936. It’s the depths of the Great Depression. NYC is pretty darn cold in the winter, especially when money is so scarce. There’s a young guy, Frank O’Malley, and he’s pleading with passersby to consider buying a ticket to an avant-garde production of Macbeth. Tough sale especially when, just next to Frank is his Uncle Pack hawking apples for six cents each. A potential customer tries to haggle the price down by a penny but Uncle Pack won’t budge. Quickly, we move on as Frank races to his regular job as a bellman at the Waldorf Astoria. And with that Case has hooked you in as the plot thickens and we find Frank to be way over his head.

Pages from THE NEW DEAL

Pages from THE NEW DEAL

Case delivers a solid story built upon his character-driven script and his engaging drawing style. His sly sense of humor and intrigue works its way through every page. He has managed to create characters that feel real while inhabiting the hyperreal world of screwball comedies of the 1930s. We cannot help but be curious about the relationship between a Caucasian bellman, Frank O’Malley, and an African-American maid, Theresa Harris. In public, they keep at a distance and address each other by their surnames. In private, they are playful with each other but still hold back. What we do know is that they care about each other very much and the plot that unfolds will test them.


This is an exceptionally well-paced and substantial story. It has one foot in the ’30s and the other in today’s sensibilities. This allows us to explore the relationship between Frank and Theresa and the inner world of Theresa with great subtlety. You learn to accept Frank who has to struggle with proving his trustworthiness. And you follow Theresa as she must navigate through the obstacles before her. The more complicated our story gets, the more Frank and Theresa are forced to face what it is that keeps attracting them to each other.

Make no mistake, this is a perfect blend of mystery, humor, and offbeat love story. If there’s any mention of FDR’s “New Deal,” it is only in passing. This is not a history lesson, at least not directly. That said, while you’ll learn a thing or two about swells and dolls and fancy hotels, you will also get a good sense of the cold realities of that era.

This is Jonathan Case’s best work yet. You may know him from his artwork for the critically-acclaimed graphic novel, “Green River Killer: A True Detective Story,” which I reviewed here. Or you may have caught his work for the DC Comics title, “Batman ’66.” You will definitely want to read “The New Deal,” a thoroughly entertaining and remarkable work.

THE NEW DEAL is a hardcover, published by Dark Horse Comics, available as of September 23. You can find it at all your favorite booksellers including through Jonathan’s website right here. As always, be sure to visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.


Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Hotels, Humor, Jonathan Case, mystery

Review: ‘The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution’


This is one of the most beautiful educational graphic novels I’ve seen this year. And what a subject, beer! It’s a long title but worth it: “The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution.” Inspired, I chatted about the book with my old friend, Roy, at a local pub, Ballard’s own Stoup Brewing, while I went about preparing for this review. “Roy,” I said, ” I am always grateful that, in Seattle, you can literally walk out the door of one’s home and be within walking distance of a first-rate pub.” “Indeed, and Stoup is such an inviting place,” Roy observed. “Ah, to sit back and marvel over all the great things about beer. That’s the life!”

Stoup Brewing in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle

Stoup Brewing in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle

You had me at beer. What “The Comic Book Story of Beer” does is provide you with everything you ever wanted to know about beer in a pleasing full-color, lushly illustrated graphic novel. We begin with a young man bumbling along tasked with getting beer for a special occasion. Once inside an upscale specialty supermarket, he is lost among all the microbrew options. A helpful store employee pops in and conveniently begins our story. From then on, we are on a rollercoaster of information, often colorful and intriguing.

Aaron McConnell The Comic Book Story of Beer

How did beer play an important role in everything from the rise and fall of Ancient Rome, the Dark Ages, the Age of Exploration, the spread of capitalism, and the Reformation? Well, without fear of overstatement, beer is something of a wonder drink. In this clear and concise narrative, Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith weave a most compelling narrative on the health benefits and motivating powers of beer as well as guide you through beer’s robust history. It’s really an exciting story that finds a perfect home within comics.


This book does yeoman service in the name of presenting information in an accessible manner. I really admire the artwork of artist Aaron McConnell. I had the pleasure of reviewing his artwork for “The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation,” also with writer Jonathan Hennessey, which you can read here. For this book on beer, McConnell masterfully brings to life abstract subjects like pasteurization, “original gravity,” and “lagering.”

Co-writer Mike Smith adds another layer of authenticity as the beer expert that won over Jonathan Hennessy to the idea of writing a beer book in the first place. It all began when Mike gave Jonathan a tour of Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The wealth of information that Mike shared with Jonathan was just too good to pass up. It makes its way into a book that will win you over with its insider insight. For example, our main story is paused by intriguing beer profiles like the one on Belgian Wit and how it was single-handedly saved by a milkman from Flanders. No doubt, this is a pleasing book to behold and easily makes for the perfect gift for anyone into comics and/or beer.

THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF BEER is a 180-page trade paperback published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available as of September 22nd. You can find it at Amazon right here.


Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Penguin Random House

Review: TITAN #1 & #2

Phoebe at rest, one of the Titan masses.

Phoebe at rest, one of the Titan masses.

François Vigneault is an impressive cartoonist and I am so glad to share his work with you here at Comics Grinder. Phoebe and João come from two extremes on the class spectrum but they can’t help but be attracted to each other in François Vigneault’s TITAN, a new quirky sci-fi comics series published by Study Group Comics as a webcomic and as printed issues too.

Phoebe and João in François Vigneault's TITAN, published by Study Group Comics

Phoebe and João in François Vigneault’s TITAN, published by Study Group Comics

You’ve heard of the One Percenters, right? And all the economic disparity? Ha, of course you have. Ah, yes, the haves vs. the have-nots theme. In TITAN, the haves are Terrans and the have-nots are Titans. Vigneault brings us aboard Homestead Station on the moon of Titan where we follow Manager João da Silva as he attempts to lessen tensions between the geneticly-engineered Titan workers and the Terran management. It turns out that the key to his problems lies with one voluptuous Titan worker, Phoebe.

The dynamics on Homestead Station is a lot of fun to see unfold in these first two issues. Far, far, away, in some distant future, you’ll find that crass youth haven’t really changed much at all. Slang, for instance, reflects the latest level of rage. Communication in general, particularly amongst the working class, has undergone a further breakdown in literacy as everyone speaks in choppy sentences. It’s a grim world just waiting to explode! Vigneault keeps our eyes moving with just the right touches of futuristic background and engaging facial expressions and body language. TITAN proves to be a comic in the best sci-fi tradition: a compelling exploration of the human psyche.

Phoebe can't help but tower over Joao.

Phoebe can’t help but tower over João.

The relationship between Phoebe and João is very intriguing. Vigneault does a great job in expressing the divide between rich and poor, the vulnerabilities on each side. Vigneault engages the reader with a love story every bit unlikely and yet most compelling. Phoebe, who would seem to have the disadvantage as a member of the working class, cannot help but tower over her would-be master, João. And João seems to like it.


If you’re heading out to the Small Press Expo, taking place this weekend in Bethesda, Maryland, you’ll be seeing some of the best independent comics around. SPX is turning 21 this year, by the way, which makes her legal. Anyway, TITAN #2 will debut at SPX and is surely a comic you’ll want to pick up. Be sure to visit François Vigneault at the Floating World Comics/Study Group table, J8-9.


For more on the Small Press Expo, visit right here. And keep up with TITAN and Study Group Comics right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Independent Comics, Indie, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Small Press Expo, SPX, Study Group Comics