Category Archives: 1960s

Review: ‘My Favorite Thing Is Monsters’ Vol 1 (of 2) by Emil Ferris

“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” Vol 1 (of 2) by Emil Ferris

If you have not heard of this book yet, then let me introduce you to one of the new landmarks in graphic novels, “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris, published by Fantagraphics. Maybe you have heard of it. Or maybe, like me, you weren’t sure what to make of it at first. Certainly, one quick look through its pages, and you can tell this is something weird and wonderful. And, at 386 pages, this ain’t a book you’re gonna miss sitting there on the shelf.

An enigma begging for resolution.

As a cartoonist myself, the book is also a bit intimidating. All this awesome stuff to process–that I didn’t write and draw! As a reviewer, this is the sort of book that everyone comes out of the woodwork to review. People who never read graphic novels now suddenly have an opinion to express on the next big thing. But, don’t get me wrong, it is exciting to see a book like this gain the spotlight. That said, a number of things make this book significant and worthy of a long life after the current buzz.

A bigger look: two-page spread.

The best way to enjoy this book is to find a cozy seat and explore the pages for a while. Then just settle into it. Ferris has an uncanny sense for narrative flow. In a comic that she did about promoting the book, she included an observation by comics legend Art Spiegelman. He declared that Ferris had tapped into a new rhythm for comics. To be sure, Ferris has a distinctive approach. She beautifully alternates among various possibilities: from full page drawings to panel sequences; from just a hint of color to full color; from lots of text to minimal text. This exquisite contrast propels the reader into worlds unknown.

Deeze, the bad boy older brother.

Our story begins in Chicago on Valentine’s Day, 1968. There’s been a murder, or maybe a suicide, or God only knows what. Something happened upstairs. 10-year-old Karen Reyes has lost her dear friend, her upstairs neighbor in the apartment right above her: the elegant and enigmatic Anka Silverberg. She was shot in the heart. But her apartment door was bolted shut from the inside. So, yes, it was a suicide, right? Well, that’s what the police say. But Karen senses that just can’t be right. And so begins Karen’s investigation. Karen, the little girl who thinks she’s a monster. Yes, she really believes she’s some werewolf girl. And the only thing more scary than that is the M.O.B., that’s short for people who are Mean, Ordinary, and Boring.

Having to answer to mama.

Ferris fuels her work of magical realism with magical kid logic. Karen’s quest to get to the bottom of the death of Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, becomes a multi-layered journey. Narrated by Karen, the reader becomes privy to a child’s inner world in a similar fashion to Jonathan Safran Foer’s celebrated novel, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” 10-year-old Karen ponders over the validity of monsters and concludes that they have as much right to exist as other unseen marvels like germs and electricity. Karen’s fanciful innocence clashes with harsh reality. Her older brother, Deeze is engrossed in various sexual conquests with little to no discretion as to whether Karen is around to hear it or see it. As a way to protect herself, Karen can always revert back to her own whimsical concerns, like whether or not tulips get homesick for Holland.

One of the many pulp magazine tributes.

This is a genuine must-read resonating with aficionados and the general public alike. Many of the pages in the book have become iconic, particularly the monster magazine portraits. This is a tale that intertwines the tumult of the 1930s and 1960s and ends up casting a mirror to our own very troubled era. The alternating formats that Ferris uses are the hallmark to this most innovative work. Ferris steadily modulates the narrative having the reader swim to the deep end and read passages suitable for a prose novel all the way to deceptively simple comic strip sequences. All the while, everything is held together cohesively with the consistent use of ball point pen rendered art on a background of notebook paper–that and one of the most compelling voices to grace the page.

As I say, in my video review, it is a hard thing to do in a graphic novel where a cartoonist creates something truly fresh that has the reader seeing things in a whole new way:

This is one of those rare books that can safely be called an instant classic. It is a long work in comics that truly makes good use of a high page count. In fact, a second volume is due out as early as Valentine’s Day of 2018. For more details, visit Emil Ferris right here. And visit Fantagraphics right here.

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Filed under 1960s, Comics, Emil Ferris, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Review: ‘California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas’ by Pénélope Bagieu

CALFORNIA DREAMIN' by Pénélope Bagieu

CALFORNIA DREAMIN’ by Pénélope Bagieu

NOTE: If you are heading out to Emerald City Comicon (March 2-5), be sure to stop by the First Second Books booth #1602 on the exhibit floor. There you can meet such fabulous talent as Pénélope Bagieu, the author of the book I am reviewing here:

What a truly delightful book I have to share with you: “California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas,” written and drawn by Pénélope Bagieu, published by First Second Books. This is quite a smooth read. It sort of feels like a film shot in one continuous take. The story seamlessly moves along at a quick and steady pace. I could not put down reading this unique life journey and read the 272-page graphic novel in one sitting. Cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu has channelled the one-of-a-kind Cass Elliot!

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

Part of what makes this book a page-turner is the highly engaging art. Bagieu has fun with brining Cass Elliot to life, from an insecure but highly precocious little girl to a defiant young woman and, finally, to a confident artist. It all began with a quirky family that adored music. Before there was a Mama Cass, and the legendary band of the Sixties, The Mamas & the Papas, there was little Ellen Cohen being tucked into bed while her dad recited the story of the eccentric singer, Florence Foster Jenkins.

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

There is clearly a passion here for the subject that makes the narrative dance on the page. By the time we reach the point where Cass and her bandmates are crafting their first breakout hit, not yet even aware of the band they were destined to be, we feel that we really know everyone involved.

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'

Page excerpt from CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

I’ve often said that the right biography can make the best subject, and is most suitable, for a graphic novel. There is a wonderful opportunity to speak to everything under the sun, guided by a specific purpose, and allowing for at least a hint, maybe more, about the author. This is a book that will appeal to many a music lover and student of the counterculture. It is essentially an all-ages book but just keep in mind there are some discrete drug references more suitable for older readers. This is rock ‘n’ roll, after all. That said, it is highly recommended and will prove an engaging read on many levels: coming-of-age, rock history, and just a plain fun read.

When we think back to the Sixties, we inevitably associate the powerful music that grew from that tumultuous era. Folk music, springing forth from the 1950s and the Beat Generation, would give way to the Sixties and bolder and more audacious pop and rock. It was Cass Elliot, with her sublime singing, and overall exceptional musical talent, who would ride this new wave of music with a style all her own. Pénélope Bagieu’s graphic novel gives us a compelling look at the rise of this singular talent.

“California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas” is a 272-page hardcover, black & white with gray tone graphic novel, available as of March 7, 2017. For more details, and how to purchase, visit MacMillan Publishers right here.

Emerald City Comicon celebrating its 15th year!

Emerald City Comicon celebrating its 15th year!

And, if you are heading out to Emerald City Comicon (March 2-5), be sure to stop by at the First Second Books booth #1602 on the exhibit floor. This will be the place to meet authors, attend free signings and find giveaways of books, advance reader copies, and exclusive print posters.

Some of the authors First Second will be hosting include:

Gene Luen Yang (Reading Without Walls Program)
Penelope Bagieu (California Dreamin’)
Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Leviathan, Spill Zone)
Nidhi Chanani (Pashmina)
Falynn Koch (Science Comics)
Mike Lawrence (Star Scouts)
Jessixa Bagley (Before I Leave, Boats for Papa, and Laundry Day)

First Second will also be hosting a number of panels, including one offsite at the Seattle Public Library:

Off-site event @ Seattle Public Library on (3/3) featuring Gene Yang, Scott Westerfeld, Box Brown, Penelope Bagieu, and Matt Loux, 7:00–8:30 pm, Microsoft Auditorium

Departing Neverland: In-Conversation with Five Fantastic YA Creators (3/3) featuring Scott Westerfeld, Nidhi Chanani, Natalie Riess, and Ashley Poston, 2:45-3:45 pm, WSCC 603

From the Screen to the Page… and Beyond (3/4) featuring Box Brown, Holly Conrad, Matt Loux, and Ben Blacker, 2:45-3:45 pm, WSCC 603

Mirrors & Windows: Reflecting Diversity (3/5) featuring Nidhi Chanani, Gene Luen Yang, Mike Lawrence, Ngozi Ukazu, and Jessixa Bagley, 12:00-1:00 pm, WSCC 603

Drawn That Way (3/5) featuring Penelope Bagieu, MK Reed, Nidhi Chanani, G. Willow Wilson, and Thi Bui, 3:45-4:45 pm, WSCC 603

If you’re into books and graphic novels, then First Second has something for you!

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Filed under 1960s, Comics, Counterculture, Emerald City Comicon, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Seattle, The Sixties

Seattle Focus: MOHAI Presents TOYS of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s

MOHAI Presents TOYS of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Once a toy has become an artifact of childhood, it has reached a very special place. For the purposes of this exhibit, a look at American toys spanning three decades, the focus is upon the joy and comfort these toys provided. The context is both simple and complex as viewers are invited to study the various exhibits from their own personal point of view. Did you have a happy childhood? If not, maybe a toy helped you along the way? Sectioned off into three decades worth of childhoods, there is plenty to recollect and reassess.

Contemplating Toys and Childhood

Contemplating Toys and Childhood

“Toys from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s” is enjoying its West Coast premiere on display at MOHAI here in Seattle. Originating from the Minnesota History Center, this exhibit asks you to revisit many toys that, by today’s standards, would not be deemed suitable for children on many grounds, including common sense safety! Lawn darts, anyone?? Yep, we don’t see lawn darts sold in today’s toy market. They’re basically sharp steel projectiles. They’re not going to cut it, or rather, they ARE going to cut it! But, you see, lawn darts have a home here–on display only. Lawn darts are not subject to recall within the bounds of this exhibit. They are here to conjure up good lawn dart memories, for those who have them. And they’re also here as a subject for discussion. As much as this exhibit is a trip down memory lane, it also invites viewers to draw their own conclusions.

The Game of Cootie, originally launched in 1949

The Game of Cootie, originally launched in 1949

What are your thoughts on Barbie dolls or toy guns? You’ll find them here ready for your marvel or scrutiny. The point is that you’ll find all sorts of toys, whether or not they pass today’s safety or societal tests. The overwhelming nature of childhood memory takes over. Countless kids loved their toys and now we have the nostalgia for yesteryear and contemporary perspective to guide us. You’ll find a lot of kids attracted to the exhibits. You’ll see lots of families with their toddlers, too young to appreciate any nuances but ready to grab at anything not secured. And then there are the adults who grew up in these respective decades. For them, especially, the exhibit features living room re-creations for each decade on view. For these viewers, the couch is right there to sit and go back in time with, alone or perhaps to share with younger family members.

1960s Living Room Re-creation at MOHAI Toys exhibit

1960s Living Room Re-creation at MOHAI Toys exhibit

Toys are certainly not easy to pin down. Toys resist being dismissed even if the originals are stored away or thrown away. Toys come at you from every direction. At a certain age, they define your leisure, your means of escape. They can become your world, your identity. They’re based upon all you think you know about the world whether from books, movies, television, just about anything. What does a choice in a toy say about a child? What does a toy say about the adult who chose it for the child? The adult who created it? The manufacturer that produced it? The country that embraced it?

Atomic Disintegrator repeating cap pistol, introduced by Hubley in 1954

Atomic Disintegrator repeating cap pistol, introduced by Hubley in 1954

Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile, introduced by Amsco Industries in 1958

Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile, introduced by Amsco Industries in 1958

One of the best examples of how toys can make a difference is the American reaction to the Soviet’s being the first in space in 1957 with the Sputnik satellite. That little object in space caused shockwaves in the United States. Toy makers would definitively enter the Space Age and Space Race. Hubley’s 1954 Atomic Disintegrator, right out of science fiction, was all well and good. But now was the time to step up a focus on science and technology. Amsco Industries responded in 1958 with the Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile, “designed by missile engineers, tested in Cape Canaveral.” And, as the display makes clear, kids ate it up! There’s this priceless quote from the exhibit:

“How did I get interested in science and make it my life’s work? Kids in the late ’50s and ’60s could get toys that complemented that interest. My friends and I loved my Alpha-1 Ballistic Missile: Mix up some baking soda and vinegar, put it into the missile, put it on the launch pad, and pull the string. That baby could really fly.”

–Mike Smith, b. 1952, meteorologist

It was fun, as a discerning adult, to wander back and forth between the three living room areas: the wonder and innocence in the 1950s; the keen interest in science and exploration in the 1960s; and a full circle escape to wonder and innocence in the 1970s. It seemed like, after having landed on the moon, and the rise of the Vietnam War, Americans were ready to refocus. Instead of looking to actual stars, Americans were ready to go see the new blockbuster hit, “Star Wars,” entertainment with its roots in 1930s pulp fiction. They were also ready to buy all the Star Wars toys.

Hey, that's Han Solo's Millennium Falcon!

Hey, that’s Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon!

I have fond memories of the ’70s as a kid. And I recall seeing “Star Wars” in 1977, at age 14, at our local movie theater at the mall. It would not have occurred to me to buy all the Star Wars figures, let alone a toy replica of the Millennium Falcon. But it was really nice to see the whole Star Wars set on display here at MOHAI. Any kid would have been thrilled to have owned them back then. But I’m sure that I owned a couple of figures. And I know that I went to see “Star Wars” more than once, despite the very long lines. I didn’t question any of it back then, although I was certainly old enough to do so. I was more than happy to accept it just as fun. I didn’t think about profit motives or the future of franchises or the American spirit. This brand new thing called “Star Wars” left you with a good feeling inside. And that’s the best thing any toy can offer.

TOYS at MOHAI!

TOYS at MOHAI!

“Toys from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s” is on display at MOHAI through September 25th. For more details, visit MOHAI right here.

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Childhood, Children, Comics, Education, Family, History, MOHAI, pop culture, Sci-Fi, Science, Seattle, Toys

Looking Beyond the Nixon Mask

Nixon and Trump masks from PureCostumes.com

Nixon and Trump masks from PureCostumes.com

I went to a costume party just the other night. This ain’t my first rodeo. I wore my first Nixon mask when I was sixteen. I loved how weird and recognizable it was, just like the real Nixon. I was a political junkie way back then. Nixon was already out of office and I just knew from my political Spidey sense that this mask was here to stay. It followed me around quite a bit in my youth from one party to the next. I didn’t take it to every party (I’m no Nixon fanatic!) but, if you wanted a cheap laugh, there it was. Better than a guerrilla mask, although that’s a cool choice too.

I maintain that Nixon will always be the one. Still, I wanted to see what I might have been missing out on. After some careful study, I kept finding creative and unexpected options at PureCostumes.com. Look around for yourself and you will find something for any age and any occasion. You never know, maybe a Sixties theme would be perfect. You can have someone at your party with a Nixon mask but you can also have hippie costumes too.

Go Go Girl and Hippie costumes from PureCostumes.com

Go Go Girl and Hippie costumes from PureCostumes.com

This is my most infamous Nixon mask experience–and then I’ll share with you what I recently did. This was some years ago. I was dating this girl who, early in our budding relationship, invited me to an office party. She worked at a prestigious law firm and they were having their annual winter holiday gathering. It wasn’t a costume party by any stretch of the imagination but I was still pushing limits and decided to try out some subversive humor. Right in the middle of a rather quite and staid event, I whipped out my Nixon mask. I put it on and did a quick skit. Looking back on it, I think it was only meant for an audience of two, maybe three people, but I may as well have been performing for everyone there as it seems all eyes and ears turned to me rather suddenly. People laughed. There were some cheers. I ended by raising both arms with the double peace sign salute.

Now, just the other night, we had a neighborhood block party. I had gotten to thinking it might be fun to wear a mask and do some comedy. Why not, right? But it wouldn’t be Nixon this time. Besides, the old Nixon mask I used to cherish was long gone. So, that’s what got me rethinking the whole mask and costume thing. I gave it some thought and I concluded that a Trump mask was in order. I got one from PureCostumes.com and it brought back memories from my ole Nixon years. It was fun and easy to get into character. And it all ended very well. The important thing in these situations is to remember that you’re wearing the mask and the mask in not wearing you. We all got our Trump fix and it is stored away for now until next time.

Wizard and Violet costumes from PureCostumes.com

Wizard and Violet costumes from PureCostumes.com

Maybe you want to be a wizard. Maybe your kid wants to be Violet from The Incredibles. Well, you see where I’m going with this. My eyes have been opened. I have many options and I can find them at PureCostumes.com. There are numerous reasons for masks and costumes, right? Who knows, you may find yourself starting a whole new tradition with a Trump or Hillary mask. You just never know.

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Filed under 1960s, Cosplay, Costumes, Donald Trump, politics, Purecostumes.com, Satire

DVD review: CANDY

Ewa Aulin and Marlon Brando in 1968's "Candy"

Ewa Aulin and Marlon Brando in 1968’s “Candy”

“Candy” was a notorious novel from 1958 by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. It had sex, satire, and more sex. By 1968, director Christian Marquand brought to the screen something which was equally notorious and it had sex, satire, and more sex. There’s a story that Buck Henry, the screenwriter, tells in a bonus feature on the DVD. Marquand, Henry, and a producer, Peter Zoref, would routinely go to lunch during the filming. Zoref was regularly verbally abused by Marquand but, on that day, Marquand took to slapping Zoref. Henry admonished Marquand to stop. When Marquand ignored Henry and resumed his abuse, Henry threatened to use his knife on Marquand–which he ultimately did! With a knife impaled into his hand, Marquand began to maniacally laugh. He just kept on laughing and laughing. To this, Buck Henry conceded some form of greatness on the part of Marquand! And, with that said, it gives you a taste of “Candy.”

1968 was a long time ago, no two ways about it. So, we take that into consideration when viewing such a work as this. It is not an unequivocally classic piece like, say, Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove.” No, no, no. It is not that. However, a case can be made for it being a misunderstood gem. There are some interesting things going on that raise it above a typical Sixties exploitation movie. In fact, there are plenty of entertaining scenes to make this worthwhile and a lot of that rests on the stellar cast of actors. Everyone on board seems okay with the premise and play it to the hilt: a young woman, a veritable ingenue/sex object wanders about as various middle-aged men ogle her and dare to fondle her. Candy, on the other hand, does not find the potential suitors to be repulsive. She is mostly concerned with being given a decent reason to take her clothes off. Silly. Surreal. Disturbing. Check all of the above.

We begin with Richard Burton as Candy’s first suitor. That turns out to be quite impressive. And the list of suitors goes on from there: Ringo Starr, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and Marlon Brando. At one point, I sort of started to think that director Marquand had set up a cynical trap for all these A-listers putting them in a situation that would leave them looking ludicrous. But, no, that does not really happen. Everyone survives, if not excels. Burton is brilliant as MacPhisto, a latter-day Lord Byron with a throng of young women in a frenzy over him. With any woman at his disposal, MacPhisto becomes transfixed by Candy, played to spaced-out perfection by Ewa Aulin. The only problem is that MacPhisto is all thumbs, like most of the men depicted in this movie, when it comes to actually having sex. Candy is all for it but MacPhisto proves to be trapped within a bubble of his own self-delusion. Fast forward to Marlon Brandon, as Grindl, the charismatic guru, who proves to be a capable seducer. While all the rest of the men marvel over Candy the sex object, Grindl has no problem firmly placing hand over mons and proceeding. Whether true zeitgeist or more kitsch, “Candy” has a certain colorful quality to it that makes it hard to resist. It is a masterpiece train wreck.

“Candy” has been released on DVD from Kino Lorber. You can find “Candy” at various outlets including Amazon right here.

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Filed under 1960s, DVD Blu-ray Reviews, Humor, movies, Satire, Sex

Pop Culture Focus: Randy Bowles and the Sixties

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Here at Comics Grinder, we not only love pop culture but we dig deeper–all the way to its roots. With musician Randy Bowles, I have a friend who can share insights into the Sixties from a unique perspective. As a co-founder of Yakima, Washington’s Velvet Illusions (1966-67), Bowles found himself in a catbird seat to view and participate in his generation’s journey through identity, rebellion, and so much more. It was the beginning of a career in music that would take him in many directions.

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Ultimately, Randy Bowles carved a niche for himself in folk music and he’s remained active in that, and general storytelling, ever since. You can enjoy his special brand of insight at his WordPress blog right here. We became friends through the WordPress community and it just goes to show you yet another benefit of being part of WordPress.

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

Getting back to Randy, an important thing to know is that he was in this cool band, The Velvet Illusions, and then he went on to other cool bands and his own solo work. As for Velvet Illusions, listen for yourself and you’ll find a fun and steady beat. Here they are singing the Velvet Illusions theme:

In our recent chat, we discuss the Sixties for a bit and mainly focus on fashion. Bowles provides some insight on the passions and interests of the Sixties generation: what was homegrown versus what was manufactured to sell to a mainstream audience.

Randy Bowles is a good guy. I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

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Filed under 1960s, Counterculture, Music, pop culture, Randy Bowles, The Sixties, The Velvet Illusions

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

Review: ‘The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,’ published by Dark Horse Comics

Review-The-Fifth-Beatle-Tiwary-Robinson-Baker

Brian Epstein was in search of greatness. He found it with a ragtag band in a little basement club. These lads from Liverpool were not just any ragtag band. Brian Epstein was an expert on pop music and knew right away that The Beatles were special and could use his help. And so Brian embarks upon his true calling which is faithfully retold in the graphic novel, “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” published by Dark Horse Comics, for their imprint, M Press.

The-Fifth-Beatle-Dark-Horse-Comics-2013

To be a homosexual in England in the 1960s could land you in prison. And to be Jewish could put your life at risk during a time of great anti-Semitism. Brian was both and very much aware of the danger. However, he wasn’t someone to be pushed around with either. The script by Vivek J. Tiwary, a Broadway producer and avid Beatles fan, gives us a portrait of a determined young man who is very passionate about music and style. But it’s not just a passion, it’s a way of life: You can conquer the world if you look the part. This worldview is essential and part of what Brian will instill in The Beatles. Just like a well dressed matador wows the cheering crowds, so the well dressed image of The Beatles will wow the world.

Brian-Epstein-The-Beatles

The artwork by Andrew Robinson (Star Wars, Batman), with contributions by Kyle Baker (Plastic Man, Why I Hate Saturn), transports us back quite nicely to the good cheer and irreverence of the young band led by the young old soul Epstein. We see Epstein go from running the family business, the record store, Nems, to managing The Beatles. By sheer determination, Epstein continues on course believing in the band’s potential more than the band had ever dared dreamed themselves. Andrew Robinson has a deft touch with facial expression and body language. His engaging character development brings the lads and their magnificent manager to full life.

Brian-Epstein-The-Fifth-Beatle

The challenge in writing such a book was starting out with a relatively small amount of information on the subject. Of course, any true Beatles fan or serious scholar of pop culture knows that Brian Epstein was The Beatles manager–but not much more. What Vivek does is pretty amazing. It’s not impossible, no doubt, but it’s an ambitious goal to take any compelling figure and tell their story. It has been a project that Vivek has been building up for some twenty years, beginning as a youth fascinated with the entertainment business and evolving as simply a love for the man himself. This tribute to Brian Epstein is spot on and will inspire.

Told in three parts, this story unfolds at a fast pace. Given the roller coaster of events, that rings true. In only six years, from 1961 to 1967, Epstein took a promising, but unknown, band and did as he vowed he’d do, made them bigger than Elvis. Along the way, we have time for some fascinating extended scenes that give us insights into what it was like for Epstein, both personal and professional. We come to see just how painfully lonely he was. And we see him navigating some unusual business dealings. The scenes with Colonel Parker and with Ed Sullivan are interesting. And to think it all came to an end for Brian Epstein at the age of 32. The Beatles would only last another couple of years after his death. But, that end was just one end. The music lives on. And, with this book, the story of Brian Epstein lives on in this compelling work.

The-Fifth-Beatle-Brian-Epstein

“The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story” is a 144-page hardcover, priced at $19.99, and available as of November 19, 2013. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics here. And be sure to visit The Fifth Beatle website here.

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Filed under 1960s, Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, The Beatles

Interview: FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY: Brad Bernstein, director and writer; Rick Cikowski, lead editor and lead animator

"Doctor Strangelove"  Movie Poster. Artwork by Tomi Ungerer.

“Doctor Strangelove” Movie Poster. Artwork by Tomi Ungerer.

FAR OUT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH: THE TOMI UNGERER STORY is a masterfully created documentary that will hit you on many levels. It is eligible for an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary and deserves that level of recognition for being so careful to detail with its subject, artist Tomi Ungerer.

I had the honor of speaking with both Brad Bernstein, the film’s director and writer, and Rick Cikowski, the film’s lead editor and lead animator. Both men expressed their love for Tomi Ungerer and provide insight into the making of this impressive documentary, distributed by First Run Features.

For me, I can appreciate what happened to Tomi Ungerer when I look at the iconic poster he created for “Doctor Strangelove.” That poster, much like his “Black Power, White Power” poster are forever part of one’s psyche. And yet, in America, Ungerer’s work in children’s books is not widely known today. That work is just as powerful and was just as well known in its day, as anything else he has created. Thanks to Phaidon, we have many of his great works being reprinted in the United States. But, for decades, it was as if he’d been wiped out of memory in America. How could that be? That is a big part of the fascinating story that unfolds in this documentary.

Tomi Ungerer is a great talent and, for a man who has had a lifelong battle with fear, he is a most courageous man. For someone who grew up under the horror of the Nazis, and went on to conquer the world of illustration in its heydey in New York City, that alone is remarkable. But going that far out, wasn’t far enough for Ungerer.

“Far Out Isn’t Far Enough” brings together a seamless narrative boiling down numerous hours of interviews with Tomi Ungerer, Jules Feiffer, the late great Maurice Sendak, as well as other notable figures like art director and critic Steven Heller. Throughout the film you are treated to very deftly purposed animation that strikes the right cord, whether humorous or somber.

As Brad Bernstein explains, the initial attraction to Tomi Ungerer was his spirited expressions like, “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough.” That really says it all. Ungerer is a man who speaks his mind and does it quite well. His life and work are a testament to a strong will and this documentary honors that spirit very well.

You can listen to the interview with Brad Bernstein and Rick Cikowski by clicking the link below:

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And, as the say, tell your friends and spread the word about this documentary. You can visit the official site here and also follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Filed under 1960s, Art, Art books, Children's Books, Design, Documentaries, Erotica, Illustration, movies, pop culture, Protest, Social Commentary, Tomi Ungerer