Category Archives: Cartoons

Book Review: ABRIDGED CLASSICS by John Atkinson

ABRIDGED CLASSICS by John Atkinson

We can all use a laugh and cartoonist John Atkinson has a unique way to provide that for you with his new book, “Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t.” This would make a great gift for Father’s Day or just about any occasion. Atkinson is known for his comic strip, “Wrong Hands,” where he distills things down to their hilarious essence. You have probably read his funnies in Time Magazine. Well, he takes no prisoners as he distills over a hundred works of literature down to a few mere words! Very funny stuff.

“The world of the one panel comics gag shares a lot in common with the world of stand-up comedy. Either the joke works or it doesn’t. Welcome to Wrong Hands, the world of John Atkinson, where jokes make impacts.” I said that as part of my introduction to an interview I did with John Atkinson five years ago. That was long before his gig with Time Magazine. I just happened to enjoy his ongoing work that all began, and continues to take place, on a blog at WordPress. I love that Atkinson keeps it all simple and real, down to maintaining his no frills free blog just like so many of us out here in the blogosphere.

There is a lot going on in Atkinson’s deceptively simple cartoons. There’s the joke, which can unpack in your mind on a deeper level. And there’s the pared-down art, free of ego-centric expressive lines. You end up with a very zen experience. Atkinson has a lot he wants to say in his work and the magic is in how he achieves the maximum impact with as little as possible. So, it makes total sense for Atkinson to tackle some of the most celebrated books–with hilarious results.

I highly recommend that you pick yourself up a copy. It’s a fun book that you’ll want to come back to. The little hardcover book has a nice look and feel to it. But, by all means, enjoy it on your phone too, especially since Atkinson’s format fits perfectly on any screen.

“Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t” is a 157-page full color hardcover, published by HarperCollins.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Cartoons, Comics, Humor, John Atkinson

DUNE Comics Anthology Art Show in Seattle

DUNE Art Show in Seattle

Seattle cartoonists of all stripes have been gathering at a little cafe for years. It’s been a mix of aspiring, emerging, professional, and enthusiast. Over time, this frenetic energy organized into a group that met once a month. For five years, the group met at Café Racer. They socialized, they drew, and the end result was a bunch of comics that were gathered up and turned into a comic book that was published the following month. That monthly comic book was known by the gallant and nerdy name of DUNE. It was a remarkable undertaking. Sadly, Café Racer recently closed its doors leaving the group without their routine creative outlet. To honor and celebrate their collective activity, there will be an art show of DUNE comics at a pub, The Leary Traveler. The show goes up January 18th and will run for a month.

If you are in Seattle, this is a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of some local cartoonist activity or the underground comix scene, per se. In fact, there is an unusually high concentration of cartoonists in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. That’s a subject far beyond the scope of this post and we’ll pick up on it more and more as we have over the years here at Comics Grinder. Suffice it to say, this art show is one of those special treats not to be missed.

Contributors to DUNE include well established masters of the comics medium (Roberta Gregory), painters and illustrators (John Ohannesian), brilliant young upstarts (Tom Van Deusen), exciting new talents (Gillian Rhodes, Handa, Rachel Scheer), enthused amateurs, and sometimes a non-artist or two who stopped in for beer and bravely decided to join the drawers. Sometimes the artists with the least “polish” end up turning in the pages that are the most clever, funny, and/or emotionally raw.

This show was organized by Push/Pull of Ballard, David Lasky, and Maxx Follis-Goodkind. The show poster is by comix artist Mark Falkey, who has been with DUNE since the first issue. The Leary Traveler is located at 4354 Leary Way NW in Seattle’s ‘Frelard’ neighborhood (the urban sprawl between Fremont and Ballard). The DUNE art show opening, takes place on Thursday, January 18th, from 6 to 9 pm. Expect many artists to be in attendance.

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Filed under Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comics, Seattle

Interview: Mike Capozzola, Stand-Up Comedian and Published Cartoonist (See him at Seattle Comedy Underground June 14, 2015)

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Mike Capozzola is a San Francisco stand-up comedian and published cartoonist. He’s very funny and thoughtful and a great guy to chat with about pop culture. He’ll be in my hometown, Seattle, to perform at the Comedy Underground on Sunday, June 14th. This is a perfect time to check out one of the most distinctive and cool comedy venues in the country.

Capozzola will perform his multimedia comedy show about sci-fi films, secret agents, werewolves, and superheroes. It’s called “Emperor Ming’s Mercilessly Spicy Wings and Other Tales.” You can find more details right here.

Emperor Ming-Mike-Capozzola

Corporations that have jumped on the geek bandwagon are not your friends. Heck, corporations aren’t even actually people. And the people who run these corporations don’t care, or begin to understand, what the term “geek” means. But folks like Mike Capozzola do get it. His show revolves around a natural love for geeky stuff.

Mike-Capozzola-Stand-Up-Comedy-Cartoonist

Amid his wide spectrum of work, what shines through is a relentless pursuit of offbeat humor. We chat here about what exactly the title of his show is all about and end up discussing pop culture in a significant way. We weren’t afraid to pull back the curtain and comment upon the brazen highjacking of the idea of being authentic, or “geek,” by commercial interests.

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Byway of discussing the title for his show in this interview, Capozzola shared his love for the webcomic, “The Perry Bible Fellowship” by Nicholas Gurewitch. In relation to Capozzola’s obscure reference to Emperor Ming, he cites Gurewitch’s story, “The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories,” where the good colonel appears in only a couple of panels. Now that’s some good geek street cred!

You can listen to the interview right below:

So, if you’re in Seattle, be sure to see Mike Capozzola at the Comedy Underground on Sunday, June 14. And visit Mike at his site right here.

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Filed under cartoon, Cartoon Art Museum, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comedy, Comedy Underground, Comics, Humor, Mike Capozzola, Pike Place Market, Seattle, Stand-up Comedy

Giant Days #1, published by Boom! Studios

Giant Days, drawn by Lissa Trieman

Giant Days, drawn by Lissa Treiman

Giant Days, drawn by John Allison

Giant Days, drawn by John Allison

Not too long ago, I reviewed a John Allison comic under the same title. This first issue of “Giant Days” is different material and published by Boom! Studios. It is very cool to see this comic getting a higher profile. This one is by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. It is the same trio of college friends from the webcomic. But, just so you know, Allison only writes it. And it is Treiman who does the art. Now, I know Allison has a strong following that know his work as the result of his writing and drawing. For those fans, how do you feel taking his characters in a new direction as it were? It does not completely sit well with me. But should that really be the case? Probably not.

Having another artist draw one’s comic creates a whole new dynamic to say the least. The original Allison characters are delightful: very deadpan, droll, with an overall cool demeanor. This new version warms up Daisy, Esther, and Susan in a way that is subtle but still there. This got me to thinking. It seems like you can get away with that with Adventure Time characters being drawn by various artists. That’s because they’re such broad and elastic characters drenched in irony. But you could never truly get away with the Peanuts gang being drawn by someone else. That’s because they’re such personal creations. I submit to you the newer Peanuts animated TV specials for your review. The oldest ones, you know the ones, may not have been drawn by Charles M. Schulz but they sure had the look and feel of the characters spot on.

There’s definitely a shift in tone here. So, I thought some more. It’s like once you’ve seen Ricky Gervais in “The Office,” you’re kind of spoiled and won’t ever fully accept Steve Carell, even though he’s a comic genius. Hmm, that said, it has to be an honor for Allison to see his characters transcend his own depiction of them. That part is nice. And Treiman does a fine job. And, well, if you didn’t know this already, it is Allison who requested that Treiman pursue this latest run that revisits the girls getting used to university life.

But you see my point, right? Comics are a very tricky thing. They involve body language, style, and a whole way of looking at the world. Hmm, for me, the change in the art alone made this comic feel less British. It is, mind you, still set in Britain and the dialogue alone attests to that from time to time. Maybe some small adjustments have been made in the bargain so it’s just not quite as British. But, to heck with it, I do enjoy the American version of “The Office!” If you’re not easily won over, this different Giant Days may throw you threw a loop but, at the end of the day, it’s very funny. I dare say, what with all the changes, it has a nice charm about it.

“Giant Days #1” is available now. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under Adventure Time, animation, Boom! Studios, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Charles M. Schulz, Comics, Comics Reviews, John Allison

ECCC 2015: Top Shelf Productions and Shannon Wheeler & Mark Russell

IDW Publishing at Emerald City Comicon this year brings a wide variety of comics goodness. I wanted to point out that Top Shelf Productions, now an imprint of IDW Publishing, will be at booth #1225, where you can meet the creative team behind the hit satire “God Is Disappointed in You,” Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler! The book is very funny and informative. Read my review right here.

"God Is Disappointed in You," by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

“God Is Disappointed in You,” by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler is a cartoonist best known for creating the satirical superhero Too Much Coffee Man, and as a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Find him here. Mark Russell is a writer and a cartoonist. His writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, The Nib, and Funny Times, among other places, and his cartoons are featured regularly at Nailed. Find him here. And, of course, you can definitely purchase “God Is Disappointed in You,” from Top Shelf Productions, right here.

Top Shelf Productions

I have a soft spot in my heart for the ebullient quality of Shannon’s cartoons. I include above a video interview I did with him at last year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. Seems like the perfect blast from the past to share with all of you. Below are the details on the panel with Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell:

Saturday, 2:00 – 3:00 Room Hall C (TCC 301)
God is Disappointed in You (The Sequel), with Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler—Last year’s standing-room-only hot ticket returns — now with even more Biblical bewilderment! God Is Disappointed in You, published by Top Shelf, is the tongue-in-cheek “condensed” version of the Bible you never knew you needed — hilariously modern, but surprisingly authentic — packed with cartoons by Eisner-award-winner Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, Too Much Coffee Man). Join him and author Mark Russell (writer of DC Comics’ upcoming Prez) for an hour of unforgettable irreverence, including Q&A, audience sketches, and the hilarious-yet-accurate “ten-minute Bible.” PLUS: a taste of the Audie-nominated audiobook, read by Dr. Venture himself, James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros), and an exclusive announcement about the upcoming sequel!

For more details on the IDW schedule at ECCC, go right here.

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Filed under Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comics, Emerald City Comicon, God, Humor, IDW Publishing, Religion, Satire, Shannon Wheeler, The New Yorker, Top Shelf Productions

Review: ‘MAD’s Greatest Artists: Don Martin: Three Decades of His Greatest Works’

Don Martin, MAD Magazine, June 1974

Don Martin, MAD Magazine, June 1974

By 1974, MAD magazine had hit an all-time high in popularity, selling more than 2 million copies per issue. It was also the height of the Watergate scandal, Vietnam War protests, and the counterculture. MAD helped bring about the age of subversive satire that we see today everywhere from “The Simpsons” to “The Daily Show.” It was the underground before there was an underground. And, among the wackiest of cartoonists, in fact, “MAD’s Maddest Artist,” was Don Martin. Martin was from some other planet. “MAD’s Greatest Artists: Don Martin: Three Decades of His Greatest Works,” published by Running Press, lets you see this extraterrestrial cartoonist at his best.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Book Reviews, Books, Cartoons, Comics, Don Martin, MAD magazine

Review: ‘I Don’t Get It’ by Shannon Wheeler

I-Dont-Get-It-Shannon-Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler has been for many years the much beloved alternative cartoonist, famous for his over-caffeinated comics, “Too Much Coffee Man.” And then he went where many cartoonists have attempted to go before but only a smidgen have been heard from since…The New Yorker!

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Filed under Bob Mankoff, Book Reviews, Books, Boom! Studios, Cartoons, Comics, Shannon Wheeler, The New Yorker

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY Unplugged

Here is a comic that attempts to tap into the elegant simplicity of the James Thurber short story. It is a delicate and precise little story: A henpecked husband daydreams he’s a hero while he goes about his mundane life. Two major motion pictures, in 1947 and in 2013, have taken this little story to great heights. This is a distillation of the original 1939 short story drawn in my take on the style of Thurber cartoons.

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The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-Thurber-003

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-Thurber-004

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-Thurber-005

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-Thurber-006

And there you have it, the whole story told in only six panels. I’d like to think that Mr. Thurber would have appreciated this tribute.

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Filed under Cartoons, Comics, James Thurber, The New Yorker, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

‘Gahan Wilson: Born Dead Still Weird’ Campaign Kicks Off August 18, 2013

Gahan-Wilson-Born-Dead-Still-Weird-2013

“We’re going all the way!” says filmmaker Steven-Charles Jaffe about his fundraising campaign in support of his documentary on master cartoonist Gahan Wilson, “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird.”

Beginning on Sunday, August 18, 2013, at noon PST, fundraising for the documentary resumes after the Kickstarter effort.

Many of the original pledgers are now renewing their pledges on the official “Born Dead, Still Weird” website which you can visit here.

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Gahan-Wilson-The-New-Yorker

From the “Born Dead, Still Weird” site:

We have launched this new funding website for our ACADEMY AWARD® campaign to enable all of you awesome supporters to renew your pledges and receive your rewards.

Please browse through our rewards and choose one or more. Note: some previously listed rewards have changed, so take a look and choose one or more. There is also the option to make a pledge without a reward. You can purchase using Paypal or credit card.

The reasons we need your help remain the same. We’re in a tough race to get the documentary submitted to the Academy® so we must reach our goal of $26,000 by Monday September 16.

Thanks again for your continued enthusiasm and support. We will do this!

Sincerely,

Steven

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Filed under Academy Awards, cartoon, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comics, Documentaries, Gahan Wilson, Illustration, Kickstarter, Playboy, Steven-Charles Jaffe, The New Yorker

INTERVIEW: Filmmaker Steven-Charles Jaffe and ‘Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird’

Gahan-Wilson-Steven-Charles-Jaffe-2013

“If Crumb can have a documentary, then so can Gahan Wilson!” The decision had been made.

Gahan Wilson is a force of nature. And so is filmmaker Steven-Charles Jaffe. Wilson found in Jaffe someone who would do justice to his legendary career that spans over 50 years of cartoons for The New Yorker, Playboy, and National Lampoon. Who else even comes close to such an output? That’s why a documentary had to be made. It is called, “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird.” Yes, you read that right, “Born Dead, Still Weird,” and it is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign that you can join here.

It was upon seeing “Crumb,” Terry Zwigoff’s landmark 1995 documentary on underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, that Jaffe resolved he needed to create a similarly worthy documentary of his friend and idol, Gahan Wilson. The idea of Jaffe and Wilson working together had already been kicking around for a few years. One plan that continues to interest them is a feature length animated movie based on Wilson’s illustrated book, “Eddy Deco’s Last Caper.” Jaffe and director Nicholas Meyer have approached IMAX about the project so we shall see. A Gahan Wilson animated movie in 3-D would be worth the wait.

For a taste of what it’s like for Wilson and Jaffe to work together, you can view the 2008 animated short, “It Was a Dark and Silly Night.” A story about children determined to have a jello war, even if it’s in a cemetery, this animated short is based on a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Gathan Wilson for an illustrated anthology, compiled and edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, “Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night.”

There is so much to a Gahan Wilson cartoon: it is entertaining, memorable, scary, and above all else, it won’t let go. “I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a Gahan Wilson cartoon that relates right back to his own life.” Jaffe makes the observation with awe and admiration. An artist of the caliber of Wilson has both a keen sense of whimsy and a backbone made of steel. He was a child of two out of control alcoholic parents. For him, he had to grow up fast while holding on ever tighter to his dreams.

The dream behind “Born Dead, Still Weird” is to give it as wide an audience as possible. Much in the same way that “Crumb” was transcendent, so too this documentary aims to show you the real man and artist. “That’s what struck such a chord with people, to see Robert Crumb on a human level,” says Jaffe. Both Crumb and Wilson climbed their ways out of adversity to unprecedented success. If Jaffe can accomplish his goal of stirring up the pot and getting his documentary considered for an Academy Award nomination, it will go a long way in securing a high profile for “Born Dead, Still Weird.” The essential stage, getting the documentary made is done. But the last stage, marketing and distribution, and just making sure the documentary is known about, is still ahead.

Jaffe recalls the kind words from Robert Redford in support of “Born Dead, Still Weird.” After viewing it, Redford wrote back to Jaffe, “I’m a huge proponent of art not only getting into the educational system but for its ability to save some lives and enhance some lives. It is a fine piece of work and I thank you.” Saving lives. What a joy to be able to make such a difference. This is something that has genuinely stuck with Jaffe. He’s the first to say that he did not set out to make an inspirational film and yet Gahan’s life attracts just that.

From Jaffe’s first encounter with a Gahan Wilson cartoon in Playboy at the tender age of 10, up to today, Jaffe’s felt his own life enriched by Wilson. “He is a total nonconformist,” Jaffe says with delight. In a world where being different can have harsh consequences, as with bullies in school, Gahan Wilson is a shining example of someone who is going to live his life his way.

I hope you enjoy the podcast below that includes the entire interview with Steven-Charles Jaffe. Just click below:

Steven-Charles Jaffe

Be sure to stop by and visit the Kickstarter campaign for “Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird” right here.

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Filed under Art, Cartoons, Comics, Documentaries, Gahan Wilson, Humor, Illustration, Kickstarter, National Lampoon, Playboy, Steven-Charles Jaffe, The New Yorker