Category Archives: Comics

Guest Review: ‘Alay-Oop’ by William Gropper

Alay-Oop by William Gropper

A Forgotten Comics Master: William Gropper

Guest Review by Paul Buhle

Alay-Oop by William Gropper, introduction by James Sturm, published by New York Review Books, 209 pages, $24.95.

A growing interest in the origins of comic art—a subject that could direct the reader toward cave paintings but more logically offers twentieth century precursors—has prompted the return of long-forgotten names like Lynd Ward and Frans Masereel, and just as naturally, reprints of their work. These notables and others peaking before the Second World War favored wood-cuts over drawing on paper, and also favored an art form now  known familiarly as the “wordless novel.” It’s a fascinating memory corner, full of  biting social criticism, but so different from the famed agitational cartoons, or for that matter, mural art of the New Deal period, that any common ground is little understood. Reader, meet William Gropper.

We can say many useful things about Gropper the artist, but for our purposes, there is every reason to start with Alay-Oop. It is a simple tale of a trapeze artist so muscular that she may not be beautiful in any classic sense, but she is admirably limber, a skilled and daring performer.  She is wooed by an older and rich, plump opera singer, with throngs of fans of his own.  He takes her out (with her own acrobat-partner in tow), romances her and persuades her to marry. A few pages of her dreaming, heavily erotic in symbolism, shows us that she is willing, and her swain promises her the skies. Her rather handsome fellow acrobat is, then, left out in the cold. Soon, she has beloved children but a troubled marriage. She finds her way, she reaches her way through her acrobatic skills, to her own version of a happy ending. This is a memorable Strong Woman Story, and may (as the introduction suggests) reflect the strength of Gropper’s own real life mother character, when his father, an autodidact intellectual, let the family down.

A May-December romance. Will it last?

Now, back to the Gropper famous in his own milieu. Communists and Popular Front sympathizers,  together numbering into the high hundreds of thousands from the mid-depression to the beginning of the Cold War, would recognize Gropper’s work in a minute. His famed and ferocious “Bank Night” drawing, with the fat capitalist landlord reaching into the slums for grotesque profits, alone memorably identifies both the artist’s skills and his temperament. Personal testimony: Recovering from a day at a pre-induction  Army physical in 1966, I was driven by famed Yale University peacenik Staughton Lynd out to stay the night with a Jewish chicken farmer. There, on the kitchen wall, was a famed Gropper print, with ugly Senators, most likely Dixiecrats, at a US Congress hearing, yawning with unembarrassed tedium at the social crisis of the Depression. That was the first Gropper that I ever saw.

Alay-Oop  evidently comes from a different place if definitely not a different artist.  Gropper himself had actually attended a radical art school, with giants like Masses magazine artists like Stuart Davis and Dada /Surrealist avant-gardist Man Ray. Instructor Robert Henri personally escorted young Gropper to the 1913 Armory Show that introduced modernism to the backward US intelligentsia. The young man had the talent and connections to make it as an illustrator in a grand era for newspaper illustrators—but was bounced from a commercial staff job as too radical.

You could say that he found a place for himself, an eager audience intense if not commercially helpful, at the Liberator and New Masses, two beautiful magazines that attached themselves to “the New Russia” without quite being overwhelmed by politics. By the early years of the Depression, Gropper’s work was overwhelmingly agitational, with the Daily Worker its largest outlet. Alay-Oop may be the first suggestion that his heart belonged elsewhere, at least in part.

What inspired him to comic art? Belgian Frans Masereel was so famous in Europe that leading novelists wrote introductions to his classic woodcut works. Back in the US, Lynd Ward’s  mordant God’s Man sold wildly, far beyond the art crowd that seemed the intended audience. Hugely popular funny pages artist Milt Gross published what some regard as the actual earliest comics novel, He Done Her Wrong (1930), a satire on the  soap opera-like American adventure novel.  Alay-Oop appeared in that same year, but can only be described as a genre of its own. If it has successors, they come generations later.

James Sturm, who wrote the Introduction to the volume under review but co-founded the Center for  Cartoon Studies in Vermont, suggests we are not likely to find out. In his style, Gropper was not austere like Masereel or Ward, nor satirical like Gross. He was aiming for something else, and that may be a reason why the book got lost so quickly and easily. Gropper himself moved toward a very different and unique high point of his artistic career: the opportunities opened by the New Deal. Muralist for the Works Progress Administration, popular book illustrator, artist of a folk-lore map of the USA (with little figures representing various traditions), Gropper the erstwhile revolutionary was “discovering America” in his own terms, and good at it. He had also become, for the moment, also a considerable painter, mostly of the social themes around him, and remembered from his impoverished youth.

Much of the remainder of Gropper’s life seems to have devoted rather less to leftwing causes, and rather more to painting, but also to making a living as an architectural artist, where he achieved a certain distinction. After the Second World War, with its  artistic high points of sympathy for the Russians and anti-fascism generally,  his opportunities but perhaps his political eagerness as well, were seriously restrained. His grandson is quoted in  the introduction as saying that grandpa was not all that political—which is about what an old man would tell a kid in the 1950s. All this  nevertheless suggests that  Alay-Oop reaches out toward something elusive,  but that is hardly a criticism of any artistic creation.

The book is certainly successful in itself,  with a line of drawing, as Sturm suggests, so fresh and fluid that  it looks like “the ink is still wet” (p.10). We also hear from his grandson that Gropper, drawn to vaudeville and the circus, admired performers as more honest and more fully human than politicians. Perhaps we need no further guide. Anyone can search through Google Images and admire the breadth of Gropper’s work. It would be good to have an anthology that gives us a sense of them.

Paul Buhle, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left,  has produced a dozen comics.

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Review: JEREMIAH by Cathy G. Johnson

JEREMIAH by Cathy G. Johnson

Wonderful things often take place in the world of alt-comics. I’m talking about when a bigger publisher lends a hand to help a smaller publisher. A case in point is the graphic novel, Jeremiah, which joins AdHouse Books in promoting and distributing and One Percent Press in publishing this remarkable work. There are quite a few gems out there among indie comics and Cathy G. Johnson proves that wonders never cease. Johnson’s work has a beauty that looks effortless and pure. In the span of 160 pages, she mesmerizes the reader with her gentle yet powerful watercolor comics.

“You are not a child.”

This is the story of Jeremiah, a young man who seems to be a blank slate with no past or future, just a country boy out in the middle of nowhere. Jeremiah may seem pretty simple and, in a lot of ways, he is. But he also has his own set of complex desires. Johnson masterfully rolls out a narrative pared down to its essentials while brimming with ambiguity and mystery. Just what is the relationship between Catie and Jeremiah? Perhaps a handyman can help sort through an accumulation of despair and confusion.

A boy’s desire may consume him.

Johnson conveys emotion in her artwork in a very direct and economical way. She can evoke years of longing and melancholy with just the right amount of lines and wash. Poor Jeremiah. He’s still just a boy and his mounting desire may consume him if he doesn’t free himself. Johnson practices the subtle art of restraint in telling his story; and, in the end, it all comes out when Johnson is ready to release the floodgate.

Lost among the corn fields.

For more details, be sure to visit Cathy G. Johnson right here.

 

 

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Interview: Artist Robert Sikoryak

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Robert Sikoryak, aka R. Sikoryak, is an artist that I’ve always admired. You have probably seen his work grace the cover of issues of The New Yorker or maybe you know him from one of his comics adaptations of literature classics. He’s best known for featuring his virtuoso adaptation of masters in the comics medium in the service of a satirical work, like Masterpiece Comics. Another great example is the recent Terms and Conditions, an ambitious and hilarious comics adaptation of the iTunes contract we all must agree to but never bother to read.

NEW YORKER COVER

Robert Sikoryak was formerly an associate editor and contributor to RAW, the groundbreaking 1980s comic anthology. He has also drawn for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Onion, and Nickelodeon. During a recent visit to New York, I got a chance to interview Mr. Sikoryak about a number of things, including his ongoing Carousel, a revue, going back to 1997, that features a number of notable cartoonists such as Lauren Weinstein, Michael Kupperman, and Jason Little who present their work as part of a slide show performance. It is my pleasure to present to you the following interview. A video portion is also available and you can access that below too.

Illustration for The Nation by R. Sikoryak

Read the interview below and do make sure to go to the video as well which covers different aspects, specifically Mr. Sikoryak’s early career. All in all, as I said to him, his 30+ year career adds up to such an impressive professional life. I like to bring out the term, “legend,” but Sikoryak would not hear of it! He’s very modest, indeed. And quite generous in sharing insights. I’ve done numerous interviews and do my level best to respectfully bring out the best in those individuals I have the privilege to interview because, for me, it’s a sacred trust that I’ve entered into. And it’s an added bonus when you get to engage with someone who is just as passionate about sharing information with the reader. For instance, I asked Sikoryak about starting out as a cartoonist and he was very careful to explain how, even as a child, he was intrigued with creating parodies, which is a linchpin to his career.

MASTERPIECE COMICS

Let’s turn our attention to the self-published indie comics known as, “mini-comics.” A lot of cartoonists find that, once they’ve created a mini-comic, it gets in their blood and they’re hooked. Tell us about your experience with mini-comics.
I’d say it has gotten more into my blood lately. I had done a few mini-comics when I was younger but it was only after I’d started working with Kriota Willberg, and going to comics festivals, that I got the bug to do more minis. She was doing them as well and so we did them together. It’s like I was saying earlier, sometimes it’s easier to get rolling if you have a community to work with even if you’re doing it yourself. If you’re working on a project together that can sometimes spur you to action a little faster. We also started doing 24-hour comics and that helped me break out of some of my habits of working. When I was doing Masterpiece Comics, I was spending a lot of time refining the story and the art and honing it all done to exactly what I wanted. That approach was very specific and time-consuming unlike my commercial work where I need to turn around the artwork a lot faster. So, I could get caught up tweaking my own work when there wasn’t an imminent deadline. That said, 24-hour comics helped me think of ways to try to work faster. And that approach helped inspire how I worked on Terms and Conditions.

Steve Jobs and Silver Surfer!

Share with us how you used the 24-hour comics working methods in Terms and Conditions.
For 24-hour comics, I wanted to work with a text that was already written. So, the first ones that I did were poetry comics. I did one with Walt Whitman and another one with Edgar Allan Poe. I took existing poems of theirs and illustrated them. The Walt Whitman poem was a Jack Kirby monster comic. The Edgar Allan Poe one was done in the style of Richie Rich. Those were fun and I thought of them as rough drafts towards making comics with text. This was around 2014. I started thinking about how comics had evolved in the last twenty years since I’d graduated from school. I wanted to do a graphic novel. I’d only done short works up until then. What could I do in a long form? I was looking for something new to adapt and then I thought about the iTunes contract. The big joke about it is that it’s long. I’m always looking for an absurd angle for making comics. To quote Apple, I was looking for a way “to make things different.”

From Terms and Conditions

One of the best things about it is that you don’t have an emotional connection to the iTunes contract. There’s not a visual component to them. There’s no plot, no characters. Some people might argue that there’s some kind of narrative. But there’s not the drive that you’d find in a traditional story. The images could reflect anything and even go beyond the text. The images could refer to anything. I wasn’t going to be literal with a character just reading the text. I was going to bring in other images. I took pre-existing comics pages and modified them. I created a main character from Steve Jobs since he already had a specific uniform. Zuckerberg and Bezos have a look: the glasses, turtleneck, jeans, and sneakers. But Jobs had an actual costume he wore. I didn’t have to make any of the comics characters look exactly like Steve Jobs since people recognize what that costume signifies. Every page of the book is drawn in a different style with the main character dressed in the Steve Jobs outfit. The Jobs costume is as iconic as the Charlie Brown zig zag so that’s perfect. Once I had all this set up, it became easy to start the comic.

From Terms and Conditions

For the 24-hour comics first draft to Terms and Conditions, I did ten pages and they were very specific choices. I had Little Lulu, Rex Morgan, Astro Boy, the Dark Knight, X-Men, Peanuts, Sandman, Dilbert, Spider-Man, and The Walking Dead. All with the Steve Jobs main character running throughout these pre-existing pages from all these landmark comics. After I drew them, then I inserted the iTunes contract text into them. I wasn’t drawing them anticipating the text. For the most part, I didn’t know what the text would say in relation to the drawings. Some pages ended up getting shuffled around. I moved the Rex Morgan page to the beginning because I wanted something banal, very basic and straightforward, to start off with. Something grounded in reality before moving on to something more fantastical. I ended up putting out the first 30 pages as a mini-comic. I was only selling it at some comic shops and online. I drew it in chunks of ten or twelve pages. At some point, the iTunes contract got longer! I had to add 25 more pages. It actually allowed me more pages to play with and include more people I like Allie Brosh, Fiona Staples, Raina Telgemeier, and Kate Beaton. People who have a big impact on what’s happening in comics right now. I’d never done that before where I addressed the current generation of people in comics.

Steve Jobs and Kate Beaton!

I also wanted the book to evoke the internet: everything is in this book. Obviously, that’s an illusion on the internet just as it is in the book. I was going for an sense that anything can happen, that you can stumble upon any style of comics. I also wanted it to be international and not just be about my own tastes. My instincts told me that I wanted to represent all that is possible in comics.

From Terms and Conditions

I come from an art background and I can certainly appreciate that you’re working with comics, treating comics, at the level of an art form, which it is.
I was thinking about conceptual art. Kind of the way that John Cage would approach something. Cage would talk about using chance to compose music. Cage would try to get out of his own head when composing, like consulting the I Ching or more elaborate means to take it away from what he might make if he were solely making aesthetic choices. In a sense, Terms and Conditions, tries to get closer to that approach.

Steve Jobs meets Wonder Woman!

I go look at the iTunes store to see what’s popular and there would be Transformers and My Little Pony and that made sense since these are properties that exist in multiple media. That led me to putting in a Transformer page and a My Little Pony page since they are a big part of comics too.
After the mini-comics of Terms and Conditions came out, I asked Françoise Mouly what she thought I might do next. She suggested that I put them on Tumblr. I did it and let friends know about it. I ended up getting a lot of media attention just from the Tumblr. That was crazy. I didn’t yet have the Drawn & Quarterly book. That was still a year away from happening. I hit a nerve that I didn’t realize I would. It became an internet sensation for a second! Which is a long time for me. That was really gratifying and exciting.
That’s the theory, that you create something first on the internet, create some buzz and then approach the publisher. Or, best case scenario, the publisher approaches you.
Yes, I’d worked with Drawn & Quarterly for many years. They’d serialized by Masterpiece Comics in their anthology and then collected them into a book. They knew me. I wanted them to do it. And they said yes, after checking with their lawyers on legal issues. And we have not heard from Apple.

From The Unquotable Trump

Not even a peep from Apple?
I could be wrong but maybe it’s better for them not to say anything. They probably don’t want to encourage people to do this. I think I’ve gotten approval from their silence. I take that as a sign. I know they’ve seen it. I don’t know how they couldn’t. I’m pretty sure that some of the people who interviewed me contacted them for comment. They didn’t respond. I know people within the company and they say it’s great. But no official comment. I can see that if Apple actually said it didn’t like it then that would seem punitive and, if they did the opposite and said they liked it, then that would open the floodgate for others to do their parodies.
People are going to do what they want anyway. Like me, I wasn’t even planning on doing such a book. I was looking for a new way to break from my habits of making comics. I wanted to think of comics in a different way and the work did all that. Having it come out as book was amazing and great but only something you can hope for, not count on.

CAROUSEL Comics Performances and Picture Shows, hosted by R. Sikoryak

Tell us about how Carousel came about.
When I was in college, I was flirting with performance art. I happened to see Roz Chast do a reading of her gag cartoons at an event in the early ’90s. I was really struck by seeing the artist with their work on stage. She was charming. The audience loved it. I thought about how theatrical it was since there’s the charge of being very in the moment in front of a live audience. And I thought I needed to do this with my own comics. I worked a little bit with theater companies and I was already hosting variety shows and that sort of thing. Converting my comics into a slide show, around 1992, was a whole new thing for me. Other people had done it before me but that really worked for me. My strongest material was my comics! So, I started doing my comics as slide shows. Within a few years, I had met other people in the scene from variety shows and other artists who made visual storytelling for theater. Like Brian Dewan who showed the film strip last night. He’s someone who was in my earliest shows. He’s a musician and a visual artist. He makes these idiosyncratic pseudo-educational slide shows dealing with big philosophical issues, which I love.

Carousel photo by Andrea Tsurumi

By the late ’90s, I’d organized my slide shows into what’s become Carousel. In the early shows, I had people like Ben Katchor, David Sandlin, and a lot of other people from the downtown performance scene. By 2001, it had become my main performance habit. So, four to eight times a year, I do these shows where I invite cartoonists and other visual artists. I’d had on people who do live music with projections, people who do drag with projections. Cartoonist Matthew Thurber makes these large scrolls. The drag queen I had on recently is Sasha Velour, who won Rupaul’s Drag Race a couple of seasons back. I met her as a cartoonist. Her current performances still retain a vital visual element.

Carousel

Mine are more like radio plays or podcasts with actors reading lines for the all the different parts with background music. Or, as in the case of some of the other people you saw last night, they will talk about their work or tell stories that are visually supplemented. Or, in one case, Hilary Campbell showed her rejected New Yorker cartoons which is a very straightforward way of doing it and very comedic. I think it’s very excited to be able to see the person with their work. Everybody does it a little differently. It seems like a simple enough idea. I like to have six or seven people in each show. I think the personality of each artist gets to come through. In the best cases, you can really get some insight into what the work is about. I’ve had shows where I go back and reread the comic after having listened to them read. It’s endlessly interesting. It’s a way to bring it to people who might not see it otherwise. Certainly, with the internet, it’s easier to come across this stuff but even so a lot of the people who present don’t necessarily put their work out in that way. Doing it in the theater brings in a different crowd. So, you get to show theater people in a different form.

Carousel

The comics came to life in such an organic way and you just don’t know how people, or the cartoonist, might react.
It reminds me a bit of the commentary track on a DVD. It all depends on the work people make. My work tends to be conceptually tight so I tend to honor it as it is. But it’s great to see how people might explode the format and find other ways of doing it.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m working on a new volume of Masterpiece Comics. My latest mini-comics help update folks that there’s more on the way. I do storyboards for an animation studio. I teach at Parsons. I’m doing more book illustrations. I try to keep myself surprised.
Well, we can leave it there. Thank you so much, Bob.
Thank you, Henry

Visit R. Sikoryak right here. For more information, and how to purchase, Terms and Conditions, Masterpiece Comics and The Unquotable Trump, visit Drawn & Quarterly right here. When in New York, check to see if your schedule and the Carousel schedule align right here.

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Filed under Cartoonists, Comics, Illustration, Illustrators, Interviews, New York City, Robert Sikoryak, The New Yorker

Review: MAGGY GARRISSON, published by SelfMadeHero

Surely, Maggy has had better days than this.

Maggy, the classic hard luck girl. She’s the one that gets away with nothing but keeps on trying. Maggy, the perfect anti-hero for this brilliant shaggy dog crime fiction! Maggy Garrisson is a new graphic novel published by SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Abrams Books. The script is my legendary cartoonist Lewis Trondheim. The art is my acclaimed cartoonist Stéphane Oiry. Let’s take a closer look.

Anyone reading this like Bridget Jones? Maggy is similar to Bridget as she’s outspoken and smarter than given credit for. She’s also quite persistent although there’s no arguing that she’s inclined to slow down at a London pub with a pint of Guinness. So, a bit of a walking contradiction, just what we like in a good offbeat main character. Maggy literally stumbles onto her new job, after having been unemployed for a couple of years. It’s not much of a job, a secretary to a two-bit detective, but this is Maggy we’re talking about.

For those well-read in comics, you will be inclined to compare Maggy with another Maggie found in Jaime Hernandez’s series, Love and Rockets. The artwork by Stéphane Oiry in this book is up to the task of evoking that high level of gritty comics realism. I must say, it is quite a treat to read this book as it collects three interconnected stories to create a rich tableau or grifters, drifters, and other sordid malcontents. I had a great time when I picked up the first story a while ago and reviewed it here. It would do an ole cartoonist like me some good, and you too in the bargain, if I might get a chance to talk to the creative team behind this book. Well, if not soon then soon enough. For now, this book will suffice.

No doubt, the material in this book would adapt very well for Netflix. Interesting point here: the book is so finely put together, from the precision details to the vivid colors, that Netflix can wait. Yes, it’s that good: a gripping tale married to a feast for the eyes in artwork. Trondheim has such a beautiful and distinctive cartoony style to his comics so it makes sense that he’d want the art for this crime fiction to go to Stéphane Oiry who excels in a hybrid style of cartoony and realistic. For one thing, his background in architecture definitely shows through in all his crisp and finely detailed backgrounds. And his development of characters is exquisite. Oiry knows how to get into the head of our high-strung Maggy. Oiry, a fine student in the masters of comics, channels Love and Rockets in a way that makes it his own. This is Oiry’s working-class London and welcome to it.

Like many a good detective story, there are enough MacGuffins here to dazzle any Hitchcock fan. This is a decidedly character-driven story but that’s not to say we’ve got an empty plot. In fact, the prevailing theme will strike a chord with anyone: don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. And if that doesn’t sink in, how about this: leave well enough alone that which might come back and kill you. You see, Maggy, the firebrand, is the sort who finds it hard not to play with fire. And you, I’m sure, will find it hard to put this book down.

This is a perfect read! Maggy will surely not be forgotten by any reader. I’ll give this book a perfect score: 10/10.

Maggy Garrisson is a 152-page full color hardcover, available as of June 11, 2019. For more details, visit Abrams Books right here.

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Interview: Jonathan Hill and UNVERSED COMICS

Unversed Comics is absolutely a beautiful showcase of comics talent on the rise. It was an honor to get to chat with the leading force behind this anthology, cartoonist Jonathan Hill. Be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign in support of the third and final edition of Unversed Comics, which ends on June 7, 2019, right here.

Postscript is the third and final book in the Unversed series, following the success of the original book Unversed and its sequel, No Refunds. It is a two-color, softcover comics anthology featuring 12 new artists from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, as well as 27 new and returning contributors from within the Unversed community.

Visit Kickstarter before this campaign reaches its own postscript and ends on June 7th!

 

 

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Comics, Jonathan Hill, Kickstarter, Pacific Northwest College of Art, PNCA, pop culture, Portland, Unversed Comics

Kickstarter Review: UNVERSED COMICS Anthology from Pacific Northwest College

Unversed Comics Anthology from Pacific Northwest College

It all began with a dream to put together an anthology as part of a comics course led by instructor Jonathan Hill of the Illustration Department at Pacific Northwest College. It would ultimately result in the Unversed Comics Anthology that you can find right here. And the timing could not be better as there is currently a Kickstarter campaign, until June 7th, in support of what looks to be the final collection ever. You can support Postscript right here. Ah, yes, my comics instinct never fails me! So, let’s take a look at the previous editions as we look forward to the next.

What is evident from these books is that its editor, Jonathan Hill, got everyone to bring their A-game. It’s not all just a bunch of talk with these kids. These young cartoonists are all determined and follow through. One fine example of this spirit is the piece, “Of All the Mundane Things,” by Tandy Kunkle, from the first Unversed collection. We begin with a young couple, half dressed, about to start a new day, when the young woman learns that her father has died. Within ten pages, Tandy Kunkle vividly shares with the reader a young person’s loss. The artwork is very inviting, direct, and authentic. It’s one of those minimal styles that really wins you over with its specificity. Kunkle’s prose is equally spare and crisp. She keeps to her theme with confidence. Steadily, you see how the little things in life add up and resonate all the way to the last panel.

“Of All The Mundane Things,” by Tandy Kunkle

By the time of the second anthology, Jonathan Hill has learned quite a lot about putting together an anthology. Again, a stellar collection. Another example from this talented group: “Pins & Needles,” by Justice Geers which focuses on the theme of permanent change byway of a story on tattoos. We begin with Quin, a confident young woman willing to confront life’s challenges. As our story unfolds, Quin develops a passion for tattoos and soon enough has a tattoo sleeve down one arm and then the other. Before too long, she discovers a career path as a tattoo artist. Justice Geers gives the whole narrative an authentic vibe.

“Pins & Needles,” by Justice Geers

“Believe,” by Seaerra Miller has a bold and polished style that’s fun to follow. This is another powerful father/daughter story and comes to such a rewarding end. If a daughter believes in her dad, then that’s all that matters. Well, I do believe this is one of my favorite short works in comics I’ve read lately.

“Believe,” by Seaerra Miller

“Changeling,” by Sarah Hickey, has a nice organic vibe running throughout. All is not well in the community of Elm Bend. It’s common knowledge that magic can wreak havoc on a town. I love the matter-of-fact dialogue as Tania and Robin catch up. Tania has been away training with fairies. Robin, formerly Posey, has been processing the experience of transitioning. Both are at a crossroads. What a perfect moment for Tania to conjure up a constellation of chrysanthemums.

“Changeling,” by Sarah Hickey

“Ambition,” by Clive Hawken, is a whole lot of weird expressive goodness. Clearly, Hawken enjoys letting loose with his drawing and that carries over to his lettering. For this sci-fi piece, we have some pretty grim pilgrims biding their time on their doomed planet. And the a choice is made and nothing will be the same again.

“Ambition,” by Clive Hawken

I hope this review stirs your interest! The Unversed Comics Anthology series has proven to be a great showcase for exciting new comics talent. That says a lot. There can be a lot of pitfalls along the way in creating a comics anthology and this series has avoided them. You instantly can see the dedication and quality to this work.

The third and final Unversed Comics Anthology, going out bigger and bolder than ever before with 576 pages made up of 40 talented contributors, coming together to say goodbye for the last time.

Click the link below to pledge to the Kickstarter and get your hands on a copy of Postscript!

POSTSCRIPT: An Unversed Comics Anthology

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Anthologies, Comics, Independent Comics, Jonathan Hill, Kickstarter

Review: TEENAGE WASTELAND from ComiXology Originals

TEENAGE WASTELAND

May 15th marks the return of Magdelene Visaggio & Jen Vaughn’s punk rock, magical grrrl comiXology Originals series, TeenageWasteland – the action-packed comic where after school activities include transforming into galactic heroes and fighting monsters. The all-new issue #2 is available to read now digitally for members of Prime Reading, Kindle Unlimited, and comiXology Unlimited, and for sale on comiXology and Kindle.

Teenage Wasteland is working with a lot of elements that fantasy and superhero fans love: the boredom of high school mixed with the high adventure of monster slaying, the idea of becoming a hero when your teachers think you’re nothing, and much more,” — SYFY Wire.

Ellie Tweed is our main character and she’s quite the troublemaker. She’s the new girl and it looks like she’s already fallen in with the wrong crowd. And they’ve got quite a secret: they aren’t just teenage girls with attitude, they are the Earth’s secret defenders–and Ellie is their newest recruit! Turns out Ellie didn’t really fall in with the wrong crowd as much as find kindred spirits looking for a purpose in life. So, that can’t be bad, especially if you get to ride a Pegasus! Based upon these two stellar issues, we are off to a great start. This is a wonderful example of raising the action to an engaging level and having the characters at an accessible human scale.

“I grew up watching Power Rangers and other toku imports, and when you’re a kid, that stuff is a power fantasy,” says Magdelene Visaggio, the comic book’s writer. “You get all these cool abilities and weapons and robots and fight evil. Who wouldn’t want that? But the older I got, the more I started to see it differently: it’s the weaponization of teenagers. And then you start seeing it everywhere, right up to classics like X-Men. So that seemed like a unique jumping-off point. How can you ever trust Zordon? What does it mean to make children fight your war for you? So that’s the heart of it for me: questioning the premise of stuff like MMPR and looking at the way conflict defines people — and shatters them.”

“Mags’ writing digs under your skin, she taps into the loneliness and hormone-fueled anxiety teens feel,” says Jen Vaughn, the comic book’s artist. “Most teens want to be noticed, to belong, to be special, to be a chosen one. What’s worse than being normal? Being an expendable in a long line of chosen ones.”

Teenage Wasteland #1 and #2 are available to read now at no additional cost for members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and comiXology Unlimited and purchasable on comiXology and Kindle for $2.99. Print collected edition will be available via Print-on-Demand exclusively on Amazon.com. Prime Reading offers Amazon Prime members a rotating selection of over a thousand top Kindle books, magazines, short works, comic books, children’s books, and more – all at no additional cost. Kindle Unlimited offers over 1 million titles, thousands of audiobooks, and select current issues of popular magazines for just $9.99 a month with a 30-day free trial at amazon.com/kindleunlimited. ComiXology Unlimited offers over 15,000 comics, graphic novels and manga for just $5.99 a month with a 30-day free trial at comixology.com/unlimited.

For more updates on comiXology Originals, check out http://comixologyoriginals.com and follow comiXology on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

About the Teenage Wasteland Creative Team:

Magdalene Visaggio is the Eisner and GLAAD Media Award-nominated writer behind Kim & Kim, Eternity Girl, Dazzler: X Song, Transformers vs Visionaries, and Quantum Teens Are Go. In addition to her comics work, she’s blogged a bunch (now rightfully deleted) and is an occasional contributor at Paste Magazine, focusing on comics and culture.

Jen Vaughn is the cartoonist behind the writing of Goosebumps: Download and Die drawing Betty and Veronica’s Vixens, as well as drawing covers for the comic series My Little Pony, Pathfinder, The Wilds,

Hack/Slash vs Vampirella and more. She also plays a tiefling ranger, Riot Bonezerker, in the popular D&D podcast, d20 Dames.

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Filed under Alt-Comics, Alternative Comics, Comics, Comixology, Jen Vaughn

Comics Grinder Video Review Recap: The Otaku Box and Current Hot Titles including Little Bird, The Wrong Earth, and Invisible Kingdom

A recap of current cool stuff, posted 13 March 2019

When people find out that I’m a cartoonist and especially that I write about comics and pop culture, the first question that is asked is, What do you recommend? Here are some answers. Over the weekend, as I escaped the heat, I decided to make a dent in my already unwieldy stack of review material. In the video below, we take a look at The Otaku Box, a new crate box service focusing on anime and manga plus a recap on some current hot comics titles: Invisible Kingdom, Little Bird, Captain America, Man and Superman, and The Wrong Earth.

I hope you enjoy this video and I invite you to like, comment, and subscribe to my evolving YouTube channel. I feel pretty good about it and any additional motivation from you folks is always appreciated. I will continue to add videos as time permits.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Grinder, Hatsune Miku, The Otaku Box

Review: ‘Inside Family Guy: An Illustrated History’ by Frazier Moore

Inside Family Guy: An Illustrated History by Frazier Moore

Family Guy, is celebrating being on television since 1999. If you look it up for a basic description you get a “sick, twisted and politically incorrect animated series featuring the adventures of the Griffin family.” That’s a good place to start. It’s one of those shows that may or may not have been on your radar and, if it did catch your attention it could leave you loving it, hating it, or scratching your head. And that’s okay since that is apparently what creator Seth MacFarlane had in mind when he first conceived of the show back in college. Twenty some years later, it a good time to take stock of a pop culture icon with the release of Inside Family Guy: An Illustrated History by Frazier Moore, published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

The family at rest.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind about Family Guy: this is the brainchild of Seth MacFarlane, a young, talented, ambitious guy with a certain point of view with a subversive edge. If you don’t care for his idea of satire, then this show may not work for you. If you revel in his particular sense of humor, then this show may work for you without a problem. It’s one person’s vision of crossing the line. That has so much to do with what Family Guy is all about. You’re looking at an unrelenting pursuit of crossing the line, much in the same vein as South Park. In this regard, this book does a great job of presenting the ins and outs of such a journey, warts and all. It also does a fine job of providing an in depth look at how a major network animated series in put together covering ever detail from drafting a script to post-production.

The notorious un-aired abortion episode, “Partial Terms of Endearment,” from 2009.

The book’s author, Frazier Moore, makes no secret about being a superfan of the show no matter what. What makes for the most interesting section to this book is when Moore explains the controversial history of Family Guy, a mashup of kooky family TV tropes and explosive content. It is in-your-face humor and that can be quite a bumpy ride for all involved. The best case in point is the notorious abortion episode, “Partial Terms of Endearment.” The justification from Moore for a Family Guy episode on abortion is that Norman Lear wrote about it for Maude in 1972. Well, let’s just say that this justification is quite a stretch. The way Family Guy handles the subject is to have the main character, Peter Griffin, engage in a variety of acts of torture to induce his wife, Lois, to have a miscarriage. Towards the end, Peter begins to have misgivings but, at the very end, matter-of-factly, Lois has an abortion. So, yeah, not exactly Norman Lear. That said, a typical episode of Family Guy is pretty impressive and just what you can expect from a show that is upfront about its goal of being “sick, twisted and politically incorrect.” This new book honors the eight-time Emmy Award-winning show and proves to be an essential guide.

Character designs

Inside Family Guy: An Illustrated History is a 256-page fully illustrated hardcover, published by HarperCollins, available as of May 14, 2019. For more details, go right here.

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Filed under animation, Comics, Family Guy, Satire, Seth MacFarlane, Television, The Simpsons

Review: PINK LEMONADE #1 by Nick Cagnetti

PINK LEMONADE #1 by Nick Cagnetti

It’s another bright new day in the world of comics and what is lighting things up for me right now is PINK LEMONADE #1 by Nick Cagnetti, a new comic book series from IT’S ALIVE! Press. A lot of you out there know that IT’S ALIVE! is the brainchild of multiple Eisner Award nominee Drew Ford, who is publishing out of print comics, English translations of foreign material, original projects, and other unique collectibles. Well, Mr. Ford is also publishing new original content! And that’s where PINK LEMONADE #1 comes in. Let’s take a look.

Page excerpt

This is a very fun comic book! If you enjoy quirky, whimsical, and surreal comics like Mike Allred’s Madman, then this is for you. The first issue opens up with some wild race, a cross between Thunderdome and Tintin. And it’s our main character, Pink Lemonade, who makes it to the finish line–or so she thinks. Just when it looks like the big bad guy, Barzibelly Jr., is going to capture her, it turns out it was all a dream–or sort of. It’s hard to tell in this candy-colored loopy landscape but that’s part of the fun.

Panel excerpt

Now, the narrative switches to a conventional suburban setting. Pink Lemonade wakes up to find a mother and daughter standing by her as she rests on a park bench. Pam, the little girl, tells her mom, Linda, about how she met her new friend the other day. Pink Lemonade was recently given her name by Pam because she helped Pam set up her lemonade stand. Sure, that makes sense, especially since we’re talking about a cyborg. Why not name her Pink Lemonade, right? Pam and Linda are quite taken with Pink Lemonade. Linda can’t help but see a superhero: “Mysterious past. Colorful costume. Altruistic. Nomadic lifestyle…It’s all pretty cool. Got any powers?” And so a delightful story unfolds as Pink Lemonade becomes better acquainted with humans. Where exactly Pink Lemonade is from is not important at the moment–not when Pink Lemonade is determined to meet more humans and get into more misadventures.

Panel excerpt

The artwork and colors are a combination of upbeat and eye-popping. This is, no doubt, a very charming and dazzling work. I’m so glad to know about it and help spread the word. Now, as mysterious as the character of Pink Lemonade is, I immediately wanted to know everything I could about the creator. So, who the heck is Nick Cagnetti? Well, he’s a very interesting individual who has developed a following of his own and you should see what he’s up to at Radical Realm Comics. I see that Nick is very much into the theater arts as well as storyboarding and that certainly enhances his work in comics.

Panel excerpt

When posting about amazing new comics like this, if the comic grabs me, I am very motivated to learn what’s going on behind it and to share that with you. So, definitely look up Nick Cagnetti and consider buying one of his comics or various other awesome items he has for sale. And, keep in mind, that Pink Lemonade is exclusive to IT’S ALIVE! with a regular edition available in October. In the meantime, there will be a very limited edition of the same comic (with different cover) available at next month’s HeroesCon. I give Pink Lemonade a solid high score of 10/10.

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Filed under Comics, IT’S ALIVE! Press, Nick Cagnetti, Radical Realm Comics