I have things I want to tell you and share with you–I’m that sort of guy. I value the time and effort involved in putting together any post that is more than just posting a press release–but sometimes you really can’t help yourself and you want to share a press release, especially one you may have missed. Any nerd worth their weight in gold can easily attest to the fact that Rod Serling was originally picked to write the screenplay for “Planet of the Apes.” But then, Hollywood being Hollywood, an opportunity at something deliciously original was pissed on. Well, they kept his idea of the Statue of Liberty sunk neck-deep on a beach. Fast forward, gulp, fifty frickin’ years and now we can enjoy a graphic novel adaptation of what Rod Serling would have done, had he been given the green light. Thanks to the bright minds at Boom! Studios, we will finally get what we should have gotten well-nigh a lifetime ago! Seek it out this August. Press release, as promised, follows:
Category Archives: pop culture
Emerald City Comicon is and integral part of the fabric of Seattle. It is a tradition that has grown and developed into an impressive and highly anticipated annual event. ECCC is one of the first, if not the first stop, for many creatives as they embark upon their comics convention tours–and a most welcome one. That has a lot to do with ReedPOP‘s leadership. And, of course, it has a lot to do with so many loyal fans of a uniquely Pacific Northwest celebration of pop culture. Maybe folks are more polite and mellow in this region. We won’t dissect it any further and just be grateful. Now is the time to get ready and to keep an eye out for updates on all things ECCC.
Whether it is a chance to see two of the legends from “Back to Future,” Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown) and Tom Wilson (Biff Tannen) or a favorite talent at Artist Alley, there is something for everyone at ECCC.
As usual, Comics Grinder will venture out and report back from various panels, activity on the showroom floor, and whatever should catch the eye. If you are in Seattle, and love comics and pop culture, then make sure to be part of Emerald City Comicon.
“Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere,” by Hillary Chute, published by HarperCollins, is a highly informative, accessible, and delightful look at the evolution of comics, with the primary focus on American comics. As the title suggests, what used to be strictly an underground thing has now emerged virtually everywhere. Chute’s goal is to unpack that phenomenon. She goes about it with great enthusiasm and clearly makes a significant contribution to the ongoing writing about comics. This is a must-read for anyone interested in pop culture, comics, and art in general.
Okay, so comics are everywhere. Who, for instance, are the characters gracing the cover to this book? Chute, a natural teacher, is so glad you asked. She will come right out and tell you who and then explain the interconnections. First of all, this is Maggie and Hopey, lead characters in what is understood by many to be the greatest ongoing comic of them all, “Love and Rockets,” by the Hernandez Brothers. Where did this comic come from? How does it fit in with other comics? Why is this comic significant? Ah, for that matter, you may shout out, “Why Comics?!” Chute is happy to answer all your questions and much more. Well, this comic is part of a second wave of underground comics in the ’80s. And this comic is a response to a lot of things, including a lack of diversity in mainstream comics. But, before that, there was the original wave of underground comics in the Sixties led by R. Crumb and his Zap Comix. And, as many a conversation on the comics convention floor on zines and mini-comics will attest, even today’s superhero comics genre all began as indie comics by two teenagers, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Chute’s search for patterns in the making of comics leads her to some of the most celebrated trailblazers, notably Art Spiegelman. Chute was the associate editor of “MetaMaus,” the definitive companion to Spiegelman’s “Maus,” and she has a great deal of insight to share. Chute guides the reader from Spiegelman, in his youth in San Francisco to his subsequent work in earnest. It was in 1972 that Justin Green, author of the first autobio comic, “Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary,” invited Spiegelman to contribute to a comics anthology. The only stipulation was that the work had to feature anthropomorphic animal characters. And so began Spiegelman’s first steps toward the work in comics most people are aware of, “Maus.” Chute then follows Spiegelman’s progress as he reaches great heights of creativity. Here below, Chute describes how Spiegelman plays with the fluidity of time:
“Spiegelman creates a physical connection between panels set in the past and panels set in the present, linking them, as in panels in which Art’s cigarette smoke is figured as the smoke coming out of an Auschwitz crematorium chimney directly below it on the page. But in others, he exploits the language of comics–the convention that each panel represents a distinct moment of time–to make two different time periods literally intertwine. We see this in the striking page in which Vladek, Art, and Françoise–herself a character in ‘Maus’–converse in the Catskills during a summer visit to Vladek’s bungalow. On their way to the supermarket in the car, Art changes the topic from his stepmother, Mala, to Auschwitz, asking his father about a prisoner revolt. The last panel of the page, in which Vladek describes its fallout, is its largest: as the family car weaves through dense rural roads, the legs of four Jewish girls hanged in Auschwitz after the revolt–witnessed firsthand by Vladek–suddenly appear dangling from the trees. The 1940s and the ’70s collapse, as Spiegelman shows, wordlessly, how the traumatic past lives on in the present.”
Much in the same way that the 1951 landmark coming-of-age novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger, became the template for aspiring young novelists, so too did “Maus” serve as a guide for cartoonists on the rise. Observe how Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” first published in 2000, follows a similar format and technique as Spiegelman’s landmark work. Certainly, Satrapi’s work is wonderfully original. That said, it does follow certain style and content choices first established by leading artists such as Spiegelman. Chute is not making this particular argument but she does lay out the characteristics of what has become accepted in a work by an independent cartoonist: the work is honest, personal, and usually autobiographical; the work is all done by hand, including the borders and lettering, with a less polished finish than mainstream comics; and the work is usually done by one person. In that sense, Satrapi is following in a tradition begun by such artists as Crumb and Spiegelman.
Another cartoonist who looms larger in Chute’s book is Chris Ware–and for good reason. The history of American comics is essentially Winsor McCay leading the start and Chris Ware leading the current state of affairs. And it is both of these cartoonists, and so many others in between, who seem to share Ware’s tragicomic point of view of being “well-appointed and feeling lonely.” Cartoonists are something of exotic birds to begin with–whether or not the public notices. But to really make one’s mark in comics, to resonate with critics and fans alike, is quite an achievement. One achieved by such cartoonists as Chris Ware, Charles Burns, and Gary Panter–all of whom would get their big breaks by appearing in Raw magazine, a comics anthology led by Art Spiegelman.
Chute organzies her narrative within categories such as “Why Disaster?” and “Why Sex?” Each chapter category acts as an umbrella that covers a certain facet of comics. In the chapter, “Why Punk?” Chute describes the rise of two friends deeply involved with the punk movement: Matt Groening and Gary Panter, along with other relevant artists like Raymond Pettibon. As for Groening and Panter, they held to their punk ideals while also driven to succeed–“The Simpsons” for Groening; “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” for Panter. Chute makes sure to point out that Bart Simpson–the cartoon character everyone thinks they know–is, in fact, a sly reference (right down to the jaggedy crewcut) to Panter’s underground hero, Jimbo, the antithesis of the mainstream. And, as Chute’s title declares, comics have gone from the underground to everywhere in more ways than one.
“Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere” is a 464-page hardcover published by HarperCollins. For more details, visit HarperCollins right here.
It is always a pleasure to review anything that falls within the category of attire or accessory in the geek lifestyle. So, Comics Grinder is very happy to share with you Dive Bar Shirt Club. As the name implies, this is a club devoted to shirts. Each month you get a quality shirt honoring a dive bar chosen for its distinction and originality. A new dive bar design is featured every month and, once that month is up, that shirt is retired forever.
We all seek distinction and originality. It’s another way of simply saying that we are attracted to things that are cool. I was on the road, during a carefree summer in my youth, when I spotted what had to be the best roadside attraction I’d ever seen. It was an homage to the jackalope, that staple of Americana, the cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. This sucker was huge and it was perched atop a glorious dive bar. It was a warm summer night that seemed to promise adventure. I had to walk in.
Inside the bar, I did a double-take. The place was immaculate. I was expecting it to be a well-worn, musty, and gaudy place. But, no, this place was classy. And there was no carryover of the jackalope theme. Instead, the red leather booths were nicely kept and all the brass piping was polished. There were a couple of gents in suits looking very retro. Again, I was expecting a far more casual vibe. The waitress was a beauty all done up in a vintage dress. All this seemed too formal for a place in the middle of nowhere. I was outside a little town in Texas, not a Vegas casino in the ’50s.
Her name was Sadie. “What will you have, stranger?” she asked with the longest lashes I’d ever had the pleasure to admire.
I’d had a good look at the list of mixed drinks. When I read it on the menu, I had to have it. “I’ll take The Jackalope.”
Sadie just stared at me. Her eyes grew wide. With a tremble in her voice, she asked, “You mean, The Jackalope, right?”
“Yes,” I said firmly, “I’m here for The Jackalope!”
I must have raised my voice because the two fugitives from “Mad Men” turned to have a good look at me. They proceeded to get up from their booth and walk over to me.
“You’re really here for The Jackalope?”
I think I lost it at that point. “I don’t know what you people mean!” I yelled and ran out the front door.
I was heading for my car when it dawned on me. I slowly turned around and looked up. There it was. It hissed and glared at me. Then, with a mighty leap, that monster flew up into the air like the most lucid nightmare. This was followed by a massive thud which was quickly followed by the lightening speed of a creature from hell. And, hell yes, it was distinctive and original!
If you’re like me, you desire that added spice, that distinction and originality. You too can find it in a unique t-shirt from Dive Bar Shirt Club. In the video below, I’m sporting just the ticket. This Dive Bar Shirt Club t-shirt celebrates Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, California. This is one awesome combination of style and comfort.
Visit Dive Bar Shirt Club right here.
One of those youthful memories that drifts up for me at various times is seeing a pile of issues of The Village Voice at a friend’s apartment. He liked going through them. Like me, he loved reading and writing. And, if you were serious about writing, you kept up with such publications on a regular basis. Before the internet, The Village Voice was one of those portals that gave you a taste of certain literary trends and urban happenings. It was fun to pore over the pages and even to simply handle this object made of paper, this symbolic series of messages from that bright big city, New York City, the epicenter of all things media and culture. If you aimed to be hip, wanted a ticket to the subculture, you read (and can still read!) The Village Voice. This publication means a lot of things to many people. For me, it was primarily a writer’s magazine. But no longer can you read new print issues, only digital moving forward.
Now, the end has come to that particular experience. The Village Voice has ceased its free print version, a staple of New York City life and urban life beyond. Well, the end occurred a long while back but this is the definitive end: absolutely no more paper copies! Is this really news? I’m not sure that it is as this transition from print to digital has been steadily going on for years. Just like typewriters and phone booths became extinct, so too will all print newspapers bite the dust.
For some steadfast followers of pop culture, they would like to claim some greater significance to the death of the print version of The Village Voice. To be sure, it does seem to be heart-breaking. But, let’s get a grip. All content moving forward is now digital and that’s great. Digital archives are a breeze compared to microfiche or, God forbid, musty old stacks of actual crumbling newsprint. There’s a reason that newspapers have always been printed on the cheapest paper imaginable. They were only meant to be read on the day, or week, they were published and subsequently used for practical purposes like wrapping fish.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know there are plenty of nerds among us, and I count myself within this group, that can’t help but want to get all sentimental about such things as newspapers. Well, resist that urge. Unless you have more than ample space, say an attic, you don’t want to have a bunch of old copies of this or that newspaper or magazine providing little more than clutter. When was the last time you cracked open that classic issue of Life magazine? Never, right? It’s hard not to be a packrat.
The practical concern over the shift from print to digital is about the various features in the print version surviving the transition. What about the columnists? And what about the cartoonists? Well, what about them? If a content provider is creating compelling content, then that content is going to find an audience, and it will survive the great transition.
For those of you who did not grow up with newspapers, you’re probably wondering what the big fuss is over. Newspapers, just like magazines, used to be far more powerful and influential. People took far more notice of them and relied upon them. Eyes lingered longer on the text, the photographs, the illustrations, and the comic strips! To this day, I have a memory of a distinctive caricature on the front page of The New York Observer. It was 1976, and I was a precocious tween. The cover featured Sen. Hubert Humphrey. It may have been an illustration by Levine. And the headline asked, “Will He Run?”
The bittersweet fact is that we’re saying goodbye to another link with history. Even as a kid, looking at the cover illustration of Humphrey, I knew that it reeked of the past. Humphrey’s image was being rehabilitated. This was before my time but I knew he was part of the Vietnam War, part of a past that we were steadily coming to terms with. Humphrey was part of the discredited past. Jimmy Carter was part of the future. Seeing that newspaper, holding it, reading it, I could tell there was something slow and quaint about this whole format, acting as much as a portal to the present as to the past.
The bittersweet fact is that we are currently experiencing the long goodbye to all print publications. And they won’t go without a fight. For some oddball reason, the print version of Newsweek rose from the dead. It will finally die off soon enough. The publications that are least financially stable will drop out of the print game even sooner. The alt-weeklies, which many of us cherished in our youth, will concede to only being digital. For example, here in Seattle, both The Stranger and The Seattle Weekly already behave very much as digital entities with their weekly print versions mostly serving as a place to highlight the features that appeared on their respective websites that previous week.
Getting back to the features that used to have a secure home in print: the creators of observation pieces and comics should follow their heart as best they can if they can’t follow their wallet. Start a blog. In the age of newspapers, you had to tap dance, beg, and plead to join the party. Those days are over! To all you heavy sentimentalists, don’t forget, we are well into a new century. Dry off those tears. The Village Voice is still alive in the format for a new age. The print version was your dad’s Village Voice. Sorry, but we can only move forward.
One last thing, be sure to actually read, and support, The Village Voice. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it can only survive on sentiment. Visit and support The Village Voice right here.
The Pacific Northwest is hazy, hot, and bothered. So reports The Washington Post. It has really thrown off the routine of us Seattle natives.
Here in Seattle, we are very low-key. Many of us can tolerate grey skies most of the year. Some of us, like myself, are far more tolerant. I accept grey skies as part of the package. When we reach a sweet spot sometime in autumn, all that grey can be the most satisfying backdrop for contemplation and creativity. But not the haze we are currently suffering through.
The Haze, as some of us have gotten to calling it, is something sinister, a harbinger of climate change things to come. Or, one can hope, just one big temporary pain in the ass. Either way, it has cut into us. This time around, we are dealing with Canadian wildfire smoke. What will we be dealing with next time, and the time after that? Many of us moved to Seattle just to avoid having to face those kind of questions. We thought we’d forever said goodbye to such things as hurricanes and heat waves.
So, yeah, we don’t do well with oppressive weather. We can barely handle any snow in winter. For us, The Haze is a really big deal. For those of you with a sense of humor, there’s a t-shirt just waiting for you. Find it right here and here. Cartoonist Jennifer Daydreamer and I created it just for you.
What could be sweeter than a graphic novel adaptation of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine? Yes, Titan Comics has announced a licensing agreement with Apple Corps Ltd to publish such a work! The fan base for The Beatles is in a league all its own so this is a huge deal. If no Blue Meanies get in the way, the book will coincide with the animated film’s 50th Anniversary!
The comic adaptation will be written and illustrated by Bill Morrison, Bongo Comics co-founder and creative director, as well as recently announced Executive Editor for MAD Magazine. The Beatles: Yellow Submarine official illustrated adaptation will launch in stores in 2018, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the animated musical fantasy film released in July 1968.
Directed by George Dunning, Yellow Submarine was an animated adventure inspired by the music of The Beatles. Band members Paul, John, George, and Ringo join Captain Fred in his Yellow Submarine to journey to Pepperland to help free the land from the music-hating Blue Meanies.