Category Archives: Superheroes

Interview: Mike Capozzola and ‘Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters!’

Mike Capozzola and “Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters!”

Mike Capozzola is a unique hybrid, a cartoonist and a stand-up comedian. He’s a professional in both for over 20 years. In fact, the two passions are inextricably linked. I enjoyed his set this last Saturday at Seattle’s Comedy Underground. Mike is based out of San Francisco and maintains a busy schedule so it was a real treat to get to catch his act while he was in town. I asked him about his process, specifically about a bit where he describes weird yet appealing movie scenarios, ending each description with, “Yeah, I’d see that.” I came to find out that this movie routine originated as a drawn-out cartoon. The concept as a cartoon did not seem to work. But, when he performed the material on stage, Mike found what he was looking for.

Mike kicked off his first night at Comedy Underground with his ongoing pop culture extravaganza, Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters. This is a multimedia show featuring all the things that us geeks enjoy: sci-fi, superheroes, and monsters. As Mike said during our talk, geek culture is everywhere today but it was a hard-won identity for kids growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. It wasn’t so cool to be a geek back then. That said, we can all freely celebrate being a geek now, like we kids from yesteryear could only dream of.

Mike Capozzola at the Comedy Underground in Seattle

The last time I had one of these free-for-all chats with Mike, I offered up the topic of leaf blowers. He had no problem with them. I took the opposing view. Sure, it’s an honest job but, to my mind, the art of leaf blowing can be overdone. I contend that rakes make for a sensible and quiet alternative for much of these tasks. Anyway, I tried a different tack this time and brought to the table the intrinsic character of Seattle. Given that it’s my hometown, I felt it fair for me to say that there’s some truth to stereotypes regarding a certain coolness and reserve to the natives. Capozzola, based upon is observations, took the opposing view.

Is Seattle Sweet, Bitter, or Just Right? That’s what I’d call our lighthearted search for Seattle’s soul. Overall, I think that my friend here was picking up some strong frontier vibes. And I can’t deny him that joy. Seattle does offer the comforts of urban living in close proximity to an abundance of natural wonder. Mike wanted to take the more sunny view of things too. And it was challenging for me to pursue my case that Seattle is too prim and proper while we were chatting outside in Pioneer Square, hands down the rowdiest part of town. Ongoing hijinks near us just played into Mike’s hands.

We had time to dissect a few other things too, namely Trump. Mike had this to say: “The day after the election, so many people felt defeated. Many thought they could turn to art. For comedians, this meant war. I remember Trump for the last thirty years as being treated as a punchline by the tri-state area media. To see it come to this is wild. It’s like the local screw-up, or Ronald McDonald, or a sled has suddenly become president. He’s given voice to a fringe element in the same way that you’d unlock a mystical box and unleash an ancient curse.” That, my friends, says it all. We chatted about how those of us in the Gen X demographic feel unfairly sandwiched between the mighty Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We were misfits to begin with so it figures. And we decried the overall lowering or lack of standards we live with today. Maybe America deserves a pro wrestler or Mark Wahlberg as their next president.

Contact Mike Capozzola with any questions, such as doing commissioned work or presenting his Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters show, at his website right here.

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Filed under Comedians, Comedy, Comedy Underground, Comics, Donald Trump, Geeks, Mike Capozzola, Monsters, pop culture, Seattle, Stand-up Comedy, Superheroes

GIRL POWER Books to Help Planned Parenthood. Downtown Bookworks to Donate From Sales

Downtown Bookworks

Downtown Bookworks

For the next two weeks, Downtown Bookworks (a woman-owned and women-run business) will be donating a portion of the proceeds from sales of My First Book of Girl Power and The Big Book of Girl Power to Planned Parenthood.

Help spread the word. This is a great way to stand with Planned Parenthood, an organization that empowers women. The Downtown Bookworks campaign runs from March 1st thru March 15th.

My First Book of Girl Power

My First Book of Girl Power

The last page of The Big Book of Girl Power sums up how Downtown Bookworks feels and why it supports Planned Parenthood through its donation campaign:

“When women get together to do good things, nothing and nobody can stop them!

What are your your special powers?

How will you use them to make the world a better place?”

Downtown Bookworks would love to see you and your kids enjoying their books. Please connect with them by sharing your comments and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Visit Downtown Bookworks right here.

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Filed under Comics, Downtown Bookworks, Planned Parenthood, Superheroes, Women, Wonder Woman

IMAGE COMICS FOUNDERS REUNITE AT EMERALD CITY COMICON 2017 TO CELEBRATE 25TH ANNIVERSARY (March 3, 2017)

Emerald-City-Comicon-Seattle

Emerald City Comicon 2017, here in Seattle, is fast approaching. It is a four-day event starting Thursday, March 2nd, and running through Sunday, March 5th. It is certainly a big deal for us locals as well as the Pacific Northwest and all points beyond. Image Comics will make a significant showing this year with a rare gathering of its founders to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Image Comics. This special panel is scheduled for Friday, March 3rd. Be sure to come to ECCC to see Image Comics founders Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio.

Press release follows:

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Filed under Comics, Emerald City Comicon, Image Comics, pop culture, Seattle, Superheroes

Fantagraphic Books to Publish ALL TIME COMICS, a Shared Superhero Universe Featuring the World’s Most Fanta*stic Heroes

All Time Comics, Crime Destroyer #1, Jim Rugg cover

All Time Comics, Crime Destroyer #1, Jim Rugg cover

Alternative comics and superhero comics mix it up in various ways. The Big Two comics publishers, DC and Marvel, will occasionally employ “indie” cartoonists. Image Comics has set a high standard in creator-owned comics that generally deconstruct the traditional superhero genre. And there are all sorts of satirical and subversive answers to the standard cape and tights. That brings us to today’s announcement of the launch of a brash new line of superhero comics titles from the alt-comics stalwart, Fantagraphics. The line of comics goes by the cheeky name of All Time Comics. The project is led by alt-cartoonist and writer Josh Bayer. This is part of a shared universe featuring four heroes: Atlas, Blind Justice, Bullwhip, and Crime Destroyer.

Panel work-in-progress from All Time Comics: writing, pencils, by Josh Bayer; inks by Al Milgrom; letters by the great Rick Parker.

Panel work-in-progress from All Time Comics: writing by Josh Bayer; pencils by Noah Van Sciver; inks by Al Milgrom; letters by Rick Parker.

The fun begins March 31, 2017, with “All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer issue 1,” a 36-page oversized comic book featuring the writing of Josh Bayer, the inks of Ben Marra and the last art by legendary artist Herb Trimpe, who co-created Wolverine. Upcoming issues feature art by Rick Buckler Jr., Ben Marra, Al Milgrom, Noah Van Sciver, and more. Issue #1 will feature two distinct covers, one by Jim Rugg and the other by Johnny Ryan. Upcoming issues feature art by Rick Buckler Jr., Ben Marra, Al Milgrom, Noah Van Sciver, and more.

Page from upcoming contribution by Noah Van Sciver (pencils) and Stephen Bissette (inks).

Page from upcoming contribution by Noah Van Sciver (pencils) and Stephen Bissette (inks).

This looks to be a true mashup of the sensibilities of alt-comics and superhero comics. Look for a love of the genre mixed well with irony.

Here’s a look at upcoming titles:

All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1

Josh Bayer (story); Herb Trimpe (pencils); Ben Marra (inks); Jim Rugg (cover) + Johnny Ryan (cover); MARCH 2017

All Time Comics: Bullwhip #1

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover) + Tony Millionaire (cover); APRIL 2017

All Time Comics: Atlas #1

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); MAY 2017

All Time Comics: Blind Justice #1

Josh Bayer (story and pencils); Rick Buckler (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Victor Martinez (cover); JUNE 2017

All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #2

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); JULY 2017

All Time Comics: Blind Justice #2

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story); Noah Van Sciver (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover); AUGUST 2017

For more details, follow Fantagraphics right here. You can also follow All Time Comics via Twitter @alltimecomics and via Facebook @ALLTIMECOMICS.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Noah Van Sciver, Superheroes

Review: BLACK HAMMER

Black Hammer Jeff Lemire

BLACK HAMMER is the latest entry in the fish-out-of-water superhero story. For this first issue, Jeff Lemire tries out a bunch of scenes with his cast of misbegotten superheroes. And the twist at the end of this first issue, should leave you wanting more. Dean Ormston’s artwork compliments Lemire’s script with a light and ethereal quality similar to Lemire’s own artwork. And Dave Stewart rounds out the core creative trio with plenty of those spot on atmospheric colors: autumnal oranges and sunset pinks. Where all this is headed is still unclear but the overall offbeat quality is winning me over.

These are superheroes with a Golden Age vibe to them. The real deal type. And it fell upon them to make some big sacrifices they’d all rather not talk about. But talking things out is good, right? That’s what Abe would say. Of course, Gail would never listen. And Barbalien would just laugh. There’s this one scene where Gail, who happens to be stuck inhabiting a 9-year-old, goes off to sit and brood on a rooftop. Along floats by Barbalien looking like this really big demon. He plops next to Gail and the two of them chat. It’s a good scene but it reminded me way too much of the sitcom, “3rd Rock from the Sun.” You know the show? It has a similar premise: aliens from another world stuck on planet Earth. You can imagine Joseph Gordon-Levitt up there on the roof with a hoodie feeling bad about himself and then John Lithgow comes out to join him.

I don’t think it’s such a good idea for this script to resemble a sitcom too much unless we’re heading down a particularly ironic path. There’s also a scene with ole Abe going into town to see his sweetheart, a waitress at the diner. That too has a squarely sitcom quality to it. I am willing to see where this goes. Then there’s Talky-Walky. He’s a robot determiend to invent a way to get off the island…uh, I mean planet. I sense that Lemire really wants to be very playful. So, if you’re in the mood for something whimsical, and ironic, this may end up adding up the further along you go past this first issue.

BLACK HAMMER is available as of July 20, 2016. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Jeff Lemire, Satire, Superheroes

Book Review: ‘A Hundred Thousand Worlds’ by Bob Proehl

"A Hundred Thousand Worlds" by Bob Proehl

“A Hundred Thousand Worlds” by Bob Proehl

Bob Proehl is in touch with the natural, yet complex, details of a mother and son relationship. In Proehl’s debut novel, he has Valerie Torrey face the bittersweet transition of her son, Alex, leaving behind childhood and quite literally having to say goodbye to his mom. It’s complicated but, in this case, inevitable.

Alex Torrey is a nine-year-old boy who hasn’t seen his dad, Andrew, in six years. In Alex’s world, his dad is three things: an actor in Los Angeles; a movie star he can see on TV; and, just for fun, the character he plays, a time traveling secret agent. It was Valerie who made the reckless decision to kidnap her son and raise him in New York. Now, Val seems to want to make things right by reuniting Alex with Andrew. Throw in an assortment of superheroes, monsters, and robots, and you have the engaging debut novel by Bob Proehl, “A Hundred Thousand Worlds,” published by Viking.

This story hangs together very well on the tiny frame of nine-year-old Alex, who is at that magical age of still being very much a child and yet capable of profound observation. He is a character type that has been brilliantly employed in some great fiction from such diverse writers as Günter Grass, John Irving, and Jonathan Safran Foer. So, Proehl has created his very own charming and sad little imp. Alex questions everything. He has certain rituals he follows to help him find answers like reversing the letters to various names hoping to tap into some hidden meaning. It makes no sense to an adult but follows kid logic. From this heartbreaking innocence we can compare our own journey to self-discovery.

Valerie met Andrew while the two were starring in the hit sci-fi series, “Anomaly.” The mystery is what triggered Valerie to run away with Alex to New York. Proehl sets in motion a clever device to get Valerie, Andrew, and Alex reunited. Six years of separation from his father has taken its toll on Alex, a situation crying out for resolution. Valerie leverages her pop culture status and picks up some appearances on the comic book convention circuit, enough to cover her expenses on her odyssey with Alex, from New York back to Los Angeles. Along the way, we get plenty of jokey references to the comic book industry, many which will be appreciated by diehard fans.

Proehl’s work is ambitious as he juggles numerous pop culture references while developing something deeper. He does a wonderful job of straddling the lighthearted accessibility of a young adult novel with the richer field of literary fiction. Valerie, for example, is quite compelling as a flawed character. Andrew has made some obvious bad choices but Valerie has much to work out like her smothering overprotective nature.

Proehl knows how to satirize pop culture quite well. It is remarkable that he also knows how to evoke the qualities that attract us to mass entertainment. Nothing is ever so simple, not a divorce, not a child, not even a comic book.

“A Hundred Thousand Worlds Hardcover” is published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, available as of June 28, 2016. For more details, visit Penguin Random House right here.

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Review: ‘Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods’ by David Enos, published by California Clap

"Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods" by David Enos

“Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods” by David Enos

This is a review of the comic, “Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods,” by David Enos, published by California Clap. That is mostly what we will be discussing here. However, I will bring up a few other related things. First off, I set out to write this review while I waited to see an old friend who had just gotten his nipples pierced. He’s a fairly average guy, maybe not the type to do this. But, hey, to each his own. That brings me to a theme I was working with for this review: seeing the familiar within the unfamiliar. So, here I was waiting. I began to imagine getting my own nipples pierced–or at least just one. But I keep thinking there will be issues with airport security. I know for a fact that the SEATAC TSA is prone to fumbling about. So, imagine me sporting nipple jewelry for TSA to have to process. These folks don’t process very well.

Batman and Amity

Batman and Amity

Anyway, let us proceed. Batman. Now, there’s a subject for you. Most of us out there can easily hook into Batman. What David Enos has done is play with that familiarity. His Batman taps into arguably the most accessible version, the Adam West model. The Enos Batman is a no-nonsense guy with little room for drama. The big case he’s on in this story is familiar enough too: a search for a long lost love. It’s the sort of plot that can easily be deadened by a too obvious treatment. Enos is having fun with these tropes by taking everything right up to the edge of the banal. He throws in some light humor and sets this whimsical Batman off on a surreal landscape, a mashup of grim, dark, and camp.

Reading BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

Reading BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

It is a rite of passage for any cartoonist to create their take on superheroes. There is a divide that will always exist between independent cartoonists and the world of mainstream genre. There is little crossover but, when it happens, it is something to study on a case by case basis. When it does happen, the big two comics publishers have found interesting ways to work with relatively indie creators. It’s pretty simple, the most popular superheroes are mega-franchises. Not just anyone is going to be handed the keys to the Batmobile. The mistake is when an indie cartoonist dismisses genre comics out of hand. As David Enos demonstrates here, there are endless possibilities to work with genre, subversive or otherwise. DC Comics and Marvel can always learn something new from alternative cartoonists.

Writing About BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

Writing About BAT-MAN IS LOST IN A WOODS

It is a lot of fun to watch this banal Batman recalling the bittersweet days of his marriage to a pretty young woman named, Amity. Understandably, this is not a character from Batman canon. But she does make for a suitable match in the spirit of Silver St. Cloud. Amity is younger and more prone to pouting than anything else. She just wishes that Batman made more time for her and that they had more of a normal life together. Ah, isn’t that always the way with these sort of relationships? Enos deftly pulls the strings on what seems like a merely juvenile plot that unfolds into a dreamy and disturbing narrative, more like HBO’s “True Detective” but also hinting at the sinister origins of Batman going back to his debut in “Detective Comics” in 1939. There was always something weird about Batman. That’s what makes him interesting. David Enos celebrates that weirdness in this comic.

Pork Chops & Eggs at Coastal Kitchen

Pork Chops & Eggs at Coastal Kitchen

I also have to say here that I had a wonderful meal at my venue for writing this review. If you’re in Seattle, you definitely want to visit Coastal Kitchen in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. I had a delectable dish, Pork Chops and Eggs topped with an out of this world house Romesco sauce made with roasted red peppers and almonds. And, in a funny way, that sort of ties in with my theme: take a familiar meat and potatoes subject and give it a spicy twist!

“Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods,” by David Enos, is a 32-page full-color comic. You can find it at California Clap right here.

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Filed under Adam West, Alternative Comics, Batman, Comics, Food, Humor, mini-comics, Minicomics, Nipples, Piercings, Satire, Seattle, Superheroes

Review: MICHAEL MIDAS CHAMPION: BOOK ONE

Michael-Midas-Champion-Ink-Lit

“Michael Midas Champion: Book One” is an all-ages comic that takes superhero tropes thoughtfully and lovingly to a high level of entertainment. It has distinctive characters who not only walk and talk naturally. There’s a genuine quality that will make you want to follow their story. Michael is the good guy who is always bullied by Truck who is always muscling in on Danielle, the girl of Michael’s dreams. But push comes to shove, and Michael must stand his ground.

Champion_01p12

At the heart of this story is young adult nirvana. Tapping into the classic nice guy behind the superhero mask mythos, Jordan B. Gorfinkel has written a powerful story about youth finding the courage to act. And, hey, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a nice romance going on once Michael is brave enough to court Danielle. Scott Benefiel is totally in step with his artwork which further humanizes an already compelling narrative. Every superhero has that one villain that knows him a little too well and who is most capable of taking everything he holds dear away from him. That is the dynamic between Michael and Truck. It’s a story you’ll want to check out for yourself. And, by the way, it ends on a perfect cliffhanger.

Jordan-B-Gorfinkel-Ink-Lit-comics

“Michael Midas Champion: Book One” is a 144-page trade paperback, brought to you by Avalanche Comics, InkLit, and Penguin Random House, and is available as of August 4th.

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Filed under Avalanche Comics, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, InkLit, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Penguin Random House, Scott Benefiel, Superheroes

Review: GUN #1, published by Reckless Eyeballs

Gun-01-Jack-Foster-comics

GUN is a new superhero crime noir comic, written and drawn by Jack Foster. Both the deadpan humor and light touch to the artwork remind me a bit of Matt Kindt. This is a story with its fair share of irreverence while still sticking to the reality that bullets and punches hurt, especially bullets. The premise here is that of a number of comics that take superheroes off the grid: in a world overflowing with superheroes, and super villains, is anybody just plain normal?

GUN-Jack-Foster

The search for normalcy hangs heavy over our super characters. Maybe one last bank heist, so to speak, would solve everything. Just run away with the loot and enjoy margaritas on the beach. I love the quiet grace to this comic. Our hero is not a hero. Actually, he’s technically a villain. To listen to his story, you’d think he’s just some mixed up kid with superpowers. You can call him, Twist. That’s what the media calls him. It wasn’t his idea. That’s just how he moves. He would have preferred “something cool like King Crimson or Doc Hangover.” Do you get a sense here of silly fun, of bubblegum superhero mythos? It is fun and it works.

GUN-Fighting-Is-My-Monday-comics

I’ll tell you something, covering comics is built on one work of comics at a time. It can’t just be the big two publishers all the time, although there’s much to cover there as it is. And it is fun to see how iconic superheroes going back close to a hundred years still remain relevant. In fact, Foster is tapping into the swagger and pulpy goodness of yesteryear. Anyway, covering comics is very similar to covering any other art form. As a reviewer, I look for new talent right along with checking out established names. What’s great about Foster’s work is that he’s having a blast. His love for the old school approach is apparent in every hand-drawn and hand-colored panel. This is a character-driven narrative with room for subtilty and wry wit.

This is a beautiful comic, hands down! Rounding out the talent is the lettering of Greg Sorkin and the editing of Nolan Smith. This is the first issue of GUN, entitled, “Fighting is My Monday.” The next issue will be entitled, “Strange Bedfellows.” For more details, and to preview the first issue, visit our friends at Reckless Eyeballs right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Jack Foster, Reckless Eyeballs, Superheroes

Denny’s Brings You The SLAMTASTIC 4 Menu: Superhero Grub!

Denny's Slamtastic menu: Human Torch Skillet, Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, Invisible Woman Slam, and The Thing Burger

Denny’s Slamtastic menu: Human Torch Skillet, Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette, Invisible Woman Slam, and The Thing Burger

FANTASTIC FOUR arrives in theaters on August 7th and Denny’s is part of the action. Comics Grinder heard the call and went over to try out Denny’s new “Slamtastic 4” menu. For a limited time, you have these superhero-inspired items to choose from:

Human Torch Skillet
A hearty breakfast sausage with seasoned red-skinned potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted bell peppers and onions, jalapeños and freshly made pico de gallo served on a sizzlin’ hot skillet. Topped with new spicy five pepper sauce, Pepper Jack queso and two eggs cooked to order.

Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette
Delicious omelette stuffed with melted Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, fresh spinach, diced bacon, onions and mushrooms tossed in a blend of sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. Topped with diced tomatoes and served with hash browns and your choice of bread.

Invisible Woman Slam
Two buttermilk pancakes cooked with blueberries, topped with fresh strawberries, banana slices and drizzled with a clear citrus glaze. Served with two eggs cooked to order, two bacon strips or two sausage links and hash browns.

The Thing Burger
Hand-pressed beef patty topped with crispy hash browns, an egg cooked to order, Cheddar cheese, two crispy bacon strips and punch-packing Thing sauce. Served on a Cheddar bun with a side of wavy-cut French fries.

Denny's in Seattle's SoDo District

Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District

I decided to test out a couple of these items: Invisible Woman Slam and The Thing Burger. I chose the Denny’s in Seattle’s SoDo District. This proved to be an excellent choice. My waitress was gracious and attentive. The whole place has a perfect vintage charm to it. I got a booth and contemplated the view. Sure, this is an industrial district so it’s a pretty pared-down scene but it has a nice blue collar vibe. People were enjoying conversation. The pace was quick and upbeat.

My drawing while at Denny's of The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger

My drawing while at Denny’s of The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger

So, it all began on a beautiful morning with thoughts of the upcoming Fantastic Four movie. As the official synopsis states, we’ve got “four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways.” Looks like we’re going for an in-depth origin story. Perfect daydreaming for a cartoonist such as myself in a diner I admire. So, I kicked back for a few minutes, mind relaxed, and drew The Thing about to devour The Thing Burger.

The Thing Burger

The Thing Burger

With a pleasing dining experience to savor, ah, we can conquer the world. The Thing Burger! Yes, a lot would depend upon the “punch-packing Thing sauce” and it delivered! It proved to be a great complement to the tasty hand-pressed beef patty.

Invisible Woman Slam

Invisible Woman Slam

And the Invisible Woman Slam was utterly delightful. Truly good pancakes, nice and hot off the grill. Who doesn’t enjoy a classic breakfast, am I right? Hash browns, eggs, bacon, sausage! Well, Denny’s is indeed America’s diner. I had a great time and look forward to my next visit, and the one after that. It’s also easy to get to thanks to Seattle’s light rail system so I have no complaints at all.

Be sure to visit Denny’s whenever the mood strikes you and check out their current featured Slamtastic 4 menu. For more details, visit our friends at Denny’s right here.

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Filed under Comics, Denny's, Fantastic Four, Food, Marvel Comics, Promotions, Superheroes