Kickstarter: IT’S ALIVE! Needs Your Help to Publish The First Ever Collection of DOPE by Trina Robbins

Page from the graphic novel, DOPE, by Trina Robbins

Page from the graphic novel, DOPE, by Trina Robbins

IT’S ALIVE! is an imprint that specializes in bringing great comics, many out of print for decades, to new readers. IT’S ALIVE! has partnered with IDW Publishing to make these wonderful books available to you. However, the imprint’s founder and editor, Drew Ford, is still responsible to come up with the funds to publish each book. Right now, a Kickstarter campaign is going on in support of the first ever collection of a comic book adaptation by Trina Robbins of Sax Rohmer’s 1919 novel, DOPE. The Kickstarter campaign runs thru August 19th and you can support it right here.

Dope Trina Robbins comics

If this Kickstarter campaign is successful, IT’S ALIVE! will publish the first ever collection of Trina Robbin’s comic book adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s sensational 1919 novel, DOPE. The story centers around a talented young actress, who becomes fatally ensnared in London’s mysterious and glittery drug culture of the early 20th century. DOPE was both the first novel to speak openly about the world’s international drug trade, and the first story to center around the death of a celebrity by drug overdose. Robbin’s comic book adaptation was first published in 1981, serialized within the pages of ECLIPSE MAGAZINE (and later, ECLIPSE MONTHLY). The story started out in a black and white magazine, and finished up in color comic book. Since its initial publication, it has never been collected in any form.

Its Alive Press Drew Ford IDW

Trina Robbins is one of the best cartoonists in a long history of great comics art. DOPE exemplifies her distinctive vision. The campaign ends soon, August 19th. Jump on board here.

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Filed under Comics, Drew Ford, IT’S ALIVE! Press, Kickstarter, trina robbins

Advance Review: GLITTERBOMB #1

Glitterbomb Image Comics

Let’s say that you do go out to L.A. to chase that dream of fame and fortune. Alright, you’re walking down Hollywood Boulevard. You get a text. But it’s not your agent. You don’t even really have an agent but you know someone who does. Or you thought you knew this person. Where did the time go? At this rate, you only have enough money to last you through…the week? Ah, it can happen. Variations of this happen every day. Meet Farrah Durante. She’s struggling at cattle calls for whatever part she can get. And she actually used to be somebody. Yeah, she was Cee-Lin on that really popular sci-fi show, “Space Farers,” or it used to be popular. That was so many years ago. Close in on Farrah. She’s attractive and seems pretty agile but she’s at the mercy of youth-obsessed Hollywood. However, Farrah has stumbled upon some sort of secret weapon in “Glitterbomb,” the new comic book series from Image Comics with a Hollywood horror tale to tell.

Image Comics Jim Zub

You see, Farrah has a way to exact revenge. She is not looking to make trouble. But something has tapped her to be a vessel that can unleash horrific fury. You wouldn’t think it remotely possible to look at Farrah. And, Jesus, what exactly would horrific fury entail? Look, it’s been brewing for a very long time. Hollywood’s fame culture has already unleashed its own horrific fury, so to speak. We question our looks, our own worthiness, compared to the latest celebrity darlings. We all do it in our own way. And, if you don’t, there are others who will do it for us and unfairly judge us. Poor Farrah finds herself caught in the middle of some cosmic reordering of balance. That much I can tell you. That’s fair enough. I’m not here to spoil anything. What I am here to say is that Farrah Durante is a great character and exemplifies the tragic state of our culture when a talented woman reaches a certain age and becomes something less than worthy: unemployable, unmarketable, unwanted.

Jim Zub Glitterbomb

There are a couple of classic films that readily come to mind now: “Sunset Boulevard” and “All About Eve.” Both films came out in 1950 and each stars a woman who has committed the worst act in Hollywood: she has gotten older! Gloria Swanson was 51. Bette Davis was 42. Each character was at a dangerous point in their lives with threats coming at them from all sides. Who would love them? Who would hire them? Both films are dark with Billy Wilder’s “Sunset” decidedly noir. Neither is horror, per se, but we come close as, in both cases, these two older women are so up against it. “Eve” is far more restrained although the threat from the young Eve Harrington on the older Margo Channing reaches the level of a blood sport. For horror movie theatrics, you can’t find much better than Gloria Swanson as the aging and desperate Norma Desmond. This is all to say that both of these movies were playing with a common theme, one of the oldest in the book: the young will devour the old…and women are placed at greater disadvantage.

Glitterbomb Image Comics 2016

Clearly, “Glitterbomb” is playing for keeps! This is an ambitious work. It’s also a scary one! Jim Zub (WAYWARD, Thunderbotls) has created a script that realistically brings us into the hard luck world of Farrah Durante endlessly scrambling for an acting gig. And he melds that with some of the most inventive supernatural content that I’ve seen in a long while. Add to that the very nimble artwork by Djibril Morissette-Phan that captures the pathos and rage of Farrah quite convincingly. We see her as someone potentially so full of life but who must continue to sidestep all sorts of life’s sucker punches along with whatever that is that spawned from hell–or is it just Hollywood?!

K. Michael Russell provides some great atmospheric colors. And Marshall Dillon rounds out the creative team with well balanced, well-placed, lettering. I especially appreciate his creative flourishes in evoking the urgency of text messages.

At the end of this comic, there’s an eye-opening essay on the abusive culture of Hollywood by Holly Raychelle Hughes. As she experienced it, Hollywood made her feel less than human, more like something expendable. It is a perfect companion piece to this remarkable work.

GLITTERBOMB provides a clever horror vibe as well as great biting social commentary. The first issue is available as of September 7th. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Ageism, Comics, Hollywood, Horror, Image Comics, Sexism

Seattle Focus: Kickstarter campaign for satire, ‘Mack Stuckey’s Guide to the Center of the Universe’

This is NOT "Sleepless in Seattle"

This is NOT “Sleepless in Seattle”

Mack Stuckey’s Guide to the Center of the Universe

A Kickstarter campaign has been launched (ends 8/28) for the illustrated novel, “Mack Stuckey’s Guide to the Center of the Universe,” a dark satire set in Seattle. This isn’t your “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Singles.” Join the campaign right here.

Continue reading

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Filed under Crowdfunding, Games, Geek Culture, Henry Chamberlain, Humor, Jennifer Daydreamer, Kickstarter, Microsoft, pop culture, Satire, Seattle, Sex, Social Commentary

Review: ‘Amiculus: A Secret History: Vol. II: Flagellum Dei’ by Travis Horseman

Amiculus Vol. II by Travis Horseman

Amiculus Vol. II by Travis Horseman

Romulus Augustus is one of the most vilified and controversial of leaders in history. Known as “Romulus Augustulus,” or “Little Augustus,” he was the product of a coup that was ill-fated from the very start. His father, Orestes, in charge of the military, pushed out the emperor, Julius Nepos. Then Orestes installed the boy as emperor. Romulus reigned over the last days of the Roman Empire. His reign lasted less than a year, from AD 475 to AD 476. Orestes, arrogant and distracted, would be overwhelmed by a mutiny led by one of his own senior officers, Flavius Odoacer. In short order, Orestes would be executed. Romulus would be sent into exile. The boy king remained an enigma, a mystery. Travis Horseman adds to this intrigue with his comic book series, “Amiculus: A Secret History.”

Procopius of Caesarea continues to find the true story of Romulus, the boy emperor.

Procopius of Caesarea continues to find the true story of Romulus, the boy emperor.

The details add up very nicely in this well-researched comic narrative based on Romulus Augustus. Travis Horseman has created one of the most unique works in comics which combines elements of speculative history and the supernatural. The second volume to “Amiculus: A Secret History” is truly a second act, an opportunity to delve deeper into the characters. We learn more about each player including the evil force lurking amid the shadows, the mysterious figure Amiculus. It is this demonic Amiculus who enables the barbarian hordes to overrun the western region of the Roman Empire which Orestes and Romulus only had a tenuous grasp on to begin with.

What is Amiculus?

What is Amiculus?

This comic is a fine example of what is possible when a creator gets fully immersed in a subject. Horseman has teamed up with a kindred soul in artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo. Both are driven and that resonates with the reader. While the narrative can get bloody, it is not exploitive violence. Essentially, it is strategic and, at times, only implied. Much of the blood is due to the ruthless Orestes. But this would not be story without his bloodlust. That said, I think this would prove a great gateway for teens to learn more about ancient Rome. I would also not be surprised to see the Amiculus series adapted for television or some other format on the screen. For now, we have this very inventive and engaging comic.

Keep up with Amiculus right here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History

Tacoma Focus: Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace at the Museum of Glass

Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington

Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington

You can steam bend pieces of alder wood to create beautiful and haunting images. The artist team of Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace offer various compelling examples such as enigmatic birds. Their outline frames are positioned so the light casts intriguing double shadows. They beg you to ask endless existential questions. We were so lucky to view them and a wide assortment of other artworks reviewing the careers of Kirkpatrick and Mace. This show is on display through September 6, 2016 at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.

Birds formed out of Alder Wood

Birds formed out of Alder Wood

“Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace: Every Soil Bears Not Everything” exemplifies what the Museum of Glass is all about. Kirkpatrick and Mace met as students at the Pilchuck Glass School in 1979, at the height of the studio glass movement, and have been creating compelling work ever since. Known for their oversized fruit and vegetable glass sculptures, examples of these begin the show. We then move on to works utilizing various unconventional, or understated, materials such as alder wood.

Oversized Fruit Sculpture by Kirkpatrick and Mace

Oversized Fruit Sculpture by Kirkpatrick and Mace

There is an overall calming and introspective nature to this show. I don’t know that being calm is as essential a prerequisite for an artist as making daring use of unusual materials. I will say that, while glass can certainly be shattered, and we can definitely get cut by glass, the overwhelming quality of glass, the quality we seem to seek out the most in glass art, has to do with states of serenity and quiet contemplation.

Alphabet Animals

Alphabet Animals

Kirkpatrick and Mace consistently invite us to enter a meditative state. Whatever the medium, each piece seems to raise more questions than provide answers. Or perhaps the overriding answer is that we can only see so much. Nature will only reveal itself so much. We are left to understand as best we can. And, through art, we can attempt to express our limits.

The limits of our vision to understand nature.

The limits of our means to process nature.

The Limits of Expression

The limits of our means of expression.

The Museum of Glass is located at 1801 Dock St., in the heart of Tacoma’s Museum District. For more information, visit the website right here.

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Filed under Dale Chihuly, Museum of Glass, Museums, Tacoma, Travel

Tacoma Focus: Washington State History Museum

On the Wagon Train! Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

On the Wagon Train! Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Wandering through Tacoma can be like time travelling with so many finely restored historic landmarks. Add to that all the classic cars driving down the avenues. And add to all that the Washington State History Museum. It is a massive fortress filled to the brim with all sorts of pathways and portals into the past.

Yes, I gravitated to the pop culture!

Yes, I gravitated to the pop culture!

I know that I love novel uses of words and pictures. It’s not just because I create comics and graphic novels. As both a writer and artist, and as a lifelong learner, I have always cherished the unique place that museums of all kinds have in our lives.

Washington State History Museum

Washington State History Museum

I am especially grateful for the Washington State History Museum as an essential resource for state history. It serves as the state’s attic, a very special venue for all manner of items, large and small, a place for careful study.

Watercolor painting of Chief Leschi

Watercolor painting of Chief Leschi

Museums are for all ages. It could not be any other way. Mentors and cubs alike make great use of museums. But it is no secret that museums hold a special place for the kids. The great push forward from one generation to the next must always include quiet contemplation amongst the artifacts of bygone eras.

A small drama plays out at the train set.

A small drama plays out at the train set.

And when you come right down to it, I love good visuals, which this museum has plenty. And, among them all, I love that massive train set! Like any elaborate train set worth its weight, this one has some unexpected dramatic scenes peppered about, even an accident site complete with ambulance and accident victim. We can only hope it was a minor accident!

Train Set at the Washington State History Museum

Train Set at the Washington State History Museum

The train set exhibit brings to mind a fellow who has dedicated a big portion of his life to creating what is probably the world’s longest and most complex train set display encompassing football fields of space. That’s Northlandz in New Jersey. But this is not a competition. He has his train set and this wonderful museum has its train set, which is pretty massive!

Brass Lantern Clock, circa 1630

Brass Lantern Clock, circa 1630

Vintage Women's Suffrage Placard

Vintage Women’s Suffrage Placard

Washington State History Museum is located at 1911 Pacific Avenue in the heart of Tacoma’s Museum District, adjacent to Union Station. For more details, visit the website right here.

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Filed under Education, History, Tacoma, Travel, Washington state

Tacoma Focus: LeMay – America’s Car Museum

"Route 66: Dream of The Mother Road," currently on view at America's Car Museum

“Route 66: Dream of The Mother Road,” currently on view at America’s Car Museum

America’s Car Museum has the proud distinction of being the largest car collection in North America with 165,000 square feet of exhibit space for a 350 car gallery. For anyone who loves the open road and has a sense of adventure, you will definitely want to see “Route 66: Dream of The Mother Road,” currently on view. Take your time to wander and enjoy all the exhibits. This is the place to celebrate automobiles of all kinds dating back to the earliest vehicles all the way up to the present and beyond.

Next to a Plymouth Barracuda

Next to a Plymouth Barracuda

To get a sense of the spirit behind this dazzling collection, you’ll want to see “Lucky’s Garage,” a tribute to the LeMay family that has made this collection possible. Here you can imagine Harold LeMay leisurely toiling away as he works on his latest car project. “Lucky” was Harold’s nickname. As he saw it, a lot of hard work finally led to being “lucky.” That said, Mr.LeMay was hard working indeed amassing a collection of over 3,000 vehicles and thousands of artifacts, earning him a place in the 1997 Guinness Book of World Records.

"Lucky's Garage," a tribute to Harold E. LeMay

“Lucky’s Garage,” a tribute to Harold E. LeMay

America’s Car Museum is certainly a testament to Harold E. LeMay’s dedication to his community and his passion for cars. Walk through the four stories of display space and you can’t help but get caught up in the heady mix of vivid history and a sense of excitement. Just letting my imagination run wild and thinking about all the heart and humanity behind all these classic cars made my head spin.

Wow, a 1931 Auburn Boattail Speedster!

Wow, a 1931 Auburn Boattail Speedster!

What a beauty, a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette!

What a beauty, a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette!

You get lost in them, decade by decade. Do you want to know how to instantly gain some insight into American history? Just go back to our love affair with cars.

You don’t have to know anything about cars to understand how so many have fallen under the automotive spell. You will find favorites among so many wonderful dream cars. Hey, here’s one you can’t help but love, an undisputed classic, the DeLorean DMC-12, which gained immortality when one of them appeared in “Back to the Future.”

LeMay – America’s Car Museum is located at 2702 East D. St. in Tacoma. It is adjacent to the Tacoma Dome. You can find easy access to it via the link rail. Be sure to visit the website right here.

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Filed under Cars, History, Museums, Route 66, Tacoma, Travel, Washington state

Hotel Review: Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington

Hotel Murano is Stimulating!

Hotel Murano is Stimulating!

Sometimes you need to take a detour and see where it takes you. I chose Hotel Murano in Tacoma Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

This week we focus on Tacoma, Washington, home to a unique glass art culture linked directly to Tacoma native and world-renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly. For those of you considering a visit to the Pacific Northwest, it is Tacoma where you can find an intriguing blend of old and new including the Washington State History Museum, America’s Car Museum, and the Museum of Glass.

Bite, the restaurant at Hotel Murano

Bite, the restaurant at Hotel Murano

Glass is about openness and clarity. I love how Hotel Murano plays with the theme of glass. Looking down from Bite, the hotel’s restaurant perched on the fourth floor, you can take in quite a spacious view.

A playful and inviting use of  space in the lobby of Hotel Murano

A playful and inviting use of space in the lobby of Hotel Murano

You sense that open feeling all around, accented with smartly placed art like the full scale horse standing by the bar. You feel as if you could ride that regal black horse, trot around the lobby, and canter down the hall. With that lampshade on its head, you just know it’s a whimsical, or magical, horse. If it were a nightmare, it would not make very good company with your scotch and soda.

Mysterious Black Stallion as Sentry at the Bar

Mysterious Black Stallion as Sentry at the Bar

Friendly and courteous service count for everything in a hotel stay. Hotel Murano comes away with high marks. Beginning with the front desk service, all our requests were promptly met and all our questions were thoughtfully answered.

A friendly and helpful front desk at Hotel Murano

A friendly and helpful front desk at Hotel Murano

There’s an old favorite home style restaurant from many years back that I had difficulty recalling but the front desk was able to reconnect me with Southern Kitchen! If you are looking for some good catfish, that’s the place to go. And, if you do wander off, you may also want to treat yourself to the local art house movie theater, Grand Cinema.

A Comfy Bed Awaits

A Comfy Bed Awaits

Our room at Hotel Murano was just what we had hoped for: stylish, comfortable, and with a sense of fun. The bed was comfy and spacious. I rested on a pile of pillows and read for a while. I found myself reading three chapters without any disturbance. The book I was reading is about a man on a business trip. He checks into an inn but becomes restless and wanders off into the woods where trouble soon finds him. At Hotel Murano, you won’t become restless. You can either enjoy the hotel or quite easily walk over to check out some fun spots for a bite to eat in the Museum District like Elemental Pizza or Pacific Grill. And you can certainly take the nearby link rail and venture further out. And, like I say, you definitely won’t get restless with plenty to see and do.

Find Your Creative Side at Hotel Murano

Find Your Creative Side at Hotel Murano

The Murano islands in Venice are a center for glassmaking dating back to 1291. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Murano brings to mind clear blue waters and skies. The name Murano itself evokes wanderlust and adventure. It is a fine name for a hotel that helps each guest find their own special Murano experience.

When your travels bring you to Tacoma, be sure to stay at Hotel Murano.

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Filed under Dale Chihuly, Hotel Review, Hotels, Pacific Northwest, Tacoma, Travel, Washington state

SDCC 2016 Review: THE DEATH OF STALIN, presented by Europe Comics

"The Death of Stalin," published by Europe Comics

“The Death of Stalin,” published by Europe Comics

The Death of Stalin” is a digital graphic novel presented by Europe Comics and is one of various select titles from Europe Comics being promoted at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. This is quite an audacious, vivid, and insightful look at the strange events occurring shortly after Joseph Stalin had a stroke: the chaos and the subsequent grab for power. It is highly accessible: drops you right in, as if you were a fly on the wall, a fly that Stalin, himself, would have thought nothing of swatting and flicking away.

Who was Joseph Stalin? If you’re too young to have a frame of reference, that’s understandable. Think World War II. Think dictator. Then add to that one of the great mass murderers in history responsible for the deaths of millions. Joseph Stalin was the Soviet Union’s dictator from 1924 to 1953. And, in that time, he ordered the deaths of an estimated 50 million of his own citizens. So, you can imagine that his death would be a pretty big deal.

It once was common to find in your newspaper a grainy official photo of the Soviet leaders proudly reviewing the annual May Day parade displaying Soviet military might. That very same photo would, at a later date, pop back into those same newspapers with the latest news from the mysterious world of the Soviet Union. But the photo was altered: someone had been erased and replaced with someone else. There was plenty of doctoring of photos and executing of comrades during Stalin’s regime. While that may seem primitive by today’s standards, you can see something similar going on in North Korea. I feel like Rachel Maddow now as I hope I impress upon young readers that Kim Jong-un’s regime is a small scale throwback to what the Soviet Union was like.

Who Will Take Over After Stalin?

Who Will Take Over After Stalin?

To best convey the inner workings of the Kremlin during the last days of Stalin requires a dedication to characters. Go back to that grainy photo of politburo leaders at the May Day reviewing stand. How do you give those ghostly figures some life? Now, that must have been a challenge. This book is up to the task thanks to both a lively script by Fabien Nury and compelling art by Thierry Robin. Without a doubt, you are that fly on the wall. We are told that truth is stranger than fiction. Did Stalin, the night before he had his fatal stroke, really force the national symphony to replay a concert they had just performed just for the benefit of his own personal recording? I would not be surprised.

This two part story will thrill political junkies as well as history buffs. We see a relatively young Nikita Khrushchev as he maneuvers for power. In 1953, he was a mere 59 years-old! That’s “young” for Soviet leaders. In a matter of days, the tide would turn in his favor and he would replace Stalin. But not before a chaoic, bloody, and sometimes comical, turn of events. That said, this intriguing story will prove insightful and entertaining for any reader of any age.

The Death of Stalin” is now available at Europe Comics, which launched in November 2015 by a coalition of nine comics publishers, two rights agents, and an audio-visual company, from eight different European countries. Europe Comics is working towards the creation of a pan-European comics catalog, available in English and digital format, a website with comics information for readers and professionals, and a series of author tours and events across Europe and the USA.

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Filed under Comic-Con, Comic-Con 2016, Comics, Europe Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Russia

Review: SNOTGIRL #1

Your Fashionista, Snotgirl!

Your Fashionista, Snotgirl!

“Oh boy! It’s really been a while, hasn’t it? But it’s like they say: life is what happens between blog posts. Right??” That is “Snotgirl,” the new comic created by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung. Meet Lottie Person, your fashionista, your Holly Golightly with a blog. Not in a long while have a enjoyed such a pleasing mix of sexy and cute as with this new comic.

Holly Golightly with a blog

Holly Golightly with a blog

A comic like this almost writes itself. Thankfully, we have a thoughtful script by O’Malley and engaging artwork by Hung. When has snot ever been a recurring motif in a story about twentysomethings? Maybe it a comic strictly for kids, like Dennis the Menace or Peppermint Patty covered in snot. But not someone so poised and elegant as our Lottie! The poor thing suffers form allergies. So, she is never too far from a tissue. And those allergy pills don’t seem to be reliable.

I blog, therefore I am.

I blog, therefore I am.

If you are reading this blog post, chances are you write a blog of your own! We’re all doing it. Feels good, right? Or does it? You could say it depends on why you’re doing it. This is at the hear of this story. What makes Lottie tick? What if all her social media was suddenly withheld from her? Would she exist? And then there’s a surprise twist at the end of this first issue that lets you know for sure that all is not what it seems. Great first issue!

SNOTGIRL #1 is available as of July 20th. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Bryan Lee O'Malley, Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics