Anna Haifisch is one of our great artist-cartoonists with an impressive portfolio already in her young career. You may know her from The Artist comic strip series that appeared on Vice.com. In this interview, we chat about her latest book, Schappi, published by Fantagraphics. It was a pleasure to review this book recently for The Comics Journal. You can read my review here.
An artist out for a light snack.
So, the goal here was simply to have a pleasant conversation and perhaps scratch the surface a bit on the whole subject of comics as fine art. At this point, I believe there can be little doubt over comics being a true art form, just as entitled as paintings to be displayed in a museum. The fact is that the comics medium fits right in with other established forms and uniquely inhabits the art world space. Comics, as an artwork, can be shown in original form; is easily blown up to cover a wall space; and is tailor-made for any kind of book or digital format. The future is indeed very bright for comics in galleries and museums.
That said, it is a nice treat to be able to discuss this subject with a cartoonist of the caliber of Haifisch, who can lay claim to her own show of her work at a major museum, the MdbK in Leipzig. As Haifisch pointed out during our talk, museums are still coming around to comics. Unless you’re a figure of the magnitude of an R. Crumb or a Chris Ware, cartoonists are still edging their way into the higher strata of the art world. Well, that is steadily changing.
Comicfestival Hamburg, MOM Art Space, 2021
That steady change will quicken each time that cartoonists manage to take control of the narrative. All one needs to do is observe the work that Art Spiegelman has done on behalf of cartoonists, including himself, in making inroads into academic and museum circles. It doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen. In the case of Haifisch, she is making strides in a very natural way. The whole idea of dedicating time and effort on the museum catalog is utterly priceless! We discuss at length Chez Schnabel, the publication that resulted from the art show at MdbK. There’s your key to progress: a book about the artistic process with content made exclusively for the book. Talk about controlling the narrative! It’s quite informative and a delight to read. For example, I had to ask Haifisch about the drawings she did in connection with The Peabody Hotel. Did she go to Memphis and draw the famous ducks on parade? Well, no. As it turns out the idea of creating illustrations about hotel ducks was just too hard to resist and so she used that to add some color to a relatively dry interview with some museum dignitaries discussing Haifisch’s work. And it did the job just fine.
Happiness, Where Are You?
Learn more about Anna Haifisch by visiting her website right here.
It is a little hard to believe that World War 3 Illustrated, now nearly half a century in the struggle for challenging art and social change, seems so fresh. Sometimes, the “fresh” is fresh blood, at least as much as fresh-growing plants or humans in their increasingly inhumane environments. WW3 can be grim and means to be grim, here and there in the pages, some lavishly drawn in color. The editors insist that the book is intended to “repair the world, and ourselves,” even bearing a gardening theme that pops up a couple times. The splendid experimentation in comic art offers, in any case, a way forward and a hope.
Per usual, the variety of work defies any easy generalization. Where else would pages by Ben Katchor, sometime New Yorker illustrator, be found alongside those of Sabrina Jones, Kevin Pyle, Sandy Jimenez, Seth Tobocman and a host of young artists making what is likely their first appearance in print, or something close to their first? WW3 is, by intent, not only a political expression of radical ideas but a school for learning and development, an outlet for young idealists to try out their work in just about any form. Some of the results are inevitably stronger than others. But again and again, the intensity of the effort comes through, sometimes along with a surprising personal candor.
Thus we find the notoriously excitable Seth Tobocman explore himself, his own life, in “Rage,” rooted in family experiences but realizing itself in social struggles where anger helps and hurts, is at once either justifiable or inexplicably self-destructive. He has drawn on various subjects so often, we naturally respond to his multi-general family saga beginning in the Cleveland of his childhood, and the grandparents’ bodega (aka “Candy Store”). The more prosperous side of the family can relax and enjoy upward mobility; the less prosperous carries a rage and resentment at what happened to Jews in the twentieth century. Both sides unite, so to speak, in the drive for children to achieve and advance, whether they want to or not.
Thus Milwaukee’s own Sue Simenski Bietila, a school nurse by profession, who lays out the tales of Street Medics from the 1960s to now, volunteers who are threatened, sometimes beaten or arrested by cops, for providing aid and sanction. Thus in 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Bietila shows us street medic Gaige Grosskreutz, who tried to stop a high school right-winger from murdering a protester, but was murdered in turn (Fox News glorified the shooter, who was acquitted.) Bietila knows the issues and the moments of struggle as no outsider could. She’s an artist on the job, the unpaid job.
Thus the artist calling herself “Fly” delivers seven jarring pages on George Floyd. Christopher Cardinale describes the use of masks in New York (forbidden on the streets from 1845, then mandated in 2020, albeit with occasional police assaults against anyone who urges them to put on masks) in political and personal terms.
Thus artist Kevin C. Pyle takes us to the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, where the building of The Fence and the misuse of an aquifer in the building process only begin to accelerate the degradation of ecosystem and the Tohono O’odom Nation, on site for centuries. Against this background or creating a background is philosopher Walter Benjamin, his quotes effectively explaining the deep and terrifying logic of “progress” as destruction laying the basis for more destruction.
Gianluca Constantini and Elettra Stamboulis take us to Bergamo, Lombardia, in Northern Italy, where the health system was said to be among the best in the world. Come Covid, the reality of a continuing privatization was revealed. Bodies piled high and the artist trapped in his studio struggled to grasp the moment. “Doctors became heroes for a while. But we need…continuing social justice, not just heroes for a day.”
I’m drawn, so to speak,to the pages of Sandy Jimenez, Bronx educator who loses his job after fifteen years, finding himself in middle age without any certainly what he will do or even who he has become. He works it out, partly by elaborating a friend’s saga, the erstwhile Vietnam Vet who looks back with horror at the killing, and gains self by coming out. Jimenez ends by embracing his younger friends, poor Latin Americans or Eastern Europeans who find their way to the Bronx. They show him that he has a role beyond working for a living: it is quite a gift.
I am also drawn to the familiar touch of Sabrina Jones, seen here recovering the familiar bunny (source of “Br’er Rabbit” in Southern folklore exploited by Disney but very real nonetheless as the weak animal who has historically outwitted the more powerful animals including humans) but now faces all-destructive “development.” Lawns, fences, pesticides ruin what could still be recuperated as a healthy environment for Mr. Rabbit and his animal friends, birds and frogs to butterflies. Message: let your land re-wild itself with native habitat!
More should be said about the color work of Paula Hewitt Amram, the occasional color page by Kate Gerhart or the rightly renowned Eric Drooker. And the black and white full page drawings by Tom Keough of James Baldwin, Harriet Tubman and others less famous. More could be said about so much more in these pages. But I leave them for readers to discover.
Paul Buhle’s latest collaboration is ¡BRIGADISTAS!, a story of the Spanish Civil War; his next ones include a pirate comic and an adaptation of W.E. B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk.
It was over an egg cream, or two, that I concluded, or finally admitted, that I was indeed a treasure trove of knowledge, insight and overall sensibility regarding a whole rat’s nest of pop culture and various related concoctions. It is all stored in my mind, still whirling away, processing and extrapolating. I couldn’t just assume that what I knew was something that everyone else knew. Ah, and then, conversely, I couldn’t dismiss what I knew as something other people would not be interested in. Well, I knew this all along–isn’t that what led me to this blog? Yeah, and it led me to this diner, this gloriously runny egg and pancake and this most banal yet delectable egg cream! There are many folks out there who still admire, love and can’t resist a good egg cream. It doesn’t matter how many of a younger generation might act as if they don’t care. Forgive these dewy-eyed naysayers for they know not what they do. Because, given a chance, they would reveal that they care very much.
“Isn’t that exactly how it was for you?” I asked my young friend, Nelson here, the guy I was told would give me a tour and help me set up my Ghost Busters mission. They promised me an all-expenses-paid residency and all I had to do was make heads or tails out of the ghost in the attic, or the staircase, or just out of view each night from an upper window. I was told that my unique background was very attractive for this assignment. I’d pleaded that I was nothing more than an over-rated dilettante at best. But the foundation, the whole board, agreed that I possessed a certain sensitivity to matters, esoteric, cerebral and ephemeral, that they just couldn’t resist at least giving it a try. So, maybe I was an unconventional choice, but, what the hell, you only live once, right? Everyone said I was a pop culture sensitive! And it took someone like me to draw out the ghost, given that it was such a fanciful creature of pulp and the fantastic. It was often called “the ultimate figment of the imagination.” I wasn’t sure what that implied or what exactly a “figment” was supposed to be. Truth be told, I have more than a passing connection with the supernatural.
“So, anyway, given the chance, you’re as charmed by an egg cream as I am, right?” I knew what he’d say. Finally, letting out a sigh, “Of course! Henry, I think I love egg creams almost as much as you do, even if I’m the last person who would have tried one out. I’m more of a beer guy.”
“Well, beer is a whole other subject but it definitely has its own quirky history, like an egg cream.” I gave him an empathetic smile. I think, only recently, did he get this gig involving a haunted house. Was he more a real estate guy or more of a spooky ghost and goblin guy? I wasn’t sure. It took me a while to understand that maybe his most important purpose was simply to rally me into action and get this whole thing off the ground.
The magic of an egg cream.
“Everything has a history.”
My head was spinning, just a bit, but I wanted to press forward. It had been a wild ride thus far. Only a few hours ago I had been in Seattle. Here I was crisscrossing all over Manhattan. It was a lucky turn that led us to Landmark Coffee Shop, deep in the Bowery, one of the great haunts of so many happy souls, lost or otherwise.
“I mean a history that you could turn into a novel, that kind of history, with twists and turns, romance, mystery.”
“What is it about an egg cream that grabs you most?”
“The humanity of it all. No one knows, for sure, how the egg cream came to be but it’s very likely a case of simply making do with limited resources. A little sugar, or syrup, a little milk, and a little fizzy water. That’s all you need and you’ve got an egg cream.”
“Yeah, well, I’d prefer a Coke.”
“Exactly. Coke, and other soft drinks, paved the way for the demise of the egg cream. It’s a relic of another time. But those with heart and soul will seek it out, keep it alive and well.”
“Okay then, that’s why they hired you for this ghost whisperer gig. You love a good ghost story. You want to dance with ghosts. And then there’s that book you wrote about that ghost . . . but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.”
“Yeah, we can discuss that later on. I’m glad we managed to at least initally agree on the qualities of the noble egg cream. I’m telling you, it’s an excellent portal into the past! Perhaps in ways . . . beyond the scope of this convivial little conversation . . . I’m talking about ancient rites . . .”
“You know what I really like, a good root beer float! That’s sort of like an egg cream, isn’t it?”
“Pretty close but not really.”
–to be continued.
Enjoy the video where I show you how to make an egg cream and give you a mini-tour of a classic New York diner that serves egg creams. If you find this interesting, you may also want to check out my book, Sometimes You Just Want an Egg Cream, available thru the Comics Grinder store.
In my video, there’s a demo on how to make your own egg cream. The beauty of the egg cream is how versatile this little treat is. You can get fancy and order an artisan version of it or you probably have the ingredients you need right in your own kitchen. For this demo, I used the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys Egg Cream Kit. So, you don’t have to live in or near New York or Brooklyn to get the real deal. You can order this kit and have yourself quite an authentic experience. The second video gives you a tour of Brooklyn Seltzer Boys, the remaining source for true authentic seltzer.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for many indie comics fans making their way to Short Run Comix & Arts Festival in Seattle. This Saturday it’s the place to be to meet up with old friends, survey recent comix offerings and nab some items making their debut, like Brandon Lehmann’s WOMP WOMP #3. Are you already a Brandon Lehmann fan, or have you been waiting for a friendly nudge? Well, here goes. Let’s take a peek at this new title, a fine example of what you can find at Short Run.
WOMP WOMP #3 is Brandon Lehman’s new 28-page full color book debuting at Short Run.
What happens in the pages of WOMP WOMP stays in WOMP WOMP. All the more reason to seek it out. Seriously, these kind of books don’t read themselves. But if this book could, it would have hilarious tales to tell like the first story in this collection, “The Time Machine.” Yeah, you read that right. Lehmann goes on an all-out time travel trope bender to give the reader masterfully crafted satire. Lehmann keeps perfecting what he does to the point of it being just a sheer joy to read. I think he’s developed a highly original universe of deadpan humor that, like Frankenstein’s monster, is a beast moving under its own power. Ah, but don’t aim a pitchfork at this guy. Read. Enjoy. I think Lehmann is having a great time with his work and that’s a reward onto itself. And yet, it’s not too much to ask for more. With each year, more fans emerge, more ideas take shape for more comics. I see that Lehmann has some amazing prints of stand-alone art to sell along with his comics. I hope to maybe even see some animation down the road. Whatever he does, it’s finely-crafted and worth your attention.
Page excerpt from “The Time Machine”
So, in closing, I say, “Womp! Womp!” to all of you! “Womp! Womp!” Say it out loud. Fascinating how it instantly amuses. Well, it sounds like that sound you hear on game shows when the contestant gives the wrong answer, right? It’s a funny and weird sound and, hey, it can be a quick tonic for so much that we have to put up with in life. It sure is. I’m not gonna lie! I’m not gonna lie! Oh, how I hate that phrase. Have you ever heard anything more vacuous and phoney?! Well, . . . of course, you have! We put up with so much. All the wretched counter-intuitive contortions we must endure. And for what? As a sign that we’re a team player and totally and utterly sane? No, it’s madness, I tell you. Sheer and total bonkers. So, yeah, you make some time for yourself. A little (or a lot!) of ME time and yell it out proudly, scream it out unabashedly, “Womp! Womp!”
Silver: Of Treasures and Thieves, Book I is out as of October 25, 2022, published by Abrams. It is a deluxe hardcover edition and quite the immersive treat for anyone who loves a good yarn, especially one that takes much of the good stuff from pulp fiction and gives it a good tweak, a veritable mashup of adventure lore and vampire gore.
The meta pulp universe of Silver.
There’s no doubt that Stephan Franck has created something very special with Silver, a graphic novel set in a pulp noir universe of misfits, criminals and, of course, vampires. During our interview, I drive home the theme that much of the charm of this story is the journey and in the telling. This is absolutely an adrenaline-fueled adventure tale while also simply being a dazzling and mesmerizing play of words and images. The beauty of it all is that Franck has created a set of characters that you can really root for while, at the same time, is playing with tropes and just having fun. You can care about the characters or you can just curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the style.
Stephan Franck at the drawing board.
Part of the pitch to this book is a comparison to the vibe you get from Bram Stoker’s Dracula or the original Ocean’s Eleven. These are two very different animals but, at the end of the day, we’re talking about a high level of entertainment, be it high or low art or a mashup of the two. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never gone out of print since it was first published in April 1897. It was a bestseller in its day and is regarded as high art literature. Ocean’s Eleven was a big hit when it first appeared in movie theaters in 1960. It is an American heist film directed by Lewis Milestone and made the stars of the movie famous as the Rat Pack. It is one of those movies with a high level of irony that seemed to want it both ways: not to be taken seriously and yet leave you guessing. In a word, it was all about atmosphere. Take these two entertainments and roll them up into a fine paste and you’ve got yourself a gooey and frothy mix of the sinister and the ambiguous. Just the sort of clay to play with when looking to create the next pop culture mashup.
Think about pop culture in the last few decades, starting with, say, the treatment of Batman by Frank Miller, in The Dark Knight trilogy. There’s one of your finest examples of what has come to be accepted as working in an “elevated genre.” That’s the whole point. As Franck states, the idea is to “tell the most universal stories in the weirdest way possible.” And that’s what Silver is all about. You’ve got soldier of fortune types at odds with vampires. What could go wrong, right? Except for a roller coaster of a story for your delight.
Be sure to keep up with Stephan Franck here and here. And seek out SILVER, published by Abrams.
I hope you enjoy this video podcast. And, as always, a LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and/or COMMENT is always appreciated.
Diamond has released its Holiday Catalog and that got me thinking. Here are a few highlights from their list that jive with my own outlook. As many of you already know, I love me an eclectic mix of everything! Whatever curls my toes. Most of the time, it’s character driven, offbeat, maybe not the most obvious choices and just makes you feel something, you know? You can consider these titles some of the best for 2022.
THE FIRST IN CHRIS RYALL & ASHLEY WOOD’S NEW SYZYGY PUBLISHING IMPRINT LINE OF TITLES AT IMAGE COMICS!
On a seemingly normal August day in Boulder, Colorado, the skies are clear, and Honeysuckle Speck couldn’t be happier. She’s finally moving in with her girlfriend Yolanda. But their world is literally torn apart when dark clouds roll in and release a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. RAIN makes vivid this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads across the country and around the world, threatening everything young lovers Honeysuckle and Yolanda hold dear.
So begins a gripping 5-issue presentation of New York Times bestselling author JOE HILL’s acclaimed novella, adapted by rising stars DAVID M. BOOHER (Canto), ZOE THOROGOOD (The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott), and CHRIS O’HALLORAN (Ha-Ha).
Joe Hill, David M. Booher, Zoe Thorogood
FRONTLIST | On Sale Date: October 11, 2022
Hardcover, Image Comics, 160 pages, Ages 13 And Up
“TILLIE WALDEN is the future. Her boldly authentic voice brings new heights to the world of The Walking Dead.” —ROBERT KIRKMAN
“Will have you craving more when the final page turns.” —CHIP ZDARSKY
“An exquisitely drawn story about how to survive trauma and find strength in ourselves and others.” —KELLY SUE DECONNICK
Powerhouse creator TILLIE WALDEN takes on the world of ROBERT KIRKMAN’s THE WALKING DEAD in the most anticipated YA graphic novel of 2022.
The trilogy marks the graphic novel debut of Clementine, star of the massively successful Telltale Games video game.
In Book One, Clementine discovers new allies, new rivals, and new love. But as the group tries to build a walker-free settlement in an abandoned ski resort, they soon discover that the biggest threat to their survival…is each other.
Clementine Book One
Tillie Walden, Robert Kirkman
BACKLIST | On Sale Date: June 21, 2022
Paperback, Image Comics, 256 pages, Ages 13 to 16
$14.99 USD, $19.99 CAD, £13.99 GBP
Young Adult Fiction / Comics & Graphic Novels / Horror
‘Side Effects’ is a personal story about mental health and what it takes to find yourself again.
Hannah doesn’t want to be a hero. She just wants to be well.
Hannah’s dealing with a lot in her first year of college and to make matters worse, she’s also battling her own brain, in the form of anxiety and depression. Fortunately, her therapist has put her on some meds to help, but those meds cause some unintended side effects, like sleepless nights, pounding headaches…
…or, in Hannah’s case, superpowers.
Now, on top of juggling tests and dates, Hannah has to deal with occasionally shooting lightning bolts from her fingers or reading her girlfriend’s mind. Maybe she’s supposed to be a superhero, but all she wants to do is make it through the year in one piece.
Written by Ted Anderson (My Little Pony, Adventure Time: Beginning of the End, ORPHAN AGE, MOTH AND WHISPER) and illustrated by Tara O’Connor (Fly By Night, Roots, Puddles) comes a personal story about mental health and what it takes to find yourself again.
Ted Anderson, Mike Marts (Edited by), Tara O’Connor
FRONTLIST | October 18, 2022
Paperback, Aftershock Comics, 112 pages, Ages 13 And Up
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Machine Boy! When Machine Boy falls from the sky into the domed city of Mega 416, he leaves a wake of destruction behind him…until Karate Grandpa is able to turn on his heart. Now, Machine Boy wants nothing more than to become a hero! Whether he’s fighting giant bugs in the school’s basement, rescuing cats from trees, or making the perfect spaghetti sauce, Machine Boy is always looking for the best way to help others. But when his heart begins to interact dangerously with other debris from space, Machine Boy wonders if he can be a power for good after all. Rising stars TRI VUONG (LEGO NINJAGO) and IRMA KNIIVILA (Year of the Dog) present a funny and engaging adventure that asks—can you override your own programming?
For Aella life on Kinamen Isle is completely boring. She dreams of life beyond the horizon even as she spends her days fishing and minding her aunts.
Everything changes however when she awakens an ancient evil within herself: Xir the serpent that almost destroyed the world. Worse yet a fanatical religious organization has arrived on Kinamen Isle to destroy Xir.
As Aella is forced to fight for her life she’ll discover that her entire world is not what it seems. Her aunts know more than they let on-and what exactly does the infamous Pirate Queen want with Aella anyway?
From the team of MAIRGHREAD SCOTT (Star Wars: Resistance Guardians of the Galaxy) and PABLO TUNICA (TMNT Universe) comes an extraordinary tale of growing up and changing your fate.
Sea Serpent’s Heir, Book 1
Mairghread Scott, Pablo Tunica
FRONTLIST | On Sale Date: October 18, 2022
Paperback, Image Comics, 160 pages, Ages 13 to 16
$14.99 USD, $19.99 CAD, £13.99 GBP
Young Adult Fiction / Comics & Graphic Novels / Fantasy
Wracked by calamities and crawling with monsters, the last remaining humans face a dangerous existence.
And now, the Earth has been sent a message from the deepest reaches of space – a dark countdown to the extinction of all humanity. But there is hope! Five thousand children will be rescued by these mysterious message-senders.
This is the journey of Hototo, one of the lucky five thousand – but only if his teenage sister, Tala, can safely deliver him to the nearest Beacon before time runs out.
WE LIVE is a world of violence and beauty, a unique tale of the apocalypse as told by Inaki Miranda (Catwoman, Batman Beyond) and Roy Miranda, that invites both dread and hope.
Inaki Miranda, Roy Miranda, Mike Marts (Edited by)
BACKLIST | June 1, 2021
Paperback, Aftershock Comics, 120 pages, Ages 13 to 16
$16.99 USD, $22.99 CAD, £14.99 GBP
Comics & Graphic Novels / Science Fiction
Alrighty then, there’s plenty more I could add to the list but that should whet your appetite. This is plenty to feast upon for now, some of the best quirky and fun stuff out there.
Somebody Feed Phil the Book. by Phil Rosenthal and Jenn Garbee. Simon & Schuster. New York. 2022. 352 pp. $32.50
What is not to like about Somebody Feed Phil the Book? It’s the series come to life! If you are a fan of the food and travel show, created and hosted by Phil Rosenthal, well, this is the essential companion piece. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve viewed all the episodes on Netflix and occasionally still go back to some of your favorites. Totally fine. I’m not judging. I’ll go you one better and confess that I was an early adopter to the series and got my better half hooked on it. After that, we went back and picked clean the original PBS series, also created by Phil. Finally, we went back to other stuff related to Phil, chiefly the comedy classic sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, the show that Phil Rosenthal created and wrote for and firmly established him in the first place. I wonder, does this not ring any bells for anyone? I sense there was a time when Phil was more under the radar and now it really seems that, dare I say, Everybody Loves Phil!
The wonders of Bangkok.
The first thing I did was go through the table of contents and see which cities made the cut. I was surprised not to see Paris or Florence. But I was happy to see that New York and London, among others, did make the cut. Here’s the thing, for fans of the show, this is really special and that sense of the special should carry over quite well to just about anyone. What you get is a genuinely delightful host, who cherishes and features his loved ones on the show, provides numerous heart-felt and useful bits of insights on travel and, last but not least, pays tribute to a favorite subject of mine, food. It’s like the whole show in your pocket, or your kitchen table. And you get all these recipes! I keep rediscovering my love for good cookbooks when I am presented with a book such as this that is following a theme (in this case, it is predominantly a theme of adventure and appreciation). Thanks to this book, I can honestly say, I’m seriously looking at traveling to Thailand. The first city featured in the series, and the book, is Bangkok and it’s Phil’s unbridled love for the food and culture that has completely won me over.
Yes, the recipes are solid. You could live off the recipes in this book.
And so I dove in and went for it. No, not the travel part yet. I dove in and followed the recipe for Khao Soi, which Phil admitted to being his favorite dish, or pretty darn close to it. So, yeah, I fired up the test kitchen and we had ourselves quite a feast. I learned so much from that experience. I think it comes down to always being mindful of how much you get back when you make that extra effort. Now, this dish did seem to require some patience but, overall, it’s so much fun to make, relatively easy and lends itself to so many variations. Basically, you need meat, noodles, some chili paste, coconut milk and the rest of the ingredients just fall into place. Yes, the recipes are solid. You could live off the recipes in this book.
A fantastic tribute to New York City.
Again, the ability to enjoy the series in a different format is priceless. Of course, it was inevitable that I’d go to my favorite episode, the one devoted to New York City. Hands down, this is a city made up of restaurant customers of one kind or another, whether nondescript or celebrated, from the most humble to the most fancy. Pizza, of course, gets a lot of attention. And then there is one quintessential delight in particular, the noble Egg Cream, an utterly simple drink made up of chocolate syrup, seltzer and milk. But there are essential details. Aim for about equal parts to each ingredient and serve in a chilled glass. The syrup needs to be Fox’s U-Bet. And the way the drink is mixed can cause great debate. It’s Phil’s intense interest in culture and food that inspired me to create my own tribute to the egg cream. Perhaps I digress a bit but it’s all worth noting and, from what I’ve seen, this is definitely Phil’s favorite treat.
A taste of New Orleans. It’s all about the food and the culture.
The whole point of the show is to celebrate your favorite foods but then go beyond your comfort zone. Travel! See the world. That’s what life is all about: mixing and mingling with folks from different cultures. Phil has proven time and time again to be an excellent host, an all-time great evangelist on adventurous eating and traveling. In many ways, this book is his life’s work. He’d laugh–but he’d also nod and give you one of his goofy, and worldly-wise, smiles.
Somebody Feed Phil the Book is available as of October 18, 2022. Find it at Simon & Schuster. For information on the book tour, go here.
The Last Mechanical Monster, published by Abrams (available as of October 18, 2022), is a wonderful book for the whole family and we’ve got Brian Fies, the creator, here to chat about it. Just go over to the link and enjoy the video. First, you should know that Brian Fies is an amazing cartoonist and he has quite a gem here, a full-length story that uses a classic animated short as its jumping off point. It’s a genius move, I can tell you. The basis for this graphic novel goes back to a 1941 Fleischer Studios Superman cartoon entitled, The Mechanical Monsters. Fies builds a story around this with the premise being that the bad guy gets out of prison many years later–and the first thing he does is plot a scheme to get his revenge. Here’s where I should share an exclusive with you. The villain goes unnamed in the original animation and Fies follows suit, however, he did have a name in one version and that was Stanis Smith. Yes, you’re reading that here and Brian says he’s never mentioned it in an interview before. The joke was that the evil mad genius inventor was basically a “tinsmith.”
Let me back up a bit. Fies created a webcomic of his story, The Last Mechanical Monster, long before the release of a print version. In fact, Brian Fies is a webcomic trailblazer. He led the way in webcomics as the winner of the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic in 2005 for Mom’s Cancer, the year that category was introduced. During our chat, he shares how the narrative for The Last Mechanical Monster took shape–and it wasn’t easy. He freely admits that the first hundred pages of completed comics pages ended up being a false start and had to be scrapped. “When I was asked about the story I was working on, I’d tell people what the story was about, only to realize that this really wasn’t the story I was creating.” That’s a lot of completed pages but, in the long run, a necessary part of the creative process.
I’m just going to go ahead and include here a panel excerpt that features the Ballistic Arc equation. It will make total sense if you click onto the video interview podcast. That said, I’ll tell you here that this is a fine example of the Brian Fies secret sauce. It’s basically just a way to add some fun weird science kind of stuff.
As you’ll appreciate during our conversation, The Last Mechanical Monster is very much a character driven story featuring a misguided old guy who is tough, sometimes a little scary, but perhaps a Grinch just waiting for a reason for redemption.
The Last Mechanical Monster is a delight that, dare I say, would make a great animated feature in its own right. Who knows, there’s really no reason that it couldn’t be. Brian confided in me that he was more than content to have had his creation remain a webcomic. Of couse, he is overjoyed that it is now a book. And I believe you will get a kick out of it too. I’ll just emphasize here that this is one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done. I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it. We really had fun doing this interview and that sense of fun, I’m confident, will pass on to you.
Big Red. Jerome Charyn. Liveright. New York. 2022. 304pp. Hardcover. $28
Orson Welles was a magician in the truest sense of the word. He loved to dazzle an audience. And he was utterly fascinated with the process in which to dazzle. Many an entertainer and creative loves magic. To excel in this conjuring art form requires skill, passion, and no small amount of ego. And so it makes sense that such an inquistive novelist as Jerome Charyn, one who loves magic and is intrigued by magicians, not to mention movies, should pick Orson upon which to build a novel. Add to that the fact that Welles was married to one of the most beautiful and enigmatic of movie stars, Rita Hayworth, and you have the perfect framework for a tale about Old Hollywood.
Orson Welles portrait by Irving Penn, for Vogue 1945
Throughout the novel, Orson Welles is called, “The Boy Wonder,” as much in honor of his genius as a dig at his excess. Welles was, in many respects, one of a kind, an outsized force of nature, untamed and undisciplined, and therefore an imperfect maestro. He was a masterful filmmaker, creating unique imagery, capturing compelling performances from his fellow actors, but prone to missteps in his lavish storytelling. He was also sloppy in his personal relationships, as Rita Hayworth, aka “Big Red,” could attest. However, as Charyn comes back to again and again, there was no director quite like him. This is a novel about art colliding with life and vice versa. Orson Welles seemed to be able to better tolerate the burden of celebrity than his spouse, Rita Hayworth. But even The Boy Wonder had his limits. Charyn plays with these dynamics, these contradictions, repeatedly bringing home the fact that a big, flat footed and insecure man, no matter how talented, was perpetually bending to the pressures of being a Boy Wonder. And if the pressure should prove too much for someone as flamboyant as Welles, then how must it have been for someone so shy and demure as Rita Hayworth?
The true nature of one Rita Hayworth, with her own nickname, both a tribute and a put down, gets to the crux of the matter. Charyn brings out the fact that the real person behind the name wears the name of Big Red like an albatross around her neck. In a moment of passion, the nickname can praise just as quickly as it can cut. Who can live up to all the larger-than-life expectations? Not Rita, or Margarita, the girl who lost her childhood to a father who exploited and abused her, making her his dancing partner by age twelve, the two of them working as a duo in casinos, treating her as if she were his lover. The abuse had left her with little of a voice, a life of depression and despair, even though she had honed the skills, from an early age, of a great entertainer. Charyn provides the reader with a portrait of a formidable beauty with the soul of a frightened child.
Rita Hayworth in 1946’s Gilda.
Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth were married from 1943 to 1947. Much of the novel focuses on the dynamics of this mismatched couple. It was in star power that Hayworth held her own, and even eclipsed Welles for a time. But her shyness seemed to cancel out her extraordinary beauty. Charyn places a unique character, Rusty Redburn, right in the middle of the action, someone who manages to navigate her way between the two and provide special insight on them. Rusty is a young aspiring writer who stumbles into work on the Columbia lot and, by a set of circumstances, ends up working as a private secretary to Rita Hayworth while also serving as spy for studio boss Harry Cohn. Rusty learns it’s important to keep a close eye on Big Red, as well as Welles, but she does as she wants and maintains her loyalty to Rita and Orsie. Over the course of the novel, with Rusty’s vantage point, a rollicking story unfolds tracing the trajectory of two of the strangest and most magnificent of Hollywood icons.
Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles
Mise-en-Scène or Depth of Field technique in CITIZEN KANE
As true to form as ever, Jerome Charyn tackles the man behind the celebrated cinematic masterpiece, Citizen Kane, and his power to fascinate an audience as well as hurt those he was supposed to love. Charyn, a great fan and scholar of cinema, with a journalist’s instinct for a great story, has made the most of his subject for his latest novel, filled with his signature use of imagery and metaphor. Charyn, the magician with words, delivers various breathtaking moments once all the chess pieces to his tale are in play. One of the greatest is when Orson Welles, at loose ends and in need of an adrenaline rush, mounts a full-scale circus in the middle of Hollywood. It is one of the most surreal and entertaining tributes to Hollywood and unfettered creativity you will ever read. It may seem a pity that Welles, the man, was unable to live up to the myth. It was a legend he himself helped to perpetuate and which choked him at every turn. Of course, no one, not even a magician, would ever have survived unscathed from all the bright lights, noise, and hype. Charyn brings home the point that it is this grand illusion that will forever fascinate and captivate, prone to ensnare an audience and actor alike.
AFTER FOUR ISSUES, KITCHEN TABLE MAGAZINE is leveling up—more pages, more stories, and more gorgeous art and photography—with #5: THE ROOTS ISSUE. And dig this groovy cover by the super talented artist and illustrator, Dorothy Siemens!
KITCHEN TABLE MAGAZINE: THE ROOTS ISSUE!
“Root Hog or Die!” Farmers down on their luck would yell that, along with a hope and prayer, confident that their pigs would find a way to survive. That’s the indie spirit! And so it is with this one tenacious publication, Kitchen Table magazine. Now, right now, is the time to lend a hand and keep this unique voice alive and well. Go to the campaign on Crowdfundr, ending on September 25th, and pitch in whatever you can.
From the campaign:
INSIDE THE ROOTS ISSUE
INSIDE THESE PAGES you’ll find stories, art, and ideas that explore the beautiful, flawed, and interconnected web of our food system, including:
A Black-owned BBQ enterprise that binds multiple generations
Reflections on the bittersweet nostalgia of Jell-O salads
Kitschy vintage cookies and red velvet skull cupcakes
A Mother’s Day gone awkwardly wrong
Sauce-makers answer Life’s mysterious questions
A Navajo food podcaster
Agriculture’s modern wave of intrepid and creative female farmers.
WHY WE NEED YOU
PRINT PUBLISHING HAS NEVER BEEN CHEAP. With the paradigm-shifting chaos that the covid has brought down upon us all—the disrupted supply chains; and everything from printing to shipping to bank fees costing more, plus 40 more pages [from 80 pages to 120 pages] for you to nosh on—we’ve had to raise the price of the magazine. We see no way to continue without doing so.
WHEN YOU BACK THE ROOTS ISSUE, you are joining the larger food community and helping us pay world-class creators, without whom KITCHEN TABLE doesn’t exist. And you’re also helping us shine a luminous light on the small farmers and independent producers, and the movers and shakers and doers and makers who make the food world turn—real people doing righteous things, in a time when we need more real people doing righteous things. People like Josh Winegarner, who produced our bitchin’ campaign video, and Kendl Winter who provided the music. (Thanks, Josh and Kendl.)
120 full-color pages, 7.5″ x 9.5″
Printed on luxurious matte paper stock
A coffee table keepsake
REWARDS: ALL YOU CAN EAT
WE HAVE SOME SERIOUSLY TASTY REWARDS. Read more on each Reward page.
KITCHEN TABLE #5: THE ROOTS ISSUE. The most coolest food magazine in the world. (Bold, right?!)
THE DIGITAL EDITION. For those who prefer to dine digitally.
FINE ART PRINTS. We have three of our favorite pieces of art from the issue available.
THE FULL MEAL DEAL. The first four issues, two of which are almost out of print.
THE SAUCE CLUB. Gift-packs of Portland’s tastiest sauces, in six Collections.
FOOD & LIBATIONS. Two stellar Portland-based spots offering an exceptional dining experience.
RETAILERS MATTER TOO. We’re offering a sweet package for our retail friends.
A CELEBRATION OF FOOD AND COMMUNITY
KITCHEN TABLE CONNECTS INQUISITIVE COOKS, enthusiastic eaters, and imaginative creators in a fresh and tasty publication that investigates not only the how-tos but the whys of eating. Through a mix of personal storytelling and delectable illustration and photography, our magazine endeavors to be an inclusive celebration of food and community.
WE ARE A VOICE FOR INCLUSIVE FOOD CULTURE, sustainability, our relationship with place, and our ability to be present in a world of digital distraction. Our contributors, our feature subjects, and our readers represent a wide range of age, race, nationality, and genders. Our contributors are overwhelmingly female, by a two-to-one margin, and we actively work with and fully support our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.
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