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Comics Review: American Born Chinese

“American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang

Guest column by Master Mix Movies

“American Born Chinese” is my favorite non-superhero graphic novel. I’m genuinely surprised that it hasn’t received a movie or TV adaptation yet. I first read it as part of a school assignment in my Freshman Reading class. After reading, we were supposed to make a cereal box based on the book. American Born Chinese is a 2006 graphic novel created by cartoonist Gene Luen Yang. Yang drew from his own past experiences as a Chinese boy living in America as well as Chinese fables he grew up with. In 2007, it won the Michael L. Printz Award. The book is separated into three seemingly unconnected tales.

The first story is about the fabled Monkey King. A character I would later find out is part of a well-known Chinese folklore tale called, “Journey to the West.” This story takes place in Heaven, where Gods, Goddesses, Demons, and Spirits reign supreme. The Monkey King is a powerful, if not stubborn ruler of the Flower Mountain who nobody in Heaven takes seriously, because of his lack of shoes. Despite his mastery of four major heavenly disciplines. In order to prove himself, he orders all his monkey subjects to wear shoes and he meditates. He also learns four major disciplines of invulnerability and bodily form. Of course all this power goes to his head and the creator of the universe has to teach him a valuable lesson. What I like most about this story is how cool it is. Chinese folklore is actually very fascinating. Seeing a monkey flying on a cloud is just as funny as it is awesome.

The second story is about the titular “American Born Chinese” boy, Jin Wang. A Chinese kid who loves Transformers. His experiences include moving to America with his family, trying to fit in, and befriending the only Asian kids in class. This story starts when Jin Wang is a child and ends when he’s a teenager. As any other teenager would, Jin falls for one of the girls in his class. An American girl that Jin becomes desperate to talk to. He even goes so far as to perm his hair to look more American. Eventually his friend convinces him to ask her out and he goes on a date with her. Even when everything seems to be going well, it doesn’t end up lasting very long. Unfortunately, underlying racism keeps Jin from continuing the relationship. What I like most about this story is how relatable it is for anybody who’s ever been a new kid or the only minority in your class. I’m also a big fan of teen drama, so I found Jin’s high school experience to be very interesting.

The third story is about average all American teenager Danny. He’s embarrassed because his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee is coming over for one of his annual visits. Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotypes. Literally every stereotype is represented here. He has a round face, a queue hairstyle, a servant outfit, literal yellow skin, buck teeth, squinty line eyes, he speaks in thick broken English, he’s academic, he makes funny’s, he eats cats, his travel bags are Chinese take-out boxes, he sings karaoke, he knows Kung Fu, the list goes on. His behavior is so embarrassing that Danny has to change schools every time he visits. What I like most about this story is how absurd it is. It’s done in a sitcom style with a laugh track and everything. The title of this story is actually “Everybody Ruvs Chin-Kee.” This is also the story where everything is revealed and the whole graphic novel is tied together.

Overall, “American Born Chinese” is a cool, relatable, and hilarious graphic novel. The art style is clean and simple in a Chinese art sort of way, with rounded curves and edges. Each story feels like a love letter to Chinese culture. A culture that I’ve come to love ever since I’ve read this story. If nobody adapts “American Born Chinese,” I would be shocked. I’m not Chinese, but I might even try to adapt it myself. The only question is, is whether it more suited for a movie or a TV show. Either way, “American Born Chinese” is a clever graphic novel that anyone will enjoy.

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Filed under China, Comics, Gene Yang, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Guest Column

Movie Review: BLACK PANTHER

BLACK PANTHER

Marvel Comics, and Marvel Studios, has a solid track record for keeping in step with the zeitgeist, sometimes with uncanny relevance. “Black Panther” arrives in theaters not a moment too soon. What gives this movie added significance is clear as day and it wears that role well with wit and grace. You know, the original Black Panther comic book came out at a fractured time such as we experience today. The first appearance of the character was in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966) in the Silver Age of comic books. Fast forward to the present, and Black Panther is needed more than ever. Just look at this week’s TIME magazine with Chadwick Boseman gracing the cover. Yes, this is a significant movie now projected to take in about $165 million for the opening weekend.

You certainly don’t have to be a loyal geek follower of all things to do with Wakanda. You don’t need to already know about the origin story involving a magical meteor composed of the miracle element vibranium (more powerful than uranium) that collided thousands of years ago with the remote settlement of Wakanda and energized it into a super civilization. But now you know this. And it gets cooler. The story of Wakanda is a story of isolationism in reverse. As far as the outside world is concerned, Wakanda is one of the poorest countries in the world but, in fact, it is hiding the most sophisticated technology in the world. A monumental struggle plays out as rival forces fight for Wakanda’s destiny: will it guard or share its resources with the rest of humanity?

Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman plays the role of the noble new king, the legendary Black Panther, easing his way beyond the borders of Wakanda. There are outsiders who have made off with chunks of vibranium and that threatens not only Wakanda but the whole planet. Then you add to the mix a ferocious challenger to the Black Panther’s crown and you have all the action you could hope to enjoy in one of these Marvel Comics epics.

Right up there with the action is a whole lot of heart. If you’re looking for an uplifting story, with compelling character-driven twists and turns, this is it. When you stop and think about it, Black Panther is reaching out to audiences on a similar genuine level as last year’s Wonder Woman. Both of these origin stories are wonderful comic book fantasy but also grounded with a hefty helping of food for thought, addressing heartbreaking struggle in the real world. That struggle continues, no doubt, and the burden is lifted just a bit, even if only for the length of a movie, if only for one child. The fact is that this movie will do quite a lot of people some good.

BLACK PANTHER

I will throw in a tiny tad of a spoiler. This isn’t really taking anything away but I just wanted to report back to you that the whole audience I was part of dutifully waited through the credits since we’ve all grown to rely upon some Marvel extras after the main show. And there are two so don’t leave too soon. Let’s just say there is a little more right at the end and then there’s the quick teaser at the very, very end. And I’ll just say here that it involves another nerdy fact: one of the materials used to construct Captain America’s shield is vibranium. It’s important to know that moving forward. Enough said.

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Filed under Black Panther, Comics, Marvel Comics, Movie Reviews, movies

Comics Review: BABYTEETH #8

BABYTEETH #8

Donny Cates is a master storyteller. It was a pleasure to interview him last year at Emerald City Comicon. I have been keeping up with BABYTEETH, his co-creation with artist Garry Brown. Issue 8 finds much of the action coming to a head. In the last couple of issues, our main characters have been coping with having been lured into a secret underground hamlet. This secret hamlet was created especially for 16-year-old Sadie’s immaculately conceived baby, Clark, aka the Final Son, the Antichrist. You know, his destiny is to open the gate between the Realm and the Other. Boy howdy, that’s pretty wild and wooly but that’s how Mr. Cates rolls.

I must say, even after getting this deep into the series, I still don’t do so well with any images of little Clark chugging down a bottle of blood. That’s what every growing Antichrist needs if he’s going to bring about the End Times. Formula sure as heck (hell!) just won’t cut it. The little guy goes ballistic when he’s served anything other than Type O Negative, straight from mama. If you even try to pass off, say, Type A Positive, he will shriek so loudly that he could bring down a jetliner.

Clark’s grandmother explains it all to you.

Now, you may be wondering if this comic is more character-driven or more demon-driven. And, rest assured, it is split down the middle. Plenty of demons here including a weird little raccoon-like critter who strayed out of the Red Realm. And there are others like Dancy, a reject in the Antichrist tryouts. But, overall, readers have a lot to invest in with Sadie, her heroic dad, her badass sis, and her estranged mom, who happens to run The Way program overseeing End Times operations. Then there’s this crusty ole rogue agent who blasted his way out of his assignment to work for the Silhouette syndicate. That plot point could prove to be a MacGuffin but it sure is a colorful and action-packed one.

As for this current issue, I am satisfied as the whole shooting match is moved forward with solid new revelations (as in Book of Revelation?) on Sadie’s family history and some new teasing out of End Times machinations. The whole pulpy/classic B-movie horror feel to this comics is addictive. The pacing is pitch perfect. You buckle in for a roller coaster ride and you get it.

I not only look forward to future issues but I know I’ll enjoy taking in the collected trades. This comic earns a rating of 10/10.

Overall, BABYTEETH is a whole lot of fun. You can compare this a bit to the Netflix smash hit, “Stranger Things,” inasmuch as it is a compelling mashup of family themes and some very loopy supernatural elements. You can binge read (and subscribe to) the series at comiXology right here.

BABYTEETH #8 is published by AfterShock Comics and available as of February 14, 2018. I really like what I see coming out of AfterShock. For instance, since we’re on the subject of blood, a new title, BETROTHED, follows a romance between a teenage zombie and a teenage human. Looks quite intriguing. That one kicks off on March 14, 2018–just one month away. For more details, visit AfterShock Comics right here.

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Filed under AfterShock Comics, Comics, Donny Cates, Horror

Comics Review: GARDEN SALAD by Tristan Wright

“Garden Salad” by Tristan Wright

“Garden Salad” is a mini-comic that exceeds expectations and enters the realm of a model of excellence: the story is engaging; the art has a dazzling and quite intoxicating quality; the whole work is delightfully original. Tristan Wright is new to me but I’m so glad that I stumbled upon his work! Honestly, the solid craftsmanship and originality immediately won me over.

Creating something with a real spark and kick to it is never easy. What Wright accomplishes with this work involves a lot of groundwork and revisions. I suspect that he enjoys every bit of it as there is an effortless and joyful vibe throughout these pages.

Nice day for some sveedle!

Our story is a deceptively simple one: an old man is gathering items from his garden for his mid-day feast. Like many stories that have the reader see things from an unconventional vantage point, events focus more on what the old man is foraging: vegetables, for sure, but not good ole veggies exclusively. How about a veggie goblin? In our tale, we see quite a bit of this little critter and then we come to find out that the old man is all too aware of this bewildering force of nature. He even has a name for them. These critters are known as “sveedle.” Sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel! Yum, sveedle, them’s good eatin’ goblins!

Running after the garden goblin!

Yessir, these here goblins are pretty hideous and intense little beings. With a wedge of leaves upon their heads and bulbous jiggly bodies, they resemble what they eat: veggies, but also worms and other creepy crawlies. The big hint here is that these ghastly little monsters are violent–and potentially dangerous to humans. But the old man seems to be up to the challenge. In fact, the old man is relatively hideous and dangerous in his own right, surely a formidable match for any veggie goblin.

Wright’s intricate and detailed drawing style keep the reader glued to each page. This is a masterfully crafted tale with a philosophical bent; a wonderfully ambiguous tale of veggies and goblins. Let’s go ahead and bring out a nice shiny star and give this one a 10/10.

“Garden Salad” is a 32-page black and white comic book written and drawn by Tristan Wright. For more details, and how to purchase, go right here.

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Filed under Comics, mini-comics, Minicomics, Tristan Wright

Graphic Novel Review: ‘The Old Geezers: Book 3: The One Who Got Away’

OLD GEEZERS: BOOK III

Writer Wilfrid Lupano and artist Paul Cauuet offer up the intricately plotted Old Geezers graphic novel series. You can easily jump into the latest Book 3, “The One Who Got Away,” and enjoy a tale involving family, mystery, and more than a touch of whimsy. It is also a grand ole tale of comeuppance. Could that be for the Old Geezers themselves? Ah, time will tell since this is very much a story about how time can heal some wounds while allowing others to fester.

Antoine and Milsey trying to get along.

If you enjoy quirky humor, especially the sort led by a group of offbeat seniors, then this is the book for you. The Old Geezers are: Antoine, a buttoned-down patrician; Milsey, a old seaman who misses the sea; and Pierrot, a boisterous activist who is lively beyond his years. These guys have chosen different paths but, in the end, each seeks out the other. The one person who helps keep them on track is Sophie, Antoine’s granddaughter. Sophie must look after these guys and, in no small way, look after her little hamlet of Dourdouille. After all, there are sinister forces at play lurking in the shadows.

Pierrot, Fifi, and Baba take a stand!

The most sinister villain in this tale is Garan-Servier Pharmaceuticals. It holds sway over the growth or decline of Dourdouille. And, as Pierrot has found out, Garan-Servier is lobbying the European Union countries to ease up on restrictions on its pesticides. This, in turn, kills millions of bees, wreaking havoc on biodiversity and the environment. The relationship between the pesticide lobby and the EU is an inconvenient truth that, in reality, is all too real. It’s great to see this issue in a graphic novel that both entertains and informs. Readers won’t forget ole Pierrot, in his bee costume, speaking truth to power.

The weight of the world on Sophie’s shoulders.

Paul Cauuet’s light and warm style makes all the characters all the more accessible and compliments Wilfred Lupano’s script. This is a very character-driven tale that is masterfully crafted by this remarkable team. The color by Cauuet and GOM has a uplifting quality to it that rounds out and adds to the story’s pacing. There are a number of twists and turns here and Lupano and Cauuet give themselves the time to explore and to develop. Like a favorite TV show, you can delight in this episodic storytelling. You will want to go back to the previous books as well as await more to come.

“The Old Geezers: Book 3: The One Who Got Away,” is presented by Europe Comics and is available in English thru izneo digital comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Europe Comics, European Comics, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, izneo

Seattle Focus: The Grumpy Old Man’s Comics, Art & Collectibles

The Grumpy Old Man!

Seattle has a great love for books, film, music, and comics–not necessarily in that order. In fact, all those passions are not mutually exclusive. With that in mind, welcome the new kid on the block, so to speak, The Grumpy Old Man’s Comics, Art & Collectibles. Alan LaMont hails from Rochester, New York and he recently relocated to Seattle and is open for business with a shop that combines his love for comics and for art in general. The Grumpy Old Man is located in the heart of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood on 1732 NW Market Street.

“A Kiss is Just a Kiss”

This video is a conversation with Alan LaMont, owner of The Grumpy Old Man’s Comics, Art & Collectibles. Alan chats about the store, Silver Age comics, and his new art show at the store opening on Feb 10, 2018 with a Valentine’s Day theme, “A Kiss is Just a Kiss.” Alan knows comics. He’s been a collector since the age of 4. His first big stash of comics put him through graduate school. If you are looking for some classic gems, or seek out some historical context to current titles, Alan has got you covered–along with one of the best comics subscriptions services around. Get your current single comics, graphic novels, and a nearly endless supply of comics collectibles from The Grump Old Man.

“A Kiss is Just a Kiss,” Grumpy Old Man’s February art show opens February 10, 2018. For more details, visit the Lamont Arts LLC Facebook page right here.

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Filed under Ballard, Collectibles, Collecting, Comics, Seattle, Silver Age Comics

Tacoma Focus: Tinkertopia

Tinkertopia 24-Hour Comics Day Book for 2015

On a recent trip to Tacoma, I went to visit my dear friend, Dalton and his family. Our first stop was Tinkertopia. Dalton said it was just the place to go and he was so right. This place has everything in the way of quirky and functional art supplies and curios and such. Well, there’s a very practical and worthwhile side to this. Tinkertopia plays a vital role in the community as it is in the forefront of the reuse and do-it-yourself movement. Much of what is on display and for sale has been salvaged and recycled in some way in order to enjoy a new life as alternate artwork and arts & crafts supplies. Tinkertopia is also a prime location for workshops of all kinds, especially for kids.

As a cartoonist, I was quite taken with the mini-comics on display which, after a closer look, were the results of numerous 24-Hour Comics Day marathons. I am something of an expert of 24HCD, I suppose, as I’ve been creating comics during that event for a number of years. It’s always fun to see what comes from these comics experiments. The merry band of cartoonists that congregate at Tinkertopia enjoy a perfectly built-in ecosystem for such endeavors. The books on display are by R.R., that’s short for Rerun (aka RR Anderson), the master of ceremonies at Tinkertopia.

A fine and dandy drawing style by Rerun!

Many comics fans, young and old, are familiar with Rerun’s cartooning antics which feature the Hairy Mermaid. Rerun has as a clean and polished style. His sense of humor is highly irreverent and just a lot of fun. Rerun’s fluid line makes it all looks effortless and graceful. But I can see that he’s put in the elbow grease necessary to have a facile way with drawing trucks and squids flying through space from one panel to the next. A nice crisp style like Rerun’s comes from dedication and a genuine tireless love for the comics medium.

If you have a young inventor in the family, or want to throw a unique birthday party, or maybe need help with recycling, come to Tinkertopia. Founded by two Tacoma artists, Tinkertopia is all about resource conservation in partnership with local industries, educators, and activists. There’s always something on to inspire and to educate. In March, for example, you can take part in a workshop to build Tiny Treehouses and Leprechaun Lairs! There are numerous workshops and events at Tinkertopia that will have something for everyone. Go visit Tinkertopia right here.

And one final note: You want to know more about RR Anderson? Well, he’s the real deal trifecta: a cartoonist, inventor, and author. Check out his book, “The Tacomic.” As he puts it himself: “RR Anderson is one of the most curious alternative political cartoonists in FeedTacoma.com history. He fought bizarre underground beings in the lava tubes of Juneau, Alaska; was wounded by a laser before it was invented; and was a founding father of the Cartoonists League of Absurd Washingtonians (C.L.A.W.). Questions? Seek him out drawing on the sidewalk at Friday’s Frost Park Chalk Challenge in the center of downtown Tacoma. Ultimately his work is about friendship, need and other timeless values.” Visit RR Anderson right here.

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Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, 24HCD, Comics, mini-comics, Political Cartoons, RR Anderson, Tacoma

Comics Industry Review: The MNT monthly comics newsletter

The MNT monthly comics newsletter

The MNT is making a monthly comics newsletter and I’m excited to tell you about it. This is a special place to keep up with the comics industry put together by some of the leading talent in comics journalism. For as little as a one dollar pledge on Patreon, you can read this highly informative and entertaining monthly magazine along with monthly news reports.

As a happy warrior myself, both as a comics creator and freelance writer, I am thrilled to see this particular comics vision realized. The MNT is made up of folks I’ve kept up with over the years. It’s smart of them to band together in this unique format. The team: News co-editor Christian Hoffer is a writer and editor who can currently be found writing extensively at ComicBook.com. News co-editor Vernieda Vergara is a freelance writer and manga critic. Her work can be found at Book Riot and Women Write About Comics. Features co-editor Steve Morris has written for a number of websites, including CBR, ComicsAlliance, and is a former Managing Editor for The Beat. Features co-editor Megan Purdy is a freelance writer and editor, and the publisher of Women Write About Comics and Bleating Heart Press. The Process editor and social media manager Kirsten Thompson is a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to The Frisky, Teen Vogue, Femsplain, Women Write About Comics on topics such as feminism, pop culture, and LGBTQIA issues.

The MNT kicked off its first issue in February, 2017. That first issue included: guest essayist Rosie Knight on her experiences within the direct market pointing out the distribution system’s pros and failings; Steve Morris interviews retailer Ariell Johnson about her first year in the industry and her plans for Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse; Megan Purdy reviews Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro’s Decelerate Blue; analysis on Donald Trump’s unexpected impact on comics; analysis on Marvel and DC’s recent changes in price and digital strategy; and a tribute to the career of John Watkiss.

The MNT team has created a highly consistent publication. And that is saying quite a lot. This is a seasoned group of committed comics journalists who dig deep and know how to deliver professional and compelling content. Each monthly edition features news, interviews, reviews, and guest essays written by some of the best critics and creators in the business. The MNT mid-month News Report delivers breaking news and bite-sized features. Your Patreon subscription goes directly into the pockets of MNT guest essays and staff, ensuring that the MNT can continue to break news and offer critical industry commentary. I’ve become hooked and consider the MNT a reliable source for superior comics commentary and journalism. You will too. Go visit them and see for yourself right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Journalism, Comics News, Patreon, The MNT

Alternative Comics Creator Mark Campos (1962 – 2018)

Mark Campos, Short Run, 15 November 2014

Mark Campos was a beloved member of the local Seattle comics community. After learning that he had taken his life, I really did not know what to say. If there was a gathering, or an event, or a drawing club, he was a part of it. He was a cartoonist that drew what he loved. “Casino Son,” his last collection of stories, came out in 2017.

CASINO SON by Mark Campos

Cartoonists, just like any other creative person, spend a lot of time inside their heads. It can be a very good place to be. It saddens me to think that this particular comrade was dealing with so much turmoil. Rest in peace, Mark.

Here is a review by Paul Tumey of “Casino Son” in The Comics Journal:

“Mark Campos, another Seattle artist, is one of my favorite cartoonists. He emerged during the first wave of zine culture in the 1980s, creating clever, funny self-published comics that rank among the best offerings of this movement. Over the years, he has refined his visual storytelling into an accomplished minimalist style but has remained on the fringes by his own choice. He is also regarded as one of the best writers in the Seattle comics scene. A collection of his stories, Moxie, My Sweet is drawn by various other artists, including Eisner Award winner David Lasky.

For Casino Son, Campos set up a modest fundraising campaign, with the goal of publishing a new comic to premiere in person at the 2017 Latino Comics Expo, in Long Beach, California, November 11-12, 2017. The comic is a collection of short autobiographical vignettes which subtly reveal the conflicts of his Mexican-American upbringing with mainstream USA culture as represented by the casinos of Reno, Nevada — where he grew up. Resonating with modern-day, Build The Wall America, Casino Son is a smartly underplayed commentary. Like Charles Schulz or Ernie Bushmiller, the stories in Casino Son are so well-crafted they read fast and offer depth. Great to see a new comic from Mark Campos — I’m glad he rolled the dice on Casino Son.”

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Filed under Cartoonists, Comics, Mark Campos, Seattle

DUNE Comics Anthology Art Show in Seattle

DUNE Art Show in Seattle

Seattle cartoonists of all stripes have been gathering at a little cafe for years. It’s been a mix of aspiring, emerging, professional, and enthusiast. Over time, this frenetic energy organized into a group that met once a month. For five years, the group met at Café Racer. They socialized, they drew, and the end result was a bunch of comics that were gathered up and turned into a comic book that was published the following month. That monthly comic book was known by the gallant and nerdy name of DUNE. It was a remarkable undertaking. Sadly, Café Racer recently closed its doors leaving the group without their routine creative outlet. To honor and celebrate their collective activity, there will be an art show of DUNE comics at a pub, The Leary Traveler. The show goes up January 18th and will run for a month.

If you are in Seattle, this is a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of some local cartoonist activity or the underground comix scene, per se. In fact, there is an unusually high concentration of cartoonists in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. That’s a subject far beyond the scope of this post and we’ll pick up on it more and more as we have over the years here at Comics Grinder. Suffice it to say, this art show is one of those special treats not to be missed.

Contributors to DUNE include well established masters of the comics medium (Roberta Gregory), painters and illustrators (John Ohannesian), brilliant young upstarts (Tom Van Deusen), exciting new talents (Gillian Rhodes, Handa, Rachel Scheer), enthused amateurs, and sometimes a non-artist or two who stopped in for beer and bravely decided to join the drawers. Sometimes the artists with the least “polish” end up turning in the pages that are the most clever, funny, and/or emotionally raw.

This show was organized by Push/Pull of Ballard, David Lasky, and Maxx Follis-Goodkind. The show poster is by comix artist Mark Falkey, who has been with DUNE since the first issue. The Leary Traveler is located at 4354 Leary Way NW in Seattle’s ‘Frelard’ neighborhood (the urban sprawl between Fremont and Ballard). The DUNE art show opening, takes place on Thursday, January 18th, from 6 to 9 pm. Expect many artists to be in attendance.

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Filed under Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comics, Seattle