Tag Archives: Entertainment

Review: LITTLE TULIP by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq

LITTLE TULIP by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq

LITTLE TULIP, a graphic novel recently reissued by Dover Publications, by Jerome Charyn and François Boucq, is definitely not something that is cooked up overnight. No, on the contrary, like anything worthwhile, this is a work that is carefully constructed with meticulous precision. It only looks effortless, and it is the sort of comics that I prefer.

Paul, the master, teaches Azami, the apprentice.

This graphic novel immerses the reader in Soviet prison tattoo culture. Within the Russian underground community, these unique tattoos formed a service record of a criminal’s transgressions. Skulls denoted a criminal authority. A cat represented a thief. And, in the case of our story, a tulip represented a young person joining the ranks of a gang. Today, these same tattoos have become fashion statements because of their mystery and fierce beauty. They were, then and now, a way to step beyond the ordinary. For our main character, Paul, they were also a way to step beyond the horrors of the gulag.

Page from LITTLE TULIP: New York City, 1970

Our present setting is New York City, 1970. There is a serial killer on the loose. Paul runs his own tattoo shop and is also a police sketch artist. His work with the police is more than just a gig but a calling, a way to seek justice. Not only does Paul have that uncanny ability to render a likeness based upon a witness’s verbal description, he also has a sixth sense about criminals. He will often act as a medium for hard to crack cases. There may be honor among thieves but, for Paul, there are crimes that compel no mercy.

Paul came from an American family that chose to live in Moscow for a while. The timing could not have been worse since this was the 1950s during the reign of Stalin and the secret police. One misunderstanding too many and the whole family gets shipped off to Siberia where they are immediately separated into a gulag. But, just as all hope may be lost, Paul, now Pavel, has inherited from his father an artistic sensibility that will help him endure the worst.

Page from LITTLE TULIP: Train Trip to Siberia

This is a story as much about one man’s journey among hardened criminals as it is a story about how life and art commingle, how art can save one’s soul. This is a multi-layered masterpiece of a script by renowned writer Jerome Charyn; and a breath-taking, bold, and completely enthralling work of art by renowned artist François Boucq. The structure of this graphic novel is just impeccable: a story told at a easy and natural pace with room enough for metaphysical musings.

More more details on LITTLE TULIP, and how to purchase, visit Dover Publications right here.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Crime, Crime Fiction, Dover Publications, François Boucq, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jerome Charyn, New York City, Russia, Tattoos

Havaianas Launches Marvel Comics Collection of Flip Flops

An adult style from the Marvel x Havaianas collection.
Courtesy of brand.

Havaianas, the world’s favorite rubber flip flops, has combined forces with Marvel Comics to launch a new collection of flip flops, Marvel x Havaianas, featuring some of the world’s most iconic super heroes.

A Spider-Man adult style from the Marvel x Havaianas collection.
Courtesy of brand.

This limited edition collection is Marvel’s first official flip flop collaboration and includes six unique men’s, women’s and kids’ styles. Some of pop culture’s greatest super heroes, including Captain America, Spider-Man and Iron Man, are highlighted in bright Havaianas colorways and designs as part of the collection. The diverse variety of styles and sizes offered allows Havaianas the opportunity to tap into and celebrate Marvel fans of all ages for the first time.

A Captain America & Iron Man adult style from the Marvel x Havaianas collection.
Courtesy of brand.

The collection will launch tomorrow (March 30th) exclusively in Havaianas’ U.S. concept stores, as well as online at havaianas.com. The kids’ styles retail for $19, while the adult versions go from $26 to $30.

2 Comments

Filed under Comics, Fashion, flip flops, Havaianas, Lifestyle, Marvel Comics, Super Heroes

Movie Review: ‘Get Out’

When I first saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I was hooked on the idea of a racially explicit horror movie. I had already written a script in my head of what I had expected to see. I took for granted that this would be a wry and revealing look at how African Americans can still be seen as the Other. And that is definitely there. We also have the opposite where it is those who are subjugating who are seen in the same way, as some menacing Other. And I expected some dark comedy mixed in. With all that in mind, I wondered, not if, but how far this movie would cross the line.

What “Get Out” does best is keeping to a true horror movie pace, gradually building up. Instead of a frog that is in a pot of water gradually set to boil, we’re all expecting a black man to be boiled alive, so to speak. No, there are no black men being boiled–just a metaphor. In fact, there are far more gruesome things up ahead. The remarkable thing is that there is a certain level of restraint that allows writer/director Jordan Peele to navigate deeper into our collective racial history than some of us out there are ready to go.

The opening scene alone is loaded with plenty of food for thought. An African American young man is walking through an upscale, and presumably white, neighborhood. He is talking on the phone and joking with his friend that he’s lost in what he calls with a whiny accent, “the suburbs.” As he proceeds down streets with tony- sounding names like “Peacock Street,” a white sports car pulls up blaring an old 1930’s song, “Run, Rabbit, Run,” a sly reference to the classic WASP novel, “Rabbit, Run,” by John Updike. The young man attempts to avoid the car by walking in the other direction. Ultimately, he can’t help walking towards the car whereupon he’s knocked out and thrown in the car’s trunk.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya)

We next see an interracial couple preparing for a trip. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), are about to meet Rose’s parents. Chris is hesitant and Rose asks him what’s the matter. Chris asks Rose if she mentioned to her parents that he’s black. Rose laughs it off and reassures him that’s it’s not an issue at all. It’s a tender moment. It shows that Chris is vulnerable while Rose is far more in control of the situation. The acting is quite believable. Rose seems clearly in love with Chris. But the focus leans towards Chris as we see events through his eyes. He’s convinced he’s entering the lion’s den and we easily sympathize.

The focus never leaves Chris and, once they arrive at the family estate nestled in the woods, the attention heaped upon Chris grows. It begins with the first meet-the-parents round. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener make for deliciously out-of-touch parents attempting to be hip. If only that was all that lay in store for our hero. Red flags go up one by one. There’s a quick aside by the dad, “Oh, that room leads to the basement. We closed it up due to a buildup of black mold.” Yikes, in the context of a horror movie, that says it all.

Things are gonna keep steadily getting freaky from here on out. And so they do, some artful and some more in line with standard-issue tropes. One horror chestnut, the comedy relief sidekick buddy, is given new life and put to fine use here. Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams, one of TSA’s finest, adds another dimension to the narrative. While he may rob the movie of some of its more provocative and scary potential, that seems to be the right approach for a project that is unleashing so many racial issues. Overall, we end up with a number of compelling scenes and images without resorting to a heavy hand.

2 Comments

Filed under Horror, Horror Movies, Movie Reviews, movies, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Satire

Advance Review: ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT #1 by James Stokoe

JAMES STOKOE’S ALIENS

The much anticipated Aliens comic book by James Stokoe, published by Dark Horse Comics, will release on April 26th. ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT is going to be one of the comics highlights for 2017. Let’s take a look.

Page from ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT

James Stokoe has a way of drawing with his light and curved lines gathering up an intoxicating level of details. You could very well tell a whole story just from one panel: the way the wrinkles hug a young woman’s flight suit; the curious waft of steam rising from her cup of coffee; and, no doubt, the cryptic slogan emblazoned across the mug she holds. Now, that means something. Is it here just for irony or perhaps more? We’ll just have to see. Welcome to the first issue of ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT, story, art, and lettering by James Stokoe, published by Dark Horse Comics.

GEOF DARROW VARIANT

Dark Horse provides us here with a shining example of their inventive and daring approach to creating work for a franchise. With Aliens, it’s a dance we readers want to engage in before we get to the monsters. The whole look and feel has to settle into place. We want to gradually get to know the characters. With James Stokoe (Wonton Soup, Orc Stain, Godzilla: The Half-Century War) we have an artist/writer with the passion to engage with each trope and build up something totally enthralling and new.

As we begin this issue, we have the classic set-up of a lone survivor on a rust bucket of a space station. Who is he? What happened? What happens next? Where’s the monster? All valid questions and we get to a lot of them. Wassy, short for Wascylewski, is a chain-smoking hardened soldier. He is willing to keep his head down and do his job. That’s a good plan until things get complicated. Suffice it to say, there’s an incident. Oh, it starts out small but then it builds.

Page from ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT

Character development is really fun and solid here. This is a young crew. Our Captain Hassan comes across as impulsive, sort of a scruffy version of Captain Kirk. Well, sort of. Hassan seems to be on unsteady ground. There’s definitely a lot of unpredictable energy here. This is a crew that seems to already be on a short fuse to begin with. Any of the crew members we meet, perhaps with the exception of one, could prove to be Hassan’s equal, and rival. At least, that’s the sense I get from this dynamic.

I think Stokoe is a total natural at what he does. This is a guy who just loves to draw and to tell stories. The colors are gorgeous. The palette of light blues and oranges is a refreshing alternative to brooding dark greens that we usually associate Alien stories with. I also really appreciate the lettering. Word balloons have a nice organic feel. The lettering itself could actually be hand-drawn. It sure has that nice crisp look that a pro at hand-lettering can achieve. This whole first issue is quite a beauty and no reason to believe the rest won’t be just as stunning. Can’t wait for more!

ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT #1 is available as of April 26, 2017. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

2 Comments

Filed under Aliens, Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Ridley Scott, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Review: ‘Witch Doctor, Vol. 1: Under the Knife’

Penny Must Be Fed!

I am still doing a bit of catching up since Emerald City Comicon. It was a privilege to get to interview some of the folks connected with Skybound Entertainment, one of the imprints at Image Comics. While I was browsing through the tables at Artist Alley, I got to chat with Lukas Ketner and he has the distinction of being attached, with writer Brandon Seifert, to Witch Doctor, the first Skybound Original published by Skybound, beginning in June 2011. Lukas was fun to talk to and encouraged me to give Witch Doctor a try if I hadn’t already. Too often, it takes me a while to warm up to horror titles. But, if the title is good, I am liable to become one of its biggest fans. So is the case with the quirky, unpredictable, and totally entertaining Witch Doctor.

Dr. Morrow and Absinthe O’Riley, curator of the Museum of Supernatural History.

What both Seifert and Ketner have set out to do is marry the best of gothic horror with a contemporary CSI vibe. Vampires, for example, are always an interesting topic for discussion. Plenty of theories out there on what makes these strange critters tick. For Brandon Seifert, a former medical student turned comic book writer, he has his own choice contributions…and they can get pretty bloody disgusting. But that’s part of the fun, right?

This is one dazzling work of comics.

Back to Lukas Ketner, the awesome illustrator on this series, he has gone above and beyond in giving us quite a look and feel to our proceedings. I think one of his crowing achievements is the good doctor’s patient/helper, one hauntingly beautiful yet thoroughly hideous Penelope “Penny” Dreadful. She was once a cute young art student with nothing more dire to consider than the state of contemporary art. Then one day, Penelope is infected by a most diabolical parasite that burrows its way into her. It seems that she just barely still exists, if at all. But Penny struck a bargain with our main character, Dr. Vincent, “the Witch Doctor” Morrow. Given Penny’s tremendous ability to slice and dice monsters, she helps the doctor on his special assignments while he keeps her/it fed and attempts to cure her. Penny Dreadful brings to mind Christina Ricci, as channeled by Mark Ryden, while still retaining its own peculiar vibe.

As for the good doctor, you can think of Dr. Vincent Morrow as something of a horror version of Doctor Who. This is a very dapper and clever fellow. And, just like the Doctor Who on the telly, you always have that odd sensation that anything can happen. This comic book series is stylish, clever, and often hilarious horror! One of the biggest mistakes a horror writer and/or fan can make is to just follow the blood. Fixating on the blood alone is, well, just bloody. Ultimately, that is a dead end. Thankfully, Seifert and Ketner create horror with a true heart pumping all along the way. This is one dazzling work of comics.

WITCH DOCTOR by Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner

Skybound Entertainment is an American entertainment company founded by Robert Kirkman and David Alpert in 2010. It produces content for comic books, film, television, and other media. For more details on Witch Doctor, if you have not already, proceed to the first volume collection, “Witch Doctor, Vol. 1: Under the Knife,” and use caution or sheer abandon–whatever works for you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Image Comics, Robert Kirkman, Skybound Entertainment

Story: Photo Finish

Sprint finish: Dunaden (top) beats Red Cadeaux to win the 2011 Melbourne Cup at Flemington racecourse (Photo: Reuters)

It has been some years since I’ve gone to the races. Here in Seattle, the racecourse to head to is Emerald Downs. I will be making a return to it on opening night, for the first live race of the season, which is set for April 8th. The race will kick off the 22nd season and it starts at 5 pm. There will be a fireworks show presented by Washington Cedar & Supply to follow. I will place my bet. And I sure hope to be counting my winnings followed by a good cocktail. Such is the plan. For now, I can share with you a story about horse racing.

Now, any sports bet is a highly sophisticated endeavor. Even if your betting is based upon a feeling in your gut. Most likely, you’ve done some sort of research and/or are following some reasoned logic. Maybe it’s just the fact that you always bet on your favorite team. Maybe your dog touched your sleeve and it was Wednesday, your lucky day. Whatever works for you.

How about horse racing? Now, that seems pretty exotic for some folks. You could rely upon the name of the horse for good luck. That’s a start. Following the odds is good. Researching is good. Add whatever extra sprinkle of good luck, and hope for the best.

Ah, then there’s the classic nail-biter of a race with a couple of horses neck and neck. It happens more often than you might think. The horses are out their giving it all they’ve got. They’re competitive in their own way. They’re in it to win it! There are no ties, only one winner. And the photo finish results can prove it down to the slight tilt of a nose.

But getting back to what happened to me. I was a young carefree guy with a bit of a swagger and attitude. This was back in my college days in Houston. We were at Sam Houston Race Park. And I decided that day to place a good healthy fat bet on a horse that caught my fancy for some reason. Hey, I’m no horse guy. I’ve never ridden on a horse. I don’t know that much about them one way or another. But I was there with a few guys and I was dating a girl who I wanted to impress. This was many years ago, mind you. And then the race began. They were off! Sweat was already rolling down by back as I took in the scene and my girlfriend gave my hand a squeeze.

Just like you’d expect, the race got tighter and the real contenders closed in towards the last leg of the track. It was a fierce competition. The horses, the four that had emerged as the finalists, were tearing down the course. It was literally a blur. The announcer rattled off the names of each so fast as to mimmick what we were all seeing. In those seconds I lost myself in the sensation of primal competition. What goes on in the mind of a horse?!

To this day, I don’t recall the exact details, mostly the blur and excitement. At that very moment, I let out the highest pitch shriek I have ever yelled. It sounded like a little girl screaming at the top of her tiny little lungs! It was horrible. The race, ultimately, was not quite as close as we thought it would be. Close but not photo finish close.

My girlfriend gave me a wink. “I’ll have to make sure you man up tonight!” Wow, such a crude remark, in retrospect. But, we were crazy kids. My horse, whatever it was called, had lost. But I had come out the winner after all.

2 Comments

Filed under Emerald Downs, Essays, Horse racing, Seattle, Sports, Story, Storytelling

Review: AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

When it comes to a comic book that is a big deal, it does not get much sweeter than AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS, based upon the critically-acclaimed novel and upcoming Starz television series by Neil Gaiman. Published by Dark Horse Comics, this comic is: story and words by Neil Gaiman; script and layouts by P. Craig Russel; and art by Scott Hampton. The premise: “Shadow Moon just got out of jail, only to discover his wife is dead. Defeated, broke, and uncertain as to where to go from here, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who employs him to serve as his bodyguard—thrusting Shadow into a deadly world of the supernatural, where ghosts of the past come back from the dead, and a brewing war between old and new gods hits a boiling point.”

Page from AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

Okay, you had me at the name, “Shadow Moon.” And a “Mister Wednesday” employs him to be his Shadow? And, meanwhile, there’s a war of the gods on the horizon?! Yikes, that covers all the bases! And it sounds like a story by Neil Gaiman that I want to be in on. So, I read and, yes, this comic book is a big deal. I never read the original novel and now I want to. It all starts with the little details back in prison as Shadow copes with his three years under bars for assault and robbery. It doesn’t matter what you did to get into prison, he concludes, all that matters is that you’re in.

Page from AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

Gaiman follows a smooth realistic narrative that only begins to hint at the supernatural at just the right moments. There are little hints like an agitated fellow prisoner and a disturbing lucid nightmare. Scott Hampton’s artwork follows suit with a gritty matter-of-fact style. Everything moves at a steady pace, only hints to anything otherworldly, only hints to anything out of the norm. And then things abruptly, dramatically, change. Shadow Moon, the lucky guy with a second chance at life, is in over his head all over again.

Page from AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

It’s hard not to have read some Neil Gaiman, especially if you closely follow comics. But, whether you are new or familiar with Gaiman, this is a series that should prove to be a treat for you. This first issue has been very careful to take its time with developing our main character, Shadow Moon, the ex-con about to face a colossal challenge. I’ll be back to see what unfolds. This can easily become your next favorite title.

AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1 is available as of March 15th. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

2 Comments

Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Neil Gaiman, Supernatural

Review: COADY AND THE CREEPIES #1 (of 4)

COADY AND THE CREEPIES #1

Here is a comic with a twist on Scooby and the gang. Instead of a bunch of ghost-hunting teenagers, what if one of those meddling kids was already a ghost? Writer Liz Prince (Tomboy, Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed?) and artist Amanda Kirk team up for this four-issue comic book series, COADY AND THE CREEPIES, published by BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios.

In this first issue, we are introduced to a triplet sister band, The Creepies, with Criss, Corey, and Coady Castoff. They are all involved in a tragic van accident that scars Corey, leaves Criss in a wheelchair, and kills their tour manager…and, unbeknownst to them, actually kills Coady. She’s now a ghost, you see, although not fully aware of it at the start of our story.

Page excerpt from COADY AND THE CREEPIES

A fun part to this comic is that this is not your typical pop band scene. Instead, Prince went with a punk scene and plays with that harder edge. It’s all about attitude and keeping face. The guys in the band, The Boneheads, are especially competitive–and obnoxious. Check out the energy in Kirk’s drawing, reminiscent of Gary Panter. This comic packs a lot of power!

This is an inventive and engaging supernatural/band on the run mashup. And there’s plenty of local flavor too. Just as Coady is getting a handle on not exactly being alive anymore, everyone must deal with the ghost of La Llorona who haunts the Santa Fe River. That definitely conjures up a Dia de los Muertos vibe. Lots going on for a first issue. In terms of a rating, I give it a full four stars.

Coady and the Creepies #1 is available as of March 15th. For more details, visit BOOM! Studios right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Amanda Kirk, Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews, Ghosts, Liz Prince, Supernatural

Review: METEOR MEN by Jeff Parker, Sandy Jarrell, & Kevin Volo

The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of Alden Baylor.

The ideal graphic novel expresses one elegant theme over the span of about 100 pages and leaves the reader invigorated. METEOR MEN is such an example. Boy meets space alien. This is a story that turns that trope on its head over the course of a mix of realism and the supernatural. Jeff Parker (Batman ’66, Future Quest) writes a script with his distinctive quirky worldview. Sandy Jarrell (Batman ’66, Unfair) provides artwork that responds right back to Parker’s offbeat style. And Kevin Volo (Rex Zombie Killer, Max & Thorne) provides colors in step with this moody, enigmatic, and totally riveting tale.

Panel excerpt from METEOR MEN

If and when the aliens do descend from the skies, they won’t be anything like in the movies. They will be something totally out of the realm of our experience. That is a key point in any number of sci-fi tales. And that doesn’t stop Parker, like the seasoned pro that he is, from going in there and telling us his version. So, we begin with Alden Baylor, a teenager who already has much on his mind prior to any alien invasion. The kid is sitting pretty on an estate he’s inherited. Alden’s parents died in a car crash and his uncle is his guardian. So, Alden makes for an ideal young princely sort, complete with a common touch, not fully aware of his high station in life. He’s sensitive and gentle and will prove to make a great representative for us humans.

Page excerpt from METEOR MEN

We come to see that an alien race has descended all over Earth via a meteor shower. Among all the potential human connections that could have been made everywhere from Moscow to Timbuktu, the only one that takes hold is the one between Alden and the space creature that crash landed on his property. Alden’s alien friend is melancholy and mysterious. But, push comes to shove, and this guy is potentially dangerous–all for the sake of protecting Alden. Deeper into our tale, Alden learns far more than he ever imagined he would ever know not only about extraterrestrial life but about the very essence of existence.

Among alt-comics, there are basically two fronts: the more low-key comics that rely upon a niche audience; and the more vibrant comics that reach out to a wider readership. METEOR MAN is a vibrant comic. Of course, the hope is that any truly worthwhile comic finds readers even if it is essentially a labor of love. I see METEOR MAN as one of those “labor of love” projects that catches on with casual as well as seasoned readers of comics. Word of mouth has boosted its visibility and it has received good press, including a glowing review from WIRED MAGAZINE. I’m happy to add my praise.

METEOR MEN by Jeff Parker, Sandy Jarrell, & Kevin Volo

METEOR MAN is a 128-page full cover trade paperback. For more details, visit Oni Press right here. Order it through Amazon right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Jeff Parker, Oni Press, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Young Adult

Kickstarter: On The Off Chance debut album on Vinyl

On the Off Chance

I just reviewed a work by fellow cartoonist Dan Dougherty. And I feel a separate post is in order to let folks know about Dan’s band, On The Off Chance. I have heard their music and this feisty band out of Chicago is a lot of fun! Check out some samples for yourself at the band’s Kickstarter, going on through March 23rd, right here.

I am listening to “Payday” as I write this and its rockabilly vibe has put me in a very good mood. This is a band definitely on the rise. Later this year, with a little help from their friends, they will be releasing some very cool music videos that include the talents of Joel Murray (Mad Men), Jim O’Heir (Parks and Recreation) and David Pasquesi (Veep)!

On The Off Chance

A note from the band:

And as to the album itself? It’s the best thing we’ve ever made in all of our years as musicians. It’s eleven original songs written by either Dan or Steve, with beautiful harmonies, powerful lyrics, and hooks to spare.

The album is already recorded, mixed and mastered at the band’s own expense. The album art is complete and ready to print. The campaign funds go towards printing and shipping this special vinyl edition. As you will see among the reward options, you can choose whatever fits best your musics needs: CD, digital download, or vinyl, plus some other goodies.

As of today, Dan’s Kickstarter for the debut album of his band, On The Off Chance, has surpassed the $2,000 milestone of its $3,500 goal! This campaign ends on March 23rd. You can support the campaign by visiting right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Dan Dougherty, Kickstarter, Music