Comic Arts L.A. (CALA), a comic arts festival in Los Angeles, took place this last weekend, December 5-6, in a walk-up art gallery, Think Tank Gallery. CALA expanded to two days for its second year. Both days proved busy for an event that has certainly earned its place alongside such notable comic arts festivals as MoCCA Comic Arts Festival in New York City, Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, and Short Run in Seattle, Washington.
CALA 2015 tables
CALA 2015 panel discussion
CALA is a pleasure to navigate from the moment you are welcomed by friendly volunteers at the entrance to the time you foot inside and marvel over the works on offer to when you take in a panel discussion. Comic arts festivals are something to be treasured indeed. CALA blends the offbeat folksy charm of a market with a clean precise professionalism. Within this context, you can engage with some of the leading artists in the comics medium.
John F. Malta
Each artist here shares a desire to work with words and pictures. A cartoonist is someone who cannot help but do a lot of observing and is compelled to make note of it. This is how they view the world, how they process, and even cope, with reality. Often, if not always, this is simply a way of being before it becomes anything else, before it is shared with others. Among the young turks happy to take on the world is John F. Malta.
At an event like CALA, you will find those cartoonists who are taking comics to the level of fine art. You won’t find superhero genre work here. You’ll find a lot of cartoonists here who are self-published alongside publishers interested in experimental, offbeat, and daring work. Among seasoned vets, are Vanessa Davis and Trevor Alixopulos.
Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg
Comics, like any other art form, can conform to some sort of commerce. In fact, the work you will find at CALA is quite varied with something for everyone. CALA provides that vital role of linking artists with customers. Two cartoonists with heartfelt and energetic work: Lila Ash and Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg.
I had a great time this year debuting a new work of my own at this year’s Short Run in Seattle. As a cartoonist coming fresh from that experience, I know that CALA is a taste of nirvana. It is smoothly run, considerate of participants and customers alike. More inspiring cartoonists: Hazel Newlevant and Hope Larson.
Stay tuned as I’ll share with you from my haul of comics I picked up at CALA. For someone completely new to independent comics, CALA will prove to be insightful and fun. And two more artists who can be your guide to the world of comics: Quinne Larsen and Fran Krause.
For more details, visit our friends at CALA right here.
If you’re a serious comics collector, have you ever felt the urge to pin up some of your collection to a prominent wall in your home? You know, just so you can enjoy the spectacle? Well, that is exactly what a real estate agent and a production designer did when they set out to create a show stopping wall to enhance a property for sale. If you’re in the Los Angeles area and in the market for a beautiful home in Silicon Beach, then this is especially for you. The home was listed on May 11.
The following press release is enlightening inasmuch as it’s an interesting example of how comics are valued in our society. The memories, the power of myth, it’s all priceless. HGTV’s Matthew Finlason tore into his own personal $10,000 collection of comic books to make this altar to comics happen.
Mia Wasikowska gets inspired on Hollywood Boulevard.
David Cronenberg gets to thoroughly explore hallucinations, one of his favorite themes (see 1983’s Videodrome), in his latest film, “Maps to the Stars.” It’s those things you think you see that may turn out to be most real of all. Hollywood comes under scrutiny in a most diabolical way as we follow the steady disintegration of the film’s characters. And, among the doomed players, no one is more set for destruction than Agatha Weiss (played by Mia Wasikowska).
The screenplay by Bruce Wagner offers up a delicious send-up to the entertainment industry, its nefarious machinations, and dehumanizing power. Everyone is quite sick in the head here. And the cure is surely not to be found from a Dr. Phil parody, Dr. Stafford Weiss (played John Cusack). It’s his family that is at the epicenter to the disaster that awaits. And it is his daughter Agatha who, upon her arrival to Los Angeles, brings back all the ugliness and chaos to a family in crisis. At 18, she can no longer be held at bay in some Florida rehab clinic. All the chickens have come home to roost.
Cronenberg gives LA the treatment: No one can function naturally in Los Angeles. Everyone has a scheme. Everyone is afraid. Everyone seeks the artificial light. They zig and zag from swank homes to movie sets to Rodeo Drive. Everything being relative, a breakfast burrito can suddenly become the most prized possession, at least for a moment. Nothing shines for long in LA.
At the heart of the Weiss family is the younger child, Benjie Weiss (played by Evan Bird). In contrast to his father’s role as a therapist, Benjie, at 13, is an unstable child actor close to going down in flames. His dad, however, is not too far away from burning out himself as his practice is more of a carnival sideshow than anything serious. Rounding out the family circle is Christina Weiss (played by Olivia Williams). Her stage mother is on similar shaky ground.
The catalyst, and the destroyer, is Agatha. Wasikowska commands the screen with exceptional creepiness. It is comparable to Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom in “Nightcrawler.” Through a series of insinuations, she manages to stake out a decent vantage point to the proceedings as a personal assistant to a fading movie actress, Havana Segrand (played by Julianne Moore). And Segrand proves a perfect match as she’s as crazed as Agatha in her own way. For one thing, she keeps battling with hallucinations of her mother, Clarice Taggart (played by Sarah Gadon). And she is certainly not alone when it comes to seeing things.
As a comeuppance, Benjie is spooked by what seems like the ghost of a young girl he was rude to during a publicity stop at a hospital. Benjie has been a very bad boy and yet he struggles with that. Old and jaded way beyond his years, he will often display poignant self-awareness. Bird delivers an impressive performance. And, while he may not be the star of the film in terms of name recognition, he clocks in a lot of screen time and proves to be the essential counterpoint to Agatha.
Another result of Agatha’s sly maneuvering is her dating a handsome aspiring actor with a day job as a chauffeur, Jerome Fontana (played by Robert Pattinson). This is Pattinson’s second Cronenberg film (see 2012’s Cosmopolis) and he makes the most of it. Playing a far less capable actor than himself, Pattinson presents for us, in his pivotal role, the perfect stooge and the perfect cad. Without a hint of irony, he says that he sees becoming a Scientologist as a good career move. He provides a fine example of how lost everyone is in this story while, at the same time, how aware everyone is of what they bargained for.
Like any great museum, The Hollywood Museum has earned its reputation. It is Hollywood’s attic, with the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world. The museum, featuring four floors of breathtaking exhibits, is home to more than 10,000 authentic show biz treasures to delight any movie lover and anyone interested in the history and glamour of Hollywood.
Like the ocean, the limelight is a force of nature without feelings. It just shines. A few mere mortals become stars under its beam. A select few of these stars, like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, feel the radiance and the burn of the light and then transcend it to gain immortality. The Hollywood Museum proves to be a most attractive venue to gaze upon, and learn about, the stars.
A most charming fact about the museum is that it is housed in the former legendary Max Factor salon. That was a veritable dream factory! You will see beautiful exhibit rooms in what once were the three separate salons for treating blondes, brunettes, and redheads. From there emerged such iconic beauties as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lucille Ball.
It’s uncanny how the Max Factor connection is inextricably linked to the museum on many levels: image, beauty, stardom, style, fashion, and glamour.
Max Factor and Marilyn Monroe certainly go well together.
There’s a wonderful mix of permanent and temporary exhibits on view. “Tyrone Power: Man, Myth & Movie Idol,” closing this weekend, is an excellent show covering the actor’s life and work in great detail.
You won’t leave without adding numerous new movies to your must-see list, like “Marie Antoinette,” starring Tyrone Power and Norma Shearer.
You will rediscover, or discover for the first time, such stars as Theda Bara.
You can easily wander through the memorabilia and absorb some history on the run. Check out the replica of the Lasky-DeMille Barn, one of Hollywood’s first film studios. You won’t leave without having a fuller appreciation of Hollywood.
The Pee-wee Herman exhibit! Yes, this place is full of surprises.
If there’s room for Pee-wee Herman’s suit and bike, then you know this is the right place.
Whatever your taste, there is something for everyone at the museum. While I’m a movie buff who favors old Hollywood, you’ll find young Hollywood here too for sure, like the above exhibit for “The Hunger Games.” There is so much more I could have covered. I didn’t even go into the Hannibal Lecter exhibit. You’ll have to come see that one for yourself.
The Hollywood Museum is in the Historic Max Factor Building located at 1660 N. Highland Ave. at Hollywood Blvd. For more details, visit our friends at The Hollywood Museum right here.
Every great city has its murals. Los Angeles is a great city and its murals are grand, a part of the fabric of life. As part of Comics Grinder’s visit to LA, I want to share with you some of my favorite murals.
“You Are The Star” by Tom Suriya
On Wilcox and Hollywood Blvd, there’s a truly landmark mural depicting many of Hollywood’s all-time legends kicking back and enjoy a matinee in a grand ole movie theater. It looks like they are viewing the viewer in “You Are The Star,” by Tom Suriya, painted in 1983.
Nancy Sinatra mural by George Sportelli
Across the street, just opposite the Suriya mural is a new Nancy Sinatra mural by George Sportelli. This is one of his best among others on Hollywood Boulevard.
Hollywood High School mural by Eloy Torrez
Then there’s one that really tugs at my heart, the mural at Hollywood High School by Eloy Torrez, on Highland Ave, painted in 2000.
Anthony Quinn mural by Eloy Torrez
Here’s a mural with Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek, right opposite the Bradbury Building on 242 S. Broadway, also by Eloy Torrez, painted in 1985.
Pacoima Neighborhood Mural by Levi Ponce
And, finally, a most beautiful mural, the Pacoima Neighborhood Mural, at 10335 Laurel Canyon Blvd, by Levi Ponce.
On a different topic….
Comics Grinder Nominated for an Excellence Blog Award
I want to thank Aquileana from La Audacia de Aquiles for nominating Comics Grinder for an Excellence Blog Award. She shares great insight into Greek mythology, art history, and so much more. Aquileana demonstrates a passion for her subject. At the heart of this award is reaching out to other passionate bloggers.
The rules are that each nominee then nominates ten fellow bloggers and they go on to create a post similar to the one here, including the award logo. So, I follow up by humbly accepting my nomination and nominating ten bloggers that I have come to admire.
These are my nominees for the Excellence Blog Award:
Comic Arts Los Angeles (CALA), a new comic arts festival in Los Angeles, took place this last Saturday, December 6, in a walk-up art gallery, Think Tank Gallery. This is the first major comic arts festival of its kind in the second largest city in the United States, taking its place alongside such notable comic arts festivals as MoCCA Comic Arts Festival in New York City, Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, and Short Run in Seattle, Washington.
Located in a part of the city tucked near Gallery Row and the Arts District, the actual site is amid a dazzling display of predominantly Mexican businesses, both storefront and street vendors. One banner atop the entrance and staff for the event lead you in. And so you climb the stairs and you are instantly transported to a world of indie comics. As Jen Wang, one of the founders of CALA, said in a panel discussion at the event, “When it comes to breaking into comics, you just make them and you’ve broken in.” In that spirit, you come to this event which is a mix of creators relatively new to breaking into comics along with many seasoned indie veterans attached to various publishers.
When it come to breaking into comics, while it may seem simple enough, there are a myriad of approaches, motivations, and sensibilities. I can tell you from my vantage point, as someone who has broken in, that there is and there is not a typical cartoonist profile. Referring back to this panel from the show, the last panel of the day in fact, Wang led a discussion on how to sustain a life in comics. Among the comments made, Ron Regé Jr. spoke to the fact that he never ever expected to make a dime off of his comics. And that pretty much says it all in one fell swoop because there are always cartoonists ready to make money from their work right along with others who don’t focus on demographics and the like.
Comic Arts Los Angeles
A comic arts festival like CALA focuses on the more unusual and offbeat type of comics that are more prone to taking risks with the market. You will see table after table of minicomics and professionally bound books on a multitude of subjects and themes. There are no superhero comics, per se. In this context, a superhero theme is possible but most likely in a ironic tone. The overriding theme is personal and artistic. Of course, major publishers of comic books are hip to what the alternative comics crowd are up to and will collaborate with them from time to time. For some years now, major publishers have been publishing the best that emerges from self-published cartoonists. So, in a sense, the indie cartoonists are akin to stand-up comedians who may get picked up by a network. However, it’s complicated. Some cartoonists try to capitalize on trends, others follow their own muse. Ultimately, it’s quality work that wins out and transcends all these issues.
Ellen T. Crenshaw and “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 – 1750”
I was speaking with cartoonist Ellen T. Crenshaw who is a fitting example of a professional cartoonist/illustrator with an independent sensibility. Take a look at her work and you see an engaging style. She was pleased to see a great turn-out for CALA. In her experience with the Boston comics scene, it can be very rough for the first year of a comic arts festival. But CALA came out strong right out of the gate. Taking a closer look at Crenshaw’s work, it’s a successful combination of a clean and polished approach married to offbeat content. I picked up a hilarious and sweet minicomic of hers, “The Woodsman and the Bear,” that follows a bear who has fallen in love with a lumberjack. That will give you some indication of her vision. For something more challenging, there’s “Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750,” published by Fulcrum Publishing, that provides stories about Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books.
Farel Dalrymple and “The Wrenchies”
You could sense the energy in the crowds. I spoke with a number of friends in the comics community and everyone was all smiles. It’s just a matter of diving in and checking out various tables. Each creator is there in support of their most recent work along with their other titles. For instance, there was Farel Dalrymple in support of his graphic novel, “The Wrenchies,” published by First Second Books.
MariNaomi and “Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories”
Another favorite is certainly Yumi Sakugawa and she was there in support of “Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe,” published by Adams Media and “Bird Girl and Fox Girl,” published by Sparkplug Books.
Rounding out my coverage of CALA, I spoke with Jen Wang, one of the organizers and the illustrator of one of my favorite recent graphic novels, “In Real Life,” published by First Second Books. She was definitely excited about how well CALA was doing.
And, just to top it all off, I spoke with cartoonist and renowned comics historian Scott McCloud and got his take on the event. He was quite pleased to say the least.
Think Tank Gallery proved to be a great venue for CALA. With about 70 creators, the space afforded enough room to mix and mingle. Around the corner, there were panel discussions throughout the event. In the end, the reader, the potential buyer of said comix, indie comics, alternative comics, had much to choose from in a delightful setting. We all look forward to this being the start of a new comics tradition in LA.
How do we connect? We do it, or try to do it, in a variety a ways. It’s not always easy but it’s far better than its opposite, to disconnect. I aspire to connect with you. I make this preface because I am genuinely inspired by my latest subject for review, Joel Craig’s graphic memoir, WELCOME TO NURSING HELLo.