One thing I love in this life is an awesome comic book shop. Such is the case with Meltdown Comics & Collectibles. On the Sunset Strip, this is the place you want to make time for during a visit to Los Angeles. And, if you’re a native, then you likely know what I’m talking about. Okay, let’s say you’re a tourist and you have your list of places to go to while in LA, well, I am here to tell you that Meltdown is a landmark you’ll want to hit.
MELTDOWN 7522 Sunset Blvd
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was at Meltdown to promote my own ongoing comics series, GEORGE’S RUN, about the life and times of screenwriter George Clayton Johnson. However, as my regular readers know, and those of us in the industry fully appreciate, this is a labor of love, very interconnected, so I’m there just as much to embrace the scene and my fellow creators. Stay tuned because I will be posting reviews of some awesome comics that I picked up during my visit. If you are a creator, be sure to contact me about reviewing your work. For this post, I am providing you with a little guided tour that will whet your appetite.
ZINES & MINICOMICS
As you can see from the photos and video, Meltdown is a fully stocked, and fully loved, place for comics and related items. Keep in mind, for those of you still unsure, that comics are not only part of the zeitgeist. Comics are definitely an art form in their own right. That’s been said many times and bears repeating. Comics provide an outlet, a platform, that is a highly specific form of expression. It attracts many stripes of folk including some of the brightest and whipsmart. The word “comics” means many things and, no doubt, is inextricably linked to the world of comedy, even when it’s far from funny. It’s no surprise then that the likes of comedy genius Patton Oswalt cannot help but love comics and write for comics too.
The day I made my visit, a special Bernie Sanders event was being set up. There are all kinds of cool things going on here from music to comedy. And, of course, there are all sorts of special comics events. The next big one is a March 18th signing by Daniel Clowes in support of his latest masterpiece, “Patience,” published by Fantagraphics Books.
MIKE LE’S OPEN IP WALL
Here’s the deal, there is not, or should not be, a great divide between indie/alt comics and superhero comics. That’s a given for a lot of us. But it’s one of those things I feel compelled to repeat as often as necessary. I want readers out there who have not been around comics for a while to come back and see what’s been brewing. That just instantly comes to mind when I’m in such a fine place as Meltdown. The love and the knowledge is clearly here, each member of the staff is carrying the torch. You see it in the careful and thoughtful displays and staff picks. What Amoeba Music is to music, Meltdown is to comics. I rest my case. So, be sure to visit our dear friends at Meltdown right here.
I found myself in Los Angeles these last few days of February for a number of reasons. Let me put it to you this way, I was there as much to enjoy a day long visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as I was for anything else. And, of course, I devoted a chunk of time to the Oscars. Here is the key to a lot in life: keep an open mind. Now, when it comes to entertainment, the more flexible you are, the better. I keep things to a broad spectrum, from the intellectual to the spectacle. That said, I’ll share with you some observations from this last visit. In the end, we can explore the idea of what it is to be entertained.
The Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market, Los Angeles
Seattle is my home base. It is in this relatively small, yet bustling, city that various forms of entertainment are created by some very talented individuals in music, film, fiction, comics, and so on. And then there are just as many, perhaps even more, individuals involved in commenting on all this creative work. That’s something I am very sensitive to as I am both a creator and a commentator. Let’s just say I appreciate when the air has gotten too thick. Sometimes, you just want some frog legs at The Gumbo Pot in the Farmers Market, which I definitely enjoyed. And, to be sure, the level of discourse at tables was quick, smart, and unpretentious. If I say I am going to talk to you about the true meaning of fiction or entertainment, it’s in the spirit of an open discussion without the pretense. Please, we have too much of that.
Chris Burden’s “Urban Light,” at LACMA
It’s all about going from the specific to the general. Take the time to give one particular subject its due, focus on that, consider its merits, and then reap the rewards of entertainment and insight. I will compare for you two events in Hollywood that are closely related: a tribute to screenwriter George Clayton Johnson at the American Cinematheque this last Friday; and then some observations on the Oscars this last Sunday. I really wasn’t planning on doing this. I want to keep it light but offer you a few ideas. The best thing I can do is jump right in with some observations beginning with the tribute. Here, I want to make clear that much depends upon your understanding and knowledge.
George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood
If such things as the literary background of The Twilight Zone are new to you, then perhaps this will spark interest. I know a great deal about this subject, particularly the writers known as, The Group, from which much of this springs from. George Clayton Johnson was a key member of The Group. He had within his power the ability to write some of the most compelling magical realism. That’s important because, despite the many disadvantages he had in life, he was a writer with not only a vision but a determination. George went on to create some of the most iconic and beloved episodes of The Twilight Zone which is the gold standard for what can be done when melding the art forms of fiction and television. Don’t let yourself think that Masterpiece Theater holds the key. That is too obvious a venue. Actually, it is within The Twilight Zone, at its best, that you will find much that is stimulating and intriguing with great literary merit.
George Clayton Johnson tribute at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood
So, here you have this very special individual, George Clayton Johnson, who understood better than most, the fundamental inner workings of fiction. He took his insight, skill, and hard work and did what he did with it. He primarily wrote for television. All of his work on The Twilight Zone is remarkable. This led to him writing the first episode of Star Trek to be broadcast. Among other TV work, he wrote an exceptional episode of Kung Fu where the main character experiences a flashforward, as opposed to a flashback, to help him save his life. And, to cap it all off, George and William F. Nolan wrote the classic dystopian novel, Logan’s Run. Beyond those achievements, it is George’s life story that is inspiring. He was close friends with such greats as Ray Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon. George was simply a man who loved to keep it simple: write what you believe in, give back to the community, love thy neighbor. The outpouring of love and admiration for George at this tribute was very moving. I had the opportunity to get to know George. I can fully understand how bright his light shines.
Chris Rock tells it like it is at the Oscars.
A couple of nights later, lo and behold, it’s the Oscars. Now, mind you, I did not have any set plans. How I wish my Comics Grinder credentials would have gotten me a press pass. Perhaps they would had I pursued it. I’ll tell you something, I am a keen observer and a friendly interviewer. I can easily adapt to any situation. This segues to what I did for Oscars night. Due to a few things going on that night, I found myself outside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Let me back track a bit, a buddy of mine suggested that as a great spot to maybe see something going on. In fact, the plan was to meet up with him. I show up and, yes, it is a great spot, right on the corner of Orange and Hollywood overlooking that whole block of Madame Tussauds, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and the Dolby Theatre.
25 Degrees at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Well, on that corner are a bunch of onlookers, of course. Shades of “The Day of the Locust.” I mingled for a bit. No one knows exactly what to expect, if anything. I then made my way into the Hollywood Roosevelt and 25 Degrees, one of the hotel’s seven bars. 25 Degrees is known for its gourmet burgers and onion rings, which I fell in love with. I patiently waited for a cozy table overlooking the bar and two big screen TVs broadcasting the Oscars. Chris Rock was doing his monologue. I saw any number of what appeared to be otherwise jaded industry folk carefully listening and giving way to outbursts of laughter. Just as I was assured by my hostess that I could have the table, this one lady sat down at that very same table. The hostess explained to her that I had already been given that table but I said it was alright. Sure, it’s the Oscars, I’ll share the table. Well, it was definitely for the best. The lady turned out to be an executive with a Mexican network. We ended up chatting about the decline of culture in general and the disturbing rise of Donald Trump.
Behind the scenes at the Oscars
It always comes down to the coveted issues of time and space. That table had a fixed value of one hour. You could not stay at that table beyond an hour. I sweet talked my hostess into letting me begin a new hour given that I had to share it. In the meantime, my new friend, the Mexican TV executive, had hoped that I could hold on to the table as she had wanted to return after a while. Well, there must have been a lot of discussion in the back. At first, yes, I could keep the table if I ordered more food. After having the delicious Patty Melt, and a half jug of Pinot Noir, I opted to start with a Dark and Stormy. Later, the supervisor negotiates with me. It turns out that the table really needs to be relinquished. If I am alright with moving to the bar, he will treat me to another drink. Well, that’s fine with me. And, well appreciated too!
Behind the scenes at the Oscars
We always hear the long-running jokes about the Oscars being too long. The crowd that night enjoyed every minute of it and would have been happy to see more. The high points were the Chris Rock monologue, the announcement for Best Actor to Leonardo DiCaprio, and the announcement for Best Picture to “Spotlight.” In between, and throughout, careful attention was given to each category. I ended up chatting a bit with other patrons at the bar. The consensus seemed to be that this was one of the best Oscars. I certainly found myself in a perfect setting. The bar, with its old-school charm, was impeccable.
Here I am in front of the American Cinematheque in Hollywood.
One Oscar tradition never fails to move me. That’s when a tribute is given to notable members of the Academy who had passed away in the previous year. I was certain that George Clayton Johnson would receive a mention. While he wrote primarily for television, he also co-wrote the story that was the basis for “Ocean’s Eleven” and he also co-wrote an Academy Award nominated animated feature with Ray Bradbury, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright.” But he did not get his mention. That left a sad note hanging in the air. But it was still grand to be at the Hollywood Roosevelt on Oscar night. I can tell you, I can share with you, the fact that both nights, the tribute to George and Oscar night, were both magical. George is still remembered and people will enjoy his work whether they realize he wrote it or not. George will always be part of that magic that people seek out whether they know it or not.
Great fiction comes from all over: horror, dark fantasy, mystery, and so on. William F. Nolan writes in various genres. You may know him from his work with Dan Curtis, such as the classic horror film, “Burnt Offerings.” Or perhaps you know him from co-writing, with George Clayton Johnson, the classic dystopian novel, “Logan’s Run.” Mr. Nolan has gained great recognition and won numerous awards and honors. Just last year he was named the Grand Master at the World Horror Convention in Atlanta. In this interview, we spend a good time chatting about horror as well as fiction in general. And we definitely visit the subject of the Southern California Sorcerers, otherwise known simply as The Group.
“Burnt Offerings” from 1976
During our conversation, Bill shared a very special moment regarding his friend and fellow writer, George Clayton Johnson, who passed away this last Christmas. He offers up for us a picture of a fresh-faced, and beaming, young George bursting upon the scene, circa 1957. He has shown up at a meeting of The Group and asks if he may join in with the illustrious and ambitious writers. Someone asks George what he has to show for himself. And, George, just having received his box of author copies, proudly shows the men what he’s been up to. “Hey guys,” George says, “I co-wrote this really cool thing called, ‘Ocean’s Eleven!'” And the rest is history!
This interview was conducted Monday, February 22nd. William F. Nolan is going strong, just shy of his 88th birthday on March 6th. If you love a good story, or if you are an aspiring writer yourself, or if you’d like to know something about the Sixties zeitgeist, then this interview is for you. In the span of about twenty minutes we cover a lifetime of observations and insight.
Henry Chamberlain: Thank you for getting together with me, Bill. I wanted to cover the writer’s life with you in this interview. First off, a good horror story has been compared to placing a frog in gradually boiling water. What can you tell us about the boiled frog method of storytelling?
William F. Nolan: Allow me to veer off a bit from the boiled frog to tell you how I approach telling a story. Really, how I tell a story is like the other night when I was in bed, half asleep and half awake, a state where I get all of my ideas. I was thinking of these deadly flowers. They had the power to stop the human heart. They were alive and, if you didn’t treat them right, they could turn against and stop your heart. There’s this couple who decide to rent this place on the beach. It looks like a great place. The owner lets them know that they have to take care of these special flowers but the couple ignore him, they don’t do it. And they end up being killed by the flowers. Their dead bodies are found on the beach. That’s how I form an idea for a story. I get an opening in my head for the concept and then I get the ending. Finally, I fill in the middle. That’s how I write a horror story, or any other kind of story.
Discoveries Best of Horror and Dark Fantasy edited by James R. Beach and Jason V Brock
HC: There’s a story of yours, “Stabbed by Rob,” in the recently published collection of dark fantasy from Dark Discoveries, edited by James R Beach and Jason V Brock. That story is a perfect example of that boiled frog method. There are a number of touches of humor, including your mentioning a glow-in-the-dark statue of Jesus. And the story keeps turning up the heat to the very last sentence.
WFN: Well, I believe you really can’t get away without some humor in a horror story. Horror is too stark, raw, and unflinching. You need to be able to live in it. You’ve got to lighten it with some humor. All my horror stories have elements of humor. You need to let the reader breathe. You can’t go from the first page to the last and do straight horror. That’s the problem with H. P. Lovecraft for me. Lovecraft has no sense of humor. He was a brilliant writer. He was a brilliant innovator. But no sense of humor. By the time you finish “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” you’re exhausted. I want my readers to relax a little, to breathe, and have a good chuckle while they’re being frightened. That’s my method of writing horror.
HC: I’m glad that you mention Lovecraft because I’ve had difficulty with him too. Your adaptation with Dan Curtis of Robert Marasco’s 1973 novel, “Burnt Offerings,” has just the right touches of humor at the start, and they give way to a more sinister mood. There’s a balance.
WFN: Yes, that was adapted from the Marasco novel which had no humor whatsoever. I told Dan Curtis, who directed, and produced the film with me, that we were going to need to lighten up the material because it was too stark. I’m glad that you appreciate the humorous elements in the film. As I say, I just don’t think you can do horror without lightening it up a little bit.
HC: Then there’s Ray Russell’s work. Perhaps more of a touch of elegance than humor. I love the way Ray Russell masterfully brings up a lot of pretty grim stuff in his work. He knows what to leave in and what to mostly imply. I’m thinking of “Sardonicus,” “Sagittarius,” and “Sanguinarius.”
WFN: Ray Russell was one of my closest friends for years. We would talk about how to write in terms of horror. And we both agreed on the same thing that you’ve got to put some humor into it in order to lighten the whole thing. I love Ray’s work. He passed on some years back. He would be happy to hear that you enjoy his work.
Just Part of The Group: Charles Fritch, Chad Oliver, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and William F. Nolan, circa 1954.
HC: There were all of these amazing writers that you got to be close with in social settings and in work sessions. All of you together were the Southern California Writer’s Group.
WFN: There were eleven of us. We didn’t think of ourselves as anything special. We were all trying to make a living, pay the rent, pay the mortgage, stay afloat. We wrote science fiction and fantasy in a modern vein. We took it away from the Lovecraftian type of fiction and wrote a modern type. It was sort of pioneered by Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury who were part of our group. We all worked from the same principle: you can do modern horror but it has got to be something that people can believe in. It has to be realistic. It should happen today, in somebody’s kitchen. It could happen in a kitchen. You don’t have to go to a haunted castle, back in Transylvania, to have horror. Horror can happen on your doorstep. Horror can be a terrorist with a submachine gun that sprays lead over you while you’re eating in a restaurant. That’s horror. Horror takes many forms. We all tried to work within that scope.
Yeah, eleven of us. Matheson, Bradbury, myself…Charles Beaumont was sort of the hub of the thing. We had Jerry Sohl. We had Robert Bloch, known for “Psycho.” We’d all gather together at each other’s houses, at all-night coffeeshops and talk shop, editors, and markets. We were quite a group. All these years later, people look back on us as pioneers in the field. And that’s nice but, at the time, we were just trying to make a buck, just trying to make a living.
HC: Well, sure, you guys were so close to it all. You would need to stand back to see it clearly. What you guys did was take gothic literature and give it a modern cool. That’s essentially it.
I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson
WFN: Yeah. I still think that you can credit Richard Matheson for a lot of that. Stephen King said that he was influenced more by Richard Matheson, than any other author, because he took horror out of the castle and brought it into the kitchen. And I agree with him. We all tried to do that. We all felt that was the way to go. We weren’t interested in something ancient. We wanted something real, something of today.
HC: You list eleven members of The Group. Was there any time that all eleven of you met under one roof?
WFN: Three or four of us were into auto racing. Richard Matheson, Jerry Sohl, and Robert Bloch didn’t care at all about that. But Charles Beaumont, John Tomerlin, and myself were heavily into Grand Prix sports car racing both here and in Europe. We actually flew to Monte Carlo one year for the Grand Prix. And we went to Sebring Raceway in Florida for the races there. The Beaumont kitchen in North Hollywood, his upstairs kitchen, is where most of us would meet. George Clayton Johnson was part of that group too. We would meet there. But there was never a meeting of all eleven of us at one time. It was three or four of us at at time at different places. We’d go to movies together. We’d meet in coffeeshops.
Musso and Frank Grill
HC: I imagine that you guys enjoyed Musso and Frank Grill.
WFN: We loved Musso and Frank Grill. It has all that history: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner. The murals never changed. The seats are the same. When you’re sitting there, it’s like you’ve gone back in a time machine. We loved it. I still love it. I love to go whenever I’m in L.A.
HC: You touched upon George. I have to say that I can imagine that he loved the fact that he got to pass away on Christmas Day. Such a magical thing. Such an act of will.
WFN: That was no accident. He was ill. He was in hospice care for about a week before that happened.
HC: Oh, yeah.
WFN: The doctors were saying that he could go at any minute but George, subconsciously, since he couldn’t verbalize it at that stage, was saying that the doctors couldn’t tell him when he was going to die. He was always an independent guy. He was saying: “I want to die on Christmas Day since that was the birthday of Rod Serling, who made me famous for my writing for The Twilight Zone.” He was able to die three days past when he was expected to die. He was able to fool all the doctors. That was no accident.
George Clayton Johnson and William F. Nolan, circa 1957, illustration by Henry Chamberlain
HC: Yes, that’s what I meant. I was honored to interview George a number of times and got to meet him in person. Would you share with us a little more of the flavor of the era and a picture of George at one of these bull sessions at The Group that may come to mind?
WFN: Four or five of us were sitting in the living room of the upstairs apartment of Charles Beaumont one night. There was a knock at the door. This is around 1957. The Group was around from the ’50s to ’60s. So, there’s a knock at the door. We open the door and there’s George Clayton Johnson with a package under his arm. He said, “I’m George Clayton Johnson. I want to join you guys. I want to be with you. I’ve heard about you and I want to join you.” Someone asked, “Are you a writer?” He said, “Yes, I am,” and he held up the package, “It’s called, ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and I just sold it to Frank Sinatra!” That’s what got him started with The Group.
HC: That’s beautiful. I wanted to ask you about the literary tradition that The Group worked from. I’m sure that Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelly, all the gothic writers, were subjects of conversations for all of you.
WFN: You can’t write out of a vacuum. We’re all influenced by other people. Ray Bradbury was influenced by Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, and George Bernard Shaw. We were influenced more by such horror writers as Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood. I started out reading H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine” and “War of the Worlds” when I was a boy growing up in Kansas City, Missouri. And then I discovered Bradbury and Weird Tales. Ray Bradbury and I became close friends and that lasted 50 years. We’re all standing on the shoulders of other people. We all read Hawthorne and Robert Louis Stevenson. We were influenced by them but we wanted to take our fiction into a modern setting and move it forward and I believe we succeeded.
Photo by Ralph Morris, Hollywood Blvd. 1960
HC: I wanted to close out by asking if you could give us a little more of a flavor of Los Angeles in the ’50s and ’60s. I can just imagine: you had the ghost of Raymond Chandler; old Hollywood giving way to new Hollywood; Forey Ackerman and the rise of geek culture. L.A. in the Sixties, it doesn’t get much better than that.
WFN: I read Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, the hard-boiled school, James M. Cain. I’ve read books on Chandler and Hammett. I’m a big hard-boiled fan. Los Angeles was a hard-boiled city in those days. Dashiell Hammett glorified San Francisco. But Los Angeles was also part of that era where corruption ruled in high places. It was a violent and colorful era captured beautifully by Raymond Chandler. If you read the work of Raymond Chandler, you’re learning a lot about Los Angeles as he experienced it.
I can tell you that there was a lot of smog. I used to live in Burbank, right against the mountains. The smog was terrible. I did move around different parts of Los Angeles. It changed quite a lot during the many years I was there. It’s not the same city that it used to be.
HC: I love Los Angeles and love looking for signs of yesteryear. They’re around if you know where to look for them.
WFN: If you go to Pasadena, there’s the old bridge that Raymond Chandler wrote about in one of his novels. The bridge that Philip Marlowe drove over at night. It’s still standing there. I wrote a piece entitled, “Marlowe in Los Angeles.” I toured all the places he used to go to, including Musso and Frank Grill. Chandler was an insatiable researcher, always moving around, and usually within the greater Los Angeles area. He grew to know it beautifully. Hammett made San Francisco famous with “The Maltese Falcon.” Chandler did the same for Los Angeles with “The Big Sleep.”
HC: I wish you a great year ahead, Bill. Any projects we can look forward to soon?
WFN: I had a collection of my poetry come out last year. This year we’ll have a new collection of my essays. I’m working on a new collection of short stories. I just wrote three new stories this month. So, even though I’ll be turning 88, I feel like I’m still 28.
HC: I can feel the energy. Thanks again, Bill.
WFN: I really enjoyed this. Thank you.
You can listen to the podcast interview by just clicking the link below:
Keep up with William F. Nolan at his website right here.
I’m a lot like you, someone who loves to be creative and follow their wanderlust. My latest adventure took me to Los Angeles and I want to share with you the wonderful place I stayed at, BLVD Hotel & Suites. What follows is a review of this boutique hotel complete with my own illustrations. Hope you like this and will see yourself at BLVD on your next visit to L.A.
BLVD Hotel & Suites has three locations in California. I stayed at the one in the heart of Hollywood near the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Highland Blvd. Thus its name, BLVD. It’s easy to remember and easy to find. You are within walking distance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and beyond.
BLVD in Hollywood is located at 2010 N Highland Avenue and that proves to be a really convenient hub to return to as you go about your day and night. I need to emphasize this fact because a lot of people will take a hotel’s location for granted. Where you start your day plays a pivotal role. This made it easy to wander over to a number of great places for meals. At the top of my list is Musso & Frank Grill at 6667 Hollywood Blvd. A new find since my last visit to L.A. is Loteria Grill on 6627 Hollywood Blvd. Another old favorite is Miceli’s on 1646 N Las Palmas Avenue off of Hollywood Blvd. All are walking distance from BLVD Hotel & Suites.
BLVD is a very pleasant luxury boutique hotel at a reasonable price. All the staff are courteous and friendly. The room, as they say, exceeded expectations. I think when you get a welcome home feel to your room, that says it all: great bed, plenty of room to spread out, ample television screen, plenty of care with amenities.
Everything has been looked after: from well-stocked toiletries and ample towels in your room to an inviting lobby and lounge. They even have a snack bar for a quick bite on the go. Other features include a pool and a gym. Here is where you get refreshed and relaxed in a comfortable setting before your next L.A. adventure.
This is what I had hoped for and this is what I ended up getting. Yes, indeed, location is everything. Specifically, you are very close to the Hollywood Bowl. And, for fans of film history, let me tell you here that you are in for an added treat: you are near the Hollywood Heritage Museum at 2100 Highland Avenue. This is just an interesting fact that I want to throw in since, as I say, you are close to everything.
Visit our friends at BLVD Hotel & Suites right here.
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.
It’s all in a day’s work for King as he yet again searches for the “life seed” and avoids being eaten by some mutant. King is the last human survivor of the apocalypse. And that doesn’t mean he can do whatever he wants, not when the entire fate of humanity rests on his shoulders via the bureaucracy that is the Los Angeles Department of Reclamation. Funny stuff thanks to critically acclaimed comic book writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (The Bunker, Echoes, and I, Vampire). And it all jumps out vividly thanks to superstar artists Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Beyond). Where did this crazy good comic come from? It’s from Amazon Publishing’s Jet City Comics!
KING is truly an exciting comic in all ways possible. It’s a trip into a wild, hilarious, and incredibly awesome world. For seasoned comics readers, and newcomers alike, this one will blow you away with its combination of wit and beauty.
I’m really impressed with the audacious irreverence to Fialkov’s script which often will evoke a spoken word authenticity with its spontaneity. Don’t we all want our hero to succeed and lead everyone to the Garden of Barbara Eden?
Check out the above panel excerpt. King is describing the perennial quest for the life seed. And here, out of the blue, he says it can sometimes involve a sexy creature but, all too often, is more about a rock with some purple sparkleys. Who thinks like this? Very funny.
King’s journey is nonstop whipsmart action and sharp humor. It’s going to be a sheer pleasure to keep up with this series as this first issue is impeccable.
KING #1 is a 31-page comic and is available as of August 19, 2015. The KING graphic novel is a Kindle Serial published in five issues for one price of only $5.99. This serial will run for a total of five issues, with each issue delivered monthly at no additional cost until the collected series is complete.
And, of course, you can always get the paperback when it’s available on January 20, 2016 for only $14.95. Check out the details by visiting our friends at Amazon right here.
If you’re looking for new talent on the rise that offers the next wave of sci-fi action movie adventure, then look to director Marco Kalantari’s short film, “The Shaman.” It is a pleasure to have at Comics Grinder an interview with Mr. Kalantari, which you can listen to here. And Comics Grinder has an exclusive manga adaptation to his short work as well as a review, which you can view here. This is a short film with promises of bigger things to come. It is definitely a look at what a visionary director can offer.
The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war.
The face of conflict has changed. People kill people but they now rely on giant, intelligent battle machines to fight. Meanwhile, mankind has re-discovered the arts of magic and Shamanism and the Generals on both sides use well-trained spiritual warriors to face the threat of machines. Shamans have special senses; they are experts in all aspects of the “unseen” and the “beyond”. They believe that every person, animal, plant and object has a soul. When crossing the border to the Netherworld, the Shaman can find this soul and interact with it. That is what makes him such a deadly, highly effective weapon. They track and convert the souls of their enemies’ giant battle machines in a psychological soul-to-soul confrontation. But Shamans are not invulnerable. They are just people and can be killed like anyone else.
Shaman Joshua Van Kern and his squire Lene embark on a mission to convert a giant battle colossus and succeed where troops have failed.
And you can always visit the director’s website right here.
“Wolf,” is a new comic (script by Ales Kot; art by Matt Taylor) in which we follow Antoine Wolfe, a hard-boiled paranormal detective, down the sun-kissed streets of a noir-infused Los Angeles. The streets are indeed sun-kissed and beautifully harsh thanks to the intense colors by Lee Loughridge. Like any good crime story, we savor the details. One excellent moment simply has Antoine approach an anxious German Shepherd in his path with a mellow, “Meow.” From the start, we know this is going to be one weird tale as we begin with Antoine covered in flames one moment and completely unscathed the next.
This original fantasy/horror/crime saga is worthy of comparison to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The narrative rolls along quite smoothly as the plot develops. Antoine is steadily revealed to be adroit as well as a bit out of his depth as we find him caught up in something of apocalyptic proportions. Ultimately, his fate will be linked to that of an orphaned teenage girl. And, through it all, we have a compelling clash between fantasy and gritty crime drama. For instance, Antoine may have supernatural powers but, as an African American, he is regularly reminded that he is not welcome in some places. And Los Angeles is depicted as a twisted wonderland, an amalgam of wilderness and concrete jungle. And full of magic. Wait until you meet Antoine’s pal, Freddy, a most Cthulhu-like fiend.
I am often asked where the best comics are coming from and the short answer is Image Comics. A perfect example is Wolf.
WOLF #1 is available as of July 22nd. It is a 64-page comic priced at $4.99. For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics 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.