Tag Archives: Monsters

Review: ‘My Favorite Thing Is Monsters’ Vol 1 (of 2) by Emil Ferris

“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” Vol 1 (of 2) by Emil Ferris

If you have not heard of this book yet, then let me introduce you to one of the new landmarks in graphic novels, “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris, published by Fantagraphics. Maybe you have heard of it. Or maybe, like me, you weren’t sure what to make of it at first. Certainly, one quick look through its pages, and you can tell this is something weird and wonderful. And, at 386 pages, this ain’t a book you’re gonna miss sitting there on the shelf.

An enigma begging for resolution.

As a cartoonist myself, the book is also a bit intimidating. All this awesome stuff to process–that I didn’t write and draw! As a reviewer, this is the sort of book that everyone comes out of the woodwork to review. People who never read graphic novels now suddenly have an opinion to express on the next big thing. But, don’t get me wrong, it is exciting to see a book like this gain the spotlight. That said, a number of things make this book significant and worthy of a long life after the current buzz.

A bigger look: two-page spread.

The best way to enjoy this book is to find a cozy seat and explore the pages for a while. Then just settle into it. Ferris has an uncanny sense for narrative flow. In a comic that she did about promoting the book, she included an observation by comics legend Art Spiegelman. He declared that Ferris had tapped into a new rhythm for comics. To be sure, Ferris has a distinctive approach. She beautifully alternates among various possibilities: from full page drawings to panel sequences; from just a hint of color to full color; from lots of text to minimal text. This exquisite contrast propels the reader into worlds unknown.

Deeze, the bad boy older brother.

Our story begins in Chicago on Valentine’s Day, 1968. There’s been a murder, or maybe a suicide, or God only knows what. Something happened upstairs. 10-year-old Karen Reyes has lost her dear friend, her upstairs neighbor in the apartment right above her: the elegant and enigmatic Anka Silverberg. She was shot in the heart. But her apartment door was bolted shut from the inside. So, yes, it was a suicide, right? Well, that’s what the police say. But Karen senses that just can’t be right. And so begins Karen’s investigation. Karen, the little girl who thinks she’s a monster. Yes, she really believes she’s some werewolf girl. And the only thing more scary than that is the M.O.B., that’s short for people who are Mean, Ordinary, and Boring.

Having to answer to mama.

Ferris fuels her work of magical realism with magical kid logic. Karen’s quest to get to the bottom of the death of Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, becomes a multi-layered journey. Narrated by Karen, the reader becomes privy to a child’s inner world in a similar fashion to Jonathan Safran Foer’s celebrated novel, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” 10-year-old Karen ponders over the validity of monsters and concludes that they have as much right to exist as other unseen marvels like germs and electricity. Karen’s fanciful innocence clashes with harsh reality. Her older brother, Deeze is engrossed in various sexual conquests with little to no discretion as to whether Karen is around to hear it or see it. As a way to protect herself, Karen can always revert back to her own whimsical concerns, like whether or not tulips get homesick for Holland.

One of the many pulp magazine tributes.

This is a genuine must-read resonating with aficionados and the general public alike. Many of the pages in the book have become iconic, particularly the monster magazine portraits. This is a tale that intertwines the tumult of the 1930s and 1960s and ends up casting a mirror to our own very troubled era. The alternating formats that Ferris uses are the hallmark to this most innovative work. Ferris steadily modulates the narrative having the reader swim to the deep end and read passages suitable for a prose novel all the way to deceptively simple comic strip sequences. All the while, everything is held together cohesively with the consistent use of ball point pen rendered art on a background of notebook paper–that and one of the most compelling voices to grace the page.

As I say, in my video review, it is a hard thing to do in a graphic novel where a cartoonist creates something truly fresh that has the reader seeing things in a whole new way:

This is one of those rare books that can safely be called an instant classic. It is a long work in comics that truly makes good use of a high page count. In fact, a second volume is due out as early as Valentine’s Day of 2018. For more details, visit Emil Ferris right here. And visit Fantagraphics right here.

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Filed under 1960s, Comics, Emil Ferris, Fantagraphics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels

Interview: Mike Capozzola and ‘Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters!’

Mike Capozzola and “Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters!”

Mike Capozzola is a unique hybrid, a cartoonist and a stand-up comedian. He’s a professional in both for over 20 years. In fact, the two passions are inextricably linked. I enjoyed his set this last Saturday at Seattle’s Comedy Underground. Mike is based out of San Francisco and maintains a busy schedule so it was a real treat to get to catch his act while he was in town. I asked him about his process, specifically about a bit where he describes weird yet appealing movie scenarios, ending each description with, “Yeah, I’d see that.” I came to find out that this movie routine originated as a drawn-out cartoon. The concept as a cartoon did not seem to work. But, when he performed the material on stage, Mike found what he was looking for.

Mike kicked off his first night at Comedy Underground with his ongoing pop culture extravaganza, Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters. This is a multimedia show featuring all the things that us geeks enjoy: sci-fi, superheroes, and monsters. As Mike said during our talk, geek culture is everywhere today but it was a hard-won identity for kids growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. It wasn’t so cool to be a geek back then. That said, we can all freely celebrate being a geek now, like we kids from yesteryear could only dream of.

Mike Capozzola at the Comedy Underground in Seattle

The last time I had one of these free-for-all chats with Mike, I offered up the topic of leaf blowers. He had no problem with them. I took the opposing view. Sure, it’s an honest job but, to my mind, the art of leaf blowing can be overdone. I contend that rakes make for a sensible and quiet alternative for much of these tasks. Anyway, I tried a different tack this time and brought to the table the intrinsic character of Seattle. Given that it’s my hometown, I felt it fair for me to say that there’s some truth to stereotypes regarding a certain coolness and reserve to the natives. Capozzola, based upon is observations, took the opposing view.

Is Seattle Sweet, Bitter, or Just Right? That’s what I’d call our lighthearted search for Seattle’s soul. Overall, I think that my friend here was picking up some strong frontier vibes. And I can’t deny him that joy. Seattle does offer the comforts of urban living in close proximity to an abundance of natural wonder. Mike wanted to take the more sunny view of things too. And it was challenging for me to pursue my case that Seattle is too prim and proper while we were chatting outside in Pioneer Square, hands down the rowdiest part of town. Ongoing hijinks near us just played into Mike’s hands.

We had time to dissect a few other things too, namely Trump. Mike had this to say: “The day after the election, so many people felt defeated. Many thought they could turn to art. For comedians, this meant war. I remember Trump for the last thirty years as being treated as a punchline by the tri-state area media. To see it come to this is wild. It’s like the local screw-up, or Ronald McDonald, or a sled has suddenly become president. He’s given voice to a fringe element in the same way that you’d unlock a mystical box and unleash an ancient curse.” That, my friends, says it all. We chatted about how those of us in the Gen X demographic feel unfairly sandwiched between the mighty Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We were misfits to begin with so it figures. And we decried the overall lowering or lack of standards we live with today. Maybe America deserves a pro wrestler or Mark Wahlberg as their next president.

Contact Mike Capozzola with any questions, such as doing commissioned work or presenting his Evil Cyborg Sea Monsters show, at his website right here.

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Filed under Comedians, Comedy, Comedy Underground, Comics, Donald Trump, Geeks, Mike Capozzola, Monsters, pop culture, Seattle, Stand-up Comedy, Superheroes

Review: BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1 (of 4)

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA is a four-part comic published by KaBOOM!, an imprint of BOOM! Studios. It is written by fantasy author Sam Sykes (Aeons’ Gate) and drawn by Selina Espiritu. It is a very strange comic that deftly defies logic. And kids will love it.

The whole thing is refreshingly odd. We begin with a family gathered in a boardroom. The patriarch, a celebrity restaurant magnate, lays out his plans for the future of his business. The father has been suffering from an illness and does not have long to live. His plan is to have all his heirs, his 15 sons and one daughter, compete in a winner-take-all restaurant contest.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1

The one daughter, as the title clues us in, is Brianna. The biggest challenge for Brianna, according to this story, is Brianna. Well, her insecurities. Okay, that could make sense. And then our story keeps getting weird. Everyone in the contest must find a city in which to launch their restaurant competing in the contest. There had not been any prior hint of the supernatural but now it turns out that the only place that Brianna can find on her budget is Monster City, which is populated by real monsters. But, as I say, kids will eat this up.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1

But even a kid might scratch his head just a little as our plot unfolds. No need to scratch too hard but just a little. Turns out that, once Brianna arrives in Monster City, Suzan, a surly monster, wants to work for Brianna. She has no particular interest in the restaurant business, or in human food, but she forces her way into a job. She’s a monster and she does not eat human food. Nor do any of the other monsters in town. But Brianna is such a good cook that maybe she can lure monsters to her restaurant. Silly, yes. But, I got to say, it is refreshingly odd. The artwork by Selina Espiritu is joyful and delightful. The colors by Sarah Stern give everything that extra pop.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #1 is published by KaBOOM!, an imprint of BOOM! Studios and is available as of March 1, 2017.

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews

Batton Lash’s New Kickstarter: A VAMPIRE IN HOLLYWOOD

Batton Lash

Batton Lash, a comics legend in his own right, has launched a new Kickstarter campaign in support of his latest collection, “A Vampire in Hollywood.” You can join the campaign, which runs thru March 11th, right here.

Batton Lash Vampire in Hollywood

With a distinctive wit and style, Batton Lash has entertained readers over the years with the misadventure of “Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre,” the only law firm that represents vampires, zombies, and other ghouls. Wolff and Byrd has subsequently been known simply as, “Supernatural Law.” It is a cross between Archie comics and The Walking Dead. It is definitely something different!

Press release follows:

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Filed under Batton Lash, Comics, graphic novels, Hollywood, Kickstarter, Monsters

Review: HARROW COUNTY #1

Harrow-County-Cullen-Bunn

You need to check out the video that shows you how a page from this comic is created. Tyler Crook is one of the best in the business. You’ll know him from his work on “B.P.R.D.,” a flagship comic from Dark Horse Comics. Now, he does Dark Horse proud with “Harrow County.” This one is a doozy, written by Cullen Bunn, the creator of the smash hit comics series, “The Sixth Gun.”

“Harrow County” is a southern gothic fairy tale. On the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Emmy learns that she is somehow connected to the monster-infested woods she has lived nearby all her life. Wow. What more could you ask for, right?

It all began as an uneasy understanding amongst the townspeople to coexist with the witch, Hester Beck. But, once Hester had the town’s children involved in her rites, the tolerance gave way. And, once the rumors piled up about Hester engaged in unnatural acts with hideous creatures in the woods, there was nothing left to do. Kill the witch, that was the solution. And as the fire ate away at her flesh, the witch warned the townspeople that she would return.

Harrow-County-Tyler-Crook

Many years later, cut to Emmy, a young woman haunted by her surroundings. She knows that something’s wrong about Harrow County, just not sure exactly what. The woods. She’ll find the answers in the woods.

This first issue will definitely win you over. Bunn and Crook have mastered the art of the spooky. This thing has taken off. Enjoy. The gap between the inner world and the outer world is paper thin. That sensation of exposing our inner world to the outside, resulting in horror, is what French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan called “glissage.” Harrow County has seen plenty of this. And Emmy is now sure they haven’t seen the last of it. She’s dead sure of it.

“Harrow County #1” is 32 pages, priced at $3.99, available as of May 13. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Horror

Advance Review: FRANKENSTEIN UNDERGROUND #1

Frankenstein-Underground-Dark-Horse-Comics

There are all sorts of horror to consume and a Mike Mignola horror comic book is one of the best across any form. And then you bring to that one the horror canon’s greatest, Frankenstein, and it sets up something worthy of taking notice. This is not, say Frankenstein vs. Superman or Spider-Man, as much fun as that can be. No, this runs much deeper as you have two distinct visions in horror coming together that have exceptional qualities that naturally fit together. It’s more akin to Boris Karloff bringing his unique sensibility to the character of Frankenstein’s monster. But let’s jump in and check this out.

First of all, I love the fact that this Frankenstein is not just about long stares and grunts. The guy can actually hold a conversation. And I’m intrigued by the additional bolts. He has two big bolts where his nipples should be. Is this for when he needs a really special electrical jolt? I’m just saying. So, this Frankenstein fits right into the quirky, dark, deadpan, and offbeat humor that is the universe of Mike Mignola. And what does the big buy have to say for himself? Basically, he’s not too happy. He’s feeling very regretful for what might have been as he wanders in search of greater meaning. Yeow, that’s more Mignola-speak coming out of the iconic monster than any fan has a right to hope for. So, for you newcomers, this is what to expect: a Frankenstein who is more freaky, intellectual, and downright moody.

This first issue, written by Mignola, drawn by Ben Stenbeck, and colored by Dave Stewart is a knock-out. Now, your hardcore Mignola fans can tell you about the roots to this story. They’ll direct you to that time when Mike Mignola’s celebrated character, Hellboy, got into the ring and actually fought Frankenstein in Mexico in 1956. Yes, Mexico in 1956! Mexico! 1956! You see, another wonderful trait in any Mignola story is the seemingly random pairing of an exotic locale with an obscure date. Why Mexico? Why 1956? It just is what it is. And it’s fun. Here’s the deal, way back when Hellboy fought Frankenstein, nobody knew for sure that it was indeed Frankenstein. But now we know that, yes, it is.

So, again, I ask you, why Mexico in 1956? Well, it’s actually a pretty cool backdrop. Not only do you have the pairing of Mignola and Frankenstein but you can also add to the mix all the magical and spooky Aztec tradition and, to top it off, you have the overall crazy that was the ’50s. Imagine a Day of the Dead celebration times one hundred. Because that’s what it would have been like in Mexico in 1956. So, all this is very geeky fun and yet another fitting tribute to one of the greatest characters in horror for all time, our pal, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein Underground #1 will be published by Dark Horse Comics on March 18, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Frankenstein, Mike Mignola

Review: LUMBERJANES #1

Lumberjanes-Ellis-Stevenson

“Lumberjanes,” published by Boom! Box, is a comic with repeated allusions to the third eye and offbeat pop culture references. I can understand Joan Jett. But Bessie Coleman? As one of the precocious characters here would ask, “Just what in the junk is going on here, anyway?”

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews