Tag Archives: NYC

Review: ‘Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City’

Tenements, Towers, and Trash!

Cartoonist Julia Wertz has a distinctive outlook (irreverent, pithy, snarky) that has gained a loyal following of readers. With her latest work, she brings her unique style to bear on the Big Apple. It is an honest, funny, and insightful approach to learning about how cities evolve, particularly New York City, the quintessential urban mecca. Early in her cartooning career, Wertz said she resisted writing some sort of coming-of-age book set in NYC. Now, more mature, she can dish on the history of the city that never sleeps while also, inevitably, sharing something of her journey of self-discovery. It all makes for an intoxicating blend: “Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City,” published by Black Dog & Leventhal.

Wertz sets up a poignant and vulnerable starting point: the remains of the New York World’s Fair of 1964. It’s not a pretty sight. No, it’s a mishmash of faded totems to the future. Ironic stuff, indeed, irresistible to a wise-cracking cartoonist! Surely, you know that most, if not all, cartoonists have a sardonic sense of humor. And Julia Wertz is just the sort of sardonic tour guide you would want. But it’s not just about the snark–far from it. Sure, Wertz puts the 1964 World’s Fair through the wringer, deeming it a celebration of corporate-sponsored consumerism. Now, the 1939 New York World’s Fair had style but, in its own way, it too was a celebration of corporate-sponsored consumerism. This sort of comparison easily lends itself to delving deeper and therein lies what this book is about, what makes it unique and beautiful.

Egg Creams, best to keep them simple.

New York City is all about the tension between the pretty and the not so pretty. Wertz revels in this fact. It seems as if she can’t get enough. Just when you think you have this book figured out, Wertz will delight the reader with shifts in narrative, compelling visuals, and overall heart-felt enthusiasm, the sort of lust and vigor you’d expect from an Indiana Jones in the jungle except this is Julia Wertz on countless urban expeditions. She tracks down everything: bagels, egg creams, The Village Voice, railroad flats, micro-living units. It’s all here and then some.

I love New York almost beyond words. My heart goes out to Julia Wertz and her marvelous long walks spanning hours upon hours and covering multiple boroughs and miles. I highly recommend taking this book on a NYC trek of your own. It’s a hefty hardcover but, if you make it your primary item in your backpack, you’ll be just fine. You can make your own comparisons and connections guided by all the amazing drawings that Wertz has to share of bygone and contemporary New York. This book is really an inspiring combination of prose and artwork and comics. This is simply a dazzling book collecting a treasure trove of insight and information and making it all feel like a carefree conversation.

223 W. 42nd Street in 1964 and in 2014.

“Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City” is a 284-page hardcover published by Black Dog & Leventhal.

If you’re in Seattle this weekend, be sure to stop by and see Julia Wertz at the annual comic arts festival, Short Run, or the the Seattle Public Library. At Short Run, on November 4th, Wertz will be giving a slideshow/talk about her urban exploring from 3:30-4:30pm at the Vera Project. And at the downtown Seattle Public Library, on November 5th, Wertz will hold a slideshow and conversation with cartoonist Nicole Georges from 2-4pm.

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Filed under Comics, graphic novels, Julia Wertz, New York City, Short Run, Short Run Comix & Arts Festival

Review: ‘Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point’ by Danny Hellman

Harry’s Comeuppance Over Manhattan

Harry Homburg was a porn magazine mogul. His life was not poetic or refined. But he could always rely upon making money and getting laid. That’s all that seemed to matter. And then the bottom fell out of the traditional porn industry. This is the basis for Danny Hellman’s new book that follows one man’s attempts to claw his way back to the top. I believe Danny Hellman to be one of the hardest working illustrators in the business. He has secured his place in his chosen field of illustration with a singular style and sense of humor. “Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point” is his first long-form work in comics.

Is there more to life than sex and money?

I’ve seen various short comics narratives from Hellman and I’ve always enjoyed them. I do appreciate his often ribald and provocative stuff and this new book about a fading porn publisher fits right in with his jaded big city tough guy brand. The book is set up at one panel per page. The introductory remarks attached to the book state that it is “one scene per page, like a series of smartphone screens.” The premise is that, in order to save his failing Harlot magazine, Harry will do anything–except change with the times. And why should he? As far as he’s concerned, the typical Harlot reader not only is tech clueless but can’t even afford a computer. This comic itself, interestingly enough, mirrors Harry’s cynical view. Like a really goofy skit on SNL, you just roll it and Hellman has the balls and the skill to get away with it.

Almost like father and son.

There’s a moment in the story where Harry Homburg is preparing to have dinner with his elderly business partner. Harry calls over the waiter: “Jimmy, listen. This guy is macrobionic. No menu. Just bring him a bowl of moss.” It’s a sharp and funny little moment. And I could very well see Hellman writing the whole book just to include it. The book really feels like a wiseguy giving everyone the finger and that’s not easy to do well, and with style. If you’re a fan of Howard Stern (and, at this point, who isn’t?) then you’ll relate and rejoice to the humor found here. If you’re looking for the next cutting-edge work in graphic novels, this is not that kind of gem. That said, it is a gem, all the same.

A night out at Papageno.

Much of our story takes place in Lower Manhattan at Restaurant Papageno. There is excitement in the air with the anticipation of Homburg’s publishing exclusive photos of a sex scandal involving a US President. Add Homburg’s struggles with the digital age and it all feels circa 1998. But that’s neither here nor there. Basically, Hellman would tell you, it’s the present–deal with it. And, you know, I can deal with it. If you’re someone who has explored NYC with any depth, you know there is plenty of activity lost in a time warp. This is all fun and gritty stuff that rings true. And, sure, I’d be happy to see people reading this comic on their smartphones. As of this writing, this book is only available as a hardcover. A Kindle version will be available as of June 1, 2017. This is part of a series so I am eager to see how things develop with this project.

“Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point” by Danny Hellman

“Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point” is a 112-page hardcover, in full color, published by Dirty Danny Press. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Comics, Comics Reviews, Danny Hellman, Illustration, Kindle, New York City

Interview: Peter Kuper and ‘The System’ and ‘World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014’

Page 70 from "The System" by Peter Kuper

Page 70 from “The System” by Peter Kuper

Peter Kuper is passionate about comics, New York City, and activism. He has established himself as a leading authority on all three subjects in a remarkable career that continues to explore and to grow. Where to begin? Well, many readers will know Mr. Kuper for his continuous work on “Spy vs. Spy” in MAD Magazine, since 1997. In that same year, his landmark graphic novel, “The System” was published. And it all begins with a love for underground comics and pushing the limits. This would lead to “World War 3 Illustrated,” started by Kuper and his childhood friend, Seth Tobocman. All sorts of subversive ideas were percolating between these two cartoonists while growing up in Cleveland. We discuss a key moment that brought things to a boil.

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Filed under Activism, Comics, Graffiti, graphic novels, Illustration, Interviews, Peter Kuper, World War 3 Illustrated

Review: THOMAS ALSOP #1

Thomas-Alsop-Boom-Studios

“Thomas Alsop,” is written by Chris Miskiewicz, with art by Palle Schmidt, and published by BOOM! Studios. What I find appealing about this comic, and I believe you will too, is Chris Miskiewicz’s love for New York. “I love New York.” That phrase never got old, even if it ranks as one of the most popular of all time. Time and New York. It is a city at once rapid and methodical. Many stories. Many possibilities. And many ghosts. Miskiewicz taps into what we find fascinating about NYC through the story of a man destined to act as an avenging angel in the service of the island of Manhattan.

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews

Interview: FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME on Pivot TV performing at Joe’s Pub

Freestyle Love Supreme at Joe's Pub. (photo credit: Kevin Yatarola)

Freestyle Love Supreme at Joe’s Pub. (photo credit: Kevin Yatarola)

Pivot, Participant Media’s cable network presents an original special, an evening with the hip-hop improv group, FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME on Saturday, March 8 at 10PM ET/PT. The all-new half-hour special brings a national audience into New York City’s celebrated venue, Joe’s Pub, to experience the eponymous improv troupe’s uber-buzzy, high-energy live show from award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail, the creators of the Tony and Grammy award-winning musical, “In The Heights.” This first-time ever TV special will be taped in front of a live audience just two days prior to premiere. More details here.

Lin-Manuel-Miranda

Lin-Manuel-Miranda

Thomas Kail

Thomas Kail

Anthony Veneziale

Anthony Veneziale

It is an honor to get to interview the talented creators of Freestyle Love Supreme: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, and Anthony Veneziale. As Lin-Manuel says, Freestyle Love Supreme was taking shape at the same time that all three of them were working together on “In The Heights.” Freestyle was Anthony’s brainchild and he and Lin-Manuel were having fun with it. Then Thomas Kail came along and helped give shape to what has become an ongoing performance that has won over audiences. It’s all about participation as the audience provides the topics for the show.

Dubbed by The New York Times as “Masters in the art of Freestyle rhyme,” Freestyle Love Supreme uses rap to spin audience suggestions into fully-realized musical numbers. In addition to Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Freestyle Love Supreme” also stars Utkarsh Ambudkar, Anthony Veneziale, Chris Sullivan, Bill Sherman, Chris Jackson and Arthur Lewis. The show is created by Thomas Kail and Anthony Veneziale.

Pivot TV is all about its audience as it has fully demonstrated with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s popular “Hit Record.” You can now add to that, this original special from Freestyle Love Supreme.

Freestyle-Love-Supreme

Just click the link below to listen to the podcast interview:

Visit Freestyle Love Supreme here and Pivot TV here. And watch the Freestyle Love Supreme special on Saturday, March 8 at 10PM ET/PT.

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Filed under Entertainment, Hip-hop, Rap, Television