Tag Archives: Pop Music

Pop Culture Focus: Randy Bowles and the Sixties

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Randy Bowles at Simply Desserts

Here at Comics Grinder, we not only love pop culture but we dig deeper–all the way to its roots. With musician Randy Bowles, I have a friend who can share insights into the Sixties from a unique perspective. As a co-founder of Yakima, Washington’s Velvet Illusions (1966-67), Bowles found himself in a catbird seat to view and participate in his generation’s journey through identity, rebellion, and so much more. It was the beginning of a career in music that would take him in many directions.

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Randy Bowles of the Velvet Illusions

Ultimately, Randy Bowles carved a niche for himself in folk music and he’s remained active in that, and general storytelling, ever since. You can enjoy his special brand of insight at his WordPress blog right here. We became friends through the WordPress community and it just goes to show you yet another benefit of being part of WordPress.

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

The Velvet Illusions (1966-67)

Getting back to Randy, an important thing to know is that he was in this cool band, The Velvet Illusions, and then he went on to other cool bands and his own solo work. As for Velvet Illusions, listen for yourself and you’ll find a fun and steady beat. Here they are singing the Velvet Illusions theme:

In our recent chat, we discuss the Sixties for a bit and mainly focus on fashion. Bowles provides some insight on the passions and interests of the Sixties generation: what was homegrown versus what was manufactured to sell to a mainstream audience.

Randy Bowles is a good guy. I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

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Filed under 1960s, Counterculture, Music, pop culture, Randy Bowles, The Sixties, The Velvet Illusions

Comic-Con 2014 Interview: Becky Cloonan

Becky Cloonan’s artwork is one of the most distinctive, energetic, and pleasing styles in comics. We chat here a bit about process. As a cartoonist myself, I appreciate the “controlled chaos” of laying down lines of ink on paper. For a casual reader, that means an expressive line with the marks hitting where you want them to hit. This fluidity only comes with practice. As a top professional, Cloonan can modulate that line as needed.

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For some comparison, in “The Mire,” a work that Cloonan both wrote and drew, she turns up the volume a bit on her brush work. Another great artist who loves to play with process is Paul Pope. There are so many to name. And they all have tons of fans who appreciate that playful linework. If you’re new to comics, you will instinctively know what I mean. For her art in “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” published by Dark Horse Comics, she provides a line that, as we say in comics, is more “clean.” There are flourishes too and an overall boldness. Cloonan goes on to offer that the clean line here serves the narrative as we navigate through various characters.

From the back of the newly released trade paperback to Killjoys:

Written by Gerard Way (The Umbrella Academy) and newcomer Shaun Simon and beautifully rendered by award-winning artist Becky Cloonan (Demo, Conana the Barbarian), The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys foretells a not-too-distant future where fear reigns and freedom fails.

You can find more details by visiting our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Becky Cloonan, Comic-Con 2014, Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Interviews

Bryan Lee O’Malley On The ‘Seconds’ Book Tour: Seattle’s Town Hall

Tacocat at Seattle's Townhall

Tacocat at Seattle’s Townhall

It’s always a treat to get to see one of your favorite artists in person. In this case, we got a chance to listen to one of Seattle’s hottest bands, Tacocat, and we got an in depth conversation between The Stranger’s Paul Constant and cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley. It was a very special night at Seattle’s Town Hall that included most of the creative team behind the graphic novel, “Seconds.” (Read my review here) On hand were drawing assistant Jason Fischer and colorist Nathan Fairbairn. Letterer Dustin Harbin couldn’t make it. O’Malley explained his absence as having to do with him being in North Carolina. It came off as funny and that’s how he meant it. Of course, he expressed his undying gratitude to all his creative team. Overall, the tone of the event was lighthearted, a bit ironic, and just what you’d expect from the creator of one of the coolest comics around, Scott Pilgrim.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Comics, The Stranger

Graphic Novel Review: PRETENTIOUS RECORD STORE GUY by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz

Pretentious-Record-Store-Guy-comics

There’s a high level of cool playing off a serious case of regret in the always engaging graphic novel, “Pretentious Record Store Guy,” by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz. As a fellow traveler in cartooning as well as hipster preoccupations, I can say that Ruiz has concocted something pretty special. It’s like he’s willed to life a particular view with all its quirky faults. Once the shark stops, he is doomed. Ruiz finds a way to keep that shark moving.

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Filed under Carlos Gabriel Ruiz, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Music

Review: ‘The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,’ published by Dark Horse Comics

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Brian Epstein was in search of greatness. He found it with a ragtag band in a little basement club. These lads from Liverpool were not just any ragtag band. Brian Epstein was an expert on pop music and knew right away that The Beatles were special and could use his help. And so Brian embarks upon his true calling which is faithfully retold in the graphic novel, “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” published by Dark Horse Comics, for their imprint, M Press.

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To be a homosexual in England in the 1960s could land you in prison. And to be Jewish could put your life at risk during a time of great anti-Semitism. Brian was both and very much aware of the danger. However, he wasn’t someone to be pushed around with either. The script by Vivek J. Tiwary, a Broadway producer and avid Beatles fan, gives us a portrait of a determined young man who is very passionate about music and style. But it’s not just a passion, it’s a way of life: You can conquer the world if you look the part. This worldview is essential and part of what Brian will instill in The Beatles. Just like a well dressed matador wows the cheering crowds, so the well dressed image of The Beatles will wow the world.

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The artwork by Andrew Robinson (Star Wars, Batman), with contributions by Kyle Baker (Plastic Man, Why I Hate Saturn), transports us back quite nicely to the good cheer and irreverence of the young band led by the young old soul Epstein. We see Epstein go from running the family business, the record store, Nems, to managing The Beatles. By sheer determination, Epstein continues on course believing in the band’s potential more than the band had ever dared dreamed themselves. Andrew Robinson has a deft touch with facial expression and body language. His engaging character development brings the lads and their magnificent manager to full life.

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The challenge in writing such a book was starting out with a relatively small amount of information on the subject. Of course, any true Beatles fan or serious scholar of pop culture knows that Brian Epstein was The Beatles manager–but not much more. What Vivek does is pretty amazing. It’s not impossible, no doubt, but it’s an ambitious goal to take any compelling figure and tell their story. It has been a project that Vivek has been building up for some twenty years, beginning as a youth fascinated with the entertainment business and evolving as simply a love for the man himself. This tribute to Brian Epstein is spot on and will inspire.

Told in three parts, this story unfolds at a fast pace. Given the roller coaster of events, that rings true. In only six years, from 1961 to 1967, Epstein took a promising, but unknown, band and did as he vowed he’d do, made them bigger than Elvis. Along the way, we have time for some fascinating extended scenes that give us insights into what it was like for Epstein, both personal and professional. We come to see just how painfully lonely he was. And we see him navigating some unusual business dealings. The scenes with Colonel Parker and with Ed Sullivan are interesting. And to think it all came to an end for Brian Epstein at the age of 32. The Beatles would only last another couple of years after his death. But, that end was just one end. The music lives on. And, with this book, the story of Brian Epstein lives on in this compelling work.

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“The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story” is a 144-page hardcover, priced at $19.99, and available as of November 19, 2013. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics here. And be sure to visit The Fifth Beatle website here.

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Filed under 1960s, Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, The Beatles

Review: SACRIFICE by Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose

Sacrifice-Humphries-Rose-Dark-Horse-Comics

If you go to Comic-Con, in San Diego, you are likely to notice other forces at play besides comics and pop culture: the Pacific Ocean, the United States Navy, and the nation of Mexico. Writer Sam Humphries, with artist Dalton Rose, taps into the last on this list with great results in his self-published comics series, “Sacrifice.” Humphries has gone on to launch an impressive career (Ultimates, Uncanny X-Force, Our Love is Real). And now what started it all, “Sacrifice,” has been collected into a gorgeous hardcover published by Dark Horse Comics. The book will be released on August 21 in comics shops, and on September 2 in bookstores.

When you’re a teen who just wants to hide from the San Diego sun, curl up with a Joy Division song, and then suddenly finds himself thrust back some 700 years into the age of the Aztecs, there is no time to hesitate about anything. Sam Humphries is the John Hughes of comics. He is totally in tune with youth angst. He has taken Hector’s rage, his struggle with epilepsy, with fitting into high school, with debilitating anxiety, and he’s shouldered him with the fate of the Aztecs. Humphries doesn’t provide any easy answers. Hector is not going to get away with a simple life lesson.

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Check out that front cover art and the art throughout. Dalton Rose is right in step with this over-the-top tale. The driving force is Hector. As Rose describes in the notes at the end of the book, Hector is “a nice cocktail of angst, insecurity, and courage.” Much like the other characters, and even the background to some extent, Hector is rendered in energetic, sharp lines in keeping with the story’s high energy. Rose also praises another character, Itzcoatl, a foil to Hector, who Rose keeps mysterious under his costume. And then there is Malin, a hell on wheels, who is the driving force behind, and in front, of Hector. These are all bold, yet very vulnerable, characters trapped by, but fighting against, forces leading to a very real end to the Aztec nation.

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“Sacrifice” is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is all the history it so neatly packs into this story. It cleverly handles the classic time travel theme of attempting to alter fixed points in time. Are some things simply unalterable? Hector struggles with his role, his fate, among the Aztecs. At first, he simply wants to go home. Hey, he’s just a kid who somehow fell through a fast food parking lot and is now just way over his head. It is the beautiful young princess/warrior, Malin, who talks some sense into him. Before long, Hector finds himself totally immersed in the Aztec culture. In the end, should he even try to alter history and attempt to have the Aztecs overpower their Spanish invaders?

Quetzalcoatl-Sacrifice-comic

Humphries and Rose do a great job of taking a story with a lot of fantasy and science fiction elements and keeping it both quirky and grounded. We know that Hector has issues he’s dealing with back in the present day. What we also know is that Hector is a Mexican-American. He does struggle with that dual identity with one foot in each culture and no balance. And we also know that Hector’s family lived near the Black Mountain, which plays a significant role in Aztec history. Not only that, Hector’s father was fascinated with Aztec folklore and regularly recited stories to young Hector about gods, warriors, and Spanish invaders. Is it any wonder then that, when Hector’s life began to crumble, he sought higher ground, all the way up to Aztec temples?

“Sacrifice” gained much praise as a self-published comic series. For those who are already familiar with Sam Humphries and the work he is capable of (a tribute to Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock was a turning point, quirky, but a point on a significant turn, nonetheless!), well, it just makes complete and utter sense to celebrate the collected “Sacrifice.” So, keep in mind, the book will be released on August 21 in comics shops, and on September 2 in bookstores. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics for more details here. And plan to order you copy from Things From Another World here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dalton Rose, Dark Horse Comics, Mexico, Sam Humphries

Dark Horse Comics: THE FIFTH BEATLE Graphic Novel Trailer

From writer Vivek J. Tiwary and artist Andrew C. Robinson – THE FIFTH BEATLE (TheFifthBeatle.com) is a graphic novel recounting the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the brilliant visionary who discovered the Beatles in a cellar in Liverpool, nurtured, protected, and guided them to international stardom, and died extremely successful and painfully lonely at the young age of 32.

Published by M Press Books, a division of Dark Horse Comics, The Fifth Beatle will officially be released November 19th!
facebook.com/TheFifthBeatleFilm
twitter.com/FifthBeatle

Pre-order THE FIFTH BEATLE on AMAZON bit.ly/FifthBeatleAmazon

This marks the first full-length graphic novel painted by fanboy favorite Andrew C. Robinson (Dusty Star, King Conan, Starman, Superman).

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Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Music, pop culture, The Beatles

Interview: CARLOS GABRIEL RUIZ and Pretentious Record Store Guy

Pretentious-Record-Store-Guy

Record Store Day is April 20. How are you celebrating? Maybe you need to include some of this…

PRETENTIOUS RECORD STORE GUY is a comic by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz about, Guy Valentine, a cool young guy who, at 30, is wondering if there’s more to life than just being cool. A collection of this comics series is currently the subject of a fundraising campaign at Kickstarter, that ends on April 27, and you can visit right HERE.

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It hits Guy Valentine hard that he needs to get his act together. His life has always been about music and being cool. As a record store clerk, he’s hip to the latest music before everyone else, he gets in free to shows, and he gets to pose and preen before all those who can only wish to be him. But there’s got to be more to life, right?

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In this interview, Carlos shares with us what led to the creation of his character and his story. This began as a series in a local paper, moved on to become a comic book series, and is now ready to be collected into a book. Along the way, PRETENTIOUS RECORD STORE GUY has taken on a life of its own as its character seeks the meaning of life.

Click below for the interview:

Visit the Kickstarter campaign for PRETENTIOUS RECORD STORE GUY here. And you can also visit the PRETENTIOUS RECORD STORE GUY website here.

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Filed under Comics, Kickstarter, Music, pop culture, Record Store Day

STEAMPUNK: STEAMPUNK STYLE

Comics Grinder could not resist this one. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” gets the Steampunk treatment in this stylish parody. It’s sexy, funny, and joyful. What more could you want?

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Filed under Humor, Parody, pop culture, Steampunk