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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

GIRL POWER Books to Help Planned Parenthood. Downtown Bookworks to Donate From Sales

Downtown Bookworks

Downtown Bookworks

For the next two weeks, Downtown Bookworks (a woman-owned and women-run business) will be donating a portion of the proceeds from sales of My First Book of Girl Power and The Big Book of Girl Power to Planned Parenthood.

Help spread the word. This is a great way to stand with Planned Parenthood, an organization that empowers women. The Downtown Bookworks campaign runs from March 1st thru March 15th.

My First Book of Girl Power

My First Book of Girl Power

The last page of The Big Book of Girl Power sums up how Downtown Bookworks feels and why it supports Planned Parenthood through its donation campaign:

“When women get together to do good things, nothing and nobody can stop them!

What are your your special powers?

How will you use them to make the world a better place?”

Downtown Bookworks would love to see you and your kids enjoying their books. Please connect with them by sharing your comments and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Visit Downtown Bookworks right here.

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Filed under Comics, Downtown Bookworks, Planned Parenthood, Superheroes, Women, Wonder Woman

ECCC 2017: Dark Heron, the Official beer of Emerald City Comicon

The Dark Heron from Fremont Brewing in honor of Emerald City Comicon in Seattle

The Dark Heron from Fremont Brewing in honor of Emerald City Comicon in Seattle

For those of you in Seattle, or heading out to Emerald City Comicon, you will want to make sure to visit Fremont Brewing in Seattle’s quirky Fremont neighborhood (1050 N 34th St) and get yourself the official ECCC beer, the Dark Heron. Kick back and get it on tap or in a bottle for later.

Fremont Brewing in Seattle

Fremont Brewing in Seattle

How does the official beer of Emerald City Comicon taste? Well, here are my thoughts. It has what we love about India Pale Ales: that robust citrus flavor and a hint of melon. What would bring me back to this beer is its overall juicy flavor. Bringing in Fremont Brewing’s own mascot into the title of this beer raises the stakes and this beer lives up to its name.

The Dark Heron by Jen Vaughn

The Dark Heron by Jen Vaughn

How about the snazzy artwork? The art is by local cartoonist Jen Vaughn. Dark Heron looks like she can hold her own with any villain. The trading card (nab one if you see one) says that Dark Heron was exiled from her flock for daring to express herself differently from the rest of the group. I’d be totally into reading about her adventures!

SPECIAL EMERALD CITY COMICON NOTE: Jen Vaughn will be tabling at #T15, so come find her for new Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #2 and some Fremont Brewing label art for Dark Heron!

So, get ready for Emerald City Comicon (March 2 thru 5) and come visit one of Seattle’s favorite spots for beer, Fremont Brewing. It’s a great place to enjoy the lively Fremont scene with its spacious beer garden. Save me a spot and maybe I’ll come by and have a beer and chat about comics with you.

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Filed under Beer, Comics, Emerald City Comicon, Seattle

IMAGE COMICS FOUNDERS REUNITE AT EMERALD CITY COMICON 2017 TO CELEBRATE 25TH ANNIVERSARY (March 3, 2017)

Emerald-City-Comicon-Seattle

Emerald City Comicon 2017, here in Seattle, is fast approaching. It is a four-day event starting Thursday, March 2nd, and running through Sunday, March 5th. It is certainly a big deal for us locals as well as the Pacific Northwest and all points beyond. Image Comics will make a significant showing this year with a rare gathering of its founders to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Image Comics. This special panel is scheduled for Friday, March 3rd. Be sure to come to ECCC to see Image Comics founders Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio.

Press release follows:

Continue reading

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Filed under Comics, Emerald City Comicon, Image Comics, pop culture, Seattle, Superheroes

Fantagraphic Books to Publish ALL TIME COMICS, a Shared Superhero Universe Featuring the World’s Most Fanta*stic Heroes

All Time Comics, Crime Destroyer #1, Jim Rugg cover

All Time Comics, Crime Destroyer #1, Jim Rugg cover

Alternative comics and superhero comics mix it up in various ways. The Big Two comics publishers, DC and Marvel, will occasionally employ “indie” cartoonists. Image Comics has set a high standard in creator-owned comics that generally deconstruct the traditional superhero genre. And there are all sorts of satirical and subversive answers to the standard cape and tights. That brings us to today’s announcement of the launch of a brash new line of superhero comics titles from the alt-comics stalwart, Fantagraphics. The line of comics goes by the cheeky name of All Time Comics. The project is led by alt-cartoonist and writer Josh Bayer. This is part of a shared universe featuring four heroes: Atlas, Blind Justice, Bullwhip, and Crime Destroyer.

Panel work-in-progress from All Time Comics: writing, pencils, by Josh Bayer; inks by Al Milgrom; letters by the great Rick Parker.

Panel work-in-progress from All Time Comics: writing by Josh Bayer; pencils by Noah Van Sciver; inks by Al Milgrom; letters by Rick Parker.

The fun begins March 31, 2017, with “All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer issue 1,” a 36-page oversized comic book featuring the writing of Josh Bayer, the inks of Ben Marra and the last art by legendary artist Herb Trimpe, who co-created Wolverine. Upcoming issues feature art by Rick Buckler Jr., Ben Marra, Al Milgrom, Noah Van Sciver, and more. Issue #1 will feature two distinct covers, one by Jim Rugg and the other by Johnny Ryan. Upcoming issues feature art by Rick Buckler Jr., Ben Marra, Al Milgrom, Noah Van Sciver, and more.

Page from upcoming contribution by Noah Van Sciver (pencils) and Stephen Bissette (inks).

Page from upcoming contribution by Noah Van Sciver (pencils) and Stephen Bissette (inks).

This looks to be a true mashup of the sensibilities of alt-comics and superhero comics. Look for a love of the genre mixed well with irony.

Here’s a look at upcoming titles:

All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1

Josh Bayer (story); Herb Trimpe (pencils); Ben Marra (inks); Jim Rugg (cover) + Johnny Ryan (cover); MARCH 2017

All Time Comics: Bullwhip #1

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover) + Tony Millionaire (cover); APRIL 2017

All Time Comics: Atlas #1

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); MAY 2017

All Time Comics: Blind Justice #1

Josh Bayer (story and pencils); Rick Buckler (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Victor Martinez (cover); JUNE 2017

All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #2

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story, pencils, inks); Das Pastoras (cover); JULY 2017

All Time Comics: Blind Justice #2

Josh Bayer (story); Ben Marra (story); Noah Van Sciver (pencils); Al Milgrom (inks); Das Pastoras (cover); AUGUST 2017

For more details, follow Fantagraphics right here. You can also follow All Time Comics via Twitter @alltimecomics and via Facebook @ALLTIMECOMICS.

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Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics, Noah Van Sciver, Superheroes

Will Marvel Kill Off Loki??

Marvel Thor Ragnarok

After already having to endure a less than satisfying superhero face-off this year with Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and with reports of a less than critically acclaimed blockbuster in “Suicide Squad,” 2016 is not shaping up to be the best year for superheroes.

The good news however is that there is hope for 2017! There’s 11 new features lined up, which will be drip fed to cinema goers over the course of the next 3 years, and in November 2017, a third entry in the Thor franchise will be unleashed.

“Thor: Ragnarok” will be helmed by New Zealander Taika Waititi, one of the co-creators behind hilarious Kiwi comedy “What We Do in the Shadows,” and he’ll be directing from a script penned by Stephany Folsom, Craig Kyle and “Thor 2: The Dark World” scribe Christopher Yost.

The movie is already set to see Aussie star Chris Hemsworth return to don the iconic red cape and wield his powerful hammer, but we will also be seeing his on-screen brother and all-round cheeky nemesis back for more antics. Loki, played by the charismatic Brit actor Tom Hiddleston, will be making his 4th appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and as fun, malevolent and comedic as the God of Mischief has been, how is his future set on-screen?

He popped up as the main antagonist in “The Avengers,” as well as all the other standalone Thor features, but is the character destined for doom? In 2014, even Tom himself hinted at the possibility of Loki’s cinematic fate.

There are plenty of good reasons to finally kill off the character as new threats and other-worldly entities are slowly coming to the surface for hopeful superhero intervention.

So is Loki a superfluous villain or is there still life in the old dog yet? Already immortalised in popular media through a range of toys, clothing and whacky wobblers not to mention his cult status in the gaming and casino world, appearing in some of the best slot sites, the character is unlikely to be forgotten soon.

Marvel Loki Thor Ragnarok

This is all pure speculation and obviously there’s no official reports whatsoever that the green meanie will be done away with in the near future. But with Hiddleston himself becoming a more bankable actor and picking up larger roles, would a supporting supervillain part be enough for him going forward?

It’s no secret that “Thor: Ragnarok” is likely to feature the famous destined apocalyptic battle taken from the pages of the original comics which ultimately predicts the total annihilation of Asgard, and it’s Loki who is the catalyst for the battle. We can’t really imagine that his brother will be too happy about that and it could finally lead to Thor putting to rest sibling rivalry forever.

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Filed under Comics, Loki, Marvel Comics, movies, Ragnarok, Thor

Will The X-Men Survive Marvel’s Latest Mega-Event?

Death of X-Men

Guest column by George Brandes

In the heyday of the 1990s, the X-Men were far and away the most popular Marvel comic on the shelves. The animated series from the same era remains beloved by fans and the movies still consistently put up big numbers at the box office. But today, one place we’re seeing the X-Men less and less is in the pages of the actual comics. With the attention of the comics becoming ever more focused on reflecting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has begun to look as though one popular franchise is being left behind, the X-books.

Unless you’ve been living under a particularly large rock, you know there’s been a bit of a clash of the titans concerning the ownership rights for Marvel properties between Disney and Fox. Fox has the rights to the X-Men and Deadpool while Disney (and subsequently Marvel) gets the Avengers and everyone else. Disney has apparently made nice with Sony, who have the rights to Marvel’s other flagship hero, Spider-Man. The latest iteration of the web-slinger appeared in the recent Captain America: Civil War while Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark will make his own appearance in Sony’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. This reconciles the two once disparate cinematic continuities and their partnership is being reflected in the comics. Marvel continues to push new and exciting Spider-Man stories while experimenting with and expanding the character’s world.

Unfortunately, no such deal has been reached between Disney and 20th Century Fox. As a result, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the big-screen exploits of the X-Men remain at a noticeable arm’s length from each other. Even in the Avengers films with their inclusion of characters such as the Scarlet Witch, they’re careful to never specifically mention the world “mutant” lest they step on the toes of the films from Fox or recognize that mutants are even a thing in the MCU.

In the publisher’s latest relaunch with its All-New Marvel campaign, fans noticed a significant dearth of mutant-related titles, with the company instead choosing to focus more on the extraterrestrial Inhumans. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Marvel and Disney still have the film rights to a potential Inhumans movie while Fox retains its death grip on the X-Men franchise. It should also be noted that Marvel is no longer publishing The Fantastic Four as an ongoing comic, a property whose film rights are also owned by Fox. As a result of this impasse, Marvel has taken to slowly but surely erasing both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four from its merchandising as well.

The lack of X-books certainly isn’t because the characters are no longer popular. If anything, the X-Men are just as popular as ever judging by the money made at the movies. The mutants also continue to make their mark in video games, with three separate X-Men-themed casual titles among similar jackpot-based offerings online. They feature classic line-ups of characters that fans know and love while using the time-tested gameplay of a traditional slot-reel. These games work to expand the property’s reach to a much larger audience than would be possible through just the comics, or even the movies. Also, with the massive overhauls being seen throughout the X-verse, these games are one of the few places you’ll still be able to find the take on Wolverine that you remember from the original cartoons. The comics are now populated by Old Man Logan while the female mutant formerly known as X-23 now wears the Wolverine mantle.

If fans didn’t still connect with the mutants on a personal level, there’d be little incentive to use them as a draw for mass audiences. Clearly, there’s something larger at foot for their notable absence from the comics. The X-Men are obviously still a popular property, so it would be surprising to see the team disappear entirely from comic book pages. Marvel would be cutting off its nose to spite its face if they made such a move, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising given what happened to the Fantastic Four.

The X-Men have been a pivotal property in helping shape Marvel into the company we know it today, and they were also largely responsible for the modern day superhero film boom. While we would seriously doubt to see the mutants disappear completely, the future for homo superior has never looked more bleak. We can only hope that Marvel can reconcile with the property that helped to save it in its darkest hour.

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Filed under Comics, Fox, Marvel Comics, movies, Sony, Spider-Man, X-Men

Review: BLACK HAMMER

Black Hammer Jeff Lemire

BLACK HAMMER is the latest entry in the fish-out-of-water superhero story. For this first issue, Jeff Lemire tries out a bunch of scenes with his cast of misbegotten superheroes. And the twist at the end of this first issue, should leave you wanting more. Dean Ormston’s artwork compliments Lemire’s script with a light and ethereal quality similar to Lemire’s own artwork. And Dave Stewart rounds out the core creative trio with plenty of those spot on atmospheric colors: autumnal oranges and sunset pinks. Where all this is headed is still unclear but the overall offbeat quality is winning me over.

These are superheroes with a Golden Age vibe to them. The real deal type. And it fell upon them to make some big sacrifices they’d all rather not talk about. But talking things out is good, right? That’s what Abe would say. Of course, Gail would never listen. And Barbalien would just laugh. There’s this one scene where Gail, who happens to be stuck inhabiting a 9-year-old, goes off to sit and brood on a rooftop. Along floats by Barbalien looking like this really big demon. He plops next to Gail and the two of them chat. It’s a good scene but it reminded me way too much of the sitcom, “3rd Rock from the Sun.” You know the show? It has a similar premise: aliens from another world stuck on planet Earth. You can imagine Joseph Gordon-Levitt up there on the roof with a hoodie feeling bad about himself and then John Lithgow comes out to join him.

I don’t think it’s such a good idea for this script to resemble a sitcom too much unless we’re heading down a particularly ironic path. There’s also a scene with ole Abe going into town to see his sweetheart, a waitress at the diner. That too has a squarely sitcom quality to it. I am willing to see where this goes. Then there’s Talky-Walky. He’s a robot determiend to invent a way to get off the island…uh, I mean planet. I sense that Lemire really wants to be very playful. So, if you’re in the mood for something whimsical, and ironic, this may end up adding up the further along you go past this first issue.

BLACK HAMMER is available as of July 20, 2016. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Jeff Lemire, Satire, Superheroes

Book Review: ‘A Hundred Thousand Worlds’ by Bob Proehl

"A Hundred Thousand Worlds" by Bob Proehl

“A Hundred Thousand Worlds” by Bob Proehl

Bob Proehl is in touch with the natural, yet complex, details of a mother and son relationship. In Proehl’s debut novel, he has Valerie Torrey face the bittersweet transition of her son, Alex, leaving behind childhood and quite literally having to say goodbye to his mom. It’s complicated but, in this case, inevitable.

Alex Torrey is a nine-year-old boy who hasn’t seen his dad, Andrew, in six years. In Alex’s world, his dad is three things: an actor in Los Angeles; a movie star he can see on TV; and, just for fun, the character he plays, a time traveling secret agent. It was Valerie who made the reckless decision to kidnap her son and raise him in New York. Now, Val seems to want to make things right by reuniting Alex with Andrew. Throw in an assortment of superheroes, monsters, and robots, and you have the engaging debut novel by Bob Proehl, “A Hundred Thousand Worlds,” published by Viking.

This story hangs together very well on the tiny frame of nine-year-old Alex, who is at that magical age of still being very much a child and yet capable of profound observation. He is a character type that has been brilliantly employed in some great fiction from such diverse writers as Günter Grass, John Irving, and Jonathan Safran Foer. So, Proehl has created his very own charming and sad little imp. Alex questions everything. He has certain rituals he follows to help him find answers like reversing the letters to various names hoping to tap into some hidden meaning. It makes no sense to an adult but follows kid logic. From this heartbreaking innocence we can compare our own journey to self-discovery.

Valerie met Andrew while the two were starring in the hit sci-fi series, “Anomaly.” The mystery is what triggered Valerie to run away with Alex to New York. Proehl sets in motion a clever device to get Valerie, Andrew, and Alex reunited. Six years of separation from his father has taken its toll on Alex, a situation crying out for resolution. Valerie leverages her pop culture status and picks up some appearances on the comic book convention circuit, enough to cover her expenses on her odyssey with Alex, from New York back to Los Angeles. Along the way, we get plenty of jokey references to the comic book industry, many which will be appreciated by diehard fans.

Proehl’s work is ambitious as he juggles numerous pop culture references while developing something deeper. He does a wonderful job of straddling the lighthearted accessibility of a young adult novel with the richer field of literary fiction. Valerie, for example, is quite compelling as a flawed character. Andrew has made some obvious bad choices but Valerie has much to work out like her smothering overprotective nature.

Proehl knows how to satirize pop culture quite well. It is remarkable that he also knows how to evoke the qualities that attract us to mass entertainment. Nothing is ever so simple, not a divorce, not a child, not even a comic book.

“A Hundred Thousand Worlds Hardcover” is published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, available as of June 28, 2016. For more details, visit Penguin Random House right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Comic-Con, Comics, pop culture, Superheroes

Review: SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #7 by Max Landis and Jock

Superman Max Landis Jock

Max Landis broke onto the scene with his indie cult hit movie from 2012, “Chronicle,” a subversive take on superhero tropes. That ultimately got the attention of DC Comics. Or maybe it was the parody short film Landis did that same year, “The Death and Return of Superman.” Landis has a take-no-prisoners approach in his critique on how DC Comics has managed Superman over the years. That led DC Comics to invite Landis to try his hand at writing a bit on ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN in 2014. And now, Landis presents his own limited series, SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN, which just completed its 7-issue limited run on May 18th. Let’s take a look at the last issue.

Granted, Superman is a very special case. As the most venerable comic book icon of all time, he is susceptible to being treated like a rare triple-mint (still in the box) action figure. You can easily end up with stories that are NOT stories but just confirmations on how awesome Superman is. That will placate a die-hard fan but it’s not worthy of a character with unlimited potential, right? You can place the Superman character is any number of situations, modulate the tone, get a little crazy too. In the end, without forcing it, focusing on a good story is how Superman stays fresh and interesting. That said, I really enjoyed reading the last issue to this limited series and I tip my hat to Max Landis and to the always dapper and cool artwork by Jock.

Superman American Alien Landis

What I like here is the looseness and irreverence. The series is seven stories in various times in Clark Kent’s life. For this last story, Landis and Jock work as a tag team to bring you a classic final showdown between hero and villain. In this case, Superman battles Lobo from the planet, Czarnia. Lobo from Czarnia? It sounds snarky badass as well as whimsical, something a child might say while playing with a battered action figure. That alone tells you that Landis is playing with a fictional character, not a prized trophy, and trying to shake things up. And that’s really what we want to read more of with our Superman stories. Here’s to reading more Superman stories that challenge the status quo in the future!

SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN is well worth picking up when it is available as a trade paperback or, if you prefer, read the singles! For more details, visit DC Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Max Landis, Superman