Tag Archives: Texas

Interview and Review: Donny Cates and REDNECK

Donny Cates

Donny Cates (GOD COUNTRY) is a writer to watch. His new comic book series, REDNECK, comes out this Wednesday, April 19th, and it is a highly imaginative mashup of vampires and good ole boy Texan tall tale storytelling. There’s a lot going on here that raises this comic to the level of exceptional work. And that certainly includes the masterful inks by Lisandro Estherren and colors by Dee Cunniffe. You can find it at Skybound, an imprint of Image Comics.

Cates comes across as a natural born storyteller. He’s got a passion for bringing the reader into his world. In this case, it’s a motley crew of vampires holed up in a little patch of Texas hill country. These are good folk. Don’t mean no harm. Just want to live out their endless lives in peace, you see what I’m saying here, pardner?

It ain’t easy bein’ a vampire.

First off, you need to know that this is a real tasty twist on vampires. Cates suggests that this is a reverse image of The Walking Dead where it’s humans surrounded by monsters. In the case of Redneck, it’s monsters surrounded by humans–which can be a lot more dangerous as humans can get organized about their violence. The Bowman vampire clan would much rather be left alone to run the local barbecue joint while surviving all these years on just plain old cow’s blood.

Inks by Lisandro Estherren; Colors by Dee Cunniffe

Our main character is Bartlett. He’s a lanky old fella who is constantly being spooked by Perry, his young niece who reads his thoughts. We begin with Uncle Bartlett reminiscing over his time in the Civil War. Perry insists on knowing which side he was on. Bartlett gives a gruff but worldly response: Live long enough, and you learn not to take sides. But that level of tolerance is lost on the boys in the family who are restless and want to stir up a little trouble. Mind you, “the boys” are in their sixties. But it’s all relative when you’re talking vampire years.

What Cates envisions for this comic book series is an exploration of Southern culture through an entertaining story. You get to know these vampires on a deep generational level. There’s the boys, and Uncle Bartlett and his niece, Perry. Then there’s the patriarch, J.V., leading the pack. And there’s also Granpa who is God only knows how old. Best to keep him locked up in the attic. He makes a brief and cryptic appearance in this first issue.

I asked Cates about a moment in the story when J.V. complains about these “pincheways” the young people use. What the heck is that? Cates did not miss a beat and provides a window into the authentic flavor to this story. Pincheways are a name an old Texan friend of Cates’s uses for cell phones. Seeing a new generation and their rapid-fire texting sort of disgusts him. That’s one of the many quirky cultural gaps you’ll find in this first issue. The combination of quirky script and art definitely makes this a welcome twist to the vampire genre.

REDNECK #1 is available as of April 19, 2017. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Horror, Image Comics, Interviews, Skybound Entertainment, Texas, Vampires

Book Review: JANE TWO by Sean Patrick Flanery

JANE-TWO-SeanPatrickFlaneryjpg

“Jane Two,” a novel by Sean Patrick Flanery, is a quirky coming-of-age story with a zest for life that you’ll find contagious. Our main character, Mickey, never got over his first true love back in childhood. But, as he sees it, that is not tragic at all. His childhood experience has made him the man he was destined to be. With that in mind, Flanery makes the most of giving Mickey plenty of life lessons, some pretty outlandish but all quite entertaining.

Sean Patrick Flanery (photo credit John Schell)

Sean Patrick Flanery (photo credit John Schell)

There are numerous examples of excellent coming-of-age stories. I love all types, everything from Philip Roth’s novel, “Goodbye, Columbus,” to the classic TV series, “The Wonder Years.” I think Flanery’s work falls somewhere in the middle: fun and highly entertaining but also reaching to literary heights. Flanery is so insistent upon turning the young Jane, the object of Mickey’s infatuation, into a large-than-life force of nature that, at times, he elevates his writing to magic realism. It is a natural inclination. I have felt it in my own writing. But then you need to deliver and Flanery does.

There isn’t a familiar trope that Flanery is not ready to make his own. For instance, Mickey writes numerous love letters to Jane but he mails them to a pretend address. In his youthful logic, he believes that, if his notes were meant to reach his love, the postman will have figured out where to deliver them. It is a small Texas town, after all, maybe the postman could be bothered to be part-time matchmaker between the football player and the hippie painter with flowers in her hair.

Flanery’s most endearing contribution to the genre is Mickey’s grandfather who proves to be an endless source of wisdom. But, more than that, given his special stature in the community, this is a hero, role model, and mystic all rolled into one. A beloved retired deputy sheriff from Lake Charles, Louisiana could be nothing less than that. So, Mickey is definitely in good hands with his grandpa. There’s also grandma, and both parents, to count on. The only drawback is Mickey’s sister who harbors a serious dark side.

An important thing growing up in a small Texas town, some might say the only thing that matters, is football. Lucky for Mickey, he takes to it exceptionally well. It is there for him to help prove his manhood and sees him into adulthood. A child, boy or girl, is constantly searching and testing. For Mickey, the arena is a neighbor’s lawn and then a high school stadium. Grandpa is there to keep Mickey focused. He does this along with some other colorful characters who bring to mind the tough but sometimes shortsighted guys in Mike Judge’s animated series, “King of the Hill.” Ultimately, it is Grandpa who comes back to talk some sense and remind everyone that life is short and one best get on with it.

Like I say, Flanery is mindful of coming up with some doozies of his own for the young love genre. As the cover suggests, there is something unusual going on that might turn out to be pretty symbolic. And, sure enough, Flanery creates quite a memorable set of scenes involving a pair of sneakers strung up a flag pole. For one thing, it is not nearly as simple as it may look. By the time we are deep into what is going on, we know we’re reading something that is going to stick with us and we will return to. Just the right frame of mind to be in for such a story of everlasting love.

“Jane Two” is a 304-page hardcover, audio book, and e-book, published by Center Street, written by accomplished actor, director, and writer Sean Patrick Flanery, available as of April 5, 2016. For more details, visit Center Street right here.

And be sure to check out the official JANE TWO website right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Fiction, Sean Patrick Flanery, writers, writing, Young Adult, Youth

The Power of Cinema: A Movie Review of GIANT

AN AMERICAN DIVIDE.

AN AMERICAN DIVIDE.

“Giant” is not quite as spectacular as “Gone with the Wind,” but it certainly holds its own. Both are colossal movies in star power, production, and size. “Giant,” however, is in a class all its own as it addresses head-on the curious relationship between the United States and Mexico and beyond. It is a powerful indictment on intolerance, expressed boldly and with audacity. And in 1956!

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.

The whole movie can be boiled down to one scene. In fact, the movie could very well have been made simply for the sake of this one scene. You may know it, or know of it. It’s easy to do a quick search and watch the clip on YouTube. But, like most things in life, we gain from digging deeper. You simply must see the whole movie to appreciate its significance. Like I say, this movie came out in 1956. We Americans still have much to learn, as a whole country, don’t we? Some people think all we need to do is build a wall.

HOLD ON THERE!

HOLD ON THERE!

By the time we get to that momentous confrontation in a modest roadside diner, the main character of Jordan “Bick” Benedict (played by Rock Hudson) has grown by leaps and bounds as a human being. The suggestion is that so could America, as a whole, and anywhere else there is ignorance and hatred. It was there then. It is here now. We just pretend it doesn’t exist, at least too many of us do. That’s what Bick did. He never acknowledged, let alone cared about, all the Mexican people around him. He was the patriarch of a cattle empire in Texas. That’s all that mattered. Even if Mexicans worked on his ranch and cared for his children, as far as he was concerned, they didn’t really exist. So, if any harm came to them, that wasn’t his problem.

WE HAVE US A FIGHT!

WE HAVE US A FIGHT!

Some people assume all is well with the world as long as they are doing well. They cannot, will not, see beyond what they consider to be important. Maybe it’s a sewing circle, or collecting recipes, or a family pet. In the case of Bick, all that mattered was the family estate of Reata. In Edna Ferber’s novel, faithfully brought to the screen by George Stevens, we find in “Giant” the sweeping epic story of Texas. We follow the Benedict family from about 1930 to 1950 and see how Bick reacts to the great transition from a focus on cattle to a focus on oil. The fate of the Mexican population seems lost in the shuffle but it is always referred to, demanding some kind of answer.

THE FACE OF A NEW AMERICA.

THE FACE OF A NEW AMERICA.

By the time we reach that moment of truth in that diner, Bick must act instead of just react. The precision drumbeat has begun to the rousing tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” on the jukebox just as Bick and his family walk in. The signal is clear, we have something big that’s about to happen. Bick’s eyes have been opened to the world. He can empathize. His own son is married to a Mexican. And they have a beautiful child, Bick’s grandson. When the family arrives at the diner, the diner’s owner is prepared to throw them out but hesitates. He barks an insult and cowardly walks away. A few minutes later, a serious confrontation is inevitable.

In just a few moments, Bick witnesses the diner’s owner manhandle a Mexican family that had just arrived. Bick is now in a position, in his mind and heart, to take a stand. As the music on the jukebox swells, Bick and the owner engage in a fight. First words, then fists, and then total mayhem. It’s the most direct and honest thing that Bick has ever done in his whole life and, to think it possible, in the defense of the Mexicans. While in may seem amazingly sophisticated and enlightened for such a major motion picture to have been made at that time, it really is not too much to ask. The tide was slowly turning towards social change. The general public, whether or not they admit so in public, know right from wrong. In fact, “Giant,” is a widely acknowledged icon. Like its name implies, it is too big to ignore and too big to dismiss.

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Filed under American History, Commentary, History, Movie Reviews, movies, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Social Commentary, Social Justice