Friday, April 15, 2011

Saturday Morning Comics Ramble

I haven't done one of these in a while but in the interest of blogging more, here goes nothing...

* I had lots of fun at MoCCA last Saturday, although I have this nagging feeling that I missed out on a lot. I was only able to be there for 5 hours, which seems like a lot, but I missed some good books and a few people I had hoped to catch up with. Also, I wasn't able to get to any panels, although this is nothing new. It's always a little disconcerting seeing so many cartoonists huddled together under one roof, a reminder of how the alternative side of comics is no longer an exclusive club of insiders. I love all the creativity surrounding the medium, and certainly there is a wealth of interesting new voices and artists every year, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the old days a little.

* On the plus side, I had a great time chatting with fellow writers Derik Badman, Matthias Wivel, Tim Callahan and especially Gary Groth. I also picked up a few interesting books, including Liar's Kiss (the slick new crime noir from Top Shelf), Vietnamerica by GB Tran (family memoir which looks outstanding!), Fart Party vol. 1 by Julia Wertz (I know this is not new, but after reading and loving Drinking at the Movies, several people I trust encouraged me to check this out), Crickets #3, Reich #8, Pood #3, Gabrielle Bell's new Diary mini, Lisa Hanawalt's I Want You #2, and a few other books that I can't recall off the top of my head. I also took a chance on an over-sized art book called Carrier Pigeon which labelled itself as a book of "illustrated fiction." There's no sequential art per se, but the graphic design and production values are incredible, and the eclectic illustrations are definitely striking.

* I did attend the Comics Journal panel discussion at the Strand on Friday night, which was actually really fascinating. I especially enjoyed hearing Gary Groth's reflections on interviewing Gil Kane and Burne Hogarth, two giant figures in the early Comics Journal years. Kim Dietch was also there to offer an artist's perspective on the Journal over the years, which I thought was a very nice touch. It was also exciting to hear that Fantagraphics is working on archiving the entire run of Comics Journals for free on the website. What a resource that will be!

* I was also excited to see the new Comics Journal book (issue #301) which I am proud to say I have an essay in ("The Decade in Comics"). It's a massive brick of a book with an impressive lineup of writers. The design of the book (by Criterion DVD's Eric Skillman) is beautiful.

* I'm eager to read Gary Groth's massive R. Crumb interview and see if he can convince me of the merit of his Genesis adaptation. My impression of it at this point is that it's beautifully illustrated (quite likely the best work in Crumb's illustrious career from a strictly aesthetic point of view), but that the project itself is not only flawed, but frustratingly devoid of purpose or critical thought. That being said, I am very open and curious to other points of view on the subject.

* As much fun as MoCCA was, I have to admit that I may have enjoyed Jim Hanley's Universe's incredible back issue sale even more (this was on the same Sunday). They apparently do this periodically, although this was my first time, but essentially, to clear out back stock, they allow you to fill up a box for $20 (the boxes typically hold about 150-200 floppies). They basically set up a room in the basement with dozens of long boxes which are completely unsorted and let people go at it. For the first hour it was like a feeding frenzy as people practically climbed over each other to scour for treasures. Everyone was pretty nice though, and eventually the crowd thinned out until only us die-hards remained. I was there for almost 5 hours! In the end, I walked with almost 200 back issues for a measly $30, including all kinds of great stuff, mostly obscure alternatives from the '80s and '90s. Some highlights include six issues of Graphic Story Monthly, Jim Blanchard's Cruel World #1, lots of Eclipse books, several Harrier Comics by Phil Elliott (a very underrated artist), three issues of Star Reach's Quack!, some random issues of Andrew Vacchs' Hard Looks and Ms. Tree, etc. Despite my wife's faint protests, I'm very much looking forward to the next sale.

* I've read a ton of good comics lately, although my time to devote to reviewing/blogging has been severely limited. I do still plan to post a Best of 2010 list (hopefully before 2012!).

* I've been particularly interested in older comics after reading Dan Nadel's Art in Time. I actually have a number of thoughts on that book, although I mostly enjoyed it. I did wish Nadel had chosen a better Glanzman story than Kona, which I thought was far inferior work to his war stories in Combat and also happened to be one of the worst comics scripts I have ever seen. The Harry Lucey crime stories that led off the book were incredible, a very different side of Lucey than most of us Archie fans are used to. Great stuff!

* Anyway, this interest in older comics prompted me to buy the three issue Buried Treasure series from Pure Imagination off eBay. In some ways, this was a similar project to Nadel's Art in Time. The magazine-sized series was compiled by Greg Theakston in the late 80s (apparently a follow-up series was published by Caliber Comics, although I have yet to see it). Theakston's selections were mostly excellent, focusing on classic, hard-to-find Frank Frazetta, Bob Powell, Mort Meskin and Alex Toth stories, among others. The Toth selections are particularly impressive, reproduced in over-sized black and white. In fact, the final issue consists solely of seven vintage Toth stories. Given the new attention Toth is about to get with the two upcoming biographies, this third issue is definitely worth tracking down.

* I also read the first trade of Buffy Season 8 from the library and I don't know, even though it was Joss Whedon I wasn't crazy about it. Maybe Buffy just works better as a TV show, or maybe Georges Jeanty just isn't that great an artist, but I was pretty disappointed. I might still read another volume to see if it gets better, but I'm not excited about it anymore.

* On the other hand, is it just me or has the Walking Dead's recent "No Way Out" storyline been awesome? This is literally the only new monthly series I still buy anymore. I've completely lost touch with the Marvel and DC universes.

OK, I guess that's enough for today. Take care out there, folks!

No comments: