Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rant-Reviews: All Indie Comics

Smaller Press, But Not Smaller Fun
I enjoy reading comics from the big two (Marvel and DC) as well as other larger comic-book publishers such as Image, IDW, Boom, Dyanmite--you know, all the, "Premier," publishers you find listed at the Previewsworld website or in Previews catalog. That said, I continue to have a great affinity for the smaller, "indie," comic-book publishers (and micro-press too). With that in mind I thought I'd discuss an assortment of works from publishers that might not be as known as the, "Big dogs," but still make some cool works.

Getting Indie With It!
Daygloayhole  #1
Published by Silver Sprocket (who also published the awesome, "No Better Words," book I loved), "Daygloayhole," is going to becoming out quarterly and collects this work of Ben Passmore as he published the comic over time. Set in the world after its end due to an unclear cataclysm, the idea of a post-apocalypse is actually more-so used as a metaphor to discuss concepts as wide-ranging as police brutality, concepts of family, the ethical and financial considerations of the commercialization of sex via pornography, and gentrification. It's a fascinatingly weird comic, prone to random asides and just as likely to make a deep statement about humanity as it is to tell a dirty joke or show some wanton violence. The comic will be coming-out quarterly so I have to wait until July to read more, which feels like a long time to have to be patient as I loved this quirky book. The wait will just make it even more fun once I get to read the next issue, right?
5 out of 5 stars.

Infinity 8 #2
I have a soft spot for the publisher Lion Forge. Part of this is because they are based in the Saint Louis region, and because I've seen them grow from a smaller publisher who I enjoyed speaking with previously, to a quite notable presence in the field of comics. The latest series, "Infinity 8," will have a number of comics set in its weird space-world with each three-issue arc self-contained, and I believe the 3rd issue is already out. I haven't been able to pick it up yet though, so I thought I'd discuss the second. Basically the first issue did a lot of introducing us to a universe of aliens and agents who keep order on spaceships. At the end of the first issue things went haywire and now we get to witness all kinds of madness and danger. The book has a real Euro-comic feel--in a good way--with a mixture of sharply striking artwork and enjoyably dry humor. Even if this issue is mostly one big action-scene it is a fun one, and I'm eager to get to the comic-shop and grab myself a copy of issue #3 as soon as possible.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Jazz Legend #1
SCOUT Comics makes a number of stellar books, from, "Stabbity Bunny," to upcoming release, "Zinnober." Their latest new series is, "Jazz Legend," and it is an interesting mesh of fantastical horror and hints of meta-ness. The comic seems to be about an amazing jazz performer but it becomes clear that he may in some ways be suffering from having his life be a story created by a writer who is himself amazed what he records comes true. At least, that is what I took from it, with other reviews online seeming pretty befuddled too by the story but loving the bizarre tone and imagery. Just how real some people are and how much they are surreal creations is unclear, but this has piqued my interest enough I for sure want to keep reading the book. It's confusing and messy, but I think intentionally so. Plus, it discusses Jazz, a beautiful artform, so that element alone makes this a keeper.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wasted Space #1
VAULT is a newer publisher who has already been a solid job carving-out a name for themselves as putting-out interesting and surreal works. "Wasted Space," fits that bill for sure, featuring a wild mixture of ideas in a futuristic time full of space travel, religion, political intrigue, and "Fuq" bots. This is just a single issue--and a first one at that--so all these ideas at times threaten to make the story feel a bit overloaded and almost too packed with fun ideas. Thankfully things seem to balance out for the most part and by this issue's end we have a good handle on who the main characters are and what they'll be up to in future issues (taking down a corrupt politician abusing people's beliefs for his own gain seems to be the upcoming focus). It's a fun read and promising, I just hope it can deliver.
3 out of 5 stars.

Hidden Blood One-Shot
Amigo has been around for a bit and released a number of cool comics. This one-shot by the writer-artist known simply as, "Massacre," is a fun read in the style of an old-school grind-house flick. Focused on a former boxer named Clarice who has resorted to stripping since getting suspended due to her extreme methods of fighting, the book has the aforementioned strippers facing-off against a vampire, a Nazi-hunter confronted with evil robots, tons of nudity, heaping amounts of gore, and just enough knowing winks to the reader to make it clear the book is quite self-aware at its absurdity. The variety of corny plots sync-up and separate enough to make it clear care was put into the story no matter how silly it is, and Massacre's artwork is appropriately sexy or horrifying as the comic calls for it. Delightfully cheeky stuff.
5 out of 5 stars.

Galaktikon #6
Published by Albatross Funnybooks, the finale issue of this series comes from the talented Brendon Small (of "Home Movies," and "Metalocalypse," fame) where he has taken his musical albums that tell the story of flawed space-hero Galaktikon and has made it into a solidly interesting yarn about a how our idols often can be flawed and troubled jerks. It sounds depressing, but, "Galaktikon," was actually quite the darkly funny series and this final issue ends in a way that leaves the door open for more albums/comics as Galaktikon conquers some of his own personal demons and fells a longtime enemy, but still clearly needs a lot more personal growth before approaching anything resembling a functional adult. It's bleak-yet-fun stuff. I liked it a lot.
4 out of 5 stars.

There's Always Good Stuff Hiding Out There
If you ever find yourself getting tired of the kind of books put out by bigger publishers just remember there is always some good stuff hiding out there that you just might have to look a little bit for, checking out all the less-known publishers for some quality books. Also, I am aware how half the books I reviewed interestingly seemed to involve outer-space to some degree. I guess I know what I like!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Funko Friday: Princess Diana and the Upcoming Royal Wedding

The upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is less than 24 hours away and in a cool coincidence some Funko Pops featuring Princess Diana I ordered from CNS Toys arrived today. I am just old enough to remember when Princess Diana was still alive and how much we all loved her. I also remember that fateful night she sadly died in a limo crash whilst the driver was trying to evade the paparazzi. Having Funko Pops commeerating Princess Di is really neat, even if the Funko corporation maybe should have thought-through the questionable messaging of having their rarer variant labeled a, "Chase," seeing as how she passed. That aside, it is a really cool Funko Pop and I love the rarer red dress variant even more--hence it going in a hard-stack to keep it extra safe.

Thanks again to CNS Toys, and I want to remind readers of the blog that if they visit CNS Toys and make a purchase, they can use promo code TNR5 for 5% off. I appreciate CNS Toys giving me such a code to share with folk and hope it can assist other Funko-fans in getting their desired items!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Observation on Free Speech in Comics AKA Richard Meyer is a Moron

A classic piece by xkcd.
I have an observation on the concept of free speech in the field of comics. Basically, if the things you say within your comics, in regards to the comic industry, or when it comes to politics don't get you arrested and charged with a crime such as obscenity (like Mike Diana was) or locked-up in prison, you still are exercising your freedom of speech free as defined by the constitution. If your name is Richard Meyer and you say horrible and hateful things that result in the comic-book industry despising you to such a degree that a fine comic company such as Anarctic Press refuses to publish your book once made aware of your beliefs, that is fully within their rights as well. You haven't had your freedom of speech trampled on, you still are free of incarceration or being charged with any crimes. You aren't suffering for your beliefs in any way like say, Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar who has suffered horribly for critiquing the corrupt government.

Richard Meyer has said things that are homophobic, sexist, transphobic, and otherwise has proven himself to be extremely capable of blaming others for his failure to succeed in the field of comics, but shown he sucks at basically anything else--such as making good comics or behaving in manner similar to a decent human being. In other words, Meyer isn't being mistreated or persecuted. He's just mad he's getting called-out for being a dick and has rallied other hateful people to support him who like to blame any kind of diversity as making comics worse for...reasons (e.g. Comicsgate). Richard Meyer has the freedom of speech to be a horrible person, and everyone else has the right to choose not to give him any money. He isn't being arrested or locked-up, he's just a loudmouthed moron spreading hatred on the internet.

Monday, May 14, 2018

I Hope Everyone Had a Great Mother's Day Yesterday!

I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day yesterday. Ours was mostly delightful as we celebrated Samii's second Mother's Day as Clarkson's Mom. I love my wife so much and am thankful everyday for someone as caring, sweet, and beautiful as her. She's a fantastic Mother and I look forward to honoring her further on future Mother's Days!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

This Kickstarter for, "Dragonstorm Volume 1," Looks Cool

I sometimes talk about Kickstarter campaigns that have caught my eye, and seeing as how I love comics it makes sense those are generally what I focus on. The creator of a new campaign named Jaydee Rosario reached-out to let me know he had just started a campaign to collect volume 1 of, "Dragonstorm." Jaydee actually first emailed me years ago back in 2012 when he was just starting, "Dragonstorm," and he has been working hard at the series since!  "Dragonstorm," is the story of a hero who has  to raise the granddaughter of his greatest enemy. Neither of them are excited about this but they need each other in order to survive.

Jaydee is the writer and the great-looking art is done by Craig Shepard with Michael Summers on colors. I'm also encouraged by the fact that the entire story is done and they just are doing the Kickstarter to raise funds for printing the comic--this isn't one of those cases where you'll be waiting months-to-years for them to finish the book. It has 33 days to go and already has raised over 500 dollars of the $1549  goal. I wish Jaydee, Craig, and Michael the best of luck and hope their comic get funded!
Check out the Kickstarter at this link!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Advance Review: Zinnober #1

I'm on a press list for the fantastic publisher known as SCOUT Comics and had the opportunity to read an advance copy of their upcoming comic, "Zinnober." The concept is one we've seen in some other forms, a world where dragons arrived and destroyed the Earth, leaving a small number of survivors. However, writer-artist  Ralf Singh and co-writer Thorsten Brochhaus put a new and unique spin on things I quite enjoyed. Things start simply enough--at the start of the issue we meet Claire and her mentor James as they try to save a dog left out as bait for the dragons.

They end-up rescuing another human and learn that there might be some way to fight against the dragons. In the process we also learn about a dragon-worshiping cult which seems harmless, but clearly has some issues, as a cliff-hanger of potential violence makes clear. I liked that, "Zinnober," does the storytelling technique of, "Show, don't tell." It could have spent pages of text explaining the back-story that dragons invaded Earth and people now live in fearful hiding, but instead the comic lets us figure that out as it portrays the ruined world.
Singh's artwork is great, expertly showing the destruction and the imposing nature of a dragon we see. The creature is large and scary enough it seems believable that a bunch of these could have wrecked the planet. Even though it is a big concept, the story keeps things pretty grounded, focusing on the human characters and their everyday struggles to survive. It results in a fantastical world with realistic characters, a blend I quite enjoyed.

"Zinnober #1," is a great start of a story. It's mysterious but tells us enough of what we need to know, has great artwork, and introduces plenty of strong and interesting characters. I'm excited to see what future issues hold for sure. I'd rate this a great 4 out of 5 stars. You still have time to tell your comic shop to hold a copy of, "Zinnober," when it comes out and I'd encourage you to do so, this is a fantastic read!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Special K Pastry Crisps Are My New Favorite Breakfast Snack

Special K recently introduced a new, "Bakery inspired," item that is just plain delicious. Called a, "Pastry Crisp," you can buy it in the flavors of strawberry, blueberry, or my favorite, brown sugar and cinnamon. There also is apparently a, "Cookies and Cream," as well as a ,"Red Velvet," flavor but I've been unable to find those, so I'll pretend they don't count. They taste kind of like a pop tart had a baby with a toaster strudel, but you don't actually toast them, they just already are crisp and fresh out of the package.

I'm not sure how Special K managed to make this new product as tasty as they did, but I and my wife love it! You don't have to wait for them to toast-up or worry about burning your mouth, you just pop open the package and then eat the two delicious Pastry Crisps contained within one wrapper--and then if you're still hankering, you have another! Pasty Crisps are my new favorite breakfast snack, although I do eat them at other times of the day as well! I encourage you to find these at your local store and give them a try as well, they're tasty.

Note: Special K in no way asked me write this or even contacted me--they don't even know I exist, most likley. I just felt like sharing my love for Pastry Crisps and will of course email them to let them know I wrote this.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Yeah, "Kanye West Let Us Down," Myself Included.

Kanye West way back in the, "College Dropout," days.
I read an article on Vulture so perfect for me it even ends with a quote from OutKast. It discusses how maybe we should have seen Kanye's sudden swerve into Trump-boosting and conservatism coming. Perhaps this isn't a time to joke he's, "Gone crazy," or dealing with drug issues, because making excuses just puts a band-aid on the bullet wound of truth, that Kanye West let us all down.

The "Us," in this situation is anyone who believed in Kanye despite his flaws. He was narcissistic, he was egotistical, he was impulsive, but goddamn he was (and probably still is despite all this) a genius. He created masterpieces of music even on his off-days. He spoke his mind, making it clear he felt so many marginalized people had been given a bum deal. The first song on his debut album, "The College Dropout," is titled "We don't care," and is all about how people expect minorities to struggle and fail, but he's going to speak-out against that. He talked about how rap music should quit all the homophobic-talk before it was more commonplace for rappers to realize it was wrong. He cared a little bit too much about himself, but he also clearly cared about others.
When Kanye said what we were all thinking.
He was political and said on national television what so many people were thinking during Hurricane Katrina, that George Bush did not in fact care about black people affected by the hurricane, or in general. Kanye spoke truth to power, whether he had some of that power or not. Then he suddenly did a swerve into stating a love for his, "Brother," Donald Trump and declared that in some way or fashion, "Slavery was a choice." Kanye was the scorn of so many people who are now suddenly quick to grab ahold of him as a token trophy. I remember the past years reading online people saying the most terrible things about him when he spoke out against Bush, or admittedly acted foolish and interrupted Taylor Swift getting an award (something she has never let go, though).

I am witnessing the same people who called him, "A dumb nigger," an, "Uppity nigger," and a, "Loudmouthed. nigger," (the N-word was almost always used) now acting like he's their best friend because he said nice things about our poor excuse for a President. These people who were so quick to drop the N-word about Kanye or black people in general now love him because he's inexplicably a big fan of Trump and conservatism. As the article by Vulture notes, how can the same man who rapped about the Government possibly purposely keeping black people poor and addicted to drugs in, 'Crack Music," now be Trump's BFF?
He really said this.
I still love Kanye's old music, and the message it imparted. I feel the same thrill and wonderment at the lyrics and production on my favorite tracks of his today. I listened to his music so much during times in my life from the end of high school to now when I'm a father that his music has been there more than a quarter of my life. His music meant so much to me, with only OutKast being beloved by me any bit more (at least until the more-recent arrival of the amazing Kendrick Lamar on the scene). We--no, let's be personal here--I, yes, I supported Kanye when he was up and when he was down, and he repays all the people who cared about him and supported him by doing whatever this thing is he's doing now. I don't know what happened to Kanye in the past month that resulted in this 180-degree turn in his entire thoughts and beliefs. I just know that Kanye West didn't just let, "Us," down. He let me down.

It may sound silly for me to be writing this, some person Kanye has never met or cared about acting like he would even care how I feel. When someone is with you so much of your life and means a lot to you however, it stings when the person you believed in utterly betrays everything you thought he held dear. I know Kanye West doesn't care how about my thoughts, just as all the people who once hated him and now supposedly love could care less about my opinion too. I just am aware how I and many others feel, and wanted to say it.
We were there for you when you needed us most, Kanye, your fans and supporters. We backed you up when you fought against powerful forces who we all knew were wrong, but few were willing to stand up to. We offered condolences when your mother died. We worried about you when you needed hospitalization. We always stood by your side. Then you suddenly got, "Red-pilled," and quit believing everything you stood for in favor of stating horribly incorrect alt-right ideas and sharing your love for a conman who will cast you aside once you're no longer useful as he has done to anyone else associated with his Presidency. I'll say it again, you let us down and you let me down. Out of all the times you did something questionable and came back from it, I don't know if you can do that this time, or if you'll even want to. I hope you enjoy your new, "Supporters," and new faux-friend, we'll see how long it lasts.

Television Tuesday: People Really Ought to Watch, "American Housewife."

There is a show on television that is absolutely hilarious. Called, "American Housewife," it follows a middle-class family in a more upscale neighborhood as they have various hilarious events unfold that assist them in both growing as people and giving us laughter. It has a delightful mixture of quirky-and-dark that reminds me of shows such as, "Bob's Burgers," and, "Everybody Loves Raymond." The characters are among some of the most easy-to-relate-to on television and I can't believe more people don't talk about Katie and Greg Otto (and their three kids Taylor, Oliver, and Anna-Kat).

In the midst of its second season, my wife and I discovered the show when it came on right after another program we watch, "Modern Family." While, "Modern Family," has been on for years and sometimes struggles to be as funny as it once was, "American Housewife," fires on all cylinders almost constantly. A third season has not yet been announced but Samii and I really hope it will be. The fantastic acting of Katy Mixon as the the mother is wonderful, with her observations about wealth inequality, fat-shaming (she is a bigger woman), and anything else always hitting the mark. Diedrich Bader is great as Greg as well, bringing just the right mixture of neurotic-and-fun.
Diedrich Bader and Katy Mixon as Greg and Katie.
Many of the plots on the show involve the family's children, with the eldest, Taylor, played by Meg Donnelly, as a testy high-schooler who loves her parents, but also finds them to be incredibly annoying in how they won't let her do whatever she wants. Middle-child Oliver (portrayed by Daniel DiMaggio) is often annoying--but intentionally so--as a status-obsessed young man who wants to grow up to be one of the rich people they always see in their town of Westport. Lastly is the youngest, Anna-Kat, played by Julia Butters, who is a bit of a wildcard in her mixture of sweetness yet also being obsessed with gory aspects of history and exotic pets (for a while the family had a pet pig named Hans Gruber). Anna-Kat seems like the kind of kid who will either grow up to be an interesting and nice adult, or a total sociopath--wondering which is part of the fun.

A great deal of humor in the show comes from normal everyday challenges and events that are made laugh-inducing thanks to the stellar core family cast as well as an assortment of strong supporting characters played by such great actors as Ali Wong and Carly Hughes(who portray friends of Katie) or George Hamilton as the family's rich-yet-also-in-deep-legal-trouble neighbor Spencer. Basically all the casting on the show is pitch-perfect and a major reason this program is so good.
Katy Mixon, Carly Hughes, and Ali Wong.
As I said earlier, "American Housewife," has not yet been renewed for a third season, but I really hope it will be, as Samii and I love watching it! As long as it can continue to be as hilarious as it is, "American Housewife," is a show you really ought to check out. Give it a viewing and the odds are pretty good you'll be cracking-up!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Toyman Show Continues to Delight!

Today I was able to go yet again to a Toyman show, and as always it was a really fun time.  For this show I arrived quite early and witnessed as vendors came and set-up. It was great how streamlined and easy the check-in process was for them and it was cool to watch an empty area fill-up with all kinds of toy-and-comic goodness. I had the opportunity to talk to Chris, "Toyman," McQuillen and he shared about how the first-ever show was in November of 1990 and it has been wonderful to watch it grow in size and popularity. We discussed how he is always working on getting more great guests, and thinking of ways for vendors and potential vendors to optimize their space, adding, "The more interested vendors we can fit here selling an even wider variety of things, the more fun it is for everyone!"

I myself had a stellar time at the show. I had to leave a bit early due to a family obligation that sprung-up but still got some great stuff before I left! I didn't acquire any comics on this visit but got a bunch of cool Funko Pops. I was able to trade an assortment of ones I brought with me for this superb assortment:
Also, I got this famous, "Breaking Bad," vehicle:
The Toyman Show continues to be a must-visit event if you're a fan of toys, comics, Funko Pops, Hot Wheels, or just looking at a ton of cool stuff from vendors while meeting neat celebrity guests. The next one will be July 8th and you can learn more at the website. It continues to be a spectacular deal at only $5 for entry starting at 9AM and $12 if you want to do the early-bird entry deal, which I always recommend as so much good stuff sells so fast! So yes, mark your calendars for July 8th, I know I have!