Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Churchill: A Graphic Biography," Provides A Stellar Overview of a Fascinating Life

I'm on the mailing list for the publisher Dead Reckoning, which is the graphic-novel focused imprint of the Naval Institute Press (a part of the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, professional military membership association). The NIP prints books that explore naval and military history in both fictional and nonfiction methods. I was a huge fan of, "Trench Dogs," which explored World War I through anthropomorphized characters and was excited to get an advance review copy (it's due to be released April 15th, 2020) of a more nonfiction work, a graphic biography of Churchill.

Well-known historical figures who did great things as Churchill did can be tricky to write a biography about because people have lots of preconceived notions. Some may be prone to deification as if Churchill could do no wrong, and those who would be all too eager to point-out only his failings. The foreword to the book by popular historian and biographer Andrew Roberts acknowledges this risk, as he lays-out in his opinion that this graphic biography does a stellar job refusing to sell Churchill short, but also willingly acknowledging the man's imperfections. He was loud, he was brash, prone to impulse, but he also was brilliant and integral in the Allies victory during World War II.

The version published in April will be full-color.
My review copy was black-and-white. 
"Churchill: A Graphic Biography," has a solid introduction that points-out this biography tries to be thorough, but with someone such as Churchill there was so much that went on in his entire life that this book is focused on more of notable points in his development as a young man and then most impactful decisions as a military officer and politician. The book's writer, Vincent Delmas (translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger), does an excellent job examining Churchill, starting with him as a young boy up through the conclusion of the war against Germany in WWII. Teenaged and early-20's Churchill is brave but almost foolhardy in how recklessly he rides a steed into battle.

As Churchill grows, he develops more skills in strategy and surrounds himself with the best advisors and tacticians during times he really needs their assistance. The ups and downs of his life are earnestly portrayed, with even a joyful moment such as the victory over Germany in WWII having a somber note as Churchill reflects that the Nazis may have been defeated but a new Iron Curtain falls across the World (Stalin and the Soviet Union). Churchill actually lived to 1965, but the book ends with the Japanese theatre of war still an ongoing concern and a good 20 years of his left uncovered. It is understandable as much time should be (and is) focused on the earlier parts of WWII where the UK was often under threat of German attack/actively being bombed, but it seems a little odd to suddenly just stop the biography when Churchill had a good deal of life left. It's the author's choice, however, and everything before the somewhat abrupt ending reads great.

The art by Christophe Regnault works superbly with the story. There are a lot of text-heavy moments as Churchill's life is examined, but at points in the book, Regnault gets to really cut loose with some stellar layouts, such as key battles of WWII. There are humorous moments drawn fantastically as well, such as a towel-clad Churchill fresh out of the tub joking with America's President Franklin Roosevelt about how, "Britan has nothing to hide." As this is a graphic biography it is key that the illustrated elements are strong, and Regnault is talented at making sure the book is as eye-catching as it is informative.

"Churchill: A Graphic Biography," is fantastic. It's informative while being engaging with the writing and artwork working in perfect unison. I would recommend giving it a read for sure if you want to learn about Winston Churchill in a unique manner compared to the all-prose biographies of him. I look forward to the book's release in April!
5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK And The Ongoing Fight for Equality

Today honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For some younger people learning about all the work he and everyone did to fight for civil rights, it seems forever ago. It wasn't. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929. He was murdered on April 4th, 1968 at the age of 39. Theoretically, MLK could still be alive today, aged 91. This is all living memory.  There are people in their 60s and 70s who remember having slurs and objects hurled at them when they were the first black children allowed into schools that were being desegregated.

Everything was more recent than some would maybe like to admit, and the struggle continues. Racism still is rampant, bigotry is earnestly displayed by those wearing, "Making America Great Again," hats and economic inequality--also a major concern of MLK--is a glaring issue as the rich make billions with minimal taxation and the poor struggle to even afford food and healthcare. The worst thing we can do for the memory of MLK is to think he solved everything. The struggle for equal rights continues and his dream that one day we will all be judged by the content of our character as opposed to the color of our skin is an ongoing one.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

News, Links, and Notes for January 2020

The Middle of January

The first month of this new year is a bit over halfway done. I hope your January has been good. Normally I hate January but after how insane December was I'm actually pleased for things to be mellow. Because I love you, my dear readers, I have saved links and interesting pieces of news to share with you in this post. No need to thank me, just feel free to Venmo me five bucks when I am able to figure out what the Hell my Venmo password or account name is.

Things To Share Thoughts On
Remember me? Yes?
Miss me? No?
Polygon had a great feature on the Kinect and how it failed despite the best efforts of Microsoft. It struggled when it came out for the Xbox 360 and even bundling it with the Xbox One when that console first launched couldn't make the thing popular.

Also from Polygon, an observational piece on just how miserable it is to try and shop at Gamestop.

The implosion of the organization known as The Romance Writers of America could be made into a novel itself, but more of a tragic thriller than anything passionate.

No, just no.
Gwyneth Paltrow's snake-oil peddling company Goop has a new show on Netflix and it is apparently as bad and cringe-worthy as one would expect. I will not even be hate-watching lest Netflix thinks that indicates a positive response.

I loved reading about these six small-press makers of comics to keep an eye on. Their work already is amazing and I wish them all massive success.

When, "The Simpsons," first came on the air in the late 1980's Apu was not made with malicious intent, but he is a pretty bad caricature and well past being of use to show still in his current incarnation. Fox seems to realize this as Hank Azaria (the voice of Apu and many other characters on the show) has said he won't be doing any scenes as the character going forward. Whether this means Apu will be retooled or just simply not appear on the show remains to be seen.
Buy these--legally distinct from--Baby Yoda items!
I like to buy stuff on Etsy ranging from vintage comics and knick-knacks to cute personalized gifts for my loved ones. Currently, there is not much merchandise of Baby Yoda/The Child from, "The Mandalorian," and Esty sellers have stepped up to fill that void. Disney does not like this, however. Anyone who isn't vague enough in a listing is finding themselves hit with a takedown notice/their item delisted.

Paste's list of the 100 best horror comics of all time has some selections I really agree with and some that made me go, "What?" It is overall a solid list though, and props to it for including the stellar, "Black Monday Murders," which I am still patiently waiting for to be finished.

To conclude, leave Harry and Meghan alone. Let them live their life however they want. If they do not want to be royals that's cool. Should Meghan want to return to acting in the form of voice-over work, that's fine too. Harry's mother--Diana--was arguably killed due to the actions of the paparazzi.  It makes sense Harry and Meghan want none of that and are fine giving up royal titles to have some semblance of regular life with their son. Let them be sad, happy, or whatever they feel in peace.

Try and Keep Warm
It will probably get colder before it gets warmer, so try and spend the rest of the month staying as warm as possible. I truly appreciate you all.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

You Don't Have to Read Every X-Men Book Coming Out Right Now

There are a lot of comics dealing with the X-Men coming out right now under this, "Dawn of X," line-wide relaunch. A lot are great, some are okay, none so far have been terrible (thankfully). It can feel a bit overwhelming as while the books can stand alone they are also one big interconnected tale (as upcoming collections of the comics reflect). It is okay if you don't want to read every book, however. Yes, seriously. Even the architect of all these X-titles (and writer of some key ones), Jonathan Hickman has said as much. Now, the books are pretty closely linked, so maybe that is easier said than done, others would point-out. This seems to happen whenever a particular character or line is especially popular.

There was a time Marvel was putting-out like 3 ongoing comics focused on Deadpool and at least two mini-series at a time with him too, the key was to prioritize the books you liked versus the ones you did not. Now, these, "Deadpool," comics did not really all tie together to tell a massive story, but you see my kinda-sorta shaky point. There is a massive all-encompassing story being told about the X-Men by Jonathan Hickman and all his collaborators, but these issues are like pieces to an absolutely massive puzzle. Should you be missing some pieces/issues here-and-there you'll still see the overall picture just fine. I'm not complaining yet, as I'm just happy comics with the X-Men have me this excited for the first time since Grant Morrison's work back in the early 2000s. Man, I am old.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Disappointing News--"Cyberpunk 2077," is Delayed

One game I've allowed myself to be cautiously optimistic about is, "Cyberpunk 2077." A big and sprawling RPG set in the future and based on the 1980's tabletop game, "Cyberpunk 2020," it is being developed by CD Projekt Red (of, "The Witcher," game fame). It has been in development for years and was tentatively due to launch in April of this year. Well, it has been delayed until September. There have been arguments this was bound to happen with such an ambitious undertaking of a title. Others have expressed concern if this will result in extreme, "Crunch," which will stress and exhaust employees.

I'm disappointed but understand if more time is needed to hopefully have the game reach its full potential. I just hope fans are patient and CD Projekt Red keeps its employee's well-being in mind whilst finishing the game. Now I guess I just have more time to try and catch-up on the massive backlog of games I plan to play sometime when I have a free moment.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

DNA Kit Companies Always Worry Me

Hey, you all know that while Medical companies that do things with your DNA have rules about privacy, places such as 23andMe do not? Right? I just ask because those cheap kits then allow them to sell the info about the building blocks of your life to pharmaceutical companies. This isn't a rumor, 23andMe actually brags about it in their stock filings. Robinhood--an app that lets you invest in stocks and has an information news email wrote about how 23andMe is getting such a degree of profit from these revenue streams they could just make the kits free as those things aren't the product, you are the product. Check out this bit from the email:

Anytime a service or item is free it is making money off of you. Facebook of course does that too, but Facebook is just selling access to data about your, "Likes," and how you post a lot about which contestants on, "The Bachelor," are arguably this season's villain (I'm not big on Kelsey or Hannah Ann). I love technology, but I don't like the idea of my genetic information being used by a private company however it likes once I sign-up for, "Free." That leads to the last part of the email:

Call me old-fashioned, but this worries me. I am all for my DNA helping to hopefully research diseases or find a match for bone marrow, but within agreements, I've seen and understand. I don't want my DNA to indicate I possibly like certain types of food and suddenly get targeted ads online saying, "Hey, your genetic profile indicates you'll love our chicken nuggets!" You can't just take a cotton swap with my salvia and sell it off to the highest bidder. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I feel like I've seen enough dystopian sci-fi movies/read enough books to know this ain't a path I want to go down.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

People Are Really Analyzing That, "Morbius," Trailer

As you can see above this text here, the trailer for that upcoming, "Morbius," movie came-out recently. It looks potentially good with its mixture of horror and action, plus Jared Leto is a great actor when he isn't being an insufferable human. The things that have really caught people's attention, however, are a random background poster with Spider-Man (in a strangely different from the Marvel Cinematic Universe outfit) and a surprise appearance by Michael Keaton AKA the Vulture in the MCU-linked, "Spider-Man," movies. These two things have led to a lot of analyzing and overthinking.

I have seen theories that this is some complicated multi-World Spider-Verse where one of the old previous Spider-Men are involved, it is a unique mix of stuff, etc. Some reasoning for this being an alternate World is the different Spider-Man outfit. I'm gonna guess it was just a piece of art chosen for the trailer and will be corrected. Now, with Michael Keaton showing-up that shows there is some connective-tissue forming between Sony's movies featuring Spider-Man and his friends/foes. It should be noted though that this is different from if someone owned by Disney/Marvel popped-up like happens in the movies specifically featuring Spider-Man. I'm going to say this is probably going to be a case where the Sony flicks can comment on elements of the MCU movies that involve Spider-Man or their properties, but it will probably not be a two-way street where we can expect Morbius to appear anytime soon in an, "Avengers," flick.

I'm always down for more Michael Keaton in any movie.
Now, I could be wrong and when Marvel and Sony renegotiated their deal about Spider-Man certain things were agreed upon. Perhaps the MCU will be allowed to draw some from Sony and we could very well be heading towards an epic, "Sinister Six," movie where Spider-Man and the Avengers fight Moribus, the Vulture, and whomever with Venom even possibly pops-up. We shall see what the exact case is with all this before too long, but I don't think it is any crazy-complicated thing with multiple Universes so much as it is studios carefully navigating ownership rights.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Cankor is a Wild and Weird Ride of a Comic

Matthew Allison's graphic novel, "Cankor," collects his self-published comics of the same name and will be published by Adhouse books in late March or early April of 2020 (so, this year). The thing that immediately caught my eye about, "Cankor," and resulted in me reaching out to ask for an advance review copy was how Allison's illustrating style reminded me of Michel Fiffe (in a good way) with the surreal storytelling of Michael Deforge (also in a good way), while wholly being its own thing. It makes sense solicitations for the comic have pointed-out how this is reminiscent of Derforge (it mentions Quitely as well, but I really see more of a Fiffe-style) as well. Again though, this is its own odd thing. As for that thing is/what is, "Cankor," about?, it's complicated.

"Cankor," is a comic about various realities within the comic's World, while also at times making it apparent it is aware it is a comic (a little meta here and there) and riffing on other comics and the very question of reality itself--such as when Allison has some, "Author's notes," that themselves seem to be a mix of reality and fiction (I believe he got in a fight at a concert once, I'm not sure I believe there was ever going to be a, "Batman: Year Five," comic). "Cankor," at times follows extra-dimensional beings made up of both flesh and machinery duking it out violently, but this only when it isn't exploring otherworldly landscapes with its characters at well or dipping-back into a reality (of sorts) where people seem to be living in our regular world, except its black-and-white and people lack any visible eyes for some reason--I told you this was some weird stuff.

Allison does a lovely job alternating between Worlds and providing faux-supplementary material ranging from calling himself out for swiping other's work to criticizing comic-book reviewers (my feelings weren't hurt, I hope I'm not as snobby as his fake reviewer). His drawing-style shifts as needed in clever ways, with the, "Real," World not just being black-and-white but also more sketchy in style than his clean and complex lines of, "Blood, wires, and suffering."

The comic is at once multiple plots all going on at once loosely related or outright unrelated to each other while at the same time arguably being one big mega-plot where it all ties together in a strange way of mixing straightforward sci-fi storytelling with meta-fiction and general zaniness. It is utterly bonkers, and that is probably why I loved it. I would be sure to request your comic shop/bookstore/library/legal weed store orders a copy so that you too can enjoy this fantastically bizarre work.
5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The First ToyMan Show of 2020 Was a Delight!

Today was the first ToyMan show of 2020 and as one would expect, it was stupendous fun! I kicked it off exploring all the awesome wares for sale on the first floor. I chatted with John of Bigfoot Comics and Collectibles and he told me they would have some shows in the future as well. I requested he keep me informed about them and he said he would! As I looked around I was able to trade a comic of mine for these really cool, "Mars Attacks," mini-comics. I am of course a big fan of mini-comics and ashcans so these really appealed to me. Give them a look:

Then I saw Justin Mosely from  Wayne Kent Comics and was pleased to purchase a Moon Knight comic from him my collection lacked. There was plenty of other awesome vendors as well, I saw some really old Lego sets that were astounding and some die-cast cars that looked quite impressive. I also ran into my chum Spike from Lost in Space Toys and Collectibles before I bought a couple other snazzy comics from some vendors--a neat team-up of Spider-Man and Ghost Rider fighting the (underrated) villain, the Orb, and an issue with Spider-Ham. Check them out:

I went upstairs and saw an assortment of my author friends. I talked with Leigh Savage about some of her latest erotica books being released and saw J.E. Nelson and her daughter, we discussed how busy they'd been lately! I also chatted with Jessica Mathews & Jennifer Stolzer about how things had been going for them and how they had some upcoming books in the work as well. I met Stevie Tisius of Steveidrawsdinos and loved her artwork as well. Before I headed back downstairs I saw Lonnie Johnson of Heroes for Kids too. I then went downstairs and browsed some more, at which point I got this first issue of, "Wolverine," when his ongoing series started. I was very pleased:

This ToyMan show was a lovely way to start the year. With an assortment of great comics, toys, video-games, and collectibles it is always jam-packed with incredible items and talented creators. The next show is on March 8th and I would strongly encourage you to attend if you'll be in the area as it is such a stellar show!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Amazon is Throwing Major Shade at the Honey Plug-in Since Paypal Acquired It

There is a browser plug-in called, "Honey," that helps find discounts and codes for shoppers. It has worked for Amazon before. Honey was recently acquired by Paypal, who is a competitor of sorts to Amazon (Paypal for a long time was owned by eBay and Amazon doesn't accept Paypal). Not long after that happened, Amazon started warning shoppers that Honey was possibly malware and should be uninstalled. Upon reading this I found myself thinking how remarkable it is that Amazon is being petty to this degree.

I mean seriously, Amazon is all hunky-dory with Honey but once a competing company such as Paypal acquires it for...let me check my notes...4 billion dollars(!), Amazon suddenly wants to act like Honey is malware. Oh, and yes, Amazon does have its own competing plug-in now too. Clearly, my opinion is that Amazon is doing all this to undermine Paypal and Honey and it looks like Amazon wants to disparage that. It's not a good look, but Amazon has enough money that I suppose it's of little concern to the company.