Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day!

Let's Get Ready to Leap!

It only happens every four years, and we yet again have arrived on February 29th, good ol' Leap Day! Basically created because the Earth takes 365.24 days to rotate the sun and adding this day every four years helps keep things in order (check out more facts here), it is a fun little holiday that also has eternally messed things up for anyone born on the 29th of February who wants to celebrate their birthday on the actual day every year (if you're born on the 29th you will only be able to celebrate your 4th, 8th, 12th, etc. birthdays on the actual date). Oh, and in case you were wondering about being old enough to drink or such, most places count you as being a year older on the 1st of March in non Leap-Years.
My suggestion for any of you born on this day is just to have a party in the non-29th years that starts late the 28th and goes until early in the morning on March 1st, but if you're a Leap Year baby, it really is all your choice. The main thing is for us all just to enjoy this extra day in the year and make the most of having 366 entries on our calendar instead of just 365!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Links As We Approach the End of February

Almost Time for March!
It's almost the end of February, and I thought sharing some links would be good!

Links For Learnin'
I'm not sure if being on a cruise full of conspiracy theorists would be fun or like living through hell on the ocean. This article makes it clear that unless you're, "With them," you are automatically going to be considered someone who is against them--and possibly working for the CIA, lizard-people, etc.

It is interesting to think that simply by hearing an Arabic language spoken people are supposed to feel afraid or hatred toward someone, with video-games using this idea to a depressing degree.

Speaking of video-games, Kanye West loves them too! I never played on the TurboGrafx-16 but know a little about it and can appreciate if he names his next album after the console. My heart forever belongs to the Sega Dreamcast though.

As someone who both loves indie comics and creator-owned works, this idea for a shared-universe of creator-owned titles sounds fun. We've kind of seen that with Image, of course, so the idea isn't totally new, but seeing something new created with that in mind is cool.

You know a comic-book character has, "Made it," when their masks are used for robberies.I suppose that means Deadpool deserves some props.

I never really thought that Black History Months could be rated as being the, "Best," out of other years, but apparently CNN feels they can be. We as a society really like ranking things.

I want to check-out this, "Puke Force," comic, it sounds interesting. I don't have anything else to add, just wanted to share.

This article about how they aren't many (good) murder-mystery games got me thinking. The only one that came to mind immediately for me was, "L.A. Noire," and after that I draw a blank.

All Learnt
There you go, I hope you enjoyed all or at least some of the links. I'll have a post up on the 29th to celebrate how we are in a Leap Year!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Fascinating Article on Stan Lee and Some of My Own Thoughts has a fascinating article on Stan Lee which I would highly encourage you to read. I of course have talked about my own complicated feelings regarding Stan Lee before, and while I would go so far as to state he is of course an important part of comic-creation and an important collaborator, those who study comic-history know things can get murky when it comes to how much credit he deserves.

The piece also goes into detail about Jack Kirby and how it feels like for every story Lee had about the creation of Marvel's popular characters that Kirby had a completely different version--neither of which could coexist with the other. I continue to believe that Lee did put forth a degree of effort in the creation of the many super-heroes we love today, but it was (and continues to be) his amazing skill as a showman and self-promoter that made him the household name he still is today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Note: A Kickstarter for New, "Widow," Material is Going on Now!

I just wanted to point out to readers of my website that friend of the blog, Mike Wolfer, currently has a Kickstarter campaign going for new material featuring his famous (and enjoyed by me) character, Widow. Titled, "Widow: Progeny," the first part of the story came out long ago, before he put it on hold for his time spent working at Avatar Press. He's returning to the material finish this tale and as a fan of his stuff I'm excited!

The Kickstarter can be found here, and as it has already been successfully funded stretch-goals are being put into place!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

This is Not a Drill, DC Really Has Lost it This Time...But Could it Work?

All Hands on Deck, Things are Getting Crazy!
I talked back some time ago about how I felt like DC had lost its mind when there were three weekly series being planned (which then occurred with some faring better than others). Well, comparing what occurred then to what is going on now having three weekly ongoing series seems like a relatively mellow and level-headed thing with this new, "Rebirth," on the horizon.

What is Rebirth?

Rebirth is not a reboot....but a lot of things are changing and coming back from before Flashpoint. Rebirth also is not a relaunch, except all the books are getting new 1st issues besides, "Action Comics," and "Detective Comics," which are reverting back to legacy numbers (#957 and #934, respectively). A bunch of books are getting permanently cancelled, some new ones are starting, and a significant number are actually going to be bi-monthly (as in twice a month, not every two months which bi-monthly could also mean). Its a big change, and in some ways both an admittance that the, "Nu52," didn't quite work out as expected due to old elements coming back, and in other ways a doubling-down on trying new ideas with this influx of twice-monthly comics. It sounds incredibly risky, and quite bonkers. One does wonder though, could it actually work?

Could it Work?
Retailers have of course expressed concern about all these comics coming out twice a month, and one would hope artists will be able to work on a switching-between-arcs sort of method as opposed to changing every issue on a comic (that would get disorienting), still, I have seen some cautious optimism, and everything going back down to $2.99 is nice too. Will fans maybe turn-up for comics which come out more often? Could people who quit due to the, "Nu52," return? Can anything save DC from this seemingly unending decrease in interest and profit? After all, I said at the end of 2015 that it was the year DC lost me, will 2016 be a year they regain those they've lost--maybe even me (though I doubt it)? As with anything, time will tell. Let's hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fuck You, Kanye West is Still Awesome AKA My Review of "The Life of Pablo"

I hear so much chatter about Kanye West. Everyone has an opinion on how terrible he is. Taylor Swift gets applauded for throwing shade at him in her acceptance speech for Album of the Year (which by the way, totally robbed Kendrick Lamar), the media mocks him as a rude narcissist, and yeah his own behavior doesn't do him any favors, but you know what?

Fuck you, Kanye West is still awesome.

"The Life of Pablo" proves he still rocks, warts and all. I'll admit I had some concerns, but when I saw him drop his verse in an SNL skit this last weekend (that is on the album too as, "I love Kanye,") I knew that behind all the media-nonsense of his marriage to Kim Kardashian, making outlandish statements, and etc. that the genius-Kanye West was still lurking in there with usually more visible jerk-Kanye West. Here's the skit:

UPDATE: It seems the video got taken down. My apologies. NBC's official site might have it though?

  "Yeezus," was a solid piece of work but felt more disjointed and lacking than anything. While "The Life of Pablo," may not be at the level of his debut, "The College Dropout," or his arguable masterpiece, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," this is a great piece of work. Do note that I had to get a trial subscription to Tidal that came with a free Beyonce track to listen to, "The Life of Pablo," as it currently can only be found (legally) on that site, so will someone please remind me in the next 90 days to cancel it in order to avoid being charged? Seriously though, that is kind of a hassle, but I'll go through a lot to get to hear Kanye West kill it on the track more than not.

Keeping with the trend of West dealing with his issues through music (and often showing the vulnerability his critics who don't listen to his music say he lacks), "The Life of Pablo," is messy, at times abrasive, and as often unsure of itself as it is cocky. As West states on the track, "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1," in regards to attention he gets, "Everybody goin' say something/I'd be worried if they said nothing."
Some solid verses from Kanye on, "No More Parties in L.A."

West of course brings in a litany of collaborators, with some turning in incredible verses (Chance the Rapper on the first track, "Ultralight Beam," is a treat), and other's seeming criminally under-utilized (Andre 3000 simply provides background vocals on, "30 Hours," despite my praying he would bust out a rap too). If anything, at times West runs the risk of being upstaged by the amazing talent he brings in to work with him, with Kendrick Lamar's dazzling verse on, "No More Parties in L.A." rivaling West until he makes sure to match wits with lines like the ones in the image above.

The sound and isn't as electronic as the critically-divisive, "808s and Heartbreak," or the grinding and almost-mechanic sounds of, "Yeezus," but there are for sure blasts of that harsh lo-fi in between the soul-samples and occasional softer instrumentation ("Feedback," has screeching sounds that live-up to the title for sure). Not every track is breathtaking, with the song,  "Highlights," feeling auto-tuned to death and like it just wants to meander around before concluding (making it interesting West performed it first on the recent SNL as its so drab). "Fame," isn't that great for me either, but that is more because I really dislike Rhianna than anything else. Still, so much is just so good that the occasional clunker can be accepted.
Kanye West may behave like an asshole and be, rude, self-obsessed, and all those other bad things, but at the end of the day he's still a musical genius--so I apologize if my post's headline was a little harsh, but the whole album seems to be yelling the same thing--"Fuck you, I'm still awesome, regardless of all the other bullshit." So yes, I do in fact love Kanye in the manner of how Kanye Loves Kanye.
5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Abhay Khosla's 4-Part Review of Comics in 2015 is a Sorely Needed Drubbing of an Industry that Rarely Receives It

One of the debacles discussed by Abhay
On The Comics Journal is a four-part piece of critcism from Abhay Khosla so amazing, so hilarious, and so God-Damned needed that I don't recommend you read it, I request you do it.I cried as often as I laughed while reading these, and bet you will too. As Abhay himself points out in the pieces, the comic industry is so wrapped-up in itself that even the mere suggestion that it is doing something wrong (be that behaving in a questionable manner, allowing harassment to occur, or otherwise sucking at P.R. in general) is taken as a huge affront and insult. I mean, how dare you hurt the comic-book industry and its precious feelings, comics are a legitimate art-form worthy of criticism! How dare you act like they aren't, until you act like they are but say something disliked, in which case, how could you?

Seriously though, Abhay's huge mega-essay is something sorely needed and absolutely hilarious seeing as Abhay is arguably one of the funniest people in the world who writes about comics (along with Tucker Stone). I love comics, I truly do. Sometimes the industry and what it puts out just makes me place my head in my hands and let out a long sigh though.

It Was Wishful Thinking to Believe Kendrick Lamar Would Win Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammys

Prologue: Watch Kendrick's performance at the Grammys here.

Main Rant: First things first, Kendrick Lamar's album, "To Pimp a Butterfly," is album of the year, no ifs, ands, or buts. Many agree (who aren't mad about it) that he gave the only performance that really mattered at this year's Grammys. From the start with his appearing in chains and singing his song about the ingrained racism within our country--"The Blacker the Berry"--Lamar was intense, unafraid to make a point, and basically the opposite of everything that's wrong with the Grammys and Taylor Swift--e.g. "Sanitized, Self-Congratulatory, and Safe."

It truly was was wishful thinking to believe he would win Album of the Year. Sure, winning Best Rap Album was a foregone conclusion, but to see someone who so unabashedly stands-up and speaks truth-to-power through incredible music would have been amazing. The closest to that kind of moment we got was when Kendrick took to the stage for his aforementioned first song, seguing into, "All Right," and concluding with a new song where to CBS' credit they did some amazing camera-work with their close-ups on Kendrick's intense movements and words.

Kendrick Lamar created a masterpiece in the form of, "To Pimp a Butterfly," but it seems the Grammys would rather not give it the highest form of recognition when something relatively tame and pleasant like Taylor Swift is another option. At least I can look back fondly on one time the Grammys did get it right, giving Album of the Year to OutKast for their masterpiece, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

V-Day Four-Way Part 4: Sex Positivism as Illustrated via the, "Smut Peddler," Anthology

Four-Way Part Quatre
Today I've discussed comics that are violent and raunchy, comics that delve into the male Id, pieces that explore the ugly within the erotic, and I thought it would be nice to end on a more positive and happy note by discussing the, "Smut Peddler," anthology published by Iron Circus Comics. This is a fantastic series featuring a large number of creators (mostly women) creating hot smut that also is sex positive!

What exactly sex-positive means could be taken various ways, but basically the Smut Peddler anthologies (there was a 2012 and 2014 edition, plus a Kickstarter just concluded for two new comics within that line) present sex as what most of us hope it to be: Fun, enjoyable, consenting, and arousing! An inclusive series, the "Smut Peddler," comics have always included a variety of genders and orientations getting-it-on with gorgeous artwork by talents both better-known and mostly unknown.
I own the 2014 edition (bought it at the most recent Project Comic-Con!) and found it to be a book of gorgeous artwork, fun stories, and basically what the subtitle declares it to be--"A superior Pornucopia for classy dames (and the forward-thinking gentleman)." All the titles I've discussed have been fascinating to cover this Valentine's Day and I hope you had a wonderful February 14th too!

V-Day Four-Way Part 3: Heather Benjamin Masterfully Expresses the Ugly Within the Erotic

Four-Way Part Trois
Note that basically none of these links are safe for work, even if this article is.
I am of course always scouring the web for interesting artwork, writing, comics, etc. I stumbled across this fascinating interview with artist and comic-maker Heather Benjamin, and proceeded to take a trip into the horrific, and erotic world that is her website. One of Benjamin's earlier works was titled, "Sad Sex," and occured over a number of issues. Benjamin says herself in an older interview that she isn't concerned with having specific story-lines or such, almost making me think of her work less as comics and more as artwork-pieces that are occasionally sequential. Any sort of, "Plot," isn't important here though, because I think (and Benjamin herself confirms in the same just-linked interview) that it's really about the emotions--"...and I also like to not be too straightforward. I do enjoy just picking one feeling or moment or whatever that I’m trying to focus on and just ornamenting it and reworking it as a single drawing. It’s definitely a weird emotional process for me to go through, and I feel almost like, cleansed of whatever fucked up thing was totally bothering me by the time I’m done hashing it out. At least for a little while."

Benjamin can make artwork that is extremely pretty, as the less-explicit images on this post illustrate. What she truly excels at, however, is taking something generally pretty (or at least, "Hot,) like sex and making it incredibly ugly. Something we as humans often ignore is that sex many times isn't that gorgeous, so-to-speak. It is sweaty, noisy, and has a lot of fluids and emotions mixing together. Benjamin expresses this with her pieces discussing the guilt of masturbating to the thought of a friend's boyfriend, or arousing and disturbing the reader with the cover to her latest collection of work, "Romantic Story," as it features a woman spread-eagle with ants crawling all over and around her. Even a cliché sweet scene of a man and woman about to kiss takes on a more twisted motif with the introduction of insects crawling about.
Heather Bejamin's pieces evoke a strong reaction from the viewer. Some may only feel disgust and confusion, others may see a twisted beauty and want to explore her work further. Good art has that impact which makes you feel, and Benjamin's illustrations definitely do such a thing, especially when exploring the hideous within the sexy. I would recommend checking her website out and purchasing her works if you find yourself as intrigued as I have been by her artistry.

V-Day Four-Way Part 2: The Male Id Within, "Terror Assaulter: One Man War on Terror"

Four-Way Part Deux

As a part of my Valentine's Day, "Four-Way," of posts I now present some thoughts on the portrayal of the male Id within Benjamin Marrra's, "Terror Assaulter: One Man War On Terror," or "OMWOT," for short. There have been many reviews of the comic spread around the internet, mostly positive and showing an affection for its darkly violent and sexually-charged satire (like the earlier-discussed, "Fukitor," it is really obvious Marra has his tongue thoroughly in-cheek for this comic, but it works a bit better here). The plot essentially is that there is a division of agents known as Terror Assaulters who were created by the United States government in response to 9/11 and they exist to keep the nation safe no matter what. This leads to a whole lot of fighting, shooting, and fucking.

If "OMWOT," were written as a serious piece the reader would think it came from the mind of a sex-obsessed thirteen year-old who desires to be, "Edgy," by working in some politics between the gunplay and penetration. Marra seems to have taken the rawest form of the male pyshce and spilled out on the page for everyone to observe in a mixture of bemusement and disgust. One interesting element is that our main character, the One Man War on Terror is happy to have sex with men or women. He doesn't have a sexual orientation, he just is pure sexuality, in all its fluidity and desire. He'll kill men or women, and fuck men or women, all in the name of our God-blessed America, motherfucker!
Continuing this concept of a simplistic-yet-clever writing style, the comic will often have characters declare aloud the action they are taking--even though Marra's art makes it quite evident. There is plenty of, "You shot me in my [body part]," or our character describing the next action he's going to take during sex. Oh, and the running gag of the OMWOT stating, "Let's just say..." before making a threat or a statement that doesn't even need that first part of the sentence seems like something that should get old, but strangely doesn't.

Marra of course often makes satirical comics (my big article on, "Gangsta Rap Posse," being one example), and that is on full display here, and man-oh-man does Marra really represent fascinating warped versions of reality through his works! It is scary how much this is like the meant-to-be-taken-at-face-value, "Holy Terror," with its heroic image of the white American man shooting-up foreign threats, having some sex (with a man or woman with the OMWOT), and then we roll credits while a childrens' choir sings, "God Bless America," in front of the Statue of Liberty.
This isn't a comic that you read. It's a comic that you open the cover of, and it proceeds to slap you across the face with its dick, yell, "America, bitch!" and then emesh you in a primary-color nightmare of pistols, pussy, and politics. Benjamin Marra has made something that is a less a comic than it is an illustrated horny and angry subconscious . That is a good thing, and makes, "Terror Assaulter: One Man War On Terror," wholly worth reading.

V-Day Four-Way Part 1: Fukitor and the Question of if Being Tasteless Just to Shock People is Still A Form of Social Commentary

Four-Way Part Un
Please note that most links are not safe for work, even if this article is
Let's kick-off the posts on this day of love and romance by talking about one of the more nasty and horrific comics out there--"Fukitor."

From creator Jason Karns comes a series that has spurred much debate on what exactly it constitutes. This is a comic the creator doesn't want taken seriously, so is it satire? What is it mocking though other than the fact that many human beings are terrible people? Almost every page drips with blood and entrails, with the violence only being rivaled in  quantity by the breasts and dicks. Back when The Comics Journal even mentioned, "Fukitor," it lit a fire in the comments section, followed by the owner of the TCJ--Fantagraphics--then being able to have its cake and eat it too by releasing a collection of the series  (which I purchased back when it came out in 2014)on its then-new small-press imprint, FU Press, followed by then having the TCJ post a review of the collection that was harsh on it; I ain't gonna hate though, because they could have just as easily told a reviewer to say some glowing things about the comic in hopes it would spur more sales (or would saying this is a mean-spirited and ugly series be more of a selling-point? Hm).
A comment on how the U.S. views foreign entities...maybe?
It isn't hard to find someone who hates this series on the web, as well as much discussion about cultural context and where this comic falls on that spectrum. Basically everyone can at least agree, "Yeah, it looks pretty offensive and bad, plus it's supposed too," before the arguments start. As for what the debates entail, it all seems to basically come down to the question of if being tasteless just to shock people is in itself still a form of social commentary. To such a question I say, "Maybe? It depends," as it really can vary based on the situation. As for this particular comic, "Fukitor," I would conclude there definitely are some parts where it feels like Karns is maybe making a point, but so often that point is drenched in viscera and bodily fluids that it is all-but-unnoticeable.

"Fukitor," is a grotesque and lascivious piece of work, yet at the same time is also trying to insist how behind all the vulgarity that, "Hey, I'm really trying to making a point here!" That may be, but in the end, "Fukitor," is moreso just hilariously absurd than it is deep in any fashion. At least Karns is a good artist in the sense his hideous imagery looks appropriately awful. That counts for something, right?

Announcing The Valentine's Day Four-Way (of Posts)!

Getting Raunchy!

This Valentine's Day I wanted to give you, my reader, something special. For that reason I'm going to put up four posts that deal with sexuality, romance, and the like. I'm calling it my Valentine's Day Four-Way because I have never been one to pass on a saucy pun. After all the posts are up you can return to this one for a link to them all. For now though here's some, "Foreplay," in the form of me describing what the posts are about...

Part Un:
Fukitor and the Question of if Being Tasteless Just to Shock People is Still A Form of Social Commentary

Part Deux:
The Male Id Within, "Terror Assaulter: One Man War on Terror"

Part  Trois
Heather Benjamin Masterfully Expresses the Ugly Within the Erotic

Part Quatre:
Sex Positivism as Illustrated  via the, "Smut Peddler," Anthology

Friday, February 12, 2016

Film Friday: Deadpool

Guts and Giggles
I'll make this relatively brief as, "Deadpool," did just come out and I don't want to go and spoil a bunch. I saw it earlier this evening and shall share some opinions for those of you who are a bit curious about what I may have thought of the flick. Basically, I really liked it. It is one of the small number of R-rated super-hero movies and it earns that rating for sure. There is so, so much violence, a lot of swearing, and of course some scenes of sex and a dash of nudity. It also is really funny.

The jokes come fast and hard, and if that sentence had just been said in a this particular movie you can be sure good ol' Wade Wilson would have already made a dirty joke out of it. Ryan Reynolds brings his unique charm that walks the fine line of being too much and just enough with attitude, kind of like Deadpool himself in the comics actually. Oh, and if you're wondering if it has those little bits of humanity that make Wade someone the audience can relate to and care about, the flick does work a little of that into this too.
Some X-Men pop-up (as the non-stop ads have shown).
It really is remarkable this got made, a super-hero movie that relentlessly mocks other super-hero movies--even ones from different studios--and brings with it a near-relentless stream of unapologetic gore and swear-words. To think the creators of this film were able to say, "No," to making a PG-13 film that would quite possibly be not nearly as good is just amazing (and it appears to already be paying off and will be quite a profitable film indeed).

The movie isn't without flaw (the main villain is pretty bland), but the never-ending stream of usually-great jokes (some land with a thud, but most are solid) and superb action scenes gives us a film that is a bunch of fun, but also throws in a some of heart now and then too. I would recommend seeing, "Deadpool," if you love super-hero movies, or if you hate super-hero movies and want to see something that insults them...while actually being a really good version of what it is making fun of. Just please, don't bring your little kids to this. Seriously, if I see any news stories about, "Outraged parents," complaining they took their 6 year-old to a movie clearly advertised as a bloody and raunchy good time I will put my head in my hands and let out a loud cry for humanity.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Some of My Favorite Comic-Creation Teams Part 2

...And We're Back!
There were too many people to limit myself to one article, so I now present part 2 of my favorite comic-creation teams!

More Creators!
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
No question this is a pairing that sets my heart aflutter whenever I hear about their newest joint-project. Whether imagining a world wherein music is magic ("Phonogram") making the, "Young Avengers" the best Marvel comic on the stands at the time it was coming out, or giving us Gods-as-pop-stars with, "The Wicked and the Divine," Gillen and McKelvie are two creators who just know how to bring the best out of each other. They both have done fine on their own solo projects or other pairings, but when these two minds get together? Stand back, because it's gonna be one Hell of a comic.

Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov
This is another case where many would put the writer with a different artist (making it Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon for their work on, "Preacher,") but I yet again have got to go with another option, Parlov, if no reason other than the sheer amazing stuff Parlov turned in with Ennis on some of his, "Punisher Max," run and the superb, "Fury: My War Gone By." Parlov's mixture of minimalism and stark brutality perfectly compliments the brutal stories of Ennis, be it the Punisher fighting for his life or Fury making his way through countless wars.

Ales Kot and Jordie Bellaire
Why? Because, "Zero," that's why. On that title Kot would often have an assortment of artists for different issues, but he always had Bellaire on the color-work to help give the at-first-glance conflicting art-styles a nice unified look. People often say that if a colorist is doing his or her job right you won't notice, but I say that's wrong. In my opinion if the colorist is doing his or her job right you notice because of how great the comic looks.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Now to close on a classic team, much like you can end a fancy dinner with a fine dessert wine. While us comic-readers often have a complicated relationship with Stan Lee and the question of how much work he did or didn't do, I think everyone can agree that he and his collaborators made some amazing stuff that has stood the test of time all the way to now. Despite all the folk he worked with though, I feel there is a teaming that made stuff even better than what Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us. That duo was the matching of Lee and Kirby. Without these two men and what they created together there simply would not be a Marvel comics, or at least not one as we know it today (a whole lot of characters would be missing for sure). A seminal pairing for sure.

There are the teams that immediately popped into my mind. I am sure there are many others I'll think of later and be mad that I forgot, or you may have a team that you're aghast at my skipping. Whatever the case, as these teams go to show, comics are often a collaborative art, and if working closely with others can make some of the amazing stuff that's been produced then I'm fully in favor of teamwork.

Note: I did not pair creators Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Brian K. Vaughn, Warren Ellis and etc. with anyone as they both have too great number of people they have created stellar work with to pick just one team. I know many folk have a preferred artist for those writers, but I just couldn't decide. That's the same reason I didn't put artists like JH Williams III with anyone either.

Some of my Favorite Comic-Creation Teams Part 1

Working Together
I was thinking the other day about how there are comic writers, artist, colorists, and letterers (and those who combine some of those skills). There are some really stellar teams that makes comics though, and I felt like discussing some of them, as so often we talk about individual creators, but sometimes the best work comes from a duo (or trio). Thanks to The Comics Reporter for giving me the idea to do this post with my own list of stellar teams!

Team-Up Time!
Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips
These guys have been just making stellar piece after stellar piece. Whether it is super-powered folk in, "Sleeper," and, "Incognito," noir with a flair in, "Criminal," horror in, "Fatale," or examining the seedy underbelly of 1940's Hollywood in, "The Fade Out," these guys just make hits. I may not have loved, "Fatale," as much as some people, but for every one of their works someone may not care for there are still plenty that are an absolute delight.

Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
Mark Millar is a writer who can really grate on my nerves. His plotting can leave much to be desired and his writing just is so, so, so melodramatic sometimes. That said however, his work with Hitch during their run on, "The Ultimates," and a few other times they've teamed-up has generally helped to bring out the best in Millar and Hitch. Yes, "The Ultimates," was delayed to a hilarious degree toward the end, but when all collected together it reads quite amazingly with its mixture of satire, action, and the clever way it is almost mocking super-hero comics whilst at the same time serving as a love-letter to them. Millar went on to do much more cynical stuff that lacked the heart of, "The Ultimates," and Hitch has done some decent stuff since then too, but boy were they quite a team back some years ago.

Grant Morrison, Chris Weston, and Gary Erskine
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely is the obvious choice, and while they are a stellar pairing who have made some incredible stuff, if I could pick anyone to make a comic with Morrison, I actually would try and reunite the team behind my favorite comic ever, "The Filth." Consisting of Morrison on writing, Weston on art, and Erskine on colorist duty, "The Filth," is just an amazing piece of fiction. With its mixture of meta-fiction, dark commentary on society, and being what one could argue is the post-modern comic of all post-modern comics, "The Filth," is what happens when someone throws every idea at the wall in an effort to see what sticks, and somehow against all odds everything, "Sticks," and a disgustingly beautiful creation is made. Yeah, I would love to see this trio work together again.

Jim Balent and Holly Golightly
Jim Balent is a writer-artist who is derided by some but also loved by many. His long-running comic, "Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose," he has done with his wife, colorist and letterer Holly Golightly, has earned a multitude of fans thanks to the mixture of story-genres, incorporation of wicca, and gorgeous artwork that is made even better thanks to the lush color-work and carefully-placed word baloons. I would say this collaboration became even closer when Balent's "Tarot," comic crossed-over with Golightly's project she writes and illustrates, "School Bites," with issue #90. This issue was an expert blend of both creator's illustrative styles and shows that Balent and Golightly not only picked great spouses in each other, but superb collaborators too.

We Will Be Right Back!
I've shown you some of my favorite comic-creation teams, but I need to take a little break now. I'll be back a little later with the rest of my favorites.

Monday, February 8, 2016

"Her Story." Expertly Provokes Thought as Well as Emotion

I was able to purchase, "Her Story," on sale from GOG and enjoyed it quite a bit. As for what kind of game this is, imagine if there were a game where you're sitting in front of a really old police computer and your purpose within this title is to search for keywords. Then, you see if other noticeable words pop-up in further video-clips, and you keep typing words until you have a solid idea of what truly happened in the story being told. This might sound potentially terrible, as you no doubt can remember the day of FMV games that were in actuality just atrocious movies that asked you to occasionally push a button. Well, even though such a concept sounds like it might be horrendous, "Her Story," takes a game that is about little more than watching a woman telling her story (hence the title) and makes it quite intriguing. Winning awards for its originality or just in general for being stupendous, "Her Story," is a fascinating piece of detective-work.

This is a game that could rise or fall based solely upon the performance of our main, "Character," but thankfully Viva Seifert does a wonderful job as a woman concerned about her disappearing husband. The talked-about but never seen husband is the crux of the story (at first), as we witness in the assorted video files spread-out over a period of days that what once seemed pretty clear-cut becomes more and more strange. I won't spoil the plot, as for better or worse it has some twists that seem a bit over-the-top, but it isn't just the story that matters here. No, it's the discovery of the story.
Watching the video clips and noticing how certain statements or asides stand-out then helps you, the player, to search the video-system and begin to piece certain elements together. You might have your own personal, "Ah-ha!" moment as I did when playing the game that assists you in realizing just what could actually be going on, and the wonderful thing is the game doesn't manufacture these moments--it is all down to you as the person watching these clips to piece-together everything in an attempt to solve a increasingly bizarre mystery.

"Her Story," is a fun example of the possibilities for storytelling that games can open up, serving as a mixture of a game and a movie. It isn't for everyone, as if you only enjoy online shooting-battles or exploring huge worlds you'll find this title absolutely stifling in comparison with its single simulated computer screen (plus it only takes a few hours to play). If you're willing to try-out things that are a bit more experimental or unique however, "Her Story," is definitely an experience worth playing.
5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, February 5, 2016

I Was Wrong; Ed Benes Isn't A Hack After All. Greg Land is Though!

Another Post Where I Admit Being Wrong
The man I'm apologizing to.
I'm wrong sometimes, it can turn out that a, "Suicide Girls," comic actually is good, or I can make a list of my assortment of mistakes because I ain't too proud to admit fault.

I made a post years ago where I called Ed Benes a hack. I had some people tell me it was too mean, but I stood by it. I suppose the biggest element was how I thought the fact he would do commissions of popular characters in sexual poses to be tacky. The thing is though, I was mulling over one day if maybe I was too mean, and if maybe, just maybe, Ed Benes actually wasn't that bad an artist?
So, I went and looked at more of Ed Benes art. I also considered how other creators whose stuff I've enjoyed have done plenty of highly sexual works, and that a lot of creators will do commissions which are really raunchy because if they can make a decent living by doing that in addition to their love of comics, they'll do it. I guess the fact that Ed Benes wasn't embarrassed about it and would proudly show off his commissions just was a surprise. The main thing is, as a person with a functioning libido I do enjoy sexy artwork when its done well, and I've concluded after giving his stuff a second look Benes does in fact do it with skill. Plus, he also can draw general super-hero stuff well too, be it fights or just generally imposing-looking stances.

Ed Benes might make a chunk of change doing sexy drawings for folk of popular characters, but why should I hate on him for that? The fact that his art actually doesn't look too shabby--be it G-rated or R-rated--is the important factor; I mean, if it looks good, it looks good.
Now then, for an example of someone who truly is a hack, just look at Greg Land. His artwork is stiff, looks photo-traced, and all his female characters have the same damn smile. It's plastic-looking and just atrocious. Greg Land is someone whose work just makes me recoil in disgust, and can be called a hack. Ed Benes though? He's okay, so I'll say it: I'm sorry Ed Benes, you aren't actually a hack. I was wrong.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Weaponized Nostalgia" and Songs Like "California" by Colonel Loud and Friends

The Ingenuity Behind a Seemingly Normal Song
There is an enjoyable song by Maze (featuring Frankie Beverly) titled, "We Are One." A song came out not too long ago titled, "California," by Colonel Loud and featuring an assortment of his friends--T.I., Young Dolph, Ricco Barrino--which uses pieces of, "We Are One," to great effect. I've got the music video for you here, it features the usual rap-video assortment of women dancing around along with some admittedly gorgeous shots of--where else?--California. Observe:
Now then, I have written before about the power of nostalgia, as well as the question of when you're going beyond, "Sampling," a song and maybe making something else altogether. This new song right here though, this is something that sounds like it was purposely created to activate that center of the brain that likes old stuff and enjoys hearing it; this is something that is new but hits-upon that love-of-the-old intentionally. This, my friends, is a prime example of weaponized nostalgia.

Weaponized Nostalgia?
What is weaponized nostalgia, you may ask? Well, it is a term I first saw back in November of 2015 when the then-upcoming, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," was being discussed. Basically, the idea is that something new is created, but formatted and designed in just the right way so as to prey upon our love of things from the past--e.g. our nostalgia. It's taking the new but designing it to invoke the old. Through this taking of nostalgia and turning it almost into a mind-bomb of sorts, you can then release it onto the internet/radio airwaves/etc. Next it seeps into your consciousness, playing upon your love of things from your youth and making you feel the same way about something new.

What Colonel Loud and his chums are able to do here is take an already catchy song that would appeal to the young folk, and inject it full of weaponized nostalgia so that those of us who would maybe just shrug it off as another rap song about partying and drugs suddenly find our interest piqued as we nod our heads along. We like the song that much more because it has the stealth-weapon of taking that older Maze song and having our fondness for that, "Turn on," in our brains even though this is something separate. The nostalgia seed has been planted, bloomed, and now we like this new thing as much as the old due to its cleverly causing our mind to associate the duo almost as one--again, weaponized nostalgia.

Is This Bad? Good?
Kodak has created a new Super 8 camera.
That's some serious nostalgia!

I am not here to try and claim this weaponization of nostalgia is by any means a bad thing. Ever since there has been culture there have been people saying the older-form of something was better. I just find it fascinating how media entities such as Disney with, "Star Wars," or Colonel Loud with, "California," have found a way to essentially capture nostalgia and use it as a tool to gain popularity. There has always been weaponized nostalgia (look at the immense popularity of "Happy Days" and how it captured the nation's desire for a past that never actually existed), but it just seems especially potent lately. Perhaps as we move further into the future there will be found an even greater hunger for the past-made-new.

At the end of day nostalgia isn't something you need to fear, even when it is so finely-tuned and perfected as to be a little scary. There will always be new stuff, and there will always be things that occur just a little while after the new stuff that use it for fuel, inspiration, and yes, as a weapon of sorts to inspire you to listen, learn, and spend money. Because at the end of the day, if nostalgia is good for one thing, that is turning a profit.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Online Auction to benefit Larime Taylor and Sylv Is Happening Now!

Readers of the blog may recall that I made a post about Larime Taylor and how his wife Sylv is in need of funds to afford chemo (GoFundMe here). Well, my chums over at Comics Heating Up are big fans of Mr. Taylor too and have set-up a series of eBay auctions featuring sketches by an assortment of talent with 100% of the profits going towards assisting Mr. Taylor and his wife.

Original skecthes from Terry Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Jimmie Robinson, Howard Chaykin, and a variety of other talents (as well a pieces by Mr. Taylor) are all currently available for bidders eager to get some stellar artwork and support a great cause.
Larime preparing sketches for the auction!
You can find the auctions here on the Comics Heating Up Website, just click the items that interest you to go over to eBay in order bid, and should the bidding get too high for you, any amount of money helps if you would rather just donate to their GoFundMe.