Monday, May 4, 2015

FCBD @ Tony's Kingdom of Comics

This was the first Free Comic Book Day that I felt like I got much accomplished rather than just hitting my LCS for some great books and signatures. As always, I spent it down at Tony's Kingdom of Comics and Collectibles... and he outdid himself this year!

It helped that the Radio Shack that was located next door to Tony's shop had gone out of business, and he was able to utilize that space for several artists like Shawn Cruz & AnnMare Grove from Corrosive Comics and Ryan Alonzo of Alonzo Art... all 3 of whom are contributing artists to Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. Also, Tony was able to display a number of different silent auction packages which included so many items donated by either Tony or local businesses as well as Cherry City Comic Con, Northwest Comic Fest and Rose City Comic Con!

As always, Tony also had an area for food donations to the Keizer Community Food Bank and the proceeds for the silent auctions are going to the Shriners Hospitals for Children. There was also an area setup for people to take their pictures with members of Star Wars Oregon and the Portland Superheroes Coalition.

Of course, the one thing that really draws people into any Free Comic Book Day events are the free comic books. Tony had that covered in spades, including a donation of trades from his friend at Things From Another World.

On top of all this, Tony also had comic book artists Ron Randall and Gary Martin in store to sign. I was fortunate enough to pick-up a copy of Gary's book "The Art of Comic Book Inking" which I have wanted for years and we're going to try and connect to have Gary on-board as a contributing artist to Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer as well.

Ron, on top of all the Trekker comics and his latest work on Convergence: Catwoman for him to sign, also had his latest contribution to the CBC4C cause. I'm incredibly happy to have found so many supportive artists in the local area. And... so you're not frustrated with wondering what Ron's cover looked like... here you go:

Casey Ocupe also was supporting FCBD as well as making sure to spread the word about this years Northwest Comic Fest in August. He was selling tickets to Comic Fest as well as his signature masks.

On the Wednesday preceding this years event, Tony contacted me an suggested that I could setup a table to help raise money for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. Even though I had other plans for the day, I made sure that I could take advantage of this great opportunity to help continue to spread the word about CBC4C and hopefully raise some money to get us ready for our table at NW Comic Fest in August.

When I was leaving the store, I wanted to make sure to touch base with Tony to let him know that I would try to make it back before the store closed to pick-up the brochures, business cards and donation jar. He informed me that his intentions were to keep the donation jar in the store in hopes of being able to generate additional resources for our cause.

I'm not too proud to say that Tony's gesture nearly brought tears to my eyes. Tony has been the greatest supporter to our cause and I only hope that I can measure-up to what he has done for CBC4C and the entire community.

For the time that I was able to spend down at Tony's this FCBD, I could feel the positive energy from everyone. I saw a lot of familiar faces alongside new faces. It felt good to be a part of it all and I can only imagine what will be in store for next years event. I'm already counting the days.

Thank you Tony!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Black Flowers

Title: John Constantine, Hellblazer: Black Flowers

ISBN: 1401204996
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2005
Artist: Jock, Lee Bermejo, Marcelo Frusin
Writer: Mike Carey
Collects: Hellblazer #181-186

Rating: 3/5

This collection of Constantine sees Carey setting his own skewed stamp on the iconic street wizard with a collection of tales that gently move the series towards a spectacular climax to celebrate the comic’s then impending bi-centenary. Carey’s greatest strength is his meticulous forward planning and many seeds are planted here to compliment those already scattered in the previous volume Red Sepulchre.

First up is The Game of Cat and Mouse, illustrated by Jock, which sees Constantine running for so much more than his life from Spectral ‘messengers’ through the secret parts of London. Lee Bermejo provides chilling art for the eponymous Black Flowers as the wizard gathers allies and information whilst purging a sleepy hamlet of some unwelcome dead visitors who’ve broken out of the local insane asylum. Fan favorite Marcelo Frusin provides pictures for the final tale Third Worlds as Constantine and his companion go traveling, encountering some old acquaintances – most notably the Swamp Thing – whilst preparing themselves for the latest Armageddon Hammer to fall.

Hellblazer is consistently terrifying and hilarious by turn, and John Constantine is probably the best anti-hero ever written. Carey and friends are consistently creating a grim, chilling, engrossing and uproarious horror romp. The least you can do is consistently own these collections. A vote with your wallet just means they’ll keep on doing it, right?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

John Constantine, Hellblazer Presents: Chas - The Knowledge

Title: John Constantine, Hellblazer Presents: Chas - The Knowledge

ISBN: 9781401221270
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2009
Artist: Goran Sudžuka
Writer: Simon Oliver
Collects: Hellblazer Special: Chas #1-5

Rating: 3/5

The title character, Francis "Chas" Chandler, holds a fairly unique place in John Constantine's life: where most who know the magus for any length of time die -- or worse -- Chas survives. He's one of the few constants in Constantine's life, along with cigarettes and booze. For many years, Chas, a taxi-driver by trade, has been on the periphery of all the weird stuff his friend is always getting caught up in, frequently playing chauffeur. On the whole, though, Chas' life is ordinary, run of the mill. He carries fares, has an average marriage and otherwise is just part of the everyday fabric of London's life.

Chas' story opens with him dropping Constantine and a sexy young woman at the airport so they can hightail it for fun and sun in Ibiza. With his trouble-magnet friend off on vacation, Chas expects nothing more than average days working the London streets and maybe a pint or two at the local pub. But fate isn't that kind, and when an old chum's son goes missing and something old, evil and hungry awakens in the city, it's Chas who has to step up in place of Constantine and keep London from losing its very soul. The "knowledge" of the title is something known to all London cabbies, but turns out to be very much more, potent magic passed down through the ages in the most mundane bits of information.

Writer Simon Oliver (Gen13) mixes this supernatural plotline -- which has Chas feeling overwhelmed and in over his head -- with a glimpse at Chas' uncertainty about his own middle-aged life. His relationship with his wife is strained, at best (they're certainly not running off to frolic in Ibiza any time soon); his city is edging towards bland dullness and he can't even seem to do right by his friend's son. So when a lovely American steps into his cab, things start to go topsy-turvy and Chas is at somewhat of a loss. He must come to grips not only with saving London, but also the direction his life's going.

If any character in the Hellblazer storyline deserves a moment in the sun, it's Chas. He's put with a lot of crap from Constantine -- and because of him -- over the years, and it's nice to finally see an arc centered on him. Chas is a simple bloke, but not a boring one, and it's easy to see why Constantine relies on him. Oliver does a good job in juxtaposing and blending the two disparate parts of the story, and Goran Sudzuka's art is a good fit for John Constantine's world, making for a satisfying read.

An amusing aside: although Chas is a part of Glen Fabry's fantastic cover illustration for the volume, he's overshadowed by Constantine, who dominates the middle of the image. Poor Chas, even in his own series he can't get any respect! Fitting, though, given the shadow Constantine tends to cast over anyone who lingers near him for long.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saga Volume 4

Title: Saga Volume 4

ISBN: 9781632150776
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2014
Artist: Fiona Staples
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Collects: Saga #19-24

Rating: 4/5

Whether you've been reading Saga for years or just discovered it (perhaps by means of the recently published deluxe hardcover collecting volumes 1-3), one thing we can all agree upon is that there just isn't enough of it.

For Saga is a story with a lot of moving parts -- subplots involving so many characters, none of them perfectly villainous and yet none of them entirely lovable (much like the rest of us) -- and each story is twisted around the others, so that each time the plot advances, we have to go catch up on all the other characters, all doing their perverse and decadent and violent and loving things, and by the time we're completely engrossed in their stories, well, it's time to move on again.

As with the previous volumes, Saga Volume 4 is a visual feast. The word "surreal" gets tossed around a lot, but Fiona Staples does surreal with enormous style and gusto, going beyond the merely weird, making sure that there's enough real in her surreal imagery that every kick, bite, and punch (and kiss) gets us in the guts.

Cyberpunk is a visual medium with precious few great visuals. There's a lot of warmed-over Akira and Blade Runner, a little Wachowskis and a little Jodorowsky/Jodorowsky, but not much else that manages to conjure up whole new aesthetics out of the memes and tropes that have faded through repetition.

Fiona Staples has created a new, powerful visual idiom for sf, one that translates seamlessly into the real world, but that is unmistakably unreal (the reveal of Prince Robot IV's father just floored me -- I can't wait to see that cosplayer!).

As we dig further into the Saga story, and into all the battles being fought, it continues to blend social satire and commentary with romance and war comics, and continues to surprise with new moves and fresh ideas. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a comic.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015

For those of you wondering what to do for Free Comic Book Day this year, this is where I'll be! Tony's Kingdom of Comics! If you're in the Salem/Keizer area, stop by. You won't regret it. Bring some non-perishable food to donate while you're at it.

Cherry City Comic Con 2015 Review

Last year (2014), my hometown of Salem, Oregon hosted its first comic con. Even though it was held during Mothers Day weekend, it had a good enough showing that a 2nd event was planned for 2015. Last year I came in as strictly a consumer with an agenda of getting some autographs, having a sketch cover done and buying stuff along with taking in everything. This year, I went specifically to take in everything and let you know how the 2nd annual event has changed under its new management.

To start, this year the event is utilizing the entirety of the Jackman-Long building at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. Last year, the event only utilized maybe 2/3 of the building. The floor plan was greatly improved from the previous year as well and it had a feel of a comic con.

When I arrived shortly after 10am on Saturday, there were 2 fairly long lines. The lines were an obvious distinction between those who had paper tickets and those that were either purchasing or had them waiting at will call.

After waiting in line for 30-45 minutes, a dark-haired lady with a Cherry City Comic Con "STAFF" shirt came out and told those in line that if they had tickets at will call, they could get in the shorter line. When those of us who moved to the new will call line got up to the door, the staff there indicated that they did not have the will call list and could therefore not give us entrance to the event.

Needless to say this little SNAFU upset several people and the staffers were trying to rectify the situation. That is when I saw the organizer from last years event, Mark Martin, in a "STAFF" shirt telling others what to do. This initially upset me because I... along with several others... were informed that he was not a part of the event due to his PR issues in the past. (For further insight as to what I'm referring to, please check out my original comic con schedule for 2015 I posted in January HERE.)

Mark Martin (picture from his account on Twitter)

I put my personal feelings aside... got my media pass and wristbands... and went into the event to enjoy.

The 2nd annual event also brought us celebrity guests such as Michael Jai White, Honky Tonk Man and Naomi Grossman. This elevated the legitimacy of Cherry City Comic Con from the last year when there were no media celebrities.

My initial reaction to the show floor was a positive one. They set everything up more like a comic con rather than trying to fill space; something I felt that was done for the 2014 event. This setup allowed for a natural flow through the event. My only issue was the placement of the e-cig/vape vendor next to the entrance of the food area, which also was the only are where you could easily find a place to sit down for a moments peace/rest from walking around. I had to walk through a veritable wall of fog when I went past them.

While I am not against the idea of "vaping", but when you have a setup like that right in front of a high traffic area, I don't think it was a good placement choice. While a single "flavor" of the vapes might be a pleasant smell, the combination of probably 4-5 of them nearly had me choking on the "safe" vapor.

I didn't let this deter my enjoyment from the rest of the event.

My first priority was to connect with my friends who were vendors or guests for the event, so I made the circuit.

Tony Grove of Tony's Kingdom of Comics in Keizer, Oregon.
First on my list was my pal Tony who owns and operates Tony's Kingdom of Comics and Collectibles. Tony has been the biggest supporter for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer as he has donated at least 90% of the blank covers we've used to raise $$ for cancer research. Without him, #CBC4C would not be as successful as it has been.

Kira "Kitty" Hatfield (front) from Octo Kitty Creations and Kristel Joslin (behind) from Kristel's Kreations.
Next stop were a pair of crafty friends "Kitty" and Kristel. Due to the issues from the holiday bazaar, they were upgraded to a corner set of tables. They have a great setup and tons of wonderful creations!

Adam Gallardo, author of Zomburbia & Zombified.
Several years ago I met Adam Gallardo while I was working at The Book Bin in Salem. I have been a fan ever since and now he's the one who works at The Book Bin. If he ever retires from writing, he has a fallback career as a sign-maker as you can see the makeshift sign he had on his table. Such a good writer and a very humble person. He informed me that he currently working on a new project, so keep an eye on what Adam's going to come-up with next.

Robert "Floydman" Sumner of Planet F Studios.
My next stop was another stop along the trail of wonderful artists who have contributed to #CBC4C in the form of the artist Robert "Floydman" Sumner from Planet F Studios. Floyd has a great style that people love. I now wish I had taken a photo of his original series Star Trek cast cards that he had matted and framed together.

Randy Emberlin showing-off his latest cover for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer.
Continuing my trek of artists who have/are contributing to #CBC4C, I came to Randy Emberlin. As my regular reader know, Randy is the artist who originally inspired me to try my hand at comic book inking. He a great artist and wonderful to talk to. He told me that he was getting a lot of people who were interested in the cover he was doing for #CBC4C and he wanted to continue to display it and ink it as well. To see the finished work, go to the #CBC4C Facebook page. I'll have a scan of it in our Finished Covers album.

Randy Kintz
One of our latest contributing artists to #CBC4C is Randy Kintz. I've been admiring his work online for quite some time, and it was good to finally meet the man behind the art. I always take pleasure in meeting the various artists who have helped, or are willing to help, make #CBC4C successful. We shared some memories about his Larry Hama meetings and my missing him a few years ago when he had the flu and couldn't make it to Emerald City Comic Con. Thankfully, he's scheduled to come to Rose City Comic Con this year. (I already have my application for a media pass filled-out a ready to send.)

Shua Kreger
I originally met Shua Kreger at the First Wednesday event held back in February. I was introduced to him by his brother and independent comic book publisher (Warrior Innkeeper Creative), Benjamin. Love his work and I appreciate that he can now be counted among the contributing artists for #CBC4C as well. Shua also has a comic that Warrior Innkeeper Creative publishes called Super Vampyre Bunny. For those of you who don't have any Warrior Innkeeper Creative comics available in your area, I know that Benjamin is working to get the digital editions made available through Comixology. When that happens, I will make sure to share it through my Twitter feed (ZanziberPoV).

AnnMaré Grove & Shawn Cruz of Corrosive Comics.
Another new contributing artists to #CBC4C and AnnMaré Grove and Shawn Cruz from Corrosive Comics. AnnMaré happens to be the daughter of Tony and is also the artist who has ever had the chance to put ink to my skin. (Only 1 tattoo as of this writing... though I hope to change that.) Another thing I can thank Tony for is introducing me to these two. The covers that they're donating are great and you should check them out once I have them posted on the #CBC4C Facebook page. I look forward to seeing more great art come out from this pair as well as the rest of the Corrosive Comics team.

Ryan & Ashley Alonzo
One of the first contributing artists to #CBC4C and his daughter Ashley were also representing Ryan Alonzo's work at Cherry City Comic Con. It was great to finally meet face-to-face and I was fortunate enough to pick-up one of the Undertow complete sets that he had available for sale. I hope we can team-up again for another cover or two.

Anna Ewert (left) & Brenda "Spekle" Martinez (right) of Battle Ready Artists.
I've known "Spekle" for a while, and I know she's a great artist. Teamed with her friend Anna they form Battle Ready Artists. As we were talking, I hope to possibly get them to do a cover for #CBC4C. With the current popularity of comic book variant covers from Skottie Young, I think something similar to that Spider-Man you see pictured would do well to help raise $$ for cancer research as well as promoting these wonderful artists.

Last year, Haven Gaming had a large contribution to the gaming events and demo's of various games. This year I didn't see that. I also saw a bigger area for Haven, Wild Things Games and newcomer to this years event Borderlands Games. I really hope for a larger gaming appearance for next years event. It was unfortunately that Cherry City Comic Con opened on International Tabletop Day. I know that there is a strong Magic: The Gathering and Warhammer presence in the area and I can't help but feel that if there were some connected events that included these, and other popular games, that there would be an extra level of attendance.

At the beginning of 2015, I wasn't sure that Cherry City would even be able to grace us with another event. Under the new management, they not only made a huge return, but also got it all done within 4 months time! Kudos! I can't wait to see what they can come-up with when they give themselves more time to schedule.

A special "THANK YOU!" to John Roach who helped make this happen and afforded me with my press pass. Hope to see you again next year!

Me & my credentials.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Maus: A Survivor's Tale: Book I: My Father Bleeds History

Title: Maus: A Survivor's Tale: Book I: My Father Bleeds History

ISBN: 0394747232
Price: $14.00
Publisher/Year: Pantheon Books, 1986
Artist: Art Spiegelman
Writer: Art Spiegelman

Rating: 4/5

Maus: A Survivors Tale, My Father Bleeds History, by Art Spiegelman is a classic account of a young man’s survival of and endurance throughout the beginning years of the Holocaust. The narrator, Artie, retells his father’s tale of his experiences during the Holocaust as a Jew through this graphic novel. Artie's father, Vladek Spiegelman is the main character in this well written page turner. Although it is not written in the typical form of a novel, it has the power to transform even the most classic reader into an avid graphic novel lover. Spiegelman moves his story through themes that all young readers can draw on. While doing this it also shows artisanship and a master of the language.

During the events Vladek is explaining to his son, Poland was just beginning to feel the grasp of the Nazi’s hands. He saw his first Swastika while taking his first wife, Anja, to a sanitarium. The story began with tales of German cruelty. “It was many, many such stories. Synagogues burned, Jews beaten with no reason, whole towns pushing out all Jews. Each story was worse than the other”. Eventually these acts lead to the mass murder of Jews across the continent. First, Vladek fought for his business, then it ended with him fighting for his freedom and life in Auschwitz. While ending with almost all of the characters dying. “My whole family is gone, Grandma, Grandpa, Momma, Poppa, Tosha, Bibi, my Richiev”! It portrays the hardships of each character, the loss of friendship through such difficult times, and the progression of worsening conditions. The Jewish people are portrayed as mice while the Germans are portrayed as cats. This only emphasizes the complicated submissive-dominate relationship between the two sides.

This novel is not just a story, it is a look into the psychological difficulties related to such events and the turmoil felt by millions of people during and after the Holocaust. The collection best portrays the power of family and the eventual importance of self preservation. While emphasizing these, the story also leaves the reader with an understanding of the importance of interpersonal relationships. Vladek remarried after his first wife, Anja committed suicide in 1968. This left him to find a new wife, Mala who is seen several times throughout the graphic novel. Everytime she is in the novel, Artie experiences the disjointness with his father and his second wife due to the effects of the past. Mala draws on Vladek’s inability to let go of physical items, “He drives me crazy! He won’t even let me throw out the plastic pitcher he took from his hospital room last year! He is more attached to things than people”!

Maus is an ideal novel to use in a classroom studying the Holocaust because it is a nonfiction piece that grasps the reader's attention and forces them to be thrown into the story. Readers must pay attention to the text while also focusing on the pictures as well in order to understand the text as a whole. Sometimes the readers may have to remind themselves that the Germans and the Poles are not actual animals. And because they are drawn as animals, strangely readers may feel more empathy for them because they are always exposed to the killing of humans in movies and on television which makes them immune to it. However, many people find it sadder when an animal dies in a movie because they are cute and cuddly. Not to mention, the relationship between cat and mice is one that is familiar to readers of all ages. But, due to the graphic nature of the novel, it may be only appropriate for students in high school who are studying the Holocaust who may want to do something different than The Diary of Anne Frank.