Sunday, April 26, 2015
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2009
Artist: Goran Sudžuka
Writer: Simon Oliver
Collects: Hellblazer Special: Chas #1-5
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
Publisher/Year: Image, 2014
Artist: Fiona Staples
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Collects: Saga #19-24
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
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.
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.|
|Kira "Kitty" Hatfield (front) from Octo Kitty Creations and Kristel Joslin (behind) from Kristel's Kreations.|
|Adam Gallardo, author of Zomburbia & Zombified.|
|Robert "Floydman" Sumner of Planet F Studios.|
|Randy Emberlin showing-off his latest cover for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer.|
|AnnMaré Grove & Shawn Cruz of Corrosive Comics.|
|Ryan & Ashley Alonzo|
|Anna Ewert (left) & Brenda "Spekle" Martinez (right) of Battle Ready 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
Publisher/Year: Pantheon Books, 1986
Artist: Art Spiegelman
Writer: Art Spiegelman
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.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Publisher/Year: DC, 2013
Artist: Jim Lee
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Collects: Batman #608-612
A light, easygoing read that is one part mystery and one part soap opera, Loeb delivers with his usual flair for drama and character insight. All the right parts and pieces necessary for a drawn-out, slowly unraveling revelation are there; yet the first half of this story arc is curiously lacking in real suspense, while the rather lightweight plot feels more like Loeb is going through the motions of telling a story that is too contrived to be very engaging.
The story opens with Batman rescuing a young boy from the clutches of Killer Croc, a villain who doesn't usually have enough brains to pull off a complicated stunt like kidnapping. Batman rescues the boy but suffers grave injury: his bat-line is cut midflight, sending him plummeting to the streets below. He recovers with the help of Tommy Elliot, a childhood friend from Bruce Wayne's past who just happens to be a rather brilliant surgeon. Elliot's character is introduced to the Batman mythos through a series of well-placed flashbacks, which is one of the things Loeb manages to get right.
Batman assumes that there must be someone behind Croc pulling the strings, and his assumption is dead-on. After visiting Croc in prison, the trail of clues Batman follows leads him to Catwoman, Poison Ivy, a night at the opera and a rather cliched showdown in Metropolis with Superman. It quickly develops that there is indeed a villain hiding from the shadows, working out a scheme against the Batman.
While beautiful to look at, there is a lack of real substance in the story, which is slow to start and is additionally hampered by a plot line that has by now become a familiar staple in the Bat-universe; namely, that some unknown villain has a vendetta against Bruce Wayne/Batman and is masterminding a complicated plot to destroy him a piece at a time by going after the people he cares about.
It might have been intriguing if it hadn't been the exact same predominant theme in the yearlong Murderer/Fugitive crossover story arc, as well as being the central theme of the eight-part miniseries, Batman: Family, which immediately followed. Both of these stories took place right before Hush with hardly a break in the pattern. The rather striking resemblance between the plotlines for each maxiseries might be reason enough why the story feels so flat. While an entertaining return to the days of simple, pure fun that brings to mind the Batman of the '70s and early '80s, the theme of a villain trying to bring down both Batman and Bruce Wayne through a series of sneak attacks that are meant to cripple his spirit and break his will is a rather shopworn concept, and has been since the days of Bane.
Even by itself, though, Hush is nowhere near as gripping as Loeb's earlier, excellent work in The Long Halloween or its sequel, Dark Victory, which featured complex plots paired with avant avant-garde style art that perfectly matched the pacing of both stories. The art in Hush is perhaps part of the reason why it's so hard to take seriously: Jim Lee's style, while visually lush and stunning, does not seem well suited to Gotham's gritty soul but is married instead to places like Metropolis, where Lee's ability to showcase the heroic aspects of a superbeing's anatomy and the huge skyscrapers of the city is more at home. There's a very sexual element to his art; he draws Batman's boots, Poison Ivy's clinging vines and Catwoman's strategically placed whip very, very well. While enticing, it's such a theme in both the cover art and throughout the series that it has a feel of late-night, soft-core cable porn and is not necessarily helpful to the plotline, which unfolds at the speed of molasses being poured.
The characters, including yet another new character from Bruce Wayne's past, are well done if somewhat one-dimensional. The internal dialogue of Batman has a somewhat generic quality that doesn't really let us into his mind or motives very well, and a long-anticipated romantic scene between him and Catwoman feels very contrived, more of a letdown than a surcease from the overt sexual tension that has always coursed between the pair.
There are some wonderful moments in Hush, including a scene with Bruce and his friend Tommy looking up in the sky at a younger Green Lantern (now Sentinel) doing battle with the bad guys. It recalls the earlier days of old-fashioned comic book superheros to which this story seems to be a homage, with its rather standard superhero scripting and setup fight scenes. It's not what one would expect of Loeb in terms of writing but, overall, Hush is a welcome return to the pre-Miller days of Batman as a more humane, less complicated human being. While somewhat shallow, there's a definite feel that this Batman is more sane and less twisted than he has been in recent years, and that, more than the slow pacing that keeps the story from truly advancing, is reason enough to enjoy one of the better Batmans we have had the pleasure of reading in a long time.
Lee's artwork, rich in hues and color and detail, are a good if not entirely perfect fit to this series. The panel work is sometimes too choppy to follow but, taken as a whole, is stunningly beautiful and one of the more well-illustrated Batman stories. The artwork alone is worth the price, and the story does manage to generate a degree of curiosity, just enough to make you wonder what happens next. Hush is definitely worth a look.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
And now... without further ado... I present to you my first interview.
For many years, I have contemplated doing an in-depth interview for my blog. There are so many people in and around the comic book industry that it was very difficult to chose the first. Now that this interview has gone well... and will hopefully be well received... I hope that I can extend my range to more individuals and begin a new item for my readers.
You may have heard me mention Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer before in other posts, but I thought it was the right time to hear from the man that started it all.
I am proud to bring to Zanziber's Point of View, John Rogers!
Zanziber- Thank you for allowing me to interview you for my blog and welcome to my little slice of the internet.
John- It's a pleasure to be here. I've been a long-time fan and avid reader of your work.
Zanziber- So let's start off with something easy and would you please give my reader's a little background on who you are and what brought you to comic books.
John- Certainly. I was born, raised, and still live in Salem, Oregon. I had a good upbringing, but I could never find a single subject to focus on for a career. I've thought about becoming a writer (fiction and comic books), police officer, journalist, web designer, comic book inker, online sales representative, computer tech, and probably a few others I have since forgotten.
When I was a child, my Dad and I had a tradition when purchasing fireworks for our 4th of July celebration. After getting the fireworks, we would go to the only comic book shop in our city and he would buy me Star Wars trading cards. It wasn't until I was around 10 years old that I was actually introduced to comics and their wonderful stories.
I was home sick one day and my Dad asked if there was anything I wanted from the grocery store. I asked if he could pick me up the latest issue of MAD Magazine. When he returned, he informed me that the store was out of MAD and he picked-up a comic for me. G.I Joe: A Real American Hero #50 was my first and I still own that very copy.
I had a direct subscription from Marvel growing-up for both G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Amazing Spider-Man. I remember that I got the ASM subscription right when Todd McFarlane had taken over the art duties and one of my first issues I received was #300. Unfortunately, I do no still have ASM #300 in my collection. I remember that I went to a comic show in Portland after high school and trading it to a vendor for some Marvel Overpower CCG card packs. Worst trade ever.
I've been collecting comics (off and on) for over 30 years now. I've still got a small collection (10 long boxes) even though I'm not actively purchasing issues on a regular basis. I also try to keep my ears and eyes to the comic book community with the help of Twitter and Facebook.
Zanziber- Sounds interesting. What kinds of things do you like to do outside of comic books?
John- Well... I'm also a 30+ year veteran of role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire: The Masquerade, Pathfinder and the like. I like watching movies, trolling the internet (jk), writing the occasional blog post for one the various blogs I write for, spending time with friends and family, and getting stamps in my McMenamins passport. In May, I'll be celebrating my 1st anniversary of getting my 1st #mcmpassport and at the moment, I've completed 2 passports and working on my 3rd. #NoRegrets
Zanziber- Let's go ahead and get into talking about Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. Why do you tell us what inspired you and how you started?
John- In the summer of 2013, I found a link on my Facebook feed that directed me to The Hero Initiative's The Walking Dead 100 Project. This was honestly the first I had heard of these types of projects to help raise money for their organization. They do some great work, by the way. I love what they're doing and I wish them continued success.
This got me thinking about the possibility of doing something similar to help raise money for cancer research. My motives for specifically targeting cancer research is because my mother is a survivor of 2 separate cancers and my father currently has leukemia.
When I first started, I approached the owner of my LCS, Tony, from Tony's Kingdom of Comics and Collectibles. He was happy to help me with discounted blank covers and then became our biggest supporters by giving us so many of the blanks covers we've had. Without Tony's help, I don't feel that #CBC4C would be as successful as it has become.
To find artists, I wanted to try and start local to try and keep costs down. I guess I should mention at this time that we started everything off out of my own personal wallet. It wasn't until later that I began our GoFundMe campaign to raise money to actually support the project. I was able to find a handful of artists from around Oregon, but was really coming-up short. I posted ad's on Craigslist and on the Digital Webbing forums. Unfortunately, it seems as though a handful of the "artists" who contacted me through the ad of Digital Webbing either took on too much work and decided it was easier to stop responding to my repeated emails for updates after 6+ months, or they were simply scammers in the first place.
It was during the early stages of our project, I was contacted by an "artist" from Indonesia who really wanted to help our cause. He convinced me to send him 9 different blank covers. It wasn't long before I realized that my good nature had been taken advantage of. This... and the sheer expense of shipping... is why I chose not to ship blanks to internationally-based artists. Since then, I have had a handful of wonderful artists who have understood my position, and have donated their work to us.
I am fortunate that I live close to Portland, Oregon and therein lies several talented professionally published comic book artists. We has thus far received covers donated by both Randy Emberlin and Ron Randall. I am currently arranging for other published comic book artists from the pacific northwest to donate as well.
Since the beginning, we have been fortunate enough to have the great support of my friend Paul Rowden. He originally donated a couple of covers in memory of his adoptive father Francis Joseph Bernauer, who died of colon cancer. Since that first donation, he has placed bids, helped promote and hooked us up with various covers from a variety of different artists.
Around the time of San Diego Comic Con in 2014, Paul contacted me and let me know he'd be sending us a very special cover that he was able to procure while he was at SDCC. It just so happened to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Special that had a sketch done by Kevin Eastman himself!
Kevin himself was happy to help us promote the auction when it went live. To date, this has been our most successful cover that garnered not only the most attention but the highest bids. BTW: Mr. Eastman did the cover without charge.
Zanziber- Tough break about getting taken advantage of, but so great for all the success that has been had since then. I was a fan of TMNT when I was a kid. Sort of still am now as an adult, come to think of it. I guess you never really grow-up out of some things, huh. For those people that are unfamiliar with how to get some of the great covers you've received for #CBC4C, can you please give us some insight on how and when you sell them?
John- We always wanted to try and get the most out of every cover that we sell, so our marketplace of choice easily became eBay. I've been using it for years already, so it was the natural choice. It also helps that they already have charitable donation as a part of the auction procedure.
For every cover sold at auction on eBay, 85% of the final bid is given to the American Cancer Society through their Giving Works program. The other 15% pays for the eBay and PayPal fees. To date, we've been able to raise just over $2,000!
The opening bid for each auction begins at only $8! This makes for a low enough price point for those who want to help support the cause but don't have much money in order to do so. Our eBay id is CBC4C.
Zanziber- And how does an interested artist, or for that matter anyone, get connected with you to help support the #CBC4C project?
John- For artists interested in donating some of their work to be featured in one of our auctions, simply send me a Private Message (PM) on Facebook through our page (https://www.facebook.com/ComicBookCovers4Cancer) and we'll get the logistics arranged if you want to send us covers you've already worked on or need blank covers sent to you first.
For every cover that is donated to us, #CBC4C provides a certificate of authenticity to go along with it when it sells. Also, we ask each artist to provide a business card or some information to pass along to the final buyer of each cover so that they may contact them for future work. This is to help promote each artist.
For everyone else who wants to support our project in some way, here are a few ideas that will really help:
- Like us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ComicBookCovers4Cancer
- Share our Facebook page with your friends. The more word of mouth, the better.
- If you go to comic con's and are willing to connect with artists to have them donate to us, we'd love that.
- As I mentioned earlier, we're always in need of financial support, and we have our GoFundMe campaign active for those donations here: http://www.gofundme.com/3xwpio