Articles Published the Week of February 12th

The Sixth Gun Team Crafts a Supernatural Noir World in The Damned

I've talked with Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree in the past. The trio behind The Sixth Gun now have a new series launching at Oni, The Damned. The supernatural noir series is very different from the Western fantasy series they wrapped up last year, but their new series is something very different. We spoke about the collection and the new ongoing series.

Alexey Sokolin and Alex Rothman showcase the comics poetry journal INK BRICK

Comics poetry has been one of the interesting developments in comics in recent years. I spoke with Alexey and Alex from Ink Brick, which is a journal that specializes in the form, about the journal, their new kickstarter, and just what comics poetry is.


Articles Published the Week of February 5th

Cartoonist Ru Xu on her dieselpunk adventure Newsprints

Newsprints is a great new dieselpunk (or steampunk, whichever works for you) set in an early 20th Century world featuring a young girl named Blue, who passes as a boy so that she can be a newsboy. Blue quickly get involved with an inventor, a strange young boy named Crow, and finds herself caught up in a much bigger plot. A great YA comic that deserves a big audience (you could do worse if this is your intro to the genre)

Seth Tobocman on Art, Activism and Advice in the age of Trump

I interviewed Seth Tobocman a few years ago about the anthology World War 3 Illustrated, the progressive series that he and Peter Kuper launched in 1979 and continues. Last year Tobocman's first graphic novel - War in the Neighborhood, about the squatters movement in NYC in the 1980's - was re-released, and his second graphic novel - the biography Len, about the lawyer Leonard Weinglass - was published. In the time between us first reaching out and finally being able to sit down and conduct the interview, the election happened. And so while we spoke at length about Tobocman's work and career, I also very bluntly asked for thoughts and advice for those of us (artists and not) who didn't live through the Reagan years, and advice he has for us as we move forward and how to resist.

Articles Published the Week of January 29th

A Conversation with Maureen N. McLane

Last year I had the chance to sit down with Maureen N. McLane, who is a great poet and scholar. I loved her book My Poets which was published years ago which was this very personal look at a number of poets she loves and have influenced her work and life. Her previous book of poetry, This Blue, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her new book Mz N is her best and most ambitious work of verse to date. The book tracks the life of a character named Mz N and is strange and familiar, mocks and embraces poetic conventions, and is a very moving volume. I found myself choked up in some poems, as a character who is almost nothing like me was able to so perfectly sum up aspects of my life and experience. I even read passages to a friend over the phone.

Articles Published the Week of January 22nd

Genre Vet Tony Todd Talks About His Career, Zoom, and Returning to the Theater

I've been a fan of actor Tony Todd since the 90s when I first started noticing his work. He played Worf's brother Kurn on Star Trek, starred in one of the best episodes of Deep Space Nine, has a long list of voiceover credits - including recently Zoom on The Flash. I also remember a series of TV westerns he co-starred in with Christopher Reeve, which I found out was a big project for Todd as well for a few different reasons.

Right now he's in Hartford, CT, where he grew up, in the play Sunset Baby written by Dominique Morisseau. It's a great play and Todd is great in it. I sat down with him one morning to talk about the play, theater training, and his long career. Todd is a great actor and a nice guy and when I asked him about what's next he mentioned that he's reading scripts for the next play or show, but for the moment he's focused on the play and wants to "be a Hartford citizen." And we're glad to have him.


Artciles Published the Week of January 8th

How His Girl Friday, One of the Best Movies of All Time, Led to Today's TV Dramedies

For the comedy website Splitsider I wrote about one of my favorite movies - and one of the best movies of all time - His Girl Friday. I've long been of the opinion that Howard Hawks is one of the greatest filmmakers ever, that Cary Grant is hilarious, and that this is one of the best screwball comedies. I also talk about how the film's genius - the fact that it's dark and emotionally complex while also being laugh out loud funny, the ways that it combines dark subject matter with verbal wordplay. Also how it shows Russell's Hildy Johnson as a brilliant journalist.


Articles Published the Week of January 1st

Luke Healy on Arctic Expeditions and How To Survive in the North

It's not a how to book - though in our conversation, Healy does offer some advice on the topic - but the recent graphic novel How To Survive in the North is beautifully drawn and thoughtfully written. Healy looks at two Arctic expeditions from early in the 20th Century and a related contemporary story, and it will make you grateful that you never tried to explore the Arctic. We talked about his work, the book and related topics in what I think was a fun conversation.


R.I.P. Shirley Hazzard

I've read a few books by Shirley Hazzard, but in the end my opinion of her and her work comes down to two books: The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire.

The two novels were published more than twenty years apart - and maybe it should be noted that she published no fiction in those intervening year. Hazzard wrote only a handful of books in her life. Born in Australia, Hazzard lived in New Zealand, Asia, Europe, and spent much of her life in New York City where she worked for the United Nations for a few years and then lived there with her husband the late scholar Francis Steegmuller

Both of the novels that I mentioned, which are her two finest works, are narratives involving a handful of characters in globe-spanning adventures. Hazzard was a duel citizen and spent much of her adult life in the US and Italy, neither country where she was born or spent her youth, and I think that this quality can be seen in her fiction because there is a global perspective to it which many of her contemporaries - American or British or elsewhere - do not have. The title, The Transit of Venus, being the central metaphor of these people and their complicated lives over the decades moving through the world, is at the heart of much of her work. She wasn't an Australian abroad, but she was a thoughtful woman who was part of this globalist culture, steeped in the classics and the best of our intellectual traditions, and that was where she was from above all, more than any single nation.

Her books are very consciously intellectual books. When she was awarded the National Book Award for The Great Fire, she spoke passionately and eloquently in defense of high culture in a way that was striking and moving for its passion.It's something that no doubt turns off many readers. To be honest I have no idea how widely she is read today or by others, but those two books are magnificent. I have an itch to reread both of them.

It seems petty to say, but the only thing worse than the death of Shirley Hazzard is the fact that there will be no more Shirley Hazzard novels.


R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Like everyone I knew Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. I was always more Star Trek than Star Wars but I owned the trilogy on VHS and watched them....many times. Of course Carrie wasn't Leia, and so the first time I really got to know her was in the Book "The Portable Curmudgeon Redux" compiled and edited by Jon Winokur.

I received the book as a book prize in middle school from my history teacher. Admittedly I'm not entirely sure that this is what people had in mind when they established book prizes (I also received a prize for math and the teacher gave me a poetry book, so whether or not that was what was intended, the faculty had their own ideas and wanted to give a personal gift that would be appreciated). Leaving aside whether I am in fact a curmudgeon, the book had a number of quotations and anecdotes from and about various people. It is incredibly funny.

It also featured interviews with various people including Larry Gelbart (the first i encountered that genius' name), Dave Barry, PJ O'Rourke and Carrie Fisher.

She was brash and sarcastic and mean and funny and maybe not quite Dorothy Parker but damn good.

I've always remembered that - and I still have the book, which I've kept ever since middle school which was many...many...many years ago.

I can only hope that people go back and read her writing because she was so smart and funny. She was also troubled, but hey, she was born and grew up in the public eye and who wouldn't be screwed up. She managed to do something really amazing though. And for all the bravery that came with appearing in the new Star Wars movie, often without makeup, showing her age - that's nothing compared to what she did when she took pen to paper.

I hope her novels get some attention and I'd love to see a nice collection of interviews she did assembled - I'm sure they'd be hilarious, and nice collection of her screenplays and stageplays, and a nice collection of her nonfiction. There's plenty of articles and essays that I don' think have been collected and they would find an audience, I think. She definitely deserves it.


R.I.P. George Michael

I'll be honest that until a few years ago, all I really knew about George Michael was the song "Faith." Don't get me wrong, it's a catchy song, a fabulous song, but that was about it. Also, that he had been arrested.

What changed was the TV show Eli Stone.

The short-lived series was created by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim (who today are better known for Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and the nonstop superhero tv shows). It starred Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers, Elementary) as a lawyer who begins having visions.

The show knew that a character suddenly seeing George Michael performing was funny and it played the scenes for laughs. But they also managed to do some great song and numbers. And they dealt with, what would happen if a lawyer starts ranting and raving and seeing visions, because that would be a problem.

George Michael appeared throughout the show's first season often in really interesting ways. In fact one of the best episodes, and one that really gave co-star Victor Garber a chance to be more than just the intense senior partner role, was where Michael guest starred as himself.

The case that episode was about a teenage girl who played Michael's song "I Want Your Sex" in school to protest an abstinence only education program and Michael wanted to defend the girl and took the stand to talk about the song, about losing friends to AIDS and the background of writing the song.

The series was created by someone who was clearly a fan of Michael and his music. Each episode was named after one of his songs, he appeared and sang his own songs and others throughout. And in the final episode of the first season, Michael performed what may be the second best rendition of Feelin' Good that I've ever heard. (And first is Nina Simone, and there is no shame in coming in second to Miss Simone). It was a great performance.

But the entire show made me look at a pop star who I had never really thought much about. In part because I'm too young to really know his work as I missed it the first time around when it was hugely popular. Pop culture is often fluid, it's often fun but disposable, but there is so much work that gets created which is meaningful, which is powerful, which deserves to endure. Because that's why so many of us find so much of pop culture, not bad, but uninteresting. Because we know that it can be good, something that we can listen to again and again for years and decades, and that it will continue to mean something, and mean something different at different times in our lives.

So I went back and I found that he was half of Wham! - again, a group that I was too young to notice the first time around. And I listened to all the songs like Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Last Christmas, Faith, Careless Whisper, Freedom 90, I Want Your Sex. There's his duet with Elton John, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, which was a hit with all the proceeds going to various charities. There's Somebody To Love, the Freddy Mercury song that Michael recorded with the remaining members of Queen in 1993

Since his death, much has been discussed about Michael being gay and what that meant. People have talked about his generosity and his desire for the most part to be generous behind the scenes. He didn't make a show of donating money and time to so many projects. That speaks to what a good man he was. To listen to his work again, to listen to the songs he wrote, it's clear what a good artist he was. I hope that he knew what so many of us thought of him.

"Well I need someone to hold me
But I wait for something more
Yes I've gotta have faith"

Articles Published the Week of December 25th

Emerging Talent and Publisher Kevin Czap

Kevin Czap is a great up-and-coming cartoonist and the publisher behind Czap Books. Both Kevin and the imprint are coming off a great 2016 and next year Kevin is publishing a great lineup of young cartoonists. We had the chance to talk recently about their own work, what attracts and interests them in publishing others, and a quick preview of what will come out in 2017.

The Delightful Weirdness of The Great Muppet Caper

Splitsider asked a number of its writers to write about what makes us happy, what keeps us sane, what gives us some comfort in a series they called "The Best Medicine."People selected all sorts of work - Curb Your Enthusiasm, Happy Endings, and one of my favorite movies ever, Time Bandits. I wrote about The Great Muppet Caper. Which has pretty much always been one of my favorites.

The Beat's Best Comics of 2016

I was asked to contribute to the Beat's list of best comics of the year. A lot of people were already writing about ones I loved - March Volume 3, which is my pick for the best of the year, Dan Clowes' Patience, and others. I highlighted a few books:

Black Dog by Dave McKean
U.S.S. Stevens: The Collected Stories by Sam Glanzman
Paracuellos: Volume 1 by Carlos Gimenez
The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks by Igort
Paul Up North by Michel Rabagliati
One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg


I’ve been thinking about Kris Marshall lately

Not much reason for a random American to think about the British actor except that I’ve been watching Murder in Paradise, the British mystery series he’s been starring in for the past few seasons. He took over as the lead after the original star Ben Miller left the show at the beginning of the third season. To be honest, I still prefer Miller and his character. I think that he’s funnier than Marshall in general and I think that his character–who walked around the Caribbean island in a dark suit and without sunglasses, complaining about how hot and bright it was–was just more entertaining.

Having said that, the show’s sixth season airs next year and Marshall has been on the show for longer than Miller has. The truth is that Marshall has grown on me and though I still will find myself occasionally thinking that the show would be funnier and more entertaining if Miller had stayed, it’s a relaxing and enjoyable show in the cozy mystery tradition.

Also I hope that it’s helped tourism to Guadalupe, where the show is filmed, because it’s a beautiful place.

Now I know form a cursory internet search that Marshall has acted in a lot of things over the years but like most Americans I would guess, I know him for one role: Colin in Love Actually.

For those of you who have forgotten (or just blocked it out) is a twenty-something British jackass in the beginning of the film. Because he’s crude asshole who acts like god’s gift to women, he doesn’t get a lot of dates. In fact women tend to be repulsed by how he acts.

Now in another movie, he would hire someone or meet someone who would take him under their wing and Colin would learn to not be such a jackass and become a little suave, get a little style, change his behavior, learn not to be crude in the workplace, and he would eventually met a woman and blah blah blah. You know how it goes, you’ve seen that movie. Probably a few different times with a few different actors, let’s be honest.

But that’s not what happens in Love, Actually–which for the record I found a loathsome and unfunny movie long before Lindy West’s excellent takedown of the movie was published by Jezebel in 2013. (Though I will admit that I enjoy rereading the article in the same way that some people like re-watching the movie). You see, writer-director Richard Curtis doesn’t see Colin as a vile manchild with toxic ideas and behavior. No, Colin, you see, is one of the heroes of the movie.

According to Colin, the problem is English women. If he goes to America, women there will get him. They’ll find him charming because of his accent, you see. So he gets on a plane to Wisconsin. At a bar he meets her and her roommates who are so charmed by his accent that the three women it is implied have an orgy with him.

Then at the end of the movie he returns to England, with a hot chick for him and her sister in tow for his friend. Because men like Colin don’t need to grow up or smarten up, no, they just need to find stupid American girls and all is well.

I was reminded of this watching the fifth season of Death in Paradise as the divorced Humphrey Goodman, played by Marshall, is trying to date again and his awkward interactions with women. There is an honesty to those interactions, which may be funny and sometimes played for laughs, but there is an actual truth to those interactions which is completely missing from the adolescent sex fantasy that is Love Actually. And I’m not saying that I think that the plot in Death in Paradise is brilliant, but there is a reality to it.

Reality seems like such a small thing to ask for sometimes, but there we are.

Articles Published the Week of December 18th

Benjamin Frisch's Fun Family is more than a Family Circus parody

Frisch is a cartoonist and radio producer and his first full length book Fun Family is much more than parody, it's a dark look at family and illusion, about the distance between art and life, it's about how we get through the day. It looks very cute (and Frisch talks about how he changed his style to make the book) but it's not a cute book. It's thoughtful and haunting and I can't wait to see what Frisch does next.

Riad Sattouf on growing up between the lines of France in Syria in The Arab of the Future

Sattouf's graphic memoirs are extraordinary and fascinating books. His father was Syrian and his mother French and Sattouf grew up in Libya and Syria, with trips to France throughout. Throughout his career Sattouf has been interested in children, in their inner lives and how they see the world and these books show life in a small rural village and we spoke about this new volume.

Tom Gauld discusses nostalgia and science fiction in Mooncop

Gauld is perhaps best known for his short funny comics but in this book, his second full length graphic novel, he tells the story of the last policeman on the moon, which is both a dry funny story about loneliness, and a look at nostalgia and our relationship with the past (and the past's idea of the future).

Glen Weldon examines Batman and Fandom in The Caped Crusade

I love NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour (I mean, really, who doesn't?) and that's how I first got to know Glen Weldon, who has written a book about Batman that also traces the rise of fandom and how the two went hand in hand. He makes a number of controversial statements - Joel Schumacher's films weren't THAT bad, Frederic Wertham had a few good points - and I argue, is nicer to Bob Kane that a lot of writers are. (And nicer than I would be). It also diagnoses very thoughtfully how fandom can be toxic and problematic. He also does a very thoughtful reading of the Batman comics of the past 10-15 years. A really fabulous book.

Dave McKean: Black Dog

To my mind, Dave McKean is one of the world's great artists and he can do just about anything. His new book - a beautiful oversize volume - is a series of dreams about the British painter Paul Nash and it is a fascinating and thoughtful and incredible book that I keep coming back to and looking at this book again and again because it's some of McKean's best compositions and as complex and thoughtful as anything as McKean has ever made.