Articles Published the Week of March 12th

Film Review: A Critically Endangered Species

I had the chance to review two films appearing at SXSW. One was A Critically Endangered Species and I was not a fan of the film, but the reason I wanted to see the film was because of the lead actor Lena Olin, who is amazing, and this is one of her best performances. I think in the end the film has a lot of narrative problems, but whenever Olin is onscreen, you don't really care. It's a reminder of just how good she is and how rarely we see her on screen.

R Sikoryak Talks Bringing the iTunes Terms and Conditions to Comics

Sikoryak's book Terms and Conditions sounds insane. He adapted the iTunes Terms and Conditions into a graphic novel. He did so by using every single world and doing each page of the comic in a different style and uses actually comics pages that he transforms. It's beautiful and amazing to look at just how well Sikoryak can draw like Romita and Macfarlane and The Walking Dead and My Little Pony and dozens of others. We talked about the fun and insanity.

Film Review: Spettacolo

I was blown away by the film Spettacolo and the story it tells. For fifty years a small hill town in Tuscany has been putting on a play each summer, a play about themselves. It's a story about community, about art, about how the world is changing and how ordinary people are struggling to keep up with everything. It's the story of us. And maybe we don't all put on plays about how we're struggling with the state of the world, but maybe, just maybe, we should.

Articles Published the Week of March 5th

Johnston and Perkins Prepare for Atomic Blonde's Coldest Winter

So I am a great admirer of the writer Antony Johnston, and we've taken a number of times over the years. He's written a lot of graphic novels and video games and other projects and I think 2017 will be his biggest year yet. The upcoming movie Atomic Blonde - starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy and others - comes out this year based on his book The Coldest City, and the prequel to the book, The Coldest Winter (starring McAvoy's character) is just out from Oni Press. I spoke with Antony and artist Steven Perkins about the project and we talked about the unusual preparation Perkins had which prepared him for this, trying to capture this period of Berlin, and Cold War intrigue.


Sitcom Realism Nitpick: Superstore

I feel no shame in admitting that I really love Superstore, the sitcom starring America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Mark McKinney and a great ensemble cast. The show centers around a crew that works at Cloud 9, a big box store in St. Louis. The show was created by Justin Spitzer, who was a writer on The Office for years

The first season was good, but in its second season I think the show has really found its footing. The Olympics episode was really entertaining and the election episode was hilarious. And I say this well aware of how hard it is to make an episode around an election funny and not political, but they managed. Also the Good Friday episode was great.

I do have to say that while on the one hand last week's episode "Super Hot Store" which was written by Joe Barrasas was funny and well-acted, it did fail a pretty basic test of what I like to think of as, this just isn't at all how a workplace operates.

Now I am aware that most sitcoms - and indeed, this show - is not how most workplaces operate. For good reason. But this one just stuck out for me.

The thermostat in the store is malfunctioning and so everyone is hot and irritable. It leads to a lot of really funny scenes, but here's the problem. If this happened in winter, it wouldn't play out like this. The warehouse part of the store is less insulated than the rest of the store. Let's be honest, only employees are there. Plus of course the garage doors are there and opening and closing all day as shipments arrive. Therefore the warehouse part would be reasonably temperate - caught between the cold outdoors and the sweltering store.

If anything the warehouse workers would be so used to working in layers in the cold that they'd either be celebrating the warm temperatures or freaking out.

But really the fact that the warehouse is nice would mean that they would keep the doors open. Which means that the warehouse crew would refuse to deliver anything onto the floor because of the brutal temperatures, engaging in their own work stoppage. And the crew of the floor would find any excuse to go into the back - because of course with Dina they would need a reason as to why they were going into the warehouse.

For example a customer would ask for something and ask if there's more or a different size or something like that and ask - or sometimes demand - that the employee go check "the back." Now whenever I was asked this, I would walk into the back room, hang out for a bit, get a drink of water, chat with another employee and then walk out to say, "nope, sorry."

I keep picturing each employee coming up ever more elaborate reasons to go into the back room and the warehouse staff coming up with ever more elaborate reasons as to why they can't work on the floor and just how much of the staff can lounge around in the back room together until Dina and Glenn's noses. And then of course things spiral out of control and, well, you get the idea.

Having said all that, I did really like the Super Hot Store episode. Clearly I just worked in stores where we, um, tried not to do so much work.

(BTW if I wrote this up as an you think I could get a job writing for the show...? Asking for a friend...)


For International Womens Day (The Comics Edition)

It's International Women's Day, and right now I'm in a cleaning/organizing phase and so I wanted to say something about the state of comics. Namely, the greatness of the artform that is comics is due to the presence of women. They didn't start making two years ago and ruining old fanboys' fun with their cosplay and readers of many ages. They've been making comics for decades. They've been making great comics. So I pulled a few names from my interview files and people will read this and go, well, I don't like person X or person Y. Which is fine. But comics without this list of people would be poorer, less intelligent, less interesting, less fun, less inventive.

This is the greatest time in comics ever with more talent, more great work than ever before. Women make up a massive chunk (if not the majority) of those creators. To say nothing of how much of the audience they make up. We're at the point now where not believing this means that you either hate women or you're an idiot.

So these are a few of the people that I've interviewed over the years. Not everyone on this list is still with us, sadly. Some people I've become friends with. Some people didn't seem to like me very much when I talked to them. Some of them are to my mind among the greatest, most creative people alive today. 

Jessica Abel
Zeina Abirached
Nancy Ahn
Meg-John Barker
Kate Beaton
Alison Bechdel
Gabrielle Bell
Lucy Bellwood
Paige Braddock
MK Brown
Nina Bunjevac
Peggy Burns
Nancy Burton
Sophie Campbell
Jennifer Camper
Emma Capps
Lilli Carre
Emily Carroll
Genevieve Castree
Roz Chast
Becky Cloonan
Chynna Clugston
Colleen Coover
Leela Corman
Danielle Corsetto
Molly Crabapple
Camilla D'Errico
Dame Darcy
Anya Davidson
Eleanor Davis
Vanessa Davis
Felicia Day
Alex de Campi
Aimee de Jongh
Kelly Sue DeConnick
Vanessa R. Del Rey
Colleen Doran
Julie Doucet
Jamaica Dyer
Rene Engstrom
Leslie Ewing
Joyce Farmer
Christa Faust
Emil Ferris
Jess Fink
Mary Fleener
Shary Flenniken
Ellen Forney
Lora Fountain
Ramona Fradon
Aisha Franz
Renee French
Amy Kim Ganter
Shaenon Garrity
Julia Gfrorer
Sarah Glidden
Phoebe Gloeckner
Annie Goetzinger
Sophie Goldstein
Meredith Gran
Isabel Greenberg
Roberta Gregory
Barbara Hambly
Lisa Hanawalt
Jennifer Hayden
Faith Erin Hicks
Joan Hilty
Emily Horne
Kathryn Immonen
Rebekah Isaacs
Joelle Jones
Miriam Katin
Megan Kelso
Caitlin R Kiernan
Mia Kirshner
Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Meredith Kurtzman
Miss Lasko-Gross
Elaine Lee
Caryn Leschen
Kate Leth
Renee Lott
Lisa Lyons
Lee Marrs
Carla Speed McNeil
Dylan Meconis
Barbara Mendes
Melissa Mendes
Lena Merhej
Rutu Modan
Erika Moen
Patricia Moodian
Francoise Mouly
Hazel Newlevant
Anne Nocenti
Diane Noomin
Danica Novgorodoff
Diane Obomsawin
Andrea Offermann
Sarah Oleksyk
Sydney Padua
Nina Paley
Xenia Pamfil
Sarah Pichelli
Liz Plourde
Mimi Pond
Rhianna Pratchett
Hilary Price
Liz Prince
Lauren Purje
Jen Lee Quick
MK Reed
Amy Reeder
Sandrine Revel
Rachel Richey
Trina Robbins
Sharon Rudahl
Sara Ryan
Nicola Scott
Tara Seibel
Gail Simone
Dana Simpson
Taki Soma
Jen Sorensen
Nadja Spiegelman
Fiona Staples
Leslie Stein
Bianca Stone
Liz Suburbia
Jillian Tamaki
Mariko Tamaki
Sarah Stewart Taylor
Raina Telgemeier
Maggie Thrash
C Spike Trotman
Carol Tyler
Anya Ulinich
Sara Varon
Emma Vieceli
Jen Wang
Shannon Watters
Christina Weir
Maris Wicks
Rebecca Wilson
G Willow Wilson
Teri S. Wood
Evie Wyld
Gina Wynbrandt
Ru Xu
Chrissie Zullo

Articles Published the Week of February 26th

Ray Billingsley Reveals the Hard lessons that Will Eisner and the Comics Industry Taught Him

I've been reading Ray Billingsley's strip Curtis for years, and I had the chance to talk with the man about the long-running strip and his career which began when he was only 12. He opened up about his career, his friendship with the late Charles Schulz, his teacher the late Will Eisner, but also the problems he's faced within the industry and continues to face. I really appreciate that Ray was willing to open up. We need people who are willing to be blunt and honest.

I also mentioned one of my favorite recurring gags from Curtis from when I was a kid (way back when), the music store which sold rap, and which kept getting burned down by angry parents only to re-open under a different name. It's no longer there for obvious reasons, but I always loved that gag.


Articles Published the Week of February 19th

Meg-John Barker Discusses Bi-erasure and Gender Performativity in Queer: A Graphic History

Writer and activist Meg-John Barker spoke with me about her book, which I took as a chance to try and talk out what queer theory is and discuss bisexuality and bi-erasure at some length, which is a topic we're both interested in and concerned about. Also because I'm old (over 30) I ask a question about some of the lingo that "kids today" use. (Yes, I'm serious)

Jamie Delano Talks Politics, Anger and His World Without End

I never read World Without End when the miniseries was published by Vertigo a quarter century ago, so I was glad for the new hardcover collection from Dover Books with collects the project from writer Jamie Delano and artist John Higgins. I've long been a fan of Delano's work on Hellblazer and other projects and we spoke about WWE, politics, and writing while angry

"What I Detest Most of All is Boredom in Work": An Interview with Sandrine Revel

One of my favorite comics of 2016 was the biography of the pianist Glenn Gould by Sandrine Revel. I had a chance to speak with the French artist about the project, which isn't a typical biography but a beautiful and strange look at how Gould thought.


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.