Watching Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

I've been watching "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," the television program from the eighties starring Jeremy Brett as the titular character. I have a vague memory of Brett, who passed away in nineties, being described as the definitive Holmes, but if I saw the episodes before, it was randomly and in isolation. Today thanks to netflix, I can stream or have them delivered.

I just finished watching the second season, which marks the end of the series. For the technical minded, this series had thirteen episodes - two seasons and a Christmas special. There was a followup series, The Return of Sherlock Holmes. There were a few television movies. Another series, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. And then a final series which was done shortly before Brett died, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Overall, I have to admit that I wasn't overly impressed by the show. In my relatively limited experience, many British produced historical shows tend to be a bit dry. There's a certain stiffness and dryness to the proceedings that one can see in everything from Miss Marple which was made earlier this year to programs dating back decades. I keep wondering about the exact nature of it. Some of it is the editing to be sure, some of it may very well be the direction because many of the actors can be flat. The pacing is often slow. Some of it may be me, I'll admit.

Regardless, what it means is that often the success of the show is defined by the lead actor, and in this case, Brett really is the definitive Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is often portrayed as stiff, almost Vulcan in his approach. That was always the way he's been played in older productions. But of course anyone who's read Doyle knows that's not quite right. Alex Ross, in a recent article on Dorian Gray in the New Yorker magazine, observed that there was a bit of Oscar Wilde in Holmes, something that upon reflection I think is very true, and again, this is something one can find in Brett's performance, though not many others.

Brett portrays Holmes as the smartest man in the room, but he's also a man who is often bemused, regularly impatient, sometimes manic and depressive in the same scene. He's a bit of a dandy, his appearance and manner of dress is of the utmost importance, and those moments when Brett loses his composure or is disheveled, one can clearly see in his performance how Holmes regards his exterior appearance a reflection of his interior self. What's most startling though is when Brett laughs, the sheer glee that Holmes can find, rarely laughing at others, but most often, the glee of a case, the sheer brilliance of an idea, the excitement of a solution.

Robert Downey Jr., a fine actor, plays Holmes as he's been written by the scriptwriters, as an incoherent collection of tics, without a center. Benedict Cumberbatch in Steven Moffat's present day set series plays the character in a very valid way, and perhaps the only way suitable for a modern setting. His Holmes is clearly on the Aspergers scale with his gifts at analysis and observation and yet with a decided lack of emotion, both in terms of expressing any and understanding other's emotions. His knowledge of human behavior is something he's learned, not something he truly understands. And the stories while they retain the spirit of the original, they're not reverent, which I appreciate.

In the end, Brett's Holmes can best be described as definitive the way that David Suchet's Poirot is the definitive take on the character. The stories told may be a bit too slow, a little too old fashioned, to the point where I'm often bored when the main characters are not on screen, and yet, the characters are what we remember best and what truly animate the stories. I wish that the joy that animated those performances could have been found in the rest of the production.

Linkblogging: Freeman Dyson reviews a new graphic novel, Feynman

The scientist Freeman Dyson is one of the world's most prominent scientists whose work in mathematics and theoretic physics has placed him in the heart of the Twentieth century and whose theoretical work has inspired a great deal of science fiction, though sadly, many of his ideas have not become reality. Also he has been awarded and received a great many honors despite not having a Ph.D.

Mr. Dyson is also a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and in the new issue he reviews two books about the late Richard Feynman, including the soon to be released graphic novel biography by writer Jim Ottaviani and artist Leland Myrick which is titled simply "Feynman."Dyson isn't a typical comics reader, but he brings a knowledge of the material (Dyson himself even appears briefly, which he admits was an odd reading experience) and an appreciation of the material that few others could bring to it. It's always good to see good comics finding readers who can appreciate them. It sadly happens all too infrequently. Mr. Dyson, welcome to the club.

Mark Doty reading at next week's Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

Mark Doty is one of the great poets in the United States today and I was thrilled to get the chance to talk with him before he visits the Hill-Stead Museum's Sunken Garden Poetry Festival next Wednesday August 3. I've heard Doty read once before - his previous appearance at the Festival in 1997 - and his fourth book "Atlantis" is one of those books that when I read it as a teenager was one of the poetry books that really helped to shape my aesthetic as a writer and a reader.,0,2412236.story


Denny O'Neil Travels Back, Looks Forward

Denny O'Neil is one of the major writers and editors in American comics. He made Batman dark again after the end of the Adam West tv show, bringing the character back to his moody, gothic-influenced roots.  He created one of the great Batman villains - and DC characters - Ra's Al Ghul. Whether you know Ra's from Batman Begins or from Batman: The Animated Series in the 90s where he was perfectly voiced by David Warner (in an episode based on the character's introduction written by O'Neil and illustrated by the great Neal Adams), then you know he's a little different from the gangsters and grotesque villains Batman usually faces off with. Mr. O'Neil also reinvented The Question and wrote a series with the character in the late eighties and early nineties that is in some ways dated, but in other ways is a unique and brilliant series the likes of which has never been published by DC or Marvel. He was a longtime editor at DC, created Obadiah Stane when he worked on Iron Man, fought for greater social realism in comics and has worked with just about everyone. He's also writing two books for the DC Retroactive initiative this month, Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Wonder Woman. It was a thrill and a pleasure to speak with Mr. O'Neil, something that I think shows in the interview. (I do still own the copy of Azrael #1 which he wrote that I bought when it was new)

2011 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award

Congrats to this year's winner of the Eisner for "spirit of comics" retailer award or as many of us think of the prize, the best comic store. I've never been to the store in question which has the great name of "Comics and Vegetables." (In my mind I'm thinking of a combination comic store and organic market with a juice bar that serves wheatgrass...but it's probably NOT that...)

I've never been to the store, which is run by Yuval Sharon and Danny Amitai, though I do hope to visit it in Tel Aviv, Israel one of these years.

Almost all of the previous winners of the prize have been stores in North America. I've visited a number of them including Brave New World in Newhall, CA, Earth-Two in Sherman Oaks, CA, Golden Apple and Meltdown in Los Angeles, Hi De Ho in Santa Monica were places that I loved to visit when I lived in Southern California. Brave New World and Earth-Two especially were great places to visit with great staff, fabulous selection, and regularly had fun events.

To the best of my knowledge, the only other two stores outside of the US and Canada that have won are Lambiek in Amsterdam, Holland and Kings Comics in Sydney, Australia. I admittedly don't know what the comics culture is like in Israel, how many stores are in the country or the community that shops have created, but I can only hope that this is a good sign for the health of comics.

Linkblogging: Sachal Orchestra on PRI's The World

PRI's The World has a great piece on the Lahore, Pakistan-based Sachal Orchestra, which as you can hear is a great band that's released the album "Sachal Jazz" which includes a fabulous take on Dave Brubeck's classic jazz number "Take Five."

The Eisner Winners

The Eisner Awards were announced at this weekend's San Diego Comic-Con. I was thrilled that ComicBook Resources, which is one of the publications I write for, received its second Eisner in three years for "Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism." With luck Jonah will bring the statuette with him to the NY Comic Con this year so I can hold it.

Some winners - like Dave Stewart for Best Colorist and Todd Klein for Best Lettering - are old favorites who have won a great many awards over the years

I'm also excited that many of the people whose work I love (and often, have interviewed) won various awards.

Mike Mignola won for best single issue and best cover artist
Scott Snyder's American Vampire won for best new series
Karl Kerchl's The Abominable Charles Christopher won best digital comic
Wilson by Daniel Clowes shared the award for Best Graphic Album - new
Joe Hill won best writer
Raina Telgemeier won Best publication for teens for Smile

Other winners include the great Jacques Tardi, Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer: Artists Edition, Chew, Daytripper, and Blacksad's Juanjo Guarnido.


Linkblogging: Yemen on the Brink of Hell

Robert F. Worth of the New York Times has a great piece of reportage in the newspaper's Sunday magazine this weekend.

He focuses on Bushra al-Maqtari, a young woman who has been a greater fighter for nonviolence and freedom in the country who also happens to be a great lover of literature and the author of one book of short stories. May she finish her novel and write many more. May she live to an old age. May she do so in a free and prosperous Yemen.


Ron Marz on Shinku, Witchblade and more

I spoke with Ron Marz, the fabulous comics writer who people might remember as the man behind dozens of great books like Samurai from Dark Horse, The Path from Crossgen, Green Lantern at DC and many many more.

He has a new comic coming out from Image right now, the samurai/vampire book Shinku in addition to his work at Top Cow where he's finishing a long run on Witchblade, has launched a new series Magdalena, and is wrapping up a major miniseries Artifacts. He's also re-teaming with artist Daryl Banks for a Green Lantern one shot as part of the DC Retroactive line next month.

Stephen Coughlin Creates a Sanctuary

I had a great conversation with the cartoonist Stephen Coughlin whose comic Sanctuary is being released by SLG Publishing. The comic which involves a panda being murdered at a zoo is a lot of fun and while it's not for kids of all ages (there is a panda being murdered, after all) it's something to give to most kids and it's a lot of fun for adults. Coughlin told me that this was the first interview he's done, and it's a thrill and a pleasure to give him the chance to talk about his comic. The first issue of the comic available for FREE so don't take my word for it. The link is the in the article's introduction.


Linkblogging: Doaa Eladl

Anyone who hasn't checked out this profile of the Egyptian cartoonist Doaa Eladl should do so now. The World, the radio show produced by PRI is one of the best US-based outlets that covers cartoons from abroad and this profile of Ms. Eladl is excellent and a must read for all cartooning fans.

Linkblogging: Happy Birthday Madiba

A loving birthday tribute from the great South African cartoonist Zapiro to Nelson Mandela. One of the great men of our time and one of the people who made the Twentieth century work. Happy birthday, sir.


Linkblogging: Harry Potter, the Anti-Geek and TV Values

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan's The Dish (in this case, overseen by Zack Beauchamp and Zoe Pollock)

These two posts aren't related but I was struck reading them on the same day.

The point about children's television is troubling. I'm sure if I was a parent of a young child, I'd be more worried. If I was the parent of a child being targeted by such shows, I likely would have smashed the television to bits long ago.

Is there a relationship between that and the fact that Harry Potter, the biggest book/film franchise of recent decades, is about a character who achieves celebrity? If the character wasn't...would the books have been as big a hit?

As far as Harry Potter not being of the American band of misfits mold, Amanda Marcotte, who authored the original piece, wonders whether this template has a similar hold over the British mind that it does over the American mind. It brought to mind Michael Moorcock's reading of Tolkien, labeling The Lord of the Rings as "epic Pooh" - which isn't scatological. He's referring to "Winnie-the-" and making the case that the same middle class values of eat your peas, mind your betters, don't question the class structure, etc. are the foundation of both tales. In the U.S., of course, we like our stories of loners and revolutionaries and apple cart up-enders. Well, sometimes, at least.

I suspect we'll be seeing many more Harry Potter articles in the near term as people sit and rethink and reassess the meaning of the series.

Linkblogging: Parenting Advice

M. Molly Backes has some parenting advice for how to raise a writer. It's good advice for raising a kid, regardless of ambition. I'll have to bookmark it and print out a copy.

"First of all, let her be bored."

As someone who spends many hours a day online, owns piles of books that have yet to be read, a netflix queue of hundreds of films and old television shows, over 15K tracks on itunes, I'm well aware that I have lots to keep me occupied. This of course doesn't take into account studying and things I can do when I, you know, leave the house. Which is to say that I'm rarely bored.

I create empty space in my day. I have a phone without internet access. I make a point of meditating. I take time to go for a short walk or just do nothing. But it's something that I have to make a point of doing. I'm not at the stage where I need to schedule my relaxation but I feel like I'm just a few steps away from that.

I grew up without the internet. I grew up without a VCR. I remember when we got cable, before which I was only allowed to watch PBS, and after which I had a daily limit during the school year. I had a library card, but if I finished the books quickly, I was out of luck. Which is a lengthy way of saying that on a fairly regular basis I had to make my own fun. I had to entertain myself.

Where would I be if I was never bored?

It reminds me of the argument that Patton Oswalt put forward in his much-debated essay for Wired a little back titled "Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time To Die."

Being bored and being alone. I don't think these things are valued enough.


Abernathy Gets Retro-Active at DC Comics

I talk with Ben Abernathy - a nice guy and talented editor - over at DC Comics about their new Retro-Active comics coming out this month and next which feature some of the great past creators writing and drawing new issues of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash and the Justice League. The people include some great comics people including writers Denny O'Neill, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, William Messner-Loebs, Cary Bates, Martin Pasko, Louise Simonson, and creative teams like Ron Marz & Darryl Banks, Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle, and Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire.

It should be a fun look back before DC relaunches everything this fall and over at CBR, we'll be talking with some of these great comics figures in the weeks ahead.

Musing: Jadaliyya

This year of all the publications I spend time obsessively checking and rereading, I have to say that Jadaliyya is one of my favorites. Sadly I'm not at the point where I can actually read the articles posted in Arabic, though I can sometimes get the gist of it. One of the reasons I've fallen in love with the site is because it features poetry, something that's rare in any publication anywhere. In the case of Jadaliyya, they're publishing some truly great poetry and some exceptional translation work. There's work by Abu al-Qasim al-Shabbi, Sargon Boulos, Nizar Qabbani and many more.

Besides that there's lot of writing about culture and politics. Sinan Antoon has a great piece about the Syrian poet Adunis, who is one of the great and important poets of the Twentieth century, but whose recent statements about uprisings in Syria and throughout the region have been, well, lacking. The article's title, "The Arab Spring and Adunis' Autumn" says it quite well. Mohamed Elshahed has an excellent essay outlining "The Case Against the Grand Egyptian Museum."

But I keep coming back to the poetry...


Tim Seeley Hack/Slashes the comics world

Tim Seeley is one of comic's big up and coming creators. He's a writer and an artist, though often not on the same project, usually writing independent creator-owned projects and drawing work for hire books at Marvel and DC. Seeley was just announced as the new writer of Witchblade, succeeding the long time writer Ron Marz on the title (something I wasn't allowed to mention in the article) but we spoke about space opera, his ambitions for the future, and how there's only two things he ever loved more than comics.


Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling and The Prisoner

I will admit that The Prisoner, one of the greatest things to ever appear on television, is one of those things I am mildly obsessed least I thought so. Then I saw this new music video from the band Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (which took their name from the title of an episode of The Prisoner). The music video features the stunning lead singer and drummer Sophia Cacciola in the role of Patrick McGoohan and it is awesome.

And where did they get that Lotus?

Having never heard of the band before, I searched through some of their other stuff. I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of their cover of Leonard Cohen's First We Take Manhattan, but now I really want to see them live. Anyway, check it out. I have to go watch The Prisoner again.

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And if you're intrigued, you can see how their version compares to the original:

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Joe Simon's life in comics

Joe Simon is a living legend in the comics world. He co-created, with his longtime friend and partner Jack Kirby, one of comics' most iconic characters, Captain America. He and Kirby worked on thousands of comics over many years in just about every conceivable genre. Titan Books has been releasing the Simon-Kirby comic stories in recent years in gorgeous hardcover volumes that have been recolored in what are really the gold standard of comics reproduction. Mr. Simon has written his memoirs about his time in the comics industry titled simply "My Life in Comics" and when I was given the chance to interview him, I jumped at it. We spoke about Jack Kirby, influence of Damon Runyon on his work, and still smoking at least two cigars a day into his nineties.


Musing: The Problem of Flight and the future of anthologies

Brigid Alverson read my interview with Kazu Kibuishi about the final volume of the Flight anthology and she took away from it one of Kazu's key points, which I think deserves a lot of discussion. What will anthologies look like in years to come? What's the best way for creators to work in short form and publish this work? What's the best way to attract new readers?

I've been thinking in recent months about anthologies and the future shape of them. With the conclusion of Flight and with the final volume of Mome coming out from Fantagraphics soon, it begs the question what will the next big anthology look like?

When I spoke with Gary Groth last month I made the comment that Fantagraphics felt like a different company than it used to be because it no longer publishes The Comics Journal monthly and regular comic books and with the shuttering of Mome, it felt as if the company has the same sensibility, but a different business model. That shift away from anthologies and away from serialized comics in the indie comics world is significant and I think it will alter how people work and the lack of print outlets for short work will affect the output of the next generation of cartoonists.

At the MoCCA festival earlier this year I picked up a number of anthologies of varying degrees of quality and with very different approaches. Some of them like From Wonderland with Love and Angst Volume 4, which collect work from Denmark and Norway respectively, are not a great model for what I'm thinking about, despite being fabulous anthologies with some amazing work.

I picked up the second volume of The Anthology Project which was edited by Sam Bradley, Joy Ang and Nick Thornborrow because I liked the first volume, which is up for an Eisner Award this year. Admittedly I think the book could use a flashier name, but it's a beautifully designed, high quality book. It's also hardcover and thirty dollars. That's a lot to pay. And yes it's great artwork and it's a great book, but it's expensive and it's not designed as an entry point for new readers or even for casual readers.

Don't get me wrong. There's beautiful work from Emily Carroll, Aurelie Neyret, Haylee Herrick, Kim Smith, Katie Shanahan and others. I follow many of these artists online and I think they're fabulous and it's a great thrill to see them in print and see their work reproduced at this quality. But I wonder, if I didn't know who they were, if none of the names were familiar to me at all, would I have picked up the book and spent thirty bucks figuring that I'm bound to like at least a couple of the stories? Or would I have moved on and looked for more of a known quantity (or at least a cheaper unknown quantity?)

What about a model closer to what Pizza Island did (That's Kate Beaton, Domitille Collardey, Sarah Glidden, Meredith Gran, Lisa Hanawalt, Julia Wertz, for those of you who don't know) where for MoCCA they pulled together a minicomic collecting work of theirs. Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Vasillis Lolos and Fabio Moon did something similar a few years back that was later collected by Dark Horse in the volume Pixu.

(Of course these people are also some of the most talented in comics and very well known, so it's not as if any of them are that unknown. And yes, if one is aiming at a broad audience that's not exposed to comics and familiar with cartoonists, they will likely be unknown to those people, but their recognition within the comics world means that they have a base of supporters and readers, which is important financially when wading into print)

These groupings by studio mates, by friends, by artists with similar backgrounds and approaches, could put together some interesting work, and I wonder if we'll be seeing more of that. What would it mean if Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Palmer were to create a yearly minicomic of short comics, illustrations and short fiction? What if Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, Marian Churchland and friends did?

What about Periscope Studio, which is home to some incredibly talented artists who have a group blog? What if in an effort to leverage their online presence and give them a chance to do short comics and do something with it besides just post it on their blog, they produced an annual or regular publication?

Something vaguely similar can be seen in Double Feature and House of Twelve, which are very different anthologies with very different sensibilities produced digitally that try to take advantage of the possibilities that digital offers. Honestly they're different enough that this is likely the only time the two publications will be mentioned in the same sentence anywhere.

Of course all these ideas I'm tossing out are based on a smaller self-selected group of people putting out something together, which is something I love, something I read, something I would dearly like to read more of, and yet, it's not quite what I'm looking for. I hear the word anthology and the first publication that comes to mind is Granta. (Yes, I know, not comics. Sue me. I'm a word guy.) I think of Tin House. The Paris Review. McSweeney's.

Part of me thinks that perhaps the best way to approach this would be to regularly publish an anthology digitally with an annual or regularly scheduled print edition. Would it be a weekly publication - a short dose of comics delivered often? Would it be more infrequent, monthly or even quarterly? The many challenges of the digital marketplace, including waiting for Apple's approval (which is not always forthcoming, particularly if one creates satire) would seem to make weekly a challenge, if not an outright impossibility unless one was prepared months in advance, but I like the idea.

The other possibility would be to do it like Granta, regular issues often centered around a theme. A loose theme, though - for those of who don't know Granta themes are things like "The Sea," "London," "The Family," "Aliens," "The F Word," "The New Nature Writing." Three themed issues coming out quarterly exclusively online. Then a print edition featuring original work coming out late spring/early summer for the convention season.

More on this later.


Kazu Kibuishi's Final Flight

The Flight anthology has been one of the most important comics publications of the past decade and though I don't think the book ever achieved the level of success that Scott McCloud predicted in the first volume, a look at the contributors to the first volume is a really impressive list of people who have gone on to do some really significant work. I've met Kazu a few times over the years and I've interviewed him before but it's great to have the chance to talk about the anthology's last volume.

Eighteen Lives but only "One Soul"

With One Soul, Ray Fawkes has crafted one of the most ambitious comics of the year - of any year, really. I've read the book twice and the truth is that I'm still working out my own thoughts about the book. That's not to say I don't like it - I do - but I'm still unsure about how effective I feel certain aspects of the book are, whether I like some things he did, and just digesting the enormity of what he did and how he did it.

There are weeks when I read more than a dozen books, so that weeks after I first cracked open this volume, it stays with me and is still being digested in my subconscious, should say something. For anyone who's interested in comics or who wants to make comics, this book is a must read.


Geoff Dyer: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition - Bookworm on KCRW

Bookworm is one of the smartest programs on the radio and host Michael Silverblatt is one of the smartest people and most insightful readers you can find anywhere. I still haven't gotten around to reading Dyer's recent novel "Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi" or his new essay collection "Other wise Known as the Human Condition" but I'm a great admirer of Dyer's earlier books including "But Beautiful," which is about jazz, and "The Ongoing Moment," which is one of my favorite books of art criticism and a great book about photography. It's a thrill to hear that Dyer is just as colorful, thoughtful and playful in person as he is on the page.

Geoff Dyer: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition - Bookworm on KCRW


Ludovic Debeurme introduces Lucille to America

In Europe, Ludovic Debeurme is well known for his many comics, but this week Top Shelf is introducing him to North America with the publication of Lucille. The 2006 book which won numerous awards is one that I compared in my introduction to Blankets, another volume published by Top Shelf about young people in love. There are some truly beautiful moments and scenes in the book, but overall, I still feel like I'm digesting it. I suppose that longer books tend to stick with us like that. I had the chance to speak with him over e-mail and I really regret that I couldn't have attended the PEN INternational Festival earlier this year where Debeurme was a guest.


Dave McKean on Celluloid

Dave McKean has been one of my favorite artists for many years. His book Cages is one of my favorite graphic novels. He's best known for his many collaborations with Neil Gaiman in comics (Sandman, Violent Cases, Mr. Punch), picture books (The Day I Sold My Dad for Two Goldfish), children's novels (Coraline, The Graveyard Book) and film (Mirrormask). McKean also illustrated Batman: Arkham Asylum, written by Grant Morrison.

We spoke about his new book Celluloid (just out from Fantagraphics books here in North America), the collection of short comics he's assembling, the two films he's working on right now, and his ambitions.

Anderson and Yu Kill Zombies with "Rex"

I spoke with two independent creators, writer Rob Anderson and artist DaFu Yu, about their new book which debuted at Heroes Con with a zero issue - Rex, Zombie Killer. How's this for a high concept: The Walking Dead meets The Incredible Journey? Yes, that's right, animals surviving a zombie-infested globe. And one of the animals....a baseball bat-wielding gorilla. Check it out.

McLeod shows a Mastery of "Infinite Kung Fu"

Kagan McLeod is primarily an illustrator. Odds are that you've come across his work in one of the many magazines and newspapers that he's appeared in, from the New York Times and the Washington Post to Entertainment and Field and Stream. I spoke with him about Infinite Kung Fu, a comic series that he began a decade ago and then after many years, returned to finish it. The complete story is now out in a book from Top Shelf and it is a awesome. Plus it has an introduction by Gordon Liu. How's that for a pedigree?


Howard Cruse Returns with "The Complete Wendel"

Howard Cruse is one of the great artists of his generation and one of the most important. And unfortunately he rarely draws much anymore. I spoke with him last year when his graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby was republished and last month we spoke about his new book which collects his comic strip from the eighties, Wendel in addition to talking about the gay community and how life in America has changed, how he got Sir Ian McKellan to blurb his book and a look back at his lengthy, ground-breaking career.


The Man, The Myth, The Legend....Mr. Neil Gaiman

What more can I say? If you've never met Neil, he is as nice a guy as you'd hope. We didn't have a lot of time to talk - he was running late and then literally running off afterwards - but we had a chance to talk about the new edition of American Gods that's out this week, the announced HBO television adaptation of the book, the book's sequel, Doctor Who, Monkey and Me, the film trilogy he's writing, and The Simpsons.

People like Gary Groth (and even me)

I spoke with Gary Groth as I blogged before, and whether it's because it was a good interview or maybe it was just a slow news day, but people seem to really like it.

(Insert Sally Field joke here)

Anyway thanks to Heidi MacDonald at The Beat, Sean T. Collins at Robot 6, Joanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth ReadingDan Nadel at the TCJ blog, and Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter and everyone else who have said nice things about the piece.

I so rarely get feedback or hear from people about articles, so it's nice to hear that the interview has found its audience - and that the audience actually liked it.

Gary Groth on the State of Comics

Gary Groth is one of the most influential people in comics today. He's also someone who's as hated as he is loved, and the man wouldn't have it any other way. (Which admittedly, is part of why some of us love him so). He's been at the helm of Fantagraphics and The Comics Journal for decades and as part of the redesign/relaunch of the Comicbook Resources homepage, I spoke with him about Fantagraphics and the comics industry more generally, so we talk about the death of the pamphlet, reprinting old comic strips, handing off the Comics Journal to Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler, the DC relaunch and other topics. It was a lot of fun and I made him laugh a few times. Also he confirmed that Pogo will be coming out this fall.

Dave Roman Blasts Off with "Astronaut Academy

I interviewed Dave Roman - one of the editors of the late Nickelodeon magazine and a writer and cartoonist behind books like Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden, Agnes Quill, Teen Boat! and more. I've interviewed him before and he's a great person to talk to with a great perspective. We spoke about his new graphic novel just out from First Second Books, who was kind enough to provide an exclusive look at Roman's short comic contribution to this fall's release Nursery Rhyme Comics.


American McGee's Alice: Madness Returns

I spoke with American McGee, the designer behind "American McGee's Alice" and the brand new video game release out this week, "Alice: Madness Returns." We spoke about the design of the new game, how living and working in China has affected his work, and where he sees the future of gaming headed.

Trina Robbins: Miss Fury

Trina Robbins is something of a legend among comics people. Few people have a body of work both as a creator and a historian. We talked at length about her careers, the new archival project "Miss Fury," the series "Honey West" that she's writing in addition to Lily Renee, "Chicks in Capes," Bill Blackbeard and more.

Jess Fink Programs Chester 5000

Jess Fink is the woman behind the webcomic "Chester 5000 XYV," the print version of which comes out this month from Top Shelf. If you've never read the erotic Victorian steampunk webcomic then you're missing out. We talked about that comic and her next book, a time travel memoir.

Leslie Stein's Majestic Eye

I met Leslie Stein at the MoCCA convention where her first graphic novel "Eye of the Majestic Creature" was released. It's a great comic filled with moments that range from the psychedelic to the sublime and possesses a tone that's all its own. The book collects four issues of her self-published series and I can't wait for the fifth issue.

Memorial Day Spotlight on Joe Kubert

There are few names in comics as iconic as that of Joe Kubert but the eighty-four year old isn't resting on his laurels. The Army veteran is perhaps best known as the co-creator, the definitive artist, the longtime editor and sometimes writer of Sgt. Rock. Last year in a story written by Len Wein, Mr. Kubert depicted the death of the character. This month, three of his earlier books are being released by DC in paperback including what I think is his finest work "Yossel," about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.


Brecht Evens on "The Wrong Place" and "Night Animals"

Brecht Evens is one of the most talented young cartoonists to emerge from the European comic scene recently. His North American debut was "The Wrong Place"which was released by Drawn and Quarterly last fall and now an earlier book "Night Animals" is being released by Top Shelf.

Stephan Pastis throws "Pearls Before Swine"

Stephan Pastis is one of those cartoonists that some people love with a passion that borders on madness and others just don't get. I love his comic. I own books. I have a page a day calendar. Maybe it's because in a typical week I am at different points Pig, Rat and Goat. Who knows. I got a chance to talk with him about the comic and his other projects.

Bruce Canwell Talks "Genius, Isolated"

I got to talk with Bruce Canwell. Being a guy who works at home, I so rarely get to meet or talk with other comics people except for the occasional convention, so getting to talk with someone like Bruce Canwell is a treat. Bruce is the writer behind "Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles" which is one of the great books about comics. His new book which he wrote with Dean Mullaney is about Alex Toth, the first of three volumes designed to place the artist in a context for contemporary readers to understand and appreciate his work and its influence.

Peter Bagge Talks "Hate," "Yeah!" and "Bat Boy"

Peter Bagge has been one of the funniest cartoonists in America for many years. I've interviewed him before and he's always fascinating, a great guy and a lot of fun to talk with. We talked about the new "Hate" Annual, the collection of his short-lived comic "Yeah!" and "Bat Boy."

Joe Harris on Scarlet, Spontaneous and more

Joe Harris is a great guy and a great writer as people who read "Ghost Projekt" from Oni Press can attest. His two new projects are "Spontaneous" from Oni and "Vampirella and the Scarlet Legion" from Dynamite.

Personally, spontaneous human combustion is one of those concepts that fascinates me and a story aiming for a Hitchcockian vibe on the subject...I'm there.

Michael William Kaluta Remains "Starstruck"

In a companion piece to my interview with Elaine Lee for Suicidegirls, I spoke with Michael William Kaluta - one of the great fantasy artists and comic creators of his generation - about "Starstruck" which just came out in a gorgeous hardcover edition from IDW Publishing. One of the great artists and "Starstruck" is arguably his finest work.

Spotlight on Alejandro Jodorowsky

There are few people in the world who have worked in as many fields, creative and otherwise, and have amassed a body of work as broad, deep, thoughtful, eclectic as Alejandro Jodorowsky. Speaking with the man was a great pleasure and his biography is such that even reposting part of my introduction below will give only the slightest hint of what he's accomplished. 

Alejandro Jodorowsky is not a typical comics creator. He has been a puppeteer, a playwright, a theater director, a filmmaker and a tarot expert. He studied pantomime with Etienne Decroux and wrote several routines for Marcel Marceau’s mime troupe including two of its most well known works, "The Cage" and "The Mask Maker." In 1962, Jodorowsky was one of the founders of the Panic Movement, a post-surrealistic collective with Fernando Arrabel and Roland Topor. His films, particularly "Fando y Lis," "El Topo," "The Holy Mountain" and "Santa Sangre" are some of the most acclaimed avant garde films of recent decades.
Jodorowsky collaborated with the artist Moebius on "The Incal," a book often cited as one of the best comics of all time. His other comics include "The Madwoman of the Sacred Heart," "Technopriests," "Metabarons" and others. His work has been released sporadically in the United States. Heavy Metal published "Borgia," illustrated by Milo Manara, but much of Jodorowsky’s work has been released through Humanoids.

Talking About the Middle East Film and Comic Con

I was excited and intrigued when it was announced that Abu Dhabi would be hosting the first Middle East Film and Comic Con. Given everything that's going on in the region, it's more than understandable that they would chose to postpone it, and though that news hasn't gotten much attention, we sought out Arafaat Ali Khan, the Director of Public Relations at ExtraCake P.R.A., to talk about what's happening going forward.

The Many Worlds of Molly Crabapple

Molly Crabapple is one of those amazingly creative people who constantly has so many hats in the air and pulls them off with such aplomb that it would be easy to hate her if she weren't just so good and just so darn nice. We talk about the online comic "The Puppet Makers," "I Have Your Heart," Paris, SXSW and her book in progress.


2011 MoCCA Festival Report

In which I talk about this year's MoCCA Festival, and the fact that while I loved seeing people and meeting people and buying books, the festival itself leaves a bit to be desired.

I mean there was a great selection of books. Some people say, well, there were only a few good books, but that works for me. People can argue that there were no great books debuting at MoCCA, but with so many just plain good and interesting ones, it's hard to argue too much. Maybe I'm a jackass, but every show I attend, I end up liking just about everything I pickup, but by that same token, while the books are good, they're not necessarily great. That doesn't bother me at all.

In the end, it was worth attending just for the people. It's going to something like MoCCA that I remember what I miss in not working out of an office, in not having people around that I can talk with about work. I mentioned a long list of people in the course of the article who I spoke with and hung out with over the course of the weekend. That's what made it worthwhile. It's been interesting to read the comments and reports from other people who came to much the same conclusion.

Pondering what that means and what will come next.


Talking with Daniel Clowes about "Mister Wonderful," "Wilson" and more

Daniel Clowes is one of my favorite cartoonists and has been for years. He's not just someone whose work I've enjoyed and respected, but his work in "Eightball" played a major role in my interest in comics and the development of my aesthetic sense. One of the things about his work that continues to make him one of the best and most interesting cartoonists of his generation is how his work has changed and evolved. It's always fascinating to see where Clowes will go next.


Thanks to Heidi MacDonald for The Beat's Elaine Lee shout out

The Beat is one of the best news blogs in the comics field and I was glad to see that Heidi MacDonald made note of my recent interview with Elaine Lee about the epic graphic novel Stardust, writing new Honey West stories, radio plays, theater and more. In truth I had a whole other list of topics to chat with Elaine about that will have to wait for another opportunity. Elaine is just as smart, witty and intelligent an interview subject as she is a writer. We could definitely use more Elaine Lee-written comics in the world.


Nick Cardy: Silver Age Comics Legend and World War II Veteran

Mr. Nick Cardy is one of those artists who made comics worth reading in the "Silver age" of comics (which for those who don't know is considered to be 1956 to circa 1970). During that time, Mr. Cardy illustrated "Aquaman," "Teen Titans," "Bat Lash" and other major titles. He drew hundreds of covers for the company before transitioning to doing movie poster artwork. I spoke with the man recently about his new book, a collection of artwork that he did while serving as an assistant tank driver in Europe during World War II.

Mr. Cardy was everything that an interviewer could ask for -- funny, thoughtful, still sharp and a great storyteller -- and I can only hope that I'm in as good shape when I'm 91.

This interview also contains possibly my favorite exchange in any interview of mine:

What did it mean to be an assistant tank driver?
If the driver has to go to the bathroom, you watch the tank. [Laughs

Launching a Digital DoubleFeature

I spoke recently with Four Star Studiomates Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, Josh Emmons and Sean Dove about their new project, a self-published 99 cent all-ages digital comic. It's the kind of project I'm  a little surprised that more professional cartoonists haven't put together. A low cost pair of short stories with lots of extras for a low price point is a good deal for people who like the creators involved or who just think it sounds interesting. With the proliferation of tablets, I think we'll be seeing much more of this in the future.

Looking at Tove Jansson's Fair Play for The Daily Beast

I'm thrilled to be writing for The Daily Beast and just as thrilled that I got to write about the great Tove Jansson. For those of you who don't know, she is the Swedish-Finnish writer and artist behind the Moomins, a great series of children's novels and comic strips (which would go onto be multiple films and cartoon shows and a cookbook and a theme park and...) Her picture books and collections of the comic strip that she and her brother created are published by the great people at Drawn and Quarterly. In her fifties, Jansson retired form the Moomins and children's books to write books for adults. The New York Review of Books Classics imprint has been putting them in print here in the States, first The Summer Book, then True Deceiver, and now Fair Play. The book was a joy to read. All her books are. When I pitched my editor the idea of writing about the book, I half-jokingly described Jansson as the "anti-Steig Larsson," and while I think it's true, it's hard to detail what makes the book work so well and yet convey just how charming a book it is. Go read it. It'll become quickly apparent. I promise.