Michael Dean looks at MoCCA in The Comics Journal

For all comics people, the Comics Journal has a must-read article about the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York City. MoCCA is probably best known not as a museum, but as the sponsor of an annual festival (April 28-29 this year) for independent comics. Dean looks at what the museum has accomplished over the course of a decade. Sadly, not very much. If success can be seen by simply continuing to exist, then it's succeeded for a decade, but it's done little more. Many of the problems are familiar to all museums and nonprofits, while others are not. What's interesting is that the festival is a success, though it continues have some problems, and the educational programs are a continuing success, but the museum itself is almost an afterthought. Dean does an excellent job with the article and in the end sit raises the question of what should MoCCA be. I think the big problem is that no one seems to have a solid coherent vision of what MoCCA should be and how to get there. There are plenty of ideas, but without a vision and a person dedicated to carrying it out, I'm not sure what the next decade will be like.

Give a thought, or a donation, to S. Clay Wilson

Justin Green has some information up about S. Clay Wilson, one of the Zap Comix artists, and one of the most important and influential figures in underground comics. Medically speaking, Mr. Wilson isn't doing too well, and I know that not everyone can afford to give something, I hope everyone can spare a thought or a prayer for Mr. Wilson.

Emma Capps on The Chapel Chronicles

I spoke with Emma Capps, who's the talented (and annoying young) cartoonist behind the weekly webcomic The Chapel Chronicles. Of course when we spoke, we rambled on about Sherlock, Doctor Who and other tangential topics. Besides her weekly comic - – she'll have a new collection of the strip out next month.

Karen Abbott talks about Gypsy Rose Lee and "American Rose"

Karen Abbott 's second book "American Rose" has just been released in paperback. The book isn't so much a biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, as it uses her as a lens to look at the rise of burlesque, America during the Great Depression and much more. Gypsy is a far more complicated and interesting person than I thought – when I hear the name, I think of burlesque and the song "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from the musical Gypsy. It's an amazing life and the story that Abbott weaves around her is something else.

Brian Wood on The Massive, Conan and more

I had a chance to talk with Brian Wood about his new book The Massive, taking over Conan, ending DMZ and Northlanders, will he ever draw a comic again and more.


Denys Cowan conjures Dominique Laveau

I got to interview Denys Cowan recently. He drew Denny O'Neill's legendary run of The Question, illustrated Batman: Blind Justice which was written by Sam Hamm and introduced the character Henri Ducard, worked on Deathlok at Marvel, was one of the founders of Milestone Media, created Hardware and a lot of the other Milestone characters with writer Dwayne McDuffie, was a producer/director and designer on the animated series Static Shock and Boondocks. His actual resume is a lot longer and more impressive than all that, but it gives you an idea as to why I was so excited to talk with him. I've been a fan for many years and I think his new book, the Vertigo comic "Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child" is some of the best artwork he's ever done. It's also a great book about life in New Orleans, voodoo, history, spirituality, social realism. Writer Selwyn Sefu Hinds has crafted what might be one of the next great comic series. I spoke with Cowan and he showed off some penciled pages–which are gorgeous–and some designwork he did for the series.

Brian K. Vaughan crafts a Saga

Brian K. Vaughan is one of those writers that comics fans get excited about. When you've written the series Y–The Last Man and Ex Machina and created Runaways for Marvel (and then he spent a few years working on that little tv show called Lost), it's pretty easy to see why people get excited. His new book is Saga, and it is a great book. One of the best comics I've read so far this year. It's been years since Vaughan's written a comics, but he hasn't lost anything, and artist Fiona Staples is doing the best work I've ever seen her do (and I say that as someone who's liked everything I've seen of hers).


Evangelicals talking about sex

Rachel Held Evans has a very thoughtful piece about three blind spots of Evangelical Christians. Her comments about sex and sexuality are quite on point and there's nothing I can add to her words:

The Catholic Church in the UK

Andrew Sullivan's blog is essential daily reading and he has a truly great piece up today about the actions of the Catholic Church in the UK this weekend and placing it in context, namely, the disdainful institutional attitude towards LGBT individuals

"This is a church now intent on erasing from visibility a small minority of human beings, while waging a campaign to keep them as second class citizens in their own countries and as subhuman "objectively disordered" beings in their own church. They cannot even speak our name. Because were they to see us as the human beings we are, if they had to confront the actual experienced reality of our lives, if they actually had a conversation with us, and engaged the problem rather than dismissing it as "madness", their pretense would be exposed.

The leaders of the current Catholic hierarchy are the Pharisees of our time. They are the people Jesus came to liberate us from. And he does. And he will."

Historical Fiction and Truth

I watched a television show set in the Victorian era. I won't mention the title, despite the fact that I didn't like it. There were a few reasons why I didn't like it. The flaccid writing and dull characters, for example. But more than that, where it truly failed, and what annoys me about most historical fiction, is that I never feel as if I'm watching something that could have happened during the period in which it's set. I never get a sense that the characters belong to that period. Instead they're contemporary characters with a few details altered.

It's nice to think that it's a small world after all, that people are really the same regardless of where or when they exist, but the truth is that we're all shaped by many forces. Someone who lived Victorian times would have different views of life and society, morals and mores, different tastes and perspectives. A different conception of the world.

This is at the forefront of my mind while I'm working on my own novel, part of which is set in the seventeenth century. The structure of the book is complicated, there are a lot of characters, but far and away the biggest challenge has been trying to get into the head of a Puritan born in New England in the latter half of the seventeenth century.

Most historical fiction has a character or two who does in fact represent the values and perspectives of their time but they're crazy bigoted folk who almost everyone thinks is wrong. But of course, that's not how things were. If they were the outliers, then life would have been very different.

I don't know how well I'm accomplishing the task I set out to do, capture the voice of someone from centuries ago, but I know that it can't sound anything like me.

Amy Reeder off Batwoman

I was sad to read that Amy Reeder won't be continuing on Batwoman for DC. I'm a big fan of Amy, have been for years since her first comics work at Tokyopop, the series Fool's Gold, and her work on Madame Xanadu at Vertigo was a revelation. I've interviewed her multiple times, met her once, and she's just as charming and lovely a person as she is talented. I don't know what she'll be doing next, but I do know that I'll be buying and reading it.

Pat Robertson and legalizing marijuana

When I first heard that Pat Robertson had come out in support of legalizing pot, I'll admit I did some internet searching to make sure that this wasn't an Onion headline. It's odd, I'll admit, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I support the decriminalization and legalization of pot and I believe in medical marijuana. I think it would be a tax boon for the United States and other countries. I think that it would free up time and resources of law enforcement, the courts and the prison system (not to mention saving the public a fortune). It would shrink our prison population, putting more people who have committed no violent crime back on the streets, to live with their families, hold down jobs and pay taxes, being productive members of society. It would cut into the drug cartels' profits, hopefully enough to weaken them–how seriously, no one knows, but that alone makes it worth seriously considering.

I don't know what this means, honestly. One of my biggest disappointments about President Obama has been his assault on medical marijuana. If I was making a wish list for Obama's second term, a new drug policy would be near the top.

R.I.P. Moebius

There are only a handful of artists alive today who could be seriously thought of as the world's greatest comics illustrator. One of them just died. Jean Giraud, who worked under the pen name of "Moebius" just passed away. Besides being one of the great cartoonists of his generation, he was an illustrator and designer and a great visionary, whose work has greatly influenced our imagination.

I'll admit that I was more familiar with the myth and reputation of Moebius than his artwork. The sad truth is that a lot of his work is unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Tom Spurgeon, as he so often does, has one of the finest obituaries of the man:

Moebius collaborated with the great Alejandro Jodorowsky on The Incal, one of the great science fiction comics. The pair had previously met working on a film adaptation of Dune that sadly never came to fruition. Moebius worked on a number of other small films that you may have heard of – Alien, Tron, The Abyss, The Fifth Element, The Heavy Metal movie. He also did some conceptual work for Willow, and when his drawings and designs were published online, they were a revelation–much more interesting than the mediocre fantasy film that was created, ignoring most of what Moebius did.

When William Gibson was asked about the origins of cyberpunk, he said that his major influence was French comics and Metal Hurlant. Moebius' cityscapes have been a huge influence on Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and everything in between.

In comics, Moebius was one of the founders of Metal Hurlant, the magazine Americans know as Heavy Metal. There was The Incal, Madwoman of the Sacred Heart (both written by Jodorowsky) in addition to work like the western Blueberry, the scifi Airtight Garage. Moebius also drew a Silver Surfer story written by Stan Lee. Humanoids has done a fine job of releasing the Jodorowsky-Moebius collections over the past couple years. Hopefully Marvel will come through and do justice to the Silver Surfer: Parable series by releasing it in a nice edition with quality paper.

A great artist and a great visionary.


Emily Blunt and a lack of interesting female roles in superhero movies

There's an interesting interview with Emily Blunt up on Vulture. This quote jumped out at me:

At one point, you were up for parts in Iron Man 2 and Captain America, but you passed. Would you ever want to do a superhero movie?

Usually the female parts in a superhero film feel thankless: She's the pill girlfriend while the guys are whizzing around saving the world. I didn't do the other ones because the part wasn't very good or the timing wasn't right, but I'm open to any kind of genre if the part is great and fun and different and a challenge in some way. I would love to do a comic-book movie or a science-fiction film that would scare the bejesus out of me. Maybe I need to be James Bond! I just did Looper, because it's so original and breathtakingly cool. The time-travel aspect is just a backdrop to visit this heightened world, where you're atoning for something and attempting to be more than you've been.

Admittedly, I love Emily Blunt, and I know that lots of people will be up at arms about this, but she's right. We'll see what happens with The Avengers this summer. I hope that Joss Whedon has something interesting cooked up for Black Widow and Maria Hill. The Hunger Games will offer a different kind of female heroine and Pixar has a movie with a female lead character, Brave. The question is, will they be seen as a possible model for other films and demonstrate that there's an audience interested in interesting female characters in action and adventure stories, or will it be dismissed as a strange one-off?

This is where I think the short-lived television series Undercovers could have been really interesting because it featured a couple who were spies and presented both characters as capable, intelligent, resourceful, but with slightly different talents and approaches. The show had its problems, well, many problems, but I would have loved to have seen more of Gugu Mbatha-Raw's character (and not just because I love the actor) but because she was a bad-ass secret agent who was also a real, complex person. In the first episode, dressed in skin tight leather worthy of Emma Peel she blew the bad guy's car off the road and after it crashed, walked over to where he was crawling out of the vehicle, introduced herself and kicked him in the face.

I'm a big fan of Angelina Jolie and I thought that Mr. and Mrs. Smith was an interesting film and Tomb Raider was, well...moving on...Salt was a good film and she was pretty bad ass in the movie, but I do hope that she uses her success to try to make a different kind of film in the next few years. Currently she bounces between action films and thrillers like The Tourist and Wanted with serious films like A Mighty Heart and Changeling. Now don't get me wrong, I think A Mighty Heart is one of her best films and one of her best performances, but what if she were to push for a more intelligent thriller.

Picture Jolie starring in a political/topical film along the lines of Green Zone or Body of Lies or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? Picture her overseeing a team of agents like in Mission: Impossible? Picture her as a bank robber along the lines of Clooney's character in Out of Sight? Picture her Picture her starring in a heist film? Picture her starring in a Hitchcockian thriller (or maybe after the failure of The Tourist, we shouldn't...) I would have liked to see her play Adele Blanc-Sec.

Charlize Theron seems to be returning to genre films this year with Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman. I wasn't a fan of Hancock, which she co-starred in, and Aeon Flux had a lot of problems as a film, but it was interesting. I'd like to see Theron try an interesting action genre film again. Theron has been great at working with female filmmakers and making different films, it would be great to see her try to make a push for a commercial genre film that offered some interesting roles for women.

When they made Transformers films, they didn't have to have a lead role and the female lead character didn't have to be nothing more than "hot chick in tight clothing." People go to see Alie in Wonderland in the movies or on tv every few years, so why not an older female lead character in a fantasy movie? People liked the film The Mummy, so what if the main character was a cross between Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser's characters and female? Would people still have been interested?

Catwoman and Elektra weren't bad movies because they starred women. They didn't fail because they starred women. They were horrible movies that no one liked.

So what would it take for Emily Blunt to play James Bond? Or maybe Tara Chace? I don't know, but I'd go see that flick.


Anthony Shadid's final days and House of Stone

I've already ordered my copy of Anthony Shadid's House of Stone, and I know it'll be great based on his other books and writing, but I don't know that it can be more moving than photographer Tyler Hicks' account of Shadid's final reporting trip or the interview with Nada Bakri on today's episode of Democracy Now.

I do hope that someone is looking at putting together a collection of Shadid's newspaper articles from the Middle East. It would read a little rough, as do any collection of newspaper articles, but I think that a good selection in one place could really be a great addition to our literature of the region, offering a mosaic of voices from the region.

Gabrielle Bell's new book The Voyeurs

Gabrielle Bell just announced that she has a new book coming out this summer, The Voyeurs, from Uncivilized Books. I would say something about how great a cartoonists she is, but her press release features pull quotes from Art Spiegelman, Francoise Mouly, Chris Ware and Alison Bechdel, and even I think that their opinions are more valuable and interesting than mine.

Add it to your list of must-buy books coming out this summer.


Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn

I was thrilled to read in the New York Times that Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn have a new project. I had heard that Shawn translated Ibsen's The Master Builder years ago and that they were workshopping the play. Gregory is known for spending years on theatrical projects. Now they'll be making a film of the project directed by Jonathan Demme. Their previous cinematic collaborator, the great director Louis Malle who filmed My Dinner with Andre and Vanya on 42nd Street, died in 1995.

I admit that Demme is an uneven filmmaker. I'm a great fan of his documentaries like Swimming to Cambodia, Storefront Hitchcock, Stop Making Sense, The Agronomist. His fictional films range from The Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married and Something Wild to more uneven but always interesting films like Philadelphia, Beloved, The Truth About Charlie.

Vanya on 42nd Street just came out on dvd from the Criterion Collection. A new Gregory-Shawn collection being filmed this spring. It's so rare to get good news when opening the New York Times.

Kevin Keller, Archie Comics and Controversy

I was never an Archie Comics fan as a kid. One o those things I just never got into. Maybe it was because I always thought it was for kids and I was much too grown-up for that? I'm not quite sure. It's been interesting to watch the moves that the company has made in recent years as they've been trying to do something different and shake up what many people–myself included–think of as an Archie Comic. From the marriage storyline to the magazine "Life with Archie" which explores the characters in their twenties and crafts a different kind of soap opera to the recent Archie Meets KISS storyline which involved Sabrina the Teenage Witch, zombies, monsters and more, it feels like the creators are having fun with the characters.

Their most recent and most controversial move was the creation of Kevin Keller, a topic I discussed with creator Dan Parent recently. Of course the character happens to be gay. (He's also a military brat who in "Life with Archie" goes to join the army himself, but no one talks about that aspect of the character.)

And now a group titled "One Million Moms" is up at arms calling on Toys R Us to stop selling Archie because in "Life with Archie," Kevin is getting married. This phrase jumped out at me in the complaint:

"Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in a toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand"

Now I haven't set foot in a Toys R Us or a toy store for a long time, but aren't there lots of things in a toy store that most parents find troubling. From Twilight to wrestling to violent video games to toy guns, isn't there a lot that some parent would rather not address? I say that with some sarcasm and a little anger, but I do sympathize about trying to keep the world away from child for a time. What I don't understand–and what I find offensive–is that this is the biggest problem.

Of course they also want to boycott JC Penney because of Ellen DeGeneres is the company's spokeswoman and happens to be gay. So really the problem is that children might be exposed to gay people because gay people exist so we have to act like they don't exist. At least I think that's what they're after.


The response to this from Jon Goldwater, the co-CEO of Archie, though, is great:

“We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday. We’re sorry the American Family Association/ feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people.