I'm a big fan of the crime novelist Max Allan Collins who has a new book coming out this February, Seduction of the Innocent. It's a murder mystery involving the death of a Frederic Wertham-like figure and involving a number of characters based on comics figures. It's a fun book.
We also talk about other projects, including the return of his long-running comics series Ms Tree and the collection of Micky Spillane's Mike Hammer comic strips he helped assemble. I also ask about the Nathan Heller novels, of which I'm a fan. In the most recent one, Collins takes on the assassination of JFK – you may not agree with his conclusions, but he's not lacking ambition.
The man is learning French, something of a small inspiration to us all who fear we might not be capable of learning something major after 30. In a recent post he wrote about tenses in French and his metaphor was yet another reason to read and love him:
There's a link below but I haven't enabled it because I don't think that we should give the people at gawker who published it any more pageviews.
Essentially the writer, Adrien Chen, has written hundreds of words about how George Saunders should write a novel. How George Saunders should want to write a novel. How George Saunders will never be a real writer unless he writes a novel. How Saunders will only ever be a short story writer who's read by other writers and whom no one will care about unless he writes a novel.
What's particular odd is that the writer seems to believe that Saunders is a great writer. (For the record, I think Saunders is a great writer) Of course the writer does later make it clear that he doesn't think much of short fiction, which is what Saunders writes.
Maybe it's because I've had the opportunity to talk with some talented writers and artists over the years–some of them truly brilliant and gifted people–and it would never occur to me to emphatically exclaim: You should write this! You must want to write this!
Maybe it's because of a lack of ego on my part. Maybe it's because I was raised with a semblance of courtesy and politesse. Maybe it's because I'm not a complete asshole.
George Saunders is a genius. He can write what he wants. He doesn't need the approval of a gossip writer or me or anyone. The truth is, if Saunders was obsessed with what everyone thought and was trying to please anyone, he probably wouldn't be able to write something good and he certainly wouldn't be the writer he is today.
Karl Keily, my colleague over at CBR, interviewed Steve Niles. I'm a huge fan of Niles, he's a great creator, a great guy and a great interview. The interview is mostly about the upcoming Mystery Society special coming out from IDW in March. For those who missed out on the book the first time around–the trade collecting the five issues drawn by Fiona Staples is available as a trade paperback now–it concerns a Nick and Nora-esque couple and is more of a light-hearted adventure tale than people might expect from Niles, but it's a lot of fun.
The interview does have one quote by Niles which jumped out at me when I read it:
I'll see what this annual will do, but I've been told by IDW that they
just can't sell creator-owned right now. So there's not much chance of
more. I don't want to get this interview going on a grim note, but
chances of more "Mystery Society" are pretty slim at this point.
I'm disappointed there won't be more Mystery Society–though I'm excited there's a new special, I had given up on seeing anything more–but that IDW can't sell creator owned comics is just....depressing. Really, really depressing. I mean just thinking off the top of my head about comics that have been released in recent years, besides 30 Days of Night there's Locke and Key, Kill Shakespeare, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, Popbot, Lore, Fallen Angel. It's a rough market out there right now but the idea that a major publisher is worried about their ability to sell creator owned projects is depressing. Very depressing.
I had the chance to interview Warren Ellis recently to talk about his new novel Gun Machine, out now from Mulholland Books. I'm a huge Ellis fan from way back. I was a huge fan of his comic series Transmetropolitan and since then have read most of the comics he's written including Global Frequency, FreakAngels, Planetary, The Authority, Nextwave, Fell and more.
(For the life of me, I still can't understand why it is that Marvel doesn't do anything with Nextwave. I mean did it really sell so horribly? All the painfully crappy comics they publish, all the characters they resurrect again and again and yet Nextwave just sits there. Sadly the reason is likely because of sales, and that's just far too depressing to think about).
Today Ellis also teased Scatterlands, a new comics project that he's collaborating with artist Jason Howard on.
So for those keeping score, Ellis has a new novel scheduled for next year, a nonfiction book coming out early next year and is also writing Wastelanders, a webseries with Joss Whedon (though The Avengers and SHIELD are getting in the way of it happening soon). Plus there's the movie Red 2 coming out this summer, though Ellis doesn't have anything to do with it–but hopefully the Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren fun will continue.
The "SyFy" Channel has two Canadian series that they run: Continuum and Lost Girl.
Lost Girl, currently in its third season and airs eight days after it debuts in Canada, is only one episode into its new season, but it's hit a new stride. Part of this is I think due to the fact that the lead character played by Anna Silk is now a little evil. For the first two seasons, Silk's character, the succubus Bo, has been the calm and somewhat dull-ish center of a show where the supporting characters were far more colorful and interesting. In just one episode though Silk has shown that she's having a lot of fun playing evil and it's injected a little energy into the show. And hopefully we'll get more Rick Howland as well–can never have too much of him.
Continuum is a show of which I expected very little. Part of that is simply because of the casting of the main character Rachel Nichols, an actor I've found to be, well, dull. Dull in many different projects over the years so I wasn't expecting a great deal. It's hard to build a show around an actor who can't pull off being the center of a show and have the strength and talent to be the center. The show though was much better than I expected, interesting and offers a lot of possibilities.
In 2077, a group of terrorists are about to be executed. In this future corporations have taken control of the government, something that it's suggested most people are fine with. The terrorists manage to pull off an escape attempt landing them in 2012 and accidentally take one cop played by Nichols with them. The terrorists' first move in the episode is an extremely violent one, and the dissonance between that and the idealistic underpinnings of this revolt voiced by the fabulous character actor Tony Amendola at the beginning is confusing. The degree to which this is the part of a larger calculated plan or having crime be key because it provides our heroine with a reason to join the police force easily is unclear.
I'm also curious the degree to which Alec Sadler, in both 2012 and 2077 plays a role in the series and exactly what theory of time travel the show is backing. (I think that only geeks spend a lot of time thinking about which time travel theories are used and how fiction utilizes them). The older Sadler is played by William B. Davis, the actor best known as The X-Files' Cigarette Smoking Man, and while he may not be as devious here as he was then, he's just as hard to read and playing just as complicated a character with conflicting–and confusing–loyalties. It's an interesting first episode with a lot of potential, but I'll stick around to see how the first season plays out.
My favorite show of Monday though has to be Bunheads on ABC Family, which I know will raise a lot of eyebrows, just because it's so different than the previous two series and a show about a ballet school doesn't quite seem to be something that I–or most straight men–would watch. Much less be absorbed and obsessed by. But I am. For many reasons.
First, Sutton Foster. I saw her on Broadway in Anything Goes where she was terrific and she's just a lot of fun to watch. I mean she can dance, she can sing, she's a great comedienne and she manages to play the dramatic moments perfectly. It's a rare range of talents and it's just so fun to watch her. Amy Sherman-Palladino's dialogue is also just a lot of fun to listen to. She doesn't get enough credit as a talented wordsmith, and the show's many characters are a great deal of fun. The three generations of women in the show and their interactions are a pleasure to watch.
At the heart of the show is sadness and tragedy and a fear that life has passed by and yet there is also joy and laughter and the potential for change and the idea that no matter how hopeless we may feel, no matter how much we may believe that we are lost and beyond any possibility, there is a community that we can be a part of and a place that we can all call home.
I know that more people will watch The Following, the new serial killer drama starring Kevin Bacon, which premieres Monday night, than will watch Bunheads, but I can't help but think that watching a show lacking in violence that makes us laugh and is about multiple generations trying to work through their varied issues and keep their sense of humor doing it is something we could all use.
I've been catching up on television and finally watched last week's episode of Portlandia. One of the actors who appeared on this particular episode is Maria Thayer, who's a fabulously talented and very funny actor. Sadly we don't get to see very much of her, though I have no idea why. I mean I know it's hard for comedic female actors. She's on Eagleheart, the Adult Swim series. She's had some great guest starring roles on 30 Rock and New Girl and was great in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
It makes me wonder about the challenges to be a comedic actor nowadays. There are plenty of opportunity for funny guys in movies, but women have a much harder time. I'm not sure there's much opportunity to do much beyond supporting roles. There are great female actors who could go toe to toe with the great comediennes of years past, but they never get the chance. There are no great screwball comedies like there used to be. It's sad.
I've been sick, and I haven't been the only one in my family–compared to my grandmother I have nothing to complain about–so I haven't been online much and haven't been able to log onto the blog at all. So a little housekeeping to begin the year with, touching on the last of 2012.
Of course this year as with every year I object to a lot of the comics listed. Many of them I don't think are any good. Many I haven't read. Many of them I would eat before I read them. But that's how it goes. I did tell my editor that I reserved the right to disassociate my self from the list if Chris Ware's Building Stories was not named #1. It was not. I don't have the slightest idea why. I like Saga. I like Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It ain't better than Building Stories. Sorry.
There are a lot of great books on the list including some of my favorites and books that I think people will be reading for many years to come - including Are You My Mother?, Jerusalem, NonNonBa, My Friend Dahmer, Love and Rockets, and A Game for Swallows.
There are however a lot of GREAT comics that weren't mentioned and it's a real shame and so as a small gesture I wanted to mention them here, just because I can:
The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell
The Lovely Horrible Stuff by Eddie Campbell
Heads or Tails by Lilli Carre
The Making Of by Brecht Evens
Marbles by Ellen Forney
Beta Testing the Apocalypse by Tom Kaczynski
The Read Diary/The Re[a]d Diary by Teddy Kristiansen and Steven T. Seagle
Journalism by Joe Sacco
Metro by Magdy El Shafee
The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song by Frank M. Young and David Lasky
Birdseye Bristoe by Dan Zettwoch
I am a writer who is on staff at Comicbook Resources and Suicidegirls.com where I primarily interview the best and the brightest figures in comics, art and literature.
As a freelance writer, I’ve contributed arts and travel pieces to many other print and web-based publications including The Daily Beast, the Los Angeles Times, SFX Magazine, the Hartford Advocate, the New Haven Advocate, The Comics Journal, The Poughkeepsie Journal, FilmThreat, Ninthart, and Mediabistro.
In what remains of my free time, I am a student of Arabic.