Articles Published the Week of October 23rd

Big Nate's Lincoln Peirce Gives Advice to His Younger Self

The comic strip Big Nate celebrates 25 years in the comics pages. Andrews McMeel is marking the occasion by publishing The Epic Big Nate collection, and I marked the occasion by talking with Lincoln Peirce about the strip, his novels, being a luddite, and what he'd tell his younger self

Sarah Glidden Explores Rolling Blackouts

I liked Sarah Glidden's first book, but like just about everyone, her new book is something else. An account of a trip she took through the Middle East in 2010, a look at the nature of journalism, the book is also very interested in letting people speak, with page after page devoted to people retelling their experiences.

Articles Published the Week of October 16th

Late Happiness: An Interview with W.S. Merwin

Box Brown's Tetris Pieces Together the Story behind the Game

Genndy Tartakovsky on Cage, Samurai Jack and Hand-drawn Artwork

Matt Phelan Talks About the Challenges of Reimagining Snow White

Gregg Taylor's Motion Comics Are Your New Saturday Morning Cartoons

The Comics Journal Interview with Sophie Campbell

Late Happiness: An interview with W.S. Merwin

One of the great privileges of doing what I do is getting to talk with fascinating people. I've had the opportunity to talk with some of our great living poets and recently I spoke with W.S. Merwin just after his 89th birthday and the publication of his new book, Garden Time. Merwin was the son of a minister who grew up in New Jersey and he went to get to know T.S. Eliot and Robert Graves, he was mentored by W.H. Auden, friends with Sylvia Plath. He also represents something I think is important–and which we didn't even have a chance to talk about–which is the politics of his career. He was opposed to the Vietnam War, was part of the anti-nuclear movement, has been a part of the conservation movement for decades. It's not just talk. He bought 18 acres decades ago that has been ruined, nothing growing on it, and now hundreds of varieties of palm trees grow there on land that's now being preserved. He is also, as he tells it, happy. We spoke about his life and career and what that means.


The Discovery of a Lost Georges Melies film!

A lot of people aren't into silent film. I love it, though, and the discovery that a lost film of Georges Melies has been discovered is the kind of cultural event that should be shouted form the rooftops. (Admittedly that sounds like something that might happen in a silent film as opposed to reality here in the 21st century, but still...)

Another short film of Melies was discovered a few years ago. There was the lost Sherlock Holmes film of William Gillette a few years back. So many silent films have been lost and it's exciting to see that a few have been found.

I can't wait to see this.

French Comics Framed: French Comics on Screen

On Thursday, I was at the School of Visual Arts in New York where I interviewed a five amazing French creators as part of the French Comics Festival. The creators (and who publishes them in the US):

Etienne Davodeau  (Lulu Anew and The Intimates from NBM)
Matz  (Triggerman from Hard Case/Titan, The Killer from Archaia, Cyclops from Boom)
Jean-Claude Mezieres  (Valerian and Laureline from Cinebook)
Arthur de Pins (Zombillennium from NBM, March of the Crabs from Boom)
Jean-Marc Rochette  (Snowpiercer from Titan)

We were discussing French Comics on Screen, and ecah of them has a very unique and different relationship with the film industry. Davodeau's book Lulu Anew was adapted into a film, though not by him, and he spoke about the changes that were made and why. Matz had a book adapted to film, which was released as Bullet to the Head starring Stallone, and that started a relationship with the film's director, the legendary Walter Hill. Rochette's Snowpiercer which he drew was of course turned into the film. (And he has a strange entertaining story behind it at various stages). Mezieres is a legend in French comics for his Valerian series which he's been drawing since 1967. He's also a notable designer for film, including most famously on The Fifth Element. And now Luc Besson is working on the film Valerian which comes out next summer.

Mezieres also revelaed that he's 20-something pages into a new Valerian comic!

de Pins started out as an animator and turned his short film into the graphic novel March of the Crabs. Now he's turning his series Zombillennium (3 volumes have been released of a planned six books) into an animated film that he's directing and writing. He showed off some design work and a scene from the film.

I've interviewed Davodeau, Matz and de Pins in the past. And was nervous to be interviewing Mezieres, who is a legend. Overall it was an amazing evening and I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of this.


TV Review: Some thoughts on the new MacGyver

I watched the first episode of the new MacGyver TV show. I was a fan of the original series starring the fabulous Richard Dean Anderson. I was not a fan of this new show. For a few reasons.

1. If I was going to send someone to be a spy and hide in plain sight in the 21st Century, I wouldn't have them wear a haircut from the 80s. You can't be a spy if you stand out like a sore thumb. As an un-stylish guy with a meh haircut, all I can say is, get a new barber.

2. He's arrogant as hell and it's annoying and grating. To write this I was looking at the wikipedia page for MacGyver and I came across this quotation: "According to Rich, every auditioning actor "hulked" his way through his audition. When Anderson eventually auditioned for the role, Winkler and Rich felt that he gave the character a human touch which the other actors could not." I think this is important. One of the things that the character and the actor Richard Dean Anderson so good is that he came off like an ordinary guy. He didn't act like he was the smartest, most talented person in the room, and throw his weight around constantly.This new MacGyver comes off as five times as arrogant and half as smart.

3. It's funny that a show where the premise is that he doesn't use a gun and uses science and gadgets to solve problems is kinda dumb. There's so little science and so little ingenuity.

4. Even stranger than that, the computer hacker character manages to do that magic thing that people on TV with computer access do which is that with a few simple keystrokes, they can do literally anything. In this case, in a matter of seconds she manages to locate a person. It's like a magic ball and means that no one TV has to investigate anything, they just banter and then jump to an action scene.

5. Does MacGyver need to have a roommate who's clueless about what he really does for a living? Whose stupid idea was this?

6. Exactly what does their boss do? She's introduced as this badass spy but ultimately does...essentially nothing. MacGyver and Dalton and the hacker make demands and she frowns and then says, okay. That's about it.

7. I do like actor Sandrine Holt, who I remember from Once a Thief and other things, but come on, you have to give her something to do and a character to play.

8. There's some sort of government conspiracy? I guess. The government wants the weapon for some reason and she's now part of some conspiracy to help or not or...I mean look, the US government is not going to turn out to be evil in this. I have no idea where this is going but honestly it doesn't seem to make much sense.

9. The character picks the handcuffs lock and then vanishes from the back of the car. Like magic. Really? We're making a show about science but there's also magic? Give me a freaking break

10. The episode ends with him and his teammates and their boss hanging out in his house drinking beer? It felt like a scene that gets added in because you need to fill a couple minutes. There is literally nothing in that scene that defines any of those characters and nothing vital to the plot.

11. Because someone will yell about #8, yes I know that MacGyver gets to name the new front organization for the secret government organization and he calls it The Phoenix Foundation, which is where Mac worked in the 80s show. But the writer could have just had the group called the Phoenix Foundation from the beginning. There was no reason for the scene.

12. I like George Eads. I really only know him as one of the supporting characters on CSI, who was there and honestly never gave him much thought. I do like him here. Maybe it's because I dislike all the other actors. I'm sure that's partly it, but he manages to take an underwritten character and add something to it (like a good actor does) and makes him interesting and entertaining. Jack Dalton on the original show was played by the great character actor Bruce McGill and I think Eads stands alongside McGill as an entertaining, fabulous character and a great character turn.

13. Honestly I think the show would have been better with Eads as MacGyver. He's the only character on this show who seems to possess a sense of humor. Because our lead characters and heroes should never smile or laugh, they must always be serious because they do serious work. Eads would have a good MacGyver. He might have been able to save this horrible script. Maybe.

14. I don't understand why shows hire Vinnie Jones to play a bland villain. It's a waste of an actor. Though they wasted every other actor on the show, so why not!

15. This was the second pilot of MacGyver. This cast made a previous pilot which the network didn't like so they wrote and filmed this pilot. Which means that while I watch this show and see poor writing and a lot of questionable choices, this was judged to be superior to the first pilot. I'm not sure if that means the first one was truly unwatchable, or if I would like it immensely more than this and I'm just out of step with what TV executives and viewers like.


Articles Published the Week of September 25th

Teri S. Wood discusses the grim toll of war in Wandering Star

I never read Wandering Star when it came out in the 1990's, but I was blown away when I read the collection of the series. At the beginning it's the story of a young woman who's the first human attending the Galactic Academy, which sounds like a various of Star Trek, where humans are at the bottom of the galactic pecking order. Then the war begins, though, and Wood pulls no punches. It's dark and brutal, but also hopeful and a really amazing book.

Alexis Deacon talks Celtic myths and "inescapable fates" in Geis

I really loved Geis, the debut graphic novel from writer/artist Alexis Deacon, which is out now from Nobrow. The book has its origins in Celtic mythology and folktales, but Deacon really takes these stories and concepts his own and transforms them into a really fun, unique and thoughtful book.