Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections

If you were one of the lucky Del Toro fans who got to see the At Home With Monsters show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this year I hope you found the photo-mural of his house on the way out and took a selfie there — it looks like YOU are right there inside Bleak House, Del Toro’s home of monsters! (see my pic above). Seeing that show was about as close as any of us will ever be to getting inside to see his collection. If you missed the show, then this book is the next best thing.

Any fan of horror, sci-fi, and Del Toro films like Hellboy, will love this handsome book designed to go along with the museum show. The legendary film director’s collection of original art, movie props and extraordinarily realistic life-size figures is truly amazing. His appetite is omnivorous and wide-ranging from low- to high-brow and everything in between: William Blake etchings, pulp novels and comic books, Japanese woodblock prints, Simpsons vinyl collectibles, Phillip Guston paintings to Todd Browning Freaks stills, and much, much, MUCH, more. Also included, are pages directly from Del Toro’s own notebook with sketches and notes for his films, including Pan’s Labyrinth and Blade.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections by Guillermo del Toro (Author), Guy Davis (Illustrator), & 3 more Insight Editions 2016, 152 pages, 8.0 x 0.8 x 10.0 inches, Hardcover $20 Buy one on Amazon Read the rest

Spectacular SUV crash through comic store

Customers and employees at Deep Comics & Games in Huntsville, Alabama got quite a surprise when an out-of-control SUV smashed through their store. Luckily, no one was injured, and the driver was taken to the hospital for observation after having an apparent seizure. Read the rest

A sushi comic from the sick, twisted, and food-obsessed mind of Anthony Bourdain

Like Sushi? Like hyper violent yakuza movies? Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi is a comic that could only have come from the sick, twisted, and food-obsessed mind of Anthony Bourdain. And I’m pretty sure he’d take the whole sick and twisted mind thing as the compliment it was intended to be. The latest book, Blood and Sushi is a prequel to 2013’s Get Jiro!, this time we learn the backstory of how Jiro went from Yakuza enforcer to renowned LA sushi chef.

By day, Jiro helps run his father’s crime empire along with his maniacal half-brother, but by night Jiro trains to become a master sushi chef. His two sides are on a collision course that plays out across Japan and leaves a bloody wake. The artwork is incredible. Each frame balances the futuristic Japan, the beauty of the cuisine, and the grizzly katana-induced carnage.

This comic is full bore, unhinged, Bourdain madness. If you’re familiar with his travel shows, then you’ve probably gotten a taste of his dark humor, disdain for vegetarians, and obscure cinematic references — but the Jiro series takes it to a new level. It’s violent. It’s weird. I can’t get enough.

Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose Vertigo 2015, 160 pages, 7 x 0.5 x 10.5 inches, Hardcover $15 Buy one on Amazon

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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Weirdest comic book superheroes of all time

Comic book historian Craig Yoe has a new book out called Super Weird Heroes, a 320-page compendium of Golden Age comic book stories featuring some of the strangest superheroes ever concocted. Nature Boy, Rainbow Boy, Cat-Man and The Kitten, Hydroman, Spider Widow, and 60 other mind-bending crimefighters are included. Read the rest

Comic Book Fever — a love letter to 70s and 80s comics

If you're an aging comic book fan, say in your late 40s or early 50s, Comic Book Fever will scratch the hell out of any nostalgic itch you've ever felt about the hobby. George Khoury's picture-heavy examination of comics and comics culture from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s triggers a flood memories.

There are the comics themselves: Landmark runs of the X-Men, Teen Titans and Daredevil. And the artists: Frank Miller, George Perez and John Byrne. Not to mention all the ads, toys and snacks.

Remember ROM Space Knight, Big Jim and Micronauts? And all those superhero ads for Hostess Twinkies? Or the classic Jack Davis-illustrated ad for Spalding basketballs featuring Rick Barry and Dr. J?

Heck, this book even includes a feature on Grit, the family newspaper that lured generations of comic fans into selling its tabloid door to door with the promise of cash and prizes.

There are also features on such classic stand-alone comics as Captain America's Bicentennial Battles by Jack Kirby; the first-ever DC-Marvel match-up, Superman Vs. Spider-Man, and the Neal Adams-illustrated Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali. They don't make 'em like that anymore. And that's the point.

Comic Book Fever celebrates the mass-market popularity of comics even as this popularity was starting to fade. By the end of the period covered, comics were no longer something that every kid grew up on, but a hobbyist product available only in specialist comic book shops. The industry's move to direct marketing and emerging competition from other pastimes, such as video games, spelled the end of an era. Read the rest

Drew Friedman's stupendous "More Heroes of the Comics" (Plus NYC EVENT 10/18/16)

I raved about Heroes of the Comics when it came out in 2014. Now I'm going to rave about More Heroes of the Comics, the new companion volume. This large book has 100 meticulous color paintings of people who were involved in the early days of comic books, painted by Drew Friedman, the great portraitist of our time. Each hero portrait is accompanied by an interesting one-page biography.

While Friedman's first book covered the famous heavy hitters of comics (Kirby, Barks, Kurtzman, Wood), More Heroes digs deeper, profiling people who deserve recognition for their work, even though it was sometimes behind the scenes. I'd say about 75% of the names were familiar to me (Otto Binder, Ray Bradbury, Gene Colan, Dan DeCarlo, Jim Warren, John Buscema) while the other 25% were new, and, for that reason, even more interesting (Olive Bailey, Bob Haney, Louis Ferstadt - colorful characters!).

The two volume Heroes set, is scholarly and popular at the same time, and represents a milestone in the early history of comic books. Drew Friedman himself is a hero of comics for making it.

Also, there's an event tonight about the book at the Museum of Illustration in NYC. Drew Friedman will be signing advance copies of the book and join in conversation with Karen Green, MAD's Al Jaffee, and moderator Danny Fingeroth. Also, Jim Warren, the legendary publisher of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, and Famous Monsters of Filmland, will be there with Drew. I wish I could be there. Read the rest

Short history of comic book lettering

There was no one like Artie Simek (1916-1975), who lettered most of Marvel's Silver Age titles. This terrific short documentary about comic book lettering makes me want to pull out my Ames Lettering Guide and nib pen. Read the rest

Cincy Comicon was a blast

Here's a fun fact about Cincy Comicon. It's not in Cincinnati. It's not even in Ohio! It's in Covington, KY. But Cincinnati is close. In fact, I walked from my hotel over the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge this morning before the convention got started and was in downtown Cincinnati in 15 minutes. The bridge is great for walking and biking, with a wide path shielded from motor vehicle traffic. When then bridge opened on December 1, 1866 it was the world's longest suspension bridge. It was designed by John A. Roebling, the same civil engineer who designed the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a beaut:

Once I got into Cincinnati, I headed to a restaurant called Cheapside, which has excellent espresso. I also had a tasty smoked salmon salade niçoise. It's called Cheapside not because the ingredients are cheap, but because it's on the corner of 8th and Cheapside street.

Before I tell you about the convention, here's another important thing. There were some scary bugs clinging to the outside of my hotel window on the 11th floor. I took a photo and called Cincinnati born-and-bred David Pescovitz to tell me what they were, but he didn't know. If you do, please tell me in the comments:

OK, now onto the con! The cool thing about this con is its focus on comic books. I don't go to many cons, but the ones I have gone to seem to give comic books short shrift. Not here! I think one of the reasons is that Tony Moore, co-creator of The Walking Dead comic book series, is one of the organizers, and Tony loves comic books. Read the rest

DC reprints the classic Batman/Harley Quinn story Mad Love as a coloring book

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Coloring DC: Batman: Mad Love Featuring Harley Quinn by Paul Dini (author) and Bruce Timm (illustrator) DC Comics 2016, 7.5 x 11.5 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $10 Buy a copy on Amazon

Over the past few decades the dynamic duo of legacy comic book companies, Marvel and DC, have introduced hundreds of new characters. Most have failed to catch on (sorry, Adam-X, the X-Treme!), and while recently many new characters have garnered acclaim and small cadres of devoted fans, the new Ms. Marvel and Prez have yet to become the next Wolverine.

2016 has seen two major breakthroughs that may pave the way: Marvel’s Deadpool and DC’s Harley Quinn. Both were created in the 1990s and have suddenly become the superhero equivalent of rock stars, with T-shirts and tchotchkes available at every Target and Hot Topic in America. One of them even has their own make-up line (I’ll let you guess who). My dad in his 70s now knows these characters, which I find equally amusing and eye rolling.

Which brings us to coloring books. Okay, maybe not directly, but the ascension of Harley Quinn as a character and the recent popularity of coloring books for adults has created a perfect storm, and now we have Coloring DC – Batman: Mad Love Featuring Harley Quinn, a coloring book written and drawn by her creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. This oversized tome contains a few extra stories of DC heroines and villians on the undercard, but the prime material is a reprinting of the terrific Harley story Mad Love. Read the rest

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton

This would have been better. (stryderHD)

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Jack Kirby's long-lost, incomplete "The Prisoner" comic book

Forces of Geek has unearthed an amazing gem. To introduce it, they write:
In the March 21st, Entertainment Weekly ran an article called In Search of Pop Culture’s Holy Grails, listing, “some hallowed projects (that) evade(d) our grasp. A guide to our great white whales.” Over two dozen, “lost” projects are listed. But in the FOG! world of pop culture, not everything is lost. So, in the coming weeks, we’re going to uncover a number of those projects, including our first, Jack Kirby’s The Prisoner, which EW describes as, “a comic based on the gonzo sci-fi show. Kirby never finished issue No. 1.”

Read the rest of the issue here. And, as FOG points out, it appears that the issue was actually complete, except for some final lettering and inking by Mike Royer.

[H/t Chris Burke] Read the rest

Dark Night – Paul Dini's chilling autobiographical Batman tale

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Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini (author) and Eduardo Risso (illustrator) Vertigo 2016, 128 pages, 6.9 x 10.4 x 0.5 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon

Batman the Animated Series was perhaps the cartoon of my childhood. I remember watching it when it premiered, and followed it through its entire run. While I’ve loved the movies, and the comics, Batman for me will always be the voice of Kevin Conroy, and the Joker will always be Mark Hamill. I owe my love for Batman to this wonderful show that Paul Dini helped create, which is why I was so struck to read his chilling autobiographical Batman tale.

Like myself and many others, Dini too was hugely influenced by Batman through his childhood. The beginning of the book establishes how comics became a coping mechanism for Dini as he navigated through the world with social anxiety. His lonely but successful life is thrown upside down one night when he was mugged and beaten within an inch of his life.

Dini’s story is all about coming to grips with a world that can be cruel, dealing with demons, and finding a way to overcome. It’s a Batman story that doesn’t take place in the Batman universe. I found it tremendously moving, the artwork beautiful, and I highty recommend it. – JP LeRoux Read the rest

The Collector follows an 1880's rogue and dandy as he travels in search of treasures

See sample images from this book at Wink.

The Collector by Sergio Toppi Archaia 2014, 252 pages, 8.5 x 11 x 1 inches $23 Buy a copy on Amazon

I was delighted to discover this terrific collection of comics by Italian artist Sergio Toppi. Although I’d never seen his work before, it instantly got my attention and seemed familiar. It combines a flat graphic art style, a swashbuckling sensibility and witty writing that I found irresistible.

Sergio Toppi (1932-2012) was an artist and illustrator from Italy, whose books have been published for decades in Europe but only recently translated and available in the U.S. through Archaia, a division of Boom Entertainment. The Collector won the Soleil D’Or prize for Best Series at the Soliès-Ville Festival. It’s easy to see why.

The book follows the exciting exploits of an 1880’s rogue and dandy, known as “The Collector,” as he travels the globe in search of treasures. Not a seeker of gold or jewels, he collects only artifacts with historical significance. This sets the stage for adventures featuring Hopi Indians in the American Southwest, camel-riding Ethiopians, Mongol tribesmen, warring Irish clans, Maori chieftains and more. Although the artwork is in black and white, it’s most highly folkloric and historically colorful. The separate wide-ranging episodes and characters are knitted back together into a satisfying finale.

Each page is laid out in dramatic fashion with bold layouts. Some pages have conventional multiple comic panels, while others feature free-wheeling compositions, along with other full-page designs, more fine line illustration than comic book. Read the rest

Mean Girls Club – satirical social commentary or just flat out bonkers?

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Mean Girls Club by Ryan Heshka Nobrow Press 2016, 24 pages, 6.8 x 9.1 x 0.1 inches $6 Buy a copy on Amazon

If your understanding of what a Mean Girls Club consists of is defined by the 2004 Lindsay Lohan film, then Ryan Heshka’s new release from Nobrow Press (as part of their wonderful 17 x 23 series) is going to blow your mind. In Mean Girls Club, Pinky, Sweets, Blackie, McQualude, Wendy, and Wanda aren’t the popular girls in an Illinois high school, rather they are a gang of sociopaths who revel in murder, mayhem, pill popping, and depraved dereliction. Heshka’s 1950s bombshells start their day with ceremonial insect venom transfusions, snake worship, a pill buffet, and a fish slap fight, then go on to wreck havoc in a hospital, movie theater, boutiques, and the streets, only to finish off by jacking a lingerie truck, kidnapping patients and nurses along the way.

In a nod to the pulps and pin-ups of the past and rendered in fluorescent pinks and inky blacks, Heskha upends the conventional idea of the B-movie Vixen by adding a layer of such over-the-top brutality and vehemence that it transcends the possible, bringing the trope into the post-ironic age where we have lost the ability to discern what we are meant to take seriously.

Is Mean Girls Club to be read as satirical social commentary? Is it just flat out bonkers? Or is it a combination of both? Read the rest

Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

It's only right that Stan Lee's memoirs arrive in comic book form. The 93-year-old ambassador/mascot of Marvel Comics has been in the funnybook business since 1939 - back when they still were called funnybooks. Back then, the medium was seen as silly at best, vile at worst. But today, comics, or graphic novels as some highfalutin folks call them, have attained a status of near respectability. People of all ages read and love them, and their characters generate billions of dollars via their appearances on TV and in films. Lee, along with other key figures, has been at the forefront of this evolution. And though he's interviewed almost daily, it's interesting to hear what he has to say about his career and all the changes he's seen.

Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee, penned with the help of veteran comics writer Peter David and zippily illustrated by Colleen Doran, does a fine job of charting Lee's trajectory to the top of his field. We see how the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seized Lee's early imagination, making him want to become a writer. And we observe him in his early years at Atlas Comics, the company that became Marvel, and how he, in collaboration with artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, helped create the Marvel Universe.

Lee is often criticized for stealing the spotlight and not giving due credit to Kirby, who co-created the Fantastic Four, Avengers, X-Men, Thor, Captain America and many others, and Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and more. Read the rest

Weird Love – The warm blanket of history has swaddled these romance comics in ludicrousness

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

I’m willing to bet that your relationships with significant others aren’t as convoluted or mind-boggling as the ones you will find in Weird Love, a collection of love comics from decades past. I know that because I’m also willing to bet that you are more culturally evolved than your ancestral fictional characters that populated these four-color pages culled from the heyday of making women feel bad about pretty much everything. That’s what makes this collection so ridiculous. Weird Love gives us a glimpse into a time when the needle on the social gauge floated somewhere between “rampant sexism encouraged” and “casual sexism customary.”

While these stories probably weren’t intended to be comedic at the time, the warm blanket of history has swaddled them in ludicrousness. We have no analog for the petty, unflappable dickishness of the men, nor of the frank, almost callous lack of agency of the women depicted in the pages of Weird Love. Soap opera seems only a vague comparison, for soap opera tends to be at least a little self-aware. Nor can you compare it fairly to modern prose romance, for I would have to assume that modern romance writers likely enjoy what they do. The most important thing to remember about Weird Love is that literally all of these comics were written and drawn by middle-aged white men. They were either guys who typically wrote western, crime, horror, sci-fi, and superhero comics and liked doing those, or guys for whom creating comics was just kind of a job. Read the rest

Watch: Daniel Clowes Complete Eightball release party at Meltdown Comics

I had a great time interviewing cartoonist Daniel Clowes at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles about his Complete Eightball anthology. This video was shot in glorious VHS by filmmaker Rocio Mesa and was produced by Gaston Dominguez-Letelier.

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