Comic event: Dirt Candy authors to speak at Omnivore Books

dirtcandyComics delight me to my core and cooking soothes my soul. So I loved Dirt Candy, a graphic novel that serves as both accessible cookbook and charming memoir, before I even owned it.

How brilliant of Chef Amanda Cohen, co-author Grady Hendrix, and artist Ryan Dunlavey to combine the two arts of cookery and comics! Illustrated recipes and techniques can be far more effective with images than in text alone—when Cohen explains how to easily smoke vegetables on my stovetop without fancy equipment, the set-up and technique feels within my grasp. And the apparent magic of a fast-moving chef’s knife translates perfectly to the bam!pow! excitement of a comic book layout. (I’m not alone in this belief—check out Anthony Bourdain’s graphic novel Get Jiro in which a sushi chef turns action hero.)

Dirt Candy made a zealot out of me. Not only was I on a mission to make my vegetables more interesting, I was a comics/cookery proselytizer. “The market is ripe for practical non-fiction in my comic shop!” I cried far and wide. “Let there be graphic novels for cocktails next! Try this spring pea flan I made!” Dirt Candy occupies such a tremendously unique niche that I fervently hope similar works follow.

Fans of good food (creative vegetable-based cuisine in particular) and good comics have the chance to hear Cohen and Hendrix talk on Sunday, Sept. 22 from 3-4pm at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. In her blog, Cohen calls it “the East Coast/West Coast Peace and Harmony Let’s Stop Hating Each Other And Eat Vegetables Instead Tour” and promises “I’ll be talking about cooking vegetables, eating vegetables, running a restaurant, graphic novels, why no one can find a line cook in Manhattan anymore, AND there will be free food for everyone.”

DC’s editorial department back in spotlight as Batwoman’s creators step down

Batwoman proposal from issue 17.

Batwoman proposal from issue 17.

Last night J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman announced that they’re leaving Batwoman after 26 issues due to editorial interference that included being “prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married.” Williams followed up the posting of his letter on Twitter with the comment “But must clarify- was never put to us as being anti-gay marriage.”

No one except those who were in the editorial board room knows if this decision was based on a company policy against DC’s LGBT characters getting hitched. It would seem odd in light of the company’s increasing comfort with prominent LGBT characters including Batwoman, Midnighter, Apollo, Sarah Rainmaker, Alysia Yeoh, and Alan Scott. What we do know is that DC erased every major character marriage — most notably the marriage between Superman and Lois Lane — when they relaunched the DC Universe in 2011. That suggests DC may have a policy to limit the marriage of title characters — no matter their sexual orientation. DC has never declared that limiting marriages is a policy.

No matter the justification for denying the marriage, the departure of Blackman and Williams once again brings negative attention to DC’s editorial department, who seem to have an increasing problem of not trusting some creators while putting too much faith in others.

The story Williams and Blackman have been telling is unique in the DC Universe, as they’ve had the freedom to tell it in a bubble without needing to shape their arcs around pesky multiple-title event storylines. Batwoman and Batman, Inc. were the only Bat-books given the luxury to sit out both “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family.” The result, free of crossover interruptions, is a complete story that can be read straight through from the first issue. Its lead character is also one of the best developed characters in the new 52. Continue Reading →

Launch Party: Isotope to launch “East of West” trade with Nick Dragotta themed cocktails

Nick Dragotta's Death from "East of West"

Nick Dragotta’s Death from “East of West”

When 2013 comes to a close there’s little doubt Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West will be on many “best of” lists. There have been many versions of the age old Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse story, but what’s unfolding in East of West is unlike any that have come before. In only the first handful of issues Hickman and Dragotta laid the groundwork for a future Earth that’s rich with storytelling possibilities. The title smashes genre barriers and becomes at once original and familiar. While at the core is a sci-fi western, a reader may taste a bit of Alphaville on one page, but three pages later the flavor of Lady Snowblood.

The title will see its first trade paperback hit the shelves later this month. To celebrate, Isotope has invited Dragotta for a launch party on September 21. Per Isotope tradition,  mixologist Kirsten Baldock will serve up thematic cocktails based on Dragotta’s work. The full announcement from Isotope is below:

Our favorite new series of 2013 is definitely the post-apocalyptic western EAST OF WEST and we couldn’t be more excited to get to celebrate the launch of the collection with the book’s amazing artist… Nick Dragotta!

Nick’s art has dazzled us for a few years now with mystic arts and high mutant weirdness on X-STATIX PRESENTS: DEAD GIRL (with Isotope favorite Peter Milligan), explored the uncomfortable underbelly of the Marvel Universe on VENGEANCE (with another IsoFave Joe Casey), dazzled our poor little minds on FF (with yet another favorite ’round these parts Jonathan Hickman), transported us back to yesteryear on CAPTAIN AMERICA: FOREVER ALLIES (with comics legend Roger Stern), and always always brings a smile to our faces with his awesome site HOWTOONS.

Come celebrate with us! Our beloved Kirsten Baldock is crafting up a palette-stunning cocktail list based on Nick’s work in honor of the evening. Mister Dragotta promises a sketchbook-filling Four Horsemen styled evening… and we’re hoping he’ll bring in some original art for us to buy as well!

Isotope Presents: Nick Dragotta
EAST OF WEST Vol. 1 Launch Party
Saturday, September 21st 2013
8pm – Midnight

Are you ready for the Post-Apocalypse Now? We are!

Mixed media: The sanctity of books

nightfilmSo there’s this book. It’s about a scary filmmaker and his scary films. This premise is not without promise. But what earned it a spot on Gawker is its accompanying smartphone app that offers up additional material when you scan certain pages. Furthermore, the book itself incorporates images throughout.

The book, Night Film by Marisha Pessl, was brought to my attention via Reddit, where horror writer Grady Hendrix dismissively introduced it as being “… full of cheap gimmicks because ‘just’ being a book isn’t enough anymore, apparently.”

The problem seems to be twofold:

1.       The extras are poorly executed (bad acting seems to be a factor).

2.       Books are sacrosanct texts unsullied by graphic components. Unless you’re a child, in which case images are presumably okay. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, you’re on notice.

The first time I saw film bleeding into a horror novel in a way that detracted significantly from the text was Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. It’s one thing to shudder at a flickering ghost moving toward you in jump cuts when you’re watching a Japanese horror film, where the trope began. It’s quite another to read it. It’s a film technique, not a literary one, and bringing the one to the other is frequently ineffective. I’m reminded also of Zombie Island by David Wellington which contains description of shining a flashlight over a room and jerking back to catch something that moved just out of sight. These are visual tropes, not literary ones, and in both these cases I’d say the trespass of known film scares into text results in an awkward un-scare.

Why shouldn’t a book offer more than letters on a page? Great contemporary authors have played with books’ physicality in a way that ensures readers are hyperaware of the division between story and object. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer.  A Humument by Tom Phillips. Peshl herself says over at Omnivoracious that “I write with a 360-degree experience, full of music, visuals, ripped-out articles and images.”

Also huge these days are book trailers. When major releases are presaged by YouTube videos, can Night Film truly be blamed for offering relevant film scraps throughout the book?

I come not to praise or bury Night Film. I haven’t read it. But whether this is a sign of the publishing apocalypse, a vibrant strike for books as experiences beyond the page, or merely a marketing trick, I’m ready to welcome successful multimedia novels.

Saga wins a Hugo

saga_umbilicalThe 2013 Hugo Award winners were announced over Labor Day weekend and ongoing comic series Saga from Image Comics took the prize for Best Graphic Story.

The Best Graphic Story category was introduced in 2009, when Girl Genius by Kaja and Phil Foglio won out over contenders like Fables, Y: The Last Man, and Joss Whedon’s Serenity— and kept winning in 2010 and 2011. 2012’s Hugo went to Digger by Ursula Vernon on Sofawolf Press. Saga‘s win may indicate a sea change in a category that has previously recognized independent and smaller press works.

Of note is that the Hugos– unlike, say, the Nebulas or Tiptrees, which also honor speculative fiction– are voted on by about a thousand Worldcon members as opposed to the typical small committee model. You could therefore interpret Saga‘s Hugo Award as both a critical and a popular accolade.

Opening Reception: “The Robot Life” – Sam Garland at Mission Comics

fatherobotSan Francisco-based illustrator Sam Garland will be the next featured artist in Mission: Comics and Art‘s gallery. The shop will be showing off original pages and illustrations from Father Robot and his solo project Fall Forward. Father Robot is a new graphic novel written by Kristopher White and illustrated by Garland. The story follows the first self-aware mech who’s convinced he’s the father of a young girl he’s been sent to rescue.  Garland will be signing copies of the graphic novel at an opening reception on September 7 at 7 p.m.

 

Mission: Comics & Art
3520 20th St, Ste. B
San Francisco, CA
(415) 695-1545
Website: www.missioncomicsandart.com
Twitter:
@MissionComics
Facebook: MissionComics
Mon, Tue, Thu-Sat: 12 p.m.-8 p.m.
Wed: 11 a.m.-8p.m.

Signing: Dame Darcy at Vacation and Escapist Comics

Panel from Dame Darcy's "Meat Cake"Dame Darcy will be returning to the Bay Area this month for two events showcasing her new book Handbook for Hot Witches and her long running Fantagraphic’s title Meat Cake. Her first stop will be in the West Bay at vintage clothing shop and art gallery, Vacation. Her illustrations will be featured in Vacation’s gallery space for the entire month with a kick-off reception on September 6 at 7 p.m. The reception will feature music from DD and the Bronze and she’ll additionally be drawing illustrations in all purchased books.

On September 15 she’ll be in the East Bay for a 5 p.m. signing at Escapist Comics on Telegraph.

In addition to Meat Space, Dame Darcy has published a number of graphic novels including Frightful Fairytales, The Illustrated Jane Eyre, Dollerium, and Gasoline. Many of those titles will be available at Escapist.

Escapist Comics
3090 Claremont Ave.
Berkeley, CA
(510) 652-6642
Website: www.escapistcomics.com
Tumblr: escapistpodcast
Twitter:
@escapistcomics
Facebook: EscapistComics
Mon-Sat: 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun 16-6 p.m.

Vacation
651 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Website: www.vacation-sf.com
Wed – Sun: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Publishing kerfuffle du jour

Lit Reactor has a great précis of yet another thieving publisher.

Image of alleged stolen Ghost Rider art.

Image of alleged stolen Ghost Rider art.

In addition to using an unregistered company with a name derived from a legitimate small press, this one is made particularly salacious by Trestle Press’s clearly non-sanctioned use of Ghost Rider images as cover art (among myriad other artistic infringements.)

Check out examples of Trestle’s artistic theft here.

 

Opening Reception: The Art of Angela Dominguez at TR!CKSTER

Angela Dominguez's new book "Santiago Stays"

Angela Dominguez’s new book “Santiago Stays”

San Francisco-based illustrator and writer Angela Dominguez will be TR!CKSTER’s featured artist starting September 3. The shop will showcase art from two of her three new children’s books: Let’s Go, Hugo! and Santiago Says. Dominguez will be in store on September 8 for a reception where she’ll be singing her books. Signings start at 4 p.m. with the reception officially kicking off at 5:30 p.m. Her newest of the new books is Santiago Says which will be released on Tuesday. The book’s description:

Santiago stays. He does not budge when offered a walk. He does not budge when offered a treat. Not even a hamburger can lure this stubborn French bulldog away from his post, much to the disappointment of the little boy trying to engage him. When the boy’s frustration bubbles over into a yell, it wakes the baby and the reader realises whom it was that Santiago was guarding in the first place. This familiar theme of an attention-seeking older sibling paired with the comically and characteristically stubborn French bulldog makes for a humorous and charming tale. All ends well with the boy and his dog playing together with the baby in a final joyous scene.

TR!CKSTER
2631 Ashby Ave
Berkeley, CA
(510) 665-8900
Tumblr: trickstertrickster
Twitter: @thetrickstore
Facebook: TheTRICKSTORE
Tue-Sun: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Superior Spider-Man is better than you

This post originally appeared on my personal blog on April 8, 2013.

Alternate cover for Amazing Spider-Man #700

Alternate cover for Amazing Spider-Man #700

If I were to rely solely on the comments sections of comic book industry news sites I’d be led to believe that Superior Spider-Man is the worst thing to happen to Marvel – ever. In truth, it’s one of the best titles the company currently has, which is saying quite a bit, because Marvel’s certainly been hitting it out of the park in terms of storytelling and character development.

I like Peter Parker. When I was a wee lad I’d consume anything that featured “Spider-Man” in the title. I wanted to be Spidey and I related to Peter. That said, one thing I like more than Peter Parker is when comic book publishers take risks with legacy characters in the name of telling an ambitious and well-written story. For all the complaining fanboys do about the state of the industry it’s always puzzling to me that they complain just as much when companies try to do exciting things. Sacred cows are boring if all they do is stand in a field all day.

What Superior Spider-Man does well is play with emotions. It’s sad to know that Peter’s not simply dead, but that his body has been inhabited by one of his greatest enemies, Doctor Octopus. It’s torture to see a flicker of the hero still frustrated and screaming in the background of his body’s consciousness.

It’s creepy to know it’s Otto Octavius flirting with Mary Jane. It’s even creepier on a whole other level to know he’s pining inside for the woman he once almost married, Peter’s Aunt May.

It’s frustrating to finally see J. Jonah Jameson approve of the actions of the wall crawler, but only because Otto is sullying Spidey’s name by crossing the hard ethical lines set by Peter.

It’s humiliating to watch Doc Ock mock Peter, one of the smarter people on Earth-616, for not completing his doctorate and actually pledge to do what Peter could not by finishing school. To add to that humiliation Doc builds dozens of spider cameras to monitor the city, so he can more effectively fight crime while also finishing his degree.

The storyline Dan Slott is writing for Spider-Man is providing the character of Peter Parker the opportunity to take a vacation. It is, essentially, a way to eventually relaunch a fresh Peter Parker as the spectacular Spider-Man without the need to relaunch the entire Marvel Universe. At this point it appears when Parker comes back Spider-Man’s reputation will have been reset to where the public is wary of the wall crawler. It’ll be like the good old days when J. Jonah Jameson was a one man propaganda machine vilifying Spidey no matter how much good he did. Assuming the world doesn’t learn that Spider-Man was occupied by Doc Ock there’s going to be a serious need for Parker to rebuild not only his brand, but relationships.

Of course, I was one of those in the minority who felt DC and Grant Morrison were too quick to bring back Bruce Wayne as Batman. Dick Grayson trying to live up to the legend, and cope with a scowling Damian Wayne, was far more interesting than yet another Bruce Wayne as Batman vs. “fill-in-the-blank” from his rogues gallery story. Due to the necessity to bring back Bruce Wayne we never had the opportunity to learn, for example, how would Dick Grayson as Batman handle the Riddler while carrying on the charade that it’s the same Batman?

I know how Peter Parker as Spider-Man will handle villains like Electro or Chameleon. I’ve read versions of those stories for years. I don’t know how Otto Octavius as Spider-Man will handle those villains, especially without letting on too much that he isn’t the same person inside the Peter Parker flesh suit.

Dan Slott has received a great deal of venom for his decision to “kill” Peter Parker, but the angry comments from the “don’t change the status quo” crowd are mere whispers when held up against the numbers. Superior is a success, because Slott, with the blessing of his editors, decided to have faith that readers wanted to read new stories and not just remixes of the old.

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