Friday, June 28, 2013

Review -- THE GROVE NYMPH

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
The Grove Nymph
Creator: Jecaro 
4/5 stars
I've had the monomyth on my mind lately. I've been catching glimpses of the hero's journey story structure seemingly in everything I read and watch (and occasionally eat -- but that's another thing altogether). It's weird and a little unsettling. Perhaps the universe is trying to goad me into embarking on some sort of personal transformation, or maybe it's preparing me for what is to become of my son as he gets older. I don't know. I'm not sure how I feel about signs and portents anyway. Regardless, the world seems beset by quests of late.


Jecaro's The Grove Nymph #1 fits right into this set of circumstances. The story revolves around a grove nymph named Mira who has been lounging around a freshwater spring with her sister, Mari, for 100 years. For some unexplained reason, she suddenly finds herself possessed with some get-up-and-go, a desire for the new, an urge for change, a call to adventure. She leaves the comfort of her home and hearth and ventures into the unknown. Stomp, stomp, stomp -- lockstep through the stages of the hero's journey.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Supercell Storm in Texas

A supercell near Booker, Texas from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.
Find more of his work here: http://www.mikeolbinski.com

Also follow him on Instragram for storm photos and whatnot - http://instagram.com/mikeolbinski

Still print of this storm can be found here if interested: http://gallery.mikeolbinski.com/stormchasing/h6015e87e#h6015e87e

Technical deets: Canon 5D2, Rokinon 14mm 2.8...first three clips were at 1-second intervals = 880ish photos, the last sequence was around 90, 5-second exposures

Music by Kevin MacLeod - http://incompetech.com/
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review -- CARTOON CLOUDS PART 1

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Cartoon Clouds Part 1
(Joseph Remnant)
4/5 stars
Art school has been a much mined subject for comic creators. For some reason, they seem to have a love/hate relationship with the very institution wherein they learned their craft, honed their skills, met their friends, and drank themselves drunk. Is it the regret they feel for having spent all those years in a creative bubble where their future seemed fraught with possibilities and each day brought new artistic excitement? Now, trodding through the realities of a life in a world where their merits are no longer lauded on a daily basis, do they reflect upon their utopia as wasted time/money/effort? Does this bubble popped lead to castigation of the very womb from which their current sensibilities were gestated? 


The waffle iron across the face that some art school grads experience upon leaving their hollowed halls can be the impetus for a creative endeavor. Joseph Remnant is exploring this in his new self-published work, Cartoon Clouds. This is a story about Seth, who, at the start of this book has just finished his final review at the College of Art and Design, is now set adrift into the world, trying to, as Remnant says, "figure out what to do with the rest of his life and largely failing in the process." 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Timelapse -- Dubai

Dubai Timelapse from dimid on Vimeo.

This video was filmed during their trip to UAE in January 2013.

Equipment:
Canon 7D
Sigma 10-20 mm 3.5
Canon 24-105 mm 4
Sigma 30 mm 1.4
Benro C-257 tripod

Sound: Foreground set - Go with the wind

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review -- NEXT TESTAMENT #1

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Next Testament #1
(Clive Barker, Mark Miller, Haemi Jang; BOOM!)
3/5 Stars 
Horror master Clive Barker wants to reintroduce you to the God of the Old Testament. You know, that guy who flooded the entire Earth slaughtering everyone except for Noah, who asked Abraham to kill his only son, who sent plague after plague upon the Egyptians, who fucked with Job like nobody's business -- you know, THAT GOD -- mean-spirited, insecure, vengeful, and powerful. Not the kind of guy you want to piss off.
Guess what? In Clive Barker's new 12-issue miniseries Next Testament, he's pissed. 


Next Testament #1 all starts with a dream, a vision. I've often had conversations with my students about how, in some cultures, individuals who have hallucinations are hailed as prophets, shaman or visionaries, and they are promoted to positions of power and reverence because of this. On the other hand, in Western culture, these same sort of people make us, the larger society, nervous, so we medicate them or 5150 them and put them away until they become more like the rest of us. Visions make us agitated; dreams fill us with unease.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review -- WIZARD SCHOOL

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Wizard School
(Kevin Kneupper, Robert Rath; Minion)
4/5 stars
Okay, I know I'm going to lose some "geek cred" here, but I've never read a single Harry Potter book. It just wasn't my thing. I mean, I guess I get it: magic, kids, owls, monsters, evil, that sense that you are destined for something great -- sure, I can see how it hits those big buttons we all carry around with us. It just didn't hit mine. Maybe I'm too buttoned down.
But then there is the web comic Wizard School from Kevin Kneupper and Robert Rath. Wizard School seems to have the same feelings about Potter as I do -- it just ain't their thing. Instead, Wizard School takes the tropes ofPotter and puts some big old hairy balls on them. Needless to say, this web comic ain't for the kids.


The tag line that Minion Comics uses to sell Wizard School is: "Bumblebane's Magical Academy of the Wizarding Arts has a new student -- a chosen one, destined to save humanity. And he's a complete and total dick." Russell Graham is truly a dick, probably the biggest dick I've ever seen in a comic book. One of the characters describes him as "The most vile, selfish, reprehensible shit I could find." Graham is bamboozled by the bad guys, gets the three stars of "the chosen one" tattooed on his forehead, and is whisked away to the Magic Academy "to defend the infused against he imminent approach of a great evil!"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ryan Claytor Delves Deep Into Autobiographical Theory

Ryan Claytor writes and illustrates a series of autobiographical comics titled, And Then One Day. Recently he's turned to Indiegogo to help publish his most recent story arc, Autobiographical Conversations, as a 96-page collected edition. Comics Bulletin's Daniel Elkin caught up with Ryan to find out more about him, his project, and his experience using crowd-funding.

Daniel Elkin for Comics Bulletin: Easy first question: Who the hell is Ryan Claytor?
Ryan Claytor: Well, Bart Simpson, I’m a comics artist and professor living in Lansing, Michigan. As a creator, I’m most widely known for my self-published, autobiographical, comic book series And Then One Day. I also teach Comics Studio courses at Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan Flint. I’ve served as the Director of the Michigan State University Comics Forum, a yearly event for scholars, creators and fans, since 2009.
That’s the short of it, but my other achievements have included a Cartoonist in Residence position at theCartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, California, visiting lecturerships at the Dallas Museum of Art , The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, and The Savannah College of Art and Design, an internship withMarvel Comics in New York City, and judging the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing Award in 2007. I’ve also embarked on a few signing tours for my comics which have taken me to all 48 contiguous United States and several Canadian provinces.
CB: Softball second question: Why comics?
Claytor: Because I love them with all my heart and soul. As a visually-oriented child, they were my gateway into reading and as an adult artist, the creative and narrative possibilities of combining text and image are limitless.
CB: Fluff question number three: For your Indiegogo campagin for Autobiographical Conversations, you say your book is “a 96-page comic book about autobiographical theory and how it relates to the medium of comics.” What the heck is autobiographical theory anyway, and how does it relate to the medium of comics (without giving too much away, of course)?
Claytor: Basically we’re exploring questions like, how and why does the artist portray themselves in a particular manner in autobiographical comics, why don’t more theoreticians present their work in comics form, and does autobiography need to be truthful? My hope is that the comics medium will provide a more visual approach to understanding autobiographical theory and framing the subject matter in the context of a conversation will allow the reader to feel more engaged, almost as though they were part of that conversation unfolding.
CB: Ponderous question number four: What's been your experience with crowd-funding and what advice would you give other creators thinking about using this platform to fund their own projects?
Claytor: Well, this is actually my first attempt at crowd-funding, and it’s been a pretty fantastic and humbling experience thus far. However, despite this being a successful campaign, I still feel like I’m getting the hang of it myself. With that said, I’d feel comfortable suggesting a few things:
  1. Keep copious records of everything. I have an exhaustive spreadsheet detailing every contributor’s name, mailing address, incentive, etc in order to expedite the fulfillment process. Start that record at the beginning and keep up with it every single day! It’s sort of like doing your taxes; if you wait until the last minute, you’ll regret it.
  2. Communicate with each funder individually. It is a ridiculous amount of work but, as small press publishers, customer service needs to be a huge part of our business model. Don’t treat your contributors like cattle.
  3. Plan on this being your second job. I was not prepared for the amount of work that was involved. I mean, you have the creation to the campaign video, coming up with interesting incentives, promoting the heck out of the campaign, corresponding with each funder, data entry for all the various contributors’ information, (potentially) re-marketing a stretch-goal, and I haven’t even BEGUN to fulfill all the incentives.
CB: Homerun question number five: After Autobiographical Conversations, what's next for Ryan Claytor?
Claytor: Well, this question is probably best answered by deftly directing you to my new stretch goal. So, here’s the excitement I’m prepared to unleash; if my campaign can reach $4,500 – 50% over the original goal – by the end of the campaign deadline, every single existing and new contributor who pledges at the minimum book pledge of $15 (that’s all 143 funders thus far) will receive my next book, And Then One Day #10, at no additional cost or contribution!
Ryan Claytor Stretch Goals
And Then One Day #10 will consist of all new material, at least 24 pages of comics by yours truly, and will be professionally offset printed in full-color approximately one year from now. After experimenting with full-color printing on our wedding comic last summer, I’m really excited about the possibilities for my autobiographical comics series, And Then One Day.
You can still get in on the funding; click here to back Ryan Claytor's project

Review -- Becky Cloonan's DEMETER

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Keith Silva: Becky Cloonan loves love. Such a capital "R" Romantic like Cloonan would have been at home on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816 telling German ghost stories with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and his betrothed Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. As with her Romantic spirit guides, Cloonan's passion for love always takes a Gothic turn. Like Wolves and The Mire, her latest self-published work, Demeter, demonstrates how Cloonan yokes desire to doom in order to exact love's costs.
A Romantic in good standing, Cloonan grounds her tale of love and loss in legend. In Ancient Greek religion and myth, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, of grain and of fertility; however, she is best known as thepatron saint fret and fury, the mother of all momma bears.
The story goes like this: Demeter's daughter, Persephone, is abducted by Hades and brought to the Underworld. Demeter's ceaseless search for her daughter causes all plant life on Earth (the Mediterranean) to stop growing and die. Zeus intervenes and sends Hermes to rescue Persephone. 
Now, of course, the rule is: if one eats or drinks in the Underworld, it's a life sentence. The God of the Underworld agrees to release Persephone, but he finds out she ate six pomegranate seeds, the horror, and so Hermes makes a deal: Persephone goes home to her mother, but must return to Hades for a third of the year. And this is how the ancient Greeks explain the seasons. 


Cloonan takes this myth topsy-turvy. In her (in)version she moves everything seaside. Demeter is Anna and her husband, Colin, plays Persephone, at least, I think that's what's going on. Colin dies asea -- "the sea giveth and the sea taketh away." Anna strikes a bargain -- with who (exactly) is unclear -- seven more months of Colin's life for seven drops of Anna's blood. When the story begins, Colin's time above the waves is growing short; the cæsura (fermata?) is coming to a close. As Cloonan asks in all of her self-published work: What cost love?
Demeter does not unpack easily, it challenges the reader to probe, to parse and to pare back layers and even then mysteries flourish. As with Wolves and The Mire, a dark chest of wonders like Demeter requires and rewards rereading(s). Cloonan's skills as a storyteller are Promethean. Every page, every panel, every brushstroke of ink is imbued with a deluge of meaning. Demeter overwhelms. 
Daniel Elkin: As you say, Silva, Demeter does not unpack easily. I've now read Cloonan's tale five times and new questions pop up with each subsequent read. This is the beauty of her storytelling. There is enigma within -- clues to find, deductions to deduce. Cloonan's previous books have been rife with the hidden -- billowing curtains or thick fog. This time she chooses windows and waves as her devices, adding another layer to the motif.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review -- DEEP IN THE WOODS

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Jason Sacks: A new Noah Van Sciver book is always a reason for celebration. Well, maybe "book" isn't quite the right term for this unique item. "Deep in the Woods," newly released from the terrific indie Minneapolis publisher 2D Cloud, is published like a newspaper on tabloid paper. The odd-sized pages place this comic apart from its compatriots, giving "Deep in the Woods" a distinctive look and feel.
Van Sciver is joined by Nic Breutzman, who creates his own short story in this collection. I'm sure we'll get to Breutzman's twelve-pager somewhere lower down in this review.
But though Breutzman's strip is very interesting, it's fair to say that you and I were most excited to consume Van Sciver's strip after we loved his work on The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln last September. Right, Elkin?
So now that we've both read Van Sciver's short "The Cow's Head," Elkin, what the hell do we make of this thing?
On the surface, this story feels like a lost Grimm's Fairy Tale, a cautionary parable about a girl, named Robin, fleeing an alcoholic father and abusive stepmother. Robin is charitable in her moment of deepest starving need. We can see this tale on that level as the kind of comforting tale that one might read to a young child before bed, to remind her to always think of strangers before you think of yourself.
But there are also deeper themes and meanings in Van Sciver's creation, elements that give "The Cow's Head" an atmospheric frisson that makes the piece worth a few rereads.
Under Van Sciver's skilled brush, the people in this short story seem alive in their pain, frustration and tremendous despair. They feel like deeply specific, thoroughly broken-down men and women, cast adrift in a world that neither cares about them nor wants them to do much for themselves. Robin's father appears to be beaten down by all the tortures of a dissolute life; he's a drooling boozehound oblivious to all but his own desperation to anesthetize himself. Van Sciver draws the dad as a sadly tragic figure.
Though Robin has grown up in that deeply uncaring world, she has none of the callousness that her stepbrother demonstrates in this tale. Whether she's driven by fear of indentured servitude in a factory or the dream to break free from her familial chains, Robin takes action, does the right thing and is rewarded for those actions.
In that way, Robin wins redemption by fleeing from her assigned future. She isn't chained to a future filled with hopeless misery. Her inner goodness delivers her a magnificent reward. Unusually for a comic by Noah Van Sciver, his lead character actually gains happiness in the end.


Daniel Elkin: So, Sacks, you think that Robin gains happiness at the end of Van Sciver's piece? 
Hmmmmm...... Let's see. She finally has a bonding moment with her alcoholic father only then to leave him to the rot of his life. She struggles to drag her new found wealth with her, "through the woods into the unknown." And finally, she is followed into this bleak and purposeless journey by the mysterious floating cow's head, the one whom she fears, the one who has given her a vast reward because of the kindness she has shown because it was the right thing to do. It is a a floating cow's head. It had a canvas bundle filled with gold coins. It's a floating cow's head. It stared at her all night as she slept. It's a floating cow's head. It is following her further into the woods.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Convenient Truths -- MUTANTES (PUNK PORN FEMINISM)

This Column Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin.
Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human. Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns, and a couple of Miller beers, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.
Today he and his friends Jason Sacks and Paul Brian McCoy found 2009's Mutantes (Punk Porn Feminism)directed by Virginie Despentes.


Daniel Elkin: In general, the tenets of Feminism in America have stated that pornography is dis-empowering and disenfranchising and, as Jason and I discussed a bit in our review of the documentary Inside Deep Throat, the movement has often sought to censor it.
But there is an element of Feminism that has another view of this argument. “Pro-Sex Feminism” sees pornography as a political tool. They espouse that a woman's body is her own and that pornography can be crafted in such a manner where women are not relegated to the position of the victim. It can be presented in such a way that serves as an expression of power. Pro-Sex Feminism is a philosophical and political vehicle for woman to explore the strength inherent in her sexuality, commodify it (to some extent), and give her ownership of her desires. The movement seeks to re-frame pornography as a creative activity that excites, constructs and deconstructs ideas of gender, power, politics and equality. The Post Porn movement (Punk Porn Feminism) is an off-shoot of this aspect of Feminism, and it takes these notions even further, celebrating and commenting on what can be considered “fringe” aspects of sex and sexuality, seeking to further elevate, explore and legitimize these practices in order to bring about a dialogue regarding cultural stereotypes, ethics, morality and desire.
Virginie Despentes' 2009 documentary, Mutantes (Punk Porn Feminism), is a film that seeks to provide a context for this movement, as well as allow those involved to explain the more subtle aspects of the philosophical underpinning of their creative acts.  Despentes fills this film with interviews with practitioners such as B. Ruby Rich, Lydia Lunch, Annie Sprinkle, Catherine Breillat, Maria Beatty, Lynnee Breedlove, Norma Jean Almodovar, and other members of the post-porn movement. It also fills much of its running time with examples of each of these artists' work.
The film is graphic, confrontational, didactic, extreme and enlightening. By the end of its 90 minute run-time, though, I was left with some very mixed feelings about its value, its message, and its intent.
Jason Sacks: Elkin and McCoy, I was stuck with some mixed feelings while watching this film. I guess we’ll see as this essay proceeds whether you and I have the same mixed feelings or not.
More than anything, I felt incredibly happy that people are creating art of whatever sort that allows them to feel happy and release their inner artistic impulses. I love work that comes from the heart that represents an individualistic approach to any area of life, including the deep exploration of sexuality. If the artist finds great joy in exploring the more fetishistic sides of S&M or oil wrestling or of exploring the borderlines between male and female sexuality in ways that enlighten their lives and the lives of their viewers, brings them joy and freedom and helps to make the world a richer place, then more power to them.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review -- JOYWELL by Dalton Rose

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Joywell
(Dalton Rose, Study Group)
4/5 stars
Dalton James Rose has a short comic called Joywell over on Study Group. It's ostensibly a horror story about a lost cat and a war between magical beings, and Rose tells it quietly in bright colors and large panels. It explores ideas about growing up using a quest motif. Joywell is quickly done from start to finish, yet its echos resonate for some time afterward.


The story begins with a young girl whose cat, Joywell, has gone missing. Joywell, as his name implies, is the source of her happiness. To recover her cat, the young girl must first travel to the center of a large mound in the middle of a park. She wanders through a tunnel which opens into a golden room made of sticks (or french fries. It's kind of hard to tell) festooned with detritus of culture -- televisions, bicycles, human skulls, a globe, the Sphinx -- wherein she finds a boy eating the hearts of cats to stay alive, one of which was Joywell's. This boy's hunger for cat hearts is a result of a curse by a witch, without them he will die. As it turns out, this witch is a young woman who sits in her brightly colored bedroom surrounded by plushies with red glowing eyes and a television tuned to static. 
There is conflict between the witch and the boy which, in just a few pages, is resolved. Joywell gets a new heart and is returned to his home at the foot of the young woman's bed. It is a simple and clean story both in its telling and Rose's art. His lines are crisp, his colors are vibrant, and his pacing, while hurried, never rushes the reader.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review -- HEART OF STONE

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Heart of Stone
(Stefano Cardoselli, David Sandoval, Craig Cilliland; N.A.S. Studios)
4/5 STARS
When you think small press comics, you rarely think of blood soaked cowboy tales telling of the Devil's Vengeance, do you? Well, thank goodness Stefano Cardoselli is here to fill that niche and scratch that itch -- and he does it balls-out, head-exploding, six-guns blazing, BANG!!! with his new book from N.A.S Studios,Heart of Stone -- and whooo doggie, this book is so over the top you either have to love it or burn it as part of some sort of purification ritual.
Me? I loved it. Then again, I always prefer my over the top to be really, really over the top.


The premise of Heart of Stone is that there is this town under siege from a gang of perverts, deviants, and psychopaths led by Kat "2 Guns" McSea, a rootin' tootin' badass lady gunslinger who has Love tattooed on one tit and Hate tattooed on the other. The town leaders need a plan to extricate themselves from their situation. "Yeah, and bringing back to life a dead piece-of-shit, gambling, drunk, gunslinger is an obvious solution." Makes sense to me. They must be Republicans.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review -- DREAM THIEF #1

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Dream Thief #1
(Jai Nitz, Greg Smallwood; Dark Horse)
4/5 stars
What would you do if you woke up in a strange room and didn't know where you were, or what you'd done the night before to get there? This is a question repeated thrice in Dream Thief #1 and its answer gets darker and deeper and bloodier each time it is asked.


So Dark Horse is re-embracing the superhero genre with a slate of new series, and Dream Thief may be the best of the pack. Right now, this book is slated to be a five-issue mini, but I have a feeling that, assuming the next four issues are as good as this one, Nitz and Smallwood will get to play the long game with their character. 
This is one fine piece of comic book making, and it has the potential to go just about anywhere. It had me from the get-go and kept me flipping pages with intensity.
In Dream Thief, Nitz has pulled off the difficult job of making his protagonist loathsome. We're not talking anti-hero here, we're talking asshole-hero. John Lincoln is a thoroughly reprehensible individual: egotistical, smug, self-centered, he's the kind of guy who cascades through his life pinging off other people and using them to his advantage. He's the kind of guy who blames everyone else for anything that goes wrong in his life. The kind of guy who, honestly, even a pacifist would punch. Yet somehow, through the machinations of Jai Nitz's narrative, we're engaged in what happens to him. Are we rooting for him? Are we waiting for his comeuppance? Neither of these things are necessarily true. What engages us is watching him come to terms with the mystery that surrounds him.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Review -- MOTH CITY

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Moth City
(Tim Gibson)
4/5 stars
Moth City is a series you should check out for the following reasons:
  • It is an engaging story
  • Gibson's artwork is fantastic
  • It capitalizes on the unique pacing opportunities of digital comics 
  • It pushes the interaction between reader and creator
  • It is free (and who doesn't like free comics)


In his press release for Moth City, Gibson wrote of his series: 
Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Civil war, when the governing Nationalist Party fought Mao’s Communists, Moth City tells the story of an American weapons tycoon who must solve a brazen murder, before his city’s inhabitants are wiped out by the warring factions. 
That's the story, and Gibson tells it well. There is intrigue, great characterization and action here. It's really the full package. As well, if you look at the images running concurrently with this review, you can see that Gibson's art is great to look at: expansive, dramatic, sure of itself. He's doing everything here, from pencils to inking to coloring to lettering -- and it's pretty damn impressive. 
What really got me excited about this book, though, was HOW Gibson was telling his story.