Friday, January 30, 2015

Between the Panels there is Light and there is Music: A Review of INK BRICK No. 2

INK BRICK is an anthology of comics poetry
Ink Brick 2 coverDANIEL ELKIN: The English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley defined poetry as “a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.” Later, T. S. Eliot said of the genre, “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from
these things.”
Thinking this through, this may say more about Eliot than it does about poetry.
Anyway…
My favorite definition of poetry comes from Carl Sandburg who said, “Poetry is a plan for a slit in the face of a bronze fountain goat and the path of fresh drinking water.” That Sandburg was my kind of fella.
Regardless of the definition you prefer, one thing for sure is that poetry ain’t comics. But comics… well they can be poetry?
“Comics Poetry” is a term that has only recently entered my lexicon. Here, individually, are two words that hold special meaning to my heart, but usually they dance on opposite sides of the room in my head-disco, listening to their own particular versions of Love to Love You, Baby. By combining them into one entity, the juxtaposition of the two words is jarring. Comics, after all, are dependent on narrative, while poetry is often of the moment. It threw me a bit to think of how the two media might intersect.
Now here, standing in the midde of that intersection is INK BRICK, wearing a duct-tape coat and holding a tattered cardboard sign which may have once read “Will Yea To Your Beauty”. INK BRICK is a journal of comics poetry that is “dedicated to finding and promoting work that crosses the borders between comics and poetry – material that is either in direct conversation with traditional poetry, or that is forging a new, visual poetics.”
Goodness me, that sounds like a vaguely grandiose and unfortunately dirge-like statement of artistic intent bombast, doesn’t it? Hackles up, one could see how easily “Comics Poetry” could suffer much of the same abuse that “Performance Art” does, by both practitioner and critic.
Picture, if you will, a throng punctuated with endless beards, the sudden shine-flickers off the lenses of cat-eye glasses, and so many fine shoes snapping wildly from panel to panel as the pages turn to the beat of an extended Art Blakey drum solo. Envision swirls of colors placed JUST SO as to implore that you feel that feel that I feel when I use these colors, man, while thick set type-faces shout out “Gossamer” and “Flux” and “Ash-pits” and “Oxides” as if you should know, as if you don’t know.
Ink Brick steps
This is my “Comics Poetry” nightmare, the deviantart.com of the “latest thing” to flop out of some zipped up culture whore, pander-handed and snide-sneered from that plastic ledge of discernment — where art turns fashion turns quickly into a new app for your I-Phone 7 and then is cast aside the moment something new and shiny is shat.
Nightmares fester deep into the night. But, as always, there is a pinprick of light in that darkness. That light is INK BRICK.
Thankfully, there’s a true sense of careful curatorship in the pages of INK BRICK. The Editorial cadre of Alexander Rothman, Paul K. Tunis, Alexey Sokolin, Bianca Stone, and Gary Sullivan have dug the necessary trenches and built the solid battlements in what is assuradly a war against the thick frivolous good intent/bad execution that must constantly be seiging the Comics Poetry crowd. INK BRICK works because of this stewardship and the journal sits comfortably on the table. It is a journal that is as solid a collection of transformative art as there can be.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Even A Little Bend In The Knees: For Some Reason I Wrote A Short Review of the 2014 Season of SHERLOCK

Sherlock

Even though I don't really own a TV and what I do watch, when I do watch, usually consists of really large men wearing helmets and pads trying to get an oval ball down the field while other really large men try to smash them into the terra, I still made it a point this year to watch Sherlock.
Sherlock has consistently been a smart show for smart people written by clever folk. It excels at twisting and turning while building their audience’s calf muscles by keeping them on their toes. In the past, each moment of each episode added up to a larger piece of a bigger puzzle, nothing wasted, not even the bits you missed the first time. 2014’s season continued this trend, consisting of three episodes, one of which was called “The Sign of Three” (nothing wasted, after all).  Here character relationships, always an important part of the series, began to take a larger chunk of the writer’s time and luckily, for the most part, the cast of actors was up to it.
Cumberbatch and Freeman were able to expertly bro it up, or bloke it up, or just plain chappy about. Freeman was unleashed and was finally able to show his range as an actor, while Cumberbatch displayed his chops and smoldered as a man who has distanced himself from his own emotions, emoting. While this year’s episodes ran thick with character building and was splatter painted with plot points that, at times, teetered on the melodramatic, there were still plenty of  the requisite tight little locked boxes in search of crackerjack keys that fans of the show have come to expect.
While still remaining one of the best shows on television, this season the series began to show some of the crinkles inherent in its own success, seemingly playing to the desires of its fanbase more so than staying true to itself. Considering how damn good it is, though, even a little bend in its knees still makes it stand head and shoulders above most others.
This Review Originally Ran on Psycho-Drive In as part of their TOP TEN FAVORITE DRAMAS OF 2014

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Shelley, The Moon, Artemis, and You – A Review of Dakota McFadzean's HOLLOW IN THE HOLLOWS


While smacking of pretension, it is important that I quote a little Shelley before I begin writing about Dakota McFadzean's new book from One Percent Press, Hollow In The Hollows. I know. I know... but bear with me, it will all make sense in a moment.

To The Moon

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no worth object worth its constancy?

Okay, that wasn't so painful, was it? As odd of a character that Shelley guy was, he sure could write him some poetry.

In “To the Moon” Shelley addresses the moon about its paleness, and, while doing so, imbues the moon with his own longings and sense of entitlement which then, of course, elevates himself to cosmic proportions. Such was the kind of guy Shelley was. Still, let's separate the art from the artist.

Ahem...

As he was a neo-classicist as much as a Romantic, surely Shelley couldn't help but look at the moon and think of the myth of Artemis, which is where I finally get to start actually talking about Hollow in the Hollows (this may be called burying the lede, but fuck it, who the hell is even reading this at this point).

When I first read Hollow in the Hollows, I kept expecting more to happen. The whole book throbs and pushes towards something vaguely ominous but never pays off in that direction. Its ending rings hollow, as it were. Reading McFadzean here became off-putting in this regard, especially for someone expecting some sort of denouement, no matter how sullied or obscure.

But something about it lingered.


Hollow in the Hollows became an itch that demanded scratching. There was obviously more that was undulating below its narrative surface. It was upon reading Shelly's poetry and thinking about the moon that, BOOM, this book bloomed before me like a Dragon Fruit flower.

All the symbolism is there. The moon, the deer, the forest – it all led to Artemis, goddess of the hunt and goddess of virginity and, yes, protector of young girls.

Once access of this sort is granted, the heretofore tight box becomes a open field. Hollow in the Hollows dances in the coming-of-age trope in a way that both celebrates and forewarns. Not quite a cautionary tale, it resonates with the fear a burgeoning sexuality engenders, the confusion inherent in it, and the almost mystical aspect of change itself. Like I said, there's an ominous tone running as an undercurrent throughout the book which never flowers, but given the context it is the perfect choice for what McFadzean wants his audience to walk away with.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Five Moments in Comics That Left an Impression in 2014 -- Part 5 -- The Proliferation of Small Press Comic Conventions

I don't need to tell you that life is complicated. The amount of data we pull in over the course of a year is staggering. Reflection is more of a guessing game than a science. Still, some things linger, events gain significance in hindsight, and the prick of a moment can fester or bloom. Here's 5 moments from 2014 that left an impression.

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The Proliferation of Small Press Comic Conventions

Have you ever noticed how happy your dog is when you take it to the dog park? Tail wagging, tongue lolling, spark in the eye, jumping, chasing, barking to his heart's content – he's happy because, at last, he's among his own kind. The same goes for timid old ladies at a Teddy Bear Convention, heavily inked Suicide Girls at a Tattoo Expo, Dudes and Walters at Lebowski Fest, Bronies at Bronycon, Juggalos at The Gathering, Rednecks at the Daytona 500, even fans of The Rock-Afire Explosion have their own safe places where they can let their freak flags fly among others without having to explain, justify, or underplay. Fandom survives because of community – the more marginalized the group, the more important that sense of belonging becomes.

Thus it is with those of us who are incredibly fond of small press comics. Luckily, we have our own gathering places as well.


The small press convention scene has never been more active or vibrant. This year I drove to the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco and flew out to Comics Arts Brooklyn in … well … Brooklyn, and both joints were jumping. The enthusiasm of exhibitors and patrons alike throbbed through the buildings at these shows, like the bass line of “Cosmic Slop”. It was impossible not to be caught up in it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Five Moments in Comics That Left an Impression in 2014 -- Part 4 -- When my enthusiasm for Valiant Comics waned.

I don't need to tell you that life is complicated. The amount of data we pull in over the course of a year is staggering. Reflection is more of a guessing game than a science. Still, some things linger, events gain significance in hindsight, and the prick of a moment can fester or bloom. Here's 5 moments from 2014 that left an impression.

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When my enthusiasm for Valiant Comics waned.




I'd given up on the hope of being engaged by the type of superheroics doled out by Marvel and DC long ago, but something about the 2012 Valiant relaunch had caught my attention. The enthusiasm behind and audacity of their plans were, in a sweet and curious way, infectious. There were good books as much as there were good times. Those early years were filled with books demonstrating what can happen when you put your intellectual property into the hands of artists and writers and basically say to them, “Have fun with this. Make great comics.” A matter of fact, I even chose Greg Pak and Robert Gill's Eternal Warrior #8 as one of my favorite comics of 2014. It spoke large, it nearly brought me to tears.

But as 2014 dragged on, something began to change. I got the sense that whatever was going on at Valiant had taken a turn – as if endless variant covers, the formation of “super-teams”, and company wide crossovers designed to SELL MORE had become the mentality behind editorial decisions. For some reason I was reminded that in January of 1978, the great British philosopher John Lydon had said on the stage of the Winterland Theater in San Francisco, “Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?