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Posts Tagged ‘comics

Achewood

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Achewood is an internet comic by Chris Onstad.  The strip stars three cats, two bears, a few robots, an otter, and a bunch of other hilarious creatures prone to drinking and doing things improperly.  Achewood’s format ranges from one-shots to months-long story arcs, but its consistent subject is the exquisite art of talking bullshit practiced by the average immature male.  What makes the comic so great is that, unlike so so so many other comedies about men being shallow and dumb, Achewood’s character’s don’t sit neatly in “type” roles.  There isn’t a stupid character, they’re all stupid.  They’re all smart too.   Onstad’s primary asset is his ability to be casually cerebral with his dialogue: in places where lesser writers would have a straight man set up a joke and a funny man deliver, Onstad has each character give as good as he gets, which keeps the dialogue sharp and the characters multi-dimensional.  It actually sounds like two (real) dudes bickering, rather than cat-shaped joke ciphers.  Great comedy just takes great characters, it’s as simple as that.

Go there are start clicking Random Comic, damnit.

Written by Peter Kelly

May 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm

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The Eisner Awards

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The 2009 Eisner Award nominees were announced last week.  For those who don’t spend their earnings on Spider-Man and American Splendor each week, The Eisners, named after trailblazing comic creator Will Eisner, are kind of the Oscars of comics.  Yes, The Oscars parallel sounds right; The Eisners are the unquestioned award of prestige for their medium, but their empirical relevance is the subject of endless debate.  The real fun of nominees being announced is armchairing the awards, deciding who you think should win, who you think will win, who you think was robbed, etc.  With the Oscars, the critical refrain remains pretty much the same year to year: “Some surprisingly good picks, mostly garbage- its just too political.”

Coming up with a similar tagline for The Eisners is not so simple.  Winners have ranged from the prominent mainstream (Batman, JLA, etc.) to the oddly obscure (the 1988 Best Single Issue/Single Story winner was Gumby Summer Fun Special #1, By Bob Burden and Art Adams), and so predicting nominations is difficult.  Timothy Callahan points out that the unpredictable nature of the awards can at least partly be ascribed to the rotating cast of judges- panel members are changed every year, making it impossible to say what the awards “favor.”  But plenty of annual honors (All Tomorrow’s Parties festival comes to mind) transfer curatory responsibilities each year and still retain a certain definite identity.  The problem with The Eisners, the reason why it’s nominations can lead to such head scratching, is that the awards seem unsure about what they are.

Roger Ebert wrote a great column about what it means to be a real critic, and in doing so cited a great speech from the movie Ratatouille:

But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends… Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

This is one approach to being a critic- fighting for the cause of underrepresented great art.  The Eisners have done that before, but don’t really do it as a rule.  Another approach is to celebrate the absolute best of the form, regardless of notoriety or the lack thereof.  But if this is the point of The Eisners, the awards have somehow managed to contradict themselves, as seen in the omission of Matt Fraction for best writer placed next to his multiple nominations for writing in other categories.  It is as if each category is put together independently, in a sealed off room, by a group that is barred all contact from any other judges.  And this is perfectly fine, except that it makes the “point” of the Eisner’s obscure, or perhaps non-existent.  People may decry The Oscars for being predictable, but this is precisely where its power comes from; People know what the Academy looks for, and cater to it.  Being the most prominent award in a medium puts one in the unique position of actually being able to shape the face of that medium.  Why squander that power by sending mixed signals?  The Oscars long ago realized their power; they have unfortunately decided to use it for evil.  But The Eisners could be a positive force in comics, using their influence to direct eyes to new, bold talent, but it would take a certain unity of extolling.

Written by Peter Kelly

April 19, 2009 at 7:03 pm

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Harvey Pekar

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Right now might be the golden age of Cleveland’s poet laureate.  Pekar, who became famous for his Everyman comic American Splendor while working as a hospital clerk, retired from his day job in 2003 (as seen in the movie about his life), and has since upped his output significantly.  Since 2004 Pekar has published 8 original books, 3 of which are collections of American Splendor, which he continues to write.  Also on this list are 2 biographies, 1 autobiography, and 2 collaborative histories, Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History, and the recently released The Beats, which tells the (loosely fictionalized) story of Jack Kerouac and his (mostly true) Beatnik compatriots.

The Beats is getting mixed reviews.  While I haven’t read it yet, the complaints I’ve read online (too many liberties with the source text, trudging narration at times) sound familiar.  Last summer I read Students for a Democratic Society, and while much of the book was exciting and rich in content, the latter part of the book, the personal histories, dragged a bit and lacked direction.

Still, it seems a safe bet that The Beats will be worth checking out.  First of all, this is Pekar, an unmatched voice of plainspoken dissent- if anyone should spearhead a discussion on the group that kick started American Counterculture, it’s him.  But more importantly, the rise of “Graphic Histories” over the past few years has been a great boon to sequential art.  Outside of Pekar’s own historical works, there have been solidly and successful graphic versions of The 9/11 Report and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of American Empire (in which he is drawn like Sam Watterson) to name just a few.  There have also been excellent original graphic histories like Chester Brown’s Louis Riel and Rick Geary’s ongoing Victorian murder series.  Comics as a form lends itself well to history: associating an image with a date or name helps the information stick in the mind, and symbiotic quality of comics offers new ways for the historian to streamline the story he wishes to convey- instead of writing three sentences describing rural life in the 1800s, the same information can be conveyed in a single panel as text block, word balloon, and drawing.

It’s fitting that Pekar, the champion of underground comics in the 70s and 80s, would now be at the vanguard of the graphic history movement.  To quote the man himself, “He’s a real piece of work.”

Written by Peter Kelly

March 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm

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Grant Morrison

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It was inevitable that a comic book related post would happen, but I expected to delay it a bit, and while I always knew my opening statement in what would eventually unfold on this blog, (and has been unfolding, to the dismay of my friends, in real life for years) as a long treatise on the virtue of juxtaposed images and words arranged sequentially, would hinge on Grant Morrison, I expected, I say again, to delay this inevitability, until I had worked out an air-tight plan to convince the skeptical to take a dive into comics.

Unfortunately a few things recently happened:

  1. All-Star Superman, Morrison’s so-good-it’s-almost-silly 12-part summation of the myth of The Man of Steele, ended.
  2. Newsarama is in the process of dissecting the monumental work with its author through a 10-part interview.
  3. I watched the above youtube video and thought:
  • Grant Morrison is a loon, or a prophet, or both and,
  • That the ideas and experimental narrative techniques of a man who champions heavy drug intake and the earnest practice of magic are so celebrated and popular in the world of comics is testament to the boundary-pushing tendencies of the form, or to the boundary-pushing tendencies of the form’s core audience, or to both.

Grant Morrison is a Scottish comic book writer, screenwriter, and playwright. His has held famous stints on Animal Man, JLA, and New X-Men, and created many critically successful original titles, such as Seaguy, Flex Mentallo, and WE3. He is currently the writer on Batman and the DC limited series, Final Crisis.

This is some stuff about him:

An interview with ‘Arthur,’ a British counter culture magazine, wherein Morrison discusses witchcraft, the kaballah, the aboriginal Dreamtime, encountering and discussing with demons and aliens, and the ten years he spent on drugs.  This is the guy who writes Batman.

That Newsarama interview I was talking about, which is much more about comics than the previous interview.

And here’s part two of the video at the top of this post, if you’re interested.

Written by Peter Kelly

October 29, 2008 at 5:47 pm

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