Archive for the commentary Category

my black friday finds

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I mentioned yesterday that my one and only Black Friday destination is Half-Price Books. I’ve always loved used bookstores and living within a five-minute drive from one has been one of the perks of moving to Ohio. When I lived in New York, I frequented dozens of used bookstores a month, from destination stores like The Strand to tiny hole-in-the-wall establishments.

The problem with being a NYC book snob was that there are SO MANY that finding those diamonds in the rough was a most formidable challenge. A guy I used to know who turned scouring thrift stores and used bookstores into a sizable source of income once told me that there were New York City collectors who literally pay people to “cover” certain used bookstores, keeping their eyes out for certain books. I’ve never been sure whether to believe that or not, but the idea of it always tinged my enjoyment of digging through the shelves and stacks.

No such problem here in Southern Ohio, at least to my knowledge. Again, I’m not finding literary treasures beyond compare; usually they’re just comic book collections or used paperbacks I like.

Anyhow, I do a lot of “stocking” shopping at HPB on Black Friday, but I always make sure to pick up a book or three for myself. This is what I grabbed today. Keep in mind, I only spent around $10 bucks.

Continue reading

odds and ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , on November 26, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Happy Black Friday, if you care about that sort of thing! In general, I don’t. One of the luxuries of being poor is that you don’t have to worry about camping out at 3 AM to spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need. I will admit that in recent years, I have ventured out on the day after Thanksgiving, but entirely motivated by having small children who wake up at the crack of dawn regardless of what day of the month it is.

Befitting my financial stature, Elliot and I usually go and wait outside Half Price Books on Black Friday. We have a HPB within five minutes of our house so getting there is no hardship. Elliot’s an early riser, so there’s no problem there. Half Price Books Black Friday sale isn’t a crazy doorbuster (20% off and a $5 dollar gift card to the first 100 shoppers) but you can shop secure in the comfort that people who wake up early to go to a used bookstore aren’t usually the type of folks who will trample you to death over a DVD player or riot over a GPS.

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Ellen and I have been enjoying AMC’s The Walking Dead in the past few weeks. If you know my wife, you know how remarkable that statement is. I’m a fan of a good zombie apocalypse, but they are not Ellen’s cuppa. When we started dating, I made her watch Dawn of the Dead (the Romero version, duh!), and she submitted to it with style and aplomb, despite her tastes running more toward Merchant Ivory productions. The Walking Dead has been fun for the both of us.

I’m a fan of the comic on which the show is based and have been reading it since 2003, I think. I have a copy of the first trade in my classroom’s lending library (on the restricted shelf, naturally) and it’s easily one of the most popular graphic novel collections I own. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: If someone can figure out how to write a YOUNG ADULT zombie book, they’d be millionaires. Kids love the inherent creepiness of the genre. I think the bloody trappings may preclude acceptance as a part of the YA ouevere, but I swear man… if you can run with it, it’s money on the table.

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Believe it or not, I may get to go to the movies this weekend! When you have two young children in your care, organizing a trip to the movies is something akin to planning a military operation… but it seems as if we have a babysitter lined up and the wife and I (and some other friends) will be going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 sometime this weekend.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the HP movie series in the past few weeks. I’m a fan of the books and the movies and I’m looking forward to seeing the series out in grand style. For Potter-philes more hardcore than myself, they must be looking at these two movies as one of the last great gasps of Harry Potter fandom, in a global sense. No more waiting in lines at midnight to get some sort of Harry Potter fix, the story’s been told in print and on film.

Of course, there will be more Harry Potter. At some point, Hollywood is going to realize that there’s still gold in them thar hills and go about “remaking” and “reimagining” Hogwarts for new generations, no matter your opinion of how good these flicks are. I also have every faith that author J.K. Rowling will at some point return to her best-loved creations; she’s alluded to it enough times with reporters (and Oprah, a few months ago). For the time being however, Deathly Hallows closes the door on the whole world and I’m excited to get to see it on the big screen.

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For those of you who have been waiting, I’m going to post Part Four of my “It Gets Better” comic on Monday. Being a holiday weekend, I thought it was better to post the comic on a day when people are near their computers than over the weekend when most are either (a) passed out from overeating, (b)watching football, or (c) shopping. It’s coming though.

odds and ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , on November 19, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Not much going on here lately, to be frank. We’re beginning to gear up for the holidays in our house- for the first time, Ellen and I are hosting Thanksgiving here in Southern Ohio, rather than trekking to far-flung points across the country. We’re inviting some of our neighbors and Ellen’s childhood friend Kelly for dinner and LN and I are both anticipating a good time.

Content wise, last year at Thanksgiving, I went off the beaten track a little bit with an action sequence… and I have a different plan for this year. I’m not sure if it’s going to be any good- I’m worried that the comics I have planned are going to come off a little preachy and self-aggrandizing… but I’m happy about most of what I’m trying to say with them.

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Earlier this week I received a copy of The Complete Making of Indiana Jones from DonorsChoose request. All I can say after having flipped through the book several times is my students have to get in line behind me on this book. I’ve been reading it for the past two days and it is a thing of beauty for fans of the Indy Jones movies. Exhaustive barely even begins to cover how thorough author J.W. Rinzler has been, digging into the flicks.

Preference is rightly given to Raiders of the Lost Ark, with only a cursory glance taken at the last Indy movie, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… a flick that absolutely everyone hates on as the least of the series. It is the least of the series, but at the risk of sounding uncool, I enjoyed a lot of Crystal Skull and felt it suffered quite a bit from almost 20 years of pent-up expectation.

Anyway, great book, would make an awesome gift for a movie buff.

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I read two mainstream superhero comic books right now- DC Comics’ Batman and Robin and Marvel Comics’ Thor: The Mighty Avenger.

After almost two years, I was prepared to give up Batman and Robin. My main reason for keeping up with the book, writer Grant Morrison, is moving on to other comic projects. I’ve been looking for places to trim my pull list, and this gave me a great excuse.

 

I was not at all prepared for the cancellation of Thor: The Mighty Avenger, a book I picked up on a whim a few months ago and instantly fell in love with. An all-ages retelling of the Thor superhero story, Thor: The Mighty Avenger was seemingly created to introduce new readers to the character in preparation for this summer’s upcoming movie. The book did it’s job well in being set away from the continuity-laden Marvel Universe and all the baggage that entails. A reader could pick this up knowing nothing about Thor and grasp what’s going on with relative ease..

The creative team for Thor: The Mighty Avenger is one of my favorite in comics right now. Writer Roger Langridge is responsible for BOOM Studios’ adaptation of The Muppet Show that I’ve talked up here before, and artist Chris Samnee is, in a word, incredible. You can check out Samnee’s blog here and see for yourself. I’m going to add it to the blogroll because some of the stuff Samnee does with the use of shadow has to be seen to be believed.

Anyhow, Samnee points out over there that there are three issues of Thor: The Mighty Avenger left to be published and although it’s pretty difficult to reverse a publisher decision like cancellation, if you like good comics I highly recommend picking ‘em up. It might be a case of “too little, too late” but the comics are so good you won’t regret your purchase.

thrift store finds: walt kelly’s santa claus adventures

Posted in christmas comics, comics, commentary, thrift store finds with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the books I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

When I was in middle school, I was a great fan of Jeff Smith’s Bone comics.

I don’t want you to be mistaken, I still remain a great fan of Smith and all his work… but the tween-aged Chris was OBSESSED with Bone. He ordered comics from Cartoon Books directly. He drew the characters in the margins of all his tests. He collected the Bone trading cards, lucking out enough to find a SIGNED Smith sketch card.

He also followed any and all interviews with Jeff Smith. When Smith mentioned his influences in an old issue of the now defunct comic magazine Heroes Illustrated, Walt Kelly’s Pogo was mentioned.

Pogo is one of the most beloved newspaper comic strips of all time, an ongoing humor strip featuring the denziens of the Okefenokee Swamp and their interactions and frequent misunderstandings with one another. Kelly worked at Disney for a time and it shows in his wonderfully expressive characters who are often oblivious but always endearing. Kelly was a master of dialect and pioneered a lazy drawling, phonetical manner in which the characters talked that was hilarious and rewarded close reading.

My local library had exactly ONE Pogo book, Phi Beta Pogo. I probably checked that book out about three dozen times while I was in high school. I always loved the way that Kelly inked his comics… the small details and the bold use of blacks in the daily strips. They stood in stark contrast to the comics that litter newspapers today. I’m anxiously awaiting Fantagraphic Books’ The Complete Pogo series as I’ve had little luck finding the old Simon & Schuster paperbacks in my thrift store.

I did run across this old comic, however:

Continue reading

odds and ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I’ve been buying a lot more toys in the last weeks than I have in the past few years. In my previous life as a singleton with disposable income, I collected toys, specifically action figures. I’ve scaled back my buys of late, limiting myself mainly to Minimates. If you don’t know what Minimates are, here’s a helpful video… with a view into my collection.

That was made about two years ago and my collection has only grown since then, although incrementally. I’m pretty choosy about what Minimates I buy these days. I’m no completist… if Diamond Select (the company that makes these) gets a license I like, I’ll buy the toys. This explains why I snapped up the Ghostbusters and Back to the Future ‘Mates as soon as they hit the toy shelves, but avoided the Rocky toys. I don’t care about Rocky Balboa as much as I do Marty McFly.

Anyhow, this past week was a banner Minimates week, as I picked up not one, not two, but THREE new Minimates sets. I know how excited you are to hear about them, so let’s get this show on the road:

My lovely sister Laura picked these up for me this past October at the New York Comic Con: The New Mutants Boxed Set. I’m not a huge X-Men fan, but I’ve always liked the uniform designs on The New Mutants and as they were a NYCC exclusive, it seemed a shame NOT to have Laura pick them up for me. I’ll also mention I’m hoping to get the Original X-Men boxed set for Christmas and point out that the two teams would look good together on my bookshelf.

I also picked up these Universal Monster Minimates the week before Halloween. I’m a sucker for the Universal Monsters, although I must confess, I’m disappointed that Art Asylum decided to roll out the heavies of the line (Frankenstein, Dracula) later in the year. I’m a mild Wolfman fan, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon never really did it for me. I’m happy to have the two monsters, even if the figures packed with them (Larry Talbot, pre-Wolfman and Dr. Carl Maia) are destined for the storage closet.

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I’m currently reading Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield and I want to toss it a recommendation. Sheffield’s currently an editor at Rolling Stone and Ellen and I listened to an unabridged audiobook of his first book Love is a Mix Tape on a marathon drive from Ohio to New York last summer. We loved it.

The first thing that grabbed me about Sheffield’s writing is although he primarily writes about himself,  he doesn’t strike me as being insanely self-involved. Even in a book like Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, where Sheffield’s obviously telling his own life story, he’s generous with details about OTHER people and seemingly has no problem fading into the background to give others the limelight in his own narrative. I mention this because it’s a trait I feel is sorely lacking in a lot of young authors I’ve read in the past few years, especially essayists that write about music. Nine times out of ten, the story becomes more about the author than the subject, even if the author is NOT the subject. Sheffield strikes a balance that I really appreciate.

I was also impressed with the way Sheffield documents the pop music of the 1980s, hardly a period of music history that gets a huge amount of props from most critics. He’s pretty up front with the fact that a lot of this music is of the disposable, faddish sort… but at the same time, a lot of those pop tunes colored my childhood and it’s nice to read someone engaging with them on a level beyond “Oh, remember Hungry Like The Wolf? Yeah, me too.”

Anyhow, I recommend Talking to Girls About Duran Duran and Sheffield’s first book, Love it a Mix Tape. Both definitely worth your time.

odds and ends

Posted in commentary on October 29, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I begin most of my Thrift Store Finds posts with the following disclaimer:

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the books I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

I’ve made jokes in the past about how this effectively absolves me of any responsibility about accuracy… but obviously that’s a “tongue in cheek” statement and I do try to get the facts right whenever I can. Unfortunately, I’ve missed the mark on a post and I wanted to take a second to clear the air.

A few days ago I was contacted by Ms. Norma Martin, wife of famed MAD Magazine cartoonist Don Martin about some inaccuracies in my Thrift Store Find post on Don Martin Bounces Back... chiefly some of the legal wrangling surrounding Martin’s leaving MAD in the 1980’s for greener pastures. I’ve already posted Ms. Martin’s comments on that post, and I’m going back to that article this weekend and making the necessary corrections. I hope that my readers and Mrs. Martin will forgive my errors. My “sources” were a baker’s dozen of MAD fan sites and the guy who ran my town’s comic book store in the early Nineties… neither of which are the types of citations I’d want my students making on a research paper. I regret the error, especially as I hold Don Martin in such high esteem.

Once again, I HIGHLY recommend everyone go and by The Completely MAD Don Martin collection, which is still available at Barnes & Noble for a song. It’s the best investment you’ll make in your personal library this year.

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I feel as though there’s been a lot of “tempest in a teapot” comic news in the past few days. I don’t normally care to mention this kind of thing, but one took me so off guard, I can’t help but say a few words. I was completely shocked by the reaction of some contingent of the online community to cartoonist Kate Beaton’s response to the common Internet comment “I love __________ comics so much, I want to marry ______ and have ____’s babies.”

I have to confess, it weirded me out how uncomfortable some folks became with the very reasonable request to refrain from using the phrase as a compliment. If, in your everyday life, a person you work with and liked asked you to refrain from saying something that made him or her feel uncomfortable… you’d just comply, right? Very simple… but since this IS the Internet, people found reasons to be outraged and complain. It seemed like the majority of complainers weren’t able to grasp the fact that, although intended as complimentary, it’s a very different compliment to receive if you are, in fact, someone who is capable of having babies.

I’ve always thought the “want to marry/have babies” comment was quite reductive of a person’s talents, but I should mention that aside from it being a little sexist, I also have a personal bias toward this particular “compliment” as someone I went to college with would use it ALL the time. As in, “These chicken finger subs are so delicious I want to marry them and have their babies.”  This person thought it was the height of cute and really drove my friends and I up a wall with it incessantly.

Anyhow, I felt compelled to comment on it. I am sure my dozens of readers are happy to know my thoughts. I should also mention that Kate Beaton’s comics are FANTASTIC. As an English teacher and a lifetime book nerd, her occasional forays into literature are some of the best comics I’ve read in long time. She recently delved into Dracula, but I still love her take on The Great Gatsby the best.

…from the home office in wahoo, nebraska

Posted in commentary with tags , on October 17, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Since I’ve been a fan of David Letterman since I was a kid, here’s a Top Ten List.

 

Top Ten Reasons There Will Be No Comics This Week.

 

10. I am so poor (read: teacher’s salary!), I didn’t have money to buy new Bristol board until this past Friday.

 

9. I have to grade 110 “fictional narratives” for the 9th grade by next Friday.

 

8. I have to grade 110 “poetry collections” for the 9th grade by next Friday.

 

7. I have to great 45 “personal narratives” for the 10th grade by next Friday. I have to do all these things because…

 

6. End of quarter grades are due on Friday!

 

5. During the time I usually take to pencil my comic strips on Saturday night, I spent a relaxing evening with Ellen and our friend Michelle at the Dayton Philharmonic hearing a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. It was quite awesome.

 

4. I just took on a paid commission on which I need to start working!

 

3. Must put together new Ikea bookcase for living room.

 

2. Have to carve out a couple of hours here or there for the family.

 

…and the Number One reason There Will Be No Comics This Week…

 

1. Buttafouco, Buttafouco, Buttafouco!

 

I can almost guarantee that Letterman still doesn’t do Joey Buttafouco jokes, but they were catnip for the guy when I was watching it every night.

 

Anyhow, no new comics this week…  possibly some sketchbook type-stuff. Stay tuned.

odds & ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , , , on October 15, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Firstly, a favor: my friend Anna’s in the running for a $1,000 dollar prize in the Art Takes Miami People’s Choice Award.
Anna’s an amazing photographer and well-deserving of the honor and the money, so if you can take a moment to click over to this site and rate her portfolio “5 out of 5″ stars… well, you’ll be helping her out, you’ll be helping ME out, and you’ll be telling the truth because she is truly talented. Thanks in advance!

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I was excited to receive two issues of Toby Jones’ Memory Foam mini-comic in the mail this week! I’ve been enjoying Toby’s work for a few years now online and I’m glad to have them on my bookshelf.

 

Memory Foam #1 and #2 are collections of Toby’s autobiographical comics and there’s a whole lot to like about them. In particular, I’ve always loved the way Toby draws noses- you might think I’m pointing out some small thing, but it truly is little details like that which make or break a character design. His are appealing to look at and fun to read.

 

My favorite comics of Toby’s involve times where Toby looks at some small interest of his and expands on that interest to make a lot of broader connections to his life and world. Something like, an observation about an old video game that he used to love will take the reader into a story about the nature of friendship, and I like the way the trivial and the monumental kind of blend with one another in his comics. This one about buying a Playstation Portable, for example, starts off mundane but then goes into some pretty interesting places. I really hope that Toby starts expanding on some of those themes as I think the concept has strong narrative possibilities.

 

Both issues of Memory Foam are $3 bucks apiece, and you get get both of ‘em for $5.

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We’re currently reading the poetry of Lewis Carroll in my Advanced English class; I’ve used “Jabberwocky” as a mentor text for teaching repetition and onomatopoeia for years, but only in the past few weeks have I branched out and started looking at the author’s other poetry. My students really do seem to like the weirdness of Carroll’s world and quite a few of them have gone out under their own steam to check out his Alice books.

 

Working so closely with “Jabberwocky” I remembered a picture I saw in a magazine somewhere back when I was in high school of a Jabberwocky action figure. The late ’90’s/early ’00’s were a boom period for boutique toymakers to manufacture weird action figures that would never be sold in a Toys R Us. I never thought about buying a toy Jabberwocky at age 16… but now that I’m an English teacher in good standing, I’d really love to own one.

 

Proving that the Internet is an amazing resource for both the obscure and the nerdy, I found this sad story courtesy of a toy company’s website that has not been updated since mid 2000. It looks like I’ll never own a little toy Jabberwock.

2010-2011 school year: day fifteen

Posted in comics, commentary with tags , , , , , on October 6, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I don’t know whether this is oversharing or not, but I wanted to have it on the record somewhere that getting away from elaborate backgrounds (or as elaborate as my pen scratching can be) is a conscious choice. I’ve been looking at a lot of my favorite newspaper comic strips in the past two months and one thing I’ve noticed about them is their judicious use of background elements.

Part of this is function over form: newspaper comics get shrunk down to the size of postage stamps, so you don’t want a lot of noise in the background that takes away from the action of your characters… but I also think, in certain cases, it brings a certain elegance and focus to the ideas of a comic strip.

My reason for saying this is that I struggled with the first panel of this strip, and I guess I feel better pointing it out myself.

odds and ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Hey, I wanted to take a second to spotlight Matt Graupman’s Spinadoo Comics here for two reasons.

The first is obviously the comic itself, which is “slice of life” family moments told in what is fast becoming the traditional (four panel grid)  journal comic style. One of the things I very much like about Matt’s comic strip is the extreme perspective and angular points of view that he works into his strip. It’s a really admirable quality in a sea of journal comics (this one included) which consist mainly one and two shots of people talking from the waist up. The visual variety of his comics make them well worth your time.

The other reason I wanted to highlight Graupman’s site is the truly impressive collection of current journal comic creator links. I remember being inordinately fond of the Journal Comics Jam! site a few years back, but a quick breeze-through of the links provided there show that many of the daily comikkers included in that page are no longer drawing daily strips. Matt’s collection of links has some real gems, many of whom I wouldn’t have encountered without his generous linkage.

I always mean to do something similar- spotlight comics I enjoy and provide links to them, but Matt’s got it all over me. I’m going to have to give it a go sometime though.

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Staying on the comics front, I was quite happy to find Candy or Medicine at the Cincinnati Comic Expo two weeks’ back.

Candy or Medicine is a comics anthology edited by Josh Blair. It definitely helped the sale in that one of the anthologies has a cover by my current favorite journal comic artist going right now, Sam Spina, but I was immediately impressed with the production quality and care that Blair clearly puts into each volume. I love the idea of having a nice, locally produced comics anthology with a variety of contributors. I definitely recommend sending a couple of bucks Josh’s way to check Candy or Medicine out.

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I’m currently reading The People of Sparks by Jeanne Deprau. It’s a sequel to Deprau’s The City of Ember; Ellen and I listened to Ember as an audiobook on a car ride from New York to Ohio and enjoyed it quite a bit. Ember was a sneaky, kid-friendly take on the fate of humanity after the apocalypse and while I was completely contented with the ending, I was equally curious about where the author would take the concept in a second book.

The People of Sparks suffers in the way that most sequels do- an overabundance of new characters and a “back to basics” approach for her protagonists Lina and Doon which leaves the two of them separated for the greater part of the story. I also thought it was a bit of a shame that Deprau dispatches of some of the more (enjoyably, for readers) villainous characters from the first book as an afterthought… although thinking about it rationally, I can’t see how she’d be able to keep them around without completely derailing the story she wants to tell here.

It’s a lesser sequel, but Deprau’s a talented writer of children’s fiction and I’m probably going to take a run at one of the other books in the Ember series one of these days.

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