Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sounding Sea

Comicon 2010 is done, and unlike most years I didn't come home with a million strange little trinkets, lip balms, and tote bags advertising shows on the USA network that I will, no doubt, never see. This time I just said NO to extraneous plastic.

But that doesn't mean that I came home empty-handed! In fact, Gabriel and I made one of our greatest Comicon finds ever on Saturday: an original poster for the wonderful cult film Night Tide. If you have never heard of this film it is definitely worth finding and watching. Written and directed by Curtis Harrington in 1960, it's an obvious homage to the Val Lewton films of the 40s. It's also Harrington's first full-length feature; up to that point he had been known for his experimental short subjects.

A very young and surprisingly fresh-faced Dennis Hopper stars as Johnny Drake, a young seaman on shore leave. He soon meets Mora (Linda Lawson), a woman who believes herself descended from a race of sirens. They bond in a jazz club that you wish really existed but of course wouldn't be half as cool if you really went there. And that's just the set up, before you learn that Mora lives in an apartment on the Santa Monica pier. Above a carousel. With a semi-tame seagull that comes and goes as he pleases. It's also before you learn that she works in a cheesy sideshow as a "mermaid", floating in a tank of water all day. Felling the psychosexual vibe yet? If not, just stick around for the dream sequence which involves Mora emerging from a bath, dropping her towel for Johnny, turning into an octopus, and trying to kill him.

All of this makes the film sound much cheesier than it really is. Sure, it should come off that way, but somehow it skirts the line and tumbles down into the wilder, more spell-binding territory of dream logic. Some of the imagery is truly stunning, and by the end you really feel for poor Mora, and for Johnny too. And for the moody Santa Monica of old, filled with hot jazz clubs and spooky sideshows which exert their own siren song despite having never really existed either.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

San Diego Comicon, the Wrap-Up

It doesn't seem possible that it's been a whole year since my last Comicon wrap-up. Once again I'm struck by the problem of finding something new to say about things that have been endlessly picked apart, blogged about, and generally rehashed into a shapeless mass.

So this year I'm not even going to try. I'm going to show off some (very poorly lit) photos and leave most of the analysis to those less blurry-eyed after a weekend spent in a giant convention center and various hotel bars.

First off we have the above photo, take by Pat Loika (thanks Pat!), of Gabriel and me at our Image/Shadowline signing on Friday. Ted McKeever signed right after we did, and one of the highlights of my weekend was meeting him. Turns out that he is a fabulously nice guy!

It's impossible to see everything at SDCC, but we did manage to find a booth filled with Star Trek replicas. And they let us play with them! Hopefully this scanner is telling Gabriel that I'll live, but I'm not too sure judging by how serious we look.

Of course, there are tons, and I mean tons, of costumes to see as you wander the halls and nearby streets. I counted at least three different regenerations of The Doctor (including a female 11th Doctor), not to mention the fact that the city had to close down several blocks due to the shear number of zombies. I always enjoy the multi-person costumes too. That really takes dedication. What if you get in a fight during the show? You've got to really know you can depend on someone if you share a costume with them. Here's one of my favorites, a giant Pacman followed by four ghosts. Notice how he's about to eat the unsuspecting fellow in the silly hat.

Gabriel also had two signings at the Marvel booth where he did sketches and met fans. It was announced on Saturday that he is going to be the new artist on the Hulk book, so I guess it's okay for me to finally mention that here too.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to see us at our signings! And to all of our friends who took time out of a very busy weekend to spend some time with us. Hopefully we'll see you again at the New York Comic Con!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our San Diego Comicon Schedule

Like a speeding decapedal armored rhino, San Diego Comicon is heading strait for us this weekend! Here's our schedule and where to find us. Stop by and say hello!

THURSDAY: Gabriel signing Marvel books


MARVEL COMICS - Booth #2429

FRIDAY: Gabriel and I, signing Heathentown



SATURDAY: Gabriel signing Marvel books


Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Remembering Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar passed away on Monday. He was 70, suffering from prostate cancer, and reported to be in ill health. And yet he seemed as vibrant and subversive as ever when Gabriel and I saw him speak at UCLA a couple of months ago. He discussed his career as a writer and as a file clerk, his brief forays into fame which never seemed to quite stick, and his politics. Age had obviously not mellowed him one bit.

"Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures". I often think of this statement when I start a new project. I've never been able to find exactly where Harvey said it, but even if it's apocryphal I think it expresses a truism about comics and about the human condition. Humans are storytelling animals, visual animals; they crave both words and pictures. Comics, good comics, can create a special kind of magic when these come together. Harvey believed life to be chaotic, virtually unmanageable, but by telling his story in the decades-long run of  American Splendor he made it seem like something more. He made it seem funny, and tragic, and miraculous. He made you feel like a hero just for getting through the day. Robert Crumb once said that Harvey worked with material "so staggeringly mundane that it verges on the exotic". That's true, but it was something more than merely exotic. It made you feel something when you read it. Our Cancer Year, written with his wife Joyce Brabner, left me a sobbing wreck. Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story, left me shaking my head in wonderment at the variety of human experience. These books accomplished the one thing that all good literature holds in common: they left me just a little bit different from what I was before I had read them.

I wish I had met Harvey. He taught me a lot about what it means to tell a story with both words and pictures, and about following your own artistic vision. He showed me how one person can be a blue collar drone, an iconoclastic writer, an accomplished jazz critic, and a family man.  In short, Harvey Pekar was a true American. And he will be missed.

Special thanks to Gabriel Hardman for the use of his sketch commemorating Harvey's controversial appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday featuring an Expectant Komodo Dragon

Foxtails are the Devil

Foxtails really are the devil. Almost everyone knows this. And I, who have made a career out of working with animals for over a decade, should have known this too. But instead I had to learn it the hard way. Although, I must say, it wasn't as hard for me as it was for my dog Camila.

I had heard of foxtails prior to living with an adventurous mutt. I vaguely knew that they were some sort of weed with a scratchy detachable seedcase.  What I didn't know is how much damage they could do to a dog foolish enough to sniff one up her nose.

As it turns out, avoiding foxtails should be rule one for anyone who likes to hike with their dog in the Los Angeles area. Foxtails are EVERYWHERE when you start to notice them. And they don't just bloom and then disappear. Instead they dry out and become even more likely to freely float up the giant snout of any passing canine. 

Camila was lucky as it turns out. She was energetically sniffing around some bushes when she started violently sneezing. Here eyes squinted and teared, and she pawed at her nose. We took her to the vet right away, but by then she had stopped sneezing. We were sent home with some antihistamines and the hope that she had sneezed out whatever had been irritating her.

Several days later she still didn't seem quite right. So back she went to the vet, and this time she got the full work up: sedation and a scope up the nose. As it turns out, she had TWO giant foxtails embedded in her nasal passages. Why was this lucky, especially considering the fact that it cost more than a trip to San Francisco? Because it could have been so much worse. We knew that something was wrong, and that the culprit was something she had sniffed up her nose. We have learned since then that foxtails can and do get into ear canals, noses, mouths, and even eyes. They can work their way through coats, skin, and from there collapse lungs. A tech at the vet told me they can even enter the bloodstream and do terrible damage. 

So there you have it. Foxtails are horrible, and I highly recommend staying far away from them if you are a dog. And if you are a human, take the time to check your canine companion for wayward seed cases after any summertime hikes. Remember, the devil is sneaky and filled with malice. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reprint! And Some Shameless Self Promotion.

It seems like we've been anticipating this forever, but our graphic novel Heathentown has finally gone into a second printing! In fact, it will be shipping next week. So if you've ever wondered what partially preserved ambulatory mammoths have to do with conquistadors, wonder no more! Just head over to your friendly local comic book retailer. If they don't have it, tell them to order it! Or, you could just order it yourself through Amazon...

Want to hear what critics have said, before you fork over your money? You can read the Publisher's Weekly review here.

And thank you! We will now return to the standard Frog Bag fare of cute animal photos and random factoids.
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