Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year in Books

This year, according to what I've recorded on Goodreads at least, I've read 54 books. I was going for an even 60 but those pesky deadlines kept getting in the way. My plan for this post was to pick out my five favorites, but it's way too difficult. There are a lot of good books in the world, and not nearly enough time.

I will say that if you are a person and you like reading, definitely check out Nick Hornby's collections of "Stuff I've Been Reading." MORE BATHS, LESS TALKING is the 4th one, but they are all wonderful. On the other end of the spectrum, THE CROWNING had some really scary, poetic moments in it for those who like their horror dark, Lovecraftian, and kind of romantic. Speaking of Lovecraftian, I.N.J. Culbard's graphic adaptations of Lovecraft's work are terrific. AT THE MOUNTAINS of MADNESS is my favorite Lovecraft story and Culbard really did it right. If you've ever met me you know that I don't say that lightly. WILLY was an unexpected surprise that I wouldn't have found if it wasn't for Goodreads. Spooky, dark, and almost a love story, it is well worth the price of admission. And of course, RASL and THE CREEP are two more that shouldn't be passed up if you like romance mixed with your tragedy. If you want to read some interesting physics, on the other hand, THE PARTICLE AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE by Sean Carroll is a good place to start. I loved it almost as much as his former book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE.

Moving on through the year, DARWIN'S LOST WORLD was a fascinating look at the roots of the Cambrian Explosion. What the heck is up with those weird, ancient fossils that look like pizzas, anyway? I still don't know, but at least now I have some idea. HORSESHOE CRABS AND VELVET WORMS attacked much the same problem from a different perspective: looking at existing examples of ancient lifeforms to decode what may have gone before. It's fascinating, as all of Richard Fortey's books are, and a real romp as well. Paleontology not your thing? David Byrne does the same sort of thing with music in HOW MUSIC WORKS.
As the year drew to a close, I spent some time among London's dead while plowing through NECROPOLIS, which is absolutely fascinating if you've ever visited that city, and a good companion to THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. And finally reading CORPSE ON THE IMJIN!, Fantagraphic's collection of Harvey Kurtzman's war comics, was eye-opening. I'm rounding out the year by reading REBECCA, something that I've somehow never gotten around to before now. I have to say, it's not quite what I was expecting. 

Next year? Hard to say, except that my TBR pile weighs more than I do  I really wish there was a national holiday where it was expected that you did nothing all day but catch up on pleasure reading. Maybe then I'd be able to get through 60 books!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Five Films Worth Seeing - 2013 Edition

The new year is almost here and that means it's the season of lists. I can't possibly make a definitive top ten since I haven't seen nearly enough of this year's films (I'm going to watch 12 YEARS A SLAVE soon, I swear!) But I am at least qualified to offer up five movies that I really enjoyed during 2013.

And so, in no particular order, here are my five favorite films from the last 12 months...


Oh man, I want to see more science fiction like this! Yes, it's a fake documentary and we've all seen a lot of those at this point, but that didn't keep me from loving it. The characters seem like real people who are brave, loyal, sometimes frightened, sometimes lonely and bored, but above all absolutely committed to what they're doing. And what they're doing is science!

Sent to Jupiter's moon Europa to look for life under the ice, the multinational crew risks everything to send back a report of what they've found and expand the frontiers of human knowledge. I dare anyone with even a drop of biophilia (hopefully that's everyone) to watch this movie and not be enthralled.


Hmm, there seems to be a preponderance of "people adrift" films this year. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is another example, and a good one, but not as good as this. Robert Redford gives an amazing performance in a film that has almost no dialogue but plenty of action and pathos. May play as extra scary if you're terrified of big waves, as I am. Extra points to screenwriter (and director) J.C. Chandor  too, for pulling off such a daring script.


What an incredibly odd movie. Set just 30 years ago but during an era that seems increasingly ancient when viewed through the lens of modern technology, this story feels less like a film and more like some little con that you may have once attended. There are great character moments, rampant social anxiety and awkward interactions, and even some bizarre speculative fiction dealing with artificial intelligence thrown in. And all those cats! What was that all about? I could make a guess, but I was too busy wondering if Michael Papageorge would end finding a place to spend the night. In short, don't try to figure out what this film is about. Just watch it and worry about that later.


Another film about artificial intelligence? Goodness, this year is full of themes! I really didn't expect to like this one. Yeah, yeah, a guy is disconnected from his fellow humans and falls for the disembodied voice of his computer. Yawn. But... It wasn't like that at all. I mean, yes, that was basically the plot, but the story didn't ever go where I expected it to go. It was actually romantic, and sad, and funny. Not to mention the fact that it had great art direction. Now that's a version of Los Angeles that maybe I'd like to live in, despite the high-waisted pants that seem to be all the rage in the near-future. Also, I really hope we all get to have tiny wallet-sized computers some day that don't even pretend to be phones. Isn't it time for that revolution?


Hands down, my favorite of the year. I was a total sucker for PRIMER, Shane Carruth's previous twisty, engrossing film. This one though, this is something else. Sad, beautiful, and almost hopeful, it's like nothing else I've seen. I won't even try to describe the plot, which involves some sort of parasitic, will-sapping organism, a desperate romance, and a lot of pigs. It's dreamy, creepy, lovely, and made me cry. Just take my word for it, see it if you haven't.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Preserve the Tapir Preservation Fund!

Tapir lovers unite! People who know me know that there is one animal that I admire above all others: the tapir. There are four (wait! Not four, possibly five! A new one has just been discovered... Hopefully!) species of tapir and every single one of them is endangered.

For years now I've made jewelry for the Tapir Preservation Fund (you can find that here) and run a little etsy shop (The Frog Bag) that gives 20% of everything that sells to the Tapir Preservation Fund. Why? Because they fund quality, science-based conservation work. So much of their money is funneled to tapir work "on the ground" that very little is ever used for basics like updating their website. It's to the point that the old one really isn't very functional any more, so they're running an Indigogo campaign to bring it up to speed. It's a fantastic resource, full of tapir facts and conservation information, it just needs a bit of an overhaul. The campaign funding goal is grand, but at base only about $4000 is needed to make a huge difference. But with less than 53 hours left they are less than half way to that benchmark! So, if you have $5 burning a hole in your pocket, consider giving the tapirs a boost? They'd really appreciate it!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Things to Comment On, Things to Vote On

The year is almost over and you know what that means: "best of" lists! And this year Gabriel's comic KINSKI is up for Best New Series over at Broken Frontier. There's still time to vote until December 24th, so may I humbly suggest that you VOTE KINSKI?

Meanwhile, I'm having a giveaway on my new Facebook "fan page." I feel odd calling it that, but it is handy for putting all my writing news in one place.

Give it a "like" if you feel so inclined, but even if you don't, you can still comment here to win a copy of our first STAR WARS: LEGACY trade and an awesome Darth Vader dog toy. I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner on Dec 24th. Good luck and happy holidays!

Friday, December 13, 2013


In case you missed it, KINSKI, Gabriel's offbeat comic about a man and a dog, was featured on The A.V. Club's list of the 10 Best Graphic Novels and Art Comics of 2013! You can see the entire list here.

If you haven't read it yet, you can find the first three issues here. There are still three issues to go, so you can also use that link to subscribe, or, if you have a dog-loving friend with noir sensibilities, there's even a button for giving the digital issues as gifts for just $0.99 each. Comixology, making your holiday shopping easy!

There are more great comics out there now than ever before, so I'm really proud (but not surprised) that KINSKI made the cut for the A.V. Club. It's a fantastic book, so do yourself a favor and read it today!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Where are the whales? Traveling through time...
The weekend before Halloween we traveled up the coast to see Tom Waits play at a benefit festival for Neil Young's beloved Bridge School. I can't believe it was the first time we'd ever attended, especially since this was the 27th time they've done it. Oh well, I guess it took Tom Waits to get us there. But seeing Neil Young play again (not to mention Elvis Costello) was pretty great too. And we got to visit the Monterey Aquarium as well (also known as the Cetacean Institute, home to George and Gracie, in Star Trek IV), something I hadn't done since the last time they had a great white living there several years ago. This time they had a major display of jellyfish instead (many of which were apparently bred at the aquarium) so get ready for lots of ethereal photos...

Sun fish are among the oddest and most interesting critters around. It's amazing to see them here in such a huge space. Absolutely awe inspiring, in fact.

Yeah, I know. Every aquarium has moray eels. But that doesn't mean that they aren't interesting and a little bit scary. Just look at those cold blue eyes!

Supposedly the Monterey Aquarium will have a cephalopod exhibit to rival the jellies next spring. I might have to schedule a field trip that doesn't involve a comic book convention then...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Night of the Living Zoo

It might be November, but that doesn't mean there's a ban on talking about October, does it? I sure hope not since we were able to get tickets to the LA Zoo's big Halloween bash this year and I've been dying (heh) to post about it.

Snacking on a humanely pre-killed chick
I'm so proud of what our zoo has accomplished since I worked there years ago. They've really come a long way, but the new reptile house in particular is a thing of beauty. The exhibits are huge, gorgeous, and clearly built with the comfort of their inhabitants in mind. As someone who once thought seriously of pursuing a herpetology degree the fact that they're doing conservation work and getting some rare critters to breed thrills me no end.

Watching some of the rarest guys get fed during the Halloween festivities was exciting too, even for a veggie girl like me. Even better was having the keeper describe their high hopes for getting the Gray's monitors to breed, something that's pretty much unheard of in captivity. Don't worry though, these Gray's weren't taken from the wild (not by the zoo, at least), they were rescued from the horror of illegal smuggling. When you consider the fact that these beautiful lizards were once thought to be extinct, you can't help but smile to seem them alive and well in such a lovely enclosure.

Big and smart, but dragon in name only
Then there's the Komodo dragons. These guys are AMAZING. When you see a full-grown individual you instantly see why they weren't called Komodo lizards. Of course they are monitor lizards too and like the Gray's they are distantly related to the giant sea-going Mosasaurs of the late Cretaceous. They may also have played into the idea that dragons breath fire since their tongues are yellow and constantly flick in and out, sampling the air. We saw them eat too, and I won't lie. It was a bit disturbing, especially since we share our home with a very personable bunny. Still, Komodos gotta eat, and in the wild they often dine on animals far bigger than rabbits. LAZ has had a lot of success breeding these guys, although the sex ratio of the hatchlings is often terribly skewed. Happily that may be changing soon though, as keepers here are pioneering incubation methods that will hopefully result in a more even distribution of males and females and a brighter future for the species.
I love tapirs. But you knew that.

After all that excitement we checked out the carousel full of endangered and rare animals. It was installed years ago but this was the first time I'd ever had the chance to ride it. Of course I chose the only tapir... Which just happened to be my favorite species (mountain) if I don't miss my bet.

We finished out the night by catching the Sideshow Sirens who do exactly what you'd think. I had never actually seen anyone preform the "human blockhead" act before, and I'd say it was tough to watch if I hadn't just seen a giant lizard eat a fuzzy bunny. I had also never had anything made with candy corn-infused vodka before, which was surprisingly not as awful as you might imagine. If you're curious, this is apparently how you make it. Basically it's three parts vodka, one part candy. Now that's spooky!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The House is Halloween Ready

It's already Halloween tomorrow! We are buried in deadlines and work so we won't be having any guests over to ogle our decorations. Guess I'll just have to share them with you here instead...

Spider person skeleton to greet people at the front door.
Backyard skeletons hang from every tree
Giant skull!

Tiny skeletons everywhere... And tiny pumpkins
Tin can cow is not too sure about this skull

Library rat
Carport eyeballs

We do a pretty good job dressing up our house in my opinion, but we'll never do as good of a job as these people. We spotted this place in San Francisco over the weekend. LOOK OUT! SUPER GIANT HALLOWEEN CAT!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NYCC 2013 - The Belated Recap

We've been back from New York Comic Con for a week and we're finally over the con crud. It was a crazy few days as it always is, so I won't even try to write a recap. Instead, how about some photos?

Gotta love our hotel. It's all ship themed, including portals as windows and model boats in the lobby. Also, you could see the Hudson (sort of) from our room.

The con doesn't start until the afternoon on Thursday, the first day, so we ran uptown to see the Balthus exhibit at the Met. I used to work in the gift shop there many, many years ago and I always like to visit.

You can tell you're getting close to Javits Center, where the con is held, when suddenly everything starts referencing comics and pop culture. I found this frog outside a coffee shop several blocks away. Yes, I did try their coffee. I couldn't let that frog down!

It's not news to say this con is crowded. Even so, I did get over to Art and Franco's table in time to get a real live (well, stuffed) Action Cat. And it was super nice of Mariah Huehner to add a Fizzgig to my Fizzgig sketchbook. My one major regret of NYCC '13 is that I didn't get one from Marc Laming after all too.

It's always a surprise to lay everything out on the table and see how much work has been done since the last con. Or table was pretty crowded so I know that we've been busy.

By the time the con ended gorgeous fall weather had arrived in NYC and we were sorry to leave the city. So we walked around a bit, visited one of our favorite dinner spots (any Red Bamboo fans out there? That place is great!) and the cats at Bleeker Street Records. And of course The Strand, which will ship books home for $0.99 each. Which explains the giant heavy box that was just delivered to our front door today...

In short, thanks for showing us a good time, New York City! And thank you to everyone who came by to see us at the con. Now, back to work!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Where We'll be at NYCC

A robot dog but also an Artist Alley table
This time next week Gabriel and I will be in the Big Apple, hopefully meeting you at TABLE K-9 in Artist Alley where we'll be during all four days of the  
New York Comic Con.

Gabriel still has an opening or two on his sketch list but if you'd like to reserve a spot you'd better act fast! You can contact him on his blog or email him. Wondering about prices? Here's a breakdown:

$125 for 1 character 9x12 inked

$250 for 2 characters 9x12 inked

$60 for headshot 9x12 inked. 

We'll also have copies of all our books and Gabriel will have a con exclusive for fans of his digital comic KINSKI: high quality prints showcasing the pup who started all the trouble. The run is very limited though, so if you want us to put one aside for you, just ask!

NYCC is truly like no other con. This year, like last, Artist Alley will be a bit off the main floor on the north side of Javits Center where some natural light and fresh air has the chance to penetrate. It's a pleasant place to spend some time so feel free to drop by and say hi!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Stuff! September 2013 Edition

The summer is almost gone but Gabriel and I didn't take much time off. Instead, we've been busy making comics! Well, okay, we did take a day off for our anniversary, but it was an impressively numbered milestone so we felt entitled.

And so, with out further preamble, here's what we have coming up.

First, Kinski #3 by Gabriel Hardman is out today! You can find it here. You can also pick up the first two issues from the same link, or even subscribe. This issue marks the halfway point, so don't miss out! How far will Joe go to save the not-quite-stray dog Kinski? Far enough that even good-natured Frank is unhappy, judging by the cover. Hop over to Gabriel's blog to see some preview pages.

It seems impossible, but New York Comic Con is just three weeks away now. Gabriel and I will be sharing a table in Artist Alley again this year, and Gabriel is already taking sketch requests. Want to get on the list? Email Gabriel (GabrielHardman@gmail.com) soon! He's still got a couple of openings. Here's a breakdown of his prices:

$125 for 1 character 9x12 inked
$250 for 2 characters 9x12 inked
$60 for headshot 9x12 inked. 

And here's a recent example of what you'll get:
If seeing Batman fight Gorilla Grodd reminds you that you'd like to read more books about apes, never fear! We've got you covered there too. 

You can now pre-order the second volume of Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm from Amazon or from your local comic book shop. It'll hit stores on November 5th. Not sure where your closest comic shop is? Use this handy locator to find out.                                                                                                 Hope we'll see you in New York in October. If not, have a happy autumn!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hummingbirds Don't Treat Geese as Public Transport and Other Important Facts

Photo from WorldofHummingbirds.com
Today, while researching something entirely unrelated, I happened upon the myth that hummingbirds migrate by hitching rides on the backs of geese. I had never heard this particular folk tale before, but apparently it started with the pilgrims who didn't believe that such little birds could cover large distances on their own. And so a legend was born.

The truth about hummingbirds is far weirder than any fiction. Even when I dealt with them on a daily basis as a wildlife vet tech I was constantly amazed. So, without further fanfare, I present you with a random collection of seven hummingbird facts to enliven your evening.

*Hummingbirds are very ferocious and territorial. Males will claim areas of up to 1/4 acre. They have been known to attack not only other hummingbirds but also images of hummingbirds, jays, crows, and even birds of prey. 

*Hummingbirds do everything fast. Even mating only takes about 4 seconds.

*Hummingbirds do migrate, but they do it under their own power, not with the help of any waterfowl. They can cover about 25 miles a day, and can even cross open ocean and desert, a surprising sight for oil rig workers who have been buzzed by the tiny birds miles off the coast.

*Hummingbirds have the highest brain to body size ratio of any bird in the world

*Dinosaurs are not extinct. Hummingbirds are one of the most highly specialized modern forms.

*Hummingbirds are the smallest type of bird in the world. The bee hummingbird is the tiniest and weighs only 2g.

*Hummingbirds can enter a state called torpor that resembles a miniature hibernation period but can be mistaken for death. Occasionally they will hang upside down during this time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Stuff! Lots and Lots of New Stuff!

August is flying by! Wasn't it just last week that I was at SDCC? Yeah, I know... Comic-Con International: San Diego should be called CCI:SD but that's a bit too much trouble to type.

Anyway, the end of August brings with it several new books that I'd like to tell you about.

First up is Station to Station, written by Gabriel Hardman and me with art by Gabriel. It's a one-shot from Dark Horse Comics:

Something terrible has happened to the Bay Area. A pipeline explosion has totaled Treasure Island and destroyed the Bay Bridge. At least, that’s the official story . . .
An interdimensional monster has been brought to San Francisco, and only the men responsible can fight it off, but can they resist its brainwashing? From the pages of Dark Horse Presents!

Dropping the very same day is Star Wars: Legacy #6, the first issue of a whole new arc! Written by Gabriel and me with beautiful art by Brian Thies, this is a great jumping on point if you're new to the series and were thinking about checking it out. Want to know more?

When word comes that Sith are being sought out and murdered by another Sith, Ania Solo and Imperial Knight Jao want to find out why.
The only things standing in their way are the Empire, the Jedi, the Galactic Alliance, and the Imperial Knights!
* Artist Brian Thies (Marvel’s Winter Soldier) joins the team!
"Star Wars: Legacy is a worthy follow-up to the old one and a solid debut for Hardman and Bechko." — IGN

And one week later, Once Upon a Time: Shadow of the Queen will be out as a hardcover from Marvel Comics. Dan Thompson and I co-wrote it, and there is lovely art by Mike Henderson, Mike Del Mundo, Stephanie Hans, and Vasilis Lolos. Here's the low-down: 

The Evil Queen has, quite literally, captured the Huntsman's heart -- and now he's her slave. Based on the world of ABC's hit primetime series ONCE UPON A TIME, this is the never-before-told tale behind their twisted relationship -- and what happens when a good man is forced to do bad. When Regina cooks up yet another devious plan to capture Snow White -- this time by allying with a pack of power-hungry werewolves -- the Huntsman comes face-to-face with his past...and an independent spirit in Red Riding Hood that just may match his own. Can these two break free of the forces that bind them and save Snow White? When put to the test, where will the Huntsman's loyalties lie? Has the Evil Queen stolen his heart in more ways than one?
Whew! Sorry for the shameless plug but I'm really proud of these three titles and hope you'll check one of them out. Next post I'll get back to weird birds and cute cats, promise. 
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