So yeah, I know my last post on this blog was my favorite things of 2015. I’ve been making an attempt at engaging more frequently and in smaller bite size pieces on other social media. If you like what I have to say, I invite you to join me on the following:
I’m not saying this blog is dead permanently. I actually hope to expand on this kind of content in the coming years. So please stay tuned. But for the moment, some examples of things in 2016 that were pretty great.
It’s a very interesting time for comics. I think that a lot of change is on the horizon, and we’ll see some major shifts in the way material is released, distributed, and sold in the next 3-5 years I’m optimistic about these changes. I dropped a lot of monthly titles this year, but I did enjoy a few series and lots of indie stuff too.
Easily my favorite publication on the shelves of the LCS. I find Island to be equally progressive and a throwback to the days of Metal Hurlant. Each issue features a variety of stories by every type of comic artist you can imagine. It’s one of the few publications from a major publisher to prominently feature auteur comic makers working on their own. These types of comics are usually only seen in the independent corners of the market, so this kind of exposure has certainly shown me (and hopefully others) some of the talent out there which lacks wide distribution. There are of course some stand-outs in the Island pages, most notably Habitat (by Simon Roy) and Ancestor (by duo Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward). Both stories were eventually collected and released individually to much critical fanfare. But I want to stress that these stories wouldn’t have been possible without the venue of Island. Love it.
House of Penance, by Peter Tomasi and Ian Bertram
This haunting limited series showcases relative newcomer artist Ian Bertam. Bertram’s style is reminiscent of Frank Quitely, R. Crumb, and Raphael Grampa, with intense textured hatching mixed with touches of stylized figure work. The series explores the mysteries of the Winchester mansion, unfolding as a surreal horror story anchored in pathos and redemption.
Shampoo, Bastard Building, & Green Graves, by Liam Cobb
I’ve followed Liam for a while now, and been impressed by his ability to continue to change his style with each new project. This year, we see him strip away some of the intense detail from his previous work to embrace a clean line style accentuated by simple color swatches. These three risograph printed books have a surreal quality, with a mostly singular lead characters exploring different environments that shift and surprise them at each turn. Liam deftly utilizes different modalities of the comic medium that are both narrative and non-linear. He is easily one of the most exciting creators working right now.
Picnoleptic Inertia, by Stathis Tsemberlidis
Following the last year’s Gardens of Glass by Lando, Breakdown Press brings us another collection by the other half of the Decadence Comics Duo. Stathis’ work explores consciousness and the nature of reality through wordless comics often set in mind-scape type environments. His work is most striking when the textural hatching style intersects with geometric shapes. The collection feels very cohesive, with an overall artistic vision strongly coming through. Repeat readings are recommended.
Your Black Friend, by Ben Passmore
I’ve been lucky to know Ben, who is one of the most intelligent creators in comics. His tantalizing brushwork is beautiful and catches your eye, immediately inviting you in. Once you’re in, Ben addresses the experiences of ‘your black friend’ on a day-to-day basis. The book is not ‘confrontational’, per se, but openly presents ideas and situations with measured intensity. The work strides difficult political discourse and personal experience in a way only comics can. This book will always be a mind-opening read but is extremely relevant now, considering many of the tensions regarding race, economics, and political ideologies in America.
Someone Please Have Sex With Me, by Gina Wynbrandt
I’m sure I’ve talked about Gina before, but this new release warrants a least a couple fresh words. Gina is funny, but her work isn’t just jokes. Throughout the pages of SPHSWM we are presented a personal exploration of sexuality, culture, and self-image. Gina’s clean line style accents her dirty style of telling stories that confront your sensibilities and pre-conceived notions of dating and sex in the 21st century. Don’t get me wrong. This book is funny. REALLY funny. And REALLY sexy.
The Goddamned, by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
Jason Aaron has a unique ability to write stories that show the dark heart of man, while still being (for lack of a better term) seriously badass entertainment. This alternate take on the story of Noah’s ark and the lone man Cain is gruesome, sad, and action packed. Most notable though is the world that Guera builds with his Chiaroscuro style of art. The costuming, posing, and lighting of each scene is top notch and a real treat to look at.
Some quality stuff this year in cinemas. I felt like smaller, leaner, films impressed me most this year.
A brutal tale of a punk band trapped in a skinhead bar, desperate to escape. Green Room has been compared to films like Assault on Precinct 13 and Straw Dogs. Which are great comparisons and well-earned. The film is populated by relatable protagonists with limited skill-sets to help them in this desperate situation. The reality of their reactions to the situation are one of the highlights of the movie. Another reason to check out Green Room are the fantastic performances from Patrick Stewart, the late Anton Yelchin, and Macon Blair.
The Witch is a unique film in setting and execution. The portrayal of 1600’s America is rarely seen in such a clear fashion as it is here. The costuming alone is reason to see this film, but add that to some incredible cinematography and deep performances and you have a very unique piece of work. One of the major successes of The Witch is the quiet yet desperate confusion of the family as they are confronted with possibly supernatural occurrences. It’s a slow burn, but a constant one, with many high points that build to a satisfying conclusion.
It’s nice to see a big-ish hollywood film play with non-linear storytelling techniques to enhance the main plot and character actions. And I mean really playing with the perception of time, not just showing things out of order a’la Tarantino. Arrival does include some silly leaps in logic when dealing with the alien communication, but really the methods are secondary to their impact. As the film progresses, the whole picture comes into focus like a magic eye poster. Because of this, the emotional impact of the story is much more deep seated, reminding me of Terrence Malick’s films. Good stuff.
In a Valley of Violence
A fun throwback western from Ti West! Ti is EXTREMELY good at zero-ing in on how cinema from specific genre’s and time periods works, then using those techniques to tell a new story. I’m a sucker for movies with animal sidekicks, and this movie has a great one in Abby (Jumpy) the dog. Ethan Hawke plays the quintessential frontiersman with a dark past, while John Trovolta is (beyond all expectations) very good as the villain. Cover this base with a spot-on soundtrack and you have one of the best westerns of the year.
Hell or High Water
Filled with top-notch performances, Hell or High Water finds that magic balance between intensity, humor, and pathos. Ben Foster gives one of his best performances, complimented by an understated Chris Pine. Of course, Jeff Bridges is good as the old police officer, one part Tommy Lee Jones and one part Rooster Cogburn. The quiet moments play well with engaging dialogue, while the action scenes are filled with those nice awkward realistic touches that we rarely get in movies.
Yet another wonderful year of music. I’ve been really lucky that many of my favorite bands are basically alternating years with new releases or releasing something new every year.
Continuously evolving, Deftones is a band I’ve stuck with since high school. Gore is easily the best record they’ve released in the last 10 years. Every track is varied and unique, but all tie together to form a haunting but adrenaline pumping record. The wide variety of guitar riffs keep sucking me back in, showcasing how talented Stephen Carpenter really is (even though I hear he wasn’t a fan of the record?). Highly recommended!
John Carpenter, Lost Themes II
I mean, it’s another John Carpenter record. If you have ever read anything I’ve written or talked to me for more than an hour, you probably know I love John Carpenter. This record does feel a bit more cohesive than the first, causing me to listen to the whole thing without skipping any tracks. I also had a chance to see John in concert this year, and it was sublime.
Run The Jewels 3
Technically, the release date on this was 2017, but these rap heroes released it on Christmas for the fans. Yet again, we have two of the greatest hip hop artists at the very top of their game. RTJ3 does have a bit more of the late 90’s hip hop vibe to it and some elements incorporated from the southern rap scene. It’s a much more poppy record, but in the best way. Definitely give this a spin.
So there you have it, another year of inspiring art in the many mediums I enjoy most. I’m curious, what were your favorite things released last year? Let me know here, or on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr!
This year felt a little light in the movies and music categories, so I think I can cram it all into one post. If any of my favorites from last past years are still going (like comics series), I tend not to list them again in the current year. So, if you’re curious about my favorite things from past years, you can look at 2014 here, 2013 here, and 2012 here.
Island edited by Brandon Graham & Emma Rios
Island is everything I love about comics in one nice package. It features stories by my favorite creators working today, like Farel Dalrymple, Simon Roy, Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward. So that sucks me in… then it also introduces me to new creators I may not have been familiar with. All at a great price point, and packed with over 60 pages of comics. I love this book. It’s the kind of thing I aspire to make and be a part of.
The Legacy Luther Strode by Justin Jordan & Tradd Moore
Tradd Moore has always had a fun and unique art style. The first 2 Luther Strode series were action-packed and gory. However, the stuff Tradd is doing on Legacy of Luther Strode is next level comics. I’m not sure anyone working today is able to craft compelling action scenes in comics quite like him. He takes into account the characterizations, body shapes, line quality, scale, panelling, and page layout to elevate every scene to something that pushes the medium forward. It’s a treat to see this happening. The issues are far-between but worth the wait.
Mirenda by Grim Wilkins
Also pushing boundaries in comics is Grim Wilkins. Mirenda is a wordless comic, but is still able to chronicle an epic journey full of drama and character. He uses word balloons as panels, creating not only spacial depth on each page, but also narrative depth. On top of that, Grim’s use of ink is breathtaking. He has very clean and slick pen lines, but also incorporates masterful ink washes in key moments. Oh and the colors are rad too. This comic is gooooood.
Burn Your Demons by Isabella Rotman
It’s no secret that I love Isabella’s comics. She’s been on the scene for a few years now, cranking out a mix of educational sex-positive comics and personal experimental minis. This book is a wonderful example of her personal work. She is able to pull in the reader with limited and poetic use of language, and then keep them there with lush and detailed environments. She also plays with the circular panel format in this mini, which ads to the unique-ness of it as a book object. This is top-notch mini-comics.
Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron & Jason Latour
I was a late comer to Southern Bastards, jumping on at issue #7. I have had mixed feelings about some of Jason Aaron’s stuff (Scalped) but enjoyed his run on Punisher Max. The Jason Latour art is what hooked me. Everything feels grizzled, lived in, and real. His use of limited color palettes and ziptone patterns brings texture contrast to every scene. It’s a treat every month.
Rumble by John Arcudi & James Harren
Few things are as exciting as reading a James Harren action scene. And Rumble is full of them. Harren skews a bit more to the cartooned style in Rumble, but it works beautifully. The story is fun enough to hold my interest, though I’m really there for the slicing and dicing.
8house Kiem by Brandon Graham & Xurxo G. Penalta
Penalta pours so much detail into these pages. It’s a dense and fun read, much like a Geof Darrow book. The story meanders a bit, but that’s kinda the M.O. for the 8house books (which honestly, is something I like about them). I’m looking forward to seeing more from this Graham & Xurxo collaboration. Is there more??
The Surface by Ales Kot & Langdon Foss
I think Ales Kot is always trying something different. This makes it hard to really say I’m a fan of everything he does. But I’m definitely a fan of his manner of working and love his ability to collaborate with different artistic styles. Langdon is a superb artist. He layers in loads of detail, without losing character emotions or forgetting the importance of page layout. The art on The Surface is like a wonderful mix of Moebius, Darrow, and Seth Fisher. I dig it!
8house Yorris by Helen Maier & Phil Barlow
Mad Max Fury Road
Is there much else to say? This film is universally praised and rightfully so. From conception to final effects passes, it’s quite a ride. I’m most impressed by the attention to small world-building details and it’s ability to maintain the tension of a chase scene for 2+ hours. I loved this film.
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
A documentary about the films of my childhood. All those trashy, violent, fantasical, silly, amazing films that ignited my imagination are addressed within. The story of Cannon films includes a lot of insane anecdotes about the producer brothers in charge, but at the end of the day the passion comes through.
The western is doing well this year. I had been hearing praise for S. Craig Zahler’s writing for the last year or two, and was very excited for Bone Tomahawk. Not only is the film rife with great actors, it features compelling dialogue and sets a somber mood throughout. The final confrontation is brutal and harrowing, leaving a huge scar on the viewer. I’m definitely interesting in seeing more from Zahler.
I was worried this film would be vapid and flashy. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a unique exploration of some old sci-fi concepts. The film finds a good balance between expository scenes, character moments, humor, and dread. I recommend it to any fellow sci-fi fans.
Gorgeous costumes. Incredible set designs. Stunning color palette. Del Toro is a stylist supreme, and it shows in Crimson Peak. This isn’t a particularly scary film, but more of a love story, which I think is the big hurdle some had with it. I would recommend you come for the visuals, then stay for the twisting victorian drama.
Turbo Kid, Fast & Furious 7, The Revenant, Foxcatcher
Wish I’d Seen:
It Follows, Sicario
Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
Somehow, Sufjan breaks your heart while simultaneously bringing hope and wonder. Carrie & Lowell is a meditation on loss and how we cope as humans. Filled with delicate melodies and jarring lyrics, this record is unique in it’s vision and performance.
Lost Themes by John Carpenter
John Carpenter is a personal favorite of mine. As a director, he’s created many of my favorite films. Those films feature some of the best music scores of their era. Needless to say, a whole album of new ‘fake’ movie scores by John was a dream come true. Synth-y minimal tracks fill this perfect ‘inking music’ album.
Luminiferous by High on Fire
So that’s all for 2015! I’m looking forward to a lot of awesomeness in 2016:
- More Island!
- Space-Mullet collection by Daniel Warren Johnson
- Another DWJ secret project at Image
- Prophet Collection
- John Wick 2
- Hail, Caesar!
- The Neon Demon
- John Carpenter’s Lost Themes II
- Run the Jewels 3??
- New Pallbearer album
- New Slomatics album
- New Deftones
- Uncharted 4
- Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst
I married my loverly lady Tina on October 10th. Here we are:
As beautiful as the wedding turned out… I’m so glad it’s over. And I never want to plan one of those things again!
A few days after the wedding, we whisked ourselves away to Italy! As youngsters in art school, Tina and I both studied a lot of art history. So finally getting to the land of the renaissance was a dream we were excited to fulfill. We decided that rather than trying to see all of Italy, it would be best to pick a couple spots and really take the time to enjoy them. We landed on (har har) Rome and Florence.
A few quick notes on Rome:
- There are no street signs. The street names are on plaques about 10 feet up on the sides of buildings. This would have been useful information before landing and trying to find our own way to the BnB.
- The streets are small and the cars/scooters zoom through. Walk to with caution.
- No one cleans up the dog poop there. WALK WITH CAUTION.
- Bidets are weird.
- Two types of flushing for toilets (large load & small load) is very cool though.
- Everyone smokes everywhere.
We set our sights on the big attractions…
This place really blew my mind. I mean, I’ve seen it in movies and knew a little bit about it, but seeing it in person and learning more of the loooooong history added a new perspective for me on that place and human history in general.
Capital Hill & the Roman Forum
We lucked out and the weather was perfect on the day we walked around the large area of Roman ruins.
Again, seeing the remnants of this great society really made me think a lot. In a good way. This was a lot of walking too, which I love. But we were pretty exhausted at the end of the day.
This is a cute little museum in the middle of a large park. You go here to see Bernini sculptures. And honestly, that’s worth the trip. There is a dynamism and romance to his work that is unparalleled.
The Vatican Museum
Easily the most crowded and uncomfortable experience of the whole trip, the Vatican was saved by the incredible pieces of art contained within. It’s no secret to those who know me that I’m a HUGE Michelangelo fan, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling (and wall) is one of my all-time favorite pieces of art. The actual process of getting TO the chapel and viewing the ceiling is… awful. But man… once I was looking up at that ceiling… one I have looked at pictures of in books hundreds of times since I was a kid… every concern in the world melted away. Seeing that piece in person was invigorating. My heart pumped and my eyes couldn’t blink. I was in love all over again.
We also saw some of my other favorites like Laocoon & Sons and Mikey’s favorite torso.
And of course, some Raphael. Standing in front of The Transfiguration was a treat.
If you plan to go to the Vatican, get your tickets ahead of time. Show up for your assigned entry time right on time (don’t be early or late, as they won’t let you in). And be prepared to shuffle through the incredibly crowded halls like a zombie, while everyone around you is taking hundreds of pictures of things without even looking at them. Beware of selfie-sticks!
Florence was much more my style. Less crowded, cleaner, and a little slower paced. LOTS of art to see here.
Quick notes on Florence:
- Address numbers do not follow a block-by-block system. They just start somewhere arbitrary and count up as you walk down the street. To make matters worse, there are two kinds of numbers. RED for businesses and BLACK for residential. So if a street has a lot of businesses, you might go through 30 red numbers, but only 2 black numbers. So your block could be red number 45 but residential number 10. This makes it kinda hard to gauge how far you are from your target destination.
- The streets downtown are closed off to vehicles. So you can walk wherever you want. THIS IS AWESOME.
- No one cleans up the dog poop here either. WALK WITH CAUTION.
- Bidets are still weird.
- ALWAYS get the house wine.
Home to Michelangelo’s David, as well as his unfinished dying slaves and a pieta (another of my personal favorites), this museum was very chill. I was even able to sit for a bit and draw!
Home to some fantastic sculptures, this is also a much less crowded museum. We had a relaxing stroll through, seeing more Mikey and some Donatello. I gained a whole new interest and perspective on Donatello, and I’m excited to really dig into his work more.
As galleries go, Uffizi was easily the best designed and robust that we attended while in Italy. The flow of art was logical and each piece was given tons of breathing room. The museum was more crowded than Accademia and Bargello, but still really open and manageable. We spent almost 4 hours in this place!
Botticelli was Tina’s favorite.
The Medici Chapel
This was one of our favorite places to visit. The main chapel had a stillness that was very refreshing. I was able to spend tons of time with Michelangelo’s sculptures in the tomb, with like, maybe 10 other people in the room. Incredible!
We were literally staying a block from the Duomo. It’s the centerpiece of Florence’s downtown. Totally overwhelming in scale and covered in a green and cream palette, we quite liked having it near by. Near the end of our trip, we climbed to the top of the dome (463 steps!)
The view was well-worth the climb.
We saw a lot of other awesome stuff…
Fiesole, the Evanston or Hollywood Hills of Florence. It’s a cute (and rich) town at the top of the hill over Florence. Great views up there.
And ate some good food…
Wild Boar & Pappardelle. So good. We got this a couple times.
Tuscan meatballs & potatoes from Pensavo Peggio (our favorite meal in Florence)
The Pitti Palace museum had some weird stuff.
Found a really cool Akira collection (but didn’t buy it)
The train ride from Rome to Florence.
All-in-all… a perfect honeymoon with my perfect partner.
I’m back. Been busy with some stuff.
I ran a kickstarter for Speculative Relationships: Volume 2 with my pal Scott Kroll. We got funded! Here’s what it looks like:
We have some super awesome contributors in this one. Each artist is on their way to having amazing careers making comics and they all turned in mind-blowing stories. I’m so proud of the team and proud to say we have an amazing diverse group of creators telling unique heart-felt stories. There is a lot of scifi out there right now, which is great. But… A lot of it tends to fall into some of the same old tropes. Even the best stuff tends to focus on dudes fighting bad aliens or robots. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is fine (I mean, Predator is one of my all-time favorite movies). But I feel pretty strongly that when a genre is en vogue, it’s important to take advantage of that to showcase ideas and creators that are under-represented within it. To that point, Isabella Rotman and I talked about diversity in comics a bit in this interview for Speculative Relationships:
I also really loved this thing that Ben Passmore (one of our contributors) posted:
I’m not a huge reader of Sci-fi or speculative fiction, in part because much of what I’ve come across is a thinly veiled narrative supporting some of the oldest oppressive ideas (colonialism, magic white dudes, ect.). Chunky young brown Ben wasn’t super into that, not because of some deep political analysis, but because I felt expected to be a magical white guy and that stressed me out. The comics in this anthology stray from this, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, and it’s totally worth it for there to be narratives that are different in the word so that little chunky brown kids are less stressed.
We also did a bunch of interviews to promote the book. You can check them out here:
I feel really good about the results in the book and I can’t wait to get it into more hands once we finalize the printing.
I’ve done a few different things for some things. Here’s the line art for a pinup I did for Image Comics Dark Engine:
Which should be out soon-ish? And the final is in color.
And here’s a sneak peek at a secret thing I did for a new Dark Horse book by Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal:
I’m in another show at Third Coast Comics in Chicago this weekend. The show is themed ‘bad guys’ so I had to do an Apocalypse for that:
Here’s a logo I designed for the title page of Aaron Pittman’s cool scifi webcomic Grimfish (which you should read):
Somewhere in the last couple months I also did some Luther Strode fan art for fun:
VICTUS & KINSHIP
I haven’t forgotten about Victus and I assure you, the 4th issue is coming. Here’s some early sketching for the cover design:
I am posting 1 page from the series per week on my tumblr, to lead up to the release of #4. So if you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out there. Issues 1-3 are still for sale in my store as well.
Kinship is a project I haven’t talked about much yet. It’s a comic I’m writing with my brother Logan, and the incredibly talented Drew Alderfer is drawing it. We are putting together samples for a pitch. The series follows a group of native americans in the early 1600’s, who have to defend their village from a group of foreign bandits. We are taking a lot of queues from Seven Samurai and it’s really shaping up to be something special. Here’s a couple of Drew’s designs for the main good and bad guys:
I couldn’t be happier with the work Drew is doing and working with my brother on the script has been amazing. We really hope we can find a home for the series! It’s about time we see some native american heroes in comics.
Here’s some stuff that’s inspired me lately:
Tradd Moore is KILLING it on Legacy of Luther Strode
My friend Landis has been working on this book. His hatching is next level.
This Guillaume Singelin Metal Gear thing is drooooollll…
I really liked this new John Vestevich story.
There is a really cool show of woodblock prints from different religions at the Art Institute right now.
The clouds have been perfect in Chicago lately. So I’ve been taking a lot of pics.
I’ll try to get back on the wordpress horse. Thanks for reading!
In a complete turnaround from last year’s slim pickings, this year was full of GREAT music!
Run the Jewels 2
Killer Mike and El-P have done it again. This follow up to their last collaboration hits hard. The fantastic production and infectious rhymes of El-P are matched perfectly with the powerfully prophetic lyrics of Killer Mike. I was fortunate enough to see these gents perform live a few weeks ago and they were amazing. These are two very talented guys at the top of their game, clearly having a hell of a time making music. Lucky for us, we get to hear it for FREE.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden
I cheated and put Pallbearer’s first album on favorites list last year. I was pumped for the release of their second album this year. They did not disappoint. The album’s production is a bit more slick, but doesn’t lose the raw low doom feel they had on the first record. The vocals are much more consistent and powerful. The lead guitar parts are haunting and beautiful. Each song has a rise and fall, stretching out to almost 8-10 minutes for each track. When I listen to the record, I feel like I’ve been taken on a journey. I love that. Also saw them live and they blew me away.
Little Dragon, Nabuma Rubberband
Little Dragon is back with their signature hypno-pop-soul sound. I have to admit, I am absolutely in love with lead singer Yukimi Nagano. And how can one NOT be with that amazing voice of hers? This record is a little less consistent in tone than the last, but still features some catchy and fun tunes like “Klapp Klapp” and “Paris” mixed in with chill electronic tracks. Good stuff for the commute.
Helms Alee, Sleepwalking Sailors
I first discovered Helms Alee when I saw them live earlier this year. The absolutely blew me away with their unique heavy sound. I was particularly struck by the drumming of Hozoji Margullis (who I also have to admit having a crush on). All three members of the band contribute to the vocals, giving extra layers of harmony to songs and adding to the overall depth of the record. The wall of sound guitars are balanced great with the thumping rhythm section. Juicy heavy stuff.
Future Islands, Singles
Future Islands had been slowing growing on me over time, but this record really cemented my opinion of them. This is definitely their most pop-y record (probably why it’s called singles), with SUPER catchy hooks and driving beats. The weirdo vocals of Samuel T. Herring are definitely the highlight. He was described by a friend of mine as sounding like a ‘robot vampire’. I think that’s cool.
Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun
It’s a new Mastodon record. Is there anything else you need to know?
And that about wraps it up! One last thing I’ll mention is that I did watch one of the movies on the ‘hadn’t seen it yet’ list. Under the Skin. I thought it was fantastic, haunting, and beautiful. So I’m retroactively popping that on my favorite movies list as well.
Happy holidays ya’ll!
Part 2 of my Favorite Things of 2014 list. MOVIES. It was a decent year for movies, with some big stand-outs for me. I missed quite a few I wanted to see this year, like The Guest, Fury, Nightcrawler, Birdman, Locke, & Foxcatcher. Next year I’ll catch up. But on to the list!
The Raid 2: Berandal
Wow. Wow wow WOW. Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans are here to save action films! The original Raid was a perfect blend of simple concept and tight execution, taking the viewer on a brutal ride. The Raid 2 is definitely a larger film in scope and staging of the fight scenes. Although some claimed the film is a bit bloated with dialogue scenes, I found the story to be a neat twist on gangster movie tropes, with some nice performances. Honestly though, the film could have been people talking like chickens whenever there were no fights happening and I’d still have loved it. Gareth Evans brings back that feeling from older Hong Kong films of really pushing the limits of what you can do when filming action scenes. He utilizes really long takes, insane camera movements, and super tight editing that builds as the film progresses. When you finally arrive at the final knife fight, you think you’re ready for what awaits you. Then you experience one of the most brutal and amazing fight scenes ever committed to film. Iko and Gareth are 3 for 3 in my opinion and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Otomo is back! One of my favorite animated films is Memories, which featured 3 Katsuhiro Otomo stories adapted by himself and 2 other directors. Short Peace is a similar anthology style film, with Otomo’s works being adapted by others. Otomo directs one portion of the film, which takes place in feudal Japan. His use of movement and references to Japanese scrolls pulls the viewer in to the chaos of a huge fire. The other stories are also very well-done, with a huge variety of styles on display. I was initially a bit turned off by the use of CG in “Posessions” and “Gambo”, but quickly adjusted and was sucked in. “Gambo” features a monster fight akin to the ending battle in BPRD: The Long Death, illustrated by James Harren. Two beastly titans duking it out. Any fan of animation should definitely give this a look, as it displays a diversity of styles from masters of animation at the top of their game.
Edge of Tomorrow
I had pretty much given up on Tom Cruise scifi movies. I was so glad I gave this one a shot. It’s funny, has great action, interesting design work, and Emily Blunt is BAD ASS. Christopher McQuarrie’s writing is surely responsible for many of the successes of Edge of Tomorrow though. He takes a concept that could easily become tiresome and (literally) repetitive and uses it to elevate the dramatic and comedic impact of the film. The pacing and impact of character moments really elevate it above the cute concept. Unfortunately, the ending is complete american sci-fi film cop-out material, but I can forgive that.
All the dudes are making their ‘tough guy revenge movie’ these days. From the new Die Hard movies, to Taken, to 3 Days to Kill, to (cringe) The November Man. But John Wick gets it RIGHT. I felt like I was watching Raw Deal or Above the Law. Say what you will about Keanu, but he’s got the chops (literally) for this part. Many of the modern ‘tough guy’ movies rely on some annoying camera and editing work (cough-JasonBourne-cough) to take the place of real punching. Keanu is certainly no Iko Uwais, but he’s a long way from Kevin Costner. At the end of the day, I know this is a formulaic revenge movie in a long line of revenge movies. Just like a burger is always a burger. But damned if there ain’t some burgers that are perfection from first bite to last.
It’s a lot of fun to see the plans madman Jodorowsky had for Dune. It represents a moment in time where you had a lot of amazing artists involved in something ambitious and crazy. And these artists would almost all go on to work on movies and comics that represent a sea-change in the art-forms. Don’t get me wrong, Jodorowsky is completely insane, but the inspiration and life he exudes is infectious. Watch this movie and try NOT to go make art. It’s impossible.
This movie is bananas. Lots of fun little touches in the midst of over-the-top everything else. Well made and a blast to watch. For me, this is what I’d call a good ‘popcorn movie’.
Honorable Mentions: Big Hero 6, VHS: Viral
Next post will cover music. To see my favorite comics just look HERE.
Here we are again, another year of comics, movies, and music to inspire! As in Years Past, I like to compile a list of some of the art that I enjoyed throughout the year. It’s a good reminder for me to remember what inspires me, but also a chance to share great stuff with others. I found that this year’s list got pretty big, so I am dividing it up into 3 parts: Comics, Movies, & Music. Also note, I try not to recycle stuff from previous years, as those lists are still out there to see. Even though many of those things are still awesome (like Space-Mullet & Prophet). Now, of course, I’m going to start with Comics!
The Wrenchies, by Farel Dalrymple
This is a what comics are all about. Farel operates on a different plane with The Wrenchies. The dreamlike storytelling is punctuated by stand-out moments of sadness and introspection. The inked/watercolored art is absolutely gorgeous. I was lucky to catch an exhibition of original pages from the book and was dumb-founded by how good they looked in person. There is no digital trickery here, Farel’s just THAT GOOD. Shea Hennum over at This Is Infamous wrote a great article about Wrenchies that will do the book more justice than I can, so check that out. If Wrenchies doesn’t sweep the Ignatz and Eisner awards, I might lose all faith in comics. GET THE WRENCHIES
Death of a Crow, by Liam Cobb
Pay attention folks. Liam is one to watch. He posted Death of a Crow on His Tumblr and it spread across the net like wildfire. And it’s easy to see why. Wonderfully illustrated and full of symbolism and pathos, it’s a great example of the power of comics. The reader is drawn in and led to think and draw conclusions about the world presented. Liam has done quite a few striking short comics on his tumblr so go dig in.
Ritual #3: Vile Decay, by Malachi Ward
Malachi must be Rod Serling re-incarnated. His scifi/fantasy/speculative fiction has been an invigorating addition to the comics scene for a few years now. Vile Decay really hits on all cylinders. Malachi’s illustrations are detailed, while still maintaining a cartooned iconic feel. Vile Decay explores character relationships through surreal landscapes and violent riots. The limited color palette and spot-on paper decisions all add up to a book with a unique feeling that enhances the themes within. GET VILE DECAY
Half Asleep #2-3, by Beth Hetland & Kyle O’Connell
Beth & Kyle turned comics up to 11 a couple years ago with Cycles, which I loved. Initially, Half Asleep was a hard swallow for me. But as the series has progressed, they have really found their voice. O’Connell’s manic concepts spew forth while Hetland uses the tricks of the comics trade to deftly translate the unreal to real. Characters are expertly developed through their actions rather than drawn out dialogue. On top of that, each book sports artful screen-printed hand-cut covers. I’m really excited to see where these two go with Half Asleep next year. GET HALF ASLEEP
Pax Americana, by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison
Frank Quitely is an illustration god. He pushes the limits of the medium with each new book, without alienating mainstream sensibilities. I barely have an understanding of what’s happening in this beautiful book, but I will enjoy digging into it and deciphering the puzzle for months to come.
In the Sounds & Seas: Volume 2, by Marnie Galloway
It was a long time coming, but SO worth the wait. Marnie’s work has progressed wonderfully since volume 1. Her illustration style lends itself to the story’s themes of interconnectedness and myth. She has also grown as a panel to panel storyteller, finding clarity in the small moments portrayed, while still including beautiful stylistic flourishes in each drawing. In the Sounds & Seas it not like anything else out right now and it showcases a unique voice in the medium. GET IN THE SOUNDS & SEAS
Gardens of Glass, by Lando
Lando is another example of a creator with a strong voice. Gardens of Glass is a collection of the stories Lando has published through the always trippy scifi collective anthology Decadence Comics. Seeing the stories side by side, you find that Lando has been building not only a style, but almost a complete world-view. Each piece compliments the next, re-inforcing ideas and visual queues. The drawings themselves are beautiful and delicate as well, with clear influences from manga and french comics . Gardens of Glass was published by Breakdown Press, who are also doing super cool stuff with comics. GET GARDENS OF GLASS
Time Capsule #2, Peow Studios
Much like Breakdown & Decadence Comics, Peow is working with immensely talented artists in creating beautiful book objects. Time Capsule is one of the best looking Risograph printed comics I’ve come across to date. The Riso has quickly become a mainstay in indy comics, but no one has quite harnessed the potential of the press like Peow. Featured in this issue are Stathis Tsemberlidis (of Decadence Comics), Wren Mcdonald, and Matt Sheean (regular collaborator with Malachi Ward & Prophet alumni). Stathis and Matt’s pieces stand out to me the most, as they both have less focus on traditional narrative. Stathis shows a figure as it accelerates through time and space, (literally) smashing through touchpoints of human existence. Matt gives us a strange story featuring children in the woods of a new planet. Matt has a way of presenting visual and text information that is almost rhythmic and inseparable from eachother. Love it. GET TIME CAPSULE
Prophet: Strikefile #1-2, Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, & The Prophet All Stars
Ok it should be obvious from all my other picks, as well as previous year’s picks, that I’m going to be ALL ABOUT Prophet Strikefile. As with the series itself, Brandon & friends have taken a concept (the sourcebook comic) and elevated it to something a little smarter, a little prettier, and a lot awesome-r.
Ghost Fleet, Don Cates & Daniel Warren Johnson
Don’t get me wrong, Ghost Fleet is amazing. I just have a feeling it’s really going to shine next year. Daniel is an artist on his way up I’m privy to what he’s cooking up in future issues of Ghost Fleet. And Donny’s story is pretty bananas. You need to jump on board now, because Ghost Fleet will blow your mind in 2015.
I’m positive I’ve missed some great books this year. Please let me know what you think I should check out from 2014! I’ll be back soon with Part 2, discussing my favorite movies of the year.