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
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!
I feel like I’ve gone through a comics ‘right of passage’. I exhibited at the legendary S.P.A.C.E. One of the longest running indie comic conventions in the states. It was one of the most welcoming shows I’ve ever attended and featured a very diverse collection of comics creators. I was tabling with my buddy Scott Kroll. Here’s a our table:
We had a nice time meeting other folks and we even did a couple jam pieces. Here is a Prophet that I pencilled and Scott inked:
One of the big bonus’s of the trip was seeing the Bill Watterson “Exploring Calvin & Hobbes” art exhibit at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library. It was … almost like a religious experience. I grew up on Calvin & Hobbes and still aspire to create work at the level of Mr. Watterson’s. Here are some shots:
It was amazing. If you are even REMOTELY close to Columbus, OH, you NEED to go to this show.
On top of all that, we saw Nate Powell sing heavy metal at the after-party karaoke.
C2E2 THIS WEEKEND!
Along with our normal stock of awesome comics, we’ll have the new Speculative Relationships postcards and posters:
And I’ll have 1 new print, which is the teaser image for Victus #3, along with the 2 previous Victus prints:
I’ll try to add these to the online store after the show. But C2E2 will be the first place you can get your hands on this new print! Hope to see a lot of you there! Mention the blog and get a special treat!
Well… I’ve been plugging away on Victus #3, inks on Upgrade Soul, and my two scifi romance short comics for Speculative Relationships. And of course some Prophet fan art. Here are some peeks:
Get to C2E2 this weekend and say hi!