Happy Holidays!

We're going to be taking off a little bit of time, but don't worry, we'll be back on the 1st of January. We hope all of you have a great holiday, and thank you so much for reading our blog. See you in the New Year!

Umbrella Academy: DALLAS #2

Issue #2 begins with a scene that seems to reference Hemingway's "The Killers"--or maybe Don Siegel's film The Killers or maybe Siodmak's film, or maybe both or all three--as two fake-friendly and therefore, all the fucking scarier hit man types needle a waitress and diner owner. There's probably some Edward Hopper's "Night Hawks" in there too, and the torture that follows is some Reservoir Dogs type shit (complete with Godard's thin suits that John Woo took that Tarantino then took), but it's more a big sloppy mess of references and ideas turned inside out and around one another than some in-joke clever pastiche that means nothing.

Then again, it doesn't exactly mean something either, it's atmosphere and context and slowly moving towards the same nebulous pre-hippie, late 50s/early 60s sense that issue #1 of "Dallas" touched upon with J.F.K and bowling alley blues and milkmen and all the rest. Unlike the first volume/story arc/mini-series of Umbrella, "Apocalypse Suite" which hit the ground running, "Dallas" is a slow burn that's moving towards some odd cohesion.

More than anything else, I'm reminded of DC's Final Crisis which before it stopped making any sense in issue #3, was a mess of scenes, ideas, and mini-events that only sort of connected but filled you with a weird, palpable dread. That series became so disappointing because I felt like I was in good hands with Morrison and that'd it all work out or end up a little clearer or at least be fun and it you know, didn't. "Dallas" though, I'm a little more confident in and each issue's filled with enough mini-moments and weird ideas that the fact that it's kind of playing the comic-book bullshit game by teasing you issue-to-issue becomes negligible.

At the same time, the disjointed, not-totally-satisfying feeling of "Dallas" makes a lot of sense because it's about all of them not being together and not getting along. The series was set-up as a kind of "The Uncanny Royal Tenenbaums" or something, with the series looking back to the victories as children, their failures now, and their re-finding their glory, but then, they all split up, and this is like the failure after the failure after the re-found glory. Each character's on their own and they're all kind of devastated, mad at one another, and mad at themselves. When you go from Number Five in an ugly ass tenement buiilding drinking liquor and watching a monkey dressed-up as Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to Seance drunk in a Hawaiian shirt in front of Pogo's grave at like midnight, you're not exactly reading for a story and where it's going hardly matters, you just sort of viscerally feel it.

And there is this comic book-y feeling of dread and whatsgonnahappennext??!! with the hit men, who are looking for Number Five--just like the rest of the Umbrella Academy or at least, the ones that care to look. They're funny and creepy, oversized Japanese Vinyl Toy heads atop the body of Mr. Blonde. I promise I'll stop with the old movie references but their companionship takes on a like misanthropic romantic aspect--like the hit men in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia--by the end when they hug one another in a graveyard after one hands the other a box of Girl Scout cookie thin mints. These guys are especially evil because we haven't really seen a true, at least for now unexplained evil in Umbrella. We've seen giant, city-crushing monuments and we've seen The White Violin, a member of the Academy, her "evil" caused by years of family resentment, but there's not been a conventional villain(s) bent on doing bad.

When talking about really good comics, I end up celebrating the story and writing more because it's kinda easier and there's more to open-up and discuss, but Gabriel Ba's art really needs to be discussed here. The first Final Crisis connection I made, outside of the pacing, was the way that like J.G Jones' stuff on that series, Ba (along with colorist Dave Stewart) do this thing of giving each part of the story--or each character's scenes--it's own color scheme and sense of shading and angle. It's something multi-character movies like Magnolia or Traffic do too, but there's a sense of colors bleeding into one another or abruptly contrasting here that works much more effectively. And Ba's work, is just the right amount of lines or details to be both cartoony and fun and devastating and ugly when it needs to be (Spaceboy's bloated laziness, the hacked-off arms and legs of the diner owner).

When Ba does "wide" shots, he just dashes off an oblong circle for a head and draws a stretched-out "W" for legs, but will draw each and every architectural detail of a building or the knicks and dashes of use and wear on a bedpost or windowsill. Last issue's brilliant eight-page fight scene was uh, brilliant, but the thing that really got me about it was the glow around the parking lot lights. They were colored, off-center circles and nothing more (the candle flickers at the end of this issue are really similar) but it was the perfect amount of detail and in a way, gave off this odd, eerie feeling that was the perfect, subliminal preamble for the violence about to occur. And that "something's about to happen" is what "Dallas" seems to be about, from the slowly moving narrative, to the mystery hit men--and the fact that it's called "Dallas" and had JFK in it, some kind of assassination's going to occur, right?--you keep reading for the big story, but you also read for the little, sad, ugly details of the Umbrella Academy's dysfunction.

There's also this really cool Ross Campbell drawing of "The Rumor" in the back:


Maddie Blaustein - Never Forget

Recently some friends and I have gotten back into the game Pokemon, and while doing "research" on the characters, we found out that the voice of the pokemon Meowth also happened to have written comics. Maddie Blaustein wrote for Marvel and DC, working on some of the Milestone titles, including Static and Hardware.

One of the most interesting things about Blaustein though, is that she is a transsexual. Traveling with the Tranny Road Show, a comedy troupe, she pushed gender issues. She's also famous for being the voice of the Gollum who attempted to put his name in the hat for presidency.

Often she was credited under her former name, Adam Blaustein, or her nickname, Addie Blaustein. She died in her sleep on December, 11th of this year. Maddie Blaustein did the voices in all of the Pokemon movies up until 8.

She'll be remembered for her work in cartoons, and her sense of humor, this posted on her Myspace.com page:
Meowth needs Therapy


I found this tucked away on the bottom shelf of a bookcase at Foundation's Edge in Raleigh a while back, and as soon as I cracked it open in the store I was laughing out loud at every single page. It's all sort of like, if you get it, you get it, but if you don't I can't really explain to you why it's the greatest thing on earth.

All the strips in this book appeared in the Japanese TV guide/"information magazine" (so it says in the book's introduction, not totally sure all that entails) TV Bros dating back to 1988.


Where My Money Went - Dec. 17th

Every Wednesday, I push the limits of my budget for my comic addiction. This is where my money went this week:

I know Christmas comics are supposed to be lame but whatever, I'm a sucker. The Frank Quitely cover is great, I love sappy shit like this. The first story alone makes the book worth it, a story about Santa's origin, explaining he's the last son from an ice planet. His parents shot him into space on a path to Earth so he could keep their race alive. That's cool, right guys?

I know we just had our Larry Marder interview but we have to talk about the new Beanworld: "Every Cutie Deserves A Toy." I'm basically over the color shit because it just means that now I know that there are boys and girls, and the only girl isn't Professor Garbanzo! I had no idea! The new Beanworld trade comes out in February, so finally I can get people into Beanworld without hunting down the trades that are impossible to find. Larry Marder is basically a genius, he hasn't missed a beat since the last TOTB book, it's incredible how real it all feels to me and how much I understand from all the Bean Dudes. Best comic ever?

I waste (and I do mean waste) a lot of money on Marvel Comics. However, I think DC characters are never enough, even when the writing is great the characters never feel developed enough. But I LOVE Marvel, the characters sometimes act like people you know and actually feel like personalities. I buy so many Marvel books because I hope it'll be interesting, and then I get shit like this. $3.99 for extended versions of the previews I got at the end of Dark Reign. I never feel ripped off or am this person who feels cheated but Marvel is sorta fucking with me.

Madman #12 separates Joe and It-Girl, and has more weirdo Mormon stuff, but ends with return of Madman's biggest villain! Allred's panel design and way of playing with motion in a single panel continues to evolve and grow, he's basically on his way to changing comics again. Madman-Joe (Madwoman? Madgirl?) is exciting, possibly leading into Frank putting together an all new super hero team, and maybe even leading a new Atomics?

Cosmic Comix's 18th Annual Year-End Sale

Despite what any survey or free weekly says, Cosmic Comix is the best comic store in Baltimore, MD. Their back issues are completely in order and easy to browse, the boxes are never tight and are all clearly labeled. It's the only store I ever see children in, and you know, dudes with girlfriends.

The entire staff is extremely helpful, greeting you at the door, and if you subscribe, like David and I do, your new comics are placed directly in your hand. Brutally honest, Cosmic Comix is the only store where an employee hasn't swayed me into buying something weird/bad. Especially Rusty, who will always give you his honest opinion about comics (without nerding out), even if it means you may not buy it.

Another great thing about the store is it's CLEAN, your fingers never look disgusting after going through a box and you don't sneeze from back issues. The wall of figures is reorganized constantly, making you rethink your priorities everytime that one Wolverine toy is moved.

Just to get down to it, Cosmic is one of the best, and one of the only stores worth going to. Here's what we all got:


-What If? #45: "What If The Hulk Went Berserk?" I bought this because isn't that the point? The Hulk goes berserk all the time, right? Or have I been mixing him up with someone else?

-The Thing #31 "Devil Dinosaur: The Movie." This feels much more like a What If, with The Thing fighting dinosaurs and being in a movie and all.

-Michaelangelo Christmas Special. This was actually really great, it had some awesome old turtles' pin-ups and two stories that ruled.

-Brute Force #1. I don't know how I couldn't buy this for a dollar, it feels like someone was playing a trick on me.

-Jordi Bernet Solo. I haven't bought any of the Solo issues, but this one seemed too good to pass up. It has a Batman/Poison Ivy story, and a great Jonah Hex one. The art is great and one of the non-character stories is an incredible black and white story, written by Joe Kelly.

-The Survivors: Talons of Blood. This is an over sized that I assumed I'd have to pay trade price for but Rusty gave it to me for a dollar! Race apocalypse story, incredible art by a guy named Hermann.

-Mephisto Vs. Series. This set of four has Mephisto, who is basically Marvel's devil, working his way up the totem pole stealing souls hoping to eventually land himself Silver Surfer's soul. The four issue series has him facing off against a different team each installment, the four being Fantastic Four, X-Factor, X-Men, and finally, Avengers. 3 bucks for all four!

-Fist of the North Star Part Two #1-5. Kung Fu apocalypse comics, from the old Viz Media set, each cover is just more awesome than the last.

-Hercules Prince of Power #1-4. I love Hercules and I love him even more when he's in outer space. There's nothing more that can be said about it.

-Bio-Booster Armor Guyver. My first exposure to Guyver was the American movie, but after seeing the animes as a kid, when I saw these comics I knew I needed them. More classic Viz manga.

-Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham. This is a three issue prestige style mini series written by Mignola and drawn by this dude Tom Nixey. It has a ton of characters in it all set in an H.P. Lovecraft story. It's great to see Mignola's worlds mixed.


-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Not even gonna lie, I'm this college student right in the middle of finals bullshit, so I haven't actually gotten around to reading this yet. I'd picked up the freebie preview of it though a couple weeks ago, and the art looks pretty good, if not a little too sketchy, final-undergrad-illustration-project-ish.

-Capt. Marvel Mini-Bust: Sammy's birthday present! Dude had been talking about that shit for ages.

-Super Manga Blast Vol. 1. I was like a second away from buying all nineteen of these, solely for the installments of What's Michael?, these great little vignettes that range from Michael being this normal housecat, to stories like the one in this issue where he's a professional wrestler in this animal world.

He can't do an elbow drop because cats always land on their feet! HAHAHAHAAaawwwww...


Fury #1-6 by Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson. I didn't buy this series the first day of the sale since I had never read a Nick Fury story and am not exactly a fan of Garth Ennis. Having said that, once I saw Bill Sienkiewicz's typically glorious covers, I had to pick it up.

Space Usagi #1-3. Usagi Yojimbo is one of Sammy's favorite comics and it is a truth universally acknowledged that if you take an otherwise great comic and put it in space, the result is generally superior by several orders of magnitude.

Vertigo POP!: London #3-4. I picked up the first two issues of this mini penned by Peter Milligan with illustrations by Philip Bond in another comics shop's dollar box. Milligan's Sub-Mariner: The Depths is hands down one of the best series going right now and Bond's work on some of Grant Morrison's better works, such as the recently re-issued Kill Your Boyfriend, made this series more or less irresistible.

Repo #1-2. The fact that Rick Spears is the cousin of a great friend of all of us here at Are You a Serious Comic Book Reader? had infinitely less to do with my decision to pick up the first two issues of this mini-series, illustrated by frequent Spears collaborator Rob G, than the fact that his Pirates of Coney Island is probably the best incomplete comics series you will ever read.

Hellboy: Makoma #1 of 2. The recent Hellboy: The Crooked Man series illustrated by Richard Corben is perhaps the best installment yet in Mike Mignola's vast Hellboy universe. Makoma incorporates the Corben illustrated tale within a frame narrative drawn by Mignola himself. What more needs to be said?

Batman: Gotham Knights #2. I credit Brandon with urging me to pick up this issue of Gotham Knights for John Byrne's superb Batman: Black & White story included at the back of the comic. Byrne's retro tale of the bust-up of a decadent ring of drug-dealing plutocrats is written and drawn in a style evocative of the Batman comics of the 1940s.

Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool #1-6. There is something about these Epic series from the '70s and '80s--in this case about a construction worker hired to operate a miraculous power tool allowing him to single-handedly construct entire skyscrapers in a matter of minutes--that makes them difficult to pass over. Besides, check out that cover!

Clash #1-3. I have had particularly good luck with these DC prestige-style mini-series from the early '90s, having previously picked up Howard Chaykin and José Luis Garcia Lopez's exuberantly bizarre jungle-fascist space-epic Twilight. This series, written by Tom Veitch with pencils by Adam Kubert, once again illustrates, in its prophetic musings on a once and future destroyed Afghanistan, Shelley's conception of poets as "mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present,"

Bad Company: Goodbye, Krool World TPB. All I had to do was flip through a handful of pages from this collection of stories from 2000 AD by Peter Milligan, with art by Brett Ewins, Jim McCarthy and Steve Dillon, I knew I wouldn't leave the store without it.

Cage #4-5. Azzarello and Corben's rambunctiously cerebral Banner is one of my favorite trades and the word in my circles is that, if anything, their take on Luke Cage is superior even to that great series. Even better than getting these two issues for a buck each is the fact that later that evening as I was cruising eBay for the series' first three issues, I came across a listing that offered Cage #1-4 and all four issues of Banner, all for an extremely reasonable price. As it turns out, the lot was being sold by none other than Cosmic Comix in Catonsville. A quick email to the guys at Cosmic got me the first three issues of Cage at a price you would be hard pressed to match at any other comics shop, bar none.


Comics For Serious Interviews LARRY MARDER

Here is the interview we promised long ago via Twitter!

We stumbled upon the opportunity to interview Larry Marder when we met him at the Small Press Expo. If not for getting the chance to meet him, we probably would have never been motivated to ask him for an interview because we are such big fans of his work! Essentially, when we met him, we attacked him with similarly complex questions and he was just as friendly, down-to-earth and interesting a person as he seems in this interview thus, setting the stage for us to arrange an interview.

Keeping in mind that some may not have been exposed to Beanworld before, we hope fans will gather little known information about his work and Beanworld newcomers will be able to use information in the interview to supplement their purchase of the Beanworld Holiday Special which comes out today!


COMICS FOR SERIOUS: One of the best things about 'Beanworld' is how it feels like its own well, world, while also having many connections to this world. It's both really rarified and also universal. Things have clear connections to this world but they also don't function as metaphors or anything. We're thinking of specifically the Clang Twang and how it seems to translate to be about drugs, but you know, putting it like that simplifies it. Explain the process for translating or sort of translating our world to the Beanworld.

LARRY MARDER: I’m a firm believer in Marcel Duchamp’s observation that it is the viewer that makes the painting. I think that art begins with an artist making a suggestion. Then later, at a different place and time, a person experiences the work of art. In Duchamp’s world that person was a viewer. In my world that person is a reader. In a lot of ways Beanworld acts as a mirror. People peer into it and see themselves.

I can certainly understand that the Clang Twang story can be interpreted as a metaphor about drugs. But that wasn’t my intent. At least not in the vein of “Just say no!” sloganeering. It was more in the vein of anything that can be a powerful force for good, may well have a dark side too.

The original impulse for “The Clang Twang!” came from the phrase “Perilous Music.” It just popped into my head one day when I was riding on the L in Chicago. I had no idea what it meant whatsoever. But it seemed important so I wrote it down on a scrap of paper.

The idea of something “perilous” came to me through study of Arthurian Romance. “Perilous objects” are in the Grail stories. I was particularly tickled by the Perilous Chair and the Perilous Bed. Both were fairly mundane household objects that metaphysically transformed into really awful things of terror if you were the wrong person to plunk your butt down upon them.
The Perilous Chair gobbled up whoever wrongfully sat on it. The Perilous Bed attacked whatever weary pilgrim attempted to sleep in it. In the stories it spins around the room and swords come out of the wall and scary stuff like that. The idea of something that is good also having a hidden “perilous” side stuck with me. After all, when you are exhausted and in need of one, what is nobler than a bed or a chair?

And then there was Bob Marley. When I was first doing a lot of the earliest groundwork for Beanworld in the mid ‘70s, I was listening to a lot of reggae which was still fairly new to American ears. In the song “Them Belly Full” there is a passage where he sings:

"Forget your troubles and dance,
Forget your sorrows and dance,
Forget your sickness and dance,
Forget your weakness and dance"

Well, hell, if that isn’t one of the most concise descriptions of the deep relationship between music and people; I don’t know what is. Music heals.

So, in the case of Beanworld, in “Beanish Breaks Out” it was established that the Boom’r Band, through their rhythms and songs, have a strong healing power. The Boom’r Band’s powers are a source of healing and wellness. I knew that there had to be a flip side to that and it was while thinking about that that the phrase “Perilous Music” took hold in my head and the story came out using the elements that I already had on my palette: the Mystery Pods.

The relationship between Mystery Pods and music is always going to be incredibly important in the growth of the Bean culture. It just so happened in the first outing, things went really bad. But in the second outing “New & Improved Gunk’l’dunk!” we see that something that seemed bad, given a new context, can be a pretty good thing after all.

C4S:Why beans? There are some early sketches in the back of the old trades that show you arriving at the style, but how did you settle on the look of Beanworld?

LM: Practice. I drew the basic bean shape over and over, year after year, and arrived at the basic four circle proportions that I do my best to follow.

My relationship with Beans started on the day I was born. I was a difficult birth and when I finally arrived, my head was smooshed in and lopsided to one side and my Mom’s words when she saw me for the first time were “What’s wrong with him? His head is shaped like a lima bean!”

Needless to say, I heard that story my entire childhood. In art school, as I was thoroughly under the influence of the Conceptual Art movement, I was struggling to find a way to tell comics stories without being what I call a “renderer.” At the time comics was under the influence of artists like Neal Adams and Barry Windsor-Smith. And those guys were as close to-realism as one could get using clunky four color litho presses on low grade newsprint. Did I like reading the work of those guys? Absolutely. But I recognized that I couldn’t draw like them no matter how much I tried. So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could do and was very much under the influence of the crazy things going on in the art world in the 60’s and early 70s. The overwhelming message of that era was that art should be something to think about as opposed to something to look at. The Bean comics that I created for my weekly strip in my college newspaper get pretty close to the kind of minimal, conceptual type of comics I was looking for. Just simple beans making gestures, no backgrounds other than a horizon line, and voice balloons.

C4S: You've mentioned that you've worked in marketing/advertising, obviously for IMAGE comics, but other places as well. The beans are iconic and simple like a good piece of advertising or commercial art. Not that you intended Beanworld to be popular in that sense, but how did advertising and that sense of connecting with consumers translate to your creative work?

LM: I worked almost exclusively in print advertising for almost two decades. Most of the accounts I worked on were business-to-business clients. B2B, as it is called, is commerce between two businesses as opposed between a business and a consumer. That meant that we were often faced with the task of making complicated ideas as simple as possible for a purchasing agent. For most of my career, the magazines I did ads for were trade journals.

I learned how to streamline ideas and communicate as quickly and as simply as possible through words and pictures.

I learned how to choose the right fonts to best communicate the message in the headline. You can’t let a favorite font compete with the shape and flow of the letter forms of the individual words in the headline itself. I decided what the illustration or photograph would be and what it would look like. I hired the people who did that work. I was the casting agent for the models in the ads. I did a little bit of everything and all of ultimately is a form storytelling. A good ad tells a compelling story about a product for sale. For me, this was excellent training for making decisions for Beanworld.

C4S: What is your artistic education and/or formal education background? Beanworld is simple and immediate but do your artistic interests extend beyond that or to other areas?

LM: I had a crazy art school education. I have a BFA from Hartford Art School, Hartford CT.

During those years the school was split right down the middle between the Conceptualists and the Renders.

My years there, 1969-1973, were the hey-day years of Conceptualism. I had terrific teachers. I was quite good friends with Jan Groover, who was on the faculty then, and her husband, Bruce Boice. They never discouraged me in my quest to find my way in comics.

I was very influenced by the most important artists of the day Robert Smithson, Mel Bochner, Dorthea Rockburne, Vito Acconci, James Lee Byars, Gilbert and George. And also by the Pop Artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg. If I had to sum up what I remember most about those years, it would be that we spent a lot of time investigating the key questions of “What is a thing? What is an idea?”.

Even though I was heavily on the Conceptualist side of things, I was also influenced by Rudolph Zallinger, who was the most revered faculty member of the Renderers. I took spent a semester or two in a class of his where he taught us how to paint in the medium of egg temperas. We had to grind our own pigments and mix them with egg yokes.

Zallinger was a creator of worlds. His monologues about the creation and execution of his humongous mural at Yale’s Peabody Museum, “The Age of Reptiles” were something I sort of nodded through at the time. But over the years, the influence of his words have resonated loudly in my mind as I created Beanworld. He always used to say “Set up the boundaries of logic and then you can do whatever you want as long as you don’t violate those boundaries” Good advice for a fantasy dimension builder.

C4S: Language plays a huge role in Beanworld. Both in how the different characters speak and the labeling and description of things. Things like the apostrophe in Boom'r and Gunk’l’dunk, where did that come from? And terms like "chow down pool," and "breaking out", where does this come from?

LM: A lot of these words and phrases are just things pulled out of my life. Chow Sol’jer is rooted in Bill Mauldin. I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a house in the ‘60s where ‘40s era first editions of “Up Front” and “Back Home” were on the shelves of my parent’s library. Willie and Joe used the term “sojer.” So my soldiers just had to be named something like that and I chose “sol’jer.” But I was also thinking about Cheyenne Dog Soldiers too. It’s all goes into my head and I’m never quite sure what might come out.

Why all the apostrophes? Beats me. Maybe I swiped some of it from Krazy Kat. When I’m crafting new words and phrases for Beanworld I want the words to look good on paper and sound interesting when spoken. My late younger brother, Jon, was much better at making up these sorts of words than I can ever hope to be.

C4S: So Mr. Spook, the Hoi-Polloi and Dreamishness are definitely similar in some way, but does evolution play a part in their relation, or is there some other system? Not really looking for any spoiler alerts, just some hints or clues about it.

LM: Everything and everyone in Beanworld is connected in some way. My only advice is to follow your hunches based on the visual clues. If things in Beanworld look similar, chances are there is a solid reason for it.

C4S: A lot of care has gone into creating the BW environment, and with the Myspace DHP story we see a clear environmentalist side in the characters. We sort of found out from speaking with you at SPX that there were maybe things you would've changed if you'd had more time to work with the DHP stuff, but is this something you're passionate about expressing in the BW?

LM: I got too ambitious in the MDHP piece. I had to pare it down farther than I would have liked to but 8 pages is 8 pages and that was all I had to work with. My first draft of that story would have easily filled a 30 page issue of TOTB. All of that stuff will end up being used elsewhere.

I do have a “green” impulse in my story telling. It started out when I was doing advertising work for companies selling extremely dangerous chemicals. It was enhanced in my studies of Native American mythologies. On the other hand, I’m not what anyone might call a “tree hugger” either. I just tell my stories the way my stories tell me to tell them to others.

C4S: What, if anything, would you compare the Boom'r Band's music to in real life?

LM: Any sort of music that can be successfully accomplished with a guitar, bass and simple percussion. That said, I’ve always been pretty evasive about what the Boom’rs sound like to me. It’s no secret that the rhythms of the Clang Twang were a variation on the Bo Diddley Beat which is itself a riffing of the Hambone beat, which in turn, probably goes back to the Olduvai Gorge or something equally ancient.

The look of the Boom’rs was influenced by the look of the rockabilly retro band the Stray Cats. And so at that time, I sorta heard a rockabilly sound in my head.

Nowadays, I listen a lot to The Original Carter Family. Their instrumentation was mostly just Mother Maybelle Carter on her guitar with her cousin Sara sometimes on autoharp. Maybelle had an original and extraordinary upside down style of hammering the melody on the bass strings and keeping up the tempo by strumming the upper register strings. This style became known as the “Carter scratch.” The Carter Family had a way of arranging their songs that was pretty unique in its time. For many years they were broadcasting nationwide on the radio every day. They had an incredible influence on the musicians that became the mainstays of folk music, country music and rock’n’roll. So for me right, right now, there is a lot of Carter scratch in their sound as I writing and drawing their sequences.

When I used to travel to Hong Kong all the time, there was a really fabulous Italian restaurant in the Royal Garden Hotel called Sabatini. The Yeh brothers, who’s factories made a lot of the McFarlane Toys during that time, used to take us there all the time. Sabatini had a house trio of Filipino musicians made up of two acoustic guitars and a stand up bass. I guess I saw them do their wandering minstrel thing dozens of times over the years. For tips they took requests and could play virtually any song from any culture in any language. I even heard them play the most incredible acoustic version of Jimi’s Hendrix’s Purple Haze. I used to study them quite carefully because I knew these guys are the closet thing I’ve ever experienced to the Boom’r Band.

C4S: What's the role of feminism in Beanworld? Professor Garbanzo is the leader of the Beans in many ways and she's a woman. Although gender doesn't seem to entail the same things in the Beanworld, it's still a really interesting choice.

LM: Of course that entirely depends on what one’s definition of feminism is. It seems to have gotten quite fractured over the last 40 years. But if you mean the political, social, and economic equality of females, that is a given in Beanworld society. Gender is more of a moiety, your home team, than something sexual. Gran’Ma’Pa is the source of Baby Beans and Gran’Ma’Pa is given Reproductive Propellant by the Goofy Service Jerk delivery service. In the color stories you can see that the basic Beans are color coded by red for the sisters and blue for the brothers. Beans that have broken out adopt their own coloring but they retain the gender designation they were born with.

C4S: In terms of universality mentioned before, there's a sense of Mr. Spook as in some ways being the hero but also the "brawn"--he's often angry--and Garbanzo being the "brains" (she's a Professor after all). These are sort of well-played tropes that never don't work...are you thinking in terms of myth or pop culture or what when you apply these?

LM: Absolutely. They are archetypes. They are individuals, yes, but they are also filling a pre-determined slot in the Beanworld population.

C4S: Do you have a favorite(s) cartoon(s) or comic(s)? Ones that influenced Beanworld and even ones that didn't? There's a very definitive sense of movement and animation to the bean characters, was this informed by other work?

LM: Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, and Dr Seuss had the most influence on me growing up. Later I discovered Carl Barks, George Herriman, and Windsor McKay.

I watched a lot of TV growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s and that meant that I saw a wide variety of animation on local after school television shows. I always gravitated towards the Fleisher stuff first, the Warner Brothers stuff second, and the Disney stuff last. About 20, 25 years ago, as an adult I discovered the silent Felix the Cat cartoons and that stuff just dug into my brain and exploded.

C4S: What made you start working on a comic book? Especially a small press, black and white comic in a time where the market was even smaller. You're part of the second wave of self-publishers, were you reading the earlier, late 70s stuff? Underground comix? Super hero stuff? Beanworld seems wonderfully disconnected from comics trends, it's imaginable that you'd not even be a big comics fan. What have you read, did you read, do you read?

LM: I don’t know. After struggling with Beanworld for a long time, after I discovered Gran’Ma’Pa as the nexus of the Beanworld/Hoi-Polloi food chain, I just knew that now was the time to start drawing Beanworld comics. I had no idea if anyone might ever see it beyond a small circle of friends and family. My favorite comics growing up were basically any Marvel Comic but with special emphasis on the Lee/Kirby collaborations. I loved following Kirby’s Fourth World at DC as it came out over the two years of its existence. I looked forward to reading every issue of Conan, Master of Kung Fu, Dracula, Man-Thing, Howard the Duck in the ‘70s.

I read every underground comic I could get my hands on and tried to memorize every line on every page. I liked not only Crumb, but all the Zap! guys. Shelton, Moscosco, Griffen, Wilson, Armstrong. And the Bijou guys too. Jayzie Lynch and Skip Williamson.

I followed the industry through periodicals like The Comics Reader and The Comics Journal. But when it came to Beanworld, I pretty much figured I was out there in the wilderness on my own.

C4S: Why do you think there's such a spilt in how people feel about BW? Do you think this'll change with the new printings and the new audience it receives? Not a split in the sense that there's really anybody who actively dislikes the comic, but people seem to love it or just accept it. Do you think its context changing through republishing it (and the new issues!) will help the comic?

LM: I certainly hope so. It was often said; when Beanworld was first published in the ‘80s that it was “twenty years ahead of its time.” If I’m lucky that will prove to be true. But you d cite something that does seem to be true. The people who love Beanworld do tend to love it a LOT. I just hope that as the Beanworld wends its way though the current distribution system for comics and books, that more and more of those people who can love it, will discover it on a shelf at a book store or at their library.

C4S: Do you think BW could benefit from being recontextualized as "old" with the release of the new volumes? Is there going to be this market coming from an interest in the "retro" trend?

LM: I consider the books on the schedule to be a reboot of the Beanworld franchise. They are not archival projects, which often come across as museum displays of days of yore. Sure, the first two volumes are re-presentations of work that has been published before, but they’ve been rescanned from the original art, and the meticulous digital work that Matt Dryer did at Dark Horse is much, much closer to the things I drew than the stuff that was printed from film negatives the first time around.

I hope that Beanworld will be received as something that feels both old and new. I call it a “new fangled, old fashioned look.” I guess that might also be a definition of contemporary retro.

C4S: Discuss the challenges artistically and aesthetically in making the DHP Color Beanworld strip. When we spoke at SPX, you were really great about not being bummed that we were a little critical of it, and we'd like to know the process and challenge in the page limit, color expectations, etc.

LM: My first attempt at a color Beanworld comic story was the Asylum story more than a decade ago. It was colored in full blown Image-style color and I think it is safe to say, by all accounts, it has not held up at all. Eventually I’ll recolor it myself and reprint it.

The MDHP story was my first attempt at coloring a full Beanworld story. I was generally happy with my color work, particularly the stuff I did transitioning the “?” into the “!” on page 7.

Let’s face it. We were all nervous going into this story. When you have a hiatus of the length that Beanworld had, and it makes its return, the anticipation is going to run very high on all sides, both mine and the readers. It would almost be impossible for there not to be some disappointment.

And to have a black and white book, return in color yet, just raised the stakes. Same for the Holiday Special. But, now, Beanworld returns to black and white and next year’s original graphic novel, “Remember Here When You Are There!” is the real return of Beanworld. It picks up exactly where Tales of the Beanworld left off and resolves a whole bunch of things. And of course, also opens up just as many new doorways.

As far as your review, how can anyone get bummed out by an honest opinion? Particularly when the critic has targeted the same things I knew were some less than strong decisions I’d made. But I’m not giving up the color fades on the skies when I work in color. When I do them as solids, they just look too uninteresting to me. So we shall continue to disagree on that one.

C4S: We were a little speculative about the Xmas issue, because of conflicts it can have with things that shouldn't exist (or haven’t previously existed) in the BW, like snow (theres never been anything about precipitation) and the santa hats we see on the cover? Again, no spoilers, but hints as to how that stuff can be worked in? At the same time, it's awesome if you're just throwing it all in there without Beanworld logic. How do you decide when to include this or that and when not to?

LM: Well as you know by now, that was just a cover. It does sport a disclaimer that says “Caution: Absolutely nothing depicted on this festive cover appears in the story inside.

Beanworld characters have strayed out of Beanworld only twice: a cameo appearance in Scout #17 and the Total Eclipse mini-series. In Scout Mr. Spook and a multitude of Chow Sol’jers appear to him in a vision and help him defeat a demon during a sweat lodge ceremony.

In Total Eclipse, Doug Moench’s Aztec Ace characters come and whisk Beanish off on a Hero’s Quest when Dreamishness seems to go into an eclipse. In that adventure he meets Miracleman and other heroes of the Eclipse Universe. I thought Marv Wolfman did an excellent job of getting Beanish into the story and not violating the trust of the Beanworld readers of that time.
But, believe me, after those two sequences, I’m in no hurry to do anything like that again any time soon. I’m just going to focus on telling the Beanworld tales as they occur inside the Big-Big-Picture, not outside of it.


Just because we’re interested...

What is your favorite movie/TV show/Cartoon?

Lost, Fringe, House, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The Rachel Maddow Show, Morning Joe. And I watch a lot of old movies on TCM. A lot!

What are you currently reading?
--Which comics?

As far as new comic periodicals, Jeff Smith’s RASL is the only comic I consistently read. Everything else seems to be catch as catch can. As far as vintage comic, I’m slowly my re-reading every Jack Kirby collection that I have in my library. I recently finished OMAC and Silver Star. Totally whacked out stuff. I loved it.

--Other than comics?

I mostly read non-fiction. I’m slowly savoring reading “Affectionately, Marcel: The collected correspondence of Marcel Duchamp.”
I’m looking forward to reading Neil Stephenson’s “Anathem” at some point in the next year.

What are you currently listening to?

--Favorite new song/album/artist?

I know absolutely nothing about contemporary music.

--Favorite old song/album/artist?

The Carter Family Anthologies, Boswell Sisters, Howlin’ Wolf, Fletcher Henderson are what I have been listening to the most lately.

If you could collaborate with any comics writer or artist—who and why?

Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith, and/or Matt Wagner I appreciate their individual sensibilities when it comes to understanding the brands of mythology that I am interested in too.



Pointing out each and every screw-up by a non-comics print or internet publication covering comics is a real fun pastime for us comics fans, but it's just as well that those times when mainstream coverage of comics is good, that we point it out.

Armond White, awesomely argumentative film critic for the New York Press reviews the Stephen Soderbergh film Che and sets-up a quick contrast between it's hyper-objective, intellectualized indulgence and O.G status comics legend Spain Rodriquez's "graphic novel" Che: A Graphic Biography.

The heading for White's review is "Steven Soderbergh’s indulgent Che opus can’t compete against a comic book" which is both White's critical opinion simply stated, and also, a heading that mocks the "good for a comic book" contempt those popular press articles about comics all too often have. White's sort of mocking the dim-witted aspects of Soderbergh's Che--"even a comic book is better than this movie!"--at the same time, the dim-witted critics praising the movie (and writing "comics ain't for kids anymore" articles), and teasing you with a quick explanation of the brilliance of Spain's Che:
"In Spain Rodriguez’s new comic-book novel, Che: A Graphic Biography (Verso), a poignant narrative interruption recounts Rodriguez’s own memory of living through the Cuban missile crisis. It makes Che’s significance personal and immediate. Soderbergh doesn’t bother; he’s above the personal revelations of Latin American political drama as risked by Alex Cox’s Walker and Pontecorvo’s Burn. Neither rabble-rousing politician, humanist historian or trailblazing artiste, Soderbergh’s a Pseud."


Where My Money Went: December 10th

Every Wednesday, I push the limits of my budget for my comic addiction. This is where my money went this week:

I hate Superman. He just doesn't do it for me, but in the few stories I do enjoy (Birthright, For All Seasons, a few others) are about him as a sad character, not a hero. I don't want to see him as this cry baby all the time, just the dude is possibly immortal, will out live everyone he loves, and has to save the world five times a week and still hold up a day job. I have a hard time doing anything productive with my free time and I don't even try that hard at my job. I want to see his humanity over his super-humanity.

Last issue Supes finds a boy he thought he had saved from Vampiredom stealing plasma from a hospital. Feeling a debt to the boy (and I'm sure himself) Superman takes him to Dr. Langstrom (aka the Man-Bat) to try and extract the Vampire genes inside him. While there, Werewolves attack and Langstrom does the unthinkable, becoming Man-Bat again by taking an experimental batch of his serum. Superman fights off the Werewolves, but since he's vulnerable to their attacks, isn't much use unless he kills the Werewolves, but Superman isn't a killer, he's a hero.

Man-Bat rips flesh and throws the Werewolves around, proud of each kill and eager for more. Superman can only fend off the monsters long enough to wait for an opening to throw them to his ally. He could never bring himself to kill the beasts but knows what needed to be done, despite his farm boy morals, aiding in their deaths. Feeling guilty, he gives Langstrom the antidote and returns his attention to the boy, someone he can save instead of kill. These are times I like Superman.

This comic was $3.99 for what you could have figured out from last page of Secret Invasion #8, a bunch of ads (including two double pager spreads!), and three previews. The art is awful, quite frankly worse than last week's What If: House of M bullshit, I mean come on, Namor a jewish guy with a receding hair line? With a five o'clock shadow? I'm basically this Marvel stooge but even I couldn't get into this one. What a waste of money.

Speaking of poorly drawn Marvel comics, let's get into What If?: Fallen Son. Marvel is just allowing amateurs to do the current run of What If? books, which is the only explanation for how terrible this comic looks. The pages are full of incomplete faces, bodies and limbs, hidden or drawn only in part with bad coloring for cover up. At least Rob Leifeld drew faces and chests, there are twenty one feet in this issue, but only four of which make sense.

In Batman Confidential: "Do You Understand These Rights?" we're given The Joker and Batman at their best. The Joker is a murdering unknown psychopath who can't be trusted with anything from a peanut to a pillow, making jokes and laughing while killing everyone around him. Batman is in the shadows and wearing disguises, exchanging notes with Gordon who is still unsure of the new masked vigilante.

Joker is declared guilty, and shortly after kills another with a banana peel. Taken to a Psychiatric Hospital where he will no doubt escape, he manages to look dangerous with that smile and hair. Gordon takes a bullet from a cop who is sick of the super-crime freaks in his city, just adding another case to Batman's plate.

The colors are classic, as in 1987 comic vibrant, Joker jumping off the page while Batman stays in the back, Gordon and other "normal people" making a perfect middle ground. It's writing is light enough for anyone but keeps you at an arm's length, never giving you too much information about where the series is going while still keeping you interested. It's everything a comic should be.

After all my Marvel hate this week, it's only fair I review Wolverine: Flies to a Spider. A new Wolverine comic comes out every week, but not all of them are worth it, this one being exceptional. Even for being the "best at what he does", Wolverine still has a heart, especially around the holidays, the issue taking place on New Year's Eve. Wolverine walks into biker gang "Road Dogs" regular bar, takes out everyone wearing colors, and sits down. No matter how many people they send in, he takes them out quick and easy, not uttering a word. The gang's leader calls in for a favor from the man they run drugs for, a big time Mob Boss who is currently paying off local law enforcement to cover up the death of a young girl caused by the Road Dogs.

Wolverine goes through all the muscle sent after him while being kept company by an old drunk trucker, the uncle of the young girl killed, who is just happy to see someone fighting for the right thing. Not even remembering the murdered girl's name, the boss blows Wolverine off as another tough guy and decides to come out with the big guns to take care of him. Logan turns the dead gang's bikes into bombs with their gasoline and flares, killing all the hired muscle and badmen who came for him. Standing over the dying Mob Boss' body, he reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a newspaper article, uttering his only words in the comic "Her name was Ruthie Jordan."


Travis Charest's Spacegirl

I stumbled onto this after reading the Charest drawn story in The Metabarons: Alpha and Omega. You can read Spacegirl Vol. 1 online right here and the rest at Charest's MSN group here. The story is something straight out of Flash Gordon especially the episodic feeling of reading each panel individually online. The art is out of a Bilal/Moebius handbook. The combination of 30s space writing and European space art turns out pretty good.

Charest comments that, "Spacegirl came out of wanting to draw something as fast as possible" (newsrama) and reading it feels like it carries itself through it's own momentum. It's sort of a great change from most comics that feel weighed down by labor intensive artists.

From 2000-2007 Charest was one of these labor intensive artists while working on Metabarons: Dreamshifters. He moved to Paris to work on the project and and was painting the entire thing. He only produced a limited amount of pages in the entire seven year span due to a grueling process of painting each page three times. The pages that are in Alpha and Omega are stunning and the closest feeling of Jodorowsky's movies that I've seen.


Haunted Tank #1: Second Take

There is a scene toward the end of the premiere issue of the new Haunted Tank series in which the tank squad stumbles into an ambush of four enemy tanks. The Iraqis are caught somewhat unaware by the approaching Americans, but are still able to muster up in time to deal what should be the death blow to these unfortunate invaders. In gallops General Jeb Stuart CSA (Retired, or Deceased, rather), who, having been run off by his African-American namesake, returns in the nick of time and beheads the unsuspecting Iraqis, setting up the uneasy peace that will define his relationship with eponymous tank's crew.

As the dust settles and the crew of the tank realize that once again, their asses have been saved by this "antiquated relic trying to stay relevant," Sergeant Jamal Stuart, instead of thanking him, suggests that the fact that he is still walking the earth, serving with his progeny implies that he has some atoning to do for his actions during his lifetime. This moment crystallizes one of the major problems with the execution of this issue. Marraffino has laid the mechanics of his script a little too bare--we are forced to witness how he included the bit about Jeb Stuart commending himself to God on his death bed in order to set up this confrontation. It is sloppiness like this that makes what could have been a legitimately thoughtful and deeply humorous comic into one mired by clunky dialogue and a self-serving agenda.

It's important to point out that just about everything that Brandon cites as a positive in his review is basically true. Marraffino and Flint have somehow managed to take what is at base an amazingly absurd and problematic conceit and turn it into a comic that, at least in its basic premises, works as a fun meditation on the paradoxes of war and military culture for our post-modern age. The problem, then, is that the writer has been allowed to get a little overzealous in the execution and this has had the unfortunate effect of undermining a lot of what should work in the comic's favor.

A good example of this comes in the initial dust-up leading to Jeb's first appearance. As the tank squad rumbles along the miles of Iraqi desert wasteland, they are beset by a sudden explosion, revealed to be the result of a rocket-propelled grenade fired from a Toyota pickup filled to bursting with Arabs sporting all manner of light arms. As the Arabs approach their quarry, one of their number shouts, "Come, my Syrian brothers! Let us think of ways to spend Saddam's money!"

Without getting too wonky, the first of these commands displays a lamentable lack of understanding of the dynamics of tribe, ethnicity and nationality which proved so problematic to the American military's handling of the post-conflict insurgency. The Arab nation-state is a relatively recent invention, in most cases arbitrarily delineated by the French and British governments at the end of the first World War. By and large, the people living in the vast swaths of territory straddling the Syria/Iraq border would identify primarily by their tribal affiliations, and for all practical purposes have historically ignored that artificial political boundary. As a matter of fact, the only people who might identify themselves as "Syrian" in this way, live in places like Damascus in a manner more akin to our own, than to these apparent Bedouin warriors.

The second command is even more problematic, in that it completely undermines the correlation that Marraffino later draws between the southern position in the American Civil War and the Iraqi Arabs defending their homeland in this current conflict. Jeb's lamentations about foreign invaders may conveniently ignore the central position that slavery held in the impetus for southern secession, but it still represents the major reason why poor whites--easily the population most hurt by the institution of slavery, after the slaves themselves, of course--fought in such great numbers in that conflict. By reducing these Arabs' motives for fighting the Americans to strictly financial terms, Marraffino succeeds in perpetrating the very racial arrogance that the series appears to be trying to turn on its head.

All of this being said, the series is not without its redeeming qualities. As Brandon mentioned, Henry Flint's Seth Fisher-style, cartoony-realism gives nearly every panel something which holds the eyes. Moreover, their is some real ironic brilliance in some of the comic's more elaborate humorous set-pieces. The groaning, too obvious reference to sand people is redeemed in the following panels when a member of the tank squad shouts, "Look! Weapons of mass destruction!"--the next panel revealing a shitting camel. Probably my favorite moment of the book comes in the exchange between the Stuarts, in which Jeb seems to be just missing Jamal's euphemistic references to slavery--the juxtaposition of Jamal's righteous indignation, Jeb's pompous ignorance and Johnson's utter cluelessness is comics gold.

TOKYO ZOMBIE BY: Yusaku Hanakuma

I'd accuse George Romero of stealing ideas from Tokyo Zombie, but that would imply he was in touch with pop culture on any level. Baldie (or Hage in Japanese) and Afro (or Afro in Japanese) spend their days working in a factory and practicing Martial Arts. After killing a shit talking company higher up, they bury the body on "Dark Fuji", a mountain of trash and whatever else you can hide in a hole. Once noxious industrial waste becomes involved, all the dead bodies placed there come to life, quickly turning Tokyo into a zombie wasteland.

Afro and Hage get out of the area, but while on a food run Afro gets only snacks forcing the older, more responsible, Hage to head back for essentials. While saving a dog, he gets bit, and understanding the inevitable, he takes one for the team and jumps out of the truck. Forced to drive on, Afro and his dog travel for years finding themselves behind the "safe" walls of a militia protected city, the wealthy ruling over all. While most poor break their backs doing manual labor, Afro breaks the backs of zombies in "Zombie Fight", where former pro-wrestlers and fighters take on zombies for food and the opportunity to live behind the walls.

Tokyo Zombie touches on a lot of issues plaguing Japan and America, from simple shit we all deal with when being "working class" and serving the more fortunate, to the value of art in the internet culture, "reality tv" world we live in. Afro's Jiu-Jitsu isn't nearly as appreciated as the other fighter's fake slams and attractive kicks. Accessibility and simplicity over difficult complicated works.

Yusaku Hanakuma, the writer and artist of this book, is a "heta uma" artist, which translated literally means "so bad it's good". His drawings look like something you'd find on someone's desk, all shitty with the occasional perfect hand or mouth. The teeth on Hanakuma's zombies are down right scary, seeming out of place in a good way. The action sequences read better than most X-Men fight scenes, each panel directing the next. The same sound effects are used for fucking and flesh eating, which add an idea of satisfaction zombies get from eating. It's also gross.

There's the instant satisfaction of seeing someone smash a bat over a coworker's head who makes more money than they do but doesn't work as hard. There's the dick and fart jokes that make it great, particularly when a fucked up gym teacher who works his students too hard is burying one who couldn't take "one love tap" gets his dick chomped off while jerking off to trash porno.

All the fucked up people you know are present in one way or another, the awful customers, annoying people on the sidewalk, and your friend who buys pudding but doesn't grab spoons. It's a little bit of everything while still being something completely new.


Tokyo Zombie movie trailer!!

Joann Sfar Music Videos

Here's a couple animated music videos of illustrations by Joann Sfar (of The Rabbi's Cat 1 and 2, Vamipre Loves and Little Vampire fame, among others). The first one is for "Tes Lacets Sont Des Fées" by Dionysos and the second is "Hyacinthe" by Thomas Fersen.

Sweet French music, giant vampire dude and subway troll: that's a good look.



In the back of the Paul Pope issue of DC’s Solo series, there is a quote referring to Paul Pope as the Jim Morrison of comics.

This is inaccurate for several reasons. Comparing Pope to Morrison understates his creativity and influence. While the Doors are a ‘legendary’ band, their creativity and impact on music is not as significant as say, The Rolling Stones. Admittedly, equating Pope with the Rolling Stones would be an overstatement, but comparing him to Mick Jagger seems fitting. The evidence for this comparison is subliminal; Paul Pope actually looks more like Mick Jagger than he does Jim Morrison. Jagger was not only the lead singer of a super-influential rock band but he was also known as an individual who was a style icon that created the ‘rock star’ persona. Pope is similarly complex. He makes great, really creative and influential art but he’s also an ‘image’.

The "Pope" of Comics
Through the 'world-lens', Pope is always first, a comic book writer and artist. He's more hip and creative than the typical indie comics creator yet, also more popular and more successful. He's able to pull this off because he stays true to the comics medium; his style remains cartoon-ish while still being 'edgy' and still cannot be criticized for lacking craft or content. The best example of Pope's grasp of the comics realm is Batman: Year 100. It's considered a contemporary classic by most comics-fan standards. Pope takes an iconic superhero and reinvents his look while retaining Batman's mysterious persona and writing an atypical story.

Recently, Pope took another crossover opportunity through designing some clothing for Donna Karan New York.

Ultimately, for the comics-outsider looking in on DKNY, it's a really interesting look: she invites a famous comics artist to do some designs = makes the line look more diverse and fundamentally, Pope is a fitting artist for DKNY. DKNY has always been going for androgynous, urban look and Paul Pope's understanding of female sexuality combined with his appreciation for the 'male rogue' totally fits the bill. But being that I was looking in from the other side of the tunnel, I really wanted it to be a Paul Pope fashion experience. I really pictured it as being a variation on his personal style: maybe awkwardly constructed white tee-shirts and other items that are just as unpredictable and fresh as his art.

But instead, I was totally underwhelmed by an Ed Hardy-esque line of clothing that just placed his art on clothing. I reference Ed Hardy because the brand has a habit of uncreative design placement and one of the biggest problems with the Pope DKNY line is it does nothing new or creative with the integration of the art with the clothing. I'm not sure how much control Pope had over the line despite having his name and art being associated with it thus, the outcome does not affect him but rather, just suggests that he's either a. gettin' that cash or b. toying with the idea and may do something better later.

The "Pope" of Cinema
One of the most striking aspects of Pope's comics work is his ability to be cinematic. He composes frames the way a director would compose shots. For example, in this page from 100% (which he cites as being “a graphic movie” right on the front of the issues), without words, he creates tension and an overall, mood when they are illegally buying a gun.

Without words, the perspective changes on this page really express the apprehensive feeling. The page starts with a long two-shot of the girls and then cuts to a tight shot of the man’s hands on his bag. The “camera” then pulls back and puts the scary-dude with the guns in perspective; he’s gross. Again, the focus is tight on his hands and then cuts to a tight two-shot of the girls on the couch, now leaning forward with interest. Lastly, Pope takes almost half the page up with a huge close-up of his gnarly hands about to open the sack of guns. He uses the action of turning the page to accentuate this feeling as, the guns are shown in a similarly large frame, immediately on the next page.

It’s not that other comics artists don’t utilize comics in the same cinematic way, it’s that it is not often that it is used when discussing the same topics. In this page from 100%, it’s being utilized to express the timid innocence of the characters while doing something illegal, dangerous and out of character.

Pope’s ability to synthesize a cinematic feeling into comics has origins in his combined ability to both create an unfamiliar setting and fill it with well-rounded characters but furthermore, because Pope seems to be an incredibly interesting person, his taste in movies. Upon viewing his myspace, it's apparent that Pope is interested and influenced by a lot of movies, books, and music.

Evolution of Influence
When I say ‘influenced’, I mean he's clearly been affected by art and this in turn, makes his art whole. You can't pick out any one favorite or interest and say, "he's definitely ripping this off" because when a person is truly affected by art, it becomes a somewhat of a circular process. To me, it seems easier to visualize this process than to outright describe it so, I made this incredibly nerdy graph… META-MOMENT:

In order to ultimately increase artistic progression, the circle of internalization has to be completed. Stopping at any point within the circle would result in being at a point lower than the original point of exposure. Once through the internalization circle, all points yield higher artistic progression.

In relation to this graphed theory, if a young comic book artist read and really enjoyed Batman: Year 100 and then, immediately sat down to draw his or her own Batman comic, he or she would likely sit down make something really derivative of Year 100. This same comics artist…let’s just say 10 years later… and many influential comics better, may subconsciously take a small aspect of Year 100 and integrate it into a totally different story.

When I say “subconscious”, I’m really just meaning that the art they are referencing has become so much so a part of their attitude that it can be recontextualized. So, when an artist is drawing something similar to art they have seen before, they are able to separate their reference from its original context and weave it appropriately into their ‘new’ creation. I think this is especially the case with Pope. It seems to me that Pope's influences vary greatly. In any one of the items in his eclectic lists of his favorite/interests, if you are aware of it, you can see how that item is a small part of what he has produced rather than the opposite: reading a comic and being able to pick out the influences.

For example:
In his musical interests, he lists Brian Eno and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When I think about the two in relation to Pope, I can connect both to parts of his work. I see Yeah Yeah Yeahs as being influential to the tone and style of characters. They are a female-led indie rock band; they are young and fresh. Karen O.’s, the lead singer, style and appearance reminds me of some of Pope’s female characters while, Brian Eno’s music, in my head, could be cinematically playing in the background to any of his comics because Eno makes this electronic music with a notoriously cinematic tone.

Think: "Here Come The Warm Jets" playing over “S’’ using the eponymous substance in the Grand Central Station bathroom in issue one of Heavy Liquid.

The "Pope" of Fine Arts

Despite Paul Pope’s fame, he does not release new material with any predictable frequency. So, when I was researching the new Haunted Tank series, I was surprised to see that Paul Pope was doing the cover for the second issue.

Truthfully, the cover blew me away.

As always, the quality of the work is outstanding but what ‘makes’ the cover is in the details. The tone of the colors makes the picture seem distant and snapshot-like. The genius of the colors, assuming that Pope actually did them, is the subtle gradient from the upper-most sky to the horizon and from the ground to the horizon. The gradient bookends the top and bottom of the cover making the scene within seem panoramic. The horizon with the setting sun followed by light from the tank gun assists the viewer’s eye to scan the page from left to right. Moreover, the contrast of the sharp edges defining the light from the tank gun and the “light splatter” represents the same antagonism of a heavy-weight war machine being led by a ghost riding a ghost horse. It’s these subtle parallels made by Pope, which make his work so significant; there is much more to think about within his art than meets the eye. This is what makes Pope’s art less disposable than most other comic book art.