Archive for the ‘Now Read This!’

HEROESCON 2013: A LOOK BACK AT DRINK AND DRAW

June 13, 2013 By: Seth Peagler Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, EVENTS, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, HeroesCon, HeroesCon Art Auction, HeroesCon News, NEWS, Now Read This!, Other Events, This Just In

This year marked my seventh year as a member of the capable HeroesCon management and organization team.  Every year there are countless little moments that make me (and the rest of the staff) happy to be a part of this incredible comics community.  This year, more than any other year, I was especially heartened and humbled by our 3rd Annual Drink and Draw.  It was at our first Drink and Draw back in 2011 that I met Richard Thompson, the genius cartoonist behind the award winning Cul de Sac comic strip.  It was Richard for whom Team Cul de Sac started, in an effort to raise money for Parkinson’s research.  And it is Richard’s humor, humility and general kindness that made us want to continue to do more to battle this disease.

This year, thanks in part to a spacious new venue (the Hilton), an appropriately Southern soundtrack from Jack the Radio, and the creativity of professional and amateur artists alike, we raised over $7,000 for Team Cul de Sac and the Michael J. Fox foundation!   The combined total from money raised in the first two years was under $3,000, so that alone should let you know the extent to which our fundraising increased this year.

Planning for this year’s Drink and Draw began earlier than ever before.  Team Cul de Sac founder Chris Sparks, my wife (and fellow Drink and Draw organizer) Heather and I had a few meals together in Asheville this past Spring, and talked at length about what we could do to bring even more money and awareness to Team Cul de Sac at HeroesCon’s Drink and Draw event.  Chris took those brainstorming sessions and turned them into original art from Patrick McDonnell (Mutts), Jim Borgman (Zits), Mark Tatulli (Lio), Roger Langridge (Snarked), and more, all for us to auction at the Drink and Draw.  In addition to these pieces, Chris brought an Art Spiegelman signed and sketched edition of Maus, and Bill Watterson signed editions of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and Team Cul de Sac: Artists Draw the Line at Parkinson’s.

With all the art produced and auctioned off at the Drink and Draw, we not only raised a sizable donation for Parkinson’s research, but sent a strong message that the philanthropic efforts at HeroesCon have never been more vibrant than they were this year.   I look forward to working with Chris to bring even larger things to HeroesCon 2014’s Drink and Draw.

Thanks to all the fine volunteers who continue to come back every year to help us run the event (Heather Peagler, Brian Purvis and the rest), all the artists who still draw for us after a long day on the convention floor, and everyone who donated money for the various pieces produced that night. Thanks to Chris Sparks for his perseverance, Richard Thompson for his ever-present inspiration, and Shelton Drum for giving us so much time and space at HeroesCon to continue to raise money for this worthy cause.

If you’d like to continue to support Team Cul de Sac throughout the year, please visit them HERE.  The battle against Parkinson’s disease needs more than just our annual event to help fight it.  We hope to see you next year at Drink and Draw.  We’ve already started planning, so trust me when I tell you – HeroesCon 2014 is going to be bigger and better than ever!

Share

NOW READ THIS! :: JULIUS KNIPL, REAL ESTATE PHOTOGRAPHER

November 22, 2012 By: Seth Peagler Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!

Of all the avenues weaving around and through comics, the comic strip has probably undergone some of the more significant changes in our lifetime.   As production and readership of physical newspapers continues to diminish, so does the variety of printed content.  Naturally, comic strips are one of the things that inevitably ended up on the chopping block.  When I was kid, I knew the work of Charles Schulz, Gary Larson, Hank Ketcham and more, but even in the eighties, the relevance of the strip started to wane.  With the exceptions of Calvin and Hobbes and Cul de Sac, there haven’t been too many truly great strips that captivated large audiences in recent decades.  But, alas, this post isn’t meant to mourn the passing of the comic strip as a form.  No, today I want to turn your attention to a lesser known strip that many of you have probably never even heard of: Ben Katchor’s Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer.

I discovered a collection of Katchor’s strips by accident at Heroes a few years back.  If there is an unfortunate aspect of my stumbling upon Katchor’s work, it’s that I never read the actual strips as they initially appeared.  Regional papers never carried his strips and even today, you won’t see his latest strips in Metropolis magazine very easily (though you can link HERE for a look at a few of them).  It was sheer curiosity that lead me to pick up this random collection.  How exciting can a book be when its chief character makes a living taking pictures of various odd buildings around the city?  As it turns out, it’s not especially exciting, but it is a brilliant example of how the comic strip remains a fascinating form of entertainment.

The first thing you’ll notice about Katchor’s work is that the strips are simple, usually following an eight panel grid, and almost always crafted with pen, ink and gray tones.  These look like the product of the monochromatic city whose stories they capture.  Katchor might not have the skilled pen of someone like Richard Thompson or Bill Watterson, but his art is unique among strip artists.  Most of the characters appear as short, pudgy and a little broken down.  That’s not to say there’s not joy present in the series, only that frequently it appears as a side note.  When a character does seem to find a kind of simple happiness, there’s a feeling that it might be the result of a simple-mindedness, or a failure to see a larger picture.  Yet, there’s a kind of ebullience that a reader can feel by getting lost in the mundane elements of these strips.

This is one of the great strengths of Katchor’s work.  It offers opportunity to observe the tiniest of objects and situations, which enables something akin to escapism, but also an appreciation for the minute detail.  Like many strips, it’s probably best to read these one at a time, capturing the essence of their original publication.  However, I find Katchor’s work to be quite accessible in a larger coalesced setting.  It’s more like reading a series of vignettes than a dense narrative.  The result is something that might be the literary equivalent of observational comedy.  Katchor’s city is populated with plenty of eccentric characters, but they seem to live with the conviction of their actions.  There’s a level of acceptance that these characters show, where seemingly pointless tasks (like a diner’s analysis of soda crackers) are celebrated regardless of their miniscule impact on the world around them.

 

Share

NOW READ THIS :: GASOLINE ALLEY: THE THREE FACES OF WALT

November 14, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!, Reviews

What is the Great American Comic Strip? Does such a thing exist? Like trying to figure out what book is the Great American Novel or which songwriter is the Great American Composer, it is a fun exercise but there are too many diverse (and worthwhile) opinions.  It is a no-win argument. But still….  Many would choose Peanuts, Pogo or perhaps Little Orphan Annie and those are fabulous choices, but in my own opinion, there is one clear cut leader for that elusive title:  Gasoline Alley


Gasoline Alley was created by Frank King in 1918 as a single panel cartoon for car enthusiasts.  Soon characters began to emerge from the group of amateur alley mechanics and by 1921, the strip had it’s star-young, rotund, tough but loveable Walt Wallet.  Then on Valentine’s Day 1921, Walt is awakened in the middle of the night to find an abandoned baby boy on his doorstep.  For the next 94 years (and counting) Gasoline Alley has told the story of Walt Wallet and his family. (more…)

Share

NOW READ THIS :: THE CREATIVITY OF STEVE DITKO

November 01, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!, Reviews

The history of comics is brimming with mysteries and enigmas.  Did Alex Raymond kill himself? Why did DC cancel the Jack Kirby penned Fourth World series so early in its run? Is it really a true story that Gwen Stacy’s death got published because Stan Lee was out of the office for the month and couldn’t stop it ? Why did Jack Cole take his own life when he seemed to have everything he’d ever wanted?

We can speculate and wonder and gossip and even investigate these topics (and dozens more!) and that is part of the charm and excitement of any long history of any art form filled with quirky and talented individuals.
And there are few names in comics that are as enigmatic as the co-creator of Spider-man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man’s iconic orange and yellow armor, Captain Atom, The Question and The CreeperSteve Ditko
A new book has just been published by YoeBooks! entitled The Creativity of Steve Ditko and the book is a real treasure trove, but it doesn’t even begin to solve any of the mysteries surrounding this very private, very extraordinary man.
Share

NOW READ THIS :: JUSTIN GREEN’S SHOW + TELL

October 31, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!

Two of my favorite underground comics are Justin Green’s Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1972) and Sacred and Profane (1976), and I’ll sing hallelujah praises for both, but only as a means to celebrate Green’s lesser-known, humbler, but still uproarious Show + Tell (1973).

Justin Green, from BINKY BROWN.

(more…)

Share

NOW READ THIS :: INDIE SELECTIONS

September 04, 2012 By: Seth Peagler Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!

Super hero comics are fine.  Lots of us started with them, and lots of us still enjoy the occasional cape-centric yarn.  Still, there’s a big chunk of readers who grow stagnant with recycled storylines and event gimmicks and want something different.  Sometimes I feel like there’s a social or psychological barrier that keeps super hero readers from dipping their toes in the Indie section (and vice versa).  I’m here to let you know it’s entirely okay to read a diversity of genres.  It’s healthy to like a little bit of everything, and that variety keeps you from getting burnt out on any single type of comic.  So with that said, here are a few examples from the plethora of well-crafted stories waiting for you in the Indie/Literature section in the back corner of our store.

(more…)

Share

Hail Richard Thompson and Cul de Sac!

August 17, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: Comics Industry, DISCUSS, NEWS, Now Read This!

Today, cartoonist Richard Thompson announced that because of his ongoing struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, he’ll be ending his newspaper comic strip Cul de Sac on September 23rd.

It’s no exaggeration to call Cul de Sac the finest comic strip of this generation. Thompson began the strip in the Washington Post in 2004, but its distribution remained regional until 2007, when Universal executive Lee Salem fell in love with the strip (and with Thompson’s work on another Post feature, Richard’s Poor Almanac) and offered Thompson national syndication.

Cul de Sac focuses on the Otterloop family: father Peter, mother Madeleine, and especially their two kids, world-class neurotic Petey and pre-school troublemaker Alice. Like many other comic strips, Cul de Sac is a domestic comedy, but Thompson’s artistry elevates it into the canon of great comics, cheek-to-jowl with Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. Thompson’s skills are many: he has an uncanny ability to milk endless gags out of Petey and Alice’s diametrically opposed personalities, and he stuffs the Cul de Sac neighborhood with a joyous cast of supporting players. If you haven’t read the strip, names like Dill, Nara, Big Shirley, Beni, Viola, Miss Bliss, Ernesto, Mr. Danders, Andre and the Uh-Oh Baby mean nothing to you, but if you’re already a fan, I bet every single one of those names made you smile.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Cul de Sac is Thompson’s art, a sublime hybrid of Schulz, Ronald Searle and Thompson’s own whimsy, expressed through jittery pen lines and bold, expressive lettering. In today’s newspapers, where comic strip are printed at the size of a postage stamp, Thompson still delivered his daily laugh and wry observation, and earned the praise of his peers: in 2011, he won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, the highest honor given by the National Cartoonists Society.

Richard is part of the Heroes family. He’s been to several HeroesCons, participating in panels about Cul de Sac, humor in comics, and other subjects. I became friends with Richard in 2008, when Ben Towle and I asked Richard (and Roger Langridge) to be on a panel where we’d collectively interview EC comics legend and Mad editor Al Feldstein. It turned out that Feldstein didn’t need our questions–without prompting from us, Al told one amazing story after another–but afterwards, Richard thanked me for the opportunity to meet Feldstein, I bought some original Cul de Sac art, and we became pals. It’s impossible to meet Richard and not become pals with him.

Me, Richard, Roger Langridge, Al Feldstein and Ben Towle, Heroes 2008. Photo by Mike Rhode.

Richard told his readers that he had Parkinson’s Disease in 2009, and in the years since has handled his increasing difficulties–with drawing, and with mobility in general–with heroic good humor. The last time I saw him in person, at last year’s Small Press Expo, he was frail and walking with a cane, but the first thing he said to me was a blue joke. His blog posts about his struggles with Parkinson’s are a study in grace under adversity. Read, for example, his farewell to Cul de Sac.

There are a couple of ways you can honor Richard and his strip. With Richard’s blessing, the tirelessly generous Chris Sparks has established Team Cul de Sac, a fundraising initiative (and division of the Michael J. Fox Foundation) that encourages the comics community to donate money to support Parkinson’s research. You can donate directly to Team Cul de Sac here. If you buy Chris’ lavish Team Cul de Sac art book (featuring contributions from Sergio Aragones, Evan Dorkin, Cathy Guisewite, Bill Watterson and literally dozens of other cartoonists), and/or Favorites, a home-grown zine of comics criticism I assembled last year, money will again funnel into Team Cul de Sac. Order these goodies here.

Most importantly: if you haven’t already, please read one of the Cul de Sac strip collections. A good place to start is The Cul de Sac Golden Treasury: A Keepsake Garland of Classics (2010), a fat sample of the first two years of the strip. It’s beautiful, charming–and, I think, a blast of Cartoon Nirvana, one for the Ages.

Share

NOW READ THIS! :: Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower

August 16, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!, Reviews

I know, I know– there are just not enough hours in the day.  I know, I know, it is difficult to stay on budget with so many quality comic products released each and every week.  I know, I know… you have a stack of comics next to your bed/favorite chair/comfy couch that is this high and growing… the last thing you need is for some wise guy like myself insisting you add another book to the pile.

Share

NOW READ THIS! :: NATIONAL LAMPOON

August 09, 2012 By: Craig Fischer Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!

Craig Fischer here. I’m a long-time comics fan who occasionally writes about this hobby (obsession?) we all share. Even though I don’t work at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, I’ve been asked to contribute a monthly column to the Heroes blog about comics that I’ve found provocative, infuriating, etc. I’ll begin with a story.

Last Saturday, I was shopping in an indoor antique mall in West Jefferson, North Carolina when I stumbled across a box of reasonably priced, lightly worn copies of National Lampoon. I searched the box for Lampoon issues from the first five years—1970 through 1975, when Harvard Lampoon alumni Henry Beard and Doug Kinney, along with fearless and talented contributors, turned Nat Lamp into the greatest America humor magazine—but no luck. People who own 1970-75 Nat Lamps hold on to them. I did, however, find and buy a later issue, from October 1976, and it’s still sharp. Each issue of Nat Lamp had a theme (such as “Paranoia,” “Isolationism and Tooth Care” and “Sin”) and October ’76’s theme is “The Funny Pages,” the name of Nat Lamp’s regular comic section, which took over most of its pages for just this month. The cover itself is a goofy parody of a Golden Age Superman comic.

(more…)

Share
  • www.flickr.com