Routine Check 9/5/12

– I spent the holiday weekend at Atlanta’s Dragon*Con, which is an event I would recommend to anyone within traveling distance if you can handle four days of shoulder-to-shoulder foot traffic, SDCC-worthy panel lines, and Atlanta’s world-famous heat and humidity, which is truly punishing. There are a couple things that make the convention a pretty singular experience — one is their “anything goes” approach to guest booking, which is primarily sci-fi focused but has room for just about anything from all circles of nerdfame, and the other is its status as the largest gathering of cosplayers, which is more entertaining for regularly dressed people like myself than it sounds. There are always surreal moments at each year’s celebration that you look up or down in the huge, regal Marriott Hotel and see a writhing ocean of people with a seemingly impossible percentage of its individual units dressed as various obscure pop culture icons. I can’t imagine anywhere else where you can see, say, a DuckTales Roboduck costume that looks like it cost nearly as much money and time as an actual working Roboduck. I would do a full report, but it was mostly an overall genial weekend for me without a lot of big news announcements or particularly shocking revelations, though I saw a Gillian Anderson panel that was meme-worthy in its charming randomness, and witnessed a city councilman presenting Adam West and Burt Ward plaques declaring September 1st Adam West and Burt Ward Day in Atlanta. My personal highlight was getting to briefly meet/attend a panel by Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, who was very nice and interesting and not at all the corporate shill I accused him of being in this space a couple weeks back. I was able to ask him about a so-called R-rated cut of the first Turtles film that a guest editor once told our class about in film school. He said there is definitely a longer, better, grittier version of the film from before the great Steve Barron was kicked off post-production, and that they would love to release it if they can ever get through all the legal red tape involved with the dissolution of New Line Cinema. I don’t know how many other people are in the demographic to be excited about that information, but it seems to strike a chord with anyone I tell about it. Anyway, Dragon*Con is fun and I’m tired. If you go (and if you’re anything like me), a good rule of thumb is just to try to go wherever Doc Hammer and any other Venture Bros crew are scheduled. That’s pretty much where all the funny is kept.

– The LA Times has an interview up with legendary animator Genndy Tartakovsky that pushes the idea that his upcoming Hotel Transylvania is more rubbery and Looney Tunes inspired than other recent CGI cartoon features. I haven’t seen anything in the promotional material that would make me believe that — it looks very 90s Dreamworks to me so far — but I will be very happy if Tartakovsky managed to work in some of the unique flavor he brought to his Cartoon Network shows to his first feature. Bleeding Cool, who I stole the link from, also spotted a quick last-second news break in there that he’s also working on a Popeye feature that he wants to make “as artful and unrealistic as possible.” Okay, sure, let’s do it.

– Another grab from Bleeding Cool: pulling out the details of new projects from Armando Iannucci (probably the world’s busiest, funniest man at the moment) from his recent interview with The Guardian. In addition to new episodes of Veep and The Thick of It, he’s developing another show for HBO based around big tech companies like Google and Facebook, and the twentysomething billionaires who run them. He also suggests this upcoming Thick of It series will be its last, at least for a while.

– As a big fan of Stephen Tobolowsky and his excellent storytelling documentary Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party, I haven’t kept up with his /Film podcast as much as I’d like to. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, though, and I’m glad to see it’s being upgraded to a PRI program, likely primed to play as a sort of cousin to This American Life. /Film’s David Chen will stay on as a producer.

– I’m no Michael Bay fan, but I do have a favorite Michael Bay movie moment, and it’s Michael Clarke Duncan running down the corridor holding his clone-guts in The Island. As much as he was practically a household name for starring in The Green Mile, he was really more of a reliably magnetic, oddball character actor, like a massive Steve Buscemi. That is a very sad, shocking loss for anyone who likes movies. Here’s a clip of him holding his own with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. I remember bursting out laughing in the theater for at least two of his choices in this one short bit.

Today in streams and freebies: 1) In case you didn’t hear, Troma Entertainment has put 150 of their films on YouTube for free, which is kind of amazing even if I can only handle one Troma movie every couple of years. 2) Dan Deacon’s lush, excellent new album America is streaming on Soundcloud. 3) You can also hear Deerhoof’s new album at NPR. I listened to it on the way to Dragon*Con and thought it was fantastic. 4) The Raveonettes, always better in my opinion than they get credit for, just put their new one, Observator, on Rolling Stone. 5) The Pharmacy, a highly underrated garage-pysch throwback out of Seattle, is offering their new full-length, Stoned & Alone, for streaming and purchase at their record label’s Bandcamp. 6) Supposedly the prolific Fresh & Onlys are streaming their fifth album over at The Hype Machine, though I can’t figure out how to work it. Presumably, it’s another collection of pleasantly catchy fuzz-pop.

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Comics & Coffee: 8/22/12 (Super Late Edition)

I’ve been sick all week so I’m catching up today. Wednesday, of course, was a day to read new comics and drink coffee, though I did less of the former and more of the latter this week. I keep attempting to catch up with my reading enough that I can fold some quick, functional reviews into this column, but today’s not the day. When I feel comfortable enough that I won’t be spreading germs on everything I flip through, I’ll be picking up the latest Mind MGMT, Adventure Time, Unwritten, and above all Batman Incorporated, which has just been destroying since its post-reboot comeback. This third issue is particularly exciting since it features the always-welcome alter-ego Matches Malone. I’ll most likely start picking up the new Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom miniseries from the very appropriate team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Others I might pick up after a conditional glance-over: The number 12s of The Flash (which could turn into a big-deal comic as soon as the story innovations match Francis Manapul’s fantastic page designs), Justice League Dark (which I hope eventually reaches the full potential of a gothic misfit superteam under writer Jeff Lemire), and All Star Western (which is forever hit-and-miss for me, stretching back to when it was still Jonah Hex). IDW’s Mars Attacks revival hits its third issue; that looks like a permanent pull for me, but I haven’t read the last two issues I bought to confirm that it’s as fun as it seems to be. The extra-thick third(?) wave of Dark Horse Presents reaches #15 with another chapter of Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus among other interesting things, though now that I see Dark Horse is diligently releasing one-shot floppies of full collected stories, the $8 price tag on the anthology version is increasingly unattractive. In the big, handsome, hardcover collection category, you can get the latest Fantagraphics Peanuts book, collecting strips from 1985 and 1986, with a foreword by Patton Oswalt, or the massive Invisibles Omnibus, collecting one of Grant Morrison’s most career-defining runs. I haven’t read any of that and would love to, but it won’t be in a $120 brick.

Last week I posted the November solicitations for Marvel and DC, now you can find them from IDW, Dark Horse, and Image.

You can find a full list of releases here, a mess of previews here, and some guided shopping lists here and here.

I pick up my comics from Richard’s in Greenville, SC. Today’s coffee was an orange/vanilla/cinammon latte from Coffee & Crema, though I’ve been pouring so much coffee and tea on my blistered throat this week that I could say a hundred different things here. More comics next week, hopefully on time.

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Routine Check 8/24/12

– Again, I’ve been sick this week so some of these news clippings may be more stale than usual, but I can’t avoid addressing the news that Richard Thompson is ending his Cul de Sac strip due to escalating difficulties managing his daily deadlines with the daily toll of Parkinson’s disease. I’m glad to see it’s been so widely reported — it’s the kind of art that’s so idiosyncratic and personal that its fans see it as their own private treasure (or at least I did), so it’s nice to see what a big reach it had, and it makes the news a little more bittersweet than devastating to acknowledge how a traditional (as opposed to web) comic became so renowned, popular, and cultishly beloved so long after the medium was pronounced dead. It’s a given that it will be called “the last great comic strip” for a very long time; it’s also sure to join the general pantheon of must-know modern strips alongside Peanuts, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes, whose Bill Watterson famously gained Thompson mountains of readers by breaking media silence to tell everyone how great it is. Checking in with that world every morning is a daily bright spot I’m going to miss a lot, but I imagine Thompson will find some other avenue for his addictive sensibility. He seems to suggest so in his announcement interview with The Washington Post, where he started the strip in 2004 after years of doing his satirical Richard’s Poor Almanac cartoons there. Keep watching Thompson’s entertaining, educational, and oft-updated blog to see where he goes from here. You can also find published collections of the strip and the recent Team Cul de Sac Parkinson’s fundraising book there if you don’t have them already.

– I’m also sad to hear about the death of first-generation Muppeteer Jerry Nelson. If you spend most of your free time researching the Muppets like I do, you build up a pretty intense reverence for Nelson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz along with Jim Henson, and really start to appreciate the unique touches a puppeteer brings to each of their countless characters. Nelson worked on nearly every Muppet production including decades of timeless work on Sesame Street, only retiring some of his characters in the last 12 or so years after health issues made certain ones particularly difficult. His contributions to pop culture (and all of our childhoods) are ridiculous: The Count, Robin, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Uncle Deadly…it goes on forever. The Henson Company (or somebody running their Facebook) compiled a feature-length YouTube playlist showcasing some of his best moments, check it out. I’ve always loved this Muppet Show clip of Henson, Nelson, and Oz’s Muppet selves performing “To Morrow:”

– After several weeks of fanfare, Sight & Sound has posted its full directors’ poll from its Greatest Films of All Time issue to match the critics’ poll from a few weeks ago. The most interesting aspect, though, is that you can now see the top ten picks from all of the individual directors polled, along with their intermittent comments. I refer all the time to specific directors’ lists from the last round of Sight & Sound picks in 2002, so it’s great to have a new batch which includes a great mix of big names, interesting up-and-comers, and international cult favorites — Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Edgar Wright, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Greg Mottola, David O. Russell, Gaspar Noe, Richard Ayoade, to name a few. My favorite pick from a glance-through would be Mike Hodges repping the forever-underrated Charley Varrick, or Bela Tarr unexpectedly choosing the fun and insane Frenzy for his token Hitchcock. This may also be remembered as the moment Michael Mann lost his marbles.

– Speaking of movies, this weekend sees several new releases of note. Premium Rush was already an attractive mainstream title to me because of Michael Shannon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I’m glad it seems to be pulling a lot of “better than it has a right to be” type reviews. The indie films Robot & Frank and Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk with Me both look like they could be a lot of fun, and seem to have gotten a pretty generous spread through smaller arthouse markets, and Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken With Plums, which I was just wondering about the status of a couple weeks ago in this space, seems to have started its theater crawl, which is excellent news. If you’ve been eagerly awaiting Killer Joe like I’ve been (loudly and frequently to anyone who will listen), you might check your local listings again — it finally came within a three-hour radius of me Friday.

– Speaking of waiting a long time for movies, director Patrick Johnson is raising funds for the completion of his long, long, long in production 5-25-77, along with a tour of the movie and a documentary on all of the above. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, it’s a semi-autobiographical comedy about a nerd trying to see Star Wars on opening day. I’m a little skeptical of a movie that’s been “almost there” for nearly a decade, but I’ve always thought what little footage that’s made its way online has looked like a good time, and the cast is full of people I really love, including the great Austin Pendleton and a relatively-fresh-off-Freaks and Geeks John Francis Daley. It’s also interesting to realize that it was ahead of the curve on the now popular trend of fan-friendly films like Fanboys and Paul.

Today in streams and freebies: 1) I think anybody who wants to know already knows that Animal Collective are streaming their highly anticipated new album on their online radio station, along with some pleasant visual acoompaniment, but if not, hop to it. 2) Lightning Love put out an EP earlier this year that I’ve been playing almost nonstop, so I’m excited that they’re streaming their full-length via Soundcloud over at MTV Hive (whatever that is). 3) A while back, members of North Carolina’s Rosebuds and Schooner (the latter a long-standing personal favorite of mine) formed a group called The Flute Flies to record some songs for Cytunes, a cancer research fundraising project named after a friend and fan. The songs were lovely, so I’m glad to hear they’ve recorded a follow-up full-length which is streaming at their Bandcamp page, available for name-your-price purchase which will go to the same fund.

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Routine Check 8/16/12

– There were several nice galleries and tributes I had tagged to link in memory of Joe Kubert, but it’s better to just go to Tom Spurgeon’s ongoing collection, where you could literally spend days reading fascinating stories about the man and looking at some of the best art in the world.

– I said I’d post a reminder about tonight’s live Rifftrax event, so here it is, along with a link to Kevin Murphy’s Reddit session from earlier this week, which has some fun anecdotes if you can navigate it. Here are the details on the screening tonight. I’m pretty excited about it.

– James Adomian, an extremely funny comedian probably best known for his podcast appearances, released his debut stand-up album this week through Earwolf. I’m going to listen to the shit out of that.

– Also out this week is a weird, mysterious e-book by Ryan North — the guy behind Dinosaur Comics, Machine of Death, and the popular new Adventure Time comics — in which he reviews a presumably legitimate novelization of Back to the Future. It sounds like it’s the culmination of a blog he was running, and that’s just one of many things I’m not entirely sure about, but I’m intrigued.

Today in streams and freebies: How about 1) The debut album from Divine Fits, a sort-of-supergroup featuring Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner of the late, great Handsome Furs (and Wolf Parade), streaming over at NPR? Or 2) The latest from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes, also at NPR? Or 3) DOOM’s new project with Jneiro Jarel, featuring guest appearances by Damon Albarn and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, via Soundcloud? I’m looking forward to all of those, especially the Divine Fits, although I’m playing through the Ariel Pink right now and it is sounding deliciously weird.

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Comics & Coffee: 8/15/12

Treasury of XXth Century Murder: Lovers’ Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery by Rick Geary

Wednesday is a day to buy new comics and drink coffee.

Today sees the latest issues of a handful of my regular pick-ups, all of which I’m behind on as usual and can’t comment on their current quality status: Deadpool, Batwoman, Snarked. I also always take a look at the post-reboot Wonder Woman standing in the store, especially when Cliff Chiang is at his regular drawing post. There’s also new issues of a couple nice-looking and well-regarded comics I’ve got on my buy-in-trade list, Saga and Mark Waid’s Daredevil. I think the first Saga trade comes out in November. I’m definitely going to be picking up the new reprint of Classic Popeye from IDW, released to piggyback on their excellent new ongoing Popeye series from Roger Langridge. That’s a lucky release for me because I’ve had the original sitting in the “yeah right, I’ll never be able to afford this” section of my convention wishlist for years now. I’ve never read it so I can’t speak to its quality, but it’s an interesting comic because it was all-original material made just for Dell by Bud Sagendorf, who was E.C. Segar’s assistant when he was still writing and drawing Popeye for Thimble Theatre ten years earlier.

In terms of books and collections, the best item is clearly the latest in Rick Geary’s fantastic true crime studies, Lovers’ Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery. I don’t think I’m familiar with the case in this one, which makes me doubly excited to read it. There’s also another Steve Ditko collection, The Creativity of Steve Ditko, which feels like it brings the number of those to something like six or seven in the last couple years. I’m starting to get confused as to what’s what there, but I’m assuming they’re all worth owning eventually. It also looks like there’s a single-volume trade of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics, which can never be pimped enough. Tom Spurgeon (linked below) recommends a very attractive Belgian comic called The Making Of, but I don’t know a damn thing about it so I’ll have to hope I can find a local copy or nice preview to look at.

Since it happens to be right here in front of me, here’s some links to the November solicitations for DC and Marvel, if you’d like to know what you’ll be spending or not spending your money on in the distant future.

You can find a full list of releases here, a mess of previews here, and some guided shopping lists here and here.

I pick up my comics from Richard’s in Greenville, SC. Today’s coffee was…actually, I’m not sure. I asked for something random at Coffee & Crema a few days ago and got something strange and delicious so I asked for a repeat today. I know it involves thyme and possibly orange. Anyway, more comics next week.

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Routine Check 8/10/12

– There’s a big batch of could-be-good, could-be-a-waste-of-everyone’s-time movies opening today, the kind of movies that clog up the works when people are trying to catch up on movies at list-making season. All-star political comedy The Campaign is probably the market leader, and will probably/hopefully be funnier than its promotional materials; elsewhere, there’s a number of unexpected semi-sequels with The Bourne Legacy (which loses a lot of ingredients but gains some others, so might be a draw), 2 Days in New York (which appears to unnecessarily follow up a movie I liked a lot by removing most of what I liked about it, but who knows?), and Red Hook Summer (which probably can’t be called a sequel as much as a distant cousin of Do the Right Thing, but I’m strangely excited to see Spike Lee play Mookie again). Mostly, I’m still waiting on Killer Joe, as well as the Sixto Rodriguez documentary Searching for Sugar Man, which conveniently has its expansion dates listed here.

– Speaking of movies normal people won’t have access to for months, why the hell is Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums taking so long to roll out? That looks like a good time at the arthouse, and I’m excited to hear she’s being courted for original films beyond adapting her own comics work.

– I mostly want to avoid posting stories that are all over the Internet, but I’ve been praying too long to the gods of brightly colored cult comedies for another Bill and Ted to not link to any important developments on that front. Dean Parisot is a neat director with a lot of similarly flavored credits, and his involvement, along with the fact that the franchise captains Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson are still the only names attached to the script with the “reboot” label nowhere in sight so far, can only be another step in the right direction.

– AV Club points to a potentially fun documentary on character actor Dick Miller, which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter. The donation incentives are stacked high and are a little confusing, but it sounds like they are regularly adding one-of-a-kind signed scripts from Miller’s personal collection to the pot, which is pretty sweet. That will be a great movie if they just let Miller tell his stories and don’t just cut to a lot of animated photographs with narration.

– I’ll probably repost about this closer to next Thursday, but I hope people are getting excited and clearing their calendars for the latest Rifftrax live event, where the Mystery Science Theater 3000 vets will simulcast a brand new riffing of their signature target Manos: The Hands of Fate to participating theaters. A blog post from Bill Corbett confirms that they really do mean “brand new,” going so far as to comb through the original to “flag any jokes that seemed copycat-ish.” Can’t wait.

Today in streams in freebies: Go listen to Ape School’s upcoming sophomore album. I haven’t gotten a chance to play it yet but their last one was a great repeater.

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Comics & Coffee: 8/8/12

RASL by Jeff Smith. Click to buy from Jeff’s site.

Wednesday is a day to buy new comics and drink coffee.

When I mentioned last week that the impact of Jeff Smith ending his RASL series would probably be delayed until the final plus-size trade came out, I didn’t realize it would be coming out just a week later. I already grabbed a copy and can’t wait to read it. Actually, I’ll probably go back and read the series in full since it’s so short.

Also out today are new issues of two of my recent favorites, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and Spongebob Comics. I’m running behind on both but I’ll probably fix that before next week. I’m also picking up the first of the five-issue Godzilla: The Half-Century War (by the great James Stokoe) and thelatest in the Space Punisher miniseries, which has beautifully painted art and doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, which is an attractive combo for me.

The most notable single-issue release is probably the latest in Scott Snyder’s Batman saga, a series I’m miraculously not behind on. This one is sort of an epilogue to the popular Night of the Owls “event” and a kickoff for the next arc. I really enjoyed what Snyder and Greg Capullo did with all the Owls nonsense, even while getting worn out on a lot of its ideas. It seems like all of the recent reputable Batman stories have tried too deliberately to tie everything into the deep history of the character and of Gotham City, each one adding their own specific wrinkles to an increasingly convoluted timeline. I’d like to see a shift at this point towards some in-the-moment or forward-thinking stories, and maybe even some one-and-done stories without as much overhead. That may sound like I’m just wanting mindless action out of my Batman comics, but it’s more that I enjoy the haiku-like simplicity of that world at its most stripped-down form. Alternately, I also like it when it’s in mind-bending crazy-town mode, so I loved that psychological torture segment in the Hall of the Owls or whatever, and I’d welcome more of that kind of thing as well.

I also just caught up on all the Adventure Time comics, including the Marceline and the Scream Queens spinoff which has its second issue out today. Those are all fun, frequently laugh-out-loud comics with a lot of great talent involved, though I’m not quite with the general consensus that they stand on their own. Some of the quickie back-up stories, which come from both big names like Paul Pope and personal favorites like Anthony Clark, take a very comics-specific approach to reinterpreting the characters but the main feature has so far played out more like an illustrated bonus episode of the show, indebted to the original format, continuity, and style. I’m being overly nitpicky because they’re still a lot of fun, but I really like how experimental the aforementioned Spongebob Comics is with its adaptation, and would love to see these go even further off-model.

The other new releases that interest me today are a wealth of non-mainstream collections and graphic-novel curiosities that I’m too cheap or unfamiliar with to order but will keep an eye out for. The most popular will be the first colorized, plus-sized hardcover in the Scott Pilgrim reprint series. That series is one of maybe 2 or 3 black-and-whites I’ve ever read that made me think, “This would be great in color,” so I’m excited that it’s happening, though those comics don’t really start clicking with me until at least the second volume. There’s a Grendel omnibus which looks like an excellent collection of some material I already have in other formats along with some I don’t. I love (love!) all the Grendel (and Matt Wagner in general) I’ve read so that’s a tempting book, especially if they follow through and release the whole thing in chronological, matching-spine volumes. The IDW Artist Edition series, which publishes full-size original artwork from previously released comics, is moving into some smaller “portfolio” editions with Warren Publishing-era short stories from Bernie Wrightson (The Muck Monster) and Neal Adams (Thrill Kill), plus some nice-looking hardcover reprints from the Humanoids publisher that seems to largely exist to reprint the many comics works of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for the States; today, it’s his early works The Eyes of the Cat (his first collaboration with Moebius!) and Shadow’s Treasure. Finally, there’s Cardboard, a new book by Doug TenNapel, who it feels like I’ve spent my whole life “meaning to get into.” His books are usually (but not always) family-friendly genre pastiches that always look really nice at a glance, and I hear they’re very rewarding to dig into, though he’s probably better known for his work in video games and animation.

You can find a full list of releases here, a mess of previews here, and some guided shopping lists here and here.

I pick up my comics from Richard’s in Greenville, SC. Today’s coffee was a raspberry muscovado latte from Coffee & Crema. They tell me muscovado is a dark brown sugar with a molasses-like flavor. More comics next week.

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