December 23, 2013

Comics Review – Late December 2013

Technically, i read all these comics at once, like a week and a half ago, but hey, let me try my best to remember what was what. While it’s still fresh in my mind, let us get straight to it.

Velvet #2- Brubaker & Epting – Ok

Sometimes i wonder how successful writers/artists pitch work to publishers. Do they step in an office, greet their contacts warmly, and say “Hey i wanna do the same thing i’ve always done, again, will you publish it?” Do the publishers then respond “I dunno buddy, i’m not sure anyone will buy it..” and then they both laugh hysterically, “I’m just fucking with you. Sure, lets publish it. Nah, i don’t even need to see a script. I’m sure you can handle this. You’ve been doing it as long as I am,” There’s nothing wrong with Velvet. There really isn’t. Any critiques i’d have, would be pretty nitpicky (like the lettering of ZZZZZZZZ over a sleeping man’s body, in multiple panels), but overall, it was just a matter of boredom. What need is there for another generic, cat-suited super spy against generic FBI?CIA?WTF?LOL? goons? What need is there for gruff men with secrets, and sexy ladies who are gruff too, and gruff men who live on boats; by this point, i’ve seen it done by Angelina Jolie like at least seven times, and Velvet isn’t adding anything new.

There’s also the problem of almost every fucking floppy, is just this constant in-media res story telling. I understand the economic necessities of making a floppy, but these are writers who have been writing for years, and every year, i find less and less books that actually function as single issues. People wait for the trade, but what you end up with, are a bunch of single issues that didn’t work alone, but have so much padding, that the whole shitty story could’ve been told in a single issue. I guess that’s what job security in comics is, pull as many pages out of an idea as possible, and you can’t jump the shark, because careers don’t get canceled in comics, they just get promoted.

Should you read Velvet? I dunno. Did you watch that movie Salt? No? Well, i’d say don’t worry about it. The Conversation with Gene Hackman, much better espionage-ish type film. I’m so meh on Velvet i don’t even wanna curse. And that makes me sad.

Pretty Deadly #2 – DeConnick & Rios & Bellaire & Cowles – Art – Great, Words – Good/Ok

I ragged on DeConnick for Captain Marvel before, in November, and a book like Pretty Deadly is the far opposite of that Marvel series. I wouldn’t really know where a writer’s passions are, but something about Pretty Deadly, even though i didn’t really understand what was happening, felt like she REALLY REALLY cared about this book. You have some ideas, when you’re an artist/writer, that just sit in your heart like children that haven’t been born. You can see their features, hear how they’ll laugh, and even see how they’ll die. Then you get a chance to make those stories, and you don’t care what people say or if they like it or don’t, its yours and thats all that matters.

I really enjoyed it, and the art, the sequential story telling, the ladies that be lookin’ fierce, was really excellent. Sometimes i watch Beyonce videos, and all i can think is how she’s really gotten down every one of her moves and the whole look. Its just on point. Emma Rios, is on point. This is a book that i’d see young cats try to emulate and fail at. There’s panel layouts going on in this book that stretch your muscles til they might pop. Personally, i’m fairly conservative with my panel layouts, so seeing something like this makes me think about what i can do with my own game.

The story is kind of dreamy, and at times, i had trouble figuring out who was talking to who, and what the hell they were talking about. But rather than feeling frustrated with it, it really just made me want to keep reading more, so i could figure it out. If you can make me care, even though i feel disoriented, i’d say you’ve just pulled off a nice hat trick. High five, there’s passion in this book, and this is new. So i think this might be the first book from my reviews, where i’ll actually go and buy #3 (and #1)

Viking’s End – Rich Tommaso Great

This is my favorite of the week. Have y’all ever listened to Hardcore History? That podcast right there, its the real deal. You guys need to put down your lame ass comics, for a second, and learn something real, something substantial, or something like Viking’s End. History was really fucked up. People spend a lot of time thinking about today’s every day cruelties. In the last day alone, i saw Paul Walker’s crushed face and burnt body, i’ve seen a black kid bleeding out on a San Francisco street, I’ve read about Scott Lobdell getting his dick all hard like a 5th grade poindexter and not knowing how to deal. 

A bit of a tangent here, but i think about sex pretty god damn often, like shit, human procreation is really fucking mind-bending, but i ain’t once ever been on a panel and looked at a person next to me and thought ‘Time to get some. Yes. right now. This will work. Lets do this.” Come on man. Every time i read about harassment in comics, I think this, in this order: 1. AGAIN!? REALLY!? AGAIN!? WHAT ARE YOU, TWELVE??! 2. You should get punched in the face 3. These motherfuckers ain’t got no fucking game. Here’s a bit of advice, for anyone who’s trying to get laid. Treat the person you wanna see naked with respect. At best, you get laid and at worst, you’ve treated a human humanely. You don’t ever have to worry about being a creep, if you respect people’s boundaries, respect their work, and respect when they aren’t interested.

Apologizing for some person ‘not getting your humor’ is such bullshit. Sometimes, i wonder how male cartoonists would feel, if i kept implying that they got nice dick-sucking lips during a panel. Then i’d say “BRO, I’m JUST JOKING!” I’m not gonna pretend to be some noble post-masculine feminist, cause i’m as much of a meathead chauvinist as any other dude from Jersey (i’m working on it), but any time i’ve done some fucked up shit, i didn’t wait til i read about it on to respond. The time for apologies, isn’t years later. Straight dudes live in a bubble of knowing they can get away with anything, but there’s a god damn reckoning coming. Scott Lobdell apologized with the quickness, cause the internet hate machine does not have patience for your sluggish reply. I recently replied to a post about this, asking “why don’t people just name names” and got a schooling from Laura Hudson. I got my own bubble of being an aggressive straight dude, where honestly, i’m not gonna come up against many situations where i can’t solve with more aggression. In some ways, i can’t see beyond my own bubble. But i can see, that if you’re gonna be a creep in comics, you’ve just about used up all your get-out-of-jail free cards.  Its been hard out there for a lot of people, and now, straight white dudes, you can join the rest of us in the gravel pit.

Okay okay…speaking of white dudes, let’s get back to that Viking comic. I’m sorry Rich Tommaso, cause your comic was both historically enlightening and also wonderfully drawn. It’s got a bit of a chris ware feel? I’m not sure, but you know, little square boxes and geometric humans, that kind of stuff. And the story is about some little brat, who goes straight gangsta, and kills a man’s daughter, after getting her drunk. No victim blaming here, but i know better than to hang out with murderous barbarians who’s family has been at war with my family. It’s actually kind of hilarious, even though its just a cruel trick to get the father to join the battle. It works, the Father is pissed and smarter than the little shit, and the the little shit gets 86’d. Justice was swift on the battlefield, and i’m always aghast at how much blood we used to shed on the regular. I’ve cried thinking about 9/11, but human history would place that event in a thimble, compared to the buckets of guts that other massacres have been. The ending was a sweet surprise, so i won’t spoil it, but everything in this book is delightful. Sorry about the tangent again.

In Pace Requiescat – Sean T. Collins & Julia Gfrorer – Art – Good , Words – ???

Who wants to read a comic about glory holes? Who likes Edgar Allen Poe? This comic is for you. Good Art, but the rest? Personally, and this i’m admitting is a bit more biased, more just my tastes, i felt this was just an artsy indie idea that didnt amount to much to me. Like any time you’ve gone to an art gallery, and you’re with friends, and they are watching a video of a dead fox slowly decomposing, and you don’t wanna be the first dude to be like ‘i don’t get it’ or leave, so you watch the whole thing too. But then you watch it like 3 times, and realize your friend has been waiting for you to leave, but neither of you know when this thing properly ends, so you are just kinda waiting for some kind of interruption. Then a complete stranger gets up and leaves, so you leave too. Man, that shit is so awkward.

Keep Fresh – Zejian ShenArt – Ok, Words – ???

Real creepy, and if you want to read this in english, good luck, because all the english text is crammed in the bottom of each page haphazardly. In a way, it kinda adds to the creepy effect, but by the end of the comic, i missed something and didn’t know what, so i could not figure out the conclusion. Sometimes, i just feel straight up stupid. I think “Is it me? Do i just not have the reading comprehension necessary for this comic?” My high self esteem quickly discards that question, and replaces it with “WHY CAN’T I READ THIS SHIT!?” But nah, this isn’t shit. I actually enjoyed it, because i like reading sorta-horror comic about motorcycle dude smashing the brains out of a pervert with a hammer.

I wonder why that image would appeal to me? I wonder….

On Your Marks, Short Run Anthology #1 – Various ArtistsGood!

There was some not so good comics in this, but some very good comics too. And it was mostly very good. Most of the time i read anthologies, and i just think “great, inaccessible toilet paper” But this was a quick read of enjoyable short comics. Notable stand outs –

Spirit Hand by Gfrorer – Real creepy and unsettling

Tuesday by Aidan – pitch perfect description of depression in six panels

This Magic Ring & Crab story by JFish – would love to read more adventures of these characters, and probably has the most possibility for expansion.

That’s it y’all. Mostly a good week. Besides some boring comic and some inscrutable comics, everything else was really enjoyable. Cheers to you!

December 1, 2013

Mega Comics Review Part 2 – November 2013

Man, i’ve been reading comics like they are going out of style. This is part 2 of the End of November review of reviews. Of all the comics i’ve reviewed this month, i have rated more comics “GOOD” than anything else. Second to that were “OK” comics, and after that, about 4 crappy comics.

But my pick of the month is…

POOR THING – DREW MILLERAll around great comic

This comic. THIS COMIC. It made me laugh, the art was boss, and the story was hilarious. A lot of times, people confuse complexity with quality, and that’s not the true at all. The quality of something is best measured by it’s own merits. You wouldn’t get upset with a pig, cause it tasted like a cow, but you would feel ripped off if you got ham instead of bacon on your BLT. What i mean is, a comic should be the result of the artist/writer putting their best work out there. Most comics are content to either have good writing or good art, and that’s enough to call that comic GREAT. That’s why so many of my reviews just say something is okay, cause the whole package falls apart.

But Poor Thing, is a complete package, from the cover design, to the inside cover, to the sequentials, to the humor. I could see if someone doesn’t find it funny, like i do, but that wouldn’t take away from the quality, as it is still very well drawn and the story hits all the beats at the right time. There are other comics that try so hard to seem effortless, but often can’t shed their ‘Am i being edgy? In the right way?” self consciousness. This comic is weird, kinda gross, made me laugh, and made me want to draw. Great all the way.

Sex Criminals #2 & #3 – Fraction & Zdarsky – Good

I missed the first issue, but i think any comic, any where, if presented in a floppy format, is REQUIRED to stand on its own. I don’t want to wait for the trade. If you don’t think your vision works as a floppy, do not publish it as a floppy. But this comic, i really much enjoyed. Fraction’s writing can sometimes get a little carried away with itself, and its a symptom of all the good writers in this industry. They simply believe their own hype too much. But unlike Casanova, which i found to be incomprehensible at times, once this got going, i was really going with it too. I was afraid that a comic about sex, would be plagued with a lot of the same heteronormative bullshit that straight dudes never think twice about, fearful that their dicks will get too excited at homoeroticism and run away without them. But nah, this comic is actually very sweet. A boy meets girl, girl meets boy, both of them fuck and STOP TIME AND ROB BANKS AND THEM SOME SCIFI PRISONERS OF THE PHANTOM ZONE TYPES ARE AFTER THEM. But it’s all very sweet, the whole “waiting on someone to text you” bit was nice, and for once, i believe that a comic book writer isn’t a fat piece of shit who hasn’t seen his dick in 12 years, so he must stare at comic pinups so he imagine a swelling in his sweatpants. The writing was slick, the art was mostly good, the coloring was shitty at times. But, good! I liked it! November is ending on a good note. Also, IMAGE on a whole, has the best graphic design for its publications. This applies to Zero, below, too.

Zero #3 – Ales Kot & Mateus Santolouco & More – Good

I don’t know about you, but when i read Wild Children, i thought this was a writer sucking his own literary cock so hard, that he’s already came a million times and is now a skeletal ouroboros of footnotes and bad meta-fiction. You know, you can’t believe your own hype when it’s your first comic, but then again, i’m all about bragging and thinking you’re the shit, so i can’t really hate on a brother for thinking he’s god’s gift to grant morrisson. But Zero, it seems he’s hit his sweet spot. I can see why the dude is gonna be writing some Avengers, cause i’m starting on issue 3, and i thought it hit hard, when the Lady he’s sweet with gets her arm detached. The science fiction elements are fresh, and “kickstarter of terrorism” is admittedly, kinda hokey, but also, something i figure would exist. Ales Kot is writing a 30 seconds into the future spy game, and it benefits the story by sticking to more conventional plotting.

I don’t hold a grudge in comics, i never believe that if you wrote or drew a bad comic once before, that you can’t pick yourself up and make a great comic the next time. I also don’t think that means, the one after that is gonna be any good either. Each according to it’s own merits. Like i’ve said before, i want a comic to IMPRESS me. Zero #3 did. Good Job Ales.

Adventure Time #22 – North & Paroline & Lamb – Good

Adventure Time is like the Wolverine of kids comics. Its the best at what it does, and what it does is pretty cool. Cool points go to the costume design of the two princesses in the comic, i thought that was sweet. If i was a girl, i’d wanna cosplay as them, and also wear them on a date, cause i’d look good. The humor is easy, breezy, but maybe likes to say “Real Talk” a bit too often. But there’s funny moments, and i always think Adventure Time is the model that comics should look at. Good art that can be AMAZING, and fun short stories that you can take or leave. No reason to reboot, no reason to take itself so seriously, just make a good fucking comic, and the masses will come. Who knew, that quality sells?

The Golem of Gabirol – Olga Volozova – Bad Art – UNREADABLE WRITING

What the fuck Sparkplug? Did you print this shit up at kinkos? Not only is this comic printed way too dark at times, its FUCKING UNREADABLE. Lettering that fades to scribbles, art that looks like mashed potatoes and spilled ink and white out. Characters that are indistinguishable from one another, words coming from nowhere, saying things about Jewish mysticism that would be pretty enjoyable to read, if this was a comic that understood that I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO READ IT. I don’t think this comic’s story is bad, i don’t know if this story is good, i tried to read the whole thing, but by the end, i was just skipping pages. Sparkplug says its “A gorgeous tale from Olga Volozova, based on the legends of poet and scholar Solomon Ibn Gabirol. Crowded pages filled with breathlessly light linework and a touching, dreamlike narrative.”

Crowded: yes. BREATHLESSLY LIGHT? FUCK NO. No control whatsoever of her tools. And DREAMLIKE: YES, if you think dreams are a superior substitute to clear writing. Shit like this is what makes me so fucking angry at comics. There’s absolutely no standard. You can read Vortex which is also dream-like, and then read THIS, and somehow they both warrant publication? It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that a comic can’t be read. This book is a failure. It should be pulped. The artist should discover what one of her tools does, and then just use that one. Simply put, if you can’t draw, but can write, write a novel. If you can’t write, and can draw, draw artbooks. If you can’t do either, don’t make comics.

Part One! No more GTA! MOM! NOOO! – Unknown Seattle Based Artist, approx. 11 years old.

This comic, could teach Golem of Gabirol a thing or two. This creator is a little kid. I spoke to the kid for a few minutes, asked him what was the best thing he made. He recommended this dollar comic, that he folded himself. It’s simply an account of a bratty kid screaming about playing GTA V with his mother. And it is funny. Its mostly a lot of “BUT MOMMMMMM!!!!!!” that is pitch-perfect. “I WANNA KILL HOOKERZ!!!” When i see a kid, making comics, wanting to tell stories, this young, i know he’s got that fire. The fire that’s inside of us, that drives us to create. It’s wonderful, and i hope he never burns out. I hope he burns so bright, that one day, one day, i’ll tell him “The art sucks in this comic. Why was this even published?!” And he’ll burn that much brighter. Also, if anyone knows the artist, let me know. He didn’t sign his name. Total AMATEUR (just kidding. Stay Gold, Pony Boy)

That’s all for November. I’ve probably read more in this past month, than in the past six months. And overall, my opinion of comics, is that we strive to hit mediocrity so much, that we’ve become exhausted by our own laziness. Like when you’re laying in bed so long, you’re not even tired, its just you’ve atrophied all over. I believe in destruction, terror, and violence, because nothing motivates someone more than trying to prove another person wrong. Continue to prove me wrong. Only a few comics this month could be said to hit my ideals. So these are the best of NOVEMBER:

  1. FATA MORGANA – a beautiful Nemo in Slumberland hyperbright dream sequence artbook
  2. COPRA – More Kirby than Kirby imitators anyday
  3. POOR THING – Ren & Stimpy grossout evolution
  4. SEX CRIMINALS – mainstream style comic that is fun and sexy (rare)
  5. THE BOY IN QUESTION – simple story with good art, would love to read a more complex plot though

And the worst:

  1. BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE “Manbat” – Lose your job
  2. HARLEY QUINN #0 – Should be ashamed of yourself, but are probably really proud
  3. THE GOLEM OF GABIROL – Go back to school. No, not art school. This is where you learned this shit
  4. ST. OWL’s BAY – If all your peers are writing the same shit about getting high, why read this? Good art that is wasted on stupid juvenile writing. You’d have more fun getting high yourself.

Let’s see what December has in store.

Mega Comics Review pt 1. – November 2013

11:20 am in art,books,comics,conversations,reviews,Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

I went to this small press comics convention today, called SHORT RUN. I went with a friend, we had plans to do some other things, and was asking me how long we’d be in there. We stayed an hour and i saw too much. If you’ve been to one small press convention, you’ll see about a hundred cats that all got the same spots. I think a lot of people would at least say that they want EVERYONE to read comics, but when it looks like a cool kids club where your uniform is bad body odor, cat-eyed glasses for the ladies and stupid little hats for the boys, then you think they’d be satisfied with their friends reading it in the bathroom later that night.

Independent comics, self published comics, have the BEST opportunity to not only stand out from the crowd, but to appeal to a whole new crowd, and attempt to get them there. But the art is almost laughably identical. The artists look up at you with hungry eyes, soft-sells to buy their overpriced xerox comic, and all i can think was “Your shit looks like everything else here”

A few highlights of the show. It’s always good to see that the indie scene is almost 50% split on the gender front. Race-wise? Its whiter than the back of a map. It was free to get in, which is smart, and the size of the convention provided a good crowd to table ratio. Would i recommend going to it? No. Don’t table at any conventions, it’s a trap. But if you wanna buy a lot of self published comics that have shitty art and shittier writing, you can’t do any worse than that one. However, the comics i did buy, had a better ratio of things i liked than when browsing at a comic store. What does that say? I believe the best ideas will come from the self published crowd, if they could stop their daisy chain for a minute and actually care about increasing their skills. On to the comics reviews.


This is one month of me doing comics reviews. After today’s review, i will see what the average rating of the lot of them was, partially as a snapshot into the quality of comics each month, and also as a snapshot of my own mood towards comics. It’s not scientific at all, because i can barely do math, so bear with me.

The end of the month was a big haul, so big, that some had to be left for next week. I’m changing the rating system slightly. It will still be TERRIBLE – CRAPPY – OK – GOOD – GREAT – AMAZING, but if there’s a significant quality difference between the art and the writing, i’ll indicate that. First off this week is

CAPTAIN AMERICA – WINTER SOLDIER vol 1 & 2. – Brubaker & Various Artists – OK

This was one of those comics that was a recommendation. Upon making one of my sweeping statements that there hasn’t been anything amazing in the last 20 years, this was offered as a possible candidate. Recommendations are awkward, because as much as you wanna believe that a person really thinks this is “AMAZING”, it’s very hard to ask them for another book recommendation when their definition of amazing basically amounts to “Decent art and a story that is cohesive and mildly entertaining” My bigger criticism though, is what i call PRAISE INFLATION. I think it’s a result of 1. an overly friendly professional community 2. no one actually is looking outside of comics for quality. I just came home from 12 years a slave, and that movie made me cry like a little bitch, really powerful, expertly acted and expertly filmed. EXPERT. Not DECENT. The distinction is important, and i guess when you’re eating so much shit, when you get a mouthful of froot loops, you’d believe it was fruit from the Garden of Eden.

Look upon that scene, and tell me that you can say that’s AMAZING in the same breath as you speak of CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER. Maybe i’m comparing apples to oranges, or maybe i’m comparing apples to froot loops. I got a simple barometer of taste “Did this provoke an emotion?” Was i excited? Saddened? Elated? Inspired? Or did i close the book, and think “meh”.

Brubaker really crafts a serious superhero action story, but most of it’s energy is spent trying its damndest to craft a slick thriller. It doesn’t work. You’re never in any doubt who is the assassin (Spoilers – IT’S BUCKY!), and you never are shown any real reason why this assassin is fucking with Captain America. And let me be clear, he really just fucks with him. Doesn’t kill him, doesn’t kill his friends, and all the mysterious mysteries don’t ever illuminate what the grand scheme of it all is. The nature of endless serialized superhero stories means that the writers NEVER have any balls. This comic has written on the back cover, “THE STATUS QUO SHATTERING SAGA”. Such bullshit. Not only is it not a saga, since it takes place within about a couple week’s time in-story, it’s not status quo shattering in the least. Everything remains the same as it began. The only people who get killed, you’ve only seen for one page or two. Any important characters are spared, uninjured, and continue the fight the next day. The solution to years and years of brain washing and war trauma, is Captain America makes a wish, and the Winter Soldier is Bucky again. It’s a bullshit solution to what was trying to be a smart comic. Brubaker REALLY tries to sell you on the idea that Captain America would put a 16 year old kid in harm’s way, specifically to do the dirty deeds in war. But you can’t have it both ways, you can’t present a realistic world with moral consequences, where the Captain is this paragon of virtue, and then have him easily convinced that “Yeah, sending a kid to do black ops is totally fine”

Its very clear here, where Marvel Movies get things right, because the idea of a sidekick is so outdated and frankly – STUPID, that they aged up Bucky in the films, so that you wouldn’t think “WTF CAPTAIN AMERICA” Honestly, if he didn’t want to be haunted by war crimes, he shouldn’t have enlisted child soldiers. That’s not a question Brubaker deals with, because fanboy nostalgia means you break your back to include the things you love, instead of trying to just write a damned good book. Its OKAY. If you want to see all the different ways that you and the Captain can make it happen, it’ll be a good read. If you actually want someone to change your mind on what is a great comic, this won’t be it.

SAGA vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona StaplesGood Writing / Ok Art

I got mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the pacing and character interactions are really sweet, and it was really brisk and easy to read. On the other hand, it started off pretty rough, and there were tons of characters that i could not care less about. Basically, any time one of those computer head characters were around, i just wanted to skip ahead. That, along with some pretty shitty world building, made me want to stop reading it. Little things like winged characters that live in a world with stairs and ladders. All of the science fiction elements were window dressing, and it probably would’ve been better served reducing a lot of those details. There’s this cliche galactic-wide war in the background, and i really didn’t care about any of it. The art can get reeeeally weak when it comes to the backgrounds, and i wish they hired another artist for that cause there’s not one background that’s more rendered than a few colorful brush strokes.

That being said, once the bounty hunters and forest Ghosts got involved, and the story was chugging along, those details could fade away and allow the character interactions to shine. This story actually seems to be much more like a fantasy, that happens to have science fiction elements; think Star Wars with more visible genitals and written/drawn by a creative team thats actually gotten laid a few times. The last 20 pages is what changed my mind on this comic, so hey, go check it out and see how you feel. I might even go actively follow where this story goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if this got adapted into a miniseries, because the dialogue is sharp like dat.

One nitpick – but i like to point it out, in every comic i see. There are two sex scenes in this comic, and one of them is an orgy. In this orgy, they are like five different couplings of female on female. You know how many depictions of male on male there are? None. In a galaxy far away, with sexy spider woman with bared breasts, and caterpillar whores, there’s not one dude who wants to suck dick. No. But lesbians aplenty. It’s really annoying that science fiction writers gotta be so fucking hetero all the time.*

*ASTONISHING DEVELOPMENT – So when looking for images for this article, i read that in a later issue of Saga, there is a scene of gay sex, but it’s on a tiny screen. I guess that’s better. Hip hip Hooray! Blowjobs equality!

Cartozia Tales – Various Writers & Artists Good for Kids

You know how easy it is to get a good rating from me? Just throw in a good ol’ fashioned fantasy map. I go nuts for that kinda thing, and when i was a kid, i’d pour over the details of them. Anyway, this is an anthology, and so it’s hit or miss in some stories, but the tone is pretty consistent, and if i was a kid, i’d be inspired to draw my own Cartozia Tales. So good job Team Cartozia.

Island of Memory – T Edward Bak OK writing / Good Art

I got this today at the Short Run comics thing, and honestly, i haven’t finished it. The art was pretty nice sometimes, like looking through a frosted glass, which compliments the icy setting it takes place in. But often times the writing was very stilted, but more so, i just felt kind of bored 3/4 of the way through. I kind of feel its a bit of the fault of the subject matter, which has a lot of period piece conversations and bunch of dudes lost up in the wintry wilderness. Boredom is maybe the worst enemy of any story, and i don’t fight it. There’s only so many hours in a day, and if i wanted to take a nap, i’d get in bed and close my eyes. Maybe i’ll finish this later, but i doubt it. I think i’d prefer to see another book by the artist, because i don’t doubt he could write something captivating, this just wasn’t it.

Thunder in the Building #2 – Margaret Ashford-Trotter Ok to Bad Writing / Ok Art

This was the biggest disappointment of the entire haul. It read like you were walking in on the middle of conversations, catching glimpses of someone’s photo albums, and completely disconnected from “WHY SHOULD I CARE.” It’s not that the writing was bad, it just was in service of nothing. Some girl and boy hit a dude by accident once, and then she got cheated on? or Did that happen first? Then she reports the crime? Or was that in the past? There’s so much time jumping, with no indication of what time has passed, that its extremely chaotic and just leaves you feeling lost. The art is really plain. Like plain like that movie She’s All That. It could be beautiful, but its just so obnoxiously plain, you feel it had to be intentional. It doesn’t do the story any favors, the whole thing is like receiving a box of broken crackers. They are plain, they taste the same as normal crackers, but i don’t fucking want broken crackers. This won a xeric grant. My reaction to this comic is best summed up with an emoticon. :-/

Harley Quinn #0 – Various Crap – Terrible Writing / Useless Art

You shouldn’t write meta fiction if you’re an idiot. I don’t even got much to say, besides the usual DC diatribes. But this comic, each page is a new artist. Perhaps, with all these different artists, and 22 pages, the writer could think of a better idea than “OH I GOT IT! ON THIS PAGE, SHE SHOOTS EVERYONE!” But that’s almost every page. Every joke. Every wink at the audience. It’s like watching a bad impersonation of George W. Bush. You know the president was an idiot to begin with, but someone poorly impersonating an idiot, is somehow even more pathetic. If they wanted to be meta, here’s a good idea for Harley Quinn #0: Don’t print any art, simply apply the cover to a roll of toilet paper, and never wipe your ass with it. You wouldn’t want to give DC any of your best ideas.

The Reach of the Mind – Sam BellNonexistent Writing / Good Art

I’ve been considering writing separate reviews for Artbooks. So many comics i read, especially indie comics, are so devoid of story, as to be simply sequential art books. This doesn’t really bother me, if the art is really interesting. And this comic was pretty satisfying. Gorey as all hell, but some rendering that is sometimes gloriously incomprehensible. I wonder what it’d look like with color. Anyway, if you like gnarly skateboard deck crazy shit, read this comic.

Vortex – William Cardini GOOD (same as above)

Taking a different approach, definitely more digital dot-matrix, but equally bizarre and black & white as The Reach of the Mind. This comic also, enjoyable art, but music-video level story telling. Which one did i like better? Probably Vortex, mostly cause it was cleaner and the artist seemed much more confident of the images he was making. That panel above was the bees knees, and just a nice little moment. Little still moments like that are where comics prevail, and this comic has lots of cool brain bending spots, so i’d definitely keep reading this series, i think its up to #4 now.

Okay, there’s a few more, but i’m tired and running out of space, stay tuned for my PICK OF THE MONTH : POOR THING by DREW MILLER




November 14, 2013


7:08 am in comics,community,internet,reviews,Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

You ever have a time as a kid, where you and a bunch of friends, are messing around and joking a whole lot, and there’s a teacher or a parent there, and everyone’s having a good time? And then one of the dudes gets out of hand, and says something that’s just so messed, like “HAHA YEAH, THATS WHY THE HOLOCAUST IS FUNNY!” and everyone stops, looks, and the teacher is like “Ok, thats enough guys. Get back to work.”

That’s how i feel about JL8.

I’m not against fan art, and the first reaction people will have to me hating on this, will be “BUT DIDN’T YOU DRAW A BATMAN COMIC TOO?!” Yes, yes i did, and you know about me mostly because I DID fan art. I still DO fan art. Because our industry is so broken, that regardless of how good an artist you are, if you don’t get down on your knees and worship at the altar of geek consumerism, you can’t get noticed.

Every. single. blog. Spends way more time covering established properties than any creator owned works, and that’s not really an issue to me. That’s business. People get hits on shit thats familiar. So even though I had drawn over a hundred pages of creator owned comics, it was only until I did some lego superhero stuff that anyone looked my way. Comics like the Oatmeal, they know all about making easily digestible, shareable content, regardless of whether it’s good or bad or drawn well. But at least it’s original.

There’s a mutual understanding between major publishers and the creators and the fan base, that you’re gonna make a little side money for yourself, maybe make a bit of a name too, but somehow we all understand, that we are only borrowing what’s not ours, and if they took them back, we can’t whine and complain, we graciously give them back and go on with our lives. Many fans ultimately become the creators, and so fan culture is a major part of comics culture. But what happens when a dude like Rob Granito comes around, takes some drawing you did of some character, and redraws it and sells it like its his? We hate him. How dare he! But a dude like Yale Stewart, nobody says a thing.

There’s a line, and he crossed it. People have told me, that the story is good. What if, for instance, tomorrow, I thought “I could do Cold Heat better than Santoro, I’m gonna start writing my own Cold Heat comics.” At conventions, my whole table was “COLD HEAT – A ULISES FARINAS fan COMIC” and everyone told Santoro “But it’s a good story” One page, one time, fan art of the work, would be flattering, basing your entire career on someone else’s work, is theft.

We can not be advocates of copyright reform, of creator rights, of better standards in our comics, if we can’t agree what is a fair use of taking existing works and remixing them in our culture, and what is just deceiving the consumer into directing money into your pocket that should go to the original owners. If his storytelling is so good, his art is obviously drawn well, then he should have the balls to let them stand on their own. It’s not just a crutch, the dude has amputated his own legs and replaced them with stolen parts.

I find it disgusting to see an artist who’s got no spine, basically draw DC Precious Moments as his entire career. I would love if DC could somehow purchase it, but it’d basically justify any person who bootlegs their properties. Just do it long enough and successful enough, and you can steal your way into their good graces.

So many times, you’ll hear comics conversations about how Stan Lee stole from Jack Kirby, how this artist is being screwed over by this publisher. And I myself, I steal comics and movies from multi-billion dollar companies. Sometimes you’re Jean Val Jean and you just stole a loaf of bread, other times you’re an asshole. Its partly the fault of DC, for not recognizing that a product like this they should already be making. But at the end of the day, here goes a talented artist, who may also be a talented writer, who isn’t a david to a goliath, he’s the lice in both their hair.

It makes things weird for us, who are at cons doing this legally grey artwork to survive, and it’s weird for companies like DC, who if they go after him will have another PR nightmare just cause a dude didn’t know when to stop. I draw a lot less fan art as i used to, mostly cause it served its purpose, and now I try my damndest to sell my original ideas to publishers.

JL8 makes it seem like it might just be more worthwhile, to be a parasite than a scavenger.

As an afterthought, a counterpoint, an artist who does lots of fan art, but I respect, would be Corey Lewis. That’s how you do fan art:

November 8, 2013


9:25 am in Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

People ask me why i’m so mad, people have told me i come off as an asshole when i talk about racism, people have said to my face, “No one’s gonna think you’re not white and not hire you” Every single time i talk about racism, it’s guaranteed that the number 1 argument i face isn’t HOW racist shit is, but how it’s not that much of a problem. Then you got every kid on the internet, boycotting this and signal boosting that, and what the hell does that get done? And you got your questions about why are all the avengers white? And you got your discussions, debates and analysis. You got your commentators and bloggers saying things are getting better, and asking “What can we change?” We got dudes tweeting about why aren’t there any females heading their own books, all white dudes writing an all black avengers book, dudes writing all of the comics journal, and asking questions about comics criticism and listing a bunch of other dudes. All of this theory, none of this shit is put into practice.

Then you got your own life, when academic questions mean shit next to paying the bills, and you see this: , and you know that the reality is, that none of these questions make any difference. I saw that today, and my stomach sank. Because it’s easy enough to hear racist shit from assholes you don’t know, its easy enough to hear about questionable politics in someone else’s company, but you don’t think that the dude who’s work is all over your work, is a guy who thinks half your blood is savage blood. And my friend, she said maybe i should speak to him, tell him to keep his politics to himself. But i ain’t about to tell a person to keep their politics to themselves, when i won’t either.

But this is what people don’t get, when they think i’m so mad about something they consider pointless. “It’s just comics” i hear. Another way to tell me its not a problem. But it’s not like this shit is created in a vacuum. I know, because i’m the one MAKING these comics. I say all the time, that if you live in a racist system, to succeed you have to work within those racist constraints, and so i’m stuck with the impossible position of promoting a book, with covers done by a dude who’s first reaction to a women being killed is to be like ‘BUT BLACKS KILL MORE WHITES DONTCHAKNOW!?” You know what the first reaction was to that, “I do love his work, but I don’t want to give money to an ignorant ass. Fuck it, boycott.” And i gotta tell them “No, because i work on that book and thats my livelihood.”

I don’t believe in boycotts, 1. cause i separate the author from his work, 2. because them motherfuckers already done got paid. Its like trying to be Rosa Parks after the dude done pushed you off the seat already. Too late. And so the whole fucking boycott is a nice little slacktivist protest, do nothing and pretend you’re doing nothing. Don’t read a comic thats purely optional to begin with, and pretend that it can change something. I live and work in an industry, where at the end of the day, i gotta shake hands, smile and make nice with everyone, because if truth be told, if skills sold, i’d probably be, lyrically, talib kweli. What makes this shit feel the worst, is i’d love to take a stand, and be that dude who stands by his ethics and demands a boycott too. I’d love to be like “Fuck that comic! Fuck that artist!” But when you’re dealing with dog-whistle politics, and you’re the dog, if you bark too much, no one is gonna throw you a bone.

I see dudes at every con, that i once heard say “My best friend is black” and “It’s really more of a class issue”, and you wonder why cyborg is the only brown dude in the justice league. When i’m not brown enough for people, so i gotta always explain my mixed background as an introduction.  Shit, ain’t nobody telling Cyborg, “But you’re not really black, you’re half robot.” And i tell them that they don’t get it, that they won’t get it, that it’s all just a debate to them, that they can have at their convenience, and i just wish, someone would have a conversation about it and be more worried about how this shit keeps on happening, but instead all i keep hearing is dudes acting like,”NOT ME THOUGH”

Its all theoretical to them, and they care for as long as they can keep doing nothing, and keep drawing and writing the same stories. The same white faces, white places, on white paper, and its the industry thats racist, but none of us. That its institutional and not personal, that its politics not personal, that everything that you are feeling as a person, is not personal. You know why i ‘pass’ for white, because unless you put some ethnic marker before it, Capital-A American is the only real american. I tell a person i’m Cuban-American, nah, doesn’t count. African American, Arab American, Native American, nah, doesn’t count. I can’t just say “I’m American” and not have that mean “I’m White”. Do you know how much it sucks to always have to qualify what type of american you are? And its a funny joke sometimes, but they can’t ever imagine what my experience was, and i guess i can’t ever imagine what it’s like to be a white guy on the internet, who hasn’t found it necessary to update their way of thinking for the last couple hundred years.

Because it’ll never cost them a moment’s discomfort for them to shake my hand, it’ll never cost them a paycheck, it’ll never cost them a professional relationship – cause my angry opinion can never change their mind. Because it’s all theoretical to them.

November 6, 2013

Hurt Box

11:46 am in Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just getting out of bed. It’s a son of a bitch. You fight forever to just stay awake, but then you got responsibilities and life and all kinds of shit like text messages being like “are you still sleeping. sorry.” and you don’t even respond, you just think “Aw who is dis bitch.”

..”Oh shit, it’s my mom.”

Moms are great, cause you can try to walk as hard as Johnny Cash, but when your mom calls, you just wanna be as soft as chewy chips ahoy, and just as sweet. I’m lucky, cause i got two moms. But i’m even luckier, because when i finally got the nerve to drop out of school and tell someone i needed help, i called my mom on the Fung Wah bus back from Boston. Her mom had just died, but my mom was still a mom to me, and told me to do whatever i needed to do to get better. Depression is a black hole, and all it does is gain mass and darkness, while your orbit falls apart. So the feeling of “I’m not good enough,” is something i think applies double as an artist.

It’s hard or maybe impossible to separate the value of your work from your own self value. My mom used to cry if i didn’t come home for dinner, when i was a teenager, and at the time, i thought she was fucking nuts. But cooking is a lot like art, cause you pour yourself into it, and all you want, ALL you want, is someone to be like “Damn, that was good” Sometimes, it hurts when you make a nasty meal and they tell you so, but often times, i think it hurts even worse when no one tastes your food at all. It goes untouched, into the fridge, or maybe the trash. But it works both ways, “I’m not good enough” doesn’t always mean your art sucks = so you suck, it often feels like “I suck, so my art sucks”. And when it goes in that direction, you can always fix your 3 point perspective with practice, but you can’t always figure out why you’re so fucking sad with practice.

I am sad a lot, and it’s almost impossible to draw when you’re depressed. Really, it’s impossible to do much of anything when you’re depressed. What do YOU DO when you’re paralyzed? It doesn’t help to talk to people about it, because most of the time, all you hear is shit you don’t wanna hear: “things will get better” “you gotta stay positive” These things make sense, when you’re not paralyzed. But you can’t get a car going with square wheels. That shit is gonna clonkdaclonk all the way home. I got square wheels, and i don’t know why, but as soon as i accepted it, i was able to figure out how to get myself going somewhere. It’ll never go away, or at least, i can’t expect it to, and it’s shaped who i am, and my day to day emotions.

Every day, i feel anger, hate, and depression. People always say “hate is such a strong word” and people are genuinely averse to using the word. People are afraid to feel a strong negative emotion towards anything, because there’s nothing more motivating than hate. When you’re depressed, you’re paralyzed, you feel weak and tired, and all you wanna do is hide. You blame your genes, your family, your background, your culture, your race, your gender, your sexuality, whatever hurts right then. Something is hurting you, and all you can do is try your best to protect yourself. Hate makes you want to kill the thing that’s hurting you. There’s a reason that militaries demonize the other side, because the only way a person runs toward a threat, when they can choose to hide, is when your survival instinct is blinded by rage. It is dangerous to hate something or someone, and every comic book villain is defined by hate. But so are the heroes. We call it things like justice and responsibility, but Spiderman hated that robber that killed Uncle Ben, and Batman hates Joe Chill. It’s scary to think of what you would do if you hated something enough.

Depression is a sickness of prolonged sadness. And i don’t kid myself and believe that i’ve cured it. Really, i’ve only transformed it. It’s just prolonged anger, and it manifests as Hate. As soon as i realized it wasn’t going away, that’s what it became. I’m okay with it and honestly, i recommend it for people on the go. People say it’ll rot you inside, but no one tells a clinically depressed person that. But if you’re angry, people believe you’re doing it to yourself, and that’s the point. No one ever lets an angry person off the hook, you’re responsible because we all know a basic truth: An angry person gets things done.

Maybe this why i can’t get down with the faux-community of the comics scene, why i don’t want to Drink-n-Draw, why i don’t care about your kickstarter, because fraternizing with the enemy only puts you in danger. Freelancer is just another word for mercenary to me. I wanted to kill myself, now i want to kill comics. More men die from suicide because they tend to go for violent solutions. I grew up seeing violence, violence in the street, in the home, against me, against others. When i was in 7th grade, i threw a metal stool across the room at a kid for picking on me. Depression turns you inward, but the violence remains. You can’t cure depression, because you can’t cure your life, you can only end it. They say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it ain’t, because sometimes you just gotta face the music, and it’s a sad song that’ll never change. That violence won’t go away, neither will the sadness, but you can add some drums, and march to war.

Life’s a bitch and then you die. and you gotta fight for every peace. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is get out of bed, but then you remember how much you’ll hate yourself if you don’t, and you’re back in action. If you find yourself lacking in motivation, nothing helps more than to truly hate yourself.

November 4, 2013

Box Sacrifice

12:45 pm in Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

I missed a party tonight. But i’ve missed a lot of parties. And a lot of time, when i talk about sacrifice, you’d think all i’m talking about is missing out on a few drinks with friends. And for most people, that’s the beginning and end of sacrifice. Most of our lives are constructed around the philosophy of accumulation. Wealth, friends, girlfriends, contacts, contracts, comics and success. We always want more. After awhile of wanting it for so long, we even believe we deserve more. And then we eventually believe, we have a right to it. When all the things we believe we should have, aren’t ours already, we hate ourselves. I don’t got a problem with hate, but hate based on a false sense of self-importance, is just another way of being full of shit. When you recognize that there’s a price to be paid for all the things you want, and that price isn’t just money or time, but even your own self-worth, then your own self hate just turns into another way to keep going.

I am frequently lonely, depressed, angry and filled with hate. I can feel it in my throat sometimes, like i’m gonna well up and start bawling on the street, or just start choking someone. But who’s there to choke, i don’t blame any one for my life, and when i was a teenager, i just thought about killing myself for awhile. Took me til the end of college to actually get help, but there’s only so much to be done. I am unable to be happy, it’s not even something i aim for or want, because the sacrifices in my life aren’t just mine, but stretch back a generation.

When i look at my work, the fact that i draw comics for a living (for now), i’m incredibly grateful, but more so, i’m responsible. I can look at my parent’s lives, and see for every step they took forward, they lost something irretrievable. My mother lost her teaching position in Cuba for saying Jose Marti was more important to Cuban history than Fidel Castro. My father spent 10 years of his life in cuban prison for selling fruit on the black market. My mother developed schitzophrenia after having 4 kids. My father lost access to me and my siblings when they separated due to her illness. My Mother became homeless. My parents are in their sixties now, after all that, i make a decision on a sunday night, to not go to a party. All the things i want, i realize i’ll be paying for, for my entire life.

I look at comics as a luxury job. But like any luxury, it has a high price. It means that when i’m depressed, i still gotta draw. It means when i’m lonely, i still gotta draw. It means when i’m horny, I still gotta draw. You lose girlfriends, you lose regular friends, you make plans and break them, you tell your own parents that you can only stay one night before going back to work, you miss your family, you miss your friends, you lose your health, you lose your weekends, you miss beautiful days where people say “You gotta go outside”, and all those things always seem so small at the time. After awhile though, you start feeling like you’re just missing having any joy in your life whatsoever. But its still a luxury, because its a choice, and my parents didn’t have a choice. It means that i don’t have a choice to fail. Being poor doesn’t just mean you lift yourself up by your bootstraps, it means those boots have gotta last long enough to support 3 generations. Being poor, isn’t simply a lack of wealth, but a lack of choices. I’m still poor, but i’m paying off a debt to my parents. I’ll always pay it off, cause i want my future kid to not have to pay off anything to me. For him or her, they’ll have more choices.

Not only will they be able to choose whatever career they want, they’ll be able to choose to be happy as a life goal. When you want something for so long, you believe you deserve it, you believe you have a right to it. What i want is a freedom from poverty, and the pursuit of happiness, but not for myself, but for my future children. People laugh or make jokes when i say i believe in the American Dream, but they don’t know what it means half the time. Because the things i want, that my parents wanted for me, are just basic human rights. And its all academic theory for most people, they don’t got no context to understand that the dream isn’t something you do while you sleep, but when you’re fighting. They draw a comic, and they don’t see that they just drew with their own hands, the roof over their head and the food in their stomach. To most people, it’s not a luxury to draw comics, because it’s not a luxury for them to have rights. That shit is just normal. Its not a luxury to go to college, or travel the world. I still haven’t left the country, and people hear this and act like i’m just another dumb american. Well, i am. I’m another dumb american who’s a son of immigrants who can’t afford to leave. You have the right to go wherever you please, and for most people, its not a luxury to go build schools in a 3rd world country, and then come back and be a smart american.

I was given the world, i didn’t make it, and all i wanna do is entertain it. I pay a price to be my own boss, make my own hours, tell my own stories, wake up whenever i damn please. At the end of the day, i don’t ever feel satisfied, because i don’t feel like i deserve it, because i don’t feel like i have the right to it, because at 27 my father just regained his freedom, and in her thirties, my mother lost hers. You’ll trade your freedom for security in a second, if there’s a gun to your head, and fuck Ben Franklin for saying who deserves what. It can all just be taken away, and so i don’t care about being happy now, i just don’t want to be homeless.

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