Book review: Citizen. An American Lyric

Citizen. An American Lyric
By Claudine Rankine
Published by Greywolf Press
Review copy provided by the publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

Racism is bad, insidious and ubiquitous, and nothing is ever going to get any better until the singularity when we no longer have bodies or something. Yes, and it makes me feel bad that there isn’t even a glimmer of hope for the situation to ever get microscopically better until the singularity or something. Alas, what else can one do but strike up the band, and pour out the wine, if that’s all, all there is. So I am silenced by Claudine Rakine’s “Citizen” because there is nothing for me to say about it because she says it all: racism is bad, insidious and ubiquitous, and nothing is ever going to get any better.

However, I’m happy for all the success Greywolf Press is having with this book. They are nice people who publish what they believe in and deserve all the success in the world.

I’m also happy for the Fountain Theater in Los Angeles for having their very successful readers theater interpretation of “Citizen” extended into October. I saw it tonight, and the acting, the staging, and use of the text is superb. Try to see it if you can.

Book review: The World Beyond Your Head

The World Beyond Your Head
By Michael B. Crawford
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374292980
Review copy provided by the publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

I mostly liked and agreed with about the first half of Matthew B. Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head (WBYH). We do live distracted lives in a distracting commerce driven world. I like part about jigs: how master craftpeople have optimal jigs for what they’re creating. But in this messed up world we live in, most people are not master craftpeople and the jig is something we work in. He quotes an old saying about assembly lines on page 34: “Cheap men need expensive jigs; expensive men only need to tools in their toolbox.” I suppose that applies to office workers, too, and there wasn’t much positive or constructive in this book for anyone but skilled craftspeople who never have to leave their workshops.
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Book review: The Completely Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green

The Completely Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green
By Eric Orner
Published by Northwest Press
ISBN 978-1928720826
Review copy provided by the publisher (Thanks, Zan!)

Review by Ginger Mayerson

I liked The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green comics. I remember enjoying reading them in the 80s, but I’m not sure where I was reading them. The legendary, and greatly missed, Funny Times comics newspaper? I don’t know, I just don’t know. What don’t remember from that time was how many of these comics were about the AIDS epidemic or pandemic, I guess is what it finally ended up being called.
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Book review: All Joy and No Fun

All Joy and No Fun
By Jennifer Senior
Published by Harper Collins Ecco
ISBN 978-00620722221
Review copy provided by the publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

Modern parenting – duty or privilege? Or something else?

Full disclosure: I chose not to have kids.

I don’t have anything against kids or families, mostly I salute them for their bravery and grit when I’m not feeling sorry for them because they seem so stressed out and miserable most of the time. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s noticed this and wondered about it, but I didn’t write a whole book about it. Jennifer Senior’s book, “All Joy and No Fun,” is an entertaining read with the facts and research seamlessly and painlessly integrated into the illuminating anecdotes. It focuses mainly on the middle class family, divorced moms, and one grandmother raising kids in the 21st Century. These people worked hard to have these kids, work hard to raise them, and worry like crazy about the future of these kids. They worry in kindergarten about what kind of job the kid can get in the future job market when the kid graduates from college in fifteen years. They worry that the kid won’t be aggressive/assertive enough of a team player, so they have ’em in sports from soon after the kids starts staggering around on their little feet. In one family, the kid wanted to do sports, music, and a few other things outside of school. It seemed like it would be almost worth it for the mom to get a job just to hire a driver. And, yes, the parents know they’re exhausted, but raising a child is such an important thing that they’re working very hard at, so of course they’re exhausted because it’s a helluva lot of work because it needs to be a helluva lot of work in this tough future world that no one knows what it will be like yet, except that it will tough, maybe tougher than now. And, holy mackerel, it’s a tough world now so it’s more work to shield and prepare their children for it. It’s such a tough, exhausting, dangerous, economically dire, stressed, vicious, cold, insert-your-own-alarming-adjective-here world these wan and pale middle class people are preparing their children for, does it ever occur to the parents in this book to get out of the Suzuki violin class and make the world a better place so they can relax a little about their child’s future? I mean, it’s too late to consider what kind of a world you wanted to bring a kid into, but it’s never too late to do something to make it a better world you brought your kid into. But, oh well, that’s not what the book is about. This book is about how children affect parents, and it seems kids wear their parents out because parents are pouring their lives, souls, marriages, and happiness into raising their kids. And this supreme sacrifice is freaking exhausting! Continue reading “Book review: All Joy and No Fun”

WonderCon 2014: Tuna Bora

TunaBora

Tuna Bora had two books at WonderCon: a sketchbook mostly of pen and ink work from two years ago and an illustration book of the past year in various media. She had prints of both books and a few independent prints on her table. Tuna graduated from Otis College of Art and Design and has been working in many different fields for the past five years. She works for feature and TV animation, as well as print advertising and music videos to name a few other things she’s done. This is Tuna’s second WonderCon, she also did APE last year, and every year she is at CTM (Creative Talent Network) show in Burbank.

All artists at WonderCon 2014

WonderCon 2014: Tanya Bjork

TanyaBjork

Tanya Bjork has been making comics since 2003 and it was a guest spot in a printed webcomic anthology edited by comics artist Robert Tritthardt. Tanya has studied art, but is mostly self-taught. As far back as she can remember, she’s written stories so she could illustrate them (and bind some of them together with yarn). She remembers making a story about a fairy and using lots of glitter for the fairy dust and magic. She said it took her a while to twig that if she shifted her emphasis to comics, she could do more stories with pictures. So she’s been gradually ramping up and is working on her first long-form project. She’s doing small print runs, working with a local printer, SGX, who sponsored Artists’ Alley at the Long Beach Comic last year, and they’ve been fantastic to work with. Tanya’s top three artistic influences are Edward Gorey, Ross Campbell, and Becky Cloonan. Like Hillary Bauman and Jordon Montsell, WonderCon is Tanya’s second convention; her first was at the Long Beach Comic-Con last September. Her comic formerly known as Runaway, but now called Havenhurst, was conceived on 24-hour Comic Day last October. She liked the idea she came up with so much that she finished it and expanded it into the two issues (so far) she had on her table. The story is about a runaway and her magical familiar hiding out in the human world. Tanya also did a t-shirt collaboration with a clothing designer named Kambriel. And a lovely t-shirt it was, alas, it was also the last known t-shirt of its kind in existence or something.

All artists at WonderCon 2014

WonderCon 2014: Ron Bassilian

RonBassilian

I spoke to Ron Bassilian the writer of Inferno Los Angeles, which is an updating in comic book form of Dante’s Inferno. The mouth of hell is in Westwood, and the underworld is full of LA characters, like movie producers and their ilk. Y’know, all the jerks one wants to see in hell without actually having to go to hell to see them here. Or something. The book was published in 2013, the project started in 2008, and really took off with a successful Kickstarter in 2010. Inferno Los Angeles is a beautiful hardcover Ron and the artist, Jim Wheelock, are self-publishing, printing it though Tri Vision in Los Angeles, who also print for IDW. Jim found Ron on Craigslist.com. WonderCon is the second convention for Inferno Los Angeles, the first was the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, where the book sold very well.

All artists at WonderCon 2014

WonderCon 2014: Jordon Monsell

JordanMonsell

Jordon Monsell makes silhouettes. Really, seriously, I am not making this up. He will even cut out a portrait while you wait for $20. I would like to now take this opportunity to publicly retroactively apologize to Jordon for standing at his booth with my mouth hanging open in AWE of what he does. And he does it with surgical scissors! Gah! Okay, down fangirl, down. As you can tell, I was seriously impressed by this. He card reads “The artform may be dying, but I’m very much alive.” Jordan is one of the six practicing silhouette makers in California. Three years ago, he learned the art from his mother, who is self-taught and has been making silhouettes for over 30 years. She is one of the two practicing silhouette makers in New England. Jordan filled me in on the history of silhouette: they were most popular in the Victorian era and were a less expensive alternative to having an oil portrait done. The rise of photography was the decline of silhouette making, alas, but technology does that. Scissors are the traditional tool for silhouette making (I was amazed by the control and detail he gets with scissors. Yes, they are swanky scissors, but still…) Jordon’s background and education are in theater, but he picked up a paintbrush before he picked up a pair of scissors. His mother is portrait painter as well as silhouette maker, and travels all over the country and Canada to ply her art, so it runs in the family because Jordan does special events and commissions as well. I asked if he was ever going to do a narrative wordless series of silhouettes, a sort of silhouette comic, but he said he hadn’t considered it. Too bad because that would rule so hard. Jordan uses silhouette paper (very thin; black on one side, white on the other) and spray adhesive to adhere them to the cardstock backing. Like Tanya Bjork and Hillary Bauman, WonderCon is Jordon’s second convention as an exhibitor; Long Beach Comic Con in 2013 was his first exhibiting experience. Jordan is silhouette making at the Renaissance Faire in Irwindale until May 18 and for those of you who attend Comikaze, Jordan will also be exhibiting there this year. Jordan has an illustration website well worth a visit as well.

All artists at WonderCon 2014

WonderCon 2014: James Cartwright

JamesCartwright

Cartwright Comics are written by James Cartwright and illustrated by Pelligre (Rocky Mountain Fire Lizard) and Mike Ratliff (Hamsters), whom he found online through message boards. He’s never met them in person, but the art turned out fantastic. James chose Pelligre for Rocky Mountain Fire Lizard because he (Pelligre) is from Colorado so the landscapes are especially apt and lovely. Mike Ratliff illustrated the story of two hamsters attempting to escape their nine-year old mistress and the art is adorable. James has been writing comics since he was in college, where he started his own comics magazine, but has been busier with it over the last four or five years. WonderCon is the first big convention he’s tabled at. You can buy Rocky Mountain Fire Lizard and Hamsters at IndyPlanet.com.

All artists at WonderCon 2014

WonderCon 2014: Hillary Bauman

HillaryBauman1

Hillary Bauman, creator of Cirrus: The Red Storm, which is a hand-painted graphic novel, now up to two issues. She also had a couple of clay models from the Cirrus comic book on display. The other book she was promoting at WonderCon was Gallelai (sp?), a teaser issue, of a “Casablanca in space,” she said. Cirrus is painted in gouache, and Gallelai is created digitally. She is self-publishing through IndyPlanet.com. Hillary has been making comics for a few years; she has been a painter for many years. She does a lot of scenic painting for theater companies. She went into comics because it’s a happy medium between everything she does. She’s self-taught, and works with theater companies in Los Angeles. Like Tanya Bjork and Jordon Montsell, WonderCon is her second convention as an exhibitor; Long Beach Comic con was her first exhibiting experience.

HillaryBauman2

All artists at WonderCon 2014

WonderCon 2014: Christopher Wanzie

ChristopherWanzie

Christopher Wanzie‘s work deals with transhumanistic technologies, and how human beings are going to deal with emerging technologies. He is especially interested in how it’s going to affect us specifically from a spiritual standpoint, and so incorporates arcane religious images and positive messages and mantras in his work. It is abstract graphic design mixed with photography becoming a hybrid product. He has been drawing since he was a kid. He’s been creating this work for the past seven years, but only in the last four has he been pursuing it as a business. He is self-taught. His top three influences are Gustav Moreau’s proto-surrealism, the bio-metric images in H.R. Gieger’s work, and the mechanical and anatomical images in Leonardo da Vinci’s manuscripts and sketchbooks. WonderCon is Christopher’s first convention as an exhibitor; he is usually in gallery shows and art exhibitions.

All artists at WonderCon 2014

WonderCon 2014: Moira Hahn

MoiraHahn

Moira Hahn had one of the most beautiful art books I saw at WonderCon. Excellent reproduction of her excellent art, which is visually pleasing and mentally stimulating (great stuff!). She calls her work nouveau ukiyo-e, combining contemporary culture and things going on in her personal life with the look of 19th century Japanese woodblock prints. They are very colorful, beautifully composed, and charming choices of subject matter in watercolors. Her book, “Apparitions,” is fully of fantastic magical animals in which each image tells its own story. The book was inspired by Moira moving to a new house where the previous owner had been feeding birds with numerous birdfeeders. Moira wanted to continue this tradition, and the birdfeeders attracted numerous birds, that, unfortunately attracted numerous feral cats, the ensuing horrific urban nature bird and cat conflict was the impetus for this lovely art book. Moira studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, CalArts, CCA (California College of the Arts), she received a Masters in art from California State Fullerton to teach. She also had a five year apprenticeship with a traditional Japanese artist named Masami Teraoka in Los Angeles before he retired to Hawaii. Moria has tabled at Comic-Con San Diego, and this is her third year at WonderCon, which she said was fantastic.

All artists at WonderCon 2014

Artists at WonderCon 2014

So, WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention center was wonderful (except for parking, but that’s what I get for going down there at 11 AM). I could only be there on Saturday, but on Saturday I found more new and fascinating comic book makers and artists than I’ve found elsewhere (ahem, CCSD) in the past five years.

MoiraHahn

Moira Hahn had one of the most beautiful art books I saw at WonderCon. Excellent reproduction of her excellent art, which is visually pleasing and mentally stimulating (great stuff!). She calls her work nouveau ukiyo-e, combining contemporary culture and things going on in her personal life with the look of 19th century Japanese woodblock prints. They are very colorful, beautifully composed, and charming choices of subject matter in watercolors. Her book, “Apparitions,” is fully of fantastic magical animals in which each image tells its own story. The book was inspired by Moira moving to a new house where the previous owner had been feeding birds with numerous birdfeeders. Moira wanted to continue this tradition, and the birdfeeders attracted numerous birds, that, unfortunately attracted numerous feral cats, the ensuing horrific urban nature bird and cat conflict was the impetus for this lovely art book. Moira studied art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, CalArts, CCA (California College of the Arts), she received a Masters in art from California State Fullerton to teach. She also had a five year apprenticeship with a traditional Japanese artist named Masami Teraoka in Los Angeles before he retired to Hawaii. Moria has tabled at Comic-Con San Diego, and this is her third year at WonderCon, which she said was fantastic.
Continue reading “Artists at WonderCon 2014”