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Sean's Blog

Runners Review

It’s been quite a while since I last posted here about a webcomic that I read.  Since the last time, there are a few I’ve picked up, and I’ll be posting about them this month.

Up today is Runners, by Sean Wang.  It’s a sci-fi comic, with a partial adventure, partial comedy bent.  The main characters are a group of freelance smugglers (known as “runners” because they run contraband around the galaxy), who find themselves getting somewhat in over their heads on what ought to be routine jobs.

The series was originally published as black and white print comics.  There were 5 issues in the first storyline, which were then collected in a trade paperback.  Wang made the decision around 2 years ago to make it into a webcomic, so he started republishing the original issues online, one page every weekday for several months.  Once that completed, he started a second 5-issue story arc in full color, which is currently in issue 4 (it was 2 pages a week for a while, now down to 1).

The aspect of the strip that I think I like the best is Wang’s alien designs.  He’s got a few humanoid characters in the mix, but most look very different, and he’s very careful to think about designing clothes, weapons, and other tools that fit well with the varying anatomy of his characters.  It makes for a well-built world that sucks you in easily.  It’s also refreshing that human types aren’t the main or even a main force in the galaxy.  Almost anyone the reader meets who’s in charge is a non-human.

The writing is also strong, with characters having very distinct personalities (even the minor ones) and good chemistry.  There’s also a really fun sense of humor pervading the series.  It isn’t just funny, though, and Wang does still manage to have some emotional impact, and even some overarching menace lurking in the background.

I highly recommend Runners for anyone who likes humorous science fiction or adventure stories.  Check it out.

Posted by seaking on 11-02-2010 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Comics, Links with 0 Comments

MoCCA: 1 day, 2 locations, in 3-D!

I went to NYC for the MoCCA Art Fest again this year.  The convention has generally been held in June in the past, but this year they had it in April for some reason.  I did it as day trip again, just going down for the Saturday, traveling part way by car and then taking the train into Grand Central.  This time, though, I visited the actual museum as well as the convention, because I was interested in seeing their large exhibit NeoIntegrity (there were several artists’ work in the show that I wanted to check out, including Bill Griffith, from whose site I first heard of the exhibit).

I first headed to the East Village, not far from the museum, to see if I could grab lunch at teany, a vegetarian restaurant co-founded by Moby.  teany had been closed since last June because of a fire, but had been making noises about reopening since February.  I took a chance and stopped by, but alas, it was still not open (it has reopened since I was in NYC).

I ended up getting a falafel sandwich from a street vendor on my way over to the museum.  I took in the exhibit, which was fun to look at – most of it was original art from published works, and there were a ton of artists involved.  However, in general, the stuff by artists I’m familiar with was stuff I’d seen before.  The vast majority of the artists were new to me, though, and there was a lot of funny and interesting work to look at and read.

I left there and headed up to the con at the 69th Regiment National Guard Armory in midtown.  There was a line to get in, which I waited in for a bit before I realized that I could just walk right in, given that I had bought a ticket online (I got to go to a separate table where they looked up my registration and sent me on in – I should have remembered that from last year).

Once inside, I headed down to the panel room, as a panel I wanted to see was starting in 10 minutes.  It’s a good thing I didn’t wait, because there was already a long line to get into the panel room!  The panel was supposed to start at 2:00, but the con staff ended up starting to let the line in at almost 2:15.  The room filled up quickly, and I thought I might not get to to see it, but I ended up standing in the doorway.

The panel was on the topic of alternate treatments of superheroes in comics, and featured artists who had done superhero work but more often (or primarily) did more alternative comics.  The specific people on the panel were the reason for the large crowd: Paul Pope, Frank Miller, Kyle Baker, Jaime Hernandez, and Dean Haspiel.  I snapped a few cell phone pics from my doorway perch – here’s the least bad-looking one:

The guy on the far left was the moderator.  The artists proceed left to right after that in the order I named them.

After that, I had a couple of hours to wander the convention floor:

There was a brief signing by Hernandez I was able to hit, and I managed to visit Ted Rall during the hour he was at his publisher’s booth.  I discovered that Rall is a Mac user!

Other creators I visited and/or bought merchandise from (but did not take pictures of) included Pat Lewis, Raina Telgemeier, Bill Roundy, Monica Gallagher, and R. Sikoryak.

One of the things Mr. Sikoryak is known for is doing slideshow presentations of his comics.  The last panel of the day, which I attended, was him and a few other artists showing slideshows of their work, with parts performed by professional voice actors.  It was a blast, and there were even a few slideshows at the end with images in 3-D.  They passed out glasses to the audience for those:

Yes, it’s blurry – it was another cell phone picture and the room was dark.

The end of that panel marked the end of the con.  I made my way back toward downtown, looking for a place for dinner.  On the way, I happened by Gramercy Park:

where I noticed this sign:

Asking people in Manhattan not to honk?  I wonder if this law actually works…

On my walk I also saw this rather curvy building on 3rd Ave.:

I ended up eating at a little Afghan restaurant called Khyber Pass on St. Mark’s Place.  After that, I headed back toward Grand Central Station, but had some extra time, so I wandered over to Times Square.  Who should I meet there, but Hello Kitty!

She was doing what she does best – waving Hello.

Despite all the light and billboards and entertainmentplexes (or perhaps because of them), there isn’t really anything I find interesting in Times Square.  One neat thing I saw as I headed for the train station again was a Scottish band playing on the sidewalk:

I didn’t stick around long enough to find out who they were or anything, though.  Just part of the New York color.  With that, I left the big apple.

Posted by seaking on 05-10-2010 at 10:05 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Comics, Travel with 1 Comment

MoCCA: MAD Man, Minus Minus

A few weeks ago I traveled to NYC for the day, and attended the MoCCA Art Fest – an indie comic convention that I’ve been to twice before.

As I did last year, I drove to Norwalk, CT, and then took the train into Grand Central Station.  I was able to walk to the convention from there, as they were holding it at a new venue – the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Ave.  It was about 16 blocks South of the train station.

On my way down to the con, I discovered that several blocks (6 to 8?) of Lexington were closed off for a street market of some kind:

streetmkt

There were several booths selling clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, etc.  as well as lots of food and drink booths.  I needed to get some lunch, so I got a chicken kabob/pita sandwich, and ate it while I walked the rest of the way.

The con was supposed to start at 11:00am.  I got to the building at 11:40 and found that they hadn’t started admitting people yet.  Apparently, movers were late getting con supplies there and unloading, so the organizers were still getting setup.  The line to get in snaked around the corner and halfway up the block on 26th St.  After I got in line, many more people lined up after me, eventually snaking around the next corner.

Here’s the line in front of me:

line1

and behind me:

line2

I was standing in the sun, and hadn’t brought a hat (or any sunscreen).  Fortunately, I had my laptop bag with me (sans laptop) that I was able to hold on top of my head (and managed to balance it there for quite a while).  It provided much needed shade.

While waiting in line, I saw this gold topped building:

goldroof

Not sure what it is (I haven’t tried looking it up – anybody know?).

The line finally started moving around 12:30, and within 10 minutes I was inside.  Unlike previous years in the Puck Building, they had all the exhibitors in one big space (so big I couldn’t get it all in one picture):

moccafloor1

moccafloor2

A brief rundown of people whose tables I visited, in no particular order:

Jim O. was supposed to be debuting his new book at the con.  It’s called T-Minus, and it’s about the space race leading up to the moon landing.  It was written by him and drawn by Zander and Kevin Cannon.  Unfortunately, Jim’s agent, who was supposed to be bringing the copies of the book for Jim to sell, never showed up.  Jim sold plenty of his older books, but it was still disappointing for him.  The Cannons were there as well, at a separate table, and they had some copies they’d apparently gotten from their local comic store.  I ended up buying the book from them, and then taking it to Jim for a signature.

I went to a few panels during the day.  The first was the Comics Bakery panel.  That’s the name of a collective of 4 artists: Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Marion Vitus, and John Green, and the panel was them going through the history of how they all met and started collaborating, and eventually got married (well, they’re 2 married couples).  Here’s a pic of 3 of them (Vitus, Green, and Telgemeier) during the panel:

combak

The room where the panels were held had murals on all 4 walls of scenes from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (it is a National Guard building), which made for an unusual backdrop for the presentation (why no, there’s nothing distracting about Confederate soldiers being bayonetted by the Union Army!).

The second panel I sat through was less interesting.  It was about the state of comics publishing, and had 7 publishers on it.  Not much to report from it.

The third panel was about the humor magazine Humbug.  I had never heard of it before this con, but it was apparently published for 2 years in the late ’50’s, and involved 5 writers/artists, some of whom had worked for MAD Magazine.  Two of the founding members were on the panel: Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee (left and center, respectively):

humpanel1

They talked about working on Humbug, and various other topics that may or may not have been related, and were pretty funny throughout.  Jaffee was the reason I was there, as I am very familiar with him from reading MAD.

humpanel2

This was him talking to the moderator after the panel.

Al Jaffee wrote and drew various features for MAD, including ‘Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions’.  He also was responsible for the MAD Fold-In, which was always on the inside back cover of the mag, and featured an image and question, which yielded a different image and the answer when you folded the right side over to meet the left side.

After the panel, Roth and Jaffee were doing a signing.  I have a bunch of old issues of MAD from the ’60’s that my Dad had collected, and though they’re falling apart, I still have most of the covers.  I brought a few fold-ins with me for Jaffee to sign.

jaffee

Click here to see the fold-ins, and to “fold” them.

The con ended for the day at 7, I went and had a lovely dinner at a Middle Eastern deli, and then walked back to Grand Central to head home.  The end.

Posted by seaking on 06-28-2009 at 10:06 pm
Posted in Comics, Travel with 1 Comment

Watch Webcomics

Last month I attended the first ever New England Webcomics Weekend (NEWW).  It was pretty fun.  It was billed as the first comic convention (in the U.S anyway) that was all webcomic artists – nobody who works mainly or solely in the print realm.  Given how popular webcomics have gotten this decade, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been an event like this before.  What’s been interesting to me, in fact, is the way that webcomics have had a presence at various kinds of fan conventions.  They’ve been at comic conventions, sci-fi cons, anime cons, and even some computer/software cons.  They seem to appeal to a wider audience that comic books typically have reaching perhaps the kind of audience that newspaper comic strips have in the past (of course, as the newspaper industry seems to be dying a slow death, those strips’ audience is shrinking).  Now a critical mass has been reached or passed, and webcomics fandom itself may spawn multiple gatherings (there’s already talk of doing something similar in the Pacific Northwest).

Check out the NEWW site to see who was there (it’s a long list).  Don’t bother checking out the forum on the site – it was overrun by spammers just after the event happened.

I volunteered to videotape a few of the panels.  Below are links to the stuff I recorded – 2 panels and the webcomics awards ceremony.  Each video is broken into parts because of YouTube’s time limits.  My apologies for the lighting in some cases – I had no control over it.

Panel: Print vs. Web vs. a Bear

Panel: Creative Partner Newlywed Game


Webcomics Awards Ceremony

Posted by seaking on 04-26-2009 at 02:04 pm
Posted in Comics, Humor, Links, Video with 0 Comments

No, the other comic convention

Earlier this month I headed down to NYC for the MOCCA Art Fest. MOCCA is the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, and it’s located in Manhattan. The Art Fest is a small press convention they put on each year. I call it the “other” convention because there was another, larger con going on in New York the same weekend – the Big Apple Comicon. That one held no interest for me, though, as it would have been dominated by the big companies and superhero comics (plus probably a lot of non-comics stuff).

The trip to the city began with me driving down to Norwalk, CT, where I got on a train into Manhattan. That let me off at Grand Central Station, where I got onto the subway. Before going to the subway, though, I had to be a typical tourist, and take some pictures of the station’s famous main concourse (hey, I’d never been to Grand Central before). I took some pix from the topof the steps, showing other tourists taking pictures:

grand1.jpg

grand2.jpg

and then I went down to the railing on the landing to get a less obstructed view of the floor:

grand3.jpg

grand4.jpg

The con was held at the Puck building in Soho (it’s located just South of Houston St.), which is a couple of blocks from the actual museum.

I got to see a number of comic artists I like, and have photos of some of them. First off, one of the first people I saw was Andy Runton, who does the cute all-ages comic Owly.

owly1.jpg

I had him sign a book that I’d brought, and I picked up a copy of the first book and got it signed for my nephew, who will have his 4th birthday this Fall (don’t tell him!). The person who had been in line right before me had given Andy a present – a little crocheted Owly:

owly2.jpg

Most of the convention took place on the first floor of the building, but there was also some space being used on the seventh floor. For some reason, while there was air conditioning in the former space, the latter didn’t have any. The temperature in NYC that day was in the upper 90’s. When I got up to floor 7, I felt extremely sorry for the artists up there. I’m glad I went up there, though, as I got to meet Spike, creator of Templar, Arizona (which I reviewed here not so long ago).

spike1.jpg

spike2.jpg

She was doing sketches for free of her characters, so I asked for one, and she spent quite a while working on it. I was amazed she went to that much work for free. Of course, I have pre-ordered both book collections so far of the strip, and mentioned that. The money from those pre-orders is what allows her to pay for the print runs of the books. Still, since she had gone to the effort, and it was so stifling up there, I bought her a soda (what are fans for if not to do favors for artists, after all?).

One of the guests of honor at the con, and someone whose presence made me feel I had to be there, was Lynda Barry. If you don’t know who she is, you obviously weren’t reading alternative weekly newspapers in the ’80’s or ’90’s. She drew the very long running Ernie Pook’s Comeek, as well as writing a couple of novels and some other comics. As her contemporary Matt Groening has said, she is the funk queen of the universe! I happened to go to the table where she would be signing just before her scheduled signing time. I ended up being 4th in line when she started. She was very friendly and enthusiastic, grasping my hand in both of hers when I greeted her. I bought her new book, What It Is, which is sort of a treatise on writing, and had her sign a couple of strip collections. I pointed out that one of the books was my favorite, because of the dialogue on the cover. She said she didn’t think she’d read that dialogue since the book was published in the early ’90’s.

Some pics of her:

barry1.jpg

barry2.jpg

Toward the end of the day, Shaenon Garrity was signing at the Friends of Lulu table.  I had found out only a few days earlier that she was going to be there, making a rare East Coast appearance.  I took advantage of the opportunity to have her sign a couple of Narbonic books.

garrity1.jpg

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Other artists I visited (but did not take pictures of) include Jim Ottaviani, Keith Knight, Pat Lewis, Jessica Abel, Jennifer Camper, Mo Willems, and Stan Yan.  I recommend them all.

While on the sweltering seventh floor, I took some pictures of the view.  This is looking West along Houston St.:

city1.jpg

and this is looking North, sort of along Lafayette:

city2.jpg

After the con floor closed for the day, I went for a walk to look for dinner.  Before actually settling on a restaurant, I wandered over to the Hudson River area.  There’s a bike path near the water, and I saw this memorial along the path:

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Then I wandered out on a pier (I forget the number) to see the river proper.  This shot looks downriver:

hudson1.jpg

In the distance you can see the Statue of Liberty:

hudson2.jpg

This is the view upriver:

hudson3.jpg

A firefighting boat was parked at the pier:

fireboat.jpg

and heading back to dry land, I saw this view of the city:

city3.jpg

I had dinner at a nice Indian restaurant, in which I was the only diner.  This was probably because they had no air conditioning.  I didn’t care, as I just wanted t get off my feet and eat something.  After dinner I walked around a bit more, then went to the Lulu Awards ceremony at MOCCA itself.  Following that, I skedaddled out of town and headed for home.

Posted by seaking on 06-30-2008 at 10:06 pm
Posted in Comics, Travel with 0 Comments

Am I deserving of pity?

My goodness.  I saw this linked from Rich Watson’s blog, and I don’t know quite what to say.  I’ll merely present the link:  Mr. T Versus

Would one be foolish not to read the series?

Posted by seaking on 04-02-2008 at 10:04 pm
Posted in Comics, Humor, Surreal with 1 Comment

Another Fanboy Rave

Let me mention another online comic. Dicebox is a comic I’ve been reading for just over 5 years now, and it is a planned long-format story (it’s just about 25% of the way finished currently); you could call it an online graphic novel. As to genre, it might best be called anthropological science fiction. It follows 2 main characters, Molly and Griffen, who move from planet to planet in search of work but with seemingly no overarching plan for their lives. There are certainly interesting aspects to the worlds they find themselves on, as well as interesting technologies, but this comic is all about character development and interactions. 5+ year in the reader is still finding out stuff about the characters all the time, and the creator, Jenn Manley-Lee, is great at writing her characters, dialogue, and situations.

What I really love about Dicebox, though, is the art. It’s beautifully toned, as though it were painted. In fact, while she pencils the comic by hand, the coloring is all done in Photoshop.

This past December, she announced that she wouldn’t be updating for a few weeks, but offered that the first dozen or so people who e-mailed her could get custom watercolor
images of characters from the comic for a mere $15. I jumped at the chance, and actually got in under the wire.

I asked simply for Griffen wearing the long coat that can be seen on the comic’s front page and in the first chapter.  The painting I got is below (click image for a high-res version):

I particularly like the flower petals.

Posted by seaking on 02-18-2008 at 09:02 pm
Posted in Comics, Links with 0 Comments

Comics worth mentioning

I’ve updated several pages on my website over the last few days, which included adding links to some webcomics that I hadn’t linked to before.  I’ve also added links to these in the blog sidebar (over there on the left and scroll down a bit), but I thought it would be good to give them some explicit recommendations in an entry.

First up, I’ve had Shaenon Garrity’s comic Narbonic listed on my comics recommendation page for quite a while, but haven’t had her in the sidebar.  She has several strips that she’s done online, som in collaboration with others.  This seems like a good time to list her, as she has a new strip that started 2 weeks ago, called Skin Horse.  I’d give a description of the strip here, but it’s a bit hard to categorize as yet.  There’s certainly a sci-fi element, and it’s humorous like all her work, and this one is rather surreal so far as well.

Next, I had heard about Questionable Content for a while, but just started reading it about 4 months ago.  It took about a month to get through the 1000 strips.  Jeph Jacques (pronounced ‘jacks’) is the writer/artist, and he lives in Easthampton, an adjacent town to me.  The strip is sort of romantic-comedy-slice-of-life-indie-music-fan type stuff, if that makes any sense.   It also seems to take place in a world just a little different from our own, as there exist little sentient robots known as AnthroPCs.  The strip has well-written characters and is often really funny.  The strip also spawns various T-shirt designs, which Jeph sells on the site.

Last, but not least, is Templar, Arizona.   Spike is the name of the artist, and she is wildly hilarious.  This strips cracks me up to no end much of the time.  The setting of the strip is a fictional city in a sort of alternate history Arizona.  The rest of that world might resemble ours, but not so much Templar.  This is another comic with excellent characters, whose personalities contrast with  each other greatly, but where details of the city and backgrounds are very important as well (so don’t just pay attention to the people).  I actually discovered Spike a few years ago when she had a different strip running on Girlamatic, and have been following Templar almost since it began.  Besides her wonderful writing, I love her art style – lots of heavy lines and subtle sepia tones over grayscale.

Posted by seaking on 01-14-2008 at 10:01 pm
Posted in Comics, Links, Meta with 3 Comments

Watch out for me

I scored as a non-dyke, though. I find it interesting that my main result is the one man in the bunch (maybe gender is that significant!).

Which Dyke to Watch Out For Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Stuart You are Stuart, partner and co-parent with bi-dyke Sparrow. You believe that values need to be backed up with action, which can make you a bit impulsive at times. Make sure to budget time and money in order to afford the winter-length utili-kilts and Air America Radio shirts you’ve had your eyes on.

Stuart
 
70%
Toni
 
65%
Lois
 
50%
Mo
 
40%
Sparrow
 
35%
Clarice
 
35%
Sydney
 
25%

Posted by seaking on 10-15-2007 at 09:10 pm
Posted in Comics, Links with 2 Comments

Cartoonist to watch out for

Last month I drove up to Vermont for the first time since we moved to Massachusetts.  I had only been in Vermont once before, on a camping trip with my father and brother about 17 years or so ago.

This trip was to Brattleboro, which is not far away – only 45 minutes from Noho.  I hadn’t made it up there during the previous 2 years simply because I didn’t have a reason to go.  This time I had a pretty good reason – Alison Bechdel was giving a reading and signing as part of the tour for the paperback edition of her graphic novel Fun Home.

She did a tour last year when the book first came out in hardcover, and she actually appeared in Northampton that time.  Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know she was appearing there until the day after it happened.  So this year I was determined to get to see her.

She was appearing at a dinky little theater right on the Connecticut River.  You can see across to the large hills on the New Hampshire side:brattle1.jpg

brattle2.jpg

And just outside the entrance to the place is this interesting railing:

railing.jpg

The presentation was in a few sections.  She read a section of the book while showing slides of some of the panels.  Then she showed a slideshow that documented her creative process, including reference photos she took.  She apparently took lots and lots and lots of reference photos for the book, including several of herself dressed as her father, for drawing him in the story.

After that slideshow, she did another reading section with projected panels, and then took questions.  After that, it was time for the signing.  I got Fun Home and the most recent DtWoF book signed, and then took a few pictures of her as souvenirs.  I probably shouldn’t have gone without a flash, though, as my pix turned out blurry.  Here is the best one (i.e. the only one where her head isn’t blurry):

alisonbechdel.jpg

It was a very fun evening, and I highly recommend Fun Home to everyone (though most who read this blog have probably already read it, or at least know about Alison).
I’ve been reading her stuff for well over a decade (maybe 15 years at this point), and think she’s just awesome.  It was a little hard not to be starstruck when I talked to her.

Yeah, so go read some Bechdel if you never have.   🙂

Posted by seaking on 07-28-2007 at 08:07 pm
Posted in Comics with 2 Comments

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