Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best of 2010

With 2010 drawing to a close, I was asked by The Coast (Halifax's weekly alternative newspaper) to list my top five graphic novels of the past year. To see what I picked, visit The Coast's site here.

Some manga that didn't make the cut:

Cross Game vol.1
Otodama vol. 1
Peepoo Choo vol. 1
Cardcaptor Sakura complete set
Gogo Monster

I feel kind of bad that manga dominates the list. It's not all I read this year, I swear! Just a big chunk. There's also a lot of noteworthy comics released in 2010 that I just didn't get a chance to read (such as Parker:The Outfit or Two Generals by Scott Chantler).

While there was a lot of interesting stuff released in, I'm hoping that 2011 has a stronger showing (or at the very least some new 'Umbrella Academy' issues).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Interesting contest

An interesting contest is going on over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog. From their site:

Welcome to the sixth (free!) "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest on the GLA blog. This will be a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here's the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So if you're writing a book-length novel that's paranormal romance or urban fantasy, this sixth contest is for you!

What they're looking for is the opening hook, so the first 150-200 words. I think I might have something I could possibly submit...

Dave Sim in Halifax

Tons going down here in Halifax for comic book readers/book lovers/general geeks. For one, Dave Sim is in town. Dave Sim is a giant in the self-published comic book industry, and in the comic book world at large as well. His work Cerebus ran for almost thirty years and 6,000 pages (imagine fifteen phonebooks worth of comics and you're close to picturing just how much this guy has drawn).

He's known for his views almost as much as he is for his accomplishments. If you ever want to flush a few hours of your life down the toilet, google 'Dave Sim misogyny.' You will have enough reading material to keep you going for days. I don't just disagree with this guy politically, but about some very basic ideas about how the world works.

So when I met him yesterday, I was both excited and nervous. Excited because this guy is a fantastic artist and his work ethic awe-inspiring. Nervous because it's kind of uncomfortable meeting a man who, while he is able to draw some beautiful female characters, in his rants paints your entire gender with broad, ugly strokes.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. Sim was doing portfolio reviews, and I tagged along with a few artist friends. It wasn't long before Sim broke out his inking pens and was showing us all the subtle differences between them. He was funny and patient, and had some really good tips for the artists who's work he was able to look over. The event ran for two hours, and I think all of us would have been willing to stay longer if the librarian didn't kick us out.

Dave Sim is still in town. He'll be doing more portfolio reviews today, and tonight he'll be doing a signing (his last one, apparently) at Strange Adventures.

For more info, check out the facebook page for the event:!/event.php?eid=138887059490005&index=1

Or Strange Adventure's site:

Friday, September 10, 2010

My sphere of influence is the size of a ping-pong ball

Sometimes you write something and send it out into the world and never know if anyone ever reads it (exhibit A: this blog). And then there are times when through luck, happenstance, or accident you find out that yeah, there are actually people who have read things you've written. For example, yesterday was Thursday, the day that the newest issue of The Coast, Halifax's weekly alternative newspaper, comes out. I occasionally write articles for the paper, but more often what I write is 100 word reviews of comics or movies I've read/watched recently. If not for my little one paragraph reviews, how would the people of Halifax now which horror film to watch next, or which post-apocalyptic comic book is worth their time?

I like writing the reviews for several reasons. It's in my nature to view things critically, to break things down to what works and what doesn't. I even like the 100-word cap, as it forces me to use only the words that are needed. Writing the reviews also helps ease my guilt about spending time and money to watch something like the live action movie version of Blood: the Last Vampire, the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy. I'm not just doing it because I want to see some awesome vampire vs. monster fights, but for work, damnit! Oh, how I suffer for my craft.

I sometimes worry that what I review holds no interest for anyone who might possibly read The Coast. Did my favorable review of Taiyo Matsumoto's Gogo Monster manage to win him any more fans? Will people who usually shy away from manga pick up Saturn Apartments or Solanin because of what I wrote? There's no way of knowing.

Or at least, usually I wouldn't, but yesterday I got lucky. In the most recent issue of The Coast I wrote a review of a manga called Black Blizzard (I wrote a longer review for Kuri-ousity here). While doing some errands downtown I stopped in at Strange Adventures, one of the best comic book shops on planet Earth. I like to think of it as 'Cheers' for nerds: it's where everybody knows your name. As I was talking to one of the staff there he mentioned that earlier in the day a guy came in looking for 'the manga that had been reviewed in The Coast.' The guy even turned to the page the review was on to point it out.

It's a very minor thing, but it's still neat to think that someone read my review of a book and was intrigued enough to go to a comic book store and seek it out (especially something as obscure as a Japanese comic from the 1950s). It's just nice to know, and gives me hope that maybe what I review isn't as off-the-wall or irrelevant as I sometimes think it is. So thanks a lot mystery manga dude. You don't know it but you made my day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Food for Thought

I’m so hungry. I stare at the blocks of text on the screen, letting the words fill my mind so I can ignore my empty belly. It doesn’t work. It’s one of those chicken and egg situations: need to write to eat, need to eat to write. Finally I give up and swallow down a Nutri-Grain bar. Sorry mind, matter wins this round.

One of my favourite pieces of advice James D. Macdonald gives on his long thread at Absolute Write is not to eat while writing. It becomes a habit, and soon you’ll find yourself unable to string together sentences unless you have a plate of nachos within reach, piled high with lightly melted cheddar and mozzarella, a sprinkling of hot peppers, onions and tomatoes, some mild salsa and sour cream on the side...that bar wasn’t enough, I’m still super hungry.

Like a lot of writers, I strive to make time to write every day. It would be so much easier to just squash (mmm, squash) eating time and writing time together and type with one hand while the other holds a PB&J sandwich. But I can’t do that. One is for the reasons outlined above: I don’t want to fall into the habit of including food as my writing routine. The other is that when it comes to meals, I rarely do simple. I might start making something, like say soup, and decide that I want lentils in it too, and then I decide I need a salad, and basically the whole things snowballs to the point where I spend more time preparing the meal than actually eating it. For example, for lunch I’m going to have fried eggplant with cherry tomatoes, tofu and rice. The eggplant is already cut up and sitting salted on a plate in the kitchen so they won’t be bitter when I cook it. It takes a little more time and preparation, but it’s going to be so good when I finally eat it.

Of course, that time preparing food also cuts into time I could use for writing. But once again, got to write to eat, got to eat to write. And I like cooking, almost as much as I like eating. The trick isn’t too see it as an obstacle to writing, but in service of it. Sounds obvious (next blog post: “Breathing an important part of the writing process”) but it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in the idea that the only important thing in the world is my word count for the day. When I get in that mindset I really do ignore the growling in my stomach, except for the times when I growl back at it, reducing it to whimpers. My writing is never any good when I get that way. The characters all seem like they’re out to get me, minor distractions balloon to volcanic proportions, typos occurs every other word. Eventually my mom calls and if I manage not to bite her head off in the first thirty seconds I start telling her about how everything is just going to shit. To which my mom, fountain of all wisdom, will listen and ask “When was the last time you ate?” And I usually don’t answer right away, because I realize she’s right. So then I eat something and things are better. Not just with the world at large, but with my tiny world that takes up the laptop screen. So that’s what I’m going to go and do now and write later. By now the eggplants should be nice and sweet.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Girly comics

A writers' site that I frequent has a list of links for many well-known comic book writers' and artists' web pages. It's a very comprehensive list, except for one thing: it's all guys. Out of the 49 names listed, there's not a single lady creator. Comics has long been considered an old boys' club, but that's hardly the case anymore. I compiled my own list of female comic creators, and I'd thought I'd post it here as well as on the forum (but here you get added commentary! Whooo!)

Alison Bechdel

I can't believe I only recently discovered Alison Bechdel. 'Dykes to Watch Out For' is one of the most addictive comics I have ever read. It's like printed crack. 'Fun Home' is my new barometer for autobiographical comics. the layouts and storytelling in it are just astounding.

Faith Erin Hicks

FEH's art is fun and clear, ditto for her story-telling. She manages to use geek cliches (ZOMBIES!) to her advantage rather than as a cheap way to pander to her readers.

Hope Larson

Hope Larson has a whimsical but solid style. I like how she uses gutters (aka the space between panels, not actual sewer gutters).

Kate Beaton

You like history? Kate Beaton loves history so much she'd marry it. Or at least draw a very cool webcomic about it.

Madeleine Rosca

So cute, so creepy. I just learned that there is an omnibus edition for 'Hollow Fields,' which I plan to get my mitts on as soon as I can.

Amy Reeder Hadley
Christy Lijewski
Svetlana Chmakova
Rivkah http:
Queenie Chan

Tokyopop has (rightly) gotten a lot of flack in the past for how they treated English language creators, but one of the good things they did was propel a lot of female creators to the forefront of this new wave of manga. The names listed above are just a few of the crators who got a break through Tokyopop.

Chynna Clugston

I have to be honest, I've never really gotten into Chyna Clugston. Maybe I just haven't given her work a fair shot. But that doesn't mean I don't recognize her influence.

Jessica Abel

A comic book writer. Her graphic novel 'Blood Sucks' was a surprisingly awesome vampire story.

Becky Cloonan

I love Becky Cloonan's art, just love it. If you haven't checked out Demo yet, get your ass to a bookstore.

So there's that. It's not a lot of names, but hopefully it's enough to show that the comics world isn't quite the sausage factory some people make it out to be.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lots of links

First up: this week's cover story of The Coast was written by yours truly. It's an article looking at Halifax's first anime con, happening this weekend.

Next up, new review over at Kuri-oustiy: Physical Attraction.

See? I'm not dead! Far from it, in fact.