Archive for February, 2011

Review: Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939-1940

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939–1940 has all the virtues of its predecessor: lively adventure, painterly colors and fine-scale detail in action and rest. But where the first volume revolved around Camelot, this installment sees the titular prince roam Europe in search of adventure

Val seems to grow through these pages, replacing a bit of his carefree mayhem with the responsibilities of leadership and loss. He’s still surprising savage to modern eyes and cavalier about his safety as well. He’ll kill for sport and sheath his sword for laughter. Crusades catch him, but none as forcefully as his need for amusement.

These adventures in these pages take him to the doomed castle of Anderkrag and Rome at the height of its decline. The bulk of the story, though, is taken up with a full war against the Huns (of Atilla fame). The full-page vistas give Val sufficient space to display actual strategy and reversals. Graded on the curve of the times, Hal Foster doesn’t dehumanize the Huns too badly, even if they are full villains.

The art seems more assured here. Some of the compositions break the grid to showcase a single stop-and-stare drawing. The action is fun, leavened with heartbreak. And the story ends with an excellent cliffhanger, making me look forward to my third round with the Prince.

Muppets Dance Thmselves Clean

Friday, February 25th, 2011

A great way to end the week…

Ralph Gamelli in the Morning News

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

FLYMF alum Ralph Gamelli has a short humor piece covering facts about fun in the Morning News: “Being Eddie is Fun and Other Facts.”

Ralph’s story, Rocky Balboa Launches Into Inspirational Speeches Too Frequently, was published in FLYMF’s Greatest Hits. He also contributed How Long Before I Use My Ejector Seat? and  Twilight Zone Episodes For the Internet Age.

Marissa Kristal: What Doesn’t Kill You

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

One last bit of long-overdue catch up: FLYMF alum Marissa Kristal has published”What Doesn’t Kill You: A Mini Memoir About Suffering and Surviving a Brain Bleed.” It details her experience with a serious health scare–a burst vein in her brain–chronicling the changes she experienced in its aftermath. I also look forward to adding this one to my bookshelf.

Marissa’s story Trainers (And Big, Horny Dogs) was published in FLYMF’s Greatest Hits. She also contributed Standing on Street CornersThat Girl, Frostbite, Mr. Crazy and The Cheek Kiss.

Gini Koch: Touched by an Alien and Alien Tango

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Something I’ve been meaning to mention for a long time now: FLYMF alum Gini Koch is having a great response to her ongoing Alien series, published by DAW books. The first installment, “Touched by an Alien,” has inspired a sequel, “Alien Tango,” and it looks like there are more installments in the pipeline. You can see all the details at her web site.

The reviews indicate the books are full of sci-fi fun. I look forward to catching up with the series!

Gini’s stories for FLYMF included…well, she wrote for us under a different name, and I’m not sure she wants to share it. But if she was published in FLYMF, you know she has to be funny.

J.D. Smith: Dowsing and Science

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

FLYMF alum J.D. Smith has a new collection of essays being published by Texas Z&M University Consortium Press on March 1. I look forward to picking up a copy! Here’s the description from the press web site:

The essays in Dowsing and Science touch points on the map, including Texarkana, Chicago, and Ocean City, Maryland, with stops in Latin America and Aurora, Illinois. The collection’s mental range extends even farther, questioning the use of common phrases such as “the real world,” suggesting how Romanian history stands in for the human condition at large, and making a case for the survival value of esthetics. While several selections represent variations on the short memoirs known as the personal essay, most are examples of the “impersonal essay,” meditating on and engaging with a world larger than any writer’s psyche.

J.D.’s stories for FLYMF included The Great Tuvalu Liquidation Sale, My Fetishist Things and As a Matter of Fact, I Am the Person You Have to Blow to Get a Table Around Here. You can follow all of J.D.’s updates on his blog, Smitroverse.

Elements of Style

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I’m not talking about Strunk and White. Chicago band – and buddies – Elements of Style have their self-titled debut album live for streaming on Bandcamp. It’s some great dual-guitar rock; give it a listen!

Unequal

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot have some killer charts highlighting wealth inequity in Mother Jones. I would love to see these as posters on the CTA.

Here’s one example – click to see the rest.

Review: Prince Valiant, Vol. 1: 1937-1938

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

When I was kid, Prince Valiant was the living fossil of the comics page. Intricately drawn, with the captions weirdly bundled beneath the illustrations instead of being bound in bubbles, it dealt with swords and mail and bloodshed. Sure, the Phantom was still kicking, Dick Tracy was chasing crooks, but Prince Valiant was so beautiful, archaic and weird that it may as well have been scrimshawed on an ostrich egg.

After reading the first volume of Fantagraphics excellent reprinting of Hal Foster’s creation, I’m surprised at the life within this antique. It’s no surprise that the art is beautiful. Foster’s figures have a fine, illustrated detail—rarely seen on the comics page—but they’re full of energy as they joust, dive and play at swords.

The fine drawings are matched by the colors. Bold, primary outfits stand out against soft, pastel backgrounds, giving the strip an eye-catching blend of feudalism and fantasy.

This brilliant world is enhanced by Foster’s engaging plots. While the volume relies on some sword and sorcery tropes—kings and hags, knights and damsels, King Arthur and Morgan Le Fay—Prince Valiant charges through it all like a can-do, all-American maniac. He chases adventure with little regard for his own life, stabbing and swinging his way through one romp after another. It doesn’t take much provocation to get his knife out of the sheath, but he’s clever, resourceful and fun, even as the bodies pile up behind him.

The stories feel more sophisticated than many of the action shoot-ups you’ll find on the tube or in the theater. The characterization is consistent. Obstacles are overcome without cheats. Foster is even savvy enough to throw in some setbacks as well as real tragedy. The volume’s longest storyline ends bleakly, and it’s surprising to find no takebacks in its wake.

On the whole, this is an excellent package, showing Foster gaining steam as he settles into his style and setting. I look forward to future installments.

Living the Geek’s Dream

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Daniel Zalewiski has an excellent profile of director Guillermo delt Toro in the New Yorker. “Show the Monster” shares how the filmmaker’s lifelong fascination with horror culture has infused movies–and monsters–from Pan’s Labyrinth to Hellboy. It’s worth reading only for its depiction of “Bleak House,” del Toro’s office stuffed with models and mementos from decades of horror movies.