Tag Archives: documentary

My Comic Shop Country Gets a Debut Trailer

Anthony Desiato is back with a new feature-length documentary, My Comic Shop Country. In it, he explores the business, fandom, and community of comic shops across the country.

Shops featured include Acme Comics, Alternate Reality Comics, Las Vegas!, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Aw Yeah Comics- NY, Cave Comics, CHALLENGERS Comics + Conversation, The Comic Book Shop, Escape Pod Comics, Fat Moose Comics, Hi De Ho Comics, House of Secrets, It’z Vintage, Metropolis Comics & Collectibles, Parts Unknown: The Comic Book Store, The Spider’s Web, Torpedo comics, Undiscovered Realm, West Village Comics, Zapp Comics, & Alternate Realities.

My Comic Shop Country

Movie Review: Fahrenheit 11/9

Fahrenheit 11-9Michael Moore‘s latest documentary agitprop Fahrenheit 11/9 feels like a Frankenmovie. Moore, master of the genre and previous nailer of the zeitgeist in films like Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, and the classic Roger and Me seems to not have his finger on the pulse of what’s really going on in America. Or, perhaps he’s responding to a frenetic schizophrenic political landscape.

Moore’s schtick, while perfect for the Clinton/Gingrich and Bush years, really seems to be wearing thin as well. As a friend who works in liberal causes put it to me, “If a white man in his 60’s is going to tell us what’s wrong with America today, he better bring it.” And, yeah, he sorta doesn’t. While there are attempts at being intersectional and lifting up the voices of the oppressed who are not white and male, the film still takes a primarily class-and-economics based approach and doesn’t really plumb the depths of racism or sexism that also got us where we are. It’s a reductive take from the most sophomoric of your Bernie Bro friends, which is sad. Because this is Michael Moore we’re talking about, and we should expect better.

Rather than focus on one theme and do it well, it’s as if he’s tried to make three different movies with vastly different tones and purposes and then mash them together. The result is jarring and unpleasant. It doesn’t work, and I’ve never felt so much personally in agreement with the politics of a film and yet disliked it so much. Say what you will about agitators like Dinesh D’Souza, but his Death of a Nation was at least cogent even if it was insane and false.

The three movies Moore tries to make here are:
Act I: The rise of Donald Trump,
Act II: The longstanding issues that birthed Trumpism in the first place — and The Resistance and how we’re fighting back
Act III: These people are literally Nazis. . . and we’ve already lost. And it’s mostly this third act that is so jarring and doesn’t work.

But when more is on, he is on. During Act II he delves into the water crisis in his home city of Flint, Michigan, and the politics that allowed this to happen. Moore is in his element here and this is both beautiful and inspiring as he lifts up the local voices and highlights exactly what’s going wrong and how terrible it is. It’s only here he breaks out of his mold and calls out what happened for what it was: the attempted genocidal poisoning of a majority black and poor city. He does similar work in traveling to West Virginia and talking to teachers who are striking, and traveling to Florida to speak with the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He also highlights a new breed of political activism and candidates including spending time with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez before she won her primary. It’s a beautiful history-in-the-making and A-Star-is-Born moment.

If he’d only just made this film, and stuck with it, it would be among his best. It is focused and cogent the way that Sicko was and laid out a very serious case of the failings of our government that have nothing to do with Trump.

But of course he has to address the elephant in the room, and that means a less-than-stellar First Act which is a stunningly uneffective hit job on Donald Trump. At times funny when it should be serious, and at times overly serious when it should be satirical, there’s also an especially cringey several minute turn where he deconstructs Donald’s gross sexual feelings towards his daughter Ivanka. We get it, Michael. It’s gross. Most of us coming to see this have already seen these clips, this isn’t new, and it’s just plain uncomfortable. There’s no deeper truth or way forward. And when you’re going to take on someone like Trump, it’s sad to see such a failure of imagination to really make something stick.

The best parts of Act I are the skewering he does of several other sacred cows who were complicit in the rise of Trump. This includes both the Democratic National Committee, Nancy Pelosi, and the mainstream “liberal” news media. He goes after their cravenness for ratings and how they propped up Trump as a sideshow. But most interestingly he goes after the culture of sex predation that’s seems to infect far too many corners of the media landscape. He certainly makes a case that the media was always going to be unable to deal with a serial groper and sexually predatory candidate when they themselves are far too much the same way. Again, when Moore is on, he is on. But it’s sad because it never quite gels into a cohesive critique or explanation of what happened.

In Moore’s attempt to cover everything, he ends up truly covering nothing and adding no new heat nor light to the conversation. Perhaps those who aren’t generally tuned in to the news may learn something, but Moore has to understand that he’s preaching to the choir here and he’s generally not giving them anything new to sing about or any particularly good take. He also tries ham-fistedly to re-prosecute some of the elements of the 2016 election and his feelings that somehow Bernie Sanders ran in a rigged primary. At this point it’s just gross, it accomplishes nothing, and Moore should learn to move on.

Which leads to the Third Act, where Moore details the rise of the Nazis and how similar this is to what is going on now. However, one of the things Moore fails to mention in his take on this is the inability of the center-left and the far left to effectively combat the rise of fascism because they were too busy fighting each other. And here Moore is pouring more gasoline on the fire and opening up old wounds between Bernie folks and Hillary folks rather than giving a clear sense of vision to move forward.

The ending is completely frustrating because he basically makes the case that we are screwed, and nothing can fix what’s wrong. That sort of nihilism doesn’t sit well, and it also is so completely different from the realism and hope that Moore is able to tell during his second act.

I miss the optimistic Michael Moore from his previous films. While I dismissed as clever hokum the cheery optimism of Where to Invade Next, what was brilliant about that film in hindsight was its beautiful denouement where Moore and a childhood friend walked along the crumbling remains of the Berlin Wall and talked about how magical it was that that wall came down. After decades of it being the symbol of oppression and separation, finally it was all too much and within days the barriers were broken down, and people were literally coming, hammers in hand, to break down this wall to be reunited with friends and family from the other side. We could use a little bit of that optimism here, because especially in context of an election happening in only a few weeks, Moore has to understand that is ending is more likely to depress the troops that would fight the midterm battle.

This is why for the first time in several decades I have to recommend to people to please do not go see Michael Moore’s new movie, at least not yet. Know that it is out there, and know that he’s trying to go back to the well of his greatest hits. He’s critical of Trump, he shows how organized people working hard can stand up to political bullies and make real headway. . . and then he burns it all down in a little literal Reichstag fire with memories of 9/11 and fascism on the move.

In one sense, maybe he’s trying to steel audiences for if something truly terrible does happen in the next few weeks or months or years — which would be an actual moment where democracy could slip away from us long-term. But the actual effects of this are to mostly just be hella depressing. So if you insist on seeing Fahrenheit 11/9 in theaters in the next few weeks, don’t let it stop your resolve, or maybe leave about 2/3 of the way through as soon as Moore starts showing Triumph of the Will footage with Trump’s voice dubbed over Hitler. Because it’s all downhill after that.

2 out of 5 stars

SDCC 2018: From The Bridge Chronicles the Evolution of Sci-Fi, Horror and Comic Book Fandom

Executive Producer George Noe has announced the San Diego Comic-Con debut of the sci-fi documentary, From The BridgeIn this film, fans will be treated to a whirlwind cinematic journey chronicling the evolution of sci-fi, horror and comic book fandom as recounted by some of the biggest names in these genres. Host, George Takei guides us through never-before-seen archival footage featuring creators like George Lucas and never before aired interviews with the likes of Gene RoddenberryLeonard Nimoy and many more. This is a first look at this groundbreaking feature which will, assuredly, set the pace for the largest Comic-Con ever in the San Diego Convention Center’s 4000 seat Ballroom 20 on Thursday, July 19th beginning at 10am.

From The Bridgefeatures original interviews with Stan Lee, Nichelle Nichols, Gene Simmons, Joe Dante, Tom DeSanto, Adam Nimoy, Bryan Fuller, Neal Adams, Doug Jones, Rod Roddenberry, Howard Roffman and many more including Super Fans. This groundbreaking documentary feature is set for a theatrical run in late summer 2018 and will be released on VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray in November. North American distribution will be handled by Gravitas Ventures, a Red Arrow Studios company.

Comic Con favorite Greg Grunberg, often nicknamed the “Mayor of Comic-Con”, will serve as moderator for the panel featuring writer-director Spencer F. Lee, Nichelle NicholsRod Roddenberry, Kerry O’QuinnTom DeSanto, uber cos-player Cecil Grimes and special guests. Following the debut clips which will screen at the start of the Thursday, July 19th 10am panel, Grunberg will lead a spirited discussion and Q&A on the evolution of science fiction, fantasy, comic book and horror fandom and the positive impact each has had on popular culture.

Watch Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts for Free

Sequart Organization and Respect Films have added the feature-length documentary Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts for free on Sequart’s YouTube channel SequartTV.

Captured Ghosts features the most extensive interview ever given by Ellis and spans his first memory watching the moon landing as a child to the success of the RED film adaptation.

Along with the man himself, the film features Academy Award-winner Dame Helen Mirren, Patton Oswalt, Joss Whedon, Darick Robertson, Ben Templesmith, Matt Fraction, Joe Quesada, Wil Wheaton, Brea Grant, Claudio Sanchez, Stoya, Andy Hurley, and a Warren Ellis Muppet.

“No Straight Linesm” the LGBTQ Comics Documentary, Gets a Crowdfunding Campaign this April

No Straight Lines cover art by Maurice Vellekoop

Filmmaker Vivian Kleiman and comics artist and advocate Justin Hall have announced that their feature-length documentary film, No Straight Lines: The Story of Queer Comics, will launch a Kickstarter fundraiser in late April. This new effort is aimed at completing filming of the project, which tells the story of how LGBTQ comics evolved from a marginalized underground scene—offering uncensored commentary on everything from coming out to the AIDS crisis to gender politics—to one with worldwide, mainstream recognition.

The fundraising campaign has set a goal of $38,000 and is scheduled to launch on April 23rd. It will offer a variety of rewards to backers from large to small, including social media shout-outs, signed graphic novels, original artwork, dinner with the film creators, invitations to private screenings of the work-in-progress, and more.

Alison Bechdel at a film shoot

In 2012, cartoonist Justin Hall put together the anthology No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, which featured milestone contributions by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender comics creators from the 1970s to the present, and shared the story of the queer comics community.

Now, Justin’s Lambda Literary Award winning and Eisner Award nominated collection is the inspiration for a new documentary film directed and produced by Peabody Award winning and Sundance and Emmy nominated filmmaker Vivian Kleiman. This film will bring the stories from the comics off the page and give viewers a personal introduction to the vibrant artists, writers, and activists who have paved the way for queer comics’ dynamic present and fabulous future.

The team has been developing the project for some time and have already received grants from the California Humanities, the San Francisco Foundation, and the Berkeley Film Foundation, along with contributions from private donors. Filming is over halfway done, including extensive shoots with Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) and her mentor Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby), as well as interviews with a selection of young cartoonists at the Queers & Comics Conference in San Francisco, and more.

Alison Bechdel, Justin Hall, Vivian Kleiman

They’ve lined up financial support to complete the editing phase, but first they need to capture all the footage that will make this project shine. Cartoonists being notoriously shy, the filmmakers have to bring their crew to places like the snowy hills of Vermont and the rainy streets of Portland, Oregon, to record these important, untold stories.

Meeting their campaign goal will allow the filmmakers to complete principle filming on the project, which will include travel and accommodations; producer, director, and director of photography costs; sound and lighting equipment; insurance; bookkeeping; production assistance; and admin expenses.

Support from the community will make it possible to film with longtime LGBTQ comics legends like Rupert Kinnard (BB and the Diva), and interview pioneering web cartoonist Scout Tran (Failing Sky). The filmmakers have plans for additional shoots if they exceed their funding goals.

For those interested, you can join their mailing list to get the latest updates.

SXSW Movie Review: Alt-Right: Age of Rage

This is the scariest movie playing at the SXSW film festival, because it’s all 100% real.

The film opens and closes with the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 and shows key background on how we got there and its aftermath. The documentary focuses on two key figures on both sides. The first is Richard Spencer, popularizer of the term “alt-right” and recipient of everyone’s favorite Inauguration punch.

The second is Daryle Lamont Jenkins, an Antifa activist whose work over the past several years has been exposing white supremacists and organizing counter protests.

Their styles and substance could not be more different. Spencer is the more polished, smug, and comfortable in the limelight he has courted. He also immediately goes for the throat, and attacks Daryle on his looks rather than his substance. (You know, for someone who claims he is of a superior race and academic style, he sure immediately goes for the ad hominem. Just sayin.) Jenkins talks about Spencer as a symptom of a larger problem, and even tells Spencer to his face that if all he has left to say is fat jokes, then he has already won. And the coup de grace comes in the final moments of the film, as each of them is asked how divided we are as a country and what is to be done about that. No spoilers, but their answers tell you everything you need to know about each of them and their agendas.

The documentarians here have done an amazing job. It feels like they just happened to be at the right place at the right time — including on the street in Charlottesville where a right wing terrorist plowed over peaceful protesters in his car, killing one. It’s unsettling and traumatic to watch. And it should be. But this is where we are as a nation.

And when the tiki torch brigade surround protesters, starting fights with them, shooting their guns at protesters, and the police stand by and do nothing, you can see exactly what is so wrong with the system. Indeed, you see the Antifa protesters getting tear gassed and maced, including Jenkins himself, but they remain undeterred.

Meanwhile, Spencer and his team of personal security plan for how to get in and out of a black SUV motorcade as though they expect the hippies to come after them with AR-15s. It’s comical, except that it’s so sad. Spencer and his fragile white male contingent really do feel that somehow they are threatened. They feel like their right to free speech is under attack, when nothing is further from the truth.

Free speech means the government can’t shut you down or arrest you for saying something. It doesn’t mean people have to put up with your bullshit, which is exactly what the Antifa contingent repeats during the film.

And when you have a president — THEIR president — who is actively attacking the 1st Amendment by trying to prevent stories about him from being broadcast on 60 MinutesI just can’t feel sorry for Richard Spencer because he doesn’t feel welcomed on the campus of UC Berkeley.

If there’s a fault in the film, it’s that even though trying to achieve balance by presenting Spencer and his ilk in their own words and going behind the scenes of their movement, the film feels heavily slanted against white nationalists. But, is that really a vice? I mean, did you want a documentary that was sort of milquetoast on Nazis?

It’s unsettling and sticks with you. And, unfortunately, doesn’t really leave with any sort of resolution, except, perhaps for the hope that Jenkins leaves us at the end.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Alt-Right: Age of Rage premiered at SXSW on March 9. It has a final screening March 13, 8:30 pm at the Alamo Ritz, but you can check its official page for more “buzz” screenings.

SXSW Movie Review: ¡Las Sandinistas!

Get ready to cheer for badass feminist socialist revolutionaries. ¡Las Sandinistas! tells the story of the women involved in the Nicaraguan revolution and government. They were key to their success; but their work, sacrifice, and goals have largely been erased.

This celebrates them and will make you root for them.

But, Sandinistas, you say? Weren’t they. . . c-c-c-communists? Yes and no. Watch for yourself before pre-judging anything, as the women of the movement saw themselves fighting for something wholly different than what we normally think of as “communism,” even in the vein of Cuba or Venezuela. However, the film does gloss over any real critique of the regime — except for the one brought by the women themselves, who claim they had to fight “a revolution within the revolution” for equality and against the raging machismo of so many of their compatriots.

Las Sandinistas! Still 3 Dora Maria

The film is told through a series of interviews with five women, Dora Maria Téllez (pictured at right), Claudia Alonso, Sofia Montenegro, Gioconda Belli, and Daisy Zamora, and intercut with archival film, newscasts, and photos. Dora Maria becomes a sort of breakout star among them, especially given her pivotal role in the assault on the National Palace, seen as a turning point in the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. She then became the first Minister of Health, leading to the eradication of polio and massive reductions in malaria and other illnesses as health care was provided to the masses.

Prepare to come out of this film with a giant social justice crush on Dora Maria, whom one of her fellow interviewees referred to as “the smartest woman in the hemisphere.” She may be right.

But all of these women are remarkable, and today continue their fight. Despite the Sandinista government re-taking power in 2006, they now face many of the same repressive barriers they had torn down previously, including a nationwide abortion ban. They also find their contributions to the revolution and as early government leaders suppressed and forgotten, literally removed from historical records and monuments that instead celebrate current president Daniel Ortega.

While the film is a little bit long, it is simply because there is so much story here to tell. They win the revolution at around an hour in and you think, “Ok, we’re done here, right?” Instead, the second hour takes you everywhere you had no idea it would, up to and including the present where they continue to fight in the political sphere.

This is one of the best documentaries in a while, and is hopefully seen widely enough to make it into contention for next year’s Academy Awards. It’s certainly Oscar-worthy.

4.5 out of 5 stars

¡Las Sandinistas! premiered earlier today at SXSW and has two additional screenings later this week that you should not miss!

Tuesday, March 13, 4:15pm, Alamo Lamar A
Thursday, March 15, 2:45pm, Alamo Lamar A

Its official schedule is here where you can see any additional “buzz” screenings added later in the week.

SXSW Movie Review: They Live Here, Now

Jason Outenreath Still2 Photo by Martin do Nascimento

One of the best things about the SXSW film festival is how personal so many of the films shown are. They Live Here, Now is a documentary about Casa Marianella, a unique shelter for immigrants and refugees on Austin’s East Side is intimate, unique and powerful with a message that couldn’t be more timely.

Writer/Director Jason Outenreath (left), a former Peace Corps volunteer who got his film degree at the University of Texas at Austin, hopes the film spurs “people to be galvanized to action. I want people to be moved by the stories of the immigrants in the film, and to have a stake in what happens next in this narrative.” To achieve this, he uses a cinema verite style of just setting up the camera and letting people tell their stories.

This produces sometimes comic results, as people are interrupted, or other residents notice the cameras running and quickly move out of frame. But what it mostly produces is an experience that is incredibly personal and feels very much free of artifice. It never feels heavy-handed or like it’s pushing an agenda

THEY LIVE HERE NOW Still 10

Some of the residents wished to remain anonymous, and their stories are among the most powerful. An anonymous woman, whom we only see from the chest down, from Cameroon tells her story of violence both in her home and along the path to America, including being kidnapped and tortured in Mexico.

Indeed, stories of gang violence, war, and struggles of crossing the border are among the most common elements of their stories. What they don’t comment on are the politics of the situation. Indeed, a refugee from Iraq goes so far as to say he doesn’t want to talk about the politics or get into a discussion of how the US destabilized his home– he instead speaks of the kindness of everyone he’s met and how grateful he is to be here.

While I mentioned how the film is free of artifice, that isn’t exactly true. Outenreath instead employs a single actor to bring to life a fictionalized story of Nayelli, a sixteen year old Mexican girl who lost her mother on the way to the US and is searching for her father. You might feel outraged or manipulated except that her story is by no means the most fantastical and is inspired by true stories of other immigrants.

THEY LIVE HERE NOW Still 2

Because Nayeli’s story is the only one we keep coming back to in the film, it provides a thematic through-line weaving what otherwise would just be a dozen disconnected stories together, so I will forgive Outenreath his artistic license here.

What we end up with is a beautifully empathetic story that hopefully will spur people to action on the issue of immigration. Even if at the very least you can come away with a greater sense of empathy for immigrants and refugees, this film will have hit its mark.

3 out of 5 stars

They Live Here, Now had its world premiere earlier today, Sunday, March 11, at 4:30pm at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. You can catch two more screenings later this week at:

Monday, March 12, 5:45pm, Austin Film Society Cinema at the Marchesa
Wednesday, March 14, 1:30pm, Rollins Theatre at the Long Center

See its official schedule at sxsw.com for any additional “buzz” screenings added later in the week.

The Best Comics of 2017 – Pharaoh Miles’s List

2017 was one of those years where for most of us in America, it feels like we are living in a really screwed up version of DMZ. As the virtues of Marcus Welby, MD and Hawkeye from MASH, no longer seems too idealistic for us mere mortals but more a goal, because at the end of the day, most of us hope we are on the side of the angels. The only reprieve most people had was entertainment, and I am going to recap some items that should have been on everyone’s “ must get to” list for 2018 categorized into : comic books, books, documentaries, all which are comics related,( I will leave the movies and tv shows to compatriots on the site, as there are too many that I watch to recap, LOL, but please do watch Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, though it lasted only 2 seasons, both were thoroughly and weird and brilliant) some of these things most fans know about but others may have flew under the radar, and I am pretty sure I have left off a few items, but please charge it to my head and not my heart, either way, please read and make your own list!

COMICS

Mister Miracle: a hero from the bygone era of the New Gods, Tom King and Mitch Gerads has elevated this mostly unknown hero into the same conversation of all-time greats at DC.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters: This particular book form Fantagraphics, is a game changer, part memoir, part biography of a time, part murder mystery and a love letter to monster movies. Emil Ferris proves that she is one to watch, the sequel coming in 2018 is one to watch.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack has made this book with too few issues a must read when it does hit your pullbox.  The last issue got into the Witch War arc, something I feel the new tv show at Netflix will probably tap into.

Love and Rockets: the Hernandez Brothers are always in top form with this book, their run has proven them to be masters everything sequential art.

The Best We Could Do : Thi Bui tells her heartbreaking story of her family and their trek to America as well as her trials and tribulations of own motherhood.

California Dreamin’: Penelope Bagieu is one my favorite cartoonist right about now, and her story of Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas fame, doesn’t disappoint, entailing every detail of her journey, one that is sure to entertain.

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank: what sounds like a tagline more than compelling hard boiled book about a bank robbery, is probably what Mathew Rosenberg and Tyler Bass, what shooting for and this exactly what they have accomplished and more.

Pashmina: Nidhi Chanani tells a harrowing story of secrets surrounding love and loss affecting mothers and daughters and a magical item which transports them.

Is This Guy For Real: Box Brown, an established cartoonist, has a special way to make his sequential art in tune with emotion, and he does it so well with his subject, Andy Kaufman. I suggest people read this book and then go watch the excellent and eccentric documentary, Jim and Andy, on Netflix. (this is being released in 2018 with review copies out in 2017 – ed)

Punisher Platoon: with the popularity of the Punisher tv show on Netflix, it would look like be great timing for this book, but this book far exceeds the TV show in multitudes, as we get a peak into this Frank Castle who commanded a platoon in Vietnam, an exciting book that is part spy thriller and part character exploration.

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands: Tony Isabella and Clayton Henry, has made this hero contemporary, and his villain as well as relevant issues like Black Lives Matter, up to date as well, which is something the TV show premiering on 1/16, probably will be handling.

Black: Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith III has written a story which raises questions  about medical eugenics and racial genocide , a book which is very much on time.

Black Panther and The Crew: In one of the best books to come from the House of Ideas, this book brought new light to a cast of characters, that was at once dated, but became instantly pertinent, with its storyline of government payoffs, gerrymandering and policing, too bad they cancelled it.

In Shards Volume 1: a book which proves that indie comics is where the real talent lies, as every creator at this burgeoning comics house is on their way to prove that they will be the ones to watch in 2018.

Sons of Fate: Revolution: Jean=Paul Deshong masterfully ends his epic tale set in Japan in this supersized finale which will break the hearts of most readers but will more than satisfy every reader, one to check out if you are fan of great stories especially ones involving Samurai, Ronin and some ninjas.

Kindred: John Jennings and Damian Duffy adapt one of the masters (Octavia Butler) of science  fiction’s greatest works, and gives the world an equally engrossing work, which visualizes what most thought could not be virtually conscribed and does what good adaptations do, makes the reader want to read to the source material.

Imagine Only Wanting This:  A beautiful book about heartbreak and one’s own mortality told through relationships and modern ruins, both allegorical and true to life.

 

BOOKS

Neverwhere: This re-release of Neil Gaiman’s book, is illustrated by Chris Eidell, and is must for any fan of this Twilight Zone-ish book from the contemporary master of prose.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook: An interesting retelling of Steven Speilberg’s  classic film.

The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia: In an thorough book, that is no mere rehash, Steven Jay Rubin, delves deep into every episode, giving fans and novices alike, mostly unknown facts about the show.

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View: Thirty different tales of some known and unknown characters and events within the Star Wars Universe, which will intrigue every Stars Wars fan, absolutely my favorite book about Star Wars in a while.

Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor: As a fan of  Bruce Campbell, who has watched every thing he has been in, including Burn Notice, it is always nice to read his entertaining thoughts on everything, and this book more than entertains.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic: As this is still is the holiday season, as of me writing this,  I wanted to give a nod one of my favorite Christmas movies, Die-Hard, which is adorably told by Doogie Horner.

The Refrigerator Monologues: An interesting “point of view” book which gives the reader the view of “usual bystander” or damsel in distress”, as the genesis of Gail Simone’s coinage of the term” refrigerated” as the mere advancing of a storyline by the befalling of tragedy on the leading female character, as in this brilliantly written book, they get their just due.

The Encyclopedia of Black Comics: I incidentally found this book at the 2017 BookCon In New York, and felt instantly as if I found a secret treasure, as this book, though small in size, is quite comprehensive, and should be on every comic reader’s list.

 

DOCUMENTARIES/DOCU-SERIES

Batman and Bill: A documentary that follows Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of Batman & Bill, as we follow his crusade to restore the name of Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman, and after watching this documentary, you will be giving side-eye to Bob Kane, as we get to find out how everything transpired and what a tragedy Finger’s life ended.

Superheroes Decoded: A different look at comics, as they definitively categorize heroes into two categories, “Legends” and Rebels” and how they relate to the American zeitgeist.

Floyd Norman: Animated Life:  although it was released in 2016, many viewers did not get to see these movies until 2017, and what an interesting life, Mr .Norman has lived, being one of the first black cartoonists at Disney, blazing a trail, that has opened doors for countless others.

Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics: Definitely one of the most absorbing series about some of the world’s best-known superheroes and the creators behind them, I certainly knew all of these stories beforehand, but still is pretty cool to see it dramatized.

Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously: Another documentary which came out  in 2016, but really became required viewing, once the world got see the Starz adaptation of American Gods and wanted to understand the mind of one of the world’s greatest story weavers.

Director Glenn Fleming Discusses the upcoming Jack Kirby: My Personal Journey

Glenn Fleming is the director of the upcoming documentary Jack Kirby: My Personal Journey which will be available through his website. I had a chance to talk about the film and legendary creator.

Graphic Policy: Congratulations Glenn, on reaching your goal, so please tell us how you got into filmmaking?

Glenn Fleming: Thanks. As of this writing the Kickstarter project has reached almost £2,000 and 101 backers. This is well over my goal and I’m grateful to everyone who has backed the project. In answer to your question, I suppose i got ‘into’ filmmaking the same day I saw my dad filming us on holiday with his Super 8mm cine camera – when I was about six years old! I dabbled in photography at Art College many years later, movies and still, and I’ve produced many short films which are on You Tube, but I wouldn’t say I was a professional ‘film maker’; I’m really an artist and writer.

GP: Is this your first documentary? If not, where have we seen your work before?

GF: This film is not really a ‘documentary’ of sorts. As it says in the title, the film is about my journey to meet Jack.

GP: So, what inspired you initially to do this film?

GF: In the mid 80s, having not read a comic for 15 years, I found Kirby’s ‘Silver Star’ and ‘Captain Victory’. I also bought ‘The Comics Journal’ and read about Jack’s efforts to get his original art back from Marvel. I was surprised, but glad, he was still alive and thought wouldn’t it be cool to meet him. From there I met some Californians on holiday who lived near Jack. One thing led to another and I ended up knocking on Jack’s door. This is all covered in the film!

GP: Can we expect any interviews with some comic book writers or artists?

GF: Maybe. I would do it, of course, but my passion for the work of others is not the same; Jack was the best of the best, the most innovative comics creator in history. Everyone else just copies his blue print. I have interviewed other creators and published those interviews in my magazines ‘Crikey! The Great British Comics Magazine’, hard copies of which are still available and more recently in my on-line magazine, ‘Comics Unlimited’. Readers can still get all this stuff, should they wish it.

GP: At what point growing up and going to their house, did you realize just how much of a star, Jack Kirby was?

GF: I knew he was a star the first time I read those Marvel comics. They were, and remain, the best. No-one has come forward with Jack’s eye for storytelling, character deigns, layout or just sheer imagination. You can never say never, but I have to doubt there will ever be a force like him again.

GP: Please tell us one of your fondest memories of Jack and Roz Kirby?

GF: I have a lot of memories! I went to his house twice, so I was with him around 12 hours in total. Not long enough! My first memory is of how small he was; such a small frame, but so powerful and upright. His imagination was the size of a planet, but such a small man. My main memory of Roz was how beautiful she was. And such a lovely woman, you couldn’t help but fall in love with her. And strong – she protected her man and family. Roz Kirby is the reason we have Jack Kirby; she stood behind him every step of the way and let him get on with telling his stories. Another memory that brings a smile to my face was his grandson, Jeremy. Jeremy was about 12 at that time and he came around for his lunch when I was there. I remember Roz telling us he liked his pizza ‘napalmed’. Funny things stick in your head!

GP: Were you ever at their house, at the genesis of one of his characters that we all know?

GF: No! I was there in the late 80s and Jack had retired from the mainstream by then. It would have been cool to stand behind him and watch him draw Galactus for the first time – but no, I wasn’t there for any of that.

GP: Do you remember any characters that he created that did not quite work out, but he spent inordinate amount of time working on it?

GF: I think some of his peripheral characters could have been some of his best. This is my opinion and Jack never mentioned any of this: the character ‘Him’ from the FF was going to be better than the Surfer; the guy was incredible, another ‘god’ (and Jack was full of gods!). I don’t imagine Jack spent a lot of time on that character, but his potential, like all of Jack’s creations, was incredible. Sadly, the character didn’t go the way Jack would have taken him, by any means. Another character I always liked who never went as far as he should, was ‘Mantis’ from ‘The New Gods’. I always liked that character. I thought there was a lot of potential in ‘Silver Star’, but that only lasted six issues.

GP: When you were at their house, did you meet any famous writers/artists?

GF: No – it was just another day at the Kirby household! Jack talking about the war, Roz making lunch and me open jawed, in total awe and wanting to stay there for the next ten years.

GP: Do you remember any specific issue of his, you held, that is now considered classic?

GF: Many. I had them all. FF, Spidey, Avenger, X-Men – I had all the first issues. Unfortunately, my mother had me throw them away. Yep – she made me get rid of them when I was sixteen. Six hundred of them. Six hundred. I have a few that I managed to keep hold of, but not the full series that I could have, and should have, saved. Imagine if Jack had signed that FF #1 for me!!

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book when he worked at Marvel?

GF: I didn’t ask him specific questions. Jack had been ill and I didn’t want to pressure him or upset him. I just let him talk. The results are, I think, better than a set of questions. The best interviewers are the people who let people talk, let them go where they want to go. It’s more revealing that way.

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book when he worked at DC?

GF: Jack said DC were a fine company to work for, though he didn’t mention specific books or characters. I think he was honoured to draw Superman, but he preferred to write and draw his own characters. If you look at his ‘Jimmy Olsen’, an established DC character, you can see Jack taking that character way and above anything that had gone before. The same with ‘Superman’ – such a famous, iconic and powerful character, with a long and great history, pushed almost into the background, almost a secondary character, when he appeared in ‘Forever People’. That’s how good Jack was; he took established things and did things that pushed it further and further.

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book when he did not work at DC or Marvel?

GF: I think Jack enjoyed whatever he was working on at the time. I truly believe that.

GP: In your interview with Mr. Kirby, what was his favorite book that he worked on, period?

GF: I don’t know if he had any ‘favourite’ book, but my money would be on ‘Captain America’.

GP: Do you remember where you were, when you heard of his passing?

GF: I do. I was about to go into my office when a colleague of mine blurted out, “Jack Kirby’s dead.” Talk about sensitivity. I didn’t do much work that day.

GP: Before he passed, when was the last time you saw him? And do you remember what was the last thing he told you?

GF: I last saw Jack in October 1991. As I shook his hand, his last words were, “Thanks for coming by.” I wish I’d said what I had said the first time I was leaving. I said, “I hope we meet again.” Jack replied, “We will.” And we did. I wish I’d said that again and maybe it would have happened.

GP: What was your favorite book that he worked on?

GF: ‘The Fantastic Four’ and ‘The Eternals’. Going back to a previous question, ‘The Eternals’ should have been Jack’s second hundred issue series; what a ride that would have been.

GP: What was your favorite character that he created?

GF: Again, too many, but if you held me down… Captain America. The proof is longevity. Cap is as iconic as Superman and Batman. They are the three most enduring characters in comic history. And will continue to be.

GP: What can we expect from this documentary?

GF: Just Jack talking about his life, his service in the Army and general chat. As I said, I didn’t go armed with specific questions. I wanted the talk to be free and easy for Jack. Jack liked to talk and was a funny guy. This is revealed in the film. I often think about him; how such a simple, loving and talented man could pull entire universes from his imagination, draw them out and entertain us all. In realty, Jack was entertaining himself. All we had to do was watch while he had a great time. And, the more people watched, the happier he was and the further into his mind he ventured. Maybe he was trying to get away from us all!

GP: Is there anything in the documentary that the public and even die hard Kirby fans, would be surprised to find out about?

GF: A fifteen-year-old Jacob Kurtzburg flying upside down in a small aircraft over the skyscrapers of Manhattan! That would make anybody’s hair stand on end – guaranteed!

GP: This week, which would be his 100th birthday, what do you think he would say about the state of comics today? The state of his creations?

GF: I haven’t read a ‘new’ comic in thirty years and I know Jack didn’t look at his after they were published. He told me so. As for the ‘state’ comics are in today… well, I see a lot of exaggerated posing, exaggerated chests pushed out and exaggerated bad anatomy and, to top it all, very poor storytelling. Sure, Jack’s anatomy was exaggerated, but he knew the real stuff, so he was able to exaggerate; his woman were beautiful, though not semi pornographic, and his storytelling was… well, second to none. Jack knew how to tell a story. Without good, dynamic and clear storytelling it doesn’t matter how well the figures are drawn, how much ‘shine’ is shown on armour and how great the explosions are rendered. The story is everything. Jack Kirby was the master of that. He was the master at storytelling. And pretty good at drawing, too!

GP: Do you think he would still be making comics?

GF: No. I think he had said all he had to say and left enough for us to mine for the next hundred years. I think any sadness he may have had was that someone else hasn’t come forward to pick up his ‘pencil’ and move the medium on, rather than simply rehash his work. Tall order, though!

GP: Lastly, what do you think is the biggest misconception of Mr. Kirby?

GF: In my opinion, the biggest misconception of Jack Kirby is that people still believe, too many people still believe, that he was ‘just’ a penciler. As he told me, he created them all and he wrote them all. To me, this is plain to see, take a long look at his career time line. Jack Kirby was a genius, and, like all true genius’, he was a simple and honest person, doing his best and, in his words, “Having a great time!”

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