Thursday, April 29, 2010

Boston Days 3 & 4



I was doing really well on this trip, huh? I mean, live a day, write about it the next morning. Then the Red Sox happened and I got kind of distracted. I could go into depth about how we spent our last bit of time in Boston, but most of it would involve me gushing endlessly about Fenway Park.

My dad and I went to the game Saturday night, which the Red Sox won thankfully. Before the game we spent most of our day just walking around the area where the park is and drinking. We started with a walking tour of Fenway, which included field access, so I actually got to stand on the same warning track that Ted Williams used to field fly balls on. After the tour we had lunch and beers, then there was more beer, then some walking around, then some waiting, then the game. It was amazing, it was religious, it was one of the greatest days of my life.





The following day, Agnes and I got up and decided to go back down to Fenway (the game was at 1:15) and try to find tickets. She'd never been to a professional sporting event (except the Nashville Sounds minor league games) and she expressed a genuine interest in seeing Fenway Park. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that she knew we could afford it and that I wouldn't have a lot of chances to do this, so kudos to her. That's major brownie points right there. We got down there, found a guy selling tickets for the first row bleachers, dead center field. He wanted $150 for two, which was about $30 more than I wanted to pay. So I put on a fake Boston accent (it's impressive, you should hear it) and convinced him I was too local to try and pull one over on. We got the tickets for $120 and it was money very well spent. The Sox lost that game (damn you Okajima!) but it was still amazing and religious. Agnes even bought a hat. Okay, she was mostly trying to keep the sun out of her eyes, but by the end of the game she was totally invested.







video

That night we had a very poor Italian meal at a Zagat rated establishment (I no longer trust the Zagat rating) that isn't worth discussing. Then the funk set in, I woke up with a chest cold, and we came home.

I could go further into depth about all of this stuff, but I'll let the pictures tell the stories.

Thanks for coming along with us on this Surfing the Bleed vacation. I promise I'll get back to talking about comics this week.

GB Williams out.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Surfing the Bleed On Vacation - Boston - Day 2

DAY 2

Day two began with a wonderful room service breakfast. Now, don't get me wrong, we're certainly not the kind of people to indulge in room service but my mom had us sign up for some special Kimpton package which gives us a daily $30 room service credit. If you've got it, flaunt it. Right? Once energized by a great breakfast in bed, we went on the search for comics and various other forms of entertainment.

After a quick train ride, Agnes and I found ourselves on the search for Comicopia, the comic shop recommended to us by Ming and her sometimes collaborator, Kevin Church. Kevin and I don't really know each other (outside the occasional Twitter conversation) but when it comes to comics in Boston, I trust his opinion implicitly. Unfortunately for us both, Agnes and I are both early risers. Boston, dear readers, is not an early riser city. We made it to the comic shop at around 10 in the A.M. only to find it still closed. No worries though, as it was just down the street and around the corner from the awe-inspiring site that is Fenway Park.

At this point I have to mention that my wife was a real trooper yesterday. As you'll soon realize, Day 2 of our trip was a very Brett-centric day. She handled it gracefully.

So yeah, Fenway was amazing. We walked around the exterior, Agnes taking pictures and me alternating between the tactile experience of dragging my fingers along the bricks and prancing around like a giddy schoolboy. Which, to be fair, is what I'd been reduced to. Just seeing Fenway, much less being inside it, is a lifelong dream. Those moments when dreams are realized are always very, very special. Understatement of the year, right? More on Fenway tomorrow though, as my father and I will actually be inside baseball's most famous ballpark tonight.

We killed enough time around the stadium for the comic shop to open up. While Comicopia is in a bit of a cramped space, the owner has done his best to get as much out of that space as he can, with cleverly arranged racks leading from the kids titles in the front (where they should ALWAYS be) to the weekly new releases and adult comics in the back. Comicopia looks, smells and feels like a local comic shop should, complete with a wide selection from each genre of comics and a very friendly staff. Now, I can't walk into a good comic shop without shelling out some of my money. I had to restrain myself as we're on a pretty tight budget this trip, but I did make a couple of purchases. Based on good reviews I've read and the staff recommendation, I purchased volume one of The Stuff of Legend by Mike Raicht, Brian Smith and Charles Paul Willson, III. I also picked up Kevin Church and Benjamin Birdie's The Rack, a collection of the first year of Kevin and Benjamin's hilarious webcomic about the lives of a group of comic shop employees. I've only read bits and pieces of The Rack online so I'm really looking forward to diving into this headfirst on the plane ride back to Nashville.

After the comic shop we stopped in the John Fluevog shop so I could purchase a new pair of nice, awesome, protect-against-Satan shoes. Typically, when I go on a trip, I pack a good pair of boots and a ratty pair of sneakers. This time I forgot the boots and, surprisingly vain as I am, felt the need to purchase a nice pair of shoes for wearing to any potential nice dining experiences. But let's be honest, it was really just an excuse to get some new Fluevogs. I love those shoes!


More interesting than the shoes I purchased was the person I met at the Fluevog store. One of the employees was a charming and energetic young girl who makes her own webcomic over here. We talked comics, exchanged information and tentatively set up an interview for sometime in the future. And isn't that awesome? Comics is such a universal language. I can't go anywhere in this country without meeting someone that loves comics and/or makes comics.

After the shopping trip we came back to the hotel, grabbed my folks, had a couple beers (so it begins) and headed down to the harbor for a seafood lunch at The Barking Crab. The meal had its highs and lows, but overall the experience was good and the service was excellent, an aspect of Boston I've been pleasantly surprised with. We've had fantastic service everywhere we've been so far. Two things of note happened at The Barking Crab. One, I consumed lobster for the first time ever. I enjoyed the lobster and was genuinely surprised and delighted that there was a different texture and flavor to every area of the beast, but ultimately I wasn't blown away by it. I understand why people like it, but after reflecting upon the meal, I'm not quite sure why it's considered such a delicacy. Good, but not great. The second thing worth noting about this meal was the beer brewed by the Harpoon Brewery exclusively for this restaurant. The Barking Crab White Ale is an unfiltered wheat beer that starts smooth and finishes crisp and fruity. It was one of the most refreshing and enjoyable beers this snob has ever had and was the perfect compliment to the seafood we were all consuming. Seriously, I thought it was so good that I made everyone at the table try it and then subjected them to fifteen extra minutes of table time after the meal just so I could consume a second. Like I said, a very Brett-centric day.

After the late lunch, Agnes and I made our way out to our friend Jeff Artiaco's old stomping grounds in the Allston area. Agnes grabbed some ice cream at a cafe Jeff used to frequent that was right across the street from the liquor store where he used to work.



The staff, much to my delight, had Double Nickels On the Dime by the Minutemen playing on the stereo.



After ice cream we landed at Jeff's favorite dive bar, the Silhouette Lounge.


Bud Lights were consumed (only by me), jukebox tunes were enjoyed and two heated games of Cricket (the dart kind, not the kind with knickers and weird bats) were completed. I won both, but I'm proud to say that Agnes more than held her own with me (I'm pretty good) and brought it down to the bullseye both games.


At that point I was pretty lit and decided that I needed food, so we went to the burger joint Jeff had suggested, a place called Our House West. Our House has a bit of an identity crisis. One part divey diner, one part upscale lounge, one part coffee house and one part sports bar, I would have felt a lot more comfortable with it had they just picked a theme and ran with it. But we weren't there for the ambiance, we were there for the food. And to a lesser extent, the beer. I was pretty much done at that point, but I wanted a beer to go with my burger. So I ordered a Naragansett Beer, the local cheap beer of choice. Considering myself something of a cheap beer connoisseur I decided I couldn't leave Boston without trying one of these beers. Well, I can say that I tried it and that, with the exception of the awful Genesee Cream Ale, it is the worst beer I've ever had in my life.



Luckily the burger was exceptional. I ordered what they called the Canadian, a thick, juicy burger, cooked to order and topped with a thick slice of cheese and a few slices of Canadian bacon. They even served it with romaine lettuce (not the typical iceberg that you get with most burgers) so I did something I've never done in my whole life; I ate something other than just mustard and cheese on that burger. That's right mom and dad, I put that romaine lettuce on that burger.

And it was awesome! I know that this sounds ridiculous, but if you knew how picky an eater I'd been growing up, and what great strides I've made as an adult, you'd understand. Putting anything other than mustard on a burger is a big step forward for me. The lettuce, man, it added this really rustic, earthy texture and flavor to the burger that accentuated the already stellar taste. Maybe I was just drunk, but I think it was one of the best burgers I've ever had.

After the burger and a long train ride back, Agnes and I collapsed into bed and fell into a deep and satisfying sleep.

Tomorrow: RED SOX NATION!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Surfing the Bleed On Vacation - Boston

DAY 1

This past Christmas, I purchased my father and I two tickets to see the Boston Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles in historic Fenway Park. The purchase was made on a whim, but what a glorious whim. I'd just started working at my current job (after nearly a year of unemployment) and I had money in my bank account for the first time in a long time. I was tired of the typical "here's a CD you'll like, here's some awesome movie" gifts I usually get my dad, so I decided to go bigger.

My pops and I have been talking for years about taking a trip to the great East Coast ball clubs. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to do it before the original Yankee Stadium closed down. The trip would have consisted of Baltimore's Camden Yards, New York's Yankee Stadium and (this Sawks fan's personal favorite) Boston's Fenway Park. We may still do it someday (though I don't care much about the new Yankee Stadium), but I got tired of waiting on Fenway.

I've been a Red Sox fan since I was a kid, which wasn't easy growing up in Tennessee because I never got to see any of the games. My pops taught me a lot about old baseball when I was a kid and I just decided that I liked the Red Sox best of all, probably, honestly, because they had a superstar with the same last name as me. I decided this was the year we would do it, the year I'd finally get to see Fenway, so I pulled the trigger and got it done. Now, pops, mom, the wife and I are all in Beantown. The game's on Saturday, but that doesn't mean we're sitting around on our hands until then.

Yesterday we had a couple of great pizzas from Regina Pizzeria, did some hoofing around the Italian area of town, had some Boston Cream from Mike's Pastry, then headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest. Well, dad and I did at least. Mom and the wife got stuck in a genuine all-of-a-sudden-man-this-must-happen-all-the-time Boston thunderstorm. After resting and drying were achieved, we went our separate ways. Mom and Dad to do whatever and Agnes and I to hop a train and go see my friend Ming Doyle, who you may remember from such work as Jennifer's Body, Girl Comics, and of course, The Surfing the Bleed Interview.

Ming and her lovely assistant (read boyfriend) Neil Cicierega met us down in the Newbury St. area of town and took us to a great light dinner at Trident Booksellers & Cafe, a simple bistro located inside an independent bookseller. At dinner we talked about comics (of course), being a You Tube superstar, spider bites and various other topics of interest. Afterward we took a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood and stopped to pose for one Facebook-pose photo which unfortunately has yet to be uploaded to the computer. But there are pictures coming, I assure you!

It was during this leisurely stroll that I got my first glimpse of Fenway Park. I have to admit to you that I had to pause and collect myself for fear that I would shed a tear for the legacy of Red Sox Nation right there in front of my friends. And as Tom Hanks so famously iterated, "There's no crying in baseball."



After we split up with Ming and Neil, we came back to the hotel for a much needed night of good sleep. Well, Agnes slept, I watched ESPN for two hours then did the same. Sorry this post wasn't much about comic books, but I've decided of late that this blog is about my life, not just comic books. Comics is a huge part of my life and will remain the focus, but I'm more than just a collection of glossy covers and paneled pages. After all, in the immortal words of Mike Gundy, "I'm a man! I'm 40!"



Well, 29.

GB Williams out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Comic Twart


Sure, the name sounds dirty, but Comic Twart may be the coolest thing happening in comics social networking right now. Originally started as a way for a few comics artists following one another on Twitter to share their artwork, it has become a weekly must-visit for anyone who enjoys comics and cartooning.


G.I. Robot by Evan Shaner

Featuring the artwork of veterans and talented newcomers alike, the Comic Twart blog is a sight to behold. Each week, a member of the collective picks a character from the long history of comics and each member puts their own spin on that character. The posts are collected in one easy to locate blog (seriously, what else are you going to find on Google when you search for "twart?" Actually, don't answer that.) that is chocked full of awesome.


Clara de Noche by Chris Samnee

Some of the characters the Twarters have already tackled include Zorro, Hawkman, Dan Dare, & Clara de Noche.


The Rocketeer by Mitch Breitweiser

Most of the contributors already have fairly steady jobs in the field, but a few diamonds in the rough (like newcomer and friend of this blog Evan Shaner) are waiting to be plucked. Equal parts drawing group, portfolio review and professional audition, Comic Twart is a must for the blogroll of every serious comic fan on the net.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rebutting Myself?

In the time honored tradition of media outlets issuing apologies for less than professional work, I give you all the first ever Surfing the Bleed Official Apology.

As those few of you who read my blog regularly (which is apparently everyone in the offices at BOOM! Studios) already know, I posted a rather heated response earlier to this years Eisner nominations. While the post remains, it has been edited from its original form. I'll tell you why.

While I stand by my opinions, I don't necessarily stand by the way I delivered all of them. In the original post, I allowed my ire to interfere with my professionalism. I put forth a misinformed opinion about BOOM!'s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and have omitted the entire section that dealt with that book. While I do think it odd that an adaptation made it into the Best New Series category, my knowledge of the book is admittedly cursory and I had no right to dismiss it out of hand. I intend to review Do Androids...in its entirety over the coming week in an attempt to assuage any guilt I feel about jumping to any conclusions.

The original post also made it sound as though I'm not a fan of Mark Waid and Peter Krause's Irredeemable. I personally feel like the last few issues of the book have left something to be desired and don't resonate with the same oomph! that earlier issues did, but it was brought to my attention that those issues in question didn't even occur in 2009 and therefore aren't part of this Eisner nominating process. Irredeemable was one of my favorite titles of the year in 2009 and despite my misgivings about the current story arc, I do still purchase the book each month. I've also kept a few friends who were less sanguine about the future of the series than I from dropping it from their pull boxes. Why? Because Mark Waid has so seldom let me down.

While I don't believe I expressed any opinions in my original post that I wouldn't gladly stand behind, I was, upon reflection, disappointed at how I expressed them. I endeavor, as a blogger and a hopeful creator, to bring a level of professionalism to this blog absent from many corners of the comics internet. I'd like to think of myself as a true celebrator of comics, not just a fanboy with as much vitriol as sense.

While many of this years Eisner nominees troubled me, I can't reiterate more that this is just one man's opinion. If you disagree with it, fine. Great, even! I want to invite intelligent discourse. I realize that my last post, in places, sounded less intelligent than incendiary. I fear that in an effort to be honest or humorous I may have come off as simply mean. That was never my intention.

I love this industry and want very much to be a part of it. That certainly doesn't mean that I'm going to give it a pass or that I won't call something out if I feel like it isn't up to par. But I will try to be less vitriolic in the future (unless the situation really calls for vitriol).

Eisner Noms - A Rebuttal

The 2010 Eisner Award Nominees were announced this week and the internet has been understandably abuzz with speculation about who will win and who will go home disappointed. Before we even speculate about who will be leaving empty handed, let's first address all the deserving creators who didn't get invited to the dance at all.

Certainly every year the Eisners leave out creators or titles that a large section of comicdom believe to be deserving of nomination. But this year seems particularly baffling. No nominations for Jason Aaron in any category? No love shown for Batman & Robin or B.P.R.D., two of the most successful and rewarding ongoing series? A nomination for James Robinson for Cry for Justice, a book widely considered to be one of the worst comics ever? And that's just a few examples.

In response to my own confusion over this list of nominees, I've decided to highlight a few categories and give you my opinion on who should have been nominated and who should have been omitted.

BEST ONGOING SERIES
  • Fables, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy et al. (Vertigo/DC)
  • Irredeemable, by Mark Waid and Peter Krause (BOOM!)
  • Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Vertigo/DC)
  • The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard (Image)
Where is Scalped? How about Northlanders? Maybe Batman & Robin even? Everyone knows that I'm a big fan of Mark Waid's and a big supporter of BOOM! Studios. I've even evangelized the series Irredeemable on this very blog on more than one occasion, so it would be hard for me to argue against its inclusion in this category. It's my understanding that the Eisners try to focus on the portions of a series that came out in the year in question, not simply the series as a whole. If that's the case, then Irredeemable was one of the best titles of 2009. I've had issue with the last few issues, feeling the series getting bogged down a bit in various side plots, but it's hard to argue with its success out of the gate.

Even with my misgivings about the series currently, I've certainly enjoyed what little there has been of Irredeemable more than I ever have The Walking Dead or Fables. While I'm aware both have a very large, dedicated following, neither title has ever really moved me. The Walking Dead has always had trouble holding my interest, as I don't see anything in it that I feel goes beyond the things I've already seen in the oeuvre of George A. Romero. As for Fables, my issues with the title run deep and would require more than a few sentences to address. Needless to say, I don't think it's more deserving of this nomination than either of the two Vertigo titles I mentioned above.

BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS

  • Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, by Jarrett J. Krosoczeka (Knopf)
  • The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook, by Eleanor Davis (Bloomsbury)
  • Tiny Tyrant vol. 1: The Ethelbertosaurus, by Lewis Trondheim and Fabrice Parme (First Second)
  • The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly (Abrams ComicArts/Toon)
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz hc, by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower, and Skottie Young (Marvel)
The omission of BOOM! Studios from this category is shocking. BOOM! has gone to great lengths since acquiring the Disney brand to produce quality comics for a younger audience. While it would be simple to slap Mickey or Donald's face on a cover and let the iconography do all the work, BOOM! have been excellent stewards of their licensed publications. Not content to simply slap together a few brightly colored kids books void of much substance, they have taken the best of Disney's brands (most notably the Pixar stable of characters) and created engaging titles that bring kids (and adults) back for more each month. The Incredibles is chief amongst these titles, but you could easily have their Muppet Show titles, Monsters, Inc. or Finding Nemo here as well. Not to discount the work of other creators and publishers in this category, but the lack of any BOOM! Studios titles in this category is a major oversight.


BEST WRITER
  • Ed Brubaker, Captain America, Daredevil, Marvels Project (Marvel) Criminal, Incognito (Marvel Icon)
  • Geoff Johns, Adventure Comics, Blackest Night, The Flash: Rebirth, Superman: Secret Origin (DC)
  • James Robinson, Justice League: Cry for Justice (DC)
  • Mark Waid, Irredeemable, The Incredibles (BOOM!)
  • Bill Willingham, Fables (Vertigo/DC)
Brubaker can stay. Waid too. Though I've not been overly moved by the last few issues of Irredeemable, the fact remains that I am still interested in the title and that his work on The Incredibles ongoing is some of the best comics of the year. Even Willingham (though I'm not a fan) can stick around, as the man continues to have wild creative success with Fables. But Robinson and Johns, the two men largely responsible for my almost complete lack of interest in major DC superhero titles currently, have no business on this list. While I won't argue that Johns has had successes in the past, I don't consider any of the books he's nominated for to be successful. Flash: Rebirth was particularly bad and my opinion on Blackest Night has been well documented. If we're nominating writers based solely on proliferation, then give Johns the award now and let's go home. But shouldn't this be about quality? One could certainly argue that the number of titles Johns is currently writing have greatly affected the quality of his storytelling.

As egregious as I may find that nomination, nothing is more baffling than Robinson's. The once great storyteller behind Starman and The Golden Age has, of late, seemed unfocused at best and unreadable at worst. His contribution to the Superman mythos over the last year had it's high points, but for the most part fell short of my (less than considerable) expectations. But Cry for Justice, a book that DC has stood so bafflingly solid behind, was one of the worst stories ever committed to the pages of our fair medium. While I may sound hyperbolic, I defy you to find evidence to the contrary. The series was panned by most major comics media outlets and the final issue even managed to net the dubious honor of a 1 Star Review at IGN . It is this title, and this title alone, that Robinson receives a Best Writer nomination for.

Certainly Jason Aaron, who has made Ghost Rider a must-read, who understands Wolverine as well (if not better) than any writer to come before him and who continues to weave a compelling story on his own title, Scalped, deserved some recognition here. But Aaron isn't the only omission. What about Rick Remender, whose ballsy turn on The Punisher has been one of the most enjoyable books on the shelf throughout and beyond Dark Reign? What about Brian Wood, who has returned recently to Demo and who puts out two consistently good titles in DMZ and Northlanders? Or how about Jeff Parker, who turns every Marvel character he touches into a must read? Is this category about guys who sell the most books, or guys who tell the best stories?

The above are the categories that bugged me most, though there are a few other issues I had with the nominations this year (no nods for Batman & Robin). One of the biggest is the complete omission of Wednesday Comics. Did the committee simply not know how to categorize it? Perhaps, though it seems to me it would have worked just fine in the Best Anthology category.

I believe I've said my piece (doubtful, actually), so I'll open this up to discussion now. I hope you've enjoyed my career suicide.

GB Williams out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wrapping It Up and Looking Ahead...

So yeah, the girl. She came along just as I was making the decision to seriously get my life in order and boy was she a big help in that. She helped me walk the line, fly right, etc, etc. She was an artist pursuing a dream and she really helped me realize that it wasn't unrealistic (especially not at the ripe young age of 25) to be doing such a thing. I'd (mis)spent all those years telling myself that it was just a pipe dream, not even knowing where to begin. She wouldn't give me the door into the industry that I'd need, but she did give me will to get off my ass and make something happen.

It was slow going of course. Life had its ups and downs, as did we, but storms were weathered and lessons were learned. Through it all, comics remained a constant. Unfortunately I was broke (and into record collecting in a bad way), so most of what I read was stuff I already owned or stuff I got from the library, but I was always reading. The thing about making comics is, reading them is half the work. You can have the most unproductive day ever, and if you read at least two graphic novels that day, it wasn't a total loss.

Comics is a language and, regardless of what more "serious artists" might believe, it's not a language easily learned. It requires you to be artist, writer, art director and editor all at once, even if you only know how to do one or two of those things well. It requires collaboration (something very few people excel at, according to the sorry state of the world), imagination, dedication and other words that end in -ation. But most of all, beyond anything else, it requires support. You don't choose comics because you want to be famous or rich. It offers very little in the way of fame or riches. You choose comics (at times over being a designer, a novelist, a journalist) because you can't do anything else, because you love the medium so damn much that the thought of telling your stories anywhere else rings a little hollow. Or maybe you're just a failed novelist. Regardless, it takes support. Support from family, friends, lovers, and strangers alike. Luckily I have support in spades.

There was another cat that came along a little later, some of you know him some of you don't. Most of you will know him soon though, as his is a star that's rising fast. We don't speak as often now as I'd like, but he was the ignitor. She got me on the road and he got me focused. This friend, who I met quite by chance, showed me that comics wasn't this big, scary world way off in the distant lands of NY and LA. He showed me that comics was everywhere, an organic and supportive community that was so concerned about the omnipresent fear of industry death that they welcomed new creators with (relatively *cough, Marvel, cough*) open arms. He showed me how to get started, gave me feedback and introduced me to just enough people to prove to me that, while I assumed I was about fifty steps away from breaking in, it was actually more like fifteen. Regardless of how our friendship waxes and wanes from here on out, I will always be grateful to him for that.

So that catches you up, relatively, and gives you an idea of who I am and what I'm trying to do. I promise more "breaking in" content in the future.

GB Williams out.