Monthly Archives: January 2008

Who is Today’s Bill Mauldin?

There are any number of reasons that I have Bill Mauldin on my mind these days.

The first reason would be that a few weekends back, I stumbled across a Seventh Printing (August 1945) edition of his 1944 book, Up Front. The book conveys (through some text as well as single panel cartoons of his soldier characters, Willie and Joe) the risks, absurdities and triumphs that he experienced while serving in World War II. I was astounded to get my hands on a copy printed at such a pivotal time, August 1945, when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki–ultimately leading to the end of the war. Realize that 1945 was also when 23-year-old Mauldin won a Pulitzer Prize for his work.

But the other reasons that Mauldin is at the forefront of my mind is what is coming up in February and March. Next month will feature the release of a new Mauldin biography (Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front by Todd DePastino). But also DePastino has edited Willie & Joe: The WWII Years, a 600-page collection of Mauldin’s work due to be released by Fantagraphics in March 2008. If I am lucky, this blog will have additional coverage about these two projects in the weeks to come, so please keep an eye out for updates.

As you can tell from the post’s headline, I’m curious if the world has a reasonable equivalent to Mauldin in the present day. Depending on your perspective and political leanings, some (not myself) might point to Ted Rall. For myself, however, the storyteller artist coming closest to Mauldin would be Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau. Trudeau amazes me with the outlet he gives troops, as well as their loved ones. On one level, he does it by giving voice to their struggles with injuries and stress upon returning home, as played out through longtime character B.D. and his supporting cast. Of equal importance is the platform Trudeau gives readers on the homefront and soldiers still serving, through such web forums as Blowback (for readers) and The Sandbox (dispatches from troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan).

As a guy who considers himself a frustrated moderate, I’m glad to see Trudeau keeping the executive and legislative branch’s respective feet to the fire, while leaving the troops out of the political metaphorical crossfire. In a highly political world, Trudeau does great political commentary while also showing his readers what matters more than politics and the heavily fortified political lines of partisanship.

Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire, the fellow behind the Essex County Trilogy (of graphics novels) about a fictionalized version of his native Ontario, Canada, is the latest in a long list of Top Shelf-published creators that I admire immensely. While I started this blog partially out of a desire to do more pop culture interviews and to step away from sequential art/comix/graphic novel interviews, I also promised myself that whatever this blog did, I had to maintain coverage on Top Shelf books. The Top Shelf bevy of books has always entertained me, and I’m not saying that because Top Shelf’s Chris Staros resides in my hometown (Atlanta, Georgia). Two-thirds of Lemire’s Essex County trilogy was released in 2007, Essex County (Volume 1): Tales from the Farm (released January 2007) and Essex County (Volume 2): Ghost Stories (released July 2007). Both books were great reads that made me hungry for the October 2008 release of the trilogy’s conclusion, The Country Nurse. I was reminded that I should interview Lemire when Tales from the Farm recently received the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) [of the American Library Association] 2008 Alex Award (why I did not discuss that win with Lemire is an oversight on my part, sorry…). But to find out we both shared an appreciation of director Wim Wenders was just one of the interesting details he and I uncovered during this email interview. Be sure to visit Top Shelf’s site for a preview of Volume 3, which can be found here.

Tim O’Shea: When you first started Volume 1 of the Essex County Trilogy–was it in fact intended to be a trilogy?

Jeff Lemire: I had originally wrote the story as a standalone comic, but as I drew it a larger story began to quickly unfold and I decided then I would expand it into three connecting volumes.

Continue reading Jeff Lemire

Bless ya, Craig Ferguson…& Other Stuff

I’m not a huge Ringo Starr fan, but I really have to tip my hat to Craig Ferguson for devoting his entire January 24 episode to the Beatles former drummer (who is currently making the rounds with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart as part of his band). The last time I can remember an entire show devoting its focus to one act would have been David Letterman’s final Warren Zevon show in 2002. Ferguson won me over a few years ago when he devoted an entire monologue to eulogizing his father . CBS and Worldwide Pants kindly archive Ferguson’s monologues here. Ferguson has this unfettered enthusiasm about his job that is as engaging and genuine as Letterman was in his 12:30 am slot back at NBC. This past Thursday night’s show was a prime example of why I hope Ferguson never gets sick of his late night gig.

In college, one of those writers that engaged my interest and reinforced my decision to get a degree in English Literature was Walker Percy. Since his death in 1990, I’ve often worried that the level of respect for his work would dwindle (as it invariable does with some authors after their demise). That worry seems a tad needless when I run across items like this one at the New York TimesReading Room blog.

Continue reading Bless ya, Craig Ferguson…& Other Stuff

Bless ya, Craig Ferguson…& Other Stuff

I’m not a huge Ringo Starr fan, but I really have to tip my hat to Craig Ferguson for devoting his entire January 24 episode to the Beatles former drummer (who is currently making the rounds with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart as part of his band). The last time I can remember an entire show devoting its focus to one act would have been David Letterman’s final Warren Zevon show in 2002. Ferguson won me over a few years ago when he devoted an entire monologue to eulogizing his father . CBS and Worldwide Pants kindly archive Ferguson’s monologues here. Ferguson has this unfettered enthusiasm about his job that is as engaging and genuine as Letterman was in his 12:30 am slot back at NBC. This past Thursday night’s show was a prime example of why I hope Ferguson never gets sick of his late night gig.

In college, one of those writers that engaged my interest and reinforced my decision to get a degree in English Literature was Walker Percy. Since his death in 1990, I’ve often worried that the level of respect for his work would dwindle (as it invariable does with some authors after their demise). That worry seems a tad needless when I run across items like this one at the New York TimesReading Room blog.

Continue reading Bless ya, Craig Ferguson…& Other Stuff

Dmitri’s Dilemma

The Police’s Don’t Stand So Close to Me was my first exposure to Vladimir Nabokov (or more exactly the lyric referring to Lolita “It’s no use, he sees her. He starts to shake and cough, just like the old man in that book by Nabokov.”) I’ve always respected Nabokov. According to Brian Boyd’s Nabokov biography I read years ago, he once did a Russian translation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in which he added his own unique nuances. To a young fellow in the late 1980s/early 1990s, fascinated with the concept of intertextuality, Nabokov was a shining, unwitting example of the concept for me.

So it was with great interest that I read Ron Rosenbaum’s Slate piece about the literary status of Nabokov’s unpublished work (consisting of 50 index cards) , The Original of Laura, which Nabokov requested be destroyed upon his death. As explained by Rosenbaum:

At the time, the task fell to V.N.’s adored and devoted wife, Véra, but for one reason or another, by the time she died in 1991, she had not gotten around to putting a match to Laura. The grim task then fell to Dmitri [ed.: Nabokov’s 73-year-old son], who has long been an assiduous and acerbic defender of his father’s literary legacy from those he regards as egregious misinterpreters-and it now appears that such “misinterpretations” may prove to be a factor in swaying his sentiments on the fate of Laura.

Rosenbaum, who has been in correspondence with Dmitri, wanted to solicit his readers’ opinions as to what they thought Dmitri should do. I actually considered it for a minute and my answer came rather easily. It’s none of my business. Sure, I’m mystified as to what prevented Vladimir from destroying it himself, rather than leaving it as a responsibility to those he left behind. And I appreciate the value those 50 index cards represent, but my belief in an afterlife makes it likely that at some point Dmitri will need to explain to his father why he did or did not follow his wishes. So whatever decision the son must make about his father’s unfinished work, who am I to weigh in on, what is at its core, a private family matter that has gone public (albeit by the son’s own choice). I wish you luck in the choice you make, but it is yours to make, not mine to opine upon in any way.

Amy H. Sturgis

If scholar Amy H. Sturgis‘ projects were spheres that she juggled in the air, it would appear at times that she was juggling a solar system. The following is a rundown of just some of the work recently released (or soon to be released) by the Native American Studies and Science Fiction/Fantasy Studies scholar.

In 2007, Sturgis edited The Magic Goblet by Emilie Flygare-Carlen {early feminist Gothic novel} [first English edition in over 100 years, first scholarly English edition ever]; and edited Past Watchful Dragons: Fantasy and Faith in the World of C.S. Lewis, an anthology of essays about Lewis, Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling, based on a conference she directed.

For 2008, she wrote Tecumseh: A Biography for Greenwood Press, due out in late Spring; wrote Art in Its Most Essential Sense’: H.P. Lovecraft and the Imaginative Tale book chapter in forthcoming anthology of stories that inspired H.P. Lovecraft, due out from Apex Publications in late Spring; co-wrote Sexy Nerds: Illya Kuryakin, Mr. Spock, and the Image of the Cerebral Hero in Television Drama with Cynthia W. Walker, due out later in 2008 in Common Sense: Intelligence as Presented on Popular Television in Lisa Holderman, ed., Lexington Books; and is co-editing a book on the intersection of Fantasy and Native America (due out with Mythopoeic Press in 2009).

Continue reading Amy H. Sturgis

Delayed/Revamped Items of Interest

To gain and keep your interest, I understand the importance of a consistent schedule. So please consider my apology for the delay with the Friday entry. This blog will always be a work in progress. Rather than merely being about interviews that I find of interest, going forward these “of interest” posts will cover any items from the week that I find of interest to me.

First on the list of interests, Friend of Talking with Tim (FOTwT) Curt Holman sparks an interesting discussion when he details the bonding time he and his daughter enjoyed recently watching a majority of the DC animated series, Justice League (and its later Justice League Unlimited incarnation). Curt is a great critic and arts journalist, but for me, his best stuff is when he writes about his lovely family. Continue reading Delayed/Revamped Items of Interest

Staying in Touch with the Real World

A recent post by Washington Post columnist and blogger Marc Fisher gave me pause.

All William Kim has left of his only son is a new kind of life after death: Daniel’s electronic remains. A cellphone with its address book — the father calls each number on the list, hoping to connect to someone who knows something. An instant-messaging account. Online game rooms, filled with Daniel’s fellow World of Warcraft players.

Give Fisher’s entire piece a read. It is both saddening and stunning. Suffice to say William Kim’s college age son, Daniel committed suicide. There were warning signs, but clearly not enough warning signs.

Many of the warning signs were ones that Daniel offered to his online friends, not to family or to others in the “real world”. In no way am I saying if the suicidal signs had been equally shown offline that the outcome would have been different. Suicide and the process leading to it is an ordeal that few can understand.

I love the Internet and the people that it has introduced me to, but I sometimes fear the isolation that it can create. A quick scan by Google turns up studies that either claim the Internet decreases or increases social interaction. Clearly it can do both and the best attitude is enjoy all things in moderation.

Enjoy the real world, I know I should more.

Comics Experience with Andy Schmidt

Comics Experience logoAndy Schmidt is a former Marvel Comics editor who I found consistently brought an engaging vibe to the books that bore his name. When I learned last year that he was going freelance (for a number of positive reasons, most importantly to care for his newborn child) , I was eager to see where his professional path went next. Soon enough, I found that path included tapping into his teaching and editorial skills in one spot, Comics Experience. As detailed at the website, Comics Experience is where “…you can learn to be be a comic book writer; be a comic book artist; self-publish your own comic book; [and/or] learn how to break into comics…”. The latest round of classes started last week (January 7). Schmidt and I discussed what’s coming up in the short-term as well as the long-term.

Tim O’Shea: At present, the main classes are Introduction to Comics Writing, Introduction to Comic Book Art, as well as advance versions of both classes. Based on response and interest, are there any other classes you might consider offering down the road?

Andy Schmidt: Oh, definitely, I’ve been talking about doing an inking class and a coloring class and even more recently a Manga class. The response to what I’m offering has been incredibly positive from students and creators alike. So, I’m hoping to grow this out a bit.

Continue reading Comics Experience with Andy Schmidt

Interviews (and other items) of Interest

Thanks to Pop Candy, I stumbled across this interview with Dr. Lisa Sanders, technical advisor for the Fox series, House.

Speaking of health, best wishes for a speedy recovery to back-ailing friend KC Carlson (and someone should be smart and hire that guy to write for them…)

Finally, I’ve been looking forward to the opening of the Gallery 1988 exhibition, Under the Influence: A Tribute to Stan Lee. Since I won’t be getting out to that part of the country any time soon, I’m glad to see they have a blog of the exhibit with details of most artists (but durn if I can find the Eric Tan piece that Blog @’s Kevin Melrose pointed out a few weeks ago).