Archive for March, 2008
The overall buzz on Fred Chao‘s Johnny Hiro (Half Asian, All Hero) [AdHouse] frequently boils down to words like “genuine” or “fun” or both. What else can you expect from a series that involves giant monsters, stolen lobsters and David Byrne? Well that’s just some of the things encountered in the first three issues. So naturally I was eager to interview him about his work, as well as an upcoming exhibition of paintings he has this Saturday, April 5 at Charmingwall Gallery.
Tim O’Shea: In terms of the backstory, I’m curious with Mayumi, why did you opt to create a character (in Johnny Hiro) who clearly is still learning the nuances of the English language but she makes a living as a copywriter (or is she a copywriter in her native language)?
Fred Chao: Perhaps it’s a weakness in my writing–I’m not sure yet–but the indulgence I let myself fall into most is humor. So a lot can be put aside for a good joke, as long as it doesn’t go against the characters. That said, I just thought it would be funny for Mayumi to be working on the editorial side at a major publishing house despite English being very obviously her second language.
As an unabashed information junkie, I continually feel like I’m missing out on news. As a result, I’m often checking Internet resources for new means for uncovering information (both useless to some and useful to others…). Today, I discovered the Literature portal at Wikipedia.
From there, I discovered a January 4, 2008 (U.K.) Guardian article that documented the opening to the public of the Norman Mailer archive at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas. (Be sure to visit the Ransom Center online, as it’s astounding how much they have in terms of holdings for a variety of people, places and events…)
Anyway, back to the article, I was struck by the unique nature of materials included in the Mailer archive:
“Although the public nature of Mailer’s life means that there are unlikely to be many surprises, the collection still contains a few nuggets. A personal phone list includes numbers for Playboy’s Hugh Hefner, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, actor Montgomery Clift and writer Truman Capote. The collection of letters includes one from Capote in 1960, when the novelist was living in Spain and writing In Cold Blood. ‘Hope other aspects of your summer are equally triumphant,’ Capote wrote in tiny script in blue ink. ‘My own is – quiet. Am working steadily on my book about the murder case in Kansas – but it is very difficult, especially since I have to keep battling my own emotional involvement.’”
Bottom line, information is where you find it, and fortunately I keep finding new outlets for info. Be sure to check out the links mentioned previously, as somewhere along the way you’ll find info to capture your attention as well.
Some of the best times I had writing was back in college, reviewing music for the Georgia State University newspaper. When I realized again how happy that reviewing made me, it dawned on me that all my interviews and reviews (and now blogging) are an effort to recapture that creative happiness.
I can’t relax easily. It’s just a fact with me. My brain is always typically going in about 20 different directions with a poor ability to focus. But when I literally sat down to review an album (this was the late 1980s…) there was no stopping me–I had clear tunnel vision on that track, that voice, that instrument. And sometimes I recapture that feeling when I’m blogging. Rarely though and that bothers me. With this newfound realization, I’ve got some ideas to consider for this blog. I might try my hand at music reviews again. Or I may try something new. Clearly once I know what to try next (in addition to continuing my interviews with folks), you’ll be the next to know. (Just to clarify, I love doing interviews, it merely requires a different set of brain muscles and provides a different form of satisfaction than writing can offer me.)
What partially got me thinking about my reviewing days was Bob Harris’ post at Paper Cuts (the NYTimes Book Blog), Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing. The post, which offers some of the most overused words in reviews, really got me to consider what my “go to” words were when I reviewed. The comments section to the post is impressive, with 202 comments so far, many of which offering other words that folks hate to see misused or overused in reviews. If I do return to reviewing, I’ll do my best to avoid some of these words.
A major way that my son, Colin, and I have always bonded has been through music. So last year, when I discovered the podcast of Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child (a show from Valley Free Radio [103.3 FM, Northampton, Massachusetts]) both Colin and I were pretty darn happy. The show, recently also picked up by 93.9 The River, is hosted by Bill Childs along with Ella, his daughter, and (sometimes) Liam, his son. As detailed at the show’s MySpace page: “We play both music that’s officially for kids (e.g., Dan Zanes, Frances England, CandyBand, Lunch Money, Asylum Street Spankers) and a lot that’s not (e.g., Pixies, fIREHOSE, Beatles, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, and again the Spankers). And we start and end every darn show with They Might Be Giants [TMBG].” I recently caught up with Bill for an email interview.
Tim O’Shea: How did you first come up with the idea of Spare the Rock, and was it hard to get Ella to speak on air?
Bill Childs: We had moved to Northampton in the summer of 2004 for me to take a job teaching law school. At a local cafe, I came across a flyer for Valley Free Radio seeking programmers and people to help get the station started up. I had done radio in college (WMCN, 10 blazing watts of power) and was looking for a community-related activity, so I decided to apply for a show. I rapidly got involved on the policy side as well; I have dropped out of that role for the most part for quite a while, as there was some unpleasant infighting that seemed unproductive to me.
No Jeff Parker‘s not in jail or imprisoned in any metaphorical or actual manner.
And he’s gonna be annoyed that I don’t post with any graphics. But hey, he’s the guy who just posted an eight-part prose piece at his blog.
That’s where the free part comes into play here. While this first ran elsewhere in anticipation of his Marvel Comics 2006 miniseries, Agents of Atlas, Parker recently re-ran the eight-part Menace from Space story. Here are links to part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven and part eight. Jeff’s a great writer and the gives folks great dialogue lines like:
Thanks for the free entertainment, Jeff.
The Internet is a big place, you may have read this obvious statement before. Why I write it this time is to somewhat reassure myself that I cannot be aware of everything. I’ve always been a fan of Dick Cavett. I was too young in the late 1960s/early 1970s to watch his late night show, but thanks to Netflix I have caught up on some of what I missed. So, imagine my surprise (given that I have been a regular NYTimes.com reader since its launch in the mid 1990s) that I was unaware that Cavett had been blogging for the website since early 2007.
It was Cavett’s show where Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal got into a vehement dispute back in 1971. Cavett describes it here as “without doubt the damnedest show I ever did. Or ever heard of.” There was also the time a guest died on the set (not on the air, as the show was never aired), as Cavett explained in an effort to dispute an obscure bit of folklore. It’s so strange to watch these shows now on DVD and see guests smoking–sure it was common then, but now, well it seems like people on another planet.
Writer/artist Terry Moore is on a very short list of successful, long-term self-publishers. Last year, Moore wrapped up Strangers in Paradise, after a 14-year run. This month, he launched a brand new series, Echo, a bimonthly ongoing series about (at its core) “Julie Martin, a photographer taking pictures in the desert [who]… finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.” As if that is not enough, he is also writing two series for Marvel, Runaways and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. The bulk of this email interview focuses on Echo, understandably.
Tim O’Shea: More than a decade and a half ago was that last time you started self-publishing a comic book. On this go-round (in albeit a vastly different market) what are you doing different to make the book a better product (both for retailers and readers)? What logistical challenges are you dodging on this round?
Terry Moore: I’ve found I can’t work faster or slower anymore. Whether it’s a con sketch or a cover for the comic, I only have one speed because every drawing now has to be good. I’ve lived with deadlines so long they no longer scare me, I’m more interested in the final product, so the book will always be the best I can make it. I think that showed in the last couple of years of SiP and it shows in Echo. That’s the best thing I can do for my retailer partners, is make the best book I can and then go out and promote the hell out of it.
As much as I hope to broaden the scope of interview topics in the weeks and months to come, there’s no escaping my interest and connections in the comic book industry. It’s where the bulk of my reputation as an interviewer is known.
So for folks who were wishing to see me do more comic book/graphic novel interviews, the next few weeks will be good for you. Tomorrow we will be running an interview with Terry Moore (known for his long run on Strangers in Paradise), who recently embarked on a new self-published title, Echo. The week after that I have an interview to run with Fred Chao, the creative force behind Johnny Hiro (AdHouse).
So, I hope you enjoy the upcoming comic book interviews, but I am open to suggestions on all pop culture fronts. Please drop me a line if you would like to suggest a topic to cover or a person to interview. My content can only improve with your insightful perspectives.
In my role as a dad, I am the volunteer coordinator for the media center (aka library) at my son’s elementary school. So when my friend, Curt Holman, mentioned he had done a review of play adaptation of Junie B. Jones, I was curious. Honestly, my son has never really warmed to Junie B. Jones, but as the guy who shelves these books on a regular basis, I know the books are very popular with children.
Written by Barbara Park, a majority of the chapter books tell of the adventures of a first-grade little girl with a penchant for getting in some fun (aka trouble). Park has written more than 20 books about the character, so it should be no surprise that the character has been adapted into a children’s play as well.
In reading the review, I was surprised to find out that the roles in the play were performed by adults. Granted I have not seen the play, but there is something weird or creepy to me about suspending my level of disbelief to accept an adult could play a first grader.
Maybe this discomfort stems from my days as a kid when I saw a high school production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown! As a child, I thought to myself: “Why aren’t kids my age playing the roles?” Of course, it was a high school production, so my small child mind missed that obvious point. But still, even now, I stick with my gut instinct. Kids plays (when possible, heck child labor laws probably make this impossible) should have kids in the roles written for children.
Of course, I’m unaware of the logistics and challenges of theater production, so I’ll fully admit my gut is probably wrong on this one.
A month or so ago, when I first contacted Joey Weiser, mainly it was to discuss his 2007 AdHouse book, The Ride Home. As with most good interviews, the email exchange took us in different interesting directions. Also as luck would have it, Weiser recently announced the release of his new collection, Tales of Unusual Circumstance, which is published by Author House and can be purchased here. Tales of Unusual Circumstance is a collection of work he’s done in mini-comics, anthologies or elsewhere over the past four years, as well as 48 pages of previously unreleased material. Here’s the core official line on the creator before we launch into the interview: “Joey Weiser was born on April 5, 1983, and has lived most of his life in Bloomington, Indiana. He is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). Weiser’s comics have appeared in several anthologies, and his first graphic novel, The Ride Home, was published in 2007 by AdHouse Books.”
Tim O’Shea: For your first major project after earning your degree from SCAD, I’m wondering what made you opt for an all ages project like The Ride Home?
Joey Weiser: There wasn’t really a decision to make an all ages story. The Ride Home is just the kind of story that I write naturally. My older work was a bit more all over the place, but once I recognized that the kind of story that I enjoy creating is typically categorized as “all ages” it’s pretty easy to omit an occasional “Oh crap!” or whatever that might come through in a first draft that might keep it from being okay for everyone. But, honestly, I didn’t give it much thought.