Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hulk Wish Trimpe Good Birthday!

Happy birthday, Hulk master artist Herb Trimpe....

Monday, May 23, 2011


Saw a bunch of movies recently...None of them classics this time around.....My quick takes....


- Tis an Aushenker tradition that I go and see the latest Woody Allen movie with Mom. We were particularly excited because A) the movie is set in Paris (my Mom's side of the family is French and we have a personal connection with the city and with our relatives who live there) and B) MIDNIGHT got some over-the-top wildly enthusiastic box office and critical acclaim. Two reviews I came across said it was a "return to form" for Woody Allen after a string of weak, nihilistic comedies.
Well, I was a tad disappointed. I'm not sure why this movie got such a better critical reception than some of the others but it's not a return to form if you compare it to Allen's '70s output of comedy classics. It's a solid late Woody entry but not my favorite among his recent stuff.
If I had to list the stand out comedies since the late '80s (when Allen began cranking them out and producing some less than classic movies), I would say the best comedies have been ALICE, DECONSTRUCTING HARRY, SWEET AND LOWDOWN, CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION and WHATEVER WORKS. (Note I'm not including a pair of dramas - MATCH POINT and VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA - which were really good.) Every other comedy has been either weak or not particularly memorable in my opinion...although every Woody Allen movie has at least a few good scenes/jokes.
MIDNIGHT is definitely up there among recent Woody Allen comedies---and the cast, Owen Wilson and Michael Sheen and Marion Cotillard in particular, are great in this movie... but for a comedy that relies on a time-travel gimmick, I found the story line lazy and not as ambitious a comedy as it could of been, as Allen missed many opportunities to exploit and milk the comic situations from the time-travel set-up.
Allen only hints at having some of the characters follow Owen Wilson back in time....and he does not have the characters follow Owen back to the present. Likewise, when the characters of yesteryear read text from Owen's book, which is from their future, Allen could've dropped some anachronistic references into Owen's book (alluding to, I dunno, Facebook? Twitter? Steve Guttenberg? Lil Wayne? Chemical Ali? Pringles potato chips?) that would've thrown those characters through a loop. I personally don't care about the technical aspects of time-travel, such as characters' actions in the past disrupting events in the future, but it woulda been nice to see more of the comedic value of the the time-travel premise by creating some chaos with characters coming and going. After all, for the longest time, you're not sure whether or not Owen is actually time traveling or if he's just drunk or dreaming it, but once it's established that he actually IS going through time, upping the ante, comedically, would've been more fun for me. As is, the time-travel humor...and the story's resolution and subtext, is kind of slight.


Sofia Coppola had me at "konnichiha" in LOST IN TRANSLATION....but SOMEWHERE went NOWHERE! Largely because this is basically a riff on the same story: a numb lost soul (Bill Murray in LOST, Stephen Dorff here) stuck in an upscale hotel who comes alive once a much younger girl (Scarlett Johanson in LOST, Elle Dakota here) enters his world. Stylistically, instead of Wong Kar Wai drag, we get Antonioni drag here. If you feel like seeing LOST IN TRANSLATION - Euro-style, then perhaps you might like this film. I found it kind of redundant and a lesser version of LOST.


Not the movie about the motorcycle-riding, flaming skull superhero but the Roman Polanski movie involving a memoir writer for a thinly veiled version of Tony Blair. I didn't dig this film as much as I wanted to, largely because the political analogy felt bogus, the quasi-Hitchockian intrigue didn't add up to much, and, in a movie where the central character requires depth, Pierce Brosnan can't act.

BLACK SWAN - I didn't see what the big deal was about this film. I'm not a big Darren Aronofsky fan to begin with...didn't think much of THE WRESTLER or any of his previous movies...and, in my opinion, Natalie Portman can't act.

BLUE VALENTINE - Michele Williams and Ryan Gosling CAN act, but the storyline really goes nowhere interesting or that we haven't seen before in a million films. It's a big so-what. Which is too bad because they're good in this movie. When it comes to character-study movies with slight storylines, I preferred the Michelle Williams movie WENDY & LUCY.


A really good thriller/mystery with interesting characters. Kind of disturbing in places, but very absorbing. Great to see a movie with a cast of actors that you don't recognize from other movies. Actors deliver great performances. And I'm partial to movies that feature journalist protagonists!


This sequel kind of went over-the-top silly, with a heroine who can not die, much more of the same from the first movie, and KGB villains instead of Nazi villains. Coincidences become too convenient. It's kinda the TEMPLE OF DOOM of this series - cartoony, still kind of fun, and not nearly as good as the original.


While this movie, essentially a sequel to FIRE, is better than FIRE and brings things back to earth a bit, it also pales to the original movie.

That said, all three GIRL movies are entertaining and I think star Daniel Craig and director David Fincher is good casting to do the American version of this trilogy. I'm not usually interested in remakes, but a Fincher version of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, based on his previous thrillers such as SEVEN and ZODIAC, had a shot of being really good.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

HIGHLIGHTS: 1st Annual Latino Comics Expo 2011 (S.F.) was EL BOMBO!

The first annual LATINO COMICS EXPO took place at the CARTOON ART MUSEUM in San Francisco on May 7-8, 2011. My cartoonin' colleague and crony (and the event's co-founder/organizer with Ricardo Padilla JAVIER HERNANDEZ ("El Muerto, Aztec Zombie") did a terrific blog capturing the event right here but I thought I'd add a few notes and photos.....It was a successful new comics-industry event and an amazing weekend, to say the least....

The City of San Francisco had declared the first day Latino Comics Expo Day..I look back on it fondly...

Let's start at end of our weekend. Monday, May 9. Here we are heading out of San Francisco's Twin Peaks area, where we stayed the weekend, courtesy of our hosts, the Padilla family. We're actually heading out to Ahn's Burgers in Oakland for breakfast...a now-familiar end-of-convention ritual for us when we go way up north (from L.A., where most of us vivre). They make our favorite breakfast: a huge spread with eggs and the greatest hash browns, plus bottomless coffee, all for $7. And, as this is a family-run restaurant, it's homemade!
Twin Peaks is a very pretty neighborhood. (San Francisco, you lucky bastard...)
Javier Hernandez and I drove up together from L.A. and we stayed at this house across the weekend. There's Jav now. He's got his comics and he's ready to make the long drive back to Los Angeles after a triumphant weekend at the CAM.
As I was about to climb into the car and, once again, relunctantly leave my heart in San Francisco, I thought to myself, "Wow, what a weekend." What a weekend it was, too....The weather was sunny and brisk but not cold...Bin Laden had been killed the weekend before, so terrorism was no longer a threat to humanity....Now the weekend was gone in a flash...How did we get to this place? I paused to reflect on the weekend that was....

It all began on the night of Friday, May 6. While most Americans sat in a multiplex, watching THOR, we brought the hammer down on a couple of extra large tomato pies. We scooped up AMIGO-MAN creator Anthony Oropeza's shipment of comics from the Fed Ex place and headed over to....

...Toto's Pizza in San Bruno, the favorite pizza spot of our Grand Hostess, Rosa Padilla.

That's Anthony, left, and Rosa on the right. Boy, she was right, the pizza was terrific, especially the extra cheese pie (more on that later...)
The next morning, our ol' pal Jarrod (with skateboard) surprised us as we came up to the entrance of the Cartoon Art Museum to set up shop. We also met fellow amigo cartoonist Jaime Crespo (bowler), a new friend we made this time around in S.F.

It's always great to see Rhode Montijo, the cartoonist behind PABLO'S INFERNO and the children's books CLOUD BOY and THE HALLOWEEN KID. Rhode, in the '90s, was our original Bay Area connection. Everything we learned about SF and his old stomping grounds, Oakland, we learned from him....and he NEVER lets us forget that! JUST KIDDING, he's the most modest art genius we know and he's a gentleman. Rhode's a mensch!
Armed with my discount designer McCoffee, I was ready for this new comics festival they call LCX!

It's always a treat to run into Rhode Montijo. Rhode's now a New York-based children's book creator, but back in his cartoonist days, we'd often stay at his place in Oakland, off beautiful Lake Merritt, when doing an SF area conventions. In fact, Rhode introduced us to breakfast at Ahn's Burgers (more on that later...)
There's Jarrod, flashing the peace sign. He's actually mocking S.F.'s hippies. Jarrod's always looking for a good fight...
..And he found one, as my buddy, the CRYING MACHO MAN cartoonist Jose Cabrera and Carlos Saldana ("Burrito") joined me in discussing the art of creating humor comics on our Sunday panel. That's my panelist-eye view of the panel...
Here's a view of our panel from the hecklers' row...back over by the crates of rotten tomatoes.
This struck me as funny and I snapped a shot of it. It appears as if somebody had David Copperfielded Rhode's chair...while he was still sitting on it!! That and the Statue of Liberty went missing that day for about an hour. When they returned, they exchanged places, so Rhode was now sitting on the top of the Statue of Liberty's torch. (Unfortunately, my phone ran out of battery by that point.)
Here's the Cartoon Flophouse table at the LCX event....Lots of titles, lots of ways to tickle your funny bone.
During the panel, I tried to self-excorcize any lingering demons I might have accidentally brought up from L.A. OK, I just look ridiculous....Hey, it was a humor comics panel!!
The CAM people wisely placed Whittier boy Jav Hernandez in front of a Herblock drawing of another Whittier guy...(Well, at least JAV is not a crook!)
Rockin' our house is Roxy Ratterman, our friend from back in the day Oaktown and such! She, Rhode, we all go waaaaaayback further than Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
This was funny, in one day, I signed two firsts: a Converse sneaker...and a black guitar (no, I've signed up Grasiella's forehead many a time...)
Gras added her John Hancock to the mighty Guitar in Black. We all signed exhibit posters, too. The fantastic poster art was done by Mr. Cabrera.

Let's take a break and jump ahead in time to the evening of Sunday, May 8...back to some pizza action in San Bruno. Yes, on the last night (on Mother's Day, to top it off), we returned to Toto's once again. Ah, that great extra cheese pie. Ricardo Padilla, the lead founder and organizer of the Latino Comics Expo and our host, can not seem to get over the fact that we became more enchanted with the extra cheese pie than the ones with the meat toppings. Somehow it happened. Life is crazy that way.

With slices like these, oozing with cheese, who could resist?
Here, Jav makes a big fuss. "OK, you don't want toppings, I'm sending this back to the chef." No, actually, look closer, the true story here is that we got a pie that was half meat, half cheese, to please every cartoonist in the joint.
Anyone who finished off a pie at Toto's was welcome to take home an official Toto's spatula. I took home two. BUT I DiDN'T WANNA GO HOME! By this point, the Lakers had lost the playoffs (in disgrace) and I felt too ashamed to return. I pondered the idea of making a spontaneous purchase, buying a house, and staying in San Francisco for good, rather than go back to L.A. Then I remembered that I didnt' have a spare $25 million to drop on real estate and nixed that idea...but not before indulging myself in more Toto's pizza!
Grasiella wanted a beer, and by gosh darn it, she got one! I loved sharing a table all weekend with Grasiella Rodriguez, whose LUNATIC FRINGE was a glorious comic book debut. She's an amazing animator, too, and a fun painter.

All weekend long, Gras kept saying how she missed animator Jim Lujan and how he would've loved it and how she wished he went was there with us at the show (He had a prior commitment). Well, after Gras had brought it up a few times, I began to miss Jim, too, and I began to wish he was there with we could shut her up! Sincerely, Gras was the Judy Garland of Toto's...if Dorothy was a man-eating, drunken-sailor-swearin' barracuda, of course! JUST TEASING, GRAS! WE LOVE YOU AND YOU KNOW IT!

A funny thing about the place we were staying at...
...Last year when we stayed there, Jav admitted that he was a bit spooked by the empty house we were staying at....Don't forget that Javy sees a LOT of movies, some of them with zombies and supernatural creepy-crawlies....Well, it then became even more disconcerting when we found the following parked nearby....
That's AN AXE on the right. And a shovel to bury the body with. HEY, IF YOU'RE GONNA BE A SERIAL KILLER, FLAUNT IT, BABY! Boy, did that make Jav feel less welcome than SCREAM 4 at the box office....OOOF!
It was a banner weekend to be fact, there's our banner now!

OK, back to the festival highlights.....Yes, the First Annual Latino Comics Expo co-founder and cartoonist Javier Hernandez ("El Muerto, Aztec Zombie") really captured our terrific weekend in San Francisco at the Cartoon Art Museum in text and photos right here on his blog. He and Ricardo Padilla put on a great event, and Jav really gave us a nice look back at it. Yet I'll add a few more notes...I've got a lot of energy, I'll keep going...
Sophie Padilla gave us the Siskel and Ebert routine. She was terrific, with her bright, sunny smile, assisting everyone at the event and making those Comics t-shirts look good! Sophie's a ham, just like her dad Rico! We always laugh it up!
Mario Hernandez of Los Lobos Hernandez was the show's guest of honor, and he let his hair down at the gallery party after the Saturday show (Free Comic Book Day, by the way, where I handed out stacks of THE NINE LIVES OF EL GATO, CRIME MANGLER as my tip o' the hat to the geek holiday).

And these two let their hair down at the gallery, too. HEY, GET A ROOM, YOU GUYS!

It was nice to hang out with everyone, including some old friends, like King Cabrera--Jose--and his queen Naomi, and new ones, like Jaime Crespo. I haven't seen in a few years such as artist Isis Rodriguez (far right). She's a talented artist, a dear friend and another ex-San Franscisan who now spends most of her time living in Mexico.
After some tomfoolery with my ol' Cornell buddy, Geoff....
....faster than Steven Tyler could cash the check on the advance for his memoirs, we hit the streets of San Francisco...
Here we are ---RESERVOIR DOGS-style, men on a Mission...
LITERALLY! Mission Street...home know it...You want the best, you got the best...
Ah, what a place, what a place! It was great to be back... line...for some great Mexican grub....
I sat with Raf and Rhode while Naomi and Jose Cabrera took the lovebirds route the next booth over...
This was the reason we came all the way to El Farolito. Wouldn't you? (By the way, YES, we hit Mitchell's Ice Cream, too!) By the way again, I still have leftovers from this meal...AND IT'S ALMOST JUNE!
Raf got tired of our company and made a beeline for the pretty Cabrera woman for a quick sketch. People all over the restaurant huddled around Raffles as he drew and drew and drew...The result?
Another Navarro masterpiece! (Note how Raf takes his sweet time on the sketch of Naomi while the caricature of Jose was done in 1.5 seconds flat. No offense, Jose, but if an artist gotta choose....)
THE WIND-DOWN: After dinner, Rhode, Jav and myself hung out and chit-chatted for a while, coming down from a weekend well done. We also hit the liquor store at one point for some bottled adventure that turned comical when I bought a box of candy called Lemonheads & Friends that featured every fruit flavor of candy....except not one Lemonhead in the entire box! Talk about false advertising! This 25 cent box of candy provided a million dollars worth of laughs....
"Mike! MIKE! Will you get in the car already? You've been standing in a daze for 30 minutes!" That's Jav calling, snapping me out of my trance faster than the movie adaption of PRIEST went from development to the DVD bargain bins. Yes, it was time to get back....get back to the place where we came from....L.A. City of Angles. Like the 180 degree angle the Lakers took in the playoffs. (Hey, isn't punching part of the boxing sport?)
And here I am at Ahn's Burgers, enjoying the best damn American breakfast money can buy. In the background, you can see the nice Vietnamese lady who runs the place and always greets us with lots of coffee refills.
Another thank you to our hosts, Ricardo and Rosa Padilla, and their daughter, Sophie, who gave us the keys to the city the entire weekend through. In this photo, we're saying thank you back the best way we knew how: taking them to Ahn's for a victory breakfast. (By the way, they don't wait for us to come to town anymore to go to Ahn's...they go there all year long, from what we hear!)

As organizers and showrunners of the event, the Padillas made the first annual Latino Comics Expo a success, and if there's a second one, I'd like to be there! So I better not run out of El Gato, Crime Mangler comics and keep my honorary Latino cartoonist status intact!