May 2009

It’s 85 degrees on a sunny Memorial Day weekend, and I’m in an elevator with Princess Zelda and a ninja whose kendo sword’s hilt is bumping into my left nostril. We’re at the Raleigh Convention Center for the 12th Animazement, a festival of Japanese animation, comics, video games and culture. I’m wearing a golf shirt and shorts, and in this tough crowd, I’m the one dressed weirdly.

Read the harrowing tale of my journey  into the depths of Japanese fandom here.

Brian Sendelbach: Discovering the Planet of Beer

Brian Sendelbach’s comic strip Smell of Steve features a cast of characters who are insane even by the broad standards of comics. There’s President Carter and his alien advisor Kenny, Black Aquaman, Bigfoot, Sammy Hagar, and of course the motley crew of astronauts on a never-ending quest for the mythical Planet of Beer. Their harrowing journey forms the framing sequence for Dark Horse’s new collection Planet of Beer!: A Smell of Steve Treasury. Sendlebach talked with us about how this collection came about, his struggle to get it to readers, and answered some very stupid questions about the Planet of Beer.

Read the full interview here!

Scott Sava: King of the All Ages Comic Books

By Zack Smith


All-ages comics are enjoying a renaissance these last few years, with lines such as Marvel Adventures, Johnny DC, and Boom!’s Disney/Pixar books. But Scott Christian Sava might well be the hardest-working man in all-ages comics. Sava, best-known as the mastermind of the hit webcomic The Dreamland Chronicles, has a plethora of all-ages graphic novels out from IDW, which are making waves in bookstores and in Hollywood.

With his latest project, Cameron and His Dinosaurs, in stores now, Sava treated Newsarama to both an interview and in-depth previews of his different books, which we’ll be running on the site over the next few days.

Read the full interview here!

Zombie Hunting in the 19th Century: Mark Rahner on Rotten

By Zack Smith


Mark Rahner and Dan Dougherty are having a great time making some Rotten comics. The first issue of their new miniseries, Rotten, hits stores on May 27th. Published by Moonstone Comics, Rotten has already earned rave advance reviews from the likes of Ed Brubaker and Mark Waid.

Despite a last-minute thunderstorm that threatened to cancel the production, Raleigh Little Theatre‘s outdoor production of Side by Side by Sondheim was a terrific evening of, pardon the pun, a little night music. The performance, which is repeated May 15 and 16 at 8 p.m., is a bare-bones recreation of almost 30 numbers by one of the most complex and cerebral lyricists in American theater, but one that serves as an excellent sampling of both famous and obscure works.

The numbers are primarily performed by director Brent Wilson, Rose Martin and Martie Todd Sirois, employing minimal props and costumes. The songs flow smoothly, with little downtime between pieces, and the sound system was excellent, save for some microphone problems that threatened to derail Martin’s otherwise lovely rendition of “Send in the Clowns.”

What’s particularly tricky about presenting Stephen Sondheim numbers out of the context of their original plays isn’t just the tongue-twisting lyrics that come with numbers like “Getting Married” or “The Boy From….” It’s that Sondheim’s material is heavily influenced by the characters and situations. For example, “I Remember,” from the obscure TV musical Evening Primrose, is sung by a character raised in a department store who’s trying to recall things like trees and sky but can only refer to them in terms of what’s in the store. So sky is “blue as ink” while trees are “bare as coat racks” and “spread like broken umbrellas.” “Pretty Lady,” from Pacific Overtures, is a come-on from some sailors to a beautiful woman, but the context is that the sailors have recently arrived in Japan and mistake the uncomprehending woman for a geisha. Not exactly the kind of standards you hear performed on American Idol.

Therefore, it’s inevitable that some of the numbers lose something when taken from the original plays. The show works best as a concert, as opposed to a performance piece, but the numbers are often quite effective. Wilson shines on “I Remember” and the title number from the obscure Anyone Can Whistle, while Sirois does excellent, Ethel Merman-esque work on musical comedy numbers such as “If Momma Was Married” from Gypsy. The standout is Martin, whose range and presence is adept at everything from the brassy “I’m Still Here” to her touching, subdued take on “Clowns.”

Whether you’re a hardcore Sondheim buff or a neophyte, the performance’s reprise this weekend is well worth attending. Just hope the weather is better this time around


    Eric Wight has become a fan-favorite for his comics and animation work, including the “Atomic County” art on The O.C., the unproduced Buffy the Vampire Slayer cartoon, The Escapist and My Dead Girlfriend. His latest project is the all-ages text-and-prose graphic novel Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom, the tale of an imaginative kid versus a very dirty room. The tale combines illustrated prose sections for Frankie’s “regular” life with graphic novel sequences depicting his outrageous fantasies. We talked with Wight about his new book, which is in stores now, and got an update on My Dead Girlfriend.

Read the full interview here!

Michael Malone first had the idea for his latest novel, The Four Corners of the Sky, in 1999, while on a college road trip with his daughter Maggie. At a stop at Annapolis, Maggie posed next to a jet plane and made a comment about wanting to fly one someday. “The image of what that would be for a young woman, what kind of person would succeed at that, stayed in my mind and was the start of the novel,” says Malone.

Read the full article here!

N.C. State teacher and author John Kessel discusses his second Nebula award

John Kessel, director of the creative writing program at N.C. State University, now holds an unusual record. “I am now the person who has gone the longest between his first and second Nebula—26 years,” he says. “Pretty good, huh?”

The Nebula is the Oscar of science fiction and fantasy literature, awarded annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. At a ceremony in Los Angeles on April 25, Kessel received the Best Novelette award for his story “Pride and Prometheus,” a tale of Jane Austen’s Mary Bennet meeting one Victor Frankenstein and his creation.

Read the full article here!

Never mind the recession, the Triangle computer gaming industry is booming

Appetite for destruction

6 MAY 2009 • by Zack Smith

As video games become an increasingly accepted part of mainstream media, the Triangle is poised to become a major hub for this industry. The inaugural Triangle Game Conference, held April 29 and 30 at Raleigh’s Marriott City Center, helped prove this, with nearly double the anticipated attendance and rave reviews from industry veterans and newcomers alike.

Read the Full Article Here!

CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE—Either the finest American film released this year or a racist, sexist mess, depending on who you ask, this sequel to the 2006 ultra-shoot-‘em-up literally revives Jason Statham’s Chev Chelios as he’s forced to retrieve his stolen heart (yes, you read that correctly), while keeping his battery-powered replacement charged through electrocution and public sex on a racetrack. A relentless satire of action movie excess, the film is the sort that involves gun-toting strippers and gay bikers, porn stars on strike, a fight done in the style of a Godzilla film, and so many F-bombs that the film briefly stops to recap the number of times the protagonist is cursed out. Also, an unrecognizable David Carradine as a 100-year-old Asian crimelord named “Poon Dong,” Bai Ling as a hooker who only speaks in subtitled broken English, Corey Haim with a mullet, and a shotgun that is used as a sexual instrument within the first 10 minutes. It’s an amoral, hyperactive meth lab of a film that will likely send you to hell for enjoying it, but it’s in on its own joke, and infinitely more entertaining than most action films that pretend to be realistic. Rated R. —ZS

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