Comic Book True Confessions

I suspect non-comic readers will not find this at all shameful, for those of you who are, this is one of those confessions that will make some of you gasp in shame: I have never read any of Herge’s The Adventures of Tintin books.

Obviously I know who Tintin is, and when that stupid hair flip was in style a few years ago I referred to those who had it as Tintins. But while my good friend Marc introduced me to Asterix back in 1980, for some reason I never raided his Tintin books while I was at it.

The sad thing is that about six or seven years ago, I ended up with an almost complete collection of the Tintin books (everything from Tintin in America through Flight 714) for just a few dollars. I picked them up then and figured I would finally get around to reading them, but a recent article about Tintin reminded me that they’re still sitting on my bookshelf, untouched.

My goal for next year is to finally sit down and read them all. I went ahead and bought a copy of Tintin and the Picaros in anticipation of reading the others. But for Tintin fans out there, here’s a question: should I bother tracking down copies of the first two volumes, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo? I know the first one is of a much cruder style, and the second one has a lot of racist depictions of people that has made it rather verboten. My instinct is to just start with Tintin in America and if, upon reading the others, I’ve enjoyed them enough I can always backtrack to those other two. (Or for that matter, pick up the never-completed Tintin and Alph-Art.) But I figured for those of you who are Tintin knowledgeable, it couldn’t hurt to double-check. (Also, read them in order, or try one of the later ones first and then jump back to the beginning? I’m leaning toward the latter but once again, can’t hurt to ask.)

It’s not quite some of the classic literature that I’ve been telling myself I’ll read soon (although I did finally tackle a few key novels over the past couple of years), but it should be a fun diversion.

Thankful Time of Year II: The Sequel

Despite the fact that last year’s attempt to visit the in-laws for Thanksgiving was an unmitigated disaster where it took all day to end up right back where we started… yes, we’re heading out of town for Thanksgiving again this year.

But! As we are not at the mercy of the airlines this year, we should in theory actually arrive at our Undisclosed Location that may or may not involve Tennessee. So, just like last year, I’ve taken this spirit to heart and thought about what I’m thankful for.

I am thankful for . . .

Cookie Monster clearly being a shoe-in to host Saturday Night Live!

Amazon letting me know that people who play the Black Ops videogame also like to wear underwear.

Charles Schulz revealing in 1959 that Schroeder and Lucy were really just destined to be a gay man and his gal pal. (Don’t fight it, Lucy, just roll with it.)

Superman’s amazing cigar-smoking powers.

…and Batman reminding me to stop goofing off and get back to work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Eddie Campbell

“When are you going to get a sketch from Eddie Campbell?” was the number one question I heard after starting this sketchbook back in 2001. Before becoming extremely well-known for drawing Alan Moore’s From Hell, Campbell wrote and drew Bacchus (previously under the name Deadface), about the craggy-faced but immortal god of wine himself.

Campbell is a real treat to meet, should you ever get the chance. He’s funny and well-spoken, and he’s the sort of person who spends a lot of time thinking about the medium in addition to simply drawing and writing comics. Campbell’s also the kind of person who keeps turning out new projects every time I turn around; The Playwright and The Fate of the Artist are just two of his recent books that I’ve loved.

With this drawing, I brought my 2002 trip to San Diego to a close, and it was a nice way to do so. (It also means I need to start scanning more pages out of my book!)

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Brian Hurtt

Brian Hurtt is an artist who just keeps getting better. He’s worked on numerous projects over the years; at the time he’d come off of a stint on Queen & Country, but these days he’s drawing the fantastic series The Sixth Gun, a great mixture of horror and adventure and westerns and a little bit of everything else.

Looking at this drawing, there’s something about the soft way he tackles these lines, and it’s just a hint of the artistic talent he has at his fingertips. I love his comics, and I love this sketch.

Half a World Away

For reasons that even I’m not entirely sure of, I found myself wondering this evening (after a long and distinctly unpleasant day) what the current international status was of Kosovo. (In other words, which countries recognize it as an independent country and which to not.) It turns out that it’s barely changed at all in the past year (only seven additional countries, bringing the tally up to 71).

What struck me, though, was in reading about the countries that don’t recognize Kosovo, was this factoid under the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry:

On 21 February 2008, Republika Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, adopted a resolution through which it denounced and refused to recognise the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo from Serbia. In addition, the parliament adopted a resolution stating that in the event that a majority of EU and UN states recognise Kosovo’s independence, Republika Srpska would cite the Kosovo secession as a precedent and move to hold a referendum on its own constitutional status within Bosnia and Herzegovina.

(A later paragraph also mentioned that Republika Srpska would quite possibly then announce it was joining Serbia.)

I’ve been interested in the political makeup of Bosnia and Herzegovina ever since reading Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde, and it’s always a little distressing to read about things not working well in the careful balance between Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the other half of the country composed of the Bosniak and Croat populations, versus the Serb population of Srpska).

And honestly, it’s been on my mind a bit after reading China Mieville’s The City & the City, with its twin cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma, which are as intertwined and hating of one another as the two halves of Bosnia these days. It makes me wonder what would happen if Srpska did end up breaking away. Would they try and take their half of Sarajevo with them, or instead give it up and shift their capitol to Banja Luka? And what happens to the Brcko District, a part of the country to the north that is administered by both halves of the country while simultaneously holding some autonomy? (The crazy thing is that Brcko is probably the most peaceful and integrated part of the country. Go figure.)

No easy answers, or even answers at all. There’s a story I read years ago where, in a fictional Eastern European country modeled strongly off of the former Yugoslav countries, the main character notes that blood and hated is soaked into the stones of the country itself. It’s a reference that I think about whenever I read about unrest in this part of the world. A lot of people say they never expect to see peace and an agreement between Israel and Palestine in their lifetime. I certainly feel that it’s partially true about Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war supposedly ended in 1995 but fifteen years later, it just looks like a nasty ticking time bomb. I don’t think we’ve really got peace there at all, just a very long fuse. If war breaks out in Bosnia and Herzegovina again, I’m not sure any of the residents will be able to recover from it a second time.

A cheery Thursday night update, I know.

(This installment of “things Greg spends far too much time thinking/worrying about and also has no control over whatsoever” has been brought to you by the “your day could have always been much worse” foundation. Civil war or pending oral surgery. Hmmm. I guess I’ll take the latter.)

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Batton Lash

I first remember reading Batton Lash‘s comics when they showed up on the back cover of Polyhedron, back in the day. At the time it was titled Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre, and as the name implies, it’s about lawyers that work with the supernatural. It’s also an awfully funny comic, whipping up parodies of everything you can imagine. (The book is now titled Supernatural Law, which has a snappier ring to it.)

Over the years as he’s come to SPX, and I’ve been out at San Diego, I’ve gotten to know Batton a bit better and he’s always to stop and talk with about just about anything. His wife, Jackie Estrada, runs the Eisner Awards and she is a much more patient person than I will ever be, as well as also being a treat to hang around.

This is from the last day in San Diego back in 2002, and seeing Mavis (world’s greatest secretary) having the double wine/whine joke was a nice way to start winding down the trip. Take it away, Mavis!

Wine-Book Wednesdays: J. Bone

When I asked J. Bone to draw in my wine book, he’d just started working on Mutant, Texas: Tales of Sheriff Ida Red with writer Paul Dini. I’d been a fan of Bone’s clean lines and character designs on books like it and Alison Dare, so I was looking forward to the end result.

What I hadn’t expected, though, was J. leaning over to Paul Dini and the two conferring on what he should draw. The end result was Ida being helped out by local cantina-owner Mezcal, giving her own little assistance in Ida’s glass, much to my amusement.

J. also works a lot with artist Darwyn Cooke, and as good as Cooke’s work is on his own, the Cooke/Bone combination? Out of this world.

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Steve Rolston

I first encountered Steve Rolston when he drew the initial story arc on Queen & Country, Greg Rucka’s British spy thriller comic. (The drawing below, in fact, is Queen & Country‘s Tara Chace.) I love the clean style of his art, and over the years he’s continued to perfect it.

These days he’s drawing a mini-series called Ghost Projekt, a supernatural techno thriller set in Russia, and he’s had a lot of other strong projects between the two that I’ve enjoyed. So often I have to end these posts with, “I sure wish I would see more from this artist,” but in Rolston’s case, I sure am glad we continue to get more comics drawn by him. Good, good stuff.

Wine-Book Wednesdays: Andi Watson

Andi Watson’s been around the block in the comics industry for ages, and while he’s staked out a name for himself over the years, I find it slightly frustrating that he’s not a bigger star than he is.

He’s got more comics out there than I can even possibly remember; he made his first big splash with Skeleton Key, a book about a girl who finds a key to different dimensions and becomes best-friends with a kitsune (Japanese fox-spirit), which is what the drawing below is from. But he’s done a ton of books since then, from a book about getting laid off and reshaping your life (Breakfast After Noon), to a sly take on romance novels meeting superheroics (Love Fights), to becoming a parent (Little Star). His latest book, Glister, is a series of stories about a young girl and the strange, slightly enchanted life she lives.

Watson’s an amazing comic creator, and I’m hoping we’ll see more from him Stateside before too long.

Ten Important Lessons From Running Marathons

My friend Doug had recently posted something about his own marathon training experiences, and it got me thinking about my own experiences; I ran 10 marathons between 2001 and 2010, and I have often joked that each year I “learned” something that I probably should have figured out beforehand. (Isn’t that how it always is? Hindsight is always 20/20 after all.)

So in the vain hope that someone else down the line will find these words of “wisdom” (because who am I kidding, this is all looking rather obvious now) and not make the same stupid mistakes/assumptions/errors that I did.

2001: That I could, in fact, finish a marathon.
2002: That I could improve if I worked at it.
2003: That if I slacked off on my training, the results would be worse than expected.
2004: That dropping a lot of weight without shifting to a faster training pace would mean my “easiest” marathon ever.
2005: That it’s better to start off slower and run alone than start off too fast with a group.
2006: That I don’t like training alone.
2007: That I can make it through a training program without including walk breaks.
2008: That eventually, everyone has to cancel a marathon due to illness.
2009: That training for three marathons within eight months of one another will result in burnout.
2010: That by knocking out a tenth marathon in January, it will feel truly wonderful to have a year off from a fall marathon.