Category: Featured

So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #017: An Oral History Of My Career In Comedy

So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #017: An Oral History Of My Career In Comedy

10 years ago – give or take a year – I toyed with the idea of doing a little stand-up comedy. I knew from the notion itself, it would never be more than a hobby interest, but I figured it would be a good way to determine if I was (as many a friend and coworker would denote) a funny guy. Ultimately, I wound up doing a handful of shows, and called it a day. Why so suddenly serious? I didn’t want to pay for parking in the city, and it turns out I’m hella uncomfortable around drunks. LOL.

Beyond that though, I recognized that to be truly great at stand-up comedy, there is a level of commitment that I wholly accept is beyond my desire to dedicate to the craft. But let me not get ahead of myself. Cue the flashback machine!

My very first set of comedy was performed in the back of a comic book shop, as dared to do by the shop owners. We were all friends at Stand Up Comics in Lansing, IL, and every Wednesday when I’d pick up my books… the shop keep(s) and I would go back and forth about the fake worlds of which we partook. After weeks upon weeks of weekly weak knees… the idea was thrown into the wind: Why didn’t Stand Up Comics have a Stand Up Comedy Night? And with that, I was asked to join a few other shop patrons at an open mic competition.

My first set was short, sarcastic, and overly stuffed full of Jewish jokes and schmaltz. I adopted a “wise guy” persona – easy enough to do in a room full of similarly-minded nerds – and apparently did well enough to be asked to do another set. A far longer set. That set is still available on YouTube (search for it if you dare, cause lord, I ain’t promotin’ it!). I did my best to prepare a wealth of material. Cereal Box Mascots. My problem with the homeless in Chicago. My parents. My Jewishness. I covered it all. And for the most part? I felt like a million bucks afterwards. Enough so that I sought out actual open-mic nights soon thereafter to see if I actually had any chops.  Continue reading “So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #017: An Oral History Of My Career In Comedy”

With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever

With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever

A Conversation with Stuart Moore

AHOY Comics has burst onto the scene and is quickly becoming known as the comic company that’s a welcome breath of fresh air. And comic shops are increasing their orders for AHOY titles, so they must be doing something right. I caught up with Stuart Moore, who’s an integral part of the AHOY team to learn more.

ED CATTO: How’d you ever get involved with AHOY Comics? Given the initial critical support and comic shop reordering, what’s it been like?

STUART MOORE: Well, I got involved because Tom Peyer called me up. Initially he asked if I would edit his titles, High Heaven and Wrong Earth. The company evolved a bit differently, with each of us basically editing our own titles and providing backup for each other as needed. Tom is editor-in-chief, and he’s also editor of all the books that AREN’T written by him or me.

When we lost a crucial member of the initial team—Sven Larsen, who’s currently doing great things at Marvel—I stepped into the Publishing Ops position on a freelance basis. Wrong Earth has been quite a hit—AHOY has just gone to a second printing on issue #2—so we’ve all been scrambling to deal with success. Which is nerve-wracking, but a hell of a lot better than scrambling to deal with failure.

EC: What do you think is the secret sauce for a new comic company to thrive, or just survive, in today’s difficult publishing landscape?

SM:  I think every new company has to find its own way, its own voice. For AHOY, it’s a combination of engaging lead stories and a wealth of backup features—giving the reader as much value as possible for their $3.99. Tom is also very determined that every book have elements of humor to it.

This is just my guess, but I suspect AHOY is appealing somewhat to lapsed comic readers—without pandering overtly to nostalgia or fanboy trivia. If you have fond memories of the early Vertigo titles or of 1963 (the comic, not the year), you’ll probably want to check out these books. Whatever we’re doing, it seems to be working so far.

Also, of course, we’re hoping to attract cat fans.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever”

Beat JENeration #013: My Imaginary Inner Oprah Doesn’t Want Me To Hate November

Beat JENeration #013: My Imaginary Inner Oprah Doesn’t Want Me To Hate November

As a month, November gets a raw deal, especially during the first week where we are all coming down from a collective Halloween high into the guilt of having eaten that whole big-ass bowl of mini Peanut Butter Cups. Or maybe that’s just me. But, c’mon, no one enjoys the laborious removal of the festive goth spookiness from your house, putting it in storage containers, and then trying to figure out where to fit it in the garage so it won’t block the Christmas decorations that will need to be retrieved in a couple weeks. November is perfumed with the scent of future anxiety. Sometimes it’s a faint wafting of the holiday bullshit to come, and other times it’s more a fear-based stench that comes from the assholes voting for people and policies that will doom us all. But, regardless, it stinks.

Especially this week. A smaller Blue Wave than I had anticipated, another mass murder at the hands of a white male terrorist, another tantrum from the Toddler in Chief, the Notorious RBG sidelined with broken ribs, California burning down, Pacific Standard Time…ugh! But I have found that when I can’t control the chaos around me, it’s best to focus on what I can control — me.

But upon focusing on myself, I realize I could do better. Ideally, I’d like to be the kind of me who is responsible for the energy I create, who faces fear, who never gives up hope, who practices gratitude, and does my best, always. As a secular white suburban woman in my 40’s, this, of course, is all Oprah wisdom. 

These are lofty, but achievable goals all day, until I’m in the car, driving home from work, in the pitch black, at only 6pm, being bummed out by NPR.  It was enough to start rationalize delaying my Better Me campaign until after November. Because November is a buzz kill. December would be more hopeful and it’s much easier to be responsibly create positive energy when there are sparkly lights in every tree.

 And then — poooooof- an imaginary Oprah appeared inside my mind, shaking her head, repeating “mmmmnnnnnt” with a half frown. She asked me, “Who do you want to BE in the world?”

“Well, Imaginary Oprah,” I said, “I want to be a person who can function in ALL months, even the crappy ones.”

I believe we all have some kind of of Imaginary Inner Oprah™. You know, a divining force to kick our asses. Though that doesn’t mean I hold the actual Oprah Winfrey up as a god. Honestly, the real Oprah is way out of my spiritual pay grade, so I opt for a heavy on the desserts cafeteria-plan in the same way I did with my Catholicism before chucking religion entirely.

My Imaginary Inner Oprah™ looks and sounds like the actual Oprah, but she doesn’t seem like she’d judge me for never getting around to reading Eckhard Tolle or most of  her book club choices or her magazine or her website. She doesn’t mind that I haven’t seen any of her movies, except for The Color Purple, because I’ve seen that 50 times. She knows I’m not crafty, so she thinks my mental vision boards are just as effective as real ones. And most importantly, this version of her still values the sensationalistic topics of her first few National seasons.

There is, of course, an Inner Imaginary Gayle to sit at the right hand of My Inner Imaginary Oprah™ and they both guide me on the road trip of life together. Supportive, wise, sassy, and fierce, they want me to be surrounded by favorite things and commit acts of random kindness like surprising people at their front doors and hiding swag under their seats. But they also understand that sometimes living my best life involves binge-eating potato chips in a pair of sweatpants.

Chakka Kahn, Gladys Knight, Maya Angelou…they are saints. Googling “Best Oprah Advice” is, I guess, kind of the closest thing to a Bible. Okay, yeah, I’m just spitballing out the dogma right now on the spot, but honestly, choose any other myth/religion and tell me that this is any more preposterous.

My Imaginary Inner Oprah™ has urged me to embrace what I love about November. Like how, it is what true Fall is about in Southern California. October brings dry hot Santa Ana winds and sinus problems , but November takes us down to the chilly low-70 degree days when I can wear tights and boots.

I’m also grateful for Outlander Season 4 airing on Sunday nights this month. And I’m thankful that I’m not ashamed to admit my excitement for A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding to start streaming at the end of the month. November is an excellent TV watching month. It’s possibly even the best month in which to eat pie while you watch TV. Also, hot cider! And so many album releases.

But my daughter, Maddy, gets credit for pointing out November’s biggest asset. It’s the only month where both Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Peppermint Mochas are on the Starbucks menu. Normally, choices are hard, but I just can’t get that one wrong!  And when you look at it like that, November is the bridge between the best of two seasons. And that there is an Imaginary Inner Oprah™ miracle because I’m even starting to believe my PR spin.

 

With Further Ado #014: Writer or Entrepreneur?  A conversation with Ron Marz

With Further Ado #014: Writer or Entrepreneur? A conversation with Ron Marz

Ron Marz is a creator who has been around the block a time or two.  He’s worked on so many favorites (Silver Surfer, The Shadow, Green Lantern and more) for so many publishers (CrossGen, Valiant, Dynamite, Marvel, DC and more). With that in mind, it’s fascinating to me to see how he pivots and keeps not only his writing fresh but also his entrepreneurial freelance mojo fresh too. 

I enjoyed his latest graphic novel, Beasts of the Black Hand from Ominous Press. It’s a great read, but I’m equally intrigued by the format and Marz’s go-to-market strategy.  Despite his hectic schedule, I was able to catch up with Ron to learn more.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #014: Writer or Entrepreneur? A conversation with Ron Marz”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #016: To Binge or Not To Binge

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #016: To Binge or Not To Binge

As of late, I’ve been lucky to consume a metric ton of digital media. For those in-the-know, I tend to operate on two screens; one primarily for the drawing work I’m doing for the evening, and the second monitor to play something to keep my ears happy. I tend to toss on Netflix, YouTube, or Hulu, and let a show run while I draw. It’s good for when I need to take a mental break — no, seriously, drawing causes me to intensely focus so I need to take it easy every few minutes — and it’s good to catch up on all the shows in the zeitgeist.

Recently this has meant consuming the second season of Iron Fist, the third of Daredevil, and as of a few days ago… giving Runaways a try over on Hulu. And it got me thinking specifically about the shows I consume week-to-week versus multiple-episodes-a-night— The Flash, The Gifted, and Legion being the most well-known.

Binge-Culture is a thing now, isn’t it? Shows being made specifically to be absorbed en masse as quickly as possible. It allows for motifs (be they visual, auditory, or a combination) to form, fire, and be appreciated far easier than for shows where you return, at most, once a week. But just because binging exists doesn’t mean it’s a valuable tool for every show. Case in point: The Flash (or really any CW show).  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #016: To Binge or Not To Binge”

Working Title #007: Today’s the day!

Working Title #007: Today’s the day!

Vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote

Vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote

Vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote

Vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote!

You get the idea.

Beat JENeration #012: Damn Glam (Bag Plus)

Beat JENeration #012: Damn Glam (Bag Plus)

I love a subscription box. I do.

No, really, there isn’t a “but” coming this time, kids. I honestly love the concept with every fiber of my being. No matter the product, services like this work for me because while I don’t usually like surprises, I very much do enjoy opening a mystery package.

Even when the curation leaves a little be desired, I was raised to always be grateful. And I am truly grateful—because getting mail that’s not a bill or a catalog is freaking awesome.

I realize that eagerness in checking the mail every day says a lot about my age. But, you have to understand, I was the kind of girl who had a lot of pen pals (many of them from Star Hits, let that take you back — and can we talk about the OG FB — friendship books!). The mailbox was my gateway to the world and an escape from my boring suburban existence (though to be fair, most of my pen pals were from places just as suburban and boring, but with crappy weather). And then years and years went by and as an adult suddenly the post was far less exciting (and often actually terrifying.) Until… Birchbox.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #012: Damn Glam (Bag Plus)”

With Further Ado #013: Moonshine Volume 2

With Further Ado #013: Moonshine Volume 2

Let your soul shine
It’s better than sunshine
It’s better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain

                         -Greg Allman  

Tweaking what Greg Allman sang, Moonshine is damn sure better than I expected. This Image series, by the longtime team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, just completed its sophomore story arc.  This story is collected in the trade paperback, Moonshine Vol 2 The Misery Train, in comic shops today.

When viewed through a simple lens, it makes sense that this “werewolf story” is released on Halloween. In reality, Moonshine offers readers more than a traditional wolfman yarn.  This drama, set during the time of Prohibition in the South, touches on everything from cultural family dynamics, male/female roles and the cyclical nature of lawbreakers. There’s also plenty of horror, suspense, deceit, sex and surprises.

At the outset, I (foolishly) expected Moonshine to be a mash-up of Bonnie and Clyde, O Brother  Where Art Thou? and a vicious werewolf movie, like An American Werewolf in London.  I wasn’t wrong, but this nuanced horror chiller is so much more.

It’s a scary story that’s a period piece, with clever characters providing glimpses into several cultural and economic groups. That sounds stuffy and boring, so let me add that it’s all a deliciously tasty scare too.

Azzarello’s Bags of Tricks

They story’s full of twists and turns in clever settings with unusual conflicts. But one of Azzarello’s strengths continues to be his incredible skill at developing intriguing characters.

Tempest is one of the main characters in this volume. She’s so far beyond the sexy “farmer’s daughter” character that readers might have initially assumed she was.   As rendered by Risso, she all about that seductive look, but in this story arc she’s steps up to become more clever and plotting.  There are points in the story where Tempest may think she’s a victim, but she’s reminded that others have it so much worse.  Her machinations might not have turned out the way she had hoped.  We can empathize with her frustrations while still not liking her. Or not trusting her.  Azzarello reveals that she’s not as mature as she’d like us all to believe.  He makes the reader need to know more about this character.

Italian Americans have a long history of being the bad guys in American storytelling, and they fulfill that role there too. Azzarello sprinkles a little bit of The Godfather mafia types on top of a conniving Game of Thrones struggle and the result is as tasty as your Grandma’s Sunday gravy.

Azzarello has this trick with characters too. On first glance, you don’t think there are that many characters, when you are reading the story. But upon reflection, you realize that it’s jam-packed with a plethora of characters. These characters all come alive in a short time, and you can’t help but wonder about them after you’ve flipped the page.

It’s Time to Appreciate Eduardo Risso

The artist, Eduardo Risso, is Azzarello’s longtime creative partner.  Past series like 100 Bullets and Spaceman each have their own unique vibe.  That’s the way it is with Moonshine.  Risso takes the reader deep into the black woods and black hearts of the characters, with his solid renderings and elaborate page layouts.  One could almost imagine Will Eisner looking down from comic creator heaven with arms crossed but approvingly nodding, muttering things like “hey, that page really is something different” or “this guy is innovative”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a few rants along the lines of “Sonuvagun! I wish I had done that!”

Each issue is a mix of Risso slowing it all down and then slamming his foot hard on the gas. At the same time, Risso takes the reader on a roller coaster POV with high shots, ground level shots and in-the-middle-of-the-action shots. And he, Risso never sacrifices clarity and solid storytelling either.

Risso also maintains control over his color palette. To the reader, the finished pages are like symphonies and Risso is the orchestra leader – he brings each beat of the story together with mindful layouts and clever colors that reinforce the narrative and linger on the reader’s mind long after she or he puts down the book.

The Collected Edition

Azzarello is the type of writer who makes you feel comfortable, and then, out of nowhere, grabs you in a headlock and chokes the familiarity right out of you. You’re gasping for breath, but at the same time, you just want more. I prefer reading a series like Moonshine each month in the traditional comic format, but the collected TPB is perfect when you find yourself as ravenous as the protagonist.

Kudos to this team, and editor Will Dennis for a job well done.  And, to finish this up, let’s get all those Halloween puns out of our system once and for all:

Don’t howl at the moon, give yourself a treat and sink your teeth into a copy of Moonshine Vol. 2!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015:  The first W in WWE stands for… What?

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?

This past weekend marked the first, historic, monumental, astounding, amazing, never-happened-before* pay-per-view of all female­ talent in the world of professional wrestling sports entertainment. WWE Evolution was a rather enjoyable event that shined a positive light on one of the strongest brands in American television producing content today. The evening was chock full of messaging that spoke directly to little girls straight through to women to tell them that anything they want can be achieved. And in between these self-aggrandizing promos, there were some damn fine wrestling matches to enjoy.

But somewhere after the fourth or fifth of these interstitial talking heads, wherein the performer would choke up (rightfully so mind you) over the very notion that the ladies of the WWE would be given this time to shine… I began to sour. Again to be clear: not because the event wasn’t deserving of praise — but because WWE Evolution was not erected to right a wrong… it was a consolation prize for the WWE selling its soul.

For those who don’t religiously follow the ins and outs of the World Wrestling Entertainment company, allow me to spoil the surprise. WWE Evolution was created first and foremost as a PR move to appease the noisy internet smart-marks (think gatekeepers, only slightly less awful) who would rightfully (for once!) denote that the women of the WWE would not be allowed to perform with the company at the next pay-per-view event. One week after Evolution comes WWE Crown Jewel. Coming to you live this Friday from the King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And in case you didn’t know? Women are not allowed to wrestle or perform in that particular country.

I won’t dive into the recent history here, if only to sum it up succinctly:

Vince McMahon accepted a ten year multi-million dollar contract with the Saudis to bring to them his oiled-up carnival several times a year. And not only would he deliver a standard show from his cavalcade of Cro-Magnon cohorts, no! Vincent Kennedy McMahon would succumb to any whim that the Crown Prince so desires.  Dust off the Undertaker? Sure! Unretire Shawn Michaels? Here’s a dump truck of money! Give the Rock the championship back? Well, it’s been reported by several outlets it’s been under consideration. And as a fan? It makes me sick.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?”

Working Title #006: The Uncivil War

Working Title #006: The Uncivil War

“Fuck civility!”

Chuck Wendig, an author of (among other things) Star Wars novels and comics, was working on a Darth Vader miniseries for Marvel when his editor informed him he was fired. Wendig said it was “because of the negativity and vulgarity that my tweets bring… It was too much politics, too much vulgarity, too much negativity on my part.”

It should be noted this is Wendig’s characterization. Marvel has not commented beyond confirming Wendig had been removed.

On October 6, Wendig tweeted: “There will be renewed calls for civility. Ignore them. They ask for civility as a way for you to grant them complicity in what they do…Civility is for normalcy. When things are normal and working as intended, civility is part of maintaining balance. But when that balance is gone, civility does not help return it but rather, destabilize it further. Because your civility gives them cover for evil. . . Note: this isn’t the same as calling for violence. But it is suggesting that you should not be shamed for using vigorous, vulgar language. Or for standing up in disobedience. Or for demanding acknowledgement and action in whatever way you must. . . Fuck Trump. But he’s just the ugly fake-gold mask they’ve put on this thing. Fuck all the GOP, fuck that blubbering, bristling frat boy judge, fuck McConnell, Ryan, Grassley, Collins, every last one of them. Fuck them for how they’ve shamed victims and helped dismantle democracy. . . They will tell you to smile, that we need to get back to business, that we gotta heal the rift and blah blah blah — but that’s the desire of a savvy bully, who wants you to stop crying after he hit you, who wants you not to fight back. But you can cry. And you can fight back. “

Basically, as some put it: ”Fuck civility.”  Continue reading “Working Title #006: The Uncivil War”