Media I’ve Consumed for the week of January 11-17

People of Earth:

I’ve decided I’m not blogging enough. That might not be true, but it’s what I’ve decided. And so in regards to my endless ‘Favourite Comics” series, I decided I’m going to try to write one post a week, just talking about the different comics, books, movies, and music that I loved that week. Could be older stuff, could be brand new, whatevs.

I said WHATEVS.

And so of course I’m already a few days late. Let’s begin.

Selma directed by Ava Marie DuVernay

Lots of heat today due to Duvernay not getting a best director’s nod. I’m ok with it either way. It’s an important film, and one that really spoke to me. But I’m not sure that her fingerprints are all over this as much as the original story is, or as the wonderful perfomances by David Oyelowo and company are. The real shame here is no nomination for Oyelowo, as he may have had the strongest performance out of all the men nominated in the best actor category this year.

The Woods by James Tynion & Michael Dialynas

the-woods-boom-tynion-dialynasThere’s a school with gifted kids, and one day the school is on another planet. That’s the premise of this wonderful comic, and it’s a nice spin on the “Kids have to figure stuff out by themselves” trope. Think Lord of the Flies, but in outer space, and there’s some adults around. This is a really good comic, but I’m worried that it’s impact will diminish as we learn more about where the kids really are. Some really strong characterization by Tynion, as some well-placed flashbacks go a long way to informing what we know of their present.

A Most Violent Year directed by JC Chandor

Someone online described this as the “Anti-Godfather”, and that’s pretty apt. There definitely late 70’s gangster movie vibe here, mostly as because it’s a gangster movie set in the 1970’s. Oscar Isaac pulls off a performance that’s heavily indebted to early Pacino & De Niro, but not hamstrung by that influence at all. Might be a little slow for some, but I loved this character study.

Like, 20 albums by Sun Ra

If Sun Ra hadn’t moved on to Jupiter, or Saturn, or wherever the fuck batshit crazy jazz musicians go when they die, he would have been 100 last year. And so his catalogue, which is in sore need of a clean up, is getting a clean up. It’s not an easy job. Sun Ra, and his Arkestra (AKA Myth-Science Arkestra. AKA Solar Arkestra. AKA Astro Infinity Arkestra. AKA Afro Infinity Arkestra. AKA Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra. AKA Intergalactic Research Arkestra), released dozens of albums over the decades, through a myriad of record labels.

They would then reissue these albums, sometimes with different names, and with different covers. And often, the only place you could buy them were from the band itself, as they travelled the cosmos. And so just cataloguing the various releases is next to impossible, not to mention how bad the sound quality sometimes is. But the Sun Ra Music Archive seems to be up to the task, and has rereleased over 30 albums in the last several months. So far, so great, and I’ll be writing more about these as I explore them.

 

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Best non-superhero comics of all time: 31-40

From steampunk, to educational comics, to crime noir, this batch of comics is all over the map. Continue to let me you know what you think, and I’ll continue to tell you why you’re wrong.

40. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan O’Malley (2004, Oni Press)

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A hugely influential comic, and one of the great Canadian graphic novels. Bryan O’Malley’s hugely influential series works on numerous levels. It has kinetic martial arts action for some, twee-hipster slacker comedy for others, and a real heart and soul for everyone. One of those comics you lend to your friend who thinks they don’t like comic books.

39. Sin City by Frank Miller (1991, Dark Horse)

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It’s getting more difficult to remember just why we all thought Frank Miller was so great in the first place, with all of the terrible Batman comics, and the being batshit crazy. Sin City is a fine refresher, though Ronin is definitely more impressive from an art perspective.

38. Granville by Brian Talbot (2009, Dark Horse)

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One of the more impressive comics of recent years, Talbot’s steampunk/talking animal/geopolitical mash-up, covers a lot ground. Talbot’s impressive draftsmanship, as well as his complex subject matter, make this an always entertaining epic.

37. A Treasury Of Victorian Murder by Rick Geary (1985, NBM)

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Rick Geary deserves more than one slot on this list. In fact, if I made a “Best 100 comics by Rick Geary” blog post, it still wouldn’t be enough. His Treasury graphic novels area a great place to start, especially for true-crime aficionados.

36. Musical Legends by Justin Green (1992, Last Gasp)

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Earlier, underground work like Binky Brown  cemented Green’s status as a legend. But it was his decade-long stint as the cartoonist for Tower Record’s Pulse magazine, that I love the most. Some issues would feature one-page musical autobiographies, while some would feature the story of his daughter’s various concert exploits. But it was all about one thing: Green’s overwhelming passion for music. Not quite as well known as it should be, I’d say.

35. Cartoon History of the Universe/Modern World by Larry Gonick (1990, Doubleday/Collins)

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Another series that rarely gets discussed on lists like this, though fans of more recent work like Van Lente & Dunlavey’s Action Philosophers will find much to love here. It’s also the most aptly named series on this entire list. Quite literally, it’s the history of the universe, as told to us by a cartoon professor. Gonick delivers a humanistic, objective, approach to history that’s refreshing, and best of all, hilarious. Immaculately researched, and painstakingly drawn, the chapters on India & China are particularly impressive.

34. The Goon by Eric Powell (1999, Dark Horse)

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This started as a comedic monster of the week goof, and has evolved into one of the great character pieces in modern comics. Even more so than it’s lead character, Powell’s artwork is the real star here, delivering a post-modern interpretation of a wide range of influences.

33. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson (1985, Andrews McNeel Publishing)

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I’ve heard a lot of disagreements regarding where I’ve  placed certain titles on this list. Everyone has their favourites, and you can’t make everyone happy. But I doubt there’s a single person on the planet that would have a problem with C&H being on this list. Very few comics have made such a huge dent on popular culture, and for good reason.

32. Criminal by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (2006, Icon)

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Almost 10 years on, and it’s hard to fathom that there are still comic lovers who haven’t read Criminal. Although there may be “better” comics on this list…I’d argue that there are few that show just how good comic book writing can be, as well as this one does. More than any other comic book writer, Brubaker’s work constantly makes me stop and wonder just how he got this good. Phillips is the perfect collaborator for Brubaker’s sprawling crime epics, and they’ve gone on to do dozens of entertaining books of all genres together.

31. Little Nemo by Winsor McCay (1905, New York Herald)

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The earliest comic on this list, and arguably the granddaddy of them all. It’s not a big leap to say that comics as we know it would not exist without Winsor McCay. And it’s startling to realize just how much these strips hold up today. Each page is a design masterpiece, with a dozen little stories crammed into each panel. Probably the most influential comic on this list, even if most creators today don’t realize it.