6.25.2011

Goin' Postal...er, "Digital"


I've mentioned in my zine and maybe even here in the blog that when I was a design student, I would save cool-lookin' pages from magazines that I was about to toss. Quite frequently, a lot of those sheets met the business end of an X-Acto™ knife, and the images they held were layered into collage pieces that I was rockin' at that time. Other pages were stored away in binders to be mined later for inspiration or design ideas.

Well, it has been in my head to do this for some time now, but I have finally begun to digitize a lot of the stuff that was collected then. Those old pages don't appear to have much influence on my current work, but I still can't bring myself to just trash 'em. Digitizing and uploading them to share on the web seems like a much better way to go. There's lots of blog-able material there.

I've decided that some of the pages will be tagged or watermarked and some won't. It just really depends on how I feel at the time. This isn't being done to assume some undeserved credit for the actual imagery, but because it's my ass that has kept these items safely archived for 15+ years, and also my ass that is doing the job of digitizing them for posterity. (I say this for the pricks out there who complain about watermarks on images–like me!)

There are other things that I have collected over the years that will also be scanned for posting, like comics, graphic novels and even mixtapes. And there's a good reason for all of this.

Unexpectedly, when I changed the name of this blog a few weeks back it caused a sizable focus shift. I'm feeling free to take a real 'anything goes' approach to blogging. So, from now on I'll be hittin' cyberspace with anything and everything that I can get my hands on. If it ain't nailed down, I'm coming with it.

6.23.2011

Gene Colan (Sept 1, 1926 – June 23, 2011)

Giant Size Chillers Featuring Dracula #1, June 1974

Just yesterday I was just reading one of the books that I bought at Phoenix Con that the legendary Gene Colan penciled. A lot of the comic books in my 1970s stash are there specifically because his art graced the pages: Daredevil #137, Doctor Strange #17, Howard the Duck #26 and Tomb of Dracula #45, especially.

Even when I was eleven years old, when I didn't exactly recognize Jack Kirby's art on sight, I recognized Gene Colan's art. And of all the old school masters, he's the one that I most wish I had the chance to meet.

Archive #5: Versace + Madonna



Versace Presents Madonna

Exactly which mag it was that the item pictured above was removed from from I cannot say (Harper's Bazar?), but it's a fold-out folio that features five black & white photographs by photographer Steven Meisel. When it's completely unfolded, the other side reveals a full-color poster (21" x 21") featuring a really sexy shot of the material girl in a shimmery, violet-colored dress.


At the time that I was trashing the mag that this insert was in, I thought it was just too cool to discard, so it got saved to the image archive. But while I've always had an appreciation for her as an artist, I've never been a collector of Madonna-related ephemera. So this one is gonna get listed on Ebay the next time I post items. With all hope, I'll find a home for it with a big Madonna fan.

Archive #4: Fall into the Gap Magazine Ads

Miles Davis wore khakis.

Even when I think back to my teens, I don't remember ever purchasing anything from the Gap. Nonetheless, I was impressed with their 1990s ad series which featured monotone images of various pop culture figures all wearing khakis. I don't know how many of these were produced, but 15 of 'em were saved to the archive. Submitted for your perusal: the GAP Khaki ads.

Legendary

Muhammad Ali

Chet Baker

Salvador Dali

Sammy Davis Jr.

James Dean

Jack Kerouac

Elia Kazan

Carol Lombard

Steve McQueen

Arthur Miller
Andy Warhol

John Wayne


Zsa Zsa Gabor

Archive #3: Paramount Parodies


Paramount Pictures clearly knew a good thing when they saw it. So, when it came time to promote their 1992 Coneheads movie, the marketing department produced this fairly clever parody of the Gap Khaki ads. It was running in magazines at the same time the Gap khaki ads were, and made a very amusing impression. Probably a better one than the movie itself.

6.16.2011

Archive #2: Georges Marciano's Guess Girl


In Remembrance of Anna Nicole Smith, 1967 - 2007

By St. Paco

It could be said that I was something of an Anna Nicole Smith fan. I liked her. I did. But, in my defense (since I now feel the need to adequately arm myself for making such a statement), I will say that my appreciation of Anna Nicole was formed long before she became the running tabloid joke that she was often seen as up until the day of her sad, drug-induced demise in February of 2007.

My appreciation of Anna Nicole started as her career began back in 1992. In May of that year, she appeared in Playboy magazine as its Playmate of the Month. I didn’t actually see her in Playboy–believe it or not. But Georges Marciano, the founder of Guess Jeans, saw her pictorial and quickly offered Smith a modeling contract. Within months, she would be seen in a classy series of black & white ads that graced the pages of countless magazines. That is when I first saw her.

At the time of Smith’s turn as Guess girl, I was a graphic design geek, tearing out all the cool-looking ads I found in the magazines that I read then like The Source, Details and GQ. Each tear sheet was then filed away to serve later as design reference or creative inspiration. To this day, tucked in a black binder in a closet in my apartment are eight or nine of Anna Nicole’s Guess ads.

When she appeared on the scene back in ‘92, Smith offered a curvaceous contrast to all the emaciated waif-types who were very much the new vogue then. Model Kate Moss, for example, revered throughout the industry for her pretty face and boyishly slim physique, worked for rival jeans maker Calvin Klein. In a model class all her own, the full-figured Smith (weighing in at 140 lbs at the time of her Playboy pictorial) was the antithesis of all super model anorexics.

While I’m more than aware of the trashy, tabloid-sized life she would ultimately lead, my first impression of Anna Nicole will always be rooted in those Guess ads. A time when she was just some nameless blond with an angelic face and a voluptuous bod. A silent beauty, figuratively speaking, who re-embodied those white bread Hollywood bombshells and pin-up girls of an age gone by like few women before her, and none since.

At her best, Anna Nicole Smith was the pretty, pudgy girl from Texas who gave the skinny bitches of the modeling world a run for their money. In spite of the worst that might be said about her, I’ll remember her for that.

Published in Kung Fu Grip! No. 3, Summer/Fall 1997









MP3: "Exception" by Mane One


She likes to dance to a big band

Reciting all the lyrics to a Cool J jam

My 'around the way,' you got me goin' berserk

You can tell me why Picard is cooler than Captain Kirk

– Mane One

I wouldn't call my homie DJ Mane One's new song "Exception" nerd core, but it's straddlin' a pretty thin line. I mean, the tune is far from gangsta rap and not exactly backpack rap, but could qualify as a close cousin of the latter. And then again, like the name of the song itself, maybe this track is just an 'exception' to the usual rules of hip-hop cool. Thus, over a chopped-n-screwed Sam Cooke sample, Mane One waxes poetic over his idea of the perfect woman: an 'around the way girl' who can rap along to LL Cool J tunes, speed read Harry Potter novels and kick the ballistics on what makes Jean-Luc Picard the captain of all Enterprise captains. She disses Twilight, 'hearts' kung-fu flicks, sports Pro-Keds and can boogie with the best of the b-girls. Okay, homeboy's standards are so friggin' high that they could be considered hella unrealistic. But isn't that the stuff that every dream lover is made of?

Verdict: Mane One's kung fu does NOT suck.

Check out "Exception" by clicking here.

Archive #1: Another 'Great Day in Harlem'


The original image is called "A Great Day in Harlem," and it's probably the single-most famous image associated the with the jazz music culture. Taken in 1958, within the image's borders stand 57 jazz musicians all assembled on the sidewalk and on the stairs of a Harlem brownstone. Artists like Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Mary Lou Williams and 51 other jazz greats.


In 1998, XXL magazine paid homage to "A Great Day in Harlem" by remixing the image with 144 contemporary hip-hop artists, and a smattering of actual hip-hop legends. Photographed by the even more legendary Gordon Parks, the fold-out cover graced the magazine's November issue. Submitted for your perusal: another 'great day in Harlem'

The Notorious B.M.P.


Last year, when I thanked my ex for the small batch of movies that she sent me in the mail, I withheld the fact that I hadn't watched one of them. In fact, I purposely avoided seeing this one particular movie when it came out, and was a little put off by the fact that–because of her–I now had a copy of it on my shelves.

Well, fast forward to late last night: I wanted to watch a movie, but didn't feel like leaving the apartment to hit up the nearby Redbox. There also wasn't anything I owned that I felt like re-watching. So, I went ahead and popped in the flick that–for well more than a year–I had been avoiding like the monthly notices of a credit card company.

Back when The Notorious Bettie Page came out, I recall reading a decent review of the film. But the critic didn't make me feel as if it was something I wanted to see. Even more, despite the fact that it was basically a good review, somethin' seemed amiss in how the film impacted the critic. I saw that as a reflection on the writer/director Mary Harron.

Having Bettie Mae Page's story virtually committed to memory, there was no way I was gonna sit though some filmmaker's heavy-handed hack job that got dolled up as an "artistic vision." I had a pretty film idea of what went down in my head, and that made me extremely reluctant to give audience to someone else's version of the facts.

Because I had published a zine dedicated to Page a few years ago, I was also a tad bit concerned that I might have gotten something wrong. I'm pretty thorough when I research the subjects that I write about and try hard to avoid mistakes. And though I still find myself regularly making peace with typos and misspellings, I'm pretty hardcore when it comes to matters of fact.

Adding to my reluctance was another very real concern: that maybe some actress was given the role of Bettie Page because she was the casting directors' 4th cousin on her father's side. I didn't know who Gretchen Mol was, but based on what I saw in the trailer, and even on the DVD cover, she didn't come across like a "Bettie Page."

Well, after finally facing down my long list of concerns, I can say that something about that review I read was seriously amiss. But it wasn't because of the writer/director. It was the movie reviewer.

Like I said, the writer actually turned in a favorable a critique, but something wasn't connecting. I find myself now thinking that it was some young critic-in-training who didn't completely get it. I mean, sure, they recognized that it was a good movie (and it really, really was), but maybe it also came across like a history lesson, and history just wasn't their strong suit.

Or maybe they weren't so young at all, but still couldn't completely submit to the work because it didn't exactly conform to the sanctioned view of life in the 1950s.

I have older friends who like to pretend that life in America was so great in the '50s, and only got bad in the 60s and 70s. The brutal reality is that this country's dirty laundry was just finally getting aired, and the inconvenient truth was that our shit smelled just as bad as everybody else's. Maybe even more so, because people had lied to themselves and said it smelled like laundry detergent.

During the 1950s, intentional efforts were often made by publishers, editors and others to present a world through radio, magazines and movies that was largely falsified. And people (like the ones I know) clearly drank the Kool-Aid. But the times were not simple, and life was not like the then-weekly radio broadcasts of Father's Knows Best.

In the real world, children could get molested by their father's, women could get raped by "nice guys," and the careers of countless wannabe starlets could go from a screen test to a cum-stained casting couch, and no further. Exploitation in all its heartbreaking forms would be as rampant as in any other era, but people were too frightened into submission to talk about it.

As tastefully as such subjects could have been handled, it were those darker realities of life in the 1950s that were put on display in The Notorious Bettie Page. I can't say that the look was an unflinching one, but it was one of the boldest attempts that I've yet seen. And as disturbing as it could be sometimes be, it was also still refreshing to see that such issues were addressed.

With regard to actress Gretchen Mohl, I think that she did an excellent job. Much better than I ever would have expected, having known nothing about her before hand. I could tell that she studied her ass off for the role of Bettie Page, managing to even nail some of the famous pin-ups most subtle poses and facial expressions.

With the exception of the always likable Lily Taylor, I enjoyed the fact that there were no overly recognizable faces in this film. Well, there was one other guy whose face I recognized (playing a French photographer), but he was really good in the part, and looked a lot scruffier than when I saw him as a very clean-cut character in Chinese Box several years ago.

Well, David Strathairn (Good Night, Good Luck) was also in it, but he's such an understated actor that you almost forget who he is. And he didn't play a central part either, which really helped to keep me immersed in the illusions of the film

As far as the production, I thought it was very effective that the telling of the story was done mostly in black and white, with some splashes of color. From the trailer, and even the stills on the back of the DVD, it wasn't marketed that way. That was probably a smart move. There are two things that the average movie-watcher in the U.S. avoids: the first is subtitles, and the second is black and white movies.

Had I known in advance, though, that the film had been shot that way, I might have taken a chance on it sooner. I think it shows that the filmmaker really has balls. Yes, it was written and directed by a woman. I was being ironical.

Then again, had I known that a woman was behind the film, it might have influenced me to see it sooner. Male perspectives on stuff like this can be a little...well, redundant.

If one of the usual suspects had made this film, it's likely that the significance of pin-up maker Irving Klaw's sister and the photographer Bunny Yeager would have been underplayed. Maybe even the fact that the guy who got Page into modeling was black. Things like that get glossed over all the time. It was only after seeing the director's name in the credits that it made sense.

For me, it also helped to explain an early scene in the movie, when Bettie started her pin-up career by posing for amateur shutterbugs. One of the the photographers was a very masculine woman. (The term trans-gender didn't exist then, so I ain't retroactively applying it now.) I actually had to rewind that part to see if I'd actually seen it correctly. It was stroke of genius.

On a personal note, it felt pretty validating to see that the filmmaker took the same approach to this story that I did when writing a brief text piece for my Page After Page zine. Like Harron, I used the 1955 Kefauver Hearings on the Senate Sub-committee on Juvenile Delinquency as a framing device. It seemed like a great way of explaining why this country's most popular pin-up suddenly faded from public life.

The only real difference in our approaches is that I highlighted the significance that comic books played on the formation of that committee. Men's magazines and pornography were secondary considerations. Anyway, as I watched it all unfold, at times it felt as if my zine was a little companion piece to a much larger work, like movie keepsake booklets from back in the day.

Though I've already thanked her, I have to again thank my ex for sending me The Notorious Bettie Page. Good art will often inspire good conversation, and this one-sided convo was provoked by a cinematic work of art that I really enjoyed. A work that I'm now pretty pleased to have featured among the movies on the shelves.

6.15.2011

Black Dynamite, you shot me in the NECK!


First of all, I should be shot in the neck for even buying another comic book. I haven't yet read all of the stuff that I brought back from the Phoenix Comicon. But I knew that a copy of Black Dynamite: Slave Island was being held for me, and I didn't want Charlie (of Charlie's Comics) to think that I forgot. While out running my errands today, I made my way over to his shop to pick it up.

It was a good thing, too. Upon my arrival, Charlie said that the book was a retail sell-out and now going for 3 or 4 times the cover price on Ebay. When I was last in his shop (about 5 weeks ago), he told me that the Black Dynamite comic was coming, and that 2 of the 3 copies he'd ordered were already reserved. I called dibs on the last one, and he offered to hold it until my next irregular visit.

Well, as bad as it is that I bought another book (six actually), the good news is that I've already read Black Dynamite: Slave Island. The friggin' temperature in Tucson was 103° today, though, so I don't have the energy to write a review. If you've seen the movie, then you already kinda' know what to expect–and this book continues the story of Black Dynamite in a righteous way. I had an absolute ball with it.

Hopefully, the book will go back to press for a 2nd printing–so that I can unload my 1st edition copy on Ebay and use that extra cash to buy more books! Nah, I really do hope that Ape Entertainment will print another run so that more fans can get in on some serious fun.

As to why this book was under-ordered, there's surely enough blame to go around, but I think that most of it rests on the shoulders of readers like me. I knew that the book was coming and I knew that I wanted a copy, but I forgot to place an order for it in advance. Luckily, thanks to Charlie's Comics, I still got a shot at buying (and reading!) Black Dynamite: Slave Island.

And speaking of shots...

The Best Things in Life...Cost $1 Buck

I mentioned in my previous post that attended the Phoenix Comicon last month. The San Diego Comic-Con, which takes place each summer, is usually an annual pilgrimage for me. But, due to a fan base that has expanded exponentially, I and everyone I know who tried were shut out of getting passes. That being the case, I was glad to have the Phoenix Con as a consolation prize, and the books I got there are probably better than anything that I ever got my hands on in San Diego: lots of vintage Bronze Age books, all selling for $1 buck each. Everything I got my hands on was a steal–and I got more than what's posted here. This is kinda' like a "Top 10" list.













6.09.2011

I’ve Zine the Darkness...



If for any reason you happen to be in Germany, check out the I've Zine the Darkness zine exhibition at the Dieschönestadt Gallery of Halle. Copies of the 'special edition' version of Kung Fu Grip! No. 5 and Octopussy No. 1 are featured in the show.

The exhibit runs from June 3rd (yeah, yeah, I'm really behind on my posts) until June 11th–so you've got two more days to check it out! After the show the zines will be added to the collection of the Library of Burg at the Giebichenstein University of Arts and Design in Halle (Saale).

For more information, click over to the Dieschönestadt Gallery website...but brush up on your German before you do!

I’ve Zine the Darkness
June 4th-11th, 2011

Hours:
Monday to Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 2 to 6 pm
Thursday from 6 to 10 pm

dieschönestadt gallery
Am Steintor 19
06112 Halle (Saale)

6.04.2011

A Newsstand in 1975



"A Newsstand in 1975"

I fell in love with this photograph when I saw it posted in the Robot 6 section of the Comic Book Resources website two or so years ago. Included with the photo was the caption: "A newsstand in 1975."

In 1975, I was all of six years old, and I can still easily remember the sight of comic books jammed together in the racks at corner newsstands across the city of Chicago. Because of that still present memory, the black and white picture made me really nostalgic for days gone by. I even printed out a copy of it to hang on a wall in my studio.

When I first saw it, the photo also made me curious as to whether it was actually taken in 1975. Based on the covers, I knew that it was easy to determine not only the year, but maybe even the month that the photo was taken. So last week, a few nights before the Phoenix Comic-Con, I satisfied my curiosity by looking up the publication dates of a few of the issues in the photo.

Now, because I'm a geek, it just wasn't enough to look up the publication dates of a few issues. No, it had to become my quest to detail every comic book that I could discern in the lower portion of photograph; I wasn't so much interested in the comic magazines across the top.

Based on the list of books that I've assembled from the image, I've narrowed down the time frame that this photo was taken to between March and April of 1975. The comic books that I could make out in the picture are as follows:

Giant-Size Defenders #4, April 1975
Giant-Size Dracula #4, March 1975
Giant-Size Chillers #2, May 1975
Giant-Size Marvel Triple Action #1, May 1975
The Spirit #6, February 1975
G.I. Combat #177, April 1975
The Losers #154, April 1975
Iron Jaw #2, March 1975
Wulf The Barbarian #2, April 1975
Morlock #1, February 1975
Planet of Vampires #1, February 1975
Destructor #2, April, 1975
Phoenix #2, March 1975
Adventure Into Fear #26, February 1975
Supernatural Thrillers #12, April 1975
The Frankenstein Monster #16, May 1975
Werewolf By Night #29, May 1975
Tomb of Dracula #32, May 1975
Police Action #2, April 1975
The Scorpion #1, February 1975
Grim Ghost #2, March 1975
Tiger-Man #1, April 1975
The Amazing Spider-Man #143, April 1975
Doctor Strange #7, April 1975
Conan The Barbarian #49, April 1975
The Defenders #22, April 1975
Marvel Team-Up #32, April 1975
Marvel Two-In-One #8, March 1975
Strange Tales #179, April 1975
Kazar #8, March 1975
Marvel Jungle Action #14, March 1975
Marvel Double Feature #9, April 1975
Where Monsters Dwell #35, May 1975
Astonishing Tales (Featuring Guadians of the Galaxy) #29, April 1975
Marvel Premiere #21, March 1975
Master of Kung-Fu #27, April 1975
Amazing Adventures (Featuring Killraven) #29, March 1975
Man-Thing #16, April 1975



Yeah, yeah, I know... I could have posted all the covers. Get a life.