Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Graphic History

There are a few things comics do well that they are rarely asked to do. Depicting history is one of the biggest.

Somebody once said the past is a foreign country. I don’t think that goes quite far enough, sometimes the past might as well be another planet. Historical texts are excellent for getting across the facts, and maybe some of the feel. But they don’t do it as well as even movies can.

It’s one thing to hear that ancient Mayans cut out the hearts of their human sacrifices, it’s another thing entirely to see it in Mel Gibson’s latest movie Apocalypto. But comics enjoy an advantage over both movies and books.

A comic book image is static, which means that a reader can pore over the details with as much or as little detail as they wish. An artist can create densely packed images, with the kind of attention that might be lost in the frames of a movie.

Perhaps even more significantly, a comic is limited by imagination, not budget, something that they share with books. There’s no limit to what can be shown in a comics book, and a blank page and the most intricate depiction of ancient Rome cost exactly the same.

But, by and large, comics don’t do history. There are the superheroes, of course, and quite a large and ever more popular selection of autobiographical comics, but not many that are diving into the far reaches of human history.

There are some notable exceptions to this. One of the first graphic novels to really break through into the mainstream and change public perception on what comics could be was Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which depicted Spiegelman’s father’s experience as a Jew in the Holocaust Germany.

Maus depicts the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats, a cartoonish stylization that serves to intensify the horror of the situation rather than diminish it. We’re used to seeing cartoon animals as a part of American culture, we’re not used to seeing Tom and Jerry committing atrocities.

Spiegelman manages to capture the horror of the situation in a remarkable way, and the mild art allows the horror to sneak up on you and worm it’s way in. It’s own way, it’s as effective a piece of history as can be imagined.

On the more pleasant side of things, Jim Ottaviani has been publishing books about science through GT Labs. Yes, science. No, they’re not boring, in part because Ottaviani is a good writer and partly because of the comics form.

His last book was called Bonesharps, Cowboys and Dinosaurs, about what could be considered a ‘bone rush’ in the late nineteenth century when scientists were in a race to identify new specimens. It’s a story enhanced by being told in comics form, and is nearly ideally suited for it.

It’s worth exploring the advantages comics can bring to explaining history and furthering education, tapping that potential that is still largely sleeping beneath the surface.

(Article originally appeared in the Graphic Language column in the Public Opinion.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Diabetic Food List For Type Two Diabetics - What to Eat and Not Eat If You Like Having All Your Toes

A diabetic food list can be a handy thing to have when you've just been diagnosed with type two diabetes. Food is one of the great primal pleasures in this world, so you want to be able to eat things that truly give you pleasure and satisfaction.

Unfortunately, eating unlimited amounts of whatever you feel like is usually how people end up with type two diabetes in the first place. You can still eat the foods you want, but you're going to have to keep an eye on making better food choices and saving the treats for when you're going to really enjoy them.

There are a whole books on this sort of thing, so I'm just going to give you the quick and dirty diabetic food list to get you started. I'll keep this as short and simple as I possibly can:

Meats - Basically, you can eat anything that used to have a face. Beef, chicken, fish, pork, etc. You'll want to avoid any kind of breading except as a treat, but you should have protein at every meal.

Vegetables - You can also have pretty much as much as you like of anything green. Or really, any vegetable - spinach, pepper, tomatoes, etc. They're al good for you and won't negatively effect your blood sugar. This doesn't include potatoes, corn, and the like.

Fruits - Fruit is tricky. As long as you don't go overboard, fruit should be fine. Just don't eat twenty bananas a day. And fruits doesn't mean fruit juice.

Fats - Make sure you're getting natural fats. No trans anything. Beyond that, don't worry about it. I don't recommend licking the bacon trough, but the worries about fat are vastly exaggerated.

Diary - Cheeses are usually fine, but other diary should be controlled. Milk is mostly sugar, and it will jack up your blood sugar if you have type two diabetes.

Grains - Should mostly be avoided. Don't get me wrong, I love bread, but it needs to be something special and not a daily diet staple. Same goes for corn and rice. If you do have grains, go for real whole grains.

Sugar - Should be avoided, as much as possible. Try to only have sugar in things that you really enjoy, and not as a routine things. I love tiramisu, for instance, and so when I really want that, I have it. But I keep sugar minimal the rest of the time.

So there you go, a simple diabetic food list.

Another thing that can really help out diabetics is supplements. There are a few that are really useful for controlling blood sugar and getting the most of your food. Click here for more information on the best supplements for diabetics.

Improve Vertical Leaps Right Away With These Secret Techniques the Pros Use

If you want to improve vertical leaping ability, you need to have the right training program. Genes will take you part of the way, for sure. We all know people who can jump like their daddy was a grasshopper, but what if you're not one of the genetically blessed?

You train. You train like your life depended on it. You have to train to jump higher. Now, very few of the pros ever had bad verticals. That's just a fact of life. But I can also tell you that every single one of them focuses on making sure that every aspect of their game is as good as it can be, even Shaq's free throws.

This includes training to improve vertical leaps. Most players make a half hearted stab at increasing their jumps, if they make any at all. Generally, this so called training consists of maybe doing some plyos and, possibly, some actual jumping. That's not pro quality training, which is what you need for a pro quality game. You need to get your training right if you want to succeed on the court.

First, you need to focus on getting strong. The days when players could get away without lifting are long past. You think LeBron looks like that because all he lifts are Cheetos? Focus on getting stronger if you want to jump higher.

Second, you need to be quick. It's not enough to be strong, you have to be able to use that strength quickly. That means you do need to be doing plyometrics and sprint training. That's what's going to get you flying and improve vertical leap ability.

If you really want to train like the pros do, then click here now for videos about the best jump training program I've found. This is the exact program I recommend to all my athletes to improve vertical leaping ability.

How to Jump Higher to Dunk on Anyone, No Matter How Tall They Are Or How Short You Are

Pretty much every player wants to know how to jump higher to dunk. Actually, pretty much everyone who has ever watched a game of basketball has wanted to be able to dunk the basketball. Frankly, it's just cool.

Most of us don't give our jumping ability a whole lot of thought, beyond wishing that you could jump higher. But pretty much everyone can jump higher than they do right now. Virtually no one is at their genetic limit for their vertical leap. In fact, most people can add a foot or more.

Which is what you need to dunk. You don't need to be tall, although it sure does help. You don't even need to be especially ripped, as your average weightlifter can do it, although being lighter helps. What you need is to know how to jump higher to dunk.

What this basically means is that you need a training program that focuses on maximizing your vertical leap. With my athletes, I basically work on three areas: strength, quickness and nutrition. Yes, nutrition is factor in
how high you can jump.

If you want to improve your jump, you need to work on strengthen the powerhouse muscles of the body: the legs and back. Most of the thrust for a jump comes from your butt and lower back, so you need to emphasize exercises that focus on that.

You also need to make sure that you're training for quickness. If you can't explode fast enough, no amount of strength is going to have you dunking on people. So plyos and sprint training are key.

Nutrition is the final peg in the how to jump higher to dunk equation. You need to get in sufficient calories to have maximum energy and build muscle, but you also need to try and keep your body fat as low as possible.

Click here to watch videos on how to jump higher to dunk and see how to put it all together. The program I talk about there is the same program I use with my athletes and I don't have single player who can't dunk.

Get Your Ex Back - The Hidden Signs They're Still Interested

The very first step in getting back your ex is to figure out if they're still interested in you. This is trickier than it seems, I know. You've got a lot of strong emotions and it can be hard to see what's really there. Fortunately, this guide will help you see the signs that mean you can get back your ex.

Sign #1: Fun and Flirty Behavior

Is your ex flirting with you? Are they getting in a little too close when you talk? Is their behavior just a little bit too risqué? Then there's a good chance that are still some feelings there.

This is the most obvious sign, and you might be tempted to write it off as your imagination. Don't ignore this sign, but don't let it make you think that there is more there.

This is not an invitation to jump right back into the full blown relationship, so don't let your enthusiasm get the best of you. But do take it as a sign that you can begin to rebuild your relationship.

Sign #2: Jealousy When You Mention Dating Other People

Does your ex start twitching and frothing at the mouth whenever you mention other people? Then you've got some jealousy pointed your way. And in this case, jealousy can be a good thing.

I say can be, because sometimes jealousy is just a byproduct of not having you anymore. But if some time has passed and your ex is still getting irritable about you dating other people, especially if they broke up with you, then this is good news, because it means there's still a spark.

That said, you should never try to make them jealous. You're looking for signs, not trying to make signs that aren't there. You can get your ex back, but not like that. You need to find real signs that it's time to rebuild your relationship.

Sign #3: They Keep Checking Up On You

Depending on how the break up went, it might not be unusual for your ex to be concerned about how you're doing. This in and of itself is a good sign, but it's not one that you can count of, precisely because it's a fairly normal response.

But if they are constantly checking up on you, emailing you and phoning you to see if you're okay. This goes beyond concern and goes into trying to keep you close. Your ex is trying to maintain a connection with you, a very good sign that you can get them back.

Sign #4: They Keep Hanging On

The obvious example is where they have left half the stuff they own at your place and keep finding reasons not to pick the whole thing up. Or they don't your keys back. Any little thing that keeps them from closure. Basically, anything that gives them a reason to keep coming back to you.

This is a great sign that they still want you in their lives, and that means that you have a great chance of getting them back. That emotional connection is vital, and it's what you are looking for before you attempt to get back your ex.

But figuring out if they're interested is only the first step. If you really want to get

Get Your Ex Back - The Super Short Super Effective Guide

Sometimes, a break up is a good thing. Heck, sometimes it's a great thing. Some otherwise good people are poison to each other. But sometimes, a good relationship goes down the toilet. So what do you do when you know you've lost your true love?

You get them back.

There are lots of ways to try and get your ex back, but I'm going to show the simple, easy way to win back the love you lost.

Step One - Learn Why It Ended

The very first thing you need to do is figure out what went wrong. If you don't know what went wrong, there's no way you're going to be able fix things. You need to know:
- Is it something that can be changed?
- Is it something that should be changed?
- How does your ex feel about you?

Some things can't be changed, and some shouldn't. But if the thing that broke you up can be fixed, you've got a good shot. Likewise, if your former significant other hates the ground you walk on, it's going to be tough to get your ex back. But not impossible. If you realistically think you have a chance to get them back, then it's time for step two.

Step Two - Fix What Needs Fixed

If you have a chance to get back, then it's time to make the changes you need to get your ex back. Most of us don't like the idea of changing ourselves for another person, but the truth is you broke up for a reason.

The tricky part is that it's you that has to do the changing. You can't expect your ex to change for you. This means of two things - you either need to change what it is that you did to drive a wedge between you or you need to change to accommodate their flaws.

Change is simple, but not necessarily easy. Too jealous? Learn to look at both of your actions objectively and don't act on paranoia. Too demanding? Put yourself in their shoes. Identifying the problem is the hard part, fixing it just takes work.

Step Three - See Other People

Yes, this seems like strange advice to get your ex back, but it serves two purposes. The first is that it helps you get some perspective, to see how other people act and how you relate to them, and takes the desperate edge off. It also helps with step two - if you're having the same problems with different people, then there's your problem.

The other reason is show your ex that you've moved on and that you're desirable. Truth is, people appreciate things more when they aren't available, and dating someone else will make you seem a lot more attractive and interesting to your ex.

Step Four - Build a New Relationship with Your Ex

You can't expect to just dive back into your old relationship head first. You need to rebuild what's been lost and broken to get back your ex. Start small - meeting for coffee is always a good one.

Crucially, you don't want to come on too strong, and you don't want to try and get right back to it after just one date. So try and keep things casual, and keep in contact. Use this time to get together again and show that you've changed, and get to know them all over again.

Step Five - Win Them Back

This sounds vague, but the truth is, what you would do to win over someone new is the same thing you need to do get your ex back. You need to show them why they loved you to begin with, and you need them to see that the same thing that broke you up to begin with won't happen again.

You need to seduce them all over again, and you need to this while making absolutely sure that you don't repeat the same mistakes and just get into the same old rut that wrecked you before. If you want things to be different, then you have to be different.

There's only so much I can show you in one fairly brief article, so if you want more help to get your ex back, I recommend you click here, because this is the best guide to relationship repair you'll ever find. Good luck and good love!

Company Profile: Vertical Inc

It’s not just Gwen Stefani who’s fascinated and enthralled by Japanese culture these days. Sudoku puzzles are published in even the most rural newspapers. Nearly all of the most popular children’s cartoons are at least inspired by the style of Japanese anime, if they’re not actually anime, translated and packaged for the US audience. J Horror, the stylish and often deeply creepy take on genre, has spawned several extremely American remakes of Japanese hits like The Ring and The Grudge, with more remakes and retreads on the way. But there’s something conspicuously absent from the flow of books, games, movies and media coming from Japan.


While a number of the country’s classic novels and non fiction works have been translated and published in America, there’s an ocean of popular books, fiction and nonfiction alike, that have been left untouched and, in the US, largely unknown, something that publishing house Vertical intends to change.

Vertical is taking a different approach to Japanese literature, selecting titles that are literate and engaging, allowing new readers to jump right in even if they aren’t familiar with the island nation’s history and culture. In short, Vertical is putting out the books that people will actually want to read, from horror titles with a built in audience like The Ring trilogy to the classics like A Rabbit’s Eyes to the epic fantasy of the Guin Saga.

They’re also not afraid of nonfiction and manga, publishing books from the ubiquitous Sudoku to the acclaimed epic Buddha by Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka. Anything worth reading has a shot at winding up on the energetic publisher’s plate.

Vertical was founded five years ago by Hiroki Sakai, a veteran book editor and reporter in his native Japan. Despite speaking little English and not having much in the way of start-up capital, Sakai came to New York with the ideas and ambition that would lead to the creation of Vertical.

Well, eventually.

Director of Marketing and Publicity Anne Ishii tells the tale: “Hiroki Sakai, our president, had the idea to start packaging and agenting Japanese children’s books in the US. The idea stopped short of actually publishing, until Sakai met Ioannis Mentzas, our Editorial Director and co-founder of Vertical, who convinced Sakai of the viability of a market for contemporary entertainment from Japan that wasn’t just for kids. I think the motivation for the company was a combination of the ability to do it on the part of two aimless visionaries and evidence of an interest in their ideas from the general public.”

Since then, working with funding from Sakai’s former employer Nikkei and the Japanese trading house Itochu Vertical has built a staff with an excellent academic and practical pedigree, with several degrees in Japanese literature floating around the office as well as a wealth of experience in publishing and translation. The name on the staff that will be most recognizable to the average comic fan is art director Chip Kidd.

Kidd is perhaps best known to comics readers for the work he’s done for Dark Horse and DC Comics on Frank Miller’s Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns, as well as inventive work with Chris Ware for The Acme Novelty Report to Shareholders and other graphic novel releases from Pantheon Books. He has also designed award-winning covers for numerous book publishers, including the iconic cover for Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park, and he is no stranger to Japanese fiction, having designed the cover to Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

So while Kidd is making sure that Vertical’s books look good, it’s the editorial staff that makes sure that what’s inside the book is as good as what’s on their cover. They work to find the books in the Japanese market so that they are not only great books, but great books for an American audience.

The differences between cultures mean that just because something might be a huge hit in Japan doesn’t mean that it will be something an American audience will appreciate. The art is in finding the books that can cross cultures.

“Number one on our selection protocol is the crossover capabilities of the title. We might see a title that is really good, but if the subject is very obviously not American reader-friendly, we won’t publish it,” explains Ishii. “Our motto is ‘Read different. Read Vertical,’ so I’d like to think we look for new-ish things.”

Vertical isn’t all about the new, however. Their premiere comics import is the classic manga Buddha by Osamu Tezuka, which was originally published in the ’70s and ’80s. The eight-volume tale has won Eisner Awards two years running, with nominations again this year, with the entire series now available in hardcover, and the first few volumes recently reprinted in paperback.

Rather than take a stodgy, ascetic approach, Tezuka’s take on the religious leader is gritty, sexy and often humorous; it offers a view of the future holy man more real in its emotion than any history book could ever be. More than just a tale of enlightenment and spiritual awakening, it’s also got sex, violence and the occasional cursed monk, all rendered in the Tezuka style that defined the look of manga and anime.

Vertical has another big Tezuka project coming in the fall, as explained by Ishii: “This October we’re coming out with Ode To Kirihito, which is like Tezuka’s Elephant Man. It’s an 800-page adult graphic novel with themes of deformity and acceptance, Christian virtue and the eternal and internal battle of man vs. beast. I’m hoping this publication will nail the coffin shut on Tezuka’s moniker as the guy who wrote Astro Boy.”

There’s a lot in the Vertical catalog for horror enthusiasts as well. There’s also a number of books by Koji Suzuki, such as the Ring trilogy that would form the basis for the successful series of Japanese and American movies or the book Dark Water, the title story of which was also recently made into a movie.

But if you’re not a fan of trippy reality-bending horror stories, then there’s A Rabbit’s Eyes, a classic novel by a veteran teacher about a first year teacher and her hard luck students. There’s also the aforementioned Guin Saga, a story of heroic fantasy centering around two young princes saved by a mysterious leopard-headed man. Or maybe even Saying Yes to Japan, a nonfiction book on the history and future of Japan’s service sector.

Yeah, I almost fell asleep reading the description of that last one, too. But it’s an example of the wide net Vertical has cast in trying to find the right titles to bring to an American market. There’s something for virtually every reader, even if your tastes don’t run strictly to gaming and comics.
Vertical has an advantage in this regard in that they don’t have to gamble on authors, since their ability to cherry pick the best titles means that they’re able to bring in titles that have already proven themselves.

That approach allows the company to avoid some of the risks and sundry grind work associated with publishing and focus on the philosophy that led to the creation of the company; to bring in books from Japan that tread the line between literary works and simple reads.

Vertical aims to bring books in that their only real clue to Japan is the name of the author, books with universal themes. The goal isn’t to educate in any overt way, but there’s always going to be a certain amount of the cultural ingrained in the works themselves.

The company may not be out to help people learn about Japan, but they’re going to regardless, showing the casual reader a world of entertainment that’s more than big eyed cartoon characters and giant robots.

Vertical’s publishing plate might always be expanding, but they’re helping to make the world a little smaller, giving people a chance to experience a wealth of new authors and ideas. A little more culture, in short.

And a little culture is never a bad thing, even if it’s someone else’s.

(Originally appeared in Comic Foundry)

Thumbnail: Frank Miller


Almost twenty years ago, two comics cast a long shadow over the comic's world. One was WATCHMEN, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's deconstructionist take on superheroes, the other was BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, written and drawn by Frank Miller.

Featuring a dark brooding hero fighting in an even darker world, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS shaped both an entire generation's view of the caped crusader and helped usher in the grim, gritty era of modern comics, where it seemed like every hero was retrofitted to the model Miller and Moore had established.

Frank Miller was born in Maryland in 1957, but grew up farther north in Montplier, Vermont. A voracious reader and comic book fan from an early age, he created his first hand-drawn comic books used hand stapled pages of typing paper when he was six years old. He left comics briefly in his early teens for movies and thrillers, a period that would lay the groundwork for Miller's popular SIN CITY series of graphic novels.

By his late teens, Miller's love of comics had returned in full, and he left his home in Vermont for New York City. Miller spent several years working menial jobs, showing up at Neal Adam's studio and doing occasional fill in work on various comic until a job on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN helped land him his first major gig.


1979 - Miller's first regular work in comics was as the artist for Marvel's DAREDEVIL. Miller's evolving style, alternately realistic and stylized, was a hit with fans, and Miller rapidly moved into writing the series in addition to performing his art duties.

His long initial run radically changed the status of what had until then been a second rate hero in Marvel's stable. Miller added new dimensions to the origins, giving Daredevil a harder, more street-level feel.

Miller would create a number of popular characters on the book, including all time fan favourite Elektra. Elektra, a ninja-trained assassin and sometime romantic interest for Daredevil, would die later in the run. At the time, it was something of a radical move.

Elektra's death served to illustrate the high stakes and moral ambiguity of the world Miller was building around Daredevil, a theme he would address again when he returned to the character in 1985.

1982 - Miller teamed up with writer Chris Claremont to flesh out the character of X-Man Wolverine in his own mini series. Recasting Wolverine as a modern day ronin, a masterless samurai, the mini series offered a unique and popular look into the history of the mysterious Canuck without actually providing him with an origin.

1983 - Miller moved to DC and returned to the fertile grounds of Japanese history and culture with RONIN, a tale of a samurai from ancient Japan shifted forward to a cyberpunk future to fight a demonic foe.

Although not a masterpiece, RONIN was a milestone because Miller was allowed an almost unprecedented level of creative control over the series. An increased emphasis on the role of the creator has come to be a defining feature of Miller's career, even when he has written for corporate-owned characters. He has been both an outspoken proponent of creator rights and an exemplar of its virtues for much of his career.

1985 - Miller returned to the character that kick started his career when he again took over the writing duties on DAREDEVIL, this time with David Mazzuchelli on art. Their work together produced BORN AGAIN, an arc that redefined the character and pushed the boundaries of what was possible in an ongoing monthly serial.

Miller tore apart the life of hero Matt Murdock, revealing his secret identity to his nemesis and taking away the character's profession, his home, and even his sanity to reveal the roots of what made the character a hero. Miller would produce a similar ground level reappraisal of a character the following year when he took on Batman.

1986 - Miller took on the DC icon twice this year, with BATMAN: YEAR ONE and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, showing readers both the beginning and the end of the Dark Knight's crime fighting life.

In THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Miller presented the audience with a darker, more complex Batman, an aging vigilante who has spent fifteen years in retirement before his demons drive him to put on the cowl again in a Gotham City gone insane in his absence. A chance encounter with two random criminals resurrects the Batman in a dystopian Gotham, when both man and city are well past their prime, but more dangerous than ever before.

YEAR ONE, reuniting Miller with his DAREDEVIL partner Mazzuchelli, retold the origins of Batman, including his training and his initial disastrous foray as a vigilante, and a fresh look at the childhood event that would eventually create the Batman. It also showed a different Gotham City, where costumed freaks had yet to become force, and a corrupt police bedded down with gangsters to control the city.

These two views of the same character, pushing the character back to his origins as a grim obsessed vigilante and showing the darkness and psychological damage that would drive Bruce Wayne to an unending, unrelenting war on crime, are widely regarded as the defining version of the Batman to this day.

1990 - After the success of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Hollywood came calling. Miller accepted a job scripting a sequel to the sci fi picture Robocop. Miller turned in an initial script that included numerous plotlines and big, wild ideas. There were far too many to fit into one movie, as it turned out. By the time that the script made it to the screen, most of what Miller had written had been stripped away, and the finished product bore little resemblance to Miller's intial ideas. Some of the ideas discarded from the script for ROBOCOP 2 were recycled for the third movie in the series.

Working in the movie industry may have been lucrative, but it offered Miller little of the creative control he had fought for in his comics career. Burned out by the Hollywood game, Miller only started work on what would become SIN CITY after a two-year period in which he didn't put pencil to paper.

1991 - Miller wrote and illustrated a black and white story called SIN CITY. Printed in the pages of DARK HORSE PRESENTS, SIN CITY was an ultraviolent hyper-noir story of a hulking hard luck case named Marv, who cuts a wide and bloody swathe through the titular city after being framed for the murder of beautiful hooker named Goldie.

The creator-owned story, drawing from Miller's love of thrillers and mysteries, sprawled over a hundred pages and was the first of seven large volumes of SIN CITY tales. The series allowed Miller to flex artistic muscles in a way he'd never been able to before, with experiments in negative space, decompression, and fractured narratives, all wrapped around violent, engrossing stories about heartbroken heroes and tough dames.

Miller would continue to produce mostly creator owned work through the rest of the 90s, most often through Dark Horse, with works that ranged from futuristic tales of revolution in the Martha Washington series, to a story set in the distant past, the tale of damned Spartans at the Gates of Fire in '300'.

2001 - Fifteen years after his initial foray into the dark future of the dark knight, Miller returned to the story of the aging hero to create a new future for the rest of DC's big guns in THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN.

Initially announced to great fanfare, the series was plagued by delays and production difficulties and was radically different in tone and content from the original series. Although considered by many to be an artistic success, the sequel failed to emulate either the sales or the cultural relevance of the original.


Miller was eventually lured back to Hollywood - or at least to Austin Texas - by DESPERADO director Robert Rodriguez. Miller had resisted bringing SIN CITY, his most personal work, to the big screen for nearly a decade, because he didn't want to see it fall prey to the same kind of creative interference that had plagued the ROBOCOP movies.

Rodriguez, unwilling to take no for an answer, filmed one of the short stories in the BOOZE, BROADS AND BULLETS collection and sent it to Miller, offering to bring him on as a co-director with the same level of control that he'd enjoyed when creating the books. This turned out to be an offer Miller couldn't refuse, and so work on the SIN CITY movie began.

The film arrived in cinemas to rave reviews in 2005, and provides a near exact translation of three SIN CITY graphic novels onto the big screen. Two sequels based on the other SIN CITY books are already in the works.

Miller will again return to the hero he's most associated with when ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN is released later this year. Written by Miller and drawn by fan favourite artist Jim Lee, the highly anticipated title will feature out-of-continuity iconic versions of the classic characters.


BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: A complex, iconic take on the classic hero, this remains the most celebrated and popular work of Miller's career, and is a must read for anyone who loves the form.

SIN CITY: THE HARD GOODBYE: The first SIN CITY story, recently re-released with this new title, it remains the most straightforward and accessible of them all, and serves as a perfect introduction to what the series is about.

For more on Frank Miller's works, visit Ninth Art's reviews of BATMAN: YEAR ONE, DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN, and ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN.


"Occasionally, I'll try a perfect hero, but it's a real stretch for me. I like 'em warts and all, and obsessive and weird. No wonder the superhero I'm most associated with dresses up like a bat." - Frank Miller, The Onion AV Club, December 5, 2001.

Justin Jordan is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania.

This article is Ideological Freeware. The author grants permission for its reproduction and redistribution by private individuals on condition that the author and source of the article are clearly shown, no charge is made, and the whole article is reproduced intact, including this notice.

(Article originally appeared at Ninth Art)

Philosophy, fun? Van Lente & Dunlavey talk "Action Philosophers"

When you think of action, only one name springs to mind: Plato.

Okay, maybe not, but if Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have anything to say about it, it soon might. They're the creators of the new Xeric Award winning comic book series "Action Philosophers," a series detailing the life and thoughts of some of history's greatest thinkers through Van Lente's slightly warped humor and artist Dunlavey's dynamic, cartoon influenced art.

Instead of a dry treatise on deep thoughts, you get Bodhidharma's students trying to get him to teach them to learn the "gaze so hard it drills holes in mountain" trick to help them pick up girls, or Isaac Newton strangling Dunlavey for drawing him getting hit on the head by the apple. It's not your ordinary book on philosophy.

"The title, sure, is a gag-- and has led a bunch of people who haven't read the book to think it's about philosophers dressed as super heroes beating on each other-- but to me it also implies that thinking is an active process," Van Lente told CBR News. "Most of the stories are as much about how that philosopher reached the conclusions that he did, based on his or her biography and what he or she went through or was exposed to in his or her early life. To me that's the most inspiring and gripping thing about reading these tales-- to follow exactly how the philosopher went from one position to the other, and (oftentimes), altered the course of human history in the process."

Philosophy and humor might seem like a strange fit to most, but to series writer Van Lente, it's a perfect fit.

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"I grew up in a pretty obnoxious family, where mocking stuff was second nature (Hmmm, no wonder I spent so much time in my room...) so the idea of relating complex metaphysical concepts through bathroom humor makes perfect sense to me." said Van Lente, "If I can be forgiven for tooting our own horn, I think what separates 'Action Philosophers' from a lot of the other non-fiction comics is that we're actually funny. Ryan is a naturally hilarious cartoonist, so without him I'd be screwed, most definitely."

Dunlavey's art, which was honed with regular strips in "Royal Flush" and "Wizard Magazine," is an integral part of the recipe that makes "Action Philosophers" successful in its goal of entertaining while educating.

"I just like drawing funny stuff," said Dunlavey. "My favorite artists are the '70s era 'Mad' and 'Cracked' cartoonists like Jack Davis and Shawn Kerri as well as their modern-day equivalents like Bill Wray, Kyle Baker, Kieron Dwyer, Jamie Hewlett, Hillary Barta, etc, etc. I get a lot of inspiration from that brand of manic, high-energy 'lowbrow' cartooning. Sergio Aragones is a big influence on me, too. Fred and I have been friends since college and he really tailors the scripts to match my art style and sense of humor. I think the humor is what people initially connect with-- it's the bridge between being entertained and actually learning something."

Illustrating things like Plato's adventures in professional wrestling or St. Augustine's carnal carousing isn't just illuminating for the audience, it's been an education for Dunlavey as well.

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"Before working on 'Action Philosophers,' I only really knew the dictionary definition of our subjects' lives and belief systems," said Dunlavey. "I always liked philosophy, but never had time to study it. I was too busy drawing naked people and learning color theory when I was in school, so drawing 'Action Philosophers' has been a real education for me!"

Van Lente's interest in philosophy, on the other hand, goes back farther. Way farther back.

"I am the classic spent-his-childhood-holed-up-in-his-room-with-books type, and once life thrust me into the real world it always disturbed and frustrated me that people have such a terror for ideas and thinking and contemplation in general," said Van Lente. "Being such a solitary kid, it never occurred to me to feel ashamed or inferior just because I didn't know something-- if I wanted to know more, I would learn about it; if I didn't care to know more, I'd just to ignore it. That's what philosophy is to me-- a curious exploration of reality. To me, if you're interested in living, then you're interested in philosophy, even if you didn't major in it or don't read comic books about it. Philosophy is an analysis of why and how we should live, and even if you sat around for one night shooting the shit with your buddies, speculating over where we came from, or struggling with whether or not God exists, then you sir are a philosopher, even if you don't write it down as your occupation on your tax returns."

Even the very core of the series has it's roots in philosophy, the works of noted political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli were one of the primary inspirations, although Machiavelli won't get the "Action Philosophers" treatment until the series' fourth issue, the World Domination special.

"We're working on the Machiavelli story for the 'Action Philosophers: World Domination Handbook' right now. In a letter he talks about going into his library after working all day on his farm and having 'conversations' with the authors and people in the books he's read-- taking what he's read and applying it to new and more contemporary situations, putting his own personal spin on their ideas and refining them a bit." said Van Lente, "By using the information, he would retain what he learned. Real intelligence involves taking in knowledge, but then outputting it as well into something new. And like any kind of exercise, that can be strenuous, but also fun, entertaining and rewarding. School seems to have beaten the joy of exercising one's mind out of a depressingly large segment out of the American population. 'Action Philosophers' is our attempt to bring that joy back."

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"Action Philosophers" almost never made it to print. The creators had a number of false starts before finally winning a grant from the Xeric Foundation, an award created to allow up and coming independent comic creators to bring their works to fruition.

"The first comic we ever did, the Nietzsche one, was a rejected submission for the Small Press Expo anthology," said Dunlavey. "Pretty much immediately after learning of the rejection that I submitted it to a start-up magazine-- they loved it and asked us to do more, so we did the Plato and Bodhidharma strips. Well that ended up falling apart too, so as a last-ditch effort we repackaged the three strips as a thirty two page comic book and submitted it to the Xeric Foundation, who gave us a grant to publish two issues."

"Well, honestly, there wouldn't have been a book without Xeric." said Van Lente, "Their grant money paid for printing and shipping the first two issues. That allowed us to reinvest almost all our gross profits back into our business, so we have a nice, comfortable cushion to continue publishing philosophy comics for the foreseeable future."

That foreseeable future includes the upcoming World Domination issue, then "Action Philosophers Hate The French" and then the Reader's Choice issue, the subjects of which will be determined by an online poll running on

Aside from more thrilling tales of the world's greatest thinkers, the two have pretty full plates in front of them. Dunlavey continues his work for "Wizard" and "Royal Flush" while whittling away at a graphic novel for Platinum Studios, also written by Van Lente.

Van Lente has the "Scorpion: Poison Tomorrow" trade from Marvel Comics out in November, collecting his run on "Amazing Fantasy." In October he has a short story in an anthology with Peter David and a bunch of other writers, about "Kolchak: The Night Stalker."

(Article originally appeared at Comic Book Resources in 2005)

Berzerker Style: Pearson talks "Body Bags"

"Body Bags," the popular series of minis featuring the murderous mercenary father/daughter duo of Mack and Panda, is a berserk hyper head trip of a comic, so it's only right that an interview with creator Jason Pearson be just as er…interesting.

Set in a near future alternate version of Atlanta known as Terminus, the series follows the adventures of Clownface and his teenage partner Panda as bodybaggers; semi-legal bounty hunters and assassins.

The most recent installment is the oft delayed but finally here "3 The Hard Way," giving fans one brand new story as well as two other hard to find short stories. We talked to Pearson (after twenty four hours at the drawing broad) about Mack, Panda, the future, and world domination by way of comics.

Pearson's power mad quest for unlimited power was spawned, as were so many other would be dictators, by Adam West's Batman.

"In the seventies I fell in love with the Spider-Man cartoon and the Batman TV show. I was equally amazed that the convenience store down the block supplied these little picture magazines (with silly stories and bad art) of the same characters. I stuck with the silly little picture magazines (comic books!) because they came out on a pretty regular basis," said Pearson, "After a couple of months I felt that -- at the age of five -- I could draw better than these Ross Andru and Jim Aparo guys. Maybe Neal Adams was in my league, but barely. Fourteen years later, I decided to make my presence known at the San Diego Con. The editors said I wasn't ready yet, but I knew it was a lie to mask their jealousy. The following year (1990) was the birth of my world domination. Sixteen years later, I've yet to convince the world of my superiority -- one day you fools will smarten up!"

After a few years on the road to power, Pearson, almost by sheer drunken chance, came up with the concept that would give him his foothold, the hulking Mack and the hyper Panda.

"Late one night at my art studio, with a pencil in one hand and bottle of whiskey in the other, I created Mack. He was supposed to be a serial killer disguised as a hero. The next day, he became a hero disguised as a serial killer," Pearson explained, "Eventually, he was just a killer who did nice things every now and then. I have no clue of how I came up with Panda. One morning there was a drawing of her, by me, sitting on my art table."

Of course, every quest to rule the world needs refinement, and "Body Bags" was no exception, as the duo evolved and changed over the years, mostly to stop readers from losing their fragile grasp on sanity.

"I've simplified the look so that the average reader can withstand the full power of my abilities without passing out from the euphoria -- or it can be said I got rid of all the tiny inky rendering because I'm too damn lazy," said Pearson.

The most recent installment of "Body Bags" has been a long time coming, and there's a good reason it's called "3 The Hard Way."

"The book has three stories that were, for some goddamn reason, hard to write, draw and ink-- hence the title. One of the stories, a brand new 24 pager, was an incredible pain in the ass. But a little suffering is good for world domination, yeah?" said Pearson. "Ultimately, the book is really good, wholesome entertainment for the entire family to enjoy -- especially around the holidays when you're contemplating a little mass murder spree at the office."

The next installment, a one shot simply called "One Shot," was originally supposed to have come out recently, but, not surprisingly, has been pushed back by the time necessary to produce the staggering genius of "3 The Hard Way."

"The plans are to have it done around late April to early May. Delays on '3 the Hard Way' screwed up my entire schedule. At this point, I figure that nobody waited ten years for me to do a suck-ass book, right? So I might as well take the extra time to make everything super tight on this forty-eight pager." said Pearson. "After 'One Shot,' I will contemplate a better strategy for taking over the industry. Then let the games begin. No more teasing you bastards with false release dates. Next time, I will stun and shock the world with a mini-series that'll actually come out when Previews says it's coming out. I must remain always-- unpredictable."

And after that? Well, we'll leave the final word on Jason Pearson's future to the man himself.

"Listen, you don't jump straight from Kool-Aid right into cocaine, and you don't read 'Body Bags' expecting more afterwards. You appreciate one thing at a time!"

"3 The Hard Way" is available now from comic shops and petty criminals everywhere. You should buy it, unless you want Pearson coming round to your house.

(Article originally appeared at Comic Book Resources in 2006)