Archive for June, 2006

Paul Pope is the Mick Jagger of Comics

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At last night’s LVHRD event Bi-fold: Paul Pope Meets Mark Denardo, a fellow attendee summed up Pope in the above statement. I concur. Paul Pope is a rock star.

Never mind that his medium is graphic illustration/comics. Pope has a list of projects that will appeal to most discriminating listener/consumer. There’s something for everyone. In addition to Batman, Pope is working on a children’s/all ages comic for FirstSecond publishers, a forthcoming artbook (entitled PulpHope), animated segments of Michael Chabon’s Paramount release Kavalier and Clay, as well as illustration work for Diesel (yes, that Diesel) fashion. As it is he’s got a window display of his fashion illustration up at Bloomingdales and the Diesel store in Soho is a Paul Pope fashion orgy.

This kind of market and cross media penetration puts Pope above being just a fashion designer, cartoonist (his description of himself as of last night), faux-rockstar. It makes him an ambassador of popculture.

Which brings me to my next conclusion: Pope is the Japanese artist for today’s America. His vision beyond comics is reminiscent of what the typical successful manga artist in Japan does. Animation, artbooks, comics for each and every age. He’s localizing it for an American audience and dousing it with a spoonful of sexy to help the rest of it go down.

Of course, Pope is just the surface. His execution is flawless and he does so with a subtle flair that at once brings to his work a sexiness and a pop savvy that makes it consumable for the masses. Not everyone can do that. But to a certain degree, it’s already happening. Young comics artists equipped with the marketing smarts of Microsoft and the passion and vision of Steve Jobs are already following in Pope’s delicate path. Animation, children’s comics, artbooks. It’s happening now. (Remember my small essay about Flight wonder Kazu Kibuishi?)

In a sense, Paul Pope as Mick Jagger is as apt a comparison that anyone can come up with. (As it is, in Japan comics artists are regarded as celebrity.) He’s the front man in a movement, the pretty face on the cover that will sell what’s inside. The great thing about comics today is that substance has become part of the style. There’s no need to sacrifice one for the other. So, since we’re making analogies, if Paul Pope were a baker, he’d make cupcakes. Style and substance, looks and smarts, fasion and film, comics and the movie adaptation. With Pope, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Rock on, Rockstar, rock on.

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What makes you cry at the movies?

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Shinobi is easily the most beautiful movie I’ve seen so far this year. (And yes, I have seen Brokeback Mountain.) Based on the novel by Futaro Yamada and the manga (comic) Basilisk by Masaki Segawa, Shinobi is a feast for the soul.

The best way to describe it is a Shakespearean take on X-Men in post-feudal Japan. It’s got to be the one of the most successfully assembled commercial action-drama-CGI-romance movies I’ve ever seen. I won’t compare it to Zhang Yi Mou’s Hero because Hero was more allegorical than commercial. Of course, Hero lacks in commercial appeal because you have to watch it a few times to get it. Shinobi is a bit more universal, you get it in one viewing. (Crouching Tiger didn’t use CGI – Ang Lee kept it old school and put the actors on wires.)

But in case you’re wondering, I cried watching Shinobi. It’s got that same resonance that Brokeback does. There’s something about the threat of killing the person you love most that brings a tear to my eye. Haunting, riveting, exquisite. Read my review by clicking on genuinearticle in the links column!

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Dumb Japanese Humor

I got the chance to see Cromartie High last night. Was it stupid? Yes. Was I laughing myself silly? Yes. Should you mosey on over to my .mac site for the full review? Only if you think a smile is worth about two minutes of your time….

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My Favorite Game

Paul Pope

In my line of business, comics, I’m either face to face with living legends or documenting the achievments of young upstarts. But sometimes, I come upon creators my age. And that’s when things get interesting.

Next week I’ll be reporting on Paul Pope’s next big project(s). Pope is just a touch older than me and dancing gracefully at the height of his career. He’s been drawing since the age of 4 and instead of art school, went to Japan to get his comics education from one of the most respected and well known publishers of manga, Kodansha. His work is gritty, raw, somewhere between Frank Miller and Goseki Kojima.

And the interesting thing? I start thinking about success. And when I start thinking about success, the ruthless, competitive immigrant comes out of me. And when the ruthless, competitive immigrant comes out, I start playing the “What if?” game. I always imagined my life would be full of movement, from place to place, country to country, adventure to adventure. I imagined that by 30, I’d have a solid career, writing in China or Thailand. Love, family, settling down – that stuff I never gave much thought.

So when I look around and see what my life is and I see everyone doing what I thought I’d be doing, I get confused.

What if I’d gone traveling and lived in the places I currently dream of? What if I ditched the baby for my dreams?

I wonder about my life a lot. I wonder how it would be different if I’d been more focused on what I want, more fearless in pursuing it. I wonder alot about it because often it all feels like one big endless fight, like a ball of string that just keeps unraveling and tangling itself around me.

A friend told me how he’s given up the “What if?” game, just quit playing. “What’s the point?” He says. “You never win.” He’s moved on to the “Will I ever?” game.

Will I ever get married?
Will I ever get out of this place?
Will I ever finish this story?

Seeing people succeed at what they’re doing, seeing Paul Pope rise as a comics icon, reminds me of how much catching up I need to do.

Will I ever be a success?
Will I always play “What if?”
Will I ever…? Will I?

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It’s Only Talk

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It’s Only Talk is a Japanese movie that will be showing this weekend at the New York Asian Film Festival.

I’ve only seen the trailer so far, and I can tell I’m going to love it. Certain genres within Japanese literature and film capture life in it’s most mundane and depressing. The narratives are heavily manipulated, stylized to show the daily struggles that we all go through just to live.

If life progresses in strange elipses obstructed by glaciers and canyons, then the life that is portrayed in these narratives (think Yasunari Kawabata) is a narrow path pocked with tiny blemishes. That’s not to make out our struggles as insignificant. The protagonist in It’s Only Talk is manic depressive. But it’s to say that the bumps occur and reoccur. We climb the mountain everyday. And we’ll climb it again tomorrow.

I point out It’s Only Talk not just because I’m predicting its brilliance, but because it’s the type of narrative that I try to create. It’s the movie that I would make, the story that I would write, the comic that I would sketch, if I could. I’d like to believe that I’ll get there. I’d like to believe that at one point, I’ll have a story that has the power to reflect the beauty and cruelty of the everyday.

In the meantime, you’ll find me sitting in the theatre watching this movie, laptop in hand, hoping that some of that brilliance will rub off on me.

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Asian Pulp is On!

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It’s that time of the month!

From tonight until the end of June, the New York Asian Film Festival (www.subwaycinema.com) is on at the Anthology Film Archives DTNYC (that’s downtown, NYC).

My interest? Cromartie High, a movie adapted (naturally) from the Japanese comic (manga) by the same name. Can we say “Thugs are us”? Can we say “Trash-can robots and yanki cow-licked hair”?

Oh I think we can…

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Youth: It’s No Longer Wasted on the Young

One of the things that I do as someone who writes about comics, is interview the people who actually create them. These people are usually young, energetic, tireless, unstoppable. And successful. And young. And successful.

So tomorrow, I’m interviewing Kazu Kibuishi of FLIGHT fame. Young, successful, emerging, talented – it really doesn’t end. Somebody kill me already. Better yet, somebody bury him. In a deep, deep, grave. Filled with red ants. Big red ants. Big, hungry red ants.

FLIGHT is a comics anthology first published in 2005 by Image Comics. Volume 2 was picked up by Ballantine – yes, Random House’s Ballantine – and volume 3 has come out this month. Basically, FLIGHT is a three volume comics anthology that continues to build interest and has set the stage for in many ways for the future of comics publishing in America.

As the editor of FLIGHT, Kazu has made anthologies, typically a hard sell in comics for the sake of consistency, art style, so many reasons, the new graphic novel. He has two other books, one his own project, another I didn’t care to look into, in the works. He has a lovely fiance who draws with him and has her own series and forthcoming graphic novel with Scholastic Books. He has worked in animation, he is young, he is 26 years old.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kazu Kibuishi.

I am going to kick his ass.

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