Archive for October 2009
New Night of the Bedbugs Book CoverJust before going to print, the publisher and I decided to change the cover for my forthcoming book, Night of the Bedbugs. As much as I like the cover we used for solicitation, instead of being suggestive, subtle and graphic, we thought it best to be more overt to give readers a better idea of the story inside. Blue Moon Amazon Store, or purchase at your local comic shop for its December release, and in late March at Borders or other fine bookstores. Ask for it by name (or refer to the ISBN# 978-1-60706-145-8). To keep up on the latest Bedbugs news and print out game and activity pages for your kids, become a fan at the Facebook Bedbugs page.
Michael Schenker Shirt ArtHaving seen UFO in concert ten days back, I've been listening to their music, old and new and am in a real UFO/Michael Schenker phase. Reading again my recent post about seeing them live, I realize I can't truly call my interest in the group and Schenker an obsession, not when compared to how attentive and devoted my brothers' have been as fans and with their tribute band they've had going now over a decade. An MST article at their site is worth a read, from a few years ago now, covering the distinction between a "cover band" and a "tribute band." This interest all started over thirty years ago when my older brother, Karl, the guitarist brought UFO and Schenker into the house. We were such Schenker fans, I drew up two different tee shirts. We printed plenty and sold them at our high school. I recall spending some hours drawing up the art for the shirts, up in my bedroom, listening to their live album, Strangers in the Night over and over again 'til the art was done. I worked in pencil, making sure the lines were dark and clean so it'd print and be screen printed onto the tees nicely.
Conversations With Wilder
Just finished a great book, Conversations With Wilder by Cameron Crowe. I had no idea this came out ten years ago. I wish I'd caught it sooner, but thanks for the tip from writer and pal, Alex Grecian. If you've no idea who Billy Wilder is, go watch Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Stalag 17, Double Indemnity and/or Sabrina, and you'll know plenty. One of the first writer/directors, he was a writer first who became the latter so directors wouldn't mess up his scripts. The book is a revelation, with tons of anecdotes and insights on storytelling, collaboration, the creative process and more. It's special because it's one director interviewing another, the closest thing approaching Truffaut's book/interview with Hitchcock; they speak the same language. In terms of style and genre, these two directors couldn't be more unalike. Hitchcock spent his career almost exclusively in the genre of suspense, exploring repeatedly his favorite themes and motifs, and had a flashy, theatrical style. Wilder jumped from genre to genre, choosing to mix it up, as long as he was telling a good story with an emphasis on smart and witty dialogue. His camera and point of view is understated, saving a dramatic shot for special moments. But they shared a common motivation and goal. They sought to entertain the masses first and foremost, adding depth and artistry as gravy. With these priorities in order as moviemakers, they achieved both.
This Old Man, He Played Rock: Phil MoggUFO. They were playing at a place only ten minutes from my house near my Minneapolis suburb of Plymouth. I've loved their stuff from the late '70s since my big brother, Karl turned me on to them. We were especially big fans of their guitarist, Michael Schenker, their quintessential live double album, Strangers in the Night, and their 1978 release, Obsession, Schenker's last with the band at the time. Schenker also played with the Scorpions before and after his tenure with UFO, and went on to produce several albums with his MSG (Michael Schenker Group.) My brothers and I (and many other fans) were so obsessed with Schenker, virtually nothing UFO had done since could match their work when he was a member. In fact, my two brothers still perform in the Chicagoland area in a Schenker/UFO tribute band, MST. Then, a pal informed me UFO would be playing here, so we figured we'd make a night of it. To whet my appetite, I listened to their latest, The Visitor, now with guitarist Vinnie Moore, and was pleasantly surprised by a very good album. There are stand-out rockers on the collection, some awesome slide guitar, and Phil Mogg's voice was rougher and in fine form. I found myself really looking forward to the night out. They didn't disappoint. They played for two hours, performing a set list nearly matching my ideal, doing a few of their best from their latest, a couple from Obsession, 2-3 stand-outs from other albums and most of "Strangers." Phil Mogg was lean and mean at 62, a rocker to the core. He lead the band and sang with passion and emotion, throwing his whole body into his vocals. I'd spent so many years worshiping the troubled but musically brilliant Schenker, that I'd given Mogg short shrift. He's the one guy that kept the band going in one form or another for now forty years, the glue that held UFO together. UFO had one hit in the late '70s with Too Hot To Handle, and played to sold-out large auditoriums at the time, but never quite rose to prominence. However, their following is loyal, enough to get them through lean and rough years, and to spawn tribute bands. And somehow now, after all this time they've resurrected from a Spinal Tap-like fate and are still rocking. The venue where I saw them wasn't an auditorium, but the band played for the audience like it was, and I was sitting close enough to feel like they were playing in my own home. Striking up conversations with those around us, it became apparent that just about everyone there was about our age (mid-'40s) and each fan had their own connection with the band, their own stories to tell. Like I said: loyal. Lastly, it was a special night for me, because after seven months of difficult health problems, I was able to push myself, stay out late and do all right, and reconnect with my very good long-time friend, Dean. Thanks, UFO and Dean, for a great night out, all the memories, and to my brother for the introduction. BTW - this sketch was based a superb photo by Jay West. Check out his other fine photos of a myriad of musical stars at his flickr photostream page. More on my Schenker/UFO obsession soon...
Balloon Man: Heene-Meanie-Minee-Mo-ron.
...My prediction from the sixties finally came true: "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." I'm bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, "In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous."
The King of All: Sir Duke
In the last century, I'd be hard pressed to choose a better composer than Duke Ellington. In his musical career which spanned just over a half-century, he wrote early rhythmic jazz tunes, bouncy big band numbers, elegant ballads, musical scores, jazz/classical pieces and everything in between. He was the best of the best, covering all bases.
A great collection to start with is Sophisticated Lady, although that superb CD just scratches the surface of his tremendous oeuvre and legacy.
It's been a good sign to see more women artists, readers and fans show up at each successive comic book convention the last several years. And they're not all in costumes, either...not that there's anything wrong with that. But with what has long been largely a boys club for decades, it's encouraging that the fan base and creative trends are broadening.
Perhaps it's because of those female artists who blazed trails over the last few decades, or the proliferation of fantasy literature and comics for girls and women the last few years. Whatever the cause or reason, it's a healthy sign for comics and reading in general.
Given the nature of my upcoming Night of the Bedbugs children's book release, many more women and Dads with kids approached my table, just as I'd like it. I'm not aiming in this regard for a small niche of fans interested mostly in dark subjects or superheroes. But even as I see improvements at comic book conventions, I can't wait to do appearances with Bedbugs books and juggling Bedbugs beanbags at libraries, classrooms and bookstores.
In the meantime, become a fan at the Bedbugs Facebook Fan Page.
Minnesota FallCon 2009 Costumed Heroes
A few highlights from the Costume Parade and competition at the comic book convention in Minnesota this weekend, both charming and scary:
Sister and brother get in on the act.
A fiery and muscle-bound Human Torch.
A Star Wars family affair.
Update: another pic snapped on Sunday at the show:
Young Iron Man, in a power pose!