Here’s a picture I made in under five minutes. I hope it makes you laugh.
Halloween has come and gone again like a murderous curse stuck on repeat or our ham-and-egg existence riding that eternal recurrence merry-go-round one more time for the sake of eternity. I love Halloween. This one (2015) was a pretty good one- candy, costumes, and a few Great Pumpkins. My wife and I attended a pumpkin carving party and she immediately took control of our pumpkin, deciding by executive order that we would make a Red Lantern pumpkin. This continues a tradition we started last year with our Green Lantern pumpkin. It worked out well since we didn’t have all of our pumpkin art tools at the party and the Red Lantern logo is probably the easiest Lantern logo to recreate.
Our friends made some pretty good pumpkins too, but I didn’t take any pictures of them so you’ll have to use your imagination. One featured a cat and the others were spooky in their own way. One of our friends tried to carve about thirty letters into his pumpkin. He gave up after about nine. Some people aren’t cut out for the pumpkin life.
Last year we scored some really good quality green lights for the Green Lantern pumpkin so we tried to do the same with red lights this year. After we were finished with with the pumpkin, I installed the lights in a small display of my Green Lantern toys.
We did acquire some red lights, but they unfortunately they are as good quality as the green ones we got last year. They’re really candy cane lights, not red lights. Now that Halloween is over, I plan to use them in a display of my Harley Quinn toys.
Pumpkins in Georgia are a bittersweet bit of Halloween. On the one hand, people from Georgia love stabbing things with knives. On the other hand, it’s still pretty warm around Halloween here and the pumpkins get pretty gross pretty fast. Once a pumpkin starts to devolve into a mushy, moldy insect orgy, you can feel more confident in your witchcraft.
My wife is adamant that we keep making Lantern pumpkins every year until we’ve done the logos of every Corps, so I’m not too worried about the strength of our marriage. I love Halloween.
The best decade has been great for zombie enthusiasts. Despite speculation on zombie fatigue, great zombie media continues to be released. I’ve shared my love for zombie comics on this site before in in my annual best-of lists and also in the Graphic Novel Faceoff (SIDENOTE: Now that the new 52 is officially over, I’m planning a New 52 Face Off in the coming weeks). Some of my favorite zombie books include Revival, ’68, and The Other Dead. 2015 has introduced some hot new zombie stuff.
DOUBLE TAKE COMICS- If you haven’t had a chance to look at this zombie-filled universe from new comers Double Take Comics, then you should and you can. In fact, you can preview all their issue ones for FREE on their website. They are really pushing the limits of what can be done with digital comics, which makes them pioneers in their fields, but what really makes these titles stand out in the story-telling and dialogues. Having only read issues digitally, I’m really curious to see how their physical counterparts work. As someone who prefers trades and long story arcs, I’m really looking forward to seeing where these comics go because the Double Take universe is off to a great start.
G.I. ZOMBIE- Another fantastically written (and poorly selling) comic from our my favorite creative teams in comics Justin Gray and Jimmy “Mr. Amanda Conner” Palmiotti! Those two are most famous for their work on All-Star Western (Jonax Hex) and they’ve actually ventured into the world of the undead before with The Last Resort. In addition to featuring Palmiotti and Gray’s story-telling, both GI Zombie and The Last Resort feature cover art by Darwyn Cooke (who does not do the interior art in either title), but beyond those two similarities, the titles are really different. The Last Resort is cute, funny, and pokes fun at our tendency as humans to be self-obsessed, detached, greedy, and petty while G.I. Zombie is a political thriller that has its cute and funny moments, but its social criticism is far more sophisticated and biting.
GOTHAM BY MIDNIGHT- While Gotham By Midnight is not exactly a zombie comic, it does deal with supernatural mysteries. Like Gotham Central before it, it’s about Gotham cops and it’s well-written, but comparisons can really stop there. Ben Templesmith’s art creates a very playful nightmare to accompany Ray Fawkes’s fantastic story. What I like best about Gotham By Midnight is how the mystery actually means something; without spoiling a great read for you, let me tell you that the mystery touches on one of the most shameful yet elemental parts of US history. While I’m no longer a classroom teacher, I still consider the value of each comic I read as a teaching tool and I’d recommend this one to middle school, high school, and university teachers of US History.
On a somewhat related sidenote, Dan Abnett’s The New Deadwardians is being used in one of Dr. Carol Senf’s classes as a result of my lending her my copy. If you’re not familiar with Senf’s research and you like vampires, I strongly encourage you to check her out. You can find an interview with her here by comics writer and friend of the site Van Jensen.
Back to zombies, I’d also like to encourage all of you to watch the Season 6 premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC this coming Sunday October 11.
Dragon Con was a blast and I felt like the DC Comics and Cultural Studies panel went well. I’ve had a few requests so I’ve posted my paper “Discipline & Punish: Michel Foucault & the Suicide Squad” here. Hopefully I’ll get around to posting my paper from last year some time soon, but until then, enjoy this one.
Yesterday I received the Baby Nightsoil Series 5 Stickers in the mail. This batch is even bigger than Series 4, making it the biggest batch yet. A complete set would include 8 stickers. You may notice somewhat a return to pandas in the batch after exploring other critters in Series 4 and Series 3. This series contains a panda tribute to the recently deceased Hot Rod Rowdy Roddy Piper, a throwback from the Super Mario calendar, and some lovely panda ladies. This series also includes a sticker that will only be available for the next four days while supplies last during Atlanta’s notorious science fiction/fantasy convention Dragon Con, a send up of Jim Jones of the People’s Temple and J’onn J’onnz the Martian Manhunter, founding member of the Justice League of America. If you’re interested in any of these stickers and you’re attending this year’s convention, there are two easy ways to track me down: 1) Go to the Art Show between 3pm and 8pm and look for the most overwhelmingly handsome volunteer which will be me. 2) Attend the DC Comics an Cultural Studies panel on Monday at 2:30pm in Hanover F (the Comics track room) at the Hyatt. I like to trade stickers for art, comics, and pictures of cosplayers.
Here’s a look at the Series 5 stickers in all their glittery glory.
With Dragon Con less than two weeks away, the schedule for Dragon Con’s academic side-con has been released and I thought I’d share it with you here. While some events certainly appeal to me more than others, I’ll likely attend as much of the comics programming as my volunteer schedule allows. Quick observations: The schedule is pretty dominated by gender studies stuff. There seem to be a lot more television based panels than last year and most of the comic book stuff is on Monday. Sunday has almost nothing.
Anyway, here’s the schedule:
11:30 AM Comics, Trauma, and Psychiatric Disorders (Hanover F Hyatt)
2:30 PM – Game of Thrones: The Dark Time – (M301-M302 – Marriott)
CPAC Panelist: Matthew J. Brown (UT Dallas)
4:00 PM – The Wayfaring Gater and Other Traveling Metaphors (Westin, Chastain FGH)
CPAC Panelist: Richard Scott Nokes (Troy University)
7:00 PM – Of Monsters and (Super)Men (Hanover F – Hyatt)
8:30 PM – Roundtable: History of Gender and Race in Comics (Hanover F – Hyatt)
Comics Scholars: Daniel Amrhein (Independent Scholar), Matthew J. Brown (UT Dallas), Kari Storla (University of Southern California)
8:30 PM – Anime, Manga, and Japanese History (Location)
8:30 PM – Hannibal Fannibals– Horror Track (Peachtree 1-2 – Westin)
CPAC Panelist: Damien Williams (Kennesaw State University
10:00 AM – Wonder Woman and Greek Mythology (Hanover F – Hyatt)
11:30 AM – Hannibal: Brunch (Peachtree 1-2 – Westin)
Aaron Abrams and Scott Thompson dissect Hannibal’s elegant take on the horror genre
CPAC Panelist: Damien Williams (Kennesaw State University)
5:30 PM – Virtual Reality in Japanese Anime
Panelists: Damien Williams, Michael Bugajski, Carl Dull
8:30 PM – Roundtable: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Comics – (Hanover F – Hyatt)
Professional Participants: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Amanda Conner, Laurenn McCubbin
Comics Scholars: Kari Storla, John Flowers, Tini Howard (Cape Fear Community College), Daniel Amrhein (Independent Scholar)
8:30 PM – Sense8 – Is this just another Cluster? (M301-M302 – Marriott)
Panelists: Matthew J. Brown
11:00 AM – CPAC Scholars Forum
Topic: Incorporating Comics and Pop Culture in the Classroom.
7:00 PM – Philosophical Perspectives on Japanese Anime
Scholars Carl Dull and Michael Bugajski discuss the philosophical themes in Madoka Magica and Cowboy Bebop.
8:30 PM – Diversity and Sexuality in Comics (Hanover F – Hyatt)
CPAC Panelists: Johnathan Flowers (SIU Carbondale), Daniel Amrhein (Independent Scholar)
10:00 PM – Con Culture and the changing face of Fandom (Hanover F – Hyatt)
CPAC Panelists: Molly Dilts (Pennsylvania State University), Kari Storla (University of Southern California)
10:00 AM – Comics and Feminism (Hanover F – Hyatt)
11:30 AM – Kelly Sue DeConnick in Focus
Response: Kelly Sue DeConnick
1:00 PM – Comics in the Classroom Hanover F – Hyatt)
2:30 PM – DC Comics and Cultural Studies (Hanover F – Hyatt)
Here’s a piece I created in memory of the Hot Rod Rowdy Roddy Piper, one of my favorite wrestlers from childhood who died last week. I’m considering using this image in Baby Nightsoil Sticker Series 5 as the panda portraits of James Brown and Hank Williams, Sr. turned out to be some of the most popular from Series 3. Also I like the idea of a sticker featuring a professional wrestling legend with instructions like Buy, Conform, Stay Asleep, and Consume. I don’t think anybody’s ever done anything like that before….
I’ve been considering doing an animal legends of wrestling series- King Kong Bundy as a gorilla, Superfly Jimmy Snuka as a fly, British Bulldog as a bulldog, Million Dollar Man as a vicious snake, Big Boss Man as a pig, George the Animal Steele as a blue-tongued dolphin… About a year ago, I did Macho King Randy Savage piece that was also included in Baby Nightsoil Sticker Series 3 but the sticker was a bit too small, didn’t really do the image justice.
I saw the sticker show up on a parking meter in Atlanta.
If any of you catch one of my stickers out and about, I’d love it if you sent me a picture- firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m interested in all ways my stickers are being used. It doesn’t have to be vandalism. Maybe you use them in your work place to provide important safety information or perhaps you put one on your computer to hide a brand’s logo or maybe you put them on your truck to let everybody on the highway know that you not only have great taste in art but access to the elusive and whispered about art sensation known as Baby Nightsoil
My recent campaign to get panda portraits of my wife on display at our favorite restaurants has added a second location. We visited Dua Vietnamese Noodle for lunch on my wife’s birthday. Her special birthday wish was to get two to-go orders of pho- one for lunch and one for a midnight snack- from Dua. We don’t frequent Dua as much as other pho spots because their hours aren’t particularly convenient and parking is annoying, but their noodles are so good that my wife looks for any opportunity to squeeze in a visit. We made the trip on her birthday and brought the restaurant a gift- a portrait I had done of her a few weeks earlier. The owners were very receptive and have asked me to do a few more pieces.
If you ever find yourself in Downtown Atlanta before 6pm and you’re hungry, I strongly recommend Dua. They have two locations on Broad Street: Dua and Dua 2 Go, which, as the name suggests, offers their regular menu to go. To all my fellow Dragon Con people, I recommend walking a little further down Peachtree Street to eat here during the Con. They’re closed on Sundays, so hit them up on Friday and Saturday. It’s just far enough from the major DC hotels that you won’t have to wait forever- definitely better food and experience than the spots in Peachtree Center!
Above you can see the inaugural restaurant panda portrait which I did for Scott’s Eats and Sweets in Mableton, Georgia, which is also a Vietnamese noodle spot. We’d eat at Scott’s more often too but Mableton is pretty far from where we live. It’s a nice to spot to meet up with some of our OTP (that’s outside-the-perimeter for you out-of-towners) friends.
I hope to get a few more restaurants in before the end of the year. If you’re interested in displaying a portrait of my wife as a panda eating the cuisine of your restaurant, send me an email (email@example.com) and we can try to put something together. I must warn you that in the interest of preserving my integrity as an artist- your food better be delicious or you get farts instead of arts.
The Suicide Squad have been in the news a lot lately, especially since the release of the trailer for the 2016 film. As I put together my presentation for this year’s Comics and Popular Arts Conference, I’m becoming more and more entrenched in the lives of Task Force X as my presentation tries to place the Suicide Squad within the timeline of modern discipline and punishment as put forth in Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. As I go through the source material, I’m also reading a lot of what people are writing online about the upcoming movie and I notice a dearth of articles written about the movie by people who have much experience with the actual comics. In an attempt to bring comic books back into the discussion of comic book movies, I thought I’d put together a few interesting tidbits about the Suicide Squad as they appeared in the comics.
1. The Suicide Squad is older than the Justice League…sort of.
When the Suicide Squad first appeared in DC Comics The Brave and The Bold #25, they weren’t a chain gang of super-villains, but rather of a state-sponsored group of everyday heroes having not-so-everyday adventures. None of them had any superpowers and none of them had criminal notoriety. In many ways, they barely resemble the Suicide Squad in the comics today or the Suicide Squad as its been portrayed in popular media (Smallville; Batman: Assault on Arkham; the upcoming Suicide Squad film). What connects the original Squad to the contemporary Squad are the memberships of Rick Flag- a character who hasn’t been on the Squad in the comics for a long time- and Karin Grace- a character that, excepts for a few issues in the first revival of the Squad, has largely been lost to comic book history. Still, that old Suicide Squad of scrappy superpowerless do-gooders appeared in the pages of The Brave and The Bold before the Justice League, which made its debut in The Brave and The Bold #28.
2. Those thugs were first assembled to defeat Darkseid.
While the Suicide Squad mostly goes on sketchy espionage missions to serve the interests of A.R.G.U.S. or Checkmate, they were first brought together to defend the planet against the terrible tourist from Apokolips, Darkseid. In his usual fashion, Darkseid has attacked the Earth on many fronts- physical, social, and psychological- which has made ordinary folks despise ‘heroes.’ Superheroes become unable to perform their basic function and villains are brought in to do the hero work. This may remind readers of how Lex Luthor, Captain Cold, and others came to perform heroic feats in the recent Forever Evil storyline when the Justice League was incapacitated by being locked up in the ever-unstable Firestorm matrix motel.
3. They are a group of predominantly white super-powered convicts being bossed around by a high-ranking government official, an out-of-shape and overweight black woman.
In the United States, we haven’t had a black female president yet. We haven’t had a female president and it’s arguable that we’ve only had half of a black president. In our most female-filled congress of all-time, only 20% of the elected officials serving in the legislative branch are women. Only half of the fifty United States have ever elected a black person to the House of Representatives. There’s only been nine black senators ever and only one of them was a woman. Still, overseeing the Suicide Squad isn’t really the responsibility of an elected official, so we can assume Amanda Waller wouldn’t have to campaign for votes. Well… no CIA director has ever been black nor female. The same is true regarding directors of the NSA, FBI, and ONI. Carolyn Payton was black and a woman, but she was just served as the Director of the US Peace Corps which seems like a job that would bore Amanda Waller. Growing up in poverty, it seems strange that Amanda Waller would also have the social connections to end up in such a position. Likewise, it’s not until Amanda Waller is skinnied up in the New 52 that she has any real military experience as part of her background. Sure, the US government is racially biased against black women in terms of promotion and Amanda Waller lacks the necessary background and physical fitness to perform her job, but we find Amanda Waller directing the affairs of the Suicide Squad, literally holding their lives in her hands- such is the unlikely magic of fiction.
Are we finished with ways that the Suicide Squad narrative does not accurately reflect the way racial tribes manifest their power through our social institutions? Worry not, because despite the fact that nearly half (1 million) of the entire US prison population (2.3 million) is black, nearly all of the members of the Suicide Squad are not black or were not black during at least part of their history- Bronze Tiger, for example, or Deadshot who has never been black until the casting of Will Smith. While short-time Squad member Black Adam has black in his name and is literally African, he’s got lighter skin than Betty White. While blacks and other ethnic minorities account for significantly less than whites in Suicide Squad membership, such disparity is not uncommon among super-teams as the superhero genre suffers famously for its lack of diversity. On the other hand, women consistently make up a larger percentage of the Suicide Squad than most super-teams (looking at you, Justice League/Avengers….), which is a little odd since men make up over 90% of the US prison population. As statistically unlikely as the Suicide Squad’s roster would be in the real world, it is essential to the dynamic of Suicide Squad because who is the Suicide Squad?
4. Amanda Waller is the Suicide Squad.
The Wall wasn’t part of the original Suicide Squad from the B&B days- there weren’t a lot of black female characters in 1950s comic books. She didn’t arrive on the scene until the Legends mini-series that introduced the world to the Suicide Squad as we understand them today and she’s been with them ever since. While the Squad certainly has its usual suspects (Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Enchantress, Plastique, King Shark, Killer Frost, Count Vertigo- to name a few), the only constant is Amanda Waller. As a character, Amanda Waller remained pretty consistent during her tenure in the DC universe. She’s operates from some shadowy government organization (Checkmate, ARGUS), monitoring and managing the world’s ugliest secrets. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, even presidents. Her existence is kept somewhat a secret, but she’s got connections everywhere. Physically, she’s short and heavy-set. Her figure distinguishes her from the bombshells that make up most female characters in the superhero genre. Her weapons include the power of persuasion and the ability to circumvent bureaucracy.
Following in the 2011 film Green Lantern, Amanda Waller is portrayed by the lovely Angela Bassett- a casting decision that would have significant effects on the character. While the actress retained Waller’s authoritarian attitude, she did nothing to portray the character’s physical attributes and turned Amanda Waller not only into a sex symbol, but a much more physically violent character. Bassett’s portrayal heavily informed the way Amanda Waller would appear in the New 52, the company-wide overhaul that occurred in September 2011, the same year that the Green Lantern movie came out. In the New 52, Amanda Waller is a former member of Team 7 and actually joins the Suicide Squad in punching up the bad guys. The military background, weapons mastery, and martial arts expertise give Amanda Waller new strength, but at the cost of the original character. While I miss the original Amanda Waller character, I must admit I really enjoyed the New 52 Suicide Squad. The storylines related Waller’s past came across as very fresh, but I wonder if they couldn’t have created a different character- one skinny ex-military bad-ass and Amanda Waller instead of one skinny ex-military bad-ass as Amanda Waller.
5. Belle Reve is the official Suicide Squad prison.
The inductees of the Suicide Squad Hall of Fame come from the halls of Belle Reve prison in Louisiana. Amanda Waller is the on-again off-again warden. The prison first appeared in Suicide Squad #1 back in 1987. It shares the same name of Blanche Dubois’s lost estate in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and translates roughly as “beautiful dream.”
I’ve been working on a lot of pieces that I’m not sure I want to share online because they’re pretty far out, but also because they’re part of a larger work in progress. In the meantime, here’s a little piece I did that is quite tame in comparison to the weirder stuff I’m currently working on. I’ve been privileged to visit a few natural history museums, aquariums, and the homes of pet owners recently, taking some great reference photos and really playing with this anthropomorphic trip I’ve been working with for the past couple of years. I know I haven’t posted much stuff in a while, but don’t worry- my imagination didn’t dry up.