Deborah Vankin

Jan. 17, 2013 | 5:00 a.m.

Eric Nakamura: Giant Robot Biennale 3 exhibition celebrates misfits

Eric Nakamura at the Giant Robot exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
The culture of cute is having a moment — more than 100 of them. Inside downtown Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum, the unofficial U.S. ambassador of Asian pop culture, Giant Robot founder Eric Nakamura, hovers over his empire of little people — some 100 charismatic misfits clustered in Plexiglas cases. There’s the cheery, hot-pink monster head atop an armored tank, the grimacing caramel-colored ogre with horns and the Native American robotic beast in a fuzzy bear hat. Not to mention the bug-eyed, blue octopus skewering its neon-scarlet brain with a fork. That these custom vinyl figures are being showcased so seriously in a museum setting puts an elastic grin on Nakamura’s face. “A figure show, toys, are never presented in a space like this,” he says. “It usually happens in a shop on Melrose, on a shelf. I wanted […]
July 14, 2012 | 4:47 p.m.

Comic-Con alternative Tr!ckster — a brand new bag

Fans draw side by side with artists, such as Jim Mahfood in a baseball cap, at Tr!ck2ter.
Imagine a typical high school life drawing class — except in a bar. Bikini clad models wielding spears pose on animal-skin throw rugs, while earnest artists scratch away in their sketch pads. There’s a DJ, of course; he’s spinning John Denver’s “Country Roads” mixed with techno music. Should anyone get bored, there are stacks of comic books, graphic novels, T-shirts and varied artworks on a nearby table. This was the scene at the Tr!ckster lounge, down the street from the San Diego Convention Center during Comic-Con International. Now in its second year, the indie-minded pop-up gallery, retail store and event space dedicated to DIY and creator owned art, has ingratiated itself into the fabric of the Con. It’s become an off-campus, clubhouse of sorts for both industry insiders and fans to rest their weary feet, attend storytelling workshops, browse slightly […]
July 14, 2012 | 4:10 a.m.

Comic-Con: Gay characters enjoying new prominence, tolerance

Astonishing X-Men Northstar (featured image)
Caped crusaders are out and proud this year at Comic-Con International. Even Superman and Batman at the Prism Comics booth wear snug Underoos, capes and chef’s aprons — but not much else — as they entertain passersby. T-shirts featuring “Glamazonia: The Uncanny Super-Tranny,” “Wuvable Oaf,” a hairy-chested wrestler-type in pink shorts. and other less-famous characters line the walls of Prism’s booth — the unofficial hub of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community at this week’s convention. “It feels revolutionary,” says Scott Covert, decked out as Batman’s sidekick, Robin, at one of the convention’s many panels about gay culture and the comic book world. He flips the lip of his cape as he adds, “There’s more tolerance this year.” Gay Geekdom celebrated last month when Marvel’s mutant superhero, Northstar, married his longtime partner, Kyle, in “Astonishing X-Men No. 51.” The […]
June 14, 2012 | 1:07 p.m.

Comic-Con: Tr!ckster is a growing alternative

Scott Morse TR!CK2TER, "Armor"
One of the most vibrant creative scenes at last year’s Comic-Con International took place in the shadow of the San Diego convention center, at a small wine shop across the street. The first annual Tr!ckster lounge — a pop-up gallery, retail store and clubhouse of sorts celebrating the spirit of DIY and creator-owned art – held workshops, screenings and late night, DJ’d cocktail parties where indie-minded artists mingled with fans and weary convention-goers rested their feet and enjoyed sushi and custom-cocktails. Its founders — Pixar story artists/independent cartoonists Scott Morse and Ted Mathot, and puppeteer Anita Coulter – estimate several thousand people streamed through each day of Tr!ckster’s six-day “residency.” An expanded Tr!ckster will set up shop at Comic-Con again this year from July 11-14. The event will be nearly twice as big, with 40 creators  added to last year’s […]
Jan. 12, 2012 | 12:37 p.m.

‘Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary’ looks for first kiss

Tina's Mouth (featured image)
Bringing Keshni Kashyap’s debut graphic novel, “Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary,” to life was nearly an existential crisis in and of itself. Neither Kashyap or illustrator Mari Araki had worked in comics before. Kashyap is a filmmaker and Araki a surrealist painter. The two worked, blindly, on their debut for hours at a time over four years – the book features nearly 1,000 drawings –  even holing up in a Las Vegas resort for several days to mesh ideas. The result, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is a smart, funny and refreshingly unique story of adolescent angst featuring the spirited 15-year-old, Tina Malhotra — a Southern Californian of Indian descent who has a penchant for the Sex Pistols and French philosophers. In witty and observant, if neurotic, letters to Jean-Paul Sartre, Tina chronicles the emotional minefield that is her […]
Nov. 15, 2011 | 3:48 p.m.

‘Nelson’: A ‘fever dream’ graphic novel unites 54 U.K. creators

Scenes from "Nelson" (Blank Slate)
It began as a “fever dream” of an idea on Twitter — how special would it be to bring together an all-star roster of U.K. comics creators and let them tell a single life story by taking turns at their art tables and then handing off the narrative like a baton in a relay race? The result is “Nelson,” now on sale, a 250-page experimental graphic novel that also functions as an exercise in charity with 100% of profits going to Shelter, a group dedicated to housing issues and the homelessness crisis in Britain. “Nelson,” from U.K. comics publisher Blank Slate, chronicles the life of protagonist Nel Baker over 43 years. Each contributor portrayed a single event in Nel’s life over successive years, and the result is a cohesive arc that is also beautifully fractured. Blank Slate describes the project as “part exquisite corpse, part relay race” […]
Oct. 15, 2011 | 7:30 a.m.

‘Marzi’: Graphic memoir charts universal experiences

marzi (featured image)
In the introduction to Marzena Sowa’s soon-to-be-released graphic memoir, “Marzi,” she describes herself as a “mute and insignificant witness” to life behind the iron curtain while growing up in 1980s communist Poland. Hers is a bleak world – quite literally, as the book is drawn in muted, reddish brown tones — which is “drowning in politics and problems.” But Sowa is anything but mute or insignificant. Her memoir is filled with seemingly banal, everyday vignettes – visiting family in the countryside, scrounging for toilet paper and bread, playing in cramped apartment hallways with neighboring children – that collectively paint a vivid picture of both a country awash in poverty, politics and war, as well as a lonely only child who longs, more than anything, to be heard. Sowa now lives in Paris with her boyfriend, the artist Sylvain Savoia, who […]
Sept. 21, 2011 | 11:06 a.m.

Is ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ coming back to TV?

"Sabrina the Teenage Witch" (featured image)
Sabrina the teenage witch is getting a makeover. On Wednesday Archie Comics, which created the character, announced a partnership with MoonScoop Entertainment and plans to create a new half-hour animated TV series. The new show will feature a more “current” interpretation of the character, according to Archie Comics Chief Executive Jon Goldwater. Think skinny jeans, spiky hair and a tattoo. “This is the first new animation for Sabrina in almost 10 years,” said Goldwater. “It’s a combination of ‘Twilight’ meets ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ … she’s more modern.” Story wise, the project aims to be more action-oriented than previous incarnations such as ABC’s short-lived Saturday morning “Sabrina: the Animated Series” (1999-2000) or the sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart that ran from 1996 to 2003 on ABC and then the WB network. “It’s a little more dealing in the supernatural realm,” […]
Sept. 19, 2011 | 3:05 p.m.

‘Lucille’: Ludovic Debeurme readies sequel for U.S. debut

"Lucille" author Ludovic Debeurme, and a page from the book. (Georges Seguin / Top Shelf Productions)
French graphic novelist Ludovic Debeurme may be well known in Europe, but he’s only just breaking out in the U.S.  This July, Top Shelf published his English-language debut, a translation of “Lucille,” which earned him much critical acclaim when it was originally released in French in 2006. “Lucille” is the moving, emotionally raw and dark story about two alienated teenagers who, amid a torrent of personal and familial conflicts, find an instant connection and first love. Top Shelf has just announced that it will publish the sequel to “Lucille” — “Renée,” which follows some of the same characters and introduces a handful of new ones, and is set to come out in late 2012.  Hero Complex contributor Deborah Vankin recently chatted with Debeurme about his work through his translator, Leigh Walton. DV: This is a pretty dark book – suicide, alcoholism, […]
July 28, 2011 | 8:01 a.m.

‘Seeds’: Ross Mackintosh, in his grief, finds a graphic novel

seeds
Grief can be paralyzing to an artist; but — in a strange and bittersweet way — it can also be liberating. It was for British cartoonist, Ross Mackintosh, who lost his father to cancer in 2009. In “Seeds,” Mackintosh’s debut graphic novel, he chronicles his father’s diagnoses, rapid decline and death in deceptively simple black and white cartoon blocks. It’s an honest, inquisitive and candid illustrated memoir in the vein of Joyce Farmer’s “Special Exits.” And Mackintosh uses the story thread to probe deeper questions about birth, death, DNA and the meaning of life. Ultimately, however, as the artist explains in conversation with Hero Complex contributor Deborah Vankin, the Com.x release is a tribute to Mackintosh’s father and to every father-son relationship. DV: Why did you choose this form of storytelling – comics over straight prose – to relate such […]
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