SHATTERED: Working with Larry Hama on ‘The Date’

4 Nov

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I’ve been asked how a newcomer such as myself ended up collaborating with the legendary creator Larry Hama, a respected veteran of the industry for the new Asian American comics anthology SHATTERED. Here’s the actual story:

It was exactly two years ago from today, funnily enough. My very first encounter with the writer/artist and former DC and Marvel editor wasn’t at a convention or store signing. It was at a very crowded cocktail fundraiser at a Manhattan art gallery for the Asian American Arts Alliance, a nonprofit community organization. I happened to be invited at the last minute by Ken Chen, the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers Workshop and a lifelong comics nut ( I believe he did his masters thesis on Chris Ware). Larry was good naturedly circulating anonymously in the crowd until Ken spotted him and introduced us. It came out in the conversation that in the ’70s young Larry had been part of the Basement Workshop, an arts activist and social justice group which spawned many of the New York City Asian American arts nonprofit organizations you see today. As someone who worked in the Asian American non profit sector for years, I was tickled to death to find we had several friends in common because of this.

Larry, who is known for his work on GI Joe, Bucky O’Hare, Elektra, Wolverine, is a pioneer for fighting racial and gender stereotyping in comics characters. He has a long history of creating unapologetically strong female characters like G.I. Joe’s Scarlett and pushing characters like the ninja Storm Shadow beyond the typical villainous Asian caricatures of the time. A genial and charismatic guy, he had a neverending stockpile of amazing and entertaining stories of those days. We had a terrific conversation.

Fast forward several months. My original pitch in collaboration with the very talented Toronto based artist Craig Yeung had been accepted by the folks at SHATTERED but I was told there was another story with some similar themes. Could I change the setting somehow? I didn’t really have any good ideas.

In the meantime the New York University Asian Pacific American Institute selected Larry as their Artist-in-Residence and in January of this year I was invited along with others like Greg Pak (Hulk, Vision Machine), long time letterer letterer Janice Chiang (Archie, Smurfs) and SHATTERED Editor in Chief and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang to participate in a blog session about the Asian American experience. Over dinner several ideas and personal anecdotes were thrown around.

Larry started talking about something that sparked an idea in my mind. His parents had been incarcerated in the infamous Japanese American internment camps in California during World War II. I knew SHATTERED would be distributed to schools and public libraries and that this subject should be in the Anthology somehow. It was perfect. I quickly rewrote the story and emailed Larry to thank him for the inspiration. His response was pretty short and immediate: Who’s drawing it? My heart stopped a little reading that. I’m not sure of the last time anyone has seen Larry pencil a story. I immediately sent him the script and held my breath. His next email said he thought he might me able to do it in collaboration with Craig. Craig has inked quite a bit including Runaways for Marvel. And with Janice Chiang on board to do the lettering, it worked out perfectly. Craig ended up doing the pencils for my original story which became the title story for my own first short story anthology Girls Night Out through Alpha Girl Comics. And Larry was the easiest guy ever to work with – even offering to redo any panels if I wanted.

SHATTERED: The Asian American Comics Anthology published by The New Press is available Nov. 6 through Amazon, bookstores and comic stores and also features the work of longtime creators like Cliff Chiang, Sean Chen, and Bernard Chang.

Other articles by fellow Shattered contributors
Adam WarRock: http://www.adamwarrock.com/?p=2827
8Asians: http://www.8asians.com/2012/10/30/why-shattered-the-asian-american-comics-anthology-secret-identities-is-important/
Angry Girl Comics:http://angrygirlcomics.tumblr.com/post/34654916825/hi-friends-i-hope-all-my-fellow-nycers-survived
Reappropriate: http://reappropriate.co/?p=2582
Angry Asian Man: http://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/11/my-very-own-superhero-in-shattered.htmlhttp://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/11/my-very-own-superhero-in-shattered.html

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New York Comic Con Day 1

12 Oct

The best day to go in my opinion. More relaxed and less crowded, it’s a good time to scope out the place and also get your autographs and commissions in Artist Alley.

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Asbury Park Comic Con: Burgers, Bloody Marys, and oh yes, Comics.

6 Oct

Mike & Ming at Asbury Park

After hitting a dozen comic book conventions this past year I thought I’d seen it all. That is, until about a week ago when I headed to the Jersey Shore to check out Asbury Park Comic Con. It was an hour’s drive but I was curious. I had already taken a pass on the glitzy and expensive MorrisonCon at the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas that weekend. APCC by contrast, was in an old bowling alley in a town that had seen better days.

I knew something was different as soon as we walked in. The smell of sizzling burgers filled the air. There was a grill in front of the room. And a bar. No, wait, two bars! And there was music in the background. Turns out the bowling alley Asbury Lanes has been a club for several years now, and a popular venue for punk bands like Butthole Surfers. We were, in fact, just down the road from the Stone Pony of Springsteen fame. Organizer Cliff Galbraith (Rat Bastard) paid homage to Asbury Park’s music heritage with an impressive playlist ranging from Dwight Yoakam to Alex Chilton.

The featured guests were particularly entranced with the venue. Creator Larry Hama (G.I. Joe, Bucky O’Hare), who has seen his share of conventions, marveled at the presence of a bar right on the con floor. The stiff drinks were widely praised – Bloody Marys were a popular choice. The omnipresent Emmy Award winning artist Dean Haspiel (didn’t I just see him in Baltimore?) cheerfully informed me he had four root canals the previous day as he ordered a Coke and a shot of Makers Mark from the pink haired bartender. A bemused artist Reilly Brown (Cable, Deadpool, and the creator owned Power Play) said it felt just like a Springsteen song as he sat in front of the empty bowling lanes. In the corner by the bar I spotted Mike & Ming, otherwise known as Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen, reality show stars of AMC’s Comic Book Men. They were live podcasting their show I Sell Comics sporadically throughout the day. Super friendly, both were much more real in real life and chatted amiably with everyone who passed by.

Larry Hama sketches for fans

And then there were the comics. Enough to attract roughly 600 people over the course of the day, according to Cliff. He and comics dealer Robert Bruce (also a familiar face on AMC’s Comic Book Men) managed to cram 40+ exhibitor tables in and around the bowling lanes. The result was a marvelous and eclectic mix of indie, minis, superheroes and vintage. The vibe was laid back and natural – I chatted with several creators including aspiring penciler Javier Cruz Winnick and Jersey guy Joe Martino, cancer hero and creator of Ripperman and the Kickstarter funded The Mighty Titan.

The Mighty Titan Joe Martino

By late afternoon Comics Beat editor and man-about-town Torsten Adair sat in the corner of the bar/lounge gleefully showing off his stash of quirky finds to Hannah Means-Shannon and myself. Reilly Brown finally took a break from his table balancing what appeared to be two beers and a shot or ginger ales – I didn’t ask back to the space he shared with artist George O’Connor and photographer Seth Kushner.

I ‘m glad I decided against spending the almost $800 plus airfare for MorrisonCon. Asbury Park Comic Con was a gem of a con, and only cost a whopping $6, $1 of which went laudably to the comics charity Hero Initiative. The burgers were shockingly excellent and the drinks cheap and strong. People showed up, browsed, hung out and enjoyed the fun and kitschy vibe. Sorry, Grant Morrison, but by the end of the day, my mind was blown. I left feeling like I had just crashed the coolest college party on campus.

The Beat editor Torsten Adair shows off his loot

The Swag Bag That Ate the Harvey’s

11 Sep

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The generous swag bag from the 25th annual Harvey Awards was so big it became my date for the evening. I parked it at a table at the Hyatt bar afterwards, got it drinks and so on. It clocked in around 15 lbs, thanks largely to the generous bounty of Dynamite material. When it got cranky and demanded a cab to get back to the hotel I checked it in at the front desk to be picked up at the end of the convention.

The Dark Knight Rises

27 Jul

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So once again, I made my excuses to the nanny (“groceries” I think I mumbled) and disappeared to my friendly little neighborhood mall to catch the early, early matinee showing of The Dark Knight Rises.  The movie is so long that my previous attempts to slip away were foiled by issues like little league practice and the like, but finally now I can download my thoughts here and tell you how MUCH I want to find another excuse to watch the movie all over again.

First of all, some terrific twists at the end.  I’m the kind of viewer that delights in puzzling out the reveals ( I figured out the Sixth Sense like 15 minutes in) and I did not see most of what coming at the end of TDKR.  I’m not going to comment much on Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, or Morgan Freeman’s performances – we’ve seen them before and I’m not sure anything in this script brings out anything new in the characters. And the toys? They deserve a mention just as they do in any James Bond film.  We love the cool gadgetry and neat vehicles but it’s not new.

It’s the other supporting cast that really rose to the occasion.  When the casting decisions had been announced I had real trouble seeing Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I have never been a fan. Don’t get me wrong- I’ve never thought she was a bad or even OK actor, just not great (like Gwynny).  My admiration has always been reserved for whoever her excellent agent/manager is that gets her such great roles.   But in this movie, BOY did she deliver.  AH plays the role with the kind of complexity and whipsmart intelligence the character deserves, and with the perfect timing of a Costello in Who’s On First?  Let’s get her a Catwoman movie for God’s sake.  Anyone at Warner Bros listening?  Hello?

Another supporting actor who shows he needs a leading role – Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Yes, hard to believe the little guy from 3rd Rock from the Sun.  John Blake, tough cop, with a heart of gold could have been a hugely stereotypical role and again not one I would necessarily have seen JGL do well in.  But he does with nuance and expression.  Michael Caine as Alfred has some wonderfully heart rending bits.  The only one who seemed to be a little off was Matthew Modine. My goodness he’s aged.

I have some quibbles – I found Bane’s booming voice cartoonish and distracting. The whole Wall Street trading thing made me laugh, and Marion Cotillard’s character – well, my annoyance with her would be a spoiler so I’ll save them for later.  But in short, this was a three hour movie that flew by for me, I was so wonderfully entertained.  Hmmm, I may have to slip out later to get the car washed…

Minifigure Mania!

16 Jun

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Alien vs Prometheus: Less is More

8 Jun


As soon as noontime rolled around I made some feeble excuses to the babysitter, and hustled to my local theater by myself to catch the matinee showing of Prometheus.  If you’re like me, having grown up with the Alien franchise, it is indeed a must see, but be prepared. Prometheus is a spectacular mess.

It’s impossible not to compare this $120 million production with the original $11 million Alien and indeed echoes of the original Alien movie present themselves in all to brief moments through this overly long movie. Maybe contemporary viewers are more jaded and sophisticated, but the tremendous attempts to make Prometheus an action packed existential epic makes me yearn for the simplicity of the original story.   While trying to jam multiple action and suspenseful scenes on the screen, the movie also attempts to raise existential questions that were so elegantly handled in another venerable sci-fi flick Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In the end the reveals fall flat, and even the visuals make me long for the originality of H.H. Giger.

Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace do an admirable job throughout the movie, especially Rapace is our heroic scientist who somehow endures increasingly unbelievable situations.  Sadly (and perhaps this is nostalgia talking here) she lacks the tenacity and grit of the young Sigourney Weaver.  Fassbender is terrific as a sort of hybrid Kane meets HAL.  Charlize Theron is pretty good but we know she could be better with a meatier role.  And later on the amazing Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech, Memento)  makes an all too brief appearance, unfortunately.

The weakness of this movie is Spaiht and Lindelof’s script which tries to do too many things and satisfy too many requirements.  See it while it’s still in the theaters to fully savor the special effects, and then if you like, rent the DVD when it becomes available so you can attempt to make heads or tails of the convoluted story line.  Ridley Scott, now 74, has been responsible for some industry game changers like Alien and Blade Runner, but alas, this is not one of them.