Thursday, April 24, 2014

REVIEW: Epileptic

Creator: David B.
Review: Art Bee

Take a moment to reflect on the past events of your life. What has defined your existence? How would you tell your story? The graphic novel Epileptic by David B. has made me think about those very questions. Some people would be able to answer these questions fairly easily, but many people would be challenged. One of the greatest challenges of writing an autobiography is presentation.

People as a whole are more interested in their own existences than others, so writing your own story in such a manner as to create interest in your life and experiences is the hurdle to clear. For a few this hurdle is only knee high and easy to get over. Presidents, royalty, professional sport stars, and other celebrities are already interesting to many, so creating interest about their journey to their status is mostly done by merely placing the letters of their name on the cover of the tome. For insignificant people such as myself, the hurdle can be much higher.

The Hammond Comics Blog founder, William R. Davis Jr., suggested the graphic novel Epileptic by David B. for me to read and review. At just over 360 pages, this was a decently sized task to undertake. I must admit that my interest struggled to stay afloat while reading this autobiography, but about the middle of the novel, the story clicked and became much more interesting.

David B., Pierre-François Beauchard, is a French comic book artist and writer, and one of the founders of L'Association. He tells the story of his childhood and his family dealing with the severe epileptic seizures of his older brother, Jean-Christophe. Through his own story, David B. shows us how epilepsy and other such disorders do not just affect the person with the disease. These disorders are debilitating to the entire family.

The story of David's life in Epilepsy is braided page by page with history, artwork, family tales, and characters. David's life cannot be told without focusing on his brother's condition, which caused up to three grand mal seizures a day.

As he progresses through his story, David uses his rich interest in French history, particularly the wars in which France took part, to propel the story of him and his brother. On pages 22 – 28, David B recalls the actions of his grandfather in World War I and delivers a fantastic and unique position on the trench warfare that was so dominant of that war. David's other grandfather fought in World War II, and it was quite humorous to learn that his squad was commanded to defend a bridge that was already seized by the enemy.

Pierre-François and Jean-Christophe are described as “full of rage”. David's rage spills into his stories and drawings of medieval battles featuring Ganghis Khan and other great warriors, while Jean-Christophe's rage explodes into seizures.

Along with the French history presented, David B. also describes his families struggles with epilepsy as his parents lead their family around looking for a cure or a successful method of treatment for Jean-Christophe's disease. Their quest takes them from medical research to new age medicine and holistic treatments. As I read these parts, the family almost seemed ridiculous in their efforts, but as a father myself, I can't be too harsh. A parent’s love for their child will lead them to do some very ineffable things in the attempt to help their child.

The artwork of Epileptic is very different from anything I have read before. It is black and white utilizing thick black lines and black shading, and even though the art felt bland and unattractive at the start, my appreciation for it grew as progressed through the novel. There is real genius in David B's work.

My favorite artwork in Epileptic is located on page 277. The page features Pierre-François (below) laying on a desk and drawing with a collage of his artwork layered throughout the image. It is a fantastic piece, and I am going to add it to my collection of background images on my laptop (a very high honor I must say).

Another great image in this novel is located in the larger panel at the top of page 11. This features Jean-Christophe and his parents surrounded by quack doctors. It is whimsical and hilarious to see how David B. allows his true feelings for the lab coat donned physicians to shine in his depiction of them as they dance in a circle around the trio.

Throughout the novel you can tell whether David B. liked or disliked a person based on how he drew them. The more exaggerated the features the stronger the feelings. For instance, David seems to have a lot of respect for Master N, since he is drawn in the image of a venerable cat person. Master N showed the whole family a better way of life and was accredited with halting Jean-Christophe's seizures for a time with the utilization of specialized diet, massage, acupuncture, etc.

It was a great circumstance for Mr. Davis Jr. to suggest Epileptic for this review. As I stated earlier, this graphic novel was hard for me to read at first, because history and biographies have never really interested me. Fortunately, with dedication and persistence, the story opened my interest and became a wonderful read. I have already read this novel twice and am looking forward to reading it again.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

REVIEW: The Superior Spider-Man #31

Writer: Dan Slott
Script: Christos Gage
Pencils: Givseppe Cumuncoli
Inks: John Dell and Terry Pallot
Color: Antonio Fabela
Review: Cody "Madman" Miller

So yeah, here it is . . . in the immortal words of Jim Morrison, “This is the end . . . beautiful friend.” It’s been a great run, but like most things (I say most things because you always have to consider the Rolling Stones and their seemingly uncanny ability to continue living long after their bodily fluids have dried up), it has to end. Peter Parker has to be Spider-Man.

Any Spidey fan can tell you that Superior Spider-Man has been the most exciting thing to happen in the Spiderverse since . . . well . . . probably ever. Dan Slott and company did a really good job all around.

Don’t get me wrong, there were parts I hated too; I’ll get to that but all in all I felt it was worth buying the ticket and at the end of the day; that’s all that really matters. I’m sure I’ll forget a few but I figure I’ll hit on a few of the highlights from the series and go kinda light on the details from the final issue. I don’t want to spoil the goods for those of you who haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

Just after "Dying Wish Ended", issue one of Superior Spider-man hit shelves way back in January of 2013. Sixteen months is a pretty long run for any bi-monthly book these days, 31 issues and 2 annuals to be exact.

In the first couple issues we get to witness Otto defeat the Sinister Six and we also get to see that Peter is still “alive”, trapped in Octavius’ consciousness. Otto battles the Vulture at one point and puts a beating on him, ultimately ending with Vulture being blinded. Spidey then tracks down the escaped killer Massacre and proceeds to publicly execute him. The word gets out that Spider-Man is playing for keeps. These first few issues were probably my favorite issues of the entire series.

That’s when the thousands of Spidey bots hit the scene. Otto unleashes his homeland security spider spy came to NYC. I thought this was pretty ridiculous from panel one, but in the end they turned out to play a pretty pivotal roll in the final issues, and I admit maybe I was quick to judge.

Somewhere around issues 6 or 7, is when Otto beats the hell out of a couple of young pranksters called Jester and Screwball. This begins to draw the attention of the Avengers.

In the same time frame, Peter begins to “mind battle” Ock for control, but Ock defeats Peter. Octavius erases all of Peter’s memories, in theory ending him for good. I hated ghost Peter at first and, at the time, was glad they had finally made him disappear.

As if things weren’t crazy enough already, all of a sudden, we have Spider-Man blackmailing Jameson into giving him the Raft to use as his new headquarters, requiting an army of “soldiers for hire types” to be his “Spider-lings”, and last, but not least, full blown assaulting Shadowland, the Kingpin’s headquarters.

Spider-Man 2099 Miguel shows up on the scene. He’s just dropping into the past to save the future. It all makes sense at the end.

But we ain’t done yet . . .

Enter: The Goblin King, the Tinkerer, the Goblin Knight, Cardiac, Menace Hobgoblin, Venom, Superior Venom, and Charlie getting injected with goblin formula, transforming her into Monster. It gets good . . . really good.

The facts are simple. If you haven’t read this series especially the final issue, buy the second printing or buy the trades. This is a must read, even for a non-Spider-Man kinda fellow.

Here’s to the disappointment The Amazing Spider-Man #1 is sure to be. Cheers.

Friday, April 11, 2014

How Maus and Harvey Pekar Changed My Life

By: William R. Davis Jr.

I originally thought comics were kind of stupid as I grew older. I read them when I was young, knew about the superhero characters in general, but the mythologies, the creators, the shit I really salivate about now, I had no idea what it was really about at the time and wrote comics off completely. Went to Uni. Studied English. They make you read all of these high handed, terrible books, and the professors are mostly assholes. It's like a secret club for assholes. "Academics" if you will, I hate most of them. 

There's a lot of mental masturbation going on at some Universities, and a ton of it happens in the English departments at their respective schools. There were other students that felt the same way. Naturally we all found our way to the back of the classroom. I was talking with this guy who was a huge comic fan, I can't even remember his name anymore. 

I was like: "C'mon man. Mutants. Aliens. Superheroes. I like this stuff, but it's kids stuff." 
He said: "I'll prove you wrong." 

He gave me Maus to borrow. I read it, then I read it again, and again, and again, and again. Finally it clicked, and I realized the power of sequential art, and the limitless potential of words and pictures and comics. Comic books can do so many  things that other art forms can't do. Maus is maybe one of the best books I've ever read; definitely my favorite. 

Slowly found my way into Eisner, Ware, Moore; some of the other fringe independents. And then I found American Splendor. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It just spoke to me. I had to work full time during school at a student loan company called Sallie Mae. The majority of my job was trying to get people to pay their loans that were late over the phone, so they gave us this software to find people who didn't want to be found. One day I said:"Fuck it", and looked up Harvey Pekar's number (creator of American Splendor). 

It's a rare name so he wasn't very to hard to find. Although doing this is pretty unethical because it had nothing to do with my job, it was the best decision I've ever made. I called Harvey, and he was the nicest guy in the world: humble, smart, interesting, and willing to take my calls! I talked to him many, many times. He would even listen to my problems; give me advice, a true mentor! I even contacted the English department and got him to speak at Ball State University. He even wrote a couple of comics about his visit. Regretfully I couldn't physically be there because I was in Asia at the time. Either why, I had added a small chapter to the Pekar mythos, and that made me proud.

One unceremonious day when I was in Korea he died, and I woke up to a text about it from my friend, a TEXT! It was fucking terrible, one of the worst moments of my life. My hero was dead and I read about it in a text message almost as soon as I opened my eyes. 

After Maus I found out more about comics as American mythology, the stories behind companies and creators, the history of sequential art, and all of that other stuff that keeps fanboys like me awake at night. 

Maus started me back into comics, American Splendor and Harvey Pekar cemented my lifelong love of comics, and then I bought a bunch of superhero books off of my buddy for barely any money at all and started to re-read them in a different way. The rest is history.

The medium today suffers from a stigma that's been attached to it for years. People who only read one Wolverine book or see some sub-par cartoon might go: "This sucks." And just not look at it again. It is, and was, for many years marketed to children, so a lot of people just haven't seen the good stuff yet. I truly think I could get anyone to like comics, they just have to choose the right ones. Take a book like the aforementioned Maus, it's a holocaust survivor's tale, also a book about family, and a perfect use of the strengths of sequential art (Cats/ Nazis and Mice/Jews). It won the Pulitzer Prize! There are comics about every subject and genre, therefore there are comics for everyone.

It's all about what you like. People might only know Spider-man or Captain America, but even this is starting to change. Acceptance is slowly growing. I've read a ton of comics at this point. Reviewing and interviewing makes that a necessity in my life. I can almost tell how deep a person's got within the first couple sentences. They start with something like Maus or superhero books and then maybe pick up Watchmen, then they segue into something else. Everyone's path is a little different. 

Have you ever seen High Fidelity? There's that scene where John Cusak is organizing his records and his worker comes in and says: "How are you doing it?" Cusak smugly answers: "Autobiographically. I can tell you how I got from Deep Purple to Howling Wolf in seven steps." Comics are like that as well. Real fanboys are really quick to call a person out and are very proud of knowing minutia. It's not an easy hobby to get into. As much as "Comic Book Guy" from the Simpsons is a stereotype, he's a very hilarious one because there's a lot of truth to the character. I hated my professors so much. They were so arrogant. I remember one smug asshole: "I know a ton about comics. I read Persepolis." Great book, but I found myself thinking: "What a fucking douche bag." I think at least part of that has to do with, I'm one of those comic book guys! 

Thanks for taking a minute to stroll down memory lane with me faithful readers. Starting from nothing and growing the HCB into the most polarizing comic book related website on the internet has been one wild ride. Our critics are many, but so are our supporters. Protecting the medium of sequential art is a duty that we have all sworn to undertake. The hacks and hackettes out there will ruin it for profit , strangle everything we love about it, and leave it to die if we refuse to confront companies that are trying to feed us sub-par content on a weekly basis. At the same time, there are so many creators out there doing wonderful things that are going largely unnoticed. We're going to make sure they get credit for their amazing contributions. 

At the end of the day it is all about integrity, creativity, and fun at The Hammond Comics Blog. We take what we do here seriously. What some have called in the past "fan boy rage", I call passion. How can you truly say you love something and be void of passion? We're still having a blast writing and talking about comic books, so keep yourself tuned in to The Hammond Comics Blog for weekly reviews and interviews by writers who are here to protect and defend one of the last great American art forms. Here's to many more years of angry comments and emails. We couldn't be happier to receive your feedback and keep the conversation going.

Friday, April 4, 2014

PREVIEW: Mandala

Created by: The Thirteen
Written by: Stuart Moore
Artwork by: Bruce Zick
Published: Dark Horse
Review by: Art Bee

“The seed of revolution is repression.” - Woodrow Wilson

“Do you want to change the world?
Then change yourself first.” - Sri Chinmoy

Throughout world history, revolutions have shaped nations and toppled governments, but some of the greatest revolutions have taken place in movies and literature. Probably the most famous and beloved revolutions of all time has occurred on the silver screen with George Lucas' Star Wars, where his seminal work took us to “a galaxy far, far away”. Another well known revolution, from the film industry, took place within the bounds of our own world in The Matrix. In literature, Frank Herbert's 1965 novel, Dune, took us to a desert planet in which the Kwisatz Haderach leads the Fremen nation of Arrakis in a revolution against Emporer Shaddam IV and the Harkonnens. These are only a few examples, but in May 2014, there is a new one coming in Mandala.

I have had the pleasure to preview a sample of Mandala that will be contained in the 256 page trade paperback graphic novel. The story is phenomenal, well conceived, and well plotted. Bring on Mandala.

Stuart Moore and The Thirteen introduce us to a future in which the human race is reduced to a fraction of its former glory. It all begins with our governments. A covert surveillance system is launched to control and repress the entire human population. Biochips are secretly implanted into the head of each person through a vaccine, which everyone is willing to get to protect themselves. These biochips allow the masses to be controlled by a global network surveillance system known as GRID. Unfortunately this system is humanity's downfall. A race known as Serpents come and use GRID to enslave all humans, whom are used for cruel sport and food. The Serpents are lead by a god-like leader named, Natasmia.

In this dystopian background, there is a revolution rising up against the Serpents, and they are led by an elite group of people known as “The Thirteen.” Each one of these leaders is the head of a clan, and each clan has its own animal totem and philosophy of changing the world.

The story is centered on Michael Morningstar, one of the leaders of the revolution, and Mary Lozen Many Colors, whom has “an eerie knack for survival”. Michael and Mary both possess an awakened higher form that allows them to do incredible things. Even though the preview did not reveal much of anything about Mary's higher form, Michael Morningstar morphs into a six-armed, winged half-demon capable of dealing out punishment on an epic level with a wicked looking sword that seems to come to him with his change. Michael and Mary are described in the preview as destined to be together, because their paths continually cross.

At the beginning of the preview, Michael is being interrogated and tortured by a man named Kane, who is trying to learn the identities of the other twelve rebel leaders. The torture allows Michael's higher form to manifest, which ends very badly for Kane and his crew. Michael escapes, flying away on his new-found wings, but his higher form dissipates allowing him to fall into the ocean. Mary Lozen finds and fishes Michael out of the water, and they head to the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. Once there, they are sent back in time by Mary's grandfather, Charlie Many Colors, to instigate change by finding “The Thirteen” and starting the revolution in the past to bring down GRID. They need “The Thirteen” to be awakened.

I absolutely love the science fiction feel of this story, and I wish I had more of it to read right now. Unfortunately, I have to wait until the graphic novel comes out like everyone else. Stuart Moore has done a really fantastic job on his presentation of the story-line in this preview, and I would expect that the finished product will be absolutely exquisite. Just with the little bit I have read, the massive back-story and ideology can easily be felt. Star Wars would never have been popular if Lucas had not designed the backdrop of races, worlds, governments, religions, and social circles. It is the minutia of a story’s Universe that is addicting, not the story itself many times.

The artwork of this story is very different to what I am used to seeing, and I am still fighting with myself about whether I like it or not. Bruce Zick uses an incredible style in his use of color in setting the mood of the panels and pages, and his palate is absolutely gorgeous. Zick incorporates great detail in many of his backgrounds leading the reader to realize that the setting is almost as important as the story. The artwork does seem to get sloppy in some panels, and one of my biggest peeves in comic books is inconsistency. Overall, I would have to say that the artwork has both its strengths and weaknesses.

The two details I loved the most of what I saw in this preview book were the use of Native American culture and the FBI posters. My admiration of the Native Americans has always fueled my curiosity about them, and it is nice that elements of their culture is used throughout this piece. For instance, Charlie Many Colors resides on the Hopi Indian Reservation, where he meets with Michael and Mary before sending them back in time. Totems and other Native American objects are incorporated as well as other cultural images. The FBI wanted posters at the center of the preview depict Michael and Mary and provide some great information about them as well as paint them with some realism. Both are being sought due to their connections with the “terrorist group known as The Thirteen”. The sketches on the wanted posters are very well detailed, and I would almost believe these were real if they were not in a comic book.

Hands down this should be something that should be bought by anyone interested in revolutionary stories like Star Wars, The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Dune, etc. You can find their facebook page at They also have a website set up to join for discussions about the clans and other topics at The book is not as pricey as others at $24.99, but I am thinking it will be worth it. Dark Horse seems to have a winner in Mandala. I know I am waking up. Are you awake?
Sri Chakra represents the holographic nature of you and the world.