MP3 Premiere: Everybody hates indie-rock outfit Weatherbox in “Big News”

Weatherbox/Sainthood RepsWeatherbox: Sainthood Reps / Weatherbox split 7″ (Top Shelf, 5/7/13)

“Big News”

Weatherbox: “Big News”

California’s Weatherbox has been through the ringer. Member turnover was at one point so dangerously high that you would be forgiven for thinking the band was done. However, since 2011’s Follow the Rattle of the Afghan Guitar, the band has kept a steady lineup, producing indie rock with a touch of rawness about it.

Kagan McLeod: Infinite Kung Fu

Zine Scene: Infinite Kung Fu

Kagan McLeod: Infinite Kung FuKagan McLeodInfinite Kung Fu (Top Shelf, 9/13/11)

At first glance, Kagan McLeod’s Infinite Kung Fu would seem to have limited appeal. Despite inspiring near-religious devotion in its fans, martial-arts movies have been marginalized, commercialized, and derided in popular culture as a sort of kitschy guilty pleasure. Attempts have been made to revive the genre, most notably in anime, but Infinite Kung Fu may be the first graphic novel to stand a decent chance of creating new interest in a niche genre.

Innovative and smart, Infinite Kung Fu pays homage to classic elements of martial-arts films, from wise masters to wise-ass students, but it manages to do away with the clunky dialogue and feel of Asian exploitation that have come to dominate many viewers’ perspectives on kung fu. Instead, McLeod returns to the kung-fu story as a quasi-mystical battle between good and evil. As with the Kill Bill films, whose own master, Gordon Liu, provides a foreword, Infinite Kung Fu is a loving tribute and a partial reinvention.

McLeod, a longtime fan of kung-fu films, populates his story with familiar archetypes that nonetheless remain stylish and cool. The story begins with the eight Immortals, grand kung-fu masters who have gained superpowers, and their fight against the rapidly increasing legions of zombies on Earth. Each of the Immortals’ students has turned to dark magic, with the exception of Moog Joogular, a sort of Isaac Hayes/Jimi Hendrix mash-up with a sword.

With the help of Moog and his assistant, Thursday Thoroughgood, the leader of the Immortals trains a young army deserter in the ways of kung fu. Along the way, he must learn fighting techniques from animals, defeat a ghostly emperor, and figure out the secret of the undead’s resurgence.


Zine Scene: EmiTown

EmiTownEmi Lenox: EmiTown (Image, 1/11/11)

Emi Lenox’s EmiTown will win your heart with the power of whimsical doodles and cat armies. Needless to say, it is not your ordinary autobiographical comic, and Lenox is not your ordinary cartoonist. Many writers would be content to tell funny anecdotes, chronicle individual episodes in their lives, and tell linear stories, but Lenox has instead crafted a “sketch diary.” Each day, she draws a few doodles about how she’s feeling, fun or embarrassing things that happened to her, rent worries, grocery lists, and, yes, love — in an adorably off-kilter style. The diary is also a sort of testing ground for new drawing styles, metaphors, and alter egos, leading to an engrossing portrait of the artist-in-progress.

Lenox’s daily comics, which seem a bit thin as individual stories, instead build patterns, invite us into Emi’s life, and, taken together, present the strange world of “EmiTown,” where the optimistic white-heart and pessimistic black-heart Emi battle for control of her self-esteem, where coffee addiction becomes an increasingly manic state of mind, and where we get to know a funny, sensitive, and damn good cartoonist.


Jeffery Brown: Incredible Change-Bots Two

Zine Scene: Incredible Change-Bots Two

Incredible Change-Bots TwoJeffrey Brown: Incredible Change-Bots Two (Top Shelf, 4/12/11)

Even for someone like myself, who has the very briefest experience with Saturday-morning cartoons like Transformers, Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots Two is a highly enjoyable send-up of the genre and a silly little slice of nostalgia.  Something about recasting transforming robots as incompetent, bickering armies, or featuring a robot with a gun for an arm as having an existential crisis, works perfectly as both an absurd tribute and satire of shows that were, even in their heyday, thinly disguised means of selling toys.

The graphic novel continues the story of Incredible Change-Bots, in which the Fantasticons and Awesomebots destroyed their own planet through war and then traveled to Earth, which they also destroyed.  The sequel continues in the same endearingly nonsensical vein.  The leader of the Fantasticons, Shootertron, was left behind when the rest of the Change-Bots left Earth and tries to regain his memory with the help of farmers and the ridiculously ineffectual US government that wants to use him as a weapon.

Lilli Carré Graphic Novel Signing at Quimby’s in Chicago

Join Chicago animator and illustrator Lilli Carré on January 15 at Quimby’s bookstore for a signing of her new graphic novel The Lagoon (Fantagraphics). Carré will also be selling prints and various little handmade book items. The event starts at 7 PM and refreshments will be served.