Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Babyheads Before Christmas!

Happy Holidays! Just in case you haven't been following things over at  Lookoutmonsters.com;

It's Babyheads Tuesday! The first of two pre-Christmas Babyheads cartoons! What a way to celebrate the holidays! Another Babyheads is coming on Thursday!
What d'ya say to that, fellas?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

That Day is Done

That Day is Done , a new post with some news at lookoutmonsters.com-and for your enjoyment, the Paul McCartney/Elvis Costello song:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Plastic Baby Heads, coming after you!

& they're coming for you!
Don't Wait! Go to lookoutmonsters.com-for your dose of Babyheads-Tuesdays and Thursdays!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

plastic babyheads in your pumpkin

NEXT TUESDAY!  at lookoutmonsters.com!  Aha! Yes-after much ado about great fanfare for common men everywhere-the much anticipated-Plastic Baby Heads from Outer Space will finally land upon your browser’s shores! ImagineThrills!Spills! Chills! EVERY Tuesday and Thursday! Well-at least for as long as I can keep up with that, with UFOOLU and all the other shit I’m putting out there.”Plastic Ono Bands from Outerspace” will begin and befoolu  NEXT TUESDAY! at lookoutmonsters.com 
  So— be prepared!
*(having a bit of trouble with wordpress missing scheduled posts–so if it’s not up in the A.M. you know why!)
I’m pretty excited about this–and I’ll tell you why.  (Hah! no one asked you why you idiot! hah-what do I care? I’m a college professor, I’m used to talking with nobody listening!) Cause it’s so much damn fun, that’s why! I know, I know–after “Monsters”and “fandancer”–what is this webcomic thing all about?  Well-it sure ain’t about the money! And it sure ain’t about the fame! C’mon! It is about the work—and looking at things from my middle aged vantage point–*ahemahem*—I can say that the work will lead you places, for what reason–well, you may not know right away. But if it’s happening–just follow it, don’t hold it back. –it may be leading you somewhere that is boffo! And worthwhile stuff will happen along the way-you betcha!
And “Plastic Baby Heads from Outer Space” is a helluva lotta fun. It really is. and when you start it, you think you know where it’s going–but LEMME TELL YOU–YOU DON”T! and the only way you’re going to find out where it’s going is to follow along! Yowza!
I’m psyched–hope you’re psyched–gotta get back to coloring a page! See you at http://lookoutmonsters.com for  a new“ Look Out! Monsters” page on Monday–and then,  Plastic Baby Heads from Outer Space–beginning NEXT TUESDAY!
The day after Halloween! Yaay! SOOOOO---pick your head up out of that plastic pumpkin and surf on over to Lookoutmonsters.com!  & if you haven't yet checked it out at lookoutmonsters.com then here's the first installment for your Halloween pleasure-already up at the pbhfos page right now! Trick or Treat!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dwight Twilley's "Soundtrack"

Dwight Twilley is haunted. 
On his excellent and moving new album, "Soundtrack", Dwight Twilley reveals himself to be a man hounded by ghosts; particularly the poignant memories of his departed partners, Phil Seymour and Bill Pitcock IV, and perhaps even more so by the bittersweet taste of youthful dreams not quite realized. 
To those who are fans, the ups and downs of the Twilley saga are well-known. In the mid-seventies, Dwight Twilley was the young rocker who seemed to have it all; the tunes, the talent, the look, the rave reviews in “Crawdaddy” and a Top 20 hit right out of the gate with 1975's shimmering pop-rocker "I'm on Fire".  But the release of his 1st album was delayed, and once “Sincerely” was out, somehow its brilliant evocation of early-Beatles era pop rock didn't quite connect with radio dj's enamored of "Saturday Night Fever" & FM radio playlists saturated with endless rotations of “Stairway to Heaven”.*    But “Sincerely” was stuffed with enough impossibly innocent tunes like “You Were So Warm” and Losing You”, great Byrds-like guitar from Bill Pitcock IV, exquisite harmonies from Dwight and Phil and impeccably smart arrangements replete with handclaps, tambourines and the organ of the great Leon Russell, to become an instant power-pop classic; a dream record with far-reaching influence, touching every indie rocker of the era from Tom Petty to R.E.M. and beyond.

Somehow though, the timing was off-and while Twilley concocted one great pop record after another,(“Looking for the Magic”, “Tryin’ to Find My Baby,” “Twilley Don’t Mind”, “Chance to Get Away”) the follow-up hit that shoulda' been never happened.  By 1980, partner Phil Seymour had gone out on his own. Subsequently, Phil had a great big hit record;  "Precious to Me", which itself could've been an out-take from the "Twilley Don't Mind" sessions. 

Phil's solo success must've been a bittersweet pill for Dwight; surely he was happy for his former partner, but he must've felt a little twinge in the back of his throat; it had been the “Dwight Twilley” band after all. Still, Dwight Twilley's eponymous third record (and first solo album) was his best effort yet--a full, mature sound; songs riddled with introspection as well as riffs--and the depth of its quality only served to highlight the lightweight nature of Phil's top 40 hit.
"Twilley"'s first 5 songs are among the best power-pop tunes ever &"Alone in My Room" is a masterpiece"

It wouldn't be long though, before Dwight answered Phil's hit with his own. Nearly ten years after "I'm on Fire", Dwight Twilley was back on the charts with the hook-laden "Girls", abetted by Tom Petty on backing vocals. (Petty, friend and one time stable-mate at Shelter records, had gone on to have his own huge success-and while many have noticed the similarity in Twilley's sound and that of the Heartbreakers, it was Twilley's sound first.) 

After "Girls" though, it was all over for Dwight Twilley. There wasn't a follow-up, but there was an improbable string of bad luck and before long, Twilley was without a label. And in the meantime, Phil Seymour was diagnosed with lymphoma, became ill and passed away in 1993. Twilley's recording career seemingly at a dead end, he returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma, his hometown; the place where he and Phil met and developed their classic sound; to recoup, to live life, to move onto the next phase.
Not an easy thing-- to surrender the dream your life’s work has been built upon, to face up to the limitations imposed upon you by fate, by circumstance, by fortune-good or bad. Twilley had been the embodiment of one kind 1960’s-70’s teen-pop rock dream; very much like Eric Carmen and The Raspberries, or Alex Chilton of Big Star; and his own star succumbed to the death of that dream.  He wasn’t going to be Elvis. Or even Ricky Nelson. 

That "surrender" is all over “Soundtrack”, mentioned in any number of songs.

"....ran away from Tulsa Town--just to be a circus clown, the golden ring was lost and found..."--Tulsa Town

The blunt acknowledgement of a perceived failure to live up to one’s promise and the inability to overcome the obstacles life has stacked before your dream; imbues the album with an overwhelming sense of sadness and resignation. 
("....God didn't kill your record career, God didn't make your fame disappear..." God Didn't Do It)

But "Soundtrack" never succumbs to self-pity, and Twilley doesn't look for scapegoats. Twilley's triumph on "Soundtrack" is that at the album’s core he reaches self-acceptance, and perseveres.  
(....God didn't do it....we did it to each other....

How do you go on when you wake to the fallacy of the dream you’d built your life upon? You live life. 
You get up every day, hug your wife- and make another record.

("....We've all been down the drain, it's only stupid fame...." Out in the Rain)

The wonderful irony is that Dwight Twilley has not only survived--but thrived. After a period out in the wilderness, he's recording perhaps the best work of his career; indeed, “Soundtrack” may be his most accomplished collection of songs to date. Soundtrack is classic Dwight Twilley; melodic pop-rock filled with ringing guitars, Beatlesque flourishes and John-Paul-George style harmonies amidst the lush Spector-like wall of sound that’s dominated his records since his third album. 
The album opens with a string of four killer tracks in a row, tunes that set the tone of autobiography, but resist an easy chronology. “Soundtrack” isn’t a Broadway musical. “You Close Your Eyes” and “Skeleton Man” are both “Petty in Byrds-mode” rockers that confront the shadow of death with eyes wide open, if you will, while “Bus Ticket” and “Tulsa Town” are more directly autobiographical; the former is a classic Twilley rockabilly number, the latter a harmonica and piano driven mid-tempo tune that calls to mind similar forays by both John Cougar Mellencamp and Springsteen without ever sounding derivative.

There are no dogs here, every cut is prime Twilley; the power and anger of “God Didn’t Do It”, the bittersweet “Out in the Rain”, the jubilant Memphis/Stax-Volt sound of “Cards Will Fall” and the grand pop sweep of “The Lonely One” which so smartly quotes Ringo’s hit “Photograph” in its opening chords (“‘all I’ve got is a photograph and I know you won't be coming back anymore…”Ringo Starr/George Harrison) 

“stories yes I've got a few, but  no one's there to tell them too-the jester's left to learn the blues--I am the Lonely One…."

For me, the centerpiece of the album is the ballad for Phil Seymour, "Good Things Come Hard". For anyone who was a fan of the gorgeous records Twilley and Seymour made together in the mid-seventies and the youthful hope and innocence those records embodied, this song, built upon a gorgeous melody and poignant harmonies recalling Twilley & Seymour at their "Sincerely" best, will break your heart with its tale of "two little boys… with little guitars… went for a walk that went around the world…”
 "Good Things Come Hard" describes the arc of Twilley's career, and while he sings of "little antiques…. left to themselves" and "leaving the stage", he also reveals that the pain of his past hasn't left him entirely without optimism or hope.
"...the ghost of a dream still hides in your heart, good things come hard..."
For those of us who revere the memory of those early Twilley albums and the promise of youth, our own as much as Twilley’s, the last verse is a moment of absolute crushing directness…
"two little boys, they went their own ways, one's still around and one's in the grave…."

What’s to say after that? Twilley could’ve ended it there and no one would’ve blamed him, or he could have sentimentalized the sense of loss further—but the tenderness of his music belies an underlying tough-mindedness that rears itself in the last cut; “The Last Time Around, a tough rocker driven by chunky- power chords and the electro-shock keyboards of Talyor Hanson.

 “when the hero's found with a broken crown-- it's a shame--you better get it right-cause it might be the  last time around-
You better get it right….You better get it right…because it may be the last time around…”

On “Soundtrack”, Twilley gets it right. 
This album is better every time I play it—and just as I recognized my teenage self and the ups and downs of my first high school romance in “Sincerely” so long ago; I recognize myself in “Soundtrack” today. It’s Twilley’s life, but he’s telling our story.

 The world is so mean…

Success is how you define it.  Some measure it by money, some by power, some by fame.
The machinery of the pop world is pretty narrow in its definition, but even so, Twilley had more success in his time than most.  But still,  that doesn't do justice to the level of his continuing achievement as a musician and an artist. When he could've simply disappeared into a quiet life in Tulsa town, Dwight Twilley decided to keep going, to keep making great records.  With "Soundtrack", Dwight Twilley delivers.

*(seventies power pop, for all of its influence on later generations of DIY bands, never sold all that well. The Raspberries, Big Star, even Badfinger, weren’t as big as their sound suggested they should be--but that's another story)

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Alive! It's Alive!

okay--I've been quiet of late. but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. I've got a number of things going on that I'm excited about! Like a complete overhaul of my website; lookoutmonsters.com
Welcome to the all new lookoutmonsters.com!
This is the beginning of something new for me.  With this post, lookoutmonsters.com becomes a webcomic site, featuring the serialization of my comics; some old, some new. Old or new, lookoutmonsters.com will no longer be a staid, static site, featuring "information" about books you can buy; but an active and dynamic site-featuring loads of stuff to read or look at, for free--and then, just to help feed the cats, maybe a few things you can buy as well!
I'll be starting off with weekly serialization of Look Out!Monsters --my 2007 xeric winning art-comic extravaganza-- on Mondays beginning in October! -and when LoM runs its course, I'll follow up with Fandancer, my collage comic from 2010-which very few people have actually seen!  Both books will  be made available for digital download as well! (In fact--the pdf of LoM is available now! Both at my site and at Drivethrucomics.com. Fandancer will be available buy the end of the week!)

I'll also be re-formatting my 1990's b & w indie "superhero", Dr. Speck, the guy who combines quantum physics, Tibetan Buddhism and dated vacuum cleaner technology in one colorful rubber suit--and, beginning soon after LoM starts in October, running the entire series at lookoutmonsters.com on Wednesdays, !  While the entire Speck story never made it into print(the run ended with the fourth issue), I did did indeed carry the series forward in a series of "ash-cans" as we used to call them--and eventually saw the story through to its conclusion in a big stack of pages meant for its initial run on the web, back at the end of the 20th century. I'm excited to introduce Dr.Speck to a new audience, it's remained a consistent seller even after all these years, so I'm optimistic it will continue to strike a chord today.
Last but not least, I've got two new projects I am really excited about bringing to lookoutmonsters.com.  Both of these projects will be serialized there--beginning very soon--and I'll tell you more about them as I get closer to actually posting 'em! (the image atop this post--and the image below, give you a hint)  They're very different from one another, but I'm so excited about each of them that I can't bear not to work on both--so, sooner rather than later, I'll be introducing those two new comics over at lookoutmonsters!
Check back soon--there's lots happening--and you don't want to miss it!
all the best,

Oh! And of course--pood no.4 hits the shops in late September--Look for it!
hah! --and then follow PBHfOS on the new lookoutmonsters.com! hah! So there!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

best comics

By now you've seen the top 10 comics of all-time list over at The Hooded Utilitarian. If not--check it out if you're in need of something to do on a rainy fall afternoon.
My list has to be considered a "favorites" simply because my reading is nowhere near comprehensive enough to warrant a legitimate "best of".
The works that made my top ten-twenty are all works that I have read many, many times.  And that's one of the criteria I used for choosing the works of my top ten- I've read and enjoyed each of these works many times throughout my life;  they've never failed to capture me, and my enjoyment of them now is just as fervent as it was when I first encountered them. And I continue to read them once every year or two.
More importantly, because I'm an artist --and decidedly not a critic(something I learned on The Next Issue blog)--each of the works listed here has fueled my creativity, over and over again. Each of these works has inspired, pushed,challenged,driven me --and I'm sure countless others--to make something. Each of these works has spurred innumerable new ideas, innumerable new comics, drawings, paintings, etc.etc. And to me--as an artist--that's the measure of a great work of art--it's the fuel for someone else's creativity, because art is a dialogue. It's not a solo flight. So here we go:

1.Peanuts by Charles Schulz

How many times have I read Peanuts? Impossible to say. Peanuts was one of the first things I learned to read--and I have collections in my library that I've carried with me since I was 5-6 years old. Bet you do too. I've learned more about what it means to be human, all the while laughing myself silly, from Charles Schulz's marvelous creation than from any other single source that I can think of. These simple, humble drawings; the modest phraseology. There was some strange alchemy at work in the sixties; an unsettled cultural milieu that somehow allowed for the best possible results from the most unlikely of ingredients. Using the simplest of means, Schulz created a fully realized, resonant world of subtle intonations and wry humor, entirely unique, but recognizable to us all.

2. Prince Valiant by Harold Foster 

The premier adventure strip of the Golden Age of adventure strips, a romantic tale of "knights in the days of King Arthur" told with all of the joy and good humor of the best Errol Flynn movies, brought to life in lush illustrations as yet unmatched for their naturalness, their grandeur, their sheer beauty.  A rich, intricate tale that unfolds leisurely over decades, seamlessly interweaving myth and history, tragedy and comedy, themes large and small, told through the trials, tribulations, loves and losses of its main character. It set the bar high, a standard Foster sustained for over thirty years. There are few in comics history who've had the opportunity and the stamina to match his achievement.

3.Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy" by Roy Crane 
the first great adventure strip of that aforementioned "golden age", that time when Caniff, Foster, Raymond, and others dominated the Sunday comics with stories of grand heroes and their feats of daring-do. They all owe a debt to Roy Crane, whose broad humor and rollicking yarns propelled Wash Tubbs and Cap'n Easy to legendary status. Not to mention, one of the greatest of landscape artists ever to pick up a brush and zip-a-tone and commit to newsprint! 

4. Krazy Kat by George Herriman 
5. Little Nemo by Winsor McCay
Between the two of them, the greatest visual use of the Sunday Comics page ever; not only in terms of design, but in terms of conception. McCay's late 19th-century Victorian dreamscapes and Herriman's surrealistic desert vistas are as crucial to the strip as the names on those mastheads. 
6. Maximum F.F. by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; edited by Walter Mosley
The best art-comic ever. Bar none. Every art-comic should work with a canvas this large, this ambitious. Pop Art Panels of eye-popping color in foldout pages like comics the way you dreamed they could be! And if it was still 12 cents and on newsprint, what an achievement that would be!

7.Fantastic Four issues #1-100 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

 100 issues of sheer unadulterated joy and genius. Very near Foster's achievement in terms of sustained greatness--this is the ultimate comic book when comic books were still comic books.
8. The Fourth World Omnibus vol.#1-3 by Jack Kirby 
Kirby Unleashed! At last! And for a few great years, unencumbered by the shadow of Stan Lee and his over-bearing need for attention, Jack Kirby let loose with every idea he could muster in a series of books that re-invented what a comic book-or a comic book company--could be in tales passionate and strange, timely(no pun intended) and timeless.
9. The Complete Robert Crumb vol #4-17.

Some of the bravest comics ever made. Robert Crumb broke every taboo in sight.
Funny stuff, creepy stuff, ghastly stuff, and all of it percolating just underneath the veneer of mid-20th century suburbia. Yikes! And great drawings to boot!

10. Warlock (Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-11) by Jim Starlin & many others 

The comic of my teenage years. When Jack seemed un-moored by the loss of the Fourth World, Neal Adams was busy in advertising, and a good deal else was just mediocre, Jim Starlin carried the freak flag high for super-hero comics, in grand cosmic space-opera that drew inspiration from Kirby and Ditko's wildest imaginings, and juggled the concepts of god, identity and existence like some kind of Emmett Kelly on acid.  Populated by a neurotic golden hero, a hot assassin chick and an impish troll. What more could a fifteen-year old want in a comic?

11. Mad Magazine; the Kurtzman issues.
This would have been in my top ten, but I got the impression that anthologies weren't being considered. C'est la vie-I'm including it now.  When I first saw the early Wally Wood, John Severin, Jack Davis issues I must have been 8 or 9, and they were in paperback reprint form; you'd find them along with the contemporary Mad paperbacks in somebody's big brothers bedroom or something.  While the "Don Martin, Dave Berg, Mort Drucker "Mad" collections were great, the early parodies of Archie, Superman, Tarzan etc., were a revelation to me-unbridled wise-ass humor, gorgeously illustrated--and those were the ones I sought whenever we were searching my buddy's brother's room for cool teenage stuff. Whenever they're reprinted,I buy them all over again.

12. Thimble Theater(Popeye) by E.C. Segar
Are there any characters in comics quite as original as the one-eyed sailor, his freeloading buddy and stick-skinny girlfriend?
12. Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

weird, dark nasty shit. You don't want to live in this world.
13. Love and Rockets vol 1 &; 2 by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez 

Remember I asked, among comics greats, who'd had the stamina to sustain greatness(in one long form work)  for as long as Hal Foster? These guys--between Gilbert and Jaimie, the greatest comics work of their generation. Maybe the greatest contemporary comic book---alone among serialized comics of the late twentieth century, it rivals Kirby and Lee's FF-and maybe, just maybe, it surpasses it. Breathtaking. 
14. Pogo by Walt Kelly
15.Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff

Two great strips, both beautifully visualized. One skewers the politics of the period in brilliant satire worthy of Swift or Orwell; the other embraces the cultural zeitgeist whole, bringing the experiences of WWII fighting men and women to the folks back home, every day in scenarios both heartstopping and heartbreaking.

16. Dennis the Menace by Al Wiseman and Fred Toole.

 Dennis' genius is fully fleshed out in these wacked-out tales of mid-20th century suburbia. The well ordered, idealized American utopia of the late 50's-early 60's completely and utterly undermined by a four year old whirling dervish. Pity Henry Mitchell.
17. Manhunter by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson
Like "Warlock", this is one of those fond memories of my youth. It was a thrill  to witness this story unfold in the pages of Detective Comics; to see Archie Goodwin at the top of his game, to see Walt Simonson grow more and more confident with each passing page. Together they reinvented a long forgotten also-ran from Simon and Kirby's backlog and invested him with new life, borrowing liberally from apocalyptic sci-fi and "the Day of the Jackal" .

18. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
the most fully realized graphic novel(that was conceived as a novel from the get-go)I've yet read and the only one I've read that I feel attains as much nuance and depth as a great prose novel. As time has gone on I've become slightly skeptical about the graphic novel, preferring my comics in the strip form of the newspapers--but this one took my heart and mind, turned it in on itself and broke me into little pieces .Eddie Campbell's drawings are extraordinary. Evocative, emotive. One of the most powerfully frightening books I've ever read, in any medium, from any period. A brutal masterpiece. Just thinking about it gives me chills.

19. Dr. Strange by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

weird scenes from the gold mine. Steve Ditko created a lexicon of signs for inter-dimensional, other-worldy realities that has impacted nearly every comics creator who has followed him over the boundary between the empirical and the dreamed.
20. This last entry was going to be Acm
e Novelty Library by Chris Ware, but that's more because Ware's work is of significance and should be recognized on a list like this, more than because the work is a favorite of mine-or grist for my creativity. It's not. I admire Ware's work, and at times I'm just plain blown away by his capabilities--there's nobody else like him, no doubt. But He's not one of my favorites. Strange ,isn't it? 
So then, for number 20-a few of my faves-in no particular order:
Batman in Detective Comics by Frank Robbins
Clara by Jordi Bernet, Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Maicas
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century by Phil Nowlan, Russell Keaton
Notes for a War Story by Gipi -(& anything else by Gipi)
George Sprott & Wimbledon Green by Seth
Captain America by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Captain America(#182-192) by Frank Robbins, Steve Englehart & various writers 
Captain America by Jim Steranko
Richard Stark's Parker by Darwyn Cooke
Little Annie Fanny by Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder & various
B.C. by Johnny Hart
Angry Youth Comix by Johnny Ryan
Ganges by Kevin Huizenga 
To the Heart of the Storm by Will Eisner 
The Shadow by Mike Kaluta and Denny O'Neil
Neal Adams covers for DC comics in the late 1960's 
Blueberry by Jean Giraud  and Jean-Michel Charlier
Boys Ranch by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby 
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and many others.