Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

Lewis Black, wha' happened??!!

I like angry comics. Specifically the angry comic who through his antics and rage reveals the hypocrisy and lies of those in the government, organized religion and anyone who believes that they're better than you.

The list of the truly gifted and talented angry comics is short, but what a group!
• Lenny Bruce
• Bill Hicks
• Sam Kinison
and currently, Lewis Black.

(It just occurred to me that the first three comics on that list all died young. hmmmmm... coincidence?)

From his concerts, HBO specials and appearances on The Daily Show his spastic line deliveries and rants over the ridiculous, unjust and absurd are always worth watching.

BUT- recently I've noted a scary and sad change in his career.
Sure, he's still out there doing stand up and his Daily Show bits, but this year alone he's appeared in three movies, which doesn't seem to fit with his sense of humor.

Let me state up front, that I haven't seen any of these films, just the trailers (in fact, one hasn't been released yet)
but you can tell a lot about a film from the trailers these days.

The first film was Accepted.
A film that described itself as this generations' Animal House (they wish). In the film, Black has a small part and friends I've mine who've seen it says that his scenes are worth the price of admission. So OK, I'll give him a pass on that.

And I think I'll even give him a pass on his second film of '06, Man of the Year, the movie about the late-night political talk show host (Robin Williams) who decides to run for president-and wins!
It played in the theaters for a week, maybe two, and had nothing but tepid reviews, but I guess the opportunity to work with Williams and Director Barry Levison was too much to pass up.

No, the real tragedy here, and the one that could start his career on a downward, uncontrollable spin is.....Unaccompanied Minors!! I couldn't believe it when I saw him in the trailers! A group of spunky, unaccompanied kids are left behind and snowed in at a Chicago airport! (hey, where have I heard this plot before?)

A comedy, with child actors????? (isn't that an oxymoron?)

Lewis QUICK! Stop before it's too late!! I know it's a paycheck, but a movie with kids? What's next, Dinner Theatre?
Hosting a Game Show?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Considerably Better than what's out there now.

Finding a funny comedy these days is difficult. I'm talking about the kind of comedy that actually makes you laugh, unlike most out there these days that make you groan, shudder and curse that you wasted $9 to see this crap. I've been told by the press and magazines that Borat is the funniest thing on celluloid since the birth of film, but I tend not to believe the overzealous press. (and no folks, just because something has made oodles of cash, does not make it good. If that were true, Titanic would be the greatest film of all time).

And it ain't.

Instead of the more hyped films I went for a movie who's creative team already has a winning track record. The other day I saw For Your Consideration. It's the latest movie by Christopher Guest and his troupe of improv cast. This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show are prime examples of VERY funny films. No guys getting kicked in the crotch, no old ladies rapping, and most importantly, no Adam Sandler.

This time, Guest and his cast take aim at Hollywood. More importantly, the selling of Hollywood. How an off handed rumor can grow into an uncontrollable monster turning a small, personal film into an Oscar seeking missile.

Guest plays director Jay Berman who's helming a film called "Home for Purim".
"Home for Purim" is a drama set in the 1940's American South centering around a dying mother as their family gathers for what could be their final Purim, an obscure Jewish holiday.

When word of Oscar buzz for "Home for Purim" gets out, everyone from the actors to the producers to the studio heads begin to take it as gospel. The change from a heartwarming, small film to a more viewer friendly film is funny, but the change of the veteran actors is even more funny-and sad in a way.

That's where For Your Consideration works. It has that hard to watch type of humor (which was mastered on the BBC version of The Office) You cringe (and can't help but laugh) at the evolution of "Home for Purim's leads, Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) & Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer). You really can't fault their desire to finally get public accolades, for their years and years of hard, mostly unnoticed work on the screen. But it's their pathetic appearances on the hype machine, Talk shows, Radio Shock shows, MTV-esque "Hip" shows and "Entertainment Tonight" shows, is where the humor really excels.

And of course, Fred Willard steals every scene he's in!

All of that said, For Your Consideration, at times, does miss it's mark. At times I was reminded of episodes of SCTV. For awhile SCTV ran a sketch called "The Days of the Week", that made fun of Soap Operas. The sketch though was so perilously close to it's source that it was hard to tell the spoof from the real thing. There are stretches of this film that feel that way. The "Home for Purim" scenes are so dead on that the spoof, at times, doesn't work.

For Your Consideration isn't as good as Guests earlier films and that may be in part to our expectation. We the audience are entering the film demanding that they top themselves but in reality they may have gone to the well once too often.

So even though it didn't meet all my expectations, I still have to give For Your Consideration a Considered:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

The latest Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak review

With this being the holiday weekend I've been working on various comics, pencils for Action Figure #2 and have been seeing some of the new movies that are out. But before I post any of those comics or movie reviews, here's another Action Figure #1 online review!

This one is from Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Action Figure: From the Journals of Richard Marzelak: "Late" by Richard Marcej. Published by Baboon Books, order through the website.

This is a surprisingly fun book. Richard Marcej worked at Hasbro during the Transformers explosion, and this is a semi-autobiographical look on those days, in the form of the fictional Richard Marzelak. The book starts with a framing sequence that doesn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the tale. It then jumps into Richard's normal work day, with just a touch of fantasy (done in red) to move the story along.

I found the story fascinating, and when I finished I felt a pang that this book didn't get enough orders for Diamond to distribute it. The fact is, it's good. It's a unique story drawing on life experiences from a critical time in the toy industry. I don't know about most of my readers, but the early 80's, when Richard was at Hasbro, hold a lot of memories of toys for me. Thus, the look inside a fictional Hasbro is strangely thrilling.

My biggest complaint about the book would be the framing sequence, which made the title into a pun but otherwise didn't seem to have any function in the story. If I hadn't read the notes on the inside front cover, the framing sequence would have put me off the story a bit. Fortunately, it's only 4 pages out of 32 pages of comic story, so I can't really complain much. Once into the tale of Richard, the story pulled me in. Everyone recognizes the lousy job situation, but this one has the fun fantasies, and the novelty of being about what some of us would consider a dream job.

I liked this enough that I would read a second issue, and maybe even a third even if the second one wasn't as good. If you want a different sort of book looking into a bit of popular culture from a completely different point of view, get this book. For me, I'm calling it Recommended. Read a preview, then order it.

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving 2006 we're missing something.

No, not the large cartoon character balloons at the parades, we still got them.

No, not the annual NFL double header. In fact, this year we get three games!

What is it?

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon!

I miss those great 24 hour marathon's of lousy movies being skewered by Joel, Servo and Crow T. Robot on Comedy Central.

In honor of this lost tradition I think I'll head to the theatre today and shout out insults at the screen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sometimes a Banana is just a Banana

This image is making the rounds on the net and since I like to write and post about toys here, might as well chime in.

Well, there's not much more I can add here, except, if you're wondering what to get the girl who has everything this Christmas.... (curious? you can see more about it here)

Today's Gag Comic.

Here's what they're saying about Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak

Ok, ok, I'll tone down on linking/printing the reviews I've been getting for Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak after the holidays...really.

But until then...

Here's a review from The Comics Review a site that, well, ast the name states, reviews comics!

- The Comics Review
So i get this package from Baboon Books in the mail the other day, which is weird, since I forgot to update my new address with Chris, TCR's interview admin. I had talked to, via email in 2005 to Richard Marcej over there, and he sent me a christmas card, and some info on a book called Action Figure he was working on. In the Baboon Books envelope was a review copy of Action Figure: From the Journals of Richard Marzelak, and a note. He said that the book _was_ supposed to be the start of a quarerly series, but since the advance order for Diamond didn't make their minimum, which, while not extreme, is high enough that a book without much buzz isn't going to get distributed, which is unfortunate.

I read the book, and enjoyed it enough that i would like to see the next issue, and see where Richard is going.

Starting off the book about 47 years in the future, we see a guy at an estate sale, where he stumbles upon lots of collectibles, but winds up with a more rare fine, the Journals of Richard Marzelak. Richard Marzelak is the semi-fictional main character of this semi-autobiographical book. He works for Hasmark, which is a toy and greeting card company, designing packaging for toys, and spends his nights having lots of sexual interludes with hot babes... ok, he spends his nights trying to make it as a cartoonist. It introduces us to the nose-picking evil boss who gives the job he's been working on to "the new guy", the best friend co-worker Bill, the "new guy" who is really the new girl, and a couple of the other office co-workers and potential hazards to career advancement. Richard also has quite an imagination, daydreaming (cleverly done in red/black, contrasting from the black/white art in the rest of the book). The hook for the hopeful next issue is The Big One, a contract to do the package art for "Bot-Changers", and the selection of the team.

While my quick summary doesnt sound all that funny, Richard has quite a great sense of humor, and it's on every page. Obvious things from his former life as a toy packaging designer and logo designer for Hasbro and greeting card artist for Hallmark make for a lot of subtle humor (Has-Mark anyone?) While most of you might not know it, if you were a child of the 80's, his art might look familiar to you, since he was one of Hasbro's artists for that little toy line, Transformers, in the 80's. KICK ASS!

The art is great, he puts a lot more into faces than most, giving off the emotions and intentions of the characters, which adds a lot to the book. His fake box art for Hasmark is pretty great too. As i said earlier, the daydreaming/dreaming being colored in red really makes those moments pop out.

I hope that you will go to and pick up a copy, and encourage Richard to continue his story...and tell your LCS to carry this book, word of mouth can definately make a book!


Writing Rating: (8.5/10)
Artistic Rating: (8/10)
Overall Rating: (8.5/10)

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

This Bond Bleeds

There have always been franchise films in Hollywood. From the old Hope & Crosby Road pictures to the Planet of The Apes series in the early 70's. The longest running and most known throughout the globe though has to be the Bond series.

The run that began with Dr. No in 1960 has now reached the 21st film of the series, and in my opinion one of the best, Casino Royale.

In the past when we've reached the final film with a particular Bond actor, it's very apparent that a change is necessary. Connery's final, Diamonds Are Forever was OK, but Brosnan's last go as Bond (Die Another Day) and Moore's finale (A View To A Kill) were horrendous pieces of crap that made you want to bludgeon yourself to death as you watched every miserable minute in the theatre.

Yes, they were that bad.

But the follow up, the next Bond film with a new Bond actor are usually well worth the wait, and made up for the miserable dreck that preceded.

Daniel Craig's first outing as Bond, Casino Royale, finally answers the question, can anyone play Bond as good as or better than Connery in his heyday?


The makers of Casino Royale smartly introduce Craig by taking us back to the beginning of Bond's career. How he "earns" his 007 distinction is revealed in a clever up front way that sets the tone for the entire picture.

No sooner has the film started then we're greatly entertained by an incredible foot chase through construction sites and building tops that put many car chases to shame. The film's plot? The new double-naught spy must find terrorist banker, La Ciffre (another creepy Bond villain, this one weeps blood) and defeat him at an extremely high stakes poker game.

Along the way an old friend is revealed (well, an old friend to long time Bond viewers) and Bond falls in love with Vesper Lynd, the gorgeous accountant who's there to keep track of Bond (and the Queen's) funds.

While watching a high stakes poker game may not sound interesting (and hell, you could easily stay home and watch it on ESPN) there's enough going on that makes this game especially deadly.

The romance in this film reminds me of Bond's relationship in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where 007 met, married then lost the love of his life. The relationship in this film helps to stabilize the raw, headstrong spy and REALLY helps to set up the ending. endings. How many films have we sat in darkened theaters watching, enjoying and (dare I say) loving until WHAM!!! we have to endure a putrid, pathetic, HORRIBLE ending that helps to ruin the previous 2+ hours.

But not here.

While watching Casino Royale, even though I was enjoying the picture something felt off, it seemed as if it was missing something. Then came the ending.

YES! The last 10 minutes of Casino Royale not only ties up the picture but more importantly leaves you with a huge grin on your face and the thought, "I can't WAIT for the next Bond picture!"

Sure, the series is 21 films old, but like fine wine, with new blood Daniel Craig and a back to the basics approach, it's not getting old, it's getting better!

I give Casino Royale a shaken, but not stirred:

Monday, November 20, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

A Double Dose of Reviews!

In my continuing quest to get word out about my comic Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak to the masses, here's not one, but two more online reviews!

Both are from an excellent online Comic Site, Comics Should Be Good!:

The first was Posted by Greg Burgas, Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I got this in the mail last week, which was a bit surprising, considering it was supposed to be out in January.  (Marcej has had some personal issues, so I’m not bashing the lateness of the book, just commenting on the fact that it’s a long time to wait, so much so that I had forgotten about it.)  I’m not sure when it arrives in stores, but it’s something to look out for.  Or you could just order it at the web site above.

The issue itself is pretty good, with a nice conceit - a guy works at a big toy company designing various things, has issues at his job, but it also dreaming of striking out on his own.  It’s certainly not the most original idea, but Marcej does a good job with a few things - his character, Richard Marzelak, daydreams a lot, and the black-and-white of the book gets red highlights, which is a nice touch.  The daydreams themselves are nice - they’re relatively mundane things, like when he wishes a hot woman would actually talk to him - but the way Marcej sets them off from the rest of the actual mundane world is well done.  Marzelak himself is a good character - he whines and he’s pathetic at spots, but he also does his job even though his boss keeps putting him on crappy assignments and he loves to work deep into the night on his own comic strip.  It’s a subject matter - the lousy office - that could easily devolve into either cruel parody (like Office Space, which I love, by the way) or pathos, but Marcej keeps it whimsical enough so that even though it’s not as savagely funny as Office Space, it’s still wryly amusing.

Marcej does a nice job on the art, too.  The framing story is that a couple finds Marzelak’s journal at an estate sale in 2053, and we’re reading the journals with them.  The art from the future is a bit hazy and muted, which gives it an unreal quality to it, while the art describing what’s going on in the journals is much sharper and well-defined.  Marcej isn’t going to set the world on fire with the art, but he does a fine job making sure the large cast is distinguishable from each other and he manages to keep things lively in a pretty static environment, even when Marzelak isn’t daydreaming.

The biggest problem I had with the book is the exposition.  Marcej does almost too good a job trying to introduce everyone and allowing us to get into Marzelak’s head.  It’s clunky at some points, which is the mark of a neophyte comics writer, at least from what I’ve read.  As they’re working in a visual medium, not everything needs to be written out.  We can infer a lot from drawings and from simply understanding the characters.

Other than that, this is a fun little book.  It gives us a nice look at what goes on behind the scenes at a big toy company (Marcej worked at Hasbro, so it’s based on that) and all the politics involved, which are similar but subtly different from other companies.  It’s a chaming comic, and it will be interesting to see if Marcej simply gets Marzelak to quit his job and draw his comic strip full-time, which would be uplifting but possibly dull, or if there will be something more meaty down the line.
Why this issue of Action Figure is the greatest issue ever!!!!  Two words: Samurai Pandas.  You read that correctly!

The second was Posted by Brad Curran, Monday, October 30th

• Action Figure #1- This is the first issue of Richard Marcej’s semi-autobio comic about his time working for a toy company. I don’t read a whole lot of autobio comics, but this seems like a pretty novel premise to me. I’m not sure I can say much more about this than the prolific Mr. Burgas didn’t say in his review column last week, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I liked the use of red in the fantasy sequences. Marcej is a good, solid story teller. I don’t think he’d be out of place doing a Harvey Pekar story. He knows how to use exagerration without overdoing it, which is important in a story that’s taking place in an office. Marcej says that the series is “part humor (but not overly funny)”, which is pretty accurate. It isn’t uproariously funny, but there is some humor to be found here. It’s not the Office or Office Space or anything, but that’s not the tone Marcej is going for (although I do think a cameo from Dwight or Bill Lumberg would make this book better. Of course, that would make a lot of books better. That could have totally saved Infinite Crisis).
• The thing that impressed me most about this comic, though, was the production value, especially for a publisher I’d never heard of before Marcej sent me some promotional material for this book some months back. It’s comparable to single issues of Love and Rockets in that regard (at least the recent ones I’ve picked up), with a nice cardstock cover and quality paper, which is pretty impressive, especially since, from what I can tell from their website and my copy of issue #1, Marcej is basically self publishing.
• It’s $3.50, but between the quality of the package and the fact that that isn’t much of a disparity from your average mainstream comic anymore, I certainly can’t hold that against it. You’re getting a good chunk of story, solidly written and drawn, that isn’t printed on toilet paper for only .50 more than an issue of Batman runs for these days (my ignorance of indie comics is showing, isn’t it?). Don’t let the price scare you away, is what I’m saying.
• If you’re a fan of of autobio/slice of life comics and looking for something with a different premise, you might want to give this a look. You can find out more about it at the Baboon Books website. And for yet another review, if mine and Greg’s aren’t enough to satisfy you, you can check out Jog’s. And you should. Because it’s better than mine and Greg’s. Combined. It has the added bonus of not being as exhaustive as a lot of his stuff can be. Give it a look.

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

Yes, a FIFTH Action Figure #1 Review!

OK, yes, this is another disguised plug for my new comic Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak, but hey, one of the functions of this Blog IS to push my work, so there you go.

Today's review is from the Blog, Focused Totality:

Action Figure #1

I wish I could say I picked up Action Figure: From The Journals Of Richard Marzelak at my local comic store, but that's not the case. Although the debut issue of the series was solicited through Diamond, it didn't meet order minimums. And we all know what that means. It's a shame this book didn't make it onto comic store shelves for at least a couple of reasons.

First, the professionalism behind Action Figure is apparent in every step - quality production values, excellent art, a story just off the beaten path. While VampireLesbianTitExplosion keeps on selling enough to make it through Diamond's policies, quality productions like this (and others) get left behind because they are not stroking a particular fanboy bone. Diamond gets to run its own business, and at times I agree with their "Survival Of The Retail Fittest" policies. There's a difference, though, between series that have a proven track record of poor sales, and a series that isn't even allowed to try and build that track record in the first place. I have no idea if Action Figure could become a hit, but I can say with certainty that it won't achieve that status without some presence in shops. I don't doubt that some self copies would have sold just off the strength of that engaging cover ... assuming there were shelf copies to be had.

Second is that though there are problems in this first issue, it shows tremendous promise ... promise that can only be realized by continuing work and feedback. Art needs an audience - it's part of the learning curve - and I hope Richard Marcej can find one though his all-out carpetbombing of the WeboComicsblogoNet and his easy-to-use web shop. The simplest and best praise I can five a first issue is this: I want to see more Action Figure. It's far from perfect, but it is charming, filled with passion, features some wonderful cartooning, and has a disticnt voice. Although Richard Marcej is new to comic books, his experience in cartooning and design is readily apparent.

The biggest weaknesses in the book come right at the front, a barrier before heading into the meat of the story. Both the introductory letter from the author and the curious framing sequence serve the same purpose: to let us know what an accomplished, important man Richard Marcej is. The framing sequence pertains to his alter-ego "Richard Marzelak", but using the phrase "thinly-veiled" would be overstating the case by implying the existence of some sort of veil. Besides the general off-putting own-horn-tooting of it all, it's also committing the cardinal sin: it is a lot of tell and not much show. I'm being handed the curriculum vitae of Richard Marcej/Marzelak, as if it matters. As a reader, I want an entertaining story about interesting people and things: I don't care about truth or credentials or importance. Outside of comics, Harvey Pekar is anything but accomplished and important ... how he observed life and told stories made him a success, not his resume.

Once past that initial hurdle, the book starts to come to life. The art style loosens considerably, and really starts to drive this story of office politics, art, and their uneasy coexistence. There are a few too many cliches peppered through out: dreams of flying by someone who feels trapped, adventures in being late for work, bosses who exist purely as obstacle, too-witty banter by officemates. It edges toward s sitcom, but what begins to carry the book and make it stand out is the character of Richard Marzelak. Once past the aggrandizing bits at the beginning, a whole different character emerges, and one not totally unlike the aforementioned Pekar. Marzelak is a bitter dreamer, illuminated in flashes of optimism and despair. He causes most of his own problems, and it's those moments when you realize that he's not entirely sympathetic that really make the book. He's more complex than his label of "struggling cartoonist". Is is his failures - not his gleaming resume - that make the character interesting.

I hope that web sales or other distribution methods will help Action Figure find a life apart from Diamond. It's an interesting book, and promises to become more so as Richard Marcej grows as a storyteller. The art's there, the production values are there, the characters are there: all that's needed now is the storytelling and the ability to let the work speak for itself. I'm looking forward to Action Figure #2.

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

It's a Christmas Miracle!

OK, perhaps "Miracle" might be a bit strong, but yesterday I took the artwork for my 2006 Chrtistmas Card to the printers! Yes, a week before Thanksgiving and I've not only come up with an idea for this year's card, but completed the artwork and will be picking up the printed cards next Friday. Yeesh, I'll actually have many of the cards sent before December 1!

Yes, a Christmas Miracle indeed.

For those of you reading this currently not on my Christmas list, if you'd like to get a card all you have to do is
order any of my books here.

Yes, it's a Christmas personal plug!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

More of my current work at K'NEX

Here are a few more package comps from October's Toy Fair.
This picture is for the new look for all the Amusment Park rides (Ferris Wheels, Roller Coasters, etc...). The main look for this packaging will be foil printing on the main color and in the parts and words of the masthead.

This is a brand new Toys R Us exclusive "Bucket of Bricks" package. With K'Nex introducing bricks into their product line this year this is one of the best ways of showing all the new possible builds that kids can make.

I'll post more when I get new packaging to show.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

A Fourth Action Figure #1 Review!

Yes, it's another bit of self promotion as I continue to get the word out about Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak.

Today's review is from the comic reading Blog, 2 Guys Buying Comics:

Chris Reviews: Action Figure #1
posted by Chris @ 9:50 PM

I'm a little late to this party (I'm a little late to most parties), but Richard Marcej was nice enough to send along a copy of his new comic, so I'd damn well better review it! (My words, not his.)

Marcej has worked as an illustrator and designer for Hasbro (you know, that little mom-n'-pop company what makes the robot trucks and army dolls) and Hallmark (the scrappy little living-on-the margins purveyor of sentiment, hackneyed and otherwise).

Action Figure: From the Journals of Richard Marzelak #1 (quite the title, that) is a behind-the-scenes look at Richard's life in the aforementioned industry.

Richard posits a future where a couple at an estate sale uncover the journals of a man named Richard Marzelak. What follows is an under-the-curtain look at the office politics, personalities, camaraderie, and goals of someone who's dreaming of bigger and better things.

So, is it any good?

Yep. It is.

As a #1 issue, it sets up nicely the environment and people Richard deals with on a daily basis, from the frustration of office realpolitik (oh yeah, I went there) to the struggle to balance personal goals with the demands of holding down a job.

There's a sequence near the end of the issue that was particularly striking, where an exhausted Marzelak, knowing he has to get some sleep for a big job meeting tomorrow, can't pull himself away from his own pet project and has to ink "just one more page". Been there, buddy.

It's black-and-white with splashes of red, which I rather liked as well. The drawing, as you might expect from a professional illustrator, is outstanding. Also, the cover is damn near genius, and the whole thing's made with high-quality paper inside and outside, so you're getting some really good production for an indie comic. Additionally, it's a dense read, so you get a sizable chunk of story for your $3.50.

There are a few things I didn't care for --- the framing device, with journals and flashbacks and such, seems unnecessary, and it wasn't quite as funny as I was expecting. But these are minor compared to the overall quality, I think.

The fact is that this is a slice-of-life comic about a guy working in industries rife with potential for juicy stories, events, and personalities, and to me the parts that hit home are where he toils in the office half-dedicated to his job, half-trying to figure out how he can turn his talents to something he loves doing.

Sound familiar? Me too.

If that sounds interesting to you, Action Figure #1 is a good buy. Preview it here!

Good comic, Richard!

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

I saw the movie Flags of Our Fathers last week.

There are are few things in the cinema that you can rely on.
• An Adam Sandler film will never be funny
• A Pixar film will be worth seeing (well, that was true until Cars)
• Clint Eastwood makes damn good movies.

What a career this guy's had. From TV, to Speghetti Westerns. From Dirty Harry to co-starring with an orangatan and now to his latest and perhaps greatest part of his career, directing.

Mystic River
Million Dollar Baby

All excellent films that tell hard, harsh stories and doesn't hold anything back. And the performances?
Gene Hackman, Oscar Winner for Unforgiven.
Tim Robbins, Oscar Winner for Mystic River
Hillary Swank, Oscar Winner for Million Dollar Baby
Morgan Freeman, Oscar Winner for Million Dollar Baby

How the hell can Clint top that?

Flags of Our Fathers is one of those historical films that fascinate me. It covers a story that you think you may know, or just have a vague recolection of, but don't really know the real background about.

The film tells this story (through a use of jarring flashbacks to the field of battle) and centers on the three soldiers who were (or as we find out, weren't) involved in the famous flag raising and survived the bloody battle of Iwo Jima. The three men, Navy corpsman "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Phillippe), and the two Marines Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and Native American Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) are whisked back to the states to headline a grueling US Bonds tour throughout the country. America's hurting, not only on the battle front but in the pocketbook, as the war is bleeding the country dry, and the sales of Government Bonds are desperately needed.

With the exception of Gagnon who's enjoying the spotlight, the men are haunted by memories of the bloody battle on Iwo Jima and wracked with guilt that they not only made it home alive but are now home accepting accolades as heroes. Hayes especially takes it hard, so much so that he eventually ships back to the war.

Eastwood does an excellent job, ripping away the accepted public knowledge of events and showing the raw reality of what transpired (much like what he did with the western in Unforgiven). The battle scenes alone are gritty and chaotic with bullets and limbs flying everywhere as the young warriors storm the beach. But wait a minute, haven't we seen this before? Yes. And that's the main problem with the film.

It's not surprising to see that one of the producers of Flags of Our Fathers is Steven Spielberg. Spielberg's excellent Saving Private Ryan gave us the filmed battle scene that every future War movie will always be compared to. So we, as the jaded movie viewer, have experienced the incredibly tense grim (computer aided) filmed battle and seeing it again, no matter how well done, can be dismissed as a "been there, done that".

Along with the visual aspects, the story of the demythologizing of a famous historical event and image and that our war heroes aren't as pristine and noble as we'd like to think isn't anything new. Yes we've seen this before.

But that doesn't make this a bad movie (though it may sound as if I'm saying that). As I watched Flags of Our Fathers my thoughts of current events couldn't help but fill my mind. Yes, it's a different time, different enemy and a different place, but in many ways it's the same. It's a group of dedicated young men, with their whole future ahead of them, forced with the burden of laying down their life for a cause and leaders that they can't afford to question, but can only listen to and obey. That yes folks, war is hell. It's process is not clean and concise and our "heroes" aren't all noble symbols of a photograph. They're human, filled with foibles just like us. But if not for their sacrifice, we couldn't live the way we do.

I give Flags of Our Fathers a flag raising:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

New Single Panel comics every day!

While digging through some old portfolios this weekend (looking for something else - that I didn't find) I came across a bunch of one panel gag comics I did a few years ago and never did anything with. Most of them are "groan-worthy", but while the gag may not be great I think a lot of the drawings still hold up. So starting today, I'll run one a day (until I run out).

Or the public demands that I stop!

Yes, another Action Figure #1 Review!

Yes, here's another bit of self promotion as I continue to get the word out about Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak.

Today's review is from a long running Comic related Blog, The Johnny Bacardi Show:

S/A: Richard Marcej. (Baboon Books, $3.50)

Office Space-esque hijinks, somewhat autobigraphical, as Richard Marcej the writer/artist gives us "Richard Marzelak" the character, who labors, unappreciated and unhappy, at a large toy company as a concept artist and is given to occasional red-tinged daydream sequences as he yearns to get out of his predicament and become a full-time cartoonist. As an artist, Marzelak is a nice conceptualist- his figure drawings are stiff, awkward and often crude, but he's able to tell a story and cram it full of dialogue and never make it seem cluttered, and there are many other, far more facile and accomplished illustrators that haven't mastered that trick yet. Said dialogue, while rarely witty or clever in itself, is still natural-sounding and sometimes can't help but sympathize with "Richard", especially if one has ever felt underappreciated and overlooked at one's job, particularly one that would seem to be a dream job for many. If you're curious, you can go visit Richard the creator's website, where he has many other publications for you to sample. B+

And as always, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I saw the movie Stranger Than Fiction yesterday.

I love films that take a chance. Movies that have an intriguing "I wonder how the hell they're going to pull that off" type of story. That's how I felt about Stranger Than Fiction after seeing it's trailer months ago.

A simple, mundane man, Harold Crick, going through his usual daily rituals one day hears a voice. It's not just any voice though, it's a narrator describing his life- as he lives it. He, of course, is taken aback by this!

I mean, how can you not be interested to see where this story goes? A great hook and I'm sold.

There's a danger in this. For every Groundhog Day, Adaptation and The Truman Show, films that had a cool, odd premise that work, there are dozens more that fall flat on their face.

So at your local cineplex, where the screens are filled with big budget cookie-cutter stories with bland characters, you go see a film like this hoping that it comes close to delivering something new.

And does it?

As the trailer featured, Harold Crick Will Ferrell) not only hears a narrators voice telling of his life, she also tells of his upcoming death. That's what sets Harold off! He seeks help, first among coworkers (he's an I.R.S. Auditor) than a doctor and finally a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman). While no one can tell him why he's (supposedly) hearing a voice, the professor does point out to Harold that he should see what type of story this narrator is telling. In short, is Harold's life a tragedy or a comedy?

Throughout the film we do see the narrator (Emma Thompson) hard at work on her typewriter. She's a highly regarded novelist who's known for killing off the main characters in all her books. Despite her writers' block and despite (the real life) Harold's protests, it looks as if he'll be added to the dead character list.

Before I forget too, I have to mention the graphics. Aiding director Marc Foster (Monsters Ball and Finding Neverland) is the use of onscreen computer-like graphics that point out every mundane aspect of Harold's daily life. These are an excellent addition that don't get in the way and enhance the story telling.

To tell more about the story though, would be to give too much away and this is the type of film that you DON'T want to know how it ends. The fun in watching a film like Stranger Than Fiction is to wonder along the way if the film makers will make it work?

As for the ending, on the surface I wasn't sure, at first, but thinking about it as I left the theatre, it worked for me.

The performances by everyone, Hoffman, Thompson, Gyllenhaal (who plays a radical baker) and Ferrell are all well done. I've never been a Ferrell fan, though as an exSNL'er he's surely not the worst (that position is held by the agonizingly bad Adam Sandler) here, he underplays Harold. He gives him a kind of dullness that is content to go through life without highs or lows. Even when he gets excited, he's not excited.

And that ordinariness is what helps propell this very unordinary story.

I give Stranger Than Fiction a timeless (wristwatch, that is):

Friday, November 10, 2006

Comments & Theories over the trailer for Spider-Man 3

OK, by now I'm sure everyone has had a chance to see the new trailer for Spider-Man 3, right? Whether on TV last night or on the net. And the overwhelming consensus is, it of course looks great, but what about the story?

Well, right off we're told that the unnamed robber (who after seeing Spidey plunges to his death) isn't responsible for Uncle Ben's death.

Huh? The most powerful message from over 40 years of Spider-Man history is that he
LET escape the man who eventually killed his Uncle. That despite all his new powers he couldn't save Ben, that (wait for it) "With great power comes great responsibility".

But if what we're told in the trailer is true, Flint Marko (The Sandman) kills Ben to steal his car but when the bank robber (that Peter let go) flees the arena, steals the car and Marko hides in the trunk? That Marko is the man who killed Ben? So how is it now Pete's fault? Is Rami trying to say that BECAUSE Ben was waiting to pick up Pete at the library (where he wasn’t at) that Pete still has a reason to feel guilty over Ben’s death? Pretty lame reason to me.

If Rami wanted revenge as the origin of Venom and the basis of the film then why not say that Marko is responsible for the death of his parents? Sure, the death of Pete's parents had never been that important in the comics because Pete grew up with Aunt May and Uncle Ben as the ones who raised him, but maybe Rami could make it work. Moreso than tampering with a near perfect reason for a hero' s origin.

I checked some message boards and many fans had scanned the trailer over-and-over again, as if it were some modern day Zapruder Film. One of the posters saw this:
"I saw a truck flying towards the taxi cab, after MJ looks back the truck is almost about to hit her. So yea another near death experience for MJ, but maybe Peter might save her, we don't know yet."

That got me to think, perhaps in Spider-man 3 Rami MIGHT have MJ die giving Pete (who fails to save her) a new guilt, replacing his Ben guilt. This way they won’t need Dunst for the sequel (who's only signed for three films), Gwen could be his new love interest reversing the comic history where MJ took over for the dead Gwen.

The only way this theory doesn’t work is perhaps the actress who plays Gwen isn’t enough of “a name” for future films (though at this point they may not need one.)

Six more months of theories, rumors and more times to watch the trailer.............

Another Action Figure #1 Review!

Back again with another bit of self promotion as I continue to get the word out aboutAction Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak.

(You know, the book where you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here. )

Well, what better way of advertising then posting another online review. Today's reviewis from Yet Another Comics Blog:

Action Figure #1
by Richard Marcej
Baboon Books, $3.50

In the first issue of Action Figure we are introduced to Richard Marzelak, a twenty-nine-year-old artist who works a 9-5 job at a toy company by day and draws comic strips for submission to the syndicates by night. Richard works in one of those offices we frequently see or read about in entertainment media that have the unfair, hard-ass boss; the sleazy sexual harasser, the impossibly unobtainable beauty, etc. In this first issue, Richard gets pulled off a plum assignment that is being given to the new artist and is instead stuck on a nowhere, no-brainer panda bear assignment instead, just as work comes down that the company has landed a plum contract with a Japanese anime property.

In his cover letter that came along with the review copy, Marcej as much as admits that he's drawing heavily on his own career as inspiration for this comic. He's no Harvey Pekar, and there's just too much in this first issue that feels like standard sitcom set-up. There are a couple of ways that Marcej could take the story to give it more of a unique vibe: bringing us deep inside the world of toys; and/or showing us why and how Richard Marzelak is a unique and interesting person in that world.

Fortunately Marcej has a couple of things going for him in this first issue. He has a good sense of storytelling and design; the comic flows very smoothly, and there's wonderful use of third color spot reds to highlight when Richard's active fantasy life takes over his attention. It's also an inherently interesting setting for a workplace comic, as long as the story gets beyond the standard office tropes.

According to Marcej this first issue did not meet Diamond's order threshold and will not be carried by the #1 distributor. Which is a shame, because this is an attractive, solid comic with an eye-catching cover and high production values, and one that shows promise. So while you probably won't be able to find it at your local comic store, if it sounds interesting you can order it directly from the self-publisher.

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Thursday, November 09, 2006


It's my Blog and I'll pimp if I want to...

The last time I mentioned my new comic series, Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak, was waaaaay back here and a lot has happened since then. Some good, some not so good.

Without going into lengthy details (I'll save that for a future book) the comic has been printed, it made it's debut at SPX last month and is currently avaialble FOR SALE!! (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) on my web site.

For information about it (and any other of my books and comics) click here.

Or for preview pages click here.

Or hey, to just order the darned thing, click here.

(order now and receive a FREE comic, while supples last!)

I know what you're thinking, is it worth ordering? Well, rather than go on and on about it myself, starting today I'll be reprinting various reviews that have been posted about it on the net and in print.

Today, reprinted from Blog this, Pal!:

Review: Action Figure # 1

If you're a consistent reader of this blog, you know that I'm the kind of guy who listens to every commentary on DVDs, who pores over those "Behind the Scenes" featurettes, and who considers the Biography Channel must-see tv. So when I received the first issue of Action Figure from Baboon Books, I thought it would be a pretty accurate behind-the-scenes at a toy company in the 80's.

I'm glad that this is a book that, on the basis of its first issue, possesses a charm and style that is easily engaging.

The premise is simple: in the future, someone purchases (and reads) the journals of a man who worked in the 80s at a major toy company. This first issue contains what would be the prequisites for a sit-com; initial fake-out, followed by introductions of the cast and setting forth of initial plotlines. Of course, the set-up seems a little too familiar, but that may come more from watching this done poorly - Action Figure's challenge will be in the execution.

I really enjoyed this issue as a great first issue - things are quickly set in motion, and I found myself hoping there's an issue 2. (Hopefully, news will be announced on this blog). The artwork compliments the story - it's a mixture of realism and cartooniness that is a degree removed from, say, Barry Ween. The black-and-white artwork (with occasional red shadings) hits the right spot, and red is used sparingly for emphasis. All in all, this is a pleasurable read - one which hopefully will continue.

If you're looking for classic literature, this is not it - it is a fun, unpretentious, yet thoroughly enjoyable comic. After the sturm-und-drang of dealing with the majors, it's nice to have some good, solid storytelling.

Try this book. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get Out And Vote!!!!

And if you're still voting with the old punch-out ballot, don't hang any chads!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Those were the days!


Recently, with the lack of finding new and interesting comics and books to buy and read at the local comic shop (good god folks, enough with all the superhero titles already!!!) I've been either buying or digging into my collections of classic comic strip reprints. The new collections of Peanuts, Dick Tracy and Walt & Skeezix are great! But I also have collections I've bought from the 80's & 90's which includes L'il Abner, Wash Tubbs & Captain Easy and the one I'm currently reading, Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon.

The volume I'm reading now reprints strips from 1948. That's 1948 folks, nearly 60 years ago. Last night I came across this particular Sunday strip (reprinted in Black & White for this collection) and features a monologue with the character Fancy.

In the first panel (see above) she's lounging about in lingere. In panel two we see a nice, behind shot as she prepares to disrobe:

And in panel three she's taking a bath:

The drawings and inks look great, of course. This was Caniff at the height of his career. Are they titillating? Sure, but that's in the character's (Fancy) nature. Remember, this was in the Sunday paper, from big city to small town USA. And you know what? No one was traumatized. Children's minds weren't warped. The country didn't collapse.

Now, try to do something like this, in George W.'s USA??? Good god they'd string you up. (or maybe water board you)

Ah, those really were "Happy Days".

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My designs at K'NEX

One of my main jobs as Senior Designer at K'NEX is to work up and construct a new look for the packaging. The old look of K'NEX packages had the logo in a red oval and a large red band on the right hand side of the front of the front panel (yeah, they had a LOT of red in the old look)

What's new:

• The Logo (still white) is more simple surrounded by a rectangle of black.

• A front "frame" with the Logo Masthead on top (with "Imagine•Build•Play" and silhouettes of all the parts on the masthead). A Green Bar on the left, a Red Bar on the bottom and a Yellow Bar on the right.

• In the center of the "frame" is a large "Hero Build" (the Hero Build is a highlight of what you can build inside)

A nice thing about coming up with a new look for all the packages is that we're making the style guide as we go along.
More pictures of packages and other stuff in the next few days.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Today's the First Day of the November Sweeps!

So to start this month out right I went over to Media News to see what goodies the Networks have planned for us. Today, beginning with ABC are their Premieres, Specials, Finales and Guest Stars (followed by my snarky remarks)

ABC Series Premieres:
-Day Break – Wednesday, Nov. 15: 9 p.m. ET
-Big Day – Tuesday, Nov. 28: 9 p.m. E

(Great scheduling guys, two new shows, a day apart, with “Day” in their title. I know that one of them is the “Groundhog Day” rip off, but I’ll damned if I remember which one)

-Show Me the Money – Tuesday, Nov. 14: 9:30-11 p.m. ET (preview)

(I’ll avoid this one on the principle that it’s named after one of the most over used and annoying movie quotes- EVER!)

Season Finales:
-Dancing With the Stars – Wednesday, Nov. 15: 8 p.m. ET


ABC Specials:

-A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving – Monday, Nov. 20: 8 p.m. ET (R)

-A Charlie Brown Christmas – Tuesday, Nov. 28: 8 p.m. ET (R)

Wait a minute, the Christmas special is only 8 DAYS after the Thanksgiving special? Geez, can they cram the holidays in any closer??!)

Guest Stars:
-Salma Hayek on Ugly Betty - Thursday, Nov. 9: 8 p.m. ET
-Jewel on Men in Trees - Friday, Nov. 10: 9 p.m. ET
-Martha Stewart on Ugly Betty - Thursday, Nov. 16: 8 p.m. ET
-JoBeth Williams on The Nine – Wednesday, Nov. 22: 10 p.m. ET
-Delta Burke on Boston Legal – Sunday, Nov. 26: 10 p.m. ET (special time period)

(Let's see: who cares, who cares, who cares, who cares and who cares. Ooh, hold me back. Better get my VCR set!)

K'NEX Builds Part 2

As a follow up to this post, here at work you can see various special K'NEX builds. These are either for retailer exclusives or participatory museums throughout the country.

This first one pictured here is a fully functioning, 6 ft. tall Ferris Wheel

While pictured below and standing at a little over 4 feet is the Statue of Liberty hand and torch.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A heap of Vinyl-Flaming Fun!!

Yes, I admit it. I'm a fan of the 1970's Marvel Comic, Ghost Rider.
There was something really cool about those old Mike Ploog drawn books of Johnny Blaze's flaming skull alter ego. So when I heard of the upcoming Nicholas Cage film based on the character and saw through the trailers, that it didn't look sucky, I started searching to see if there'd be any cool toy-tie-ins.

Most what I've seen so far is your typical looking, straight forward action figures, BUT-

I saw this today on Sideshow Collectibles. A Ghost Rider VCD (Vinyl Collectible Doll). Here's what they say about it:

Medicom Toy Corporation's VCD (Vinyl Collectible Doll) line continues with Ghost Rider, in true H8G super-deformed style! Johnny Blaze, superstar motorcycle stunt rider, struck a deal with Mephistopheles for the most precious of commodities - his immortal soul. Now he is forever destined to ride night after night as the host to the powerful supernatural entity known as the Ghost Rider!

Now that's a pretty cool looking item, and it's something I'd either consider buying or even asking for Christmas -
until I read this:

Your Price: US $59.99.

My price? I don't think so.
(and besides, it's only 5" tall!!!!!)
I mean, how much useless crap sitting around my house or office collecting dust, can I own?

Well, not $59.99 worth, anyway.
(and saying, in bright read type, that it's a Limited Edition, ain't gonna sway me .)