Friday, May 26, 2017

Planet Comicon 2017: "Black Buttons" and Magnificent Cowlick Media

For my last post about Planet Comicon 2017, I want to feature "Black Buttons Vol. I", a collection of macabre stories by midwest writers, and Magnificent Cowlick Media, publisher of the anthology.

Mark Groves is the owner, writer, and pretty much doer of everything for Magnificent Cowlick Media. Included in his list of jobs is one-who-mans-the-table at Comicon.  I visited his table and chatted with Mark at length about the books his publishing company has to offer.  Mark is very energetic, friendly, talkative, and is passionately proud of the books he has published.  Mark is a contributing writer to his anthologies, but talks about the other authors' contributions more than his own.  Mark clearly loves this writing and publishing business, and effusively supports his collaborating writers.  



I picked up a copy of "Black Buttons Vol. 1", a collection of stories set in and around the Kansas City area. The setting makes reading it a little more special for area residents, but won't damper the experience for others.  The stories range from just a few pages to longer, near-novella length explorations of darkness.  Some favorites:

"Harry" by J.E. Peterson - you could call this "The Sandlot Gone Evil"
"Pray for Rain" by Mark Groves - a deeply complex tale of second sight set in Kansas City, 
"A Stake in the Heart" by Andrew Rambo - ok, based on the title you can probably guess it's a vampire story, but it's one of the funniest vampire stories I've ever read
"Checkmate" by Mark Groves - superbly paced, excellently executed story of revenge gone wrong
"Bring May Flowers" by Marissa Pelot.  Mark Groves calls this the best story in the book, one of a young girl's internal struggles and resolution.

What about the title, "Black Buttons"?  Well, as Mark explains in the forward, the title comes from a rural Missouri legend about cursed persons or families.  If you were cursed and you left a black button on the road, when someone else picked it up, the curse was transitioned to them. 

Do pick up "Black Buttons" from Magnificent Cowlick Media, but don't pick up any black buttons you see lying on the road....

Magnificent Cowlick Media has also published:
Black Buttons Vol. 2
Route 666: Four on the Floor
HELLZAPALOOZA: The Best Damned Rock Show Ever

Magnificent Cowlick Media on Facebook

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Planet Comicon 2017: TimeBangers

Now, this here is a family-friendly blog.  You know, Christmas Music, and tinsel, and ho ho ho and all that.  So it's with that consideration, and the ever-watching eye of Mrs. Santa, that I'll share with you some info about "TimeBangers" subtitled "One Does Not Simply Walk Into Tudor".

"TimeBangers" is about Beth and Tawny, old college friends now in their early 30's who reunite after several years and begin to reminisce about their particular brand of, ahem, research from their college days.  Jobless, single-parent Beth and her daughter move in with super-rich scientist Tawny, who has invented a time machine.  Beth and Tawny travel into the past to the court of King Henry the Eighth, with intentions to perform some field research experiments on the men of Olde England, including King Henry himself.  But, the best-laid plans, well, you know.....


I visited with the authors, Ivery Kirk and Luna Teague, at their Planet Comicon booth.  Ivery was not there initially, so I spent most of my time chatting with Luna (who also was a contributor to a story anthology I purchased at another booth - more on that in an upcoming post).  Luna is an effervescent bundle of energy, always smiling, and engaging to the fullest with visitors to her booth.  She told me about the book, and we chatted about many other things, including Christmas Music (!).  Of course, TimeBangers was available for sale, so I bought a copy.

I read TimeBangers over the course of just a few days.  It's a marvelously engaging book.  It's quick-paced, fun, a bit naughty here and there (and there, and over there too), and just pure escapist entertainment - you can't take it too seriously as you read it.  Set your Suspension of Disbelief Meter to "Fun" and just enjoy this literary ride.  I'm hoping that TimeBangers Book 2 is published soon.

TimeBangers website
Reve de Vie Publishers website
Amazon link
Interview with Ivery and Luna on The Fussy Librarian:  link
Luna Teague website
Ivery Kirk website

Monday, May 8, 2017

Planet Comicon 2017: Bictori

Bictori is the team of comic artists/authors Taylor Carlson and Stefanie Dao aka Fujiyosky, and "Knocking on the Sky" is their comic book creation.  I met the Bictori team at Planet Comicon and had a very nice chat with them about their comics.  Y'know, that's the best thing about these events - talking to these wonderful artists, learning about their work and their personal artistic journey.  And, supporting them with a purchase or two.  I've bought a few comics and books from the authors and artists at these events, and so far everything has been just splendid!


So, "Knocking on the Sky".  Taylor and Fujiyosky had the first two comics in a planned series of 6, plus (free with purchase of 1 and 2) the standalone pilot issue.  So I picked up all three, added them to my bag o' stuff, and brought them home.  A few days later, I picked them up out of the stack and read them while sitting outside on a lovely Spring Kansas City evening.  And, well, now I'm hooked.  The story involves a group of exquisitely developed characters, each with their own unique idiosyncrasy (or two).  The characters spring to life through the dialogue (a little salty at times), the artwork, and the visual story composition.  There are little arty additions throughout, such as a little, teeny word "point" when one of the characters points.  Persons who are dead are thusly indicated.  There are little visual style changes every now and then that really serve to keep a sense of motion and maintain the reader's high interest.  These are outstanding comics.


And, like I said, I'm hooked on the story.  Book 3 is supposed to be out in the Summer of '17.  I will have to keep up with Team Bictori so I can get books 3-6, whenever they are published.

I'm not going to give away any story or character spoilers.  It's much more fun to experience it all with your first (and subsequent) read(s).  One thing, though - check out this character's right arm:


Yeah...  It's metal...

Keep up with Bictori and "Knocking on the Sky" at the following websites,

http://knockingontheskycomic.com/

http://knockingontheskycomic.tumblr.com/

https://www.behance.net/bictori

Taylor Carlson: https://www.behance.net/tmcarlson

Stefanie Dao: https://www.behance.net/stefaniedao

Fujiyosky on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fujiyosky/


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Planet Comicon 2017: Artist Chelsea Mann

Artist and comic author Chelsea Mann was one of my stops at Planet Comicon 2017 in Kansas City. Chelsea had many of her art prints available, as well as two of her comic books, "St. Martin Song" and "Let Me Live".

Chelsea's artwork is extraordinary.  If you browse though the artwork on her website http://philosoficate.com/ you'll see a wide spectrum of work.  All of it is recognizable as being comic-style, but within that artistic domain Chelsea experiments and explores through color, detail, expanse, precision, energy, and subtlety.  In her Gallery section, I'm drawn to the middle image on the third row, the old home on a snowy hill at night.  There is a sense of peace in this work, and to me it evokes a feeling of a quiet Christmas night.


I bought Chelsea's two comics while at Comicon.  Both of these are excellent stories brought to life by Chelsea's artwork.  The storytelling is vivid through her detailed, flowing, exacting composition. Both stories are tales of imagination and spirituality.  "Let Me Live" is especially beautiful throughout its 42 pages in its use of changing color schemas as the story moves along.


Last year I found a wonderful comic artist, Megan Fitts, at Planet Comicon who would up designing the artwork for my annual Christmas comps.  Chelsea's web page has information about commissions, so if anyone is needing something extra special for your annual comps, maybe Chelsea can work up something great!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Planet Comicon 2017

Hello there good readers!  It's time for a Springtime sojourn into the world of Planet Comicon, the 3-day extravaganza of comics, art, nerdery, sci-fi, fantasy, and high-priced celebrity autographs that was in Kansas City April 28-30.  I once again visited Planet Comicon for a day, spending many hours wandering the exhibit hall, talking to authors and artists, viewing many fine works of art, and marveling at the sheer magnitude of the event.  I'll write up a few posts about some of the artists that I met during the 'Con in the next few days.  Long time readers know that I like to support local artists, so giving them a little press and directing some attention to their work is my way of support (in addition to, in most cases, purchasing their wares).

Best Win:  I'm a life long Abbott and Costello fan, especially (duh) their "Who's On First" routine.  Comic strip artists Bill Amend (Fox Trot) and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) have both done strips paying homage to "Who's On First".  Well, both of these artists were at Planet Comicon, so I found the strips, printed them on a single page, and was successful in getting them to sign it!  What a one-of-a-kind piece!



A Miss:  I had hoped to have Felicia Day sign my copy of her book "You're Never Weird on the Internet", as she was one of many celebrity guests meeting, greeting, and signing (for a not-really-nominal fee).  Alas, Felicia's line was 90-120 minutes long all day.  I'm not one to invest that amount of time just for an autograph, so my copy of the book remains unsigned.  And I had such a witty dialogue all ready for Ms. Day too....

Another Win:  With Felicia Day a no-go, I stopped by DMC's booth instead.  Last year, I had Mr. McDaniels sign a copy of "Christmas in Hollis" (awesome!).  This year I bought his comic, got an autograph, and posed with him for a pic.  Pretty cool.

Authors and Artists:  Here are some of the authors and artists I met during the day.  Look for more details about these fine folks in some upcoming posts:

Chelsea Mann - comics and artwork Philosoficate.com

Kerrts Kazuka - artwork - https://www.prettykittyemporium.net/home

Taylor Carlson - comics - https://www.behance.net/tmcarlson

Mark Groves - author - https://www.facebook.com/magcowmediabooks/

and finally, Ivery Kirk and Luna Teague, authors of this fine tome:http://www.timebangers.com/books/

Interesting stuff at Planet Comicon, my friends.






Monday, January 2, 2017

Best of 2016, part 2, and Signing Off for the Season

Here are a few more 'Best of 2016' thoughts before I sign off for the season.

Katey Laurel - "This is Christmas"


My biggest regret this season is not finding time to cover Katey Laurel's 2-CD Christmas album "This is Christmas".  Katey's album was funded over a year ago through a very successful Kickstarter campaign, so successful that it allowed her to produce a double-disc Christmas album this year.  Katey is a Denver, CO singer with a strikingly beautiful voice.  Her album was one of my favorites this year, and bumped may others out of the rotation, as I listened to Katey over and over.  I'm going to come back to Katey's album early in the 2017 season to do it justice, and maybe snag an interview too.  If you missed out on this album in 2016, add it to your 2017 'must have' list.

Katey Laurel website

Hot Breakfast! - "The Holiday Shift"


Hot Breakfast! is Matt Casarino (of "200 Days of Christmas" on Facebook) and Jill Knapp, a Christmas-loving duo that writes and performs some of the best original Christmas rock-and-roll around.  Their music is awesome, their songwriting amazing, and the energy they put into Christmas deserves a standing ovation.  Love their music and what they give the world at Christmas.  Check 'em out.

Hot Breakfast!  website

The Shenanigans - "Decidely Simple Christmas"


This one is going to be tougher on all of you Christmas music fanatics.  The Kansas City Repertory Theatre has produced "Santaland Diaries", based on the stories by David Sedaris, for a few years running now.  Throughout the play, the two performers have several musical interludes, mostly Christmas standards, but also a few rewritten and updated to the spirit of the play.  Meaning, they are PG-13 if not mildly R-rated.  And very, very funny.  The two performers, Claybourne Elder and Shanna Jones, recorded the songs from the show, plus a few more, and had them for sale after the show, using the band name "The Shenanigans".  It's a treat.  If you're one of the lucky ones that receive Der Bingle's Christmas comp every year, you'll probably find an updated "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas" on the 2017 edition, featuring the line "I hid a body in a trunk - somebody snitched on me".  Not available commercially - maybe I can convince Claybourne and Shanna to let me share a song next year.

KC Rep Facebook page

And finally, in the spirit of the Best of 2016, one of the best things this season for Der Bingle was being invited to guest DJ on KKFI, a Kansas City public radio station.  The hosts of one of the weekly shows invited me to come in and play some Christmas songs from my collection.  The original date, Dec 18th, was postponed due to ice, so we kicked off New Year's Day 2017 with a half hour of Christmas music.  Being able to share some songs and talk about Christmas music was fun, exciting and a real treat for me.  I'm hoping to be able to return again next season.  Thanks to Kasey, Scotty, and Mikal for inviting me - you're all such good people.

KKFI website
River Trade Radio Facebook page



And so, that about wraps it up for the 2016 season.  I hope you all have enjoyed the interviews, music info, contests, and shared music.  I'll be back again next year, doing many of the same things.  I'm pretty sure that the blog will lean more toward the artist interviews and features about new music and drift away from music sharing.  It's getting tougher all the time to find music that isn't available digitally already, so I imagine that will be de-emphasized, though if I find some real shareable gems I'll make sure to post them here.   I'd love to know what you think about the interviews and contests, and the blog in general, so please comment or send me an e-mail.

Check back in from time to time - I may write some off-season posts.  The Folk Alliance International Conference is in Kansas City again this year, so I may post some articles after that event in February.  And there's Planet Comicon in April(?).  Holy smokes, those will both be here before I know it..

So, signing off for now, and hope to see  you all next season!





Thursday, December 29, 2016

Der Bingle's Best of 2016

Here are some of my choices for the Best of 2016 in Christmas Music.  Some of these I've covered here this season, some I didn't.  They are in no particular order, but represent some of my favorite albums, songs, or artists that I added to my collection this year.

Found Wandering

My personal favorite discovery this year was Found Wandering, through their 2015 release "On a Christmas Night", their earlier album "Christmas in Country Village", and their brand new EP this season "Pass the Peace".  This is as good as Christmas music gets, and now that the season is waning, I need to check out their other albums.



Elizabeth Chan - "Five Golden Rings"

Elizabeth Chan ventured into new territory this year by including her versions of Christmas standards on "Five Golden Rings", her 2016 release.  Her creativity and love for everything Christmas comes through clearly as she gave us an album of standards, original songs, and Spanish and Chinese performances!  She keeps getting better and better, and I'm anxious to see what she brings in 2017.



Jordan Smith - "Tis the Season"

Jordan Smith was the gate-to-gate winner of season 9 of The Voice, and released a full Christmas album this year.  Before the album was in my hands, I wondered about the song selections, especially the exclusion of "Mary Did You Know?", which he had performed on The Voice.  Once I got the CD, though, I realized that song selection may never be an issue for Jordan.  He works magic with every song he sings, and is flawless.  I look forward to another Christmas album in the future from the amazing Mr. Smith.


Carly Jamison

Carly Jamison released "Keeping Christmas" this year as her 6th annual original Christmas single.  I hope there are many, many more to come.  Carly's Christmas songs were one of the best surprises of the season for me.



Pentatonix - "A Pentatonix Christmas"

Pentatonix is as hot as they come - a new Christmas album, an NBC special, probably the best selling Christmas record of this season.  And, in my opinion, their success and praise is well-deserved. This turned into a favorite this year.



Phoebe Gildea and Noah Brenner - "All is Bright"

The debut album by soprano Phoebe Gildea and harper/baritone Noah Brenner was an incredibly arranged and performed album.  Coming to life through a Kickstarter campaign, Phoebe and Noah's album is beautiful, and in its own niche in my Christmas music library.



The Snow Globes - "Snowed In"

What is becoming Kansas City's best annual Christmas tradition, the Snow Globes released "Snowed In" this year, an excellent addition to their catalog, and to your Christmas music library!

Matt Casarino's 200 Days of Christmas

If you don't follow these two gentlemen with encyclopedic knowledge of Christmas music, you should.  Tim Neely gives us a new Christmas Song of the Day throughout the season.  All are excellent, many will be new to even the most dedicated collector.  Matt Casarino ups the game with 200 Christmas songs through 2/3rds of 2016.  Some classics, some new, some obscure, all interesting and meaningful.  I hope Matt is back next year with a new 200 Days.

So, there are some favorites this year, my personal 'best of 2016'.