Reviews Publications

Kowloon Walled City/City of Darkness Revisited


Perhaps you remember the Q&A with photographer Greg Girard way back in Giant Robot 22. It delved into City of Darkness, the amazing coffee table book he made with fellow photographer Ian Lambot exposing the interconnected maze of adjacent buildings and connecting alleys that made up Kowloon Walled City. The ultra-dense city block was notorious among Hong Kongers for being separate from building codes and law enforcement alike, and was made famous in movies such as Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express and Johnny Mak’s Long Arm of the Law. So I was stoked when Greg recently informed me that a redesigned edition of the book is in the works.


While locals didn’t seem to care much when when Kowloon Walled City was leveled in 1993 to make space for a shiny new airport, Greg says that he and Lambot have been impressed by “the unexpected ways in which it was turning up as an obvious inspiration in popular culture, and also being referenced in architecture, urban theory and other areas.” So on 20th anniversary of the demolition they decided to update and expand City of Darkness.

The revised edition will be 50 percent bigger than the original one (which was already a brick) and include never-before-seen photos as well as extra text derived from interviews with ex-cops who patrolled the area in the ’60s and ’70s as well as a government survey from the period which lists the exact number of brothels, opium dens, strip clubs, pornography theatres, and dog meat restaurants. Sounds amazing, right? Find out how to support the book–and perhaps get signed copy as well as an archival quality print–at the City of Darkness Revisited Kickstarter page.

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Reviews: Lecherous Gaze and Hot Lunch at The Satellite, Bob Forrest’s Running With Monsters

Gotta love the free metal shows from Scion. Last week’s was right down the street from my house at The Satellite, and it was very much a Tee Pee records showcase with Lecherous Gaze (above) and Hot Lunch (below). Sweet! (more…)

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Brian Ralph and Reggie 12 land in Los Angeles

How cool is it that Brian Ralph’s “Reggie 12″ comic strips have been collected from the back page of Giant Robot mag and compiled into a gorgeous oversize hardback with amazing spot UV on the cover? Even better, Brian Ralph has been on the road and doing signings. The SCAD Professor of Sequential Art concluded the West Coast leg of his journey at Secret Headquarters in Silver Lake yesterday, so I got to do some catching up with him. (more…)

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Brian Ralph on the Reggie 12 collection and book tour

While many of this year’s Comic-Con attendees geeked out on The Walking Dead, Dr. Who, and superhero movie panels, I was foaming at the mouth over Drawn & Quarterly‘s advance release of the Reggie 12 anthology. Each time an issue of Giant Robot was about to hit the presses, I’d get in touch with Brian Ralph to ask him about the back-page strip and he’d always respond that it would be ready soon. I’m pretty sure that he’d start cranking on it right after getting off the phone or closing his email browser.

It was a real honor to have Reggie 12 in Giant Robot. It was also a perfect fit, as well, with Brian’s punk rock background (Fort Thunder), indie publishing past (Highwater Books), and use of vintage manga and robot toy themes (from Mighty Atom to UFO Dai Apolon). Talk about a love connection.

Seeing the strips blown up from magazine size and stock to news digest dimensions with eye-popping two-color is a real treat and, even better, Brian will be hitting the road to promote the book. To help promote both, I hit up my friend (and Professor of Sequential Art at the Savannah College of Art and Design) with some questions. He not only provided informative, funny answers but has given a never-before-seen peek into the conceptual sketches. Hot damn! (more…)


Publication Reviews (Comic-Con Edition)

I went to Comic-Con and actually came back with comic books. Go figure! Above, Congressman John Lewis with his graphic novel debut. Below, some reviews.

Brian Ralph, Reggie-12
Giant Robot readers who lovingly recall the two-color strip that owned the back page for years should be stoked about this. I know I am. With jumbo proportions and a very cool spot-UV job on the cover that has to be seen to be believed, this deluxe collection makes the strips look better than they ever did in the magazine. Bigger, bolder, and run side-by-side, the craftsmanship and storytelling are revealed to be every bit as masterful as the strips that inspired them–Felix, Atom, Nancy. Essential not only for fans of vintage manga but classic comic strips in general. [Drawn and Quarterly]

John Stanley, Nancy
I was already familiar with (and smitten by) Ernie Bushmiller’s strips via the Kitchen Sink reprints, and these stories from the Dell comic books are similarly essential. The four-color reprint gloriously captures the Little Lulu writer’s take on Nancy from 1957 through 1958, and is loaded with surrealism, class consciousness, and classic storytelling. Can be read by children and dissected by art majors with equal enjoyment and gusto. [Drawn and Quarterly]

Shigeru Mizuki, Kitaro
For EC Comics freaks and Takashi Miike junkies alike, this is the holy grail of Japanese horror comics and it is finally being made available to the mass market. Somewhere between The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone in character and tone, the classic manga series which began running in 1959 follows a one-eyed monster boy and his equally whimsical and monstrous yokai friends. Too creepy, fun, and culturally pervasive for words. Just go get it already. [Drawn and Quarterly] (more…)

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Comic-Con 2013: Robert Williams, Frank Brunner, William Stout, Paul Pope, Spider-Man, Metallica…

After attending for 24 years I still love Comic-Con. Crowds and corporations can’t ruin the annual gathering that is Halloween, Christmas, and the first day of summer for me. The costumes, goods, and energy are unbeatable–not to mention hanging out with my twin brother, friends from elementary school, and other people that matter from all over the place. Best Comic-Con ever? It this year felt like that–or at least a return to focusing on comic books for me.


After picking up our badges in perhaps the easiest line ever (one of the things Comic-Con gets right), my brother Greg and I made our annual donations at the Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive.

Then we went straight to Hall H to catch the panel for Europa Report. I don’t often buy into the lines and hype of the Con’s biggest hall, but couldn’t miss the scoop on the indie sci-fi flick featuring my longtime friend, Hong Kong movie star, and Giant Robot contributor Daniel Wu. Shockingly, the line was reasonable and we were rewarded with an awesome trailer as well as some killer footage accompanied by earth-shaking audio. The panel, which featured director Sebastián Cordero, composer Bear McCreary, actress Karolina Wydra, and two consultants from JPL, focused mostly on how the movie is scientifically sound. Karolina told some pretty funny stories about wearing the scientifically correct spacesuits. The movie looks amazing and intense, and I wish the panel also mentioned the flick’s more kick-ass elements. Too bad there was no time for a Q&A session because I wanted to bring up Dan’s role in it. Go see the film, and get more info here! (more…)


T.S.O.L. matinee/Jack Grisham book signing at The Observatory; Publication reviews: Untamed by Jack Grisham, Hard Art by Lucian Perkins, Perpetually Twelve 10 by McHank

T.S.O.L. singer Jack Grisham just released a new collection of short stories, Untamed. To celebrate, he had a book signing/punk rock matinee at The Observatory in Santa Ana. For the price of the book you got a free show! I got there just in time to introduce Jack to Eloise, have my copy signed, and catch the end of the afternoon’s final opener.

The Detours are a first-wave Orange County punk band, circa 1977. And in addition to decades of shredding to dip into, they can throw in a ripping version of “No Way” (doesn’t hurt that various members have played in The Adolescents, D.I., Christian Death, Social Distortion…). Awesome.

Four o’clock headliners T.S.O.L. gleefully served up all the old hits like maniacs, from anarchist rippers like “Abolish Government/Silent Majority” to proto-death rock classics like “Sounds of Laughter.” The pit was raging for a Sunday afternoon, and I was stoked that my five-year-old daughter lasted more than halfway through the set. I was also shocked to find out that the band played a second show that night at an American Legion Hall in Baldwin Park. Damn! Jack says the band is embarking on a South American tour this week, but there’s another chance to get your book signed at Beyond Baroque on June 23. Go! Jack isn’t as scary as you think.


Untamed, Jack Grisham
Jack Grisham’s literary work is joyfully twisted, right in step with the T.S.O.L. singer’s musical output (dark, violent) and legend (troublemaker, ass-kicker). And like his memoir, An American Demon, the brand-new collection of 10 short stories by T.S.O.L.’s singer is loosely based or at least inspired by his own life experiences. What’s real and what’s made up provide a ton of subtext for literary punks but fallen angels, torture, murder, and sex with stuffed animals make it a real page turner for anyone. Accompanied by R. Crumb-esque illustrations by Scott Aicher. [Punk Hostage Press]

Hard Art, Lucian Perkins
This collection of images by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lucian Perkins draws not from his stints in Afghanistan, Kosovo, or the Persian Gulf War but the Washington DC punk scene of 1979. The unpublished black-and-white photography captures key gigs in the embryonic punk scene that included Bad Brains (before they left for New York) and Teen Idles (featuring pre-Minor Threat Ian Mackaye and Jeff Nelson). The live shots are stunning but the photos of the audience are just as important–reflecting a real sense of community and not just a star factory. Insightful narrative is provided by none other than participants and musicians Alec Mackaye and Henry Rollins. [Akashic Books]

Perpetually Twelve 10
The balance has shifted from words to art in the latest issue of McHank’s zine out of San Diego. Among other pieces, I really dig the hot-rod inspired brushs of Mr. Sleeep and bold inks of Frenemy. McHanks’ fan art is awesome, too. I call it that not disparagingly but because he lovingly depicts Kermit the Frog and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the same enthusiasm and spirit shown in interviews with the band More Humans and Matt Pryor from Get Up Kids. McHank reminds me why zines are awesome, and has not only gotten me back into them but actually invited me to contribute to this one. My two-page comic strip is right up front, and you can see the first few panels here… Hit up my friend for a copy! []

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Retox at Vacation Vinyl plus publication reviews: Temperature’s Rising, Indulgence 11, What Will Hatch?

One of the tiniest shops on Sunset, Vacation Vinyl, has hosted some of the gnarliest in-stores, from Converge to OFF! Before this week’s Retox gig in the shoebox-like store, guitar ripper Michael Crain asked my friend Ben and me, “Did you bring earplugs?” (more…)

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David McHank’s Perpetually Twelve

I remember one of the first times I corresponded with McHank. He responded to an Instagram picture I posted of the Dum Dum Girls in concert by saying , “Dude, give Kristin, I mean Dee Dee, my love. Old pal!” He did a similar thing with a photo I posted of Mrs. Magician. Later on, John Reis said hi to him from the stage at a Night Marchers/Hot Snakes show at Alex’s Bar. I wondered, Who is this guy and how does he know everyone?

Sometime in between, I met McHank in his hometown of San Diego at Comic-Con. He gave me some copies of his stapled-and-folded zine and I was instantly hooked. It’s like a mixture of  Cometbus, CARtoons, and Tiger Beat with tons of honest introspection and observation, cool and random art, and unabashedly loving band interviews–often written by hand or even brushed.

The ninth and most recent issue of the digest-sized publication has cool art (Tim Kerr, Travis Millard, Skinner, Bwana Spoons, McHank himself…), killer interviews (Brandon Welchez from Crocodiles, Mary Animaux from White Murder…) and all-star contributions (John Reis writing about discovering the Ramones, Joey Cape in memoriam of Tony Sly…). Even so, my favorite piece of all time is still McHank’s essay about growing up in the Bay Area and not knowing how to drive when he moved to San Diego and how he had to ride bikes or take the bus to get to shows. Can you get more personal or street level than that? (more…)

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Not Robot Power/Greg and Sharon’s wedding zine

I apologize in advance for being the guy who puts up a blog about something cool that’s impossible to acquire. My brother getting married last week provided an opportunity for me to help make a print zine for the first time since Robot Power (the stapled-and-folded half issues between Giant Robot 17 through 21). The first couple of spreads had the ceremony program, thanks list, menu, and seating chart. After that, a full-on zine!

Serious Giant Robot readers will be familiar with much of the contents and vibe. It was conceptualized, designed, and laid out by San Diego artist and wedding speaker/guest Susie Ghahremani, who has been featured in the magazine and shown at the art galleries. Giant Robot readers will also be familiar with interview subject and wedding weekend contributor Goh Nakamura, who has also been in the pages of GR and performed at GR events. (more…)


Comics reviews: The Making Of, Birdseye Bristoe, Gloriana

A lot of you left Comic-Con with the latest scoop on movies, TV shows, and toys. But what about comics? I finally finished my stash of advance and new titles from my favorite page pushers out of Montreal, and here are my takes. Of course, you should buy own copies at Giant Robot on Sawtelle or your local indie bookstore. (more…)

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International comics spotlight on Brecht Evens from Belgium

Seiichi Hayashi from Japan, Charles Glaubitz from Mexico, Jason from Norway–every time I attend Comic-Con I encounter at least one international artist with jaw-dropping, original talent who seems to redefine what comics can be. This year it was Brecht Evens from Belgium. His translated, painterly graphic novels, The Wrong Place (2010) and The Making Of (2012) are gorgeous slices of life that convey the power, drama, and luminosity of life without tights or capes. Or outlines or word balloons, for that matter.

Brecht’s storytelling ranges from stream-of-consciousness to dreamy and his panels swing from hyper detailed to quite sparing. But his gorgeous, voyeuristic pages always have a natural pace, truthful tone, and resonating message about the art of being human.

After meeting Brecht at the Drawn & Quarterly table, attending his panel with no visuals but plenty of interest, and then having dinner with the same crew as him at Comic-Con, I followed up with some questions about his work via email.

MW: It was a pleasure to meet you in San Diego, and I hope you enjoyed your visit. What were some observations that you took away from your first Comic-Con ?

BE: Thank you, and thanks for showing my comic book to the actress who played the scientist who tells the President the world is going to end, in The Day After Tomorrow!

There were a lot of nice people to meet at Comic-Con, but as a place, including the area around the convention center, it felt like walking around in a shopping mall for a week. Very peculiar.



Comic Con’s Not Dead pt. 2

It isn’t easy for the casual fan to acquire tickets to Comic-Con. Once you get in, it’s an ordeal to squeeze past the movie studio palaces with their big screens and giveaways. But if you are willing to put in the work, Comic-Con is still pretty awesome.

Preview Night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen preview night so crowded. Of course, the first place I went was the Giant Robot booth to see my great friend and conspirator, Eric Nakamura (top right). If you looking at the GR site, you know what I mean. Also there was ace cartoonist John Pham (top left) Why is it that I see certain L.A. friends only at San Diego? One more reason to go, I guess. On the bottom row are the two other places where I lurked. Not working the GR booth anymore, I can be that guy who hangs out at other people’s booths until it becomes uncomfortable. At Super 7, we talked with Brian and Scott more about hardcore shows than toys. And then there were Tom and Peggy of Drawn & Quarterly with Peter from The Beguiling. No bow-tie on Tom yet because the table was still a work in progress, without banners flaunting their world-class  roster of indie, international, and classic comic artists. (more…)


at Giant Robot – Mr Dave Kiersh

Mr Dave Kiersh, a man I’ve been calling “Indie Comics Hero” who’s a huge Afterschool Special fan made a quick stop at Giant Robot on sunday to talk a bit about his book and actually have folks live through what he’s into. Aside from reading a story, he showed an episode of an Afterschool Special episode starring Chad Lowe! It turns out the nostalgia of the shows is something that inspires his stories. Hope he stops through again. It’s one thing to just work on a publication and be into it, but this man lives through it all. If you ever meet him, ask him for his Afterschool Special collection! Or… ask him about indie publishing. He still does it all himself.


We have the new book at GR.


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Phoenix New Times – About Dave Kiersh

Phoenix New Times covers the new graphic novel publication by Dave Kiersh who we’re hosting this Sunday at GR.

“Growing up on Long Island, Kiersh found the topic-driven shows on subjects such as safe sex, abstinence and date rape – common denominator: sex? — pretty darn riveting.”

(New Times – Kiersh)

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GR2 Signing Event July 8th 3pm – Dave Kiersh – Afterschool Special

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Signing, Dave Kiersh – Afterschool Special Graphic Novel

July 8th Sunday 3-5pm

GR2 2062 Sawtelle Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90025

(310) 445-9276

Giant Robot is proud to host Dave Kiersh, an indie comics hero. Kiersh has been working in the indie comics space for years and has slowly gained a loyal audience. His style is freely drawn and appears effortless and calming. It’s realistic and nostalgic.


Afterschool Special is an illustrated romance concerning two teenage outsiders navigating a suburban landscape through nostalgia and personal dilemmas.  This 132 page full color perfect bound book includes affectionate nods to abandoned parking lots, late night B-movies and trashy amusement parks.  Fully written, illustrated and published by Dave Kiersh.  First offset printing and limited to 700 copies.

Dave Kiersh was born in 1979.  He is also the creator of Dirtbags, Mallchicks and Motorbikes, his first full color book, which was published in 2009 with the assistance of a Xeric Grant.  Afterschool Special went to print as the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign.  He has been self-publishing his own comics since 1999.

Giant Robot was born as a Los Angeles-based magazine about Asian, Asian-American, and new hybrid culture in 1994, but has evolved into a full-service pop culture provider with a shop and gallery in Los Angeles, as well as an online equivalent.

Eric Nakamura
Giant Robot Owner/Publisher
[email protected]


David Foster Wallace Would be 50

He was a writer for the kids. Our own USA Haruki Murakami in a way. He’s be 50 today. It’s not like I read all of his books. Some are huge, but his voice and style is something that a ton of us understood and admired. Here’s a piece about  him in the NY Daily News.

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Graphic Novel Renaissance


Graphic Novels are back! Slowly especially with the adults who want something “mature” and not youthful manga for furries. There’s always space for great graphic novels in everyone life, as there’s space for novels. Yet in this article published in Newsweek Daily Beast section, it’s still mostly about retro comics. In the GR world and among our peers, we know this and it’s not talking about 2012 or even 2011, but more so the past 10 years or even more. Spiegelman’s Maus and Satrapi’s Persepolis inevitably get mentioned. Either way, it’s a great primer for those are aren’t caught up in the genre. (thedailybeast – graphic novels)

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Martin’s Top Ten for 2011

OFF!'s free midnight show at the Echoplex

As it was for a lot of you out there, this wasn’t the easiest year for me and my family. Following Giant Robot’s print magazine going on hiatus at the tail end of 2010, I was unemployed with no job leads or responses to my queries for the first six months. Then, after I got an awesome job out of nowhere, the company my wife worked for was purchased by a competitor and shut down. Fortunately, we’ve managed to get by through frugal habits, a rock-solid support system of family and friends, and the PMA. And yes, there have been highlights. Here are ten of them–some of which has been written about in the blog, others merely alluded to, and a couple of odds and ends–in no particular order. (more…)


Steve Jobs Comic

It’s still on it’s way, it’s called the Zen of Steve Jobs, and here’s four pages. It’s slated to be a 60 page digital book and talks about Steve Jobs and his friendship with a zen monk! It’s being made by Forbes. This is a job that Adrian Tomine would have excelled at. (Forbes – Steve Jobs Comic)

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