A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Playwright The Playwright by Daren White and Eddie Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The latest from artist Eddie Campbell is a collaboration with writer Daren White, and it's a wonderful, bittersweet melding of pictures and words that is formalist in its construction but charming for being so concise.

The Playwright is the story of a middle-aged English gentleman who has enjoyed some success as a writer, with much of his most successful work being for television. Over the years, he has become rather set in his ways, and his artistic and financial success is offset by an increasing isolation. He is not close to his family due to his mining their lives for material. In fact, many of his prior human connections have become grist for his typewriter. Employing a humorous and matter-of-fact tone, White details the sexual hang-ups and perpetual embarrassments the playwright suffers, gently mocking the man while still remaining utterly fascinated by him.

Campbell has painted the book in his usual sketchy, evocative manner, but the page layout is more like a newspaper comic strip than your traditional comic book. Printed at a rectangular size, each page has 3 or 4 panels, no more. There are also no word balloons or any narration within the panels, White's narrative is presented outside of the picture boxes, and the effect is something akin to voiceover in a silent film. The words serve as commentary, but yet are detached, coming from an omniscient narrator. This allows a break from "reality," and gives Campbell room to roam from presenting what is being said and abstract the material. Some sequences are shown as the playwright's fantasies instead of his actions, and others take on a life of their own, Campbell's expressionistic style morphing and changing what we see until it becomes something else entirely.

The Playwright ends up being more than a portrait of a man and his quirks, however; a story arc develops the deeper we go into the book and things begin to change. The man that was initially greeted with an arched eyebrow and skepticism is given room to grow, and he does so quite naturally. Perhaps it's the simplicity of the storytelling, that a few well-placed lines allow for the kind of character development that is so often lacking in other, more effusive tales. It's not that the playwright has to struggle or earn his happiness, but that by finally meeting life as it comes to him, it affects him at last.

Somewhat ironically, this changes his relationship with his art, and White and Campbell, it turns out, have been crafting a good-natured parody of many cliches about creative life. Must authors be miserable bastards to write? Some think so. In The Playwright we are asked if this being true means it's better to ignore happiness for a little notoriety. Then again, how we perceive the change is also going to be altered to how much we buy into the titular writer being an artist and not some hack. Is he who he is because he bought the cliche? And are Daren White and Eddie Campbell able to be who they are, and to create a comic as blithe as The Playwright, because they haven't?

The Playwright is being published by Top Shelf in June. Order your copy now!

View all my reviews >>

Current Soundtrack: Jónsi and Alex, Riceboy Sleeps

There must be a rap song that uses that phrase. I googled and it only gave me links to gun control articles.

Anyway, I'm using it because You Have Killed Me is up for a Spinetingler award for Best Graphic Novel of a crime variety. Sweet!

Click on the vote button and go vote:

I'm kind of surprised we aren't in the best cover category, too. Is it only for novels? Coz ours ranks all over the ones they picked.

Oh, well. Musn't grumble.

Thanks to Spinetingler for nominating us!

Current Soundtrack: Meth, Ghost, Rae, Wu Massacre - check out the hot Chris Bachalo cover art!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The first page from a short story called "Two Wheels, Two Feet," which Megan Levens and I are doing for an anthology currently in the proposal stage.


Megan can be found, appropriately enough, at meganlevens.com.

Terry Blas lettered it, and his art can be viewed here.

Current Soundtrack: The Courteeners, "Cross My Heart and Hope to Fly"

Thursday, March 25, 2010



* Chloe, a Skinimax flick wearing the lingerie of high art. I wasn't fooled. Which is amazing, because I'm easily distracted by boobs.

* Greenberg, an emotional suckerpunch of a movie from Noah Baumbach, who pulls an amazing performance out of Ben Stiller. I love this movie so much, and it only gets better the longer it sits in my brain.

Check out Jason Bailey's rundown of the critical controversy surrounding Greenberg (including some words from me in the comments).

* Hot Tub Time Machine - Not a comedy, but a Republican fantasy about going back in time to the Reagan era and then returning to the modern world to discover your actions in the past caused the victory of Capitalism. Also, lots of boobs. More failure for boobs this week. The world has gone crazy!!!


* The Lady Eve, the always wonderful screwball rom-com from the great Preston Sturges.


* Ciao, an indie film searching for love in the midst of loss. Flawed, but shows great potential.

* Dillinger is Dead - Criterion Collection, in which myself and Marco Ferreri square off for a third time. I declare a draw. 1960s experimentalism working only to a minor degree. Hey, anyone ever notice this is like a male version of Jeanne Dielman? (Also at Criterion Confessions.)

* An Education, one of my favorites of 2009 is now on DVD. A wonderful character study that brings early 1960s London to life.

* Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone, an empty reboot of the popular anime. Pretty, but the script is rushed.

* Fantastic Mr. Fox, the irresistible stop-motion animated movie from Wes Anderson. Well, you could resist it, but why would you hate yourself that much?

* More Than This: The Story of Roxy Music, not the most comprehensive Roxy documentary, to be sure, but I liked it.

* Paris, in which Cédric Klapisch bites off more than he can chew trying to portray a whole city. A fine performance by Juliette Binoche makes it watchable, though.

* Young Sherlock Holmes, repacking an old childhood favorite. I find the movie holds up.

Current Soundtrack: Goldfrapp, Head First; Frigthened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight ($5.00 download!)

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll [old version] * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2010 Jamie S. Rich

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Koko Be Good Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jen Wang's astonishing debut is an assured and heartfelt story of people searching for their place in their world. The fundamental question of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" doesn't end when you actually have grown up, it only becomes more pronounced and real. Wang's characters have passed the precipice of adulthood, but they are still confused about what they want out of life. Jon has abandoned his dreams of making music to follow his older girlfriend to Peru, where she will work in an orphanage and be a force of positive change. Doubts linger in Jon's mind that maybe he's just a tag-along in someone else's existence, a suspicion that is only emboldened when he meets the strange and wonderful Koko.

At one time Koko would have been called a "free spirit," but that has since been co-opted to mean hippy-dippy kookiness. In Wang's hands, Koko is much more than that. She is the rarest of creations, a social gadfly who behaves with the caprice of childhood who doesn't come off as either damaged or obnoxious. She can be a jerk, sure, but she is easy to forgive. She is like a flower trying to break out of the shell of its seed.

It's Koko who challenges herself to be good, which in turn becomes a metaphor for being true to oneself, to one's friends, to whatever passion gave you purpose enough to get this far in life. The joy of Koko's discoveries is the joy of creation itself, and we see it in every page. Jen Wang has clearly put a lot of herself into every panel, and though she masterfully controls the lines of her lively figures, she isn't afraid to let the world around them be loose and shimmery. Her watercolored tones and her easygoing layouts give the book a natural feeling, even though her art has a cartoony flourish. She uses more inventive and complex page construction sparingly, when the scene needs to go flashy or better yet, when an emotional epiphany must occur, such as the double-page spread where Jon's girlfriend realizes he is in a different space than he thinks he is. Her narrative flows naturally, and even when she takes a detour into something more experimental, it doesn't seem forced or gimmicky. The pages turn instinctually.

As a fan of Jen's short work, I am pleased that Koko Be Good has delivered on the promise of those smaller slices. Quite possibly the debut of 2010, if not a contender for the book of the year across the board.

Alas, the rest of you are going to have to wait until September to read this wonderful book. Expect me to keep talking about it until then. In the meantime, visit Jen Wang's website.

View all my reviews >>

Current Soundtrack: Dean Martin & Julie London, "Sway (Remix)"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Okay, that's a bit of a stretch to make a nod to the other Nico's "Chelsea Girls."

Nicolas Hitori de sent over this drawing today. It's a promo piece he did for the upcoming comics festival in Amiens, his hometown in France. He will be attending, probably visiting his old high school, remembering the old days. Like George Clooney in Up in the Air.

Reminder for you stateside folks, Nico is coming out to C2E2 and Stumptown. So, if you're in the Chicago or Portland areas and want to meet the Spell Checkers team, come say hi. Joëlle Jones won't be in Chicago, she's had to cancel, so it will just be the boys, but all three of us will be at Stumptown. And the books will be there, too!

Current Soundtrack: The Courteeners, Falcon


Met the fine folks from Multiversity Comics up in Seattle, and one of their writers, David Harper, went and got You Have Killed Me after the show. Today, he posted a marvelous review, one of the best reviews we could have ever hoped for.

Check the whole thing out by clicking on this excerpt:

"Given that this is a visual medium, the story could be great but the art could still make or break it. Fortunately Rich’s frequent collaborator Joëlle Jones is an exceptional artist, ably rendering the events on each page and proving to be a very impressive storyteller in her own right. There will be pages where Rich and Jones work effortlessly in concert, keeping dialogue minimal or non-existent and simply letting her design work to tell the story. It’s a trick that sadly very few writers employ, but you can sense an implicit trust between these two creators. They know what works and what works for them, and they use that to the nth degree."

By the way, if you want to see the interview they did with Mike Allred, you'll also see your humble writer/artist team in the background giggling over some evil thoughts they must have been having. (I show up about 4 minutes in. In the bathroom beforehand?)

Current Soundtrack: She & Him, Volume Two - download currently on sale for only $4.99!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Emi Lenox was up all night bringing you 10--yes, 10!!!--new EmiTown strips, including her trip to Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con.

Follow the image below to her blog and scroll down to the March 11 update, then start reading back up to the top.

Everyone is there, even the Allreds make an appearance!

I think more Between Gears are coming from Tally, and I really like how already we are getting some of the same events from their different points of view. I'm pretty sick of text-based con reports. So tedious and repetitious--that's why I don't write them anymore. But this stuff I can go for, it's a fun way to show you the whirlwind of convention life without replicating the overwhelming tedium.

Current Soundtrack: Gorrilaz, "Stylo" remixes & Plastic Beach tracks


This week's Five for Friday topic over at the Comics Reporter was: "Name Five Webcomics You Read That 1) Aren't Any Of The Five I Chose, 2) Posted First On-Line -- Not After Or Concurrently With Print, 3) Are Ongoing (Updating At Least Once This Year)."

Here were my choices:

1. "Ellerbisms" by Marc Ellerby
2. "Between Gears" by Natalie Nourigat

3. "EmiTown" by Emi Lenox
4. "Briar Hollow" by Terry Blas
5. "My Cardboard Life" by Philippa Rice

I had to kick Adam Cadwell to the curb, though I usually put him on these lists. But he's, well, a cad. I still like "The Everyday, though." Plus, he's always hanging around in Ellerbisms trying to instigate a threesome, so people who follow my advice will still find him.

Read everyone else's choices here.


As if sensing that I was going to post this, Tally updated the Between Gears site with her first Emerald City comics right after I went there to steal the above image. I even appear in the comics, though the below scene didn't really happen like that (I never rushed her!) and *I* introduced her to Brandon Graham first. Autobio comics are full of lies!!!!! Plus, she makes me look fat. She also makes Joëlle look like somebody's mom--though one with booooze!

(In case anyone doesn't get it, I'm just teasing Tally. I love her comics and love being in them!)

Current Soundtrack: Sugababes, Sweet 7

Monday, March 15, 2010


Back from a very successful Emerald City Comic Con. Thanks to everyone who came by. We sold a lot of books and did a lot of chatting. Joëlle did some wicked sketches, too. If anyone got any drawings for her and you end up scanning them, please send me a copy.

While we were gone, Tom Spurgeon ran my Five for Friday suggestion. I had totally forgotten about it, I forget when I submitted it.

"Based on the Penguin line of Literary Reprints, Pick Five Works of Literature and Who Should Design the Covers for Them."

My suggestions:

1. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov -- Junko Mizuno
2. Setting Sun, Osamu Dazai -- Sara Pichelli
3. The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford -- Chynna Clugston
4. Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote -- Tonci Zonjic
5. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Joelle Jones

You can read the results from everyone here.

Current Soundtrack: Little Dragon, Little Dragon

Friday, March 12, 2010


On our way to Emerald City Comic Con.

Myself and Joëlle can be found in Artist's Alley at table D-03, right next to Mike and Laura Allred. Come and say hi and give us your money! We'll give you books and signatures. :)

More info on the con here.

Current Soundtrack: Rihanna, Rated R

Thursday, March 11, 2010



* The Art of the Steal, a documentary about Philadelphia's appropriation of the legendary Barnes Foundation and its art collection.

Opens in Portland this weekend at Cinema 21. Also, for those interested, Terribly Happy is coming to the Living Room, and Police, Adjective is coming to the Hollywood. I reviewed both films together here.

* Green Zone, the new one from the Bourne guys goes heavy on the action and the politics.


* Shock Corridor, Sam Fuller's nutso nuthouse pic', another film that blends art and politics. It also inspired Scorsese and Shutter Island, a movie that is even better the second time.


Two documentaries about moviemakers.

* The Beaches of Agnes, the enchanting self-portrait by the first lady of the New Wave, Agnes Varda.

* The Brothers Warner, a mild profile of the guys who started the famous studio that bears their name.

Current Soundtrack: Lily Allen, F.U. EP, some Radiolab ("Proof" from 8/10/09)

The folks over at the Portland Mercury have given my pal Joëlle Jones a great write-up following last week's Floating World gallery show. Read the whole thing here.

Madame Xanadu #20 pg9

"Jones' pencil work is a refreshing change of pace from regular series artist Amy Reeder Hadley. Jones employs a cartoony, almost innocent femininity for the storyline, perfectly matching the backdrop of Nimue's and Morgana's girlhoods in a pastoral, still-magic Europe. Parts of each issue are interrupted by storybook prose, with appropriately formal pane artwork that bleeds into the comic book action; Wagner repeats this storytelling gimmick a couple too many times, but Jones uses the contrivance as a way to visually marry the legend with the characters."

Reminder: Joëlle's art is at Floating World all month. Never fear, though, if you aren't near Portland, you can see her pages here. Maybe even buy one.

Also, we're in Seattle at the Emerald City Comic Con Saturday and Sunday. Come by and see the comics and her other work and say hello if you can. Joëlle has a truly wonderful and fun piece in their Monsters & Dames charity book. (Advance sneak!) You can find us sitting next to Mike and Laura Allred.

Current Soundtrack: Gorillaz, "Stylo" remixes

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll [old version] * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2010 Jamie S. Rich

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Hey, everyone.

My friend Terry Blas has launched his new webcomic, Briar's Hollow. It went up this past Monday, and updates are scheduled for every Monday from here on out.

Here is the first cover. Click on it and follow it over to his site. Read, subscribe, and spread the word. This promises to be a lot of fun!

Terry's description about the comic:

"Come join self-proclaimed gamer, comic book collector and cryptozoology enthusiast Molly, as she decides to go back to college and attempts to leave her nerdiness behind. She may just find that nerds rule and being yourself is the most fun!"

The coloring is by Kimball Davis, who also colored the Spell Checkers cover.

Current Soundtrack: Club Nouveau, Live, Love & Pain

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Vroom Socko over at Ain't It Cool News chose You Have Killed Me as his top graphic novel of 2009. Follow this great blurb to see the other picks:

"Jamie Rich is a writer with personality, and his actual writing isn’t bad either. This neo-noir tale is a blast to read, but it’s the art from Joëlle Jones that pushes this over the top into Best Of territory. Damn but this woman can draw!"

Also, we're still turning the knobs and adjusting the levels, but we're getting Spell Checkers vol. 1 off to the printer. Check out the cover, designed up pretty by Keith Wood:

Spell Checkers cover proof
Click through to see the bigger version

Don't forget the 22-page preview of Spell Checkers at onipress.com.

Current Soundtrack: Broken Bells, s/t

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Jen Vaughn is a mini/webcomics creator, currently serializing her latest project Mermaid Hostel.

She is also currently working hard at the Center for Cartoon Studies, where she is helping organize the Schulz Library.

Very cool to see a Sabrina-era Audrey hanging out up in the tree. One of my favorites. I love how this is her as kind of a "tomboy."

Current Soundtrack: The Decemberists, "The Crane Wife 1 and 2"

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Oscars are this Sunday. DVD Talk writers voted in a poll to pick the winners we'd vote for, and here was our consensus.

My personal votes were:
Best Picture: Up in the Air
Best Direction: Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Best Animated Feature: Up

Up in the Air speaks to our times, while also being timeless. It is a movie that could only have been made in 2009, and was one of my favorites. My review, for those who missed it.

Art by Vera Brosgol, from Gallery Nucleus' Alice-themed show


* Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton's ego-driven "reimagining" of a classic that didn't need his help.

* The Ghost Writer. What's all the fuss about the new Roman Polanski? What's the hubbub, bub?

Portland folks: Don't forget that Fish Tank, the new film from Andrea Arnold, also opens this week at Cinema 21. Read my review from PIFF here.


* 44 Inch Chest, a talky British gangster drama that loses its way, squandering an amazing cast that features Ray Winstone, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, and the might Ian McShane.

* Eleven Minutes, a documentary about the (annoying) first winner of Project Runway.

* Gigante, an oddball subversion of the romance genre from Uruguay. Also coupled with the even better Danish short Dennis.

Art by Angie Wang, from Gallery Nucleus' Alice-themed show

I could have predicted that I was going to get some complaints about my Eleven Minutes review. It seemed like the type of thing where some fan would end up sending me grief. No surprise, then, that some guy calling himself (or herself) Cozimoto signed up for a DVD Talk forum account to write:

It seems you may be confusing your criticism of Jay for criticism of the film.

Jay's not a comic book character. He's flesh and blood with flaws and contradictions. The goal of a documentary is to show things for what they are, not always to tell you how to feel about them. Leave that to reality TV.

I immediately sent this to Chynna, and we laughed because she had also encountered a similar attitude in real life recently, getting some snotty attitude from a jagoff banker turning up his smug nose at her chosen profession. Why is that the default argument? "Oh, you work in comics." Yeah, genius, you got me. I'm totally busted. Sucks for me that I get to work in a field I love doing what I always dreamed about. Wish I had more time to sign on to message boards to call another person shallow in defense of a fashion designer popular for being on reality television and prove in the process that my reading skills are so poor that I missed the review actually addresses the very issue I'm complaining about. You're ankle deep in superiority, pal. Haw!

By the way, it turns out Jay McCarroll is currently on Celebrity Fit Club on VH-1, where I am sure they take him very seriously as a fashion designer.

Current Soundtrack: Spiritualized, Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space 3-disc Super Deluxe edition

e-mail = golightly at confessions123.com * Criterion Confessions * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * ComicSpace * Last FM * GoodReads * The Blog Roll [old version] * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

All text (c) 2010 Jamie S. Rich

Monday, March 01, 2010

YES, I WOULD: 22-page Preview of SPELL CHECKERS

Here are the first three pages, the intro drawn by Joëlle Jones:

To see the rest, you're going to have read the full preview at the Oni Press site.

Again, now is a good time to preorder the book. It's available through all comic shops, bookstores, and e-tailers. If going to a comic book store, the Diamond order code is FEB10 1049; ISBN is 978-1934964323.

Don't forget, Spell Checkers is still the the featured indy book from our friends at Things from Another World.

Current Soundtrack: Frightened Rabbit, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (another NPR stream)


Nico's portrait for the Spell Checkers bio page.

l to r: Joëlle Jones, Jamie S. Rich, Nicolas Hitori de

Yes, Joëlle is really that sweet, I am that cool, and Nico is that dorky.

More info on the book here. Preorder!

Current Soundtrack: Gorlliaz, Plastic Beach streaming on NPR