NAMM Announces Best in Show Winners

Brandon Ferguson
Panelist Mike Guillot shows off the new Level 360 drum head from Evans Sunday at NAMM

The fact that NAMM's Sunday Best in Show event, featuring a panel discussion of the week's  coolest gadgets and companies, happened at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m.and was still packed speaks volumes about the allure of this epic trade show and its ability to inspire musical gear heads and retailers. Though many of the folks hunched over plates of scrambled eggs  spent the previous night getting debauched at NAMM parties, yet they awoke at zero dark thirty to flood the massive Pacific Ballroom at the Anaheim Hilton to watch six panelists announce their picks for cool NAMM products in four categories: Best Add On/Accessory, Gotta Stock item, Company to Watch and Best in Show. 

The panel was made up of music store owners from across the country (many rocking long "O" Southern accents), who engaged with one another in good-natured ribbing as they referenced the previous night's parties. At one point panelist Donavan Bankhead of Springfield Music presented panelist Alan Friedman with a pair of Brazilian leather underwear sporting pink tassels. Most of the humor though would have made Krusty the Klown cringe, especially Friedman's lamentations regarding his kid's taste in music, which involved obsessions with the bands Sum 41, 311, and Avenged Sevenfold. One had to wonder if the kid is in his mid 30s. 

Here's an abridged list of some of the niftier finds at this year's show according to the panel:

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Uprising: Hip Hop and the L.A. Riots Panel Discussion - Grammy Museum - 4/26/12

Snoop was not in the building

Maybe it was the fact that we had to sit in downtown rush-hour Los Angeles traffic before we got to the Grammy Museum. But probably, it was the fact that we pressed through such a long, shitty day because the light at the end of the tunnel was the knowledge that after trying for so many damn years, we were finally going to get to meet Snoop Dogg -- and had just learned that tha Doggfather wouldn't be sitting on the panel discussing the new VH1 documentary titled Uprising: Hip Hop and the L.A. Riots.

Whatever the case, we was pissed when the woman next to us asked if we would stop taking pictures because the beeping on our camera was preventing her from hearing.

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The Best and Worst Best of 2010 Comic Lists

Over the course of a year I read a lot of comic books. I'm talking about a lot of fucking comic books. That's not a boast. If anything, it's an admission of guilt or a cry for help. At the very least, it should be a sign that I should mix in a magazine, a Blu-ray player instruction manual or the side of a Halcion bottle. To my credit, I have just finished William Gibson's Zero History, which I highly recommend.

Although I read the weight of Rush Limbaugh's OxyContin supply in comics, the books aren't always from the current year. Sometimes, I'm catching up on old comics I've never gotten around to reading, like Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's run on Master of Kung Fu. And sometimes, I get a hankering to re-read Grant Morrison's The Invisibles for the hundredth time. That means many of the current year's comics get backlogged, set aside to be read at another time. By mid-2011, I should be able to tell you the best comics that came out in 2010. 

But until it does, check out my list of lists--in no particular order--after the jump.

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Comics Writer Charles Soule Talks About '27' and Death, You Know

Renzo Podesta; Inset: W. Scott Forbes
​There's a perverse romance to the rock 'n' roll aesthetic of living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse. The fatalistic edict is both empowering and life-affirming, even if it's ultimately just an over-the-top, immature "fuck you" to one's mortality. It's an idea that has so attached itself to the rock star lifestyle it's spawned fascinating artifacts like the 27 Club, the running list of talented, charismatic musicians who never made it past the age of 27.  

This is the jumping off point for 27, a four-issue Image Comics miniseries from writer Charles Soule and artist Renzo Podesta that hits stores next week. The series focuses on Will Garland, a guitarist who is setting the music world on fire. He's just turned 27, and strange things are starting to happen. Is he about to become an unwilling member of the 27 Club?

In an e-mail interview, Soule talks about his music background and the mythology surrounding the live fast, die young mantra of rock 'n' roll. He also discusses the challenges of portraying the power of music in the soundless medium of comic books. 
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Under Bieber Achiever: Bio's Biggest Crime Isn't That It's Bad But That It's So Damn Boring

Justin Bieber cover.jpg
Bluewater Comics/Michal Szyksznian
To preview ​
tonight's concert at Honda Center, Heard Mentality reviews the bio comic Fame: Justin Bieber Unauthorized so you don't have to read it.

It's a common and universally agreed-upon idea among critics that there's nothing easier--and in most cases, more fun--than writing a negative review. Your fingertips become razor talons dipped in vitriol as each keystroke becomes a savage cut into whatever it is that has offended your artistic sensibilities. 

But sometimes when a critic encounters the proverbial steaming turd, he can't help but just feel sad for everyone involved. He can't imagine that any creative individual would intentionally set out to make something so inferior and so banal.

This is how I felt after reading Bluewater Comics unauthorized bio comic Fame: Justin Bieber Unauthorized

I take that back; my first reaction was, "What did I expect?" There's no fun in criticizing a work for not being the print equivalent of Raging Bull when all the creators intended to do was please the lowest common denominator--Bieber fans--and do so in the most efficient, cost-effective way possible. It's like blaming a bed bug for sucking your blood while you sleep. That's just what bed bugs do.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that sometimes you shouldn't crush that bed bug when you have the chance. And let me tell you, Fame: Justin Bieber definitely deserves some heel grinding.

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Stranger Than Fiction: Nonfiction Writers Who Would Create Awesome Comics

Nonfiction comics.jpg
Comic books have a nasty habit of forever being associated with superheroes. Even among people who should know better: regular comic book readers. 

But tying the medium of comics and graphic novels to just stories about Spider-Man and Batman is a bit like saying the novel simply exists to showcase the works of Jane Austen. And who wants that?

Take this week, for instance. The three most exciting works being released aren't even fiction, let alone have anything to do with fighting crime, fighting space aliens or fighting a spandex costume that rides up the crotch. Check out this variety:

  • Make Me a Woman, Vanessa Davis A collection of Davis's wonderful autobiographical strips, illustrated in beautiful watercolors. 
  • Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco Reportage in graphic novel form isn't as widespread as I'd like, but no one does it better than Sacco. This new softcover edition looks at the bloody and heartbreaking 50-year history of Rafah, a small town on the Gaza Strip.
  • Everybody Is Stupid Except Me and Other Astute Observations, Peter Bagge He might be most known for his seminal late 1990s series Hate, Bagge has reinvented himself as commentator thanks to a regular gig with Reason magazine. This collects many of his opinion strips.

With such a savory selection of nonfiction comics, it got me thinking: Which nonfiction writers would I like to see on a comic book? I've put together a list of journalists, bloggers and commentators and paired them with an artist. Find out the combinations I came up with after the jump.

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Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comics Creators (Part 2)

Hopeless Savages.jpg
Oni Press/Terry Dodson
The portrayal of fictional female characters took it on the chin this week. And that chin happened to belong to The Facebook Movie Social Network.

Anyone who had ever hidden a friend's Farmville update dog-piled on the movie's negative depiction of women, claiming the filmmakers were either being sexist or simply finding a new way to stretch the truth in order to slam Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, the world's youngest billionaire martyr, whose reputation died so that we may status update for our sins.

This week, thankfully, the world of comic books--per usual--was the one oasis of sexual equality in the desert of mass media. New issues of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Gail Simone-written Secret Six join IDW's new reprint collection of early Blondie comic strips that don't show the ragged signs of age the current incarnation does. The pick of the litter, though, is Jen Van Meter's Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits, a collection of all the stories detailing the life of punk rock's first family. 

So was this just a long-winded way to introduce part two of my list of some of the best female comics creators who should be getting more recognition? Pretty much. If you haven't read part one, check it out here. Otherwise, head to the jump for the rest of the group.

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Breaking Into the Boys Club: The New Crop of Female Comic Creators (Part 1)

Girl Comics.jpg
Marvel Comics/Amanda Conner
One of the many cliches about the comic book community is that it's not female friendly. And that doesn't just include the fans. I'm talking about the creative community as well. 

The catch-22 of the matter, though, is that when a comic book company tries to open up the doors of its boys club to include a more feminine perspective--like Marvel's Girl Comics miniseries, which gets a collection as a hardcover this week--it ends up getting its nose slapped (albeit slightly deservedly) with a rolled up newspaper. 

Now gender is no guarantee of high quality work, but it is a fairly good gauge of finding comics that represent a different aesthetic or world view. So how do you find that talent without going broke (and trudging through a morass of subpar work)? Sure, if you're even a casual comic book fan, you've heard of big-name vets like Gail Simone, Alison Bechdel, Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson. And more educated fans probably know about established creators deserving more recognition, such as Becky Cloonan, Colleen Coover, Jessica Abel and Nicola Scott. But who are the up-and-comers? Where can someone find the next wave of top female creators?

You're looking at it. I've put together a two-part list (part two will run next week) of women artists and writers who I think are worth checking out and who I also hope can make big names for themselves in the field. 

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TV on the Comics Page: Six Strangest Series Based on Television Shows

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IDW, HBO/David Messina
Last Sunday, True Blood closed out another bug-fuck crazy season. Fans are forced to wait until next year to find out what's next for Sookie, Bill, Eric and company. 

Of course, if you're as addicted to the True Blood universe as a were-panther strung out on meth, you probably are going to need a fix before 2011. 

That's where IDW comes in with its True Blood series (the third issue hits stores this week). The first storyline focuses on an evil supernatural entity feeding off the emotions of a trapped group of patrons at Merlotte's.

Comic books have a long, illustrious history of adapting TV series, with varying results. Here's a look at six of the strangest comics based on TV shows.

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Go to Hell: Five Favorite Comic Book Visits to the Devil's Playground

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Marvel Comics/Jae Lee
Hell is different things to different people. For me, it's trying to juggle--unsuccessfully, I might add--blogging, a recent move and a new full-time job.

The same idea applies in comic books. Creators love to send characters to Hell for all variety of reasons, and almost everyone of those trips shows Hell in a unique, deplorable, disgusting way.

Last week, writer Jason Aaron and artist Renato Guedes kicked off a new Wolverine series (with the original and snappy title of Wolverine #1) by sending the feral mutant's soul to Hell but leaving his possessed body to wreak all types of havoc (not that Havok) on Earth. And what does Satan/the Devil/Lucifer/Tim Curry-from-Legend lookalike want with Wolvie's soul? Apparently, he just wants to have a little fun and play with it.

Given Hell's ubiquity in comics, I came up with a collection of some of my favorite visits to the netherworld. Check them out after the jump and feel free to suggest your own entries.

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