Posts by Sarah Grace McCandless

At age three, Sarah Grace McCandless called some kid twice her age a “dumbass,” and it’s been downhill ever since. A native of the Midwest, SG also previously wreaked havoc in Portland, Oregon where she spent five years as the Marketing Director for Dark Horse Comics. Her first novel, Grosse Pointe Girl: Tales from a Suburban Adolescence brought a lot of old faces out of the woodwork as well as a letter from an inmate in an Ohio prison (minimum security). Her second novel, the girl I wanted to be, comes out from Simon & Schuster in June 2006. Sarah Grace also writes for VENUS magazine and DailyCandy if she’s not being lazy and watching a Law & Order rerun (SVU, of course). Visit her blog, Sarah Disgrace, because chances are, she’s shit talking you. You can very easily get on her good side if you bring her a cupcake. Show up with a carton of cottage cheese, and you’re a dead man.

Eric Powell: The Self-Proclaimed “Ed Wood” of Comics Turns Out to be the Belle of the Ball

Eric Powell
Eric Powell in the Home Office

“I was up ’til 5 a.m.,” admits artist and writer Eric Powell as he shakes away his sleepiness during our interview, scheduled a mere five hours after his bedtime. This night owl isn’t club hopping until the wee hours – in fact, he’d be hard pressed to find many Paris Hilton-approved joints in his hometown 20 minutes outside of Nashville.

Instead, the creator of the original comics series The Goon was simply, “working late,” but his dedicated efforts have proved to be a worthy time investment. Cited by Ain’t-It-Cool-News as, “a wild ride filled with imagination, intrigue, horror, and laughs,” The Goon has quickly climbed the ranks from cult-favorite to critical darling, earning praise from Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter while picking up a few Eisners along the way. (For those not familiar with the industry, the Eisner is the equivalent to the Academy Award in the comics world).

Things weren’t always so rosy for Powell – his ascension in the comics industry included a series of rejection letters and slammed doors. Powell first considered making comics a career goal while writing and illustrating stories in junior high. However, with a turn of events at the end of high school that included Powell becoming a young father, initial plans to attend the Memphis College of Art were put on hold. In addition to his concerns about being too far away from his family, a visit to the school itself proved less than impressive. “One of the sculpting students showed me their thesis, which was a giant bird nest made out of cow dung and I thought, ‘You got to be kidding me. I’m going to pay you to teach me how to do this?’ I wanted to learn more about the technique behind art, not ‘We’re crazy artists and we do crazy shit.”

From the Tattoo Parlor to the Comics Shop

The Goon - Eric Powell
Cover from Goon #17
Image Courtesy of Eric Powell

Powell occupied his time with a series of odd jobs and freelance art gigs, including painting helmets for Motocross and designing flash art for a local tattoo shop. He even entertained thoughts about becoming a tattoo artist himself, but the $1,000 apprenticeship fee and local clientele changed his mind. “I was a little wary about who I’d have to tattoo. I’ve seen people in this area who have tattoos and some of them I wouldn’t want to touch for that long.”

Powell continued to remain focused on his pursuit of a comics career, but his experience was less of a Cinderella, overnight success story and more of a Long Day’s Journey Into Night. “I got tons of rejection letters – I still have them all,” he says. His first real dent came as a result of attending a Bernie Wrightson signing at his local comics shop. “I put a bunch of stuff in a portfolio and went down to see if he’d look at it. Tom Sniegoski was there too – he was writing Vampirella at the time – and he looked at my work, too. I asked him if I had a shot, and he gave me his card.”Sniegoski and Powell ended up forming a friendship, talking occasionally via phone about working together. It wasn’t long until Sniegowski called with an actual job opportunity. “He said, ‘I have some work if you want it.’ I said, ‘Yes!’ He said, ‘Well you don’t know what you’re getting paid.’ And I said, ‘I don’t care.'”

Powell’s foot in the door (a gig for Acclaim’s Razor: Uncut series) lead to a steady stream of work from independent publishers for awhile, but once that dried up, he decided it was time for his own creation. Continue reading →

Pretty in Person: Pretty Girls Make Graves at Black Cat

Live Review >>
Pretty Girls Make Graves at Black Cat – Washington, DC
December 8, 2005

Pretty Girls Make Graves
Pretty Girls Make Graves

When Pretty Girls Make Graves take stage, don���t expect some complicated light show or a shower of pyrotechnics. In fact, the band members will more than likely be wandering around pre-show, taking turns conducting their own sound check and set-up. They remain completely accessible, despite the fact that Pretty Girls Make Graves have the makings of band most likely to take over the world.

After a handful of Fall dates opening for Franz Ferdinand, PGMG rounded out the year with several headlining appearances, providing a sneak peek for their forthcoming 2006 release from Matador Records (produced by Colin Stewart, whose most recent credits include Black Mountain). Originally formed in Seattle in 2001, PGMG is a hybrid of talent from bands including Death Wish Kids, Murder City Devils, and Kill Sadie. Fronted by Andrea Zollo, the crisp, aggressive, and haunting sound of PGMG is also brought to life by guitarist Jay Clark, drummer Nick Dewitt, and bassist Derek Fudesco. The new kid of the PGMG block is keyboardist Leona Marrs from Hint Hint, a wise addition who also provides the perfect backing vocal ying to Zollo���s yang.

Their December 8th appearance at the Black Cat opened with the hypnotic-turned-explosive ���Something Bigger, Something Brighter��� from their most recent release, the brilliant, critically-revered The New Romance. The evening continued with a welcomed audio assault of other PGMG favorites, all fueled by the urgency conveyed in Zollo���s voice ��� be it the slowly building crescendo of ���Blue Lights��� or the aching ���A Certain Cemetery.��� If the band had any concerns about reactions to the new material, they need not worry ��� the crowd jumped right on board as PGMG blazed through a sampling of glittery gems sure to keep fans buzzing until the official release. The encore culminated with the epic, manic anthem, ���This Is Our Emergency,��� and by the time PGMG took their official, for real-real final bow, their ability to fill even the most intimate venues with kinetic energy could not be denied.

P.S. To the two girls in the back dancing all Molly-Ringwald-Breakfast-Club-ish: Fan enthusiasm is great, but ladies ��� didja��� have a few cocktails before the show? Uh-huh. That���s what I thought.

Chris Mills Review – Backstage Room at the Black Cat, 11/30/05

Live Review >>

Chris Mills photo
Chris Mills

Chris Mills is really psyched to see you. A lot of musicians might proclaim this when onstage (���Thank you Cleveland! Goodnight!���), but Mills seems like he really means it, as though he hand-wrote and mailed invitations to everyone standing in the Backstage room at the Black Cat. He comes across like the perfect host, smiling as if it���s his birthday but you���re the one who���s about to get the present: a powerful, deeply personal performance laced with sounds of folk, classic rock, even a hint of big band ��� all wrapped up with a big, alt-country/pop bow.

A longtime fav among the Chicago indie rock scene, Mills (who now calls Brookyln home) has been wrapping up a stateside tour in support of his October 2005 release, Wall to Wall Sessions (Powerless Pop). One of his last 2005 appearances included a recent stop in D.C., with Mills providing the first act for an evening that also included the performance of locally based Justin Jones (an extremely talented musician in his own right also deserving of much wider recognition). Continue reading →

The Areas of My Expertise

Event Preview >>

John Hodgman photo
John Hodgman

This coming Friday’s eclectic event dubbed The Areas of My Expertise reminds me of my mother’s post-Thanksgiving turkey soup — it’s got a little bit of everything. The event takes its name from John Hodgman’s recently released literary parody deemed “a compendium of COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE.” Hodgman, a New York Times magazine contributor among other credits, offers up a hilarious twist on the American almanac. The book has received critical praise and Hodgman also recently appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Among other highlights, the collection includes a list of 700 hobo names which has inspired an online movement to render what each of these hobos might actually look like.

The evening also includes a motley crew of other performers. Musician Jonathan Coulton writes an original song for each of these events, but if you’re real lucky, maybe he’ll bust out his mean rendition of “Baby Got Back.” Cartoonist David Rees will be showcasing his futuristic “transparencies” and overhead projection technologies. And rounding out the pack, Adam Mazmanian, local writer and contributor to the Little Grey Books lecture series, will be sharing a short story or two. His unusually unattractive yellow bicycle can also often be found locked up outside of the Whole Foods in Logan’s Circle. Consider yourself warned.

The Areas of My Expertise takes place at the Warehouse Theatre beginning at 8pm on Friday, Dec. 2 and admission is free. That’s right — free. You can thank us later.

Sarah Silverman, Jesus is Magic

Jesus is Magic Movie Review >>

Jesus is Magic photophoto courtesy Roadside Attractions

Sarah Silverman will never tell you a joke that’s “safe for the kids,” and that’s just one of the things that makes her brand of comedy so very, very wrong in all the right ways. Her first concert film, Jesus is Magic, includes a generous helping of Silverman’s completely unorthodox live stand-up seasoned with skits featuring original songs (and trust me, you won’t be seeing any of these tunes as a selection on American Idol anytime soon).

Jesus is Magis poster

Jesus is Magic
(Roadside Attractions)
Rated: NR
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb
Review It Yourself

Nothing is off limits in her bag of tricks, be it jokes about religion, race, AIDS (“When God gives you AIDS�Ķmake lemon-AIDS”), 9/11, rape (“I was raped by a doctor�Ķwhich is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl”), and even the Holocaust. Part of what works so well is the way she almost effortlessly juxtaposes what are normally taboo subjects with what could pass as a Happy Hour chat, ripe with familiar, conversational phrases ��� “Nazis are a-holes�Ķexcept when they’re babies. They’re so cute when they’re little! If only they could stay small�Ķ”

If you’re expecting a continuous laugh-out loud fiesta, this may not be your cup of tea. Silverman’s commentary is more likely to provoke thoughts of, “Awww, I shouldn’t be laughing at this!” with stifled giggles and shakes of heads versus stomach-aching hilarity. Of course, that’s all part of the point ��� but whether or not people accept her cutting remarks as a clever tactic to force audiences to examine their own double-standards remains to be seen. The routine could use some fine tuning as some of the songs are stronger than others, causing a few spots to drag and feel a little repetitive. And by the end of the film, you might feel like you still don’t know very much about Silverman herself, as she remains fairly detached from the observations she shares.

Regardless, Silverman will likely charm you with her smarts, looks, and wicked talent, even when delivering what could be construed as the most offensive thought to come out of a “nice girl’s” mouth. Despite its minor flaws, Jesus is Magic should bring Silverman a widening base of admirers and attention that is long overdue.

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STARRING: Sarah Silverman, La’vin Kiyano, Bob Odenkirk, Brian Posehn, Laura Silverman, and Brody Stevens
GENRE(S): Comedy
WRITTEN BY: Sarah Silverman
DIRECTED BY: Liam Lynch
RELEASE DATE: November 11, 2005
RUNNING TIME: 72 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: USA

You Spin Me Right Round Like a Record, Baby

If there had been a pageant for such things, I would���ve been the reigning Queen of Mix Tapes during my formative years. And yes, I mean tapes ��� as in old school cassettes ��� with one for every occasion. Sometimes it was a mix for the latest crush with a series of (not so) ���hidden��� messages, or a Spring Break mix because there���s nothing like the sweet, sweet memory of boozy hook-ups. And let’s not forget the best damn break-up mix ever, all of which should now be required to include Ryan Adams��� ���Come Pick Me Up��� (that boy is NOT messing around).

No matter what the occasion, key elements included song selection, order, and presentation. Maybe it was the crafty girl in me, but my covers were always handmade collages of words and images clipped from magazines and Modge-Podged together for durability. But I���m no dinosaur. As tapes became obsolete, I evolved with times, burning CDs and even turning toward digital resources for cover design and playlist printouts.

The latest trend? Swapping digital MP3 playlists. Look ��� I���ll iPod my little booty off with the best of them, but this just doesn���t cut it for me. I still like giving or getting something tangible that I can hold as well as listen to, and then decide if it���s worthy of importing into permanent status.

Verbatim Vinyl CD imageMy resistance might be futile, but for the time being I���m going to fight the good fight using Verbatim���s line of blank, burnable CDs made to look like vinyl records. These CDs have quickly become a personal staple, designed with little grooves on the top ��� just like the real thing. Each pack comes with a variety of label colors, making it pretty easy to fulfill that dream of having your very own gold record ��� or pink or green or purple. The CDs are available locally at Tower Records but you can also order them online from Verbatim���s website or Amazon.

And if you really want to complete the package, place that ���mix tape��� vinyl CD into a slipcase handmade from old album covers, compliments of the crafty dynamic duo Walter & Veronica. I first stumbled across their work at the Crafty Bastard Festival in September. For ten bucks, you���ll get a grab bag of five covers. My packet including pieces reconstructed from album covers for J. Geils Band, Men At Work, and Dolly Parton ��� the latter of which I���m saving for someone REALLY special.

If you can���t wait for next year���s Crafty Bastard Festival, no worries ��� Walter & Veronica creations will soon be available online.

In the meantime, I���ll be working on my latest mix: ���Dysfunctional Family Holiday 2005���. And trust me, this is one you won���t find on sale at Starbucks.