Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #133: Broth-y Comics

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #133 by Drew Barth

Broth-y Comics

It’s been a while since I last talked about food in comics, so let’s change that. Ramen overlaps with comics in a weird way as something ubiquitous, but still perceived as cheap and for a very specific crowd. That’s why it’s so nice to see Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan cater to that specific crowd with their graphic cookbook, Let’s Make Ramen!

When I say this is a graphic cookbook, Aman and Becan don’t just illustrate a few recipes and leave it at that. The creators here go through the history of ramen—from the history of its inception to why those specific springy noodles are used—along with illustrations of all the essentials needed to create that perfect bowl of ramen. They present to us methods of ramen mastery as well as the etiquette if slurping down a bowl in a ramen-ya. While just recipes are nice, Let’s Make Ramen! goes beyond that by providing the foundation of history, culture, and method. From there, we can dive deeper into the various broths, toppings, and meats needed to create the kind of ramen that single packs can’t come close to competing with. Of course, it also doesn’t stop you from taking that knowledge of meats and toppings and applying it to that packet ramen if you’re feeling nostalgic.

Ramen is still a relatively young tradition, so it is allowed a bit more wiggle-room in terms of what it can encompass. Amano and Becan help to highlight that by not just showing the broths and toppings, but different combinations that go beyond what is normally served in a ramen-ya. And those basics that they build up throughout the book are absolutely open to any kind of interpretation. That’s what makes a book like this so good for cooking: the combination of basic elements with easy visual cues create a comic in which anyone can cook from it and create some strong ramen.

Let’s Make Ramen! and its follow-up Let’s Make Dumplings! make me believe that graphic cookbooks are the future of cookbooks. There’s only so much a standard cookbook with a few photos can do, and most cooking videos online are hands in a void mixing ingredients. Here, we’re given our food in steps, but also the history and culture that comes along with it. And it’s presented in such a way that anyone is able to pick the book up and go.

Get excited. Get slurping.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 482: A Discussion of Introducing Cultural Studies, with Leslie Salas!

Episode 482 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

In this week’s show, Leslie Salas and I discuss Ziauddan Sardar and Borin Van Loon’s Introducing Cultural Studies.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile

  • TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.
  • Check out my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

    Episode 482 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #363: Crimes of Passion

The Curator of Schlock #363 by Jeff Shuster

Crimes of Passion

Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins, together again for the first time.

Hooray. Canada will start letting in fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States beginning on August 9th. Good thing I got my first dose a few weeks back and will have my second dose in time to get to the Canadian border by August 9th. Oh, and I found my long-lost passport. Looks like everything will be lining up so I can drive this truck and save that small town in Saskatchewan.

Now back to exploring this abandoned shopping mall.

This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 1984’s Crimes of Passion from director Ken Russell. It’s billed as an erotic thriller, but the whole thing is a pervy affair and what would mother think if she knew I was watching such filth? Anyway, the movie begins with a dissatisfied husband named Bobby Grady (John Laughlin) attending some group therapy session where the men rage against women and the women rage against men. Bobby says he’s in a healthy marriage, but then rants about how his wife, Amy (Annie Potts), has no interest in sex.

Next, we’re introduced to China Blue (Kathleen Turner), a street prostitute wearing a blue dress and blonde wig. She can fulfill the weird kinks of any man in the seedy apartment she rents in the red light district. One man fixated on her is a self-styled street preacher named Reverend Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins). He wants to save China Blue with his bible and bag of assorted sex toys including a steel vibrator that can’t be legal in most counties.

China Blue is the alias for Joanna Crane, a fashion designer for a top clothing company. She’s driven and hard-working which makes her boss suspicious. Someone inside the company has been selling designs to the competition and the boss wants Joanna followed. Enter Bobby Grady looking for some night work to help pay for his kid’s braces. He follows Joanna to the red light district and becomes fascinated with her nightlife activities.

Eventually, the fashion thief surfaces and is confronted by the boss, thus letting Joanna off the hook. Bobby doesn’t spill the beans about Joanna, but decides to employ her services and has the best sex of his life. He runs to her defense when Reverend Shayne accosts her in the street, but gets knocked flat on his ass. At some point, Bobby shows up at her real house, tells Joanna he wants to leave his wife for her, etc. Joanna doesn’t think she can give her up her double life, the freedom that comes with it, etc.

Meanwhile, Reverend Shayne is losing his mind. There’s a scene where he slaughters a blow-up doll thinking she’s a prostitute. Or does he slaughter a prostitute thinking she’s a blow-up doll? This is an odd one, folks. I’m still letting it sink in. That’s my way of saying that I don’t know if Crimes of Passion is beautiful schlock or a waste of celluloid. Edwidge the kangaroo didn’t know either.

Ask me in about ten years.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, and 477) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #132: Peeling the Layers

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #132 by Drew Barth

Peeling the Layers

According to the cinematic touchstone, Shrek, onions have layers. They can be peeled until the core is reached. But then no one wants to talk about the skin. But we should consider the onion skin, particularly Edgar Camacho’s Onion Skin.

Broken up into four parts and multiple timelines, Onion Skin tells the story of Rolando. Having recently lost his advertising job due to a broken arm—gained by frustrations with said job—Rolando is in a funk. What does he want to do with his life? What has he already done with his life that was even worth it? How long can he sit in front of the TV eating chips before his savings run out? Luckily, as is normal, a food truck appears in his life. Nera, the woman living in the food truck, is also at an impasse. She’s never found the thing she wants to do and lives a nomadic lifestyle as a result. At a concert, the two meet up, start talking, and realize that in not knowing what they want to do with themselves, they know that they want to start cooking food on the road.

But Onion Skin isn’t just Camacho opining on the ennui of being in your twenties, it’s also a journey across Mexico cooking food and running from biker gangs. It’s also one of the most clever graphic novels in a while for its usage of panels and time. As mentioned, this story is split into four parts, but those aren’t chronological parts. The first handful of pages give us an in media res moment where we get at the heart of the story’s conflict that comes much later. We’re shown Rolando and Nera, but we know nothing about them. We are, however, already on their side as we smash cut to Rolando in a diner with his broken arm. And this isn’t the last time Camacho plays with the time in his story—almost every part has one of those cuts to help give us a broader context for a moment as we need it instead of just in strict, chronological order.

Onion Skin is graphic novel that you need to read. And food. The fact that Camacho hits that existential feeling of being continually stuck in a situation that only frustrates and infuriates, he never dives into that despair. There’s always some kind of light to keep things from getting too bad, even if those lights are impulsive repairs of food trucks. That’s what keeps the story flowing—we can’t wallow forever.

Get excited. Get layers.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 481: Catherine Raven!

Episode 481 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

On this episode, I talk to biologist Catherine Raven about her wonderful new memoir, Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

 


Episode 481 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #362: The Zero Boys

The Curator of Schlock #362

The Zero Boys

From zeroes to heroes in no time flat. 

Edwige and I have been exploring this abandoned mall somewhere on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. There was once a Spencer’s Gifts in this mall. Do any of you remember Spencer’s Gifts? I bought my first whoopee cushion at Spencer’s Gifts back in my salad days. I doubt anyone still makes whoopee cushions. There’s probably an app for that now. I am miserable and out of touch.

Tonight’s Arrow Home Video release is 1986’s The Zero Boys from director Nico Mastorakis. The movie begins with what seems like a Red Dawn type scenario. You have a deserted ghost town that’s under siege by some nasty soldiers being led by a guy in full Nazi regalia. The only ones standing in their way are the Zero Boys, a ragtag group of elite soldiers who draw inspiration from Sly Stallone’s Rambo. They are Steve (Daniel Hirsch), Larry (Tom Shell), and Rip (Jared Moses). Steve is the no nonsense leader, while Larry and Rip are a couple of chuckleheads. They shoot down all the bad guys, but then it becomes clear that the red blotches are paint not blood. This a paintball course!

The guy in the Nazi uniform is a tool named Casey and he and Steve had a little bet going on. Basically, if Steve won the tournament, he gets Casey’s girlfriend, Jamie (Kellie Maroney) as a date for the weekend. Jamie screams in protest and Steve lets her out of the bet, but she decides to go along with Steve since she’s furious with Casey. Steve, Jamie, Larry, and Rip head out to the woods along with Larry and Rip’s girlfriends, Trish and Sue. Trish is Larry’s girlfriend and Sue is Rip’s girlfriend in case you want to keep track.

While having a picnic lunch, the six of them overhear a woman screaming. They climb into Steve’s jeep and drive off to investigate, but all they come across is an abandoned house in the woods. They go inside to find the place empty, a note attached to the refrigerator from the owner saying he won’t be back that weekend and to have a good time. There’s beer in the fridge! Larry and Rip decide to party down, but Steve doesn’t like this situation one bit. Maybe that’s because deep down Steve realizes he’s in a slasher movie!

Yes, there’s a killer on the property brandishing a large nasty knife. That’s what Jamie sees in the pouring rain, but no one takes it too seriously. However, when they all hear the screaming woman again, Steve and Larry go to investigate the barn on the property. They discover a VCR hooked up to a television. When they press play, they discover a snuff video of a woman being tortured to death, the same woman they heard screaming. Back at the cabin, the girlfriends discover the woman’s dead body stuffed in a chest.

It’s normally around this point in the movie that we expect the killer to start picking the young people off one by one. But these are the Zero Boys, a group of young men with a collection of modified semi-automatics and itchy trigger fingers. That’s what makes The Zero Boys unique. This is the first slasher movie I’ve seen where the odds between the killer and his young victims are even, a true gift in the kingdom of schlock.


Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, and 477) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #131: Which Witch

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #131 by Drew Barth

Which Witch

The idea of the witch has changed greatly in comic fiction over the past fifty years. From the wart-nosed villains in any adventure and horror comic to a contemporary symbol of magic that can sidle more on the chaotic neutral side of things than the evil ones. As a result of this shift, it feels like witchy-ness and witch-hood have become newer modes for telling stories about magic. And one of the better stories to come out about witches in the past decade just had its first issue release last week: Mamo by Sas Milledge.

Mamo, at its core, is a story about history and the small coastal town of Haresden. This town and history are filtered through Jo Manalo and her own perceptions of what has been happening to the town and her family for the past few years. We get these bits and pieces as she walks with Orla O’Reilly—the grandchild of Haesden’s late town witch—and learn how much has changed. Or, in some cases, how much things have been forgotten. Routine traps by the fae are almost Jo’s own downfall, despite the fact that recognizing those traps is common knowledge in this world. And while we don’t know the full extent of things just yet, we can feel that the curse on Jo’s mother could be affecting her in ways she doesn’t realize just yet.

What is most striking throughout this first issue is the way in which Milledge is able to maintain this quiet energy in every page. If this had a soundtrack, you could almost hear the single, sustained cello note being continuously. This isn’t a negative energy being shown, but something bordering on intrigue and about to teeter over into peril. Even though there is a curse being referred to throughout this issue, that isn’t the source of this sense of unease. Every motion from Jo and Orla plays on this idea as they’re both constantly unsure of what to make of the other. And the panels they interact in only get smaller and smaller as the first issues progresses—going from these sweeping splash pages in the beginning and ending with cramp quarters at the issue’s climax. It is one of the most inventive uses of the medium I’ve seen in a while.

There is a singular vision in Mamo that Milledge captures perfectly throughout this first issue—appropriate as Milledge is the sole creator credited on this series. And that vision is trying to show us so much in our relationships with magic, history, nature, and just people at large. But the story does all of these with such a deft hand that you never once feel like you’re being pulled out of the story to be told about these themes, but they flow into you just as easily as reading.

Get excited. Get witchy.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

The Perfect Life #20: Maintaining Privacy in Our Thing

The Perfect Life #20

Maintaining Privacy in Our Thing

Dear Dr. Perfect,

My granddaughter, who works for me in my business, has sanctimoniously informed me that she (as a millennial) greatly prefers to communicate by text rather than telephone calls, which she deems intrusive, and that her feelings need to be considered by the entire organization.

She has communicated these sentiments via misspelled texts reeking of emojis.

The larger problem, however, is that the sector of our family business happens to be organized crime. She just doesn’t seem to understand that not only are texts not to be sent, but she needs to call from a payphone, or (worst-case scenario) a burner flip-phone.

Can you think of ways I can explain to her the urgency of this situation? Or should I just, you know…

Signed,

Someone-who-definitely-doesn’t-work-for-the-mafia-because-the-mafia-does-not-exist

———————————————-

Dear Legitimate Waste Management Personnel,

I seldom cast aspersions, but your granddaughter’s EQ might be low, and she may score low in any relevant personality type in the Briggs-Meyers test. Part advocate, part consul, all fool.

What about your feelings, especially your feelings about not becoming incarcerated for all the entirely legal activities you and your civic minded organization undertake? You might just have to walk her down the Appalachian Trail, if you know what I mean. Do you know what I mean? I apologize if my mafia innuendos aren’t landing. I’m not privy to that world, and, of course, neither are you.

I don’t know if anyone likes phone calls these days. You would think text messaging would be the height of convenience, but even that’s too much effort for some brats. They’d rather communicate in a series of haphazard emojis, like some bastardized 21stcentury hieroglyphics. Steering your granddaughter away from her tech preferences could prove tricky. Electro-shock therapy? Breaking her thumbs?

Naturally, she’s sanctimonious toward your seemingly antiquated methods. Today’s youth know everything and more. The world revolves around them alone.

I especially enjoy being lectured to by Swedish teenage girls about how I’m destroying the planet. Imagine yours truly, a simple advice columnist, having the power to wipe out life on Earth from leaving my phone charger plugged in. Convince your granddaughter that text messaging is bad for the environment and see if she buys it.

Recall the scene in Full Metal Jacket where the ruthless Drill Instructor tells his recruits that one of their own hasn’t received the proper motivation, thus punishing the entire platoon for the failures of one. I’m not suggesting that you club your granddaughter with soap-filled towels to get her in line, but Gunnery Sergeant Hartman would. Any problem can be solved with the right motivation. A stern talking to, for starters. If she awakes with a decapitated pony head under blood-soaked sheets, she can’t say she wasn’t warned. Although with her EQ, she probably will.

Try more positive incentives. Everyone likes positive reinforcement. We’re all just sitting around waiting for it.  I regularly say, “Good job!” to random people on the street all the time. They stare back, startled, and then go about their business. I get a lot of anxious looks, but I know it’s appreciated even if they cannot show it.

It’s time to throw a little scratch your granddaughter’s way to ween her from texting. Perhaps she’ll consider this patronizing, even offensive. That’s when you remind her that the family business is too important to be compromised by her texting. Then take away her phone. And her dog. And her boyfriend.

Maybe it’s time for an “Ask Me About My Granddaughter” T-shirt if you don’t have one already. They’re adorable.


Dr. Perfect has slung advice across the globe for the last two decades due to his dedication to the uplift of the human condition.

Episode 480: Tanya Grae!

Episode 480 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

On this episode, I talk to the poet Tanya Grae about finding surprises in poetry, losing one’s hearing at the Hollywood Sportatorium, the solitude of earning a PhD in English, and the sexual politics of American life.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.


Episode 480 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #361: We Are the Flesh

The Curator of Schlock #361 by Jeff Shuster

We Are the Flesh

We are not amused. 

Edwige and I have looked for a place to hide. We’re outlaws now.

I found an abandoned mall on the outskirts of Pittsburg. I’m thinking starting a campfire where the water fountain used to be. I’m going to roast me some weenies since I found some hotdogs at an abandoned Nathan’s in the food court. Hot dogs don’t really have a shelf life.

This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 2016’s We Are the Flesh from director Emiliano Rocha. I really don’t know what to say about this one. Is it an art movie? Yeah, kind of. Is it a sick movie? Do you find graphic depictions of incest sick? The movie is a French-Mexican co-production if I’m to trust the limited information I can find online about this production. It is a Spanish language film, with English subtitles available.

The movie begins with a strange gentleman named Mariano living in a dilapidated office building or apartment building. One gets the impression that this movie takes place after the globe has been devastated by a third World War or something to that effect. Mariano lives a life of quiet solitude. He gets fresh eggs from a neighbor who passes them to him through a slot in the wall. He’s busy working on a Papier-mâché project that will convert his lonely living space into a fake cave. Mariano is living the dream.

His peace and quiet is disrupted when two young people dig their way into his apartment. They are Fauna (María Evoli) and Lucio (Diego Gamaliel). Fauna asks Mariano if they can stay there for a while. Mariano offers them a raw egg. He agrees to let them stay if they’ll work for him and, naturally, help him build more Papier-mâché caves. Mariano then serves them a boiled egg.

And then the movie becomes all kinds of inappropriate. Mariano keeps questioning Lucio about Fauna, asking him why he hasn’t slept with her. Lucio takes offense to this as Fauna is not his girlfriend, but his sister. Mariano serves Lucio and Fauna steak. Lucio doesn’t want to eat it because he’s a vegetarian. Fauna chows down and gets really sick. Foaming-at-the-mouth sick.

Mariano is furious at the two of them because they stole an eye dropper of his. He forces Lucio to eat his steak or he won’t help his sister. That conflict gets resolved somehow, but now Mariano is obsessed with getting this brother and sister to have sex and this is about where I stop my synopsis.

Did this movie have to go there? I know. I know. I’m a prude.

I think some reviewer somewhere referred to We Are the Flesh as transgressive cinema that will never be accepted by the mainstream. Sure. I think I forgot to mention that there’s a cannibalism scene toward the end of the movie (because the stuff leading up to it makes the cannibalism seem tame).


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, and 477) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.