Grandma Turns Superhero

A few years ago, the French photographer Sacha Goldberger faced a distressing problem. His 91-year-old Hungarian-born grandmother, Frederika, felt lonely and depressed.

His innovative solution was to turn “Mamika” into a larger-than-life superhero and photograph her. According to a post in My Modern Metropolis, “Grandma reluctantly agreed, but once they got rolling, she couldn’t stop smiling.”

The story went viral, even leading to talk of a movie deal. It’s easy to see why. Goldberger’s pictures convey the warmth and sense of wonder that made many of us love the superhero genre in the first place.

Additionally, the images are a reminder that for such a seemingly superficial thing, unique personal aesthetics can have a lot of power. It does everyone good to be a character, if just for a little while.

Of course, there’s also this:

Frederika was born in Budapest 20 years before World War II. During the war, at the peril of her own life, she courageously saved the lives of ten people. When asked how, Goldberger told us “she hid the Jewish people she knew, moving them around to different places every day.” As a survivor of Nazism and Communism, she then immigrated away from Hungary to France, forced by the Communist regime to leave her homeland illegally or face death.

Costume or no, heroes are in the most unexpected places. More photos, below the cut.

Monster as Metaphor: John Allison, Webcomics Genius

Art by John Allison

Devoted and cultish readers extol John Allison as “a rare gem in the often hard-to-navigate web comic underbelly.” Though you may not presently be reading John Allison’s current endeavor, Bad Machinery, chances are that you are perhaps already familiar with him through his older works, Scary Go Round (2002-2009) or Bobbins (1998-2002), or as an artist/chum linked to through one or more of his contemporaries.

Fans of Jeffrey Rowland’s Overcompensating for example, will recognize Allison as “The Englishman” , a British gentleman of dubious distinction who  occasionally happens upon the scene to politely antagonize the regulars. Or, through Dumbrella Collective alum, R. Stevens, mastermind behind Diesel Sweeties and 8-bit illustrator of our charming editrixes here at Coilhouse. Maybe  even through one of the dynamic guest strips he has provided over the years to one of your long-time favourite web comic artists.

Marked by clever, peculiar dialogue, absurdist humor, dotty characters (and delightful ladies fashion!), mysterious happenings and hi-jinks, and a dense mythology (though compelling and completely addictive, to which  anyone who has begun to peek  through his archives can attest)  –  John Allison’s story-telling genius is unmistakable.  And  in a medium where visuals are the reason most viewers show up in the first place, the exquisitely charming, highly stylized art is “as big a draw as the comedy”.

Scary Go Round, “Bulgaria”

Described as “postmodern Brit horror”,  Allison’s previous comic, Scary Go Round followed the hapless denizens of Tackleford, a fictional British town beset by all manner of supernatural activity including, but not limited to: zombies, space owls, the devil, and portals to other dimensions.  Though Scary Go Round ended in 2009, a few of his beloved characters have moved on to Bad Machinery, which picks up in Tackleford 3 years later.  The focus is on an entirely new cast of sleuthing schoolchildren attending Griswald’s Grammar School, whose well-intentioned energies may be causing more problems than the mysteries they solve  – but they throw themselves into it all with much vigor and aplomb.

Bad Machinery Flyer Art for Thought Bubble

Coilhouse recently caught up with John Allison about his new endeavor; see below the cut for our Q&A in which John talks about the transition between old stories and new, the state of web comics today, and the meaning behind the monsters.

Grant Morisson: Talking With Gods

A few weeks ago, Meltdown Comics held a screening for Grant Morisson: Talking With Gods – a new documentary revolving around the life and work of iconic comics trailblazer, Grant Morrison. In this first ever feature-length film about him, Grant talks at length about the extraordinary circumstances spanning his life and career thus far. Intimate, endearing conversations with a horde of esteemed collaborators and friends are interspersed with Grant’s own stories, and feature Warren Ellis, Douglas Rushkoff, Geoff Johns and many, many more. Also spotted in the doc: Allan Amato’s Issue 04 photos of Grant and his wife, Kristan. SCORE.

At Meltdown, the end credits rolled to a standing ovation. During the subsequent Q&A, guest speaker Taliesin Jaffe generously shared a tale which some of us will be able to identify with all too well. He spoke of a young, goth Taliesin, deeply involved in ritual magic and in the process of finalizing his sacred toolkit. The remaining, pivotal piece was a wand, and for this purpose has had acquired a human femur. No ritual tool is complete without a proper charge, and for this purpose young Taliesin brought his human femur to a convention, laid it in front of Grant Morrison, and asked him to sign it. Which Grant did, after some deliberation.

I caught up with director Patrick Meaney to ask if he could share his most memorable experience from the making  of Talking With Gods.

Patrick Meaney: One of the most bizarre moments was watching the film with Grant himself, and participating in creating the next public incarnation of Morrison through his feedback on the film. It was totally surreal to go to someone and present them with ‘the story of their life,’ and then ask them to tell you what they think. We had discussed the idea that this film would, in a way, be his legacy, and would determine how people perceive him from here on out, so it was a big responsibility. Luckily he seemed happy with the final result.

In terms of bizarre magical correspondences, I wasn’t there for this one, but my DP, Jordan, was in New Mexico for a couple of days and wanted to get footage of a scorpion to illustrate one of Grant’s stories. On his last day there, he told the universe, “I want to see a scorpion today”. That afternoon, he was driving down the road and spotted something, stopped the car and there, waiting, was a scorpion. So, we got exactly the shot we needed.

Reviews of the film are popping up all across the ‘Wub – a bunch are collected here. More screenings are being listed here, you can watch one of the official trailers for Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods below, and the DVD is now available through the Halo8 store, and on Amazon.

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Superman

Up in the sky, look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane. It’s…Superman!

Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

Thus goes, perhaps, the most famous of all superhero tag-lines. Running from 1941 to 1943, seventeen episodes of Superman were released by Paramount Pictures. The series is commonly referred to as the Fleischer Superman cartoons though this is a bit of a misnomer as only the first nine episodes were done by the studio of brothers Max and Dave. The last eight were done by Famous Studios, after Paramount took over Fleischer Studios and ousted its founders, and would see an increased focus of WWII-era propaganda and feature some uncomfortable racial depictions.

I’ve been a fan of these cartoons since watching them on a cheap VHS collection when I was a child. The series is beautifully animated especially when one considers that most animators at Fleischer studios had little figure-drawing knowledge. While much of the series was rotoscoped (a technique that Max Fleischer invented) there was no way it could be used for, say, scenes in which Superman was flying. As such, they had their assistants who did understand figure-drawing go over their roughs to keep Superman looking like Superman. It’s also interesting to note that, not only was the cartoon responsible for the “It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” line but also for giving the Man of Steel the ability to fly, previously his ability being limited to spectacular leaps.

Fleischer Studios:
Superman (or The Mad Scientist)
•The Mechanical Monsters
•Billion Dollar Limited
•The Arctic Giant
•The Bulleteers
•The Magnetic Telescope
•Electric Earthquake
•Terror on the Midway

Famous Studios:
•Eleventh Hour
•Destruction, Inc.
•The Mummy Strikes
•Jungle Drums
•The Underground World
•Secret Agent

For those who don’t necessarily wish to wade through all seventeen, the Fleischer episodes are unsurprisingly superior, if only for the fact that their stories are much more interesting. The sci-fi leanings of these, complete with evil scientists, robots, and death rays avoid the sour taste left by buck-toothed Japanese caricatures and African natives. An in-depth look at the series can be found here, if your interested in learning more about it.

Ishihara Gojin: “The Norman Rockwell of Japan”

Pink Tentacle recently posted a glut of gorgeously creepy children’s book illustrations by Ishihara Gōjin (or Gōjin Ishihara). A prolific illustrator in post-WWII  Tokyo, the man has been repeatedly referred to as “The Norman Rockwell of Japan”. Which, of course, in the context of drawings of shrieking children being terrorized by human-headed snakes and anus-gobbling demonic turtle men, is pretty goshdarn special.

The first several images in Pink Tentacle’s  gallery of Ishihara Gōjin’s work “appeared in the Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters (1972), which profiled supernatural creatures from Japanese legend. The other illustrations appeared in various educational and entertainment-oriented publications for children.” But wait, there’s more! Soooo much more.

Kiddie yokai and sci-fi are only the beginning. Delve a little deeper, and you’ll discover that in addition to creating monstrous children’s fare, Ishihara Gōjin adapted the story of famed samurai Yagyū Jūbēi, which this manga reviewer describes as “Norman Rockwell drawing a manga series…about a gay love affair between Abraham Lincoln and a lean-hipped, square-jawed cowboy”.  He’s also the mastermind behind this utterly mind-rending, eye-melting, Joe Coleman-would-be-proud cover of  issue 2 of The Seikimatsu Club manga:

Lessee now…  Charlie Manson’s got Sharon Tate in a chokehold while rubbing elbows with members of the Klu Klux Klan, and there’s benevolent ol’ Jim Jones, and AUM Shinrikyō’s Asahara Shōko on the cross… Alex SandersYa Ho Wha 13Anton LaVey (and barnyard pals), Deguchi OnisaburoRuth Norman (speak of the Atlantian!), and last but not least… Aleister Crowley? Holy fucking shitballs.

Then there are these oddly scintillating depictions of the Mario Brothers:

Quivering brainmeats not yet liquified? Observe more embolism-inducing imagery after the jump. Apologies in advance for the lack of English titles and references–  most of the scans were ganked from an incredible Japanese language shrine to Ishihara Gojin. Also, sure to read the in-depth feature over at Comipress covering his visionary career.

Nick Cave Rewrites The Crow, Cillian Murphy to Star?

Nick Cave’s participation in the remake of the new Crow has been confirmed, and I’m finally starting to get excited. The Crow, a film based on James O’Barr’s eponymous comic book series, was a sort of holy grail to me and my darque little crew back in the early nineties. Unapologetically dramatic, The Crow had everything an angsty kid could want:  love, destruction, hot bloke in makeup, great villains, pretty girls. There was one year when I watched the film at least five times.

Now, I haven’t actually seen it in over ten years, for fear that it won’t hold up. I’m told it doesn’t. Still, the concept of a shiny new remake of my childhood/adolescence favorite is an uncomfortable one. Nostalgia and Brandon Lee’s death on the set veil The Crow in shimmery, inviolate mystery, and, had it been anyone other than Nick The Stripper doing the re-write, I would have probably shunned it. As things stand though, I think there’s reason to get at least a little fired up, especially with new rumors of Cillian Murphy possibly signing on to play Eric – almost as weird as casting Brandon Lee! If only Stephen Norrington could be replaced… Yes, then I can almost picture it. Until we know more, let us remember The Crow that once was. I leave you with a question: who would you cast as the ideal Eric?

The Crow is available on YouTube in its entirety.

The Trouble With Tribbles. By Edward Gorey.

In 1977, a Boston Globe article revealed an interesting tidbit about Edward Gorey’s television watching habits:

Edward Gorey watched television for the first time this summer, or so he claims, and in the process, the 52-year-old artist became a Star Trek fan. He watched the science-fiction program re-runs twice a day, five times a week, and once on the sixth day, and despite the faithful viewing has yet to see the show’s most famous episode, ‘The Trouble With Tribbles,’ which is about these little furry creatures in outer space, or so he says.

Having discovered this information in 2007, cartoonist/writer Shaenon K. Garrity ran with it, imagining what could’ve been had the beloved macabre illustrator taken his fandom one step further. The full result is after the jump, and can be seen at a larger size here. [via Grey_Area]

God Loves Batman

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Rise of “The Pug who Cried Batman” meme: coincidental timing, or eerie foreshadowing of the gibbering shrieks of Westboro loonies at SDCC?

ATTN FELLOW NERD PROM-GOERS… AND BEYOND. Yesterday, Kelly Sue DeConnick posted a brilliant suggestion on her site on how to most gracefully counteract the raving lunacy of the Westboro Baptist Church, should they indeed choose to show their frothing mugs at SDCC later this week:

Okay, so, Fred Phelps and his family of hateful bigots are getting a lot of press for their planned appearance at (or near?) the San Diego Comic Con. The man lives for attention and confrontation. If you see him there, don’t sneer, don’t scream, don’t confront, don’t point and laugh–DON’T ACKNOWLEDGE. Ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore…

EXCEPT! We need some help in the form of a time-keeper or two, letting us know exactly how long the patron saint of backwards thinking and his family manage to stand and scream in the California sun. Then, by all means, do stare–at your watch! Make a note of what time it is and alert the internet that they’re there/still there. (But do it quietly and from a polite distance, will you?) Go get yourself a cold drink and check back every now and then until we have an approximate time count. Like… here would be good. Or on Twitter, with the hashtag #godlovesbatman

Why? Because in the spirit of love, we are pledging to donate $50 to amfAR if Phelps and his crew actually show up (often they don’t) and $10 an hour additional to amfAR for every hour they stay. And we’ll make our donation in Fred’s name.

We’d love you to join us.

(And we’d really love to be able to post a tally of how much we’ve raised.)

Repost far and wide, my pretties.


  • Looks like the WBC is only scheduled for 45 minutes. (Lightweights!) If that’s the case, we’ll round up to $100–but times are tough and you shouldn’t feel like you have to do the same or not participate. $7.50 is better than nothing. $57.50 is peachy and cute.
  • There seems to be some confusion–you don’t need to be at SDCC to pledge. We’re doing an online donation via this link.

The FAM: The Confessions Of Robert Crumb

Weirdness and misogyny this week on The FAM as we present 1987’s The Confessions of Robert Crumb produced by the BBC (which includes the wonderful Arena opening and song. Seriously, I love that intro.) Unlike 1994’s Crumb by Terry Zwigoff (which is seeing a Criterion release this August) Confessions is less concerned with Crumb’s bizarre family and more concerned with the man himself. In that regard it spends much of its time letting Crumb explore and contemplate his objectification of women and self-loathing, preferring to be a catalog of the man’s various fetishes, to merely witness a day in the life of a dirty old man.

Both documentaries illustrate how difficult it can be to separate the artist from their art. A great fan of his work I can’t help but cringe as Crumb displays his current wife to the camera, showing off her musculature as if he were trying to sell the viewer a horse. It is, perhaps, admirable that one would be able to be so honest with the world, willing to expose one’s Id to whoever passes by, and it has certainly worked out well for Robert Crumb. I just can’t help but think that those images made living, breathing flesh are not nearly as entertaining when not on the printed page.

Children by the Millions Wait for Alex Chilton

In honor of Alex Chilton’s passing, we’d like to publish this article written by Joshua Ellis. This article appeared in Coilhouse Issue 04. You can also view a PDF of this article, by a strange twist of fate, over at the official Pixies website. It’s not an article about him, or The Pixies, per se. However, we’ve been wanting to publish this article on our blog for a while now, and this feels like the right moment to do so. This article speaks to the heart of why we’re all here together. What’s that song? / I’m in love / With that song…

I have this memory, and I’m not sure if it’s even real–or if it’s real, if it’s cobbled together from a half-dozen memories, fragments of things that happened over the course of a year or two that began the summer before I started high school, in 1991.

In this memory, I’m sitting in the basement of a girl named Sara, who pronounced her name “Saah-rah” and had purple hair and smoked clove cigarettes. I didn’t know Sara very well, but she was part of a small collective of freaks and weirdos that I had congregated to when I moved that summer from my ancestral home of north Texas to the small mountain town of Hamilton, Montana.

I’m sitting in Sara’s basement with my friends: Jeremy, the pretty guy who wears big black woolen overcoats and Jamaican tam o’ shanters in bright yellow and red and green, and seems to have unlimited access to the panties of every single girl in the Bitterroot Valley; Wade, who perpetually sports Birkenstock loafers that look like inflated bladders and drives a white Volkswagen Beetle covered in Grateful Dead stickers; Nate, who is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever met and is a huge aficionado of what will later come to be known as “extreme” sports, like bouncing down jagged rock faces on a beat-up skateboard deck; Sarah and her sister, Jenny, who are both fond of dropping random giggly non sequiturs into the conversation when stoned.

They’re all here, or some of them, or none of them. We’re sitting in the dark, talking bohemian bullshit, maybe smoking pot. It’s the kind of night that gets put on endless repeat when you’re young and strange and condemned to spend your adolescence in some far-flung desolate shithole like Hamilton, Montana, where you can’t lose yourself in the noise or happily become part of it, the way you can in New York or Seattle or Los Angeles or Chicago.

I’m not as cool as they are. I don’t know about cool shit. I’m just this uptight kid from J. R. Ewing Land who talks too much, still wears Bugle Boy button-downs and M. C. Hammer pants, and has only the dimmest idea that there’s some entire world out there of cool shit that I know nothing about. I own a Jane’s Addiction album and I’ve vaguely heard of the Sex Pistols.

And in this memory, Sara gets up and puts a cassette tape into her boom box. It’s a time traveler from 1984, beaten and scuffed, with the inevitable broken-off cassette door, so you just slap the tape in and hope that the tape head keeps it from falling out, which will cause the relentless motors to chew the tape and unspool it like the entrails of a slaughtered pig. Sara slaps the tape in and hits play.

This song comes out–a slow beat, big and echoing, then a bass playing eighth notes, and then a guitar, dreamy and vibrating. It sounds like what I imagine sunrise on a beach would be like, like what I imagine doing heroin would be like, like what I imagine sex in a dark room with that awesome girl you lie awake and dream of meeting would be like. I haven’t experienced any of these things–yet.

And then a voice, a high husky man’s voice, gentle over the music.

Cease to resist, given my good-byes
Drive my car into the o-o-sha-hah-hahn

You think I’m dead, but I sail away
On a wave of mutilation, wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation


“What is this?” I ask. Sara shrugs.

“It’s the Pixies,” she says in this memory that may not even be real, or maybe didn’t happen this way at all. “The song’s called ‘Wave of Mutilation.’ This is the U.K. Surf Mix. The real version is faster and louder.”

“I’ve never heard of them,” I said. “I’ve never heard this.”

“They’re pretty cool,” Sara says. “I think they’re from, like, Boston.”

I nod. Pretty cool.