Posts Tagged ‘music’

Why eight questions? Because I had more than five and less than ten! Actually, there are more than eight because of grouping the questions by subject but – and you probably don’t care about any explanation I provide.

Moving on!

Over the summer I started reading more prose fiction to shake things up between comic book trades and I was fortunate to come across a spectacular, mostly coming-of-age, story of magic, music, and the harsh reality of growing up: Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Set in Mexico City and jumping between 1988 and 2009, Signal to Noise follows Mercedes “Meche” Vega who discovers her love of music, and the right vinyl, can cast magic spells. Roping in her friends Sebastian silviaand Daniela, the trio use magic to change their lives for the better, but the consequences of their actions result in a decades long estrangement.

The book comes highly recommended by io9’s Charlie Jane Anders and I couldn’t agree with her more. Signal to Noise is an intimate look at a young woman searching for a solid foundation, something she can believe in, trust in, but always comes up short. Meche’s exterior and interior turmoil makes for a complex and nuanced protagonist who is as frustrating as she is sympathetic.

In light of my new found book to gush over, I reached out to Silvia Moreno-Garcia and she was kind enough to answer several questions, via email, about Signal to Noise and her forth-coming anthology, She Walks in Shadows, which looks at the works of H.P. Lovecraft through his female characters – or lack thereof.


Maniacal Geek (MG): Though Signal to Noise is a coming-of-age story, the magical elements are secondary, acting more as a catalyst than being a consistently present force. Is this how you perceive the role of magic in urban fantasy or did it just serve this specific story?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia (SMG): For many Anglo writers and readers magic must work as a system, a kind of D&D system. I wanted to play with this notion, with how much you can systematize magic, versus the magicwhich appears in Latin American fiction which works in a completely different matter. So that the result is this is not quite magic realism and not quite urban fantasy.

MG: Meches grandmother doesnt mind telling stories about magic but shes reluctant to use it and only does so to save Sebastian from Meches recklessness. In your opinion, is magic the folly of youth?

SMG: I leave it up to the reader to figure that out.

MG: Music is the connective tissue that keeps Meche tied to her father and becomes her means of casting spells. What is your relationship with music and how did it influence Signal to Noise?

SMG: My parents both worked in radio stations. Thats the kind of environment I grew up in. We had a lot of albums stacked around the house. I used my fathers professional tape recorder to make mixtapes. That kind of thing. My son now has a portable record player. My grandfather was also a radio announcer so the fear is its genetic.

MG: (Silly question alert!) Which album would be your object of power?JoshJoplinGroup-UsefulMusic

SMG: Josh Joplins Useful Music.

MG: Coming from a comic book background myself, theres been an ongoing discussion about the flawed female protagonist, which Meche definitely fits. Were you worried that people might not be able to relate to Meche? Do we have to relate to a character like Meche? How do you feel Meche has grown as a character by the end of the book?

SMG: Ugh. Relatable, likeable characters, eh? There are so many famous characters in books you cant relate to and the books do just fine. You have criminals like Tom Ripley and Dexter in multiple novels. And in the romance novel the brooding hero is a staple. I dont find Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester to be relatable since Im not a white billionaire living in the age of carriages. Theyre not super likeable either, mad wife in attic and all. But women. Ah, we are much harder on women. Women better be fucking perfect and relatable.

Look, Im Mexican, I grew up without a lot of the bells and whistles Americans take for granted. Theres not a lot of people I can relate to in books. Not Holden from Catcher in the Rye, not Bella in Twilight. So *I* can relate to Meche.

So no, I didnt worry that Meche was likeable or relatable, although Ive heard from many people that they can relate to her.  If people find her interesting enough to follow her through the book I think thats enough.

As to how shes grown, I went to visit my friend who is now living in NY this year and I hadnt been there in about 14 years. At one point he said something which sounds pretty accurate. He said: Silvia, we are older but not more mature.Ill leave it at that.

MG: Do you believe Mexico has a greater cultural connection to magic? To music?

SMG: I grew up with a lot of folklore in my life and folk magic, but I believe this is unusual and certainly much more unusual for people younger than me. But you do see magic more openly, there is a witchs market in Mexico City where you can buy ingredients, there was an esoteric plazain a shopping mall near my home, and theres the witches in Catemaco who are quite famous. Some people still might visit the curandero, the healer, or believe in the evil eye. Things like that. But the influence of Anglo culture is erasing a lot of that.

MG: Youve edited several anthologies with horror themes with many specifically focused on H.P. Lovecrafts mythos. What attracts you to Lovecraft and the horror genre? Do you have a favorite Lovecraft story?she walks in shadows

SMG: “The Colour out of Space.My thesis work focuses on Lovecraft, eugenics and women so Im interested in him on an academic level and at a visceral one. I like all kinds of genres and read indiscriminately, from cheap, old pulp crime novels to modern dramatic lit. As a writer, horror is just one tool I can employ. As a reader, Ive always had a basic interest in terrible things.

MG: The latest anthology, She Walks in Shadows, explores Lovecraft through the feminine perspective and the explicit or ambiguously defined female characters. In your opinion does Lovecraft have an inherent feminist slant or did you see his writings as a challenge, something to meet head on for the anthology?

SMG: He barely has any women in his stories, so its a challenge. The writers are all showing a variety of visions of Lovecraftian characters, Weird fiction, and women. Women for Lovecraft exist as an absence, an unnamed presence, they are the lurking fear of his stories and we are bringing them to the forefront.


If you’d like to get your grubby mits on all of Silvia’s work currently available for purchase:

Signal to Noise:

Love and Other Poisons:

You can also pre-order She Walks in Shadows and follow Silvia on Twitter!



Sam talks with artist Jim Mahfood about the life of a freelancer, Jack Kirby, the connection between music and art, and 80s television. Fun times were had by all!

jim mahfood


And in case you wanted to watch the cheesy Don Johnson goodness of “Heartbeat”….

I told you I’d have an announcement to make soon and here it is. I will be contributing my first professional comic book story to the Killer Queen Comic Anthology for Red Stylo Media!KillerQueenstrokes-and-stuff-300x100

Here’s the official synopsis:

KILLER QUEEN is a collection of comic art and stories inspired by the discography of one of the greatest bands in the pantheon of Rock-n-royalty, QUEEN! This year, the artists and writers were challenged to turn their stereos up and take inspiration from Queen’s prodigious, diverse catalog of music. All the art and stories are original works inspired by a theme or premise in a Queen song, sometimes by the band itself.

Killer Queen is the latest anthology series from Red Stylo Media, following previous anthologies like Poe Twisted, Shakespeare Shaken, and Unfashioned Creatures (an anthology inspired by Frankenstein). In addition, Red Stylo also publishes a number of other graphic novels and comics like ORPHANS, City of Walls, TORCHBEARER, and Azteca.

I’m thrilled to be participating in such an awesome premise that got me to dive headfirst into the deep cuts of Queen’s discography. The first draft has already been written and sent off, so I’ll be editing soon enough, I suspect. As for what the story is about? Well…how about I give you the song it was inspired by for now?

I’ll be providing updates when I can, but I really wanted to let everyone know because this will be fulfilling one of those bucket list things by getting a foot in the door of the comic book industry as a writer.

Killer Queen will begin to roll out stories digitally in September with the book edition following in October. You can also keep up-to-date on the project by following @red_stylo, checking out their Facebook page, or the Killer Queen Facebook page as well. You can also follow me on twitter, where you’re more likely to get more frequent updates.

Once again, I’m over the moon about contributing to this anthology and I can say from now on that Queen is what made me a comic book writer. How is that not awesome?

october 1963 beatles manager brian epsteinThis was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on November 27th.

For as long as I can remember The Beatles have been a part of my life. My mother was a child of the 60s and 70s and when I was growing up this was the music she’d play for me and my sister. Chief among all the records, cassettes, and CDs played in our house was the music of The Beatles. I could devote entire articles to my favorite Beatles songs and what they mean to me as well as the history of the Fab Four themselves and never miss a beat. But like many people, the history or rather the story of one such member has never been fully revealed. We know about Pete Best’s break with the band, we know about George Martin’s brilliant instincts as a musical producer, but how many people really know, or paid attention to, Brian Epstein? Manager of The Beatles from 1961 until his death from an accidental overdose in 1967, Brian Epstein took an unknown and only mildly popular Liverpudlian band performing cover songs of black music and turned them into the artistic powerhouse of pop music and experimental rock we know today. It’s because of Brian Epstein that The Beatles are the standard instead of the exception. It’s because of Brian Epstein that The Beatles exceeded all expectations and took the world by storm. And it’s because of Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker that Brian Epstein’s story can be told.

Fifth Beatle CoverThe Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story is the mostly linear, slightly exaggerated, but predominantly emotional story of Brian Epstein. The manager of his family’s record store, North End Music Store (NEMS), in Liverpool, Brian is relatively well off but he’s, by all accounts, a stranger in a strange land. He’s Jewish in a time when Britain was very anti-Semitic, he’s a homosexual in a time when homosexuals were thrown in prison if they were caught, to say nothing of the violence and intolerance he received, and he’s a man with high cultural ambitions in a working class city. Only when his assistant, Moxie, takes him to the Cavern to see The Beatles perform does his life change. He sees in them something special, something that could change the world. He doesn’t just become their manager, he becomes their biggest fan, intent on making them, in his own words, “Bigger than Elvis!” in the eyes of the world. The toll this takes on him is enormous: anxiety, exhaustion, pills, and an abusive “relationship” left him feeling like a failure despite his success and unloved despite the supportive circle of friends and family. Brian Epstein was a flawed and tragic human being, but he was possessed of an overabundance of confidence and hope in the band he built from the ground up. He was instrumental to The Beatles’ rise yet he still remains a footnote in their history.John and Brian

Tiwary, by his own admission, approaches Epstein’s story from a personal connection to The Beatles and Epstein himself. A first generation Indian-American in the film, media, and comic book industry, Tiwary found a kindred spirit in Epstein and approached his story from the perspective of the perpetual outsider. No matter what Brian does, he always feels as if he’s alone. The pressures he puts on himself to succeed and ensure that The Beatles succeed, as well as the continued trappings of his personal life, lead him to seek refuge in pills. But Tiwary also shows exactly how essential Brian was to propelling The Beatles into stardom. His hard work, his business savvy, and the risks he took at his own expense paid off in the long run. Everything we know about the early Beatles, what made the youth of Britain and America fall in love with them, comes from Epstein’s management of, as John Lennon says in the book, not just their gigs, but their digs as well. From their uniform clothing and haircuts to the emphasis on their Liverpudlian roots and humor, Epstein cultivated them into a package, but unlike Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker, who we see through Epstein’s eyes as a devilish figure of greed and gluttony, Epstein wanted what was best for his boys. He fought for them every step of the way and the continued references to the real and symbolic nature of bullfighting and matadors give credence to that fact.

The-Fifth-Beatle-2Framing the story within the changing times of the 1960s also gives Tiwary and artists Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker an artistic avenue with which to get inside Epstein’s head without the hallucinatory or non-linear elements feeling out of place. Robinson is the predominant artistic presence and his illustrations are gorgeous. While this is Epstein’s story, it’s also the story of The Beatles and Robinson depicts the energetic pull of the band so beautifully that you can almost hear their music jumping off the page. When Brian sees and hears them we share in his experience. He also brings out the absurdity of Epstein’s position within the world of music and media. I mentioned the scene with Colonel Parker, but Epstein’s negotiations with Ed Sullivan to have The Beatles headline three shows with reduced pay is a thing of surreal beauty. Sullivan refers to The Beatles as a “novelty act” so Tiwary and Robinson choose to depict this discussion by way of Sullivan using a ventriloquist dummy. True or not, it’s a symbolic and dramatically ironic way of looking at the world from Epstein’s perspective. Robinson seems to understand Epstein’s struggles just as much as Tiwary, which affords him the ability to depict his pain and hope simultaneously without either emotion overshadowing the other. It’s fitting, then, that the book opens and closes on both notes. Kyle Baker’s solo work showing The Beatles’ tour of the Philippines and their actual harrowing experience is reminiscent of a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon with Brian desperately trying to fend off the bull that is Imelda Marcos and the Philippine regime. Though the style looks out of place, it actually works within the context of the story as Brian’s psyche takes on different forms.

Final Thoughts: If you’re a fan of The Beatles, then this is a definite read. It’s a story that needed to be told and thankfully Tiwary, Robinson, and Baker were the ones to do it. There’s also a movie on the way based on the book, so look for that in the future!