Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Colleges Are Turning Students’ Phones into Surveillance Machines...

What follows is from Drew Harwell's 12-24-19 WASHINGTON POST article entitled "Colleges Are Turning Students’ Phones into Surveillance Machines, Tracking the Locations of Hundreds of Thousands":

When Syracuse University freshmen walk into professor Jeff Rubin’s Introduction to Information Technologies class, seven small Bluetooth beacons hidden around the Grant Auditorium lecture hall connect with an app on their smartphones and boost their “attendance points.”
And when they skip class? The SpotterEDU app sees that, too, logging their absence into a campus database that tracks them over time and can sink their grade. It also alerts Rubin, who later contacts students to ask where they’ve been. His 340-person lecture has never been so full. 

“They want those points,” he said. “They know I’m watching and acting on it. So, behaviorally, they change.”
Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health.
But some professors and education advocates argue that the systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, breaching students’ privacy on a massive scale. The tracking systems, they worry, will infantilize students in the very place where they’re expected to grow into adults, further training them to see surveillance as a normal part of living, whether they like it or not.
“We’re adults. Do we really need to be tracked?” said Robby Pfeifer, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, which recently began logging the attendance of students connected to the campus’ WiFi network. “Why is this necessary? How does this benefit us? … And is it just going to keep progressing until we’re micromanaged every second of the day?”
This style of surveillance has become just another fact of life for many Americans. A flood of cameras, sensors and microphones, wired to an online backbone, now can measure people’s activity and whereabouts with striking precision, reducing the mess of everyday living into trend lines that companies promise to help optimize.
Americans say in surveys they accept the technology’s encroachment because it often feels like something else: a trade-off of future worries for the immediacy of convenience, comfort and ease. If a tracking system can make students be better, one college adviser said, isn’t that a good thing?
But the perils of increasingly intimate supervision — and the subtle way it can mold how people act — have also led some to worry whether anyone will truly know when all this surveillance has gone too far. “Graduates will be well prepared … to embrace 24/7 government tracking and social credit systems,” one commenter on the Slashdot message board said. “Building technology was a lot more fun before it went all 1984.”
To read Harwell's entire article, click HERE.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Chilean Plane En Route to Antarctica Disappears

From the BBC's 12-10-19 report entitled "Chilean Plane En Route to Antarctica Disappears with 38 on Board":
A military plane with 38 people on board has disappeared en route to Antarctica, Chile's air force says.
The C-130 Hercules transport aircraft took off from Punta Arenas at 16:55 local time (19:55 GMT), and operators lost contact at 18:13 (21:13).
Those missing include 17 crew and 21 passengers.
They were travelling to provide logistical support to a military base on Antarctica's King George Island. A search-and-rescue mission is under way.
Air Force Gen Eduardo Mosqueira told local media that the plane did not activate any distress signal. He said the plane, whose pilot had extensive experience, might have been forced to touch down on water.
An air force statement said that the plane was about 450 miles (725km) into its 770-mile journey when contact was lost, placing it within the Drake Passage. The air force published a map of the plane's last known location on Twitter....

To read the entire report, click HERE. Two days later, the BBC published an update entitled "Chile Missing Plane: No Survivors, Confirms Air Force Chief":
Rescue workers in Chile have found human remains after an air force plane with 38 people on board went missing on Monday.
There were no survivors, said Chilean Air Force head Arturo Merino.
Magallanes Governor José Fernández said relatives of those missing had been informed of the find.
Earlier, Chile's air force said that wreckage had been found floating in the area where the C-130 Hercules cargo plane had last made contact.
It was en route to a military base in the Antarctic.
Mr Merino said the human remains "are most likely to be body parts of those travelling on the C-130".
"The condition of the remains we discovered make it practically impossible that anyone could have survived the plane accident," he added [...].
Three of the passengers were Chilean soldiers, two were civilians employed by engineering and construction firm Inproser, one was a student and the remaining 15 passengers were members of the air force, an official said.
Ignacio Parada had been studying civil chemical engineering at Magallanes University and was heading to the Antarctic base for an internship. His professors described the 24-year-old as "an excellent student". He was particularly interested in renewable energy, he had said recently.
Inproser employees Leonel Cabrera and Jacob Pizarro were going to carry out work on the military base.
The three soldiers who boarded the Hercules plane on Monday were Col Christian Astorquiza, Lt Col Oscar Saavedra and Maj Gen Daniel Ortiz.
There was only one woman on board: 37-year-old geographer Claudia Manzo joined the air force in 2008 and was passionate about remote sensing - obtaining information about areas from a distance by aircraft or satellites.

To read this entire report, click HERE

Supplementary reading:  Sherman Skolnick's  "The Secret History of Airplane Sabotage" Parts 1 through 4.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Mysterious Drones Over Colorado

From Shelly Bradbury's 12-23-19 DENVER POST article entitled "Mysterious Drones Flying Nighttime Patterns Over Northeast Colorado Leave Local Law Enforcement Stumped":

A band of large drones appears to be flying nighttime search patterns over northeast Colorado — and local authorities say they don’t know who’s behind the mysterious aircraft.
The drones, estimated to have six-foot wingspans, have been flying over Phillips and Yuma counties every night for about the last week, Phillips County Sheriff Thomas Elliott said Monday.
The drones stay about 200 feet to 300 feet in the air and fly steadily in squares of about 25 miles, he said. There are at least 17 drones; they emerge each night around 7 p.m. and disappear around 10 p.m., he said.
“They’ve been doing a grid search, a grid pattern,” he said. “They fly one square and then they fly another square.”
The sheriff’s office can’t explain where the drones are coming from or who is flying them. The estimated size and number of drones makes it unlikely that they’re being flown by hobbyists, Undersheriff William Myers said.
The Federal Aviation Administration told the sheriff’s office that it had no information on the drones, and the U.S. Air Force said the aircraft aren’t theirs, Elliott said.
A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration told The Denver Post on Monday that the drones aren’t operated by the agency. A spokesman for the FAA said that agency likely has no information on them. Drone pilots aren’t required to file flight plans, unless they’re flying in controlled airspace, like near an airport.
Officials with the Air Force and the Department of Defense did not immediately return The Post’s requests for comment on the mystery aircraft Monday. U.S. Army Forces Command spokesman John Boyce said Monday he was not aware of any training involving military drones in that area.
To read Bradbury's entire article, click HERE.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Christmas Prisoner Marathon!

Why bother wasting time opening unwanted gifts and swilling eggnog when you could instead be watching Patrick McGoohan's THE PRISONER (1967-1968), the most important television show ever made?

Courtesy of Shout! Factory, every episode of THE PRISONER is available to be seen right HERE!

Back on July 26, 2016, I published a blog post entitled "United Together (or) Everything You Need to Know About Campaign 2016 Can Be Learned from THE PRISONER," in which I wrote the following:

Anyone confused by the blatantly Machiavellian/Orwellian/Huxleyesque machinations on display during this unique campaign season need only watch a single episode of an almost fifty-year-old television show to fully comprehend the peculiarities of the nightmarish dilemma in which we now find ourselves. In 1967 writer/actor/director Patrick McGoohan created The Prisoner, which remains the most prescient drama ever aired on television. The series chronicles the Kafkaesque adventures of a man known only as Number Six (McGoohan) who attempts to resign from his highly sensitive position as a secret agent, and as a result is abducted, held prisoner, and tortured repeatedly by entities unknown.

In light of the surreal overtones of our current campaign season, it's noteworthy to keep in mind that such absurdities are not at all unprecedented in the world of dystopian fiction, The Prisoner being the prime example. Everything you really need to know about Campaign 2016 is embedded in "Free for All," one of the best episodes of the series, in which Number Six is recruited to run for political office in The Village, a fascist island resort where life would appear to be utterly pleasant and utopian, except when one attempts to contradict the party line, speak one's mind, and tell the truth.  

Though I recommend watching all seventeen episodes of The Prisoner, McGoohan himself felt there were only seven essential episodes: "Arrival," "Free for All," "Dance of the Dead," "Checkmate," "The Chimes of Big Ben," "Once Upon a Time," and "Fall Out." McGoohan wrote and directed at least three of these episodes. After absorbing these seven stories, an equally illuminating experience can be had by watching a rare 1977 interview with McGoohan on a Canadian show called The Prisoner Puzzle, in which the actor offers further prescient comments on the real world parallels to his (at that time) ten-year-old allegory.  

United Together.

A Still Tongue Makes A Happy Life. 

Questions Are A Burden To Others; Answers A Prison For Oneself.

Be Seeing You.... 

If you want to get a head start on the imminent PSYOP-madness that will no doubt be the 2020 Presidential election, feel free to spend the holidays indulging in all seventeen episodes of THE PRISONER!

Here's the aforementioned 1977 interview in which McGoohan, in a rare moment of candor, discusses the overarching themes of the series....

THE PRISONER PUZZLE with Patrick McGoohan (1977)

And as a special bonus, watch the late Harlan Ellison introducing the latter episodes of THE PRISONER (i.e., "Hammer into Anvil," Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling," "Living in Harmony," "The Girl Who Was Death," "Once Upon a Time," and "Fall Out"). These segments were originally filmed for a Sci-Fi Channel PRISONER Marathon that aired on Labor Day in 1992....


For further information, read Alan Moore's insights regarding the lasting impact of THE PRISONER in this two-part interview conducted by David Bushman in 2018 (to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of THE PRISONER'S finale)....

Alan Moore Remembers Patrick McGoohan’s “The Prisoner”: Part 1


Alan Moore Remembers Patrick McGoohan’s “The Prisoner,” Part 2

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Invisible Aircraft

What follows is from Brett Tingley's 12-18-19 TheDrive.com article entitled "Can The U.S. Military Make An Airplane Invisible To The Naked Eye?": 

From Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet to the cloaking devices used by the Romulans and Klingons of the Star Trek universe, science fiction and popular culture are full of examples of completely invisible flying craft. Despite having its roots in fiction, the act of making an aircraft less visible to the naked eye has been an ongoing, but shadowy area of research and development for both private and military laboratories since the early days of military aviation.

Evading radar systems, infrared sensors, and other sensors is the main strategy behind today’s modern stealthy aircraft, yet the ability to also avoid or delay visual detection remains near the top of the list of strategic aerospace technologies even in an age of increasingly advanced integrated air defense networks.

Being able to detect an aircraft on radar is one thing, and even being able to hear it is another, but the ability to actually see an aircraft remains a huge vulnerability. Tight rules of engagement and the premium placed on using stealth and electronic warfare to penetrate into enemy airspace and even persist there for long periods of time mean that visual detection is still a major Achilles heel of many modern combat aircraft. Thus, the need for the ability to make an aircraft invisible as possible remains as pressing as ever.

While the world has yet to be shown evidence of an "invisible" aircraft or a high-end adaptive aircraft camouflage system that comes close to achieving such a goal, there is more than enough documentation originating from both the Department of Defense and associated private contractors to suggest that these technologies may be very much real....

To read Tingley's entire article, click HERE.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Cryptoscatology Top Ten: The Best Comic Books of 2019!

1. NOBODY'S FOOL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCHLITZIE THE PINHEAD by Bill Griffith (published by Harry N. Abrams):

Any cineaste familiar with Tod Browning's 1932 masterpiece, FREAKS, will know the name "Schlitzie the Pinhead." Not only was Schlitzie one of the key carnival performers featured in that infamous Tod Browning production, but in 1971 he unknowingly inspired a young cartoonist named Bill Griffith to create the long-running comic strip ZIPPY THE PINHEAD. Forty-eight years after Zippy's debut in the March 1971 edition of REAL PULP COMICS, Bill Griffith has honored the memory of Schlitzie (whose birth name may or may not have been Simon Metz) by publishing a respectful, loving, full-length biography of this sideshow star in graphic novel form, the only biography of Schlitzie ever attempted. 

NOBODY'S FOOL is heartbreaking and haunting. The story of Schlitzie, whose life began in 1901 and ended in 1971 (the same year he was reborn as a fictional character in Griffith's comic strip), is also the story of twentieth century America itself. Through Schlitzie's eyes we see the United States transform, in ways that are both positive and negative, from a naive Jazz Age filled with carnivalesque wonders where even a sideshow "freak" could attain cinematic fame to the cultural wasteland of post-Kennedy America where the detritus of Hollywood's past can be locked away in a Los Angeles psych ward merely for the convenience of others. But throughout all these tumultuous changes, Schlitzie remains "like all children, [craving] tenderness and affection." In an interview with Griffith, dramatized near the end of NOBODY'S FOOL, fellow circus performer Wolf Krakowski describes Schlitzie in this way: "Schlitzie seemed to be blissed out [all the time] to me. If you'd look into his eyes, whatever consciousness he embodied was wide open... there was no good or bad, legal or illegal... there was just demented glee." 

After completing NOBODY'S FOOL, one can't help but conclude that we could all learn a valuable lesson from the man once known to rubes and marks the world over as "the Last of the Aztecs," "the Last of the Incas," "the Missing Link," and (perhaps most appropriately) "Schlitzie the Mysterious." The fact that Bill Griffith's graphic novel, at this late date, succeeds in clearing up some of the most mysterious aspects of Schlitzie's enigmatic life is a valuable addition to the history of carnivals, Hollywood, marginalized twentieth century performers, and American pop culture in general.

2. BLUBBER #5  by Gilbert Hernandez (published by Fantagraphics):

Gilbert Hernandez's BLUBBER is perhaps the only comic book being published today that even attempts to match (or rival) the transgressive outrageousness of 1960s underground "comix" artists such as Robert Crumb and S. Clay Wilson. More often than not, it succeeds. BLUBBER #5 is a perfect example. If I had to describe the subject matter of this particular issue in four words or less, I suppose "hermaphroditic cryptid fetish pornography" would be the most appropriate label, which will either repel you far, far away from this book or lure you closer to it. The theme of BLUBBER can be summed up by the immortal words of filmmaker Akira Kurasawa: "To be an artist means to never avert one's eyes." Coincidentally, on page 12 of BLUBBER #5, these same words emerge from the fuzzy black mouth of a masturbating cryptid called a "Doog" (or possibly a human dressed up as a doog). Other fornicating cryptids you'll encounter in this issue include fauns, mini-fauns, kekeppies, hummuncriuses, and various unnamed critters endowed with improbably sized sexual organs. Expect a plethora of pornographic sound effects such as "GWAB!" "PLOB!" "GWARP!" and "BLAUURGGH!" But you shouldn't let such perverse onomatopoeia scare you away from BLUBBER. As Corazon (the hermaphroditic protagonist of the book) says on page 15, "Conservative thinking is the enemy of creativity."

3. CRIMINAL and BAD WEEKEND by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (published by Image):

After thirteen years, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' CRIMINAL remains one of the best written American comic books currently being published. In January of 2019, Brubaker and Phillips resumed publishing this series of interconnected crime noir graphic novels with a brand new story arc involving the seedy misadventures of professional thief Teeg Lawless and his delinquent teenage son. 

Issues 2 and 3 of this new series have already resulted in an excellent self-contained graphic novel entitled BAD WEEKEND. If you don't have time to read every issue of CRIMINAL produced this year (which is highly recommended), then at least do yourself the favor of picking up a copy of BAD WEEKEND, described in the publisher's ballyhoo as follows: "JUST IN TIME FOR CONVENTION SEASON—the ultimate comic con crime tale! Comics won’t just break your heart. Comics will kill you. Hal Crane should know, he’s been around since practically the beginning. Stuck at an out-of-town convention, waiting to receive a lifetime achievement award, Hal’s weekend takes us on a dark ride through the secret history of a medium that’s always been haunted by crooks, swindlers, and desperate dreamers." 

BAD WEEKEND makes a fascinating thematic trilogy when read in tandem with Howard Chaykin's 2018 roman à clef HEY KIDS! COMICS! (which also takes a rather jaundiced view of the history of the comic book industry) and Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack's globe-hopping espionage tale COVER (which similarly draws its narrative power from examining a shadow side of the comic book industry few fans ever see).

4. MONSTER by Enki Bilal (published by Titan Comics):

Since 2019 marks the first time this material has been published in English in its entirety, Enki Bilal's MONSTER deserves a special place on this list. MONSTER is a near-future, phildickian science fiction epic about a conceptual artist named 
Optus Warhole who creates an Art Movement known as "Absolute Evil Art." Warhole is famous for inflicting "phenomena-pieces" upon the world
 such as "Belch of Compressed Death," an acid rain cloud described by Warhole as follows: "It will spread as a solid cloud according to the winds, or my inclination. Before it breaks up, it will give out a rain of tears drawn from the decomposition of two million dead soldiers and civilians slain in this field of bullshit. It's a universal piece. Against war and the blindness of men. But it's going to do some damage. A boomerang effects of sorts. It's not Art Brut. It's Brutal Art." These rain drops created by Warhole can "melt through anything they touch," and the deaths caused by this destructive "happening" represents only the beginning of Warhole's ambitious dream to contaminate the world with Art that cannot be ignored. Caught up in Warhole's manipulative web are three Sarajavo orphans--Nike, Leyla, and Amir--who must get to the bottom of an "inexhaustible mystery" that revolves around a hijacked expedition to Mars, a swarm of genetically modified red flies that can inject microscopic smart machines into their victims that subsequently copy, assimilate, mutate, and finally replace one's organs (while controlling the victim from afar), a seemingly endless supply of replicant humans nearly indistinguishable from the originals, a seventy-million-year-old "inter-dimensional accident," and--perhaps most importantly--the true identity of Optus Warhole.

5. THE SONS OF EL TOPO VOL. 1: CAIN & THE SONS OF EL TOPO VOL. 2: ABEL by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Ladrönn (published by Archaia):

Volume Two of THE SONS OF EL TOPO debuted only a few days ago as I write this, and Volume One was published during the last two weeks of 2018. Together, the two volumes tell an ambitious story that picks up where Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1970 masterpiece EL TOPO (the first "cult midnight movie," as explained by Jodorowsky in his introduction to Volume One) left off almost fifty years ago. 

"Always the same story!" exclaims Cain, the son of saintly El Topo, near the beginning of this tale. Cain is correct in more ways than he can possibly know, for his savage pursuit of his far more spiritual half-brother, Abel, is a recapitulation of mythological parables that have recurred from culture to culture throughout the centuries. This Biblical-allegory-as-surrealist-western turns familiar Christian symbols upside down and inside out, revealing the metaphysical, Gnostic mysteries that lay hidden beneath the superficial surfaces of the Old Testament. One-half Joseph Campbell, one-half Cormac McCarthy, this brutal tale of alienation and transcendence is a must-have for those who wish comic books to aim higher than merely replicating testosterone-fueled superhero power fantasies created decades ago. Instead, THE SONS OF EL TOPO taps into the original testosterone-fueled superhero power fantasies, those perverse parables collected in a blood-and-thunder-laden tome known to most people as THE HOLY BIBLE.

6. MARIA M. by Gilbert Hernandez (published by Fantagraphics):

Though the first half of this graphic novel initially appeared six years ago, 2019 marks the debut of MARIA M. in its complete form. This final version was well worth the wait. Reading like an early James Ellroy crime noir novel as adapted to the cinema by Samuel Fuller, MARIA M. is over brimming with sex, drugs, brutal revenge schemes, and unpredictable double crosses in an epic soap opera that takes our title character on a tumultuous journey from the exploitative porn industry of 1950s Los Angeles all the way to the blood-spattered corridors of a 1980s mansion built on decades of human suffering. This tale somehow pulls off being both a haunting character study of unrequited love as well as a hi-octane tale of pure pulp madness. Readers of Hernandez's earlier LOVE AND ROCKETS graphic novel, POISON RIVER, will be able to appreciate this story on a deeper level, but previous knowledge of Hernandez's oeuvre is not at all necessary to enjoy the abrupt roller coaster twists and turns of this ultra-violent, mobster-ridden psychodrama.

7. GIRAFFES ON HORSEBACK SALAD by Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, and Manuela Pertega (published by Quirk Books):

I first read about Salvador Dali's long-lost Marx Brothers screenplay, GIRAFFES ON HORSEBACK SALAD, when I was thirteen. For a school assignment, I had to read a book about a famous person I admired. Naturally, I chose four famous people... and the book in question was GROUCHO, HARPO, CHICO AND SOMETIMES ZEPPO: A HISTORY OF THE MARX BROTHERS AND A SATIRE ON THE REST OF THE WORLD by Joe Adamson. Somewhere in this biography Adamson briefly mentions Harpo's friendship with Salvador Dali, and the fact that in the 1930s the most infamous surrealist in the world had written a full-length screenplay intended to star the Marx Brothers. At the time Adamson wrote the book, this unusual artifact was believed to be lost forever. I longed to rediscover this quaint and curious screenplay of forgotten lore and voraciously explore all its esoteric secrets. 

Over twenty years later, while attending an impressive Dali gallery show entitled DALI: PAINTING & FILM at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in December of 2007, I was shocked to see Dali's original screenplay on display under glass in the middle of the exhibit. The plaque beside the screenplay--and its companion sketches--explained that the manuscript had been uncovered only recently. I very much wanted to break the glass and read the screenplay right then and there. 

Fortunately for all of us Marx Brothers and Salvador Dali mavens, the fearless team of Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, and Manuela Pertega have done just that (metaphorically speaking). These three lunatics have managed to break through the barriers of time and space and, admirably, have reconstructed Dali's vision in the form of an inventive and surreal graphic novel that attempts to approximate--in graphic novel form, perhaps the ideal medium for this near-impossible project--both the anarchistic humor of the Marx Brothers as well as the disorientating dream-images of Dali. 

(Marx Brothers fans, please note: This is probably the only Marx Brothers story in existence in which Harpo has a speaking role!)

No fan of cinema, Hollywood history, anarchistic humor, surrealism or graphic novels will want to miss this one.

8. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (published by Top Shelf Productions):

A perfect capper to Alan Moore's career in comics, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST could be described as the ultimate exercise in "fan-fiction," a centuries-spanning tale that succeeds in tying together almost every significant creation in the fields of imaginative literature as far back as Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST and as recently as J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER series. Taken as a whole, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is a satire about the increasingly hostile corporate colonization of "Idea Space," a phrase coined by Moore in the late 1990s while writing a superhero comic book called SUPREME. "Idea Space," according to Moore, is an ephemeral realm that contains every thought or idea ever conceived by human beings. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is an attempt to wrest "Idea Space" away from those who would pave it over with skyscraper-sized ads and cineplexes constantly featuring nothing except soulless tentpole summer blockbusters forged by organic-robotoids disguised as film producers. 

As Brian Nicholson commented in a recent review of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST published in THE COMICS JOURNAL, "The book is dense [...]. [R]eading each issue as it came out, it was difficult to find a throughline by which to ascertain meaning. This, however, is how life has felt from 2016 until now [...]. [S]o much of the citizenry is lying to themselves, believing in multiple conspiracy theories, that consensus reality is essentially irreconcilable, and can only be made sense of by those who are versed in the insane systems of thought that other people believe in [...]. If the narratives of Thomas Pynchon novels are all about conspiracies of such fractal complexity they degenerate into entropy, Moore’s take on the modern moment is that entropy has overtaken everything, but that there’s still a density stemming from the weight of history." 

I would amend this analysis with the following notion: Moore seems to be suggesting--in what has been announced as his final graphic novel--that the fluid realm of "Idea Space" is a far more accurate conduit of "truth," a more reliable keeper of historical narratives, than what passes as the news every day in the form of corporate press releases force fed to lazy journalists. Poems and stories and novels and songs, at their best, have always represented the voices of the marginalized. Today, in this bright and shiny future known as the twenty-first century, the private citadel of consciousness in which Art has always been created is now under siege like never before. In an age when even the human subconscious is being colonized by imagination-vampires disguised as politicians and priests and teachers and psychiatrists and social reformers, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST attempts to remind us that pure ideas have more power than a thousand and one authoritarian governments. Moore wants us to understand that the neglected fictional characters that make up the core of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN can act not as mere soporifics, as a means of escape from the horrors of reality, but as powerful totems that give us strength and power in the noumenal world.

9. HOGBOOK AND LAZER EYES by Maria Bamford and Scott Marvel Cassidy (published by The Mincing Mockingbird):

HOGBOOK AND LAZER EYES is an autobiographical tale about two middle-aged romantics finally falling in love after enduring a long series of ridiculous, disastrous relationships. This charming love story, narrated by a pair of dogs (Blueberry and Bert), includes special guest appearances by Björk, Michael Flately, therapist Sheryl Hirsham, and a Ferangi named Nagus. At one point Bert tears through a Hefty trash bag and eats thirty chocolate cupcakes, after which he's rushed to the Emergency Room where an X-ray reveals that he's "half-pug and half-cupcake." Then Bert farts a lot. What more do you want from a love story?

10. JOHNNY BOO AND THE MIDNIGHT MONSTERS by James Kochalka (published by Top Shelf Productions): 

(Warning: The terminally serious need not apply for admission.)  

This is the tenth volume of James Kochalka's JOHNNY BOO series. If read in a row, these books might very well cause your brain to overload with pure nonsense. These books, like George Carlson's JINGLE JANGLE COMICS from the 1940s, are a paean to jabberwocky. If you're incapable of recognizing the literary significance of a Pumpkin Tiger who lives in a Happy Pumpkin Patch, an Ice Cream Monster who does nothing but spend his days and nights begging for more ice cream, a tiny ghost who looks like a squiggle (named "Squiggle"), and a skateboard-riding ghost named Susie who lives on the moon, then it would probably be best for all involved if you simply move on. 

When Kochalka combines his freeform, improvisational silliness with the purposeful naivety of his characters, what emerges is the children's book equivalent of Carl Stalling's offkilter musical compositions for the LOONEY TUNES. 

Kochalka's works--including the marvelous MONKEY VS. ROBOT (2000), MONKEY VS. ROBOT VOL. 2: THE CRYSTAL OF POWER (2007), and the complete JOHNNY BOO series (2008-2019)--are far more imaginative than the vast majority of mainstream comics churned out by both Marvel and DC during the past twenty years.

BONUS RECOMMENDATIONS: Many significant archival collections were released in 2019, all of which are worth your time....

WINSOR MCCAY: THE COMPLETE LITTLE NEMO 1910-1927 edited by Alexander Braun (published by Taschen):

THE 32 SERIES BY DITKO VOL 1: OVERTURE by Steve Ditko (published by SD Publishing):

THE 32 SERIES BY DITKO VOL. 2: OPENING ACTS by Steve Ditko (published by SD Publishing):  

THE 32 SERIES BY DITKO VOL. 3: CHARACTER TWISTS by Steve Ditko (published by SD Publishing):

THE 32 SERIES BY DITKO VOL. 4: POSTSHADOWING by Steve Ditko (published by SD Publishing):

MARVEL MASTERS OF SUSPENSE: STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO OMNIBUS VOL. 1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (published by Marvel):

BRAIN BATS OF VENUS: THE LIFE AND COMICS OF BASIL WOLVERTON VOL. 2 (1942-1952) (published by Fantagraphics):

GHOSTS edited by Steve Banes (published by IDW):

JUNGLE GIRLS edited by Mitch Maglio and Craig Yoe (published by IDW): 

SWAMP MONSTERS edited by Steve Banes and Craig Yoe (published IDW):

THE UNKNOWN ANTI-WAR COMICS edited by Craig Yoe (published by IDW):

RETURN TO ROMANCE!: THE STRANGE LOVE STORIES OF OGDEN WHITNEY edited by Dan Nadel and Frank Santoro (published by New York Review Comics):  

THE SILENT INVASION VOL. 2: THE GREAT FEAR by Larry Hancock and Michael Cherkas (published by NBM):

GO-BOTS by Tom Scioli (published by IDW):

SILVER SURFER: PARABLE (30th Anniversary Edition) by Stan Lee and Moebius (published by Marvel): 


MARVEL MASTERWORKS: CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 11 by Jack Kirby (published by Marvel):


TOMB OF DRACULA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL. 3 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan (published by Marvel)

MASTER OF KUNG FU VOL. 2: FIGHT WITHOUT PITY by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy: 

MISTER MIRACLE by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (published by DC):



ABSOLUTE SWAMP THING BY ALAN MOORE VOL. 1 by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben (published by DC):




Important nonfiction releases (by or about comic book writers and artists) include the following titles:

KIRBY & LEE: STUF’ SAID! edited by John Morrow (published by TwoMorrows Publishing): 

STEVE GERBER: CONVERSATIONS edited by Jason Sacks, Eric Hoffman, and Dominick Grace (published by University Press of Mississippi): 


BECOMING SUPERMAN: MY JOURNEY FROM POVERTY TO HOLLYWOOD by J. Michael Straczynski (published by Harper Voyager):