Review: ALWAYS GOODBYE by Ray Hecht — Comics Grinder

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Always Goodbye by Ray Hecht. 88 pages. TWG Press, 2019, paperback, $5.99. With great insight and humor, Ray Hecht shares his life with the reader in his autobiographical graphic novel, Always Goodbye. This is an ambitious work as Hecht takes stock of his whole life thus far. Hecht sums up his life, year by year, […]

via Review: ALWAYS GOODBYE by Ray Hecht — Comics Grinder

Video: Themes in comic book character design

Presentation on the subject of how to use mythological themes and other archetype systems in character design. Covers the Jewish experience, Greek mythology, historical allegories, and more. Subjects include Superman, the Justice League, Spider-man, Jack Kirby’s Marvel work, the X-Men, and also Japanese manga.

Author Interview: Ray Hecht – Bookish Asia

http://bookish.asia/author-interview-ray-hecht

Always Goodbye is an excellent title for your book. It really captures the bitter-sweet emotions of constantly moving on, whether that be leaving relationships or physical locations. I could relate to the semi-nomadic upbringing you describe as I’m a first-generation Kiwi with few roots in my home country. On balance do you find that rootlessness liberating?

Why thank you. It’s different for everybody, but I guess I’m just used to being rootless and that helped me to first move to California and then to China. It’s the way I happened to be raised. Not recommended for everyone. Perhaps people who still visit the childhood home they grew up in aren’t my best audience, who knows.

In this increasingly globalist world that we now find ourselves in, more and more might relate to my lack of a homeland…

I know I’m old-fashioned but I find it remarkable that an adult has such an interest in superhero comic books. Aren’t they just for kids?

Ha, this is an old take. Weren’t comics pretty much proven to be a valid literary medium in the 1980s when Watchmen won a Hugo award? Even last year the graphic novel Sabrina was a contender to win the Booker prize.

By that logic Bob Dylan’s winning the Nobel Prize for Literature would make pop songs a literary medium. 

There was controversy about that wasn’t there, but I think an argument can be made that some songwriting is literary for sure. Well, maybe I can’t convince everybody. To me it seems self-evident to me that comics have writers and it is a medium of literature. They do have graphic novels at bookstores, right?

The superhero genre is as big as it’s ever been due to the phenomenal success of Marvel movies, although they are worthy of criticism. However, that criticism – as Scorsese might say – is about the corporate vs. art argument. There’s certainly nothing wrong with adults being entertaining by Superman or whatever.

That said, those black & white indie comics tend to be more literary. Superheroes are just a pop culture fun thing for me, serious or not. And yes, childhood nostalgia is a factor.

While superheroes (or fantasy, or science fiction) may not be for everyone, and that’s fine. My point is I’d passionately argue that everyone should give comics a chance as a broader medium.

Any kind of story can be told with both words and pictures.

You’re only 37 years old. Isn’t it rather a young age to be writing an autobiography? 

Perhaps I am too young and haven’t accomplished enough to be able to write a valid memoir. But it is what it is. I start Always Goodbye with an immediate admission that I was creatively spent at the time, and just wanted to practice the comic medium. Perhaps my personal experiment makes for a good read, perhaps it doesn’t.

There is a long tradition of autobiographical comics which can work very well in a slice-of-life type way, and I hope at best I tap into those sorts of stories in my work. If I can be 1% of Harvey Pekar, I’ll take it.

And I’m not claiming that my humble travels through Asia are that terribly special, but still some people may enjoy a window into my personal experiences.

I’m still not sure what to make of your book. It’s different from anything I’ve ever read. However, a friend whose judgment on literary matters I greatly respect was raving about it to me the other day. He said it was a work of historical importance, that it was “a Diary of Samuel Pepys for our times.” What kind of response have you had to Always Goodbye?

I’m honored to have such a comparison! I’ve been lucky to have a lot of positive reviews, even though some people certainly don’t know what to make of my book. Usually, those already into comics more “get it.” I’m still very pleased that others who are new to to the medium have found some things to enjoy about Always Goodbye.

Of course, I’ve had some fair criticism as well from both comics aficionados and novices. Usually concerning the work being overly wordy and rushed. The whole thing is an experiment, and those don’t always work.

The drawings work really well, and are consistent throughout the book. Over what period of time did you draw them (I have vague memories of reading a blog post from years back about you working on the memoir)?

The entire word took me a bit less than a year, about ten months. I did post early drafts of the pages online. For anyone on a budget who doesn’t want to buy a book, check out my blog!

Basically, from mid-2018 to 2019 I drew two pages a week. I interviewed my parents for the early portions, I sorted old photos, I reread my journals, dug through ancient social media. Then day after day I wrote a script, penciled, inked, and lettered.

It was honestly the hardest I’ve ever worked on anything in my life.

One of the things that comes through Always Goodbye is the importance of pop culture in your life. What do you think provides the backdrop to one’s life – is it the big moments of history, the likes of Operation Desert Storm, 9/11, the Olympics, or is it the television, music and movies we consume? 

I find that these images of the big thing of each year are a good way to anchor a moment in time. It can be personal, like when Jurassic Park came out. Or tragic, like 9/11. Sometimes they didn’t have much to do with me, like say the fall of the Berlin Wall. I suppose everything indirectly affects us all if it was sufficiently impactful, especially the political ones or even the technologies of the ages. Both are valid, but the music and movie portions do tend to have more of a personal spark even if it’s more arbitrary objectively-speaking.

As you’re flying to China to take up a teaching position in Shenzhen, you reflect on how it all started: “I’d been interested in China ever since I saw Farewell My Concubines. Anime –> Kurosawa –>Fifth-Generation Chinese cinema, that was my journey.” Can you say more about the attraction to East Asian culture and also why you chose China over Japan?

Well, obviously Japanese popular culture has been more open to the West for a longer time. And with regards to my nerdy youth, I did love me some manga and anime. But as I got older I was also more interested in “serious” film as well and then Chinese cinema was my entry-point.

And I’m not even into martial arts.

Maybe the real reason I liked Asia was because it was as far from my homelands as possible. I always did want to get away.

Japan is a great place I love to visit, by the way, but how Rising China is both developed and undeveloped suited me better. It’s been quite the adventure learning about this massive part of the world, even considering the negative factors of living in a communist dictatorship. I was lucky I happened to end up with a job in China after that momentous Burning Man conversation…

You went to China in 2008 to teach English. Those days were pretty good going for a young Westerner. What’s it like now?

From what I understand, the standards are much higher today. More expenses, less breaking of the rules. Not quite as worth it.

To be frank China isn’t so desperate for random white teachers anymore, and a lot of unqualified people are getting kicked out. Fair enough on that. I wouldn’t recommend others to movie the mainland anymore, at least not to teach, but for a real professional it’s not a bad deal to live in places like Shanghai or Shenzhen. I do still like visiting on occasion, even if it is less wild.

As well as teaching English you also worked for the Shenzhen Daily, first writing articles part-time and then full-time as a copy editor. How were those experiences?

I enjoy a bit of journalism, writing little restaurant reviews and the like. I still do full-on film and book reviews all the time basically for free. Overall it wasn’t my particular dream or anything.

As for working as a copy editor in the office, I absolutely loathed it. Eight hours a day drained me of all my creativity. It was a good day job for a while, and I gained valuable experience (I still work as a freelance editor on occasion), but most of all that time in my life taught me that office jobs are not for me. Chinese offices in particular are so boring.

How are enjoying Taiwan so far?

Taiwan is perfect for me! A mix of Japan and China, but not crowded and very chill – in particular, the literary scene in Taiwan has been good. Most of all, I’m happy to live in a free country that speaks Mandarin. No more VPNs for this guy.

Yep, a mix of Japan and China – that’s the short-hand I often use for describing Taiwan to people back home. Hopefully, you’ll stay here a while and write something about the country. 

I hope so. My current goal is to stay here for at least five more years and then get a permanent residency status. After that, shall see what’s next.

Indeed, one day I hope to write something important about Taiwan and it’s precarious position in the world…

…….

Always Goodbye is published by TWG Press and is available from Amazon.com for a very reasonable $5.99 for the paperback and half that for the ebook.

You can find out more about the Ray Hecht and his writing at rayhecht.com.

About the Author:

John Grant Ross is the author of You Don’t Know China and Formosan Odyssey.

Always Goodbye: the graphic novel

https://www.amazon.com/Always-Goodbye-Ray-Hecht-ebook/dp/B07ZYFRYJK

 

I am proud to announce that my graphic novel Always Goodbye has now been published by TWG Press, and for a special promotion this week it is free to download for the Kindle app!

Please enjoy, and of course if you like you can share and review and just plain tell me what you think ~

 

Synopsis:


Life can take a man many places.

Born in disputed Israel, fostered in Middle America, and then finally driven into Rising China—Ray Hecht takes journey after journey as he tries to figure it all out. He goes down many paths from the years 1982 to 2019, attempting and failing at new identities with each passing decade: artist, filmmaker, journalist, and author.

Told in simple lines and crude forms, Ray’s graphic memoir Always Goodbye rushes through the milestones of a person’s life with harsh sincerity. Follow along these memories of a man’s travels across the globe as he tries to find himself, always saying goodbye but then reconnecting all over again, as many times as it takes…

 

Joker

Has enough time passed to post a Joker review? Or, is it too late?

In any case, I shall share some spoilers. Note that this review shall be divided into three parts below: on the subject of problematic issues, the actual content, and of the more comic book-ish implications.

On the *problematic* issues:

Firstly, there hasn’t been a real-life shooting inspired by this film. Looks like that criticism so much in the media brought up was extremely overblown. And to fair, there have always been violent movies about criminals with various degrees of controversy. Is 2019 really such a different time that society can’t handle a movie with such overtones?

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing a film or any work of art, for any reason at all. But to say that bad movies should be banned, because it may inspire violence, still feels like a stretch to me. If you just find the movie immoral and whatnot, then don’t pay for it or give it a low rating and move on.

It is interesting that Joker specifically says “I’m not political” in the infamous De Niro talk show scene. It’s a bit of a cop out, but I do appreciate that the themes are all over the place enough to be interpretable. One could just as much say that there’s a leftist moral lesson is about austerity–that Gotham shouldn’t have cut civil services and then all the tragedies could have been avoided.

(And as for the whole incel thing, while the character did fantasize about a girlfriend and couldn’t get any action, ultimately there never seemed to be a strong hating women theme.)

Last point with the controversies here. Director Todd Phillips has shown himself to be a douche with some of his “anti-woke” statements as a comedy director, which is very disappointing. If only he would let the work speak for itself, instead of lazily complaining about he resents that audiences don’t finding him funny anymore.

As for the actual content:

I happen to think the Joker is a vastly overused character. He’s supposed to be mysterious, not such a mainstream nemesis. There are of course many classic Joker storylines, but just because Batman is the most popular DC hero and he’s the main villain doesn’t mean they keep having to go back to Joker trying to top himself again and again and again. It’s an overplayed gimmick, at least in the comics.

I do appreciate Warner Bros-DC doing something different with the superhero film genre. A rated R villain film is certainly a different style than that Marvel Cinematic Universe formula.

Still, a definitive origin for the Joker is paretly of missing the point. The Dark Knight and The Last Laugh were simply smarter in exploring ambiguity. The Joker of the film is an unreliable narrator at times, but perhaps not unreliable enough.

Another valid criticism is how derivative of Scorsese this is. Both Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy? There is such a thing as too much homage. And Arthur Fleck living with his mother, that is pretty cliched.

However, I watched the movie and I’m still thinking about it weeks later. That is saying something. The arc of Fleck’s descent into madness powerfully told, I have to admit. From the beginning it can’t be denied Joaquin Phoenix is an absolutely brilliant actor, carrying every scene and pushing himself to the limit. As he descends into violence, first by killing in self defense and then immediately after by killing someone running away, the audience is sucked into his disturbing world until the body count rises enough to take down the whole city.

Damn, what an ending. Incredibly pessimistic as Gotham is on fire, his minions in clown masks burning it all down in anti-1%er riots. It may or may not be happening in the titular character’s mind to some degree, but either way, geez what an effect as he dances to the tune! Finally, the world pays attention to one Arthur Fleck.

One leaves the theater affected for sure, and in some sense that means it is a successful work.

Overall, after giving it maybe too much thought, I conclude it’s a good movie. The Joker is well-crafted and leaves a deep impression. Very much worth watching as long, assuming you’re already into gruesome crime dramas.

Comic book implications: 

Lastly, here’s my take as a fanboy. It was an entertaining twist to speculate on Joker maybe-or-maybe-not being Bruce Wayne’s illegitimate brother. (Glad it’s left open; those ambiguous factors are always the strongest.) Thomas Wayne as an out of touch rich asshole, who is partly responsible for the iconic orphaning of his son, now that sure is an original version.

Continuity-wise the age difference is too wide to have this be the same villain who will one day fight Batman. Bruce was only a child right, so it would have to be twenty years later at least. It is fun to see some of the Batman origin, however overdone, even if it doesn’t quite fit.

Plus, the Joker should be a genius. I don’t see this guy inventing chemical compounds or even planning any intricate crime sprees. His only ‘power’ really is that he acquired a gun, and that some his murders are big deals. Also, he’s not funny. There are several dark humor scenes to be sure, but Arthur Fleck’s tragedy is that he’s not even good at being a comedian which just isn’t really the Joker in my view.

Hence… the only way this could work in any DC universe is if Fleck isn’t so much *the* Joker as much as he is *the first* Joker. The comics do say there were three. Like there have been a series of Jokers, and Arthur Fleck inspired them. Maybe that’s the point?

Even if so, let’s still repeat that it’s just a movie and please don’t be inspired to be super-villain in the real world. So long as that’s clear, enjoy 🙂

2016 – 2019: Goodbye China, Hello Taiwan! THE END

Previous: 2014 – 2015: Love and Publishing

Read all at Webtoons.com

2016 – 2019: Terrible politics, book tour, leaving China and coming to Taiwan! Various family trips from Israel to South Africa and California. Art and comics and Burning herein. At last, we catch up to now (so meta) and I reflect… Thus, an ending. 

Thanks so much to you all for reading this, my humble life story!

 

2011 – 2012: Growing up, turning 30, weddings, and the end of the world

Previous: 2009 to 2010  The Expat Life: A new decade living it up in Shenzhen, China 

Read all at Webtoons.com

2011 and 2012, beginning with my Guangzhou year. Didn’t work out well, so I returned to Shenzhen. Meanwhile so much travel, all over Southeast Asia and returns to Israel and Japan. Plus foreshadowing in Taiwan, and Hipster Pacific Northwest too. And I go to both my sister’s wedding and my best friend’s wedding. Growing up!

 

2009 – 2010 comics: Experiencing the new decade as an expat in China

Previous: 2007 to 2008 How Burning Man and psychedelics led me to China

Read all at Webtoons.com

2009 and 2010, the beginnings of a new decade, as I become acclimated to life in Shenzhen/Hong Kong and have fun traveling in Southeast Asia (and America), and family stuff… plus I start dating somewhat regularly. Crazy, right?

 

2007 – 2008: How Burning Man and psychedelics led me to China (Finally!)

Previous: 2005 to 2006 Mid-Aughts

Read all at Webtoons.com

2007 and 2008 were quite the years: a time of friendship and drug experimentation and further travel, and then back to Burning Man… Which leads to the moment you’ve all been waiting for, at last I move to China!

 

2000 – 2001, New Millennium: On Teenage Sexuality (or lack thereof). And 9/11

Previous: Late 90s

Read all at Webtoons.com

2000 to 2001, Happy New Year! I finally somehow graduate, Israel travel x 2, and some reflection on girls. Then, yet another national tragedy… Welcome to the 21st Century

 

2000 - 1.jpg

Mid-90s Comics Life Story, welcome to high school

Previous: Early 90s

Latest chapters of Always Goodbye on Webtoons.com

1994 to 1996, with dog and religion and continuing education and new best friend and reading and CDs and the all more trouble

1994.jpg

1996 - 2.jpg

Always Goodbye: 1954 – 1984

This here is my autobiographical comic, Always Goodbye. Just a humble lo-fi take on my life, year-by-year…

 

Read them first at Webtoons.com: https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/always-goodbye/list?title_no=224697

 

Prologue, my parents meet in the middle of the world, I am born, and the family grows and goes. Suffice to say, to be continued–

 

 

 

Requiem for a Comics Collection

 

It’s been a long while.

Once upon a time, as I’ve written about before, I liked to collect comic books. It’s pretty much my favorite storytelling medium, that mix of visual and verbal with so much dynamic imagination, it’s my first love and as much as I enjoy prose and film nothing will ever compare to flipping through a picture book…

Back in 2005, so long ago, I moved to California and left my collection in my dad’s closet. Guess that was growing up.

After years of subscribing and going to the comics shop every Wednesday, and a lot of digging around at comic conventions and used bookstores, my collection was about 5,000 issues strong. It took up a lot of space.

Flash-forward to early 2008. Even before I moved abroad that year, I knew I had to get it together. I decided to take a month off my west coast life to stay in Cincinnati and sort out about half of my collection. Ebay became my full-time job. I was constantly working on the computer and going back and forth from the post office. I sold all my Marvel, manga, independents, and even more than a few toys. That amounted to half of my stuff.  If I remember correctly, I made about a thousand US dollars.

And that was the compromise. I was a big DC fan at the time, and hoped my knowledge of continuity might actually help me as an author one day, so I kept all of those. Then, as we all know, I moved all the way to China. It was a heck of a year.

I admit I didn’t have a good long-term plan. Some two dozen boxes stayed in my dad’s closet, until he eventually retired and moved and issued an ultimatum that I needed to find another storage solution. Luckily, I have friends. One was kind enough to curate them for a year, but then he went through some drama and had to move. Another good friend took them up and they remained in his grandma’s basement for another year or two. All while I lived thousands of miles away. I felt bad that these people went through so much trouble on my account, but what could I do other than say thanks and wire some gifts…

It has now been a full decade since I’ve left America, and it’s time to get it together. Let’s face facts and admit I’m not coming back any time soon. Owning two dozen heavy boxes of books simply isn’t so compatible with the expat lifestyle.

Last month, I went on my big trip to the United States. For almost the entirety of July, Bronwen and I traveled throughout my troubled country. For the first half we mostly stayed in Southern California, exploring Los Angeles and Orange County by way of Long Beach as homebase. It was a rather good trip.

For the second half of the journey, we stayed in my adopted hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Not quite as much tourist action, but she seemed to enjoy it. A good introduction to middle America, right?

It was where I grew up, where I could drive around the various neighborhoods and indulge in nostalgia, and a good middle ground where my relatives from Indiana and Florida and old friends from east coast could all come together to meet me once again… And, of course, where my comics were.

The family and friends and sight-seeing where all important parts of the trip. But this post is about the comics.

Suffice to say, it was not easy juggling so much in such a short time. Not to mention the workout of dragging all those boxes from house to house. My apologies to anyone who felt left out as I sorted out all that stuff.

 

Anyway, my little sister had agreed to help me sell some on Ebay (my own Ebay account had long since deactivated in the ensuing decade). I didn’t have time to organize the entire collection, but I did post a select few which I thought could get a good price.

There was the New Teen Titans, from the 1980s and up:

 

The complete 2000s JSA/Justice Society by Geoff Johns, including his first work Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. and Hawkman and more:

 

Sadly, the entire 1980s-1990s Justice League International by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis wasn’t more popular for some reason, though that fun-loving run is among the best to me:

 

One thing I did discover about Ebay is that it’s much easier to post graphic novels as books rather than organize hundreds of magazine issues. If you type in the ISBN, it not only gives you the stock photo but even suggests a price. Fine by me! I decided to sell the remaining dozen or so graphic novels that way, sold about half of them for five to ten dollars each, and it only took two trips to the post office.

Leaving a substantial percentage for my little sister’s PayPal as a gift, because I try to be a decent brother.

 

Meanwhile, mailing out full runs box-by-box just wasn’t feasible. So I decided to post a summary on both Craigslist, and that new Facebook Marketplace, pitching anyone to come by to my hotel and look through the entire lot and negotiate a price.

That wasn’t not weird, is it?

 

https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/bks/d/dc-comics-mega-collection/6641380143.html

DC COMICS MEGA-COLLECTION FOR SALE, from the 80s and 90s and 2000s! Massive sets of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Justice League International, Teen Titans, Legion – thousands of comics by such creators as Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and much more!

I am selling my entire comic collection consisting of several thousand which I have built up over many years. This is a great deal because I am moving and simply trying to pass them on quickly to a fan. 

Please come by personally to check them out in Blue Ash, Cincinnati and then we can agree on an exact price. For example, if you want the entire set for a bulk purchase in the four-figures, that’s possible. Or, more specifically, I can sell some of these various bundles of hundreds per set for a two- to three-figure sum each:

All comics are in very fine to near mint condition unless otherwise stated. Please message me for more details and the whole inventory…

-Superman 90s and 90s: reboot by John Byrne starting from issue #1, Death and Rebirth of Superman era by Dan Jurgens, featuring many extra Supergirl and Superboy issues and even some Shazam!

-Superman 2000s: featuring the Y2K and Our Worlds at War/Imperiex War crossover, many issues by Geoff Johns and also Birthright by Waid

-Batman: bundle particularly with lots of spinoff issues of Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey written by Chuck Dixon; plus even old Outsiders

-Wonder Woman: massive bundle starting from issue #1 with the George Perez post-Crisis reboot, as well as John Byrne’s 90s run and Phil Jimenz in the 2000s and many more

-Complete 80s Justice League! This huge bundle features the entire run of the classic 80s Justice League International era by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMattis “Bawahaha” comedy era #1-60, plus many more with some Firestorm thrown in 

-The New Teen Titans: huge bundle of the 80s Marv Wolfman and George Perez era of the Titans starting from #1 on to the Judas Contract with Slade/Deathstroke the Terminator, and lots of extras from latter decades…

-Geoff Johns MEGA bundle with complete Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. that started it all plus Teen Titans, and Flash Rebirth!

-Infinite Crisis 2005 crossover by Geoff Johns including Villains United and the Secret Six series by Gail Simone, Villains United

-Justice Society by Geoff Johns: The complete JSA by Geoff Johns, plus various Starman issues by James Robinson as well as Spectre and old 80s All-Star Squadron and Johns’ Hawkman plus more 

-90s Young Justice by Peter David, and others by the acclaimed writer

-52 by Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison: complete set plus spinoffs from of the epic ‘real-time’ comic from the 2000s of the year skip

-Grant Morrison bundle featuring the complete Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, Final Crisis, Batman and more from the mad genius DC writer

-Grant Morrison Vertigo bundle! Featuring complete runs of his hard-to-find brilliant miniseries such as the complete Flex Mentallo, We3, Sea Guy, Vimanarama, Joe the Barbarian, plus some Doom Patrol

-DC crossovers! Zero Hour, Invasion!, Millenium, Joker’s Last Laugh, Identity Crisis, and Tons of DC crossovers from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s featuring all the iconic superheroes saving the universe

-Legion of Superheroes from the 80s – and even some 70s and 60s – and 2000s: massive bundle of Legion issues by with a couple of valuable Silver Age ones, many Paul Levitz classics both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis, and also the first issues of the Mark Waid ‘threeboot’ in the 2000s

-Complete Legion of Superheroes 90s reboot: every single one of the post-Zero Hour reboot by Mark Waid & more. Giant set of Legion and Legionnaires and Legion Lost and more spinoffs!

Continue reading

xraycomics.tumblr.com

Behold, I have created a new Tumblr account in order to share my comics:

I have started with an old one. “Shopping Spree” is a 12-page short from a defunct anthology experiment entitled Cupcake Dreamy. It is about Hollywood and street kids and photography and shoplifting and trains and ennui.

Please enjoy–

https://xraycomics.tumblr.com