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Published: Jun 01 2015, 01:01:am

Monday, June 1, 2015

     I expected to enjoy the fourth annual Vancouver Comic Arts Festival, held on May 23 and 24 in Yaletown's Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. I was not disappointed.

    In addition to renewing old acquaintances — with such extraordinary comics creators as Miriam Libicki, the power couples Ian Boothby and Pia Guerra, Robin Bougie and Rebecca Dart, and underground comics legend George Metzger — I met many dynamic new artists, among them Eileen Kaur Alden, Lucy Bellwood, Jeff Ellis, Nina Matsumoto, Dylan Meconis, Salgood Sam, Elaine Will and VanCAF organizer Shannon Campbell.

    As I wrote in the introduction to my May 22 Front Page, VanCAF is authentic because it is an independent artists' exhibition. It exists "to connect local artists to the Vancouver community," not to generate sales for corporate products, the real purpose of commercial franchise operations such as FanExpo.

    It's impossible to feel any true connection with Marvel Comics, a division of Marvel Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Nor can I generate much feeling for the DC Comics unit of DC Entertainment, a division of Time Warner's Warner Bros. subsidiary.

     Their reality was nicely expressed in that X-Files Season 3 (1996) episode Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space.' It's in the moment when Fox Mulder (speaking words written by Rob Bowman) tells author Jose Chung that he suspects "a covert agenda for your book on the part of the the military-industrial-entertainment complex."

    Yes, the artists at VanCAF are there to sell their books. The difference is that they're independent creators, not corporate employees. Their work is an expression of who they are in the here and now, not a variation on trademarked characters from another century.

    The positive Force that makes artists create has a Dark Side: the corporate entity that claims ownership, and thereafter controls the work for maximum profits. To my mind, an event like VanCAF is exciting because it celebrates a Rebel Alliance of comic creators resisting the Evil Empires . . .

    . . . which has its own built-in irony, considering that our shared familiarity with The X-Files and Star Wars are the result of corporate marketing. But it felt good to say it. Somewhat more down-to-earth are the ten most recent additions to the Reeling Back archive:

THE EIGER SANCTION — Clint Eastwood's controversial 2014 feature American Sniper was not the director's first look into the world of professional assassination. He first went there with this 1975 adaptation of novelist Trevanian's best-selling thriller. (Posted May 31)    

THE BUGS BUNNY FILM FESTIVAL — No collection of classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons can help but be a tribute to the talents of Mel Blanc. The pre-eminent voice actor of animation's golden age, he didn't just speak the lines, he created the characters. (Posted May 30)

MARIA CHAPDELAINE — The second of four films in which Nick Mancuso co-starred with Carole Laure, Québec director Gilles Carle's period romance is a fine adaptation of author Louis Hémon's 1913 Canadian literary landmark. (Posted May 29)

DIONNE QUINTUPLETS — To mark the social phenomenon that followed the 1934 birth of the Dionne Quintuplets, Reeling Back offers this quiz focusing on the brief Hollywood career of the five infant girls. (Posted May 28)

POLTERGEIST — The arrival of 2015's 3D remake is but one reason to recall the 1982 original, the film that introduced welcome humour to the horror movie genre. Questions regarding a deadly curse and whether producer Steven Spielberg took over directing from Tobe Hooper remain to this day. (Posted May 24)

STRIPS TO SCREEN — To mark the opening day of the 2015 Vancouver Comic Arts Festival, Reeling Back offers this quiz recalling some of the newspaper comic strips that inspired theatrical feature films. (Posted May 23)

COM-EX — In a departure from Reeling Back's usual focus on films, this pair of features report on Canada's first comic arts festival. Held in November 1966 on the University of Toronto campus, the exhibition was organized by the newly formed Canadian Academy of Comic Book Collectors. (Posted May 22)

COLONEL CHABERT — Based on an account of PSTD written by Honoré de Balzac 150 years before the term was invented, French director Yves Angelo's 1995 feature stars Gérard Depardieu as a Napoleonic Wars veteran whose return from the dead brings no joy to his remarried wife. (Posted May 20)

MOUNT ROYAL MUMMERS — To mark the 1642 founding of the City of Montreal, Reeling Back offers this quiz testing visitors' knowledge of six talented Quebecers who found fame in Hollywood. (Posted May 18)

ZELLY AND ME — Debuting writer-director Tina Rathborne's 1988 tale of a pre-teen orphan's growing pains in rural Virginia owed much of its success to the participation of David Lynch and his then-partner Isabella Rossellini. (Posted May 16)