Sunday, October 9, 2016

City of Weird Contributor: Mark Russell

Now that City of Weird is out and in stores, I thought I'd write a little about each of the wonderful contributors. I'm going to do it one at a time, generally as a lead up to one of our events. As our Powell's City of Books book launch is coming up on Wednesday, September 12th (facebook event page is here), I'm starting with those authors. Today: Mark Russell.


Sometimes I like to think about the fact that I know the guy who writes The Flintstones.

I mean, the fact that there is a new comic book based on The Flintstones is amazing in itself, and the fact that the writing in this comic is not just based on rock puns and old Honeymooners episodes, that it's actually quite hilarious and beautifully subversive and full of social commentary, that all kind of blows my mind. The fact that it's written by the guy who periodically comes down to the Academy Theater to watch Seventies movies with me, though, that is the best.

Mark Russell has churned out a remarkable pile of wit in print in the last few years. I remember the time just before his career really took off, when he was talking about his upcoming book God is Disappointed in You. The publisher, Top Shelf Productions, had made up little stapled chap books with some of his funny interpretations of the Bible, along with Shannon Wheeler's illustrations, and he gave me one.

I couldn't have imagined, then, where he'd go in his creative life in only a few years. God is Disappointed in You is a very funny, beautifully accurate brief retelling of the Bible, book by book, and his follow-up, Apocrypha Now gives the same droll, irreverent though respectful treatment to the Gnostic Gospels. They're out, now, in a lovely slip-cased box set.

Then DC snapped him up, and he was writing the comic Prez, about the nation''s first teen-aged President. Again: it was full of Russell's wit and his keen eye on politics. I think Max Robinson says it best in his article Why DC's Prez is the Best Comic You're Not Reading:

"...not only is Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell’s 2015 reimagining of Prez a great comic, it’s the best satire comics has seen in years."

Oh, and Ben Caldwell's art is super fantastic!

And now, The Flintstones! Ladies and gentleman, this is not your grandpappy's Flintstones.

Here's a fun fact: one of the lines in Mark's City of Weird story "Letters to the Oregonian" he lifted and reused in an issue of The Flintstones.

I love how clever and droll and just plain Mark Russell the story is and I'm honored to have it in City of Weird. Here's a little taste. Complete title: "Letters to the Oregonian from the Year 30,000 B.C."

Dear Editor, 

This is in response to “Fire: Invention of the Year?” (Oregonian 5/13). Last month, my partner and I were visiting her clan in California. One night, over dinner, her Uncle Thrak said, “You’ve got to try this,” and lit a fire. At first I was like, “Oh, great, more yuppie chic from Uncle Thrak!” But I have to say, heating my mammoth rump with fire was life-changing. Intentionally burning your food (or “cooking,” as they call it) really unlocks the mammoth-flavor. I kept thinking how great it would be paired with a marionberry compote or live ants. 

So last week, after dropping our son off at Cave Song Adventurers, we bought our own fire starter kit. Our first attempt at cooking ended in a forest fire (sorry, Tree People). But we chose to view this as a lesson and not a failure, and found that, once you get the hang of it, cooking is not only fun, but also a powerful tool of self-expression. 

In fact, we found cooking with fire so rewarding that we opened a mammoth-fusion food cart just west of the burned forest. We’ve taken to calling this area West Burnside.

Crolak Grogg-Truk 
Gorba Grogg-Truk 
Whammoth, Bammoth, Thank You Mammoth

For a wonderful, in depth look at all of who Mark Russell is, check out his feature on On the Block Radio with Andrew Gurevich.

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