Gallery Hazel
On our to-do list: Learn how to letterpress. Okay, so it's right below organize all the closets and master the KitchenAid — it's going to be a while. That's fine, because gallery HAZEL isn't offering letterpress workshops quite yet. Sign us up when they do! We love to visit this sweet little space on First Fridays so we can behold the glory of a fully functional vintage letterpress — and the super-cute stationery that's been made with it. We can't wait to soak our hands in ink . . .
In the weeks leading up to Best of Phoenix, our culture blog brought you 100 images of the city. One of our favorites comes from artist Melissa McGurgan, who created a series of letterpress prints in an homage to Phoenix. The prints feature common local descriptors, including Dry Heat, Snow Bird, and even Tent City, but our favorite part is the witty attention to detail — teeny-tiny handcuffs and tents for our sheriff's favorite spot, and a lovely roadrunner/snowflake combo for winter visitors. McGurgan manages to poke gentle fun and elevate this place to an artier level at the same time.
You won't find local artist Shelby Robertson's pimpest works on the shelves of your local comic book shop, though he's illustrated for the likes of Marvel, DC, and Verotik. A self-taught artist and founder of independent publishing house American Dischord, Robertson plays with the big boys of the comic industry but still takes hand-drawn pin-up commissions for around 50 bucks a pop. His rendering of heavily detailed and well-muscled figures has been compared to fantasy artist Frank Frazetta and late Witchblade co-creator Michael Turner, which means you'll get more than your money's worth if you throw down for a portrait. And like Frazetta and Turner, Robertson is fond of penning curvaceous vixens in barely-there clothing. Our favorite is Latex Alice, a sultry version of Lewis Carroll's heroine — she makes a Barbie doll seem normal and proportional.
Zombies might be the "in thing" in sci-fi and fantasy right now, but there are other ways to get your brain-eating comic quotient in without picking up The Walking Dead. Local author John Layman, former editor for DC's Wildstorm branch and author of the fun Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness crossover, branched out on his own in 2009 with his indie comic Chew, which follows a detective who has the unusual ability to recall the experiences of anything he eats. Not surprisingly, the character is a vegetarian most of the time; that is, when he's not chomping the dead flesh of victims of murders he's investigating. It gives new meaning to the phrase "take a bite outta crime." A Chew script was picked up for a Showtime comedy series in May, making us proud that Layman chose to call Phoenix home before he hit the major leagues.
Punk rock has never been particularly kind to the art of growing up. There are few stranger sights than a 50-year-old sporting a Mohawk. But Brad Dwyer, who used to shout in punk band Gary's Agenda and currently performs as Brad the One Man Damned, knows how to tell the stories of an aging punk with charm, tact, and humor. His comic, Epic Tales of the Mundane, centers on his day-to-day life — learning to change his daughter's diapers, adult acne, riding the bus, struggling to interest his wife in the DC Comics re-launch, and daydreaming about robots fighting giant mutants. Dwyer's comics are sly, self-deprecating, and hilariously poke holes in the old axiom about burning out before fading away.
There are the jocks and cheerleaders and tight-assed businesspeople and average Joes of this world, and then there are the folks who just don't fit into one of those stifling categories. Some end up burrowing into hidey-holes with LAN games and bags of Cheetos. Others go the academic route and become experts on deciphering dead languages. But the most intriguing club for those on the social fringes is the Dark Ones, the mysterious sponsor behind such events as the Bazaar of the Bizarre and DarkCon. In addition to its major events, the group hosts parties at comic book conventions and regular meet-ups to view fantasy flicks or discuss historical costuming. You don't exactly need to know the secret handshake to be a Dark One, but not everyone is deemed worthy of joining. Noobs have to be sponsored, and you must be a member for five years before becoming a full-fledged Dark One. We don't know exactly what powers come with that privilege, but with any luck, the job at least comes with a horde of minions.
Carly's Bistro
Nerds of the world, unite! Oh, wait, you already did. From Amsterdam to Austin, self-proclaimed nerds are gathering at bars and restaurants to drink and, as they put it, "learn something." And Phoenix is no exception. The new-ish chapter of this oh-so-informal club meets at Carly's Bistro on Roosevelt Row. Topics so far have included "Dialogues between Science and Literature," the story of "audience modeling software," and one we're really sorry we missed — our own Serene Dominic on the virtues of "the best rock band of all time," The Osmonds?!?! We just gotta say it: nerd alert! In a good way, of course.
Five minutes. Twenty slides. One passion. That's the formula for Ignite Phoenix, a local version of the presentation series originally developed by O'Reilly Media. For each edition of Ignite Phoenix, several would-be presenters submit talks based on their greatest passions. Eighteen speakers are chosen and stand in front of 800 or so audience members at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Topics range from "Better Living Through Fast Food" to "Social Media Stole My Kidney!" Just about every Ignite talk is interesting, and if one isn't, another one will be up in only five minutes. Ignite Phoenix has grown a lot since its first incarnation in a tiny conference room at the Jobing.com offices. Tickets sell out quickly. There even are offshoots, such as an ASU-specific Ignite and an Ignite After Hours for topics that are not safe for work. If you need a shot of inspiration, light a fire under your ass and get it to Ignite Phoenix.
Marshall Shore met his obsession with history in a bag of old slides in a downtown Phoenix vintage store.

He bought the bag, thumbed through the transparencies, and projected them in his backyard. Shore says they were more than just old photos — they were forgotten stories, and he was determined to fill in the blanks.

Shore grew up in Odell, Indiana — a town of 25 people, one street, and two stop signs. There were plenty of stories, but not many characters, and at 23, he took a one-way trip to Brooklyn with no plans of going back. He landed a gig in a New York library and has since spent almost two decades soaking up information about cities and culture.

It wasn't until he transferred to Phoenix (and later lost his job to the failing library economy), that he took his research to the street. Our streets.

Meet Shore for a drink, check out his blog, or take a seat at his monthly slideshow series at Metro Retro, and he'll catch you up on the gossip out of Sun City, the latest of his T-shirt creations, screen-printed with historical buildings, or any one of the stories collected during a day trip to Sunnyslope.

The local historian labeled himself early on as an "information curator" who's not afraid of dark basements or dusty corners. Shore says he chooses to ignore the all-too-common claim, "Phoenix has no history," and is, instead, on a mission to connect the community to its current and historic place.

He's got a camera and a notepad he only uses for names and numbers. And he keeps the stories in a hidden, photographic system in his head. Now we just have to get him to write it all down.

We love a good lecture series. No, really. Have you been to Ignite? Heard about TED? Infomercial meets stand-up — it's all the rage, and we love to sit back and learn something we didn't already know.Add Four Peaks beer and we'll be the first in line.That's what the smart folks at Audubon Arizona did. They know their subject matter can be, well, a hard sell. Do you really want to sit in an auditorium while someone lectures to you about birds? Okay, what if it's the mating patterns of birds, and they serve beer?Throw in a frog or two, and we're there. At the monthly "series of lighthearted lectures showcasing the behavior of native animals . . . geared toward environmentally conscious adults," Four Peaks pours the beer while "environmental professionals" give 20-minute talks about, um, animal sex, complete with visual aids. The material is PG, but you'll still want to leave the kids at home unless you want them swilling ale and learning the mating call of the barn owl.

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