Inside a classic Wisconsin supper club (Photo: Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club, the film)

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Life can be hard for someone who’s a fan of comics, but not the physical or mental detritus that comes with them: space-consuming long-boxes, story-dividing crossovers, decades of intricate, half-assed continuity. Which is why Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s award-winning 2006 book is essentially the perfect comic: compact, backstory-light, and shot through with an irreverent sense of fun that makes it stand out just as well now as it did when it was sharing rack space with dour nonsense like Civil War or DC’s Infinite Crisis. Starring a crew of D-list Marvel heroes, the world’s greatest Nick Fury parody—Dirk Anger, director of H.A.T.E.—and its own awful-but-somehow-also-great theme song, the book offers up a series of short, two-issue stories driven entirely by a simple principle: “Is this awesome?” And as my weather-beaten, annually reread, often-loaned copy of the collected series—purchased when I was jobless and short on cash, and still one of the best buys I’ve ever made—can attest, it ably lives up to the challenge. [William Hughes]

Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience

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After fellow copy-desk member and Wisconsinite Caitlin PenzeyMoog and I convinced our Texas-born managing editor Laura M. Browning to see Old Fashioned: The Story Of The Wisconsin Supper Club with us, I could not get enough of the subject. Luckily Ron Faiola has composed a resource for and about supper clubs throughout Wisconsin that has kept my nostalgia for childhood outings to the unique restaurants alive and well. What’s a supper club you ask? Faiola helpfully defines them as restaurants that “emphasize food made from scratch, slow-paced dining, and family-run businesses… combined with stately dark-panel decor, complimentary relish trays, and the best brandy Old Fashioned sweet you’ll ever have.” All of this is beautifully photographed for the 224-page hardcover coffee table book, while the accompanying text discusses the regional specialties served at these clubs. It’s a great read for any history buff or foodie alike, with detailed descriptions of supper clubs in southeast, southwest, northeast, north central, and northwest Wisconsin. It even includes a two-page spread devoted to the making of a proper brandy Old Fashioned, which is especially handy, as the book is sure to make your mouth water. [Becca James]

How To Ru(i)n A Record Label

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In many ways, Larry Livermore’s last book—2013’s Spy Rock Memories—always felt like a prelude. As the founder and longtime owner of Lookout Records, the label that was home to the likes of Operation Ivy, Green Day, and Screeching Weasel, Spy Rock focused on Livermore’s time living in the mountains of Northern California, long before Lookout was even a glimmer in his eye. It’s what allows him to jump right into How To Ru(i)n A Record Label without the need for much throat clearing. Thanks to the success of Green Day’s pre-Dookie catalog, in the span of a year Lookout went from a renowned punk label to a multi-million dollar operation, and with that came all the mismanagement and stresses Livermore never anticipated. It’s here, in the book’s midsection, that How To Ru(i)n A Record Label is at its most affecting. Livermore isn’t one to sugarcoat his failures, and when he runs down his struggles—with alcoholism, a long stretch of suicidal thoughts, and the lawsuit between Lookout and Screeching Weasel that led to him leaving the label—the book hits hardest. Though he was long gone by the time the label folded, he had enough insider info to know exactly why the label failed, which he details in the final chapters while openly acknowledging his armchair quarterbacking. Striking a balance between personal memoir and a detailed history of one of pop-punk’s most important labels, Livermore is careful to not romanticize the past, but he’s also not jaded by it. By its end, Livermore instead hopes that there are some punk kids out there doing exactly what he did all those years ago: putting out records for the sheer joy of it. [David Anthony]