Sean T. Collins has written about comics and popular culture professionally since 2001 and on this very blog since 2003. He has written for Maxim, The Comics Journal, Stuff, Wizard, A&F Quarterly, Comic Book Resources, Giant, ToyFare, The Onion, The Comics Reporter and more. His comics
have been published by Top Shelf, Partyka, and Family Style. He blogs here and at Robot 6
(Provided that I deem them suitably fabulous, your name and message will be considered eligible for publication unless you specify otherwise.)
Review Copies Welcome
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An anthology of comics written by Sean T. Collins
Art by Matt Wiegle, Matt Rota, and Josiah Leighton
Designed by Matt Wiegle
An indie fantasy anthology
Featuring a comic by Sean T. Collins & Matt Wiegle
The Sean Collins Media Empire
Destructor Comes to Croc Town
story: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
1995 (NSFW)script: Sean T. Collins
art: Raymond Suzuhara
Pornographyscript: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
It Brought Me Some Peace of Mindscript: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
edit: Brett Warnock
A Real Gentle Knifescript: Sean T. Collins
art: Josiah Leighton
lyrics: "Rippin Kittin" by Golden Boy & Miss Kittin
The Real Killers Are Still Out Therescript: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
Destructor in: Prison Breakstory: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
Cage Variations: Kitchen Sink
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
Cage Variations: 1998 High Street
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
Cage Variations: We Had No Idea
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
The Side Effects of the Cocaine
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Isaac Moylan
Cage Variations: No
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
The Amazing! Incredible! Uncanny Oral History of Marvel Comics
The Outbreak: An Autobiographical Horror Blog
Where the Monsters Go: A 31-Day Horrorblogging Marathon, October 2003
Blog of Blood: A Marathon Examination of Clive Barker's Books of Blood, October
The Blogslinger: Blogging Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, October-November 2007
The Things That Should Not Be: The Monumental Horror-Image and Its Relation to the Contemporary Horror Film (introduction)PDF
My 35 Favorite Horror Films of All Time (at the moment)
My David Bowie Sketchbook
The Manly Movie Mamajama
Horror and Certainty I
Horror and Certainty II
En Garde--I'll Let You Try My New Dumb Avant Garde Style, Part I
Evil for Thee, Not Me
The 7 Best Horror Movies of the Past 7 Years (give or take a few films)
Keep Horror NSFW, Part I
Meet the New Boss: The Politics of Killing, Part I
130 Things I Loved About The Sopranos
In Defense of "Torture Porn," Part I
At a Loss: Lost fandom and its discontents
I Got Dem Ol' Konfuzin' Event-Komik Blues Again, Mama
Losing My Edge (DFADDTF Comix Remix)
GusGus, the Universe, and Everything
"I'd Rather Die Than Give You Control" (or Adolf Hitler, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, and Trent Reznor walk into a blog)
The 11 Most Awful Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks
The 11 Most Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks
11 More Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks
The 15 Greatest Science Fiction-Based Pop/Rock/Hip-Hop Songs
My Loch Ness Adventure
The Best Comics of 2003
The Best Albums of 2003
The Best Albums of 2004
The Best Comics of 2005
The Best Comics of 2006
The Best Comics, Films, Albums, Songs, and Television Programs of 2007
The Best Comics of 2008
The Best Comics of 2009
The Best Songs of 2009
80 Great Tracks from the 1990s
Interviews with Sean
Interviews by Sean
Avatar (Cameron, 2009)
Barton Fink (Coen, 1991)
Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005)
Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Alcala/Rose, 2007)
Battlestar Galactica: "Revelations" (Rymer, 2008)
Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 (Moore et al, 2009)
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Olmos, 2009)
Beowulf (Zemeckis, 2007)
The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963)
The Blair Witch Project (Myrick & Sanchez, 1999)
The Bourne Identity (Liman, 2002)
The Bourne Supremacy (Greengrass, 2004)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Greengrass, 2007)
Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006)
Caprica: "Pilot" (Reiner, 2009)
Caprica S1 E1-6 (Moore et al, 2010)
Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006)
Cigarette Burns (Carpenter, 2005)
Clash of the Titans (Leterrier, 2010)
Cloverfield (Reeves, 2008), Part I
Crank: High Voltage (Neveldine/Taylor, 2009)
Daredevil (Johnson, 2003)
The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)
Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)
Della'morte, Dell'amore [Cemetery Man] (Soavi, 1994)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Play (Eckerling & Sunde, 2010)
District 9 (Blomkamp, 2009)
Doomsday (Marshall, 2008)
Dragon Wars [D-War] (Shim, 2007)
Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, 2007)
The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)
The Expendables (Stallone, 2010)
Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)
Eyes Wide Shut revisited, Part I
Garden State (Braff, 2004)
Gossip Girl Seasons 1-2 (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2007-08)
Gossip Girl Season Three (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2009-2010)
Grindhouse [Planet Terror/Death Proof] (Rodriguez & Tarantino, 2007)
Heavenly Creatures (Jackson, 1994)
Hellboy (Del Toro, 2004)
Hellraiser (Barker, 1987)
A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 2005), Part I
The Host (Bong, 2006)
Hostel (Roth, 2005)
Hostel: Part II (Roth, 2007)
Hulk (Lee, 2003)
The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2009)
I Am Legend (Lawrence, 2007)
The Incredible Hulk (Leterrier, 2008)
Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009)
Inside (Maury & Bustillo, 2007)
Iron Man (Favreau, 2008)
Iron Man II (Favreau, 2010)
It (Wallace, 1990)
Jeepers Creepers (Salva, 2001)
King Kong (Jackson, 2005), Part I
Land of the Dead (Romero, 2005)
Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jackson, 2003)
Lost: the first five episodes (Abrams, Lindelof et al, 2004)
Lost Season Five (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2009)
Lost Season Six (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2010)
Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997)
The Lovely Bones (Jackson, 2009)
Match Point (Allen, 2006)
The Matrix Revolutions (Wachowski, 2003)
Metropolis (Lang, 1927)
The Mist (Darabont, 2007), Part I
Moon (Jones, 2009)
Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)
My Bloody Valentine 3D (Lussier, 2009)
The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange #1 (various, 2010)
Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)
Pan's Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)
Paperhouse (Rose, 1988)
Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2009)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Verbinski, 2007) Part I
Poltergeist (Hooper/Spielberg, 1982)
Quantum of Solace (Forster, 2008)
Rambo (Stallone, 2008)
[REC] (Balaguero & Plaza, 2007)
The Ring (Verbinski, 2002)
The Road (Hillcoat, 2009)
The Ruins (Smith, 2008)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright, 2010)
Secretary (Shainberg, 2002)
A Serious Man (Coen, 2009)
The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)
Shoot 'Em Up (Davis, 2007)
Shutter Island (Scorses, 2010)
The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991)
The Sopranos (Chase et al, 1999-2007)
Speed Racer (Wachowski, 2008)
The Stand (Garris, 1994), Part I
The Terminator (Cameron, 1984)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991)
Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)
There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
The Thing (Carpenter, 1983)
300 (Snyder, 2007)
"Thriller" (Jackson & Landis, 1984)
28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)
28 Weeks Later (Fresnadillo, 2007)Part I
Twilight (Hardwicke, 2008)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Slade, 2010)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Weitz, 2009)
Up in the Air (J. Reitman, 2009)
War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005)
Watchmen (Snyder, 2009) Part I
The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)
The Wire (Simon et al, 2002-2008)
Zombi 2 [Zombie] (Fulci, 1980)
Zombieland (Fleischer, 2009)
Books of Blood (Barker, 1984-85)
A Clash of Kings (Martin, 1999)
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Howard, 2003)
The Dark Tower series (King, 1982-2004)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling, 2003)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Rowling, 2005)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Rowling, 2007)
Hitler: A Biography (Kershaw, 2008)
It (King, 1986)
Mister B. Gone (Barker, 2007)
The Monster Show (Skal, 2001)
Portable Grindhouse (Boyreau, 2009)
The Ruins (Smith, 2006)
'Salem's Lot (King, 1975)
The Stand (King, 1990), Part I
The Terror (Simmons, 2007)
Abe Sapien: The Drowning (Mignola & Alexander, 2008)
Abstract Comics (various, 2009)
The ACME Novelty Library #18 (Ware, 2007)
The ACME Novelty Library #19 (Ware, 2008)
Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore (Moore et al, 2003)
Action Comics #870 (Johns & Frank, 2008)
The Adventures of Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls (Herge, 1975)
Afrodisiac (Rugg & Maruca, 2010)
Against Pain (Rege Jr., 2008)
Agents of Atlas #10 (Parker, Hardman, Rivoche, 2009)
The Airy Tales (Volozova, 2008)
Al Burian Goes to Hell (Burian, 1993)
Alan's War (Guibert, 2008)
Alex Robinson's Lower Regions (Robinson, 2007)
Aline and the Others (Delisle, 2006)
All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 (Miller & Lee, 2009)
All-Star Superman (Morrison & Quitely, 2008-2010)
American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar (Pekar et al, 2003)
An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories (Brunetti et al, 2006)
An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2 (Brunetti et al, 2008)
Aqua Leung Vol. 1 (Smith & Maybury, 2008)
Archaeology (McShane, 2009)
The Arrival (Tan, 2006)
Artichoke Tales (Kelso, 2010)
Asterios Polyp (Mazzucchelli, 2009)
The Aviary (Tanner, 2007)
The Awake Field (Rege Jr., 2006)
Axe Cop (Nicolle & Nicolle, 2009-2010)
Bacter-Area (Keith Jones, 2005)
Bald Knob (Hankiewicz, 2007)
Batman (Simmons, 2007)
Batman #664-669, 672-675 (Morrison et al, 2007-2008)
Batman #681 (Morrison & Daniel, 2008)
Batman and the Monster Men (Wagner, 2006)
Batman and Robin #1 (Morrison & Quitely, 2009)
Batman and Robin #9 (Morrison & Stewart, 2010)
Batman: Hush (Loeb & Lee, 2002-03)
Batman: Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat (Dixon, Moench, Aparo, Balent, Breyfogle, Nolan, 1993)
Batman R.I.P. (Morrison, Daniel, Garbett, 2010)
Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight (Cosentino, 2008)
Batman Year 100 (Pope, 2007)
Battlestack Galacti-crap (Chippendale, 2005)
The Beast Mother (Davis, 2006)
The Best American Comics 2006 (A.E. Moore, Pekar et al, 2006)
The Best of the Spirit (Eisner, 2005)
Between Four Walls/The Room (Mattotti, 2003)
Big Questions #10 (Nilsen, 2007)
Big Questions #11: Sweetness and Light (Nilsen, 2008)
Big Questions #12: A Young Crow's Guide to Hunting (Nilsen, 2009)
Big Questions #13: A House That Floats (Nilsen, 2009)
Big Questions #14: Title and Deed (Nilsen, 2010)
The Black Diamond Detective Agency (E. Campbell & Mitchell, 2007)
Black Ghost Apple Factory (Tinder, 2006)
Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Giant Magazine version
Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Savage Critics version, Part I
Blackest Night #0-2 (Johns & Reis, 2009)
Blankets (Thompson, 2003)
Blar (Weing, 2005)
Bone (Smith, 2005)
Bonus ? Comics (Huizenga, 2009)
The Book of Genesis Illustrated (Crumb, 2009)
Bottomless Bellybutton (Shaw, 2008)
Boy's Club (Furie, 2006)
Boy's Club 2 (Furie, 2008)
Boy's Club 3 (Furie, 2009)
B.P.R.D. Vol. 9: 1946 (Mignola, Dysart, Azaceta, 2008)
B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #4 (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2009)
Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! (Spiegelman, 2008)
Brilliantly Ham-fisted (Neely, 2008)
Burma Chronicles (Delisle, 2008)
Capacity (Ellsworth, 2008)
Captain America (Brubaker, Epting, Perkins et al, 2004-2008)
Captain America #33-34 (Brubaker & Epting, 2007-08)
Captain America: Reborn #4 (Brubaker & Hitch, 2009)
Captain Britain & MI:13 #5 (Cornell & Oliffe, 2008)
Cartoon Dialectics Vol. 1 (Kaczynski, 2007)
Chance in Hell (G. Hernandez, 2007)
Chester 5000 XYV (Fink, 2008-2009)
Chrome Fetus Comics #7 (Rickheit, 2009)
City-Hunter Magazine #1 (C.F., 2009)
Clive Barker's Seduth (Barker, Monfette, Rodriguez, Zone, 2009)
Clive Barker's The Thief of Always (Oprisko & Hernandez, 2005)
Closed Caption Comics #8 (various, 2009)
Cockbone (Simmons, 2009)
Cold Heat #1 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)
Cold Heat #2 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)
Cold Heat #4 (BJ & Santoro, 2007)
Cold Heat #5/6 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)
Cold Heat #7/8 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)
Cold Heat Special #2: The Chunky Gnars (Cornwell, 2007)
Cold Heat Special #3 (Santoro & Shaw, 2008)
Cold Heat Special #5 (Santoro & Smith, 2008)
Cold Heat Special #6 (Cornwell, 2009)
Cold Heat Special #7 (DeForge, 2009)
Cold Heat Special #8 (Santoro & Milburn, 2008)
Cold Heat Special #9 (Santoro & Milburn, 2009)
Comics Are For Idiots!: Blecky Yuckerella Vol. 3 (Ryan, 2008)
The Complete Persepolis (Satrapi, 2007)
Core of Caligula (C.F., 2008)
Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories (Swain, 2009)
Cry Yourself to Sleep (Tinder, 2006)
Curio Cabinet (Brodowski, 2010)
Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales (Dougherty, 2006)
Daredevil #103-104 (Brubaker & Lark, 2007-08)
Daredevil #110 (Brubaker, Rucka, Lark, Gaudiano, 2008)
The Dark Knight Strikes Again (Miller & Varley, 2003)
Dark Reign: The List #7--Wolverine (Aaron & Ribic, 2009)
Daybreak Episode Three (Ralph, 2008)
DC Universe #0 (Morrison, Johns et al, 2008)
The Death of Superman (Jurgens et al, 1993)
Death Note Vol. 1 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)
Death Note Vol. 2 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)
Death Trap (Milburn, 2010)
Detective Comics #854-860 (Rucka & Williams III, 2009-2010)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Gloeckner, 2002)
Dirtbags, Mallchicks & Motorbikes (Kiersh, 2009)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow (Nilsen & Weaver, 2006)
Doom Force #1 (Morrison et al, 1992)
Doomwar #1 (Maberry & Eaton, 2010)
Dr. Seuss Goes to War (Seuss/Minear, 2001)
Dragon Head Vols. 1-5 (Mochizuki, 2005-2007)
A Drifting Life (Tatsumi, 2009)
Driven by Lemons (Cotter, 2009)
Eightball #23 (Clowes, 2004)
Ex Machina Vols. 1-9 (Vaughan, Harris et al, 2005-2010)
Exit Wounds (Modan, 2007)
The Exterminators Vol. 1: Bug Brothers (Oliver & Moore, 2006)
Fallen Angel (Robel, 2006)
Fandancer (Grogan, 2010)
Fatal Faux-Pas (Gaskin, 2008)
FCHS (Delsante & Freire, 2010)
Feeble Minded Funnies/My Best Pet (Milburn/Freibert, 2009)
Fight or Run: Shadow of the Chopper (Huizenga, 2008)
Final Crisis #1 (Morrison & Jones, 2008)
Final Crisis #1-7 (Morrison, Jones, Pacheco, Rudy, Mahnke et al, 2008-2009)
Fires (Mattotti, 1991)
First Time (Sibylline et al, 2009)
Flash: Rebirth #4 (Johns & Van Sciver, 2009)
Follow Me (Moynihan, 2009)
Footnotes in Gaza (Sacco, 2009)
Forbidden Worlds #114: "A Little Fat Nothing Named Herbie!" (O'Shea [Hughes] & Whitney, 1963)
Forlorn Funnies #5 (Hornschemeier, 2004)
Forming (Moynihan, 2009-2010)
Fox Bunny Funny (Hartzell, 2007)
Funny Misshapen Body (Brown, 2009)
Galactikrap 2 (Chippendale, 2007)
Ganges #2 (Huizenga, 2008)
Ganges #3 (Huizenga, 2009)
Gangsta Rap Posse #1 (Marra, 2009)
The Gigantic Robot (Gauld, 2009)
Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life (Paley & Swain, 2009)
A God Somewhere (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2010)
Goddess Head (Shaw, 2006)
The Goddess of War, Vol. 1 (Weinstein, 2008)
GoGo Monster (Matsumoto, 2009)
The Goon Vols. 0-2 (Powell, 2003-2004)
Green Lantern #43-51 (Johns, Mahnke, Benes, 2009-2010)
Held Sinister (Stechschulte, 2009)
Hellboy Junior (Mignola, Wray et al, 2004)
Hellboy Vol. 8: Darkness Calls (Mignola & Fegredo, 2008)
Henry & Glenn Forever (Neely et al, 2010)
High Moon Vol. 1 (Gallaher & Ellis, 2009)
Ho! (Brunetti, 2009)
How We Sleep (Davis, 2006)
I Killed Adolf Hitler (Jason, 2007)
I Live Here (Kirshner, MacKinnon, Shoebridge, Simons et al, 2008)
I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (Hanks, Karasik, 2007)
Image United #1 (Kirkman, Liefeld et al, 2009)
The Immortal Iron Fist #12 (Brubaker, Fraction, Aja, Kano, Pulido, 2008)
The Immortal Iron Fist #21 (Swierczynski & Green, 2008)
Immortal Weapons #1 (Aaron, Swierczynski et al, 2009)
In a Land of Magic (Simmons, 2009)
In the Flesh: Stories (Shadmi, 2009)
Incanto (Santoro, 2006)
Incredible Change-Bots (Brown, 2007)
The Incredible Hercules #114-115 (Pak, Van Lente, Pham, 2008)
Inkweed (Wright, 2008)
Invincible Vols. 1-9 (Kirkman, Walker, Ottley, 2003-2008)
Invincible Iron Man #1-4 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)
Invincible Iron Man #8 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)
Invincible Iron Man #19 (Fraction & Larroca, 2009)
It Was the War of the Trenches (Tardi, 2010)
It's Sexy When People Know Your Name (Hannawalt, 2007)
Jessica Farm Vol. 1 (Simmons, 2008)
Jin & Jam #1 (Jo, 2009)
JLA Classified: Ultramarine Corps (Morrison & McGuinness, 2002)
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (Katchor, 1996)
Jumbly Junkery #8-9 (Nichols, 2009-2010)
Just a Man #1 (Mitchell & White, 2009)
Justice League: The New Frontier Special (Cooke, Bone, Bullock, 2008)
Keeping Two (Crane, 2001-)
Kick-Ass #1-4 (Millar & Romita Jr., 2008)
Kid Eternity (Morrison & Fegredo, 1991)
Kill Your Boyfriend (Morrison & Bond, 1995)
King-Cat Comics and Stories #69 (Porcellino, 2008)
Kramers Ergot 4 (Harkham et al, 2003)
Kramers Ergot 5 (Harkham et al, 2004)
Kramers Ergot 6 (Harkham et al, 2006)
Kramers Ergot 7 (Harkham et al, 2008)
The Lagoon (Carre, 2008)
The Last Call Vol. 1 (Lolos, 2007)
The Last Lonely Saturday (Crane, 2000)
The Last Musketeer (Jason, 2008)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (Moore & O'Neill, 2007)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 3: Century #1: 1910 (Moore & O'Neill, 2009)
Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (Levitz, Giffen, Mahlstedt, Bruning, 1991)
Little Things (Brown, 2008)
Look Out!! Monsters #1 (Grogan, 2008)
Lose #1-2 (DeForge, 2009-2010)
Lost Kisses #9 & 10 (Mitchell, 2009)
Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 (Los Bros Hernandez, 2008)
Low Moon (Jason, 2009)
The Mage's Tower (Milburn, 2008)
Maggots (Chippendale, 2007)
The Man with the Getaway Face (Cooke, 2010)
Mattie & Dodi (Davis, 2006)
McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13 (Ware et al, 2004)
Mercury (Larson, 2010)
Mesmo Delivery (Grampa, 2008)
Micrographica (French, 2007)
Mister Wonderful (Clowes, 2007-2008)
Mome Vol. 4: Spring/Summer 2006 (various, 2006)
Mome Vol. 9: Fall 2007 (various, 2007)
Mome Vol. 10: Winter/Spring 2008 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 11: Summer 2008 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 12: Fall 2008 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 13: Winter 2009 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 14: Spring 2009 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 15: Summer 2009 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 16: Fall 2009 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 17: Winter 2010 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 18: Spring 2010 (various, 2010)
Mome Vol. 19: Summer 2010 (various, 2010)
Monkey & Spoon (Lia, 2004)
Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby (Nemoto, 2008)
Monsters (Dahl, 2009)
Monsters & Condiments (Wiegle, 2009)
Monstrosity Mini (Diaz, 2010)
Mother, Come Home (Hornschemeier, 2003)
The Mourning Star Vols. 1 & 2 (Strzepek, 2006 & 2009)
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (Petersen, 2008)
Mr. Cellar's Attic (Freibert, 2010)
Multiforce (Brinkman, 2009)
Multiple Warheads #1 (Graham, 2007)
My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Heatley, 2008)
The Mystery of Woolverine Woo-Bait (Coleman, 2004)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2006)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 4-5 (Urasawa, 2006)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 6-18 (Urasawa, 2006-2008)
Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2009)
Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 4 & 5 (Urasawa, 2009)
Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps! (Neely, 2010)
Neighbourhood Sacrifice (Davidson, DeForge, Gill, 2009)
Never Ending Summer (Cole, 2004)
Never Learn Anything from History (Beaton, 2009)
Neverland (Kiersh, 2008)
New Avengers #44 (Bendis & Tan, 2008)
New Construction #2 (Huizenga, May, Zettwoch, 2008)
New Engineering (Yokoyama, 2007)
New Painting and Drawing (Jones, 2008)
New X-Men Vol. 6: Planet X (Morrison & Jimenez, 2004)
New X-Men Vol. 7: Here Comes Tomorrow (Morrison & Silvestri, 2004)
Nicolas (Girard, 2008)
Night Business #1 & 2 (Marra, 2008 & 2009)
Night Business #3 (Marra, 2010)
Nil: A Land Beyond Belief (Turner, 2007)
Ninja (Chippendale, 2006)
Nocturnal Conspiracies (David B., 2008)
not simple (Ono, 2010)
The Numbers of the Beasts (Cheng, 2010)
Ojingogo (Forsythe, 2008)
Olde Tales Vol. II (Milburn, 2007)
One Model Nation (Taylor, Leitch, Rugg, Porter, 2009)
Or Else #5 (Huizenga, 2008)
The Other Side #1-2 (Aaron & Stewart, 2005)
Owly Vol. 4: A Time to Be Brave (Runton, 2007)
Owly Vol. 5: Tiny Tales (Runton, 2008)
Paper Blog Update Supplemental Postcard Set Sticker Pack (Nilsen, 2009)
Paradise Kiss Vols. 1-5 (Yazawa, 2002-2004)
The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (Gurewitch, 2009)
Peter's Muscle (DeForge, 2010)
Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days (Columbia, 2009)
Pixu I (Ba, Cloonan, Lolos, Moon, 2008)
Pizzeria Kamikaze (Keret & A. Hanuka, 2006)
Plague Hero (Adebimpe, 2009)
Planetary Book 3: Leaving the 20th Century (Ellis & Cassaday, 2005)
Planetes Vols. 1-3 (Yukimura, 2003-2004)
The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Eisner, 2005)
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009)
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-8 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009-2010)
Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories (Jason, 2008)
pood #1 (various, 2010)
Powr Mastrs Vol. 1 (C.F., 2007)
Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 (C.F., 2008)
Prison Pit: Book 1 (Ryan, 2009)
Prison Pit: Book 2 (Ryan, 2010)
Real Stuff (Eichhorn et al, 2004)
Red Riding Hood Redux (Krug, 2009)
Refresh, Refresh (Novgorodoff, Ponsoldt, Pierce, 2009)
Remake (Abrams, 2009)
Reykjavik (Rehr, 2009)
Ronin (Miller, 1984)
Rumbling Chapter Two (Huizenga, 2009)
The San Francisco Panorama Comics Section (various, 2010)
Scott Pilgrim Full-Colour Odds & Ends 2008 (O'Malley, 2008)
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (O'Malley, 2007)
Scott Piglrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (O'Malley, 2009)
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (O'Malley, 2010)
Second Thoughts (Asker, 2009)
Service Industry (Bak, 2007)
Set to Sea (Weing, 2010)
Seven Soldiers of Victory Vols. 1-4 (Morrison et al, 2004)
Shenzhen (Delisle, 2008)
S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (Hickman & Weaver, 2010)
Shitbeams on the Loose #2 (various, 2010)
Show Off (Burrier, 2009)
Siege (Bendis & Coipel, 2010)
Siberia (Maslov, 2008)
Skim (Tamaki & Tamaki, 2008)
Skyscrapers of the Midwest (Cotter, 2008)
Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4 (Cotter, 2007)
Sleeper Car (Ellsworth, 2009)
Sloe Black (DeForge)
Slow Storm (Novgorodoff, 2008)
Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret (Kupperman, 2000)
Snake Oil #5: Wolf (Forsman, 2009)
Snow Time (Krug, 2010)
Solanin (Asano, 2008)
Soldier X #1-8 (Macan & Kordey, 2002-2003)
Speak of the Devil (G. Hernandez, 2008)
Spider-Man: Fever #1 (McCarthy, 2010)
Split Lip Vol. 1 (Costello et al, 2009)
Squadron Supreme (Gruenwald et al, 1986)
The Squirrel Machine (Rickheit, 2009)
Stay Away from Other People (Hannawalt, 2008)
Storeyville (Santoro, 2007)
Strangeways: Murder Moon (Maxwell, Garagna, Gervasio, Jok, 2008)
Studio Visit (McShane, 2010)
Stuffed! (Eichler & Bertozzi, 2009)
Sulk Vol. 1: Bighead & Friends (J. Brown, 2009)
Sulk Vol. 2: Deadly Awesome (J. Brown, 2009)
Sulk Vol. 3: The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness (Brown, 2009)
Superman #677-680 (Robinson & Guedes, 2008)
Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 (Sadowski et al, 2009)
Sweet Tooth #1 (Lemire, 2009)
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4 (Kupperman, 2008)
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5 (Kupperman, 2009)
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 (Kupperman, 2010)
Tales of Woodsman Pete (Carre, 2006)
Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White (Matsumoto, 2007)
Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) ADDTF version
Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) TCJ version
They Moved My Bowl (Barsotti, 2007)
Thor: Ages of Thunder (Fraction, Zircher, Evans, 2008)
Three Shadows (Pedrosa, 2008)
Tokyo Tribes Vols. 1 & 2 (Inoue, 2005)
Top 10: The Forty-Niners (Moore & Ha, 2005)
Travel (Yokoyama, 2008)
Trigger #1 (Bertino, 2010)
The Troll King (Karlsson, 2010)
Two Eyes of the Beautiful (Smith, 2010)
Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 (Millar & Pacheco, 2009)
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 (Bendis & LaFuente, 2009)
Ultimate Spider-Man #131 (Bendis & Immonen, 2009)
The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Way & Ba, 2008)
Uptight #3 (Crane, 2009)
Wally Gropius (Hensley, 2010)
Watchmen (Moore & Gibbons, 1987) Part I
Water Baby (R. Campbell, 2008)
Weathercraft (Woodring, 2010)
Werewolves of Montpellier (Jason, 2010)
Wednesday Comics #1 (various, 2009)
West Coast Blues (Tardi & Manchette, 2009)
Wet Moon, Book 1: Feeble Wanderings (Campbell, 2004)
Wet Moon, Book 2: Unseen Feet (Campbell, 2006)
Weird Schmeird #2 (Smith, 2010)
What Had Happened Was... (Collardey, 2009)
Where Demented Wented (Hayes, 2008)
Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey (Handford, 2007)
Whiskey Jack & Kid Coyote Meet the King of Stink (Cheng, 2009)
Wiegle for Tarzan (Wiegle, 2010)
Wilson (Clowes, 2010)
The Winter Men (Lewis & Leon, 2010)
The Witness (Hob, 2008)
Wormdye (Espey, 2008)
Worms #4 (Mitchell & Traub, 2009)
Worn Tuff Elbow (Marc Bell, 2004)
The Would-Be Bridegrooms (Cheng, 2007)
XO #5 (Mitchell & Gardner, 2009)
You Are There (Forest & Tardi, 2009)
You'll Never Know Book One: A Good and Decent Man (Tyler, 2009)
Young Lions (Larmee, 2010)
Your Disease Spread Quick (Neely, 2008)
The Trouble with The Comics Journal's News Watch, Part I
KEEP COMICS EVIL
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June 2003 Archives
Well, not Jesus, I guess. And that seems to be the point. That cartoon is appalling, people. And don't tell me "It's not supposed to represent all Jewish people--just Sharon." It looks nothing like Sharon. Sharon has thinning hair and his nose is small. It'd be one thing if this cartoon were by Ted Rall, who's never drawn anything that even remotely resembles an actual person, but Dick Locher used to draw Dick Tracy--he knows how to draw, and he also knows that if he'd used Dick Tracy's nose on Sam Katchem, he'd been booted right off the strip. In this case, he knew full well that he was drawing a hook-nosed money-grubbing Jew.
Moreover, you can only stretch the "attacking Israel isn't attacking Jewry" argument so far: as someone (I think Sullivan or Johnson) pointed at one time, historically anti-Semitism has always tethered its noxious self to some "real" political greivance ("They're Communists!" "They're capitalists!" "They're spreading a disease!") The fact that this cartoon is so transparent in its use of Jew-hating stereotypes only serves to clearly demonstrate this fact.
Anti-Semitic sack of garbage. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, I've got your road map right here, Dick.
I couldn't leave you with that anti-Semitism post, so:
Lileks and Treacher be damned--me, I loved the new Matrix movie. Violence, philosophy, ruminations on free will, sexy parts, killer robots. I don't get it--what's not to like?
Permalinks! That's what "plink!" means. Thank-props to Kennyb, programmer extraordinaire. Just from reading other people's blogs I've gotten a sense of how hugely problematic the popular blogging thingamajiggers are, and meanwhile I've got my own personal Cornell Engineering Master's Degree Holder figuring out how to make it so people can link directly to posts about my brother's sex life. What a country!
Asian women are the gay man's gateway drug. (The gayteway drug, if you will.) Almost every gay man I know dated at least one, and often several, Asian woman/women prior to coming out of the closet. And every guy I suspect of being gay (you know who you are) has had a thing for Asian women, some almost exclusively so. (There's one cryptogay guy I know who is totally fetishistic about Indian and Pakistani women, but they're technically Asian too, so the theory stands.)
I bring this up because my younger brother, who has gone out of his way for years to conceal all evidence of his dating anybody (if indeed there's any to conceal...), has begun bringing home a half-Asian girl on a regular basis. I personally don't think my brother is gay; he's just shy about sharing the details of his personal life. (Sharing the details of his balls, on the other hand, usually in some sort of pseudo-operatic Enrico Pallazzo-esque burst of song--that's a different story. He's an odd duck, is my brother.) This mildly brazen turn of events would be fairly unremarkable, if it weren't for two things: 1) The Asian equation, allowing my wife and I, in the tradition of Alan Moore and the Freemasons, to cast spurious and unfounded accusations at his sexuality; 2) The fact that he's bringing this girl home to my parents' house--and she's sleeping over. Yes, my brother lives in my parents' basement. It's a room that's seen its fair share of, how can I put this, shenanigans over the years. But the rub is that when said shenanigans involved my wife-to-be, my parents would have a total fucking hairy cat fit. My mother in particular so frowned upon whatever activities we might get up to that she occasionally gave me a hard time about sleeping over at Amy's apartment when we were engaged. Meanwhile my brother sneaks a girl in and out of the house at all hours despite having been told not to do so by my folks, and the most opprobrium my mother can muster is, "Oh, Ry-Guy! Yer so bad!"
"I think the fuckers from Lord of the Rings should have fucking totally bowed down to Zeppelin. They should have put a Zeppelin song in Lord of the Rings! What the fuck, man? Come on! I'm actually physically angry at them that they didn't put a Zeppelin song in fuckin' Lord of the Rings. That's my most important point I want to make today. They're all hoity-toity, like, 'We're making the real Lord of the Rings.' They consider Zeppelin not highbrow enough."
--Evan "Didn't Play 'Mrs. Robinson,' Then Gave Us the Finger at Yale Spring Fling 1997" Dando, in an interview by Jancee "Annoys the Crap Out of My Wife" Dunn in Rolling Stone
New All Too Factual up today. Once a week, maybe twice? Sounds doable, right?
Today's edition of Rich Johnston's weekly comics gossipfest indicates that Marvel comics has forced new Wolverine artist Darick Robertson to make Wolverine attractive again.
FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE, IT'S ABOUT EFFING TIME!
In recent years, in a move spearheaded by writer/man-about-town Grant Morrison, Marvel has made a real effort to cash in on the innate sex appeal of Wolverine, or at least the innate sex appeal of Hugh "Curly" Jackman, by transmogrifying him from a hirsute, diminutive sack of ugly with an annoying habit of referring to himself in the third person and talking in what passes in supercomicsland as "dialect" to a leather-clad, good-looking guy with a halfway-decent haircut. In the process--which included taking his X-Men brethren out of some of the worst-designed costumes in the superhero business and putting them in outfits real people might conceivably wear--they gave one of the most prominent books in supercomics a much-needed makeover. You can say "comics are cool" as often as you want, but it's unlikely to make any difference if your main character looks like a Brylcreemed, slightly more muscular version of the Simpsons comic shop guy. Seen in this light, making the X-Men look like a rock band and Wolverine like the lead singer was a fantastic idea.
You'd think this transformation--a sort of rough-hewn Young Brando-esque type instead of Bruno Sammartino with claws--would make sense to everybody. You'd think. But no, the fanboys are up in arms that this character, who was once the embodiment of what 11-year-olds think of when they think "tough guy," is now a sexy beast, thereby forcing them to ask questions of their own sexuality they'd just as soon leave unanswered. So in the kind of misguided artistic move only made by mainstream comics people (or, perhaps, by whoever in Blur thought it would be a good idea to plow ahead without Graham Coxon), new Wolverine writer Greg Rucka and artist Darick Robertson decided to return Wolverine, a fictional character, to what he "really" looks like--namely, a human garbage truck with back hair.
The result was a Wolverine solo book in which the main character bore not the slightest resemblance to the character called Wolverine in every other comic (he appears in virtually every X-Men related title on the shelves, and on the cover of each of them practically every month). Fortunately, it didn't take long for Marvel to figure out that when Hugh Jackman is drawing in women and helping to rack up $85 million in opening-weekend box-office receipts, maybe it's a bad idea to have a comic in which Wolverine looks like Robin Williams running around nude in The Fisher King.
Of course, they're apparently planning to put all the X-Men back in their spandex pajamas. 8-year-olds, Dude.
I've just joined Blogcritics, the delightful blogger collective dedicated to proving the axiom about opinions and assholes. The difference at Blogcritics, of course, is that they're highly original and well-written assholes. Go take a look at my first post! (It's basically the same thing as the post below this one, but hey, that's the Internet for you!)
Okay, so as recently as the introductory post on this blog I said I wasn't going to be doing long reviews. Now all of a sudden I'm on Blogcritics. What gives?
Answer: One of the big reasons that I didn't want to do long reviews anymore was that it was hard to justify writing stuff like that for free when I get paid for it elsewhere. But at Blogcritics, every time someone buys something from Amazon after clicking through to it from a link on your review page, you get 2.5% of the revenue! Hooray for money!
I don't like No Doubt. I want to, because Amy does, and because occasionally they'll come out with a song that has some pretty good music ("Hella Good," "Simple Life"). But I can't get past Gwen Stefani's Betty Boop voice. It just totally rubs me the wrong way. It's only marginally better than Britney Spears's, honestly. At least she doesn't do all those guttural noises that Britney does, but the warbling she did when she'd hold notes on her early songs ("It's just those little things that I feaeaeaeaeaeaeaear") are just as bad. No matter what emotion she's going for, I remain unconvinced. And I REALLY want to like "Hella Good," did I mention that? That's a badass synth riff they've got going there. Gary Numan'd be proud.
Another interesting thing about "Hella Good" is that you can take out her vocals and put in Madonna singing "Music" and it'd work perfectly. Has this been done on the Internet yet? Ken, are you listening?
I don't know Michele Catalano from a hole in the wall--I just know she helped found The Command Post and that some neat people around the blogosphere like her--but man, she's dead wrong about voting down school budgets. The tipoff should have been that she agreed with creepy ur-conservative John Derbyshire--always a bad sign.
The long and the short of the budget situation is that regardless of whether or not the money could be better spent than it is in whatever budget you're voting on, voting it down will do nothing to change that and everything to hurt the people who deserve it least, namely the children and the teachers. The time to change how the school board devises the budget is when it comes time to elect the school board, not vote on the budget.
If you live on Long Island, please vote yes on your district's budget today!
And, um, hi, Michele!
Yesterday as I came home from work I saw two birds mating outside our apartment. I've actually seen birds mate a couple of times, and described these occurrences to my wife. "There's a lot of down time," I said. "Two seconds of the guy actually successfully on top of the girl, flapping his wings, and then he falls off and they just sorta stand around looking at each other."
"So it's pretty much like when humans mate," she replied.
You can't really blame me if I didn't have high hopes for the most recent Marilyn Manson disc. I've learned the hard way that my loyalty to bands I loved in high school can all too often reap a harvest of shattered expectations (and a lighter wallet--well, a lighter wallet on the part of the band in question's publicity department) when a new album comes along. I got seriously, seriously burned by the most recent Massive Attack, Korn and Ministry records, though at least the latter two had one good song apiece ("Here to Stay" and "The Light Pours Out of Me" respectively). So when I picked up Manson's The Golden Age of Grotesque I ripped it to my iPod, gave its first four tracks a perfunctory listen and gave up.
Silly rabbit. Inspired indirectly by my wife, whose encouraging words often prompt me to revisit albums I've written off (though she'd shudder to find out she'd in some way encouraged me to listen to more Marilyn Manson than I otherwise would), I decided to give the album another shot. Smart move. Grotesque is really quite a record.
The thing about Manson is that each album, for all their superficial (and sometimes not-so-superficial) similarities, function on their own terms. Portrait of an American Family was his tribute to scary kiddie movies, basically; Smells Like Children, mainly a remix EP, continued in the same vein but introduced covers for a shot at airplay; Antichrist Superstar was his real bid for industrialmetal fame; Mechanical Animals was his take on glam; Holy Wood was a synthesis of everything that had come before, particularly its two immediate predecessors. (It was supposed to be the third entry in his "triptych," a description even I, a great fan of overly ambitious rock projects, found pretty freaking pretentious).
The Golden Age of Grotesque is actually one of Manson's more original conceits. In the months preceding its release he gave a lot of interviews in which he claimed hip hop was going to be a big influence on the record; for example, he cited with admiration Ludacris's self-appellation of the title "Ass Valedictorian." But now that the record's out we're hearing and seeing a lot of references to Weimar Germany's cabarets, a favorite muse of Roxy Music, late-glam Bowie, even the Doors.
What Manson did, as becomes apparent on the record, is draw a parallel between the two scenes so obvious that it's difficult to see: Both these movements can be summed up in the words "party and bullshit." The Germans who frittered the nights away while their country slouched toward Bethlehem and the hip hop artists who rap almost exclusively about the size of the rims on their luxury cars while war rages and their fans (and sometimes themselves) are shot in the streets are perhaps the two purest exponents of style-over-substance that popular art has seen in the last hundred years. This fact is, of course, cast into starker relief due to the dire circumstances surrounding these Neroesque figures.
So Manson and his compatriots (who, with the apparently forced departure of longtime bassist, co-writer and best-friend Twiggy Ramirez, are looking increasingly like a remake of Village of the Damned as costumed by Jean-Paul Gaultier) indulge in the slick production, spastic beats, murky bass, tossed-off ball-court insults and cunning wordplay of hip-pop, weave in the glamour, excess, martial overtones and polymorphous perversity of cabaret, and come up with a pretty riveting brand of frightening metal. Highlights include the opening "Thaeter," which in the grand tradition of creepy Manson album-openers sounds precisely like the tuning-up of the house band in hell; the first real song "This Is the New Shit," which, surprisingly, is actually true; the final real song, "Vodevil" (pronounced "vaudeville," you see); and the wonderful title track, which sounds an awful lot like an outtake from the darkest days of Bowie's Aladdin Sane or Diamond Dogs period and features the boast "We're the Low Art Gloominati and we aim to depress." Believe me, I'd have been depressed if this record wasn't as good as it was.
Interestingly, another mercurial artiste came out with an idiosyncratic take on hip-pop right around the same time as Manson. Prince Paul (he of De La Soul and the incomparable Handsome Boy Modeling School) made Politics of the Business as a test to see if, despite his using all the production techniques and cliches of his jiggier peers, he'd still get shunned by radio and video simply by virtue of being Prince Paul. Naturally he uses the cliches a billion times better than anyone else--"Original Chryme Pays" features a verse from one of the Beatnuts about how he's trained his children to help him shoplift clothing from department stores; how's that for an original gangsta?--so naturally no one's playing the record. A cryin' shame: the Neptunes-worthy hookiness of "Make Room," the blistering verse from Guru on "Not Tryin' to Hear That," and the hysterical wishlist rattled off by Kardinal Offishall on "What I Need" all deserve heavy rotation. (Look for a cameo by Ralph Nader, of sorts... apparently a friend of Paul's who was slated to DJ at Nader's MSG rally was asked to bring his own turntables. "He can't rent turntables and he's gonna run the country?" Yet another reason for Gore voters to dislike the ol' spoiler.)
My cri de coeur too much for you? Then please enjoy some mindless stupidity. I know I do!
Looks like another Corky's been left with nothin'. The question is, does he hate us? And does he hate our ass face?
Slate's begun talking about Radiohead's new album, so I guess I'd better put my two cents in before everyone starts doing so. I'm not going to talk about the music on the new record, however, because I haven't heard it (a fact, I've found, that more reviewers and writers neglect to mention than you'd perhaps be comfortable realizing). I'm actually very happy that the Slate roundtable, at least intitially, focuses primarily on the music, rather than any political over/undertones that might be found in the record, because I don't think I could bear it otherwise.
Radiohead is obviously one of the most intensely loved, listened-to, studied bands in recent rock history. To find bands that rival the attention they command and aren't named Nirvana you'd basically have to go back in time to the Big Five: the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. They're also a band that I love, and love a lot. I bought Pablo Honey for "Creep" way back when, but didn't "get into" the band until months after OK Computer came out, when my then-girlfriend-now-wife finally convinced me to listen to it. It's not unreasonable to infer that her suggestion had at least a little to do with why she underwent the girlfriend-to-wife transition. It was all I listened to (and I'm basically including conversation and ambient noise in the not-listened-to category) for three weeks. God, it was so good. So ambitious, so honest, so open, so touching, so raw, so moving. I resented myself for not having gotten on the bandwagon sooner and resented everyone else for building the bandwagon to begin with.
Since then it's like there's been a war going on in my heart over Radiohead. I constantly feel the need to defend them against what I perceive to be their enemies: The hipsters who snap up their concert tickets because Radiohead concerts are the social event of the season; reverse-pretentialists who insist that the still-wonderful-but-inferior The Bends is "better" than OK Computer because it "rocks harder" (similar arguments are often made about Floyd and the Beatles: Like would-be Woody Allen cognoscenti, people claim to prefer their "earlier, funnier stuff"); artistes who argue for the still-compelling but contrary Kid A. The funny thing is that I've deep affection for many bands who have similar legions of fans of dubious provenance: David Bowie, nine inch nails, and yes, Beatles/Zeppelin/Nirvana. But there's something about Radiohead that lights a fire inside me, a fire that burns pure and wants to keep the band burning the same.
Enter 9/11. (Doesn't it always?) It's tough to describe what the event did to my worldview, and it's probably insulting to imply that it did any more to me than to anyone else. But I found so many of my cherished beliefs tarnished or destroyed, and so many of my idols making apologies for fascism rather than be marred with the taint of indirectly supporting a Republican, any Republican. I don't want to pick any political fights, honestly I don't, but this simply seems mad to me. All the screaming for all those decades about the tin-pot tyrants supported by America, the brutal regimes and poison ideologies we hid behind the banner of democrapitalism: Now that an attempt was being made to do something about it, at long last to clean up a mess that was at least in part our own creation, why were those voices silent? Or worse, why were they cheering for the other side? I still considered myself a "liberal," but increasingly it seemed that other "liberals" considered me anything but.
I suppose I should have known this would creep its way into the music I loved. I was fortunate for a while in that the musicians making the most noise were also ones I couldn't care less about if I sat around and tried. Sheryl Crow's guitar strap, the Dixie Chicks's pandering to a London crowd: Pardon my French--excuse me, my Freedomese--but whoop-de-shit. I started to get nervous when Coldplay's Chris Martin started inserting lyrics like "And if George Bush gets relected, we're all fucked" or whatever into his live performances; after all, Coldplay are basically Radiohead's less weird younger brother, and their music can be almost as affecting. I'm not much of a Bushie, despite the accusations flung around on various message boards, but I couldn't help detect the implication that four more years of #43 was viewed as worse than four more decades of this mustachioed digger of mass graves. I'd find myself listening to "Clocks" and thinking of mustard gas, and I just gave up after a while. It's not that I feel superior (though, sadly, I suppose I do)--it's that I feel, for the first time in my sheltered privileged artsy-fartsy left-liberal life, alone.
Then along comes Hail to the Thief. I was stunned when I saw the title, as much by its hamfistedness as by anything else. Was No Blood For Oil taken? Would a 1997 release entitled Impeach the President--And Her Husband be any less tedious? The clumsy partisanship of it, the Begalaesque fixation on Florida chads in the face of real, actual fascism--and from a band I loved so much! Interviews with the band have contained the usual Chomskyfied chicken about being terrified of where the world is headed, the word "OIL" is prominently placed on the cover, blah, blah, blah. And what's more, they're being encouraged to do this by the entire rock industry machinery. MTV reporters, Spin critics, the editorial board of The Face (not to mention the second day's worth of Slate's round table)--it's as the word of "Well, it may not be the 'return to the rock' that we wanted, but at least they're dissing the Cowboy!" had been sent over there, over there, and from New York to shining L.A.
I know I'm only speaking for myself, in fact I'm increasingly aware of this with each passing day, but it was like finding out your husband has spent months emptying the contents of your savings account at Off Track Betting. It broke my heart.
I'm going to give the record a try, of course. I've come to the depressing but unavoidable conclusion that if I were to excise every band with whom I disagreed about the War from my playlists, I'd be left with--well, with nothing. In many ways, in ways as simultaneously important and silly as rock and roll itself, that's already how I feel.
NOTE: This post also appeared on Blogcritics, because I am an attention whore.
Let's get one thing perfectly clear: Thor Heyerdahl sailing across the Pacific on the Kon-Fricking-Tiki: That's a "journey." Getting booted off For Love or Money in the first round: That's "pathetic."
Shopsin's is an incredible restaurant located at 54 Carmine St. in the West Village. I discovered the place through a coworker, and it's become Amy's and my favorite restaurant. It's run by a couple of aging ex-hippies, Eve and Kenny, and their kids, and if it has one thing on the menu, it has 400. I am not kidding, folks. If they put their menu online it'd crash your browser, that's how big it is. There are probably 100 soups alone. And everything is awesome, and in huge portions. It's like home cooking if your parents were part of every ethnicity known to man: Italian, American, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Southern--it's amazing. The best part about the place is its idiosyncracies. No parties more than four allowed; no cell phones allowed (and they mean business about that; Kenny Shopsin will get really pissed if you start talking on one); there are board games to play with; and when you leave, you can select a free piece of candy from the many boxes of candies they have available. Plus there's great old-timey jazz and ragtime playing at all times.
I just found out that Eve Shopsin died this week. When Amy and I were in there on Friday, our usual time, she wasn't there, and I overheard that she was in the hospital, but it didn't seem like anything serious. Apparently whatever killed her came out of nowhere. This is really, really sad, as time and time again we told Amy's folks that we'd take them next time we were in town so they could see what the place was like. I doubt that they'll shut it down, though I'm not sure, but one thing's clear--it won't be the same.
Off he goes, into the Wild Poo Yonder...
Since comics is something only a few people care about, I sorta feel like I should warn people when I'm going to start talking about it. So face front, true believers--it's time for Seanieblog to talk about comics again. (The rest of you philistines can go watch CSI or something.)
Nick Barrucci, head of Dynamic Forces, a company that makes comics-related collectibles (busts, statues, autographed comic books, foil-enhanced "special edition" comic books with fancy covers), recently issued a "call to arms" to the industry in which he outlines steps he feels will advance the medium, and the business, of comics. There are three installments, which can be found here, here, and here, at comics news site Newsarama. It's the buzz of the biz right now.
Parts of it are pretty smart. The world of comics fandom is famously insular, and despite the high awareness levels in the general population of Hollywoodized characters like the Hulk, the X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, etc., very few fans of these movie characters actually buy their comics, either in their monthly pamphlet form or in collected edition paperbacks (though that last bit is changing a little). Comics DOES need to advertise, then, to get people aware and interested in the medium. Barrucci proposes a fund for paying for the ads, and a slogan along the lines of "Got Milk?" Good ideas both.
But the slogan cannot, must not be "Comics Are Cool." The very fact that you need to say they're cool will be perceived, correctly, as a sign that they aren't. It reminds me of when Long Island modern/altrock radio station 92.7 WDRE, in an effort to survive during the mid-90s corporate-alternative-radio explosion (during which NYC area stations Z-100, KROCK, WNEW and Q104.3 were all playing some brand of alt-heavy radio), began calling itself "The Underground Network," and referring to itself as such about 20 times per hour. "How underground could they be?" I thought, and changed the channel. That's what people will do if "Comics Are Cool" is plastered all over the place, and I don't care how many pictures of Samuel L. Jackson or Ben Affleck or even J.Lo reading the latest issue of The Ultimates you put up on bus stops.
Aside from running ads before comics-derived or inspired films, which seems like a) a no-brainer and b) something that's within the realm of possibility for the comics companies to finagle, the right-in-front-of-you-all-along obvious place for comics ads is college newspapers. The clothing-company lifestyle publication for which I am a freelance editor has used ads in college papers to great success, at a fraction of the cost and with an exponentially more appropriate demographic as the hugely expensive and probably ineffectual ads we occasionally run in big fashion magazines. If a company like Marvel put a few thousand dollars aside every month to advertise the latest Daredevil, X-Men, X-Statix collection in The Yale Daily News, allowing for a place in the ad where local comics stores could put their address, they'd increase sales dramatically, I guarantee you. And that's for superhero stuff, which in its comics form might be seen as geeky. When Fantagraphics pulls itself out of its financial doldrums, perhaps they might consider plugging their brilliant, sophisticated books in college papers (if they don't already do so). Kim, Gary, Eric, Dirk et al, believe me: people will go and buy them.
Another problem with Barrucci's recipe for greater success is his, let's be honest, embarrassingly narrow definition of comics.
Quote: "Comic books are the best, most original, most beautiful art form ever - the perfect merging of art and story, hitting readers with a full experience.Where else can you go and get a monthly dose of Superman, Spider-Man, Justice League, X-Men, Transformers, each and every month, whether or not you've got the same writers or artists or different."
Arrrgh. Yeah, look at all that wonderful variety! An alien who hits people! A radioactive spider guy who hits people! A group of various strong flying people who hit people! Mutants who hit people! Robots who hit, well, robots! I love superhero comics in particular and genre-based comics in general, and I don't subscribe to the idiotic notion that it's the prevalence of superheroes in comics that keeps comics from gaining more of a foothold in the popular eye (they seem to enjoy them to the tune of several hundred million dollars per movie over in the film world, thank you very much, and TV shows like Buffy and Smallville and the animated DC character cartoons do just fine), but if this is the best you can do in enumerating the books that make comics great, you probably don't deserve to be telling anyone how to get their collective act together. Hell, of the books he names, only Spider-Man and the X-Men currently have monthly editions that pass even the relatively lax critical muster in the superhero-fan world, for Pete's sake! And this is to say nothing of the fact that Barrucci makes a living off the kind of non-comics ephemera--essentially, toys and ridiculously expensive and unspecial "special editions"--that crowd out regular comics for shelf space and hard-earned dollars in the first place.
Moreover, the "whether or not you've got the same writers or artists or different" angle is disturbing. The indie/underground/altcomix scene has long argued that the rotating creative teams on the superhero books, if not the very fact that (for the most part) separate people are writing, drawing, inking, lettering and coloring even the best books from the big companies, strip the comics of much of the artistic cohesiveness they might otherwise have. To a certain extent this might not matter--only a relatively small percentage of moviegoers go see movies for their directors, for example--but in other media, audiences certainly follow individual actors, musicians and authors. Encouraging newcomers to comics to blindly follow characters around regardless of who's writing or drawing them will inevitably lead to those new readers coming across a really, really terrible version of that particular character. Though I see how it's important at least initially to engender interest in characters (I got into comics because I loved Batman, not Frank Miller or Grant Morrison or whoever was writing him), it's much better in the long term to cultivate readers with the capacity to recognize and reward talented creators with repeat business.
This is why it's disturbing to hear Barrucci talk about Free Comic Book Day, an annual giveaway in comics stores, in terms of making sure that only stuff involving the biggest characters is distributed. Everybody already knows that they can find a Batman or Spider-Man comic if they want--the question is, what else is out there? An issue of Acme Novelty Library, or even of Alias (the comic, not the TV show) might go a long way to getting the word out that there's more to comics than what you're already aware of.
Now we're getting to the biggest problem with Barrucci's plan--increasing, through pseudounionization, the power of comics retailers. Folks, I don't know if you've ever been in a comic book shop, but the odds are you haven't. There's a reason for that: THEY SUCK. You know the Simpsons Comic Shop Guy? That is not satire. That is real life. There are exceptions--glorious, ecumenical, clean, bright, well-staffed, orderly exceptions like New York City's Jim Hanley's Universe, with its alphabetized rows of every comic known to man, or Midtown Comics, with its user-friendly website that allows you to preorder every comic from the most popular to the most obscure--but for the most part these stores are staffed by and cater to the worst type of fanboy, who hate any shake-ups in the "lives" of their favorite characters, hate artsy comics with a passion, resent any efforts to shake things up, and demand the kind of convoluted, backstory-mired stories (we call them "continuity-based") that the "Direct Market" (as the comic shops are called) thrives on. They need people to keep coming back month after month to support the increasingly cost-ineffective pamphlet format, and the indecipherable storylines make that happen, as opposed to self-contained, generally more interesting storylines that lend themselves to collection and therefore to sale in big chains like Borders, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The industry is starting to realize that the bookstore market is where the future of the medium is, something comic-shop retailers, understandably, will fight tooth and nail. If we allow them to exert more influence over the kinds of comics writers and artists produce, we won't be shooting ourselves in the foot--we'll be shooting ourselves in the face.
My own recipe for increasing sales and audience size for comics is a pretty simple one, and given what's becoming conventional wisdom amongst comics pundits, fairly uncontroversial.
1) Advertising is a good idea. Let's not go nuts--that money could be better spent increasing the salaries of the artists and writers, which will increase the quality of the books simply by virtue of allowing them to quit their day jobs--but it's important to get the word out. Advertise in college newspapers as a first step, and take real advantage of the free press provided by comics-related movies by muscling in on the trailers.
2) The bookstore market is the future. Alternative publishers like Fanta have known this for years, ever since they saw creators like Art Spiegleman and Chris Ware do very well in the bookstore market and began publishing their collections themselves. Manga (Japanese comics) publishers freaking clean up in B&N and Borders--their comics are now the most popular in the country, largely without any help from comics-only stores. Marvel has begun increasing the amount and quality of their collected editions--whether this precipitated or was precipitated by the increase of quality in their writing and art over the last three years or so is a refreshingly positive chicken/egg question to answer. When comics are no longer primarily sold by fat bachelors in their 40s to teenage Slipknot fans with Vampirella on their pull list and nary a girl, let alone a woman, in sight, we'll have made progress.
3) Sometimes I feel like this is the most important: Quit talking about how much comics needs help! Even though it's a dumb slogan, comics are cool. There are big famous superhero comics that are really entertaining right now; some of them, like New X-Men and Daredevil, are beyond entertaining and into great. There are amazing indie comics by people like Phoebe Gloeckner and Joe Sacco and Dan Clowes and Chris Ware coming out month after month, in collections people can easily buy and read. And there are gems in the middle ground, like Hellboy and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that are ready to burst into the spotlight thanks to upcoming movies. Comics are cheap, visceral, enjoyable entertainment that rival literature for descriptive power and film for depictive power. They're increasingly available in big stores in little towns. And they've maintained just enough of an air of "danger" from their days as juvenile-delinquent bugaboos, underground rabblerousers and hypey Hollywood next-big-things to make them edgy. Why bother accentuating the negative when there's so much positive to talk about? Simply act like comics are popular, important, and (yes) cool already. Enough comics fans start doing that, and soon enough, they will be.
Seriously. I really can't think of anything I like less, anything that sucks the joy of living right out of me, than commercials. They just suck. Every time you sit through a commercial break you lose three-five minutes that you will never, ever get back again. And for what? So that some awful catchphrase will lodge in your brain, taking up valuable synapse space. Why should I know the exact pitch at which that guy says "can you hear me now? Good!"? I don't need to. I don't want to. And yet I could practically tell you what that miserable douchebag's shoe size is, I've seen those godawful commercials so many times.
Then there are the various genres of commercial that are forced through our eyeballs every ten minutes or so. My least favorite (and there are so, so many types vying for that title) are the Generation X ones. Forget that they're demographically about a decade too late. Someone decided that all twentysomething guys enjoy sitting someplace, usually in pairs, eating junk food, dressed in the kind of "slacker-hip" way that nobody actually dresses in, and either making goofy noises and giggling about it or just staring off into space like they're on the nod. Do you know anyone like that? At all? No, you don't--because they do not exist. They exist only in movies featuring Seth Green, which is where commercials get their information.
Then there are the "Isn't it funny when animals bite people in the nuts?" commercials. The answer is, "No, it isn't really funny when animals bite people in the nuts," but thanks to that dumb fucking scene in that dumb fucking movie There's Something About Mary where, when they're not busy making fun of the mentally retarded or throwing jism all over the place, Ben Stiller wrestles with a dog, we now have to endure countless commercials the sole "punchline" of which is a dog or a squirrel or a ferret biting someone's dingus. GodDAMNit but that's so stupid. (Both the GenX and Animals Attack genres can be seen as subgenres of the All Men Are Drooling Idiots Who Only Think About Tits and Sports and Are Just Generally Really Dumb and Have No Clue About Anything and Are Also Probably Fat and Balding and Married to Hot Smart Soccer Moms ubergenre, which also, it must be added, sucks so long and hard.)
Commecials are also loud, like REALLY loud. They actually raise the volume level during the commercial breaks so no matter how hard you try you can't tune them out. I know this doesn't seem necessarily considering how inherently loud and obnoxious all commercials are, but that's just it: they're making them extra obnoxious. Most of them also have about a billion edits per minute, because none of us are believed to have attention spans anymore, a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of commercials if ever there was one. Visually and soncially, they are designed to irritate the bloody bejesus out of you, is what I'm saying.
There are some good commercials: SportsCenter commercials (ironic, considering that most of the world's worst commercials are aimed at what is perceived as the SportsCenter demographic), anything in which someone is severely hurt and STAYS DOWN (this is key--getting hurt and then getting back up is NEVER FUNNY), commercials with cute doggies, the Capital One commercials with the vikings and medieval warriors and Yetis and whatnot, and this commercial from about six years ago in which Johnny Cash sang about Taco Bell. But all other commercials are timesucking lifesucking wastes of everything, and I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. Anytime I watch something on my brother-in-laws TiVo, or watch a television show on DVD with the commercials cut out, or tape something and fastforward through the commercials when I watch it later, I think to myself, "Please, commercials of the world, eat my rosy Irish ass."
I've complained quite a bit that I'm worried about getting unfairly tarred as a conservative, based really on nothing other than my hawkish stance on the war. (I guess you could throw in thinking that the Clintons and the New York Times are essentially full of shit, but only in a crazy mixed-up world like this one could that be considered a conservative position to hold). But--but!--I link to The Corner, the National Review Online's group blog. What gives? Well, I find the writers entertaining (particularly Lopez and Goldberg) and since there's, like, 17 people blogging at once, they stay on top of news items like nobody's business. They're also reliably hawkish, which I appreciate. But the hidden bonus of linking to The Corner is that when you come across items that pointlessly mock environmentalists, or feminists or people on welfare or teachers or whoever, and I can smile quietly to myself and say, "So that's why I'm still not a conservative!"
Eric Olsen, proprietor of Blogcritics, is a real nice guy, and he wrote an article about Pearl Jam leaving Epic Records, and who am I to quibble with it? I'm an opinionated bastard, that's what.
Quote: "THIS IS ONE institution leaving another, the most popular and important American rock band of the ’90s voluntarily rejecting the grandest label heritage — the longtime home of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, Miles Davis and Tony Bennett — because the band may no long require the services of a major label." (Emphasis mine)
"The most popular and important American rock band of the '90s"? I just don't think so. Between when Ten broke through Vs. and up until the release of Vitalogy, yeah, okay, maybe, but then you've still got Nirvana (easily more important, and at this point probably more popular too). Then there's Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, nine inch nails, R.E.M., Metallica, late-period Guns n' Roses, Marilyn Manson, even (sigh) Limp Bizkit and maybe even Creed vying for both sales and column inches. I can't imagine that after Vitalogy, beginning as it did PJ's trend toward tedious, overextended records listened to by an increasingly cultish and small coterie of diehard fans, that the band could be considered particularly popular or important.
I don't mean to discount PJ's early impact--Ten is still a marvelously, desperately ambitious record that miraculously makes good on its ambition, and the various aesthetic, political and business boundaries the band busted down remain busted, much to the record-buying public's benefit. Moreover, anything that sticks it to major labels is a welcome development. And in the interest of full disclosure, I'll cop to liking Pearl Jam (starting with Vs.) a lot less than the other big altrock titans from Seattle and elsewhere. But my point is, let's not overstate the import of Pearl Jam leaving its record label in 2003, as opposed to 1993. It's not like Jay-Z suddenly signed with Kill Rock Stars or anything.
What I don't get is why Chloe Sevigny felt that what her career needed was a nice Vincent-Gallo's-penis-is-in-my-mouth scene.
Also, is it me or does The Brown Bunny sound like a Limp Bizkit album title?
My Radiohead article is generating quite a nice little discussion over at Blogcritics. Join in now before it degenerates into the usual "conservatives are fascists/liberals are traitors" donnybrook.
Also, the quibbles are multiplying in the thread about Pearl Jam leaving Epic to which I replied here. I'd really like to see what the rock-nerd consensus is on this band--go put in your two cents!
Easily the most egregious recent example of a word that's been overused to the point of trivialization (outside the realm of reality television, that is) is "fascism." I don't know how I missed seeing this before now, but in the New York Times Magazine (!), writer James Traub calmly, methodically, undoctrinairily demolishes the notion that the United States 2003 is in any way comparable to Weimar Germany 1933. Read the article; you'll see that Traub is no uncritical fan of the Bush Administration, but that he simply realizes the common-sense fact that the President and his cabinet are not attempting to install a military dictatorship-for-life predicated on the death of millions. To think otherwise is cataclysmically stupid and offensive, which of course will be taken in some quarters as a sign of its iconoclastic moral rectitude. Sigh.
Who had your back against Ronan, pal? With friends like these....
Just joshin'. I kid because I love.
How has it escaped notice that Mariah Carey can no longer sing? Maybe I'm only noticing this because I'm maried to a woman who loves vocal pedagogy, but ever since her little "episode," Mariah lost her upper register. Listen to that new ballad that's out: normal voice, breathy whisper, normal voice, breathy whisper. She's got a bigger break than Peter Brady. I feel bad for her, because I think after she divorced Mottola she felt like she had to whore herself out and do coke with Jermaine Dupri all day long to remain relevant. Sadly, that is probably true, but it's awful what the business forced her to do to herself, as she's ruined her instrument. It's also awful how debased the art of female singing has become that all she needs to do is move the hand that's not holding the mic around spastically and do a lot of runs in what's left of her range and people still think she's the female Enrico Caruso.
Thanks to the the indefatigable Dirk Deppey (third item down), I discovered this summary by the Pulse's Heidi MacDonald of the latest Book Expo America, at which many comics publishers made, it would seem, quite substantial inroads into the bookstore market with hard- and softcover collected editions of their periodical offerings. The one exception, mind-bogglingly, was apparently Marvel, who despite putting out some of their best-ever comics in their best-ever collections managed to send only one inexperienced rep to this big event. Marvel had a similarly low-key presence at last year's San Diego Comic-Con, but I didn't mind: by eschewing big light-up displays and models dressed as Elektra on the convention floor, they were able to fly in practically everyone who worked for them, all of whom were extremely available to fans and press (as I can testify from hanging out in their hospitality suite). But at San Diego, a comics-only convention, they're superstars; at Book Expo they're nobodies. If they're really taking the bookstore market and trade-paperback format as seriously as they claim, they'd better get their act together there. There's no reason why their really impressive collections (with uniformly better paper and reprint quality than their competitors') should clean up at a place like that, and they dropped the ball.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I know a bunch of Marvel guys a bit, and I'm kinda sorta working on something for the company. Of course, the above is probably a "statement against interest" in that regard. Oh dear.)
Thanks to Kevin's shoutout, I'm reminded of something else that sucks about commercials. I can't even begin to describe how much I hate the car commercial that uses Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." Oh, did I say "commercial"? I meant "commercial after commercial after motherfucking commercial." Seriously, I think it spread like SARS and now every single car commercial that isn't that girl poplocking in the passenger seat uses that song in the background. Why am I so angry about this? Because I LOVE Led Zeppelin, and "Rock and Roll" is an amazingly rocking song, and now every time I listen to it I think of freaking midsize luxury cars and it might as well be "Takin' Care of Business" or that "bbbbaby you just ain't seen nnnothin yet" song or Bob Seger's "Like a Rock." It's like it's been infected. When this happened to songs like "Revolution" or "Lust for Life" or "London Calling" you could laugh it off, because the original songs were so diametrically opposed to what the commercials are about that your mind maintains the disconnect despite the efforts of the commercials. But with "Rock and Roll," the commercial isn't saying "use these sneakers and you'll be able to fight the nihilistic impulses of student radicals" or "go on this cruise and you'll kick heroin" or "buy this Jaguar and you'll watch as the inevitable final conflict between capitalism and communism destroys Europe"--it's saying "drive this car and you'll have a good time." It's just believable enough to lodge in your head and make you think of the song whenever you're having a mildly good time driving five miles over the speed limit down a sidestreet, which is basically completely poisonous if you want to ever legitimately enjoy this song ever again. No-good bastards. I seriously, seriously hope you all die.
Can someone tell me where a guy who's written a story in which Sabretooth uses his healing factor to shoot a bullet back out of his head gets off making smart comments about the goings-on in a Hawkman comic? Just axing.
In case you're unaware of it, this blog is but a fraction of the fun you can have here at All Too Flat. There's something for everyone, if "everyone" enjoys haiku, Photoshop, and public-domain pictures of bassett hounds. Look around!
And lo, what do we have here? All Too Flat mastermind Ben has some problems with mice! Such fun!
In the style of those Chevy truck commercials with the poem voice-overs:
In a truck like a rock, as you roam through the land,
With a gleam in your eye and no map in your hand,
Remember, as roads branch in every direction:
Please go fuck yourself with expired protection
I just watched the Maysles Brothers' Gimme Shelter. Several stunning things about the film:
1) It's amazing how much the aspects of the Altamont concert considered a "bum trip" at the time are par for the course now: proto-crowd surfing, proto-moshing, proto-slamdancing, sexual assault, musicians alternating between their usual "stirring up the kids" poses and "everybody be cool" I'm-here-to-save-the-day would-be soporifics.
2) The Rolling Stones are pretty unbelievable in a live setting, even when people are brandishing guns and getting stabbed to death. The Missus and I have had several debates about whether Jagger was ever "sexy"--her theory is that since he's a man and a huge rich rock star, society accomodates him in its view of what's attractive, a luxury not afforded to the Janis Joplins of the world; mine is that if someone can move like that and sing like that, he (or she--think of Patti Smith) has earned the right to be thought of as sexy regardless of how cadaverous they happen to look. But I think he's pretty sexy in this film.
3) Obviously the entire situation is eerily reminiscent of Woodstock '99, the difference being that the thugs who came ready for violence at W99 weren't a small group of Hell's Angels, but the thousands upon thousands of meatheads who comprised the audience--as well as the five or six meatheads who comprised Limp Bizkit.
4) The Criterion DVD edition of the film includes excerpts from San Fran's free-form FM radio stalwart KSAN's four hour post-show wrap-up, in which they took calls from everyone from the band's road manager to guys from the Angels. Imagine an FM station being given license to take phone calls for four hours in this day and age.
The 92nd St. Y in New York City is hosting a roundtable discussion on the future of the Democratic Party. It's moderated by Danny Goldberg, which I understand--Imus humps his new book all morning long. It's got Janeane Garafalo on the panel, which I can also understand--in a fine example of the kind of selflessness to which John F. Kennedy called all Americans, she's valiantly sacrificed being funny to the cause of making sure everyone knows that George W. Bush just sucks.
But then they throw a curveball. Josh Harnett.
Yes, that Josh Hartnett.
I guess "diversity of facial expressions" won't be in the platform.
"Isn't it cool that Francois Mitterand's last meal included an endangered species?"
No, it isn't. Thank you, The Corner, for reminding me once again why I dislike the Republican Party!
For some reason I'm in a terrible mood this morning. I think that's what happens when work actually needs to be done at my job. This happens so rarely that I'm unaccustomed to the feeling. But yeah, arrgh, I feel lousy. How will this affect my blog output today? Only time will tell. My guess is the word "bastards" will be used with some frequency.
YOUR LIVES ARE IN NEED OF RADICAL REEVALUATION
Micah Wright works on a comic book called Stormwatch: Team Achilles. In his spare time he designs anti-Bush propaganda posters and concocts paranoia- and profanity-laden screeds about how the vast right-wing conspiracy of comics-related bloggers are out to get him (renowned Aschroft acolytes Parrott and Deppey being the primary offenders).
Taking a break from his busy schedule of screaming about fascism and plagiarizing Laurie Anderson, Micah (as noted by comics gossipmonger Rich Johnston) has paused to complain that the minions at Marvel do not properly know how to treat a star of his magnitude (scroll down). Apparently the editors he spoke with at a recent meeting with the company were insufficiently familiar with his output.
C'mon, Micah--clearly they knew damn well who you were, but were under orders from their puppetmasters at Halliburton and the Justice Department to thwart your chances at publication! I mean, duh!
This old guy says Jesus wants us know it's very, very important to keep gay people in love from getting married.
These people say that on the contrary, Jesus was pulling for a gay man to become bishop.
I don't know, but it seems like the Jesus that old dude's been hanging out with is a real asshole.
Proving that the "direct market" of selling comics in comics-oriented specialty shops isn't a totally lost cause, retailer Stephen Holland describes, in a fascinating essay for Ninth Art, how his shop, Page 45, has become successful at luring regular people into the comic-shop no-man's-land. His secret? Act like a normal bookstore, for crying out loud. Keep your store clean, bright, and well-organized. Hire helpful, knowledgeable, personable, clean staff. Adamantly refuse to play into preconceptions and prejudice: do not sell toys and ephemera, keep superhero books in their own sections rather than letting them take over the store, don't name your store after a Batman villain or a Dr. Who episode. Organize and design your store window and put things in it that aren't Vampirella models.
You mean, if we want more and first-time shoppers, we should model our store after places where people already like to shop? And we won't even need posters showing that Ben Affleck reads Exiles? Why, that's so crazy it just might work!
(Also, it's funny that Mr. Holland, as well as, presumably, many other people, actually live in Nottingham.)
Over at the USS Clueless, Steven Den Beste has recently posted an overwhelmingly comprehensive series of essays and letters on the sorry state of France, which is currently paralyzed (as is its wont) by organized socialist labor unrest and is headed toward a seemingly inexorable fiscal and political crisis. For hardcore political wonks, for worst-case scenarists (is free speech dead in France? is democracy? will France become a socialist dictatorship? a Muslim theocracy? will it swing to fascism? will there be war in Western Europe yet again?), and for people who simply enjoy schadenfreude at France's expense, it's all must reading. But it's a lot more serious than the usual smelly-waiter frogbashing. Check 'em out.
Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
Don't feel too bad, Bill--I didn't make the list either...
I meant to link to omnibus post by Instapundit on the "Bush lied about WMDs" canard a couple days ago, so here 'tis.
For anyone who's done any serious study of the topic, the notion that the whole WMD angle was a sham is laughable. No one, except the Saddam Hussein government, argued that the regime was not pursuing a WMD program--not the Clinton administration, not the UN, not the French/Germans/Russians (that's why the sanctions were still in place, duh--they couldn't countenance actually removing them with such a threat still extant), not a single branch of the military/state/intelligence departments. The regime was never, ever going to just "give up" trying to get those things. It was either end the regime, or maintain a genuinely Orwellian perpetual Cold War of no-fly zones and punitive sanctions that hurt primarily average citizens who had nothing to do with the WMD program, and which were being countervened by the duplicitous regime, as well as by countries with ever-increasing smuggling ties to Iraq's oil, such as Syria and Turkey (and, yes, France, Russia and Germany).
Besides, if you were going to just fabricate a reason to go to war out of whole cloth, wouldn't you pick something that wouldn't necessitate your administration going on the Sunday talk shows week after week insisting that your reason was valid? Give Rumsfeld some credit--even if you think he's a liar, at least acknowledge he'd be a good liar.
While we're on the topic of anti-war bullroar, here's a summary of the quote-unquote looting of Baghdad's museum.
Finally, to those who say "It must be all about oil--we're not intervening in the Congo/Burma/Zimbabwe/etc!" I'm sorry, but that argument does no good against me. I strongly, indeed almost maniacally, advocate using the military power of the United States and its allies to depose autocratic regimes and end human rights abuses. Indeed, aside from the direct defense of American lives, I can't think of a better use for our brave, genuinely heroic armed forces. Which is why a) When Paul Begala says (as he did on a recent Imus show) that no amount of saved Iraqis is worth the death of one Marine, I weep for American "liberalism"; b) I'd be tickled, in a perverse way, to see how the "what about the Congo?" crowd reacted if we were to move in to prevent an atrocious Third World disaster like that. I guarantee you that if a Republican's in the White House, he'd get compared to Hitler for doing so. As someone--Victor Davis Hanson, maybe?--put it, some people seem to feel it better for nothing to be done than for the right thing to be done by the "wrong person."
Goddammit, but everyone does cocaine. Ever since I joined a publication that chronicles the lifestyles of the young and the gorgeous, this has been probably the most surprising aspect of this new milieu I move in. You may not be aware of this, but I guarantee you, that actor you love? That actress you think is the next big thing? The band you really dig? The writer you feel like you know? They are all off their tits on blow. I do see the attraction to this lifestyle, insofar as everyone in New York City is doing bumps in the bathroom all the time, and so if you were to want to socialize in New York City it might behoove you to do bumps in the bathroom as well. (Indeed, one pastime my wife and I enjoy is estimating how much coke I'd be doing if I weren't married and living on Long Island.) But as evidenced by the behavior of everyone from Colin Farrel to Marilyn Manson to the men and women of Fleetwood Mac, cocaine is nothing more or less than the world's most expensive method of becoming an asshole. Lorne Michaels once said that cocaine is God's way of telling you you have too much money (he should know), and I've got to agree with him. Can you imagine if all these line-snorting socialites spent their money on something worthwhile, like Bide-a-Wee or Fantagraphics? Instead, they're out buying eightballs and assuring people how much they looooved their last movie.
On the other hand, cocaine is probably the number-one source of the renewed interest in Gary Numan records. So, carry on snowblind!
Over at Journalista, Dirk's in the middle of a very thoughtful and interesting ongoing examination of Marvel's publishing practices, and how they are trying, succeeding and/or failing at entering the "true mainstream" by breaking into the bookstore market and (or perhaps by) varying their output from exclusively superhero-oriented books. Today's installment features an interesting examination of Brian Michael Bendis's excellent Daredevil. Dirk's theory is that though Bendis is a clever writer with a knack for the police procedural/crime drama elements inherent in the Daredevil character, he's too smart for his own good: readers who might get involved for those aspects, Dirk argues, are inevitably thrown for a loop when ol' Hornhead shows up in his red tights and beats up a flying guy named the Owl.
I definitely see his point--when you're going, as Bendis is, for a more realistic style of story, the suspension-of-disbelief-heavy superhero elements might seem incongruous--but as usual, I think his supposition of an audience distrustful or disdainful of superhero conventions just doesn't hold water. How much money do the X-Men, Batman, Superman films, Spider-Man, The Matrix, Buffy, Smallville, and (yes) Daredevil make, anyway? There's something to be said for the "I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition" angle--people picking up what looks like a straight noir book might be unpleasantly surprised when the superheroics start. But based on the sheer numbers of people who seem to dig superheroes just fine, surely the crossover audience exceeds that of people who'd forego a great story simply because someone in it wears a costume and fights crime.
I've often said that the anti-superhero camp in the comics world is just as cultish, irrational and unrepresentative of the world at large as the only-superhero camp. Dirk's not nearly as far gone as many, but I think it's a mistake to assume that superheroes are an obstacle. The fact that for the most part superheroes are the only game in town? That's another story.
There you go, referring to your "journey" again. Must I repeat myself?
While we're on the subject, a note for the gentlemen of reality television: As a general rule, when wooing women on national television, DON'T GET SHITFACED
Late last year I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. (That's right--this blog isn't some attempt to cash in on the popularity of Alan David Doane's. Hey, we all know how that kind of thing turns out!) One of the symptoms of this disorder, aside from the fact that I can't carry on a conversation if someone puts a cereal box with words on it in front of me, is that I procrastinate, because I can't focus enough to actually do things that require any planning. Right now there's a hella big list of such things:
* Buy a new cell phone to replace current broken one
* Buy new sneakers to replace current broken ones
* Set up stereo surround equipment given to us as wedding gift last August
* Order satellite TV now that our cable has been taken away
* Get JRR Tolkien-related tattoo
* Order wedding album from photographer (again, wedding took place last August)
* Buy laptop for which gift of money from parents for wedding was intended to provide
Here's what we're gonna do. Every time I actually do one of these things, I will let you all know. It's gonna be like you're right inside my head, struggling past the shiny objects that distract me (the new Led Zeppelin triple-live album, Kingpin issue one) and moving toward fulfillment. (In other words, don't hold yer breath.)
Comics Activist Sean T. Collins Gets Results! From a comment on the comics article I posted at Blogcritics:
"I used to read comics, as a kid. I suspect there are lots of people like me, who put away what we perceived as childish things when we grew up. And still, at least once every couple of months, I daydream about a certain Fantastic 4 storyline that kept me up nights way back when...
"The sad part is, I'm even a geek who would have no trouble being seen with comics and so on, and I work right around the corner from a comic store. Guess how many times I've been in there. Go ahead, guess.
"That's right, none.
"What's my problem? I'll swing by this week. Thanks for the kick in the pants. :)"
Got one! Thanks, Philip, and tell 'em Sean sent you!
Some bits and pieces from throughout the blogosphere.
"If the Bush Administration Lied About WMDs, So Did These People"--says it all, really, but you've got to read some of the assertions by people who've magically transmogrified into doves now that a Republican's in the White House. Via Instapundit.
Also via Insta, Howard Kurtz on the non-looting at Baghdad's national history museum, and the lack of any corrections or apologies from the news media. To quote Jack White, I said it once before, but it bears repeating now.
(I would like to point out that I wouldn't be surprised if some of what we heard about Iraq wasn't true. One constant about government, all government, is that it lies to its people on a regular basis, and despite my support for some of the foreign-policy aims of the current administration, there's no reason to assume this isn't still the case. But basically you'd have to come up with a hell of a whopper to make me think that your dishonesty outweighs the moral necessity of ousting fascists.)
Little Green Footballs, meanwhile, has a chart documenting the countries that provided weapons to Saddam Hussein during his years in power, and--get this!--the United States isn't even in the top ten! Who'd'a thunk it? I've always thought the anti-war "argument" that "The U.S. created Saddam Hussein, man!" was idiotic for an entirely different reason--as Christopher Hitchens often puts it, wouldn't that double or treble our obligation to get rid of him?--but here's a whole 'nother way for it to be dumb. (Of course, this is not to say that we didn't provide support in other ways--intelligence, for example; general handshakes-from-Rumsfeld cheerleading; and of course, oil revenue), but given the information linked to above, five'll get you ten that we weren't close to No. 1 on those lists, either. Our suddenly principled anti-war friends the Russians, French, and Chinese, on the other hand...
Speaking of the French, here's another discussion (via LGF) of France's various impending crises, this one focusing on the influence of radical, non-integrated Muslim immigrants. I'm a little uncomfortable with the way all French Muslims are tarred with the same brush by some of the people in the discussion, but it's hugely important for European nations to come to terms with the problems posed by their Muslim citizens and non-citizens. Arabs are an ethnic group, Muslims a religious one, and neither should be discriminated against. But Islamists--radical, intolerant Muslims who believe in the subjugation of women, homosexuals and non-Muslims by any means necessary and who apparently are the most prevalent and vocal demographic group in many Muslim countries--are a political group espousing a violent, fascist ideology, and this has to be addressed. The problem, of course, is that some of the nations of Europe are cozying up to the Islamists' bosses in the Middle East, and making excuses for them when their supporters kill people for speaking out.
(That, of course, was what happened in the Netherlands with Pim Fortuyn. Fortuyn was gay, and not just a little bit--he was a Wildean dandy. He disliked Islamists because--can you believe the nerve of this guy?--they think people like him should be executed. What a right-wing lunatic this Fortuyn was! And so he was assassinated by a left-wing activist who decried Fortuyn's "intolerance." This sentiment is echoed in the BBC obit I linked to above, which talks about how Fortuyn succeeded politically in the Netherlands "despite" its legacy of tolerance. Calling a political movement out on its stated aim--to institute sharia law and openly persecute homesexuals--is "intolerant," I guess.)
As the end of this post by Kevin Parrott proves:
SENTENCES IN ALL CAPS WITH NO PUNCTUATION ARE ALWAYS FUNNY
DO YOU THINK I'M KIDDING
Last night the missus, who is a middle-school chorus and music teacher, conducted her kids in their Spring Concert. It was a delightful evening, because she's a brilliant educator and musician (she got multi-part harmonies out of sixth graders, people), and the kids are adorable and love to sing. Amy's also around to correct any Christina Aguilera tendencies they might have, so there were no constipated facial expressions, flailing arms and pointless runs up and down the scale. Believe me, this is an achievement in and of itself in this day and age.
I bring it up not just to brag about how dope my special lady friend is, but because during the concert the woman in front of me began, quite audibly, to talk shit about my wife. Apparently she wasn't happy with the grade her daughter was given (it had to do with very clear-cut violations of the absence policy and nothing more), so she began tearing into my old lady for the benefit of another woman in the audience. It took me a while to catch on, but eventually I couldn't take it anymore. It culminated as Amy took the stage to begin conducting. "Look at her," this broad said. "She's miserable. She's nasty."
"She's my wife," I interjected.
Normally, one would think, when confronted with the fact that the spouse of an individual about whom one was talking shit was right there in front of one, one would smile awkwardly, murmur an apology, and shut the fuck up. Oh, but ladies and gentlemen, this is Long Island. And on Long Island, along with the God-given right to crispy bleached teased-up hair and an inexplicable attachment to lacrosse, people have the right--no, the duty--to continue talking smack about a person's wife even when that person is right there listening and asking you to please stop. That's right. After I called her on this crap, this miserable harridan not only explained to me how awful my wife was, but then after I turned around having had enough of it, continued the harangue several minutes later. And even then, after I turned around again to inform her that I can still hear her and that though I'm sorry she has a problem with my wife I can assure her my wife loves all her students and that at any rate there's probably a more appropriate venue for these complaints than in the goddamn auditorium during the goddamn Spring Concert (I didn't say "goddamn," though--I was superpolite, since I didn't want to make my wife's life any more difficult than it already must be if she's had to deal with this hag),she continued to inform me just what a sack of shit my wife is, and that she (the crone) has the right to talk about whatever she wants wherever she wants.
Listen. It's a free country (and I told her so--boy, did she love that!), and I'm sure this (miserable ugly lonely pathetic shlub of a) woman is perfectly nice once you get to know her, and I guarantee you that whatever went down with her daughter wasn't anything personal. But folks, maybe it's just me, but if you are talking about what a shitty person someone is, and that someone's husband or wife turns around and informs you of his or her relationship to the person in question, turn around and shut your goddamned pie-hole.
Seriously, man. I've been in fights before, like in high school or on message boards or whatever, where I figured I was as pissed as I could get. But believe me, it was nothing close to how mad I got at this loudmouth. Maybe it's some sort of primitive instinct to defend your mate, but it really felt like my blood was on fire. If she was a guy (jury's still out), I'd probably have slugged her.
Interesting postscript to this story: When I first sat down, carrying a big bouquet of flowers for the missus and not knowing this woman from Adam, she joked and smiled and was like "Oh, how nice of you to bring me flowers!" I joked and smiled back. Then I overheard her talking to her friend (who I assure you was mortified when I later turned around to shut her friend up and wanted nothing more to do with the whole situation) about how her husband (who wasn't there) hasn't brought her flowers in literally years. So no matter how many points she thought she scored off me during our subsequent confrontation, I could rest secure in the knowledge that she's trapped in a loveless hell of her own design. Oh, dip!
Whoever's in charge of Target's advertising is a goddamn genius. Having worked in the business for a couple years now, I can tell you that ad campaigns that completely reinvent a company's image and revitalize its sales are ridiculously rare. Cute clothes, hip music, punchy graphics, and voila--Target is now a place I shop at regularly. Well done. Also, they managed to use an Andrew W.K. ("Don't Stop Living in the Red") song in an appropriate fashion--i.e. unlike certain beer commercials (again with the commercials?--ed.) they don't show a bunch of dimpy thirty year olds going to TGI Friday's or whatever, drinking Coors Effing Light and playing pool and cheering for an NBA team and flirting with "hot" women while Andrew screams "IT'S TIME TO PARTY!!! LET'S PARTY!!!" in the background. That's taking the name of Andrew WK in vain, people. When Andrew WK speaks of partying, he's not referring to guys in khakis eating mozzarella sticks and flipping through Maxim--oh no. When Andrew WK parties, cars are driven into swimming pools--from the eighth floor of a hotel.
Anyway, I digress. Target ads good. But why, why, why are do they not sell clothes with the little red target logo on them? Does this not seem like a no-brainer to you? Those clothes are so cute! I'd wear 'em! Target, if you are listening, please make clothes with little red Targets on them. I don't know how much clearer I could be about this.
Once again I've got to cop to bias when it comes to a band I'm writing about: As I detailed in this post, the (one-sided, imaginary) relationship Thom Yorke and I have been in for the past half-decade appears to have reached the point of irreconcilable difference.* The point I was trying to make with that article was largely missed, I think; I'm not angry or enraged or indignant or anything like that. I'm just sad, is all, sad that from now on, every time I hear this band I onced loved so deeply, I'll be reminded that they think I'm either terminally gullible or irredeemably ruthless. (Both may be true, of course.)
So it was with trepidation that I bought Radiohead's much-anticipated new disc, the bluntly titled Hail to the Thief. Advance critical reaction, as usual, had consisted of the kind of oddly undescriptive superlatives that indicate that the critic in question a) remembers Lit Crit 101 and b) can't make heads or tails of the record. It's a pattern that emerged in some quarters with the electrosoaked Kid A and became pandemic with the even more difficult Amnesiac. Aside from the agreed-upon angry political over/undertones (it depends on which reviewer you're asking), therefore, I didn't know what the heck I was getting myself into.
What Hail is, despite the rage that underlies it, is a strangely inert document of a time in which Yorke and his bandmates felt increasingly helpless. This in itself is par for the Radiohead course--since the first line on The Bends, "You can force it but it will not come," powerlessness has been the band's stock in trade--but for the first time the music seems to reflect the lyrics, shuffling nervously and never attempting to break free of its largely self-imposed chains. Yorke, who is blessed with the world's most angelic set of pipes and cursed with the face of the kid from Deliverance, sings every note seemingly until he runs out of air, from long soaring cries to short breathy gasps; it's as though he's gunning for the title of World's Worst Breath Support. His vocals often slide into incoherence, sometimes with the help of electronic de-enhancement, which reflects his increasing desperation but also makes Tori Amos's diction seem like that of Walter Cronkite. With the exception of the rhythmic, sharp-as-a-knife repeated line "I don't know why I feel so tongue-tied" in "Myxomatosis," the album lacks the kind of chilling vocal directness that made lines like "This machine will--will not communicate" from The Bends' "Street Spirit" so disarmingly effective. Moreover, quiet, semi-acoustic numbers like "Sail to the Moon" and "I Will," despite their Beatlesque titles and optimistic lyrics ("Sail" speaks of a future President knowing right from wrong; "I Will" swears to view the world through "babies' eyes"), are no respite from the static, claustrophobic gloom. Compared to similar numbers from the band's past, like "Bullet Proof (I Wish I Was)" or "How to Disappear Completely," there's no shelter here.
Indeed, in that regard Hail closely resembles its immediate predecessor, Amnesiac. On both records, the gloriously soaring, cathartic moments of the bands' earlier efforts, be they quiet and heartrending or loud and mindblowing, are nowhere to be found. There's no attempt to ruuuuuuun ("Creep"), no aching guitar pile-up ("Blowout"), no ironically triumphant claim that everything is broken ("Planet Telex"), no flying like Peter Pan ("Bones"), no saving of lives ("Airbag"), no everlasting peace ("Exit Music (For a Film)"), no glacial majesty ("Treefingers"), no spinning round and round and round and round and round ("Morning Bell"). It's when you put Radiohead up against their own catalog that you realize what a monumentally tough act they are to follow, even when it's them doing the following.
The album achieves its greatest success when it makes its few genuine attempts at forward motion. The acoustic-strumming strive of "Go to Sleep" evinces the same heady blend of musical optimism and lyrical cynicism that distinguished Jethro Tull at their best (which only an idiot would believe isn't a hell of a compliment). The album's best tracks utilize R&B rhythms and techniques, as in the defiantly groove-oriented first single "There There" (which, if it had first appeared on The Bends, would have blown people's minds), or the pissed-off but subtle strut of "A Punchup at a Wedding" (probably the album's best song, it simultaneously evokes DJ Shadow's "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt," Isaac Hayes's "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic," and Neil Young's "Southern Man"). The aforementioned ode to communicable rabbit disease, "Myxomatosis," features a pulverizing synthbass riff so propulsive it's frightening, as it should be given the song's violent content.
Hail to the Thief ends with "A Wolf at the Door," Yorke's account of the threatening phone calls he receives from the Big Bad lupine entity of lore. Singing quite convincingly like a frightened child, it's probably Yorke's best moment on the record, but you can't help but wish that at some point during the album he'd have bit the bullet and let the wolf in.
All of which makes the Deftones' eponymous new album all the more refreshing. Their last album, White Pony, was what Kid A would have sounded like if after OK Computer Radiohead had listend to less Aphex Twin and more Black Sabbath. Sonically expansive and thrillingly experimental for the work of a band that got its start touring with Limp Bizkit, White Pony's highly textural and emotional epics were easily the most intelligent and rewarding metal songs this side of Tool.
Deftones takes the process of morphing its musicians from rapping nu-metalheads to bold experimentalists gloriously further. The first minute of its opening track, "Hexagram," contains more visceral joy, rage and energy that practically all of Hail to the Thief put together. "Worship, play, play, worship," chants lead singer Chino Moreno frantically, as though he himself can't decide which to do. "Minerva," with its ascending chords and gutwrenching screams of "God bless you all for the song you sang," is the most emotionally affecting postmodern power ballad since the title track of Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile, and "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event," with vocals emerging from a lonely, watery place and a toy piano tinkling melancholically throughout, conjures up the bittersweetest adolescent memories you'd care to relive. And then, of course, there are wall-to-wall catharsisfests, like "When Girls Telephone Boys," The overall product is one of intense emotional power, even at the album's quietest.
Unfortunately, it's an intensity too few music fans will experience. The Deftones have been largely ignored precisely by the kind of people who'd most enjoy them, primarily because of their long-time association with the baggy-pants crowd (Korn, Bizkit), their own frequent sporting of said pants, and the simple fact that they aren't British. But the band has always admitted to musical influences that'd get booed right off the Summer Sanitarium stage, from Violator-era Depeche Mode to Pinkerton-era Weezer. Radiohead at their best also clearly shaped the band into its current brilliant form. With any luck, Thom will pick up Deftones on his next swing through the States, and the favor will be returned. It won't be a moment too soon.
* (To digress for a minute, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Thom suggested that as bad as Saddam Hussein is, the weakening of the UN precipitated by the US and UK is worse. If I could I'd point out to him that the UN always did whatever the US (or, in its day, the USSR) wanted to do anyway, and that though it might now appear to be a counterbalance to the US's power, perhaps an organization that puts Libya in charge of the Human Rights commission isn't much of a moral arbiter. He also explained that the whole album stems from the sinking feeling he got while hearing the BBC report that Bush stole the 2000 election. I wasn't thrilled about that at the time by any stretch of the imagination, but I'll just say that if I were to record a politically-charged album between late 2001 and early 2003, I'd probably be focusing on a certain even that took place eleven months after that election. But that's enough of that.)
My boss is a big comic book fan. He's also a sucker for tchotchkes: our office is so full of poseable action figure and ceramic statues and toy AT-ATs and such that it looks like Romper Room. Needless to say the combination of fanboyhood and disposable income leads to some intereting purchases, and Lord have mercy, the boss man has the gayest assortment of comic-hero action figures known to man. We're talking glasses-wearing Tim Hunter from The Books of Magic, gothy Morpheus from Sandman, leather-wearing James Marsden replica Cyclops from the X2 movie toy line, black-spandex clad Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and Superboy's friend Mon-El. He's just a Robin and an Aqualad shy of being able to accurately recreate the back room of the Metropolis franchise of the Cock.
I've got to cop to a certain bias when it comes to talking about Led Zeppelin, because quite frankly, I literally can't imagine what my young life would be like without them. From attempting to decipher the mysteries of my dad's vinyl copy of IV to wading repeatedly through the 4-disc box set Zep produced in the early '90s to receiving The Motherlode, The Complete Studio Recordings, while a sophomore in high school, my musical, mental, and even physical development are inextricably linked to the band, who in Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham had quite simply the best singer, guitarist, bassist, and drummer in rock and roll history, period. Whether it's epics like "In My Time of Dying" and "Ten Years Gone" or balls-out bullets of rock energy like "Heartbreaker" and "Living Loving Maid," I've more deeply internalized Zeppelin's music than any other band.
So words fail me when attempting to describe Led Zeppelin's new triple-disc live album (are there seven more beautiful words in the English language?), How the West Was Won. This is because it is soooooooo heavy. Heaviosity, I realize, is an increasingly rare critical barometer of quality, but I find it as reliable as any other, and people, this monstrosity of rock is heavy. It's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" heavy. It's "The Thing That Should Not Be" heavy. It's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" heavy. It's, well, every song you ever loved by Led Zeppelin heavy.
Discovered during a trip through the vaults by Jimmy Page in preparation for the simultaneously released live Zep DVD, and consciously set up as an antidote to the band's lackluster live album from the 70s, The Song Remains the Same (the record was left out of the Complete box, so if Led Zeppelin's my religion in some sense, that's the band's apocrypha), the performances that comprise the album's three discs were taken from post-IV, pre-Houses of the Holy shows in Los Angeles in which the band could almost literally do no wrong. I don't know how many times that, upon listening to the live version contained herein of a Zeppelin classic I'd already heard three thousand times before, I burst into an irrepressible, idiotic grin. As if the lengths listed next to the tracks weren't enough to get your rocks off ("Moby Dick"--19:23! "Whole Lotta Love"--23:07! "Dazed and Confused"--25:fricking25!), there's the soul-crushing fury with which John Bonham pounds his drums during the opening riff for "Out on the Tiles," which is used to kick of a searing rendition of "Black Dog." There's the warrior wails from Robert Plant throughout the album-opening "Immigrant Song," which peel through the ether as though he's reluctant to cut them short. There's the unexpected ferocity with with Page, Jones and Bonham kick out the jams in the half-acoustic half-electric "Over the Hills and Far Away." There's the smile you can see in your mind's eye, plain as day, on Plant's face as he (one would assume) woos some pretty young thing in the audience by following up "Black Dog"'s assertion that "big legged women ain't got no soul" with the sly spoken admission "I could be wrong...." And, oh yeah, there's "Stairway to Heaven." (NOTE: When I saw Page & Plant close their first tour together in decades at Madison Square Garden some years back, they kicked off the 3rd or 4th encore of the night with the words "one more song!" Everyone thought it'd be "Stairway"; everyone was wrong (it was "Rock and Roll"). Hearing the infamous track on this record almost makes up for the taunt. Almost.)
Now that critics have decided that the highest calling in music is to rock with your cock out, as Zeppelin at their best so often did, dozens of sweaty bands in sweaty clubs in sweaty cities across America and the UK have been vying for "next big thing" status on the strength of their comparability to the big boys of yesteryear. One such band is NYC's Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who've followed up an acclaimed and excellent eponymous EP with the new full-length Fever to Tell. Lead singer Karen O is often, and probably inevitably, the center of attention for this band, which is better known for her sex- and (literally) beer-soaked live performances than for any actual musical reasons. (The fact that the chorus of "Bang," the song that kicked off the band’s debut EP, is simply the phrase "As a fuck, son, you suck," repeated over and over probably contributes to the overall effect too.) When I picked up Fever to Tell I was immediately impressed by the way it continued and improved upon the EP’s rich tradition of in-your-face lyrics and musicianship. Guitarist Nick Zinner is a helluva axeman, whether creating "Dazed and Confused"-esque towers of majestic drill-like sound ("Date with the Night") or indulging in serious monster-of-rock riffery ("Cold Light"). Drummer Brian Chase makes up for being the least sexy member of the band by providing a backbeat that more than compensates for the band’s lack of a bassist (a problem the White Stripes have yet to consistently overcome). And Karen O screeches, shouts, belts and pouts with the best of them, delivering home what could be gimmicky lyrics ("Boy you’re just a stupid bitch and girl you’re just a no-good dick") and vocal tricks ("uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh—owww!") with instantly believable sexual ferocity.
‘Okay, fine,’ I thought at this point. ‘They’re good, damn good, at rockin’. But Christ, Led Zeppelin’s first album had "Babe I’m Gonna Leave You," "Dazed and Confused" and "Black Mountain Side." I’m as happy as the next guy that today’s kids are alright, but doesn’t anybody have that kind of ambition?’ The answer is, well, yeah yeah yeah. Out of nowhere, the second half of Fever gets serious, with stunning results. The first hints can be found on "Pin," where a neurotically repetitive staccato riff dovetails with O’s warbly intoning of the phrase "I’d like to sleep with him," an idea she seems far from convinced is a good one. A heretofore unforseen Joy Division influence creeps into the spotlight on "No No No," whose very title is a rejoinder to the brashness of the band’s name and in which an increasingly frightened-sounding O sings "I’ll worry when I’m old"—again, her voice implies that the worrying has already begun. The song dwindles into a dub-esque experiment before making way for the album’s center—and master—piece, "Maps." A beautiful, haunting account of a last-ditch attempt to hold onto a lover, the song hinges equally on its simultaneously plaintive and assertive chorus ("Wait—they don’t love you like I love you!") and the bottled fury of Zinner’s follow-up guitar crunch. After "Maps," the band moves through a song that’d do current-era Radiohead proud ("Y Control") before wrapping things up with the quiet, almost unbearably vulnerable "Modern Romance" (as in "there is no…"—yeah, it’s that kind of song) and another sparse, hidden-track love song, which ends the album with O ironically assuring her equally timid significant other that "cool kids belong together." At this point she’s proven herself so willing to investigate the cracks behind the cool that, even up against Page’s soundscapes, Plant’s gentle ahhhing and Jones’s mandolin, she’s worthy of inheriting the torch once borne by the flames of Albion.
Read James Taranto's first item today. You see, the secret to comedy is that it's funny, because it's true.
Mrs. Collins will be gone doing some teachery thing all night tonight and all day tomorrow. What this means is that I'll be eating Cherry Cola Mike & Ikes, Dominos Pizza (including those delicious Dominos Dots), and perhaps even TGI Friday's Bacon & Cheddar Potato Skin Chips. I'll probably end up renting movies with graphic violence and vomit in them and watch those too. Normally all this would be a lot of fun for me, but not when it means that I'm doing it instead of snugglin' my special lady friend.
Anyway, if The Ring is good, I'll let you know.
One more thing. Since this blog seems increasingly dedicated to talking about whatever Dirk Deppey's talking about, I just want to call attention to his characterization of the upcoming young-adult romance comic Trouble, by superstar writer Mark Millar:
QUOTE: "Millar's work reads like it's [sic] job is to produce a hit comic which leads to bigger paychecks on better projects."
I haven't read the book yet, and I plan on doing so because books for this audience interest me on a professional level, but hoo doggy, has Dirk pinpointed a problem with much of Millar's work at this point. Good God, has there ever been a smugger comic-book writer? Or one more convinced that everything he touches turns to gold, which in turn will enable him to touch more soon-to-be-golden things? His self-satisfaction with his own work and relentless broadcasting of same would make the Stan Lee who called Fantastic Four "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine" blush. There are a lot of great comics writers who evince a certain self-confidence in their own intelligence and abilities--for example, Alan Moore or Grant Morrison (Millar's fellow Scotsman, as well as his mentor). But these guys are often making bold conceptual, stylistic and philosophical strides within their comics. Millar can write some killer superhero books (The Authority, Ultimate X-Men, The Ultimates), but when all is said and done they're straightforward, if well-written and "decompressed," slugfests, the sole philosophical underpinning of which is some tedious kneejerk-liberal "the smart, humanistic thing to do would be to have the army hand out Girl Scout cookies, because this would solve all the world's problems" sophomore-year dorm-room pop politics. Lately Millar has taken to complementing this smug style with ridiculous overstated would-be epigrams, which bare not even a tangential relationship with reality, in his columns and interviews: to paraphrase, "There's no racism to speak of in Scotland," "There are no indie writers today that can even touch the best superhero writers in terms of quality," "Comic book writers will be the dot-com billionaires of the next decade," and so on.
It's probably titanically idiotic to poo all over the biggest writer in an industry I hope to work in soon, unless of course Mr. Millar takes the same turn-the-other-cheek approach he espouses in his comics, where, for instance, he has lead X-Man Cyclops "forgive" Wolverine for trying to kill him in order to steal his girlfriend and then expects us all to sit around and applaud this course of action as "the gateway to the future of post-humanity" or somesuch gobbledygook. Really my point is that I love 90% of every comic I've read by Millar--I'm just worried that his head's getting so big that if he ever writes his autobiography it'll have to appear in The Journal of MODOK Studies.
(Jesus God, was that ever an inside geekjoke. I apologize to everyone.)
The parts of the new Radiohead album that I like, I like a lot: the "no no no no no no no no" part at the beginning of "A Punchup at a Wedding"; the high-pitched ahhs when Thom mentions sirens singing in "There There"; the quiet "sha na na nas" also in "There There"; the lines about the Big Bad Wolf threatening Thom's kids if he "squeals to the cops" in "A Wolf at the Door" (these lyrics are probably appealing to me because of the Law & Order obsession I've got). I just think a lot of it is kind of lifeless.
It sure ain't cool to say Beck isn't cool anymore.
Everybody (Alien Deppey Doane Harris) is blogging about various recent Marvel comics, the Marvel Comics rating policy, and the trouble both are causing with squeamish retailers.
There are a lot of factors at play here. One is that it seems cheap to imply (as Alan David Doane and Dirk Deppey appear to) that the creators are somehow behaving sleazily by putting adult content into their books. Marvel's T&A covers are one thing--in many cases they have little or nothing to do with the book behind them, and that is sleazy, particularly when the covers aren't even sexy except to the stereotypical lonely fanboy--but a book like Bruce Jones's Incredible Hulk is an intelligently written thriller for mature audiences, which features realistically disturbing violence and (in the Abomination story arc, and I swear I'm not kidding) realistically arousing sensuality. It's not Jones's decision to give an issue with an attempted rape scen a PG rating and a 25-cent pricetag in what seems to be an effort to get kids to read the thing. (As a side note, the very grown-up nature of Jones's Hulk tales might actually make a second Hulk title make sense, if it were substantially differentiated from Jones's by being geared toward a more all-ages audience.)
As for Chuck Austen's The Eternal, well, the content is indeed strong stuff. Sex slaves, sadism, rape-murder, interspecies mating--"yuck" about sums it up. Of course, all this makes Austen's depiction of the Eternals as racist marauding scum perfectly convincing, and in future issues I'd imagine we'll see the main character set apart from this depravity. In addition, sleaziness is Austen's strong suit: compare his riveting pulp mini-epic U.S. War Machine or this disturbing Eternal issue to the ponderous Captain America or preachy Uncanny X-Men (which, it should come as a surprise to no one, boasts a naked jump-rope scene as its most original and entertaining moment). Moreover, The Eternal is part of Marvel's mature-audience MAX line, which the company has always made clear is not to be sold to children. And at any rate the sex scenes are in the book are filled with nudity and shocking in their way, but they're certainly not explicit (a point Franklin Harris, in a post that correctly defends Jones and Austen, makes quite clearly). If this is explicit, Dave Cooper's Weasel is a criminal offense. And look at the retailers' reasons for objecting to the book: erroneous claims that it contains "graphic sex scenes"; complaints that, essentially, Marvel is breaking this guy's favorite toys (coupled with the usual "Why should someone's sexuality, which after all is merely a biological imperative inherent to every human being, enter into a story?" stupidity, as well an inability to come up with anything other than the CSI comic as an example of a good mature-readers title); taking offense at what is perceived as blasphemy (now that's a good reason for taking something off your store shelves--provided you sell comics in Tehran, or Eric Rudolph's backyard); pining for the halcyon days of the "consistent" Comics Code (folks, believe me, that antiquated piece-of-shit rubber-stamp quasi-ratings-system has died a death it richly deserved). Are these the people you want deciding what comics should be labelled "good," let alone "mature"?
If there's a problem, it's not the talent, or with a clearly adults-only line like MAX--it's inconsistency with which Marvel applies its ratings. High-profile books seem to get a free pass when it comes to highly violent or sexual content. Whether they use adult content intelligetly (Jones's Hulk, Grant Morrison's sexually charged and challenging New X-Men, Pete Milligan's satire of Reality TV immorality X-Statix) or like an episode of The Man Show is beside the point--if you're going to have a self-regulated ratings system, use it the way it's meant to be used. It's ridiculous to give J. Michael Straczynski's adventure-romp Amazing Spider-Man the same rating as a seedy study of criminality like Jones's Kingpin. And it won't be surprising if retailers, in an effort to crack down on "dirty books" getting to minors, start throwing out the baby with the bathwater (if by "bathwater" you mean books with big-titted women punching each other).
Man, but I've been prolific with them long reviews lately! I promise I'll get back to the usual brief, stupid crap. For example, why was there an O.B. tampon plastic wrap-band thingee on the floor of the men's room today?
Blogger Johnny Bacardi (working permalinks pending--try the home page) points out, in a recent round-up of some vinyl records he's been listening to, that Bootsy's Rubber Band, P-Funk/JB's bassist Bootsy Collins's '70's side project, is fricking awesome. People, listen to the man: he's right on the money. One of the finest funk records I've ever heard is the Rubber Band's Live in Louisville 1978. The band taps into the cosmic groove so deeply on this record it'll make your hair hurt. When the horns kick in at the end of "Very Yes"--send in the weapons inspectors, because that shit is THE BOMB.
Johnny also talks a bit about Roy Wood, which, as anyone who's heard "The Ball Park Incident" will tell you, is always a good idea.
Just got an advance copy of a new Killing Joke album in the mail. As if the words "new Killing Joke album" weren't surprising enough, who should turn up on drums but Dave Grohl! I guess Martin Atkins has thoroughly burned his bridges at this point.
Superhero comics do a lot of things well; depicting criminals realistically isn't one of them. Multiracial vest-sporting gangs, bad attempts at dialect that consist primarily of leaving the d's off the word "and" and the g's off anything ending in "ing," Mafia stereotypes that involve grandiose ring-kissing and boss-of-bosses crap that never actually happens--it's what I've come to expect from all but the best costumed crimefighter comics that take a break from supervillains to delve into the underworld. So I picked up Kingpin #1, the first issue of a new series about the lord of organized crime in the New York City patrolled by Spider-Man and Daredevil, with expectations lower than the odds that Paulie Walnuts will live through Season 5 of The Sopranos.
I like the character--he currently makes regular, compelling appearances in Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev's ongoing Daredevil title, alternately menacing and protecting his horn-headed archenemy in a pulp-fiction pas de deux. And it's not that I doubted the talent involved in this particular Kingpin project. Writer Bruce Jones, the oldest "new kid" on the Marvel Comics block, has reinvigorated The Incredible Hulk, turning it into something creepy, mysterious, edgy and (get this) sexy--all while hardly ever showing the Hulk himself (it's the threat of turning into the Hulk, Jones realized, that makes the life of Bruce Banner so interesting). Layout artist Sean Phillips turned in the best artwork for Uncanny X-Men in recent memory, while finisher Klaus Janson is rightly renowned for his legendary Daredevil and Batman collaborations with Frank Miller (the Daredevil books featured the Kingpin quite prominently), as well as his strong solo work (I particularly like his adaptation of Clive Barker's best short story, "In the Hills, the Cities," found in the recent collected edition of the Barker anthology comic Tapping the Vein). Nor was I echoing the kvetching of the continuity wonks, who've complained loud and long that the Kingpin series, taking place as it does during a time when both the Kingpin and his web-spinning nemesis are just starting out in their respective careers, is playing fast and loose with the strictly-monitored timeline of the Marvel Universe (in all his appearances up to this point, Kingpin appears to be much older than Peter Parker). I'll buy anything if it gives me a good story and tells it with impressive art--but this was a crime comic set in a superhero world, and experience has taught me that instead of the usual comics-title superlatives (Amazing, Uncanny, Invincible, Ultimate), that kind of comic might as well be tagged with the adjective "Inessential."
It's great news, then, that the creators of this comic devoted to the meanest, most murderous bastard ever to cross paths with the tights-wearing set know that, like revenge, the Kingpin is a dish best served cold. This is a crisp, gritty, brutal book, indulging in no honor-among-thieves cliches and getting straight to the heart for whom power is an end in itself.
Still known as plain old Willie Fisk at the time of this story, the title character is an enormous, bald side of beef navigating the dangerous intersection of street gangs and the Five Mafia Families of New York. This first issue concerns his and his newfound lieutenants' attempts to simultaneously wrest control of the gangs from the Mafia, consolidate the gangs they take over, and expand their drug-dealing territory into white areas of the city. To say much more would be to spoil nasty twists that surprised even a veteran what-passes-for-surprise-in-superhero-comics predictor like me.
It's not just the story that makes this debut issue so strong: the devil, as is his wont, is in the details. The stark, expressionistic tints employed by colorist Lee Loughridge play up the irrationality and violence of young Fisk's world, and imbue the deceptively cartoonish Phillips/Janson artwork with menace. The imagery takes unexpected turns: with the flip of a page one can find oneself immersed in the sensual, pulpy eroticism that's fast becoming one of Jones's strongest suits. A brief cameo by Spider-Man is largely silent and appropriately eerie--after all, the intrusion of such a gaudily costumed, inhumanly powerful being into the mean streets would be genuinely disconcerting to Fisk, and should be so to us as well. Even the layouts of panels on the page and objects within the panels, facets of comic art too often neglected in superhero books, are smart: After you read the book, take a good look at the first & last pages and see what they alone tell you about the man called Kingpin. As it stands now, I'm willing to learn as much about him as this bunch is willing to teach.
So my Fergless weekend has proceeded much as predicted: With much eating of pizza and watching of movies with vomit in them. (For those who don't know, the missus is emetophobic. The slightest glimpse of vomiting, dry-heaving, retching etc. in a film and she goes fetal for about half an hour. It's unpleasant.)
Re: The Ring--holy moses! This is a frightening, frightening movie. Please do yourself a favor and watch it in the dark by yourself--boy, what a great time you'll have! Dead faces in mirrors, bizarre noises, frightening phone calls--it's a recipe for having a blast when you're all by your lonesome!
Yeah, it scared the crap out of me. Which of course meant that I was delighted, since I am an enormous horror aficionado. I wrote my senior thesis on the types of imagery in horror films that I feel are the most effectively horrifying (as opposed to gross or jump-out-and-scare-you startling), and it's as if The Ring's filmmakers simply read it and applied everything I said. Plus, for a horror buff it's just a smorgasbord: I caught allusions to The Shining, Hellraiser, Jacob's Ladder, The Blair Witch Project, Shivers, Videodrome, Candyman, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, Twin Peaks and Eraserhead (and Scream, but hey, they can't all be winners*). This is a geniunely frightening film, and there aren't a lot of those anymore.
Case in point: Ginger Snaps, the other movie I watched this Fergless weekend. It's actually pretty bright: it's an indie film that uses werewolves as a metaphor for female adolescent sexuality, menstruation, etc. A sharp concept is undercut by the fact that the filmmakers don't seem to know whether they want the main characters to be sympathetic or not; you can practically feel their indecision as the film careens from mood to mood and ratchets up the violence with seemingly very little regard for pacing or believability. It has its moments--mostly clever ones rather than scary ones--and the monster's behavior could compare favorably to Clive Barker's monumental short story "Rawhead Rex" (in which the titular character is basically the final word in "monster runs amok" genre stories), but by the end of the interminable climax, you really don't know what you're supposed to be feeling, nor do you care.
Oh hey, she's back! Hooray! Cold pizza for everybody!
*I actually liked Scream when I first saw it--which was at a drive-in with famed dopey-movie aficionado Kennyb, so that explains a lot. It was clever and scary, but it doesn't stick in your mind any more than, say, Men in Black, and it was a terrible thing to base half a decade of horror movies on. Thank God for Shyamalan.)
A while back I mentioned that my boss's assortment of action figures could convincingly be the touring company for a Cats revival. Looking around the office now I see that some additions have been made that might offset this somewhat. Butch-as-hell Orion and Darkseid, from Jack Kirby's New Gods saga, are now here, and so is Batman. Of course, they're all still in their boxes, instead of out and proud (so to speak) like their fellow figures. And Batman comes in a pack with Robin, who I'm pretty sure I saw attempting to teach the Dark Knight the cowboy dance from Madonna's "Don't Tell Me" video. But finally, and somewhat disturbingly, there's an Eminem action figure, who's been making threatening gestures in Mon-El's direction. Green Lantern and Cyclops might have to get Stonewall on his ass.
When I first graduated from college I worked as a P.A. on various films and TV shows for about half a year. A P.A. is a "production assistant," a Latin phrase meaning "indentured servant." Like everyone on a film or TV crew, PAs work 12-14-16 hour days and run around like crazy people. Unlike everyone else on a film or TV crew, they do absolutely nothing creative and spend most of their time getting bagels, making copies, shuttling people from place to place, and picking up stuff at Home Depot. And oh yeah, they don't get paid.
One of the films I PA'd on wasn't so bad, because it was a micro-budget digital-video indie film, and NO ONE was getting paid. The film was called (at the time) Mondo Cruel, or Cruel World, and it told the story of two Hispanic brothers from Washington Heights and the various trials and tribulations the older brother (an ex-con) goes through to keep the younger brother (who just graduated second in his class from high school) away from their father (I won't spoil the film, but there's good reason for this). This was the first film I'd worked on since graduation, so it was a ton of fun seeing how all this stuff worked, even if most of it consisted of the skeleton crew that made it (myself included) riding around in the back of a cargo van, pretending to have permits from the Mayor's Office for Film and TV, and marveling at the fact that no one above 100th St. gets their dogs neutered. It was a long hot summer and a challenging, involving film.
Now it's called Manito, after the younger brother, and it's apparently getting all sorts of good reviews and did well at Sundance and Tribeca. Hell, Slate is writing about it. I haven't seen it myself, and now I'm all excited to do so. It'll take me back to one of the only worthwile PA jobs I ever did--worthwhile in the sense that I was part of something good, and worked for good people. I wish them well.
(PS: Yes, Franky G. was a big dude.)
(PPS: Astute viewers of Manito might be able to spot The Missus in the graduation party scene. Hint: She's the non-boriqua.)
I used to have a blog called In the Court of the Crisco Bandit. That's all over now, but occasionally I'm gonna cannibalize stuff from it for ADDTF consumption. Here's a review I wrote of King Crimson's album Red. It's good, is what I'm saying.
One of the great pleasures my post-Velvet Goldmine (the film that changed my musical life) explorations into the weirder side of classic rock have afforded me is stumbling across albums that actually meet the cliched criterion of sounding ten years ahead of their time. The Stooges, the MC5, the Velvet Underground, Roxy Music and (my hero) Bowie all had their fair share. A trip to my local used record store (the fantabulous Empire Discs) led me to another one: King Crimson, and their 1974 guitar onslaught Red.
Lead guitarist and mastermind Robert Fripp should be familiar to anyone who's heard his often imitated, never duplicated soaring-siren guitar sound on Bowie's "Heroes"; he's also responsible for one of my top-five all-time favorite guitar solos, the relentless high-end trainwreck in the middle of Eno's "Baby's on Fire." In addition, he's credited with coining the term "dinosaur rock"--to refer to his own band, impressively enough.
But those of you who were already familiar with Fripp's work don't need me to tell you that in an oddly conservative era for solo-driven music, the guy was (to nigh-unforgivably understate things) something else. From start to finish, Red is a rhythmic and sonic assault on the ears, as licks and meters intersect, divide, and pile on top of one another with all the weird geometric mysticism of Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition. Bassist/vocalist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford provide a durable, mercurial rhythm section eminently capable of carrying Fripp's riffs (kicking and screaming, it would seem) from one weird-time-signature section of each song to the next. Yet for all the non-grooviness, the album grooves; grooves in an inescapable, evil, "uh oh i know where this is going and it's going to be scary" way. The effect is one that Tool (who toured with the Crimson last year) have harnessed to great effect time and again. (And even Bowie's non-Fripp late 70's work reflects the influence. Compare the structure of Red's instrumental title track to that of Low's opening instrumental, "Speed of Life," for example.)
I've often seen the word "joyless" used by reviewers when they don't like an album. However, to call Red joyless is to pay it a great compliment. This is serious, angry, strangely (almost existentially) frightening music. It means business.
Dirk Deppey has posted a director's-cut version of his five-part essay on Marvel Comics's effort to break into the bookstore market and thereby the mainstream (or vice versa). I've already touched on a few aspects of this thoughtful and thought-provoking series, (as well as some general questions and concerns about Marvel's sundry attempts at innovation) here, here, here, and here. .
To that I'll add that NeilAlien's take is excellent for several reasons, not the least of which is that he quotes me (this is the first time this has ever happened outside the confines of a criminal proceeding). The Palindromic One picks up my mantra that the whole "no one reads comics because they're so disproportionately dominated by superheroes" idea just doesn't hold water: after all, who's helping all these superhero movies make all this money? It's not just the people who are buying X-Treme X-Men, that's for sure. I know I belabor this point, but it's important for comics pundits to realize that hating superhero stories is just as unrepresentative a mindset vis a vis the world at large as is loving superhero stories to the exclusion of everything else; both are the twisted products of living in the hermetically-sealed world of comics fandom.
Neil's also right to point out that even if Marvel's market share in bookstores is dwarfed by its market share in comics shops, its increase in the last year is cause for celebration. After all, Marvel hasn't been at this very long (not really); moreover, the businessmen who run the company* surely don't believe they can replicate Marvel's dominance of fanboy-run comics shops in the much larger and more cosmopolitan world of bookstores, even within the graphic-novel subset of those bookstores. Their goal is probably to compete on a fairly even keel with the big manga publishers, Viz and Tokyopop, and to do that they'll need to change readership habits among teenagers who go to bookstores but not comics shops, and that's going to take a while. So far, though, so good.
However, this is not to minimize the amount of work that's left to be done for the big American comics publishers. By way of anecdotal evidence, I offer my Father's Day Weekend trip to the local Borders. As usual I found myself in the graphic novel section, and I noticed it had been reorganized in the last couple of weeks. Of the three bookshelves devoted to graphic novels, fully two of them were stocked with beautifully organized and alphebatized manga collections, offering the complete line of nearly every popular title. Crammed onto the last bookshelf was everything else--Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Fantagraphics, Pantheon--all smushed together in no discernible order or pattern. Brand spankin' new X-Men hardcovers were next to Dan Clowes collections were next to a random installment of Justice League.
Part of the problem here appears to be trade dress. Lined up one after the other, with uniform spine designs and easy-to-follow numbering and titleing, the manga collections simply look nicer on the shelf. Marvel has been a johnny-come-lately to uniform trade dress, largely because up until recently their policy for what gets collected and reprinted, not to mention when this happens, was catch-as-catch-can. Make the books look like they belong on a bookshore shelf, and not only will the employees take more care with putting them in order, customers will be more likely to give them a look.
*Note: The above used to include a line about "business men who run the country." It should have read "businessmen who run the company," as in Marvel. However, this is not to say that the error was really wrong, when you think about it.
Courtesy of Blogcritic Phillip Winn comes this link to a description of some of the footage added back into the extended edition DVD of The Two Towers. I think Kennyb put it best when he said: SO HUGE.
The scariest movie I ever saw was a bootleg copy of The Blair Witch Project. I'm sure I've told this story at some point, but at the time I was working for Troma, of Toxic Avenger & Sgt. Kabukiman fame. They met the Blair Witch guys at Cannes and the BWs were big Troma fans, so they gave them a few copies of the movie. I watched it with my friend and fellow horror nut Davey Oil, knowing only that it was supposed to be very scary, and that it was a mockumentary kind of deal.
I have literally never been so scared in all my life. Dave and I just sat there after it was over for about an hour (we finished it at 2 in the morning or something) because we were too frightened to leave the room. My bathroom has one of those fan deals, so you can't hear what's going on outside, so when I had to go afterwards I made Dave stand at the door and talk to me so I knew he was still out there. When I drove him home we were afraid of the back of the car.
That's how scary that goddamn movie was before a) the constant hype spoiled people's expectations and b) they added in the bit about the Witch-inspired killer making one kid stand in the corner while the other was killed. Believe me, without that little condescending post-production addition, the movie's final image was maybe the most frightening thing I've ever seen. When a couple weeks later we showed the movie to a bunch of friends at an upstate cabin, at least one of them was so upset by it she got mad at the filmmakers for making "emotional pornography." I don't think I'll ever buy the DVD of the movie because I think I saw it in the way God intended.
Perhaps all this explains why I reacted so strongly (nightmares and all) to The Ring--I know the power of a scary bootlegged VHS tape.
I've long insisted that Liz Phair is actually some audioanimatronic thingamjig cooked up by a bizarre conspiracy between the imagineers at Disney and the critics at Spin magazine to create the perfect 1990s indie power-pop star. (Which is not to say that "Fuck and Run" isn't an amazing song--it is. The little ditty they sing in the Hall of Presidents isn't so bad either.) But I guess she's human after all, because like other human female musicians (Mariah Jewel Britney Christina) she's apparently felt the need to get attention by stripping down and slutting up. I know, I know, she's always been highly sexual, that's great. But on her new album she's enlisted "hot production team The Matrix" (responsible for putting the "p.u." in "punk" rocker Avril Lavigne (who isn't terrible, certainly not worth getting all worked up over, but still, come on)), dresses like a girl in a 50 Cent video and sings a song called "H.W.C." Let's see if we can figure out what that stands for, shall we?
It's the fountain of youth
It's the meaning of life
So hot, so sweet, so whet my appetite!
Give me your hot, white come.
Give me your hot, white come.
She also goes on at some length about how frequent dousings have cleared up her complexion and made her hair moisturous or luminesque or whatever the Clairol commercials are calling it these days. All together now: That's entertainment!
I don't know about all this. I've never been a big Liz Phair fan because of all the indie-snob attention she's garnered, but The Missus loves her. And I'll admit that that's kind of a hot thing to sing about (ultimately, is it any different than "Brown Sugar! How come you taste so good?"). But as Amy often points out, the line between using porn cliches and conventions to critique or parody porn cliches and conventions and using them to actually just put a hip veneer on plain ol' porn is often so thin as to be nonexistent.
If there's any justice, this won't be the last rear-ending this felonious sack of garbage will be involved in. Have fun in prison, Your Holiness!
It's been brought to my attention (by me) that the link I had in my blogroll to Phoebe Gloeckner's home page wasn't working. So I fixed it. For those who don't know, Phoebe is the incredible artist and writer of the books A Child's Life and Other Stories and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and in my humble opinion one of the three or four best cartoonists in the world. (Hi, Phoebe!)
Phoebe and many other comix luminaries (including the similarly awesome Nick Bertozzi and Jordan Crane) will be appearing this weekend at MoCCA, the big festival/flea-market alternative-comics extravaganza. It's this Sunday, June 22nd, from 11am-7pm at the Puck Building, 293 Lafayette Street in Manhattan. There's so much good stuff to buy it's ridiculous. Go and enjoy it.
Instapundit offers a round-up of bloggers who are wondering aloud why the anti-ayatollah protests in Iran aren't garnering more attention on the Left. The answer, it seems to me, is because a democratic revolution in Iran is something George W. Bush wants, and therefore it must be opposed by "liberals." It's this aspect of the post-9/11 debate that's depressed me more than any other: the notion that the Left is incapable of supporting drives for even the most fundamental human rights if that means they'd end up on the same side of a given issue as the Bushies.
Here amongst the All Too Flat Family, there's a new installment of ADDTF's sister blog, Autobiographically Too Flat. Kennyb talks about art galleries, AC adapters, and Scrabble, but you should read it anyway.
Thanks to someone I can't remember, I discovered this site, dedicated to counting down the days (the endless, endless days) between now and the release of The Return of the King. Each day there's a new Tolkien quote. Can't go wrong there.
Kevin Parrott offers a two-part (here and here; part three coming soon), um, analysis of comic-book convention culture. I think a quick read will reveal that there is nothing not to love about comic-book conventions. If you can't enjoy the literally incredible cross-section of humanity present at these things, I don't know what to tell you.
Finally, I read the following blind item in today's Page Six:
Which talent agent who enjoys coke-fueled all-male orgies in his basement dungeon fired his longtime caterer when he learned one of her waiters was HIV-positive?"
...and I just thought it bears repeating that in this business, the description "enjoys coke-fueled all-male orgies in his basement dungeon" couldn't even begin to narrow down the possibilities of who this guy is.
Right on, Canada!
Wow, extending a basic human right to gay humans! What will they think of next?
Most folks who read this blog probably read a lot of other blogs, and therefore know that some genuinely important things are happening in Iran right now (despite, naturally, European claims that everything would probably be better if everyone would just shut up about it). Bloglord Andrew Sullivan has declared July 9th a sort of "Blog About Iran" day, in which the blogosphere will flex its collective muscles in an attempt to publicize the increasingly powerful demonstrations against the ayatollahs and for democracy in that country. It's unbelievable to me that this story isn't getting any attention in the major news media; the hope is that after July 9th said media (consisting in large part of people who read blogs) won't be able to ignore the issue anymore.
So come the 9th I'll talk a lot about Iran and the brave students and professors who are fighting one of the most odious governments in modern history. But till then, try and picture what the world, with any luck, might be like this time next year. It's well within the realm of possibility that in the space of about two years, the Taliban, an al Qaeda with genuine international reach, Saddam Hussein's Baathist-fascist regime, and the ayatollahs' Islamic fundamentalist theocracy will all be in the dustbin of history. How freaking bitchin' is that?
It's official: Dirk Deppey (currently in contention for the title of The Person Seanblog Talks Most About Next To The Missus) has declared the comics blogosphere mature!
QUOTE: "There have been comics-related weblogs for some time now, of course, but the collected group seems to be finally getting big enough, and complex enough, to take seriously as a sort of ecosystem of ideas. We're starting to see more and more real writing on the subject, from a wider variety of viewpoints -- an environment that political weblogs take for granted, but into which comics weblogs are still growing. What started out as a set of isolated rants seems to be turning into a genuine, multi-tiered set of conversations, a state of affairs I've long wanted to see."
Naturally, what the Comics Journal's online presence praises, Dr. Strange's online presence malaises. (Was that too much of a stretch?) In a characteristically grumpy post (that's since been largely deleted) NeilAlien begs to differ:
QUOTE: "Slapping ourselves on the back? Sounds like a peak. Watch out. Years yearning for ecosystem, and then everywhere it looks like echo-system....Another website doing reviews? Another fanboy riot over something Marvel's done? Another Journalista Supplement peeing on our leg and insisting that it's raining?...Isn't there something more important to do?"
Much as I (preparing obscure Bowie reference--ed.) love the Alien (obscure Bowie reference away!--ed), I've got to side with Dirk on this one. First of all, only at the Comics Journal website could a half-graf arguing nothing more than "you can have a decent exchange of ideas about comics online at this point" be considered "slapping ourselves on the back."
Second, Dirk's right on about the "genuine, mult-tiered set of conversations." Witness his epic blogstrosity "The Trouble with Marvel," which spawned long, thoughtful responses and rejoinders from NeilAlien, Bill Sherman, Franklin Harris, Jim Henley, and myself (more than once!). The debate's been entertaining, illuminating, and (dare I say it) has the potential to be helpful to Marvel should a company man take the time to wade through it. Similar "blogversations" took place over Nick Barrucci's "call to arms" and Mark Waid's firing from the writing chores of Fantastic Four. (I'm tired of hyperlinking, but sniff around any of the aforementioned folks' sites and you're bound to see stuff about those stories.)
In fact, I'll see Dirk and raise him some back-slaps: I submit that without his excellent comics weblog Journalista, the maturation he spoke of would not have come to pass.
Over in the political blogosphere, debates and discussions had gone on for years, but it took a) the explosion of interest in political discourse and theory after 9/11; b) the entrenchment of blogosphere superstars like Sullivan, Reynolds, Marshall, and Kaus--each of whom almost everybody on every side of a given issue visits at least semi-regularly--to establish the blogosphere as a viable method of both holding a discussion and influencing that discussion's direction.
It's unclear what, if anything, has been the comics industry's 9/11 (not in terms of tragedy, but in terms of ushering in a new era). It seems to me that it's been a combination of factors: a wave of hugely successful comics-inspired films; the manga explosion; the infiltration of bookstores; the mainstream success of alternative books like Jimmy Corrigan, Palestine, From Hell and Ghost World; the "New Marvel," as chacterized by the business and editorial decisions of Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada and the sales and critical success of creators like Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison, Brian Bendis and Mark Millar; the wave of edgy-mainstream writers and artists at companies like Oni, Image, and DC's Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints (all of which have been used as ersatz farm teams by Marvel); an increase in the amount, quality, popularity, and economic feasibility of webcomics; a post 9/11 jump in interest in non-fiction and political comics, from Joe Sacco to Marjane Satrapi to Aaron McGruder to Tom Tomorrow; increasing cross-pollination between the underground/alternative and mainstream/genre comics scenes; a generalized feeling that a new boom (of whatever kind) is just over the horizon. All in all, a lot of people feel that it's an exciting time to be involved in comics, and they want to talk about it.
But, and keep in mind I'm speaking as a relative newcomer to the scene, legions of potential comicsphere centers-of-gravity were/are doomed to failure for a number of reasons. The outspoken Warren Ellis's legendary but now-defunct forum seems (to one who wasn't there for it) to have been popular and important, but also to have too easily devolved into a cult of personality. The same could be said of other big niche-oriented sites, from Sequential Tart (its female-centric approach is refreshing, but perhaps lends itself too readily to simple-minded and unnecessary sparring matches with the kind of people who think "Sequential Sluts" is the height of wit) to Alan David Doane's sites (earnest and articulate but often overbearing, his niche, basically, is "people who agree with me"--didn't I hear he once kicked people out who refused to pledge allegiance to James Kochalka's Sketchbook Diaries?). Sites and messboards devoted to particular creators or companies are, needless to say, either focused too directly on their individual output or dominated too strongly by their administrative and syntactic idiosyncracies. The vaugely Kevin Smith-related Movie Poop Shoot is thoroughgoing but incorrigably silly (along the lines of its spiritual forebear, Harry Knowles's Ain't It Cool News; the assorted sites associated with Rich "Tommy/Gutter" Johnston rise and fall with the strength of his latest gossipy piss-take. News sites like The Pulse and Newsarama are useful, but their message boards are pretty much useless as a medium of idea exchange, dominated as they are by people with Wolverine-derived screen names shouting about their most recent plans to lead a boycott of Marvel until they revive Psylocke. More enlightening but equally frustrating is the Comics Journal's message board, whose constituency, some of the smartest and most well-read--as well as the most opinionated--comics fans on the Internet, is (as is readily apparent to anyone who spends five minutes there) as much a curse as a blessing.
Enter Journalista. Though I'm a tyro with the Internet in general and the comicsphere in particular, it seems to me that Journalista fills a substantial void in that online community: It's an intelligent but comprehensible, opinionated but non-partisan, personality-driven but not personality-dominated, authoritative but not minutiae-obsessed clearinghouse for comics news and thought. It's the Instapundit of the comicsphere, if you will. And like it (as I do) or not (as NeilAlien might), if the rewarding discussion surrounding "The Trouble with Marvel" is any indication, it's going to be the comic-biz blogosphere's agenda-setter for the forseeable future. ˇViva la Journalista! (Was that too easy?)
No, not the Coldplay song. Bill Sherman's doing quite a good job at cataloguing the abuse of that particular band's music. (With a little help from yours truly, of course....)
A bit of background for the non-fanboys (hint: If you don't know what "fanboy" means, then this part of this entry is for you): A while back there was something of a shitstorm over the cover for Marvel's upcoming teen romance comic, Trouble. Written by the clever (if occasionally insufferable) Mark Millar, the book's cover features an actual photograph of two bikini-clad teenage girls. But as Dirk Deppey points out and Jim Henley backs up (they're both long entries, so you're welcome to take my word for it), the controversy, such as it was, stemmed solely from the fact that the comics fanboy community automatically associates "bikinis" with "Vampirella," which is to say with "comics that give me a big boner." Underage girls in bikinis, then and therefore, equals child pornography. But had these human caricatures ever browsed through the young adult section at their local Barnes & Noble, they'd have seen dozens of similarly themed and targeted books with precisely the same sort of covers. Marvel's intent, believe it or not, wasn't to titilate--it was to fit into a preexisting market, one that fanboys and the retailers/enablers didn't recognize or understand.
But then there's this. It's the cover for the proposed second printing of the first issue of Trouble, in case the first print run sells out in comics shops due to unanticipated demand. It features an illustration of the book's teenage female protagonists (by fanboy fave Frank Cho) that can only--and only too aptly--be described as "titilating."
I don't necessarily have much of a problem with Cho's art: Unlike many comics cognoscenti who think he's an uninspired rip-off-artist hack, I actually the pin-up girls that are his artistic bread and butter are kinda sexy. But personally he seems unsavory, having teamed up on several occasions with the unfunny Scott Kurtz to let their collective "we're deliberately ignorant of art- and alt-comix!" flag fly in a series of appalling message-board flame wars and inside-joke-ridden gag strips. (We've all experienced the occasional snobbish excesses of alternative, indie, and underground comics, but to assert, as they did, that all altcomix are pretentious unreadable garbage is to be so self-evidently stupid as to nearly preclude a rejoinder. It's reminscent of those conservatives who, in response to an admittedly annoying diatribe from the Left, proudly flaunt the fact that they waste a lot of gasoline in their SUVs, or that they just ate a really great piece of veal, or that they love smoking cigarettes, or that they find the Diceman funny. Folks, the Left may be annoying at times, but two wrongs don't make a right, and all that stuff is still hella stupid.)
Sorry for the digression--the point is that Cho's art is all about the tease, and using it as the cover for a teenage-girl romance in an effort to appeal to precisely the same fanboy and retailer demographic that's the target for his wank-fodder cheesecake is all kinds of inappropriate. Marvel has to prove that it knows the difference between using mature themes appropriately to tell good stories and using them inappropriately to sell good stories (or worse, bad ones).
The Iranblogging continues.
First, courtesy of Instapundit, comes this bit of analysis from Austin Bay:
"Don't underestimate the strategic effects on Iran of Saddam's demise. Saddam presented Iran with a long-term threat, one the ayatollahs could use to legitimate a degree of internal militarization. Now, the Butcher of Baghdad's gone. Iranians have seen Iraqis dancing in the streets. Is it time for the Theocrats of Tehran to take a hike?"
I've made this argument for some time, after being persuaded by books such as Michael Ledeen's The War Against the Terror Masters and Ken Pollack's The Threatening Storm that the various fundamentalist/fascist/terrorist regimes of the Middle East are all interconnected, and that when they start falling, the demise of any one will accelerate the downfall of the others. As in George Orwell's 1984 (and here's one case in which its actually appropriate to utilize the Orwellian comparison), Iran's ayatollahs used the presence of a hostile next-door neighbor as an excuse for their own draconian militaristic policies. The fear they drummed up in the Iranian populace was not without some justification, mind you: Saddam had attacked Iran in the past, largely unprovoked, and during the course of their disastrous war proved himself willing to deliberately inflict massive suffering on the civilian Iranian population even when such actions had little or no practical or even propagandaiacal strategic results. With Saddam, his army, and his weapons out of the picture, it's going to be a lot tougher for the ruling theocrats in Iran to convince their people that they need them in charge. (Moreover, many of the young people involved in the anti-theocrat demonstrations are probably too young to clearly remember the war with Saddam in the first place, making it an even less effective incentive for compliance.)
That Instapundit item also pointed the way to this Slate round-up of the current situation in Iran, both regarding the protests and Western efforts to force the country to curb its nuclear weapons program. If you ask me, here's where the current "Where's the beef?" WMD fiasco in Iraq will be the most damaging to the administration (and the world): If intelligence about Iraq's capabilities couldn't be believed, won't it be even more difficult to convince the world (who, it must be said, all seem in agreement that Iran is further along the nuclear path than Iraq was, if not as far as North Korea) that Iran's capabilities are threatening as well?
"What if the mullahs fall before, say, September? The second anniversary of 9/11 would be marked by much general astonishment at what OBL et al began. Two years, three countries. Syria would have its come-to-Issa moment. Kim Il Jong would have to switch to extra-absorbent Depends, since he would probably be wetting himself anew each time he turned on CNN."
My sentiments exactly.
(By the way, he also talks about Brian Eno & David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which is always a good idea.)
On the heels of my one-two punch (more like a wussy little slap) against Radiohead--a bemoaning of their post-9/11 politics coupled with a faint-praise damning of their new album--Bill "Gadabout" Sherman writes:
"Picked up a copy of the new Radiohead disc last week, incidentally, and, you know, I kind of wish that they'd followed up on the political rantwork promised in its title and cover (which reminds me a bit of the back cover to the Mothers of Invention's Absolutely Free - now there's an album that knows how to be disrespectful to the president: it opens with an impersonation of LBJ doing "Louie Louie.") If they had, it might've made the album more exciting."
Seriously! Political brio isn't necessarily a guarantee of "interesting music"--I'd imagine that NOFX's The War on Errorism sucks, for example--but Bill's right: the biggest problem with Hail is the lack of life. However, I'm actually starting to enjoy it more now that I've been flipping through Radiohead's back catalog on my
iPod--bouncing around through various songs on Pablo Honey, The Bends, and Amnesiac has helped me contextualize Hail through their already extant body of incredible work, as opposed to through a political issue about which the band and I disagree passionately. But Bill's still right--a little chutzpah would have made the whole enterprise more invigorating. (I still enjoy my Rage Against the Machine records, for example, probably for that very reason. Well, that, and the fact that I never took Rage's hardcore Communism very seriously. I mean, the hammer and sickle on Tom Morello's baseball caps is supposed to represent a viable political and economic ideology? C'mon--you've GOT to laugh at that!)
My internet connection was down all day long today, except first thing this morning, when I fiddled with the big comicsphere post a bit. This sucked. However, I used the free time to be productive!*
*This is a lie.
Courtesy of Josh Marshall (courtesy, in turn, of Bill Sherman) comes this NYT op-ed piece by Kenneth "The Threatening Storm" Pollack, refuting the comical claim that Iraq's WMDs and WMD program were merely a figment of Bush Administration's war-crazed imagination even as he points out the potentially grave questions to which the administration has opened itself. Pollack, as always, argues that while the destruction of the Saddam Hussein regime was necessary, the timing (Spring 2003) wasn't necessarily so necessary. It's refreshing to come across someone who is able to criticize Bush (or at least his team, for stretching the WMD evidence to convince the public that we had to go in when we went in and no later) without a) resorting to hysterical Watergate-esque rhetoric about lies and scandal; b) advocating a fairly wholesale derelicition of duty when it comes to addressing the real, frightening, unconventional and therefore challenging security threats posted to us by the fascists, theocrats and terrorists of the Middle East; c) lambasting the United States as war criminals and oppressors while ignoring the several orders of magnitude more heinous behavior of Saddam Hussein and his ilk. Pollack's piece, as well as anything else he's written on the topic, is a must-read for any serious students of American foreign policy in the region.
(FYI: I'm never going to get too exercised about this WMD issue, as I'd happily roll into any given country tomorrow if it meant deposing another nightmarishly dictatorial regime (particularly one with which we were once complicit); this, to me, would be the liberal way to use our unprecedented military power. But it's important to keep our politicians honest, if only because dishonesty or disingenuousness might make support for future actions more difficult to garner (the boy who cried wolf syndrome). We mustn't be hamstrung in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia simply because the Bush Administration got lazy or timid about making the real case for invasion of Iraq and instead took a short cut by drumming up fears about relatively un-threatening WMD programs.)
Courtesy of Franklin Harris comes this article claiming that Marvel stockholders dumped their holdings after The Hulk did less business than expected. I dunno, man--the all-time record-holding June opening weekend seems pretty good to me, and I'm not sure that anyone thought this movie was as much of a sure thing as, say, Spider-Man (no challenging art-film moves in that bad boy) or even the X-Men sequel, which had a built-in audience of people who liked what they saw in the first one. It's also conceivable that folks are experiencing some "blockbuster fatigue" at this point in the season, especially after so many moviegoers felt that they got burned by The Matrix Reloaded. Seems to me that unless these stockholders were especially squeamish, which doesn't seem likely considering they bought stock in Marvel Comics, The House of Badly Conceived and Executed Business Ideas, they were just looking for a convenient date to dump stock, and right after Marvel's final big release for the season was as good a time as ever. But let the gloom and doom commence, as it does after every Marvel movie that fails to make $200 million its opening weekend.
(Note: I was half-jokingly accused this weekend of colluding with Dirk Deppey, to whom this entry is dedicated, to drive up one another's real estate. Bullroar, I say!)
This year’s MoCCA festival was great. Several observations:
Apparently the hot new trend in alternative comix is making your book the size of the effing Verizon Yellow Pages: The Frank Book, Blankets, and Kramer’s Ergot Volume Four were all as wide as Ashton Kutcher’s chin and probably as expensive. (I’m sorry, I just really hate Ashton Kutcher.)
How are they, you ask? Frank, a collection of every story involving Jim Woodring’s cute animal guy and his adventures through a genuinely disturbing dreamscape, is brilliant. Blankets, I dunno yet. Anyone who writes a 600 page comic deserves to be commended, and creator Craig Thompson’s art is beautiful, but the whole thing (a story about faded childhood innocence, first love, etc.) seems floridly overwritten at times and a bit, well, emo. (You half expect Dashboard Confessional to make a rock opera out of it.) I reserve judgement till I finish it (at which point I reserve the right to totally change my mind at any point in the future once I see which way the critical-consensus wind’s blowing on it). Kramer’s Ergot: this altcomix anthology has its very strong moments (short stories about Sisyphus and the Minotaur, a sad tale called "Poor Sailor," all by people whose names I can’t remember because I don’t have the book in front of me DAMMIT) and its weak ones (lots of collages that I assume are making A Statement and little drawings and comic strips that just don’t make no goddamn sense, people), but the coloring is uniformly exquisite.
I also picked up some swell little comics like Hans Rickheit’s latest Chrome Fetus and Frank Miller’s minicomic (!) "Man with Pen in Head," produced as a benefit for the indispensable Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. A pretty good haul.
The problem at last year’s MoCCA was that, since it consists largely of independent and self-published comics creators, any time you went to someone’s table you felt obligated to buy their stuff. It was sort of like the world’s worst family reunion, where every time you got buttonholed into talking to your second cousin once removed, it cost you three bucks. The problem at this year’s MoCCA, though, was that you couldn’t even get to someone’s table without struggling through the crowd for five minutes. I guess the festival is a victim of its own well-deserved success: It was super, super overcrowded, to the point where it was difficult to get around and almost impossible to access any of the more popular tables without killing five minutes doing so. Hopefully next year’s festival will be held in a bigger space, and perhaps add a second day to help thin out the crowds.
Special thanks to Nick Bertozzi and "Dirty" Danny Hellman for giving me more free stuff than I probably deserved; Phoebe Gloeckner for writing The Missus’s best friend a birthday card; Jim Dougan, for recognizing me from my Friendster picture; and Davey Oil, for just your being you.
As you'll perhaps remember from this post, I’ve been putting off doing a bunch of stuff that needs to be done. Well, progress, believe it or not, is acutally being made! On Friday I got a haircut (not on the original list, but still). On Saturday I bought a new cell phone (haven’t picked it up yet, but still). Also on Saturday I bought new sneakers (one of which is kind of uncomfortable, but still). And one of The Missus’s coworkers is planning on helping us hook up the stereo surround system. Eat me, attention deficit disorder!
Note to MTV: If you're taking suggestions, I think a good idea for an episode of Punk’d would be for a group of masked individuals to break into Ashton Kutcher’s house while he’s sleeping, drag him screaming into the street, and beat him unconscious with baseball bats.
No, you’re right. They might break the baseball bats.
The stupid internet here at stupid work is stupid down all the stupid time, so if the posts are slow to come, that's why. It's not that I don't love you, is what I'm saying.
I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, but I have enjoyed the series (caught up on the first four all at once a couple summers ago) and love a good adventure, so like everybody else in the free world I bought Order of the Phoenix this weekend. The bookstore I visited was quite a sight: It appeared that at least one employee’s sole responsibility for the day was to wheel a handtruck stacked with copies of the new book to the storefront display and fill it up at least as fast as people were taking them away, which was a pretty tall order. As a matter of fact, literally, and I do mean literally, everyone in the bookstore was buying a copy. At any rate, I’m about 80 pages or so into it, and I’m enjoying it so far.
Two related musings:
1) There’s certainly no reason why fans of this tale in which a misunderstood orphaned adolescent fights the forces of evil with his superhuman powers while wearing snappy purple robes wouldn’t love a good superhero comic. Ditto The Matrix. Ditto The Lord of the Rings. Ditto Buffy.
2) While watching Fellowship of the Ring for what must be the 25th time this weekend, I put my finger on the difference between Peter Jackson’s LotR films and Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter flicks (of which, to be fair, I’ve only seen the first): The Harry Potter movies feel like they paid a guy to make a movie out of the book, and that’s what just what he did, no more, no less. The LotR movies feel like the guy wanted to make those movies so goddamn bad he would have broken out of prison to do it.
From a letter by writer Tim O'Neil in today's Journalista:
QUOTE: "...(sing it with me, people!) Comics Ain't Just For Kids Anymore, Just The Silly People In Tights!!!...If Marvel tries to pry open the book market for Spider-Man, they will be wasting their time. Now, one way they could circumvent a great many of the problems you discussed in your article is if they just realized that grown men and women do not want to read superheroes and concentrate their efforts on getting Marvel books stacked in the children's and young adults sections."
From today's Gotham edition of Daily Variety:
QUOTE: "The debut of The Hulk marks the seventh consecutive No. 1 box office opening for Marvel, dating back to 1998's Blade. The $62 million Hulk bow ranks as the third highest of that group after the still-stunning $114.8 million opening for Spider-Man and $85.6 million for X2: X-Men United last month."
We report. You decide.
Actually, no, you know what? I decide. And I decide that this whole "superheroes are keeping adults from reading comics" theory is well past its expiration date. I know I harp on this a lot, but like characters in the lousy superhero comics that are supposed to be representative of the genre, the damn idea keeps coming back from the dead.
People, the only people who are so adamantly opposed to any stories involving people with extraordinary powers and a flashy fashion sense that they'll actively shun huge portions of an entire medium to avoid them are people like O'Neil who, for one reason or another, have let their own bad experiences as either a comics creator or a comics fan warp their sense of reality. Out in the real world, almost no one is going to refrain from seeing a movie or reading a book that's otherwise good simply because a guy in his pajamas uses magic or mutant powers to fight crime. If the writing is good, if the acting is good, if the director is good, if the story is good, people go to see the movie. Why should this be any different for comics?
Of course, it's bad that superhero stories make up such a disproportionately huge chunk of the entire comics medium, at least in America. It's quite conceivable that there are people who don't even know there are comics that aren't about superheroes, and that isn't good. As my wife often says, "I know cantaloupe is good, I can understand why people like cantaloupe, but I'm just never in the mood to eat it." There are probably plenty of people who don't have anything against superheroes per se, but are unlikely to dive into a medium they're convinced has nothing to offer other than the spandex crowd. But again, it's not superheroes in and of themselves that's the problem--it's the conception that that's all comics have to offer. Even if they wouldn't go into a store, if you handed these people a really good superhero comic, they'd read it, spandex be damned.
In O'Neil's defense, he does stick to saying "grown-ups don't read about superheroes"--I guess even die-hard superhero haters can't deny cold-hard box-office fact anymore, and are forced to keep this zombiesque theory alive simply within the confines of print media. But again, I just don't see any evidence that superheroes, in and of themselves, are the obstacle.
The idea that comics are for kids? Okay, that's a good potential culprit, but it's not just the superhero genre that'd be implicated in such a view: Many folks would be factoring romance comics, horror comics, Mad Magazine, Archie, and the daily strips into that assessment as well.
My guess? There's something about the pamphlet format most comics are still sold in that suggests cheapness, flimsiness, throw-awayability. That's just a guess, but it's better than trotting out the old "no one likes superheroes" bit. I don't care if you promised it filet mignon and a date with Lassie--that dog simply won't hunt.
NeilAlien offers his own summary of MoCCA, with the caveat that he's not "a name-dropping scenester." On the other hand...
Jo Rowling really knows how to do "unfair." The entire Harry Potter series has been essentially a laundry list of grown-ups and bullies who, for one reason or the other, pick on the main character for no fault of his own. The arbitrary exercise of power, the base delight in cruelty, the adamant refusal to believe unpleasant or unusual facts, the cloying condescension from adults to children and teenagers, the politically- or peer-motivated malfeasance, the bossing, the punishing, the bullying, the class prejudice, the age prejudice: It all adds up to a perfect portrait of a world that'll screw you over simply because it can, and because you can't do anything to stop it. I often think that a huge chunk of the books' appeal to children is this faithful re-creation of what the world of "because I said so"-spouting adults must look like through those children's eyes.
I've noticed ads in the NYC subway for the Bronx Zoo's latest attraction, Tiger Mountain. Is some humble zookeeper a closet Eno fan?
Also seen on the subway: a flier for Planned Parenthood reading "WARNING: BUSH POLICIES HAZARDOUS TO WOMEN'S HEALTH."
Lots of quibbling and cavilling going on about the post-Hulk stock dump, but the best analysis comes from Newsarama, which points out similar declines after quite a few Marvel movies, as well as one for Scholastic this week, following the release of the Harry Potter book. Ain't no one arguing that that was a disappointing performance, are they?
As I said before, this just seems like a logical time for people who are looking to cash in to do so, and would have remained so even if the Hulk movie had done Spider-Man business. It seems to me that most claims to the contrary--that the dump was due to disappointing box office--originate from one oft-quoted Bear Stearns analyst, Glen Reid, who you can find quoted here (in a Pulse article that bases its entire weak thesis on this one dude's read of the market), as well as every other damn place that reported on the story.
The one aspect of the box-office-gloom theory that holds water is the fact that as this summer has made perfectly clear, franchise and tentpole movies need to make a goddamn killing the first weekend out, because in this blockbuster-packed 6,000-theater front-loaded movie climate, one week is often all you get to establish your strength and make almost half of your box. Variety's dead-tree edition makes this case fairly effectively today.
Bottom line: Unless you're making stuff up to get column inches and air time, or have an axe to grind with superheroes or superhero movies, it's tough to spin this as anything but par for the (show)business-world course.
There are several irritating things going on in this Pete Bagge anti-war cartoon (courtesy of Franklin Harris). First, there's the generalized contempt for the average American, as represented by the various suburban stereotypes Bagge presents (the dopey talking head, the dopey mother, the dopey college girl, the dopey veteran, the dopey old woman, the dopey blue-collar guy--noticing a pattern here?). Certainly one can feel frustrated with one's fellow citizens from time to time, but you can't help but feel that Bagge's point is that everything would be fine if it weren't for those boozhwah WalMart-shopping flag-waving automatons, blah blah blah. Man, that shit gets tedious by the end of high school.
Second, there's the bit about how, if the Iraqis decide to "elect" a fascist or Islamist, we'll need to "teach them democracy all over again" or whatever. Ha ha ha, stupid American, who are we to decide what's best for them, if they vote then we must respect them, it's a different culture, besides, Florida and hanging chads and all that, blah blah blah. But the fact of the matter is, there's nothing ridiculous about the notion that a "democracy" that elects a fascist or fundamentalist theocrat is invalid (ha ha ha, what about the U.S., Ashcroft, blah blah blah--folks, I'm way ahead of you on this stuff). If, after World War II, it became apparent that democratic reforms in Germany, Italy, or Japan were leading to the rise of another set of nationalistic militaristic demagogues, you can bet your bottom dollar that we'd use the troops in place in those countries to put the kibosh on those elections so fast it'd make your head spin. And this wouldn't be anti-democratic in the slightest. The thing about democracy is that it presupposes the existence of, ahem, certain inalienable rights--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness among them. Elect a leader whose explicit goal is to restrict those inalienable human rights, and that election is invalid by definition.
It's stupid, and actually insulting, to act as though different cultures need not allow for those rights. If you believe in a liberal democracy, as most anti-war folks would claim, you believe that those rights are, in fact, inalienable, meaning you can't rightfully get rid of them no matter what. Even if 99% of the population voted for a dictator, he'd still be a dictator, because you can't choose to do away with an inalienable right. For some reason, a lot of people are finding this notion tough to deal with--and that's a notion I find tough to deal with.
It totally rules when you're on your fifth draft of some piece of writing and your computer crashes and you lose everything you did that day.
What I'm saying is that if the posts are few and far between today, it's because I'm too busy fuming. Or drinking.
Eff this, man. I've been drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon for half a goddamn decade already. Inspired by my uncle and father-in-law, I started drinking it because it's cheap, the can looks neat, Dennis Hopper drank it in Blue Velvet, and as far as cheap beers go, it tastes really good. (Jesus God, it's so much better than Coors Light, just for example.) Long have I complained that it's so hard to find on Long Island--in the years I've looked for it out here I've only found it once. If this idiotic retro-chic reported-on-in-square-publications trend makes it easier for me to buy PBR, great, but that doesn't make this trend any less obnoxious. Pabst Blue Ribbon deserves better than hipsters.
Well, I've gotten a grumpy email from an underground comix luminary. I've arrived!
My blog item about a recent anti-war cartoon in Reason magazine by legendary Hate author Peter Bagge was referenced in this Comics Journal messboard thread, which led Peter to defend his work both there and in a couple of email messages to me.
Taking issue with my comment that he appears to blame the woes of the world on WalMart shoppers, Peter pointed me to this cartoon, where he cops to being a mall shopper himself.
I stand corrected. But then on the message board thread about the strip, Peter said:
QUOTE: "I also don't know how I can NOT portray average Americans as anything other than dunderheads when most of us believe that Saddam used chemical on our troops, that WMDs WERE found, and that Iraqis took part in 9/11, even though no one in the government or the mainstream media has even SUGGESTED any of the above!...We've become such a pathetic and horrible nation of people that it's gone way BEYOND 'funny.'"
I certainly share his confusion and disgust about those kinds of poll results (9/11? Huh??), but it just seems like a lapse of emotion over logic to leap from there into general misanthropy about "average Americans." I may have gotten Peter's motive for attacking them wrong--he likes WalMart, they like WalMart, it's all water under the bridge--but I feel I accurately characterized his overall feelings about them.
In a subsequent email, Peter defended the character he depicted in the strip by saying:
QUOTE: "I don't see how what I wrote applies to any specific economic class, or any specific group of Americans. That's why I drew a wide variety of people, even if you and others still denigrated all of them as 'stereotypes.' I was targeting the majority of the American public who DO believe in all these aspects of the Iraq war that either aren't true at all or that I find morally reprehensible."
I definitely got that last part, but I still feel that Peter employed the different "types" he drew as representative of their peer groups. And hey, fine--there's nothing wrong with stereotype (call it "caricature," it's a less loaded term) in satire. I just think it conveyed a sort of anti-middle class/Middle American bias that thwarted the political efficacy of the cartoon, regardless of whether this was the cartoonist's intent. (While we're on the subject of political cartooning, Tom Tomorrow" does a pretty good job of skewering the American attitudes he feels deserve skewering without using pictorial stereotypes, due to his effective use of clip-art style generic, uh, "peoploids.")
Finally, Peter took issue with my rhetoric a bit, saying it was "high school" of me to say his own outlook was "tedious in high school." To which I can only reply, I know you are, but what am I? In all seriousness, I wasn't dissing him as immature (he's obviously a sophisticated guy, but at any rate, what's so bad about being like a high schooler anyway?), just saying I outgrew way back in the day the outlook he seemed to be espousing. But I think my big rhetorical mistake was saying "YOU can't help but feel that" Peter was attacking Middle America, not "I can't help but feel" that way. It's me writing this thing, after all, and it's presumptuous and dopey to speak for the general "you." So I'll take a hit on that one, no problem.
All that being said, what I take from this is that this Internet thing has its pros and cons. I think Peter thought I was being a much bigger jerk than I really was, but since he doesn't know me, how could he judge? But on the plus side, I had a one-to-one debate with Peter Freaking Bagge. And I think (cheesy after school special music GO!) we both learned something about the effects of his comic strip. And he was such a cool guy about it that he let me post quotes from his emails on my freaking website. Three cheers for fighting about politics and comics on the World Wide Web!
I went to The Missus's end-of-the-year faculty party yesterday, and holy shit, people, teachers effing throw down. Ass-grabbing, crotch-grabbing, vodka shots, married people grinding non-spouses on the dance floor, pouring beer from a story above into a waiting teacher's open mouth--I was almost waiting for Andrew W.K. to drive a motorcycle out of a twenty-foot cake with three hundred roman candles burning on it. And I can tell you one thing--she ain't never going to one of these things alone, no siree bob.
I mentioned Craig Thompson's massive autobiographical graphic novel Blankets in my MoCCA recap the other day. The book isn't even officially out yet and it's already the subject of much speculation and controversy. Part of this is due to the rapturous reception Thompson's debut book, Goodbye, Chunky Rice, received. Some people felt it didn't deserve the ecstatic praise people were heaping on it, so it was the victim of a backlash (one that, even if you agree with its contention that the book wasn't a masterpiece, was just as excessive as its adherents were saying the praise they were reacting against was). (Whoa, how's that for syntax?) Another part of the trepidation is due to a general antipathy to teen-angst autobio, which many feel is just as unnecessarily dominant in the alternative-comics sphere as superheroes are in the mainstream comics world. I myself still haven't read the book, but I admit that certain previews and a few flip-throughs leave me wary.
Not The Missus, however. After seeing it on the kitchen table, she opened to a random spot in the book and was immediately enthralled. She read the whole thing yesterday, before I'd even gotten a chance to read it myself. She happens to relate to its source material quite a bit, having grown up, as Thompson did, in a devoutly evangelical Christian household, and because she had a long-distance letter-writing romance just like Thompson's (with me, actually). But clearly the book pulled her right in and compelled her to plow through all 600-odd pages, which believe me is a rare thing for a comic to achieve with my wife. This might well be the breakthrough book some people are predicting it'll be.
Marvel's nascent Epic imprint, as most comicsy folks know at this point, is purported to be the House of Ideas' attempt to give newbie and up-and-coming writers and artists a crack at getting their work published by one of the biggest companies in the business. It's a pretty good deal, but between the company's fuzziness on what the status of creator-owned books would be, the kerfluffle over recruiting comics journalists as potential writers, the apparently heavier editorial hand being used on the books than was advertised, and general antipathy to the current Marvel regime, the move has generated a surprising amount of animosity in some quarters. The snarkiest among the comics punditosphere have speculated that, what with the volume of pitches an open call for submissions is sure to generate, it's all some sort of Machiavellian plan to overwhelm rival companies' editorial and submissions departments with the slightly retooled rejects that are likely to come their way once the rejection notices start getting sent out from Marvel HQ.
Well, once company appears to have quietly headed the stampede off at the pass by creating its own open-call system. While reading the latest issue of Hellboy's Weird Tales from Dark Horse Comics, I noticed a full page ad featuring DH publisher Mike Richardson in Uncle Sam regalia, informing us all that we're wanted to write, draw, or otherwise do somethin' for the Dark Horse army. The ad directs prospective talent to this "new recruits" page, which spells out the submission guidelines for the DH cattle call. Unlike Epic, Dark Horse is asking that submissions have their team essentially completed, i.e. writers and artists must submit in tandem. They're also looking for more than just a first-issue or "pilot" script, which is what Epic claims is sufficient for full consideration; they want ten finished, consecutive pages of art, the full script from which those pages originated, and tight plotting outlines for the remainder of the storyline. But other than that, DH offers far fewer storytelling caveats than Epic, which essentially encouraged talent to revamp existing Marvel characters in a very specific, origin-oriented, chronologically-told fashion (and to a certain extent discouraged them from trying anything else). No guidelines are given for the type of story the company's looking for, which could mean a crop of genuinely creator-owned new titles might result from the program.
One of the most enticing aspects of Dark Horse's program is their guarantee that, provided their instructions are followed to the letter, every single submission will be personally evaluated by head honcho Mike Richardson. Like Bill Jemas at Marvel, Richardson is the buck-stops-here guy at his company, and decisions are ultimately his to make. By bypassing Dark Horse editorial (not to mention DH's frustrating "next, please" portfolio reviews at conventions), this process can help weed out a lot of contradictory advice to writers and artists and save people on both sides of the equation a lot of wasted time. Of course, the flipside is that Richardson, like Jemas, is a busy man, and may not be able to devote the right level of attention to the stories and art that end up on his desk.
It will be interesting to see what kind of projects stem from this initiative versus those in the Epic camp. It'll be equally interesting to see how other big companies--particulary DC, home of the now-notorious post-lawsuit "no unsolicited submissions from anyone, period" policy--react.
Haven't seen it yet. Most people I know who saw it hated it. But NeilAlien liked it, and that's endorsement enough for me!
Don't I, Jen Davis? Don't I?
I don't care how much of a geek this makes me sound like: this is fricking awesome.
Best quote from a drunk teacher at The Missus's end-of-school-year faculty party:
"Loosen up! It's the month of summer!"
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.