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
« August 2003 |
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September 2003 Archives
Hooray! The Missus has been blogging again recently: go here and here.
(So have Andrew Sullivan and James Taranto, by the way. But they talk a lot more about, y'know, being awful bloodthirsty warmongering imperialists and a lot less about, y'know, having sex with me than the Missus does.)
The Forager has weighed in on the big manga debate, and as far as he's concerned the emperor (a particularly appropriate term when discussing comics from Japan, no?) has no clothes. Why? Because the manga that comprise the big American manga-buying boom are just as slavishly devoted to entertaining teenagers as are their American supercomic counterparts. To be perfectly frank, I've seen little evidence that contradicts this assertion, and this is indeed a problem. While it is true that, at long last, "kids are reading comics," if Japan's more sophisticated efforts in the medium aren't also translated and mass-marketed, their most logical next-step purchases (far more logical, as many people have pointed out, than Love & Rockets or Planetary or whatever) won't be around when the kids grow up and are ready to make them.
Dirk Deppey responds with a two-point rebuttal: 1) That Japan produces plenty of good comics, thank you very much; 2) That his endorsement of manga isn't some sort of Team-Comix "and then they'll start buying Eightball!" bit of proselytizing, but a simple market-force reality check.
I agree, to one extent or another, with both points. When a good friend of mine returned from Japan after spending several months there studying manga on a grant, he dove right into the American undergrounds, reasoning that since what he liked most in Japan's comics medium were its alternative titles, he'd have similar good luck finding quality titles with the American independent scene. So obviously Japan is perfectly capable of making some damn fine comics.
But the issue, as the Forager then responded, was not whether there are any good Japanese comics; the issue is whether many (or any) of those good (read: suitable for grown-ups) comics are finding their way over here. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it. Witness the intrepid Bill Sherman's unaided foray into Tokyopop territory: by his own admission, this book may be perfectly good, but there's almost no way for an American adult to find magnetic north when reading the damn thing.
As for Dirk's assertion that store owners should be offering manga titles not in order to convert Yu-Gi-Oh! fans into devout X-Men or Acme readers, but in order to stay in business--well, yeah. I've always thought Dirk (and the TCJ team in general) are a little harsh on people who have, oh, I dunno, some hope that this medium we love will be able to thrive, or at least survive, for our children and grandchildren to enjoy--why, exactly, would such sentiments automatically lead to Team Comics boosterism? Why couldn't they lead instead to the stringent critical standards that the medium needs to survive? But still, he deserves kudos for trying to shake retailers out of their attachment (it's deeper than "sentimental," but that doesn't mean it's not a dodge from reality at times) to what we've traditionally thought of as comics here in the States. My own pro-manga argument, centered as it was on formatting, tried to split the difference: I looked at the strength of manga from a publishing perspective, not a content one, which meant that I thought the American industry needed to wake up and change the way it did things in order to survive, but not necessarily abandon its preferred modes of storytelling wholesale--just its preferred methods of publishing.
NeilAlien, in his own post on manga, seems to agree that this is the way to go. The American comic book, both in its superhero and altcomix iterations, is an artform worth preserving. Does our attachment to this artform mean we must ignore the innovations that could well help us preserve it? Of course not. If anything, it should help us to separate the baby from the bathwater--the baby being format, marketing, publishing, and retailing strategies; the bathwater being putting big-eyed girls in the monthly Avengers floppy and blaming "that anime crap" when, astoundingly, it fails to sell.
Forager, though, argues that manga still can't save the Direct Market, since DM retailers, even the best ones, lack the natural advantages that the big chain bookstores have--from purchasing leverage to walk-in traffic to family shopping patterns. In essence, he's pointing to a deeper problem: The comics industry will always need comic shops to survive, but the entire comic-shop industry needs to completely transform in order for it to survive.
Two years ago, during his panel in San Diego, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada said that the biggest obstacle facing comics is the lack of a national chain of well-organized, well-stocked stores with employees in uniforms able to direct shoppers to exactly what they need (a la Blockbuster, Borders, B&N, etc). As chic as it is to hate the big entertainment retailers, I'm not sure that Quesada is wrong. Manga's the stitches; an overhaul of comics retailership's the surgery.
In the political blogosphere, blogs helped bring down both Trent Lott and Howell Raines. I know that the comicsphere is a lot smaller, but if the right people have been reading us lately, do you think all this manga talk will have a similarly positive effect?
Anyway, yeah, the manga conversation continues. Forager's comment sections are extremely informative, populated as they are by people who, like Forager himself, (get this) actually read this manga stuff we've all been talking about. The debate centers around such issues as the relative variety of style and tone in manga vs. American comics (or even just American artcomics), the quantity of quality (sometimes synonymous with "grown-up," sometimes not) manga available in the States, the chicken/egg question of manga and its ancillary card games, video games, anime, etc., and more. Go here and here for the conversations, with a brief follow-up and a promise of more by Forager here. (And when you do, ask yourself: why doesn't Shawn Fumo have a blog?) (And also, Forager, thanks for the kind words: I'd return them, but I'm still too busy laughing about that "Battle Royale: a bargain. Wolverine: a scam" caption.)
Speaking of promises, Jim Henley swears on a stack of bibles that he's got a post on manga in the oven. A little bird told me what the crux of his argument will be, and it could reframe the whole debate, folks.
Finally, Bill Sherman clarifies where he's coming from when he approaches manga titles for his new review series. Which only whets my appetite further for his take on Battle Royale...
I've been downloading a lot of disco today. I used to be one of those "disco sucks" kids, by the way. I remember very vividly being at some event or other with some friends in early 1992, chanting "four more weeks!" in 'honor' of President George the First, when some Republican turned around and said, "Hey, the last time the Democracts were in office, disco was in." We started chanting "four more years!" post-haste. But my perception of disco changed when I realized A) how goddamn good so many disco songs are ("Stayin' Alive," "Keep It Comin', Love," freaking "I Feel Love"); B) Read Barry White's summation of disco as music that made people feel beautiful. Well, damn if Barry isn't right. This isn't to say I like everything from the era: I can't stand bar mitzvah classics like "I Will Survive" and "Let's Dance the Last Dance"; some stuff, like the Village People and the Weather Girls, is fun but too cheesy to take seriously. But I love the joy, the exuberance, the excess, the queerness, the freakiness, the funkiness, the beauty.
I've also been skewing very heavily towards 80s electric pop in recent months. In part this is a natural outgrowth of my longstanding obsessions with David Bowie and Gary Numan. It's also tied into all the delightful electroclash records that I, as a twentysomething involved in the arts in NYC, have issued to me biweekly by the New York Trend Authority. And I guess the final link in the chain is the epochal Frankie Goes To Hollywood scene in Brian DePalma's gorgeously sleazy Body Double (that's right: a Frankie Goes To Hollywood scene). But mainly it's related to something that I remember Moby saying years ago: Everyone thought that all that 80s music was so disposable and forgettable, yet listen to almost any of it and it's amazing how well it holds up, the level of creativity and craft that went into it. It sure holds up a billion times better than the EZ-folk of the 70s, which I think was the comparable mass-popularity music. "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," "Automatic," "Everything She Wants"...tremendous, one and all.
Interesting people say fascinating things every day!
My recent post on eating disorders and the necessity of expressing negative emotions generated thoughtful responses from Eve Tushnet and a fan of fine sketch comedy known only as Eileen. Apparently, it's not just ED sufferers who are subjected to the "positivity at any price" mentality of well-meaning family and friends.
And as always, if you want to hear about ED straight from the horse's mouth, go to my wife's blogs here and here.
Johnny Bacardi is a good sport. And Sean Phillips has no abler defender.
Johnny's also got some astute observations on how good semi-forgotten Beatles songs like "Fixing a Hole" and "Within You Without You" are. Also, Johnny: yes, there is.
Big Sunny D recaps the Big Day Out @ Glasgow rock festival. In so doing he rightly decries the nonstop barrage of sexist nonsense flung by the audience at PJ Harvey, a rock and roll animal if ever there was one and a woman who, if this crazy world made any sense whatsoever, would be a fucking superstar by now. He's a little hard on Queens of the Stone Age and the pre-Californication/non-ballad output of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for my taste, but hey.
Kudos to James Taranto for calling a spade a spade and labelling a soon-to-be-executed anti-abortion murderer a terrorist, which, of course, he is. (You have to scroll down for the item.) This is not to say, of course, that "the Bible-thumpers are just as bad as al Qaeda and Hamas" or any such twaddle. When Justice Ray Moore has his minions hijack some commuter planes and ram them into the Sears Tower, we'll talk.
For some reason I don't really read James Lileks every day anymore. But boy, am I glad I read him today.
Finally, I've owned it for over a week now, and I still haven't finished watching the Two Towers DVD. I'm right up to the start of the battle--seriously, the orcs have just stopped marching. I've been working late and when I do get home I've got spend a few hours cleaning up the apartment (it simply won't do to have the Missus come home to an apartment that hasn't been cleaned following three weeks of me as its sole inhabitant, believe me), but as God is my witness I'm going to get some sandwiches from Peanut Butter & Co., drink some beers, and watch me some uruk-killin' tonight.
Amanda's getting out of the hospital this weekend--just in time for SPX! I think this was a "fangirl, heal thyself" kinda deal. (And no, I can't believe she's a fangirl either. Thank you Craig, Jeffrey, Phoebe and Jordan!)
Between the emotional and logistical events of Amy's last days in treatment and the altcomixy goodness to follow, I don't know how regular blogging will be through Tuesday or so. But I usually get a few licks in, so keep dropping by.
Can someone please explain to me how the Raveonettes have gotten a free pass when it comes to flagrantly ripping off their fellow Spectorphiles, the Jesus & Mary Chain?
I like the brothers Reid as much as the next guy, which is why I found the ceaseless comparisons of California's garage-psychedelia upstarts Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to the Reids' J&MC so silly. Sure, BRMC look a little like those mid-80s miscreants, but their self-acronymed debut album was far more muscular, bottom-heavy and anthemic than the Chain gang's Psychocandy.
Then along come the Raveonettes, a Danish duo whose new full length, Chain Gang of Love, literally could not sound more like the Jesus & Mary Chain if their European-answer-to-the-White-Stripes lives depended on it. I'm telling you, people, it sounds like a cover album. Which is not to say it's not hella enjoyable, of course: It is, really it is; it's a big ol' reverb-y slice of young-lust ear candy. But how come all the big music mags are giving the thing (which has a J&MC reference in the title, for cryin' out loud) kudos for referencing "pre-Beatles America" (Rolling Stone) and awarding it four stars over and over again, while the far more innovative Black Rebels get saddled with nicknames like "Black Rebel Mary Chain" and have their new album slapped with three-star "well, that's about what I figured they'd do" kinda reviews? Even Blender--the Maxim spinoff that has suddenly and unexpectedly become my favorite music magazine simply by virtue of reviewing a lot of albums, landing the least annoying interview and happiest looking photo spread with Radiohead I've ever seen, and employing critics who opt against trying to impress you with how fuckin smart they are (Spin) or how many derogatory references to Don Rumsfeld and/or laudatory references to Pat Benatar they can work into a Britney Spears review (Rolling Stone) in favor of actually reviewing records--has decided that BRMC is underwhelming while the Raveonettes are history in the making. (They do at least mention the Jesus (in the tradition of Walter Sobczak) in their Chain Gang review, but I swear, people, this record is like Reid Brothers Karaoke Night--it should be all they can freaking talk about.)
I guess the conclusion we can draw is that, when it comes to bandwagon-jumping, rock critics will always bypass American in favor of eating Danish.
Ladies and gentlemen of the comicsphere, here's something I never thought I'd say:
Boy, did I enjoy the latest Rob Liefeld comic.
For the uninitiated (who, in all probability, stopped reading when they saw the word "comicsphere"), Rob Liefeld was once the Golden Boy of mainstream comics. One of the seven superstar artists who broke away from work-for-hire status at Marvel Comics to form the upstart creator-controlled comic company Image, he soon became the bete noire of fanboydom thanks to countless blown deadlines, needlessly picked fights with other creators, comically overmuscled heroes and overendowed heroines, and general slackerhood--quite a fate for a creator who once appeared in one of Spike Lee's jeans commercials.
Liefeld suddenly found his fortunes resurrected with the intervention of star spandex-set writer Mark Millar, who lent his box-office midas touch and over-the-top salesmanship (and oh yeah, his writing) to Liefeld's attempt at a full-fledged comeback: Youngblood: Bloodsport. A sequel of sorts to Liefeld's flagship Image book, Youngblood, it offers the continued adventures of a team of superheroes picked at a young age to become the good-lookin' fast-talkin' media darlings of the crimefighting crew.
Since Diamond, the only game in town for mainstream comics distribution, took a pass on handling the comic due to Liefeld's long string of broken promises, Liefeld himself took on the responsibilities of arranging the distribution of the book. This means the thing's sorta following the pattern of pre-Jaws/Exorcist/Godfather Hollywood, showing up in certain markets (and at conventions) first and slowly spreading across the retailer landscape. Copies landed at my store of choice this week; having enjoyed Millar's company and found his Superman: Red Son and Trouble series bearing increasing returns, I decided, despite its not being on my pull list, to give the book a shot.
I made sure to grab a copy of the Frank Quitely-drawn cover, which I suppose predisposed me to the comically arrogant doings inside the book, but as a longtime Liefeld basher who didn't even like Youngblood when he was a 13-year-old, I was unprepared for finding myself so entertained by the book's contents. Liefeld's hyperactively overdrawn style has found its ideal counterpart in this, Millar's most hyperactively over-the-top script yet. (Readers of The Authority and the "Hulk Attacks" issues of The Ultimates know that that's saying quite a bit indeed.) Here's a book that starts with an entirely gratuitous coked-up jacuzzi blowjob scene that manages to be completely unpredictable (in a way that's hugely insulting to fanboydom, might I add), segues into a Tom Savini-esque fight scene between a bow-and-arrow-wielding superhero and the resurrected corpse of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and just gets goofier from there. Included are enough Easter-egg eye-pops to keep devotees of Kingdom Come entertained for hours, one very funny reference to Milligan & Allred's similarly themed X-Statix, and a big-ass swipe from--how can I put this without spoiling?--a certain series that's been quite a hot topic amongst the comics blogosphere of late. (I'd wax outraged about how incredibly flagrant this last bit of thievery is, but to the best of my knowledge Akira Kurosawa never complained about Sergio Leone, so nevermind....)
Printed on luxurious stock with lovely colors by Matt Yackey and Kevin Senft, this book is an unexpected delight. Is it great art? Hell, no--and I don't think Millar nor Liefeld would have it any other way.
Anorexia, SPX retrospectives coming soon. In the meantime, here are some of the random, disconnected thoughts that I'm sure you've all come to know and love from ADDTF:
I'm very glad the President gave his little speech last night, though I didn't get a chance to watch it. One of the reasons the war's opponents have been able to make so much hay out of the Post-War Chaos (TM) that, y'know, has never ever happened after any war ever, is because Bush & Co. have been spending the last few months doing the whole crime-scene "keep moving, nothing to see here" routine for the American people. Well, duh, there's definitely something to see, and it's important that we see it. If you're as sold on the real reasons for Gulf War II as I am, and as the administration claims to be, you've got to make this case, over and over and over again. If you don't, you run the risk of letting Howard Dean and Maureen Dowd set the tone for what's going on over there and why it's going on, which is potentially disastrous. The single greatest risk facing this country is that large segments of the population will start thinking "Hey, 9/11 was two whole years ago now--isn't it time for things to get back to normal?" The answer, as much as anyone would like to believe otherwise, is no; we MUST learn the lessons about complacency (or, in the case of so many of our old-world and third-world "allies," complicity) in the face of theocratic-fascist terrorism that those falling buildings tried to teach us.
This means making the necessary points about Saddam Hussein's late regime, loudly and often: that his connections to terrorism (including, through Ansar Al-Islam, al Qaeda) were well established; that his WMD capacity was, until challenging it became the easiest way to piss on the Bush Administration, almost universally unquestioned; that for most people, being "anti-war" meant nothing more or less than being anti-THIS war, fought by THIS adminitration (after all, the opposition to this war, were it successful, would have ensured the prolongation of the low-level war between Saddam's Iraq and the Air Forces of the US and UK; as well as that between the economic sanctions of the UN and the Iraqi civilians of whom Baathist criminality and UN complicity made victims; as well as those between Saddam and all the Kurds, Marsh Arabs, Shi'ites and dissidents within his range; as well as that between Saddam and the bus-riders and cafe-goers of Israel (as waged through his proxies in Palestine); as well as the endless bellicose gestures toward Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and, of course, the United States); that if the war were avoided, the anti-war contingent (led by M. Chirac, in the main) would have eventually returned to its previous cause celebre, the removal of sanctions, and would have done so probably at the same speed with which they had swapped their previous claims that such sanctions equalled genocide for the notion that the sanctions represented an almost Solomon-wise bit of diplomacy; that the moment this occurred Saddam would begin whipping up those backyard-buried, file-maintained WMD programs and begun the whole macabre dance anew, during which time countless thousands more Iraqis would starve, be executed, be tortured, be disappeared, or if they were lucky simply be indoctrinated into the grotesque cult of personality that was Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
It galls me to no end that up until this point, the Bush Administration had so little faith in its constituency that these arguments were seen as unnecessary, if not downright dangerous, to make; it galls me further that last night's address was, if the pundits are to be believed, a fairly half-hearted and disingenuous stab at so doing. But it's better than nothing, I suppose, to claim that we're in it for the long haul, even if you don't make it clear to us what "it" is and why we're "in" it. Does Bush himself know? I'm just not sure, not any longer. But to reference the kind of pre-9/11 government-conspiracy jargon that was once my stock in trade and now seems so sadly credulous in man's ability to get any kind of large-scale project done: I want to believe.
To be fair, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, in terms of the Collinses' ability to enjoy a comic book convention. Some personal/professional setbacks on my part and the overall stress of leaving a therapeutic live-in women-only program for the boy-filled irregularly-scheduled chaos of the real world on her part led to some very down-in-the-dumps moments for the two of us.
I don't think it's fair to blame it all on us, though; coming as late as it did in the convention season (hell, I myself had already been to MoCCA, San Diego, and WizardWorld Chicago), there weren't many interesting debuts or must-haves left to buy. (This isn't true if you hadn't yet been to one of these things this summer, I suppose, but still, books like Blankets, Kramers Ergot 4, Teratoid Heights, The Frank Book and Quimby the Mouse had been available for at least a couple months. (The delightful new real-life smut anthology, True Porn, was an exception, at least as far as I was concerned--I got the last copy!) Then there was the group mentality, which wasn't so much Team Comix as it was Scene Comix: if you weren't part of some anthology-producing collective with a snappy name and a handful of barely-legible minicomics (or at the very least didn't bring a huge group of fellow fanboys/girls with you), it was easy to feel out of the loop. This was true despite the relative ease-of-access of the con's big nightly party (it's right there in the hotel lobby, for pete's sake!).
On the other hand, it is easy to see how inspiring this con can be and has been for so many cartoonists. There's a general can-do spirit, a do what thou wilt and damn the sales levels joie de vivre that you simply can't find at the big cons. It's certainly cool to attend a con where saying The Big Five means Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Top Shelf, Alternative, and Highwater. There's also the oft-mentioned fact that looking around at the majority of the tables, it's easy to say to oneself, "Oh, I could do better than that." Finally, there's just the chance to get to hang out and chit-chat with friends in the biz. When they're doing great work, that's inspiring in and of itself.
Special thanks to TCJ messboard alums F.C. Brandt, Leland Purvis, and Zack Soto, who were kindly enough to walk right on up and say hi; to Wayne Beamer, Nick Bertozzi, Victor Cayro, Tom Devlin, Sara Edward-Corbett, Gary Groth, Dean Haspiel, Danny Hellman, Matt Madden, Anders Nilssen, Lark Pien, Eric Reynolds, Josh Simmons, Bwana Spoons, Kim Thompson, Robert Ullman, and Matt Wiegle, for talking shop; to Diana Schutz, who I never got to introduce myself to but who nonetheless tried to steer me and the Missus to a decent breakfast; to Jim Henley and Eve Tushnet, for trying to meet up with me even though I didn't even know they were there till yesterday; to Frank Miller, for getting to see the end results of his love advice to a drunken yours truly a couple years ago; to Chris Staros and Brett Warnock for the time, advice, and attempts to score me free food and booze; to Jeffrey Brown, for having an extraordinarily high tolerance for shenanigans; and especially to Jim (& the future missus Rachel) Dougan and Craig Thompson, for being superfriends.
Where does the Stop & Shop near where I live get off calling itself "Super Stop & Shop"? Folks, I've been in Super Stop & Shops. I've shopped in Super Stop & Shops. Super Stop & Shops are friends of mine, grocerily speaking. And Stop & Shop on the corner of Newbridge and Jerusalem Avenues in Bellmore: You are no Super Stop & Shop. All you are is a regular Stop & Shop that slapped the word "Super" in big light-up letters on the outside of your building while I was away this weekend without actually expanding your store. Now, the Missus and I like you, a lot, and will still shop at you, but please--enough of this charade.
Also, where does the RIAA get off blaming filesharing for the recent 30% decrease in CD sales? And why on earth is the news media being so credulous about this claim? CD sales are falling for several reasons, most of which are the fault of the record companies themselves: Price gouging has led to the obscenely high charge of $18 per the average new-release CD; People are finished buying CDs to upgrade their old vinyl & tape collections (and those of us who aren't might be a little annoyed at how CD versions of these oldies that actually sound good are only now beginning to appear, priced at a premium, of course); The big, actually good artists that contributed to the early-mid 90s CD-buying boom were largely altrock stars who have been supplanted by legions of indistinguishable pop, bling-bling rap, and nu-metal "stars" who simply don't inspire the same level of repeat-customer brand loyalty. I'm sure filesharing plays some part in the downward slide of record sales, but a) the genie's out of the bottle, guys, and b) in my admittedly anecodatl experience, I've found people more likely to actually buy CDs now that they can sample the goods for free--in the past, the kind of hilariously high prices the record companies are charging us would have killed new-artist sales dead, but filesharing is the best friend such artists ever had. And let's not forget that basic business theory suggests that suing some of your customers and implying "you could be next" to all the other ones is not good customer relations. (For that matter, neither is the correct perception that the RIAA has in the past existed almost solely to fuck over the same artists that it's now purporting to protect.) Fie on the RIAA, I say.
Please allow me to continue channelling my inner Andy Rooney:
How do pseudopopulist talk show hosts decide who gets to stoke the flames of each new manufactured culture-war controversy? Do they have meetings where they divvy this stuff up?
"Okay, you can have Snoop Dogg's appearance on Sesame Street, but I get dibs on Danny Glover's MCI commercials."
"Fine, fine, and since I got Ludacris's Pepsi endorsment deal, I guess we're even. But who covers Madonna & Britney's MTV kiss?"
"Oh, who the hell cares about that, anyway?"
The point is, watch Scarborough Country tonight for the latest coverage of Sean-related smut-peddling!
Some comix, some not. We're mixin' things up, baby!
SPX recaps may be found courtesy of Eve Tushnet, Jim Henley (I was gonna ask you how many people thought you ran a store, Jim), the Comics Journal messboard (featuring an intriguing argument that the NYC-based MoCCA festival has stolen SPX's thunder) and The Missus.
Forager muses on the distinctions between high, low, bourgeois and modernist art. I think he's harder on comics and rock and roll than becomes his art-for-the-people position, but diff'rent strokes and all that.
I don't have anything particularly profound to say about the death of Warren Zevon, other than that I used to dance around my family room when I was a little kid as my dad played "Werewolves of London" over and over again for my listening pleasure. I thought the line about wanting to meet the werewolf's tailor was particularly clever, since, you see, werewolves have tails.
I've been informed by reader Elliot K. that, contrary to my earlier conjecture, Akira Kurosawa did in fact take legal action against Sergio Leone's swipe of Yojimbo. Look out, Mark!
Bill Sherman counters my defense of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club by arguing that the band's own sullennes, recalcitrance about its influences, and relative lack of movie-star looks is what makes it a record-critic pinata relative to much more enthusiastic Jesus & Mary Chain enthusiasts the Raveonettes. That all makes sense--indeed, my quip about American critics "eating Danish" wasn't so much an attempt to decry creeping Europhilia as it was a slightly drunken indulgence in a pun I've honed through eight years of going out with a woman of Danish descent. Ha ha.
Actually, I think the real argument is that American critics now adhere to what I call the Cult of the Exuberantly Stupid--that is, the dopier the song, the better it is as rock music. This reverse snobbery is anti-intellectualism for intellectuals--call it Earlier, Funnier Stuffitis if you prefer. It's the same syndrome that leads people to say they prefer The Bends to OK Computer, Britney Spears's "Satisfaction" to the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," Meet the Beatles to Abbey Road, Piper at the Gates of Dawn to The Dark Side of the Moon, the Beach Boys to the Beatles--Christ, Paul McCartney to the Beatles. BRMC's sonic palette is inarguably more ambitious and expansive than the Raveonettes, hence they've just got to be the sort of pretentious drivel that rock'n'roll is around to deflate, right? There's a certain element to tautology in first asserting that rock music can only do one very simple thing well and then basing your qualitative assessments of rock music on how much it manages to live up to your own low standards.
Bill also linked to a pretty good Village Voice piece on the two bands, sullied only by its de rigeur dig against electroclash. Just because it's trendy don't mean there ain't something to it, folks! I've certainly enjoyed electroclash songs as much as any rock/pop music of the last couple years. Also, I happen to sport a fauxhawk and like it just fine, thank you very much.
Johnny Bacardi offers a few thoughts on Nick Drake. Much as my few remaining "I'm not a poseur!" protest-too-much braincells are loath to admit it, I was one of those Volkswagen Nick-Drake newbies. All I can say is, thank God for the new Beetle.
Team Comics, meet Team ComicsBloggers.
Did I congratulate Nick Bertozzi and Jeffrey Brown for their Ignatz wins yet? No? Well, congratulations, fellas!
I also should mention that Legal Action Comics Volume 2 was available for purchase at SPX. A good collection for a good cause...
The Pulse's Heidi MacDonald has the most thorough recap yet of the Small Press Expo. It looks like I'm not alone in finding things a bit on the "eh" side. The MoCCA thunder-stealing theory continues to gain credence, as does the "all the big books had debuted already" argument. But another check is placed in the plus column under "fun to party with altcomix stars." I still found things a little scenesterish for my taste--and that was with my mainstream-media connections opening all sorts of doors for me.
It's Craig Thompson's world; we just live in it: Jen Contino at The Pulse has conducted the most interesting interview yet (except for my as-yet-unpublished one, of course) with the indefatigable Blankets author.
In response to my puzzlement over his position, Forager clarifies his stance on popular art. I submit that he just had lousy professors--try Stanford's Scott Bukatman, regular poster on the TCJ.com messboard, for an antidote to that jargon-laden detatched silliness you were subjected to.
Johnny Bacardi pans Rob Zombie's directorial debut, House of 1,000 Corpses. I had a hunch this'd be derivative as all get-out, so I stayed away. But fans of White Zombie's AstroCreep 2000 (or at the very least its incredible liner notes) know the guy's capable of better. Sad to hear he didn't make it happen for horror.
NeilAlien praises MoCCA in reference to the MoCCA vs. SPX debate.
Either Osama bin Laden's got a stash of Just For Men in his cave, or Al Jazeera is lying to us and this tape isn't "new" after all! But that couldn't be, could it?
More on SPX, including an -ahem- spirited take on a certain political cartoonist, from The Missus.
Jim Henley on Blankets. A pretty even-handed, largely negative take. Jim, I think a lot of your confusion over whether this is supposed to be read as autobio or fiction stems from the "novel" appellation on the cover, which was a marketing tool and not a creative decision; there's also the general reluctance of many altcomix autobiographers to label their stuff fact rather than fiction. (If you think Craig Thompson's been evasive on the issue, you should try Phoebe Gloeckner on for size!)
Big Sunny D on reading right-to-left manga. Personally, I thought that my occasional lapses in properly reading the book actually enhanced my appreciation of the overall page layout structure--you take in the totality of the page, rather than a panel at a time.
Eve Tushnet reviews a whole bunch of comics, including Alan Moore's oldie dystopian-hero epic V for Vendetta and more recent super-cop dramedy Top Ten.
Eve, I think a goodly chunk of the appeal of Top Ten is how very different it is from pretty much everything else Moore has done--from both his capital-S Serious work like Watchmen, V4V and From Hell, and his seemingly endless string of goofy hyperreferential superhero pastiches, including all his work for Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, and the bulk of his own America's Best line. (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though more complex by virtue of its encyclopaedic references to Victorian genre fiction, is in a similar vein.) My advice would be to pick up Volume 2, which is really just a continuation of Volume 1 and should have been published in a big edition with its antecedent as Top Ten: The First Season.
As for V for Vendetta, I think the problem here is the same one that, for a lot of people, besets Blankets--where do we draw the line between the opinions of the author and those of the protagonist? The line could be seen as blurrier for Blankets as it is an autobiographical work, but I think we all know our feelings and beliefs can change radically between high school and post-college; the extent to which Craig the Author currently holds the same "she was an angel" beliefs that Craig the Character attests to is something we're all forced to puzzle out. Similarly, I find V for Vendetta's "all fascism is bad, but some fascism is less bad than others" endorsement of kidnapping, murder and terrorism provided it's against The Man to be somewhat troublesome. In that regard I suppose the book could be seen as an immature work, especially compared to the more considered exploration of the use of violence to affect the flow of history in Watchmen and From Hell.
Courtesy of reader Shawn Fumo, here's an intelligent post on the Comicon message board about What a Manga Fan Wants. The writer emphasizes storytelling, characterization, and price, while (rightly) advising against American attempts to imitate manga art and (wrongly) discounting the impact of the manga format. The thing is, of course, that without the efficient book-style format, the price that the writer touts wouldn't be achievable.
Courtesy of ADD, here's cartoonist Scott Mills telling his critics that they're right about his work, and announcing that he'll be taking something of a sabbatical in order to hone his skills. I'm unfamiliar with Mills's work, but I've seen him held up by many people in many places as the example of Team Comics boosterism enabling well-connected cartoonists to produce weak work. I'll echo Alan's sentiment that this was an impressive bit of self-evaluation to undergo--much less to post about on the message board that's been the prime source of hostility towards the self-evaluater.
Finally, Dirk Deppey produces one of his best rants yet about the sad state of the Direct Market, this time focusing on its inability to cater to or even accomodate non-traditional comics fans (i.e. anyone who isn't male and white) and responding to DM retailers' cries of abandoment by companies who offer their wares elsewhere by saying "What the hell else did you expect?" Dirk's right, as usual, about the DM in both regards. As far as the latter goes, I've definitely heard complaints first-hand from folks who feel betrayed by comics companies, anime distributors, even toymakers who--get this--are taking their products to where the customers are--namely record stores, video stores, electronics stores, Hot Topics, and other stores that one could find in malls (you know, those places where people go to shop a lot).
I was a latecomer to The Sopranos. I caught up with the show all at once in the months before season four. Since the show was so big a part of the popcult conversation during that time, I pretty much knew every major event and "whacking" before I saw them. Needless to say, I was super-excited for season four, since I'd be able to be surprised, at long last, by each episode.
Along comes the episode that, rumor has it, will be The Big One. Every Sunday I'd drive to a friend's house to pick up his taped copy of that night's Sopranos and watch it back at the house. But a medical emergency that Sunday meant that I'd have to wait till Monday to pick up the tape. Cut to the next morning, which finds me in the hospital waiting room, waiting (appropriately enough). I decide to go find the vending machines to get a snack and some soda. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but the New York Post vending kiosk and the headline "LOOK WHO GOT WHACKED!" with a picture, right next to it, of the whack-ee. This was published less than 12 hours after the episode aired, and before countless fans (myself included) got to see for themselves what happened. It was a spoiler, in other words, one that ruined the episode for me. And it was a dick move.
And so was this.
God bless America
Land that I love
Stand beside her
And guide her
Through the night with a light from above
From the mountains
To the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home
As he followed her inside Mother Abagail's house he thought it would be better, much better, if they did break down and spread. Postpone organization as long as possible. It was organization that always seemed to cause the problems. When the cells began to clump together and grow dark. You didn't have to give the cops guns until the cops couldn't remember the names...the faces...
Fran lit a kerosene lamp and it made a soft yellow glow. Peter looked up at them quietly, already sleepy. He had played hard. Fran slipped him into a nightshirt.
All any of us can buy is time, Stu thought. Peter's lifetime, his children's lifetimes, maybe the lifetimes of my great-grandchildren. Until the year 2100, maybe, surely no longer than that. Maybe not that long. Time enough for poor old Mother Earth to recycle herself a little. A season of rest.
"What?" she asked, and he realized he had murmured it aloud.
"A season of rest," he repeated.
"What does that mean?"
"Everything," he said, and took her hand.
Looking down at Peter he thought: Maybe if we tell him what happened, he'll tell his own children. Warn them. Dear children, the toys are death--they're flashburns and radiation sickness, and black, choking plague. These toys are dangerous; the devil in men's brains guided the hands of God when they were made. Don't play with these toys, dear children, please, not ever. Not ever again. Please...please learn the lesson. Let this empty world be your copybook.
"Frannie," he said, and turned her around so he could look into her eyes.
"Do you think...do you think people ever learn anything?"
She opened her mouth to speak, hesitated, fell silent. The kerosene lamp flickered. Her eyes seemed very blue.
"I don't know," she said at last. She seemed unpleased with her answer; she struggled to say something more; to illuminate her first response; and could only say it again:
I don't know.
--Stephen King, The Stand
Forager responded to a response to a response to a response to a post he wrote on the utility of discussing popular arts through an academic framework. I think he makes a fine point about a certain amount of groundwork needing to be laid before undergraduates will actually get anything out of a course on, say, Marvel Comics. When I was at Yale I spent my freshman year taking Directed Studies--three year-long parallel courses in history, philosophy and literature. It was a Western Canon kinda deal, and it ensured that during my later college years, when I was writing papers comparing Deliverance and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I had an intellectual leg to stand on.
Embarassment of riches in the comics blogosphere over the last three days or so. It's been tough to even keep up. Sometimes I feel it's all just a big feedback loop between NeilAlien, ADD, Dirk, Johnny B., Sunny D., Eve, Bill, Forager, Franklin, Alan, Jim, and myself, with the inexplicably blogless Shawn Fumo riding shotgun--but I guess that's not such a horrible thing, is it?
Dirk continues his hot streak, following up his best take yet on the obtuseness of the Direct Market with a quick state-of-the-manga address and an SPX-inspired middle finger to Team Comix. Responding to a thoughtful first-hand account by Ditko-phile and SPX attendee Blake Bell, Dirk argues that far from enhancing comics' appeal to mainstream readers, Team Comix spirit of relentless positivity yields crapola that can only hurt comics' aesthetic and financial viability.
I wasn't present during the Ignatz keynote speech by Top Shelf honcho Chris Staros that led to this latest kerfluffle (are any transcripts available?), but I can certainly say in Staros's defense that the man himself has no problem laying down (constructive, but) harsh criticism when young cartoonists need it; ditto for his partner Brett Warnock. At least as far as the individual personalities involved in this debate are concerned, I think perhaps "Team Comix" is just a way of saying that we should be talking about the glass as though it's half-full, while "Fuck Team Comix" thinks we need to think of it as half-empty. I think it's pretty easy to see from buying and critical patterns at a show like SPX that good will out regardless of the approach you take. I myself, as usual, want to have it both ways--I think the networking and socializing inherent in the Team Comix concept are good things that help folks make some headway in an artform that's almost impossible to garner recognition or financial security in, but that we're all big boys and girls and WANT some tough love when it's deserved.
Forager responds to many of Dirk's latest home runs with an in-depth piece of his own, centered on the potential for comics retailers to follow Starbucks' brilliant "third place" business model--one that's being done with quite a bit of success by the cafe/music store/bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Even a watered-down attempt at something like this seems beyond both the brains and the wallets of most retailers, but just making your store look nice and employing non-assholes would be a huge step in the right direction. Forager also argues that fanboydom will make from-within change amongst retailers or publishers almost impossible, and he's probably right.
NeilAlien is prompted by the release of CrossGen pirate comic El Cazador to second Kim Thompson's argument: more crap is what we need. 'Course, Kim was calling for good, solid, entertaining crap, and I'm not sure I've ever been tempted to use one of those adjectives to describe a Chuck Dixon comic. His views on homosexuality make for good solid entertainment, though.
Johnny Bacardi reviews some recent comics. I too found LoEGv2#6 anticlimactic, but as was the case with the final installment of Dave Cooper's Ripple, this might be as much a function of the long delays between issues as anything else. Also, 1602 really is a slog so far, isn't it? I mean, the big reveal involves an Alpha Flight team member? WTF?
Big Sunny D has a comix roundup of his own, focusing on the recent discussion of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta and Peter Bagge's Sweatshop.
Franklin Harris gives a glowing review to the big JLA/Avengers crossover. Personally, I think Busiek has already blown it. If he'd made the conflict between the Marvel & DC superteams' respective modus operandi into the crux of the book, saving the dereliction-of-duty vs. fascist-overlord fight between Captain American and Superman till the last issue, he could have had a damn interesting examination of super-power (spandex-wearing and otherwise) on his hands. (In this sense it'd have made an interestin companion piece to Mark Gruenwald's recently rereleased, surprisingly good Squadron Supreme.) Instead, the Big Blues are sparring because of some sort of hinky cosmic mind control, and they're gonna eventually make up and go around on a celestial Easter Egg hunt. Sigh. On the other hand, George Lopez has managed to turn in some great-looking stuff despite his addiction to women with Dolly Parton's 70s haircut: the Starro the Conqueror Takes Manhattan double-splash was stunning. (I'm not nuts about Perez in general, but I should say that I think Crisis on Infinite Earths, the series he drew that serves in many ways as a prequel to this one, is just gorgeous as pop art.)
Jim Henley wets Blankets once again, this time arguing that author Craig Thompson's pronouncements on what comics do well are little more than recounting what his comics do well (and I guess Jim would even argue about that).
Eve Tushnet briefly comments on my thoughts about V for Vendetta and Jim's on Blankets.
He'll always be Arthur Stewart from the 'Erald to me.
And the Comics Journal message board's own Yasser Arafat has been expelled. Jim Treacher, thou art avenged!
Vengeful glee aside, the absence of this individual from the board will make it a much more pleasant and intelligent place to discuss comics, which in its small way is good for comics itself. Bravo to the admins for taking action. And bravo to Steve Hogan for being as civil as civil can be.
"And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
"One of the four beasts, saying 'Come and see,'" and I saw;
"And behold, a white horse."
There's a Man going around taking names
And He decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around
The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup
Will you partake of that last-offered cup
Or disappear into the Potter's ground
When the Man comes around?
Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singing
Multitudes are marching to the big kettledrum
Voices calling, voices crying
Some are born and some are dying
It's Alpha and Omega's Kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
'Til Armageddon no shalam, no shalom
Then the father hen will call his chickens home
The wise men will bow down before the throne
And at His feet they'll cast their golden crowns
When the Man comes around
Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still
Listen to the words long written down
When the Man comes around
Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singing
Multitudes are marching to the big kettledrum
Voices calling, voices crying
Some are born and some are dying
It's Alpha and Omega's Kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
In measured hundred-weight and penny-pound
When the Man comes around
"And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
"And I looked, and behold, a pale horse;
"And its name that sat on him was Death,
"And Hell followed with him."
--Johnny Cash, "The Man Comes Around"
However you feel about Team Comix, I think you can agree that it's a concept that brings out people's, er, passionate sides. NeilAlien has a go at the anti-TC brigade; Dirk Deppey responds with a dollop of snark. Dirk, I think it's a little unwise for a Fanta/TCJ employee to get into a "who fired the first shot?" contest with Chris Staros & Top Shelf, but you do have a point in this case.
Meanwhile, at the TCJ messboard, yours truly and former Comics Journal editor Tom Spurgeon go at it over the role the Team Comix mentality played (if it indeed played one at all) in the respective pleas for help made by the financially beleaguered indie comics companies Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, and Fantagraphics. There's also some interesting chit-chat about the role of critics in there, too.
Also on the TCJ board, Shawn "Silverthorn" Fumo weighs in on European comics, aka bandes-desinees, and argues that everything that might make BD popular here in the states (idiomatically it's much closer to American comics than manga is; it's almost solely concentrated in genres that make for very popular airport reading in America, like crime, mysteries, thrillers, horror, fantasy, erotica, even sports--the recipe for industry success according to Fantagraphics founder Kim Thompson) is offset by the simple fact that it doesn't have the same thriving underground support in this country that paved the way for manga's big success in the last couple years. Good point, as they tend to be when they're made by Shawn Fumo. Shawn, why don't you have a blog? I won't beg, if that's what you're waiting for--it's unsightly...
Though I'm guessing I'm not the only one with misgivings as to Joe Quesada's ability to accurately portray the lives of club kids and gutterpunks, this new NYX series sounds and (thanks to Josh Middleton's sensually clear line) looks lovely. Also in the plus column: you're far less likely to read things like "I really couldn't give a fuck whether or not you buy this book because I get $5000 for a painting and my girlfriend blows me all the time" than you would if this book had gone through with its original artist, David Choe, still attached.
At long last, Bill Sherman has reviewed Battle Royale, and it was good. (The review and the book both.) Here's food for thought, though: how is Keith Giffen's translation-cum-adaptation really affecting the dialogue? I've read several interviews in which Giffen proudly claims to have jazzed things up a bit for the English audience, which may not amount to much more than inserting standard-issue "mature readers" comics dialogue cliches. Anyone got a good take on how he's been doing so far?
Johnny Bacardi hated Velvet Goldmine. I know this news isn't comics related, but it does make me wonder whether Johnny's from Bizarro World.
This is pretty cool. Just wish it came in red.
Courtesy of the above-linked Big Sunny D post comes this spoiler-filled run-down of the last year or two of Grant Morrison's New X-Men, as seen through the prism of the most recent issue. You know--the issue that Alan David Doane ruined for everyone who reads his weblog.
Franklin Harris has been righteously pissed at the recording industry and its supporters lately, as should we all. Start there and scroll down.
Finally, Dirk, any time a person's position on what the Direct Market should be doing is concluded with an explanation as to why it doesn't make sense to him to buy novels, I think we can just stick that one in the cylindrical file, don't you?
Rolling Stone is the awfullest magazine ever. I say this knowing full well that there are many, many awful magazines out there, now more than ever, perhaps. But weeping Jesus on the Cross, Rolling Stone is just so awful, so very, very awful awful awful. Whether it's the spectacle of a magazine run by an aging, Eagles-loving gay millionaire putting Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen on the cover and headlining it as "America's Favorite Fantasy," or putting Britney Spears on the cover--again!--in a pose so transparently and badly airbrushed that it makes even a Photoshop tyro like me want to put his head through his computer monitor, there seems to be no lengths to which this horrendous publication won't go to pimp teenage girls in an effort to win over young readers that is likely to be about as successful as Dino De Laurentis's remake of King Kong, but with less charm and more, you know, appallingly immoral teen-girl body-image mindfucks.
And for the love of David, they call their article on MTV's annual calculated-"outrage" fest "MTV Awards Fail to Suck," and lede it with the following: "When the annual MTV glitzfest of the Video Music Awards begins with Britney slipping Madonna some Louisana tongue, you can feel certain that your night in front of the TV is going to be quality time." Can you, Rolling Stone? When a Rolling Stone article on the VMAs begins with the kind of embarassingly breathless dicksuckery normally reserved for Maureen Dowd columns about the Clinton administration, you can feel certain that the magazine, in actually acting (or worse, being) shocked and titilated by the grotesque, 100% prefab sexual assault against two pill-addled middle-aged-men-controlled developmentally-arrested girl-women by an aging self-obsessed insufferably boring harridan intent on reviving her interminable career as quote-unquote provocateur, is an enormous steaming dung-beetle-encrusted pile of elephant shit. Why I flipped through the magazine, and consequently stumbled across an article emblematic of the kind of hard-hitting political analysis that won Jann Wenner his many Pulitzers in which it is alleged that computerized voting systems are a big plot by the Bush puppet masters to steal ("more") elections, is quite frankly as much a mystery to me as I'm sure it is to you, but I've entered therapy and I'm trying to work these things out. (Next session will be devoted to understanding why I looked at an article about how the U.S. military is poisioning, uh, the U.S. military with depleted uranium. There's even some pictures of Iraqi kids with leukemia! It must be true! BUSH LIED!!!! Also, Mick Jagger's solo album is a four-star tour-de-force.)
Please, Rolling Stone, I'm asking you now because I know how instrumental you were in advancing the career of Jackson Browne and that's obviously really important, but please douse your collective selves in gasoline and light yourselves on fire. It's really the only way for things to be made right again in this crazy world, RS. The only way.
"What is required is a steady, unostentatious stoicism, made up out of absolute, cold hatred and contempt for the aggressors, and complete determination that their defeat will be utter and shameful."
--Christopher Hitchens in Slate on the proper response to 9/11. Also:
"My second-strongest memory of that week is still the moaning and bleating and jeering of the 'left.' Reflect upon it: Civil society is assaulted in the most criminal way by the most pitilessly reactionary force in the modern world. The drama immediately puts the working class in the saddle as the necessary actor and rescuer of the said society. Investigation shows the complicity of a chain of conservative client states, from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, in the face of which our vaunted 'national security' czars had capitulated. Here was the time for radicals to have demanded a war to the utmost against the forces of reaction, as well a full house cleaning of the state apparatus and a league of solidarity with the women of Afghanistan and with the whole nexus of dissent and opposition in the Muslim world. Instead of which, the posturing loons all concentrated on a masturbatory introspection about American guilt, granted the aura of revolutionary authenticity to Bin Laden and his fellow gangsters, and let the flag be duly seized by those who did look at least as if they meant business."
When Jim Treacher first brought this press release hyping Warren Ellis's upcoming prose-novel debut to my attention, I read it and thought, "What is this, a parody of the kind of book Warren Ellis would write?" But you know what? American culture's dark underbelly really is woefully under-toured. I mean, can you think of a single British genre-comics writer who's toured American culture's dark underbelly lately? Me neither! Thank God that brave Mister Ellis is there to Abuse Our Illusions, etc!
Heated--and yet intelligent and readable!--debates abound on the Comics Journal messboard today. Here's the ongoing SPX/Team Comix donnybrook, now centered around the question of whether the current generation of alternative cartoonists holds a candle to the two or three previous ones; here's a battle over the big anthology Kramers Ergot 4 centered around the question of whether the non-comics material therein helped or hindered the anthology, or indeed whether it's non-comics material at all; and here's a thread in which the place of such comics legends as Steve Ditko, Gary Panter and George Herriman is being debated with considerable intellectual gusto. The Journal board is a pretty entertaining place these days. I wonder why...
Jim Henley reviews a bunch of recent comics, and in so doing gets the most recent issue of Captain America completely wrong. I'll see if I can explain this so everyone understands: What you do with Captain America is not have him run around the country feeling bad about himself, then go cry in a blown-up building in Dresden until some undead schmuck nearly hands his ass to him. What you do with Captain America is also not have him stand around talking to some girl from Atlantis or wherever for five issues until everyone just gives the fuck up on the book around chapter three of the story and waits for your boring ass to go back to writing about people in Iron Man armor blowing terrorists' heads off and aliens from outer space fucking Cro-Magnon women. What you do with Captain America is put him in a storyline called "Cap Lives" and have him kick the living snot out of Nazis. And God bless 'em, writer (! not quite used to that yet) Dave Gibbons and artist Lee Weeks deliver. Weeks honed his meaty, muscular style to near-perfection during his impressive run on Bruce Jones's Incredible Hulk, and he gives this "What if Hitler had won?" alternate-history tale the kind of awful pulpy grit and horror it needs to work. Gibbons seems to intuitively understand that to do an effective Captain America, you don't need to gloss over the terrible crimes that America has committed over the years, but nor should you dwell on them in order to compensate for the fact that during World War II we called Japanese people "Japs"--you just need to depict a man who, dammit all to hell, loves America so much that he'll make up for those crimes and more--with his fists. (Note: I happened to like Robert Morales's revisionist take on the Captain America icon quite a bit, but that's because it seemed tempered with an honest love for what's great about this country, something that wasn't coming through in the runs of John Ney Reiber or Chuck Austen. It was also very, very weird, which I tend to like.) It's a pity that, in a world chock full of genocidal totalitarian theocratic woman-hating gay-hating Jew-hating bastards with not one whit of compunction when it comes to killing civilians willy-nilly because God told them to, this comic felt the need to resurrect the old German bugbears to give Cap someone to beat up, but hey, it's a step in the right direction.
Anyway, Jim also has some smart thoughts on the most recent real-world-superheroes story, J. Michael Straczynski's Supreme Power.
Eve Tushnet worries about the results of the infamous New X-Men #146 (Turns out Alan David Doane was the bad guy all along!) Eve, have more faith in Grant Morrison!
New kid on the blogroll David Fiore waxes digressive on an early issue of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire. I think it's pretty impressive how Cage has gone from laughing stock to revered supertoughguy thanks to his recent treatment at the hands of bald Brians Azzarello and Bendis. Perhaps the material was there all along.
Forager adds his voice to the growing chorus of folks who think that when it comes to Marvel's much-hyped Elizabethan continuity clusterfuck 1602, emperor Neil Gaiman has no clothes. But he also includes a throwaway line that one of Marvel's recent titles is one of the "most loathsome super-hero comic books" he's ever read. Which one is it, Forager? With great power comes the great responsibility to call out comic books on your weblog, man!
Finally, some personal and professional developments have made me cut back on the number of comics I'll be purchasing for the forseeable future. I'm sad that I won't be able to experiment as much, but glad that I'll end my Wednesdays without thinking "That was a waste of money" a lot more often. It's interesting how necessity is the mother of getting rid of deadweight in your pull bag. Today, for example, there were a couple of comics on the list (Gun Theory, Human Target) that I put back simply because of the coloring, in both cases done (as was instantly obvious upon first glance) by Lee "If it's yellow, put some green in it; if it's brown, great!" Loughridge. (I've heard great things about his work from creators, and I've seen the occasional book that looked lovely from him (Kingpin #1, for example), but it simply does nothing for me. Meanwhile, I found myself still buying Superman/Batman, despite not being wild about either writer Jeph Loeb or artist Ed McGuinness, simply because it would appear that at some point in this story arc Batman and Superman will more or less depose President Lex Luthor. That's pretty neat, in a Dark Knight Strikes Again sort of way.
At some point I will write a full-length defense of Velvet Goldmine, but till then please read Johnny Bacardi's COMPLETELY BASELESS ASSAULT on this wonderful, wonderful film.
Aw, Johnny, I kid because I love. Just ask the sincerely and kindly apologetic Alan David Doane, who's been a real gentleman in the aftermath of the New X-Men fiasco he created. But if you do ask him, just be warned: he was actually Frederic Wertham in disguise this whole time!
Today seems to be a good day for warblogging. If you come here to read about politics, I'm pretty sure you already read the sites that the following links are linking to, but hey, the important thing is that I link to them with the words "I agree" following shortly thereafter.
James Lileks has an absolute must-read (I really don't say that very often) column. You need to scroll down a bit, but before long he produces an evidence-laden decimation of the assertion that there is no connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda (an argument I hear being made every day, all day long in the mainstream media). He follows up by pointing out that the "Bush Lied" contingent a) didn't think President Clinton was lying when he bombed Iraq for non-compliance, and indeed thought this was a great move, so long as it didn't actually threaten Saddam's grip on power in any substantial way; b) supported lifting the sanctions once upon a time (those same "genocidal" sanctions that, a few months ago, we were supposed to sit back and allow to "continue to work"--ed.) in a proposed best-case scenario that would have left an even stronger Saddam in power; c) when stripped of their veneer of legalese and "yes, but"s and "perhaps, however"s, advocated courses of action in which this monstrous bastard would remain in charge in perpetuity. God, it's good, so much better than my clumsy summary.
Little Green Footballs's Charles Johnson is on fire today, which I guess is to be expected, since pretty much every day is a good day if your hobby is cataloguing the neverending stream of violent fanaticism and duplicity streaming from the Islamic world. Today he notes that Saudi Arabia has initialized plans to acquire nuclear weaponry (joining Egypt and, of course, Iran in the We Want the Islamic Bomb Club currently moderated by Pakistan); that Iraq's infamous information minister is now openly bragging about having bribed France, Russia and China with lucrative oil contracts in exchange for their support of the Baath regime; and loads more of the infuriating same. Start at that first link and just start scrolling down.
Instapundit, meanwhile, points out that his long-standing contention that France is now an enemy of the United States and is fighting a proxy war against us through various Islamic dictators and terrorist groups is now being echoed in the New York Times by Tom Friedman; he also has a round-up of the mockery the BBC's anti-Blair war has made of the Beeb itself.
Both Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan point to stories illustrating the loudly-voiced antipathy many Iraqis feel toward their "brother" Arabs, whose leaders (in many cases with the enthusiastic support of the people themselves) cheerfully ignored the execrable conditions in which the Iraqis were living (and dying) in order to enrich themselves at Saddam's trough. The Palestinians, who apparently managed to find enough time in their busy schedules of making their children hold automatic weapons and walk in parades full of masked murderers to come to Iraq in droves, come off particularly badly.
Interesting times, eh what?
Another good day for
killblogging hawkish political commentary: In addition to Andrew Sullivan's dismissal of Wesley Clark, there's Glenn Reynolds's ominbus summation of the current batch of sky-is-falling horseshit streaming from Big Media's collective rear-end, Charles Johnson's exposure of the Arab News's most recent salvo of vicious anti-Semitism, and Victor Davis Hanson's latest demonstration that the best weapon against "anti-war" forces is sanity (God, is he good). I highly recommend all four.
Please ignore this post - it will be neither funny nor informative. This is a test of the rss generation system, and has nothing to do with comics, music, capturing terrorists, Halliburton, Amanda Ferguson or her Bobo. It's just a test.
Man it's cool being a site operator. Hi mom!
There really are quite a few things that I'd like to write about at length for the blog right about now, most notably rebuttals to Johnny Bacardi's pan of Velvet Goldmine and faint-praise damning of David Bowie's "Heroes" (which actually compared it unfavorably to, get this, Lodger!) I'm not sure if I have either of these things in me these days, but we'll see. I've got a lot on my professional plate. Ah, the travails of writerdom.
Anyway, yeah, Johnny reviewed "Heroes" in his latest record round-up, which also includes interesting thoughts on post-glam smart-pop duo Sparks, the Rolling Stones' ill-fated flirtation with psychedelia, the conflict between punk and prog, and more. Johnny--like Bill Sherman, Kevin Parrott and many other pop-obscurist bloggers--is a goddamn great writer, and it's criminal that there's no market for this kind of writing in American music magazines. Actually, that's not entirely true--Maxim's Blender is actually really good: smart, entertaining and thorough while never resorting to the snarkiness that passes for criticism at Spin or the Joy of Stoopid faux iconoclasm that's the stock in trade of today's Rolling Stone (a magazine that placed Jack White at #13 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time--30 or 40 places ahead of Pete Townshend and Frank Zappa!).
Courtesy of Johnny comes a link to this bizarre take on David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks by communist pop aficianado Antipopper. He's a good writer, too, but his almost physical aversion to the concept of "good vs. evil" as depicted in Lynch's series is as good an indicator as any as why I've always found the socialist left completely idiotic, even before recent events made me into the bloodthirsty killblogger you know and love. (That, and the fact that they seem to see the hammer-and-sickle as sexy, and not as, you know, the symbol of the deaths of tens of millions of people in gulags and execution chambers. Their hearts were in the right place, I suppose.)
John Jakala joins in the "Get a Blog, Shawn Fumo" chorus. Everybody sing!
John also has some fun at the expense of some goofy upcoming covers from DC. Particularly entertaining is the way he spots Courtney Cox Arquette in Wonder Woman drag (believe me, this is vastly preferrable to the Joanie Laurer version that Adam Huges did for Wizard way back when--accompanied by Meg Ryan as Supergirl, for the love of Jesus!) and points out that there's a bunch of characters on the cover of an upcoming Superman/Batman who are complete mysteries even to fanboys.
(A propos of this, can someone please kill off the entire Batman family? All right--I understand the need for Jim Gordon and Alfred, probably Robin, maybe Catwoman, maaaaaaybe Nightwing at the outside, but isn't Batman supposed to be an intense, driven, secretive loaner? Instead he's got this P. Diddy-sized posse of Alfred, Robin, Catwoman, Nightwing, Oracle, Huntress, Batgirl, Azrael, Spoiler, Thalia, Commissioner Gordon and the entire Gotham City Police Department, Superman, and Harold the mute hunchback car mechanic, plus the forty million villains who've figured out his secret identity, like Ra's al Ghul, Bane, Hugo Strange, and God knows who else. The writer who gathers all these pointless characters on an island somewhere and then has the Joker blow it to non-Mark-Waid Kingdom Come will be doing Batman a bigger favor than anyone since Frank Miller.)
David Fiore finds some gems in old Marvel letterpages, including a view of Dr. Strange as antinomian rebel. NeilAlien, take note!
David also reponds to my question as to why he will never read Fight Club. I see where he's coming from, but I think Chuck Palahniuk has gotten an incredibly bad rap as the poster boy for Battle of Seattle black-blockers when his work is about a million times smarter and more involving. (Choke, for example, is a masterpiece; and all his books portray the need for familial connections in a completely unexpected and moving way.)
ADD nails DC's stillborn attempt at doing for Superman what Marvel did for the X-Men, Hulk and Spider-Man, and what DC itself has kinda sorta -it-or-Sienkiewicz-draws-it done for Batman. On the other hand, much to my own surprise, I've been buying and enjoying Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman, and I'd imagine Azzarello's Superbook will be entertaining, too.
Radically shifting gears, Andrew Sullivan demolishes Wesley Clark's tough-guy commander credentials. I've been saying to people for some time now that anyone familiar with how the Kosovo campaign actually went down should know that Clark is pretty much a joke. (To be fair, Clark's hands were tied in Kosovo by everyone from the Clinton administration to the foot-dragging NATO allies--but this is now the campaign he's holding up as an example as to how these things are done! Good Lord.)
Shifting back, Bill Sherman offers his take on the now-completed Grant Morrison maxiseries The Filth. I too thought this book had a heart that many of Morrison's gonzo gross-out underbelly-touring UK compatriots would kill to achieve. The last caption of the series was tremendously moving, even haunting, to me--this despite the fact that I'm still not 100% sure what the hell happened in that last issue. I'm extremely glad that I stuck around through the duration of this series, which was the most radical thing DC has done (and, unsurprisingly, also the best) since The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
Newsarama brings us a look at Mike Ploog's art for the upcoming fantasy series Abadazad. I guess it's silly of me to be surprised that it's so straightforward compared to the only other Ploog stuff I've seen, his extravagantly sloppy pseudo-psychedelia for Ghost Rider from the 70s, but surprised I was. It still looks lovely, though the book is seeming more and more like the Clive-Barker's-Abarat clone I pegged it as a few months back.
Finally, at long last Dirk Deppey snaps and goes absolutely MOAB on the Direct Market. Read this essay--it's a thing of angry beauty, like Helena Bonham-Carter at the end of Fight Club. Dirk asserts that the Direct Market has proven, through its complete inability to adopt even the most common-sense changes in its business model, that its complete collapse is inevitable. Frankly, I'm pretty sure Dirk is right, which is a big reason why I've been humping the book-like manga format as much as I have. Thin though they might be, there's no room for floppy pamphlets on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble, and within ten years at the outside that's where you're gonna have to go to buy comics....
There are two big new additions to the Collins Household. The first is the sexy new iBook I'm currently using to blog this entry with. The Missus and I both use Macs at work, and her old PC was increasingly slow and unreliable, and I'd love to have the ability to use a word processor during my 2 hours worth of train rides every workday, so there you have it. We haven't used it to do much except blog from bed, upload a bunch of Karolyn's pictures of Jeffrey Brown from WizardWorld Chicago, and attempt to look at Tori Amos porn, but we'll let you know if we get it to do something particularly neat.
The second is a lovely little lady named Lucy, a crosseyed calico cat who is now our baby. We brought her home from a local shelter called Bide-a-Wee this afternoon, and that was pretty much the last we saw of her: She's been hiding under the bed ever since. Apparently she comes out when we're not in the room--we can tell because her food's been eaten, her litter's been used, and her catnip toy keeps moving around. We're told that many cats are like this for a while after moving into someone's place from a shelter, so we're not offended. And she's just adorable. How she's found room to hang out under the bed without being smushed between all those comic books is beyond me.
(I know, I know--a few days ago I was saying how I can't be buying so many comics every week, and then all of a sudden I come home with a laptop and a pet. But both were essentially paid for by my folks--the computer was purchased with long-unused wedding-gift money intended for just such a purchase, and all the cat supplies were donated to us because my parents had bought it all with the intention of getting a cat a few months back but then never ended up doing so. The bank remains unbroken.)
What else is new? Amanda, in additon to cat- and computer-getting activities, has been painting quite a bit ever since she got really excited about it during an art-therapy class at Renfrew. She does lovely, evocative things with colors. The paintings can be hard to look at when you know what they're really depicting, but it's a much healthier way to work these things out than her previous coping mechanisms. The most recent one is a larger version of the final panel of a comic Amanda drew the other day, one which nearly tore my heart out. And they're beautiful, too. We've got to get them framed--our apartment looks so bare, since we've nothing on the walls.
We've also managed to acquire an original page of art from Craig Thompson's Blankets. It's the first such thing we've ever gotten, and we're both just kinda stunned that we have it.
We actually saw two whole friends of ours today, plus my parents and brother, all of which made us feel very popular.
It's really exhausting to be friendly with the people I'm friendly with and have the politics I have. (Not the friends we saw today, actually, but most everyone else.) I mean, I walk around wondering why there aren't Rosie the Riveter and Uncle Sam rollin' up his sleeves-kinda posters on the walls of my office--I am seriously gung ho, Big Two-style gung ho (this current period being, in my opinion, Big Four). And then I realize that a goodly percentage of the people in my various fields of endeavor and interest think I'm stupid, insane, dangerous, or all three. I spend so much time hearing things that make me want to pound on the table, and then I realize that if I were to open my mouth, that's exactly how I'd make everyone else feel, and that's an incredibly alienating feeling. You really do wonder: Have you given up on people? Have they given up on you? Are your beliefs strong enough and important enough that the answers to those questions don't matter enough to change those beliefs? I want to go back to 10th grade, when my bad guys and the bad guys of the bands I listened to were the same people. I miss that so much.
Well, things may have changed, but my ability to pick fights with cranks is a gloriously reliable constant.
Please go ye and eat Edy's Pumpkin Ice Cream. It's a limited edition flavor--they disappear these suckers right after New Year's. You've only got a few months to eat it, and believe me, that is not enough time.
I've added a whole bunch of new folks to my blogroll, and shuffled the thing around a bit generally. Browse away.
Ken, if you don't blog about "the sweater-vest incident," I will.
Courtesy of ADD, here's a link (click and then scroll down) to a tremendous interview of Ninth Art & X-Axis critic Paul O'Brien by Movie Poop Shoot "Breakdowns" columnist Chris Allen. If you are interested at all in the state of comics criticism--a hot topic ever since Gary Groth's recent jeremiad in the Comics Journal--this long, essential dialogue between two internet critics is a must read. For though Groth was right in calling for more stringent critical standards, applied frequently and without the interference of misguided team spirit, he was wrong in saying it's nowhere to be found. It's here on the Internet.
In a wide-ranging and thought-provoking discussion, Allen and O'Brien tackle a slew of issues facing comics critics, fans, and creators.
* The pros and cons of niche reviewing: O'Brien's X-Axis site is devoted almost exclusively to reviewing just about every mutant-related title that Marvel puts out. This enables him to compare how different creators explore different themes using the same core concept, and their relative success or failure; it also forces him to review dreck for completeness' sake and is an essentially procrustean outgrowth of his early years as a fanboy.
* The need to engage the mainstream: Both Ninth Art and X-Axis (obviously, in the latter case) focus primarily on mainstream comics. O'Brien argues that this was, in fact, his deliberate critical intention, because it is vital for any artform for its mainstream entertainment to be engaged and evaluated by critics. I've complained long and loud about what I perceive to be the lack of such engagement from print-media's only "legit" source of comics criticism, the Comics Journal. (Well, "only" is an exaggeration, but not by much.) My conversations with TCJ staff have since led me to the conclusion that they simply do not see the magazines role in the artform or the industry the same way I would were I in charge, and that's fine; this is why I think online comics criticism, embodied by the comics blogosphere and non-press-release-reliant news-and-reviews sites like Ninth Art are of (pardon the pun) critical importance to the medium.
* The role of "duty": As I mentioned below, I get some comics out of more or less the perceived obligation to keep up with the really big, popular books. As a kinda sorta critic, this obligation is heightened, in a way; for bona fide critics like Allen and O'Brien, it's even more of a consideration. It's fascinating to see issues like this get discussed.
* The weakness of the floppy pamphlet, the switchover to trade-paperback as the dominant American-mainstream format, the coming rule of manga over all of comics, and the effect that all of the above are having on mainstream storytelling: These are all pet topics of mine, and that Allen and O'Brien are tackling them too bodes well for building up some sort of critical mass (again, pardon the pun) toward getting the industry to really pay attention to these issues. It may be a pipe dream, particularly when the folks we might usually count on to publicize voices speaking to these issues, ie. Gary Groth and the Journal, seem to be writing off the one venue of criticism that's out there promoting these smarter business and artistic decisions because it doesn't read enough like Pauline Kael. But if comics have taught us anything, it's to dream big.
There's more, too: on Grant Morrison's franchise vs. creator-owned books, on the respective difficulties of writing really negative and really positive reviews, on how the need for topicality leads columnists to focus either on molehill-derived mountains or almost exclusively on industry trends rather than aesthetic or literary concerns, on the strengths and weaknesses of New Marvel's X-books, on the relative dearth of reviews graphic-novel and alternative comics offered by O'Brien's sites (his one real weakness, in my book--I don't think there's much of an excuse for holding up "new mainstream" books, like Queen & Country (which I've never read, admittedly, but somehow I doubt it ranks with Black Hole) or even James Kochalka (who's good at what he does, but probably not the sign that points the way to where comics should be going), as the books "everybody should be reading)... Fascinating stuff that I'm glad to have read. Good Comix Criticism Ain't Dead.
Amanda has the scoop. Since that post went to press we've actually gotten some QT in with Lucy--last night she let us reach under the bed and pet her, and she even came out from under while we were in the bedroom to play with her toys! Tonight we think we may leave the bedroom door open so she can explore the rest of the apartment, because we can tell from her attempts to get into the closet that she's getting both curious and brave. And soon... snuggles!
I'm sorry--was that too cutesy? Read the post below, in which I basically cop to buying a couple of dopey comics because they're popular. That's nauseating in a whole different way.
With the final, Big-Reveal-laden issue of Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee's Batman storyline, "Hush," due in stores this week, and with the sales of Kurt Busiek & George Perez's JLA/Avengers generating much discussion of the degree to which it is or is not a huge hit and does or does not proscribe the limits of the Direct Market audience, I thought I'd weigh in on these two books, the supercomics equivalent of big summer tentpole popcorn movies.
I'm trying very, very hard not to have the ending of "Hush" spoiled for me. (For those who don't know, "Hush" chronicles Batman's attempt to survive unusually sophisticated and dangerous attacks from about half of his Rogue's Gallery, instigated, it would seem, by a mysterious villain in a trenchcoat and invisible-man face bandages. The mystery villain appears to be acting with inside information, leading Batman to question his relationships with the various vigilantes and helper-monkeys with which he makes common cause). To be honest, getting that big payoff of the surprise ending is close to the sole reason why I'm buying the book. It's not that I actively dislike "Hush"--It's... entertaining. In a way. A lot less entertaining than a lot of books that I buy strictly for entertainment value, but entertaining nonetheless. Unlike what seems to be the case for most people who buy-but-don't-really-dig "Hush," I don't particularly care for Jim Lee's--but then I never did, not even back when I first started buying comics and Image, the company he co-founded with a slew of other then-popular flashy artists, was King Shit of Turd Mountain (I was a Spawn/Maxx guy). In this current case, I remember seeing the cover for his first Batman issue, being told by my boss "Isn't it awesome?" and saying "Well, it certainly is an awe-inspiring view of the sole of Batman's foot." Yuck, in other words. Lee's a solid craftsman, but for me at least, that's as far as it goes. The story, meanwhile, has all the trappings of a big shake-up without actually changing anything about the book's status quo. Sure, Batman and Catwoman are now an item, and one of Batman's most redundant and irritating sidekicks is no more, but so what? The Loeb/Lee Batman, while superficially similar to the New-Marvel approach in that it took a pretty big-name writer, paired him with a big-name artist, and put them on an imporant character, really is just an excuse for Batman to run around bumping into his Rogues Gallery and chatting with his comically large posse of S&M-dressed vigilante buddies and assorted other characters who know this intense, near-psychotic loaner's secret identity, address, and social security number, written by a man who's made a career out of doing change-free continuity rehashes and drawn by maybe THE fanboy-fave artist in the industry. Compare it to the big books that define New Marvel, like New X-Men, Daredevil, The Incredible Hulk, even (to a lesser extent, but still) Amazing Spider-Man--these writers were trying to redefine what these books could be about, how stories about these characters could be told, what kind of audience could read and enjoy them. But the reason I keep buying, and yes, even enjoying "Hush" is mainly because, despite all its flaws, it has managed to make itself into A Big Event by sheer force of will. This is a book that will matter in the long term for the character, which to me is an important criterion for superhero comics. I love the character, so even though I think this kind of storytelling and artistic model is a very bad one for the industry to start following--it's basically a streamlined, souped-up method of Preaching To The Converted--I'm buying this book. I realize I couldn't have thought up a reason to buy this book less relevant to a real critic's way of thinking if I sat around and tried, but that's the way it is.
Regarding JLA/Avengers, I bought it out of willingness to give a Busiek-scripted book the benefit of the doubt: Though I didn't like Marvels, I do like Astro City and really enjoy Arrowsmith, which I picked up solely on a whim. I've also got a bizarre weak spot for George Perez's art--again odd, considering I wasn't weaned on his Teen Titans or anything like that. I think it's weird that he gives every woman giant Dolly Parton hairdos (didn't think I was gonna say "hairdos," didja?), and weirder still that CrossGen thought it was a good idea to base their entire female-character aesthetic on this, but there's something about his manically overdrawn pages that has this weird pop appeal to me. The hardcover collection of Crisis on Infinite Earths that my wife gave me a few years back is one of my prized possessions--what's done in that book, and also in JLA/Avengers, can really only be done in comics, and moreover is inherently comics, if that makes sense. In the first JLA/A issue, there's a two-page spread of an alien-parasite invasion of Manhattan that is genuinely breathtaking. Also, I actually think Busiek did a pretty nice job with characterization and dialogue in this one, much better than he usually does. My two major complaints? 1) Why in God's name is he sticking to the official Avenger's roster? Half--actually, let's face it, all of the appeal of this book comes from seeing the biggest characters from Marvel and DC punch each other. I suppose there are fanboys who are genuinely interested in finding out whether the Avengers team proper would win in a fight against the self-evidently more powerful Justice League--but is anyone else? I can't imagine anyone being really excited about a matchup between also-ran Avengers like Jack of Hearts and, well, anyone. Ditto Yellowjacket and all those other dorks. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, fine--throw in Hulk and Spider-Man and Doc Strange and Namor and Wolverine and the Fantastic Four and make it fun, for Pete's sake. (I guess he'll be doing this later on, but I'm impatient.) 2) As many people have pointed out, the video-game-style hunt-for-magical-objects structuring device couldn't be lamer. Busiek really hit on something in the fascist-overlords vs. dereliction-of-duty ideological conflict between Captain America and Superman in this first issue; it's that rare thing in supercomics--an battle of ideas in which both sides actually make some good points. If he had slowly built this conflict up and let it explode at the series' climax, he'd have had a really good book. Instead he seems to be implying that Cap and Supes are only arguing because of some hazy cosmic jive (the other team members seem stunned at their leaders' belligerence), and he's sure to abandon the battle in favor of having the teams join together to fight the Anti-Monitor or Thanos or whatever. Boring. But again, this is A Big Event. That's part of the attraction of superhero comics to me.
I just wish that a summer blockbuster comic would come along that's not just a story well told, but a story worth telling.
Lo, there shall come... a Fumo! Prolific comment-poster and manga-booster Shawn Fumo has got hisself a blog at long last. Enjoy!
The comicsphere gets Filthy: Bill Sherman, Johnny Bacardi and myself offer our opinions on the now-completed Grant Morrison series The Filth, while Big Sunny D has a thoughtful three-part examination of the book with a fourth on the way. This weekend I lent all my trades of Morrison's The Invisibles to a friend, and took the time to compare it to this more recent, superficially similar series. "The Invisibles," I said, "didn't make sense. Neither does The Filth, but unlike The Invisibles, it makes sense in the way it doesn't make sense." Um, can we get Chip Kidd to design the collected edition? Or let cover creator Segura Inc. run the show? Please?
Jim Henley finally gets around to reading Eightball #22, which is probably the best single-issue comic ever. I don't like doing the whole "best ever" kinda thing, but trust me, this book deserves it. 32 pages long, and you can go back to it as often as you do Watchmen, From Hell, Dark Knight, Jimmy Corrigan, or whatever happen to be your own personal favorites. It's astounding.
Damn, but Doctor Strange lettercolumns were interesting! David Fiore reprints another letter examining Doc's theological repercussions. NeilAlien, your people need you!
A stupid talk show bashes a stupid comic book, which leads to a stupid political thread on Newsarama, which leads one to the inevitable conclusion that nothing good can come from Joe Kelly thinking that he's the spandex set's George Orwell. (See also: Wright, Micah Ian, delusions of grandeur of; O'Reilly, Bill, enormous boost to Al Franken's book sales due to comments by.)
Ninth Art has a roundtable discussion of comics-creators-as-rock-stars, and the extent to which a writer (that's primarily what they're focusing on here) can establish a "brand" through a high public/fan profile and a unique physical appearance. They cite Grant Morrison as the foremost example of this phenomenon, and indeed he is--as I've said before, he understands the personal, psychological, and creative benefits of persona creation as well as the economic and business ones. The Ninth-Arters also mention Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, and (they debate this, though to me it's undebatable) Alan Moore. Notice a through-line here? They're all from the UK, where the arts, particularly the popular ones, are steeped in a rich tradition of self-conscious theatricality. Personally I think 9A missed a couple additional obvious examples: Mark Millar (though he's modeling himself more on brash Hollywood types than rock stars) and Paul Pope, the sexiest man in comics. I saw Paul at SPX, though, and in that crowd a good-looking, stylish, thin cartoonist sticks out a lot less than if you surrounded him with DC Editorial and the founding members of Gorilla Comics, for example. But Paul really seems to "get" what he's doing--"I want to look like I could have stepped out of one of my comics," he once told me, and he does. I think the rock-star model will be very important to the medium in the future--or at the very least an extremely useful tool for ambitious and talented creators.
Every once in a while I'll notice that my wife or one of my friends is visiting this page. Usually they get about as far as a sentence that begins, "With the final, Big-Reveal-laden issue of Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee's Batman storyline, "Hush," due in stores this week," or "Heated--and yet intelligent and readable!--debates abound on the Comics Journal messboard," then turn around and get the hell out of here. I'm not sure that I blame them.
For the unreconstructed fanboy in all of us (speaking of surefire ways to begin sentences in a fashion that scares the Missus away, huh?) comes the news that Brian Michael Bendis's superduper Ultimate Six series will be extended a full issue because its climactic fight scene is too long. That sound you hear? That's glee. (However, it is a bit disingenuous for Bendis to claim, "I didn't realize the sixth member was going to be such a fun guessing game for everyone." When you say you're doing a book about six characters but only reveal the identities of five, you know what's gonna happen.)
Bill Sherman continues his exploration of manga by reviewing Iron Wok Jan!, a series about chefs. No, I'm not kidding. It seems to be proof that Japanese comics can make anything interesting--you know, like movies can do. (Would you have reacted similarly if I had said Bill reviewed a movie about chefs? Didn't think so.)
(Actually, Japanese TV has made cooking interesting, too, but maybe that's just because when I watch Iron Chef I picture Chairman Kaga as mad warlord, with a legion of chefs-slash-ninja-assassins at his disposal. I mean, look in his eyes when he bites into that pepper--that is the look of madness. Dr. Doom looks like that sometimes. And during the final episode of Iron Chef, Kagasan rode into Kitchen Stadium on a horse. I swear to God.)
Ahem. Also on the manga beat is Shawn Fumo, who today discusses what European comics could learn from their Japanese counterparts. According to an article he sites by bandes-dessinees creator Frederic Boilet, manga's strength is its lack of reliance on genre, which he sees as being as much of a problem in Europe as many believe it is in America. The flaw in Boilet's argument, as Shawn and I both see it, is this anti-genre snobbery: Boilet appears to think that when it comes to genre fiction, none of it is particularly good (and believe me, in Europe they're tackling a lot more types of genre fiction than we are here in superhero-fixated America). If Fantagraphics's Kim Thompson is right and More "Crap" Is What We Need (the scare quotes are mine, naturally), then Europe isn't a bad model to follow. Still, Japan's emphasis on everyday-life stories (in my book, just another genre) is admirable, and one that American comics would be well-advised to investigate.
Let's everyone wish Dirk Deppey well, okay?
Before it degenerates into the usual anti-Bush fatuities (is "The Hand Puppet" as clever and devastating a perjorative nickname for the President as Rall's "Generalissimo El Busho"? U-decide!), Steven Grant's column offers a provocative two-pronged take on the perils of "servicing trademarks": The dead-end nature (creatively and, in the long run, financially) of revamping old comics titles or characters, and the role that continuity rehashes like X-Men: The Hidden Years and Spider-Man: Chapter One played in artist/writer (I almost put "writer/artist," heaven forbid) John Byrne's fall from grace into "yesterday's news" territory. I think Grant underestimates the enjoy-ability of a good revamp (what else would you call The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for example, let alone Ultimate Spider-Man?), but he's basically right: The big companies, and market & labor practices in general, have made supercomics the only game in town for people who wish to make a good living off the Direct Market, and the only supercomics people really buy star those good old characters; couple that with the big companies' reluctance to publish stuff they don't own, and you have a dramatic lack of new properties being invented. It's the comics equivalent of slash-and-burn agriculture, and in the long run, it's not good.
Jim Henley analyzes the good, the bad & the ugly when it comes to his local and semi-local comic book stores. He points out something that should be obvious: People will walk past all kinds of stuff in a store to get to the staple products that they know are in there. This is why grocey stores put the produce and dairy all the way on the sides of the store and the meat in the back--they want you to walk past all the rest of the stuff, and since you know those important foods are in there and you know you're gonna buy them anyway, you really don't care. So why, then, do comics retailers insist on putting pictures of Batman and Spider-Man in their store windows while sticking altcomix and books all the way in the back? Supercomics fans know what they want, and they know where to get it--believe me, they're not NOT going to come into the store on Wednesday because they think you've stopped stocking Wolverine since he's not right next to the check-out counter anymore. As a matter of fact, everyone knows they can get superhero comics in comics stores, because nearly everyone thinks there's no such thing as non-superhero comics. The stuff you put up front should be stuff that actually might catch non-fanboys' eyes. I mean, duh.
I have to say, it was a pretty good day at the comic book store today. I don't like to list what I bought, generally speaking, but I was just tickled by nearly everything I picked up today.
Amazing Spider-Man 499: Alls I can say is that NeilAlien will fucking flip out. And with that gorgeous JRJR art, who can blame him? One question, though: What exactly is going on in the graveyard at the end? Are we supposed to know?
Thor: Vikings 3: I'd imagine the 'Alien will flip out again, but not in a good way--Garth Ennis seems to be writing Doc Strange a bit on the lavender side. Not that there's anything wrong with that... but moreover, the callous attitude with which Thor and Strange, two of the Marvel U's foremost boy scouts, treat the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people is jarring, and not particularly relevatory or clever. I am enjoying the gore, though, and there seems to be more of that on the way, so hooray!
Born 4: Ennis's Vietnam Punisher origin story comes to its brutal and depressing climax. Thank God for brutal and depressing, as opposed to brutal and zany, which Ennis has been doing in his main Punisher series with diminishing returns for some time now. I'll quibble, of course, with the broadly stated anti-American-war sentiments at the beginning (I can only assume the comments are directed at the architects of Gulf War II, who are obviously the puppets of the big companies and therefore attacked Iraq, but are obviously the pupptes of the big companies and therefore DIDN'T attack Iraq for years, so, uh...does not compute), but Ennis's look into the addictive psychology of killing and the soporific effects of hopelessness was very appealing to me, and a good sign for what will happen when he takes the Punisher into his promised more-serious direction later this year. (I guess Mark Millar will be taking up the zany reins on his upcoming Punisher project. Woo hoo.)
The Incredible Hulk 61: Now that we're really focusing on The Conspiracy, it would help if at least some of the conspirators didn't look exactly alike. Still, I can't wait to see where writer Bruce Jones ends up with this, and Mike Deodato's art is lovely (and sexy, again). One question: the leader of the conspiracy has got to be The Leader, right? I mean, who else?
Captain America 18: A big "fuckin' a!" to this story of Captain A, on the run from Nazis in a German-ruled alternate 1960s New York City. Like I pointed out last week, this is how you do Captain America--un-arrogant, unbowed, and beating the snot out of genocidal totalitarians. It's also how you do alternate-history Marvel stories, by the way: This Easter-Egg-filled romp of an issue, with some tremendous action sequences by the increasingly good Lee Weeks, is basically a Where Are They Now (or Where They Were Then, or Where They Would Have Been If Then Was Like This Instead Of How Then Actually Was?) of important Marvel characters, showing the ways in which an Axis victory in WWII would have changed our beloved fictional universe. Writer Dave Gibbons's done this much more entertainingly--and, importantly, organically--than Neil Gaiman has managed with his much-touted, now much-maligned series 1602 thus far.
Smax 1&2: I guess I was one of those people to whom this project just screamed "inessential"--chalk it up to the goofy art and the "Top Ten meets Shrek" word-of-mouth. I figured this was going to be another lark in the vein of much of writer Alan Moore's America's Best Comics work, which leads to a "thanks, but no thanks" from yours truly. But on ADD's recommendation, I picked up the series' two issues thus far, and enjoyed 'em quite a bit. Since it's a Top Ten spin-off, it's written very much in that mode: If TT is a TV show, Smax is like the nostalgia-fueled post-cancellation TV movie. It doesn't have as many fanboy eye-pops as its predecessor, but there's still quite a few fun cameos in there (the white troll buying drugs from a black troll would have been a funny and pointed gag even if they weren't troll-doll trolls; I also enjoyed spotting the occasional Tolkienism). I wasn't quite as disturbed by the second issue as was ADD, but it was definitely rough stuff that belied the cartoony look of Zander Cannon's art, and that dragon was simply astounding. Glad I picked this up.
Finally, the much-ballyhooed Batman 619: Um, are you kidding?
CrossGen scraps its own business plan and fires two dozen employees!
Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo are hired back onto Fantastic Four!
Firestorm's getting his own series again!
Switchboards across the country are on fire as portly gentlemen wearing glasses and all-over-print t-shirts put aside their copies of Spider-Girl, Brath and Fallen Angel to discuss these startling developments!
It looks like professional concerns will calm down a bit next week, so that will probably be the time where you'll see some longer-form posts: the oft-promised defense of Velvet Goldmine, for example, as well as possible examinations of Bowie's Berlin period and an excoriation of Loeb & Lee's Batman run. Till then, it's the usual calvacade of links (which inevitably turns out longer than a long-form piece would, but whatever).
First and foremost, a fond farewell to Alan David Doane, who's calling it a day and ending his website and weblog. It's funny: A year or two ago, I vaguely knew of ADD as a guy who usually was on the opposite side from me of various message-board arguments, but I'd never actually gotten into it with him. So I ended up getting to e-know him from the interaction of our weblogs, and lo and behold, I quite like him and his work. Funny how the Internet works: A guy I probably would have hated had I spoken with him in one format turns into a guy I admire and like because I spoke to him through another format. Alan is/was a fine example of Internet comics criticism, whose passion may have occasionally gotten the best of him but much more often than not led to revelatory writing on comics many people (myself included) might not have otherwise tried. Since that was his frequently stated goal, I congratulate him: Mission accomplished.
On the other side of the coin, there's bad Internet comics criticism. And then, o my brothers, there's so-bad-it's-good Internet comics crticism. Enter Michael David Thomas's hysterical (in both senses of the word), ad hominem-laden attack on Tom Spurgeon & Jordan Raphael's biography of Stan Lee. I haven't read the book, I must admit, so who knows? Maybe the book is as bad as this review says. (It would be hard pressed for the book to be as bad as the review itself.) I do happen to know from experience that Tom Spurgeon's antipathy to superhero comics is unslakeable. But in reading this review you get the impression that any book about Stan Lee that didn't use a ton of exclamation points an alliteration and refer to Lee as "Smilin' Stan" would be not just unacceptable but borderline heretical. What can you say about a review that slags the book for being biased, then ends with a section titled "Still 'The Man'"? You can say it's dumb, is what you can say. (Thomas gets extra points for referring to the Comics Journal in much the same way that George Bush the First referred to the ACLU, or how that woman in the diner referred to Tippi Hendren in The Birds.)
What, they couldn't come up with a fourth book for the Fantastic Four? C'mon, guys. Make the Newsarama headline writers' jobs a little easier, okay? "Four on the Floor?" "Four for Four"? "Fantastic Four?" It'd practically write itself!
Great, lengthy Grant Morrison interview over at comic book resources. With each new story arc my conviction deepens that this will end up being pretty much the best run on a monthly superhero comic ever.
Also on the Morrison tip is Big Sunny D, weighing in with his fourth take on The Filth, this time emphasizing the fantastic covers. I reiterate the need for someone with design sense, like cover creator Carlos Segura, to have design control over whatever collected edition The Filth ends up in. Also, feel better, Sunny!
Johnny Bacardi has updated both his blogroll and his front page, adding a Dave Stevens pin-up that I remember very, very well from my youth. I remember seeing it in an issue of Femme Fatales magazine that I bought from my local comics shop, Gotham Manor, back in the ninth grade. Boy, did I like that tissue. Issue. Sorry.
(Why does Johnny B's site always inspire me to comment on what bits of pop-culture cheesecake I, as a pre-Internet adolescent boy, relied upon for kicks?
Beats me. I have no idea.)
CrossGendered Comics continues to snip away at its assets, including, apparently, artist George Perez. I never cared one way or the other about CrossGen, except insofar as they a) Seemed to have the right idea when it came to packaging their trade paperback collections; b) removed a lot of retro-flavored fanboy-favorite artists and writers from wider circulation with their exclusivity agreements. While they've been bleeding those guys for some time now (hence Mark Waid being on Fantastic Four in the first place), I'm most nervous about Perez leaving. I happen to like quite a bit of what he does artistically, but having this 80s stalwart treated as a superstar (as he no doubt will be, what with the furor the CG situation is creating and the heat on his JLA/Avengers crossover) will be a big aesthetic step backwards for the superhero industry, one that's already indulging in 90s retro with the Jim Lee run on Batman and Rob Liefeld's comeback on Youngblood, and the upcoming Lee run on Superman, Marc Silvestri run on New X-Men, and Rob Liefeld covers run on Cable/Deadpool.
Forager--who, in the style of Daredevil, Captain America, Professor X and Spider-Man, has outed his secret identity as one J.W. Hastings!--has a couple of great posts today. One is a rant inspired by Frederic Boilet's manga vs. bandes-desinees article, including a refutation of the (baseless, pretentious, elitist, etc.) assertion that real-life stories are automatically better and/or more worthwhile than fantasy-tinged stories, and an upbraiding of the artistically self-indulgent minicomics scene. It touches (though it doesn't mention it by name) on the possible negative ramifications of Team Comix's hip-hip-hooray-for-us spirit; it's also relevant to the discussion of the altcomix anthology Kramers Ergot 4 going on at the Comics Journal messboard.
The second good Forager piece isn't comics related, but here it is anyway--a description of Forager's ideal cinema studies program. For what its worth, the film studies program from which I graduated (magna cum laude, phi beta kappa, highest average in the major, best senior thesis essay in the major, ahem ahem), at Yale, was actually quite similar to the one Forager advocates, at least in terms of the classes I chose to take. I guess that's the idea, though: in most cinema studies departments/programs, people can coast through on a river of bullshit if they want. (Even at my own beloved alma mater, I know one guy who didn't even bother watching the movie he chose to do his thesis on. People, that movie wasn't Ivan or Empire or something like that. That movie was The Blues Brothers.) Interesting Forager-post crossover: The fantasy writer he cites in his comics post as the best novelist of the past 30 years, John Crowley, was the person who graded my senior thesis screenplay for film studies! (He gave me an A-.)
David Fiore continues to mine old Marvel comics for philosophical-slash-theological gold. And like me, he thought Marvels was overrated. (And yet, I liked Kingdom Come. To quote Dr. Channard, the mind is a labyrinth.)
Two Jim Henley notes. First, Jim links to this post from the site Lean Left, following up on several of Jim's criticisms of retailers and claiming (accurately, I think) that emotion, rather than intelligence or even common sense, seems to play the biggest role in the various arguments about how the industry should be run.
Second, Jim counters my counterargument about the Dave Gibbons/Lee Weeks Captain America run. Jim, I think you misinterpreted my bit about you "getting it completely wrong," which is understandable, because that phrase is extremely misinterpretable. Alls I meant was that the comic was good, you thought it was bad, and therefore, you were wrong. (Hey, it's my blog, and you're wrong if I want you to be.) Politics didn't enter into it (except that I assumed that, in critiquing how superhero comics "used to be written," you were talking about not just the prose style, but the we're-right-they're-wrong theme of many of the plots). I certainly wasn't accusing you of being part of an "anti-American conspiracy," or even thinking of you as such in jest. Believe me, as seriously as I take my own politics, I've got no plans to resort to that kind of horsepucky.
Good news: Eve Tushnet is blogging about comics again! Bad news: She's not blogging about anything I've read.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, provided that, semantically speaking, one can spoil something that's already rotten. (There's spoilers for New X-Men, Daredevil and Wolverine: Origin mixed in there too.)
The big event of mainstream comics 2003, the number-one best-selling book month after month, the title that's supposed to be DC's entree into the battle for superhero supremacy unilaterally initiated by the New Marvel regime of Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas (with hires like Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis and J. Michael Straczynski riding shotgun) has come to an end. And it sucked.
As a matter of fact, the conclusion of "Hush," the 12-part storyline written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee in Batman's eponymous flagship monthly title, was offensively bad. It was much, much, so much worse than even I thought it would be. I suppose that saying this is akin to saying I was shocked--shocked--to discover, upon watching MTV's reality series Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, that pop sensation Jessica Simpson maybe has had a somewhat sheltered life and also is maybe not too bright,. But I am a superhero comics fan, and as such have a capacity for willful self-delusion rivalled only by Scientologists and Boston Red Sox fans who think it's "their year." The conclusion of "Hush" was like Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner rolled into one, if, that is, Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner were dressed up in spandex and then had the bottoms of their shoes drawn in awe-inspiring detail.
"Hush" concerned Batman's attempts to determine the identity of a mysterious new foe, the mastermind behind a serious of surprisingly sophisticated attacks by the vigilante's rogues gallery. In the first few issues, Batman balanced this detective work with the pressing need to become reacquainted with a childhood friend who apparently played such an important role in young Batman's life that decade upon decade of Batman writers felt unequal to the task of portraying this relationship, because "Hush" marked this character's first appearance.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Batman-buying public, if you think this random-ass character, who appeared in Batman's life at exactly the same time as the mysterious villain and wore exactly the same trenchcoat as the mysterious villain and made a big point of using the word "hush" which is the name of the mysterious villain, is in fact that very same mysterious villain--you'd be wrong!
Ha ha, no, I'm just blowin' smoke up your ass. He's the villain.
But writer Loeb was not satisfied by the depth of ineptitude to which this "mystery," in introducing a brand new stupid-obvious character no one gives a tuppeny fuck about and then making him the big top-secret villain of the piece, has sunk--a depth which, I'm sure you'll agree, is already pretty fucking shockingly low. Any mystery writer worth his salt will tell you that the reader must be thrown off the trail; Loeb, as a "mystery" "writer" who created a trail about as difficult to find as the Vegas Strip, had to go above and beyond the call of duty to throw us off of it. He therefore took the bold, clever, brilliant, not-at-all-cheating step of killing the brand new stupid-obvious character no one gives a tuppeny fuck about, but then--get this!--through a series of Batman-universe wonky sci-fi/fantasy plot devices, it turns out he wasn't dead at all! He was just hiding! Ha ha! Fooled you, stupid readers! I'm a genius, I tell you!
Fortunately for us, Loeb didn't blaze into this uncharted, not-an-enormous-gyp-at-all form of storytelling unprepared. Oh, heavens no. From what I'm told, this master storyteller actually honed this bold, daring, kill-the-villain-but-keep-your-fingers-crossed-when-you-do-it approach in not one, but two previous Batman projects. These projects, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, are part of his long-time collaboration with (legitimately talented) artist Tim Sale, a collaboration which nine times out of ten yields paint-dryingly dull, consequence-free rehashes of early-years continuity in the lives of various superheroes created several decades ago. Alas for me, I have not read either of these Batman books, and therefore cannot describe to you how Loeb refined this stunning, shocking, ground-breaking, not-an-humongous-motherfucking-lazyass-fraud-in-the-slightest method of funnybook magic from one to the other. But I'm quite sure that it's an inspiring journey to take. And by "an inspiring journey" I mean "I wonder if there's a class-action lawsuit pending because centering your story around a completely unearned surprise twist that you have to cheat like a bat-corking home run king to arrive at should be grounds for legal action on behalf of all the people who paid money to have their shoes pissed on and then get informed by the pisser that no, in fact, it's Hurricane Isabel."
I don't want to give you the impression that Loeb is alone in concocting a plot the shocking surprise of which was possible only because the writer put no effort into setting it up in an even remotely plausible way. I direct you to Origin, the Paul Jenkins-scripted Wolverine story that spent two full issues following around a surly little funny-haired kid named Logan, who any reasonable reader would expect to be the earlier self of the surly little funny-haired mutant named Logan, whose code name happens to be Wolverine. But on the last two pages of issue number two, a second kid, one who neither looks nor acts nor is named nor (up until that moment) did a single goddamn thing to make us think that he might be Wolverine, has claws pop out of his hands. I can only imagine the back-slapping and high-fiving that went on in the Marvel offices upon the devising of this "shocking" "twist"--because I'm so distracted by my complete flabberghastation that grown men could congratulate themselves as brilliant writers for sticking a plot twist in the middle of a book without putting a single clue, a single character trait, a single goddamn anything that would enable a particularly perceptive reader or a reader who's rereading the thing after discovering the twist to believe anything other than the initial deceptive direction that the author forced us into that even if I were at the back-slapping session in question I'd just have to sit there scratching my head and saying "what the fuck?" (A reaction similar, no doubt, to your own in trying to unravel that grammatically torturous sentence. Do you see what bad writing does to me? It's contagious!)
Another comparison might be instructive here. In a recent issue of New X-Men, writer Grant Morrison revealed that the zen-spouting masked healer known as Xorn was, in fact, the presumed-dead
Alan David Doane Magneto in disguise. Like all good twists, it was one that almost no one saw coming. Also like all good twists, it was one that, upon re-reading the issues that led up to it, almost everyone would smack themselves in the head and say "how could I not see that coming?" Morrison did a real purloined-letter on this, peppering Xorn's words and actions with clues as to his true nature and identity. But his talent at misdirection was such that we a) never felt that this was too obvious (as might be the case if, say, you introduced a brand new character no one had ever heard of before who dressed exactly like the secret villain of your piece); b) never felt that this had been done by cheating (as if, for example, you introduced that character only to shoot him in an alleyway in full view of like five other major characters, then say "ha ha, no, that was actually a guy made out of clay using his magic powers to make himself into a clone of that character"; c) never felt that the surprise twist made a reductive mess out of the preceding storyline (as if, by way of a for instance, you'd kept everyone buying a story religiously for twelve months promising that "nothing is what it seems," only to reveal in the final issue that, in fact, everything was exactly what it seemed, you dumbasses).
There's more to "Hush" than this awful phony non-twist, though, I hear its proponents saying even now (they're not using the words "awful phony non-twist," but the sentiment is roughly the same). There's the art by Jim Lee! Ah yes, and, um, art it is. I'm not part of the cult of Jim, a cult formed primarily through his work on X-Men and his co-founding of Image Comics in the early 90s. Though his hyper-rendered artwork doesn't do all that much for me, I don't find it offensive, as some others do. But what bothered me was my ever-increasing conviction that Lobe's "plot," such as it was, was simply an excuse to publish "How to Draw Batman the Jim Lee Way," enabling Lee to create almost comically labor-intensive portraits of Batman villains (given slight revamps so that they look REALLY BAD-ASS!), Batman sidekicks (an ever more redundant clique of S&Mish nitwits who clutter up this supposed loner's life like the world's worst-dressed in-laws), and Batman shoes. Lee at his worst is not unlike Neal Adams at his worst, obsessed with "realism" yet divorced from reality, consumed with what and how he is drawing yet never really stopping to consider why. Why, for example, do we need to see painstakingly accurate portrayals of the bottom of Batman's boots not once but twice? Unlike the identity of Hush himself, that one really is a mystery.
So you had the offensively stupid and badly-constructed "twist," the plotless plot, the occasionally Yngwie-Malmsteenish art. What else is there? Oh yeah--the fact that not a goddamn thing that happened in this book matters a goddamn bit. Sure, Batman and Catwoman are now "together," but if you asked nine out of ten non-fanboys (they're easy to spot--they're the ones who didn't read this book) I'm sure they'd tell you that Bats and Cats were already an item. Capitalizing on the sexual tension between two gorgeous PVC-wearing nocturnal vigilantes--ooh, that's a tough row to hoe! And sure, the brand new character (whose name was Thomas Elliott, if that matters, which I assure you it does not) was killed too--no, for real this time, it was in the last issue after he'd already come back from the dead so they couldn't possibly bring him back again, hey we all saw him get shot right in the bulletproof armor and fall off the conveniently placed bridge into the flowing river that i guess moved his body downstream and out to sea where no one could find it, but he's got to be dead, I mean, would Jeph Loeb lie about something like that? Another major, sure-to-be-permanent change in the Bat-mythos is that Two-Face is now one-faced once again. (Funny thing, though--why does this plot development seem so familiar? Oh, right.) Yes, a little plastic surgery and the bipolar baddie is suddenly handsome and one of the good guys, pretty much. Gee, that'll lastóabout as long as the Supermullet. Indeed, Loeb has
threatened promised to deal with the ramifications of "Hush" (hee hee! oh wait, heís serious) in his return to Batman a few months from now, and if he doesnít re-two-face olí Two-Face, Iíll eat my mammyjamming hat. So the only realy difference made in the lives of Batman, or any other character for that matter, is that Catwoman and the Riddler (turns out he was helping old Tom do all this bad stuff to Batman--see, now the Riddler's a threat as he never has been before! All that stuff had his fingerprints all over it! Oh wait, no it fucking didn't) joined the I Know Batman's Secret Identity Club. This exclusive club already has had more members than Jenna Jameson's jellyroll, so you'll pardon me if I say "whoop-de-shit." Anyone who's ever even put on a Halloween costume in Gotham City knows how Bruce Wayne spends his Saturday nights. This pathetic "change in the status quo" is rendered even more pathetic by the lengths to which Loeb goes to assure the reader (and presumably AOL Time Warner) that nothing will really change: Catwoman's firmly (heh heh) on the side of the angels now, so she won't use this new information for evil (and again, every normal person on earth, to the extent that they think about such things at all, already thinks that Batman and Catwoman are BFF, so who gives a shit?); Batman makes a point of telling the readers his nervous editors Paul Levitz the Riddler that the green-wearing villain's secret vis a vis Bats is useless if he actually tries to do anything with it, because Batman will essentially have him killed if he squeals. ("Wait, isn't that, like, against Batman's entire moral code?" "Um...no one draws women like Jim Lee draws women!") For another useful comparison, I submit Brian Michael Bendis's work on Daredevil. Daredevil's "secret" identity (known to only slightly fewer people than Batman's, and to slightly more than Running Man author Richard Bachman's) finally falls into the hands of someone who'll do something with it, and after first using his knowledge of it to force DD's nemesis the Kinpin out of power, he leaks it to the media, who hound DD day and night, until he realizes he just doesn't give a shit anymore, beats a resurgent Kingpin to within an inch of his life, and abandons his normal life altogether to go underground as a merciless round-the-clock scourge of the entire NYC crime world. Loeb's Batman, by way of comparison, now has a whole nother thing to brood about while sitting on gargoyles. Stop the motherfucking presses.
I'm sure this will come as a total shock to you, but believe it or not, "Hush" isn't even the first Batman comic to pile abuse on its title character in the form of an attack from all angles by a half dozen villains orchestrated by a shadowy newcomer. Remember back when Batman's back got broken and a knight Templar took over for a while? Yeah, a scrub from out of nowhere named Bane did that, but not before breaking all of Batman's foes out of a mental hospital and letting them soften him up first. Was this storyline, "Knightfall," a masterpiece of comics literature? Oh good God no, but it was entertaining as the Dickens. It moved with a lunatic propulsive logic, it showed a Batman disintegrating mentally and physically before our eyes, it showed that the behavior and adventure inherent in Batman and his villains were what makes them fun to read about (not just drawing them so that their outfits look really cool), it made a comment on the obsessive and destructive nature of Batman's near-psychotic ethos, and when it was over you didn't feel like you paid for the privilege of getting smacked in the back of the head with a roll of quarters and mugged by a writer promising goods he had neither the ability nor even the intention of delivering.
But I don't want it to be said "Hush" isn't good for anything. Indeed, it taught me a whole bunch of lessons that I will take to my fanboy grave (bury me with my Batgirl statuette, please): Throwing crap at your protagonist does not make you a great storyteller. Putting him through the ringer does not equate to making him grow. Having Batman look sad and run away from people isn't half as interesting as having him look insanely happy and run after people. Making the solution to your mystery painfully obvious, obscuring it by the basest and most-braindead tricks of narrative and genre available to you, then whipping it back out at the end and calling it a twist isn't clever--it's fraudulent. Inserting plot and character developments that hold the seeds of their own negation and proscription within them is a cop-out. And calling your story "Hush" should never, ever stop anyone from telling you to, in writing terms, shut the hell up.
It's been a delightful couple days to be ADDTF, thanks to the extremely kind words folks have been bandying around in reference to my gentle chiding of Jeph Loeb from yesterday. I'm privileged to say that so many people have said so many swell things about the piece (using fun words like hilarious, torrid, destroy, and annhiliation in the process) that I've actually lost track, but thank you to one and all. No one may have ever gone broke underestimating the taste of the American public, but no blog ever lost hits for beating the rhetorical snot out of people who do so.
So, what can I tell you. I realized after I posted the piece that I'd left out another major, sure-to-be-permanent change in the Bat-mythos that took place in "Hush"--Two-Face is now one-faced once again. Yes, a little plastic surgery and he's handsome and one of the good guys, pretty much. Gee, that'll last. Funny thing, though--why does this plot development seem so familiar? Oh, right.
There's a ton of good writing floating around the comicsphere these days. John Jakala is back from vacation--I'm not sure if he's even up to double-digits in terms of number of posts, but he was born a fully-formed comicsblogger. J.W. Hastings responds to David Fiore's take on Geoff Klock's How to Read Super-Hero Comics and Why, and the endlessly fascinating Fiore (seriously, this guy puts up a comics-related gem every single day) responds back, and adds more analysis; there's thought-provoking stuff said about everything from Jack Kirby and fascism to Neal Adams and realism to Frank Miller and revisionism to Harold Freaking Bloom and the anxiety of influence to Spurgeon & Raphael's Stan Lee biography (David, you "loathed" it? Explain! and explain how you could call Raphael childish but give his "critic" a pass...) mixed in there, too.
I got over the hump on a couple of big professional projects today. That leaves me available to lay out some plans for what I'll be doing on the blog this October. I've got some big ideas, about which you'll hear tomorrow. They involve evil, but that's all I'm saying for now.
Finally, remember: If Mr. Loeb (who I'm sure is a perfectly nice guy) happens to ask, make sure to tell him that it was actually Clayface who wrote that post.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.