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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.

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Murder

An anthology of comics written by Sean T. Collins
Art by Matt Wiegle, Matt Rota, and Josiah Leighton
Designed by Matt Wiegle


Elfworld

An indie fantasy anthology
Featuring a comic by Sean T. Collins & Matt Wiegle



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The Sean Collins Media Empire
Comics
Destructor Comes to Croc Town
story: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


1995 (NSFW)
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Raymond Suzuhara


Pornography
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


It Brought Me Some Peace of Mind
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
edit: Brett Warnock


A Real Gentle Knife
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Josiah Leighton
lyrics: "Rippin Kittin" by Golden Boy & Miss Kittin


The Real Killers Are Still Out There
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


Destructor in: Prison Break
story: 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
(bibliography)


Cage Variations: No
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota



Best Of
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 2005

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

Presidential Milkshakes

Horror and Certainty I

Horror and Certainty II

En Garde--I'll Let You Try My New Dumb Avant Garde Style, Part I
Part II

Evil for Thee, Not Me

Phobophobia

The 7 Best Horror Movies of the Past 7 Years (give or take a few films)

Keep Horror NSFW, Part I
Part II

Meet the New Boss: The Politics of Killing, Part I
Part II

130 Things I Loved About The Sopranos

In Defense of "Torture Porn," Part I
Part II

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
Movie Reviews
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
Part II
Part III
Part IV

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
Part II
Part III

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
Part II

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
Part II
Part III

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
Part II

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
Part II

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
Part II

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
Part II

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
Part II

The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)

The Wire (Simon et al, 2002-2008)

Zombi 2 [Zombie] (Fulci, 1980)

Zombieland (Fleischer, 2009)


Book Reviews
Music Reviews
Comics Reviews
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
Part II

Blackest Night #0-2 (Johns & Reis, 2009)

Blankets (Thompson, 2003)

Blankets revisited

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)

Gags (DeForge)

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
Part II

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
Part II


Recommended

KEEP COMICS EVIL

« October 2003 | Main | December 2003 »

November 2003 Archives

November 1, 2003

Two Musings

Why do spam email subject headings always end in a bunch of gibberish? You know, like "Awesome! Look and Feel 20 Years Younger! xupzknywxrik" or "Self Employed Health Insurance Free Quotes ygmwgbrmayfx hznt" or "Kill all junk a rp g orqsd" (you've got to love anti-spam spam). Surely they realize that this kinda sorta possibly maybe just might tip people off that the message is spam?

Why do Bollywood musicals always star a superhot woman and a schlubby guy? It's inevitable: the woman will be gorgeous and the man will have a unibrow and be about 15 pounds overweight. I guess it's a cultural thing?

(Was that what I think it was--an entry that didn't even mention the word horror? Well, it was... Ed.)

November 2, 2003

The great author A. Nonymous

Recently I've gotten some emails from various anonymous-blogger acquaintances of mine taking me to task for giving people who write anonymously a hard time, or justifying their own use of pseudonyms. The thing is, I have no idea WHY. To the best of my knowledge I've never said anything about anonymous bloggers. Have I? Or--I know this sounds paranoid, but I've seen it happen--is someone claiming to be me making such statements someplace? Any light anyone could shed on the subject would be appreciated--the email link's to the left.


UPDATE: Turns out that very email link is the problem. Apparently Kennyb got a little "creative" when he made it and wrote a bit about "anonymity is a sign of shame in one's opinions" or something to that effect. So please note: Statements made by Cornell engineering graduates do not necessarily reflect the opinions held by Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat.

November 3, 2003

Episcopandemonium!

The best thing I've heard so far on conservative Episcopalian's grotesque freak-out after the consecration of the religion's first openly gay bishop:

The actions taken by the New Hampshire Episcopalians are an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the church's founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriage.

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan.

Two brouhahas

You can't swing a dead cat around the comicsphere these days without hitting a post dedicated to either writer Tony Isabella's fight with his former employers, DC Comics, over his character Black Lightning, or bloggers Alan David Doane & John Pierce's issue-taking with the methods and motives of columnist-retailer-"activist" James Sime, aka The Comics Pimp. Would it surprise you if I said I felt that in both cases, all the sides are wrong? (To some degree, at least.)

First, let's take the case of Isabella v. DC. Tony argues (here and here) that a recent plotline in Green Arrow (written by Judd Winick) in which the Black Lightning character murders a man in cold blood (albeit because the man himself committed a serious crime) a) runs contrary to how Black Lightning would "really" act; b) is part of a long-running pattern of DC abusing Tony and his creation particularly and c) black superheroes generally. I don't think that DC has responded, but Winick has offered something of an apology (along the lines of "I was sorry to hear Tony was upset"), along with assurance that this plotline was his idea and not part of any larger anti-BL or anti-TI conspiracy on the part of DC editorial.

Here's the problem: Having seen Winick speak in person, and being familiar with his persona and politics generally, he seems to be one of the last people on whom DC could count to keep the black man down, as it were. Winick's as liberal as they come, and the time I did see him speak (at San Diego Comic Con 2001, I believe), he passionately defended the decision of Warner Bros. to include the black Green Lantern, John Stewart, in the then-upcoming Justice League cartoon--regardless of their real motives, Winick argued, it's important that African-Americans be represented in the TV incarnation of the World's Greatest Superheroes. I don't see him thinking to himself "Gee, black guys murder people all the time--why not have Black Lightning do something like that?" It just doesn't wash. Nor do I see him "deliberately" targeting a Tony Isabella creation for any reason. Tony seems to think that because he emailed Winick several months ago regarding his objection to the proposed storyline, Winick's refusal to amend the storyline is a purposeful slap in the face. I think Tony needs to realize that there's a difference between going out of one's way to irritate or offend someone and simply refusing to buckle if someone happens to be irritated or offended by what one is doing--particularly if one doesn't believe one's really doing anything wrong (or even just mistaken or dopey).

The larger problem with Tony's arguments, though, is the abuse he's been directing toward people who take issue with them. It appears that in Tony's view, no one who disagrees with him has a heart, much less a clue--they're all ignorant, or maliciously impugning his character, or both. To a certain degree, this line is to be expected from the somewhat irascible Isabella; politically, for example, he's a rabidly liberal attack dog who slings epithets at the "Wrong Wing" and the "Repugs" that'd make Michael Moore blush. In other words, he's not really in the business of admitting that the other side may be arguing in good faith. But that's an explanation, not an excuse, and this attitude will get him nowhere except with people who are predisposed to agree with his side of the story to begin with. If he really wants to successfully make his case, it simply won't do to get furious at people for not immediately agreeing to, say, the notion that a major corporation is pursuing a vendetta against this one guy who created a relatively obscure superhero a couple decades ago. Regardless of whether or not it's actually true, it is hard to believe at first glance, and "first glance" is exactly what most people are are now getting regarding this situation.

So when blogger Kevin Melrose questions whether Tony's feud with DC isn't really an Old Guard-New Guard thing, he's not "impugning" anything, particularly not Tony's "character"; he is questioning Tony's motives, and how that's "not deserving of a response" in an argument such as this is beyond me. Moreover, as Graeme McMillan points out, in his effort to take on DC's entire race-relations legacy, Tony's been making some unfair and misleading statements regarding the treatment of black characters versus the treatment of superheroes in general. If DC's malfeasance is as clear-cut as Tony says it is, it seems like he wouldn't have to resort to points like John Stewart's dithering leading to the destruction of a planet, particularly when the primary, white Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, went nuts and wiped out solar systems and such.

All that being said, Tony's got a lot on his side. The vagaries of the contracutal dealings between comics companies and comics creators at the time when Tony created Black Lightning leave him with a substantial stake--at the very least personal, and quite arguably legal and financial--in the future of that character. Historically he's been a lot more involved in what goes on with Black Lightning than most people would expect. Additonally, there does appear to be a history of bad blood between DC and Isabella, and regardless of who happens to be in the right, it's certainly conceivable that this grudge may come into play when Isabella or his creations come up in the course of plotting a book. And the lack of African-American superheroes of import or staying power is indeed an egregious one. Sending one of the few into the moral gray zone by turning him into an ersatz Punisher type makes building on this character's legacy genuinely problematic. Finally, the big comics companies do not exactly have an untrammelled history of supporting the rights of the creators who've worked for them, and I see very little reason to automatically assume this came to an end with Siegel & Shuster getting credit for Superman and Jack Kirby getting some of his pages back from Marvel. In other words, we shouldn't just write Tony off as a grumpy old crank who's upset that "they" are ruining his baby, even if, unfortunately, that's how he's coming across.

-----

Tussle Number Two involves James Sime, owner of the comic shop Isotope and writer of the column "The Comics Pimp." Sime's column details the methods he employs to drum up comics sales at his store and raise comics awareness in general. It has a tendency to employ drug, military, and (obviously) soliticitation metaphors, to swear, and to get very excited about the introduction of new ideas into the debate as to how to "save" comics. Bloggers Alan David Doane and John Pierce object, arguing that Sime's showy tactics and overheated rhetoric likely do more harm than good, that his methods are unproven and unsound, and that the whole enterprise is silly and self-congratulatory. (The meat of the "debate," if it can be called that in its current state, can be found here, at the Brian Wood Forum.)

I'll say this in Sime's defense--as over-the-top and obnoxious as the presentation may be, some of his ideas are, in fact, good ones. The one that gets bandied about the most--selling comics in airports, or as Sime might put it, SELLING COMICS IN FUCKING AIRPORTS!--is actually a great idea, though likely financially and possibly logistically impossible, given the stranglehold national chain retailers of all kinds seem to have on airport concessions; simply put, there is no national comic-book chain, and therefore I don't see any comic shops finding their way in there next to airport Bennigans' and airport W.H. Smiths and airport McDonalds'. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried, and apparently that's what Sime is doing. Moreover, it gets people thinking about the need for comics retailers and publishers to reconsider their venues, putting comics where people actually shop. It's part and parcel of SLG selling their goth comics in Hot Topic stores, or the graphic novel sections found in Virgin and Tower Records, and so on. If it can be done--granted, that's a big "if"--it would be fantastic for the business. UPDATE: forgot to mention this initially, but Alan isn't exactly known for calm, non-antagonistic discussion, and his own bravado played a part in the donnybrook that this discussion quickly became.

On the other hand, I don't think I even need to say how tedious the "guerilla marketing" and "pimpin' ain't easy" and "street teams attack public transportation" rhetoric is. God only knows how intelligent comics fans have come to see such bravado as the future of the medium--as though the ability to compete on the pop-cultural landscape is predicated on the degree to which one acts like a nightmare amalgamation of Eminem and a Battle-of-Seattle Black-Blocker. To a certain extent we can blame Warren Ellis, who virtually invented overheated-prose comics "activism" in his forum and its offshoots; perhaps we can also point the finger at Grant Morrison, who despite not really doing much activism on his own introduced the whole rockstar/radical/media-terrorist concept into comics in his series The Invisibles.

Here's the thing about that, though: the rockstar concept is an important route for the growth of comics, through prominent, intelligent, presentable, cool-looking comics creators. (Indeed, you can bet your sweet bippy that's the route I'll be taking on the road to funnybook domination.) However, it's important to keep rock-star brio and the attendant high profile of its possessors tethered to actual talent, which Morrison and Ellis (and Paul Pope and Alan Moore and so forth) have a great deal of. Stripped of talent, rockstar spectacle in comics can lead to the same empty, stupid crap that constitutes most other pop media--a world where Madonna can be mentioned in the same breath as Prince without people laughing in derision. (Seriously, when has Madonna recorded a single song as good as "Purple Rain," much less an entire album as good as Purple Rain? But since both stars enganged in high spectacle, and Madonna has been more successful at this than Prince in the long run, we have to endure column inch after column inch about Madge's flirtations with kabbalah and politics and motherhood and blah, blah, blah, as if she's actually an artist.)

The point is that most of Sime's ideas are unproven at best and (as in the case of leaving comics lying around on public transportation) transparently cost-ineffective and self-aggrandizing at worst. The idea that we should all clap our hands for him because he's "doing something for comics" or "trying something different" is just silly--in the words of The Muppets Take Manhattan, if you want to try something different, "put some Jell-O down your pants." We have to apply the same success-based, rational standards to comics activism that we would to any other (less flashy, or less worthy) endeavor. It shouldn't come as a surprise that "guerilla activism" of the Comics Pimp style comes up short just as do similar facets of boosterish activism--"Team Comix," "The New Mainstream," the Marvel method of Press Attention At Any Price, etc.

And it really should go without saying that the ad hominems leveled against Sime detractors by his supporters--in some cases, by high-profile professionals like AiT/PlanetLar founder Larry Young, Newsarama head Matt Brady, and comics creator Brian Wood, all of whom should know better--are stupid beyond words. Ridiculing blogs as narcissitic peanut-gallery ranting, getting into "what have you done for comics lately?" pissing matches, and generally speaking in the same "ROCKS!!!/SUCKS!!!" Beavis-and-Buttheadisms that so grate in Sime's original columns do nothing to shore up the notion that the Comics Pimp brand of activism is the wave of the future for intelligent comics and their fans.

Where the Monsters Go: Picking up the pieces


(now UPDATED with several more pieces)

I've got to tell you: It's a relief not to have to watch a movie today. Those two-hour chunks of time can be difficult to cram into your schedule, even a schedule as goofy as mine. And when it's mandatory, that introduces a whole nother level of stress into the proceedings. (I know, I know--wow, watching your favorite movies every day, what a drag.)

In all seriousness, though, I really enjoyed my little horrorblogging marathon. My mission, aside from providing some entertaining content for the blog, was to get back in touch with those films, and the part of me that loved watching them so much. Mission accomplished, without question. It was tremendously enjoyable to immerse myself in horror for that long, and I loved the debates and discussions that arose from the process. And, of course, the movies were good.

I'm also happy with the way I broke down the month. My original plan was to watch a horror movie a day for the duration of the month, which I quickly realized was asking way too much of my wife and my employers. The Missus suggested that I limit it to a 13-day countdown ending on Halloween, and also forced me to stick to this when it finally came time to select the Top 13 movies. Much as I hated whittling down my favorites to fit the guidelines, I think the overall 13 Days of Halloween project benefitted a great deal from the editing involved. From the comments I've received in the blogosphere, via email, and in the comments sections at Blogcritics, I did a good job, which is extremely gratifying to hear. (As I think I mentioned, I was very nervous about how florid my prose became, but with few exceptions people seemed to really enjoy the style, or at least what I was using it to say.)

That being said, it pretty much killed me to leave out Deliverance, Psycho, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Nightbreed, Taxi Driver, Summer of Sam, the little-seen biopic Dahmer, and the fantastic documentary The American Nightmare out of both the big list and the runner-up posts that allowed me to talk about Heavenly Creatures, The Thing, Jeepers Creepers, 28 Days Later, and Della'morte Dell'amore. I also would have loved to talk about the films of David Cronenberg, M. Night Shyamalan, Steven Spielberg, Brian DePalma, and (other than Lost Highway, which I did include) David Lynch--not to mention Night of the Hunter, Cries & Whispers, Rosemary's Baby, Jacob's Ladder, Shallow Grave, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Poltergeist, 1984, Day of the Dead, M, The Stand, Ghostbusters, Aliens, Batman.... Believe me when I tell you that the list goes on.

On the plus side, all the horror-related blogging this marathon helped inspire put a whole bunch of movies on my to-see list, the first time this has happened in such large quantities since college. I'm really looking forward to wading through the suggestions. Hell, maybe they'll give me something to talk about next October....

A few more links to wrap this all up. (Actually, I can't imagine that being the case--I have a feeling I'll be horrorblogging, albeit with less... intensity, for some time to come.)

Bill Sherman has two more posts commenting on my choices for the Top 13. The first focuses on Night of the Lving Dead, particularly on its chilling depiction of night itself; the second on the pros and cons of Lost Highway, The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Johnny Bacardi submits a gorgeous piece on horror comics (the second such piece to come out of the comicsphere in honor of Halloween, the first being Bill's). He also promises more analysis of my 13 Days, and I'm waiting not so patiently.

Jason Adams brings us a history of Halloween. Meanwhile, John Jakala agrees with Jason's assertion that given person's Ring/Ringu preference depends on which one that person saw first.

Jason Kimble joins the attack against anti-genre snobbery of the type that labels horror-genre films "genre-busting visions" if they happen to be any good.


Bruce Baugh becomes the latest person to unconsciously harrass me into buying the horror manga Uzumaki. (Speaking of which, John Jakala, I haven't gotten Tomie in the mail yet....)


In an oldie but goodie, Kathy "Relapsed Catholic" Shaidle calls The Exorcist a Western. Interesting, though interpretations of The Exorcist lose points for arguing that the film is not scary, which is just preposterous.

Eve Tushnet continues our debate about the morality, or lack thereof, of Grosse Pointe Blank, and also explains why she prefers Stephen King's The Shining to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. (If you're interested, my favorite King books are It, The Stand, Night Shift and Skeleton Crew--I always say that he's at his best when he's over 1,000 pages or under 100--though as far as the regular-length novels go I like 'Salem's Lot and Christine.) She also says she hasn't seen The Exorcist, which she must do. At night.

Steven Bissette is a legendary, now-retired horror-comics artist whose passion for and interest in the genre clearly hasn't waned. He gives an interview to Comic Book Resources that is one of the most fascinating and intelligent examples of horror theory and criticism I've ever seen. He defines the genre too broadly for my tastes (yes, there are parts of Jimmy Corrigan and Maus that are horrifying, but define them as "horror" and the word has lost its ability to describe a proper genre), but other than that it's just great reading.

Finally, two last things:

A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all the bloggers and readers who praised the work I did on Where the Monsters Go and The 13 Days of Halloween. Your kind words, and your contributions to the discussion, truly made the project worthwhile.

And a note for all those who were genuinely in suspense regarding my choice for The Scariest Movie I've Ever Seen: That's what the search function is for! Boo!

November 4, 2003

Where the Monsters Go: Requiem

Like the guys running around the mall in Dawn of the Dead, I'm continuing the mopping-up operation.

Bill Sherman and Johnny Bacardi have finished their thoughtful film-by-film responses to my 13 Days of Halloween movie selections. Bill uses the occasion to propose three categories for horror fans: old-schoolers, thrill-seekers, and purists. (You can guess which category I fall into.) He's also got some thought-provoking comments on the differing tactics of The Shining and Blair Witch, by way of explaining why he prefers the latter. Johnny, meanwhile, runs down my top six, with an eye on how the venues in which one sees such films can affect how effective you view them to be. He also offers critical beatdowns of Nicholson's performance in The Shining (the way his character is written and performed is a sticking point for many Shining detractors) and, in a separate post worth reading for his hilarious description of the film's central fright device as "a weird Nine Inch Nails video" alone, The Ring. He also adds Last House on the Left and The Devil's Backbone to my must-see list....

Jason Adams is also responding to the horrorthon, with a series of posts commenting on my choices and suggesting his own. The first takes issue with the climax and priestly protagonists of The Exorcist, which in my opinion are the two strongest aspects of the film. However, he does raise (mainly in his second post) the interesting issue of how Ellen Burstyn's mother character is shuffled offstage while the Men of God duke it out with the Devil. Do you think a message is being conveyed there? I sure do. Still, Jason Miller's performance is too heartbreaking, and that climax too crescendoingly terrifying, to write them off just because Burstyn's powerful presence was absent. Anyway, post #2 also nominates Frenzy (onto the gotta-see list with ye!) over both Psycho and The Birds as the most appalling Hitchcock film, which in both of our books is ultimately a good thing to be. Jason's third post nominates and subsequently rejects Rosemary's Baby, Seven, and The Game as the movies that most horrified him, and finally goes with Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream. I'd say that the latter two have to go on that to-see list, but I'm starting to sound like a broken record, aren't I?

The two Daves of The Intermittent offer dueling posts on the failure of comics to generate truly horrifying moments, and on what makes for a horrifying moment generally. Dave Intermittent says that it's hard for comics to shock the reader with anywhere near the force that film can, and that the medium therefore has emphasized "conceptual horror," which as he delineates it is more effective when focusing on the horror of awful human behavior. Dave Jon tries to trump his colleague's arguments by saying that yeah, comics can shock, and they can disturb, and they can fail at both too--ultimately it's in the eye of the beholder. This is of course true, but the same can be said of any kind of emotional or intellectual response engendered by art--"beauty" and "goodness" and "suckiness" and whatever else is all ultimately in the eye of the beholder. The job of the critic is to sift through her own responses to find out what is prompting them, and why, and whether this can be extrapolated to other art. I don't think this is as useless or reductive an enterprise as Dave J. seems to suggest. But as to his rhetorical question of "what is horror?", I recommend Noel Carroll's masterful book The Philosophy of Horror and H.P. Lovecraft's seminal treatise Supernatural Horror in Literature. Taken together, they're offer the best definition of what makes horror-art horrifying around, and I can't stress strongly enough how much people who are really serious about the scary stuff should read these.

I've been thinking about Eve Tushnet's comments on our difference of opinion re: Kubrick's The Shining, specifically how she wants films about sin, not Calvinism, and how I have a much higher tolerance for "random, absurd evil" than she does. You know what? This makes a great deal of sense. In my struggles with Christianity and the notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God, I've never been able to buy the tortuous logic by which Catholicism and the mainstream Protestants say "see? it really does all make sense, and it's good, honest." I think that when you accept the basic precepts of Judeo-Christian monotheism, you've either got to go the completely nonjudgmental, essentially nondenominational route my wife has, or the predestination route of the Calvinists; everything in between is a dodge born out of unwillingness to actually follow the "logic" of faith to its inevitable, contradictory conclusions. (A succint example would be this whole "God didn't create evil, since evil is just the absesnce of good" jive--what, is Creation like a condom with airbubbles in it that He got too excited and forgot to smooth out?) I'm an unbeliever, mainly, yeah, but nevertheless I'm still not satisfied with my unbelief; so I see a real appeal in the essential capriciousness of the universe present in what I guess Eve would call "Calvinist horror." Sin, meanwhile, I see as nothing but a bonafide racket. (I've got very, very little use for guilt and shame, even though that's pretty much what shapes my whole personality if you ask my therapist; honor and duty--that's another story entirely.) So to sum up: I like The Shining. (If that was confusing, my apologies. Hey, there's a reason I don't talk about religion all that much around here.)

Finally, it was truly an honor to see Dirk Deppey break his comics-only commandments to compliment the horror-blogging I've been doing. Seriously, if he'd started a thread on the topic he'd have been booted off his own messageboard. Damn the Man, Dirk! And thank you! (And another movie, Audition, gets added to the list....)

November 5, 2003

Again, because it's good

Amanda's post on Lucy, our cat, moved me to tears.

Life and death

Another powerful post from Amanda, this one on the aftermath of the Green River killings. Worth reading, and more than once if, like me, you sometimes find that your "fascination" with serial killers causes you to gloss over the pain felt by their victims, both living and dead.

In defense of blogs, kinda sorta

My guess is that you've noticed this already, but the comics blogosphere has exploded recently. I think it's doubled in size since September or so, no kidding. Perhaps, then, it's a good time to point out why blogs are, when done right, good--and not, as their detractors claim, just a bunch of assholes on soapboxes barking at the moon without bothering with discussion or dissent.

I don't know what blogs you've been reading, but I'm pretty sure that if they're any good (and I try to make mine "any good") there's discussion and differences of opinion aplenty. I'm unapologetic about the fact that my blog has no comments feature and no messboard or forum: This is a dictatorship, not a democracy, and a big part of the attraction of running a blog the way I run mine is to not have to put up with trolls, either of the straightforward namecalling variety or the TCJ.com type who hijack every thread about topics they don't approve of into endless, resolution-free arguments about whether that topic even deserves to be discussed in the first place.

That being said, I ASSURE you that the discussions and differences of opinion I've encountered through the use of my un-user-friendly, heavily-moderated blog are, on average, about a billion times more interesting, intelligent, and rewarding than messboard discussions I've participated on about those same topics, or any other topic, for that matter. The comicsphere is diverse, articulate, insightful, and demanding of high quality from comics. The discussions and debates that have gone on between me, Dirk Deppey, Bill Sherman, Alan David Doane, Johnny Bacardi, Eve Tushnet, Franklin Harris, NeilAlien, Jim Henley, John Jakala, David Fiore, JW Hastings, Shawn Fumo, Tegan Gjovaag and on and on (links in the blogroll) are, I submit, the best comics-related discussions you're likely to find--and they've been waged, in the main, through posts on blogs. (UPDATE: I think it's also important to note, given what appears to be becoming conventional wisdom about comicsbloggers, that as a group these are some of the most passionate, enthusiastic advocates of good comics around. Hell, you could even call me an "activist" if you wanted....)

I think a problem that most people who don't like "blogs" have is that they picture the least-good blog imaginable and attack that as the norm: Blogs that discuss an article or issue without linking to it, blogs that pontificate and then don't link to or respond to worthwhile counterarguments, etc. Ted Rall did something exactly like that--saying blogs take stuff out of context, crush free speech, etc. (before, of course, with the charming hypocrisy that has become his trademark, he launched a blog of his own). In that Comics Pimp thread at the Brian Wood forums, Matt Brady just did the same thing, saying that Doane's little "dancing monkey" gag wouldn't be clicked through to the original post by its readers--ignorant of the fact that a one-line link is THE link most likely to be clicked through by blog readers, since on the whole such readers really DO want to know the context of things.

I'm not one of these "blogging is the future" people, but I will say that in my experience blogs are a far more useful means of discussing a topic with other intelligent people than any other venue on the web.

I guess we're just adding horror to the list of regular blogging topics, then

Early in October, blogger Bruce Baugh promised to do a bunch of horrorblogging for the remainder of the month. That fell by the wayside, but it looks like he's making up for lost time now: here's a post on horror as a means of expressing grief ("that was worthwhile, and now it's gone"), here's a post on 28 Days Later that pays attention to the unusually strong characterization in the film, and here's a post on the most recent David Cronenberg movie, Spider, which I haven't seen (and which is just going to have to go to the back of the Netflix cue like everyone else).

And now for something, etc.

Amanda has written a truly moving post about our little cat, Lucy. I've got to say, I've been thinking and writing a lot about casual cruelty lately, but Amy brings the reality of it home.

Now that's horror

Gary Ridgway has confessed to the Green River killings. For those of you who aren't unhealthily obsessed with serial killers, the Green River Killer was for years the unsolved mystery in the American serial-murder demimonde; like Jack the Ripper several times over, "he" was deemed responsible for so many slayings (mainly of prostitutes) that it was widely believed (and by legendary FBI serial-killer expert Jack Douglas) that "he" was actually a "they," two or more different serial killers with roughly the same M.O. and area of activity.

Actually, I still wonder whether "they" is the real deal here. Ridgeway pled guilty to 48 counts of first-degree murder mainly so he could avoid the death penalty, and I'd imagine there are many, many law enforcement officials happy to see this case closed. (Since the Green River killings stopped years ago, there's not even really an issue of "we got the wrong guy!" to worry about.) It's also worth noting that there are at least 7 "official" Green River slayings that Ridgeway did not plead guilty to, and God knows how many other killings took place that didn't make it onto law enforcement's tally (Ridgeway pled to six such cases himself).

At any rate, if you're interested in this case you could do worse than to read over CrimeLibrary.com's thorough run-down of the Green River Killer. The site has recently been redone, and it's user-friendly and fascinating. Let's just hope they're able to add an epilogue to this story that will stand the test of time.

While we're on the subject


Great Garys in Serial-Killing History, Volume II: Gary Heidnik

The Missus's "Favorite" Serial Killer: Albert Fish

Serial Killer Most Likely to Have Bumped Into Jimmy Corrigan's Grandpa at the Chicago World's Fair: H.H. Holmes

Harry Chapin's Unlikely Muse: Charles Whitman

Who Inspired Hannibal Lecter?: the candidates

All links courtesy of the indispensable CrimeLibrary.com.

Despair Is The New Enthusiasm

No sooner have bloggers and the Comics Pimp been duking it out over the best way to convey the message that Comics Doesn't Suck than messboard users and still other bloggers are coming to the conclusion that You Know What? Yeah, Comics Does Suck. These threads at TCJ.com and this one at Sequential Tart advance the meme; John Jakala and Johnny Bacardi can't help but ponder the same imponderables (thanks to Rick Geerling for linkage).

Me? Well, alls I can say is that today was a pretty great haul at the comics shop, one of the best New Comics Days in a while for me: Powers, Alias, Ultimate Spider-Man, Savage Dragon, Supreme Power, and Arrowsmith; I've been avoiding collections for financial reasons lately, but a collection of Matrix comix and Gilbert Hernandez's monstrous Palomar collection just came out today as well, and the last month or so has seen oodles of great trades tempt my comics-buying dollar.

I don't blame people for suddenly getting sick of the amount of crappy comics, or even just not-great comics, they've been buying more out of habit than anything else--this happens to all of us from time to time. I just think it's a mistake to ascribe the decision to stop buying them to some sort of searing insight into comics versus other media. This goes double because, when you're in a bad mood about comics in general, I'm you end up being much harder on specific comics than they deserve.

I have something of a professional (and, in the case of the blog, serious-hobbyist) obligation to keep on top of comics, both for the the publication I write for and for my own aspirations to writing comics professionally. I'm lucky enough to have a great deal of this mitigated by financial compensation for many of the things I purchase in order to keep abreast of the medium. Still, I occasionally feel jaded by how much inessential stuff I've accumulated. On a week-to-week basis I find I've purged a lot of this feeling by no longer buying no-longer-interesting titles. Mainly, though, I just enjoy the heck out of a lot of comics, and those I'm still buying.

In those TCJ.com threads, scholar Andrei Molotiu is dead right about being a devotee of an entire medium--that really is silly. That's the fatal flaw of comics activism, too: Comics is worthy of consideration the same way film, literature, TV, music etc. are, but that's something that will be proven to the world at large, if it ever will, by the strengths of individual works, not some vague devotion to Comics. And it's the former, not the latter, that keeps me excited to visit the shop every Wednesday morning.



UPDATE: Please note that I'm not just some comics-hating curmudgeon who hasn't Done His Part--I'm actually something of an activist myself. Here's the deal: I really do think that "comics activism," which even when you just write it or say it is self-evidently silly, is sort of dumb.  I like to think that what I
do for a living is "activist" to a degree--I interview comics creators for a mainstream publication with a big circulation amongst a readership that's about as far from the traditional comics audience (superhero and altcomix alike) as you can get. But when I write and edit these things, I try to avoid statements like "see, comics ARE good/cool!" as much as I can. When we run an interview with a cartoonist or writer, we acknowledge that most people aren't going to be familiar with their work, so we lay out a bit of what they're doing and why it's interesting, but this isn't really any different from what we do for the more obscure bands we do, or straight-literature authors, or scholars like Slavoj Zizek and Michael Hardt and Camille Paglia, or whoever else.  After setting the scene we just get out of the way and talk about the creator and his work the way we would about any other artist and art form.  In my experience this works best--not shoving The New Mainstream in people's face and screaming that this is what they should be buying to take with them on the commute or whatever.

November 6, 2003

Two comics-related things that I can't fit anywhere else

Stuart Moore runs the numbers on the direct market and trade paperbacks, proving my long-time theory that American comics companies will remain beholden to floppy/pamphlet/monthly/individual issue comics, as opposed to more book-like tpb or manga formats, for some time to come.

Also, this comic is funny, because nothing on God's Earth is funnier than someone masturbating, then crying. (Courtesy of John Jakala.)

It's Miller Time

Interesting reviews of the work of Frank Miller were posted by two different writers today.

J.W. Hastings continues his series (one, two) of "comics ain't for kids" grudge-match tandem reviews of the work of Miller and his contemporary Alan Moore. This time, Miller comes out on top. Generally speaking, I'm all for that--Miller is my favorite comics creator, so much so that any time I attempt to explain why I lapse into semi-incoherence. J.W. is right to criticize Moore's lack of tonal variation within the confines of a given story--with pretty much any Moore book (excepting, perhaps, Smax?) you can quickly determine what kind of comic you'll be getting--funny, scary, retro, revisionist, etc--without fear that this will change at all before "The End." I also enjoyed the way J.W. skewers the occult/conspiracy angle of Moore's Jack the Ripper epic From Hell, which given the seriousness Moore invests in the topic can come across as simultaneously simplistic and pretentious; and additionally I dug the way he goes after the "this is a comic you don't have to be ashamed of!" crowd by saying, essentially, "just get over yourself." But I think J.W. sells From Hell, which I think is in every way a remarkable comic, way too short, particularly in comparing it so unfavorably to Miller's enjoyable, powerful, but nowhere near as complex or rewarding Ancient Greece war comic 300. Please keep in mind that I'm a lot more receptive to Miller's emphasis on loyalty, courage, and honor (which, by the way, is a more nuanced take than anyone gives it credit for) than I am to Moore's mystical-radical hodgepodge (though I'm receptive to that too)--it's just that in this case I think Moore & Campbell produced a monstrously successful, and important, book.

(I also tend to agree with Alan David Doane's view that Miller's final Daredevil story, Man Without Fear, feels like a redundant coda rather than an essential contribution; to me, Miller said everything he needed to say about Daredevil and his milieu in the astounding Elektra Lives Again. On the other hand, as an excuse for some of the most gorgeous and propulsive superhero artwork in the world, courtesy of a never-better John Romita, Jr., you can't do much worse than this.)

Writer number two is Chris Allen, who, in the course of a very long column that also includes a spot-on take-down of World War 3 Illustrated and an interesting interview with internet critic Johanna Draper Carlson, reviews Miller's Dark Knight Returns and Dark Knight Strikes Again. I was glad to see that Allen enjoyed the former, which he was revisiting after years without having read the book. I myself return to it time and again, and find each visit rewarding (the masterful pacing, the tremendous linework, the splash pages, the manically black humor, and, yeah, the message). So I was bummed out to see Chris jump on the DK2-bashing bandwagon. This is one of the most underrated comics, well, ever. Its detractors employ a panoply of arguments: It's hurried, it's sloppy, it's stupid, it's hamfisted, it's cashing in, it's corporate. (Those last two are inexplicable to me--if Miller wanted to really just cash in he could have handed in something exactly like DK1; and what kind of corporation wants to release a comic in which Batman flies planes into buildings and Superman and Wonder Woman destroy a mountain while fucking?) What they miss is that Miller almost single-handedly wrested superheroes away from the leaden reverence they've been saddled with by Alex Ross and his ilk and produced a comic that's the spandex set's equivalent of Iggy & the Stooges' Raw Power. Nothing is true, everything is permissible: Characters scream and shout and let it all hang out, as does the art (panels are obliterated, inking is chunky as hell, and of course Lynn Varley subjects her Photoshop to a panoptic gang-bang), as does the storyline, which begins with Batman and his superhero pals beating the snot out of Superman and then just gets crazier from there. Chris argues that Miller's refusal to acknowledge, say, the current Flash and Green Lantern secret identities, smacks of "arrogance"--and I say, shit, yeah. What the hell is wrong with us if we think that Wally West and Kyle Rayner deserve "respect" or something? That way lies madness. Miller isn't saying "comics are better the way I remember them"--he's saying "comics are better when you break free of the obligation to capital-R Remember anything." He's thumbing his nose at the self-reflexive, self-aggrandizing superhero-continuity establishment, and showing that the important thing for superhero comics to do is to ROCK. I, for one, was rocked indeed.

Things to remember about Saddam Hussein

Where Christopher Hitchens gets the patience to enumerate the innumerable reasons why Saddam Hussein's regime needed to be destroyed, and why the arguments agains this action all contain the seeds of their own refutation, is beyond me, but thank goodness he gets it somehow.

Then again, Hitchens is probably just one of those national-greatness types, hellbent on turning the United States into a Baathist regime.

Green River Revisited

Tegan Gjovaag has written her own tremendous post on the Green River killings, reminding us that the dead and their families were only the tip of the iceberg when it came to "the vicitms."

Two brouhahas reduxhahas

The comicsphere is getting esoteric all of a sudden. We've moved on from Tony Isabella and The Comics Pimp to trying to determine whether or not blogs and comics both actually suck.

My two cents on both topics can be found here and here, along with some links; and more folks are jumping into the fray.

Defending Blogs, we find D. Emerson Eddy and Rick Geerling. D. opts against the simple defense I offered--that good blogs are, in fact, quite good indeed--and instead argues that the mere fact that blogs are a means by which people can express themselves, for good or for ill, makes them worthwhile; Rick brings it back down to earth by recounting how the blogosphere lacks the idiotic initiation rituals and name-calling atmosphere of message boards and such.

On the "Sick of Comics" front, there's Rick again, saying that the last few months have been a dry spell for him but that these things are cyclical; Ron Phillips, pinning his disillusionment on the fact that they don't make comics shops like they used to; and Alan David Doane, pointing out that you know what? this has been a good year for comics, at least in the alternative arena.

I tend to be optimistic about these kinds of things, but then I'm also optimistic about the new Matrix movie, so take that for whatever you think it's worth.

November 7, 2003

Speech patterns

This was the speech I've been waiting for during long months of wishing I was governed by Tony Blair. It articulates nearly everything that needed to be articulated about why we're doing what we're doing, and why it needs to be done. Someone up there gets it.

And yet those same voices who complained for years about our coddling of dictatorships the world over--and rightly so--are beside themselves with rage now that there's an administration who's actually doing something about it. No, they're not doing everything, and they're not doing it perfectly, but it's a start, and a good one.

A Wolf at the door

This anti-porn article by Naomi Wolf has been making the blogosphere rounds lately, most recently by way of a dismissal of it at The Intermittent. I'm of two minds about this.

On the one hand, I'm a lot more sympathetic to Wolf than most people, and even many feminists, seem to be. This is because I found The Beauty Myth, her book about how the fashion, diet, entertainment, and cosmetics industries essentially generate neurosis in women to fuel their respective economic engines, both compelling and convincing. It does not hurt that I've seen this in action, live and in person, with my wife, who without putting too fine a point on it was driven to slow suicide with the help of the standard of "beauty" propogated by contemporary culture. The current wave of "lighten up!" sentiment is well taken when it's used against the stifling of dissent that's part and parcel of political correctness, but when it ignores or ridicules the real, demonstrable damage done to real, demonstrable women by unrealistic, impossible standards of appearance and behavior, it's something to fight against, not for.

And Wolf's article points out many things to be feared about the pervasive influence of pornography on our culture. I guarantee you that high school and college age girls now feel compelled to kiss each other to turn guys on. This is not some victory for the sexual revolution--well, it may be for some girls who are genuinely bisexual or even lesbian--it's just forcing yet another unrealistic, male-dictated sex role on women who ultimately have little say in the matter if they want to be valued as sexually attractive beings. I've talked about this before in the context of MTV (the Tatu and Madonna/Britney/Christina bullshit), but it seems reasonable to suggest that porn has helped raise the demand for this sort of behavior among men--aided and abetted, of course, by the pop-culture media that jerks itself off about such things (Rolling Stone, anyone?). Finally, there's certainly an argument to be made that while porn is interesting and arousing, PORN! as trumpeted on the covers of every New York City-based glossy and beamed into our homes in countless salacious MTV and E! and Dateline reports and staring down at us in the shape of a 200-foot Jenna Jameson billboard in Times Square is a tedious, anti-sensual bore, just like trucker hats and Ashton Kutcher.

But Wolf also evinces what appears to be a strange and, I think, unhealthy aversion to sex practices that have little or nothing to do with pornography. Listen to the way she seems to shudder as she discusses the idea of using orifices other than the vagina for sexual gratification, or the prospect of having one's face ejaculated upon. I've never been able to figure out what's so degrading or demeaning or insulting or dominating about any of these things. They aren't degrading or demeaning or insulting or controlling at all--if you're doing it right. They can, and maybe even should, be a part of any sexually healthy person's repertoire of giving and receiving pleasure. Personal preferences may vary, and no one should do anything they find physically or emotionally uncomfortable, but Wolf appears to suggest that there's something intrinsically wrong with these things, beyond the clear wrong of feeling pressured to do them.

This vague sense that sex is somehow dirty or bad is reinforced by her effusive praise of an orthodox Jewish friend of hers who has adopted the strict dress code and head-covering routine of that religion. Wolf breathlessly describes how "hot" it must be for this woman to only be visible, sexually, to her husband. I don't think I need to suggest that you simply substitute "fundamentalist Muslim" and "burqa" for "orthodox Jewish" and "head-covering" for the bizarrely retrograde and repressive nature of this notion to be readily apparent. I'm all for women covering up if that's what they feel like doing, but fundamentalist religions make not doing so a sin, something intrinsically wrong and bad. There's nothing hot about that at all, particularly since such rules of dress and conduct usually applies a lot more stringently to women than they do to men. And the idea that this kind of covering-up is for the wife's benefit as opposed to the husband's (his property, his alone to enjoy) is simply preposterous. (I don't mean to suggest that orthodox Jews are akin to the Taliban or the ayatollahs--I've heard of very few honor killings in Crown Heights, just by way of a for instance--but you'll forgive me if I have very little respect for religions that prove how "special" women are by forcing them to shroud themselves like dead bodies at a crime scene.)

As for the notion that men are being "spoiled" by porn and are no longer attracted to real live women, I've seen some anecdotal evidence of this, but in my experience and in that of most guys i know, seeing sexy women makes us more interested in being with sexy women, not less. At any rate, if the prevalence of male-directed porn is truly a problem, to me the answer is more porn, not less--and this time of the female-centric variety. And not just porn, either, but Maxim-style magazines where the latest male starlets are paraded around half naked and airbrushed for the perusal of bored women commuters; sitcoms where dimpy, annoying women are married to gorgeous, intelligent men and not the other way around; Justin Timberlake making out with David Bowie; and so forth. Women are not going to be sexually empowered by sticking them in head coverings and nuking the Internet so men have no other options; they're going to be empowered when they take the reigns of sexual culture and are free to explore and demonstrate what they find sexy, not what they're supposed to find sexy--pornography and puritanism be damned.

Comix and match: Special "Malaise & More!" Edition!

The little meme that could continues to spark discussion as more bloggers jump into the "do comics actually suck?" fray, and earlier contributors refine their original statements. Here's Johnny Bacardi on the trials and travails of buying comics on an unemployed person's budget. Here's Kevin Melrose on how bad bad retailers can be for comics (the post also touches on Pimpgate--joy!). Here's Eve Tushnet on what's wrong with floppies. Here's Ron Phillips, taking a view on all the negativity that's roughly equivalent to Clemenza's view on the upcoming war between the families in The Godfather. And here's the man who started it all, John Jakala, saying "My God, what have I done?" and clarifying that he's only as fed up (or not) with comics as he is (or isn't) with every other art form. On the upside, here's Tegan Gjovaag, defending both floppies and Diamond's pre-ordering system as embodied by Previews. It ain't all gloom and doom!

In other news:

My defense of DK2 is seconded by Dirk Deppey, who offers ebullient praise for Miller's controversial book himself as part of an exceptionally entertaining day at Journalista. And mine and Chris Allen's dueling reviews of the book are being discussed at the V forum.

Entertaining capusle reviews from Jim Henley (particularly insightful regarding the unsatisfying wrap-up of the actual Purple Man storyline in the final issue of Brian Bendis's excellent Alias), and from Big Sunny D (on the mess that is the current X-Statix storyline), and from Eve Tushnet (Grant Morrison and Ultimate Spider-Man, pros and cons thereof). Eve also offers entertaining capsule summaries of the appeal and drawbacks of different superheroes. She's wrong about Ultimate Spider-Man in both posts, though, because that book is awesome. (Wrong about Batman, too.)

Over on the Comics Journal message board, there's a thread that's equal parts horrifying and hysterical about the problems the New York Press has been having with paying and firing its freelance illustrators. In my experience in publishing, when it comes to arguments about this sort of thing, the freelancers are almost always in the right. Just keep that in mind.

November 8, 2003

Horrorshow

Well, the big news here is that I received a link from the mighty Corner, The National Review's group blog. Mike Potemra comments on my discussion with Eve Tushnet of the Calvinist/arbitrary horror in Kubrick's The Shining. This precipitates a discussion about Kubrick, Tarantino, Un Chien Andalou, etc. with Jonah Goldberg. (What does the fact that I'm actually pleased about getting linked to by NRO say about post-9/11 politics? That's a topic for another post, I'm afraid.)

Bruce Baugh talks Wicker Man, pointing out two subtle strengths of a movie with many. He also reviews The Eye, yet another Asian horror film I've heard good things about, and Dario Argento's Suspiria. (The only Argento I've seen is Deep Red, an experience which took a lot out of me. Man, that bathtub scene is... unpleasant.)

Big Sunny D talks about the ways your viewing conditions affect your receptivity to horror movies (a very important point, i think), and refuses to give up hope for a horror comic as scary as a really great horror film.

Rick Geerling asks whether less is more in horror, in terms of both what is shown and what is explained. The consensus seems to be that sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is more--it just depends on the intent and the execution. That's my take on it, as a cursory glance at the films on my list might suggest. But beyond the fact that I like horror films that take a wide range of approaches to showing and explaining the horror, it seems that I tend to prefer films that show quite a bit and explain very little. But that's not a hard and fast rule.

Finally, the Malaysian government has banned horror fiction (link courtesy of Dirk Deppey). Apparently they've decided that their revolting brand of Islamic quasitheocracy is scary enough.

Personal to Jim Henley

"And this would have solved things how?"

By winning, Jim. By beating them. That's how problems caused by armed people killing us are solved, generally, not by retreating behind Fortress America and congratulating ourselves for no longer "abridging liberty" while lunatic theocratic fascists skullfuck their subjects with impunity.

Or do those folks' liberties not count? This is an aspect of the antiwar libertarian argument I've never understood. That, and the Confederacy fetish. I dunno, maybe I'm still a pinko at heart.

Uh, how 'bout that Alias storyline, huh? :)

November 9, 2003

News Flash

The War On Drugs is an obscene, violent, Orwellian, unconstitutional sham. Film at 11.

Also: Is the "Bush lied about the imminent threat" meme an imminent threat to my ability to take Democrats seriously ever again? Andrew Sullivan reports, you decide.

Porn again

Amanda follows up on the Naomi Wolf controversy with a comprehensive, convincing dismantlement of Porn As We Know It. Among other things she points out the fact that insofar as the clitoris isn't so much as a blip on the porn-flick radar screen, it isn't doing anyone any favors--if you're using porn as your normative standard for how sexual pleasure is given and received, women get gypped, and men aren't even aware they're gypping the women. (You've also got your basic inadequate sex-ed curriculum to thank for this. Remember the lesson on clitoral stimulation? Yeah, me neither. So teenage girls nationwide go through their teenage years getting jabbed at by their special fellas, wondering what all the fuss is about.)

Amy's post is basically a close reading of porn, and it ain't pretty. However, she also disagrees with Wolf's apparent embrace of religious orthodoxy as something "hot." Essentially we're all looking for maximum sexual choice and fulfillment, and neither fundamentalism nor mandated money shots are going to get us there.

November 10, 2003

Start taking notes, Jonny

This weekend a friend mentioned that Rufus Wainwright's new album, Want One--specifically the orgiastically magnificent "Go or Go Ahead"--is the kind of music Radiohead should be doing. The Missus and I both agree, wholeheartedly. Hail to the Thief might have its moments, but Wainwright's manically inventive production and lovely, exotic vocals eat that record alive. "Bolero," the Brill Building, Brahms, and Britney Spears all find their way in there at one point or another (though Britney, fortunately, is just a one-off reference, not a musical inspiration). It's tough to talk about individual songs for all that, though; this is an album that's meant to be taken in as a whole. (That won't stop me from picking "Oh What a World," "I Don't Know What It Is," "Movies of Myself," "Go or Go Ahead," "Vibrate," and "Beautiful Child" as the best orchestral rock songs since OK Computer, though.) This one's a must, music fans.

Also picked up the Strokes's Room on Fire. If that's a fire, it's a negative-four alarmer, man. Where's the urgency? Compared to the first record, which had more hooks than the prop department for a revival of Peter Pan, this one, well, plods. Not plods, exactly--it just kinda putters along, with most every song consisting of slapped-together arrangements of different notes each played eight times in a row. On the other hand, it is growing on me. A couple of songs are obviously great, in the spirit of Is This It--this would be the very nervous sounding "Reptilia" and the album-closing "I Can't Win"--and the two Cars homages are entertaining too. There's a decent ballad in there as well, "Under Control," which uses a "Moby Dick"-esque drum lick for good measure. It's not as good as Is This It, the album it is inexplicably called a clone of by critic after critic, but it's good nonetheless.

And that Outkast double el-pee is pretty good, too. I've never been as wild about Outkast as many people seem to be: sure, they've come up with amazing unclassifiable songs like "Bombs Over Baghdad," and great hip-hop stuff like "So Fresh, So Clean," but for all that you have to put up with a lot of meandering stuff that never gets off the ground and (the bane of modern-day hip-hop) skits galore. (And no one will ever be able to explain to me why "The Whole World" was recorded, much less released as a single off a greatest-hits package.) However, I'm pretty happy with Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. I think they work best if you really do listen to it as a double album and not just two records that came in the same case. There's actually something of a flow, an expansion of ideas as the former gives way to the latter. And "Hey Ya!" is every bit as good as "B.O.B.", possibly better, and "Prototype" doesn't just peter out the way so many hip-hop songs do, for which I was profoundly grateful, and Big Boi's "GhettoMusick" is just as weird as anything Andre 3000 came up with, which took me by surprise.

And there's also Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism to talk about. I've only just gotten into Death Cab, thanks to lead singer Ben Gibbard's wonderful emotronica side project the Postal Service, so I don't have a whole lot to compare it to; but from what I've gathered from fans (and from a few listens to its predecessor, The Photo Album), Transatlanticism is a breakthrough. Ambitious and intimate in equal measure, each song is a lot more "song"-ish than previous efforts, there are surprisingly Beatleish/Lennonish moments, and it's got a crescendoing 8-minute title song centerpiece that ends in a swelling chorus of "Come on." I think it's a beautiful album.

November 11, 2003

But Mister Ed will never speak unless he has something to say

Comics! Yeah.

Johnny Bacardi didn't like The Dark Knight Strikes Again one bit, and tells me and Dirk Deppey so in no uncertain terms. Johnny, I think you're misinterpreting both the target of Miller's ire and his motives for expressing it. I don't see the book as a "take the money and run" toss-off at all--Miller has explicitly stated that the lo-fi look of the altcomix at SPX were a big inspiration here, so I don't think it's fair to say that he just crapped this out because he was irritated with the demand for him to do a superhero comic and wanted to get back to "ancient Greece and Elmore Leonard." If there's a single comics professional alive who could spend the rest of his whole life doing any goddamn thing he chose, it's Frank Miller. He only returned to Batman because he wanted to, and he only wanted to, I think, because he felt the whole damn thing needed to be blown up and started over again. Re-read the exchange between Wonder Woman and Superman in which WW berates Supes for basically becoming a boring pussy--that's Frank Miller talking to the people who make superhero comics, not the people (like you and I, Johnny) who still read them hoping to be entertained.

Johnny also takes issue with the way David Fiore compares Alex Ross to Leni Riefenstahl. Please forgive me if I don't dive into this debate with the gusto you might expect from someone who is such an enthusiastic devotee of comics and enemy of fascism, but Christ on a crutch, I've seen this argument on the Comics Journal messboard so many times I could plotz. The crux of the debate seems to me to center on whether or not certain artistic techniques (specifically heroic portraits of powerful, physically fit people shot from low angles) are inherently fascist, a notion that always seemed ridiculous to me. It came up a lot during my film school days in terms of the award ceremony sequence at the end of Star Wars. Yes, that scene was cribbed from Riefenstahl's work, but seeing as how the award ceremony celebrated the defeat of a fascist regime, it seems to me you'd have to go through a lot of "but-but-but"s to explain how this is, in fact, National Socialism with Wookiees. (This goes double because of all the big movies made by the maverick late-60s/1970s generation of American directors, this is the only one I can think of in which the revolution actually succeeds.) It's no more a fascist film than The Godfather is Communist because it cribbed montage techniques from Eisenstein. Similarly, it seems silly to argue that Ross is a fascist (i've seen it be done, believe me) because you can see the bottom of his characters' chins, which is why I don't think that's what David is arguing--what he's saying is that Ross's work promotes uncritical valuation of heroes for their hero-ness. I think that's a fair critique--judging from interviews with the fellow Ross seems to be a bright, insightful guy with altogether too much "respect" for the superheroes he's made a living off of, as though he truly believes the "modern Pantheon" myth-marketing scheme his work has helped create. I don't think that's particularly healthy, but nor do I think it's particularly fascist. (Seems to me a far more cogent criticism of his work would be that the men all look like gym teachers, the women all look like guards at a women's correctional facility, and ambient white light finds its way everygoddamnwhere in every one of his paintings, like sand when you get home from the beach.)

November 12, 2003

Reportage

I've been meaning to say something about MSNBC's Bob Arnot for some time now. Of all the reporters currently covering Iraq (and I only really watch NBC and MSNBC, because I don't get any other cable news nets and, well, they play Imus in the Morning), he's far and away the one who covers the successes (and there are many) with anything resembling the gusto with which most cover the failures (there are plenty of those, too). He's a one-man antidote to the police-blotter reporting that's given so much ammunition to the anti-warriors and anti-Bushites (who, I think it's safe to assume, comprise a large perecentage of the people doing the reporting). His reports on last night's edition of Chris Matthews's Hardball were no exception. Take a look at the other, more accurate (and therefore, unsurprisingly, more positive) side of the story. (Link courtesy of Instapundit.)

For further illustration of how deceptive the "things are getting worse and worse" meme really is, here are a few examples of it--from World War II. (Links courtesy of Little Green Footballs.)


Finally, Christopher Hitchens does his usual comprehensive job dismantling the notion that true peace was ever going to be possible with Saddam Hussein and friends, and Andrew Sullivan shoots down Wesley Clark's attempts to claim that the Kosovo War was justified while Gulf War II was not. (Might I add that the eminently just and justifiable Kosovo campaign, which Clark touts as proof of his military acumen, was an atrociously planned and executed near-disaster?)

Gloating

Guess who owns the Extended Edition of The Two Towers, one week before it's supposed to come out?

Ha ha!

Comix and match

I think it's genuinely safe to declare the comics blogosphere "mature," because in the last couple of weeks there have been about a half-dozen topics covered so completely that it makes MSNBC's The Abrams Report's coverage of the Scott Peterson trial look perfunctory and half-hearted. Seriously, if people want saturation coverage of comics-related issues, then both of them should turn to the comicsphere, since that's where it's at. All this is perhaps a roundabout way of pointing out how good comicsphere kingpin Dirk Deppey is; a good many of the links below come courtesy of his indispensable site.

The most recent topic to draw forth the blogerati is really just a sentence, written by Christopher Butcher: "This week’s concluding statement is that there are too many mediocre fucking comic books and you really need to stop buying them." My only question is, why isn't this self-evident? The fact that this is something of a wake-up call doesn't speak well of our collective comics-buying decisions at all. But the good thing about this particular bit of "comics activism" is that it's 100% doable, 100% successful in its goals (i.e. to improve comics for you yourself and to stop rewarding the makers and purveyors of comics that aren't really that good), and 100% in your hands. I myself implemented this recipe for Comics Happiness a few weeks ago, and all my New Comics Days since then have been the better for it. (It's a good way to stave off the dreaded Comics Malaise, you know.)

On a related note, I think I'm going to start Waiting For The Trade (TM) on a whole lot more titles pretty soon. There are several books that straddle the to-buy-or-not-to-buy line, or ones that I like but don't love, that I think I'd actually enjoy more if I were buying them less often. Since most mainstream comics are written for trades these days anyway, you're reading them in their ideal format to boot. And you'll save money, generally speaking. It's a good way to prune without chopping off whole limbs, and is probably a decent alternative for those of us who are reluctant to totally cease picking up certain sentimental favorites.

Speaking of "comics activism" (we were, a couple paragraphs ago, honest), Bryan Miller offers a summation of the concept that is both laugh-out-loud hilarious and completely accurate. His argument is that ultimately, only two types of comics activism work: 1) Stop buying bad comics; 2) If you make comics, start making great ones. I'll add a third: 3) Talk about comics the same way you talk about any other art form or medium. This means elevating the discourse by treating them with the same respect you accord film, music, etc., and by treating them not as freakish fanboy holdoust to be apologized for but as potentially vital and thrilling, yeah; but it also means applying the same (hopefully stringent) standards to your buying patterns and critical outlook regarding comics that you do to film, music, etc., and acknowledging that it's just as silly to be a fan of COMICS as a whole as it is to be a fan of, say, TELEVISION--beyond acknolewdging that comics is an art form that, like all other art forms, can do things that no other art forms can do quite so well, it's individual works that matter, not some magical metaphysical Comics Mojo. In other words, don't try to Save Comics; try to save this good comic, and that good comic, and that other good comic over there. After that, all else follows.

Ralph Phillips perceptively weighs in on the what-coulda-beens of Marvel's abortive Epic initiative. NeilAlien has a good round-up of links on the topic as well.

A funny collection of supervillain-bashing quotes comes courtesy of John Jakala. My favorite's the Ra's al-Ghul one.

Who's able to transform the umpteenth Ross/Riefenstahl debate into a discourse on the appropriate way to focus narratives vis a vis the characters contained therein? David Fiore, that's who!

Finally, did I ever link to NeilAlien’s in-depth rundown of all of Dr. Strange's recent comics appearances? Shame on me, then! I love this kind of writing--there's something genuinely thrilling about the erudition of a micro-specialist in any area. (I'd compare it to Molly Knight's relentless reviewing Tori Amos concerts in its ability to pick up on nuances that might mean little to the world at large but make for entertaining and enlightening reading when embraced and explored.) In the words of Stanford professor Scott Bukatman, "[There] are mainstream works that border on (or tip over into) experimentalism because they work with forms that are familiar enough to 'communicate' to mainstream audiences, but which are especially satisfying to aficianados (sometimes referred to as 'fanboys')." ˇViva los aficionados!

November 13, 2003

The trouble with activism: Exhibit B

By all accounts, James Sime is a terrific retailer, of the kind we all wish had a shop near us. He also promotes a form of "comics activism" the value of which I and several others find questionable. These are both topics one can discuss rationally, if one is so inclined.

But man OH man--with friends like these, does James Sime even need enemies?

Things of beauty

How to de-mediocrify your comics-buying habits in several easy steps, by Derek Martinez. (Link courtesy ADD.)

The Comics Masochist's Creed, by Chris Allen.

Must reads, esp. Allen's.

Two of the stupidest goddamn things I've ever heard

"It is a story that emits light and yellow and God and love." --Rosie O'Donnell on her musical Taboo, during her post-suit courthouse-steps statement yesterday

"Rev. Al Sharpton: The Rolling Stone Interview" --on the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine

Also, Ted Rall is scum, but you knew that already.

Fun with Friendster

I recently got off of Friendster, because seriously, enough already. But my coworkers have devised a delightful game to play with the service: Go to the "about the contributors" section of your favorite NYC-based lifestyle glossy (they've done New York and MTV's magazine) and type in the names you find there--you'll find an embarrassingly high percentage of them on Friendster, and an even more embarrassingly high percentage of them using the same photo on the website and in their magazines.

November 14, 2003

Bad news

Never let it be said that I'm just some rah-rah-ing jingo: This CIA report, coupled with this analysis by Jim Henley of the potentially self-deluding glass-half-full mentality of the administration, do not bode well for Iraq. I still maintain that we did absolutely the right thing by invading the country and deposing the monsters who ran it, and that it will be a good thing for the country, the region, and the world in the long run--after all, bad news isn't always the only news, as we should have learned by now. (For example, there's this Gallup poll of Baghdadis that speaks tremendously well of the potential for genuine liberal democracy in Iraq; there's also this chart from the New York Times (!) op-ed page (link courtesy Roger Simon), using a variety of indicators to show that things are actually trending to the positive in several important ways.) Moreover, generally speaking, the people who are saying "I told you so!" because of the bad news are doing so based on assumptions about the nature of America and/or the nature of Middle Easterners and/or the nature of man's obligation to his fellow man that I find troubling, to say the least. But no one is well served by glossing over the negative, and the trends discussed in the links above ought to be addressed by hawks & doves alike--the whole aviary, in other words.

On a related note, I'd criticize the chickenhawk argument, but since I myself have never used the chickenhawk argument, I have no right to offer my opinions on it. (Seriously, enough with this idiocy already, okay? Roger Simon and Armed Liberal have beaten this fallacy to within an inch of its life--let's not ever have to go through this again, shall we?)

November 17, 2003

The entertaining mainstream

Yes, there is such a thing. It's important to purge our pull-lists and buy-piles of mediocre, inconsequential piffle--important to our own wallets and sanity, if nothing else--but don't let's forget that some superhero books are still a hoot and a half. Newsarama has neato looks at upcoming projects from Brian Bendis and Mark Millar--the latter unreliable of late but quite good when he's "on," the former completely in the zone on Ultimate Spider-Man, Alias, Powers, Ultimate Six, and Daredevil. (Ultimate X-Men I'm not convinced he's got a handle on yet, but he's always rewarded my patience in the past.) Enjoy, and be not ashamed!

Please help me learn to like Love & Rockets

Okay. So I picked up Music for Mechanix, Volume One of the Hernandez Brothers' epochal altcomix series Love & Rockets, at SPX this summer. I'm stuck about a quarter of the way into it--it's just not doing much for me. I understand that its quasi-parodic sci-fi soap-opera tone is very different from later, ostensibly better/richer/etc. L&R, but the problem is that I'm extremely anal-renentive and must read a series from its very beginning onward if I'm to read it at all, so I'm reluctant to skip ahead to the "good jumping-on points" volumes in the collection. On the other hand, I have little interest in slogging through a few volumes that won't appeal to me, as though I was some four-year-old forcing himself to eat his broccoli so I can have ice cream for dessert. Also, I'd pick up Palomar, the big collection of Gilbert Hernandez's South American L&R tales, which by all accounts is a tremendous masterpiece that presents those stories in the best possible manner, but a) I'd miss out on the Jaime/Mario stuff; b) again, I've just got to read things from the beginning; c) If I end up loving it, I'm just going to wind up buying the individual collections anyway, which will bring us back to Do.

So what should I do here? I ask because I totally believe everyone who says that L&R is indispensible, and I want to read it, but I'm just not sure how to approach it. What say you? Drop me an email line (UPDATE: please don't use use ampersands in your email, because apparently the submission form cuts off everything after them! I can't tell you how many responses i've gotten that read like "Regarding L"--and that's it, because "&R, you should get Palomar" or whatever else the person wrote has disappeared!), or post your thoughts here, please!


ANOTHER UPDATE: It appears that the whole "Help me learn to like L&R" title is throwing people for a loop, to the point where the above-linked thread is attracting more sarcasm and abuse than John Byrne explaining why we need to show Superman more respect. Partially this is because message boards attract idiots, but it's also because it's an admittedly wonky title. It was intended as a joke, or at the very least a hyperbolic provocation, in the grand tradition of jokey/hyperbolically provocative thread titles. Really all I'm hoping for are some tips as to the best way to approach the material.

But the national greatness types are the real threat!

Hey, it turns out that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were apparently connected up the wazoo.

What, did that not get mentioned on the morning news shows today? Why, it's almost as though they don't want you to know!

Jim Henley, meanwhile, has at the New York Times op-chart that offered an optimistic appraisal of the situation in Iraq, which I linked to the other day. Jim's analysis looks astute, but most of it hinges on the fact that he's shocked--shocked!--that the U.S. hasn't been able to repair decades' worth of damage, neglect, and murderousness within the space of three months. Go figure!

Finally, after spending the weekend watching the astounding making-of documentaries included in the extended-edition Two Towers DVD, I've come to the conclusion that Iraq must be transfered to the control of Peter Jackson as soon as possible.

Strong Island

Long Island and its neighbors have been insane lately. The Missus has analysis, with particular emphasis on the troubling implications these stories have for criminal justice, high school culture, the eating disordered... fascinating reading.

Comix and match

You know what? Just go to Dirk's today, okay? He's got links to everything, and then some. Everyone else is just linking to those same things anyway, so I'm saving you the trouble. You're welcome.

November 18, 2003

Quid pro quo

Here's another comics-related anal-rententivity-inspired plea from me to you.

I have a hardcover copy of Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan collection. Since this is one of my favorite books of all time, I like having a hardcover (a relatively rare thing in my collection). Essentially it was a gift from a friend who had an extra copy. The thing is, the cover is ripped along the spine in such a way that the printing and color is removed from an inch-long by half-inch-wide section of it and all you can see is the white of the paper. Think of what happens to wrapping paper when you rip the tape off and you'll get the idea.

Anyway, this drives me nuts, and during the three or so years I've owned this book I've always considered it to not actually be in my collection, so flummoxed and flustered am I by that one tear on the spine. I know it's crazy, but it's true, just like getting lost between the moon and New York City.

Here is my offer: To the first person who sends me a nice pristine copy of the Jimmy Corrigan hardcover, I will send my own slightly-ripped-cover copy of that same hardcover, plus an undamaged, lovely hardcover copy of Ben Katchor's Julius Knipl: The Beauty Supply District collection. How does that sound? I'll even take care of shipping. How can you lose?

(You know, if you want to keep it simple and just want to trade Jimmy Corrigans, that's fine too. But I thought I'd offer the Katchor book too.)

Go ahead and email me if you're interested. (And I've been told the ampersand situation has been rectified, so don't worry about that.)

Thank you, and goodnight!

Comix and match

The responses to yesterday's plea for help getting into Love & Rockets continue to flow in. The leading candidates seem to be 1) Palomar 2) The Death of Speedy 3) Getting the hell off the Comics Journal message board before it saps your last bit of enthusiasm for great comics. I'll probably be heeding all three bits of advice.

Ha ha, seriously folks, Palomar and The Death of Speedy are far and away the frontrunners for the best way to dive into the work of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez respectively; after trying those two, folks have suggested trying Gilbert's Poison River next, followed by Chelo's Burden, X, Flies on the Ceiling, Chester Square, and Wigwam Bam to varying degrees. In other words, I've got a nice plan of action, and as long as I can wean myself off of my chronological-order-of-release fixation, I should be all set. Thanks to everyone who's written in or posted suggestions, and please keep those recommendations coming (especially folks who wrote in yesterday with ampersands, since my submission form ate whatever you tried to tell me!).

Also on the Hernandez beat is Eve Tushnet, who's blogged her own recommendations, and Johnny Bacardi, who's a rare dissenting voice in the chorus of praise for Palomar. Alan David Doane is representative of the majority opinion. (How often do you get to say that?)

Big Sunny D advances his theory that Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan is a horror comic. Horrifying, I'll grant him, but horror? I can't buy it. I agree with pretty much everything he says, but I think horror is more than just a sense of despair and futility--much as we're supposed to think they need to be subverted or destroyed if a given work is to be any good, genre conventions do count for something, and I think that certain conventions of structure, imagery, and message are what enable us to stop the slippery slope that leads us to label as "horror" anything that's bleak or disturbing. On the other hand, Steve Bissette (scroll down) agrees with Mr. D; it's definitely a topic worth examining. (I touched on it in a footnote in my senior essay on horror.)

Alan David Doane weighs in on the dangers of the (as Barton Fink might put it) "merely adequate." I'm not terribly familiar with Geoff Johns's work so I can't comment there, but it's certainly true that there's more at stake when you buy something that's "okay for what it was" than just that vague sense of let-down-ness you're feeling.

Will Franklin find his findings to be factual in the future?

Shawn Fumo unearths a truly shocking statistic from a Time Magazine article on Borders Bookstores--female-centric shojo manga comprises fully 60% of their graphic-novel sales! Speaking anecdotally, I have yet to visit the graphic novel section of the local Borders without seeing books picked up for purchase by teenage girls or elementary-school-aged kids or both. Every single time, people. But surely this manga craze in my Borders is just a fluke--after all, Shonen Jump just won't sell!

Bruce Baugh has some thoughts on the extent to which righteous anger is an integral part of fandom; he also counters the fandom-supported argument that change is inherently bad. He cites the case of Ang Lee's Hulk, and he's right--it's not the fact that Lee changed the Hulk's origin that was bad, it was the way he changed it. (That is, needlessly and incomprehensibly complicating it, thereby stripping it of its allegorical resonance. And oh yeah, who gave a damn about any of those characters? The fact is that any time the Hulk wasn't on screen, or those panel-border dissolves weren't being used, the movie was dull as hell, and making a dull movie out of the Incredible freaking Hulk is pretty inexcusable. But that's a topic for another day.)


Note to John Jakala: Nuh-uh! (Translation: there's an interesting debate going on in that post's comments feature about the merits of Mark Millar and Brian Bendis.)

J.W. Hastings tries to find where comic books as containers of literature end and comic books as art objects begin. He's not all that happy with the latter conception of the comic book, no sir. Frankly, I think he's targeting the wrong book by the wrong publisher--Top Shelf has some vaguely design-y books, sure, but that most recent anthology isn't really one of them, at least insofar as it garners praise from the artcomix crowd; it's too hit-or-miss an affair. Most of Top Shelf's best books are nice to look at but are ultimately valued for their content, not their design--the works of Alan Moore, Craig Thompson, and Jeffrey Brown come to mind. A far more artsy publisher would be Highwater (who, in fairness to JW, are distributed in some capacity or other by Top Shelf); it draws a lot of its energy from Fort Thunder alumni, and NON anthologizer Jordan Crane, who are all leading proponents of the comic-book-as-objet-d'art school. Frankly, I'm tickled if a book is as neat-looking as, say, the hand-silkscreened and die-cut NON #5, but I'm really interested in the comics themselves, you know? Which is good, because Highwater happens to publish some of the best comics made by anyone in the last few years (Teratoid Heights, Shrimpy & Paul and Friends, Skibber Bee-Bye, The Last Lonely Saturday, and yes, the much-maligned-by-JW Kramers Ergot 4. JW, take another look at Kramers--yes, the endless collages are pretty much pointless, but check out "Lonely Sailor" by editor Sammy Harkham, the Sisyphus stories by Anders Nilssen, "Don't Look Them in the Eye" by Jeffrey Brown--those I remember off the top of my head, and they're good comics any way you slice it.)

Eve Tushnet responds to David Fiore's call for an eye-level aesthetic, which she interprets to eschew both reverence and cynicism. Sounds good to me--reverence and cynicism tend to be totally subsumed into horror in the works I admire...

In a post script to something of a running debate on the potential ameliorative effects of manga on American comics, Dave Intermittent notes that two American-made manga-style books, the Sandman spin-off Death: At Death's Door and a Lizzie McGuire tie-in, have done well enough at bookstores to suggest that the manga market will, in fact, buy American manga. In other words, it's not just Japanophile fetishism. This bodes well.

More on manga (hey, isn't there always?) from Ron Phillips, focusing on manga's role as sequential-art training wheels for America's little kids.

Jim Henley, you are not alone!

Jason Kimble points out that amidst all the recent furor about mediocre comics, no one seemed to remember that the crap: gold ratio in other media is just as bad. Hey, I remembered--you don't see me renting Charlie's Angles: Full Throttle or running out to buy Britney Spears's In the Zone today, do you?

Finally, in a recent message to his mailing list, Warren Ellis mentioned that he'd been surfing through "the comics blogosphere" the other day. While that explained the strange feeling I got a couple days ago that someone, somewhere, was exposing my dark American underbelly, it did more than that, too: it led Ellis, apparently, to give up on bitching about the state of the comics industry altogether, because it's all been said before (by him, and now by the bloggers). Christopher Butcher is apparently going to follow suit. Though I wasn't reading comics, let alone comics-related websites, when Ellis was at the height of his influence, it seems to me that his advice tends to be quite good; but there have been people saying there's nothing new under the sun for as long as there have been people, if not as long as there's been a sun. Personal Comics Burnout hits all of us at one time or another, and the joys of complaining are certainly susceptible to yielding diminishing returns, but don't let's mistake momentary fed-up-edness with unshakeable insight. If we don't complain about the stupidities of this medium we love so much, who will? Not the people perpetrating the stupidities, I can assure you of that.

November 19, 2003

You say he's just a Friendster

The friend of mine who pioneered the "Friendstering the Masthead" game has expanded upon it at Low Culture. Apparently I accidentally scooped him with my post on the topic. Whoops!


UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, before I de-Friendstered, the editorial staff at the publication I edit for was an embarrassing four for four.

November 20, 2003

The horror of comics

Thanks to the generosity of John Jakala, I read the two-volume horror series Tomie, by manga creator Junji Ito, this week. To quote Lost Highway, "that is some seriously spooky shit, sir." The very concept--human being as tumor--is one familiar to any fan of Anglosphere body horror--Cronenberg and Barker, for example. But here, it's pursued with a mad capriciousness, fusing the tumor metaphor with the viral metaphor to produce something truly terrifying and seemingly everlasting. The imagery is as strong as you're likely to come across in a comic; the carpet that gives birth to a horde of empty-socketed faces is a favorite of mine.

However, I wonder if I didn't stumble across a big obstacle to the effectiveness of comic-book horror, something we've been talking about around these parts for ages: Later that night, as I lay me down to sleep, some of those horrifying images started filtering into my mind again. This tends to happen when I watch or read something really frightening--but unlike those peskily persistent pictures of the Shining twins or It's evil clown Pennywise, these mental images appeared complete with panel borders and folded-back page edges, as though I was looking not at the image itself (the "real thing"), but the book itself! It's hard to be truly kept up at night by the recurring image of ink on a bunch of pieces of paper...

Thursday update again

Holy Moses, was I ever right. I posted the hell out of myself today. There may be more to come--who knows?--but for now you've got:

(1) Gay marriage stuff

(2) Horror comics stuff

(3) General comics stuff

(4) Jim Treacher avenged

(5) Terror attack stuff

(6) Bush's speech stuff

(7) Saddam/al Qaeda stuff

(8) Anti-war protestor stuff

(9) Smutty silliness

Fire at will!

"Swine! Swine! Swine!"

"In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy."

--George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Truth, justice, and the anti-war way

Yesterday, in the parking lot at the train station, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read "BUSH LIED - PEOPLE DIED." I've often wondered why the anti-war movement (if a contingent that can only muster one-eighth the amount of protestors that took to the streets against a fox-hunting ban can be called a movement--I'm sorry, I should be above cheap shots, shouldn't I?) have stuck so hard to these strident, all-caps claims of mendacity.

Then I listend to Bush's speech at Whitehall Palace yesterday. Here was the most powerful man on the planet repudiating the realpolitik of decades past that saw the free world coddling Middle Eastern tyrants and thugocracies, repudiating ethnicist claims that Muslims are incapable of participating in democracy, calling for the establishment of an independent democractic Palestinian state, taking Israel to task for provocative and unjust policies yet defending its right to exist untrammelled by random violence, calling for an end to the rising tide of anti-Semitism, defending the removal of genocidal madmen in Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, calling for the rights of women to be respected around the globe, demanding increased levels of freedom and tolerance from our so-called friends in the Muslim world, declaring that dictatorship is always harmful, asserting the need for freedom of speech, press, and religion, citing Woodrow Wilson's idealistic internationalism as a good to be returned to, and generally declaring his intent to "raise up an ideal of democracy in every part of the world."

This is the most radically liberal speech I've ever heard an American president give. It's a tremendous break from years of "looking the other way" when it came to the behavior of friends and enemies alike in countries that contain one fifth of humankind. It advocated policies that have been close to my bleeding heart for years, policies I never thought I'd hear advocated by this or any President.

If I were the anti-war left, I'd be yelling "BUSH LIED!" too. The kind of cognitive dissonance a speech like that would engender in me would require nothing less than to deny that the man meant a single word he said.

Placing blame

This morning, after hearing about the appalling dual terroist attack in Istanbul today (the second such attack in a week, this one levelled against people guilty of being British as opposed to guilty of being Jewish), I was listening to the joint press conference being held by Bush and Blair, and this question stood out:

"What do you say to people who today conclude that British people have died and been maimed as a result of you appearing here today, shoulder-to-shoulder with a controversial American President?"


I'll let Blair himself answer:

"What has caused the terrorist attack today in Turkey is not the President of the United States, is not the alliance between America and Britain. What is responsible for that terrorist attack is terrorism, are the terrorists. And our response has got to be to unify in that situation, to put the responsibility squarely on those who are killing and murdering innocent people, and to say, we are going to defeat you, and we're not going to back down or flinch at all from this struggle."


The fact that it is necessary for a major world leader to have to take the time to say something like that is disturbing to me. Unfortunately, the notion that we may now blame Bush/the U.S./the West/Jews for every terroist-attack death everywhere is becoming increasingly popular.

Fortunately, it's an easy argument to defeat. Before 9/11, this cowboy president of ours had made it absolutely clear that he was planning on keeping his hands off of not just Iraq, but really every other country on the planet. Remember the whole "no nation building" thing? Back then, he was criticized as being too isolationist by the same people now convinced he's out to conquer the world. What, then, prompted Islamist terrorists from atomizing 3,000 people that day? Bush's interventist approach toward Texas?

Similarly, take a look at that MSBNC article about today's attacks. It points out that up until today, the most deadly terrorist atrocity in Turkey's history was a 1977 assault against leftists. Surely they weren't advocating an imperialist oil war at the time.

And as Christopher Hitchens points out, one of the synagogues devastated last Saturday had already been the site of a terrorist attack, back when Reagan and Thatcher were in charge of the US and UK and Saddam was our friend. Unless those terrorists were time travellers, it's difficult to understand how their actions were caused by the regime change policy.

It's also difficult to understand the mentality that leads one to ask a question like that one from this morning's press conference, but I'm trying. You can't defeat what you don't understand, after all.

Thursday update

Well, I was right--I've posted a lot today so far, and there's no end in sight. Right now your options are:

(1) Jim Treacher avenged

(2) Terror attack stuff

(3) Bush's speech stuff

(4) Saddam/al Qaeda stuff

(5) Anti-war protestor stuff

(6) Smutty silliness

Pick yr poison!

Massachusetts, here we come

I don't really have all that much to say about the Massachusetts court's decision regarding gay marriage, because I'm just too damn happy about it. Gay people are normal people who feel love just like anyone else, and deserve the basic human right to enshrine that love through marriage just like anyone else. End of story.

I respect the arguments made by same-sex marriage opponents like Eve Tushnet--who, insofar as she is gay herself, may be reasonably excluded from the ranks of gay-bashing troglodyte SSM opponents like John Derbyshire--but, frankly, I don't buy a single one of them. Maybe it's because I actually happen to be married, but the idea that as such I'm just some cog in a societal machine designed to produce and properly rear babies is dehumanizing and ridiculous to me. Doubly so, because, unless you accept specious and antequated theories about gender roles that successful same-sex or one-parent families are currently giving lie to day in and day out, it actually winds up being an argument for gay marriage, not against it. (Moreover, scratch someone who's constructed elaborate legal and philosophical arguments against gay marriage, and more often than not you'll find someone who thinks that God doesn't like homosexuality underneath. That's not the God I know, to put it mildly; and even if it was, that's not how we do things in the United States of America, thank, well, God.)

Human rights were extended to a large group of humans the other day. Bravo.

Comix and match

Die, pamphlets, die! Franklin Harris lists all the reasons why the conventional comic book needs to go away. Unfortunately, Stuart Moore has already listed all the reasons why they can't, not if the industry wants to stay afloat right now. This tension is what Mick Martin unconsciously picked up in his follow-up post to Franklin's.

Bob Morales, the writer behind the controversial "black Captain America" miniseries Truth, gives a lengthy interview over at Newsarama today. I liked Truth quite a bit. It took a couple of issues to get going, and along the way there was a misstep or two (the execution of hundreds of black soldiers, for example; Morales concedes this was based on urban myth more than anything else, and I think it gives people predisposed against a series examining the shady doings of the U.S. military an easy excuse not to take the book seriously), but once it kicked into gear it became one of the most startling and disturbing horror comics (well, that's what it was) in recent memory. Morales even redeemed some of the unrelenting harshness with a kindly, humanistic coda. Well worth checking out when the trade collection is at long last released.

Also at Newsarama, Brian Bendis talks about his upcoming Secret Wars project. If you guessed it'd involve black ops, well, you'd be right--you'd be right 99 times out of 100 at Marvel these days. But seriously, folks, I'm looking forward to this, despite its being a remake of one of the most egregious emblems of 1980s funnybook dopiness, because Bendis has an uncanny knack for taking the absolute most fanboy-button-pushing geekiest ideas imaginable and executing them in a remarkably non-fanboy fashion.

Speaking of Bendis, Jason Kimble eloquently defends the man's work against his detractors (John Jakala being a prominent one). John was certainly mistaken in calling Bendis's dialogue ripped-off Tarantinoisms--it's actually ripped-off Aaron Sorkinisms. But Bendis is actually better than Sorkin, because the dialogue is crafted (as Jason suggests) not to sound clever, but to sound human.

Steven Grant argues that comics should be the new drugs. Actually, he argues that comics should be vehicles of unfettered and boldly original imagination, which is absolutely correct (and, as usual, it's kind of a bummer that this even needs to be said), and then slaps an "edgy" catch-phrase on top, which I could do without. But his points remain rock-solid. (And keep in mind, altcomix fans, that this does not mean everything has to be gonzo fantasy--Diary of a Teenage Girl is one of the most imaginative comics I've ever read. There's more than one way to skin a Cheshire Cat.)

I always dig when NeilAlien starts talking about Dr. Strange, even when I have no idea what he's talking about.

Bill Sherman advocates the slow-and-steady approach to Love & Rockets, saying that things take off in Volume Two. Forager goes contrarian, saying the hardcover Palomar collection is too big and unwieldy to really sink your teeth into. But contrary to his opinion, I actually did curl up in bed with it last night (yep, went out and bought it yesterday). Haven't read very far yet, but it's tough not to be impressed as hell with that first "Chelo's Burden" story, isn't it? When was the last time you saw a comics story told that way, anyway?

In that same post, Forager responds to my defense of Top Shelf as a company not primarily concerned with style over substance. I'll grant him that Top Shelf is definitely tied into the mini-comics aesthetic, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. And I also think he's right that the success of Blankets is in part attributable to its larger-than-life format, but not simply for the novelty factor J.W. describes--it also happens to be the best way to have told that particular story. I've said in the past that little previews of the book left me cold, but reading the whole massive thing made everything "make sense" to me. It's to Craig's credit that he insisted on releasing the thing the way he did, rather than serializing it into much less effective individual installments.

Big Sunny D responds to my assertion that Jimmy Corrigan isn't really horror despite his claims to the contrary by... agreeing? Man, this is why I love the comics blogosphere--you don't see this happen on message boards, well, ever!

Chris Allen joins the Ross/Riefenstahl fray, mainly in service of his belief that Ross is great. In so doing he fires a couple shots my way for mocking how Ross draws all his superheroes as pudgy dimps, which point of view I proudly stand by. (No offense to gym teachers or guards at women's correctional facilities.) Chris, I wasn't going for "cheap yuks" at all--I really do think the way the characters look is a problem. We're clearly meant to be impressed by Ross's heroes, and instead we think "wow, these look like slightly overweight people in goofy superhero costumes." (In other words, they look like his models, who tend actually to be slightly overweight people in goofy superhero costumes themselves.) That's the biggest obstacle to Ross's artistic project, not the allegations (unfounded, I think) of fascist undertones.


Shawn Fumo has a long post on manga, in response to a Johnny Bacardi post that essentially wonders what all the fuss is about. Shawn's argument is that while the American comics mainstream attempts to graft the conventions of one genre (supeheros) on to a variety of genres with which they are occasionally incompatible (or at the very least in which the juxtaposition is not rewarding, particularly for young readers), manga repeatedly utilizes a certain set of narrative tropes (ie. methods of plotting storytelling, not capes and spandex and so forth), which work equally well in a variety of genres. I think this sounds more limited than Shawn intends it to; check out his post and see what you think.

John Jakala replies to Dave Intermittent in a similar pas de deux about the merits of manga. John argues that the reason kids like manga is that it's actually entertaining and geared towards them, two things the bulk of mainstream American comics can't seem to manage; as a grown-up, "your mileage may vary." (There is plenty of enjoyable, adult-centric manga out there, though.) Anyway, Dirk Deppey's similar assertion was John's inspiration here.

Rick Geerling offers an extremely long and impassioned rant about what the hell is wrong with superhero comics anyway. He charges that the industry-dictated need to keep the franchise characters' storylines open-ended for decade after decade strips them of all potential for true change, innovation, and lasting resonance. He's got an uphill battle to fight if he thinks DC's going to let Bruce Wayne die so that we can enjoy our copies of Arkham Asylum more, but the point's a fascinating one. This is actually an argument that comes up when discussing the philosophical ramifications of immortality--the idea that you need death to be able to weigh and make sense out of life, because death puts a cap on things, giving you a sense of scale, relativity, purposefulness, etc. Is the same true for comics? Alan Moore, in his introduction to early collected editions of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, argued that it was, that legends lose their impact without a denouement. I've certainly seen it argued that the big superhero characters have all been stretched well past the point of diminishing returns--despite what the marketing departments would have you believe, these aren't mythological icons that arose out of the collective unconscious, and therefore cannot sustain the repeated use that the gods of old could. I still enjoy a good Spider-Man or Batman or even Superman story, when they come along, but would I enjoy them more if they gained the sense of finitude and permanence granted by closure? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...

A note from me to you

Attention viewers of Hope & Faith: I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there week after week, watching this loud, basically unfunny sitcom, wondering "why am I doing this?", but in your heart of hearts, you know exactly why. You're hoping that Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford will start making out. Listen. It'd be great if they started making out. I hope they'll start making out. Regis Philbin and Candace Bergen hope they'll start making out. Everyone hopes they'll start making out, but the fact is, they're not going to start making out. They play sisters, and it's gross for sisters to start making out, no matter what those Coors commercials with the twins seem to be implying, and so even though they're not sisters in real life and it would be totally, totally awesome to see them sensually explore one another with Blur playing in the background like a hyperactively blonde version of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions, they are not going to do it. Ever. So forget it.

Attention viewers of Gilmore Girls: I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there week after week, watching this strident, maddeningly dialogued dramedy, wondering "why am I doing this?", but in your heart of hearts, you know exactly why. You're hoping that Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel will start making out. Listen. It'd be great if they started making out. I hope they'll start making out. The entire WB Family hopes they'll start making out, except maybe the writers of Seventh Heaven. Everyone hopes they'll start making out, but the fact is, they're not going to start making out. They play a mother and daughter, and it's gross for mothers and daughters to start making out, no matter how many Eros Comix you've read, and so even though they're not mother and daughter in real life and it would be totally, totally awesome to see them tonguing each other like Axl Rose and Stephanie Seymour in the video for "November Rain," they are not going to do it. Ever. So forget it.

Attention viewers of The Lord of the Rings: I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there week after week, waiting for the final installment of this magnificent, epic fantasy masterpiece to debut in theatres, wondering "why am I doing this?", and if you said "because they're awesome" you'd pretty much be right, but in your heart of hearts, you know exactly why. You're hoping that Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood (and maybe Viggo Mortensen) will start making out. Listen. It'd be great if they started making out. I hope they'll start making out. Multiple Academy Award nominee Sir Ian McKellen hopes they'll start making out (and I think maybe Merry and Pippin do too). Everyone hopes they'll start making out, but the fact is, they're not going to start making out. I've read the books, and in no way do Legolas and Frodo (and maybe Aragorn) ever physically manifest attraction for one another, and so even though Peter Jackson has changed all sorts of other shit around and it would be totally, totally awesome to see them tear into one another like an all-male, non-interracial version of Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in Monster's Ball without the death penalty subtext and with a hobbit and an elf (and maybe a ranger) instead of poor horny lonely people from the South, they are not going to do it. Ever. So forget it.

I'm serious, people. Let it go.

Uh-oh

Could be that a lot, and I mean a LOT, of blogging will occur today. Could be. We'll see.

Hell hath no fury like a Treacher scorned

And when you hear your master,

You will come a little faster, thanks to

Bitch School

Bitch School

(Gonna have to send you back to)

Bitch School

--Spinal Tap, "Bitch School"

Memo random

I'm glad to see that non-bloggers are beginning to pick up on the Weekly Standard's leaked-memo story, originally reported by Stephen Hayes. Here's Slate's Jack Shafer, arguing persuasively that the allegations of a link between Saddam Hussein's Baathist Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorists proferred by the memo merit attention and scrutiny by the major media; Here's Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball paying the memo just that, but finding it wanting.

And while we're at it, here's Hayes's rebuttal to the Defense Department's quasi-dismissal of the the memo story. And as a supplement, here's Slate's Edward Epstein describing exactly why the jury's still out on the much-ridiculed notion of the Prague meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent.

I, for one, am glad to see this stuff being discussed again anywhere, and am saddened that it still hasn't become the major story it deserves to be in the mainstream press. Yes, I tend to credit the notion that Saddam and al Qaeda were acquainted with one another's operations, for several reasons. The specious argument that Saddam is secular and bin Laden fundamentalist and never the twain shall meet is belied not just by their sharing of a common and far-more-hated enemy (the U.S.), or by Saddam's increasing tilt towards Islamism himself (adding the Koranic verse to Iraq's flag, writing a Koran with ink containing his own blood, the constant language of jihad and infidels he employed on every occasion), or by the fact that despite their much-touted animosity for one another bin Laden never once took action against Saddam’s regime, or by the use of al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam to attack and assassinate rebel Kurds, but by the current collusion of Baathist die-hards and Islamist jihadists in the ongoing insurgency. (I agree with Christopher Hitchens, who says basically that if you believe this connection developed out of a clear blue sky after we helped pull that statue down in Baghdad, he's got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. For that matter, I agree with Glenn Reynolds that even if you grant Isikoff and Hosenball all their points of debunk-ation, the case may not be closed as the Standard alleges, but it's certainly open.)

But regardless of what I see as the veracity or lack thereof of the information contained in the memo, how is its existence not a story worth covering? You don’t have to agree with the Standard’s conclusions to agree that they’re worth investigating. To make a long story short, Jim Henley shouldn’t be working on this all by himself.


UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan links to NYT and WaPo coverage of the story. The Times article seems quite even-handed, while the Post piece turns the story into a "Pentagon vs. CIA" deal.

November 21, 2003

Two tussles

1) Ol' Dirk Deppey gives Brian Bendis quite the ribbing today about the superhero scribe's description of his upcoming Secret Wars project. Personally I think Dirk's being unfair. Yes, Bendis's choice of words--"A gritty real world take on the idea of a secret superhero war"--is, ahem, unfortunate. But Bendis's work to date has evinced none of the ghastly, unimaginative, dreary cliches that his dopey phraseology calls to mind. We've seen any number of mindless atrocities in comic-book form touted as "gritty, real-world takes on superheroes"; I'd like to give Bendis the benefit of the doubt that this won't be one of them.

2) The ongoing effort to shoot the zombie that is pamphlet-format comics in the goddamn head once and for all, most recently taken up by Franklin Harris, has met a couple of opponents, namely Johnny Bacardi and Tegan Gjovaag. Johnny and Tegan rightly point out that floppy comics are easy enough to travel with (I've taken many on airplanes myself; like Johnny, I bag-and-board mine, so they're both thin and relatively durable). Tegan also deflates Franklin's argument that collectability makes floppies too precious to actually read. Franklin alleges that today's small print runs equate to big bucks later on, but he overlooks the fact that those small print runs all end up in the hands of anal-retentive bag-and-boarders (ahem) who are convinced that their copies of the Death of Superman will put their kids through college one day. Beyond the artificial demand created by things like Wizard's price guides, most floppies won't be worth much of anything. So hey, read 'em all you want!

But these little niceties, alas, amount to a fart in a hurricane compared to the overwhelming evidence that the world at large has less than no use for the stupid things. Tegan claims that "the form has worked for well over 50 years. Tegan, define "working well," would you? No one buys them except a coterie of, what, 250,000 or so diehards in an increasingly insular market whose idea of growth seems to consist largely of puffing up its cheeks as it thrusts its head in the sand. The comics that sell in big numbers--manga--and the comics that make a big pop-cultural impact--trades and graphic novels--are unsurprisingly in a totally different, much more book-like format. That's what the kids are reading, and to quote Mrs. Bobby Brown, I believe the children are our future. And then there's the whole angle of cost-effectivness--don't make me break out The Manga Stack of Intimidation...

Stuart Moore has detailed all the reasons that the industry is stuck with pamphlets, largely thanks to the backwardness of its current audience and retailership. But just because we have to rely on them now doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking to, and planning for, and doing our best to bring about, the future.

This is pretty awesome

Once they find these guys, who I think it's safe to assume have not aged at all due to their ingestion of an elixir derived from hidden jungle herbs, they should have them take their ancient warrior skills and hunt for the Abominable Snowman. Does this not make sense to everyone?

November 24, 2003

Alan David Don't

I've always wanted to use that as an entry title. It doesn't have anything to do with what I'm actually going to say, but it's pretty amusing, no?

Anyway, Alan David Doane has written up his picks for the Best Comics of 2003. I'm glad that he ignored all the cavilling that goes on about whether or not reprints or first-time collections count as having come out in a particular year. If you can't count The Frank Book, Palomar, and Quimby the Mouse in a Best-Of list due to some technicality, it's really not much of a Best-Of list, is it?

I agree with pretty much all the books he's selected that I myself have read (I'll reserve judgement on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume II till I read it in its collected form, however; issue by issue I found it relatively disappointing). I do feel that he's overselling Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier a bit. Visually, the book's frankly incredible, and it's inspiring to see a relatively young cartoonist attempt a work of such ambition. However, I think that towards the end Hornschemeier's desire to deliver an emotional knock-out punch forces the story off the tracks of believability a bit. Like Craig Thompson's Blankets, this is a gorgeous, involving, moving, but not-perfect work, one that I'm reasonably certain will be surpassed by its creator in his subsequent efforts.

I might come up with a list of my own, provided I develop the attention span to look through what I bought this year to figure out what actually was released this year--a possibility, if not necessarily a strong one. I'll tell you right off the bat that Mat Brinkman's Teratoid Heights and Marc Bell's Shrimpy & Paul and Friends would be near the top of the list, and Bendis and Morrison's genre work (particularly Daredevil, The Filth, Powers, and New X-Men) would be represented pretty highly as well. But till then, if you're looking for Christmas shopping ideas for the irredeemable nerd in your life, Alan's list is as good a place to start as you're likely to find.

Forever and ever, amen

Floppies/Pamphlets/Singles stink

Manga is the future


Rinse


Repeat


UPDATE: John Jakala has expressed to me his wish that I'd written the above in haiku format. Eager to throw him some sort of bone (since that whole comments-feature thing just ain't gonna happen), and seeing as I'm not one ever to turn down the opportunity to write haiku:



PERENNIAL TOPICS OF DEBATE

a haiku by Sean T. Collins



Manga's the future

Pamphlets/Floppies/Singles stink

Lather, rinse, repeat

Wherever we're opened, we're red

Terriffic interview with Clive Barker over at his official fan site, Lost Souls. This one gives a progress report on virtually every project the man's working on these days, and there's something like two dozen of them. Most promising among them are a film version of the masterful short stories "The Midnight Meat Train" and "Dread," originally from his Books of Blood anthologies; the "final" Hellraiser/Pinhead story he's been talking about writing for some time now; plans for further installments in the three (!) series of novels still ongoing in his ouevre--the Abarat Quartet, the Galilee saga, and the Books of the Art; and the first rumblings of a mythological-in-scope series he plans on beginning in his late 50s, a Tolkien-like endeavor which he promises will dwarf everything else he's done. C'mon, Clive--we don't have eternity!

November 25, 2003

Author, author!

David Fiore, God bless 'im, has been breathing some rareified air of late: In a couple of posts, he essentially argues that the best art is like big-company supercomics--never-ending, closure-free, static characters, obsessively concerned with minute variations on a very limited number of themes, and without an author to speak of. I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I've advanced my theory that General Hospital is the finest narrative work of the 20th century.

I kid!

I appreciate what Dave's saying on some level--formally, at least, "normal" mainstream genre-comic storytelling is interesting, insofar as it's so goddamn bizarre. But the assertion that it's superior to narrative art as we know it in virtually every other form (aside from soap operas, and perhaps professional wrestling) is so transparently ludicrous to me that I wonder if I'm missing something. Hey, I like superhero comics as much, if not more, than the next guy, but I like superhero comics by certain people, and when those certain people stop working on a given superhero comic, I tend to not like that comic anymore. As characters/concepts, some of the superheroes are pretty fascinating--which is, I suppose, why I tried out works featuring them and subsequently discovered good authors in the first place--but privileging them over the people who write and draw them? That way lies madness! I mean, we're basically talking about favoring run-of-the-mill post-Lee/Kirby/Ditko Marvel fare (it's got to be "run of the mill," since we're rejecting the influence of the author, so those cries of "what about XXX's run on XXX" will be unheeded, thanks!) over, say, Chris Ware (or Alan Moore or Frank Miller or Grant Morrison, by the way). I understand that it's difficult to reach an objective standpoint in art criticism, but, uh, c'mon.

Moreover, despite what Dave suggests, when freed from the constraints of the product-producing mainstream machine, creators do have godlike control over their creations. They can't control viewer reactions, obviously, but viewer reactions change what's on the page not one whit. What's there is what's there is what's there.

John Jakala has some further thoughts on this, focusing on David's rejection of endings. Listen, we've all been burned by a lousy ending, but we've all been burned by lousy beginnings, too. Should we just give up writing, then? Dave, I'm glad you're enjoying the trees and all, but there's a whole forest out there!

Living the high life

So I'm at the X-Men 2 DVD release party at Jay-Z's 40/40 club last night (well, that was a hoot to see in print) and it occurred to me, it's not very hard to be Mark Ronson, is it? I enjoyed the set he spun, but seriously, I could have played Wu-Tang's "Pinky Ring" into the Stone Roses's "Fool's Gold" into the Rolling Stones's "Emotional Rescue" easily enough, and for a lot less than $5000 an hour, too. "Pass That Dutch" into "Once in a Lifetime"? Happens in my iTunes every day, folks. This cat is like the patron saint of twentysomething rock nerds.

November 26, 2003

"Sorry for the inconvenience, Ms. Braun--you're free to go"

Is it weird that I tend to respond only to those political issues that find their way into the comics blogosphere? I think it's weird.

Jim Henley and Jason Kimble are up in arms that the U.S. military has arrested the wife and daughter of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of Saddam Hussein's seemingly countless right-hand men and the theoretical instigator of much of the ongoing insurgency/terrorist campaign. I think my difference of opinion with Jim and Jason can be summed up pretty neatly like thus: Jim (at least; don't know enough about Jason) assumes that the army generally acts wrongly; I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, believing that they've learned that the kind of brutal and stupid tactics employed during many 20th century wars not only look bad, but are militarily inefficient. But beyond that general difference in philosophy, why is it so inconceivable that al-Douri's wife and daughter may have done something wrong themselves? Hell, in the U.S. itself, I think they should be throwing the ghoulish wife of ghoulish CEOs like Tyco's Dennis Koslowski in prison right along with her hubby, as she is fully complicit in the looting he did. We don't know the specifics of the al-Douri situation (again, perhaps this brings us back to the larger philosophical difference between Jim and myself) but at the very least his family can reasonably be suspected of knowing where he is, making them material witnesses; moreover, they are likely in possession of stolen goods and funds, and may well be implicated in some of his crimes as well. "Collective punishment" isn't an applicable term if the people you're punishing have actually done things deserving of punishment.

NPR

I just heard the following phrase:

"Despite President Bush's campaign promise to avoid nation-building..."

...as a lead-in to a story on Iraqi and Afghan reconstruction. Gee, what a liar that Bush is, huh? I mean, it's not like anything happened since he became President that might make him reconsider his foreign policy stance, right?

Comix and match

David Fiore responds to the minor tizzy he worked the collective comics blogosphere (yours truly included) into with his posts in favor of the mainstream-company superhero-property model of storytelling. Basically, he says, "my bad!" He says he didn't mean to give the impression that this mode of narrative production is the tops, just that it's a lot more interesting than many writers are giving it credit for. I'll certainly grant him that--some of this stuff is just crazy. I think many "serious" art scholars might look at it the same way they look at "outsider art," which is probably the last thing Dave has in mind, but honestly, there's genuine formal weirdness inherent in this kind of storytelling that belies its critics' claims that it's all adolescent power-fantasy simple-mindedness.

Also on the Fiore beat is Matt O'Rama, who works himself up into an unseemly lather over Dave's use of critical-theory vocab but scores some as-yet unanswered points against Dave's assertion that authors lack, uh, authority over their creations.

Shawn Fumo attempts to analyze Marvel's latest actions toward The World At Large. For those of us who want the company to succeed, the moves can be baffling, but I know that there are enough smart people in there to actually make some progress given time and latitude.

Eve Tushnet reviews Ito, Moore, and Millar. Her comments about Ultimate X-Men are particularly enjoyable. That book really did provide some highly entertaining ass-kicking popsplosive bang for the buck.

Lotsa yuks over at Derek Martinez's place, who's rounded up the good, the bad, and the ugly of the year in comics. (Link courtesy of ADD; Derek, I've got no idea why I hadn't blogrolled you, but consider that problem rectified.)

BEST SUBJECT HEADING EVER

Kevin Melrose discusses the sad level of bare-minimum suggestions for comics retailers to improve their image. It's funny, because it's true.

Mick Martin needs manga recommendations. Help him out, and tell 'im Sean T. sent you!

Finally, my Thanksgiving suggestion to you: Give thanks for good comics! Sitting on my bookshelves right now are unread copies of Dave McKean's Cages, Chris Ware's Quimby the Mouse, and two volumes worth of George Herriman's Krazy Kat. I've still got half of Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar, Jim Woodring's The Frank Book, and Ben Katchor's Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer to go through. And if that's not enough, I can flip through my already-read copies of various books I got this year, like Unstable Molecules, Clumsy, Unlikely, AEIOU, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Blankets, Kramers Ergot 4, Teratoid Heights, Shrimpy & Paul and Friends, Battle Royale, Tomie, Ripple, 100%, DK2, New X-Men, Ultimate X-Men, Rubber Necker, Powers, Alias, Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man, The Ultimates, Incredible Hulk, Truth, Born, Vikings, Forlorn Funnies, Tepid, Big Questions, Chrome Fetus, Amazing Spider-Man, Savage Dragon, Astro City, The Filth, and on and on and on, to say nothing of older stuff I first came across in the past 365. We comics fans (can't believe I'm using that formation, but there you have it) really do have a lot to be thankful for, if we're lucky enough to know where to look.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Personal to Tegan Gjovaag

I'm not trying to contribute to the whole "argu[ing] endlessly" bit here, but the fact that even intelligent comics fans still feel comfortable calling manga formatting a "trend" is pretty much why the industry's in so much trouble in the first place....

Sadly, this entry is comics-related

The other day, a good friend of mine who's half Jewish said matter of factly that he's of the belief that within 10-15 years, we'll see another Holocaust. I was surprised to find myself not entirely in disagreement. Anyone who's been following European (and of course Muslim) political discourse recently could tell you of the shocking level of Jew-hatred that's pretty much taken for granted at this point.

Case in point: this cartoon has just won an award from the British Political Cartoon Society. I know, I know, we go through this little two-step every time some hack shits out a sledgehammer-subtle indictment of Ariel Sharon & Israel--"he's criticizing a man/a government, not being an anti-Semite!" And as usual, I call bullshit: Anti-Semitism has always presented "legitimate" political concerns as a false face (anti-capitalism, anti-Communism, pacifism, protectionism, and on and on). Moreover, such cartoons inevitably tap into a centuries-deep resevoir of anti-Jew imagery (hook noses, money-grubbing, puppet-mastery, the blood libel), or compare the Jewish state to the anti-Jewish state, namely Nazi Germany, or indeed swipe ideas directly from the Nazis themselves. And this one, in which Ariel Sharon is show devouring a Palestinian baby, is no exception. However noxious you happen to find Sharon or his policies, this is the equivalent of, say, drawing Colin Powell in a loincloth, chucking a spear at Iraq while raping a white woman. It's anti-Semitism in its new, more respectable outfit: anti-Israelism. So much classier than brown shirts and armbands, isn't it?

But what's even more troubling than the fact that this cartoon was drawn and then published by people who one imagines are not drunken skinheads but respected members of the political journalism community, is that that same community saw fit to say that this is The Best of what they have to offer. The cartoon came out and was widely criticized, and you know what the British Political Cartoon Society thought? They thought that not only did this cartoon deserve to be defended, but that a message needed to be sent to the world at large: This is truth. This is courage. This is the way the world should be viewed. We should look at a drawing that would be at home in the most grotesque propaganda of pogroms and Inquisitions past, and think to ourselves, "bravo."

It's got me thinking something very, very different.

November 27, 2003

Now THAT'S something to be thankful for

Let's hear it for the National Dog Show, on your local NBC affiliate! Bichons, baby! Lots of 'em!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!



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