Sean T. Collins has written about comics and popular culture professionally since 2001 and on this very blog since 2003. He has written for Maxim, The Comics Journal, Stuff, Wizard, A&F Quarterly, Comic Book Resources, Giant, ToyFare, The Onion, The Comics Reporter and more. His comics
have been published by Top Shelf, Partyka, and Family Style. He blogs here and at Robot 6
(Provided that I deem them suitably fabulous, your name and message will be considered eligible for publication unless you specify otherwise.)
Review Copies Welcome
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An anthology of comics written by Sean T. Collins
Art by Matt Wiegle, Matt Rota, and Josiah Leighton
Designed by Matt Wiegle
An indie fantasy anthology
Featuring a comic by Sean T. Collins & Matt Wiegle
The Sean Collins Media Empire
Destructor Comes to Croc Town
story: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
1995 (NSFW)script: Sean T. Collins
art: Raymond Suzuhara
Pornographyscript: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
It Brought Me Some Peace of Mindscript: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
edit: Brett Warnock
A Real Gentle Knifescript: Sean T. Collins
art: Josiah Leighton
lyrics: "Rippin Kittin" by Golden Boy & Miss Kittin
The Real Killers Are Still Out Therescript: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
Destructor in: Prison Breakstory: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle
Cage Variations: Kitchen Sink
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
Cage Variations: 1998 High Street
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
Cage Variations: We Had No Idea
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
The Side Effects of the Cocaine
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Isaac Moylan
Cage Variations: No
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
The Amazing! Incredible! Uncanny Oral History of Marvel Comics
The Outbreak: An Autobiographical Horror Blog
Where the Monsters Go: A 31-Day Horrorblogging Marathon, October 2003
Blog of Blood: A Marathon Examination of Clive Barker's Books of Blood, October
The Blogslinger: Blogging Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, October-November 2007
The Things That Should Not Be: The Monumental Horror-Image and Its Relation to the Contemporary Horror Film (introduction)PDF
My 35 Favorite Horror Films of All Time (at the moment)
My David Bowie Sketchbook
The Manly Movie Mamajama
Horror and Certainty I
Horror and Certainty II
En Garde--I'll Let You Try My New Dumb Avant Garde Style, Part I
Evil for Thee, Not Me
The 7 Best Horror Movies of the Past 7 Years (give or take a few films)
Keep Horror NSFW, Part I
Meet the New Boss: The Politics of Killing, Part I
130 Things I Loved About The Sopranos
In Defense of "Torture Porn," Part I
At a Loss: Lost fandom and its discontents
I Got Dem Ol' Konfuzin' Event-Komik Blues Again, Mama
Losing My Edge (DFADDTF Comix Remix)
GusGus, the Universe, and Everything
"I'd Rather Die Than Give You Control" (or Adolf Hitler, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, and Trent Reznor walk into a blog)
The 11 Most Awful Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks
The 11 Most Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks
11 More Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks
The 15 Greatest Science Fiction-Based Pop/Rock/Hip-Hop Songs
My Loch Ness Adventure
The Best Comics of 2003
The Best Albums of 2003
The Best Albums of 2004
The Best Comics of 2005
The Best Comics of 2006
The Best Comics, Films, Albums, Songs, and Television Programs of 2007
The Best Comics of 2008
The Best Comics of 2009
The Best Songs of 2009
80 Great Tracks from the 1990s
Interviews with Sean
Interviews by Sean
Avatar (Cameron, 2009)
Barton Fink (Coen, 1991)
Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005)
Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Alcala/Rose, 2007)
Battlestar Galactica: "Revelations" (Rymer, 2008)
Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 (Moore et al, 2009)
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Olmos, 2009)
Beowulf (Zemeckis, 2007)
The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963)
The Blair Witch Project (Myrick & Sanchez, 1999)
The Bourne Identity (Liman, 2002)
The Bourne Supremacy (Greengrass, 2004)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Greengrass, 2007)
Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006)
Caprica: "Pilot" (Reiner, 2009)
Caprica S1 E1-6 (Moore et al, 2010)
Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006)
Cigarette Burns (Carpenter, 2005)
Clash of the Titans (Leterrier, 2010)
Cloverfield (Reeves, 2008), Part I
Crank: High Voltage (Neveldine/Taylor, 2009)
Daredevil (Johnson, 2003)
The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)
Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)
Della'morte, Dell'amore [Cemetery Man] (Soavi, 1994)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Play (Eckerling & Sunde, 2010)
District 9 (Blomkamp, 2009)
Doomsday (Marshall, 2008)
Dragon Wars [D-War] (Shim, 2007)
Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, 2007)
The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)
The Expendables (Stallone, 2010)
Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)
Eyes Wide Shut revisited, Part I
Garden State (Braff, 2004)
Gossip Girl Seasons 1-2 (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2007-08)
Gossip Girl Season Three (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2009-2010)
Grindhouse [Planet Terror/Death Proof] (Rodriguez & Tarantino, 2007)
Heavenly Creatures (Jackson, 1994)
Hellboy (Del Toro, 2004)
Hellraiser (Barker, 1987)
A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 2005), Part I
The Host (Bong, 2006)
Hostel (Roth, 2005)
Hostel: Part II (Roth, 2007)
Hulk (Lee, 2003)
The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2009)
I Am Legend (Lawrence, 2007)
The Incredible Hulk (Leterrier, 2008)
Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009)
Inside (Maury & Bustillo, 2007)
Iron Man (Favreau, 2008)
Iron Man II (Favreau, 2010)
It (Wallace, 1990)
Jeepers Creepers (Salva, 2001)
King Kong (Jackson, 2005), Part I
Land of the Dead (Romero, 2005)
Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jackson, 2003)
Lost: the first five episodes (Abrams, Lindelof et al, 2004)
Lost Season Five (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2009)
Lost Season Six (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2010)
Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997)
The Lovely Bones (Jackson, 2009)
Match Point (Allen, 2006)
The Matrix Revolutions (Wachowski, 2003)
Metropolis (Lang, 1927)
The Mist (Darabont, 2007), Part I
Moon (Jones, 2009)
Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)
My Bloody Valentine 3D (Lussier, 2009)
The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange #1 (various, 2010)
Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)
Pan's Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)
Paperhouse (Rose, 1988)
Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2009)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Verbinski, 2007) Part I
Poltergeist (Hooper/Spielberg, 1982)
Quantum of Solace (Forster, 2008)
Rambo (Stallone, 2008)
[REC] (Balaguero & Plaza, 2007)
The Ring (Verbinski, 2002)
The Road (Hillcoat, 2009)
The Ruins (Smith, 2008)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright, 2010)
Secretary (Shainberg, 2002)
A Serious Man (Coen, 2009)
The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)
Shoot 'Em Up (Davis, 2007)
Shutter Island (Scorses, 2010)
The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991)
The Sopranos (Chase et al, 1999-2007)
Speed Racer (Wachowski, 2008)
The Stand (Garris, 1994), Part I
The Terminator (Cameron, 1984)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991)
Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)
There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
The Thing (Carpenter, 1983)
300 (Snyder, 2007)
"Thriller" (Jackson & Landis, 1984)
28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)
28 Weeks Later (Fresnadillo, 2007)Part I
Twilight (Hardwicke, 2008)
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Slade, 2010)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Weitz, 2009)
Up in the Air (J. Reitman, 2009)
War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005)
Watchmen (Snyder, 2009) Part I
The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)
The Wire (Simon et al, 2002-2008)
Zombi 2 [Zombie] (Fulci, 1980)
Zombieland (Fleischer, 2009)
Books of Blood (Barker, 1984-85)
A Clash of Kings (Martin, 1999)
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Howard, 2003)
The Dark Tower series (King, 1982-2004)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling, 2003)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Rowling, 2005)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Rowling, 2007)
Hitler: A Biography (Kershaw, 2008)
It (King, 1986)
Mister B. Gone (Barker, 2007)
The Monster Show (Skal, 2001)
Portable Grindhouse (Boyreau, 2009)
The Ruins (Smith, 2006)
'Salem's Lot (King, 1975)
The Stand (King, 1990), Part I
The Terror (Simmons, 2007)
Abe Sapien: The Drowning (Mignola & Alexander, 2008)
Abstract Comics (various, 2009)
The ACME Novelty Library #18 (Ware, 2007)
The ACME Novelty Library #19 (Ware, 2008)
Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore (Moore et al, 2003)
Action Comics #870 (Johns & Frank, 2008)
The Adventures of Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls (Herge, 1975)
Afrodisiac (Rugg & Maruca, 2010)
Against Pain (Rege Jr., 2008)
Agents of Atlas #10 (Parker, Hardman, Rivoche, 2009)
The Airy Tales (Volozova, 2008)
Al Burian Goes to Hell (Burian, 1993)
Alan's War (Guibert, 2008)
Alex Robinson's Lower Regions (Robinson, 2007)
Aline and the Others (Delisle, 2006)
All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 (Miller & Lee, 2009)
All-Star Superman (Morrison & Quitely, 2008-2010)
American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar (Pekar et al, 2003)
An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories (Brunetti et al, 2006)
An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2 (Brunetti et al, 2008)
Aqua Leung Vol. 1 (Smith & Maybury, 2008)
Archaeology (McShane, 2009)
The Arrival (Tan, 2006)
Artichoke Tales (Kelso, 2010)
Asterios Polyp (Mazzucchelli, 2009)
The Aviary (Tanner, 2007)
The Awake Field (Rege Jr., 2006)
Axe Cop (Nicolle & Nicolle, 2009-2010)
Bacter-Area (Keith Jones, 2005)
Bald Knob (Hankiewicz, 2007)
Batman (Simmons, 2007)
Batman #664-669, 672-675 (Morrison et al, 2007-2008)
Batman #681 (Morrison & Daniel, 2008)
Batman and the Monster Men (Wagner, 2006)
Batman and Robin #1 (Morrison & Quitely, 2009)
Batman and Robin #9 (Morrison & Stewart, 2010)
Batman: Hush (Loeb & Lee, 2002-03)
Batman: Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat (Dixon, Moench, Aparo, Balent, Breyfogle, Nolan, 1993)
Batman R.I.P. (Morrison, Daniel, Garbett, 2010)
Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight (Cosentino, 2008)
Batman Year 100 (Pope, 2007)
Battlestack Galacti-crap (Chippendale, 2005)
The Beast Mother (Davis, 2006)
The Best American Comics 2006 (A.E. Moore, Pekar et al, 2006)
The Best of the Spirit (Eisner, 2005)
Between Four Walls/The Room (Mattotti, 2003)
Big Questions #10 (Nilsen, 2007)
Big Questions #11: Sweetness and Light (Nilsen, 2008)
Big Questions #12: A Young Crow's Guide to Hunting (Nilsen, 2009)
Big Questions #13: A House That Floats (Nilsen, 2009)
Big Questions #14: Title and Deed (Nilsen, 2010)
The Black Diamond Detective Agency (E. Campbell & Mitchell, 2007)
Black Ghost Apple Factory (Tinder, 2006)
Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Giant Magazine version
Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Savage Critics version, Part I
Blackest Night #0-2 (Johns & Reis, 2009)
Blankets (Thompson, 2003)
Blar (Weing, 2005)
Bone (Smith, 2005)
Bonus ? Comics (Huizenga, 2009)
The Book of Genesis Illustrated (Crumb, 2009)
Bottomless Bellybutton (Shaw, 2008)
Boy's Club (Furie, 2006)
Boy's Club 2 (Furie, 2008)
Boy's Club 3 (Furie, 2009)
B.P.R.D. Vol. 9: 1946 (Mignola, Dysart, Azaceta, 2008)
B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #4 (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2009)
Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! (Spiegelman, 2008)
Brilliantly Ham-fisted (Neely, 2008)
Burma Chronicles (Delisle, 2008)
Capacity (Ellsworth, 2008)
Captain America (Brubaker, Epting, Perkins et al, 2004-2008)
Captain America #33-34 (Brubaker & Epting, 2007-08)
Captain America: Reborn #4 (Brubaker & Hitch, 2009)
Captain Britain & MI:13 #5 (Cornell & Oliffe, 2008)
Cartoon Dialectics Vol. 1 (Kaczynski, 2007)
Chance in Hell (G. Hernandez, 2007)
Chester 5000 XYV (Fink, 2008-2009)
Chrome Fetus Comics #7 (Rickheit, 2009)
City-Hunter Magazine #1 (C.F., 2009)
Clive Barker's Seduth (Barker, Monfette, Rodriguez, Zone, 2009)
Clive Barker's The Thief of Always (Oprisko & Hernandez, 2005)
Closed Caption Comics #8 (various, 2009)
Cockbone (Simmons, 2009)
Cold Heat #1 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)
Cold Heat #2 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)
Cold Heat #4 (BJ & Santoro, 2007)
Cold Heat #5/6 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)
Cold Heat #7/8 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)
Cold Heat Special #2: The Chunky Gnars (Cornwell, 2007)
Cold Heat Special #3 (Santoro & Shaw, 2008)
Cold Heat Special #5 (Santoro & Smith, 2008)
Cold Heat Special #6 (Cornwell, 2009)
Cold Heat Special #7 (DeForge, 2009)
Cold Heat Special #8 (Santoro & Milburn, 2008)
Cold Heat Special #9 (Santoro & Milburn, 2009)
Comics Are For Idiots!: Blecky Yuckerella Vol. 3 (Ryan, 2008)
The Complete Persepolis (Satrapi, 2007)
Core of Caligula (C.F., 2008)
Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories (Swain, 2009)
Cry Yourself to Sleep (Tinder, 2006)
Curio Cabinet (Brodowski, 2010)
Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales (Dougherty, 2006)
Daredevil #103-104 (Brubaker & Lark, 2007-08)
Daredevil #110 (Brubaker, Rucka, Lark, Gaudiano, 2008)
The Dark Knight Strikes Again (Miller & Varley, 2003)
Dark Reign: The List #7--Wolverine (Aaron & Ribic, 2009)
Daybreak Episode Three (Ralph, 2008)
DC Universe #0 (Morrison, Johns et al, 2008)
The Death of Superman (Jurgens et al, 1993)
Death Note Vol. 1 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)
Death Note Vol. 2 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)
Death Trap (Milburn, 2010)
Detective Comics #854-860 (Rucka & Williams III, 2009-2010)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Gloeckner, 2002)
Dirtbags, Mallchicks & Motorbikes (Kiersh, 2009)
Don't Go Where I Can't Follow (Nilsen & Weaver, 2006)
Doom Force #1 (Morrison et al, 1992)
Doomwar #1 (Maberry & Eaton, 2010)
Dr. Seuss Goes to War (Seuss/Minear, 2001)
Dragon Head Vols. 1-5 (Mochizuki, 2005-2007)
A Drifting Life (Tatsumi, 2009)
Driven by Lemons (Cotter, 2009)
Eightball #23 (Clowes, 2004)
Ex Machina Vols. 1-9 (Vaughan, Harris et al, 2005-2010)
Exit Wounds (Modan, 2007)
The Exterminators Vol. 1: Bug Brothers (Oliver & Moore, 2006)
Fallen Angel (Robel, 2006)
Fandancer (Grogan, 2010)
Fatal Faux-Pas (Gaskin, 2008)
FCHS (Delsante & Freire, 2010)
Feeble Minded Funnies/My Best Pet (Milburn/Freibert, 2009)
Fight or Run: Shadow of the Chopper (Huizenga, 2008)
Final Crisis #1 (Morrison & Jones, 2008)
Final Crisis #1-7 (Morrison, Jones, Pacheco, Rudy, Mahnke et al, 2008-2009)
Fires (Mattotti, 1991)
First Time (Sibylline et al, 2009)
Flash: Rebirth #4 (Johns & Van Sciver, 2009)
Follow Me (Moynihan, 2009)
Footnotes in Gaza (Sacco, 2009)
Forbidden Worlds #114: "A Little Fat Nothing Named Herbie!" (O'Shea [Hughes] & Whitney, 1963)
Forlorn Funnies #5 (Hornschemeier, 2004)
Forming (Moynihan, 2009-2010)
Fox Bunny Funny (Hartzell, 2007)
Funny Misshapen Body (Brown, 2009)
Galactikrap 2 (Chippendale, 2007)
Ganges #2 (Huizenga, 2008)
Ganges #3 (Huizenga, 2009)
Gangsta Rap Posse #1 (Marra, 2009)
The Gigantic Robot (Gauld, 2009)
Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life (Paley & Swain, 2009)
A God Somewhere (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2010)
Goddess Head (Shaw, 2006)
The Goddess of War, Vol. 1 (Weinstein, 2008)
GoGo Monster (Matsumoto, 2009)
The Goon Vols. 0-2 (Powell, 2003-2004)
Green Lantern #43-51 (Johns, Mahnke, Benes, 2009-2010)
Held Sinister (Stechschulte, 2009)
Hellboy Junior (Mignola, Wray et al, 2004)
Hellboy Vol. 8: Darkness Calls (Mignola & Fegredo, 2008)
Henry & Glenn Forever (Neely et al, 2010)
High Moon Vol. 1 (Gallaher & Ellis, 2009)
Ho! (Brunetti, 2009)
How We Sleep (Davis, 2006)
I Killed Adolf Hitler (Jason, 2007)
I Live Here (Kirshner, MacKinnon, Shoebridge, Simons et al, 2008)
I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (Hanks, Karasik, 2007)
Image United #1 (Kirkman, Liefeld et al, 2009)
The Immortal Iron Fist #12 (Brubaker, Fraction, Aja, Kano, Pulido, 2008)
The Immortal Iron Fist #21 (Swierczynski & Green, 2008)
Immortal Weapons #1 (Aaron, Swierczynski et al, 2009)
In a Land of Magic (Simmons, 2009)
In the Flesh: Stories (Shadmi, 2009)
Incanto (Santoro, 2006)
Incredible Change-Bots (Brown, 2007)
The Incredible Hercules #114-115 (Pak, Van Lente, Pham, 2008)
Inkweed (Wright, 2008)
Invincible Vols. 1-9 (Kirkman, Walker, Ottley, 2003-2008)
Invincible Iron Man #1-4 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)
Invincible Iron Man #8 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)
Invincible Iron Man #19 (Fraction & Larroca, 2009)
It Was the War of the Trenches (Tardi, 2010)
It's Sexy When People Know Your Name (Hannawalt, 2007)
Jessica Farm Vol. 1 (Simmons, 2008)
Jin & Jam #1 (Jo, 2009)
JLA Classified: Ultramarine Corps (Morrison & McGuinness, 2002)
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (Katchor, 1996)
Jumbly Junkery #8-9 (Nichols, 2009-2010)
Just a Man #1 (Mitchell & White, 2009)
Justice League: The New Frontier Special (Cooke, Bone, Bullock, 2008)
Keeping Two (Crane, 2001-)
Kick-Ass #1-4 (Millar & Romita Jr., 2008)
Kid Eternity (Morrison & Fegredo, 1991)
Kill Your Boyfriend (Morrison & Bond, 1995)
King-Cat Comics and Stories #69 (Porcellino, 2008)
Kramers Ergot 4 (Harkham et al, 2003)
Kramers Ergot 5 (Harkham et al, 2004)
Kramers Ergot 6 (Harkham et al, 2006)
Kramers Ergot 7 (Harkham et al, 2008)
The Lagoon (Carre, 2008)
The Last Call Vol. 1 (Lolos, 2007)
The Last Lonely Saturday (Crane, 2000)
The Last Musketeer (Jason, 2008)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (Moore & O'Neill, 2007)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 3: Century #1: 1910 (Moore & O'Neill, 2009)
Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (Levitz, Giffen, Mahlstedt, Bruning, 1991)
Little Things (Brown, 2008)
Look Out!! Monsters #1 (Grogan, 2008)
Lose #1-2 (DeForge, 2009-2010)
Lost Kisses #9 & 10 (Mitchell, 2009)
Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 (Los Bros Hernandez, 2008)
Low Moon (Jason, 2009)
The Mage's Tower (Milburn, 2008)
Maggots (Chippendale, 2007)
The Man with the Getaway Face (Cooke, 2010)
Mattie & Dodi (Davis, 2006)
McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13 (Ware et al, 2004)
Mercury (Larson, 2010)
Mesmo Delivery (Grampa, 2008)
Micrographica (French, 2007)
Mister Wonderful (Clowes, 2007-2008)
Mome Vol. 4: Spring/Summer 2006 (various, 2006)
Mome Vol. 9: Fall 2007 (various, 2007)
Mome Vol. 10: Winter/Spring 2008 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 11: Summer 2008 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 12: Fall 2008 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 13: Winter 2009 (various, 2008)
Mome Vol. 14: Spring 2009 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 15: Summer 2009 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 16: Fall 2009 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 17: Winter 2010 (various, 2009)
Mome Vol. 18: Spring 2010 (various, 2010)
Mome Vol. 19: Summer 2010 (various, 2010)
Monkey & Spoon (Lia, 2004)
Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby (Nemoto, 2008)
Monsters (Dahl, 2009)
Monsters & Condiments (Wiegle, 2009)
Monstrosity Mini (Diaz, 2010)
Mother, Come Home (Hornschemeier, 2003)
The Mourning Star Vols. 1 & 2 (Strzepek, 2006 & 2009)
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (Petersen, 2008)
Mr. Cellar's Attic (Freibert, 2010)
Multiforce (Brinkman, 2009)
Multiple Warheads #1 (Graham, 2007)
My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Heatley, 2008)
The Mystery of Woolverine Woo-Bait (Coleman, 2004)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2006)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 4-5 (Urasawa, 2006)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 6-18 (Urasawa, 2006-2008)
Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2009)
Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 4 & 5 (Urasawa, 2009)
Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps! (Neely, 2010)
Neighbourhood Sacrifice (Davidson, DeForge, Gill, 2009)
Never Ending Summer (Cole, 2004)
Never Learn Anything from History (Beaton, 2009)
Neverland (Kiersh, 2008)
New Avengers #44 (Bendis & Tan, 2008)
New Construction #2 (Huizenga, May, Zettwoch, 2008)
New Engineering (Yokoyama, 2007)
New Painting and Drawing (Jones, 2008)
New X-Men Vol. 6: Planet X (Morrison & Jimenez, 2004)
New X-Men Vol. 7: Here Comes Tomorrow (Morrison & Silvestri, 2004)
Nicolas (Girard, 2008)
Night Business #1 & 2 (Marra, 2008 & 2009)
Night Business #3 (Marra, 2010)
Nil: A Land Beyond Belief (Turner, 2007)
Ninja (Chippendale, 2006)
Nocturnal Conspiracies (David B., 2008)
not simple (Ono, 2010)
The Numbers of the Beasts (Cheng, 2010)
Ojingogo (Forsythe, 2008)
Olde Tales Vol. II (Milburn, 2007)
One Model Nation (Taylor, Leitch, Rugg, Porter, 2009)
Or Else #5 (Huizenga, 2008)
The Other Side #1-2 (Aaron & Stewart, 2005)
Owly Vol. 4: A Time to Be Brave (Runton, 2007)
Owly Vol. 5: Tiny Tales (Runton, 2008)
Paper Blog Update Supplemental Postcard Set Sticker Pack (Nilsen, 2009)
Paradise Kiss Vols. 1-5 (Yazawa, 2002-2004)
The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (Gurewitch, 2009)
Peter's Muscle (DeForge, 2010)
Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days (Columbia, 2009)
Pixu I (Ba, Cloonan, Lolos, Moon, 2008)
Pizzeria Kamikaze (Keret & A. Hanuka, 2006)
Plague Hero (Adebimpe, 2009)
Planetary Book 3: Leaving the 20th Century (Ellis & Cassaday, 2005)
Planetes Vols. 1-3 (Yukimura, 2003-2004)
The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Eisner, 2005)
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009)
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-8 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009-2010)
Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories (Jason, 2008)
pood #1 (various, 2010)
Powr Mastrs Vol. 1 (C.F., 2007)
Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 (C.F., 2008)
Prison Pit: Book 1 (Ryan, 2009)
Prison Pit: Book 2 (Ryan, 2010)
Real Stuff (Eichhorn et al, 2004)
Red Riding Hood Redux (Krug, 2009)
Refresh, Refresh (Novgorodoff, Ponsoldt, Pierce, 2009)
Remake (Abrams, 2009)
Reykjavik (Rehr, 2009)
Ronin (Miller, 1984)
Rumbling Chapter Two (Huizenga, 2009)
The San Francisco Panorama Comics Section (various, 2010)
Scott Pilgrim Full-Colour Odds & Ends 2008 (O'Malley, 2008)
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (O'Malley, 2007)
Scott Piglrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (O'Malley, 2009)
Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (O'Malley, 2010)
Second Thoughts (Asker, 2009)
Service Industry (Bak, 2007)
Set to Sea (Weing, 2010)
Seven Soldiers of Victory Vols. 1-4 (Morrison et al, 2004)
Shenzhen (Delisle, 2008)
S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (Hickman & Weaver, 2010)
Shitbeams on the Loose #2 (various, 2010)
Show Off (Burrier, 2009)
Siege (Bendis & Coipel, 2010)
Siberia (Maslov, 2008)
Skim (Tamaki & Tamaki, 2008)
Skyscrapers of the Midwest (Cotter, 2008)
Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4 (Cotter, 2007)
Sleeper Car (Ellsworth, 2009)
Sloe Black (DeForge)
Slow Storm (Novgorodoff, 2008)
Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret (Kupperman, 2000)
Snake Oil #5: Wolf (Forsman, 2009)
Snow Time (Krug, 2010)
Solanin (Asano, 2008)
Soldier X #1-8 (Macan & Kordey, 2002-2003)
Speak of the Devil (G. Hernandez, 2008)
Spider-Man: Fever #1 (McCarthy, 2010)
Split Lip Vol. 1 (Costello et al, 2009)
Squadron Supreme (Gruenwald et al, 1986)
The Squirrel Machine (Rickheit, 2009)
Stay Away from Other People (Hannawalt, 2008)
Storeyville (Santoro, 2007)
Strangeways: Murder Moon (Maxwell, Garagna, Gervasio, Jok, 2008)
Studio Visit (McShane, 2010)
Stuffed! (Eichler & Bertozzi, 2009)
Sulk Vol. 1: Bighead & Friends (J. Brown, 2009)
Sulk Vol. 2: Deadly Awesome (J. Brown, 2009)
Sulk Vol. 3: The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness (Brown, 2009)
Superman #677-680 (Robinson & Guedes, 2008)
Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 (Sadowski et al, 2009)
Sweet Tooth #1 (Lemire, 2009)
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4 (Kupperman, 2008)
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5 (Kupperman, 2009)
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 (Kupperman, 2010)
Tales of Woodsman Pete (Carre, 2006)
Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White (Matsumoto, 2007)
Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) ADDTF version
Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) TCJ version
They Moved My Bowl (Barsotti, 2007)
Thor: Ages of Thunder (Fraction, Zircher, Evans, 2008)
Three Shadows (Pedrosa, 2008)
Tokyo Tribes Vols. 1 & 2 (Inoue, 2005)
Top 10: The Forty-Niners (Moore & Ha, 2005)
Travel (Yokoyama, 2008)
Trigger #1 (Bertino, 2010)
The Troll King (Karlsson, 2010)
Two Eyes of the Beautiful (Smith, 2010)
Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 (Millar & Pacheco, 2009)
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 (Bendis & LaFuente, 2009)
Ultimate Spider-Man #131 (Bendis & Immonen, 2009)
The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Way & Ba, 2008)
Uptight #3 (Crane, 2009)
Wally Gropius (Hensley, 2010)
Watchmen (Moore & Gibbons, 1987) Part I
Water Baby (R. Campbell, 2008)
Weathercraft (Woodring, 2010)
Werewolves of Montpellier (Jason, 2010)
Wednesday Comics #1 (various, 2009)
West Coast Blues (Tardi & Manchette, 2009)
Wet Moon, Book 1: Feeble Wanderings (Campbell, 2004)
Wet Moon, Book 2: Unseen Feet (Campbell, 2006)
Weird Schmeird #2 (Smith, 2010)
What Had Happened Was... (Collardey, 2009)
Where Demented Wented (Hayes, 2008)
Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey (Handford, 2007)
Whiskey Jack & Kid Coyote Meet the King of Stink (Cheng, 2009)
Wiegle for Tarzan (Wiegle, 2010)
Wilson (Clowes, 2010)
The Winter Men (Lewis & Leon, 2010)
The Witness (Hob, 2008)
Wormdye (Espey, 2008)
Worms #4 (Mitchell & Traub, 2009)
Worn Tuff Elbow (Marc Bell, 2004)
The Would-Be Bridegrooms (Cheng, 2007)
XO #5 (Mitchell & Gardner, 2009)
You Are There (Forest & Tardi, 2009)
You'll Never Know Book One: A Good and Decent Man (Tyler, 2009)
Young Lions (Larmee, 2010)
Your Disease Spread Quick (Neely, 2008)
The Trouble with The Comics Journal's News Watch, Part I
KEEP COMICS EVIL
« June 2004 |
| August 2004 »
July 2004 Archives
Guy Leshinski mulls over an issue I've talked about many times: Alternative cartoonists' worrisome tendency to make their comics into objets d'art, regardless of the impact their design decisions make on readability and shelvability.
Don't get me wrong: I love the fact that Chris Ware crams comics onto every available square inch of the books he releases--the world needs as many Chris Ware comics as he can get. And I love the fact that comics is still enough of a Wild West medium that, when it comes to format and design, nearly anything goes. On the other hand, I also feel that there's a desire, conscious or not, on the part of some alternative cartoonists to have their work be seen as part of the high art tradition. As a result, the books get more and more precious, to the point where you're practically afraid to open them and read them; they also get bigger and bigger (like Quimby the Mouse or Jimbo in Purgatory), making them both difficult to read without a place to rest them and difficult to store without putting them on their side and having them jut out a foot and a half from your bookshelf. On the small-press side, you get die-cut silk-screened multi-part productions like NON #5, which are lovely to look at but hard to read and next to impossible to produce in sufficient quantities to meet demand. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if that's not the point as well--"Look, see, comics aren't mindless mass entertainment product!" I also remember the reaction from some segments of the Comics Journal board toward my proposal that certain altcomics be released in manga digest format--this was viewed less as a potentially lucrative business decision and more as a moral failure, perhaps because it would make the books more appealing to a large audience, rather than less. (Not coincidentally, the then-unrelased McSweeney's that inspired Guy's essay was held up as the "right" direction for comics to go.)
To quote Paul Pope, "Man, that's just not the battle for me."
You know that expression, "fish or cut bait"? Last week I cut bait. Expect more blogging. I'm certainly expecting it from myself.
In one of his two MoCCA semi-recaps, Chris Butcher (who I'm pretty sure I almost met at one point, when someone named "Christopher" came up to talk to Jeffrey Brown when I was talking to him at one point--belated hi, Chris!) points out accurately that there was a breakout book at the con, and that book was Sam Hiti's End Times. This seems to be the book that has the people who've bought it talking. Keep an eye out.
Also on the altcomix beat is Alan David Doane, who more or less pans Fantagraphics' new young-cartoonist anthology Blood Orange. I came pretty close to buying it myself, but without a unifying theme that I'm interested in or long-form work from an artist I like, it's tough to justify buying anthologies when you're on a budget. Unsurprisingly, ADD says the best stuff comes from Marc Bell and John Hankiewicz, though I'd be interested to see Ron Rege's contribution as well. (His McSweeney's Israel/Palestine minicomic was as strong formally as its political point of emphasis was problematic, though his ghoulish depiction of Hamas's eminences grises was a daring and powerful choice.) Generally, it's just good to see Alan back in action.
Special for Johnny Bacardi, whose frequent Bendis true-believer posts are a welcome, articulate, passionate, and (oh yeah) hilarious anecdote to the rote Bendis-bashing that's become common in the blogosphere: Bendis talks at great length (as does Joe Quesada) about his controversial upcoming run on The Avengers at both Newsarama and The Pulse. This guy starts thinking about superheroes at a level where most writers leave off. I'll be buying it. (Links courtesy of Graeme McMillan.)
Dave G. reviews The Dark Knight Strikes Again and Planet of the Capes, praising the former and burying the latter. I think they're up to different things--DK2 is a celebration, PotC is a lynching--and I think they're at different levels--PotC is good, DK2 is a fucking brilliant landmark--but I don't see why you can't like both of 'em. (Link courtesy of John Jakala.)
Eve Tushnet reviews Gyo (she doesn't like it) and Planetes (she likes it a lot). I disagree with her about Gyo--I think the "what's the point?"ness of it is the point, and the sheer randomness of the concept is part and parcel of that; to be fair, decay and physical corruption are things that really do freak me out, so maybe that's part of my admiration for the series. On the other hand, I couldn't agree more with her assessment of Planetes, which is maybe the best regularly-published series of any kind on the racks these days. You know how people occasionally go nuts about certain titles and try to sell the shit out of them to their readers--Sleeper, Street Angel, Demo, that sort of thing? Folks, Planetes does that for me. There is literally no reason why you shouldn't like this book. It's intelligent and beautiful and at 240+ pages for ten bucks, it's a great buy to boot.
Finally, John Jakala was right: Discount Comic Book Service is amazing. I'll reserve final judgement for once I receive my books, I guess, but for now: Go ye and shop!
They write things like this.
Even aside from its solely ignorance-based conflation of all comics with superhero comics, it reflects that unique head-in-the-sand avoidance of innovation and mass culture in the guise of Standing Astride The Stream Of History Yelling Stop that is cultural conservatism. They're still fighting the late '60s culture wars in a way that's just as embarassing as their liberal nemeses'. It's also fairly entertaining to note that the rhetoric here employed is completely indistingushable from that of the rabidly Bush-hating socialists who likewise view the superhero genre with apoplectic disgust. Which once again proves my theories about political extremists: Weak minds think alike.
(Link courtesy of Kevin Melrose.)
UPDATE: Franklin Harris has links to responses from other conservative writers who think superhero comics are just fine, thank you very much. (He also indulges the stupid desire to use the word "chickenhawk," but whaddyagonnado.)
Alan David Doane has five questions for Bluesman and Castaways writer Rob Vollmar.
Tim O'Neil takes a look at the work of rising star Kevin Huizenga.
NeilAlien offers a surprisingly heartfelt MoCCA recap.
Chuck Austen is leaving Marvel.
I was never as enthusiastic an Austen basher as some, for a few reasons. One, U.S. War Machine is one of my favorite supercomics ever, his artwork on the Elektra miniseries that Brian Bendis wrote is maybe the only time a non-Frank Miller or Bill Sienkievicz take on the character worked, and even The Eternals was sleazily entertaining. Second, I quickly figured out a good rule of thumb for parsing his work: If he can show nipples and disembowelment, it's probably pretty good, and if he can't, run for the fucking hills. Three, once I establish that someone's book isn't very good--now see if you can follow me on this one--I stop reading it. I abandoned his X-Men stuff when they started fighting werewolves and taking atrociously sophomoric, nearly braindead swipes at organized religion (not my favorite thing in the world, but even if the Catholic Church was run by a clone of Adolf Hitler, attacking it still wouldn't justify that nightmarishly bad Nightcrawler storyline), and I haven't looked back. That's the good thing about comics: No one's forcing you at gunpoint to buy them, or even read them in the store. In my head, Magneto is still dead, Nightcrawler is still a mutant, and that two-issue New X-Men coda Austen did exists only in the Negative Zone.
It's mildly disturbing to see the role that Marvel's backtracking away from pushing the boundaries of what mainstream, superhero comics could be played in Austen's ouster. If Austen's dopey PG-13 work on X-Men is out of bounds, what are the odds we'll see something like Unstable Molecules come along again anytime soon? On the other hand, Marvel's reliance on Austen to work on franchise books, work he was quite obviously ill-suited for, was a genuine problem for the company. By excusing himself from the table, Austen just made Marvel's job--making good comics--that much easier.
(Link courtesy of Kevin Melrose.)
W: Adam Beechen
A: Manny Bello
80 pages, b/w, $12.95
There's hardly a vein left in the big superhero-comics motherlode that hasn't been mined to near depletion. Neo-traditionalism, mad ideas, revisionism, retro, decompression, superheroes-plus (as in "plus crime/romance/sci-fi/what have you"): To quote the Barenaked Ladies, and God knows I try not to make that a habit, it's all been done. You're forgiven, then, if you greet Hench, the umpteenth iteration of "a realistic take on superheroes" to come down the pike, with something less than enthusiasm.
You are not forgiven, however, if you let that prevent you from giving the book a try. You'll find your forebearance amply rewarded. In Hench's slim 80 pages writer Adam Beechen establishes himself as a bona fide talent: a writer with a firm grasp on the interplay between the demands of character and plot, a command of genre convetions solid enough to make his undermining of same come across not as cheap shots but as smarts, and an ability to walk the well-worn paths of realistic superheroes and street-level crime tales without a stumble into cliche.
Hench is told mainly in flashback, as Mike, our protagonist, holds a gun to the head of a bound and incapacitated superhero named the Still of the Night. Mike is a career criminal, and his speciality is "henching," serving as manpower, muscle, and cannon fodder for the various, nefarious supervillains that populate the world of the book. Slowly he tells the story of the choices he made--and the choices made for him--that brought him to this pass, a pivotal moment during which he must choose between becoming a murderer or, quite possibly, becoming the victim of one at the hands of the terrifying hero at his feet.
The story would be little more than a case of deja vu--Rehashtro City, if you will--if it weren't for Beechen's skill in depicting the emotional logic of Mike's downward trajectory from football phenom to three-time loser. Beechen realizes that the presence of flying, bulletproof people who fight or commit crime is not a "get out of a semblance of normal human behavior free" card for a writer. As written by Beechen, Mike gets involved in supercrime for that most quotidian of reasons--money--but this is just a small part of his motivation for keeping at it. Right from the get-go he's honest with himself about the odds for success in this field: As Randy, the ex-footballer friend who gets him involved in the life, puts it in one of their initial conversations on the topic, "Figure two out of every three jobs, you're either going to jail or you're going to the hospital and then to jail." What makes Mike an ideal henchman isn't just the poverty that leads so many to a life of crime, but an unextinguishable desire to be told what to do and to do it. Even when he's helping to plot the overthrow of the U.S. government or risking capture at the hands of an alien crimefighter, Mike's a linebacker at heart. The coaches may change, but as we see time and time again as Mike immerses himself in a particular supervillain's world (the neo-fascist Shadow Army, the occultist Hellbent, the masochistic Pain Freak, and so on) only to do his time and forget about them afterwards, the coaches don't matter. It's getting back in the game that counts.
By the end of Mike's story, he's taking increasingly dangerous, borderline-suicidal jobs, with criminals like the radioactive Half-Life and the dangerously unhinged Pencil Neck. He's become one of those people who say things like "I could do a five year bid standing on my head" and mean it. He's lost his family (though, sadly for all involved, not his attachment to them), and he's all but lost his ability to picture a better way of living for himself. If this sounds familiar to you from some of the better crime films you've seen, it probably should. The superhero trappings give Hench a selling point, but like all good superhero stories, it's the truth behind the capes that counts. Hench has it.
That's not to say that there's not a single misstep in the book. The climax of the book centers on Mike's decision as to what to do with the Still of the Night, who it turns out is part of that breed of "heroes" who's as crazy and violent as the villains he fights. As the copy on the back of the book proclaims: "Heroes. Villains. The line between them has never been thinner." Unfortunately, outside of the confines of the world of superhero fetishists (and yes, I'll count myself in that number), I'm just not sure this is a particularly useful point, or an incisive glimpse at some deeper human truth. It doesn't take too much insight to point out that a gibbering sociopath who dresses up in costume and beats the crap out of people every night may, in fact, be a not terribly heroic individual. "We're not so different, you and I," the villain always says to the antihero. "No duh," I say to them both.
And then there's the art. I suppose Ken Lowery is right: Manny Bello's storytelling is always clear. Moreover, there are occasional visuals--the weird spirals and circles that comprise Half-Life, for example, or Mike's refreshingly idiosyncratic appearance--that impress the reader. But overall one can't escape the feeling that Bello is that guy in your algebra class who draws those really awesome pictures. Back in algebra class they were indeed really awesome, but the distance between algebra class and becoming a published comics artist must be paved with more growth than Bello has undergone. The art often looks hurried and unfinished, laced throughout with the kind of shortcuts that should get beaten out of artists at their very first portfolio review. There's more to crosshatching than drawing a few rows of Xs, for example, and there's more to drawing buildings (and cars, and chains, and guns--especially the gun that's central to the entire story, for Pete's sake!) than taking a ruler and drawing some rectangles. Finally, the conceit of reproducing famous stand-alone images from the ouevres of the great superhero comics of yore is amusing, but Bello lacks both the skill to depict these homages with enough accuracy to impress and the imagination to subert them in a compelling fashion. In the final analysis, seeing facsimiles of the poses and pin-ups of Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Steranko et al simply makes one pine for the originals. (In much the same way, the relatively hefty pricetag--thirteen bucks for 80 black-and-white pages--makes one pine for a manga digest, where you can get three times the page count for three bucks cheaper.)
But for fans of superhero stories who are looking not for something different--that's next to impossible to find--but for something that distinguishes itself, Hench is a discovery. Reading it, you know that it won't be long before the Big Two are beating a path toward this talented writer's door. We can only hope that he can tell other kinds of stories with the deftness and confidence he brought to this one.
Happy Birthday, America!
And what better way to celebrate than with some goodies all related to one of the three or four greatest living cartoonists.
First of all, I know this is sort of old news, but only at MoCCA last weekend was I finally able to pick up a copy of the Journal's Winter 2004 Special Edition, which features both an in-depth overview of Phoebe Gloeckner's career by Tom Spurgeon and a brand-new "photoromance" in which Gloeckner discusses several unlikely people who've provided her with artistic inspiration. (It also features a game of "Sexual Memory" that is one of the more bizarre things she's ever done, and as you can guess if you're at all familiar with her work, that's saying something.)
Second, the most recent regular issue of the Journal has both a one-on-one interview conducted by Gary Groth, portions of which are excerpted here, and a review of The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Donald Phelps. Like the Special Edition, this issue is definitely worth picking up if you're at all interested in Phoebe's work: Not only does it feature another original photoromance, but the interview contains a great sidebar about the long and winding road that Diary took before finally being reviewed by the Journal, which is just happening now, over a year and a half after its release. (This has been a topic of some interest to me ever since I interviewed Phoebe, as astute ADDTF readers might recall.)
Finally, did you know that Phoebe is blogging again? Yes, she's back! Go say hello. And buy her books, if you don't already have them, because the simple fact of the matter is that comics don't come any better.
It's Eightball Appreciation Day over at Comic Book Galaxy! Alan David Doane offers an encomium for the Daniel Clowes series in general and Eightball #22 in particular. Also up at CBG is a revised edition of the Eightball #23 review I originally wrote for this blog.
Meanwhile, back on the Gloeckner beat, ADD feels much the same way about Gloeckner's comics as I do, and says as much in his run-down of the Phoebe-centric latest issue of the Comics Journal, found here.
Point is, if you're looking for comics that deliver on the promise and potential of the medium, look no further.
The old blogroll has changed substantially over the last couple weeks or so. Peruse and surf!
One prominent addition to said blogroll is Heidi MacDonald, former Beat columnist and current Beat blogger. You may remember that I was touting the potential of Heidi to do a great blog in the Gawker/Kicker/Wonkette mode waaaay back when. Lo and behold, that's what she's done, and she's already breaking stories left and right. My favorite so far: Dark Horse will be rereleasing its Sin City volumes in time for the film version's release, in manga-digest format. Could it be that my old "it's the format, stupid" mantra (blog-initiated, retail-tested) is a belief that's shared by the movers and the shakers?
Here's an announcement that took me by surprise: Veteran-scribe-turned-hot-new-thing Bruce Jones is leaving Marvel. Huh. I can see how people might think that his conspiracy-laden Incredible Hulk saga bears diminishing returns, but I flipped through my trade-paperback copies of the series the other day and was amazed at how readable and enjoyable they remain. This is in no small part due to the editorial latitude afforded him by top-notch ed. Axel Alonso, as well as Jones's own ability to coax career-best work out of artists ranging from John Romita Jr. to Lee Weeks to Mike Deodato (and who'd'a thunk that one?). Jones was also a reliable go-to guy for a variety of Hulk- and Wolverine-related miniseries, the most recent of which, a Hulk vs. Thing thing, was only recently announced. It's a big surprise to see him defect to DC, and it makes one wonder who'll be the next in line to chafe under the more rigorous editorial demands that fellow ship-jumper Chuck Austen described.
Lots of people are saying lots of interesting things about Spider-Man 2, a film about which I couldn't come up with something interesting to say if you paid me. (Well, yeah, I could: Can we have a moratorium on films that include a scene in which a character, pushed to the brink of despair by the horror of his own actions, clenches his fists, closes his eyes, raises his face to the heavens and screams "NOOOOOOOOO!" to no one in particular? There, that will be $150, please.) With Dave Fiore's encouragement I'm going to let my thousand-word summary of the film stand: It's clear to me that I'm on so different a wavelength regarding this film than are my usual interlocutors that discussing it would be futile for all concerned. I'll say simply that it's my belief that the fascinating insights into both the superhero genre and larger points of aesthetics and ethics being generated by the film speak more directly to the high quality of the pundits involved than to the film itself. (For what it's worth, I think Johnny Bacardi's positive but measured assessment is much more in line with the intellectual and filmic weight the film can actually bear in and of itself. Ditto John Jakala's pan.)
The blockbuster interview of the moment is at PopImage: Jonathan Ellis speaks with Grant Morrison, and the amazing and inspiring quotes ensue as you knew they would, and as they do with the regularity of Old Faithful whenever Morrison speaks. I found his points about the too-easily-forsaken Wild-West potential of even "mainstream" comics particularly well-taken, as well as his refreshing lack of equivalency about Magneto's terror campaign (the fitting end to which has already been retconned out of creation by the House of Idea
s). (His argument that manga is where the hip-now-pop energy of comics is these days is certainly borne out by my sojourn in retail, that's for damn sure.)
Also worth a read is Chris Butcher's intro to the interview, in which he recounts the life-changing impact Morrison's Invisibles had on him. The Invisibles is by far my least favorite work of Morrison's; I found it difficult to follow in an annoying, poorly executed way, not a challenging way. Moreover, any impact it may have had on me was diluted by the fact that I read The Illuminatus! Trilogy long before; that book had the "Life-Changing Conspiracy Mindfuck" spot in my mental bookshelf well and truly filled. Still, the fact that a comic book can change someone's life speaks well both of the form and of the practitioner in question. (And I like the Chris Butcher we have as a result.)
As part of his ongoing crusade against wasting time discussing superhero comics, Tim O'Neil has posted two of the longest, most considered analyses of supercomic continuity I've ever seen. (I dunno, maybe he's going for some of that Morrisonesque Filth-style innoculation? Or maybe (seriously this time) he just really likes supercomics and gets frustrated when they don't live up to his very specific expectations. I'm going with the latter.) Now, I'm an unapologetic admirer of (good) supercomics, and yet not even I can imagine not reading a particular book because of its inconsistent portrayal of the freaking Absorbing Man. Still, Tim's main point--that writers, in choosing to either ignore continuity or dredge up its longest-forgotten elements, should always consider how this would effect the tone of the story and thereby its success in evoking the desired response from the readers--is an insightful and necessary corrective to a debate about such issues that too often devolves into blanket pro-and-anti camps.
The late-night slots of Comedy Central and Cartoon Network have become a graveyard where failed cartoon sitcoms endlessly cycle through their six episode initial commitments. The least lamented is the odious right-wing Simpsons knock-off, Family Guy.
--R. Fiore, "The Glory That Was The Simpsons,"
The Comics Journal, Special Edition Volume Four, Winter 2004.
Well, Mr. Fiore, I could challenge your definitions of both "least lamented" and "right-wing" (???), but I think I'll go the more succinct route: As Nelson would say, "Ha ha!"
(Link courtesy of Kevin Melrose. That's something we in the blogosphere should just tattoo on our foreheads, isn't it?)
Issues 1 & 2
W: Brian Maruca
A: Jim Rugg
B/W, 24 pages, $2.95 each
Aweful Books/Slave Labor Graphics
When it comes to talking about Street Angel, I guess I'm "their grandma," because "everybody" is already taken. You can't swing a dead cat around the comics blogosphere without hitting a writer who's praised the book to high heaven, or indeed hosted some sort of contest-cum-outreach-program to draw more attention to this unassuming black-and-white adventure comic. My expectations for the book, as you might therefore guess, were pretty high. I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was a little disappointed, but I do think that's less the fault of the book, which on its own terms is a success, and more the fault of the folks going on and on about it like it's the greatest thing to happen to comics since sliced bread. (Has sliced bread ever happened to comics? I guess if you count Stray Toasters.)
The key to Street Angel's success is its intelligent and slightly subversive premise. In the near future, the urban everycity known as Wilkesborough is beset by every schlocky genre convention known to man--mad scientists, hordes of ninjas, time-traveling conquistadores-slash-pirates, hard-luck astronauts, and so forth. The only thing keeping the town from slipping into complete chaos and destruction is a young gutterpunk code-named Street Angel, a fourteen-year-old skateboarder with the most destructive martial-arts capabilities this side of The Bride.
Indeed, the overall tone is not unlike an even more blatantly comedic remake of Tarantino's Kill Bill saga. The giddy kitchen-sink blend of beloved B-movie (in this case, B-comics) conventions is there, as is the beautiful heroine who's equal parts deadly and deadpan, and can navigate the disparate genres clashing around her with laugh-inducing aplomb. Also similar is the fact that, as was the case with Tarantino and The Bride, writer Maruca and artist Rugg mercifully refuse to have Street Angel parade around in her underwear.
Yet another point in common is the way that the Street Angel creators play with the actual formal stuff of comics-making. The back covers of each issue, for example, are dead-on sendups of well-known cartoonists' ouevres--Issue One parodies the Lee/Silvestri/Turner Image school, right down to the thong straps peaking ou from the suddenly buxom Street Angel's cargo pants, while Issue Two elicits a reaction along the lines of "I Can't Believe It's Not Clowes or Tomine!" Sound effects often have their constituent letters knocked around the room by the very action they're supposed to depict. The series' funniest moment thus far takes place when Street Angel faces down a platoon of the evil geologist (a pretty hilarious concept on its own, no?) Dr. Pangea's ninjas, only to have apparently dispatched them all Kill-Bill-House-Of-Blue-Leaves-style by the very next panel. "No, dear reader, you didn't skip a page," proclaims a caption. "Street Angel wiped out all of Pangea's hench-ninja in the time it took you to turn the page." (Dr. Pangea's name itself comes into play in a similar fashion earlier in the issue, as characters wonder which came first, the moniker or the scientist's obsession with reuniting the world's land masses. This isn't the kind of nature-or-nurture debate you had in college.)
The subversive element, though, stems not from the parodies of comic-book conventions, but from the position of Street Angel in the city she's forced time and again to save. Beneath all the goofy, over-the-top ninja basketball games and Inca pimp gods is a book whose heroine is a homeless child with filthy hair and body odor. In the hands of some writers this might be little more than a conceit, a half-hearted stab at that ol' Dickensian-urchin appeal, but Maruca is smart enough to drive the point home at the very end of each adventure, sticking a finger in Street Angel's rollicking successes. Street Angel rescues the Mayor's daughter, who subsequently and ruthlessly berates her savior's hygiene; Street Angel persuades the Incan god Inti to send Hernando Cortez and his band of warriors back to their own time, and is subsequently propositioned by Inti to join his stable of prostitutes. ("Virgins are especially valuable. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!" Shades of Harvey Keitel in Taxi Driver, or R. Kelly in real life.) It's not often you see genuine socioeconomic commentary in rock'em-sock'em superhero parodies.
The art, too, is strong. Rugg is an appealing draftsman whose work will likely bring to mind Paul Pope, especially given the similarities between Street Angel and Pope's cutie-pie adventure stories in THB. But to the stylish, blobby inkings of a Pope or a Farel Dalrymple, Rugg brings minimalist lessons learned from Adrian Tomine, and the occasional hint of the muscular caricature of Dean Haspiel. It's a style that does very, very right by itself, able to convey kinetic action without overwhelming and altcomix steez without bogging down. When Rugg leaves something out, you know it's by choice (and by the right choice) rather than by inability.
So why was I disappointed? Maybe this is just something I privilege, even in my gonzo action comedies, but I need character in my comics. As I've discussed, Street Angel herself has a great deal of potential, but no other characters are similarly fleshed out or based on similarly rich observations of the interplay between genre and personality. It's fun to watch ninjas and Spanish pirates and Irish astronauts and skateboarding assassins duke it out, but not so much fun that I can ignore the fact that the outcome is essentially meaningless. And I'm not even saying that Street Angel has to suddenly evolve into Palomar--books like Paul Grist's unbelievably enjoyable Jack Staff prove that seat-of-your-pants black-and-white indie superhero romps can be rich in compelling, even relatable characters. Other supercompressed comics have acheived similar results, including Grant Morrison's Seaguy and (the granddaddies of them all) Jack Kirby's Fourth World books. Heck, even the "action for action's sake" monster meanderings of Mat Brinkman's Teratoid Heights convey a human reality behind the wordless monsters therein. To be fair, we're only two issues into the Street Angel series, but that's certainly a direction I hope it goes down--the book would undoubtedly improve as a result.
So you're unlikely to coax one of those "If you're taking a dump right now, don't even finish wiping--RUN OUT AND BY THIS BOOK WITH YOUR PANTS AROUND YOUR ANKLES IF YOU HAVE TO"-type hyperbolic statements about Street Angel out of me. But it's a fine, fun book, and one with a great deal of promise should Maruca and Rugg harness the intelligence and imagination they bring to making us laugh at it and use it to make us laugh with it instead.
I once had a conversation about the late Mark Gruenwald, author of the flawed but still seminal and inarguably compelling Squadron Supreme, with one of his contemporaries. (For those of you who haven't read the book, it's a bizarre amalgam: Half then-groundbreaking realistic-superhero tropes and examination of the troubling underside of hero worship, half Marvel house-style Bronze Age-isms and wonky thought-balloon writing.) What was Gru's story? I asked his fellow pro. Was he a brilliant writer hamstrung by company constraints? Or was he simply a guy who had great ideas but lacked the genius necessary to properly pull them off, a la Moore or Miller? This pro's view was that it was probably more the latter than the former.
Tim O'Neil makes a similar argument in yet another long, thoughtful post on the ins and outs of superheroes, continuity, and other things I was pretty sure he didn't want us to waste our time talking about. (No, I'm not gonna let that go. ;) ) Go read it: It's a revealing look at Tim's true feelings about the genre and a heartfelt appreciation of Gruenwald's work to boot.
In a related post, Dave Fiore does his usual thing, this time focusing on Gruenwald's Captain America run. It makes me wish there was a version of this character, a character I love in the abstract, that I could get as into as Dave got into Gruenwald's.
Courtesy of the illustrious Dave comes a link to this John Commonplacebook post, which goes almost deliriously in-depth into two scenes from Spider-Man 2: The atrocious Christ-figure bit from the subway, and the random-ass chocolate cake scene with the pretty daughter of the nasty landlord. Personally, my explanation for the latter scene was that, as the girl is clearly anorexic, it's not like she was gonna eat it; there is, however, no excuse for the former scene. Anyway, John writes very well, but I can't decide: Is this an insightful exploration of a rich text, or a textbook case of Milo George's "justifying a love of junk" theory? You make the call!
(I would also like to say that I'm really coming to resent all these long analytic SM2 pieces, because they're gonna make me wanna see the stupid fucking thing again despite my better judgement, when I know that I could go see Anchorman and enjoy it a lot more--and probably get just as much out of a close analysis of it to boot. All this business is like when people coax incredible amounts of societal and philosophical meaning out of, say, The Munsters or Bewitched. The analysis is interesting, and probably not even inaccurate, but that doesn't make the shows any good. Ah, well. Dr. Octopus was kind of cool, I'll give everyone that. Except for the idiotic talking-to-the-tentacles thing. It was dopey when Dafoe talked to his mask, and it's dopey now, even if they're a quadruple phallic symbol with vaginas dentata on the end. And I'll be honest--I'm irritated that Donna Murphy was wasted in one of those "I'm a woman who needs to die to help make a male character interesting" roles, particularly because her death ended up playing exactly no part in her husband's villainous motivation. Also, did you know that water can extinguish the sun without boiling? Alright, alright, I'll stop there.)
The invaluable Egon reports that the Dewey Decimal Classification News is soliciting advice on how best to file graphic novels within the system. Clearly the presence of graphic novels in libraries is increasingly prominent.
Eightball #23 came out today, so now's a good time to remind you that I've already written a lengthy review of the book: Click here for the original version and click here for the tweaked 'n' polished Comic Book Galaxy version.
David Welsh has written a wonderful review of the wonderful manga series Planetes. Regulars here at ADDTF know that Planetes is this blog's nominee for The Best Comic You're Not Reading. So render it ineligible and read it!
It turns out that Scott at Polite Dissent is a genius. Why? Well, now, when I say that Hush is the worst fucking Batman comic imaginable in any possible world, I actually can prove it with graphs! But Scott, even if you hadn't just come up with a brilliant method of deducing the suckitude of any given Batman storyline, anyone who repeatedly kicks the snot out of Hush is okay by me.
I still have last night in my body
I wish you were with me
I am thinking of you
--Gus Gus, "David"
Two in a row! Less than 12 hours apart! Good golly Miss Molly, I sure like to ball!
Today's Winner for Things I Never Thought I'd Write: Tim O'Neil is blogging Quasar. And doing it well, though that's probably no surprise. The post also includes a review of Beechen & Bello's Hench, which points out (accurately) that Bello's art, for all its (considerable) flaws, is still fun to look at.
Jim Henley uses Spider-Man 2 as an occasion to wonder aloud at the authorship of the original Spider-Man and Marvel comics, particularly vis-a-vis the later work of Kirby and Ditko. (I'd say Orion from New Gods had feet of clay, Jim, but I think your point's a good one. Maybe it'll finally get me to get off my ass and read Spurgeon & Raphael's Stan Lee book, which seems to be the authoritative statement on the era.)
Bruce Jones speaks about his switch from Marvel to DC, as well as what impact this may have on his Hulk storyline, at Newsarama. (Link courtesy of Kevin Melrose.)
Franklin Harris: Scourge of nitwitted retailers everywhere.
Graeme McMillan: Scourge of nitwitted fanboys everywhere.
Me and Edith Head
W: Sara Ryan
A: Steve Lieber
16 pages, B/W, $2.00
W: Sean Stewart
A: Steve Lieber
8 pages, B/W, $1.00
Too often in the world of comics, a "quick read" is quickly forgettable. Not so for Me and Edith Head and Family Reunion, two delightful minicomics illustrated by Whiteout and On the Road to Perdition artist Steve Lieber. Lieber's combination of classicist chops and an understanding of the inherent whimsy of the art form make for a memorable read.
In Edith, Lieber marries a strong Eisner influence to a relatively subdued tale of teen angst giving way to teen determination. Written by novelist (and Lieber's wife) Sara Ryan, Edith follows a teenager named Katrina whose hopes of starring in the school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream are dashed when she's put in charge of the costume department instead. Using books written by legendary Hollywood designer Edith Head as inspiration, Katrina surprises herself when she discovers she's got a knack for both the artistry and the organization necessary to create memorable costumes. Ryan serves up a script memorable for its lack of after-school-special cliches, and Lieber takes the ball and runs with it, producing several sequences that impress with their imaginative presentation yet do not overwhelm with showiness. Particularly strong is the way he plays with the passage of time. Comics' flexibility in depicting this is one of the medium's great gifts; in such scenes as Katrina's first immersion in the chaotic costume room or the ongoing transformation of her own bedroom from pigsty to pristine, Lieber conveys a great deal through the simple manipulation of props and costumes. Katrina's own transformation is invigorating to watch. "As hard as this may be for you to believe," she says to her mother, who's in the midst of a divorce from Katrina's father, "what's happening to me has nothing to do with either of you." Sure enough, we believe her--our protagonist is a teen smart enough and spirited enough not to be dragged down by circumstance. It's enough to make one hope this minicomic falls into the right (teenaged) hands, where it could very well do a lot of good.
Featuring the lead character from novelist Sean Stewart's upcoming release Perfect Circle, Family Reunion is an original story by Stewart that goes further afield from the everyday than does Edith. Protagonist William "Dead" Kennedy sees dead people. Yes, ghosts. The problem is that he's also surrounded by the living--in this case, a family reunion full of distant relations--with whom he seems little more adept at communicating. Stewart does a tight little job of creating a likeable loser, a guy who through no real fault of his own has a life that's going nowhere, complete with chronic unemployment, an ex-wife, and a daughter he doesn't get to see often enough. D.K.'s situation is contrasted quite nicely with that of the ghostly relative haunting him during the reunion, a casualty of Vietnam who couldn't handle the hard luck that transformed him from a baseball phenom to a jungle-bound junkie literally overnight. Lieber's sympathetic character work--again, the similarities to a toned-down Eisner are striking, and serve the story well--warmly and cleverly links these two individuals and the garrulous, slightly sad aunts and uncles whose expectations of the young men have shaped both their lives, for better and for worse. Water-gun fights and the Texas Longhorns' "hook 'em horns" hand gesture help give the story a happy-sad summer feeling that lingers well after the final full-page image.
Sixteen and eight pages respectively, Edith and Reunion accomplish a great deal despite, or maybe because of, their low page counts. They showcase an artist whose sensibilities mesh comfortably with those of his collaborators, and tell human stories that wriggle free of convention. They're well worth the three bucks. When was the last time you said that of a comic (let alone two!) you read inside of five minutes?
W: Micah Harris
A: Michael Gaydos
120 pages, b/w, $12.95
A while back I took a quick look at Heaven's War, a fantasy-cum-conspiracy-theory graphic novel by Micah Harris and Michael "Alias" Gaydos. Chances are you never heard of this book--and that's a crime. Two of its main characters--C.S. Lewis and (especially) J.R.R. Tolkien--are very much in literary and pop-culture vogue, and given the popularity of books that are plumbing the self-same area of conspiracy-theory legend--most notably Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and its "nonfiction" antecedent Holy Blood, Holy Grail--it seemed to me that Heaven's publisher, Image Comics, had a hit on its hands and punted. I have no idea whether the coup d'etat that happened at Image in the interim will affect how (or if) the book is marketed in the future, but I feel it's worth drawing your attention to it yet again by reposting my review. Fans of intelligent, slightly heady Christian-mythology genre fiction would do well to snap up a copy post haste.
I spent part of Super Bowl Sunday reading Micah Harris & Michael Gaydos' excellent graphic novel Heaven's War, from the increasingly indie-feeling Image Comics. The book concerns the race between legendary occultist Aleister Crowley and legendary fantasy authors the Inklings (Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien) to unravel the secrets of the Priory of Sion as encrypted in the church at Rennes-Le-Chateau.
At this point you probably fall into one of two camps: You are either saying "Holy Moses, I've got to get that!" or "Huh?" And if there's a problem with this fascinating little book, it's that it doesn't go far enough to draw members of the latter group into the former. I've spent the last decade drenching myself in fantasy and occult esoterica, to the point where simply enumerating the names of the real-life figures who are characters in the book and the places and groups involved in the story is enough to tell me exactly what's involved and what's at stake. According to the notes offered by Harris at the back of the book, the published version of the graphic novel is much shorter than what he'd originally planned to produce. I can't help but wonder if additional pages build-up, place-setting, and character development wouldn't have been helpful to those readers who weren't already familiar with the players and their milieux. In other words, to crib a criticism Tolkien levvied at his own novel, "the book is too short."
That being said, I think the book still holds up: for its charming and involving depiction of the personalities of its four eccentric protagonists; for its deft and appropriately mystical exploration of conspiracy-theory metaphysics; for its gorgeous black-and-white art by Alias cartoonist Michael Gaydos, whose sensibilities in both action and portraiture are subtle yet perfectly clear; for its optimism in the face of awesome horrors, a sentiment appropriate to the work of all three of its heroes; and for its ambition, tackling in relatively short order the type of mysteries of faith and history that were previously the exclusive comics territory of Moore & Campbell's From Hell. If you enjoyed, for example, William Gull's guided tour of London in that book, this will rivet you to your seat.
If the work of any of its characters appeals to you, please do pick up Heaven's War. I continue to find myself thinking over the issues it tackles, and the images it offers.
Yet another post. I'm a god-damned machine.
Marc Singer counters the Spider-Man 2 euphoria. Bonus points for busting on American Beauty are cancelled out by penalty points for busting on The Return of the King, but regardless, it's a usesful corrective to the "The upper left-hand tentacle turns in an Oscar-worthy performance" buzz circulating in the comics blogosphere.
Using this Sequart article as a springboard, John Jakala wonders whether manga fans will buy into American comics publishers' attempts to reformat their comics in the manga-digest style. For the record, it's not that I think putting Western comics in manga-sized digest will make your average Clamp fan run out and buy Sin City--I just think it *couldn't hurt.* My experience in retail only confirmed what I already believed--when it comes to getting your comic shelved in high-traffic, high-sell-thru areas, format matters. Big time. Why fight the tide?
Back to SM2, that selfsame John Jakala post links to this Matt Martin takedown of the flick. Unlike Matt, I haven't tried to make much hay out of the numerous illogical, goofy, suspsension-of-disbelief-shattering moments that pepper the movie, because after all I liked Daredevil, but I do wonder why people who decried similar moments in the latter film have entirely overlooked them here.
Finally, I'd like to mention that Wizard #154, the issue currently on the stands, features my debut piece for the magazine. It's an interview with Geoff Johns on the soon-to-be-resurrected Hal Jordan. H.E.A.T. Members--you're welcome!
Marc Singer, with help from a rogues gallery of pop-culture commentators, maps out the stages of innovation and traditionalism in various subsets of superhero comics. Where, oh where to map Grant Morrison? This post is a hell of a read.
Per Jim Henley's question, Franklin Harris mulls over the matter of authorship in the Lee-Kirby and (especially) Lee-Ditko collaborations.
That's all I got.
1) This is your company. This is your company after you hire Peggy Burns to be your publicist.
2) Art Spiegelman's drawing process involves the use of a computer on a fairly extensive basis. I'm impressed--I figured him for something of a luddite, but he's taking advantage of all the tools at his disposal.
3) Seth is as glam as fuck. He's the Thin White Duke of comics. I just wish he'd kept his actual name--Gregory Gallant. Most people have to invent glitter pseudonyms, but this guy was born with one!
4) Chris Ware's borderline-pathological self-deprecation and melancholy seems to be pretty much a non-stop deal. Can you imagine what he'd be like if he wasn't the best cartoonist in the world?
5) Seeing Charles Burns's Black Hole compared to James Joyce's Ulysses (primarily in terms of its serialization, but not just in those terms) makes me smile, quietly, to myself.
7) Ware's explanation of his thought process while working is maybe the most fascinating such explanation I've ever read from a cartoonist. It's a new way about thinking about the creation of comics, at least for me.
8) Kudos to the author for mentioning The Dark Knight Returns and the work of Neil Gaiman, as well as interviewing Alan Moore, without acting like the presence of genre fiction amidst various and sundry McSweeney's alums is something to be apologized for.
You'll be pleasantly surprised as to how non-snobby, non-"bang! pow!", almost entirely factually accurate this article is. It's the best I've read from one of the mainstream guardians of literary and artistic taste in a long time.
The Missus presents her adventures at a vocal health clinic. She also shows off her DIY Phoebe Gloeckner-centric attire. See why I married her?
The better something is, the more important it is to criticize it. You owe it to the thing to make sure it adheres to its own high standards.
That's why you should read Dave Intermittent's critique of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's involvement in amicus briefs, and Alan David Doane's comments on Gary Groth's biographically fixated interview with Phoebe Gloeckner in the Comics Journal.
If the CBLDF and the Journal weren't of such vital importance to a healthy comics industry and art form, people wouldn't bother getting upset when they see them drop the ball.
Over at Comic Book Galaxy I have a piece on Robert Kirkman's Invincible, Brian Wood's Demo, and Charles Burns's Black Hole, examining the ways in which these disparate creators utilize the fiction of the fantastic to depict the teen experience. Check it out!
The self-same financial catastrophe that beset Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, and Fantagraphics over the past couple of years has finally dropped the hammer on the fourth leg of the North American altcomix table, Jeff Mason's Alternative Comics. The details are here. The good news is that, as with the aforementioned publishers, Alternative's got plenty of wonderful comics to read, so coming to their aid financially is a win-win situation. I recommend Nick Bertozzi's Rubber Necker series and his graphic novel The Masochists, just for starters...
Just got this in my inbox, from Checker Publishing:
CHECKER, ACHEWOOD CREATOR ONSTAD INK THREE-BOOK DEAL
First Trade Collection of "Funniest Comic on the Internet" Slated for November
DAYTON, Ohio -- Checker Book Publishing Group and cartoonist Chris Onstad have reached an agreement under which the publisher will collect Onstad's Achewood comic strip in a series of three trade paperbacks beginning in November.
Checker's first Achewood collection (ISBN 0-9753808-6-9, $19.95, 180 pp. tpb), is as yet untitled, but is slated for November publication, and will collect Achewood strips from its debut in October 2001 through June 2002.
How about that! Congratulations to Chris Onstad
for proving that being funny as hell is a lucrative occupation.
Am I the only one who thinks it odd that a man who thinks Louis Farrakhan must be shown proper respect is also the writer of a Captain America series? I'm just asking.
(I dunno, maybe I'm wrong. Like Cap and HYDRA, Farrakhan fights against a shadowy conspiracy, too.)
Jamie Rich, formerly of Oni Press, goes ballistic against the New York Times Magazine article on comics and graphic novels that this blog (and many others) features so prominently. Jamie rightfully takes writer Charles McGrath to task for completely ignoring manga, the dominant form of comics in this country today (with the possible exception of strips). Equally egregious is the McGrath's complete androcentricity, mentioning just four women cartoonists before launching into a whole explanation of how men who are lonely, chronic masturbators make the best comics, a lacuna that Rich points out before adding to the woefully brief list. (Both men ignore Phoebe Gloeckner, the greatest of them all, which, sadly, is no surprise at this point.) Rich is also right in attacking McGrath's fundamental error: Describing comics as a possible replacement for prose literature due to the public's rapidly shrinking attention span in one breath, then citing as prime examples of good comics a veritable who's-who of the cartoonists whose work demands the absolute maximum attention one can give, from Chris Ware to Dan Clowes to Los Bros Hernandez to Chester Brown to Alan Moore, in the next. The absuridty of the first half of that equation is only surpassed by McGrath's attempt to shore it up with the second half.
But where Jamie's tirade falls flat is when it seeks to marginalize the work of those creators (well, not Alan Moore--the Fanta/D&Q set) as being as inconsequential to both contemporary comics and to the mainstream pop-culture experience as the hardest of the hardcore superhero fetishists. Frankly, I think this is so preposterous on its face it hardly needs refuting, but what the hell.
There are elements of this argument that bring to mind similar, sense-making stances espoused by others. The idea that the "new mainstream"--the kind of books published by Oni, AiT, and occasionally Dark Horse, Image, and Vertigo--is what may carry comics to a new level of popularity in North America is a common one, traceable at least back to Fantagraphics co-founder Kim Thompson's essay "more crap is what we need." You see echoes of this argument (sans the "crap" designation-slash-denigration) every time you see a blogger argue (accurately) that we're dealing with a very weird industry if a straightforward espionage title like The Losers is considered outside the mainstream.
Another element of Jamie's argument that rings true, though it's not something he himself says explicitly, is that the artsy crowd's antipathy toward superhero comics, and genre storytelling generally, is indeed as far removed from mainstream thought as are the superbooks they're lambasting. I've often argued that normal, non-comics-reading people don't really care whether or not a story is a superhero story (beyond the sense in which some people just might not dig 'em, the same way some people don't like westerns or romantic comedies or horror or Merchant-Ivory pictures or whatever)--all that matters to them is whether it's good. The idea that a main character who wears tights and shoots lasers out of his eyeballs makes a story superior is stupid, but so is the idea that it makes it inferior. Getting snobby about this is as lame as getting snobby about the fact that it's obvious that the Hulk could defeat Superman, because the Hulk is the strongest one there is.
Finally, there's an argument to be made that using R. Crumb's relentless self-deprecation, stunted social skills, and disturbing preoccupation with onanistic sexuality as a model for the ideal comics creator is a self-defeating (or at the very least unpleasant) tack to take. I myself have heard from at least one noteable alternative-comics creator that the way the Shadow of Crumb falls on all his successors is oppressive and uninspiring. Personally, I'd prefer to have Crumb as a role model than to be in the fine arts or rock and roll and be forced to ape the misogynistic self-aggrandizing machismo of a Picasso or Jagger, but the idea that there's essentially one way to make good comics is stultifying and wrong. It is also oversimplifying things to sum up art/altcomix as lonely white guys struggling to make human contact, as McGrath does; obviously this summary flows naturally from his equally limited view of the cartoonists themselves.
What I can't accept, and where Jamie's argument completely loses me, is here:
...this old guard of alternative comics, as good as most of them are, represent a world that is just as closed off from the bulk of the population as superhero comic books--and like the raging fanboys that this side of comics often decries (a bit like the closeted jock picking on the effeminate kid), they like it that way. They want to horde the crumbs of success and recognition because, like capes and tights, the chronic masturbator cartoonist is just as outmoded as the kid who wants to be Superman and beat up the bullies that pick on him.
There's no doubt that many of the top art-comics creators prefer their own mode of expression to any others (cf. the Gilbert Hernandez/Craig Thompson discussion in the Ditko issue of the Comics Journal a few months back, in which Beto can hardly say a nice thing about anyone
, even artcomix stalwarts like Chester Brown, Joe Matt, Jeffrey Brown, Dan Clowes, and (yes) Robert Crumb). But here's the thing--so do I.
I feel like my non-comics-snob bonafides are well enough established that I can say this: Pick a work at random from any of the authors profiled in the NYT piece, and then pick a work at random from any of the creators currently racking up headlines at the superhero sites. You don't need to be a superhero-basher to realize that, with a handful of exceptions, the former will beat the living snot out of the latter nine times out of ten.
Why? Because rather than immersing themselves in a sea of continuity, convention, capes, and cliche--that is, rather than making comics about other comics about other comics, world without end, amen--they're able to directly address what it is to be human. You don't need to have read Ghost World to understand what happens in Ice Haven, you know? Meanwhile, as I've said before, try to get maximum enjoyment out of New Frontier without knowing who "Ollie" and "Dinah" and "Barry" are before you pick up the book. Listen: I love superhero comics, and even I can see that the vast majority of superhero comics are removed from "the bulk of the population" in ways that books like Jimmy Corrigan and Diary of a Teenage Girl and Palomar could never, ever be.
In Jamie's experience, a creator like Matt Wagner may indeed have been more influential over comics in the past 25 years than was R. Crumb. But in your average movie exec's experience, the late Don Simpson was likely a more influential figure over cinema in the past 25 years than was Scorsese. Who do you think matters more? (Okay, that was unfair, I admit it. Replace Simpson with, say, James Cameron or Sam Raimi, two fine, idiosyncratic, maverick, humanistic, influential filmmakers who are simply not on Scorsese's level, no matter how much I happened to like Aliens and Evil Dead 2.)
I think Jamie gets tripped up because McGrath got tripped up--he tried to make an argument for why comics may become one of the popular arts again, but supported it with evidence for the medium's greatness, not its popularity. Jamie responded with an argument for why the great books shouldn't be popular, and in the process seemed to believe them to be less great. Neither argument works.
Postscript: Marc Singer has also aimed a poison pen at the NYT piece, not so much as for what it gets wrong (and he points out those things with the same accuracy as did Rich) but what it got right, in his own view at least: The notion that 99% of art/altcomix are autobiographical in nature. This isn't the first time that I've wondered exactly how many alternative comics Marc has actually read--I recall a post in which he dismissively referred to Dan Clowes as, among other things, "a non-genre writer," which I'm sure will surprise readers of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, David Boring, and The Death-Ray. In a similar vein, I'd be curious to find out what's so autobiographical about Chester Brown's Louis Riel, Jim Woodring's The Frank Book, Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar, Jaime Hernandez's Locas (yes, I know he was an L.A. punk too, but a young George Lucas occasionally drag-raced--does that make The Phantom Menace autobiographical?), Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell's From Hell (perhaps Alan gets a pass for having written Swamp Thing?), Gary Panter's Jimbo in Paradise, Dave Cooper's Crumple, Dan Clowes's Ice Haven, Paul Hornschemeier's Forlorn Funnies #5, Ron Rege Jr.'s Skibber Bee Bye, Mat Brinkman's Teratoid Heights, Marc Bell's Shrimpy & Paul and Friends, Paul Pope's 100%, Jason's The Iron Wagon, Sammy Harkham's "Poor Sailor," Jordan Crane's The Last Lonely Saturday, Nick Bertozzi's The Masochists, Hans Rickheit's Chloe, Renee French's Marbles in My Underpants, Ben Katchor's Julius Knipl, and on and on and on... But heck, if I've got to put up with facile generalizations in order to have access to semi-, pseudo-, seemingly-, and straight-autobiographical books like Maus, Quimby the Mouse, A Child's Life, Ripple, Mother Come Home, I Never Liked You, Black Hole, Perfect Example, My New York Diary, Cages, Epileptic, Safe Area Gorazde and so forth, I guess that's a trade-off I can handle making. What I couldn't handle is actually believing that those books speak to no one's experience but their respective creators'.
I've been writing a lot of stuff, lately. If you think you'd like to read some of it, please be sure to scroll down and read all them posts down there. There's links too.
Actually, quite a few of today's links tie in to previous posts. For example, we can add NeilAlien's scolding of Sequential Tart for its systematically bad netiquette to this post on holding great comics institutions to their own high standards.
We can also add Alan David Doane's gut-level reaction to Dan Clowes's Eightball #23 to my own take on the book. And remember, I've also reviewed Invincible, Demo, and Black Hole at that self-same site.
Speaking of Eightball #23, Chris Butcher has announced his intention to blog every reaction to the book he comes across. He's started with citing mine and Alan's CBG reviews, his own sorta wond'ring aloud inquiry as to how the book will be received by superhero fans (to whom I say: Don't worry, it's not at all the condescending, lazy patronizing of the genre and its fans that you may be expecting), and a Comics Journal messboard thread on the book that demonstrates with admirable clarity why that board needs to be death-rayed out of existence.
Chris also makes the case for why not all comics publishers are created equal, and why the ailing Alternative Comics is more equal than others. I'll drink to that. A reminder for those of us who are San Diego-bound next weekend: Alternative will have a booth there, and it'll be a great chance to do some shopping. Plus, if you buy something you end up not liking, Milo George will buy it from you. Go Team Comix!
John Jakala is disappointed with Street Angel #3, which he says is not in line with the happy-go-socky tone of the series' first two issues. Unsurprisingly, I'm both intrigued and impressed. Looking forward to reading it.
Marc-Oliver Frisch has the scoop on the intricacies of continuity--or the futility of communication, depending on your POV--over in Spider-Man's section of the Marvel Universe. Hey, I care about these things.
Finally, I duke it out with Jamie Rich, Marc Singer, and NYT writer Charles McGrath over the nature of alternative/art comics here. If nothing else, it contains a list of comics I guarantee you you'll enjoy...
(UPDATE: Just scroll down looking for UPDATE tags for the new stuff. UPDATE ROUND 6 is the latest batch.)
The stars must be aligned in the shape of a nine-panel grid or something, because between that New York Times magazine article about graphic novels and the interplay between genre/superhero and alternative storytelling in Daniel Clowes's Eightball #23 (not to mention the release of the "real"-writers-on-comics anthology Give My Regards to the Atom-Smashers! and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and comics aficionado Michael Chabon's involvement with the blockbuster Spider-Man sequel), it's as though every major argument anyone's ever had about the soul of this medium has been revivified. The purpose of this post is to try and link to as much of the debate(s) as I can, throw in some comments, and try to represent for sanity amidst the cacaphony if I can.
Charles McGrath's New York Times Magazine article on graphic novels: "The Not Funnies"
My initial response
Jamie Rich's anti-McGrath/Crumb/artcomix tirade
Marc Singer's similarly themed post
My counterargument to Rich and Singer
Singer takes comics to task for attempting to ape the values of New Yorker-approved fiction
Heidi MacDonald's optimistic appraisal of Where Comics Are Now in light of the NYTMag article
Comics Journal message board (aka the absolute worst place on the comics internet) thread on McGrath's piece
Heidi MacDonald reposts Eddie Campbell's "Graphic Novel Manifesto" from the TCJ.com thread
NOTE: It is in fact worth your while to wade through that thread. While it comes to be dominated by the same two insufferable narcissistic boors who post on every thread loudly insisting that Kirby and Herge and Clowes and Ware are actually quite beneath talking about, there are plenty of interesting things being said by Fantagraphics co-founders Gary Groth and Kim Thompson (the former takes a glass-half-empty view of the piece; the latter a glass-half-full one), Heidi MacDonald, and Eddie Campbell. The point about the way in which mainstream publications are perfectly comfortable with assigning stories on comics to people with next to no knowledge of the field, whereas doing this with other areas of inquiry (from movies to warfare) would be completely unthinkable, is particularly insightful; this is why even the best such articles till take on that condescending (and often factually inaccurate) social-anthropology tone. (McGrath alleges, for example, that this (comics) is probably not a form well-suited for intense emotion. I suppose I must have misread Poison River, then!)
Campbell's manifesto is also a must-read, insofar as it attempts to cut through the semantic silliness about "graphic novels" and rescue the term as one that describes the concept, the movement, behind the books rather than the books themselves. To put it another way, it's technically inaccurate to refer to The Blair Witch Project, Dancer in the Dark, and Attack of the Clones as "films," since they were shot digitally, yet no one questions whether or not these fall under the artistic rubric of Film. A Contract with God may be a collection of short stories, and Cerebus may have consisted of 300 individual issues, but both are indisputably "graphic novels," according to Campbell's (in my view) eminently sensible and liberating definition.
Campbell loses me (of course) here:
[The graphic novelist] disdains 'genre fiction' and all its hideous cliches, though they try to keep an open mind.
I guess that in the end that sentence is watered-down enough to not be as head-slappingly pedantic as it sounds--it's the "hideous cliches" that they disdain, they keep an open mind, etc. But as I always say, this disdain for genre storytelling is just as far removed from the mainstream popular and critical experience of art and literature, however you want to define any of that, as is your average Newsarama poster. It's just as much a product of being immersed in comics culture for years, too. At any rate, if graphic novelists really are to disdain genre fiction, don't let's forget to kick Alan Moore and Dan Clowes out of the club next time we convene.
Campbell replies by saying that inserting some old X-Men storyline into the graphic-novel pantheon would "muddy the waters of our idealism"; Watchmen, however, would get a pass because of how difficult it would be to discuss the history of the graphic novel without including it. Well, I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see why genre and idealism are supposed to be mutually exclusive to the point where we have to be specifically reminded to keep an open mind about the former. Watchmen's place in the history of comics aside, it's also an excellent book in and of itself; the fact that Dr. Manhattan can fly and shoot lasers out of his hands changes this not one whit. Why would that ever count against Watchmen's graphic-novel status, when someone doing the umpteenth book about a lonely white guy trying and failing to make sincere human contact amidst an unsympathetic societal landscape doesn't?
I can't imagine anyone (well, certain TCJ.com posters, I guess, but I can't imagine anyone else) suggesting that "we should keep an open mind, but it's generally wise to ignore genre storytelling as we size up The Historically Great Works of (say) Film, or Prose Literature." It seems to me that having an open mind dictates that we wouldn't need to say something like that in the first place. I think I'm now just restating myself, but my point is that the reactionary tendency against genre doesn't make any more sense as an aesthetic strategy than does the fixation on genre to exclusion of anything else.
(A brief aside: cartoonist Jesse Hamm, who serves as something of a human bulwark against the anti-genre autocrats stalking that board, quite accurately pointed out that (say) autobiography is also a genre, with its own set of hideous cliches that good graphic novelists should disdain (though they should try to keep an open mind, of course).)
UPDATE ROUND 4: Eddie Campbell tweaks and reposts his Graphic Novel manifesto
Allen Rubenstein rewrites Eddie's manifesto into more of a statement of purpose than a settling of definitions
Eddie Campbell's cleaned-up manifesto has changed for the better, if you ask me. The most notable area of improvement is here:
He or she disdains the cliches of 'genre fiction', though they try to keep an open mind. They are particulary resentful of the notion, still prevalent in many places, and not without reason, that the comic book is a sub-genre of science fiction or heroic fantasy.
You'll notice (approvingly, I'd hope) that he's bypassed impugning the entire mode of expression described by the term "genre fiction" and instead skipped directly to attacking its "cliches," which are indeed deserving of attack. He's also dropped the adjective "hideous," which is good, since the cliches of genre fiction are no more or less hideous than the cliches of any other type of fiction, or art in general; cliches are hideous qua
cliches and not due to the type of work in which they rear their lame heads. I included the second sentence to point out that Eddie (and everyone) can get upset at the bizarre and ultimately detrimental dominance of comics by the superhero sub-sub-subgenre without impugning the validity of said sub-sub-subgenre itself.
(As an aside, is it worth wondering why, in the three major comics markets, some subset of sci-fi action has come to dominate? Obviously there is greater diversity in Europe, and greater diversity still in Japan, but am I wrong in thinking that in both those places SF thrillers (of the Humanoids/Metal Hurlant variety in the former, of the robot/cyborg variety in the latter) are the most popular type of comics, just as superhero books are here in the States? Seems to me that the comics form lends itself to action just as well as it lends itself to anomie (the latter a point I'd been making long before McGrath did).)
Allan Rubenstein's revision of Campbell's points is deliberately more generalized; Rubenstein's interested in a call to arms, a self-applied definition of What We Do that all cartoonists working in the graphic-novel form can rally behind. That's when I reach for my revolver, to coin a phrase: I've never had any use for manifestos of that sort, or for the work of the type of people who issue them. Not Allan, of course--he seems to have the best of intentions, and he hasn't churned out propagandistic drivel to support his manifesto a la Godard or Eisenstein or similar doofuses. But sentences like "He/she is committed to raising comics writing and drawing to a more ambitious and meaningful level" invite more problems than they settle. Take a look at any given TCJ.com messboard thread and see how difficult it is to get anyone
to agree on what would constitute "ambitious" and/or "meaningful," or indeed whether those qualities are to be aimed for at all. (I think they can be, but they don't have to be; regardless, rarely are they arrived at by people who are "committed to" arriving at them.)
National Review article by John Podhoretz lamenting the acceptance by critics of comics as a valid form of artistic and literary expression
My response to Podhoretz's piece
Sure, Podhoretz is a nitwit who's likely unaware that there even are non-superhero comics, but his elitist "comics are inherently awful" stance is indicative of the opinions held by a wide swath of the mainstream's cultural gatekeepers on both Left and Right. Speaking of which, remember how in my response to the NatRev article I pointed out the ironic similarities between conservative Podhoretz's elitist, pathological aversion to mass culture and that of the Leftist "superheroes are fascist junk for children" crowd? Well, guess who touts the excellence of the Podhoretz piece over in the TCJ.com thread I've been discussing? It ain't a National Review reader, I'll tell you that much. Weak minds truly do think alike.
UPDATE: New York Times writer John Hodgman's review of Megatokyo, 100 Bullets, Clyde Fans, The Complete Peanuts, and more
If articles like these are the results of the newfound respectability granted to the medium by the Gray Lady in the form of Charles McGrath, I think we can all be pretty happy. (Except, of course, for those of us who feel that not rejecting genre work like 100 Bullets out of hand is an unforgivable critical sin. But those five people will probably be too busy yelling at each other on the Comics Journal messboard to notice, anyway.) No bang-pow, no ignorant generalizations about what comics can and can't do. Hodgman even comes to praise seriality, not to bury it. Impressive, even for folks like Jamie and Marc who bristled at the supposed elitism of the McGrath piece.
UPDATE ROUND 5: Ninth Art's Chris Ekman reviews the McGrath article
This is probably the best response to the piece that's been written so far. Ekman points out all its major flaws (and the more I think about them, the more "major" they get), but does so without either waxing outraged or ignoring the fact that this is still an order of magnitude greater than most mainstream writing on comics. I heartily recommend Ekman's review.
UPDATE ROUND 6: Marc Singer discusses a Harper's article by Wyatt Mason on comics-related publications
And the boozhwah respectability quotient goes up another notch. Marc appears to prefer this article to the NYTMag one, both for its choice of topic material (superheroes, closer to Marc's heart than the altcomix titans) and its execution. He also takes the occasion to upbraid the industry for its obsession with nostalgia.
Time Magazine includes Eightball #23 in an article entitled "If You Only Read Ten Trashy Novels This Summer...".
That's right: It's only one of the greatest single-issue comics of all time, created by one of the greatest cartoonists alive, but because it's got superheroes in it--scracth that, because it's a comic book of any kind--it's trashy. Do you see how that works? Here we have early evidence of the main danger of McGrath's article, which I'm not alone in thinking will be hugely influential on the perception of comics: McGrath argues that comics (even the best comics, which are what he spends his whole article talking about, after all) are good for people who lack the attention span for prose literature, thus setting up a false dichotomy (it's hard to read the stuff on the NYT Fiction Bestseller list?) and implying that, simply because they work in comics, Dan Clowes or Grant Morrison or Jim Woodring or whoever is short-attention-span-theater material.
This leads us to the Eightball-centric portion of the week's festivities:
My review of Eightball #23, focusing mainly on its depiction of serial murder
Alan David Doane's review of/reaction to EB23, focusing on what he sees as the book's brutal feelings toward superheroes and their partisans
Christopher Butcher's musings on how/whether superhero comics fans will react to what he considers to be an obvious slap in their faces
Johnny Bacardi's review of EB23, examining Clowes's "dryness" and its impact on reader empathy for the characters
Comics Journal message board thread on the book, alternating effusive praise with emperor-has-no-clothes posturing
Pop Culture Bored messboard eschange between Alan David Doane and AK, in which the former allays the latter's fears that EB23 is just a big lame "superheroes are fascists" pisstake
Barbelith message board thread serving roughly the same purpose
Alan David Doane's "Eightball Challenge," arguing that everyone should review this book
NeilAlien responds to both the book and the responses to the book
The gist of NeilAlien's piece is that there's a certain unmistakeable and gleeful undercurrent of "Let's see you try this one on for size, fanboy!" in responses like Alan's and Chris's, a sort of stick-that-in-your-pipe-and-smoke-it let's-you-and-him-fight mentality that reduces EB23, a genuine Heart of Darkness style masterpiece, into a smackdown against people who bought JLA/Avengers. I think Neil's probably right, though I also think that both Chris and Alan are too skilled a pair of comics reviewers to ignore the profound depth of the book in favor of an exclusively anti-superhero reading. In fact, it's Alan himself who uses that Pop Culture Bored thread to assure people that it isn't some screedy "Superman's basically a Nazi" kind of thing; as one of the Barbelith board posters puts it, this isn't Clowes's "Sports" with superheroes instead of football players.
(I should also note that Alan, for all his admirable prickliness when it comes to widespread acceptance of lousy superhero storytelling, has historically shown an equally admirable reticence to join the "superheroes are inherently fascist/stupid" fray. Chris, obviously, is another story, and in his post anticipating reaction to EB23 he uses the dreaded phrase "adolescent male power fantasies." This is the Scylla of superhero comics criticism. (The Charybdis is congratulating yourself within the piece for writing a serious critical piece on superhero comics to begin with.)
I myself think that the condemnation-of-the-genre-and-its-fans reading of the book is the least interesting one, and also (not coincidentally) the least borne out by the text itself. Moreover, in our disparate responses to the piece, neither NeilAlien, Johnny Bacardi, or myself (three of the staunchest superhero supporters you're likely to find) showed signs of having our faces slapped. That may be something to go by, considering that all three of us have been known to say so if we felt it was going on. Ultimately, I just think Clowes has bigger fish to fry. Actually, I think all of us do.
In his response to the book and its reviewers, NeilAlien posts a wonderful quote from this BookSlut interview with Seth, in which the acclaimed alt-cartoonist argues that he and his peers no longer feel the need to behave in a reactionary fashion toward superheroes and genre storytelling. What book does he hold up as an example of this? Dan Clowes's Eightball #23! Unfortunately, this isn't the slam-dunk case-closer that Neil hopes it is: Eddie Campbell's anti-genre item in his graphic novel manifesto shows that not all cartoonists have put their adolescent aversion to genre to bed. But we can dream! (UPDATE ROUND 4: And given the changes Eddie has made to his manifesto, it seems like the dream's coming true, at least a little bit!)
UPDATE: Peiratikos's knockout review of EB23
This is a helluva piece. Steven's point of emphasis is mainly the sublimated homosexual tension between the book's main characters, and using my analysis as a springboard he points out how everything breaks down between them when they finally manage to articulate overtly (hetero)sexual longings to other people. Other worthwhile points include his placing of Andy in the tradition of Watchmen's Rorschach, The Dark Knight Returns' Batman, and other heroes who allowed the dividing line between their normal-human and vigilante-hero identities to be erased; the difference here is that Andy is a loser in both guises. Steven also makes the (controversial, I'm sure) assertion that bona-fide superhero comics have critiqued the genre with more subtletly, and hence with more efficacy, than does Clowes here. I think it's comparing apples and oranges, in a way--the lack of subtlety in EB23 stems from the ineptitude of the characters, not of the creator, methinks--but it's a challenging point given the perception even among people who actually have read the great superhero comics that the genre is uniquely unreflective. Finally, Steven compares the unusual placement of interior monlogue and narration in word balloons to documentary filmmaking--a worthwhile comparison, since I'm only now realizing how much this story reminded me of Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line, from the repressed homosexual subtext to the linkage between sex and violence to the male criminal couple at the center to the occasional insertion of fanciful, fictionalized versions of events. It's a very rich piece--go and read.
UPDATE: New blogger Jog reviews EB23
Jog does an admirable job of really digging in there and chewing on all sorts of meat, everything from Louie's self-casting of himself in the role of sidekick to the use of the color white. Close readings on books like these are always rewarding.
UPDATE ROUND 2: We're beginning to see a "Dan Clowes has no clothes" backlash, this time not from TCJ.com messboard snobs for whom no comic is ever good enough, but from more mainstream types who seem irritated at the hype the book is generating.
Ken Lowery mocks the adoring tone of ADD's Eightball Challenge
Ken Lower mocks the adoring tone of ADD's Eightball Challenge again
Steve Pheley doesn't see what the fuss is about
I suppose it is a little amusing just how much Alan David Doane likes the book, but Alan is a guy who takes lousy comics almost personally, so when a really good one comes along, he sees it as a gift. Frankly, I think that's a perfectly healthy way to look at any good art. Moreover, I certainly think Alan would run a well-written negative piece on the book, provided there was more to it than "art comics are pretentious" or "I don't get it."
The main thing I can't understand about Ken's good-natured ribbing of ADD is why it's apparently unseemly to get so worked up about Eightball but perfectly acceptable to go completely apeshit over, say, Scurvy Dogs. Don't get me wrong--I'm sure Scurvy Dogs is a fun book, but I'm also sure that even its creators would tell you there's a big difference in terms of both execution and intent between a fun pirate romp and what Clowes is doing. This is not unlike the TV critics who sit around bitching about how overrated The Sopranos is, then spend a column on how much they enjoyed America's Next Top Model. I happen to love both shows, but I never lose sight of which one justifies that love more thoroughly.
Steve Pheley's piece is another kind of animal, not least because he's acutally read the book. His main point is that the devastating indictment of superhero culture Alan touts in his review simply didn't come across for him. I think he's probably right, because as I've said, I don't think it's there, not really. A book that touches on homosexuality, race, class, adolescence, punk, aging, America, and murder has bigger fish to fry than making fun of people for fondly remembering old Spider-Man comics. In Steve's review you see that reading this last interpretation into the book can cut both ways: In Alan's and Chris Butcher's cases, since such an interpretation lies close to their heart, it increased their enjoyment of the book, if not indeed becoming the very focus of that enjoyment; in Steve's case, since he does not view the goals of such an interpretation as valid, he saw the book as a failure. "[N]or did I find anything particularly shocking or impactful," says Steve, meaning specifically in terms of its superhero pastiches but generally in terms of the entire story, sadly failing to see that there's anything else going on in the book. The reductive pro/anti-superhero lens throws everyone's vision off, in the end.
It's also worth noting that Steve interprets Clowes's use of superhero imagery as "a pat on the back for all the readers who are hip enough to buy Eightball." Personally, I think it's extremely inaccurate to characterize Clowes's motivation that way. There may be a hipper-than-thou crowd who buys the book, but don't let's think the book's creator is a part of it.
UPDATE ROUND 3:
Christopher Butcher responds to criticism of his stance re: EB23
Gee, I sure hope I didn't "read [Chris] the riot act"! That certainly wasn't my intention. I just thought his approach to the book, as articulated in his (let's say) paternalistic comments regarding superhero fans, was a limited one. Chris seems to acknowledge that in this post, saying that this obvious angle on EB23 was what he resorted to because the depth of the book initially overwhelmed him. I'm looking forward to hearing what more he has to say on the comic, and I certainly hope his warning that we're entering a phase when reviewers simply comment on other reviewers' reviews of the book turns out to be a false alarm.
Larry Young responds to my earlier comments regarding Scurvy Dogs and EB23
Larry seems to have the healthiest view of the divide between genre and alternative comics: Ignore it, as long as people are talking about comics! (Especially AiT/PlanetLar ones, in Larry's case.) I do promise I didn't want SD and EB to fight, though: I was simply perplexed that praise of the latter was coming to be viewed with disdain as being didactic, in some cases by folks whose praise of the former was ecstatic to the point where if you slapped a headdress on them and sat them on the back of a flatbed truck they'd be a Carneval float. Larry puts it this way:
one guy loving something so much he wants to tell his pals about it is a different thing altogether than another guy demanding that everyone review the same thing he does.
But isn't Alan Doane's doing the latter simply an alternate way to do the former? Seems that way to me. Then again...
Alan David Doane is ill; he is also angry at the backlash against his reviews
In some ways I don't blame him at all--people seem more eager to respond to his pieces than to the book itself, which it should be noted they may or may not have read in the first place. On the other hand, Alan had to know (and Chris has admitted as much on his own behalf) that his comments were going to stir up some trouble. When you repeatedly use a phrase like "the arctic shit-knife," you've got to understand that that shit can stab both ways.
UPDATE ROUND 4: Ken Lowery replies to my comments above
If Chris Butcher is right and these comments-on-comments-on-comments posts are a sign of what Johanna Draper Carlson calls "approaching heat death,"
we're gettin' closer by the minute. Ken argues that I missed his point by likening his opinion to that hypothetical Sopranos/America's Next Top Model
TV critic, and he's probably right--nowhere did he actually say anything about Eightball
#23 itself. That said, Ken in turn missed my
point, which is that he views Alan's reverent enthusiasm for EB23
as unbecoming but himself displays just as reverent an enthusiasm for other books. The explanation, I suppose, is that Alan's tone rubbed him the wrong way, but an "explanation" (as opposed to an "excuse") is exactly what that is. (BTW, sorry, Ken, but ADDTF is a comment-free zone!)Steve Pheley avers that his superhero-centric reading stemmed from an interest in responding to other critics, not from a misguided belief that that's all there is to the book
Indeed it isn't. So if there's any reason at all to wish Alan's Eightball
Challenge success, it's that we'll have more direct readings of the book itself to respond to!
-----UPDATE ROUND 4a: Steven Berg of Peiratikos questions the use of the word "backlash," further challenges Clowes's use of homosexual subtext
Okay, I probably do misuse the word "backlash"--what I'm saying when I use that word is that people are responding negatively to a work whose initial reviewers viewed it extremely positively, but in so doing these second-wave responders are reacting as much to the first wave responses as they are to the work itself. That seems like a fair description of what's going on, even if it doesn't fit Mr. Webster's criteria for "backlash." (Steven's not the first person to call me on misusing a word today--Dictionary.com
, here I come! Also, if you take my explanation for how I use the word into consideration, it becomes apparent why I didn't classify Steven's more-or-less negative review of the book (or Johnny Bacardi's, for that matter) as part of the "backlash." They were clearly responding to the text, not out of pique at other responses to the text.)
The main thrust of Steven's post, though, (and thrust is definitely the right word for it, nyuk nyuk) is to call into question Clowes's use of what Steven deems a cliche in American fiction: The unspoken homosexual tension between adolescent male protagonists, which, being unspoken, eventually transmogrifies into violence. Steven's certainly right to say that we've seen this a million times before, but we've seen dudes in costumes running around doing stuff they probably shouldn't a million times before, too. Ultimately, is it being done well the million-and-first time around? I'd say yes. Certainly, in pushing so much of import off-stage right along with the homosexual subtext--we're talkin' dialogue, crucial plot points, the whole nine--Clowes seems both aware of what is going unsaid and intelligent enough to play with its mechanics.
UPDATE ROUND 5: Ninth Art's Frank Smith reviews EB23
And does so while touching on the McGrath piece to boot! See, I knew
I wasn't the only one! Smith doesn't have a whole lot to say about the book, but praises its innovative narrative structure and holds it up as an example of an art from whose relative novelty can make it initially inaccessible but ultimately exciting (the Wild West medium of which I'm so fond of speaking).
Bill Sherman asks "Is anything we see in Eightball #23 even really happening?"
This is the first time I've seen such an interpretation of the book, and I must say it's a potentially valid one. Certainly killers like Andy construct their memories of their own lives in such a way that the actual
events become subordinated to how they want
things to have happened. If you've been following closely along with this discussion, you may remember how I referenced real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas in my original review of the book. Lucas is a controversial figure in the annals of serial murder, because given his jailhouse confessions (oft retracted, but still), he is either America's most prolific serial killer, or its biggest liar. Either way, it's clear that Henry would have been perfectly happy to actually have killed everyone he and his partner Ottis Toole claimed to have murdered, that he would have liked to have been part of the Satanic child-sacrificing cult he described, and so on. This may well be what's going on in Andy's story. He may have killed his victims with far more quotidian means than a Death-Ray and super-strength--or, as Bill points out, he may not have killed anyone at all.
UPDATE ROUND 6: Rose Curtin of Peiratikos does not care for anything by Clowes at all
In what is assuredly the most negative review of the book to date--seeing as how she couldn't even muster the energy to bother reviewing it--Rose takes blogmate Steven Berg's critique one step further. Whereas Steve complained that Clowes wasn't showing us anything we haven't seen before, Rose feels that what we are being shown is inherently boring, even borderline insulting, both in Clowes's work and every other time we see it. She cites Identity Crisis
, the other controversial superhero book floating around these days, as another example of the literature of the "oppressed" white male and the violence done toward/on behalf of women in their name, and wants none of it either there or here.
Motime Like the Present guest-blogger Jamie Popowich offers a wide-ranging review that ultimately focuses on the way in which the story is "about" Iraq
Well, you knew it had to happen eventually. (I certainly predicted as much in my review way back when.) Yes, I'm sure a critique of the Bush administration's foreign policy, and what that policy says about Us As Americans, is in there. I choose to ignore such elements, which are now present in nearly every work of popular art you'd care to name, because I find it personally offensive that deposing dictators garners all this opprobrium from the collective arts community while the actual dictators
labor unmolested (except by far braver artists living directly under their yoke) for decade upon blood-soaked decade. (Prediction: By the time of the election you will have read on the order of three dozen graphic novels since 2002 the subtext of which is "Bush is evil" and precisely no graphic novels the subtext of which is "Khatami/Milosevic/Mugabe/Bin Laden/Saddam/Jong-Il is evil," unless of course America is believed to have aided him in some way at some point, in which case he'll be depicted as a symptom of the American disease.) The only exceptions I can think of in comics are Joe Sacco (who himself is not exactly an even-handed appraiser of the actions American government) and Grant Morrison (whose Planet X
was an explicit rejoinder against the apologists of terror, though of course the word "politics" is probably a few planes of existence short of where Morrison's mind is operating). Still, the rest of Jamie's critique is valuable; he once again raises the point that Andy has no line of demarcation between his civilian and "superhero" identities. So go read it for that stuff at least, and if you happen to be into the idea that what we did in Iraq is akin to putting a stocking on your head and murdering people with a raygun for no reason, knock yourself the fuck out.
(UPDATE: Many links in this post courtesy of Christopher Butcher, Kevin Melrose, and Heidi MacDonald.)
It occurs to me that eventually my big roundup of discussion on Charles McGrath's article and Dan Clowes's comic book will get rotated off the front page. So I'll be doing this sort of thing from time to time: Go here to read about two things that will be shaping the landscape of comics for a long time to come.
We're up to round 4 of the updates, on both issues this time.
When I was in the local comic shop the other day, I flipped through the latest issue of Mark Millar's Marvel Knights version of Spider-Man, and you know what? It looked like a damn good time. Spidey getting the crap knocked out of him constantly? Reminds me of how I looked at the series back when I was a little kid. Ooh, that's scary! Ooh, that's dangerous! I hope he's okay! I've got no idea whether the series maintains such feelings beyond an initial impression, but I'm intrigued.
(O'course, I was "intrigued" by Red Son, and remembered enjoying it well enough, but in retrospect it doesn't have much to recommend it beyond the sharpness of its Elseworlds premise, the cleverness of its denouement, and the idea that there really isn't much of a difference between Stalin's Soviet Union and George W. Bush's United States. If you don't subscribe to that political position, the other ideas can't really carry the series. Anyway, for a contrary take on Millar's Spider-Man, head over to the Grotesque Rampage forum.)
Another superhero series controversial for its violence is Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis. The series was billed as something that will shake the DC Universe to its roots; so far it's done so through rape, murder, and Clockwork Orange-style reprogramming of criminals by the DCU's ostensible heroes. Now, I'm pretty open about being a fan of violence in fiction, even violence toward women, which I don't believe is necessarily misogynistic. (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Kill Bill are two of my favorite films, after all.) However, I think a good indicator of misogyny is if you can picture the author of a given work treating male characters in a similar fashion. (This is why I am not a fan of Lars Von Trier, who's established himself as a one-trick pony in terms of doling out the rough stuff.) Given the company- and commerce-driven constraints of the DCU, not to mention the reactionary tendencies of many of its fans, my guess is that Identity Crisis falls in the latter camp. (There's also something genuinely awful about the notion of the Justice League brainwashing criminals, but as always I'm hesitant to let allegiance to fictional characters get in the way of a creator's ability to tell a good story (which I'm not sure Identity Crisis is, mind you). I really couldn't care less about the storied history of Kingpin and Bullseye, for example, if you can get a good story out of Daredevil crushingly humiliating them. Which you did, if you ask me.) Anyway, you can go back to the Grotesque Rampage Forum to hear me explain my views more fully. Tim O'Neil, meanwhile, is outraged, not least at the fact that DC has apparently stopped even pretending that children read superhero comics. I'm not all that upset--The Killing Joke was arguably even more fucked-up, and that was done years ago, and I don't recall being scarred for life after reading it, though I was, what, a freshman in high school by then and was fucked-up enough as it was--but it really is worth considering what went into this decision on DC's part.
That big NYT/Eightball thread got updated several times today. Just scroll on down.
Finally, I just want to say that with my new home theater sound system set up, Kill Bill is fucking awesome.
The massive New York Times Magazine/Eightball recap continues to grow. Scroll down or click here for Update Round Five.
Meanwhile, the invaluable Egon points out that Last Gasp will be publishing a collection of Justin Green's wonderful musician biographies, Justin Green's Musical Legends. These remarkable strips ran for years in Pulse, Tower Records' free in-house magazine. If you're like me, you spent quite a bit of time during your youth both browsing the aisles at Tower and attempting to impress its employees with your musical taste and acumen; reading Green's strips in that magazine was a critical part of this ritual. I can't wait to pick this one up.
Yep, I've updated the big Clowes/NYT piece again. Here 'tis. Or just scroll down.
Today I was walking past the local comics shop and I saw a poster for the new Firestorm series. "The fallout begins in May!" read the tagline. Turns out they were off by about two months, but were otherwise all too accurate, huh?
Between Identity Crisis and Avengers Disassembled, and this whole idea of using rape and murder to clear out dead-weight characters and give the survivors something to talk about, I’ve been inspired to conceive a series in which all the once-big heroes from 1990s Marvel comics rape each other to death. Sleepwalker, Moon Knight, Darkhawk, Deathlok, Nova, Night Thrasher, the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider, Nomad, X-Force, the anti-hero Venom, the cast of Peter David’s X-Factor (especially Strong Guy), Ben Reilly, the 2099 people, all of ‘em just really giving each other the business until they are dead.
Possible titles: The Mighty Marvel '90s-Era Rapefest? Rapesplosion '93? The Infinity Male-on-Male Sex-Murders?
The big moment will come when the Gray Hulk violates Speedball’s carcass, screaming “This is for what you did to Belushi!”
Bad panels today
Tracking down cheap comic books
Smelly hot and moist
I've reviewed Craig Thompson's new book, Carnet de Voyage, for Comic Book Galaxy. Go check it out!
Grant Morrison yet again delivers an interview so good and quoteable that it's sort of a literary masterpiece unto itself. This time he's talking up his upcoming DC projects, a JLA run and a very ambitious project called Seven Soldiers. In the process he takes potshots at both Identity Crisis and Hush & its "let's do a greatest-hits album for a story" imitators. (The latter of which, come to think of it, seems as squarely aimed at his protege Mark Millar's plans for Spider-Man and Wolverine as earlier interviews' comments on gratuitious badass-isms, paramilitary chic, and the aping of action cinema seemed targeted at Millar's Authority, Ultimates, and Wanted. (All of which I like, by the way, but I take his point.))
Meanwhile, a blog called simply John and Belle Have a Blog has put together several strong superhero-centric posts. First is an essay on superheroes and time, looking at both the nostalgia factor and superhero stories' open-endedness before culminating in a rather dismissive assessment of Alan Moore. Second, and much stronger, is an examinaton of the way in which superhero stories can or cannot handle "realism". There's also a digression on the way superhero stories accrue moments in the manner of a picaresque but, unlike as in a picaresque, insist on accruing really really big moments. It's great writing, and includes a link to more great writing in the form of one Timothy Burke's essay on the perils of continuity. To go the whole hog and force the fictional world to incorporate superpower-created advances and setbacks (a la Watchmen or Squadron Supreme), to ignore such advances and setbacks completely (a la any superhero comic that involves teleporting, or the massacre of an entire city or country), or to strike a compromise and try to inhabit an unrealistic world realistically (a la Astro City)? That is the question. Finally (though it only touches on superheroes tangentially, in a spoilery discussion of Unbreakable) there's a post on infodumps and infolocks in genre fiction.
Given where I've been spending my days lately, these are all a lot of fun to read.
Links courtesy of NeilAlien and Kevin Melrose.
I'm feelin' too lazy to write up a full recap of my own. What can I say? Even when you don't have a giant clothing corporation buying $500 worth of comics for you, San Diego Comic-Con is nerd heaven, particularly if your nerd tastes are as catholic as mine are. It's an indy con, a superhero con, a movie con, a party, a freak show, and a flea market all rolled into one.
If you're looking for a more in-depth assessment, I recommend the takes of Heidi MacDonald (who still doesn't have an RSS feed--I think she's just being difficult at this point) and Steven Grant. Rich Johnston was a little disappointing this go-round, but ymmv.
If you enjoyed Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart's astoundingly imaginative and deeply emotional miniseries Seaguy and would like to see Morrison's planned second and third Seaguy miniseries actually get published, please go and sign this online petition. Sure, such efforts are usually about as vain as resisting the fun-filled fascism of Mickey Eye, but it's worth a shot, right! Adventure, ho!
(Link courtesy of Graeme McMillan.)
This I liked. I'd certainly be up for seeing what he might do with Galactus.
This excites me anyway. I simply could not have been happier with how these films turned out, and it's only recently occurred to me how wonderful that is.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.