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.
This week's Thursday Morning Quarterback comics review roundtable sees me sound off on The Immortal Iron Fist, Captain America, 52, American Virgin, Ultimate Power, What If? Featuring Wolverine: Enemy of the State, and X-Men. If I'd been more on the ball, Acme Novelty Library #17 could have gotten in there. Blame me, Chris Ware.
And from the sublime to the ridiculous: Check out "Bad Guys Wear Pink," an original art piece I edited featuring comicdom's nastiest pink-hued villains. If you've ever wanted to see Parasite eat Barbie dolls or wondered how Sinestro feels about the recording artist behind "Get This Party Started," now's your chance...
This is becoming a regular thing, isn't it? That's a wonderful turn of events if you ask me. Anyway, here's a really rather shockingly gory video for CSS's "Alala," directed by Cat Solen. Funky and frightening.
Well, I might as well make a full-fledged continuing series out of this, huh?
The first thing I thought of when I saw yesterday's bloody good CSS clip was Kings of Leon's similar video for their song "Four Kicks." I've blogged about the video before: "The video's innovation is to freeze the action whenever the lead singer is singing, allowing the viewer to see brightly lit close-ups on a woman's face just before it's about to be pounded with the butt of a fire extinguisher, or an exploded lamp the second after it's been smashed over a man's head." How's that for the hard sell?
The other day I realized that horror cognoscenti will invariably inveigh against whatever is the dominant mode of horror at the time: slasher flicks, self-reflexive WB Stars in Peril movies, Sixth Sense-style creepy-kid or I-see-dead-people pictures, J-horror remakes/knockoffs, meat movies, whatever. I'm not sure if this means we're too quick to turn on whatever's popular or if whatever's popular is too quick to turn crappy. Probably a bit of both.
Over at Cryptomundo, Loren Coleman has posted a pretty freaking incredible-looking image-stabilization animated gif of the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage--you know, the one where the big ape turns and looks at the camera as it walks through the woods. Created by M.K. Davis, the gif arranges each frame of the film so that the creature (or special-effects guy in a suit, if John Landis is to be believed) stays oriented in the same vertical and horizontal plane and can actually be seen to walk across the woods as he walks across your screen. (I'd host it here, but the damn thing would bust my template wide open.) Just click already!
Feeling underserviced in terms of your Sean T. Collins bloviation needs? Fear not!
This week at Wizard's Thursday Morning Quarterback comics review roundtable, I've got some things to say about this week's issues of Justice Society of America, 52, Spider-Man: Reign, Detective Comics, Doctor Strange: The Oath, The Exterminators, Invincible, Ultimate Vision, and The Walking Dead.
And at The Horror Blog's Horror Roundtable, I describe my least favorite horror experience of 2006. Sadly, it involves Udo Kier.
Today's scary video: "Believe" by the Chemical Brothers, directed by Dom and Nick. Imagine the video for "Owner of a Lonely Heart" crossed with a version of "Jurassic Park" that replaced the dinosaurs with industrial machinery and you're pretty much there.
Today's scary clip: "Monster Hospital" by Metric. Directed by Micah Meisner, the video pays homage to some too-often overlooked sources of really striking horror imagery--that brief dream sequence at the beginning of the original Dawn of the Dead and the coming of Zuul in Ghostbusters (which works as well as both horror and science fiction as it does as a comedy and a New York City movie).
"Once something hooks my interest, I tend to look for reasons to keep enjoying it, and to downplay reasons to give it up....I am very much on the lookout for things that enrich my mental landscape, and in particular for ones that hook and stir my emotions in satisfying ways. The renewing of my feelings after the year's shocks is a big priority to me - much higher than the exercise of punching holes in things just to demonstrate that I can. It's not exactly kindness toward the work, but it's something like that."
Directed by Tony Gardner, this video for Daft Punk's "The Prime Time of Your Life" is a none-too-subtle commentary on eating disorders and self-injury that is easily, easily, the most genuinely disturbing video I've linked to so far.
I Love Water Monsters Part Three: The BEASTS! Blog previews the upcoming art anthology from Fantagraphics, in which various luminaries from the altcomix and illustration worlds try their hand at depicting creatures of myth and legend from around the world. Needless to say, I really dug Tony Millionaire's Leviathan:
Here: My thoughts on this past week's installments of Justice League of America, The Spirit, X-23: Target X, Batman, Gen 13, Robin, Tales of the Unexpected, The Trials of Shazam, Ultimate X-Men, and X-Men: Phoenix--Warsong can be found at Thursday Morning Quarterback. The discussion of The Spirit is particularly interesting, I think.
There: I pat myself on the back for a couple of things I wrote over the past year over at The Horror Blog's Horror Roundtable.
And geez, is Bruce Baugh ever right when he describes fandom as constantly searching for reasons not to like things anymore.
I only very recently got into Battlestar Galactica. I've got about half of last night's episode to go before I'm finally all caught up, so I've at long last been able to read what people have been writing about the show without fear of spoilage. And simply put, I've been stunned by the degree to which ostensible admirers of the show slag each then-new episode as woefully inferior to some mystical pre-lapsarian BSG era that I, for one, have been unable to identify. (See this post at Table of Malcontents (hat tip: Pop Candy), or any comment from "Sheik Yerbouti" over at The House Next Door (example).) You can see this level of intensity in the criticism of shows like The Sopranos or Lost, sure, but in those cases it's easy enough to pinpoint the turning point: The Sopranos lost people when it stopped being about killing the big bad guy at the end of the season, and Lost lost people when they didn't show the inside of the hatch at the end of Season One. But having watched all of BSG within the space of about a month or two, I can't for the life of me figure out any reason for why people are apparently just dying not to like the show anymore, beyond a sort of culture-wide terror of being the last person to stop clapping.
The Comics Journal's Dirk Deppey reveals what you may have already noticed: Any sites (such as Where the Monsters Go) that use blo.gs as the basis for their content aggregation have gone belly-up thanks to blo.gs's deadbeat corporate dad, Yahoo. Brighter technological minds than mine are striving to solve this problem for WtMG as we speak. They promised. You hear me, brighter technological minds?
Maybe I'm being unfair, but in all honesty, that's when I tuned out
Children of Men, based on the 1992 novel by P.D. James, is the movie of the millennium because it's about our millennium, with its fractured, fearful politics and random bursts of violence and terror. Though it's set in the London of 2027, Cuarón's film isn't some high-tech, futuristic fantasy. It takes place in a grimly familiar location: the hell we are currently making for ourselves.
ToyFare Magazine has posted what may be my favorite article of any kind ever: The 10 Greatest Christmas Gifts of All Time (or at least the 1980s). If this rundown of the biggest, most eight-year-old-mind-blowing big-ticket toys ever (Castle Grayskull! All five Voltron lions! The Defiant! The AT-AT! The freaking USS Flagg G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier!!!!) doesn't send you into an immediate nostalgia coma, I don't know what will.
It's a big, fat, luscious movie in which no one is tortured, murdered, or mutilated (honestly, how many recent films can you say that about?)
Man, no kiddin'! I pointed this out in my senior essay way back in, geez, 1999 I guess it was, but what started in movies like Pulp Fiction and continued through Saving Private Ryan has really grown to become the norm: the violent content and technique of horror has been well and truly mainstreamed.
[...]movies like this get made, remakes of perfectly good films with cult followings, remakes done up “fresh” by a director who thinks he’s got some important, revelatory twist on the original, something everyone needs to understand about the director’s unique vision of cinema. Then that director (Neil LaBute, wassup?) casts Nicolas Cage and puts him in a bear costume. I like to think that, in a perverse, almost brilliant way, this was LaBute’s cold kick in the face to fans of the 1974 version, a mean-spirited and intentionally wit-free mockery of geekish horror fans. It’s not, but it’s fun to think about.
The first is a post by Drew Morton of the intriguingly titled group blog Dr. Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope on "The State of the Horror Film in 2006." Unfortunately, its coherence and insight can be best summed up by quoting one sentence: "Thanks to films like 'The Descent' and '28 Days Later,' I believe that over the course of the next year horror films will be coming into a renaissance not seen since the days of 'Scream.'" Huh? The thrust of the pieces is that "recent" horror films have been adding elements of comedy or social criticism to further engage audiences--which is obviously something horror films have in fact been doing, well, forever (and moreover is giving a lot more poli-crit credit to the "When she gets her eyeball ripped out, that's about Iraq! Yeah, that's the ticket!" school of horror filmmaking than I'm willing to hand over). Still, it's worth a read if you're interested in how the genre looks to uninitiated types who nonetheless are up for thinking about how the genre works, which I'd imagine describes most professional critics and a goodly chunk of the academy.
More intriguing to me was a lengthy post from film studies god David Bordwell (he has a blog! how did I not know this?) on the self-conscious artifice of many recent film's narratives, and the healthy role that genre--"science fiction, mystery, fantasy, horror, and comic-book movies...[and] indie cinema"--played in creating this state of affairs. I've always found it startling, if not depressing, how few fans of high-falutin' art (not critics, but the kinds of people who read a lot and post on message boards and such) pick up on the ways that genre tropes frequently constitute violations of traditional formal narrative or visual structure. When a film stops in its tracks to watch a shape-shifting alien annihilate a pack of sled dogs, there's something interesting going on there beyond the fact that a shape-shifting alien is annihilating a pack of sled dogs.
"It’s not enough for these people to say "go see a sweet little fantasy flick, it’s good;” they must instead find deep and redemptive significance in what is at best a fairy tale retread with fascist gunfight appendices....it’s Paolo Cabrelli in Stylus who guilelessly hits the raw nerve, declaring "it does not propose the existence of magic. It confirms it." This bit of slack-jawed awe probably epitomizes the appeal of the movie. It’s for adults who no longer have faith in childhood fantasy, but are disillusioned with the business of being adult: people who are doubly cynical, and thus doubly looking for something to believe. Pan’s Labyrinth offers a bridge between the two worlds, a both-sides-now palliative that assures us that magic is still available in a "real” world gone mad. This is what is meant by “a fairy tale for grown-ups”: a film that encapsulates weariness in adult life and spices it up with nuggets from a world of make-believe that allows you to chuck your life for the magic kingdom beneath the earth.
--Travis Mackenzie Hoover, really giving the business to Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. I should note I have no dog in this race, having not seen the film. I should also note that I seem to be naturally averse to "fairy-tales for grown-ups" (and their musical kindred, whimsical indie rock), and I'm guessing it's for the reasons Hoover outlines. Hoover himself makes an argument for films like Blue Velvet as the real grown-up fairy tales; I'd add the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (to name but one), though I'm guessing Hoover wouldn't.
Well, this was definitely a thrill: Over at the day job, my interview with Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof is now online. A major theory about the Others is debunked and (SPOILER) the real reason for the death of Eko is revealed therein, among lots of other juicy info. Even Nikki and Paulo get a moment in the sun!
First of all, the blogroll (to the left; scroll down) has been updated after a prolonged period of benign neglect. Click around and see where the day takes you.
Second, you can learn my horror-related New Year's Resolution at this week's Horror Roundtable.
Third, to expand a bit on my reaction to Travis Mackenzie Hooper's Pan's Labyrinth review, I felt like I should point out that I'm on his wavelength in terms of not digging the sort of cheesily calculated return to childhood "magic" that "grown-up fairy tales" traffic in, but not in his aversion to clear-cut depictions of good and evil. While I think it's a sign of true adult storytelling (and adulthood generally) to acknowledge that things can be more complicated than that, I also think it's a sign of true adult storytelling (and adulthood generally) to acknowledge that sometimes, things can be just that simple.
If you enjoy weird, weird comics, have I got a treat for you: The day job has posted an article I edited on Fletcher Hanks, the Golden Age comic-book writer/artist whose work is basically the most bizarrely violent and violently bizarre stuff you've ever seen. It's in honor of the forthcoming collection from Fantagraphics and editor Paul Karasik, I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Fantastic Comics of Fletcher Hanks.