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Sean T. Collins has written about comics and popular culture professionally since 2001 and on this very blog since 2003. He has written for Maxim, The Comics Journal, Stuff, Wizard, A&F Quarterly, Comic Book Resources, Giant, ToyFare, The Onion, The Comics Reporter and more. His comics have been published by Top Shelf, Partyka, and Family Style. He blogs here and at Robot 6.

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Murder

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


Elfworld

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



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


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


Pornography
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


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


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


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


Destructor in: Prison Break
story: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


Cage Variations: Kitchen Sink
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota


Cage Variations: 1998 High Street
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota


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


The Side Effects of the Cocaine
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Isaac Moylan
(bibliography)


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



Best Of
The Amazing! Incredible! Uncanny Oral History of Marvel Comics

The Outbreak: An Autobiographical Horror Blog

Where the Monsters Go: A 31-Day Horrorblogging Marathon, October 2003

Blog of Blood: A Marathon Examination of Clive Barker's Books of Blood, October 2005

The Blogslinger: Blogging Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, October-November 2007

The Things That Should Not Be: The Monumental Horror-Image and Its Relation to the Contemporary Horror Film (introduction)
PDF

My 35 Favorite Horror Films of All Time (at the moment)

My David Bowie Sketchbook

The Manly Movie Mamajama

Presidential Milkshakes

Horror and Certainty I

Horror and Certainty II

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

Evil for Thee, Not Me

Phobophobia

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

Keep Horror NSFW, Part I
Part II

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

130 Things I Loved About The Sopranos

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

At a Loss: Lost fandom and its discontents

I Got Dem Ol' Konfuzin' Event-Komik Blues Again, Mama

Losing My Edge (DFADDTF Comix Remix)

GusGus, the Universe, and Everything

"I'd Rather Die Than Give You Control" (or Adolf Hitler, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, and Trent Reznor walk into a blog)

The 11 Most Awful Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks

The 11 Most Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks

11 More Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks

The 15 Greatest Science Fiction-Based Pop/Rock/Hip-Hop Songs

My Loch Ness Adventure

The Best Comics of 2003

The Best Albums of 2003

The Best Albums of 2004

The Best Comics of 2005

The Best Comics of 2006

The Best Comics, Films, Albums, Songs, and Television Programs of 2007

The Best Comics of 2008

The Best Comics of 2009

The Best Songs of 2009

80 Great Tracks from the 1990s


Interviews with Sean
Interviews by Sean
Movie Reviews
Avatar (Cameron, 2009)

Barton Fink (Coen, 1991)

Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005)

Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Alcala/Rose, 2007)

Battlestar Galactica: "Revelations" (Rymer, 2008)

Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 (Moore et al, 2009)

Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Olmos, 2009)

Beowulf (Zemeckis, 2007)

The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963)

The Blair Witch Project (Myrick & Sanchez, 1999)

The Bourne Identity (Liman, 2002)

The Bourne Supremacy (Greengrass, 2004)

The Bourne Ultimatum (Greengrass, 2007)

Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006)

Caprica: "Pilot" (Reiner, 2009)

Caprica S1 E1-6 (Moore et al, 2010)

Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006)

Cigarette Burns (Carpenter, 2005)

Clash of the Titans (Leterrier, 2010)

Cloverfield (Reeves, 2008), Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Crank: High Voltage (Neveldine/Taylor, 2009)

Daredevil (Johnson, 2003)

The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)

Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)

Della'morte, Dell'amore [Cemetery Man] (Soavi, 1994)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Play (Eckerling & Sunde, 2010)

District 9 (Blomkamp, 2009)

Doomsday (Marshall, 2008)

Dragon Wars [D-War] (Shim, 2007)

Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, 2007)

The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)

The Expendables (Stallone, 2010)

Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)

Eyes Wide Shut revisited, Part I
Part II
Part III

Garden State (Braff, 2004)

Gossip Girl Seasons 1-2 (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2007-08)

Gossip Girl Season Three (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2009-2010)

Grindhouse [Planet Terror/Death Proof] (Rodriguez & Tarantino, 2007)

Heavenly Creatures (Jackson, 1994)

Hellboy (Del Toro, 2004)

Hellraiser (Barker, 1987)

A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 2005), Part I
Part II

The Host (Bong, 2006)

Hostel (Roth, 2005)

Hostel: Part II (Roth, 2007)

Hulk (Lee, 2003)

The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2009)

I Am Legend (Lawrence, 2007)

The Incredible Hulk (Leterrier, 2008)

Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009)

Inside (Maury & Bustillo, 2007)

Iron Man (Favreau, 2008)

Iron Man II (Favreau, 2010)

It (Wallace, 1990)

Jeepers Creepers (Salva, 2001)

King Kong (Jackson, 2005), Part I
Part II
Part III

Land of the Dead (Romero, 2005)

Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jackson, 2003)

Lost: the first five episodes (Abrams, Lindelof et al, 2004)

Lost Season Five (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2009)

Lost Season Six (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2010)

Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997)

The Lovely Bones (Jackson, 2009)

Match Point (Allen, 2006)

The Matrix Revolutions (Wachowski, 2003)

Metropolis (Lang, 1927)

The Mist (Darabont, 2007), Part I
Part II

Moon (Jones, 2009)

Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)

My Bloody Valentine 3D (Lussier, 2009)

The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange #1 (various, 2010)

Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

Pan's Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)

Paperhouse (Rose, 1988)

Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2009)

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Verbinski, 2007) Part I
Part II

Poltergeist (Hooper/Spielberg, 1982)

Quantum of Solace (Forster, 2008)

Rambo (Stallone, 2008)

[REC] (Balaguero & Plaza, 2007)

The Ring (Verbinski, 2002)

The Road (Hillcoat, 2009)

The Ruins (Smith, 2008)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright, 2010)

Secretary (Shainberg, 2002)

A Serious Man (Coen, 2009)

The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)

Shoot 'Em Up (Davis, 2007)

Shutter Island (Scorses, 2010)

The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991)

The Sopranos (Chase et al, 1999-2007)

Speed Racer (Wachowski, 2008)

The Stand (Garris, 1994), Part I
Part II

The Terminator (Cameron, 1984) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991)

Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)

There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)

The Thing (Carpenter, 1983)

300 (Snyder, 2007)

"Thriller" (Jackson & Landis, 1984)

28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)

28 Weeks Later (Fresnadillo, 2007)Part I
Part II

Twilight (Hardwicke, 2008)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Slade, 2010)

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Weitz, 2009)

Up in the Air (J. Reitman, 2009)

War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005)

Watchmen (Snyder, 2009) Part I
Part II

The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)

The Wire (Simon et al, 2002-2008)

Zombi 2 [Zombie] (Fulci, 1980)

Zombieland (Fleischer, 2009)


Book Reviews
Music Reviews
Comics Reviews
Abe Sapien: The Drowning (Mignola & Alexander, 2008)

Abstract Comics (various, 2009)

The ACME Novelty Library #18 (Ware, 2007)

The ACME Novelty Library #19 (Ware, 2008)

Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore (Moore et al, 2003)

Action Comics #870 (Johns & Frank, 2008)

The Adventures of Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls (Herge, 1975)

Afrodisiac (Rugg & Maruca, 2010)

Against Pain (Rege Jr., 2008)

Agents of Atlas #10 (Parker, Hardman, Rivoche, 2009)

The Airy Tales (Volozova, 2008)

Al Burian Goes to Hell (Burian, 1993)

Alan's War (Guibert, 2008)

Alex Robinson's Lower Regions (Robinson, 2007)

Aline and the Others (Delisle, 2006)

All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 (Miller & Lee, 2009)

All-Star Superman (Morrison & Quitely, 2008-2010)

American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar (Pekar et al, 2003)

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories (Brunetti et al, 2006)

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2 (Brunetti et al, 2008)

Aqua Leung Vol. 1 (Smith & Maybury, 2008)

Archaeology (McShane, 2009)

The Arrival (Tan, 2006)

Artichoke Tales (Kelso, 2010)

Asterios Polyp (Mazzucchelli, 2009)

The Aviary (Tanner, 2007)

The Awake Field (Rege Jr., 2006)

Axe Cop (Nicolle & Nicolle, 2009-2010)

Bacter-Area (Keith Jones, 2005)

Bald Knob (Hankiewicz, 2007)

Batman (Simmons, 2007)

Batman #664-669, 672-675 (Morrison et al, 2007-2008)

Batman #681 (Morrison & Daniel, 2008)

Batman and the Monster Men (Wagner, 2006)

Batman and Robin #1 (Morrison & Quitely, 2009)

Batman and Robin #9 (Morrison & Stewart, 2010)

Batman: Hush (Loeb & Lee, 2002-03)

Batman: Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat (Dixon, Moench, Aparo, Balent, Breyfogle, Nolan, 1993)

Batman R.I.P. (Morrison, Daniel, Garbett, 2010)

Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight (Cosentino, 2008)

Batman Year 100 (Pope, 2007)

Battlestack Galacti-crap (Chippendale, 2005)

The Beast Mother (Davis, 2006)

The Best American Comics 2006 (A.E. Moore, Pekar et al, 2006)

The Best of the Spirit (Eisner, 2005)

Between Four Walls/The Room (Mattotti, 2003)

Big Questions #10 (Nilsen, 2007)

Big Questions #11: Sweetness and Light (Nilsen, 2008)

Big Questions #12: A Young Crow's Guide to Hunting (Nilsen, 2009)

Big Questions #13: A House That Floats (Nilsen, 2009)

Big Questions #14: Title and Deed (Nilsen, 2010)

The Black Diamond Detective Agency (E. Campbell & Mitchell, 2007)

Black Ghost Apple Factory (Tinder, 2006)

Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Giant Magazine version

Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Savage Critics version, Part I
Part II

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

Blankets (Thompson, 2003)

Blankets revisited

Blar (Weing, 2005)

Bone (Smith, 2005)

Bonus ? Comics (Huizenga, 2009)

The Book of Genesis Illustrated (Crumb, 2009)

Bottomless Bellybutton (Shaw, 2008)

Boy's Club (Furie, 2006)

Boy's Club 2 (Furie, 2008)

Boy's Club 3 (Furie, 2009)

B.P.R.D. Vol. 9: 1946 (Mignola, Dysart, Azaceta, 2008)

B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #4 (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2009)

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! (Spiegelman, 2008)

Brilliantly Ham-fisted (Neely, 2008)

Burma Chronicles (Delisle, 2008)

Capacity (Ellsworth, 2008)

Captain America (Brubaker, Epting, Perkins et al, 2004-2008)

Captain America #33-34 (Brubaker & Epting, 2007-08)

Captain America: Reborn #4 (Brubaker & Hitch, 2009)

Captain Britain & MI:13 #5 (Cornell & Oliffe, 2008)

Cartoon Dialectics Vol. 1 (Kaczynski, 2007)

Chance in Hell (G. Hernandez, 2007)

Chester 5000 XYV (Fink, 2008-2009)

Chrome Fetus Comics #7 (Rickheit, 2009)

City-Hunter Magazine #1 (C.F., 2009)

Clive Barker's Seduth (Barker, Monfette, Rodriguez, Zone, 2009)

Clive Barker's The Thief of Always (Oprisko & Hernandez, 2005)

Closed Caption Comics #8 (various, 2009)

Cockbone (Simmons, 2009)

Cold Heat #1 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)

Cold Heat #2 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)

Cold Heat #4 (BJ & Santoro, 2007)

Cold Heat #5/6 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)

Cold Heat #7/8 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)

Cold Heat Special #2: The Chunky Gnars (Cornwell, 2007)

Cold Heat Special #3 (Santoro & Shaw, 2008)

Cold Heat Special #5 (Santoro & Smith, 2008)

Cold Heat Special #6 (Cornwell, 2009)

Cold Heat Special #7 (DeForge, 2009)

Cold Heat Special #8 (Santoro & Milburn, 2008)

Cold Heat Special #9 (Santoro & Milburn, 2009)

Comics Are For Idiots!: Blecky Yuckerella Vol. 3 (Ryan, 2008)

The Complete Persepolis (Satrapi, 2007)

Core of Caligula (C.F., 2008)

Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories (Swain, 2009)

Cry Yourself to Sleep (Tinder, 2006)

Curio Cabinet (Brodowski, 2010)

Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales (Dougherty, 2006)

Daredevil #103-104 (Brubaker & Lark, 2007-08)

Daredevil #110 (Brubaker, Rucka, Lark, Gaudiano, 2008)

The Dark Knight Strikes Again (Miller & Varley, 2003)

Dark Reign: The List #7--Wolverine (Aaron & Ribic, 2009)

Daybreak Episode Three (Ralph, 2008)

DC Universe #0 (Morrison, Johns et al, 2008)

The Death of Superman (Jurgens et al, 1993)

Death Note Vol. 1 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)

Death Note Vol. 2 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)

Death Trap (Milburn, 2010)

Detective Comics #854-860 (Rucka & Williams III, 2009-2010)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Gloeckner, 2002)

Dirtbags, Mallchicks & Motorbikes (Kiersh, 2009)

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow (Nilsen & Weaver, 2006)

Doom Force #1 (Morrison et al, 1992)

Doomwar #1 (Maberry & Eaton, 2010)

Dr. Seuss Goes to War (Seuss/Minear, 2001)

Dragon Head Vols. 1-5 (Mochizuki, 2005-2007)

A Drifting Life (Tatsumi, 2009)

Driven by Lemons (Cotter, 2009)

Eightball #23 (Clowes, 2004)

Ex Machina Vols. 1-9 (Vaughan, Harris et al, 2005-2010)

Exit Wounds (Modan, 2007)

The Exterminators Vol. 1: Bug Brothers (Oliver & Moore, 2006)

Fallen Angel (Robel, 2006)

Fandancer (Grogan, 2010)

Fatal Faux-Pas (Gaskin, 2008)

FCHS (Delsante & Freire, 2010)

Feeble Minded Funnies/My Best Pet (Milburn/Freibert, 2009)

Fight or Run: Shadow of the Chopper (Huizenga, 2008)

Final Crisis #1 (Morrison & Jones, 2008)

Final Crisis #1-7 (Morrison, Jones, Pacheco, Rudy, Mahnke et al, 2008-2009)

Fires (Mattotti, 1991)

First Time (Sibylline et al, 2009)

Flash: Rebirth #4 (Johns & Van Sciver, 2009)

Follow Me (Moynihan, 2009)

Footnotes in Gaza (Sacco, 2009)

Forbidden Worlds #114: "A Little Fat Nothing Named Herbie!" (O'Shea [Hughes] & Whitney, 1963)

Forlorn Funnies #5 (Hornschemeier, 2004)

Forming (Moynihan, 2009-2010)

Fox Bunny Funny (Hartzell, 2007)

Funny Misshapen Body (Brown, 2009)

Gags (DeForge)

Galactikrap 2 (Chippendale, 2007)

Ganges #2 (Huizenga, 2008)

Ganges #3 (Huizenga, 2009)

Gangsta Rap Posse #1 (Marra, 2009)

The Gigantic Robot (Gauld, 2009)

Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life (Paley & Swain, 2009)

A God Somewhere (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2010)

Goddess Head (Shaw, 2006)

The Goddess of War, Vol. 1 (Weinstein, 2008)

GoGo Monster (Matsumoto, 2009)

The Goon Vols. 0-2 (Powell, 2003-2004)

Green Lantern #43-51 (Johns, Mahnke, Benes, 2009-2010)

Held Sinister (Stechschulte, 2009)

Hellboy Junior (Mignola, Wray et al, 2004)

Hellboy Vol. 8: Darkness Calls (Mignola & Fegredo, 2008)

Henry & Glenn Forever (Neely et al, 2010)

High Moon Vol. 1 (Gallaher & Ellis, 2009)

Ho! (Brunetti, 2009)

How We Sleep (Davis, 2006)

I Killed Adolf Hitler (Jason, 2007)

I Live Here (Kirshner, MacKinnon, Shoebridge, Simons et al, 2008)

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (Hanks, Karasik, 2007)

Image United #1 (Kirkman, Liefeld et al, 2009)

The Immortal Iron Fist #12 (Brubaker, Fraction, Aja, Kano, Pulido, 2008)

The Immortal Iron Fist #21 (Swierczynski & Green, 2008)

Immortal Weapons #1 (Aaron, Swierczynski et al, 2009)

In a Land of Magic (Simmons, 2009)

In the Flesh: Stories (Shadmi, 2009)

Incanto (Santoro, 2006)

Incredible Change-Bots (Brown, 2007)

The Incredible Hercules #114-115 (Pak, Van Lente, Pham, 2008)

Inkweed (Wright, 2008)

Invincible Vols. 1-9 (Kirkman, Walker, Ottley, 2003-2008)

Invincible Iron Man #1-4 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)

Invincible Iron Man #8 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)

Invincible Iron Man #19 (Fraction & Larroca, 2009)

It Was the War of the Trenches (Tardi, 2010)

It's Sexy When People Know Your Name (Hannawalt, 2007)

Jessica Farm Vol. 1 (Simmons, 2008)

Jin & Jam #1 (Jo, 2009)

JLA Classified: Ultramarine Corps (Morrison & McGuinness, 2002)

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (Katchor, 1996)

Jumbly Junkery #8-9 (Nichols, 2009-2010)

Just a Man #1 (Mitchell & White, 2009)

Justice League: The New Frontier Special (Cooke, Bone, Bullock, 2008)

Keeping Two (Crane, 2001-)

Kick-Ass #1-4 (Millar & Romita Jr., 2008)

Kid Eternity (Morrison & Fegredo, 1991)

Kill Your Boyfriend (Morrison & Bond, 1995)

King-Cat Comics and Stories #69 (Porcellino, 2008)

Kramers Ergot 4 (Harkham et al, 2003)

Kramers Ergot 5 (Harkham et al, 2004)

Kramers Ergot 6 (Harkham et al, 2006)

Kramers Ergot 7 (Harkham et al, 2008)

The Lagoon (Carre, 2008)

The Last Call Vol. 1 (Lolos, 2007)

The Last Lonely Saturday (Crane, 2000)

The Last Musketeer (Jason, 2008)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (Moore & O'Neill, 2007)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 3: Century #1: 1910 (Moore & O'Neill, 2009)

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (Levitz, Giffen, Mahlstedt, Bruning, 1991)

Little Things (Brown, 2008)

Look Out!! Monsters #1 (Grogan, 2008)

Lose #1-2 (DeForge, 2009-2010)

Lost Kisses #9 & 10 (Mitchell, 2009)

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 (Los Bros Hernandez, 2008)

Low Moon (Jason, 2009)

The Mage's Tower (Milburn, 2008)

Maggots (Chippendale, 2007)

The Man with the Getaway Face (Cooke, 2010)

Mattie & Dodi (Davis, 2006)

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13 (Ware et al, 2004)

Mercury (Larson, 2010)

Mesmo Delivery (Grampa, 2008)

Micrographica (French, 2007)

Mister Wonderful (Clowes, 2007-2008)

Mome Vol. 4: Spring/Summer 2006 (various, 2006)

Mome Vol. 9: Fall 2007 (various, 2007)

Mome Vol. 10: Winter/Spring 2008 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 11: Summer 2008 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 12: Fall 2008 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 13: Winter 2009 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 14: Spring 2009 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 15: Summer 2009 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 16: Fall 2009 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 17: Winter 2010 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 18: Spring 2010 (various, 2010)

Mome Vol. 19: Summer 2010 (various, 2010)

Monkey & Spoon (Lia, 2004)

Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby (Nemoto, 2008)

Monsters (Dahl, 2009)

Monsters & Condiments (Wiegle, 2009)

Monstrosity Mini (Diaz, 2010)

Mother, Come Home (Hornschemeier, 2003)

The Mourning Star Vols. 1 & 2 (Strzepek, 2006 & 2009)

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (Petersen, 2008)

Mr. Cellar's Attic (Freibert, 2010)

Multiforce (Brinkman, 2009)

Multiple Warheads #1 (Graham, 2007)

My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Heatley, 2008)

The Mystery of Woolverine Woo-Bait (Coleman, 2004)

Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2006)

Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 4-5 (Urasawa, 2006)

Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 6-18 (Urasawa, 2006-2008)

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2009)

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 4 & 5 (Urasawa, 2009)

Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps! (Neely, 2010)

Neighbourhood Sacrifice (Davidson, DeForge, Gill, 2009)

Never Ending Summer (Cole, 2004)

Never Learn Anything from History (Beaton, 2009)

Neverland (Kiersh, 2008)

New Avengers #44 (Bendis & Tan, 2008)

New Construction #2 (Huizenga, May, Zettwoch, 2008)

New Engineering (Yokoyama, 2007)

New Painting and Drawing (Jones, 2008)

New X-Men Vol. 6: Planet X (Morrison & Jimenez, 2004)

New X-Men Vol. 7: Here Comes Tomorrow (Morrison & Silvestri, 2004)

Nicolas (Girard, 2008)

Night Business #1 & 2 (Marra, 2008 & 2009)

Night Business #3 (Marra, 2010)

Nil: A Land Beyond Belief (Turner, 2007)

Ninja (Chippendale, 2006)

Nocturnal Conspiracies (David B., 2008)

not simple (Ono, 2010)

The Numbers of the Beasts (Cheng, 2010)

Ojingogo (Forsythe, 2008)

Olde Tales Vol. II (Milburn, 2007)

One Model Nation (Taylor, Leitch, Rugg, Porter, 2009)

Or Else #5 (Huizenga, 2008)

The Other Side #1-2 (Aaron & Stewart, 2005)

Owly Vol. 4: A Time to Be Brave (Runton, 2007)

Owly Vol. 5: Tiny Tales (Runton, 2008)

Paper Blog Update Supplemental Postcard Set Sticker Pack (Nilsen, 2009)

Paradise Kiss Vols. 1-5 (Yazawa, 2002-2004)

The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (Gurewitch, 2009)

Peter's Muscle (DeForge, 2010)

Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days (Columbia, 2009)

Pixu I (Ba, Cloonan, Lolos, Moon, 2008)

Pizzeria Kamikaze (Keret & A. Hanuka, 2006)

Plague Hero (Adebimpe, 2009)

Planetary Book 3: Leaving the 20th Century (Ellis & Cassaday, 2005)

Planetes Vols. 1-3 (Yukimura, 2003-2004)

The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Eisner, 2005)

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009)

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-8 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009-2010)

Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories (Jason, 2008)

pood #1 (various, 2010)

Powr Mastrs Vol. 1 (C.F., 2007)

Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 (C.F., 2008)

Prison Pit: Book 1 (Ryan, 2009)

Prison Pit: Book 2 (Ryan, 2010)

Real Stuff (Eichhorn et al, 2004)

Red Riding Hood Redux (Krug, 2009)

Refresh, Refresh (Novgorodoff, Ponsoldt, Pierce, 2009)

Remake (Abrams, 2009)

Reykjavik (Rehr, 2009)

Ronin (Miller, 1984)

Rumbling Chapter Two (Huizenga, 2009)

The San Francisco Panorama Comics Section (various, 2010)

Scott Pilgrim Full-Colour Odds & Ends 2008 (O'Malley, 2008)

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (O'Malley, 2007)

Scott Piglrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (O'Malley, 2009)

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (O'Malley, 2010)

Second Thoughts (Asker, 2009)

Service Industry (Bak, 2007)

Set to Sea (Weing, 2010)

Seven Soldiers of Victory Vols. 1-4 (Morrison et al, 2004)

Shenzhen (Delisle, 2008)

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (Hickman & Weaver, 2010)

Shitbeams on the Loose #2 (various, 2010)

Show Off (Burrier, 2009)

Siege (Bendis & Coipel, 2010)

Siberia (Maslov, 2008)

Skim (Tamaki & Tamaki, 2008)

Skyscrapers of the Midwest (Cotter, 2008)

Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4 (Cotter, 2007)

Sleeper Car (Ellsworth, 2009)

Sloe Black (DeForge)

Slow Storm (Novgorodoff, 2008)

Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret (Kupperman, 2000)

Snake Oil #5: Wolf (Forsman, 2009)

Snow Time (Krug, 2010)

Solanin (Asano, 2008)

Soldier X #1-8 (Macan & Kordey, 2002-2003)

Speak of the Devil (G. Hernandez, 2008)

Spider-Man: Fever #1 (McCarthy, 2010)

Split Lip Vol. 1 (Costello et al, 2009)

Squadron Supreme (Gruenwald et al, 1986)

The Squirrel Machine (Rickheit, 2009)

Stay Away from Other People (Hannawalt, 2008)

Storeyville (Santoro, 2007)

Strangeways: Murder Moon (Maxwell, Garagna, Gervasio, Jok, 2008)

Studio Visit (McShane, 2010)

Stuffed! (Eichler & Bertozzi, 2009)

Sulk Vol. 1: Bighead & Friends (J. Brown, 2009)

Sulk Vol. 2: Deadly Awesome (J. Brown, 2009)

Sulk Vol. 3: The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness (Brown, 2009)

Superman #677-680 (Robinson & Guedes, 2008)

Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 (Sadowski et al, 2009)

Sweet Tooth #1 (Lemire, 2009)

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4 (Kupperman, 2008)

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5 (Kupperman, 2009)

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 (Kupperman, 2010)

Tales of Woodsman Pete (Carre, 2006)

Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White (Matsumoto, 2007)

Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) ADDTF version

Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) TCJ version

They Moved My Bowl (Barsotti, 2007)

Thor: Ages of Thunder (Fraction, Zircher, Evans, 2008)

Three Shadows (Pedrosa, 2008)

Tokyo Tribes Vols. 1 & 2 (Inoue, 2005)

Top 10: The Forty-Niners (Moore & Ha, 2005)

Travel (Yokoyama, 2008)

Trigger #1 (Bertino, 2010)

The Troll King (Karlsson, 2010)

Two Eyes of the Beautiful (Smith, 2010)

Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 (Millar & Pacheco, 2009)

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 (Bendis & LaFuente, 2009)

Ultimate Spider-Man #131 (Bendis & Immonen, 2009)

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Way & Ba, 2008)

Uptight #3 (Crane, 2009)

Wally Gropius (Hensley, 2010)

Watchmen (Moore & Gibbons, 1987) Part I
Part II

Water Baby (R. Campbell, 2008)

Weathercraft (Woodring, 2010)

Werewolves of Montpellier (Jason, 2010)

Wednesday Comics #1 (various, 2009)

West Coast Blues (Tardi & Manchette, 2009)

Wet Moon, Book 1: Feeble Wanderings (Campbell, 2004)

Wet Moon, Book 2: Unseen Feet (Campbell, 2006)

Weird Schmeird #2 (Smith, 2010)

What Had Happened Was... (Collardey, 2009)

Where Demented Wented (Hayes, 2008)

Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey (Handford, 2007)

Whiskey Jack & Kid Coyote Meet the King of Stink (Cheng, 2009)

Wiegle for Tarzan (Wiegle, 2010)

Wilson (Clowes, 2010)

The Winter Men (Lewis & Leon, 2010)

The Witness (Hob, 2008)

Wormdye (Espey, 2008)

Worms #4 (Mitchell & Traub, 2009)

Worn Tuff Elbow (Marc Bell, 2004)

The Would-Be Bridegrooms (Cheng, 2007)

XO #5 (Mitchell & Gardner, 2009)

You Are There (Forest & Tardi, 2009)

You'll Never Know Book One: A Good and Decent Man (Tyler, 2009)

Young Lions (Larmee, 2010)

Your Disease Spread Quick (Neely, 2008)

The Trouble with The Comics Journal's News Watch, Part I
Part II


Recommended

KEEP COMICS EVIL

« February 2008 | Main | April 2008 »

March 2008 Archives

March 1, 2008

Joining forces

This week's Horror Roundtable is all about assembling directors for the ultimate horror anthology film. Frankly I wouldn't care what kind of movies my crew made.

March 2, 2008

Snowblind

Part survival horror, part historical fiction, part training manual for arctic naval expeditions, part Jaws on Ice, Dan Simmons's The Terror is a peculiar book. The story (though I didn't know this until after I finished it) is a heavily fictionalized account of the voyage of two real ships from the British Navy, the Erebus and the Terror, to seek the Northwest Passage amid the frozen arctic seas above Canada during the mid-1840s. Bouncing from character to character to present a spectrum of viewpoints, primarily from officers and petty officers, its main narrative thrust is provided by a rigorous accounting of the logistics of such an expedition, and an equally meticulous cataloguing of the myriad paths it takes to disaster: subzero temperatures, treacherous ice, frightening storms and blizzards, food poisoning, scurvy, fire, starvation, murder, and most importantly, alpha predators. I don't want to tip the book's hand any more than that, but suffice it to say that the men come to believe--indeed have already come to believe, given the book's initial in medias res set-up--that a "thing on the ice" is stalking them, with intentions more malevolent than mere predation and abilities more deadly than (literally) the average bear.

The book is very, very long, probably way longer than it needed to be; all those technical terms about ice conditions and parts of the ship and who answers to whom on board eat up page after page. Yet I don't recall ever feeling bored, or coming to a point where I felt "that right there--that could have been cut." I couldn't imagine writing a book stuffed with that much technical detail, let alone making an entertaining genre effort out of it, but Simmons makes it feel so smooth that you hardly notice how stuffed to the gills it is with the fruits of his research, even if you don't know a serac from a fo'c'sle. But maybe that's the problem with it: It's constructed in such a way that every detail seems equally vital, meaning that nothing ultimately is vital. I suppose the slow avalanche of detail is in its way evocative of the day-by-day grind the arctic conditions, natural and otherwise, take on the men and their ships, but compared to something like The Ruins or the Barker and King short stories of which that book is reminiscent, that palpable panicked breakdown momentum is missing; here it's more a resigned despair. Which is valid, I suppose, but to me less compelling.

Certain elements do stand out against that blinding white background. For one thing, Simmons has a refreshing tendency to zig when you expect him to zag with his characters. A racist stuffed shirt turns out to have risked his career to help abused prisoners; a stereotypical evil homosexual is offset by the introduction of two lovers who are among both the noblest, smartest, and most psychologically complicated members of the crew; a cynical drunk turns out to be a stoic mensch; a squaresville naif delivers the most memorable and cutting rebuff to the book's bad guys in the whole novel. While the book is never scary in the keep-you-up-at-night sense, the thought of wrestling with the notion that you are most likely going to freeze or starve or rot to death over slow months and years on the ice if you don't get eaten first can certainly give you something to stew about as you drift off to sleep. And there are memorable horror visuals both operatic (the Carnivale) and insidiously subtle (what the sledge party sees off in the distance throughout their trek). Finally, like those characters, the whole book takes a wild trip off into left field for its final act, something hinted at only slightly by a pair of feints in that direction much earlier on (the first of which, now that I think of it, would have been much better left unrevealed until this final act). To me, this was the book's best, most unique, and ballsiest section, beating out even the cat-and-mouse suspense of its long-running mutiny subplot. The only problem is that it rather completely undercuts the book's menace, and that is a very big problem. After all, whether you're referring to the thing on the ice or the fear of oblivion, you're talking about the title character here.

March 3, 2008

Comics Time: Blar

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Blar
Drew Weing, writer/artist
Little House Comics, 2005
20 pages
$3.25
Buy it from Little House

This minicomic about an adorable barbarian killing machine and his gag-strip adventures reminds me of Roger Langridge's Fred the Clown stuff in three particulars: 1) The bigfoot-style cartooning is absolutely impeccable (I actually prefer this to Langridge--it's warmer and humbler, if that makes sense); 2) the humor stems primarily from a human shortcoming (in this case stupidity, in Langridge's case usually a combination of stupidity and venality) being expressed through comic business; 3) the comic business isn't funny. Seriously, I'd love to see this character in a far more straightforward action-adventure mode, one that's as ridiculous as this is and just as chock full of crazy enemies (The Berserker Hordes of Nazroth! The Dread Wizard-King! Mecha-King Gilgator!) but stripped of the shallow pratfall-based punchlines.

Did I mention the cartooning, though? Christ. Actually the book's most entertaining aspects stem from the art more than the business--the house-sized sword in the final strip is a laugh-out-loud riff on the Berserk school of big-ass-sword-wielding, and that die-cut blood splatter on the front cover is witty and eye-catching (that cover scan doesn't do it justice at all), and I love that Blar's arm is almost always extended perpendicular to his body, with his sword perpendicular to his arm. The jokes could be that good too!

March 4, 2008

Carnival of souls

* I don't have any D&D related puns to deploy, but regardless, rest in peace, Gary Gygax. I didn't play D&D as a kid, but I have very fond memories of jumping completely cold into a campaign some buddies of mine had going the summer after my freshman year in college and learning on the job, drinking Sam Adams and listening to the Braveheart soundtrack. My DM cooked up an amazing twist ending that had us all completely flabbergasted. For those memories, and for your role in paving the aesthetic road for synthesizing a variety of nerd traditions into a stew based solely on what happens to be awesome about them, god bless you, Gary Gygax. (Via Brian Hibbs.)

* The cast of Lost asks the creators of Lost their burning questions. I like this feature a lot because a) it shows that the actors have as little idea of what's really going on as we do; b) the formatting makes it really easy to skip past questions you don't wanna know the answers to; c) some of the answers are genuinely informative. (Via Whitney Matheson.)

* Bruce Baugh considers the critical consensus on Francis Lawrence's I Am Legend...and agrees with it!

* Eve Tushnet takes a cue from last week's Horror Roundtable and picks five filmmakers for her dream horror anthology movie. Let's just say she gets a little more adventurous than John Carpenter.

* Star Wars, Saul Bass-style. (Via Keith Uhlich.)

* Finally, a press release about an art opening for the great Teratoid Heights cartoonist and Fort Thunder alum Mat Brinkman:

MAT BRINKMAN
SOLO EXHIBITION: RV AND TRAILER DRAWINGS
March 7 - April 6, 2008

OPENING RECEPTION with the artist: Friday, March 7, 6-9 pm

At certain times in history something unexpected, groundbreaking, and ahead of its time arises. From the eternal dark rivers of Providence, RI came Fort Thunder. Under its pure and unrestricted banner founders Mat Brinkman and Brian Chippendale, together with the legions of unbridled creativity, fought against the quietness of modern mediocrity throughout the dark age of the 1990’s. Despite its demolition in 2002, the legacy of Fort Thunder continues to inspire a generation of artists who keep the true and hallowed flame of the underground in art alive.

LOYAL is proud to present this highly anticipated solo exhibition of new drawings by Mat Brinkman. Darkness will descend upon the opening night when the true defender of black metal, E from Watain, will bring holy damnation from the vinyl players. Pure hellish superiority!

Brinkman crushes predictability and creates a new order of storytelling. With his rough yet highly sophisticated lines, Brinkman’s stripped-down, ink-on-paper drawings use little and tell much. Demon-ghouls with razor claws and cloud-shaped entities bound through an unearthly labyrinthine darkness made up of cell-like squirming lines, revealing primordial undertones in our contemporary world.

In the year 2002, the four person outfit Forcefield (Fort Thunder residents Mat Brinkman, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg and Ara Peterson) was included in the Whitney Biennial. In 2006 a retrospective of Providence artists in the exhibition Wunderground: Providence, 1995 to the Present was held at the RISD Museum. The exhibition included 1000’s of posters made for events at Fort Thunder and at places like Hilarious Attic and Dirt Palace.

Teratoid Heights, the first collection of Brinkman’s work was published in the summer of 2003 by Highwater Books. A classic of dark and heavy energy, Teratoid Heights is oblivious to the passing of time in its epic, monolithic spirit. New work by Brinkman will be featured in the forthcoming volume of LOYAL Magazine.

LOYAL
Torsgatan 53 & 59
113 37 Stockholm
Sweden
phone +46 (0)8 32 44 91
cell +46 (0)73 322 9289
info@galleriloyal.com
http://www.galleriloyal.com

If I were in Stockholm, I'd go to this, as the saying goes.

March 5, 2008

Comics Time: Death Note Vol. 2

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Death Note Vol. 2
Tsugumi Ohba, writer
Takeshi Obata, artist
Pookie Rolf, translator/adapter
Viz, November 2005
200 pages
$7.95
Buy it from Amazon.com

First of all, look at that price point--talk about bang for the buck! No wonder these things are so popular. Second of all I found this volume to be an improvement over its predecessor in virtually every respect. The art is more interesting and individualized in its depiction of the characters: I loved the big bag-rimmed eyes, wiggly bare toes, and thumb-biting neurosis of L the wunderkind investigator, and man oh man I could look at the clothes and hair Obata delivered for the ill-fated Naomi Misora all day. But of course we won't be seeing much of her anymore, and that's part and parcel of the improvement in terms of the tension of the cat-and-mouse suspense aspects seen in this issue: We see just how far Light will go to preserve his anonymity by killing off very likeable, very innocent characters, and by having that happen this early in the game, the creators show us that no one is safe and that they'll be throwing curveballs. I still get a little tired of the constant narration of everyone's thoughts and deductions--I long for the quiet cogitation of the characters from The Wire, which I'm experiencing for the first time more or less simultaneously to Death Note and which displays a lot more faith in the audience to follow what's going on--but I'll admit that it's an effective way of showing off how byzantine the schemes and counter-schemes get from moment to moment. It's enjoyable pulp fiction.

Carnival of souls

* Over at The House Next Door, the very good TV critics Matt Zoller Seitz, Alan Sepinwall, and Andrew Johnston debate which show by The Three Davids--Chase's The Sopranos, Milch's Deadwood, and Simon's The Wire--is the best TV drama of all time in a podcast. One day, when I finish going through The Wire and then roll through Deadwood, I plan on listening to this with great interest, but until then I'm steering clear. In the meantime I will say 1) They missed a David; 2) So far (I'm a couple episodes into Season Four), as good as The Wire may be, between it and The Sopranos it's not even close.

* A terrible week for the cast and the fans of Road House just gets worse: First Jeff Healey dies, and now we learn that Patrick Swayze has (terminal?) pancreatic cancer.

* Apparently Joss Whedon is going to have Buffy the Vampire Slayer have a lesbian fling in her current comic book. Feminism! (This gratuitous bit of browncoat-baiting is brought to you by Jason Adams.)

* The Blot artist Tom Neely keeps doing great work; the sad and upsetting comic strip he posted today knocked me to the floor.

* Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle unearths one of the most unnerving stories I've heard in a long while, one I'm surprised I hadn't heard before: the Dyatlov Pass Accident. In 1959, nine Russian cross-country skiers made camp in the Ural Mountains to wait out a storm. The next morning they were all dead--apparently having literally torn their way out of their tents and ran into the -30 degree Celsius night in their underwear, two of them with massive internal trauma to the chest but no external injuries, one with a crushed head, one with a missing tongue, all bearing traces of radiation and all with their hair turned gray literally overnight. More weird details at the link. Given my reading of late, this rolled right down my alley.

UPDATE: A friend did some googling and discovered that virtually all references to this story stem from the past few weeks (there's some sketchy stuff from 2006 on Wikipedia (where the article is up for deletion) and a Russian-language message board thread purporting to be from 2004 but that's it), so take it all with a tub of salt.

* Finally, via Bruce Baugh I came across this alternate ending to Francis Lawrence's I Am Legend.

As they say at the link, it's not perfect--the new coda feels like it needs a separate transitional scene to make sense given the tenor of the revised climax that forms the bulk of the alternate take--but it's vastly superior to the out-of-nowhere Signs riff imposed on the film in the theaters. It ties directly into emotional themes present throughout the film, it makes more sense out of the viro-vampires' behavior, and it comes a lot closer to the most provocative aspects of the book's conclusion in terms of how the vampires think of themselves. There's even a nice little visual callback to the Central Park Zoo lions that ties it all together.

It's funny: As I've thought about the big apocalyptic monster movie trifecta of the past few months--The Mist, I Am Legend, Cloverfied--I came to terms with the fact that even though the character work in the middle movie is head and shoulders above the by-the-numbers material of the other two movies, I was still more likely to end up owning the other two flicks on DVD because their monsters were better. But if I Am Legend had this ending in the theater, I'd have walked away from it with more or less no reservations, and it'd have been a whole different ballgame.

March 6, 2008

Meet the Watchmen

Zack Snyder has posted shots of most of the main superhero characters in his adaptation of Watchmen:

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In the words of Kirsty from Hellraiser, me like. I guess we nerds are supposed to get all OG about it and be upset that they're not in tights, but this approach makes sense to me: The comic book version of this story was geared toward comic book readers, so it featured traditional comic-book spandex costumes. The movie version is geared toward moviegoers, so it's going with movie-style costumes. They look good. Full-sized images at the link. (Via Heidi MacDonald.)

Carnival of souls

* I'm kind of interested in this Trinity project by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley: It's DC's next weekly comic, the first one starring the cream of DC's superhero crop--Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman--and the first one whose main story is completely written and drawn by the same team, in this case two solid if not spectacular craftsmen responsible for enjoyable titles like Astro City and Ultimate Spider-Man. I'm curious to see how that kind of release schedule and pacing works with a set creative team and a small, fixed roster of extremely well known stars. Anyway, Doug Wolk interviewed Busiek about it.

* Over at Topless Robot, my buddy Jesse Thompson runs down his 10 favorite horror movie posters from the '80s. What up, Ghoulies?

* Finally...

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Feminism!

Love among The Ruins

I'm kind of in love with this gallery of 20 stills from the upcoming adaptation of The Ruins. (If that link doesn't work, try this one.)

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Boy oh boy, did they cast this movie well. Everyone is cute but not in that plastic WB way--in a real, young-looking, vulnerable way, like your friends from college. My hopes get higher.

March 7, 2008

Comics Time: Blankets

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Blankets
Top Shelf, July 2003
Craig Thompson, writer/artist
592 pages
$29.95
Buy it from Top Shelf
Buy it from Amazon.com

Originally written on March 8, 2004 for publication by The Comics Journal

It's safe to describe Blankets as the year's most talked-about, most hyped, most divisive graphic novel. It's also safe to describe it as one of the year's best. The victim of an emperor's-new-clothes backlash that in at least some cases had as much to do with the book's publisher or its author's previous work or the p.r. campaign surrounding it as with the book itself, Blankets is a marvelously drawn bildungsroman with a heart as big as the Midwestern plains in which it takes place. For that, it has been pilloried, and I wish I could understand why. Actually, scratch that--no, I don't. If loving this rapturously illustrated and warmly told story of ecstatic pain is wrong, well, you know the rest.

Blankets is the more-or-less straight autobiography that author Craig Thompson's debut novel, Goodbye, Chunky Rice, hinted at. Indeed, elements of Chunky Rice put in cameo appearances throughout its successor's 592 pages, hinting at a rich underlying emotional universe in much the same way that The Lord of the Rings provided deeper and sadder echoes of material first found in The Hobbit. It's a book about long-distance relationships--one with a girl, one with God; how they burn impossibly bright and yet can be extinguished with a phone call (in the former case) or a footnote (in the latter). Refusing to coast on mere audience recognition, Thompson's art both mines and mimes the riot of emotion such relationships engender, employing sweepingly expressive brushwork--each page seems to swirl like a snowdrift--and a vast--perhaps "dizzying" is a better word--array of formally experimental devices. And yet the art steers clear of the facile: Everyone notices the "blankets" of lush white snow, but a careful scan through the book reveals an almost obsessive use of powerful blacks, the unspoken yang to the wintry yin. Thompson's narration is believably unreliable, at times appearing to believe every word of its descriptions of sexual or spiritual perfection, at other times imbuing the delivery with that unmistakable you-can't-go-home-again regret, at all times trusting the reader to make the distinction. What we're left with is a book about rejecting Christianity that, miraculously, judges not; a book about adolescence that recognizes that term as one describing an age, not a level of complexity, or more specifically a lack thereof. In love and in loss, what happens to our teenaged hearts matters. So does Blankets.

March 8, 2008

Carnival of souls

* This week's Horror Roundtable asks what our favorite horror locale is. Here's a hint for my top two: an Andrew W.K. album and a Steven Segal movie.

* I totally wish they'd made toys out of a brainwashed Soviet assassin and a neo-Nazi killing machine when I was a kid!

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(Via Topless Robot.)

* Finally, Skyscrapers of the Midwest author Josh Cotter is posting a whole lot of cool, random drawings on his blog this month. Look for the entries titled "March Hare."

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March 9, 2008

Blog called on account of Omar

Much of my free time this past week, this weekend, and this upcoming week has been and will be taken up by a desperate (and no doubt futile, given my usual luck in this department) attempt to plow through the final two seasons of The Wire on DVD and TiVo in hopes that I can finish the show before the inevitable series-finale spoilers pop up unannounced in an Ain't It Cool News RSS feed headline or an unrelated post on Matt Yglesias's blog and ruin it for me. Now, this is not in fact the reason I haven't blogged anything today--it's just that nothing really tickled my fancy--but I really just wanted to use that post title.

March 10, 2008

Comics Time: Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

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Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Bryan Lee O'Malley, writer/artist
Oni Press, October 2007
216 pages
$11.95
Buy it from Oni
Buy it from Amazon.com

You see a lot of criticism of the movie Juno centering on its stylized hipster-nerd banter. I haven't seen the film, but I understand it involves the phrases "home skillet" and "honest to blog," and that does indeed sound unfortunate. I would guess that someone out there could make similar hay out of the Scott Pilgrim series. Everyone is very "on" and clever and buoyant and witty and catty, a little like a stylized version of what you'd like to think you and your friends constantly sound like: "Scott, if your life had a face I would punch it. I would punch your life in the face." Surely there's people who'd just as soon light the book on fire as read lines like that.

I'm not one of those people. I find the Scott Pilgrim world so winning, so immersive. Part of it is that dialogue, which makes you feel like you're entering another, more entertaining world. Part of it is the books' Nintendo-realism, and the sense-memory of playing video games conjured up every time Scott wins experience points or levels up. Part of it is the tremendously charming art, which gets more stylized and self-assured with each new volume. While at times I wish O'Malley's characters were a little easier to tell apart, I actually got the hang of it pretty quickly this time because each of them has some little stylistic filigree--bangs or freckles or a ponytail or a beard or somesuch--that economically sets them apart.

And part of it is the characters. They're admittedly not the deepest or most complex bunch, but I want fun things to happen to them. I want all of Scott's cute female friends to make out with each other (even though the trendy-lesbian thing is a little easy--I mean, so am I). I want his roommate Wallace to party with his pants off. I want his snotty bandmates to dole out put-downs like Judge Judy and Dr. Phil. Now, do I want Scott really to get it together? I'm not so sure. I'm kind of enjoying him falling bass-ackwards into everything, like the Dude from The Big Lebowski or Kramer from Seinfeld. Still, I really enjoyed the story of his estranged rock-star ex-girlfriend Envy from Vol. 3, and while this installment's saga of whether he and Ramona will finally say "I love you" isn't quite as satisfying, it does at least begin to grapple not just with the emotional aspect of post-initial-infatuation relationships, but also with the sexual aspects, which had kind of been elided until now. I like reading Scott Pilgrim comics.

Carnival of souls

* There's a poster out there for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and I got all excited about it when I first saw it, but then I realized that Indy looks bored on it and that it's not really a great poster, it's just great that there is a new Indiana Jones movie so as to necessitate the making of a poster, so I'm not gonna post a picture of it here. The end!

* I wasn't aware that Scott Smith, the author of The Ruins, wrote the screenplay for its upcoming film adaptation. Those hopes just keep getting higher.

* Every comics blogger and their brother is linking to this sweet Wall Street Journal profile of cartoonist and fashion designer (!) Paul Pope. While it bobbles some of the facts of his career, as mainstream-media profiles of comics people are wont to do, it makes up for that by giving his trademark blend of style and substance a respectful hearing. (Nobody tell Dan Nadel!)

* Here's a terrific interview with one of my favorite cartoonists in the world, Phoebe Gloeckner, about why she's an artist. Watch it for the interview material, but keep your eyes peeled for a lot of seemingly digital art from Gloeckner that as far as I can tell has not been seen before, much of it appearing to come from her project about the mass unsolved murder of women in Juarez, Mexico. (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* Aeron at Monster Brains spots some cool, creepy Mat Brinkman art at the website for Providence, RI's Stairwell Gallery.

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* Michael Haneke talks to EW about his English-language version of Funny Games in delightfully brusque take-it-or-leave-it terms, while another EW reporter was reduced to tears by the movie. I myself am trying to figure out whether I have the wherewithal to go to a movie theater and subject myself to it as opposed to watching it in the comfort of my own home (or a hotel room in the Standard on Sunset while half-lit, as was the case for me
with the German version). (Via Jason Adams.)

* It's an Eve Tushnet twofer! Here's her review of Shock Treatment, the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

* And in this post, she elaborates on the directors and subgenres she selected for her dream horror anthology film in response to the Horror Roundtable on the topic.

* From the quibble department: In Chris Butcher's post lambasting, among other things, 52, it seems like he's blaming editor Steve Wacker for the storylines that led to the imposition by editor-in-chief Dan DiDio of tie-in projects World War III and 52 Aftermath: Four Horsemen, even though Wacker was long gone from the book by then. I also think 52 in general was a rewardingly baroque reading experience where the personal obsessions of its writers made themselves manifest in a way that's quite rare for superhero comics, and I enjoyed it a lot.

* Andrew Sullivan describes Hillary Clinton in horror-movie terms.

* Finally, here's the new trailer for the ever-more-F-Zero/Mario Kart-esque Speed Racer. That's entertainment! (Via Topless Robot.)

March 11, 2008

Carnival of souls

* I've got about 50% of the final episode of The Wire to go, if you've been wondering.

* Neil Marshall, director of the excellent The Descent, the so-so Dog Soldiers, and the upcoming, cool-looking Doomsday, has announced his next project: a period Western horror film called Sacrilege which he describes as "Unforgiven by way of H.P. Lovecraft." Sounds good to me! And speaking of Lovecraft...

* Krazy Old Comics Water Monster #1: Dave at Rue Morgue has the goods on an "America's Choice" brand Cthulhu from Charlton Comics' Baron Weirwulf's Haunted Library. His name...Kulu! I know, clever, right?

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* Krazy Old Comics Water Monster #2: Siskoid brings us this panel of some sonuvabitch shooting a rocket launcher at a perfectly good plesiosaur.

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March 12, 2008

Comics Time: Justice League: The New Frontier Special

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Justice League: The New Frontier Special
Darwyn Cooke, writer
Cooke, David Bullock, J. Bone, artists
DC Comics, March 2008
48 pages
$4.99
Here it is at DC's website but I don't think you can buy it there

I've long been a skeptic with regards to writer-artist Darwyn Cooke's nostalgia-tinged approach to superheroes in titles like The Spirit and DC: The New Frontier (the antecedent to this one-shot and the basis of the animated feature to which its release is tied). What's interesting about Cooke's take on the topic is that it dodges many of the usual pitfalls of "they don't make 'em like they used to"-ism by acknowledging that these are not products of a more innocent era--the era they come from, like all eras, was actually pretty fucked up. Rather, he slips up by insisting that the classic superheroes themselves are viable moral exemplars. To me this is very weird and a little icky. I don't think we can really derive any kind of meaningful ethical guidelines from the career of Green Lantern--I mostly just think characters who dress up in cool costumes and use awesome powers to fight crime and tyranny and killer aliens can make for some fun stories with some powerful emotional beats. Now, the specific flaw of the New Frontier project of depciting the Silver Age DC icons as active in the actual time period that spawned them is that it takes Cooke's problematic approach to superheroes and applies it to the Kennedy era itself, even though, given the actual historical record, viewing JFK in this hagiographical manner is almost as dubious as treating Batman that way. At any rate, as symbols of a brave new world of muscular Camelot progressivism, I'm not sure masked vigilantes make a whole lot of sense.

But to its great credit, JL:TNFS largely eschews the more heavy-handed philosophical elements of its predecessor, instead focusing on telling a ripping mid-'50s period yarn about Batman and Superman fighting, Dark Knight Returns-style. Frankly I'll never get tired of Batman handing Superman's ass to him with Kryptonite weapons, and seeing him do so via the effortlessly dynamic, feet-kicked-up-on-the-desk casual, retro-cool art of Cooke is all the better. Moreover, the short-story length mitigates against Cooke's tendency toward bloat--there's no room to cram in any multi-page paeans to Adam Strange! Instead, the special is rounded out by a pair of shorter, humor-oriented stories illustrated by Cooke collaborators Bullock (a Robin/Kid Flash team-up involving an unholy union between drag-racing delinquents and Communist saboteurs, which is a pretty fabulous idea) and Bone (a raid on a Playboy club by Wonder Woman and Black Canary which ends with Gloria Steinem in bunny regalia winking at the viewer; I'm still trying to figure out what was going on with this one other than Cooke riffing on the fact that Wondy was on the cover of the first issue of Ms. and that women look good in fishnet stockings).

I suppose what I would like New Frontier to be is a Watchmen-esque application of superheroes to a specific political and temporal milieu, whereby we can sit back and watch how things play out for these icons in a setting a lot more constrained than their usual anything-goes shared universe without the material telling us how to feel about what happens. In other words I don't want the reverence to go any deeper than Cooke's gorgeous throwback art. That's not really what we're getting here, but it's brief enough and cool enough that I can pretend.

Carnival of souls

* Finished The Wire!

* This is truly one of the strangest stories I've ever heard: A woman sat on her boyfriend's toilet, ostensibly of her own volition, for two years. She'd been there so long her skin had grown around the seat and a hospital had to remove it. Shades of everything from Secretary to Se7en.

* AICN reports that Sylvester Stallone is considering a fifth Rambo movie, one that would abandon the usual war/action territory for another, unspecified genre. Like AICN's Merrick, I think the fourth film in the series took things in a very interesting emotional direction, and the potential for a different kind of Rambo movie is definitely there.

* Hey, it appears that Steven "The Horror Blog" Wintle has a new comics blog called I Was Ben!

* Finally, Ezra Klein compares Geraldine Ferraro's recent comments about Barack Obama to Marvel's What If? series. (Via Andrew Sullivan, who seems to be growing fonder of talking about Hillary Clinton in genre-nerd terms by the day.)

March 13, 2008

My new favorite sentence in the English language

Sean T. Collins interviews Gary Panter for Marvel.com.

There are any number of levels on which being able to truthfully write that sentence blows my mind.

Carnival of souls

* In case you missed the earlier link, I have an interview with Gary Panter over at Marvel.com. Seriously!

* Lost creator Damon Lindelof talks to EW about whether the Numbers (4 8 15 61 23 42) will ever be explained on the show. My single biggest problem with Lost is that they relegated their only explanation of the Numbers so far--they're values from a mathematical formula called the Valenzetti Equation, which was developed by Dharma scientists as a predictor of the date the world will end; all the experiments conducted on the Island are supposedly designed to change those values and thus save the world--to a stupid alternate reality game that virtually none of my Lost-watching friends even know existed. If I recall correctly, Lindelof has said that the reason they didn't reveal this on the show was that the characters wouldn't care, which makes less than no sense. Anyway, Lindelof gives me some hope that they're going to rectify this silliness when he tells EW that there will be more on the Numbers (which have been largely ignored since the Hatch that used them as a computer code blew up) on the show, and that they predate their inclusion in the Valenzetti Equation, but there will be no explanation of why they have their special significance. Jim Treacher, who linked to the piece, says that this is proof that the Numbers are "horseshit," but I don't think so--at a certain point things are magical because they're magical, and you can't go any deeper than that. Like 23 in The Illuminatus! Trilogy (at least until the explain what would happen to the Law of Fives if we had eight fingers instead of 10).

* The cast of Battlestar Galactica will be reading the Top 10 list on Letterman on March 19th. I have no idea how they pulled that off, but I'm programming my TiVo as we speak.

* The trailer for The Incredible Hulk is out. Everyone's bitching about it for some reason, but everyone's an asshole. Ed Norton Hulk vs. Tim Roth Abomination in the middle of Manhattan? That's gold, Jerry. Gold! (Via Heidi MacDonald.)


* A while back, I wondered how mainstream film critics would react to Michael Haneke's English-language remake of his own Funny Games given how hostile they've been to domestic torture porn horror. Based on the reactions compiled by Jason Adams, it looks like they're going to shit all over it. On the other hand, bona fide horror critic Stacie Ponder was completely blown away by it. It was never going to be anything but an extraordinarily divisive movie, but I still expected the likes of J. Hoberman to at least pretend to be down with it.

March 14, 2008

Comics Time: Micrographica

Photobucket

Micrographica
Renee French, writer/artist
Top Shelf, May 2007
208 pages
$10
Buy it from Top Shelf
Buy it from Amazon.com

I'm rarely as baffled by a comic as I am by this one. Originally drawn in one-centimeter-square panels and published online, it's the "story" of three tiny rodents who at varying times find a ball of shit, a corpse, a grub, a bigger rodent, and a sandwich. It's a weird mixture of South Park potty humor and French's trademark body-horror, the uncomfortable intimacy of which is somehow made even more disturbing by the scale of the drawings even though you'd think the gag-cartoon nature of the material itself would mitigate against it. Believe me, it doesn't.

I think French is a very, very good cartoonist, and it's a testament to her abilities that the procrustean parameters she imposed on her drawings for this project didn't prevent her from exploiting the vulnerable, exposed physicality of her characters as well as she always does, bulbously distended noses, eczema-ridden nipples and all. The sticking point is the intentionally, admittedly slapdash nature of the story. On the one hand, it's always refreshing to me to see a cartoonist present a comic that defies the usual niceties of story structure or readily graspable "meaning." On the other, I'm not sure that kind of braindump necessarily warrants presentation as a stand-alone graphic novella that costs ten bucks. As a minicomic or a story in an anthology, it would be easier to swallow somehow, though I understand that the one-panel-per-page set-up probably precludes publication in such venues.

The Wire: A (mostly) one-sided dialogue

Beginning in mid-January, I started watching The Wire from Season One onward via Netflix and, eventually, TiVo. Obviously I'd heard great things about the show for ages, but the crescendo surrounding the start of the show's fifth and final season coupled with the realization that I could pop a disc into my computer and watch an episode a day on my lunchbreak finally proved too much for me to resist. Soon after starting, I began emailing my thoughts about the show to sundry friends, but mostly to All Too Flat mastermind Kennyb, who had started plowing through the show a couple months before me, I think.

Now that I've finished the series, I've compiled all these little (mostly) one-sided dialogues for your enjoyment. Taken together, they provide a running commentary on the show, and an ongoing view into my reaction to it. And since I came to the show with the perspective of someone who loves its main rival for the title of Best Show Ever, The Sopranos, these emails also frequently compare and contrast the two shows.

So, SPOILER WARNING FOR ANYONE WHO HASN'T SEEN EVERY EPISODE OF THE SHOW. I blow plot points left right and center. But if you have seen the whole thing, my hope is that you can get something out of watching my take on the show evolve from episode to episode and season to season until it becomes a more-or-less coherent response to the political and thematic issues addressed by the show and the techniques it uses to address them.

-----

Date: Jan 17 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Justin Aclin
Subject: TV

Best Dramas Ever:
The Sopranos
Twin Peaks
Lost
Battlestar Galactica

Best Comedies Ever:
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Fawlty Towers
The State
Seinfeld

You could cobble together a top-tier comedy from the best stuff SNL has done over the years, and I'm about five episodes deep into The Wire so the jury is still out on that one, but for now, THE END.

-----

Date: Jan 23 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: Comment

I'm watching an episode of The Wire every day during my lunchbreak. Pretty good so far. Yesterday I finished Season One Episode 8, the one where Omar (who's awesome) kills Stinkum and they up the bounty on his head to $10,000. I'm enjoying it a lot, though at the moment I don't see the argument for it being better than The Sopranos.

-----

Date: Jan 30 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: The Wire season one

I just finished it yesterday and will probably start season two on Friday during lunch (today I've got no discs from Netflix and tomorrow I'm interviewing Katee "Starbuck" Sackhoff during my lunchbreak). It's fun to see that (judging from the season's final scene) the creators quickly realized that Omar is basically the coolest character ever. I really enjoyed it overall and am glad things more or less worked out for the cops. My one quibble is that D'Angelo's relationship with his Lady Macbeth-esque mother wasn't well-established enough for it to make sense to me for him to suddenly change his mind at her behest about all the horrendous stuff his uncle made him a party to, which we just spent an entire season establishing he just couldn't stand, and do a 20-year bid on Avon's behalf instead of flipping.

What I like about this show is how it sets up the ultimate indications of good policework and being a good person as cooperation, competence, and creativity, three vastly underrated qualities in the real world.

-----

Date: Jan 30 2008
From: Kenneth Bromberg
To: Sean T. Collins
Re: The Wire season one

Ally and I just finished watching Season 4 last week. That problem
with fundamental changes in behavior with no discernible reason
happens a couple of times throughout the show (it's actually something
Ally and I were discussing the other day about a character in S4).

The second season is good, but not as good as the first, in my
opinion, 'cuz the bands all broken up at the beginning, and it's an
entirely different chemistry. Possibly still good, but I watched it
so soon after finishing the first season (as you will be) that it was
hard to get into and enjoy the same way.

-----

Date: Jan 30 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Re: The Wire season one

I was gonna say, it must be tough for the writers to justify getting McNulty out of the marine unit and back with his old team.

-----

Date: Feb 6 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: The best Wu-Tang verse ever?

My top five:

1) Ol' Dirty Bastard on "Brooklyn Zoo" (the whole song is all one verse for chrissakes)
2) U-God on Raekwon's "Knuckleheadz"
3) RZA on Ghostface Killah's "Ghost Deini"
4) Inspectah Deck on Wu-Tang Clan's "Triumph" ("I bomb atomically" etc.)
5) Inspectah Deck on GZA/Genius's "Duel of the Iron Mic" ("Building lobbies are graveyards for small-timers/Bitches caught in airports, keys in they vaginas" is the most evocative hip-hop couplet ever written)

You?

Sean

PS: Six eps deep into The Wire Season Two. You're right, it starts slow, but it's super satisfying to watch the bullshit politics with Valchek work in their favor! When I realized that was what was gonna happen I laughed out loud. Also, the show is doing a really good job with the dockworker characters--they really could have screwed the pooch on the whole show if those guys weren't interesting and well-acted. However, I was disappointed with the death of D'Angelo because it felt like an afterthought in that episode. Compare it to deaths of major characters in The Sopranos where you spend the whole episode terrified of what's going to happen even if you don't know that it IS going to happen. What's funny is that his demise is the most Sopranos-esque thing that's happened on the show, from the loyal relative/underling having second thoughts about the life angle to Stringer screwing his babymama.

-----

Date: Feb 14 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: The Wire and fairness

Okay, so I just finished the second-to-last episode of Season Two, and one thing that I'm really finding about this show is that I can handle murder--it's people being UNFAIR I can't stand! I hate the Greek's FBI mole, I hate that Stringer tried to trick Omar into killing Brother Mouzone, I hate the brass fucking Daniels and McNulty and Prez for political reasons...if you want to sell drugs and rob and steal and kill people for money, by all means. Just be HONEST!

On a related note, please don't tell me if there is eventually an Omar/Brother Mouzone team-up at some point, because for now I'm enjoying writing the fanfic in my head.

-----

Date: Feb 20 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: Wire update

Okay, I finished Season Two last week, and it definitely ended on a high note. It was weird--right until the last two episodes I felt like "whoa, this season's almost over? It feels like it barely got started!" I think that was because compared to Avon and Stringer, the Sobotka boys were pretty harmless, so you didn't feel that the show had generated the same sense of urgency about catching them. But then it flipped to whether or not they were going to get killed, and even though they got a little heavy handed at times (the weird slo-mo after Ziggy killed the greek guy who ran the electronics store), I really felt for Frank and Nick. And I was SUPER-glad Omar wised up to Stringer giving him bad intel about Brother Mouzone, as I think I mentioned.

Now I'm a couple episodes into Season Three, and I can't help but be a little disappointed that they're not taking things in just as left-field a direction as dedicating Season Two to the plight of the stevedores union. It's right back in the Avon/Stringer/corner-dealer/police-politics territory of Season One. I mean, still a good show, but I was hoping for, I dunno, airport workers.

-----

Date: Feb 22 2008
Chat with Justin Aclin

Justin: Lost definitely learned a thing or wo about introducing characters versus Nikki and Paolo last year
me: Yep.
Do you watch The Wire?
Very good at introducing new characters even when they seemingly have NOTHING to do with the characters we already know.
(I'm catching up on Netflix)
Justin: Haven't watched it yet
me: It's good.
Justin: So I hear. One of these days

-----

Date: Feb 26 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: About halfway through Season Three of The Wire

I like that Stringer set up the Commission!
Omar is underused. I don't know if they could use him more without removing some of the mystique, though.
Last night I had a dream that D'Angelo Barksdale and Tasha from Omar's crew had somehow been brought back to life by the government and were going to work for the cops as informants. But then Tasha was a double agent.
You know what one big difference between this and The Sopranos is? The Sopranos is one of the scariest shows I've ever seen. I always kind of spent the episodes in a state of half-terror that something was going to happen. Even when there are gunfights and murders on The Wire, you don't feel that way. Somehow it's just a much more straightforward show, if that makes any sense.

-----

Date: Feb 26 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kiel Phegley
Re: Bourne movies

I HAVE heard good things about them, particularly in the formal-filmmaking areas you cite. Although I must admit that I got a little cheesed off when I heard him talking smack about James Bond, considering how good Casino Royale was.

Maybe I'll Netflix 'em after I get through The Wire--I'm about halfway through season three now, which leaves season four and the current/final season. Do you watch that show?

I find it very engrossing, but I don't see myself returning to it the way I do The Sopranos, Lost, Twin Peaks, or BSG. Or Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, or Seinfeld, for that matter.

I don't know why that is, necessarily--perhaps because it's just less WEIRD than any of those shows, and the weirdness, the stuff that you can't point to and explain exactly why that was there in the show, is where the most intellectual and emotional excitement is located for me.

But as a police procedural, it's pretty impossible to beat. And almost all the characters are INSANELY likeable. You wanna hang out with all of them!

-----

Date: Feb 27 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: Wire update

I'm going to blog all these once I'm finished with the series btw.

So I'm up to, like, ep 9 of Season Three.

Poor Prez! Ah, you knew things would end badly the second they took time to make sure we noticed him and McNulty doing anything together.

Thought of the day: Brother Mouzone must be to Wire fans what the Russian is to Sopranos fans.

-----

Date: Feb 27 2008
Chat with Justin Aclin

me: I'm still working through The Wire
addictive!
but mostly because of this one character who I won't spoil for you
but you'll know who I'm talking about if you ever watch it
boy, will you ever
Justin: Nice.
I'll watch it when me and the missus are in a mental state to watch something a little heavier
me: yeah.
although it doesn't bring me down the way The Sopranos did
when I first watched the first three seasons of The Sopranos in a row, it affected my personality
Justin: wow!
me: yeah, I got angrier easier
I went about in pity for myself
Justin: They never established who gave him that card, did they?
me: no
Justin: It was the Russian.
me: if I had to pinpoint the reason why The Sopranos is better than The Wire, it's that The Wire would tell you
hahahahaha
actually this morning I thought to myself that a certain Wire character must be the Russian for Wire fans
Justin: The Russian was responsible for all dangling plot threads
He killed the cameraman at the end of the finale
me: hahahahahahaha
brilliant
Justin: Thanks. :)
"The further adventures of the Russian" - YouTube gold!
me: w3rd

-----

Date: Feb 29 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: TJ Dietsch
Re: Last night's Lost

A side note about how anal-retentive I am regarding avoiding spoilers: I close one eye and use one hand to block the very bottom of the screen during the opening of every episode in order not to see who's guest-starring in the episode, because the dumbasses constantly blow big surprise cameo appearances by putting the actors' names in the credits at the beginning of the show. In much the same way, I used to block the screen before episodes of The Sopranos when HBO would put up the content-warning screen because I didn't want to know beforehand if there'd be any violence or not.

This is why I refuse to learn who plays who on The Wire aside from Dominic West and Lance Reddick.

-----

Date: Feb 29 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: I just saw the second-to-last episode of The Wire Season 3

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Mother fucking TEAM-UP!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was everything I'd hoped for and more. Well played, gentlemen. Well fucking played.

HHHHHHHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Okay, I think I've calmed down long enough to point out that Omar and Brother Mouzone's little joint venture worked the exact same way as a Silver Age superhero crossover. When they first meet, there's a misunderstanding and they fight, but then they clear things up and work together to take down a common foe. (Now that I think about it, that was the idea behind the movie that the Three Amigos rejected and got fired over.)

I am in heaven.

One more episode to go in this season I guess, but it's nice to see it following The Sopranos' pattern of having the biggest stuff happen in the penultimate episode.

My main wish is that everything work out for Dennis the boxer. I'd be really pissed if he ended up getting killed or arrested or his gym gets closed. That would be unfair!

Now that I think about it, this season stands a chance of having everything work out for everyone. I'm sure Daniels's group will be bummed about Stringer's death since they don't get to put him away themselves, but meanwhile Bunny will arrest Avon, Carcetti will go to bat for the free zones, and young up-and-comer Marlowe will end up in charge of the area. Huzzah!

Sean

PS: You must have gotten a kick out of me comparing Brother Mouzone to the Russian the other day.

-----

Date: Mar 1 2008
From: Kenneth Bromberg
To: Sean T. Collins
Re: I just saw the second-to-last episode of The Wire Season 3

> PS: You must have gotten a kick out of me comparing Brother Mouzon to the
> Russian the other day.

It made me laugh a lot.

-----

Date: Mar 5 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: The Wire update

Okay, I'm three episodes deep into Season Four now, but within one episode I pinpointed why I was always vaguely disappointed with Season Three. At first I thought it was because S1 established the ground rules, and then S2 threw them out the window in a thrilling way and introduced a whole new environment with the Sobotkas and the docks and the Greeks, while S3 basically went back to S1 territory. (Albeit with a slight expansion, into Bunny Colvin's sci-fi alternate reality where America had a semi-sane drug policy. Carcetti's political stuff was mostly an afterthought and at any rate didn't feel nearly as far removed from the world of the show at large as, say, the stevedore stuff felt from the Barksdale gang.)

I still think that's PART of why S3 felt less impressive in the end than the other seasons, but when I saw that they'd be spending a lot of time on the middle-school kids in S4, I realized a different factor was at play: S3 didn't have a *tragedy.* Season One had D'Angelo and Wallace--basically good people who got caught up in crime and paid for it. Season Two had Frank, Nick, and Ziggy Sobotka--same deal. Season Three didn't have anything like that. Now, maybe everything will work out for Namond and Dookie and Randy and the rest of those little rascals, but somehow I doubt it--bang, tragedy.

So far I'm enjoying Marlowe as the villain. He and his followers (especially Chris and Snoop, obvs) are creepy and dangerous rather than blustery and dangerous like Avon and Stringer's outfit. It's an interesting tonal shift. I await the inevitable Snoop vs. Omar conflagration with bated breath.

There has also been an impressive amount of visible dick in the season thus far. Including an erection, mid-BJ! (Belonging to the Colonel from A Different World, no less.) It's not TV, it's HBO.

Finally, Prez Goes to School makes me think of my wife's job. Hers involves fewer incidents with boxcutters, to be fair.

-----

Date: Mar 6 2008
From: Jim Dougan
To: Sean T. Collins
Subject: Parting Ways

The Wire "not even close" to the Sopranos? Here's where you and I part ways, sir...in divorce court this is what they call "irreconcilable differences".

smooch

-----

Date: Mar 6 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Jim Dougan
Re: Parting Ways

Not even close.

-----

Date: Mar 6 2008
From: Jim Dougan
To: Sean T. Collins
Re: Parting Ways

Funny; I feel the same way in the exact opposite direction. I guess we'll agree to disagree again...

-----

Date: Mar 6 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Jim Dougan
Re: Parting Ways

I get the sense from reading political blogs that preferring The Wire to The Sopranos is a DC/NY thing.

-----

Date: Mar 6 2008
From: Jim Dougan
To: Sean T. Collins
Re: Parting Ways

Funny, that. I'm guessing it's the primacy of government and other institutional power here, whereas NY is a more war of all against all kind of thing - individuals vs. individuals. It also could be just the familiarity of the setting, a little "hometown pride" thing, conscious or unconscious.

We DCers can identify more closely with the plight of souls futilely (is that a word?) throwing themselves against implacable, corrupt institutions than with individuals carving out their own space, their downfall being their implacable and unchanging personal demons, in a world that they otherwise would be expected to control (or at least guide). I know that years of dealing with the DC city gov't (not even the Feds) through an interminable home renovation has left me permanently scarred and highly sympathetic to The Wire's worldview. That is, I can change and become a better person (unlike Tony), but no matter how much I've got my shit together personally I will always be at the mercy of an government institution that makes Brazil look attractive (at least there you can bribe people to get shit done.)

And yet, here I am.

-----

Date: Mar 6 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Jim Dougan
Re: Parting Ways

I'm cooking up a massive post on The Wire for when I get through all of it, constructed of these little missives I'm sending to a buddy of mine every once in a while who caught up with the show before I did, and I'm sure I'll elaborate on this point in that eventual post, but I think you're right about the primacy of institutional elements in The Wire vs. what I read as a more "open text" approach in The Sopranos, where it's less tied into the mechanics of how the police/docks/gangs/schools/newspapers work and more about an examination of a bad person.

And yeah, I'm sure Jersey plays the same role for New Yorkers and Long Islanders that Baltimore plays for the Beltway.

-----

Date: Mar 8 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: Powering through The Wire Season Four

..in a desperate and no doubt futile attempt to be able to finish all my TiVo'd Season Five episodes before the inevitable series-finale spoilers become unavoidable online. I'm in the middle of the second-to-last episode now.

Thoughts:

1) The stuff with the kids is fantastic, just as gutsy as the dockworker stuff but probably even better. A storyline like this is definitely what Season Three was missing, both in terms of that tragic feel I was talking about and the out-of-left-field-ness of it. I'm going to be really, really, really upset if (when) something really bad happens to one of them, goddammit.

2) The political blogger Matt Yglesias is a big fan, as are seemingly all political bloggers, and he posted something I caught out of the corner of my eye the other day saying the show's best stuff was the rise and fall of Stringer Bell. I don't think so. Not that Stringer wasn't an interesting character or a good villain or played by a good actor, because all that's true, but of all the non-politician, non-brass, non-Greek, non-Marlo's-crew characters, he's basically the most unapologetically douchebaggish. We never see that he really cared about anyone or anything other than power and himself and getting more power for himself. Compared to Avon or Frank Sobotka (or Tony Soprano or anyone from that show), he never really did anything nice for anyone, or showed that he was upset about doing any of the deceitful and awful things that he did. I guess selling Avon out upset him mildly, but clearly not as bad as selling Stringer out upset Avon, or as bad as finding out what happened to D'Angelo upset Avon, and on and on and on. So when he dies, I really was just thinking "good riddance to this jerk." Especially since he was killed at the hands of the best character on the show and another really cool villain.

3) I'm really digging well-adjusted, sober, family-man, non-dickhead McNulty. I hope he keeps it up!

4) As the show goes on I continue to feel genuine affection for all the characters who go out of their way to help each other and be competent and cooperative and not stab people in the back. Lester would probably be number one, but also Bunny, Bunk, Kima, Prez, and to a certain extent Daniels and Carcetti. Working together and being nice to people because it's nice to be nice to people are among my favorite virtues in this world.

And oh yeah, fuck Marlo. The second he had that poor security guard killed because he dared talk back to him, he put a bullseye on his head as far as I'm concerned. Avon would have civilians killed if they really crossed him, but not just because they had the temerity to ask not to be insulted.

-----

Date: Mar 8 2008
From: Kenneth Bromberg
To: Sean T. Collins
Re: Powering through The Wire Season Four

I know I don't often respond to these messages of yours - don't think
it's because I'm not interested in what you have to say, or don't want
to hold a discussion about it. It's because I know I'm ahead of you
in the season, but it's all kind of mashed up in my head. So I don't
want to inadvertently say something which would ruin the show for you.
This is one of those shows where that would be a real shame.

> And oh yeah, fuck Marlo. The second he had that poor security guard killed
> because he dared talk back to him, he put a bullseye on his head as far as I'm
> concerned. Avon would have civilians killed if they really crossed him, but not
> just because they had the temerity to ask not to be insulted.

Yeah, that was such a tense scene right there, and completely defined
him as a character. And by "character" I obviously mean "douche"

-----

Date: Mar 8 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Re: Powering through The Wire Season Four

Dude, no worries at all--I totally don't expect any replies. In fact I expect and DEMAND no replies for the exact reasons you cite. Mostly I just hope to entertain you with my inaccurate predictions a la Brother Mouzone = The Russian. :) And like I said I'm compiling all this stuff for a big blog post after I finish the series.

I forgot to put Dennis and Omar on my list of competent, decent people. Well, relatively speaking with Omar.

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Date: Mar 9 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Re: Powering through The Wire Season Four

Okay, finished Season Four. The final two episodes were pretty magnificent basically because of what I was saying before about the role the kids played. Not only were all of their stories really moving, but I think casting them as the victims of the unfeeling bureaucracy rather than the cops made that theme hit home emotionally in a way that before that it was really doing primarily mentally. Like, we all know the drug war is a farcical assault on poor people, black people, civil liberties, common sense, and basic human decency, and now the system is rigged so that it really can't be stopped. We all know that, which makes the point kind of an easy one to make, which is why I think all the political bloggers and mainstream-media critics love the show so much--they don't even need to work AT ALL to find an ALLEGORY for the dark side of the American dream in this, because that's what it's about on a surface level. But making it about the kids and seeing how that rigid approach to fluid problems affects not just the police and the judicial system but also the education system and the political system kind of elevates it into that realm that I like so much, which is that notion that pretty much everything is terrible.

My one slight quibble is that Bodie's change of heart in a positive direction was really just as sudden as D'Angelo's change of heart in a negative direction at the end of Season One. Bodie didn't get enough time this season for that to feel properly built up. Bubbles's suicide attempt had a little more build-up but it still felt a little undercooked--maybe because he was discovered by Landsman, who didn't have the history with him that Kima or even McNulty did?

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Date: Mar 9 2008
From: Kenneth Bromberg
To: Sean T. Collins
Re: Powering through The Wire Season Four

Ally and I discussed that first bit a lot after we watched the last
couple of episodes. We both felt that sort of character shift was a
very surprising weakness in an otherwise incredibly strong show. And
it was funny, because you could *see* that it was going to happen, and
that the shift was inevitable... but not because of any actual
character development that was going on. Just because it was an
inevitable part of the storyline.

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Date: Mar 9 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: Powering through The Wire Season Five

Okay, now I'm three eps deep into Season Five. Rough start if you ask me.

1) After the dock stuff and especially the school/kids stuff, having the latest left turn be into the newspaper world feels pretty self-indulgent. Compared to what happened to Randy, Dukie, Namond, and Michael, I really don't care that the Sun shuttered its Beijing bureau.

2) You wanna talk about incongruous changes of direction in character, how about McNulty? If the reason he's drinking and whoring and being a dickhead again is because he's frustrated that he can't make big cases, why wasn't he drinking and whoring and being a dickhead when he was a beat cop for that year? I'm not just complaining because he's stepping out on Amy Ryan, who by rights should make any Irishman happy as a pig in shit to come home to every night--I'm complaining because it feels like the writers got bored with him being a decent person and reverted to form.

3) And don't even get me started about him making up a serial killer. I feel about that the way Bunk does. And Lester joining in? Another out-of-character moment. Doesn't it occur to these two geniuses that even if their plan works, they might end up getting taken off the Marlo Stansfield investigation to work their non-existent serial killer?

4) Speaking of lying douchebags, I'm already sick of the fabulist at the newspaper. They could have at least cast an actor who doesn't scream "I'm a dick!" just from looking at him. I know, I know, I hate unfair stuff and lying is unfair and that's why I don't like this storyline, but I don't like this storyline.

5) Man OH man does Marlo and his crew of psychopaths have to go. The problem is that I don't see how the writers WON'T kill Omar in the process of him taking Marlo down, which is pissing me off preemptively.

6) Wouldn't it have just been easier to leak the shuttering of the investigation into the 22 rowhouse bodies to the press and get the money flowing again that way than making up a goddamn serial killer? Seriously, that's annoying.

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Date: Mar 10 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Re: Powering through The Wire Season Five

Only three more episodes to go in the season. I feel like in this last episode it took a slight turn for the less infuriating, what with Gus finally starting to unravel Scott's bullshit stories, Omar really going to work on Marlo's people, and at least some tangible benefits for other cases stemming from Jimmy's unbelievably cockamamie invent-a-psycho storyline.

But there are still so many problems:

* It's not just that Jimmy and Lester are being dishonest, which would just be a flaw in the character, it's that they're also being stupid, which is OUT of character. As I predicted, their nonsense is keeping Bunk from ACTUALLY pinning a real murder on Marlo Stanfield--I had a feeling that Chris spitting on Michael's abusive stepdad after he killed was stupid of Chris to do what with DNA and all, and they seem to be setting up that the DNA results, once the ME's office actually gets to them, will crack the case. So they prevent this from happening. Jimmy also acts stunned that the serial killer he made up in order to get press and resources...is getting press and resources. No shit, sherlock. Now, this would all be mildly tolerable from Jimmy, who's got a track record of douchebaggery toward anyone who gets in his way--but not Lester! Lester in fact CHEWED JIMMY OUT in Season Three for refusing to get with the program and give up on Stringer. Now he's doing the exact same thing--worse, in fact! Nothing that's happening now is any worse than what happened to Lester back then--let alone being exiled to the property unit for over a decade--so a "well, he finally just snapped" defense doesn't make any sense for this behavior. And worst of all, they both seem oblivious to the fact that this could take down everyone involved--not just them and Sydnor, but Landsman, Daniels, Pearlman, anyone with any oversight who didn't catch on. Fuck that. The problem isn't one of good writing about bad people, it's a problem of bad writing.

* Meanwhile, the newspaper storyline proceeds with everything playing out under the watchful eye of those two supercilious newsroom higher-ups--total caricatured buffoons with no nuance as characters whatsoever. I mean, just compare them to the multifaceted evil brass types like Bill Rawls and Ervin Burrell. I guess Simon really hated his editors? Fair enough, but working out his frustrations regarding the overuse of the word "Dickensian" in this hamfisted way makes for rotten characterization.

* The only storylines I'm really still invested in at this point are Bunk's, Bubbles's (every time he shows up it's like a flashback to a different, better show), Michael & Dukie's (ditto) and Omar's. Kima's too, but she's not getting enough screentime. I'm mostly sitting around hoping that McNulty and Freamon don't somehow screw over poor Daniels with their horseshit.

On the plus side, Marlo killing Proposition Joe indicates to me that Marlo will in fact get his comeuppance, because that's what happens to characters who kill characters like Prop Joe. I also like how Marlo's now hooked up with the show's only other pure-dee archvillain, the Greek. And Carver is great any time he shows up, while when Herc stole Marlo's cell number from Levy's rolodex I literally cheered. And hey, John Munch cameo! I was wondering if they'd pull that off.

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Date: Mar 11 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Re: Powering through The Wire Season Five

Omar deserved better. Not a better death--a better show to die in.

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Date: Mar 11 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Re: Powering through The Wire Season Five

Okay, show's over! Quick thoughts:

1) You just know that the argument in favor of how the show killed off Omar is gonna be "hey, there are no heroes in real life, people just get shot." That would work if this were No Country for Old Men, but it isn't. It's a show where Omar and Brother Mouzone had a superhero team-up and, in the final episode, Son of Omar roams again! Just to be clear, I'm not agreeing with the people who've apparently complained all along that Omar is some bullshit fictional character, because he was SOOOOOO well-developed and such a fascinating and (I think) beautiful man. Michael Williams really gave the performance of a lifetime in his final episodes, when he really seems to be losing it over all the people who got killed just for knowing him, staggering around on a limp, voice on the edge of cracking all the time, destroying everything he touches. He was a MAGNIFICENT character, and they punked him to make a point every bit as preachy as having the moron editors voice the complaint that "if you just do a story about society's ills, you throw in everything but have nothing"--ha ha ha, eat THAT, people who don't like The Wire--breaking the show's own established storytelling methods in doing so. Screw that.

2) And again, screw McNulty and Lester behaving not immorally--which is the whole point of the show--but RIDICULOUSLY. OF COURSE this would sink their case against Marlo, OF COURSE it would inspire copycat killings, OF COURSE it would devastate the families of the dead homeless, OF COURSE it would threaten the careers of decent people like Daniels and Ronnie and anyone else anywhere near it who had nothing to do with it. The writers made them idiots all of a sudden. Screw that.

3) And finally, screw the small-beer Sun storyline, which really does seem like Simon getting back at his bosses at the expense of his own show. It's every bit as incongruous as Beethoven interrupting his 9th Symphony for a spoken-word monologue about how his piano tuner gypped him one time. They didn't even TRY to make the two evil editors or the careerist bullshit artist reporter sympathetic or even multi-dimensional. Marlo practically comes off better. What's even more frustrating is that this flat, undercooked storyline and the absurd serial-killer business ate up so much time in an already shortened season that actually interesting characters/storylines like Carcetti, the Season Four kids, and the raw detective work of tapping Marlo's phones and decoding his code felt like afterthoughts.

4) Should Marlo have been killed? You bet. I swear this isn't a case of me succumbing to Sopranos-fan-esque "they shoulda whacked him"-itis--Marlo is a really interesting character, but he has NO dimensions, he's a pure sociopath. Having him reclaim a corner in a business suit tells us nothing about him we didn't already know. Wanting him dead for all the outrageously heinous things he orchestrated isn't shortchanging him--it's the kind of resolution a character like that practically demands. And hey, if they can Sonny Corleone old Stringer Bell at the hands of Batman and the Punisher, there's no room for a high horse about "people just get away with stuff."

And oh yeah, Dukie becomes a junkie--yet another out-of-nowhere character reversal. Ridiculous!

-----

Date: Mar 12 2008
From: Sean T. Collins
To: Kenneth Bromberg
Subject: Overall thoughts

Is it an excellent show? Of course it is.

Now that I'm finished with it I'm catching up with some of the critical response to it and am sort of getting a sense for what people are focusing on with it. First up is the "radical" narrative structure where no one episode is "about" anything, they're all just hour-long units that contain scenes from the ongoing storylines. To be honest I didn't even notice that! In retrospect I can see how it went further in that direction than really any other show, but I do feel like watching The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and Twin Peaks (perhaps the last one most of all) primed me for being able to follow a show structured along those lines without any difficulty. Actually, that reminds me: Twin Peaks was just a riff on the way soap operas told stories, so seeing it that way, The Wire isn't any more innovative in pure structural terms than All My Children. Still, kudos for going there.

And it's obviously powerful politically and socially. Time and time again I was knocked on my ass by how awful things were for many of these characters--Wallace and his siblings' apartment, that big bearded stevedore ending up homeless, Randy in the group home, and allllll those scenes of little kids witnessing murders or murder victims. Brutal and, I'm ashamed to say, eye opening.

In formal terms I can think of a grand total of one scene that I though overplayed its hand cinematographically--Ziggy's shock after killing Double G--and that's it. It's a beautiful looking show. It's a fantastically acted show--I mean, jesus, find a false note among any of the main performances. ANY of them, and there were, like, 60! And while there were some story arcs that are better than others (Seasons Two and Four over Seasons One and Three), with the exception of McNulty & Lester's absurd meltdown and the wooden Evil Newspapermen in Season Five and those random character turn-arounds I've been talking about, it was written with dead-on precision in dialogue and plotting.

All that being said, I think it's a much more WYSIWYG show than The Sopranos. I don't think there's much mystery to The Wire, in terms of what it's saying about the characters, or their milieu. I just don't feel like I had to do as much work as a viewer--I don't think I was challenged to look at myself, for example. As I said, this is why I believe political writers are so fond of The Wire: their issues are tackled dead-on, like a position paper. Provided you dislike the drug war, No Child Left Behind, and Jayson Blair, you're almost off the hook. Ultimately that's why The Sopranos is better. The meaning is occulted and the indictment extends to everyone. Moreover I think it took fewer chances and reaped fewer rewards in terms of formal experimentation, editing, cinematography, tonal shifts, humor, satire...Even before the fairly disastrous final season, the notion that it's not just better than The Sopranos but leaves it in the fucking dust just isn't supportable to me.

And regarding the problems with the final season, see also this quote from David Simon about how he views audience objections to Season Five:

"Freamon had been told no for a long time, for most of his career. And McNulty? Shit, I think he'll try anything once. His intellectual vanity has been on display since the first season. But if people didn't believe it, they didn’t believe it. I'm second-guessing people a little bit, and that's not fair--every viewer's entitled to their own opinion. I think what they really didn't believe was that their favorite characters were behaving in an unethical way. That bothered them. I think TV shows are supposed to deliver on certain things. Omar is supposed to go down in a blaze of glory. McNulty is supposed to either lose and suffer or finally win, but he's not supposed to walk away from the rigged game and do something that bothers viewers."

I knew this would be Simon's defense of the serial killer storyline, but he's wrong. The problem isn't that McNulty and Freamon's behavior is unethical--I mean, good people behaving badly has been the theme of the entire show! And the audience is used to that--it's a core part of the show's appeal. What we're NOT used to is smart characters behaving like total morons all of a sudden, ignoring the obvious consequences of their cockamamie scheme (drawing resources away from other investigations, inspiring copycat killings, risking the careers of their friends like Daniels and Pearlman and Griggs and Sydnor and Carver, and on and on and on). Even if you put aside the fact that Lester sat in the property unit for over a decade without complaining, and that a couple of seasons back he chewed McNulty out for refusing to get with the program and investigate Kintel Williamson instead of Stringer Bell as ordered, it simply wasn't believable that these two brilliant detectives would do something this ridiculous.

Moreover, Simon can wax superior to Omar going out in a blaze of glory all he wants--but that's EXACTLY what happened to Stringer Bell! And, to an extent, Frank Sobotka. And Bodie, for crying out loud. And Snoop. And Wallace. And Prop Joe. With the exception of D'Angelo, almost all the major victims had a dramatic build-up to their demise. And as the emergence of Michael as Silver Age Omar shows, even AFTER they kill Omar they can't resist mythologizing him. Which is fine! Just OWN it, and don't break your own rules to make a lame point about how shit happens.

March 15, 2008

Diabeetus

This week's Horror Roundtable is about our favorite supporting actors in horror. Mine is the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it.

March 16, 2008

Things you can do today

* You can go to The Comics Reporter and read Tom Spurgeon's latest review-a-thon. It's a thing of beauty to watch a critic of Tom's caliber tackle a few dozen books in the space of one day.

* You can go to Zuda and vote for Jim Dougan and Hyeondo Park's webcomic Sam & Lilah. Look at those pretty colors!

* You can check out my sidebar to your left, where I keep putting links to old reviews of books and movies and stuff that I stumble across in my archives.

March 17, 2008

Comics Time: Kill Your Boyfriend

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Kill Your Boyfriend
Grant Morrison, writer
Philip Bond, artist
DC/Vertigo, 1995
62 pages
$5.95
Buy it used for, like, $40 from Amazon.com

There was a time, circa the moment in high school when I nicknamed my then-girlfriend's breasts Mickey and Mallory, when I would have thought this astonishingly earnest encomium to the liberation of smart high-schoolers via sex, drugs, violence, and arty notions of personal identity was the coolest motherfucking book I'd ever read. There have also been times, like the moment I realized how incredibly stupid it was to give that same girlfriend a copy of Sin City bearing the inscription "I'll be your Marv if you'll be my Goldie" for her birthday and not expect her to be disturbed by my comparing her to a dead prostitute, that a book like this would have earned sneers of derision and/or waves of nausea from me.

At this particular moment, however, I'm at a Goldilocks-like level of just-right comfort with this comic. Goddess only knows if Grant Morrison intended lines like "The only way to stop being bored is to do something interesting or criminal. These days it comes to the same thing" with a straight face, but viewed from the remove of 14 years Kill Your Boyfriend strike me less as po-faced Warren Ellis-style pop-violent hipsterism and more of an embrace-cum-pastiche of its most ridiculous aspects, an exercise in depicting the mindset of a bored kid who's too cool for school and too smart for his own good than a demonstration of being embarrassingly trapped in that mindset. Little flourishes throughout the comic point in that self-aware direction: The presence of genuinely transgressive elements, like unwitting incest, that are left on the page to be troubling and never get absolved via the I'm-okay-you're-okay treatment (a la Alan Moore's Smax); the seeming acknowledgment via a group of all-talk-no-action art students that this comic itself is all talk and no action; the use of direct address by the teenage-girl protagonist, with word balloons disarmingly replacing narrative captions, to highlight the unreality of the narrative and the comparative cipher nature of the glamorous-criminal boyfriend figure; the fact that the ballyhooed killing spree really only includes two murders (Natural Born Killers or Bonnie and Clyde this isn't). Even some of the stuff that I think can be read more straightforwardly, like the Girl's proclamation of her first sexual encounter as "brilliant," is fine with me, since so was mine, and fuck the bluenose prudery that drums otherwise into everyone's head.

Of course there's plenty here that's kind of a mess. The run-on declamations of everyone's awesomeness are way too on-the-nose. The Girl's square original boyfriend is a mess of contradictory character traits--fantasy-geek prurience jars bizarrely with condescending asceticism, and the notion that any teenage guy would turn down actual sex in favor of jerking off is ludicrous on its face. The ending, with its "whoa look out your normal-looking neighbor might be a killcrazy former sex maniac who took E and liked it so watch out you dead-behind-the-eyes wage slave" message was surely just as played out when it was written in 1994 as it is now. And the Vertigo-mandated occlusion of any actual explicitness when it comes to sex is as cringe-inducing as always, given how far they'll take the violence and how much they pride themselves on being "mature." But nothing can be too terrible when it's drawn by Philip Bond, whose Britpop cartooniness couldn't be more perfect for this material. Overall it's not a comic I see myself returning to very often, but as a warts-and-all time capsule of what it's like to be one of Morrison's archetypal "smart 14-year-olds," you could do worse.

March 18, 2008

Good thing, where have you gone? Good thing, you been gone too long.

I'd say that Doomsday is the kind of movie you have to see on the big screen but I'm only 50% sure that's the case: The goddamn stereo surround sound was conked out until I finally got fed up and traveled three floors below the level where my screening was showing at the AMC on 34th Street to find an employee I could ask to fix it. But based on the gloriously loud second half of the film and my uncanny ability to replicate the sound of gunshots, exploding bunny rabbits, and gristly-wet decapitations in my head, I feel as though I can still recommend Doomsday The Movie-Going Experience wholeheartedly.

Living up to the unfulfilled promise of his overly lauded action-horror debut Dog Soldiers, Neil Marshall delivers a post-apocalyptic action movie fan's post-apocalyptic action movie. In fact he delivers three or four of them all at once. You've got the ganglord-ruled urban nightmare of Escape from New York, the S&M punk barbarian highwaymen of The Road Warrior, the big-lie government manipulation of The Running Man, the military unit in an armored vehicle suspense of Aliens, the regression to medieval times of Steel Dawn, and the viral horror (and at one hilarious point, the actual score!) of 28 Days Later. The riffs on each are so utterly straightforward and unabashed that I'm sure critics are bemoaning its lack of originality, but to me that's like complaining that D&D owes too much to 20th-century fantasy authors. Of course it's unoriginal--homages tend to be. All we can ask for them is that they show respect to the audience by expecting us to recognize them as such, and hit those familiar notes so hard and so sweet that we can't help but sing along. That's what Marshall does, with inventive gore (the bunny-rabbit scene was so over the top it amused even this staunch vegetarian, as did the cannibal barbeque), immersive analog action set-pieces (lots of car crashes and people being thrown through glass), a half dozen laugh-out-loud clever music cues ("Two Tribes"! A Fine Young Cannibals song!), fine character actors (Bob Hoskins and whatsisname from Gangs of New York play dueling gravel-throats), and a badass action heroine whose Snake-Plissken-with-tits routine is imbued with convincing physicality, at turns believably capable and equally believably vulnerable. And of course those who complain that there's nothing new here that hasn't been seen in half a dozen other movies is missing the point--the new thing is that it's taking stuff from those half a dozen other movies and putting it all in one place! That's new, and great. And never once do you get the sense that, a la Planet Terror, it's sitting around patting itself on the back for being hyuk-hyuk awesome--it's not assuming that you'll be entertained just because you've seen the same movies as the director, it's working goddamn hard to entertain you precisely because you've seen the same movies as the director. It succeeds.

If you like the kinds of movies that I like, I have a hard time seeing how you won't like this.

Carnival of souls

* I hesitate to read any more into the failure of particular genre films at the box office than "hey, these particular genre films failed at the box office," so with that caveat firmly attached I'll point out that both Doomsday and Funny Games bombed, the latter even given its limited release. But as I said earlier, if you miss Doomsday at the theater, it's your loss. Get drunk and go with friends!

* While we're on the subject, Rich Juzwiak loved Doomsday too. "A new classic," he calls it, by which he means cult classic, by which he's saying he's not 100% sure that Neil Marshall knew what kind of movie he was making, which I say he obviously was, but who's counting. I'm sorry, are you still reading? Haven't you bought your tickets yet?

* Postscript: The trailers before Doomsday included a pair of lovely looking and promising genre efforts, The Ruins (which I've talked about a lot) and this impressively disconcerting clip for The Strangers.

* Battlestar Galactica Season Three, which contains at least two of the series' best storylines and my single favorite episode, comes out on DVD today. Related: The Chicago Tribune talks to BSG creator Ronald D. Moore about notable behind-the-scenes developments at the show since the end of the writers' strike. (Via Jason Adams.)

* Also via Jason comes this very funny and informative interview with the great Joel McHale, host of E!'s The Soup. That show is truly one of the great pleasures of contemporary television, distinguished from its celeb-stalking peers by its low-budget sense of humor (fitting given Joel's background with the Seattle-area sketch comedy show Almost Live) and apparently genuine contempt for the famous and semi-famous people it lampoons. Watch it already.

* Also also, here's 20 things Jason loves about Donnie Darko.

* Frank Miller is blogging about his upcoming film adaptation of The Spirit and no doubt driving the reverence brigades berserk in the process. Woo! Alas, it's also driving me berserk because the dopey blog has no permalinks. (Via AICN.)

* Trent Reznor shit-talks Radiohead as all hat no cattle when it comes to new-media record distribution. It's the battle of people who made albums I listened to on repeat incessantly for weeks at a time in college! (Whitney Matheson.)

* Outside investigators are searching for dead bodies at an old Manson family compound. One of the most memorable (and I'm guessing thinly sourced) aspects of Vincent Bugliosi's account of the Charles Manson murders and trial, Helter Sketler, was his suggestion that Charlie and his followers killed a double-digit number of people across the country over a span of years without being charged for any of the slayings. I guess this is a test of that theory.

* Finally, apparently there's a Brazillian death squad that goes by the name of The Thundercats. (Via Matthew Yglesias, who goes with the obvious headline.)

March 19, 2008

Comics Time: Battlestack Galacti-crap

Battlestack Galacti-crap
Brian Chippendale, writer/artist
self-published, January 2005
28 pages
I forget how much it cost and can't find a realistic price anywhere online
Buy it from Target, believe it or not

The other day I mentioned that Micrographica's casual quality did not mesh well with its presentation as a perfectbound graphic novella. Battlestack Galacti-crap, on the other hand, is exactly what it should be--a crazy little minicomic with a bright green-and-pink silkscreend cover and photocopied pages that look like they can barely contain the throwaway wildness they document.

The product of Fort Thunder alum/Lightning Bolt drummer/Ninja and Maggots author/Björk collaborator Brian Chippendale, its "story" is kind of like The Wire for three-year-olds: A group of gaudily costumed creatures called Gang Gloom has the bright idea to sell cheap cupcakes down on Stack Street, a move that the members of rival outfit Teamy Weamy don't take kindly to. The resulting rumble, "of course," ends up with all the participants stacked on top of each other in tangled-up tower of crazy creatures--apparently that's how "any interaction on Stack Street always ends."

Something about this minicomic tapped into a long-forgotten vein of surreal action-humor in my psyche. When I was a kid I seem to remember being fascinated by the idea of people/things being so stuck together they couldn't move, yet not treating this like a crisis and simply chit-chatting with each other like it's a minor inconvenience. (This seems like a Jim Henson kinda idea--was it from a Muppet movie?) Needless to say it's a perfect fit with Chippendale's method of choice for cartooning, which is to fill up as much of the page with visual information as he can, and the scenes of dozens of helmet and mask-wearing characters mashed together are appropriately sloppy and exuberant. But many of the characters get a chance to shine on either end of the action in the ersatz pin-up pages that kick off and conclude the story. In both cases the art provides the visual punch for Chippendale's goofy sense of humor: The solo shots of the characters proposing the cupcake-selling idea grant an absurd sense of grandeur to the silly proceedings, while the suggestion by one guy at the bottom of the titular "battlestack" that another's back injury might be cured by one of the recipes in his handy copy of Healing with Whole Foods reaches a Pythonesque level of comic incongruity. And then there's that lovely page where someone yells "EVERYBODY OFF!" and the stack collapses in a dynamically lovely waterfall of falling bodies. Top to bottom, this minicomic is a miniature model of form fitting function.

Carnival of souls: special Big Nerd News Day edition

* I feel like there were at least three or four announcements today that would topline your average nerd blog nine days out of ten. Whoopiddy dee!

* For starters, it's a huge Battlestar Galactica news day: Tonight the cast appears on Letterman to read the Top 10 reasons you should watch the new season, today the SciFi Channel announced it has greenlit the BSG prequel backdoor pilot Caprica (via Whitney Matheson), and show bigwig David Eick revealed that NBC has canceled his so-so Bionic Woman remake. Good news all around, basically!

* You know what Rick Baker is saying to your new-school non-furry rat-fetus werewolves with his makeup for Benicio Del Toro's title character in the remake of The Wolfman? Fuck you, that's what he's saying. Well, not in so many words, but take a look at the pictures and read his interview at EW touting the film's faithfulness to the Lon Chaney Jr. wolfman and read between the lines, baby. (Via Bloody Disgusting.)

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* Michael Cera is apparently going to play Scott Pilgrim in Edgar Wright's film version of Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic. I guess this is good because it should get the movie some attention, but I always pictured Scott--wait, that's not accurate, I always used my eyes to look at the pre-existing pictures of Scott and came to the conclusion that he's a more stylish cat than Cera. I also wasn't an Arrested Development watcher and never saw Superbad, so I don't have much of a dog in this race.

* David Simon says that by focusing on everything that went wrong with The Wire's final season, you miss the genius of it, which was...uh, distracting you with everything that went wrong so you didn't notice what it did right. Yeah, I'm not sure why that's supposed to count in the show's favor either. (Via Keith Uhlich.

* Jason Adams reviews the English-language version of Funny Games, and says it's kind of a superfluous experience if you know the German version at all. However, he fucking loved Doomsday--doesn't everyone?

* Harry Knowles did, and he expresses it in his own unique way:

Sure, I’d fuck it – but I also want to put it in a shallow grave – so I can dig it back up and fuck it later.
The most influential film critic online, ladies and gentlemen!

* Sean and his excellent pop/geek/art/sex blog Strange Ink is back!

* Finally, Max Rebo cake! (Via Topless Robot.)

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March 20, 2008

Carnival of souls: special Upcoming Projects edition

* Ron Moore and David Eick are talking up Caprica, their Battlestar Galactica prequel spinoff. Unfortunately they're doing it by comparing it to American Beauty; all that comparison means to me is that I'll spend the entire show/series/whatever it's going to be waiting for the robots to rise up and kill the main characters.

* Here's that Battlestar Galactica Top 10 list from last night's Letterman.

* Remember Awake, that not-so-good looking movie about remaining sentient during anesthesia starring Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba? Writer-director Joby Harold has been hired to write the screenplay for Sylvian White's adaptation of Frank Miller's Ronin. Apparently he's also writing the script for Zack Snyder's zombie-action epic Army of the Dead. So that's two interesting-to-me projects based on the success of Awake. Well, hey, the director of Meet the Feebles adapted The Lord of the Rings. (Via Arrow in the Head.)

* Also on the upcoming-projects tip: Before he gets to his Lovecraftian Western project, Neil Marshall is adapting a car-chase/heist novel called Drive. I bring this up mostly as an excuse to hector you into going to see Doomsday, tonight if possible. (Via AICN.)

* Ain't It Cool News's Merrick notes that soundstages in Bulgaria are apparently slated for use for Rambo 5. I'm glad that this is happening.

* Inspired by recent news regarding the discovery of additional Manson Family victims, Bill Sherman muses on the horrendous impact Charlie and company had on the counterculture.

* Ian Brill praises Ed Brubaker's Captain America. (It really is great.)

* Rob Humanick buries Michael Haneke's Funny Games. (The German version, even!)

* In honor of tonight's final Lost episode for five weeks, fansite The Tail Section hasa hilarious anecdote from Damon Lindelof regarding the network's reaction to the infamous four-toed statue from a few seasons back. It's really a classic story of its kind.

* Finally, Ron Regé Jr. draws the Fantastic Four! Sadly, this is not an upcoming project.

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March 21, 2008

Comics Time: Hellboy Junior

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Hellboy Junior
Mike Mignola, Bill Wray, writers
Mignola, Hilary Barta, Dave Cooper, Stephen Destefano, Pat McEown, Kevin Nowlan, artists
Dark Horse Comics, January 2004
120 pages
$14.95
Buy it from Amazon.com

Originally written on June 23, 2004 for publication by The Comics Journal

The post-movie-version influx of new readers to a tie-in title has, at least since the first Batman film, been something of a chimera for mainstream comics publishers. This is most likely because nearly everyone on Earth is already aware that (say) Spider-Man comics exist, and have made up their minds long ago whether or not they are actually going to buy such things, regardless of whether or not they agree with Gene Shalit's assessment that the character's celluloid incarnation is "a non-stop thrill ride" or what have you. Seen in that light, Mike Mignola's much-lauded but relatively obscure Hellboy actually has more in common with Ghost World than The Hulk, and the bona-fide sales boom for Hellboy graphic novels after the film's critical and commercial success bears this out.

One can only wonder, then, what Joe & Jane Q. Non-Fanboy would think were they to wander into their local Android's Dungeon (or, more likely, Borders) in search of further adventures of the sardonic, demonic paranormal investigator, only to pick up a copy of Hellboy Junior instead. Sure, Ron Perlman is a great comic actor, even under six inches of prosthetics. But could even his wittiest mid-battle bon mot prepare the unwary reader for a comic in which a young Hellboy pays for mail-order hallucinogenic mushrooms with gold teeth pulled out of the mouth of an emetophagic Idi Amin, who is later rewarded by Satan with sex for all eternity with a septuagenarian nun?

Such is the sense of humor on display in this completely out-of-left-field anthology, released this spring and comprised of comics originally published in the late '90s. Primarily an extended riff on Mignola's character by gonzo humor cartoonist and Ren & Stimpy collaborator Bill Wray, Hellboy Junior largely eschews the former's eerie, deadpan comedy for something much closer to Angry Youth Comix. Pustules abound, as do vomit, interspecies sex, and dismemberment. It may sound overly broad and scattershot, but it's done with an offensive brio that makes it difficult not to go along, and laugh while you're at it. Well, laugh, or exclaim "Holy shit." This is, after all, a Muppet Babies version of a beloved hero, and here he is involved in stories that end with Bob Hope emceeing at the crucifixion of Hitler.

The Hellboy Junior stories themselves are a mixed bag. "The Devil Don't Smoke," drawn by Mignola himself, contains the kind of non-sequitur humor that made Mignola's The Amazing Screw-On Head such a treat (there's a one-panel cameo appearance by an imperious skeleton with a nail through his head, you know what I mean?), and as such is far removed from the sicko gags of the rest of the book. Artist Dave Cooper makes "Hellboy Jr's Magical Mushroom Trip" every bit as visually rich as you'd expect, though the real star of the show may well be Cooper's luminous covers and smart lettering, which depict the various stages of H.J.'s reverie with perfectly evocative clarity. But the two Hellboy tales drawn by Wray run on well past the point of diminishing returns--maggots, violence, abusing Hitler, yes, we get it.

Indeed, the funniest, and not coincidentally the most offensive, moments come not in the Hellboy material, but in Wray's incongruous parodies of old Harvey comics and other storybook & cartoon icons. Baby Huey, for example, is re-imagined by Wray and artist Stephen DeStefano as Huge Retarded Duck, an enormous diaper-clad imbecile who graphically disembowels three redneck ducklings during their attempted rape of his mother, only to impregnate her himself. Folks, that's comedy. Throw in an Acme-style ad for the Spear of Destiny ("I couldn't have killed Christ without it!" raves Gaius Cassius, Roman Centurion) and sharp, sleazy art turns by Hilary Barta and Pat McEown, and you've got a package that'll amuse the deviant 15-year-old in all of us. Let's just hope it doesn't single-handedly derail the semi-horned one's marketing mojo.

March 22, 2008

Carnival of souls

* News from the Battlestar Galactica camp continues to roll out: This time it's David Eick adapting Children of Men as a series. He says it will be less of a "war show" than the movie was and instead focus on the societal ramifications. This would have sounded more promising to me in a pre-Bionic Woman world, but we'll see.

* The Viggo Mortensen–starring adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road is slated for a Thanksgiving release. Happy Turkey Day!

* Jason Adams has posted the debut short horror film from The Ruins director Carter Smith, Bugcrush, in its entirety.

* Steven Wintle of The Horror Blog is like totally wrong about Doomsday.

* But as a consolation prize he offers this week's Horror Roundtable, about our favorite shout-outs to horror in non-horror settings. Tricky as Pinhead FTW!

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* Anders Nilsen draws Captain America!

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Reminds me a bit of the drawing of David Bowie he did for me...

* Scientists have discovered jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles and two-feet-wide starfish...in Antarctica.

* Todd Ciolek calls out the Top 10 Biggest Indiana Jones Ripoffs. Relic Hunter FTW!

March 23, 2008

An Easter treat

Tom Spurgeon has posted his big Best of 2007 feature! It's fun, and I like how this year he divided it up into categories rather than posting a massive Top 50 countdown that makes me feel bad about my inadequate reading habits.

Also I don't know why I haven't been posting links to this every week like I do with the Horror Roundtable, but this week's Five for Friday audience participation feature at Tom's site asks the participants to construct the comic of our dreams in just five words. I was surprised to see how many other folks picked the same writer I did.

March 24, 2008

Comics Time: Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore

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Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore
Alan Moore, writer
Dave Gibbons, Klaus Janson, Jim Baikie, Kevin O'Neill, Paris Cullins, Rick Veitch, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Bill Willingham, George Freeman, artists
DC Comics, 2003
208 pages
$19.95
Buy it used from Amazon.com

Though it's now out of print, having been supplanted by a collection that also includes the longer stories Batman: The Killing Joke and Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, this particular anthology of mainline-DC stories by Alan Moore is the superior book, and not just because of the absence of the irksome reproduction errors that plagued the two aforementioned stories in the later edition. Without those two tales--both of them swinging-for-the-fences "last word" efforts about their respective milieus, grim'n'gritty Batman and Silver Age Superman--overshadowing the proceedings, we're able to better compare in apples-to-apples fashion the short stories that remain, and better appreciate their pleasurable successes--and almost as pleasurable failures.

Moore's superhero work dealt with the same problems as any superhero story--devising wild science-fiction settings, creating threats believable enough to overwhelm the audience's knowledge that nothing bad is really gonna happen to our hero, deriving resonance from each character's time-honored tropes. The best I can do to describe what he did differently from his contemporaries is to say that he solved these problems by attacking them from a completely different direction than any other writer at the time.

For example, in not one but two separate "Superman vs. parasitical plant life" stories--the Swamp Thing crossover "The Jungle Line" and the now-classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale "For the Man Who Has Everything"--Moore makes the all but invulnerable Superman eminently vulnerable, physically and emotionally, by tying him back to his roots in the apocalyptic extermination of Krypton and its inhabitants. Rather than simply throw another alien powerhouse or supergenius at the guy as most writers would do, Moore plays off the "Last Son" aspect of the character to create a threat that's primarily emotional rather than physical or mental--blazing a path that's still followed by the character's most successful interpreters to this day.

Many of his other novel approaches stem from the classical science-fiction notion of a "literature of ideas," as opposed to the superhero science-fiction norm of humanoid aliens in crazy clothes with laser guns. These stories' strength is one of raw concept: How would a Green Lantern power ring operate for a being with no concept of light or sight? How do you conquer beings who operate on a time frame so slow that it would take them years to even notice your presence? How do you teach the birds and the bees to a species with no females? Why limit the aliens we encounter to more or less humanoid forms when they could be sentient planets or sentient smallpox viruses? It's a litany of the kind of idea that'd blow the minds of anyone whose idea of science fiction began on Tattooine and ended on Krypton.

The art in the collection firmly roots it to the time of its origin. To a superhero reader raised on the high-gloss, digitally colored, border-busting, photoref'd slugfests of today, it all must look hopelessly primitive; even the artists who still have some name-recognition juice today, like Dave "Watchmen" Gibbons and Klaus Janson, come across as quaintly classicist and nostalgically sloppy respectively. (God only knows what a Greg Land fan would make of the Lovecraftian avant-garde demons in Kevin O'Neill's creepy Green Lantern story!) But this too plays to Moore's strengths as a writer in this period by harkening back to a simpler time before the writer grew so fixated on form and referentiality, instead preferring simple superhero morality plays of idea and emotion.

Not everything works, not by a long shot. Stories involving street-level heroes Green Arrow & Black Canary and Vigilante are distinguished primarily by less-than-enthralling narrative conceits, the former likening a night in the big city to an athletic event for no clear reason and the latter interspersing Vigilante's team-up with a comically clichéd party girl ("I've got forty kilos of good Colombian weed stashed up there!") with excerpts from the creepily loving letter of the pedophile they're chasing to his intended victim. A Batman story from the perspective of an obscure, insane villain who thinks he's perfectly sane has its limitations revealed by the two decades' worth of such stories that followed. All the standard pitfalls of '80s superhero comics can be found at one point or another: multiracial vest-wearing street gangs, howlingly unrealistic dialect, incongruously forcing clunky sci-fi ideas into conversational speech ("Why are you still staring out of the window? The underlights of Aunt Allura's paragondola vanished five units ago.").

But those good stories—the Superman, Green Lantern, and Vega ones mostly—are really awfully good. Best of all they make it seem like telling a good story was Moore's only goal. Maybe that's why I enjoy this book as much as almost anything I've read by the bard of Northampton: With no Victoriana to riff on and no snake gods to worship, the guy can spin a heckuva yarn.

Carnival of souls

* No word on whether this is due to a track fire at Penn Station, but word all over the horror internet is that Lionsgate has pushed the release of their adaptation of Clive Barker's The Midnight Meat Train back from its original May 19 release date to a new unknown time. My guess is that you won't see it until the horror-rich late summer period, then, but what do I know.

* Here's the poster for Robin Hardy's upcoming kinda quasi sorta sequel semi remake pseudo reimagining of The Wicker Man, Cowboys for Christ. I'm sorry to see it using the dreaded Trajan font, but oh well!

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* More Wicker Man: Bill Sherman reviews Neil LaBute's much-derided remake and adds some derision of his own. Rather than kicking poor Nic Cage around and repeating "Not the bees!", Bill's astute critique isolates several points where the new version deviated from the old at its own peril, both general (ruining the bait-and-switch that drives so much of the first film by making the pagan society unappealing from the get-go) and very specific (changing the community's name from Summerisle to the "sibilant and unwieldy" Summersisle).

* Joe McCulloch does Jack T. Chick! Specifically, he compares a Chick tract to its African-Americanized remake by Chick disciple-cartoonist Fred Carter.

* Ross Douthat analyzes the return of the '70s in American cinema. His emphasis is political and you may not agree with his take on this phenomenon, but the cogent way he runs down everything from conspiracy thrillers to torture porn to the horror-remake wave to the zombie revival to the HBO dramas to Battlestar Galactica strikes me as mightily impressive. (Via Keith Uhlich.)

* Rob Humanick re-views and reviews The Mist. I think he's fonder of the movie than I am--perhaps because he hasn't read the original story (let alone re-read it half a dozen times like me) so the scares were fresh and there was nothing to unfavorably compare the movie version to--but even so I think he's pretty sharp in terms of what works and doesn't work in the film.

* IT'S...a Monty Python quiz! I got a perfect score, you sons of a silly person. (Via Whitney Matheson.)

* Water monster alert: A new species of plesiosaur--the oldest aquatic reptile of any kind on record in North America--has been discovered in Alberta, Canada. Actually it was discovered in 1994, but it took until now to fully remove the fossil from the rock it was found in.

* Finally, LOST SPOILER WARNING: I've been hearing a lot lately about how badass Sayid is and how he must have a plan in terms of his actions in the last episode. Just to recap, this is a guy who got knocked out and had his radio smashed by Locke, got captured by Rousseau, got captured by the Iraqi restaurateur in his flashback, let the Others sneak right past him and attack the boat with Sun on it, got captured by the Others in Others Village, got captured by the Others on the beach, got captured by Locke in Others Village, and got shot by his girlfriend in his flashforward. The only target he's ever successfully infiltrated is Shannon's vagina.

March 25, 2008

marvel b0y hacked the Fantagraphics blog

If you know what's going on here—and I do, god help me—you probably need to be doing something more constructive with your time.

Carnival of souls

* Dueling Duel posts! First Kevin B. Lee reviews Steven Spielberg's super-tense debut feature and also assembles a truly massive collection of reviews and information to supplement the post. (Via The House Next Door.) Then Lee, Keith Uhlich, Steven Boone, and Andrew "Filmbrain" Grant have a roundtable podcast discussion of the flick.

* Jason Adams reviews Singin' in the Rain! Jason, your first-paragraph fake-out freaked me the hell out, man. I have very vivid memories of being in a sophomore-year film studies class and hearing too-cool-for-school film students calling that movie "corny" and thinking there truly must be something wrong with them mentally.

* "I'm in the god-damn club, aren't I?" BC at Horror Movie a Day reviews The Monster Squad, tackling the deluxe DVD, a screening with Fred Dekker, and his memories of the viewings of his youth all in one fell swoop.

* Finally, over at Topless Robot, Todd Ciolek runs down the Top 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments in '80s Cartoons. The second I saw this headline I thought "Oh my God, they're gonna have that G.I. Joe cartoon with the meltings." Big points also for including the Smurfs' "goodness makes the badness go away" song, which I used to sing to myself at night if I got scared, sadly enough.

March 26, 2008

Comics Time: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

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Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
David Petersen, writer/artist
Villard Books, March 2008
200 pages
$17.95
Buy it from Amazon.com

David Petersen is a prodigiously talented illustrator, no question. When it comes to being a writer, he may not know art, but he knows what he likes. In its somber, Tolkienesque way, this tale of swordplay and strife amid warring factions of medieval mice warriors is just as much a product of the "art of enthusiasm" school of genre mash-up as Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim or Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja's The Immortal Iron Fist, or even Neil Marshall's Doomsday. Without a hint of irony it clearly exists to repackage Petersen's favorite tropes--Joseph Campbell's hero with a thousand faces, Watership Down's red in tooth and claw fuzzy-rodent society, Tolkien's faux-archaiac prose, Ralph Bakshi's rotoscoped villains--into a whole that satisfies his own obsessions, all in the hopes that it will satisfy others' as well.

Mission accomplished on that score, at least for this reviewer, at least for the most part. Listen, I'm sure there are more hardcore fantasy devotees out there who would tear it to shreds for its likeable but stock characters and storylines (three guesses as to whether the black mouse called Midnight is the Guard's secret traitor) and the clunkiness of the prose ("There I found the record of legend being fact"). Comics readers might object to pacing that frequently gets ahead of itself (introductory text pieces that kick off each chapter deliver vital information skipped by the comic itself; the climax of the story arrives too suddenly). You can probably tell from those flaws whether or not this thing is your cup of meat; there are probably many of you for whom it isn't. I for one wish the book displayed even a modicum of self-awareness, let alone humor, about itself; I can't imagine Petersen thinks anything other than he's making one for the ages, and that loss of perspective hurts him at critical moments, from shading his characters to recognizing the failure of the ending.

But never once did I feel like my intelligence was insulted, a prerequisite for any action-adventure comic that many fail to meet. Nor did I feel like I was "reading" a series of pin-ups or illustrations instead of a comic. For all his pure chops--the lush, textural colors, the evocatively shaky line, the note-perfect cute-savage mouse designs--Petersen does indeed cartoon in these pages. The sound effect for a snake's hiss weaves sinuously through the foliage. A sudden cut to a goggles-wearing mouse elicits a guffaw. Astute use of photorealism gives predatory snakes and crabs an otherworldly air. Even the format--the pages are square!--speaks to Petersen's confidence in his vision. It's not quite fully realized, indeed for anyone other than Petersen it probably couldn't be, but as comics' answer to Harry Potter it entertained me enough to tune in next time.

Carnival of souls

* Apparently the makers of the Descent sequel The De2cent are also planning The De3cent, but what really struck me about the post at that link is that it says Neil Marshall is co-writing The De2cent itself, which was news to me.

* I wasn't sure what the big idea behind Marvel's upcoming event comic Secret Invasion was going to be--I mean, I knew it was about Skrulls replacing superheroes but I wasn't sure what the philosophical hook a la Civil War's bowdlerized privacy vs. security debate was, if any. But in this interview with writer Brian Michael Bendis about the comic, he reveals that a) there is a religious element to the Skrulls' plan of conquest, and b) the Skrulls totalitarian way of life is going to actually appeal to some of the characters. I'm still not sold at all on Bendis as an event writer, but it is nice to see Marvel continuing to blend "hey isn't that neat" comicsy ideas with intelligible ideological/emotional-struggle angles in their big projects. (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* Unfortunately the old ToyFare gallery of He-Man art by comics artists I linked to a while back went down wizarduniverse.com's memory hole, but here's Ben Templesmith's contribution. (Via Heidi MacDonald.)

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* Well, crap, this print of the original Star Wars action figure line by Kenner photographer Dan Simmons is pretty damn rad. Buy one yourself! (Via Uncrate.)

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* Finally, another great weekly strip by Tom Neely.

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March 27, 2008

Carnival of souls: special Civic Duty edition

* I am totally blogging from the jurors' lounge at the Nassau County courthouse right now. Hooray for living in the future!

* I'd forgotten that Battlestar Galactica creator/revivifier Ron Moore is involved in the remake of The Thing. This is the kind of movie that I'd be tempted to get all outraged about its being remade, until I reflect that the version we all love was itself a remake and the person in charge of remaking it already has a miles-better-than-the-original remake under his belt.

* AICN's Moriarty loved serial superhero ruiner J. Michael Straczynski's screenplay adaptation of Max Brooks's brilliant docu-zombie novel World War Z. Color me extremely skeptical, though I will of course go see the movie to decide in the end.

* Someone made an opera out of David Lynch's Lost Highway? (Via Matt Zoller Seitz.)

* Finally, our quote of the day comes from Siskoid's review of Jim Woodring's Trosper:

The story? It's about a little elephant who's playing with a ball, when things go awry and he gets chased by Woodring's trademark vaginas and penises until he finds another ball...

Get 'em while they're hot

And cheap! Amazon's discount graphic novels page has some pretty outrageous deals right now on some great books:

House by Josh Simmons for $2.59 (that's right, $2.59)
Love & Rockets: Perla la Loca and Love & Rockets: Beyond Palomar for $6.75 each
Chance in Hell by Gilbert Hernandez for $5.50

Holy moses! Thanks to reader Joe Villella for the tip...

March 28, 2008

Comics Time: Strangeways: Murder Moon

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Strangeways: Murder Moon
Matt Maxwell, writer
Luis Garagña, Gervasio, Jok, artists
Highway 62 Press, March 2008
144 pages
$13.95
Preview it at Highway 62
Buy it from MyComicShop.com

If Strangeways were twice as long as it is, it'd be a better book. I don't mean that the story should be expanded, mind you; there's an admirable and intelligent economy to the way Maxwell sets up his world-weary Western-horror milieu. It's just that the existing material feels crammed into 50% fewer pages than it would really take to tell the story properly. Particularly in the early going, the exposition-heavy word balloons necessary to introduce the characters and the plot jockey for space with a riot of heavy, hard-to-parse blacks in every panel, which in turn fight for primacy on cramped pages whose gridless layouts make it difficult for the eye to find an anchor, or for the story to find a rhythm from shot to shot, page to page, and scene to scene. The result isn't the psychological claustrophobia called for in the story but an artistic claustrophobia that hampered my experience of that story. Simply spreading the images and dialogue across more pages would give everything the room to breathe it needs. Indeed there are passages you can point to--an evocative jailhouse conversation between the sheriff and a condemned man, the climactic meeting of the gun-toting hero and his werewolf antagonist's kin--where just such an effect is achieved. Not coincidentally, these are the points in the main story where Maxwell's compellingly melancholy take on his two genres comes through most effectively.

The short story that rounds out the collection presents another counterfactual case in point. Here Garagña's Caliber/Desperado-style inking is supplanted by Gervasio and Jok's wiry line and washes of white, and the effect is like stepping out of a stuffy saloon into a moonlit night. Maxwell's writing is particularly strong here. As with the main story, the prose is refreshingly tight (seldom is heard a misplaced word, to paraphrase a perhaps appropriate song). But this unique "origin of the species" story for the werewolves combines an imaginative core concept involving Native American mythology with genuine emotional power--it's the kind of think I think Dan Simmons tried to do in The Terror, but like similar stories in, say, Hellboy, it works better here in this lean and mean format. (It also shakes loose of the grime-encrusted Western setting, which is fine by me. I'm a little tired of that vibe, which now that I think of it probably doesn't bode well for my plan to Netflix my way through Deadwood.) If there's more of this sort of thing on the way from the Strangeways project, I'd be happy to check it out.

Carnival of souls

* Today's top story: Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel's heirs have been awarded the copyright in Action Comics #1, Superman's first issue. I honestly have no idea what this means because it's all so drenched in legal mumbo-jumbo, but my sense is that it's a victory for truth, justice, and the American way. (Via everyone.)

* Speaking of the Man of Steel, Joe McCulloch reviews Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's quite good All Star Superman #10. It's always nice to see the infant universe of Qwewq.

* Mark your calendars: Bloody Disgusting reports that Clive Barker has an art show opening at Sloane Fine Art in New York City on April 16th. Among the art on display will be nine pieces created in honor of the upcoming film version of The Midnight Meat Train, including these two lovely portraits of mass transit enthusiast Mahogany:

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* Curt Purcell offers a full-throated defense of the repetitive aspects of genre storytelling. The funny thing is that even though Curt is quite clear in his intent to defend story-based fiction against literary fiction, I think several of his points regarding repetition totally apply to, for instance, the literary comics of Anders Nilsen and Kevin Huizenga and John Hankiewicz that I am so into these days. For example, "Repetition Generates Complexity and Depth"--absolutely! Very thought-provoking stuff.

* And now speaking of genre storytelling, Ken Lowery gives Neil Marshall's excellent Doomsday a rave review. I particularly liked this line:

It’s Grindhouse without all the winking and nudging.
That is exactly right.

* Beware of Tom Neely knockoffs!

* Water monster update: Dig this crazy video of the lake monster of Lake Champlain! (Via Loren Coleman.)

* Because it's cool to read interviews with talented people who come across as good-natured and diligent about their talent, I really enjoyed this interview with Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood.

* Finally, over at Topless Robot my buddy Jesse Thompson has a rundown of the 10 Grossest Onscreen Movie Kisses that's worth reading for the opening image alone:

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March 29, 2008

Towards a Horror Blogosphere?

Curt Purcell of The Groovy Age of Horror has been thinking big lately. First he had that great post on repetition and genre, and now he's going meta with a thoughtful post on the Horror Blogosphere itself--or the lack thereof. Curt's thesis is that while there are obviously quite a few horror blogs, and while several of them are occasionally brought together by such features as The Horror Blog's Horror Roundtable or Final Girl's Film Club or my own sadly defunct Where the Monsters Go link page, or even just individual link posts by various and sundry bloggers, there's not a cohesive feel to this so-called "blogosphere." Ideas don't go viral, group conversation doesn't really occur, topics don't get advanced from one site to another to another. What he calls for to solve this problem is essentially a lynchpin linkblog site with a distinct host identity to keep track of all the goings-on on the multitudinous horror blogs and sites, point out commonalities and trends, and so on.

I feel I am bizarrely well-equipped to comment on this concept because, as very long-time readers of ADDTF might recall, I was actually a part of another nerdblogging scene during its nascent stages--the comics blogosphere. While not part of the first-gen cohort--I'm at least one step removed from NeilAlien--I was one of (I'd guess) the first dozen or so comics blogs--in other words, part of the first group of comics blogs that thought of itself as The Comics Blogosphere. IIRC this group consisted of myself, NeilAlien, Jim Henley, Franklin Harris, Johnny Bacardi, Alan David Doane, Bill Sherman, Tegan Gjovaag, Eve Tushnet, Elayne Riggs, Steven Wintle, Big Sunny D, Dave Intermittent, and Dirk Deppey. Some of those folks were bloggier than others, some were comicsier than others, some were more into the group aspect of it than others, but I think that was the basic breakdown.

Now, how did this motley crew of individuals achieve some sort of group sentience, a la Grant Morrison's DCU? It was indeed the creation of a medium-spanning, labor-intensive, personality-driven linkblog: Dirk Deppey and The Comics Journal's Journalista. Heck, I even wrote about this phenomenon at the time, likening it to the way the establishment of big-name liberal and conservative linkblogs drove the success of the political blogosphere. Not only did Dirk keep tabs on running discussions, contribute to them himself, and become a repository of topics to inspire new discussions, he also served as a model followed by what I think of as the "third wave" of comics blogs, the now-defunct efforts of people like Kevin Melrose and Graeme McMillan and John Jakala (not to mention Dave "Babar" G.'s Comic Weblog Update Page, from which Where the Monsters Go borrowed its code) that I think directly led to the HUGE explosion and proliferation of comics blogs that gave us the massive, no-one-person-can-keep-track comics blogosphere we have today. Nowadays the comics blogosphere is so big that Journalista's central role is shared by at least three other sites: Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter, Heidi MacDonald's The Beat, and Newsarama's Blog@Newsarama.

So I think Curt is dead on: If you want a horror blogosphere like the Comics Blogosphere, you need a horror blog like Journalista.

But do I want a horror blogosphere like the Comics Blogosphere?

When I took my job at Wizard I was forced to stop blogging about comics. I kind of hemmed and hawed about what to blog about for a while, just doing odds and ends for a bit, then taking a short break, then doing a music-and-movies blog that was actually a cover for the horror-fiction project in blog format it was eventually to become. When I returned to ADDTF in full force, I made it a horror blog, which it stayed until Wizard let me go and I was able to start blogging about comics again. Now I split it about 50/50.

But if you look at my comics content now versus my comics content then--let alone compare my horror content to my old comics content--I think there's a world of difference. In terms of comics, I feel NO pressure to comment on EVERYTHING, like I used to. I'm much less likely to snark. I'm much less likely to dogpile on comics-blogosphere whipping boys, much less likely to get involved in back-and-forth debates. I'm spending a lot more time reviewing what I read, much of which is books that are months or even years old rather than this week's big release. And as for my horror blogging, I've never done anything but blog about the kinds of works and topics that interest me and only those works and topics. (ADDTF: Your Clive Barker/Giant Squid Headquarters!) To the extent that other people are as interested in reading my email exchanges about The Ruins and The Wire and discussing Cloverfield and the merits of the term "torture porn" as I am, then this is a pretty terrific horror blog, I suppose.

The thing is, I can't imagine doing it some other way. I look at the sites that do cover what they consider to be the length and breadth of the horror field--your Bloody Disgustings and Arrow in the Heads and Dread Centrals and so on--and all I see are hype-driven posts about the latest direct-to-DVD release, the latest parody with zombies in it, people objecting in principle to J-horror or PG-13 ratings, posts about the next project for the writers of Turistas...To a certain extent, the comics blogosphere focuses way too much on equivalent topics--the latest event comic from or picayune pseudofeminist outrage over the Big Two superhero publishers, getting really excited if someone on television or in an entertainment magazine mentions Joss Whedon, yadda yadda yadda.

I think I'm just rambling now, but my point is, if given a choice between a horror blogosphere where we're all talking about the same things or a horror blogosphere where it's a bunch of intense loners off in their own corners blogging about whatever tickles their fancy, I'd probably take the latter. While I certainly would read a Journalista-esque horror blog (it'd probably beat what I'm getting from the big horror sites!), I'm probably okay without it.

March 30, 2008

Guilty before Almighty God. Guilty before His Son. Guilty before the whole human race.

This week's Horror Roundtable is about our guilty pleasures. Mine is being a reverse-pretentious douchenozzle.

March 31, 2008

Comics Time: Bald Knob

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Bald Knob
John Hankiewicz, writer/artist
self-published, 2007
28 pages
$4
Buy it from John Hankiewicz

This book is more or less the platonic ideal of comics for me today. I think it was Paul Pope who wondered where the great prose stylists are in this medium? I'd recommend he check out Hankiewicz's writing in this minicomic, a page-by-page accrual of disjointed observations about a morning the narrator (presumably Hankiewicz himself) spent with his father prior to the latter's departure by train. It's a "there is a certain slant of light" swirl of sense-memories and small talk: the perfume sent in an abandoned train-station waiting room, the reflected sunlight on a gravel lot, enjoying an unnecessary second meal at Waffle House, using shopworn turns of phrase to describe the weather. Hankiewicz's words evoke an attempt to preserve the remnants of a moment, or perhaps even the remnants of a relationship, that has passed its peak level of intimacy and intensity and is now and forever imbued with a sense of its own recession into the past. Meanwhile his art does the same thing, its minutely detailed panel-per-page depictions of the crumbling buildings Hainkiewicz and his father navigate capturing the warm sadness of decrepit Americana as well as anything this side of the scenery outside your window on the train as it recedes into the distance. What a magnificent little comic.

Carnival of souls

* Whenever the topic of Thor comes up, which in my life is often, I say that any and every Thor comic should be at least as cool as Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" or it's not worth doing. While this video uses a different song to make its point, it is otherwise exactly what I'm talking about.

When Thor shows up in a comic, all the other characters should go "OH FUCK IT'S THOR RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIVES HE'S A VIKING WAR GOD WITH A FUCKING MAGIC HAMMER" and if they don't then that writer and artist FAIL.

* Sounds like the great Howard Shore will be returning to Middle-earth to compose the score to The Hobbit parts one and two, though this same report acts as though Guillermo del Toro has been confirmed as the films' director, so who really knows?

* Tom Spurgeon serves up two scoops of well-deserved contempt today. The first is directed toward students at the University of Utah who are protesting the inclusion of Alison Bechdel's excellent graphic memoir Fun Home on a course syllabus:

The fact that they're so casual in both calling this award-winning book pornography and throwing out the leads-to-children-being-abused idea as if they're givens and not acidic, horrible, super-serious things to say about anyone's work makes this whole matter difficult to blog about except to in every way express my derision and contempt for that point of view and the spectacularly childish way in which it's being expressed.
Indeed.

* Tom's second scoop o' scorn is aimed at fans whose reaction to the Jerry Siegel/Superman copyright decision is so repugnantly base and abysmally imbecilic to me that I've literally been trying not to think about it:

Shame on every stupid-ass, morally ignorant fan out there who has expressed even the slightest opinion that this course of legal action in any way reflects an agenda of greed on the part of people not directly involved in the act of creation, or worse, has articulated as their primary concern the potential interruption of their monthly four-color fantasy intake. Part of me wishes we lived in the might makes right moral universe that supports such a piggish outlook, because then I could quit my job and drive around on a motorcycle punching people in the face until they penned a formal apology to the Siegel family.
Indeed. (Astute readers will note Tom's appropriation of the mission statement and modus operandi of Justice Society of America member Wildcat, and "indeed" to that as well.)

* Tom also reviews Grant Morrison's excellent All Star Superman #10, but his review ends with what to me is an unsupported assertion:

...the rush to a conclusion after so many promising starts reminds us all that this is in the end a very clever superhero comic book, and may end up more of a sparkling commentary on the best of comics than a great one in its own right.
Personally I see All Star Superman's neverending parade of beginnings—i.e. standalone stories involving funhouse-mirror Superman doppelgangers of varying sorts—to be not commentary but a statement of its own. Sure, it's an homage to the shotgun-blast approach of Silver Age DC superhero comics to science fiction's "literature of ideas," but insofar as it links up with Morrison and Quitely's portrayal of Superman himself, it also stands as a message that being a caring, competent, helpful, clever, cooperative, kind person is what enables us to navigate the wild web of ideas we find ourselves tangled in in our everyday lives and come to our own ends with fewer regrets. It's not just a love-letter to Mort Weisinger.

* Your seemingly daily Topless Robot link: Todd Ciolek runs down the 10 Most Regrettably Missing Movie Scenes of All Time. Horror is well represented, from the giant bugs in King Kong to Paul Reiser's fate in Aliens. And there's pie!

* News flash: Katee Sackhoff is attractive.

* Creeping Coruscant Alert: A Saudi Arabian prince is planning to build a mile-high skyscraper. What could possibly go wrong there? While the fan of science-fiction manmade immensity in me jumped for joy after reading this story, it also triggered my fear of heights so badly I got nauseated.

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