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.
* Jaw-dropping news this afternoon on the horror front, especially for Clive Barker fans like me: The lost Nightbreed footage has been found! Barker's film Nightbreed, his studio-made follow-up to Hellraiser, has long been known as an emblematic case of "what might have been" horror filmmaking thwarted by studio interference and ignorance. In a nutshell, the suits didn't realize the monsters were the good guys in the movie until it was already in the process of being made--at which point they freaked. The end result was a compromised effort, one beloved by many for its bestiary, its visuals, its allegorical content (Barker once told me that the monster city of Midian is basically Boystown), and a chilling performance from David Cronenberg, but not what Barker had intended to end up on screen. Barker has long spoken of extra footage lost in Universal's byzantine archives, and potentially consumed by a fire. Now, however, a friend of Barker's named Mike Miller apparently made it his personal quest to unearth the footage--and he succeeded! He was told by someone at the studio that it's there waiting to be used provided they get the green light from the higher-ups--but said higher-ups believe there's no market for a Nightbreed Director's Cut, or even a simple upgrade to Blu-Ray.
I love Nightbreed to pieces as-is--it was my first "real" horror-movie, back in my junior year of high school (I was a late bloomer!)--and there are people I'd murder to see a Director's cut. If you feel like I do about it, click here to find out what you can do to help. (Via Dread Central.)
* Next, Tom Spurgeon notes that a big reason the book clicks with fans is because of the unique spin it puts on traditional, familiar superhero tropes. That's something I didn't get into in my review, to its detriment--obviously that's a huge part of the appeal, right from the book's original "what's it like to be the son of Superman?" high concept. In my defense, when I praised the book's emphasis on ideas and storylines over attempts to create iconic moments, it was precisely the book's ability to riff on hoary old superhero business in unexpected ways that I was thinking of--again, the way it's zigged rather than zagged in terms of its treatment of its universe's Krypton analogue, or how it's dealt with antagonists like alien invaders or "archnemeses," are the kinds of things it places front and center rather than crafting the perfect Invincible moment.
* Finally, here's something I meant to include in my original review but forgot. A third big o' blogging that informed my re-read was Curt Purcell's pair of posts about the fallacies of "superhero deconstructionism" and "logical conclusions." (My responses at the time are here and here.) Curt's argument is that there's nothing "logical" or "conclusive" in such stories as we generally understand those terms: Books like Watchmen, Squadron Supreme, and Brat Pack (to use the titles he and I mentioned back then) take the superhero unusually far in a particular direction, but there's nothing inherent in the the genre that compelled that direction or the distance those books travelled down it. Curt uses the difference in the demeanor and conduct of Watchmen's godlike superbeing Dr. Manhattan and Squadron Supreme's godlike superbeing Hyperion as a pretty rock-solid case in point.
Though he never comes out and says it (and he can correct me if I'm wrong here) I believe Curt was trying to point out that there's nothing about superhero stories that necessitates a less constrained, more "real world" treatment of the genre to wind up in the nightmarish territory that most deconstructionist superhero books explore--that the varyingly dystopian tone of Watchmen, Squadron Supreme, Rick Veitch's '80s books, Warren Ellis's '90s and '00s books, even Frank Miller's comparatively upbeat The Dark Knight Returns is a choice, not a revelation of something always present within the genre's every example if we'd but had the courage to look.
I would agree, and I'd point to books like Invincible and Savage Dragon as counterexamples to those other titles. I don't think anyone who's read them would argue that those series are "deconstructionist" superhero books by any stretch of the imagination--they positively revel in traditional superheroics. However, they take them further than traditional, generally corporate-controlled, non-creator-owned books do. Alien invasions have lasting consequences, superhero battles greatly impact the lives and quality of life of the civilian population, the ramifications of supercrime and superlaw-enforcement are given freer reign to play out--all within the context of of story worlds that are neither dystopian nor utopian, but rather are recognizably related to the DC and Marvel Universes though far more volatile. This gets back to a point I made in that earlier discussion: stories that purport to be the "logical conclusion" of superhero comics may fail as regards the genre overall, but would almost certainly succeed if they were to take place within the big corporate superhero shared universes in that they break so many of those universes' unwritten rules regarding the ramifications of the existence and actions of superpowered beings. Neither Savage Dragon nor Invincible would work in a shared-universe context either, since they break many of the same rules...but they also demonstrate that breaking those rules doesn't necessarily take you into the realm of superhero-bred or superhero-led dystopia.
Seanmix - Oh no, love, you're not alone: The Best of David Bowie
DOWNLOAD PART 1
Five Years / Changes / "Heroes" / Breaking Glass / Ziggy Stardust / Look Back in Anger / Fashion / Modern Love / Panic in Detroit / Rebel Rebel / China Girl / A New Career in a New Town / Life on Mars? / Beauty and the Beast / Sound and Vision / Let's Dance / John, I'm Only Dancing (Saxophone Version) / Space Oddity / Ashes to Ashes / Subterraneans
DOWNLOAD PART 2
Station to Station / Under Pressure (w/Queen) / I'm Afraid of Americans (V1) (w/Nine Inch Nails) / Joe the Lion / Oh! You Pretty Things / Young Americans / Moonage Daydream / Blue Jean / Always Crashing in the Same Car / Be My Wife / Dead Man Walking / Time / Fame / 5:15 The Angels Have Gone / Suffragette City / Stay / Rock 'n' Roll Suicide
Recently I discovered that a friend of mine who'd been enjoying the mixes I'd been posting had as close to zero exposure to or knowledge of David Bowie as you can get in contemporary society. I think the only Bowie song he knew that he knew (there are known knowns and unknown knowns, after all) was "Changes." Per his request, and per my own Bowie fixation, I made the two-part mix you see above.
I'm not going to even pretend to be disinterested or objective or discerning when it comes to Bowie--I love virtually everything he's ever done to pieces. So making a mix was tough, particularly because I couldn't just take the big hits as read since my buddy had never heard them, or at least never put them all together with Bowie. But nor did I just want to reproduce the many Best Of collections that already exist. (I personally recommend the three-part series that spans 1969-1974, 1974-1979, and 1980-1987--strong selections and lovely art direction.) So this ended up being a combination of a goodly number of Bowie's giant, monstrous, undeniable singles with a selection of my own personal favorites. It's not a crate-diving project by any stretch of the imagination--no B-sides, no live recordings, a grand total of just four tracks post-Let's Dance (including a paltry three from his immensely enjoyable '90s/'00s altrock-god renaissance) and merely one pre-Hunky Dory, and no Tin Machine whatsoever--but I think it's an enjoyable blend of rock-radio staples and interesting album cuts that will hopefully make my friend fall in love with David Bowie.
* MoCCA is this weekend! I haven't missed one since the festival's inception and this year will be no exception, though I will most likely waste at least part of it wandering around the empty halls of the Puck Building wondering where everyone went after heading down there on autopilot. (They've relocated the show to here.) I think I'll have some comics available for purchase courtesy of the Partyka crew and Matt Rota. And if you see me, be sure to say hello--I'd tell you what my hair is going to look like but that's anybody's guess at this point.
* Clive Barker has a Twitter! On it, he breaks the news that Martyrs director Pascal Laugier is no longer attached to the Hellraiser remake. (This is the second time that the remake has lost the director of a high-profile extreme French horror movie--last time around it was Maury and Bustillo, the guys who did Inside.) He also complains about the obstinancy of Morgan Creek, the studio that cut Nightbreed, either lost or sat on the deleted material for years, and refuses to allow the creation of a Director's Cut now that it's been found: "NIGHTBREED will always be 'that dumb movie where Barker tries to make the monsters the good guys because he's queer.'". Mostly, however, it's a stream of awesomely Barkerian musings about the eroticism of his grandmother's Bible and suchlike. Go, follow. (Via Bloody Disgusting.)
* Speaking of Barker, The Vault of Horror's B-Sol shakes his fists at the heavens over the shoddy treatment Barker has gotten from Hollywood recently with projects like The Midnight Meat Train and the proposed Nightbreed Director's Cut. Barker's career is littered with similar coulda woulda shoulda incidents, from Nightbreed's original handling to the dissolution of the Abarat deal with Disney. I think the sad fact of the matter is that Hellraiser's modern-classic status and Stephen King's endorsement notwithstanding, Barker is simply not a mainstream taste, even by horror standards. I'm sort of amazed his work has as large a following as it does.
* Finally, I'm not nearly as hard on the Star Wars prequels as most people I know. I enjoyed all of them, I thought Revenge of the Sith was an honest-to-god great movie with tons of weird stuff going on, I think the duel at the end of The Phantom Menace is one of the all-time great movie fight scenes, etc. etc. etc. That said, there are any number of missed opportunities a hardcore Star Wars fan such as myself can point to without resorting to insulting George Lucas or Hayden Christensen or Jar-Jar Binks or whoever else you want to make into the heel. For example, the movies were set in a time where there weren't just two or three living Jedi, but hundreds or thousands, so as a guy with a Rebel Alliance insignia tattoo on my right arm I can assure you that what people like me really wanted to see was a Braveheart-style battle of tons of lightsaber-wielding Jedi against either tons of lightsaber-wielding Sith or tons of jetpack-sporting Mandalorian knights (the Boba Fett guys). Instead there were fights with robots. This trailer for the upcoming Star Wars Old Republic MMORPG delivers something the movies could have and should have but didn't. Which is awesome to see, finally, but a little heartbreaking that we're seeing it for the first time in a commercial for a video game.
* Big news from PictureBox: Mat Brinkman's Multiforce will be available at MoCCA! Full specs here. Brinkman is the author of one of my all-time favorite comics, Teratoid Heights, but he's spent the last several years joining Dave Cooper and Marc Bell in the "great cartoonists we've lost to the goddamn art galleries" club, so a gigantic new Brinkman comic (of material serialized between 2000-2005, but still) is a thing of great joy.
Batman and Robin #1
Grant Morrison, writer
Frank Quitely, artist
DC, June 2009
22 pages, $2.99
I wonder how long it will take everyone who complained about Morrison cramming so much information into Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P. that it went all the way back around again into vapidity to complain that nothing happens in this comic? (Answer: not long at all!) I'm a guy who loved how much shit was going on in any given issue of Final Crisis, a guy who very much bought into and enjoyed what Morrison was up to with his supercompressed storytelling techniques and the emotions and ideas they engendered, so on that level this comic's a bit disappointing. You really can breeze through it in minutes, if you're the sort of person who feels comfortable glazing over the art of Frank Quitely. But that of course is crazy, and that's also the point of this comic--it reads to me like Grant Morrison's reward to Quitely for sticking all the way through All Star Superman and delivering the Oscar-caliber character performances that 12-issue story required to get its point across. Here, Quitely just gets to run wild designing creepy new villains and a younger, fresher Dynamic Duo whose characteristic physical comportment and interactions he gets to invent out of whole cloth--a virtuoso performance of another sort entirely. His line is finer and scratchier than ever, no doubt a result of once again working without an inker enhanced by swapping his usual colorist Jamie Grant for Jim Lee's go-to guy, Alex Sinclair. For his part, Sinclair gets to execute one of the book's more amusing visual gags: The flying Batmobile that the megalomaniacal new Robin designed sure has a whole lot of red, doesn't it?
Meanwhile we're introduced to a trio of new bad guys: Morrison shifts from Lewis Caroll to another pillar of British children's fiction about anthropomorphized animals to introduce the villainous Mr. Toad, there's a new entrant into comics' grand tradition of Head-On-Fire Guys, and the big bad, Professor Pyg, owes his look to a combo of Leatherface and Hostel with goons straight out of Alan Moore and Brian Bollan's Killing Joke freakshow. Best of all, since they're drawn by a stylist like Quitely, they've got a chance of sticking. On the hero side, Morrison pulls some neat tricks to show that Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne are on a learning curve--I particularly liked the bit where Damian dismissively refers to Alfred as "Pennyworth," but then immediately adds a polite "Thank you" in the next word balloon: He may be an enfant terrible, but he's trying. Elsewhere, under the ostensible cover of training Damian for the field, Morrison manages a dig at all the DC Comics where everyone calls each other by their first names as though every superhero battle is a high school reunion. To cap it off, Morrison and Quitely even crib from Geoff Johns's delightful recent technique of adding a page or two of decontextualized images from future issues as a teaser for the rest of the run. This isn't a book I instantly rushed to re-read like I would with each new issue of Final Crisis or R.I.P., but otherwise I think it's safe to say that I've waited all my comics-reading, Batman-loving life for a monthly Batman comic that looks and feels like this.
Bootsy's Rubber Band - "Very Yes" (Live in Louisville 1978)
This is my favorite live recording of any song, ever. As you'd expect, Bootsy Collins kills it on the bass, particularly toward the end, but the real star here is his brother Catfish and his astonishing guitar solo. I don't want to oversell it, so just listen, and get back to me after the moment horns kick back in after the solo.
* If you're looking for me at MoCCA tomorrow, I will be wearing a red Partyka t-shirt and sporting longish hair that sorta curls outward on the sides like Pippi Longstocking. I'm also a bit on the beardy side at the moment, unless I get fed up and shave tomorrow morning.
* CRwM reviews the Battle Royale franchise's every iteration, pretty much. I still have the complete set of the Tokyopop/Keith Giffen adaptation of the manga sitting around at least 50% unread. I'm gonna sit down and plow through them at some point--I remember them being enjoyable trash, Giffen's tics notwithstanding. As for CRwM's take on it, how's this for a chilling aside in the post-Handley era?
In fact, there are several scenes that, given current US laws concerning the illegality of even drawn representations of explicit underage sex, make the book too questionable to risk owning, in my opinion.
* Torture Link of the Day: Looks like liberal House Democrats are blocking the passage of the Graham-Lieberman-sponsored, Obama-supported bill to permanently block the release of any more detainee-abuse photos.
* When I worked at Wizard there were entire areas of the office's physical plant dedicated to nothing but the bizarre ephemera accumulated by the various magazines from their, uh, readers, I guess is the word? This bizarre letter was definitely a highlight.
The heat will rock you, aka Quick Anecdotally Driven MoCCA Thoughts
* Why on earth would the MoCCA organizers book a venue with not just inadequate air conditioning, but no air conditioning? The number-one complaint (certainly my number-one complaint) about the old venue was that it was too hot, until they added the seventh floor, at which point the number-one complaint became how long the elevator took to get you up to the seventh floor, which was too hot. So they go through the trouble of moving the festival to a building with no air conditioning in New York City in June? So weird. It was seriously beastly in there, and I spoke with one big exhibitor who thought reports and/or experience of the heat on Saturday kept Sunday customers away. And as The Missus just put it to me, it could easily have been 100 degrees instead of 80 degrees this weekend, which would have made it probably literally unbearable for many potential customers. Why pay money to come and be uncomfortable when you can shop online? The word of mouth is going to be murder on this issue, so I really hope MoCCA does something different next year.
* Meanwhile Saturday morning was a big mess. It's not just that MoCCA brought over a bunch of publishers' books too late and had to postpone opening by an hour, leaving people on line in the hot sun (I had to wait on the line and I got there at 12:15!), it's also that communication about this was so poor that people on the line barely had any idea why it was opening late, and I spoke with at least one exhibitor who didn't even know the opening was delayed in the first place--he just thought it was really slow for that first hour! Then it screwed up all the panel times and the signage was inadequate about that. So yeah, overall, not a good year for MoCCA as an organization.
* That said, in theory I like the new place. It was a nice walk over from Penn Station, it's still in a weird old building rather than a bland convention center or hotel, and having everything in one room improved navigability in much the same way that SPX's similar move did.
* All the big publishers I spoke with said that sales on Saturday were phenomenal. Webcomics Row was always absurdly crowded too, and lines for guys like Adrian Tomine and David Mazzucchelli and the Humbug legends were of rock-star length. (Randall Munroe of xkcd fame didn't have a line per se--he was simply constantly mobbed.)
* For the little guys, minicomics folks, self-publishers, that sort of thing, though, the folks I talked to said it was just alright. I think when you had big expensive books like You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation, Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Asterios Polyp, George Sprott and so on debuting, that's where people's money went and there was less to spread around.
* My spending was a little different than normal this year: I kind of knew going in I'd be buying a lot of things, and I pretty much walked right in and tracked all that stuff down immediately. The Hanks and Kupperman books from Fantagraphics, Mat Brinkman's Multiforce and the new Frank Santoro/Lane Milburn Cold Heat Special from Picturebox, Tom Gauld's The Gigantic Robot from Buenaventura, etc. This was probably stupid because I then had to lug those mothers around all day yesterday, but I wasn't going to risk not getting them.
* On the other hand, there were a lot of books I was pleasantly surprised to see. Kaz Strzepek's Mourning Star Vol. 2 from Bodega, Chrome Fetus #7 from Hans Rickheit, a bunch of new minis from Partyka, a five, five dollar, five dollar hardcover of abstract comics from Henrik Rehr called Reykjavik...plenty of happy discoveries along those lines.
* The European contingents could really eat your wallet right up, and there were more of them this year than ever before. Between Nora Krug's cool-looking suite of Red Riding Hood Redux books and a thick black book of Lorenzo Mattotti sketches of couples in bed, for instance, I plunked down a lot of cash at the Bries table. I think the international flavor helps set MoCCA apart from the other indie/alt/small-press shows.
* Overall I spent more money here than I had at any MoCCA since that insane year when Blankets, Kramers Ergot 4, and The Frank Book debuted. Got more Bowie sketches than ever before, too, I think--more on those to come, of course!
* Somewhere there exists a photograph, taken by Tim Hodler, of me, Jog, and NeilAlien.
* MoCCA is always a highlight of my comics year, probably THE highlight of my comics year. I love it. Make sure to come next year!
Vastly more straightforward--and more like previous League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volumes--than its predecessor Black Dossier, Century: 1910 is a funny, creepy, nasty piece of work that encapsulates and articulates many of Alan Moore's most heartfelt themes as explicitly and entertainingly as any book he's ever done. (And he's usually pretty explicit about that sort of thing, so that's really saying something!)
Taking the rejiggering of the League's line-up that occurred during the centuries-long sweep of Black Dossier's meta-story as read, 1910 joins Mina Murray, the rejuvenated Allan Quartermain, and their new teammates--the immortal gender-bender Orlando (currently male and generally going by Lando, making me want to say "Hello, what have we here?"), the gentleman thief Raffles, and the psychic detective Carnacki--as they attempt to thwart...something. They're not quite clear on what it is, and base their investigation on little more than Carnacki's ominous visionary nightmares. It could have something to do with the female heir to Captain Nemo, or with Jack the Ripper/Mack the Knife, or with a cult run by the sinister magus Oliver Haddo--they just know it's gonna be bloody. Given Moore's frequent depiction of the early 20th Century as the birthing of the proverbial rough beast, you can be pretty sure it's gonna be bloody too.
What's neat about this issue is that it's what we in the blog business refer to as a done-in-one; I assume all of the Century books will interlock to tell one long story, and indeed there are plenty of plot threads to pick up down the line, but this tells a pretty satisfying story all on its own. In a way, the set-up, or I suppose the execution, reminded me a bit of the aspect of Warren Ellis's early Planetary issues that I liked, or of the ending to Watchmen: the League doesn't figure out what's going on until it's all over but the shooting. Moore obviously doesn't care much for heroism, and the League's never really "saved the day" in the traditional sense, but here they almost may as well have not shown up. Meanwhile (here's the explicit part) Moore uses one of his simplest plotlines in ages to establish a direct link between violent misogynist sexuality and the unbridled bloodlust that ended up consuming the entire world not once but twice in the ensuing decades. Vengeance is sweet for the character involved, and you can't help but get a kick out of it alongside her, but it's also pretty fucked up, and if anything the League (the male ones, at least--Mina manages herself okay) just make it worse.
Insofar as the climactic bloodbath is representative of the century to follow, this can be seen as pessimism or resignation--but we've read Black Dossier and seen Moore's efforts to establish the League's true "heroic" legacy as one of imagination and a way of life freed from the dour, anti-life conservatism of their military minders. The question, I suppose, is whether that hedonistic heroism will win out, or if it will only succeed by carving out a space for itself in the Blazing World beyond and allowing our world to head right down the terlet. I mean, I know how it worked out in reality, I'm just curious as to how Moore will slice it in this alternate one.
If that all sounds like really grim reading, I suppose it is, but like I said, it's also quite a funny book. The constant foreshadowing of the final massacre is so ominous it actually makes you chuckle from time to time the way a scary movie would--not from comic relief, but just because on some level you know what's coming and it's kind of amusing how ugly you already know it's going to get. On the League end of things, the ongoing "are they or aren't they" business about the Mina/Quartermain/Orlando menage is a hoot, especially the almost Scott Pilgrim-y way it finally comes out into the open, with some angry words that leave half the group wondering what the hell just happened. Kevin O'Neill, whose work simply looks like nothing else on the racks, gets to cut loose with a dock's worth of leering scoundrels and ne'er do wells, and later with their comeuppance. Moore even injects some meta right into the mainline, with a cameo character who correctly identifies everyone and everything in the book's world as fictional--he refers to Haddo, an Aleister Crowley manqué, as "Crowley manqué," and works in a reference to Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4 as the launching pad for "the Franchise Express." The book ends with a visual gag that's like a shot from The Birds as covered by Troma. I'll admit to skipping the prose supplement as always (tl;dr), but for pete's sake one of the characters in it captured Fletcher Hanks's Stardust the Super-Wizard! The whole comic is entertaining as all get-out, and even if you suspect that things are ultimately going to end very badly for our heroes, or with them washing their hands of our sordid world and fucking each other in Never-Never Land for all eternity, you'll want to stick around to see how they get there.
* Now is the time where everyone links to everyone else's MoCCA wrap-up reports.
* Tom Spurgeon compiles the most pertinent info and opinion, good bad and ugly, coupling it with a reminder that despite the good, the bad was probably actually bad and don't let's deny it. He notes something I'd meant to mention myself: there were actually empty tables this year, which seemed weird.
* On that point, he links to a comment from professional parade-rainer Evan Dorkin, who provides a useful rejoinder to the people who were saying "it wasn't that hot in there" (I promise you, it was that hot in there) and makes mention of some perpetual problems I'd just taken for granted: how badly the festival is promoted on MoCCA's website and how inaccurate and out-of-date the exhibitor list ended up being. (For example, if I had a nickel for everyone who came up to me desperately searching for Kate Beaton, I'd have two bits easy.) On the other hand I think it's pretty churlish to compare the Armory to some personality-free high-school gymnasium.
* While we're mining for comment-thread gold, here at ADDTF Cheese Hasselberger of House of Twelve notes that the early-bird price for a table at next year's MoCCA will be a whopping $400; he can only speculate how much more exorbitant the full price will be. I can't imagine how that doesn't price most of the minicomics makers and self-publishers right out of the show, no? Couple that with all the administrative snafus and the potentially kiln-like venue and folks could stay away in droves, seriously. And that would be really sad because MoCCA done right instills confidence in comics as an art form like no other show.
* I enjoyed Heidi Mac's Saturday-night report, which contained the interesting factoid that the more flush shows and events at the Armory rent ACs. I really can't get over how MoCCA could book a venue with no air conditioning after several brutally hot years at the old location, including the immediately preceding year.
I’m a guy who has a fake name. I used to have long silver peroxide hair. I used to walk around in a judge’s robe and welders goggles. I now walk around in a gabardine overcoat and a fedora. I named my house. Clearly I am interested in persona and self-mythologizing.
I've never quite figured out how to square that aspect of Seth's gestalt with his old-timey aesthetic, which seems to be as much about authenticity as anything else. Watching him draw live and in person was sort of revelatory--his line "makes sense" to me now in ways it didn't before--so I'm going to try to delve into his work a bit more and see what I can come up with.
The writer J. Caleb Mozzocco notes the wind-down of Marvel's Ultimate Universe effort, and points to The Ultimates Volume Three as perhaps the worst comic book ever. He starts reviewing individual issues with #1.
This summer Marvel Comics is in the process of ending their Ultimate line of comics, with the intention of relaunching the line as Ultimate Comics.
* I think Heidi MacDonald's MoCCA wrap-up is particularly worth reading after Kiel Phegley's report for CBR. Heidi's welcome point is that the show had serious problems that need serious fixes. However, dig the quotes that Kiel collects from MoCCA museum director Karl Erickson on the show's inability to open on time on Saturday:
"It was one of those crisis of being much more successful than we anticipated...A lot more exhibitors had shipped their books to us so it took a lot longer to load up the truck. And in a New York summer, there were all sorts of street festivals on our planned route here, so those two things combined [caused the delay]."
...and on the oppressive heat in the venue:
"We're sorry about the heat as this happens in the city in the summer with thousands of people in one room."
They seem to treat obvious facts of life for the show (it's popular and it takes place in the summer in New York) as excuses for this year's screw-ups rather than easily anticipatable and surmountable factors that should never have been allowed to become screw-ups in the first place. Now, these quotes were taken from day-of on-the-floor interviews as far as I know, so maybe MoCCA officials hadn't gotten a sense of the big picture yet. And my guess is that after arguably the first bad post-show buzz MoCCA has ever experienced (because seriously, this show is usually MAGIC), Erickson and the other honchos will take a much closer look at things. But for now those quotes, and a similar vibe Heidi says she detected, don't exactly inspire confidence.
* Tim O'Neil expands upon his previously stated fondness for the Star Wars prequels. You know, the more I think about this the more torn I feel. I don't hate the movies at all, I enjoyed them all a lot (particularly Revenge of the Sith), I think they all have moments of great visual poetry and usually in that "spectacular representation of emotion" way I love so much, yet they seem to obviously lack a certain spark that the first three movies had no matter how much you can pick apart elements of the prequels for praise. I can say they've never made me regret getting that Rebel Alliance insignia tattoo back in '97, though.
At first blush there's a disconnect between The Gigantic Robot's content and its price point. I'm pretty sure that when I bought it at MoCCA, I was charged $20--which, hey, it's a big hardcover book by Tom Gauld, a bargain at any price! As it turns out, however, it's more a short story than a book, and the emphasis is on "short." You get a splash-page single image on the right-hand page of each spread, and a brief (no more than seven words at any point) explanatory caption on the left-hand page. Gauld's three-pager in Kramers Ergot 7 was heftier.
But look, essentially you're paying for this like you would for a piece of original art, or at least that's how I look at it. You're not going to have many opportunities to buy a board book from a Kramers alum, right? And everything that Gauld's work usually has to recommend it is present here in spades. The beautiful, densely shaded, cold black-and-white linework suggests Edward Gorey as replaced by a robot, while the story is Gauld's purest distillation yet of his "Ozymandias"-like juxtaposition of immense man-made structures with the fleeting futility of human ambition. As always it's reinforced by his unique character design, all massive torso with spindly legs and microcephalic heads, emphasizing raw size over any kind of reliable utility. You may quibble with this little parable's punchline--having just read Ian Kershaw's 1,000-page biography of Hitler, the post-war activities of the scientists who worked on the Reich's "wonder weapons" are fresh in my mind, so the notion that a war machine with the potential for serious megadeaths would be allowed to lie fallow rings false to me. But the moral of the story is sound, and the pleasure of once again watching Gauld's tiny lines coalesce into these massive monuments to hubris is undeniable.
* Tom Spurgeon's latest post on MoCCA points out the dysfunctional aspect of comics culture whereby complaining about anything is seen as meritless whining that spoils everyone's good time rather than an attempt to redress legitimate problems instead of simply saying "thank you sir, may I have another." He also reprints a lulzy thank-you letter from MoCCA that seems to indicate that the organization doesn't grok the seriousness of the problems with this year's show even at this comparatively late date. Or maybe they just didn't feel like the thank-you note was the appropriate place to address those problems, I dunno. It's not a good look given the climate, I can tell you that.
[Shia] LaBeouf tells Wizard magazine that [BKV's Y: The Last Man protagonist] Yorick is too similar to his "Transformers" role of Sam Witwicky.
"You take Sam and you put a monkey on his shoulder," said LaBeouf of Yorick's sidekick Ampersand. "I don't know if it's that big a differential. It seems like he's the ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation again."
This guy really is as big of a tool as he seems, huh? (Via Jason Adams.)
* But you know what, let's end on an up note with a gratuitous picture of young Patti Smith. Homina homina. Mapplethorpe wasn't tough to look at either if that's what you're into. (Via Elvis Depressley.)
Time for the MoCCA 2009 edition of Sean's David Bowie Sketchbook! Let's get right into it:
Gabrielle Bell: Gabrielle took more time on her sketch than any other artist I've gotten a sketch from, I think. Time well spent. A young Mod Bowie, taking tea.
Ron Rege Jr.: A favorite of mine since my earliest days as a grown-up comics reader, Ron debated whether or not to use the photoref I had--he figured he could pull it off with the Ziggy mullet alone. He ultimately used the photo reference, but gave it a very mullet-centric spin. Ron also has the benefit of being a genuine rock star, which adds verisimilitude.
Nora Krug: I think Nora Krug had the shortest span of time of any artist in the book between my first becoming aware of her work and getting a sketch from her--a timespan of approximately one minute.
David Mack: David Mack based his sketch on one of Bowie's painted self-portriats, but added the disembodied aspect and the flames. He's alight with the flame of rock and roll, I think.
Kate Beaton: With her rich history of drawing dandies, I knew Kate Beaton would kill on this.
Tom Gauld: Hailing from the UK, Tom Gauld was a guy I was lucky to get, a real coup. Note the reappearance of the everpopular eyepatch.
Cliff Chiang: Cliff knew exactly what era of Bowie he wanted to draw. I think the vampire idea was given to him by an onlooker we were chatting with, though I forget how "vampire" came up in conversation. Either way, damn. Cliff is one of the most talented artists in mainstream comics right now--I'm really glad I nabbed him.
Randall Munroe: When I approached xkcd artist Randall Munroe for a sketch, I debated whether or not to hand him my photo reference books. I ultimately did, not wanting to be insulting. He looked at me and said, after a pregnant pause, "Nnnnnnnnaaaaaaaah, I don't need photo reference. Good artists need photo reference, not me." Note the Labyrinth reference and the clever solution to the problem of how to depict tight pants when you draw stick figures.
Hans Rickheit: Hans Rickheit is the guy I always name when asked for a cartoonist who deserves more attention than he gets. I can't wait for his Fantagraphics book The Squirrel Machine to put him on more people's radar. In the meantime he gave me this richly detailed rendition of Bowie in full "man's dress" regalia--enacting one of my favorite idiomatic expressions ("you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a [noun] in here") to boot.
Dave Kiersh: Dave K. is one of my big personal favorite cartoonists--I've loved his stuff ever since coming across it in Jordan Crane's NON #5, one of the first big alternative comics I came across--and after an abortive attempt to get a sketch from him while he was waiting for his ride home on Saturday night, he hollered at me as I passed his table on Sunday and delivered this Mod-era rendition. Dave is a poet of teenage-dom, so teen Bowie is a delightful choice for him.
Lisa Hannawalt: Lisa was actually working at the Buenaventura booth when I asked her to do a sketch for me, so she ended up doing it while standing up and taking people's money. She is not the first person of roughly my generation to draw a Bowie sketch emphasizing his Labyrinth-era bulge, and she will no doubt not be the last.
Seth: Was there any doubt which era Bowie Seth would pick? This is one of those sketches that makes people say "Whoa" in a hushed voice.
Geoff Grogan: Geoff, who came out of nowhere with one of my favorite comics of 2008, Look Out!! Monsters, really took his time with this sucker, and produced one of the few Bowie sketches I've gotten that emphasize David's androgyny. I'm really fond of it.
Scott Campbell: Scott C. did that terrific "Building with the Bowies" drawing that went around the Internet a few weeks ago, so when I found out from my pal Rickey Purdin that he was at the show I got psyched to get a sketch from him--and when Scott found out from Rickey that I was at the show, he got psyched to give me one. Unfortunately this happened as I was on my way out the door on Saturday evening. But I ended up returning on Sunday and tracked him down toot sweet. Then, like a jerk, I rushed him so that I could get on line for David Mazzucchelli (who, it turns out, wasn't doing sketches). He did a terrific job anyway.
BONUS SKETCH FROM NEW YORK COMIC CON 2009!
Ross Campbell: I originally used this sketch as my debut post over at Savage Critic(s), but of course I want to show it off over here too. I was very, very excited to get a Bowie sketch from Ross at NYCC, but not having anticipated the demand for sketching, he didn't bring a pencil. I loaned him my pen, and he was concerned about not being able to make a mistake, but drew this anyway. This was done entirely without photo reference, which amazes me--he NAILED that Labyrinth hairstyle. As you can see, he wasn't happy with the hand, but he's being entirely too hard on himself.
So that's this year's haul, a hefty one indeed. But there are always the ones that got away: David Mazzucchelli and Jerry Moriarty weren't sketching; Tom Devlin promised me one but I never caught up with him to get it; I whiffed on Sara Edward-Corbett, Kevin Scalzo, Kurt Wolfgang, the non-Matt Wiegle Partyka gang, the new crop of Top Shelfers, and the Abstract Comics folks; and I had no idea that Renee French, Hellen Jo, Cameron Stewart, or Tim Kreider were even there. Plus, my previously undisputed title of (let's fucking face it) Coolest Themed Sketchbook Idea is facing a serious challenge now that Brett Warnock has unleashed his Twin Peaks Sketchbook on an unsuspecting world. Even so, I think this is a great batch of sketches. And what's really nice about having this many sketches in the book (70! 71 if you count the Drew Weing/Eleanor Davis jam as two separate sketches! and to think I was constantly lowballing the amount as being "at least 40" when people asked at the show) is that when I hand the book to artists to draw in, they get obvious enjoyment out of flipping through it and checking out the contents, making me feel like a lot less of a freeloader. I continue to love this project to pieces.
I talk to Dan a little bit, I'm in touch with Ernie, and Bill I have virtually no contact with. I just keep track of him through his brothers, who I'm still friends with, and other people. You know, he's a mystery man.
And I'm not sure I knew this about the original premise for the first film:
...the script was pretty much unmakeable the way Dan conceived it. The Marshmallow Man, which is the large-scale effect that really pays off the whole movie, happened around page 50 in Dan's original script, and things got bigger after that. So, not only was it impractical as a production, it sort of took it too far from the world of the mundane, which is where the comic edge was really vivid. Ivan and I had a similar thought independently. We thought the origin story would be really interesting, how the Ghostbusters came to be Ghostbusters, who were these guys, how did this happen, whereas Dan's original script surpassed all that. He projected into a time in the future when ghost occurrences were common, when Ghostbusters were around pretty much like Orkin exterminators, that there were a bunch of teams around, and that the Ghostbusters in Dan's script were just one of many teams of ghost exterminators in New York.
* The trailer for Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island has been making the rounds, and taking the horror sites by storm--if I had a nickel for every big gorehound site that said something to the effect of "I wasn't sure whether or not to cover this movie until I saw this trailer" I'd have, I dunno, fifteen cents. Is it Marty's Shining, or a second Cape Fear? Either way I'm sound as a pound.
* Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D. Moore has been speaking with SciFi Wire. First he sounds off on a variety of issues: fan reaction to the BSG finale (for the record: maybe the best series finale I've ever seen), the Caprica pilot's DVD release (I still haven't seen it!) and the current status of the series, and the revelation that they've brought in another writer to work on the prequel to The Thing he was writing the screenplay for. And here he is on the prospects for Virtuality, his new Fox movie/pilot, depending on whether you're talking to Fox or to him.
* Now this is what I'm talking about: I Knew It Was You, a short documentary about the late great actor John Cazale, the man with the single greatest resume in the history of filmmaking.
* Drawn & Quarterly's Jessica Campbell's MoCCA photo parade includes a photo of yours truly with my David Bowie sketchbook in action, but I am not reposting it here because on this blog, at least, I can maintain control of my image and edit out unflattering views. (All that hair is already gone, by the way. Thanks, Armory--lesson learned!)
Comics Time: Tussen Vier Muren/Between Four Walls (La Stanza/The Room)
Tussen Vier Muren/Between Four Walls (La Stanza/The Room)
Lorenzo Mattotti, writer/artist
Oog & Blik, 2003
$16 (€12) Buy it from Forbidden Planet
What a lovely book. Consisting solely of 86 portraits (well, almost 86--we'll get to that later) of recumbent couples (at least I think it's couples, plural--we'll get to that later too), this reproduction of a Mattotti sketchbook is a master class in how a few sketchy lines on paper can suggest a world of emotion and intimacy. The curve of two bodies on a bed (or at one point, memorably, on a beach); the differences between the ways eyes and mouths look when people are talking, making love, or simply luxuriating in one another's company; playful POV shifts that transfer us from a voyeuristic fly-on-the-wall to a you-are-there observer under the covers at the foot of the bed; the placement of legs, arms, and hands on another person and what that immediately communicates about this relationship and this moment--Mattotti nails it all, with figurework that suggests calligraphy as much as portraiture. Perhaps I'm more conscious of cost with books that I actually plunked down cash for at MoCCA as opposed to bought with a credit card or received for free, but Tussen Vier Muren was my final purchase at this year's show, from the Bries table, and I remember wavering: "$16 for a wordless little sketchbook by an artist whose work I've appreciated in theory but rarely in practice before today?" Golly am I glad I took the plunge. This is one of my favorite comics in quite some time, and a more romantic comic I think I'd be hard pressed to name.
Ah, but is it comics? I don't go in much for that kind of debate, most of the time--seems to me that if something has given you enough cause to wonder if it's comics, it probably is. But the issue is pertinent here, if only to help us understand what we're looking at from page to page. Comics generally implies sequentiality, which itself frequently means a progression of sorts. So are these sketches meant to be "read," in order, like a story? There are context clues for and against. If so, certain aspects of the book take on a whole new meaning. The book opens with a series of sketches that are both the roughest/loosest and most evidently erotic/sexual in the whole book--a thick, almost oily pencil line, one that slowly gives way to tighter, finer whorls and cross-hatching as the images lose their overt nudity and sexuality. Meanwhile, the male in these early drawings has a full head of hair, which soon disappears. So perhaps we're meant to see these initial drawings as a portrait of a young couple in the full heat of infatuation; after a time, their need to prove their attraction to and affection for each other to the viewer diminishes as such things evolve into the shorthand language of a mature relationship. But what are we to make, then, of the drawings that crop up near the book's midpoint, and again briefly toward the end, where the male figure/character at least appears to be a totally different person? Is the woman cheating? Are they playing the field, taking a break, seeing other people? Or are these sketches just inserted at random, devoid of any kind of narrative implications? Depending on where you fall on that question, the book's final two images, which I won't spoil for you, may take on entirely different, and potentially devastating, meanings. It's all pretty rich for a silent sketchbook, and it will be enough to keep me coming back to this little thing for a long time.
Okay, fine, "churlish" is a funny word. But if you take another look at my post both before and I dropped the c-bomb, you'll see that your beef with the Armory's appearance was the only place where I disagreed with what you were saying about MoCCA. Heck, in the immediately preceding sentence I talked about how useful your post in shutting down some silly defenses of the show's lousy aspects this year, and how you'd pointed out problems I'd lazily taken for granted for so long that I'd never even bothered talking about them. Armory aesthetics aside, I'm on board with all your complaints about this year's show, as I said in my original post-show post and have nowsaidrepeatedly. In calling you a "professional parade rainer" I just meant that you seem like a bit of a grump, which is fine--I didn't mean to imply that this parade didn't need a thorough raining-on, because it did.
I have a piece in the new issue of Maxim (the one with Olivia Wilde on the cover) about Final Crisis, featuring some quotes from Grant Morrison. Needless to say, getting Grant Morrison and Final Crisis into Maxim is one of my crowning achievements--though you should see the book I got into the next issue...
Jordan Crane, writer/artist
Fantagraphics, May 2009
24 pages, including the covers which you should since they're comics pages
$2.75 Buy it from Fantagraphics
Without Jordan Crane's The Last Lonely Saturday and NON #5 I wouldn't have this blog--heck, I wouldn't have this life, that's how much of an influence those first tastes of the big wide world of alternative comics had on me. So it's difficult to be objective when reviewing Crane's new stuff. Fortunately it's very very good so that's not much of an issue. The long-awaited third issue of Crane's Eightball-style one-man anthology series comes to us with a different cover and contents than we were originally promised--instead of a severed head, we get the kind of ingenue who used to grace NON's covers, her soul nude (aren't they all?) and torn between heaven and hell (aren't they all?). Instead of another installment of Crane's loooooooooong-gestating serialized graphic novel of marriage and miscarriage, Keeping Two, we have the debut chapter of a new story, Vicissitude, which itself marks the debut of a new art style for crane: less of an emphasis on delicate, feathery, perfect line, oceans of gray, pointier noses. The plot is a bitter little thing, steeped in infidelity, alcohol, career dissatisfaction, hints of class self-consciousness, and frustration with the path your life has taken--like a Pulp song, almost. The visual shift to the second feature, a direct moments-later sequel to The Clouds Above, couldn't be more dramatic--the grays disappear, the line transforms, the detail increases tenfold, and blam, we're in Sam 'n' Jack's world of buoyant, byzantine adventure. Crane's Sam and Jack stories unfold like the pipes and vents upon which this tale centers: they bend and twist and wind in comically baroque ways, yet Crane's control of his visuals and the story's tone are so self-assured that it all seems completely logical, like a mind consciously built it this way and if you have a little faith, it'll work like it's supposed to.
The great crime of Uptight is that it barely ever comes out, and given the hostile climate for alternative comic book series these days, I'm not convinced that's going to improve anytime soon. Best we can do is read the heck out of these bargain-priced gems anytime we get our hot little hands on 'em.
* What happens when a comics market designed to sell event comics fails to ship any event comics in the middle of a recession? That market tanks. Yikes. Congratulations to Top Shelf on bucking the trend with the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though.
* My old Wizard chum Jim Gibbons interviews Ed Brubaker about Captain America #600 and Reborn. One of the interesting things about the Death and Rebirth of Captain America is that, as opposed to most big mainstream-friendly comics events, they've taken place as part of a long, high-quality run by a genuinely gifted writer. Unfortunately, there's really no way to get that across in mainstream coverage, or even in coverage of that mainstream coverage.
* A documentary about a vineyard operated by the lead singer of Tool, featuring Tim and Eric? Sure, I'll eat it. There's certainly a lot to enjoy in this trailer, including but not limited to the following: Maynard James Keenan apparently preparing to give Evan Handler a run for his money in the casting process for the Lifetime Original movie Not Like This: The Brian Michael Bendis Story; Maynard rocking the vintage mid-to-late-'90s altrock fashion staple "logo T-shirt over long-sleeved shirt"; Maynard moving to the future eastern shore of Arizona Bay.
I have created a new Tumblr dedicated to pictures of people in T-shirts I like, titled Fuck Yeah, T-Shirts. I apologize for the "Fuck Yeah" meme component, but one must use the parlance of one's times.
* Sean Nerd Crack Part 4: I can't imagine actually spending my and my wife's collective hard-earned money on a G.I. Joe: The Complete Series box set, but I sure can imagine staring at this picture of it for hours at a time. This is like the nerd answer to that Fort Thunder collection I linked to yesterday.
In his abjuring of allegory, Tolkien refuses the notion that a work of fiction is, in some reductive way, primarily, solely, or really 'about' something else, narrowly and precisely. That the work of the reader is one of code-breaking, that if we find the right key we can perform a hermeneutic algorithm and 'solve' the book. Tolkien knows that that makes for both clumsy fiction and clunky code.
YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
And in his five-point defense of the entirety of Tolkien's work, one entry is "The Watcher in the Water." I mean, seriously, am I in some kind of psychogenic fugue? (Via The One Ring.)
* Back on the Batman beat, The Mindless Ones' The Beast Must Die talks about Morrison & Quitely's Batman & Robin #1 in terms of all the things that have defined his involvement with Batman over the years: the Adam West TV show and its theme song, Tim Burton's first blockbuster Batman film and its t-shirts and Prince soundtrack and Danny Elfman score, Frank Miller's ever-evolving Bat-mythology from The Dark Knight Returns to the years-ahead-of-its-time The Dark Knight Strikes Again to All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder...it doesn't quite track my own involvement with Batman in every particular (I didn't read comics as a kid, I wasn't into Batman before the movie), but it's close enough to give me chills.
* Speaking of the PictureBox gang and pulling no punches, I also somehow missed this comment-thread roundelay about artists/critics reviewing works with which their own work may compete, featuring such luminaries as Gary Groth (!), Dan Nadel, Tom Spurgeon, Tim Hodler, Jeet Heer, and Rob Clough. The nice thing about the debate is that there are plenty of clear examples and apples-to-apples comparisons cited for us to work with. Should Dan Nadel review Craig Yoe's Boody Rogers anthology, given that Dan has himself anthologized Boody Rogers? Should Gary Groth review Denis Kitchen's R. Crumb publications, given that Gary has himself published R. Crumb? Should Tom Spurgeon review Mark Evanier's Jack Kirby book, given that Tom is himself working on a Jack Kirby project? Should Tom critique comics news blogs Bleeding Cool or Journalista, given that Tom is himself a publisher of a comics news blog?
I understand where Tom is coming from here--there's something potentially icky about this idea. (Icky and yucky are perfectly acceptable words for grown-ups to use, Gary!) But the key there is "potentially." As long as the context is proffered, who ultimately cares? I don't see why the situations above, or comparable ones, rule out criticism in a way that being socially friendly with the creators or publishers involved doesn't, or having worked with them or for them doesn't, and on and on and on. Granted, I sort of have a dog in this race: In the past year, and in some cases on an ongoing basis, I have written for DC, Marvel, Wizard, Top Shelf, and Fantagraphics, as well as The Savage Critic(s), The Comics Reporter, and Comic Book Resources, not to mention The Onion and Maxim and wherever the hell else. I like to think that these facts shouldn't preclude me from writing about the work produced by any of those outlets, as long as I'm up front about it, which, hey, look at that sidebar to your left. Then again I'm sure others totally disagree.
Moreover, I disagree with Tom insofar as I'm more interested in reading the criticism of a direct competitor, in some ways at least, than I am in reading the criticism of an uninvolved third party. Why wouldn't I want to hear what new-media music pioneer Trent Reznor thinks about new-media music pioneer Radiohead's new-media music pioneering? Or what Spirit comic-book guy Darwyn Cooke thinks about Spirit movie guy Frank Miller's Spirit? Or what Boody Rogers expert Dan Nadel thinks about Boody Rogers expert Craig Yoe's Boody Rogers anthology? Or what fantasy author China Mieville thinks about fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy? Or what comics reporter Tom Spurgeon thinks about other people's comics reporting? And on and on and on. It's the commonality of interest, experience, and expertise that makes these perspectives valuable. Even if said commonality may cut off avenues of exploration that a disinterested observer may have access to, it surely must open up some others that such an observer doesn't. Sure, there's potentially an element of armchair-quarterbacking at least and score-settling/sour grapes at worst, but honestly, isn't that part of the fun? We can take what they're saying with the requisite grains of salt, as we should when we read any piece of criticism.
(Phew! Original link way back there somewhere via Chris Mautner.)
* That Cup o' Joe interview also makes it sound like Marvel is out of the line-wide event business, or will be after maybe one more trip to the well. I think that's good for the long-term health of the superhero comics industry, but May's ginormous sales dip likely indicates it'll be a challenge in the short term. I suppose it depends in part on whether, like Marvel over the past couple years, you try really hard to keep all your plates spinning, or whether you can only spotlight one or two franchises at a time to the detriment of the others.
* James Robinson and Mark Bagley on Justice League of America? Sure, I'll eat it. I don't have the experience with Robinson that many superhero readers do, having never read Starman, but while I didn't end up liking his One Year Later Batman arc I've enjoyed his work in the Superman books recently quite a bit. Bagley, meanwhile, is not my favorite artist when it comes to drawing DC characters, but he knows how to tell a story and his work on Ultimate Spider-Man remains a woefully underappreciated component of that title's success. I remain concerned about DC putting the cart before the horse by preventing its flagship team title from including its biggest characters because they're busy elsewhere--there's a reason Grant Morrison's JLA and Brian Bendis's Avengers were/are the biggest books of their eras, and it's not because they focused on Vixen or Jack of Hearts--but still, color me intrigued. (Via JK Parkin.)
* That Red Dawn link was via SciFi Wire, but I'm not linking to them again until they knock off their obnoxious habit of putting spoilers in their article headlines, above the by-now-pointless "spoiler warning" tag.
* B-Sol reviews The Blob. That scene where it eats the old man's hand really was horrifying to watch as a kid, wasn't it?
* Finally, my pal Chris Ward talks to Jazma Online about Political Power: Barack Obama, his upcoming comic from Bluewater (yes, the "Female Force" people--Chris wrote the Condoleezza Rice issue). I'm trying to think how to put this...Chris is an interesting choice to write this project, or to write anything that you don't want to read like the work of a crazy person, which is what Chris is. I think the interview speaks for itself. And it also has some juicy tidbits about life at Wizard.
Continuing his series of posts on torture porn, Curt Purcell reviews Hostel, which he likes less than I did, and Hostel Part II, which he likes more than I did. That's about what I expected.
For the record, I thought the thriller component of the first film was enormously effective--my pulse was pounding!--in no small part because of the smart acting choices made by Jay Hernandez and, I suppose, by Eli Roth's direction of him.
Also for the record, contra Curt's interpretation of my Hostel Part II review, I didn't have "apparently visceral discomfort with what [I] call 'the aestheticized abuse of women" in the Heather Matarazzo torture scene qua the aestheticized abuse of women. Granted, that's not necessarily my thing the way it is for much of the material Curt's Groovy Age site focuses on, but I have no problem with it in theory any more than I have an inherent problem with the aestheticized abuse of any character in a horror movie. Moreover, I'm guessing Curt took my comment that I found the Weiner Dog Bloodbath scene to be one of the most unpleasant I've ever seen to mean that I didn't "enjoy" seeing it. Enjoyment's a tough nut to crack with horror, but again, and much more so than with Curt, "unpleasant" is more or less what I'm looking for with horror!
So if neither of those points is the key, what is? It lies in this quote from Curt:
In a movie that carves out its own signature fantasy space with a distinctive hyper-realistic style, the bloodbath scene sticks out like a sore thumb with its sumptuous, soft-lit gothicisms. It's mentioned several times in the commentaries that this scene was actually quite disturbing to people on set during filming, and that's less surprising to me than Sean's reaction, because they were seeing it without all the framing, styling, cuts, editing, and post-production that so insistently reassure, "It's only a movie."
It was precisely because it had all that "it's only a movie" nonsense surrounding it--and I'm thinking less of the Euro-horror sensuality in the scene itself, which is fine, and more of the splatstick stuff in the climax, which undercuts the whole film--that it bothered me so much. It's kind of like the bit in Inside that made me turn off the movie. If I'd been watching Henry or Dahmer or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or something similarly weighty and serious in intent, I'd have stuck with it, but to violate that particular taboo in the name of a slick, glossy (if gory), credulity-stretching thriller? Thanks but no thanks. Ditto the demise of Weiner Dog. Paradoxically, it's precisely the lack of realism that makes these sequences tougher both to watch and to justify. If i'm going to watch a nude woman get tortured to death, I want to feel like I'm eating my vegetables, not Cookie Crisps.
Below is a list of alternative comics creators and publishers on Twitter. I can't say it's comprehensive--this was just me grabbing the people I follow, and the people they follow, and so on until I got sick of it, so there's certainly people I missed--but it's a start. I also can't say that all of the below fit the dictionary definition of alternative cartoonists, but better too many than too few, right?
* I Deserved That Part 2: Tom Spurgeon says "Where's your god now, Moses?" to those of us who defended Final Crisis #1's chart placement behind Secret Invasion #2. I don't see the connection he's trying to make between the commentariat's take on its performance and that of the dire May 2009 sales chart--no, we're not defending the relative health of the top books this month, but that's because they aren't healthy. Still, in retrospect, defending the failure of the first issue of an event comic by top talent from a Big Two publisher to hit #1 in a marketplace designed specifically to get first issues, event comics, and top talent from Big Two publishers to #1 does seem like so much weaksauce. I think maybe Grant Morrison is telling a story between the lines when, in interviews, he proudly and correctly points out that Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P. were the bestselling books of the year for DC. (Pick the phrase to emphasize in that sentence.) Whatever, they're still awesome comics and I'm still twelve kinds of skeeved out by the idea that I should think of them as artistic failures because they didn't do Civil War numbers.
* Behold, The Immortal Iron Fist is becoming, at least for five issues, Immortal Weapons, and you can see a sketchbook preview here. The recently revived and expanded Iron Fist mythology is sort of the foundational text for a quartet of rewardingly outside-the-usual-territory Marvel books that includes The Incredible Hercules, Agents of Atlas, and the unfortunately cancelled, possibly-to-be-revived-digitally Captain Britain and MI-13. I hope Immortal Weapons is good and does well.
* Well, here's a swell idea for a regular column: The AV Club presents Gateways to Geekery, a guide to the kinds of things you hear great things about but seem too daunting to dive right into. This go-round, Tasha Robinson recommends Stephen King gateway texts. I pretty much agree with all her recommendations: Where to start, must-reads for the newly broken-in, and books you should probably stay the fuck away from. (Hello, Dark Tower series!) (Via Whitney Matheson.)
* There just wasn't much to talk about over the past few days! Please note that if you ever miss me around here, you can probably get a temporary fix by following @theseantcollins on Twitter.
* Last weekend, I think, MTV2 was doing this weird thing where they'd just show a hodgepodge of stuff MTV used to air during the '90s--sketches from The State, Beavis & Butt-Head segments, the original silent and awesome Aeon Flux episodes, actual music videos, etc. Among this melange I caught the opening installment of the in-retrospect outrageously faithful animated adaptation of Sam Kieth and Bill Messner-Loebs's The Maxx, and wow, that thing held up. Now it turns out MTV is streaming episodes at its website. (Via JK Parkin.) The Maxx was really my gateway to alternative comics in a lot of ways--visually and eventually thematically it threw open some doors in my head that I walked through years later--and I know a lot of folks my age have a similar story.
* Anders Nilsen has been posting sketchbook comics like crazy lately; here's the latest. They're a little cutesier and sillier than usual.
* Behind-the-Curve Comics Theater: CF's "Vollenweider's Cave," via everyone last week. Note the uncredited cameo by the Toxic Avenger, or his face at least.
* Just the other day I was talking with my brother, who was freshly returned from proposing to his girlfriend at Disney World, about what a kickass theme park ride Lost would make. I must have been tapping the zeitgeist, because lo and behold, a rumor to that effect was recently debunked. Too bad!
* Hey, look, it's Nick Bertozzi! (Also via Spurge but I can't get the link to work)
* While the Loch Ness Monster will always hold a special place in my heart, and while I love giant squids to pieces too, I think the cryptid that really fires my imagination most is the mokele mbembe, the sauropod dinosaurs that supposedly still lurk in isolated jungles in central Africa. But what if the mokele mbembe isn't a dinosaur at all? The extinct rhinoceros relative Indricotherium would match the long-necked descriptions offered by eyewitnesses and local legend; its former habitat would map pretty neatly to the contemporary African jungles; and obviously it's a bit easier to imagine a surviving pocket of slightly prehistoric mammals than it is to imagine a bunch of dinosaurs running around millions of years after the fact. Finally, HOLY CRAP LOOK AT THIS AWESOME PICTURE
Carnival of souls: Special "no mere mortal can resist" edition
* Michael Jackson is dead. I've been so busy today I've barely had time to process it, but is there any way to overstate the depth of the man's genius and the tragedy of his decades-long demise? Just the other day I was watching the footage of the Motown anniversary concert where he debuted the moonwalk, and I got to thinking about how while it's easy for people my age who've watched him and parodies of him all our lives to take for granted, this stuff didn't come out of nowhere--this guy had to think all those moves up and then have the physical talent to do them. And that's quite aside from his world-beating songwriting and singing gifts, and his ability to comport himself as probably the closest thing the world has actually produced to a Ziggy Stardust rock and roll messiah, and the fact that he accidentally became one of the most important figures in horror history, and on and on and on...and whatever the truth of his dealings with children, which I think were disturbing even in the best-case scenario, it's also impossible to separate that, and him, from what was likely horrendous abuse at the hands of his loathsome father...and of course there's no inherent reason that he couldn't have kept producing worthwhile music for years to come if he could have mastered whatever it was that was so visibly tearing him apart....and, and, and. God, just such a complex, astonishing, tragic figure. Fuck, okay, now I'm getting upset about it. I loved you Michael Jackson.
* Well this has got to be my favorite review of the month: Not Coming to a Theater Near You's Adam Balz tackles The Running Man with an utterly straight face ("Richards is brought on stage, introduced to the live audience against a thunder of jeering – he is, after all, the Butcher of Bakersfield, a lie that is reinforced through doctored video of him firing on the unarmed crowd – and set down in a metal cart that will deliver him, at an unimaginable velocity, through underground tunnels, into the massive, 400-square-foot arena."). I have seen The Running Man more than any other of the '80s' many ultraviolent sci-fi action movies, largely because it was the one I watched as a kid. Heck, it was all but designed for a kid, modeled as it was on the visual language of pro-wrestling--but with killing! So this review really has it all for me. There's a list of the varied career paths of the many, many non-actors who star in the film (Family Feud host, titular member of Fleetwood Mac, son of Frank Zappa, future governor (twice!), football/lacrosse legend, etc etc etc), a tidbit about Stephen King/Richard Bachmann's writing process, a leisurely stroll through a couple of the movie's adorably gigantic plot holes, a Slavoj Zizek reference, a comparison to Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, you name it. If any of that sounds appealing to you, please read it.
* Now, if you'd told me earlier that I'd find a review today that I'd actually like better than Jog's take on Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams III's Detective Comics debut, I wouldn't have believed you. Funny world, innit? Still, this thing's very good--better than the comic, I think. (Did anyone else think it was funny that between the main Backup story and the Question backup story, there were two virtually identical scenes of a lesbian crimefighter in her civvies walking into a room and chatting with her late-middle-aged sidekick as he works on the computer?)
* Over the past few years Fantagraphics has truly brought out the format geek in me; I think it was their amazing softcover digest-plus re-release of Love & Rockets that did it, but the design and format of their Jason books has been killer too. So it's fascinating to me that they're repackaging Jason's black-and-white/two-color books (some for the third time!) in the hardcover format they did for Low Moon. I'm actually not 100% sure how I feel about this--part of the appeal of Jason's stuff is just how damn many books he's put out through Fanta and just how awesome all of them are, and when you boil them down to three or four volumes you lose that impact a bit--but I'm sure they'll be gorgeous things, and of course the comics are among the best in the world.
* It's come at last, at last it's come, the day I knew would come at last has come at last: Topless Robot's Rob Bricken reviews Transformers 2, first in traditional prose fashion and again in handy Frequently Asked Questions form. Childhood-raping accusations are kept to an absolute minimum (logic-raping accusations, not so much), plot holes that make Terminator Salvation sound like Chinatown by comparison are delineated in loving detail, and the comment threads offer all the lulz you'd expect, from labeling the reviews "hate-filled" "propaganda" to calling people who found Michael Bay's racist-caricature robots racist racist themselves to anonymously suggesting everyone go out and get laid instead of complaining. It's magnificent.
* Tim O'Neil, whose lengthy ruminations on the mainstreamiest of mainstream comics have become one of the crown jewels of the comics blogosphere, kicks of a series of posts addressing the State of the X-Men Union.
* B-Sol at the Vault of Horror praises Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel's Deadgirl. Actually, he rhetorically asks "This Year's Inside?", which isn't exactly the way to convince me I need to see the movie, but I get his point. It's funny: The Missus saw the trailer for this thing ages ago and immediately wrote it off as yet another meditation on what violently sexualized misogyny does to the men who perpetrate it rather than to the women who suffer from it. I think she probably has a point, but it's tough to say without seeing the film.