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.
Music Time: 80 Great Tracks from the 1990s That Aren't on Pitchfork's Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s List
BACKDATED FOR EASE OF BROWSING
I enjoyed Pitchfork's list of the Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s. The decision to limit the list to one song per artist opened things up to tons of songs, probably even whole genres, that would have been excluded if folks like Bjork and Beck and Radiohead each had five songs a piece or what have you; moreover it started a whole different set of discussions than "'Let Down' should have been ranked higher than 'Creep,'" which is probably what you'd have gotten otherwise. Still, as with any exercise of this sort, there are bound to be lacunae, oversights, goofs, choices you'd have made differently, artists you'd have better represented, and of course outright crimes against all that is holy. LOL srsly the closest thing I have to a substantive philosophical criticism of the list is that in the end, the voters admittedly went with comfort for their #1; given that the list has frequently been positioned as a statement about indie music today, read into that what you will. In my case, seeing the #1 vote-getter (no spoilers here!) simply reminded me that my 1990s were different from those of a lot of other critics--less "indie rock," more "alternative," electronic, heavy, and industrial.
So in the interest of showing my '90s off a bit, here, in alphabetical order by artist, are 80 wonderful songs from that wonderful decade for music that didn't make Pitchfork's cut. I applied three rules in making this list:
1) Like Pitchfork, I limited myself to one song per artist.
2) If an artist made Pitchfork's Top 200 list, I couldn't use them--in other words, I wasn't adjudicating whether "Donkey Rhubarb" would have been a better pick than "Windowlicker." (Although it is.)
3) Pitchfork very helpfully and very smartly included two or three "see also" suggestions with every entry, in order to give relevant sounds/scenes/artists that much more props. I didn't let this rule out artists who were thus listed, but I did let it rule out the individual songs that were cited. As a practical matter this meant that several songs which all things being equal I'd have included on any Top Whatever List didn't end up making it in, because the song Pitchfork had suggested as a "see also" was so clearly the right choice--"Stars" by Hum, "Gett Off" by Prince, "Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check" by Busta Rhymes, "Jump Around" by House of Pain, and "Unsung" by Helmet all come to mind. But more often than not I had the leeway I wanted.
So there you have it. There was a lot of great music made in the days of my youth; here's some of it, in convenient video form. I hope you enjoy!
1. 1000 Homo DJs - Supernaut
2. Christina Aguilera - What a Girl Wants
3. Alabama 3 - Woke Up This Morning
4. Tori Amos - Silent All These Years
5. Fiona Apple - I Know
6. Archive - So Few Words
7. Backstreet Boys - Everybody (Backstreet's Back)
8. Ben Folds Five - Army
9. Bizarre Inc. - I'm Gonna Get You
10. Blahzay Blahzay - Danger
11. David Bowie - I'm Deranged
12. Butthole Surfers - Who Was in My Room Last Night?
13. Cake - The Distance
14. Mariah Carey feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard - Fantasy
15. Johnny Cash - Delia's Gone
16. Cypress Hill feat. Erick Sermon, Redman, and MC Eiht - Throw Your Hands in the Air
17. The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth
18. Deftones - Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
19. DJ Kool - Let Me Clear My Throat
20. DNA feat, Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner
21. Erasure - Always
22. Everything But the Girl & Deep Dish - The Future of the Future (Stay Gold)
23. Faith No More - Mid-Life Crisis
24. Fishbone - Unyielding Conditioning
25. Folk Implosion - Natural One
26. Peter Gabriel - Digging in the Dirt
27. Garbage - Vow
28. Genius/GZA - Duel of the Iron Mic
29. GusGus - Believe
30. Sophie B. Hawkins - Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover
31. Michael Jackson - Remember the Time
32. Junior M.A.F.I.A. - Player's Anthem
33. King Missile - Detachable Penis
34. KMDFM - Juke Joint Jezebel
35. Kool Keith - Sex Style
36. Korn - Blind
37. Lenny Kravitz - It Ain't Over 'til It's Over
38. LL Cool J - 6 Minutes of Pleasure
39. Lords of Acid - The Crablouse
40. Nick Lowe - The Beast in Me
41. Madonna - Vogue
42. Manic Street Preachers - Faster
43. Marilyn Manson - The Beautiful People
44. Ricky Martin - Livin' La Vida Loca
45. Meat Beat Manifesto - Asbestos Lead Asbestos
46. Metallica - The Unforgiven
47. Ministry - N.W.O.
48. Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Grey Cell Green
49. Pantera - This Love
50. CeCe Peniston - Finally
51. Photek - K.J.Z.
52. Pigface - Chikasaw
53. Placebo - Pure Morning
54. The Presidents of the United States of America - Lump
55. Primitive Radio Gods - Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand
56. Primus - Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
57. The Prodigy - Poison
58. Rage Against the Machine - Freedom
59. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Give It Away
60. The Rentals - Friends of P
61. Rollins Band - Liar
62. Roni Size/Reprazent - Share the Fall
63. Ruby - Salt Water Fish
64. Sade - No Ordinary Love
65. Salt-n-Pepa feat. En Vogue - "Whatta Man"
66. Seal - Killer
67. Sloan - Money City Maniacs
68. Snap! - The Power
69. Soul II Soul - Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)
What a lovely-looking book Exit Wounds is. Rutu Modan's skillful take on the Clear Line style elicits strong "performances" from her characters, creates an inviting depth of field, and holds her frequently sumptuous colors quite well. Her staging is rarely as dynamic as that cover image, but when it is, hoo boy, fabulous stuff. Overall I feel like she's doing with the Clear Line what Emmanuel Guibert tried but failed to do in an inkier style: Take real life and gradually subtract detail until what remains is paradoxically even livelier.
The story? Eh. It's your basic alternative-comics "young person's personal epiphany enabled by unexpected, brief, intense, difficult relationship with other young person" story, a template established by the likes of I Never Liked You, Black Hole, and Ghost World, gone supernova with Blankets, and since utilized to varying degrees of success by Adrian Tomine, Danica Novgorodoff, Blaise Larmee, Paul Hornschemeier, Dash Shaw, Hope Larson, Bryan Lee O'Malley, the Tamaki sisters cousins, Natsume Ono, Inio Asano, and so on and so forth. This particular variation is uninspired and, literally, unsurprising. When their personalities clashed; when they fell into an uneasy rapport that slowly grew into an easy one; when they argued and made up; when they staved off emotional disaster by having ill-advised sex; when they stormily split up; when they capped off the book with a highly symbolic interpersonal act--each of these elicited a "yep, that's pretty much what I expected" from me.
The affair is sprinkled with light commentary about Israel's social, economic, ethnic, and denominational stratification. It's subtle, thoughtful stuff, focusing on the way that both the state's inherent construction and its predicament vis a vis its neighbors and occupation-ees constantly juts into people's personal lives in mostly quiet, mostly unpleasant ways. That and the sumptuous art is probably what got the book over with so many readers and critics. But to me, it's a little like getting a molten chocolate cake with no molten chocolate inside. It's not quite a hollow experience, like one of those chocolate Easter bunnies where it's just a thin layer of yummy and then a lot of air--the cake is substantial and sweet. But without the molten chocolate that a less predictable, more alive story would provide, you still feel like something's missing.
We wanted to do something that took the language of movies and brings it into the 21st century. One of the things I was saying over the weekend was this idea that most of us have been playing video games and grew up watching MTV and music videos. The art that we've absorbed has changed. The way we look at things and the way we tell stories is a little bit different than how it used to be. I like the idea of introducing that back into the basic Hollywood narrative. Taking some of that, and all the building blocks we're familiar with - the boy-meets-girl, the revenge story, the thriller, the murder mystery, the crime story - and combine all that together. It''s a little like what I did with Batman and Superman: take all the things we love about cinema and then put them together again in a slightly new way which still fulfills all the [original] functions. It still makes you laugh and cry and sing and dance.
* Since I am increasingly pessimistic about the economy in general and the long-term structural changes being made that will adversely effect the creation of art in particular, I'm always game for discussions Tom Spurgeon's thoughts on the future of comics retail in a piece on five comics news stories to watch:
It's take your pick of portents: the absence of a vital retailer selling new comics at Comic-Con the way Comic Relief used to underlines the notion that owner of the majority of comics' best shops are getting older, there's never a guarantee that these businesses change hands without causing major differences in what they're able to do, and I'm not sure there are enough up and coming retailers to play the same role as the generation of retailers now in that 55 and over club. Price increases, continued horrific scheduling strategies, a ridiculous and inflexible start-up model, over-publishing and the slight discombobulation that is likely to arrive with an upswing in attention to digital comics strategies are making things more difficult for the system just at the time when everything should be done to make things easier. As second downswing in the economy will likely drive lot of folks to reconsider what they do, and comics seems less likely to escape a second generally fallow period coming so quickly on the heels of the first.
* I am enjoying Robin McConnell's Inkstuds roundtable on "fusion comics," aka the New Action plus some other mixed-genre/style stuff, with Frank Santoro, Brandon Graham, and Michael DeForge as we speak. Here are Frank's notes for the interview. Obviously a lot of this material excites me as well, and I love all these artists bringing non-traditional influences to the table. It makes for exciting art, and exciting discussions between artists. As for criticism...Honestly? I do worry a bit, from a look around the blogosphere on any given day, that rise of fusion/New Action gives people the critical cover they've long secretly craved to talk only about genre, to the exclusion of non-genre work. (I oughta know!) Oh, I dunno, I'm a scold these days. Maybe it's just that I've always proceeded from the notion that this stuff is legit to talk about, and so it doesn't fire me up, like, eight years into talking about comics professionally and semiprofessionally. I've got my own issues, like.
* The Ten Video Games Roger Ebert Should Play. I've never been heavily invested in what Ebert thinks and this has not changed with his recent renaissance, but a) It'd be interesting if the collective Green Lantern power of the Internet wills him into liking video games after a prolonged period of philistinism, and b) this list doubles well as a Ten Video Games Sean T. Collins Should Play list.
* It's been a while, for medical reasons, but I would like Serge Gainsbourg's "Cannabis" (via Nate Patrin) to provide the soundtrack for all my future usages of the titular substance. I suspect it would be impossible not to feel like a cool dude with all the right moves under such circumstances.
Restraint can be so sexy! Listen to the minimalist groove of this song: It's mostly a tight pencil sketch of a drumbeat and a three-note keyboard hook that sounds like fingertips just barely grazing the keys. The bass comes in not much more often than every other measure, just enough to keep the low end a presence in your mind. There's a rhythm-guitar...undercurrent, is the best word for it. Every once in a while there's a little textural sizzle that fades in and out. Even the vocals are deployed with the minimal sufficient force: The titular refrain is so underpronounced that I spent my first listen to the song thinking it was called "Who Makes You Mine." And perhaps with that in mind I thought this was a song about dark, possessive sexuality--a misconception that did not change one iota when I found out the real title, by the way. It was only when I made a point of seeking out the lyrics that I discovered it's actually a song about being a slave to the wage, not a slave to love. But with an arrangement this exquisitely perched on the precipice between sensuous and ominous, it works either way.
* Tom Ewing is right: that new Arcade Fire song is not hot. Personally, I tuned out when they rhymed "sprawl" with "shopping malls," like a Bad Religion album cut. I wouldn't go quite as far as Mike Barthel because I think it's perfectly legitimate to remain aghast at a lot of what goes on in suburbia even as an adult; I just think it's bloated, boring music and trite lyrics delivered with irritating vocals, which is what I've always thought of the Arcade Fire.
* Real Life Horror: When I, a proven fool or worse on such matters, talk about politics on this blog these days, it's usually in the horror-tinged context of torture or the action/sci-fi framework of a militarized Republican party. But of course these two phenomena are not unrelated. And now we can perhaps add a third category, as articulated by Jim Henley: the degree to which the ugly bigoted sentiments of a swathe of the American right are now being made manifest as actual discriminatory policy, from alreadynationwideattempts to thwart the construction of mosques anywhere for any reason, to attempts to revise or reinterpret (or repeal?) the 14th Amendment so as to deny birthright citizenship to so-called "anchor babies" on the basis of no one knows what exactly. To a degree, we're all the blind men feeling the elephant when it comes to the darker forces at work in American political life today. Well, here we have a movement that supports the government's ability to imprison and torture its perceived enemies at will; that makes a habit of arming itself and discusses this as a potential way to redress its grievances with its political and governmental opposition; and which seeks to abrogate basic constitutional rights for minority ethnic and religious groups deemed insufficiently American. What does that elephant look like to you?
It wasn't until I read those words on the screen of a computer operated by a robotic antagonist of Prison Pit's main character Cannibal Fuckface that I realized just how far Johnny Ryan was going to go with this series. Obviously it was already beyond violent; obviously it was already beyond sexually vulgar as well, what with Volume One's maggot-fellatio fade-out. Obviously Volume Two was already filled to bursting with literally nauseating body-horror transformations and mutilations brought to life (and death) by Ryan's never better, never nastier pen art. But an extended sequence in which our anti-hero is forced against his will to hunt down, attack, maim, and graphically rape-murder a creature that's distinctly female even for all its monstrousness, one that screams in agony...for the first time I realized that Prison Pit isn't a fusion-comics exploration of awesomeness in all its forms, but a horror-comics exploration of awfulness--of violence that maims and kills not just body but soul. Ryan is willing, even this early in a series I imagine will be able to last as long as he wants it to, to completely invert his instantly-iconic warrior, to make the audience root against him desperately, to feel dick-shriveling revulsion at his violence and pity for his victim. "That fucking sucked," CF says when it's all over. Understatement of the year. This book is a masterpiece of awfulness.
Mostly, though, I'm kind of baffled why retailers meet anything I write that's critical of any facet of the Direct Market with such forceful, blanket and frankly not always very convincing rebuttals....what's up with the defensive crouch? How on earth is a critical article tantamount to taking a position of "all doom and gloom?" Do you have a self-critical apparatus? Is ComicsPRO simply a booster organization that does things like impugn others' motives and make empty proclamations that things are "rock solid"? If asked, could you name five specific areas at which the Direct Market should improve, things at which you and your fellow retailers have outright failed, not somebody else? I could do that for this site specifically and comics journalism generally, and have talked about those factors here at the site on multiple occasions. Why can't you guys? It's one thing that outright confuses me about comics 16 years in, retail and elsewhere. What is it about comics people that we're afraid to release real sales or (when it's appropriate) income figures, where publishing moves that seem to under-perform disastrously by the estimates we do have are met with a "that's right what we expected/you don't know anything about the business" harangues, where it's the comics event itself that conspires to keep the journalists from covering it with greater vigor? Why can't we be self-critical?
* Mike Baehr notes in the comments downblog and on the Fantagraphics blog that Fanta/Eros isn't republishing Hans Rickheit's Chloe, just distributing it to the Direct Market for, amazingly, the first time. Really can't say enough good things about that book, though I've got a funny feeling I'll be trying to over the next week or so.
* Jeet Heer's piece on Harvey Pekar for Comics Comics contains a pretty egregious misreading of the Lee/Kirby working relationship, of all things, but is well worth your time anyway for its emphasis on the salutary impact Pekar had on Crumb rather than the other way around, and how Pekar's preference for realistic writing may have skewed his taste in artists in an unfortunate way.
* Somehow the RSS feed for Sammy Harkham's Family store blog disappeared from my Google Reader or something, but thanks to Spurge I'm tuned back in in time to catch Sammy's salute to Richard McGuire, perhaps the only person of whom it can be said that they created one of the greatest comics and greatest basslines of all time.
I would like to move my blog to a new, dedicated site. I need someone to help me do this--namely to design the new site and port my Movable Type archives into it. I have some other more ambitious wishlist items too, but those are the main things. I will pay this hypothetical person for doing this. Are you this person? Please email me (the address is in the left-hand sidebar of this blog) and let me know.
Co-lead singers Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming represent the meticulously struck balance of Wild Beasts' second album of sumptuous, occasionally shocking art-rock Two Dancers as well as anything else. Like Bryan Ferry subjected to some sort of Silver Age DC Comics bifurcation beam, Thorpe sings in a foppish falsetto, Fleming in a rich mahogany baritone. Each vocal approach enhances different aspects of the band's music: Thorpe's swoops and screeches twirl effortlessly atop and around the keening guitar of Ben Little, while Fleming's warmth and fullness echoes the rock-solid foundation laid down by his basslines and Chris Talbot's surefooted drumming.
Yet at the same time, each undercuts and complicates the lyrics they sing, lyrics that treat male desire and anger with often alarming openness. Thorpe can deliver kiss-offs to a former lover like "This is a booty call--my boot up your asshole" ("The Fun Powder Plot") or proclaim his penchant for hooliganism by announcing "We're just brutes, looking for shops to loot" ("Hooting & Howling") and get away with it, his dandyish, defiantly artificial voice stripping the words of tough-guy posturing and exposing the awkwardly animalistic sentiments beneath. For his part, Fleming can flat-out sing about his id, as he does in "All the King's Men"--"Baby, turns out I'm evil / In all my dreams, girls who'll clothe me, girls who'll feed me, girls who want me, girls who need me"--but the Guinness-like depth and complexity of his tone conveys far more self-awareness and self-effacement than self-congratulation. The lyrics' repeated references to the body parts involved in sundry acts of rage and lust and gluttony further emphasize the degree to which these men, for all their erudition, are at the mercy of meatspace. I count fully 46 mentions of everything from bones and teeth to hearts and lungs to ankles and assholes in the lyric sheet; tellingly, the eyes, the window to the soul, are only mentioned once.
Given this, it's no surprise that the group assigns the album's sexiest song--the churning "When I'm Sleepy...," its lyrics consisting solely of the phrase "When I'm sleepy, needing supper, you're the lips for me to pucker"--to the more feminine vocalist, while the baritone is responsible for the harrowing semi-title track "Two Dancers (i)" and its seemingly and sympathetically feminine perspective on sexual assault and the death of and abandonment by children. Simply the phrases selected to convey these ideas--"His hairy hands, his falling fists, his dancing cock down by his knees"; "Our son was dying and we could hardly eat"--form a devastating j'accuse when issued from the bass clef.
The music seems similarly obsessed with the possibilities of duality represented by both singers and album title. The title track is split in two, for one thing, with "Two Dancers (ii)" representing a quieter, colder response to the fiery demands of its immediate predecessor; the pair is itself prefigured by the introduction of its central melodic hook at the very end of "Hooting & Howling" several songs earlier. The album features two short interlude-type songs: The first is the aforementioned sizzler "When I'm Sleepy...", while the second, the far quieter "Underbelly," is as much about lifelong consequences for the seven deadlies as the earlier song is about their immediate gratification. But my favorite pairing is the opening track, "The Fun Powder Plot," with the late-album centerpiece "This Is Our Lot." To take things back to the Silver Age, they're each the Bizarro version of the other. With the same gently twirling mechanical beat and even the same key, "This Is Our Lot" inverts the earlier song, allowing the bass to provide the melody and the guitar to provide the rhythm--a switch paralleled by Thorpe, who here sings toward the bottom of his register. The overall shift is one from hysterical outrage to wry resignation, "The mock" and "the shock" of "The Fun Powder Plot" replaced by the shrugged-shoulder admission "This is our lot: We hold each other up heavy with hops."
The end result? Masculinity without machismo. Sexuality without sexism. Elegance without arrogance. Wild Beasts set a very tricky lyrical and stylistic course for themselves here, but their rare combination of ambition and sophistication sees them arrive not just safely but spectacularly.
Comics about death, even good comics about death, are a dime a dozen.. Comics about death where the character that dies is biologically incapable of understanding what has happened to it? And in which the entire world dies, completely and irrevocably, taking all hope of future life with it? Rarer, and thank goodness, because I don't know how many comics like this one I could take without cracking. This is not to say that the artist otherwise known as Eli Bishop's "ghost story" about a dinosaur whose spirit lingers on Earth, occasionally interacting with its inhabitants (both alive and dead) until the solar system's destruction billions of years from now by the expanding sun, is morbid or grim beyond the needs of the subject. Something about his airy, elegant line--able to convey the weightlessness of the dino-ghost and to accrue background detail without bogging the image down--prevents The Witness from ever feeling dreary or didactic. But that's just it: This casual acceptance of the death of all things, a post-life eternity that just spirals on and on and on and on and on and on without ending, ended up being much more chilling to me than most stories about shuffling off this mortal coil. I've thought about my eventual expiration enough that doing so is like meeting a familiar friend. But death without the possibility of thought, by you, by anyone or anything else? That's a stranger at the door and I'm afraid to let him in.
In college, some friends introduced me, under circumstances you can probably imagine, to the concept of "the Cosmic Groove"--the funk into which all bands seek to tap, but which aside from a few fleeing moments remains elusive. It wasn't until I heard Phelps "Catfish" Collins's guitar solo on "Very Yes" with Bootsy's Rubber Band live in Lousiville 1978 that I understood what they meant. That guitar is like the Ghostbusters crossing the streams, and when the horns come back in, that's the dimensional crossrip. This is the sound of the cosmic groove--it's like My Bloody Valentine's "Soon" in that I've wanted so badly to find another song that does what this does as well as it does it but have never found it and probably never will. Rest in peace, Catfish.
Fictional comic stories about music are often not just bad, but embarrassingly, infuriatingly bad. I'm not sure why this is, to be honest. I think the answer may be found in noting the tendency of stories about obscure/failed/garage/shitty bands/music (e.g. Jaime Hernandez, Gipi, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Makoto Yukimura) to be much much better than stories about famous/successful/stylish/supercool bands/music (you can probably rattle off the names of several such failed series from the past five years, easy).
First, the roundabout explanation. When you're tackling music just as a thing people do out of compulsion or enjoyment, independent of external payoff, that's universal. But when you're approaching music as something that makes its practitioners that much more awesome than everyone else, you invite your readers to compare your depiction of that awesomeness to what they, personally, find awesome about the music they find awesome. And when that comparison clashes--as it often does, because rock-star hero worship is an enormously personal thing, millions of idiosyncratically intimate relationship established with fantasy figures--it's throw-the-book-out-the-fucking-window time. The book ends up feeling...like a costume, a disguise, not like an outfit. (Weirdly, I don't think this rule applies as neatly to movies as it does to comics. Maybe it's because movies have an inherent glamour to them that comics don't, so they can address the glamour more naturally, I don't know. I really like Eddie & the Cruisers, is what I'm saying.)
But a more direct explanation would simply be "show, don't tell." In my experience, comics-about-music that pivot off the involved parties' coolness tend to absolutely bury the reader in LOOK HOW COOL THIS STUFF IS!!!!isms, which is death for coolness in fiction as it is in real life. (Seriously, people who think Geoff Johns lays on the Hal Jordan hero worship too thick in Green Lantern need to get back to me after reading any recent series that invokes the British rock tradition in any way.) You don't see the flopsweat when reading about the misadventures of Sex Bob-omb or La Llorona--they just do what they do, and that's why it works.
Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales falls somewhere in the middle, in large part because of what an odd, odd book it is. I stumbled across one of the single issues while working at Wizard, in a pile of the "well, somebody out there's readin' it, I guess"-type comics that tended to accrue here and there. It's done in a painted, grey-tone black-and-white style that really does have more in common with alternative comics than "indy comics" of the sort you might expect from a publisher whose bread and butter is the randomest bunch of licensed properties you can imagine. (Kolchak the Night Stalker!) Writer/artist Dougherty's work here is undoubtedly the work of a young cartoonist--it's stiff at times, unequal to the tasks he sets for himself (like the first-person POV videotape mockumentary storytelling device that recurs throughout) at others--but there's also much to admire and enjoy, from the attractive character designs to the stark, angular, expressionist overall look.
Moreover, the story boasts gratuitously weird elements galore. The nominal protagonist, documentarian Margarita Bloom, spending what seems like half the book asleep on the couch. Cyclone Bill, the titular guitar god whose untimely onstage murder (yep, it's that kinda deal) is the center of the story, is a classically trained prodigy from Poland who toured the great halls of Europe before disappearing to become a Catholic priest or something, then reemerging as the second coming of Jimi Hendrix after plucking an undistinguished American bar band out of obscurity and joining them as their lead guitarist. Dougherty even casts himself and his real-world bandmates as main characters--Bill's band, the Tall Tales. It's all really quite singular, especially because Dougherty has left this sort of comic behind--he now does a humor strip about a coffee-shop clerk with a web page done in Comic Sans. Then as now, my first thought upon looking at this book is "Where the heck did this thing come from?"
This is not to say that the story doesn't traffic heavily in traditional signifiers of cool, because it does. It's the sort of comic in which a recreation of the famous photo in which Johnny Cash flips off the camera is used as a major plot point, if that helps. But in the main, it's trafficking in such a hoary, out-of-fashion brand of rock and roll coolness that it's practically gone all the way around to uncool again. Robert Johnson at the crossroads, Elvis Presley still haunting the highways of the Great American Nowhere, sinister significant others in the Yoko Ono role, a slogan-spouting punk as the antagonist, deals with the Devil in which souls are sold for rock 'n' roll, a celestial gathering of dead rock stars...this is your father's musical mythmaking. Yeah, I cringed a little when Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, and Elvis Presely teamed up to kick Satan's ass around Graceland, but not as much as I'd have done had Jarvis Cocker been involved, you know? It's far enough away from where I am not to clash so violently.
No, it's not the Velvet Goldmine of comics I've long hoped for--a story that's both reality-warpingly personal in its approach to the musical icons it's dealing with, but also accessible enough to people who aren't the creator to reveal something about the music and musicians involved, and entertaining enough for that not even to matter. But it is Doughterty laying it all on the line in terms of his love for a certain rock and roll tradition, fashion be damned, and that's admirable in its own way. It's a fictional comic about music that didn't make me want to light it or myself on fire by the end, which is an achievement in and of itself.
If you are a good person, you, too, hate the following thing:
There's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland or At The Mountains of Madness or some other piece of inspired mania. And then there's some fuck. This fuck is an academic--and the fuck takes it and explains what it is about and that it is not really about shrinking mushrooms or secrets beyond human ken buried in the Antarctic but is actually about sexism, racism, classism, where the author's mom touched him/her, the political situation in the english-speaking world when the thing was written, et cetera.
Now readers of this blog will know I have no problem with a little deconstruction here and there between friends--what I mean here is the wholesale reduction of everything in the work to just a mask for some other and more easily understood drama that sets what one of my teachers used to call the "demon of allegory" loose to drain it all of its enigma and poetry and lunatic majesty.
I think I speak on behalf of everyone who's ever read a complimentary review of a horror movie by a mainstream-media movie critic when I say, "Afuckingmen." But I promise you don't know where the post is going from that quote alone.
"Nice. Nice. Not thrilling...but nice."--Emperor Nero, History of the World Part I
Right around the turn of the millennium, I learned to love pop. David Bowie started it: If there's one thing I learned from my sudden fixation on his chameleonic career, with its endless cycle of absorbing influences, incorporating them into his work, and confidently putting them aside for the latest thing that fascinates him, it's never to feel guilty about pleasure. Electroclash continued it: Now I was learning that the New Wave sounds my Bowie fandom eventually led me to reevaluate and love could still be explored, exploited, and expanded upon by contemporary acts. And when I picked up my copy of Kylie's breakthrough record Fever--the first full-fledged, no-bull pop record I'd gotten since middle school, after years spent reflexively defining myself against the mainstream--my journey was complete.
To be fair, Kylie made it very, very easy. The music she was making on that album really wasn't a world away from either the electroclash that was its contemporary or the "electronica" I'd spent the previous half-decade-plus immersed in. But now all those icy electro elements and thumpy beats were being funneled into pure sexy joyful hookmongering of the most irresistible sort. To call Fever's two astonishing singles "Can't Get You Out of My Head" and "Love at First Sight" Kylie's "One More Time" and "Digital Love" is to pay Daft Punk a compliment as much as the other way around. Perhaps the greatest testament to the strength of Kylie and her collaborators' songcraft on that record is that the two most ubiquitous pop songs of 2010, Ke$ha's "Don't Stop" and Katy Perry's "California Gurls," both crib the pre-chorus melody from "Love at First Sight" for their choruses. Strategically singing "And everything went from wrong to right..." etc. etc. at the appropriate moments in each song is probably the only thing that's kept me from tearing my car radio out with my bare hands over the past couple months.
Since then Kylie's reign as the queen of the sexy, tiny blonde pop princesses to whom rock nerds like me turn when they wanna get down has gone on more or less uninterrupted, cancer, double-live/remix albums, and Robyn notwithstanding. It certainly helped that Fever's follow-up, 2003's Body Language, was arguably even better. A little bit slower, a little bit funkier, a lot more textured, and at times downright odd--I still don't know how to describe the weird, wonderful in-and-out hook of "Still Standing," while I'm reasonably sure "Sweet Music" is a love song about Michael Hutchence's ghost--it shimmered and twitched its way across a variety of pop subgenres but still felt like the unified product of an artist determined to make everything sound interesting. 2007's X wasn't as much of a knockout as its predecessors: You could blame maybe its opening track/lead single, the lackluster Goldfrapp cabaret pastiche "Two Hearts," or maybe the flagrant diminished return to the "Love at First Sight" well that was "Wow," or maybe even the weird sequencing that threw things off toward the end of the record with the Britneyish "Nu-Di-Ty." But even so, there's some real balls-to-the-wall electro-disco going down on there, from the roller-rink glide of "Speakerphone" to the Moroderisms of "The One," and it certainly works as an anthology of ear-catching individual songs.
So what does it say that I had to listen to Aphrodite three, four, five times before it made enough of an impression on me for me to feel up to writing about it at all? Once again you can blame a below-par opening track/lead single, in this case the blandly four-on-the-floor anthem-by-numbers "All the Lovers." The difference here is that that's pretty much the vein the rest of the album proceeds in, even on the level of song titles alone--like, if someone every made a Spinal Tap-style mockumentary about a pop star, you could slip "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)" into the "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" slot pretty neatly. The beats just sort of plod, rather than bend and twist and bounce, the lyrics are paeans to dancing and loving and loving to dance that feel not universal but merely cliched, the hooks are "Gentleman's C"-level material instead of the A-plus-plus stuff that made past Kylie records an ongoing process of discovery and delight upon first listen. Gone is what always felt to me like a desire to surprise--what you get here, you can see coming. It feels placid in a way that perhaps befits the love-goddess conceit of the title, but which runs counter to the Kylie who used to take the lead even within the confines and constraints of good-time dance music.
Of course, Minogue has too much taste and talent to produce something completely undistinguished. Every once in a while something interesting will shimmer to the surface--the kinkily Bowie-esque line "You see me with him and it's turning you on" in the refreshingly manic "Get Outta My Way"; brief flashes of "Since U Been Gone"-style guitar strumming and a sudden, epic onslaught of floor-to-ceiling afternoon-sun synths in "Cupid Boy"; the "sounds like they're having a good party down the block" quality to the central keyboard hook in "Can't Beat the Feeling." And overall, y'know, it's a Kylie Minogue album--like pizza, sex, and Shakespeare, even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. But for the first time in a long time...well, I'll leave the "the music she was playin' didn't blow my mind"/"it's not love at first listen"/"I can get her out of my head" business to you. I'm too bummed to pun.
This isn't quite the knockout blow that was writer/artist Geoff Grogan's last full-length mixed-media comic, Look Out!! Monsters. And believe me, that's totally fine--without that out-of-nowhere book's shock-of-the-new impact, its follow-up, Fandancer, was never gonna hit that hard. But from that stunning cover, perhaps my favorite of the year, on down, it's definitely a hit. A sort of feminine yin to LO!!M's Frankenstein-by-way-of-Jack-Kirby masculine yang, Fandancer (loosely) tells the story of a superheroine we join mid-plummet from an exploding plane, harried by her Bizarro-style nemesis until she hits the water below. Then we appear to be transported backwards, first to the womb and then to some dawn-of-time confrontation between a nude woman and a male interloper who reveals himself as a goat-headed devil before stealing the suddenly very pregnant woman's embryo/glowing-life-force-thing, eating it, and then restoring her to life as an afterthought. Then (I think) the superheroine whose (I think) origin story we've just seen comes to in the water, and through a series of collages involving vintage comic and advertising art, outer-space vistas, and hysterical dialogue cribbed alternately from romance and superhero comics, we trace (I think) her journey into the underworld lair of her male bedeviler, whom she subsequently defeats in cartooned combat. The book ends with a close-up of her face, the life-force back in her possession.
Or maybe not, I don't know. The story, to the extent that there is one--and in the cut-up/collage section, who the hell really knows--isn't important. What is important is the dazzling art from Grogan, in a variety of styles: primary-color Kirby pastiche, loose and gorgeous red-and-gold-and-blue crayon, the startlingly effective reappropriated collage material which appears to be tweaking all the usual suspects in that arena, from Lichtenstein to Spiegelman to Glamourpuss-era Sim. No matter the style, man oh man does all of it work hella well on the oversized pages Grogan's working with here, with really stellar paper stock production values to boot--each flip of the page is an eye-popping pleasure. And as in Look Out!! Monsters, what emerges most clearly from the deliberately elliptical and allusive storytelling is a sense of struggle, of great inner beauty under traumatic assault from great inner ugliness. (Don't get it twisted, there's some funny stuff in here, too--I'm pretty sure one collage page is actually a sex scene, and figuring that out made me laugh out loud.) My sincerest hope is that Grogan keeps putting out a book like this every couple years, Ignatz Series-style. (The format's very similar, if that helps you picture what's going on here.) I'll be back for all of 'em.
No sense even pretending that I've listened to anything but this hour-long concert recording since I got my hot little hands on it the other day. Underworld is my favorite band in the world and the best live act I've ever seen for precisely the reason on such grand display here: gigantic-sounding body music, able to imbue the intimately personal acts of dancing in a crowdful of strangers or staring out the window of a moving vehicle alike with an epic feel that still doesn't crowd out their meditative aspects. This particular gig was part of summer Saturday night party thrown by Pete Tong in the party capital of Europe, and thus the set was split neatly in half between the group's biggest bangers--floor-filling fan favorites "Two Months Off," "Rez/Cowgirl," the "I Feel Love"-echoing "King of Snake," and of course Trainspotting world-destroyer "Born Slippy.NUXX"--and a quartet of new songs done in collaboration with outside producers Mark Knight, D. Ramirez, and High Contrast--"Downpipe," "Always Loved a Film," "Scribble," and "Between Stars." What struck me is how the newer material, the bulk of which will appear on the band's next album Barking this fall, held its own against stalwart UW anthems. I suppose it's not the hugest surprise in the world, given that at least one of them, "Scribble," itself evolved from the longtime concert-only drum'n'bass highlight "You Do Scribble." But these songs are among the, well, songiest that the dance-act incarnation of Underworld has ever produced--verse-chorus-verse structures, direct lyrics about love delivered with non-distorted vocals--so I was interested to hear how their fatness, fullness, and brightness went over alongside the big pealing towers of the band's classics. And it's no accident that I find myself describing UW's music in terms of girth, depth, and height, since it's their music's dynamics that have always rewarded repeat listenings for me. Consider here the way the big octave swoops that mark the end of "Rez" seem to draw your ears upward, or the chiming arpeggios that weave in and out of the big central riff of "Two Months Off," or indeed how for all their Floydian sonic soundscapes, the band's hooks are frequently three-to-five-note ditties you could play on the piano with one hand, enabling them to float above the beat and delight listeners whenever they suddenly appear. Delight's such a huge part of an Underworld gig anyway, right down to the ebullient presence of singer and lyricist Karl Hyde, who whether he's doing a "1-2-3-4!" lead-in to the first beat of the evening or telling the crowd "Ibiza! I feel your sweet vibrations!" or singing "Born Slippy" for a triple-digit time always seems like there's no place on Earth he'd rather be. It's dance music to explore as much as to dance to.
A God Somewhere
John Arcudi, writer
Peter Snejbjerg, artist
DC/WildStorm, June 2010
$24.99 Buy it from Amazon.com
As the co-writer and by all accounts driving creative force behind the Hellboy spinoff series B.P.R.D., John Arcudi is responsible for what amounts to the best ongoing superhero series on the stands. A God Somewhere is not on that level. Which, as was the case with Wednesday's review, is perfectly fine--few things are. Moreover, much of what makes B.P.R.D. so effective is tied into just how long it's been going on. We've had years and years to get acquainted with and grow attached to its characters and the neuroses they bring to their long, losing war with the paranormal--to say nothing of the ever more baroque mythology of that war itself. By contrast, A God Somewhere has to get us to care about its central quartet of characters--brothers Hugh and Eric, their best friend Sam, and Hugh's wife Alma on whom Sam has long harbored a more-than-crush--and their paranormal plight--Eric mysteriously gains powers that make him the world's only superhuman, but which very rapidly drive him Doctor Manhattan-style crazy in such a way as to make him the world's only supervillain--in the space of the equivalent of four issues.
It does this mostly through shorthand. Racial and religious issues are presented in the didactic style of a Law & Order episode (or, well, a superhero comic). Plot drivers are cribbed liberally from universal superhero touchstones like Watchmen or the Incredible Hulk TV show. The creators operate under the assumption that the audience is already familiar enough with once-innovative ideas for the subgenre--Superman as Christ figure; superpowers would "really" drive a normal person into bloodthirsty madness--to take them as read. In short, it can feel rushed, even clumsy--words you'd never associate with the laconic, precision-calibrated existential action-horror-black-comedy of B.P.R.D.
But the same intelligence and willigness to discomfit that Arcudi brings to that title shows up here, even if it's forced to fight against the constraints of the shorter format. Flashbacks that enrich our understanding of the characters and their complex quadrangle start and stop with almost Jaime Hernandez-like suddenness, with only a change in panel-border color to differentiate them from the main action, which boasts equally fanfare-free jumps forward through time. The violence is in the over-the-top True Blood-level splatter mode of similar work in Powers and Invincible, but contains enough disturbing detail, largely through the familiar sub/urban setting of some of the worst bloodbaths, to lodge in the brain and curdle in the gut. There's at least one plot twist so unexpected and awful I didn't even understand what I was looking at until it was made clear a couple pages later. The degree to which Arcudi is willing to leave what's going on inside Eric's head a mystery, allowing him to speak only in transparently faux-profundities like what Sam calls "a crazy, mass-murdering Buddha," is refreshing and a bit haunting. Peter Snejbjerg's warm, round character designs--his stuff here reminds me a lot of Richard Corben's Hulk comic Banner, and not simply because of the shared subject matter--are undermined a bit by uncharacteristically bland, brown-town coloring by Bjarne Hansen, but these are still people it's pleasant to look at even when what's going on is super-unpleasant. Is it the landmark that the effusive blurbs from Mike Mignola and Denny O'Neil make it out to be? No, but I would argue that that's not the intention, either. It feels to me more like an exercise: a bunch of ideas about character and concept that Arcudi wanted to try out. Even if it's not entirely successful, that exercise was a worthwhile one.
I'll be on vacation for the next week or so, attending the nuptials of my beloved brother (and Lost thoughts comment-thread staple) Ryan. The regularly scheduled Comics Time and Music Time reviews will still go up as usual, but other posting from me will be minimal to nonexistent.
And now for something completely different: The good men and women of Closed Caption Comics, Baltimore's finest art-comics collective, will be guestblogging all week. Together, Chris Day, Noel Freibert, Mollie Goldstrom, Zach Hazard, Lane Milburn, Andrew Neyer, Molly O'Connell, Pete Razon, Ryan Cecil Smith, Conor Stechschulte, Eric Stiner, and Erin Womack are making some of the comics and objects that get me most excited about the medium--nothing mercenary about it, just sheer love of the game. Who among them will be posting, and what (if anything!) will they post? Your guess is as good as mine--I'm just turning over the keys and splitting--but I'm psyched to find out. Hope you dig 'em.
so it's saturday, i wasted my morning taking a safety construction class and napping, no one's answering their phones, and now i can't take a shit because the exterminator paid a surprise visit to spray the bathroom and tell me i have too many bags under the sink.
why not blog, right?
this is a 2 page comic i made called slime and punishment and it's for a zine called snakebomb vol. 1, which should be coming out later this month maybe? i don't know too much about it except that brandon graham is doing the cover and scott pilgrim might have done some artwork. whatever, google it.
obviously if things are small you can click em big.
this zine sounds like it's going to kill so if you read this you should buy it. like i said i don't know too much info about when/where it's gonna drop (oh my god i'm shitting my pants) but if you want to keep updated about it or my tattoos then follow my blog too spamspamspamspam: hyperlink
Hi everyone, my name is Ryan and I'm a member of Closed Caption Comics and I live in Japan, so I guess today I'll share with you some pictures of things I saw in a store that are part of a theme of the internet called "Weird Japan." I think maybe you've never seen something quite like these before. It all starts with...
The Face Up Roller
You see, here people say that if you're cute you have a "small face." I don't really get it, I've measured my head against various students (cute and not-so-cute) and I don't get a consistent ratio, but I guess that's fine. What's funny is that there are instruments marketed to the public that will shrink their face down to a better size, and even though they're obviously face massagers, no one seems to let on to that. They insist they are fascinated by their face-shrinking effects. I'm like, "what? that's like for a massage, for your face," and they say, "no! no! face small! make face small!" (these are my dopey girl students with so-so English ability)
In the face rollers above, notice the first picture has no Japanese on the box, and the second one has some Japanese but also includes French. The girls I talk to (again, these are 15-year-old dopes, I mean that affectionately but seriously, they're kind of dopes) are under the impression that these products are really big in America. Facepalm.
Speaking of facepalm, here is something more advanced. They are special masks that you can use for cosmetic purposes. Exhibit A will take the droop out of your chin, Exhibit B will also stretch the wrinkles off of your temples. Do you think this feels like a massage? Actually, hm, I kind of doubt it.
This next product will turn a (Caucasian?) girl with a gross smile into a girl with a gorgeous smile! This might or might not feel like an inner facial massage.
There was a very big display rack at Tokyu Hands with lots more, here are the best, without more comments, except to assure you that three or four of my students use them and say that they work (the ones for faces that is, we didn't ever talk about the rest of these). If you are interested in purchasing these products, you can find them at Tokyu Hands, a pretty common big store in any city in Japan, I guess. Or you could use a Japan-product-buying service like this one and he will find it and ship it to you.
I've been writing about the similarity between the horrific and the sublime for (God help me) over a decade now, but its rare for me to come across a comic that makes that connection as frequently and as subtly as John Brodowski's Curio Cabinet. While reading it I located squarely in the increasingly rich contemporary alt-horror tradition--the deformed figures and soft pencils of Renee French, the heavy-metal/D&D imagery of Lane Milburn, the mostly wordless narratives of (to my delight!) almost too many talented horror cartoonists to list. And yes, there's even the de rigeur cat-torturing scene. But only in flipping through the book in preparation to write this review did I realize just how many of Brodowski's short, creepy stories end with their alternately hapless or horrifying protagonists gazing into a vista of vast natural or even cosmic splendor. Two separate characters who have very different nature-based obsessions both end up immersed in the great outdoors, staring off into the distance--as does a lake monster after unleashing its full destructive power on a battlefield. Two other characters--one the victim of a monster-induced car wreck, the other none other than Jason Voorhees--become a part of titanic outer-space tableaux: Jason is cradled by his mother Pieta-style in the sky, the accident victim welcomed into the embrace of a colossal dog-god. Several stand-alone images, most memorably a series of illustrations from the old anti-Semitic myth cycle of the Wandering Jew, take on a similarly ecstatic, transcendental feel. The message is both troubling and comforting: It implies a connection between the individual horrors we experience and the very fabric of existence, yet it also suggests that perhaps an enlightenment is possible whereby this waking nightmare can be appreciated, if never fully understood. More like this, please.
Kamui Den Sanpei Shirato, writer/artist Garo Magazine, published by Shogakukan 21 volumes from 1964-1971
Hey, I've been meaning to post this on my own blog forever, but now that we have appropriated Sean's huge market power, it's time I finally review interesting manga that I come across in my daily life in Japan. These are manga that I'd never heard of before I came across them in a shop or in the trash or something, that I find interesting for whatever reason. First I'll start you off with a really really good one. Let me tell you about Kamui Den, or Legend of Kamui.
Kamui Den is a totally awesome samurai and ninja fighting comic from the sixties written and drawn by Sanpei Shirato. Wikipedia says that it was the first story serialized in Garo, an influential gekiga magazine that printed more serious "art" manga. I found out about Kamui Den when I saw it on the top shelf of a big used manga store near my house. It was wrapped in plastic so I couldn't see inside but it was a really fat volume with a nice cover design with just a little bit of drawing on it, and it looked good. Boy, damn, when I opened it up, I knew I made a good choice. The drawings are so amazing, full of life and energy, and drawn really wacky but so well. Basically, everything looks really scratchy and hastily done, but it's really well-rendered, and also somehow very cartoony. Like, the faces are "iconographic," and the characters are built with a classical drawing sense, and all that happens within natural and architectural backgrounds that are very loose, but they hold together. This is just masterful.
I can't even read the manga - though I know there are English editions in the United States, so YOU can go and find this - but you don't need to read the words to know what's going on, mostly, and that's a sign of really good cartooning. The stories are good, too. It's a really long serial about a ronin, from what I gather, but it seems to be made of smaller story arcs about lots of different people. You know this is fun for him to write, because he tells all kinds of different stories. Check this out - there's a whole big volume that's mostly (beautiful drawings of) animals living their lives and having drama in the forest, and then the subplot is what's happening with the humans in the nearby village, and you see their stories reflect each other - alpha males, theft, war, justice, laws of the jungle and stuff like that. Sometimes, on the other hand, he does a lot of historical writing (with some pretty difficult kanji) about feudal lords and stuff. And a lot in between.
I read online about how the comic is supposed to be political, about how the upper class has always conspired to suppress poor people, or something like that. The message comes through. It's kind of sad and fatalistic, but at least the book addresses issues of class conflict, which Japanese people are generally very reluctant to discuss openly. This is a country where 90% of people identify themselves as "middle class." Weird. Sanpei Shirato isn't someone who would propagate that idea and that makes this book really smart, on top of being really beautiful. This is one of the best manga I've ever found, so if you have a chance to buy it, you should!
Posted by Ryan Cecil Smith on August 16, 2010 9:56 AM
OTAKON 2010 BOUNTY HUNTER
It's Summertime in Baltimore, for those unfamiliar, the uninitiated, it means time to: get some Natty, get sweaty, and go to OTAKON! For the past two years (2008, 2009) I've busted into the second largest anime/manga convention in the nation. You asked me by any means possible to bring it back, you screamed "give it to me dead or alive!" So Now, with out further hesitation, here's that 2010 bounty you've been waiting for, I've got that elmo generation, I've got that maniac cop, I've got that fur on wheels!
Otakon (otaku convention) always gives me the strangest mix of feelings. The atmosphere is initially very exciting and stimulating. Weird people dressed up very strange everywhere. People really going all out. Big weapons, fake blood, bright wigs, fake nails, fake eyes, cardboard robots, taped nipples, plastic metal, cat lady, full-body suit, high heels, cross dress, fur gender. Why?...... It's all about being the biggest fan, getting the opportunity to be your favorite character, connecting with people that have the same feelings you do, It's a place where you will be praised for something that is usually not acceptable, a safe haven for the fans!
What I'm trying to get at is (and this may seem very obvious) that the goal of many costumed attendies isn't to make the most interesting costume, but to most accurately depict their fav character, the goal is realistic imitation, to create this moment of excitement for the other attendies of seeing their favorite characters interacting with each other, you can find many groups of people dressed as the entire cast from an anime all for the purpose of a large fantasy photo shoot. I guess the pleasure derived from dressing up is similar to that of being an actor (which is foreign to me, probably why i don't completely understand).
OK I'm just going to say it: "Otakon is actually very boring, Everyone is dressed very wild, but they are actually very tame and subservient to the rules, you will never see a fight break out at otakon, you will never see nudity/sex at otakon, you will never see a real metal gun or sword at otakon, you will never see real blood at otakon. It's like disney world "no one ever dies at otakon." Everything is for the benefit of the camera, suspending a moment, a photo, that appears out of control and free, but a second later, once the pose is casual, you realize that your favorite character is all surface decoration, they won't actually pistol whip you for being bad, the excitement fades, there is no real threat of danger. There is no chaos. Don't confuse this for the natural world because it's all contained, calculated, and secure. An abundance of effort is spent on this wild/safe world, and it is confusing and unnatural."
Well that's enough of an intro, "on with the show," I'll try and let the pictures speak...
Everyone was screaming "Big Boy!" at this guy.
Kamen Rider? Pete?
Ahh, Mr. Sweeley, the only person I found that i knew in real life at the con. I sneak up on him and he starts to run.
Sweeley puts it in high gear, I'm walking fast after him trying to hang out hard, he escapes up the "staff only" elevator, and I'm left to my own devices.
There is an event on Saturday night called "The Masquerade" where costumed attendies can perform skits of their favorite anime/videogame/manga. This is truly bizarre. The performances are usually unmonumental with minimal coreography, and prerecorded vocals (it's like watching a dubbed movie live, it's impossible for the actors to synch their lips realistically, it's a nice other worldly effect). This sounds all fine and all, but the real shocker is that these amateur performances take place in the 1st Mariner Arena, which seats up to 13,000 people, it's not at sold out capacity full, but there are definitely thousands of people sitting around watching this. There are around 22,000 attendies at Otakon so it could theoretically fill up...
This guy sitting next to me, Charlie, was dressed as a ghostbuster, he literally started crying, breaking down on my shoulder because he said "this is my last con because I'm moving away." bummer. This was my most intimate interaction at the con. Keep on doing it Charlie! "You know who to call!"
The experience is hard to explain, would be similar to watching a middle school talent show with an audience of 6,000 people. Fans gathering to watch fans. This might be my favorite part of Otakon, it'll make you feel really weird.
The finale of the show was an acoustic performance by two members of the hard rock japanese band "X Japan." They played classical versions of two of their songs, and did a short Q/A session. This band is responsible for the genre called "Visual Kei" popular in Japan. according to wiki the term "Visual Kei" came from X Japan's slogan "Psychedelic violence crime of visual shock." I'm not to familiar with the band, but i was surprised that they played classical versions of their songs.......(like Metallica?)
Back at the convention center, and what do we have here?
This guy's costume was my favorite, the skunk mouth moved when he talked! Really pulled me in.
I take it that "King Night" is to "witch house" what Neon Indian's "Deadbeat Summer" was to chillwave/glo-fi: the accessible face of an unnecessarily divisive micogenre based on what synthesizers sound like if you have an inner ear infection. From that I shall deduce that witch house is hilarious. The most striking element is the giant, bassy synth sound, portentous even without the ominous choir voices. You can picture black-hooded demons striding straight out of a 1980s backmasked subliminal message. But this is coupled with stuff that wouldn't sound out of place on the first Prodigy album: rinky-dink little skittering percussion effects, high-pitched semi-hooks, even a cheeky children's-show sample! And then it turns out that the choir is singing "O Holy Night"! The band name, the song title, the art, even the genre are all goth as fuck, but it's the arch, tongue-in-cheek goth of Type O Negative writing song cycles about black hair dye or women masturbating to Jesus. Basically, this song is funny. Now, funny songs can be funny in part because they're also so impressive you've gotta laugh--cf. the first time you heard Andrew W.K. or Sleigh Bells--and this isn't on that level, for me at least. Blame, perhaps, the laconic pace, which I understand is part and parcel of the subgenre but which prevents the bigness and silliness of the song from truly overpowering you. It's a good goof, all told. A goof isn't necessarily something I'd yell "stop the press!" over and dub the next big thing, but it can be a fun time.
Like some of the other Sparkplug titles I've sampled--Inkweed comes to mind--The Airy Tales, Olga Volozova's collection of original short fairy tales and fables, is a tough sell at first glance. And as I've often said, first glance is precisely where I buy or pass. There are too many comics and too few hours in the day to force myself to plow through a book I don't find appealing on an art-surface level. Every once in a while an imprint will come along whose guiding aesthetic, and this is nobody's fault, simply has little Venn-diagram overlap with mine. First Second is one; Sparkplug seems at times to be another. But then for whatever reason--usually because I'm up against a self-imposed deadline and the book looks short enough to read on the train-- I'll say "What the hell," take it off the shelf, give it a read, and exit gladder for having done so.
Such is the case with The Airy Tales. Like Inkweed, its visuals aren't really too my taste. Volozova's shaky line and mixed media elements come across a little bit Stieg, a little bit Salazar, and a lot alien from where I'm at. The painted colors read craft-y rather than considered, the character designs are too wishy-washy to stand out the way the great illustrated children's-book characters do, and the placement of captions in particular is a detriment to readability. It's clear Volozova's intent is to combine the sequential storytelling of comics with the static image-and-text approach of a child's storybook, but her solution--placing the text in little boxes surrounding the central image that are sometimes read from top to bottom and sometimes read from left to right--is confusing even to someone who got his altcomix start with Acme Novelty Library.
This leaves the writing to do most of the work--and it works. I really have to hand it to Volozova for capturing the ineffable quality of fairy tales before Disney simplified them into plucky can-do adventures. The recurring images bear the mark of springing unbidden and unexplained from her underbrain, whether it's giant celestial birds using tiny threads thousands of miles long to guide each individual human around the Earth or a man made of rain who uses his godlike powers of growth to make the lives of the people who come to him for help just slightly better than before. Most of the time you get the sense that there's some moral to the story, but it's a, well, weird moral, a moral based on the moral-ity of an age or society lost to us. Like, there's this one extended fable about a group of people who each live on a different leaf of a tree that sheds those leaves every day, only for them to drift back onto the tree each night. All the residents have full lives except this one guy whose sole possession is a bright yellow sweater; since his leaf isn't burdened with family members or fun stuff, he ends up higher on the trunk every day, and his neighbors get jealous. Finally he catches on and deliberately builds a contraption to lower himself down to their level, and they're all finally happy, and you think it's a crabs-in-the-pot-type parable about how livin' free means living outside society, or whatever. But then the story ends by telling us only the yellow-sweater man knew that in fact the leaves were never gonna re-attach to the tree again, because of the impending snowfall--and then the snowfall comes and each snowflake contains a little kid or animal cub. And that's it! That's the end. As Zak Smith recently said, the wonderful thing about Wonderland is that it makes you wonder; The Airy Tales certainly left me scratching my head. It's alien from me in both the bad way and the good way.
hey dudes. wish i could say i've been drawing a lot, but as conor put it i've been doin the 'Fuckin Bob Vila' thing. i built these boxes for my pedals. the larger is for the B&P setup and the smaller for the Witch Hat trials. here are some progress shots and the final product. pretty classy huh? i would never do this life-posting but i gotta post something right.
So I made a large one page comic and submitted it to a free comics newspaper. I then posted it on flickr as I do with all unpaid work, including the name of the comics newspaper I submitted it to as to promote the publication even though I know my piece might not get published. I then get a comment on facebook from the guy who puts it out telling me that if i want to get printed "then don't post it all over the goddamn internet first". It says nowhere in the submission form that I can't post my comic online, and there's no logical reason why I shouldn't, and since it's unpaid I own the comic and am only lending it to be printed for free. So fuck all that shit, I'm posting it "all over the goddamn internet".
"20th Century Boy"
Live at Erie, Pennsylvania, August 10, 2010
What do we talk about when we talk about Adam Lambert? I talk about the only American Idol contestant in nine seasons' worth of regular viewing that nearly always included a "favorite" contestant by whom I was ever even remotely interested in buying a record, let alone actually going out and doing so. ("Since U Been Gone" is the exception that proves the rule.) I talk about a person I would sit around and daydream up lists of covers I wanted to hear him perform. I talk about the closest I've ever come, in my dully, ardently heterosexual life, to having a crush on a man--a reduction of myself to literally swooning, literally shrieking Beatlemania-level hysteria when he did things like cover David Bowie or Muse or Led Zeppelin. I talk about the kind of man I once dreamed of being--the ideal self I saw in the throes of my turn-of-the-millennium glam obsession, when I was known to go to Target in heels. I talk about a man who I've pictured covering "Sweet Transvestite" from Rocky Horror in full Frank N. Furter regalia only to realize that were this to actually happen I think I'd be in danger of fainting. When I talk about Adam Lambert I talk about the kind of infatuation with a pop star we, and by we I mean tween girls, usually experience only to grow out of and forget how to feel.
I don't talk about the actual album he ended up making. I like it, for the most part--it certainly has a kick-ass opening track in the form of the Darkness-penned "Music Again," and the throw-it-all-at-the-wall pop-house and "rocker" balladry the label provided for him are all a lot more palatable when issued from behind that beautiful half-smile and from those genuinely astounding musical-theater pipes. To paraphrase Stardust (not Ziggy, not Alvin), music sounds better with him. But "better" isn't "PERFECTION," and I find that contrary to the Lambert of my dreams, For Your Entertainment is something I rarely have the patience to sit through. That cacophonous production, a full-on casualty of the loudness wars, just doesn't have the strut and slink and kick that Lambert himself does; the blandly orgiastic videos produced for his two dancey singles "For Your Entertainment" and "If I Had You" and the utterly sexless (literally--the significant other never appears!) video produced for his Top 10 hit "Whataya Want from Me" are all too fitting an act of commodification and de-interesting-ization.
So what do I talk about when I talk about Adam Lambert? This, even when it's not what he's actually doing. A glam anthem. T. Rex's best, ballsiest song, previously covered with ear-splitting sleaziness on the seminal (!) Velvet Goldmine soundtrack by Placebo, now kicked up several keys and strutted to like it's what he was born to do. Which it is, for better or for worse. In today's pop climate, it's Lady Gaga who's the exception that proves the rule: whether because polymorphous perversity is more acceptable coming from sexy ladies than openly gay men, whether because the Idol machine exerts more control over Lambert than Gaga ever had to deal with, or whether it's simply because he's a performer first and an artist second, my hero is at his best when embodying the glorious provocative pop of the past. He's a 20th century boy.
Posted by Conor Stechschulte on August 19, 2010 8:20 PM
Carnival of souls: Special "Hey, what did I miss?" edition
* I'm back!
* I'd like to thank the crack Closed Caption Comics squad--especially Conor, Zach, Chris, Molly, Noel, and Ryan--for filling in so admirably in my absence. I got precisely the combination of inspired comics and oddness I was hoping for, and I hope you did too. Posting from me is gonna be light for a bit longer as I play catch-up, so with any luck there's a little more CCC on its way to you, but I certainly encourage you to check out their website and--and this is the key part--buy their comics if you like what you see!
* Matthew Perpetua defends the honor of "Drunk Girls." As time goes by I find this to be the best song on LCD Soundsystem's third and third-best album This Is Happening by what would be a pretty comfortable margin but for "Dance Yrself Clean." I think the overall record feels too organic--both the harshness and the cold beauty of some of their best previous stuff is gone--but organic works for a shout-along rock song like this.
Confession time: I threw this book away. More specifically I left it on the "free table" at my day job. Some stuff that doesn't appeal to me at first glance gets kept around anyway just in case, like if there's clearly a fully formed aesthetic at work that simply happens not to be my cup of tea; crude-looking zine-y stuff usually doesn't stick around at all. But a few hours after putting this on the giveaway pile, an older, cooler coworker of mine pressed it back into my hands, saying he'd just read it in one sitting and was totally blown away by just how deep into his own darkness Burian was willing to go. Alrighty then--what have we here?
Well, I can see how my coworker, who I'm guessing hasn't read a small-press comic since the '70s, would be impressed. Years of immersion in the medium and exposure to an untold number of autobiographical alternative comics can dull you to the impact a book about nothing but the author's depression and self-loathing could have on the unsuspecting. Burian uses a very, very loose pastiche of Dante's Inferno to show himself spiraling into emotional paralysis over the course of a day spent at work, in art school, getting thrown out of a supermarket for grazing at the bulk bins, talking about life and literary theory with friends/faculty/presidential assassins, and so on; what he's particularly good at is demonstrating how self-awareness--of the run-of-the-mill nature of his problems, of how turning them into art doesn't necessarily validate either problems or art, of how he's relatively fortunate in the grand scheme of things--makes the depression of the sort suffered by white male American middle-class artsy-fartsy types feel even worse, not better. Not only are you depressed, you're lame, which is even more depressing!
But this is probably all stuff you were already aware of. However sympathetic you might feel about Burian's plight, the art is still rudimentary--his avatar is a simplistic Easter Island-browed cartoon usually shown in profile, backgrounds are minimal to nonexistent, his line is just sort of a thick inert presence on the page. The storytelling, too, is pretty lackadaisical, basically just enough of a Dante swipe to avoid having to come up with a throughline of its own. I'm not the sort of person who waxes outraged over navel-gazing to make myself feel like more of a he-man autobio-haters club member, but bellybuttons ahoy. I'm also noticing that the bright pink cover is smearing itself all over the exterior of my laptop when the two are placed together in my backpack. It's crudely done, is what I'm saying. It did leave me wondering what grade Burian got on it--it's his college thesis--but it mostly left me wanting to give him an issue of King-Cat and say "Give it another shot"...
...which apparently is just what Burian did. Google reveals that by now he's longtime punkrock and zinescene staple, living the expatriate life in Berlin. Indeed, according to this post on his blog, he never intended for this work--done some seventeen years ago, when he was 22--to be published, and a former colleague did so without authorization. I guess he got out of Hell, but Hell followed with him. A strange little saga.
* Well this was fun: Travis Greenwood, of the genuinely excellent retro-movie-oriented t-shirt company Found Item Clothing, interviewed me about t-shirts for the Found Item blog. The ostensible focus is my t-shirt tumblr Fuck Yeah, T-Shirts, but it's sort of a "towards a philosophy of the t-shirt" kinda deal. Before I sat down to answer Travis's questions I'm not sure I ever thought through my love of t-shirts any further than "gosh, I love t-shirts," so you're getting some real first-draft-of-history stuff here in terms of me feeling out what makes a good t-shirt and what explains my affinity for them.
* Just this week I received the blu-ray of Michael Mann's Heat as a gift and was surprised to discover a blurb on the back cover noting that the director had somehow tweaked the content of the film for this release. So I was struck by the lede for Matt Zoller Seitz's piece on "director's cuts" and their recut brethren for Salon, which is basically a plea to Mann to stop messing with his movies. Anyway, the piece is an argument-starter (to my mind especially when Seitz argues that Apocalypse Now Redux is less dreamlike than the original version). Check it out.
The "no such thing as a guilty pleasure" line ends up at a kind of naturism of pop, where the happiest state of being is to display one's tastes unaltered to the world. But the barriers to naturism aren't just shame and poor body image, it's also that clothes are awesome and look great. Performing taste-- played-up guilt and all-- is as delightful and meaningful as dressing well and makes the world a more colorful place.
I think Ewing is simply overstating the need for guilt as a component of taste. Rejecting the concept of "guilty pleasure" isn't a question of rejecting rejection--I loudly and proudly reject art all the livelong blog-day. Just by way of a for instance, Rob Sheffield's gushing over "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "Tik Tok"--two songs constructed entirely of clumsily pandering cliches, the latter at least dubiously distinguished by the apparent aim of sounding annoying on purpose--in his epic interview with Matthew Perpetua this week made me want to smash Brett Michaels's acoustic guitar over Ke$ha's head like a felonious Bluto Blutarski, just by way of a for instance. My taste still has very clearly defined boundaries; they're simply not defined by my reaction to the notion of what I'm "supposed" to like or dislike and subsequently feeling bad about the places where I don't measure up. As a critic, consumer, and occasional maker of art, I don't get anything whatsoever out of reacting to how I supposedly "should" be reacting. Rejecting "guilty pleasure" is simply exerting ownership over the entirety of your taste. To continue with Tom's metaphor, it's not about not wearing clothes, it's about approaching art without asking "Does this song make my butt look fat?" (I understand that this could be a pose in and of itself, like how whatsisname in Singles' "thing" was "not having a thing"--but wouldn't you rather your pose not involve dancing between other people's raindrops?)
* Speaking of politics, I spent the bulk of this week completely unplugged from the internet, with checking in on what the Closed Caption Comics crew was up to and deleting spam comments the only exceptions. It's difficult to describe how dispiriting playing catch-up with political blogs since yesterday afternoon has been. Since my shameful willingness to be duped by bloodthirsty fools and still more shameful willingness to aid them in duping others placed me on the wrong side of the Iraq War debate, I can therefore safely say that I've found nothing more upsetting in American politics since the dawn of my political sentience than the current campaign of naked bigotry against Muslims, wholeheartedly embraced by an entire political party and abetted and encouraged by a variety of prominent bigots and cowards in its supposed opposition. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Josh Marshall have been despairingly eloquent about this.
* I think this season of True Blood is the best so far, and I think this Rolling Stone cover is the best True Blood thing ever. True Blood is exactly what we want, right? Pervy sex, disgusting violence, fuck the squares? (Via Jason Adams.)
I just discovered a very limited stock of prints under my bed. Thought I'd have a little print sale back at the headquarters. All prints are hand screen printed and ship flat in a sturdy cardboard pack. This is a cheap and concrete option to the enhancement of your collection or a generous starting point, don't pass it up, you'll never forgive yourself.
Posted by Noel Freibert on August 22, 2010 1:58 AM
Komikusu Taimu!: Shakariki
Shakariki! Masahito Soda, writer/artist Published by Akita Shoten 18 volumes from 1992-1995. This big one probably includes 3 or 4 regular volumes. 458 pages, 950 yen
This is a very big manga book, and it's part of a serial about bike racing, and it's got lots of very tight drawings of bikes and bike parts (wow), but it's also not too tight, so the characters are cartoony and the action is fluid. It's a cool biking story. What's really cool about this volume is that just about the whole thing is one big long race that's about as, uh, tiring to read as it would be to ride. I mean that in a good way.
There are absurdly many emotional peaks in this book, as one character sees another one ahead (!!), starts to catch up (!!!), gets spotted (!!!!), pulls ahead of him (!!!!!), everyone is shocked at the new lead (!!!!!!!)... you get the idea. But, hey, the story unfolds and it's not too hard to catch the meaning through the pictures and enjoy it.
This book reminds me of something Paul Pope wrote on his blog a while ago, The extended cinematic sequence is one of the best gifts we've inherited from manga. Hm, yeah? I don't know, sure. This is a good example of that. I definitely think it's really cool that someone drew such a long, intense event as this and filled it so high with action and story and motion lines and enough variation that it doesn't get monotonous or dull. To me, this book is weird and cool, and only recommended if you just love seeing stuff happen in comics. Read this when you need a break from comics about boring guys walking their dogs or jerking off in their apartment. Vavoom, whooshhhhh!!
The Man with the Getaway Face
Darwyn Cooke, writer/artist
based on the novel by Richard Stark
IDW, April 2010
$2 Buy it from IDW
I never read The Hunter, the first in cartoonist Darwyn Cooke's series of adaptations of Richard Stark/Donald Westlake's Parker novels. As I've said before, on an aesthetic level I'm just not buying the ring-a-ding-ding Rat Pack nostalgia he's selling. Moreover, to me the appeal of pulp has always been its deliberate economical unloveliness, so it's weird to me to read a comic about a brutal killer lifted from the world of dimestore paperbacks that looks like a demo reel from a topflight animation shop. But I do recognize both the appeal of the source material and the pure chops of the adapter, and at just 24 pages and two bucks, The Man with the Getaway Face--an apparently short and sweet adaptation of the novel of the same and a prologue/teaser for the next full-fledged Parker graphic novel, The Outfit, and name--seemed worth a shot.
The result's pretty much what I expected. It's easy as pie to get drawn into a heist story, even one as knowingly prosaic as what Stark was up to here: Parker takes a job robbing an armored car during its guards' regular stop at a roadside diner even though the money is barely worth the effort and despite knowing for a fact that one of his three coconspirators plans to steal his share, simply because he badly needs the cash following reconstructive surgery to hide his identity from the mob. Once the players and the plight are established, you race through Cooke's panel-crammed pages (the lack of borders helps a bit in that regard, but they're still pretty cramped given how much space-filling brushwork is going on inside each of them) to see how the scheme unfolds. And there's certainly something enticingly Conan-like about Parker, a guy who feels no compunction about stealing if he needs money and killing whoever crosses him, but is just sort of steely about it rather than bloodthirsty.
That said, I really don't get the appeal of populating a story like that with animation archetypes straight out of central casting, from the zaftig, flirty diner waitress to her tiny, balding, pencil-mustachioed patsy. The surgery subplot means that the Parker we see here is a complete redesign of a character Cooke already spent a graphic novel chronicling; an impressive feat with a strong payoff, but I wish the other characters shared his no-nonsense design. And it's not as though that look and feel bring a ton to the action table, either. Not that there's much action to speak of (just some guards getting coldcocked and a car crash), but from the angles to the choreography it feels like the goal is to make you say "ooh!" not "ouch," let alone "Jesus Christ." And that's what I wanted, instead of it all being so...oh my god, am I really about to say this?...cartoony. I want pulp to be pulpy, you know? I don't want it to look like Don Draper channeling Bruce Timm.
Carnival of souls: Special "Carnival of Closed Caption Comics" edition
* I'd like to thank once again the men and women of Closed Caption Comics for their guestblogging efforts here at Attentiondeficitdisorderly over the past week or so. A new CCC comic on their table at a small-press show is an inevitable (if occasionally wallet-busting) highlight of my comics year, and I was truly honored that they swung by. In case you missed it, here are their contributions:
* Next time I need guestbloggers I'm gunning for either all the surviving members of the mid-'60s Marvel bullpen or a full Fort Thunder reunion, including the guy who built bicycles. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
* Pitchfork selects the Top 50 Music Videos of the 1990s. Gun to my head? "Coffee and TV," "Everlong," "Closer," "November Rain," "No Surprises," "Freedom '90," "In Bloom," "Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe," "Been Caught Stealing," and the Beavis and Butt-Head version of "Liar." Man did I ever cry when I first saw "Coffee and TV."
* Rich Juzwiak liked Piranha 3D an awful lot. Oh, great, there's another movie to add to my to-watch list, which still includes Inception, Scott Pilgrim, and The Expendables, and will soon add Centurion, and would include Salt most likely if it weren't already five films long.
* I'm very excited to be able to get a new album by A Sunny Day in Glasgow for absolutely free, but given how things are going in the arts I can't help but be bummed out by thinking that they probably stand to make the same amount of money off this one that they likely made off the two albums they sold for money.
The desire to treat terrible events as the harbinger of the end of civilization itself has roots in another human trait: vanity.
We all believe we live in an exceptional time, perhaps even a critical moment in the history of the species. Technology appears to have given us power over the atom, our genomes, the planet--with potentially dire consequences. This attitude may stem from nothing more than our desire to place ourselves at the center of the universe. "It's part of the fundamental limited perspective of our species to believe that this moment is the critical one and critical in every way--for good, for bad, for the final end of humanity," says Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. Imagining the end of the world is nigh makes us feel special.
I've been saying that for as long as I can remember. (Via Zoe Pollok.)
Elektra, August 2004 Medulla
When that celestial choir introduced us to Bjork's "Hidden Place" at the beginning of her fourth album, 2001's Vespertine, we were being drawn into a place she was never gonna leave. All the gorgeous, huge-sounding film-score orchestration and choral work obscure it at the time, but it turns out Vespertine was the last gasp for Bjork the pop artist. Since then the balance of her arrangements has tipped solidly from pleasure to texture, and her vocal melodies meander even more than usual, like jotted-down poetry set to music on the spur of the moment. The artist who pushed against pop and dance songcraft with more devil-may-care abandon than any act since early Roxy Music is gone. What's left is comparatively formless art that can occasionally delight and awe, but if it ever again consistently produces stuff that hits as hard as the "Army of Me"/"Hyperballad"/"The Modern Things" suite, I'll be a monkey's uncle.
"Desired Constellation," though. Hoo boy, "Desired Constellation." Taken from Bjork's most Experimental-with-a-capital-E record, the almost entirely constructed from human vocals Medulla, it's one of her few late-period compositions that measures up to her earlier work in terms of both melodic directness and emotional impact. It occurs to me now that the song is structured, surely deliberately, as an echo of her all-time best song, arguably the best song of the 1990s, "Hyperballad": Sung from the point of view of a person who's secretly working through a major problem with her relationship all on her own, it alternates casually, conversationally sung verses explaining the ritual she's quietly performing to try to get around this emotional roadblock with a heartrendingly massive, belted chorus expressing just what the problem is in no uncertain terms. Confronted with the knowledge that someone has sacrificed on her behalf in a way she knows she doesn't really deserve, Bjork sings of taking "a palm full of stars" and throwing them like dice, over and over, "until the desired constellation appears"--fudging her life and thoughts until she either genuinely deserves what's been done for her or can justify not deserving it to herself. "It's slippery when your sense of justice murmurs underneath and is asking you: How am I going to make it right?", she sings, the latter phrase repeated over and over as the song's chorus. Juxtaposed against the song's minimal instrumentation--a shimmering two-note tonal bed and a barely audible pitterpatter of percussion--the line is devastating, and in a career full of throat-shredding vocal performances, her delivery of it is perhaps the rawest she's ever been. Her voice at times buckles under the onslaught of the line's high, sustained notes, and at one point ist transmuted into a wordless howl. "How am I going to make it right?" is no idle, rhetorical question, it's a cry of utter desperation. She has no idea.
In "Nylon Smile," Portishead take this basic sentiment of emotional unknowing still further, from desperation into something approaching actual terror. Over an undulating backing track peppered with sickly guitar and sounding like some Lynchian take on mid-century exotica--contrast its sinuous unpleasantness with "Desired Constellation"'s vulnerable comfort--singer Beth Gibbons recounts a state of complete emotional paralysis: she's unable to enjoy herself, unable to improve herself, unable even to explain how she feels, because she simply has no clue why the person who loves her, loves her. "I don't know what I've done to deserve you, and I don't know what I'll do without you," she sings. Again, this isn't a rhetorical construction, a "gee I sure am lucky" sigh of relief--Gibbons sounds absolutely panicked that she couldn't possibly recreate the conditions under which she landed this comforting presence if she tried, and that some godawful abyss would open up under her if it went away. Perhaps most harrowing of all is the way the song simply stops, as if she simply can't bear to address the issue any longer for fear of irrevocably ruining...everything.
A few quick thoughts: 1) I'm surprised they kept the coma/hospital opening, which was written before Kirkman had seen the very similar opening of 28 Days Later; 2) Modern slow zombies just look like Improv Everywhere zombie-flashmobs to me anymore; 3) The music cue in the back end of the trailer is to me by far the most unexpected and interesting thing about it. But as always, trailers are meaningless and we'll see how the show is.
* Bobsy of the Mindless Ones makes the case against Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver's S.H.I.E.L.D. I must admit I've dialed way back from my initial enthusiasm for the book. It's great to be in love with ideas, but it helps if the ideas aren't so familiar, and if the ideas are happening to actual characters rather than sort of vague gestures in the direction of character. The critique Bobsy goes with is one I hadn't even really considered, which is that an alternate history of a fictional world whose history is constantly altered loses the impact of good alternate history. In a way it reminds me of Brian Michael Bendis's similarly conspiratorial/revisionist Illuminati project, which also missed the point of conspiracy fiction by taking a bunch of supergeniuses and attributing to them all the icky aspects of being the world's secret puppetmasters with none of such organizations' efficacy. (They couldn't stop Secret Wars 2 from happening, so what good are they?) Personally, my biggest problem with S.H.I.E.L.D. (and, it would seem, Fantastic Four, into which Hickman has drawn some of his key S.H.I.E.L.D. concepts) is that by turning Iron Man and Mister Fantastic's dads into members of an elite secret society that's been saving the world from Marvel's alien villains since ancient Egypt, modern-day Marvel has turned yet another pair of Stan Lee hard-luck heroes into destiny-driven Chosen Ones. The appeal of virtually every Silver Age Marvel character is that they were all varying stripes of self-centered asshole who fell bass-ackwards into their lives as superheroes, and indeed had to make the choice to live those lives that way. They're not the culmination of centuries of machinations by spider-gods or Leonardo da Vinci, they're just folks. Genius folks in some cases, but still just folks.
* In this gutwrenching post on a) the death of his father and b) the music of Hole, Matthew Perpetua drops a throwaway notion that I'm stunned had never occurred to me before: Perhaps the reason there's so little in the way of genuinely tortured-sounding rock music today is because labels can no longer afford to babysit crazies and junkies. Rattle off a list of a dozen of the mid-'90s big alternative artists and surely at least half had weapons-grade heroin habits, alcohol addictions, or other debilitating mental illnesses. With sales levels today being what they are, who can afford anything other than consummate professionals? (I suppose you could argue that the incarceration rate of today's rap superstars gives lie to this, but incarceration is a step in the right direction from "getting murdered by your/your rival's former label head.")
Over a decade in the making, and it shows. This is far and away the best comic I've ever read from Megan Kelso, succeeding on almost every level. Her clear-line style gives an airy ease to her often detail-heavy drawings of nature and the people who inhabit it; similarly, her complex exercise in fantasy worldbuilding--and I don't mean detailed maps with funny names, I mean real worldbuilding, constructing cultural and religious and economic structures rooted in environment and history and exerting macro and micro influence across the lives of all the characters involved--is subsumed into an absorbing, briskly moving house-divided family soap opera. So many elements in her tale of a land divided between its agricultural South and industrial North jumped out and demanded to be contemplated and enjoyed: Those appealing artichoke-head character designs. The Queen who fails her people in disastrously bloody fashion despite the good intentions of an entire system dedicated to her success. The way Kelso tells a byzantine multigenerational tale replete with flashbacks and jumps back and forth in time and space and the age of the characters involved while hardly ever telegraphing any of it, creating the impression of a tapestry of inescapable memory and history always influencing the present. The thoughtful, almost cerebral treatment of attraction, sex, and marriage. Heck, even the de rigeur fantasy trope of placing the actions of singular actors at the pivot points of world history is made to feel here less like the denial of the huge impersonal forces that drive human events more often than not than as some a logical, representative outgrowth of them. And man, that clear line is just sick. I dug this book to a degree that surprised me and look forward to returning to it. It's a rich vein of alt-fantasy being tapped here.
* Mike Barthel points out something I'm apparently too dopey to have comprehended on my own, which is that Pitchfork's Top 50 Videos of the '90s was a one-man affair, not the usual "as voted by the staff" thing, which I think explains a lot--it does feel more like someone's list than those things usually do. It spurred some interesting thoughts on irony from Barthel and Nitsuh Abebe; I particularly liked Abebe's distinction between '90s altrock irony and '00s electroclash irony, which Mike follows up on. ("Sometimes I kinda think [electroclash] deserves a little more respect"? C'mon, we can do better than that! You got a problem with me? You should get your ass off of Avenue D!)
The Moody Blues are best known for orchestral prog-pop slow burners like "Nights in White Satin," as love-it-or-hate-it an affair as rock's baroque period ever produced. To me that song's a real killer--I dig the application of Lord of the Rings instrumentation and atmosphere to a love song right off the bat, but beyond that there's real pain in the way Justin Hayward holws "Oh, how I love you!" over that barely human-sounding chorus of high keening backing vocals. In other words it's the urgency of the song that sticks with me rather than the quiet groove of it.
That's why I've gotten so into the band's up-tempo singles from its late-'60s/early-'70s peak, "Question" being foremost among them. Lyrically it's a very of-its-time blend of the personal and the political, assembled from two separate unfinished songs "Day in the Life"-style: It kicks off and ends with a breakneck attack of horns and acoustic guitar over which Hayward demands answers for his "thousand million questions about hate and death and war," sandwiching an AM-radio-worthy ballad in which he says "I'm lookin' for someone to change my life." This is a not-uncommon lyrical ploy for songs from that era, I suppose--the Moodies did it again, albeit in a slightly less bifurcated fashion, with "The Story in Your Eyes" the following year. It's the sort of thing that's quite easy to write off as everything wrong with that entire generation, an implicit belief that achieving personal happiness is sufficient answer to the world's ills, but so what? Isn't that as far as most of us are gonna get anyway? I can't find fault with someone for seeking refuge, and there's something so sincere in the way Hayward's quavering tenor expresses both rage and yearning.
But what interests me more about "Question" is the production, and not just how the frantic pace of the opening and closing crashes in and out of the gently strummed central section. For a song that was supposedly recorded live as a band in part as a response to how difficult all their previous material was to play while touring, there's some bonkers production work going on here. In the galloping fast sections, instruments will abruptly fade in and out of the mix, either highlighting or shoring up Hayward's vocals. The acoustic guitar that forms the backbone of the piece sounds like it's being strummed about four inches away from your ear. The drums are absolutely overpowering, at least until they suddenly drop out of the recording altogether--a bassless pounding. The bass guitar is responsible for the melody. There's this huge sinister hum that tracks the "ahhhh-ah-ah-ahhhh" vocals from what sounds like deeper brass instruments but I suppose could be some crazy low-end Mellotron sample. And of course there are the call-to-arms trumpet blasts that really launch the song and also announce the start of its final section. "Question" could have been a fairly straightforward, if compositionally sectionalized, rock song, but the band decided to play with dynamics to a pretty much unnecessary degree. But all great spectacles, of course, are characterized by being unnecessary.
A sexily drawn story of how hard it is for sexy young people with glamorous careers in the arts to really connect with one another? Sure, I'll eat it, though I'd understand if you'd prefer to pass. Second Thoughts isn't exactly the sort of tear-down-the-sky take on this well-trodden slice-of-life litcomix subgenre that might cause you to reevaluate it if you'd grown tired of it in the past. What it is is an extremely well-executed example of it, with a surprising degree narrative complexity, subtle enough to be imperceptible to me until I read the back-cover copy after finishing my first read.
In retrospect, Asker tips his hand by first introducing Jess, one of the book's two main characters, this one a writer struggling with a project and making a long-distance call to a touring musician girlfriend who's clearly cheating on her. Jess then meets cute at the airport with John, a music photographer on the outs with his touring musician girlfriend and on his way out of town for good who not-so-surreptitiously snaps a photo of Jess as she waits for her girlfriend to return. Jess's girlfriend texts to say she missed her flight in, John's flight out gets cancelled, and the two go their separate ways, not meeting again until they both end up in bed together--but neither in the way you're thinking now, nor in the way I thought when I first read that scene. Along the way a few of the character names change from one thing to another, and that's all I'll say about that.
Second Thoughts's primary selling point is Asker's luxurious, inky art. He's working in a style that will be familiar to fans of Paul Pope or Farel Dalrymple, but ratcheted down in a realist direction, evoking, say, some of Craig Thompson's Blutch-ier stuff. Everything's dark and shiny, the characters are all attractive in the sort of way that leaves you idly daydreaming about what it'd be like to make out with them...the book feels like the sort of thing meant to be read at night in an apartment in the city with cigarettes and a glass of wine--the sort of thing meant to be read by the characters involved, in other words. Which ends up being really fitting, because the whole idea is the way the mysterious glamour of attractive strangers enables us to conjure up whole lives for them in a way that is really more a commentary on our own lives than on theirs. It's a nice place to visit.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World felt natural. Which is an odd thing to say about a romantic comedy punctuated by video-game-style fight scenes the way Grease is punctuated by John Travolta singing, I suppose, but then that's just how in tune I am with what's going on with this movie. Watching it simply reinforced that huge eureka moment I had when I first read Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic and discovered how he'd incorporated the visual and structural language of videogames into a twentysomething slice-of-lifer. Fights, leveling up, people turning into coins when they get defeated, warp zones, 1-ups, ninja swords, sound effects, stats--this stuff has been part of the fabric of my mental life for so long that it's difficult to describe how simultaneously familiar and thrilling it feels to see it in an everyday kinda context, right there among rock dudes and cute girls and tagalongs and witty slutty gay guys and awkward parties and scenesters and so on and so forth. Of course it should be there!
And it was naturally funny, too. I think one thing that gets lost in discussion of co-writer/director Edgar Wright's genre send-ups is how much of the humor has little to do with riffing on Night of the Living Dead or Bad Boys or whatever the case may be and stems instead from the effortless interaction of characters who've gotten to know each other, play off each other's insecurities, and draw out each other's funniest stuff. In that sense Scott has a lot more to do with Shaun of the Dead than with Hot Fuzz in that it's about a group of young, slightly directionless young people who've mostly been friends forever--there's that same sense of people putting on their roles in the group like a pair of comfortable shoes and kicking around their affection for and annoyance with one another like a soccer ball. So for all the screwball pacing and dialogue it had a...laconic feel to it, I think I wanna say? Like, it was super-easy to slide into the group and laugh at Wallace's knowingness and Scott's blithe sleaziness and Julie's GTFOness and Knives's head-over-heels-ness and Young Neil's wannabe-ness and Kim's grumpiness and Stephen's panicked ambitiousness Stacey's annoyingly right-ness and so on and so forth, like we'd known these folks all our lives.
Heck, even the most potentially problematic character in this regard, literal dream girl Ramona, was played pretty much straight--Mary Elizabeth Winstead's comparatively flat performance vs., well, everyone else in the movie could be seen as a mistake, but to me it was the perfect way to thwart any potential Manic Pixie Dream Girlisms. Indeed, that character comes across like a point-by-point refutation of the MPDG--dry rather than manic, she makes Scott's life a disaster rather than an adventure, and the only whimsical thing about her, her hair, is treated like a sign of emotional problems and an intimidating obstacle to be overcome. Most importantly, the whole point of the movie is that her life existed in and of itself long before she entered Scott's. She's got a long, troubled history and a rich emotional life--she's an agent, not an object. If anything, it's Scott who's Knives Chau's Manic Pixie Dream Boy, transforming her life into a swoony spectacular with his carefree indie-rock lifestyle and heretofore unchallenged ability to ignore and deny anything troubling in his own past and emotional life. And of course we see just how far that gets everyone involved!
Narratively bold and inventively staged in all the ways that O'Malley's comics are, and very very very funny, Scott Pilgrim was basically a killer little movie that could easily have felt forced and over-impressed with itself. If anything, it was a little slow at times, which is the last thing I thought I'd be saying. There was no sense that the movie was desperate to bring its material to you, you know? There it was, and you could come to it at your leisure. I wanna play it again!
* One quick programming note: My review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World went out over RSS earlier today with a paragraph missing--a whole shpiel about Ramona vs. the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Scott as Knives's Manic Pixie Dream Boy--so if you're interested, please click again to make sure you got the whole thing.
* Speaking of! The programming slate for SPX has been announced. I can't go this year, and even though this is because of entirely pleasant personal reasons, I'm still bummed out because I'd give my eye teeth to be able to participate in the Critics' Panel again this year, or even just attend it: Johanna Draper Carlson, Gary Groth, Tim Hodler, Bill Kartalopoulos, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Ken Parille, and Caroline Small. Sparks really could fly at this thing, and ought to. At the very least, allow me to beg someone to record it! (Via Tom Spurgeon.)
* A lot of people got really excited to see Kevin Huizenga's story "Time Travelling" go up on Jordan Crane's webcomics site What Things Do, and I don't blame them, but mostly it makes me think of how many people I'd kneecap to get Huizenga's "A Sunset" online. It's from Or Else #2 and I'm reasonably sure it's the best short comic story of century so far.
* There's no way to say this without coming across like a complete tool, but since it's not like it'd be the first time, here goes. Tomorrow is apparently Read Comics in Public Day. I know that everyone's heart is in the right place, but every day is read comics in public day for me because I'm a grown-up who owns his life choices. It's no big deal.
Sylvester Stallone's Rambo was my favorite film of 2008. Disturbing in its combination of Saving Private Ryan-style war-atrocity gore with might-makes-right anti-heroism, practically confrontational in its abandonment of traditional peaks-and-valleys action-movie plot structuring, it felt like the searingly personal product of someone who was mentally ill. By contrast, The Expendables feels like the product of someone who's sustained an impairing head injury. Should've expected it, I guess; no one assembles enough aging action heroes to stage their own private Royal Rumble with the intention of exposing their own heart of darkness, or really doing anything but remaking Tango & Cash with more ampersands. But I was still surprised by just how spastic and disconnected everything felt--characters, scenes, dialogue, basic narrative cause and effect, everything. It was like watching an action movie written by Samuel Beckett.
Not that you even need to know this, but the plot is that Sly and his fellow mercs, to whom we are introduced during an in medias res rescue of hostages from Somali pirates (conducted with rather callous disregard for the hostages, I must say!), are hired by a mysterious company man (that's Bruce Willis's cameo; Stallone's group takes the gig when Arnold Schwarzenegger passes on it) to depose the military junta ruling a tiny island nation in the Gulf of Mexico. Stallone and Jason Statham (there really is no point in using their character names--Stallone and Statham are their character names) scout the place with the help of the rebellious daughter of the ruling general, who refuses to leave with them after they're discovered. Touched by her loyalty to her people and her home, , Stallone overcomes his reluctance to take a surefire loser gig like this, and he and his team travel to the island, murder its entire armed forces, kill Eric Roberts and Stone Cold Steve Austin (the rogue spooks secretly running the show), leave the daughter in charge, and go have beers with Mickey Rourke. Cue both "Born on the Bayou" AND "The Boys Are Back in Town," The End.
Alright, so with a little effort I can make it sound coherent, but you've got to cut a buncha subplots to do it. Dolph Lundgren is featured as a member of the team who goes Section 8 during the pirate attack and is kicked off the squad; having read the location of Sly's next gig over his shoulder, he presents himself to the island junta and leads a team of assassins in a fleet of SUVs to take out Stallone and Jet Li (here playing a character called, no I'm serious, Yin Yang). Just before he can kill Li, Stallone shoots him, and in his dying breath he gives Sly the entire layout of the presidential palace they'll need to raid. Only he's not really dying, he actually gets better, and in the final scene all is forgiven and he's having drinks and riding motorcycles with the gang again. Phew! Meanwhile, Charisma Carpenter is briefly poured into a minidress and paraded around as a Lifetime Movie-worthy domestic-abuse subplot so that Statham can pound the shit out of her asshole new boyfriend and his pick-up basketball playmates during his off-hours as a way to show her what she gave up by dumping him. Li wants more money for his family, which he doesn't actually have, and he's angry because as the shortest member of the team he gets shit-on a lot, and all his fights are so choppily edited you're left to wonder if they were removing his walker in post. Mickey Rourke, team member turned team manager, runs a tattoo parlor or an auto body shop or both, enjoys sex with anonymous women, and cries because this one time in Bosnia he could have stopped a woman from killing herself but didn't. Next time you see him after that he's whooping it up with the team with John Fogerty chooglin' in the background. The general who rules the island nation is chafing at having to take orders from Roberts and Stone Cold and this other British merc with a Fu Manchu mustache, and he's a painter, so he has all his goons paint their faces like scary warriors, so Roberts shoots him to death in front of all his men; none of this changes anyone's behavior in the slightest.
Again, not a huge surprise that an action movie consciously constructed as a throwback to the '80s heyday of its writer/director/star and several of its supporting cast members and cameos was going to feature a lot of cliched go-nowhere barely-sketched-out subplots featuring characters for whom the jump from one- to two-dimensional constitutes an arc. The really shocking thing for me was how incoherent the basic stuff of storytelling was here. Remember in Tango & Cash how nearly every line of dialogue was a one-liner, and after a while it felt almost absurdist, like there was no real connective tissue between any of them and Sly and Kurt Russell were just taking turns spouting zingers from some sort of checklist they had? This was like that, only the zingers had no zing. I'm finding this so difficult to describe...it's like, you'd see a reaction shot from Stallone when one of his teammates said or did something, he'd be smiling and he'd make some wisecrack, but nothing that the teammate said or did actually merited the specific thing he said. They could have said or done something totally different, or nothing at all, and it would have had the same bearing on what the next line was. This black-box-theater experimental-theater tone carried over into the lines of dialogue that actually purported to have some sort of import for the story: After Sly pops Dolph during his heel turn, he asks him "Who sent you?", and then before Dolph even answers he asks "Is the girl still alive?" as if he already knew the answer. During the climactic raid on the presidential palace, Stallone announces that the team has three minutes to infiltrate the place and do...something, I forget what, but it doesn't matter, because we never learn or are shown why there's this three-minute time frame--nothing happens three minutes later, there's no timers involved in the explosives they're planting, there's not some big event the general is launching in three minutes, the plane's not taking off in three minutes, nothing. Like, you can poke fun at the motivational shortcomings these movies always have--for instance, Stallone being so moved by the daughter's courage and loyalty to her nation and people, something he'd apparently never encountered before despite alluded-to adventures everywhere from Bosnia to Nigeria--but it's the fundamental disconnect between any two points in the film that's the real marvel here. It's Mystery Science Theater 3000-level material at times, even aside from Stallone and Rourke's Rondo Hattonesque visages.
But the action is fabulous, I'll give it that. Not necessarily the hand-to-hand combat scenes: There are some memorably brutal bits toward the end with one of the key goons getting his neck snapped back with a downward kick, and Statham is a joy to behold in close-quarters brawls as always, but for the most part these are old men, and Stallone Christopher Nolans the bejesus out of their fight scenes just to make them look like fight scenes. The firefights, on the other hand? Wow. Stallone announces his intentions here from the start, when a "warning shot" at the pirates from Lundgren literally blows a man in half, sending his entire torso splattering against the wall behind him. Stallone's a poet with CGI splatter, and the big battles make the most of this by combining it with novel weaponry--Terry Crews's automatic shotgun gets some real animated-GIF-worthy killing done, while Stallone and Statham's "well, while we're here, we might as well..." biplane strafing run against a dock full of army dudes had me laughing and cheering. There's even one memorable bit seen through heat-vision goggles, great gouts of yellow blood spraying everywhere like the Sesame Street Chain Saw Massacre. I've often said that the great '80s action movies treat the action like a Busby Berkeley dance number--it's spectacle, and the spectacle is pretty spectacular here once it gets going. Problem is that when no one's getting killed, the movie's nearly unwatchable.
It's an odd little notion, the idea that you've lived a better, fuller life for having killed people. That's probably a somewhat unfair aspect of Drew Weing's good-natured, lushly drawn storybook (that's the term the comic practically demands I use) Set to Sea--a tale of a big lummox of a poet whose lackluster verses about life on the open sea are given new verve when he's shanghai'd into service on an actual ship--for me to seize on. After all, Weing's bigfooted style and inviting rather than intimidating illustrative chops place him squarely in the adventure-comics tradition of Carl Barks and Jeff Smith. Why be churlish and begrudge its central character's baptism by fire? Well, because it really is the central, transformative moment in his story. Before the pirate raid that he ends up beating back pretty much singlehandedly by slaughtering dozens of buccaneers and beating their captain to death in a rage, he's miserable aboard his new home--complaining about the work and the rations, literally tossing his notebook full of unfinished poems into the ocean. Afterwards, he's accepted by his shipmates, elected third mate, introduced to a world of beauty and adventure around the globe, and filled with enough genuine insight into the sailor's life to become a hugely popular poet back on the mainland. At first I was impressed by how wordlessly nasty that central fight got, how Weing was unwilling to neuter the violence of this world. But by the time we get to the end of the book, with the now-respected poet/sailor, bearded and eyepatched, reclining by the fire of the pub from which he was once forcibly ejected, thinking back on a life well lived...well, this isn't like Bilbo Baggins, forever trying to recapture his combat high, or Frodo Baggins, forever damaged by the horrors he witnessed and endured. It's a dude kicking back saying "Yeah, it was all worth it." I wish Weing had examined that assumption a little more closely.
* Robyn covering Bjork's "Hyperballad." Oh my goodness. (Via The Missus.)
* I'm quite late to this party I know, but you certainly want to watch director John Hillcoat's video for the Nick Cave outfit Grinderman's "Heathen Child." It's the sort of video where when the chorus kicks in, the tits come out. It's like, wait, the people who made this crazy thing, which looks like the work of people who've watched nothing but True Blood and Tim and Eric for the past three years, made that tedious, polite adaptation of The Road and recorded its generic-Oscar-bait score? Can we swap out that version of them for this version of them and try again?
It takes some truly breathtaking chutzpah to recast Stevie Wonder's epic, epochal social-awareness scorcher "Living for the City" as the "Kashmir"-style hook for a song in which the singer hectors a groupie into fucking another woman for his viewing pleasure. Even a guy like me, who's self-published his opinions on everything on a near-daily basis for the better part of a decade, can only glimpse that kind of ego from where I'm standing with the help of a Hubble-level telescope. Fortunately, Usher Raymond is just the creep for the job. The dour, diminutive man who would be King of Pop has no compunction tarting up that "la la la la" hook with exotica strings and deploying it as the backing track for a paean to fauxbianism that repeatedly features the phrase "You let her put her hands in your pants." The second it dawned on me that yes, that's what he's doing, I laughed out loud at its gloriously bad taste and thought "Oh, I'm downloading this, alright." Sacrelicious!
"Lil Freak" really has three selling points to overcome Usher's sunglasses-at-night anti-charisma. One, that huge, absurd hook in the chorus. Two, the subtle, atmospheric pulsing tone that by the second verse is pretty much the only instrumentation besides percussion--it's got this weird subterranean-lair vibe to it that suits Usher's sexual supervillain persona in the song. Third, guest rapper Nicki Minaj, the aptly named (I don't think I'd gotten the pun of her last name before just now) Harley Quinn to Usher's unsmiling Frank Miller Joker. I don't think Usher has any idea how ridiculous what he's up to with this song is, but Minaj certainly does--how else to explain a verse in which she lists all eight of Santa's reindeer, uses the phrase "tig ol' bitties," and barks "EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND!" in praise of her host singer with all the comical ferocity of that guy who refers to the Lord Humungus as "the Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rollah" in The Road Warrior? Let this song put its hands in your pants.
* Tom Neely presents Bound & Gagged, 72 pages of one-panel gag comics by Andrice Arp, Marc Bell, Elijah J. Brubaker, Shawn Cheng, Chris C. Cilla, Michael DeForge, Kim Deitch, J. T. Dockery, Theo Ellsworth, Austin English, Eamon Espey, Robert Goodin, Julia Gfrörer, Levon Jihanian, Juliacks, Kaz, David King, Tom Neely, Anders Nilsen, Scot Nobles, Jason Overby, John Porcellino, Jesse Reklaw, Tim Root, Zak Sally, Gabby Schulz, Josh Simmons, Ryan Standfest, Kaz Strzepek, Matthew Thurber, Noah Van Sciver, Dylan Williams, Chris Wright and more. Jeepers creepers!