Thursday, March 22, 2007

Canned worms on sale; some may be slightly dented

-Steven Grant seems to have harsh words for Jim Starlin (and/or his followers; it's a little unclear):

While officially acknowledged as such by no significant Christian sect that I'm aware of, in the popular imagination the God-Devil relationship is pretty much Zoroastrian: like thousands of bad heroic fantasy novels, a war between the forces of good and evil for the souls and future of humanity. Not that there aren't plenty of other interesting theological issues born of Christian thought, but throw these concretized concepts into a literature already obsessed with good vs. evil, and everything suddenly becomes Good vs. Evil, and usually far more simplistic than discussions of more complex issues would allow. Throw in generations now of comics writers and artists compelled to use their art to detail cosmic secrets of the universe (it was Jim Starlin who popularized that particular runaway train) they somehow managed to stumble on while living over their parents' garage. (Mainly, I think, the cosmic secret is that if you can't get a date you can always draw pictures of your perfect inflatable dream girl, even though, if she were real, she certainly would never give you the time of day either.) Thing is, these stories are almost universally dull; the binary viewpoint of Good vs Evil automatically rigs the game, and a rigged game is only interesting in the long term to him what rigged it. Everyone else just keeps playing in a desperate hope of somehow making their money back.

Sorry for the long quote, but it doesn't make any sense otherwise. He goes on to diss Vertigo, but you probably already know that from Graeme McMillan. Actually, I have a bit of a bone to pick there. More from Grant:

It's been in vogue for almost 20 years now - whatever you can find in Vertigo, you can find dozens more independent comics treading the same rancid water as if, wow, this is the coolest, most original thing anybody ever thought of - and maybe it was a "cutting edge" notion once to play with Christian theology like it's Norse mythology, but now it's tired, and tiresome. If it's tiresome for non-believers, I can only imagine how tiresome it is for believers.

So how about a halt to all this now? If you want to say God doesn't exist, fine. Do a story that says it. Don't do a story that says God exists but he's a right wanker. It's not the same thing. Unless you've got something genuinely original to say, let the Christians have God back and move on. There are more interesting things to write about.

Don't know if Grant is giving Vertigo writers enough credit here. I'm not a huge fan of Vertigo by any means, but I've read a good chunk of Hellblazer and all of Preacher. Actually, I suppose this means I'm mostly familiar with Garth Ennis' Vertigo work, so I'll try to stick to that. (I'm an avid Fables reader as well, but Grant seems to be using "Vertigo" as a synecdoche for...I don't know, Hellblazer, Preacher, and Lucifer? Maybe Sandman as well?) I don't view these books as simply denunciations of Christianity--they're more allegorical than that. I find that Ennis approaches the war between heaven and hell like he would a more mundane, terrestrial war. The generals are amoral and sometimes incompetent while the soldiers suffer in the trenches. These are the lasting impressions I have from Ennis' Hellblazer: Constantine's camaraderie with his ostensible enemies; his contempt for pointlessness of the war, especially given the toll it takes on innocents; his determination to survive; the betrayals necessary to do so. Maybe subsequent writers were much more ham-fisted, but I thought Ennis' approach was more anti-authoritarian than specifically anti-Christian. Preacher: sort of the same, only through Ennis' America-as-a-John-Wayne-movie prism, plus Ennis is a great deal more misanthropic, especially in his depiction of rural America.

Hey, maybe this means Grant's wrong about Jim Starlin as well! Surely someone will let me know if he is.

-Via FLOG, this Peter Bagge interview on what I finally figured out was a porn site about halfway through. Worth checking out for the picture of Bagge alone, which makes him appear to have an enormous left ear.

-I had no idea until today that my post about 70s comics partly inspired a thread on the Comics Journal message board. I still think people have grossly misinterpreted what I was trying to say, but it's good to see some folks still milling 'round the old cracker barrel, which thankfully seems to have been relocated from my front porch to the aforementioned message board. Note to the wizened culture warriors: I'm shocked no of you have mentioned the exponential increase in quality at Chick Publications yet. Surely that's an important legacy of the 70s on par with the others cited thus far.

-Speaking of stuff already covered here, I didn't really expect the whole Dan Slott vs. Piracy thing to explode like it has. Spurgeon and McDonald both covered it today (Spurge=it's against the wishes of the author/publisher/owner to get these comics without paying for them; Heidi=who wants to read comics on a computer screen, anyway?). Haven't seen too many people comparing the situation to the music industry, thankfully. Briefly, the comparison is inherently flawed because: (1) Live concerts are a part of a band's income, whereas the closest thing in comics are sketches and original art sales--which only benefit artist(s), leaving writers out in the cold. (2) Intellectual properties in comics are a different than in music. The American comics industry is (for better or worse) driven by trademarked characters like Batman; there is no equivalent in the music industry. So it's not like we're going to see a whole lot of DIY Incredible Hulk comics all of the sudden (unfortunately). Or wait--maybe we will, if the distribution system is totally decentralized, thus making Marvel's attempts to protect its copyrights much more difficult. The main drawback here is that nobody would be paid for making such comics, thus increasing the likelihood of a fan fiction level of quality for these hypothetical punk rock Alpha Flight comics.

All the same, I'm shocked at the respect people are giving 20th century capitalism here. This is the decade where we finally get to FUCK SHIT UP and SHOVE IT UP THE MAN'S WHITE ASS. When the revolution comes, anyone who paid for Wolverine: Origins will be among the first earmarked for execution.

-I'm seriously not watching the Superbowl if the Patriots are in it again, as Peter King seems to think is inevitable. Well, I'll watch it if the Eagles are in it as well, which is a pretty strong possibility given the apparent weakness of the NFC.


Batiduende said...

The other day I saw a Superman comic ready for download made by fans. And Rich Johnston's The Flying Friar is basically a Superman Elseworld. No punk Alpha Flight so far, though.

Dick Hyacinth said...

Now that I think about it, I bet none of the contributors to the Marvel Benefit issue of Coober Skeeber were ever paid; probably the same for K. Thor Jensen's Batman/R. Kelly thing. Hmmm. This bears further thought.

Greg said...

Ah, and Eagles fan. I knew there was a reason I liked you ...

MarkAndrew said...

5 Reasons why my Homegrown Hulk will be Better than Marvel's Stupid Crap:

1) Instead of "Hulk Smash Puny Humans," my Hulk will be "Hulk Love Puny Humans....



2) He'll be way purpler. It's Barney's world now, we might as well just respect.

3) He might kill people by accident, but then he'll feel all bad and, like, show up to the funeral in a trenchcoat. And a thong, 'cause he's going to the beach after.

4) He'll have a comedic sidekick, like a talking squirrel named Professor Phinneas Q. Nutley.

5) It'll keep to the classic themes. Like he'll always be fighting the monsters inside of himself. Except in mine it'll be, like, a giant snake crawled up his bottom while he slept. (P.S. The snake has a gun.)

Dick Hyacinth said...

Ewwww. What exactly did I say to suggest I like the Eagles? I'm not sure which is worse--being accused of liking the Eagles or apparently saying something that Don Henley or Glenn Fry said/sang at some point, thus indicating that our thought processes have something in common. I think I need to go wash my brain in scalding hot water.

Greg said...

You wrote: "I'm seriously not watching the Superbowl if the Patriots are in it again, as Peter King seems to think is inevitable. Well, I'll watch it if the Eagles are in it as well, which is a pretty strong possibility given the apparent weakness of the NFC." That led me to believe you were an Eagles fan. Sorry if I misinterpreted your statement!

And you really should like the Eagles. All football fans should!!!!

Dick Hyacinth said...

Oh, I forgot I padded today's post with the NFL stuff. Yes, I'm a longtime Philadelphia Eagles fan. We're on the same page there. I thought you were referring to the musical (and I use that adjective loosely) Eagles. Like maybe they had a song called "Canned Worms" (Orson Scott Card's Canned Wyrms?). Since they apparently don't, I can skip all that soul searching and go play some video games. Good.

Dan Coyle said...

James Kolchaka's Coober Skeeber Hulk story was actually reprinted in The Incredible Hulk Annual 2001, because Tom Brevoort liked it so much.

Granted, I wouldn't advise seeking this out, unless you REALLY want to own the most boring story Erik Larsen ever wrote- the majority of the Annual is a very labored Hulk/Thor punchup.

Anonymous said...

Completely unrelated to today's post specifically, but great job on the blog all-around. It's a brilliant concept, and much needed. I particularly appreciate the nonpartisan lampoon of both drooling fanboy losers and smug, cooler-than-thou hipsters. Both parties need a sound thrashing. Keep it up.

A question: Do your posts only pertain to fan-created blogs, or any comics-related blogs in general? Someone has GOT to say something about Warren Ellis. Ellis is a man unhinged. On a daily basis, he insists upon posting pictures culled from the darkest depths of the internet, usually depicting men slicing their own penises open with hedge-trimmers. Ellis has some bizarre fixation on "body mod" (a sobriquet that incorrectly lends a sense of legitimacy to the completely asinine practice of puncturing gashes into one's own genitalia with a hole-punch). I don't know if this stems from his incorrect thesis that this is some form of futurism (in the future, nutsack piercings will be as common as eyeglasses!) or just a disturbing preoccupation with cock-mutliation that would put Mike Diana to shame, but dammit, someone's got to say something about this crazed lunatic! Do it, Hyacinth!

Keep up the great work. This is pretty much the only blog worth reading.

Todd C. Murry said...

Hey again (I'm working backwards), this is Dr. Murry. I just had to post (late that it is) about your idea of Preacher being anti-authoritarian. My take has always been that it is coming of age story with man's late coming of age (realizing the fallout of "God" has been pernicious, our drunken and abusive father who art in heaven and all, and moving past this, through anti-theism ultrimately into post-theism.. at the end Preacher basically tells God we don't need him) played out againt the backdrop of the character's struggles to belatedly become a real man in the age of extended adolescence. Cassady's there trying to drag him back down into the non-manhood of adictions, barooms, and rapes, and he's trying to see his way clear to be a man in a new era where John Wayne's example doesn't play the same way as it did in his father's time. The anti-authoritarian thing is part of that, but the book is really about moving past that, getting through the stage of defining yourself against things.