Monday, April 30, 2007
-And here's a question for everybody. Which is more egregiously sexist and/or misogynistic: "mainstream" comics art or "mainstream" comics writing?
-Johanna Draper Carlson calls Robert Kirkman's writing "pedestrian and perfunctory." Is "perfunctory" really the right word there, or did Carlson just like the alliteration? It's an odd choice; if forced to use it to describe mainstream comics writing, I would probably choose Warren Ellis' superhero work at Marvel or Chris Claremont's entire body of work since the second Reagan administration.
-What the fuck is "concern trolling?" Also, are people (read: men) really trying to woo other (female) bloggers somehow? Wouldn't that be kind of expensive in terms of airfare? Or is there a whole cross-country internet-enabled hookup scene I'm too old to know about?
-The design on these upcoming Vertical releases are incredible. I certainly hope there's a market for non-Tezuka classic manga. I guess Drifting Classroom is doing pretty well, though Museum of Terror really hasn't. Reprints certainly seem to be doing well at Fantagraphics, IDW, and D&Q. Hopefully Vertical or other publishers will take a chance on releasing some vintage material from names less familiar to American readers.
-I've been there, sadly. Except it wasn't grass, but hair.
-Greg Rucka likes the Tomb Raider games, or at least one of them. He also praises the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, which really are pretty swell. But still...Tomb Raider?
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I mention this strategy only because it's in such stark contrast to Marvel's. Marvel has abandoned any pretense of (3), with the exception of its kids-oriented Marvel Adventures line. But unlike Vertigo, CMX, Minx, or some of the Johnny DC titles, the goal isn't to serve a different demographic. Instead, Marvel hopes that readers of its Adventures line will grow into readers of its regular line. The mainline Marvel titles are the top of the heap in terms of sophistication; there's no parallel line such as Vertigo. DC can appeal to non-comics reading adults or adolescents readers through its various imprints; Marvel has no similar avenue. This is why events like Civil War are so important to Marvel. Civil War appealed to potential adult readers with a story alluding to real world events. Infinite Crisis did not. There was some mainstream media coverage of it, but I was under the impression that DC was targeting lapsed readers rather than trying to create new ones. (For the record, I doubt Marvel roped in too many new readers with Civil War, and I kind of think they didn't expect to do so. But they at least made a credible effort.)
The fundamental appeal of DC's superhero universe has always been that it's a rich, immersive fictional reality. In contrast, Marvel's appeal was that it reflected the real world quite a bit more. (I really think Quesada is on the level when he says that he's trying to return Marvel to this state through all the drastic changes we've seen throughout his tenure. Whether it's possible to arrest the momentum of years of continuity and fan expectation is an entirely different matter.) DC is essentially escapist, more interested in its own mythology than anything in the outside world. It appeals to readers wanting this kind of experience.
So really, I'm shocked that there isn't more of a Turnerian visual style to DC's titles. DC does seem to be angling for a 90s retro house style (if its flagship book, Justice League, is any indication). Unrealistic bodies, male or female, seem to be just what the typical DC reader wants in his comics. It reinforces the fantasy, guaranteeing that reality will not intrude on the reader's escape into comics. This sort of art also provides a degree of wish fulfillment, as the typical male reader projects himself into the ridiculously steroidal bodies of the male heroes, engaging the impossibly pneumatic female heroes as equals or (better yet) superiors.
Burgas essentially argues that there's no problem with this, since any male reader who can't discern reality from fantasy "doesn’t deserve an actual woman anyway, and they should die alone." I find this sentiment troubling, but I'll set it aside for now. What about the atypical reader? DC seems aware that there are women who read its superhero comics, yet the majority of its comics exclude them from the DC fantasy world. One might ask why women don't project themselves into the bodies of its female characters, as men do with the male characters. The reality is that male body image problems are not identical to female body image problems. This is not to say that men aren't anxious about their bodies, or that images of impossibly muscular men don't affect them; psychological studies indicate otherwise. But even if this body image anxiety affected men and women equally (and it doesn't), DC isn't sexualizing male characters in the same way that it sexualizes female characters. How many superheroes cavort in their underwear? How many of them have their costume ripped down to a G-string? Think about the wang debate of last week! But, since women are probably 5% of the readership at best, DC and its apologists choose to ignore these complaints.
What about Marvel? Well, as I mentioned above, Marvel has always tried to portray itself as a more realistic superhero universe. Tom Breevort and Joe Quesada both have recently criticized the "616" designation for its superhero universe, as it undermines the sense of reality they wish to create. Truthfully, though, the Marvel universe is really a fantasy world with a haphazardly applied veneer of reality. The initial characterization at Marvel might have prevented absolute fantasy projection; Spider-Man was a loser, Hulk a dangerous monster, the Thing an abomination, Daredevil was blind, Captain America a man out of time, etc. Over the years, however, these characters have become more and more heroic, better receptacles for the wounded psyche of the perpetually adolescent male. And Marvel certainly has its share of balloon chested super-heroines. Of course, many of the most obvious examples are decidedly non-human; it's unclear what kind of body image issues are provoked by the likes of Tigra or She-Hulk. But still, Marvel is no paragon of realistically proportioned women; this is the company that employs Greg Land and Frank Cho, after all. If the current Ultron isn't an example of pandering, what is?
Having said all that, I still think DC is currently a worse offender than Marvel. Turner is drawing covers for both companies, but his work at Marvel has been relatively understated (still bad, but not as screamingly bad). Marvel has no equivalent to Supergirl, Wondergirl, or even Stargirl; its teenage superheroines dress like Victorian schoolmarms in comparison. There's a sort of trade-off here. Marvel's superpowered women (with the possible exception of Jean Grey) lack the cultural significance of DC's. The most prominent superheroines at Marvel are cognates or confirmed B-listers; none of them are as important as Spider-Man's female supporting cast. None of them are as important as Gwen Stacy, who died before I was born! And that's exactly why Michael Turner's depiction of Power Girl is so frustrating to so many people. DC is in a much better position to produce comics featuring powerful, self-actuating superheroines. Yet it can't, since this would alienate much of its fantasy-craving readership.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
"38) About our anchor artists, the three Bs: I’d been a fan of Bennett’s and Batista’s work long before 52, but Barrows took me by surprise. He was a Wacker inductee and thank God for that.
37) Why we didn’t make more use of Phil Jimenez and Dan Jurgens is still a mystery to me.
30) As a goof, in the breakdowns, I drew that new Zatarra kid in Zatanna’s fishnets-and-corset getup. The penciler actually drew him that way. My pleas to let it go through like that went unheeded.
3) I still think Wizard should give some serious props to the 52 artists. For that matter, so should DC."
It's kind of universally accepted that the art was one of the weakest (maybe THE weakest), elements of 52; this almost seems like a reaction to these criticisms. Strangely, Giffen seems to have escaped blame, even though he laid out every issue. Does he deserve to get a pass? Try comparing his layouts to the finished project. Giffen's work is frequently superior to the finished art. His panels are much more tightly composed, his action more dynamic, his character work more expressive. The composition is the big thing, though. The finished art frequently lies dead on the page, as though the pencillers didn't account for negative space or eye movement or any of those things you're supposed to learn in high school. Which is frankly baffling, given that Giffen's involvement was presumably intended to prevent just these sorts of problems.
You know, this whole thing has actually increased my respect for Giffen. He was producing these layouts at an exhausting pace, but they're much, much better than the composition one sees from artists who labor over their work for much longer periods of time. 52 would have been a much more satisfying reading experience if the artists had followed his layouts more closely, or at least spent more time thinking about the decisions Giffen made. We'll see if the Countdown artists learn from this lesson.
-Request Day part two: An English teaching friend from the (literal) old school tells me that he's seen a lot of educational graphic novels in the vendor's area of a couple of recent conferences. Unfortunately, they're bad. Real bad, like. The art is terrible and the word balloons hastily and sloppily constructed using a Times Roman-type font. (Kind of sounds like Cracked, c. 1989, so far.) The subjects are certainly educational--examples include George Washington Carver, Trail of Tears, and Atlantis (I don't get that last one either)--but the execution is so bad that they might poison the well for future efforts. I might add that being forced to read bad comics in school might make it even less likely that kids will try good comics.
Anyone familiar with these products? I assume that the Center for Cartoon Studies-produced books published by Hyperion are partly intended to compete in this market. I'm sure they compare very favorably to the products my friend describes, but I wonder if the damage might already be done.
-That terrible college newspaper top five comics list is really making the rounds. The comments on Blogarama (that's my new name for it) are worth noting, though, because the one and only Avi Green shows up with his own unique list:
"– Marvel Two-in-One #91, featuring the origin of the Sphinx, Anatha Na-Mut.
– The Flash: Terminal Velocity.
– Asterix and the Roman Agent.
– Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War.
– And I enjoyed the whole storyline featuring Terra, who infiltrated the Teen Titans, from beginning to end."
Awesome. My own list:
1. Deathmate: Yellow
2. The collected lettercolumns of Who's Who, first edition (there's an awesome running debate about how to pronounce "Ra's Ahl Guhl")
3. The issue of Marvel Team-Up where Reed Richards zaps off Spider-Man's black costume, and Spider-Man has to go home wearing an old Fantastic Four costume with a paper bag over his head, and I think also a "Kick Me" sign which the Human Torch affixed to his back.
4. The entire first wave of Dark Horse's Comics Greatest World--you know, the ones that were all $1 each--except Hero Zero, cause it featured art by Eric Shanower, whose values clash with the sense of morality instilled in me from reading Marvel Team-Up and Deathmate.
5. Antique Bakery
I defy anyone to find fault with that list.
-Related: Does Avi Green know the difference between Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker? Someone needs to track down Jesse Baker for me. I've got an idea for a weekly debate column featuring these two. I think I'll call it "Fuck You/Counter-Fuck You."
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I was thinking about saying something about Johanna Draper Carlson's recent ax-grinding session, or maybe her possible attempt to provoke a feud between John Cooke and his former publisher TwoMorrows. But the former led me to write a brief-yet-boring essay on why it might not be the worst thing in the world for young manga readers to pick up some Marvel and DC comics (the short version: I would hope that it would convince these hypothetical readers that they like the medium of comics, regardless of format or genre, thus perhaps encouraging them to eventually try the kinds of comics published by Fantagraphics, D&Q, First Second, etc.). As for the latter, I didn't really have anything to say at all, other than I'm pretty sure I saw that Comic Book Artist cover earlier this year, leading me to think that Cooke is probably not trying to sabotage his former publisher.
Anyway, other than continuing phallocentric discussion and my getting irritated with Carlson, there's not much in which to sink my fangs. Of course, whenever I've made a post like this in the past, it's usually followed by a bunch of crazy shit which provides material for days and days of lazy posting. Perhaps posting a musical-type clip will hasten this process.
This is for you Johnny Bacardi!
Saturday, April 21, 2007
1. Does Ross have a habit of painting men with realistic genitalia, or was the current painting in question an aberration?
2. Is there any pattern to his depiction of bulges?
3. If there is a pattern, does it reflect the genitalistic diversity of his models, or does it reflect Ross' perception of which characters should be well-endowed? If my suspicion is correct, I'm guessing that a certain Green Lantern is putting this Steel fellow to shame.
(I suppose it's also possible that Ross has simply become more comfortable with the male body over time, or perhaps has developed a sense of humor, or has become sympathetic to those of us who are annoyed with the depiction of women in comics, or maybe he's just looking to bait some fanboys. But I'm betting on the Hal Jordan Hypothesis)
Let me know if any of you are interested! I'll send my copy of Kingdom Come as a reward for the first person who produces a study that meets my approval.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The case against WWIII: "So the problem isn’t really that World War III is little more than a 90 or so page clump of continuity porn. The real issue is that it’s gonzo continuity porn. As in, there’s only forty-five seconds of repartee, if that, before those discrepancies start resolving."
The case against Civil War: Frontline: I think there was something about Youtube. It's been a while, I can't remember.
Yes, I know I'm begging to be called a hypocrite by mentioning Civil War, but (at least re: said miniseries) it seems like the blogosphere is finally napping quietly after throwing a month-long, blue-in-the-face temper tantrum.
Oh, here's a feedback type poll:
(Hey, now I'm kind of remembering why I quit doing these; the constant edits to make sure all my ducks are in a row. Awesome!)
-Via Flog, a great Richard Sala interview:
"I know it makes me seem a hundred years old to say that, but when I was little, Dick Tracy was on the front page of the Sunday comic section (in Chicago) and I got hooked at a very early age. It was the first thing I ever saved -- I cut out strips and put them in scrapbooks -- even before I began saving comic books. The Tracy strips from the 1960s and 1970s seem to get a bad rap sometimes compared to his earlier work -- but I was perfectly happy with them -- they were crazy and lurid. They had stopped being like police procedurals and instead were about -- well, to this day I'm not sure what those later strips were about! Good and evil maybe? Who knows? But you really never knew what would happen next. They could certainly never be in daily newspapers today -- not just because of the violence (which was gloriously over-the-top) but because in its twilight years it often appeared to flirt with becoming seriously unhinged."
I can't remember if I'd heard Sala talk about his Gould influence before, or if it just makes perfect sense in hindsight. I'm immediately reminded of the rogue's galleries in the back of the collected Chuckling Whatsit. Anyway, Sala also makes some good points about the difficulty in classifying his work. I can't help but think it would do well with fans of Jhonen Vasquez, but somehow I just can't see Delphine being sold at Hot Topic.
-Will Bahlactus (sadly not his real name) ever explain to us the process by which he determines whether calling someone a "chickenhead" is appropriate? I've asked ever so nicely. Please let us know, cause it doesn't seem any better than calling someone a "cocksucker," which is something I generally avoid for reasons I'll describe in detail if anyone is interested (though, truthfully, it's nothing particularly revelatory).
-I always knew the Asorbascon (NIM) wasn't written for people like me, but I really didn't know just how not-for-me it was until I read this (or, to be more accurate, the first and last five lines of it). What the fuck was that about? More importantly, when are we going to get another hissy fit? That's the only reason you're on my Google Reader thing, dude.
-Kind of interesting, at least to me. Bear in mind that my brother and I used to buy and read old issues of Marvel Age and that, instead of writing and drawing comics like most kids, I made my own mock versions of MA for my imaginary comics company.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
So Jog and the Savage Critics get excused because of the frequency and nature of their reviews. Having said that, I would like their reviews 100% more if they had the time, energy, and inclination to include some samples of the art. McMillan's choice of headline, "TCJ: I don't understand without pictures," is absolutely stunning given that comics really is a visual medium; if it doesn't have pictures, it's NOT A COMIC. What's really depressing, though, is the first comment:
"Depends on the reviewer. Most comic reviewers I’ve seen on the net tend to focus a lot more on the story than the art, so why show art?"
AAAARRRGGHHHH. This is exactly why (mainstream) comics art sucks--we (meaning those of us who write stuff about comics on the internet) are training readers to ignore it. Maybe online reviewers are just following DC and Marvel's lead*, but that's no excuse. The absolute idiocy of that comment provides a much more compelling reason for including art samples than anything the TCJ board posters mentioned.
*Especially DC, I would say.
-Does Bahlactus typically call women "chickenheads?" Is that part of his gimmick or something?
-To those of you confused by the upcoming Green Arrow in Oz movie: I realize that, sans costume, it could be any old superhero, including a new intellectual property. But isn't Warner looking to bring a version of Justice League to theaters? Wouldn't this be a good way to introduce Green Arrow to movie audiences, thus making his inclusion in a hypothetical Justice League movie a much more attractive proposition?
-I think painting a huge bulge in Commandant Steel's pants is the coolest thing Alex Ross has ever done.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Anyway, this is all to say that I don't have a long entry for today.
-Outrage over DC's new, extra-busty sculptures is brewing. Will it prove to be greater than the outrage over DC's "anime" action figures? Will anyone notice, given that DC manages to pull something like this nearly every week?
I think it might be time to consider if this kind of icky pandering will be Dan DiDio's ultimate legacy. I don't know how much DiDio controls the collectible merchandise arm of DC, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that these statues and action figures kind of reflect the current content of DC's superhero comics. One would think that appealing to gynophobic men would be a winning proposition, yet One Year Later was an undeniable failure. I don't necessarily think DC is losing readers due to its portrayal of women--as I've said before, I think it has more to do with DC's inability to capitalize on its big Infinite Crisis crossover, a mistake compounded by the concurrent launch of Marvel's Civil War. Still, I have to think the clock is running out on DiDio. DC as a whole isn't doing well--Vertigo is struggling to replace its cornerstones and the Wildstorm relaunch has been disastrous. This makes DC more reliant on its DiDio's DCU division, which is itself is bleeding readers. Delays on Action, Wonder Woman, and All-Star Batman have been huge black eyes. It's unclear how the fill-ins will affect sales. If there's a major drop-off, that's another strike against DiDio. Countdown, however, is the real high stakes game. From the anecdotal evidence I read on the internet, it seems that retailers are cautiously optimistic about it. If Countdown sinks, I suspect that DiDio and DC will lose a great deal of credibility with retailers. That could spell the end of the DiDio era at DC.
What does any of that have to do with Supergirl, Power Girl, or Mary Marvel? Not a whole lot right now, but the folk history of comics tends to elide such nice details. If DiDio is remembered as a failure, it could be that the portrayal of women under his watch (notable even for comics!) could be blamed, at least in part. People will blame other things as well--a reliance on continuity pornography and poor management of creative teams in particular. I'd bet that the controversies surrounding women will comprise a large part of his legacy, however.
-So if DiDio is fired in the next year or so, who will take his place? I can't think of any obvious in-house candidates. I guess someone from Marvel might get poached, but who? I suspect that Time Warner would instead hire someone from the television industry, maybe a Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon executive. On the other hand, that was DiDio's background as well. Hmmm.
-One last question: how secure is Paul Levitz? Seems like he should take some of the blame as well, right? There may be a lot riding on the Minx line for Levitz.
-Johanna Draper Carlson's review of Toupydoops (what a terrible, terrible name) makes it seem positively radioactive:
"It’s a story you’ve seen before, the aspiring young performer who moves to Hollywood to make it big… only Toupy is blue, with antennae, and the companies that run the big town make comics instead of movies. McShane describes it as 'Swingers meets Roger Rabbit'. The Swingers part is mostly Toupy’s roommate — think Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men, only looking like some kind of dog-like creature but still getting all the babes."
Swingers is bad enough, but Two and a Half Men? And is it me, or does this look like the sort of comic that was common during the big B&W glut of the 80s? Just the sort of thing my brother and I used to buy in the quarter bin at Sports Cards Unlimited when we were on vacation.
(Related: I think Mike Sterling is getting at something that was bugging me a little too.)
Monday, April 16, 2007
ACTION COMICS #852
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art and cover by Brad Walker and John Livesay
3-2-1-ACTION! (part 1 of 3) Hot on the heels of SUPERMAN #665's "Jimmy Olsen Countdown Dossier" comes this true blue COUNTDOWN event! Superman has always been Superman's pal. Will he now become Superman's partner?! More secrets of Jimmy's past revealed, the Kryptonite Man on the loose, and more! This issue ties into the events of COUNTDOWN #40!
On sale July 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
A few mundane punch lines:
"I didn't know that was legal in Metropolis."
"Batman's going to be jealous!"
"Is Superman too old for this to count as yaoi?"
"Looks like someone's been reading my slash fiction!"
For those who want to get an early jump on 90s nostalgia:
"I guess that his pocket was full of something more than kryptonite!" (Will be funnier in 5 years, I promise.)
"Jimmy Olsen is a cherished children's character and should be a role model for youngsters. Kids aren't old enough to understand the complexity of a same-sex relationship with an alien being."
"Jimmy Olsen is a cherished children's character and should be a role model for youngsters. He never needed a deep, dark past before, and he doesn't need one now."
Provoking my outrage:
"Some might be shocked by this turn of events, but fans of Jimmy Olsen have seen it coming for years." [Insert scans of several out-of-context panels showing Jimmy Olsen wearing a dress, crying, saying something about "wood," or engaging in several other supposedly "gay" activities.]
The unifying theme here? Punks worth listening to weren't afraid to dress like idiots. Today's children could learn something from these videos. Jake Burns looks like he's wearing an impossibly bad toupee, for chrissakes.
Oh, okay, here's a Stiff Little Fingers clip where they aren't lip synching:
I can't believe he still has any voice at all, yet I know that he does because SLF still tour. I wonder what it's like, singing these songs of youthful rebellion when you're pushing 50. And it's not like their political songs have aged particularly well, either.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Anyway, the comments lead to a discussion of which creators manipulate the internet to their advantage (Simone, to some extent Priest) and which ones have done basically the opposite (Byrne, of course). Someone also makes the argument that this kind of fan-pro interaction is practically inevitable, given that the absence of letter columns in DC/Marvel titles have made the internet the only viable option for creators seeking feedback. I tend to disagree here--I think the decline of the letter column has more to do with the advantages of the internet for fanboy bellyaching than editors' distaste for letter columns. I also think it's a little curious that the bigger alternative-type creators don't have the same net presence as their mainstream and ground-level counterparts. You don't see Chris Ware or Jaime Hernandez wading into the miasma in the same manner as Dan Slott or Stuart Immonen. Then again, Ware and Hernandez don't have new books coming out every month. (I'm prepared for the flood of counter-examples to this generalization, so let it rip!)
Anyway, it's a thread of discussion I'd like to see some other blogger types address as well.
-I was going to say something about how I was disappointed in the last issue of All-Star Superman, but then I went and read Jog's brief review and now I think I need to re-read it. Jog also suggests a unifying theme to the series which I had noticed more as a motif, I guess. But maybe it's something deeper than I had thought. Hmmm.
-Via Chris Mautner, who I cannot thank enough for bringing it to my attention, Doom: the comic. Anything I write wouldn't do it justice. Just read it.
-Utterly, utterly unrelated to comics: I'm a regular shopper at Trader Joe's, though I can't say I recommend doing all one's shopping there. They are a good place for snacks and convenience foods, though. So, because nobody asked for it, here are a few reviews of things I've bought there recently:
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna w/ Multigrain Noodles: It's a frozen, family-style entrée; the package recommends microwaving over baking. There's a definite roasted flavor to the vegetables, but I somehow doubt that the cauliflower was every really roasted. The tomato sauce was pretty decent, and the noodles were not as overwhelming in their multiple granulation as one might fear. They're comparable to the Barilla Plus line of high fiber noodles. There wasn't much besides tomatoes between the layers of these noodles. Pretty decent for a microwavable lasagna, but I suspect there are better options out there for your $5.49.
Peanut Satay Noodle and Pad Thai Noodle Boxes: These are in the shape of a Chinese take-out box and are not refrigerated. The noodles and the sauce are in two separate pouches; you take the noodles out, break them apart, pour the sauce over them, then microwave for two minutes. That's about as convenient as I can imagine, but (shockingly) you pay for the convenience in flavor. The Pad Thai bears little resemblance to the Platonic ideal, or even the vegetarian version of the Platonic ideal, of this dish; it is, however, better than Trader Joe's frozen version. It's also better than the peanut satay noodles, which are fairly bland. The noodles in both cases are a little gummy, but not as bad as one would imagine from pre-cooked rice noodles (perhaps because they're not really rice noodles, but a rice-wheat hybrid noodle). If you have the inclination, you can probably whip up a superior concoction with a half a package of genuine rice noodles and some commercial Thai-style peanut sauce for about the same (prorated) price. It certainly wouldn't take much longer than microwaving this. But if you're in an office or have a fear of boiling water, this is better than a lot of similar options.
Supper Nutty Toffee Clusters Cereal: Very, very tasty cereal. I love cold cereal, and this is my current favorite. What catapults Supper Nutty Toffee Clusters ahead of the pack are not the toffee clusters (which are tasty but not overwhelming), but the inclusion of Brazil nuts, which are an incredible addition to the cold cereal palette.
Peanut Butter Coated Chewy Granola Bars: Trader Joe's regular, uncoated chewy granola bars are typical specimens for that subcategory of bar-format granola. I greatly prefer the harder, Nature's Valley style, to be honest. But the addition of peanut butter goo to the underside of the bar transforms it into a very desirable product. The chocolate-coated variety is also good, but not quite as good.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
"Was I deliberately exaggerating to make a point? Yes.
Was I baiting readers to write in? Sure.
Was I serious? Sort of."
Off to a good start, I see. Don't blame me, blame my desperate need for attention.
"...for every great old masterpiece, there are a lot of non-masterpieces. And what frustrates me is when society insists on elevating and fawning over these non-masterpieces simply because they were part of some mythical Golden Age. To me, that includes The Honeymooners. Sorry. I can understand why it was groundbreaking, and the enormous challenge of creating a live show, and why it was seminal. But I don’t care. It doesn’t connect for me whatsoever, and I’m too honest to fake any interest in it....
I could have softened the blow by saying, 'Many old things suck' or 'Some old things suck.' But that wouldn’t be true to my experience. When I watch a classic film and have that holy shit, this is just as good as everyone says experience, that’s the glorious exception. That’s when I’m happy I’ve deliberately set my expectation meter low for anything older than I am."
If he stopped here, we could just chalk this up to August being a mental midget whose understanding of film and comics is limited to only the most obvious surface qualities--about what you'd expect from the dude who wrote both Charlie's Angels movies. But then he twists the argument into something entirely different:
"Setting aside the implicit ontological paradoxes, most people I know would be curious to travel back in time. They’d love to meet historical figures, marvel at extinct animals, and experience daily life in an earlier age. But I’ve yet to meet someone who wants to travel back in time to watch TV. Imagine, you could watch The Honeymooners in its proper context, live, as it was made. Wouldn’t that be the best thing ever? No?
Of course it wouldn’t, because you live in 2007. The world has changed a lot since the days of Ralph Kramden threatening domestic violence against his wife, and you can’t pretend it hasn’t."
What the fuck is he talking about here? Having read this bizarre tangent, I'm wondering about John August's mental state. This is the sort of thing that insane homeless people say to you when you're waiting at the bus stop. I don't think saying "he doesn't get it" really does him justice anymore.
-One thing I've already learned from Alice in Sunderland: it's Lindisfarne, not Lindisframe. I'm really not good with the proper nouns.
-Totally unrelated to comics:
"The ding-dong from the neo-Gothic church next door signals to Wu Yuqing that it's time to wake up. On her way to the grocery store each day, she walks past the Cob Gate Fish & Chip shop and bronze statues of Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale and William Shakespeare. Tall men decked out in the red uniforms of the Queens Guard nod hello.
The place looks a lot like a small town on the Thames River, but Wu's new home is actually in a suburb of Shanghai.
As China's modernization continues to pull hundreds of millions of people from farms to cities and suburbs, a construction boom has given rise to a vast landscape of foreign-looking settlements. These real estate developments are the latest manifestation of the technique that has fueled China's economic boom: making copies."
This is going to be a strange century.
-Notes from my visit to the comics shop today: The proprietor ordered Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service on my recommendation and he's pleased with how it's selling (then again, I bought one of the volumes). I know that he and his staff were not actively selling it to people, so I take this as some kind of statement on the impact of internet buzz. KCDS has been praised, but not universally or extravagantly; several reviewers recommend it with serious reservations. I'm interested in seeing how Monster does for him, since that's a series which has received much more effusive acclaim.
Second, I actually had the opportunity to buy the Dupuy-Berbérian thing, but I passed. It's a pretty steep price for an book collecting illustrations and commercial art (as far as I could tell from the few moments I spent with it). Anyway, I guess this means I live in one of four cities in which Tom Spurgeon would like to hang out on this spring day. Note to Mr. Spurgeon: it's been snowing all day, and not the pretty kind of snow, either. It's the kind of snow that blows right into your face, often landing right in your eyes. Might I remind everyone that IT'S FUCKING APRIL.
Monday, April 9, 2007
"I think Campbell has it dead on where the heart of the strip's appeal lies, and what I think is even more remarkable is to realize this kind of work had a significant audience who valued to the point of holding dear that non-sensational reflection of life as lived."
I read more than my share of academic texts, so I'm semi-accustomed to this style of writing. Unfortunately, most academic writing is a nightmare to read. No one should try to emulate it, especially when it's totally unnecessary. The idea Spurgeon is trying to express doesn't require an undiagrammable sentence. Doesn't this guy have "former editor of the Comics Journal" on his resume? Or is that more explanatory than contradictory?
-That Liefeld/Kirkman thing all the Bendis board people were complaining about? It's Killraven. Oh, doctor.
-Heidi MacDonald (note the correct spelling) seems to be promising weekly Ultimate Fighter recaps. Here's the first one. I'm pretty excited about this season--the coaches hate each other, one of the contestants has actually defeated one of the coaches in a fairly high profile match, and the all-lightweight formula holds the promise of all-action all-the-time.
And man, on the subject of MMA, was this a crazy weekend or what? Serra beats GSP, Sanchez and Koscheck turn one of the most anticipated fights of the year into one of the worst of all time, the DSE era ends, Sokoudjou KOs Arona, fans on message boards anoint Sokoudjou as the greatest fighter in the history of the sport (even though he's only fought 5 times, has never gotten out of the first round, and looked kind of bad in his loss to okay-but-not-great Glover Teixeira), Big Nog is the first Pride fighter to cross over to UFC, Don Frye almost dies on his feet.... It's a good time to start watching MMA, and a better time to incorporate it into your message board (hint, hint).
-The Beatles were like the remedial class version of the Hollies. The Beach Boys were remedial class version of the Hollies who spent most of their time in the auto shop.
-You can count me among the people who'd like to see My Boy published in North America. I mean, it's in English already. That cuts out all the costs of translation and re-lettering. (Yes, I realize that Kim Thompson translates most of Fantagraphics' French language comics himself, or at least he used to.) Sure, I guess I could get it right now since it's already in English, but then again I'm too lazy to figure out how to pay for something in shillings and tuppence or ducats or whatever goofy currency would be necessary to acquire this book. Besides, I'm in no hurry. I've read only about .005% of Alice in Sunderland.
-Did I Kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg? Dept: I think Greg Rucka's on to me. I'm going to be really disappointed if he clams up now, but I think he'll eventually feel compelled to say something about someone at some point. Don't hold back, Mr. Rucka!
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Look, this guy isn't even a good troll. It's "UR a ghey homo LOL!!!1" type comments, or vague "u suk" stuff. Church and his defender-commenters have made it abundantly clear that he's heterosexual, so why would he be bugged by this stuff? I mean, maybe Ebbing has crossed the line into outright stalking by invading Church's personal life. If so, that's clearly a matter for the police. If not, I think the old axiom "don't feed the trolls" is appropriate here if Church wants the harassment to stop. As it stands, to an outsider lacking any strong feelings re: Church, the whole thing reads more like a rallying cry to his fans than a denunciation of Ebbing. In fact, I think the latter, regardless of the author's intentions, automatically becomes the former.
(BTW, Mr. Church, I can't help but notice you still haven't responded to my offer to moderate your board. Since nobody's talking about said board in any blogs I read, I have to assume that it lacks excitement and intrigue. I can deliver these things, and in a far more sophisticated and genteel manner than Mr. Ebbing. However, your hesitance to respond has forced me to increase the asking price. In addition to an MMA sub-forum (which I will moderate exclusively, and which will only be accessible to those whom I deem fit), I also will need a vegetarian cooking sub-forum. I'll be a bit more lenient here--anyone can post in this forum so long as they acknowledge my moral superiority as a vegetarian. Again, this offer will not be on the table forever. Let me know ASAP.)
-From Chris Mautner's brief obituary for Johnny Hart:
"Hart was part of a generation of cartoonists that included folks Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, Hank Ketcham who, in the 1950s, signaled a movement away from adventure strips like 'Terry and the Pirates' or soap-oprea works like 'Mary Worth,' and more on witty, gag-based strips drawn in a minimal, iconic style."
Wow, I know it's not Mr. Mautner's intention, but that's like the most concisely damning indictment of Schulz I've ever read.
-My grandmother had (possibly still has) this cake pan. As is probably evident from the picture, it was a single mold with two different sets of plastic parts which were laid on top of the cake. In other words, Grandma would bake the cake, frost it either in Batman or Superman colors (always the former if it was my birthday), and then place the appropriate hero's face and insignia on the frosted cake. She also had similar Scooby-Doo and Cookie Monster molds. Man, I do a lot of cooking, but I've never even attempted to bake a cake, much less apply frosting in multiple colors. Is cake-baking a dying domestic art, or am I just lazy? Or both?
-Via Graeme McMillan, chumps mock Rob Liefeld. FOR 15 PAGES (SO FAR). Really now, attacking Liefeld has been done to death. It's been 15 YEARS since R. Fiore established the model for ragging on Liefeld, and nobody's improved upon it since then. In fact, these message board denizens (and the occasional lazy blogger) are to Fiore what Liefeld is to George Perez. Think about it.
-Joe Rice refuses to dismiss the chances of John August writing a good screenplay for Shazam, but he does slam his list of "good" Captain Marvel comics. As well he should, I might add. But what I noticed was this:
"DC publishes hardcover anthologies that gather up decades’ worth of Captain Marvel comics. If I were writing a dissertation on the evolution of the Captain Marvel character, these would be invaluable. But I’m not. So every time I read one of these, I’m struck with the same realization I encounter trying to watch The Honeymooners or a black-and-white movie: Wow. Old things suck.
Yes, I know that will piss off the vintage comics fans, who insist that the original incarnations are the purest forms of a character. But what you quickly realize is that old-time comic books were awkwardly written, crudely drawn, and bewilderingly inconsistent with their rules. They were making up the art form as they went along, and today’s comic books are better for the accumulated wisdom."That settles it. This guy is a hack, and probably not a very smart one. Like Mr. Rice, I don't have any particular attachment to the Shazam family of characters--I've always thought their semi-self-contained mythos was kind of neat, but nothing more than that. But Christ, if you're pushing 40 and prefer Winick and Johns to the original comics, you probably are the right man to write those Charlie's Angels movies. Really though, I strongly suspect that August has never actually read any of the archival Captain Marvel collections.
-More stuff later today, probably.
Friday, April 6, 2007
But I'd still take Gorey over all those talented cartoonists, even Tezuka. So why aren't you people upset that there's going to be a muppet-ized version of "The Doubtful Guest?"
*In the same issue there's also a long article by Heidi Mickey D which I haven't read in forever. I should do that later today.
-Ominous musings on DC's upcoming World War III event. It's been pretty quiet on the fanboy outrage front for a few weeks, but there seems to be potential here. I can't help but view this in the light of the recent news about DC's waning sales or maybe this anecdote. Sadly, though, I think that the real reason for declining sales at DC isn't revulsion to violence or extreme continuity, but the lack of Big Events at DC over the past few months. Mainstream comic sales appear to be a zero sum game. Marvel's increased sales, driven by a Big Event, came at DC's expense. Now DC is about to pull out its own Big Event, which will apparently be stretched out over the course of a year via Countdown. Marvel's got a few Modest Events planned, but I think the lure of DC's Extreme Multiverse Continuity Wars will beat out Marvel's Hulk Smash Everything and Where Have All the X-Children Gone.
-While on this subject, I noticed this comment from self-professed "comics historian" Alan Kistler:
"I think what DC should really do is get in gear about A, having everyone agree on what is now in and out of continuity and B, when they publish TPBs, don’t be afraid to maybe do the smallest amoung of editing to keep a story in continuity.What do I mean by that? Simple. In INFINITE CRISIS #7, Wildcat mentioned remembering Superman of Earth-2. Then DC decided they weren’t gonna have the JSA remember their Earth-2 lives. So when the hardcover trade for INFINITE CRISIS came out, they just rewrote Wildcat’s line so that he was just mentioning how this older guy looked a lot like Superman. Did it chance the story? Not at all. It just took away a remark that no longer made sense in continuity.
That’s all you have to do. Start publishing trades of older stories that are still in continuity and if you need to do some minor editing here and there, just put a 'REDUX' label on the cover so that continuity purists will know what they’re getting into. Also, that way it’d be easier for more casual readers who wanted to get deeped into the mythology to know which trades are in continuity or not when they go to BORDERS and want to add to their bookshelves."
Holy fuck, is that the worst idea I've ever heard. DC and Marvel are already competing for the same 300,000 or so readers. Like I said the other day, I suspect the poor bookstore sales of Spider-Man relative to Naruto is the baffling array of choices on bookstore shelves. This would make things even worse, limiting growth to those predisposed to liking stupid continuity drivel. I figure that the continuity fiends make up, at best, about 20% of Marvel/DC's current readership. Catering to these lunatics will drive away big chunks of the remaining 80%. There's a reason why Dazzler c. 1980 sold more than Civil War c. now.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
"I’d sure be happy if we lived in a world where the writers had much, much more power than the artists."
Someone who shares Waid's prejudices, apparently. Why do I get the feeling that this is someone who views art as purely illustrative at best and the reason why Justice League is late at worst? Even better, though, is this response, from someone self-identifying only as "Bob":
"Jeez…can’t we all get along? And punch each other in the face? I’d bet that both fellas haven’t got the cajones to actually carry through with those kinds of threats. Two overweight nerds slap-hitting each other like faggots."
Don't get me wrong, I'm eager to see Mark Waid and some random dude fight as much as the next guy, but I don't think either of them have the balls to be a queer (to quote Ben Weasel). I'd be shocked if this comment stays up forever--it was placed at 10:50 EDT. Let's see how long it takes for someone at the Newsarama Blog to notice it.
...Well, it's 3:51 EDT now, and the comment appears to be there to stay. This is the part where I wonder if it would still be there if the poster had used a racial epithet rather than a sexual one, but I'm a little distracted by Mark Waid's appearance in the comments thread:
"In retrospect, of course, I regret having brought a grenade to a knife fight…but I thought it was important to take the hours to compose that response because (clearly) not enough is known about how the process works, and encouraging writers and artists to build bunkers rather than to communicate will not make for better comics.
I do need to learn, however, to stop being surprised when statements of exasperation like '…makes me want to settle for punching you in the face' translate to some as 'an immediate threat of physical violence.' Despite its being made up of words, sentences, and language, the internet remains one giant Rorschach test, doesn’t it?"
Sounds like someone's chickening out. Come on, Waid, don't be a coward. I've seen you threaten violence towards too many people at this point--I need closure. I'd volunteer to fight you myself, but (note to self: remember to fill this space with a plausible excuse-DH), so fighting is completely out of the question for me. So which blogger/columnist/reporter should Mark Waid fight? My first instinct is to say ADD, but I don't know what's become of him.
(Anyone interested in a serious discussion about the interplay between writer and artist, rather than the poking-with-a-stick I provide at this blog, are advised to check out Tom Spurgeon's take on the subject. Oh, and I think I agree with Joe Rice's claim that the best writers are at least capable of doing a little drawing themselves. I just can't imagine how one would start writing a script for comics without some idea of how the story would look when broken down into panels.)
(Oh, okay, here's my take: I think one of the reasons mainstream comics art is so bad is that the writing has taken on greater prominence in the last 10 years. The pendulum has swung to far in the other direction, to the point where there is a vocal contingent of fans (see the first comment quoted above) who basically say that any art will do as long as the book is on time. Waid's argument that the deck is stacked in favor of the artist rings false simply because editors seem to be treating artists as mismatched stereo components, plugging them into titles where they may or may not fit (see, for instance, McKone on FF or Ramos on Wolverine). It could be that the blame lies mostly in editorial, actually. Let's see Tom Breevort respond to that. Quick, someone who writes for a blog that Breevort actually reads, make this argument on my behalf!)
-Haven't seen this posted anywhere: Edward Gorey's The Doubtful Guest to be made into a live action film, with the titular character apparently played by a Jim Henson Productions puppet or something. Oh lord, does this sound like a dubious prospect. My wife, who alerted me to the story, agrees that The Doubtful Guest doesn't really have enough meat to support a feature length film. I smell How the Grinch Stole Christmas type padding, replete with cute stuffed toys and maybe a children's television show:
"Originally published in 1957, the whimsical story revolves around a quirky family whose life is turned upside down when a mysterious, mischievous creature arrives unannounced and unwelcome, bringing trouble with him and wreaking havoc.
'It's hard to come up with a creature that you've never seen before in any medium, and he's a unique little creation who is very appealing without being cute or cloying,' Jim Henson Co. co-CEO Lisa Henson said. 'He's sophisticated yet simple at the same time, but it's not overly juvenile. Adults can find him cute, too.'"
I'm really dreading this.
-Some pictures from Kazuo Umezu's personal collection. Somehow I thought he would have his mouth wide open in every picture, like he was screaming at the top of his lungs during all his waking hours.
-A nasty retailing conundrum. I have no idea how one would resolve this problem, especially since the customer's mother doesn't seem like much help.
-You can throw all the articles at us you want, DC, but that's still one ugly-assed cover. I mean, the Eric Wright parts are nice enough, but the figures in the foreground almost make me long for the days of Michael Turner covers. Superman looks like he's about to hit Black Canary with a reverse clothesline, for god's sake. (Semi-related: I think I offended a cop yesterday when he asked me what was going in the book that would make it more expensive than usual and I told him I didn't know cause I don't read Justice League due to my intense dislike of Brad Meltzer. Ahhh, he seems like a pretty jovial fellow, so I'm probably safe from police reprisals.)
-I really thought her last name was McDonald. Sorry, Hiedi.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Seriously though, what the fuck is going on with the 52 writers? I mean Waid is Waid; he's always challenging someone to fistfights of some type. (My advice to anyone who choses to oblige Mr. Waid--clinch, throw elbows. Open him up and he'll fold like an accordion. Finish him with knees or ground and pound, depending on your local AC's regulations.) We've already covered Rucka. Johns is becoming more Johns-ian every month--extreme violence, extreme Roy Thomas-isms abound. Also, I get the feeling that he's probably about to move into the movie/TV industry full-time. Worst of all, Morrison seems to be bailing on the Wildstorm re-launch, plus All-Star Superman is on the Bryan Hitch schedule. He's coasting on reputation on Batman. What happened to Morrison? Is he on the wrong kind of drugs now? Maybe 52 is the real loser's game.
More later today, probably.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Oh, I saw the trailer for Grindhouse, and I'm kind of surprised that the Rodriguez half looks much, much dumber than the Tarrantino half. Which, in turn, is probably ripping off some movie from the 70s for which I might have owned the poster at one time. I used to work at a movie theater which was part of a mostly defunct chain. For whatever reason, they stored a bunch of posters accumulated over 20-30 years behind one of the screens. I was fortunate enough to be working there when the manager decided to clear all this out, and so my college apartment was covered in various exploitation posters (stuff like a Jim Jones exploitation flick, Viva Knievel, a bunch of sleazy "coed roomates" kind of things, at least one movie about a sex change operation gone wrong, Inframan, etc.). Then I decided to grow up and gave them all away, a decision which I actually don't regret at all. My brother still has the poster for Mad Monster Party, though. In fact, he's had it framed.
-New internet pastime: Greg Rucka watch. His interview with CBR a few months got some attention here for his comments about fellow 52 writers. CBR also features a wrap-up of the Emerald City Con with this little witticism:
"Quote of the con, by Greg Rucka - Questioned on how he felt about the comics industry when he started vs. how he feels about the comic industry now that he's worked in it awhile, Rucka said, 'Comics are like sausages - you don't want to know how they're made.'"
Tom Spurgeon linked to his gripes about lettering yesterday, leading me to discover his Live Journal. Which is worth the effort of reading, since Rucka is certainly the kind of guy who speaks his mind:
"Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of people, y'know, UNDERSTANDING THE RULES OF PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR. In fact, I think those writers out there who show flagrant disregard for the same (and they know who they are) reveal incredible disrespect for their craft and their peers by proudly displaying their ignorance.
But I'm working on the first pass pages right now, and I've got to tell you, the copy editor on this manuscript read Ms. Truss a little too much, because she's inserting commas fucking everywhere.
I'm particular about commas. I use them with precision, or so I should like to believe. As Ms. Truss has made loads of money explaining, altering their placement without due consideration changes the meaning of the sentence."
[I like commas because, as Nabokov said, I like privacy.-DH]
Rucka also addresses the controversy over the CBR interview mentioned above:
"But that's only part of it. The other part of it is that I've broken an Unwritten Law, one that stretches all the way back to my first writing classes. I've offered criticism, and even if it was constructive and mild, it opens me up for the same.
Which is bullshit. The paradox of writing for a living is that people are going to read what you write, and some of them (maybe a lot of them) Are Not Going To Like It.
You have to learn to deal with it, and the key word here is 'learn' and not 'deal.' It's an ongoing process, and I don't know a single writer who isn't stung by criticism of their work, no matter how minor, infantile, or incompetent the source. It may not be a major sting, it may not last, but I continue to find it amazing that some Net Troll who offers his unsolicited and uneducated 'review' of my work can bother me almost as much as a bad review from, say, Kirkus. "
Rucka also hints at his frustrations with DC:
"Back at Powell's today. Just completed the detailed breakdowns for Checkmate 14 and Outsiders 48 based on yesterday's conversation with Judd. Still excited about the project, and looking forward to starting the writing on the next two issues this Friday.
But this is tempered by more comic industry bullshit, and no, I'm not talking about this, or this, or even this.
It's the 'Nooo!' that gets me, there.
No, this is something entirely different, and it's illustrating to me (pardon the pun) one of the conflicts I'm going to have to resolve for myself if I'm going to continue doing this. Namely, how much of the curtain do I pull back on the business versus on the process. Fact is, I'm more interested in talking about the work itself, the writing, than I am in dishing dirt about the industry in general, or DC in particular. No, I'll leave that to people far better suited to the task than I.
The thing is, the two are inextricably linked at this point. There are projects I simply cannot talk about yet, much as I might like to. And when my involvement in the Can't-Talk-About-It project looks to be in jeopardy for fairly complicated reasons...well, there's frustration."
"Just finished a phone call with Judd to break down the last four issues of the Checkmate/Outsiders crossover, and I'm feeling something about the writing and the story I haven't felt for what seems like a very long time.
I'm actually excited about writing this. I'm actually enthusiastic about it."
"This is my secret shame of the last several years -- I've all-but forgotten how to read for pleasure, and reading 'in genre,' for lack of a better phrase, has been excruciatingly difficult. I've been working since the first of the year on relearning the art, on attempting to rediscover the joy of reading for the sake of reading, for the pleasure of the story.
The problem is that most of what I read, I can't stand. Seriously. It's like the line about the sausages; some things it's better off not knowing how they make 'em. Books. Comics. Sausages."
Greg Rucka, if you're reading this (which is entirely possible, since you seem like the type who compulsively Googles his own name), please sign an exclusive with Marvel, then start dishing the dirt, under a pseudonym or via Rich Johnston, if necessary. Thanks.
-Last word (barring some unexpected flare up) on McDonald vs. Deppey: Mr. Deppey's argument about the success of Naruto vs. the more modest success of Spider-Man in bookstores is that the latter would sell better if casual comics consumers (aka, unfortunately, "civilians") could pick up a coherent, uninterrupted work by a single author. Today he suggests that Ultimate Spider-Man could be such an item, if it were not for the veritable sea of collected Spider-Man publications available on bookstore shelves.
I've been thinking about this debate, and I've come to the conclusion that the issue (at least re: Spider-Man GN sales) is not quality so much as quantity. Kids who loved the Spider-Man movies just don't know where to begin. With Naruto, there's a clear starting point: Naruto volume one. There's no Essential Naruto, Ultimate Naruto, Web of Naruto, Naruto: Reign, Naruto: Blue, Naruto: Kraven's Last Hunt, etc. Spider-Man, on the other hand, has to drag the weight of 40+ years of publication history, and there's an army of obsessive fanboys making sure the tether never breaks because WE CAN NEVER, EVER FORGET our precious continuity, lifeblood of the kind of deliberately mediocre comics which, tragically, the industry depends upon.
So there's my answer: continuity sucks. And don't go telling me that you were smart enough to figure it out when you were 8 years old. So was I, but back then there were only two Spider-Man comics on the drug store spinner rack (and it was pretty clear that Amazing was the one that mattered, since it was in the 200s while Peter Parker was in the 100s). Some kid in Barnes & Noble will see at least a couple dozen, maybe more depending on the quality of the GN section at the store in question.