Thursday, May 24, 2007

I don't know if I've ever been so thoroughly drenched

-Not exactly an interview dept (I didn't have my tape recorder handy, plus he was busy): I asked my friendly local retailer yesterday about his thoughts on print magazines covering comics. We didn't discuss the Comics Journal, mostly because I know he's a big fan (he says it's the first thing he reads the week it comes out). He's also very high on Comic Art. I asked him how Wizard was doing, and he said that it was a very poor seller, and had been trending downward since the relaunch. He blamed this decline on the availability of news and interviews on the internet. On the other hand, the Two Morrows line of magazines were doing very well for him--in fact (if I understood him correctly), their rise seems to have mirrored Wizrd's decline (though, I'm guessing, not on a 1-for-1 basis). As for the prospects of Comic Foundry in the direct market, he was very pessimistic. This was before I told him about Tim Leong's plans for it--once I explained these plans, he was even more pessimistic. Bear in mind that this store, though not usually included in Greatest Comics Shops in the World discussions, nonetheless stocks that $50 Dupuy-Berberian art collection. It's very, very indie/art comix friendly. Obviously one store won't make or break CF's print launch, but Leong is going to need the support of retailers like my friend. I'm sure the actual Previews pitch for CF will be better than my half-assed description, but selling it as a "comics culture" might not be the wisest path to take.

(For those worried that this discussion might have soured my retailer on Comic Foundry, please bear in mind that I'm not sure I ever mentioned the title to him. And even if I did, it's not the sort of thing which would stick with him or prevent him from ordering it, assuming the solicitation convinces him it's worth a try. In other words, his decision to order CF will be based entirely on their ability to convince him to do so in the pages of Previews.)

-A few brief reviews of the comics I've bought this week:

Captain America 26: There's something about the art at the beginning of the book I don't like. I think it's Perkins--I couldn't find any credits other than the ones on the cover. Anyway, Sharon Carter looks weird, like it's not plausible that she's the same person from panel to panel. More distressing is Tony Stark's body language on page 3--he looks like an 11 year old girl throwing a tantrum. On the other hand, Brubaker's writing is still phenomenal--the Winter Soldier is a legitimately compelling character. I don't think I've ever read any GA Captain America, but I'd be shocked if Brubaker hasn't done more for Bucky than any other writer.

Legion of Super-Heroes 30: This is the way to play to the continuity fiends--the issue makes sense even if you don't know the stories to which Waid is alluding (it doesn't hurt that he's alluding to some very well-known LSH stories). And it all makes sense in the context of the story at hand. I'm not thrilled about the upcoming fill-in run by Bedard, and I'm a little worried about the possibility of the book being canceled to make way for the triumphant return of the Levitz-era LSH (as part of DC's ongoing "The more it resembles the comics of my childhood, the better it is!" sales initiative), but this was a pretty good send-off for Waid and Kitson.

Spirit 6: I never considered myself a fan of Darwyn Cooke, mostly because I just didn't like The New Frontier--Cooke's style just doesn't work for me when he's illustrating superheroes. Plus, much like The Golden Age, it seemed more like a eulogy than a celebration. Thankfully, the Spirit is an intellectual property much better suited to Cooke's talents. I wasn't annoyed by Cooke's sort of goofy idea of what a punk scene looks like (plus it's been so long since I've been in anything resembling a "scene," I figured I had no right to complain about its inauthenticity). However, if my first exposure to punk rock had been the Clash's horrible re-working of "Police On My Back" (maybe the nadir of their painfully long series of terrible covers of great Jamaican (see comments) songs), I would have given punk such a wide berth that I might have written off all rock music in general.

Criminal 6: I'm not sure how I feel about the third person narration, but this was a pretty intriguing setup issue. The protagonist's background in the army is a great hook for the character. I wasn't crazy about the "he escaped through a hole in the fence" caption, but I did like flash forward at the start of the issue. As always, Sean Phillips' moody art is exactly suited to this material. My one complaint is my initial difficulty in identifying the thing on the side of Tracy's face/neck as a scar rather than a tattoo. Speaking of which, I'm actually glad they haven't called attention to this scar yet--Brubaker thinks his readers are smart enough to figure out that it's one of the reasons nobody recognizes Tracy once he returns to town. This respect for his audience's intelligence was also evident in this week's Captain America, in the scene where the Falcon met with the New Avengers. It's a refreshing approach--subtlety doesn't always work in comics (especially superhero comics), but Brubaker is pulling it off.


Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Why are you such a hater, Dick? The industry desperately needs Comic Foundry to succeed and you insist on pissing in the well. Stop it, you evil, good-comics-hating bastard!

Dick Hyacinth said...

Before anyone complains, I should point out that "Police On My Back" is actually by a really awesome English band called the Equals (who, despite not having any Jamaican members, had a distinct Jamaican influence). The Equals are way better than the Clash, BTW, and I highly recommend trying to get some of their stuff if you've never heard it.

bitterandrew said...

A young Eddy Grant fronted the Equals. I like the original version of the song (and their other stuff) well enough, but I still like the Clash's cover better, edgy iconoclasm be damned.

Dick Hyacinth said...

It just sounds better, dude. Some minority opinions are more than just posturing (though I'm sure many people who like the Clash version have never heard anything by the Equals, even "Baby Come Back"--I'm not sure if that's bound to change due to the current music distribution systems, or if it's bound to remain the same due to the extreme market segmentation brought about by the same (and other, long term factors)).

bitterandrew said...

Some minority opinions are more than just posturing

Point conceded, though it's a rare occurance (says the man who prefers Carter USM's version of "Panic" to the original.)

The Equals version feels a bit anemic to me, and I don't even subscribe to "the harder the better" brand of rockism, or rockism in general.

I tend to view the Clash's covers as entirely separate entities from the originals, and judge them as Clash songs (which is a labyrinth of madness, given the wildly uneven quality of their output), with the exception of their "Pressure Drop" cover. (You only hurt the ones you love, apparently.)

Why should anyone have heard of the Equals? We live in an era where a substantial section of the youth population thinks Orgy wrote "Blue Monday."

Lord help us all.

bitterandrew said...

I'm not sure if that's bound to change due to the current music distribution systems, or if it's bound to remain the same

Distribution in itself won't change things, as all it does it build a shiny new superstore without advertising the goods it sells or where said goods can be found.

The mainstream music press is useless, unless some flavor of the month pop star namedrops, at which point the band mentioned becomes a footnote to the namedropper's "legacy" (which happened with the Raincoats during the Nirvana craze). SPIN recently reviewed a Stax Records compilation in relation to Amy Winehouse -- something that caused me much gastric pain.

The better music blogs do a decent job of pulling unjustly forgotten acts back into the spotlight, but their reach is fairly small. I generally try to go with lesser known stuff when the opportunity permits.

Dick Hyacinth said...

By "music distribution systems," I was partly referring to piracy, which (I hope) encourages people to sample things they never heard of since they're, you know, free. But I guess that requires either (a) a large hard drive or (b) some light research on the music being offered on their favorite hub or newsgroup, which I suppose is probably asking too much.

I have no idea who Amy Winehouse is.

Dan Coyle said...

Prior to the Winter Soldier, I can think of only one really interesting (if a touch cliched) Bucky story: Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #12 by Mark Waid, Doug Braithwaite, Anthony Williams, Andy Lanning, and Dan Green. It's a nice, affectionate portrayal by Waid- the typical Waid, "Wow, look how my pals built me, the main character up!" kind of story. Treats Bucky like a mature individual. Worth a look if you can cut through the painfully rushed art. But if the final panel doesn't bring a tear to your eye, there's something wrong with you.

Anonymous said...

That WINTER SOLDIER one-shot with Lee Weeks art was rad... I too, am a fan of the WS.

He still has the charm of Bucky, but with a little pathos, and training as a super-assasin.

Hard to argue with that.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the music history, Dick!
Never heard of the Equals, but I've always liked the Clash.
Now I'm gonna look for someEqual/Eddy Grant stuff online.

Steve Ebbling

Anonymous said...

I also loved Criminal, can't wait to see where this one goes.
Brubaker is kicking ass on this book, IMHO, because I don't read Captain America.

Brubaker is the best writer in comics right now, I hope he doesn't suffer early burnout like so many others before him.

Steve Ebbling

Ami Angelwings said...

I'm a little worried about the possibility of the book being canceled to make way for the triumphant return of the Levitz-era LSH (as part of DC's ongoing "The more it resembles the comics of my childhood, the better it is!" sales initiative),

I'm worried about this too! :(

That's the perfect way to sum up what DC's doing btw >.>;; I'm getting tired of the nostalgia :(