There are a few other things worth noting. Clowes' play with form is especially, well, playful. In the latest installment, Marshal's thought captions physically intrude on his date's word balloons. It's a clever technique, more successful than his bursts of full color in the (otherwise monochromatic) present-day sections of Death Ray. I also suspect that there's greater congruity between words and pictures in Mr. Wonderful; in other words, the relationship between words and pictures are not disharmonious or contradictory.*
Mister Wonderful might not be Clowes' best work (I like his late 90s short stories the best), but I'm more intrigued by it than anything he's written since the original serialization of David Boring. I strongly suspect Clowes is lulling his readers into a sense of false security so that he can abruptly pull the rug out from under us in a later installment. But it sure would be interesting if this was a low-key, character-driven comedy. We'll see.
-About this mess (and its likely to be just as bad sequel): Has anyone ever considered that regular, fully adult, non-initiate readers (aka "civilians") might be more interested in autobiography than something like Bone? I prefer the latter, generally speaking, but I'm guessing that many (possibly most) of Best American Comics 2007's readers might not be interested in a sublimely-crafted, but ultimately straightforward and unironic fantasy.
What I'm mostly taken aback by is the number of people who apparently take Heidi MacDonald's post as a rallying cry against...something or another. Chris Ware? Comics with any hint of artistic/literary pretensions? Tom Spurgeon? It varies from commenter to commenter, really. Oh hey, here's my list of the worst comments so far (bearing in mind that further bad comments might be only moments away):
Grady Hendrix (a writer for the NY Sun) posits a spectrum between superhero comics and "cancer comics." I know of at least a couple of examples of the latter (Mom's Cancer and Cancer Vixen are the two that spring to mind), but I never hear anyone talking about them. In fact, these seem to be the very definition of middlebrow comics--they certainly seem to reflect mainstream taste more than Groo. Hendrix admits to being an outsider, and I guess I can understand this misconception. I just hope that no one else latches onto "cancer comics" as a talking point. Or have they already? Oh God....
"tomthecat" somehow turns this into a complaint about the format of various Marvel and DC published collections, as though there were a single hive mind making all bookstore-oriented publishing decisions in the comic book industry.
I suggest that "logic was prevailing." It was at the time, but I shouldn't have been so quick to make this claim.
KC argues that the problem with comics from the "indie world" is their failure to institute a harsh division of labor between writers and artists. Furthermore, this is due to laziness and cheapness on the part of publishers. This comment, by the way, is the one most likely to have been written by someone too young to remember the Ultraverse.
Brad thinks the anthology should have included Funky Winkerbean. Maybe there really is something to this "cancer comics" thing! He also seems to think that the anthology is intended to be a college text book of some kind.
Alan Coil wins absolute worst comment with his suggestion that MacDonald's critics are motivated by sexism. Now that's pandering! (BTW, I predicted last Friday that the appearance of Harlan Ellison's street team would launch the thread into "epic" territory. I'm not sure if I was right or not--it seemed to be chugging along pretty well before Coil appeared. For more of Alan Coil's forensic exploits, see here.)
(EDIT: It gets worse.)
MacDonald is distressed that her post sparked condemnation (and rabid, somewhat confused agreement) rather than enlightened discussion. I think the reason the "debate" proved so useless was her initial gambit of linking a critique of Best American Comics 2007 which almost everyone on earth would agree with (ie, it could have included worthy comics from a wider range of authors and styles) to a much more difficult to prove argument about young cartoonists' prejudices (and maybe snooty comics critics' prejudices? it's unclear who's doing the "valuing" in MacDonald's synopsis of her argument) against genre fiction and/or recurring characters. The nature of this argument allowed for a variety of comment-leavers to twist it into something bizarre and unrecognizable,which only dragged the "debate" down further. It's not that a discussion about middlebrow comics isn't worth having, but, as it stands, it's based on a premise that many people find untenable.
The current talking point seems to be that the negative reaction to the piece was unwarranted and extreme. I'll let other people debate whether or not that was true. I think it's fair enough to call Christopher Butcher or Dirk Deppey firebrands, and I doubt they'd disagree too much with that characterization. And Tom Spurgeon can be pretty acerbic too, no doubt about it. But there are plenty of negative reactions from cooler heads, such as Chris Mautner, Sean Collins, and David Welsh. I think there's something to the fact that these reasonable folks didn't think of the post as an invitation to a dialogue so much as a baseless straw man argument.
One last thing: when I first read MacDonald's original post, I was reminded of this:
That's a cartoon by Ted Rall from The Comics Journal #200, published in 1997. Maybe this isn't a specific generational trend, but a stage which many young cartoonists pass through?
-Trader Joe's reviews: Haven't done this in a long time. Let's see what I can remember, and hope that I don't repeat (or contradict) any earlier entries:
*Safari Blend whole bean coffee: Yuck. The package promised rich, chocolaty, nutty, sweet flavors, but I was overwhelmed by a strong, lingering green taste, reminiscent of jalapeno flavored candies minus the heat and sugar. I also thought the flavor was too acidic and thin, especially in light of what the label promised. Maybe they meant raw, green nuts. I've had good luck with the other TJ coffee I've tried--the Costa Rican Tarrazu blend, which basically delivered what it promised. I'm not sure if this was a bad batch or what. I thought that was one of the points of a bean blend--to minimize variations from cannister to cannister. Speaking of which, the pictures of lions and elephants on one side and kangaroos on the other was kind of amusing. I never been to Australia, and can't say I remember having any Australian coffee before, but I'm 100% certain this is what the Outback tastes like.
*Fresh mushroom ravioli, with mascarpone and asiago cheese: The filling was pretty tasty, but the dough was too thick, almost leathery. The raviolis might have been a little too big as well--I recall them being about two inch rounds. Once again I'm reminded of a similar, yet far superior, TJ product--the fresh gorgonzola ravioli. The pasta is much tenderer, and the filling at least as good. But then again, I really like pungent cheeses.
*Lemonade, refrigerated in a 64 oz. carton: Christ, this was terrible. If you long for the taste of lemon Theraflu, but want to avoid that fattening dextromethorphan hydrobromide, then this is the product for you. The frozen concentrate is better, but still a little bland.
*Braided, marinated mozzarella: Good stuff. Not quite as good as a fresh mozzarella in brine, but still very creamy and easier to manipulate. Makes an excellent grilled cheese sandwich, but I'd recommend adding some kind of additional flavor--like basil and tomatoes or balsamic vinaigrette (brushed on the interior of the sandwich).
This might be a good time to bring up my grilled cheese technique. Many of you are already familiar with the two pan trick (briefly: heat two pans, place sandwich between them, add a weight to the top pan if it's not sufficiently heavy). But here's the other key, borrowed from America's Test Kitchen: brush some vegetable oil directly on the outward-facing pieces of bread, then add some salt. If you use both these steps, your grilled cheese will be extra crispy. And who wouldn't want that?