Thursday, March 29, 2007

Comic Links-A-Go-Go

Because school has kept me busy the past couple of days, I have had little time to consider these "comic books" and what they mean or don't mean or whatever. Instead, here are the various places I go for comic-related stuff:

All the Rage (Updates Sundays)
Lying in the Gutters (updates Mondays)
Permanent Damage (updates Wednesdays)

The Comics Reporter

The Beat
Dick Hates Your Blog
Eddie Campbell
Joe Mathlete Explains Marmaduke
Elijah J Brubaker
Man of Action
Spencer Carnage's Of Course, Yeah
Tom Brevoort

Something Positive
Get Your War On
Lethargic Lad
The Perry Bible Fellowship
Captain Excelsior

And that's that. Anything I SHOULD be viewing, but am not? Oh, I also get Brian Wood's blog view my Livejournal account and don't feel like hunting down the proper link. But, yeah, he rocks. And I get Ellis' Bad Signal--again, am lazy, won't hunt it down for you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I'm Bateman. (Or, One of Many Reasons Why I Will Never Be Allowed to Write Batman)

I just finished rereading Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho the other night after watching the film adaptation again a week or two back. This was my second time reading the book and, I dunno, fourth or fifth time seeing the flick. (I also watched The Rules of Attraction and am currently rereading it. I'm in an Ellis mood.) Watching the movie and reading the book again reminded me just how disappointed I was with Batman Begins.

Now, I tend to avoid superhero flicks because, well, I don't care. I find them tedious. It's always the same sort of story--which is a story I've read dozens of times in various forms--and I just can't be bothered. Batman films, in particular, annoy me because they always feel the need to give the guy a love interest and I don't see the point beyond "Hollywood thinking," which just isn't a good enough reason for me. But, I did see Batman Begins when it was on The Movie Network here in Canada for one reason: Christian Bale and his performance as Patrick Bateman in America Psycho.

Am I the only one who watched that movie/read that book and thought, "Hey, wouldn't Bruce Wayne kind of act like this?"

Note that I said Bruce Wayne, not Batman. Obviously, the characters are different, but replace the homicidal tendencies of Bateman with the crimefighting tendencies of Batman and they're not that different. Hell, Bruce Wayne is recognised as a performance put on that WOULD match up with the way Bateman acts in public. Drinking and meaningless bullshit talk with the guys, treating women like walking vaginas and, basically, obsessed with money.

Actually, American Psycho made me ask various questions: wouldn't 1980s Bruce Wayne have done an inordinate amount of cocaine while socialising with Gotham's upper crust? How would he feel about illegal immigrants working as servants for his friends? What about gang-banging a hooker?

Would Batman have to break the law as Bruce Wayne in order to keep up the facade?

See, to me, that's where a lot of interesting material lies in the character: the disarity between Batman and Bruce Wayne.

And, man, Batman Begins was just a disappointment in that regard. I know, I know, they couldn't have a children's hero snorting cocaine before fucking two prostitutes, but going from Bale as Patrick Bateman to him as Batman was just such a depressing experience. There was no edge, none of the craze I had expected. I dunno.

That said, it was an enjoyable film overall and I'll see the next one, because, as far as superhero flicks go, it was top-notch. Still, am I so wrong for longing for scenes of Bruce Wayne "powdering his nose"?

Monday, March 26, 2007

midterm responses to Sin City

Question: In the world of Sin City, things are not always black and white. Good and evil are extremes at the opposite ends of a spectrum, but in between these two are many shades of gray. Where do you think Marv sits on this spectrum of morality (is he a hero, anti-hero, villain?) and why?

Answer: In any other story, any other world, Marv would probably make for an effective villain, at best an anti-hero. His ultimate goal, superficially anyway, is vengeance for Goldie's Death, and not just revenge but VENGEANCE at any cost. Marv doesn't care how much property he destroys or how many people he kills; he is determined to avenge Goldie's murder no matter what. This type of violent disregard for the consequences of his actions would call for intervention from a hero in any other story, any other world... except Sin City.

The citizens and the authorities in Sin City are so corrupt and so depraved they create a dark backdrop that allows Marv's character to stand out. We see that his methods are not by choice but out of necessity. If Marv is to overcome his enemies he MUST use any means available, including his natural talent for wanton destruction. Then, seeing his actions in this light, and hearing his thoughts in the internal monologues, we find that Marv's goal is not just vengeance at any cost; he feels obligated to mete out justice to the true villains. No one else in Sin City has a real desire for justice. So, I'd say Marv is a hero. In his own way he stands for justice and truth. He succeeds in preventing future evil. He's a good guy.

Question: What is the significance of the recurring religious symbols in Sin City, both in regards to character development and theme?

Answer: The Hard Goodbye is a graphic novel about sin and redemption; therefore, it is full of religious symbols. Frank Miller turns our concept of the righteous and the evil upside down. Marv, who always wears a cross around his neck, is our vengeance-thirsty hero, while Roark, a man of the cloth, is a flesh-eating villain.

The first religious symbol we see is Marv's cross necklace. This connects Marv to God through the eyes of the reader. It makes me think Marv is drawing from a higher power. Marv's cross is always white and seems to more often than not stand out in shadows. I think this symbolism represents the pure sort of spirituality Marv embraces as compared ot the religious officials/villains.

The statue of Cardinal Roark, on the other hand, seems very ominous. He is holding his right hand in the air while holding a staff in his left hand. He wears a frown and a jutting brow. He towers over Marv. In contrast, Roark is a short, round, and hunched-over man. This is showing the reader what a hypocrite Roark is. He represents himself as a righteous figure while indeed he is not.

Marv is what he is, no pretending or trickery there. He wears a simple cross and hunts bad guys. Roark is a fake. He hides behind religious propaganda and symbolism, while devouring the flesh of hookers. Where Marv may draw on religion for strength, Roark is a coward who hides behind religion until the very end. Even in death, organized religion promises that Roark will be remembered as a saint and Marv as the sinner. In truth, it is the other way around.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tony Stark, Futurist

Throughout the whole "Civil War" thing, the word "futurist" has been thrown around a lot to describe Tony Stark and Reed Richards. But what is a futurist? Is it, as Stark describes here, someone who works towards the future, or is it really a member of the Italian art and drama movement of the early 20th century that fetishised technology, violence, youth, urban living and was eventually tied closely to fascism?

I just find it amusing that the word is thrown around quite a bit, but there's that other meaning to it that seems to fit so well. Tony Stark is all about technology; for the Futurists, it was fast cars, while for Stark it's a suit of armour where he becomes a machine basically. The Futurists were heavily interested in the idea of humans being like machines or body parts replaced by machines. Stark has a machine heart basically. He is all about living in the city and, goddammit, he is one violent guy, isn't it?

To tie it to Civil War a bit more, here's the first paragraph from "The Futurist Synthetic Theater, 1915" by Filippo Marinetti, Emilio Settimelli, and Bruno Corra:

As we await our much prayed-for great war, we Futurists carry our violent antineutralist action from city square to university and back again, using our art to prepare the Italian sensibility for the great hour of maximum danger. Italy must be fearless, eager, as swift and elastic as a fencer, as indifferent to blows as a oxer, as impassive at the news of a victory that may have cost fifty thousand dead as at the news of a defeat.

For a guy who claimed to be doing it for the greater good, Stark always was a little too gung-ho on the fight, wasn't he?

Now, I'm not suggesting a direct connection here. It's just something I find interesting. It could be sheer coincidence or, maybe, it's one of those subtextual things that was thrown in for a laugh.

Just something I thought of and figured I'd put out there. Something to keep in the back of your head.

For more on Futurism: this site has a lot of good info.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Message Boards

Via Dick Hyacinth, we present Mark Millar takes on Graeme McMillan.

Now, the actual topic here is of interest, but I've got nothing much to add beyond the fact that I've enjoyed what McMillan's had to say since he was doing "Fanboy Rampage," which I still miss (along with others). I've never seen a strong bias against Millar, although that could be because I have a bias against Millar and his work. (Although, I will admit that much of his work reads 50% better if you either don't hear him hype it up or try your best to forget what he said to hype it up. I once considered spending weeks going through interviews to pick out pieces of hype and collecting them all in one big mega-post, followed by round-table reviews of his books where the only question is "Does it live up to the hype?" Many people I talked to seemed enthusiastic and thought it would be funny, but I could never work up the energy to do it. Someday, maybe.) And, you know, when everything you read by a writer is relatively similar and you never like it, it's hard not to form a bias. Except it's different this time because it's Millar and Millarworld.

I used to post on Millarworld quite extensively. I began at DC's Authority boards and moved to what was then called X-Fan and then through the various iterations and servers of the independent version of the site. A year, year-and-a-half ago, I quit message boards altogether. I was sick of them. Didn't see the point anymore. Especially Millarworld where, well, it's Mark Millar's message board and I don't read any of his comics because I haven't liked anything he's written really since The Authority (although, I do have the first Ultimates volume hardcover, which I enjoy for the pretty pictures and mindless action--but it's not revolutionary or brilliant or any of those other words, it's decent).

But, yeah, I quit Millarworld along with a couple of other places. I got tired of the scene. I'd been posting for somewhere between four and five years and, after a while, it just gets pointless, especially on creator-driven boards. Look at the mechanics of that thread above. Creator says A in a very loose, rude fashion, 90% of the people automatically agree and the 10% that disagree have to use very careful, purposeful language for fear of incurring the wrath of moderators despite the fact that the creator set the tone for the discussion. And that's that.

Regular threads aren't much better. You have the ever-rotating batch of threads like "Favourite character/series/creator," "Why do you read comics?" "If you ran company A, what would you do?" and comments on the latest news peppered with the same in-jokes made by the same people. And that's fine. All of that is fine if that's what interests you, but I grew tired of it after a while.

Not trying to make a point really, I just don't see message boards discussed often as entities in their own right. Usually it's just a thread here or there. Probably more to it, especially from the perspectives of those who continue to post on them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

midterm questions

Now that all of my students have officially taken the midterm, I can share with you some of the questions I asked. They had nine topic questions to choose from, and they had to write on two of those in class for about a page handwritten and a third out of class for two pages typed. What follows are five of the most popular questions, the ones most of my students gravitated towards.

The concept of what motivates a hero’s action is at the center of that hero’s character. Choose one of the heroes we read about and analyze the reasons behind that character’s actions, interpreting the things the character says and does in order to better understand what makes the character tick. Why is this person even a superhero, and what drives him or her to act the way he or she does?

The line that is drawn between what makes someone a hero or a villain is often very thin, and in a way it is in the eye of the beholder. Can a person who does “bad” things still be a hero if those things are done for a common “good”? Explore that question as it is presented in Watchmen.

In the world of Sin City, things are not always black and white. Good and evil are extremes at the opposite ends of a spectrum, but in between these two are many shades of gray. Where do you think Marv sits on this spectrum of morality (is he a hero, anti-hero, villain?) and why?

Marv, the main character of Sin City, has a particular attitude towards the women around him that is somewhat of a cross between chivalry and misogyny. Explore this attitude, how it is portrayed throughout the story and how in many ways it defines his character and shapes the comic’s plot.

What is the significance of the recurring religious symbols in Sin City, both in regards to character development and theme?

I'll share with you some of the answers on Friday, after I get their permission to post them. But overall, the students did brilliantly. The lowest grade I had was a mid-B, and I had several perfect scores.

But before I share those with you, does anyone have any comments on them? Care to try your hand at answering any of them?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ignore Me, Go Elsewhere

Go read this fantastic essay by Greg Burgas on postmodernism in comics, Grant Morrison and Joe Casey. Some really interesting ideas in there. I'll comment on it later when I get back from class.

EDIT: So, it's later. Not surprising, what I wish Burgas had commented on a little was Marvel Boy, which I consider to be the highlight of Morrison's Marvel work--particularly within the idea of experimentation and postmodernism.

I pretty much agree with the essay and I think it points out the reason why I haven't been able to get into Gødland as much as I was into Casey's Wildcats, Automatic Kafka and, even, The Intimates. Those books pushed things forward--if only a slight bit, while Gødland doesn't. And there's nothing wrong with that. I still dig the book a lot, just not with the same fanatacism as the other works. Hell, even Casey's final year on Adventures of Superman had him do something interesting stuff with Superman as a pacifist.

The only area of disagreement is probably over Morrison's Authority, which I still hold out hope for, but that's very minor.

So, yeah, if you haven't read the essay yet, go do so.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Road to Civil War

For some reason, the university bookstore has begun carrying some Marvel trades, so I picked up The Road to Civil War since they're charging something close to the exchange rate. The US price is $14.99 and the Canadian cover price is $24. You know what the price SHOULD be? $17.65. The bookstore was charging a buck more than that. I really hate comic and book publishers for that mark-up. It's not like shipping costs should be relatively similar considering NAFTA or anything. And, I mean, living in Windsor, Ontario, which is right next to Detroit, you can't exactly say that trucks have to travel further to reach me than other parts of the US. It just pisses me off. DC is better, usually, but still not quite as good. Marvel, though, is fucking horrible about Canadian prices.

Anyway, I also figured I'd get it since I'll end up getting the Civil War trade when it comes out. And I wanted to give New Avengers: Illuminati a read.

Illuminati was decent. I really like the idea of the group. The discussions were a little too Namor/Iron Man centric. And I never really got a sense as to why it's THESE people involved. Hell, it seems like Namor is thrown in just so you can have the resident asshole--what, was Quicksilver busy?

I felt it was a little rushed, as well. Too much crammed in. It would have benefitted from more pages or more issues. I guess that's what the current mini-series is for, but even here--it seemed too much like a lead-in to Civil War then it should have been.

The other issues included, two from Fantastic Four and three from Amazing Spider-Man all bothered me for nit-picky reasons. Like a conversation featuring a couple dozen words between Reed and Ben taking a minute and a half. Or the blatant lines/speeches ripped from The West Wing in the Spider-Man issues. That could be purposeful given the nature of the story, but it just made me roll my eyes.

And, I'm sorry, but the inclusion of the FF issues IS just a cheap fake-out on Marvel's part, okay? It gets everyone thinking Thor is coming back and then it's a clone/cyborg/robot/clusterfuck.

But, you know what? I realised Civil War did its job with me: I'm buying more Marvel titles now than ever before, mostly titles relating to Civil War in some way: New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Punisher War Journal, Thunderbolts and Immortal Iron Fist. To be fair, three of those books I'm buying because of the writers (Fraction and Ellis), but the two Avengers books?

Let's be honest, the only reason why I didn't buy Civil War itself is because I think Millar's writing is ass most of the time. But, I'll get the trade for the same reason why I'll get Infinite Crisis' trade. Because, in my heart of hearts, I'm a fanboy who wants to see the big stuff happen. Huh.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Just got back from going to see 300 with a couple of friends, Amir and Jacqui. It was good. Not great, not amazing, not spectacular--good. If I were writing a review, I'd give it 3/5, maybe 3.5, but probably not. It's a decent flick.

What I found interesting was talking about it in the car after. Now, each of us had a different perspective. I have read the graphic novel; Jacqui had seen it before; and Amir was completely fresh. And you know what parts of the movie all three of us thought sucked? Anything that wasn't in the graphic novel. At first, I thought it was simply me being one of those people who sit in the theatres and go "That wasn't in Miller's comic! Fuck that!"

But no.

No, it was unanimous: all of the shit with the queen that was thrown in? Worthless. Slowed the movie right down and was, generally, boring as fuck. And, let's be honest, all of that stuff was the typical Hollywood let's-round-out-the-picture-and-make-it-a-Movie bullshit. My friends could spot it a mile away.

It's stuff like that that's my biggest problem with adaptations, and what generally pisses off fans of the original pieces of work the most. It's not the CHANGES, it's the changes that don't actually add to the movie, but, in fact, detract from it as every single scene with the queen does. Once they leave Sparta, the movie should leave Sparta. What happens there isn't important.

Otherwise, it was a good movie. At some points, the overly stylised nature get in the way. On that regard, one cannot help compare it to Sin City, which I think is the superior adaptation. I think the problem was the mixing of realist and unrealistic stylised elements. But, not to a point where it harms the movie in any large way.

The flick is worth seeing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why Death in Comics Doesn't Matter and That's the Way People Like It

So, Captain America is dead. And he'll come back. Whoop-dee-whoop. Don't act like you actually care. Every fanboy who says, "He's just coming back" with disdain? Fuck you, you hypocrite. You don't want him to stay dead, so why say anything? Change cannot happen on any meaningful level in the universes of Marvel and DC.

You won't let it.

See, the problem with change like Steve Rogers getting shot is that it fucks up every little story idea you have sitting in that little brain of yours, hoping to get out one day when you manage to break in and can FINALLY revolutionise things with your brilliance. I mean, Joss Whedon thinks so, too (oh, don't forget any number of creators like Alex Ross, Mark Waid and a bunch of other people whose names I forget).

It's not movies or TV shows or any of that that makes things change back. It's you bunch of idiots who have been dreaming since you were a little kid that, one day, it would be you who got to put the witty line in Spider-Man's mouth or make Superman move a planet.

Why do think Ben Reilly isn't Spider-Man while Peter Parker lives happily with his wife? Or Superman still fights crime even though Clark Kent/Kal-El is dead? Or Bruce Wayne isn't in a wheelchair? Or Kyle Rayner isn't Green Lantern? Or the dozens of other examples I could give you?

Because you don't fuck with the toys.

That should be Official Rule Number One of comic books from now on: You don't fuck with the toys.

At least be honest about it. You don't want change because you don't want to risk the chance that someday you'll be in a position where you can't tell that X-Men tale you've been itchy to tell since fucking forever. It's the Fanboy Dream.

So, of course Steve Rogers will come back. Who cares? Why be all snarky about it? He'll come back because that's the way you want it. We'd keep him dead, but it's against the rules. Sorry.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Incal

I read Avant L'Incal (yeah, that's right, I'm feeling pretentious enough to use the original French--it means "Before the Incal," by the way--the sequel, Apres L'Incal--"After the Incal"--hasn't been released on English yet when it was serialised in issues by Humanoids because my dad bought it. I don't know why he never bought the collections DC released of the original Incal. So, I kind of understood what had gone before while reading The Incal: The Epic Conspiracy and The Incal: The Epic Journey, except only partly. I also remembered some stuff from The Metabarons.

That said, these two books are one fantastic read, people. A little antiquated in its ideas at times--I'm sure some women I know would just LOVE the fact that for half of the first book, one of the women walks around in nothing but a loin cloth--but I knew that going in. Jodorowsky has a certain mentality and once you accept it, you're golden.

The story is basically John Difool has to save the unoverse over and over and over again despite his selfish and cowardly nature. He is surrounded by people with more selflessness and courage and never changes. It's actually rather astonishing how little he changes throughout the story. At any given chance, he'll try to pack it up, steal some money and go home to a life of cheap drugs and hookers. The only reason why he sticks around is because of a woman.

What impressed me was how well this story meshed with Avant L'Incal since it was written after these books. Jodorwsky must have had the backstory very well plotted--or bluffed pretty damn well.

And what can I say about the art of Moebius? My favourite panel has to be in the second book where the Metabaron realises the woman he loves will always love Difool and never return his love. The sheer look of anger and frustration Moebius draws is perfect.

I'm a little wary of the ending, though. Not sure what to make of it.

I wish I had more to say, but you know me: if I like something, I tend to just say "Hey, I like it" and then shut up. If you see these books, check them out. Good stuff. And not quick reads, either. You get bang for your buck.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Damnation & Punisher: Born

One of my favourite Preacher stories is the story of the Saint of Killers. I forget what collection it's in, but I remember the introduction where Garth Ennis talks about how the movie Unfogiven played a big role in inspiring the character. Particularly, the stuff at the end where William Muny damns himself. He just outright damns himself. And so does the Saint of Killers.

And here, so does Frank Castle.

In all three cases, these men are put in situations where they have a choice and they all choose to damn themselves forever. And what makes it so powerful is that Ennis understands this and knows how to convey it.

In the final issue of Punisher: Born (I prefer the originally intended title of "The War Where I Was Born") is so powerful and haunting. Some no doubt disagree with the idea that Ennis puts forth, that Castle became the Punisher in Vietnam and that hs family getting killed was just an excuse to let the beast free again, but it works for me. It adds to the character without deviating too far from the way he was originally written. As far as I know (and I could be wrong), Frank Castle always was a Vietnman vet and there's no way that couldn't have affected him. It makes sense to couple that with the killing of his family.

I don't know, but the page where the soldiers find Castle standing among the bodies, that is one of the most disturbing pages I've seen in comics.

The rest of the comic is great, but most of it is just window-dressing for those moments at the end--it all leads up to there and . . . just damn, man. Damn.

DMZ: Body of a Journalist

Written for the University of Windsor Lance.

DMZ: Body of a Journalist
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli, Kristian Donaldson, and Brian Wood
168 pgs., $15.99

The United States of America is under siege by terrorists, insurgents, and traitors--its own citizens. New York City is caught in the middle of the two forces, the US government and the Free States. It’s not safe to walk the street, firefights occur on a regular basis, and the people who live there just try and make it through the day alive.

In the second collection of Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ, we are given more background on what has split America in two and turned its largest city into an American Baghdad. Our window into the city is Matty Roth, a photographer imbedded partly through chance and partly through choice, who tries to capture what life is like in the city and show the world what has become of NYC.

Body of a Journalist contains three stories, the first taking up the bulk of the book. In it, the Free States reveal that they have journalist Viktor Ferguson hostage and Matty is put in the position of acting as the go-between for the government and Free States. Wood and Burchielli shine here as the idea of media manipulation by the government is explored in shocking and all-too-real ways, with Matty finding himself a pawn in a propaganda war he didn’t know existed.

As well, this story provides background on how America became split like through Matty’s research. The key line seems to be “The Free States are an idea, not a geographic entity.” This America is one torn in two after its citizens have become so frustrated and angry with the government that they felt compelled to rebel, eventually making New York their centre of operations.

The second story, “Zee, NYC” provides the history of Zee, a friend of Matty’s who was a medical student and now acts as a doctor in the DMZ. Wood, along with art by Kristian Donaldson, shows the final days before evacuation of New York and how exactly so many people got left behind.

The third story, “New York Times” is Wood’s first work as writer and artist since his series Channel Zero. Not quite a typical comic story, “New York Times” is a guide to the DMZ as told by Matty. Information on neighbourhoods, restaurants and the local art scene is included.

However, the most powerful elements of the story are the profiles included of people who live in the DMZ. Not everyone views the situation they live in as negative and most try their best to live normal lives.

Throughout the book, Wood’s writing captures a basic level of humanity that prevents it from seeming like a rant on politics. While the political message is there, what gets across most of all is just how horrible it is that anyone would have to live in a place like this. And that even in places like the DMZ, people endure and live their lives as best they can.

The city of New York is also a character in the book as not only does its people endure, so does the city. It adapts and it manages to find a way to still be New York.

DMZ is quite possibly the best piece of fiction currently being produced that tackles the current political climate of the world and does so by bringing it right to the most American city there is. It is brutal, honest and a must-read.

Also available--DMZ: On the Ground

Friday, March 09, 2007

Marc Silvestri's Art Looks Like Ass

Felt like buying some comics, so I talk a walk. No copies of Captain America #25, though. I don't care that much--I'll read it in a trade at some point--but figured I'd give it a look. Ah well.

Civil War: The Initiative and Mighty Avengers #1

Wow, Marc Silvestri's art looks like ass, doesn't it? It really fucking does. It is horrible.

The one-shot written by Bendis and Ellis isn't worth your time. I got it pretty much for the Ellis-ness and it was worthless.

Mighty Avengers #1, on the other hand, was a decent read. They fight against the Mole Man. Fun fun fun.

I enjoyed how Bendis interwove the fight and the choosing of the team members.

The thing that impressed me the most was bringing back the thought bubbles. I've been wanting someone to do that for the longest time and Bendis actually makes good use of them here. None of the old long-winded shit. He uses them in short, effective bursts.

I'm actually looking forward to the next issue, strangely enough.

The Authority #2

If you remember, the first issue of this book blew me away. And it turns out what I was expecting to happen in the story has: the Authority has crash-landed in our word and are stuck.

However, compared to the first issue, I was horribly underwhelmed. The first issue promised "the historic first meeting of man and superman" (or something like that) and, well, this was it?

There are some nice moments, like Jack and the Doctor picking up some Authority trades. Or the idea that they simply cannot exist in our world without causing massive problems.

Now, I'm just left waiting for Grant Morrison to appear . . .

newuniversal #4

Well, now we know the score. Nothing much else to say.

Detective Comics #828

So, this is the magical, wonderful Paul Dini people love, eh?

What a medoicre fucking comic.

A lame mystery with lame motives and a lame fight. The only redeeming quality being the use of the Riddler, but even that didn't do much for me.

Throw in some mediocre art and the whole mediocre package is complete. Too bad it's got a fantastic cover by Simone Bianchi.

Criminal #5

Holy shit.

Talk about bringing out the big guns. Jesus. This is Leo? This is Leo? Wow.

I've actually been a little wishy-washy about this series, buying it mostly because I dug Sleeper so much and had a little faith. After this issue, I'm on board completely.

I mean, holy shit.

More reviews coming sometime later. Probably tomorrow. I've still got Punisher: Born, Ashley Wood D'airan Adventures (or however it's spelled) plus yesterday, my shipment with DMZ: Body of a Journalist and the other Incal trade arrived. Rock and roll.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What's the big problem with comic book shops?

Go read a comment by Jimmy Palmiotti first, because that's what has me all a-twitter today.

You know where I go when I want to buy a CD? Any guesses? Anyone at all? It's pretty obvious.

I go to a music store.

And what do I do if I don't know where a music store is? Like, for instance, when I came to Windsor, I didn't know where a music store within walking distance (maybe an hour or so's distance) was. What did I do?

I asked some friends and checked the goddamn Yellow Pages.

Comic book stores aren't the problem. Speciality stores are good. I know, I know, in this age of Wal-Mart selling every goddamn thing under the sun, that just seems stupid, but it's the truth.

Now, should comics be available in as many places as possible? Sure, that would probably make sense and do some good business. It would also be convenient if I could pick up he new Ryan Adams album at the corner store, but you don't see me whining about having to go to a music store to get it.

I'm sick of this "Oh, how will people know to go to comic shops?" attitude. If they aren't complete fucking morons, they'll figure it out.

Of course, that always leads to the whole "Well, they may not want to go into a place covered with posters and toys and shit." The music store I go to is covered in posters and vinyl album covers and anything else related to music they can think to stick up. Oh, and Simpsons toys. And it's a great store. If people are THAT turned off by posters and shit, how long do you think they'll be buying comics anyway? (Now, I also recognise that some stores aren't that friendly towards non-fanboyish buyers, but that's a different issue, I think--and speaks more towards someone not running a business right--which can happen with ANY store. I've been snobby-as-hell clothing stores, music stores and book stores. It's not just comics.)

It basically all stems back to this stupid, self-loathing, defeatist attitude comic readers have. It's the same attitude that had me ranting and raving on message boards when I'd see threads desperatately asking why everyone reads comics in a lame attempt to convince one another that it's okay.

It's sad, people.

Marketing needs to be improved, so does content--especially in the interest of diversification--and there are a lot of other problems with the current comic industry. But, the fact that comics have their own stores? I don't see the big deal.

Half the battle of convincing others that you're worth attention is acting like it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Comics & Kids

Over at Of Course, Yeah, Spencer Carnage has a really smart, well-written post about comics and kids. You can go read it there or I'll sum it all up for you--I do take liberties with some of his points, so maybe you should read his post because you know me, once I'm off and running, I'll end up saying things he didn't say except you'll think he did (although, you should read his blog, because in the previous post, he makes the same point about Ronin having his mask on while talking to Echo in the recent issue of New Avengers I made when I reviewed it--take THAT, Bendis!).

Basically, he says kids aren't not reading comics because of continuity or because they aren't like the movies. Stuff like that doesn't matter to kids. Kids don't think like the rest of us. They actually understand the difference between movies, TV shows and comics, so when they read a comic, they don't wonder why the same stuff isn't happening in the movie. It's downright logical, I think.

As well, kids don't care about lots of continuity and complex stories. They crave them, okay? They do. The fact that the new X-Men comic is continued in the next Spider-Man comic means one thing: they've got an excuse to run to mom and dad and DEMAND they get that Spider-Man comic. They HAVE to have it. They MUST have it. They NEED to have it!

The problem is when continuity overrides the story. Tying things together is great as long as it isn't just in the service of serving continuity. Otherwise, though, kids don't care. They soak up information like a sponge and always want more.

I can prove that myself. If I'm 24 in 2007, what year was I nine, ten, eleven? 1992-1994. What were the comics that captivated me? The death and resurrection of Superman, the Spider-Clone saga and the Age of Apocalypse storyline. Gee, do you think those stories might have been continuity-heavy? Do you think that made me enjoy them less or more? Did the prospect of MORE titles telling the same story, of making it bigger, more important, more exciting--did any of that decrease my interest in those comics or did it just make me so fucking excited that I did everything I could to get as many of those comics as possible?

And, yeah, I missed a bunch. I missed more than half of the comics involved in each story, easily.


Kids aren't idiots. They pick up on stuff and if they don't, so what? I didn't care if I didn't get every single minute plot-point as long as I understand the main thrust of the story. As long as I could follow along, I was good.

And then there's the story of the guy who sold a *GASP!* Warren Ellis issue of Iron Man to a kid. Now, I think it is a parent's right to determine what is and is not appropriate for their kid--in fact, I was impressed by how reasonable this father seemed. If more parents were like this, the world would be a million times better. Seriously.

At the same time, the idea that current comics aren't kid-friendly is, of course, subjective. You know what comics I also read as a kid? Marshal Law. Yeah. Sure, my parents didn't know, but I loved those books. I also grew up at a time where Superman was beaten to death and Batman's back was broken by a drug-fiend. I turned out fine (sure, I swear a little, but I'm a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-drug-using, non-violent, law-abiding guy currently obtaining his master's of arts, so I'm thinking I turned out pretty damn good). Stop acting like this stuff messes up kids more than it really does.

Hell, a lot of the stuff adults notice, kids don't. One of my favourite movies as a kid was Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise. Do you know how much sexual innuendo is in that movie? A lot. Do you know how much of it I understood as a kid? Barely any. It's the same way you can watch a cartoon with a kid and laugh at things the kid won't laugh at--different levels of understanding.

While we're on the subject, I may as well discuss it: on the concept of kid-friendly (well, related) . . . the next time I see any--and I mean ANY--comic publisher release a line of books aimed at teenagers that do not involve the two following things, I may just lose it:

1) Swearing
2) Brief nudity

Here's the thing: teens like the word "fuck" and they like tits. And they use the word "fuck" and they see tits. Stop pretending like they don't and then wonder why they don't want to buy your comics. Stop treating everyone under the age of 18 like 5-year-olds. If you aren't on the same content-level as America Pie, you're worthless. Now, I'm not saying stick that stuff in for the sake of it, but, I'm sorry, Ultimate Peter Parker not swearing? Bullshit. Okay? Bullshit. I was fucking Peter Parker and I say fuck. You're going to market for teens with teen characters, stop acting like the odd popculture reference and semi-recent fashions do the job. Start writing teenage characters that act and speak like teenagers do.


So, to sum up:

1. Kids like lots of story.
2. Kids know the difference between movies and comics.
3. Kids can handle more than we think.
4. Kids don't know as much as we think.
5. Teenagers like to say "fuck" and see tits.
6. Comic publishers need to understand these things if they want to cater to those markets the way that movies and TV do.

And if Peter Parker were really a teenager right now, he'd say "fuck." And so would everyone else his age in the book. It's the truth.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Comic Books as Literature midterm

I'm making my midterm at present for my comic books as literature class, and I thought I'd post a handful of the questions I have in my exam bank which aren't going to make the cut this time around:

Superheroes are often used as a metaphor for a person feeling like a social outcast. Examine how the stories we read utilized that analogy of empowerment’s correlation to a search for acceptance.

Compare and contrast the characters of Dr. Manhattan vs. Ozymandias, specifically focusing on each's detachment from humanity and reluctance or willingness to use his power to influence world events.

Examine a particular recurring symbol from Watchmen (like the blood-splattered smiley or the motif of reflection) and analyze how its meaning evolves throughout the course of the story.

The motif of revenge and retribution is one common in crime fiction. Analyze this theme of taking revenge as seen in Sin City: The Hard Goodbye. Is Marv really out to avenge Goldie, or do his motives go deeper than that?

Several of the stories we read gave us a different perspective as to who is the victim of a crime. Illustrate how one of the stories we read shows that crime’s influence can be felt beyond the immediate sphere of influence, how it affects more than just those against whom the crime is perpetrated.

With crime pervasive in our society, some people are obsessed with trying to find out why, searching for a cause or a reason behind these horrific actions. Still others seem oblivious to the motives behind them and instead focus on the actions themselves and their consequences. Discuss how one of the stories we read explores this concept of a quest for meaning in the face of a tragedy.

I'll come back in a few days and post a few brief details on the kinds of answers I would be looking for in questions such as these, but for now I'll leave them here and open the floor to discussion and debate.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Not-So-Random Rereading: The Boys #1-6

Today, decided to give all of Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., Fell and The Boys a reread. The two formers were both great reads, but I don't have anything to say about them. The Boys, though . . .

In issue six, Butcher talks to Hughie about why a group like the Boys needs to exist. Basically, he argues that superheroes are amateurs that aren't that good at what they do, often accidentally kill people, and, generally, are dangerous for the average person.

Kind of funny how Garth Ennis is the man to write the most convincing argument in favour of Marvel's Superhero Registration Act, isn't it? Even more funny that The Boys began right in the middle of Civil War.

The book really is a twisted look at the concept of superheroes from the average person's perspective, specifically the average person in the Marvel universe after the New Warriors and a bunch of little kids got blown up by Nitro.

The Boys is basically a group that would exist without the SRA.

Just made me chuckle a little.