Category Archives: comic blogs

Watchmehhhh (see what I did there?)

Went to see Watchmen last night and it underwhelmed in the ways I expected it to. Prior to the viewing, my friend Jenn and I discussed that potentially, this film is inseparable from its viewers’ preconceptions. Those prejudiced against its various adaptive liberties would remain so, and conversely those stoked to finally see it on the screen would probably be invigorated by the whole shebang. This seems to hold water with reviews (held up to preceding levels of enthusiasm expressed) on a few of the blogs I follow . (And with those individual prejudices guiding judgment of the film, there’s a terrible joke about viewings of the film being a viewer’s own Rorschach test.)

Jenn has been ecstatic about the movie’s opening, so much so that in making plans to see it,  I talked her down from waiting in line for the midnight opening showing. She loved it. My girlfriend who only read the first dozen pages or so of the comic and with little to no preconceptions, liked it mostly okay. Her biggest problem was a general sense of missing something about the plot and characters. Rather than getting a sense for Moore’s wrestling with uncertainty and conflict, she walked away with Snyder’s tableau of vaguery. And overall I’m pretty ambivalent about what I saw on screen, with some strong dislikes about its style balanced with some parts and performances that I genuinely enjoyed. So my judgment and assessment falls into a few different categories:

  • Watchmen The Movie™ as adaptation = Mixture of success and failure
  • Watchmen The Movie™ as action movie = Okay
  • Watchmen The Movie™ as merchandizing cash cow = What the fuck is wrong with people?

In a lot of ways this movie is like Paula Abdul’s “Opposittes Attract,” in terms of directorial choices being made, for every two-steps forward– there’s two-steps back. The visual design of the film is phenomenal. I can’t imagine a better looking adaptation of Dave Gibbons’ art, but the flaw isn’t with how it looks so much as how it moves. The slow-motion scenes were excessive and dull, that they took me right out of the scene (although I think the exception is the Comedian’s jump into the rioting crowd), that places the film unironically back into the mold of so many terrible superhero action movies.

Jackie Earle Haley (Moocher!) gives a pitch-perfect performance as Rorschach, but occasionally has to share the screen with the vacuum of personality that is Malin Ackerman’s Silk Spectre. The rest of the cast is mostly fine to unremarkable, but as a whole lacking in cohesion and consistency. It often feels like everyone is in their own separate movie with conflicting tones and feelings1.

Like just about everyone else, I like the opening credits w/ Dylan’s “Times They Are A Changin.'” The opening was indeed great, but sadly for many of my friends, it was their favorite part of the entire film. But after that, all other uses of popular song in the film were uniformly awful. The songs should’ve elevated the scenes or provided an ironic subtext, but in nearly every use, song choices deflated meaning, mood, and tension. Worse still was the original soundtrack, which telegraphed far too much and much too cheesily. There’s something to be said for restraint, and whatever that something is, Snyder certainly never heard it.

Overall, I think he got it wrong. The movie on its own terms is okay, and functions as an average to better action movie. But I was never a fan of the Watchmen for its action-movie qualities. I liked the original’s subversive themes and character deconstructions alongside layers of mystery, conspiracy, and meta-commentary. So, it’s hard to get enthused about it being an o-kay action flick, shitty thriller, and totally unsatisfying exploration of legacy/history/identity.

I know that as I’m complaining about the lack of understanding it shows to its characters, that I’m potentially falling into the archetype of wounded-nerd, hater, super cynic, etc. I like to thinks2 I gave it a fair shot, but as a counterpoint to my largely negative opinions, funny-man Patton Oswalt’s posted an impassioned defense of Watchmen The Movie™, offering that in most nerds’ eyes– no one could’ve gotten it right. And maybe he’s right, but then again he mentions in that blog post how great the show Burn Notice is and that show’s leads are possibly the only people I can imagine being less capable than Malin Ackerman of using their acting talent to escape from a paper bag. (This show also makes me incredibly sad for Bruce Campbell, and the inversion of his tendancy to appear in crappy but awesome projects, into acting in an awesomely crappy project.)

More than anything about Watchmen The Movie™ itself, the thing that’s skeeving me out the most is the attendant merchandising. Specifically the commodifying of the Comedian (aspiring rapist and nationalist stooge) and Rorschach (paranoid sociopath and racist/misogynist/homophobic triple threat) into action figures, potential Legoplaysets, and adorning the walls of both the cluelessly misguided and the outright assholes. Of course, there’s the societal benefit that anyone wearing the shirt pictured at left is easily identifiable as an unpitiable shitbird to be avoided at all costs. Yes there are other villains like the Joker that get turned into toys and Hot Topic shirts– but part of what makes the Comedian and Rorschach marketable now, is the superficial sanitization of their characters3. Like the subtle editing of Rorschach’s opening monologue4, the streamlined film versions aren’t wholly inaccurate but in smoothing over their edges and making them more palatable for public consumption– the movie misses so much of the point of Moore’s original work, that it’s hard to find much solace in Snyder’s fidelity to the dangling blue wang of the original.

1 It almost makes me wish that Haley’s castmates from Breaking Away could’ve joined him, imagine: Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher) as Adrian Veidt, Mike (Dennis Quaid) as Dr. Manhattan, Cyril (Daniel Stern) as the Owl, and Rod could be the Comedian (b/c they’re both dicks, gettit?). Almost.

2 Originally a typo, but methinks I should try to popularize this ala the British pluralizing of the “maths”

3 In my reading, the two represent extremes of conservatism taken to its most villainous ideological ends. On one hand, the Comedian as the cynical über-nationalist, whose faith in Manifest Destiny and America’s moral certainty justifies any excess. Rorschach conversely is the extreme isolationist whose xenophobia and fear of influence can’t allow any cracks in his own moral certainty.

4 In the film, Rorschach says, “The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us!’… and I’ll look down and whisper, ‘no.’ All those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers… and all of a sudden no one can think of anything to say.” Whereas in the original he says:

“The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us!’… and I’ll look down and whisper, ‘no.’ They had a choice, all of them. They could have followed in the footsetps of good men like my father or president truman. Decent men who believed in a day’s work for a day’s pay. Instead they followed the droppings of lechers and communists and didn’t realize that the trail led over the precipice until it was too late. Don’t tell me they didn’t have a choice. Now the whole world stands on the brink, staring down into bloody hell, all those liberals and intellectuals and smooth-talkers… and all of a sudden no one can think of anything to say.”

The editing diminishes Rorschach’s sexual dysfunction and larger sense of paranoia, instead tailoring him into a more recognizable but still somewhat extreme conservative ideologue. It’s a separate question whether any editing of the dialogue would have a similar diminishing effect, but in this case the omission in subject and change of emphasis (from universal to specific) does have an impact on the overall meaning and characterization of Rorschach.

Gay Panic in the Streets of Geekdom

The writers at nerd-news blog Topless Robot are exposing their own insecurities perhaps, with a lazy gay-panic punchline in a post asking for readers’ “Most Shameful RPG Moment.” Soliciting  “hilarious, heartbreaking and embarrassing stories” of tabletop RPG gaming, the writer provides this scenario as an example:

Have you ever had a character who sex with another member of the party, even though both characters were played by guys? And felt horrified about it? Good, you should’ve, because that’s some freaky shit. [Note: emphasis mine]

It seems almost quaint to me, that a nerd’s biggest fear might be being perceived as, “Gay.” This sort of homophobia in geeks is a dissonance that I’ve never understood. I’ve always been of the belief that those marginalized by society (whether by race, orientation, or alignment)  share a common persecutor and should naturally ally against intolerance.

Maybe it’s my viewpoint that’s quaint, but somehow I think that if you took a wide poll of self-identified geeks and nerds, the fear of being perceived as “Gay,” wouldn’t rate in the top 10. My number one geek fear right now is the oppositte– that I might share anything in common with the intolerant sort of geeks who are still grossed out by the idea of two dudes kissing each other. With mainstream pop-culture eating up Superhero and SciFi properties, video games as big business, and the internet emerging as the dominant communication medium; nerds can’t be made fun of for what they like anymore, so much as they can be made fun of for what they are like.

Few people are going to deride you for watching Watchmen (except maybe Alan Moore) or playing Left 4 Dead, because comic books and zombies are officially part of the mainstream zeitgeist. On the other hand, obsessively creating a fantasy world whose moral/ethical values mirror your own specifically intolerant and juvenile power fantasies will always be worthy of mockery.

In a double backflip of irony, Topless Robot’s bit of bland homophobia sits beneath a satirically placed Chick tract illustration, wherein a character freaks out about their D&D character dying before attempting suicide themselves. Looks like someone rolled a -12 for self-awareness.

p.s. No links to Topless Robot were included because, why give them the traffic?

Le Sigh

Sometimes, most times, I think I should be a lot more dedicated to my writing and updating of this here thing. And then sometimes, I wonder why, oh god why do people look at this misbegotten stain I call a blog. A while back I made note of the fact that many of the site views are coming from folks who probably don’t want to be here, arriving by the magickal musings of Google and sometimes Google Image Search. Fortunes have not improved for those cast upon the spiny shores of my sporadically updated internet fiefdom, as the reporting on recent Search Engine Terms that led here will illustrate. Going through the Terms is sort of a rorschach test reflection of this here blog, so here is an abridged list of said Search Engine Terms, in descending order of frequency with my commentary in parentheses.

  • spider girl (I’ve since deleted the image file and half-assed post that discussed my general dislike of this type of teen character, the “Daughter from an Alternate Universe,” largely because these characters are bereft of originality and any inspiration, in addition to the discomfort caused by the awkward sexualization inherent in these characters who are often marketed to young females, as if giving Spider-man boobs is some great gift to feminists and female comic fans.)
  • spidergirl (And yet…)
  • spider-girl (…she must be popular, somehow. What do I know about girls or popularity or anything else, anyway?)
  • hack/slash (Case in point.)
  • hack slash (*sigh*)
  • batman shark (Conversely, these are words that I would encourage the strongest association with in every aspect of my life.)
  • shark repellent (Yes, PMA is making it happen!)
  • batman shark repellent (Three-fer.)
  • cesar romero (Again, a boon to my blog.)
  • russian painter (I have no idea.)
  • joker brian azzarello sex (Still think this book sucks.)
  • bruce the rubber shark (Again, awesome such associations shall remain.)
  • spider girl pics (Really? Still?)
  • rob liefeld (Well, you can’t win them all.)
  • peanuts comics with references to god (Surprisingly specific search there.)
  • teen ass (Ye gods, I hope this blog was a wood-killer.)
  • batman and sharks (More to celebrate.)
  • rubber dungeon (Again, no idea.)
  • too short mini skirts (While I’m generally “pro-boner,” again in this case I hope my writings here have banished all erections which may have mistakenly arrived here.)
  • “all star goddamn batman” (Oh, Franky.)
  • cin cite sexxxxxy (Oh, cranky Franky, Frank, Frank, Frrrank, Frank-a-doodle, Frankenheimer.)
  • spectacular boobs (Spectacular!)
  • powerful woman (Well, that’s a change of pace.)
  • batman and shark (How we love the status quo.)
  • batman, shark (In all its permutations, these words are beautiful.)
  • P.S. Ironically, including all these terms in this post will promote further association with these terms and damn me to an ever spiralling level of meta-commentary blogging about blogging purgatory.

    Preview: Incognito

    Local comic book writer Ed Brubaker just posted a five-page preview of his new title Incognito on his Myspace page. Prolific and probably the best genre-writer working in the industry right now, Brubaker’s latest intersection of hard crime and heavy capes follows the story of Zack Overkill, an ex-supervillain in the Witness Protection Program. Working with his talented Criminal co-conspiritor Sean Phillips, Incognito looks just as seedy, sordid, and entertaining as anything they’ve done so far.

    Here are the preview pages for your viewing pleasure.

    incognito pg1

    More after the jump…

    Continue reading

    Blog, Interrupted

    this is my desktop.

    Art from Batman 668 by JH Williams III

    I’m in the middle of a move, sooo I won’t be bloggering much this week. I’ve also got some SECRET PROJECTS in the works that should make this site a lot more exciting to look at in the near future. So, to tide ye over in the mean time, check out cool stuff like JH Williams (the 3rd) or Paul Pope’s respective Flickr pages.

    And if your eyes don’t get filled up from all the awesome on display on those respective pages, the Scotsman at Bad Librarianship has a whole sidebar full of comic-creator Flickr pages (and blogs). Word.

    RE: Nunchucks? More Like Fun-Chucks!

    So, Chris Sims the Invincible Superblogger posted an epic tale of Brave & Bold Lego Adventurin’ that was subsequently illustrated by ISB reader Kate Holden leading to more illustrations and inspiration for an ISB contest. The rules? Simply illustrate Batman wielding nunchuks made up of something that is not traditionally used for the making of nunchuks. So, here’s my entry and possibly the first in a series…

    Disclaimer: Any Laffs™ associated with this post may require prior knowledge of Goddamn Batman, his sidekicks, and a more abstract and generally affable response to Nunchuku-related humours.

    All Star Goddamn Batman Recall

    All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder has been Frank Miller’s self-parodying gift to bloggers, who have yet to determine whether its epic crappiness as a comic is deliberate or (probably) not. While the jury is still out on that question, in a dashing stroke of magnanimity Miller (and DC’s editorial department) have given the interwebs yet another gift. Truly their cups runneth over.

    Funnybook Babylon has the scoop on an ASBARBW #10’s recall, which was caused by a botched attempt to censor Miller’s salty dialogue. The cuss words were to be printed with black bars to obscure the profanity (which maybe shouldn’t have been printed at all if they didn’t want folks to read it?) but as can be seen in the example below (also from the folks at Funnybook Babylon), you can still make out the swears. Check out their original article for more examples of the offending language, and repeated references (within 2 consecutive panels?!) to Batgirl as a “sweet piece,” and “jailbait.” Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a round of applause for Frank Miller, keeping dialogue fresh and classy as a waft of FeBreeeeeze in your pee-hole.

    Iron Manners, Summer Blockblusters, & Boys Behaving Badly

    “My whole thing is that that I saw ‘The Dark Knight’. I feel like I’m dumb because I feel like I don’t get how many things that are so smart. It’s like a Ferrari engine of storytelling and script writing and I’m like, ‘That’s not my idea of what I want to see in a movie.’ I loved ‘The Prestige’ but didn’t understand ‘The Dark Knight’. Didn’t get it, still can’t tell you what happened in the movie, what happened to the character and in the end they need him to be a bad guy. I’m like, ‘I get it. This is so high brow and so fucking smart, I clearly need a college education to understand this movie.’ You know what? Fuck DC comics. That’s all I have to say and that’s where I’m really coming from.” -Robert Downey Jr. in this Moviehole interview

    With The Dark Knight on its way to usurping Star Wars (but probably not Titanic) for box office sales, the heat on Marvel’s most successful superhero movie has cooled considerably. Some folks have gone so far as to refer to Iron Man, as the “Platonic ideal of the superhero movie,”  (while still saying Dark Knight was better!) but for me it was just a case of ingenious casting in a perfectly workman-like action movie. Robert Downey Jr.’s charisma held the entire movie together, and in it’s best moments it felt like paying $10 to hang out with him for a couple hours. And $10 for a couple hours of hanging out and bullshitting with Robert Downey Jr.? That my friend, is a bargain. The CGI action sequences were probably the least interesting part of this purported action movie, which is something Marvel should take note of if they really want to make that Avengers movie they’re talking about. (And an even more valuable lesson if they ever want to make Hulk movie that people like). And so what if Robert Downey Jr. seems to be petulantly baiting a Marvel/DC nerd feud? I mean, a major Hollywood actor with a million dollar salary is basically trolling for a flame war, isn’t that just, adorable?

    And while it’s all still rumors and general tabloid idiocy, I just want to come out and say that Angelina Jolie as Catwoman is among the shittiest ideas ever committed to type. At this point in her illustrious career, Jolie is little more than a pair of pouty, bloated lips that favor holding a gun sideways, you know gangsta style. And any nerds who would favor Kate Beckinsale (ugh, don’t even want to bother linking to those threads) in the hypothetical role (or any acting role for that matter) are immediately asked to stop reading anything I write ever again, and consider better spending their time and opinions elsewhere, or rather in Elseworlds. Speculation can be fun (and surely it’s the foundation of fiction in a general sense,) but I find speculation of this sort about as enjoyable as a speculum.

    Aaand speaking of man-children groping at fantasy, The ISB among other great comic blogs have posted commentary from John DiBello of Bully Says about sexual harassment at the recent San Diego Comic-Con [emphasis is mine]:

    Overheard at San Diego Comic-Con while I was having lunch on the balcony of the Convention Center on Sunday July 27: a bunch of guys looking at the digital photos on the camera of another, while he narrated: “These were the Ghostbusters girls. That one, I grabbed her ass, ’cause I wanted to see what her reaction was.” This was only one example of several instances of harassment, stalking or assault that I saw at San Diego this time.

    1. One of my friends was working at a con booth selling books. She was stalked by a man who came to her booth several times, pestering her to get together for a date that night. One of her co-workers chased him off the final time.

    2. On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started taking photographs of her, telling her she was the “prettiest girl at the con.” They [then] entered the booth, started hugging and kissing her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and scared, but they left quickly after doing that.

    3. Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor confirmed he’d targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and criticism.

    Quite simply, this behavior has got to stop at Comic-Con. It should never be a sort of place where anyone, man or woman, feels unsafe or attacked either verbally or physically in any shape or form. There are those, sadly, who get off on this sort of behavior and assault, whether it’s to professional booth models, cosplayers or costumed women, or women who are just there to work. This is not acceptable behavior under any circumstance, no matter what you look like or how you’re dressed, whether you are in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit or business casual for running your booth.

    On Saturday, the day after the second event I described above, I pulled out my convention book to investigate what you can do and who you can speak to after such an occurrence. On page two of the book there is a large grey box outlining “Convention Policies,” which contain rules against smoking, live animals, wheeled handcarts, recording at video presentations, drawing or aiming your replica weapon, and giving your badge to others. There is nothing about attendee-to-attendee personal behavior.

    Page three of the book contains a “Where Is It?” guide to specific Comic-Con events and services. There’s no general information room or desk listed, nor is there a contact location for security, so I go to the Guest Relations Desk. I speak to a volunteer manning the desk; she’s sympathetic to the situation but who doesn’t have a clear answer to my question: “What’s Comic-Con’s policy and method of dealing with complaints about harassment?” She directs me to the nearest security guard, who is also sympathetic listening to my reports, but short of the women wanting to report the incidents with the names of their harassers, there’s little that can be done.

    “I understand that,” I tell them both, “but what I’m asking is more hypothetical and informational: if there is a set Comic-Con policy on harassment and physical and verbal abuse on Con attendees and exhibitors, and if so, what’s the specific procedure by which someone should report it, and specifically where should they go?” But this wasn’t a question either could answer.

    So, according to published con policy, there is no tolerance for smoking, drawn weapons, personal pages or selling bootleg videos on the floor, and these rules are written down in black and white in the con booklet. There is not a word in the written rules about harassment or the like. I would like to see something like “Comic-Con has zero tolerance for harassment or violence against any of our attendees or exhibitors. Please report instances to a security guard or the Con Office in room XXX.”

    The first step to preventing such harassment is giving its victims the knowledge that they can safely and swiftly report such instances to someone in authority. Having no published guideline, and indeed being unable to give a clear answer to questions about it, gives harassment and violence one more rep-tape loophole to hide behind.

    I enjoyed Comic-Con. I’m looking forward to coming back next year. So, in fact, are the two women whose experiences I’ve retold above. Aside from those instances, they had a good time at the show. But those instances of harassment shouldn’t have happened at all, and that they did under no clear-cut instructions about what to do sadly invites the continuation of such behavior, or even worse.

    I don’t understand why there’s no such written policy about what is not tolerated and what to do when this happens. Is there anyone at Comic-Con able to explain this? Does a similar written policy exist in the booklets for other conventions (SF, comics or otherwise) that could be used as a model? Can it be adapted or adapted, and enforced, for Comic-Con? As the leading event of the comics and pop culture world, Comic-Con should work to make everyone who attends feel comfortable and safe.

    Maybe it’s because I’m socially acculturated to norms born in the aggressively liberal D.I.Y. punk scene (wherein house-meetings might discuss how a roommate may or may not contribute to the anti-oppression atmosphere and ethos of the house,) or maybe it’s because I’m a sane human being who has a basic conception of respect for others’ personal boundaries– but it’s fucking revolting to hear about grown men who feel entitled to abuse and harass anyone in this way. Of course nerds aren’t the only ones guilty of sexual harrassment and objectifying women, and while one could create an extensive website that catalogues examples of comic book misogyny, perhaps it’s better to address Comic-Con as an institution and tell its organizers that individuals need to be protected from harassment. One might even send them an email saying such.

    In summary: my fellow nerds, I beseech thee to be better behaved so that I might not be so embarassed to be your friend and count myself as one of ye. Maybe if you/we weren’t all such assholes, we wouldn’t have to pay Robert Downey Jr. to hang out with us.

    Want! Buy! Have!

    Stopped off at my local comic shop Comics Dungeon today and grabbed my usual titles and later swung by the Fantagraphics Store where a 50% off sidewalk sale helped empty my pockets. Who needs to eat when you got comics, right? (And speaking of sales, next weekend Comics Dungeon is having their annual anniversary sale-a-bration so nerds in the Seattle area, make note.)

    So far, it has been a real nice afternoon for reading the funnies, here’s what I picked up from both stores:

    • Criminal, Volume 2: #4
    • Jack of Fables #24
    • Infinity Inc. #12 (of Volume 178 or something?)
    • Detective Comics #847
    • Buffy: The Vampire Slayer #17
    • Final Crisis #3
    • Babel #2
    • Heartbreak Soup (Love and Rockets TPB)
    • Twentieth Century Eightball
    • E.C. Segar’s Popeye “I Yam What I Yam!”

    Jealous? The Fantagraphics stuff was a steal– especially the tabloid sized reprints of Popeye. Can’t wait to get into that one. Anyhow, let’s get into the issues themselves…

    Criminal, Volume 2: #4
    Ed Brubaker’s Criminal is easily one of the best on-going series in comics today. With the start of a new storyline this issue is a great jumping on point for those who love noir and particularly those who enjoy the pulp nihilism of Jim Thompson’s crooked narrators. In this new story arc we’re (re)introduced to Jacob, a comic artist and ex-counterfeiter who during one sleepless night meets a beautiful woman before getting literally tied up in a what promises to be just the start of his troubles.

    Frank Kafka strip from the first Criminal TPB (click for larger view)

    Frank Kafka strip from the first Criminal TPB (click for larger view)

    What’s especially fun for those of us who’ve been following Criminal is that we get some more background behind the Frank Kafka strips that peppered the first storyline Coward as well as catching back up with Jacob since the events of Lawless. Now while it’s nice to see that Brubaker is deliberately creating a cohesive universe, any follower of the crime genre knows that most of its protagonists have 50/50 odds (at best) of surviving their tales so I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything really cute or coincidental in a crossover sense. They certainly won’t be sharing a JSA/JLA-style Thanksgiving dinner. Unless the turkey is loaded with heroin instead of tryptophan and hey! I got an idea for a story….

    Jack of Fables #24
    Finally the resolution to Jack and Bigby’s old west days, ending predictably with Bigby victorious and Jack groveling as he’s caught, only to go on to other mischief. Despite loving Fables, I resisted getting into this series for a long time– basically because I thought Jack was an asshole. I love Bill Willingham’s sense of characterization, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have the patience to read through the various adventures of a protagonist I had no affection for. But just as often as I hate to see Jack succeed, he fails and the stories are carried  by an engagingly deranged supporting cast who probably hate the prick as much as I do.

    Infinity Inc. #12
    I love Peter Milligan’s work but this series hasn’t really grabbed me yet. It reminds me a lot of his X-Force run without the satiric snap which made it sing. Following this self-absorbed and confused young superteam hasn’t been as engaging as his past efforts– but it doesn’t mean it’s been bad. This may be one of those titles where you need to wait for the trade to really get the full impact or maybe he’s just coasting. As long as he avoids inserting Kid Amazo from his mediocre JLA: Classified storyline, I might be able to stick with it.

    Detective Comics #847
    I’m torn because I’ve really been enjoying Paul Dini’s episodic Batman stories in Detective Comics but I think Hush is a shitty character, poorly realized from conception on. I want to give Dini the benefit of the doubt but I enjoyed everything about this issue aside from the Hush-stuff. For those who don’t know, Hush is a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s who murdered his folks to gain their inheritance. Gettit? He’s like the OPPOSITE of Batman! He’s like some mirror-image of Bruce’s twisted past that requires pages upon pages of belaboured exposition about their shared background for every single time he appears in a panel! I understand the motivations behind creating a character like Hush– you want to tell more about the hero in opposition to his enemies. How Batman’s virtues are all the greater because he doesn’t succumb to the darkness reflected blah blah blah…

    Exactly how many damn Bat-villains do we need to reflect Bruce Wayne’s tortured psyche? We’ve had lots of Joker stories (not to mention the latest movie) where order and chaos are offered as a duality; Catwoman as his madonna/whore focus; Two-Face as legitimate/illegitmate symbol of justice and the intersection of his personal/private life; the movie Penguin was obsessed with the sort of fine breeding that begot the Bat; and really any villain can be a prism to focus in on just what it is that makes a Batman. When a villain whose main weapon is an umbrella has a more reasonable backstory and raison d’etre for committing crime than you, it’s time to hang up the bandages and just fade away. (At least until Grant Morrison unearths you decades later and does something interesting that takes place in the fucking present rather than a convenient series of fucking flashbacks.) If that’s the way you wanna write your stories, then you might as well just piss us off proper with this “Heart Of Hush”/Batman R.I.P. stuff and tell us he never came out of that isolation chamber Dr. Hurt put him in, say the past 30 years have actually taken place on Earth 23, bring back Jean Paul Valley as XTREEEM Batman and make a proper Clone Saga-esque clusterfuck out of it.

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer #17
    So Buffy gets warped into the future by a mysterious villain who’s been around for centuries and falls into the classic hero versus hero scuffle with her future Slayer counterpart. Chris at the ISB hated all the grife-ing future-slang in this issue, and while he makes good points about of the future’s hab fo over-abbrev, I really enjoyed the issue and Karl Moline’s pencils in particular. Don’t really want to slag too badly on Georges Jeanty because damnit if drawing comics isn’t a load of work without some dweeb on the internet saying you’re a no-good shmuck– but Moline’s art is more fluid and captures the cast’s likenesses without seeming overworked. The twist revealing the big bad behind the time-traveling hijinks is nice. I’d say more but you know, spoilage.

    Final Crisis #3
    For those who’ve read Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory, all I need to say is: “FRANKENSTEIN. FUCK YEAH.”

    Aaaaand for those who haven’t, get thee to a comic shoppery immediately and buy it, dingus. (Like say, one I mentioned having a sale next weekend?) Anyhow, we get some more tantalizing snippets of Darkseid’s plot to destroy our world and remake it in his image, and damn it if it’s inappropriate to say that so far I find Final Crisis to be delicious. I’m just wondering how the hell this is all going to wrap up in another four issues because DC has certainly bloated storylines (with a fraction of the content) over *cough* 52 weeks. I think my only problem with Final Crisis is that as soon as I get through an issue, I want more, damn it MORE, MORE, MORE-ISSSS-ON. Okay so I drank the Flavor-ade, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna be a sucker and buy the sketchbook “Director’s Cut” nonsense they’re trying to milk me with.

    Babel #2
    David B.’s Epileptic is one of the most moving and visually imaginative memoirs I’ve read in an industry packed with moving and imaginative memoirs. Babel continues and enriches the story told in Epileptic, a hypnotically drawn account of growing up in France in the 1970’s with an epileptic brother and a vividly surreal fantasy life. David B. will be making numerous public appearances in Seattle from August 13-17th. He’ll be at the Fantagraphics store on August 15th signing books and prints of the illustration pictured on the left (with niiiice gold ink instead of the taupe).

    Also, Dan Clowes will be at the Fantagraphics shop on Friday August 29th, and he apparently has a new book coming out answering the gripe listed at #19 in my previous post.

    Thee Hembeck Challenge

    Copped from Mighty God King via See Below.

    50 Things I Love About Comics

    1. Peanuts and its collection of morose, neurotic, and quixotic kids made a big impression on this neurotic, quixotic, and morose individual.

    2.  Batman in nearly all his incarnations (with the notable exception of Knightfall and Clooney/Kilmer’s rubber nippled bat-performances) and  “Bat,” as a prefix to just about anything. The Batmobile, Batcopter, Batarang, Batdance, and the oft-cited “Bat-Shark Repellent.” Favorite Batman artists: David Mazuchelli, Neal Adams, Brian Bolland, Jim Aparo, Bruce Timm, J.H. Williams, and Dustin Nguyen’s art in Detective Comics is really starting to grow on me.

    3. Chris Ware as an artist representative of both comics past and future. Ware is obsessed with history (Chicago’s World’s Fair notably) as well as the idea of commodifying nostalgia. And while his hand-drawn font work and cleanly rendered characters often reflects those sensibilities, his graphic design sense is innovative and has taken page/panel composition beyond left-to-right and up-to-down American reading instincts in a way that is effective visually and emotionally. Ware is also representative of a breed of comic book creators who tend to be a morose, neurotic, and quixotic lot whose self-inflicted miseries are resonant of my own. (See also: Art Spiegelman, Ivan Brunetti, Kilhoffer, Chester Brown, et al.)

    4. The X-Men. And okay, if I keep writing/posting pics as above– this post will be far, far too long. Maybe I’ve already lost you. Anyhow the X-Man I have always liked in particular is Cyclops. A lot of folks think Cyke is a humorless prick but I’ve always responded to his no-nonsense leadership, especially in opposition to gimmicky anti-heroes like Wolverine or Gambit. I mean, when in de hell does anyt’ing Gambit say makey sense, cher?

    5. Promethea and the idea that its heroine is both inspiration and imagination manifest. This is Alan Moore’s love letter to comics and writing and the pure joy of creating art. Even with all the metaphysical Tarot/Kabbalah/Magick stuff, I found Promethea to be one of Moore’s most accessible and enjoyable stories. The setup: a college student studying poetry becomes the latest embodiment of the Promethea archetype whose crimefighting becomes the entry point into the history of magick/religion, creation and the apocalypse. Dense with references to comics history, literary jokes, and metatextual elements– the plot (at least in the first 2-3 trades) moves it all along engagingly, thanks largely to J.H. Williams’ fantastic art. And why Weeping Gorilla doesn’t have his own title is a mystery.

    6. Grant Morrison’s acid-washed approach to comics and continuity. Yes, sometimes he’s too clever for his own good (not ashamed to say The Invisibles lost me several times during its run) but his work on X-Men, Animal Man, and especially All-Star Superman have distilled those characters so cleanly while marrying them with a wildly inventive approach to science fiction, post modernism, and lateral thinking. Okay, the Xorn/Magneto thing wasn’t great but so much about the rest of that run was, more for how he defined the X-Men’s weaknesses than their strengths. I’m loving Final Crisis so far and while Batman RIP is making less and less sense with each installment– I’ve been thrown more by the subpar art in the latest issues  than the Batmite-haunted, post-hypnotic-trance drug-addled hypen hyphen Bruce Wayne. Jezebel still seems pretty thin as far as love interests go, though.

    7. Tin Tin and his swoopy hair.

    8. Peter Milligan’s psychological loop de loops on Human Target. Milligan always likes to explore notions of identity and pathology, but with a protagonist who sublimates his own personality to embody (rather than impersonate) potential targets of assassination, individuality and the sense of self become blurred in a plot that’s equal parts noir, Day Of The Locust, and double-oh seven.

    9. Joe Sacco and his humane and accessible reporting on complex political situations.

    10. Ivan Brunetti’s ascerbic one-page biographies of artists, philosophers, and musicians.

    11. Los brothers Hernandez– Jaime for his immaculate line-work and Gilberto for his manic magical realism.

    12. Runaways as conceived and written by Brian K. Vaughn. Wordier thoughts on the series here.

    13. “My Spidey-sense is tingling!

    14. Frank Miller & David Mazuchelli’s collaborations on Batman and Daredevil.

    15. While it’s been erratic in quality, I’m thankful that we have Buffy: Season 8 and that Joss Whedon’s brain was available for Astonishing X-Men. A sensory-stimulant loaded ball of string? Awesome.

    16. Fables and Hellboy as a reminder that there’s a lot of fantastic folklore and mythology in the world, and that stories evolve and change with a society. Of course there are assholes out there who wouldn’t know what to do with a decent story, if it laid eggs in its head and ate its way out. Replacing a fairy tale and fables’ moral/social subtexts with g-strings and slasher villains doesn’t count (especially when the originals are already sexually charged if not outright metaphors for sexuality to begin with).

    17. Speaking of Hellboy, I’ve always loved Mike Mignola’s use of shadow and the particular texture he gives to stone and metal. Also if anyone has a spare $250 (plus shipping) lying around, go ahead and get me this.

    18. THWIP! SNIKT! BAMF!

    19. Dan Clowes before Hollywood started distracting him from making some goddamn comics already.

    20. Charles Burns and surreal wrestler/detective El Borba arriving at the best possible moment in my life to appreciate it.

    21. Elseworlds

    22. Planetary as example of Warren Ellis as a genius rather than a self-indulgent mook.

    23. James Robinson and especially Starman, a hero who almost makes me miss those misbegotten 1990’s.

    24. Scalped and Criminal as representatives of the popularization of crime/noir comics.

    25. Achewood

    26. Dynamite’s Lone Ranger, which stand apart from other “gritty reimaginings of popular characters,” by actually being good.

    27. Gotham Central

    28. Spider-man’s eyes as drawn by Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr., before McFarlane and other shmucks made them so huge that they extended past his cheeks and into his neck.

    29. Maus, for convincing my mom that comic books might actually be worth reading!

    30. Batman always beats Superman

    31. Calvin-ball

    32. The following scenario recurring ad infinitum…
    (Hero throws trademark stick/boomerang/shield/web at Villain.)
    Villain exclaims, “Fool! You missed!”
    Hero responds, “That’s what you think, scoundrel/thief/scofflaw/etc.!”
    (Weapon richochets striking Villain in anticipation of their next move! And/or strikes nearby object which topples and smashes Villain in anticipation of their next move!)

    33. Lex Luthor as a distillation of capitalist conservatism and Ayn Rand-ian objectivism taken to its logical super-villainous end. Luthor is the true antithesis to the Batman/Bruce Wayne archetype (much more than say the lamely shoe-horned into continuity and tedious Hush). Luthor/Wayne are individuals whose guile and willpower enable them to be the equal of those with super-powers. It’s the pull-yourself-up-by-your-non-radioactive-boot-straps philosophy of post-humanism. Of course being absurdly rich didn’t hamper their efforts.

    34. Amanda Waller is a similarly compelling villain as a hawk-ish patriot whose loyalty to her country supersedes silly things like civil rights and due process. While it gives my pinko-liberal heart comfort to see such an individual regularly cast as the villain, it also gives my critical thinking brain great pleasure that she’s not simply a cackling and selfish power-mad type. Her methods are ruthless, her belief system adamant(ium), and she exists in a complex political reality where her perspective is just as often seen as the legitimate if not politically expedient choice. She’s a character born of a rightful distrust of the players behind closed doors who are dictating our wars and the sacrifices demanded for them.

    35. Madman and its pastiche of pop art and B-movie camp. Somehow its airy adventurism and open-ended existentialism seems at odds with what one typically expects of an artist whose faith is based who was raised within on the restrictive edicts of the Mormon Church. I don’t get it either, but damn if Madman isn’t a lot of fun.

    36. Top 10, particularly that in a world where nearly everyone has super-powers– a hyper-intelligent dog wearing a humanoid exo-skeleton gets to be police captain.

    37. Vertigo should probably be way higher up on the list but renumbering at this point would be a pain in the ass.

    38. Little Nemo and discovering artists and comics from before my time like…

    39. Krazy Kat

    40. Jack Kirby and especially his Fourth World zaniness

    41. Will Eisner, although I gotta say I’m far more enamored with his memoir-ish stuff like Last Day In Vietnam and haven’t really grasped the full appeal of the Spirit as a character.

    42. Great movies, the kind I wished were around when I was a kid are finally being made from comics.

    43. DC comics obsession with heroic legacy

    44. Marvel’s lack of obsession with legacy

    45. Gorillas who are often accompanied by brains in jars

    46. Stan Lee-isms like, “Excelsior!” or “Make mine Marvel!” And all the little bits of alliteration in the credits of Silver Age comics.

    47. Magneto, master of magnetism!

    48. Alfred Pennyworth, maker of fantastic watercress sandwiches! (Among other worthy skills.)

    49. Caesar Romero often didn’t shave his moustache when playing the Joker in the 1960’s Batman TV series.

    50. Having the good sense to avoid absolute dreck like Hack/Slash and generally making fun of assholes like Rob Liefeld.