These are the manic ramblings that go through my head at all hours of the day or night.

 

The Bird and The Bat: Just breathe.

thebirdandthebat:

In my weekly column on Newsarama, Hey, That’s My Cape!, I talk about pretty much anything having to do with comics. This week I had to start my column with the words, “It’s a tough time to be a woman who likes superhero comics.”

I’m fortunate to know a diverse group of people whose eyes are…

Usually don’t reblog comics critique (since very little of it doesn’t reek of insecurity, nerd-rage and stupidity) but this is very succinct. Comics are retarded (stunted development retarded, not stupid retarded) when it comes to any semblance of gender sensitivity. We need to sort this shit out.

Why We Comic Book Fans are the Absolute WORST

I love comic books. More than that, I love SUPERHERO comics. You know, the arrested development stories where dudes in spandex beat the shit out of each other for 22 pages in an unending, pointless struggle with some bullshit or another. I honestly LOVE them. I’ll take Iron Man over fucking Blankets any day. There’s something invigorating about it. The violence, the high melodrama. 

But honestly, there’s a part of me that, were there to suddenly spring up a new reich and all us comic book fans were loaded into the trains and sent off for the work camps, I’d say to myself, “Yeah, we sort of had that coming.”

I finished “Supergods” by Grant Morrison a week or so ago. I liked it. I really like Morrison, not just his work but his perspective. I like where his head is at. He has a certain love and reverence for the Superhero that is exciting and charming. He is simultaneously an intellectual, psychedelic, messianic spaceman set on spiking everyone’s punch and a wide-eyed kid reading the latest issue of Green Lantern under his covers at night. He (very nearly) has the ambition and craft of Alan Moore, but without the almost compulsive need to gruffly dismiss the most popular genre as shite. He has a certain filter for pop culture that I like.

The book is a lovely read, even if its a bit light on substance and frequently new-agey nonsense. He can be occasionally too much of a smart-aleck apologist (a skill all us superhero nuts develop early and hone over the years), but he’s a creative and open minded one. 

Anyway, my favorite of his meditations was on the nature of fiction. His take (as far as I can understand it) is that nothing is real and that everything is real and that is FANTASTIC. Everything counts, even though none of it really matters, and that is EXACTLY why it is the most important thing.

He’s a metafiction guy, but not self-conciously so like Neil Gaiman (who seems obsessed with telling stories about telling stories and, at some point during the story, grabs you by the ears and goes, “HEY, DID YOU KNOW I’M TELLING YOU A STORY???”). He talks about characters as both unchanging and completely adaptable, utterly fluid. The ones that exist most sublimely in this state are the most enduring, the recognizable icons. And they cannot be broken or discarded so long as they have relevance and resonance with us as readers.

This is a really beautiful, lovely idea. It’s nuanced, encompassing, and its utterly benign. Morrison is doing God’s (himself a fictional construct) work by saying it.

But we comic book fans, the vocal majority of us, can’t seem to accept this. We can’t seem to accept and be comforted by the fact that these things we care about AREN’T REAL and THAT’S FINE. Seriously. Want an example? Bitches be tripping over the fact that Thor said “ass.” Or, even worse, how Morrison’s new, rebooted Superman said “GD” resulting in calls for boycotts.

Fraction (a disciple of Morrison) defends his right to, y’know, do his fucking job thusly:

I just did an interview on Fear Itself #5, and it’s gone from having questions to being told, now, that Thor wouldn’t say “ass.” Thor isn’t real. My Thor doesn’t talk like Stan [Lee]‘s Thor and his Thor didn’t talk like [J. Michael Straczynzki]‘s Thor, and his Thor didn’t talk like Walter [Simonson]‘s Thor. Everybody’s Thor talks differently. Also, being told that Spider-Man wouldn’t leave. Spider-Man, who has single-handedly kept the costume-shaped trash can industry afloat in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man, who has quit numerous times. I’ve been accused of misspelling the name of a character I made up. I made it up; I can spell it however I want to. I can spell Odin with a “U” if I want to.

This is an utterly sensible response to utterly nonsensable criticism. He’s writing a character the way he sees fit. Obviously Marvel (and, a few notches up the totem pole, DISNEY) doesn’t have a problem with this or they would have shitcanned his ass. More than that, how these character would talk is a totally moot point since thy don’t talk unless WE (as creators/readers) have them say something. They are fiction.

Predictably, the comments that follow are shameful. Not shameful as much for their ignorance, but for their stubborn inability to let go. There are a few that hem and haw in the semblance of logic, usually to the effect of “I understand his logic, but he’s wrong,” but a choice bit of righteous indignation that sort of typifies the response is this:

  1. When Fraction was a kid, did he like it when other kids came to his house, broke his toys, made a giant mess and left? That is the equivalent of what he’s saying. These characters don’t belong to him. He is being given permission to play with them for a while. He needs to respect that they belong to other people.

You… You people don’t get it do you? THIS IS WHY PEOPLE THINK SUPERHEROES ARE FOR KIDS AND RETARDS. Because you stubborn fucks believe that they “belong” to anyone but the eons and that any interpretation that “rings false” can actually cheapen the stories you love and is worth getting mad about. THESE CHARACTERS AREN’T TOYS. They don’t “belong” to us, or Marvel, or Disney, or America, or ANYONE. They are sewn into the fabric of forever, always able to be thrown on in infinite iterations without ever expending their value.

STOP IT. You’re ruining it for the rest of us. Please, GROW UP. People see us obsessing over these arcane and inane “rules” and seeing profundity in the trivia and they lose respect for the genre. And frankly, THEY SHOULD. Not because the nerd archetype is innately “flawed” or because “geeking out” over something is wrong, but because we childishly believe that OUR fictional constructs somehow is exempt from the rules of popular interpretation. Being a canon aficionado isn’t a crime unless one loses track of the fact that canon exists within the endless continuum of reality and that just leads to better, more compelling art.

We are killing the thing we love by sheltering and doting on it. People see us toting around the bloated, drooling object of our affection, dressed in clothing too tight for it’s age, and they are disgusted and baffled by it. THAT is where the image of the overweight, nitpicky, slovenly nerd originates: it is potential gone stagnant. They see it reflected in the art we love and they shake their heads disapprovingly.

Please. This is a plea to any rational, reasonable people out there who love superheroes and wouldn’t mind seeing comics remain relevant: be generous and open-minded. These ideas are stronger and more pliant than you could ever imagine. Spiderman will survive being half black and half hispanic. Superman will still be superman despite utterly a polite curse-word. Thor will still be a BAMF with a hammer after saying “ass.”

Three Fingers: a Hollywood “Documentary” in Graphic Novel form

In my never-ending pursuit of new and exciting comic book stores to affix myself to, leech-like,  and try and synthesize a social life, as McGiver might make a bomb from a car radio, some twine, and chewing gum (in this case, the car radio would be played by awkward over-sharing; twine would be open dislike of other people; and chewing gum limited knowledge of relevant, relatable subjects), I returned to my favorite comic shop in Burbank, House of Secrets. Like most of my raves, it hits all the major pleasure centers for my geekiness (unbagged/boarded comics for easy reading; comics organized by publisher; great selection of trades; not real manga-heavy; unpretentious; big selection of indie comics/artist collections; totally adorable and charming countergirl).

After several days of pursuing, chatting with staff, and general loitering, I decided (in open defiance to my current situation as an unemployed, homeless loser) to pick up a graphic novel (ughhhhh, that fucking WORD) that I’d been eyeballing for days: THREE FINGERS, by Rich Koslowski (Published by the great indie publisher Top Shelf in 2002).

It had been calling to me for days as I casually looked over the gorgeous art and intriguing subject matter. As I brought it to the counter, the cashier (not my new friend and secret love Comic book Store Girl, an affection that has been trending in my life for going on a decade now) cheerfully proclaimed, “Oh, there’s some funny stuff in there.”

Having read the book, hungrily consuming page after beautiful page, I would beg to differ. True, there are a few funny moments, and it’s bare bones outline seems light, but the real heart of the book is a tale of ugliness and despair. I say this with the deepest admiration for the author and illustrator, Rich Koslowski, because instead of just being about the gloom, he’s created something both sadly beautiful and grotesque. In a way, the book is about this fundamental contrast: the ultimate tale of the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of nostalgia and slowly rises from the murky depth through the passing of time.

The book is framed (with incredible simplicity and pitch-perfect execution) like a Ken Burns documentary about the rise and fall of the career of Ricky the Rat (a Mickey Mouse surrogate). The world is similar to that of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” where “Toons” (cartoon characters and anthropomorphic “funny animals”) and Humans co-exist, but far, far darker. The book starts in the 20s and 30s, when Toon actors are consigned to ethnic ghettos and basically whitewashed out of the entertainment industry. An enterprising Dizzy Walters (Walt Disney, for those keeping up), discovering Ricky playing piano on the Toon vaudeville circuit and the two form a theatrical partnership which results in Ricky rocketing to stardom, all told via talking-head style testimonials by fellow Toon actors and film historians many years after the fact.

The real push of the “documentary” is less about Ricky and his fame, and more about fellow unemployed Toons trying to follow in his footsteps and finding the barrier to be insurmountable. This turns many Toons to a disturbing, bizarre form of self mutilation called “The Ritual” wherein one of their fingers is removed to emulate Ricky’s three fingered hand. 

It truly is an astonishing work. The character designs and illustrations are great, seamlessly transitioning from grainy, old time photographs to bubbly, rounded cartoons, to the sagging, grim deformity of age.

My only qualms with it is that the book is a slim little thing and that the creative potential of the work remains pretty much untapped. The world Koslowski creates is so vivid and enthralling that I can’t help but want more. Still, I suppose it speaks to the artists modesty (or simple cleverness) that he gives just a peak into this world, framed through the lens of this tragedy.

Can NOT recommend this enough. Go buy it!

Remember the twist I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, this is what I was talking about. MJ unknowingly beat Mephisto at his own game. By agreeing to MJ’s terms, Mephisto has actually wiped himself from ever having been involved in their lives. In fact, looking at it linearly, those four issues never happened. Along with the wedding, “One More Day” and Mephisto have been wiped out of continuity and Peter and MJ never made that bargain.

Ooooooh, me hears something breaking.

Joe Quesada on the secret brilliance of “One Moment In Time” and “One More Day.”

OK, Joe, I need to be square with you: I hope one day to work for ya or Marvel. I confess, like a large number of the fans, I didn’t quite care much for OMD, for reasons that I’m going to not get into here. Still, Brand New Day has been handled well you guys have proven your point admirably: Spiderman doesn’t need to be married to tell great stories (I might add that he doesn’t need to be SINGLE either to tell the stories you told, but I might just be being contrary).

Now, I read OMIT and I have to say, I didn’t much care for it. Not because there was anything outright wrong with it, it just seemed… redundant. Explaining the mechanics of an event that was unsatisfying. It just didn’t seem relevant. Still, you’re the EIC, you tell the stories that you think we as fans need to read.

My word of advice though: don’t bait the fans and don’t be self-congratulatory. You got a lot of good will by old-fashioned hard work post OMD and I think most of the readers who were irked by it were happy to get passed it with decent stories and art. All this picking at the sweater that is OMD is uncomfortable and irritating. It was an idea, you implemented to some effect, LEAVE IT THERE. You don’t need to (and in fact, CAN’T) prove to the haters that they should thank you for hat you consider a well-crafted storyline that they simply don’t like. Haters gonna hate. 

New Comic Book Day Reviews, THE NIGHT BEFORE! BWAHAHAHA!!!

After playing the Gulu, I stopped into Harrison’s Comics in Salem, MA. Since this week was all kindsa fucked up from the holiday, they were open late and had already set out tomorrow’s comics. I grabbed a few, in addition to some awesome and cheap classic LPs (will post about those on Sunday). Here are my reviews.

Batman and Robin #13 - I think I’d be happy if all books were Grant Morrison writing about Batman. The thing I like best about Morrison is that (unlike, well EVERY OTHER CURRENT BATMAN WRITER) he gets the difference between Bruce and Dick in terms of characterization. Most writers tend to write Dick Grayson Batman like Bruce Wayne Batman; grim, gritty, Dark Knight yadda yadda. Morrison writes Dick as someone playing the part of Batman (as he says in this issue, “keeping the costume warm”), but making it his own, making jokes and using his unique skills. Insisting on calling Jim Gordon “Commissioner Gordon” was a really nice, subtle touch. It’s actually a rather skillful way to brig back the more campy, hammy Batman of the Silver Age without basically neutering two decades of Batman stories. 

The wring in the issue is superb, which is beginning to go without saying. I wasn’t sold on Frazer Irving’s art when I saw the preview (plus Simon Hurt seems to have a really racists chinese caricature for a lawyer) but pages like this (forgive the shitty pics):

sold me. Plus this:

Hurt may or may not be Thomas Wayne, but he is certainly a PIIIIIIIIIIIIMP.

Shadowland #1 - The more I read about this, the more interested I am. I like the idea of a sort of localized crossover, a street-level event. I’m genuinely excited about the concept of actually having the Osborn administration be held culpable (if only in this book) for the batshit crazy stuff they did. I’m just not exactly sure how it’ll be pulled off, even after reading this issue. 

The Marvel universe (like all comic book universes populated by supertypes) can be hard to navigate when it comes to events. The fact is, you’ve got a world where Gods and demons and Hulks and aliens walk around doing feats of daring-do, often fighting alongside street-level guys like Spiderman and Daredevil. This means that, when shit goes down company-wide, you need something that’ll keep everybody busy. And when I say everybody, I mean EVERYONE, including the Big Guns. Big alien threats work well for this, big Hulk smackdowns, also having the heroes fight each other is nice. You just need something. Otherwise, you’ve got an event where Daredevil starts running a street-gang made of ninjas and everyone’s bitching about it and the Avengers looks like they don’t give a shit when they could probably slap the whole thing down over the course of a long weekend.

They try to hang a lantern on the issue by having a scene where the big three (Iron Man, Thor, Cap) make Iron Fist and Luke Cage be their bitch errand boys, implying that if DD doesn’t play nice they’re going to gangbang his candy ass, but it doesn’t quite read right. DD was almost in the Avengers, fer realz yo (remember back at the beginning of Bendis’ run? He got a formal invite!). Not to mention the fact that they last time they thought DD was in trouble, the whole crew of them piled in a jet and flew to Japan to help a brother out. Now they wont even take the C train to Hell’s Kitchen to talk to the dude? THOR CAN FUCKING SEE SHADOWLAND FROM AVENGERS TOWER, AND THAT NIGGA CAN FLY!!!

We’ll see how the rest of it pans out. Art is OK. Little sketchy for my taste, but whatever. 

The Boys # 44 - Not entirely sure why I picked this up because I haven’t been following the book that closely, but still great stuff from Ennis. Pretty easily accessible, less cringeworthy than usual. Russ Braun is a stellar artist and really really good addition to the book, so I hope he sticks around. Given how Robinson seems unable to make deadlines on the book (a fact I don’t begrudge him, just stating the obvious) and, frankly, I don’t think this has been his best work. He set the bar high with Transmet, and I’ve been a little underwhelmed with his pages. Braun, on the other hand, has a style that’s almost identical to Robinson, but more dynamic and I really can’t get sick of it. He’s a much better fill in than the incredibly talented McCrea and Snej (who are both artists I love to read drawing to Ennis but never really jived with here).

 

That’s all she wrote for now. Might check out a few more tomorrow ad letcha know what I think.