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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
More Gratuitous Green Arrow Bashing
Even Black Canary knows that reading about GA is far preferable to actually talking to GA.
"I mean, come on Ollie! Why would a handsome, rich successful guy like you try to pass yourself off as that loser Green Arrow?"
What kind of lousy police force does this town have that they felt the need to buy an Arrow Signal? "Those crooks are getting away! If only we had access to, I don't know, some kind of vigilante with boxing gloves or nets attached to arrows."
"B-but, I'm cool! I'm hip! I have a beard goddammit!"
"Actually sir, I was talking about the arrow..."
When Clark "Master of Disguise" Kent is telling you your secret identity needs work, you know it has to be pretty damn obvious.
(all images from DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #23)
Things Kid Chris And I Talked About During What Turned Out To Be The Slowest Day The Store Has Had In Years:
Why is it that, even though all the local school districts are back in session, we still have kids coming in and "hanging out" for over an hour first thing in the morning? If they are truly, as they say, from a district that is not in session, that means they live too far away to have gotten here on foot.
Cobra's lack of a clearly defined goal.
The origin of Cobra Commander is that he was basically an angry white guy blaming the government for his own mistakes.
What was up with Cobra-La anyway?
The leadership differences between Cobra Commander and Megatron.
Which was the gay one, Tomax or Xamot?
Destro really wasn't that bad a guy, for an arms dealer.
Why did Megatron keep surrounding himself with flunkies who were after his job?
Golden Age pulp and comic heroes who were drug addicts.
Pro-fascist subtext in Doc Savage.
The fundamental differences between Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Who would win in a fight, the Phantom or the Shadow?
Wasn't Jem's boyfriend Rio kind of an ass?
The Blue Velvet drinking game: take a drink every time Dennis Hopper swears.
A public-service ad in an Archie comic, which as Archie saying "Drugs are Uncool!" in a menacing font. Because the squarest kid in town is the person you want to be telling you what is and is not cool.
When Kid Chris is going to let me take physique-style photos of him to post on the site.
What other parts of his body Jack LaLane could use to tow boats with.?
Superman #411, the Julius Schwartz birthday issue, which not only includes a teaser for the upcoming Crisis, but establishes that Julius Schwartz is the person besides the Psycho Pirate who will remember the multiple Earths.
How the guys who work on game side need to learn that "loud" is not the same thing as "funny."
I noticed on this week's invoice that Marvel is making up for shipping the next issues of Powers and Daredevil: Father, along with the oft-delayed New Avengers, Young Avengers and Astonishing X-Men, by not shipping Ultimate Fantastic Four...which is okay with me, because outside of the Steve Dillon art on the Ultimates annual, these annuals really haven't been any good. At all.
Reviews: Hero-Squared #2: We're treated to dueling explanations for how the world was destroyed by Captain Valor and Lord Caliginous. As usual with these sorts of situations, where neither narrator can be relied upon, the truth is probably somewhere between the two versions. It's a very funny issue, and has some of the sharpest writing I've seen in the series so far, but I was very unhappy with the art in the flash-back sequences. In both cases it felt like a bad fit for the story, and too strongly dissimilar from Joe Abraham's art.
What Were They Thinking?: Keith Giffen and Mike Leib's remix of old Wally Wood war comics is a bit uneven most of the time. Most of the gags go on a page or two more than they probably should have. Overall it's a funny package, but I found that I couldn't read it in one sitting. I could do one story, read a couple comics, and then come back to it and read another. The best of the bunch is probably "Hearts and Minds", but then, I like making fun of the White Man's Burden mentality when it rears up.
Monkey in a Wagon Vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel: It's a very cute comic, with a deliriously weird premise, but it doesn't really ever go anywhere. Not that it needs to, mind you. The appeal of something like this is the high-concept.
Otherworld #6: The narrative shifts over to the group stuck in the techno world. It's a necessary change of pace, perhaps even more so given the title's forthcoming hiatus. And it seems clear that, after this, as foul and corrupt as the magical world has become, the techno world is the true villain of the piece. Despite it's alien nature, it proves to be a far more seductive evil than anything the magical world can offer. It's a bit frustrating, however, to have the motivation of the prime villain, Jason, be revealed as nothing more than petty jealousy and hurt pride. Something a little grander seems appropriate.
Jack Cross #1: Warren Ellis tackles the war on terror with a liberal torturer. It's not one of his stronger works, based on this initial outing, and it lacks the appeal of Desolation Jones. Part of the problem is that the protagonist comes off as thoroughly despicable and strangely self-involved. That may rather be the point; that to fight monsters he has become one. But the final result is a rather lackluster entry into the spy thriller genre.
Teen Titans #27: I tried. I honestly tried. But this is simply awful. There may be an actual story in here somewhere, but it's completely lost in the terrible art. Something apparently happens to Raven in the last pages, but you wouldn't know that by Liefeld's page layouts. This is worse than Purgatori. This is SkateMan level bad. This very nearly approaches the level of Hansi: The Girl Who Loved The Swastika. And you all know how much I hate it when reviewers and bloggers ply on the superlatives to try and tell you how awful something is. This is what this book drove me to! It's just that bad!
Batman #644: I'm going to break my own rule about not talking about the cross-over books until the blog culture war dies down a little, because this book deserves comment. I don't honestly get some of the complaints I hear about Bill Willingham. I think Fables is really quite good. I don't read his Robin, but I can't imagine that it's any worse than any other writers prior runs on the character. It can't be worse than, say, Pete Milligan's X-Men or Straczynski's Amazing Spider-Man, both of which have their defenders. And I will even go so far as to say that I thought War Games, as measured against other Bat-Family crossovers, wasn't anywhere near as bad as it could have been. It's no Contagion or Knightfall, whatever its flaws. But this...this makes no sense, for either any of the characters involved or the setting as a whole. You spend all that time making Black Mask into a major baddie, and then you turn him into a joke here. You have Joker making a remarkably quick recovery from having his skull caved in, precisely at a point when it probably really was necessary to have the character go away for an extended period. And even by the loose standards of "in character" for comic book characters, you have virtually every person who appears in this comic saying and doing things that have no internal logic or consistency and go against every prior appearance of the character. This is also simply bad, and the sin is compounded by coming from people who can do better and should know better.
Banana Sunday #2: I missed out reviewing the first issue because I was moving, and I didn't feel like getting caught up on reviews. But it was charming, and wonderfully drawn, and warm and funny. This is too. This is funny and clever and all kinds of cute. Go-Go is quite possibly the greatest new comic book character of 2005. If you haven't already picked this series up, you need to go out and get it. Go on. I'll wait here until you get back.
A lot of people had recommendations for me after yesterday's post, so I'll just go over some of them really quickly here, rather than try to make that thread any longer than it already is.
Robert Jordan--I know lots of people like him, but I'm specifically trying to avoid the long, epic fantasy series at this point. Except that George Martin one I keep meaning to read.
Robert Holdstock--Mythago Wood is actually sitting on my book-case in my "to be read" pile already.
Tom Holt--I've actually read a few of his books before, the ones about Vikings who end up in the present day, so I may need to go back and check out some of his other works.
Bernard Cornwell--I've heard good things about the Sharpe books, but I haven't heard much about his Arthurian books. Maybe I'll give them a look when I get into an epic mood.
Charles Portis--Masters of Atlantis sounds like the sort of thing I'm looking for, so I'll give it a look.
Elizabeth Hand--She may be a little too gothic for my taste.
Charles deLint--I've read several of his books already. I particularly liked Greenmantle. It's one of the books that got me interested in Celtic and Euro-pagan myths in the first place.
Laurell K. Hamilton--definitely too gothic for my taste.
Emma Bull--I've heard really good things about her work, multiple times. I think Pete may actually have her War of the Oaks books already, so I'll have to check.
The Illuminantus trilogy--Used to re-read it on an annual basis, back in high school. I actually now prefer Masks of the Illuminanti, though The Historical Chronicles of the Illuminanti were quite good as well, and damnedly hard to find.
Ian Rankin--I've heard good things about him several times, I may need to check out one of the books.
Thomas Berger--This Arthur Rex book looks like it may be good.
Jo Walton--Her books look like an interesting take on Arthur myths, I'll probably take a closer look at them.
Tim Powers--I should have thought of him myself! Drawing of the Dark was really good, exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for, but I never followed up by reading any of his other novels.
Jack Whyte--It looks like the sort of thing I'd like, but it's up to book 8! I'm trying to avoid the epics right now.
And now I have two recommendations for all of you:
Nobody mentioned it, but it sort of follows the same subject matter as the kind of books I'm looking for, but Lisa Goldstein's Dark Cities Underground is a very good urban fantasy novel exploring the links between the Egyptian myth-cycle of the death and rebirth of Osiris, the Victorian and Edwardian children's literature about children traveling to other worlds, and the modern sub-way systems. She's very much in the tradition and style of Neil Gaiman and Tim Powers.
In my ongoing quest to discover new and interesting blogs, now that the ongoing blog culture war has made several sites I used to enjoy unpalatable to me, I seem to have overlooked Focused Totality. It's really, really good.
Now occupying the place of honor on my toy shelf is my talking Krypto the Superdog figure. I didn't even know they were going to make Krypto toys. He allegedly says one of eight different things when you push down his tail, but I can only get him to say seven. Perhaps I'm not yanking on his tail correctly? You can also retract his shield and cape into his dog collar, and pop them out with the push of a button. They also had an Ace figure, and a playset with Ace and the Joker's hyenas, but I managed to restrain myself and just stick with Krypto. There's supposed to be a Streaky figure as well, but he wasn't at the shop.
He was shelved right next to those creepy smiling Spiderman & Friends toys at my local big box toy emporium.
Now, where's my "Best of Krypto" trade?
Pete and I went to see Brothers Grimm last night, after a slight detour caused by our intended theater being closed due to someone releasing pepper spray into the ventilation system, causing the theater to be evacuated and closed for the night. So we headed for the downtown Ventura theater, where we saw the TV headed gentlemen advertising local restaurants strolling the street with his handlers.
It was really quite good. I've not seen Heath Ledger in anything before this and I thought his performance was excellent. The whole cast was excellent in fact. And despite some of the critical grumblings I've heard about the script, I think this is actually the most narratively cohesive Terry Gilliam film I've seen.
So, I have a request for reading recommendations. I quite like Phil Rickman's novels, and though I haven't tried the Merrily Watkins books yet, I've enjoyed his Celtic-myth/Forteana/occult history themed horror novels. I'm fascinated by that sort of thing. I don't believe a word of it, but I find it powerful source material for compelling fiction. So, who else is writing horror, fantasy, mystery or even comedy, drawing on Forteana, fairy lore, Grail lore, Celtic myth, occult history, secret society history, etc.?
I know Terry Pratchett sometimes borrows Celtic myth and fairy lore for the Discworld books. And I don't care for Dan Brown, so his occult and secret society filled books don't interest me. And I'm already aware of Robert Rankin. So...who's got something for me?
At Last! The Return Of: Music to Torment Customers and Co-Workers With!
Bangles Greatest Hits: What do you know, there is more than one song on here! Kidding, I kid...I've always thought the Bangles were unfairly dismissed as "just another" 80s girl-group, frequently unfavorably compared to the Go-Gos. But they're good musicians, and there's an infectiously happy quality to their music, especially their original compositions. And it's awfully hard to dispute that they had a good ear for which songs would make for good covers in their style. Best Song: The opening track, "Hero Takes a Fall"
The Best of Warren Zevon: A Quiet Normal Life: He makes me mad, he's so lyrically clever and gifted. It's a dark and cynical sort of approach to lyric, and I'm certain you must all be terribly surprised to hear that I respond to that sort of thing. The album itself actually makes for difficult listening. After a while, a certain sameness sets in to the lyrics and music and the whole thing blends together. I find myself flipping forward to random songs on a regular basis while listening to the album, just to get past that quality. But it's still terribly good. Best Song: "Werewolves of London" Cheesy, I know, but I like it best
The Best of Bardot: Yes, that would be Brigitte Bardot. A French import disc of the sex-pots musical accomplishments, notably in collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg. In fact, I'd almost go so far as to say that Gainsbourg is Henry Harrison to Bardot's Eliza Doolittle, only instead of passing her off as a Real Lady, he's proving to the world She Can Actually Sing. It's French Pop, so you need to have a high tolerance for that sort of thing, especially since it's old French Pop, so it sounds a bit dated on top of everything else. Best Song: "Le Diable est Anglais"
Justin Tranter: Tear Me Together: It's hard to describe this one. It's very...big sounding. And it's got a complicated, mash-up type sound. And it's very technically accomplished and compelling lyrically. In short, it's very very good, but I'm at a loss of vocabulary to say why it's very good, and I hate to have to cop out with the "it's a gay thing, you wouldn't understand" excuse, because while I think the music may resonate a little more strongly with gay listeners, there's nothing in the music itself to mark it out as specifically "gay" unless it's perhaps just the overall approach and impression the music makes. Best Song: It's toss-up between "Gag Reflex" and "Good Luck With Your Armageddon"
John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter: It's so very mellow...It's a bit frustrating, in fact, because Barrowman can sing, and as an actor he has tremendous charisma, but he chose mostly, well, the duller Cole Porter songs for this album. Yeah, they make good lounge tunes, but there's very little to get excited about. Best Song: "Anything Goes", but what I wouldn't have given to hear Barrowman sing "Love for Sale" or "Let's Do It"
The Mountain Goats: The Sunset Tree: Apparently my playing this in the store is responsible for a good number of the local sales of this album...I don't like the term "folk-rock" because it sounds dismissive, but John Darnielle is one of the few musicians who does seem to happily occupy the ground between the two genres. He's got a distinctive sound and voice that is compelling, and lyrically he can move back and forth easily between high emotion and playfulness. And really, how many artists do you know who can casually allude to Romulus and Remus in their songs and trust that their audience will get it? Best Song: "Up the Wolves"
Robbie Williams: Greatest Hits: This is the Argentinean import version, which seems to be the preferable one. Not only for the cover illustration of shirtless Robbie Williams, but for the Spanish-language versions of "Angels" and "Better Man" which are unavailable on the regular edition. The album as a whole is a great introduction to a fun and talented and unashamedly pop singer. It does lack, somewhat, in the omission of any songs from "Escapology" or "Swing When You're Winning", and the lack of any of the non-album songs like the cover of "Freedom" is downright criminal. The two new songs makes up for the lack, somewhat, but man there are plenty of songs from Robbie's first album that made their way onto this that could have been left off to make room for those tunes. Best Song: "Radio", one of the new songs
Bloc Party: Silent Alarm: I'm liking the direction English rock is taking lately. This, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs...I hear certain similarities between the bands, but they've all got their own voice as well. It's that clangy guitar sound they're all running with and the deliberately vague lyrics. If I had to make a distinction, I'd say that Bloc Party sounds English. They actually put me in mind a bit of the garage-rocky British bands of the 60s and 70s, the lesser lights of the music scene as it were, only with a more contemporary sound. Best Song: "Helicopter"
Paranoia Agent Original Soundtrack: The music here is so unlike anything else I've heard in any anime series. It's a mix of electronica and found sounds, it sounds more like an experimental alt-rock album than a tv show sound-track. Best Song: "Dream Island Obsessional Park"
Paisly Close: All on a Day: Let's be upfront, it's Celtic music. You have to already like it, a bit, in order to enjoy it. And a lot of it can be awfully self-conscious, which is probably why the more successful cross-over bands aren't really doing straight-up Celtic music. This is closer to a Celtic-rock fusion. The lyrics and music are Celtic, but they've got that fast guitar and strong beat you associate with rock. It's still got a little bit of that self-consciousness thing going on, but the music is strong enough that you can easily overlook it. Best Song: "The Fox", though "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is a close second.
Gothic Rock 3: Black on Black: Best of 80s Collection: A two-disc (!) compilation of the best of 80s goth rock. You know, back when goth music was just kind of pretentious, not the unintended comedy it has become today. It's an old album, I've just been in the mood to hear it lately. It's a good selection over-all, but it does have a preference for songs that "charted" which does give it a slightly more "commercial" feel than maybe the music should actually reflect. Best Song: A tie between Danielle Dax's "Yummer Yummer Man" and Theatre of Hate's "Do You Believe In The Westworld?"
Also, given that there is now a publisher listed in the latest Previews calling themselves Yaoi Press (and more power to them), I'm even more annoyed than I was before that with all the yaoi that seems to be making its way to the US, we still can't get any actual gay manga translated into English. I'm not even necessarily asking for the porn titles. I've seen some of the porn titles. They'd be a real hard sell at even the best of times. (There's some freaky stuff in a lot of them...) But, come on...not one US publisher wants to take a chance on a non-pornographic manga title by a gay man for gay men? That's frustratingly depressing.
Anyway, here are some Japanese gay art sites by gay men for gay men:
The comics page at Rainbow Shoppers...I've ordered from them before. Shipping nearly doubled the cost of my package, but the exchange rate is good and I got my package quicker than any package I've ever ordered from a US company.
And not strictly by gay men for gay men, but I really like Hoh's illustrations. It's a woman writing and drawing gay romances for women, but she doesn't draw those wispy little boys that annoy me so. She draws good-looking older men, and I thank her for that.
I was going to be a smart-ass and post some picture from an old Etienne comic about a three-way with Green Arrow, Batman and Robin that used a lot of Neal Adams swipes, but apparently all those files are on the removable hard-drive, which got put into storage when I moved. So now I have to be serious about it. Damn.
I don't think DC's actions are an anti-gay thing. They're more of a "protecting our trademarked property" thing. And I think what probably drove DC to action was that these pieces were being offered up for sale, making them primarily a commercial project rather than a satirical one. But I'm not a lawyer, nor am I privy to the inner-workings of DC, so don't take my conjectures as definitive.
I do, however, think that DC is probably over-reacting and that it would have been better for all parties involved if they'd just ignored the whole thing. Because now the artist who knowingly incorporated copyrighted characters into his work without permission of the copyright holder gets to cry "censorship!" which will only lead to bad publicity for DC.
Last week, on the whole, was hell. This week isn't shaping up to be any better. I must find goofy comic-book panels to cheer myself up.
Anyway, here are some of the events of the last week I found notable:
I had a customer return a manga book because the creators weren't Japanese. Hah! Take that, anglo-phone manga creators!
If "customers" are going to give me attitude about the store, I'm sorely tempted to give them something to give me attitude about. I want people in costumes strolling around the store talking loudly about the sexual perversions they wish to perform on the under-age female super-heroes while death-metal blares on the stereo system at maximum volume while I play Magic at the register.
When the first word out of the mouth of a child that has been dropped off at the store while his parents go to the gift shop two doors down is "library," you know you're in for a fun forty-five minutes.
"Which Sin City poster is this one?" Well, let me look, there's usually a description of the poster on the end...yep, it's the Jessica Alba poster. "Well, which one is that?" ...It's a picture of Jessica Alba, dressed as a cow-girl, dancing. It's the same image that was used for one of the posters. "But what if I get it home and it's not the right image?" ...So, there are pictures of half-naked, sweaty, bumping-and-grinding Jessica Alba that you'd be unhappy with?
"I need 23 current comic boards." Well, I've got a packet of 25 boards right here. "No, I only need 23 boards." It's actually cheaper to buy the packet of 25. That's only $2.25, while the individual boards would be $2.30. It's only a nickel, but still cheaper. "I ONLY WANT 23 BOARDS! STOP TRYING TO PRESSURE ME INTO SPENDING MONEY ON THINGS I DON'T NEED!"
Comic book message boards: "Infinite Crisis is going to ruin the DC Universe and drive all their readers away! I've already stopped reading all DC books and only come here to tell everyone how bad the books I don't read are." City of Heroes message boards: "Issue Five is going to ruin the game and drive all their players away! I've already switched over to World of Warcraft and only come here to tell everyone how bad the game I don't play anymore is." These are the same people, aren't they?
First statement of almost every customer picking up the V for Vendetta trade paper-back: "Hey, this movie looks like it'll be really good!" Statement almost every customer makes upon putting the V for Vendetta trade back on the shelf: "This doesn't look anything like the movie."
Today it was just me and Kid Chris in the store all day. Every time a customer would ask one of us for help with something, immediately two or three other people would also chime up and ask for help. Two of us in the store. Three to four simultaneous requests for customer assistance. All day.
Oracle and Black Canary, while out for a stroll, are accosted by a would-be mugger. After making short work of him, Oracle ponders what to do with his weapon:
"Hmmm...should I leave this for the police to find? It's certainly possible that this fellow has committed other, more serious crimes and perhaps this gun could be used to connect him to those crimes. Or perhaps he just recently acquired the gun and it is the missing bit of evidence in another case? And if I give it over to the police that takes it out of circulation, thereby preventing it falling into the hands of another criminal, or a child who doesn't realize the dangers of picking up and playing with an abandoned gun..."
"Or I could just toss it down a sewer grate and forget about it."
So, the Justice League have been captured by the Secret Society of Super-Villains (back when they were kinda lame c-list villains), and the Society have magically caused their minds to be swapped with the Justice League's. The Justice League has just come to and found themselves in foreign bodies, prisoners in their own satellite HQ. And Superman is feeling sorry for himself because he's trapped in the Wizard's body and the Wizard is a wimp.
This is Wonder Woman's idea of "cheering him up":
That's right Diana. The worst thing about your current situation is that you're trapped in a man's body. Not that the Secret Society is out there doing who knows what in your names. No, it's that you're now an outie rather than an innie.
Kirsten Baldock's debut graphic novel, Smoke and Guns is simply fantastic. It's a breezy, entertaining, and most importantly fun story about girl gangs taking to the streets with guns and cigarettes smoking.
The protagonist (you can't really say "hero"), Scarlett is a cigarette girl, wandering the city in a seductive outfit to sell cigarettes to drunken men. Unfortunately, she attracts the unwanted, violent attention of a rival group of cigarette girls when she stars selling in their territory. The violence quickly escalates (they shoot her shoes, she blows up a building) until Scarlett inadvertently touches off a city-wide cigarette girl war. It's not a deep book by any means, and it carries on in the tradition of AIT books that place their emphasis on the concept of the story more than plot or character. But that's a good thing in this case, as the central conceit, cool girls with guns and cigarettes, more than carries the day in this light-hearted, high-action exercise.
Fabio Moon's art is one of the key reasons this works. His style is smooth and sleek, with an excellent and moody use of lighting and shadows. He perfectly captures both the kitsch elements of the cigarette girl costumes as well as their charming elegance. His women are shapely and attractive, and he imbues them with a working class glamour that makes them endearing as they blow each other away. The girls are elegant and beautiful, and the action scenes carry a great deal of energy as well.
Smoke and Guns is definitely a book to seek out. It has gorgeous art, a promising debut for a talented writer, and a simple, infectiously fun story.
Viz, in their infinite wisdom, decided to release both the first and second volumes of Zatch Bell to comic stores in the same week. I don't know whether that's confidence in the product or suicidal arrogance.
It's funny, but once we ran out of the Serenity covers with the girls on them, all interest in the book went away. I mean, you'd almost think people were buying the book as in "investment" rather than as something to read with a sales pattern like that...
This is a general suggestion for all comic customers: If you have an item that you wish to purchase bags and boards for, and it's an unusual size (i.e. not a standard size comic or magazine) you really need to either get good measurements of the thing or bring it in with you. Trying to guess which size bag will fit your "old timey paperback joke book" when the only difference between the two bags you're looking at is half an inch in width just wastes my time and yours. And it annoys the hell out of me.
Speaking of annoying bag and board queries: You really don't need to buy bags or boards for your trade paperbacks. I can sort of see wanting them for your hard-covers, since those dust-jackets are pretty flimsy, or an older out of print book, but in general, when you ask me "what size bags and boards will this Essential Avengers fit in?" what I hear is "I don't actually plan on reading this." This is doubly true when you ask me where you can get mylars that are sized for manga books.
At this point, should you really act surprised to hear that there isn't a new issue of Astonishing X-Men, Daredevil: Father, Secret War or Spider-Man/Black Cat out yet?
Mike and I had a little discussion about which comic was worse, Supergirl or Justice. Mike felt that Supergirl was worse, since at this point Justice only has the potential to be truly awful. We got busy, so I didn't have time to offer a counter argument, so while I agree with him that, based on first issues only, Supergirl is the worse comic, it's only really bad in the sense that a comic by Chris Claremont or Roy Thomas is bad: over-reliance on narrative captions and an assumption that the reader has read every comic featuring every character who appears in this book. While Justice only starts with a fundamentally flawed premise; that the Super Friends (not the JLA, the Super Friends and the Legion of Doom) really needed to be featured in a dark and gritty story in order to demonstrate how seriously the characters need to be taken, and there isn't really much room for improvement at that point. Not that there's anything wrong with serious super-hero comics. But this is Space Ghost all over again...
And to end on a happy note, a conversation with a customer that actually left me slightly flabbergasted: "Do you carry horror comics?" Sure, we've got all kinds of horror comics. Was there a particular one you were looking for? "Do they make any comic books about zombies?" ...What, seriously? "Uh, yeah. Are there any horror comics with zombies in them?" Oh, I think I can manage to find one or two...
Dark Horse Eden actually looks like it may appeal to our customers, though I'm somewhat baffled by why Dark Horse thinks letting me know that it was serialized in Japan in the same magazine that published Blade of the Immortal and Oh My Goddess is vital to my ordering. Those two titles aren't anything like each other at all, so comparing it to two dissimilar properties doesn't tell me anything useful.
Speaking of Oh My Goddess, we've had a sudden flurry of interest in the title from the recent arrivals at the nearby Navy base, so sales have been up. Sailors dig it, apparently. I'm not sure they're going to go for a $20 installment, but I'll get a shelf-copy anyway. (The sailors also seem to really dig Cavalcade of Boys, but I won't tell if you won't...)
DC/CMX Cipher has a hoary plot: twin brothers switch identities. The art is rather soft, and the preview materials I've seen don't give me much confidence in it. Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne is quite possibly one of the girliest comics I've ever seen in my life. The amount of pink on the cover is truly frightening. Kikaider Code 02 may appeal to fans of old-school manga, but it's probably going to be a tough sell with our customer base. We haven't had a lot of interest from customers in older manga series.
ADV A new volume of Yotsuba&! is good news, as we can't keep the first two books in stock. An excellent series that has strongly resonated with our customers.
Anime Works I've not been too impressed with their output so far, and neither have our customers. We'll get a shelf copy of Death Trance, since it's the final volume and we got the first two in, and a copy of Eiken, because it has boobies and the fan-service manga titles sell well for us. I'll skip on Samurai Man, and maybe order a copy if the first volume sells, once it comes in.
Antarctic The cover for the fifth issue of the Oz: The Manga series is very pretty. I don't think we've sold a single copy of the comic to date.
Del Rey I probably shouldn't be surprised that Genshiken has been a hit for us, should I? It's a manga about manga and anime nerds, and the girls who love them. It's like a strange, wish-fulfillment ouroburous.
Digital Manga Publishing Holy Yaoi! The first Bambi and Her Pink Gun volume had disappointing sales, but I'm keeping it on our shelf of cool hipster comics for the time being. The audience for this book will come in and buy it, dammit! I've heard good things about Cafe Kichijouji De, so I'm going to go with optimistic orders here and hand-sell if I need to. Jazz has a nice, racy premise, and the men don't look like little kids, so it has that in it's favor. I just hope it doesn't go in the direction of same of the medical themed gay porn I've seen. La Esperanca and Our Kingdom both feature pretty little boys, so I've got no interest in them now. And I'm as surprised as anyone to say that I won't be buying a gay-themed comic. I bought as many as I could for so long, just because they were so rare, but this yaoi boom features too many titles that hold no interest for me. I don't really want to read about little boys in borderline abusive relationships. Our Everlasting is about gay surfers. I know, redundant phrasing...it looks like it's straddling the line between "little boys in love" and "actual men."
Dr Masters Iron Wok Jan: did anyone ever truly expect this to turn out to be as popular as it's become. Oh, sure, it's no Fruits Basket, but it sells darn well for us and gets high praise everywhere I look.
Go! Comi I like their web-site. It could use a few more sample pages, though, but it has enough information for me to make an informed appraisal of how I think their titles will do with our customers. Crossroad looks like a fine relationship drama/comedy, and I think it will appeal to our readers. Cantarella looks to be very pretty, and the focus on historical drama is a good thing, as we've got a small base of customers looking for historical themes in comics. The only thing that doesn't really look like it'll grab our customers is Tenshi Ja Nai. I'm sure it's a fine comic, but the celebrities behaving badly angle doesn't strike me as very original, and the over-all look is too similar to too many other comics.
Ice Kunion I like their site, too. Lots of sample images, lots of ways to tell me what I need to know about their product. I'm originally disinclined to order much in the way of Korean comics, because for the most part they just haven't resonated with many of our customers. But Bring It On looks like it has promise, with it's story of a pretty boy trying to win over a tomboy romantically. Angel Diary may do will with fans of supernaturally themed titles. Chocolat and The 11th Cat don't stand out as distinctively, unfortunately, and so I'll go with more conservative orders on those than I will on the others.
Tokyopop I'd be an idiot not to go with a generous order on Samurai Champloo, wouldn't I? Tokyopop really seems to want to push the goth-manga lately, with their two new original titles, Mark of the Succubus and A Midnight Opera. Neither really does anything for me, unfortunately, but I'll order some to shelve in our "gothity-goth" section. Pita-Ten Official Fan Book is apparently "the must-have book for Pita-Ten fans!" I'm not entirely sure we have any Pita-Ten fans shopping at our store. Psy-Comm looks really awful and generic, doesn't it? So does Telepathic Wanderers for that matter. I'll refrain from making my usual slam against Buffy, but I will say that the property and the cine-manga make an appropriate fit, and let all of you wonder what exactly I mean by that... The first My Little Pony cine-manga flew off our shelves. Who knew?
And yet more yaoi! At this rate I expect Viz to grab up some licenses soon as well. Now, here's the thing: I can't find any details on these titles at Tokyopop's page, nor at their Takuhai page. Nor does there seem to be a separate web-page for the Blu line. Earthian I've heard of before, and name recognition is a good thing, but a cost 50% above your average manga title is going to hurt sales. I was able to find a little bit about Love Mode, and it looks like it could be good, but I can't find any information on it other than that it ran in "Be Boy Comics", which I think is where DMP gets a lot of their yaoi titles from as well. So, I could have ordered these books more confidently if there was any useful English language information about them available! Even Tokyopop's layout in previews for these books is terrible. At the back of the section, behind the re-orders. At first glance I thought it was an ad page, not a list of solicited items. And because they listed the titles off to the side of the illustrations, the solicitations themselves run together, making for an ugly block of text. Just bad job all around on this section.
Viz Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo: Mike and I have been having far too much fun saying the name of this series. I saw the preview pages in Shonen Jump and I feel confidant in saying that, if you liked Sharknife, Street Angel, Sky Ape or My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, you will like this comic. It's got an arresting and unique art style and completely insane internal logic. It will hurt your brain in a good way. Death Note: the first volume hasn't even come out yet and I've had to up orders on the second. Rourouni Kenshin: Profiles is actually something that we've been getting requests for for some time now. So I'm hoping we actually get it at the same time as book-stores do, so our sales don't take too big a hit on it. The only new Shojo Beat title this month is Beauty is the Beast. There's not too much info for it, but it looks like a fairly standard school-girl drama, and so nothing to be too excited about.
I'm not bored with comics. I'm not even really bored with comics news. There's too much unintended comedy to be found there for me to get bored. What I am finding myself increasingly bored with however is comics blogs. Specifically, certain personality types that seem to keep recurring on them. It's both the hyper-sensitive thin-skinned types and the self-appointed arbiters of merit, as both writers and commentators, that are working my nerves and killing my interest in reading many sites.
A thought I had while responding to a friend's post on another subject: Being a "high profile comics blogger" is kind of like being the world's tallest midget. Yeah, good for you, you got the recognition you sought; but only a very small subset of the population cares about the height of midgets, so it's not as if it's a title to be particularly proud of.
A parable, composed after looking at many of the books I've seen praised lately: There was a wonderful new comic released. At least, that's what the artist/writer said. He also said that only the most intelligent and discerning of readers would be able to recognize how good the work was. Many readers of comics, upon seeing the work, waxed poetic about the clarity of line and honesty of emotion and the originality of vision contained within this marvelous and stupendous comic. Clearly, they were the most discerning and intelligent readers of the land. Than a small boy looked at the comic. "Why," he said, "The art in this comic is sloppy and amateurish! I am but a small boy and my crayon scribblings show a greater understanding of artistic principles, not to mention basic drawing skills such as anatomy, lighting and perspective. The page composition is muddied and confused, making it almost impossible to follow the flow of the story. The characters are the basest and broadest of stereotypes and the plot, what little there is, is trite and cliched. This is a truly dreadful comic." "Little boy," the people replied, "Why do you hate the scene?"
So, I was going back and forth, and I've pretty much come to the conclusion that I'm not going to review any of the "event" comics that have come out from Marvel or DC. There's simply no point. Looking at those who have, I've seen a remarkable uniformity of response to reviews. Should someone have the audacity to actually say something positive about one of these comics, the response is usually seething indignation that someone should fail to see how a horribly wretched piece of filth the comic in question is. Should someone offer a reasonable and reasoned negative review of one of these comics, the response is usually seething indignation that the reviewer doesn't hate the horribly wretched piece of filth as much as they should. And that's when the reviewer is not being treated with sneering contempt for even reading a super-hero comic in the first place. (Naturally, I exclude the "attack reviews" from the category of "reasonable and reasoned" negative appraisals of a work. The intent in these pieces seem to be humor, but they're not funny. They're not even well written. You can write a good, horribly mean review. It's when all someone seems to be able to do is write over-the-top attacks on every single detail of a comic, often in page-by-page detail, and expanding out into other comics by the same company, writer or artist, that I've lost faith in that person's ability to offer any kind of sane response to anything, good or bad.) So, you know, screw it. I'm in a cranky enough mood as it is lately, I don't need to deal with that kind of grief. I get plenty of grief from people via this page as it is. You'll all just have to learn to live in blissful ignorance of what I happen to think about certain comics. Though, if you like super-hero comics, at this point in time you can't really go wrong with the work of Greg Rucka or Gail Simone. Particularly on Wonder Woman or Villains United.
What say you, Miss Channing?
"Why a fella's perfectly entitled to get upset when driven to distraction by nay-sayers! You keep your own counsel best, honey, and keep on doing what you're doing. You still enjoy it on the whole, don't ya? And you know other people do too, otherwise why would they keep coming back day after day! And those people who keep coming back just because they like to be upset, you can just pay them no mind! What kind of person wastes their time looking for things to be upset by, especially something as silly as what some other person thinks of an ol' funny-book?"
Carol Channing. Now, and always, the voice of reason.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: I'd like to thank the world's Harry Potter fans for finally surpassing comic fans in the list of "fandoms that are strangely self-obsessed and take themselves far too seriously."
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Well, it certainly looks pretty. But the religious allegories are such an integral part of the story, and so heavy-handed, that I can't help but think that they'll either try to soften those aspects, or risk alienating a significant chunk of the film-going audience who doesn't want to be preached at by something that was marketed to them as a children's entertainment.
Pride & Prejudice: I'm a big sap. Well, actually, it's my favorite Austen work, and the story has always entertained me. And if you get good actors in the roles, watching Elizabeth and Darcy be bitches to each other is fantastic to watch.
Oliver Twist: Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist has a certain demented ring to it I find appealing...
Thumbsucker: It's trying too hard to be hip and odd. Oh Lord, how it's trying too hard. But it has an excellent cast (well, with one notable exception...) and, well, it looks like it may actually be able to pull off that "teen outsider" thing that so many recent films have attempted and failed miserably at.
Walk the Line: I won't be able to live with myself if I don't go see it. Good, bad, it won't matter. It finally took Hollywood making a movie about Johnny Cash to make me want to see a bio-pic.
King Kong: I drove my parents crazy when I was a kid, making them take me to every film that had monkeys or apes in it, preferably the giant kind. Again, it doesn't really matter whether or not this film will be good or bad, though to his credit I don't think I've thought any of Jackson's films were bad.
The Forty Year Old Virgin: I'm becoming far too fond of this type of comedy. Plus, Paul Rudd is always a good thing. And, to be perfectly honest, that it's likely to offend some in the comics/gaming/sci-fi/fantasy fandoms actually pleases me.
Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang: Robert Downey Jr as a crook, pretending to be an actor, pretending to be a detective. Again, high concept just works so beautifully, and the look of the trailer promises lots of grim, dark comedy, and I'm down with that.
Add it to the Netflix queue
Roll Bounce: This could go either way for me. I may end up going to see it if there's good word-of-mouth. The retro-cheesiness of it immediately gives me some hopes.
Grizzly Man: Why do I have the sinking suspicion that this film will not be viewed as a cautionary tale about over-humanizing wild animals, but will instead be taken up as a challenge to young men with more time than common sense? (Hey Corey...Werner Herzog directed it.)
The Chumscrubber: Suburban ennui has never been of much interest to me. To be perfectly honest, it's hard to have much sympathy for well-to-do white professionals who spend their free time feeling sorry for themselves. But the cast is generally of appeal, so this may get a watching if it gets good word of mouth as well.
Prime: The high-concept marks this out as a rental only: shrink finds out her son is dating one of her clients. It promises lots of comedic misinterpretations of situations, and little else.
Asylum: A woman falls in love with a patient at a mental hospital and helps him escape. Wow...it's like a testament to bad decision-making. I'm morbidly curious about it now.
Proof: Can we declare a moratorium on films about tortured geniuses yet? The only reason this film may even get a look is Jake Gyllenhaal.
Hellbent: A film about a masked slasher who targets gay men. Is it a parody of homophobia? An exploitations film aimed at gay men? A twist on a well-tread genre for a new audience? Or is it simply an excuse to make a movie about gay men being violently killed? Given the amount of flesh and sex on display, probably not that last one. And while I'm glad to see a horror film focusing on the gay audience, instead of using homosexuality as a metaphor for evil or villainy, something just seems a little...off about the whole enterprise.
Catch it when it's showing on basic cable and you're physically incapable of changing the channel
Saw II: I've still managed to successfully avoid seeing the first one, and given that people whom I consider to have good taste in horror films have all had nothing good to say about it, I'm fairly confidant I won't need to go see this "expansion" of the story. There's certainly nothing here to suggest that it's not more of the same thing: people in strange contraptions getting tortured to death for largely petty sins. I suppose if you really wanted to make a moralistic horror film, you could go far worse than ripping off the motive from Agatha Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd"...
The Fog: I can see the pitch meeting now: "How can we make John Carpenter's dullest film even less appealing to contemporary audiences?" "Put in a bunch of WB actors and some cheesy CGI effects?" "Brilliant!"
Doom: Is it even possible to make a good movie based on a video game?
Fun with Dick and Jane: Never cared for Jim Carrey, never cared for the original film. This is so easy to pass on I almost feel bad for even bringing it up.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose: I usually cut Laura Linney a lot of slack for her film choices but...oh man, "based on a true story?" I suppose there may be an element of that, in that an exorcism may one have been performed on someone, but in a film that should be menacing, I just found myself giggling at the trailer. Demons make patterns on the glass and make it look like people's faces are stretching? That's the extent of their satanic abilities?
The Cave: See, I'm okay with spelunkers fighting monsters beneath the surface of the Earth. I don't expect a movie like that to be good, but I'm okay with the concept. Finding out that the monsters are actually the mutated members of the previous expedition...ah, no, that's pushing my tolerance for bad horror movie logic too far.
A Sound of Thunder: I'm not sure it's possible for a film to any more possibly miss the point of the source material...oh, wait, no...they're still making movies based on Alan Moore comics...
And now, a special consideration:
V for Vendetta: Evey being interrogated, okay, fine, that's true to the spirit of the original work. Nuremberg style rallies? Losing the plot a bit there guys. It's not overt fascism that's being critiqued. V's appearance looks promising, the official cover-up of the despicable acts of the government looks to get us back on track as well. "From the creators of the Matrix trilogy"-everyone's sick of those films, may not be a good idea to over-play that. Knives being thrown in slow-motion...nope, sorry, they've lost it. That's the sort of thing I expect in a "kewl", style-over-substance action movie, not a film trying to make a point about the nature of fascism.
Hmmm...out and up too late Thursday...don't really have anything prepared to post today...and the computer has decided that it really really likes to over-heat, which makes long sessions at it a bit problematic.
I should post something comics related, but the best things I can come up with are rhetorical questions that some people will assume are being deliberately provocative, rather than facetious.
Such as: Which comic company do you expect to still have listings in the August 2006 Previews; FC9, Speakeasy or Alias?
Or: Do comic readers find the "solicitisements" of companies like Alias, IDW and Tokyopop in Previews as annoying and unhelpful and poorly designed as I do?
Or: Given the limited number of jokes in the repertoire of your average comics/fantasy/sci-fi fans, exactly how many jokes about V drawing out the pronunciation of the phrase "Mister...Anderson" or having pointy ears under his mask, or Evey wearing Danishs on the side of her head or dying of lack of will to live do we have to look forward to in reference to the V for Vendetta movie?
(Speaking of which, there has been a slight increase in demand for the trade, but availability has only been sporadic at best, due in no doubt to the forthcoming hard-cover re-release. And yes, it does appear that the people asking for it are expecting it to be a kung-fu action comic with lots of knives being thrown in slow motion...)
While I was busy moving, a small back-log of material that I'd been asked to look at piled up. Here's my take on it.
Hero Squared #1 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Joe Abraham
I reviewed the prologue issue some time ago and enjoyed it. This new mini picks up the story of a super-hero forced to live with a slacker version of himself from an alternate dimension. Or is that the other way around? To be honest, I'm finding this series much more enjoyable, and yes, funnier, than Giffen and DeMatteis' more recent DC and Marvel collaborations. The fact that the series stands on it's own, and the world-building that has gone into it, make it a more satisfying read. And Joe Abraham's art still retains that expressive quality that makes it appealing, but without the soft, unfocused look which distracted me in the special. In short, a good, funny take on the trappings of the super-hero genre.
Godland #1 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
I'll be bluntly direct from the beginning: I've never much cared, aesthetically, for Jack Kirby's art, or for the various pastiches of his style that other artists have adopted over the years. Nor have I ever been much for "cosmic" storytelling. So this is not the kind of book I'd have ever picked up for myself, despite Joe Casey earning enough good-will from me as a writer to warrant me at least looking at most of his new projects. Now, that being said, this is certainly the type of comic that should appeal to lots of comic readers. Scioli's art is a good match for the over-the-top, cosmic tone of the series. It straddles a fine line between parody and homage, as does Casey's story. It's a very dry parody, played completely straight-faced, of some of the stylistic beats and excesses of Silver Age Marvel comics, mixed in with a healthy dose of Ditko-era Charlton weirdness and self-importance, particularly in its Captain Atom-esque protagonist. And it's not the sort of approach that could have worked unless Casey and Scioli were found of this era of comics story-telling. It's fast-paced, high-energy, high concept work that should strongly appeal to Kirby fans and fans of cosmic-style story-telling. And the last-page villain reveal alone is priceless.
G.I. Spy #1 by Andrew Cosby and Matt Haley
In this quirky premiere issue we're introduced to Jack Shepard, American spy, on his first assignment to South America during the second World War. It's a very dryly humorous story, as Shepard's attempts to meet up with his partner turns into a comedy of errors. Cosby's able to maintain that tone throughout, giving us appealing leads in both Shepard and his far more competent British partner Kaitlin Hunter. If there's a flaw in this first issue, it's that the objectives of the villains are left rather vague, with only brief, enigmatic cameos by the figures promising to be the central villains. Matt Haley's art is also worth mentioning. He has a very fine, smooth line, with a realistic style. The "acting" of the figures is also quite good, and Shepard has one of the best smug smirks I've ever seen in a comic book. Haley brings an excellent blend of character-based drawing and action to the series that complements Cosby's script immensely. G.I. Spy should be in comics shops next week, and if you're in the mood for tongue-in-cheek spy adventures, you should check it out.
I also wanted to draw some attention to two of the best stapled-comics I've bought recently. Both Desolation Jones #2 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III and JLA: Classified #10 by Ellis and Butch Guice, were truly excellent works. In Jones Ellis writes one of the most emotionally effective scenes I've come across in a comic in years, in the interaction between Jones and Emily Crowe. It's a touching portrait of the devastation of emotional isolation and the power of simple human care and concern. As much ire is directed at Ellis for his "gruff bastard" characterizations, he still has a far stronger sense of emotion and how to portray it than most other comics writers.
Similarly, his portrayals of Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and especially Lois Lane in the first chapter of "New Maps of Hell" is some of the deftest, most appealing looks at the characters I've seen in some time. Kent and Lane actually feel not only like real journalists, but a loving couple, aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses and confident in each other's abilities to do their respective jobs well. It was also quite satisfying to see a Batman portrayal that emphasized the detective and mystery-man angle of the character. Ellis says quite a bit about the character of Bruce Wayne in several short scenes that are well worth remembering as a reference point for future portrayals.
I have a back-log of material I've been meaning to review, and I meant to get around to it today, but I had a semi-emergency session of cleaning up the old homestead and moving boxes into storage instead. That was loads of fun.
Kid Chris: "Hey, we should become maggia hit-men!"
Dorian: "The gay maggia?"
KC: "Northstar's in that right? He is an evil gay zombie now, isn't he?"
And now I'm racking my brains trying to figure out what other Marvel characters would be in the gay maggia (as opposed to the mafia, which we all know doesn't actually exist, despite the fact that "mafia" is an Italian word...)
Max Hamm: Fairy Tale Detective by Frank Cammuso This book collects the original, stand-alone Max Hamm story and the three-part mini-series follow-up. It is the story of a detective living in a fairy-tale kingdom, continually drawn into the seedy under-belly of that world. Cammuso has an appealing art-style, and he alternates wonderfully between a traditional comic-format, and a gray-wash illustrated story format for flash-back scenes. The book works well both as a subversive twist, through adult sensibilities, on the "reality" of the fairy-tale world and as both an homage and parody of the "hard-boiled" school of detective fiction, notably the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. It's a hugely entertaining and enjoyable book, well worth an Eisner nomination and anyone's attention.
Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden Vol. 1 by Yuu Watase The prequel to Watase's epic fantasy series Fushigi Yugi, Genbu Kaiden tells the story Takiko Okuda, the first girl from Earth to find herself transported into the Universe of the Four Gods via a magical book, only to this time find herself destined to fill the role of the priestess of Genbu. Opening in Japan during the 1920s (or the 12th year of the Taisho era if you prefer), Takiko immediately makes a positive impression on the reader. She's confident, strong-willed and assertive, a welcome change from the usual door-mat/wishy-washy shojo heroine. Her few moments of angst, notably an estrangement from her father over the sickness and death of her mother and her pining for an unattainable man, are both appropriate for the genre and not situations outside of the experience of real girls. Once transported into the book, Takiko takes up the mantle of Priestess of Genbu in short order, without any of the insecurities Miaka showed in the original series which drew out the narrative to almost interminable lengths at times (see also: Inu-Yasha and that damn jewel quest). Unsurprisingly, to those familiar with the FY universe, Qu-Dong is again the villain and a romantic triangle has developed by the end of the first book. This series is a must-have for any fan of Fushigi Yugi or of Watase.
Antique Bakery Vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga A scruffy ladies man, a retired boxer with a penchant for sweets and a gay chef of demonic charm and appeal make up the cast of this series. The book starts out rather abruptly, skipping forward in time at an abrupt pace to establish the setting, and waits until the last chapter to tell the story of how the bakery came to be and how these three came to be working there. Most of the stories, in fact, don't even focus on the central cast, but rather on the visitors to the bakery. And while Yoshinaga's art is quite nice and the stories themselves are engaging, by putting the focus on the customers in so many stories and by abandoning the idea of linear story-telling, the book does end up with a slightly dis-jointed feel. It's quality work, but it takes a bit of patience to get through the first volume. It's also notable in that Ono is one of the very few gay characters in manga (so far translated into English, that is) to be portrayed in a confidant and self-assured manner. He's actually quite relatable, and the first gay character in manga that seems like an actual, plausible gay man. The one flaw, his "fear of women," has all the hall-marks of a set-up for a bad joke, one that thankfully does not surface in this volume.
Top 10: The Forty-Niners by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Todd Klein and Art Lyon While this book is probably indispensable for the Top 10 fan, or even the Alan Moore fan, it also has a slightly disjointed feel to it. Transitions and plot developments seem abrupt and jumped to, rather than natural progressions. But apart from that minor complaint, it is a truly excellent book, one of the more enjoyable and clever of Moore's playing with the super-hero genre. The development of Neopolis serves as an excellent metaphor for the cultural decline of the super-hero in the post-war period, pre-saged by the decline of the newspaper strip and advertising mascot and with a strong foreshadowing of the over-all inappropriateness of these types of fictional characters for the coming real-world problems. The bombing of Tin Town is both a call-back to the racist attacks by the Nazis on Jewish neighborhoods but a foreshadowing of the anti-civil rights violence that America would face in the coming decade. And Moore also manages to insert a charming, if somewhat old-fashioned gay romance sub-plot into his super-hero fiction, which I'm almost tempted to read as a deliberate tweaking of the gay panic so many comic fans seem to suffer from.
Also Noteworthy Yotsuba&! Vol. 2 by Kiyohiko Azuma: more charming and light-hearted all-ages adventures and discoveries with the wonderfully innocent green-haired girl.
The Wallflower Vol. 4 by Tomoko Hayakawa: the surreal bent to the stories continues as Sunako valiantly fends off every attempt to turn her into a proper young lady.
I'm sure I'll get grief for this from some quarters, but in general I don't much care for the work of the "underground" cartoonists. There's a few I like, but in general I find most of them too preoccupied with either narcissistic self-loathing or misogynistic violence, or in rare cases both, to really appeal to me.
I like Howard Cruse, though. And I found an illustration of his that nicely summarizes my distaste for the undergrounds.
(Click image to see full version in new window. Not safe for work, honestly.)
One of the conversations that actually did take place while I was away was some angst over the state of comics retailing. The problems under discussion seemed to be two-fold: there aren't enough good stores, and there aren't enough stores period. Not only is it hard for people seeking something other than front of Previews material to find stores that carry that sort of thing, it's fairly difficult for many people to find comics at all.
Which led me, in my usual contrary way, to this thought: communities largely get the comics shops they deserve. That is, the kinds of comics fans in any given geographic location largely determine the kinds of comic shops, if any, that tend to pop up there. There's a reason, for example, that when I go into any random comic shop in LA, I can find about four or five dozen statues of female super-heroes, but no Oni, AIT or Viz titles, much less the latest Ralf Konig book. Hell, half the time your lucky to be able to find the comics those statues are based on. If you can't find anything other than the stereotypical, over-crowded, dirty, basement-dweller shops in your town, what is it about your community that only that type of shop has been able to survive.
So, while I would dearly love to be able to order as many copies of the latest Chris Ware, James Kolchaka or Bryan Lee O'Malley work as we do of Superman/Batman or the latest X-Men cross-over, the demand for those works in our area simply doesn't justify such an expenditure. We've had to do a lot of hand-selling and encouraging of the customers who show an interest in works from non-premier publishers in order to build sales to the point we're at now. Luckily, most customers we've hand-sold too tell all their friends, so we are able to build momentum for quality works, but it's a slow process.
And while our shop may be far from perfect, I take comfort in knowing that anyone who criticizes the way we do things must never have seen our now out-of-business competitors. Because they don't know how good they've got it with us.
Things that happened in the comics-internet while I had little to no net access:
Retailers complained about things that wouldn't be a problem if they were doing their jobs right in the first place.
Comic publishers announced bone-headed policies.
Fans, outraged by developments in super-hero comics, vow never to buy anything from that publisher again. Next week they bought lots of books from that publisher anyway.
The revelation that "popular comics commentator" is pretty much the definition of the phrase "big fish in a small pond" escaped people yet again. (Actually, it's more like "bloated koi in bath-tub"...)
People who say they hate super-hero comics spent a lot of time on blogs and message-boards telling people just how much they hate super-hero comics instead of, you know, getting over it and ignoring them and concentrating on the material they do like.
Works of marginal quality and appeal were over-praised for no other reason than they aren't super-hero comics.
"Professional" comics reviewers missed the point of the material they were reviewing.
People complained about super-hero comics being written and drawn as if they were, well, super-hero comics.
Marvel published a bunch of comics that presume the reader knows how Secret War ended.
People got angry over something that happened in a comic-book. Not in relation to the actual merit of the comic or the "outrageousness" of the act...no, it was more the kind of near-hysterical reaction you'd expect people to have upon hearing that the Pope has been raped. By aliens. Live on national television. And your grand-mother was strangely aroused by it.
1. Are you single or in a monogamous relationship?
I am in a long-term monogamous relationship with my guy, Peter.
2. How long have you been with your partner/significant other/boy/girlfriend?
Peter and I have been together about six years now.
3. How did the two of you meet?
At a gay bar. See, I'd had a fairly disastrous birthday, and the next weekend a friend of mine called and wanted me to drive out to the bar and meet some friends of his. I wasn't going to go, since I was in a fairly bad mood, but I figured it was either go out or sit at home and watch cable so I opted for the choice that wasn't guaranteed to depress me. Pete was one of the friends who had driven down from Santa Barbara. He was very shy and very cute and not at all my type. But the next night I got invited up to a party at the house of one of the people who had been at the bar that night, and Pete was there, and we just ended up hitting it off.
4. What do you like to do together?
We go to the movies quite often, and stay in and watch rented films almost as often, and we eat out probably more than we should. We spend a lot of time with our friends, mostly other couples, playing games--both the board/card and computer kind.
We've gone on a couple of day-trips, mostly to amusement parks, and a few longer weekend type trips to visit his family in Oregon. About the only thing we haven't done that we really want to do is take a real vacation together.
5. If you are single, what would life be like with your ideal spouse/partner?
Not single, sorry.
And I'm supposed to tag someone else to do it, so I'm passing the buck to Scipio.
Non-Stapled Comics I've Bought in the Last Two Weeks, While I Had No Regular Intenet Access to Talk About Them:
Fruits Basket Vol. 11 Capote in Kansas--why did no one tell me this guest-starred Harper Lee? That alone is a sales-point for me! Dead West Tsubasa Vol. 6 Angel Sanctuary Vol. 9 Antique Bakery Vol. 1 Yellow Vol. 1 Cavalcade of Boys Vol. 3 Lions, Tigers and Bears--see, I'll even give Alias some money if they put out product I like Top Ten: The Forty-Niners
That's an awful lot of books with either gay content, gay creators, or both, I've just noticed.