Offensive, harrassing or baiting comments will not be tolerated and will be deleted at my discretion.
Comment spam will be deleted.
Please leave a name and either a valid web-site or e-mail address with comments. Comments left without either a valid web-site or e-mail address may be deleted. Atom Feed LiveJournal SyndicationLOLcats feed
Friday, December 30, 2005
(postmodernbarney.com)'s 2005 Wrap-Up Awards
The "It's Crossgen All Over Again, Isn't It?" Award: This very nearly went to Speakeasy, due to all their sudden bad press over their curious contracts which could leave many creators either owing the company money and the annoucement that cancelled titles would have their final issues available for reading on-line. But in the end, the award had to go to Alias. They completely botched their initial title roll-out, they've had serious problems getting books out on time, studios and creators have been leaving the company right and left, the only person who ever had anything good to say about the company on message-boards turned out to be Mike Miller using a pseudonym, they inserted a morality clause into contracts that appeared to be aimed solely at two artists, but to top it off the printer they're in partnership with tried to strong-arm independent publishers into publishing their titles through Alias to get printed.
The Tempest In A Teapot Award: Close race here between the sudden resurgence of the "is comics blogging dead" argument (brought up and discussed to death on several dozen different comics blogs) and the "is comics criticism dead" argument that flared up and, predictably, turned out to be all Ian's fault. In the end, though, I think the award has to go to the "is comics blogging dead" argument, if only because the intrinsic irony of comics bloggers discussing whether or not comics blogging exists anymore is too strong to resist.
The Stamping His Little Foot Award: Goes to Tokyopop. While Viz and Del Rey eat away at their sales, in addition to snatching up all the good licenses, while Dark Horse makes a serious go at building up a backlist of "classic" manga to keep in print, while Digital Manga Presents beat them to the punch on the yaoi boom, and while new-comers like Go Comi kick their ass in terms of sheer quality of book, what has Tokyopop been doing? Increasingly emphasizing their original material while what should be their core back-list either goes out of print or moves to another publisher. And that original material just really isn't that good. Too much of it is raw and amateurish, giving the line as a whole an image of "we'll publish any old crap you pitch to us." As has been frequently been discussed, the contracts for those original titles are terrible, frequently requiring artists to give up ownership of their work, in addition to scores of other bad clauses. And the audience for both manga and Western comics just haven't been interested in what Tokyopop has been putting out. But Tokyopop's attitude has been "you will read our original titles and you will like them!" I wonder if Natsuki Takaya knows that U.S. sales of Fruits Basket are subsidizing what amounts to vanity projects?
The Better The Devil You Know Award: Earlier this year, Rich Johnston turned his vile, slanderous "Lying in the Gutters" column into an exercise in serious comics-focused investigative journalism. And it was the deathly dullest thing I've ever read. I guess everyone else agreed, because he quickly turned it back into a gossip column. But, here's the thing; disguised as a gossip column, Rich has been doing serious investigative journalism on comics all along. But it's more entertaining to dress it up as rumor and innuendo. So that leaves us with Rich, Tom Spurgeon, the occasional piece in the Comics Journal, and a whole bunch of blogs and web-sites that regurgitate press releases from publishers as what passes for comics journalism. I'm honestly at a loss to say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.
The "I'm Taking My Ball And Going Home!" Award: Goes to Alan Moore for demanding that his name be taken off his work published by DC because the producers of the V for Vendetta film implied that he'd approved of the film in some way. Now, I don't blame Moore for being upset with the producers of the film. They're schmucks and deserve a verbal beat-down. And I certainly don't blame Moore for taking his creator-owned projects to Top Shelf and Knockabout. It's a much better fit for him than a corporate publisher and can only benefit him and the publishers. What does leave me scratching my head is Moore's odd insistence that executives and editors at DC Comics have anything to do with a film company that just happens to be owned by the same corporation, and are in a position to exert any kind of pressure on film-makers at all. It's startlingly prima donna-ish behavior from a man who has been in the comics industry long enough to know how it works better than that. I mean, if I were a cynical man I'd say it was a deliberate ploy on Moore's part to get enough public pressure put on DC and Warner Brothers by outraged fans that he'd get what he wanted.
The "I Can't See The Forest, There Are Too Many Damn Trees In The Way" Award: This award goes to every single person out there who wrote a negative review of All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder because "Batman was out of character," or "there's too much sex and violence," or "Batman's actions don't make any sense," or "the dialogue is stilted," or, and this is my favorite, "it will alienate people who buy it after watching the movie." Folks, this comic is exactly what the civilian populace thinks a super-hero comic is all about: deliberately stupid dialogue, sexy dames and extreme violence. Frank Miller knows precisely what he's doing with this book, and Jim Lee, while not my favorite artist in the world, gives it a mass-appealing, polished look that will draw in people attracted to high-profile comics events. It's not quite a comedy, but it's got its tongue planted firmly enough in cheek to make Miller's deliberate tweaking of fanboy expectations that much more delicious. It's damn near the platonic ideal of a Batman comic.
The "It Wasn't Funny The First Time Either" Award: Goes to every blogger who makes rape jokes about comics published by DC. Seriously. Cut it out.
The Worst Trend Of 2005: The continuing fetishization of nostalgia. Oh, I know, the super-hero comics genre in and of itself is a nostalgic recreation of a seventy-year old fad in children's publishing, but this last year seemed to take the narcissistic, self-indulgent, neurotically defensive yearning for a non-existent age of innocent and naivete in super-hero comics to new depths. From Darwyn Cooke's worship of the Eisenhower era, to Alex Ross' photo-realistic, "serious" take on the Super Friends, to Mike Allred's bitter "critique" of contemporary comics; even when the work was good (as it often was in Cooke's and Allred's cases), the entire movement had the air of the frankly ridiculous about it.
The Worst Sign For 2006: Movies based on comic books. So far, it's not looking like a winner of a year. From Kelsey Grammer's blue body-paint, to Ghost Rider's bulging eye-balls, with anxiety over whether or not Brandon Routh is well endowed enough (or too well hung) to play the Man of Steel in between, it's not exactly looking like 2006 is going to be a break-out year for getting the general public excited about comic books by making good movies. I'm already prepared to say that the V for Vendetta film looks the worst of the bunch. From changing the nuanced politics of the books portrayal of fascism to "Nazis took over" and foregoing plot and character development in favor of cool looking wire-fu action sequences and an army of people dressed like V (way to miss the point of the story, guys...), it's just looking like a train-wreck of epic proportions. The cardinal sin, in my eyes, is that all available evidence indicates that the film-makers have missed out on the difference between protagonist and hero. V is not a hero. He is, in fact, a villain. It's Every who acts as the voice of moral authority through her transformation and ability to forgive her trespassers, but it looks like she's being reduced pretty solidly to V's sidekick in the film. Because a violent murder who knows kung-fu is a much better hero than a woman who experiences moral growth and maturity over the course of the story.
Favorite Super-Hero Comic Of 2005: Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers manages to look to the past to find new ways of telling stories in comics form, and transforms long neglected characters into vital protagonists. Yes, it plunders the past, but it uses that as a jumping off point to create the most forward looking, consistently inventive comics serial in years.
Favorite Non-Super-Hero Comic Of 2005: Root Nibot's and Colleen Coover's Banana Sunday. Charming, beautifully drawn, gently humorous and just flat-out feel-good. It's a stunning revelation. And Go-Go is my favoritist monkey ever.
Favorite Manga Of 2005: Iwahara Yuji's Chikyu Misaki has strongly appealing art and a story that flips in tone between silly and serious without losing the plot or flow of the story. This story about three girls and the transforming lake monster who link them together has much to recommend it, and it's the manga title I was most pleased to discover this last year.
Favorite Graphic Novel Of 2005: Rob Osborne's Sunset City was an incredible sophomore effort. It was deep and well illustrated and prompted more thought in me than any other comic I've read all year. This was the book to get this year.
Favorite Publisher Of 2005: This year, AIT/Planet Lar put out more good and worthwhile work than any other publisher I follow. From the aforementioned Sunset City, to new volumes of True Story Swear to God, The Couriers and Colonia, collected editions of Demo and Scurvy Dogs, and outstanding graphic novels like Filler, Smoke and Guns and Full Moon Fever, almost every month had something worthwhile and right up my alley on the racks.
Person Of The Year: This year I'm going with Gail Simone, for consistently writing some of the most character-driven and genuinely surprising and interesting super-hero adventure comics on the stands. She had a stellar year in 2005 and I'm really looking forward to her 2006 work.
And now, the one you've all been waiting for; The Sexiest Man In Comics For 2005
This was a tough year for me to make a choice, and when I put out a call for help I was mildly distressed just how good a taste in men my readers have. So, unable to come to a definitive choice, I'm going with two winners again this year.
Or, This Week, Dorian Reviews The Comics Without Actually Bothering To Read Them
Wizard #172: Not something I normally purchase, but there's something I've always wanted to do with an issue of Wizard, and now seems as good a time as any to go and do that.
Fallen Angel #1: I liked the first series okay, but at $3.99 a pop I find myself expecting a bit more out of it this time around.
Wonder Woman #224: I've enjoyed Rucka's take on the character. It's managed to be consistently surprising and engaging. And I'm still skeptical of any proposed new series, as all the proposed artists I've heard have more of a focus on T and A than on good story-telling.
Vigilante #4: Well, I'm enjoying it, anyway.
Superman/Batman #23: This used to be good, dumb fun. Now it's getting to be a chore to read.
Exiles #74: Pete's comic. I gave up on even glancing through it once it crossed over with that Age of Apocalypse nonsense.
Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #664: I only pick up the square-bound Disney books now when they have Rosa or Barks material I don't already have in them. Though I still get the monthly Donald Duck comic because, well, it's Donald Duck. The most recent issue of DD had me cursing my temporary lack of image editing software, as the sequence in which Donald, driven mad by ghosts, goes after Huey, Dewey and Louie with an axe in an abandoned mountain-top motel was priceless.
Solo #8: I honestly think I bought this out of inertia, as Teddy Kristiansen isn't an artist I follow.
JLA Classified #15: Ellis' arc on this has been very, very good, but this is actually one of Pete's comics, as he's the strict Justice League completeist in the family.
Catwoman #50: Will Pfeiffer's run on this title has been a gas. Good, unapologetic, super-hero adventure the way I like it.
Batman #648: And I've enjoyed Winick's run on this book as well. He's managed to move Batman into more of a super-hero adventure comic than it's been in years.
X-Factor #2: As much as I enjoy Peter David's lighter take on super-heroes, my initial good-will for this book was severely deflated when Little Miss Deus Ex Machina joined the cast.
Ultimate Spider-Man #88: Pete's comic. Can't be bothered with it anymore.
ultimate Fantastic Four #26: I don't mind the heavy photo-referencing that much; at least the book looks pretty. Too bad it's written so poorly.
Official Handbook of Ultimate Marvel Universe: The Ultimates & X-Men 2005: Don't look at me like that. It's for Pete.
Young Avengers Special: The book really is surprisingly good. I don't know why there has to be a special, and why this material can't just appear in the regular comic. And I really, really don't like the tag-team approach to artists they took. The styles are too different, giving it a wildly inconsistent look.
All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #3: Oh man, I couldn't stop laughing at that panel. You know, the one everyone's going to make a big deal out of. The people who don't get the joke are missing out on funny, funny stuff.
A1 Bojeffries Terror Tome: I've got a fondness for inexpensive reprints of quality older material. Though, I must ask, exactly how late is this.
Blacksad: The Sketch Files: Speaking of late books. But it doesn't matter, because I can pore over Guarnido's artwork for hours.
And I looked at, but didn't purchase, the most recent issue of Spider-Man/Black Cat: Evil That Men Do, in which Kevin Smith made me groan twice. Once at Daredevil's "What am I, retarded?" line, and the Black Cat's revelation that she was raped. Because, somehow, I suspect that Smith is going to be given a pass on lame, "out of character" dialogue and the casual use of sexual violence against women. Which prompted a discussion between me and Mike on why, exactly, the bad writers are so often allowed to get away with terrible, terrible plots and dialogue.
Rock 'N' Roll, by Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Bruno D'Angelo and Kako
This book is a bit of an odd beast. There's the semblance of a narrative, but it's more a series of loosely-connected vignettes that add up to a story. I hate to use the dreaded term "pop comics" but I'm at a loss to find another adjective. The impression I get from the book is that it was made in a burst of creative energy, assembling the components necessary to make the book fast and cool and of the moment. Or a "rock and roll" comic, as it were. It's not meant to provoke any deeper thoughts or reflections in the reader other than simple enjoyment. On that score it succeeds admirably. It's brief and to the point, with spectacular, sharp contrast black and white artwork that strongly conveys the personality the characters spotlighted in each chapter, but are excellent matches for the strengths of the artists illustrating those chapters.
DMZ #s 1 & 2, by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchelli Testament #1, by Douglas Rushkoff and Liam Sharp
I want to talk about these two comics together because I can't escape from the conclusion that they're largely the same comic, just dressed up in different clothes. They share a very similar theme: both are set in a near future America that is explicitly being used as a commentary on contemporary American politics. But it's the way in which they approach their subject matter I find most interesting. In terms of subtlety of message, Rushkoff relies on allegory, drawing a comparison between Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac to compulsory military draft programs. Wood, meanwhile, wields the big stick of meaning to beat the reader repeatedly over the head with the point he's trying to drive home. They sharply differ in artistic approach as well, with Sharp using an elegant, detailed line to create a thoroughly realistic world, while Burchelli's art is much rougher and stylistic, going for a more visceral, emotional reaction to the art, with the even more evocatively stylistic Wood contributing covers and a few pages here and there in his high-contrast, almost wood-block like style.
They're both very good comics, but the differences between them make for an engaging study of intended audience. Wood and Burchelli are going for a raw, visceral reaction, while Rushkoff and Sharp are aiming for a more nuanced, sophisticated look at the issues being discussed. DMZ, with it's raw energy and barely focused outrage seems tailor made for an intelligent, politically curious teen. The type of person, in other words, who is still young enough to think that "war hurts children" is a deep observation. The book acts as a guiding hand, and a focus for all that youthful energy to compare the fictional war and political situations of the comic to those of today. Testament is going for an older and better educated audience. The kind of audience that neither needs nor wants to have their hand held and is perfectly capable of understanding symbolism and allegory in their reading without having to have it explained to them step by step.
The end result is that Testament is exactly the sort of smart, sophisticated comic I wish there were more of, while DMZ, as good as it is, makes me feel like I'm about ten years too old to be reading it.
Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #1, by Damon Lindelof, Leinil Francis Yu and Dave McCaig
This is shit. No, really, this is a terrible, terrible comic. This is Quadro Gang level bad. The only reason I don't flat out say that this is the worst comic I have ever seen in my life is because I saw that What If comic that came out a week or so ago, in which every single picture of Wolverine was swiped from another comic. People who aren't blind apparently like Yu's work, but I can't see why. Apart from the over-rendered faces, it's simply ugly, amateurish work. And the writing is no better. From a preposterous in media res beginning, the story devolves through layers of flash-backs to tell a story designed to gouge readers of the Ultimate line out of whatever money they have. Either that, or both Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men are running so late that a story that really should be told in one of those books got spun off into its own title. To be honest, it's probably not even a story that needed to be told. This is the kind of crap that makes me really, really hate comics.
So, I'm working on my "year end" look at comics, and I'm at a loss as to who the sexiest man working in comics this last year was. Last year I couldn't decide between John Cassaday and Steven Sadowski.
This year, I'm letting you, my readers decide. Leave your nominations in the comments section for this post and the man who gets the most votes will probably win. (I reserve the right to over-rule the vote if it looks like ballot-stuffing occurred. Or if I really don't know what the hell you are all talking about with the one who gets the most votes.)
This holiday season was slightly less traumatic than usual. My sister's recent purchase of a house gave both of us, and our respective significant others, a fantastic excuse for getting away from the rest of the family for dinner.
I got a new computer, which is wonderful, and has the two things I was most complaining about when it came to my old one: an extremely powerful processor and a top of the line video card. Though I probably would have pushed for a different case if I'd realized just how many damn LED lights this one had on it.
Unfortunately, I haven't gotten all my old data transferred over yet, so I don't have my stockpile of amusing images to entertain you all when I'm at a loss for words. Nor do I have any image-editing software on the new 'puter yet.
Pete got that Complete Calvin and Hobbes book that all the other cool kids got. I couldn't find Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix anywhere I looked (and was, in fact, lied to about its existence by the staff of both Best Buy and Fry's..."There's no such game!" Funny, it was in your circular a month ago...), which was supposed to be his other gift.
I didn't get the next volume of Chronological Donald, though I noticed after the 25th just about every store I looked at had tons and tons of Swamp Fox DVDs. I did wind up with the PC version of Fable, which I played just a little of, and it should be fun, though I'm slightly annoyed by the fact that the damn camera doesn't move with your character.
So now, while I wait for image editing software and the return of my precious, precious porn image collection, I suppose I'll try to (finally) catch up with some reviews.
So, I'm still helping out the shop with manga orders. Because someone who actually reads the stuff should maybe give people a clue as to what to order or not order. Which gives me an opportunity to go over the entire Previews catalog in detail. Which always gives me a headache. Which brings out the short-tempered, mean-spirited side of me.
Dark Horse has the first volume of Crying Freeman, an intensely violent and misogynistic title that's widely regarded as a classic. They also have a ton of horror-themed manga titles...all scheduled to ship in March. I guess to celebrate the assassination of Caesar with campy horror comics.
I'm increasingly finding the very act of flipping through some publishers sections painful. There are three in particular in the A-D section that just hurt me on a very deep and personal level.
Hey, does anyone remember when Go Comi solicited Her Majesty's Dog through Diamond? I saw it in my local Mega-Chain Bookstore and thought I might like it, but according to Pal Mike Diamond doesn't have it on their in-stock lists, and going back through Previews I can't find it advertised. I'd prefer to buy it through my local comics shop, but if Diamond doesn't have it, I guess I'd have to actually buy a manga book from a chain store for the first time. Actually, I just looked it up, and apparently it's a Borders and Waldenbooks exlcusive title. You know, if I still worked in comics retail, the notion of store-exclusive titles would anger me, rather than just annoy me. I also can't seem to find the first volume of Cantarella anywhere. Which teaches me for not buying it when it came out.
Ignite Entertainment has the first collected edition of Jeff Krell's gay comic Jayson. I always liked the strip when I would find it in Gay Comics or Meatmen, and it's nice to see it available in collected form. It's an off-kilter, sitcom-esque look at a slightly neurotic gay man's life, and one of the better gay humor strips from the period. Ignite also has a new edition of the English language edition of Ralf Koning's Maybe...Maybe Not. Koning is a fantastic cartoonist, and his work is hard to come by in the US. If you're at all interested in gay comics or European humor strips, I'd strongly suggest you nag your local comics dealer to order you a copy.
Kyle Baker Publishing has trades for Nat Turner and The Bakers. Turner is an absolutely beautiful historical drama, and The Bakers is an excellent humor book. Both are worth your attention.
I'd say something nice about NBM's Dungeon trades, but I really didn't like the format they went with for the US editions, either the comic serializations they started out with or the almost-manga-sized trade collections.
Pantheon Books is releasing a fumetti adaptation of the "animated" (i.e. rotoscoped in ugly colors over film of mis-cast actors) A Scanner Darkly film. This is wrong on so many levels, I'm not even sure where I would start listing the reasons...
Let's just pretend that Tokyopop doesn't exist and move on...
Actually, I'm not terribly taken with Viz this month either. I realize that Read or Die has a strong fan-following, but I'm just not interested. And Black Cat's ad doesn't engage me at all.
Ah hell...I have to do this again a month from now.
I don't like Christmas very much. Honestly, I don't. This time last year I devoted a week or so to posting images of horrible things happening to people at Christmas and my Christmas Eve haunting. This year I can't even work up that much energy.
Partly, of course, this is due to being out of work for an extended period of time and having to start a new job just as everyone else in the world is going into Christmas shopping over-drive. But mostly it's just a primal aversion to seeing people who'd happily slit one another's throats at any other time of the year pretending to give a damn about people other than themselves while going into debt in an orgy of consumerism.
But, I'm determined not to be as big a sour-puss this year as I was last year. So, for one time only, things I actually like about Christmas:
The songs "Wreck the Malls" and "Walking Round in Women's Underwear." Man, those never get old.
Also "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" by the Ramones.
Officially beginning planning my End of the Year awards...
The Christmas Events in City of Heroes and now City of Villains. Last year we got to fight evil snowmen. This year we get Santa hats and monsters popping out of presents. And villains actually get a mission in which they "Steal Christmas" and earn a "Scrooge" badge. Yeah, my villains will be wearing their "Scrooge" badges for a long time.
Just watched Batman Begins again, and what really struck me, again, was that Katie Holmes' character really doesn't add anything to the film. She's very obviously tacked on just to establish a romantic subplot. That doesn't go anywhere. And resolves itself in a "let's just be friends" speech.
Thematically, and in preparation for other films, it really would have made much more sense to have some other character, one that already exists in the Bat-Universe, play the role of "Bruce Wayne's childhood friend turned DA." I mean, I'm sure that there must have been at least one character who already exists in the Batman comics that could be inserted into the joint roles of "confidant to Wayne" and "ally of Batman."
But I suppose the film-makers really felt they had to preclude as many "Batman is teh gay" jokes as possible.
So, I thought painting Kelsey Grammar blue and putting some fake fur on him was about the worst translation, in the unintentionally comic sense, to film of a super-hero I'd seen recently.
I'm trying so hard to refrain from making a comment about the number of attack-reviews that will soon be forthcoming, the angry revisiting of the past two years worth of DC comics output that will soon be on-line, and how I will, in all likelihood, be greatly amused by people getting upset about something as ultimately trivial as a super-hero comic. But as you can see, I wasn't able to try quite hard enough...
So, if I'm reading between the lines in the entertainment press correctly, King Kong is being described as a failure because it didn't have the biggest film opening of all time. Is that right? Because it didn't break any kind of record, people are calling it a bomb. This is despite the fact that it was the number one movie in the country, has gotten incredibly good reviews and good word of mouth.
Geeze, we as a culture really do like to put people in their places, don't we? Because I can't help but see the dismissal of King Kong as "a bomb" as some sort of back-lash against Jackson for the massive success and cult following of the Lord of the Rings films.
Pete and I made special trips to the movies this weekend to see both King Kong and Brokeback Mountain. Both films are spectacular, and well worth all the praise and accolades that have been given to them.
King Kong is particularly thrilling and beautiful. It's the kind of film that makes a lie of the notion that big, "event" films must by necessity by hollow and soul less. At the core of Kong is a surprisingly tender story, not so much about love but about the appreciation of beauty. The tragedy in Kong is about how that innocent love of beauty is exploited, and ultimately destroyed, by the love of money, of self, and by the wider world that is utterly incapable of appreciating that same beauty.
The performances of both Naomi Watts and Jack Black are outstanding. Watts imbues her character with a mixture of world-weariness and hope that blossoms into a deeper understanding through her experiences with Kong. And Black uses his image as a clown to make Carl Denham a character of tragic menace. He destroys everything he touches in an effort to prove he's not the clown everyone thinks he is.
Visually the film is amazing as well, and worth the price of admission just to lose yourself in the images it plays before you. And this is where the film really stands out. In the hands of almost any other director with such a large visual effects budget, I'd expect a story large on spectacle, but devoid of story, character or meaning. But Peter Jackson is able to use the visuals of the world to create a living, breathing space, a "real" space for a virtual world that allows the story and characters to live on their own.
Brokeback Mountain is a bit harder to pin down. The story is very spare, and is told through a series of vignettes. The bulk of the storytelling is placed squarely on the actors, who as often as not have to convey emotion through what they're not saying or doing as much as what they are saying and doing. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal more than prove their acting chops. If there are weaknesses in the acting, it's in the supporting cast, where talented actors and actresses are given very little to work with and come off as shallow and one-note.
In the end, though, I'm not quite sure what to make of the film as a whole. That it is good is evident. It is very good, in fact. But what I think has happened is that the film, by the very fact that it is film and therefore a primarily visual narrative, concretizes and pins down a story that, as written by Annie Proulx, had more of an emphasis on suggestion and ambiguity. The story takes in an in-between state; not quite the civilized world, but not the romantic, idealized West of myth either. And the two men occupy an in-between space as well; not quite gay, but not quite straight either.
What the film makes more explicit from Proulx's story is largely the character and fate of the doomed Jack Twist. Proulx suggests, but never quite pins down for certain, that of the two men, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, Jack is most likely gay. He initiates the relationship and he wants more. And as played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and as built up in the script by Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana, is most definitely gay. It's Ennis who retains his sexual ambiguity in the film. Ennis seems straight, and the tragedy with Ennis is that, in Jack, he has met his soul-mate, but because Jack is another man, and because Ennis fears what it would mean about himself if he were to give in to Jack and start a life with him, Ennis denies himself any kind of happiness of fulfillment. His desperate unhappiness and loneliness drives everyone around him down with him; his wife, his children, his girl-friends, and Jack.
What the film also makes definite, and this is a more complicated change, is the eventual fate of Jack Twist. Proulx never provides a definitive answer. Ennis is told Jack died in an accident. He suspects he was killed for being gay. Proulx never says for certain. To Ennis, his answer would make the most sense, and is really the only possible solution. In his world, gay men are killed. It is simply how things are. In the film, Ennis is proven to be correct, as in a brief cut scene, the audience is made witness to Jack's death. Since the film, and story, are strongly from Ennis' viewpoint, this is a change that makes sense, if for no other reason than for letting the audience in to Ennis' head. But what complicates the matter is, and here I get on my Queer Politics soap-box, it turns the film, in the end, into yet another story about a gay man who dies.
And in the end, that may be what makes the film more than the "gay cowboy" film it has been so blithely dismissed as from so many corners. Neither men is, truly, as we would understand or use the term in regular context "gay." What they are, again, is something in that space in between. And in that sense, I can't really see this as a film primarily made for a gay audience. Frankly, it deals with themes and characters we've seen in "gay films" dozens of times. The point of the story isn't that "the cowboys are gay." The point of the story is that lives are destroyed and wasted because of the fear of not being what you think the world wants you to be, and of the pointlessness of wasted love. The story doesn't work with a mixed-gender couple, because what potential objections could society make to a man and a woman who want to be together. And coming up with a reason for society to object makes the story about that particular prejudice, not about what it is inside Ennis that keeps him from allowing himself happiness. It's a story of great humanity and insight, but it's not a "gay" story.
The change in business culture between my last job and my current job are sometimes striking. Largely, the main difference has been management at the new job asking me a question about how things work in the comics industry, and being shocked that there even is still a comics industry based on my answer.
The question of how to deal with vendors who are reluctant to accept returns, for example: "Dorian, for comparison's sake, how are returns handled in the comics world." They're not. "What? But what if the print run is seriously compromised?" Well, if it was a DC book, you might get a new printing. All bets are off with other publishers, though. "What about when the vendor pushes a new title and stores over-order and sales tank?" Then stores are stuck with unwanted comics. For ever.
On fill rates: "Our fill rates are falling lower than is acceptable? Why is this?" "Well, several of our larger vendors have an unusual amount of stock-outs on popular titles." "That is unacceptable. Dorian, how were poor fill rates from vendors handled in the comics world?...Dorian, would you please get off the floor, stop laughing, and answer the question!"
On dealing with vendors: "Vendor X is increasing their shipping rates." "Well, tell Vendor X that they will honor the terms of their existing shipping contract with us or we will be using Vendor Y from now on. Dorian, how would you deal with a situation like this in a comics shop?" Pray they use lube next time they decide to screw us.
On warehouse organization: "As you can see Dorian, we have a large warehouse, organized so that pickers can start at one end with their pick sheets and move from least popular items to most popular items. This way we minimize the number of items pulled in error by keeping the pickers moving in an organized manner, checking off items as they go, and speed up the pulling of the most in-demand items. How is a comics warehouse organized?" Uh, you mean warehouses are supposed to be organized?
Plus, in my old job, I'd never get to bet on the weekly in-office dog fights.
AUSTIN, Texas, December 12, 2005 Â Marvel Entertainment, Inc., NCsoftÂ® Corporation, NC Interactive, Inc. and Cryptic StudiosÂ, Inc. are pleased to announce today that they have amicably settled all claims brought by Marvel and all claims brought by NCsoft, NC Interactive, Inc. and Cryptic Studios, Inc.
The parties' settlement allows them all to continue to develop and sell exciting and innovative products, but does not reduce the players' ability to express their creativity in making and playing original and exciting characters. Therefore, no changes to City of HeroesÂ® or City of Villains'Â character creation engine are part of the settlement. The parties have agreed that protecting intellectual property rights is critically important and each will continue aggressively to protect such rights in accordance with all applicable laws. While the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, all parties agree that this case was never about monetary issues and that the fans of their respective products and characters are the winners in this settlement.
Damn non-disclosure clauses in settlements! Given how the general legal opinion seemed to be that Marvel didn't have a leg to stand on in their suit, I'm quite curious to know which side prompted the settlement, and on what terms. It's telling, I suspect, that it is specifically pointed out that Cryptic's character creation engine will not be changed, since one of Marvel's specific complaints was that the engine allowed the creation of player avatars that resemble copyrighted characters.
On the other hand, the limits of fair use, homage and parody in electronic media really do need to be pinned down, and if suits like this keep getting settled we're never going to get a specific answer.
Please stop telling me about Chuck Norris. Really. It wasn't even funny the first time.
Please stop telling me about "cute" things that look like Cthulhu. Especially if they've been knitted.
Please stop talking about Coldplay, Ashlee Simpson, Jessica Simpson, Joe Simpson, Nick Lachey and anyone who has ever been on American Idol.
Please stop talking about the "War on Christmas." Not even Bill O'Reilly honestly believes there's any such thing. It's just a cheap way to get attention and a particular political agenda some play in the media.
The world doesn't really need any more "Blank Or Not" sites.
Stop sending me links to that "Wizards of Winter" video. Seriously. I will hurt you. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, for God's sake, don't click that link. You are far better off living in ignorance.)
And since this seems as good a place as any to mention it, no, I would not like to add myself to your map.
It's been too long. And they just keep providing me with so much material...
As usual, the categories roughly break down into "What I'll be willing to pay full price for," "What I'm willing to rent," and "What I'll watch on cable if I'm tied down to the bed and forced into one of those head-gear contraptions from 'A Clockwork Orange'."
Pay To See
The Producers: Not my favorite Brooks film, but interesting as part of Nathan Lane's continuing attempts to do every role Zero Mostel every played over again.
The Libertine: Any film which advertises itself as "controversial" and is set several hundred years in the past...yeah, that suggests a certain sense of self-importance to me.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: I would probably have been more charitably inclined to it if Disney hadn't decided to begin shoe-horning elements of the films into the rides that the films are based on. But apart from that, Depp's schtick was entertaining once. I'm not sure I can sit through two more films of this.
Slither: And no, we didn't really need a remake of "Night of the Creeps." If this gets a look at all, it'll be because someone like Corey tells me that it wasn't as terrible as it looked.
Transamerica: Let me get on my Queer Politics Soapbox for a moment here: Hollywood! Stop casting women as transexuals! You're not fooling anyone! (At least they tried to make her look like a man, but honestlyÂ )
The Fountain: What an amazing collection of context-less special effects shots.
X3: Okay, let's get this out of the way first. I think everyone was worried that casting Kelsey Grammar as the Beast was going to consist of painting Grammar blue and sticking some unconvincing fake fur on him. Now that everyone's worst fear was correct, we can move on. Wow, does this look bad. Just horribly, horribly bad. All the things that Avi Arad and the Marvel Suits swore weren't actually going to be in the film after that terrible script was leaked appear to actually be in the film. I think you can even spot the exact scene where they kill of Cyclops in the trailer. Mike noted that the scene of the Golden Gate Bridge being ripped apart was more than a little reminiscent of asimilarr scene in Grant Morrisons New X-Men run, and I think he's right. I'm kind of wondering how many other scenes from his run will show up in this movie, because it certainly looks like the film-makers have run out of original ideas for this franchise. (Now, everyone go bug Mike to post his observations re: X3, a solo Wolverine film, the Doc Savage film and the X-Men comics.)
Casanova: Heath Ledger might be able to pull off the swashbuckling bravado the role needs. But what's with Hollywood's sudden fascination with the 18th century?
Tamara: Picked on teenage girl gets her revenge on the cool kids from beyond the grave. Oh, it's an artifact of an era aboutÂ 20 years gone by. But it looks just wrong enough to be fun.
Dear God, Make It Stop
Poseidon: A great cast can't save a remake of a film that really wasn't very good to begin with. I'm actually sort of baffled as to why anyone thought this wanecessaryry. Was it just because they wanted to show off their shiny new special effects? Did all these actors suddenly feel the urge to buy a new car?
Ice Age 2: That bit in the beginning with the squirrel fighting the fish? Yeah, that's pretty much going to be the only thing entertaining in this entire thing, isn't it?
Monster House: I can't decide if the human characters are creepy looking or just plain crappy looking. In any case, the film as a whole just looks all kinds of dumb.
Cars: If I'm going tbeer perfectly honest, I'd have to say that I haven't been terribly impressed with any of Pixar's films. Oh sure, they're pretty to look at while you're watching them, but they're hollow and soulless and joyless and condescending and preachy and, well, you get the idea. I've no doubt this will be more of the same, while containing lots of conspicuous product placements for Chevron.
Adam & Eve: "Hey dude, wanna go see the Crypt-Keeper's son in a movie about a guy trying to bang a chick, 'produced' by a magazine that stopped being funny back when your dad was your age?" Not really, no.
Grandma's Boy: Watching jokerehasheded from other sick-out comedies for ninety minutes doesn't sound like a good time to me.
Tristan and Isolde: I see this as a sign of desperation on the part of film-makers. They've had to go this far back to find material. Has anyone outside of opera fans and Arthurian legends even heard of this story.
Munich: I wish Steven Speilberg would go back to making movies like 'Jaws' and stop trying to beat us over the head with the Meaning Stick.
Hoodwinked: Patrick Warburton, why hast thou forsaken me? Although, I suppose, doing a voice on Family Guy should have been a sign that quality of material has never been important to him when it comes to voice-over work.
Nanny McPhee: Or, as I prefer to think of it, What IfÂ Mary Poppins Was Even More Treacly and Moralistic.
Inside Man: Three over-rated actors in a film by an over-rated director, which I'm sure won't contain any heavy-handed political commentary at all.
Lady in the Water: Here's my actual thoughts as I watched the trailer "OkayÂ looks self-importantÂ looks self-importantÂ looks reallyimportantportat"-Shyamalan's name flashes across the screen-"Oh dear God, no."
The Break Up: Jennifer Aniston as a bitter woman breaking up with her boyfriend. Sorry, not interested in non-fiction.
(Indulge me, I haven't done one of these in awhile.)
Taken from Comic Book Resources, because I find their on-line solicitations format easiest to read and link to.
Batman: Secrets, by Sam Kieth. Oh, I'm enough of a sucker that I'm probably be ponying up for this. Plus, since it's got Batman in it for more than an issue, maybe all the people who say their Kieth fans but don't buy his creator-owned work will buy it, and then he'll be able to afford to do some more creator-owned work (so long as it's not more Zero Girl).
Detective #817 and Batman #651: So, the OYL mystery for the core Bat books seems to be who the new commissioner and villain is. Creative teams are worth a look, so I'll probably give them a shot. (Wild guess: either Bruce Wayne is the commissioner [unlikely with Green Arrow going into politics] or it's Gordon, in a spectacular return to the status quo.)
Batman Annual #25: Well, here's hoping it goes better than the Ultimate annuals. Plus it resolves the Red Hood storyline, which is one of those comics that I've actually been enjoying, but haven't talked about much because I'm so tired of people complaining about it.
Catwoman #53: Pfeifer's run has been fun, so I'll be sticking with this one, even if Catwoman is now some blond woman who may or may not be Holly.
Nightwing #118: The cover suggests that Bruce Jones is making Nightwing over into a grim(mer) urban vigilante. I've never cared for the character, so I think I can safely skip it.
Robin #148: Pete has a fondness for Robin, so while the creative team doesn't immediately excite me, we'll probably give it an issue or two. The OYL story, with Robin wanted for murder, doesn't do much for me either. For myself, I'm mostly curious about who the blocked-out figure behind Tim is.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #s 201 & 202: A new story-line written by Christos N. Gage, whose Deadshot mini I quite liked, so I'll most likely be picking this up.
All-Star Superman #3: Is, of course, a no-brainer.
Superman #650 and Action #837: I like the creative teams. A lot. But I really don't like not knowing more about the storyline other than it's the umpteenth variation of "Clark Kent gives up being Superman." Been there, done that, SO over it.
Supergirl #7: I like Greg Rucka's comic work. So having Supergirl and Powergirl team-up to become the new Nightwing and Flamebird. Oh yeah, that works for me. (Now, the real question is, given the book's chronic lateness, will it actually ship in March?)
Showcase Presents the Superman Family: I've wanted a big, fat collection of Lois Lane stories for years. I long ago resigned myself that a Lois Lane Archive is somewhat more likely than a Rex the Wonder Dog Archive, somewhat less likely than a Sugar and Spike Archive (which is to say, not at all likely). So, when DC announced the "Showcase Presents" format (like Marvel's "Essential" line, only with decent printing), I had hopes that, finally, I'd get my huge-ass book of Lois Lane comics. And so they go and announce this book, and it's all Jimmy Olsen stories and one solo Lois story. I don't like Jimmy Olsen. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I hate Jimmy Olsen. And I especially don't like Jimmy Olsen comics. (Well, okay, maybe I just find them a little tiresome because Jimmy is such a freaking idiot, and those stories don't even the blatant school-yard "girls are icky and dumb" misogyny that makes the Lois Lane stories so freakishly compelling.) Damn you, DC "Showcase Presents" editors. Damn you all to hell. Because now I have to have a big book of lousy, stupid Jimmy Olsen comics in my house because my boyfriend is a damned DC fanboy with a taste for Silver Age comics that are cheap.
Superman in the Eighties: This is a bad sign. Because next thing you know, we're going to get "Superman in the Nineties."
Infinite Crisis #6: Dullest cover yet. I really hope this is just the teaser and they plan to put some details in there somewhere.
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #40: I like the choice of creative team. And let's be perfectly honest here: Aquaman's a bit of a joke as far as most people are concerned. DC keeps trying to give him a series, each time tweaking the concept in some way to make it more appealing, and each time it works for a little bit, and then the audience loses interest. So, y'know, it doesn't bother me in the slightest that DC decided to make a clean break of it and just go ahead and start up a new character and concept under the name and let Arthur get some rest time.
Birds of Prey #92: One of Pete's favorite books, a really good read under Simone, and I seriously doubt that the new characters are deal-killers.
Blood of the Demon #13: How did this survive the post-Infinite Crisis title purge? I would have guessed it dipped below the cancellation mark long ago.
Blue Beetle #1: Again, a promising creative team. I expect it to be entertaining. And given how immensely popular Blue Beetle turned out to be post-mortem, I'm sure it'll be a best-selling book! Or, you know, all those people who complained about the death of Ted Kord were just looking for something to complain about that week and don't actually give a damn about the Blue Beetle.
Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #23: This title continually manages to be just interesting enough to keep me buying it. So, the OYL changes look like...virtually nothing, from the solicitation info. Eh, I think I can leave without massive upheavals on some titles.
Three Seven Soldiers books in one month, and a trade. Gee, think the project is winding down?
Everything Else DC is Publishing
Eh, I'm fairly indifferent to most of it, except:
Red Sonja/Klaw the Unconquered: The very idea hurts me on a very deep and personal level.
Top Ten gets the ABC A to Z treatment, with the America's Best team that gets referenced from time to time as well. Should be okay.
American Virgin is something I'd normally pass on, but it's drawn by Becky Cloonan, so it gets a look.
I was going to pass on The Exterminators as well, but that preview DC ran in some books has caused me to relent and give it a shot. I think I'll also be giving Testament a shot as well. On the other hand, DMZ's first issue didn't thrill me, so unless it gets really good in the next couple of issues, I probably won't be around for the March issue.
And I'd like to make fun of this month's DC Direct merchandise, but it's all too depressing...and I'll probably end up wanting one of those Gotham by Gaslight Batman figures.
If reaction on-line is an accurate gauge, I'm the only one who actually kinda likes this look:
But then, what do I know. I would have read a New Universe revamp even if it didn't involve Warren Ellis. (Well, I might check out the first issue at least. Depending on who wrote and drew.)
So, yeah, the company I work for distributes "specialty market items." Now, I could just say what it is, but I won't. For one, I really can't find any way to work what it is into the general tone or content of the site. Second, while the company doesn't have an official "blogging policy" per se, I did have to sign an agreement not to discuss the company or its business online. Now what they mean, of course, is "don't say anything online that makes you, your coworkers or the company look bad to our vendors or customers, and whatever you do don't say anything that will hurt us and help our competition," but enough people out there have lost their jobs because someone in middle management at their company over-reacted to a blog entry, why take the chance.
And, of course, there's the fact that "specialty market items" sounds so much more mysterious and sexy than what it actually is. Really, it's terribly mundane. I can almost guarantee that each and every one of you owns at least one.
For absolutely no reason at all, I was reminded earlier this week of my favorite criticism of this site. It was on one of those many highly specialized comics message boards. Something like "Kitty Pryde/Gor Cross-over Fic" or "Deadpool/Doop Slash Fic." Anyway, the topic under discussion was, "Are there any good comics blogs" and a few people mentioned my site (for which I'm very grateful).
One person, however, had this to say: "I used to read Post Modern Barney, but I stopped when I realized he had nothing to say and tried to hide that fact by posting rants and funny comic book images."
Yeah, let that sink in a minute...
I'd wager that if you took this person out to the forest to go sight-seeing, they'd complain about all the trees that were blocking their view.
Music To Torment Customers And Coworkers Myself With
Robbie Williams: Intensive Care: It's a bit of a different beast from his earlier albums. It's still, at its best, unashamedly pop, but he's getting a bit of a harder sound here. It's more heavily rock-tinged than his previous efforts and, dare I say, perhaps even just a bit more self-involved. Yeah, I know, what a shocking revelation, Robbie Williams betrays a large ego through song. All in all though, it's a strong work, and possibly already my favorite, as a whole, of his albums. The particular songs to look for are "Make Me Pure," "Advertising Space," "Sin Sin Sin" and, of course, "Your Gay Friend."
Of particular note to comic fans, and as I'm sure you're all sick of hearing by now, this is also the album with cover art conceived by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely. Unsurprisingly, touching this:
At the same time you touch this:
Does absolutely nothing. Go ahead and try it for yourself if you don't believe me.
Thumbsucker Soundtrack: Or, as I prefer to think of it, a new Polyphonic Spree album, with unnecessary and depressing songs by Elliott Smith interrupting the flow of choral voices from time to time to depress you in an unnecessary way. So, if you're a Spree fan this is still worth it (I'm not going to get into whether or not this is necessary if you're a fan of the film because I haven't seen the film-and, well, what I've seen of the film leads me to believe that it's of the type that takes itself far too seriously and will appeal primarily to folks who take themselves, movies and music far too seriously). The stand out track is "The Call of the Wild," a song improvised in a Unitarian Church. That's right, Unitarian! That's how hard-core! the Spree is M-Effers!
Grandaddy: Artist's Choice: Is quite possibly the emo-est thing I've ever heard. It's almost all songs precisely designed to make you sad. It makes me want to track down a college student with coke-bottle glasses, slap him around a bit and shout "Listen to happy music every once in awhile!" That being said, it's all actually quite good. Well, except for the Beck song that opens it. Beck pretty much epitomizes that whole "self-conscious hipster who takes themselves far too seriously" musical vibe (and see, you were probably expected a cheap Scientology joke, weren't you?). Stand out song is the only Grandaddy song on the disc, "The Nature Anthem," which most of you probably know as the music from either as "that weird furry video" or "that creepy car commercial."
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better: It's a brilliant follow-up to their last album. There's not even a particular good or exemplary song. They're all on that level. Seriously, just go and get it.
Stephen Lynch: The Craig Machine: Lynch's albums just keep getting better. This is almost a general audiences album in comparison to his last works. There's much less of a feel of esoteric jokes to this one. Of course, there's also a couple of songs that have a vague feel of "we need a couple more songs to fill out the album because the songs are too short," so it doesn't quite have the feel of a "perfect" album (but then, what does?). The songs to look out for are "Baby," "Craig," "Beelz," which contains the best slam on Charlie Daniels I've ever heard, "Little Tiny Moustache" and "Classic Rock Song." "Voices in my Head" is brilliant as well, but you really do need to be familiar with Lynch and his work to really enjoy the joke as much as it should be.
(Be honest...how many of you touched your screen?)
Zombie Tales: Death Valley #1, by Andrew Cosby, Johanna Stokes and Rhoald Marcellus marks a departure from the previous books in the series, in that it focuses on a single extended narrative, while retaining much of the lighter tone that has typified many of the stories. The story itself if pretty standard for the zombie genre: last group of survivors against a ravenous horde of the undead. They even make a stand in a mall. But it's the characters are what makes this stand out from the pack. It's a bit like The Breakfast Club. Only with zombies. You've got your standard teen-movie token characters. Running from zombies. It's a cute conceit, and it moves along at a brisk pace. Rhoald Marcellus' art has a jaunty, angular cartoon look that complements the story well. He even manages to make the zombies look uncannily cute.
Demo, by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, was one of my favorite comics from last year. And judging by the great sales success we had with it, I'd say it's a safe bet that lots of other people responded really well to it as well. Looking over the material in a complete edition it's easy to see just how strong a work it is. Wood and Cloonan excel here at capturing the insecurities and anxieties of adolescence, and the book is filled with quiet yet profound epiphanies for many of the characters. There are times, perhaps, when Wood puts too fine a point on the message he's trying to come home, and occasionally the more fantastic story elements take on an air of absurdity, but the work as a whole stands up and more often than not Wood and Cloonan manage to be extremely affected with remarkable subtlety and understatement.
Gay Army, a Swedish reality show about gay men going through military basic training. I think. Really, the whole thing is quite peculiar.
I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. Given that most of the men could, charitably, be described as "prissy queens" it doesn't really strike me as a very positive presentation of gay men. From the photos and clips on the site I'm tempted to conclude that this is more along the lines of "gay men as clowns" type of entertainment.
I can take some comfort in the fact that once the inevitable US edition airs, it'll be far, far worse.
Speaking of media representations of gay men, were I in possession of a graduate degree, I'd be sorely tempted to write a paper about how the latest trends in gay porn are streaming video, "amateur straight men" having gay sex for the first time*, and the intersection of the two. I find it interesting that gay men, who have largely had a (deserved) reputation for sexual openness, are becoming more private in their enjoyment of pornography. It's gone from the theater, to the adult book store, to the adult video store, to your home computer. It may not mean much, because heterosexual porn has largely followed the same path. But what I do find interesting is that the images that gay men are increasingly eroticizing are the "average guy" look of amateur porn, with the masculine caveat that "he's really straight."
*Given that many of the men appear in videos for four or five different companies under a variety of aliases, I seriously doubt not only their amateur status, but their professed heterosexuality as well.
In other news, I'm gainfully employed. I now work for one of the largest distributors of specialty market merchandise in the country. It's an office job, with a M-F, 9-5 schedule, but after five years in comics retail its a wonderful thing to have a regular, set schedule. Not to mention vacation days and benefits.
So, I'm not generally one to make fun of anyone's favorite super-hero (*cough-cough* sick Wildcat fixation *cough*), but I was genuinely baffled by the fondness for Spider-Woman that Brian Bendis apparently has.
Two of my favorite bloggers, Scipio and Devon, have bravely entered the world I recently cast aside, namely comics retail, with Big Monkey Comics. The site is very nicely designed, with lots of good material, including an on-line radio station playing super-hero tunes. Go, visit, and wish them well. Comics retailing is not a profession for the weak of nerve.
Your gratuitous Peanuts parody of the day:
Your gratuitous "Japanese pop culture is weird" link of the day: