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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
DC One Year Later Revealed, Part Two
One of the big mysteries of the one year gap is: what happened to Wonder Woman? Does she live? Will she die? And who, exactly, is it going to be? But, most importantly, since her country no longer exists, what's she going to do for a living now that she's no longer a diplomat?
Wonder no more:
After Infinite Crisis, Diana takes advantage of her high public profile to become a celebrity spokesperson! Yes, for the right price she'll increase consumer awareness of just about any product! Not just glue, but rental cars, diet pills, fitness equipment, worthless tech stocks, you name it!
Don't let the hype or the preview pages fool you, the new Blue Beetle series is like nothing you've seen before in comics.
Intense clothing retail action as you've never seen it before! Gasp in amazement as Blue Beetle tries to deal with returns without a receipt! Wonder at the sight of parents who let their children run around the store without supervision!
You'll never look at retail the same way again, once you've read Blue Beetle!
Santa Barbara is one of the few places that Nightwatch is playing in the US, so Pete and some friends and I took it in tonight. It's an interesting film, and worth watching for anyone interested in the fantasy genre on film. It's not quite a horror film, despite some of the early reviews. And it's certainly not a vampire film, despite some American reviews which seem to be obsessively focusing on something that's ultimately a minor aspect of the film.
Story-wise, the film is a very standard Apocalyptic Foresigns Of The Final Battle Between Good And Evil. There's an over-abundance of convenient coincidences, and the distinctions between Good and Evil are so murky that, when the subject of prophesy chooses a side, it's in casual, thoughtless manner that makes the distinctions seem even more causal and arbitrary.
The strongest appeal of the film is in the visuals. It's a very impressive looking film, and one of the best examples I've seen in film of using special effects as an integral part of the story and setting. Even the subtitles are presented in such a way as to make them work within the context of the scene, rather than your standard pale yellow letters superimposed over the bottom third of the screen.
It's not a perfect film, by any means, but well worth the time to see. And again, visually, it's an impressive and engaging film.
So, I went into the comics shop today to spend the money I got for my birthday. Aaron was working by himself because Mike was out selfishly getting his car fixed. He eventually showed up, but not before I had to explain to several customers who kept asking me questions about what books shipped and where they were that I didn't actually work in the store anymore.
My big expense was some Detective 100-pagers that I'd had my eye on for awhile but could never afford because the presence of Manhunter back-up stories had jacked the price up. Now, don't get me wrong, I think the Simonson/Goodwin Manhunter is great, but damn do they make the books more expensive than they need to be.
I bought a bunch of other back issues as well, prompting this conversation with Mike: Me: Wow, DC Comics Presents starring Superman, the Phantom Stranger and the Joker! Fantastic! Mike: Alex Saviuk drew it. Me: Oh. Never mind. Mike: But check out number thirty-two. Me: Yet another Superman kissing Wonder Woman cover? Mike: Kurt Shaffenberger Wonder Woman. Me: All right, I'll get it.
Giffen and DeMatteis team with a variety of artists to tell a story that serves as a prequel to the well-received and quite good Hero Squared. It's very much in the comic tone and style that has characterized most of their writing collaborations. So it's a strongly tongue-in-cheek take on familiar yet different enough to avoid lawsuits superheroic types that still manages to tell an entertaining adventure tale. There's a good bit of action, some cute character bits, and a suitably vague supernatural menace, all leading up to a darn good comic. Plus, I think the Mauve Visitor is an early candidate for "Best New Character of 2006."
Zombie Tales: Death Valley
The second issue of the Andrew Cosby and Johanna Stokes spin-off from the Zombie Tales anthology continues the story of Los Angeles area teens fighting off a zombie horde. The character types are broadly drawn, and straight out of your standard teen film, but somehow the mix of those same broad characters and all-out zombie survival horror makes for an entertaining read. It's the two strongly dissimilar genres that go great together, so to speak.
Rhoald Marcellus' art adds immensely to the book's quality. He's got a loose, cartoony style that's very appealing and engaging. The zombies come off a bit cute, perhaps, but that helps save the book from being too depressing as likeable, or at least sympathetic, characters get eaten.
A Trip to Rundberg
Nate Southard and Shawn Richter follow up their crime-drama Drive with this bleak little zombie comic. It's a quick read, a short and nasty piece of work which seeks to return some of the existential dread that's been missing from many of the more revisionist or hip takes on zombies that have become popular in comics of late. In that sense, it's very similar to Night of the Living Dead, which is still, to my mind, the only zombie film worth watching because of it's claustrophobic staging and despairing ending.
The story begins some time after your standard zombie apocalypse. A group of survivors have managed to eke out a meager existence in the small town of Millwood, but now that the food is running out a group is selected to go to the supermarket in the nearby town of Rundberg, which, according to those who managed to get out, has been over-run with the walking dead. None of the men selected to go expect to make it back.
I'm swamped this week. I'm in the midst of the Project That Will Not End at work. Actually, we seem to get a lot of Projects That Will Not End at work. One, which has implications for the comics industry, has to do with the upcoming conversion to ISBN 13. I'm half-wondering how many comic publishers will be caught flat-footed by it.
So, since I don't have the time to do any serious reviews or writings, here's one of the reasons why I love DC Comics.
Lois' first clue that something is wrong is that the man from Atlantis she's dancing with isn't a mer-man. Fantastic.
Prompted by News about Civil War, and Digressing Into "What Marvel Did to Pete."
So, Marvel's been managing to get some press for an upcoming product. I can speak from some experience with working in comics retail that, unsurprisingly, the timing of this is unhelpful for retailers. The hope in getting coverage for Civil War in the New York Times is that people who aren't comic book fans will be intrigued by the coverage and seek it out. The problem, naturally, is that these folks are going to look for the book now, not three months from now. And Marvel is unlikely to get regular coverage until the book comes out, because now it's old news.
And, what, exactly, does Marvel think is going to get new readers to check this out? The report also gave one of the clearest pictures yet of how the Civil War ball gets rolling, explaining: The story opens with a reckless fight between a novice group of heroes (filming a reality television show) and a cadre of villains. The battle becomes quite literally explosive, killing some of the superheroes and many innocent bystanders. That crystallizes a government movement to register all super-powered beings as living weapons of mass destruction. The subsequent Registration Act will divide the heroes into two camps, one led by Captain America, the other by Iron Man. Along the way, Marvel will unveil its version of Guantánamo Bay, enemy combatants, embedded reporters and more. The question at the heart of the series is a fundamental one: "Would you give up your civil liberties to feel safer in the world?"
Civil War writer Mark Millar: "Before the civil war, the Marvel universe was a certain way. After the civil war, the heroes are employed by the government. Some people refuse to do it," he said, "and those guys are performing an illegal act by doing so."
I don't know about anyone else, but "deft subtlety" isn't what I think of when I consider Mark Millar's work. I also really don't see him as having any kind of coherent political view in his writings. His Ultimates, for example, can't seem to decide whether it's a celebration or a satire of jingoistic nationalism and paranoid fascism. And the less said about Chosen or Wanted the better. And so, the impression I get from this is that, all protests to the contrary, what Civil War is going to consist of is lots and lots of heavy-handed political allegory. That Marvel, being Marvel, will very quickly back away from. And, when I stop to think about it, it's an incredibly cynical marketing move on Marvel's part. Over the last few years, much of Marvel's output seems to have developed an ever so slight impression of right-wing political leaning. But, tellingly, it's never really struck me as a sincere political impression.
See, one of the things I've noticed over the years is that super-hero fans, by and large, tend to lean towards the right in their politics. Often quite unreflectively. (And that is not a political slam on anyone. By the same token, I've noticed that indie/alt/art comics fans tend to subscribe to knee-jerk liberal politics. If you want a slam, here you go: in my experience comic book fans of all stripes, by and large, don't put much thought into anything other than comic books.) And Marvel is well aware of that. They also know that most media outlets, by their very nature as corporate entities, tend to have a slight right-wing slant as well. And the feeling I get off the way Marvel presents many of their projects in the outside media is "Hey, going to the right seems to sell. Let's do that."
Now, I'm not particularly a Marvel fan. I never have been. But Pete is. He's a die-hard Marvel fan. He loves the Marvel U. Pete likes Cable for God's sake! And the only Marvel books he gets anymore are the Ultimate titles and the "teen hero" books like Runaways, Young Avengers and Spider-Girl. Because in between this pandering to a crowd Marvel seems to want and the relentless over-the-top hype of everything Marvel does lately, they've completely turned him off the Marvel U.
This is only a problem for me in the sense that all of Marvel's recent cross-over and big event stories have been uniformly awful. But Pete still holds enough fondness for the characters that he wants to know what happened. The compromise we've worked out is that he gets the trades. Which means I read the trades, so that Pete will have someone to talk to about them. Which means I'm, of my own free will, reading terrible, terrible comics that offend me on a political and aesthetic level.
'Another area of Japan's mizu shobai which is peculiar if not unique is the role played by the country's ample collection of "gay" boys who in Japan are known as "sister-boys."[Like so many other words fashionable in Japan today, the term "sister-boy" was taken from an American movie (Tea and Sympathy).] Here, where there are no legal or social sanctions to inhibit them, the "gay" ones really let their hair down, many of them dressing and acting like women in public as well as private. ... To the Japanese these bars are known as "Flowers of Evil," and because they are staffed by young men and boys, do not come under the anti-prostitution law. Most "gay" boys range in age from 18 to 25. Customers of such bars include middle-aged men (especially from the entertainment world), Geisha, cabaret hostesses (who are tired of men or are looking for men they can order around) and widows. Foreigners are regular customers at 30 percent of these bars. ... One out of ten Japanese men is extremely effeminate in looks and manners when compared with the average male, but this is as much of a racial-social as a sexual characteristic, and newcomers should not to [sic] too hasty in hanging tags on milksop types.'
Archenemies: Am I the only one getting a little burnt out on "wacky" takes on super-heroes? Hero Squared is worthwhile, and ps238 is brilliant, but so many of these other titles just elicit a heavy-sigh when I hear about them. (And this may be a good comic after all. Just venting.)
Aeon Flux TPB: Oh, if any of Dark Horse’s recent licensced titles could have survived skipping the trade, it’s this one.
Dreadful Ed: I never read Damn Nation, and citing Cosby’s involvement with the television shows Haunted and Eureka means nothing to me. But hey, Troy Nixey art. It should be good.
Scary Book Vol. 2: I flipped through volume one last week. It looks horribly old-fashioned. Kazuo Umezo is an excellent creator, but I just don’t see this series catching on with anyone but die-hard, long-time manga fans with an interest in older materials.
I won’t kick Spacy Pinchy while it’s down.
The solicitation text for Frank Cho Women reads, in part: see why he’s considered one of the top masters of the female form. I find the use of the singular there amusingly ironic.
Loaded Bible: Jesus vs. Vampires: I just love it when something is deliberately advertised as "controversial." I always read it as "we can’t think of any way to get your attention other than by promising to offend people."
The Tourist by Brian Wood gets resolicited, with a new publisher. And I know that others are very curious to know why. I don’t care. I just hope it’s good, since I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile.
Coyote Vol. 3 reminds me that I still need to pick up volume two.
Adhouse Everyone else is going to tell you how great Superior Showcase promises to be, so you don’t need me to tell you.
Archie I am so sick of hearing about the Veronicas.
Avatar While we’re all gushing about Wolfskin, don’t forget that Garth Ennis’ and Jacen Burrows’ Chronicles of Wormwood gets a preview issue.
Boom Studios I’m looking forward to Cthulhu Tales. I’m a bit burnt out on zombies, but there’s always room for Cthulhu, especially when the stories are told with the same skewed sense of humor that Zombie Tales contributors exhibit.
Devil’s Due "Hey, Dorian, are you going to say something negative about the Family Guy comics?" Are you freakin’ kidding me? I get enough hate mail as it is without getting that show’s fans riled for no reason.
Evil Twin Comics The shop always seems to sell out of Action Philosophers before I can get there to check it out. But in Hate the French they tackle Derrida. I mean, not literally, I’m sure. So, even though I’m more into Barthes and Foucault, I may have to track down a copy of this issue, simply to maintain my pomo cred.
Go Comi For those of you without access to a Borders, Her Majesty’s Dog gets a Diamond solicitation. I enjoyed it. A light comedy with supernatural overtones and an appealing art style. It’s not groundbreaking work by any means, but good casual entertainment.
IDW Eric Shanower’s Oz comics get collected in Adventures of Oz. This is probably a must-buy for fans of either Oz or Shanower.
Netcomics A couple of these titles look like they might have promise, but releasing thirteen volumes in one go is simply too much for retailers to bear. The only way I can see this working is if they make a big push into bookstores, and I’m not sure they’ve got the funding to fight off Viz and Del Rey.
Tokyopop Boys of Summer: I like the way that Otsuka’s work in Japan is described as "adult." Yes, with quote marks around the word. Just say porn guys. It’s fairly obvious what market you’re aiming at with this title.
If you speak Spanish, there’s a whole bunch of Spanish language editions of gay comics. Curbside Boys, Max and Sven, Jane’s World, Wendel, Dykes to Watch out For, and something called Estoy in Ello, which I don’t think has been translated into English yet and appears to be by the same artist as Vacation in Ibiza. I like the Spanish title for Bechdel’s magnum opus: Unas Bollos de Cuidado, which apparently translates as Care Buns. Care Buns?
Turning to the merchandise section, if you have $1400 to spend on a Popeye print, you officially have too much money.
There's not much to say this time around. At this point I'm more interested in the first installments of the "One Year Later" storyline and the creative teams taking over after the conclusion of the "placeholder" creative team's storylines on JSA, Batman and Detective. The only new launch title I'm interested in is 52, and I'm already tired of hearing people complain about it.
And, honestly, I thought Albion and Matador were already over.
If you haven't already bought Thrillkiller, it's worth picking up. It's probably my favorite "Elseworlds" Batman title.
I think that actually looks nice. With my luck, I'll get the Red Tornado or Despero figures, though.
That is the evilest looking sea-horse I've ever seen.
So, I was at my local chain bookstore today, using a convenient gift certificate to buy a copy of The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection, because after Donald Duck, the Pink Panther is probably my favorite cartoon character and I've waited years for a set like this, when I notice that the novelization of V for Vendetta has come out.
So I flip through it. And I find this passage near the end, around about the time of V's death (swipe for potential spoiler).
"I love you Evey."
And, well...y'know how I've said from time to time that, based on their public statements, I really don't think that the makers of this particular film really "got" the source material?
Stuff like that doesn't really do much to dissuade me.
Keith Giffen's latest from Boom Studios is another installment in a long tradition of humorous hyper-violence in comic form. It's a genre that Giffen and his writing partner on this project, Alan Grant, have worked extensively in before, to great success. Their expertise with the style and approach gives this project a nicely familiar feel. It's almost like a flash-back to the height of the tongue-in-cheek mayhem of Lobo.
The first issue moves along at a brisk pace. World and character background are largely dispensed with, and the story moves immediately into an explosive prison escape and massive planet-side carnage, pausing only briefly to introduce the title character and set him up with the vaguest of motivations for revenge. The story moves at a brisk pace, from moment to moment, upping the mayhem in an enjoyable way.
The art of Rael Lyra is a tremendous asset to the story at well. His figures are elongated, with deep folds and wrinkles. His work gives the story a grungy, grimy look, an alien look, that accentuates the story. The book is about bad people doing terrible things, and Lyra's visual communication of that is superb.
Jeremiah Harm is in stores now, and it's a strongly entertaining book. If you were a fan of Giffen's and Grant's Lobo stories this comic is especially recommended for you.
I'm imagining the plot now: the Scarlet Witch goes crazy and kills Janet Van Dyne, forcing Captain America to kill the Scarlet Witch, and the entire Marvel Universe acts bitchy to one another for seven issues while something vaguely defined happens in space.
I usually take anything I read in Lying in the Gutters with about a dozen jumbo, extra-large margarita's worth of salt, but something in the latest edition caught my eye, regarding Marvel's apparent policy on gay characters in comics:
"Well, understand that if we were to go with the gay Kid we would have had to label the books MAX and that's not what we wanted for this event."
With that, many inferred that Joe was saying that Marvel could not publish a series starring a gay character without it being labeled a MAX - the same label used for comics featuring extreme swearing, extreme violence and explicit nudity.
Something that's now been confirmed to me.
Joe Quesada explained to me that this was the act of a responsible publisher in the current marketplace, given a reactionary media, and widespread and increasingly vocal parental concerns.
Johnston attempts to put this in the context of the increasing Puritanism of American society. Which is nonsense, of course. First of all, Marvel doesn't exactly have a stellartrackrecord when it comes to their depictions of gay characters, and the last Rawhide Kid series was no exception. It was essentially an extended fag joke. We were meant to laugh at the Kid, not with him. And we laughed at him because he was a faggot, and thus only worthy of our contempt. He certainly couldn't be the hero, oh no. He was there to facilitate the heterosexual sheriff becoming a "real man."
And even that, an insulting gay caricature, is apparently too much for Marvel to headline outside of an adults only context. It's a crass statement to make to Marvel's gay fans, especially given the extreme violence of heterosexual sexual situations that regularly appear in non-adults only books published by Marvel. And it also makes them hypocrites, because how else do you explain the "no gay leads outside of MAX" stance with the reality of Young Avengers, a book featuring a teen gay couple that is not labeled as being for adults only. Or perhaps Marvel plans on having Wolverine guest-star in Young Avengers soon and solve the conundrum for them...
The GayProf has an excellent post up about gay porn, the fetishization of straight men in gay porn, and sexual violence in gay porn. It's a very, very good piece.
I'm fascinated by the relationship gay men have with porn. I don't want to over-generalize, but if often seems like we have a greater comfort level with porn than straight men do. Straight men often seem ashamed of porn, and keep their porn habits secret. Gay men feel much freer to discuss it and never seem shy about acknowledging their enjoyment of it.
Which is why it's so curious that so many of the images of gay men in porn are problematic. A great deal of gay porn centers around the fantasy of seducing straight men, of "straight" men secretly having sex with each other, and of straight men raping gay men. Trends in gay porn tend to be cyclical, and it wasn't that long ago that depictions of proud gay men and coming out narratives were de rigeur, and I'm sure they will be soon again. But I find it very telling that, in a period in which gay rights are under concentrated attack and disease rates are soaring, gay men look for erotic fulfillment in self-hating images.
I don't like Las Vegas. Partly it may just me being slightly spoiled by living in California, but I can't stand walking around with people drunk on the streets with open alcohol containers and going into buildings full of smoking people. I also don't much like people trying to hand me crap, especially pornographic crap, every five feet down the side-walk. That garbage gets everywhere. Several very nice gardens around some of the resorts were ruined for me by looking down and seeing planters full of cigarette butts and big-busted naked women.
Most of my time was spent with my family. I was left to amuse myself by playing games of "Spot the Hooker," which I think I scored about 80% on, and "Frat Boy or Gay Boy." On "FB/GB" I probably only scored about 50/50. My gaydar is notoriously bad. And, of course, my game doesn't account for the possibility of gay frat boys. Also fouling up my gaydar were the prodigious amounts of men of Middle Eastern ancestry around the city. I tend to be attracted to Arabic men, so I notice them, and there's something about the way they dress and interact with each that, by American cultural standards, suggests "gay."
The only time I gambled I won $6 on penny slots, which I was only playing because I was waiting for my family to come to a god-damned decision about where to go after dinner already! We ended up going to Fremont Street, which was as dreadful as I remembered it, though we did come across a fairly good funk band at the Golden Nugget. Some of you will be happy to know that all the cocktail waitresses there resemble Sarah Silverman.
I kept seeing signs on mobile billboards for "Escorts direct to your location in 30 minutes." And I kept thinking to myself, "if it takes more than 30 minutes, is it free?"
I made a trip to Alternate Reality Comics and was very impressed with the selection and the store itself. Inviting, well-organized, clean, well-lit and a remarkably diverse selection of comics. A top-rate comics store.
I found, by accident, the other comic store in Las Vegas, and once I saw it I had no desire to go in. I was amused to discover that it's in the same shopping center as a bathhouse. Not that I went to the bathhouse, mind you. But it and the comic shop just happen to be in the same shopping center as a store I was looking for.
My mother and I went to see Avenue Q at the Wynn. She enjoyed it, and I was quite happy as well, though a bit frustrated that they cut two songs and the intermission to make the show run in a ninety minute block.
The center-piece of the trip was my grand-mother's 75th birthday dinner. My obscenely wealthy uncle did "a favor" for my dad and his little brother and made the reservation at a very expensive, very trendy restaurant. It was full of loud, obnoxious people, men showing off their call girls, and lousy techno music. Not, exactly, my grand-mother's scene. I'm not quite sure if my rich uncle just wasn't thinking, or if he was trying to teach my dad and my other uncle a lesson about asking him for favors. The meal was good, but I'm not sure it was $1700 good.
I'm going out of town for a few days. To Las Vegas, in fact. For a family reunion.
Which, in my family's case, means twenty to thirty of my relatives spread out at about a dozen different casinos grunting noncomitally at each other if they happen to see one another in passing.
And I don't gamble. Because I actually understand how statistical probabilities work. And Pete has a concert, so he can't go, so I can't do the whole gay Vegas thing. And I won't have my own car, so I can't get off the strip and explore the rest of the town. I might try and scrape together the money to go see Avenue Q, but that's about it.
But the important thing is: I expect you all to behave while I'm gone. The last thing I want to do is come back on Tuesday and find out that several blood feueds have broken out because of what Kevin said about Green Lantern, or because the hive-mind has suddenly decided that Kurt Busiek is the anti-Christ.
Or, in other words, for the love of God, don't act like comic book fans for at least one weekend!
I've been listening to the cast album of the latest production of Sweeney Todd, this time with Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris. It's quite good, and an interesting take on the material, but every time I look at the costumes:
All I can think is: "Now is ze time on Sprockets vhen ve dance!"
What brings you here
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