Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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dorianwright [at] gmail[dot]com

"Reading his blog is like watching a beloved 50's Rat Pack Vegas act"--Larry Young
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Monday, July 31, 2006

Not Getting It 

You ever seen something so mind-numbingly stupid you know you shouldn't watch? And yet, you can't tear yourself away? That's sort of how I feel about the spectacle of the latest person who just. Doesn't. Get. It. over at Ragnell's blog. He's a big fan of straw man and "slippery slope" arguments and reductio ad absurdum fallacies. My particular favorite quote of his is:
"Yes, I understand that no male characters are ever shafted in comics. I understand that only female characters are treated as disposable. I understand that having male leads makes female readers feel uncomfortable. I understand it'’s wrong to tell a story from a male perspective and that no such story could ever be considered '“good.'”"

Which, you know, isn't an argument anyone is making regarding the treatment of female characters in comics, or the seeming deafness coming from major comics publishers when legitimate critiques of their content or marketing are brought up. He also has a frankly baffling counter argument to the critique of sexism and misogyny in the comics industry, which is to say that people making the critique are hypocrites because they aren't also complaining abut the fact that the publishers of romance novels aren't doing enough to attract male readers.

Yeah, I know. And people wonder why feminists sound so angry all the time. Maybe, just maybe, it's because people keep putting words in their mouths. That is, when they bother to listen to women at all.

To be perfectly honest, I usually try to stay out of commenting at length on these topics. I'm tremendously reluctant to appear to be "speaking for" women, a trap I've seen too many men who consider themselves "feminists" fall into unconsciously. Their hearts are in the right place, but they can't help speaking from a position of privilege. And, to be perfectly honest, gay men have a complicated position in the feminist/masculinist gender discourse. You would expect the natural position to be on the "feminist" side of the debate, but gay men ultimately are, in fact, men, and always have that pesky male privilege angle to fall back on. And that's not even getting into the fact that coming out is a matter of personal choice, a choice to be discriminated against in a manner of speaking, while women don't really have the option of choosing whether or not to live their lives openly as women. Not to mention the fact that the "masculinist" side of the equation is almost always homophobic because gay men are perceived as a challenge to the notion of "correct" gender roles and behaviors.

To make matters worse, of course, is the fact that just because a woman considers herself a feminist, that doesn't necessarily mean she's antihomophobic as well. Luce Irigaray described the patriarchal system as a "homosexual monopoly," and Eve Sedgwick has criticized other feminist theorists for "fashionable homophobia" in their writing. Sedgwick also identified what should be the key point of mutual shared interest between feminists and gay men when she wrote that "homophobia directed against men by men misogynistic" because it oppressive of the presumption femininity in men as well as the assumption that femininity is inherently inferior to masculinity. What is key in this argument, of course, is the reminder that homophobia is not just directed at gay men, but at straight men as well. A point that many straight men, and women, often don't seem to think about.

Which, is a rather long and complicated way of saying that I'm strongly sympathetic and supportive of feminist concerns, especially as it pertains to the comics industry, despite my reluctance to adopt the "feminist" label for myself. But certain men and their willful and deliberate ignorance sure do make me irrationally annoyed at the fact that we share a gender.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Archie's Den of Depravity 

When you get right down to it, there's just something...unwholesome about Riverdale.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Dirty Gay Teen Pop Superstars* 

AfterElton places the Lance Bass outing in the context of other former teen idols who have come out or been outed. Mostly those who have been outed. I'm tempted to say that their lack of history is showing, as tabloids outing teen idols goes back to Tab Hunter and Tommy Kirk, at least, while the article doesn't look back much farther than the mid-nineties.

This paragraph is interesting:
Girls and women have changed, but only because gay sexuality has. It's emerged from the underground, thanks in huge part to Queer As Folk, Will & Grace and Brokeback Mountain. More straight girls and women have a chance to see gay sexuality and to be turned on by it (as evidenced by the huge popularity of slash fiction).

Or, you know, yaoi as well. I'm not entirely sure I buy their argument as to why so many straight women are fascinated by gay men and gay sexuality, as again, they're focusing on relatively recent pop culture artifacts, but it's a trend that goes back much farther.

*(I wonder how many people catch that reference...)


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Babs and Dick Have No Sense of Propriety 

There's a time and a place for everything kids. Racing down the street on motorcycles isn't one of them. Get a room, freaks!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gays Behaving Badly and the Openly Closeted 

Gay men and their public and private behavior appears to be of interest to the entertainment media again lately. The two most blatant examples are an aging former teen idol being caught with his trousers down in public and an aging former teen idol coming out in an attempt to salvage his career.

George Michael being caught cruising for sex in a public park is interesting from a sociological standpoint because, on a certain level, it's very anachronistic behavior. Furtive tea-room and park trysting is largely viewed, within the gay community, as something that men in the closet and man unable, or unwilling, to get sex in any other way. But the public nature of it is also considered somewhat gauche, with most men looking for quick and easy anonymous sex mostly turning to the relative privacy of the internet these days. It's also extremely dangerous behavior, as accosting men hanging about in known cruising grounds is a popular habit of gay bashers, not to mention that men who engage in high risk sexual behavior such as public sex are, statistically, more likely to have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.

And to be sure, Michael has taken quite a bit of flack for this from the gay community. For that he has only himself to blame, as his angry reaction and insistence that "This is my culture!" immediately triggered denunciations and attempts to insist that public sex is not something gay men engage in. Which is more than a little bit of a hypocritical stand to take. Because, if nothing else, public sex is very much a part of gay fiction, gay film, gay art, gay porn, and just about every coming out narrative ever written, even if only in a romanticised fantasy version. The real point of the gay community's swift condemnation of George Michael is damage control. The mainstream media delights in stories of gay men being caught in public sexual acts because it serves their narrative of gay men as perverted deviants who will have sex with anyone in anyplace. The message is "don't judge us based on his behavior."

That desire to frame narratives is also a big part, I believe, in the rise of what some people have started to refer to as "openly closeted" people. This would be people who are gay, live their lives as gay men or lesbians, but steadfastly refuse to actually go that one step beyond and publicly acknowledge that, yes, they're gay. For public figures, and former public figures, this is a largely ideal arrangement. The press can insinuate as many rumors as they like, but they will always pull back from "outing" a person for fear of opening themselves up to libel suits, and the famous or semi-famous person only has to avoid making too obvious a spectacle of themselves. Or engaging in any potentially scandalous behavior. Like hitting on a policeman in a public bathroom. Or masturbating in a porno theater. Or, well, you get the idea.

In Bass's case, it's very hard not to view his annnouncement with some cynicism. As a musician, his career is largely over, and the last time he was really in the public eye it was because of his attempt to buy his way onto an Russian space flight. The news of his coming out was hardly unexpected, as for months Bass has been seen in public venues, including a number of gay bars, with a man famous chiefly for being gay. It's worth noting that the timing of this announcement also comes as Bass is trying to get a sitcom starring himself on the air. The theory being, apparently, that if it worked for Ellen Degeneres it might work for him as well.

And I don't particularly intend to be mean spirited to Bass, especially in light of my slight sympathy towards Michael for the situation he has placed himself in. To be a good, politically correct queer I should, of course, be applauding Bass for coming out at all. Most "openly closeted" celebrities have so far been unable to go as far as he has. But I want to avoid casting Bass as a role model for gay and lesbian teens, because he purposefully chose not to come out when he was more of a public figure, and he could have acted as a role model then. Instead, he waited for a time when it was advantageous for his career to make some publicity for himself, and all he had left to interest the public was his sexuality. This is the other convenient aspect of the "openly closeted" lifestyle; the ability to largely control the terms and degree of their openness by manipulating the press.

Why the press is so eager for these narratives is an odd question. The scandal stories serve that need to convince "the regular people" that yes, indeed, gays are all filthy disgusting perverts, but why do the coming out narratives hold such popularity? On the one hand, it's a good PR move to the gay community itself. By pointing to those situations where wealthy people with nothing to lose come out of their self-imposed closets of convenience, they can largely deflect the criticism that most of their coverage of gay issues is inherently homophobic. But on a subtextual level, these coming out stories are usually presented as if some hardship has been overcome and now the celebrity is opening up about it, as if homosexuality was a disability or disease that the celebrity is bravely doing his or her best to live with. It all feeds back, ultimately, to the mainstream press insisting on the "otherness" of gay men and lesbians to reassure the public that they're the normal ones, and aren't those people like you different and odd.


Wonder Woman's Taste In Men 

I mean, Steve Trevor is a bit of a dork, but still, he's a better choice than, well...

I mean, this is his idea of smooth talk?

Oh yeah, calling her old and saying you're smarter than her, that's the way to win a lady over.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's the Future! 

Elephantmen, a new Image-published comic by Richard Starkings and Moritat, features two new, short stories set in the world of Starkings's half-hippo PI Hip Flask. Like the earlier Hip Flask books, the art is a stylish, slick neon-noir affair that is highly reminiscent of the best of European album format comics. The two stories here are brief, but they both work well in both establishing the mood and tone of the world, as well as fleshing out significantly the world the Hip Flask tales take place in. Moritat does an excellent job of retaining the visual look of the world as established by Jose Ladronn on earlier books, but without slavishly imitating Ladronn's style. It looks familiar, but it's still fundamentally Moritat's style on display.
For existing Hip Flask fans, this is a welcome return to that universe, but for newcomers this series also serves as a nice introduction to the concept. And, in any case, for fans of comic art, the book is worth getting for Moritat's gorgeous artwork.

A rather different beast is AIT's recent re-release of Shatter by Peter Gillis and Mike Saenz. Created on an early Macintosh computer in the mid-80s, the book provides an interesting snapshot of both the possibilities and limitations of computer-generated art-work of the time. A tremendous amount of skill is evident in the artwork, but at the same time, the limitations of the technology, as it existed then, are also on display. Some pages are simply beautifully rendered and detailed, while others become a jumbled, hazy mass of dots and lines. But I'm not willing to fault Saenz for these sequences; as I said, an enormous amount of talent and craftsmanship comes through on almost every page. But it's not fair to judge his work today based on what he could and could not do when working with the technology of the time. It makes more sense to look at the artwork as an historical artifact of that era.
Similarly, the story is very much of it's period as well. Originally published by First, Shatter was part of the previous "great indie scene" in comics, and it's themes and preoccupations are borne out of the political and cultural climate. It envisions a future that now seems strangely retro and anachronistic. Viewed strictly as a crime caper with sci-fi overtones, the story has an appeal and a manic pace that serves it well. I can't unreservedly recommend it, because the book as a whole is very much a product of the time, but for those interested in what independent comics looked like during their Reagan-era hey day, this is a good example of a technically experimental work that reflects the mood and themes of the time.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Subtext? What-Oh, You Know 

I'm not even sure I want to know. I'm telling you, you gotta be careful of those "nice Jewish boys." They'll surprise you with what they can come up with, every time.


Quick July Previews Notes 

(I really should do these sorts of things earlier...)

p. 250, Jokes and the Unconscious is a new graphic novel illustrated by Hothead Paisan creator Diane DiMassa. DiMassa has a chaotic, energetic line and a twisted sense of humor I've always enjoyed, so I'm really glad to see her work again.

p. 302, Hard to Swallow is an excellent anthology of gay porn comics, which I briefly reviewed earlier. If you're a fan of gay porn (and who isn't) it's one to be sure to get.

p. 300, The Cartoon History of the Modern World is another of Larry Gonick's educational comics. They're all worth taking the time to look at. Not only are they funny, but they're amongst the best history texts I've ever read.

p. 310, Sidescrollers is another in Oni's generally excellent line of short, original graphic novels. It's geek humor, but as this preview shows, it's that rare thing, good geek humor.

p. 313, New Nikolai Dante book! Tsar Wars! September can't get here soon enough!

On that same page, Rosen solicits a graphic novel biography of Oprah Winfrey. Unauthorized, I'm guessing. I find this funny for no good reason. Not as funny as the Ghosts in Amityville book they're also soliciting, but still funny.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday Sundry 

(or, Dorian is too lazy to write reviews or make fun of old comics...)

Pete and I spend the better part of Saturday morning cleaning out my mother's garage. I suppose you could say that it's only fair, since the bulk of the material in there that needed to be dealt with is either mine or the remnants of a failed business venture of one of my sister's friends.

Most of my stuff that we had time to deal with was boxed neatly and set aside for eventual removal to either a storage unit or our apartment. Most of that "failed business venture" stuff was left out on the curb in the hopes that what doesn't get stolen will be picked up on garbage day. After five years we feel justified in assuming that it's been abandoned, and as we have no possible use for thirty year old movie theater seats, home-made candles, and drag racing souvenirs, out it went.

The glimpses into my own past were a bit revelatory. Apparently I have a full run of Top Dog. DON'T YOU JUDGE ME! I was also apparently wasting a lot of money on terrible, terrible Marvel comics in the eighties that, while nowhere near as bad as what Marvel put out in the nineties or, well, today, were still absolutely and unmitigatedly terrible. People nostalgic for the Jim Shooter period of Marvel should be viewed with great suspicion. I really should have been buying more DC books back then.

For the curious, here's a 16 or 17 year old photo of me that I found.

As you can see, I'm wearing one of my several dozen Bloom County t-shirts. I think if I could have gotten away with it, I would have worn a Bloom County shirt every day, back then. These days it's almost unheard of for me to be out in public in a t-shirt, much less one with a, ick, picture on it. You're also not likely to catch me wearing a watch or jewelry either, both of which I wore back then.

For the sake of comparison, here's Pete from about the same period.

In more recent comic news, I keep thinking I should write up some reactions to the Elongated Man Showcase book DC released a couple of weeks ago. The short, one-off mysteries was a nice format, and there's certainly a charm to the stories. But to call them "mysteries" is a bit misleading, as the stories follow a pattern of "Ralph notices something out of place and ends up beating up petty crooks after over-hearing them talk about their plans." What I wasn't prepared for was the slightly disturbing uses to which Ralph put his powers. Punching people with his kneecaps, elbows, nose,'s just a bit off-putting, somehow.

Also, and not at all surprising, I found that a character's past has been a bit romanticised by current fans. Sue Dibny isn't really all that terribly interesting as a character. She's pretty much just dumped into the story as Ralph suddenly acquires a wife between stories, and she spends most of what little screen time she has being surprisingly passive-aggressive and materialistic. That is, when she's not too busy being condescended to by Ralph. Which might explain the passive-aggressiveness.

Oh, and I never quite realized how homoerotic the Ralph and Barry relationship was.

I was weak and I bought the DC super-hero stamps. DON'T YOU JUDGE ME! There's a certain logic to their choices, in that they're probably the ten most recognizable characters owned by DC. Well, I might have swapped out Green Lantern for Swamp Thing. Thanks to those horrible, horrible movies, Swamp Thing has a certain degree of public notoriety. Back in comic-shop days, whenever a lay-person looked at the Green Lantern poster we had up, the response was usually either "Hey! Green Hornet!" or "When did Green Lantern become a white guy?"

Of course, most people called Hawkman "Bird Man", so...

For useless trivia purposes, three of the pictures used are by Curt Swan.

I did something extraordinarily rare and bought a magazine published by TwoMorrows, the "super girls" issue of Back Issue. DON'T YOU JUDGE ME!. I was curious enough to pick it up, despite my usual lack of patience for the nostalgia fetish and obsession with minor trivia the magazines typically display. I feel like I've let down the cause a bit, after not realizing that Samuel Delany wrote Wonder Woman during the "relevancy" period before now. For me, of all people, to have not known that a gay black man wrote DC's most significant female character during the "woman's lib" period of the magazine...I'm ashamed of my lack of research into that era of the book now.

I also bought Justice League of America #0. I liked it quite a bit. Good dialogue, and a strong take on the characters sketched out in brief scenes. It's a promising start to the new series. Now if only they could get a new cover artist...

I also decided against buying a comic that's been horribly over-praised by people who really should know better and stopped buying a book that started out well but has quickly sunk to "treading water" status and an over-reliance on tying in to events in other books.

So, uh, am I the only person who got the impression that nothing new got announced at the San Diego Comic-Con except for manga licenses. It feels like everything the major comics publishers announced were either old news, already leaked news, or expected news. I mean, Mike will certainly be happy to know that the Zatanna/Black Canary cross-over he's been wanting is close to happening, but when the only truly surprising announcement is Oni getting the comics rights to a running gag from The Colbert Report, well...maybe the publishers shouldn't focus so much on springing "the big news" at cons if this is the best they're going to be able to muster.

God bless Grant Morrison:

"The Joker gets shot in the face, point blank in the first issue," Morrison said, saying that a new Joker will appear in his fifth issue, and will fuel a new Batman-Joker dynamic."


Friday, July 21, 2006

My Favorite Comic-Con Story So Far 

Kid Chris called me last night, and so far he's got the best story from the Comic-con.

So, Chris went out with some friends last night, and they ended up ditching him. So, Chris was waiting for them outside the club they went to in down-town San Diego. Chris is wearing his usual outfit of tight jeans and a tight black t-shirt, smoking a cigarette. And he's a good-looking kid.

And, since this is San Diego, naturally Chris is mistaken for a male prostitute.

I'm a bit disappointed he never learned all he should have from me when we were working together. I mean, it's Comic-Con...It's not like he couldn't use the money!


Thursday, July 20, 2006

If Comic News Was Written Truthfully 

Scapegoat found for next comic-to-film failure.

Investors announce "we hate making money," launch new comic company.

Brian Bendis and Frank Cho to further deform the definition of the word "monthly."

Comic book publisher over-pays for licensed property of marginal appeal.

Marvel desperate to replace EIC.

Dirty, filthy comics!

Mainstream press attempts to place comic book convention into larger context. Concludes "nerds will be there, and people will try to sell them things."

Fanboys looking forward to licking Wonder Woman

Television show to have comic book tie-in. Producers have clearly never had comic distribution methods and sales figures explained to them.

Attractive woman flatters nerds in effort to get their money.

Film-makers hope to impress sweaty man-children.

Creator with best work behind him to make film, misunderstand source material.

Film casting rumor almost certain to become basis of homophobic jokes.

(with apologies to Mr. Dan Kelly)


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Batman: Natural Athlete 

Why, just look at the graceful way he, er, trips over that sleeping dog lying in plain sight...


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Decoding Wonder Woman 

When Diana says:

What she means is:
"Because you're a needy little passive-aggressive twerp, Steve."

When Diana says:

What she means is:
"Hera, what the Hades were we thinking when we let you on the team, fish-boy?"


Monday, July 17, 2006

DC in October 

The latest batch of DC solicitations are out, and man, is there ever a whole lot of nothing very exciting going on in them. That's probably putting too fine a point on it, and there are one or two things that are actually of interest there, but after noticing that seven titles are shipping with variant covers (All Star Batman and Robin, Justice League of America, Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Tales of the Unexpected, Authority, Deathblow and Gen13) my enthusiasm dimmed significantly.

In any case, the note-worthy items include a Superman/Batman annual that "updates" the story of how they discovered each other's secret identity. This time it involves Deathstroke and the Crime Syndicate of America, for some reason. So long as they manage to retain the whole "Clark and Bruce discover each other's secrets while they strip" aspect, I'll be happy.

Over in 52, Jerry Ordway draws the origin of Wildcat. This meets with my approval, and DC is allowed to publish it.

I actually found a Michael Turner cover I like:

Anderson Gabyrich and Henry Flint relaunch The Omega Men, as part of DC's seeming effort to revitalize their space-hero line, along with the late Adam Strange and the more recent Green Lantern Corps and Mystery in Space. I enjoyed Gabyrich's run of Batgirl, so I'm more than willing to sample this.

The final issue of Seven Soldiers is slated for release as well. Allegedly.

Tales of the Unexpected is a new Spectre mini, and appears to be part of DC's attempt to revitalize their "magic character" line. (See also: Shadowpact and Trials of Shazam) It gets my full support because it brings back "I...Vampire," one of the very few vampire characters I can stomach.

It's kind of cute how the official DC solicitations are still playing coy about the cover to Teen Titans #40, given that the full image has already made the rounds.

I suppose it doesn't really matter, because I'm going to be buying the book anyway, and I normally like Gene Ha, but this cover seems awfully pedestrian for what should be a more significant relaunch of Authority.

Yeah, I'll probably end up getting Gen13. That's probably the most shameful thing I've ever typed here.

I'm tempted to say very cruel things about the move of the Nightmare on Elm Street comic to Wildstorm, starting with listing "TBD" as the artist not being a particularly promising sign, and ending with profound expressions of skepticism regarding the ability of Chuck Dixon to write the series with the proper tone and humor (and politely side-stepping the issue of the frequently homophobic undertones of the franchise and Dixon's past angry complaints about gay characters in comics), but it's simply not worth the arguments which will spring up in the comments sections.

I can't help but think that it's a bit too late to ask people to pay $100 for a hard-cover edition of Sandman.

Gaze into the dead, soulless eyes of Nightstar, mortal fools!


Well You Don't Have to Act so Insulted About It. 

Wonder Woman chooses the oddest times to use that particular oath...


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Quick Link 

Paul Cornell on fans, the mainstream audience, fan entitlement and Love and Monsters

That "fan vs. mainstream" thing and the bullying aspects of over-entitled fans who want to "own" the thing they love is something that drives me absolutely up the wall in comics fandom.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Manga Update 

It's been a while since I talked about manga in any way. To be honest, I've mostly gotten out of the "regular reviews" habit (three moves in two years can do that to much stuff gets boxed up, taken out, and reboxed, that you easily lose track of what you may or may not have written up), and besides, much better sites provide dedicated manga coverage. But, I still feel the occasional need to spill my guts over which titles I'm still paying attention to.

Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase: I'm an avid follower of Watase's work, and this story, about a girl with a gorgeous male robot who is hopelessly devoted to her is a nice tweak of one of the more obnoxious cliches of manga.

Anne Freaks by Yua Kotegawa: This is an action mystery about disturbed teens fighting a cult. Or being manipulated by a psychopathic girl into doing her bidding. But there's a good mystery/conspiracy element with a varied cast of ambiguous characters.

Angel Sanctuary by Kaori Yuki: Angels, demons, extreme violence and tragic incestuous romances! Everything you could ever want in a shojo comic.

Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga: A charming series that nicely balances comedy with a little drama, about four handsome men working in a pastry shop. It's one of those idiosyncratic titles that you just don't seem to find too often in American comics.

Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh by Kouji Ogata and Kouhei Kadono: I probably would have gotten more out of this if I was familiar with the multi-media phenomena that is Boogiepop Phantom. This is good, and the idea of a horror series told from multiple perspectives, in which the bulk of the terror is off screen has merit, but it probably reads better if you already know the story or can read the complete series in one go.

Cafe Kichijouji De by Kyoko Negishi and Yuki Miyamoto: Short comedy vignettes about five mis-matched men who work in a cafe. Mayhem tends to ensue. There's a certain assumption that you're already familiar with the characters from the audio dramas the series is based on, which hurts the book slightly, but the sheer strangeness of the stories manages to communicate the humor all the same.

Chikyu Misaki by Iwahara Yuji: This ended a little while ago, but I just wanted to mention again how much I enjoyed it.

Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata: Ah, moral ambiguity and a sociopathic lead...I love this series.

Descendants of Darkness by Yoko Matsushita: Grotesque horror and pretty boys. It's a time-tested and winning combination.

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya: Eh, I can't explain the appeal of this series. It's funny and heartfelt.

Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase: This is a prequel to the soon to end Fushigi Yugi series. It's more mature in tone than that earlier series, but it still has the same mix of romance and fantasy adventure that made it so compelling.

Her Majesty's Dog by Mick Takeuchi: Another horror-tinged comedy/romance, about a girl with mystical abilities and her pet demon-dog, who must occasionally kiss her to stay alive. Naturally, this leads everyone at school to mistakenly believe they're a couple, though it's really more of a pet/owner type relationship. It's not exactly ground-breaking material, but it has an appealing cast and a good natured element to it that makes it enjoyable.

Man's Best Friend by Kazusa Takashima: A yaoi anthology, with the bulk of the stories focused on pets turning into humans to have sex with their owners (animal transformations seem to be a recurring theme in my manga purchases). The art is nice, and the traditional seme/uke roles are (mostly) more fluid than what you usually see in yaoi.

Monster by Naoki Urasawa: The critically lauded mystery series, and with good reason. The setup (Doctor saves child, child grows up to be serial killer, doctor has victim's blood on his hands as a result) is extraordinarily strong, and the series is thoroughly readable and compelling.

Musashi #9 by Miyuki Takahashi: It's a bit repetitive at times, but I do find myself enjoying this action series about a teenage girl who happens to be the world's deadliest secret agent.

Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi: I can offer no excuses or justifications for my purchase of this series. It's utterly stupid, goofy, silly, fun comics.

School Zone by Kanako Inuki: Old school J-Horror about little kids trying to survive in a haunted school. If you can get past the extremely dated art-work, there's a creepy core to this title that works remarkably well.
(Additional: I should probably clarify, since several people have brought it up, that I don't have any objections to older manga. But this particular style, even if the book is only about ten years old, looks much older. It looks like the horror manga I've seen from the sixties and seventies, with it's weird mix of cute and scary, and I do tend to find the "cuteness" of it, and many of the other horror titles Dark Horse has released in a similar style, a bit off-putting. In other words, it's not the manga, it's me.)

Tsubasa by CLAMP: And people complain about all-encompassing super-hero cross-overs. This title ties the vast majority of all of CLAMP's varied series together into a dimension-hopping quest story.

Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa: There's something subversive about this series I quite like. The goth girl who steadily resists all the attempts by the pretty boys to turn her into a traditional shojo heroine just makes a nice antidote to the doormats and love-struck girls you see in so many shojo titles.

xxxHolic by CLAMP: Beautifully drawn and creepy horror stories of ironic punishment and Japanese myth in the best Twilight Zone tradition. The book just oozes an aura of art-deco decadence that makes it hard to resist.

I also recently picked up Redrum 327 and Cantarella, but haven't had a chance to read them yet. The only upcoming titles that I know I'm looking forward to are Junji Ito's Museum of Terror and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. And I'm wondering whatever happened to Legal Drug and Yotsuba.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

DC Boards. Fish. Barrel. 

When complaining about being banned, be sure to compare gay people to Dark Lords of the Sith. For background, the poster in question apparently made several anti-gay comments, and at one point said that his son would be "dead to him" if he turned out to be gay:
If he was to make such a change then he wouldn't be the same son I knew. Star Wars Ep III is a great example. When Obi Wan walked away from Darth Vader because he changed. To Obi Wan, Anakin was dead to him, from a certain point of view. I guess that makes Obi Wan a bigot because he's a Sith hater.

Why Batwoman can't be a super-hero:
A person finds him-/her-self with physical attributes which he/she did not ask for, may not want, and wich involve considerable consequence. Yet, in the world of superheroes, it is dereliction of duty to not use these attributes to make a difference.
So, a person who finds him-/her-self with the physical ability to perform one of the major miracles in the Univers--to create life--and does nothing with the equipment provided, is flouting one of the basic rules of superdom.
It runs exactly contrary to the entire basis of superheroes to have a being endowed with certain equipment to refuse to use that equipment the way it was designed to be used simply because that individual's personal pleasure buttons are not pushed by so doing.
A superhero has, say, superstrength. This hero also has a female form. To have this person use her superpower, her physical attribute of superstrength, to help others, as she was designed to do, and then turn around and refuse to use her other superpower, to creat life and nurture it the way she was designed to do, means that the character is inconsistent on a very basic level.
You can't have it both ways. Either the superhero accepts the duties that her physical attributes confer on her, or she is no hero. A lesbian superhero is a contradiction in terms. The new Batwoman is an unworkable concept; to make it workable, they should have her come to terms with all of her physical equipment, and accept her fate as who she is.

The other day I was investigating, and I realised that the problem with homosexuality is actually a spin-off from another problem. Women.

Oh look, it's Obi-Wan again:
I still say give the opposite sex another try, there has to be a girl for you guys if you would just stop being picky. All those women that say all the good men are gay or married. Stop being gay and make a woman happy. You can still act gay but be straight about it. Look at Motley Crue in the 80' as hell looking and got all the woman they wanted. See, it's happen before.
Don't get me wrong I think you gays are funny as hell and I like the Queer Eye guys and Elton John but it's all still taboo to me no matter how many time try to justify it all. I would love to be total tolerent but as long as my instincts tell me it's not right then I gonna go with that. At least you guys aren't radical muslims.
But we can't change the weather and we can't change each other.

What a charmer! Here's some more of his wit:
In that case God can go to the active volcano and the rest of the world cane live as we wish. Gays can be married....wait, if the Bible is nothing then why get married???? That means Micheal Jackson was doing nothing wrong with those boys. Rapist are people too, they need their space to express themselves. Let's get the pot party going and LAY ME DOWN SOME RAILS BOYS!!! Might as well bring back slavery so we can get things done around here. All the alpha gays, lesbians and males can gather up the femi-males and femi-women and make a chain of ***** houses where the empty prisons are. And crazy Jack can finally get that 3 year old Sally all to himself.

Here's a thread on writers "ruining" characters:
Morrison on Seven Soldiers.
Loved the classic Seven Soldiers of Victory too much to even consider this hodge-podge assortment of DCU regulars and others, to take it seriously.

Frank Millar and Batman
Me and my friends agree that frank millar did ruin batman with his batman returns, even though its all good now. I makes batman do stupid things, even now in All-Star Batman, FRank Millar writes stupid stories, that mess with batman's image. I mean the old creators even told him he messed the character up, even though people praise him for his writing.

Good ole Geoff ruined...
Hal- he's now an idiot and a jerk.
Guy- all the character developement he'd recieved since the death of ICe? Out the window. He's now an idiot and a jerk.
Jakeem Thunder- Where to begin? Is this even the same guy Morrison created?
The General- knocked out by a jeep?!
Winnick did a number on...
Connor Hawke- now he's "Ollie's nice son", instead of, oh, I dunno, a character with depth and personality.
Kyle Rayner- Seriously, he made Kyle such a chore to read that even I, a huge fan, skipped his run.
AJ Lieberman trashed...
Hush- boy, he used to be cool .
Prometheus- he used to be even cooler

Wait, somebody thought Hush was cool?

Peter Milligan on Gambit. yes, let's take one of the coolest X-Men, and destroy him. good going guy...

Wait, somebody thought Gambit was cool?

Points for this thread title alone: "Infinite Crisis" ...should have been called "Politically Correct Crisis"...
I am all for ethnically diverse characters. But, in one fell swoop DC has retooled a bunch of heroes to fill politically correct quota.
-Atom replace with an asian.
-Batwoman is a lesbian
-Blue Beetle is now hispanic
-Firestorm is now black
-Johnny Lightning is now black
-The Spectre is now black

I'm pretty sure Johnny Lightning is a company that makes over-priced toy cars. Jakeem Thunder has been black for years now.

Let's check back in on Obi-Wan:
I am no longer alowed to talk about gays anymore because it's against the DC MOD's law. They only want one side of the story so the censor anything they feel is not furthering their aganda.
So, no I have to roll over and get man raped. I must obey and force myself to be with another man so I won't be a bigot. I must cast all women aside or I will be called intolerent. Then I will have to force my way into an organization that doesn't alow gays so I can get my hands on little boys. Yes, master.

Here's a thread which nicely sums up the mood over at the DC Message Boards, "if you could date any girl from the dcu which one would it be." And the more inclusive variant, " If You Could Have One Night With Any Comic Character Who Would It Be??"

Man, do I despise the people I share a hobby with, sometimes...


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Does He Emit "Stupidity Radiation" or Something? 

So, Jor-El is preparing for the destruction of the planet Krypton, and he decides to use his friend Zhan-Zar's "What If Machine" to determine which of six planets would make the best future home for Kal-El. The first planet he investigates is Xann, on which all the people are giants.

Setting aside the complete and utter lack of any sense in sending the infant to a planet where he regularly risks being crushed to death by someone failing to watch where they're going, I'm most offended by Jor-El contemplating sending his son to a world in which all the men wear hot pants with knee socks.

In any case, because Xann has a yellow sun, Kal-El develops super-powers, which he keeps a secret from the rest of the world. I guess because he didn't want to attract too much attention to know, being a well-known freak because of his size and all. But during a hostage crisis, Kal-El determines that he must save the men being imprisoned, and dons a costume to disguise his identity. And, well, you'll see:

"That incredibly tiny man with super-powers couldn't possibly be the only incredibly tiny man known to exist on our planet! Why, that would just be absurd!"

God, the Silver Age makes my head hurt sometimes...I'm going to go read Cafe Kichijouji De. At least that makes sense.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Send the Kiddies Out of the Room for This One 

French clothing company Shai has started a new advertising campaign on the internet that manages to be both the height of exploitation, and brilliantly transgressive marketing.

They're using hard-core gay porn to sell clothes. No, that's not a joke, or an exaggeration. That link there is absolutely not work safe, and contains hard-core gay porn. Classy hard-core, with a really great sound track and beautiful production values, featuring guys who are cute but a bit on the twinkie side for me, but hard-core gay porn nonetheless.

I was, quite literally, struck speechless when I stumbled upon this ad. I was not prepared for any advertiser, in any country, to jump several steps ahead of where the cultural comfort zone appears to be on sexuality in mass media and popular culture. Especially not in light of the current American hysteria over even the vaguest hint of sex and nudity in popular culture. When a half-second flash of a middle-aged woman's breast on television leads to a crack down on "filth" in television, you know American's aren't going to be comfortable with frank depictions of sexuality.

And it isn't as if these ads can be universally hailed as a breakthrough either. Sex has been used in advertising for decades. The barely contained subtext of almost any commercial for alcohol or clothing is sex. And given that the campaign also features a male/female pairing, and especially given that it contains a female/female pairing which quite explicitly conforms to the standards of "lesbian titillation for straight men in straight porn," it's clear that there is definitely an element of using sex in an exploitative way to attract attention to the brand name. And, of course, if you subscribe to the theory (I don't) that all pornography is inherently offensive to women, well, you could probably make a case that the campaign is misogynistic as well.

But, oh! That transgressive element! On a simple level, sure, yeah, using out and out porn to sell clothes is just crossing the threshold of what we consider acceptable imagery in advertising. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that Calvin Klein was accused of creating child pornography in an ad campaign featuring clothed models over the age of eighteen. Just imagine the outrage and condemnation that we'll be hearing screeched from those whose moral fervor presses when this hits the general public's radar. Not least of which because the ads unapologetically insert gay male imagery into the campaign. To be sure, coded gay imagery in ads goes as far back as the Arrow Collar Man, and I'm hard-pressed to tell the difference between an Abercrombie & Fitch ad and a Bel Ami video. But, as I said, that's coded imagery. The whole point of the Abercrombie "look" is to suggest homoeroticism whilst emphasizing the "manly" image of heterosexual youth. Shai is coming out with a blunt statement that their clothes are for gay men too. And look at the nice looking boys enjoying each other's company in a way that those closet cases at A&F can only dream about.

Or, you know, it's just porn tarted up as something more meaningful.
(The Shai home-page has links to all three ads and is almost work-safe)


Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Decadence of Luthor 

So...does it really take the assistance of two other men to get Luthor into his "battle array?" Or does he just like to keep two young men around to dress him?

In either case, more proof that people in Metropolis are just effin' weird...


Saturday, July 08, 2006

What The People Want 

Every month for about the last two years, one of the more frequent search terms that have brought people to my site is some variation of "Jake Shears naked."

Here you go.

And here's a mash-up of "Filthy/Gorgeous" and "Funkytown."

New album in the fall, as well.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Wildcat Linkage 

Over at The Comic Treadmill, H takes a look at all of Wildcat's appearances in The Brave and the Bold. Truly, H is a man of impeccable taste and unquestionable virtue.

Which reminds me, I still don't have a copy of #127.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Video Game Industry in Ad of Questionable Taste Shocker 

You know, it's really, really hard to look at this image from a Dutch ad campaign for the PSP "white" and not see really, really objectionable cultural signifiers on display. It really does seem to be the height of disingenuous to try and claim that images of an angry looking white woman in borderline fetish gear physically dominating a black woman isn't a potentially racist image. Especially when the follow-up from Sony seems to be that the ads aren't racist, but a sexist play on "cat fight" imagery.

Additional: The more I think about it, there's some odd gender imagery going on here as well. Lots of people seem to have gotten the impression from the initial ads that the black woman was a black man, and she's wearing a hairstyle and shirt with very masculine cuts, while the white woman is very femmed out. In many of the images the masculine black woman is in a submissive pose, while the femme white woman is dominant. These dominant/submissive poses are heightened by the fact that the dark background makes the white woman the more prominent figure, even in the images where the black woman is "beating" her.

Why, it's almost enough to make the sexism and racism of the comics industry seem quaint...


Comedy Gold 

Marvel editors and writers in spin mode:

This will all lead to a difficult decision for Peter Parker in regards of the school and his job, as to whether or not he should leave his teaching position or leave, considering that, if he leaves, villains may still show up at the school and put the kids in danger.

So...Peter's big conflict will be whether he should quit his job or quit his job? Personally, I think he should quit his job, because that's clearly the unexpected answer...

Asked about Spider-Man's "criminal" past, JMS said that he would be surprised if many former claims don't come back to haunt him, as before this, the claims had no way to come back and haunt him.

Uh...what? I've read that sentence over two dozen times now and I still can't quite parse it out.

Further explaining the differences between the characters, JMS reiterated his story from Heroes Con about an upcoming scene between Spider-Man and Reed when Reed tells Peter about his uncle who was brought up on charges of being un American, ultimately losing his job and going to jail because of his beliefs. In telling Reed he must have been proud of his uncle, Reed counters Peter by saying that his uncle was wrong, and the law is the law, and his uncle was wrong for going against it.

Wow. Reed's a dick. He and Ann Coulter are right on that "rehabilitating McCarthy" bandwagon, huh?

Alonso said that the comics are not beholden to the movies, and they are free to maintain the comic line's identity in light of the developments shown in the film.

Seriously, I read that, and couldn't stop laughing for like ten minutes.

Asked if there is an exit strategy for the reveal, McCann said that the revelation will play a major role in the Spider-Man comics through next year.

So, Dr. Strange/The Scarlet Witch casts the big "everybody forgets Peter Parker is Spider-Man--oh, and he's no longer married to Mary Jane--spell" a year from now. Good to know.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Closet Monsters: Undead

Now, if more zombie movies were like this, I could stand them. This Australian film is a fun sci-fi/horror/comedy, heavy on the gross-out humor, that plays up all the cliches of the zombie genre. Felicity Mason stars as Rene, a local beauty-queen who just lost the family farm. She's heading off from her small fishing town to the big city to try to earn some money when a meteor shower falls on the town. Then the townsfolk begin turning into flesh-easting zombies. Then the rain turns to acid. Then aliens begin abducting people. Then a giant metal wall surrounds the town. Then things get weird.

The film doesn't so much subvert the stereotypes and cliches of genre as it melds them together. There's a manic edge to it that's missing in more "serious" horror films, and you're never quite sure whether any given scene is going to lead to a laugh or a scare. There are elements of lots of other films here, Night of the Comet most conspicuously, but Night of the Living Dead, Braindead and The Crazies as well. It's also interesting that the film is very similar in tone, though perhaps a bit more on the serious side, to the later film Shaun of the Dead. I'll leave it to others to argue over which film is better, but given that the advertising I saw for Undead made the film look deathly serious and rote, it's a bit disappointing but not surprising that the world could only embrace one tongue-in-cheek zombie film.

Plus, Mungo McKay is very hot if you're into intense hill-billy bears.

In the fourth issue of Michael Alan Nelson and Chee's Second Wave, the stand-off at the farm-house from last issue gets resolved and the band of survivors grows slightly larger as they go off searching for medical assistance. They hope to find some in a small town that was largely isolated from the attacks, only to find that alien invasions don't do much to stop racism and xenophobia.

In the second issue of Talent the mystery deepens as to what, exactly, the organization trying to kill Nicolas Dane is up to, as we see even more clearly what depths of cruelty and depravity they're willing to sink in pursuit of their agenda. Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski have written an engaging mystery, and the art of Paul Azaceta complements the darkness of the story.

In Hero Squared's second issue, Milo and Captain Valor attend therapy to try and work out their differences. It doesn't go well. But it doesn't go well in a solidly entertaining way. The Giffen/DeMatteis/Abraham book is ideal for those looking for biting humor in their super-hero comics. Though, personally, at this point I'm kind of hoping that Milo Slacker finally gets a clue before too many more issues.

Pete and I finally broke down and bought a PlayStation 2. It was a combination of not wanting to have to wait for the Wii to come out to play any new games and the realization that we could use the machine as a back-up DVD player now that ours is dying. We picked up a variety of games, but three in particular are worth mentioning. (Yes, I know I'm late to the party on all of these.)

Kingdom Hearts: You wouldn't think an amalgamation of Disney characters and the Final Fantasy series of RPGs would work, but the game is actually both fun and challenging, if suffering slightly from the level-up grind that tends to plague RPG style console games.
Katamari Damacy: Is it wrong that this game brings out my homicidal tendencies. For a thoroughly non-violent game, there's something quite pleasing about rolling people up into a giant ball.
Silent Hill 2: The series was recommended to me by a couple of people who knew I was interested in horror games but was frustrated by the combat systems in most of them. There's not much combat, and the emphasis is on mood and atmosphere. Unfortunately, that mood and atmosphere largely consists of wandering around in the fog and occasionally hitting a monster with a stick. Oh, and if you solve a ridiculously easy "puzzle" you can wander around a dark building occasionally hitting a monster with a stick.
You know, as much as I dislike stupid fighting in games that aren't about fighting, I think I dislike games where you have to find the exact right spot to stand to trigger an event that tells you what the hell you're supposed to be doing in the damn game even more.


Gay Agenda Triumphs Again 

Huzzah for the gay conspiracy to subvert democracy, destroy the family, and indoctrinate children into paganism and secular humanism! We've managed to turn Superman Returns into a colossal failure. Because it was only "one of" the biggest film openings of all time, not the biggest film opening of all time! See, all our talk of how fruity Superman looked in the trailers and film posters, and our insidious innuendoes that the film would contain subliminal pro-sodomy messages successfully managed to scare off all the true, red-blooded, Republican voting heterosexual men who naturally identify with the Superman character.

Next on the gay agenda: destroying the manly image of pirates. This one will take some doing, because as we all know, there's nothing even remotely fey or flamboyant about historical or fictional pirates, and cabin boys were just eager young lads being taught how to sail.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dorian's Very Brief and Spoiler-Free Review of Superman Returns. 

I went in hoping I wouldn't be too disappointed, and I wasn't. The film was fine. Not exactly stirring or awe-inspiring, and the only action sequence worth talking about is the plane rescue, but otherwise fine.

I thought all the actors did a good job and were believable in their roles. Yes, even the much loathed Kate Bosworth and Parker Posey. Kevin Spacey in particular pulled off Luthor with a manic glee that reminded you that the character is both frighteningly intelligent, and unrepentantly evil. Brandon Routh was likeable and believable as both Clark Kent and Superman, and that's almost all you can ask of the role.

The story was a bit slight, and that's where the greatest weaknesses of the film lay. All the time spent paying homage to the original Donner films was distracting and annoying. The film would have been better served by starting over from scratch with the Superman mythos.

The "shocking surprise twist" was one of the most blatantly telegraphed reveals in film history. On a similar note, I want the technology to punch people over the internet to get here quickly, because I'm tired of right-wing/fanboy complaints about Lois cohabitating, Lois being a single mother, and Perry White not saying "the American way."

Next film: totally needs to get Krypto in there. If only to make up for the fact that Bryan Singer was exceptionally mean to dogs on a repeated basis in this film.

Actually, I do have one major complaint, but it's a bit spoiler-ish, and it doesn't just apply to this film, but to the super-hero movie genre as it has developed in recent years. And that's the fact that increasingly super-heroes are directly or indirectly causing the deaths of their enemies in these movies. It's fine for a character like the Punisher. I can even accept it, to a point, in a film like the X-Men movies (from Wolverine, yes; from the rest of the X-Men, not so much). But in movies like Batman Begins or Superman Returns or especially The Incredibles, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and it's off-putting. I may, or may not, expand on those thoughts in the future, once I feel like I've got a better take on the subject. But, for now, in short, I find cinematic depictions of super-heroes who kill contrary to the nature of the original material.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Robin Hates the Troops 

So, Bruce Wayne sends his young ward Dick Grayson to Germany to check on some of Wayne Enterprise's business interests there. Because, you know, you always send teenage boys to important business meetings with overseas clients...

So, naturally, some of those same business interests are attacked by a high-tech military tank, and Robin decides to investigate. Because Robin and Dick Grayson both showing up in Germany at the same time that business owned by Bruce Wayne are robbed will never arouse anyone's suspicions.

As a result of this, Robin ends up beating up a bunch of American soldiers stationed in Germany.

The story ends with Robin's plan to use Bruce Wayne's vast wealth to manipulate international money markets.


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