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Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I'm bored. I think I'll take a look at the topics under discussion at popular comic book message boards.
What's going on at Newsarama: "Hottest porn star?" Uhm, not exactly sure how that's relevant to comics, but it is rather tame compared to some of the threads I've seen over there. (The answer is "Zak Spears" by the way.)
I've been irrationally annoyed lately with the "I only enjoy comics ironically" crowd. I'd prefer they just come out and admit they don't like them.
Note to at least one on-line comics forum: maybe they'd take your complaints and criticisms seriously if you actually bought comics...instead of downloading them in torrent files.
I think Archie should move away from the house/DeCarlo style. Yes, I realize that the "realistic" style is only temporary, but I think it might actually work on a permanent basis.
Three words I would like to see comic book readers stop using until they learn what they mean: deconstruction, metatext, discrimination. Okay, it's really just one person misusing that last one.
I'm...I'm starting to come around to accepting the phrase "Bronze Age." Yes, I still think it was coined by shady comics dealers looking to up their prices on 70s Marvels and 80s DCs, but I can't think of a more useful, widely understood term to describe the post-Silver Age period in comics. But hearing "Copper Age" still makes me fist-swinging mad.
There are certain types of responses which over the years I've noticed occur with startling frequency in online discussion venues, be they bulletin boards, forums, or blogs. In general, they're the responses of people who don't have anything to say, yet feel compelled to talk. There's also a more than healthy desire to antagonize or play the victim.
(Not here, mind you. My commentators are, almost to a person, sophisticated, intelligent, witty and dead sexy. I know this for a fact. I mean, they're reading this site after all, so they must be.)
I've identified three general types. The first is the complaint that you can't have an opinion about a work until you've experienced it, in its full and complete form, for yourself. Granted, certain opinions have more or less merit based on their owners familiarity with the topic under discussion, but this particular complaint, as it was brilliantly summarized for me by my friend Andrew once, is more along the lines of "if you don't put your hand into every open flame you come across, you're prejudiced against fire." It's the insistence that, despite all the available evidence, and against all your past experience, your unwillingness to expose yourself to something is suspect, if not out and out wrong, because you haven't sat through a two hour movie by a writer and director whose work you've never thought was good in the past, starring an actor you hate. Or because you haven't read all fourteen volumes of the fantasy series, even though you've never enjoyed any multi-volume fantasy novels in the past. Or bought the first one hundred issues of that artists magnum opus, despite really not finding the art style aesthetically pleasing.
The second isn't a specific response to anything, but more a pattern of behavior. It's the "Thin Skinned Asshole" who haunts the internet (and, sadly, the real world). These are the folks who go out of their way to be rude and obnoxious. In fact, they're usually proud of being rude and obnoxious. They will in fact quite frequently use the term "Asshole" as a badge of honor. Until, of course, you finally have enough of them and say "fuck off, you asshole." At which point, you're the person being rude and unreasonable. Because you weren't willing to take their abuse with a smile, I suppose.
My particular favorite aspect of this behavior is that after the initial "I'm an asshole! Boy, I'm an asshole! I just love being an asshole!" "Quit being an asshole." "What! How dare you!" exchange, the inevitable rejoinder is "Man, you women/gays/whatever need to learn to take a joke."
The last type of response is the touchingly naive belief that sales are an indicator of quality. There's even a set, predictable pattern for these responses: "If X is so bad, why does it sell so well?" Because we all know that the only things that sell well in this country are those of the highest merit and quality, and that appealing to the lowest common denominators in the general public will never reap you financial rewards. That's why The DaVinci Code was the greatest novel of all time, and Britney Spears the most accomplished singer.
So, DC released a rather...odd teaser image onto the internet today. There's a larger version at Newsarama, as well as most all the comic book news sites, so go take a look. People seem to be reacting in one of three ways: "I can't wait" or "Aw, man, not another cross-over" or "Why is Superman crying again?"
Personally, I don't think the image is teasing anything. Or, at least not any one thing. I think we're looking at a collage depicting recent and upcoming events.
Either that, or DC is deliberately releasing a nonsensical image to get the more hysterics prone fans worked up in order to amuse the rest of us.
One of the things I find fascinating about Lois Lane stories is the utter contempt with which she is usually treated. For the supposed star of the tale, the vast majority of Lois solo stories revolve around her getting her come-uppance for some minor transgression. "I Betrayed Superman" is no exception.
The story begins with Perry White coming to the startling realization that several actors have all gone to the same acting class. Clearly this is a matter for his star investigative reporter to look into.
"But, Perry, I was about to go cover the mayor's speech and then go talk to my informant about the organized crime story!" "Nah, this is far more important Lois."
When Lois makes her way to the school, she finds it populated with arty, pretentious types. Or, in other words, actors.
Lois befriends a thoroughly heterosexual aspiring actor named Johnny, who's trying to learn to play romantic male leads. For some reason, he just doesn't seem able to make love to a woman convincingly. Hmmmm... Lois, meanwhile, is being assigned temptress roles, because it just isn't plausible for her to be cast in the role of "female reporter" in one of the plays the class is working on. Guess the teacher is familiar with her work at the Daily Planet after all.
Then all men in the class establish their heterosexuality.
Or, you know, not. Gee, for method actors, they're really not very good at pretending to be in love with Lois.
Eventually, Superman crashes the party and kisses Lois, and since he's the only one who made her swoon, it's decided that Superman can play the role of Samson opposite Lois's Delilah.
See, Clark knows the secret of method acting: when you have to kiss Lois, think of Jimmy.
The night of the play, Lois acts out her scene with Superman. When it comes to the part of the play where Delilah cuts Sampson's hair, Lois gets a rude surprise.
Now that the conveniently "magical" scissors have stripped Superman of his powers, he proposes to Lois, on the grounds that no one would ever want to hurt the wife of an ordinary man with no super powers. Lois has second thoughts, which is good, because it turns out that everything was an elaborate hoax designed to prove how good an actor Johnny is. Oh, and publicly humiliate Lois by revealing her to be interested in Superman only for his power and fame.
So, in the end, Lois, for having a moment's hesitation when pressed for an answer to a marriage proposal, is publicly humiliated and shamed. And for once, not because Superman was gaslighting her, but because a bunch of actors decided to play a trick on her.
The Carbon Copy Building by Michael Gordon, David Land and Julia Wolfe, illustrated by Ben Katchor
The Carbon Copy Building is a contemporary opera, contrasting the lives of the occupants of two office buildings; the palacial and historically significant Palatine building, and the run-down Palaver building. Both buildings were constructed from the same blue-prints, hence the Palaver is a "carbon copy" of the Palatine. With a small cast of four players, all in multiple roles, and four instruments, the opera illustrates the ways in which the lives of the people who work in the two distinct buildings intersect and mirror each other.
Musically, the work contains a strong element of dissonance and heavy repetition of chords and lyrics. Tonally, it works very well, echoing the drudgery that occupies so much of the time of the Palaver's occupants, as well as their bleak surroundings. In contrast, the music associated with the Palantine is more vibrant and upbeat, while at the same time the characters who inhabit it reveal themselves to be almost insufferably shallow and preoccupied with appearance. Character is almost all in this work, as expressed though word and music, as the emphasis here is on establishing mood and not plot.
Ben Katchor, illustrator of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, provides the illustrations for the libretto and designed the front and rear projections which provided the setting for the staged production, and his angular, geometric art works well in matching the tone of the piece, and his color work here adds much to the visual presentation of the two buildings.
The Carbon Copy Building, in CD form, has the feel of a well-intentioned experiment. It's quality work, but hearing it alone, even accompanied by the illustrated libretto, makes it clear that this is primarily a performance piece, and must actually be seen to be appreciated to its fullest. It is available from Cantaloupe Music.
Roy and Al by Ralf Konig
Roy and Al is the latest English language translation of one of German cartoonist Ralf Konig's books. His work often takes the form of humorous examinations of gay men's lives, and in this book he presents the relationship between fat slob mutt Roy and high-strung purebred terrier Al, two very dissimilar dogs brought together because their masters are in love. Through the eyes of good-natured Roy and bitchy Al, Konig skewers drag queens, fag hags, diva worshippers and what passes for gay culture.
But Konig doesn't just focus on gay men in his satire. Pretentious dog breeders and the sometimes difficult relationships between people and their pets are strongly satirized as well. In contrast to their usual depiction in cartoons as good and faithful servants, Konig also portrays dogs in a more realistic and human recognizable manner as self-important twerps who demand to be the center of attention.
Konig is a master cartoonist and humorist, and his work is always worth seeking out. Very little of it is both in English and in print. This edition has been released by Canadian publisher Arsenal Pulp Press in a soft-cover, color album format, and is available through Amazon Canada, as well as many fine Canadian bookstores, I'm sure.
Certain segments of comics fandom, given half an opportunity, will loudly and frequently complain about characters being "shoved" down their throats. What they usually mean by this is that someone is trying to publish a comic featuring a character that is not either a straight white male or an over-endowed white woman. Viewed from a certain angle, what their complaints mean is that they're nostalgic for this type of story:
That's Jimmy Olsen, super-spy, escaping from a prison in a Latin American country with a sultry senorita on his arm. And that's about as good as it gets in this comic.
Hmm, strange women throwing themselves at Jimmy, and the poor sap is too stupid to realize that any woman who greets him that enthusiastically is either a secret agent or, well, stupid.
Naturally she's an enemy spy. Personally, I think she killed herself just to get away from Jimmy.
... Oh, man...a "sleepy" latino, complete with poncho and sombrero. All he's missing is a little burro on a string to complete the racist stereotype trifecta. And before anyone attempts to defend the image, yes, I know that used to be the logo for Taco Bell. Didn't make it any less offensive there, either.
They knew he was an imposter because he wasn't wearing a sombrero.
I think that bears repeating, actually.
They knew he was an imposter because he wasn't wearing a sombrero.
Until I read this story, I'd never actually wanted to punch a comics creator before.
A little bondage for the kiddies, and Jimmy Olsen showing all the self-awareness of a dry sponge yet again.
Gosh, I'm sure that no cultural assumptions about the virtue of Hispanic women factored into their portrayal in this tale...
We'll set aside the potential offensiveness about Lucy doing a culturally insensitive impersonation of a Romany woman to focus on the important point here, Jimmy getting what for.
There's been a sudden surge in straight men doing drag.
Now, I get that they're supposed to be doing bad drag, but the result is still...unsettling. And I think I know why. Fellows, when you're doing drag, that's one of the few times that "manscaping" is appropriate. If not necessary, in fact.
The Plain Janes is officially solicited, and I really hope that DC isn't planning on emphasizing this title in direct market stores rather than bookstores. Something tells me a non-genre work aimed at teen and pre-teen girls isn't going to go over well with your average comics retailer.
I'm a sucker. World War III sounds interesting. The same can be said for Amazons Attack.
I remember when Harley Quinn appearing in Detective would have made it a big seller. Ah, nerd popularity is a fickle thing.
Supergirl #16 has a solicitation which reads "Finally, the truth about the Girl from Krypton!" and I can't help but think that's something that should have been established before the series was over a year old.
The first issue of Doctor Fate indicates that Kent Nelson will be the new Doctor Fate. Kent Nelson being the original Doctor Fate, of course. So, not only is it a spoiler of the upcoming Fate specials, but it's an awkward Golden Age retro-fit ala bringing back Carter Hall as Hawkman. That being said, it's Steve Gerber writing it, so I'll be likely to check it out.
Firestorm and Manhunter are both cancelled. In the former case, even I was starting to get a bit fatigued by the title, but I'm going to miss Manhunter. The only thing remotely like it at DC right now is Checkmate, and the large cast creates a certain inertia that Manhunter lacked.
Justice League of America and Justice Society of America cross-over. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that, given the broad clues dropped about "asylums" and "dreams" featuring into the story, the villain is going to be yet another revamp of Doctor Destiny. Which I'm fine with, because it means one less attempt to force Kingdom Come characters into the regular DC comics, something which is rapidly pissing me off with JSA.
Speaking of which, I can't be the only person who thinks Justice is kind of crap, can I?
Alan Moore: Wild Worlds collects a bunch of Moore's phoned in, needed-to-buy-a-house works.
DC's April Beefcake
Slim pickings again this month. This shot of Jack from Jack of Fables isn't bad.
But the clear winner has to be Nemesis in bondage.
Well, with Nextwave gone, let's see if there's anything to get excited about here. ...
Uhm, does newuniversal count, or am I obligated to be indifferent to it because it's lifting heavily from Philip K. Dick, via Grant Morrison?
Anyway...assuming Civil War actually finishes by April, there are at least four "epilogue" style books, and six titles with no solicitation information because apparently giving retailers adequate information to base orders on risks spoiling whatever ending they have in mind for the GREATEST COMIC BOOK EVER!!! this week.
Ultimate Spider-Man features Ultimate Ronin. Apparently Bendis really likes Ronin.
The solicitation for Amazing Spider-Man reads: "A sniperÂs bullet changes everything in Peter ParkerÂs life. Clad in his black costume, Spider-Man will stop at nothing to find the man who pulled the trigger and, even more important, the man who gave the kill order. This is Spider-Man at his darkest hour." Combined with some of the spoilers floating around about the third Spider-Man film, it really isn't looking good for Mary Jane, is it?
It's kind of cute that they think changing the name of Alpha Flight to Omega Flight and filling the book with D-listers will finally make it sell.
Mighty Avengers features a new, sexy female version of Ultron. Yes, Frank Cho is drawing the book. How'd you ever guess? I'm sure sexy female Ultron will look nothing at all like Ms. Marvel, Black Widow or the Wasp, with a slightly different wig and hair color.
I know Ak Var and Van Zee were inspired to become Nightwing and Flamebird, the heroes of the Kryptonians trapped in Kandor, after seeing the...close...relationship between Superman and Jimmy Olsen, but there are limits, honestly...
Speaking of Jimmy, what's he been up to?
Ah...hanging out in alleys waiting for strange men. I see.
Oh, get your minds out of the gutters, he was waiting for Speedy.
One of the things I wanted to be more prompt about here, as part of the same impulse that led me to start the picture a day project (which you're all paying attention to, right?), was talking about my experiences at the movies. Mostly because I'm brilliant and witty and you lucky people all deserve the benefit of my insight and opinion. But also because, unlike Mike, the lights of the cell phones being talked into during the film and the idiots behind you who didn't realize that the film was subtitles or the idiots in front of you who have been so busy talking amongst themselves that they've lost the plot and keep asking each other "Who's that? What's going on? Is she a bad guy?" haven't managed to completely overwhelm the pleasures of actually going to see a movie in a theater.
This week, we had a couple of options when Pete and I had the idea to go out. The killer crocodile movie looks like it could be dumb fun, and Dominic Purcell is very nice to look at, but I can't see watching this in any other circumstances than at home with a beer on one of Pete's rehearsal nights. To the shock of many, I'm sure, I've got no interest in seeing the currently hot musical, despite my reputation as the showtunes aficionado. Maybe if it had, oh I don't know, a completely different cast than the assemblage of "Don't-Wanna-Sees" it does feature I could be talked into it. And apparently unlike the rest of Santa Barbara county residents, I have no interest in seeing a film about over-privileged suburban white kids playing at being gangsters, and find their sick fascination with the real story's tangential relationship to the area a sign that I may have picked the wrong place to live.
Which pretty much left Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro's fairy-tale set in post Civil War Spain. It's easily del Toro's best film, but take that praise in the context that I've found every one of his previous films to be, at best, over praised. The acting is the best thing here, with the script slightly too convinced of its own significance, and at the very least it's visually masterful. Del Toro really is a much stronger director than a screen-writer, and this film makes that clear.
The main draw for people in this film is likely to be the fantasy elements. For myself, I found the fairy-tale elements a bit heavy-handed in their metaphor, with only one truly thrilling sequence, when Ofelia is sent into a dangerous and life-threatening situation by the faun and finds herself unable to obey the rules. At more than one point I found the fantasy film to be rather annoying, as it kept interrupting the wonderful and horrific story of fascist-ruled Spain and its effects on one little girl.
Apparently the theater operators felt the film's primary appeal was to those impressed with flash and gore, as the most prominent trailer before the film was for the all-flash-no-substance, Affleck needed to make a house payment Smokin' Aces, which offends me for its apostrophe. As for the other trailers: The Hitcher wasn't good the first time, and while Sean Bean makes for an acceptable Rutger Hauer substitute, making the C. Thomas Howell character a woman reeks of nothing so much as an attempt to downplay the homoerotic subtext of the original. Disturbia is a very stupid name for a blatant rip off of Rear Window, but since the target audience of CW network fans have likely never heard of Hitchcock's film, I suspect the producers will get away with it. That doesn't make Shia Labeouf Jimmy Stewart, though. The Number 23 stars Jim Carrey and is directed by Joel Schumacher, and if those aren't sufficient disincentives to viewing a film which appears to owe a large, and certainly uncredited, debt to the late Robert Anton Wilson, I don't know what is. At least it will give the Discordians something to be smug about.
Pal John wrote a piece for AlterNet about The End of Faith author Sam Harriss and his, er, frankly irrational embrace of pseudo-science and support of torture. Now, don't get me wrong, people are entitled to be wrong, but it seems odd for a man whose based his professional career on debunking Western religions to embrace just as kooky Eastern superstitions.
Needless to say, many AlterNet readers were not amused. Which, you know, doesn't surprise me in the least. Check out John's site for his response to his detractors and some of the not at all veiled threats he's received.
And one last little note on the comic that will radically redefine the Marvel Universe until the next retcon, I'd like to make a personal plea to the internet to stop spoiling the ending. It's not for me, mind you, but I'm not sure how much more whining over delays and rushed product I can stand to hear about if they decide to rewrite the ending again in response to internet rumors hitting too close to the mark. (Oh, like it hadn't occurred to any of you as the real reason for the delays!)
J. Bone has been posting new pictures in a mystery theme starting with this post, which is also my favorite of the pictures so far. That may be because it's a really clever allusion once you figure out what the theme of the series is.
Here, have some Tiger Lillies:
Nothing like songs about obscure philosophical figures beating children to death sung in a falsetto.
Remember when I said that "Clone Thor" was the worst idea in a comic, ever? I spoke too soon. Marvel managed an even stupider idea with this "Penance" character. It's almost as if they took all those fan complaints about the alleged "darkening" of the DC universe and decided to see if they could top that with the most inappropriate character they could find to make into a dark and grim angst machine.
I'm honestly flabberghasted at this. I don't even feel slightly guilty for putting up a spoiler-ish post on a new comic, because if this knowledge "ruins" the comic for anyone, well, good.
I don't even like the character, and I can tell that this is an insanely stupid idea.
The Less Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Now, lest anyone be tempted to think otherwise, it's not as if the Greg Lands, Michael Turners or Jim Balents of the comics scene are anything new. Character inappropriate cheesecake and titillation shots have been around as long as comics, and even staid old Joe Staton was wont to indulge from time to time, as The Huntress: Darknight Daughter amply demonstrates. The book is almost certainly worth checking out for any Huntress or Earth 2 fans, though many of the shots make me wonder who, given that the strip ran as a back-up in Wonder Woman, DC execs thought was reading Wonder Woman at the time.
I'm not so much worried about the talking to herself as I am the posing seductively to herself.
Here we see Helena has learned to keep her mouth shut while expositioning, but not to tie her damn robe front.
Joe Staton apparently really liked drawing Huntress from behind. Seriously, the book is full of oddly angled butt shots. This is rather tame.
I'm willing to over-look the bondage, because it's something of a Batman comic tradition, but the strategically torn shirt and threats from a phallic object are a bit much.
Earlier in the book, Helena refers to Dick as her "step-brother." And yet, there's an awful lot of flirtatious banter and longing looks passing between Helena and Dick. It's just sort of creepily odd, is all I'm saying.
Of course, what's really interesting is that, despite Staton's obvious fondness for drawing Helena's derriere and Power Girl's bosom, both PG and Huntress have, by comics standards, healthy and realistic physiques. So, maybe at least some things were better in the pre-Crisis days; super-heroines actually ate every once in awhile.
Oh, all right, one more completely subtext-free panel:
Okay, two wondrous things, counting a new issue of All Star Superman.
The second volume of Reborn is released in English. Reborn, of course, being the fantastic manga title about a toddler assassin.
Here's the opening and closing songs from the anime series, for no particular reason.
If I correctly interpret the Japanese home-page for the title, they're currently up to volume 12. That means many, many more volumes of mayhem to look forward to.
It was also a pretty good week for those of us following Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, as Captain Jack finally got some.
Here's another clip, whose context won't mean much unless you saw the episode. Unless of course you like looking at handsome men kissing, in which case, there you go...
On the whole, despite a shaky start, I think Torchwood turned out pretty good...even if the "big bad" was stretching credibility for the concept of the show a little. And hey, for those who were put off by it, and didn't consider it sufficiently Who-vian, there's also The Sarah Jane Adventures, which was nice as well, but definitely a call-back to the kid-vid days of Doctor Who.
The only sour note struck with my entertainment choices this week was Huntress: Darknight Daughter. I enjoyed the book, but dear lord, someone needed to teach Helena to close her damn robe.