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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
User Generated Content and Sexy Christian Archie
I just simply can't decide what to post this week, so I'm leaving it up to all of you. Your options are a discussion of a vintage Phantom Lady story, or a list, with explanations, of what I am not buying this week, comics-wise. Because that Phantom Lady story? Nutty. And everybody does lists of what they are buying.
So, remember the other day, when I mentioned that, ironically, it's the explicitly Christian Archie comics that come the closest to actually discussing, you know...S E X.
Here 'ya go:
Whoa-hoa! A naughty double-intender! Mr. Lodge's misunderstanding of the "it" to which Veronica refers will be humorous.
Steadfastly holding to a preconceived opinion, despite repeated attempts to inform him that he's wrong? Yep, Mr. Lodge is a Republican.
Betty brings us a parable about love and sex:
Two things occur to me. One, Reggie is clearly a date-rapist of some kind. And yet, the kids still put up with him. And two, that orange is a dirty, dirty slut. Also, please note, that in all these stories, sex is exclusively something men pressure women into doing. The idea of a woman being a sexual being herself is not permitted in these stories. Given that this is also the story in which Betty makes a plea for loving and standing by your man, even defending him, no matter how badly he takes advantage of you or is in the wrong, that shouldn't be too surprising.
So, the worst thing that happened to Veronica today is that someone tried to sell her pot? Yep, she's a Republican. Man, if she freaks out this badly over people smoking pot in high school, she's going to have an aneurysm when she gets to college. Assuming, of course, that Mr. Lodge doesn't marry her off to a nice Christian boy right after graduation.
Dale Lazarov passed this on to me, so I'm passing it on to all of you.
Right now, I am casting for a colorist for MANLY, a 72-page book that I and the illustrator have to submit to Bruno Gmünder Verlag (a German gay art book publisher) in part by October 1st and complete by January 10th. There is no page rate for the work but the colorist would get 20% of the advance and the royalties for the length of the book's contract (usually, seven years; for the first year's print run of 2500, you'd make $500). This publication is a DONE DEAL -- this is not speculation. They want to publish MANLY. Right now, we need a colorist to meet the deadlines.
The work would be "work for hire" (in other words, you would not share in the copyright) but your 20% over the publication life of the book would remain in place. My first book, STICKY, came out in hardcover last year and I have two more books coming out next year.
I can e-mail applicants a page they can color as a sample as well as two images colored by Amy that you can use as style guides. The illustrator, Amy Colburn, wants a Disney animated-style cel-shading for the project. Whoever does the best job gets the contract.
Applicants must send an e-mail address to Homoludenz@aol.com so I can send them the pages and log them in as an applicant. Applicants would have until next Saturday (August the 4th) to submit their work.
The gender and orientation of the colorist is of absolutely no matter to me; talent is. Applicants must be over 18 and have no conflicting commitments as there are currently 24 inked pages that need coloring right away with 48 inked pages about to come in from the illustrator in the next few months.
Just so you know I am not a looney, here's the Wikipedia page for my first book, STICKY:
IDW finally manges to put out a book I'll buy. I mean, sure, it'll cost about $1 to $2 more than it should, but it's Doctor Who! Of course, I'm not optimistic about it's sales potential. Doctor Who is pretty much a cult show in the U.S. Comic books are a niche market. Comic adaptations of TV properties are even more of a niche market...you see where I'm going with this, right?
Top Shelf to reprint Marshall Law. Now all you little pissants complaining that Grant Morrison "clearly hates super-heroes" can see what a comic created by people who really hate super-heroes looks like.
Matt Wagner to write Madame Xanadu for Vertigo. So DCU characters can appear in Vertigo books, but characters in Vertigo books can't appear in DCU titles. I appreciate the intentions behind keeping the lines separate, but they're straining reader patience at this point with it.
Monster Attack Network by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman and Nima Sorat, published by AIT/Planet Lar
Ever wondered who cleans up after those giant monster attacks? Or who is responsible for making sure the city gets evacuated? This is the story of the folks responsible for maintaining the safety of the citizens of the tiny island nation of Lapuatu. It's a decidedly high-concept book, with a beautifully calculated appeal to monster movie fans who don't take themselves too seriously in its premise. It's fast-paced, funny and has a frenetically expressionistic art style that's just enough this side of caricature to get the humor and energy of the story right. It's fantastic fun, escapist entertainment, to be brief.
Not going to Comic-Con. Not particularly interested in Comic-Con. Maybe if it were about two hours closer, about one-third to one-half the size, and actually about comic-books instead of selling games, movies and tv shows to nerds, I'd be interested, but everything I ever hear about it suggests that, nope, the closest thing the comics industry has to a trade expo is not for me.
"Roomer" is one of those polite euphemisms. Like "Boston Marriage." But when you're a talking tiger in a tacky suit, it's catch as catch can, I suppose. (Oh please, like you never worked out that Mr. Tawky Tawny was supposed to be gay before now?)
That's right Billy, werewolves, vampires and ghouls are just stories. Like wizards. Or sextet's of pagan gods with nothing better to do than give super-powers to little orphan boys. Or talking tigers.
Billy runs into a little trouble on the way home, though.
I think we've all wanted to kill Billy at one point, so it's hard to hold it against Mr. Tawny.
So, he's a tiger...who turns into a tiger? Once again, the question of what exactly Mr. Tawny is supposed to be is muddled.
Of course he's guilty, he's the only talking tiger in the world. No wonder they call him the world's greatest detective. No, wait...
After a young couple is mauled while making out in the park at night, Billy and Mr. Jones decide to set a trap for Mr. Tawny, who has run away in order to evade capture.
Okay, hands up who didn't see that coming. Was this your first comic? Was this your first narrative?
If you ever wondered how often Billy gets tied up and gagged, only to have something conveniently rip his gag off at the last second, the answer is "twice per issue." The "unable to say the magic word because he's choking on his own blood" angle is new, though.
Mr. Tawky Tawny just killed a guy with a stick. Mr. Tawky Tawny just killed a guy with a stick!
Superboy, visiting his friends in the Legion, takes time to save someone who has fallen on the magno-train tracks. Typically, his motives aren't exactly pure...
Yes, that is normal day wear in the 30th Century.
"Several passengers were taken to Science Hospitals for various minor injuries after Superboy forced a train into making a sudden stop today..."
Okay, so...Superboy has met a girl...he's interested in the girl...the girl is interested in him...
Something horrible is going to happen, isn't it?
Yes, Superboy, you've been flirting with your great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grand-daugther! I'm not sure if that's "more creepy" or "less creepy" than hitting on your under-age cousin.
I count six books with the word Countdown in their title and another three explicitly identified as tie-ins. So DC learned the wrong lesson from Civil War... It's "better stories/fewer tie-ins" guys. When you release a flood of tie-ins, the good stories get lost and all the public sees is the cash-grab attempt.
For some reason, the notion of Starfire's adventures hanging out with Buddy Baker's kids amuses me greatly.
I still want to know who felt that the world needed a Lord Havok and the Extremeists mini-series. I just know that some horribly significant "event" will take place in the book, in order to justify its existence, because there aren't enough people on message boards and LiveJournal who insist DC bring back everything connected to the Giffen-era league to make this profitable.
Bill Morrison writing Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, terrible puns and all? Yes please.
You would think that Batman and the Outsiders would have enough retro-homage points in its favor to get me to at least look at it, but with Koi Turnbull on art I'm fairly indifferent to it, as I associate him pretty strongly with Michael Turner's Aspen studio, and I simply do not care for that style of art.
Green Arrow/Black Canary #1's solicitation refers to a "shocking event" at the wedding, and features Black Canary teamed up with Conor Hawke on the cover. So, it's either a fake-out or DC may have spoiled something.
Death of the New Gods: Okay, I'm the guy who actually kind of liked Jim Starlin's take on the characters. I mean, don't get me wrong, if you're going to do a new New Gods series, I'd rather see someone like Grant Morrison take it and go gonzo, or someone like Busiek take it and do a good polish, but I'm not going to sulk about either the presence of Starlin or the word "Death" in the title.
I'm actually looking forward to Greg Rucka's Crime Bible as well. Again, I seem to be one of the few who actually likes She-Question.
Metamorphoa Year One: I don't generally mind Dan Jurgens, but the notion of him doing a new origin for a goofy Kanigher character like Metamorpho is causing me to have flash-backs to that Metal Men book he did. That's not a good thing.
Gotham Underground features just about every Gotham-based character, or so it promises, including possibly the first significant post-52 appearance of the much reviled by fanboys, which is strange given she's a red-headed Jewish lesbian in leather, Batwoman. I'm a sucker for "Gotham" stories, apparently...I'll probably check this out.
Booster Gold #3: I've seen less homoerotic longing on a man's face in actual gay porn. Yes, I'm talking about Booster. Come on, I can't be the only one who sees it!
DC Infinite Halloween Special: DC villains telling horror stories about the heroes. Neat idea. And no pun to ruin by skittish middle-managers this time, either.
Blue Beetle #20 ties in to the Sinestro Corps storyline, and a perfectly good "torn uniform" cover is wasted on an underage character...
Batman #670 and Robin Annual #7 are preludes to the "Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul" storyline. Who wants to bet that Liam Neeson is making a return appearance in the next Batman movie?
Aquaman is apparently cancelled with issue #57. Which disappoints me, as I was really enjoying Tad Williams' run on the book. It's a nice balance between the fantasy tone Busiek relaunched the book with and traditional super-heroics. Now I'm just wondering if my pet theory about who the new Arthur Curry really is will turn out to be right or not...
I really like the cover to Birds of Prey #111 for no good reason:
Brave and the Bold #7 is a team-up with Wonder Woman and Power Girl...I'm going to make a bet with Mike about this book. I'm fairly certain I'm going to be right about..."reaction"...to this issue.
Countdown Special: The Flash 80 Page Giant: read the adventures of the Flash's Rogues from before they were turned into child-murderers and rendered pretty much unusable.
Justice League of America #14: Now with John Stewart!
The faces make me giggle, though. Yes, all of them.
Justice Society of America #10. More Kingdom Come nonsense. Why doesn't DC ever want to revisit a good comic?
I've noticed people making much of the supposed "spoiler" on the cover to Checkmate #19. Really, it screams "fake out" to me.
Metal Men #3 features the Death-Metal Men. Is it too soon to declare this my favorite comic?
This cover makes me laugh. I can just hear Detective Chip berating Enchantress for missing the chalk outline.
Dammit, Wonder Girl, get out of the way! You're blocking the man-candy!
Gail Simone starts her run on Wonder Woman with the thirteenth issue. I'm looking forward to it, I know lots of people are looking forward to it, but I'm starting to get a "this will be the cure to cancer and world hunger" vibe off of some of the people looking forward to it. Yeah, it'll be good, but let's temper our expectations a little, okay?
The cover for the hard-cover collection of the first The Brave and the Bold story-line features a new illustration. I can't even remember the last time I saw a new illustration on a collected edition cover...
I'm fairly indifferent to a Showcase Presents volume for the Suicide Squad, but the Secret Society of Super-Villains? One of those books I simply can never fill a run of? Yeah, I'm there.
I'm pretty sure that's what happened to the Black Dahlia...
Christos Gage and Darick Robertson on Authority? Yes, please.
Let's see...Trick 'R Treat...a four issue, weekly mini-series by Manhunter's Marc Andreyko...okay, interested..."based on the major motion picture"...oh dear. I simply do not trust my chances of finding a quality horror film in the current market-place.
Vinyl Underground is billed as a cross between Invisibles and CSI. Those...don't sound like complimentary influences. The cognitive dissonance created by trying to wrap my head around that has me curious.
Testament's third collection is due out...trust me, this is a good series. Also, The Exterminators. You should be reading those books.
An Ambush Bug Mini-Mate? To go with my Wildcat, Power Girl and Wonder Woman? Neat! Oh, it comes with Lobo? Never mind...
Marvel is launching two minis featuring characters created by Steve Gerber, Omega the Unknown and Howard the Duck. Steve Gerber isn't involved in either title. This tells me that someone at Marvel has fundamentally misunderstood the appeal of those characters.
Another new Marvel Zombies book begins, as Marvel is bound and determined to milk that particular cash cow until you're all damn good and sick of zombies.
New Avengers #35 features a Venom-possessed Wolverine on the cover. Wow...just when you think Marvel couldn't do anything more to make me dislike Wolverine, they find a way...
Okay, so New Warriors #s 1 and 2...pretty good. Surprisingly good, given how little interest I've had in the post-Civil War Marvel Universe. And now, the solicitation for #5 teases us with a "we're going to kill off our viewpoint character" cover. It's a bit too obvious...I doubt it will really happen, they're being so obvious...but still, way to undo the goodwill I was starting to feel towards your properties, there.
Why are all the female characters in The Order showing off their belly-buttons, anyway? Will that be addressed in the first issue?
X-Men: Die by the Sword looks to be an Exiles/New Excalibur cross-over. Man, if I were, say, eight, that might excite me.
The last Foolkiller mini-series was quite good. Given what the rest of Marvel was publishing at the time, it was pretty surprising that it was so good, as well. I seem to recall from earlier interviews with the creators that the impression I had of this new Foolkiller series was that it was going to be ultra-violent and focused on "ironic" punishments, in the vein of films like Saw. I think I can skip it. It's going to be a real hard sell to get me to look at it.
Wolverine: Evolution not only gets a hard-cover collection (and I'm always surprised by what Marvel thinks warrants a hard-cover collection), but a black-and-white variant edition as well. Okay, yeah...that's almost enough to make me never want to buy another comic with Wolverine in it ever again, for fear that it might encourage more things like that.
Marvel Beefcake for October
Really, Sub-Mariner? Is that the best Marvel can do?
Action Comics #851, by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Adam Kubert, published by DC
For a long-delayed continuation of a story-line, there really isn't much in the way of forward plot momentum here. We get a cameo by Mon-El, a surprise villain team-up in the conclusion, and very brief check-ups on various cast members. But the bulk of the issue is devoted to Superman in the Phantom Zone, fighting enemies there, and seeing lots of, well, formless gray shapes. The real point of the book, though, isn't to advance the plot, though a tiny bit of exposition takes place, and there is an explanation as to how a child could be born in the Phantom Zone. No, the point of the book is to show off the "new and improved" Phantom Zone, updated for the 21st century, but strangely reminiscent of the design aesthetics of the 1970s, in eye-straining 3D. It's pretty much style over substance, to be blunt. And it's another reason why I'm enjoying Kurt Busiek's Superman a lot more than this title.
All Flash #1, by Mark Waid and various, published by DC
So, DC broke the Flash. To put that statement into context, the last time DC broke a character so badly, it was Hawkman, in a book called Zero Hour. If we accept as true DC's assertion that the Bart Allen Flash series was a deliberate exercise in planned obsolescence, it's hard not to read this as simultaneously a "eff you" to the people who did enjoy that series, and a mea culpa to those who absolutely had to have Wally West back. It's not quite Flash: Rebirth, but the attempt seems to have been made. Of course, what many saw as the problem with the Bart Allen Flash was that the character's evolution was too much and too sudden. He went from an essentially optimistic teen hero character to an angsty and insecure adult. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the changes to Wally West's character when his title first launched. And what of Wally West now? He's gone from a former side-kick grown into his predecessor's role to...a middle-aged father of pre-adolescent twins, who, oh yeah, are also super-heroes, with extra bonus angst over the death of a relative and a new dark and grim and gritty and grim and dark and grim no-nonsense attitude towards dealing with criminals. With ironic torture.
Black Diamond #2, by Larry Young and Jon Proctor, published by AIT/Planet Lar
The second issue features lots of snappy dialogue and a big jump in exposition, as more characters come into play and the various factions at play get fleshed out. It's very good building on the world and filling in of back-story, but now I'm really eager to see some car chase action smash-em-ups in the book. For the back-up this time, we have a surprisingly sincere story from Ken Lowery, revealing that there's more to the Black Diamond than lawless gangs.
Elephantmen: The Pilot by various, published by Image
This is a cute little collection of alternative interpretations of Hip Flask and his world through pin-ups and "fan comics", presented as web-comics within the world of of Elephantmen. The material is of varying quality, though the intentions are good and appreciated. The stand-out of the book is a Hip Flask as Spirit pastiche by Busiek and Immonen.
The Programme #1, by Peter Milligan and C.P. Smith, published by DC/Wildstorm
Milligan's latest is an interesting science-fiction tale with "super-human" overtones that draws a connection between the competition for Nazi scientists between Russia and America post-World War Two and contemporary and Cold War-era conflicts in the Middle East. It's actually pulled off quite well; there's some meat to the premise and an intriguing cast of characters who are skillfully introduced through subtle characterization. Which is a bit of a problem, as the build up is a little too slow. There's simply not enough explanation of what is going on to justify a reader's interest. In a collected form, the book feels like it will read quite nicely, but as a monthly series, with information doled out slowly, there's not enough here in the premiere to get worked up about. Smith's artwork is very good. He has a style which suggests photo-realism, while still making effective use of more expressionistic techniques. It grounds the visual look of the series, gives it a "realistic" edge, which does a good job towards selling the concept of the book.
Also of note, in the preview for the new DC solicitations, was this little...gem? COUNTDOWN PRESENTS: LORD HAVOK AND THE EXTREMISTS #1 Written by Frank Tieri Art and cover by Liam Sharpe Don’t miss this special 6-part COUNTDOWN miniseries featuring the most powerful beings on Earth-8 — Lord Havok and his Extremists — written by Frank Tieri (GOTHAM UNDERGROUND) and illustrated by Liam Sharp (TESTAMENT)! Lord Havok! Dr. Diehard! Tracer! Gorgon! Dreamslayer! Carny! Meet these dangerous individuals and learn why they are so integral to COUNTDOWN and the fate of the Multiverse! Guest-starring Monarch, the Monitors, Donna Troy, Jason Todd and Kyle Rayner! On sale October 31 • 1 of 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Okay, an Extremists mini-series? I blame all of you with paranoid fantasies about Dan Didio trying to "destroy" the Giffen-era Justice League for this. This is DC's answer to your complaints, you realize.
So, it's a typical day at Station Whiz, with Billy and his boss sitting around watching television instead of, you know, working...
"So, instead of reporting facts, I'll just be reporting any nonsense I make up? So it'll be like that summer I worked for Fox News?" "Exactly Billy!"
What follows is a montage of Captain Marvel staying in various haunted locales in search of inspiration for his stories. So it's kind of like one of those "Ghost Hunters" type shows, only without easily spooked idiots running around in the dark.
Well, Billy is a total disaster as a writer of ghost stories, so eventually Station Whiz has no choice but to, er, try to retain the good employee they made no attempt to keep in the first place...
So the station manager and Captain Marvel show up at I.J. Scarum's house, and force the butler to allow them to spend the night so that they can meet up with Mr. Scarum and persuade him to come back to work. Because intimidation, assault and trespassing aren't crimes if you're a big shot radio television station owner, apparently. Ah, but do the fates have a cruel twist in store for our heroes?
What follows is the most anti-climatic villain reveal ever:
Did Captain Marvel just resolve a conflict by bribing a ghost? Man, I love comics...
Bad enough we have one of those damn manikin things. But a salt grinder is suspect enough...cooking with sea salt is damn suspect...but combining the two, throwing in roasted garlic, and oh yeah, let's make sure the sea salt is Mediterranean? Gay.
"Zygons? When did I meet Zygons? Wait a minute...this book isn't in continuity!"
Another true tale from the comic shop, from when Employee Aaron heard about my twelve inch Doctor figure: Aaron: Did they make a Captain Jack figure? Dorian: They did in the six inch line, but I haven't heard of one in the twelve inch line. But, from what I've heard, a John Barrowman figure should really be ten inches. Mike: Gyah!
No one would ever forget the day that Scooter was roundly rogered by a kangaroo.
I opened up my copy of Previews, and it immediately flopped to this postcard. That's a hell of a thing to have to see right off.
And no, no "Boob Count" this month. Do you have any idea how damn depressing it was to do last time?
Groo is apparently coming back, and bringing with it some of its subtle political themes. Of course, I don't remember online conversations about politics being quite so...vitriolic...the last time a Groo comic was on the stands. No doubt we'll see a "hilarious" blog post from the conservative comics blogosphere debunking the "Global Warming Myth" hinted at in the solicitation for Hell on Earth.
Dark Horse is bringing John Norman's Gor books back into print. One of the most blatantly misogynistic fantasy series of all time, if not the most misogynistic fantasy series. A series alleged to have inspired real-life crimes against women. And I've yet to hear a peep about it from anyone...
Yet another new edition of The Pro is due out...man, Ennis is just determined to cause Steranko a coronary, isn't he?
Oh, great...more zombie crap...
No, seriously...Gold Digger still comes out? Well, good for Fred Perry, I guess.
This is me avoiding a cheap shot at The Unfunnies.
Dear Bluewater Productions: you are, in fact, allowed to use colors other than brown.
I think DMP needs a theme song. Any suggestions? (Yes, "Dude looks like a lady" is too obvious.)
Has anyone been reading these Fangoria comics? I've flipped through a couple in the shop, and they're incredibly unpleasant. Both in terms of quality and subject matter. Real pandering to the lowest common denominator stuff here. I'm half curious to know if anyone out there actually is enjoying these things. But then, I also think they may be aiming at a market other than comic fans. Have they been hyping these things in the magazine and the horror fandom circuit?
Also, this seems as good a time as any to mention it, but if you've never gone through the "Adult Previews" supplement, I highly recommend it. There's nothing quite like that moment of cognitive dissonance you get when, after going through three or four pages of solicitations for soft-core lesbian porn you come across a full page ad for Japanese boy-love comics.
Oh, all right. "The Unfunnies? Talk about truth in advertising!"
So, after all that grief Diamond gave Tim Leong about Comic Foundry not meeting their standards (reminder: Diamond carries such products as the Rich Little Bitch DVD and Girls and Corpses magazine), they carry it and give it a "Spotlight On" tag...Granted, Housewives at Play: Lez Be Friends is also a "Spotlight On" item. Also, go tell your friendly local comics retailer that you want Comic Foundry.
You thought I was kidding about Girls and Corpses, didn't you?
From the solicitation for God's Gift: Over 100 Studs, Stallions and Dreamboats of the 70s and 80s: "From Arnold Schwarzenegger and Patrick Swayze, to Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds and Mr. T, this sexy collection of over one-hundred Lotharios, Romeos, and Casanovas from the '70s and '80s is sure to make your pulse race..." Now, I lived through the 80s...I don't remember Mr. T at any point being considered a hunk. Hell, I think they're stretching to include Arnie...
"You're sure this is a legitimate modeling gig, right? Not some weird fetish mag?"
Surprisingly, not the gayest toy in Previews this month.
Oh, so Asian kids don't get names, is that it? Mezco are a bunch of racists! (That last line may have been a joke...)
Who's the cutest widdle mass-murderer? You are! Yes you are! Oh, yes you are!
This would be the gayest toy in Previews this month:
There, fangirls, are you happy? A man being objectified in the exact same way as all those girly statues and toys! Happy? Satisfied? (That last line may have been a joke...) [Yes, it really was a joke! He's in a strong, assertive pose, not waiting to be mounted. So not at all like any of the girly statues, really.]
Oh, I think I may have found a cuter widdle mass-murderer!
Pete, if you're reading this, no, I do not really find mass-murderers cute.
Actual conversation I had with that jerk Mike when I placed my order for this: "You know Dorian, you should really get a Cyberman. Martha and the Doctor need someone to fight." "Oh, they're not going to fight, Mike." "Gyah!" (Yes, I did order the Cyberman. But not Novice Hame. Though, man, she does look cool...)
Man, a new edition of Talisman and a Kingdom Hearts CCG? Nerd Bliss! (Admit it, some of you are shocked that I'm a geek for one of those things, much less both of them.)
This week, the comics controversy was over how manga aimed at adult men doesn't sell, and those people who like manga aimed at adult men should just shut the fuck up because manga isn't for YOU, it's for girls!
Gosh, that sounds familiar...where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, when female fans of super-hero comics ask if they could have a little less misogyny in their escapist entertainment, please? Now, some folk might say that "turnabout is fair play." I think it's just slightly hypocritical, myself. Especially since it's not a question of "boys manga" not selling while "girls manga" is. It's a question of "adult manga for men and women" not selling while "manga for teens and preteens" is. As usual, go read what Chris says for a good approach to the topic that doesn't mince words and has the added benefit of coinciding with my own position.
Of course, my mind gets to turning on these things, and somehow my own experiences don't seem to jibe with everyone else's reality. For example, when I worked in the comic shop, where everyone said that the adult manga is selling like gang-busters, most of our customers were teenage girls and little kids. In fact, apart from blatant fan service titles for which I know we have guaranteed sales with a couple of customers, I tend to avoid ordering too heavy on more mature titles. But when I go to my local chain bookstore, who do I always see in the manga aisles? Not teenage girls. Nope, I see Asian male UCSB students, Goth and hipster girls in their late teens/early 20s, and a smattering of jock and skater-type teenage boys. (Hey, guess who I always catch reading the yaoi when I stroll the aisles? Hint: I think American manga publishers are idiots for not licensing some manga aimed at actual gay men...particularly gay men who might not identify with wispy, effeminate eunuchs, but are still of an age where they're looking to the mass media for role models.)
Now, my own manga tastes tend to the eclectic, so I can't really draw any broad conclusions based on what I like. I mean, I like Yotsuba!, xxxHolic, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Monster, MPD Psycho and Reiko the Zombie Shop. Crap, based on how the Japanese categorize manga, those are all aimed at adult men, aren't they? Well, maybe not MPD Psycho, but you wouldn't know that from the way it's being marketed in the U.S. Well, maybe my tastes have simply evolved...what's on my "discontinued manga shelf"? City Hunter, Worst, Apocalypse Meow and Ginga Legend Weed. Dammit. Oh, and a handful of Inu Yasha volumes I pre-ordered but never read before dropping the title because, seriously, they're still looking for that damn jewel?
Well, what manga specifically for boys am I reading? Musashi #9...that's about a female spy. Reborn...that's about a toddler who trains people to join the mafia. Death Note...that's about a sociopath. Inubaka...that's about a girl working in a pet shop. Tsubasa...that's more of an ensemble comedy/continuity porn book. Welcome to the NHK...no, that's a biting satire of otaku culture. Dammit! Don't I read any manga about young boys fighting so that they can become the best fighters so that they can win the big fight! Everyone keeps telling me that's what shonen manga is all about! Wait, there was Ranma 1/2...no, that's finished. Damn! Kindaichi Case Files maybe?
Well, what about the girly manga? Surely my tastes align with the mainstream with my girly manga! Let's see The Wallflower...no, that's a total inversion of the formula. Angel Sanctuary...no, that's apocalyptic melodrama with extra bonus incest. There's a ton of Fumi Yoshinaga stuff...no, that's yaoi, or may as well be. Fruits Basket is pretty cliche-ridden. Oh, wait, of course! Yu Watase! All of her comics are about a spunky yet clumsy girl who somehow manages to get all the pretty boys to fall in love with her! It's damn near the Platonic ideal of a shojo manga. Yes, all of them.
So, yes, I think this whole controversy is just a little bit silly. Though, I do think those rushing to defend the primacy of teen and pre-teen manga would do well to glance over the history of American comics. You know, that form that used to publish works in a large variety of genres for multiple age ranges...and is now something like 90% super-hero books written for teenagers and adults. Avoiding the stigma of "that stupid kiddie stuff" now might be a good idea.
Young Romance #196 teaches all of us some valuable lessons. The chief lesson is that romance comics are way fucking creepy.
Pity poor Debbie...she's forced to bear witness to the most melodramatic divorce this side of a Lifetime movie. Although I do believe that this is the first time I've ever seen a family separate for the sake of the children's reputation.
Fortunately, Debbie's mom has an empty void in her life and an inability to function without thinking of herself as a man's property, so she's right back in the dating scene.
"Such a charming man...why, he even compliments my teenage daughter on how attractive she is. And he's always picking out these fancy clothes for her, wanting to spend time alone with her. What a perfect step-dad!"
Fortunately, before this becomes a "very special" episode of Degrassi, Debbie goes out with her pseudo-hippie boyfriend and discovers what her step-dad gets up to when Mom isn't around, and the marriage is thankfully K.O.-ed.
Of course, Mom's not complete without a man, so...
At least she appears to be marrying into money this time, and not into the Marina.
Is the creepiness over?
First rule of Fight Club: do NOT flirt with your step-brother. Wait, that's not right...
Okay, the kid is probably right, but it can't get any creepier, right?
"It's right for us," in addition to being one of the all-time lamest come on lines, right up there with "Just touch it", only becomes even more disturbing in the context of being spoken to your step-sister. Remember kids, implied incest is WRONG!
Anyway, Debbie briefly comes to her senses and takes up with her boyfriend not related to her by marriage.
"How dare you make out with some stranger boy when you've got a perfectly good step-brother at home, young lady!"
It's at this point that Debbie's step-brother proposes they run off together, but Debbie tells him "no glove, no love." No, wait, that's not right. She refuses to go with him unless they get married. I'm not sure in what state their love is legal, but there you go. So she runs back to Bill, only he wants nothing to do with her because her mom yelled at him. Bill, you're an idiot.
Luckily the story ends on this hopeful and not at all creep-tastic note.
So, remember back at the beginning, when Debbie asked us to judge her?
The news that Catherine Tate will star in the fourth series of Doctor Who as a full-time companion has been causing melt-downs in Doctor Who-fandom for almost a week now. It's a full-on, fan entitlement, "the official canon contradicts my fan-fiction", "it sucks because it's not the way I would do it" fantrum spree on every Doctor Who fan-site and message-board. I'm having fun with it, because, you know me, if it causes this much hair-pulling in fandom, I tend to think it's probably a good thing.
Funny thing is, the last time I saw this much fanguish in Doctor Who, it was when the series came back and they announced that it would be co-starring some Britney-wannabe pop singer.
Me, I'm kinda warming to the idea. We need another Tegan. Besides, it could be worse...we could be getting another Adric...or Peri...shudder...
You know how I've mentioned before that one of the problems with comic publishers is that they don't do a good enough job of separating out their children's lines from their general audience lines from their mature readers lines? Well, it's not a fault unique to comic publishers. Film-makers apparently have difficulty telling the three audiences apart as well. If you doubt my word on that, go and see Transformers, and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.
The Transformers film is an attempt to take a children's toy line and make it palatable for the general audience, but somehow along the way they ended up making a film for, well, guys my age, who played with the toys when they were kids, and now want the property to be as "serious" and "mature" as they imagine themselves to be. What you end up with is a film pretending to be for children, but with enough overtures towards sex and violence as to firmly place it in the "not for children" category. Let's take, for example, some of the violence. The film ends with a giant robot battle through a busy, densely populated city. The death toll from this fight must enter into the thousands, minimum. Yet that is all glossed over, because we're supposed to feel bad that one of the robots got hurt. It's a strange "Saturday morning" approach to the consequences of carnage, that simply doesn't fit with the "this is serious" tone it's supposed to be taking place in. The sexual references in the film are more of the sniggering adolescent variety, and don't fit in at all with either the "kid's movie" aspects or the "serious adult action film" aspects, but they did seem to make the many dads with young kids in the audience uncomfortable.
That tonal inconsistency is probably the most profound when the toy commercial aspects of the film come most to the fore. We're not meant, really, to identify with any of the human characters. At best, they're broadly sketched and one-note. The robots, ironically, are the only characters with which any effort has been made to develop their personalities. And even that was limited. Amongst the Decepticons, the only robot to have anything resembling a personality on display is Frenzy; the other evil robots all have interchangeable "evil thug" personas. You suspect the only reason they even have names is so that there is something to put on the toy boxes. It's also particularly notable whenever Optimus Prime or Megatron are speaking. To the delight of hard-core Transformers fans, I'm sure, their dialogue sounds like something directly lifted from the cartoons. And that's when you realize that something which kinda-sorta worked in a campy half-hour toy commercial for the 12-and-under set utterly fails to work in a serious adult action film clocking in at two hours plus. It becomes cringe-worthy, and you start to hope that Bumblebee's inability to speak English was a trait shared by all the robots.
The height, however, of this inconsistency of tone, is a scene in which Shia Labeouf must explain, totally straight-faced, the back-story behind the film to skeptical government agents. It's an utterly ridiculous scene, and an utterly ridiculous story he's expected to tell. And the other actors must react to him as if he's putting all the pieces into place and now everything in the film makes sense. It's utterly absurd in it's postmodern decadence, and I can only pity Mr. Labeouf, as I can only imagine the number of times the scene had to be shot and reshot, the number of takes ruined by Labeouf or the other actors cracking up at the sheer stupidity of what they're expected to swallow.
Had these tonal problems been solved, the film could have been enjoyable, perhaps even fun. There's nothing wrong with "dumb" action movies, especially when they're not trying to be anything other than what they are. But as these problems keep coming up, I found myself being less and less well-disposed to the film. My inner 12 year old was okay with the idea of big robots slamming twelve kinds of hell out of each other. But, if you're going to make a movie for twelve year olds, make a movie for twelve year olds. Don't make a movie for thirty year old men who can't get over a toy they liked when they were twelve.
The only redeeming grace for the film, is that without it, we probably wouldn't have gotten these little guys made:
"Hey, guys, I've got a brilliant idea! How about we release a trailer for our new movie, that features a bunch of pretentious hipster white people filming a party with a camcorder!" "And?" "Something happens!" "What happens?" "Something! There's noises and explosions in the distance!" "Signifying?" "Something really cool and interesting happening a long way away that the characters can't see!" "Okay...what's this movie called again?" "That's the brilliant bit! After all this, we don't tell the audience the name of the movie!" "Won't that just confuse and alienate the audience?" "No, of course not! Trust me, I pull this shit on Lost all the time and the stupid fucking rubes eat it up!"
There are some comics where I'm honestly at a loss to decide if I've just read the most fantastically amazing thing ever, or if a little part of my soul just died as a result of exposure to something that wretched. This is one of those comics. It opens with some good old fashioned white American imperialism.
We'll gloss over how centuries of American imperialism in South America is one of the leading causes of all that graft and corruption to note that this is apparently a literal banana republic, as all they export are bananas. We also see a beautiful bit of white privilege on display.
"Oh, sure, I can just grab one of these bananas...I'm the important white journalist, they should be grateful that I'm here to expose how backwards and corrupt they are. A free banana is the least thanks I should get."
So, after our hero gets his ass beat over a banana, he gets tossed off the edge of a pier. Where a passenger boat just arrived. In broad daylight. At what is apparently a busy shipping dock. Body disposal was so much easier back then, apparently...
"The sharks have to eat, don't they?" is now, officially, my favorite line of comic book dialogue.
Fortunately, the white man doesn't stand for this nonsense, and changes into his heroic identity. While shimmying up a pole. At a busy dock. In broad daylight.
Where did he hide the costume? And if he had a gun, why didn't he use it in the fight?
The value of the bananas is revealed, after Commando Yank kills a warehouse guard and strings him up to look like he's still at his post. You know, I'm not even sure from the context of the story if the guard was part of the gang or just some guy hired to guard the warehouses at this very busy shipping dock...
The logistics of this scheme just confounds me...smuggling dope inside of produce? How did they get it inside? And surely if anything is going to be inspected by customs, it's going to be food, right? Helpfully, the gang shows up with the big boss to keep the story moving...
Get it? Blow? Dope? Wait a second...this is supposed to be a "Wholesome Entertainment: Approved Reading" Fawcett comic! Why are they making cocaine puns?
This has got to be one of the most awkward action scenes I've ever seen in a comic.
And what would a comic about white imperialism be without silly, superstitious, subhuman ferners?
And Commando Yanks beats the dope smugglers and saves the grateful nation from the evils of...uhm, a product that was only being smuggled out of their country to feed the vices of Commando Yanks homeland... But not before we get this nightmarish view: