Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm Thankful for Two Decades of This Nonsense.

So this past Thanksgiving, me and Carmen drove up to my grandmother's in Palm Desert for family din-din and all that. Whee. Two-plus hours driving in pissing rain with bad directions given to me by my mother. It wasn't all bad, of course, and the trip actually held some significance for me besides securing any future inheritance. See, it was in that exact house on Zircon Circle, on Thanksgiving Day 1988, that my grandmother gave me a five-dollar bill. And it was in that sleepy retirement community of Palm Desert, CA, that my aunt took me with her to the Thrifty's to buy batteries for my cousin's birthday present. And it was in that Thrifty's, right there in the magazine aisle, that I stepped across a threshold from which I have never returned.

Twenty years ago this Thanksgiving, I began collecting comic books.

How I'd gotten to this point--a sawed-off, buzz-cutted, short-pantsed 11-year-old, clutching an Abe Lincoln in his sweaty hand and facing a spinner rack for the first (but certainly not last) time--is a whole other really pretty boring story. But that fall I had gotten it into my head that I was gonna collect comics. And so I have. I still have those first five books, so, y'know, I thought it'd be a good idea to go back and read them and share whatever observations I have about these, my first baby steps into the wasteland of comic-dom. It probably isn't a good idea, but since when has that ever stopped me?

Groo the Wanderer #'s 47 and 48: But where to begin? I had a few titles in mind on which to cut my eye-teeth, but being presented with a good thirty or forty dollar-priced collections of four-color wonderment, I was quite understandably overcome. Fortunately, my good buddy, Sergio Aragonés, showed up to help me out.

Although I'd just discovered comics, I'd known about and been into Mad magazine for some time, and Aragonés was generally undisputed among my friends and I as the best of the usual gang of idiots, or at least, the one we enjoyed the most (Don Martin was practically tied for that spot with me, but I digress). But I had no idea that aside from his monthly Mad piece, plus all the Marginals, that Sergio also did a full-blown, full-color comic book. If this wasn't a sign of providence, then I'd be goddamned. #48 was technically the first one I saw and grabbed, but #47 got snapped up also and was a damn fine issue to begin with. Granted, I didn't catch a few of the running gags (though I soon would), but nearly the whole Groo universe is in this issue: The Sage and Mulch, The Minstrel, Arba and Dakarba, Taranto, Gravito, Arcadio, Grooella, and of course, Rufferto. When I reported this find back to my friends, it was an instant hit. Jeremy Howell was an even bigger Mad nerd than I, so he couldn't resist, and I also believe this was the bug that bit Chuck Maldonado and infected him with comics fever (by the way, Chuck, if you're out there, I still have your Cerebus phone books).

Speaking of my 6th-grade crew, the copy I now have of #47 is not the original Palm Desert Thrifty's one. I am certain that was kiped by one Brian Mann. Not the Brian Mann I ended up going to high school with, but this other guy that I'd known since we were seven or eight years old. We were friends and stuff, but our friendship would often hit a low ebb, and I basically just didn't trust the slippery fucker. And with good reason. When I discoverd this issue missing one day after school, I called all my friends to see if I'd left it over at their house or loaned it to them and forgotten or something. None of 'em had seen it, but Brian was particularly emphatic: "No, dude, I don't have it, you can come over here and look for yourself, it's not here." The whole lady-protesteth-too-much schtick. I knew he had it, but without any proof, I knew there wasn't much I could do. So I just shrugged and let this putz make a monkey out of me, an action that would become a disquieting habit as I grew older. I heard a few years later, after I'd moved away, that Brian had become some sorta goth-type. So I'm sure he's had his ass kicked for me a few times over by now. Still. Cold comfort, that.

Say, that reminds me: Jere Hoskins, I know you stole my copy of Daredevil #258 in the seventh grade, so I owe you a punch in the nuts, too.

Uncle Scrooge #'s 231 and 232: I mostly got these because I thought my cousin would like them. He did seem to enjoy them, but, y'know...he was one year old. I coulda waved The New York Post in front of him and probably woulda gotten the same reaction.

What also strikes me about these is just how fucking terrified of adolesence I was at the age of 11. I certainly couldn't have put it into words then, but instinct told me change was on its way and that things were gonna get worse before they got better. I could hear puberty coming up the drive to beat me in the face with an acne-bat, and I was, naturally, frightened out of my gourd. So I began regressing in the trenches. I remember clearly at this age taking a sudden, intense interest in all that could be labelled childish: cartoons, toys, the Muppets, you name it. Girls? Are you kidding me? When Duck Tales is on? I knew it was inevitable, that I was gonna have to grow hair in weird places and stuff like that. But I sure as hell wasn't gonna go quietly.

Having come out on the other side of that now (mostly, anyways), I'm really glad I had the foresight not to grow out of that stuff. I'm not treading any new ground with these discoveries, I know. But I came to realize over the years that only dead-eyed, soulless fucks turn their backs on the things that bring them joy and try to pass it off as maturity. I'm certain you've known or know people like that, and when you look in their faces, you can see how ripped-off they feel and how much they hate themselves for it. Now all they can do is sit around and wait for Scatman Caruthers to show up and teach them how to play kick-the-can again.

Well, I'm certainly not too grown up to say: ha ha on you, suckers!

The Uncanny X-Men #239: I suppose that my then-new passion for comics in general, not just Disney stuff, can be seen as an 11-year-old wishing he was a one-year-old again. But I think my interest in superhero comics can rather be read as an 11-year-old wishing he could hurry up and be a 31-year-old already, working weekends in a comic shop and getting laid regularly. In other essays (one of which I will post here at a later date, I'm sure), I've attempted to argue against the commonly-held misconception that super-hero comics are merely an outlet for pent-up adolescent power fantasies, but are instead a vehicle for young men (gender-specific in this case because that's what I was and am) to use in order to come to terms with their own identities. So to put it in the half-assed Freudian terms I've been using, Uncle Scrooge represents regression, and The Uncanny X-Men represents a type of sublimation (I guess. My Freud is pretty rusty).

Speaking of Freud, Marc Silvestri is not a very good artist. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud talks about how by this point in time, comics had reached their own adolesence, and how the pre-pubescent, more cartoon-y stylings of the old-timers had made way for the more line-y, jagged edge renderings of your Silvestris, your McFarlanes, your Liefelds. Y'know, representative of the teen angst felt by many comics readers. This makes sense to me, but it's still no excuse for all the mullets. Really, what were we thinking back then? That was never a good look, and you can't tell me otherwise. Technically, I've got no problem with Silvestri's art. As opposed to the laudable techniques of Liefeld's stuff, say, the guy could actually draw. But as far as the general asethetic of comics goes, the party line definitely had its head up its ass back then.

But all the above is fodder for a later discussion, I think. As it was, I wanted a comic with Wolverine in it. I couldn't find any of his solo title, but I had read that he was in the X-Men too, so I grabbed this up. Like Groo #47, this should have been a fairly good jumping-off point. It's the prologue to that summer's big "Inferno" crossover, so the whole issue is pretty much a run-down of who's who and what's what. But unlike Groo #47, this book is dealing with a much more vast, less cartoon-y universe. So to say I was confused would be an understatement. I mean, Colossus and Mr. Sinister look almost exactly the same, especially in their head and face area. That threw me off quite a bit. Apparently, Lorna Dane (a.k.a. Polaris) and Malice were the same person or in the same body or some shit. That didn't make any sense at the time, but of course, I caught on with comic book logic pretty quickly. I knew it was just all new to me, and that everything would become clear soon enough. And it did for the most part. In my naivete, I overestimated the caliber of superhero writing in assuming that everything would be made clear eventually. But it more or less was, even if what became clear was some shit wouldn't be made clear because the Marvel universe is just too damn big and convoluted by this point. So, y'know, no big.

The good news is, as I'm sure I've intimated before, a lot of this shit is coming back, but it's being handled much better. Mr. Sinister has been in recent issues of X-Force, Wolverine: Origins, and X-Men: Legacy, and Maddie Pryor seems to be on her way back, and it's nice to see old faces again. We can argue all night and day as to whether the team of Chris Claremont and Silvestri (or whoever) is superior to that of Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson (or whoever), but I think an inarguable fact is that Claremont, et al, were relevant to their time. God bless, but it was a lot goofier time. I shouldn't say Silvestri's a bad artist, and I certainly wouldn't say Claremont's a bad writer. But what guys like Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Christopher Yost, and the rest are doing is stripping down the narrative and getting rid of all that, at times enjoyable, but all around useless techniques like the melodramatic narrator and flashback monologues. Again, a product of their times. I noticed that when TV shows began including a "Previously on..." at the beginning of each episode, comics took a cue there and did away with editorial asterisks. A lot of guys I know bemoan the ommission of these little things, claiming comics aren't the same.

I say, neither are we. And neither should be our comics.

All right, I gotta go take the trash to the curb. For those of you keeping score, I ditched the "Hey, Kids! Comics!" thread if for no other reason than I used a silly-ass phrase like "liquid journal" at one point. That, and it was just taking me too damn long. I'm not sure what's up for next month, but I'm sure it'll be too damn much to read on a monitor without your eyeballs drying out. So grab some Visine and I'll talk at you next time. Kisses.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hey, Kids! Again with the Comics!

Yeesh, I didn’t realize how big this stack of books I had to wade through was. For those just tuning in, I’ve taken what I believe to be a nice snapshot of my weekly purchasing patterns and am discussing (to death) what I’m getting out of the whole deal. I think what I’ve learned the most is I really fucking need to cut down. The problem I’m having these days with that idea is that foregone conclusions are getting harder to come by. With my last big purge, I could just say, “Fuck it,” on a lot of titles that I had been buying merely out of habit (Action and Detective, for example). Whenever a mini-series starts to really blow (like Spider-Man: With Great Power...), they’re already over with. But there seem to be a lot of titles I buy that then sit in my to-read stack and stare at me like orphans. I wonder why the hell I even bought them, and then I read them and say, “Oh, that was actually pretty good,” like with the current Eternals series. So, you see, it’s not as easy as all that to just drop titles. It’s gotten to the point where I no longer complain when Diamond shorts my orders (although, in principle, it still really hacks me off)(Today, I seriously toyed with the idea of writing an angry Grampa Simpson letter to Diamond, but then I got paranoid that it would fuck up any future hopes of being a comic book writer and pussed out [as though my lack of ambition or talent isn’t already handily fucking up any future hopes at all]). I almost wish Marvel would go ahead and ruin another few titles like they did so well with Amazing Spider-Man. And now that I think about it, they probably will.

Problem solved.

The War That Time Forgot #3 of 12 (2008): Speaking of books I’m dropping. I dunno how you make dinosaurs and Nazis boring, but here you go. Like a lot of folk, I got into writer Bruce Jones’ stuff while he was writing The Incredible Hulk (actually, just after he left, but same difference). Then I found out he was the same Bruce Jones that used to write for those Warren rags and those rad old Pacific sci-fi titles that I’ve always liked. So, good. Then his first couple minis over at D.C. (like Man-Bat and especially Vigilante) were really good, but then, I dunno, he started to go kinda downhill. There was that so-so OMAC series, and then some other stuff I can’t think of right now, and now this stinkburger (The moral here: just stay at Marvel; they’re better [there, I said it. I’ll say it again if I have to]). With this issue, I realized that I couldn’t remember who any of the principals were from the last time, not because I’d crammed my head with so many other storylines and plot threads in the intervening month, but because I simply didn’t care. I suppose I’d cut a similar Marvel title some slack on the nostalgia factor, but I was never that into D.C. as a kid. I guess they should have thought twice on the media blitz that accompanied the first Burton Batman flick that effectively soured me on a great deal of their output at the time and kept them from sinking their hooks into my tender pre-adolescent buying power like Marvel did. Better luck next time, suckers.

High Rollers #1 of 4 (Boom! Studios): I often get pangs of hipster intellectual guilt from constantly stuffing the coffers of Big Two while I know so many talented creators and truly enjoyable books die alone, unmourned and unloved, because jerks like me are too busy with our Civil Wars and Final Crises to give a shit about indies. But I go through Previews each month with a pretty fine comb and come up with mostly bupkes in the smaller press section. If I want book after book filled to the brim with vampires or zombies or army guys or whatever the hell, I can get enough to choke a camel from Marvel and D.C. (not to mention Dark Horse and Image).

So when a book comes along that has at least a little something to offer over the mainstream, I get all excited like a dipshit college kid who goes to the Chomsky lecture but still Tivos Gossip Girl. And in this book’s case, it’s writer Gary Phillips. Although he’s apparently an accomplished crime novelist, Phillips first came to my attention with his Vertigo mini Angeltown with Shawn Martinbrough. I’ve yet to track down any of Phillips’ book books (maybe because what I remember of his story in L.A. Noir was pretty awful, or maybe it was okay, but “okay” wasn’t gonna cut it after slogging through some of the other crappy stories in that anthology), but he did me a favor and wrote another comic that is gonna be solicited directly to me, with none of the fuss and bother of actual book shopping. (Addendum: naturally, #4 of this series came in for me this week—11/6/08—meaning Diamond didn’t send me #2 or 3. Thanks, assholes. Way to support the indies.)

I’d actually started writing this ready to tear this book a new one, since I clearly remember being pretty disappointed at first read. But this time around, I really liked it. Hardboiled gangster shit, just like Angeltown, which also had predominantly African-American characters, which you really don’t see much of in comics. I think what might have left such a bad taste in my mouth before was the artwork. I’ve never been much of a fan of the digitization of comics. But while I’ve grown used to it for the most part, a lot of art still really suffers from it, in my opinion. If this book was done in four colors on newsprint, I think it’d come across as an avant garde-ish, Frank Miller-y sort of thing. But thanks to the latest technology, this art’s been rendered flat, lifeless, and just plain goofy-looking (although to play devil’s advocate, Phillips’ occasional gaffes in the dialogue don’t help matters, goofiness-wise [“HA. HA. HA,” laughs a character at one point. Really? I’ve never heard anybody laugh like that for reals. Perhaps I’m not hearing it the way he’s writing it, but if that’s the case, I think that since I’m bringing enough reading experience to the table, I’ll qualify that not as an M.P., but a Y.P.]). Or maybe it’s just plain shitty art, and I’m trying to make excuses for it because I feel like a tithead for criticizing a guy’s artwork when I can’t even draw stick figures. Either way, I woulda dropped this book if I hadn’t read it a second time. I’m glad I did, but I still think a book like this oughtta grab you the first time around. So take from that what you will.

House of Mystery #3 (Vertigo): I dunno about you, but I think I’m getting kinda sick of Vertigo. Call me nutty, but I’ve been noticing a bit of a pattern for the last couple years: The nearer it got to Y: the Last Man ending, the more irregular the books seemed to come out. As of this writing, 100 Bullets is about seven or eight issues away from ending, and I can’t remember when that book came out on time last. Paranoia on my part? Probably. But here’s this, too: As Y drew to a close, Vertigo began pushing hard on American Virgin, which is far from being the same book, but definitely touched on a lot of the same subjects as Y and fit that general tone, I think. Same with Loveless and Scalped as far as being heirs apparent to 100 Bullets. Two of Vertigo’s top-selling books are either gone or on the way out, and three of the books I’ve mentioned above have been cancelled (and woefully, might I add. I want it clear that these three titles of which I speak were/are all very solid contenders on their own, especially Scalped [still going, hopefully for a very long time], and it is hardly to Vertigo/D.C.’s credit to try and pull the ol’ switcheroo on us [unless, like I said, I’m just being paranoid][stop staring at me]).

So, if my theory is correct, Vertigo’s attempts over the past few years to bail out their line have failed, and so, they have re-grouped and gone back to what made them a powerhouse in the first place: more books with fairies. Swamp Thing, Sandman, Fables, all perfectly fine books, but also the kinds of titles that attract hairy female college students (god bless ‘em) who have more money to spend on another Bill Willingham book because they’re not clinging to adolescent male-power fantasies (hey, good for you. Let me know when the Indigo Girls are coming through town next; in the meantime, I’ll be over here re-reading my back issues of Alien Legion)(man, I am a dick).

Naturally, my take is a bit skewed here, and again naturally, I’m taking the low road by launching petty personal attacks on a demographic that is generally very polite and smells nice, all because Jessica Bowman wouldn’t go out with me in the tenth grade (that’s theory for you). House of Mystery is thus far a fine title, carrying on that Vertigo tradition of re-vamping an old D.C. book, for better and/or for worse. Gone are Cain and Abel (though they made a brief farewell appearance [I guess you could call it] in the first issue), which kinda sucks for me after I had fallen in love with them all over again after finally getting the entire Moore run on Swamp Thing a couple years ago. Now the House has taken on that hotel at World’s End thing (remember that Sandman arc? ‘Cause I only just) where all kindsa characters sit around and swap stories. There’s a Mafia-y gangster one in this issue, so I luck out, but the overall theme of stories and story tellers gets kinda lame to me after a while. I get that it’s all meta and post-modern and everything, but unless it’s really, really well done (i.e. 1963), it just gets wanky. Like when Hollywood (again with the movies!) makes a movie about the movie business and think they’re being all clever and satirical, when they just really come off as self-referential, self-satisfied, and some other adjective with “self” as the prefix. Not to say House of Mystery comes off like that at all, but there is that threat lurking. Bill Willingham (here sharing his writing duties with Matthew Sturges) is a fine writer, but even he couldn’t keep my interest piqued with Fables (try as we both did)(and the guy’s never been anything but super fucking nice when I’ve met him, and if you ever get a chance to see him speak at a panel or anything, take it, for not only is he smart and engaging, but he handles wiseacre questions from the audience with a deftness that is a true delight to behold).

So I’m thinking I’ll give this book a solid year, and if it’s not seriously kicking my ass by then, I’m throwing it back.

Joker’s Asylum: The Joker #1: I tend to dig these fifth-week books, have since before I knew what a fifth-week book was. The screwy numbering they usually have gives my OCD side a pain, but I’ve gotten better at ignoring shit like that. And like a lot of people, I really like the Joker as a character. But after re-reading The Killing Joke for the umpteenth time recently, I’ve realized that Alan Moore has ruined that guy for me in a lot of ways. The depth of character Moore gave him in that book is more than enough to make most other writers’ interpretations of him either really goofy (which isn’t always bad, mind) or really flat (which is always bad). Add to this problem the fact that it seems every writer in comicdom has an insatiable boner for the Clown Prince of Crime, and what you’ve got is probably the most over-used character ever created. This probably comes as news to only me, which has probably got a lot to do with how few D.C. books I read, even fewer as time marches on.

But like I said, fifth-week books can be fun, and Arvid Nelson wrote this issue. I read Rex Mundi back when it was on Image, but that was mostly because my friend Eric drew it. Not that it wasn’t a good book, but if a guy I didn’t know personally and therefore wanted to support hadn’t been on the book, I probably wouldn’t have bothered, and in fact, I commenced to not bother once Eric bailed. But I still kept Nelson in mind and picked up his next book, Zero Killer, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Frankly, the post-apocalyptic story has become, in this post-Cold War world, rather post-worth doing. But I still have a little Road Warrior-kinda fanboy in me, and Zero Killer also features a black hero, which, again, I like to see. Sadly, that book’s been put on the shelf interminably after only three issues, so tough shit for me on that score, I guess.

Which brings us to this book. And it’s not bad. But it’s not great. The Joker’s dialogue isn’t quite as cutting and ironic as I’d like it to be. But it’s serviceable. The plot is kinda, y’know, clichéd, I guess I wanna say. One of those “Who’s the real crazy one here?” stories. The Joker takes over a game show and terrorizes everyone in the studio, and in so doing, exposes the producers of the show for the immoral and uncaring ratings-hounds that they are. Any one here not know that already? So the actual execution of the story is fine, with a cute little Cryptkeeper-type framing device, but overall, it’s a pretty ho-hum book if you ask me.

The art also didn’t quite grab me at first, but Alex Sanchez does this neat little trick that’s gonna have me keeping an eye out for him in the future. There are a couple panels where the Joker laughs or shouts a line—“Now shut up, all of you!”—and aside from the normal lettering, Sanchez also includes it as part of the art, lettering it himself with big red words. It’s a nice, subtle touch, the kind of thing this book could have used more of.

Jonah Hex #33: Jonah fuckin’ Hex (to be uttered with the same reverence one would give “Lee fuckin’ Marvin” or “Rock and fuckin’ roll”) has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager, but I had no idea of the true potential of this character, or even this medium, until the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray began this book near onto three years ago (which is kinda weird, because aside from their work on Friday the 13th, I haven’t been all that gung-ho on the grip of other stuff they’ve done). I never used to dig the Western genre much, with schlock like Louis L’amour and Gene Autry clogging most of its arteries. But once I discovered Sergio Leone and his Italian cohorts, I finally saw the Western as what it could really be: the last bastion of the honest-to-Christ tough guy story. My favorite stories of the recent past tend to be about men pitted against the elements as well as their fellow humans, and overcoming such obstacles by sheer (in a word) balls, losing none of their pride and remaining fiercely independent. This sort of theme is obviously not restricted to Westerns (e.g., the private eye/hardboiled genre, which is also quite beloved to me), but despite glaring exceptions like Preacher, the traditional Western tends to most freely allow the exploration of themes and characters like those described above. And no current book quite encompasses this breed of Western like Palmiotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex.

And this issue is a near-classic example of the template they have set down. There isn’t often a narrator in this book, but I don’t believe that this is the first time the story has been told entirely from a different perspective than that of the man himself. Regardless, most writers utilize this to not only better (or, at the very least, differently) characterize the protagonist by allowing the reader an outsider’s perspective, but to also more greatly show the protagonist’s effect on others in the story. The plot here revolves around a young boy whom Hex saves, but then essentially abandons to the elements. This of course seems cruel, until the issue’s end when we see that the boy has been taught to fish, so to speak, and will doubtless become the tough guy he needs to become in order to survive.

If you’re sensitive to overdoses of testosterone, this story and its ilk may not be your poison, but I sure as hell am gonna have another round. All that being said, this issue is lacking in one teensy thing. During the first year or maybe year and a half, Palmiotti and Gray did this neat thing where they used the second panel on a page for a simple chapter title, written in that old-timey script, like vaudeville placards. It’s a simple trick, but effective, giving the book not only an extra dash of setting, but a nice added sprinkling of tough-guy-ness with fucking genius titles like “This Town Needs a Bigger Cemetery.” Like I said, they were in every issue at first, and still crop up every now and again, but alas, not in this issue. It’s understandable because them things must be hard to come up with every month, plus this issue has kind of a different narrative and stuff. But I still miss ‘em.

The artists on this book operate on a revolving-door basis, which fits fairly nicely with the (mostly) self-contained issues, and Darwyn Cooke is up this time. I think it’s pretty neat that a pretty hot shit artist like Cooke does stuff like this, but while I think the guy is a hell of an artist, I also think his particular style is not quite as suited to this material as those of past Hex artists like Jordi Bernet and the great Tony DeZuniga (a framed autographed sketch of Jonah Hex by DeZuniga hangs proudly in my room, acquired on me and Window’s trip to WonderCon this year, a score eclipsing even the original pressing of the first Nuggets record I also obtained on that trip). But that’s not a complaint, nor even a criticism, really. I dunno what it is, exactly.

So, yeah. Jonah Hex: one of probably three monthly books that I simply could not do without right now. D.C. should quit publishing superhero books altogether (c’mon, 70 years of Superman? Do we need any more?), and focus more on their fringe stuff—Vertigo, Wildstorm, and books like this. Although Marvel’s doing better for themselves with the Icon and Max imprints, D.C. still holds sway with books like these, and so they should lean much further in that direction.

Marvel 1985 #2 (of 6): Mark Millar seems to be getting a little full of himself these days, but it’s a little difficult to argue with him since he keeps putting out such quality output in such high quantities. And this book in particular feels tailor made for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m sure, it does my heart loads of good to read comics written by guys from my generation. And this book is now the most obvious example of one taking the comics of my childhood and, for lack of a better word, updating them to suit my adult tastes as well as those of my side arrested in its development. And since I either have already covered that or will eventually, I’ll leave that point lie for now.

First, a very quick synopsis before I make the one observation that picks at me while reading this book. A young lad in Middle America circa 1985 discovers there’s some weird dimensional portal in his hometown through which the pantheon of Marvel characters begins to pass, alternately terrorizing and rescuing the denizens of the sleepy burg. A fine concept, well executed to boot, and certainly one that speaks to every thirty-something dork who’s been reading comics since the Reagan administration. The only thing holding this book back (and really, only a little bit) is the medium itself. This is very much a meta-superhero comic, in the vein of Watchmen and The Tick. But the whole crux of the premise is that it takes place in the real world. Even when the “real world” is depicted in comics, it’s still pretty difficult to completely and absolutely suspend disbelief in that regard, but even in such highbrow fare as Watchmen, that complete suspension is not so strictly required for the story to achieve its ends. See? If it really has to be the real world, then it really, really has to be the real world, and as great as Tommy Lee Edwards’ art is, it’s still too...well, comic book-y to really get that across. Tony Harris’ work in another meta-comic, Ex Machina, is far better served by his very realistic style, and I think something like that would have been just as useful here. Alex Maleev also leaps to mind with his nearly photographic style. But even then, I think this would still nag at me. It’s a weird paradox. The medium of comics itself is the simultaneous cause and solution to the (again, minor) problem posed by this brand of story-telling; after all, despite what I’ve said here, where else but in comics could this story have been done correctly? TV? Movies? No fucking way. The only place superheroes/villains don’t look goofy is in comics, and even if a TV or movie could achieve a non-goofy yet traditional look to these characters, the usual problem with a production that size would just be too many goddamn chefs.

Besides, I hate movies.

Christ, still not done. My original intent with this now seems to be altered yet again, and I now kinda consider this running commentary on the books of early July to be more like a liquid journal on a bunch of ideas about comics and all things related that I have, so it’s nice to kinda get these down on paper in some sort of readable form (although, I suppose the readability here could be argued). So, see you next time.

Hey, Kids! Comics!

I’m in a much better mood starting out than I was last time, although that’s quickly being tried by the two chunky middle schoolers next to me playing Magic: The Gathering (apparently, there are no life points rewarded for using inside voices)(although God save you from the unholy wrath of the portly middle-aged security guard lady should you smoke a cigarette within spitting distance of the front door. The Spring Valley Library: where the peace can be disturbed, but not pussy-ass non-smokers).

So anyways, what I thought I’d do this time around is write about the comics I’m reading these days, using some of the books I bought the first two weeks of July to serve as a nice cross-section. I’m sure I’ll find plenty to piss and moan about, but I wanted to try and mix in some sunshine, which is much easier to do if I’m just talking comics themselves versus comics-related stuff. So, yeah.

American Splendor #4 (Vertigo, vol. 2): Although I’ve known who Harvey Pekar is for some time, I’d had relatively little exposure to his actual work until Vertigo put out first his The Quitter with Dean Haspiel, and then the first AS mini that came out last year or whenever. I coulda sworn I had an issue of the original series, and I wanna say it was magazine-sized, but I’m probably wrong (I don’t have it now, and I don’t think I woulda gotten rid of it).

Anyways, my first (and for a long time, only) real exposure was through the superlative documentary Comic Book Confidential, which I taped off the Learning Channel in high school (and which I believe is now available on DVD, so do yourself a favor and hunt it up. And then do myself a favor and burn me a copy). The story he reads in that documentary about his obsession with collecting jazz records struck an immediate chord with me, having myself (as I’m sure goes for a lotta you) been saddled at an early age with that unyielding compulsion to collect all manner of (what can be summed up as) useless shit.

And then of course, there’s the movie, the cult popularity of which I’m certain is why Vertigo became interested in publishing Harvey’s work in the first place (not that Harvey’s talent went unsung until it was displayed in the moving pictures, but that I don’t see Vertigo [as friendly as they can be to stuff off the beaten path] as part of a massive conglomerate [in fact, the same massive conglomerate that distributed the movie American Splendor on video] putting money and effort into something they may not see as particularly marketable). Back before that flick came out, when I read that Paul Giamatti was gonna play Harvey, I was not only excited to see Giamatti in something decent for a change (I saw Duets not for him so much as the great Huey Lewis)(no, I didn’t), but because you don’t often see such smart casting (hey, I thought I wasn’t gonna talk about movies this time)(but one more quick movie-related anecdote: of all people, my father actually saw this before I had a chance to, and he called me all excited about it and how I should see it immediately because “Jim, you’re just like this guy.” Maybe not exactly true [Harvey Pekar, for example, is talented], but the point is I wasn’t sure whether I should be flattered or insulted).

Anyways, all this to say that my familiarity with Pekar’s body of work has mostly been passing, but always enjoyable. As noted, I identify heavily with Harvey and his life, for even if I’m not a crabby packrat of an old man, it’s only because I’m just rounding the corner of age 31. As usual, this issue is all about Harvey and his day-to-day life as a writerly, mildly hypochondriacal techno-phobe, but this is the first issue (that I’ve read, anyways) where all the little stories connect to tell an overall one about Harvey’s writing process (which is [again] not remarkably a lot like mine. In fact, just last night, as so often happens, I thought of an idea as I was drifting off to slumberland, and as also so often happens, instead of doing the sensible thing and getting up to write it down, I [like Harvey] tried to etch it into my brain and found today that I [unlike Harvey] had failed). There’s also art from a buncha great guys, including two of my all-time favorites, Darick Robertson and San Diego’s own Rick Geary (actually, I guess he and his wife moved to New Mexico last year. And this shithole town is all the worse for it, let me tell you).

It only took fifteen years or so, but I’m damn glad I started buying American Splendor.

Astonishing X-Men #25: I was damn excited for this issue, since the main reason I bought all the trades in the first place was because one of the finest writers in the industry today, Warren Ellis, was taking over and I wanted to be up to speed when the Internet Jesus saw fit to take his pen to one of Marvel’s top books. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed (it should be pointed out here that I’m likely to read Ellis’ grocery list if it gets published, so any notions of objectivity on my part very well may fall to the wayside). Coming as no surprise, Ellis turns in a noir detective story working undercover as something else, in this case, a superhero story (see Gravel, a noir detective story working undercover as a magic/fantasy story; Anna Mercury, a noir detective story working undercover as a cyberpunk story; Wolfskin, a noir detective story working undercover as a sword and sandal story; and Fell, a noir detective story working undercover as a...well, a noir detective story). So that’s good for all concerned (i.e., me), except that I am a bit anxious to find out what’s to become of Kitty Pryde (unless that’s been answered in a book I don’t read. I don’t think Kitty’s even mentioned in this issue, which leads me to think this is the case, although it wouldn’t be unlike Ellis to eschew previous storylines in order to start fresh [along with the team itself in their new San Francisco headquarters][those of you who remember my Spider-Man rant a while back may wonder why I’m not being a bear for continuity here, and with good reason. What it mostly boils down to in this case, I guess, is that Ellis isn’t seeking to change anything, just to bypass this particular character/storyline. Also, the true mark of a good writer is one who can sneak shit past you and you don’t care. I submit the film Pulp Fiction as Exhibit A][and who’s to say he won’t come back to little Kitten eventually?][stop me before I parenthesize again]). Ellis does bring back Storm (perhaps this’ll be a tradition for Astonishing writers: re-introducing female X-Men that we [and by “we,” I mean, “I”] have lost touch with) for what seems to be an extended visit, thereby (along with Armor) balancing out the testosterone levels in the group, and also giving the White Queen someone else to catfight with. Never having been a slouch in the dialogue department, Ellis also hews closely to the book’s well-established snappy patter (and I mean, not that Whedon’s dialogue did anything less than pop off the page, but seriously, who better to continue with that brash, ice queen, razor-sharp sarcasm of Emma’s that was first established by that nutty limey Grant Morrison than yet another nutty limey like Warren Ellis?[yes, I realize that Morrison, as a Scot, would take deep umbrage to my terming him a “limey,” but I’m an American. If you talk funny and watch a lot of soccer, you’re a limey]). So all the possible new writer pitfalls seem to have been avoided, or at least satisfyingly danced around.

As far as Simone Bianchi’s art, yeah, it’s good. But what one should know about my take on art is that it pretty much sucks (my take on art, not art itself [usually]). I have a laundry list of artists who I consider to be nothing short of genius. But in my day-to-day comic book reading, I’m really far more interested in the story. I feel that art best serves the story if it isn’t distracting, either by being terrible (far too often the case) or those rare occasions when it’s just too damn good. Take Alex Ross, for example. I don’t really like reading the stuff he’s done because I read pretty damn quick, and with the vast amount of talent shown upon his pages, it seems sacrilegious to burn through, say, Kingdom Come. I can easily put on my art appreciation hat and come all over artists all day (though I’m sure that would make them, if nothing else, uncomfortable). I dunno, I guess what I’m trying to do here is not come off as some sort of philistine, y’know? Maybe it would just be better for all concerned if I just kept my trap shut unless I have something to say about the artist, not a bunch of claptrap about what I don’t have to say (I should probably just keep my trap shut altogether...).

All that being (not) said, the only quibble I have is with how Bianchi signs his covers, with one of those big obnoxious autographs-in-a-box, which is followed in short order by those of the inker and colorist (they’re not gonna be outdone, by God). This habit of cover artists seemed to spring up about 15, 20 years ago (I’m looking at you, Todd McFarlane), but didn’t really bother me until a few years ago, I guess, when I became a pain-in-the-ass nitpick. But, pain-in-the-ass or not, I maintain that it’s touches like this that make comic book art interfere with the rest of the overall project. I’m not saying Bianchi’s swinging his dick around and saying, “Hey hey, looka me!” But my eye can’t help but be drawn to these nearly caption-sized signatures, and that’s just annoying. I’d be willing to give a pass for anything about the size of Tim Bradstreet’s signature (and that’s a pretty good size), but anything bigger than that, you’re running the risk of being a big douche. And nobody wants that.

Cable #5 (Vol. 2): I began this by writing a big rave about the works of Duane Swierczynski, mostly for the stellar novel, The Wheelman. But I was digressing over here like my grandfather on a Sunday afternoon drive, so I’m trying to at least stay a bit on topic now.

Cable was never a favorite character of mine. Oh sure, I was swept up in Liefeld fever back in the early ‘90s (as if those awkward early adolescent years weren’t painful enough, I had to latch on to all that crap so I could remember it years later and wince), but I just didn’t care. Yes, I bought Cable’s solo series well into high school, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it now. I haven’t blocked it out on purpose (oh, if only it were in my power to do shit like that, and I could erase those dreadful few weeks in my early 20s when I greased up my hair like a four-eyed Fonzie), it’s just that that stuff was so bland, I couldn’t have retained it if I tried.

Bishop was a little different. I really dug Whilce Portacio’s stuff, and although that doesn’t really hold up all that much, I’ve always liked the character. His back story was nothing new, really (hell, he was just kind of a black version of Cable, if I’m remembering at all correctly), but despite his dumb mullet, I always thought he looked pretty cool with that face tattoo and all. And he was certainly a much better black character than most of Marvel’s at the time (remember that god-awful Cage series? Yeesh)(a lotta bad memories in this piece. Such is [my] life). I mean, that’s kind of a dippy fanboy-ish thing to say—“Bishop rules!”—but y’know. That’s what I was.

Now I find it no surprise that writers of my generation are harkening back to halcyon days of our youth and reviving these characters. But what is so invigorating is how they are going about it. Guys like Swierczynski (and in this group, I’m including Ed Brubaker, Brian K. Vaughan, Brian Michael Bendis, etc., all guys who are about my age and have a fuck of a lot more to show for it) clearly have soft spots for all the crap we devoured between bouts of Gyromite and that week’s new episode of In Living Color. But they’re more interested in the spirit than the execution of that time (I’m mostly talking from about 1990-1993, which I see as being one of the darkest for superheroes), and that is a good, good thing.

For example, in this arc of the current Cable series, we find ol’ Nate on the run from Bishop just after the events of Messiah Complex. Now, I’m such an idiot, that I didn’t even see the parallels between the two characters as clearly as I do now that I’ve begun writing this (I knew there was a reason I was doing this shit). Two guys with opposing agendas but both from a bleak future (and both with bad-ass cybernetic anatomy). One’s white and one’s black, although I hedge to make this a racial thing. For one thing, it’s clearly more about drawing physical distinctions between the two principals, much like in the movie Unbreakable (which, although a piece of shit, still had some things right). For another, I’m not even sure how conscious the decision was to have this weird anti-Defiant Ones (enough with the movies already!) vibe, but I’m relatively certain no one’s out to make the black guy look like an asshole.

In fact, now that I mention it, Swierczynski does a swell job painting these two as well-matched antagonists, guys who used to be friends but have had a major (really major—one could even say “apocalyptic”) political falling out. Bishop is not demonized, nor is Cable an angel straight from heaven. It’s not easy to not demonize a guy who wants to kill an infant (oh, did I mention that was going on? Ah, fuck it, this isn’t a synopsis, go read it if you want the plot laid out. Come see me if you want meandering analytical bullshit), but Swierczynski is that kind of a writer.

(Whereas I suck at writing. See, I’m writing this Cable part straight on the computer instead of hammering out a rough draft first, so I’m adrift on a poorly-made idea in a sea of even more poorly-made ideas [like this analogy].)

Well, let me just say this about Ariel Olivetti’s art: the first I really came across it was in the current Punisher War Journal, and while I thought it was good, it seemed a little too cold and computer-y to me. Maybe this book just suits his style better, or maybe he’s just growing on me.

All right, kids, that’s enough from me for now. I have a bunch more books that I wanted to get into this time, but as usual, I fucked around and waited too long. Plus I’ve got a buncha other shit I wanna get to tonight. So more from this July stack next time.

Let's All Go to the Lobby and Never Come Back.

(Note: Originally, in the first half of this piece, I made my first attempt at [what was hoped to be] an on-going criticism of what I oh-so-cleverly labelled "talking heads," that photoshop shortcut a lot of artists seem to use these days wherein they digitally repeat panels instead of [God forbid] having to draw the same thing more than once. But frankly, I was unable to say quite what I wanted to say. It's still an idea I may call up from the minors one day, but honestly, now that I think about it, it's not even a practice I've been noticing as often. So maybe some day. Anyways, on with this crap.)

Like a lot of you, I was really looking forward to the Iron Man movie, and like a lot of you, I was far from disappointed. I generally think the summer movie season to be, at best, a big snore, and this year (so far) has done little to dissuade me of that. But no, Iron Man was great. I’ve been a fan of Jon Favreau’s for years. And Downey playing a rich womanizing alcoholic? That’s just smart casting. So yeah, great movie.

The Incredible Hulk (henceforth referred to here as Hulk, for brevity's sake), I wasn’t so excited about. I didn’t see the last one since, like so many Ang Lee movies, it was directed by Ang Lee. But I figured I’d see this one ‘cause I like Edward Norton and Tim Roth and it looked like it’d be okay. I hadn’t planned on seeing it opening weekend, but my hand was forced a bit. See, in Kevin Murphy’s A Year at the Movies, he explains how Hollywood bases each movie’s success on its opening weekend. No matter how bad it is, if a movie hits number one at the box office the week it opens, Hollywood pats itself on the back and throws itself a hot tub party before cranking out a shitty sequel. This isn’t an exact science, of course, and there are obvious exceptions. But I still can’t shake the feeling that if I had just waited a week or two to see Austin Powers 2, then Austin Powers 3 (which I didn’t see on opening weekend, or any other weekend, for that matter) would never have been made.

But then Windowpane comes home after seeing Hulk on opening day and off-handedly remarks that there’s a cameo at the end. I hadn’t known there would be any such thing and would have liked to have kept it that way. God bless Window, y’know, he didn’t say who it was, but imagine my surprise and delight while watching had I no knowledge of any cameos whatsoever. Then, Russell comes home ready to punch a hole through something because some dickhead at work out and out told him who shows up at the end. Then, Carmen tells me that her sister called her and blew it for her, too. Well, fuck it, I figured, and me and her went that day before I would have been forced to knock a loudmouth’s teeth down his throat.

And even though it equaled Iron Man in pretty much every area (leading lady notwithstanding), I actually liked Hulk a wee better, and all because of a one-liner. Y’know, when I watched Predator as a kid and Schwarzenegger throws a knife into a guy and quips, “Stick around,” why, I thought that was the most witty and urbane thing a chap could say in a situation like that. Fast forward ten years to when I watch it again, and my eyes roll nearly audibly. Sure, that kinda shit can still be kitschy and fun, but so can hanging out with my grandma, which also doesn’t cost me $10.50. So, now remember in Iron Man when all the bad guys really open up and give it to him with both barrels, resulting only in a bunch of little dings in his armor? Yeah, I know, it was rad. But then before he lets loose on them, he goes, “My turn.” Ugh. That’s not even kind of clever. Does that one line ruin the movie? Christ, no. But since the Hulk is generally not a really chatty character (in dramatic representations, anyways), I don’t have to worry about any cornball shit like that. The closest Hulk came was the requisite “Hulk smash!” which is more a catch phrase than a one-liner, and it really hit me right in the giddy nerd spot.

One thing that doesn’t hit my giddy nerd spot, but rather bull’s-eyes my pissy cynic spot is the adaptation of the Mark Millar/J.G. Jones book Wanted. Wanted was, I believe, the first thing I ever read by Millar, or at least the first of his work that made a real impression on me. It’s very Fight Club-y, which is A-O.K. with me. And from what I’ve read about the flick (I normally eschew reviews of movies I have any intention of seeing, but no danger of that here), it comes off as Fight Club meets The Matrix (at least, that’s how the yokels who write poorly orchestrated reviews on the IMDB describe it. But isn’t Fight Club just The Matrix without The Matrix? Or The Matrix just Fight Club with The Matrix? And aren’t all of these just the “Den” segment from Heavy Metal?). But it’s like this: Fight Club is a fine adaptation in that it really succeeds in keeping the original spirit of the novel. But it also wasn’t a dopey summer action blockbuster.

It seems the going wisdom is to expect nothing more from these movies than tits and explosions. And that’s fine by me, I love tits and explosions. But I don’t see the necessity to rape decent source material in order to serve up tits and explosions.

A lot of times, people complain that a lack of faith to the source material automatically equals a crappy adaptation. I disagree. I think Catch-22 is a really good movie, although it departs greatly from the novel. But if you’ve read the novel, you can see that it doesn’t exactly lend itself to film.

So all right, fair enough. But if you take a fairly action-packed comic like Wanted, which, being of a visual medium, can lend itself to film, why fight it? Why buy the rights to the comic and then re-write it until it no longer even remotely resembles the original? God forbid somebody with some actual creativity and talent get their hands on it.

And then further to the re-writing, it is a totally pussified re-writing and, worse yet, a pussified re-writing that thinks it has balls. Like a junkyard dog that’s had its teeth yanked yet still tries to gum trespassers into submission, it’s pathetic and more than a little embarrassing to witness. The comic can be pretty goddamned disturbing at times, which personally, I enjoy in my fiction—to be challenged, to be fucked with. I also enjoy it in movies, much more so than “popcorn’ ” movies, which make me feel like I’m being condescended to. And that’s hardly any “fun” at all. If I wanted that, I could track down my cunt of an ex-fiancée and hang out with her.

The comic Wanted features truly evil supervillains committing all sorts of vile and heinous acts (which, as the 21st century marches on, is not easy to do. When we have so often been exposed to [particularly in popular culture/fiction {I’m not sure what the difference is, really}] all sorts of evil sonsa’bitches, from John Wayne Gacy to Freddy Krueger, it sure ain’t easy coming up with more genuinely scary individuals. But Millar does it, God bless ‘im), not the least of which being enjoying a life of true hedonism on the backs of work-a-day suckers like you and me.

However, the movie Wanted features, what I gather, truly philanthropic assassins who keep the world peace by killing those deemed necessary by the Loom of Fate (if I never write those words again, it’ll still be too soon). Aw, isn’t that nice? They’re cuddly little anti-heroes, li’l teddy bears who fuck and have back tattoos.

Wesley, the main character in the comic, learns nothing popularly considered positive by the book’s end, at first rejecting the life of power and greed forced on him by familial ties, before deciding on his own terms to grab the brass ring with both hands. It’s a fairly disgusting peek into the dark side of humanity, and it kept me giggling the whole way through.

Wes’ final line in the comic of “This is my face while I’m fucking you in the ass,” appears to have been changed in the movie to “What the fuck have you done lately?” Oooh, a curse word. That’s enough to make something edgy and “now,” isn’t it? Besides, we don’t want any of that, y’know...that sort of...well, anything that sounds, y’know—gay. I mean, sure, the line in the comic is not meant to be taken literally, but I guess people won’t find the “fun” in that sort of “mean-spiritedness” (which is a word I ran across more than once in the negative reviews of the movie [which somehow came off as even more moronic than the reviews that called the movie “fun”]). And speaking of gay stuff, I can all but guarantee you the homosexuality (there wasn’t a ton of it, but still) depicted in the comic was the first thing excised from the screenplay. Guys are there to slaver over Angelina Joile and her weirdly shaped mouth, not to see a bunch of queers.

And now it appears Chosen, another Millar book, is next to be given the Hollywood treatment. So when that comes out, just replace the pertinent words above (y'know, the title, the star, the female lead) with Chosen's respective ones, and save you and me a lot of hassle.

To paraphrase Bill Hicks, movies suck and there needs to be less of 'em.

Spider-Sense No Longer Tingling.

(Note: I already don't like Blogger because I can't properly indent my paragraphs. Does anyone know how?)

For this essay, I originally was gonna tackle the by-now infamous re-tooling of The Amazing Spider-Man earlier this year. But in the course of knocking this paper out, I realized my problem was less with the actual changes and more with the somewhat flip attitude taken by Marvel in regards to these changes. This is a pretty weighty charge, I realize, to basically say that Marvel doesn’t give two shits what its readership thinks about the direction it takes with its flagship character. But I think few would argue that comics are not an art form taken altogether seriously by most; even its most strict adherents will often dismiss criticism by saying, in effect, who cares, it’s just comics.

Even though neither really comes out and says it, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott and editor Steve Wacker reflect this attitude in a (quasi-)recent interview on Ain’t It Cool News . Actually, thinking about it, I don’t think either actually thinks it, but they still give off that vibe (to me, anyways). Before I start chewing their asses, however, I’d like to point out that if there were more interviewers out there willing to really press creators for answers with some depth, instead of accepting the smarmy wisecracks that so many creators will often resort to (whether they do this out of frustration or simple cynicism [both of which I can assure you follow any kind of artist around like some kinda neuroses entourage], either is understandable to me, but that still doesn’t tend to satisfy any questions I may have), then there would be less room for me to speculate about these creators’ intentions and come up with my own cynical wisecracks regarding. Let it also be known that my familiarity with comics journalism fizzled out at Wizard circa 1994. So for all I know, there are plenty of funny-book Woodwards and Bernsteins out there (while I’m thinking about it, check out the The Comics Journal Library, Volume 6: The Writers to read some interviews of the caliber I mean here)(or just check it out ‘cause the Harlan Ellison interview is hilarious)(y’know, either way).

Okay, that all out of the way, let me get down to mildly(?) defaming the character of a writer I actually really like. I’ve enjoyed Slott’s work for a couple of years now, particularly taking notice with his woefully short-lived Thing series. And although his is not the kind of writing I instantly gravitate towards, Slott’s goofy yet just-shy-of-being cutesy style is really pretty enjoyable (which is saying quite a bit from such a dried-up sourpuss as myself). But this style doesn’t really transfer well into interviews, if you ask me.

Slott explains that “Brand New Day” “isn’t a ‘Crisis’ or a reboot,” but a “mind-wipe.” Yes, good, that clears things right up. He then points to similar devices used in the past with Iron Man and Dr. Strange. Fair enough. But just because it’s been done before, it should be done again? Slott’s Iron Man example took place ten years ago, for chrissakes, a time when I had quit reading comics altogether, they sucked so bad (although apparently, Kurt Busiek co-plotted the issue in question, so I might hunt that bad boy down). So if we’re gonna start doing comics like they were done in the ‘90s (I mean, shit, they already brought back Rob Liefeld and fuckin’ Onslaught, didn’t they?), I guess I’m gonna have to start spending my lunch money on records instead, like I did in the ‘90s (the mid to late ‘90s, anyways).

Where Slott really loses me, though, is with this quote:
There ARE solutions to ANY continuity problem you can come up with. Honest. WE know how they all work. But who wants to go on and on explaining it all? I mean, just look at how long THIS response is. See? Getting sleepy yet? Me? I'd rather use that time telling stories!

Yeah, man, I’ve been collecting comics for more than half of my miserable life. I know how they all work. And that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s why, for example, in “The Other,” Straczynski, David, and Hudlin brought a whole bunch of new shit into Spider-Man’s continuity, shit I didn’t see coming even after almost twenty years of following the adventures of the long underwear set, shit that actually seemed kinda obvious in retrospect because it worked so well. All of this shit in “The Other”? Those were some solutions, son. See, to me, it’s not that there’s new problems with continuity; it’s that there’s no new continuity.

For some time, I’ve felt this current generation (turn of the century on) of superhero books is the best yet, and part of that is because the story-telling has matured greatly, especially in Marvel, where that Crisis reboot crap indeed doesn’t have much of a place (except all this Spidey nonsense, obviously), where storylines are taken to their logical ends and torpedoes be damned. Daredevil, for example. I realize the specifics between the unmaskings of Matt Murdock and Peter Parker are pretty widely divergent, but there are obvious parallels. For instance, Murdock’s wife is now in the booby hatch because Matty made it absolutely clear to the underworld as to who owned Hell’s Kitchen. You don’t unmask in the middle of Josie’s Bar after handing Wilson Fisk his own large ass without inviting trouble onto you and your loved ones. Is a wife in the nuthouse the same as a dying mother-figure? Maybe not, but it was still no walk in the park for the man without fear, and he still didn’t go running to Mephisto when his horns were up against the wall (I’m still undecided if the irony of that, if it were to happen, would be kinda clever or just kinda lame).

But it takes time to tell a story like this. Or, to put it another way, to go on and on explaining it all, explaining to the reader what is continually happening to the protagonist—his, to use a word, continuity. Or, to put it yet another way, to tell a story like this. Brian Michael Bendis spent a good four years fucking up (in a good way)(for us, the readers, anyways) Murdock’s life, and Ed Brubaker’s been carrying on that tradition since. And I haven’t fallen asleep once. Again, if anything is sleep-inducing, it’s resorting to “the classic Peter Parker set-up,” as Wacker calls it. I already own the Amazing Spider-Man omnibus; I can read the classic set-up anytime I want.

All right, well, now that I’ve gotten off track somewhat, I might as well go all the way. So finally, if Marvel just wanted to return Peter Parker’s secret identity, that I could understand. I felt at the time (and still do, for the most part) that Pete’s unmasking was the ballsiest move I’d ever seen in mainstream comics. And though I’d hoped and prayed Marvel would stick to it, I guess I wasn’t all that surprised when they didn’t. But I had good reason to think that they might, pointing again to Daredevil. Back in #25 of this current series, after Murdock had been outed by Sammy Silke, Daredevil/Murdock was being sued for property damage, when who should take the stand but Daredevil himself. What the—?! We come to find out it’s none other than ol’ Parker in Matt’s spare duds. But now people are starting to wonder. And I hesitate to throw this example in since it’s not a Marvel book (Note: since I was writing this for The Marvel Zombie Society, I did my level best to only talk about Marvel comics), but I will because it is contemporary superhero stuff as well as mainstream-ish: Astro City. In the Local Heroes mini-series, Busiek (hey, him again) also plays up this angle beautifully by having a supposedly open and shut case get thrown out since, in a world of time-travelers and shape-shifters, what can any jury know beyond the shadow of a doubt? And finally, more recently and relevantly, we have Avengers: The Initiative #7, written by none other than Dan Slott(!!)(and might I add: !), wherein the seeds of public doubt are sown when there appears to be three Peter Parkers, all with the same spider powers, in Midtown beating on the Vulturions. The public really starts to scratch their heads at that one: How can there be three of these guys? Which one is Parker? Is Parker even one of them? Well, dude, we just don’t know. But shall we take our time to find out? I mean, it would take years to re-establish Parker’s secret identity this way, right?

Well, yeah.

What, you got something better to do?

Weblog of Spider-Man

So, back a few months ago, I found out one of my roommates was part of a comics APA called the Marvel Zombie Society. I was not only surprised that such a thing still existed, but that I actually could get it up enough to contribute. Of course, that couldn't last. So now in a further effort to remove myself from my early 20s-era Luddism and to save essential paper resources for truly important things like hardware store circulars, I'm going live with this here blog thing. I actually started one a little while ago about NYPD Blue, but I actually managed to bore myself. I've got a new entry brewing up in the old noggin, but to hold you until then, I'm gonna reprint the articles I did for the APA, re-edited to make it seem as though I'd just written them for my vast Internet audience. Everything is about comics, although I occasionally lapse into movie criticism and other various shit, whatever burr I've got up my ass at the time. But nothing non-comics related. If I'm gonna bore you with sob stories of my misbegotten existence, you can be damn sure there's a comical book angle in there somewhere. I try to be all smart-alecky and post-modern (and try doing that without using the term "graphic novel," it ain't easy), not because I think I'm better than everybody (although I do think that), but because for the last 7 or 8 years, I've found the conversational tone in comics fandom is like that you'd find at an 8th grade dance. And I fucking hated 8th grade dances. So I won't be crapping out any top ten lists, or starred reviews, or any of that Entertainment Weekly horseshit. Criticism at its brashest and generally soaked in Bud Light, that's the Callaway way. So welcome aboard.

In closing, the Watchmen movie is gonna suck really bad.