Thursday, November 22, 2007

A half-dozen or so links

1.) Meanwhile, in Las Vegas… : This week’s Las Vegas Weekly comics column features a review of League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Black Dossier. Anyone who’s managed to slog through it already, please let me know what you thought of the book in the comments section below. The reviews I’ve read so far have been a bit mixed, but I honestly can’t hear enough reactions to it, given how strange it is.

One question that occurred to me while reading was whether or not it even counts as a true graphic novel, given how much of it is actually what we consider prose as opposed to sequential art. But given the fact that we’re still wrestling with the term “graphic novel,” maybe we’re not ready for a discussion of how to define hybrid books like this yet.

2.) “Bad” isn’t a style: Check out this excellent analysis of the cover work of Michael Turner. If you come here often, you know that Turner’s cover work is a fairly frequent target of abuse, although my problems with it tend to revolve around the comical lengths he goes to not draw feet (it is, in fact, the principle around which his covers are composed), the complete lack of backgrounds, and the incredibly boring compositions of, like, one-to-ten super-people just kinda standing around, not doing anything.

Something I didn’t notice, however, is just how bad he is with anatomy. Okay, well, yeah, everyone knows his Supergirl had a few dozen ribs too many, that his Power Girl was a horrifying freak and that his Namor had a fist coming out of his belly, but this thorough essay shows how Turner’s anatomy is completely inconsistent within the single image drawings (two people in the same image having radically different skeletons, for example, or one character having arms of two completely different lengths).

It’s a nice write-up anyway, and a good one to bookmark and post links to any time anyone tells you that the lack of quality in Turner’s cover work is just his “style.”

3.) You’re either with Gail Simone or you’re against her: On Monday, Savage Critic Diana Kingston-Gabai reviewed DC writer Gail Simone’s Welcome to Tranquility #12, spending about 450 words assessing the book, the series, and (to a much lesser extent) Simone’s recent output in general. Kingston-Gabai gave the book an “Awful,” the second lowest grade on the Savage Critic’s seven-grade rating system.

I didn’t read the issue in question, or any issues of the series, as I agree with Kingston-Gabai that “Gail Simone seems seriously off her game lately.” I think Simone is a very solid super-comic writer in general, turning in consistently good work often featuring a sense of humor, something that’s all too often missing in the work of her peers, especially at DC these days.

But after All-New Atom’s nose-dive in quality (encouraged by DC launching the series before apparently finding an artist), the Secret Six mini’s meandering (fun stuff, but not a story), the post-OYL slump of Birds of Prey and the downright appalling first issue of Gen 13, her name alone on Welcome to Tranquility wasn’t enough to entice me to try it out.

So I don’t know, maybe it was “Awful,” as Kingston-Gabai rated it. Maybe it was actually “Crap” or “Excellent,” the lowest and highest ratings on the Savage Critic scale. I just can’t speak to the quality of Welcome to Tranquility.

I can speak to the quality of Kingston-Gabai’s comics criticism though. I’ve no read it a couple times, and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it that I could see. It wasn’t the single best piece of comics criticism I’d seen on the Internet, but it was well-written and supported the opinions expressed in it. And, most important to me, it was fun to read, even for someone who doesn’t have any firsthand experience with the book in question.

Gail Simone disagreed. Hard.

The second response on the thread, which you really ought to go read for yourself, if you haven’t already (this post will still be here when you get back), was Simone, accusing Kingston-Gabai of “outright factual errors,” calling the review dumb, and, essentially offering her reviews of the reviews on the site. In that initial—and probably ill-considered—post, Simone wrote:

“Didn't this site used to be good at snark, and not just random unhappy carping stated poorly (and more to the point) tediously? I can't believe I miss the buckshot approach of Brian's first few years, but the vapid stuff you guys are doing now is too long-winded to even make for good bitchery. When was the last really worthwhile review here?”

What followed was 52 posts (as of this writing), a pretty gigantic thread for the site, with 20 of those posts coming from Simone herself. After some arguing between Simone and Kingston-Gabai, in which Simone condescendingly confesses ignorance of Kingston-Gabai’s work (easily accessible at the click of a label) and decries, things calmed down a bit, despite some venom from an anonymous poster who later revealed himself to be a pseudonymonous poster.

All in all, it’s a pretty shocking display. Simone attacking a review or the site regarding the quality of the writing or criticism might not have looked quite so bad if it wasn’t, you know, a negative review of one of her own works she was specifically replying to, but, well, there it is.

What I found most distressing is that Simone, who shows such a sense of humor in her comics writing, seems to lack one here.

She accused Kingston-Gabai of making “factual errors” in a review, but never gets around to pointing out what any of them are, despite days worth of 20 posts, other than the fact that she says Welcome to Tranquility is not, in fact, cancelled (Although no issues of the monthly comic book have been solicited for the next three months, so whether it’s cancelled or not renewed for additional issues like Highwaymen or not cancelled but not being published anymore either like Manhunter seems like a semantic argument, particularly since Kingston-Gabai doesn’t have an inside track on Wildstorm’s future publishing plans).

Wait, scratch that. What I found most distressing is a letter from a ten-year-old that Simone posted in the thread, reviewing her Wonder Woman #14. Do you realize what that means? There are parents out there who allow their ten-year-old child to read the violent, perverted, morally bankrupt comics of the modern DCU!

4.) Attention Columbusites and Central Ohioans!: Don’t forget this weekend is the annual post-Thanksgiving feast of pop culture, Mid-Ohio-Con. Regulars (and EDILW favorites) Sergio Aragones, Jan Duuresema and Tom Mandrake will be there, as will Steve Rude, Mark Evanier, Joe Benitez and Arthur Suydam. I won’t be going, because I can’t trust myself to be in the same building as the guy who drew this

and this

But if you go, be sure to plead with Suydam to stop drawing zombie variants, and break Benitez’s pencils for me, will you?

And don’t forget, tomorrow night is the Panel “Unmasked” pre-party. Go buy the Panel-ists’ latest anthology, and buy them some drinks while you’re at it. More info here.

5.) DC should really talk to Art Baltazar about a Watchmen Babies one-shot: I’m the 532nd person to mention this, having waited four days, but how weird is it to be living in a world in which Alan Moore’s conflicts with DC Comics over Watchmen are the source of a joke on The Simpsons?

That was the first time I’d actually heard Alan Moore’s voice, although I’m sure there’s an awful lot of him talking, singing and reading poetry available on recordings and online, and he’s a pretty damn good voice actor. He totally sounded like a scary British wizard, which is pretty much how I think of him.

It was probably the funniest episode of The Simpsons I’ve seen in quite a while, and it’s worth noting that The Simpsons in general has been in sharper form this season then they have been in…well, years. I don’t know if the movie energized the creators—I know my main reaction to the film was, “Oh yeah, The Simpsons used to be funny!”—or the encroachment of Seth McFarlane onto their Sunday night territory lighting a fire under their asses, but the show is great shape this year.

That said, what the fuck was up with that episode? The beginning had nothing to do with the rest of it, and the entire Comic Book Guy vs. Jack Black Voiced Guy segment was basically a way too long set-up for Marge to walk by a Wonder Woman cut-out and kick off the women’s gym plot. Is The Android’s Dungeon finished? Is Jack Black Voiced Guy going to be a regular? Why was the everything-goes-back-to-normal-at-the-end-of-the-episode formula violated?

I’ve noticed that increasingly The Simpsons episodes have begun with scenes that have nothing to do with the main plot of the episode, and I’ve always theorized that it had to do with the need to fill a certain amount of time. I imagined the writers would assemble an episode with a particular story, and then work backwards from there, piling on scenes and segues at the beginning until they hit their target length.

This episode seemed to be the most padded with such warm-up material of any I can remember seeing. Now, the padding is all fine—the funniest parts of the episode, whether you’re watching it as a big huge comics nerd or not—but it really did seem like two completely unconnected stories put together.

Anyway, it’s been fun seeing the comics blogsphere’s reaction all week, but the strangest thing I’ve read about it was from the episode’s writer, Matt Selman:

There are references in the first act of this thing you never thought you'd see on Adult Swim at three in the morning, let alone on Fox during prime time. Here's a taste of what you'll get: the guest voices are Art Spiegelman, Alan Moore, and Dan Clowes. DAN CLOWES? On network TV??? How the Hell did we pull that off? Fox doesn’t want Alan Moore, they want Mandy Moore. Hell, they would rather have Mighty Mouse than the author of Maus. (At least Mighty Mouse is cute and doesn't talk about 9/11.) Scoring these indie comic book mega-talents to be in a regular TV show for regular people is a F-ing miracle!

You know, as cool as it was that a Fox show had a poster for Lost Girls up in the background, I was really wondering just how obscure any of that actually is.

Art Spiegelman’s Maus is one of the few comics/ -x/ graphic novels that everyone on earth who cares about such things would put in a comics/ -x/ graphic novel canon, isn’t it? Dude’s spent years at The New Yorker covers and been interviewed, profiled, and reviewed by every respectable media venue for over 20 years now.

I would be more shocked to see Big Two stalwarts like, I don’t know, Peter David, Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas or Mark Waid on a “regular TV show for regular people” than Art Spiegelman, really.

Similarly, Moore’s Watchmen is up there with Maus in the non-nerd collective comics consciousness, three big studio films have been made out of his work (one of which wasn’t even completely awful!), and Watchmen is on the way, being often talked online.

And Dan Clowes has written two films, both based on his comics work, one of which was nominated for an Academy Award and he has a comic strip in The New York Times.

The trio are about as mainstream as you can get in terms of comics talents, this side of current Hollywood darling Frank Miller and maybe Neil Gaiman (whose probably better known for prose work than comics at this point).

Selman’s enthusiasm is quite understandable—I don’t think I was ever that excited about an episode of The Simpsons prior to it airing, to be honest—but if he’s not just being hyperbolic for comedic effect in his column, then that seems reflective of a weird comic book industry insider view of the world, in which DC and Marvel and superheroes represent “the mainstream,” and everything else, the stuff that’s non-superhero in genre, the stuff that is more likely to be seen, bought, read, and written about outside the direct market is considered indie and obscure, when, in fact, it’s the exact opposite way around.


Man, is there nothing I can’t find something to complain about?

6.) Oh yeah, it’s some sort of holiday today, isn’t it?: Well, I’m thankful for all of you who read EDILW and post comments.


Anonymous said...

Yeah very very surprised by that Savage Critics thread, but I guess it just means the writers aren't immune to the endless stupidty that runs rampant whenever anyone disagrees with anything at a major comics site.

The unconnected-first-act bit certainly isn't anything new to the Simpsons, but you're right it definitely seemed to take like half the episode this week instead of a third or less.

Belated Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for everytime the Red Bee shows up here.

David page said...

Yeah the simpsons started doing the unrelated opening in season six with the candy convention episode.

speaking of the red bee hes due for an appearance on dead'll do....

Anonymous said...

Due to the entirely unrelated-to-the-rest-of-the-plot nature of that first part of The Simpsons, I took it to mean that, since it had no story value, it was simply a love letter to the comic book community at large. It was like The Simpsons reached out to comic books and gave it a huge high five.