Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just a links post

Before I get into some links, I wanted to ask you guys for your opinion on something. Okay, so when I first started the blog, I would review my weekly stack of serial comics immediately after reading them and post those reviews on Wednesday nights, in a feature I called “Weekly Haul.”

About a year and a half or so ago, I moved away from Columbus to a city without a comic book shop, and thus I wasn’t actually buying and reading new books every Wednesday anymore, but would only get new books every couple of weeks or so, depending on when I got to one of the nearest shops, in Erie, Pennsylvania or Mentor, Ohio. Thus I changed the name of the column to “Comic Shop Comics,” and it appeared more infrequently, but it was still pretty much the same idea.

Well, while I still don’t live in a city with a comic shop of its own yet, a few months ago I got a job in Mentor, and so am in a city with a comic shop every Wednesday.

So I’m wondering if I should just keep reviewing serially published and purchased comics under the “Comic Shop Comics,” premise—reviews of everything I purchased form a comic shop (as opposed to review copies and whatnot) every so often, when I get a big stack of them built up up—or if I should return to the “Weekly Haul” premise—reviewing all of the week’s new books that I personally purchased as soon as I get done reading them.

The main reason I hesitate is because I’ve been buying fewer and fewer serially published comics, certainly much fewer than I did when I started doing the “Weekly Haul” feature, and there will likely be a lot of weeks like this past one where there are only a couple reviews (and, thus, not exactly a “haul.”)

Anyway, just wondering if anyone had any strong feelings on the matter. Strong enough to read a half-dozen paragraphs of me talking about it, anyway.

And now, a few weeks worth of links I let build up without sharing and commenting on….

1.) Graeme McMillan, whose name I always want to spell “McMillian” for some reason, apparently recently stumbled upon that Plastic Man cartoon pilot from Tom Kenny, Andy Suriano and Stephen DeStefano. It’s existence is, of course, old news, but McMillan and a few others have been talking about it on the Internet this month, which is fine by me. Plastic Man, DeStefano and cartoons are among some of my favorite things, so any story that combines all three of ‘em never seems too dated to repeat to me.

In addition to the Plastic Man cartoon that never was, DeStefano produced the single-episode Plas story that Mark Chiarello kept in a glass case marked “Break In Case Of Blown Deadline” while editing Wednesday Comics, although it was never actually needed (Though I believe it ended up in the trade collection, which I’ve yet to track down at a library just to see two new pages of…although this is a good reminder that I should probably do so soon).

The image above, by the way, are sketches from DeStefano's blog, which has lots of cool drawings on it, even though it hasn't been updated in a while.

2.) And speaking of McMillian, here’s another post of his on Blog@, in which he shares a link to Jim Shooter’s blog, in which the controversial Marvel editor shares an anecdote about the first time Stan lee saw some of the “new” X-Men characters that followed the original line up that Lee and Kirby created.

As someone who has never really “got” the X-Men, I thought it was a pretty amusing anecdote, and a nice example of something that Lee had internalized about superheroes—that their names, powers and designs should all suggest one another—a sort of loose “rule” about superheroes that so, so, sooooo many X-Men characters broke.

Not that it seems to have hurt the X-Men, particularly some of those X-Men, all that much in the long run, of course, but it’s still a nice moment of clashing worldviews.

3.) I liked this picture of Wonder Woman by Sara Pichelli that the increasingly popular and influential DC Women Kicking Ass tumblr thingee shared earlier in the month.

If you spend any time clicking around Pichelli’s site, it won’t take long before one notices that she draws lots of sexy ladies, and that she’s awful good at it. (I coulda done without seeing the Joker’s nipple in that Joker/Harley piece though; there are few things I like thinking about less than The Joker in states of undress, although I’m not entirely sure why).

The above image is a detail from a Tank Girl commission from her site.

4.) Speaking of pictures of Wonder Woman, the above is from EDILW favorite Tom Williams, accentuating the warrior aspect of the character. It's not an aspect I generally like to see played up, but goddam does Williams make her look scary in this image.

5.) I greatly enjoyed The Comics Reporter’s August 14 “Five For Friday” feature, in which contributors were asked to Name An Alternative Fantastic Four: Four Characters #1-4 (Including One Woman) And At #5 The Creators That Would Handle The Comic Book."

If you haven’t read it yet, but go do so now, I would recommend you also take a split-second to imagine the teams wearing matching FF uniforms and/or fighting a giant green monster emerging from the beneath the streets of New York City, as in the image above.

6.) CR is also where I saw a link to this blog, featuring a series of images by Norwegian artist Steingrim Veum each titled “Orgy.” That is because each one features an orgy. Don’t click on this link if you’re at work and/or don’t want to look at drawings of orgies.

The figures are all very simple, so while I don’t doubt there are plenty of people who would deem it pornographic, the images are hardly titillating. The artwork is remarkable, though. The settings of the orgies are all gorgeously designed, appointed and delineated homes, and they are full of odd, renaissance art-like symbol-touches, like conspicuously placed animals standing in the foreground, calling attention to themselves by clearly not belonging to the “story” in the image (That is, the orgy).

Many of the pieces are very funny too, and the more of ‘em I looked at, the funnier I found the whole project. I love the expressions on most of the characters’ faces—their “O-faces,” I believe the kids call it. Most of these are of the eyes-rolling-half-back-into-the-head variety, but there are occasional ones that stand out.

Like, in an image with these faces in it...

What’s going through this guy’s head?Also, I like “Orgy #9” because in it everyone appears in the middle of some sort of erotic act, or, in one case, having recently completed an erotic act, but there’s one dude just sort of random laying under a piece of furniture by himself, with his turgid member sticking up in the air. What’s that dude’s story?

7.) I noticed a couple of people linking back to this Hollywood Reporter article (is it an article? I think it’s an article; it looks like a stack of pull-quotes though) regarding Anne Hathaway and getting into her Catwoman suit.

The headline is “Anne Hathaway Eating ‘Kale and Dust’ to Fit in Catwoman Suit,” and boy is it depressing to think that one of the most beautiful actresses in the world feels she has to/has been asked to live on kale and dust in order to look extra-super-hot in a catsuit.

I’m glad to hear Hathaway’s a vegetarian, though.

8.) Another piece that’s been widely linked to in the past few weeks is this one by David Brothers, entitled “The problem with ‘black Spider-Man’ is…”

Brothers includes a link to what I believe is one of the earliest episodes of Adult Swim’s Sealab 2021, in which Stormy, the dumb character, tries to explain why he calls “Black Debbie” “Black Debbie” instead of just “Debbie.” (Rewatching that scene got me thinking of that one from Adult Swim’s Birdman, Attorney At Law show, in which Super Friend Black Vulcan complains about his treatment form the them, “And you think I named myself Black Vulcan? Hell, no. I used to go by Super Volt. Black Vulcan was Aquaman’s idea; I said well maybe we should just call you Whitefish!”)

Quick anecdote: The other day, I was in the media room at the library, and I heard a little boy—too little to sit through a three-hour melodrama, if you ask me—announcing to his parent, "This one has Red Spider-Man and Black Spider-Man! I wanna get this one!" I looked over to see what he was talking about, and saw that he was in the grown-up movie section instead of the kids section, and that he was pulling a copy of Spider-Man 3 off the shelf.

It made me wonder if the fact that the new Ultimate Spidey wears a predominantly black costume might also contribute to folks calling him “black Spider-Man,” in the same way this little kid called Caucasian Peter Parker in a black Spider-Man costume "black Spider-Man."

I agree with Brothers in general about the stupidity and sadness of referring to "black Spider-Man," but the deeper point, that the half-black, half-Hispanic new guy is never going to be the "real" and "superior" Spider-Man (who is, of course, white) is something there's no getting around—Ultimate Spider-Man is the alternate universe, less-real Spider-man. And even if they killed off the "616" Spidey (the realest-“real” Spider-Man) and replaced him with a Miles Morales, Miles Morales would still be the not “real” Spider-Man, because he was the one who came second.

I don't know what the hell happened in the Silver Age where new guys like Green Lantern, The Flash and The Atom could somehow replace the previous guys with those codenames and become the prime versions of them, so that a generation or so went by in which Barry Allen was considered the “real” Flash instead of Jay Garrick, the first super-speedster who wore read and a lightning bolt symbol and called himself The Flash.

DC’s Silver Age reinvention of a handful of Golden Age superheroes aside, though, regardless of race, legacy heroes replacing their forebears and becoming considered the prime, “real” versions never really works…not indefinitely, anyway.

Like, even if no one calls Wally West "the white Flash" or Kyle Rayner "the white Green Lantern," there were still large groups of readers, or, in the case of Barry Allen, maybe just Dan DiDio, who never, ever, ever accepted a substitute to their conception of the original, prime, “real” version, even after 25 years or so (in the case of Barry Allen vs. Wally West).

Brothers has talked about this before, but it basically boils down to giving the codenames and costumes of white superheroes to non-white superheroes being a bad way to create diverse characters, as they automatically have all this baggage.

The thing to do, if you want to create successful diverse characters devoid of this perception of being inferior to previous white heroes, is to create more Statics, Icons, Storms and Bishops (That guy Bishop was kinda popular for a while, right? Like, in the early ‘90s? People liked him then, right).

But trying to create brand new characters to sell to Marvel and DC readers that actually catch on ain't exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, which is one of the tragedies of the publishers’ efforts to create more diverse fictional worlds.

Complicating the matter these days is the many alternate avenues through which to publish a successful superhero, and the fact that media adaptations of IPs puts so much money at stake.

For example, say you’re a successful (or even just professional) comic book writer or artist working for Marvel or DC, and you’ve come up with a brand-new, totally awesome superhero character who seems to have the potential to be as popular as Spider-Man. What do you do with it?

Gift it to the publisher by introducing that character into your work for them, so that you get a page-rate and maybe, if you’re lucky, a “created by” credit any time the character gets used, while the publisher and Warner Bros. or Disney can potentially make millions off the character?

Or keep it to yourself, hoping to self-publish something with that character, or sell a screenplay featuring the character to Hollywood, or take it to a smaller publisher like Dark Horse or Image where you can work out a better deal for yourself?

There are so many factors working against the introduction of a brand-new, all-original superhero character today that it can be depressing to think about.

Which, isn’t, of course, to say that folks shouldn’t keep trying to do so, and that readers shouldn’t keep hoping DC, Marvel and others start getting it right some day.

This is just your weekly reminder that the comic book industry can be pretty sad.

9.) I love the title of this manga.

10.) I also love Tucker Stone. Have you seen his piece his piece sifting through the first two weeks worth of DC’s “New 52” books?

Here’s a sample:
Batgirl #1: You gotta be a pretty old comic book reader to have actually read comics where Barbara Gordon could walk, and if you have been around that long, you've probably read the Suicide Squad issues that traced the creation of the Oracle character, and if you've read those, I can't really imagine you're that excited to read a comic that wipes all that stuff out for the purposes of goosing up the monthly sales numbers. Then again, this is one of the only comics that DC's going to be publishing in September that's written by a woman, so maybe I should just ease up and say...

Verdict: buy it anyway, because man oh man oh manoshevitz, DC's gotta stop pretending they're "only hiring the best" when they've got comics on the schedule by scrubs like Michael Green, Diogenes Neves, Miguel Sepulveda and JT Krul. Normally, I would save comments about DC's status with women for another column, but how do you turn "they should just hire more women because it's the right thing to do" into 1000 words?

11.) Check out “Chinese dollar store offers wonderfully insane backstory for Batman.”

Now imagine if, when they reboot the Batman film franchise, they used that exact same plot. Oh my God, could you imagine the shock of that plot twist? No one would see it coming!

As “insane” as that backstory might be, it’s worth noting that there’s little more insane than comic book publishing itself. For example, DC Comics, the folks who actually own and publish Batman comics, have already published a comic book in which Bruce Wayne grows up to be Green Lantern and another one in which orphaned Kryptonian baby Kal-El grows up to be Batman.

12.) Finally, I’m assuming most if not all of you have already read Tom Spurgeon’s August 14 essay “All Of These Things That Have Made Us” essay.

If you haven’t, please do so now.

It’s a remarkable, even astonishing piece. Like most pieces from Spurgeon, it surprised me, it made me laugh, it made me think, and it made me jealous. Now, I know jealousy is a negative emotion, but it's actually one of the higher compliments I can pay a writer—any writer who produces work that makes me think, “Damn, I wish I said that” or “I wish I could say something that effectively” is, in my book, a pretty great one.

Spurgeon quite unfortunately had the opportunity to take stock of his life during the incidents he describes in the essay, and he took the opportunity to remind us all of the value of doing so. There’s a temptation to join Spurgeon in taking stock of his life after reading such a piece as that—writing a few paragraphs about how I think he’s the best there is at what he does, about how much I enjoy his work, about how the fact that I hear from him through the words he posts on Comics Reporter seven days a week has gradually made this guy I’ve never met a more constant presence in my life that certain friends and relatives, or to simply note how much I’d miss not being able to read Comics Reporter regularly (I still haven’t gotten over the fact that Dirk Deppey isn’t doing Journalista anymore; every morning after reading CR and The Beat, I feel this weird “Isn’t there a third site I always read…?” split-second of confusion and then disappointment)—but I think Spurgeon’s ultimate point is bigger than all that.

Like I said, it offers a reminder. A much-needed reminder about how short and how uncertain life can be, and that every day might be your last (See how I included a tired cliché in that previous sentence? Spurgeon wouldn’t have used such a cliché ).

I’m glad Tom Spurgeon is around, and I’m glad he’s doing what he’s doing. I hope he lives to be a thousand years old, and keeps doing Comics Reporter for at least the next 500.


matthew. said...

I think you should do whatever is most convenient for you. I will go along with whatever you decide. Apologies for an unhelpful contribution.

Akilles said...

I think the same as Matthew does.

Patrick C said...

At first I thought you were going to say you were no longer going to do comic reviews and I freaked out a little.

But now that I know it is just about format, I'm okay. I enjoyed the Weekly Haul, and had something to look forward to after I got my comics home on Wednesdays (you usually posted your reviews before any of the other comic book sites I check), so I'll vote for that.

Of course, if Comic Shop Comics allows you to write more or go more in depth, I like that too, so I'm cool either way.