Sunday, May 20, 2012

(links)

Did you guys read last Sunday's in-depth interview over at Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter? It was with Joseph Remnant, the artist who drew Harvey Pekar's recently-released graphic novel Cleveland. I was somewhat surprised to learn that while Remnant is from Ohio, he's not from Cleveland, and did his visual research for the book mostly through the Internet. I was so surprised because he pulled it off extremely well. Based on the images within, I assumed he was a Cleveland native, and that he was driving and biking around town and sketching up a storm in preparation for illustrating the book.

(This week's in-depth interview over at Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter, by the way, is with Faith Erin Hicks; I haven't yet read it personally, but I can't imagine it's not well worth a read).

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The great cartoonist Roger Langridge has decided to no longer seek or accept work from Marvel or DC due to ethical concerns with the way the company's treat creators, and explained so publicly.

Langridge is a great example of a writer who has done just enough Marvel work to let Marvel readers know exactly how great he is at writing Marvel characters, and exactly how great future Langridge-written Marvel comics might have been—his The Mighty Thor run with Chris Samnee wasn't only one of the better superhero comics I can recall reading in the past decade or so, but it was of the sort that I could imagine myself eagerly reading month in and month out indefnitely—before noting that there isn't going to be any more such comics from him (Barring Marvel maybe cleaning up their act remarkably significantly).

So like Chris Roberson bailing from DC after making a purse out of the sow's ear of J. Michael Straczynski's abandoned Superman run (if that's the right metaphor, and it probably isn't), it's an absence that will be felt, at least in terms of unrealized potential Big Two Comics That Are Actually Pretty Good.

If you couple Langridge's Thor comics with his work on The Muppet Show (as writer and artist) and on IDW's new Popeye, it's clear that Langridge is brilliant at taking pre-existing, other-created, corporate-owned characters and franchises and making them sing in a way that honors their essential qualities and also makes them appear vital and relevant. In other words, Langridge is the ideal writer for the sorts of comics DC and Marvel publish (or should publish, anyway, since the publishers seem to currently conceive of superhero narratives as shitty R-rated action movies, only with more gore and spandex).

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Here's what the note for this link—I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but throughout the week when I see something interesting I cut-and-paste the link and then type up some quick notes on it to fill out on Sunday afternoon—says in it's entirety:

holyfucking shit sean t collins just reviewed the hell out of some marvel movies

I guess I was pretty excited as well as impressed with Collins' review of Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. You can read the piece here.

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I saw The Avengers the Saturday of the weekend it opened, and have been meaning to type up some thoughts on it here ever since. What's that been now, two weeks...?

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Here's an interesting piece from David Brothers about a thing that has long bugged the shit out of me: Not-swearing swearing in comic books.

Specifically, including a swear word in a bit of dialogue, but covering it up in some fashion, while keeping the context perfectly clear, like someone in a Bendis Avengers comic saying "@#$% me? No, @#$% you!" or "Kiss my @$$" or "Is it true you once @#$%-ed Tigra on a quinjet?" (Er, those aren't exact examples). Such swearing just makes the writer (Bendis) and publisher (Marvel) look foolish, since it's mature but not really; like, they want to talk like a grown-up, but are afraid of getting in trouble with adults (Similarly frustrating is Marvel and DC's embrace of crazy ultraviolence in their superhero comics, with a blanket refusal to ever use any nudity in any context).

Brothers breaks down exactly what is so frustrating and stupid about not-swearing swearing, but I disagree with some of the types of not-swearing swearing that he considers clever.

I do kinda like the Milestone squiggle that Brothers calls attention too, in large part because I always read it as a record-scratching noise or as the way pop radio stations will scramble swear words in rap songs (and, as Brothers noted, it's visual, it's art).

I don't like Adam Warren's black bars over the swear words in Empowered. They bother the hell out of me, both in that the swear words they are blocking out are all obvious from the context, and also because the black bars look like the redaction bars from government reports and suchlike. They don't seem to fit in the overall context of the book. That said, that is—almost—the only thing I don't like about Empowered (That, and how uncomfortable the skull-fucking bad guys make me).

The only kind of non-swear swear word I really, really like is the kind where the artist draws out the swar words, like Mort Walker and/or all the Walker/Browne cartoonist people put in Sarge's mouth when he's cussing out Beetle Bailey or whatever. You know, like where he draws @#$% symbols and compliments them with letter-sized drawings of gravestones, skulls, daggers and storm clouds.

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Oh my God has it been five years already...? (Via The Beat)

Thinking about Countdown to Final Crisis again got me thinking if that is the precise moment where things started to go wrong in the DC Universe as a cohesive whole, so wrong that DC felt it had to reboot its universe?

Huge, glaring errors in continuity and characterization appeared throughout the DiDio period of DC Comics that began with Identity Crisis and stretched to Infinite Crisis, but there was an in-story rationale (eventually) provided: Superboy was super-punching history itself. But even after a clean restart of the universe in IC (and another in 52), they continued through the period that lead to and included Countdown, at which point they were explained away as the reverberations of the death of Darkseid as he fell through existence, warping history.

And then the universe was un-made and re-made once more.

And there were still problems so, in Flashpoint, DC un-made and re-made its universe once more, this time with it's cleanest and most total re-boot since Crisis On Infinite Earths.

Anyway, I wonder at what point did DC feel they had to reboot...or what the inciting incident was. Was it as far back as Identity Crisis? Or was it Countdown? Or was it Cry For Justice and what followed it...?

I don't know.

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Abhay also reviewed the hell out of The Avengers. To illustrate his review he chooses an interesting image.

Do note how many more female Avengers Avengers: A Porn Parody has in its line-up compared to Marvel's Avengers. Spider-Woman, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel—who looks like she just flew in off of a Greg Horn cover—join Black Widow on the team.

I mean, it makes sense; if they stuck with the real Avengers cast, the porn parody would simply be a series of gangbangs involving the Widow and maybe Maria Hill, and/or a lot of dude-on-dude hook-ups (Augh! Scary visual image of Nick Fury's empty socket!)

Still, look at all those Avenging ladies! DC Women Kicking Ass once noted that the only place she could see live action film versions of her favorite comic book heroines was in pornography...

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Look at all these lovely Doll Man pages!

You know how Geoff Johns goes about making people care about Green Lantern or Aquaman by making the characters as over-the-top bad-ass as possible? I wouldn't mind seeing Johns apply such treatment to Doll Man. I'm sure it would still be bad and I wouldn't like it, but it would be interesting, in the way Geoff Johns' comics continue to be of interest to me.

If Aquaman is considered a joke character to such an extent that the defining aspect of his new title is how sensitive the Aquaman is to this perception of him and the lengths he'll go to prove himself to jaded comic book readers who prefer Batman and Wolverine, imagine what Johns' Doll Man would be like...!

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You know what's so great about Before Watchmen? Just when you think the story has gotten as depressing as it can possibly get, you see something even more deperssing that makes you despair even more!

For example, comics news site Comic Book Resources and a motley crew of hand-picked outlets got invited into DC Comics compounds in order to look at some pages from the project and, I don't know, relate that, I don't know, even if Darwyn Cooke has apparently lost his moral compass, he hasn't lost his ability to draw...? Or whatever.

I only made it through the first write-up Heidi MacDonald linked to, a piece for MTV Geek written by DC Comics assistant editor-turned amateur comics blogger-turned Friends of Lulu president-turned Marvel comics writer-turned professional comics blogger Valerie Gallaher, and felt so ill I couldn't contine. Gallaher's piece is essentially a more polished version of what Newsarama's Lucas Siegel wrote upon the original announcement of the project, with the added benefit of being able to say that the great artists who contributed art to the project did a great job.

This is a very strange comics "story," and I feel about it similar to the way I felt about Frank Miller's Holy Terror in terms of how comics media should most responsibly address it. The project's existence is disgusting and should be fairly abhorrent to anyone reads, likes or cares about comics, the people who make comics and the way in which comics are made.

That said, are we better off ignoring Before Watchmen completely, as something beneath covering? Should we take it seriously, as if it were just another comics publishing initiative, akin to Avengers Vs. X-Men (You know, releasing previews, highlighting covers, reviewing the individual books as they come out)? Should we take every opportunity to engage DC on the project and say, "No, this is not okay? Or does that merely help DC in their promotion efforts?

Holy Terror was a big, noteworthy, newsworthy release, given the skill and reputation of its creator, its controversial address of important issues and its unique origin story of being publicly announced as a Batman project and then, over a period of years, changed just enough so that it could be published outside of DC Comics. The things it said though were horrible, and I struggled with whether to review it at all or ignore it, which did the most good, or which did the most ill.

I ultimately did review it, and discuss it on my blog in another context, even if acknowledging it did help promote it to a certain degree.

What are we to do with Before Watchmen, though? Like Holy Terror, I'm not sure how to proceed most responsibly so as to not do anything to help sell books, but I also don't want to let my disapproval of the project also help sell it.

I won't be reading or reviewing any issues, of that I'm sure. Holy Terror, for all the ugly things it said, was still a noteworthy book deserving of critical engagement. The noteworthy aspect of Before Watchmen is that DC is doing it; the contents and/or quality of the books aren't even worth talking about when compared to that aspect of the story. They're trivialities, really.

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Quick Yotsuba&! break:
Ah, I needed that!

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Do you ever worry, "What if Caleb reads a comic and doesn't tell me what he thought about it? What then?" Well, don't worry; it hasn't come to that yet. I contributed to this week's "What Are You Reading?" column at Robot 6, where I covered the few comics I read that I haven't reviewed here or elsewhere yet, including Ming Ming's Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse Vol. 2, Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham's Level Up and Michel Rabagliati's Paul Has A Summer Job. Those last two were really great comics; I've just borrowed the two remaining Paul graphic novels I haven't read yet—...Moves Out and ...In the Country—in order to extend that experience as far as possible.

Oh, and Austin English and the rest of the Robot 6 crew share what they've been reading too, of course...

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Shut up, Joe Quesada.

While it's true Marvel doesn't have a Wonder Woman, Marvel does have an awful lot of female superheroes, the likes of which should be at least as salable to mass audiences as, say, Iron Man or Ghost Rider or The Punisher or Blade.

And while I agree there probably isn't a single female actress who could turn a movie into an Avengers style success, it's also true that there isn't a single male actor who could, either. That movie had, like, six male leads and a female one. Looking at the make-up of the cast of characters, it was like Ocean's Thirteen divided by two and multiplied by Iron Man. And anyway, how important is the pre-exising popularity the actors playing the leading characters in these movies? Hugh Jackman, Tobey Maguire, Christian Bale, Chris Evans and Liam Hemsworth's brother weren't exactly actor' capable of selling movies or franchises all by their lonesomes; it's almost like people were more interested in Wolverine, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America and Thor than they are in who's playing them...

(Let's make an exception for Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, though. I don't think RDJ pre-sold audiences on the first movie—people were still "Let's go see the Iron Man movie!" not "Let's go see the new Robert Downey Jr. movie!"—but he's certainly the reason it got the reviews it got, did the business it did, the reason a second movie got made and honestly I can't imagine Avengers without him.)

Of course, on the other hand, Catwoman and Elektra, but I think it's fair to say the biggest problems with those two films weren't Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, or the fact that someone decided to do a Catwoman movie and an Elektra movie...

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