Saturday, August 17, 2013

Here are links to a few things I wrote and a whole bunch of things that I did not.

After two weeks off (save for tie-ins), the Justice League crossover/event story "Trinity War" returned this week, as did my reading of it for ComicsAlliance. For week four of our "Trinity War Correspondence" series, you can click here. (And if you're thinking "I liked the ComicsAlliance writes about superhero crossover stories as they occur better when Andrew Wheeler was doing it with Avengers Vs. X-Men," well, great news! Andrew Wheeler is taking on Infinity in "Comics Alliance x Infinity", which kicks off this week).

Also this week, I reviewed Kitaro, Drawn and Quarterly's (hopefully first of many) collection(s) of Shigeru Mizuki's Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro for Robot 6. I think I liked NonNonBa better, but "The Great Yokai War" and, especially, "The Creature From The Deep" stories included are excellent. The latter is a sort of Godzilla riff that anticipates future events in kaiju films, and features the protagonist transforming into a giant half-yeti, half-whale monster. Like Godzilla, he has a breath weapon, but it's weird: He breathes a beam of light that causes hair to grow out of inanimate objects, rendering the delicate mechanics in stuff like the tanks used against him useless.

Anyway, three cheers for Shigeru Mizuki! Three cheers for Shigeru Mizuki! Three--

Also also this week, lots of other people who aren't me wrote lots of things about comics on the Internet! Let's link to and discuss some of 'em, as many of them pertain to things I've mouthed off about recently-ish.

First up, Mark Millar, who has a movie based on one of his comic books in theaters this weekend. The Comics Journal's inimitable Joe McCulloch noted that one of the lines from a scene in Kick Ass 2: The Comic Book that garnered some of the negative attention during the latest round of People In The Not-Comics Media Writing About Mark Millar ("'s time to see what evil dick tastes like") was actually lifted from an issue of Garth Ennis' Preacher (See Tim O'Neil for the details), though the set-up to the reference to the taste of "evil dick" is slightly different. That takes some real balls, to rip-off a line from Ennis, and from the series he's probably best known for...although maybe not; I read Preacher and didn't remember that line, nor did I recall it when I saw Millar's panel reprinted on line a few times this week.

More shocking still though, is that Millar also apparently lifted a line almost wholesale from Alan Moore, the world's best-known comics writer. And again, it wasn't from an obscure work: It was from Moore's "Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?," one of the most famous stories starring the most famous superhero.

And then Jog went on to write about artsy manga comics featuring sex and violence.

Meanwhile, Tucker Stone, Abhay Khosla and Nate Bulmer returned to the "pages" of with a new "Comics of The Weak" column, in which Stone reviews the first issue of Kick Ass 3 #1, its well-timed released tied to the opening of the new film. Let's see, how did Stone put it? Oh yes: "Your legions are ready to apologize for you, dingus. But it’s up to you to get on fucking base." So you'll want to read that.

In Abhay's portion of the column, he discusses Kevin Maguire's removal from Justice League 3000, which was going to be the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin Maguire reunion comic, until someone decided differently at some point between announcing, scheduling and selling the series and actually shipping the first issue. He caught Giffen saying something extremely uncharitable "in a exclusive statement to Newsarama"—not an exclusive statement to Newsarma, but "a" exclusive statement to Newsarama. I'm sure Giffen meant that the decision to hire Howard Porter was "a no-brainer" and was trying to focus on the positive (who was coming on) rather than the negative (who was being kicked off), but man does that sound cold. Does DC Comics have Keith Giffen's soul in a jar now or something?

Hey, so what about women in comics, huh? That's something people are always talking about, right? Heidi MacDonald, a woman, in comics, noted earlier in the week that Boom Studios hired a female artist for a new book, a crime series from an Adventure Time writer, and the headline seemed to tweak the people who complain about their not being more women in comics for failing to appreciate and/or notice ("Comics publisher hires female artist; industry stands up and cheers...not").

I'm pretty sure, like 100% positive, that when people on the Internet bemoan the lack of female creators in comics, they're really bemoaning the lack of female creators in superhero comics published by DC and Marvel. Because everyone else seems to do a pretty good job of hiring female writers and artists (I don't follow Boom super-closely, but I sure seem to recall seeing a lot of female bylines there, like Grace Randolph on Superbia and on their Adventure Time books and their Muppet comics and so forth).

MacDonald posted that story on Monday of this week; since then, she's also posted news that Laura Braga was going to be drawing Witchblade (they still make Witchblade comics...?), the latest development in the development of Marisa Acocella Marchetto's Cancer Victim film adaptation, posted a quartet of Fiona Staples' upcoming Saga covers, noted the incredibly talented Molly Crabapple (who probably beats even 1990s era Neil Gaiman and Paul Pope for the title of Most Attractive-looking Maker of Comics*, and who is that rare cartoonist that has a name that sounds like that of a cartoon character), has signed with HarperCollins (a "real" publisher, rather than a comic book publisher) for her memoirs and that Carla Speed McNeil will totally be drawing some Red Sonja that EDILW favorite Devin Grayson will be writing

Oh, and that DC's new Harley Quinn series will be co-written by Amanda Conner, who is also providing cover art, so the Big Two try now and then, they're just not as good at it as, you know, every other publisher.

So I don't know; I always feel a little weird when I hear (well, read; I never actually hear) anyone talking about the lack of female creators in comics, because I see the work of female creators everywhere I look in comics. In the last 24 hours, for example, I've read three graphic novels: A collection of a not-very-good Batman comic made by a bunch of dudes (although I think one of the three colorists might be a lady), a book of very funny pug cartoons by a female cartoonist, and an review copy of an awesome upcoming anthology series, in which seven of the seventeen artists are female.

So I never know for sure if by "comics" they actually mean "comics," of if they're actually just talking about "superhero comics," and hearing the entire field of comics creation—comic books, original graphic novels, manga, webcomics, newspaper comic strips!—reduced to a single genre that dominates a single channel for the delivery of comics content (that is, North American direct market comic shops, always irritates me, no matter what the discussion is about.

Which isn't to say, of course, there's anything wrong with anyone wanting more women in superhero comics; I just wish people would say say what they mean.

I've seen this linked to a couple times this week, so I'm going to link to it too: Here's Faith Erin Hicks, another woman who is in comics and done plenty of high-profile work that I wish I could throw into my computer screen and have it pop out of the computer screen of people who say there aren't any women making high-profile, mainstream comics, on the subject of the "lack" of women in comics.

OH MY GOD. It wasn't until I read that Hicks comic again that I noticed she made a point of citing Full Metal Alchemist, which I thought was created by a male for some reason, and then I just looked up Full Metal Alchemist creator Hiromu Arakawa and discovered that she's a she, and not a he.

I have always thought Arakawa was male for some reason, probably because I don't know any Japanese women named "Hiromu" (When I was a teenager, I assumed Cam Kennedy and Kelley Jones were female artist, because those are girl names), and because I have this weird habit of assuming comics artists look like their drawings (And tend to have my mind blown when I see them in real life and realize that, say, Dave Sim is not, in fact, a cartoony aardvark, or that James Kochalka was not a cute little elf and so on. So far I've somehow never seen a picture of Faith Erin Hicks, so she is still a Faith Erin Hicks drawing of Faith Erin Hicks in my mind's eye).

Anyway, just sharing my mind-blowing revelation with you all. I love Full Metal Alchemist, and it was one of the last comics I can recall being literally (yes, literally) addicted to. After enjoying the anime in bits and pieces on Cartoon Network back when I had a TV and cable, a few summer's ago, I decided to try the manga out from the library, and as soon as I finished the first few volumes, I was compelled to go back and grab another handful. And on and on until I got right up until where they left off, and then went through a kind of withdrawal, and had to buy the new volumes as they were released rather than awaiting their arrival at the library. So I own, like, the last five or six volumes of the series, but not the first 30 or so.

Weird. I was just thinking of Full Metal Alchemist the other day too, when I saw The Seven Deadly Sins in DC's Pandora #2, and thought about how much cooler Arakawa's story of a person in a big red coat fighting the Seven Deadly Sins was...

On the subject of DC's 3D coverpocalypse, none-too-happy-about-it retailer Brian Hibbs shared an image he found using the old Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football image as a metaphor, but I think Abhay went him one better in the already-linked-to "Comics of the Weak": "Watching DC Comics is like watching Charlie Brown try to kick the football right now, except if there was no one holding a football anywhere in sight, and you were basically just watching a stupid little kid fling himself onto his own head over and over."

Jeez, how many times can I link to Abhay saying mean but funny things about DC Comics in a single piece?

From the DEPARTMENT OF THAT JOKE ISN'T FUNNY ANYMORE: Hey, let's talk about Peanuts for a second. There's this thing going around right now, both of the comics sites I contribute to did link-posts on it (Evidence here and here) and TCJ's Tim Hodler flirted briefly with the idea of ranting about it while casting about for something to rant about.

As a person who reads and writes about comics who named his blog after a Morrissey song** and quotes lyrics from Moz's songs right below that blog title, I feel like this is something I should maybe find naturally appealing, but I don't find This Charming Charlie the least bit funny.

Maybe I'm too close to the subject matter, what with The Smiths being the soundtrack to my life and all (Not when I was a teenager; I mean my adult life—I was a well-adjusted teenager and far less melancholic than I am now. I listened to grunge music and Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer and dancey industrial music back then).

But, for the joke to work, shouldn't all of the lyrics be coming from Charlie Brown, the most Morrissey-like member of the Peanuts cast? They don't sound right int he dialogue balloons of Sally, Schroeder, Lucy, Linus and (especially) Snoopy. It just seems random.

Now, Morrissey lyrics put in the thought bubbles and dialogue balloons of emo super-androids The Vision and The Red Tornado? That would be funny.

It seems significant to me that the long-in-the-works Grant Morrison-written Wonder Woman comic is apparently going to be retitled from Wonder Woman: Earth One to Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince.

It means someone at DC—or perhaps Morrison himself—want to establish some form of distance between the book and the other books in DC's somewhat confusingly titled "Earth One" line (J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis' Superman: Earth One Vols. 1-2, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Batman: Earth One). Now, whether it's because that someone thinks the Morrison book reflects poorly on the "Earth One" line, or if association with the "Earth One" light does no favors to Morrison's story, I don't know.

Thinking about an "Earth One" Wonder Woman—i.e. a bookstore-ready, YA reader-friendly series of original graphic novels—it occurs to me that Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins and company's completely-divorced-from-the-DCU, Wonder Woman ala Percy Jackson fits the bill pretty much perfectly. In fact, I have a hard time imagining a better Wonder Woman: Earth One than what's in the New 52 Wonder Woman, at least one that's visually consistent with those "Earth One" books.

Or maybe DC is abandoning the "Earth One" line...? It seems like we're due for a second book from Johns and Frank, a book the first volume all but promised. Of course, on the other hand, those guys have been pretty busy on the Shazam back-up in Justice League and, in the case of Johns, writing like four books a month.

I read the first issues of two new series from DC's Vertigo imprint recently: Jeff Lemire's Trillium and Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez's Collider.

I liked the Lemire book quite a bit; frankly, much more than I expected to. I don't know if this will be the case with future issues (I get the impression not, but I suppose it will depend on where Lemire sends his protagonists), but this first issue was a flip-book, introducing two characters from different times and places as they go through journeys and, at the climax, meet one another. So the starting point is the ending, and the comics leads to it. It's a neat idea, and a good you-really-have-to-read-the-comic boook-not-the-trade gimmick, because how do you collect a flip book like that...? (I guess I know the answer, but it will be much lamer). The first half, or the first half I read, features a space lady in a more or less generic sci-fi set-up that felt a bit like some sci-fi movies I've seen (Sunshine came most immediately to mind) and like a dulled-down Keif Llama plot. The second half features a battle-addled World War I vet on the verge of losing it leading an expedition into the jungle in search of a lost ruin. The two somehow end up in the same panel. I really like Lemire's art, here colored by himself and Jose Villarrubia, and wish to God he drew all of his own stuff; I don't think his Animal Man would be such a slog if he were drawing it, and man oh man what I wouldn't have given to see his Frankenstein before that was canceled!).

I found Collider even more generic in its science fiction tropes; here in a near future the laws of physics occasionally break down and a special federal agency called the Federal Bureau of Physics has to come in and fix the problems. The art was excellent, and Rico Renzi's colors gorgeous. I loved looking at the pictures, even if the words and the story they told didn't exactly excite me (Unlike, say, Saucer Country, I didn't find a hook to hang my interest on). The cover's especially great though, isn't it? One of the most striking I've seen on the new comics racks of late.

I guess the title will be changing soon due to legal reasons, which is really too bad. Not only is the new title completely generic (The Federal Bureau of Physics, naturally), not only is having to change the title of a book that was always gonna have a hard time surviving the direct market between the first and second issues not going to make keeping above cancellation levels any easier, but they designed the hell out of that Collider logo:

Oddly enough, both of these books feature upside-down head-shots of their protagonists.
That's weird, right?

Looking around the rest of the imprint's recent offerings, they've still got a few old series hanging on (Fables, Unwritten, Fables spin-offs), that new series by Veritgo alumni Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy that's gotten some pretty rave reviews and a handful of books that woulda been on the WildStorm imprint, if DC hadn't dissolved it (A new Tom Strong miniseries, Astro City and a Django Unchained. Of those, I've read Astro City #2 and #3, and they were both excellent, and Django Unchained #6, which, despite nice drawings by Denys Cowan, is a terrible adaptation of the portion of the film it covered, making the same mistake of every film adaptation I've ever read—excising waaaaayyyyy too much of the film in order to fit a too-big visual story into a too-small comics format. I'm not sure about the math in terms of frames of film to comics panels, but adaptation comics almost never read like storyboards, but more like sped-up versions of the films, rushing past the things that make the films interesting in the first place. Seems like a waste of Cowan's talents, really, but I'm glad he's working and I hope he gets a ton of money from it. Now, if DC could only talk Tarantino into writing a comics-only sequel for Cowan to draw...).

I do hope DC continues to pour resources and attention into the Vertigo line, despite the contemptuous-sounding remarks co-publisher Dan DiDio made about the imprint to The New York Times in March, as it it to their benefit as it is to anyone else's to keep Vertigo around not only in the hopes of generating more evergreen trade paperback series like Sandman, Preacher, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing stuff and so on, but because Vertigo has long been, and remains to this day, the place where they cultivate new talent.

Just imagine where the New 52 would be without Jeff Lemire, for example, who got his start working with DC on Vertigo title Sweet Tooth, or, especially, Scott Snyder, who got his with American Vampire, and now consistently generates some of DC's biggest sales in his Batman and Superman Unchained (and, the valuable thing about Snyder's Batman work is, at least so far, DC has been able to pluck plot-points from it and tie them into the whole Bat-line, and see significant bumps in sales all around).

Now it's possible that Lemire and Snyder coulda gone straight to DC super-comics without ever working for Vertigo, but they wouldn't have brought the fanbases they did with them, and it might not have worked out as well—other new-to-DC writers who DC hired to New 52 books who didn't work at Vertigo first and came straight off of, say, Image series, haven't always worked out as well, but some of them have yet to quit either, so that's good.

Anyway, if DC is Warner Bros' IP farm, then Vertigo is DC's talent farm, and the more they cultivate it, the better.

President Obama, trying to lure the troops into a false sense of security, probably.
Have you wondered what Orson Scott Card, writer of popular science fiction prose, Ultimate Iron Man comics, crazy old man editorals and at least one thankfully still-unpublished Superman short feature, has been up to lately? Just, you know, being crazy, paranoid, ignorant and more than a bit racist in public again. Here is Slate's David Weigel on Card's latest.

While I don't really agree with Weigel (wrong's wrong, no matter how many people are standing with you), I thought this quote interesting:
The controversy over Orson Scott Card's opposition to gay marriage appears to have simmered down. Maybe it'll kick up again as the Ender's Game premiere closes in, but it shouldn't—Card's religious objection to gay marriage is shared by a substantial minority of Americans, and holding it against him is a little pat.
(It makes more sense in context).

I read Card's whole piece (you can too, here, if you can make it all the way through; once he gets to the "Obama is basically already Hitler, what if he gets more Hilter-er?" part it gets a little hard to take him seriously, and once he gets to the part where somewhere in the next three years Obama will train and organize urban youth gangs into a National Police force capable of taking on the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and U.S. Military, well, dude's got a lot more faith in Obama than I. That sounds pretty much impossible, and given Obama couldn't close Guantanamo or pass a health care plan better than the decades old Republican plan that became The Affordable Care Act, I don't seem him pulling off that particular miracle).

It was the longest time I've ever spent with Card's writing, and it was marvelous in how poor it was. Not in his opinions, which all sound somewhere between those of someone who only gets news via e-mail forwards and a crazy person, but just in the basic construction of his arguments.

Take these two consecutive paragraphs, one of which says no one in the national media has ever challenged Obama on anything, followed immediately by examples of national media organizations that have done just that, one of which is a whole fucking 24-hour cable news channel and another is one of the handful of newspapers people still read:
In his years as president, the national media have never challenged Obama on anything. His lies and mistakes are unreported or quickly forgotten or explicitly denied; his critics are demonized.

It's hard to imagine how American press coverage would be different if Obama were a Hitler- or Stalin-style dictator, except of course that everyone at Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the Rhinoceros Times would be in jail. Or dead.
The piece ends with an "Aw, I'm just kidding....or am I?" line that...ugh.

So hey, there's more than one reason not to go see that Ender's Game movie whenever it comes out or, better yet, go to the movies that weekend and see something else: Not only is Card homophobic and convinced that gays getting married will destroy this country, he's also afraid of the black guy in the White House appointing his black wife successor and then militarizing all the black guys into an army to beat up him and people who work for the conservative national media and throw them in jail.

Also at Slate? I think Douglas Wolk does a pretty incredible job explaining the DC and Marvel rivalry by using two of their characters as metaphors. They're great choices; neither are really the flagship characters the way Superman and Spider-Man are, but both have a few things in common and, thanks to recent film adaptations, they may be the two best-known characters in a lot of people's minds:
DC, like Batman, is fantastically regimented, a little bit irrational, and hesitant to reach out beyond its home turf; like Bruce Wayne, its relationships with its extended family are fraught with resentment of its imperious ways. Marvel, like Iron Man, adapts to circumstances, makes endless duplicates of its biggest successes, and always seems to be a bit ahead of the curve; like Tony Stark, it can be slovenly about the details when they count.
That right there is an example of what I tend to think of as the best kind of writing: The kind I wish I would have thought to write, and wrote as simply and elegantly.


Oh hey, now I remember why I stopped doing these links posts! It's because I think they will be quick and easy and take like five minutes, and then a few hours go by and I realized I wasted an evening I shoulda been doing something more productive.


**Hey, did you know The Pretenders covered "Every Day Is Like Sunday"...? I can't remember if I listened to that a super-long time ago and just forgot that I ever had, or if this was the first I heard it, but I guess it doesn't matter, as it's awesome.


David Lee Ingersoll said...

One more thing to find annoying about link posts - having to go back and correct links. If you feel like it anyway. That Carl Speed McNeil link goes to the Molly Crabapple article.

mordicai said...

Not SHOULD get congratulations for hiring a woman? "Hey, congratulations, you've completed the bare minimum, 50% of people are women & you've managed to hire one of them! Hooray!"