Thursday, July 17, 2008

I haven't done one of these big link dump posts in, like, forever

—I love this cover, for Hudson Talbott’s United Tweets of America (G.P. Putnam and Sons; 2008), a picture book about the state birds of all 50 states.

It’s the looks of determination on the little birds’ faces as they try to strike an eagle-like, presidential seal sorta pose that just kills me.

It’s a great idea for a book, although I didn’t find the insides all that engaging. Talbot sets it up as a sort of Miss America contest hosted by a bespectacled bald eagle featuring the 50 state birds. Within this framing sequence, each bird gets a page of their own, with some trivia about the birds and their states packed around the illustration.

A lot of the trivia proves, well, trivial, but I did actually learn a lot from all the facts presented within—some of which I still remember. Like the existence of a bird called a “nene,” for example (the state bird of Hawaii), which Talbot says is a good word to know for Scrabble, and I can see how that would be the case.

I also learned that not only is Ohio not the only state to claim the Northern Cardinal as its own, but five other states have made it their state bird too. I guess there’s no law forbidding states from choosing the state birds of other states as their own but, I don’t know, it somehow seems gauche and unoriginal.

There are a lot of jokes in this book, one or two that were good, many that were bad, and a few good-bad ones. Regular readers will probably be unsurprised to learn that I like bad jokes. Bad jokes like, “Giving their state a nickname was not a high priority for the people of New Hampshire. (In fact, it was taken for granite).”


Talbot’s art is pretty decent throughout, but there are a few really exceptional images, none of which I will scan for you.

Like the page devoted to New Hampshire’s Purple Finch. It features a snowy landscape, the foreground featuring a barren tree. It’s full of finches though, and they are arranged in the tree so as to form a giant finch shape, making a sort of huge finch built out of little finches.

Maybe less inventive but a lot more funny are Virgina’s Northern Cardinal page, which features the portraits of eight presidents, each as a cardinal instead of a human, and Iowa’s American Goldfinch page, which features the American Gothic painting, only with the farmer and his wife bearing the heads of goldfinches.

President Bush continues to find new ways to offend Matt Fraction.

—Speaking of politics, I used to just read Wonkette for their weekly “Cartoon Violence” column, but I’ve been reading it more and more this year due to this whole election thing that I guess is happening this fall.

Back when I was part of the liberal media establishment, I used to get most of my election coverage from and, but now I realize Wonkette is far superior to both in that a) their pieces are all much shorter and thus give me the illusion of being up-to-date without actually having to spend as much time learning, b) they swear much more and c) they employ hobo humor with some frequency (Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman is referred to as a “hobo king” for some reason, and Chris Matthews and the employees of MSNBC are all “scurrilous hobos,” and so on).

Anyway, a recent post detailed Senator Patrick Leahy’s love of Batman (and cameo in the new film). I really like the idea that Leahy embarked on a career in politics because he thought it would be the surest route to cameo-ing in Batman movies.

Maybe he can play Alfred in a The Dark Knight Returns movie…?

That’s the reason I’m kinda hoping (against hope, after seeing the new trailer) that The Spirit makes a billion dollars. That might encourage Frank Miller to do a Sin City-style version of DKR or, even better, All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder: The Movie.

—Although I only rarely seem to read prose fiction these days, I recently read Alan Bennett’s novella The Uncommon Reader, which imagines Queen Elizabeth suddenly and quite accidentally becoming an avid reader.

In once scene, she uses her queenly powers to convene many of her favorite authors for a party so that she could meet them in real-life. It’s a pretty humorous scene, as Bennett engages in some rather sharp observations about the lives and personalities of writers.

One passage made me think of comics creators, and a phenomenon I’ve noticed among those who make themselves the most available to fans on the Internet, in interviews and message boards—It’s a lot easier to like creators when you only know their work than when you know how they feel about particular political issues, or how they take to criticism, or what they think is important in life.

Wrote Bennett of (his version of) the queen’s (imaginary) impression: “Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met with in the pages of their novels, and as much creatures of the reader’s imagination as the characters in their books.”

I’ve never personally met a comics writer or artist whom I thought was a jerk in real life or anything, but I have seen some writers whose work I respect a lot act like asses online, and then later found it more difficult to separate their work from their ass-iness was engaging it as a reader afterwards.

Abhay Khosla makes me laugh out loud at least once each Secret Invasion review:

All-Star Batman celebrates its 3rd anniversary this month: 9 issues in 3 years. Who gives a shit? I don’t; they don’t; it doesn’t matter…

…Anyways: the new Stonewall is just a bald guy with his shirt off who says “Hoofah”. So: as superheros named after a pivotal moment for the gay rights movement go, they went from the bear to the shirtless bald guy. I don’t really know what that means; is that social commentary? …

…So far, the secret invasion of Earth has gone all the way from Brooklyn to Central Park West to Times Square. Oh no: if the superheros don’t win in the Bronx, Queens will be next! I hope an entire issue gets set in Kim’s Video; the Skrulls can menace the cash register, while Nick Fury opens up a second front in the Drama section.

I think Abhay is to Secret Invasion what Matt “Newsarama” Brady was to Infinite Crisis and Christopher Bird was to Civil War; the guy who’s stuff making fun of it ends up being ten times more entertaining than the crossover series itself.

—Last week columnist Hannibal Tabu expressed surprise at what a jerk Hawkman was to Gangbuster in Trinity #6. I thought Hawkman was always a jerk. I mean, he fights street crime with a huge freaking mace that’s gotta maim, cripple, brain-damage or kill everyone he hits. Is Hawkman’s jerkishness a fresher characterization than I had realized…?

—I’m not going to say anything about the Obama New Yorker cover, because I think Tom Spurgeon summed up what I thought about it pretty elegantly: It’s a nice enough drawing, but it’s more of an illustration than a political cartoon.

Looking at it, I fail to see a punchline or point to it, which, to me, makes me think it’s a bad political cartoon and that if it’s meant to do what The New Yorker people say, then it does a pretty terrible job if they have to circle the mediasphere explaining it to everyone.

On the other hand, they did get to circle the mediasphere talking about themselves, so I have to imagine it’s the most successful New Yorker cover in the history of ever in that it made the magazine a topic of conversation everywhere.

Damn it, I guess I did say something about it after all. Damn you, New Yorker…!

—Actually, Jon Stewart’s response was predictably amusing, and includes some criticism of the Obama campaign for their handling of it: “Really? You know what your response should have been? It’s very easy. Here, let me put the statement out for you, ‘Barack Obama is in no way upset about the cartoon that depicts him as a Muslim extremist, because you know who gets upset about cartoons? Muslim extremists. Of which Barack Obama is not. It’s just a fucking cartoon!”

—I reviewed two recent-ish graphic novels for this week’s Best Shots @ column: Ross Campbell’s Water Baby and Josh Howard’s The Lost Books of Eve.

—Jeet Heer discusses the gayness of Batman and Robin in Toronto’s The National Post, and there’s also a second article about how Batman’s not a homosexual but a “crimesexual” (links found at Christopher Butcher’s joint).

I think it’s a bit of a jump to say that the reason Robin hasn’t been in the last two Batman movies is to avoid the impression that Batman’s gay for him—I’m sure it has more to do with the boy sidekick being less “realistic”—but Heer drops some fine history on a perennially interesting topic.

He doesn’t quote Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes essay, which defends the Dynamic Duo’s Golden and Silver Age heterosexuality on the grounds that they were merely reflective of their young male readers: “Batman and Robin were no more or less queer than were their youngish readers, many of whom palled around together, didn’t trust girls, played games that had lots of bodily contact, and from similar surface evidence were more or less queer."

In other words, the Greatest Generation? Totally gay.

Sean Kleefeld compiles a bunch of cover images of Captain Marvel punching things (link seen at and appropriated from

—Aww, Molly and Roast Beef’s wedding was actually quite touching…

Just watch out for Mephisto, you cats! That guy loves to eat comic weddings!

—Fun Fact: I spent about three hours working on Tuesday night’s post about what project Jonathan Lethem should do next for Marvel, from online searching for photo reference of Lethem and Venom covers to the drawing and coloring to the scanning.

Three hours for a joke that takes about two seconds to process, and is aimed at the extremely narrow audience of people that both read my blog and are aware that there was once a miniseries called Venom: Lethal Protector.

I should teach a seminar in time management skills.

—Looks like Diamond is selling the catalogue to the Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond show at the Wexner Center, and the books started showing up in comics shops yesterday. Just a reminder: I reviewed it and its sister show’s catalogue here.

Oh, and Columbusites: I saw a copy of it on sale at Half-Price Books on Lane Avenue last week. Hands off the Savage Sword of Conan phonebooks though; I’m saving up for those!

That post I made last weekend taking (fake) umbrage with DC’s poorly formatted usage of Adam Hughes’ nice women of the DCU image? Well it turns out there was nothing sinister to take umbrage, fake or otherwise, with—DC ran the same image as a double-page house ad in this week’s comics, this time badly cropping it to ditch some of the straight white ladies to make room for the black lady, the lesbian, and the two bi-curious straight girls with gay crushes on each other. So if you’re going to take umbrage with DC, I guess it should be narrowly focused on their inability to figure out how to fit that Hughes image onto just two pages. (Or maybe they know how to, but think it looks better with portions of it chopped off…?)

—Comics, illustration, clothing, toys…oh Paul Pope, is there anything you can’t make?

—The Joker becomes the second Bat-villain to be featured in NPR’s “In Character” series, following Catwoman. You can read and/or listen here. Steve Englehart and Paul Levitz are interviewed.

—I contributed a handful of moments to this week’s Las Vegas Weekly’s list of favorite Batman moments from Bat-history, from Detective Comics #38 through “I’m the goddam Batman.” The real reason to click on the link, however, is to see Ming Doyle’s illustration for the piece. Also, here’s LVW’s review of the film.

—So that Watchmen trailer? What Kevin said. Also: Needs more penis.


Anonymous said...

"I should teach a seminar in time management skills."

Or just think of funnier jokes.

Anonymous said...

I bought the Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond book from Half-Price Books a couple days ago. I DID NOT buy any Conan books.

JohnF said...

I've watched the trailer about 10 times already. Yes, there are some problems with it, but overall I was very impressed. I really hope they don't go overboard with the slo-mo/bullet time stuff, though there are some scenes that pretty much have to be done in slo-mo. And if you're of the mind that Watchmen is literally unfilmable you'll never be happy with a movie version.
I got a sufficient amount of goosebumps, especially from the Osterman disintegration stuff. Plus it looks like Morgan's going to knock the Comedian out of the park.
Any nits that I would pick are pretty minor, other than the Ozymandias costume which will never work no matter what. I don't mind the Nite Owl costume, since Dreiberg was always the most tech and equipment based adventurer. It does kind of make sense that his suit would look that complicated. I think we all need to admit that the "Fat guy in a bodystocking" look was never going to make it to film.
The only other major complaint I had was that the Comedian isn't supposed to fight back. His spirit was broken, and he had resigned himself to his fate. In the comic he offered no resistance when Ozzy came a-calling. Blake didn't want to go on living in a world without wars.

Tony said...

I think the time involved with the Venom joke is what makes it funny. That level of work raises the absurdity level.

(You know what makes a joke less funny, though? Me explaining why I think it's funny.)

Anonymous said...

Any nits that I would pick are pretty minor, other than the Ozymandias costume which will never work no matter what. I don't mind the Nite Owl costume, since Dreiberg was always the most tech and equipment based adventurer. It does kind of make sense that his suit would look that complicated. I think we all need to admit that the "Fat guy in a bodystocking" look was never going to make it to film.