Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Theological questions raised by political cartoons about Michael Jackson's death

When we go to heaven, will we look like we did at the point we died, or will we look like we did at an earlier point in our life?

If Jackson was some sort of pedophile and was guilty of some form of child abuse, then why would heaven roll out the red carpet for him? Do child molesters get to go to heaven?

And, more importantly, WHY IS THEIR CHILD ABUSE IN HEAVEN?!! Surely everything on the other side of the pearly gates has to be a child-rape free zone, right? Right?

Are the "little angels" the souls of human children given wings and halos upon entry into heaven, or are they true angels, members of a sentient race God created to serve and worship him before humanity existed, which would make even the youngest angels millions, if not billions, of years old? (In which case, they're past the age of consent). Or is heaven such an intensely personal experience that it doesn't matter how wrong one's personal desires might have been on earth, they can be safely fulfilled there?

How are our immortal souls judged after death? Is it as arbitrary as a coin toss?

Do famous people go straight to their final judgments, or is there a special VIP cafe they gather in together before going on to their final rewards?

Are heaven and hell the only options, or might our souls ascend to the nearest celestial body to earth, like maybe the moon?

And if so, will we still need to breathe after we die?

Was Michael Jackson such a big celebrity that he's too big to even fit on the moon, but must orbit around it, just as the moon orbits around earth?

What if our souls don't live on in an afterlife or outer space after we die, but our consciousness remains in our bodies, which will slowly rot away to bones? Will we be able to move and talk once we're dead? Will we be able to see even after we've lost our eyes?

Or did Jackson not even leave a body, but ascended bodily into heaven, like the New Testament tells us Jesus Christ himself did?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Six things I learned from The Making of Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd was a pretty terrible film. And it was pretty terrible in a pretty unique way. Unlike many bad films I’ve seen, it’s one that’s really stayed with me since the first and only time I saw it, way back in 1995.

See, aside from that pretty cool 1991 Batman/Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham one-shot by Alan Grant, John Wagner and Simon Bisley, the film was my first exposure to Dredd, whom I knew to be a very popular character across the Atlantic (would he be fighting Batman if he weren’t?) and worked on and/or beloved by a lot of extremely talented comics writers and artists.

So seeing his film and realizing it was just an awful, awful film confused and irritated me—if this character was so great, if his comics were so good, how could his movie end up like this? (Perhaps I should point out at this point that I was only 18 at the time, and while I had seen Howard the Duck and Swamp Thing, I hadn’t read or even heard anything about the comics they were based on).

When I finally started really reading Dredd comics a few years ago, mostly thanks Rebellion’s trade collections, particularly the Complete Case Files series, the memory of the movie kept coming back to me. I think that’s why it stayed with me for so long; it was my first association with the character, and so all subsequent ones recall it on at least some small level.

That the movie didn’t turn out to be a great one, or at least a pretty good one, and that it didn’t spawn a franchise the way Batman did confused me even more after I experienced the material firsthand.

THe Judge Dredd comics were actually pretty great, the movie made the costume and character look right (“right-er” than Batman got Batman, really), and Sylvester Stallone was a pretty perfect actor to cast—Dredd’s entire emotional spectrum was played out in his lip curls, snarls, frowns and tooth-gritting, and Stallone had one of the strongest chins and most expressive sets of lips of any action star of the last century. He was perfect for the role!

So why didn’t it work? I don’t know.

I reviewed it for my local paper at the time, and probably still have a clipping in a box in my basement somewhere, but I imagine if I re-watched it today, I’d have pretty different things to say about it. Perhaps I could better diagnose why Judge Dredd the movie was so different from Judge Dredd the comics if I re-watched it today, but then, I’d have to re-watch it, and forcing oneself to rewatch any film in which Rob Schneider is prominently featured is a pretty difficult task to set oneself to.

Someone recently suggested that I check out the book The Making of Judge Dredd (Hyperion; 1995) by Jane Killick, David Chute and Charles M. Lippincott, and once I found a copy at a library, I did so.

It was a pretty weird reading experience (Not that I read the whole thing. I read about the history of the project and the writing of the script, and trailed off as it got into the production of the special effects and so on). For one thing, it was kind of sad and sobering, a reminder that no one ever really sets out to make a terrible movie (various genre exploitation flicks aside), and that even this had scores of creative people who devoted, in some cases, decades of their lives to making a Judge Dredd and, well, you’ve seen the results (Or maybe you haven’t. Maybe it made back the money that was spent producing it, I don’t really know—I do know that there was never a Judge Dredd II and that Sylvester Stallone’s career took a bit of a turn at that point, as he did fewer and fewer big action movies and started trying out more adventurous roles, the occasional Rocky or Rambo aside).

And I learned some things. Specifically, six things. Here then, are the Six Things I Learned From Reading the firs half of The Making of Judge Dredd

1.) Judge Dredd was in development for literally (figuratively) forever. The character was just created in 1977 (Fun fact: So was I!), and producer Charles M. Lippincott saw cinematic potential in the property by 1978, but he didn’t succeed in acquiring the rights until 1983 or so, after a year of negotiating, when the original rights holders allowed their original claim to lapse.

There were plenty of writers involved at various points, some just pitching, some working on scripts and some working on the final script. In fact, there were so many that producer Susan Nicoletti referred to them as “a parade of writers.”

Among them?

—Comics writer Jan Strnad

—The script-writing team of Tim Hunter and James Crumley (Their draft “was very well written but was incredibly complex and drew from so many threads of the Dredd legend that it would have been impossible to actually make,” according to producer Edward R. Pressman)

—Comics writer and artist Howard Chaykin (Apparently everyone loved his first pitch, done orally, which posited Judge Dredd as the Lone Ranger, but everyone hated his official treatment, which was Dredd wandering The Cursed Earth hallucinating a conversation with “an animated statue of Blind Justice”)

Terminator and Terminator 2 screenwriter William Wisher (whose script was dense and science-ficiton-y, with lots of mutants and aliens)

—Steven E. de Souza, who wrote Running Man, Commando, the first two Die Hards and seemingly about half of the action movies you saw in the ‘80s and early ‘90s (Although director Danny Cannon pretty bluntly slams de Souza’s take, which stands out as pretty weird, given the overall tone of the book which is, predictably, rather rah-rah of the entire endeavor.)

2.) A lot of writers had a hard time coming to grips with the character at all. Apparently the screenwriters who tried to “crack the Dredd puzzle during the early years of development” tended to fall into two camps.

“One group consisted of those who simply hated the bloody SOB, for political as well as visceral reasons, and wanted to build a harsh critique of Dredd’s ferocious tactics into the story,” Killick and company wrote. “Another group comprised of so-called ‘fan-boys,’ who loved Dredd a tad too much, and couldn’t bear to see a single rivet on his leather codpiece shifted a quarter inch from its position as ‘established’ in the comic book.”

Nicoletti says the same thing slightly differently, there were fans in one category, and “[t]he other category was writers who hadn’t a clue who Judge Dredd was, and went off and did the research and came back and said, ‘I hate this guy. This guy is a fascist.’ And some of them would want the job anyway and would attempt to write a story about a character they hated. ‘I’m going to stick him in the background and write a politically correct science fiction fantasy storya that’ sa cautionary tale about excessive police power.”

3.) The peculiarities of the Dredd character that were so divisive among potential screenwriters may have been the heart of what went wrong.

Here’s Cottie Chubb, a production executive, talking about the challenge of taking Dredd the comic character and turning him into a film character:

The first thing…was simply whether or not or to what extent we wanted to put the comic book character himself, intact, onto the screen. Whether you wanted to, because the character had a couple of major problems. He never took off his helmet, for one thing. He literally never showed his face. Which of course means that if you’re going to be true to the comic in this respect you won’t hire Arnold or Sly, because, trust me, you’re not going to pay the fee of a star like that and then never show his face. Even in RoboCop you saw his face, at least enough to assure people that there was a human being under the suit. With Dredd it’s never clear that there’s a man inside.

At this point, 14 years after the movie was released, it’s easy to read this as The Producers Just Not Getting It. As I mentioned before, Stallone was one of the few bankable stars who probably was recognizable in a visor and helmet at the time, and his…distinct voice would reassure anyone watching it was in fact him under that helmet.

There has been at least one rather successful based-on-a-comic-book movie that kept it’s star fully masked throughout the entirety of the film since then as well. In V For Vendetta, we never see Hugo Weaving’s face and, in fact, I guess there’s no real way to know for sure that it is Weaving in the costume.

But the tension between having a recognizable star in your superhero movie and keeping a mask on him most of the time is one the makers of superhero movies are seemingly constantly wrestling with. Note Michael Keaton ripping his rubber mask off at the end of Batman Returns, Tobey Maguire having his mask or sections of it ripped off during emotional moments in the Spider-Man movies, and Robert Downey Jr. losing his helmet in the climactic fight in Iron Man.

Perhaps the closest example to Judge Dredd deciding to show Dredd’s face is Frank Miller’s decision to show The Octopus’ face in The Spirit, since neither ever show their faces in the comics (Well, Dredd is always masked, whereas the Octopus is usually in shadows or off-panel entirely).

The Spirit obviously did rather poorly at the box office, but it’s doubtful if the decision to show the Octopus’ face had anything at all to do with that; in fact, Samuel L. Jackson as the Octopus seemed to be one of the film’s saving graces (among critics who could find saving graces).

More from Chubb:

Now, there are Dredd aficionados who would say…you want to keep him as an exaggerated force of nature dealing with real problems in an over the top way. Shooting a person for littering, or whatever. It’s only funny because of the exaggeration. But you can’t ask the action audience in this country to go to a movie and laugh at itself for being insecure enough to want to see action movies with larger than life heroes.

This view ultimately prevailed, and probably a mistake. I think we’ve learned that the action audience in America has no problem with insane exaggeration, and has no problem laughing at itself, but perhaps that wasn’t apparent back then, before Hong Kong’s influence over Hollywood action had become quite so prevalent.

I would side with the aficionados and fan boys though. There’s little point in having Dredd struggle with internal conflicts, because Dredd doesn’t have internal conflicts, beyond perhaps “How hard should I kick this scum in the face?” or “Where should I shoot that person, in the leg, the head or the torso?”

I haven’t read every Judge Dredd story ever written of course—I’m only up to volume 11 of the Case Files—but as far as I understand it, Dredd doesn’t have much emotional range, and is more a force of nature.

It’s worth noting that no one’s had much luck making a Punisher film yet either, despite multiple tries. The Punisher is a lot like Dredd, a force-of-nature-character that works better as a two-dimensional plot engine than a fleshed-out character. The very best Punisher stories have been those by Garth Ennis—who, coincidentally, used to write Dredd comics—in which The Punisher’s whole personality can be summed up as “a guy who will kill bad guys, no matter what.”

Pressman compared the Judge Dredd property to Conan, which seemed “so logical and distinct” compared to other comic book properties that he “never doubted its viability as a movie, or that it would be worth the effort—even when it seemed that it was going to take forever.’

I can see that. Unlike Batman or Spider-Man, Dredd isn’t really a character, nor is Conan. There dudes we enjoy watching move through their respective world, but don’t necessarily care for them personally, perhaps because we’re so confident that their victory is always completely assured. (Well, I imagine everyone watching Batman and Batman Returns imagined Batman would make it out alive and defeat the bad guys, but would his love interests survive? Would he be lonely when it was over? Would he make his dead parents proud? Batman was of our world; even if Gotham City was fairly far removed from it, it was closer to us than Conan Land or Mega-City One. And we could recognize aspects of Batman’s emotional conflicts, in the comics and the movies, whereas in Conan’s comics and movies and Dredd’s comics, the conflicts were mostly physical and devoid of emotional content).

4.) Apparently 1987's RoboCop was a terrible blow to the production of Judge Dredd. It seemingly delayed the film’s forward momentum for a bit, and according to Pressman, “From then on it was essential that we say to every writer and director that we talked to that it can’t be too much like RoboCop.”

Also, once Stallone was cast, 1993’s sci-fi action movie Demolition Man, in which he played a cop fighting crime in the future, caused some anxiety, as they wouldn't want to have their Judge Dredd too closely resemble it either.

5.) Apparently, there was once some resistance to superhero movies. In 2009, on the other side of the Spider-Man franchise, and financial and critical success of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, when movies are being made of even relatively obscure comics and the entirety of Marvel’s character catalog seems to be in some point of development, that superhero movies used to be a tough sell.

Here’s Lippincott:

Dredd was actually sort of a tough sell…Most studios don’t make big SF movies, unless there’s an exceptional filmmaker like [James] Cameron or [Stephen] Spielberg attached. Contemporary action is easier for them because it is star oriented. And comic books aren’t generally popular with studios, either. Warner Brothers owns DC Comics, which publishes Batman, so that’s a special case. I can understand their anxiety. It’s hard trying to find a way to handle a comic book character. How do you take something that’s literally two-dimensional and make it three-dimensional? And Dredd presents additional problems because in a way there’s almost too much material, too many ways to go with it.

Hollywood has no trouble with the making two-dimensional things three-dimensional any more—although admittedly they don’t do much beyond doing so literally, and occasionally even make two-dimensional characters one-dimensional when putting them in movies—but the “too much material” problem still exists. It’s more of a problem for a first movie though, and if they can keep from trying to cram in too much (Daredevil, Hulk), then they can wait till the second and/or third films to get to more of that material.

6.) Judge Death was MIA in part because he was difficult to play off Dredd in a movie introducing the latter (they’re basically the same character, only Death is funnier), but also due to technical concerns. The technology of 1991 ruled out the possibility of Judge Death, as he would have been a special effect, and it would have been impossible to have a real actor play him to any extent. (Now’s a different story, of course in a post Andy Serkis-as-Gollum-and-King Kong world). The book noted hopefully that as special effects got more and more sophisticated, it was looking likely that Judge Death could appear in a sequel. Of course, there never was a sequel.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ten things I learned from the Marvel Pets Handbook

1.) That horses—winged, horned or otherwise—are measured to their withers to determine their height. And the withers are, apparently, the highest point of a horse's shoulders, or where the two shoulder blades meet. I did not know that until I looked it up after reading this handbook.

2.) The Marvel multiverse may be even more complicated than the DC one. DC Comics used to get a lot of flack for how complicated their shared setting was, considering the fact that it consisted of alternate dimensions with alternate versions of the same characters, and that they were permeable enough that the Supermen of Earth-1 and Earth-2 were pals, and characters like Red Tornado and Black Canary could immigrate between the two. Prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, they were designated by numbers or letters—Earth-4, Earth-S, Earth-X, etc.—and, after a few years of fiddling with it, it now seems like they're using just numbers, and that there are 52 different earths.

How many different Marvel Earth's are there? I don't know. The main Marvel Universe is usually referred to as the "616" universe, or "Earth-616." But in the handbook, other earths are referred to with this formula, and I have no idea what any of these are. Earth-78411, Earth-929, Earth-311, Earth-700089, Earth-691, Earth-148611...and so on. I'm not sure how the designated numbers are arrived at, but as you an see some are as long as six digits.

I imagine there's also a handbook that defines all of these, but I haven't got that one.

3.) NEXTWAVE is apparently considered continuity/canon. Even the bit with Devil Dinosaur at the end. That DD, however, was allegedly "a clone of Devil."

4.) Dick Ayers draws an awesome gorilla. Look at this thing, one of the "Beasts of Berlin" from Tales to Astonish #60:
I like how fast and rough the art is. It looks like Ayers drew it from memory, rather than photoreference, and came up with something that looks awfully close to a gorilla, without being too faithful to what gorillas actually look like.

5.) The Montauk Monster is obviously a relation to Droog, Russian scientist The Gremlin's bioenginnered dog.

6.) The Punisher used to have a dog, with a Punisher logo dog-chain. In the handbook's introduction, it is noted that "the notion of a super-pet—one who shares teh powers/appearance of its master–is particular to the publications of a certain Distinguished Competitor." Superboy had Krypto the Super-Dog and Beppo the Super-monkey, Supergirl had Streaky the Super-cat and Comet the Super-horse, Batman had Ace the Bat-Hound. There are a few of those sorts of pet analogue super-pets in the Marvel Universe, including Speedball's cat Niels/Hairball and The Sentry's Watchdog (although the Sentry is simply a Superman stand-in). If you would have asked me a couple weeks ago who the last Marvel character who would keep a dog version of himself around might be, I probably would have said The Punisher.
But I would have been wrong. Apparently in the early '90s Frank Castle rescued "a particularly savage rottweiler" named Max from a drug dealer, nursed him back to health, gave him a Punisher branded collar, and used him as a watchdog.

I don't think Punisher's Max ever appeared in the Punisher MAX title, but I still have a few trades to go before I finish that series. Maybe someday someone will do a Max MAX series...

7.) Loki is a lot weirder than I thought. I probably knew this at one point, back when I was a kid and would read encylopedias of Norse or Greek myths from the library, but Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir has a pretty weird parentage. Apparently the Big O wagered Freya in a bet against a frost giant who disguised himself as a stonemason. Loki knew that the giant's horse did most of the work, so to stop the giant from successfully rebuilding Asgard's walls in the bet-upon time-period, Loki "took the form of a young mare, and lured the stallion away...when Loki returned, he brought with him an eight-legged colt."

Soooo apparently Loki's tricky plan to stop the work was to transform himself into a female horse, let another horse fuck him, and then give birth to the baby horse he got knocked up with while seducing the giant's horse...?

8.) There are half-gorilla, half-lion monsters in both the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe:

9.) The Nazis were so evil and so monstrous, that even their pets were evil monsters.
Even the one's with femine names. (Or does "Teena" mean "Eight-legged Death" in German?)

10.) There is a ton of potential for future Lockjaw and The Pet Avengers sequels, if the first series sells well. A trip to asgard alone would supply Lockjaw and company plenty of animals to meet, team-up with or butt heads against. And there are more than enough pets of super-villains for The Pet Avengers to come into conflict with The Pet Masters of Evil.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Politics aside, this isn't a very good cartoon (The politics are pretty dumb though).

I apologize in advance for how dated this discussion probably is. I'm not exactly sure when the above cartoon by Glenn McCoy ran, but from the date in the corner of the above image, it looks like it's from June 15, almost two weeks ago. Certainly based on the subject matter, it's a good half-dozen or so news cycles ago. But I didn't see it until it popped up in Josh Fruhlinger's "Cartoon Violence" column Wonkette today.

So, does McCoy's cartoon up there look familiar to you at all? If so, you've probably seen the classic Charles Addams cartoon it's riffing on, from a 1946 issue of The New Yorker: I don't begrudge McCoy's use of the Addams cartoon as inspiration, even if McCoy is clearly no Addams (A statement I doubt McCoy himself would argue with). I'm sure it was a fun piece for McCoy to work on, to break out a collection of Addams cartoons he no doubt has on his shelf and spend a few hours studying it and replicating the characters in his own style. I can appreciate that, just as I appreciate seeing McCoy's "cover" of an Addams cartoon. I really dig those rare opportunities where you get to see one cartoonist with a very distinct, specific style covering the character or subjects of another cartoonist with a very distinct, specific style.

I have no idea why McCoy might have thought it would be the best choice for illustrating Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's fake outrage over David Letterman's flubbed, dumb joke about one of her daughters though. In fact, I only know that is what the cartoon is about because McCoy included a caption that says "David Letterman makes a vulgar joke about Sarah Palin's teenage daughter."

First, how common is the reference? Addams is undoubtedly a famous cartoonist, but he's far more famous among cartoonists and cartoon art enthusiasts than among the general population of newspaper readers today, who know him primarily as the creator of The Addams Family. Are his individual cartoons so well known? I don't think so, and this isn't even one of his more famous ones, like the Christmas carolers piece (see below) or the one with the skier and the tree.

I suppose it's labeled "thanks to Chas Addams" in the lower right corner (everything's always labeled with these people!), below McCoy's name and a couple other words (The name of his home paper, I think?) But I don't think the specifics of that single Addams cartoon are terribly common. Certainly they're not as instantly recognizable as, say, a riff on Snoopy laying atop his doghouse or a fat cat with a blase expression and half-closed eyes or the blank-faced Keane cherubs might have been (Not that any of those would work better in this particular cartoon; I'm just thinking of more popular cartoon imagery among modern newspaper readers).

Second, applying McCoy's topic to the cartoon is a rather awkward stretch.

The joke in Addams'—and it's just a joke cartoon, devoid of politics—is the disconnect between the ghoulish Addams character (who we now recognize as a pre-Uncle Fester Uncle Fester) and the rest of the movie-going audience. They are all pretty upset by whatever the sad event in the sad movie they're watching is, whereas he thinks it's hilarious. It's just the sort of gentle, quite, observational humor that The New Yorker is known for.

Okay, so let's try to reconstruct the parallel lines McCoy is suggesting. Here, the weird character is "The Left," clearly labeled as such. Is "The Left," defined I suppose as people who think Sarah Palin is a funny joke, really marginalized as the Uncle Fester character?

Is the live studio audience of some dumb late night television show for old people the equivalent of the audience in a movie theater? I...guess...? Because they're both groups of people? Sitting down? In an enclosed space? Expecting to be entertained?

Are Dave Letterman's dumb joke monologues the equivalent of a very sad movie? Um...I don't know?

I wonder how well this cartoon went over with its intended audience. Did people get it? Did they think it funny? Did they think it perfectly summed up the conflict between Sarah Palin and David Letterman?

To be fair, I can't imagine this is an easy subject to ridicule with a political cartoon, but then, picking a target and understanding it is a pretty important part of political cartooning, isn't it? McCoy seems to be implying that Letterman meant to tell a joke about Palin's underaged teenage daughter with a funny name being raped by a baseball player, rather than mistakenly referring to her adult teenage daughter with funny name being impregnated by a baseball player.

Granted, the joke wouldn't have been funny even if he had said "Bristol" instead of "Willow," but it was clearly just a lousy telling of a lousy joke, not an endorsement of child-rape, and as ignorant as Palin may strive to appear in public, she's not actually so stupid as to have thought that Letterman meant to refer to Willow being raped either.

In this cartoon, McCoy does seem to think that—or is at least pretending to think that, and whether he's being ignorant or faking outrage like Palin herself, it's pretty sad.

In addition to implying that Letterman meant to make that particular joke, he's also implying that a) everyone in America is rightly appalled by it, save for b) The Left, who also thought Letterman meant to tell that joke about Willow being raped and also thought it was hilarious.

Man, nobody thinks he meant that joke, not even Palin. And, as a member of "The Left," I can assure you that we didn't think Letterman's accidental joke was funny, or that if it was told correctly it would have been funny, or that David Letterman is ever funny, or that David Letterman is even worth watching.

Besides, The Left is watching The Colbert Report when Letterman is doing his monologue.


If you would like to read another member of "The Left" respond to the whole dumb Palin/Letterman episode, then check out Jim Newell of Wonkette's analysis. I second his comments. Which will save me form having to write anymore about how fucked up the cynical politics of accusing TV comedians of telling jokes about your daughter getting raped actually are. (Hint: Pretty fucked up)


While looking for scans of that Addams cartoon (and failing, ultimately having to scan it from a copy of The World of Charles Addams [Knopf; 1993] myself), I came across another, older example of a modern political cartoonist using an homage to an Addams cartoon, and not necessarily doing a very good job of connecting the source strip into the new context:

McCoy was a lot more meticulous in his homage; this one seems like it may have been done from the memory of the Addams cartoon, rather than from looking closely at it while drawing this new cartoon of the press walking up the public's right to know (?) to get to the emails-haunted governor's mansion (?), where some man is apparently dumping a steaming green, viscous liquid called "Ed Martin" on the porch while the slime in the slime cauldron boils.

So I guess Michael Jackson is dead,

which means I have thought about Michael Jackson more in the last 12 hours or so than I have in the last twelve years. As is likely the case with most people alive today, I have plenty of very specific memories in which he played some small role, many of them happy memories. I remember closing my eyes when he would start to turn into a werewolf in the beginning of the "Thriller" video, roller-skating to cuts off Thriller at the Roller Den in grade school, playing that terrible "Moonwalker" video game at a bowling alley, listening to a cassette tape of the Jackson Five's greatest hits over and over in my best friends car, having a hard time wrapping my head around the existence of The Wiz co-starring Michael Jackson ad the The Scarecrow, and so on.

He wasn't a vital part of my life though, and his passing certainly won't create a hole in my life the way the deaths of some famous strangers I've never met might (like, say, Tim Russert's death did; I used to spend a solid hour a week with that cat). Jackson did cross over into comics in a few small ways here and there, but not in the sort of way that I think his passing requires a response from me as a comics blogger. (And besides, better bloggers have already covered the various Michael Jackson's comics connection angles already.)

So what's the point of this post?

Well, I basically just wanted to link to some of the cartoonist's reactions I've seen so far that deserve to have attention paid to them. Tom Spurgeon has a helpful link-dump here, and it's well worth clicking on all of those.

James Kochalka, who has a song called "Show Respect to Michael Jackson," has a typically cute American Elf strip paying a sort of tribute to that particular song's muse here, and Kochalka also has a pretty elegant, to the point two paragraphs worth of obituary here.

Also well worth a read is "On the Sudden Passing of Michael Jackson," written by Achewood cartoonist Chris Onstad in the voice of his character Ray Smuckles. It's a typically funny piece of writing, and, again, a pretty elegant address of Michael Jackson's output and the world's relationship with him ("Try wakin’ up tomorrow and writin’ We Are The World. See what you come up with.") I liked the piece, which reminded me again just how amazing Onstad is. In addition to his cartooning, he's created these characters that are so strong that he can sit down and write an insightful, heartfelt blog post that one of his characters would have written, in reaction to news happening in real time. Jesus Onstad is good.

Finally, it will probably be well worth keeping an eye on Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoon Index over the next few days, if only to see how many different uninspired variations of the obvious Michael Jackson-meets-Saint Peter, Michael Jackson-moonwalking-in-the-afterlife and Michael Jackson-probably-wants-to-fuck-the-cherubs gags our nation's political cartoonists will come up with.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A couple of reviews of review copies

Eclectic Comics #1-#2 (self-published) These two issues are the work of one Andrew Wales, who, in addition to being a comics-maker, is also a comics character: The Mighty Andar, seen on the cover above striking a Superman on Action Comics #1 pose (Hmm, needs a dude totally freaking out in the foreground).

The title of the book is quite apt, as each issue features multiple stories that could be on pretty much any subject, although Andrew or Andar are usually involved in some way.

The results read a little like a comic book version of the sort of notebook or journal you might have had to keep if you ever took a creative writing course in college. The individual stories are generally generated by some sort of challenge.

The first issue, for example, features a two-page answer to the challenges “If you had superpowers, what would they be? Draw your origin story,” “Draw a biography,” “take the lyrics of a song that you like and illustrate them,” and so on.

This is my favorite one, “Draw a twenty panel page.”
I love panel-packed pages. Regardless of what’s in them, what the pictures are, what the words are, or the quality of the pictures and words, I just love to look at a page full of little boxes like that. As you can see in Wales’ one-page story, he has a lot of fun using the panels to stretch time an focus in interesting ways, so that by the middle the Death-Bots and Andar are fighting so furiously that they’re knocking each other in and out of panels.

Because of the challenge-driven contents, you get that sort of light-hearted superhero parody juxtaposed with a three-page tale of a younger-looking Wales avatar telling a goodnight story to a son next to a five-page Monet biography.

The second issue is more superhero/Andar focused, with the only non-Andar story being that of the last time Wales ate a particular brand of frozen fish sticks, and why (hint: the scrambler at a fair was involved).

If you’d like to see more of Wales’ work, and to order a copy of either book, visit his site here.

Swordsmith Assassin #1 (Boom Studios) The title is so generic as to be meaningless, and there’s a predictability to many of the major plot points that doesn’t speak well of the book’s originality, but there’s no denying that this new series has a great premise and a great hook for a serial comic book.

It’s 1870, and a disheveled Japanese man with a sword wanders into a Russian army camp, asking for the general to give him the general’s sword in exchange for his story. The general listens, and the man explains that he is Toshiro Ono, the son of one of the greatest swordmaker’s in Japan, and himself a master swordsmith.

He tells of how he had rebelled against his fathers insistence of only selling his perfect blades to men who deserved them due to their own perfect honor, and how he sold swords to whoever could afford to buy them. For money.

What happened to Ono? It used to be about the swords, man. Anyway, he goes on a business trip, and returns home to find his family killed by a thief (given how it’s telegraphed, I don’t think this constitutes a spoiler), and, when he finally tracks the thief down, he discovers to his horror that the thief used a sword that he himself had made and sold him. Irony!

So Ono has devoted himself to wandering the world recovering all of the blades he made.

Pretty cool, huh?

I guess the premise comes from Andrew Cosby, who gets a “story” credit, while Michael Alan Nelson is credited with “script.”

The art is by Ayhan Hayrula, colored by Andres Lozano, and it was unusual to see a story involving samurai that wasn’t black and white and manga style. Unusual, but refreshingly so. That is, while the subject matter was subject matter I’ve seen over and over, it didn’t look like most of those comics dealing with the subject matter that I’ve seen before.

Hayrula seems most comfortable in long and medium shots, and the art is for the most part rather static, but not necessarily deficiently so. There’s a quiet, deliberate mood to the story and the characters, a mood that seems befitting the predictable/inevitable events that lead our protagonist toward his tragedy, and then to his quest.

It’s not something I’d pay $3.99 for 22 pages of, but then, there’s hardly anything I’d pay $3.99 for 22 pages of. This first issue is all premise and promise, and it will be future ones that determine if the creators can make good on that potential, but it does promise to make for an interesting trade sometime down the road. .

Tales of the TMNT #59 (Mirage Publishing) According to five paragraphs of synopsis that writer Tristan Jones provides on the inside cover, this story ties pretty closely into the events of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50-#62, the year-long “City at War” storyline. I read that story as it was originally released, (in fact, that was the only comic I ever had a subscription to, and it sure was fun getting a comic book in the mail at some totally random time), but I don’t remember the events closely enough that what Jones was describing sounded at all familiar.

It doesn’t matter though, which is why I bring it up at all. Perhaps knowing your Turtles trivia better will add to one’s enjoyment or appreciation of this issue, but it seemed perfectly user-friendly to me, and I don’t remember those issues of the original black and white volume of the comic hardly at all.

This also kind of sort of follows up on Jones’ Tales of the TMNT #56, but again, it’s not necessary to have read that to read and dig this: It’s very much a complete, done-in-one crime comic, that just happens to involve teenage mutant ninja turtles in the corners.

It’s entitled “Expose,” and it’s about a hard-nosed crime reporter who is getting so close to some big story exposing corrupt elements of the New York City Police Department and their ties to a mysterious criminal organization called The Foot Clan that her editor is getting scared for his (and her life), and orders her to check out another story: Who is this Hun crime boss character, and why was he get parole after serving only a decade of a life sentence?

She reluctantly takes the new assignment, only to find out that it dovetails into the Foot Clan story, as she finds a meeting Hun, a Foot representative, and a snake-faced urban legend crime lord known as King Cobra.

The titular turtles intervene a couple of times, saving her life and working to not become part of this, or any story.

It’s pretty straightforward stuff, but straightforward is fine for this sort of genre comic and, with the cute little twist ending, it works perfectly well as a look at the Turtles from a particular set of eyes, and form a particular angle.

Michaelangelo is the only one who gets any substantial panel-time, as he’s the one who keeps hauling the reporter away from the fight scenes, and even he is framed pretty mysteriously. When they appear, they just jump out of the dark shadows, have a fight scene in the dark and disappear.

Paul Harmon’s highly shaded, shadow-filled artwork accentuates the mysterious nature of the title characters and the criminals, contrasting sharply with the well-lit scenes in the newspaper office. He does a remarkable job of selling the physical existence of the turtles, and their fellow mutant character, King Cobra. They all seem to be of the same world as all of the human characters he draws.

Here's a two-page sequence in which the bad guys order the snoopy reporter killed, and the turtles arrive to her resuce:
It’s a very solid little crime comic, and an extremely well drawn one. And I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more of this King Cobra character, who seems like he might make for a better Turtle villain than Hun.

One thing though, Jones: I think King Cobra means “basic literacy skills,” not literary skills, on page 13 there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekly Haul: June 24th

Avengers: The Initiative #25 (Marvel Comics) After five long issues, writer Christos Gage finally gets done rearranging the characters and status quo to comply with the Marvel Universe’s current “Dark Reign”-branded direction. Five 22-page issues. That’s 110 pages of who stays and who goes and what their jobs will be and why. It was all completely unnecessary, and the sort of thing that could have just occurred off-panel between issues, but then, I don’t suppose anyone reads Avengers: The Initiative for any reason other than to see Marvel’s D-through-Z-list characters appearing and occasionally sharing panel-time with A-listers. So if you read this book to see what Razorfist is up to at the moment or to find out if Tigra is going to keep her half-Skrull baby, well, here’s another 22-pages dealing with such important information.

Avengers/Invaders #12 (Marvel) Several important things happened in this issue:

—A Golden Age character is resurrected in the current Marvel Universe, and is lead away by another character I didn't know still existed in the current Marvel Universe, with no indication of where they might turn up next (although Alex Ross and company’s upcoming Human Torch series is probably a safe bet).

—It is thoroughly explained why Bucky Barnes never let go of that rocket that he and Captain America were hanging on to when they both “died.” If that was keeping you up at night.

—The Wasp reveals just how badly she sucks once again. She gets a cool, "Ah-ha, you didn't expect The Wasp to be here doing this did you, Red Skull?" moment, and then Red Skull just totally kills her in the next panel. (She lives though, since this is one of those Cosmic Cube, reality-warping stories. Well, she lives through this story, and dies later in Secret Invasion.)

—The pre-Secret Invasion team of Mighty Avengers let the pre-SI team of New Avengers, that team they’re always supposed to be hunting and trying to arrest for not complying with that law they all fought a fucking war over, off with a stern warning. Again. I’ve long since lost count; I’ve seen the Mighty Avengers let the New Avengers get away “this time” at least a half-dozen times now.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #6 (DC) I do believe the cover tells you everything you need to know about this issue of this book, but what the hell: After a two-page team-up with a redesigned Hourman, Batman is summoned by Doom Patrol villain General Immortus (Super power? Old-ness), whose army of soldiers from the past have run amok. Batman recruits Kid Eternity (who is more like his Golden Age iteration here than anywhere else I’ve seen him in a DC comic) to supply him the appropriate hero to tackle each gang: Vigilante, Viking Prince, Shining Knight or G.I. Robot, depending on the era the bad guys have come from.

J. Torres scripts, and while not every joke of his is a side-splitter, the book is a ton of fast-paced fun, with Batman smiling and wise-cracking like the second coming of Bob Haney’s Batman. Andy Suriano and Dan Davis provide the art, and it’s absolutely perfect; a chunkier, more expressive, slightly more exaggerated version of the look of the cartoon itself.

This is only the sixth issue of the series, but Suriano is quickly proving to be “the good Batman: The Brave and the Bold artist” in the same way that Carl Barks was once “the good duck artist.” There’s just something a little different, a little better about the issues he draws versus those that he doesn’t.

Detective Comics #854 (DC) Well, I think this definitely qualifies for progress towards diversity in the DC Comics publishing line and universe, and in super-comics in general.

Writer Greg Rucka’s first issue of the comic book the company took its name from starring the newest, most Sapphic version of Batwoman is about as generic as a comic book can be. The heroine violently squeezes a criminal type for information in an alley at night. Her closest confidant and loved one tells her he’s worried she’s pushing herself too hard. She experiences relationship problems because she hasn’t told her significant other about the fact that she’s actually a superhero. She goes through a montage of beating up and threatening people in a search for information. And, at the end, a colorful villain appears, and we’re given a more or less standard cliffhanger ending.

It’s basically a cookie cutter sort of street-level, vigilante-style comic book scripting. In this particular story, Batwoman could just as easily be Batman or Daredevil, Catwoman or Nightwing. Which is actually kind of cool, given that she is a lesbian. This comic is literally about a superhero who just happens to be a lesbian, and you can’t ask for more from that in terms of diversity and quality in the DCU or DC’s line of books set there.

If Rucka’s story is nothing special really, there are no real problems with it either. It picks up on plot points from 2006’s 52—the religion of crime, specifically—but in such a casual way that if one hasn’t read that story, it’s unlikely to matter one bit. If this is one’s first exposure to Batwoman, one should get along fine in terms of making sense of the comic. (Even the bit with Batman is handled well; he’s only in about a half-dozen panels, and it hardly matters whether he’s Bruce Wayne or Dick Grayson or Dick Tracy in the suit).

What does make the comic special is J.H. Willaims III’s art. Put as simply as I can, this is the work of his career so far. His Batwoman is absolutely perfectly drawn. Her body moves and looks like a real body, her clothes and cape fall over her body like real materials would, and her costume is so well-designed you can actually see how she must put it on and take it off.

His lay-outs are also pretty incredible. They’re definitely show-y, but not in a way that buries Rucka’s slight story. Rather, they make every page look as purposefully designed as a stained glass window, and move the eye around just so. Maybe Rucka’s story isn’t about much of anything fresh or new or exciting—other than a fact that in 2009 you can have a generic superhero in a generic story be a lesbian—but Williams’ art fills in all that empty space perfectly, so it hardly matters.

This is one of DC’s $3.99, back-up-having books, and, in a packaging decision that’s sure to win Rucka one of those goofy GLAAD comic book awards, the back-up is Rucka writing DC’s other street-level lesbian crimefighter, Renee “The Question II” Montoya.

This story is even more slight, by virtue of only being eight-pages-long and by virtue of coming second; the opening scene is almost the exact same as a scene in the story that precedes it. I’ve never much cared for this version of The Question, which simply took two more interesting characters and combined them into a single, less interesting one, nor her design. Artist Cully Hamner does a decent job with Montoya-as-Question (and her certainly tells a good story through his art), but even her new-ish and improved design here pales in comparison to the original Question look. (UPDATE: Now, if you want to read a really good review of this issue of TEC, go check out Jog's right now)

Gotham City Sirens #1 (DC) Between reading this comic and sitting down to pound out a few paragraphs about it, I was asked if I could review it for Newsarama.com, so I guess I’ll hold most of my fire and/or praise for that piece. On the positive side, I really like Guillem March’s art. On the negative side, I like Paul Dini’s writing less and less the longer I’m exposed to it, and was surprised that this wasn’t more user-friendly, given it’s the first issue of a new title (it seems particularly opaque when read right after TEC, which similarly refers to stories form a while ago but does so in a way that doesn't make the reader feel like they're missing a page or something). It’s basically a DCU continuity-heavy titillation comic, along the lines of Jim Balent’s Catwoman, only with less pretense about being an action/adventure comic (Harley Quinn, for example, wears a naughty school girl costume throughout the book, for absolutely no reason, and there's a bondage scene featuring Dini’s own fetish object Zatanna).

But if you’re already interested in the goings-on of Gotham City and it’s colorful characters, this isn’t bad at all, and the only truly skeevy moment was an offhanded comment about pedophilia/child-rape which, um, Dini devoted a scene in last week’s Streets of Gotham to dwelling on.

Gotham City Sirens seems to be dedicated to being the cheesecake version of Streets of Gotham, only with a different, more exciting artist. I don’t say better because March and Dustin Nguyen are both excellent artists; if I had to choose one’s book to read though, it would probably be March's, based simply on the fact that I’ve seen so many fewer of his comics.

Huh. I was trying to be super-brief and I still managed to go on for three paragraphs. Check out Newsarama.com later tonight or tomorrow for something more in the six to eight paragraph range. (UPDATE: Okay, here's my review on Newsarama. Be sure to read the comments too, if can stand to. My favorite so far is from "HalJordan2814"—that's the name of the Silver Age Green Lantern followed by his space sector(!!!)—who wants to know how a comics critic can criticize a comic if he doesn't read the ones that comic ties into, even if he's tried them and hated them. Because the critic doesn't like spending time and money on things he doesn't like, lol?)

Green Lantern #42 (DC) A couple weeks ago in a piece at Blog@ about how pleasantly surprised that the Dick Grayson-becomes-Batman story in Batman and Robin wasn’t just “Prodigal” reprised, I said this about the artist scheduled to follow Frank Quitely on the title:

I hate to over-praise this team, since they get so much praise already but, well, it’s really hard to overpraise them, as they really are that good. Their Batman and Robin #1 wasn’t their very best collaboration so far, but it was damn sight better than any Batman comics since Morrison collaborated with J.H. Williams III for a couple issues, and, because Quitely’s work is relatively rare (and Morrison working with an artist who meshes with his style perfectly is so rare), the launch of the new Batman feels special.

This won’t be anything DC can maintain for long, as Quitely’s only due to stick around for two more issues before the guy drawing a Green Lantern arc for Geoff Johns in a poor-man’s Jim Lee style comes aboard, but for the launch at least the company gave the impression that they were bringing out the big guns.

I was kind of surprised that several commenters disagreed so thoroughly with that statement, and seemed offended that I suggested that artist Phillip Tan is no Frank Quitely, and that he’s not working in a poor-man’s Jim Lee style.

So this issue I tried to pay even more attention to Tan’s art, and, well, it’s nothing at all special.

Granted, it may have something to do with the script.

There are no characters that aren’t wearing a variation of the Green Lantern uniform. There are hardly any backgrounds, and the few that are there seem computer created (most of the book is set in a dark cave, inside a crystal or in space, though). There aren’t any objects, other than rings and power battery lanterns. There are no emotions even, aside from yelling (if we consider “yelling” an emotion).

So I don’t know, maybe Tan will produce a knockout couple of issues of Batman and Robin, but there’s certainly no evidence that he has the particular skill sets and/or sill levels of Quitely, and will succeed at drawing a Morrison script, something faaarrrr too few artists seem able to accomplish.

Of course, Tan is only one of the pencillers on this issue; the other is Eddy Barrows, and I honestly can’t tell who did what, despite there being two different inkers and two different colorists (I’m pretty sure Barrows did the whole epilogue and a couple of splashes, but I can't tell what he didn’t do, if that makes sense). It’s really just an ugly mess, made uglier for certain panels being colored differently to look as if they were painted, panels apparently chosen for the dramatic events within.

Anyway, I’m unconvinced Blog@Newsarama.com posters; this issue seems to indicate that Tan just isn’t very good at all, and certainly isn’t punching in Quitely’s weight class.

As for the story? Oh, well, Hal puts his hand right back on, decides Larfleeze looks like Gonzo (he doesn’t, but after he says that I started reading his lines in Gonzo’s voice), Hal becomes an Orange Lantern for like three panels, the GLs fight the OLs, the OLs fight the Blue Lanterns, and Green Lantern Ashel Sabian Formanta writes a letter home to his wife, which is pretty fun to read if you imagine the music from Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary playing in the background as you do.

The Incredible Hercules #130 (Marvel) Oh damn, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente did it again. You know, that thing they occasionally do with this title, when they occasionally transcend the perfectly entertaining action comedy meshing Marvel superheroics with Greek mythology? Here it’s Zeus’ defiant speech about the utility of the continued existence of God, his closing argument in a trial conducted by Pluto to decide his brother’s fate. It…it’s really quite good. No, it’s great. It’s great comics.

The art is generally very decent on Incredible Hercules, but when I read an issue like this, I really wish Pak and Van Lente had a regular partner to visually define the incredibly strong, occasionally transcendental work they’re doing.

Justice Society of America #28 (DC) You know, maybe it’s not the fact that The Spectre III has a goatee that bothers me so much as the type of goatee he now sports. Lots of mystical, magical types have goatees after all, so I guess there’s no reason The Spectre can’t have one, but, if he’s going to, I think he really needs to grow it out, so that he has a discernable moustache and a pointy goatee that extends away from the surface of his chin. Something more Mephistophelean, basically.

This is really, really, really weird, and consists mostly of the teams Three Old Men quickly, verbosely and defensively rationalizing the dropping at atomic weapons on Japan at the close of World War II, with an epilogue in which they again conspire to protect Stargirl’s virtue from a teammate.

How old are Stargirl and Atom-Smasher supposed to be, anyway? She’s in highschool, and I imagine he would have to be at least in his late twenties, which is obviously in the too-old-for-her category, but he seems to think he’s not too old for her, so maybe he’s supposed to be, like, 20 or 21…?

By the way, Jerry Ordway, who wrote this amusingly complicated and goofy-ass story, draws nice comic books.

The new guys of Bill “Wrote Salvaton Run” Willingham, Matt “Also wrote Salvation Run” Sturges and Jesus Merino take over from Ordway, which is kinda too bad. Particularly since I don’t know what Ordway’s next assignment for DC will be. Give him something good you guys!

Runaways #11 (Marvel) This is the first issue by the all-new, all-female creative team of writer Kathryn Immonen (Patsy Walker: Hellcat) and Sara Pichelli (“Molli-fest Destiny” in Runaways #10) and I am relieved to report that it’s really, really good.

The team, whom I lost track of during the previous Terry Moore-helmed run, and thus I’m not sure where Xavin went, now live in Malibu, and Immonen takes her time introducing them each with an individual one-page sequence before the title.

Immonen defines each of the characters very well, and I was happy to hear so many of them talking like real people, something they didn’t even do when their creator Brian K. Vaughan was writing them (Rather, they spoke in a self-consciously Whedon-esque slang, which BKV wrote well, but most of the other people who attempted to write them couldn’t quite capture as effortlessly. Including, oddly enough, Joss Whedon himself).

Most of the issue is devoted to re-introducing the characters and letting readers get to know them (or get reacquainted with them, as the case may be), making it a fairly perfect jumping on point. The older kids—Karolina, Nico, Chase and Victor—are organizing their own prom, which is a rather lame prom, what with only four people in attendance, and then something unexpected and pretty bad for the kids occurs, and my favorite Runaway is seemingly killed off.

I say seemingly because I hope this member of the team survives, as I don’t think I’m the only one who counts this member as my favorite, or among my favorite. But the cover does say “One Will Die, One Will Live Again,” so… (Is it bad that I was hoping it was Klara who would die?)

I can’t say enough good things about Pichelli’s art; under Christina Strain’s colors, this might be the best-looking of Marvel’s ongoings at the moment. Each page’s art is smooth and bright, full of characters who have a cartoony accent, but never the less occupy space, have weight, and seem to move, think and act like real human beings. Even the pet dinosaur is convincingly pet dinosaur-like, and I have no idea how a pet dinosaur should look and move.

Welcome back to my pull-list, Runaways.

Superman #689 (DC) James Robinson is really writing a serial comics story here, and every issue reads like a next chapter, with a few of the half-dozen or so ongoing plots taking a few steps forward each month. That’s not a bad thing, hell, it’s how serial comics are supposed to work, really, especially the way Robinson is writing it—the individual books each have a distinct beginning and end, so it’s not like you’re reading one-sixth of a graphic novel, so much as you’re watching the next episode of your favorite soap opera.

It does make writing about it a little hard to write about though. It’s still pretty good…? Renato Guedes still draws super-good?

In this issue, while The Guardian/Tellus, Sam Lane and Codename: Assassin and Steel/Atlast threads are all advanced, in between Mon-El takes some time to see the sites of the world, which means he keeps finding other superheroes to team-up with and villains to fight in each locale.

There are plenty of cameos here, most of them of fairly obscure characters, and plenty of whom I don’t recognize, which means either that Robinson has created a couple of new characters here, or he must know like every DC character ever, because I read a small stack of these things every week, and I never heard of some of these guys.

Oh, and yes, that is Congorilla on the cover. He and Freedom Beast team-up with Mon-El to fight poachers on one splash-page.

Jeph Loeb really, really likes Terminator

Which is fine. It's no Predator or Empire Records or anything, but it's not a bad movie.

If you haven't completely blocked the experience out of your mind, you may recall that during the very painful Ultimates 3 Week here on EDILW, I noted that in Utlimates 3 #4 Jeph Loeb actually has a character appropriate a very famous line of dialogue from The Terminator for completely non-ironic usage. Which was particularly strange given that the character who used that line of dialogue was a Terminator-like killer robot disguised as a human being.

Matt Ampersand, who writes for The Weekly Crisis, was kind enough to send me a scan of the first page of the first issue of X-Man, which was apparently a mid-nineties X-book set in the "Age of Apocalypse" continuity and also written by Jeph Loeb.

How did Loeb open the book?
That is Age of Apocalypse-flavored Cyclops, his one eye glowing red, like the Terminator's.

Thanks for sharing, Matt!

Assuming Spider-Man is referring to the proportional strength of a spider.

As Tom Spurgeon points out in the link to last night's post ("Spider-Man is correct") he put in the "Quick Hits and Craft" section of his June 24 post, "Spider-Man Is Not Correct." And Tom is correct regarding whether or not Spider-Man's statement is correct. Most, if not all, bald guys are stronger than most, if not all, spiders. I'm pretty sure even the weakest bald guy in the world (Mr. Burns from The Simpsons holds that title, I think) could bench press more weight than the strongest spider in the world.

A man with the proportional strength of a spider, like Spider-Man, is stronger than most bald guys, however. Certainly stronger than The Puppet Master, whose dolls he's depicted taking away above.

Spider-Man should really speak more clearly. And I should have thought of Tom's joke, which was funnier than mine.