Monday, October 31, 2011

A couple of links and more-or-less random thoughts.

I realize that Gargamel is supposed to be the villain of the Smurfs comics, and I generally have fairly negative thoughts about the character—if he's an actual sorcerer capable of real magic, why hasn't he come up with a cure for baldness yet?—but I found something quite admirable about him in this panel, from a story collected in Smurfs Vol. 8.

As you can see, Gargamel has fashioned 100 little Smurf-sized balls and chains, with which to enslave the captured Smurfs. He made the darling little instruments of imprisonment by hand, and, apparently, he made one for each and every individual Smurf, because he first discovers that his traps failed to catch Papa Smurf when he notices he has one little ball and chain left over.

And what does the wicked sorcerer due once he's enslaved entire race of tiny little men? Comes up with completely mundane and unnecessary tasks for them to do, like leaning against books to act as living bookends. That's pretty awesome, actually. Gargamel may be evil, but at least his evil is cute and creative. (At least in this story, anyway).


And that's the last I'll post about that particular volume of Papercutz's Smurfs series. I promise.

And speaking of things I can't shut up about...


Bob Temuka would like to go on record as having liked Frank Miller's Holy Terror. You can read his full review here; be sure to read the comments too). It is a beautiful book, and I found the artwork to be incredibly strong, although a lot of those who have criticized it have mentioned that even Miller's artwork seems to be weaker than usual (I think he's just evolving, and doing so in interesting directions, as most evident in the seemingly-random-political-caricatures that dot the book).

I don't think I agree with Temuka's separation between Miller and his characters least not to the extent Temuka allows for. In general, one shouldn't mistake for the views expressed by characters as the views of the artist (ObviouslyMiller's not The Fixer; it's not like the cartoonist became a terrorist-hunting vigilante or even joined the army after 9/11; he just went on drawing comics and directed a pretty shitty movie).

The existence of that two-page quote, which reduces the entirety of Islam to "If you meet the infidel, kill the infidel" before the story begins; that's not the characters talking, it's the book itself; if not Miller, than the publisher. There's that, and then there's the bit near the end regarding the cell and the huge adversary which the Empire City cell is but a part of. That, and the bit about the cell and the beast.

Perhaps that entity is Terrorism itself, rather than Islam (Temuka rightly points out the "stinger" last page; it feels random and tacked on to me, but as the last word, it could very well be the "moral" to Miller's story). But given that opening quote, I think the argument that Islam is the enemy rather than Terrorism or something between—like "Terrorism in the name of Islam" or "religious extremism"—is the enemy the End Boss generic bad guy refers to.

That quote—it bugs me so much. I've been listening to audio books about the Quran the last few weeks of my commute, specifically because I read that quote at the opening of Holy Terror. I've heard something rather similar, although it was followed by statements that changed the context completely. And I've heard some very strong quotes about showing mercy to the enemy—I'd really like to know where that particular quote came from though, and what precedes and what follows it in the Quran (if it from the Quran itself).

As someone who's education mandated reading the Bible for 17 years of schooling, I know it wouldn't take too much skimming of the more popular American holy book—Old Testament or New—to find something equally insanely outrageous about eradicating one's enemies to throw up in the first two pages of another book and attribute the quote to Moses or Jesus or God or whoever. Putting it at the front of the book like that was just a genuinely idiotic thing for Frank Miller to do, anyway I look at it.

Here's an article from The National, headlined "Holy Terror comic is 'Islamophobic', say critics." It's a pretty weak piece, covering the controversial reception of the book, but not really getting a very good cross-section of criticism (there was a lot more to pull from), and not really getting any sort of comment from Miller or editor Bob Schreck or publisher Legendary Comics...aside from quoting something Miller wrote elsewhere once.

Finally, Laura Hudson has a pretty funny post quoting Miller here; he says, in part, " I can tell you squat about Islam...but I know a goddam lot about Al Qaeda."

I'm not really sure it's possible to know "a lot" about Al Qaeda and not know anything about Islam. Not that the latter is synonymous with the former, of course, but the former uses a very specific brand of and narrow interpretation of aspects of the latter as its entire reason for being and justification for its actions and recruiting. I know, for example, that I thought I was reasonably well-informed about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden from being an avid consumer of news (moreso in the first half of the last decade than the second half), and then I read Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage; 2007) and I realized that I didn't know anything but a few buzzwords and bits of vague jargon.

What's sad about that "I don't know shit about what I'm devoting a book to talking about" quote is that it's a) obvious from Miller's text and b) the way Miller's text implies he thinks he knows all he needs to know about it in order to make a statement worthy of consideration. And by "worthy of consideration," of course, I mean worthy of Legendary Comics deciding to publish it and worthy of readers handing over $30 a piece to see his statement for themselves.


I enjoyed this longish piece by Chris Mautner at The Comics Journal assessing DC's much-discussed new "New 52" line of comics.

To stick with the junk food metaphor Mautner employs near the end, it would have been nice if DC's "New 52" was more Subway and less Taco Bell.


This is awesome. It is also the precise reason why I should have a full-time day job like a regular grown-up so I would have money laying around to blow on an awesome dinosaur print...


My thanks to Tom Spurgeon to linking to this insane interview with insanely rich insane person and professional game player Danny Granger, as I otherwise would not have known there was a millionaire out there devoting himself to building his own personal Batcave.

Apparently, Granger's will be based on the Batcaves from the movies. I can't remember—did any of the Batcaves in any of the movies include a giant penny and a model dinosaur...?


These are cute.

This is a good point.

This seems like sensible advice for millionaires, and very well put.


According to this Slate article, the ranks of Occupy Writers include Neil Gaiman and known Wonder Woman fan Gloria Steinem.


The "New 52" version of Krypto The Super-Dog is apparently...a saber-toothed cat?

It's quite depressing how predictable so many elements of the line-wide redesign have been. For example, after seeing Flashpoint's Battle Cat, saber-toothed, armor-wearing redesign of Tawky Tawny, the new Krypto is pretty much exactly what you'd expect DC to come up with, isn't it...?

I'm am a little surprised Jim Lee didn't give him a suit of doggie armor, a pair of pants to cover up his bare legs, and a high-collar extension to his dog collar...


Jeremy said...

2nd Chronicles 15-13: "That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman."

There's plenty of "kill anyone who doesn't believe in our God" in the Bible, too.

Bob Temuka said...

There is stuff like that in most religions, but Caleb does have a good point - there is plenty of that in the bible, but leading the whole book off with it throws unwarranted attention on the quote.

It could also be argued that the problematic quote is a play on the "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha" thing, which popped up quite strongly in Lone Wolf and Cub, a comic which had an immense impact on Miller's style. But that might be stretching things.

Still - I've read the book a couple more times, and can't find any fault with your arguments, Caleb. But I really do think that last page is more than just something randomly tacked on. Some people think it suggests that the whole comic is one big terror and fever induced dream, but I still like to think that it undermines everything by pointing out something that Miller keeps saying in his comics and everybody ignores - that violence doesn't work.