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Monday, May 31, 2004

Insert peals of laughter here. 

RRich
IIndustrious
NNoisy
GGreat
WWorldly
OOdd
OOrderly
DDainty
RRelaxed
AAppealing
GGraceful
EEnjoyable
FFast
UUnforgettable
CCrazy
KKeen

Name / Username:


Name Acronym Generator
From Go-Quiz.com


Courtesy of Johnny, who is, apparently, "yum."

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Calling all AiT/PlanetLar fans. 

I know some of you have had trouble finding copies of Demo or Scurvy Dogs lately (I'm looking at you, Johnny), and as it so happens I've been told (by a little bird, of course, with a beard) that by god, Brave New World Comics is going to help you the hell out. In short:

From now until I say different, anybody here who can't find a copy of their favorite AiT release at their local shop is invited to call me (661-259-4745) or drop me an email (atom@bravenewworldcomics.com) and with your credit card, not only will I send it out to you within 48 hours, but I'll pay for the shipping (international guys, I reserve the right to split it with you) and even throw in one AiT/PlanetLar floppie of your choosing. So far, by my count, that means one of the following DEMO #1-5 or Scurvy Dogs #1-4.

That's actually pretty great. The store I go to stocks the AiT/PlanetLar books pretty well, but I realize we cannot all know the glory that is Zeus. Mosey over to Delphi to get the rest o' the details.

My personal recommendations? If you like the superhero concept with a side order of smarts, then it's Codeflesh. If you want some genuinely fascinating and original fantasy, then y'all want some Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden. And it is completely impossible to go wrong with the publisher's flagship title, Astronauts in Trouble. (You want the hardcover with all the stories.)

As for the free floppies, I'd say try out Demo #6 or Scurvy Dogs #1. Seriously. Great stuff.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Trailers. 

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster -- Cool. One of hard rock's most famously tense bands, and studying tense bands is always fascinating stuff. Look at Guns N' Roses. Faith No More, one of the All Time Greatest Bands of All Time, pretty much actively hated each other; and in that tension some of the best albums of the last 20 years were made. I believe it was Spin, in a very rare moment of non-fuckheadedness, that said FNM's Angel Dust was like listening to a band self-destruct on CD. Yeah, this'll be an interesting one. "You don't have to be a fan..." etc.

Stander -- The trailer does a great job of setting mood and a piss-poor job of telling you what the hell the movie's about. From what I understand, this is a movie based on the life of a cop in South Africa who robbed banks on his lunch hour, then came back with his badge on and attempted to "solve" the robberies himself. He got busted, got loose, and became a full-time criminal. The concept of a cop robbing banks on his lunch hour alone is enough to get me in.

Open Water -- Eek. It's like these guys dug into the reptilian segment of my brain to find one of my basest fears, and made a goddamn movie out of it. I'll probably see it for just that reason.

Memorable. 

“Hold the Foley in one hand,” she said. “Now, take that other hand and just choke that chicken, son. Just choke that chicken!” All the other nurses joined in, laughing, “Choke that chicken! Choke that chicken!”

Yeah, you need to read the rest. I hope stories like that are a regular feature on Polite Dissent.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Quick thought. 

Everyone always uses the phrase "anal retentive" or "anal" in conversation to signify a person who is meticulously clean, neat, orderly, or whatever about something. It's used so casually that no one bats an eye.

But why doesn't anyone ever use the Freudian opposite in conversation: "Anal expulsive"? That's so much more... vivid, don't you think?

No justice in this world.

Pitiful. 

You mean to tell me nothing has happened in the past two days worth talking about?

Okay, Steve Dillon doing some art on Hellblazer #200... that's pretty cool. Anyone else know what Dillon's up to lately?

The discussion about relative nerdity in comics, plus a call to tell Jeff about how YOU got back into comics... well that's pretty fun so far. I typed up a horrendously lengthy reply, surprise surprise.

In fact, Jeff's just got his shit together, lately.

EISNER-NOMINATED (wanted to say it) Milo George has uncovered what Evil's theme song is like. So there's that.

Also, I guess, Jakala is now the blogo-mart's Unintentional Porn Spotter. That's always fun, and damn if we haven't needed that position filled (heh heh) for awhile.

I've found that only very few people have the right to call Larry a "beautiful man." Am I one of those people? Probably not, but when has that ever stopped me?

Rick is too busy eating people to post. That makes me a sad panda.

This is pretty unfortunate... unfortunately funny!

So I guess there's all that.

(Holy shit, did I just linkblog? And badly, too. That'll teach me.)

Thursday, May 27, 2004

You like-a the Viper? 

So, Dead@17. You've been hearing about it everywhere. It's an indie publisher success story unlike any other right now. You like the series, and you want more.

Turns out you can get more. I'm actually intrigued as shit by that; there's enough hints in the two "canon" series at a whole wide world of weirdness lurking behind the scenes, and I want to know more. And I want to see writers take a spin in someone else's brainchild, because if it goes far enough, hey, what's this? A new shared universe, centered around the occult? Well, that's just fine and dandy by me.

The ad copy says four writers and four artists providing original takes in the D@17 universe, which makes no sense, since there appear to be five stories, each with a different set of writers and artists (Josh Howard, series auteur, has duties on one of them.)

It's in the June Previews and it hits in August. Get it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A little something to add to the conversation. 

You hear it all the time in the blogosphere: Such-and-such writer or artist would be so much better off just doing their own original works all the time, working for DC or Marvel on shared intellectual property is a sign of creative bankruptcy, etc etc. Me, I do not doubt the wonders of writing only self-created stuff -- it sounds like a little slice of heaven. But I don't discount working on established titles, either. I recently had a discussion (with an unsatisfying conclusion) on just this very topic, in regard to Mike Carey writing Ultimate Elektra.

So it felt like serendipity when, while reading the interview compilation Inner Views: Filmmakers in Conversation, the interviewer (David Breskin) asked David Cronenberg about the arc of his career -- moving from largely self-written material to adaptations. I believe this snippet is suitable food for thought:

Q: Your works from Stereo in 1969 to Videodrome in 1983, with the small exception of Fast Company, were all from your original screenplays. But since Videodrome, all four films have been collaborations and adaptations, no original screenplays, and your next will be based on the play "M. Butterfly." Do you make any sense of this?

Cronenberg: Not really. I can't find anything in me that has any recognition response to this. In the Middle Ages, you know, you got no points for originality. In fact, it was just about proscribed. You always built from the past, and you elaborated that into your own unique version. When you're young, I suppose there's a great ego necessity to say, "Hey, it's all original, I did it all myself!" It might simply be that. Even then, I knew that where the material comes from is almost irrelevant. Does it matter that it's [from] a newspaper article?

Q: There's a kind of friction that comes with adaptation and collaboration, which you don't get from your own original work. [...] I don't mean friction in a negative sense, I mean friction in terms of heat -- your consciousness is up against the consciousness of someone else.

Cronenberg: Yeah. There's a Hollywood version of collaboration, which can also be positive.

[Some tangential stuff about Sydney Pollack...]

But you run up against other things anyway, which is why I don't think it's that different from an original script. As soon as you start to introduce characters that fight back -- you want to get rid of them and they won't go! -- you're always collaborating with yourself, with projections of yourself. That's why I feel the metaphor of [Naked Lunch's] Bill Lee's typewriter -- giving him orders, pushing him around, telling him what to write -- is like normal writing to me. Whether there is another human being in the room or not, it feels the same.

I don't think I'm trying to rationalize anything here. As time goes on, it doesn't matter whether it's a dream I start with, or a newspaper article, or a story someone told me, or a story someone said actually happened, or a biographical incident, or somebody else's fictional work. It all seems like intake; it's narrative and conceptual intake and then you do something with it. Now, when you're starting out and you really have a lot to prove, and you have not yet necessarily found your cinema voice, and you are desperate not to dilute that, because it's so fragile, there might be a real pressure not to collaborate. "I'm the only guy who wrote this, I made it up, I didn't get it anywhere else." But what I'm doing now might be more pure and honest and straightforward than what I did then.


This isn't me (or Cronenberg) saying that the natural progression of the artist in any field, in our case comics and in his movies, is to go from self-created to company-owned. It's that there is no shame in doing either, that no matter what, whether it's Batman or your own super-cool character, "it's all intake."

The artist has no need for drawing lines in the sand when it comes to his raw materials. Self-imposed limits are strictly that: self-imposed. And they most certainly are limits.

(This whole book is a fantastic read, by the way. The interviewed subjects are Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, David Cronenberg, Robert Altman, Tim Burton, and Clint Eastwood. Each of the interviews was conducted circa 1992-1993, right on the eve or dawn of some of these director's most pivotal works: JFK, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Malcolm X, The Player, and Unforgiven, just to name a few. Every interview is intimately in-depth, none of them clocking in under 46 pages. It's worth a browse, and even better if you can get it for $8 at a Half Price Books like I did.)

Today's comic purchases at a glance. 

I don't know if I can call these reviews or impressions or assessments or what, because I'm afraid I'll set off some blogmines or something.

By my own definition, these are impressions of today's comics, since I just got done reading them, and my brain is still assessing them in cold, laboratory-like logic.

The Authority: More Kev #1 of 4 - This is Garth Ennis, so don't expect me to give it any rational kind of discussion. I don't really know anything about this Kev character -- my knowledge of the Authority extends to the first four TPBs, and I have zero interest in reading more -- but I can already tell that I like him. Kev's SAS, because this is Ennis we're talking about here, and some super-powerful aliens want him for unknown reasons or they'll Destroy The Planet. Kev's going to bring some loser charm to the infinitely lovable duo of Apollo and the Midnighter, and nobody writes a grizzled, what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-here-with-these-fucking-people vet like Ennis. Fabry's art is tighter than it has been in series past, and for that I am thankful.

Rating: Barkeep, I'll have another.

The Losers #12 - What, you aren't buying this yet? Why the fuck not? This is a great capper to a somewhat uneven arc, and contains one of the funniest goddamn scenes/lines I've ever read ("Remember where we parked.") What most people might miss is that there's an underlying intelligence to the slam-bang action, a certain informed, cynical glee that makes the book not only a blast to read but damned intriguing. Pick it up. New TPB in November.

Rating: Always a tasty beverage.

Batman #628 - I was very, very skeptical about this run. Winick has absolutely failed to impress me on everything else of his I've read (okay, I've only read one title of his, The Outsiders, which is a cliché-ridden mess of a book) but dammit if this isn't fun. Who would have thought the Penguin could still be so formidable? Who would have thought a straight-up adventure story, with all the taste and none of the nutrition, could still be so fun? Dustin Nguyen's art is well suited, too; the way he makes everyone's face a virtual landscape lends weight to the story.

Rating: Great taste, less filling.

Para #1 - Stuart Moore's (believe it or not) semi-autobiographical story about family legacy, a superconducting super collider, and Science vs... Something Else. I know, I know; took me awhile to get around to this, as #3 just hit the stands today. So far the premise is intriguing, but even in a 6-part arc this first issue feels rushed. Suddenly there's this grad student guy the protagonist apparently has a history with? It's odd. I'm also a little hesitant on the obvious pitting of "Science vs..." as if science were a monolithic entity that did not, in fact, include all occuring phenomenon, whether catalogued or not. Whatever. It's a very, very pretty book, and it looks like it could go somewhere fascinating very fast.

Rating: Needs a bit more aging, but worth a second shot.

DC: The New Frontier #4 - Reading this book in one sitting is the comic book equivalent of running a marathon. Cooke writes a completely immersive world, and his subtle and complete grasp of the setting and style of the times only reinforces that. Seriously, though: Is anything else that goes on in this book even half as fascinating as the Martian Manhunter and John Henry stuff? Hal Jordan's getting boring, Batman's got tantalizing glimpses (and that looks like that's all Cooke'll give us), and I know approximinately nil about the Challengers of the Unknown and the Suicide Squad, so this one lost steam by the last 15 pages or so. Sure is purty, though.

Rating: A fine wine, a little too dense in flavor.

Supreme Power #10 - I really like this series. I really didn't care for this issue. I didn't not like it... it just failed to provoke any kind of response other than mild disappointment. Every other issue, even in exposition scene after exposition scene, felt to be moving at a breakneck pace -- and something was always happening. This issue felt like treading water. And hey, look, I realize it's a MAX title... but do we have to make every female in the issue stark friggin' naked?

Rating: Ah. Right. Moving on.

The Punisher #6 - Two "holy SHIT!" moments, meaning I said "holy SHIT!" out loud twice while reading. (That, to me, should be the by-line of comic book ratings. If you're not consistently enthralled, inspired, or surprised by a book, why the hell are you reading it?) If you had any doubts about Ennis taking the kid gloves off, look no further than this issue. Frank Castle hasn't felt this dangerous in awhile, and I think I know why: previous Punisher series, from Ennis all the way back to Steven Grant, have always been told in narration from Castle himself... I guess so we can empathize, or at least regard him as the de facto protagonist. Beyond issue 1, this entire arc has been told from outside Castle, with almost no interior monologue or narration, so we have no idea what he's thinking or plotting or planning. It's a subtle move, and incredibly effective. I'll miss LaRosa when he's gone, too -- that guy has the grungey world of Frank Castle down pat.

Rating: Now there is a drink with some kick.

Yes. Very yes. Very, very yes. 

Yeah.

I'm there.

It's Oliver Goddamn Stone, people.

Also... ahem... Angelina Jolie and Rosario Dawson. Throw in a jedi and a talking pig and it would be physically impossible to go wrong.

(Of course, now that I've said that, there'll probably be a musical number with Muppets that comprises the entire second act.

...On second thought, that would rule. Get on the phone to the Henson people ASAP, Ollie.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Local boy done good! 

(Yup, swiped that headline right from Thought Balloons.)

Kevin Melrose's next piece of comic fiction is set to be published in Digital Webbing Presents #17, coming out in August, and it's called "Bad Elements: Good For the Soul." I read Kevin's last "Bad Elements" story in DWP #11, and the man is a natural storyteller. (And how could you not like a story wherein criminals use occult powers for the most pragmatic purposes?) The Diamond order code in the June Previews is JUN04 2442.

Check out that fucking artwork by Brian Churilla.

40 pages, no ads, $2.95. And you get a heaping helping of new talent in comics. Get your damn store to order it for you right now. I got my DM to put DWP on my pull list.

How can you not love this shit? 

I stumbled across this archive of crime and horror comic covers over at Ben Samuels' Classic Golden Age Comic Book Cover Gallery... that's a hell of a title, there. I'll just call it the BSCGACBCG for.. uh.. brevity.

This comic book cover cracks me the fuck up:



I'll teach you to nag, motherfucker.

Seriously, this guy has problems way beyond "efficient anger management." You gotta wonder how he disciplines the people who work for him, or maybe his kids. Or if his kids made it out of infancy.

"Teach YOU to cry for your goddamn NIPPLE MILK at goddamn 3 AM when goddamn DADDY is trying to goddamn SLEEP."

Ultimate comic book cover artists, take note. You could learn something from these. That is issue motherfucking NUMBER ONE, and that is a great way to kick off a series.

Batman Open Mike submission. 

(Yes, I know it should be "Mic," but that looks bad in print.)

This is spoken word, and I decided to go ahead and identify the author (not sure if she wanted that):

Batman’s Soliloquy

3 AM and I’m tired as fuck,
perched on the edge of a building like always,
watching the dockworkers move lazily about,
sleepwalking, really,
dreaming in their minds of booze
and sex with their drowsy wives when they come home.
God, but I hate stakeouts.

3 AM and it seems like routine:
staring through binoculars for the ship to come in,
the ship that always comes, laden
with guns or drugs or something for me to bust –
a ship whose When and Where I got
the same old way: hanging some mook
from off a balcony, thirty stories up, and shake him
until he cries, wets his pants, and blabs.
When I do that some part of me wants
to drop him. The other part cries.
Another part just wants to go home.

Home not to the Bat Cave, but a warm bed –
bed, and the calm certainty of a boring meeting tomorrow,
eyeing the secretary to plan a quick lay –
but this never happens. I have pictures
of the dead parents I never got a chance to know
hanging all over my mansion. I can’t escape them.
I live in a world framed by their eyes.

It’s 3 AM and the ship arrives
and I go about my business. Knockout gas
downs the dockworkers temporarily –
half-dreaming of liquor and coitus become
full dreaming for now, the lucky bastards –
Now come the guards with guns, who
suspect (as they always do) that Something Is Up,
come wheeling blindly around corners of crates
and I introduce their faces effortlessly
to the bottoms of my feet. I sigh as they collapse
and go about looking for the One In Charge.
Mook told me who before he fainted.

Robin always loved this – “the thrill of the chase”
he called it – all full of hormones and testosterone
and too much energy. He tried to stop me once
from hitting a woman, a murderess who had offed
four people, one in their sleep, all with a letter opener…
“It isn’t right,” he complained, that look
on his face that I hated. “You’re the Dark Knight”
he tried to say. I stopped him with a glare.
Almost wish I hadn’t. Things changed
after Poison Ivy once impaled him
on a three-foot long thorn and laughed.
Took his body four weeks to recover. His mind
never did. I see him as Nightwing now,
flitting about the city, full of quiet anger
and no answers.
He reminds me too much of myself.

The Boss is on the ship – I scale the side,
needing the exercise to keep me awake,
and find machine guns waiting for me at the top.
Nice but unoriginal. Another smoke grenade.
The fog is full of shapes and I attack them all,
an approach that works all too well in the midnight world –
Boss is below decks. I hear him shouting
for backup, for help, his heavy footsteps
pounding the metal floors. Easy to follow.

Were I Superman I would lift the ship
up out of the water, peel back the top
like a can of soup, shake the offenders out
onto the dock. I would – were I he –
wag my finger at them, and it would be enough…
admonished by a god. The public would love it.
They love him well enough.
Even when he gets fucked up on red kryptonite
and tears up half Metropolis they adore him still,
their savior more times than they can count.
He’s a public man, he owns the day.
Went drinking with him once (damn Kryotonians
never seem to get drunk, nor get hangovers)
and asked him why he does what he does.
The fucker just shrugged and said he had to.
The man who can lift battleships clean
out of the water said he HAD to.
He doesn’t know the meaning of the word.
What he fights against now didn’t kill his planet,
didn't steal the lives of the parents he never knew.
Who has it better, I wondered once, the man
who doesn’t know why he does what he does
and is loved for it, or the man who knows only
too well and is merely feared?

Back to the boat (the one
that always comes): Boss, it seems,
has locked himself inside the engine room –
Fool. This is the Boat that Always Comes,
wouldn't he think I’d know the schematics?
I take him unaware. Battle is anticlimactic.
He is fat, and slow, and though he is armed he goes down quick,
two solid punches and he’s laid out cold –
bundles of cocaine hemorrhage white gold
from his pockets. He saw the end coming, at least.

Some time later, and the glow
of cops’ cherries from the docks –
they arrived right on time. Commissioner
knows me well, or well enough.
Four blocks away is the Batmobile,
and my body thinks its time to call it a night.
(nights for me are getting shorter, I notice,
and try not to think of what will happen
when I am too old for the night to accept)
I will go home and shower, and change,
and collapse into a wide bed with expensive sheets
and envy the dockworkers their wives, and their dreams.

-Annie Carlson
5/24/04

Monday, May 24, 2004

BATMAN POETRY CHALLENGE. 

It's Open Mike Night, and the Dark Knight has some choice things to say in the language of the poets.



Now it's up to you. What's the Dark Knight going to say? How's he going to say it, in a smoke-filled bar, under the spotlight, accompanied by some light jazz?

Entertain me, please. Since it's pretentious Open Mike poetry, it doesn't have to rhyme. Probably prefer it not to be. Bonus points for haiku.

Lay it on me.

(Image created with the Lego thingy.)

Constantly.. a source of aggravation. 

So there's that Constantine trailer up.

I'm no expert on the character. (I've read two TPBs so far: Original Sins and Dangerous Habits.) And yes, I think making Constantine an American instead of British is such a central fuck-up of the character it's like.. it's like.. it's like making Firestorm black or something.

(Joke.)

But hey. It's not as bad as all that. People can say what they want about Reeves' acting ability -- those who comment that he's a bad actor apparently have never seen Dangerous Liasons, Point Break, My Own Private Idaho, Little Buddha, Devil's Advocate, or The Gift -- but I think I finally have to concede my assholeness on this and just say, if I go into this movie not at all expecting the Constantine I know from the books, I'll probably have a good time.

This swears the Ringwood.

Do WHAT? 



Uh?

THE ROOMMATE: "Does he come with opium smoking action?"

Me: "Or 'dies in a gutter somewhere, poor and unloved' kung fu grip?"

Also, anyone who might want to buy me the Varney the Vampire or Zombie t-shirt would be my best friend for-fucking-ever. I am not even close to kidding.

I'm bickity-back. 

Dial-up is hell.

I have no idea how in the hell I ended up on Polite Dissent's blogroll. That guy's an MD and shit, and I'm this journalism student who knows what a "hot karl" is. Does not compute.

But I am a teensy bit honored. If you're not familiar, PD offers up suspiciously lucid and rational comics commentary along with critiques on how medicine and general doctory are handled in comics, where they go wrong and where they go right. I gotta say it's pretty damn fascinating.

I know, I know... everyone already talked about this blog like two weeks ago, so sue me...

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Living Planet, Part 4 

The fourth and final installment.

ACT III BEFORE - FROM THE NOTES OF LARRY YOUNG


The heroes are all briefly discombobulated and disoriented. Schaff is bent over the still and possibly lifeless form of Kastra, Justice Hall is hung suspended by his cape nearly ten feet off the ground in a tree branch... The Grand is face down in the dirt.

It is slowly revealed that this accident has brought them to OUR EARTH, where there are no superheroes. At first, they are the toast of the town. We'll show a few pages of crime-stopping montages; The Grand stopping a bank robbery; Kastra talking someone off a bridge; Schaff frantically digging out some trapped contruction workers.

We'll even show Justice Hall getting a cat out of a tree for a little girl. He might even look into "the camera" and give a little shrug and wink to the audience.

They are all revered here on our Earth, having inadvertently left The Planet of the Capes...

...but it soon all starts to go bad. The Grand starts showing some attitude. He sets up shop sunny Hollywood, which has the dual distinction of being a town all wrapped up in looks and power (which The Grand represents and exhibits, superficially), as well as being the, if you'll forgive me, the POLAR opposite of the Arctic, and the secret headquarters of Superman and his Fortress of Solitude. The Grand has gone the other way, not separating himself from humanity to pause and reflect on his deeds and responsibilities, but to swim in the wretched excesses of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll... and he is their king.

When this situation finally becomes overt, Hall contacts Kastra and Schaff, who have secreted themselves outside of society and now are living in a cabin on the shore of a tranquil pond deep in the hills of central Vermont. They are coaxed out of "retirement" by Justice Hall, who convinces them that they need to go and have an intervention with The Grand. They make it to Hollywood where they are finally granted an audience with The King, "for old times' sake," where Hall and The Grand show they're at opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum now.

The Grand is all about excess and might makes right and winner take all and is basically a superpowered version of Gordon Gecko from WALL STREET. Justice Hall is humanity's last champion, and is being run ragged.

"I need your help, like I did back home. I can't handle it all."

"You don't need me," says The Grand. "You need us all."

"Sure; yes, I need you all," admits Hall, not knowing where this is going.

"Well, if you don't have us all, you'll have to give up this silly plan to save these weaklings from themselves."

"The fact that we are more powerful, more resourceful, more intelligent, more savvy and more whatever means that we have to be more responsible, too. We all do."

"So, you can't do it without all of us?"

"No, I need you all."

So then The Grand snaps Kastra's neck, and looks at Justice Hall expectantly. As if to say, OK, well, you need us all to save these pathetic fools, so you can't do it, because I've killed one of us. Need us all? Give it up.

Of course, Schaff loses his mind in an unparalleled rage in the history of rages. He knows in one half of his body that his daughter has been murdered right in front of him, and in the other half of his body, he knows that a former comrade and present fighting partner has murdered another friend. No matter how you look at that one, Schaff is pissed.

He lunges at The Grand and blows the both of them out of the side of The Grand's Hollywood palace. Atop the Hollywood Hills, it no longer says "Hollywood" on top of the famous sign, but rather "Grandscape." He's been remaking the surroundings into a big lovefest for himself.

After a protracted battle, where Schaff just beats on The Grand with no effect, yelling his signature phrase, "Geed! Geed! GEED! GEED! geed." Over and over as he pummels away at The Grand... he eventually tires enough so that The Grand systematically dismembers him. Pulling off first one arm, then another, then ANOTHER... squishing legs and twisting protruberances until there is just a mass of quivering jelly on the ground. It's not possible that Schaff could still be alive under all that mess... but it still seems as though he's still struggling...

This battle has taken then into Death Valley, and Justice Hall has followed them in the quinjet. Now, on the page, all of the color, all of the features around them are blown out and overexposed, as if a photograph had been misdeveloped.

It is here we have the big philosophical debate between the two sides of this issue. The Grand, representing wretched excess and absolute power that has been corrupted absolutely can't possibly fear a guy dressed up as a raven. He's a regular Joe... sure; he's been trained to the gills, he's the Federated States' super-soldier... but he's got nothing to with which to go up against a strange visitor from another planet.

And they both know it.

Of course, after their verbal battle degenerates, Hall takes a swing at him. Useless blow after unfeeling blow rains on the laughing, maniacally twisted face of The Grand. Go ahead, beat yourself silly, until I kill you as I killed poor Schaff. I let him beat his rage out against me until he couldn't swing another punch. You do the same, old friend, It's the least I can do for you, Beat me until you break every bone in your
hands.

Of course, The Grand doesn't fear Justice Hall, although he should... as The Grand is is parrying every blow with "lovetaps" of his own, gradually whittling away at the strength of Justicve Hall.

And Hall knows it. He's weakening... The Grand is just toying with him like a cat before finally killing the mouse.

"I'm going to play with you until you're just not fun anymore," The Grand says.

In one last defiant gesture, Hall activates his personal phasing tech with the bloody stumps of what's left of his fingers. He stands up, shakily at first, then confidently, finally proudly erect as all of the patriots and ancestors and signers of the Declaration of the Independence all are summoned up in one last defiant act against the
symbolic spectre of all oppressors everywhere...

...as Hall puts his phased hand right through a monumentally startled chest of The Grand.

There's one panel where the two of each other look into each other's eyes: one of those suspended-in-time moments that you can only really get in comics. One panel of both of them in profile, with Justice Hall looking up at The Grand with a bit of self-satisfaction. It's all over here, he seems to say. The Grand comes to that conclusion, too, and in impotent rage, backhands Justice Hall across the face, ripping the front of his face off.

Now, The Grand has a dead superhero affixed to his front, he's slowly dying, as even a strange visitor from another planet can't survive having a superhero's arm occupy the same space as his own vital organs without having some adverse effect...

In fact, The Grand is dying... he going to die in seconds... we pull out, and away from these two forms in the desert... One a dead hero and the other dying... Justice Hall hangs limply from the front of The Grand... The Grand sags under the weight of his friend literally impalement of him... we pull back, and back, and back until there is
nothing but white... nothingness on the last page, and on the inside back cover.

THE END

ACT III AFTER - STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH


Q: I'm pretty sad to see that this Hollywood sequence didn't make it into the final product. Apparently you've got a thing or two to say about comics going to Hollywood?

Larry: Well, it was just an example of wretched excess. I'd worked in LA for a few months and it wasn't my kinda town. I suppose if I'd spent in any time in Las Vegas, I would have set that bit there.

Q: But setting the Grand up in friggin' HOLLYWOOD seems... Serendipitous, at the least.

Larry: Hollywood versions of comics are usually pretty good, to my eyes. I always like seeing the adaptations to film. . More of the what-I-would-do of that part of the story, I think. You know LIVE FROM THE MOON isn't about Ishmael Hayes, rich guy? It's about Larry Young, rich guy?

Q: Let's make sure you never hit the lottery, then. All right. Oh yeah? Got a favorite?

Larry: I think it's safe to say the 1978 SUPERMAN is the best translation.

Q: In the original outline you've got the Grand actively killing off both self-publishers and indie publishers. Final product they die trying to stem off the flood. That's a considerably softer take on what exactly could be the demise of the Selfs and the Indies. Any reason you changed the tone of that?

Larry: That part of the plot was written at the height of Marvel's Heroes World debacle.

Q: Give me some elaboration on the Heroes World thing. I'm not too familiar with it.

Larry: Marvel bought its own distributor and caused everyone to choose upsides. With Marvel trying to self-distribute, DC arranged with Diamond to be 'exclusive'... All the other major publishers signed up with Diamond, leaving Diamond’s only other competitor, Capital City, with smaller-volume publishers and eventually going out of business. This is just my understanding as a guy who reads the Comics Journal of the time... and not as a comics historian. But when people talk about the "Death of the Direct Market," that's what they're talking about.

Q: In the first interview you said there are friends of yours who think this has already killed the DM, and the DM's just not aware of it yet.

Larry: Yeah, a lot of my retailer buddies point to that as the circling of the drain.

Q: Think the DM's days are numbered yourself?

Larry: Not as such, no.

Q: The most drastic change... well, one of many... from the original outline of Act III and the final product is the inclusion of the Fantastic Four stand-ins, and their part in the self-destruction of the superheroes. What got you to bring them in?

Larry: They're the opposite numbers to the fanboy Alec in Act I. You need a bookend to how the superheroes are perceived. Since the Superman analogue was going bad, I figured it might be fun to write unpowered FF analogues. Sort of an extension of the Marvel/DC schism, and also commentary on the "real-world" aspect of it.

Q: And it was a fun fanboy moment to realize whom you were emulating there, I have to admit.

Larry: Thanks!

Q: Which could brand me of the crime of being unsophisticated.

Larry: The fun thing is that it works on both levels.

Q: The Grand at the end seems to have some awareness of the self-destructiveness of his actions. He even quotes the book's money line: "Nobody learns anything, everybody dies." This seems to suggest some awareness, on some upper level of the Big Two, that they're aware that what they're doing is wrong. Or could go horribly wrong. You believe that's the case?

Larry: The Big Two know what they're doing. I wouldn't necessarily say it's WRONG, as companies have to do what's right for them. Sure. Got to turn a profit.

Q: What compels them to keep going? Beyond the obvious green answer.

Larry: Money is the answer, man.

Q: And a certain amount of... selfishness? That seems to be the Grand's thing. "My way or no way."

Larry: Companies aren't selfish. But, yeah; what's best for them.

Q: I'm thinking along the lines of the Big Two, though. That they do what they want because dammit, they're the Big Two, and they founded this business, and yadda yadda.... Maybe "self-righteousness" is a better description.

Larry: I don't think that's fair. Companies are storehouses of properties. They need to maximize their holdings.

Q: Well that, to me, is what the Grand is signifying. Not necessarily what the case is NOW, but what it COULD be.

Larry: The Grand is just doing what he thinks is best for him.

Q: And having a bit of fun with it, too.

Larry: When there are no limits, why stay imposed in some self-limitation?

Q: And "the good of the people" is just way too abstract if you have that much physical power in your hands. Now, that last fight between JH and the Grand... I couldn't not think of the climactic Superman/Batman battle in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. The parallels seem... appropriate. Was this an intentional move?

Larry: Not a direct-line nod, but when two square-jaws are on opposite sides of a question, things happen.

Q: The results seem fairly symmetrical, too. You've got a supposedly dead Batman and an exposed Superman at the end of DKR. I guess your take is a bit more cynical in its result. Holy shit, Larry. You're more cynical than Frank Miller.

Larry: We both grew up in rural Vermont. Maybe those winters have something to do with it.

Q: That would explain Kastra and Schaff's hideout being in Vermont, then?

Larry: Yeah. I was just hoping people would slow down and READ the comic.

Q: Next up: Larry Young vs. Frank Miller in a Vermont brawl-for-it-all.

Larry: The one thing I'm a little dismayed with is that the people who don't get the analogue right way are the ones who admit they're reading too quickly. You’re paying 13 bucks for a graphic novel, yeah? Why not enjoy it?

Q: The pace of the story lends to a breakneck read. I know I had to read it fast one time and then go back through more slowly. And that's the beauty of OGNs: You can read them again and again. I just plain don't feel comfortable talking about something or reviewing something unless I've been through it a couple-few times.

Larry: OK, that's great! I was trying to do something that rewarded multiple reads.

Q: It gets more rewarding with each read. The light touches come into sharp focus. All right: You've given us the cautionary tale about the State of the Industry. Tell me, my man: who's got the juice to turn it all around?

Larry: Slow and steady wins the race.

Q: Here's the obligatory end question: what's next on the horizon for you? Got another book in the works?

Larry: Yep; I just wrote the first 19 pages of a big sprawling slam-bang and sent it off to the artist. Of course, we'll be announcing at San Diego. And then the PROOF OF CONCEPT book should be out around December.

Q: Anything you can tell me now? General subject matter, length, tentative release date? Or, say, who the artist might be?

Larry: Naw, it's too early. You guys are all the same.

Q: "Big sprawling slam-bang" it is, then. Good luck to you. I have a feeling PLANET's audience will grow with age.

Larry: Thanks very much. That'd be fine. Wouldn't mind that at all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

DEMO Contest Winners. 

The winners have been announced.

Talk to CORN, baby!

Special thanks to Larry Young and Digital Webbing Presents for donating the prizes to this wonderlicious contest. Keep an eye on our blogs, people; we'll be making these contests a regular occurence.

The Living Planet, Part 3. 

Sorry for the delay. Life interference. Part 3...

ACT II BEFORE - FROM THE NOTES OF LARRY YOUNG


Deep space, wherein we find that the spaceship in trouble is one of a fleet of Kastra's people the Mykryl, who routinely patrol the space near Earth as a favor to their former captain and his daughter... keeping things in this part of the galaxy safe as a reward for the service of a former warrior and what's left of his family...

The Grand is concerned about the ship... seems it's lost computer control... The ships innards are organic; the circuitry and relays are made of synapses and dendrites. Pull open an access panel and you're more likely to find a few bags of blood and meat connected to an amorphous organ of some kind than you would the expected circuit breakers and fuses.

The ships controls are not responding, or, if they are, they are responding in unpredictable ways. It turns out that the organic material that makes up the innards and circuitry of the ship are the remains of accident victims and folks who have willed their bodies to science for some reason or another. The alien ship has gone through one of those wacky areas of space where weird shit happens. The phasing technology that the ship uses to shift between dimensions of time and space for travel (more on this later, as you shall see) has reanimated the meat on board and has alerted it to its former lives.

Oddly, the ship's innards are threaded with Lassie, Timmy, a grandmother, and a serial killer. You get what I'm saying, right? A family pet has been hit by a car? It's ability to play fetch is well used by its simple brain cells which search and locate data in the
ship's computer. Timmy drowned in the well? His healthy pink liver cells can filter toxins from engineering byproducts. Kindly grandmother gives up the ghost, on to her reward? Her tendons can still do useful work opening and closing doors on command. Serial killer executed by society as the ultimate punishment? Body willed to science by the government, a sick fuck now controls life support.

These four are now loose on the ship, floating sticks with two-dimensional representations of their former bodies electronically floating in air.

The Mykryl need Kastra and her pals to stop them and take control of the ship back before they drop into Earth's atmosphere and destroy Fremont.

Which, of course, they do, at the last second, using the phasing technology of the ships engines on a personal scale by bamfing the serial killer out into space and Timmy and Lassie and Grandma sacrificing themselves while exerting a last ditch effort to save the ship.

Of course, the plan can only work because they are working in concert with Justice Hall, who is revealed to be sporting a hand-held version of the phasing tech in his communication gauntlet, possibly against the day he may have to use it to stop Schaff permanently.

It's revealed in a flashback that, in fact, Justice Hall was the one inadvertently responsible for causing Schaff to be created in the first place, when he, The Grand, The Red Fez, and The Repairman (who's a woman, don't cha know) were first on this Mykryl ship in the mid Eighties. When trying to stop A Bad Guy who briefly gained control of the ship, The Red Fez and the ship's captain (Kastra's father) ended up fused into one mindless monster of rampaging destruction.

This sets up Justice Hall's fallibility and subsequent guilt, Kastra's maternal feelings with the parent-child roles reversed, why the Mykryl would still be hanging around Earth (because of a sense of duty to their mostly-fallen Captain), and Justice Hall's having the portable phasing tech in his souped-up communications gauntlet. Whew!

While the sacrifice of Timmy, Lassie, and Grandma are valiant and appreciated, the ship is now caught in the gravity well of Earth, and is going down. No way to stop it. Fremont is going to be vaporized, and probably most of the neighboring towns as well.

Only one thing to do: activate the phasing technology and hope the Mykryl can phase through the planet. Because Justice Hall, Kastra, The Grand, and Schaff are in the quinjet, trying to tow the crippled ship out of Earth's gravity, they're not going to be saved, even if the risky maneuver saves the Mykryl.

Justice Hall activate his personal phasing tech on the off chance the field of the Mykryl ship pulls them along and out of danger... but all that succeeds in doing is phasing them through to OUR EARTH.

ACT II AFTER - STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH


Q: Act II is the first place we see extreme differences between the original outline and the finished product. This act barely resembles the original outline form. What finally made you cut the rather brilliantly surreal ship personality bit?

Larry: Act II was supposed to be an adventure of the team, so we can see how they interact. For the allegory, we don't really need to know HOW they interact; it’s enough to know that they DO.

Q: And do they ever. That color sequence is memorable as hell and had to be satisfying to see in print. What gave genesis to that? In the original outline the flashback warrants one paragraph... and in the final product it dominates the whole Act.

Larry: Well, the structure of the book sees us romping through the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Modern Age... so it just seemed a natural to dummy the flexographic press look of the comics I enjoyed as a kid. Yeah, since the alien meatship stuff had to go, I figured I'd just replace it with the Red Fez/Dave Sim/Schaff/self-publisher flashback stuff.

Q: Is that what prompted you to make the flashback so dominant? Homage?

Larry: Naw, I just wanted to make the self-publisher stuff more central.

Q: "Alien meatship"... man, that is some seriously bizarre stuff right there.

Larry: It's a crazy place up in my head.

Q: That it is. The self-publisher stand-in Schaff does play a pretty big role in here, as does his relationship to Justice Hall. In the outline you place sole responsibility for Schaff's state on JH's shoulders.

Larry: Yeah.

Q: It changes a little in the final product. We've got this moment of tenderness or kinship or whatever you want to call it... Between JH and Schaff. Here's one of those questions you hate: Do you think there's any love like that between the Big Two and self-publishers?

Larry: The folks at DC always take my call. Patty Jeres is one of the best marketing people in comics, and has a fine editorial eye of her own.

Q: So you think there's still a good relationship there. I don't doubt that, just wanted to hear your take.

Larry: Paul Levitz always has time for Mimi or me if we have a question, and I’ve always had very good conversations with Karen Berger and mark Chiarello when I have the opportunity.

Q: Any chance they'll be seeing this book?

Larry: Jim Lee has seen it, I know.

Q: Nice. Have you gotten any feedback from professionals?

Larry: Sure; all the folks I talk to regularly loved it.

Q: Which in a roundabout way brings me to my next question. One of the major complaints floating around the blogo-mart -- before the allegorical nature became clear to a lot of the reviewers -- is that the story moves in an almost herky-jerky manner from place to place. The actions of the characters are arbitrary, but that's the fun of it; but a lot of folks had a tough time with the pace.

Larry: They didn't grow up reading comics in the 60s.

Q: Crap, my eldest sibling wasn't old enough to read comics in the 60's. You've made your statement that the pacing in PLANET is a middle finger to decompression, is that right?

Larry: I wouldn't go that far, but it's a valid observation.

Q: It's certainly a change from the 288-page epic you had originally planned.

Larry: Look at the first 50 issues of the FANTASTIC FOUR... Dr. Doom, the Mole Man, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, all sorts of stuff. The story in those issues would last 300 issues today. Stories evolve... making a point about decompressed storytelling was more fun.

Q: True. How long is it taking UFF to show us the origin of Dr. Doom?

Larry: What's the UFF?

Q: ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR, sorry.

Larry: Oh, yeah... ummm... I don't know?

Q: There's a pretty heavy amount of grumbling because it's taking 6 issues to say what the original first issue did by itself.

Larry: Yeah, honestly, I don't know what to say about that. Some folks will bellyache about anything.

Q: Larry Young doesn't buy superhero comics? Now there's the shock story of the 21st century.

Larry: Naw, I get some stuff... I buy DEMO. I liked the ULTIMATES when it was coming out

Q: Don't you print DEMO?

Larry: Yeah, that just means I buy more than one copy.

Q: Give me the Larry Young shopping list.

Larry: Today I just picked up the SPIRIT volume 7, Planetes vol 3, and Back Issue #4.

Q: Any monthly series you follow besides the ones you publish?

Larry: Naw, not that I can think of. I don't read all that many comics, anymore. I'm about the trade paperbacks. Plus I read a lot of other things. Right now, I'm reading AMERICAN CARS, THE JOURNAL OF LEWIS AND CLARK, and the latest VICE and MACADDICT magazines. I have the last few Judge Dredd magazines, too.

Q: Uh oh. You wait for the trade? That makes you the anti-Christ in a lot of circles. A lot of people, I call them "whiners," talk like waiting for the trade is going to kill the business for good. I take it that argument holds no weight with you, considering you yourself are a publisher but you wait for the trades anyway.

Larry: Whiners whine, man. That's what they do.

Q: So it's not a concern for you.

Larry: It's not so black-and-white as all that. I read WALKING DEAD monthly... some stuff I just don't care about. I'm a busy guy, so I can hardly keep a monthly story straight...

Q: Your boy Adlard had a great first issue on WALKING DEAD, by the way.

Larry: Charlie's an incredible artist.

Q: The DEMO contest wraps up today, and you've heard the question floating around: Why no DEMO TPB? I know you've given an answer, but the one I saw was in a comments section, not in anything permanent.

Larry: Seriously, man, I answer this once a week. It's all over the Internet, in every interview I've done in the last six months. Here's what it says on Thought Balloons: "This is like asking a marathon runner on Mile Eleven when he's going to run another marathon."

Q: So basically back off till you've caught your wind. Last question's just one me and Shane were tossing around. We're kind of curious what you, Larry Young, comics visionary of the West Coast, see on the rise. The Next Big Thing, be it series, writing style, genre, writer, artist...

Larry: I NEVER answer this question. It's like asking a magician to explain his sleight-of-hand.

Q: Heh. "Keep an eye on the shelves," is that it?

Larry: I make my money by anticipating and then creating the Next Big Thing. Look at how many script collections are out now; look at the books that have copied the LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS format...

Q: And damn if that isn't one pretty book, too.

Larry: "It's tough being the one with all the brains."

Q: Luckily "you're the one who's got the juice."

Larry: Just a clever mammal at the twilight of the dinosaurs.

(Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment, same time tomorrow.)

Monday, May 17, 2004

The Living Planet, Part 2. 

Continuing from Part 1...

ACT I BEFORE - FROM THE NOTES OF LARRY YOUNG


Introduce JUSTICE HALL, swinging in towards a scene of urban devastation. As he swings towards the carnage on his Batrope, he does a little pondering about who he is and why he does what he does. On page five, he's stopped by a kid who waves him down from on top of the building he's perched on. Sensing that there's a crime in progress that he's being alerted to, Hall swoops down.

"What is it? Have you been mugged? Where are your parents? This isn't a cat in a tree thing, is it? I don't do cats-in-trees."

No, it's just a fanboy, who wants his autograph. He pulls out a spiral-ring notebook from his knapsack and wants Hall's autograph. He's about fifteen. Old enough to be out by himself at ten o'clock at night, but young enough to not realize being out by yourself at that time is kinda silly.

Hall tells him, "Go home. You're asking for trouble."

This kid will be our audience stand-in. If The Grand represents DC, then Justice Hall represents Marvel. Two sides of an equation trying to do the same thing by competing means. Schaff, in his rampaging yet mindless power, represents self-publishers... wielding the power of the comic book form but only haphazardly and without conscious direction. It's an accident if something bad happens and it's an accident if something good happens. Kastra, the alien girl, represents the independent publishers, who may have the pluck and the wherewithal to hang with the big guys but have to survive on being quicker and more clever because the punches they throw don't bring down the house. Finesse beats power any day, anyway...

So our fifteen year old kid is our audience substitute. He'll be along for the ride... not exactly a B-story, but a throughline to the end of the act... Justice Hall initally tells him to piss off, but then relents, as there really is a human face under the mask. He's taken with the boy's naivete and relents. Signs a page in the kid's makeshift scrapbook (maybe a newspaper clipping about one of Justice Hall's exploits) and tells him to get off the streets. It's a good country... a damn fine country... but on a school night it's better to be home with the lights off.

Kastra arrives on the scene with her people's spaceship, which acts as a group quinjet a nd shuttles the four around the world, and, apparently, deep space, as well. She lands the honkin' thing outside of the carnage Schaff is creating and gets out with a flourish.

This kid then meets Kastra, who's quite flattered by the attention, and flirts with the kid mercilessly. He's got an 8 x 10 of her in his book, protected by a plastic sleeve. The intimation here is the kid spends some time alone with his scrapbook in general and Kastra's photo in particular.

After the out-of-control Schaff is made docile once more, and the two-year old he's been swinging around (representing the hope for the comic book fans of the future, natch), the kid even gets Schaff's autograph: "GEED!"

Just then, The Grand flies down, having missed all the brouhaha, and informs them that they've got to stop a crashing alien ship. There is some back and forth with the kid, as he tries to get The Grand's autograph. Even Justice Hall is a little put off when our Superman-analogue blows the kid off. Kastra, Hall, even the nearly-mindless Schaff all gave the kid the time of day... the intimation here is that The Grand is doing good works for a deifferent reason than the others. There is no altruism in him, apparently... if there is, it's a selfish altruism... not good for goodness' sake, but good because of desired effect is reached. What is the desired effect or outcome for The Grand? We do not yet know... all we know is what the kid knows, that the powerful Superman analogue is blowing him off and is not giving him his autograph. It's a small, simple thing, but telling to the audience that this guy isn't Superman. He's not crass, per se, he's just not all things to all people.

As far as the kid is concerned, though, the guy he idolizes the most might just as well have punched him in the stomach.

This act, remember, all takes place at night, with the inside front cover of the book being a solid black, and the main action of the first act all taking place in a dark, moody, atmospheric Gotham-City-of-sorts.

This is taken through to the second act, which takes place in the spaceship, and is all sort of neutrally lit. A transition between the black of the first act and the bright, washed-out day in the desert of the third act, which finishes with the all-white inside back cover. Black to white, ink to no ink, something, to nothing. Man, that's a bleak view of the comic book industry, isn't it?

"We've got things to do," The Grand says, blowing the kid off brusquely.

No autograph for him, and no joy for your regular comics fan as the stand-in for Marvel Comics blithely ignores the stand-in for the comic book reaading audience and flies off, literally abandoning his audience. The four of them head off into deep space...


ACT I AFTER - STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH


Q: Okay, first off, I'd just like to say... Brandon McKinney's art was pretty much pitch-perfect for the project. He made the Grand look like a world-class asshole from Panel One, and that's not easy. How'd you two hook up for this project?

Larry: Brandon and I have known each other for a while, and I set him up with Warren Ellis for SWITCHBLADE HONEY. I feared that Warren would be swamped with work and I didn't want Brandon to be waiting for script, so I pitched him the idea to work on PLANET while we waited for Warren. But W was right there with his script and so PLANET waited while B finished up that.

Q: How long ago was that?

Larry: Spring of 2001, I think.

Q: So you've been sitting on this script for a while. How many little tweaks and alterations did it undergo between the original outline and the finished product? Aside from drastic reduction in length.

Larry: Two major rebuilds. The first proposal would have been at least 288 pages long, and that didn't fit my "compression" idea... I don' really revisit and rewrite that much. Just tweak dialogue to fit space issues at the lettering stage. By the time I sit down to write, I've pretty much figured out the tale I want to tell.

Q: You didn't actually hack out 288 pages, did you?

Larry: No, that wouldn't be efficient.

Q: Make for a hell of a director's cut, though. Okay, I know you've stressed that none of the characters are one-to-one stand-ins for different aspects of the industry, but I have to wonder about the swap of Justice Hall and the Grand, and whom they represent. After the color sequence is done, their personalities seem to have solidified into pretty specific caricatures. So come on... level. Which is it for them, DC or Marvel?

Larry: Well, I think it's clear that they represent the Big Two, yeah?

Q: It's pretty clear, yeah.

Larry: So does it matter which is which? I swapped 'em around because that's what happens with Marvel and DC. Two horses, nose-to-nose.

Q: But if it's a cautionary tale, a warning of potential things to come, I'm curious on your exact take on what role each of the Big Two will take in it... if we don't change course.

Larry: Well, it's an allegory. There is no exact take.

Q: That's why I'm asking for yours.

Larry: I don't want to say what I think, because then that ruins the fun for the reader. It's like asking Dickens who he's riffing on in BLEAK HOUSE, man.

Q: Fair enough. Schaff's shown with tremendous power, wielded uncontrollably, sometimes doing as much harm as good. Do you think self-publishers still have that much influence in the field?

Larry: Yeah, I think self-publishers have the potential to wield that much power. But an interesting take is that Schaff represents the distribution aspect of the industry, as well.

Q: Specifically Diamond, or distribution overall?

Larry: Distribution, overall. Diamond, Cold Cut, FMI, the book trade... a many-limbed juggernaut. See? Allegory is fun, if you get into it.

Q: The interesting thing is, I went into reading PLANET cold. I didn't read your Cliff's Notes on it until afterwards, so I could take it in fresh. To me, Schaff came off as fanboys as much as the kid with the autograph book did. So much power to change things, with almost zero guidance on "doing the right thing."

Larry: "Just wanting you to care," "remembering when good people did good things"? Yeah, I can see that.

Q: Kastra giving the young autograph hound a kiss on the cheek and making his day... tell me that that is not a Larry Young moment in a nutshell. Convince me.

Larry: What's a "Larry Young moment"?

Q: Self-insertion. Which sounds kinda sexy.

Larry: The entire book is my take on things, so every main character says or does something I see that should be done or said, in comics. I think Justice Hall is probably closest to my personal worldview.

Q: Oh, I just meant a bit of self-insertion in that that's what you try to do with the fan base. Flirt, talk, get them intimately involved. So to speak.

Larry: I think every company has someone whose job that is. It's the nature of PR and marketing. But that's flattering that you think I'm the personification of good marketing.

Q: Well, some would say that DC and specifically Marvel do a pretty horrible job of relating to the fan base. Of course, that's precisely what the Grand does. So... you and Justice Hall? Elaborate.

Larry: He has a firm idea of what's acceptable and what's unacceptable, doesn't take any shit, is no-nonsense, is prepared for all the angles... has a strategy when things go wrong, and still has time to give a kid personal attention even while he's saying he doesn't have time. The "I don't do cats in trees" page is the one I bought from Brandon.

Q: And maybe the one guy who can stand up to the Grand?

Larry: Like I said these aren't one-to-one correlations. I have aspects of The Grand in my view of comics, too. People are complex cats, man.

Q: And decades of company history even more so. I'm with you. An interesting change from outline to TPB you have is the fanboy's reaction to the Grand blowing him off. In the TPB, the kid feels down, but Kastra cheers him right up again. In the original outline, you detail it as the kid feeling as if he "might as well have been punched in the stomach." What prompted the change?

Larry: A maturation of my view of the ephemeral nature of an audience.

Q: Since 2001 and the writing of the final script? What changed that?

Larry: I just realized that as our business grew, we'd have diehards and casual readers and new converts. I saw how Marvel fans, for example, keep reading Spidey no matter what Marvel does... but it's not the same audience; there's a turnover. So Marvel and DC, and us, even, do what's best for our companies, and not necessarily what’s best for an individual fan.

Q: So you don't see the audience for superheroes as largely static, like a lot of critics do.

Larry: If I did, I wouldn't have published PLANET OF THE CAPES and HENCH and the three FOOT SOLDIERS volumes. The middle chapter of ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE: SPACE 1959 is a rumination on the superhero.

Q: Well there's a pretty big sentiment rolling around that the only people buying Spider-Man, et al, these days are 35-year-old fanboys who've been buying the title all their lives. You think superheroes still have legs, then?

Larry: I wouldn't dismiss a good story just because of its format or subject matter. Super heroes, westerns, romance books, hot rod stories... if it's a good tale, well told, then I think there's an audience.

(Stay tuned for more.)

Sunday, May 16, 2004

I lied. So what? Happens all the time. 

Okay, so this'll be the last post of the day. Dorian at postmodernbarney's got his list of what does -- and does not -- constitute our ideal middleground comic book journalism rag.

Here I shall quote wholesale, running the risk of his wrath:

Should feature:


* in-depth feature reviews and interviews

* coverage of multiple genres

* regular columns focused on specific issues/themes

* a style that is accessable to both the casual and the more discerning reader

* editorial independance



Should not feature:


* "breaking" news I read last week/month on-line

* vanity columns with no purpose other than to give a cherished old comics-pro a steady supplemental income

* an overly narrow idea of the types of comics that should be covered

* a style that is either too erudite or too frat-boy-ish

* reveiws that habitually miss the point of the material being covered

* an inability to criticize Marvel or DC or some other publisher for fear of loss of advertising income or access to creators


That's the most coherent answer I've seen so far, and man if I wouldn't buy that magazine every day it came out.

Update. 

I'm doing some house-sitting duties at a house with a bad, bad internet connection, so my blogging this week (through next Sunday) is going to be pretty shoddy. I'm still going to continue with the "The Living Planet" interview series with Larry Young, so keep your panties on for that.

See ya tomorrow.

(Note: Supersize Me was pretty good. The guy oversells his point like fucking crazy -- does he really expect me to believe that one Big Mac meal made him vomit, on the very first day? -- but otherwise it's good stuff to know. The stuff about food in schools, especially, and the kinds of deals soft drink companies cut to get their product into kids' hands.)

Forbidden Blogger Passion. 

Rick: I got on Jakala's permanent good side after I made funny little captions for all his vacation photos.

Rick: Not that it's hard to get on his good side. If Jakala doesn't like you, you must be an asshole.

Me: So he's a pretty nice guy overall?

Rick: Definitely.

Me: You guys are lovers, aren't you?

Rick
: We are.

Me: Just checking.

Rick: Don't tell Melrose.

Me: Your secret's safe with me.

Comics He Shouldn't.. blah blah blah. 

Mark's reliving some horrid Daredevil memories:

Daredevil's been around awhile and seems to mean something different to everyone who writes him. For Stan Lee he was a blind swashbuckler just this side of Spider-Man. To Frank Miller he was a tormented Catholic in love with a woman who was his opposite number in every way — he a lawyer, she an assassin, blah blah blah grievous chest wound. Karl Kesel, in a brief but exceptional run, brought Matt back into the courtroom and livened him up a bit after dour runs by guys like J.M. DeMatteis and D.G. Chichester. And what's up with the initials, huh? The point is, if these last two are any indication, if Brian Bendis went by B.M. Bendis not only would his run suck, the nutsacks on his forum would have a field day with the initials "B.M."

I love Frank Miller, you know. DKR got me back into comics in the first place, but man. I'd almost (almost) trade up Sin City just so we'd never have to deal with his imitators. I mean really...

"Life is horribly cheap in the big city... but someone's found a way of turning a profit by selling the parts wholesale. Inside, something tears loose at the tragedy of it all. Inside, something begins to twist and rage..."

One, no. Two, that shit about "selling the parts wholesale" doesn't even make sense, and that's true even after you find out the context (a serial killer who dresses in a super-outfit and cuts people up for organs.)

Anyway, go read it. It's a worthy substitute for Gone & Forgotten, especially since that worthy updates once per ice age.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Journalism. 

Jeff over at Otto's Coffee Shop makes his statement about comics journalism, and what he'd like to see.

I'll tell you where [the good] stories are: they don't exist because the companies involved don't owe the fans or the creators squat, so they don't have to cooperate in any stories.

[...]

Marvel, DC, Diamond: they aren't answerable to fans, so they have no reason to play along with "news" sites or magazines who don't play along with them. I doubt I'm the only one who's noticed recently that even Rich Johnston, once the freest talker in comics, has been keeping his trap shut (he allegedly knew about Joss Whedon on X-Men a month before the news borke, but he never printed it) except for items that the big companies are ready to "leak" (he even presents "leaks" from his own publisher as "news" or "rumor" each week!). If, as a comics journalist, you piss off your sources (or the upper management of your sources), you lose what little news you get. I have little doubt in my mind that if DC told Newsarama to stop doing their monthly analysis of sales figure estimates (such as they are), Newsarama would stop in a heartbeat, as Matt Brady knows that pissing off DC means that he loses "exclusive" DC "news" and access to DC's creators (at least those who want to keep their jobs).


And here's what I said, awhile ago:

The rest of the quasi-journalists, they take what the company gives us, thank them for that, and run back to the rest of us to fill us in on what scraps got thrown to us from the table. For a real journalist, that's not enough. The fact that most of our "news" comes from rumor mills like Lying in the Gutters says to me that publishers have erected a wall between themselves and the readers, and that we, as readers, are satisfied with that. That we'll accept that, and let them jerk us around and wait like obedient lapdogs for the next morsel to fall.

[...]

No such luck in comics journalism. The publishers, at least the large ones, have made their decision that we're not really worth the time and have kept us on a need-to-know basis. This hurts them and it hurts us. Treating the reporting half of the comics community like servants is exactly what keeps the comic book art form a "hobby" instead of, well, instead of an "art form." We cannot be perceived as big business if we are not treated as big business on all sides of the game.

Don't get me wrong: This isn't me laying the blame at the feet of the Big Two alone. No. Our news sites are pitiful and we've allowed them to be pitiful and we haven't kicked them in the ass enough to strive for more.


Jeff's money questions: 1) What is news in the comic book field? 2) What constitutes investigative journalism? 3) How can interviews become less PR fodder and more actual journalism?

1) Hard to say, sometimes. What constitutes news for some people (change in creative teams, Reload, etc) does not constitute news for others... but the same applies in any media. For some folks, what director's been assigned to a new movie project doesn't matter until the movie itself is up there on the big screen; others want to know what's going on on the set day by day. As I pointed out in the above-cited entry, though, I think something like the Gaiman vs. MacFarlane case, and the Newsarama piece about its ramifications to the industry at large, is an excellent example of what comics news should be like.

As with any creative field, there's the business side of things and the creative side of things. We get a monthly analysis of DC sales numbers, maybe some press releases about hirings and firings, and that's the business side. We get press releases about new series coming out with new creative teams, some interviews with the writer or artist, and that's the creative side covered.

Pitiful, eh?

2) Investigative reporting is not reactionary. So far, all manner of comic book journalism is reactionary; that is, the "reporters" go after a story after it's already happened and fill in the details. An investigative journalist poses a question out of the ether -- say, "how's DC responding, internally and externally, to Marvel's partnership with B&N?" -- and then gets out there and finds the fuck out. I've seen almost nothing of that sort in comics journalism.

3) Still deciding on that one. The interview series I'm doing with Larry Young now are about 50% PR and 50% me trying out something new, and I'm uncertain what defines a "real" interview in contrast to a piece of puff. ADD pretty much had it right with his 5 Questions, tracking down writers and artists and the like and just talking to them about their work in general, instead of whatever latest piece they're trying to sell. Do we have anyone right now that can pick up that torch? I'm not sure. Kevin Melrose has the interviewing chops, but I don't know his status in the comics world at large.

These are probably not satisfactory answers, but the questions are worthy ones, and worth investigation. Go over to Jeff's and answer his questions in his Comments, and then start thinking about what you can do for comics journalism.

Just too interesting not to talk about. 

Pop culture Christians talk about The Punisher movie:

I discovered three days later why I had walked out of the theater liking this movie. It helped me see things from God’s point of view. He has given each of us the capacity to understand Him, because we are made in his image. The immediate desire for Castle to punish the bad guy proves that we have an innate sense of God’s justice: protection for the innocent and a lesson for the sinner. The frustration of watching Castle finish the job in the last five minutes proves that we have an innate sense of God’s mercy: not wanting the guilty to suffer more than is necessary to change his mind. It’s strange to have a sense of God’s character. It’s even stranger to imagine the intensity with which God must feel these two things equally and powerfully. If we feel it in part, He feels it in all of its fullness.

I'm not into reflex-bashing on religion. I'm not a religious person myself, but I think if something can hold billions of peoples' interest for 5000+ years, there's probably something important going on there worth taking seriously. Some of this analysis is fairly interesting, some of it's not too far off the mark from the character's central concept, and some of it... well.

Spacker Dave is a skinny, meek young man who is covered with piercings. In one scene in the movie he makes a tremendous sacrifice to save Frank Castle from certain death, in many regards he becomes a Christ figure. While we have seen him love and dance, fellowship and comfort, we see in one scene his willingness to give himself for one he knows little, Frank Castle. I was reminded throughout the torture that involves his piercings of another that was pierced for us, the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only son.

God, I'd love to hear Garth Ennis's take on that.

Saying someone is a "Christ figure" in a story has become a little too easy for people, of late. Everyone from Superman to (as of now) Spacker Dave gets the comparison, because it sounds impressive and since little enough is known about Christ the man, you can shoehorn just about anyone into the role. Same thing happens when you give comic book fans words like "decompression": They just run haywire with it with no real concept of what they're saying.

Then there's this little snippet, showing in bright colors that our well-meaning, witnessing friend doesn't understand basic irony in storytelling:

I don’t believe it is any accident in this movie that the primary evil character in the movie has the name "Saint." Early on, we see that the club and business that he runs is named “Saints and Sinners.” I will guarantee that there will be many a Christian who bashes this movie because of its obvious intent to blast Saints (Christians). But we should be reminded of the fact that Jesus himself stated that there will be many who call him Lord that will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Right... or it's "irony." Writers like to give characters significant names all the time (his Americanized last name is Castle, for god's sake! Is that not a clear statement of the man's psychological make-up?!), which is why half of all fiction ever written has some guy named "Cain" or "Kane" or "Caine" in it. It's not a greater damnation of the Church or its literature; it's cheap metaphor.

The sad thing is that while Frank is looking at punishment for those who killed the ones he loved, and later on for all rapists, murderers, thieves and more, I was reminded of the fact that in comparison to God and Jesus Christ, we are all evil and deserving of death. The movie in many ways actually helps portray this concept.

All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
- Romans 3:23 (CEV)

Along the way Frank, while caught up in punishment, loses all that was good about him. He turns to the bottle, drinking Wild Turkey whiskey as if it is iced tea. He loses compassion and concern towards any that he may come into contact with.


(This guy's pretty big on quoting Romans, but you could do worse than referencing Paul.)

I buy it. Castle pretty much has to believe in some kind of Almighty because of that ridiculous "supernatural avenger" angle he had for awhile there, so I would say that Mr. Witness isn't too far off the mark. Ennis's Punisher pretty much feels the way stated above, lacking in compassion and love, completely incapable of anything but his punishment because he, like Paul tells the church in Rome, feels that humans have sinned and fallen short. Of course, Paul has not lost his compassion and concern, so he feels that his flock is always worth saving.

Castle, to put it lightly, disagrees.

Hmm. Better stop now before I start sounding evangelical.

(Link via The Punisher Archive.)

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Living Planet, Part 1 

A lot of people have been talking about Larry Young's recent industry fable Planet of the Capes, and a lot of them have spoken more eloquently than I ever could. That's pretty much the reason I've avoided talking about the book myself,and up till now there's hardly been anything I could contribute to the general discussion.

Until the original outline of the story itself landed in my lap. (Mike Sterling's little bird dropped it there, specifically.) Given this outline and the benefit of hindsight granted by so many other reviews scattered all across the critical spectrum, I've got a little chance to do something different and work over the brain of Planet's mastermind.

I'll be taking this in four parts: First, the original character descriptions. The next three parts will be the three seperate acts in spec form and how similar (and different) they are from the finished product.

THE CHARACTERS BEFORE - FROM THE NOTES OF LARRY YOUNG


Four superheroes encounter our world.

No one learns anything. Everybody dies.

The four heroes are thus:

THE GRAND: Our Superman analogue. He’s the one who the reader will initially think is the most stable, because of the borrowed-interest we’ll get from Superman, but he’s the one who falls the farthest when the foundation of who-he-is and what-he-stands-for is knocked away. Without the checks and balances of epic fistfights and evil supervillains to vanquish, The Grand becomes as corrupted as any evil he’s ever faced before.

JUSTICE HALL: Evoking both the "Hall of Justice" and the phrase "…and Justice for all," this guy is our super-patriot. Picture if Nick Fury was Captain America, but had the spooky inner drive of Batman. We’re going for the driven sort that Batman is, by a guy with a nationalistic bent. This is the guy who won’t go through much of an arc, because he’s the best there is at what he does. He’s the symbol of his country, a proud black raven, and nothing shakes him from his course. While a superbly trained athlete, he’s just a man; yet even The Grand doesn’t fuck with him.

SCHAFF: Once the costumed adventurer The Red Fez, Schaff battled alongside the super-team The Feds on one of their most harrowing adventures. Staving off an alien invasion, The Red Fez foiled a last-ditch effort by the aliens to escape back to their home planet. The Fez leapt into the matter-transference beam activated by the aliens as a means to escape… but as his grasp tightened around the fleeing alien commander, the Red Fez’ momentum took them into and then out of the beam. Scrambling alien and superhuman DNA yielded a mindless rampaging monster, our Hulk analogue, who nonetheless is able to be mostly controlled by…

KASTRA: …the sexy teen daughter of the alien commander. She stayed behind to care for what’s left of her father, a brilliant military commander outmaneuvered by a lucky punch. We’re looking for an Adam Hughes-kinda thing with this character, all curves and sass. If her alien garb suggests an ancient Greek influence, that’s probably because she’ll be our Wonder Woman analogue.


THE CHARACTERS AFTER -- STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH


Q: Surely you've had some pretty strong feelings about The State of the Industry for a long time. Lots of frustration, lots of anger, lots of amusement. What finally pushed you over the edge and got you to write PLANET?

Larry: Naw, it's not like that at all. Frustration and anger? No more than about anything else. Amusement? Sure, but I get my amusement from all over. I think at first it was just trying to justify my good pal Joe Casey's assertion that I could write a decent superhero story with the fact that I'm forty years old and honestly don't get much out of the superhero stories, anymore. But I figured if I dressed up an allegory in capes and tights, and used it to comment on certain aspects of the obviously-flawed comic book industry, I could have some laughs.

Q: 2) Marvel gets a lot of flack for its incoherent policies and willful ignorance of its fans, but DC's a sinner too: beyond DC's imprints, their regular titles are dangerously static. What puts DC in the ostensible "hero" role among the Big Two in PLANET, insofar as this story has a "hero"?

Larry: Amongst Marvel and DC, I think DC is closest to my own mindset. Slow and steady wins the race, you know? I think both companies are hamstrung by needing to service their own corporate masters, but what're ya gonna do? It's the nature of the beast.

I wanna emphasize that none of these analogues are direct-line stand-ins for companies or characters or what-have-you. You can figure out what I think about each, honestly, by just a careful reading of the dialogue.

Q: 3) The suggestion from the Grand's character description is that he needs some checks-and-balances to keep him stable and honest, or else he'll fall and fall hard. On the other hand, PLANET seems to suggest that the deadlock between DC and Marvel can only end badly for both. What's your ideal situation for the Big Two keeping each other in line without choking the industry?

Larry: I don't know enough about what those guys have planned to really comment very sharply on that. If anything, I hope observers of the scene see PLANET as a cautionary tale... that while everyone's working together, things go smoothly, but once one player takes his eye off the ball, it's game over. The only thing to watch is how and when it ends. Some retailer friends of mine think that that's already happened, and the Marvel-caused Heroes World distribution panic has killed the Direct Market and no one's realized it yet.

Q: 4) All of the "heroes" in PLANET seem to have a "great power/potential used irresponsibly" motif going on, except Kastra, the representation for indie publishers. Have you you gotten some flack for that, considering you yourself run an independent publishing label?

Larry: Not any more than usual! Schaff doesn't really use his power irresponsibly, does he? He just can't coordinate his dual nature. Justice Hall is pretty responsible, too, I think. His only flaw is not reacting fast enough to The Grand's mercurial change... but like I said, none of these things are one-to-one correlations to anything, really. Sure, Kastra is the daughter of Schaff, and you could make the argument that that through the sacrifices of early self-publishers like Dave Sim and Jack Katz and the Pinis, it'd have been harder for indy companies like First, Eclipse, Pacific, Comico, and all to gain a foothold. So one is related to another. If people throw our company in with that crowd, well, I'm flattered.

(More to come soon.)

Grand Theft Awesome. 

From THE ROOMMATE:




As I have stated before, I believe this game'll be pretty Menace II Society-ed out. It appears I was right.

(Of course.)

Here's Rockstar's official San Andreas page for it, with three other shots.

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