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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Calling in the Sick Card. 

RAGEFUCK RATING: 4 OUT OF 5

I'm sick and I'm making a lot of typos, and I'm sorta having a hard time forming coherent thoughts (thanks, NyQuil!), so it's been suggested by someone who wishes to remain anonymous that I use this as an excuse to cut loose a little. I'm sick, loopy, haven't had two hours of sleep to rub together in a couple nights, so... I'm not accountable.

1) I don't understand the appeal behind the Avengers, the JLA, or the Fantastic Four. What the fuck. Most of those characters just don't even make sense. The Flash? A guy who runs fast? Who the fuck cares, really? How the hell does that speak to me as a person?

Who. The fuck. CARES! WHO CARES! FUCK YOU IF YOU CARE! YOUR OPINION DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU LOVE THE FLASH! THE ONLY PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD LESS VALID THAN YOU TO PUBLIC DISCOURSE ARE THE MOTHERFUCKING FLAT-EARTH SOCIETY!

2) Who are all these new blogger people? Really, who the fuck are you? Why should I care? WHY? I'm an O.G., dammit! Look at how fucking old my blog is! I'm a goddamn institution and none of you people know who I am.

Ask yourself: are you needed? Do you add anything? Me, my contribution is that all the right people like me. What've YOU got going for you? A daily hit tally of 55?

3) No more memes unless they're really good. And by "good" I mean it shits money onto my lap every time I read it. Dollars, pounds, euros, lire, I don't give a fuck what kind of currency. Get the money-shitting thing down, or it's a no-go from here on out.

4) Just because Garth Ennis has one "definitive" title to his name does not make him a one-hit wonder. Check out that fucking "100 Things I Love About Comics" meme and see how many people put Hitman on their list. Ennis is my boy. Fuck with him at your peril. Kinda wonder what qualifies someone as a comics icon, anyway: exactly how many comics icons do we have that had more than two or three legacy titles to their names? (And I don't wanna hear names like Will Eisner or Stan Lee. That was a whoooooole different ballgame.)

Does someone not count as a landmark writer if they don't have five legacy titles under their belt? I don't think writers today are lesser than before; I think our standards are too unrealistic. Designed to be unattainable.

Remember: just cuz the blogosphere liked Seaguy doesn't mean anyone else did. We gotta remember we are ONE FACET of the comics community, not the pulse of it.

5) CBR: Just fucking stop. I don't know why you bother. Convert to a columns-only format and stop the pathetic charade that is your middle column of "stories." Reprocessing press releases and acting like a third-rate Ain't It Cool News (which is pretty sad on its own) does not a legitimate website make.

6) TCJ: Maybe you're working on this and I'm just not noticing it, but how the hell come I only see you in the occasional comics shop, instead of everywhere there's a magazine stand? And how come most comics readers just plain don't know who the hell you are? Maybe the money's just not there. Maybe you just can't force stores to carry you. But you know what? I see music magazines in non-music stores and movie magazines in non-movie stores, and both in regular old bookstores, SO WHY THE FUCK AREN'T I SEEING YOU THERE WITH THEM?

Also: I appreciate wanting to be unique. I appreciate the desire for a distinct physical identity. I also appreciate that if you want to get into the big boy stores, YOU SHOULD FORMAT YOUR FUCKING MAGAZINE SIZE LIKE OTHER MAGAZINE SIZES. Sweet jesus!

If the situation is more complicated than that, then please enlighten me.

7) TPBs: same deal. As witnessed by the new Sin City trades, stories can be shrunk down, priced affordably and packaged attractively without loss to art or lettering. I mean, maybe there WAS some degradation.. but if I didn't notice it, the layperson sure as hell won't. How fucking insane an idea is it to get trade paperbacks filed in with new prose paperbacks?

8) Superman is stupid. It's sad when the state of the industry is that people get excited when someone produces a story that's even two shades to the left or right of "same old," so fucking ecstatic that it's a reinvention of the character. Pathetic.

Kill. Superman.

9) Cohesion fading.

Sick thoughts. 

1) You know how in some movies there's that scene where the two leads are trying to do something in a confined, concealed space -- say, put on a tight jacket in a bathroom stall -- and it results in dialogue that sounds like innuendo? "It's too tight, I'm not fitting!" "You're just too big!" Accompanied by grunts, and so on. And there's a random civilian in the bathroom who acts shocked and appalled by the proceedings? Cuz they think the two leads are having sex.

Has anyone ever found that funny?

2) I'm really sick. Really fucking sick. Have you ever projectile vomited water that'd been rolling around your stomach for 2 hours? No? The experience is strangely hydrating. It was pure water, too, totally unprocessed and undigested. And that shit got out of there in a hurry, okay? Like it had a fever, and the only prescription was fucking vomit.

So for the first time in like a year, I'm hoping Pepto can keep some OJ down.

So... yeah. I'm sick.

Friday, March 25, 2005

...ARGH! 

Fuck you too, God.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

DC: Who Needs Coy? 

So I'm reading Batman: Gotham Knights and I come across that ad for the DC non-event, DC Countdown. You know the one, Batman's holding some dude and everyone else looks on meaningfully, it's all very romantic and yaoi, etc... I briefly glance down the ad blurbs along the lefthand side, and flip the page.

And flip back.

Here's a curious way to pitch the urgency of your series: "An 80-page Spectacular you can't afford to miss!"

I understand that a lot of advertising works on the principle of telling people how they can remain current. I don't know if many ads have the balls to come right out and say "YOU WILL BE LEFT OUT FOREVER IF YOU DO NOT PURCHASE THIS PRODUCT." It's not that we want the product, it's that we have no choice but to purchase it if we want to stay involved.

They should just call it DC: Extortion.

Fuckers.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The trailing edge of comics. 

I could be doing useful things for my blog. I could be trying to recapture my glory days (about a year ago, I wrote some pretty good stuff) or I could be cleaning up my blogroll link list thingy bop, clearing out the dead space, bringing in the new folks. Not that I really know who any of them are.

(And I have to ask: Am I still relevant? The answer, I think, is "I never was." But I move on.)

Instead I'll just be a trendy bitch. Consider it like 24 hour news networks: all the easy stories, none of the tough stuff.

ONE HUNDRED THINGS I THINK ARE PRETTY KEEN ABOUT COMICS, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, BUT KEEP IN MIND IF SOMETHING'S AT THE VERY BOTTOM OF THE LIST I'M REACHING AND IT'S PROBABLY NOT AS COOL AS THE SHIT NEAR THE TOP... EITHER THAT OR I JUST FORGOT ABOUT IT TILL THEN

1. Frank fucking Castle, and Marvel's strange tendency to keep publishing the exploits of a mass murderer

2. The CBLDF, warts and all

3. Fanboy Rampage

4. AiT/PlanetLar

5. The way Frank Miller draws guys with square jaws and sloped noses

6. Frank Miller

7. Garth Ennis

8. That comics is the only place where a story about a 150 year-old dude with claws in his hands who is a samurai, a spandex-clad superhero, and a feral beast is considered passé and creatively inert.. only in fucking comics, man. You'll be lucky if TV shows add even a slight shade of dimension to their usual shit ("it's a cop drama, but this time, he's BLIND!" "Write that man a check!")

9. 24 Hour Comic Book Day. That shit is fun. Don't be a pussy: sign up for it.

10. CAPE, surely the coolest Free Comic Book Day shindig around

11. Flight

12. The sheer, overwhelming force of Idea that is your typical Warren Ellis story

13. Human Target

14. Getting yourself heard -- actually heard -- by People Who Matter is never more than a few e-mails away

15. Promethea

16. Jonah Hex

17. Permanent Damage

18. Steve Gerber

19. Enormous breasts

20. Enormous guns

21. B&W as vibrant storytelling form

22. Hino Horror

23. 2000AD

24. The Comics Journal, the only monthly with the balls to take comics seriously

25. Covers of old romance comics

26. Charlton Comics

27. Marvel Masterworks/DC Archive Editions

28. 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call. The rest of the series is pretty good, but that one there approaches a kind of perfection

29. The Invisibles, for its dogged tenacity in remaining at right angles with all expectations

30. STEVE. FUCKING. DILLON.

31. Getting a convention painting done by a guy you think is Ben Templesmith, his sign says it's Ben Templesmith, you get charged the Ben Templesmith rate, and then finding out later IT WAS NOT BEN TEMPLESMITH

32. Dave Intermittent

33. Hearing Michael Lark really go to town on DC's bass-ackwards TPB policy exactly one day before he announces his jump to Marvel

34. Seeing The Punisher in the same theatre as Tim Bradstreet

35. E! C! COMICS!

36. Charlie Adlard

37. "Meanwhile..."

38. That first comic you picked up, read, put down, and thought "holy shit, I didn't think comics could be THAT GOOD!"... thus giving birth to a lifelong addiction

39. Ads in really old comic books that give you a little slice of the pop culture atmosphere of the time

40. Those California blogger people who consistently best the rest of us, the sons of bitches

41. Batman logos

42. Scurvy Dogs

43. Calling Marvel's EIC the Devil and canonizing him only after he's long gone, no matter who he may be

44. Newsarama, cuz they gotta put all those press releases SOMEwhere, else those digital trees were chopped down for nothing

45. ChaosMonkey

46. Marvel Essential collections

47. That you can get your own thing published and reasonably well-marketed for a couple grand, as compared to at least five times as much in any other art form

48. John McCrea

49. War Stories

50. Rocket Comics

51. The adorable notion that digital comics are ever, ever going to replace print comics

52. Milestone Comics

53. The Chick Check, which I sorely miss

54. The Image and Bendis boards, for providing concrete, quantifiable evidence that there's folks out there a lot stupider than us

55. Nick Fury

56. DC Vertigo

57. The Pro

58. While we're at it, Amanda Conner

59. Preacher, because for all its fireworks and bluster, its (rather amazing) emotional climax is a fight between best friends. You gotta admire that.

60. The way in old Marvel comics the main character has to explain his origin and powers in a cumbersome chunk of exposition right at the beginning

61. Viper Comics

62. John Byrne, for graciously providing the rest of the comics internet with a goddamn freakshow

63. Mark Millar when he's on

64. Peiratikos, who are gonna be SO pissed they were listed below Mark Millar

65. Rick Geerling. You're all shitheads for not recognizing genius right in front of you. He'll also be pissed he's listed below Mark Millar, which brings me joy unmatched.

66. Digest-sized TPBs

67. Darick Robertson

68. Really, really late-night discussions about who could beat Batman ("but is it in Gotham?")

69. Gail Simone

70. Johnny Bacardi, Latin hedonist

71. CrossGen, for providing proof positive that you really DO need good material, and lots of cash and flash just aren't enough

72. Jimmy Palmiotti, and how he seems to have his hand in ten thousand titles that rule

73. Image Comics

74. That part in Dark Knight Returns where Superman lifts that fucking tank up and says that line about gods walking the earth. Wow.

75. John Constantine

76. Harvey Pekar, damn near outweighted by all the whimpering, uninteresting, witless limpdick autobiographical imitators that followed

77. Free buttons from the DC booth at conventions

78. Avengers Disassembled and other faux-events, for providing the comics internet long reprieves from talking about anything that actually fucking matters

79. Bad Signal

80. Heidi MacDonald, despite past clashes

81. That comic shops are far less creepy than gaming shops, and people are a lot less likely to strike up unwanted conversations

82. Zeus Toys and Comics

83. Convention stories from comics pros

84. Deep, deep, DEEP (and sometimes half-drunk) late-night conversations about how you and the person you're talking to are going to SAVE COMICS... when was the last time you ever got that worked up about TV, or movies, or prose fiction?

85. Matt Maxwell

86. Dave Gibbons

87. Inheriting a box of comics

88. Otto's Coffee Shop

89. The Tick

90. Lone Wolf & Cub

91. Steve Lieber

92. Jack Staff

93. Daredevil, in small doses

94. Chaos Comics... cuz all the shit's gotta go somewhere, and I'm glad they willingly ghettoize themselves

95. Astronauts in Trouble

96. Isotope Comics, since it sounds like Mecca even though I've never been there (Mecca or Isotope)

97. Tim Sale, if only he could shake that Loeb fucker

98. Jason

99. Talking gorillas

100. That at least 200 people are going to read this list for no other reason than they dig comics and don't mind what I have to say about them. Allow me to be corny: that's a special thing.

Good lord, that was exhausting.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

So I saw Sin City. 

(Disclaimer: Though I saw a press screening of Sin City yesterday morning, previews on TV still say the movie is "not yet rated." I may not have seen the final cut. I can do a professional review, but I'm not really in the mood. So you get this instead.)

People are worried. They worry that Sin City will be laughed out of the theatre. That the "muppet makeup" will be a turnoff, or that the spot coloring will make people groan. They are concerned that the movie will take itself too seriously. In short, people are concerned Sin City will bring shame down on our houses and scuttle comics back into the dark for another 40 year stretch.

It does none of these things.

It's a fun fucking movie, all the way around, beginning to end. The opening scene introduces us to the voice-over storytelling and the spot-coloring right off the bat, and I got no sense from the audience that they were turned off by it. I sunk right in, and so did they.

What struck me the most is how funny the movie is. Dark, dark comedy to be sure, very morbid, with a preponderance for severed heads and toilet-head dunkings (expect that to be mentioned in every single review of the movie), but very fucking funny. At ease, Mike. There isn't a second that this movie thinks it's a "serious" exploration of noir themes. All the hallmarks of the genre are there, the breathy words and elaborate prose and hard language and guns and blood, but Sin City has more in common with Miller's Hard Boiled than it does with, I dunno, his street-stories-by-way-of-spandex Daredevil.

The makeup causes no disconnect. My buddy Joe commented that when Marv walks on the screen, you know it's a Frank Miller character: he's got all the angles, all the muscle, all the domineering physical presence of a Miller hero. He fits. He works. When That Yellow Bastard first appears in all his jaundiced glory, the audience did not withdraw; rather, people gasped in shock or fear. He's a menacing, sickly, and slightly pathetic figure, just as he should be.

What ultimately wins out for the movie is the long middle segment based on The Big Fat Kill, starring Clive Owen as Dwight, Rosario Dawson as Gail, and Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy. Owen's a favorite actor of mine, and Mike Hodges would be all too eager to tell you that he's a perfect lead for any kind of noir, straight-faced or tongue-in-cheek. He elevates some already pretty fucking entertaining material to the point where the Big Fat Kill segment would be a vastly entertaining movie on its own. (And who knew Brittany Murphy could act?)

There are flaws, as there are in any Rodriguez movie. It takes a long time for energy to build up, which is strange considering how kinetic the source material is, and how notoriously hyperactive Rodriguez movies are. Some of the actors -- notably Michael Madsen and Josh Hartnett, but then, it's Josh Hartnett -- just can't seem to get their mouths around the dialogue or their minds past the green screen. In the Marv material particularly, the passage of time is a little sloppy. Comics action relies a lot on inference, and movies, for better or worse, are used to leading their audiences around by the nose. Rodriguez chooses to shoot the Marv action almost exactly as it happens in the comic, and the audience is forced to make mental leaps and draw connections (where did that gun come from? oh, right, from 45 seconds ago), which can be disorienting when trying to keep up with fast-paced action.

The audience was surprisingly diverse. The gender split seemed to be 50/50, and the age range covered the spectrum. When the credits hit, half the audience applauded, and EVERYONE was chattering. Loudly. Passionately, love or hate. I'm guessing the movie'll get a B- average across the critical spectrum and do modest box office, but I learned what I needed to know from that applause. People are ready for this.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

In case you were curious. (rimshot!) 

If I were a gay porn star, I would be...



Thanks, Dorian. One of my lifelong burning questions has been answered.

Monday, March 07, 2005

V for Fuckin' Idiots. 

Is America ready for a terrorist hero?

Yes, of course we are.

The real, buried question here is "can something like V for Vendetta be made into a film without causing an uproar?"

No, of course it can't.

Should that be a concern?

People are always going to bitch about something, aren't they? Of course they are. Does that mean we have to be wilting little flowers about it?

Hell no.

Isn't V for Vendetta, ah, SUPPOSED to be unsettling? Supposed to kick up a fuss? Supposed to make people uncomfortable?

Isn't that sorta the idea?

Yeah?

Then shut the fuck up.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Context. (Meandering.) 

Here's what I like about movies: they're as close to an objective entertainment experience as you're likely to find. When you're locked into the confines of a movie theatre, you're going to see the same 90-120 minute spread that everyone else who paid to see that movie is. I can be confident that the Born into Brothels I'm seeing is the same Born into Brothels that some shmoe is seeing in Newark. The movie, inside its theatre, controls the pace at which you take the story in. It controls what you see and what you don't see, what you hear and what you don't hear, and the screen is so large, the sound so big, that a good movie totally dominates your mind and senses for the duration.

There are mitigating factors, of course: quality of sound, quality of print, quality of fellow movie-goers, quality of personal mood, and so on. I never said the objectivity was perfect, mind, just that it was the best we're likely to see. A book or a comic book may represent only a few steps between author and reader, but the reader's flexibility on intake is much larger: Read it in one sitting, or spaced out over time? In one day or spread out over 6 months? Read it indoors or outdoors? Before you go to bed or in the afternoon? Movies, more than any other form (or perhaps on par with traditional art) define how you will take them in. Cynics take this idea to the extreme and call movies "passive" entertainment, along with its semi-retarded younger sibling television. Methinks they've never seen a really good movie or show.

And, running directly contrary to that belief...

Just recently I read a book called A Year at the Movies by Kevin Murphy. (Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fans will know Murphy as the voice of Tom Servo.) Basic premise: Herr Murphy watches at least one movie every day for one calendar year. He's not just slacking off at the local multiplex, either; we're talking festivals large and small, ranging from generic old multiplexes to exotic locales (including the world's smallest functioning public theatre and a theatre whose seats, screen, walls, floor, and ceiling are made entirely of ice and snow.)

There's a lot of interesting thoughts to pop out of his experience, and this isn't a guy just seeking out the usual lame blockbuster films. Murphy's knowledge of film, film history, and even film technology is complete. He makes a pretty compelling case for Quentin Tarantino being a fabulous technical director with no artistic soul. He laments the beauty of IMAX technology used primarily to show us dolphins fucking on Mount Everest. Some of the conclusions drawn are pretty mundane: What, Murph, you mean to tell me 24-screen googolplexes are uninteresting and soulless? Halt the fucking presses, man.

But, ultimately, the book's major argument is that the context in which one views a movie is as important as the movie itself. Watching Charlie Chaplin films accompanied by an organist who played for those movies during their original release is miles away from viewing the same films in your living room with the phone ringing intermittently. I can buy that.

But there'll always be a screen and sound. No matter which side of the debate you take, it always comes back to the screen and the sound: two constants to the movie-going experience.

Brings me back to comics, oddly enough. (Not because I'm one of those annoying bastards who can't stop comparing the two artforms, but because they're the two artforms I get into the most.) When I'd started Murphy's book I'd just got done with (not finished, but got done with) Scott McCloud's earnest but misguided Reinventing Comics. I like McCloud. I agree that Understanding Comics fixated quite a bit on the technical side of things while not paying nearly as much attention to the artistic side... and I also understand that was the point of the book. Motherfucker was off his gourd on this one, though. I can never and will never buy the concept that digital is the One True Way of the future.

Comics need to be comics. There needs to be paper. There needs to be that particular fade on coloring that can only come from paper exposed to light. There needs to be something you hold in your hands. Why have DVDs absolutely exploded in the market since their introduction? Because people like to hold, to quantify, what they love.

This isn't nostalgia talking, either. Comics will continue much as they have now into success or doom, and nothing the "print is dead" or "floppies will be our doom" people say or do will change that fact.

Here's what's wrong with the "print is dead" argument: McCloud, like many others, chooses to view the artform as a consumer product, right alongside cars and microwaves and other non-artistic flotsam that clutters up our lives. You'd obviously want a modern car over one 30 years old for amenities and safety, because in many quantifiable ways it's a better/safer/more efficient product.

Artforms don't work in "better" or "more efficient," though. Digital is not "better" than print, television is not "superior" to the stage, comic books are not "more efficient" than novels. Aesthetically, these terms are meaningless. No one gives a shit about the state of the art except the technophiles. If books sell and continue to sell, there will always be books. If there is a demand, there will be a supply. Books will not be "phased out" because they're not fucking vacuum cleaners. They're an entertainment delivery medium that people love.

Same with floppies.

Me, I like TPBs and OGNs. If I can get a story in one TPB, or spread it out over 6 months in 6 issues, I'm going to take the TPB every time... though I suspect that has less to do with wanting a "complete" story in one sitting and more with "writers right now have no fucking idea how to satisfy audiences issue by issue." Don't tell me floppies are dead. They're not. Most writers just don't know how to use them anymore.

Serialized storytelling is not an "inferior" way to tell a story. It is not dead, nor is it dying. (Feel free to ask any TV producer in the world for verification of this.) Serialized storytelling is as valid now as it was 50 years ago, because it is not, repeat with me.. a fucking vacuum cleaner. It's a method of artistic expression. And there will always be a demand.

Not that the system couldn't use improvement. Once a month? Are you shitting me? The comics businesses expect the non-initiated to be satisfied with a story that can be read in an hour spread out over SIX FUCKING MONTHS? I can barely remember what times my handful of TV shows come on, and they're on every goddamn week.

Here's an idea. Is there any reason in the world all the monthly Batman titles can't be combined into one big TPB that goes for $20? $25? And just sell that once a month? Think of all the new talent you could expose. There's gotta be a dozen quality writers who want to do a Batman story. The audience doesn't get a complete story in one sitting, but they get a fuckload of story segments in one go. Think of it like a night of themed television.

Or... how about getting entire story arcs in the can before you release? So if you have some six-part Loeb/Sale Batman opus, it can come out over the span of six weeks. Get it the fuck OUT THERE. I understand there's retailer concerns involved, but fucking Batman? That shit'll always sell.

Just some thoughts. Persons attempting to find a point will be shot, yadda yadda.

Where I've been. 

1) I have been reading so much Alan Moore that I couldn't possibly absorb more of the man's work if you injected it intravenously. (It occurs to me the word "intraveous" contains the word "ravenous." I'm not sure why this is interesting, but it is.) I've also been absorbing the DVD set of the finest show to ever come to television, Deadwood, interspersed with a prime few seasons of The Sopranos. My ear for dialogue, right now, is superhuman.

2) So Scorsese's never going to get an Oscar. That's just the way it is. I didn't do too badly at the prediction game, though: I correctly guessed 7 winners of the 10 major awards (the 10 being best film, best foreign film, best animated film, best director, the four acting awards, and the two screenplay awards). This is my personal record, and I dunno if I can ever beat it. I was fucking positive Virgina Madsen was going to win.

3) I'm reading this week's edition of Entertainment Weekly, and on the letters page is a statement that the existence of Sin City proves that all comics are sexist and can never look beyond the whore/madonna binarity of female characters. (That all men in the Sin City books are either completely amoral sociopaths or fallen angels is of no consequence, apparently.) An argument can (and has) been made supporting that particular thesis, but holy shit, you're using Sin City to prove your point? Talk about misunderstanding the material.

4) Then there's that fucking review of that fucking overrated piece of crap The Ring. It happens about once a year: some genius critic, plainly unfamiliar with the functions and methods of the horror genre, draws parallels between modern real-world anxieties and popular horror fiction, as if the latter cannot exist without preying on the former. In this case, writer Brian Raftery draws a shaky symmetry between The Ring and motherfucking bird flu. No shit. Apparently The Ring's major achievement was to "predict" today's disease anxiety, as if we're any more sick-scared now than we were 5 years ago. Or 100 years. Or 1000. The guy even uses the word "clairvoyant." I can't remember the last time I wanted to reach through a page and smack the author quite that much.

What never occurs to these geniuses is that, in humanity, there's always a baseline of fear and anxiety about this or that Unknowable Predator. SARS, bird flu, a zombie, a vampire -- that shit's just window decoration. The entry point into the reptile brain. Horror -- good horror -- hits those same primal notes as any passing fear-fad. Usually better at it, too. So can we stop with the lame parallels between popular horror and Our Modern Times? Is it that hard to acknowledge that good horror is universal, and doesn't rely on fleeting fear-mongering to get by?

Can we get some fucking respect already?

Just checking in. Got something percolating for Monday. See you then.

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