Archive for June 27, 2003

Siddown, Waldo

June 27, 2003

Best quote from a drunk teacher at The Missus’s end-of-school-year faculty party:

“Loosen up! It’s the month of summer!”

Friendly neighborhood

June 27, 2003

I don’t care how much of a geek this makes me sound like: this is fricking awesome.

“I know you don’t read this blog…”

June 27, 2003

Don’t I, Jen Davis? Don’t I?

The Hulk Movie

June 27, 2003

Haven’t seen it yet. Most people I know who saw it hated it. But NeilAlien liked it, and that’s endorsement enough for me!

Every Epic needs its Trojan Horse

June 26, 2003

Marvel’s nascent Epic imprint, as most comicsy folks know at this point, is purported to be the House of Ideas’ attempt to give newbie and up-and-coming writers and artists a crack at getting their work published by one of the biggest companies in the business. It’s a pretty good deal, but between the company’s fuzziness on what the status of creator-owned books would be, the kerfluffle over recruiting comics journalists as potential writers, the apparently heavier editorial hand being used on the books than was advertised, and general antipathy to the current Marvel regime, the move has generated a surprising amount of animosity in some quarters. The snarkiest among the comics punditosphere have speculated that, what with the volume of pitches an open call for submissions is sure to generate, it’s all some sort of Machiavellian plan to overwhelm rival companies’ editorial and submissions departments with the slightly retooled rejects that are likely to come their way once the rejection notices start getting sent out from Marvel HQ.

Well, once company appears to have quietly headed the stampede off at the pass by creating its own open-call system. While reading the latest issue of Hellboy’s Weird Tales from Dark Horse Comics, I noticed a full page ad featuring DH publisher Mike Richardson in Uncle Sam regalia, informing us all that we’re wanted to write, draw, or otherwise do somethin’ for the Dark Horse army. The ad directs prospective talent to this “new recruits” page, which spells out the submission guidelines for the DH cattle call. Unlike Epic, Dark Horse is asking that submissions have their team essentially completed, i.e. writers and artists must submit in tandem. They’re also looking for more than just a first-issue or “pilot” script, which is what Epic claims is sufficient for full consideration; they want ten finished, consecutive pages of art, the full script from which those pages originated, and tight plotting outlines for the remainder of the storyline. But other than that, DH offers far fewer storytelling caveats than Epic, which essentially encouraged talent to revamp existing Marvel characters in a very specific, origin-oriented, chronologically-told fashion (and to a certain extent discouraged them from trying anything else). No guidelines are given for the type of story the company’s looking for, which could mean a crop of genuinely creator-owned new titles might result from the program.

One of the most enticing aspects of Dark Horse’s program is their guarantee that, provided their instructions are followed to the letter, every single submission will be personally evaluated by head honcho Mike Richardson. Like Bill Jemas at Marvel, Richardson is the buck-stops-here guy at his company, and decisions are ultimately his to make. By bypassing Dark Horse editorial (not to mention DH’s frustrating “next, please” portfolio reviews at conventions), this process can help weed out a lot of contradictory advice to writers and artists and save people on both sides of the equation a lot of wasted time. Of course, the flipside is that Richardson, like Jemas, is a busy man, and may not be able to devote the right level of attention to the stories and art that end up on his desk.

It will be interesting to see what kind of projects stem from this initiative versus those in the Epic camp. It’ll be equally interesting to see how other big companies–particulary DC, home of the now-notorious post-lawsuit “no unsolicited submissions from anyone, period” policy–react.

Security Blankets

June 26, 2003

I mentioned Craig Thompson’s massive autobiographical graphic novel Blankets in my MoCCA recap the other day. The book isn’t even officially out yet and it’s already the subject of much speculation and controversy. Part of this is due to the rapturous reception Thompson’s debut book, Goodbye, Chunky Rice, received. Some people felt it didn’t deserve the ecstatic praise people were heaping on it, so it was the victim of a backlash (one that, even if you agree with its contention that the book wasn’t a masterpiece, was just as excessive as its adherents were saying the praise they were reacting against was). (Whoa, how’s that for syntax?) Another part of the trepidation is due to a general antipathy to teen-angst autobio, which many feel is just as unnecessarily dominant in the alternative-comics sphere as superheroes are in the mainstream comics world. I myself still haven’t read the book, but I admit that certain previews and a few flip-throughs leave me wary.

Not The Missus, however. After seeing it on the kitchen table, she opened to a random spot in the book and was immediately enthralled. She read the whole thing yesterday, before I’d even gotten a chance to read it myself. She happens to relate to its source material quite a bit, having grown up, as Thompson did, in a devoutly evangelical Christian household, and because she had a long-distance letter-writing romance just like Thompson’s (with me, actually). But clearly the book pulled her right in and compelled her to plow through all 600-odd pages, which believe me is a rare thing for a comic to achieve with my wife. This might well be the breakthrough book some people are predicting it’ll be.

I don’t feel tardy

June 26, 2003

I went to The Missus’s end-of-the-year faculty party yesterday, and holy shit, people, teachers effing throw down. Ass-grabbing, crotch-grabbing, vodka shots, married people grinding non-spouses on the dance floor, pouring beer from a story above into a waiting teacher’s open mouth–I was almost waiting for Andrew W.K. to drive a motorcycle out of a twenty-foot cake with three hundred roman candles burning on it. And I can tell you one thing–she ain’t never going to one of these things alone, no siree bob.

Made it, Ma! Top o’ the world!

June 26, 2003

Well, I’ve gotten a grumpy email from an underground comix luminary. I’ve arrived!

My blog item about a recent anti-war cartoon in Reason magazine by legendary Hate author Peter Bagge was referenced in this Comics Journal messboard thread, which led Peter to defend his work both there and in a couple of email messages to me.

Taking issue with my comment that he appears to blame the woes of the world on WalMart shoppers, Peter pointed me to this cartoon, where he cops to being a mall shopper himself.

I stand corrected. But then on the message board thread about the strip, Peter said:

QUOTE: “I also don’t know how I can NOT portray average Americans as anything other than dunderheads when most of us believe that Saddam used chemical on our troops, that WMDs WERE found, and that Iraqis took part in 9/11, even though no one in the government or the mainstream media has even SUGGESTED any of the above!…We’ve become such a pathetic and horrible nation of people that it’s gone way BEYOND ‘funny.'”

I certainly share his confusion and disgust about those kinds of poll results (9/11? Huh??), but it just seems like a lapse of emotion over logic to leap from there into general misanthropy about “average Americans.” I may have gotten Peter’s motive for attacking them wrong–he likes WalMart, they like WalMart, it’s all water under the bridge–but I feel I accurately characterized his overall feelings about them.

In a subsequent email, Peter defended the character he depicted in the strip by saying:

QUOTE: “I don’t see how what I wrote applies to any specific economic class, or any specific group of Americans. That’s why I drew a wide variety of people, even if you and others still denigrated all of them as ‘stereotypes.’ I was targeting the majority of the American public who DO believe in all these aspects of the Iraq war that either aren’t true at all or that I find morally reprehensible.”

I definitely got that last part, but I still feel that Peter employed the different “types” he drew as representative of their peer groups. And hey, fine–there’s nothing wrong with stereotype (call it “caricature,” it’s a less loaded term) in satire. I just think it conveyed a sort of anti-middle class/Middle American bias that thwarted the political efficacy of the cartoon, regardless of whether this was the cartoonist’s intent. (While we’re on the subject of political cartooning, Tom Tomorrow” does a pretty good job of skewering the American attitudes he feels deserve skewering without using pictorial stereotypes, due to his effective use of clip-art style generic, uh, “peoploids.”)

Finally, Peter took issue with my rhetoric a bit, saying it was “high school” of me to say his own outlook was “tedious in high school.” To which I can only reply, I know you are, but what am I? In all seriousness, I wasn’t dissing him as immature (he’s obviously a sophisticated guy, but at any rate, what’s so bad about being like a high schooler anyway?), just saying I outgrew way back in the day the outlook he seemed to be espousing. But I think my big rhetorical mistake was saying “YOU can’t help but feel that” Peter was attacking Middle America, not “I can’t help but feel” that way. It’s me writing this thing, after all, and it’s presumptuous and dopey to speak for the general “you.” So I’ll take a hit on that one, no problem.

All that being said, what I take from this is that this Internet thing has its pros and cons. I think Peter thought I was being a much bigger jerk than I really was, but since he doesn’t know me, how could he judge? But on the plus side, I had a one-to-one debate with Peter Freaking Bagge. And I think (cheesy after school special music GO!) we both learned something about the effects of his comic strip. And he was such a cool guy about it that he let me post quotes from his emails on my freaking website. Three cheers for fighting about politics and comics on the World Wide Web!


June 25, 2003

Eff this, man. I’ve been drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon for half a goddamn decade already. Inspired by my uncle and father-in-law, I started drinking it because it’s cheap, the can looks neat, Dennis Hopper drank it in Blue Velvet, and as far as cheap beers go, it tastes really good. (Jesus God, it’s so much better than Coors Light, just for example.) Long have I complained that it’s so hard to find on Long Island–in the years I’ve looked for it out here I’ve only found it once. If this idiotic retro-chic reported-on-in-square-publications trend makes it easier for me to buy PBR, great, but that doesn’t make this trend any less obnoxious. Pabst Blue Ribbon deserves better than hipsters.

Things that are fun

June 25, 2003

It totally rules when you’re on your fifth draft of some piece of writing and your computer crashes and you lose everything you did that day.

What I’m saying is that if the posts are few and far between today, it’s because I’m too busy fuming. Or drinking.


June 24, 2003

There are several irritating things going on in this Pete Bagge anti-war cartoon (courtesy of Franklin Harris). First, there’s the generalized contempt for the average American, as represented by the various suburban stereotypes Bagge presents (the dopey talking head, the dopey mother, the dopey college girl, the dopey veteran, the dopey old woman, the dopey blue-collar guy–noticing a pattern here?). Certainly one can feel frustrated with one’s fellow citizens from time to time, but you can’t help but feel that Bagge’s point is that everything would be fine if it weren’t for those boozhwah WalMart-shopping flag-waving automatons, blah blah blah. Man, that shit gets tedious by the end of high school.

Second, there’s the bit about how, if the Iraqis decide to “elect” a fascist or Islamist, we’ll need to “teach them democracy all over again” or whatever. Ha ha ha, stupid American, who are we to decide what’s best for them, if they vote then we must respect them, it’s a different culture, besides, Florida and hanging chads and all that, blah blah blah. But the fact of the matter is, there’s nothing ridiculous about the notion that a “democracy” that elects a fascist or fundamentalist theocrat is invalid (ha ha ha, what about the U.S., Ashcroft, blah blah blah–folks, I’m way ahead of you on this stuff). If, after World War II, it became apparent that democratic reforms in Germany, Italy, or Japan were leading to the rise of another set of nationalistic militaristic demagogues, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’d use the troops in place in those countries to put the kibosh on those elections so fast it’d make your head spin. And this wouldn’t be anti-democratic in the slightest. The thing about democracy is that it presupposes the existence of, ahem, certain inalienable rights–life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness among them. Elect a leader whose explicit goal is to restrict those inalienable human rights, and that election is invalid by definition.

It’s stupid, and actually insulting, to act as though different cultures need not allow for those rights. If you believe in a liberal democracy, as most anti-war folks would claim, you believe that those rights are, in fact, inalienable, meaning you can’t rightfully get rid of them no matter what. Even if 99% of the population voted for a dictator, he’d still be a dictator, because you can’t choose to do away with an inalienable right. For some reason, a lot of people are finding this notion tough to deal with–and that’s a notion I find tough to deal with.

The green-eyed monster

June 24, 2003

Lots of quibbling and cavilling going on about the post-Hulk stock dump, but the best analysis comes from Newsarama, which points out similar declines after quite a few Marvel movies, as well as one for Scholastic this week, following the release of the Harry Potter book. Ain’t no one arguing that that was a disappointing performance, are they?

As I said before, this just seems like a logical time for people who are looking to cash in to do so, and would have remained so even if the Hulk movie had done Spider-Man business. It seems to me that most claims to the contrary–that the dump was due to disappointing box office–originate from one oft-quoted Bear Stearns analyst, Glen Reid, who you can find quoted here (in a Pulse article that bases its entire weak thesis on this one dude’s read of the market), as well as every other damn place that reported on the story.

The one aspect of the box-office-gloom theory that holds water is the fact that as this summer has made perfectly clear, franchise and tentpole movies need to make a goddamn killing the first weekend out, because in this blockbuster-packed 6,000-theater front-loaded movie climate, one week is often all you get to establish your strength and make almost half of your box. Variety’s dead-tree edition makes this case fairly effectively today.

Bottom line: Unless you’re making stuff up to get column inches and air time, or have an axe to grind with superheroes or superhero movies, it’s tough to spin this as anything but par for the (show)business-world course.

Ba-dum ching!

June 24, 2003

Also seen on the subway: a flier for Planned Parenthood reading “WARNING: BUSH POLICIES HAZARDOUS TO WOMEN’S HEALTH.”

Hee hee!

Fortunately, though, there are no needles in the camels’ eyes

June 24, 2003

I’ve noticed ads in the NYC subway for the Bronx Zoo’s latest attraction, Tiger Mountain. Is some humble zookeeper a closet Eno fan?

Also, I’m impressed that they’ve actually manufactured vomit-flavored jellybeans

June 24, 2003

Jo Rowling really knows how to do “unfair.” The entire Harry Potter series has been essentially a laundry list of grown-ups and bullies who, for one reason or the other, pick on the main character for no fault of his own. The arbitrary exercise of power, the base delight in cruelty, the adamant refusal to believe unpleasant or unusual facts, the cloying condescension from adults to children and teenagers, the politically- or peer-motivated malfeasance, the bossing, the punishing, the bullying, the class prejudice, the age prejudice: It all adds up to a perfect portrait of a world that’ll screw you over simply because it can, and because you can’t do anything to stop it. I often think that a huge chunk of the books’ appeal to children is this faithful re-creation of what the world of “because I said so”-spouting adults must look like through those children’s eyes.

The Orb of Agamocca

June 24, 2003

NeilAlien offers his own summary of MoCCA, with the caveat that he’s not “a name-dropping scenester.” On the other hand…


June 23, 2003

From a letter by writer Tim O’Neil in today’s Journalista:

QUOTE: “…(sing it with me, people!) Comics Ain’t Just For Kids Anymore, Just The Silly People In Tights!!!…If Marvel tries to pry open the book market for Spider-Man, they will be wasting their time. Now, one way they could circumvent a great many of the problems you discussed in your article is if they just realized that grown men and women do not want to read superheroes and concentrate their efforts on getting Marvel books stacked in the children’s and young adults sections.”

From today’s Gotham edition of Daily Variety:

QUOTE: “The debut of The Hulk marks the seventh consecutive No. 1 box office opening for Marvel, dating back to 1998’s Blade. The $62 million Hulk bow ranks as the third highest of that group after the still-stunning $114.8 million opening for Spider-Man and $85.6 million for X2: X-Men United last month.”

We report. You decide.

Actually, no, you know what? I decide. And I decide that this whole “superheroes are keeping adults from reading comics” theory is well past its expiration date. I know I harp on this a lot, but like characters in the lousy superhero comics that are supposed to be representative of the genre, the damn idea keeps coming back from the dead.

People, the only people who are so adamantly opposed to any stories involving people with extraordinary powers and a flashy fashion sense that they’ll actively shun huge portions of an entire medium to avoid them are people like O’Neil who, for one reason or another, have let their own bad experiences as either a comics creator or a comics fan warp their sense of reality. Out in the real world, almost no one is going to refrain from seeing a movie or reading a book that’s otherwise good simply because a guy in his pajamas uses magic or mutant powers to fight crime. If the writing is good, if the acting is good, if the director is good, if the story is good, people go to see the movie. Why should this be any different for comics?

Of course, it’s bad that superhero stories make up such a disproportionately huge chunk of the entire comics medium, at least in America. It’s quite conceivable that there are people who don’t even know there are comics that aren’t about superheroes, and that isn’t good. As my wife often says, “I know cantaloupe is good, I can understand why people like cantaloupe, but I’m just never in the mood to eat it.” There are probably plenty of people who don’t have anything against superheroes per se, but are unlikely to dive into a medium they’re convinced has nothing to offer other than the spandex crowd. But again, it’s not superheroes in and of themselves that’s the problem–it’s the conception that that’s all comics have to offer. Even if they wouldn’t go into a store, if you handed these people a really good superhero comic, they’d read it, spandex be damned.

In O’Neil’s defense, he does stick to saying “grown-ups don’t read about superheroes”–I guess even die-hard superhero haters can’t deny cold-hard box-office fact anymore, and are forced to keep this zombiesque theory alive simply within the confines of print media. But again, I just don’t see any evidence that superheroes, in and of themselves, are the obstacle.

The idea that comics are for kids? Okay, that’s a good potential culprit, but it’s not just the superhero genre that’d be implicated in such a view: Many folks would be factoring romance comics, horror comics, Mad Magazine, Archie, and the daily strips into that assessment as well.

My guess? There’s something about the pamphlet format most comics are still sold in that suggests cheapness, flimsiness, throw-awayability. That’s just a guess, but it’s better than trotting out the old “no one likes superheroes” bit. I don’t care if you promised it filet mignon and a date with Lassie–that dog simply won’t hunt.

I’m just wild about Ha–oh for Chrissakes

June 23, 2003



June 23, 2003

The stupid internet here at stupid work is stupid down all the stupid time, so if the posts are slow to come, that’s why. It’s not that I don’t love you, is what I’m saying.


June 23, 2003

Note to MTV: If you’re taking suggestions, I think a good idea for an episode of Punk