Archive for December 31, 2003

Casually Anti-Semitic Cartoon Watch

December 31, 2003

(Also known as “The most depressing semi-regular feature ever.” Sorry to return on such a down note, but whaddyagonnado.)

Today’s subject: Aaron McGruder, the popular purveyor of that collection of undergradical boilerplate and talking-head shots known as The Boondocks. Is it just me, or does today’s installment include a “Jewish interloper” joke?

This has been your casually anti-Semitic cartoon watch link of the day.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

I don’t have the patience to do a proper Best Of 2003 so I’m just going to list some comics and if you want a more in-depth kinda deal maybe I’ll link to some other people who’ve done that sort of thing

December 23, 2003

Which is a roundabout way of saying “Here’s my Top 25 Comics Released in 2003 That I Read.”

1. Epileptic Volume 1, by David B.

2. Shrimpy & Paul and Friends, by Marc Bell

3. Ultimate Spider-Man, by Brian Bendis & Mark Bagley

4. Alias, by Brian Bendis & Michael Gaydos

5. Ultimate Six, by Brian Bendis & Trevor Hairsine

6. Daredevil, by Brian Bendis & Alex Maleev

7. Powers, by Brian Bendis & Michael Oeming

8. Rubber Necker, by Nick Bertozzi

9. Teratoid Heights, by Mat Brinkman

10. Unlikely, by Jeffrey Brown

11. Black Hole, by Charles Burns

12. Ripple, by Dave Cooper

13. Squadron Supreme, by Mark Gruenwald & various artists

14. Kramers Ergot #4, by Sammy Harkham et al.

15. Palomar, by Gilbert Hernandez

16. The Ultimates, by Mark Millar & Brian Hitch

17. The Dark Knight Strikes Again, by Frank Miller & Lynn Varley

18. New X-Men, by Grant Morrison & various artists

19. The Filth, by Grant Morrison & Chris Weston

20. 100%, by Paul Pope

21. Supreme Power, by J. Michael Straczynski & Gary Frank

22. Blankets, by Craig Thompson

23. The Acme Novelty Date Book, by Chris Ware

24. Quimby the Mouse, by Chris Ware

25. The Frank Book, by Jim Woodring

For whatever reason, these were the books that got me really excited about comics this year. They were the pamphlets I could hardly wait to read, the graphic novels that floored me with the depth of their invention and enthusiasm, the hidden treasures from years past or countries abroad or scenes undiscovered. As you can see, if a meteor were to strike Fantagraphics headquarters tomorrow while Brian Michael Bendis was visiting for some reason (maybe to use the bathroom?), I’d have a lot fewer comics to read.

Again, this is just a list of great comics I actually read this year, which may explain the absence of several fan favorites (Louis Riel, The Fixer, Sleeper, Catwoman, Wanted). I decided to arbitrarily stop at Number 25, so my apologies to Ultimate X-Men, Arrowsmith, The Iron Wagon, Forlorn Funnies, Chrome Fetus, AEIOU, Maybe We Could Just Lie Here Holding Each Other Naked And Not Have Sex, Incredible Hulk, and so forth, some of which didn’t make the cut, others of which I just forgot until I’d already written out the list and don’t feel much like tinkering with it.

Other fine, more in-depth Best-Ofs are being brought to you by Johnny Bacardi, Jim Henley, Andrew Arnold, Chris Allen, Alan David Doane, Alan David Doane, and (you guessed it) Alan David Doane. Ninth Art has a bunch of year-end goodies, including Paul O’Brien’s Year In Review, a sort of group anti-hug in the form of part one of the 2003 Brickbat Awards, and (not a year-end thing per se, but as this is the year I joined the comics blogosphere in earnest, it’s useful to have a lexicon on hand) Andrew Wheeler’s comics dictionary.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, Happy Festivus, and happy reading!

Stupid Rings Critics, Part 2

December 22, 2003

Newsday’s John Anderson can’t be faulted for his judgement about the quality of The Return of the King. His review is, for the most part, both astute and eloquent in its praise of the film. No, it’s his attempt to parse the political implications of the film that made me want to punch myself repeatedly in the face. Quoth Anderson:

The dangers of empire. The evil of unchecked power. The importance of unity among diverse peoples. Tolkien’s half-million-word message has become as fresh as it ever was.

Am I the only one surprised he didn’t break down and include “The refusal of Gandalf to consult his European allies” or “The need to negotiate with Mordor for a more stringent weapons-inspection regime” in there for good measure? Holy jeez, but this is the lamest attempt to shoehorn a mealy-mouthed “anti-war” message into The Lord of the Rings this side of Viggo Mortensen.

Listen. There’s plenty of warnings in both Tolkien and Jackson’s interpretation thereof against the abuse of power: the abyss-gazes-also corruption of Saruman, the deadly allure of the Ring and its effect on Boromir, Gollum, and Frodo, and so forth. And I’ll even grant Anderson the “diversity” angle: Tolkien and his filmic interpreters both stress the need for different societies to put aside their distrust and join together to fight a common enemy.

But the key word there isn’t “different,” it’s “fight.” The diverse societies that needed to unite did not include the goddamn Orcs. Saruman and Sauron did not have veto power at the Council of Elrond. Rohan and Gondor did not issue joint statements condemning the attack on Osgiliath or the suicide bombing at Helm’s Deep and urging both sides to head back to the negotiating table. Denethor and Wormtongue-addled Theoden were seen as a bad leaders because they refused to do what needed to be done, i.e. rise up and slaughter every Orc they could get their swords on, not because of excessive cowboyism (this despite the fact that Theoden did, in essence, live on a ranch). Not once did Aragorn ask Legolas and Gimli, “Why do they hate us?”

This was a movie about the dangers of empire, all right–the danger faced by free peoples when an empire loudly announces its desire to see them all dead, then rapidly begins pursuing this end. It was about the danger of not waking up and kicking such an empire’s ass.

And this was a movie about the evil of unchecked power, but only insofar as it was much, much more about the power of unchecked evil.


Stupid Rings Critics, Part 3

December 22, 2003

Hey, we

So what did you think of it then, wise-ass?

December 22, 2003


The Return of the King was astounding.

And these types of movies usually have disappointment built in. For example, I haven’t even bothered to see Matrix Revolutions yet. And I wasn’t even one of the people who hated Reloaded. It’s just that it can’t possibly be as good as it should be. Return of the King was every bit as good as it should have been and more.

Oddly, despite its even-longer-than-usual running time, it still felt like the most heavily edited installment. There’s just so much that goes on in ROTK that I guess Jackson could only fit so much into a theatrical release. But Minas Tirith/Gondor isn’t nearly as fleshed out, in terms of getting a feel for the people and their plight, as was Edoras/Rohan; the battle plan on the Pelennor isn’t as clear as the one at Helm’s Deep; Theoden’s death didn’t get followed up on even as much as his dialogueless son’s did in The Two Towers; no Mouth of Sauron to taunt the army at the Black Gates; the journey through Mordor was really truncated; the Orc armor that Frodo & Sam was never used; the Easterlings that marched through the Black Gate in TTT didn’t show up here; no Two Watchers scene; no Woses (which, incidentally, would have been a good way for Jackson to deflect the idiotic accusation that Tolkien is racist, not to mention employ Maori actors); Gothmog, the lead Orc, doesn’t get his comeuppance on screen despite having been built up as a personalized menace for the whole film; no confrontation between Gandalf and the Witch-King at the gates of Minas Tirith, despite the WK’s Dolph Lundgrenesque declaration that he would break the wizard; Eowyn’s absence from the Last Battle isn’t explained (if Merry made it, why couldn’t she?); Eomer’s grief at the loss of his uncle and near-death of his sister, and his subsequent need to put it aside and lead his men to almost certain death, aren’t depicted at all; obviously Denethor could have used a little humanizing; and there was no Houses of Healing romance between Eowyn and Faramir, which I think was needed for their respective character arcs.

But these are all mere quibbles, really–I think much of this will find its way into the Extended Edition, which in spite of Peter Jackson’s express wishes is going to be considered the definitive version just like its two predecessors. We’ve still been given the most human, most moving, most frightening, most awe-inspiring epic action film ever. After that it’s just icing.

Some favorite moments:

* The charge of the Mumakil, obviously. It’s the part everyone talks about (that and the lighting of the beacons, which was also gorgeous, something I never would have thought of doing that way), and for good reason. At some point during this sequence my jaw literally dropped. This is not something that happens to me, you know. It dropped and stayed open for the duration of the scene. I simply could not get over how incredible what I was seeing was. It was as though someone had cracked open my head and poured the contents of my mind onto the screen. It’s not that I couldn’t have filmed it better myself–it’s that I could barely have imagined it better myself.

* The Smeagol & Deagol flashback. ROTK is likely to become the highest-grossing motion picture in history, and it begins with one of the most viscerally disturbing murders you’re likely to see on screen. It reminded me of nothing so much as a similar killing in Jackson’s brilliant drama Heavenly Creatures–the awkwardness, the brutality, the intimacy. Perfectly chilling and tragic, it makes you feel that loss of life, that senseless, purposeless evil.

* Grond, the battering ram. This was when my Tolkien-obsessive genes kicked into overdrive. When I started hearing the Morgul-army chant “GROND… GROND… GROND…”, I just giggled. I couldn’t believe I was seeing Grond on screen, at long last. Because that’s what I was seeing, no doubt about it.

* Eomer. Even though, as I said, his emotional arc goes unexplored, he has maybe the best war face in cinematic history. I got those giggles again every time I saw him charging.

* Shelob’s Lair. Did I expect a live-action version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece to include a fairly explicit homage to the bone-room scene in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? No, no I did not. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised!

* The Olog-Hai. I was really, really pulling for the big, mean, smart, well-trained trolls to show up. I was not disappointed. No sir.

* The cries of the Nazgul. Up until this point I had been a little underwhelmed by the Ringwraiths’ cries. The filmmakers have said how proud of them they are–Fran Walsh, co-writer and wife of Peter Jackson, contributed them–but I didn’t feel they had the overwhelming power that is described in the book. This time around, however, I just thought, “Holy shit.” Watching the soliders grab their ears and scream in fear–yeah, I could understand that.

* Minas Morgul & the Winding Stair. A perfect nightmare. Well done.

* The Orcs. I was unsure how Jackson & Co. could top the Uruk-Hai, who after all were pretty much perfect, and were much bigger than your average Orc to boot. But they managed, essentially by making them look like something out of a Heironymous Bosch painting. The hardcore S&M tinge to their armor was a welcome touch, too. And was that a Goonies homage in the design of the lead Orc?

* Faramir’s charge. Since seeing it, I’ve been listening to “When the Tigers Broke Free” by Pink Floyd a lot. Same basic idea.

* The absence of “The Scouring of the Shire.” Don’t get me wrong–it’s one of my favorite parts of the original book. But I didn’t miss it here. Jackson didn’t need it, ultimately; he was still able to drive home the fact that you can’t go home again, simply and effectively, in that silent scene at the Green Dragon. Moreover, leaving this out (and Bombadil, and the Barrow-Wights, and Butterbur, and Glorfindel, and the extra stories at the Council, and the spectral wolf attack, and the slime Balrog, and the march of the Huorns, and the voice of Saruman, and Aragorns palantir showdown with Saruman, and Denethor

Stupid Rings critics, part 1

December 21, 2003

Worried that the overwhelming level of critical praise being flung at The Return of the King means that you won’t be able to find a review that will make you want to chew your own foot off? Fear not! Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat is reading the most wrong-minded, idiotic critiques of the film he can find, so you don’t have to!

First up is this New York Times piece by writer Caryn James. James, a woman who does not like The Lord of the Rings, has extrapolated that women do not like The Lord of the Rings. To support this notion, she relies on data collected about the books’ readership before the films were even released; polls that show that women are “less enthusiastic” about the film than men (polls so convincing, apparently, that their numbers need not be cited); and the fact that she doesn’t women don’t like Star Wars either.

Nevermind that in order to make the kind of Titanic-level money LOTR is making, you need repeat business from women. Nevermind that wherever you look, women critics and women moviegoers are among the film’s most vocal admirers. Nevermind that nearly every week for the past two years I’ve seen women reading the books on the subway. She’s got her own anecdotal evidence: Some women at her office went to see it just because Viggo Mortensen is hot, and she herself was, like, bored. She is women, hear her yawn!

UPDATE: Jim Henley is also on the Caryn James beat, pointing out whole new ways in which this article stunk.

Hitchens vs. apologists for awfulness

December 20, 2003

That tends to be how it works, generally speaking. Anyway, some lengthy Hitch-related items to be found these days.

The first is a debate between Hitchens and anti-war writer Tariq Ali, hosted by Democracy Now! (home of an article entitled “Resisting occupation from Northern Ireland to Iraq”–yeah, if there’s one thing the IRA and Fedayeen are all about, it’s democracy!). Ali is too deeply invested in making people who set off bombs that kill their countrymen a dozen at a time into junior George Washingtons to acknowledge that Hitch is kicking the shit out of him, but it’s still a trouncing worth reading. When Ali implies that the “resistance” will eventually be pushing for elections, it seems that Hitchens can barely stop himself from laughing.

Also worth reading is a long two-part interview with Hitch at FrontPage Magazine. The first part focuses on the Iraq War and Hitch’s falling-out with his former fellow travelers on the Left. I like how he sticks it to his traditional-conservative interlouctor for supporting all sorts of heinous shit in the name of anti-Communism during the Cold War, while still finding time to decimate the usual bromides that ersatz liberals and Leftists have been offering up in support of the most retrograde, openly fascist forces on Earth.

The second part focuses on the Israel/Palestine situation. Hitchens puts a worthwhile emphasis on the Sharon administration’s intransigence, but though he’s quick to lambaste the “Islamic nihilists” who blow themselves up and are excused by the Left with the ridiculous claim that they’re trying to bring about a two-state solution, he fails to address that this plague of Islamic nihilism now infects a sizeable majority of the Palestinian populace. In other words, I could have used a little less emphasis on what a bad idea the founding of Israel was and more on what a bad idea Palestinian society as it stands now is. Still, Hitchens’s ability to condemn theocratic hardliners on both sides of the divide is refreshing, and indeed nearly singular among all the voices currently embroiled in this debate. (Both halves of the interview are full of fabulous quotes, and since I don’t want to abuse my blockquote tags, you’ll just have to go and discover them yourselves.)

Hitchens’s writing is characterized with an intolerance for injustice so palpable you can practically wear it as body armor. Go and read. (Links courtesy of The Christopher Hitchens Web.)

Striking Again

December 19, 2003

Bruce Baugh has written the finest review of Frank Miller & Lynn Varley’s wildly controversial Batman miniseries The Dark Knight Strikes Again I’ve ever read. And he loves the book–but maybe not in the way you’re thinking.

I’ve begun to notice that this graphic novel’s defenders, in the process of explaining why it’s a great book, may be doing more harm than good. DKSA proponents tend to emphasize Miller & Varley’s iconoclasm toward the realist-superhero trend, a trendw which began with the “grim ‘n’ gritty” “revisionist” superhero tales of the mid-80s (notably Watchmen and Miller & Varley’s own The Dark Knight Returns) before transmogrifying into the retro-tinged reverence of works by Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, and Alex Ross. DKSA, these proponents say, is basically the anti-realist manifesto, pegging superheroes as over-the-top and even ridiculous, and revelling in it. It is to the superhero comics of the post-Marvels industry what the Ramones were to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and anyone who doesn’t like the book (here comes the dreaded phrase) Doesn’t Get The Joke.

The thing is, it’s not that these proponents are wrong–I think they’ve latched on to an important aspect of DKSA, and I myself have made statements supporting these interpretations (probably not the “ridiculous” bit, but, y’know, most of the rest) from time to time, because I think that stuff is indeed present in the text. But this is not the only important aspect of the book. Moreover, saying of a book’s detractors that they don’t get the joke leads too easily to a retort of “I get it; it’s just not funny.” Take a look at Christopher Butcher’s review of the book:

“I gotta say, I really enjoyed THE DARK NIGHT STRIKES AGAIN…but that

News Watched

December 19, 2003

The mystery of the Comics Journal’s phantom coverage of Bill Jemas’s ouster and CrossGen’s near-collapse has been solved for me by various correspondents: the Jemas story received a four-graf treatment in the Journal’s recent Fort Thunder-centric issue (also known as the one with the ad for “THE FIRST EXPLOSIVE ISSUES OF RAKAN AND AYA” on the back). CrossGen’s situation, meanwhile, got a paragraph (necessarily truncated, it would seem, since little of the real blockbuster information was available when the issue in question went to press) in that same issue, with a reference to earlier reporting on the company in issue #255. Both appear under the catch-all title “Breaking News.”

(News editor Mike Dean has since written a longer article on the current status of the CrossGen affair, which you can find excerpted here. It includes a clever bit pointing out that CrossGen is attempting to have it both ways by touting their comic-book line to comic-book readers by saying it’s not superheroes, while touting the potential of their comic-book line to be made into lucrative movie properties to non-comic-book readers in the movie biz by pointing to the grosses of superhero films; this is offset a bit, unfortunately, by Dean repeating the silly “we don’t publish superheroes” party line unchallenged. Listen, they’re in crazy outfits and have extraordinary powers. You do the math. That these books can be referred to with a straight face as non-superhero says a lot more about the narrowness of the “mainstream” than the broadness of CrossGen.)

I apologize once again for having overlooked these articles–well, mentions–when putting together my list of major stories on which News Watch appears to have dropped the ball. But I’m not going to back down from asserting that the ball has, in fact, been dropped. These stories were huge, but together they took up half a page: to give you an idea of context, the upper half was dedicated to a Doonesbury strip about Howard Dean flash mobs. And this was after fully 28 pages of con reports, obituaries, and bad-girl shenanigans. The priorities this suggests are, well, interesting.

And while we’re on the subject, the Jemas coverage characterized his reign at Marvel by focusing almost exclusively on the bravado and publicity stunts–in other words, the most easily noticed aspects of Jemas/Quesada “New Marvel”–and steered completely clear of meatier changes made by the pair: the new emphasis on hiring highly-regarded writers rather than relying on flashy art; the relative creative freedom (for the big-name creators, anyway) that lasted until Jemas’s last months at the company, at which point he seems to have decided he could write every book in the line himself through a heavy editorial hand; and the long, strange trip of Jemas’s abortive Epic line from anything-goes bastion of creator ownership for tyros and superstars alike to a single rigorously edited, intentionally stillborn Marvel superhero anthology. News Watch’s speculation on reasons for Jemas’s departure is just that–speculation; no mention is made of Jemas’s rivalry with Marvel West Coast honcho Avi Arad, his mutual antipathy society with retailers, or the pre-ouster dressing-down he received at the hands of Ike Perlmutter (ostensibly spurred by fan outrage at the firing of Fantastic Four creative team Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, and/or a well-timed letter of complaint by retailer Matt Hawes that mentioned everything from Marvel’s controversial no-overprint policy to what’s seen amongst fanboys as a New Marvel-wide disdain for superheroes).

My point: Covered properly, this wouldn’t be a story one would have to rack one’s brain to remember.

(Still no word on the whereabouts of manga, by the way.)

The Never-Ending Struggle

December 19, 2003

This Leftist critique of Leftist opposition to Gulf War II has been wending its way through the Internet for a while now. And for good reason: It’s correct.

“Whatever other crimes it committed or covered up in the twentieth century, the Left could be relied upon to fight fascism. A regime that launched genocidal extermination campaigns against impure minorities would be recognised for what it was and denounced.

Not the least of the casualties of the Iraq war is the death of anti-fascism. Patriots could oppose Bush and Blair by saying that it wasn’t in Britain’s interests to follow America. Liberals could put the UN first and insist that the United States proved its claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the court of world opinion. Adherents to both perspectives were free to tell fascism’s victims, ‘We’re sorry to leave you under a tyranny and realise that many more of you will die, but that’s your problem.’

The Left, which has been formally committed to the Enlightenment ideal of universal freedom for two centuries, couldn’t bring itself to be as honest. Instead millions abandoned their comrades in Iraq and engaged in mass evasion….For the first time in its history the Left has nothing to say to the victims of fascism.”

Traditionally I was more of a “liberal” than a “Leftist,” because even at my wildest I always recognized Marxism and Communism for the dehumanizing shams that they are; and even as a liberal I always believed international institutions to be means to a just and free world, not ends in themselves; but basically, there you have it.

How can I be a part of any movement that mobilizes to defend fascism? How can anybody?

Democracy Now! after we get a half-way decent Constitution put together!

December 19, 2003

Jim Henley on the problem with democracy. Seriously.

Democracy as a concept is useless if, the second a given populace is given the vote, they use it to strip away the inalienable rights of others. As Jim points out, hawks tend to forget to point this out when espousing democracy to the Muslim world; “liberals,” such as they are today, tend to mention it only by way of saying things like “fuck you, Shrub, when the Iraqis elect ayatollahs you’ll steal their election too, and where’s freedom then? BUSH LIED!”

Tyranny of the majority is not democracy.

Tolkienblogging sails off into the West

December 18, 2003

I’ve started to realize that as much as I’ve been enjoying both my Tolkienblogging and the responses I’ve gotten to it, it’s become an obstacle to my Tolkienreading, which obviously remains my top priority. I’ve begun thinking things like, “oh, I’d like to read some more tonight, but I’ve got to write about what I’ve read since last time first. And I don’t have the energy to write.” So I end up neither reading nor writing, and that’s no fun for anybody.

I’ll probably be talking about the new film, and may even be occasionally submitting thoughts about the books (mostly musings on why this or that was or was not included in the movie versions, I think; there’s a lot of non-movie stuff that deserves some exposure!). But I don’t think I’ll be going chapter by chapter anymore. Look, I love you guys, but I sure do love reading these books as well.

Talkin’ ’bout miscegenation

December 17, 2003

He may have had an illegitimate child, but clearly it was Strom Thurmond who was the bastard. Andrew Sullivan ponders a man who fought tooth and nail to keep racial discrimination as the law of the land, yet clearly had no problem exploiting underage employees of his for sexual pleasure regardless of their race. The revelation of Thurmond’s fathering a child with a black woman makes him even more loathsome in my eyes, if that’s possible; to him, black people may not have been good enough to go to the same schools or eat at the same counters or drink from the same water fountains and probably even to vote, if that were possible, but they were good enough to fuck and then discard.

Strom Thurmond was scum, and it’s to this country’s everlasting shame that he remained in its highest legislative body until the 21st Century. And I feel much the same when I hear the noxious Klansman Robert Byrd’s latest pronouncements against our efforts to defeat fascism, particularly odious considering he spent his formative years espousing the American brand.


December 17, 2003

In responding to my piece on the Comics Journal’s News Watch section, Dirk Deppey notes that despite what I had alleged, News Watch had in fact covered the CrossGen and Bill Jemas meltdowns. I must have over-relied on simply looking at the tables of contents for recent issues as listed on to jog my memory of News Watch’s coverage, because I didn’t remember reading anything about Jemas’s ouster (still don’t, actually–can anyone point that issue out? Perhaps I missed it), and I thought the magazine’s CrossGen piece was written before the big changes in the company’s business model had been made. But my apologies for the inaccuracies–hardly a good example to be setting when you’re taking a news organization to task for similar offenses!

“Because comics are worth it”

December 17, 2003

Yes, they are. Christopher Butcher lays it all out for us.

As I always say, if you think there aren’t a ton of good comics coming out all the time, you’re not paying attention. (Butcher lists some of them, as does Alan David Doane (twice!), as have I.) For all the kvetching and complaining and raging against the dying of the light that I do, I never lose sight of the fact that there’s a lot of truly amazing work out there, and I’ve been fortunate enough to read it. It may be tempting to give up on the industry, but never, ever let that make you want to give up on the art form.

Oh, have I mentioned this yet?

December 17, 2003



Affleck & Uma

December 17, 2003

I’ve now seen a few commercials for Ben Affleck’s new action movie directed by John Woo, Paycheck. In a post-Kill Bill world, isn’t there something insulting, if not borderline offensive, about having Uma Thurman play the traditional semi-tough female second-banana role? Particularly when the first banana is The Asshole from Fashionable Male?

One of the near-countless great things about Kill Bill was/is how the fact that Thurman’s character is a woman is not commented upon in the usual ways. No male character snickers about the idea of a woman thinking she could defeat him, then gets his comeuppance, and aren’t we feminist, blah blah blah. It’s taken for granted that the Bride, and her many female opponents, are brilliant warriors. Her femininity is an issue–she is called the Bride, after all, and she’s attempting to avenge the death of her unborn child; in so doing she attempts to spare several young female characters (Vernita’s daughter, Go-Go Yubari) any pain–but never is it set up as a potentially detrimental attribute to be overcome. As a matter of fact, during her conversation with Vernita, the Bride makes a point of saying that her former mentor and current would-be murderer, Bill, would never qualify a description of her prowess by saying she was the best of her gender. Even the baddest of the bad guys in the film’s world sees her for her abilities first, and for her gender as an afterthought.

Meanwhile, you can just tell from the commercials that in Paycheck, we’re all supposed to sit around and be impressed when Uma does something macho, as though this compensates for her womanhood, not flows from it naturally. Boo. Hiss.

Comics Corner(ed): The Aftermath

December 16, 2003

“It’s too late to save Corner Comics, of course, but what about the next retailer to face a similar situation?”

Dirk Deppey

“I don’t know who’s in the right here, the comics shop or the IRS, but when the government wins in their demand for books of any kind to be destroyed, members of a democracy ought to be goddamn alarmed.

Alan David Doane

“Whoever’s fault this latest mishap is, it really is a shame for all these comic books to be destroyed, and for the industry to most likely lose one more comic shop.”

Shawn Fumo

“…Corner Comics became another front in the IRS’s never-ending war against cash-based accounting….Publications will be destroyed because of this. Stories shredded. Pleasure reduced. Accrue that, why don’t you?”

Jim Henley

“If you know of ANY shop (comic or not) that is using the cash-based method of accounting, warn them….Switch to accrued, or risk having the IRS go after you because they know you don’t have enough money to fight back. And say one last farewell to the boxes of comics (over 100 boxes all told) about to go under the shredder. Curse the taxman for picking on those that can’t fight back (may the spirits of the shredded superheroes haunt him forever… heh).”

Tegan Gjovaag

“Good Lord, but it’s dull on the world of comics today. Can’t someone start a fight about comic covers or something?”

Graeme McMillan

Good priorities there, Graeme.

(UPDATE: Laura Gjovaag’s reporting on Corner Comics may now be found at this page.)

The Trouble with News Watch

December 16, 2003

One thing the Corner Comics fiasco has thrown into stark relief is how good a writer and journalist is Dirk Deppey. His reporting may be tempered with editorial content, sure, but so was Upton Sinclair’s, and in terms of online comics journalism Deppey simply can’t be touched. The sad thing is that the same can be said of print comics journalism.

My comments about the lackluster performance of Comics Journal’s print news division have been seconded by Jim Henley and (strongly) Alan David Doane. Meanwhile, Bill Sherman has done the legwork on comparing today’s News Watch to previous incarnations of the section. In other words, now is a good time to explore what’s wrong with this ostensibly vital part of the preeminent English-language comics magazine. In broad strokes:

1) It doesn’t cover the most important stories, the stories really worth covering–stories that are, in fact, ripe for the covering, as Journalista, Rich Johnston’s Lying in the Gutters (yes, that’s right–some of it may be gossip, but some if it is as close to investigative reporting as the comics industry gets), and other blogs and sites prove week in and week out. The neglect of the bookstore manga explosion–easily the biggest comics-related story of 2003–is indictment enough, but add to that the failure of News Watch to cover (as I listed yesterday) the failure of the Direct Market to capitalize on the huge manga audience, the New Marvel Renaissance, the subsequent ouster of Bill Jemas, the coincident disintegration of the company’s (presumably) final attempt at creator ownership with Epic Comics, the moves made by new Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, the degree to which those moves are a response to negative consequences of the high public profile previously maintained by Jemas & Joe Quesada (eg. the removal of Princess Diana from Milligan & Allred’s X-Statix), editorial cartoonists regularly being prosecuted/persecuted in Muslim countries, the Michigan adult-publication censorship legislation, the increasing presence of anti-Semitic imagery in Western editorial cartoons (or increasing amount of accusations of same, if you prefer), CrossGen’s restructuring and layoffs, the falling out between Bulldog Comics and DC, the role that Bulldog may have played in DC’s large number of sold-out comics, the rise of Dan DiDio at DC, altcomix graphic novels (like Blankets) being pushed out of the DM, superhero graphic novels being pushed out of the bookstores… and the list goes on, I’m sure. The fact that the Journal has in its employ a writer who chronicles these stories in-depth on a daily basis actually makes News Watch’s deficiencies look worse, not better.

2) “Fine,” you say. “So the Journal isn’t CNN. It’s not supposed to be! It’s a rabble-rousing, muckraking, (dare I say it?) activist publication, designed to promote intelligent aesthetics and moral business practices in the comics industry. They can’t cover everything, nor should they; they should report on stories that help illustrate and promote this noble agenda.” Okay, let’s pretend for a moment that I’ll cede you the point that advocates needn’t be reasonably comprehensive in terms of the stories they cover. As it stands now, News Watch doesn’t cover everything, or even most things, but the point is that it doesn’t compensate for this (let alone complement it) with a coherent position of advocacy, beyond uncontroversial common-sense stuff like “people should get paid on time for the work they do.” Which is not to say that the industry isn’t deficient in the uncontroversial common-sense stuff department–one need look no further than the financial records of most major creators to confirm that–just that the news wing of the only comics publication that matters should be setting the bar for coverage a little bit higher.

Not to keep using Dirk Deppey against his mother publication, but Dirk has been a passionate, tireless advocate on a variety of issues–from the need for intelligent retailership to the need for discerning consumers to defending small businesses against the depredations of overweening government agencies to calling the PR flacks of mainstream companies on their bullshit to raising awareness of the egregious abuse of cartoonists’ civil liberties in countries across the globe. That he’s been able to do so while covering nearly all the comics news that’s fit to print should come as a surprise to no one; indeed, how could he be such a comprehensive, consistent, and convincing advocate without doing so?

3) Even when it does advance its ersatz “agenda,” it’s usually done in the context of thinly-veiled schadenfreude over the legal misfortunes of people that the writers and editors of the magazine didn’t like to begin with–Jim Warren, Stan Lee, and so forth. Even if you feel that, say, Stan Lee

And maybe cleanliness really is next to godliness

December 16, 2003

Is politeness a sign of high-level civilization? Kennyb wonders.