Archive for January 30, 2004

From the Good-Natured Ribbing Department

January 30, 2004

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I really, really love Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, and brook no dissent. (You got that, Jakala, Miller, and Spratling?) But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humor about them. For example, and please pardon my Jerry, but what is the deal with so many characters “dying” but then not really being dead?

The other day I made a little list of everyone in the three LotR movies who appears to shuffle off to Valinor, only to pop back up several scenes later. I’ve also noted which of these occurrences have some grounding in the books, and which were just thrown in for gits and shiggles by P.J. and company. Did I miss any? Oh, I guess I should note that there are SPOILERS ahead, but let’s face it, you’ve seen the movies already.


* SAURON: “Death” Prologue sequence–Gets Ring chopped off his hand, explodes; Comeback Prologue sequence–“rumor grew of a Shadow in the East, whispers of a Nameless Fear.” Yes, this is in the book.

* GANDALF: “Death” In Isengard–Saruman kicks his ass, then rockets him several dozen stories up into the pitch-black tower or Orthanc until a thud is heard; Comeback Later on in Isengard–We find him on top of Orthanc, where raindrops keep fallin’ on his head. Not really in the book, though they do wonder what’s taking him so long.

* FRODO: “Death” At the Ford of Bruinen, after Arwen raises the river against the Ringwraiths–His eyes go blank, Arwen cries, “don’t give in, not now,” etc.; Comeback Next scene–After Elrond says the magic words, Frodo wakes up in Rivendell, where apparently you’re allowed to smoke in hospital bedrooms, if Gandalf’s behavior is any indication. Yes, this is in the book.

* RINGWRAITHS: “Death” At the Ford of Bruinen–Arwen uses the river to drown them and the horses they rode in on; Comeback In the Dead Marshes sequence in The Two Towers–One of them swoops overhead on a Fell Beast (it’s the Cadillac of evil Nazgul steeds), because apparently they were all really strong swimmers. Yes, this is in the book, though in the book it’s made immediately clear that they’re not dead at all.

* FRODO (II): “Death” In the Mines of Moria, Balin’s Tomb fight sequence–the Cave Troll skewers him with a spear; Comeback Same scene–Turns out he was wearing a mithril shirt, the world’s most durable lingerie. Yes, this is in the book, although in the book it’s a big orc, and not a troll.

* BALROG: “Death” In the Mines of Moria, Bridge of Khazad-Dum sequence–Gandalf uses magic to break the bridge apart, sending the Balrog plummeting, which I suppose indicates that those wings are vestigial; Comeback About five seconds later–The plummeting Balrog has the presence of mind to crack his flaming bullwhip and drag Gandalf down with him. Yes, this is in the book.

* GANDALF (II): “Death” In the Mines of Moria, Bridge of Khazad-Dum sequence–see above; Comeback In The Two Towers–Turns out Gandalf survived the fall (and the swim, and the climb, and the fight) and has been sent back to fight another day. Yes, this is in the book.

* SAM: “Death” In the River Anduin–Sam attempts to swim out to Frodo’s boat and goes under a third time; Comeback Several seconds later–Frodo reaches under and pulls him up. This little fakeout is a P.J. invention.


* MERRY & PIPPIN: “Death” During the nighttime attack on the Uruk-hai raiders by the Riders of Rohan–a horse rears up, Pippin screams, the hooves come down, thud, and we’re meant to presume Merry met a similar fate; Comeback At the end of their long run through Rohan, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and after being told by Eomer that their friends are probably dead, Aragorn Legolas and Gimli figure out that nope, they’re alive, as we see through flashbacks. This is sort of in the book, but Tolkien doesn’t make such a huge deal out of it–the prospect of them being dead is talked about for like two sentences.

* GRISHNAKH THE ORC: “Death” During the aforementioned attack–this orc who wants to eat the hobbits gets a spear in the back just before he can do so; Comeback In the aforementioned flashback–He wasn’t dead, just restin’, and he grabs Merry & Pippin as they try to escape the carnage, and then follows them into Fangorn Forest. Not in the book–In the book, his ugly ass just gets slaughtered by the Rohirrim lickety-split.

* ARAGORN: “Death” During the warg-rider attack–Aragorn plummets off a cliff because he gets stuck to a runaway warg; Comeback Several scenes later–He just peacefully floated down the river at the cliff bottom until he’s woken up by a wet dream and a horse. This one is most definitely not in the book, but hey, what’s one more fake death amongst friends?


* PIPPIN (II): “Death” In Edoras–Pippin steals the Palantir from Gandalf, uses it, meets Sauron, bugs out, goes catatonic; Comeback Same scene–Gandalf manages to bring his fool of a tuchis back to consciousness. Sort of in the book, but we’re not really made to think he might be dead, as we are here.

* FARAMIR: “Death” During the charge on Osgiliath–The huge Orc army fires their arrows at his little band of merry men, and if that didn’t convince you he bought it, several scenes later we see Faramir’s horse drag his body back to Minas Tirith with two arrows sticking out of him; Comeback In the Citadel of Minas Tirith–Dr. Pippin Took, MD, astutely notices that he’s not dead, and spends the next chunk of the film trying to keep him from being killed by his crazy father. Yes, this is in the book. Also, I guess that if you want to kill someone from the line of Stewards, use three arrows–that’s what they shot into old Boromir, and it seemed to do the trick.

* GOLLUM: “Death” In the Mountains of Shadow, after Frodo “escapes” from Shelob’s Lair, only to tussle with poor Gollum and knock him over a cliff; Comeback On the slopes of Mount Doom, where he pops up to make trouble for Frodo and Sam just before they reach the Crack of Doom. No, not in the book–in the book, he just ditches Frodo and Sam in Shelob’s tunnels, leaving them for dead, then is forced to follow them through Mordor once his plan fails.

* FRODO (III): “Death” In the Mountains of Shadow, after “escaping” from Shelob’s lair, only to have the giant spider sneak up on him and sting him (apparently she aimed for a part of him not covered by the mithril undergarment)–Sam himself pronounces him dead after finding him wrapped up in spider-webs like a hairy-footed Laura Palmer; Comeback In the Mountains of Shadow, where a band of Orcs gleefully explains that he’s not dead, he’s stunned. Definitely in the book. It’s a huge plot point, in fact. Question, though: Both here and with the Cave Troll, why is it that every time Frodo is jabbed by an enemy, he looks like he’s taking a difficult dump?

* SHAGRAT THE ORC: “Death” This is the smaller and more talkative of the two Orc captains that find Frodo’s body and fight over his swag–the one who gets kicked through the trap door and is promptly mobbed by his angry ersatz partner’s cronies; Comeback Several scenes later–Sam makes his way into the Orc tower to find Frodo, who is suddenly set upon by Shagrat, basically the only Orc to survive the internecine battle (despite having personally started it). No, not in the book, though the fight certainly is.

* FRODO (IV) AND SAM: “Death” In and on Mount Doom–First Frodo falls off the rocks inside the Crack of Doom, but hangs on, then Frodo and Sam race out of the Crack, only for their friends to watch in horror as the whole mountain explodes, then we see that they survived the big eruption, only to succumb at last to exhaustion and hopelessness on their lone rock above the rivers of lava; Comeback In a scene that may single-handedly redeem the legacy of Don Henley, Glenn Frey et al, three giant Eagles (with Gandalf on board) swoop in at the last minute and rescue the unconscious hobbits from a fate only Dr. Evil could love. The constant “are they dead? no! are they dead? no! are they dead? no!” alternations aren’t really in the book, but they do pretty much give themselves up for dead, until the Eagles save the day.


Well, I think that about covers it. Please be sure to let me know if I missed anything.

And if you think that was comprehensive, just wait till you see my list of Super-Tight Close-Ups On Characters Whose Luminous Eyes Are Welling With Tears!


January 30, 2004

Dave Intermittent assembles his own high school soundtrack. What’s yours?

Pledge Week rages on uncontrollably

January 30, 2004

Thank you again to the kindly folks who’ve contributed or linked to my little Pledge Drive here at ADDTF. Hitting the tip jar to your left really does help out around here, so please consider it if you haven’t done so already.

Now, on with the beautification!


I was waiting for a cross-town train in the London Underground when it struck me

That I’ve been waiting since birth to find a love that would look and sound like a movie

So I changed my plans I rented a camera and a van and then I called you

“I need you to pretend that we are in love again.” And you agreed to

I want so badly to believe that “there is truth, that love is real”

And I want life in every word to the extent that it’s absurd

I greased the lens and framed the shot using a friend as my stand-in

The script it called for rain but it was clear that day so we faked it

The marker snapped and I yelled “quiet on the set” and then called “action!”

And I kissed you in a style Clark Gable would have admired (I thought it classic)

I want so badly to believe that “there is truth, that love is real”

And I want life in every word to the extent that it’s absurd

I know you’re wise beyond your years but do you ever get the fear

That your perfect verse is just a lie you tell yourself to help you get by?

–The Postal Service, “Clark Gable”

Well, that’s decided, then

January 30, 2004

John Kerry lost my vote last night. Here’s how:

The war on terror is less–it is occasionally military, and it will be, and it will continue to be for a long time. And we will need the best-trained and the most well-equipped and the most capable military, such as we have today. But it’s primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation….

If you sat around and tried, you could not find a characterization of the War on Terror further from my own, nor one further from one which (I believe) will keep me from having to inhale 2,800 of my fellow New Yorkers ever again. Goodbye, Mr. Kerry. (Quote courtesy of James Taranto.)

I know this much is true

January 29, 2004

Phoebe Gloeckner’s most recent attempt to explain why she’s reluctant to classify her work as autobiographical caused a good deal of consternation, both pro and con. In the comment thread after that entry, a lot of folks seem to argue that questions about this topic are ridiculous, which of course is itself ridiculous. On the other hand you had Gary Groth’s response, in which he astutely and correctly defends the critical validity of examining how an artist’s life influences that artist’s work, then proceeds to bugger it up with needlessly confrontational invective. I know what you’re thinking: “What? Gary Groth, using needlessly confrontational invective? Get outta here!” Try to contain your disbelief. (Question: What does the Bush administration have to do with whether or not Phoebe Gloeckner stars in her own comics? Gary Groth reports, you decide!) Then Lorna Miller starts taking potshots at Gary, and, well, it’s messboard time.

The good news, though, is that Phoebe took this opportunity to offer up the clearest, most cogent explanation yet of the relationship between her life, her comics, and the truth:

I won’t deny that Minnie does things I have done, and that things happen to her that have happened to me, but she, unlike me, having been created, is who she is and will remain so, unchanged now. I make no attempt to create “documentary.”

It comes down to semantics, in the end, or semantics and intent. The presentation of the objective reality of her own life is not in Phoebe’s game plan, so she cannot classify her work as autobiographical. At the same time, the events in the work, and the intent behind the creation of the work, do come from her own life.

As I’ve said before, it’s not inherently purient or myopic or sexist or monomaniacal to ask such questions of Phoebe. I asked them myself, and am usually interested to read her answers when others ask. They’re important questions, in fact. But the heated debate they’ve somehow engendered is an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction. And it’s worth noting that it’s the work of one of the very best cartoonists on Earth that we’re being distracted from.

Pledge week continues

January 29, 2004

Thank you very much to everyone who’s donated to the ADDTF support fund, and to everyone who’s linked to my little pleas. You’ve been extremely kind and helpful, and I really do appreciate it. And again, folks, if you enjoy the blog, please do think about clicking one of the tip jars to the left and contributing.

As usual, I’m not gonna beg and run–here’s the customary beautification effort in the form of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs. Enjoy!


When I was young, younger than before

I never saw the truth hanging from the door

And now I’m older see it face to face

And now I’m older gotta get up clean the place

And I was green, greener than the hill

Where flowers grew and the sun shone still

Now I’m darker than the deepest sea

Just hand me down, give me a place to be

And I was strong, strong in the sun

I thought I’d see when day was done

Now I’m weaker than the palest blue

Oh, so weak in this need for you

–Nick Drake, “Place to Be”

Comix and match

January 29, 2004

Lots of strong stuff today from all over the comicsphere. It’s pretty neat.

To paraphrase James Hetfield for no apparent reason: For whom the bell tolls, Watchmen marches on. The ongoing multiblog examination of Alan Moore’s epochal graphic novel continues, with Ampersand, Four Color Hell’s Todd Murray, and (of course) Jim Henley and Jim Henley again adding to the discourse. (FCH and & links courtesy of Dirk Deppey.) Judaism, “the big shock at the end,” the bloody roots of leftwing utopianism, and 80s-reference specificity are tackled this go-round.

(Particularly interesting to me is the leftwing-cautionary angle explored by Ampersand. To me, the troubling aspect of Moore’s V for Vendetta is that I’m not convinced it’s a cautionary tale; Moore is distressingly ambivalent on the morality of V’s terrorist acts, and most importantly V’s actions toward Evey. I think Moore showed signs of outgrowing this in Watchmen, but it’s worth noting that only when he sets up a right-wing agent of social-good-through-violence, in the form of Jack the Ripper in From Hell, can Moore bring himself to condemn the terrorist enterprise entirely.)

At David Fiore’s place, guest-writer Jamie sings the praises of Charles Burns’s Black Hole, also known as “the comic I would write and draw if I could write and draw comics.” David, you owe it to yourself to put aside that lettercolumn from 1972 for a moment and pick up an issue of this book!

Shawn Hoke talks up autobio heavy-hitter Julie Doucet, an excellent cartoonist whose “busy” aesthetic is an interesting antecedent to that of the Fort Thunder folks I discussed yesterday. (Shawn, can you talk to the Broken Frontier people about getting permalinks set up? Please?)

Also on the altcomix beat is Tegan Gjovaag, who finds the voyeuristic undertones of Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar off-putting. It’s an intelligent criticism, moreso because it’s derived from observing how the comic actually works, and not from drawing conclusions based merely on the physique of the characters.

Tim O’Neil reviews French cartoonist David B.’s Epileptic Vol. 1. He goes more than a little over-the-top in praising it (as has translator and Fantagraphics honcho Kim Thompson, who ranks it alongside Maus and Jimmy Corrigan!), but it is a fantastic comic (much better than the similar Persepolis, for example), and I’m surprised it got so little attention in the year-end best-of roundups everyone was doing. (Hey, you noticed it!–ed. Yeah, well, maybe mother was right, and I am special! And oh yeah, link courtesy of Dirk Deppey.)

Steven Berg has a couple of new installments in his fascinating series of posts on Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. This one tries to figure out what, exacly, the New X-Men are fighting against, and comments the role of such antagonists in superhero comics generally. In another post, inspired by David Fiore, he compares Morrison’s recent storylines to the “Death of Gwen Stacy” arc from The Amazing Spider-Man. I think you could argue that they fulfill similar, not inverse, functions: They both pare down the B.S. to get to the emotional heart of various inter-character relationships. (Note to Steven: The Scott-Jean-Emma triangle is indeed a new invention, though obviously you’re right to point out that the sexual rivalry in the Jean-Emma relationship goes waaaaay back.)

Speaking of Morrison, Steven Grant has the Quote of the Day in his recent column about the never-ending battle between editors and freelancers for clout with the publishers:

Let’s face it, there aren’t many comics talents any company considers “indispensable” (otherwise Grant Morrison would still be writing JLA or NEW X-MEN, wouldn’t he?)

Not to get all Glenn Reynolds on you, but heh, indeed, and read the whole thing.

Over at Newsarama, Joe Quesada talks about his upcoming Daredevil miniseries. I know this usually gets lost in the shuffle of his salesmanship, but his thinking about comics is pretty astute, and he swings a mean brush to boot.

Dave Intermittent asserts, correctly, that metonymizing “decompressed storytelling” to “talky boring comics” is a big mistake. As a public service, he also reprints a conversation he overheard in a comics shop, one that will make you want to act like Denethor in the film version of The Return of the King and start shouting “Abandon your posts! Flee! Flee for your lives!” (I’m not sure that quoting Tolkien helps prove your point–ed. Shut up.)

Gentleman and scholar Steve Wintle offers some thoroughly unnecessary apologies for his response to my thoughts on comics interviews.

And finally: “Not today, but maybe tomorrow,” eh, Jim? I’ll hold you to that, pal….

Taking Fort Thunder (By Strategy)

January 28, 2004

An odd confluence of media input led me to what may be an insight today. I was flipping through Unknown Pleasures: A Cultural Biography of Roxy Music, then went and listened to King Crimson’s Starless and Bible Black while reading the Coober Skeeber “Marvel Benefit Issue.” Suddenly it occurred to me: Could the cartoonists of Fort Thunder (the art-school collective that included Brian Ralph, Mat Brinkman, and others, and has come to be associated with Highwater Books and the NON and Kramers Ergot anthologies) be part of the pasticheur tradition to which Eno and Ferry and possibly Fripp (not to mention Bowie) belong?

The F.T. cartoonists do wear their influences on their sleeves, as did early Roxy and Eno; Kirby and Panter are the most obvious ones, but I’m sure there are a good many fine-art figures that I’m unaware of. Several of them are obviously still steeped in the stuff they loved as kids, stuff that’s now disregarded by the cognoscenti; Brian Chippendale, for example, still loves Daredevil, and there’s a fantasy/D&D aesthetic that a bunch of the FT guys clearly still dig.

But like Roxy and Bowie, Fort Thunder take recognizable elements from the past, not to parody, but to incorporate and experiment with. (The glam rockers’ “outmoded” influences were obvious–pop melodies, R&B/soul singers, Hollywood icons–while someone like Fripp’s were less so, perhaps, but there’s undeniably an incorporation of funk, jazz, even Looney-Tunes soundtracks in Crimso’s music.) Moreover, they do so with what Roxy producer (and Crimson lyricist) Pete Sinfield called “naivete”–the simple joy of putting the moving parts together in a new fashion and seeing where it goes. Think of Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure, Here Come the Warm Jets, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Diamond Dogs–simultaneously literate and tongue-in-cheek, ambitious and a lark, rigorously thought-out and exuberantly rough around the edges.

I’m not impressed by all of the Fort Thunder artists equally, and indeed I sometimes think that this or that comic (or whatever) by them and/or their fellow travelers is downright overrated. But from an artistic perspective, Fort Thunder’s work is more immediately exciting than virutally any other current comics I can think of. Like those early-70s pasticheurs, FT creates a sensation that everything’s up for grabs and anything goes–it’s like taking physical exhiliaration and grafting it into your brain.

To quote the Joker, “I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it.”

Presence of Gary Numan = awesome list

January 28, 2004

Bruce Baugh joins the High School Soundtrack sweepstakes. If you spot anyone else, lemme know.

Brief comix and match

January 27, 2004

Jim Henley is en fuego. Here he is on a variety of subjects including the irresistability of Brian Bendis’s Daredevil, the use of same as a model to beat the “wait for the trade” movement into submission, and the lousy writing in highly-moral clothing in Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier. And here he is with more thoughts on Watchmen, focusing on character-specific insights of the type we see only too rarely when talking about this book. (For your complete Watchmen round-up, click here.) Those who criticize the comics blogosphere are advised to send themselves in Mr. Henley’s direction. (Do you think all this brown-nosing will convince him to blog his thoughts on Jones’s Incredible Hulk and Morales’s Captain America?)

Grame McMillan presents a quote from Jamie Boardman that neatly sums up the argument against the floppy pamphlet format: normal people don’t like reading them. ‘Nuff said.

NeilAlien does what he does best (and keep in mind he does a lot of stuff very very well): analyze Dr. Strange appearances in recent comics. His main focus is the good Doctor’s cameo in the most recent issue of Daredevil. To a certain extent he’s used as comic relief, but he is within character. Neil is puzzled as to what Doc is doing there in the Luke Cage-staged intervention to calm DD the hell down, but it makes sense to me: It’s reasonable to assume that there’s a sense of brotherhood between vigilante superpeople, even between street-level types and cosmic guys, particularly the NYC-based ones; it’s also reasonable to assume that Dr. Strange, one of the most magnanimous heroes in the Marvel pantheon, probably does truly care about Daredevil, even if they’ve only worked together very rarely. I thought it was actually somewhat touching that Strange and Reed Richards showed up to try to help (as they saw it) Daredevil. Anyway, check out what Neil has to say about it.

Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?

January 27, 2004

Did I go and start myself a meme? Johnny Bacardi, Rick Geerling, and the Leptard were sufficiently inspired by my long list of high-school favorite albums to write their own. (Bill Sherman gave it a shot, too, but found himself stymied by the predominence of comedy records in his adolescent collection.) You wanna give it a try?


January 27, 2004

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that The Return of the King was nominated for eleven Academy Awards today, but no nominations in any acting category? Or for cinematography? That’s crazy, ladies and gentlemen. Crazy.

It is, however, nice to see Miramax get shut out. Even the Mighty Weinsteins couldn’t muscle Cold Mountain into the Best Picture running. I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand this new wave of period war epics. Cold Mountain, Master & Commander, and The Last Samurai all look good enough, I suppose, but do any of them contain a giant war-elephant attack? Didn’t think so.

You know what? In all seriousness, over the course of the three LotR movies, award-worthy performances were turned in by Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill, and (especially) Sean Bean. Eight actors, three films, and a grand total of one nomination, from the very first film, for the most renowned actor? I’m telling you, man: crazy.


January 27, 2004

I’m a little trepidacious about doing this, but I’ll hang it up by the end of the week: We’ve fallen on some tough financial times lately, so I was wondering if you could maybe hit the tip jar to your left and help me make this blog a cost-effective enterprise. (UPDATE: You’ll notice from the enormous new button over there that I added an Amazon pay link. I’ve been told that for many people this is more convenient than PayPal.)

If you need a reason to chip in, perhaps you could find one here at Karolyn’s–she’s listed 1000 all-purpose reasons. And again, as a thank-you in advance, here’s a little blog beautification effort: lyrics to one of my favorite songs. Enjoy!


Candy says, I’ve come to hate my body

And all that it requires in this world

Candy says, I’d like to know completely

What others so discreetly talk about

I’m gonna watch the bluebirds fly

Over my shoulder

I’m gonna watch ’em pass me by

Maybe when I’m older

What do you think I’d see

If I could walk away from me

Candy says, I hate the quiet places

That cause the smallest taste of what will be

Candy says, I hate the big decisions

That cause endless revisions in my mind

I’m gonna watch the bluebirds fly

Over my shoulder

I’m gonna watch ’em pass me by

Maybe when I’m older

What do you think I’d see

If I could walk away from me

–The Velvet Underground, “Candy Says”

(I highly recommend the cover version found on Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man’s album Out of Season.)

It’s like the New Frontiersman and the Nova Express all rolled into one

January 26, 2004

Lots of great reading for those interested in Watchmen, all inspired by Eve Tushnet: here’s Jim Henley, John Jakala, Steven Berg, and Jim Henley again (and again). Superhero stories as a literature of ethics, Soviet apologism, Nixon as “replacement god,” “finding meaning by making it,” and much more–a great work, yielding great rewards in the exploration thereof.

Comix and match–now UPDATED

January 26, 2004

Hey, it’s nice to see I’m not the only interviewer to founder on the rocks of Gloeckner: On her blog, Phoebe recounts the venerable Gary Groth’s attempts to determine how “autobiographical” her comics are. Unlike a lot of the folks in the attached comment thread, I think this is a perfectly reasonable and understandable question to ask, all the more so because the events in what we’re presuming to have been Phoebe’s life are so dra/traumatic. And I do think male writers, European writers, whatever writers would and do get asked this same question quite often. (Look at J.T. LeRoy, for example. Hell, look at the frequency with which autobiographical impulses are attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien, for Pete’s sake.) I think that it’s Phoebe’s method of answering–“there is no truth”–that leaves journalists (vocational truth-seekers, whether they choose to think of themselves that way or no) coming back to this well so often. (That and the fact that, yes, there’s an extra element of interest in the fact that Phoebe’s comics are about a teenage girl doing drugs, having sex, et cetera. Purient interest plays a part–the “car wreck” factor, as I’ve called it. But I’m not sure this is so unreasonable a response to such strong (in all senses of the word) material.)

Fans of good Alan Moore comics rejoice: your Watchmen analysis roundup can be found here.

While we’re busy linking to other posts here on ADDTF, check out My review of Bill “Egon” Kartalopolous’s review of Craig Thompson’s Blankets.

Also on the point-counterpoint tip, Bill Sherman comes to bury Mark Millar’s The Unfunnies, while Alan David Doane comes to praise it. I haven’t read the book, so it’s tough to comment, but it seems clear that whether it’s good or not, it’s not exactly the groundbreaking, shocking explosion of comic-book complacency Millar makes it out to be, given that Robert Crumb, the Air Pirates et al were doing this stuff nearly forty years ago now. So the real question is this: Is Mark Millar a) completely ignorant of the history of underground comix, or indeed any comics that aren’t superhero fare; b) vaugely aware of their existence but content to ignore them for the purpose of selling this comic to an audience he’s fairly certain is completely unaware of them; c) fully familiar with them but ready and willing to bullshit his fans anyway? He appears to be a fundamentally decent guy, so my guess it’s either (a) or (b). Any other theories out there?

Also in that ADD post is a review of Paul Hornschemeier’s excellent Mother, Come Home. Alan has a tendency to oversell this book–I think it becomes a little too neat in the profundity of its tragedy by the end–but that’s really not much of a complaint: If a book’s going to stumble a bit, shouldn’t it do so by aiming big and not small? Quibbles aside, this is obviously a breakthrough book by a hugely talented artist with years and years ahead of him, and I recommend it highly. So, incidentally, does’s Andrew Arnold (link courtesy of Dirk Deppey.)

Back to Indy Magazine, you’ll find an interesting editorial-cum-mission-statement from editor Billy the K. Bill says he’ll be focusing on the medium of comics, as opposed to the machinations of the industry–the Direct Market, bookstore sales, the manga boom, et cetera. (Hey, I resemble that remark!–ed.) It comes off as a bit more dismissive of the comics blogosphere–not to mention capitalism (yes, oh woe is this Dartmouth graduate “crushed [him]self between [sic] the boot-heel of capitalism”)–than I’m comfortable with, but actual critical analysis of the art, not the business, would be a welcome thing on the web. (Witness the ecstatic reaction to Eve Tushnet’s Watchmen essay, for example.)

Speak of the Devil: Eve Tushnet–back to comicsblogging, with a vengeance!–reviews Brian Bendis’s killer Daredevil: Hardcore. As Eve notes, this is a tough, tough book to stop yourself buying in its monthly installments.

Chris Puzak breaks down the discounts at Wal-Mart’s online graphic-novel store. Any way you slice it, they’re pretty damn deep. This is good news for people like me who don’t exactly have a lot of disposable income to feed their trade paperback jones, but (as Tegan Gjovaag notes) probably bad news for comics retailers and people who don’t like gi-normous retail monstrosities coming in and devouring every market in sight.

Big Sunny D jumps on the Sleeper bandwagon, which Dirk Deppey promptly tries to run off the road. To me, Dirk’s complaint reads a little bit like “I would have enjoyed Chicago if it weren’t for the damn musical numbers,” but diff’rent strokes, etc.

Dirk also asks what the hell the big deal is about Mark Millar anyway. I’ve got some problems with the man’s work (see above), not to mention his online personal, but when Millar is at the top of his game, he brings a slick contemporary zeal to superheroics that’s nearly unmatched. If you ignore his tin ear for dialogue, his goofy politics, and his over-the-top pronouncements–sometimes a lot to ignore, I’ll admit–you’ll find, in Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates at least, some of the giddiest, oomphiest, least intelligence-insulting superhero action comics of the past decade.

Finally, I think it’s worth noting how wrong the usually astute Paul O’Brien is about the most recent New X-Men storyline. As I put it the other day in my top-secret, spoiler-laden musings on said storyline, “Wow. This is the kind of geeky, idea-intensive frisson that the best, most highly-detailed SFF can engender. I love love love it. More more more!”

Building the perfect Blankets?

January 26, 2004

Apparently this is a relaunch, but if you haven’t read Indy Magazine before, it’s new to you! The first installment of this snappy-looking altcomix magazine includes a review of Craig Thompson’s Blankets, the gist of which is that the book isn’t good because Thompson doesn’t adhere to some formalist version of the Aristotelian unities. Yikes.

I wanted to like this review, because Bill Kartalopolous is obviously putting a great deal more thought and consideration into his critique than most reflexive Blankets bashers–the word “emo” is not used, for example. But the review goes on for eight deadly pages, each of which points out a stylistic choice of Thompson’s, then criticizes him for not using it often enough, or consistenly enough, or properly, or something. Without realizing it, Kartalopolous has made a strong case for the book–it’s a dizzying, enveloping blizzard of formal effects and sensations, mimicking the immersive sensations of adolescence note-perfectly. True, if you want a perfectly planned and executed how-to manual of graphic-novel making, this isn’t the book for you. But I, for one, am happy to “settle” for transcendence over perfection.

(Links courtesy of NeilAlien.)

Blegging; Beautification

January 26, 2004

As you may have gathered, Amanda and I have fallen on some difficult times recently. In December, I lost my job, as did everyone else who worked with me on it. We had already done all our holiday shopping before I got the news, unfortunately. In addition, it looks like I will have a hard time qualifying for unemployment insurance, due to the funky way my ex-employer had me on the books.

So if you’ve enjoyed this blog, or if you’ve enjoyed the pleasure of my company at some point, or if you haven’t enjoyed either but are just a nice person, it would be terrific of you to hit the tip jar to your left and send a donation my way. I do spend quite a bit of time working on the blog, and a financial incentive to do so would be incredibly helpful at this point in time. Thanks in advance for whatever support you’re able to lend.

But as I’m reluctant to beg without offering anything in return, I’m going to try and post something beautiful for you: Here are the lyrics to a new favorite song of mine. Enjoy, and thanks again.


So it’s grey, well so are my favorite cities

And we have, we have all the time in the world here

We’ll just stay tucked in the shade and our eyes they can’t be blinded

We’ll just stay tucked in the shade

So it’s grey, well so are my favorite cities

And the sky on such a memorable night

And we have, we have all the time in the world here

That’s a lie, that’s a lie

–Azure Ray, “Favorite Cities”


January 26, 2004

The Return of the King swept the Golden Globes in all the categories for which it was nominated last night, winning Best Picture (Drama), Best Director, Best Score, and Best Song. (I found it inexcusable that no one from the film was nominated in an acting category, particularly since the lead-actor category is split into Drama and Comedy, thus doubling the potential slots; but I suppose it’s difficult to say who’s the lead in RotK–Frodo, I guess–and at any rate the buzz surrounds clear supporting players like Sean Astin and Andy Serkis.) Here’s hoping it replicates this feat at the Oscars.

Return to the King

January 25, 2004

I went to see The Return of the King twice this weekend. What a great film. Amanda has an altogether unique take on it: Check out her absolutely fascinating comparison between the Ring and anorexia.

I love lists

January 23, 2004

I’ve been wondering why all these people have been listing the IMDb Top 100 on their blogs lately. Apparently it’s a meme these days.

Films I’ve seen are in bold

Films I own (in any form) are bold and italicized

(List courtesy of Johnny Bacardi.)

1. Godfather, The (1972)

2. Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)

3. Godfather: Part II, The (1974)

4. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The (2003)

5. Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, The (2002)

6. Casablanca (1942)

7. Schindler