Archive for March 31, 2004

White light/white heat

March 31, 2004

Jamie Rich‘s anger at the comics “mainstream” burns with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns, and you know what? It should.

It occurred to me today what a travesty, what an enormously fucking huge leap backwards it is to replace Grant Morrison’s New X-Men with the braindead retroatrocities Marvel has planned. The corporate-mandated return to spandex…the Cyclops “body condom”…the return to the anti-golden age of 90s-style X-scripting (paging Doctors Lobdell & Tieri)…two monthly books in which Chris Claremont is free explore his bizarre metafictional parentosexual relationship with Kitty Pryde…allowing Chuck Austen to continue to use the franchise as his writ-large therapist’s couch (or electroshock bench, take your pick)…”enabling” Rob Liefeld…revivifying concepts that have failed time and time again in the eyes of all but the hardest of the hardcore fanboy in the guise of giving the people what they want…do you think any of it will engender thoughts like this, or this? Hell, look at this massive Barbelith thread–do you think that any of the follow-ups to Morrison’s run (even Whedon’s) will lead to discussion with this breadth and depth, all supported by a text that spells nothing out yet adds so much in, said text having been written by someone smart enough and talented enough and big-hearted enough to think his work through on so very many levels? Fat. Fucking. Chance.

I don’t blame Jamie for being pissed at all. Over the past four years the comics “mainstream” has had maybe its greatest chance since the early ’60s to do something. Comics is a real Wild West medium–it’s out in the hinterlands of pop culture, where anything goes, where the tools and the energy of the bona fide mainstream zeitgeist can be used and abused in any number of glorious ways, where art-world and Hollywood bullshit can be righteously and thoroughly pissed on and ignored. And a few years back a bunch of mavericks took over Marvel, and for a while it looked like they’d drag the whole superhero industry into the wild frontier.

And what happened? For every Sgt. Pepper (read: New X-Men) and Kick Out the Jams (read: The Dark Knight Strikes Again), we got about four dozen Nickelback records: joyless, pointless retreads of the Candlebox albums currently preserving the memory of the ’90s shit-glut in discount bins nationwide.

Listen, Marvel did a lot of good over the past four years, and they’re still doing a lot of good now. I think Marvel bashers really miss how the company turned things around for all the other superhero publishers–getting writers rather than artists acknowledged as the backbone of the industry warrants Quesada & Jemas’s inclusion in the proverbial comics hall of fame all by itself. But take a look at Marvel’s current publishing plans–those good books are something Marvel’s moving away from now, not something they’re headed toward. Do you think you’ll see something like Jones’s Hulk or Milligan’s X-Force come out of the Reload initiative? Do you think anyone but Bendis will get a chance to write something as moody and risky as Bendis’s Daredevil or Alias? For that matter, do you think Millar will be able to do with The Ultimates what Millar did with The Ultimates? Even the Bendis-centered Avengers-titles revamps, helmed as they are by solid indie pros, are being touted as back to basics. I’m not saying the experiments of the last few years have always worked, but good Christ, has no one told this company that its basics have sucked for three decades?

And oh yeah, did I mention that this latest bold new direction will continue the time-honored tradition of simultaneously ignoring and suffocating both the true mainstream (manga, other types of genre storytelling) and the vital underground? Because that’s what’s made American comics the picture of health that it is today!

I’ll admit to being in a bad mood this evening. I had a terrible day at work, I hurt my feet, someone stole the front license plate off my pick-up, and it goes on. But the book that brought me back to comics is over, and I’m surveying the landscape, and there’s just nothing out there, man. It’s heartbreaking, is what it is. And I say this not because I hate superheroes and comics and superhero comics, but because I love them.

(Original link courtesy of NeilAlien. Look what you done, Neil!)


March 29, 2004

I just want to say that I think I have yet to view a major Sopranos murder without having had said murder spoiled for me beforehand. Seriously. Not one.



March 29, 2004

Is this the best thing Warren Ellis has ever said?

If I’m the Marvel EIC, then my first responsibility is to make money for the company. I’m an employee. That’s what I do. I don’t do all these extraneous books with characters known only to the hardcore fans….I want a GHOST RIDER book, because everyone knows Nic Cage wants to do GHOST RIDER, and it’s going to be about a guy on a bike with his head on fire who runs people over. And then lights them on fire. And then goes into a bar and drinks it and does Lisa Marie Presley over the pool table and then lights the place on fire and goes out and gets back on his bike and looks for more people to run over. This is what they want. Damn straight.

Answer: Yes, this is the best thing Warren Ellis has ever said. (From MillarWorld, courtesy of Popp’d.)

Happy thoughts about men in tights

March 26, 2004

Here’s J.W. Hastings on those crazy neocon New Gods, and on how the “multiple leaps of logic” derided by critics of superhero stories actually enable the genre to transcend a-is-a reductionism and emerge into the more powerful realm of metaphor. As J.W. puts it:

The ethical questions the best super-hero comics–like Morrison’s X-Men–raise are not “What responsiblity would you have if you had superpowers?” but “What do you do with the responsibility you do have?”


Speaking of the X-Men, Dave Intermittent explains how he fell in love with them, and through them with comics. In the process he deflates the argument for making “comics for kids”–kids, he say, don’t want them.

Good stuff all. Enjoy.

Left alone

March 26, 2004

It’s the Battle of People Who Haven’t Seen the Movie They’re Battling About!

One of my favorite bloggers, Mr. John Jakala, takes me to task for my bashing of Lars von Trier’s new movie Dogville. He says that it’s not fair to hold the off-screen bad blood between von Trier and Bjork, the star of his last film, against the director’s work itself. He also says:

I suspect that what’s really bugging Sean is the (in his view) “anti-Americanism” that supposedly pervades Dogville. How accurate that label is I really can’t say. Again, I haven’t seen the film yet, nor am I interested in reading any specific reviews or criticism of the film until I have seen it. But in any event, can’t an artist create worthwhile (i.e., challenging, thought-provoking) art even if his politics disagree with ours? Or is it now the case that, in art as well as in politics, you’re either with us or against us?

No, what’s really bothering me is that von Trier is a misogynistic pig who beats up his women characters and calls it art. The kneejerk, ignorance-based anti-Americanism–which isn’t a valid “politics” any more than misogyny or anti-Semitism is–is merely icing on the intellectually and artistic bankrupt cake. And it’s not just me that’s picked up on von Trier’s lazy America bashing–I’ve seen similar views expressed in Slate and The New Yorker (the latter by David Denby!). We’re not exacly in Weekly Standard territory here.

Meanwhile, I mentioned the Bjork thing not because I think behind-the-scenes shenanigans necessarily affect the work itself, but because von Trier’s apparent treatment of his star perfectly mirrors his treatment of his women characters. Hitchcock’s treatment of women in his films is problematic for many, and of course he sent Tippi Hedren to the hospital, yet Hitchcock is terrible to everyone in his films, and Hedren worked with him again and never has anything but nice things to say about him when she’s interviewed. Women are always specially singled out for torment and abuse in von Trier’s work, and Bjork not only won’t work with von Trier again, she won’t work on ANY film again. I think that says a lot more about von Trier than your average backstage spat, particularly since it meshes so well with the fate he appears to think women deserve if his films are any indication. That’s the the thing about artists like von Trier and (to use an example John cites) Dave Sim, as opposed to the typical financial or interpersonal skullduggery evident behind the scenes of many artistic projects–the unsavory aspects of von Trier and Sim’s off-screen personae absolutely are tangible within their art itself.

As an aside, Bruce Baugh wrote to me on the topic of von Trier, saying the following:

Dogme 95 ate his brain. It’s a shame, because his early work _does_

deserve its reputation, I think. I love The Kingdom and The Element Of

Crime, in particular. But whenever someone slides from saying “this is

how I prefer to work” to “this is the only legitimate way to work”,

well, huge sucking vacuum follows. It’s too easy to slip into a

situation where you never get your basic urges checked or questioned.

I absolutely agree with this. In film school I learned very quickly to run away from any filmmaker who’d penned anything close to a manifesto. Their work may have its moments, but aside from one or two genuinely good films at most they’re pretty much useless both as artists and as commentators on the human condition. Von Trier may have abandoned the rules of Dogme 95, but you can’t abandon the the kind of mind that allows you to think writing manifestos is a good idea in the first place. Or as Denby put it in his review, “Like so many revolutionaries, von Trier can

Lies and the lying Lars who tells them

March 26, 2004

Slate‘s David Edelstein takes a giant shit all over Lars von Trier’s latest exercise in sadistic misogyny masquerading as An Artistic Statement, the Nicole Kidman-starrer Dogville. Apparently von Trier, a consummate bullshit artist whose crassly manipulative Dancer in the Dark nearly drove its open-hearted genius of a star Bjork insane, has added a heaping helping of ignorant and facile anti-Americanism into his usual formula of undergraduate misanthropy and sexualized violence. Normally I’d expect a certain class of film fan and quote-unquote intellectual to eat this shit up with a spoon, but I wonder if von Trier hasn’t finally jumped the philosophically and artistically bankrupt shark that’s been swimming around in his very shallow idea pool for so long.

The sprinting dead

March 26, 2004

Found a couple of interesting essays on the ramifications of fast-moving zombies. (I love being a horror geek.)

Slate‘s Josh Levin traces the zombie genre from its roots in the Carribean-hypnotist flicks of the 1930s through the Romero/Fulci Golden Age of the late 60s and 70s and the fast-acting video-game undead and their motion-picture spinoffs of the late 90s and early 00s, culminating in the critically-acclaimed one-two punch of 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Have we reached the tipping point as to public pereception of zombies as being slow or fast?

Blogger Tim Hulsey, meanwhile, thinks that fast-moving zombies lack the sociopolitical relevance of slow-moving ones. No, I’m not kidding, you genre snobs. (Link courtesy of the Slate article.) He makes some solid points over the philosophical, almost poetic resonance of the prevailing zombie-attack image of the original Romero films–that of a lone human succumbing to a slow but unstoppable mob of zombies, arms outstretched, mouths gaping.

But isn’t there something to be said for the image of Sarah Polley’s zombified husband, launching himself across rooms, bashing down doors, leaping on car hoods, running full tilt down the street in a frantic effort to slaughter and consume the woman we’d seen him make love to in the shower and then snuggle with in bed not five minutes earlier? I certainly think there is.

Aside from the fact that fast zombies have shock potential that’s scary as shit, and present the kind of palpable threat that makes you recoil physically from the thought of being caught up to by one of them (I’ve certainly had more nightmares about zombies after 28 Days Later and the new Dawn than I did before them), fast zombies also take the impersonalized mob metaphor of their slow-moving counterparts and make it horrifyingly individual. Yes, they still move in packs, but any one zombie of this new breed will stop at nothing to murder you, and indeed the ability to do so is well within its grasp. In an age where taking the bus or the train to work is an act of substantial courage, where a handful of men can slaughter thousands and rewrite the course of history with nothing more than stuff you’ve got lying around your garage or tool box, isn’t the fast-moving zombie deeply, almost uncomfortably, evocative?

POSTSCRIPT: Now might be a good time to point you back, once again, to my initial spoiler-y review of 28 Days Later. I think both movies were excellent, though it’s worth pointing out that I detected any number of logical errors and plot holes in 28DL, whereas DotDv2 really only had one, which was that every character, most of whom had probably never handled a firearm before in their lives, was able to hit fast-moving targets in the head–while running, no less, and sometimes while running backward. These folks got more head shots than Delta Force, I’m telling you.

You’re out, Tom

March 26, 2004

A couple of days ago I questioned Franklin Harris’s assertion that the preponderance of superhero comics in the Direct Market does not force non-superhero comics out of that market. Today Franklin responds:

Sean assumes that if only comic-book shops stocked more non-superhero titles, those titles would sell. But the direct market hasn’t given me any indication that there is a sizeable, unmet demand for non-superhero comics.

Yes, but this is because the Direct Market is a classic example of the self-fulfilled prophecy. The DM was created by superhero companies (mainly Marvel), staffed by superhero fans, and geared almost exclusively toward superhero fans. OF COURSE superhero comics sell very well in the DM while other comics don’t–superhero fans have had several decades to learn that this is where they must go for there superhero comics, while fans of other types of comics have had several decades to learn that in any given state in the Union the stores that can fully service their needs number in the low single digits. That the indie and alternative companies have been able to find a niche in the DM at all is almost more luck than anything else.

The reason it appears as though non-superhero comics won’t sell is because, given the current set-up of the DM, they can’t. Decades of deliberately targeted anti-competitive publishing, advertising, and retailership have created a situation where, if on this very day every comics shop in America started ordering as many copies of Optic Nerve as they do of Batman, the things would just languish on the racks. Except, of course, at those mythical “good” comics shops, where things like Optic Nerve sell like hotcakes, because people know they can find them there. The point is, not only have superhero comics (or at least their blinders-wearing hardcore devotees) forced out non-superhero comics from the DM, they’ve pretty much destroyed any chance for non-superhero comics to ever come back. This is why publishers who specialize in other genres are so energetically exploring other venues.

Usually debates like these devolve into some pro/anti-art comics argument: “You’re just upset because some lame autobio comic isn’t selling as much as JSA” or whatever. So for the sake of avoiding this argument, let’s ignore Blankets, Persepolis, Jimmy Corrigan, Maus, Ghost World and any number of other acclaimed and successful alternative comics that nine comics shops out of ten don’t even carry. How about manga, for crying out loud? Japanese comics are a sales phenomenon in the bookstore market, as anyone can tell you–and the DM is ignoring it! Indeed, a vocal contingent of both retailers and consumers is actively advocating against pursuing it! If you can give me a reason why this easy-access source of buckets of revenue is being eschewed that isn’t “the DM, through the predilections of its retailers and consumers and through the machinations of the big American publishers and their monopolistic distributor, is willfully incapable of selling anything but superhero comics,” I’ll shake your hand.

And hell, since manga is almost as divisive a topic as altcomix at this point, how about comic-strip collections, perennial best-sellersr in the real world? When was the last time you saw The Complete Far Side or a Calvin & Hobbes book at your local Android’s Dungeon? Any guesses as to how many copies of The Complete Peanuts Vol. 1 the place has ordered? The bitch of this is, of course, that the reactionary retailers we hear from from time to time may in fact be right–maybe altcomix and even strip collections and manga won’t sell in the DM. But that, paradoxically, is because the DM has worked too well as a superheroes-only vendor. Retailers would have to break decades-old habits held to with devotional fervor by both themselves and their clientele in order to draw in consumers for these other genres, who’ve long come to associate DM shops with Superman and nothing else. Many, I’d guess, wouldn’t survive the transition. And yes, this is the fault of superhero comics.

Over at Tim O’Neil’s blog, Comics Journal editor emeritus Tom Spurgeon writes in to make many of these same points, drawing on information gleaned from his years at the Journal, and as an employee of indie comics stalwart Fantagraphics. Tom also points out something I hadn’t really thought of–the superhero companies have been so effective at creating an environment where only superhero comics sell that it’s next to impossible for them to publish anything but superhero comics. DC still tries some noble experiments, but the majority of even its most unorthodox ventures still center around the “extraordinary man”; Marvel, one-time publisher of the genuinely bizarre Epic line, has by now pretty much said that superheroes are and will be all they do, forever and ever amen.

Listen, I know that superheroes are popular enough and that these companies can make pretty decent bank from superhero fans; I know that the genre isn’t hated by the people of the real world as it is by the anti-genre partisans that claim to speak for said real world here within comics debating circles; I’ve heard all the arguments saying that there’s nothing wrong with these publishers being niche publishers and these stores being niche stores; but doesn’t it strike you as close to wantonly self-destructive for publishers and the market that keeps them afloat to have set themselves up in such a way as to fundamentally preclude diversification?

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that, as Dave Intermittent points out, there’s always some definitional hinkiness going on when comics is discussed, due to the fact that by comics one can mean

1) The art form/the medium

2) The industry/the business

3) 22-page floppy pamphlets

4) Trade paperback collections of same

5) Graphic novels

6) The publishers

7) The distributors

8) The consumers

9) The readers

10) The fans

11) The creators

12) The retailers

13) The direct market

14) The bookstore market

15) American comics

16) All comics worldwide

And on and on and on. For example, in his most recent post on the topic, Franklin says this:

To be clear, I’m talking just about 22-page comics, not graphic novels. Still, it is even more obvious that superheroes aren’t squeezing other genres out of the graphic-novel sector, because in bookstores manga is “squeezing out” superheroes.

So, among 22-page comics, the superhero genre is the last genre standing following an industry-wide decline that began in the late 1950s. And in bookstores, superhero graphic novels are losing the battle for shelf space to manga. Either way, I don’t see how superheroes are to blame for driving out other genres.

In a way, the definitional fuzziness works to his advantage: He’s able to argue that superhero comics aren’t stifling the sales of non-superhero comics, because non-superhero floppies don’t sell well anyway, and because non-superhero graphic novels sell better in the bookstores than do superhero graphic novels.

But if you focus the debate on the Direct Market itself, as I have tried to do, these supposed mitigators of superhero hegemony are revealed to be nothing more than the consequences of that hegemony. 22-page non-superhero comics don’t sell well because the Direct Market is built to sell only 22-page superhero comics, and it’s been this way for years–the people who shop in the Direct Market aren’t interested in non-superhero comics, and the people interested in non-superhero comics no longer shop in the Direct Market. Non-superhero graphic novels sell better than superhero graphic novels in the bookstores because they’ve been forced into the bookstores by the complete domination of the Direct Market by superhero comics–fans of non-superhero comics go to the bookstores because that’s where they can find what they want, while fans of superhero comics don’t go to the bookstores because they can already find what they want elsewhere, at shops designed around their needs in toto.

Unfortunately for all of us, non-superhero companies still do enough business in the DM–which despite its best efforts to limit the field to one genre is still the main place to get any kind of comic, not just superhero ones–that if the DM were to implode, it would take nearly the entire American comics industry with it. Indie publishers still mainly rely on those “good comic shops” to keep them afloat; good comic shops still mainly rely on superhero companies to keep them afloat; superhero companies still mainly rely on crappy comic shops to keep them afloat; crappy comic shops still rely on superheroes-only readers to keep them afloat; superheroes-only readers are a dying breed. Non-superhero comics readers, therefore, are unhealthily tied to their superheroes-only bretheren in terms of whether or not they’ll be able to read any comics at all.

It’s a problem for everyone, in other words.

Public service announcement

March 25, 2004

Attention all new(ish) comics bloggers! You may not be aware of this, but blogger Dave G. runs a superb update/referral page, which can be found here. If you know how to ping, you can be a part of the page. It’s a really easy way to keep readers up to date on when you last posted, and it’s rapidly become the number-one traffic generator for this blog and many others. If you’re new to the blogging game and haven’t gotten on board the page, you really ought to.

Okay, I’m just saying this because having you all on the Comic Weblog Update Page just makes my surfing a lot easier. But it’s good for you too, honest!


March 24, 2004

Blogging’s been light around here lately because I’ve been busy with my new gig, namely being a supervisor in the music and movie departments of a local bookstore. Did I ask about how their graphic novels are selling? You bet I did. And apparently they’re selling like hotcakes. Supposedly they move a lot more than they even have room for on the floor. And who’s buying them? Kids. And which ones are they buying? I’ll give you three guesses. Ladies and gentlemen, can we please agree to retire the “kids don’t buy comics” meme once and for all?

Anyway, I haven’t had much time to surf, but I’ve noticed several big pieces that address some big issues.

First up is Steven Grant, who offers an overview of the problems faced by DC and Marvel in the current comics market and press. I think it’s clear to most of us who follow these things that the New Marvel Magic has pretty much worn off–what do they do now? DC, meanwhile, is gaining a little critical and audience traction, but are they showing any signs of being able to capitalize on this? Check out what Steven has to say about it, and who knows? You may see a little guest analysis yours truly…

Jim Henley, meanwhile, has honed his thoughts on the superhero genre into an essay, defending the spandex set as “the literature of ethics”–if it’s done right, naturally. Tim O’Neil, who much to his amusement has unwittingly become something of an archvillain to we pro-superhero types, offers an agreement-slash-rebuttal that strikes me as the most reasonable thing he’s yet said on the subject. Read ’em both.

And read the comment thread on Jim’s essay, too; I particularly like Sean Gleeson’s questions: “What’s so bad about being a male child’s fantasy? Is it because there’s something wrong with being or having been a male child?” Of course, he later commits the ultimate sin of referring to books that “transcend the genre.” Listen, folks: If a given work is of a particular genre, and it’s really good, it hasn’t transcended the genre–it epitomizes the genre. It shows you what the genre is capable of. To say it transcends the genre is to write the potential for greatness out of that genre by definition!

And read Bill Sherman‘s take on Jim’s essay, as seen through the prism of Kurt Busiek’s Superman-related minseries Secret Identity. It serves as a thoughtful exploration-slash-critique of Jim’s take on superhero politics.

(I’ll offer a critique of my own–Jim, my good man, where are these neoconservative superheroes you’ve seen? From where I’m sitting, all the big writers (except Morrison, who’s got less irritating fish to fry) have been spending the last few years tearing neocon foreign policy to shreds with their superhero yarns. President Luthor, anybody? The attack on “Qurac”? Geoff Johns’s Avengers arc? Mark Millar’s work on The Ultimates and Superman: Red Son? Brian Bendis actually destroying most of the Middle East in Powers? Point is, while I (a liberal, for the most part, in case you’d forgotten) personally may agree with Jim’s contention that acting like a neocon in the foreign-policy arena is a natural outgrowth of left-liberal politics, most left-liberals don’t agree, and if you need more evidence than the past two and a half years’ worth of actual behavior from left-liberals, you can look at the superhero comics they’ve been writing, too.)

Franklin Harris serves up something in the same vein as Jim–a defense of superheroes, this one focused on the folks saying that the genre is the reason for comics’ financial woes. I mostly agree, but I think Franklin is wrong about superhero comics squeezing out non-superhero comics from comics shops. He says they don’t, and I guess in a sense he’s right, since most shops don’t stock non-superhero comics at all. They’re not just squeezing them out–they (or more accurately the developmentally retarded fanboys who run most comic shops) are keeping them from ever getting in. Still, it’s always worth shooting down facile anti-superhero arguments, and Franklin’s a past master at it.

Finally, ADDTF reader Ben Burgess pointed me to this Gardner Linn post on Grant Morrison’s recently completed New X-Men. An in-depth summary of the entire forty-issue run, tracing each of Morrison’s themes from inception to conclusion, this post is so good it will make your hair hurt. As sad as I am that Morrison’s X-book is no longer a going concern, and that Marvel shows no sign of following it up with anything remotely resembling its genuinely revolutionary combination of sophistication and heart, the thought that we’re now able to talk about it all the way Gardner talks about it makes me glad indeed.

Okay, back to work.

Okay, now let me get this straight

March 22, 2004

Robert Rodriguez will be “co-directing” Sin City with Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino.

Seriously, people.

Holy. SHIT.

(BTW, this shores up my theory that Miller was a big influence on Tarantino’s Kill Bill. But mainly, HOLY SHIT.)

Let me get this straight

March 22, 2004

ZZ Top, Bob Seger, and Jackson Browne are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Black Sabbath is not.

Seriously, people.

What. The. FUCK.

Director’s cut

March 22, 2004

Lord of the Rings fans who were disappointed that Saruman’s death scene was cut from the theatrical release of The Return of the King may appreciate the news that the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, has been killed by Israel. Yassin is the White Wizard’s spitting image, though Saruman was probably a better person overall.


This man was truly one of the worst people on Earth. May he and his goals be forever forgotten, and may the only death that results from his passing be that of his poison ideology.

Grotesquely Violent Film About Rising from Dead Comes In Second at Weekend Box Office; Dawn of the Dead Places First

March 21, 2004

I couldn’t resist. (And I’m not the only one.)

Dawn, by the way, is excellent, a worthy successor to both the original and to the other recent fast-moving zombie flick of note, 28 Days Later. In many ways it’s better than 28–the apocalyptic scenario it constructs is far more logically consistent, for example. Actually, in some ways it’s better than the original Dawn, too–it’s able to draw thematic elements from all three of the original Dead movies, for starters. It’s well-acted, intelligently and gorgeously shot and directed, gory, and frightening, with the original’s commentary on consumerism supplanted not by dumb Hollywood action-flickisms but by a more universal and potentially more chilling exploration of civilization, community building, and entropy. And the opening sequence is absolutely flawless, maybe the most relentlessly harsh and frightening first ten minutes of a film since Saving Private Ryan.

This was a remake that was worth the re-making. Fence-sitters turned off by one soulless and slick horror-classic redo too many, do yourself a favor and don’t pass this one up.

PS: I’m really entertained by how so many critics who didn’t like the new version are talking about how it supposedly lacked the deft satirical touch displayed by auteur George Romero in the original, a parable about consumerism. Folks, he took zombies and put them in a shopping mall–a little un-subtle, no? Don’t get me wrong–it’s still a wonderful, intelligent, maverick film–but we’re not talking Tartuffe here. For my money the unspoken racial subtext of Night of the Living Dead, Romero’s first zombie film, make that one the gold standard for socially relevant horror filmmaking.

PPS: Also, does anyone fact-check Elvis Mitchell these days? I remember being taken aback by how he misquoted Gandalf’s key line to Pippin (“just a false hope” instead of the better-sounding and more complex “just a fool’s hope”) from The Return of the King in his review of that film; in his review of the new Dawn he mischaracterizes the relationship between Sarah Polley’s character and the zombie girl who attacks her husband (she’s the girl’s neighbor, not her mother) and erroneously claims that the original Night didn’t explain the origin of the zombie plague (it doesn’t come right out and say it, but it is strongly implied on several occasions that radiation found to have contaminated a returned Venus probe may be the cause). I’m glad he’s a Frank Miller fan and all, but someone should really pay attention to this stuff.

Best Column Ever?

March 19, 2004

Oh, man.

Long-time ADDTF readers may remember that back in the early days of this blog, I spent a lot of time talking about the importance of well-designed, uniform trade dress to the trade paperback/graphic novel/manga market. (Seriously–do a search for “trade dress” and you’ll find I spent the entire Spring and Summer of 2003 talking about it.) My thesis was that manga had a huge advantage over American comic collections not just because they were sized closer to regular prose books, but because you could actually enjoy looking at and have an easy time reading the spines when they’re lined up on a shelf.

Sadly, things have not improved much since back then. Dark Horse recently reprinted all the Hellboy collections in order to capitalize on the Hellboy movie–but they still haven’t numbered the books in the series! (Argh–this is maybe the most difficult series around in terms of figuring out which book comes when. Help us, DH!) (UPDATE: Augie de Blieck writes to say that they do, in fact, have numbers. Man, I’m glad to be wrong about that.) DC doesn’t number the collections of its big icon series; on some of those series they do number, the number is so small they may as well not have bothered. Marvel continues to shoehorn both classic old runs and pointless new miniseries into its “Legends” line, producing confusion, lousy sales, and bizarre circumstances such as the fact that the recent Spider-Man/Wolverine miniseries is in print as a trade paperback and the seminal Kraven’s Last Hunt is not. And Image’s yellow logo on the spines of each of its trade paperbacks is as ugly as sin would be if sin had botched cosmetic surgery.

So thank you, thank you, thank you to Brian Hibbs, whose latest column is all about How to Dress Your Trade Paperbacks. He tackles the issue from a number of fascinating and important perspectives, both general and specific: from discussing how the look of a trade impacts sales to dissecting exactly what constitutes good design to pointing out flaws in different companies’ programs to raising questions about the role trade paperbacks may be playing in mid-list titles reaching their breaking point to whether indie companies are shooting themselves in the foot by completely eschewing pamphlets.

Please, go and read it. These are issues that every comics company should be thinking about very carefully.

Just give me a damn name

March 19, 2004

Reports suggest that the cast of Robert Rodriguez’s film adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Kate Bosworth and Jaime King.



March 18, 2004

Take it easy, man! It was nothin’ personal!

In all seriousness, the above-linked pieces are Chris Butcher’s responses to the somewhat, uh, spirited defense of superheroes offered up by me and Steven Berg yesterday. Right off the bat I want to apologize to Chris for getting personal–he seems pretty upset about some of the things that I said about him, and while I didn’t intend to or even think that I did get personal, clearly that was my bad. I don’t think Chris is an idiot, or that “he’s wrong because I say so,” or that he’s a poseur trying to sound smart, or that he’s an asshole whose philosophy prevents him from ever taking a clear look at a book, or that my post was so great that all discussion about the topic must now end, or anything like that; nor was I mad at him, even a little bit. Can I see how it would seem that I do think those things, and that I was mad at him personally? Oh, absolutely. That’s my fault for being a lousy writer (couldn’t resist “‘Nuff said,” could you, Collins?–ed)–not Chris’s fault for having a position I disagree with. Again, I’m sorry.

I do disagree with a lof of what he says about superhero comics, though. Still do, actually, despite his long and impassioned explanation of how he came to his current conclusions about the relative merit of the spandex set, corporate or no.

For example, I don’t think it was clear that, when he said Powers will be remembered ten years from now and Bendis’s Marvel work will not, he was talking about things like whether or not the books will still be in print, or how many collections will be available, or whether previous creators’ runs on those characters will be remembered foremost–it seemed to me he was talking about the quality of Bendis’s actual work on the titles, pure and simple.

I also don’t think that the fact that Bendis’s Marvel character Jessica Jones swears in one book and doesn’t swear in other books affects the quality of any of those books at all–certainly not to the point where the “integrity” of Bendis’s work at Marvel is threatened by the company’s diktats as to whether and when she can say “fuck.”

I also think superhero comics are a lot more amenable to “realism” than Chris does–this is something I’ve gone on at length about before–though I certainly agree that this approach can be done badly very easily indeed, and should be handled with care. (I’ve talked about that before, too.) But the fact that corporate comics try and fail to go this route so routinely doesn’t influence me when I read books that succeed, or books that try something else entirely.

On a specific note, I don’t know whether or not New X-Men is, in fact, just “a book for smart 14-year-olds,” but this particular 25-year-old of what I guess I can say is reasonable intelligence thinks it’s one of the best comics he’s ever read, for whatever that’s worth.

I understand that Bendis has complete control over Powers and varying degrees of “much less so” over his Marvel books, but my reading of them doesn’t see this as being responsible for a drop-off in quality or integrity of the work. Long story short, if a particular comic is good, I don’t think much about where it comes from, certainly not to the point where I talk a lot about how corporate comics are “the most egregious offenders” about this or that, as Chris does. It’s a very different outlook than the one I have. I’ve seen Chris employ this outlook in talking about corporate superhero comics–that’s where I (and I’m assuming Steve Berg and others) were coming from when we said that Chris draws a qualitative distinction between corporate superheroes and creator-owned superheroes that I/we feel is an arbitrary one that isn’t related to the text itself.

And while I fully agree that the odds are stacked against a creator when he toils in the trademark mines in terms of digging up something worthwhile and meaningful, it does happen, quite often, regardless of whether or not characters can curse or disemobwel each other or rape monkeys or murder the Pope in the process. When a book is good, it doesn’t make sense to me to hold its origin against it; nor, when I initially evaluate a book, is its origin something I give much consideration to (unless, of course, something’s in there that just screams “corporate watering-down!”. A book like Daredevil is so compelling that the fact that the characters can


March 18, 2004

Via Dave Fiore I’ve discovered the delightful blog of one Marc Singer–and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a long and in-depth post tearing yours truly’s Spain theories into tiny little pieces. And he’s really, really good at it, too! Oh, man

It seems like Marc and I have drawn very different conclusions about terrorism and the war thereon, and I very much doubt that our considerable rhetorical skills (well, his, at least) will manage to convince the other to abandon his position. I think you know where I stand, dear readers, and I think that if you read Marc’s post it’ll be clear where he stands, too. You can draw your own conclusions from there. So I’m going to avoid getting into the meat of the issue.

But I would like to defend myself on a few, mostly technical kinda points on which I think Marc has misjudged or mischaracterized me. (Not maliciously or anything, but hey, it happens.)

* Marc says

But Collins’ posts aren

The Right versus your rights

March 18, 2004

Andrew Sullivan has the goods on the shameful full-court press currently underway against even the most fundamental guarantees of equal rights for gay Americans–not just marriage, mind you, but civil unions, domestic partnership benefits, workplace discrimination protection, sodomy laws, even in one case the right to live in a given county. It’s insane, and it’s orchestrated and egged on by those compassionate, small-government conservatives we’ve heard so much about in the Bush Administration.

I sure do want John Kerry to lose the election, but if you truly do care about the liberal values we’re fighting and dying for every day overseas, it’s tough to want George Bush to win it.


March 18, 2004

All yesterday afternoon and evening I watched reports on all the networks and cable news stations about the horrific car bombing in Baghdad, all of which had headlines screaming “dozens dead,” most of which seemed to be drawing on the implicit “look what we’ve done!” causal through-line from the Madrid massacre.

Today, I just got finished watching a briefing from the coalition in Baghdad, announcing that the death toll has gone from being proclaimed as “dozens” to being calculated at “17.”

Do you think the difference in the death toll will become a story? Do you think if the death toll had been revised to be higher, that would be a story?

I’m just asking.