Archive for March 31, 2008

Carnival of souls

March 31, 2008

* Whenever the topic of Thor comes up, which in my life is often, I say that any and every Thor comic should be at least as cool as Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” or it’s not worth doing. While this video uses a different song to make its point, it is otherwise exactly what I’m talking about.

When Thor shows up in a comic, all the other characters should go “OH FUCK IT’S THOR RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIVES HE’S A VIKING WAR GOD WITH A FUCKING MAGIC HAMMER” and if they don’t then that writer and artist FAIL.

* Sounds like the great Howard Shore will be returning to Middle-earth to compose the score to The Hobbit parts one and two, though this same report acts as though Guillermo del Toro has been confirmed as the films’ director, so who really knows?

* Tom Spurgeon serves up two scoops of well-deserved contempt today. The first is directed toward students at the University of Utah who are protesting the inclusion of Alison Bechdel’s excellent graphic memoir Fun Home on a course syllabus:

The fact that they’re so casual in both calling this award-winning book pornography and throwing out the leads-to-children-being-abused idea as if they’re givens and not acidic, horrible, super-serious things to say about anyone’s work makes this whole matter difficult to blog about except to in every way express my derision and contempt for that point of view and the spectacularly childish way in which it’s being expressed.


* Tom’s second scoop o’ scorn is aimed at fans whose reaction to the Jerry Siegel/Superman copyright decision is so repugnantly base and abysmally imbecilic to me that I’ve literally been trying not to think about it:

Shame on every stupid-ass, morally ignorant fan out there who has expressed even the slightest opinion that this course of legal action in any way reflects an agenda of greed on the part of people not directly involved in the act of creation, or worse, has articulated as their primary concern the potential interruption of their monthly four-color fantasy intake. Part of me wishes we lived in the might makes right moral universe that supports such a piggish outlook, because then I could quit my job and drive around on a motorcycle punching people in the face until they penned a formal apology to the Siegel family.

Indeed. (Astute readers will note Tom’s appropriation of the mission statement and modus operandi of Justice Society of America member Wildcat, and “indeed” to that as well.)

* Tom also reviews Grant Morrison’s excellent All Star Superman #10, but his review ends with what to me is an unsupported assertion:

…the rush to a conclusion after so many promising starts reminds us all that this is in the end a very clever superhero comic book, and may end up more of a sparkling commentary on the best of comics than a great one in its own right.

Personally I see All Star Superman‘s neverending parade of beginnings—i.e. standalone stories involving funhouse-mirror Superman doppelgangers of varying sorts—to be not commentary but a statement of its own. Sure, it’s an homage to the shotgun-blast approach of Silver Age DC superhero comics to science fiction’s “literature of ideas,” but insofar as it links up with Morrison and Quitely’s portrayal of Superman himself, it also stands as a message that being a caring, competent, helpful, clever, cooperative, kind person is what enables us to navigate the wild web of ideas we find ourselves tangled in in our everyday lives and come to our own ends with fewer regrets. It’s not just a love-letter to Mort Weisinger.

* Your seemingly daily Topless Robot link: Todd Ciolek runs down the 10 Most Regrettably Missing Movie Scenes of All Time. Horror is well represented, from the giant bugs in King Kong to Paul Reiser’s fate in Aliens. And there’s pie!

* News flash: Katee Sackhoff is attractive.

* Creeping Coruscant Alert: A Saudi Arabian prince is planning to build a mile-high skyscraper. What could possibly go wrong there? While the fan of science-fiction manmade immensity in me jumped for joy after reading this story, it also triggered my fear of heights so badly I got nauseated.


Comics Time: Bald Knob

March 31, 2008


Bald Knob

John Hankiewicz, writer/artist

self-published, 2007

28 pages


Buy it from John Hankiewicz

This book is more or less the platonic ideal of comics for me today. I think it was Paul Pope who wondered where the great prose stylists are in this medium? I’d recommend he check out Hankiewicz’s writing in this minicomic, a page-by-page accrual of disjointed observations about a morning the narrator (presumably Hankiewicz himself) spent with his father prior to the latter’s departure by train. It’s a “there is a certain slant of light” swirl of sense-memories and small talk: the perfume sent in an abandoned train-station waiting room, the reflected sunlight on a gravel lot, enjoying an unnecessary second meal at Waffle House, using shopworn turns of phrase to describe the weather. Hankiewicz’s words evoke an attempt to preserve the remnants of a moment, or perhaps even the remnants of a relationship, that has passed its peak level of intimacy and intensity and is now and forever imbued with a sense of its own recession into the past. Meanwhile his art does the same thing, its minutely detailed panel-per-page depictions of the crumbling buildings Hainkiewicz and his father navigate capturing the warm sadness of decrepit Americana as well as anything this side of the scenery outside your window on the train as it recedes into the distance. What a magnificent little comic.

Guilty before Almighty God. Guilty before His Son. Guilty before the whole human race.

March 30, 2008

This week’s Horror Roundtable is about our guilty pleasures. Mine is being a reverse-pretentious douchenozzle.

Towards a Horror Blogosphere?

March 29, 2008

Curt Purcell of The Groovy Age of Horror has been thinking big lately. First he had that great post on repetition and genre, and now he’s going meta with a thoughtful post on the Horror Blogosphere itself–or the lack thereof. Curt’s thesis is that while there are obviously quite a few horror blogs, and while several of them are occasionally brought together by such features as The Horror Blog’s Horror Roundtable or Final Girl’s Film Club or my own sadly defunct Where the Monsters Go link page, or even just individual link posts by various and sundry bloggers, there’s not a cohesive feel to this so-called “blogosphere.” Ideas don’t go viral, group conversation doesn’t really occur, topics don’t get advanced from one site to another to another. What he calls for to solve this problem is essentially a lynchpin linkblog site with a distinct host identity to keep track of all the goings-on on the multitudinous horror blogs and sites, point out commonalities and trends, and so on.

I feel I am bizarrely well-equipped to comment on this concept because, as very long-time readers of ADDTF might recall, I was actually a part of another nerdblogging scene during its nascent stages–the comics blogosphere. While not part of the first-gen cohort–I’m at least one step removed from NeilAlien–I was one of (I’d guess) the first dozen or so comics blogs–in other words, part of the first group of comics blogs that thought of itself as The Comics Blogosphere. IIRC this group consisted of myself, NeilAlien, Jim Henley, Franklin Harris, Johnny Bacardi, Alan David Doane, Bill Sherman, Tegan Gjovaag, Eve Tushnet, Elayne Riggs, Steven Wintle, Big Sunny D, Dave Intermittent, and Dirk Deppey. Some of those folks were bloggier than others, some were comicsier than others, some were more into the group aspect of it than others, but I think that was the basic breakdown.

Now, how did this motley crew of individuals achieve some sort of group sentience, a la Grant Morrison’s DCU? It was indeed the creation of a medium-spanning, labor-intensive, personality-driven linkblog: Dirk Deppey and The Comics Journal’s Journalista. Heck, I even wrote about this phenomenon at the time, likening it to the way the establishment of big-name liberal and conservative linkblogs drove the success of the political blogosphere. Not only did Dirk keep tabs on running discussions, contribute to them himself, and become a repository of topics to inspire new discussions, he also served as a model followed by what I think of as the “third wave” of comics blogs, the now-defunct efforts of people like Kevin Melrose and Graeme McMillan and John Jakala (not to mention Dave “Babar” G.’s Comic Weblog Update Page, from which Where the Monsters Go borrowed its code) that I think directly led to the HUGE explosion and proliferation of comics blogs that gave us the massive, no-one-person-can-keep-track comics blogosphere we have today. Nowadays the comics blogosphere is so big that Journalista’s central role is shared by at least three other sites: Tom Spurgeon’s The Comics Reporter, Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat, and Newsarama’s Blog@Newsarama.

So I think Curt is dead on: If you want a horror blogosphere like the Comics Blogosphere, you need a horror blog like Journalista.

But do I want a horror blogosphere like the Comics Blogosphere?

When I took my job at Wizard I was forced to stop blogging about comics. I kind of hemmed and hawed about what to blog about for a while, just doing odds and ends for a bit, then taking a short break, then doing a music-and-movies blog that was actually a cover for the horror-fiction project in blog format it was eventually to become. When I returned to ADDTF in full force, I made it a horror blog, which it stayed until Wizard let me go and I was able to start blogging about comics again. Now I split it about 50/50.

But if you look at my comics content now versus my comics content then–let alone compare my horror content to my old comics content–I think there’s a world of difference. In terms of comics, I feel NO pressure to comment on EVERYTHING, like I used to. I’m much less likely to snark. I’m much less likely to dogpile on comics-blogosphere whipping boys, much less likely to get involved in back-and-forth debates. I’m spending a lot more time reviewing what I read, much of which is books that are months or even years old rather than this week’s big release. And as for my horror blogging, I’ve never done anything but blog about the kinds of works and topics that interest me and only those works and topics. (ADDTF: Your Clive Barker/Giant Squid Headquarters!) To the extent that other people are as interested in reading my email exchanges about The Ruins and The Wire and discussing Cloverfield and the merits of the term “torture porn” as I am, then this is a pretty terrific horror blog, I suppose.

The thing is, I can’t imagine doing it some other way. I look at the sites that do cover what they consider to be the length and breadth of the horror field–your Bloody Disgustings and Arrow in the Heads and Dread Centrals and so on–and all I see are hype-driven posts about the latest direct-to-DVD release, the latest parody with zombies in it, people objecting in principle to J-horror or PG-13 ratings, posts about the next project for the writers of Turistas…To a certain extent, the comics blogosphere focuses way too much on equivalent topics–the latest event comic from or picayune pseudofeminist outrage over the Big Two superhero publishers, getting really excited if someone on television or in an entertainment magazine mentions Joss Whedon, yadda yadda yadda.

I think I’m just rambling now, but my point is, if given a choice between a horror blogosphere where we’re all talking about the same things or a horror blogosphere where it’s a bunch of intense loners off in their own corners blogging about whatever tickles their fancy, I’d probably take the latter. While I certainly would read a Journalista-esque horror blog (it’d probably beat what I’m getting from the big horror sites!), I’m probably okay without it.

Carnival of souls

March 28, 2008

* Today’s top story: Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel’s heirs have been awarded the copyright in Action Comics #1, Superman’s first issue. I honestly have no idea what this means because it’s all so drenched in legal mumbo-jumbo, but my sense is that it’s a victory for truth, justice, and the American way. (Via everyone.)

* Speaking of the Man of Steel, Joe McCulloch reviews Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s quite good All Star Superman #10. It’s always nice to see the infant universe of Qwewq.

* Mark your calendars: Bloody Disgusting reports that Clive Barker has an art show opening at Sloane Fine Art in New York City on April 16th. Among the art on display will be nine pieces created in honor of the upcoming film version of The Midnight Meat Train, including these two lovely portraits of mass transit enthusiast Mahogany:



* Curt Purcell offers a full-throated defense of the repetitive aspects of genre storytelling. The funny thing is that even though Curt is quite clear in his intent to defend story-based fiction against literary fiction, I think several of his points regarding repetition totally apply to, for instance, the literary comics of Anders Nilsen and Kevin Huizenga and John Hankiewicz that I am so into these days. For example, “Repetition Generates Complexity and Depth”–absolutely! Very thought-provoking stuff.

* And now speaking of genre storytelling, Ken Lowery gives Neil Marshall’s excellent Doomsday a rave review. I particularly liked this line:

It’s Grindhouse without all the winking and nudging.

That is exactly right.

* Beware of Tom Neely knockoffs!

* Water monster update: Dig this crazy video of the lake monster of Lake Champlain! (Via Loren Coleman.)

* Because it’s cool to read interviews with talented people who come across as good-natured and diligent about their talent, I really enjoyed this interview with Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood.

* Finally, over at Topless Robot my buddy Jesse Thompson has a rundown of the 10 Grossest Onscreen Movie Kisses that’s worth reading for the opening image alone:


Comics Time: Strangeways: Murder Moon

March 28, 2008


Strangeways: Murder Moon

Matt Maxwell, writer

Luis Garagña, Gervasio, Jok, artists

Highway 62 Press, March 2008

144 pages


Preview it at Highway 62

Buy it from

If Strangeways were twice as long as it is, it’d be a better book. I don’t mean that the story should be expanded, mind you; there’s an admirable and intelligent economy to the way Maxwell sets up his world-weary Western-horror milieu. It’s just that the existing material feels crammed into 50% fewer pages than it would really take to tell the story properly. Particularly in the early going, the exposition-heavy word balloons necessary to introduce the characters and the plot jockey for space with a riot of heavy, hard-to-parse blacks in every panel, which in turn fight for primacy on cramped pages whose gridless layouts make it difficult for the eye to find an anchor, or for the story to find a rhythm from shot to shot, page to page, and scene to scene. The result isn’t the psychological claustrophobia called for in the story but an artistic claustrophobia that hampered my experience of that story. Simply spreading the images and dialogue across more pages would give everything the room to breathe it needs. Indeed there are passages you can point to–an evocative jailhouse conversation between the sheriff and a condemned man, the climactic meeting of the gun-toting hero and his werewolf antagonist’s kin–where just such an effect is achieved. Not coincidentally, these are the points in the main story where Maxwell’s compellingly melancholy take on his two genres comes through most effectively.

The short story that rounds out the collection presents another counterfactual case in point. Here Garagña’s Caliber/Desperado-style inking is supplanted by Gervasio and Jok’s wiry line and washes of white, and the effect is like stepping out of a stuffy saloon into a moonlit night. Maxwell’s writing is particularly strong here. As with the main story, the prose is refreshingly tight (seldom is heard a misplaced word, to paraphrase a perhaps appropriate song). But this unique “origin of the species” story for the werewolves combines an imaginative core concept involving Native American mythology with genuine emotional power–it’s the kind of think I think Dan Simmons tried to do in The Terror, but like similar stories in, say, Hellboy, it works better here in this lean and mean format. (It also shakes loose of the grime-encrusted Western setting, which is fine by me. I’m a little tired of that vibe, which now that I think of it probably doesn’t bode well for my plan to Netflix my way through Deadwood.) If there’s more of this sort of thing on the way from the Strangeways project, I’d be happy to check it out.

Get ’em while they’re hot

March 27, 2008

And cheap! Amazon’s discount graphic novels page has some pretty outrageous deals right now on some great books:

House by Josh Simmons for $2.59 (that’s right, $2.59)

Love & Rockets: Perla la Loca and Love & Rockets: Beyond Palomar for $6.75 each

Chance in Hell by Gilbert Hernandez for $5.50

Holy moses! Thanks to reader Joe Villella for the tip…

Carnival of souls: special Civic Duty edition

March 27, 2008

* I am totally blogging from the jurors’ lounge at the Nassau County courthouse right now. Hooray for living in the future!

* I’d forgotten that Battlestar Galactica creator/revivifier Ron Moore is involved in the remake of The Thing. This is the kind of movie that I’d be tempted to get all outraged about its being remade, until I reflect that the version we all love was itself a remake and the person in charge of remaking it already has a miles-better-than-the-original remake under his belt.

* AICN’s Moriarty loved serial superhero ruiner J. Michael Straczynski’s screenplay adaptation of Max Brooks’s brilliant docu-zombie novel World War Z. Color me extremely skeptical, though I will of course go see the movie to decide in the end.

* Someone made an opera out of David Lynch’s Lost Highway? (Via Matt Zoller Seitz.)

* Finally, our quote of the day comes from Siskoid’s review of Jim Woodring’s Trosper:

The story? It’s about a little elephant who’s playing with a ball, when things go awry and he gets chased by Woodring’s trademark vaginas and penises until he finds another ball…

Carnival of souls

March 26, 2008

* Apparently the makers of the Descent sequel The De2cent are also planning The De3cent, but what really struck me about the post at that link is that it says Neil Marshall is co-writing The De2cent itself, which was news to me.

* I wasn’t sure what the big idea behind Marvel’s upcoming event comic Secret Invasion was going to be–I mean, I knew it was about Skrulls replacing superheroes but I wasn’t sure what the philosophical hook a la Civil War‘s bowdlerized privacy vs. security debate was, if any. But in this interview with writer Brian Michael Bendis about the comic, he reveals that a) there is a religious element to the Skrulls’ plan of conquest, and b) the Skrulls totalitarian way of life is going to actually appeal to some of the characters. I’m still not sold at all on Bendis as an event writer, but it is nice to see Marvel continuing to blend “hey isn’t that neat” comicsy ideas with intelligible ideological/emotional-struggle angles in their big projects. (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* Unfortunately the old ToyFare gallery of He-Man art by comics artists I linked to a while back went down’s memory hole, but here’s Ben Templesmith’s contribution. (Via Heidi MacDonald.)


* Well, crap, this print of the original Star Wars action figure line by Kenner photographer Dan Simmons is pretty damn rad. Buy one yourself! (Via Uncrate.)


* Finally, another great weekly strip by Tom Neely.


Comics Time: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

March 26, 2008


Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

David Petersen, writer/artist

Villard Books, March 2008

200 pages


Buy it from

David Petersen is a prodigiously talented illustrator, no question. When it comes to being a writer, he may not know art, but he knows what he likes. In its somber, Tolkienesque way, this tale of swordplay and strife amid warring factions of medieval mice warriors is just as much a product of the “art of enthusiasm” school of genre mash-up as Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim or Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja’s The Immortal Iron Fist, or even Neil Marshall’s Doomsday. Without a hint of irony it clearly exists to repackage Petersen’s favorite tropes–Joseph Campbell’s hero with a thousand faces, Watership Down‘s red in tooth and claw fuzzy-rodent society, Tolkien’s faux-archaiac prose, Ralph Bakshi’s rotoscoped villains–into a whole that satisfies his own obsessions, all in the hopes that it will satisfy others’ as well.

Mission accomplished on that score, at least for this reviewer, at least for the most part. Listen, I’m sure there are more hardcore fantasy devotees out there who would tear it to shreds for its likeable but stock characters and storylines (three guesses as to whether the black mouse called Midnight is the Guard’s secret traitor) and the clunkiness of the prose (“There I found the record of legend being fact”). Comics readers might object to pacing that frequently gets ahead of itself (introductory text pieces that kick off each chapter deliver vital information skipped by the comic itself; the climax of the story arrives too suddenly). You can probably tell from those flaws whether or not this thing is your cup of meat; there are probably many of you for whom it isn’t. I for one wish the book displayed even a modicum of self-awareness, let alone humor, about itself; I can’t imagine Petersen thinks anything other than he’s making one for the ages, and that loss of perspective hurts him at critical moments, from shading his characters to recognizing the failure of the ending.

But never once did I feel like my intelligence was insulted, a prerequisite for any action-adventure comic that many fail to meet. Nor did I feel like I was “reading” a series of pin-ups or illustrations instead of a comic. For all his pure chops–the lush, textural colors, the evocatively shaky line, the note-perfect cute-savage mouse designs–Petersen does indeed cartoon in these pages. The sound effect for a snake’s hiss weaves sinuously through the foliage. A sudden cut to a goggles-wearing mouse elicits a guffaw. Astute use of photorealism gives predatory snakes and crabs an otherworldly air. Even the format–the pages are square!–speaks to Petersen’s confidence in his vision. It’s not quite fully realized, indeed for anyone other than Petersen it probably couldn’t be, but as comics’ answer to Harry Potter it entertained me enough to tune in next time.

Carnival of souls

March 25, 2008

* Dueling Duel posts! First Kevin B. Lee reviews Steven Spielberg’s super-tense debut feature and also assembles a truly massive collection of reviews and information to supplement the post. (Via The House Next Door.) Then Lee, Keith Uhlich, Steven Boone, and Andrew “Filmbrain” Grant have a roundtable podcast discussion of the flick.

* Jason Adams reviews Singin’ in the Rain! Jason, your first-paragraph fake-out freaked me the hell out, man. I have very vivid memories of being in a sophomore-year film studies class and hearing too-cool-for-school film students calling that movie “corny” and thinking there truly must be something wrong with them mentally.

* “I’m in the god-damn club, aren’t I?” BC at Horror Movie a Day reviews The Monster Squad, tackling the deluxe DVD, a screening with Fred Dekker, and his memories of the viewings of his youth all in one fell swoop.

* Finally, over at Topless Robot, Todd Ciolek runs down the Top 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments in ’80s Cartoons. The second I saw this headline I thought “Oh my God, they’re gonna have that G.I. Joe cartoon with the meltings.” Big points also for including the Smurfs’ “goodness makes the badness go away” song, which I used to sing to myself at night if I got scared, sadly enough.

marvel b0y hacked the Fantagraphics blog

March 25, 2008

If you know what’s going on here—and I do, god help me—you probably need to be doing something more constructive with your time.

Carnival of souls

March 24, 2008

* No word on whether this is due to a track fire at Penn Station, but word all over the horror internet is that Lionsgate has pushed the release of their adaptation of Clive Barker’s The Midnight Meat Train back from its original May 19 release date to a new unknown time. My guess is that you won’t see it until the horror-rich late summer period, then, but what do I know.

* Here’s the poster for Robin Hardy’s upcoming kinda quasi sorta sequel semi remake pseudo reimagining of The Wicker Man, Cowboys for Christ. I’m sorry to see it using the dreaded Trajan font, but oh well!


* More Wicker Man: Bill Sherman reviews Neil LaBute’s much-derided remake and adds some derision of his own. Rather than kicking poor Nic Cage around and repeating “Not the bees!”, Bill’s astute critique isolates several points where the new version deviated from the old at its own peril, both general (ruining the bait-and-switch that drives so much of the first film by making the pagan society unappealing from the get-go) and very specific (changing the community’s name from Summerisle to the “sibilant and unwieldy” Summersisle).

* Joe McCulloch does Jack T. Chick! Specifically, he compares a Chick tract to its African-Americanized remake by Chick disciple-cartoonist Fred Carter.

* Ross Douthat analyzes the return of the ’70s in American cinema. His emphasis is political and you may not agree with his take on this phenomenon, but the cogent way he runs down everything from conspiracy thrillers to torture porn to the horror-remake wave to the zombie revival to the HBO dramas to Battlestar Galactica strikes me as mightily impressive. (Via Keith Uhlich.)

* Rob Humanick re-views and reviews The Mist. I think he’s fonder of the movie than I am–perhaps because he hasn’t read the original story (let alone re-read it half a dozen times like me) so the scares were fresh and there was nothing to unfavorably compare the movie version to–but even so I think he’s pretty sharp in terms of what works and doesn’t work in the film.

* IT’S…a Monty Python quiz! I got a perfect score, you sons of a silly person. (Via Whitney Matheson.)

* Water monster alert: A new species of plesiosaur–the oldest aquatic reptile of any kind on record in North America–has been discovered in Alberta, Canada. Actually it was discovered in 1994, but it took until now to fully remove the fossil from the rock it was found in.

* Finally, LOST SPOILER WARNING: I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how badass Sayid is and how he must have a plan in terms of his actions in the last episode. Just to recap, this is a guy who got knocked out and had his radio smashed by Locke, got captured by Rousseau, got captured by the Iraqi restaurateur in his flashback, let the Others sneak right past him and attack the boat with Sun on it, got captured by the Others in Others Village, got captured by the Others on the beach, got captured by Locke in Others Village, and got shot by his girlfriend in his flashforward. The only target he’s ever successfully infiltrated is Shannon’s vagina.

Comics Time: Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore

March 24, 2008


Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore

Alan Moore, writer

Dave Gibbons, Klaus Janson, Jim Baikie, Kevin O’Neill, Paris Cullins, Rick Veitch, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Bill Willingham, George Freeman, artists

DC Comics, 2003

208 pages


Buy it used from

Though it’s now out of print, having been supplanted by a collection that also includes the longer stories Batman: The Killing Joke and Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, this particular anthology of mainline-DC stories by Alan Moore is the superior book, and not just because of the absence of the irksome reproduction errors that plagued the two aforementioned stories in the later edition. Without those two tales–both of them swinging-for-the-fences “last word” efforts about their respective milieus, grim’n’gritty Batman and Silver Age Superman–overshadowing the proceedings, we’re able to better compare in apples-to-apples fashion the short stories that remain, and better appreciate their pleasurable successes–and almost as pleasurable failures.

Moore’s superhero work dealt with the same problems as any superhero story–devising wild science-fiction settings, creating threats believable enough to overwhelm the audience’s knowledge that nothing bad is really gonna happen to our hero, deriving resonance from each character’s time-honored tropes. The best I can do to describe what he did differently from his contemporaries is to say that he solved these problems by attacking them from a completely different direction than any other writer at the time.

For example, in not one but two separate “Superman vs. parasitical plant life” stories–the Swamp Thing crossover “The Jungle Line” and the now-classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale “For the Man Who Has Everything”–Moore makes the all but invulnerable Superman eminently vulnerable, physically and emotionally, by tying him back to his roots in the apocalyptic extermination of Krypton and its inhabitants. Rather than simply throw another alien powerhouse or supergenius at the guy as most writers would do, Moore plays off the “Last Son” aspect of the character to create a threat that’s primarily emotional rather than physical or mental–blazing a path that’s still followed by the character’s most successful interpreters to this day.

Many of his other novel approaches stem from the classical science-fiction notion of a “literature of ideas,” as opposed to the superhero science-fiction norm of humanoid aliens in crazy clothes with laser guns. These stories’ strength is one of raw concept: How would a Green Lantern power ring operate for a being with no concept of light or sight? How do you conquer beings who operate on a time frame so slow that it would take them years to even notice your presence? How do you teach the birds and the bees to a species with no females? Why limit the aliens we encounter to more or less humanoid forms when they could be sentient planets or sentient smallpox viruses? It’s a litany of the kind of idea that’d blow the minds of anyone whose idea of science fiction began on Tattooine and ended on Krypton.

The art in the collection firmly roots it to the time of its origin. To a superhero reader raised on the high-gloss, digitally colored, border-busting, photoref’d slugfests of today, it all must look hopelessly primitive; even the artists who still have some name-recognition juice today, like Dave “Watchmen” Gibbons and Klaus Janson, come across as quaintly classicist and nostalgically sloppy respectively. (God only knows what a Greg Land fan would make of the Lovecraftian avant-garde demons in Kevin O’Neill’s creepy Green Lantern story!) But this too plays to Moore’s strengths as a writer in this period by harkening back to a simpler time before the writer grew so fixated on form and referentiality, instead preferring simple superhero morality plays of idea and emotion.

Not everything works, not by a long shot. Stories involving street-level heroes Green Arrow & Black Canary and Vigilante are distinguished primarily by less-than-enthralling narrative conceits, the former likening a night in the big city to an athletic event for no clear reason and the latter interspersing Vigilante’s team-up with a comically clichéd party girl (“I’ve got forty kilos of good Colombian weed stashed up there!”) with excerpts from the creepily loving letter of the pedophile they’re chasing to his intended victim. A Batman story from the perspective of an obscure, insane villain who thinks he’s perfectly sane has its limitations revealed by the two decades’ worth of such stories that followed. All the standard pitfalls of ’80s superhero comics can be found at one point or another: multiracial vest-wearing street gangs, howlingly unrealistic dialect, incongruously forcing clunky sci-fi ideas into conversational speech (“Why are you still staring out of the window? The underlights of Aunt Allura’s paragondola vanished five units ago.”).

But those good stories—the Superman, Green Lantern, and Vega ones mostly—are really awfully good. Best of all they make it seem like telling a good story was Moore’s only goal. Maybe that’s why I enjoy this book as much as almost anything I’ve read by the bard of Northampton: With no Victoriana to riff on and no snake gods to worship, the guy can spin a heckuva yarn.

An Easter treat

March 23, 2008

Tom Spurgeon has posted his big Best of 2007 feature! It’s fun, and I like how this year he divided it up into categories rather than posting a massive Top 50 countdown that makes me feel bad about my inadequate reading habits.

Also I don’t know why I haven’t been posting links to this every week like I do with the Horror Roundtable, but this week’s Five for Friday audience participation feature at Tom’s site asks the participants to construct the comic of our dreams in just five words. I was surprised to see how many other folks picked the same writer I did.

Carnival of souls

March 22, 2008

* News from the Battlestar Galactica camp continues to roll out: This time it’s David Eick adapting Children of Men as a series. He says it will be less of a “war show” than the movie was and instead focus on the societal ramifications. This would have sounded more promising to me in a pre-Bionic Woman world, but we’ll see.

* The Viggo Mortensen–starring adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is slated for a Thanksgiving release. Happy Turkey Day!

* Jason Adams has posted the debut short horror film from The Ruins director Carter Smith, Bugcrush, in its entirety.

* Steven Wintle of The Horror Blog is like totally wrong about Doomsday.

* But as a consolation prize he offers this week’s Horror Roundtable, about our favorite shout-outs to horror in non-horror settings. Tricky as Pinhead FTW!


* Anders Nilsen draws Captain America!


Reminds me a bit of the drawing of David Bowie he did for me…

* Scientists have discovered jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles and two-feet-wide starfish…in Antarctica.

* Todd Ciolek calls out the Top 10 Biggest Indiana Jones Ripoffs. Relic Hunter FTW!

Comics Time: Hellboy Junior

March 21, 2008


Hellboy Junior

Mike Mignola, Bill Wray, writers

Mignola, Hilary Barta, Dave Cooper, Stephen Destefano, Pat McEown, Kevin Nowlan, artists

Dark Horse Comics, January 2004

120 pages


Buy it from

Originally written on June 23, 2004 for publication by The Comics Journal

The post-movie-version influx of new readers to a tie-in title has, at least since the first Batman film, been something of a chimera for mainstream comics publishers. This is most likely because nearly everyone on Earth is already aware that (say) Spider-Man comics exist, and have made up their minds long ago whether or not they are actually going to buy such things, regardless of whether or not they agree with Gene Shalit’s assessment that the character’s celluloid incarnation is “a non-stop thrill ride” or what have you. Seen in that light, Mike Mignola’s much-lauded but relatively obscure Hellboy actually has more in common with Ghost World than The Hulk, and the bona-fide sales boom for Hellboy graphic novels after the film’s critical and commercial success bears this out.

One can only wonder, then, what Joe & Jane Q. Non-Fanboy would think were they to wander into their local Android’s Dungeon (or, more likely, Borders) in search of further adventures of the sardonic, demonic paranormal investigator, only to pick up a copy of Hellboy Junior instead. Sure, Ron Perlman is a great comic actor, even under six inches of prosthetics. But could even his wittiest mid-battle bon mot prepare the unwary reader for a comic in which a young Hellboy pays for mail-order hallucinogenic mushrooms with gold teeth pulled out of the mouth of an emetophagic Idi Amin, who is later rewarded by Satan with sex for all eternity with a septuagenarian nun?

Such is the sense of humor on display in this completely out-of-left-field anthology, released this spring and comprised of comics originally published in the late ’90s. Primarily an extended riff on Mignola’s character by gonzo humor cartoonist and Ren & Stimpy collaborator Bill Wray, Hellboy Junior largely eschews the former’s eerie, deadpan comedy for something much closer to Angry Youth Comix. Pustules abound, as do vomit, interspecies sex, and dismemberment. It may sound overly broad and scattershot, but it’s done with an offensive brio that makes it difficult not to go along, and laugh while you’re at it. Well, laugh, or exclaim “Holy shit.” This is, after all, a Muppet Babies version of a beloved hero, and here he is involved in stories that end with Bob Hope emceeing at the crucifixion of Hitler.

The Hellboy Junior stories themselves are a mixed bag. “The Devil Don’t Smoke,” drawn by Mignola himself, contains the kind of non-sequitur humor that made Mignola’s The Amazing Screw-On Head such a treat (there’s a one-panel cameo appearance by an imperious skeleton with a nail through his head, you know what I mean?), and as such is far removed from the sicko gags of the rest of the book. Artist Dave Cooper makes “Hellboy Jr’s Magical Mushroom Trip” every bit as visually rich as you’d expect, though the real star of the show may well be Cooper’s luminous covers and smart lettering, which depict the various stages of H.J.’s reverie with perfectly evocative clarity. But the two Hellboy tales drawn by Wray run on well past the point of diminishing returns–maggots, violence, abusing Hitler, yes, we get it.

Indeed, the funniest, and not coincidentally the most offensive, moments come not in the Hellboy material, but in Wray’s incongruous parodies of old Harvey comics and other storybook & cartoon icons. Baby Huey, for example, is re-imagined by Wray and artist Stephen DeStefano as Huge Retarded Duck, an enormous diaper-clad imbecile who graphically disembowels three redneck ducklings during their attempted rape of his mother, only to impregnate her himself. Folks, that’s comedy. Throw in an Acme-style ad for the Spear of Destiny (“I couldn’t have killed Christ without it!” raves Gaius Cassius, Roman Centurion) and sharp, sleazy art turns by Hilary Barta and Pat McEown, and you’ve got a package that’ll amuse the deviant 15-year-old in all of us. Let’s just hope it doesn’t single-handedly derail the semi-horned one’s marketing mojo.

Carnival of souls: special Upcoming Projects edition

March 20, 2008

* Ron Moore and David Eick are talking up Caprica, their Battlestar Galactica prequel spinoff. Unfortunately they’re doing it by comparing it to American Beauty; all that comparison means to me is that I’ll spend the entire show/series/whatever it’s going to be waiting for the robots to rise up and kill the main characters.

* Here’s that Battlestar Galactica Top 10 list from last night’s Letterman.

* Remember Awake, that not-so-good looking movie about remaining sentient during anesthesia starring Hayden Christensen and Jessica Alba? Writer-director Joby Harold has been hired to write the screenplay for Sylvian White’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s Ronin. Apparently he’s also writing the script for Zack Snyder’s zombie-action epic Army of the Dead. So that’s two interesting-to-me projects based on the success of Awake. Well, hey, the director of Meet the Feebles adapted The Lord of the Rings. (Via Arrow in the Head.)

* Also on the upcoming-projects tip: Before he gets to his Lovecraftian Western project, Neil Marshall is adapting a car-chase/heist novel called Drive. I bring this up mostly as an excuse to hector you into going to see Doomsday, tonight if possible. (Via AICN.)

* Ain’t It Cool News’s Merrick notes that soundstages in Bulgaria are apparently slated for use for Rambo 5. I’m glad that this is happening.

* Inspired by recent news regarding the discovery of additional Manson Family victims, Bill Sherman muses on the horrendous impact Charlie and company had on the counterculture.

* Ian Brill praises Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. (It really is great.)

* Rob Humanick buries Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. (The German version, even!)

* In honor of tonight’s final Lost episode for five weeks, fansite The Tail Section hasa hilarious anecdote from Damon Lindelof regarding the network’s reaction to the infamous four-toed statue from a few seasons back. It’s really a classic story of its kind.

* Finally, Ron Regé Jr. draws the Fantastic Four! Sadly, this is not an upcoming project.


Carnival of souls: special Big Nerd News Day edition

March 19, 2008

* I feel like there were at least three or four announcements today that would topline your average nerd blog nine days out of ten. Whoopiddy dee!

* For starters, it’s a huge Battlestar Galactica news day: Tonight the cast appears on Letterman to read the Top 10 reasons you should watch the new season, today the SciFi Channel announced it has greenlit the BSG prequel backdoor pilot Caprica (via Whitney Matheson), and show bigwig David Eick revealed that NBC has canceled his so-so Bionic Woman remake. Good news all around, basically!

* You know what Rick Baker is saying to your new-school non-furry rat-fetus werewolves with his makeup for Benicio Del Toro’s title character in the remake of The Wolfman? Fuck you, that’s what he’s saying. Well, not in so many words, but take a look at the pictures and read his interview at EW touting the film’s faithfulness to the Lon Chaney Jr. wolfman and read between the lines, baby. (Via Bloody Disgusting.)



* Michael Cera is apparently going to play Scott Pilgrim in Edgar Wright’s film version of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic. I guess this is good because it should get the movie some attention, but I always pictured Scott–wait, that’s not accurate, I always used my eyes to look at the pre-existing pictures of Scott and came to the conclusion that he’s a more stylish cat than Cera. I also wasn’t an Arrested Development watcher and never saw Superbad, so I don’t have much of a dog in this race.

* David Simon says that by focusing on everything that went wrong with The Wire‘s final season, you miss the genius of it, which was…uh, distracting you with everything that went wrong so you didn’t notice what it did right. Yeah, I’m not sure why that’s supposed to count in the show’s favor either. (Via Keith Uhlich.

* Jason Adams reviews the English-language version of Funny Games, and says it’s kind of a superfluous experience if you know the German version at all. However, he fucking loved Doomsday–doesn’t everyone?

* Harry Knowles did, and he expresses it in his own unique way:

Sure, I’d fuck it – but I also want to put it in a shallow grave – so I can dig it back up and fuck it later.

The most influential film critic online, ladies and gentlemen!

* Sean and his excellent pop/geek/art/sex blog Strange Ink is back!

* Finally, Max Rebo cake! (Via Topless Robot.)


Comics Time: Battlestack Galacti-crap

March 19, 2008

Battlestack Galacti-crap

Brian Chippendale, writer/artist

self-published, January 2005

28 pages

I forget how much it cost and can’t find a realistic price anywhere online

Buy it from Target, believe it or not

The other day I mentioned that Micrographica‘s casual quality did not mesh well with its presentation as a perfectbound graphic novella. Battlestack Galacti-crap, on the other hand, is exactly what it should be–a crazy little minicomic with a bright green-and-pink silkscreend cover and photocopied pages that look like they can barely contain the throwaway wildness they document.

The product of Fort Thunder alum/Lightning Bolt drummer/Ninja and Maggots author/Björk collaborator Brian Chippendale, its “story” is kind of like The Wire for three-year-olds: A group of gaudily costumed creatures called Gang Gloom has the bright idea to sell cheap cupcakes down on Stack Street, a move that the members of rival outfit Teamy Weamy don’t take kindly to. The resulting rumble, “of course,” ends up with all the participants stacked on top of each other in tangled-up tower of crazy creatures–apparently that’s how “any interaction on Stack Street always ends.”

Something about this minicomic tapped into a long-forgotten vein of surreal action-humor in my psyche. When I was a kid I seem to remember being fascinated by the idea of people/things being so stuck together they couldn’t move, yet not treating this like a crisis and simply chit-chatting with each other like it’s a minor inconvenience. (This seems like a Jim Henson kinda idea–was it from a Muppet movie?) Needless to say it’s a perfect fit with Chippendale’s method of choice for cartooning, which is to fill up as much of the page with visual information as he can, and the scenes of dozens of helmet and mask-wearing characters mashed together are appropriately sloppy and exuberant. But many of the characters get a chance to shine on either end of the action in the ersatz pin-up pages that kick off and conclude the story. In both cases the art provides the visual punch for Chippendale’s goofy sense of humor: The solo shots of the characters proposing the cupcake-selling idea grant an absurd sense of grandeur to the silly proceedings, while the suggestion by one guy at the bottom of the titular “battlestack” that another’s back injury might be cured by one of the recipes in his handy copy of Healing with Whole Foods reaches a Pythonesque level of comic incongruity. And then there’s that lovely page where someone yells “EVERYBODY OFF!” and the stack collapses in a dynamically lovely waterfall of falling bodies. Top to bottom, this minicomic is a miniature model of form fitting function.