Archive for September 30, 2009

Carnival of souls

September 30, 2009

* There has been a pretty high volume of posts around here over the past couple days in addition to the usual Carnival of Souls linkblogging. In case you missed anything, I reviewed Boy’s Club #3 for The Savage Critic(s), posted my weekly Gossip Girl thoughts, wrote up my SPX 2009 report, and posted MP3s of the Critics Roundtable and New Action panels from the con.

* My goodness, Drawn & Quarterly’s big sale really is offering some nutso discounts, and it ends Friday. I gotta sniff around; you should too.

* Robert Kirkman talks to MTV Splash Page about Frank Darabont and AMC’s Walking Dead TV series. It all augurs well. Can you imagine if there was a post-apocalyptic zombie series that people could talk about in the same breath as Mad Men and Breaking Bad? Can you imagine?? (Via Heidi MacDonald.)

* Superhero-comic tyro Rob Bricken of Topless Robot and his chum Matt Wilson review Wednesday Comics, breaking it down into lists of the Best, Worst, and Just Okay strips. As much fun as it can be for me to bust on Rob when he whiffs on the “facts” of the current Marvel and DC Universes–and believe me, that’s a lot of fun–I still really love when he writes about superhero comics, because in a lot of way’s he’s such low-hanging fruit for those publishers. He’s a giant nerd in virtually every other regard but superhero comics, he has a rudimentary knowledge of the basics, but he’s basically coming to them afresh–can they hook him? I won’t spoil the answer, although perhaps you can guess.

* R. Crumb gave a two-hour press conference on The Book of Genesis in France. Man was it fun writing that sentence.

* Real-Life Horror 1: Should there be a military “solution to the Obama problem”?

* Real-Life Horror 2: I suppose I should weigh in on the Roman Polanski arrest, huh? How’s this: Rosemary’s Baby is one of the all-time great horror movies, Chinatown is overrated, what he went through during the Holocaust and with the Manson murders is awful beyond imagining, and people who drug, rape, and sodomize 13-year-olds as they scream “no” should go to fucking prison.

Gossip Girl thoughts

September 30, 2009

* This episode could have ended right after Blair failed to understand the sock-on-the-doorknob “sexile” signal and walked in on Dan and Geogina dry-humping. Fuck, the whole show could have ended right there. If I wasn’t quite sold on the potential of “Gossip Girl Goes to College” before then, I sure am now: Besides offering an endless array of scenarios in which we can watch beautiful young people do it, it also presents Blair and the gang with their greatest challenge yet. How can someone who’s accustomed to occupying presidential hotel suites for her trysts get used to sleeping on a twin bed just a few feet away from where a couple other kids just banged one out? Brilliant. I am so on board for this.

* I think it’s funny how Blair looks like this fresh-faced little munchkin all the time while Serena usually looks like an attractive 40-year-old.

* I did not like Blair’s dress during the second half of the episode at all! It looked like a Deee-Lite video threw up on her.

* I did like how ambitious and ridiculous the big schemes were in this episode. Chuck and Blair hiring various people to ruin Carter’s relationship with Serena, Georgina orchestrating a pair of elaborate ruses to pit Chuck and Blair against one another–it was like that Mark Waid JLA run where someone uses Batman’s contingency plans for rogue JLA members against them. When I saw where the Chuck and Blair photo thing was going I was ready to turn against another goofy done-in-one storyline, and indeed it seems like the writers can’t quite figure out what else to do with that pair right now other than stand-alone hijinx, but it was so baroque and silly I couldn’t stay mad.

* You know, I was really pulling for Georgina. I wanted her turnaround to be legit. Okay, so I suppose there have been an awful lot of redemption arcs on this show: That’s Serena’s story, which is easy to forget since her real rampages took place prior to the pilot. To an extent it’s also Chuck and Blair’s stories, as they slowly transformed from heartless monsters into…monsters with hearts, I guess. Jenny had a rise and fall and rise arc as well. And now you’ve got reformed bad boy Carter, too. But there’s something about Georgina’s potential redemption that would have really worked for me. Here’s someone whose behavior was bad enough to horrify even the likes of Chuck, who the whole gang had to team up against to stop; then she became a Jesus-freak punchline; I think it would have been interesting to see her as someone now more or less comfortable between the two extremes, really trying to keep on the straight and narrow. I dunno, maybe that’s what we’ll get eventually, but I was a little bummed out that she was puppet-mastering Chuck and Blair. It’s also tough to tell if we’re supposed to interpret her Dan wallpaper as sweet or stalkerish–I hope it’s the former.

* Man, that was a poorly acted reveal between Scott and Vanessa, wasn’t it? Maybe it was the editing, though–it felt rushed. I really don’t understand why Vanessa didn’t out Scott there at the auction. Who is this kid to her, compared to the Humphreys? But hey, at least we found out the reasoning behind that weird professor-recommendation party freakout last week. That was baffling!

* When they finally got around to showing Nate, it was like, “MEANWHILE, on another show…” But boy is he beautiful. I hope this Capulet/Montague storyline gives him something to do. Maybe he’ll tangle with Carter? He needs an antagonist other than his father or grandfather, is what I think it is–someone that reveals him as his own person rather than someone constantly reacting to the people who got him where he is.

* I don’t know what it was, but I thought Ed Westwick was a fucking scream in this episode. I mean, he always is, but The Missus and I found ourselves rewinding and rewatching certain moments that weren’t even laugh lines or whatever, just watching him smile or listening to him talk or watching him walk around. He’s truly magnificent.

* Regarding the auction scene, watching three hot kids spend thousands of dollars on things they don’t even actually want is almost erotic.

Comics Time: Boy’s Club #3

September 30, 2009

Boy’s Club #3

Matt Furie, writer/artist

Buenaventura Press, 2009

40 pages


Buy it from Buenaventura Press

For today’s Comics Time review, please visit The Savage Critic(s).

Carnival of souls

September 29, 2009

* My latest Strange Tales Spotlight interview is with Jhonen Vasquez. He’s doing a MODOK comic!

* Honestly? Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are is not for me. I like Maurice Sendak’s original picturebook as much as the next guy, but because I’ve been a brilliant genius from a frighteningly young age I got through my picturebook phase pretty quickly and never latched onto any of them as hard as I did, say, The Hobbit. Meanwhile the whole indie-whimsy, Yo Gabba Gabba, “fairy tales for grown-ups” thing is very, very much not my thing–you can take your Arcade Fire-soundtracked wide-eyed wonder and pound it up your sister’s ass, to be blunt. So there’s that. On the other hand, Vice Magazine’s Johnny Ryan-curated comic tribute to Where the Wild Things Are, featuring Ben Jones & Christina Gregory, Benjamin Marra, Dan Zettwoch, Esther Pearl Watson, Frederic Fleury, Hellen Jo, Jordan Crane, Josh Simmons, La Merde, Lisa Hanawalt, Mark Todd, Martin Ontiveros, Matt Furie, Matthew Thurber, Nick Gazin, Ray Sohn, Ron Rege Jr, Sakabashira, Sammy Harkham, Shintaro Kago, Skinner, Ted May, Tony Millionaire, and Vanessa Davis? That very much is my thing. (Via Ben Marra.)

* My find of SPX: Cold Heat Special #6 by Chris Cornwell, which only made it to the show on Sunday. Suck it, Saturday-only-ers!

* I was really glad to see Acme Novelty Library #19, the best graphic novel of the year, be named the best graphic novel of the year at the Ignatz Awards. And since I kvetched during the Critics Roundtable panel about how little discussion we saw of that book, I’m gonna link to my review again. (I stole this idea from Ken Parille.)

* Gitchyer Predators plot summary here.

* The secret origin of The Groovy Age of Horror: Curt Purcell reveals the history of his horror fandom in the League of Tana Tea Drinkers’ “Meet the Horror Bloggers” interview series.

* Elsewhere, Curt reviews Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush, mostly by way of comparison to the way, ahem, I reviewed it. I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.

* Brian Chippendale on the Fantastic Four: He reviews some Millar/Hitch and Hickman/Eaglesham issues, argues that Mat Brinkman deserves a huge Pantheon book deal (agreed!), then assembles his own FF with Frank Santoro, Richard Corben, Jungil Hong, and Rashied Ali. It is a fucking awesome post.

* Happy one-year blogiversary, The Cool Kids Table! To celebrate, Ben Morse highlights Nova’s rogues gallery, not a single member of which I’ve ever heard of.

Wow. They’re like Savage Dragon villains, and I mean that as a compliment. Money quote:

If today’s writers can’t find a place for a Chinese genius vampire hunter turned brain in a mechanical body who can pose as a Sherlock Holmes robot at will, perhaps they aren’t really earning their paychecks.

* Real-Life Horror: Prominent Republican Liz Cheney loves torture, and Republicans love her for it.

* I have no idea why COOP sent me a picture he took of an Andy Warhol Star Wars bounty hunter action figure, but I’m very glad he did.

My 2009 SPX Report

September 29, 2009

Report? Ha! “Report” implies that I’ve got some sense of the gestalt of the show this year, and I definitely don’t. Between driving down on Saturday morning rather than Friday night, traffic, getting lost (me only!), getting locked out of our hotel room because the lock’s battery died, and doing two panels back to back, my friends and I ended up with a lot less time to prowl and browse than we normally do. Any big-picture view of the con I might have could be only be pieced together from a small handful of hurried circuits of the show floor, plus what turns out to be the very limited perspective one has from being “on stage” during panels or award shows.

That said:

1) It sure looked crowded! When my buddies and I rolled into the show floor on Saturday afternoon around 2:15 or so, I basically did a vaudevillian double-take upon seeing just how many people were packed in there. Maybe I’m just mentally comparing it to the wider aisles (and cavernous environment) of this year’s MoCCA, but I don’t think so–it seemed much busier than the last two SPXs I went to, both in this same venue. I talked to one exhibitor who met his sales goals for the entire weekend before day’s end Saturday, and another who said foot traffic was up but sales were flat, and somewhere between those poles were a lot of people who said things were going very well indeed. More support for my theory that cons and festivals and whatnot are going to continue to do well throughout the Great Recession even as the industries they’re tied to struggle because they offer not just a commodity but a community, not just a purchase but an event?

2) This was one of those shows where I didn’t end up buying anything I’d never heard of before. I know a lot of people NEVER have that happen to them, they always come away with some kind of hidden treasure, and honestly that’s probably the right thing to do, or try to do. But man, I was just soooooo overwhelmed by the amount of high-quality product by creators and publishers I was already following. Three new Cold Heat comics, for pete’s sake! New comics from Theo Ellsworth, Kevin Huizenga, Jeffrey Brown, John Porcellino, James McShane, Matt Wiegle, Tom Neely, the whole Buenaventura Press altcomic revival…it was nuts even if you stayed away from the big, readily available elsewhere book-format debuts from Porcellino and Al Columbia and Gahan Wilson and Carol Tyler and so on and so forth. (Which I did, with the exception of a personalized copy of Driven by Lemons that Josh Cotter was nice enough to comp me, so it didn’t count anyway.) I spent a lot of money at this show and feel like I barely scratched the surface.

[2.5)Speaking of barely scratching the surface, only four new Bowie sketches this time around. But they’re doozies. Stay tuned!]

3) Man, people love this show. Multiple presenters at the Ignatz Awards talked about how great it felt to go to a place where everyone knew what a minicomic and a graphic novel was. And it’s true! That’s a major selling point for a show like this. There’s not a huge local contingent here the way there is at MoCCA or many of the other altcomix-friendly shows, so it really does feel like a weekend retreat for people who make and like good comics. In my case I’m traveling five-plus hours each way for a 24-hour immersion in looking at, buying, reading, and talking about comics, basically. It feels like a vacation.

4) Now here’s the punchline: Looking over my 2008 SPX report, I see I said many of the same things! “Busy, bustling show filled with happy altcomix creators and fans with tons of killer debuts to the point where you end up feeling dazed and dizzied and unable to take it all in” appears to be the default mode for SPX at this point. No one seems to be reminiscing over the old Friday/Saturday cookout/softball game/Dean Haspiel’s Topless Revue-model SPX anymore, either. When you look up “undisputed highlight of most attendees’ con season” in the dictionary, you’d find SPX’s picture, basically.

5) People asked me how the Critics’ Roundtable panel went and I had to tell them “Good!…I think.” It turns out that it’s hard to tell how a panel went when you’re on it–you’re sitting there listening to the questions, listening to the other panelists’ responses, and formulating your own answers when you aren’t busy actually saying them. It was a big group up there, but I was surprised with how well things flowed and how much everyone was able to speak when it suited them. I didn’t get the sense that anyone dominated the conversation or that anyone just disappeared into the background.

In terms of what was discussed, it seems like it focused a bit more on the ins and outs of writing criticism, as opposed to focusing on the state criticism itself, if you follow me. We talked a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of writing online versus writing for print, the blogging format, the pace of production, the back and forth between critics online, and so on. If I recall correctly, the last couple of panels had a lot more discussion of whether or not there was enough valid criticism out there, how it stacked up compared to criticism in other fields, etc. This group appeared to take for granted that yes, there’s plenty of valid comics criticism out there (even Gary!), and we’re doing just fine, thank you.

There were a couple of topics I’d have liked to get a few more words in on, though. The one that comes to mind right away is Tucker Stone’s dismissal of the notion of “critical discourse,” likening it to the mouthbreathers who leave comments on YouTube. I don’t remember exactly who said what, but someone else added that much of the “critical discourse” online consists of people reviewing the week’s superhero comics. But I doubt anyone on the panel was thinking of either of those things when using that term. Actually, I doubt anyone on the panel even reads any of those things. For me, the only critical discourse worth talking about is the other people on that panel, and critics like them–people whose work I like and respect, in other words. Why would you care what people you don’t respect think about anything? You can pick and choose what “critical discourse” you participate in, and do what you can to advance it.

This actually ties in with an earlier topic of discussion: the need to write for an audience. I said that I couldn’t keep track of my hit counts if I wanted to, which is true. I mainly write for me. But there is a form of feedback I can monitor, and which does matter to me: the responses of other people I respect. For a long time I’ve said I judge how my blog’s doing by who shows up to comment–it’s pretty much all my friends and bloggers I like, which makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Heck, at this point my favorite comics critic, my favorite music critic, and my favorite film critic have all told me they like what I’m doing around here. Not only is that the critical discourse that matters, that’s the hit count that matters.

While we’re on the subject of audience, though, this one was packed. It was flattering!

Note: Check out Johanna Draper Carlson’s panel report, which recounts much of what was discussed. And you can find a recording of it here.

6) If anything, I have even less of a sense of how my “New Action” panel went, since it was up to me to host it and shape it and keep it moving. With four participants–plus a late assist from the audience from the great Lane Milburn of Closed Caption Comics–it was a manageable size, so again, everyone who wanted to weigh in on a subject could. Moreover the four guys on the panel–Frank Santoro, Ben Marra, Kaz Strzepek, and Shawn Cheng–were each coming at the “alternative action comic” from a different direction, with different goals, and producing different results, so it ended up being very interesting to me to hear how similar their motivating inspirations were given how different their output was. I think the way the panel came to focus on issues like recapturing the joy of childhood, play, games, the thrills that genre art once gave you, the simple act of drawing, and so on (hopefully) gave the audience a hook on which what was a fairly oblique concept could be hung. I mostly hope that what they took away was that they should go upstairs and buy Cold Heat, Night Business, The Mourning Star, and The Would-Be Bridegrooms–not to mention Prison Pit, Powr Mastrs, Scott Pilgrim, Street Angel, New Engineering, The Mage’s Tower, Daybreak, The Comics of Fletcher Hanks, Ninja, and any number of similar comics that combine visceral thrills with deeply rewarding approaches to character, art, and world-building. (Listen to the panel here.)

7) I loved the Ignatzes! I’d never gone before, and I have to say it felt nice to see an award show where a) so many people and books who would have been my choices for nominees for awards were in fact nominees, and b) so many of those nominees won! And instead of a giant half-empty room it was a small room filled with an SRO crowd, most of whom were drinking beer and all of whom were thrilled to be there and thrilled for the winners. I presented the award for Outstanding Series, which gave me an opportunity to vent a little bit about how Diamond’s decision to raise its order minimums disproportionately stuck it to these kinds of comics, which elicited some appreciative whoops from some people in the audience, which made me feel like a rabble-rouser. Best of all, Jordan Crane’s Uptight wound up winning that award–Jordan’s work played an indispensable role in making me a reader of alternative comics in general, and in a very real sense I wouldn’t have been up there presenting that award at all if it weren’t for his comics, so it was a huge personal thrill and privilege for me to be able to make that announcement. Congratulations, Jordan!

8) Great job, SPX 2009!

Comics Time: Two Panels from SPX 2009

September 28, 2009

In lieu of our regularly scheduled Comics Time review, I’m happy to present mp3 recordings of the two panels I participated in at SPX this past weekend.

First up is the Critics’ Roundtable, featuring moderator Bill Kartalopolous, Rob Clough, Sean T. Collins, Gary Groth, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone, and Douglas Wolk.


And next is The New Action, featuring moderator Sean T. Collins, Frank Santoro, Benjamin Marra, Kazimir Strzepek, and Shawn Cheng.



Carnival of souls

September 25, 2009

* SPX starts tomorrow! Tom Spurgeon presents a mini-guide to the show in the vein of his epic San Diego advice posts but much shorter, while Chris Mautner lists some must-see books, tables, artists, and panels. And here’s what I’ll be up to if you missed it.

* Paranormal Activity had some midnight screenings here and there last night and was the talk of Twitter this morning; lots more “SCARIEST MOVIE EVER”s to chew on. On the “first-hand reports from people I trust” tip: Jason Adams, Stacie Ponder, Jason Adams again. Nutshell: Jason says it’s really scary, but that’s all it is; Stacie says it’s really scary, and that’s exactly what it should be. I love a horror movie that’s so intensely suspenseful and frightening it’s a physical experience, but the last time I got one of those it was [REC], and for me that was just a particularly effective movie-long jumpscare. It has a certain naive charm, but no muscle. If you’re going to compare something to The Blair Witch Project, I want it to traumatize me the way The Blair Witch Project did. Is it too much to ask for horror art to inflict emotional damage?

* Jeffrey Brown takes us behind the scenes for the making of his Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror strip. This is particularly interesting if, like me, you’ve dug the holy hell out of Jeff’s magic-marker coloring technique over the past couple years.

* He-Man and the Masters of the Universe dressed as hipsters. Complete with captions listing the clothing label for each garment. These are by artist Adrian Riemann. I have no idea why these exist; I think I’m glad they do? Teela looks hot as hell, but that’s a given. (Hat tip: Dustin Harbin.)

* Pandorum is good? Didn’t see that coming.

* Real-World Horror: Some people cannot wait until they have an excuse to excuse torture.

* The Incredible Hercules team of Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente talk about (separate) work on Incredible Hulk. That book hasn’t been doing it for me, certainly not on the level that Herc does, but those guys are worth paying attention to. Also, suddenly I have a vision of the original Hulk himself making a return to this franchise and having a big storyline involving him fighting every other Hulk and Hulk-esque character one at a time until he’s the undisputed King of the Hulk People again: Red Hulk, Skaar, the other Son of Hulk guy, A-Bomb, Abomination, the Blue Hulk if there’s a Blue Hulk someplace, Thundra, Lyra, She-Hulk, let’s throw Juggernaut and Colossus and Hercules and Thor and the Thing and the Blob in there too, just non-stop giant dudes and chicks whaling away on each other until the Hulk stands atop them all in purple pants. I would buy each issue three times.

Comics Time: Storeyville

September 25, 2009


Frank Santoro, writer/artist

PictureBox, 2007

48 pages, hardcover


Buy it for just $15.95 from PictureBox

Buy it from

As dense and rough-hewn as his more recent comics are spacious and delicate, yet some how retaining an easy, breezy, open feel, Storeyville is an object lesson in how to create and maintain an immersive atmosphere in comics. On giant pages stamped with a gutterless 3-by-5 15-panel grid and colored with admirable restraint by the extremely effective Katie Glicksberg, Santoro traces the progress of his protagonist Will through shantytowns, railways, and harbors as he searches for his old friend and mentor Reverend Rudy in order to make amends for some mysterious past transgression. Nearly every panel-sized vista we receive into Will’s journey is a deep-focus wonder, perspective leading us down roads, over fields, through cities, onboard ships, the characters frequently popping against the background like figures in some sort of altcomix View-Master. Realism and impressionism engage in a constant back-and-forth, leading to subtle shifts in your visual and emotional focus during any particular scene as well as reflecting, one assumes, similar shifts for Will himself. The nearest point of visual comparison is Ben Katchor, but while Katchor’s surround-sound POVs and time-faded inkwashes are used in the service of a surrealist magnification of vanished urbanity in which a slightly deranged objectivity is constantly maintained, Santoro’s subjective use of some of the same tools paradoxically gives Storeyville a WYSIWYG tone to it, as though he’s telling it like it is. The reason for this becomes clear when Will and the Reverend finally meet up, and both Will’s supposed crime against his pal and his ensuing need to atone are shrugged off. Consumed with both guilt and a hope that the act of alleviating it will open up a new path for his future, Will couldn’t possibly be an objective observer of his surroundings; his view of himself really did determine his view of the world and his possible place in it. Highly recommended.


September 25, 2009

Tomorrow I’ll be heading down to Bethesda with the illustrious Rickey Purdin, David Paggi, and Matt Powell for this year’s Small Press Expo. I’ve got a few official duties to attend to while I’m there, and I’d love to see you at them:

Critics’ Roundtable (3:30pm, Saturday | Brookside Conference Room)

A murderers’ row of comics critics will address general issues facing comics criticism today and will candidly discuss several new and recent works in a lively, no-holds-barred, roundtable conversation. Rob Clough, Sean T. Collins, Gary Groth, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone and Douglas Wolk will share their acute critical insights with moderator Bill Kartalopoulos.

The New Action (4:30pm, Saturday | Brookside Conference Room)

For decades, independent cartoonists have labored to distinguish their work from the corporately-controlled material popularly associated with the form. In the process, artist-driven comics have frequently avoided genres such as adventure, fantasy, and science fiction. Recent years, however, have seen a wave of cartoonists who embrace genre and have explored new ways to activate comics’ ability to depict movement, action, and spectacle. Sean T. Collins will discuss these topics and more with Shawn Cheng, Benjamin Marra, Brian Ralph, Frank Santoro and Kazimir Strzepek.

(Yeah, sorry, Brian Ralph had to bow out, unfortunately. Still not too shabby, though, huh?)

In addition, I will be presenting the award for Outstanding Series at the Ignatz Awards on Saturday night at 9pm. (Not sure where–just follow the trail of starry-eyed cartoonists I guess.) Here are the nominees:

Danny Dutch, David King (Sparkplug)

Delphine, Richard Sala (Fantagraphics/Coconino)

Interiorae, Gabriella Giandelli (Fantagraphics/Coconino)

Reich, Elijah Brubaker (Sparkplug)

Uptight, Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics)

And of course I’ll be traipsing all over the show floor, black San Diego Comic Con tote bag and David Bowie sketchbook in tow. See you there!

Carnival of souls

September 24, 2009

* Today the Strange Tales Spotlight falls on R. Kikuo Johnson. Elsewhere on Preview pages for issue #2 from Johnson, Tony Millionaire, Matt Kindt, and Jonathan Hickman, plus (wait for it) Peter Bagge’s variant Red Hulk cover.

* Kiel Phegley speaks with comics-related legal-issue expert Michael Lovitz about the Kirby copyright reclamation case. So many fundamental misconceptions about the situation are cleared up in this thing that I’m not even going to paraphrase it and risk muddying them up again–just go read it.

* Jog gives two thumbs from two four-fingered hands up to the the Kramers Ergot-ified Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror. He detects a looser editorial grip, or perhaps just a more sympathetic editorial sensibility, on this material than on the comparable Strange Tales project from Marvel, which in turn I’ve been told is loosey-goosier than DC’s Bizarro World. It looks gorgeous and ridiculous, that much I can tell you–the Ben Jones thing is a fucking phenomenon–but not being a Simpsons person at all, I’m not the audience for it.

* Now They’re making a He-Man & the Masters of the Universe movie at Sony/Columbia instead of Warner Bros. I share Rob Bricken’s skepticism about this project given that the template for successful live-action adaptations of ’80s action-figure franchises is Michael Bay’s Transformers and Stephen Sommer’s G.I. Joe. I feel about it the same way I feel about the news that They’re rebooting Fantastic Four with a guy who wrote for Heroes–there’s some gonzo magic in the originals here (not that Lee/Kirby FF is comparable to He-Man, mind you, but you get what I mean) and it’s gonna be dumbed down and smoothed out unless I’m gravely mistaken.

* Writer Jeff Parker talks about the Agents of Atlas/X-Men and Agents of Atlas/Incredible Hercules crossovers. Sounds like the former is one of those mix-up deals, but while I’m pretty skeptical of that set-up for crossovers at this point, I guess that’s built right into the AoA’s M.O. right now: Everyone thinks they’re a criminal empire. Parker’s earned the benefit of the doubt in my book.

* Jason Adams is going to see Paranormal Activity tonight. Would you believe I had passes too but wussed out because of SPX this weekend? Would you also believe I had chances to see The Hurt Locker and Gamer this week but decided to go home and veg out instead? I am such a lousy genre-film fan. Jason, please tell me how it is without spoiling it.

* Matt Maxwell reviews Cloverfield. Contra Matt, for me it’s precisely Cloverfield’s use of a ground-level POV that reinforces the enormity of the monster and the damage it does. It stops look like a model and starts looking like the neighborhood I work in getting leveled.

* Re: reviews—What Tom said. I don’t get the merest fraction of the grief a blog with the Comics Reporter’s reach must get, but the reason I always warn people who send me their work that I can’t guarantee to review everything I read is to spare them any anguish and aggravation if I don’t review it–I’ve told them this sort of thing happens right from the jump–and hopefully spare them the cash if they don’t think it’s worth their while to send it in the first place based on that warning. I genuinely cannot read and review everything I receive or buy or acquire–there’s just too much of it! I’m up front about this because I don’t want struggling creators or publishers to waste money anymore than they do!

And with me in particular, there’s another aspect of the situation worth noting: it’s a rare day indeed where I’ll feel inclined to force myself to read and review a book I suspect I’ll find unappealing–I’m not getting paid for this, life’s too short, there are too many comics I like that deserve the attention, I just prefer to read things I enjoy over things I don’t, etc etc etc. So at least occasionally (not all the time, people who’ve sent me books I haven’t reviewed! but occasionally), not reviewing everything I’m sent is doing the sender a favor, unless they’re of the “all publicity is good publicity” school of thought. (An unaccredited school if you ask me!)

* Lately on his blog, Andrew Sullivan’s been debating various atheists and scientists on pain, suffering, and theodicy. His sparring partner today, Evolutionblog’s Jason Rosenhouse, brings us our quote of the day:

If you treat theology as a game in which you begin with the assumption of an all-loving, all-powerful God and then devise such arguments as you can to respond to seemingly contrary data, then you can come up with theoretically possible replies to the problem of evil. The trouble is that all such explanations must compete with the atheist alternative. If the universe seems completely indifferent to human needs and wants that is because it is. If our bodies can fall prey to all manner of crippling, awful diseases it is because evolution is a messy process that did not have us in mind.

If all of this suffering, pain and death seems so pointless that is because it is.

Have a nice night everybody!

Carnival of souls

September 23, 2009

* Standing in the Strange Tales Spotlight today: Jacob Chabot.

* While we’re on the self-plugging tip, it’s only one comment long as of this writing and already the comment thread at my latest Savage Critic(s) post is awesome beyond words.

* Finally, I think there have been like four What The–?! videos released since I last linked to them: You can find the full YouTube playlist here. If you’ve ever wanted to hear the Blob say “Keep fucking that chicken,” now’s your chance!

* Big sale at the Drawn & Quarterly store. 40-50% off everything! (Via Tom Spurgeon.) I went looking for Crickets #2 but it’s out of stock. Does anyone have a copy they’d be willing to part with?

* Wow, Watchmen‘s DVD release pattern seems actively designed to alienate the movie’s relatively few fans. After releasing a “director’s cut” that was not, in fact, the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink cut that director Zach Snyder had been promising for as long as the movie’s been in production, Warner Bros. is now finally putting out that “Ultimate Cut”–but it doesn’t include DVDs of the theatrical or “director’s” cuts, charges you for a digital copy and the motion comic each on its own disc, tosses in some extras that apparently were already available on the other editions, and tops it all off with the goofiest cover imaginable. Aggressively irritating.

* This manga may supposedly stink, but the cover sure doesn’t. Wolf whistle. Stomach fat wrinkles are so sexy.

* Dang, Andrew DeGraff! (Via JK Parkin.)

* My friend Zach Oat’s list of his favorite Bruce Willis robots had me laughing out loud. I like the Squinty 5000 myself.

* Please oh please let a Gary Numan/Trent Reznor collaboration get off the ground. Still, I don’t get the impression that Trent likes when his potential collaborators let the cat out of the bag too early.

* For a long time since the advent of near-universal cellphone usage I’ve thought about old movies that depended on people not being able to get in touch and how some entire plots wouldn’t work if the characters could just reach into their pockets and pull out a cellphone. Turns out a lot of horror and thriller screenwriters have thought about this problem to, and their solution is just to drop coverage. Leave it to Rich Juzwiak, pop culture’s leading obsessive compulsive, to compile all the “shit–no signal!” scenes he could find into one 4 minute 56 second montage.

Comics Time: “Superhero comics worth your time today”

September 23, 2009

For today’s Comics Time reviews, please visit The Savage Critic(s).

Gossip Girl thoughts

September 22, 2009

* Back by popular demand! Not even kidding.

* After watching the season premiere last week I was pretty sure I wasn’t gonna do this again. I’ve got a lot on my plate and that thing was kinda lackluster. I appreciate Serena riding a horse like Gandalf or Goldfrapp, but it was mostly lame shit like the done-in-one non-story with Chuck and Blair’s roleplaying and Vanessa getting angry at Dan for, essentially, being a character on Gossip Girl. Whatever coolness Vanessa’s vagina absorbed from Chuck’s penis last season got burned through pretty quickly. I was glad they seemed to be introducing new main-ish characters for what seemed like the long haul–Chuck and Serena’s secret brother, Georgina, Carter, that redhaired girl from the CW show that got cancelled last year–but other than that, meh.

* This, on the other hand, was more like it. Backstabbing, secret plots, hookups, comedies of manners, Chuck referring to his apartment as “the Basscave,” someone asking Blair her opinion on Battlestar Galactica…swell!

* I fully support Deorgina, or Georgdana, or whatever you call it. But the funny thing was that when Blair asked Dan to take her to the party, I was ready to fully support Dair or Blan or whatever you’d call it. I realized that I’m basically just very, very excited by any new pairing. If Cherena or Serenuck or whatever you’d call it happens, I’m going to be fucking thrilled about that too. Not as thrilled as I would be by Chate/Nuck, but thrilled.

* I thought having all of Blair’s usual crazy snobby stuff turn her into a pariah in the college world of pizza and big red plastic cups was really funny and clever.

* College girls of the world, please don’t follow Dan’s advice about not dressing like Blair dresses. Dress like Blair dresses.

* Oh Nate, keeping the boarding pass in your pocket? You are too beautiful for this world.

* Serena is getting really, really annoying. Poor, misunderstood Serena, doing all kinds of stupid impulsive annoying shit and then later standing there looking and sounding half asleep issuing explanations and pseudoapologies while barely making eye contact with the aggrieved parties. If she keeps screwing shit up for Chuck I hope he has her assassinated.

* I liked how when the Bible-thumpers showed up they ruined everything. Because they do!

* Can anyone figure out why Secret Brother gave Vanessa a bum steer on that professor and then flipped out about it? How does that advance his plot? The Missus and I were totally baffled.

* Man, Phoenix can’t whore “1901” out hard enough, can they?

Carnival of souls

September 22, 2009

* The Kirby heirs are indeed seeking a piece of Spider-Man in their copyright claim. Wouldn’t you? Tom Spurgeon offers some thoughts on the still-developing story, which I will be substituting for my own as is custom.

* Frazer Irving says he is indeed the artist on Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin #10-12. Something tells me DC didn’t intend for the news to come out this way. Still, Frazer Irving!

* Drawn & Quarterly and PictureBox unveil who and what they’ll be bringing with them to SPX this weekend. Their collective bounty includes John Porcellino’s Map of My Heart, the Sammy Harkham-edited Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror, and the ultimate con debut, Lauren Weinstein and Tim Hodler’s brand new baby. Congratulations! Dig John P.’s convention badges, too:

* Wow, I’m digging this Monster Brains gallery of monster art by Skinner. More here.

* Longtime ADDTF fave Robert Burden returns with another time-lapse video of one of his colossal action-figure paintings, this time around a 6 foot by 8 foot portrait of Battle Cat. Someday I’m taking the mirrors off my bedroom ceiling and replacing them with one of these things.

Comics Time: Clive Barker’s Seduth

September 21, 2009

Clive Barker’s Seduth

Clive Barker, Chris Monfette, writers

Gabriel Rodriguez, artist

Ray Zone, “3-D conversion”

IDW, October 2009

32 pages


Ordering information from IDW

“Surprise”: I love Clive Barker. Actual surprise: I was not looking forward to reading this Clive Barker comic. Despite its being touted as Barker’s first straight-to-comics work in two decades, the presence of a co-writer dampened my enthusiasm. So too did the 3-D aspect–we’ve all been burned by gimmickry. As for IDW’s involvement, I’d been mightily impressed by Kris Oprisko and Gabriel Hernandez’s lovely, lyrical Thief of Always adaptation, but Seduth artist Gabriel Rodriguez’s cartoony art on the company’s Great and Secret Show–admirable though it may have been for committing a full 12 issues to the effort–struck me as project-deflatingly wrong for the work. In my head, I see Barker as his own adapter, whether as filmmaker or painter or drawer; after that, I cut to the Gothy Hellraiser/Tapping the Vein aesthetic of the Epic Comics days, or to an altcomix style like C.F.’s that has never actually been applied to his stuff. Dude’s transgressive; let’s keep him that way.

Rarely have I been as happy to be wrong as I was about Seduth. Story first: Holy smokes, is this dark. It’s as savagely nihilistic as anything Barker’s done since the Books of Blood, or the story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, which in its potentially apocalyptic nature and certain specific geometrical and extradimensional imagery is perhaps its closest point of comparsion. Heck, Seduth‘s done-in-one short-story nature makes it feel like an adaptation of a lost BoB outtake. But whereas most adaptations belabor the point, ladling unnecessary prose atop redundant illustrations for an oomph-sapping length of time, then suddenly eliding entire sections, this thing just leaps out of the gate and proceeds at an inexorable pace to its hopeless conclusion. If anything, it’s almost too rapid-fire, rather than the usual tedious legato-staccato juxtaposition you’ll find in comics versions of prose writers’ works. And whatever the division of labor between Barker and Monfette, the transitions are seamless, even to this seasoned observer of Barker’s work. After well over a decade of fantasy from the man, not even of the “dark” variety in many cases, I’d all but forgotten he had this kind of thing in him.

Meanwhile, whatever his deviation from my platonic Barker-adpatation ideal, Rodriguez steps up big-time. Yes, his work is cartoony rather than romantic or abstracted, the directions I’d go in, but its cartooniness is rock solid and reminiscent of some of the form’s most skillful current practitioners–some Tony Moore here, some Philip Bond here. Most of all it relies on a thick, confident line, which turns out to be perfectly suited to 3-D. From what I’ve been told, 3-D effects specialist Zone was involved in the project nearly from its conception, consulting with Barker, Monfette, Rodriguez, and project major domo Robb Humphreys on what kind of effects he’d like to employ in a perfect world. Barker appears to have given him carte blanche, because there’s nary a jump-scare “look out, a hand’s reaching out at you and a knife’s flying at your face!” cliche in sight. Instead, it’s all about layering, playing off the congruences and tangents of Rodriguez’s line to draw the eye in and around the page; the effect is dazzlingly unpleasant in all the right ways. Perhaps it’s just all the Chippendale and Rickheit I’ve been reading talking, but it struck me as an extremely effective and, yes, alternative way of exploring space on the page, to the point where I’m now curious to see what a Fort Thunder alum might do with this particular toolkit. But it can be used for spectacle as well, and it is, particularly in one back-to-back splash-page sequence in which Rodriguez, Zone, and colorist Jay Fotos produce an effect reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan’s line about the light taking him to pieces in Watchmen. Barker, who’s been vocally mainlining the work of Grant Morrison, was surely inspired by Morrison’s Final Crisis tie-in Superman Beyond both in the use of 3-D in the first place and its narrative role as a sign of extradimensionality, but I think the special effect is more nuanced, more effective, here.

So three cheers for Seduth; it made a believer out of this skeptic. Barker has long been thwarted by obstacles in terms of getting his ideas out to the public, from a studio sitting on his movie to a publisher rejecting his photography collection as too explicit to his own overflow of ideas getting the better of him to the point where he advances many projects but completes few. Comics famously has one of the lowest idea-to-finished-product thresholds in the arts; here’s hoping he continues to make such good, focused, no-nonsense use of it as he does in this short, sharp shock.

Carnival of souls

September 21, 2009

* Happy birthday to two of my favorites: Craig Thompson and Stephen King. Over at his blog, the former explains how the latter’s insights helped him rescue his long-gestating graphic novel Habibi from a creative impasse.

* League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Lost Girls, and Tom Strong author Alan Moore complains about today’s comic-book writers turning to decades-old stories for inspiration.

* Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa: Jim Woodring wrote a Star Wars comic? About a potential mate for Jabba the Hutt threatening to eat him after sex? Oh, indeed.

* Jason Adams has great things to say about Total Film’s list of the 20 Greatest Horror Films You’ve Never Seen, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to inflate their hitcount by paging my way through their one-movie-per-page slideshow this afternoon. Maybe later.

* Two posts in a row might be too few to refer to as “a roll,” but Tim Hensley sure is on something–jiminy christmas look at these Samm Schwartz spreads from Tippy Teen. Wow, Hensley is to the Archie aesthetic what CF, Frank Santoro, Ben Jones, Kaz Strzepek et al are to ’80s action-adventure comics, isn’t he?

* Ta-Nehisi Coates explains the sexual side of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I feel pretty strongly about the power of the song myself.

* Ten years ago today, Nine Inch Nails released their (his) sprawling double album The Fragile. If it weren’t for various world-historical releases like Nevermind and OK Computer, I’d say it was the best album of the ’90s. Listen to the whole thing for free at (Via @nineinchnails.)

* Meanwhile, Trent (?) reports that a deluxe edition of some kind is coming in 2010. I have an iTunes playlist consisting of every original track and NIN-created remix coming from that entire period, up through and including the mostly-acoustic Still EP, placed in logical order based on the extended vinyl version of The Fragile as well as general euphoniousness, that I call “The Complete Fragile.” Hopefully it’s something like that.

Carnival of souls

September 20, 2009

* Never a dull moment: Jack Kirby’s heirs are pursuing legal action to reclaim copyrights on his co-creations. You’ve got to wonder how much of the $4 billion Disney’s spending on Marvel would be in play without him. (Via Robot 6.)

* Manga and Muhammad, Iron Man and the Internet: Tom Spurgeon on five fundamental ways the comics industry has changed over the past five years.

* Brian Hibbs presents the case for Paul Levitz.

* Anders Nilsen previews Big Questions #13–coming soon! And as always, Nilsen says two issues remain after this one.

* Speaking of great stuff on the way from Drawn & Quarterly, Tom Devlin says John Porcellin’s Map of My Heart (a) will be out at SPX, and (b) contains Porcellino’s real star-making material from King-Cat. Heck yeah.

* Happy belated birthday to the best comics (co)publisher, Gary Groth!

* Tim Hensley reveals that the secret inspiration for Wally Gropius is…Phil Donahue? For real, what a fascinating idea for the post: the unlikely reference source for the Gropius strips’ near-Ditkoesque proficiency with interestingly posed hands.

* Frank Santoro sure can draw!

* Remember when superhero events flowed from series to series rather than relying on a central tentpole with tangential tie-ins? Curt Purcell does, and in his latest Blackest Night post he discusses the pros and cons.

* My Strange Tales Spotlight interview series at is about to kick into high gear again in anticipation of issue #2. First up: Jonathan Hickman.

* The secret origin of Miss Martian: She’s my friend Ben Morse’s fiancee! Seriously.

* WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS? made the Guardian, in an article that also discusses the Downfall/Hitler Reacts and Kanye Interruption memes. It refers to WRT? as “crowdsourced bullying” of poor Brickhousebunny21, the incestuous pedophilic bestiality enthusiast who coined the ungrammatical cri de coeur in the first place. I can promise that as the person who first pointed out the comedy/meme goldmine that that phrase is, it had nothing to do with trying to pick on BHB21 and everything to do with celebrating ridiculousness. Meanwhile, Rob Bricken collects another Best of the Best post for Topless Robot. For his part, Brickhousebunny21 showed up in my comments again to call me “a homo.” Gotta lvoe it!

The Manly Movie Mamajama Rides Again

September 18, 2009

In light of recent events–namely the passing of Patrick Swayze and the release of Crank 2: High Voltage on Blu-Ray–my friends and I are convening for the first time since last October for a three-movie marathon of mirth, mayhem, and manliness: The 14th Manly Movie Mamajama. The booze, the junk food, the heckling, the gratuitous violence and nudity, the homoeroticism…it’s all so close I can taste it. What better time to take a stroll down MMM memory lane?



1. Road House

2. The Warriors

3. The Road Warrior


4. The Running Man

5. Escape from New York

6. Big Trouble in Little China


7. RoboCop

8. Total Recall

9. Starship Troopers


10. Red Dawn

11. Invasion U.S.A.

12. Rambo: First Blood Part II


13. The Monster Squad

14. Hellraiser

15. The Thing


16. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

17. Aliens

18. The Descent


19. Over the Top

20. Death Race 2000

21. Rocky IV


22. Dead Heat

23. Point Break

24. Tango & Cash


25. Night of the Comet

26. Night of the Creeps

27. Nightbreed


28. Tremors

29. King Kong Lives

30. Reign of Fire


31. Road House

32. Steel Dawn

33. Point Break


34. Crank

35. Doomsday

36. Rambo


37. The Lost Boys

38. Slumber Party Massacre II

39. Dead Alive


40. Crank 2: High Voltage

41. Road House

42. RoboCop

Alert readers will note that both Road House and RoboCop are re-runs. In Road House‘s case–our first threepeat–the reasons are obvious. In both cases we figured there’s no possible way a new film could follow the nigh impossible to fathom insanity of Crank 2. We went with the familiar and awesome instead.

For a full explanation of the MMM phenomenon, click here. But to fully understand, you have to be there.

Comics Time: Gangsta Rap Posse #1

September 18, 2009

Gangsta Rap Posse #1

Benjamin Marra, writer/artist

American Tradition, 2009

14 pages


Buy it from

Or: “What If N.W.A. Weren’t Making All That Shit Up?” The idea of a Bush I-era hardcore hip-hop outfit who actually are gun-toting, ho-pimping, mass-murdering drug kingpins as outlined in their platinum-selling rap career is so fucking brilliant a high concept I’m stunned I’ve never seen it in action before. It’s difficult to remember now, in an age when Jay-Z has more number-one album debuts than anyone but the Beatles and the President jokingly banters about Kanye West’s antics, but when my generation of white kids was growing up, “rapper” was a career that took on the same sort of quasi-mystical air as “cowboy” or “ninja.” Obviously there really were people who did those things for a living–okay, maybe not ninjas so much anymore–but the word, the concept, had a totemistic quality above and beyond “performer who composes and recites rhymes over beats.” Now, I was never a huge gangsta fan, but the less criminally minded but equally angry Public Enemy were one of my favorite groups of any kind during middle school, and from Flav’s accessories to Chuck D’s barn-burning baritone to the marching, uniformed S1Ws to that crosshairs logo, P.E. came across like a black G.I. Joe squad. The kinds of hip-hop that politicians and parents groups rent their garments over back then were tailor-made for action-hero status, and that’s what Marra delivers here. Watching his N.W.A. manques roll up on a rival MC’s compound and strafe his bodyguards with machine-gun fire fulfills a long deferred desire to see the larger-than-life lyrics of such groups made real, or at least as real as an action comic would make them.

It’s so effective in that regard that it’s tempting to overlook the obviously problematic racial territory we’re in. What we have here is a white guy taking Easy, Cube, Ren, and Dre’s lurid cop-killing, bitch-fucking, crack-pipe-illuminated fantasy world and drawing it, and that’s a bit of a sticky wicket, innit? It’s an ugly portrait, even if you’re just painting by the numbers left by the subjects. Fortunately, aside from the all-too-real hairstyles of that era, the visual stereotyping is kept to a minimum; Robert Crumb’s “When the Niggers Take Over America” this isn’t. But the irony is that while, to me, Crumb’s comic is an obvious parody of white racism, Gangsta Rap Posse‘s lack of Crumb’s corrosive irony and sarcasm might make it tougher for some to take despite its simultaneous lack of Crumb’s most outre visuals. Similarly, the dialogue’s ebonics are a far cry from Crumb’s pidgin dialect, but it’s also never half as clever, say, the lyrics from Straight Outta Compton, which were so wickedly funny that they came across like the group letting you in on the joke. Here, it’s a little tougher to tell if the joke’s on them.

But it seems to me that what Marra’s doing is simply taking vintage gangsta and treating it like any other kind of genre fiction. Perhaps the big clue is the sequence where the GRP’s manager complains that the record label’s been waiting for their new album for two years–how could they possibly have time to maintain their recording career when they’ve got an organized crime empire to run? The Gangsta Rap Posse doesn’t exist in continuity with Malcolm X or the Last Poets, they’re in the tradition of Robert E. Howard or the film library of Golan and Globus, and Marra’s using “Fuck tha Police” here the same way he used exploitation cinema in Night Business, or maybe even the same way Bryan Lee O’Malley uses Mega Man in Scott Pilgrim. He’s working much, much edgier territory here than either of those works–it has a lot more in common with Johnny Ryan than O’Malley–but you get that same thrill of cross-pollination and unexpected magpie influences. So I’m down. And I’m really hoping the GRP come up against a fictionalized black-nationalist paramilitary organization version of Public Enemy in the next issue.

Carnival of souls

September 17, 2009

* A very happy 5th blogiversary to the best comics blogger, Tom Spurgeon!

* Because I’m a nincompoop, when I linked to SPX’s programming slate the other day I didn’t actually mention anyone who was on it. How about John Porcellino, Jeffrey Brown, Matt Furie, Lisa Hanawalt, Kate Beaton, Eleanor Davis, Hellen Jo, Matthew Thurber, and a metric ton more? Fantagraphics in particular is apparently out to just murder people: Its guests include Kevin Huizenga, Gahan Wilson, Hans Rickheit, and Al Columbia, while they’re debuting Ganges #3, Portable Grindhouse, The Squirrel Machine, Steve Ditko’s Strange Suspense, Al Columbia’s Pim & Francie, Mome Vol. 16, Jacques Tardi’s You Are Here…ye gods.

* Look, a new Marc Bell book! Supposedly there’s even comics in it!

* Here’s a tiny preview of the upcoming Clive Barker-cowritten 3-D comic Seduth. By the time you read this, I may have already interviewed Clive about it for an outlet to remain nameless. Elsewhere on the Clive tip, I missed his most recent interview with the keepers of his official website, in which he talks about a short story/novella collection and an erotic photography book I had no idea were even in the works.

* Jason Adams presents links to relevant news and views on a trio of films of potential interest to readers of this blog: the Aliens/28 Weeks Later-model-following sequel [REC]2, the David Lynch-produced, Werner Herzog-directed My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, and (get this) the remake of the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple by Hero and House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou, Three Guns.

* Will I continue to link to all of Curt Purcell’s Blackest Night posts, like today’s review of issue #3? Signs point to yes!

* In both a post and the comment thread that follows, Joe “Jog” McCulloch says some provocative things about Frank Quitely’s work on Batman & Robin. I don’t agree with his conclusions–I’m not even sure I agree with his assertions; I don’t think I ever once read one of those issues and thought “man, Quitely’s action scenes are too slow and too tough to parse”–but I do take a perverse pleasure in iconoclasm. Of course, after Batman & Robin #4, Jog’s plea for people to quit acting like Quitely’s an impossible act to follow can only cause a single tear to slowly fall from one eye, like Frodo.

Here’s the thing: Morrison’s worked with worse artists on this run. Although I wouldn’t say Tony Daniel is one of them; and as with Daniel, Tan at least has been imposed on Morrison for a story arc about extreme ’90s-style anti-heroism, so his Image-derived style makes some sense. But Daniel, Andy Kubert, and the guy who drew the two Final Crisis tie-in issues didn’t make their debut on the book directly following one of the two or three best superhero artists working today. JRJR would have punked them out just as badly, and (this is the point) through no fault of their own.