It’s weird that you pretty much only have Dirk’s frontal assault on the one hand and then a slew of panegyrics, from Brian Hibbs and Heidi MacDonald to Kurt Busiek and Marv Wolfman, on the other. You’re not seeing much in the way of “he did a good job on these things and a lousy job on these things,” or even just “he was mostly good but lousy on this issue” or “he was mostly lousy but good on this issue.” I think Brian might have inadvertently gotten to the heart of the divide with this comment-thread explanation of his concerns about the industry in the post-Levitz era:
…Paul, specifically, was an agent that always kept the DM in mind as one of his primary and most important markets.
Maybe whether or not you view Levitz as a hero or a villain comes down to whether you share his apparent prioritization of preserving the Direct Market, the beating heart of North American comics culture, as currently constituted over other concerns, be they commercial or creative. Although I think it’s more complicated than that, since I’ve heard from more people than Dirk that Levitz’s role in DM history during the ’90s wasn’t always indisputably that of someone with its long-term best interest at heart. I’ve heard similarly conflicting things about his role in the evolving conception of creators’ rights, a split perhaps best characterized as one between incrementalism and absolutism. I dunno, man, I just read comics.
* Anyway, CBR’s Jonah Weiland interviewed Levitz and incoming DC Entertainment honcho Diane Nelson about the restructuring and reshuffling. The news here is that Levitz’s Publisher role will be filled by a person to be determined later rather than becoming part of Nelson’s job; also, Nelson’s assurances that DC’s editorial/creative direction won’t be touched aren’t quite as absolute as were Bob Iger’s regarding Marvel. Then again, Nelson’s admittedly not a comics person, and it sounds unlikely that she’ll dive into that end of DCE’s business all that much initially simply because she’ll need a crash course on it first.
* Few things will make me happier about comics this year than Hans Rickheit’s The Squirrel Machine getting a rave review from Tom Spurgeon. At least it seems like a rave from a skim of it–I’m not going to read it until I actually read the book.
* The much-touted, Paramount-purchased horror mockumentary Paranormal Activity will not be getting a bigger-budget remake, so whenever we end up getting it, we’ll be getting it raw.
* Curt Purcell’s last Blackest Night/Great Darkness Saga comparison tackles the depiction of characters’ fear as a way to convince readers that there’s something to be afraid of.
* The great Jim Rugg posts some teaser art for One Model Nation, his upcoming Image…graphic novel, I think? The premise sounds a bit like “What if Gang of Four actually were militant freedom fighters?”, so sign me up.
* This would feel like bigger news if it weren’t for all the seismic goings-on involving Disney and Marvel, Kodansha and Tokyopop, and Warner Bros. and DC over the past crazy week and a half, I think, but New York Comic Con is merging with New York Anime Festival. Which makes it sound like a) North America now has its second-biggest public nerd-culture gathering pretty set in stone, and b) the con wars are going to change the shape of the North American con scene above and beyond whether or not more Wizard/Shamus shows are started or shuttered.
* Hey, while we’re talking about Warner Bros. (we were, a while ago, remember?), Joel Silver’s WB take on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is dunzo, leading to much rejoicing from the expected quarters. And me, too, probably–that treatment sounded like crap. Sadly, I think the failure of Speed Racer combined with the success of the Transformers movies and G.I. Joe signals that the weirdness of He-Man will be well and truly drained from the property by the time it hits the silver screen. I’d be happy to be wrong about that, though.
* I always loved how my coworkers at ToyFare would get customized action figures of themselves as going-away presents–Ben Morse has posted a gallery of ‘em.
* The final slew of Pitchfork Beatles reissue reviews is up. The late-model Beatles albums have found themselves out of favor over the years for reasons quite different than, say, Sgt. Pepper, but I’ve always loved them, the White Album and Abbey Road in particular. The point of the Beatles is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and if anything I think that’s even more true when those constituent parts are all the more visible. In his review of the White Album, my favorite album by anyone ever, Mark Richardson puts it best:
Listening as the tracks scroll by, there’s a constant feeling of discovery.
I don’t think that would be true if the band were still functioning like a well-oiled machine. Sure, you might have gotten something astonishing if they were, but why bog yourself down in hypotheticals when the actual is so sprawling and all-encompassing and astonishing already?
Once again, I was pleased to see 10s for those two albums, and 9-pluses for Let It Be and Past Masters. It’s difficult to pinpoint a time when the Beatles weren’t at the height of their powers, and they were the best band of all time, so again, why beat around the bush? Plus, on a cheeky level, giving Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles, and Abbey Road all 10s will enable the “which album is the best?” debate to continue unimpeded. (I almost wish they’d given one an 11.)
One last thing: I know comparing anything to the Beatles is like some sort of reverse Godwin’s Law, but when you read things like this, the magnitude of their achievement becomes very, very difficult not to overshadow pretty much every creative enterprise undertaken ever since:
The Beatles’ run in the 1960s is good fodder for thought experiments. For example, Abbey Road came out in late September 1969. Though Let It Be was then still unreleased, the Beatles wouldn’t record another album together. But they were still young men: George was 26 years old, Paul was 27, John was 28, and Ringo was 29. The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, had come out almost exactly six and a half years earlier. So if Abbey Road had been released today, Please Please Me would date to March 2003.
Breathtaking. Look on their works, ye mighty, and despair.