Archive for April 30, 2010

Comics Time: Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6

April 30, 2010


Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6

Michael Kupperman, writer/artist

Fantagraphics, April 2010

32 pages


Buy it from Fantagraphics

Aw, bummer, this one isn’t that good! I never thought I’d be saying this, but this issue of Michael Kupperman’s heretofore unfailingly, unflaggingly hilarious humor series is kind of flat. That manic twisting-and-turning of his, where each new panel or turn of the page can completely upend the premise of the previous one, is nowhere to be found. You don’t know how disappointing it is for a die-hard Kupperfan to discover that, say, the “Jungle Princess” story begins and ends with the same jungle-heroine premise. Yeah, it’s funny that she dresses the exact same way in her city-dweller “secret identity,” and there are some cute sight gags involving jungle creatures doing unusual things, but that’s as you’d expect it to be. Similarly, a Richie Rich parody in which the little rich kid eats jewels ends with him needing surgery to remove the jewels from his intestines; the story of a has-been Broadway actress in danger of getting upstaged by her new production’s elaborate drainage system ends with her getting upstaged by her new production’s elaborate drainage system; Einstein and Twain in space is basically just Einstein and Twain in space, and though it does end with the out-of-nowhere death of director Tony Scott, it’s your basic “spaceship lands on someone annoying” gag. (I preferred it when Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie wished that the crashing spaceship at the end of This Island Earth would land on, of all people, Kenny Loggins.) Kupperman’s unmistakable art is as meticulously constructed as ever–I’ve seen him draw and I still can’t figure out how he does it–and the appealing color work still lets his uncanny linework shine, but beyond that? It’s like half of the ideas fell out someplace, and you keep waiting and waiting for craziness that never comes. 🙁

Carnival of souls: Special “Interviews of Ice and Fire” edition

April 29, 2010

* Whoa, local boy makes good! Jason Adams talks A Nightmare on Elm Street–original, sequels, remake–for NBC. He’s even got a separate piece on the seven best Nightmare kills! Today My New Plaid Pants, tomorrow the Peacock Network, apparently. Jason, this is great–congratulations! You know I’ve always believed in you. <3 * A couple of big interviews with A Song of Ice and Fire/A Game of Thrones‘ George R.R. Martin popped up over the past couple of days. First, here he is in the Cover to Cover podcast at the Dragon Page. There are a few interesting tidbits in this one.

* First, he confirms that HBO’s plan is to dedicate one season to each book in the series. I wonder if each one will have a new title, or if that’ll be too confusing? It’d look cool on your DVD shelf, at least.

* Second, he talks about the extensive delays for the publication of volume four, A Feast for Crows, and the still-unfinished volume five, A Dance with Dragons. Martin says that one of the main obstacles for these two books was a five-year jump in the storyline he’d initially planned to take place between books three and four. He spent a full year writing the fourth book with that device in place before coming to the conclusion that it just wasn’t working, scrapping it and starting over. That’s what led to the publication of A Feast for Crows as we know it, and of course in that book’s afterword he explained that the story expanded in the writing to such a degree that one book essentially became two, with A Dance with Dragons following the characters we don’t really see in Crows. However, in the podcast he notes that while the five-year gap didn’t work for most of the story, it did work for some of the story. But to get rid of all that bathwater, he had to lose the baby too, and it’s reworking the parts that worked fine with his original plan that’s giving him so much trouble.

* Third, he comes out and says that he knows A Song of Ice and Fire is his magnum opus, the work for which he’ll be remembered, so he’s become a perfectionist about it. When the interviewers point out that this is self-applying an ungodly amount of pressure, he kind of sighingly acknowledges it. Poor dude. (Link via Martin’s LJ.)

* The other big interview is with the Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan, the Battlestar Galactica superfan whose nerd-centric TV writing for a mainstream publication has established her as a sort of less annoying man’s Doc Jensen. Ryan confirms through HBO that the actress playing Daenerys Targaryne is indeed being recast, along with the previously switched-up Catelyn Stark. The interview itself focuses on Martin’s long history with Hollywood, his role in the creation of the HBO series, and of course the lateness of A Dance with Dragons, plus the upcoming comics adaptation of Martin’s vampire novel Fevre Dream from Avatar. Nothing earthshattering, but I am such a fucking whore for these books I’ll take whatever I can get. And you, dear readers, get to take it with me! (Via Winter Is Coming.)

* Recently on Robot 6: Ross Campbell is too sexy for his comics;

* and Brian Chippendale explains it all. Audio and video previews of If n’ Oof abound. (Via Frank Santoro.)

* Rich Juzwiak watches Tom Six’s The Human Centipede so you don’t have to. Sounds like the torture-porn equivalent of Snakes on a Plane.

* The Onion AV Club’s Scott Tobias tackles Neil Marshall’s The Descent as part of his New Cult Canon series. It’s a solid piece, but I really don’t understand the very popular notion that the original cut of the film is somehow bleaker and more uncompromising than the revision. There are more horrifying things than monsters, you know?

* Post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction set in a world where Cthulhu has successfully risen? Sure, I’ll eat it.

* Real Life Horror: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Cue Locke-in-the-Hatch video, roll credits. (Via everyone.)

* Allow me to be the 3,892nd person to direct you to Jay Pavlina’s Super Mario Bros. Crossover, an online simulator of the original Super Mario Nintendo game wherein you can play as Link, Samus Aran, Simon Belmont, Mega Man, or one of the dudes from Contra–complete with their customary moves and weapons. Good golly, as soon as I finish New Super Mario Bros. Wii I know how I’ll be spending my weekends.

* Jeepers Creepers, dig this “Middle-earth metro map” t-shirt. I wear a Men’s size M if anyone’s interested in buying me a belated birthday present, is all I’m saying. (Via Topless Robot.)


Carnival of souls

April 28, 2010

* Review I’m putting off until I experience the thing being reviewed #1: Ken Parille on Daniel Clowes’s Wilson.

* Review I’m putting off until I experience the thing being reviewed #2: Jason Adams on The Descent: Part 2.

* Review I already read even though I haven’t experienced the thing being reviewed: Rich Juzwiak on the Blur reunion documentary No Distance Left to Run.

* Review I read after writing my own review of the thing being reviewed: Tom Spurgeon on Lane Milburn’s Death Trap.

* Anders Nilsen does a comic about Abraham and Isaac! Also, he’s selling a minicomic/postcard set/thing featuring some of the stuff he’s posted on his blog. Click the blog link and look in the sidebar for the link to buy it.

* Curt Purcell will be getting back into the Blackest Night blogging game now that it’s all said and done. Looking forward to it!

* The campaign for the Monster Squad to use more recent monsters is going strong!

* I liked Stacie Ponder’s list of her five favorite horror-movie monster reveals.

* Adam Ant is bipolar as a motherfucker.

* Trent Reznor is starting a new non-Nine Inch Nails band with his wife Mariqueen Maandig. Sure, I’ll eat it. He’s been talking about having song ideas for a female singer for over a decade now, after all.

* So wait, is the problem that music writing is too critical or not critical enough? One or the other!

Comics Time: Death Trap

April 28, 2010


Death Trap

Lane Milburn, writer/artist

self-published, April 2010

112 pages


Buy it from Lane Milburn

It feels good to see someone win a Xeric Grant whose work you’ve already been following, then to discover that the work they won that Xeric for is their best work to date. In that light, Lane Milburn’s Death Trap is the feel-good comic of the year. Everything he does well, he does as well as he’s ever done it here: Immersive environments, crosshatched and “lit” to look like they were constructed from solid smoke. Weird, ugly monster designs that connote some sort of infectious sickness of reality as much as they do simply somethin’ scary. A real mastery of building the human body out of its constituent parts into something that appears meaty and palpable on the page–from his trademark fireplug goons to a convincingly sexy teenage girl. A flair for the ridiculous that manifests itself both through far more controlled riffing on the over-the-top writing of comics of yore than what you saw in his recent Feeble Minded Funnies and through a series of action beats and sight gags that juxtapose his bizarre creatures with the ’70s redneck-stoner-horror demimonde he squeezes them into. Some truly killer beat-by-beat action sequences of the sort you wish somebody, anybody who isn’t working with Grant Morrison on Batman & Robin would attempt in a contemporary superhero comic. An intelligent combination of the teenagers-preyed-upon-by-maniacs horror of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with even woolier comics villainy. Off-to-the-side visual flourishes, from the separate full-color science fiction story that opens the book to a Mario Bava/Barbara Steele-style pin-up that kicks off the main titular tale. And perhaps the most finely tuned sense of queasy, bottom-just-dropped-out horror and madness you’ll find in comics this side of Al Columbia. If any of this sounds at all appealing to you, drop the 12 bones, and put some cash aside for whatever he does next.

Carnival of souls

April 27, 2010

* It’s Wilson Day!

* Also, Tom Spurgeon wrote a book about the John Romitas! Sort of!

* I am quite flattered and surprised to see that my and Isaac Moylan’s The Side Effects of the Cocaine: David Bowie April 1975-February 1976 made the illustrious NeilAlien’s Favorites of MoCCA 02010!

* Lots of good news on Robot 6: Graeme McMillan is back, Graeme and Kevin Melrose are also working on our new Hollywood/nerd-culture-centric sister blog Spinoff Online, and we’ve revised our comment guidelines. I know there are people reading the blog who wouldn’t touch the comments with a ten-meter cattle prod; we’re going to change that. The “MARVEL/DC/BENDIS/JOHNS SUXXXX” days are over.

* Case in point: Inspired by Tom Spurgeon and Tim O’Neil, I asked Robot 6’s readers what makes them say “okay, that’s enough” when it comes to a comic, creator, or character. The responses have been smart, civil, and in some cases provocative. Check ’em out.

* Holy cow, is this fascinating: Scientific America’s Joshua Harthshorne whips up a linguist’s wishlist for heretofore largely theoretical features of language he’d like to see the creators of the Dothraki tongue for HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones pick up, just for the experiment of seeing how the fans who’ll make it a point to learn the language work with them. For example:

Action verbs. For action verbs in English and possibly all languages, the subject is the doer and the object the do-ee (“Mary broke/kicked/threw the vase”). Though again there are a few more complicated languages, prominent theorists posit this pattern is an innate part of our linguistic minds. However, others argue the dominance of this pattern is an historical accident and verbs where the doer is the object and the do-ee is the subject should be perfectly learnable. Numerous studies have shown that both adults and preschoolers find it very difficult to learn subject-do-ee verbs (“The vase shbroke Mary” = “Mary broke the vase”), but again these studies are short, so perhaps the participants simply didn’t spend enough time learning and using the new verbs. Use this pattern for Dothraki — or, even better, have some verbs follow one pattern (“break”) and other verbs the other (shbroke) — and we’ll see how well students can do given more time.

You’ll want to click the link to read the whole thing and catch all the linkage and annotations that my rudimentary copypasta won’t convey. (Via Westeros.)

* Eric Heisserer, who will always be known around these parts as the creator of maybe my favorite web-horror project Dionaea House, tells io9 that the Thing prequel he’s now working on (revising a screenplay by Ronald Moore) will be as direct a prequel to John Carpenter’s version as he can possibly manage. So that’s nice. (Via Dread Central.)

* Grab yourself a cold one and treat yourself to a Matt Maxwell con report, this one on Stumptown.

* Zom from the Mindless Ones talks about Batman & Robin colorist Alex Sinclair and glo-fi. With Brendan McCarthy referring to his current style as such not just in interviews but within the printed pages of his “Doktor America” strip with Matt Fraction in Marvel’s Who Won’t Wield the Shield? one-shot, I wonder if this concept is gaining some actual currency in comics circles…?

* David Bordwell on (among other things) the decline of the DVD and Apocalypse Now Redux (they’re unrelated).

* CRwM trounces the sneak preview of Jonah Hex in grand style. I LOL’d.

* They’re making The Ring 3D. It’s going to be “teen-centric.” There you have it.

* Heidi MacDonald catches that that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle head from yesterday isn’t part of the upcoming movie, it’s from a class taught by Tom Savini. On the other hand, this Jon Vermilyea zine cover she found is totally real.


* Henry & Glenn Forever!


* The heck is this?


* Scott Pilgrim vs. Star Wars? Sure, I’ll eat it.


* I wish our shitty fantasy movies were as weird and pretty as Red Sonja apparently is, at least when you take five frames from the movie and divorce them completely from, you know, Brigitte Nielsen and the whole rest of the movie.


* A horror movie should actually do what these Indian anti-texting-while-driving PSAs are doing. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)


* The new M.I.A. video could be improved if it ended with a title card reading “GET IT????” in giant block letters, but as it stands you’ll just have to supply that message yourself. Trust me, it won’t be difficult.

* You ever wanna shatter your innocence? Visit Loch Ness, where the big walk-through museum exhibit thing ends by telling you all the most famous pieces of evidence are either misidentified or outright hoaxes and that the Monster is most likely a series of landlocked sturgeons. Anyway, the locals used to believe a lot more than they do now, I guess. (Poor form on the part of that article for labeling the deathbed-revelation hoax Surgeon’s Photograph as “an undated file photo of a shadowy shape that some people say is a photo of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland.”) (Via Loren Coleman, who in addition to cryptozoology appears to be investigating the outer limits of the fair use doctrine.)

The tag stood in letters a hundred feet high

April 27, 2010

"The tag stood in letters a hundred feet high"

Here’s how you know the Night’s Watch ain’t what it used to be: They let Matt Wiegle slip past their defenses and graffiti some birthday wishes for me on the Wall. Poor Jon Snow must be wondering what he’s gotten himself into!

Yes, if you’re wondering, getting personalized George R.R. Martin/A Song of Ice and Fire birthday art for my birthday is a pip and a half.

Carnival of souls

April 26, 2010

* Hey look, it’s my little piece on Grant Morrison and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne in Maxim this month! Fun fact: The editors of Maxim are wild about Grant Morrison, wild!

* Recently on Robot 6:

* Jon Hastings’s homemade street-level superhero RPG;

* Alison Bechdel meets Harvey Pekar;

* and Jeff Lemire’s con commissions.


* This long interview with Ross Campbell of Wet Moon fame is occasionally too chummy for its own good, but there’s much of interest in here, including Campbell’s uniformly harsh take on his own art, specifically its sexiness. Personally I think we could use more comic art that’s constantly sexy without trying to be.

* I’d forgotten this: Neil Marshall is doing a 3-D horror movie about people exploding called Burst. Oh, indeed.

* Allow me to be the 3,892nd person to direct you to Chris Ware’s awesomely angry, predictably shitcanned cover for the annual Fortune 500 issue, which it’s occurring to me now would have been like putting out a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue with a model who’d recently died from an eating disorder on the cover. Click the link to see it at full size and soak in all the details.


* I would be interested in seeing a Monster Squad remake that updated the roster of monsters they’re fighting. Like, maybe a slasher, an alien, a J-horror ghost of some kind…

* My main concern upon learning that Heroes may be renewed after all is that Rob Bricken from Topless Robot will probably die from alcohol poisoning and/or stress-induced heart failure should this occur.

* Speaking of: “For some reason, I can’t get over the eyemask — the torn fabric, the bandage-like quality of it — it looks like something a mutant turtle living in a sewer could conceivably make, which I hope to god is the most insane sentence I type all day.” —Rob Bricken on the turtle head design for the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Sorry, Rob, you ended up having to write a whole post on Heroes getting renewed!


* Pretty stuff in Tom Spurgeon’s latest Five for Friday, about covers with pretty colors.


* Noel Freibert’s Mr. Cellar’s Attic really could have made the cut in that list, by the way.


* “Most monsters you can only kill their bodies, but a clever enough PC can actually do worse to the unicorn: it can rob it of meaning.”–Zak Smith on unicorns. That’s the Chicago way!

* Mahnola Dargis on the career and influence of David Bordwell. God, this article is almost like pornography to me. Christ Jesus, when he went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison there were twenty-two film societies?

Comics Time: Keeping Two

April 26, 2010


Keeping Two

Jordan Crane, writer/artist

finite webcomic, 2001-?

Read it at What Things Do

That question mark up there is doing a lot of work. I remember following Keeping Two in serialized fashion…but I don’t remember where. Were any installments in NON? Were they on Jordan Crane’s old Red Ink website? Did he make minicomics of them? Was maybe some of it in Uptight? The comic’s presentation on Crane’s gorgeous webcomics-anthology site What Things Do bears the date “18 December 2001,” but I have no idea what that means. I think that’s when it started? I don’t know when it ended. Hell, I don’t know if it ended. But I’ll get to that.

Anyway. Comic!

Jordan Crane’s comics are Mary Poppins’ maxim at work. The spoonful of sugar, and actually it’s more like a dumptruck full, is Crane’s art. His characters have the slightly disproportionate and adorable heads of children. They see the world through little dot eyes. They’re drawn with a line so soft you wanna reach out and pet it. His omission of periods at the end of sentences gives even the dialogue a vulnerable, open feel.

Then the medicine comes along, and it’s like one of those giant needles doctors admit in advance will hurt like hell. In the case of Keeping Two, the medicine is death. It’s presented here with shocking directness. When a baby is stillborn, you see his corpse, see his weeping mother hold him and say “Oh my sweetie”. When a dog dies, you see his body lying on the ground, eyes open, his owner’s recounting of her discovery of her dead best friend staggered out over the course of countless word balloons as though every word is an agony. I hadn’t read this stuff in a long time, and seeing it again knocked the wind out of me. It’s brutal and unflinching.

The story itself is a multifaceted look at a young couple on a day when death touches their lives in several ways: Through the book the woman is reading, through the passing of an acquaintance and the death of the man’s mom’s dog, and finally in the head of the man as the woman takes too long to return from the video store. (Video stores: Sign #1 this comic was started up a long time ago.) In a way it reminds me of Richard McGuire’s “Here,” dazzlingly complex but centered on absence rather than presence and stretched out for an entire story. The couple’s story is sequenced out of order, there are flashbacks, there are multiple perspectives on the same conversation, there’s a story within the story, there are multiple daydream sequences, there are scenes imagining what the real scenes must have been like, there are lengthy “Scott McCloud explaining manga”-type sequences of washing dishes, there’s an ending so open I’m not 100% convinced it is an ending…but it all circles around the direct and devastating image of a dotted-line silhouette where a person, a dog, a baby used to be, just like your mind does. That it’s so lovely to look at doesn’t soften the blow so much as aim it.

Carnival of souls

April 23, 2010

* Life magazine has posted a slideshow of the photos its photographers took at home and in court with cannibal murderer Ed Gein in 1957. If you’re one of this blog’s presumably rather few readers who is unfamiliar with Gein, this slideshow is a fine, eerie way to get acquainted. Without him it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have the horror genre as we know it today. (Via CRwM.)

* Quote of the day: “I adore Superman, and I hope I get the chance to use him”–Action Comics writer Paul Cornell. Wait, what? Aww, who am I kidding, I just enjoyed a year of “Superman” comics starring fucking Mon-El, the Guardian, and Flamebird. Lex Luthor’s a great character and Cornell’s a good writer. It’s just a spit-take-inducing turn of phrase is all, particularly given the reception of that year of “Superman” comics by everyone who isn’t me. (Via Marc-Oliver Frisch, who notes that this probably explains why Marc Guggenheim isn’t writing Action Comics anymore.)

* I wish this Jim Rugg Rambo 3.5 minicomic was gonna play the “Rambo vs. al-Qaeda” storyline straight (note: that doesn’t mean it couldn’t also be satirical), instead of turning it into a big silly goof as is apparently the case. But I’ll still read it regardless.

* Ta-Nehisi Coates has been really magnificent on the topic of Confederate History Month.

Comics Time: Skim

April 23, 2010



Mariko Tamaki, writer

Jillian Tamaki, artist

Groundwood, 2008

140 pages, hardcover


Buy it from Groundwood

Buy it from

The story of a teenage outcast’s traumatic, illicit first love, Skim impressed me with what it chose to show and what it chose to hide. On the show side of the ledger, first of all, it’s a book about a teenage Wiccan lesbian and about suicide, and it really doesn’t skimp on any of that. There are rituals, there’s a love story, there’s cursing out the wazoo, and teenagers die. It’s an article in a local newspaper about What Our Children Are Reading waiting to happen. In that sense, even though it’s very much a Young Adult book, it felt to me less like something created to be maximally appealing and accessible to a YA readership and more like something created the way we like to imagine all good comics are created: A writer and/or an artist had an idea and committed it to paper, full stop. Ballsy.

Also in the “show” column, there are the stylistic filigrees and flourishes of Jillian Tamaki’s art. Her figurework is really singular and memorable, most prominently: There’s a shot early on of a hallway full of Catholic high school girls, the plaid of their skirts more a suggestion of motion than a pattern on fabric, that is simply swoonworthy if ever you’ve swooned over a hallway full of Catholic high school girls. Main character Kim “Skim” Cameron’s “otherness” is suggested with the clever visual shorthand of making her face look like someone that stepped out of a classical Japanese portrait. Ms. Archer is every bohemian art or English teacher you’ve ever crushed on, swirling around under yards of fabric and hair. Suicide-haunted Katie Matthews’s face is a pinched little scowl, not depressed so much as enraged. Even the cowlick epidemic that plagues the hair of what seems like a solid 50% of the characters comes across as an endearing tic rather than a goof. It’s all very cleverly done.

Then there’s the equally clever “hide” column. I fairly marveled at just how much was left unsaid or performed offstage. Why on earth would Ms. Archer do what she did? Though we get a lot on the damage she did, and can infer how she chooses to deal with that damage, the damage that caused her to do what she did is unexplored. Actually, so is…what she did itself. There are hints, there’s a fleeting glimpse, but we never learn how far things went, what was done, what was said. This is where the wise choice to make Skim such an unreliable narrator comes into play. She’s constantly crossing out and rewriting her narration, and we establish early on that she’s willing and able to skip over major, major events if she doesn’t feel comfortable discussing them. We’re never able to trust that she’s giving us the whole picture, and that lack of trust is the structuring absence around which the story and our understanding of it is built. This in turn is reflected in the rumors and half-truths and lies and gossip that keep buzzing in the background, and in the lack of candor between Skim and her supposed best friend Lisa…it’s really a book about hiding, now that I think of it. The villains of the piece, such as they are, are villains precisely because they make such a show of everything. Even the climactic happy ending is presented to us as obliquely as possible. The moral of the story is that private lives are private, and you offer access to them at both your great pleasure and your great peril.

Kiss me like a frog, turn me into flame

April 22, 2010

Oh boy am I super in love with this techno cover of Sonic Youth’s “Sugar Kane” right now!

Small carnival of souls

April 22, 2010

* Grant Morrison: The Topless Robot Interview.

* Eli Roth’s dad Sheldon writes on what it feels like to watch your son kill Adolf Hitler. (Via CRwM.)

* Oh my god, Super Mario Galaxy 2, even now I can feel the hold you will exert on my future self. (Via Topless Robot.)

* That’s all there is, there ain’t no more

Carnival of souls

April 21, 2010

* Oh man, is this ever a treat: David Bordwell on Martin Scorsese, French Impressionism, German Expressionism, and Soviet Montage. Bordwell offers a really astonishingly clear breakdown of Impressionism vs. Expressionism: Expressionism depicts subjectivity in what the camera records, while Impressionism depicts subjectivity in what the camera does. (Montage is a separate beast, done through editing and not really interested in subjectivity, because Communism is incredibly dull.) Extensive analysis of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Bringing Out the Dead follow, as do a few paragraphs on Crank 2: High Voltage. God I love the Internet.

* By all means read Mike Russell’s fine, wide-ranging interview with Paul Pope for AICN. Interesting guy, great cartoonist, lots and lots to talk about.

* Tom Spurgeon weighs in on whether or not comics can be scary in a very novel fashion: He says that in addition to whatever obstacles are inherent in the medium itself, there are institutional and logistical disincentives that prevent most comics and cartoonists and, importantly, readers from even trying.

* Recently at Robot 6: Cameron Stewart’s Batman: The Tattoo (it wasn’t up yet yesterday, sorry), Black Hole: The Photos, and pood: The Motion Picture.

* How does the Lost cast think Lost will end? Their guesses are as good as ours, I guess…

Comics Time: Young Lions

April 21, 2010


Young Lions

Blaise Larmee, writer/artist

self-published, March 2010

96 pages


Buy it from Blaise Larmee

Now here’s an interesting combination: A fairly straightforward “aimless young smart people” graphic novella in the vein of Adrian Tomine or Ghost World-era Dan Clowes, drawn in the wispy, dreamlike style of C.F. Larmee’s take on the CF “tradition”* foregrounds its frequent warm beauty rather than its fetishistic cold transgression. It pushes back the Henry Darger and pulls forward the Nell Brinkley, if you will.

This has a dual effect within the narrative (“story” isn’t quite right), which is about three young “conceputal artists” whose routine is shaken up by the unexpected intrusion of a beautiful young woman whose drunken disruption of one of their performances leads to their most successful gig yet, and a subsequent road trip to determine whether she’s worthy of official inclusion in the group. First, in the hands of Larmee’s delicate pencil line, these people are gorgeous–skinny, babyfaced androgynes constantly hitting effortlessly languid, painfully beautiful poses. If the characters in Young Lions were real, you might not want to talk to them, but you’d sure wanna stare at them, or, you know, dash your heart to pieces on the rocks of their indifference, tossing underappreciated mix CDs in their direction every now and then.

The second effect the beauty of the art, and by extension the characters, has on the narrative is making it immersive and appealing. A lot more so, in fact, than it might otherwise have a right to be. Cody and Alice seem completely oblivious to how easy they have it as (apparently) wealthy, (definitely) gorgeous, (avowedly) artsy young Americans; Wilson is less attractive but makes up for it by sheer force of obnoxious intellectual domineering and is the type you know will always be able to find a scene he can dominate; Holly is a bit harder to get a handle on, but she clearly enjoys the attention inherent in her exploitation by the trio and is thus difficult to sympathize with even as the others condescend to her naivete and poverty. A less charitable documentarian of this particular demimonde might simply stick “Bohemian Like You” by the Dandy Warhols on loop and be done with it. In the hands of a less visually charitable cartoonist–Clowes, say, or even Tomine!–this would read as a pretty merciless satire. Given Larmee’s deeply unfortunate internet persona (the fact that it’s a put-on doesn’t make it any less of a headscratching headache inducer), you might even say merciless satire is what both characters and creator deserve.

But when I said Larmee is dragging the beauty of this art style forward, I meant that literally: As opposed to CF’s side-scrolling distance, we’re in constant close-up close quarters with this quartet. Their reclining bodies occupy entire panels, their upturned, closed-eye’d faces appear inches away from our own, the background details are all but nonexistent. It’s tough to stand in judgement of people you’re seeing primarily through the POV you’d get if you were about to make out with them, you know?

It’s that intimacy that makes Young Lions successful, that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Yes, these are assholes. But who–especially among artists and arts-interested people of the sort who’d buy a Xeric-winning self-published graphic novel such as this one–hasn’t been an asshole? Who hasn’t been friends with assholes, worked with assholes, been impressed by the creative output of assholes, been disappointed with the creative output of assholes, fallen in and out of love with assholes? Larmee may doom them to an open, down ending, but as Kevin Smith once said, that’s exactly what life is. Beyond that it’s not our place to judge.

* the emergence of which is fascinating to me, by the way, a second generation of the Providence artcomics aesthetic following Fort Thunder and Paper Rad, which are themselves obviously quite distinct but still noise-dominated while I think CF is quiet-dominated, but anyway

Lost thoughts

April 20, 2010






* Feels like the homestretch! If this is what all the episodes are like from here on out, we’re in great shape. I think this was my favorite episode of the season so far.

* First of all, it was jam-packed, picking up directly from last episode and then just hitting us over and over again. And I don’t just mean on the revelation front, as I’ll explain. But first those revelations!

* We got a nice explicit ANSWER about the Smoke Monster impersonating Jack and Claire’s dad, and that people need to be dead for him to impersonate them. From that you could infer that he also posed as Yemi, for example, while the Walt who appeared to Locke when he’d been shot and left in that burial pit by Ben must not have been the MIB at all. And I’m gonna go ahead and assume that the whole disappearing-bodies thing was just the MIB trying to throw people off the trail of what was really going on, to better persuade them that these really WERE their dead loved ones come back to life. Once the Ajira flight arrived, his endgame went into play, and he didn’t need to maintain that deception anymore.

* This wasn’t quite a “HEY LOOK AUDIENCE WE’RE GIVING YOU AN ANSWER WE REALLY COULDN’T BE ANY CLEARER” thing like what we’ve gotten about the Whispers and Christian, but Kate and Claire’s conversation on the dock made it pretty clear that all the dire warnings about Claire needing to raise Aaron were really for Claire’s benefit rather than Aaron’s. A nice script-flip there. (Also, it gives me hope that similarly important-in-the-early-seasons questions regarding the other prominent child, Walt, will indeed be addressed. Hope springs eternal!)

* And we even got an explanation as to why the heck Sawyer let Kate escape from that elevator. Which was pretty much the theory I advanced back when we first learned Sawyer was a cop. Of course, there’s a happy medium between “blowing your cover story by arresting a woman at the airport when you’re supposed to be someplace else” and “helping a woman in handcuffs escape airport security,” but okay, fine, whatevs.

* We also got the various flashsideways threads intertwining in dramatic fashion. It was kind of funny seeing how fast all the dominos fell toward one another all at once. Maybe a little too fast at times: Sawyer and Miles got to Sayid’s house like half a minute after Sayid did! But the boom-boom-boom of Claire meeting Desmond meeting Ilana meeting Jack into Jack seeing Locke again was deliciously done. This oughta go a long way toward placating the “they’re a waste of time!” crowd.

* But beyond the mythology signposts and Answers and serious forward movement, I thought this episode was chock full of strong moments between various pairs of characters. To wit:

* I thought the conversation in the well between Sayid and Desmond was beautifully done, emotionally desperate and draining.

* I loved Sawyer’s confrontation with Jack on the boat–Sawyer’s disbelief that this guy could be this stupid, and Jack’s stubborn insistence that it’s not stupid at all, plus an apology for Juliet’s death that echoed Ben’s various apologies for his transgressions over the years.

* Kate’s confrontation with Claire was equally good, particularly the part where Kate basically shouted down Claire’s protestations regarding Fake Locke, like “I’ve wanted to reunite you and your child for three years and you’re gonna trust a smoke monster over me? FUCK that!”

* That opening powwow between Jack and Fake Locke recalled the heat of Jack’s arguments with the real deal back in Seasons One and Two. And that Jin/Sun reunion put an “awww!” in my throat despite myself–plus, it was funny how they kept cutting to that long shot of them running toward one another with the sonic pylon right where they’d end up embracing.

* My favorite of all, though, was one in which the second person was absent–Sawyer crying while watching Jin and Sun’s reunion because Juliet is dead.

* Even in the flashsideways, that was some fun business between Kate and Sawyer, I liked how Nadia had about ten seconds to process her devastation before Sayid had to run out the door, Claire’s revelation to Jack worked…

* All these little micro-capsule payoffs of various character relationships. More like this, please!

* Bonus points for taking advantage of how unnerving Desmond running Locke over was to make his relentlessness toward Claire kind of disturbing. Creepy Desmond is creepy.

* Wow, put her in a suit and neaten up her hairstyle and suddenly I’m an Ilana fan after all! More evidence for my own personal Grand Unified Theory of Lost, which is that the women get hotter as they get cleaner but the men get hotter as they get dirtier?

* If that’s the resolution to the “Sun can only speak Korean because she hit her head” storyline, well, that was a pretty superfluous storyline.

* “It’s him!” I guess her near-death experience triggered a Revelation. Did she remember it when she came to in the hospital bed later on, I wonder?

* So who is it that was shooting at the castaways in the outrigger during last season? Obviously we were being teased by putting this season’s model castaways on a boat, but my new operating theory is that it was Widmore’s goons during some pending spacetime freakout.

* Why can’t the MIB kill Desmond? Wait, I think I just answered my own question, didn’t I–it’s because the MIB can’t kill Desmond, isn’t it?

* I am not gonna feel the least bit bad anymore when Dark Tina Fey bites it.

* Admit it: You expected to see Juliet in that hospital, right?

Carnival of souls

April 20, 2010

* Can comics be scary? Josh Simmons, Richard Sala, CRwM, Karswell, Kimberly Lindbergs, and myself attempt to answer the question, courtesy of Curt Purcell.

* Kate Beaton does The Great Gatsby.

* Photographic recreations of Charles Burns’s Black Hole yearbook portraits by Max Oppenheim. I can barely look at this.

* Lost is on tonight. Why not take one last look at last week’s Lost thoughts discussion before joining us again tonight?

* One of the all-time great MCs, Guru of Gang Starr, has died in what sounds like a deeply sad, John and Tom Fogerty-style state of estrangement from both his former creative partner DJ Premier and his own family. Tragic on any number of levels. Guru rapped like he was sitting on a high-backed armchair, calmly but firmly explaining the hard truth to you. Man, the internal rhymes in the first verse of “You Know My Steez” (bonus points for the THX-1138 recreation):

Rest in peace.

Carnival of souls: Special “post-C2E2” edition

April 19, 2010

* The first annual Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, was held this past weekend. Apparently attendance was unexpectedly light, and sales were subsequently spotty, but beyond that the show appears quite well received.

* Regarding the attendance figures, I’ll say this: 1) I figure San Diego casts a long shadow over the other big shows. Given several years of widely derided Chicago cons, a new con in Chicago will probably have to wait a while before attracting some of what could be seen as its natural constituency back from Southern California.

* 2) The Con War storyline may be Reed’s best friend, in that it’s difficult to look worse than Wizard tends to. Simply releasing an honest attendance figure already puts them a step ahead of the game, and I figure there’ll be plenty of “oh man this is so much better than Rosemont” buzz going around the city by this time next year.

* Beyond that, as Tom Spurgeon notes, it obviously crushed Wizard’s concurrent Anaheim show in terms of fan and media buzz. But that’s to be expected given the near-total lack of industry support for Wizard’s shows following Gareb Shamus’s decision to pit his Big Apple show head to head against Reed’s New York Comic Con, and the much-rumored behind-the-scenes antics that followed that decision. Without the publishers playing ball, there’s nothing to buzz about, after all.

* Beyond Heidi and Tom’s aforelinked ruminations, my colleagues at Robot 6 have posted three catch-all round-up posts for Day One, Day Two, and Day Three.

* Announcements that caught my eye: Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier by Ed Brubaker and Dale Eaglesham; a street-level Marvel crossover miniseries called Shadowland; more Ultimate [Cryptic Noun] minis by Brian Michael Bendis; Powers going (arrrrgh) bimonthly; Jonathan Hickman saying that Secret Warriors has a natural end-point coming up before issue #30, making it almost a manga-model run; Casanova moving from Image to Marvel/Icon with new colors; maybe the strangest-sounding X-Men line relaunch ever.

* Ah, I thought I remembered Frank Miller saying Batman was out of his anti-terrorist graphic novel, but that the book itself was going ahead without Batman anyway–in fact, I thought that when he said at MoCCA that he wasn’t doing Holy Terror, Batman! anymore, he meant he was abandoning the whole idea. But it sounds like he’s not, and like Xerxes, the 300 prequel, is proceeding apace. Good news.

* Now that I’m finally allowing myself to follow news about the production of A Game of Thrones on HBO, I’m pretty surprised to discover that one of the two female leads has been recast following the completion of the pilot, while the other is the subject of persistent recasting rumors herself. Now, shit happens, even on great fantasy projects–Peter Jackson recast Aragorn after shooting started, after all. And supposedly HBO suits are still making all the right noises about the pilot being good. But it’s weird.

* Hope Larson’s adapting A Wrinkle in Time! That’s a good match.

* I’m glad to see Doctor Strange superfan NeilAlien is on my side re: the dialogue in Brendan McCarthy’s Spider-Man: Fever #1.

* John Allison does the ’80s X-Ladies.


* John Cassaday drawing Superman covers? Sure, I’ll eat it.


* Johnny Ryan gets darker and darker, if that’s possible. It’s like Prison Pit is infecting his strip work.


* Speaking of dark, Renee fucking French.


* The comics Dave Kiersh has been posting on the New Bodega blog over the past week or so are like the perfect cross between his old, wistful stuff and his more recent teenspolitation-type things.


* Wow, that’s a beautiful (and ominous!) Batman & Robin #12 variant cover by Andy Clarke.


* It’s weird that cryptozoology expert Loren Coleman reprinted this whole article on his own site–slightly less weird than the time he heavily implied that the reason the Destination Truth guy wasn’t gonna do as many cryptozoology episodes of his series was so he could be a sex tourist in Asia, but still weird–but please don’t let that put you off this very cool piece on, among other things, how escaped snakes and crocodiles from medieval menageries helped give rise to reports of dragons in England. It gets a little wild and wooly after that part, but the material on actual animals is delightful.

* See if you can guess the plot point mentioned in Ed Gonzalez’s review of Tom Six’s The Human Centipede that made me decide that no, I won’t be seeing this movie.

* The video for “Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsytem looks like it was pulled from the Joker’s Director’s Series DVD. I feel like this is what unlucky henchmen have to deal with all the time. (Via Matthew Perpetua.)

* Finally, on Saturday the Missus and I went to see Eric Whitacre conduct a program of his work at Carnegie Hall. Christ, what beautiful music. He word-premiered a piece that moved me to tears based on its sheer loveliness alone; how often can you say that?

Comics Time: The Arrival

April 19, 2010


The Arrival

Shaun Tan, writer/artist

Arthur A. Levine, 2006

128 pages, hardcover


Buy it from

(Before I begin the review, can you believe this book came out four years ago? I swear I thought I was a year at most behind this particular curve. But comics barrels headlong through its Golden Age and you have to run to keep up sometimes.)

Don’t let the sepiatones fool you. This fine, captivating wordless graphic novel re-strange-ifies the immigrant experience, shaking it free of elementary-school field-trip/filmstrip nostalgia and making it something scary and wonderful again. Taking place in a fantastical, almost Expressionist city filled with incomprehensible writing, bizarre architecture, and creatures that look like they evolved in a world where Jim Woodring’s Frank stories are the central creation myth, it powerfully conveys that traveling far from home, all alone, to a place you’ve never been before, where you know no one and don’t speak the language and aren’t even guaranteed a place to work or sleep, is extremely risky…but also worth the risk. I don’t think it had occurred to me how weighed down by cliche such narratives have become until I read The Arrival, but with each of Tan’s dreamlike or nightmarish twists on the pitfalls and miniature triumphs of his suit-wearing immigrant protagonist, I marveled anew both at his inventiveness, and at how effectively he burrows down through a million PBS documentaries to get to the core of emotion in each vignette.

Me being me, I was hit hardest by Tan’s depictions of the things that caused each character to flee his or her native country: representing persecution as faceless giants in hazmat suits, sucking people up with enormous vacuum cleaners; representing ruinous war as happy men in conical gnome hats happily marching out of a city, their feet crossing ever more harsh landscapes, giving way to a tableau of skeletal remains, and culminating in just one of the me, badly wounded, returning to a city that’s totally destroyed. But there’s cute business too, like our protagonist’s short, ill-fated stint putting up posters; and there’s genuine joy in seeing him slowly form the makings of a new community of friends with his neighbors and co-workers. Tan’s neo(magic)realist art is particularly good at the latter: He puts us in the place of the protagonist as his new friends directly address him, drawing us in with their gaze and gestures, as intimate as his massive splash pages and spreads are intimidating.

Perhaps the nicest thing I can say about what Tan does in The Arrival is that despite its provenance as a children’s book, he keeps the action on the knife’s edge, the danger of failure (or worse) radiating from our worried, harried hero at every turn. I really wondered whether things would work out for him or not. The effect is enveloping. I imagine this will make the eyeballs of little kids and parents who pick it up from the library melt out of their skulls, it’s so lush and lovely and fully conceived an act of visual worldbuilding. Well worth a read, a flip-through, and a read again.

Carnival of souls

April 16, 2010

* Sean on Dead Tree alert: I have a piece on Grant Morrison’s Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne in the new issue of Maxim, featuring a lovely young lady with brown hair whose name eludes me on the cover. It’s on page 34, I think. Woo!

* Speaking of Morrison, here he is being interviewed by Comics Alliance, io9, and MTV Splash Page, all on the topic of Batman. If I were the assistant principal at time-displaced Tom Spurgeon’s middle school I would make him copy all these by hand for detention. (Via Kevin Melrose.)

* They are softening a bit about releasing a Nightbreed director’s cut on DVD. Just a bit, though. Apparently the names being collected by Barker’s official fan site are having some effect, so if you think you’d buy a copy and you haven’t done so already, please email them with an intelligently written message of support. It’ll help!

* Diamond and the comics retailers it distributes comics to are talking about moving new comics day to Tuesday, bringing it in line with music, movies, and books. How about just getting in step with every single other form of media and not shipping everything a day late when there was a holiday the week before? That is the romper room-est thing about this romper-room industry.

* Ed Brubaker’s writing another Captain America spinoff miniseries. Fine with me!

* Gene Philips has me ever-so-slightly reconsidering my position on Desmond from Lost.

* Oh man, Virgil Partch. (Via Tom Spurgeon.)


* Yesterday I finished A Feast for Crows, the fourth and at this point latest book in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, which is being adapted on HBO as A Game of Thrones. Holy shit, you guys, these books. Anyway, I decided to put aside the prospect of hunting down and reading the three prequel novella’s he’s written and just dive right into the Song of Ice and Fire sections of the internet. This means I finally got to read his story about Jaime Lannister, aka the Kingslayer, fighting Cthulhu. Good golly miss molly. WARNING: The Ice and Fire-verse characters in the story are situated in-continuity, so the story’s spoilery for all the way up through the third book in the series or so. That said, it’s also awesome.

* Thom Yorke covering “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division! This had me so excited that by the time the main keyboard melody kicked in I was laughing out loud. Had I been there I would have totally and completely misplaced my shit.