Archive for August 31, 2010

Carnival of souls

August 31, 2010

* Brian Chippendale is doing a webcomic called Puke Force for PictureBox! Lotsa laffs and sex so far.


* Tom Neely presents Bound & Gagged, 72 pages of one-panel gag comics by Andrice Arp, Marc Bell, Elijah J. Brubaker, Shawn Cheng, Chris C. Cilla, Michael DeForge, Kim Deitch, J. T. Dockery, Theo Ellsworth, Austin English, Eamon Espey, Robert Goodin, Julia Gfrörer, Levon Jihanian, Juliacks, Kaz, David King, Tom Neely, Anders Nilsen, Scot Nobles, Jason Overby, John Porcellino, Jesse Reklaw, Tim Root, Zak Sally, Gabby Schulz, Josh Simmons, Ryan Standfest, Kaz Strzepek, Matthew Thurber, Noah Van Sciver, Dylan Williams, Chris Wright and more. Jeepers creepers!


* Now that I’ve started to “get” Gabrielle Bell, I’m enjoying her ongoing account of her trip to the San Diego Comic-Con. Guest-starring Michel Gondry, pictured here slapping Bell in the head. (Via Tucker Stone.)


* Today on Robot 6: Scott Kurtz on the Mark Waid/Sergio Aragones piracy/copyright kerfuffle;

* and C.B. Cebulski doesn’t want to read emails from people named DarkLoganXX.

* Myyyyyy goodness, John Romita Sr.. My goodness gracious me. (Via Tom Spurgeon.)


Music Time: Usher feat. Nicki Minaj – “Lil Freak”

August 31, 2010

Usher feat. Nicki Minaj

“Lil Freak”

from Raymond vs. Raymond

LaFace, March 2010

Buy it from

It takes some truly breathtaking chutzpah to recast Stevie Wonder’s epic, epochal social-awareness scorcher “Living for the City” as the “Kashmir”-style hook for a song in which the singer hectors a groupie into fucking another woman for his viewing pleasure. Even a guy like me, who’s self-published his opinions on everything on a near-daily basis for the better part of a decade, can only glimpse that kind of ego from where I’m standing with the help of a Hubble-level telescope. Fortunately, Usher Raymond is just the creep for the job. The dour, diminutive man who would be King of Pop has no compunction tarting up that “la la la la” hook with exotica strings and deploying it as the backing track for a paean to fauxbianism that repeatedly features the phrase “You let her put her hands in your pants.” The second it dawned on me that yes, that’s what he’s doing, I laughed out loud at its gloriously bad taste and thought “Oh, I’m downloading this, alright.” Sacrelicious!

“Lil Freak” really has three selling points to overcome Usher’s sunglasses-at-night anti-charisma. One, that huge, absurd hook in the chorus. Two, the subtle, atmospheric pulsing tone that by the second verse is pretty much the only instrumentation besides percussion–it’s got this weird subterranean-lair vibe to it that suits Usher’s sexual supervillain persona in the song. Third, guest rapper Nicki Minaj, the aptly named (I don’t think I’d gotten the pun of her last name before just now) Harley Quinn to Usher’s unsmiling Frank Miller Joker. I don’t think Usher has any idea how ridiculous what he’s up to with this song is, but Minaj certainly does–how else to explain a verse in which she lists all eight of Santa’s reindeer, uses the phrase “tig ol’ bitties,” and barks “EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND!” in praise of her host singer with all the comical ferocity of that guy who refers to the Lord Humungus as “the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rollah” in The Road Warrior? Let this song put its hands in your pants.

(via Matthew Perpetua)

Carnival of souls

August 30, 2010

* We will never exhaust Jack Kirby’s contribution to art and ideas.


* This oughta be fun: Pitchfork counts down the Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s. Only one song per artist, which makes it something different than a real Top 200 Tracks countdown, but different doesn’t necessarily mean “worse.”

* Ron Rege Jr.’s Yeast Hoist #1: Now appearing in its entirety at What Things Do. What a treasure that site’s turning out to be.


* There used to be a review of the script for Guillermo del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness adaptation right here, but now there’s not. Not sure what that means, and god knows you can’t trust these sorts of things anyway, but it sure sounded like the creature-feature action flick you were worried it was gonna be, and I don’t trust del Toro not to screw it up just that badly. (Via Jason Adams.)

* DC’s Source blog reveals the division of labor for the Batmen starting this fall: Dick Grayson will star in Tony Daniel’s Batman, Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics, and Peter J. Tomasi’s Batman and Robin, while Bruce Wayne will star in Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. and David Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight.

* I’m quite pleased that the time differential between the release of a new Jason comic in Europe and the States is now on the order of two months.

* My friend Zach Oat loved Neil Marshall’s Centurion, which now that I’ve seen Scott Pilgrim and The Expendables is solidly on top of my to-do list. (Sorry, Inception.)

* Nice, chewy posts on a couple of comic-art traditions from a couple of talented comics artists: Frank Santoro on naturalism and Tom Kaczynski on melodrama.

* Today on Robot 6: Cartoonists and the Criterion Collection: perfect together! Featuring Matt Kindt, Scott Morse, Jason Latour, R. Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Jaime Hernandez, Bill Plympton, Frank Kozik, Seth, Scott Campbell, and more.

* Jiminy Christmas, look at the Eric Vincent colors on this old Love and Rockets collection. This is what I want the ’80s to look like.


* A giant-monster movie made on the cheap called Monsters? Sure, I’ll eat it.

* Robyn covering Bjork’s “Hyperballad.” Oh my goodness. (Via The Missus.)

* I’m quite late to this party I know, but you certainly want to watch director John Hillcoat’s video for the Nick Cave outfit Grinderman’s “Heathen Child.” It’s the sort of video where when the chorus kicks in, the tits come out. It’s like, wait, the people who made this crazy thing, which looks like the work of people who’ve watched nothing but True Blood and Tim and Eric for the past three years, made that tedious, polite adaptation of The Road and recorded its generic-Oscar-bait score? Can we swap out that version of them for this version of them and try again?

Comics Time: Set to Sea

August 30, 2010


Set to Sea

Drew Weing, writer/artist

Fantagraphics, August 2010

144 pages, hardcover


Buy it from Fantagraphics

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Read it for free at

It’s an odd little notion, the idea that you’ve lived a better, fuller life for having killed people. That’s probably a somewhat unfair aspect of Drew Weing’s good-natured, lushly drawn storybook (that’s the term the comic practically demands I use) Set to Sea–a tale of a big lummox of a poet whose lackluster verses about life on the open sea are given new verve when he’s shanghai’d into service on an actual ship–for me to seize on. After all, Weing’s bigfooted style and inviting rather than intimidating illustrative chops place him squarely in the adventure-comics tradition of Carl Barks and Jeff Smith. Why be churlish and begrudge its central character’s baptism by fire? Well, because it really is the central, transformative moment in his story. Before the pirate raid that he ends up beating back pretty much singlehandedly by slaughtering dozens of buccaneers and beating their captain to death in a rage, he’s miserable aboard his new home–complaining about the work and the rations, literally tossing his notebook full of unfinished poems into the ocean. Afterwards, he’s accepted by his shipmates, elected third mate, introduced to a world of beauty and adventure around the globe, and filled with enough genuine insight into the sailor’s life to become a hugely popular poet back on the mainland. At first I was impressed by how wordlessly nasty that central fight got, how Weing was unwilling to neuter the violence of this world. But by the time we get to the end of the book, with the now-respected poet/sailor, bearded and eyepatched, reclining by the fire of the pub from which he was once forcibly ejected, thinking back on a life well lived…well, this isn’t like Bilbo Baggins, forever trying to recapture his combat high, or Frodo Baggins, forever damaged by the horrors he witnessed and endured. It’s a dude kicking back saying “Yeah, it was all worth it.” I wish Weing had examined that assumption a little more closely.

I’m getting too old for this shit

August 30, 2010

Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo was my favorite film of 2008. Disturbing in its combination of Saving Private Ryan-style war-atrocity gore with might-makes-right anti-heroism, practically confrontational in its abandonment of traditional peaks-and-valleys action-movie plot structuring, it felt like the searingly personal product of someone who was mentally ill. By contrast, The Expendables feels like the product of someone who’s sustained an impairing head injury. Should’ve expected it, I guess; no one assembles enough aging action heroes to stage their own private Royal Rumble with the intention of exposing their own heart of darkness, or really doing anything but remaking Tango & Cash with more ampersands. But I was still surprised by just how spastic and disconnected everything felt–characters, scenes, dialogue, basic narrative cause and effect, everything. It was like watching an action movie written by Samuel Beckett.

Not that you even need to know this, but the plot is that Sly and his fellow mercs, to whom we are introduced during an in medias res rescue of hostages from Somali pirates (conducted with rather callous disregard for the hostages, I must say!), are hired by a mysterious company man (that’s Bruce Willis’s cameo; Stallone’s group takes the gig when Arnold Schwarzenegger passes on it) to depose the military junta ruling a tiny island nation in the Gulf of Mexico. Stallone and Jason Statham (there really is no point in using their character names–Stallone and Statham are their character names) scout the place with the help of the rebellious daughter of the ruling general, who refuses to leave with them after they’re discovered. Touched by her loyalty to her people and her home, , Stallone overcomes his reluctance to take a surefire loser gig like this, and he and his team travel to the island, murder its entire armed forces, kill Eric Roberts and Stone Cold Steve Austin (the rogue spooks secretly running the show), leave the daughter in charge, and go have beers with Mickey Rourke. Cue both “Born on the Bayou” AND “The Boys Are Back in Town,” The End.

Alright, so with a little effort I can make it sound coherent, but you’ve got to cut a buncha subplots to do it. Dolph Lundgren is featured as a member of the team who goes Section 8 during the pirate attack and is kicked off the squad; having read the location of Sly’s next gig over his shoulder, he presents himself to the island junta and leads a team of assassins in a fleet of SUVs to take out Stallone and Jet Li (here playing a character called, no I’m serious, Yin Yang). Just before he can kill Li, Stallone shoots him, and in his dying breath he gives Sly the entire layout of the presidential palace they’ll need to raid. Only he’s not really dying, he actually gets better, and in the final scene all is forgiven and he’s having drinks and riding motorcycles with the gang again. Phew! Meanwhile, Charisma Carpenter is briefly poured into a minidress and paraded around as a Lifetime Movie-worthy domestic-abuse subplot so that Statham can pound the shit out of her asshole new boyfriend and his pick-up basketball playmates during his off-hours as a way to show her what she gave up by dumping him. Li wants more money for his family, which he doesn’t actually have, and he’s angry because as the shortest member of the team he gets shit-on a lot, and all his fights are so choppily edited you’re left to wonder if they were removing his walker in post. Mickey Rourke, team member turned team manager, runs a tattoo parlor or an auto body shop or both, enjoys sex with anonymous women, and cries because this one time in Bosnia he could have stopped a woman from killing herself but didn’t. Next time you see him after that he’s whooping it up with the team with John Fogerty chooglin’ in the background. The general who rules the island nation is chafing at having to take orders from Roberts and Stone Cold and this other British merc with a Fu Manchu mustache, and he’s a painter, so he has all his goons paint their faces like scary warriors, so Roberts shoots him to death in front of all his men; none of this changes anyone’s behavior in the slightest.

Again, not a huge surprise that an action movie consciously constructed as a throwback to the ’80s heyday of its writer/director/star and several of its supporting cast members and cameos was going to feature a lot of cliched go-nowhere barely-sketched-out subplots featuring characters for whom the jump from one- to two-dimensional constitutes an arc. The really shocking thing for me was how incoherent the basic stuff of storytelling was here. Remember in Tango & Cash how nearly every line of dialogue was a one-liner, and after a while it felt almost absurdist, like there was no real connective tissue between any of them and Sly and Kurt Russell were just taking turns spouting zingers from some sort of checklist they had? This was like that, only the zingers had no zing. I’m finding this so difficult to describe…it’s like, you’d see a reaction shot from Stallone when one of his teammates said or did something, he’d be smiling and he’d make some wisecrack, but nothing that the teammate said or did actually merited the specific thing he said. They could have said or done something totally different, or nothing at all, and it would have had the same bearing on what the next line was. This black-box-theater experimental-theater tone carried over into the lines of dialogue that actually purported to have some sort of import for the story: After Sly pops Dolph during his heel turn, he asks him “Who sent you?”, and then before Dolph even answers he asks “Is the girl still alive?” as if he already knew the answer. During the climactic raid on the presidential palace, Stallone announces that the team has three minutes to infiltrate the place and do…something, I forget what, but it doesn’t matter, because we never learn or are shown why there’s this three-minute time frame–nothing happens three minutes later, there’s no timers involved in the explosives they’re planting, there’s not some big event the general is launching in three minutes, the plane’s not taking off in three minutes, nothing. Like, you can poke fun at the motivational shortcomings these movies always have–for instance, Stallone being so moved by the daughter’s courage and loyalty to her nation and people, something he’d apparently never encountered before despite alluded-to adventures everywhere from Bosnia to Nigeria–but it’s the fundamental disconnect between any two points in the film that’s the real marvel here. It’s Mystery Science Theater 3000-level material at times, even aside from Stallone and Rourke’s Rondo Hattonesque visages.

But the action is fabulous, I’ll give it that. Not necessarily the hand-to-hand combat scenes: There are some memorably brutal bits toward the end with one of the key goons getting his neck snapped back with a downward kick, and Statham is a joy to behold in close-quarters brawls as always, but for the most part these are old men, and Stallone Christopher Nolans the bejesus out of their fight scenes just to make them look like fight scenes. The firefights, on the other hand? Wow. Stallone announces his intentions here from the start, when a “warning shot” at the pirates from Lundgren literally blows a man in half, sending his entire torso splattering against the wall behind him. Stallone’s a poet with CGI splatter, and the big battles make the most of this by combining it with novel weaponry–Terry Crews’s automatic shotgun gets some real animated-GIF-worthy killing done, while Stallone and Statham’s “well, while we’re here, we might as well…” biplane strafing run against a dock full of army dudes had me laughing and cheering. There’s even one memorable bit seen through heat-vision goggles, great gouts of yellow blood spraying everywhere like the Sesame Street Chain Saw Massacre. I’ve often said that the great ’80s action movies treat the action like a Busby Berkeley dance number–it’s spectacle, and the spectacle is pretty spectacular here once it gets going. Problem is that when no one’s getting killed, the movie’s nearly unwatchable.

Carnival of souls

August 27, 2010

* One quick programming note: My review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World went out over RSS earlier today with a paragraph missing–a whole shpiel about Ramona vs. the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Scott as Knives’s Manic Pixie Dream Boy–so if you’re interested, please click again to make sure you got the whole thing.

* Recently on Robot 6: A first look at Hope Larson’s A Wrinkle in Time.

* Wait–a new THB issue from Paul Pope and AdHouse? Whaaaat? (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* Returning to it a couple days later–like flying over a still-gushing oil spill–I find it hard to overstate what a trollish, narcissistic, pointless disgrace the Comics Journal’s roundtable on Ben Schwartz’s Best American Comics Criticism became.

* Speaking of! The programming slate for SPX has been announced. I can’t go this year, and even though this is because of entirely pleasant personal reasons, I’m still bummed out because I’d give my eye teeth to be able to participate in the Critics’ Panel again this year, or even just attend it: Johanna Draper Carlson, Gary Groth, Tim Hodler, Bill Kartalopoulos, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Ken Parille, and Caroline Small. Sparks really could fly at this thing, and ought to. At the very least, allow me to beg someone to record it! (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* Here’s a fine David Bordwell essay (is there any other kind?) on coincidence in film narrative. Read the whole thing, just for the pleasure of having done so.

* A lot of people got really excited to see Kevin Huizenga’s story “Time Travelling” go up on Jordan Crane’s webcomics site What Things Do, and I don’t blame them, but mostly it makes me think of how many people I’d kneecap to get Huizenga’s “A Sunset” online. It’s from Or Else #2 and I’m reasonably sure it’s the best short comic story of century so far.

* Jason draws Darth Maul, Batman, and a Teletubby WHOOPS a Moebius character (LOL! thanks Jog), Jason-style.


* Wow, “Always Loved a Film,” the most straightforwardly fun Underworld song ever, now has the most straightforwardly fun Underworld video ever!

* There’s no way to say this without coming across like a complete tool, but since it’s not like it’d be the first time, here goes. Tomorrow is apparently Read Comics in Public Day. I know that everyone’s heart is in the right place, but every day is read comics in public day for me because I’m a grown-up who owns his life choices. It’s no big deal.

Continue Y/Y?

August 27, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World felt natural. Which is an odd thing to say about a romantic comedy punctuated by video-game-style fight scenes the way Grease is punctuated by John Travolta singing, I suppose, but then that’s just how in tune I am with what’s going on with this movie. Watching it simply reinforced that huge eureka moment I had when I first read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic and discovered how he’d incorporated the visual and structural language of videogames into a twentysomething slice-of-lifer. Fights, leveling up, people turning into coins when they get defeated, warp zones, 1-ups, ninja swords, sound effects, stats–this stuff has been part of the fabric of my mental life for so long that it’s difficult to describe how simultaneously familiar and thrilling it feels to see it in an everyday kinda context, right there among rock dudes and cute girls and tagalongs and witty slutty gay guys and awkward parties and scenesters and so on and so forth. Of course it should be there!

And it was naturally funny, too. I think one thing that gets lost in discussion of co-writer/director Edgar Wright’s genre send-ups is how much of the humor has little to do with riffing on Night of the Living Dead or Bad Boys or whatever the case may be and stems instead from the effortless interaction of characters who’ve gotten to know each other, play off each other’s insecurities, and draw out each other’s funniest stuff. In that sense Scott has a lot more to do with Shaun of the Dead than with Hot Fuzz in that it’s about a group of young, slightly directionless young people who’ve mostly been friends forever–there’s that same sense of people putting on their roles in the group like a pair of comfortable shoes and kicking around their affection for and annoyance with one another like a soccer ball. So for all the screwball pacing and dialogue it had a…laconic feel to it, I think I wanna say? Like, it was super-easy to slide into the group and laugh at Wallace’s knowingness and Scott’s blithe sleaziness and Julie’s GTFOness and Knives’s head-over-heels-ness and Young Neil’s wannabe-ness and Kim’s grumpiness and Stephen’s panicked ambitiousness Stacey’s annoyingly right-ness and so on and so forth, like we’d known these folks all our lives.

Heck, even the most potentially problematic character in this regard, literal dream girl Ramona, was played pretty much straight–Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s comparatively flat performance vs., well, everyone else in the movie could be seen as a mistake, but to me it was the perfect way to thwart any potential Manic Pixie Dream Girlisms. Indeed, that character comes across like a point-by-point refutation of the MPDG–dry rather than manic, she makes Scott’s life a disaster rather than an adventure, and the only whimsical thing about her, her hair, is treated like a sign of emotional problems and an intimidating obstacle to be overcome. Most importantly, the whole point of the movie is that her life existed in and of itself long before she entered Scott’s. She’s got a long, troubled history and a rich emotional life–she’s an agent, not an object. If anything, it’s Scott who’s Knives Chau’s Manic Pixie Dream Boy, transforming her life into a swoony spectacular with his carefree indie-rock lifestyle and heretofore unchallenged ability to ignore and deny anything troubling in his own past and emotional life. And of course we see just how far that gets everyone involved!

Narratively bold and inventively staged in all the ways that O’Malley’s comics are, and very very very funny, Scott Pilgrim was basically a killer little movie that could easily have felt forced and over-impressed with itself. If anything, it was a little slow at times, which is the last thing I thought I’d be saying. There was no sense that the movie was desperate to bring its material to you, you know? There it was, and you could come to it at your leisure. I wanna play it again!

Comics Time: Second Thoughts

August 27, 2010


Second Thoughts

Niklas Asker, writer/artist

Top Shelf, March 2009

80 pages


Buy it from Top Shelf

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A sexily drawn story of how hard it is for sexy young people with glamorous careers in the arts to really connect with one another? Sure, I’ll eat it, though I’d understand if you’d prefer to pass. Second Thoughts isn’t exactly the sort of tear-down-the-sky take on this well-trodden slice-of-life litcomix subgenre that might cause you to reevaluate it if you’d grown tired of it in the past. What it is is an extremely well-executed example of it, with a surprising degree narrative complexity, subtle enough to be imperceptible to me until I read the back-cover copy after finishing my first read.

In retrospect, Asker tips his hand by first introducing Jess, one of the book’s two main characters, this one a writer struggling with a project and making a long-distance call to a touring musician girlfriend who’s clearly cheating on her. Jess then meets cute at the airport with John, a music photographer on the outs with his touring musician girlfriend and on his way out of town for good who not-so-surreptitiously snaps a photo of Jess as she waits for her girlfriend to return. Jess’s girlfriend texts to say she missed her flight in, John’s flight out gets cancelled, and the two go their separate ways, not meeting again until they both end up in bed together–but neither in the way you’re thinking now, nor in the way I thought when I first read that scene. Along the way a few of the character names change from one thing to another, and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Second Thoughts‘s primary selling point is Asker’s luxurious, inky art. He’s working in a style that will be familiar to fans of Paul Pope or Farel Dalrymple, but ratcheted down in a realist direction, evoking, say, some of Craig Thompson’s Blutch-ier stuff. Everything’s dark and shiny, the characters are all attractive in the sort of way that leaves you idly daydreaming about what it’d be like to make out with them…the book feels like the sort of thing meant to be read at night in an apartment in the city with cigarettes and a glass of wine–the sort of thing meant to be read by the characters involved, in other words. Which ends up being really fitting, because the whole idea is the way the mysterious glamour of attractive strangers enables us to conjure up whole lives for them in a way that is really more a commentary on our own lives than on theirs. It’s a nice place to visit.

Music Time: The Moody Blues – “Question”

August 26, 2010


The Moody Blues


from A Question of Balance

Threshold, 1970

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The Moody Blues are best known for orchestral prog-pop slow burners like “Nights in White Satin,” as love-it-or-hate-it an affair as rock’s baroque period ever produced. To me that song’s a real killer–I dig the application of Lord of the Rings instrumentation and atmosphere to a love song right off the bat, but beyond that there’s real pain in the way Justin Hayward holws “Oh, how I love you!” over that barely human-sounding chorus of high keening backing vocals. In other words it’s the urgency of the song that sticks with me rather than the quiet groove of it.

That’s why I’ve gotten so into the band’s up-tempo singles from its late-’60s/early-’70s peak, “Question” being foremost among them. Lyrically it’s a very of-its-time blend of the personal and the political, assembled from two separate unfinished songs “Day in the Life”-style: It kicks off and ends with a breakneck attack of horns and acoustic guitar over which Hayward demands answers for his “thousand million questions about hate and death and war,” sandwiching an AM-radio-worthy ballad in which he says “I’m lookin’ for someone to change my life.” This is a not-uncommon lyrical ploy for songs from that era, I suppose–the Moodies did it again, albeit in a slightly less bifurcated fashion, with “The Story in Your Eyes” the following year. It’s the sort of thing that’s quite easy to write off as everything wrong with that entire generation, an implicit belief that achieving personal happiness is sufficient answer to the world’s ills, but so what? Isn’t that as far as most of us are gonna get anyway? I can’t find fault with someone for seeking refuge, and there’s something so sincere in the way Hayward’s quavering tenor expresses both rage and yearning.

But what interests me more about “Question” is the production, and not just how the frantic pace of the opening and closing crashes in and out of the gently strummed central section. For a song that was supposedly recorded live as a band in part as a response to how difficult all their previous material was to play while touring, there’s some bonkers production work going on here. In the galloping fast sections, instruments will abruptly fade in and out of the mix, either highlighting or shoring up Hayward’s vocals. The acoustic guitar that forms the backbone of the piece sounds like it’s being strummed about four inches away from your ear. The drums are absolutely overpowering, at least until they suddenly drop out of the recording altogether–a bassless pounding. The bass guitar is responsible for the melody. There’s this huge sinister hum that tracks the “ahhhh-ah-ah-ahhhh” vocals from what sounds like deeper brass instruments but I suppose could be some crazy low-end Mellotron sample. And of course there are the call-to-arms trumpet blasts that really launch the song and also announce the start of its final section. “Question” could have been a fairly straightforward, if compositionally sectionalized, rock song, but the band decided to play with dynamics to a pretty much unnecessary degree. But all great spectacles, of course, are characterized by being unnecessary.

Carnival of souls

August 25, 2010

* Today on Robot 6: Tom Hart, Leela Corman, and John Porcellino launch a new comics school, The Sequential Artists Workshop;

* and Gary Groth says “My God, what have I done?”

* Re that post, some amazingly naked hostility being thrown around in the Comics Journal roundtable on Ben Schwartz’s Best American Comics Criticism that it links to–not a huge surprise whenever the Hooded Utilitarian gang is involved, I know, but it’s a surprise to see Jeet Heer come out swinging nonetheless.

* The State’s album Comedy for Gracious Living is coming out on September 14, over 14 years after it was recorded. Like Ryan Penagos, I really hope they also re-release the State’s book State by State with the State–someone stole my copy during my senior year in college, which is not at all surprising.

* Mike Barthel points out something I’m apparently too dopey to have comprehended on my own, which is that Pitchfork’s Top 50 Videos of the ’90s was a one-man affair, not the usual “as voted by the staff” thing, which I think explains a lot–it does feel more like someone‘s list than those things usually do. It spurred some interesting thoughts on irony from Barthel and Nitsuh Abebe; I particularly liked Abebe’s distinction between ’90s altrock irony and ’00s electroclash irony, which Mike follows up on. (“Sometimes I kinda think [electroclash] deserves a little more respect”? C’mon, we can do better than that! You got a problem with me? You should get your ass off of Avenue D!)

Comics Time: Artichoke Tales

August 25, 2010


Artichoke Tales

Megan Kelso, writer/artist

Fantagraphics, 2010

232 pages, hardcover


Buy it from Fantagraphics

Buy it from

Over a decade in the making, and it shows. This is far and away the best comic I’ve ever read from Megan Kelso, succeeding on almost every level. Her clear-line style gives an airy ease to her often detail-heavy drawings of nature and the people who inhabit it; similarly, her complex exercise in fantasy worldbuilding–and I don’t mean detailed maps with funny names, I mean real worldbuilding, constructing cultural and religious and economic structures rooted in environment and history and exerting macro and micro influence across the lives of all the characters involved–is subsumed into an absorbing, briskly moving house-divided family soap opera. So many elements in her tale of a land divided between its agricultural South and industrial North jumped out and demanded to be contemplated and enjoyed: Those appealing artichoke-head character designs. The Queen who fails her people in disastrously bloody fashion despite the good intentions of an entire system dedicated to her success. The way Kelso tells a byzantine multigenerational tale replete with flashbacks and jumps back and forth in time and space and the age of the characters involved while hardly ever telegraphing any of it, creating the impression of a tapestry of inescapable memory and history always influencing the present. The thoughtful, almost cerebral treatment of attraction, sex, and marriage. Heck, even the de rigeur fantasy trope of placing the actions of singular actors at the pivot points of world history is made to feel here less like the denial of the huge impersonal forces that drive human events more often than not than as some a logical, representative outgrowth of them. And man, that clear line is just sick. I dug this book to a degree that surprised me and look forward to returning to it. It’s a rich vein of alt-fantasy being tapped here.

Carnival of souls

August 24, 2010

* Today on Robot 6: Frank Miller directed a Gucci ad. YESSSSSS

* This teaser for an upcoming arc of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead looks very, very promising if you like zombies. The series goes so long without zombies becoming a genuine threat to the cast other than isolated fuckup-based incidents that when the threat re-emerges, it’s usually stunning.

* Speaking of The Walking Dead, here’s the trailer for the 90-minute pilot episode of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the series for AMC, which will debut on Halloween.

A few quick thoughts: 1) I’m surprised they kept the coma/hospital opening, which was written before Kirkman had seen the very similar opening of 28 Days Later; 2) Modern slow zombies just look like Improv Everywhere zombie-flashmobs to me anymore; 3) The music cue in the back end of the trailer is to me by far the most unexpected and interesting thing about it. But as always, trailers are meaningless and we’ll see how the show is.

* Brand spankin’ new Jordan Crane comics! Where the hell is this thing headed?

* Brian Chippendale and C.F. are doing a little book tour together in November. Be on the lookout for two ragamuffins who make good comics. Wait, does this mean Powr Mastrs 3 is seriously coming out by November?

* Bobsy of the Mindless Ones makes the case against Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s S.H.I.E.L.D. I must admit I’ve dialed way back from my initial enthusiasm for the book. It’s great to be in love with ideas, but it helps if the ideas aren’t so familiar, and if the ideas are happening to actual characters rather than sort of vague gestures in the direction of character. The critique Bobsy goes with is one I hadn’t even really considered, which is that an alternate history of a fictional world whose history is constantly altered loses the impact of good alternate history. In a way it reminds me of Brian Michael Bendis’s similarly conspiratorial/revisionist Illuminati project, which also missed the point of conspiracy fiction by taking a bunch of supergeniuses and attributing to them all the icky aspects of being the world’s secret puppetmasters with none of such organizations’ efficacy. (They couldn’t stop Secret Wars 2 from happening, so what good are they?) Personally, my biggest problem with S.H.I.E.L.D. (and, it would seem, Fantastic Four, into which Hickman has drawn some of his key S.H.I.E.L.D. concepts) is that by turning Iron Man and Mister Fantastic’s dads into members of an elite secret society that’s been saving the world from Marvel’s alien villains since ancient Egypt, modern-day Marvel has turned yet another pair of Stan Lee hard-luck heroes into destiny-driven Chosen Ones. The appeal of virtually every Silver Age Marvel character is that they were all varying stripes of self-centered asshole who fell bass-ackwards into their lives as superheroes, and indeed had to make the choice to live those lives that way. They’re not the culmination of centuries of machinations by spider-gods or Leonardo da Vinci, they’re just folks. Genius folks in some cases, but still just folks.

* Tom Spurgeon ponders DC management.

* In this gutwrenching post on a) the death of his father and b) the music of Hole, Matthew Perpetua drops a throwaway notion that I’m stunned had never occurred to me before: Perhaps the reason there’s so little in the way of genuinely tortured-sounding rock music today is because labels can no longer afford to babysit crazies and junkies. Rattle off a list of a dozen of the mid-’90s big alternative artists and surely at least half had weapons-grade heroin habits, alcohol addictions, or other debilitating mental illnesses. With sales levels today being what they are, who can afford anything other than consummate professionals? (I suppose you could argue that the incarceration rate of today’s rap superstars gives lie to this, but incarceration is a step in the right direction from “getting murdered by your/your rival’s former label head.”)

* Real Life Horror: I can’t even imagine swimming in Loch Ness, let alone swimming Loch Ness. When I visited, I’m not sure I even touched the water. Just in case!

* Congratulations to this list of Democratic officials who’ve stood up for civil rights, American values, and basic human decency. Short list.

Music Time: Bjork – “Desired Constellation” / Portishead – “Nylon Smile”

August 24, 2010


“Desired Constellation”

from Medulla

Elektra, August 2004


When that celestial choir introduced us to Bjork’s “Hidden Place” at the beginning of her fourth album, 2001’s Vespertine, we were being drawn into a place she was never gonna leave. All the gorgeous, huge-sounding film-score orchestration and choral work obscure it at the time, but it turns out Vespertine was the last gasp for Bjork the pop artist. Since then the balance of her arrangements has tipped solidly from pleasure to texture, and her vocal melodies meander even more than usual, like jotted-down poetry set to music on the spur of the moment. The artist who pushed against pop and dance songcraft with more devil-may-care abandon than any act since early Roxy Music is gone. What’s left is comparatively formless art that can occasionally delight and awe, but if it ever again consistently produces stuff that hits as hard as the “Army of Me”/”Hyperballad”/”The Modern Things” suite, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

“Desired Constellation,” though. Hoo boy, “Desired Constellation.” Taken from Bjork’s most Experimental-with-a-capital-E record, the almost entirely constructed from human vocals Medulla, it’s one of her few late-period compositions that measures up to her earlier work in terms of both melodic directness and emotional impact. It occurs to me now that the song is structured, surely deliberately, as an echo of her all-time best song, arguably the best song of the 1990s, “Hyperballad”: Sung from the point of view of a person who’s secretly working through a major problem with her relationship all on her own, it alternates casually, conversationally sung verses explaining the ritual she’s quietly performing to try to get around this emotional roadblock with a heartrendingly massive, belted chorus expressing just what the problem is in no uncertain terms. Confronted with the knowledge that someone has sacrificed on her behalf in a way she knows she doesn’t really deserve, Bjork sings of taking “a palm full of stars” and throwing them like dice, over and over, “until the desired constellation appears”–fudging her life and thoughts until she either genuinely deserves what’s been done for her or can justify not deserving it to herself. “It’s slippery when your sense of justice murmurs underneath and is asking you: How am I going to make it right?”, she sings, the latter phrase repeated over and over as the song’s chorus. Juxtaposed against the song’s minimal instrumentation–a shimmering two-note tonal bed and a barely audible pitterpatter of percussion–the line is devastating, and in a career full of throat-shredding vocal performances, her delivery of it is perhaps the rawest she’s ever been. Her voice at times buckles under the onslaught of the line’s high, sustained notes, and at one point ist transmuted into a wordless howl. “How am I going to make it right?” is no idle, rhetorical question, it’s a cry of utter desperation. She has no idea.


“Nylon Smile”

from Third

Mercury, April 2008

Buy it from

In “Nylon Smile,” Portishead take this basic sentiment of emotional unknowing still further, from desperation into something approaching actual terror. Over an undulating backing track peppered with sickly guitar and sounding like some Lynchian take on mid-century exotica–contrast its sinuous unpleasantness with “Desired Constellation”‘s vulnerable comfort–singer Beth Gibbons recounts a state of complete emotional paralysis: she’s unable to enjoy herself, unable to improve herself, unable even to explain how she feels, because she simply has no clue why the person who loves her, loves her. “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you, and I don’t know what I’ll do without you,” she sings. Again, this isn’t a rhetorical construction, a “gee I sure am lucky” sigh of relief–Gibbons sounds absolutely panicked that she couldn’t possibly recreate the conditions under which she landed this comforting presence if she tried, and that some godawful abyss would open up under her if it went away. Perhaps most harrowing of all is the way the song simply stops, as if she simply can’t bear to address the issue any longer for fear of irrevocably ruining…everything.

Carnival of souls: Special “Carnival of Closed Caption Comics” edition

August 23, 2010

* I’d like to thank once again the men and women of Closed Caption Comics for their guestblogging efforts here at Attentiondeficitdisorderly over the past week or so. A new CCC comic on their table at a small-press show is an inevitable (if occasionally wallet-busting) highlight of my comics year, and I was truly honored that they swung by. In case you missed it, here are their contributions:

* Chris Day got crafty and built a box for his guitar pedals.

* Noel Freibert both demonstrated and questioned the appeal of Baltimore’s Otakon anime convention cosplayers and plugged a cool-looking print sale.

* Ryan Cecil Smith showed off a bunch of bizarre shit you can buy in Japan and reviewed Shkariki! by Masahito Soda and Kamui Den by Sanpei Shirato.

* Molly Colleen O’Connell showed off some new work (and some cool world-music and No Wave videos).

* Conor Stechschulte unveiled a none-more-black animated skull.

* Zach Hazard Vaupen posted a page of comics all over the goddamn internet, and posted some more comics besides.

* Next time I need guestbloggers I’m gunning for either all the surviving members of the mid-’60s Marvel bullpen or a full Fort Thunder reunion, including the guy who built bicycles. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

* Tom Spurgeon and an all-star array of commenters and commentators select the 25 Emblematic Comics of the ’70s. It’s the sort of act of reconsideration and reclamation that really has been the work of critics and anthology editors over the past few years. It’s just occurring to me now, but the manga and reprint explosion of the ’00s was to comics what the birth of digital downloads and the iPod were to music–a massive expansion of what art is available and acceptable to consume.

* Today on Robot 6: Cameron Stewart is as cartoony as he wants to be.

* Pitchfork selects the Top 50 Music Videos of the 1990s. Gun to my head? “Coffee and TV,” “Everlong,” “Closer,” “November Rain,” “No Surprises,” “Freedom ’90,” “In Bloom,” “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe,” “Been Caught Stealing,” and the Beavis and Butt-Head version of “Liar.” Man did I ever cry when I first saw “Coffee and TV.”

* Can you even imagine a Hellraiser movie bad enough to persuade Doug Bradley not to play Pinhead in it?

* Real Life Horror: So maybe that cryptozoology TV show that Flash artist Francis Manapul participated in captured footage of an entire school of Pacific Ocean sea monsters (cadborosaurus for the initiates among us) off the coast of Alaska?

* Rich Juzwiak liked Piranha 3D an awful lot. Oh, great, there’s another movie to add to my to-watch list, which still includes Inception, Scott Pilgrim, and The Expendables, and will soon add Centurion, and would include Salt most likely if it weren’t already five films long.

* Matthew Perpetua on three–count ’em, three!–Steely Dan songs. Did I win the lotto today or something?

* I’m very excited to be able to get a new album by A Sunny Day in Glasgow for absolutely free, but given how things are going in the arts I can’t help but be bummed out by thinking that they probably stand to make the same amount of money off this one that they likely made off the two albums they sold for money.

* Jeeziz, look at this Matt Furie cover for The Lifted Brow #7.


* The jokes write themselves.

* Michael Moyer on apocalypse as ego:

The desire to treat terrible events as the harbinger of the end of civilization itself has roots in another human trait: vanity.

We all believe we live in an exceptional time, perhaps even a critical moment in the history of the species. Technology appears to have given us power over the atom, our genomes, the planet–with potentially dire consequences. This attitude may stem from nothing more than our desire to place ourselves at the center of the universe. “It’s part of the fundamental limited perspective of our species to believe that this moment is the critical one and critical in every way–for good, for bad, for the final end of humanity,” says Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. Imagining the end of the world is nigh makes us feel special.

I’ve been saying that for as long as I can remember. (Via Zoe Pollok.)

Comics Time: The Man with the Getaway Face

August 23, 2010


The Man with the Getaway Face

Darwyn Cooke, writer/artist

based on the novel by Richard Stark

IDW, April 2010

24 pages


Buy it from IDW

I never read The Hunter, the first in cartoonist Darwyn Cooke’s series of adaptations of Richard Stark/Donald Westlake’s Parker novels. As I’ve said before, on an aesthetic level I’m just not buying the ring-a-ding-ding Rat Pack nostalgia he’s selling. Moreover, to me the appeal of pulp has always been its deliberate economical unloveliness, so it’s weird to me to read a comic about a brutal killer lifted from the world of dimestore paperbacks that looks like a demo reel from a topflight animation shop. But I do recognize both the appeal of the source material and the pure chops of the adapter, and at just 24 pages and two bucks, The Man with the Getaway Face–an apparently short and sweet adaptation of the novel of the same and a prologue/teaser for the next full-fledged Parker graphic novel, The Outfit, and name–seemed worth a shot.

The result’s pretty much what I expected. It’s easy as pie to get drawn into a heist story, even one as knowingly prosaic as what Stark was up to here: Parker takes a job robbing an armored car during its guards’ regular stop at a roadside diner even though the money is barely worth the effort and despite knowing for a fact that one of his three coconspirators plans to steal his share, simply because he badly needs the cash following reconstructive surgery to hide his identity from the mob. Once the players and the plight are established, you race through Cooke’s panel-crammed pages (the lack of borders helps a bit in that regard, but they’re still pretty cramped given how much space-filling brushwork is going on inside each of them) to see how the scheme unfolds. And there’s certainly something enticingly Conan-like about Parker, a guy who feels no compunction about stealing if he needs money and killing whoever crosses him, but is just sort of steely about it rather than bloodthirsty.

That said, I really don’t get the appeal of populating a story like that with animation archetypes straight out of central casting, from the zaftig, flirty diner waitress to her tiny, balding, pencil-mustachioed patsy. The surgery subplot means that the Parker we see here is a complete redesign of a character Cooke already spent a graphic novel chronicling; an impressive feat with a strong payoff, but I wish the other characters shared his no-nonsense design. And it’s not as though that look and feel bring a ton to the action table, either. Not that there’s much action to speak of (just some guards getting coldcocked and a car crash), but from the angles to the choreography it feels like the goal is to make you say “ooh!” not “ouch,” let alone “Jesus Christ.” And that’s what I wanted, instead of it all being so…oh my god, am I really about to say this?…cartoony. I want pulp to be pulpy, you know? I don’t want it to look like Don Draper channeling Bruce Timm.

Komikusu Taimu!: Shakariki

August 22, 2010


Masahito Soda, writer/artist

Published by Akita Shoten

18 volumes from 1992-1995. This big one probably includes 3 or 4 regular volumes.

458 pages, 950 yen


This is a very big manga book, and it’s part of a serial about bike racing, and it’s got lots of very tight drawings of bikes and bike parts (wow), but it’s also not too tight, so the characters are cartoony and the action is fluid. It’s a cool biking story. What’s really cool about this volume is that just about the whole thing is one big long race that’s about as, uh, tiring to read as it would be to ride. I mean that in a good way.

There are absurdly many emotional peaks in this book, as one character sees another one ahead (!!), starts to catch up (!!!), gets spotted (!!!!), pulls ahead of him (!!!!!), everyone is shocked at the new lead (!!!!!!!)… you get the idea. But, hey, the story unfolds and it’s not too hard to catch the meaning through the pictures and enjoy it.

This book reminds me of something Paul Pope wrote on his blog a while ago, The extended cinematic sequence is one of the best gifts we’ve inherited from manga. Hm, yeah? I don’t know, sure. This is a good example of that. I definitely think it’s really cool that someone drew such a long, intense event as this and filled it so high with action and story and motion lines and enough variation that it doesn’t get monotonous or dull. To me, this book is weird and cool, and only recommended if you just love seeing stuff happen in comics. Read this when you need a break from comics about boring guys walking their dogs or jerking off in their apartment. Vavoom, whooshhhhh!!



August 22, 2010

I just discovered a very limited stock of prints under my bed. Thought I’d have a little print sale back at the headquarters. All prints are hand screen printed and ship flat in a sturdy cardboard pack. This is a cheap and concrete option to the enhancement of your collection or a generous starting point, don’t pass it up, you’ll never forgive yourself.

Carnival of souls

August 20, 2010

* Well this was fun: Travis Greenwood, of the genuinely excellent retro-movie-oriented t-shirt company Found Item Clothing, interviewed me about t-shirts for the Found Item blog. The ostensible focus is my t-shirt tumblr Fuck Yeah, T-Shirts, but it’s sort of a “towards a philosophy of the t-shirt” kinda deal. Before I sat down to answer Travis’s questions I’m not sure I ever thought through my love of t-shirts any further than “gosh, I love t-shirts,” so you’re getting some real first-draft-of-history stuff here in terms of me feeling out what makes a good t-shirt and what explains my affinity for them.

* Big Questions #15 is on its way! Anders Nilsen, best of his generation.


* Just this week I received the blu-ray of Michael Mann’s Heat as a gift and was surprised to discover a blurb on the back cover noting that the director had somehow tweaked the content of the film for this release. So I was struck by the lede for Matt Zoller Seitz’s piece on “director’s cuts” and their recut brethren for Salon, which is basically a plea to Mann to stop messing with his movies. Anyway, the piece is an argument-starter (to my mind especially when Seitz argues that Apocalypse Now Redux is less dreamlike than the original version). Check it out.

* Speaking of argument-starters, Tom Ewing presents an alphabetical list of rock-critic arguments. One of the list’s most interesting points is its discussion of the dialectic between “guilty pleasure” and “if it gives you pleasure, why feel guilty?”:

The “no such thing as a guilty pleasure” line ends up at a kind of naturism of pop, where the happiest state of being is to display one’s tastes unaltered to the world. But the barriers to naturism aren’t just shame and poor body image, it’s also that clothes are awesome and look great. Performing taste– played-up guilt and all– is as delightful and meaningful as dressing well and makes the world a more colorful place.

I think Ewing is simply overstating the need for guilt as a component of taste. Rejecting the concept of “guilty pleasure” isn’t a question of rejecting rejection–I loudly and proudly reject art all the livelong blog-day. Just by way of a for instance, Rob Sheffield’s gushing over “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Tik Tok”–two songs constructed entirely of clumsily pandering cliches, the latter at least dubiously distinguished by the apparent aim of sounding annoying on purpose–in his epic interview with Matthew Perpetua this week made me want to smash Brett Michaels’s acoustic guitar over Ke$ha’s head like a felonious Bluto Blutarski, just by way of a for instance. My taste still has very clearly defined boundaries; they’re simply not defined by my reaction to the notion of what I’m “supposed” to like or dislike and subsequently feeling bad about the places where I don’t measure up. As a critic, consumer, and occasional maker of art, I don’t get anything whatsoever out of reacting to how I supposedly “should” be reacting. Rejecting “guilty pleasure” is simply exerting ownership over the entirety of your taste. To continue with Tom’s metaphor, it’s not about not wearing clothes, it’s about approaching art without asking “Does this song make my butt look fat?” (I understand that this could be a pose in and of itself, like how whatsisname in Singles‘ “thing” was “not having a thing”–but wouldn’t you rather your pose not involve dancing between other people’s raindrops?)

* Just some fine writing on the pleasures and perils of genre from Tom Spurgeon in his review of an otherwise unremarkable comic.

* The very talented superhero artist David Aja walks us through several covers for the “Seven Capital Cities of Heaven” arc from The Immortal Iron Fist, including one that was never used. Neat, thoughtful stuff.


* Kate Beaton kills political cartoons dead. They stink!

* Speaking of politics, I spent the bulk of this week completely unplugged from the internet, with checking in on what the Closed Caption Comics crew was up to and deleting spam comments the only exceptions. It’s difficult to describe how dispiriting playing catch-up with political blogs since yesterday afternoon has been. Since my shameful willingness to be duped by bloodthirsty fools and still more shameful willingness to aid them in duping others placed me on the wrong side of the Iraq War debate, I can therefore safely say that I’ve found nothing more upsetting in American politics since the dawn of my political sentience than the current campaign of naked bigotry against Muslims, wholeheartedly embraced by an entire political party and abetted and encouraged by a variety of prominent bigots and cowards in its supposed opposition. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Josh Marshall have been despairingly eloquent about this.

* I think this season of True Blood is the best so far, and I think this Rolling Stone cover is the best True Blood thing ever. True Blood is exactly what we want, right? Pervy sex, disgusting violence, fuck the squares? (Via Jason Adams.)


* I liked the Weezer tour based on their two good albums better back when I first saw it–when their two good albums were their two only albums.

Comics Time: Al Burian Goes to Hell

August 20, 2010


Al Burian Goes to Hell

Al Burian, writer/artist

Migraine, July 2010

80 pages

price unknown

Out of stock at Microcosm Distribution

Confession time: I threw this book away. More specifically I left it on the “free table” at my day job. Some stuff that doesn’t appeal to me at first glance gets kept around anyway just in case, like if there’s clearly a fully formed aesthetic at work that simply happens not to be my cup of tea; crude-looking zine-y stuff usually doesn’t stick around at all. But a few hours after putting this on the giveaway pile, an older, cooler coworker of mine pressed it back into my hands, saying he’d just read it in one sitting and was totally blown away by just how deep into his own darkness Burian was willing to go. Alrighty then–what have we here?

Well, I can see how my coworker, who I’m guessing hasn’t read a small-press comic since the ’70s, would be impressed. Years of immersion in the medium and exposure to an untold number of autobiographical alternative comics can dull you to the impact a book about nothing but the author’s depression and self-loathing could have on the unsuspecting. Burian uses a very, very loose pastiche of Dante’s Inferno to show himself spiraling into emotional paralysis over the course of a day spent at work, in art school, getting thrown out of a supermarket for grazing at the bulk bins, talking about life and literary theory with friends/faculty/presidential assassins, and so on; what he’s particularly good at is demonstrating how self-awareness–of the run-of-the-mill nature of his problems, of how turning them into art doesn’t necessarily validate either problems or art, of how he’s relatively fortunate in the grand scheme of things–makes the depression of the sort suffered by white male American middle-class artsy-fartsy types feel even worse, not better. Not only are you depressed, you’re lame, which is even more depressing!

But this is probably all stuff you were already aware of. However sympathetic you might feel about Burian’s plight, the art is still rudimentary–his avatar is a simplistic Easter Island-browed cartoon usually shown in profile, backgrounds are minimal to nonexistent, his line is just sort of a thick inert presence on the page. The storytelling, too, is pretty lackadaisical, basically just enough of a Dante swipe to avoid having to come up with a throughline of its own. I’m not the sort of person who waxes outraged over navel-gazing to make myself feel like more of a he-man autobio-haters club member, but bellybuttons ahoy. I’m also noticing that the bright pink cover is smearing itself all over the exterior of my laptop when the two are placed together in my backpack. It’s crudely done, is what I’m saying. It did leave me wondering what grade Burian got on it–it’s his college thesis–but it mostly left me wanting to give him an issue of King-Cat and say “Give it another shot”…

…which apparently is just what Burian did. Google reveals that by now he’s longtime punkrock and zinescene staple, living the expatriate life in Berlin. Indeed, according to this post on his blog, he never intended for this work–done some seventeen years ago, when he was 22–to be published, and a former colleague did so without authorization. I guess he got out of Hell, but Hell followed with him. A strange little saga.

Carnival of souls: Special “Hey, what did I miss?” edition

August 19, 2010

* I’m back!

* I’d like to thank the crack Closed Caption Comics squad–especially Conor, Zach, Chris, Molly, Noel, and Ryan–for filling in so admirably in my absence. I got precisely the combination of inspired comics and oddness I was hoping for, and I hope you did too. Posting from me is gonna be light for a bit longer as I play catch-up, so with any luck there’s a little more CCC on its way to you, but I certainly encourage you to check out their website and–and this is the key part–buy their comics if you like what you see!

* Congratulations to this year’s Ignatz Award nominees, especially my friend and collaborator Matt “Best New Talent” Wiegle. The nomination panel included genuine altcomix top dawgs Josh Cotter and Anders Nilsen, so that’s pretty swell.

* So maybe there’s another Hellraiser movie called Hellraiser: Revelations on the verge of being made? And it’s probably not the Weinstein-approved reboot of the franchise that’s been kicked around for a couple of years now? And it probably doesn’t involve Clive Barker? And it’s probably based on a script by a guy who did some point-missing Pinhead make-up redesigns a while back? Personally I’d prefer Rickey Purdin’s Slashpendables.


* Pitchfork says the words I long to hear: The Orb featuring David Gilmour!

* Three interviews about projects I’m looking forward to: Paul Cornell talks to CBR’s Jeffrey Renaud about Knight and Squire, Megan Kelso talks to Robot 6’s Tim O’Shea about Artichoke Tales, and Hercules & Love Affair’s Andy Butler talks to Mike Barthel in the Portland Mercury about Blue Songs. You definitely want to read what Cornell says about his fictional Britain and what Kelso says about the notion of place as a character, and you definitely want to cry over what Butler had to do to make his second album.

* Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters is writing a comic!

* Matthew Perpetua defends the honor of “Drunk Girls.” As time goes by I find this to be the best song on LCD Soundsystem’s third and third-best album This Is Happening by what would be a pretty comfortable margin but for “Dance Yrself Clean.” I think the overall record feels too organic–both the harshness and the cold beauty of some of their best previous stuff is gone–but organic works for a shout-along rock song like this.

* Keep doing you, Jim Woodring.


* Bedbugs at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square? Disaster! I see a lot of movies there. (Via Ryan Penagos.)

* Brandon Graham draws Twin Peaks! Well, maybe the exclamation point is not quite merited–he drew Audrey without black hair. (Also via Agent M.)


* Very much digging this Jaime Hernandez Strange Tales II cover.


* Monomanaical shelf porn is often the best shelf porn.


* White Lantern Batman? Sure, I’ll eat it.


* Robyn as Robin: Shaggy is right.