Carnival of souls

* Over at Robot 6, I explained why I didn’t go to the New York Comic Con.The long and the short of it is that regardless of whatever calculations have subsequently been made by the relevant publishers and creators–and who knows, maybe they’ve all decided that participating in one gigantic general-interest comic con per year is enough–I think a series of decisions were made by the con organizers in terms of the importance of attracting and preserving as much of an alternative-comics presence as the show’s obvious model San Diego has, and the result isn’t one I’m all that happy with. I also talk a bit about why I think NYCC gets a pass from the press that comparable shows don’t. That being said, as far as superhero/media-tie-in based comic cons go, I’m really glad New York has what appears to be a pretty top-flight and ethically administered one, though I’m told organizational problems continue to dog the show’s day-to-day operation. And there’s no reason to believe that it can’t improve in the ways I argue it needs to–Top Shelf displays at the show, as do corporate alt-imprints like Pantheon and First Second and Abrams ComicArts, and if you put that together with the relevant creators at Artists Alley and an aggressive, perhaps festival-style alt/art/lit/underground programming track, you’re halfway there.

* Related: TJ Dietsch explains why he did go to the New York Comic Con but didn’t have a good time once he got there. This mostly has to do with the organizational and crowd-control problems I mentioned above. It sounds like a ban on costume weaponry might be called for, also–I’ve heard a lot of complaints about people getting whacked in the back of the head by the gigantic swords of oblivious cosplayers.

* Also related: A dude proposed to his girlfriend at the Marvel booth during the show. Awww! My own popping of the question was surprisingly un-geeky, although I did do it at the Christmas light show at Jones Beach (I’m a Christmas nerd) and although my wife insists I waited until after the premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring just to make sure she liked it.

* I think it’s really, really, really disturbing that people can be convicted of child-porn charges for downloading drawings of Simpsons characters having sex. They’re drawings! I’m not saying it isn’t gross to me personally, but “gross to me personally” isn’t a punishable offense. What a terrible, terrible precedent to set.

* Mat Brinkman: the beer! I fully support this trend.

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* Presenting a trio of provocative posts on rape, art, and outrage: Joe McCulloch on Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows’s Neonomicon #2; Tom Spurgeon on the death of Shintaro Miyawaki and his character Rapeman; and Rich Juzwiak and Sean Fennessey on Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave, Stephen R. Monroe’s I Spit on Your Grave remake, Salem’s King Night, Southern hip-hop, and the short-lived “rape gaze” music subgenre. The congruence of these three pieces is really remarkable, right down to the involvement of Roger Ebert in the latter two. (And though this is by far the least important aspect of the discussions, Fennessey throws in a wonderful Ebert takedown, if you need the incentive.)

* Good question: Jim Henley asks if there are any pre-9/11 examples of torture by “the good guys” in pop entertainment. Before you point out, as I did, that plenty of superheroes and other fictional tough guys routinely roughed baddies up for information, Jim means “torture” in its…aesthetically understood sense, I suppose is the way to put it. That is, holding people immobile and systematically, deliberately abusing them, not just slamming them up against a wall or throwing them through a window and playing them a little chin music (even though we rightfully consider that to be torture in the real world). I can’t think of any examples–can you? The best I could do was Gandalf telling Frodo that he and Aragorn “put the fear of fire” onto Gollum to find out what he told Sauron about the Ring and Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings books–but this happened off screen and only involved a threat (and knowing Gandalf and Aragorn, most likely an empty one at that, though of course Gollum couldn’t have known that and wouldn’t have thought so), so it’s not really right. I wouldn’t count torture by charismatic villains or anti-heroes in the “hero”/protagonist role, either–like, Nicky Santoro putting Tony Dogs’s head in a vice in Casino doesn’t count.

* Killer, killer Matthew Perpetua analysis of the characteristics of “alt-rock” as a distinct musical style/subgenre. This part had me doing a double-take, it was such an eye-opener:

* Gently rolling, thick bass line. Kim Deal has so much to answer for, and even the worst of it is pretty decent. (Like, say, “Good” by Better Than Ezra.) I think Krist Novoselic’s approximation of Deal’s style was itself extremely influential. I would argue that even ahead of fuzzy guitar tone, this is the most essential and recognizable element of ’90s alt-rock, especially when contrasted with a simple, pretty guitar figure as it is on the verse of “Number One Blind.”

This reminds me of Barney Hoskyns’s really tremendous, similar breakdown of the characteristics of glam/glitter, with the “glam descend” (cascading major chords) in the “gently rolling, thick bass line” slot. I can’t find it online; I may have to rectify that.

* LOVE AND ROCKTOBER: Here’s a very good Ng Suat Tong post on Jaime Hernandez, just pulling apart a few pages and teasing meaning out of the construction of the images, which is the sort of thing you could do forever and a day with an artist of Jaime’s caliber.

* LOVE AND ROCKTOBER: In the comments downblog, Jeet Heer points out that the digest collection Perla La Loca really does read like one long graphic novel. He’s right: “Wigwam Bam,” “Chester Square,” and “Bob Richardson” are sort of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis of Hopey and Maggie’s separate, sleazy lives during that time.

* DC likes to use the dead early months of the year to do various cover gimmicks; this January’s theme, “iconic poses against huge logos,” is easily my favorite they’ve ever done. Please click the link, because they look really impressive all lined up like that. I’m running the Steel one here as part of my long-running campaign on behalf of that character. I think he’s the most undervalued hero in the DC Universe. What a badass character design. Iron Man’s m.o. with Thor’s hammer and Superman’s cape? How can you go wrong with that? Did I mention he’s an African-American under there (with the mint name John Henry Irons) in a genre that desperately needs awesome non-white heroes?

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* Wait, wait, wait: Masters of the Universe Classics vs. DC Universe Classics action-figure 2-packs are a thing? For real? Do you have any idea how hard eight-year-old Sean T. Collins would have plotzed had he seen these? The answer is no. No, you do not have any idea.

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10 Responses to Carnival of souls

  1. Re: torture by the good guys: does the Punisher count? Probably not, since he’s an anti-hero. There’s Preacher, and probably some other Garth Ennis stuff. What about movies like Death Wish, or other vigilante stuff, or hell, there’s gotta be some action movie(s) that get into it, although probably not with the gusto of recent years. What a disgusting turn we’ve taken.

  2. David C says:

    The TV show La Femme Nikita had plenty of torture of terrorists by the so-called good guys (or, at least, the government organisation in charge of fighting them). Though the whole point of it was how fucked up everyone was. It’s a strange show, but often genuinely creepy.

    (Also, there’s no link to click on for the DC covers.)

  3. Tom Spurgeon says:

    What about V For Vendetta?

  4. With the Punisher, I think it depends on who’s writing him. Some writers are clearly horrified by his behavior, some clearly think it’s rad.

    La Femme Nikita–the Peta Wilson version? Hm, how about that.

    V for Vendetta, good call. I mean, he’s obviously anti-hero-ish, but I remember thinking “Gee, Moore seems way more okay with this behavior than he does with similarly problematic ‘good guy’ actions in, say, Watchmen.”

  5. Jon Hastings says:

    Harry Callahan tortures Zodiac…

  6. Curt says:

    I was just a few years too old to be enthralled by MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE when they hit big, but my younger brother and his friends totally ate them up. Those DC vs. two-packs are ridiculously brilliant, especially given the pairings (Lex vs. Skeletor!). They ain’t cheap, but I may have to shell out for a few of them for my now-grown brother’s two young sons.

  7. David C says:

    Yeah, the Peta Wilson Nikita was doing all this 4 years before 9/11, and finished in March 2001 (yes, I looked up wiki). Would have been interesting to see them react to subsequent events. The creator went on to do 24.

    I’m having fun with the Maggie Q version of the last month, but the politics is rather less interesting.

  8. crwm says:

    I think the problem is that engaging in torture would pretty much knock any hero into the anti-hero role, so you’ve defined hero in a way that automatically leaves torture out of the equation.

    Miller’s Batman engages in torture twice in Dark Knight Returns, but we’d have to count him as an anti-hero (though I think Miller’s got no problem with him being considered a hero).

  9. crwm says:

    LA Confidential, too.

    Though we find out that some of the cops are using the torture motel to seize control of the rackets, some of them think they’re just delivering extended righteous beatdowns to scum.

  10. DKR was the first thing I pointed out to Jim, but that’s where we came up with the more specific description of what constitutes torture: Immobilizing someone and systematically abusing them, not just (say) throwing them through a window and threatening to withhold help. I guess the time he dragged that guy up to the the top of the cathedral and threatened to drop him is closer, but it’s still not quite right.

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