Archive for April 29, 2011

Superman’s speech from Action Comics #900

April 29, 2011

George R.R. Martin has finished A Dance with Dragons

April 27, 2011

That is all.

Carnival of souls: Beto, Blackbeard, Groth vs. Shooter, Williams vs. comic cons, more

April 26, 2011

* Over at The Comics Journal, I reviewed Gilbert Hernandez’s Love from the Shadows. I loved this book and think Beto’s arguably doing the work of his career right now.

* Comics is any art you can read.

* Bill Blackbeard has died. Blackbeard was a tireless archivist who saved countless thousands of strips — for all intents and purposes the history of comics — from literal oblivion, and whose combined collection and expertise form the backbone of this the Golden Age of Reprints. A great many people smarter about comics and Blackbeard’s unique and indispensable role in the medium’s history have written obituaries and tributes: Tom Spurgeon, Jeet Heer, Chris Ware, R.C. Harvey (from whom I unwittingly nicked Blackbeard’s nickname), and Dylan Williams, who’s really on fire right now with his longer posts.

* Back in the saddle: Gary Groth absolutely annihilates Jim Shooter’s recent writing on the Jack Kirby vs. Marvel situation back in the ’80s.

* MoCCA and Stumptown crushed Dylan Williams’s soul. It’s not quite as bad as that for the Sparkplug publisher, but it’s close. This line killed me: “There are tons of parties and lots of fun to be had and sense that everyone is getting 10% closer to their goals at each show.”

* Behold, the “teaser cover art” for Tom Neely’s next graphic novel, The Wolf.

* Jonny Negron and Jesse Balmer have a collaborative comic called Demon God Goblin Heaven coming out soon with the astounding cover seen below. Balmer’s posted some stunning interior pages as well.

* Meanwhile, Negron provides the cover for Ryan Sands and Michael DeForge’s new porn anthology, Thickness.

* At Robot 6, Chris Schweizer previews Chris Wright’s graphic novel Blacklung, which has found itself without a publisher.

* Skyscrapers of the Midwest: the play. I can really get behind this trend of theatrical adaptations of great graphic novels.

Skyscrapers of the Midwest video preview from Available Light on Vimeo.

* Zak Smith is redesigning the D&D Fiend Folio, beast by beast.

* Kiel Phegley’s latest “Talk to the Hat” interview with Marvel’s Tom Brevoort is a delightfully wonky affair focused mainly on what makes certain characters “work” as members of the Justice League or the Avengers. If you’ve ever had that kind of conversation yourself, this is worth a gander.

* Chris Mautner lists his six favorite Tokyopop titles. Planetes going out of print is a crime against anyone who’s ever said “I liked Scott Pilgrim; what else should I read?”

* Luba as Batman and Maggie as Robin. Indeed. Indeed.

Game of Thrones thoughts: Season One, Episode Two – NON-SPOILERY edition

April 25, 2011

SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW, NO SPOILERS FOR THE BOOKS — If you haven’t read the books, you can still read this. Crossposted from All Leather Must Be Boiled.

* Better, I thought.

* The first episode’s biggest problem, it seems in retrospect, wasn’t exposition so much as introductions. I mean, the two go hand in hand to an extent, yeah, but it was simply the need to name each new face that bogged down the dialogue and gave the proceedings an unpolished feel from time to time. Here — with the exception of goggle-eyed mute executioner Sir Ilyn Payne in a scene where stopping everything to tell another character who he was made perfect dramatic sense — that need was gone. Instead of meeting the characters, you’re living with them now, and unsurprisingly the show benefits from familiarity.

* This episode also saw the pilot’s brief flashes of delight blossom into more sustained ones from time to time. Tyrion’s conversation with/interrogation of/lecture to Jon Snow is the strongest example: a self-consciously showy yet controlled performance from Peter Dinklage of a character using his bitterly earned smarts to dismantle another character. I actually laughed out loud in sheer enjoyment, the sort of thing I associate with the great HBO revisionist-genre dramas of yore. Fingers crossed for more of that.

* On the other hand, I think last week I was too easy on Michelle Fairley as Catelyn, if anything. The way the character was rewritten is still the major problem — the fact that she started out as the concerned mama bear makes her post-Bran behavior feel less like the nervous breakdown from which she desperately needed to recover that it was and more like par for the course — but I think there’s still enough wiggle room in there for an actor to do something, anything we wouldn’t see coming. Fairley just alternately tears up and crackles her voice or stiffens up and sounds clipped and posh. Actually, I’m not sure “predictability” is the right rubric here; after all, Sean Bean is playing Ned Stark exactly the way everyone, the show’s creators included, pictured Sean Bean playing Ned Stark ever since the idea first crossed their minds, and he’s a blast to watch. You can see him coming, but beneath that I feel like there’s a big chasm of thought and emotion and conflict. With Fairley’s Catelyn, it’s all on the surface. I was happy to see the savagery of her response to the assassination attempt, it felt like a glimpse of a new, more vital Catelyn, but then bam, back to noble, protective, boring Catelyn, now with Hardy Boys investigation action. Bleh.

* The Dothraki…man, the Dothraki. I wonder if the filmmakers’ idea is that the Dothraki “race” is an assemblage of conquered and assimilated. I’m struggling to come up with any other explanation for the United Colors of Vaes Dothrak casting decision besides laziness. I mean, they have to know that we can see that there’s a bunch of white people and black people and brown people ruled by a Hawaiian — it’s not like they’re trying to sneak it past us. Right?

* The Daenerys/Drogo relationship is not going to get any less problematic for viewers who had a problem with it in the pilot, that’s for sure, whether their objections were based on sexism or Orientalism or both. Even if Dany’s making-the-best-of-a-bad-situation approach is a perfectly realistic way for a young woman sold into a marriage as a form of slavery to deal with her plight, it’s going to be hard for people to get on board with the progression from rape to sex-as-power-play to genuine enjoyment to actual love. In response, for example, USA Today’s Whitney Matheson’s pilot-episode indignation has evolved into condescending sarcasm. As always it bums me out to see people, especially professional-critic people, mistake the depiction of a thing for an endorsement or celebration of that thing, but on the scale of cosmic injustice, “being unnecessarily concerned with potential misogyny/racism in pop culture” doesn’t even register. We’ll all live.

* Moreover, maybe it’s the show’s fault after all. I don’t like to purport to speak for people who haven’t read the books — I’m not a mindreader — but I think Adam Serwer may be right that whatever the nature of the sex/gender (or racial) stuff in the book, and whatever the intentions of the filmmakers, the end result just isn’t getting across to viewers who are new to the story. It’s much tougher for the television show, with its limited screen time and inability to access interior monologues and lengthy ruminations on history and culture, to convey that (say) the Dothraki’s idiosyncracies really aren’t any more or less “civilized” than those of the Westerosi, or that the treatment of women is essentially a war atrocity rather than some grab-your-nuts-and-grunt-like-Tim-Allen, John-Norman-Gor-novel pandering to slavering fanboyism. On HBO itself, shows like The Sopranos and Deadwood have directly addressed the misogyny of their protagonists and the society in which they live without being read by very many people as misogynist themselves. If Game of Thrones, based on a series that upon my current re-reading strikes me as being in large part about misogyny and gender inequality’s detrimental effect on everyone involved, can’t get this across, perhaps it’s on the show, not the viewers. I have enough faith in the strength of the original material to believe that eventually the real point of it all will be hard to miss for everyone who either isn’t dopey or doesn’t have their mind totally made up about the show, but that eventually’s a killer.

* This is less about the show than it is about talking about the show, but I’m really bummed out by Douglas Wolk’s recaps so far. Douglas is one of my favorite critics, because even when he’s writing about something with which I’m totally unfamiliar (this happens frequently with his music criticism) or articulating tastes that diverge dramatically from mine (this happens frequently with his comics criticism), I still feel as though he’s speaking to me in a language I can understand — he roots his writing in clear points of reference within the work being discussed, and thus you can get something out of his criticism even when you disagree with his conclusions or, literally, don’t know what he’s talking about. In both cases, that’s an exceedingly rare gift. And that’s why it’s so disappointing to watch him crack half-hearted jokes and pour snark all over a show that it’s pretty clear he’d be perfectly happy to never watch again, rather than either really engage it for all its faults or simply write about something else. I find myself wondering who the target audience is for this sort of thing: Fans of the show will be turned off by the rimshots in lieu of analysis, while detractors have probably stopped watching and thus have no need to keep reading. I understand that the hit counts must be kept up, but I feel like there’s probably a better way for everyone involved to spend their time and resources. To be fair, it’s not all played for the yuks: The comparison between Joffrey Baratheon and Ziggy Sobotka was fun, and calling Dany and Drogo’s sex life “the quintessence of Orientalist camp” is a perfectly legit critique. But the piece ends with an invitation to finish a dirty limerick rhyming “Targaryen” and “barbarian.” Y’know? And even some of his actual analysis goes astray in really obvious ways: It’s not a function of the fantasy genre’s supposedly inherent elitism that makes Lady’s death more affecting than that of the butcher’s boy, it’s a function of how every human being on earth reacts to the death of animals in fiction.

* Anyway, back to the show. In the books, the Hound comes across instantly as probably the scariest dude going, no matter how bad Sansa’s POV chapter says Sir Ilyn freaks her out. But in the show, we first “meet” him in long shot as he engages in some good-natured ribbing of Tyrion; next he comes across as the slightly less scary mass murderer compared to Sir Ilyn; and even his murder of the butcher’s boy is presented as an awful but all-business act, rather than the act of a guy who kills children and laughs about it. As with Cersei, the Hound got hisself humanized.

* Mark Addy is enjoyably “predictable” in the same way that Sean Bean is: He’s what you thought Robert would be, right down to the flash of ugly, sneering might-makes-right savagery when he mocks Ned for his compunctions about having Daenerys killed.

* I want Iain Glen to read me a bedtime story. So soothing!

* Do you think the final shot is enough of a cliffhanger for people? Do you think people understand what it means?

Carnival of souls: Special “spoke too soon” edition

April 19, 2011

* I saw it first via George R.R. Martin himself: Game of Thrones has been renewed for a second season. EW’s James Hibberd talks to some HBO suits about the renewal, ratings, viewership, the length of the second season, the DVD release, and so on.

* I enjoyed the measured reviews of the pilot episode from Sean P. Belcher and Jason Adams. Room for improvement, reasonable confidence that it will.

* Wow: Tokyopop folded. I like Becky Cloonan’s take on it as much as any. A smooth operator with no real interest in publishing got lucky, basically. The film is a saddening bore ’cause we’ve seen it ten times or more.

* Chris Mautner’s interview with Gilbert Hernandez is an absolute monster. Beto publicly walks away from his career-making work. Gutsy and admirable.

* Make sure to check out Alex Dueben’s interview with Daniel Clowes as well.

* Brian Chippendale’s Puke Force is going on hiatus, so now’s a great time to read the whole thing.

* 30% off everything PictureBox sells until April 30th. Buy that Mat Brinkman print for me, will ya?

* Clive Barker reports that Abarat III draws closer and closer.

* This year’s excellent roster of Stumptown award winners includes Emily Carroll, Zack Soto, Michael DeForge, Johnny Ryan, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and Lisa Hanawalt.

* Matt Maxwell talks Benjamin Marra, Tom Neely, Brandon Graham, Nate Simpson and more in his epic Stumptown con report. He also got Marra to draw goddamn Pinhead.

* Michael DeForge, still great.

* Jonny Negron sighting!

* Ganges #4 appears to be on the way.

* Chris Mautner salutes Mome with a list of his six favorite stories from the anthology.

* I think these two MoCCA con reports from Darryl Ayo and Alex Dueben indicate that despite it being a small, focused show, people’s experiences are very different depending on what they’re there for.

* New Ben Katchor strip!

* I liked this “The Strokes vs. the ’90s” piece by Tim O’Neil very much, maybe the most of any of his music posts.

* Finally:

Baby note

April 19, 2011

Helena Christine Collins came home from the hospital today, at the tender age of negative two weeks old. She’s not much of a co-blogger, as it turns out, so blogging will be sporadic and light for a while. Thank you for your patience.

Game of Thrones thoughts: Season One, Episode One – NON-SPOILERY edition

April 18, 2011

Alright, fuck it, this is for people who haven’t read the books, or at least haven’t finished reading them.

I realized that with minimal tweaking, the post I wrote for my dedicated A Song of Ice and Fire blog could just as easily appear over here. Since perhaps there are people who haven’t read the whole series but would like to discuss the show over here, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Keep in mind that by “NON-SPOILERY” I mean “this review will spoil nothing that takes place after the events depicted in the pilot.” It will, of course, be SPOILERY for the pilot itself. I’d like this to remain true for the comments, please — stick only to the events of this episode.

So if all you’ve seen or read of all this is what aired last night, here you go!


* Quibbles up front! And yes, they’re pretty much just quibbles.

* I think my biggest problem with the pilot episode, and given how much of that problem arises from changes the filmmakers made to the material from the book we can perhaps extrapolate that to the series in general, is Michelle Fairley’s Catelyn Stark. There’s nothing wrong with her performance, I suppose; she’s just doing what she must with the material, and there’s the rub. The combination of aging all the characters up and changing her motivation in this early part of the story — in the book, she wanted Ned to take the job as the King’s Hand, thinking his increase in power and prestige would make the family much safer than they’d be if he had the stones to turn his friend down — makes Cat’s character a lot less interesting. As a woman in her mid-thirties who was married off during a time of war and basically got right to work bearing her teen husband some heirs, and who then advocates for her husband to take an influential, potentially dangerous gig in the capital rather than risk the equally potentially dangerous dimunition of prestige and power that not taking the job would entail, and who worries after a brood of children none of whom are older than sophomores in high school, Book-Catelyn feels a lot more vital and interesting and difficult to predict, and her plight less familiar, than her middle-aged mama-bear TV-Catelyn counterpart. It’s very early yet, and things may change, but nothing Fairley has been given in the pilot or in any of the previews I’ve seen have enabled her to complicate the character or do much more than play the warm but concerned and stern protective mother and loving wife. She’s a dramatically inert character, far too easy to get a handle on versus pretty much all of the other major players, and that’s no good, because her relationship with her family is the emotional heart of this volume, and we need to find her interesting so that we find that relationship interesting as well.

* The aging-up bothered me more across the board than I thought it would, actually. In re-reading the series, I’ve found that everyone’s relative youth makes their plights so much more powerful. Book-Ned is supposed to be, what, 35? My wife’s 35, and we just had our first child, who’s still negative two weeks old; imagining the two of us with five children, two of whom are teenagers, is one of the book’s most rewarding frissons for me. So too is Book-Bran’s young age—thrown out the window at what, eight? And Book-Robb, who’d be the Lord of Winterfell if Ned takes the job, is what, 15? And so on and so forth. I miss all of that.

* And I miss the subtle message that this medieval lifestyle forces you to do a whole lot of living before you live very long, too. For a long time my mind had a hard time wrapping around the idea of the Targaryen’s as this storied dynasty given that they were only around for 300 years; I was used to Tokien’s millennial timeframes. But when girls are married off the moment they get their first period, and when the cream of your soldiery is 17 years old or so, and when people are considered very, very old at 65, 300 years is an awful long time.

* The critics were right—there was a lot of exposition in this episode. Fewer long stories and explanations of relationships than I anticipated however. For the most part it came in the form of ADR dialogue like “That’s Jaime Lannister, the Queen’s brother!” So it was more clumsy than boring.

* The Dothraki were a bit ad-hoc, no? Perhaps the intention was to avoid any stereotyping of a specific ethnic group, so they cast people from many different ones and combined them. This is what Peter Jackson did with the scary natives in King Kong, if I recall correctly. And in that sense, okay, fine, but when so much care is given to the details of the Westerosi societies, the Dothraki look a bit too much like a casting call for tan-skinned actors.

* If you’re going to call them the White Walkers exclusively, doesn’t that increase your obligation to actually make them white? Don’t get me wrong, they were creepy as heck, but it’s still a bit odd. (In the books, they were mostly called the Others, which I guess the show felt it couldn’t do due to Lost.)

* Finally on the quibble front, Ramin Djawadi’s score was about half-very good (the spooky scenes, the opening credits) and half-“you’re kidding, right?” The “heroic” music when the King’s party enters Winterfell…I was hoping a few of them would be clip-clopping along with coconut shells.

* That said, well done overall.

* Obviously the big critical question raised by nearly everyone who’d seen the pilot early is whether or not newcomers to the material could follow it. It feels weird to be able not to address this central issue, but since I’m not a newcomer, I really can’t. It seemed easy enough to follow to me; yes, there are a lot of characters, but surely serialized television has taught us it’s okay not to have everyone straight by the end of the first episode. But I’m not going to stake my take on the episode on a yay or nay proclamation on this score.

* With that removed from the equation, I can focus more on what I liked best about it: the acting. It’s as though both the filmmakers and the cast realized how hard their task was in this first episode, and went out of their way (Cat excepted) to give everyone little bits of business to separate them out from fantasy cliches. I loved the “shaving Jon, Theon, and Robb” scene with its weird forced intimacy between three very different kinds of “sons” to Eddard Stark and the jokey, casual, but fraught with tension locker-room relationship that’s evolved between the three of them. I loved Daenerys’s dead-eyed stare as she endured first her brother’s inspection and then the scalding water of her bath—these are eyes that have seen too much and prefer to look inward. I loved Viserys’s foppish trot and alarmed exclamation as Drogo rode away without a word. I loved the opening shot of the ill-fated Night’s Watch trio, waiting for the gates to open, already playing the roles they’ve selected—smug, grim, hyper-alert—to help them survive in this world. I loved Tyrion’s unique, booze-seasoned combination of arrogance and self-loathing in his conversation with Jon. I loved Jaime’s “I heard you the first time” to Cersei at the end, already knowing what she wants him to do, trying in vain to put it off, coming to grips with knowing that he’ll do it anyway. There’s enough of all that sort of thing to give me a lot of confidence about the rest of the season. When the exposition and introductions die down, the material will have more room to breathe, and if the cast and crew keep filling the space with these idiosyncratic moments, we’re in good shape.

Game of Thrones thoughts: Season One, Episode One – SPOILERY edition

April 18, 2011

If you have read all four volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, I invite you to read my thoughts about last night’s premiere episode over at my ASoIaF blog, All Leather Must Be Boiled. As always, the post contains some spoilers for the books if you haven’t read them, so please beware.

“Bring me my dead face.”

April 18, 2011

Page seven of “Destructor and the Lady” has been posted.

Game of Thrones programming note

April 17, 2011

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to write weekly “Game of Thrones thoughts” posts, but if I do, they will appear on my SPOILER-FILLED blog for people who’ve read all four volumes in A Song of Ice and Fire so far, All Leather Must Be Boiled. I’ll link to each post from here, but please, do not click through unless you’ve read all four books so far.

If I end up partcipating in a less spoilery discussion of the show somewhere, I guess I’ll link to that, too.

Fanmaker alert: Read the first 80 pages of A Game of Thrones for free

April 15, 2011

Brilliant idea: Random House has made the first 80 pages of A Game of Thrones available to read for free online or as a downloadable PDF. When I tell people to read the book, I say, “Give it till page 80 or so. If you don’t like it by then, hey, no harm no foul.” But in all honesty, I literally don’t know anyone whose picked it up on my recommendation, read till page 80, and didn’t like it. Seriously, not one. You have nothing to lose but, I dunno, an hour or two on the train tonight or on Sunday afternoon this weekend or whatever. Give it a shot, see what you think.

(via Westeros)

Three bits of writing and a performance that I quite liked recently

April 14, 2011

The pursuit of an Awesome Job is not something I think of as particularly worthwhile endeavor. I say this as a person who likes his job a lot. The idea that there’s a Really Awesome Job that will be totally fulfilling and provide all kinds of meaning and value to your life is not helpful. People deserve jobs where they can use their brains, feel respected as a human beings, and not hate themselves or feel like they are settling. That is a Good Job. Once you have that, you can focus on finding value in the other parts of your life. That’s the shit that matters.

Kevin Fanning

One of the vocal styles in question comes from band member Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, who sings in starry-eyed, raise-your-voice harmonies that can resemble, at various moments: earnest children baying around a campfire; lonely goatherds calling from hill to hill; some sort of monkish or liturgical concern dedicated to solemnly singing the Beach Boys’ “In My Room” in the apses of Gothic cathedrals; or possibly the way two people might try to sing in harmony on clear quiet nights if they were stranded on South Pacific islands about 200 yards away from each other. Which is to say: Lennox’s vocals are distinctive and hard to hear without dreaming up slightly fantastic settings for them to belong in.

Nitsuh Abebe, “Panda Bear’s Tomboy is Animal Collective’s Latest Magic Trick”

Friends have been recommending Martin’s books to me for a while, but I chose not to read them (for now, at least), wanting to see if the series could stand on its own and be both comprehensible and interesting to a newcomer. And it is. I probably struggled with identifying the members of the Barksdale crew in the early episodes of “The Wire” as much as I did trying to sort out the members of the House of Stark.

Alan Sepinwall, “HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ an epic, mature, well-crafted fantasy series”

–Richard Hawley, “The Ocean” live in Holmfirth, October 1, 2009. Unexpected and breathtaking guitar solo at the end.

Carnival of souls: My interview with Daniel Clowes, Mome, MoCCA, more

April 14, 2011

* Career highlight: I interviewed Daniel Clowes about his new book/old New York Times strip Mister Wonderful for The Comics Journal.

I immediately thought, “I should try to think of who would be the ultimate, quintessential New York Times Magazine reader—a schlubby, middle-aged guy, the kind of guy I would see reading the New York Times on Sunday morning at a café in Oakland—and make him the hero of this romance.”

* I was quite excited to see that my friend and collaborator Matt Wiegle put up a post on his coloring process for Destructor today. Look at this thing, man.

* Mome, Fantagraphics’ long-running anthology and page for page the heftiest alternative/art comics anthology in American history, is calling it quits with this summer’s volume 22. Obviously, I’ll miss it quite a bit. Tom Spurgeon broke the news and revealed the reason why: Editor Eric Reynolds wants to spend his energies elsewhere. The Comics Journal’s Rob Clough interviewed Eric at greater length about his decision. At Robot 6 I chimed in with some thoughts on the series’ evolution, high points, and possible successor institutions, one of which is likely your RSS reader. And Fanta’s Mike Baehr has preview pages from the final volume.

* Searching through my bookmarks for MoCCA reports I recall that I’ve seen a lot of people say that minicomics sales were for shit this year, yet the only in-depth report I’ve got saved is from L. Nichols, who said she had her best year yet (not good enough to come back next year, fwiw, but still). Peggy Burns from Drawn & Quarterly has the best photos. Dan Nadel’s pix are pretty good too. So are Nick Gazin’s.

* Adrian Tomine, Optic Nerve #12, August. Woo! Apparently it contains “Amber Sweet,” which was his very good piece for Kramers Ergot 7, or at least a story that shares that title.

* Tom Brevoort takes the high road in talking about the need for diversity in superhero comics. That takes patience.

* Whoa, wait, Conor Stechschulte is doing an erotic comics anthology called Sock that Zach Hazard Vaupen’s contributing a strip called “Anal Sex” to? People, you need to tell me this kind of thing.

* My favorite part of this Topless Robot interview with Jeffrey Brown about his Transformers parody Incredible Change-Bots Two is the part where he says he liked the Insecticons so much that he’d make them the good guys when he’d play with them even though they were “really” evil. That was such a part of playing with action figures when I was a kid — the way your favorites and fascinations warped the established storylines and continuity established by the TV shows or what have you. I made the Rat King a huge huge antagonist for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; I think they teamed up with Shredder against him. For me, the “main” G.I. Joes weren’t Duke or Hawk or Flint, but Mainframe and Roadblock.

* I’m not even close to having finished this interview with Anders Nilsen, which means it’s quite long, which is a good thing where interviews with Anders Nilsen are concerned.

* Comixology’s Karen Green on comics about animal rights. I love Sheep of Fools; I think I’d die if I saw Sue Coe’s book about the vivisection of dogs. (Via Graphic Ladies.)

* Matt Seneca is posting pages from his graphic novel in progress Affected at its own site.

* The lineup for Floating World’s house anthology Diamond Comics is rock-solid.

* Here’s an exquisitely nerdy post from Tim O’Neil on various points of superhero interest and disinterest.

* All bound for Mu-Mu land: Tom Ewing spent the week blogging about the KLF. The fact that there was a huge dance hit in the ’90s featuring Tammy Wynette singing Illuminatus! references is quite possibly my single favorite crazy thing in the history of pop music.

* Now here’s something you don’t see every day: a lengthy interview with John Carpenter’s musical collaborator Alan Howarth.

* Finally, fucking Axe Cop is astounding.

Carnival of thrones

April 13, 2011

I’ve been reading a lot of Game of Thrones reviews as they’ve gone up today, mostly from mainstreamy sites or their nerd (or TV-nerd) subdomains, and it’s one of those times when you realize just how idiosyncratic the critical enterprise really is. People will single out the exact same thing for discussion, then characterize it in diametrically opposed ways. The first few episodes are talky and have a lot of storylines, and this is either brilliant television with which newcomers to the material will be enraptured, or bad television with which newcomers to the material will struggle. Daenerys has a lot of sex scenes, and this is either one of the season’s strongest storylines given additional heft by a brilliant performance embodying the book’s most complex heroine, or an embarrassing throwback to the clumsy sexuality of countless dimestore fantasy novels and b-movies endured by an actress who has to try to find something for the books’ least interesting character to do. Peter Dinklage is such a stand-out that he either deserves an Emmy or throws you completely out of the show any time he opens his mouth.

Personally I get the sense that normals will follow things just fine. A friend who screened the first few episodes but hadn’t read the book loved them, as did critic Alan Sepinwall from that same vantage point, so I think the sorts of people who are civilian enough not to have read the books but who would be predisposed to checking out an HBO adult-fantasy series to begin with will be alright. As Sepinwall points out (see links below), it probably took most people a long time to tell a Landsman from a Weebay on The Wire, too. Moreover — and again, credit to Sepinwall here — HBO’s great shows have tended to need a while before they went from “ooh, interesting” to “holy shit, best ever”; Sepinwall pegs this to a point a few episodes into Season One for the shows he talks about, but I can tell you that for me, The Sopranos only became The Sopranos with “University” in Season Three, while it’s quite literally impossible to grasp how ambitious The Wire was gonna get until a few episodes into Season Two, when you realize that nope, they’re not kidding about the dockworkers.

Judge for yourselves:

Nick Baumann, The Atlantic

Dan Feinberg and Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

Ryan McGee, Boobtube Dude

Alyssa Rosenberg, The Atlantic

Maureen Ryan, TV Squad

Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

Adam Serwer, The Atlantic

Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

Carnival of souls: MoCCA, Paying For It, L’Association, Game of Thrones of course, more

April 11, 2011

* This is the first year since the festival’s inception that I was unable to attend MoCCA. How was it? The first report I came across was from Secret Acres’ Leon Avelino, and it jibes with the overall impression I’ve gotten on Twitter and the like of a successful show, moreso perhaps than its previous two years in the Armory location.

* Nick Bertozzi debuted Rubber Necker #5 at the show! OMG I can’t wait

* Two of my favorite critics have reviewed Chester Brown’s Paying For It. Here’s Chris Mautner; here’s Tom Spurgeon. And here’s my review, if you missed it.

* Must-read of the week: The Comics Reporter’s Bart Beaty on the death of L’Association, arguably France’s best comics publisher. L’Asso is a bit like if Image Comics were founded not by a bunch of hot Marvel artists, but by Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Pete Bagge, Chester Brown, and Los Bros, and its acrimonious break-up and potential downfall is therefore that much more fascinating and train-wreck compelling.

* I quite enjoyed this 25-minute making-of documentary on Game of Thrones. I dare say it was mostly stuff even I hadn’t seen yet, and I’ve watched a whole lot of these preview video things. The Eyrie is stunning.

* I think the latest GoT trailer, titled “Poison,” is my favorite so far. It plays up the mystery angle, which I think will be important to a lot of newcomers’ understanding of what it is that they’re watching.

* This New Yorker profile of author George R.R. Martin is well worth signing up for the free four-issue digital-edition subscription to read. It has an especial focus on Martin’s anti-fandom, the people who’ve loved all or most of the books released so far but now hate Martin for taking so long to produce the remaining installments. The depth and dedication of this anti-fandom is far, far greater than I ever imagined, and reading about them is fascinating, in a “What hath Internet wrought” sort of way. (Via Westeros.)

* Hope Larson basically got her gig adapting Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time into a comic by saying “I wouldn’t mind adapting A Wrinkle in Time” in an interview the book’s publisher read. Love it.

* This is pretty neat: Gollum actor Andy Serkis will be the second unit director for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.

* The extremely talented cartoonist Dustin Harbin is ending his diary comic. I still owe him a review of the collection that came out through Koyama Press. In the meantime, I’ll be staring at this drawing he did.

* ComicsAlliance has posted a series of interviews with the folks who run the production of those Marvel Super Heroes: What The–?! videos for which I am a contributing writer. Here’s Alex Kropinak, here’s Jesse Falcon, and here’s Ben Morse.

* Michael Shannon is General Zod. Sure, I’ll eat it.

* Joe “Jog” McCulloch reviews Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch and Frank Miller’s The Spirit, making me sadder than ever that I haven’t seen either one yet.

* Related: Frequent ADDXSTC commenter rev’D really didn’t like Sucker Punch.

* Jason (yes, Hey, Wait… Jason) reviews Brian DePalma’s Femme Fatale.

* Here’s an enormously uplifting look at the surprisingly, faith-in-humanity-inspiringly progressive treatment of race in Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie by Jeet Heer.

* Zom of the Mindless Ones takes a look at Frank Miller’s rewardingly off-model, possibly Bowie-inspired Joker in The Dark Knight Returns. It’s really tough to have the DKR Joker as your first in-comics exposure to the character, because it really is so different from how he’s portrayed pretty much anywhere else — he barely speaks, and smiles twice — yet so effective for all that. I think part of why the “evil homosexual” subtext (if anything in a Miller comic could be called subtext) of the character has never bothered me the way it otherwise might is because he’s not portrayed as a figure of giggling, creepy revulsion, but as this sort of godlike, implacable killing machine. There’s a feminized elegance to him, but it’s the elegance of Pinhead.

* Rob Clough reviews the intriguing-looking international comics anthology Gazeta.

* Tom Brevoort on Jim Shooter.

* Alt Screen lists all of New York City’s special film screenings — revivals, previews, festivals, repertory, special appearances, and so on. Very cool resource. (Via Chris Weingarten.)

* Dave Kiersh’s latest comic is partially about my current place of residence, Levittown, NY.

* My friend and collaborator Isaac Moylan will kill himself if he doesn’t finish this comic that’s “kinda about suicide” within one year. Draw, Isaac, draw!

* Brian Chippendale’s Puke Force webcomic drops episodes like this on you without warning every once in a while.

* Jonny Negron draws David Bowie. And draws him well.

* Another rollicking Fight or Run battle from Kevin Huizenga. I’d have run, too.

* Michael DeForge’s abandoned comics are better than most people’s not-abandoned comics.

* Finally, my God, Frank Quitely draws He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Look at the way this thing bristles. It’s all swords and spears and blades. He gets it.

Housekeeping note

April 11, 2011

Over the past few days I’ve noticed that attempting to load this site was absolutely CRUSHING whatever browser and connection I used to do so. I’m not sure why — I suspect that a single video or image was the culprit, but I couldn’t figure out which it might be — so I placed the bulk of some of my longer recent Carnivals and music posts behind “read the rest of this entry” cuts. I really hate doing so, because I love scrolling down the front page and seeing 40 million images fly past, but needs must. Please let me know if you’re still having any trouble viewing the site.

Carnival of thrones

April 5, 2011

* Here are the first 14 minutes of Game of Thrones season one episode one. Good God did it look gorgeous in HD. I ordered HBO for this.

* My pal Rob Bricken republished my list of reasons to read A Song of Ice and Fire on Topless Robot. Besides being flattering, this also gave the piece the potential to reach a lot more people, and at this point I’ve read enough people saying it convinced them to give the books a try to make it hard for me to keep track of them all, which is hugely gratifying. Do check out the comment thread to see the shape of Larger Nerddom’s reaction to the books, pro and con.

* Please don’t forget I have my whole own VERY SPOILERY ASoIaF blog now, ALL LEATHER MUST BE BOILED. I think that if I end up doing a “Game of Thrones thoughts” series of posts about the show as it airs, I’ll probably put it up there, just to avoid confusion about the level of spoilers involved.

* Zack Soto has started an all-ASoIaF fanart Tumblr that I helped him name, which is rad. Here’s his version of the Hound.

* Reviews of the advance copies of the first six episodes sent out to select critics have been coming in. Of particular interest to me and possibly to you if you’ve been following my Game of Thrones updates over the months are the ones by Winter Is Coming, Myles McNutt, and Westeros. That last one goes in-depth into what has changed, and when those changes do and don’t work, but not in apoplectic fanboyish fashion at all. Both inside and outside ASoIaF fandom and general nerddom, to say the reviews have been rapturous is not overstating things.

* George R.R. Martin finished another couple chapters in A Dance with Dragons last week. At this point he’s finished more chapters than he originally said were left to finish and he’s still not finished with the book, which is kinda funny.

* He’s also been making the big-media interview rounds. This New York Times interview with him is worth clicking over to for the title alone.

* Other interviews I’ve enjoyed include Den of Geek’s chat with Alfie Allen (Theon) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys); the Evening Standard’s interview with Clarke, Harry Lloyd (Viserys) and Richard Madden (Robb); and Den of Geek’s interview with Jason Momoa (Drogo). In all cases you get the sense of young, ambitious, attractive actors getting their first taste of being involved with an extraordinary, potentially very popular project; it’s vicariously exhilarating. (Via Winter Is Coming and Westeros.)

* Very endearing stuff here: Winter Is Coming interviews the young actresses Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, who play Arya and Sansa respectively.

* Martin holds up Lost as an example of how not to end a series; Martin fan Damon Lindelof says “ouch.” So did I.

* Finally, do NOT click this link unless you’ve read all four books, but Tower of the Hand’s recent series on Littlefinger is precisely the sort of in-depth, intelligent writing about ASoIaF I’ve been hungering for.

Carnival of souls: Special “no Thrones” edition

April 5, 2011

* Tom Neely thinks the curator of the 100 Euros art show, Antonio de Luca, may have stolen his artwork. Beware.

* Ed Brubaker is relaunching his excellent Captain America series as a period piece called Captain America and Bucky, focusing mainly on the latter, co-written by Marc Andreyko, illustrated by Chris Samnee. I’ll be there like I’ve been there for everything Brubaker has done with these characters and their milieu.

* Dan Nadel sings the praises of Ben Jones and his new Cartoon Network show Problem Solverz. Did anyone do better than me and remember to set their DVRs for it last night?

* Zach Hazard Vaupen started a webcomic called Rusted Skin Collection! It’s smutty and funny!

* My movie-going days are dunzo, but I must say that this comment by Jon Hastings (aka the Forager) and this review by Oscar Moralde have me reconsidering my ambivalence toward seeking out Sucker Punch. Sayeth Moralde: “This critical paroxysm against Sucker Punch is quite possibly the most colossal collective misreading of satire since Paul Verhoeven was accused of being a fascist for Starship Troopers.” Now that’s the kind of statement that’ll make me sit up and take notice. Equal time: Curt Purcell.

* Speaking of “Hmm, I guess I better check that out” pieces, Eve Tushnet loved Lake Mungo.

* And speaking of Curt Purcell, he continues to write eloquently about any number of things; here he is on one of the key aspects of Lost‘s final season.

* Another day, another terrific Comics Grid piece, this time Jacques Samson on anonymity, facelessness, and the “perfect progressive tense” of Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library #18. You really ought to be following this site.

* Tim O’Shea talks to Jess Fink about (mostly) her fun porn comic Chester 5000 XYV.

* Tom Spurgeon visited the Center for Cartoon Studies, and all you got was this in-depth report.

* Matt Seneca has launched a dedicated site for his comics. Check ’em out.

* Dustin Nguyen draws Spider-Man and his amazing rogues gallery. I love drawings like this, where an artist with a certain aesthetic basically creates a “set” of characters from a particular property. If I could draw, I’d draw shit like this all the time. (Via Agent M.)

* Uno Moralez is drawing things just for me at this point, I’m pretty sure.

* This is what the new version of Rob Liefeld’s Avengelyne looks like. Wow. The artist is Owen Gieni.

* It’s cool to see Gary Panter incorporating the influence of people he influenced.

* Check out lots of Strange Tales II process art at ComicsAlliance.

* This slow, vocoded George Michael cover version of “True Faith” by New Order is one of the stranger things I’ve heard in a long time. That is not to say I don’t like it, though. Certainly the combination of lyric and artist is enormously apt in this case. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

* Music critics really, really need to stop treating unusual versions of a certain genre as rebuttals to that genre. That goes for critics on both the pro and con side of any given debate, by the way. First of all, genres are built to be broad, or else you’re not talking about genre, you’re talking about formula. Second, when you definitionally remove unusual instances of genre from genre, you’re hamstringing that genre; rock, for example, would be Chuck Berry and Elvis to this day. Third, I just think it makes no more sense to hold up (say) James Blake as someone out to do (say) R&B or soul or dubstep “right,” whether you’re for such an attempt or against, than it would to say Scott Pilgrim was Bryan Lee O’Malley trying to do shojo manga or videogames “right.” Influences may be incorporated without becoming a commentary, positive or negative, on those influences.