Archive for November 30, 2011

Carnival of souls: Mautner on Morrison, BCGF debuts, more

November 29, 2011

* Chris Mautner’s “Comics College” column on the work of Grant Morrison was worth the wait. It’s a terrific capsule guide to the most important superhero writer of the post-Moore/Miller era. The “Avoid” section in particular nails it, although I think it’s way too early to call it a day on Action Comics — Morrison’s the first to tell you his new series tend to start off shaky. (And I actually like Action so far anyway.)

* I don’t think I linked to this yet, and I know I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to diving into Hayley Campbell’s interview with Anders Nilsen. It’s great to see all the Big Questions covers in one place like that, too.

* Michael DeForge showcases the four comics he’ll be debuting at this weekend’s BCGF, including a collaborative effort with Benjamin Marra! And lest you think he’s getting lazy in his old age, he’s got the latest Ant Comic up as well.

* And Ryan Cecil Smith is rolling out a three-part SF Supplemental File #2, with part one debuting at BCGF as well. Damn, look at this printing job!

* Matthew Perpetua talks to Tony Millionaire about his new book of illustrations, 500 Portraits, with a strong selection of said portraits accompanying. This is probably the best drawing of Art Garfunkel ever.

* Well lookee here, it’s a page from the best single comic I’ve ever seen, Kevin Huizenga’s “The Sunset.”

* Looks like Renee French is posting her art at her Posterous site nowadays, so update your bookmarks.

* Outsider graphic novels (by “outsider” I mean people operating totally independently from the comics-making industry as we know it) are a fascinating arena of discovery. Comics is such an oddball medium that when people arrive at expressing themselves using that medium on their own, it takes on an almost miraculous quality. For example, check out Brad Mackay’s piece for the Comics Journal on Bus Griffiths’ 1978 paean to his career as a lumberjack, Now You’re Logging.

* Gorgeous post-it note art by Theo Ellsworth. Longtime readers of the blog will understand why the one below is my favorite.

* Johnny Ryan is a national treasure.

* Sam Bosma draws Solomon Grundy.

* It’s tough to beat Uno Moralez.

* A whole bunch of Hieronymous Bosch-channeling drawings by Salvador Dali called Dreams of Pantagruel? Sure, I’ll eat it.

* I really like this painting of Jack Kirby’s Darkseid by Daniel James Cox. As you scroll down to see it, at first it appears like it’s some giant monument with fires burning in the eyes as the evening sun shines through the retreating clouds of a summer thunderstorm.

* I thought Dan Harmon’s obsessive-compulsive sitcom Community got off to a really rough start this season — way too much Chang, way too much emphasis on the unpleasant aspects of the characters’ friendship given that that was the focus of the end of the previous season too, and frankly not enough actually funny jokes. But I caught up on the season this past weekend, and the two most recent episodes were both hilarious, with the character stuff tipped back toward “these people bounce off each other in unpredictable and occasionally destructive but ultimately funny and rewarding ways” from “ugh, stay the fuck away from each other already,” and the more outlandish bits actually connecting (the entire karaoke/hallucination/drifter serenade sequence was a scream). So I’m now joining the rest of the Internet in being bummed out that the show’s in limbo after midseason, and in celebrating gratuitously insular stuff like a Beetlejuice gag that took three seasons to complete.

* Finally, here is a picture of Kristen Stewart, who is attractive.

Comics Time: Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7

November 23, 2011

Tales Designed to Thrizzle
Michael Kupperman, writer/artist
Fantagraphics, November 2011
32 pages
Buy it from Fantagraphics

For today’s Comics Time review, please visit The Comics Journal.

Thanksgiving reading

November 23, 2011

Kiel Phegley’s analysis of Marvel’s current publishing situation in light of its many recent cancellations, layoffs, budget cutbacks and so on is one of my favorite pieces of comics writing in recent memory. It’s one of the first such articles, if not the first (and if not the first then certainly the most thorough), to put these moves together with the publisher’s concurrent drive to pump as many issues as possible out of its top creators and characters, and to consider what this means for developing or non-marquee talent in particular. Fascinating stuff if you’re an industry watcher. Grab a beer and read. And don’t miss Tom Spurgeon’s response, either.

Carnival of souls: Matthew Weiner interviewed, Vince Clarke and Martin Gore reunited, more

November 22, 2011

* I feel like every moment of my marathon run through all four seasons of Mad Men was leading me to this: A five-hour interview with series creator Matthew Weiner. This is heaven, absolute heaven. Everyone who created a work of art I enjoyed as much as Mad Men should be interviewed about the entirety of their life and career for five hours. And Sopranos fans will absolutely want to watch this as well, as he talks about his involvement in that show at length, and makes an argument for its greatness. (And reveals that he is the Peggy to David Chase’s Don.) My favorite thing about it is Weiner’s good humor and streak of genuine humility/self-deprecation. He’s not needlessly hard on himself — obviously he’s quite good at his job, it’d be stupid to deny that — and nor is he an egomaniac. If you know any talented successful creative people that you personally are friendly with, he sounds like those people. What a treat!

* Great googly moogly: Vince Clarke and Martin Gore are reuniting! This makes me happy in my heart. When I watched that BBC documentary Synth Britannia a while back, I was struck by how a dude like Clarke who made such warm music ankled the rest of Depeche Mode in such a cold way. These were his friends from school, and he ditched them because advances in technology had allowed him to do everything he needed to do (except sing) by himself, so his friends were now superfluous. So glad to see two of my favorite synthpop songwriters working together again, even if it’s for a minimal techno album.

* Five new B.P.R.D. miniseries next year! Way to take advantage of the apocalyptic 2012 zeitgeist.

* I’m bummed to see the very good Panelists group blog shutting down. I’d actually been wondering about this, seeing as how co-founders Craig Fischer and Charles Hatfield have columns going at The Comics Journal. But hey, there’s your silver lining, innit?

* Interesting: The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998-2008. Curious to see what this looks like.

* Fantagraphics: minicomics publisher!

* “With Great Power Comes No Responsibility.” Tattoo it on your forehead, America!

* Wizard’s Gareb Shamus is blogging and tweeting and quietly shutting down his digital magazine.

* Amazingly, Jason Adams of My New Plaid Pants interviews Michael Fassbender and never once asks to see his penis! He doesn’t even hint around at it! Jason, I’d like you to know that whenever I think of him now, I mentally refer to him as Fassy, without fail.

* Happy 71st birthday to Cardinal Fang Terry Gilliam, one of the very best people.

* And congratulations to Anders Nilsen for his book Big Questions‘ deserving presence on the New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year list. As you can see from the review-link sidebar on my blog, I’m its biggest fan, although I have yet read the collected edition. But then I have yet to read a ton of promising comics that have come out this year. I’m hoping to reorganize my life to make that possible again. It’s so important to me to have my hands in these things. It makes me feel better as a person and happier in life. Do you know what I mean?

Carnival of souls: Night Business #4, Lose #4, more

November 21, 2011

* Benjamin Marra’s Night Business #4 is on sale now! Wow, this is a big year for Ben.

* I take this Michael DeForge post to mean that Lose #4 is on its way. And here’s some illustrations and a strip, because it’s Michael DeForge and a couple of days have past since the last set of illustrations and comics he posted.

* Jason Leivian reviews the Mat Brinkman-designed board game Cave Evil. Good gravy.

* Dustin Harbin draws Osgiliath.

* Ben Morse is right: This is an incredible Survivor Series team.

* I love Big Boa.

* Is it just me or are con/signing photos of cartoonists getting better lately?

* Finally, a happier Occupy Wall Street story: behold the bat-signal of the 99%. I can’t be the only person who saw this and thought Turk-182!, right?

Carnival of OWS

November 21, 2011

* I’ve decided to put all my Occupy Wall Street stuff in its own round-up post today rather than mix it in with the usual comics/etc. talk, primarily out of lingering embarrassment over the intellectual and moral failings of much of my previous political writing. At the same time, I feel very passionately about this and can’t not write about it. I encourage you to read or not read as you feel befits me writing about political matters.

* Real Life Horror: I remain stunned by and frankly fixated on the weekend’s assault on peaceful protesters by pepper-spray-wielding police at UC Davis — both by the repugnance and casual ease of the act itself, and by the student protesters’ remarkable response. I’d like to note that the coverage of The Atlantic in particular has been thorough, informative, and impassioned. A sampling:

** Ta-Nehisi Coates links the use of a chemical weapon to force compliance on nonviolent protesters to the commonplace extralegally punitive “contempt of cop” violations common among poor neighborhoods and prisons.

** Coates also notes that the use of pepper spray for non-compliance is quite literally standard operating procedure for some police forces. I’m not a fan of ready-to-hand non-lethal weaponry like pepper spray, tasers and the like, because it’s clear that too often they’re used not as an alternative to deadly force but as an alternative to no force, or to just physically subduing a dude with no weapon who’s being a pain in the ass. That said, I assumed that there at least had to be some kind of defense-of-self-or-others justification for their use, like the bubbemeise the UC Davis police force initially ran up the flagpole about the cops being surrounded and cut off. But apparently I’m wrong, and in places like Baltimore police are taught to assault people for the crime of not following orders.

** I also want to make clear that as Coates says over and over, we get the police we want. I don’t wish to demonize the occupation (as in job) of being a police officer, or police unions. We should all have unions that wield that kind of power. To the extent that police behavior is problematic, and it’s hugely problematic as far as OWS is concerned, we the people have invested them with the powers they’re using to cause those problems, by electing people who are comfortable giving them those powers, and not saying anything when they start using and abusing them.

** How problematic is police behavior against OWS? Garance Franke-Ruta has a video-heavy roundup of incident after incident of police brutality against nonviolent, passively resisting protesters. Again and again, the deployment of riot gear and anti-riot tactics against people who aren’t rioting. Again and again, the use of non-lethal weapons where no weaponry is called for. Again and again, noncompliance and passive resistance treated as a crime requiring onsite corporal punishment or paramilitary-style force. I don’t know how to see this as anything but a sustained campaign of political violence against dissidents. Against dissent.

** How did we get to this point? Alexis Madrigal traces the history of police response to protest events by American police forces throughout the modern era. His argument is interesting in that he follows a track parallel to the one many commentators are using, that of militarized police forces via the war on drugs and the post-9/11 security state. Rather he focuses on the 1999 WTO protests — “The Battle of Seattle” — as a transformative event that inspired police forces nationwide to toss their more tolerant post-Vietnam/Civil Rights procedure for protests out the window, adopting instead a proscriptive approach that greets any protest that escapes predetermined boundaries with overwhelming force. He also factors in the rise of “broken windows” law enforcement, arguing that an approach originally intended to enhance quality of life and set an “as below, so above” model for fighting major crimes by targeting minor ones instead ended up elevating order and cleanliness to moral imperatives, thus rendering anything that threatens totally smooth sailing a public menace. His point, again, is that the problem is much bigger than a problem with Lt. John Pike, the pepper-spraying cop, and his fellows at UC Davis, or in the other police forces that have attacked OWS protesters. The problem, for the protesters and the public but also for the police themselves, is the system that makes men like that men like that. This may be the meatiest article of the lot.

** James Fallows’ post comparing the instantly iconic imagery of Lt. Pike sauntering up and down a line of college kids blasting them in the face with a corrosive chemical agent to similar images of Southern police and fire departments attacking Civil Rights demonstrators with fire hoses and the like raises an important point. With the civil rights protesters, the commonality between the attacks and the underlying issues was clear: These people were demanding the right to be treated like human beings by the authorities, who responded by not treating them like human beings. As Josh Marshall says at Talking Points Memo, however, Occupy Wall Street wasn’t about physical human rights violations of this sort until the police started physically violating the human rights of the OWS protesters. The underlying issue of economic exploitation of the middle and lower classes by the ultra-rich and the corporations they control really doesn’t have much to do with police misconduct at first glance. But as Donald Rumsfeld will tell you, when you can’t solve a problem, enlarge it. And as Glenn Greenwald or the comics blogosphere’s own Tim O’Neil will tell you, the ease with which civil authorities can send police to violently suppress protest movements is a symptom of the same system of two-tiered justice, economic inequality and immobility, and elite seizure of all the levers of power for their own ends that produced other symptoms like the bank meltdown, the European debt crisis, the American housing crisis, the current and ongoing un- and under-employment crisis, and on and on and on. The system may be broken, but that is not to say that it is not still a system, one designed to achieve certain results for certain people. The ease with which Mike Bloomberg could dominate the front pages of every local newspaper and the opening segment of every local newscast this morning with some farcical lone wolf “terrorist” bust that even the bust-manufacturing Feds couldn’t be bothered with is another case in point. Noise can be made and pressure can be applied, but only the right noise and only on the right pressure points.

* Finally, I want to be sure to encourage you to watch this remarkable video of a silent protest against UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi: Dozens of students sat silently, arm in arm just like the people who were pepper sprayed, forming a path from the Chancellor’s office to her car, watching in respectful but reproachful silence as she left. When I first saw this I gasped. If you put this in a movie people would think “Eh, that’s a little over the top, don’t you think? A little unbelievable?” Indeed it was. There’s power here.

If you read one thing today

November 21, 2011

Please make it Tim O’Neil’s extraordinary essay on poverty and the incident at UC Davis, which he attends. An absolutely astonishing piece of writing.

America 2011

November 19, 2011

Carnival of souls: BCGF, Drake, OWS, more

November 18, 2011

* Recently on Robot 6:

* The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival has announced its programming slate. Phoebe Gloeckner’s spotlight panel and a Tom Spurgeon/CF/Brian Ralph three-for-all are the highlights for me. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard Tom talk about CF at length, now that I think about it…

* Related: AdHouse is gonna have a hell of a show, by the sound of it.

* And here’s a BCGF debut: Zack Soto and Milo George are (re)launching Study Group Magazine, with a killer initial line-up of comics and journalism that includes work by ADDXSTC faves Chris Cilla, Michael DeForge, Jonny Negron, as well as interviews with Eleanor Davis and Craig Thompson.

* Does Koyama Press have the coolest publisher backstory ever?

* Inspired by a quote from Chris Mautner’s excellent interview with Art Spiegelman about MetaMaus in which Spiegelman explains the pain of having such horrifying and personal subject matter at the heart of his career for so long, I defend Art Spiegelman against his “what have you done for me lately?” detractors.

* And inspired by Nadim Damluji’s excellent interview with Craig Thompson about Orientalism in Habibi (although I must warn you not to enter the ensuing comment thread unless forced at gunpoint, and even then you might want to consider taking your chances at disarming the guy), I defend Craig Thompson against criticism to the effect that he doesn’t really know what’s going on in his own work.

* I’m really enjoying Ben Katchor’s increasingly explicit anticorporatism.

* Top Shelf is going digital in a big way, with a couple of comics apps. And damn, the price is right on the books they’re launching with. Clumsy for two bucks?

* At last! Image is releasing a collected edition of Brandon Graham’s much-lauded King City in February.

* John Porcellino has a new King-Cat coming coming out on Wednesday!

* So this is the cover for Jonny Negron’s Chameleon #2. That make sense.

* The Matthias Wivel-edited Nordic comics anthology Kolor Klimax sure looks good.

* Here’s a long and excellent piece by Zom on the horror of Uno Moralez. It’s a rare feat to analyze what makes something mysterious and horrifying with this kind of accuracy but with no intention of deflating the mystery and horror.

* Fear Itself ate itself, basically. This certainly isn’t the first time a major event comic involved elements of planned rapid obsolescence — it was the knowledge that they’d be wiping out Spider-Man’s marriage and with it whatever other aspects of his history they wanted to fudge that enabled Marvel to unmask Peter Parker for a mainstream-media bounce during Civil War — but it’s really quite unusual for three epilogue one-shots branded with the event’s name to undo the three biggest status-quo changes of the event, within three weeks of that event’s official conclusion. Still more unusual is that in all three cases Marvel’s clearly better off having undone them.

* Tucker Stone’s interview with Mark Waid about Daredevil is really entertaining on both sides of the tape recorder.

* Wow, they are dropping a lot of characters from A Clash of Kings in Game of Thrones Season Two. In some cases I understand both why they’re doing it and how it’ll work. In a few cases I’m kind of unsure how you do certain things you need to do at all without them. But when you think about it, the challenge faced by GoT the show is unprecedented. It’s one thing for The Sopranos to take bit parts and grow them into main characters at some point down the line — you’ve simply taken a presumably grateful character actor and given him the material of a lifetime. It’s still another to know up front that you’re casting a role who’ll get maybe five minutes of screentime this season but will turn into an opening-credits role in three, four years. What do you do, tell the Shakespearean actor you cast this past summer to clear his calendar for 2014? The answer will likely be not to cast such characters until the big stuff is happening, which of course will mean doing things differently than they were done in the books.

* Can you imagine having a sex ed class in which physical and emotional pleasure were valued and discussed? The clitoris, orgasms, the importance of making your partner feel comfortable emotionally, and being made to feel comfortable emotionally yourself? I can’t remember when that particular lightbulb was switched on in my head, but once the idea of such a sex ed curriculum was introduced to me, it became something that made me just shake my head in disgust that that’s not how things are. That’s absolutely how things should be. And in this New York Times piece about such a class in a school in a Friends’ school in Philadelphia shows you how it works.

* Speaking of the Times, unfortunately: Everyone I know thought Occupy Wall Street intended to shut down the New York City subway system yesterday, because they heard it on the news. I heard it on the news and so it’s what I believed. My in-laws, who are visiting us from Colorado, canceled their usual day in the city yesterday because they heard service would be disrupted on the news and so it’s what they believed. After the shutdown never materialized, today my co-workers said that OWS had simply failed to pull it off, because they’d heard of the plans on the news and so that’s what they believed. It turns out it was total bullshit, invented by Fox and the New York Times. But I heard it on several other outlets besides those, up to two or three days in advance, complete with responses to the supposed planned shutdown by NYC authorities. And it was all horseshit. As I’ve been saying on Twitter, it’s really rather amazing to watch all the organs of a body politic afflicted with terminal-stage capitalism work to expel OWS from the system. And this memetic inoculation against it — “protest Wall Street if you want, but once you start making it impossible for regular working people to get where they need to go…” — will likely never go away.

* Another case in point: The truly routine violation of protesters’ rights by the Bloomberg administration and the NYPD. The impunity with which they assault people, illegally arrest and detain them, illegally spy on them for their political beliefs, and so on is breathtaking. But as Ta-Nehisi Coates (via whom the aforelinked article) always says, we’ve got the police force we want, basically. If we didn’t want it, there are many ways in which we could make sure we didn’t have it.

* To end on a happier note, here are a few music links I enjoyed:

* Mark Richardson on freaking the fuck out over My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Man, we’ve all been there. I think my favorite part of listening to the album is when you get to that end section of “What You Want,” right before the final song “Soon” kicks in, and it’s so lovely you almost can’t bear it.

* Jaimeson Cox has been writing about Drake’s new album Take Care all week, and it’s been great. Actually, that album has coaxed great writing out of a lot of music writers. Off the top of my head: Brandon Soderberg, Zach Baron (the bit about the title track’s a must read), Ryan Dombal, Hua Hsu (terrific point about how disconcerting delivering similar sentiments via both singing and rapping can be). It’s early yet, but I think this may be my second-favorite album of the year after Kaputt by Destroyer? There’s just so much to talk about in the music especially, which is why I may inflict a post about hip-hop on you all in the near future. You’ve been warned.

Comics Time: Flesh and Bone

November 17, 2011

Flesh and Bone
Julia Gfrörer, writer/artist
Sparkplug, 2010
40 pages
Buy it from Sparkplug

Death as an irreparable rupture. Explicit, raw, wounded-animal sexuality. The calculating and casual torture and murder of children. Occult evil that actively belittles the human capacity for love and kindness. It’s tough to think of a darker brew than the one Julia Gfrörer serves in Flesh and Bone, the all too aptly titled tale of a man who’ll do anything to be reunited with his dead beloved and the witch who’s all too happy to accommodate him. But it’s a heady brew, too. Gfrörer’s intelligence shines through in virtually every particular, from pacing (the excruciatingly interminable sequence in which the bereaved man writhes first in agony then in resigned masturbatory ecstasy on his beloved’s grave) to dialogue (a devastating exchange between witch and demon in which love is dismissed as “mutual masturbation,” a form of slavery that prevents humankind from pulling itself out of the muck) to strategic absences of dialogue (a harrowing silent sequence in which an owl is sent to blind a young witness to a horrible crime) to character design (the man’s Byronic good looks, the demon’s disembodied lion head) to facial expression and body language (the witch’s arched back and closed lids as she copulates with a screeching mandrake creature) to a cover that nails the appeal of her wiry, frail characters and line. I can think of few efforts in this vein that impress me, or resonate with me, more deeply than Gfrörer’s. Highly recommended.

Carnival of souls: the end of pood, tons and tons of preview pages from very good cartoonists, more

November 14, 2011

* Sad news: pood is folding with its fourth issue. That was a nobly intentioned effort of the sort we need more of, not less.

* Ken Parille does his Ken Parille thing on Daniel Clowes’s The Death-Ray, which at the time of its release had a decent claim to “Best Single Issue of All Time.”

* Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem looks awfully promising. I think it’ll be an interesting book for a couple of reasons. First, unlike North Korea, China, and Burma/Myanmar, Israel is not an open dictatorship, regardless of what you think of its policies, and I’m curious as to how Delisle’s alien-abroad reportage will translate in that setting. Second, unlike those other nations, the degree of financial, political, and cultural complicity in Israel’s policies, good bad and different, is far greater for the West, so one assumes Delisle’s writing may get more openly political as a result. Regardless, damn, look at that cartooning. As elegant as he’s ever been.

* Closed Caption Comics’ Molly O’Connell will be debuting two books at BCGF; here’s what one of them is gonna look like, and my, it’s lovely.

* Speaking of CCC, Ryan Cecil Smith continues posting gorgeous pornographic pages on his tumblr. Not even reproducing this one, in deference to you shrinking violets out there.

* Michael DeForge, man. More Kid Mafia, stuff for The Believer. more Ant Comic, still more Kid Mafia, something called “Hot Dog.”

* Jim Woodring’s still posting splendidly troubling art almost every day.

* More Chameleon #2 promo art from Jonny Negron. I enjoy this pure concentrated Weirdness.

* Jeepers, take a gander at the art of Ulises Farinas. Darrow über alles these days, huh? (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* B.P.R.D. teaser art? Sure, I’ll eat it. No pun intended.

* Finally, Uno Moralez has a new image/gif gallery up. You know what to do.

Comics Time: Queen of the Black Black

November 14, 2011

Queen of the Black Black
Megan Kelso, writer/artist
Fantagraphics, 2011
168 pages
Buy it from Fantagraphics
Buy it from

For today’s Comics Time review, please visit The Comics Journal.

Nine Inch Nails, Live at the Roseland Ballroom, New York City, May 14 1994

November 9, 2011

Pinion // Terrible Lie // Sin // March of the Pigs/All the Pigs, All Lined Up // Something I Can Never Have // Closer // Reptile // Wish // Suck // The Only Time // Get Down Make Love // Down In It // Big Man with a Gun // Head Like a Hole /// Dead Souls // Help Me I Am in Hell // Happiness in Slavery


This was the very first concert I ever went to. I had turned 16 a little over two weeks before the show; I had met the girl I would go on to marry two and a half months before that. There were two opening acts. The first was the lipstick lesbian dance act Fem2Fem, who brandished strap-ons on stage. The second was Marilyn Manson; when we saw all the t-shirts at the merch booth we wondered who she was. Listening to the recording now, it’s clear that The Downward Spiral was new enough for songs like “Reptile” to be met with a muted reaction upon their opening notes. “Closer” goes over like gangbusters, though, which means that maybe it’s not the newness of the other songs that earned them a softer reaction, maybe the audience was filled with radio fans. I was really pleased that the audience was apparently so familiar with Queen that they all sang along when the band played “Get Down, Make Love,” only for an older kid to inform me that they’d covered the song on the Sin single. I spent the encore in the “mosh pit” and survived. Trent smashed his keyboard and as the crowd dispersed people were hunting for broken keys on the floor. My folks were so nervous about me being in the city that they sent a car to pick me and my friends up rather than let us take the train home. The car radio was set to WDRE, and I heard “Love Will Tear Us Apart” for the first time. Of the group of three kids I went with, I am now a father, the second is a father-to-be, and the third is dead. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Carnival of souls: BCGF, Chameleon #2, Gloriana, more

November 9, 2011

* Lisa Hanawalt’s poster for BCGF gives me a good excuse to link to BCGF’s list of exhibitors, featured artists, and debut releases, which is astonishing.

* Ohhhhh man: The latest old Kevin Huizenga c omic to get a full-fledged hardcover reworking/repackaging from Drawn & Quartelry is Gloriana (previously known as Or Else #2), which features “The Sunset,” one of the greatest comics of all time. OF ALL TIME!

* Related: My Robot 6 colleague Graeme McMillan on Ganges #4.

* Drawn and Quarterly has posted its Winter 2012 and Spring 2012 catalogues for download. And Fantagraphics has published its Spring/Summer 2012 catalog for download. I actually carry new Fanta catalogs around in my backpack to read and re-read like a comic.

* Recently on Robot 6: My quick take on Matthias Wivel’s epic L’Association article.

* Hey now: Jonny Negron’s Chameleon anthology has a second issue on the way in December! Here’s the cover and here’s a page from Negron’s contribution to it, “Violence City.”

* And here’s a page from Uno Moralez’s contribution to it. That’s right, Uno Moralez’s contribution to it.

* Big Two news: Things are looking good for DC’s big relaunch right now, though as many, many people have pointed out to me, these initial few months’ sales figures reflect sales to retailers, not to customers, and have all sorts of huge returnability incentives built in, so sales will likely settle down significantly at some point soon. And Marvel is cutting staff, series, budgets, and royalties. I do believe many Marvel staffers’ protestations that this has nothing to do with DC’s recent success, but the timing sure is unfortunate from a PR perspective.

* Saving this for when I really have time to savor it: Curt Purcell on the psychological underpinnings of the appeal of crossover stories.

* Happy sixth birthday to the A Song of Ice and Fire fansite Tower of the Hand! TotH has the most elegantly coded solution to the problem of spoilers that I’ve ever seen. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean.

* Tom Spurgeon on comic titles that read like Captchas.

* Tom Brevoort’s formspring seems to have gone from surprisingly candid to surprisingly lyrical.

* “The scientist’s plan worked perfect. The dog was now a super hero.”

Mad Men thoughts index

November 9, 2011

Here are links to all my Mad Men posts. I hope you enjoyed them!

* Season One, episodes 1-4
* Season One, episode 5 through Season Two, episode 3
* Season Two, episodes 4-7
* Season Two, episodes 8-11
* Season Two, episode 12 through Season Three, episode 2
* Season Three, episodes 3-6
* Season Three, episodes 7-13
* Season Four, episode 1
* Season Four, episodes 2-6
* Season Four, episodes 7-13
* Season Five, episode 1-2: “A Little Kiss”
* Season Five, episode 3: “Tea Leaves”
* Season Five, episode 4: “Mystery Date”
* Season Five, episode 5: “Signal 30”
* Season Five, episode 6: “Far Away Places”
* Season Five, episode 7: “At the Codfish Ball”
* Season Five, episode 8: “Lady Lazarus”
* Season Five, episode 9: “Dark Shadows”
* Season Five, episode 10: “Christmas Waltz”
* Season Five, episode 11: “The Other Woman”
* Season Five, episode 12: “Commissions and Fees”
* Season Five, episode 13: “The Phantom”
* Bonus: Season Five, episode 13: “The Phantom” with The Mindless Ones
* Season Six, episode 1-2: “The Doorway”
* Season Six, episode 1-2: “Seeing Mad Men Through Its Ads” column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 3: “Collaborators”
* Season Six, episode 3 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 4: “To Have and to Hold”
* Season Six, episode 4 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 5: “The Flood”
* Season Six, episode 5 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 6: “For Immediate Release”
* Season Six, episode 6 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 7: “Man with a Plan”
* Season Six, episode 7 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 8: “The Crash”
* Season Six, episode 8 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 9: “The Better Half”
* Season Six, episode 9 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 10: “A Tale of Two Cities”
* Season Six, episode 10 column for Wired
* Taking stock of Season Six: chat with Alyssa Rosenberg
* Season Six, episode 11: “Favors”
* Season Six, episode 11 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 12: “The Quality of Mercy”
* Season Six, episode 12 column for Wired
* Season Six, episode 13: “In Care Of”
* Season Six, episode 13 column for Wired
* The Self-Destruction of Mad Men (an essay on style for Esquire)
* The Great Don Debate (debating the role of Don Draper with Hazel Cills for Netflix)
* Season Seven, Episode One: “In Care Of” (for Wired)
* Season Seven, Episode Two: “A Day’s Work”
* Season Seven, Episode Three: “Field Trip”
* Season Seven, Episode Four: “The Monolith”
* Season Seven, Episode Five: “The Runaways”
* Season Seven, Episode Six: “The Strategy”
* Season Seven, Episode Seven: “Waterloo”

Mad Men thoughts: The Final Chapter

November 9, 2011

I’ve now finished all four seasons! SPOILERS AHOY

* The back half of Season Four began with two of the series’ very best episodes. First there was the surprisingly innovative decision just to take the series’ two lead characters and have them talk to each other for an episode. Duck’s arrival added some emotional and physical pyrotechnics to the proceedings, but for the most part it was simply a pleasure to watch Don and Peggy hash out the depth of their relationship to one another, first angrily, then drunkenly, then with the genuine hand-holding tenderness that reduces me to a misty-eyed marshmallow anytime the show goes there. This episode was, in its way, the payoff for Peggy’s newfound openness with Don at the beginning of the season. And as much as a part of her resents it — not because she wants it any different, but because, well, would the possibility really have been that difficult to entertain — it’s also nice for Peggy to offer proof that Don can have a platonic, loving friendship with a woman other than the one whose husband’s life he stole. Seeing that glimmer of a good man when Peggy’s around is sort of like the audience reaping a reward Peggy earned through years of hard emotional, creative, and intellectual work. It connects us to her.

* Next up was an episode with the evocative title of “The Summer Man,” which wasn’t just one of the series’ best episodes but also one of its most…experimental? Tactile? Sensuous? I’m not sure I could sit here and tell you what really happened in it, necessarily; the more important thing was the parade of sensations it presented us with. Don’s new hobby of swimming, the sound and vision of his body swimming through the cool and pristine water of the pool, was contrasted with the slow-motion muted-sound shots of booze being poured into an endless succession of glasses as Don realizes he needs to dry out, at least in part. Don began keeping a journal, so you had his mellifluous baritone actually narrating the episode — a first — providing not just a rich and pleasant sound, but a series of ruthless insights into his life and the lives of those around him. “I bet she was thinking of that line all night,” he writes of his date’s farewell after she blows him in the back of a taxicab. Brutal. But hey, let’s talk about that blowjob, too, another example of the show understanding how crucial and sexy the initial stages of a hook-up are: Bethany smiling at Don as she unzips him, him smiling back as he realizes what’s up. Let’s talk about the summeriness of it all, too, particularly the shot of Don exiting the athletic club and watching young women and couples (to coin a phrase) go by dressed in their summer clothes. And let’s talk about the show soundtracking Don in all his glory with the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” which made me think of nothing so much as the writers having a eureka moment: “Holy shit—we can show Don walking around to ‘Satisfaction’!!!” Indeed they can! What an episode. I’m almost afraid to google for reviews.

* Just before we got to that episode and discovered what I like to call Conscious Don, I got to thinking about the challenge it must have presented to Jon Hamm and John Slattery in particular to play characters who are in a state of perpetual inebriation. After a while you no longer notice it, but when they go into someone’s office, and I mean pretty much every time they go into someone’s office, they drink. When they get home they drink. When a meeting ends they drink. Certainly when they go out to dinner they drink. Might the actors forget about this too, or do Hamm and Slattery always remember to play Don and Roger as self-possessed guys covering up a slight buzz?

* If I recall correctly there was another strong pair of episodes in there, basically a girl episode and a guy episode back to back. In the first, Peggy’s would-be boyfriend gives her guff about her gig, Joan has sex with Roger after they get mugged, Sally runs away from home and Betty comes to claim her, Faye whiffs on trying to soothe Sally, and Miss Blankenship dies. In the second, Don is nearly found out by the Defense Department, Pete has to take the bullet for Don by canceling the agency’s aviation gig, Lane confronts his father, and Roger learns both that Joan is pregnant and that Lucky Strike is leaving. I’m not sure that either of them stands out as cohesive units, but as a demonstration of how many balls the show can keep in the air within a short stretch of time, they’re tough to top.

* While the sequence with Lane’s stiff-upper-lip father and his Playboy Bunny girlfriend rang as false — okay, not false, but at the very least broad — as anything on the show since Peggy and Rizzo’s nude brainstorming session, the portrait it painted of Lane as an overgrown boy was one I really appreciated. I had already found myself returning repeatedly to the way he chose to explain to his wife what he liked about living in New York: “I’ve been here eight months and no one has asked me what school I went to.” That line’s obviously loaded with centuries of English class bias, but it also speaks to how fundamental his time as a schoolboy is to Lane’s conception of himself. And from the dutiful employee of PPO who resigned himself to transferring to Bombay in under 90 seconds, to the rebellious son who couldn’t wait for his father to disapprove of his new relationship, you see it repeatedly.

* “It’s like drinking a hundred bottles of whiskey while someone licks your tits.” Man, Midge sure makes heroin sound more appealing than Lou Reed did, and I don’t even have tits! Ah well. It was nice to see the first of Don Draper’s Great Brunettes of the 1960s reappear, if only for a sordid attempt to extract cash that was skeevy enough to make my arms itch. As I write this paragraph I realize that it was actually a rather well-played scene given how shopworn the fallen-idealist junkie thing could be. The contrast between her and her husband’s jocularity and their obvious desperation was an engaging detail from writers and actors alike.

* Speaking of pale brunettes, big Megan fan here, obviously. But that aside, I appreciate how the show slowly seeded her in, first with a standout role in Faye’s focus group about Pond’s cold cream, then by making her a tourist attraction for Peggy’s bohemian friends at the front desk, they by having her step in for the late Miss Blankenship, then by making her the control group for Faye’s failure to connect with Sally, then with a seemingly random shot of Don staring at her at the end of the day as she touches up her makeup to go out. You can certainly detect Matthew Weiner’s background with The Sopranos there — the best show ever at organically building up bit parts into major players. (Cf. Jaime Hernandez in Love and Rockets too.) And yeah, my initial reaction to their initial hookup was “Oh no!!!!”, a reaction that received some confirmation when Faye shows up at Don’s apartment later that night revealing that no, she had not in fact dumped him after all. But that wasn’t on Megan, who really legitimately seemed to be okay with things never going any further than that, even if it would be nice if they did. And I really really loved that they had her directly address her big teeth. She’s endearing and attractive and intriguing, with enough of a hint of potential “sees an opportunity and takes it” no-bullshit-ness that if she sticks around at the agency next season, she could make for a multidimensional foil for both Don and Peggy. And Joan! And Jane! So yes, thumbs up for Megan.

* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nothing warms the cockles of my heart like grown men cooperating and treating each other with kindness, especially when they have all sorts of incentives not to but do it anyway. So when Pete went out of his way to take the blame for North American Aviation dropping out, and when Don secretly paid for Pete’s share of the agency’s collateral with the bank, I all but audibly said “Awww.” When Don told Pete he could run the agency if Don had to skip out? My heart’s swelling even now. I think it’s not just that I value cooperation and kindness so much — it’s that the two of them started on such bad terms. They hated each other! So to see Don trust Pete like that, and Pete sacrifice for Don like that…I don’t know, it’s almost like it gives me hope for the world. People can change. And that’s a place where Mad Men differs from The Sopranos in a big way.

* The season’s final arc took the Season Three finale’s pulse-pounding heist storyline and stretched it out into a slow-motion trainwreck. Instead of a race against time, it was an attempt to arrest the agency’s downward momentum before they crashed into the bottom. It was a series of “oh-no”s. Oh no, the Defense Department! Oh no, Don’s sleeping with another co-worker! Oh no, Faye didn’t dump him after all! Oh no, the Lucky Strike asshole is about to tell Roger they’re leaving! Oh no, they’re going to lose two huge accounts at once! Oh no, Glo-coat’s dumping them too! Oh no, Betty’s gonna catch Sally with Glenn! Oh no, Betty’s gonna catch Sally with Glenn again! How many times can the bottom drop out of your stomach, you start to wonder. This has the effect of creating a genuine sense of dread where perhaps none need exist, too. I spent several episodes convinced that at any moment, Betty would truly beat Sally, or that one of the kids was gonna drown in that pool out in California, or that Faye was going to out Don in retaliation, or that Lee Garner Jr. was going to coerce sexual favors out of Roger, or or or or…It was grueling. Fitting, then, that rather than the spectacular saves that capped off the first three seasons, this ordeal was ended with Peggy and Ken securing a small account — a relatively minor turnaround for a comparatively spectacular downward spiral.

* If you take the two previous items and combine them, you have some sense of why I’m also so happy that Don and Betty’s final scene of the season worked out the way it did. I wasn’t sure what I was more afraid of, that Betty would snap in some profound and even dangerous way, or that Don would try to sleep with her again. Instead they shared a drink after Don procured both a bottle and a genuine laugh from Betty, and Betty reacted to the news of Don’s engagement with a congratulations that, while not happy, at least didn’t sound like she was lying through her teeth. This season Betty emerged as one of the show’s most fascinating characters, taking her shady Season One shrink’s diagnosis that she has the emotional life of a child and running as hard and as fast with it as she could. Consumed with the same kind of rage that troubles her daughter, insisting on seeing a child psychiatrist, driven into paroxysms of life-altering jealousy when Sally befriends the kid she herself once inappropriately confided in, and overall refusing to take yes for an answer from anyone. Not to repeat myself again, but January Jones is absolutely perfect in this role, a Hitchcock blonde playing Jimmy Stewart’s Vertigo role. My hope for Betty is that now that Don’s moved on, she can find a way to do so too.

* So there you have it: Mad Men! I’ll take your recommendations for things to read/watch/listen to about it in the comments, if you’d be so kind…

Carnival of souls: BCGF, The Hobbit, Loveless, people like my Spidey comic, more

November 7, 2011

* My Kraven story in Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #19 got a couple more good reviews: Here’s the big-time spider-fan site Spider-Man Crawl Space, and here’s Robot 6’s Tim O’Shea, who singles out a little layout gimmick I was pretty proud of.

* Monster guest lineup at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival this year. Aw, who am I kidding, by “monster guest lineup” I mostly mean “oh my God, Phoebe Gloeckner!!!!” Gloeckner is one of a very, very small number of people with whom I’ve had conversations that I’ve more or less memorized.

* Anders Nilsen reveals his five favorite comics to the AV Club. (Via Peggy Burns.)

* Zak Smith/Sabbath explains how to make things weird. The answer may surprise you! As is often the case with Smith’s Playing D&D with Porn Stars blog, this post is applicable to a lot more than just playing D&D.

* Is anything in the world more comforting than Peter Jackson talking about the technological wonkery he’s deploying to make movies about Middle-earth? I’m serious — if you studied my brain chemistry while watching something like the making-of video for The Hobbit below I bet there’d be measurable changes. I love this man.

* My friends Ryan Penagos and Ben Morse have launched the This Week in Marvel podcast.

* Yep, those are Jason’s five favorite post-2000 bands, alright.

* I guess that if you’re going to troll Tom Brevoort’s formspring account, you might as well be a good writer in the process.

* You keep drawing them, I’ll keep linking to them, Tom Kaczynski.

* My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is one of those records about which I could read breathlessly effusive birthday celebrations all the live-long day. The best thing I ever read about that album was by Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson: “I’ve long dreamt of an album that was ‘Like Loveless, but more,’ but I haven’t found it.”

* Real Life Horror: I briefly started following Andrew Sullivan’s blog again after one of my periodic hiatuses, though every time he asserted that the way to get both the country and the Obama presidency back on track is to “embrace Simpson-Bowles” I was sorely tempted to decamp again, and a post regarding a “debate” over whether or not liberals value “hard work” broke the camel’s back within less than twelve hours of re-adding the RSS feed back to my increasingly less useful Google Reader. But when he’s not espousing fatuous faith-based economics proposals or rounding up links about total nonsense he’s actually quite good, and indefatigable, on issues like torture, or in this case, pretty much the out and out murder/cover-up of several Guantanamo Bay detainees subjected to a suffocation-torture technique called dryboarding. Land of the free, home of the brave.

* Apparently this is just how Ryan Gosling looks now? Like, when he goes to music festivals and what have you?