Carnival of souls: special extra-large edition

* They’re gettin’ the band back together, man! Tom Spurgeon breaks the news that company co-founder Mike Catron and former art director Preston White are going back to work at Fantagraphics. Spurge also interviews Catron about his return to the fold.

* I love everything about this powerful post by Jessica Abel, in which she takes a look back at the last fifteen years of her life upon her and her husband Matt Madden’s recent decision to leave Brooklyn for France. And under “everything” I most definitely include their bookshelves.

* Marc Arsenault presents a visual tribute to artist Mike Kelley, who sadly took his own life last week. Kelley’s friend and publisher Dan Nadel shared some thoughts as well.

* It’s the triumphant return of Zack Soto’s The Secret Voice!

* New Sexbuzz pages by Andrew White.

* Allow me to be the last to direct you to Darkness by Boulet, a very cute and crazily gorgeously drawn 24-hour comic. Man, the way this guy draws women.

* Speaking of crazily gorgeously drawn, Frank Miller’s Holy Terror is apparently even prettier than I thought it would be. No, I still haven’t read it, because no, I still can’t bring myself to pay for it, and no, I haven’t had any more luck finding a publicity contact for Legendary’s publishing imprint than you have. (Have you?)

* Jonny Negron celebrates the return to print of his anthology Chameleon #2 the only way he knows how.

* Zach Hazard Vaupen is still making the strangest humor comics around.

* The great Benjamin Marra has an art show opening up later this month in Brooklyn.

* Chuck Forsman is about to release The End of the Fucking World #4. This is a good series.

* If you were wondering when Emily Carroll‘s influence would start to be felt on other webcomics, the answer is right about…now. (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* Sarah Esteje drew this picture of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album cover using only ballpoint pens. So, you know, jeez. (Via Andrew Sullivan, of all people.)

* I am going to link you to this Michael DeForge comic about facial growths and lesions and then never look at or think about it again.

* Tucker Stone’s excellent review of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tyler Crook’s very good B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia (he’s dead-on about Crook and company proving themselves and resuscitating the series after a stumble or two) has the bonus feature of functioning as a sort of “state of the Mignolaverse” report.

* The Mindless Ones’ David Allison/Illogical Volume writes about Batman Incorporated and a great many other things besides. The broad theme is how the sadness at the heart of Batman’s story taints his grand utopian projects in much the same way that the malfeasance of his real-world corporate promulgators taints his real-world utility as an icon of positivity. I go back and forth on whether that’s a reasonable thing to expect from art anyway — Grant Morrison’s brand of positivity has long struck me as a bit head-in-the-sand-ish, even before his unfortunate comments on Siegel & Shuster — but I’ve certainly felt the sting I.V.’s describing. Then again, I believe the pleasure we derive from art is quite independent of whether pleasurable things are happening in that art — Battlestar Galactica and Breaking Bad have at varying times and for varying reasons provided me with more emotional uplift than just about anything I can think of, and Christ, think about those shows for a moment. But I.V.’s not just talking about the content, he’s talking about the circumstances of their creation, which is quite another matter. It’s a meaty post.

* Ryan Cecil Smith, Lane Milburn, and more weigh in on the endangered art of Stephen Gammell in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

* I absolutely loved the elegant simplicity (not a phrase you’d ever associate with the guy under normal circumstances) of Zak Smith/Sabbath’s post on how to advance the narrative in RPGs without railroading your players:

I call it Hunter/Hunted.

-The idea is simple and comes from about a million horror and cop stories: sometimes a scene happens because Sam Spade has found out about a baddie and sometimes a scene happens because the baddie has found out about Sam Spade. And, there, aside from a few stops for bourbon and kissing, is the plot of everything from Lost Boys to Blade Runner.

-Most investigative scenarios advise breaking things up into “scenes”–the idea is you have a scene, find clues in it, these clues lead to the next scene. They then usually cover their ass by saying either “if the PCs don’t do this or find this clue or go to the wrong place give them a bunch of hints or a prophetic dream or otherwise nurse, nudge, or nullify them until they go to the next scene” or just give some vague advice like “hey Venice is interesting, think of something”

-Not so here. Or not exactly: Basically we keep the “scene chain” structure. If the PCs go from clue to clue in a timely fashion like good investigators they follow the scene chain. However, we also give each scene a twin situation, this twin is what happens if the PCs don’t follow a given clue, follow it up the wrong path, or otherwise take too long (in-world game time) to follow the clues. In this twin situation, typically, the PCs have taken long enough to figure out what’s going on that the enemy has noticed their efforts and started hunting them.

* Real Life Horror: America’s flying killer robots target rescuers and mourners of flying killer robot victims. Warning: not liking this state of affairs may make you an al-Qaeda supporter.

* Related, in Professor T.’s “applicability” sense: Bruce Baugh flags two beautiful passages on the horrors of war from The Lord of the Rings.

* Celebrate 10 years of Fluxblog with this interview with its creator, Matthew Perpetua, my favorite music writer and a swell guy.

* Farewell to the first modern zombie, Bill Hinzman. You changed everything, sir.

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8 Responses to Carnival of souls: special extra-large edition

  1. Zom says:

    I really enjoyed that post too: Zak calmly and unshowily offering a solution to an age old problem for horror games.

    If I ever go back to RPGs and run that Chill/CoC campaign I’ll be taking his advice with me.

  2. If you want to read HOLY TERROR, and not buy a copy, check your library. That’s where I read it.

  3. “The broad theme is how the sadness at the heart of Batman’s story taints his grand utopian projects in much the same way that the malfeasance of his real-world corporate promulgators taints his real-world utility as an icon of positivity. I go back and forth on whether that’s a reasonable thing to expect from art anyway” – heh, see, I’d say it’s a fairly unreasonable thing to expect from art, but I’m a fairly unreasonable person, so!

    I enjoy the way my favourite comics (even the ones about Batman!) seem reflect and distort the life I find myself living, but I’m also wary of how easy it is to let these reflections overpower the real thing, and I’m happy think I conveyed some of the queasy feelings this can produce in my essay. Thanks for linking to it in this post full of Bowies and bottoms!

    • All posts should be full of these things. THIS I COMMAND!

      It was a fortuitous bit of synchronicity that your post went up when it did, because not 12 hours earlier I was listening to the local news radio channel and heard a soundbite from prodigiously bearded natural-health guru Dr. Andrew Weill of all people, warning that consumption of violent or scary movies and TV shows can lead to a downturn in your happiness levels. I thought long and hard about this, because though I’ve certainly found that to be true sometimes — when I first plowed my way through the first three seasons of The Sopranos on DVD in 2000 or 2001, I most definitely felt worse about myself and the world when I finished than when I started — there are any number of cases where, at least as far as I can tell (because who knows how I’d feel if I didn’t watch this stuff at all) the opposite was true. As i mentioned in the post, BSG coincided with a therapy-and-Bruce-Baugh-enabled breakthrough that we take pleasure where we can find it, and currently Breaking Bad is helping me get through layoffs and uncertainty at work and child-induced sleep deprivation at home. Clive Barker, George R.R. Martin, George Orwell–favorites of mine, I’ve derived endless pleasure from them, downers all. And then there’s the entirety of the horror genre, or at least the stuff I like best from it. All these thoughts were floating around in my head when your post popped up. And as I said, I’ve been skeptical of Morrisonian fictional positivity as an antidote to fear- and apocalypse-mongering in both the real world and the made-up ones; my main objection to nerd culture’s fixation on the end of the world over the past decade or so is just that it got boring after a while, not that it was shaping a worse world for our children and so we need more uplifting stories to counteract that, which I think is something Morrison has at least implied if not stated outright. That said, Velvet Goldmine Changed My Life for the Better (TM), so I’m wise to the potential for positive change via fiction as well. And anyway, this is all a separate issue from the taint of IRL malfeasance at the heart of all superhero fiction, of course. Like I said, a meaty post. Thanks for writing it.

      On a related note, here’s a question for you and the other Mindless in your capacity as Morrison experts, if you’re interested:

      Morrison talks his trash about Siegel & Shuster selling their rights fair and square, blah blah. Meanwhile he writes the “Year One” of the new Superman continuity in Action Comics. I’ve seen people say he did both things as part of DC’s bid to remake the character in a fashion that doesn’t utilize elements of the character/mythos that S&S may have a better claim to. BUT at the same time, he goes on and on in every interview and in his book about the genius of the initial S&S Action/Superman run, and how he’s taking all his cues for the story and the pacing and the character’s personality and so forth from the first few issues they did. So while he’s got a funny way of showing his appreciation for S&S by downplaying/dismissing their claim to the character, he’s ALSO got a funny way of being a good corporate man by constantly talking about how the corporation’s legal opponents are the alpha and omega of everything he’s doing with the character. How does this square, do you think? The part of me that really likes Grant personally and artistically wants to think that this is his stealth campaign in support of S&S’s heirs, but that seems pollyannaish of me in the cold light of day.

      • Yeah, I meant to say that I definitely get how “downer” art can be be joyous and thrilling – you have no idea how much Danny Brown’s XXX has helped me shake the dust off this last month or so!

        With regards to Morrison’s Final Crisis-era call for more optimistic stories, you’re right that it’s mostly bullshit if taken literally (I want better pop culture, not cheerier pop culture!), but part of what I was trying to get at in my Darkseid post was that this idea has some resonance outside of culture, in the real world (“the real fucking world?”). Now I wouldn’t want to follow Morrison all the way down this road, because the idea that “the consumption of the planetary resources isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually what we’re meant to do to fuel our metamorphosis” is mad and dangerous, and I wish someone would properly have that one out with him, which… I got mixed up over a few Facebook messages last year and ended up thinking that Laurie Penny was going to interview old Mozzer, and man would I have liked to have seen that!

        Anyway! The point is that I think that Morrison’s focus on the importance of creating NEW AND IMPROVED stories can be quite politically potent – FC doesn’t quite work as a kiss-off to the Bush/Blair era, but it almost does, and for me this tied in with the renewal of the sense that maybe things didn’t have to be this way after all. This doesn’t mean that we should collectively write out the horrible parts of our ongoing stories, of course, but the suggestion that you/I/we might be able to take some sort of control over your/my/our lives still has some kick to it, I think.

        Hence why that Indigo Batman post is so haunted by what you call “the taint of IRL malfeasance at the heart of all superhero fiction”, because fuck me, that Alan Moore bit about how the makers of heroic fiction needed to act more heroically has been eating away at me since he said it!

        Speaking of which, on the Grant Morrison/Siegel and Shuster/Action Comics thing: I’ve never been convinced by the notion that Morrison’s involved in some sort of conspiracy to “remake the character in a fashion that doesn’t utilize elements of the character/mythos that S&S may have a better claim to”, and so far I don’t see much evidence of that in the comic itself either.* I reckon that Morrison is probably deadly earnest in his enthusiasm for the early S&S Superman comics, but as Marc Singer has already noted, I don’t think his talent is working in the same direction as his mouth on this project.

        With regards to what Morrison said about the Siegel and Shuster case, he took a fairly shitty and distinctly un-heroic stance on this issue, but again, I don’t think he’s consciously conspiring against Siegel and Shuster’s family, I just think he’s (A) got a bit too comfortable with being invited round to Dan Didio’s house to “talk about dem hawkgoilz”, and (B) so thoroughly caught up in his own personal mythology/religion that dealing with real world injustice has taken a backseat to beatific rambling for him.

        This “business hippy” aspect of his persona has been in full effect for a while now, which is one reasons why I was less surprised that he didn’t take a stand on this issue. “It’s all part of the process” times a million.

        In short: I wouldn’t want to credit Morrison with running any sort of “stealth campaign” here, I just think that his writerly instincts are better than his public persona might sometimes suggest.

        *Please don’t take this as a suggestion that I don’t think DC would try anything like this, because of course they would if they thought it would pay better for them in the long run. I just haven’t been convinced by the idea that this (i.e. Action Comics and the New52 relaunch) is how they’re going to do it. But maybe I’m wrong!

        • I should probably note that while I was less surprised than some that Grant Morrison didn’t take a bolder stand on the Siegel and Shuster issue, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t disappointed – I wanted him to pay lip-service as much as anyone, you know?

          Obviously it would be even better if he had ditched corporate comics and become an proponent of “FULL COMMUNISM, but that was never going to happen really…

        • I’m awfully glad you brought up that quote about resource consumption, which was definitely the moment where I went from “hmm, intriguing, but I’m not sure I buy all this” to “are you kidding???”

          That was a terrific quote from Moore. (And talk about downer art, in re: his recent work!)

          I don’t buy the Superman-origin-tweaking conspiracy either, both in the general or in the Morrison-involvement particular. If you read the book, there’s really nothing in there that’s any farther from the original S&S material than any other retelling of his origin and early career throughout the character’s history in multiple media.

          I do like the idea that Morrison-as-writer instinctively got the better of Morrison-the-equivocator. There can be only one!

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