Archive for July 30, 2012

16 thoughts on the Comics Journal/Kickstarter/SP7 fight

July 30, 2012

In his capacity as co-editor of The Comics Journal, Dan Nadel (who is also publisher of PictureBox Books, co-organizer/curator of the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, and an important anthologist/historian/editor) tore apart virtually every aspect of SP7, a tribute to the influential Japanese alternative-manga anthology series Garo for which editors Box Brown and Ian Harker have established a Kickstarter fundraiser. This has led to the most impassioned argument among alternative comics people I’ve seen since back when I started reading the Comics Journal message board in 2001. Here are my thoughts on it.

1. I’m having a really hard time figuring out which side of this argument is the cool side to be on. Does anyone know? Because I’m on that side.

2. In a single post, the Comics Journal’s three-decade reputation for temperate rhetoric is RUINED.

3. I am actually glad this is what we’re arguing about today, instead of just sticking the boot into obviously bad and unethically made superhero comics again. For one thing, those comics don’t need the press. For another, the issues we’re talking about, the comics and creators and editors involved, they are actually vital to the art form. They can stand to be argued about passionately.

4. Dan’s ersatz editorial is clearly the product of months or years of pet peeves given voice in straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back fashion, and as such is riddled with inapt or inept elements that a calmer and more considered approach to this post would probably have caught and eliminated. The thing about spelling “comix” with an “x” is pedantic and childish; the claim that EC Comics didn’t influence the undergrounds in a substantial way is plain wrong in a way that even Dan’s co-editor Tim Hodler caught immediately; much of the argument about how Brown and Harker are misreading Garo particularly and manga generally requires the absolute least charitable read of what they’re saying, to an extent that strains credulity; it’s kind of funny that he spells Bryan Lee O’Malley’s name wrong while decrying the sloppiness of his targets’ writing; and so on. Don’t blog angry!

5. The strange thing about doing a Garo tribute anthology is that you’re doing a tribute to an anthology, which is definitionally a whole range of comics (genres, styles, tones) by a whole range of creators rather than one particular set of visual and narrative and philosophical characteristics you can point to and say “there, that’s what we’re paying tribute to.” If the idea is to pay tribute to the way the various kinds of comics in Garo, a whole range of approaches that roughly map to “alternative comics” here in the English-speaking world, broadened the possibilities available to Japanese comics readers and makers, wouldn’t the best way to do that be to simply make a broad range of thoughtful, progressive comics? It’s entirely possible that that’s what this will be, with zero fetishization of Garo qua Garo, but if so it’d almost defeat the purpose — you could slap the word Garo on any collection of thoughtful, progressive comics. It’s like, no one thinks to do a RAW tribute anthology, because the influence of RAW was internalized and dispersed throughout all of alternative comics. Alternative comics is a RAW tribute anthology.

6. That said, I like Ian and Box personally, and as editors. (I like Dan personally, and as an editor of both comics and criticism, too. I’m a lot closer to Dan on both points, honestly.) I like many of the contributors here. The book’s Kickstarter isn’t something I’d contribute to because I’m not familiar with Garo and would mostly prefer to see the contributors do their own things in their own settings, but it’s something I’d probably pick up at a show.

7. I was surprised to see the discussion really quickly escalate into open anti-Nadel backlash. I probably shouldn’t’ve been. Dan is a gatekeeper four or five times over: He’s the publisher of one of the only mid-’00s artcomix publishers still standing. He’s the co-founder and arbiter of a curated festival that has absolutely kept cartoonists at the gates based on his taste. He’s the co-editor of the alternative comics criticism publication of record. As an editor/anthologist/historian he’s helped broaden, or suggest an alternative to, the comics canon, depending on how you want to look at it. He’s the post-alternative generation’s most prominent straddler of the line between comics and the fine art world. If you’ve ever felt rejected or neglected by him in any of these guises, it’s knives-out time, because nothing fires comics people up more than “you think you’re better than me?!”

8. That’s not to invalidate all the complaints, of course. Though all, literally all, of my personal and professional interactions with Dan have been delightful and enriching to me as a comics person, I have to imagine he’s been an unfair dick to people from time to time, since we all are. Moreover there are people in comics for whom a rejection by Dan in whatever capacity, however honestly and fairly arrived at by Dan, really would hurt, career-wise.

9. If you’ve ever followed any of the online feuds in which Dan’s been involved, or if you’ve ever talked to him about the work of other editors and publishers, the throughline that emerges is that Dan takes the presentation and contextualization of work very, very, very, very, very, very seriously. I’m paraphrasing this, but one thing he said comes back to me any time I look at an archival reprint project: For the vast majority of cartoonists, you only get one shot at this. If your work in reprinting comics, or writing about them in your book’s backmatter, or the context you provide for them w/r/t other cartoonists and movements in comics, is sloppy, that’s not just about you — from now on anyone who encounters these comics will encounter them with that sloppiness as their lens into the work. You owe it to the readers and the cartoonists alike to be rigorous, serious, sensitive, informed, insightful, and otherwise good at your job. If you strip away the excesses of rhetoric and the Kickstarter stuff, that’s his concern about SP7 and its presentation of Garo. It may be a lot to read into what is effectively sales copy, the Kickstarter description, but it’s hardly crazytalk.

10. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding entities enable the creation of a lot of terrible, lame work, but lots of terrible lame work gets made anyway. It seems like an opportunity to spread the financial risk of making art around up front so that artists can make more art is a positive development overall. It shouldn’t be the burden of a new model to behave flawlessly and yield flawless results in a way that the old model doesn’t.

11. Of course the new model shouldn’t also smack its shoe on the table and shout “WE WILL BURY YOU” about the old model, whether you’re talking about publishing through established publishers or distributing through the direct market, both of which are vital for the health of comics, no matter how much you don’t like your local shop and no matter how many rejection emails you’ve gotten. But Box and Ian aren’t doing that, so it’s a separate issue.

12. I think we should also separate obvious boondoggles, freak occurrences, and cases where wealthy, successful artists are using Kickstarter anyway from consideration of efforts like this. Penny Arcade, Womanthology, Mark Andrew Smith’s stuff, Marc Silvestri, that weird stick-figure D&D comic that made like five million dollars, Amanda Palmer — they tell us nothing about this project.

13. I don’t see how you put your books on Amazon and still wax outraged about Kickstarter’s Amazon fees, I really don’t. I’m not being some “two wrongs make a right” “Kirby got ripped off so it’s okay to rip off Alan Moore” type person, because in this case it’s literally the same thing. Isn’t it? That’s not a rhetorical question–I really want to know if there’s an appreciable difference between selling your books on Amazon and kicking to Amazon via your Kickstarter crowdfunding effort.

14. It seems to me that the job of a publisher is to pay for, print, distribute, and promote the work of the people it publishes. Take any of those elements away and I’m not sure you’re a publisher in the traditional sense, and that’s something for people published by such entities to thoughtfully consider. Of course, I’d never before thought about this issue at all prior to this year, so these are very tentatively advanced ideas I’m putting out there, not the Magna Carta. I know a lot of respectable outfits who don’t fulfill all four of those criteria.

15. That said, money from a bank, from your dayjob paycheck, from your trust fund, from a loan from your parents or your buddy who’s a lawyer, from people who pre-order or contribute on Kickstarter — all that money spends the same. If you, the publisher, are still in charge of gathering those funds in order to make and sell the books you publish, it doesn’t matter much to me how it is you’re gathering it.

16. The cartoonist Chris Wright said on Twitter that one of the reasons he likes publishing through a publisher rather than on his own is because he’s “too lazy and too stupid” to do it himself. He was kidding around a bit, but he’s right. Not every artist has the interest, inclination, or ability to hustle. I know that I myself could not be less interested in or less adroit at self-publishing. I got into writing to write; I have no brain for getting printer quotes. Now let me stop you right there before you “well la-di-da” me — I FULLY REALIZE this predisposition on my part limits my ability to get things made. If I could be different about it. I would be. I don’t feel entitled to the world beating a path to my door, I don’t expect it to, I own the consequences of my disinterest and inability to self-publish. But yeah, not every artist has that in them. They shouldn’t be expected to. They shouldn’t be blamed for their failure to, as if it’s a moral or artistic shortcoming.

Q&A: “Breaking Bad” star Anna Gunn

July 30, 2012

There’s been a backlash against Skyler, something she has in common with women characters on a variety of big dramas about men who tend to behave much worse than they do. Do you have a sense of why this happens? Does it faze you at all?

Some of it is still the double standard in our society – that it’s more acceptable for a man to be this antihero badass doing all these things that break the law or are really awful. People watching want to be Walt, or they identify with him. He doesn’t have to answer to anybody. He does what he wants. There’s a fantasy element to that, I think. I also think that in some ways, there’s kind of a sexism to it, honestly. Sometimes . . . [pauses] I’ve been told particularly, how do you say . . . non-flattering or just really vicious – you could use the word vitriolic – angry stuff about Skyler, or about other female characters on other shows. The hatred and the vitriol and the venom and the nastiness and the attacks are so personal sometimes that it feels like, “Oh gosh, OK, I get that you don’t like Skyler, you like Walt, you’re on his side, but it just feels different.” I don’t feel like that stuff would be written about a male character.

I interviewed Anna Gunn about last night’s episode of Breaking Bad for Rolling Stone.

Know the terrain

July 29, 2012

Pages 13 and 14 of “Destructor Meets the Cats” have been posted. That’s right, it’s a double-sized update!

You can read the whole story so far on one continuously scrolling page by clicking here.

Today on Cool Practice

July 27, 2012

I wrote about “Little Earthquakes” by Tori Amos on Cool Practice, my tumblr about music and coolness. I’ve been doing a lot of that kind of writing lately where you feel so strongly about a thing that you find yourself at a loss for words, so then you realize you have to make up the words for it.

Fluxblog 10th Anniversary: The Podcast

July 26, 2012

Go here to download the entire Fluxblog 10th Anniversary Spectacular at Housing Works from Monday night in podcast form, featuring me, Matthew Perpetua, Emily Gould, Heather D’Angelo from Au Revoir Simone, Mark Richardson from Pitchfork, Amy Rose Spiegel from Rookie, Amanda Petrusich, Dick Valentine from the Electric Six, and Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone talking about songs we love. It sounds terrific, arguably even better than how it sounded live, and it sounded pretty great live. Don’t miss the mix of all the songs we talked about, also available for download at the link — it works alarmingly well as a mix in and of itself.

Talking about The Dark Knight Rises on television

July 26, 2012

Here I am on CBS New York’s local news channel WLNY’s morning show Live from the Couch, talking about The Dark Knight Rises with Cinema Blend’s Katey Rich and hosts Carolina Bermudez and John Elliott last Friday. It was a tough morning, so I’m grateful to the hosts for their thoughtful, sensitive, and nonsensationalistic questions, and to both them and Katey, an old hand at this, for putting me at ease. Hope you dig it.

Music Time

July 25, 2012

Recently I wrote about “Voodoo-U” by Lords of Acid and “Born Slippy .NUXX” by Underworld for my tumblr about music and coolness, Cool Practice.

(I used to call all fast-paced electronic dance music “techno” — was that a common thing, like how all non-punks used to refer to all punk and post-punk people by shouting “DEVO!” at them?)

Carnival of souls: Fluxb10g, Comic-Con wrap-up, Grant Morrison leaves superheroes, House of Style, more

July 24, 2012

* Double congratulations to Matthew Perpetua, my favorite music critic, for his new gig as music editor at Buzzfeed and for his wonderfully well done Fluxblog anniversary show last night. I had a marvelous time, photo evidence of which is available below. Click here to download a playlist consisting of all the songs that Matthew and the guests (Emily Gould, Heather, D’Angelo, Mark Richardson, Amy Rose Spiegel, me, Amanda Petrusich, Dick Valentine, and Rob Sheffield) talked about; mine was “Leaving Hope” by Nine Inch Nails.

* Please read my friend Tom Spurgeon’s extraordinary essay about nearly dying, then losing over 200 pounds. Please read my friend Bill Magee’s extraordinary essay about getting mugged for the fourth time, then remaining a kind person. I hate that they both went through what they went through, but look what they did with it. Also, Tom will be serializing a book-length version of his epochal “Comics Made Me Fat” essay on his website, which is wonderful news if you like personal writing from the best comics critic alive.

* Grant Morrison says that he’s down to his final four superhero comics projects before leaving the genre for the foreseeable future: Action Comics, which he’ll stay on through issue #16; Batman Incorporated, which he’ll wrap up with issue #12; Multiversity, the forthcoming eight-issue miniseries; and an unknown Wonder Woman project. In this interview with my pal Kiel Phegley (part one of three) he also talks about Happy!, his four-issue miniseries with Darick Robertson at Image, and about Image Comics’ position in the industry as a sort of standard-bearer for a certain kind of creator-owned comic.

* Related: DC is postponing the release of Batman Incorporated #3 due to violent imagery it feels would resonate inappropriately with the Aurora shootings.

* Back to Tom Spurgeon: His San Diego Comic-Con reporting was second to none, especially but by no means exclusively in terms of covering the actual comics portion of the con in addition to the Comic-Con Experience. Here’s his final overview; here’s his roundup of the big news. It does a body good to hear that the crowd popped for Los Bros Hernandez, giants among men that they are.

* Digital Tales Designed to Thrizzle by Michael Kupperman! Great choice for their digital-comics launch by Fantagraphics — that books is very accessible to altcomedy audiences.

* I’m really going to miss Jessica Campbell, the newly departed PR honcho for Drawn and Quarterly. Easy to work with and easy to talk to at cons. But based on her exit interview with Tom Spurgeon it sounds like she’s got good plans, so it’s hard to begrudge her from escaping comics’ gravitational well. Also, her farewell San Diego photo parade is one of the best I’ve seen; here’s her pic of Spurge emceeing the Two Minutes Hate portion of the Eisner Awards program.

* Frank Santoro presents Comics Workbook, a new group blog featuring Frank, L. Nichols, Brandon Soderberg, Mickey Zacchilli, Chuck Forsman, Andrew White, Sophie Yanow and various other notables. An early highlight: this post by Dorothy Berry about connecting with Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy as a twentysomething the same way she connected with Enid Coleslaw from Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World in her teens:

The emotional transition from relating to the detailed inner life of Enid to the monochromatic punnery of Nancy is analogous to the transition from listening to an entire Bright Eyes album to just needing to hear the Beach Boys sing “Sometimes I feel very sad.”

* This week in astonishing Michael DeForge Ant Comic pages I’ve decided are homages to specific works I enjoy even though they probably aren’t: that grid fight from Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow? Related: Lose #4 in September!

* Oh look, it’s the cover for Renee French’s Bjornstrand.

* And here’s the cover for its fellow PictureBox limited-release artcomic, Frank Santoro’s Pompeii. There’s something almost D’Aulaires about it.

* Eleanor Davis’s comics have been bracingly bleak lately. Hell, they’ve been lately, which is exciting right there.

* Have I mentioned that Gabrielle Bell is doing her July Diary again?

* Have I mentioned that Strangeways: The Thirsty by Matt Maxwell, Gervasio, and Jok is very pretty?

* Whoa, Simon Hanselmann’s working really blue in this Megg and Mogg strip. Blue enough to make me say “whoa.” Less so in this one. Much less so in this one. They are all so lushly colored. Where’d this guy come from?

* Kali Ciesemier’s illustration for an article about the increasing “sexiness” of women athletes’ uniforms is itself increasingly sexy. Unpack that, why don’t you.

* Jonny Negron, Jonny Negron, Jonny Negron. I often don’t even comment on Jonny’s stuff, I just post it and let it speak for itself, but I feel like his color work is radically underappreciated, including by me. Look at that green water.

* Speaking of water, Julia Gfrörer’s new Black Is the Color cover is the most solid-looking thing she’s ever drawn.

* Robert Boyd on the music of Love and Rockets. (The comic, not the Bauhaus side project.) (Via Tom Spurgeon.)

* I feel deeply, personally vindicated that Dan Bejar from Destroyer shares my love for Avalon by Roxy Music.

* Despite the usual undercooked lyrics, this Kreayshawn video is endearing and fascinating for three main reasons: 1) the sound of the song is like “What if we took one of those obnoxious sing-songy Avril Lavigne/Ashlee Simpson brat-pop songs we used to do and gave it to someone who was actually gleefully obnoxious?”; 2) Holy cow, she’s lovely; 3) I suspect the vividly colored, ersatz 3D visuals, in which typically inanimate elements are animated, were designed to simulate Ambien hallucinations.

* Three cheers for the Darkness’s new album cover. Very glad they/he are getting it going again; their second album is hugely underrated as songwriting — it starts super strong. Oh yeah, that link has the studio version of them covering “Street Spirit” by Radiohead.


* Oh look, it’s page after page after page of videos, photos, and miniature essays about Cindy Crawford-era MTV House of Style. It’s not even nostalgia, it’s as close as we’ll get to physically rupturing the timestream and encountering the vividly remembered past. Cindy Forever.

Reminder: STC vs. Fluxblog @ Housing Works tomorrow

July 22, 2012

Come celebrate the 10th anniversary of Matthew Perpetua’s mighty Fluxblog, the very first mp3 blog, at Fluxblog Live: 10 Years of Perfect Tunes at Housing Works (126 Crosby St.) in Manhattan tomorrow night, Monday, July 23, at 7pm. Matthew, Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone, Emily Gould, Mark Richardson from Pitchfork, Heather D’Angelo from Au Revoir Simone, Dick Valentine from Electric Six, Amanda Petrusich, Amy Rose from Rookie, and I will each be playing and talking about a song from the past ten years, Fluxblog-style. I’m told there will also be free t-shirts on a first-come first-served basis. I would like to see you there!

“14 Dead, 50 wounded at Batman Screening in Colorado (developing)”

July 20, 2012

That’s the headline I saw right before I left my house to appear on live television to talk about The Dark Knight Rises this morning. As the segment concluded I said that Batman represents the fantasy that one man can have a meaningful effect on random violence of this sort, and that the presence of the character in our culture can be reassuring. I was amazed to hear this come out of my mouth, since I do not at all believe the line that superheroes are our way of telling ourselves how much better we can be. And yet I know what I said to be true. When I was in college, a friend of mine was murdered. I’m exaggerating even as I type: She and I were friendly, but what she really was was the estranged ex-best friend of my then-current best friend, so to the extent that I thought or talked much about her before the night she was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant who is still at large today, those thoughts and words were negative. This didn’t help make her murder any easier to take. I don’t know if it made it harder. I know it made it weirder. How do you process the meaninglessness of murder in the face of the petty personal gripes and grievances it renders even more meaningless? For reasons I couldn’t articulate then, one of the ways to process it was to read The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and escape into the fantasy world of a man with a gaping wound for a psyche, who closes that wound by beating the world around it into the shape of the hole. After I read it I gave my treasured, dog-eared, beat-up copy — the one I was given as a gift in sixth grade by the one kid in my class who was already listening to PiL and getting blowjobs from eighth graders, the one he’d stolen from his older brother and been impressed with as he read it while taking a dump — to my friend, with an inscription I can’t remember other than that it positioned the book as a psychic pain reliever for what she was feeling. I still believe that to be true, as I believed it then; in neither case do or did I believe it because I think Batman is an inspiring example of hope to be emulated. The Batman fantasy is comforting because it is a fantasy. Reading about him or watching movies about him is a pleasant way of being reminded that the idea of a single man putting the world to rights is the stuff of movies and comic books, the stuff of make-believe. The real world has no Batman and never will. It will always be this way. Only when you let go of the hope that it can be something else can you come to terms with what it is rather than dashing your mind against the rocks of what it can never be.

STC vs. TDKR on TV

July 19, 2012

It looks like I’ll be on WLNY TV’s morning show here in the NYC area (channel 10/55–it’s now a CBS affiliate) tomorrow morning, sometime between 7:15-8am, to talk about The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll be using MY BANE VOICE!

The Dark Knight Rises thoughts

July 19, 2012

SPOILER ALERT in the basic tonal, “what did I think of it,” “I liked this storyline and that character” kind of way. I’m not blowing any secrets or anything.

My favorite thing about The Dark Knight Rises was Bane’s voice. That’s not a joke. It’s not a backhanded compliment, given that TDKR is my favorite of the three Christopher Nolan Batman movies. (Not the highest bar to clear, admittedly, but still.) No, Bane’s voice is legitimately wonderful. Theatrical, grandiose, mocking, filled with evil good cheer, ending every sentence on AN UP NOTE! As a friend of mine put it, since Tom Hardy’s mouth is obscure for the duration of the film by Bane’s mouthpiece mask, it’s entirely possible all his dialogue was ADR’d by Brian Blessed. It’s an over-the-top supervillainish delight from start to finish. I’m going to start using it EVERY DAY! I’m going to order VEGETARIAN BURRITOS THIS WAY!

Take this flash of joyous weirdness as a sign that in The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan has almost entirely jettisoned the flaws that marred, well, every other Christopher Nolan movie I’ve seen. There are no massive, gaping holes in the plot: The doomsday weapon makes sense, the tasks each player takes up on the road to the climax make sense, the reasons people are or aren’t able to do certain things throughout the course of the film make sense. The character motivations are rock solid as well: For once, Batman’s professed goals and his methods line up, the more superfluous elements of the villain’s plan are adequately explained and justified, and you’re never once required to swallow outrageous out-of-character behavior by anyone in service of the needs of the story. Nor are you ever suddenly required to invest a ton of your dramatic interest into someone you actually don’t care about — no random MTA employees narrating the path of the doomsday device, no boatfuls of commuters and criminals upon whom the climax rests, no making us pretend to think Harvey Dent is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Best of all, the tedious, dorm-room-bullshit-session dueling speeches about morality and the nature of heroism are gone. The villains are motivated by fanaticism and, even better for a superhero vs. supervillain story, straight-up revenge. The heroes are heroes because they try to stop people from murdering other people. There’s no need to gussy it up any further than that.

Everyone looks and sounds great, too. Bane especially: Tom Hardy is a gorilla, he’s got a fabulous winter coat, and jesus I really couldn’t oversell that voice if I tried. Christian Bale looks like he’s been running a 101-degree fever for five years. Anne Hathaway looks like the perfected T-1000 to the Kristen Stewart/Krysten Ritter prototype models, and her Catwoman’s wit, competence, and mission-to-mission, fight-to-fight success ratio make her basically the Batman you kinda wish you’d had throughout the whole series. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s weirdly-prominent-but-okay-I’ll-roll-with-it young cop is just so handsome in his dress blues and detective suit I could die. I love the way Gary Oldman wears that mustache. There’s funny cameo after funny cameo, including two that brought down the house (one unintentionally, I think); my favorite was Officer Jack Bass.

Would you believe there’s inventively, coherently staged action, too? The opening sequence involving an airplane was astonishingly loud and intense, the kind of thing that will send too-young children bawling and screaming from the theater, but it’s perfect if you’re the kind of adult who’d kind of like to see what powerful, well-trained human monsters would do in a crazily dangerous environment like that. There’s a brief Batman attack seen from the POV of his victim that made me laugh out loud, it was such a good idea. As I said, Catwoman’s fights are some Bourne-level shit. The terrorist attacks are Stockhausen-style works of death-art. All of the car/motorcycle/etc. chases are vastly more spatially coherent than the truck sequence from The Dark Knight, and therefore gripping enough that they don’t require the presence of Heath Ledger and a bazooka to get over.

Do I have quibbles? Oh boy, do I. It remains really bizarre how little agency Batman has vs. the other heroic characters—it’s his name on the building, after all. We’ve never really gotten the sense that he’s actually unusually good at any given aspect of his job; we see lots of people who are better at each of them (detective work, fighting, technology, inspiring people, etc.) While it’s reductive and mistaken to look at Bane as an anti-Occupy allegory — his populist rhetoric is a transparent, acknowledge sham, and more than that it’s a mixture of Occupy anti-1% stuff and Dubya Bush “not conquerors but liberators” schtick — it’s still the case that, in the wake of how American law enforcement violently cracked down on Occupy from coast to coast, there’s something preposterously reactionary about scenes where an army of fully armed policemen charge screaming and guns-blazing into a crowd of civilians, and this is presented as heroic. Even when we “know” on an intellectual level that the civilians are almost all Bane goons and freed gangsters, it’s the image that matters. (That’s to say nothing of the way the film presents a working-class revolution going straight to looting and kangaroo courts, do not pass go, do not collect $200.) The shift in quality between IMAX and non-IMAX scenes was distracting at times, though Nolan’s genuinely gorgeous and immersive cityscape shots — one after another after another — were worth it. Hans Zimmer simultaneously overscored and underscored the thing, his melody-free horns and strings a constant, blaring mosquito buzz in the ear. There were two boy-soprano music cues too many.

But nothing made me roll my eyes or want to leave, which is more than I can say, again, for any other Christopher Nolan movie I’ve seen. It was solid, (can’t believe I’m about to say this) unpretentious fun. I was entertained for the entire two hours and forty minutes. BANE VOICE!

Comics Time: Batman: Earth One

July 19, 2012

Batman: Earth One

Geoff Johns, writer
Gary Frank, artist
DC, July 2012
144 pages, hardcover
Buy it from

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

Carnival of souls: Special “San Diego Days 4&5” edition

July 16, 2012

* Here’s a link to all of my #losbros30 posts in honor of Love and Rockets‘ 30th Anniversary. I had a lot of fun with these, and I think I got at elements of the series I hadn’t suitably tackled in the past; I could probably do a full month’s worth of them.

* Related: Chris Mautner on six of his favorite moments from Love and Rockets. I’m a huge fan of those first four. The demon dog is a real sleeper, and the Ofelia sequence…that’s a towering achievement, that one.

* Actual Love and Rockets news: Love and Rockets: New Stories is the inaugural title in Fantagraphics’ digital distribution deal with monopoly digital comics whatchamacallit comiXology. I had a conversation with a friend over lunch about how much he wanted digital Love and Rockets literally hours before this announcement was made, and I don’t guess he’s at all alone.

* That announcement was made by Tom Spurgeon, who just kept breaking major alternative comics publishing news left and right all show long. He rounded things out with a pair of PictureBox projects: So Long, Silver Screen by Blutch, the acclaimed and influential French cartoonist’s North American debut, designed by David Mazzucchelli; and The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame, the first English-language collection by Japanese gay bondage erotica cartoonist Gengoroh Tagame (whom you may remember as one of my co-contributors in Thickness #3; you definitely remember him if you’ve read the book), created with the help of an array of big names — designed by Tagame megafan Chip Kidd, produced and translated by Anne Ishii, with an introduction by Edmund White. For a publisher who wasn’t even at San Diego, PictureBox sure dominated the news.

* Be sure not to miss Spurge’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday floor reports, too. He paints an interesting if unfinished picture of how the need to secure your trip to Comic-Con months in advance may have done away with a kind of attendee-customer who’s bigger on generalized enthusiasm for the art form and cash to spend on it than she is on the kind of specific fannish zeal of which the show is now the exclusive province.

* All of these people were better at comics than Jaime Hernandez last year, apparently. Seriously though, congratulations to my friend Tom for his well-deserved Eisner Award win, and to comics as a whole for voting hugely important archivist, editor, and historian Bill Blackbeard into the Hall of Fame.

* Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead #100 is the bestselling comic in seventeen years, apparently. By that one means that it’s the best-initially-ordered-by-retailers comic in seventeen years. Caveats galore for interpreting this as a victory for original work owned by its creators — there was a massive variant-cover gimmick, there’s the TV bump, Kirkman’s facing a lawsuit from the book’s original artist Tony Moore, Kirkman now runs a work-for-hire shop of his own, etc etc — but it’s not not a victory for such things, I don’t think. It’s certainly a victory for Kim Thompson’s “More Crap Is What We Need” theory, and I’m not saying that pejoratively.

* Peter Jackson is making it sound like he may make a third film out of the Hobbit-adjacent material from the Lord of the Rings appendices, with which he already fleshed The Hobbit out from one movie to two. I totally understand and enjoy the initial doubling of the project, since it’s mostly just going to show us the stuff that one of the main characters of the story, Gandalf, is off doing when he’s not with the other main characters. But to come up with a whole third film independent of The Hobbit proper’s narrative framework…I don’t know, at that point you’re writing fanfic, basically, even if it’s fanfic based on canonical sources.

* In other news…

* I missed this for some reason, and shame on me: The End of the Fucking World cartoonist Chuck Forsman has launched a subscription service for his Oily Comics imprint, whereby a $30 or $50 subscription will get you either three or six months’ work of minicomics from a lineup including Forsman, Melissa Mendes, Max De Radigués, Jessica Campbell, Dane E. Martin, Andy Burkholder, Aaron Cockle, and probably more by the sound of it — on the order of a comic or more per week. That’s a terrific deal if you really like these artists and can take a flyer on sight-unseen minis. Forsman talks a bit about the initial line-up over at The Comics Journal — it’s cool to see Drawn and Quarterly PR stalwart Jessica Campbell releasing comics of her own, for example, and Andy Burkholder is a real talent.

* Wow, this is the platonic ideal of a cover for Ron Régé Jr.’s The Cartoon Utopia from Fantagraphics.

* An extra-long, extra-NSFW Uno Moralez image/gif gallery. This is a very good one.

* Taste the rainbow with Jonny Negron.

* Michael DeForge’s Ant Comic — do I have to get used to calling it Ant Colony now? — is terrific.

* Here’s a tight, thoughtful piece by the Comics Grid’s Jonathan Evans on how translation is depicted in Guy Delisle’s travelogue Shenzhen.

Your Love and Rockets 30th Anniversary thought of the day

July 15, 2012

Gilbert and Jaime are both masters of the form of comics. That’s in addition to their character work, their sheer illustrative chops, and so on; indeed it may be the most exciting thing about them. In the case of both brothers I’ve spent a long time chewing over just a few handfuls of panels, unpacking what went into them. Here’s Gilbert’s silent, six-panel comic “Heroin,” one of three one-page shorts he made with that title. It’s just a man against one of Beto’s soon-to-be-trademark dismal nowherescapes, clutching his arm, doubling over, standing back up, hunching over again. We don’t know who he is or where he is or what he’s doing or what its connection is, specifically, to the titular substance — he could be a junkie on the nod, sure, but then why is he also Richard Nixon (or maybe it’s Bob Hope)? Whether it’s about the drug specifically or addictive, destructive influences generally (as are the other two “Heroin” strips) doesn’t really matter, since the effect stems almost entirely from the building blocks of the comic itself: the man, the background, the grid layout, the lack of any text save the title, the rhythm that builds up as we watch his body contort, the three big blocks of black in each panel (trees, man, buildings), the hands pointing in opposite directions, the diagonal hill line bisecting each panel. Every element combines to convey discomfort and unease, the sense of being at the mercy of something that lets you straighten out just long enough for it to be crushing when it knocks you back down. Long before I’d actually read any comics by Los Bros I saw this page reproduced in an issue of The Comics Journal and it has worked its way into the fabric of my comics brain ever since. It occurred to me just the other day that I’ve even done a homage to it without realizing it. I think it’s a perfect comic.

And here’s two panels from “In the Valley of the Polar Bears” by Jaime. Maggie’s been working as the kayfabe “accountant” for her wrestling-champ aunt Vicki, something of a terror in and out of the ring, but the two are barely speaking. Vicki has just confided in her wrestler boyfriend Cash that the reason she’s been treating Maggie so badly is because she cares about her a lot and is hurt by Maggie’s seeming indifference in return. So here, Cash approaches Maggie to tell her about her aunt’s secret soft spot — and then blam, next panel, it’s already been told. Jaime doesn’t show us the conversation. He doesn’t slap a big “Five minutes later…” caption up there. He doesn’t alter the size of the panels or the gutters to imply the passage of time. He doesn’t cut to another scene in between. He doesn’t show Maggie and Cash in another location so that we’d know time must have passed for them to get from place to place. He zooms in a bit but other than that they’re even in the same basic spatial configuration. He pretty much breaks every rule of how jumps in time are conveyed in comics, and yet it’s still crystal clear what happened. Talk about no-fat storytelling. Why belabor the re-presentation of information we readers already have? And why monkey with shit to explain what you’re not showing us when you can simply not show it to us and assume we’re smart enough to follow? These two panels are so bold, so full of lessons in how to tell a story with comics. I think about them all the time.

Love and Rockets, the great serial comic by Gilbert, Jaime, and sometimes Mario Hernandez, is celebrating its 30th anniversary at the San Diego Comic-Con International this week. Inspired by Tom Spurgeon, this week-long, daily series of posts will highlight some of my favorite things about Los Bros Hernandez and their comics. For more information, click here.

“Breaking Bad” thoughts, Season Five, Episode One: “Live Free or Die”

July 15, 2012

For my review of the season premiere of Breaking Bad, please visit Rolling Stone. I’m as happy with this as I’ve been with anything I wrote for RS; I got a chance to say some stuff about the show overall that I’d been thinking about for a while. Hope you dig it.

Your Love and Rockets 30th Anniversary thought of the day

July 14, 2012

Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez have each been telling the stories of the same group of characters, continuously, for three decades. They’ve done lots of other stuff, Gilbert especially, but that’s the bulk of what they’ve done. No one else in comics has done it. No one’s even come close. Could someone else do it? Could someone else tell the life story of their characters, over an actual life span, and have a lot of people care passionately about where those lives end up? I won’t say it’s unimaginable, the idea of someone else doing it, because there are enough similar cases out there for you to imagine those other people doing it, and it’s only then that the gulf between Los Bros and everyone else becomes so clear. What if Bryan Lee O’Malley just kept going with Scott Pilgrim until he hit Vol. 30? What if Dave Sim had never lost his mind? What if all the B.P.R.D. spinoffs were written and drawn by Mike Mignola? What if Achewood were a comic book and Chris Onstad never burned out on it? What if Erik Larsen’s main touchstone for Savage Dragon were Márquez rather than Kirby? What if The Walking Dead were filled with Rick-level characters, instead of Rick and a bunch of other people for Rick to react to? What if Alison Bechdel made a series of Dykes to Watch Out For graphic novels instead of memoirs? What if Harvey Pekar had made stories up instead of writing them down? What if all of these things lasted for thirty years? And oh yeah, what if all of these people had siblings doing the exact same thing at the same time under the same title? It’s only when you see all the hoops one would have to jump through even to come close to what Beto and Xaime have accomplished that you really appreciate that hey, they’re the ones who built the hoops.

Love and Rockets, the great serial comic by Gilbert, Jaime, and sometimes Mario Hernandez, is celebrating its 30th anniversary at the San Diego Comic-Con International this week. Inspired by Tom Spurgeon, this week-long, daily series of posts will highlight some of my favorite things about Los Bros Hernandez and their comics. For more information, click here.