Posts Tagged ‘movies’
(via Lisa Hanawalt)
I’m excited to announce that I’ve made my debut at Wired, writing about recent developments in Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham’s Batman Incorporated #8. I tried to place the event in the context of Morrison’s run, and Morrison’s run in the context of the other things going on both with him and with Batman and DC Comics in recent years. Thanks to Laura Hudson for the opportunity.
On a whim I started watching Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 viral-epidemic disaster film Contagion at midnight last night. I can’t say that’s a great idea: It kept me up way past my bedtime, and when you’re a tired father pretty much the last thing you want to see when staying up past your bedtime is the grayfaced corpse of a little boy in his pajamas, which is something you see within this film’s first, I don’t know, ten minutes. Keep repeating, “It’s only a movie…it’s only a movie…”
It’s very much a movie, in fact, a nice little disaster picture of modest ambition and tight execution. The Soderberghian excesses that Traffic trained me to look for were there: fathers freaking out about their blonde daughters risking their health by having sex, technocrats discovering their souls when It Happens To Them, sentimentalized poors, overscoring. But Soderbergh’s primary ambition is twofold: to make a movie out of that amazing chapter in The Stand that follows the virus from hand to hand and object to object across the country, and then to pull the world back from the brink of apocalypse. I admire a movie that has such specific goals and trims away so much fat in their pursuit.
Soderbergh uses his repertory company of very famous actors to strong effect, killing some pretty blondes for that Psycho effect and thus training us to wait for the deaths of all the main characters, many of which then fail to come. He leaves a lot of loose ends like that: one character collates interviews for a report we never see, another exits safety for danger and we never see that what happens when they arrive, another takes a grave but secret personal risk and we never know if they pay for it. There’s a portentous off-screen character we never meet, there’s a sweet and sappy resolution for a young character the architect of which never gets to witness, there’s a Devlin MacGregor-style megacorporation dog that doesn’t really ever bite, and on and on. The handoffs between storylines happen so quickly and are edited with such aplomb that the loose ends feel like deliberate signal-sending: This isn’t where the story ends, it’s just where it stops. By looping back to the very very beginning in the film’s final scene, Contagion even not-so-subtly suggests that it could start again at any moment. Thus the grim watch-the-car-crash catharsis of a good apocalypse flick and the triumph-over-nature catharsis of a good disaster flick are welded together inseparably, leaving you turning the thing over and over in your mind, trying to find the right angle to determine what it is you just watched. It’s a neat little trick in a neat little movie.
* It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Tom Spurgeon has begun his annual series of lengthy holiday interviews with comics luminaries, with Alison Bechdel kicking things off. I’ll probably get less enjoyment out of these this year than previously because I just haven’t read as many comics this year as I used to do, but I’m telling you, curling up with my in-laws’ dogs and sinking into the couch with the Comics Reporter Holiday Interview series on my laptop is one of life’s great pleasures.
* Liv Siddall’s essay on Chris Ware and Tavi Gevinson’s interview with Ware himself, both for Rookie, are both very good, but more importantly they both come with the most life-affirming comments sections you’ve ever seen on anything involving comics. Just a slew of kids saying “Wow, this sounds great, I’ve gotta check it out, thanks.” Gevinson uses her power to rep hard for the High Alt comics makers, and she does it well, and I’m glad.
* You can look at this lengthy post by Grant Morrison on the history of his feud with Alan Moore and think “good for him, sticking up for himself” or “yikes for him, living in this headspace.” A bad thing to do would be to troll the detractors or supporters of the writer of your choice with it — even at their crankiest and crank-iest, these guys have earned better than that.
* Big comics interviews I’m saving for later: Tim Hodler talks to Tom Kaczynski, Alex Dueben talks to Charles Burns, Tim Hodler and Dan Nadel and Frank Santoro talk to Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez.
* Speaking of Frank the Tank, he’s an Eisner judge this year, so I think it’s safe to say the days of Jaime shutouts are over.
* Christopher Tolkien’s disgust for Lord of the Rings licensed products, including the movies, is a depressing fact of life for those of us who’ve enjoyed both his father’s life work (which also became his own) and the work derived from it.
* The television critic Alan Sepinwall recently self-published a book called The Revolution Was Televised, outlining the New Golden Age of TV Drama with a chapter apiece on twelve landmark shows: Oz, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The Shield, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Friday Night Lights. I’ve been reading Sepinwall on and off for years and years now — he more or less invented weekly reviewing and he’s a central figure in the TV-critic back-and-forth I follow on twitter and in the field’s seemingly countless podcasts and such — so there’s something of a local-boy-makes-good element to the book getting a rave review from Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times before she put it on her top 10 list for the year. Anyway, here Sepinwall talks about the books to one of my favorite TV critics, Willa Paskin.
* Lots and lots of people wrote lots and lots of words attacking or defending Homeland season two, but my podcasting pal Stefan Sasse bucked the trend and took some shots at Homeland season one instead.
* I quite liked Jessica Hopper’s interview with Grimes, who made one of the year’s best records and who emerges here as a forcefully thoughtful presence.
* The oral history trend has clearly reached its baroque period, where instead of culture-defining/altering movements or mega-masterpieces, they’re now about the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones or Interpol’s first album. That’s a wonderful use of the form if you ask me.
* How embarrassing was Richard Cohen’s column decrying the physical fitness of Daniel Craig’s James Bond as some sort of affront to the masculinity of book-readin’ types like Richard Cohen? I’ve had a coworker walk in on me while I was using the restroom in the altogether and I still found this thing more mortifying.
* If you were wondering when the next time Michael DeForge would level up was gonna be, you’ve got your answer: “First Year Healthy.”
* Jonny Negron has — ha, like I even need to say anything at this point. Like I don’t put Jonny Negron art in every linkblogging post I do. It occurs to me that what Jonny does is invest “cool” imagery with the sense of mysterious and sinister don’t-try-this-at-home-kids intimidation it held for me as a kid. As alluring as these people are I’d be afraid to walk into a room where they were hanging out. For what it’s worth I think his last couple months of work are much more strongly erotic than anything he’s done in a while, but that could just be me. And look at the skintone on this one! LOOK AT IT
* Big new Gilbert Hernandez books coming in the new year: Julio’s Day! Marble Season! A now-completed collection of work he serialized during Love & Rockets‘ second volume and a pseudoautobiography, these could send him in the direction of critical and audience reappraisal that the outré sex and violence of his recent comics have denied him.
* I’m super-excited to purchase Magical Neon Sexuality by Kevin Fanning, though I’m waiting until I’m flush with Christmas cash. Fanning is the genius, the literal genius, behind The Cold Inclusive, which is sort of like magic realism only it’s sex with celebrities instead of angel wings and shit and which is one of my favorite things I ever saw on the Internet. I gather this book is in that vein. I realized today that Fanning’s stories are a big unconscious influence on me in that Drake comic I did with Andrew White and two or three other things I’m working on now.
* Kevin Mutch has begun serializing a slightly recolored version of his Xeric-winning graphic novel Fantastic Life online. I liked that book a lot — it’s kind of like a lo-fi X’d Out.
* Eleanor Davis made a comic about her friends skinning a fox and it’s brutal and beautiful. Go through the last month or so of her blog, because Davis is on fire right now the way, say, Gabrielle Bell was two summers ago.
* Sally Madden’s book about working at Philadelphia’s gross, awesome medical-oddity showcase the Mutter Museum, Gray Is Not a Color, has maybe the best cover of the year. Herb Alpert’s throne of skulls grows taller by the day, I’m told.
* New Cindy & Biscuit by my man Dan White! Some publisher with a solid and adventurous kids’ comics program should snap this up, for real.
* This comic by Benjamin’s fellow Collective Stench member Tom Toye seems to vibrate off the page.
* If you didn’t like the liberties Peter Jackson took with The Hobbit, then man oh man are you going to have complaints about Josh Simmons’s commissioned portrait of the Witch-King of the Nazgul.
* Guy Davis fanart for Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit? Sure, I’ll eat it.
* Zak Smith asks and answers the question: “Why is this picture so good?” (It’s by Adrian Smith.)
* Uno Moralez’s first image/gif gallery in a long time is also the scariest one in a much longer time.
* I don’t know of any rationale for keeping a nonviolent offender who’s not a risk to himself or others in literally torturous solitary confinement like the Obama administration did to the Army’s Wikileaks whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning, I just don’t. Who does?
* This Glenn Greenwald piece on the horror of Newtown as reflected in the drone and bombing deaths of Pakistani and Yemeni children at American hands (or Palestinians at Israeli hands, and let me warn you the photo that leads that link is enormously upsetting) is literally the most important thing to think about in the world right now. It is so vital for us to see that all lives are of equal value, and to understand that the mass death of children caused by the American military/intelligence apparatus abroad is just as devastating and horrifying to their loved ones, and to the conscience of the universe, as the mass death of children caused by maniacs here at home. Once you make this connection you can never unmake it, which is why it’s so important to make it. This has in one way or another been the topic of almost everything I’ve written this year. It’s never far from my mind, ever.
* Fittingly finally, David Chase explains the end of The Sopranos. None of the above?
I wrote a quick-and-dirty guide to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for Rolling Stone. Between the source material, the adaptation process, the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, the new 48fps 3D technology, the expansion into a new trilogy, and just generally trying to make a good movie, there’s a ton of stuff going on when you watch this thing, and this piece was my attempt to make sense of it all for everyone before they hit the theater—what to watch for and pay attention to and ignore.
The movie is awesome, by the way. Lord of the Rings Season Two. Anyone who tells you otherwise hates joy. Does anybody remember laughter?
* The Bunk is in this movie. Yes, from The Wire. He has a scene as a P.I. and fixer for the vampire who used to be a Confederate soldier.
* The guy who played the “bing bang bong” annoying catchphrase incompetent teenage forensic examiner who turned into a serial killer and ruined the show on SVU is in this movie. He plays Dracula, who is gay and an albino.
* Lee Pace from Tumblr and Mirkwood is in this movie. He plays a vampire who fought in the American Revolution (on the American side, this time). He is scruffy and edgy. Many of the vampires have special powers; when my wife asked me what his was supposed to be I said “Sexiness.”
* Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are in this movie, as contractually required. They could not look or sound more miserable about it. Whatever the truth about their offscreen romantic relationship, they so clearly do not enjoy making these movies anymore, and it’s not like their joy radiated from the screen to begin with. The result is an almost magnetic anti-chemistry anytime they’re required to act sexy or romantic toward one another. Here are two very attractive people (well, I’ll take your word for it on RPatz, whose at this point I can’t see without seeing a million parodies of how he looks, but KStew is a Top 10 Pleasant to Look At Human Beings Worldwide entrant) who we know have fucked in real life, but you put them together and each of them looks like they’ve been forced into close proximity with a person whose 24-hour stomach virus they’re trying to avoid catching.
* That said, their sex scene was marvelously shot and surprisingly hot for a PG-13 flick geared toward tweens and their parents. Obviously they can’t show any nudity or have too much grunting and panting and moaning and gasping (that’s what On the Road is for), so what they did is stitch the scene together from all but abstracted close-ups of hands and mouths making contact with bare skin. It didn’t quite overcome the follow-up pillow-talk scene where they unconvincingly talk about how they plan to be so disgustingly sexual with one another at all times that the rest of their vampire family will have to stay away from them for a decade, but in the moment it worked.
* By contrast, the third wheel in the triangle, or whatever, Taylor Lautner, seemed happy to be there as always. I’m not sure I would, if my part required me to be a werewolf who falls in love with a baby, which is what happens. So yeah, if you’re going to hold abysmal stupidity against a film, then yes, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is a bad movie in that there are almost no words to describe how idiotic and repulsive and braindead it is to have a werewolf fall in love with a baby. But blame the truly demented sexual politics of Stephenie Meyer, not Lautner, who sorta sells it as yet another weird thing about his biology he has to come to terms with and explain to others on top of the whole “turning into a giant wolf sometimes” bit. It doesn’t work, but he tries.
* He also makes the most out of his character’s admirably direct method of convincing Kristen Stewart’s character Bella’s dad that the supernatural exists: telling him he’s about to show him something weird, then stripping down to his underpants and transforming into a giant wolf in the guy’s backyard. The scene’s meant to read like an over-the-top spoof of coming out and propositioning a guy, doubly so because the guy has a Village People cop mustache and Lautner pings one’s gaydar like that one scene in Aliens where all of a sudden they’re in the crawlspace above the ceiling. I’ll be honest: If I were the dad and suddenly Lautner’s ridiculous physique were all up in my face, I’d consider it.
* Michael Sheen plays the main evil vampire. Michael Sheen is a hero, a legend. It’s as though all the fun the series’ leads should have been having got stored up, poured into a syringe, and injected into his aorta. He chews scenery until chunks of it spray from his mouth like the Cookie Monster. At one point he laughs like Truman Capote doing an impression of Woody Woodpecker. He kills a major character, holds up his severed head, and smiles in the most “U MAD?” gif-able way imaginable. He makes the movie, even the series. I want him to take tea with Tom Hardy’s Bane.
* I’m not going to spoil it, but the twist ending is so fucking shameless in how it forces the audience to discount pivotal and even devastating information it had recently received that it races right past “cheating” and “cop-out” and blasts off into “I’ve really gotta fucking hand it to you, Breaking Dawn – Part 2” territory. Audacious doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’d heard about it before hand, because with this series who cares about spoilers, and assumed I’d hate the whole film because of it, but it’s so crazy that I sat there like Bobby Baccala gazing at Junior Soprano: “I’m in awe of you.”
* Hearing an audience of low-level Twihards (we saw it the day after Thanksgiving) react with total shock and dismay to the run-up to the ending was wondrous and life-affirming, and I don’t mean that in terms of schadenfreude at all. This film moved and stunned and horrified them when they didn’t expect it. That’s a great thing to be able to do, and to see happen from the outside.
* The aftermath of the twist couldn’t be more open about its real goal if the studio head wandered out on camera holding up a sign reading “STEPHENIE, PLEASE WRITE SOME SEQUELS.”
* The opening credits, lovely lovely time-lapse macro photography of roses and blood and ice crystals and so on, were better than the comparable, much-lauded Skyfall opening credits. They segued nicely into a strong depiction of what vampires’ enhanced senses feel like, too — in other words they smartly saved the need to literally represent or tie into the story until after they were over.
* No Anna Kendrick.
* That Mike guy’s been funny too, but he’s not in it either.
* The closing credits show all the main characters from all five movies. They show the redheaded vampire that they recast with Bryce Dallas Howard twice, once for each actress.
* There’s a scene in which two of the other prominent werewolves are gathered at a little Christmas party at Bella’s dad’s house, and instead of re-hiring the actors who played them previously, the film just took extras and sat them with their backs to us and gave them no lines but had the other characters speak to them.
* In order to keep Bella and Edward’s rapidly aging vampire-human hybrid child consistent with the child actress who plays her at her oldest, the baby/toddler/young child versions have superimposed CGI faces. Again, if you’re going to hold abysmal stupidity against a film, I can hardly stop you here.
* There are multiple vampires from the Amazon basin who show up in the snowy Pacific northwest in their loincloths and stay that way for the duration. There’s a little trio of vampires from Ireland who look like they came from a Hallmark Channel movie about Ireland. The vampire ladies from Egypt are very pretty. Dakota Fanning is very pretty.
* The big battle happens because the good vampires know the bad vampires, who’ve mistaken their vampire-human hybrid daughter for a child they’ve illegally turned into a vampire, wouldn’t listen if they tried to explain the truth. Based on that assumption, the bulk of the movie happens: gathering allies, training to use their powers, the final confrontation itself. Guess what the bad vampires do the moment they show up and the good vampires try to explain the truth? Here’s a hint: They listen. Oh, shoot, that was the answer.
* There’s a genuinely horrifying flashback sequence in which a blood-covered vampire child is snatched from the body-strewn ruins of the medieval town he just destroyed, his sobbing vampire mother is killed in front of him, her body is lit on fire, and he’s unceremoniously tossed into the flames. He’s like five years old. It’s like Tyler Durden spliced in that one scene from Hostel Part 2 all of a sudden.
* Here’s what I thought of Twilight and New Moon and Eclipse; I didn’t write about Breaking Dawn – Part 1 because it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, all but unwatchable even with help from RiffTrax. In that movie a superstrong vampire fetus pulverizes Bella’s spine and guttyworks from within, so Edward has to perform an emergency c-section by tearing through her superstrong placenta with his teeth. There’s also a getting-ready-for-sex montage that shows Bella brushing her teeth, and a “no sex please we’re cross-species lovers” montage in which they sit around wasting time and being bored in different ways. Abysmal stupidity opponents, you know the drill.
* This movie, though? The series’ one true camp classic, the one where you could watch it independent of a packed theater and actually have fun with the good-badness of it. We left the theater amazed to be glad to have seen it.
Hey, I went to the movies! Second time this year! I miss it.
* Skyfall was good. I enjoyed it. I don’t understand the contention that it’s the best Bond movie ever. I’ve seen very few Bond movies but I can tell you that I enjoyed GoldenEye and Casino Royale and very probably Quantum of Solace more at the times I saw them in the theater than I enjoyed Skyfall yesterday.
* It reminded me an awful lot of the experience of watching The Avengers, which was the last time I actually went to a movie theater and bought a ticket and watched a movie, in that it was a good time overall with strong action sequences punctuating long boring stretches. Now, Skyfall‘s long boring stretches weren’t nearly as long or as boring as The Avengers. This movie’s non-battle character interactions were actually capable of making me laugh more than twice, and it was more accomplished as filmmaking on nearly every conceivable level, up to and including simply giving you lovely things to look at as often as it could, even when what was going on was otherwise a bit on the dull side, so in fact “boring” may be overstating the case. But yes, same overall pattern.
* The dullness was particularly dull in the long first third of the movie, following the opening sequence in which Bond appears to have fallen to his death. Since it’s unlikely that the rest of the film was going to play out in flashback, we knew he was still alive; since it’s a James Bond movie, we knew he’d be back on the job. Everything that led up to his resurrection and reinstatement, therefore, was just playing out the clock. You can get away with an awful lot when you have a set of strong, visually magnetic actors being all authoritative at one another, but that’s only papering over the lack of dramatic drive during this section.
* Kind of felt like a James Bond-fronted Christopher Nolan Batman movie cover band, didn’t? Numerous plot points and even specific mechanics and images were ported nearly wholesale from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. I don’t know enough about the film’s production history to tell if this was deliberate or a coincidence, and frankly don’t care enough to go look it up, but man was it striking. Javier Bardem playing the Joker made it all the more so. So did the identical “he let himself be captured” scenes, the calm supervillain in the isolated jail cell, two students of the same master, etc etc etc.
* What was up with the Evil Homosexual vibes from Silva in that one scene, by the way? I almost couldn’t believe my ears and eyes, it was so flagrant and anachronistic. Sure, it gave the movie a chance to imply that Bond has had homosexual experiences too, but that’s not really enough, is it. Also hinky: We’re not to think any less of M for handing Silva over to be tortured to death. It’s on him for not understanding!
* I’ve spent a lot of time giving everything from the Nolan Batman movies to Homeland the business for their ludicrous plot holes, so I’d like to point out to everyone that I’m not going to say a word about any of that here. The reason why is because this is a James Bond movie, and even if it’s in the more serious Daniel Craig mode, and even if fancy-pants director Sam Mendes is in charge, no one here has any delusions about what that means. Contrast it with Homeland, allegedly conceived as a sort of penance for its creators’ stint writing terrorists as supervillains and torturers as hard-man heroes on 24 yet increasingly driven by supervillainy and soap-operatic sloppiness itself; or with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which despite the marvelous villain performances and skyline photography in its final two installments spent so much time cultivating itself as an “adult” take on the superhero genre that it did nothing to enrich its inch-deep dorm-room philosophizing and a titular protagonist who’s frequently incidental to the advancement and resolution of the action. Live by Serious Business, die by Serious Business. This movie never did, to its great credit, and so there’s no need to put the boot in for how all of Silva’s fake/rogue cops know exactly which subway station he’ll be fleeing into and out of at every moment.
* What a pretty, painterly film! Again, the fact that it’s a James Bond movie cuts against the pretension of, say, having not one but two explicit homages to Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. I haven’t seen a Sam Mendes film in a long long time, deliberately, but I must say I’m impressed by his use of all those lovely lovely rectangles of imagery. Bond overlooking the London skyline, the Romantic/Byronic Wanderer in the urban wilderness. Bond bound, his back to us, framed by row upon row of jerry-rigged computer mainframes. Bond in the mouth of the dragon. The Bond Girl forced to live out the William Tell routine against a backdrop of crumbled totalitarian sculpture. Fighting in silhouette against a backdrop of LED signage. You never knew what the next juicy morsel of eye candy would be, and that helped propel you through the slow spots. The use of silhouettes in particular also helped compensate for what I assume was Mendes’s inexperience in shooting action, not that you’d necessarily know it from watching the shootout in the hearing room or the opening motorcycle chase or the showdown at Skyfall.
* Komodo dragons! I love love love that they didn’t limit Bond’s “you gotta be kidding me” look to a single shot — he kept looking at the thing incredulously for several seconds, even when busy getting flipped upside-down by his opponent.
* Ben Whishaw as Q: They’re casting roles in blockbuster franchises directly for Tumblr at this point, aren’t they?
* Extremely good-looking people are almost like aliens. Daniel Craig as Bond is one of the most iconic examples of ugly-pretty’s male division since Jagger; the man wears a suit impossibly well, and hell, the movie was basically built around how he looks much older than he is. Clever of them to leave that just-graying stubble intact for so much of the movie as well. And Berenice Marlohe as his ill-fated entry point into Silva’s world — when they’re having that conversation in the casino, her features were so perfectly, oddly symmetrical and striking she seemed like a special effect. Which of course is how Bond Girls are employed, historically, but seeing the two of them together like that really brought it home.
* Her beauty is less unusual or otherworldly, but I also thought this was the best I’ve ever seen Naomie Harris look. Making Moneypenny a genuine peer of Bond’s does a lot to right the ship.
* I didn’t feel at all cheated by the climactic battle sequence, which is almost unheard of in the major franchises these days. With the possible exception of the out-of-nowhere sudden paramount importance of Bond’s gamekeeper, which I didn’t mind because it was Albert Finney with a beard and a shotgun, everything was properly weighted from a dramatic perspective as well as cohesive and coherent and intelligible as action. Nice work, gang.
* Silva pretty much won, right? He killed M. He died not knowing it, though, and I suppose that’s what matters.
* How nice to watch a big action movie in which details of framing, editing, and sound design matter. Proper superspy storytelling requires its leads to be aware of the people on their periphery, the sounds beneath the sounds, the corner you’ll turn two corners from now; proper superspy filmmaking requires the same, and the deft touch necessary to nudge the audience in the direction its characters are headed, just a couple paces behind. Simple things like Bond asking Séverine about her “friends,” and then oh look, a couple of goons are standing out-of-focus over her shoulder in the distance — so deeply pleasurable to me. Bond is nothing if not a cinema of pleasure.
* PS: This is as good an excuse as any to direct you to my review of the three Matt Damon Bourne movies and the previous two Daniel Craig Bond movies, probably my single favorite piece of film writing I’ve done for this blog. Hope you dig it.
* It’s wonderful that we’ve had going on two solid weeks of non-stop Chris Ware Building Stories talk on the comics internet, though it’s also sad that I haven’t participated in any of it because I haven’t had the time to read the book yet. (I know, I know, be the change you want to see in the comics internet, but it’s a lot easier in terms of time, energy, and attention to blow through a few chapters of an inconsequential Secret Avengers arc and suchlike in dribs and drabs over the course of a couple weeks than to sit down and work your way through a 14-chapter box set by your absolute favorite cartoonist.) Stuff I’ll certainly be checking in on once I’ve done my due diligence: The Comics Journal’s massive series of Building Stories essays; Joe McCulloch’s suggested reading order for the “book”‘s 14 individual volumes; Joe McCulloch, Chris Mautner, Tucker Stone, and Matt Seneca’s podcast about the book; and Douglas Wolk’s review for The New York Times.
* A judge just handed the family of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster a major defeat in their battle to reclaim the character’s copyrights from DC Comics and Warner Bros. It’s an ugly situation where a 1992 agreement made in large part for Shuster’s sister to receive an annual pension which in today’s dollars amounts to less than an assistant editor makes in exchange for her claims to a billion-dollar character that gave birth to an entire genre of fiction is now being used against her. Read the link above for the best explanation of what happened, then read Tom Spurgeon for impassioned analysis. As Tom always points out, DC/WB’s treatment of the Superman creators and their heirs is a choice, one they make anew every day, and one they could reverse whenever they wanted to. Individual people have decided they don’t want to.
* Ben Katchor’s satires of late capitalist society for Metropolis are merciless. Fun fact: He’s got a collection of these strips called Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories coming out in February 2013! That’s gonna be a beast.
* The AV Club talks to Los Bros Hernandez at length. I love hearing them talk about how they spurred one another to improve in the early Love and Rockets issues.
* Matt Fraction looks back on his fine tenure on Invincible Iron Man, which is just about to wrap up. That’s one of the best superhero runs of the past half-decade.
* I came up with the topic for Tom Spurgeon’s latest Five for Friday reader-participation feature: Name five female comics-makers and their best male characters.
* Mostly music critic Brandon Soderberg interviews the great horror comics creator Josh Simmons. No one goes as far out as he does.
* Mostly music critic Tom Ewing reviews Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, the other big recent comics-related book release I haven’t read yet.
* Haw, Benjamin Marra made a trashy funny-animal comic called Ripper & Friends! This oughta be a hoot.
* One of the best things about Matthew Perpetua’s BuzzFeed Music is that you get a lot more Matthew Perpetua music writing. Here he is on two wonderful albums of recent vintage, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! and Bat for Lashes’ The Haunted Man. These both make for excellent late-October listens, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, though I’m more in an emotional place for the former, which features a 20-minute instrumental metal epic named after a Bosnian Serb war criminal, than the latter, the key lyrics of which include “Thank God I’m alive” and “Where you see a wall, I see a door.”
* Also on BuzzFeed Music: Jayson Greene’s harrowing essay about being ceaselessly bullied. As a newish parent this shit really gets to me now, more even than as a former bullying victim. I get to toss my daughter into this maw? Fucking terrific.
* Katherine St. Asaph digs deep into the rise and apparent fall of “Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen, whose album Kiss is Kylie/Robyn-level delightful but not selling.
* I’m with Noz on the quasi-parody rap critic Big Ghostfase. The schtick is overwritten, more than a little condescending, and ultimately unrewarding.
* The best horror writing you’ll find this Halloween month comes from Matt Maxwell’s bite-sized posts on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which are all illustrated by absolutely gorgeous screenshots. Here’s one of them.
* Someone played The Shining from front to back and back to front simultaneously and claims the overlaps are meaningful. They’re meaningful only by coincidence, but they’re beautiful coincidences.
* Plenty of good writing on last weekend’s terrific Homeland episode out there, if you’re in the market for it: Willa Paskin, Alyssa Rosenberg, Matt Zoller Seitz (he and I are really in sync on this season), Alyssa Rosenberg again.
* Vulture’s Gwynne Watkins profiles Elio García and Linda Antonsson from Westeros.org. Those two mean the world to me and I just love this profile.
* Mark Bowden writes very well about how the military-intelligence apparatus tracks down and kills enemies of the state — this was true in his absurdly engrossing Killing Pablo, about the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, and it’s true in this lengthy Vanity Fair excerpt/adaptation of his new book about the death of Osama Bin Laden. That said, if you believe the bubbemeise offered up here that Barack Obama wanted to capture Bin Laden and try him in court, but the Navy SEALs called an audible on the ground, established a “shoot all adult males on sight” protocol all on their own, and plugged a wounded and unarmed Bin Laden in the head where lay despite the entire national security team’s express wishes to the contrary, I’ve got a fucking bridge to sell you.
* The justification of America’s drone-strike policy offered by TIME columnist Joe Klein as discussed in this Glenn Greenwald post is so soul-deadeningly horrifying, so sick even by the degraded standards of America’s normal discourse on this issue, that I thought it bore special mention.
KLEIN: “I completely disagree with you… . It has been remarkably successful” —
SCARBOROUGH: “at killing people” —
KLEIN: “At decimating bad people, taking out a lot of bad people – and saving Americans lives as well, because our troops don’t have to do this … You don’t need pilots any more because you do it with a joystick in California.”
SCARBOROUGH: “This is offensive to me, though. Because you do it with a joystick in California – and it seems so antiseptic – it seems so clean – and yet you have 4-year-old girls being blown to bits because we have a policy that now says: “you know what? Instead of trying to go in and take the risk and get the terrorists out of hiding in a Karachi suburb, we’re just going to blow up everyone around them. This is what bothers me… . We don’t detain people any more: we kill them, and we kill everyone around them… . I hate to sound like a Code Pink guy here. I’m telling you this quote ‘collateral damage’ – it seems so clean with a joystick from California – this is going to cause the US problems in the future.”
KLEIN: “If it is misused, and there is a really major possibility of abuse if you have the wrong people running the government. But: the bottom line in the end is - whose 4-year-old get killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”
Tribalism at its most repellent; a willful rejection of empathy for other human beings, even children, with cruelty so casual it’s astonishing to behold.
* Klein should be quite excited to learn of the Obama Administration’s “disposition matrix,” a codification and systematization of pervasive surveillance and extrajudicial killing, conducted in secret and intended to become a permanent fixture of the executive branch. The object of power is power. Won’t it be fun to vote for these people anyway, because this election is like choosing between cancer and a less aggressive form of cancer?
* In happier news, I still like Beyoncé.
* The 2012 Ignatz Award nominees have been announced. Insofar as Jaime Hernandez’s work in Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is recognized adequately, or even at all, this cements the Ignatz as the United States’ best comics awards slate. Psyched to see SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki get a nod, too.
* Major comics creators’-rights lawsuit news: Tony Moore is seeking co-authorship of The Walking Dead in federal court, referring to his former collaborator Robert Kirkman as “a proud liar and fraudster who freely admits that he has no qualms about misrepresenting material facts in order to consummate business transactions”; and the federal judge providing over the Shuster/DC Superman lawsuit has canceled a coming hearing in order to proceed directly to ruling on the case without first hearing oral arguments.
* Portland-area residents in particular may wish to contribute to the Kickstarter for The Projects, a new model for a comic con based around actually making and displaying work at the show rather than just selling it.
* Obviously I’ve been waist deep in Breaking Bad for weeks now; the better pieces I’ve seen on it include Alyssa Rosenberg’s review of this past week’s episode and essay on the issue of Skyler White, emotional abuse, and culpability, and Maureen Ryan’s hour-long podcast interview with Vince Gilligan, who as always seems like just about the nicest, most unassuming, most candid a showrunner can get.
* This news has been out and about for a while in various forms, but it’s official: Secret Acres will be debuting The Understanding Monster Book One by Theo Ellsworth at this year’s must-attend SPX.
* But did we know that Aidan Koch’s The Blonde Woman would be collected and released in September 2012, or is that new news?
* Alright, a new Cindy & Biscuit strip by my collaborator Dan White!
* One of my favorite music writers on one of my favorite bands: Tom Ewing reviews the Roxy Music Complete Studio Recordings box set. I think it’s just about dead on in every particular: the choice to emphasize and celebrate Ferry right up front, holding up Avalon as at least the equal of even the best of the first five records, rightly locating Manifesto and especially Flesh + Blood as first drafts for the subsequent masterpiece, and especially calling attention to the tracks where the full band “reach full steam.” Seriously, Roxy could really tear the shit out of a song when that was what they were going for — for pure power, on tracks like “Editions of You” or “Mother of Pearl” or “Out of the Blue” or the almighty “Virginia Plain” they could go toe to toe with just about anyone.
* Sheesh — this Mark Richardson piece on being terrified out of his wits as a kid by The Elephant Man proves, if there was any doubt, that Mark Richardson is really good at writing about David Lynch. He should seriously consider going full monomania about it.
* Zach Baron’s Grantland piece on Matt Damon’s Bourne trilogy and its Jeremy Renner-starring follow-up The Bourne Legacy is thoroughly fine; this passage is particularly fine.
In The Bourne Identity, director Doug Liman drew on his dad’s experience prosecuting Oliver North in the wake of Iran-Contra to make a film, only one year after 9/11, that is still one of the best and most thoughtful visions of Americans abroad in this century — Damon’s Bourne was a man in a foreign country with a gun in his hand and no idea how it got there. The Robert Ludlum source novels, Gilroy once said, “were about running to airports.” But Liman, with Gilroy’s help, made a movie about lost identity: an action film in which killing is the symptom of the problem, rather than the solution to it.
It’s also worth noting his take on Renner’s performances in Dahmer, The Hurt Locker, and The Avengers, even if you disagree with it. (For what it’s worth, my review of the Matt Damon Bourne movies and the Daniel Craig Bond movies is one of my favorite bits of film writing I ever did.)
* Tom Spurgeon had a big 50th birthday blowout for Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man the other day; highlights include Spurgeon’s 16-point meditation on Amazing Spider-Man #1-150 and Kiel Phegley on Spider-Man’s cultural ubiquity.
* Captain America by Rick Remender, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White: a character I like written by a writer I like, pencilled by a penciller I like, inked by an inker I like, and colored by a colorist I like, but man is the plot a departure from the Ed Brubaker material that made the Joe Simon/Jack Kirby character work as well as, if not better than, he’s ever worked before.
* Kali Ciesemier’s take on Josie Packard for the Damn Fine Coffee Twin Peaks zine is reliably beautiful.
* Why not take a look at a Ross Campbell drawing of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fighting some Mousers?
* Lingerie Witches: some dumb fun smut from Simon Hanselmann.
* I’m glad the video for A$AP Rocky’s “Purple Kisses” came out on the same day I put up that picture of Jonny Negron’s new book.
* Finally, we’ve gotten some terrific Destructor fanart from Aviv Iscovitz and Jordan Shiveley. We’re always up for more.
Carnival of souls: The greatest comics photo of all time, Pope Hats, Tippi Hedren, Best American Comics, underground comics in 2012, David Lynch, Wreckhall Abbey, moreWednesday, August 8th, 2012
* Behold: the greatest photo in the history of comics. Top row, from left: Gary Panter, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Phoebe Gloeckner, Ivan Brunetti, Seth, Danniel Clowes, Alison Bechdel, Gary Lieb, Justin Green, Chris Ware, Robert Crumb, Ben Katchor. Bottom row, from left: Joe Sacco, Françoise Mouly, Art Spiegelman, Hillary Chute, Lynda Barry, Carol Tyler, Charles Burns. Photographer: Jason Smith.
* Pope Hats #3 by Ethan Rilly, coming soon from AdHouse! That book will burn up the alt-comics festival circuit this fall, that’s for sure. The first two were lovely, and good reads.
* I’m not sure why this hasn’t been a bigger deal — I was pretty sure this was one of Hollywood’s great mysteries for decades now — but Tippi Hedren says Alfred Hitchcock tried to blackmail her into sex and smothered her career when she refused him
* Matt Madden, Jessica Able, and Françoise Mouly have released the table of contents for this year’s Best American Comics. Some strong work in there, including excerpts Joyce Farmer’s Special Exits, Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions, Sammy Harkham’s Crickets, and Jaime Hernandez’s “The Love Bunglers.” That last inclusion gives me another opportunity for an smh moment regarding the lack of major comics awards consideration given that work, a failure of judgment that borders on scandal. Oh well, looking forward to the Ignatz sweep.
* Here’s a short but impressive list of like-minded alt/art/underground comics anthologies currently operating, as recommended by Leah Wishnia, editor of the likeminded Happiness Comix effort. One thing that the contretemps over Dan Nadel’s anti-SP7 editorial brought to light for me is — well, it’s actually two things. The first is that the community of (mostly) young cartoonists making resolutely uncommercial comments is growing much faster than I can keep up with. To be honest I’d long flattered myself with the idea that I was keeping nearly all this stuff on my radar, but there’s so much I’m missing, so much I don’t even know I’m missing. I doubt that as a critic I’m on their radar, either, although who knows. The second thing spins out of that last sentence: I don’t think any critics are working this beat with any regularity. Maybe Rob Clough, since he reviews everything? Maybe someone I don’t know I’m missing either? But as best I can tell, aside from certain breakout talents I don’t think this cohort has critical champions or interlocutors. Which could explain some of the anger directed at Dan when he said he had no idea what “underground comics” means in 2012, ’cause these folks do, I’d guess. Anyway, I think that if a generation of cartoonists comes of age without criticism, that will have an effect on both cartooning and criticism.
* “Where You Are King” is an impressively icky comic by Ian Sundahl for Study Group. The lettering is tremendous.
* Domitille Collardey’s new webcomic Wreckhall Abbey is indeed very new, but it’s the kind of comic that makes you nod your head and go “yep, there it is” — the moment a cartoonist finds the project her interests and talents were tailor-made to create. It appears to be a boarding-school strip in the vein of Jillian Tamaki’s excellent Supermutant Magic Academy; I think the internet’s plenty big enough for both. The layout seems super-considered and labor-intensive, too. Well done.
* I liked this Mark Richardson piece on associating the work of David Lynch with his own real-life brushes with fear and violence. This is an underdiscussed characteristic of Lynch’s work, his ability to accurately convey the sensation of proximity to violence that renders you powerless, and the terror of that. It’s usually overlooked in favor of the stuff to which the adjective Lynchian is more often applied — narrative ruptures, surreal horror, little people doing weird things and so on — but it’s absolutely a core element of his work, and one I’ve seen enough people bring up when discussing trauma from their own lives to know I’m not alone in detecting. You’d be hard pressed to find a better depiction of the impact of losing a classmate than the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, for example, or a better depiction of the psychic toll of sexual violence than Fire Walk with Me. Lynch’s “supervillain” characters, for lack of a better term, get the attention, but they really exist so that we can personalize the trauma in a way large and frightening enough to be commensurate with the size and impact of that trauma.
* Oh look, it’s Jessica Paré/Megan Draper from Mad Men singing “Just Like Honey” and “Sometimes Always” with the Jesus and Mary Chain, because I’m now Franklin Richards and can bend reality to my will, apparently.
What do you think of this, ’90s high-school drama-club goth Christina Hendricks?
* Drop what you’re doing and download Matthew Perpetua’s 8-disc Fluxblog 2008 Survey Mix. Ooftah, the first half of disc 2.
* Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit is now a trilogy. Whoever tells me this and expects me to complain, he understands nothing about Sean, nothing.
* The Secret Acres hivemind weighs on in the Comics Journal/Kickstarter/SP7 fight in high Secret Acres thinkpost style, while Dan Nadel clarifies a couple of his points from the middle of what’s either the best-timed or worst-timed internet hiatus in comics history.
* Another day, another enormously dispiriting interview with Grant Morrison about (among other things) the legal issues surrounding Superman and Watchmen. This one sees Morrison go full Barkley, saying “I’m not a role model” while not-so-subtly mocking Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons for the shitty contract they signed in “hey, I got mine” fashion, in addition to positioning his own refusal to stick up for Siegel & Shuster in any way besides celebrating their artistic accomplishments as a noble refusal to treat them like victims. Yeah, it’s a bummer alright, especially coming from a guy who argues that superheroes are contemporary mankind’s greatest and most inspiring artistic exemplars. Given that his goal is for all that to rub off on the culture to which he exposes them, it’s weird that he finds it so baffling his readers would expect some of that to have rubbed off on him as well.
* A pair of fine reviews of very important collections are up at The Comics Journal: Nicole Rudick on Gloriana by Kevin Huizenga and Brandon Soderberg on The Furry Trap by Josh Simmons. “The Sunset” in the former and “Cockbone” in the latter would make a list of my top favorite short comics of all time; “The Sunset” would top it in fact.
* I’m kind of the opposite of Tom Spurgeon here: I knew Fantagraphics would be collecting the Ignatz series New Tales of Old Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez, but apparently I never said so on this blog, if my search function is to be believed.
* I’ve really been enjoying Dorothy Berry’s posts on Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy for Comics Workbook, like this one about how rare Nancy is as a fictional female child who is neither a tomboy nor a girly-girl. My daughter is young enough to still be in that limbo state where she dresses more or less like a girl because we buy girl’s clothes for her but her behavior is essentially genderless, and I can tell you that in flipping through the Nancy Is Happy collection, I see a lot of that kid in her.
* The Mindless Ones’ Bobsy gives the business to Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, a comic I did not like at all.
* Gabrielle Bell has wrapped up her July Diary series for the year. If it wasn’t quite the revelation that last year’s effort was, it still contained a freaking zombie comic, and a two-panel autobiography that just slays me.
* The Burning Brothel, a Raymond Pettibon tumblr, is a delightful resource for an increasingly influential-on-comics artist.
* Well, Arsene Schrauwen #1 by Olivier Schrauwen sure looks good.
* I think every artist should be required by law to do a series of Batman character portraits, and I will be introducing this legislation as the Bill Finger Bill. Jordan Crane caught Michael DeForge’s stab at it, which I’d never seen before and which is awesome. Who’s the smiley guy next to the Joker, though?
* I always enjoy it when Frank Santoro works a little blue.
* Jordan Crane’s been posting processy glimpses of an upcoming contribution to the next issue of the Fort Thunder-centric Monster anthology (! did we know this was on the way?) to his tumblr, and I know this’ll come as a huge surprise but it looks gorgeous.
* Jeez, C.F. makes a lot of comics.
* Real Life Horror: This is what policework in America looks like now.
I see no evidence that “rich people are very, very afraid” — at least not by their actions. And that, to me, is the problem. That fear — a lot more of it — is necessary. Their ability to rope themselves off from the society they are degrading, combined with the para-militarization of domestic police forces (aggressively displayed in response to the Occupy movement and related protests), and the rapidly increasing domestic powers of surveillance and detention (designed to intimidate the citizenry and thus deter and guard against mass protests), have convinced them, I think, that they need not fear any protest movements or social unrest, that America can and will become more and more of a police state to suppress it. An elite class that is free to operate without limits — whether limits imposed by the rule of law or fear of the responses from those harmed by their behavior — is an elite class that will plunder, degrade, and cheat at will, and act endlessly to fortify its own power.
*Attention A Song of Ice and Fire fans who’ve read all five books: This EXTREMELY SPOILERY George R.R. Martin interview is unusually informative on various obscure but fervently debated plot points.
* I am allergic to watching anything Olympics, but I understand the opening ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle and music-directed by Underworld, was quite something — basically a tribute to socialized health care, rock and roll, and children’s literature. Most of the people I know from the U.K. feel about the place the way I feel about the U.S., but those people should take comfort in knowing that it’s unimaginable, unimaginable for America to conceive of itself in terms that humanistic. Anyway the soundtrack, Isles of Wonder, is out, and though most of the big famous songs I understand were in the production don’t show up here, there’s still a whole lot of terrific Underworld music, so I’m happy.
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.
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!
* 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.
* Here’s a tight, thoughtful piece by the Comics Grid’s Jonathan Evans on how translation is depicted in Guy Delisle’s travelogue Shenzhen.