Friday, March 25, 2005

Some Greats and a Once-Great Stinker

I don't necessarily want to do a lot of straight reviews here. Blogland is as sick with comic reviews as a comic con is sick with sweat stains. But there are comics out there that are either great or terrible or just worth mentioning that may not have a whole big post's worth of material to discuss.

The past few weeks have seen a few great comics. Let's be honest, Vaughn is really on his game these days. Ex Machina was great, but this volume of Runaways has taken the fun of the first and grown it exponentially somehow. And, I'm sorry, if you can make damned Darkhawk or one of those damn Slingers things interesting, Zombie Jack Kirby should give you a medal before eating your brain. The art's better than ever, and I love that Alphona has clearly seen real people and used fashion mags as inspiration. His characters wear outfits, not just "clothes." Anyway, couldn't recommend either book more. Inventive, smart, funny, exciting, and always willing to play with genres.

Ah, Giffen JLA . . .what has become of you? After the previous well-drawn but extremely dull and labored mini-series, JLA Classified has a sequel. It's awkward for a number of reasons. Let's list them like beautiful nerds!
1. Sue Dibny, especially "Sue is pregnant" jokes. Not their fault, but boy Identity Crisis made this icky.
2. CREEEEEEPY sex jokes about an underage girl. Jesus, ENOUGH already! Sure, maybe as a school teacher I'm extra sensitive about it, but do we really need 14 year olds in bondage gear?
3. Marvel family portrayal in general. Yeah, I'm a big Marvel family nerd. Huge, really. If DC says they're teenagers now (which I think is dumb), they should be a bit more like teenagers and not cartoons if "Gee willickers. That's just me, though.
4.Guy Gardner: congratulations, yes, he's very annoying.
5. It's just not very good. It reads like a lackluster sitcom . . .some decent jokes, mostly a bunch of undecent jokes.

The genius behind the original Giffen JL run was the mix of the slice-of-life humor and the extremely driving superhero drama. These minis have sacrified the latter for the former, and now they just don't work. Awful stuff from talented people.

So I picked up that Livewires book on a whim. I've never been a fan of that Warren guy. I didn't see much point in the book. But somehow, that became a reverse selling point. "Why would this be published if it weren't pretty neat?" (That's awful logic vis a vis comics, by the way. See: 90% of the output of every company out there.) But I'll be damned if it isn't a rocket-paced book packed with more fun than I'm packed with dumb metaphors. Androids with unique functions and abilities and lots of weird, fun stuff that Warren clearly loves. Fits my earlier definition of a great comic, because I don't think anyone else would have or could have made this comic. Check this one out and tell me it's not fun.

And if you don't know that Invincible and Plastic Man are GREAT, GREAT, well-done comics then you're an idiot.


There's a lot of good comics out there. But that doesn't impress me much anymore. As I've said, I want GREAT comics. Great comics hold up under more scrutiny. There's more to them. They're more entertaining, enlightening, or both. And The Manhattan Guardian is a great comic (Shining Knight must have been, too, being only the second fantasy thing not involving me, Angelina Jolie, Nao Oikawa, and Audrey Tautou that I've ever enjoyed . . .but that's a tangent).

Now I could go on and on with a review of the book. I could talk about the cool, fun plot. I could talk about, living here, knowing the exact places in which it is taking place. I could talk about pirates, about a black hero who isn't some white-assed writer's horny dream of a gangbanger. I could talk about the number of ideas just jizzed out in the first issue.

Ideas. See, something struck me about this issue. Something felt . . .different. I re-read it, I looked up the discussions on awful message boards ["Does it erase previous continuity? If so I HATE IT drool drool drool fnyaaaa!" (it doesn't)]. But it just came together. Sitting here, with that comic on one side of my desk and an FF book on the other side.

The Manhattan Guardian is a Marvel comic. Rather, it is THE Marvel comic. To wit: Marvel comics take place in Manhattan. Marvel comics feature a flawed-but-striving hero. Much of the comic takes place in the large building in which a populist publication with stories of wild happenings and craziness are featured: it's the House of Ideas. The House of Ideas is also run by the electronic spirit of a man who created the wonders, including four elemental heroes. Stargard even LOOKS like Jack Kirby (who, of course, also created The Guardian). And forget not the most obvious tell-tale sign of Being-Created-By-Stan-And-Jack . . .an alliterative real name! Jake Jordan is everything that's good about Marvel comics, transplanted into Morrison's grand experiment in the DCU.

Oh, yeah, and it's beautifully drawn.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Comics Good For Gettin' Sexed Up

I am ashamed to admit it, but my first post here is going to be a dreaded REPRINT of an old article.

I know, I know... it's shameful.

But the truth is, I've been too depressed to write a new article. The old blog became such a shitstorm of nerdation that I lost interest. And now it just completely sucks. So I got depressed. Maybe too much so, being that in the end, it's JUST A BLOG.

But that's beside the point. It was a place where I really tried to write some funny material and make some points in an amusing way. When I left, I felt completely spent visa vi comic book commentary. I had whacked out so much good spooge over there that it seemed like I would never get a boner again.

I probably will, though. Until then, here is some CLASSIC SPOOGE:

Comics That Will Get You Laid

Comics have developed a bad rap as being the sole domain of pasty fanboys and sociallly inept outcasts. While this is true, it is altogether possible to Do Sex wih Women and still Read Comics. In fact, I have found that like fine wine, chocolate, or Rohypnol, the right comic in the right place can often help you Get in Her Pants.

First of all, you must test the grounds. Unless you are especially lucky, deluding yourself, or with a fat pig, the typical Female subject will not want to read about Men in Tights fighting crime. I know it's hard to believe, but most adult woman are not interested in the current exploits of primary colored characters created for children in the forties, fifites, and sixties. Even if Grant Morrison wrote them. (I mean, I love JLA: Classified, but as much as Gorilla Grodd eating people makes me horny, sadly, it has the opposite effect on my girlfriend.) To wit, assess your potential coital partner carefully.

Once you have determined the possibility of your partner's comic interest, it is vital that you drop the Maggie and Hopey LOVE and ROCKETS on her immediately. The subtle and perfectline work detailing Xaime's psuedo-lesbians will soften her still-weary comic edges, and the layered, masterful tale of young punk girls becoming women will say to the female in question, "The man who gave me this book is a kind, gentle man, who likes to read about women in their most sensitive and honest states." The lovely artwork (while making you hurt inside with joy and envy and shame because Mister Hernandez is such a perfect draftsman and storyteller) will remind her of the ARCHIES of her youth, and the nostalgia will melt her loins.

But it does not end there! There is a world of books to give your lady... (support your local comic shop!)

BLANKETS is a recent addition to the Get Laid Comic Library. Observe Craig Thompson at any book signing. See how the young and tasty ladies line up with doe eyes and moist panties. They all want to DO SEX. His fluid, expressive brushwork is like an India Ink Aphrodisiac. It's so smooth and supple it's almost like masturbating just looking at his strokes. And the story of a sensitive artsy type falling in innocent love with some white-hot early 90's alternative chick will be tear-jerky for any broad currently in her twenties. GOODBYE, CHUNKY RICE is also good for romance, although I'm not sure why. Be careful with that one.

Then there's more.

The INVISIBLES for the more literate, daring, scary ones. MY NEW YORK DIARY for the urban, artsy, drug-addled ones. Anything by SETH for the ones that wear J Crew. PEANUTS for the silly, nostalgic, cute ones; the ones that still like to buy toys out of vending machines and wear temporary tattoos and funny socks. They have curly hair and know all the words to CATS even though they don't really like modern musicals. HELLBOY and THE WALKING DEAD for the horror fan girls, in their black bondage pants and dyed hair. WEASEL for the ones with the glasses that have thick frames, and the hair bundled up high on their heads. They get their hoop earrings caught in long scarves and wear shell toe Adidas with ankle socks; sometimes they put their hand down the back of your jeans on the subway and then giggle and it makes you uncomfortable, but horny. Manara for the really dirty ones; they're not slutty, but they have that sexy, filthy vibe and they like vintage pin-ups and leopard print mittens. And Jim Woodring for the Grateful Dead girls with dreadlocks and wide smiles.

I could go on all night with brilliant suggestions. Because I am so smart. But it is time for bed now, so I leave you all with the comforting thought that, although this hobby has no doubt caused us much pain and loneliness through the years (ie. hopelessly trading dogeared Spidey books, against a moss covered and shadowy brick wall, around the corner from the baseball diamond where all the happy kids were at recess, age 8), if used properly, books by Peter Bagge, Dan Clowes, and Adrian Tomine can make us look like urbane, sophisticated smarty-pantses. Use them wisely, and you too can Do Sex.

Which is nice.

Because fucking is almost as fun as reading comics.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I Love You, Kyle Baker

Here's a sample, but click the link for more.

What's funny is how many negative comments I hear from idiots who haven't figured out that it's a kid's book. These are the same geniuses who don't understand that at the end of the day DC Superheroes are kiddie properties. That's why there are so many Superman pajamas at K-Mart. You'll never see an R-Rated Batman movie, because that would be financial suicide.

My 6-year-old daughter and I like to flip through the current comics and laugh at how there's no fight. We just saw a JLA comic that was literally 21 pages of Superheroes talking! Nobody used their super powers once! Martian Manhunter finally loses his temper on one page, and grabs a guy's neck, but then he decides not to strangle him, and then the JLA decide to talk some more. News Flash: Kids Can't Read Yet. They need visuals. Wonder Woman flying in her glass plane and stopping bullets with her wrists. That's the stuff they like.

Maybe I'm too demanding, but when I see a comic book about a guy named Green Arrow dressed like Robin Hood, I expect to see him SHOOT SOME ARROWS! If the book is called Superman, I want to see him do something super! How come superheroes are always crying? Sitting around talking and crying and never fighting crime, because they're too complex and conflicted? Plastic Man is about a guy who turns into things and fights crime with his super powers. It's a DC Comic for kids. Like the ones that got us all interested in comic books in the first place.

The problem is smart children don't have as much money as grown idiots, so we make the books for grown idiots who want to read about crying Martians who talk a lot.

Now excuse me, I'm going to hump my computer screen and this quote for a while.

Creator-Passion Content

Back at my old blog, I recently wrote a piece I'm fairly happy with about factors that many great comics share. I'd like to follow up on it here. Specifically, I want to talk about Creator-Passion Content. In short, it is the idea that the content of the work is something about which the creator feels passionate. This can range from genre (Frank Miller or Ed Brubaker and noir) to the kind of life that some folks stuff in their work like a delicious burrito (all the science and metaphysics Morrison tends to put in his work). I also want to talk about the dangers of going Too Far with this sort of thing.

First: genre love. Let me start off by saying genre love Isn't Enough. Sure, Miller and Brubaker pull it off with aplomb, but think of all the fanboy-cum-creators that LOVE the hell out of superheroes and then write utter Cape Crap Comics. I've no doubt that Geoff Johns loves 80s Roy Thomas books like a father (non-abusive). But that love alone hasn't saved his comics from retread boringocity. Brad Meltzer recently wrote a "love letter" to DC comics which centered around, yet never dealt with a graphic rape scene. Loving a genre is great, but it's not a free pass. You've got to bring your "A" game and be worthy of the genre you love. The man or woman you love, you don't half-ass everything with them. You try a bit harder. Same with the genre you love. A perfect example of this are the War Stories by Garth Ennis and various artists. Garth's obvious love for war comics (and cinema) infuses these books with a vitality that comes off the page and lovingly pokes your eyeballs. Ennis didn't slack either. Ennis is a great writer but when he writes a stinker, dear GOD is it foul. (One gets the feeling his "C" work is a joke at a bar we weren't around to hear.) Anyway, read these comics and I dare you not to see how great they are. Smart, crafted, human characters, and plots that punch you in the jaw. Genre love, when mixed with skill and bust-ass hard work, can make some great comics.

On the other hand, any genre can work if the creators stuff enough things they love into it. Witness, for instance, Street Angel. Did the world need another superhero comic? Before I read it, I'd have definitely said "No." But superhero comics rarely get the level of personal involvement Steet Angel has. Martial arts (and NINJAS!) mixed with some out-there sci-fi, superheroes, street life, blaxploitation cinema . . .all of this topped by some pretty art and characters with actual emotional depth. Sure, the blog world has already shat their pants over Street Angel a few times, but it's worth repeating that it's a damn good book. On a more corporate side, check out The Question by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards. Normally, The Question has just been a cool design with little to say unless filtered through his progeny Rorschach. But mix in some personal stuff from Veitch (sprituality, shamanism, chi philosophy, poetry) and FREAKING BEAUTIFUL art by Edwards and you've got a fresh voice within a corporate system mostly mired in retreads and rapes. When a good creator infuses the corporate with the personal, some magic can happen. Reminds me of an old Grant Morrison interview (I googled for a good hour before giving up on finding it). He talked about how he wished the corporate and indie comics boundries would fade. Get some autobio comics from Liefeld, I remember being a stand-out idea. But it works, folks. Check out the freshest, funnest corporate comics: they're the ones where the creators throw things from outside of comics in with reckless abandon. They're the ones that work.

But it doesn't always work. Sometimes you can overplay the personal interest card. Foremost example of this would be the Robinson/Harris Starman epic. When this book started, man, I loved it. It was fresh, fresh, fresh. A lot of this was what I was talking about above. Robinson mixed a lot of things he was personally interested in with the DCU megastory and came out with some brilliant stuff. But, as time went on, and people kept loving the personal twists, Starman became more and more navel-gazing and self-important. It took on the worst attributes of indie comics. Robinson put less emphasis on telling stories and more on blathering on about bakelite or fifties tattoos. Don't forget to tell a story, or you may as well be making a "List of Things I Like" and wiping your ass with it.

To sum up-- War Stories: great because of skill combined with genre love; The Question and Street Angel: great because of a mix of the corporate and the personal; Starman: once great but lost balance and fell into the trap of egotism.

Comics are fucking GREAT

Jesus Christ I love comic books!

They are so awesome that it hurts most of my body. It is true.

We all know there's a lot of awful shit out there. Just pure crapola. And I'm sure, from time to time, we'll talk about here.

But I want to start this new blog off by saying that comics are the bee's knees. A GREAT comic is up there with great works of any medium. When I read Seven Soldiers, The Goon, or Amazing Joy Buzzards I consider leaving my fiancee and marrying a big pile of paper. (Boy, it's a good thing she doesn't know I'm starting a new blog.)

So, yeah, here we are. Alex and I used to be at Comics Should Be Good, a grand old blog indeed. Something told us to move on and stop sullying that place with our posts. That thing was Brian Cronin. Just kidding! It was just some sort of instinct. It was time to move on.

This blog is here for us to type on. You can type on it too when we type on it and you have something to type about it. We'll be talking comics. The shit we hate, and (hopefully mostly) the shit we love. It's not going to be regular, we'll just post when we have something to say. Might be some other posters eventually, we'll see. But, the truth is, this thing is mainly so we can say what we want when we want in the way we want. If you don't find it entertaining or interesting or informative, I'd not be surprised one whit. But hopefully someone (even if it's only us) will get a kick out of the typing that we do.

So, enough of this self-aware horseshittery, let's get on with the comics talk. And always remember: Listen to US because we are RIGHT.

Your pal,