Friday link and magazine barrage.

*The transition into weekend mode marks several inevitabilities, absolutely the least among them being my latest column. Everything in there is true, though names have been changed to protect the guilty; and that radio station doesn’t really call it the Wheel of Ecstasy, although that’s what I’ve always called it.

*Speaking of Carl Barks, I’ve been reading through that book I got in the column above, and I’m never less than impressed with the guy’s gift for comedy. There’s this one story about how, though some admittedly contrived circumstances, Donald has to face the coach of a rival group of Junior Woodchuck scouts in a boxing match, so his nephews and their friends can win some stupid medal in the Inter-Duck Environs Youth Games or whatnot. Unfortunately, Donald is completely addicted to drugs.

Oh, Barks doesn’t use the names of any popular narcotics, sure: Donald is instead hooked on Gurgleurp Soda Pop, a noxious green carbonated potion. I’d compare it Coca-Cola, back in the salad days when they’d actually dump the extract of coca leaves into the mix, except for the fact that Gurgleurp appears to be a tremendous downer. Donald lays sprawled over the soda counter, dilated pupils monstrous under blinking eyes, bags borne heavily. He’s become so frail he can barely pass through a spider’s web (“What did I hit - a wall of steel cables?”). In short order, he’s going through withdrawal, hollering “Gurgleurp! Gurgleurp! I’m thirsty!” Meanwhile, his opponent is exploding through brick walls, Kool-Aid Man style, and saving obese children from bears (er, non-anthropomorphic bears that is, the evolutionary caste system of the Disney universe always being somewhat disturbing). Eventually, Donald is wheeled to the ring on a stretcher, but he winds up triumphing anyway when his opponent’s wholesome yaks’ milk (vividly described by Donald as “bleached mud”) is ‘accidentally’ replaced with the Green Dragon. The story ends with the nephews, vaguely ashamed at the outcome of this little adventure (another soul lost to the bottle, eh kids?), sitting with Donald back at the soda counter, as a horribly contented smile crosses his face, the Gurgleurp flowing free once again. Actually, the nephews are also drinking the stuff; casual use right in front of his face isn’t gonna get Unca Donald cleaned up any quicker, boys!

*Flipping through the latest “Entertainment Weekly” (#821/822), I noticed a short (very very very short) interview with Grant Morrison in the ‘Books’ section. Apparently, “Seven Soldiers” got the ‘5 Reasons We Love…’ sidebar treatment. Most fascinating is reason #5, in which writer Jeff Jensen lets us in on the secret of Morrison’s success: a long-evolving technique called… er, ‘compression’. Naturally, seasoned comics fans will take one look at this as go “Oh, it’s a response to the grossly devalued comics buzz-term ‘decompression’,” but I wonder if the author of the article (and indeed, casual readers of the magazine) mistook such industry comment as a genuine technical innovation on Morrison’s part? I blame the language; to the comics reader, ‘compression’ is charged with a unique significance, rich with recent history and aesthetic politics. To the outside reader, Morrison appears to be applying an unattached term to comics technique, when he’s really exploiting an understanding of what a pre-attached term means to comics readers. But as far as this article understands it, ‘compression’ is a term of art developed by Morrison to describe his long-evolving personal style, which has apparently just now reached maturity (take that "Flex Mentallo"!). An interesting misunderstanding, one that speaks volumes about the insularity of language among those synched up to the latest happenings in an art form, particularly one as relatively marginalized as Direct Market superhero comics.

Also, Jensen names “Guardian” as the best of the books so far, and Morrison hints that “Klarion” will play a “pivotal” role in organizing the big picture. So there’s that.

Elsewhere in the issue (the double-sized ‘Summer Preview’ issue, largely focused on music), the upcoming paperback version of Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis 2” makes the cut for ‘25 Hot Summer Titles’, as far as books go. There’s also a nice summary of seven upcoming documentaries; I really can’t wait to see “The Aristocrats”, which features 101 comedians performing the same filthy improvisation-heavy joke. Troma fans, hearty breed that they are, already saw Trey Parker perform his version of this routine in “Tales From the Crapper”. Apparently, and much to EW's surprise, Bob Saget and Gilbert Gottfried bring down the house (not immeasurably surprising; I always find Gottfried to be pretty funny, even in the crappiest of contexts, and Saget did direct the perfectly decent Norm Macdonald vehicle “Dirty Work”, and his live shows seem to be the stuff of legend). Also looking great is Werner Herzog’s latest, “Grizzly Man”, assembled mostly (entirely?) from footage shot by environmental activist Timothy Treadwell, who spent 13 summers living with bears in the wilds of Alaska, before being mauled to death in 2003. This sort of eccentric, possibly quixotic lifestyle looks to be right up Herzog’s ally, and word out of Sundance was great.

*In case you haven’t been brushing up on the comments sections of this site (and why not - they’re half the fun!), Brian Nicholson pointed me to Fantagraphics’ September solicitations, with lots of great stuff (“The Stuff of Dreams” #3 YES YES YES). Most interesting is the launch of their new ‘Ignatz’ series of books: oversized, dust-jacketed, two-color comics, 32 pages and printed on high-quality paper for $8 a shot. If you own a copy of David B.’s excellent “Babel” #1 from Drawn and Quarterly (and if you don’t… well why don’t you?!), that looks to be approximately the format they’re shooting for. Deluxe presentation is great, but at that price point (and considering that all of September’s entries appear to be serializations of longer works, suggesting that further $8 purchases will be necessary in the future), I’m only going to be getting stuff I really think I’m going to like, and I suspect that most of the Direct Market (where I expect even such bejeweled examples of the pamphlet format to largely arrive for sale) will act in much the same way. Luckily, the aforementioned Mr. B and reliable favorite Kevin Huizenga both look to be contributing in the future, and I’ve liked stuff by Francesca Ghermandi and Anders Nilsen in the past, so maybe I'll look into them too.

*And finally, Heidi MacDonald reconsiders that essay of hers from "The Comics Journal" #200 that I examined a week or so ago, evaluating her comments from eight years prior as "both right and wrong," at least in relation to Event comics and their potential for sales growth, given the current climate. Read the whole thing, even if it breaks your heart: the third printings of assorted issues of "Identity Crisis", released months after the event ended, still handily outsold nearly every non-Marvel/DC book released in the month of April. Only sixteen non-Big Two books outsold "Identity Crisis" #3 (3rd Edition); of those, only half weren't licensed from movie, video game, or toy properties. And that's not even counting all the Wildstorm and Vertigo books that IC whomped the third time around. Dear old Direct Market, where are you taking us...