It's all over the Internet!


*Oh! Oh I think I too shall talk about Grant Morrison now! Huh!

*Innovation Dept: Brian Cronin of Comics Should Be Good has a particularly interesting edition of his lovely Comic Book Urban Legends feature up, in that it covers an ‘urban legend’ that just recently came into being. I’m sure you’ve heard some of the discussion as to the cheesecake factor of the Seven Soldiers book Bulleteer, and how it relates to the themes the book means to present; I personally feel that the non-stop barrage of visual sexualization means to push the reader, perhaps uncomfortably, into something resembling the pervert husband character’s point of view, bolstering his lustful outlook via art whilst detailing the consequences of his pursuits through the story. There’s more at work too; for example, the husband picks up on flaws in his wife’s human beauty that the reader is never allowed to see, which illustrates the depth of his fetish. I thought it was a very smart use of penciler Yanick Paquette’s often, ah, boisterous style.

Some didn’t entirely agree, however, and I noticed a few comments left on a few blogs suggesting that Morrison had not intended quite so much sexualization to leak into book’s visuals, that Paquette was acting largely on his own initiative. I don’t think this entirely matters as per the final book anyway - even if Morrison didn’t explicitly delineate each and every instance of unveiled flesh, he did construct a premise that would prove to be unusually responsive to Paquette’s personal style apart from the details. Brian, as evidenced by his postings on the matter, agrees. But the extent of Morrison's direct involvement remain an interesting thing to ponder nevertheless, so Brian decided to take a very simple step that a lot of sites often won’t (or can’t):

He had the question addressed to Paquette himself, as well as his studiomates.

The consensus appears to be that Morrison quite explicitly provided the level of dress (or lack thereof) that the lead character was supposed to exhibit throughout the issue. Only once did Paquette decide to amp up the skin on his own volition. Granted, this doesn’t cover everything (ho ho); there’s an awful lot of leaning over and arching of the back and such on the part of the lead character, things that are often left up to the art team to hash out. But again, see mine and Brian’s comments about the expectations inherent to selecting a particular artist (and by all accounts, Morrison specifically requested Paquette for the book) to work with a script, and how a premise can be tailored to benefit from such an arrangement even apart from a high degree of direct control by the writer.

So anyway, very nice post by Brian.

*And now, to compliment all the Morrison that's floating around -

Tomorrow Stories Special #1 (of 2)

The first of two 64-page giants meant to commemorate the continued winding up of the ABC universe. And don’t mistake me - there’s no ads in this book whatsoever save for the back cover and the cover interiors, so it’s actually 64 pages of new (well, not entirely… but I’ll get to that later) stories, 40 of them written by Alan Moore. It all goes a ways toward justifying the whopping $6.99 price tag, and maybe it’s all worth it in the end. Maybe.

In this way, this book is a nice evocation of Tomorrow Stories itself: lasting for twelve issues, and always sort of an odd duck of the comics landscape, the title offered Moore the opportunity to write four short stories per issue, the material picked from a pool of five character/artist pairings (with the occasional fill-in, most memorably Dame Darcy). And most of them were funny, which made the series all the odder: an honest-to-god ongoing humor book from one of the more respected writers around. The series grew prone to delays, it didn’t sell very well, and it was ultimately eclipsed by Moore’s adventure-based continuing narrative books in the same line, but I loved the damn thing on the whole (never was a fan of The First American, though). And this special offers more of what you loved. There’s no sense of ‘wrap-up,’ not yet at least - it’s basically an extra-long issue of Tomorrow Stories, for better or worse. And Moore doesn’t write everything, though the stuff he does write is easily the best, and worth reading.

Take Jack B. Quick (art by Kevin Nowlan): this was probably the most popular of the Tomorrow Stories features, concerning an energetic, perky and utterly malevolent young Midwestern boy who’d use his awful genius to construct fantastical, ill-fated, yet eminently logical inventions. It was pretty much the perfect vehicle for Moore’s wit at the time, and so it remains here. At 16 pages, this is probably the longest Jack B. Quick story ever, but despite its length it remains amazingly funny throughout, with utterly superb dialogue (I can’t choose a best line, though it’s either “Dad, there’s no time to lose! I’ve decided to recklessly usurp God’s divine option again!” or “May Gol durn you to heckfire, young Quick!”). The plot involves Jack building an artificially intelligent being out of a scarecrow, a wheelbarrow, a supermarket adding machine and a selection of pre-recorded messages. Naturally, humanity is quickly subjugated under the boot (wheel, actually) of this horrific entity, and only Jack can save the world. Nowlan’s art is as deadpan as ever, weighty and detailed as any ‘serious’ genre piece, which makes the often absurd sight gags all the funnier. Honestly, this story is so good it’ll just make you depressed, seeing as how it’s probably the last Jack B. Quick story ever. Went out on top, though.

There’s also a Splash Brannigan tale (art by Hilary Barta). It’s also vintage Moore (though the casual reader might be forgiven for only being 98% percent sure as to who the writer is, since somebody thought it’d be an awesome idea to credit the writer as simply ‘Moore,’ even though there’s also a Steve Moore writing stuff in this book - and the credits on the Wildstorm website are certainly no help), loaded with wordplay as Splash, a porous, shape-shifting investigator a la Plastic Man, makes his way through a noir parody. Very text-heavy, but very funny, and Barta’s lovely art is evocative as ever of the EC-era Mad aesthetic of Will Elder and Wally Wood. Less funny, as expected, is Greyshirt (art by Rick Veitch), though it’s good to see the design play of prior exploits return. This one’s an extended homage to Will Eisner, who provided much of the inspiration for the character; as Moore mentions in Bob Andelman’s recent book Will Eisner: A Spirited Life (review coming soon), Greyshirt was meant to continue in the adventurous spirit of Eisner rather than acting as a simple homage - thus, this Eisner tribute is set up like a ‘primer’ (one of those “A is for… B is for…” books for toddlers) with Moore basically providing an extended poem and Veitch illustrating each ‘letter’ of the piece. When put together, Veitch’s illustrations also form a little story of their own. Sweet and heartfelt.

Thing get a little troublesome without (Alan) Moore at the helm, which maybe explains the sluggish output of ABC without him - it’s tough to maintain the level of quality needed to follow the Magus. Steve Moore gives it his best with a Jonni Future story, though it’s technically a Johnny Future thing, following the time-traveling travails of Jonni’s predecessor. Jonni was never part of Tomorrow Stories - she debuted in ABC’s other anthology series, Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, always written by (Steve) Moore and originally illustrated by Art Adams. Here we have Cameron Stewart of Seaguy and Guardian stepping in on the visuals, and it’s a fitting style, enhanced by Randy Mayor’s often stark colors. There’s a high contrast feel to the piece, lending Moore’s simple chronology-twisting plot a bit more impact than it otherwise might have, and a peculiar whiff of the ominous to boot. Apparently the story is going to continue next issue, probably from a different perspective.

And speaking of perspectives - I suppose it’s just a nasty trick of scheduling that this book and the recent ABC: A-Z #2 arrived within one week of each other, but I don’t think any amount of time could have salvaged the remaining story in this book, the Cobweb saga (art by Melinda Gebbie). Remember how much I liked the Cobweb-centered pin-up calendar thing in last week’s book? I thought it was the best thing in the issue. I still feel that way, but I didn’t like it nearly enough to want to hear the same story again. And I’m not joking around - the Cobweb short here, for 11 or 12 of its 16 pages, is exactly the same story as presented in last week’s book, only now in sequential format rather than as prose accompanying full-page illustrations. I mean, even a bunch of the jokes are directly reused. Was one of these scripts written a long time before the other? Is this some sort of ill-fated attempt at a multi-title formal experiment (and if it is, it really doesn‘t work - it only feels painfully repetitious)? Is nobody behind the wheel at ABC anymore in matters of editorial oversight or scheduling (or posting credits to the Wildstorm website)? All I know is that I liked this stuff a lot better the first time, and (Steve) Moore’s jokes were a lot better in prose form. I remain pleased with Gebbie’s visuals (and I suspect I’m in the minority with that), a plastic ‘50s romance look here, but this just feels like a waste of time.

But that’s not true for the whole book, just like it wasn’t true for Tomorrow Stories in general. Not everything in every issue was a hit, but whatever I liked I usually liked enough that I felt almost every issue was something of a success. And I feel the same for this, the power of the good (especially that killer Jack B. Quick) making up for the weaker bits. Seven bucks is an awful lot, even for 64 pages, but I didn’t feel like sadly leafing through my wallet after I was finished, and I think some of these stories are totally worth looking through.