Misty rain and all...

*It's Saturday? Already? Mother fuck.

*Dorian's blog is a year old today, so happy birthday! Haha, look at me acting as if any of you need a link to visit Dorian's blog. Included in the festivities is the awful truth about the comics internet: the bit about the illusion of iconoclasm in blogging was particularly potent, I think...

*Read a bunch of old comics in between going insane and not sleeping and discovering a sudden fault in the sight of my left eye (like a constant piece of black fuzz trapped inside me, flowing through my eyeball like lint through oil): issues #21-27 of "American Flagg!" which cover a scattershot back-up story by Alan Moore (this is 1985, keep in mind) which eventually takes over the entire book by the last issue. Also, I believe these issues cover creator Howard Chaykin's final stories as both writer and artist on his signature work; he'd drop down to writer only for a little while, then vanish for a bit, then do a little work on the ill-fated 12 issue "Amerikan Flagg!" follow-up series. Well, ok, that's not totally accurate: Chaykin would write and draw an "American Flagg" 'special' in 1986, but only as a means of introducing his new First Comics project, the graphic novel series "Time2"; Chaykin would later dub these books his all-time favorite works, although only that Flagg special and two proper graphic novels would ever come of it. I'll be covering this very interesting (yet barely-examined) corner of the Chaykin world pretty soon, since I've finally found a copy of the first book at a decent price, through Internet detection.

But getting back to the young writer of "Swamp Thing", I think those back-up stories are most interesting in contrasting Moore's satirical sensibility to Chakyin's, at least in 1985. Moore is still writing comedy in the way he wrote his less-serious "2000 AD" shorts: loud and broad, though filled with verbal play and an enduring love for classic comics. The art by Larry Stroman and Don Lomax (Lomax handling it solo for the last four issues) only furthers feel. Seeing such work sharing space with Chaykin's own bloody brand of snarling sarcasm, funny but glazed with grit and unblinking violence, is something of a trip. I expect that a good portion of Flagg readers may not have gotten Moore's homage to "Krazy Kat", which runs throughout his back-up (though it must be said that even Alan Goddamned Moore can't quite emulate Herriman's one-of-a-kind dialogue; actually Moore conflates Offissa Pup's style of speaking with Krazy's, which skirts the edge of katastrophe). The "Little Orphan Annie" pieces were probably easier to place given the sexual satire stance of the work, especially considering that Kurtzman and Elder's "Little Annie Fanny" was still running at the time of this story's, ah, release.

For the record, an ultra-rich 'pornocrat' who's been dubbed Daddy Fleshbucks (much to his dismay) has inserted subliminal signals into tv and radio all throughout the state of Kansas, creating a sex-crazed pornotopia. It all seems like silly fun until folks forget to eat and perversions begin to pile up and evolve, leading to the creation of snuff parlors and other "sophisticated" amusements, in Daddy's terms. Only the Flagg supporting cast can try and save the day (one character per issue) until Reuben himself shows up in the full-length issue #27. I think the most fascinating bit for today's fan, however, is more of a trick of luck and time. To be perfectly blunt, Daddy Fleshbucks looks exactly like Grant Morrison, at least as we know him today. I believe in 1985 Morrison had hair, for one thing, and I'm not sure the long-lasting enmity between himself and Moore had yet begun. But still, today's reader can't help but chuckle at the similarity, unintentional as it may be.

Strictly second or third-tier work by the eventual writer of "Watchmen", but tightly connected to his past, and it does have the novelty of being one of the only extended Moore stories to have never been collected into some sort of bookshelf edition.


*the window slides*

*Bless me Father, for I have sinned: I totally jacked a certain line from Alan Moore’s “Voice of the Fire” for use in this week’s column. It was too awesome a line not to appropriate; I wonder if my readers will know which one it is. There's some pretty choice puns of my own invention too. Anyway, I will say many a Hail Mary for my penance. Did I mention the column is about Marvel and their marvelous business practices? Ha ha, get it, Father? Amen!

*Stressful morning, but I got a lot accomplished. Got stuff done last night too, since my nerves wouldn’t let me sleep; grossly allegorical dreams melted into half-awakenings at fifteen-minute intervals for the whole of the three hours I laid in bed. At least it’s all done with now, and done with to a certain measure of satisfaction, I must say.

*“Voice of the Fire” PROGRESS UPDATE: because readers like Nik from the Spatula Forum suggested it.

I’m four chapters away from the ending (keeping in mind Alan David Doane’s note that the real whammy arrives in the final chapter), and I’m really enjoying how certain chapters seem to direct address one another, offering different views of a similar situation; in this way, it’s very much like the pair of BC chapters that take up the first third of the book, presenting a pre-Christian world from two distinctly untrustworthy viewpoints.

That Roman detective yarn is still a good one, but I think my current favorite chapter is the amazing “November Saints”, being the narrative of a Catholic nun in the 11th century who bears witness to certain miracles and ecstatics during her time as a beggar outside the church walls. As is so often the case in this book, the narration isn’t a model of unbiased reportage, with events occurring that seem to press the novel for the first time into the realm of the outright supernatural, unless an awful lot of it is taking place in our deluded beggar’s brain. What interested me was how passionate, how devout in its Catholic mystery the narrative is, achieving a blood and thunder ‘Lives of the Saints’ feel (and indeed, we hear of the private affairs of several among the canonized), with all of our sins flayed away with the kiss of the lash, and extreme beauty and baffling vision walking hand-in-hand with extreme pain and irrational punishment. And blasphemy! The ecstatic eye is so elevated as to glimpse the whole field of human faith, with sacraments of one type becoming offerings to Wotan in the blinding hurricane of religion totaled. But the walls of the church itself still bear pagan origins, fertility carvings dotting the entrance, certain gods not entirely transitioned to other gods. It’s a spellbinding glimpse of mystic theological sea-change.

And one that’s instantly contrasted with the bitter fruits of “Limping to Jerusalem”, in which the very opposite of our prior narrator, a monied knight, a veteran of the Crusades, returns to Northampton at the dawn of the 12th century, just after the conclusion of the prior chapter (relatively speaking). He’s not going to be providing any visions; indeed, all of the visions have been beaten out of him. He’s constructing a new (*gasp*) round church as per the designs of the Knights Templar, who act here as harbingers of a new age of Christian pragmatism, seeing as how the carry with them the Greatest Secret Ever Told. There’s no need for pagan structures for our bold knight, no time for superstition: Christianity has exited the Wild West and is ready for prime time, ready to work with (and against) physical evidence for largely the sake of the powerful. The mystic has become the political. But Moore knows to insert just enough historical detail (like the home layout and marital customs of period nobility) to keep us fascinated, even if the secret of the Knights seems awfully suspect.

Don’t worry.

Moore knows this. That’s way he tosses in a brief bit revisiting the topic in what’s by far the book’s funniest chapter, “Confessions of a Mask”, narrated by a very droll decomposing head on a pike. “V for Vendetta” fans will particularly enjoy Moore’s exploration of the origins of Guy Fawkes Day, but there’s a deeper connection here, running all throughout the book but perhaps most apparent here. Watch for the narrative shift in the final paragraph of this chapter, switching from the first person to the third. It’s the titular Voice itself speaking to us, the voice of fiction, of dream, of magic, of fire. Nearly each chapter, besides the curious occasional complimentary structure, features reference to other chapters, all of these characters tied together by both geography and the confines of the book itself, the story being told, and do flip through Moore’s “Promethea” for his attitudes on that. Even the town itself slowly evolves, though Moore leaves this up to the reader to discern. The first chapter revolves around a hog house. Later, the area is referred to as Ham Town (get it? it's a surprisingly easy connection to miss). It grows yet words are compressed: soon it’s Northern Hamtun. And by the time we reach “Angel Language”, the darkly comic saga of a randy judge fallen in with witchery, it’s simply Northampton, only taking until 1618 to get there. The judge character, it must be said, is an excellent characterization: charismatic, lusty, and by the way also interested in prepubescent girls, that little fact always calmly dropped in to upset the reader’s sympathies. The next chapter, which I haven’t read, promises to offer a different view of ‘witches’. Our eyes continue to dilate and betray us in this book, but such is the rigor of history and storytelling.


All Chaykin Extravaganza!

*Of course, if this were a truly complete summary of Chaykin’s works for the week, I’d also be throwing in a review of his short story in this week’s “The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist” (as if it somehow wouldn’t be overshadowed by the presence of Will Eisner’s final comics story in that same volume), but that book is just way too much money for me right now.

City of Tomorrow! #1 (of 6)

For once, I’m gonna live dangerously and go against the version of the title in the copyright notice, which omits the exclamation point that’s plainly visible on the cover logo. It’s just so much better with that little jolt at the end, and more fitting with the book’s tone.

The story opens with a marvelously stylized suicide bombing in a US mall, demonstrating Chaykin’s formidable grasp of page (or in this case double-page spread) layout right from the start. But this is probably the most vivid use of Chaykin’s page-design prowess to be found; the book instead opt to traffic in a yo-yo timeline, following for a while the faux-idyllic youth of Tucker Foyle, son of a Disney-like visionary who built a fully artificial community on US soil to escape the worsening condition of his nation, then jerking forward to Tucker’s later career as a black ops master outside of his daddy’s magic kingdom.

Both sides of the coin traffic in hyperbole for effect: we see a lot of Tucker’s childhood through commercials (always a Chaykin favorite) that chart the development and success of the artificial Columbia, its kitschy soda shops and robot workers all attuned to serve pure Middle Americana; only later does Tucker rebel, and only then does his father crack down (amusingly, the familial resemblance between the two gives us both a good and bad Chaykin stand-in character design to enjoy).

Likewise, the adult Tucker’s military career is a ludicrous goulash of macho power-play and too-cool resigned bloodletting. He bursts into a villainous hive to rescue his gorgeous commanding officer from sinister intentions; she becomes his scorching lover in gratitude. He blasts through red tape and due process to bring a dirty bomber to justice (and by ‘justice’ I mean he blows his head off right in the middle of The Official Howard Chaykin Blowjob Scene for the Series). “I’ve got no illusions about occupying any moral high ground,” he sneers as his crack team busily plants WMDs all over Some Desert Nation, but Tucker hasn’t counted on powerful interests putting stock in appearing to occupy a moral high ground, and he’s betrayed. Will this event launch him into reviving the two-fisted liberalism of his youth? It’s like asking if my dog will bark at some point today, since this is a Howard Chaykin book.

It’s probably walking on the thinnest ice out of all of Chaykin’s recent projects, since there’s almost no way it’s going to avoid comparison to “American Flagg!” (again with the exclamation points!), what with the rotting sci-fi motif. But “City of Tomorrow!” sticks much closer to the present day in its milieu while riffing off of its present concerns, without much of the futurist world-building that “American Flagg!” sported. The action is also a bit calmer; time-jumps aside, these are some of Chaykin’s most placid pages in a while, from a layout perspective, certainly missing the excellent use of repeating captions and layout that marked his recent “Challengers of the Unknown” as a rousing (albeit flawed) success. But the book doesn’t really need such techniques, at least this early on, as the real story is just beginning. Tucker resurfaces in Columbia, having barely escaped with his life. But it looks like the decay of the outside has scaled the gilded walls of his father’s world, and even the animatronics have turned to low-down living. Silly? Yes, sort of, but the whole book delights is varying flavors of absurdity to make its points, simple as they may be. It’s tough to complain when it’s entertaining in this way.

Solo #4

But perhaps the big book of interest to Chaykin fans will be this one: 48 ad-free pages of stories and art, with a variety of colorists and letterers onboard to help. I mentioned yesterday that this might be the best issue of “Solo” yet; I’ll condition that by mentioning that it’ll probably be the best for established Chaykin fans. While there’s little doubt in my mind that Paul Pope’s issue #3 can be handed to neophyte readers to convert them to fans on the spot, I don’t think that this book has quite the immediate power. It may prove to be ore valuable to established fans, eager to delve into Chaykin’s mind. But one thing can be objectively said: this is far and away the most ‘unified’ issue of “Solo”, with much attention paid to how the six included stories will work as a total package. One might expect no less from structure-mad Howard.

DC’s solicitation wasn’t kidding; actually, it played the truth down a bit. Most of the stories here are crafted in the style of classic EC comics, complete with incessant narrative captions. All of the classic genres are hit: war, weird sci-fi, western (well, maybe this isn’t strictly EC stuff), crime, twist-ending shock suspense-cum-moral lecture, and horror. Except that not all of the genres are quite what they seem. Especially the horror.

All of Chaykin’s pet interests are present: the war story concerns a jazz musician on tour in Europe, who goes on a two-week drunk only to find upon awakening that the Nazis have taken Paris. He needs to somehow escape, but perhaps the power of music will cross the battle-lines without him doing much of anything. The story inaugurates a running these throughout the book’s stories: former foes teaming up to become allies in bizarre circumstances. Most bizarre is the sci-fi story, a crashingly misanthropic piece about a scientist who beats his beloved to death for leaving him for another man, then uses the latest in scientific marvels to not only bring her back to life, but to make her love him (and give her nicer lips and breasts). But this custom-built alliance doesn’t stop her from finding other men more desirable, so he continues to thrash her to death and rebuild her over and over, oblivious to the fact that he’s so much of an ass that no amount of science can keep her with him for long.

Other stories involve a half-breed sheriff battling a bank-robber in his youth, only to face him again as a co-worker on a silent-film movie set, with their races now dictating who will be the angel in front of the camera. Elsewhere, two hi-tech crooks break into the same complex, allowing Chaykin to indulge in some nice symmetrical layouts. And for our moral fiber, we get an ironic tale on neo-nazis so shrill and telegraphed that one can only hope it’s intended as a winking parody of vintage stories with Impact. But it’s the concluding horror story that makes all the difference.

There actually is no horror story. Chaykin himself appears to admit that he’s no good at writing horror comics, which leads into a concluding autobiographical examination of his childhood and early career. Chaykin draws himself as similar to his famous hero-image, but far less idealized. There’s lumps on his face and he needs glasses, and even then he cautions us that what we see is still “a stylized, cartooned version of Howard Chaykin.” But it makes you think. The story is dotted with failure: young Howard can’t even bear to watch scary movies. He’s thrown out of publishers’ offices. He attributes his early success with works like “Ironwolf” to a mix of pure dumb luck and skills he’d gleaned from staring at lingerie ads in the Sunday New York Times. And going over the prior stories, we really see all those Chaykin heroes, all so similar, though some of them have darker skin, some of them have different hair. They’re all him, living different fearless adventures, just in a more explicitly vicarious fashion than with most comics creators. He’s even the villain sometimes, like in that sci-fi story, the details of which are reflected as Chaykin speaks of his early inability to commit to serious relationships. The piece ends with a discussion of how EC comics affected he and his contemporaries. “…but if you think I’m going to take being the Jack Kamen of my generation lying down, you’re crazy - it’s Johnny Craig or nothing.”

It’s a great book for fans, and quite a coherent statement, as earlier issues of this title failed to be. Maybe the statement will be more effective in the ears of established fans, but it’s worth hearing by all, I think.


House of Miscellany!

*Say! I’ve been told that you have a few seconds of free time, dear reader! Why not expend those whispers of eyelash on entering the Big Bad Comic Book Galaxy “Project Superior” Contest Event? All it takes is an e-mail and you can win one of three lovely prizes, all of them featuring signed James Jean doodads, and the Grand Prix bearing a rare “Project Superior” hardcover, which I didn’t even know existed until this contest was announced - THAT’S HOW RARE IT IS. Deadline is Friday, May 6th.

And while you’re at it, there’s still over three days left to enter the “Super-F*ckers” contest at the very same site. Be a strong and tasty winner today!

*Interesting stuff over at Joe Casey and Matt Fraction’s column right now, breaking down the fall-out from “Sin City” the movie. I’ve gotta say that I’m pretty in-tune with Fraction’s attitudes toward ‘literal’ adaptations of comics to cinema, describing the “Sin City” adaptation as “paralytic” (one could guess as much about my feelings given earlier comments, though I certainly cannot comment on "Sin City" directly, having not seen it). Actually, I think Fraction is the first comics pro I’ve heard from to articulate a strongly negative reaction to the film (“pretty terrible” and “jesus lord god what a lousy movie” are among his quotes), though there’s much respect for the sheer achievement of what Frank Miller has done as a comics creator, especially in a pure ‘artistic control’ sense. Worth reading.

*Oooh, they slipped my free “House of M” sketchbook thing into my bag this New Comics Day. And smiling right there by the Table of Contests is El Imán himself, clad in his royal sash and bejeweled with military accolade. I immediately pulled up the original comparisons to see if anything had been altered, but I guess the horse was out of the stable by the time the controversy struck - it’s very much the same, albeit in glorious negro y blanco. Well, at least the uproar gave the book one interesting element, unless you count the fact that Johnny Depp apparently joins the Fantastic Four in their particular tie-in. You know, didn’t the last “Age of Apocalypse” revival issue arrive only today? And already we’re hyping up months of additional What If? Sheesh. EDIT 4/28 2:11 AM: Oh, maybe they're doing it because "Age of Apocalypse" was a huge financial success, with related books taking up a full 1/4 of the Top 20 Direct Market sales for March? Probably aided by the fact that most of the (weekly) books had to be ordered without time for normal miniseries adjustment. That could be it...

*How about a short round of New Comics?

The Punisher MAX #20

Well slap my teeth and paint me purple, we’ve got us a good ol’ fashioned Origin Issue here! And not a recap of the title character’s origin! A gold star for Marvel!

Theoretically this issue could stand alone quite nicely, though it’s technically part 2 of the latest 6-issue spree. Frank does not appear this issue, so all of you wondering exactly how berzerk he’s gonna go will just have to stay patient. Instead, we have the blackly comic childhood saga of Nicky Cavella, world-class psychopath and soon-to-be mob overboss. The first three pages set the tone, as Nicky delightedly flashes back to executing his father in the snowy winter woods at age eight; the look on his face makes all the difference, though folks who don’t find chipper patricide via preadolescents to be terribly amusing, well, how exactly did you stick with this book this far? There’s much more: amateur spinal tapping, incest, delicious sweet and sour chicken, and a good gag page where a minion drives to great lengths to dispose of a body, then has to ride the subway all the way home. Sure some of the mob stuff near the end feels kind of worn out, but there’s enough poisoned wit and pretty pictures (Dan Brown’s colors give the art by Leandro Fernandez and Scott Hanna an almost painted feel) to carry us over to the lovely final page.

And when I get to heaven, I’ll tell them fuck you too.”

Nice issue, “Punisher”-wise.

*Also out was the last issue of “Wild Girl”, which amazingly managed to maintain the structural formula of the last three issues (plot/journey/J.H. Williams III-illustrated fable/enlightenment/plot) despite being the conclusion to the story. I can infer generally what happened, despite a pronounced lack of direct explanation for what’s going on (not necessarily a bad thing), but it was mighty tough to care, so routine it was. Better luck with “Albion” for the writing team.

*Tomorrow: a Chaykin celebration! His “Solo” may be the best one yet, but I‘m not through with it…


Let's get right into it!


Strangehaven #17: THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN, GANG! As the last of the rains of a drawling cool spring evaporate on contact with the suddenly heat-feasted concrete of the suburbs and cities, an afternoon reverie of summer soon to arrive like a long-awaiting package in the mail, so comes “Strangehaven”. The beauty of “Strangehaven” is that every new issue is a new opportunity to initiate a new reader into the book’s burgeoning cult, since there’s always someone who’s never heard of it. And considering that the book generally sees only an annual release, who can blame them? “Strangehaven” is the self-published baby of writer/artist Gary Spencer Millidge, and the book (along with Carla Speed McNeil’s “Finder”) is one of the scant self-publishing successes in today’s comics scene, at least as far as pamphlet-sized longform serialized comic book storytelling goes. All this despite the fact that the last issue came out in June of 2004, and the one before that in May of 2003. Also, it’s a mystery-based ongoing storyline, and not particularly friendly to new readers, but I’m still gonna recommend you pick up this new issue as a sampler, to see if the unique “Strangehaven” atmosphere draws you in. It’s a resolutely English book, set in a comfortable (even quaint) village amidst charming forestland, but there’s cults and murder and secrets and WWII-era RAF fighter pilots, along with the requisite romance and family affairs drama. But it’s the sense of place that’s gonna grab you. Sample this issue, then after you’re hooked you can snap up the first two trades (collecting six issues each), only to eagerly await the third trade due late this summer. Oh, what’s that? The math doesn’t add up? Well, yes, we do need an issue #18 for a third trade, don’t we? Millidge says that issue #18 will be out in two months. Judging from past experience this is a bit like Warren Ellis announcing that “Planetary” shall henceforth be bi-weekly, but nobody wants this news to pan out as much as me; more “Strangehaven” more quickly would be a gift for all.

Embroideries: The new book from inescapable “Persepolis” author Marjane Satrapi, though being from Pantheon I’m sure it’s been in all the chain bookstores for weeks now. The Comics Reporter is always the most educational site around: just look at all of these links! And more on-point, look at this message from Matt Madden in which he reveals that “Embroideries” is actually only one entry in a special line of books released by French art comics giant L’Association dubbed “Cotelette” (or: “Cutlet”). The object of this series of books is to present “quick, sketchy, diaristic comics,” in Madden’s words. However, “Embroideries” has been plucked from the line and presented to US audiences entirely stripped of such context, which will doubtlessly (and indeed has already) lead to grousing over Satrapi’s already simple visual style, which will be far simpler here. Be informed, and proceed with knowledge! And since I’m such a great fan of knowledge, here’s the entire “Cotelette” line for your edification, including the works of Lewis Trondheim and Julie Doucet. Distressing lack of David B. though…

Solo #4: In which Howard Chaykin does the “Solo” thing. Fans will obviously want this, seeing as how Chaykin will be getting into styles he’s not known for (like autobiography and western), while maintaining something of an EC feel, if DC’s solicitation is to be believed (grain of salt there, friends). Paul Pope set the bar good and high last time, but I think Chaykin can pull it off.

City of Tomorrow #1 (of 6): And that’s just part one of tomorrow’s Chaykin celebration! Also look out for his new sci-fi miniseries. In spite of its flaws, I found Chakyin’s last writing/drawing mini “Challengers of the Unknown” to be one of my favorite books of 2004, so obviously I’m looking forward to this. The preview makes it look mighty campy, with an aged father Chaykin-hero slapping the snot out of his rebellious punk son Chaykin-hero. Robots too. Worth a look.

Wild Girl #6 (of 6): Ok, something has to happen now, right? Because it’s the end of the book. So many spinning wheels here, but it’ll look great, that much is assured.

The Punisher MAX #20: I’m guessing the artists on these arcs work ahead while another is seeing print (which suggests that Ennis has worked up a bit of a writing backlog), since the last issue of this just came out the other week. No complaints, and little to say, since it’s Frank Castle. Looks to be a fun storyline, if curiously weighed down by continuity.

The Fourth Power: Strictly optional for me; in fact, I’m probably not getting it, since I have half of it in oversized format, but “Metabarons” fans might be interested in this Juan Gimenez solo effort, combining a perfectly nice stand-alone album from 1989 with a brand-new sequel from 2004, the only non-”Metabarons” fiction work Gimenez did in the last decade with the exception of some erotic book from 1997 called “Nosotros Los Heroes” and “Choose Your Game” from the pages of “Heavy Metal” (did “Heavy Metal” ever collect that; I can’t find it on their site). It’s a satirical sci-fi epic with warring peoples struggling over an amazing weapon derived from the minds of certain people. Maybe it’s a trick of translation, but Giminez’s writing often sounds a bit like Masamune Shirow’s: so packed with technical detail that the storytelling becomes obscured. Fortunately, Giminez’s gorgeous art is present to guide you through, and he doesn’t skimp on the spacecraft and guns and explodings. Flip through it.


Everything I do... I do for the sake of Potok Power.



The World Below #3 (of 4)

followed by

The World Below: Deeper and Stranger #1-4 (of 4) (it's Paul Chadwick's Freudian spree of a adventure series, with important lessons and odd symbols for all - bonkers yet utterly compelling work from the man behind "Concrete")

Seven Soldiers - Klarion the Witch Boy #1 (of 4), Hate Annual #5

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities #1 (of 4) (not at all bad stuff from Eric Powell of "The Goon" with able art by Kyle Hotz)

Filler (the new one from the "Teenagers From Mars" team, and the art outstrips the plotting by a score)

Gulp them down but chew! Chew!

*I’m on a bit of an anthology kick these days; sometimes I get ‘em cheap, and sometimes they just turn up out of nowhere. An example of the latter is the inexplicable stack of copies of “Drawn and Quarterly” Vol. 1 #8 from 1992 that my store got in the other week. It was good reading, and it reminded me of talents that I hadn’t heard from in a long while. Carol Tyler, for example, whose works I only even seem to encounter in aged anthologies. She’s got a collection of shorts coming soon from Fantagraphics, including material dating back to “Twister Sisters 2”, that formative independent comics experience of my youth, and maybe the first shell dropped in my campaign of anthology obsession. Also a great trait of older “Drawn and Quarterly”: the ads. “Yummy Fur” (serializing “I Never Liked You”) and the earliest D&Q issues of “Peep Show” and “Palooka-Ville”. And never mind Joe Sacco being introduced as the talent behind “Yahoo”.

Maybe it was that sort of reading experience, infused with some queer nostalgia for a time when I was largely into Marvel and Image comics and only heard about books like these in the shady corners of “Wizard”, that prompted me to look into a more recent book: “Drawn and Quarterly” Vol. 5, from 2003. I really can’t believe this book came out two whole years ago; then again, I refuse to accept that 1992 was thirteNONONONONONONONO. “Drawn and Quarterly”, you’ll recall, switched to stand-alone deluxe softcover semi-annuals with Vol. 3; Vol. 5 is thus far the latest to be released. I got it used (but genuinely ‘like new’) for under $10 post shipping. It’d have been worth it at its full $30 retail price. This book, you see, is infused with its own strange nostalgia: one for the recent past, of projects announced then skipped from the brain and the collective radar.

D&Q the publisher are not above using their premiere anthology to hype upcoming projects: collected in here is a full-length “Monsieur Jean” album from 2001 by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian (enjoy their homepage, if you can read French or feel up for a little Babel Fish), and a 1970 short from Yoshihiro Tatsumi. D&Q was planning a deluxe hardcover series of books presenting the complete “Monsieur Jean”, the first of which was to debut in 2004. They were also cooking up an ambitious plan to translate and collect the complete works of Tatsumi, to be edited by Adrian Tomine, also due to commence in 2004. But financial concerns interceded, and neither of these projects have seen the light of day, though I assume that they’re still scheduled for some point in the future. The material presented in “Drawn and Quarterly” certainly whets the appetite.

“Monsieur Jean” is always a miraculous work (prior exploits have appeared in prior volumes of this anthology): the product of a ‘blended’ team (in that both parties handle both writing and art), it’s a hugely cohesive piece of work, with subtle and carefully conveyed themes of responsibility and family. It’s basically a gently comedic slice-of-life story about a writer named Jean who goes about his life with girlfriends and family and relatives and the like, but it’s amazingly well-written, structured like a fine novella, though each album informs the next, forming a genuine life path. Even the hoariest of situations (Jean and his roommate pal are mistaken for homosexuals OH NO) becomes strangely compelling and fresh in these books. It may be the introspection and stoicism of the lead character, or the willingness of the creative team to totally eschew sentimentality. And that art is mighty gorgeous. Too bad the only place to read this stuff in English is through “Drawn and Quarterly”. So far.

Ditto for Tatsumi’s work; he’s a devout disciple of Tezuka, no doubt, but his vintage manga stylings are put to the use of human drama. In the story presented here, a young woman works a bar, nearly selling her body to help her writer paramour achieve that breakthrough success. She escapes delicate situations by claiming that she has to care for her dog; the symbolism is already apparent, and disappointment waits at the end for each of these urban youths. It’s easy to see why Tomine would be attracted to such material, and I believe that a lot of North American readers would appreciate some old Japanese comics that don’t deal in fantasy at all; it’s that hallowed diversity of genre that we’ve heard so much about, but so rarely see in today’s translations of Japanese material. The world will be better once D&Q has this stuff in English. EDIT 9:36 PM: And it looks like the world will be better as of this September! Info found totally at random in a Friday post at Christopher Butcher's site which I didn't register the first time around. And while I'm at it, happy 3rd birthday Chris!

There’s more. Over a third of the book’s nearly 200 pages are turned over to ultra-obscure Quebecois cartoonist Albert Chartier, a man in possession of a strange sense of humor and a gorgeous curvy line. There’s the usual rich R. Sikoryak pastiche, joining the works of Bronte to “Tales from the Crypt”. There’s work from Rutu Modan, of the Israeli comics collective Actus. There’s another tale of Michael Rabagliati’s Paul, itself soaking in 70’s Canadian nostalgia. But the most potent nostalgia is for those projects that I can hear scratching at the back of my mind, so lost now. Maybe we’ll find them yet.



*But first.

My favorite search engine hit of the day:

"list comic artists who are satanists ashley wood"

Aw c’mon man, that’s kind of stacking the deck, isn’t it?

*And now.


This is the new book from the “Teenagers From Mars” team of Rick Spears and Rob G. It’s a 96 page original graphic novel from AiT/Planet Lar, retailing for $12.95. It was first announced back in 2002 with an anticipated 2003 release date. It’ll be out soon now, though I don't know exactly when; it was last placed at a March 16th release date, though Khepri says it's not out yet and I certainly don't recall seeing it around or reading any reviews. Soon, I'm sure. UPDATE 4/25 9:19 AM: Ok, I have been informed by those in the know that the book will be in stores this Wednesday, so that settles that.

Glancing at the back cover of this book, you’re instantly faced with a grimacing fellow, flask in hand, his head all dark with shadow, the bandages covering his face gleaming a bright pure white. You can be forgiven for thinking that this book will be wearing a certain comics influence directly on its sleeve, but I see it more as clever marketing. After all, the “Sin City” movie still looms in the minds of many Direct Market denizens; why not utilize a certain familiar image to draw folks into a separate noir-flavored comics release? Upon purchase, the writing may well leave them chilly; it’s simultaneously more grounded than Frank Miller’s work (no Batman-style flapping cape-coats or ninja hookers), yet the plotting is no less (arguably even more) haphazard. But Rob G (Goodridge that is, as the copyright notice discloses) is doing good things here. His continued development is the engine behind the book’s successful sequences; it’s not quite enough to keep the project soaring from first page to last, but it empowers some of writer Spears’ material to a certain level of grimy verse and leaves the rest of it with at least a decent sheen.

Look at the preview images linked from this page. In particular, look at the background figures on the bottom panel of the first page. Indistinct yet somehow unmistakable blobs and gashes of ink and shape, all people. A vehicle defined only by a basic frame, a rearview mirror, hubcaps. The narrator says he’s apt to fade into the background, but he’s all in red, unmistakable from the crowd to us (hell, we’re listening to him speak, after all). Look at the next page, and see how the colors of the sky shift. Red. White. Black. The only colors in the book. But Rob G doesn’t use his single hue in the way Frank Miller did, as dots and fills of standout in his ultra high-contrast world. Rob G mixes. See the backgrounds on pages 3 and 8 smearing from one color to another. See the battle scene at the top of page one washed in red, with white now used entirely as a light source. Outside of this preview, there’s a scene in a gentlemen’s club ‘lit’ in much the same way, as if floodlights are beating down on everyone’s heads, draining the blood from their faces. Page five in this preview is my favorite page in the book, especially the center panel of the bleeding night sky and the spattered ink trees and dots of red light against onyx towers. It’s attractive on a first read-through, but especially impressive upon looking closely and taking it apart.

But such review can’t quite express the good feeling I got from the book’s first sixteen or so pages, and I’ll surely need to express it to convey my ultimate disappointment with the plot, so let me explain. The story follows a fellow by the name of John Dough, whose parents plainly had an affinity for wordplay. It’s an ironic name these days, though, as Mr. Dough makes most of his money from selling his blood and standing around in police line-ups as ‘filler’, basically an incorrect choice of suspect for victims to finger. Dough has a talent for melting into crowds, for going unnoticed, and for sort of looking like someone you’ve seen, maybe someone bad. This has created something of an existential crisis for Mr. Dough, though he’s also prone to moping around the city a lot declaring it a ‘vampire’, though he spends most of his money of drugs and fast food and presumably his bills (in this way he reminds me of an awful lot of kids I grew up with outside of the city, but I suppose that such self-induced malaise is universal). The city, however, is an attractive place to be lost in here. For these opening scenes, Dough goes about his day, wandering around. We see the same line-up sequence twice (“Turn to the left.”) and lots of views of urban fauna. Some of the characters from later in the book are standing around. It’s good atmosphere, and the repetition can get lulling and hypnotic. I liked it a lot.

But the plot, once introduced, decomposes swiftly as the book moves forward: Dough meets up with a femme-fatale hooker who’s been roughed up by her pimp, and the two are quickly skipping out on restaurant checks and running around the city and kissing, and the none-too-bright Dough becomes filled with the need to ‘protect’ his new lover. This leads into a double murder, which I believe is intended to spiral out into a web of deceit and double-crosses where Nobody Can Be Trusted. Unfortunately, the book is under a hundred pages and there’s only three characters of substance, which simplifies matters drastically. And it really doesn’t help that the third character is Dough’s budding crime writer pal who knows all the plots of these sorts of stories and blubbers lines like “It’s really quite a classic plot.” and “OK… so we just need to take her story and do a little re-write, you know. Flip the script.” I realize that these sorts of mildly self-aware characters aren’t any new innovation in genre fiction of most stripes, but they never fail to irritate me when given a key role in the goings-on. To give credit where it’s due, Spears does drop cute little hints about what’s ‘really’ going on early in the book, probably only discernible on a second reading, but such measures can’t overcome the onrushing silliness of the advancing scheme.

Ultimately, the plot lurches into an absurdly overcomplicated revenge scheme requiring for its completion the following: self-mutilation, disguises, an all-out police raid, and the story’s antagonist acting in a manner unlike any human being on the face of the planet. There’s also a few pages of wrap-up, including a howler of a final twist, which only serves to throw the ridiculousness of Spears' plot into sharper relief. I’d like to say that the plot falls apart when you stop to think about it, but that’s giving it a bit too much credit. The plot falls apart quite nicely on its own, so self-evidently that it doesn’t even work on a turn-off-your-brain level; it greatly detracted from my enjoyment of Rob G’s art, which seems to flag near the end, with cars merely sketched in rather than drafted in inky glory as before. But even if the visuals kept up their highest level of quality they’d be finally overcome by the distraction of the story’s resolution. It seems kind of silly to just write a spoiler-packed review for a book that’s not out yet, but since the book’s wrap-up really does require special attention, I’ll just block off a special spoiler section for you to refer to at your leisure. Glaze your eyes and scroll down one paragraph for the non-spoiler remainder of the review.


Honestly, folks. You’re presumably the king shit of a big pimping escort business. You know that the cops are raiding the place, they’re all over. So you go back to your private quarters, open a secret safe, and stare at your Huge Pile of Money. Why? Well, I guess you’re planning to run for it. Unless you just felt like counting it or making sure it’s still there, even though the cops obviously haven’t found you yet. But since you’re leaving out in plain sight after affirming that it’s still there, I assume you’re gonna run. So you go into the kitchen and see a bloody mess. Gore everywhere. And the cops are all over the building. What do you do? Get changed and head out the window? Try to look nondescript as you waltz out the way you came in? At the absolute least run screaming to the police to try and get them to think about the scheme for a few minutes and perhaps note the trail of blood leading to the window? Well, if you’re a character in this story, apparently you pull out a sponge and a can of soap and try to clean the entire countertop while leaving the money sitting around in plain sight until the cops burst in and spot you with grue smeared all over your clothes and haul you away. Since that’s what you need to do to end the plot. While I’m at it, where did Dough get his arm treated? Does he have health insurance? He had to have gone to his pal again since he has “nowhere else to go.” But his pal doesn’t seem to have much money either. How did he pay for the treatment? I assume Dough eventually gets his hook and tropical relocation from the money from pal’s book, but doesn’t pal have to actually write the book before that? And let it gain steam and sell before he gets his royalties? What happened in all those months then? And since Dough has to know his pal's writing a book, wouldn’t he want to, you know, read it? And learn how his pal was playing him the whole time? Maybe he doesn’t care? I don’t know. None of this is in the story. After a ton of reader rationalizations (Ooh! Maybe pal is a slumming trust-fund artist and he actually has tons of money!), perhaps it’ll make more sense.


In the end, I was a bit puzzled as to why “Filler” didn’t do a bit more with its premise, of a nondescript man made the center of attention; save for the fact that he fits nicely into disguises (because nobody recognizes him anyway), there’s little here beyond a typical ‘wronged man on the run’ tale. Well, at least little plot-wise. The book does have its squalid rhapsody of an opening, and it has its three excellent colors, and its city to live in, which is the reason to look at this book, to see its sights and wander around for a while with Mr. Dough. The final page, aside from offering that final twist, notes that the plot we’ve just witnessed has become a nationwide best-selling smash, at least in the book's world. The scene is quite nude in its hope. But I’m in the line to see more Rob G, to see where he goes from here.


Saturday: INTO THE PAST!

The World Below: Deeper and Stranger #1-4 (of 4)

It was but a few days ago when I reviewed issue #3 of the first “The World Below” four-issue miniseries (titled simply “The World Below” and released in 1999). It was a fizzing cocktail of vintage ‘bold explorers’ action, bizarre designs, rampant sexual imagery (yet never quite so explicit as to make the book patently unsuitable for younger audiences), and confused allegory. All from writer/penciler Paul Chadwick, creator of “Concrete”, aided by the inks of Ron Randall. Arriving a few years after his last “Concrete” book, 1997-98’s “Strange Armor”, “The World Below” is Chadwick’s only creator-owned non-“Concrete” series that he applied his own visual art to, and it was not a popular success (Chadwick did have a third series around the same time, the 1999 four-issue “Gifts of the Night” from Vertigo, but I’m unsure if it was creator-owned, and all of the art was by John Bolton).

Intended as an ongoing series to be farmed out after a few years to new creative teams, Chadwick soon discovered that this second miniseries, released in 2000, was to be the last; he admits as much in the letters column of issue #1. The series was also shorn of its color, and the price was bumped up forty-five cents to $2.95, to try and ensure a return to publisher Dark Horse. Judging from these letters, it seems that a loyal following had developed by this time, though many positive letters tellingly begin by nothing their initial disappointment that the book wasn’t at all like “Concrete”, perhaps a factor in the book’s comparatively low sales. Chadwick certainly did his best to cultivate a fanbase: he even invited readers to design their own creatures and send them in, and he selected the best to insert into the story itself, with credit given to the creators. But success was not to be had. And maybe it’s not just the “Concrete” factor. “The World Below” is a strange, not entirely successful series, but one that I’ve found truly growing on me the more I read of it, and I was genuinely saddened to see it conclude here.

In a short essay included in the rear of issue #2, Chadwick cites underground comic artist George Metzger (perhaps best known for “Moondog”) as a prime influence behind the series, especially Metzger’s wordless thirteen-page sci-fi opus “Mal-Ig”, which appeared in “Gothic Blimp Works” and “Graphic Story Magazine”. Check out Steven Grant’s appreciation for some nice art samples (including a shot from the story in question); you can sense Metzger's influence on the clinging organic creep of Chadwick’s underground. But Chadwick offered an even more intriguing influence in an interview with “The Comics Journal” (#221, March 2000):

And part of my inspiration was this Austrian Symbolist names Alfred Kubin, who wasn’t much of a draftsman, but boy was he in touch with his subconscious. He did ink-and-wash drawings, one after the other, hundreds of them - the most wonderful nightmare imagery - and some of them, the most disgusting, surreal sexual imagery, too. But it was clear all the stops wee out, and it wasn’t done with intent; it was done by letting all the lose stuff we can’t really observe in our own psyches out.”

Chadwick may have acted in something of a similar fashion, though plainly tempered by a need to craft coherent stories, and single-issue stories at that. But certainly there’s a lot of interesting visions in here, and quite a recurring sexual focus.


Take the first issue: our heroes, a six-person team of explorers, have just returned to the mysterious underground caverns beneath the Earth which were seemingly discovered by eccentric technology magnate Charles Hoy, who formed the team to bring back some valuable items that might be studied to make everyone a lot richer. We’ve got tough leader Barclay Hassler, scientist Layla Bazo, medic Susan Teter, athletic go-getter Regina Church, the 100% unnecessary George Petoskey (who does absolutely nothing for the entire series except offer an amusing line in the last issue), and Hoy’s angry son Gilbert, with a chip on his shoulder and everything to prove. Gilbert and Barclay fight a lot, which makes Gilbert brood. He’s also been hiding something, which is revealed in this issue. It seems while he was climbing the infamous Spire (from the infamous issue #3 of the prior miniseries), he was attacked by a weird spider-thing. Upon shooting the monster, it ejected a thick white fluid into Gilbert’s mouth. Nothing happens at first, but now it seems that Gilbert has grown a giant lump on his chest, which suddenly expands to its full size: a literal third arm. But as the issue progresses, Gilbert grown to genuinely love his third arm. He feels nice, like his anger has drifted away. Layla enjoys the touch of the third arm (it gives good neck rubs). And it also prompts flashbacks to Gilbert’s youth, when he realized that his short stature could be made up for by other special attributes, like speed. Finally, Gilbert’s third arm saves the day by proving itself to be an amazing crack-shot at gunplay, as the team is saved from awful monsters in an attempt to steal some dandy laser-beam machine. Having demonstrated to Gilbert that he’s really a useful person and not just his father’s son, the arm goes limp and eventually falls off (!). “The scar tingles with residual life,” beams the omniscient narrator, “He thinks that the arm may grow back. Or perhaps it will not be an arm next time.” Do tell, Paul, do tell.

But that’s the strange appeal of this book (and the prior series); all of this charged imagery is kept at just below the boil of explicitness, and it acts in the service of good-hearted little stories personal worth and other human concerns. It gets awfully tricky sometimes; it gets convoluted. But sometimes it works surprisingly well. In issue #2, a pair of team members are rushed by a frankly ridiculous gaggle of googly-eyed octopus things which attach to their heads and form a psychic link. The team members are instantly overwhelmed with serenity and knowledge, as the creatures share their information with them, including secrets of healing. Sure, they look silly, but it’s such a great unity that they simply have to convince the rest of the team to head off to a whole colony of the strange creatures, at gunpoint if necessary. This doesn’t sit well with the more independent-minded faction of the team (Gilbert, Regina), but Chadwick cleverly portrays the ‘parasites’ as always a positive thing, except for one teeny white lie (the type that a prudent human might also make) which allows for rationalizations of escape among some of the team, and eventually the doom of the creatures. But was independence at all costs a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? It remains unanswered. There’s also an wholly unnecessary flashback to one of the team members having sex in church, which kind of fits into the story. Kind of. Yet it fits in amost by default, because Chadwick utterly embraces the inner absurdity of the situation. He throws in shots of parasite-joined team members calmly driving in a jeep, their bulging alien heads popping out of the vehicle's sunroof, eyes all agog. Basil Wolverton is cited in the back as yet another influence; Chadwick controls the mood to make such chaos welcoming, to make such disparate signals at least cohere, if not quite convince. The book (like Gilbert in the issue before) is secure in what it is.

And there's some genuine story fallout too; even in later issues, team members who touched the creatures remain defensive about them (“They weren’t really parasites,” is a typical refrain). Entering into the last two issues, the single-story structure breaks down as a necessary conclusion presents itself. The team aids a giant brain (marked with ‘spade’ symbols) in fighting off beasties, learns a lesson about lashing out (it’s sometimes like kids’ daytime television at times, only with gunfire and tentacles and a constant whiff of eros), and finally meets up with the masters of The World Below, apparently wealthy aristocrat aliens who took an extended vacation to Earth and burrowed underground to hide from the Sun’s brutal rays (here is where George gets his one good line - Gilbert tries to inturrupt the flashback narrative and George chides "Quiet. We're learning."). They even brought their favorite pets, humanoid creatures, and they’re always ready for more. They’re breeders, you see, interested in new biological mixes, and very attached to humans. “So cute!” squeals one of them, just delighted at the tiny intelligence of silly humans. The team is forced to do jumping-jacks and flips and other acrobatics to please their new masters, as they plan some sort of escape. Meanwhile, aboveground, Mr. Hoy has become (hilariously) convinced that all of this is an elaborate plot by Microsoft to steal his innovations. Hoy rushes out the door, declaring that “I’m on my way to meet with this man -- who I hope will lead a rescue team…”. At the same time, Gilbert the son makes a run for the surface. Ha, but puny humans just haven’t thought ahead, and the aliens set off some explosives that not only obliterate the entrance to The World Below, but the entire Hoy estate above. The father Hoy was pulling out of the driveway at the time, and is the only aboveground survivor, trapped in a coma in a hospital bed, sadly without a sign reading 'WAKE IN CASE OF SERIES RENEWAL' above his head. And our heroes below are hauled off to the breeding chambers. Except they’ve all undergone sterilization procedures as part of their preparation (oooooh, shades of the latest “Concrete”). So as the series ends, they’re left to fuck each other all day to no avail, and with an uncertain lease on life. “Think well of the team of six as you walk across roads, over leaves, one foot ahead of the other. They’re down there, living a nightmare - as some people do in this world.” So intones our narrator.

And say! Who was that guy Hoy was off to contact? The back cover of the final issue cruelly teases a "Concrete"-"The World Below" crossover, which is plainly not in the cards right now. Chadwick, in the final letters column, happily proclaims that he’ll see everyone again for “Concrete: The Human Dilemma”, which wouldn’t be released for over four years. And that’s his most popular character. It’s tough times for unestablished characters, even by established creators, and it’s not gotten that much easier in the ensuing half-decade. “The World Below” was too odd a bird to fly, its symbol-laden adventure, its word-balloon festooned covers, its broad characters and EC-type moral dilemmas, all of them anathema to the current market. It’s not a fantastic series, no, but its an individual one (perhaps inevitable when working largely on your own so close to the subconscious), and it has a certain loopily addictive charm. I’d say it’s a mandatory track-down for Chadwick fans, who now, with the perspective of time, more appreciate a creator of a long-term project beginning a new and doomed mission, so very different from what has gone before. Chadwick’s mission wasn’t much more successful than that of the team of six, but both retain hope for liberation from their unfortunate burial.


Yay for busy weekend delay!

*This column here - it’s new! You should try it and fill out the enclosed consumer satisfaction survey, so we can better fulfill your column needs. We’re here to work for you. In this edition there’s personal revelations and a whole lot of gushing about Floyd Gottfredson, and indeed, one must follow the other. Do partake.

*I’m seriously low on time here today; it was busy enough this morning but now I have to go out with some new associates on a social excursion; not really complaining, but it eats into the old blogging time something fierce. In penance, I will have lots of things this weekend, including materials from the past and the future, me being the messiah of the timestream that I am.

*In the meantime, here’s something I found at Christopher Stipp’s “Trailer Parkcolumn over at Movie Poop Shoot (and just to digress, I have to say that I like how Stipp, the column’s second writer, if I recall correctly, has been steering his viewpoint more sharply toward the less-explored areas of independent and international cinema, while including interviews and the like along with the links; the column has undergone a genuine evolution since it began, and I think it’s for the better). It’s the trailer for the upcoming US release of the Russian film “Night Watch” (“Nochnoi Dozor”) and, with all due respect to Stipp’s own opinion, I think it quite neatly summarizes everything I find wrong with today’s fantastical popcorn cinema. It’s apparently “The First Chapter in an Epic Horror Trilogy” although it looks more to me like an ultra-typical Hollywood Summer-style blockbuster candy affair with liberal genre trimmings. Take a look (WARNING: THERE’S A VERY LOUD SHOCK EFFECT A FEW SECONDS INTO THE MATERIAL; TURN THE VOLUME DOWN IF YOU’RE FAINT OF HEART - since I’ve inflicted enough mental injury upon my readers already and I’d rather not expand into the physical realm). There’s exactly two good images in here: the woman smoking a cigarette as the wind blows and the plumes of smoke rising from the boy’s eyes as the screen turns red. The rest of it is a faintly embarrassing mish-mash of bullet-time effects, hilariously ‘cool’ heroes in shades running around fantasy battlegrounds (?), and that awful final sequence with the kid screaming and scream and the ghost writing around… gah. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the branding of the film as ‘horror’ (certainly loud action and wild CGI don’t meet my own standards for what constitutes horror cinema)… I dunno. Just rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe I'm getting the feeling that this is exactly the type of independant cinema Summer Blockbuster Emulation Project that tends to get bandied about as an instant cult classic through the hype of the internet, which I ought not to let bug me... but I can taste the hype beginning.


Plowing through the wall of electric custodial.

*Cripes, did all this stuff seriously come out this week? I know I totally forgot “Sharknife” (which never showed at my store to remind me), but new “Zap”? I recall seeing some ad in “The Comics Journal” or thereabouts offering a discount on a ‘Zap Pack’ of every issue (including the new one) bundled together. Ah, here it is. I imagine that would be money well spent, though I’ve seen a bunch of the stuff in anthologies. I do like that Victor Moscoso fellah, though (and I think Fantagraphics is finally getting that hardcover collection of his work out this summer).

*Where are you, Blogger? Damn, one could swear you’re a free service or something with the way you act! Well, here’s a review.

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities #1 (of 4)

My early reservations duly considered, I can now say with confidence that is actually is a genuinely brisk and entertaining yarn, filled with lovely art and inoffensive scripting and not a dearth of style. It’s the sort of ‘pure fun’ comics I can usually go for.

Quite a bit of the effect is the fault of Kyle Hotz, who serves up some great character designs and gorgeous staging. Indeed, I was going to have you compare the cover by writer/colorist (and how often to you see that designation?) Eric Powell to some samples of Hotz’s interior art, but it looks like Dark Horse’s preview pages are broken down and I don’t have a scanner. So you’ll just have to take my word that the somewhat reserved, sleek Billy the Kid on Powell’s cover is replaced inside with a perpetually disheveled baby-faced scowler with long dirty hair and big expressive lips. His face scrunches up and stretches out to convey disgust and anger, which he does quite often: Powell takes no steps to make Billy even remotely likable, as he constantly berates and insults the cadre of freaks he’s fallen in with… but I’m ahead of myself already.

Powell sets the book up as a fairly typical heist story, with the presumed-dead Billy being confronted on a train by the owner of a ‘Traveling Spectacle of Biological Curiosities’, himself a three-armed anomaly (the reveal of his true nature is beautifully subtle; I didn’t even catch it the first time around). Billy’s amazing pistol skills will be needed to steal an allegedly cursed jewel known as the Golem’s Heart, due to its involvement in a certain ancient legend. Billy doesn’t take kindly to the curiosities; naturally, he’s the truly vile one among such strange sights as the enormous head of psychic Madame Tinsel (cannily positioned against big objects in almost every panel to emphasize her overall short stature as contrasted with her overlarge skull-to-body ratio) or the wonderfully designed Alligator Man, not at all like the semi-cute anthropomorphic as seen on the cover, but in possession of a roundly human head dominated by huge teeth, fixed into a permanent grin, with thin yellow eyes atop his brow. I don’t mean to bash Powell’s work or his own art; indeed, Powell has wisely tailored his script to the drafting strengths of his artist, and he drops small hints of a mystic undercurrent surrounding the milieu of disjointed Americana.

And with everyone off to Europe at the conclusion of this issue, in pursuit of a big shiny rock that’s apparently a keystone (excuse the pun) of an Eastern European myth, in the possession of one Dr. Frankenstein, he of self-built deformities, we might just be on the way to a culture clash between American and European myths, horror splashed all through it. Or maybe just natural freaks (Billy too!) will face off with some human-crafted ones, like golems or famous Monsters. As Dave Friedman once said: “There’s only two kinds of freaks, Ladies and Gentlemen - those created by God, and those created by man.” Well, let’s put them in a comic and have them fight it out, and it’s looking good from this team.

*Oh dear! Now Blogger’s maintenance has stretched from thirty minutes to three hours. What a tricksy thing. Well, let me think of pleasant things, which I will fill in on this page whenever I get a thought and it’ll look like no time has passed even though quite a while is gone. My brother sent me a cd single of a tune he recorded, the lyrics based entirely around our lives of a decade ago, including allusions to off-handed remarks I made at Christmas photos that he somehow still remembers, and I now I remember it as well. The disc came packaged with a ‘reprint’ of a comic he drew when he was 9. It’s about a superhero who’s trying to educate the reader as to the history of a street in our hometown, but then a villain bursts in and tries to fool everyone with lies, but then his head falls off and everything is ok. It was a good one. What else. I'm reaching here, I'm gonna lapse into total vapidity. O o omg //*!dramabomb!*\\ this girl all asked me to the moviez and I'm kk but I don't like 'like' like her in THAT way so lolerskates ;)

*So tired. I know you were all itching to hear that, so thank god that Blogger‘s scheduled maintenance is finally through so I can bring word to the people. Tired. The only other book I got this week was Atomeka’s revival of Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey’s aborted 1999 Oni miniseries “Jenny Finn”, which was cut off halfway through its original serialization. This particular book, titled “Jenny Finn: Doom”, collects all of the Oni stuff with some bonus design sketches and additional art. A second volume, “Jenny Finn: Messiah”, will be out in July to complete the tale with all-new material, including some late-term fill-in art by Farel Dalrymple (who's actually a fill-in for the original fill-in, Scott Morse; it’s unknown to me if any of Morse’s art will appear in the completed book). I’ve always been attracted to the loose issues of this book sitting in my one shop; maybe it’s the uncanny similarity the covers had to Mignola’s immortal “The Amazing Screw-On Head” one-shot, which came out years later. Well now the earlier work is finally catching up, maybe, at least in some form, perhaps.



*Last night, I had one of the oddest dreams I’d had in a very long time. It was a real saga, spanning years of my life, elevating me to a character of near-Shakespearian tragedy (I’d throw in the disclaimer ‘in my own mind’ except through the situation being within a dream such connotation is self-evident). Slowly but surely, my place in my social circle was worn away through little mistakes like using the wrong hair-care products or laughing at inappropriate moments. It was like some social satire of my own device with myself cast in the lead for an audience of only me, except it was 370% more nerdy than average due to my final defeat arriving via the output of Aardvark-Vanaheim. It seems that in dream-time past I’d written a letter to Dave Sim filled with off-color jokes on the subject of Michael Jackson, and apparently Sim had reproduced the letter in his annotations to “The Latter Days” trade paperback, which were duly scoured by an enterprising young man, doubtlessly a self-publishing comics connoisseur (and possibly - *gasp* - a reflection of myself at a younger dream-time age; I apparently cannot escape the use of dubious irony even at the mercies of my own subconscious) bent on my undoing to his own gain. Truly it was “The House of Mirth” for our days, except I’m the only one who saw it and the “Cerebus” bits would probably fly over most exterior audiences’ heads anyway.

Seven Soldiers - Klarion the Witch Boy #1 (of 4)

In a nice change of pace, the official title in the legal type is actually longer then the comparatively casual “Klarion” as evidenced on the cover. Also, the ‘coming soon’ page can’t seem to decide if Witch Boy is perhaps only one word (Witchboy). As always, the indicia rules, formalist bastard that I am.

This is one of the better “Seven Soldiers” first issues, though it’s a tale often told, sometimes resembling a type of EC shock story with all of the unsubtle allegory that such confections tend to employ. But it’s told with panache and fun, and the art is nice, if somewhat uniform through necessity.

Klarion is only 167 bells away from being a Witch Man, and he’s pretty excited, if only because it affords him access to areas outside of his underground homeland of Limbo Town; the Witch Men of his blue-skinned people often travel slightly upwards to trade with the Trolley Men out in High Market. But not much movement overall is allowed by the Book of Shadows, the governing holy text of the Submissionaries, high priests that have recently begun cracking down on the *UGH* democratically elected Parliament. And now there’s been a Sheeda sighting (you’ll recall them as the recurring villains of this project) and Submissionary Judah is howling for a policy of total lockdown. But the delightfully fey Klarion (reminiscent of Morrison’s Sebastian O if not yet quite as amoral) has no use for such superstitious buggery, rejecting the tomfoolery of religion for something tangible and realistic, like magic! Aided by his kitty familiar Teekl and his subversive mentor Ezekiel, Klarion discovers some nasty stuff going on behind the scenes.

Not bursting with originality from every pore, no, but entertaining stuff. Morrison writes the characters well, with an able mix of pomp and humor (“Trouble thine elders and betters no more and let yon fleabag cat hide…” spits Judah at one point), enough to offset the familiarity of the plot mechanics (anyone who doesn’t see a certain character’s awful fate coming from a mile away, or at least as soon as he pulls out a gun to protect himself on his journey, ought to sit in the corner for the rest of the day). Even the obligatory reconditioning of DCU history is cleverer than usual, with a certain Grundy inserted into the Witch Folk’s belief system as a bit of a keystone. Or maybe I just find it clever because I actually noticed the reference this time.

Frazer Irving’s art and color is noticeably hampered by the cave setting: get ready for a lot of blue backgrounds to match all the blue skin. But the character art (lots of talk in this issue) is goodly expressive, and the Puritan-style costume designs are fun; Klarion looks surprisingly badass on that final page, despite the knee-socks and clunky shoes. Good beastie designs as well, offering an opportunity for needed variety; there’s a swell wide panel depicting near-identical Witch Men and Women sitting in church, the only colors beyond blue or black or white provided by their familiars, cats and owls and frogs and even a floofy dog with a panting tongue, way off in the back. And the character art responds to such hues with its own color, Klarion’s half-amused half-disbelieving face soaking in the preaching and praising.

Big cliffhanger ending here, and the coming soon page essentially promises connections to “Guardian” and suggests a “Shining Knight” reference in upcoming issues. Perhaps the info page will also serve to point out connecting threads as they become more evident, more in focus? We’ll have to see as we finally approach some second issues, though this wasn’t a bad finale to this very much extended introduction for “Seven Soldiers”.

Hate Annual #5

And just as expected yesterday, I enjoyed the obligatory Buddy story most out of all four features in this (largely) annual Peter Bagge release from Fantagraphics. Buddy experiences a sort of renewal of inner vigor when an action figure in his nostalgia shop falls from its shelf and damages his eye, necessitating an eye patch. Buddy proceeds to shave his head, invest in a corncob pipe and sailor’s hat, and finally start looking into home ownership: an extra-cheap junkyard (“Hey, I used to dream of living in a dump when I was a kid!”)! But wife Lisa is miffed with her husband’s transformation, and demands a little home-shopping in the suburbs. At 12 pages it doesn’t wear out its welcome, and offers some neat evolution for Bagge’s longtime lead character. Devout “Hate” fans may get the most out of it, but there’s some fair laffs for the uninitiated too.

Following that, we get a heavily-illustrated essay from Bagge, on the topic of renovation of bars from blue-collar joints to hipster hangouts in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Bagge is strongly in support of it, though the piece tends to wander around from historical info to unfocused ranting to social/economic analysis, and the quality is as scattershot as the focus. Some sharp points are made on the topic of Average Working Joe attitudes and how such nominally salt-of-the-earth outlooks tend to coalesce in practice into self-limiting blinkerism. Bagge’s classification of hipster-hating young urban folks as hypocrites, indulging in little more than “self-hatred” to bolster their artificial senses of individuality, probably won’t be quite as well received seeing as how it cuddles the entirety of city youth under a nice big blanket statement (true, the same can be said of his comments on blue-collar slobs). I’ve gotta say though: Bagge’s got a great sense of courage, tearing into “humorless whining” directly in the middle of three long paragraphs devoted to his hatred for live music and pool tables in bars. It’s left up to the reader to determine the humor content, I suppose.

Also on hand is the first comic book format release of Bagge’s “Weekly World News” strip, “Bat Boy”. Twelve and one half weeks worth of strips are presented, though the feature is kind of damned from the start. “Bat Boy” is positively loaded with of-the-moment pop culture and political gags, seemingly designed to be as ephemeral as the weekly tabloid in which it first saw print. Thus, on reprint, we get to relive the fun of Martha Stewart and the lack of Bin Laden and Abu Gharib and all of that, though it’s a little too early to enjoy it as a time-capsule, and there’s not quite enough satire to bring big laughs today. Near the end of the collection the series does begin circling around a larger satirical point, as Bat Boy is elected US President solely on the basis of his enormous popularity and decides to fill his Cabinet with assorted pop stars and teen actresses (after all, if politics is just entertainment, why not be honest about it?), leading to a power struggle between Vice President Lindsay Lohan and Secretary of Defense Lil’ Kim (whose painful dialogue unfortunately offers a less intentional brand of humor). Some decent gags, yes, but I was most impressed with how stale references to the ubiquity of Ms. Lohan already feels. Though, again, such circumstances are here beyond Bagge’s control.

The book ends with an amusing Lovey three-pager, in which all sorts of dark secrets (or lack thereof) are unearthed. The best line in the story, as well as the entire book, charitably arrives on the very last page: “The only other time I got busted was for having sex with farm animals… and I still don’t get why that’s illegal…” Sure, I laughed at that. Are there five dollars of laughs waiting inside for you? A resounding maybe. Use your prior Bagge experiences to guide you.


Be strong! Be fast! Be cheap!


Hate Annual #5: The thing with Peter Bagge is that I usually still find the obligatory Buddy story included in these more-or-less annual books to be pretty funny, even though his other projects haven’t left me nearly as satisfied. “Sweatshop” was an amusing idea for a DC book: a satire of the production of a different form of comics art, namely newspaper strips. But the book was slow in getting its footing, only really springing to life around issue #4 or 5. The book also sold poorly enough that those left waiting for the trade will probably be waiting forever now, which puts one into an awkward position regarding Bagge’s Dark Horse title, “Apocalypse Nerd”, which has also been getting pretty mixed reviews. Maybe it’ll get better later. But waiting may entail jumping in right at the center of a storyline, with only back-issues as a possible guide, the security of a collected format yanked away. Not that I really mind hunting around for back-issues; I think it’s fun. Some don’t. At least I’m pretty sure I’ll like one story in here, and this’ll also be my first look at Bagge’s “Bat Boy” strips from “Weekly World News”, and I’m confident they’ll prove to be an improvement over that thing with the internet-addict husband and wife that used to take up the same space in these annuals.

Four Letter Worlds: Image is just banging out these anthologies, aren’t they? The very popular “Flight” series, the delayed-but-still-forthcoming “Negative Burn” revival, and now this inexpensive ($13) 244-page volume of creators tackling eight-page stories based around the words ‘love’ ‘hate’ ‘fear’ and ‘fate’. Partial contributor list right here; clearly this one is gravitating toward more established ‘names’ than “Flight”, with quite a few familiar Image, Oni, and AIT/Planet-Lar talents on the roster. Probably worth a look, and certainly a decent value in terms of sheer volume of content.

Bilal Library: Memories: Well, if you’re still bummed by the end of DC’s Humanoids deal and you don’t really mind sacrificing page size for content volume, here’s a new collection of two early Enki Bilal albums to soothe your burning temper; I‘m certainly planning to catch up on my Bilal as soon as I have more money, and this four-page preview looks pretty neat, which also reminds me that they just elected a new Pope, some German fellow by the name of Ratzinger, which he really should have retained as his papal name. ‘Pope Ratzinger’ is awesome, and simply ‘Pope Zinger’ is potentially even more awesome, but ‘Pope Benedict XVI’? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Batman: Jekyll & Hyde #1 (of 6): …zzzzzzzzzzWHAT?!?!?! A NEW BATMAN MINISERIES?! That certainly woke me up! But yeah, Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee reunite, if only for the first three issues. Since that’s all Lee managed to complete before DC got pissed with the progress he’d made. Ooops! I mean: to reinforce the duality of Two Face by splitting the book between two artists! Haha, that’s it. I love me that Jae Lee art, but I don’t know about this one.

Seven Soldiers - Klarion the Witch Boy #1 (of 4): And thusly we’re bestowed the fifth and final issue #1 in a row from the “Seven Soldiers” project, with the next not due until September. Soon we’ll dig into how the books actually plan to work off one another thematically or plot-wise or whatever. But not before this latest introduction.

Billy the Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities #1 (of 4): In which Billy the Kid fakes his death and falls in with a troupe of sideshow freaks who then tour Europe with the intent of stealing treasure from Dr. Frankenstein. Written by Eric Powell of “The Goon” with art by Kyle Hotz, who‘s worked with Powell in the past (like in a back-up story in “The Goon“). I think I’m supposed to say “With a wild and wooly set-up like that, well, who can resist?! This is what comics needs more of! Lols!” but actually there’s always a fair shot that these stories can just kind of sit there, coasting on premise. Powell usually manages some decent storytelling in his own book, however, so it’s worth a shot.


An issue to issue forth into history.

*UPDATE 8:29 PM: Hello all, back from my meeting and still pooped and I just noticed that I forgot once more the exotica of


The Tower (Cheval Noir #9-14) (I've gotten some nice response to this, a little jaunt into The Obscure Cities, that fantasy world of Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters, full of beautiful buildings and careful colors and soul! Soul I tell you! but the availability of the book is a devil's pact in terms format I fear...)

Iron Man #3, Tom Strong #32

Flaming Carrot Comics #2 (or is it #34?), Adam Strange #7 (of 8)

And why not throw in my initial thoughts on the first 35% or so of Alan Moore's "Voice of the Fire"?

Ok. On to the day's events again, with a most curious book from the creator of "Concrete".




*What do I see here, hovering over the chasm of slumber? I see only the most wonderful comics, the comics that I am bound to remember for all of my days. Come! Share in my glorious vision before I fall face-forward onto my keys and miss the fucking meeting I still need to fucking attend at seven o’ fucking clock. Come!

The World Below #3 (of 4)

Some comics will live forever. Better get used to the title here, because this is one of them.

The World Below” might better fit into the bibliography of writer/penciler Paul Chadwick under the title of “Not Concrete”, since it’s the only other extended series created by Chadwick and featuring his writing and art (with the inks of Ron Randall in this instance offering back-up). And ‘extended’ might well be an inappropriate term, since the book only saw two four-issue miniseries worth of material released: this initial 1999 color series, and “The World Below: Deeper and Stranger”, which got downgraded to black and white after low sales. Chadwick had wanted an ongoing series of single-issue adventures, following the strange quest of a crack team of six racial and gender balanced treasure-hunting adventurers deep underneath the Earth in search of valuable technology at the beck and call of an electronics magnate; at least he got the single-issue structure in place for most of the title’s life.

Thus, we’re able to hop into the fun very quickly; and what fun it is! Because this series would also feature potent allegory! For something or other!

Just take this issue, in which our team just can’t help but pause their entire quest at the sight of a rather… suggestive stone spire, standing tall and at attention and plunging into an equally… suggestive open cavern in the roof of the underground. Simply looking upon this display causes the men in the team to go bonkers with testosterone and yell and slap the ladies around. They’re then seized with an enormous urge to climb the looming shaft, up toward the welcoming cavern above. Meanwhile, the girls all get pre-menstrual headaches (and that’s exactly how they define them to one another), and note that little creatures and beasties are rutting like crazy all around the scene.

You see! It's like a classic fable, only vaguely filthy. At this point, the clever and canny reader might muse to themselves “Oh my! Mr. Chadwick is setting up some commentary on gender differences! A spat obvious, but what cheek!”

I thought the same thing. What cheek indeed.

One of the sweating men nearly falls from his position on the towering rod and gets all tangled up in his climbing gear. The other men don’t care, so vigorous is their upward crawl. They cuss at one another. Oh, the don’t really cuss. They don’t say 'fuck'. They don’t even say f$&% or some equivalent. No, Mr. Chadwick has a different plan: they say 'Eff'. As in “So how come you’re using my lines, eff-face?” “EFF YOU, HASSLER! YOU’RE the effing GIRL!” The narration cheerily points out that all dirty words have been “discretely rendered”. This will be the final discreet moment of the issue.

So even though the sight of the thing disgusts her (“…it makes my skin crawl to think of reaching the top.”), one of the more sporty members of the female side of the squad makes the climb herself, enjoying a lovely flashback to her dangerous youth and eventually saving all but one of the men, who gingerly slips himself into the opening in the ceiling.

And then, in case I and Mr. Chadwick haven’t been hinting and nudging around with nearly enough force, we get a big glimpse of the summit of the enormous rocky penis, which is all throbbing and fleshy on top, and plunged into a welcoming chamber of moist pink ruffles. “The soft tissues lining it are curved and feminine,” the narration gingerly intones, in case anyone had missed the fact that our team supreme had just entered a gigantic Cave Vagina. There are corpses of men laying all around, and apparently an opening to the above-ground world somewhere in the back where hunters and various civilians have fallen in over the years. The remaining male in Our Heroic Team is left in a drugged state of ecstasy, rolling and snuggling about among the folds of the opening. The mountain-climbing heroine is fast behind him, apparently not affected by exposure to any gender’s sexual equipment in giant cave form.

Come quickly!” she shouts, “This place is about killing people… I can feel it and evidence is everywhere!” As if to seal the aptitude of her observation, she’s pointing to a human skull lodged somewhere in a fold.

You don’t understand. You’re a woman. You can’t.” replies her teammate, in a haze.

Obviously, there’s only one thing to do in such a situation: she whips out a nice big shotgun and fire erupts from its long barrel, lead ejaculated into the flesh of the cave, creating a veritable typhoon of blood, skin, and mixed Freudian symbols, and then the cave roars and, for lack of a better term, expunges everyone. Fortunately our dynamic duo manage to rappel down the enormous Cave Penis as the flesh cavern above oozes blood all down its stony length.

I found this book in the bargain bin, you know. You find a lot of great things in there.

Back on the ground, everyone is quite embarrassed at their actions and nobody can really explain what happened. Lord knows I can’t, with the messages mixing and re-mixing and punching holes into alternate dimensions and colonizing them. I think we were supposed to get some kind of lesson about male agression and feminine coolness in the face of naughty bits the size of skyscrapers. Fortunately, there’s still time for a nice wrap-up: one of the team remarks that the discovery of the above-ground entrance could aid local law enforcement. “I bet a lot of missing persons cases could be closed with those remains.” I agree, although I’m not sure if the grief of uncertain relatives would necessarily be assuaged by the details of their beloveds’ fates.

So ends another thrilling and stimulating excursion into “The World Below”. I can only hope that similarly individualistic exploits will be recorded for our enchantment and perusal in future issues, which I managed to purchase for less than fifty cents each a while back but I never got to reading.


Initial Thoughts on “Voice of the Fire”

*I finally started this book, Alan Moore’s only prose novel, completed in 1997 and only properly released in North America in 2003 by Top Shelf. I bought my copy the day it was released to the Direct Market. Just started reading it yesterday, which speaks quite well of my mighty backlog (more thoughts on backlogs at Johanna’s; I must say that comics pretty much eliminated my once-compulsive purchasing of dvds, simply because my financial state couldn’t handle both).

Having gotten through the first two of twelve chapters (which nonetheless eat up over one-third of the book’s total space), I’m struck perhaps most by Moore’s use of language. In case you don’t know, “Voice of the Fire” is a set of short stories, all tied by theme and recurring images and other things, that covers events taking place on the site of what is now Moore’s hometown of Northampton; the place is the same, but the book moves forward in time with each new chapter, ending with a story about Moore himself at the time of the book’s writing. I’m sure that many of you, even in the event that you’ve not read the book or know nothing else about it, have heard of the infamous first chapter of this volume: it’s written entirely in a fantasy bastard tongue, an imaginative representation of what the language of 4000 BC might sound like if directly transmuted into something approximating modern speak. It’s plainly not a literal attempt at conjuring period communication (just as the bits from later periods aren’t presented in the authentic English of their times); rather, it’s an expression of limited communication and limited human development in a specially tuned manner that serves the story quite excellently. It’s even possible that not everyone in this particular chapter talks this way: our narrator isn’t the brightest specimen of early humanity, even in relation to his fellow setters and wanderers. He also cannot distinguish dreams from reality, he has no sense of depth perception, and he’s generally unwise to the ways of the world.

Walks I up hill, and little ways up sees I man on top, and sees he I, with sick and blood on face, and shit on legs of I. Says he as how I look-a-like with pig-arse, and what is I want of there, and like, and say of he is queer, with many sayings as I may not glean. An other man, more big in belly, come by now on top of hill, for look at I. In low of belly is he’s will all little, more as like to babe’s.”

And likewise for forty pages. It’s an interesting gambit to execute the first chapter in such a fashion (though the blow is leavened a ways by Neil Gaiman’s introduction added to the Top Shelf release), but it pays off quite handsomely. The reader is essentially forced to re-learn their way of perceiving the world through the constricted gaze of our young narrator; some words must be concentrated upon (it took me way too long to figure out the way in which Moore intended ‘glean’ to be understood), and extra attention must be paid to simple things like trees in the distance becoming larger upon approach. The ensuing effect is a genuinely alien and unsettling pre-Christian world, filled with barely perceivable danger. And even after the reader is used to the narrator’s language and the world he lives in, even after you can tell that in the quoted passage above the narrator has just shat himself and is taking note of another man’s tiny penis, Moore turns the screw just a little bit more, leading to a finale that proves that you really shouldn’t put your trust in an unreliable narrator, since even after you’ve learned to see the world like him, he still might be making minor errors that even you can’t quite notice, being held behind the white wall of the prose page.

And then the second chapter begins. We are now in 2500 BC. The narrator couldn’t be more different; now we’ve got a seemingly clever woman, apparently cleverer than everyone around her, prone to graft and trickery, and not above murder and identity theft (quite a simple matter when everyone lives days apart and relative may not see their offspring for decades at a time upon leaving them) to further her interests. The language is quite lovely, quite advanced. And yet - key words from the previous chapter are repeated. We’re given a seemingly brighter, more modern guide, yet we’re still very much in the Bronze Age. We’re also still among the huts and visionaries of Northampton, and we see some very similar sights and sites and such, not much changed in a millennium and one half. A flashback here echoes a flashback in the earlier chapter, only from a more devious, eloquent, but perhaps no more trustable perspective. I understand why these two chapters take up so much of the book; we must be taught again how to evaluate our most basic use of senses, we must see the world as a young thing to humankind, if we are ever to appreciate the flavors of time's passage and humanity's developments and lack thereof. This is the membrane that marks the work as the 'novel' that Moore brands it as; I was a bit amused by a commentator at Amazon getting all hot and bothered over the book's novelistic intent (you'll need to scroll down a tad - yes, I know, reader review at Amazon is unsatisfactory, alert the papers, get on the wire, etc.). There truly is much more connection than pure location, and I really must wonder how a reader could miss such an evident element of the work (along with how the niceties of format branding could prompt such a reaction). And what vehement distaste for purple language!

We are drawn father along, and farther in time as the book continues, and I trust that the explorations of speaking and perception will continue as we rush toward the present. I’ll write more when I’m farther along.



*A quote to inform your weekend:

"'The Regrettable Ruse of Rocket Redglare' (Prog 234) was an early example of my pathological tendency towards taking old, well-loved characters and then thoroughly debasing them. Comic fans love this kind of thing, believe me."

-Alan Moore, on setting the stage of the future, from his introduction to "Alan Moore's Shocking Futures", a collection of his "2000 AD" shorts, released in 1986. In the same essay, Moore refers to the Superman origin scenario as "old and enfeebled". Ah, the passion of (relative) youth!

*The stories in that book are pretty great, actually. Far away from his most renowned work, but perfectly fun and smart little 2-5 page bites of story, and often very funny. One of them, "Sunburn", features a fellow on the run from the law having committed murder at a resort on the Sun. It seems Moore needed some way of keeping his attention focused, since virtually every line of dialogue has some sort of 'heat'-related pun. "Oh no! A police launch hot on my trail!" "Boy! Am I in a hot situation!" "I shouldn't have flared up like that..." "I'll have really found my 'place in the sun'!" And so on and so forth. An awful lot of this style was held over for Moore's work on "Tomorrow Stories" at ABC, much later. I expect Moore was somewhat anxious to get back to such writing...