Another short story.

*So, you were expecting reviews of new comics, eh? Well listen here, buster, I’ve been chasing these new comics around with my butterfly net all afternoon, and I’ve had no luck at all. Tomorrow! I’ll need something to distract me from my navigation of Our Nation’s Highways tomorrow, and new comics will prove to be just the thing.

*An exceptionally ridiculous early evening here. I decided that I wanted to go to McDonald’s after work, but I knew from driving in that the roads were being blocked off for something. So I just parked at my building and got changed and set out on foot. I thought that maybe there was going to be some kind of unexpected carnival, kind of like Ethnicity Fest (which also happened to occur on Free Comic Book Day) where they parked that Viking boat on the street and everyone pulled out booths and sold snacks and trinkets. Maybe I’d find a booth cheap enough to feed myself at.

Unfortunately, I soon realized that the street was actually being blocked off for a parade. And it was apparently about to start, as everyone was lined up on the sidewalk. I guess I like parades, but I can’t stand still for more than a few minutes at a time under the best of circumstances, and certainly not when all I have to distract me are shiny red fire trucks and the Boro’s new police cruiser (now with additional flashing lights!). Usually in these situations I try to recall the wisdom of that friendly old classic of American film, Mr. Holland’s Opus, in which it is revealed that you can spot a deaf baby by checking to see that they don’t react to loud fire truck noises during parades. I think other tings happened in the film too, but that’s what I took out of it. So I usually wind up walking up and down through the crowd playing ‘Spot the Deaf Babies.’ If I score above a 5, I treat myself to more expensive coffee than usual.

However, I decided that I wasn’t interested in enjoying the parade this time. Something about that curious dream the other night involving my eye being gouged out by an errant Tootsie Roll. So I decided that I needed to cross the street. By this point, though, I was already too close to the Official Parade Bandstand, and they were starting to warm up, with a local radio DJ tossing out some truly amazing jokes, like how he and the mayor should sing a duet to the tune of a local news station’s theme music; I’d repeat the rest of the jokes but they’re so mirthful that you’d all probably die.

I didn’t want the DJ to spot me crossing the street, thus making me the target of one of his hilarious japes, so I tried turning the corner and heading away from the main route, with the intention of crossing the street farther down, safe from prying eyes and jocular lips. I was mostly successful, evading police dogs and tiny children as I crossed over. Now all I had to do was make my way back toward the main parade route and continue on my way to becoming another of the 99 billion served. How do they count those?

Ah, but no matter what side of the street I was on, drawing close to the bandstand was like entering restricted airspace; I was stopped in my tracks once again, this time by Our National Anthem. I mean, come on. I can’t go strolling along the main parade route while Our National Anthem plays. The assembled veterans would pull out their antique sidearms and blast away. So I stood around and sort of mouthed the words like I was in church, while some little child wrestled with a balloon and his father (I presume) looked on with pride. His father also happened to have about half of his face badly scarred from some sort of burn injury, and watching him beam at his little son brutalizing a balloon as Our National Anthem played proved to be a curious moment of serenity in the whole droll affair. As the song ended, I tried to get moving, but then a local priest stood up to offer a patriotic benediction. Now I definitely couldn’t move. The Knights of Columbus would draw their swords and cut me down.

Minutes later, having been duly reassured that Jesus loves America in general and myself in particular, I was finally able to get moving. It was time to round the corner and get hopping over to McDonald’s. But once again, once again my friends, I was blocked, this time by an entire battalion of Revolutionary War soldiers in wigs and coats and pants made to look like stockings. They took up the whole corner. I wondered what I could do. I couldn’t cross the street again. I didn’t want to turn around, as that would cause me to turn to salt. I wondered if I could just barrel through them. It was a pretty tight formation, but I was willing to bet that their guns weren’t real, or at least that they hadn’t had sufficient training in loading black powder. I readied myself to charge.

And lo! Salvation arrived with a mighty crash as some elderly woman came tumbling out of some nearby bushes, dragging a lawn chair and much of her clan behind her. I hadn’t thought of jumping through the bushes! What a big idea! So I waited for that heroic old woman, the national hero of my heart, to finish navigating her extended family through the hedges, and then I leapt in myself. And just as if I had entered a portal to a brand-new paradise, I was free and mostly alone and on my way toward wolfing down dirt cheap food in a plastic restaurant all by myself! Settling down with my filet of fish in my sunny corner seat, eyeing a silent old couple off across the room, the only other people seated, I tried to listen to the parade going by from far out at the borders of discernment as my eyes wandered out the window.

99 billion served. How do they count those?


My mailbox was stuffed with gold.

*You can just imagine my surprise when I opened my mailbox today and discovered, among various coupon clipper booklets (I don’t even own clippers!), missing children brochures/used tire coupon flyers (I don’t own any missing children either), unimportant bills, and very important pre-approved credit-card applications, that I was now the proud owner of the “Ultimate Guide to Fantastic 4.” Yes, the new issue of TV Guide was here, and I got the variant cover with Chris Evans as The Human Torch. I wish I could say that TV Guide was indulging in a little bit of comics industry exploration by putting out variants, maybe something of a mass-market comment on the practice, but actually they’ve been doing it for years now. It just feels more natural with superheroes. Collect all five!

Par for the course given the venue, the Ultimate Guide is a whopping 5 pages long, two of which are a double-page photo spread. I’m reminded of an extended conversation from back when I was in college; I was talking with an English major friend of mine, who mentioned that a pal of his was looking to score a job writing for TV Guide. We both got kind of smirky at such ambition for a while, since everyone who actually reads TV Guide knows that exists on the absolute bleeding razor’s edge of how much fluff can be possibly compressed into articles without the publication literally floating off the newsstands or drawing the attention of the FDA or something. We, on the other hand, would only write the finest of highbrow literature and glittering comment (as I'm doing right now). But our mirth was short-lived; TV Guide also has a gigantic circulation, and we quietly knew that what was lost in intellectual exactitude would be replaced by sheer exposure. I doubt either of us saw that as a fair trade, but if you’re looking to get the name of something out, you can do far worse.

So that’s where the FF are this week. Why, that opening photo spread is even set up in fumetti style, with word balloons giving Our Heroes such Eisner-worthy lines as “I feel fantastic” (note the lack of punctuation) and “Who you callin’ transparent?” (that one’s from, ha ha, the Invisible Woman!). Oh, but excellent writing isn’t limited to the photos: “Instead, to keep the character on a more human scale, Chiklis dons a simple rubberized suit that would probably give George Lucas a seizure.” Ho ho! That is because Geroge Lucas enjoys the use of computer graphics a lot! Or maybe because the scent of rubber triggers epileptic reactions! Must we always look to TV Guide for these sizzling hot personal revelations?! Yes. Forever. Poor Lucas isn’t alone: “Chiklis was able to access the character’s pain simply by wearing a costume that took three hours a day to put on and involved a 45-minute ordeal just to go to the bathroom. The stress led Chiklis to consult a psychiatrist… Well, you’d better get used to it, Mike - we smell a sequel (or two) in your feature.”


All in all, a fine report, and truly the only guide to the FF that I will ever require. So, is there news? Well, there’s apparently going to be a Fantastic Four commercial tied in with the NBA playoffs. It seems that departures from the comics origin story has caused “some message-board crankiness.” They did manage to credit both Lee and Kirby with the genesis of the characters. That was nice.

Oh, hey! Comics promotion! Go here and give away your personal info to win an autographed edition of Mark Millar and Greg Land’s Ultimate Fantastic Four #21, which TV Guide assures us is the hottest book of the summer! They'd know! Not that Millar and Land (or any of the creative team behind the summer's hottest book) are named inside TV Guide itself; they’re collectively referred to as “the famous creators,” obviously famous enough that they need no introduction. I certainly hope a lot of non-comics readers win the lion’s share of the 200 copies they’re giving away, so that they can enjoy Chapter 1 of the awesome story of the Ultimate and 616 universes crossing over, surely a tale that will require no specialized knowledge of the inner ticking and tockings of the modern comics scene to make sense of it. Three cheers for simultaneous mainstream outreach and fan-centric event writing! We love it!


Oh! Oh those rarebits! Ah!

*I dreamed I was in a movie theater in Tel Aviv last night. I don’t know how I knew where the theater was; I just knew. It was totally black, save for the screen, which was under-lit and difficult to see. Trailers for some really bad looking movies were playing, real Charles Band stuff, Christopher Lambert playing a science fiction sorcerer and science heroes jumping out of buildings.

I was so tired. I could hardly move. That’s a recurring feature of my dreams and nightmares: forced slow-motion, an inability to run, being held back.

Suddenly, a gun went off. One shot. Everybody got up but it was too dark to see so they pulled out their cigarette lighters and used those to illuminate the room. A hundred flickers of flame with a voice to match each one, all screaming around the atmosphere, and the smell of gunpowder, and I knew someone had died.

I couldn’t move.

I was so so scared.


*I also can’t move anything from my bank account, btw. I’m supposed to get paid tomorrow; I really hope that happens, because otherwise it’s going to be a very sad time…


…paradoxically heightened by the fact that there’s really not a lot coming out to purchase anyway. Huh!

The Surrogates #1 (of 5): In which Top Shelf opts to release a good ol’ fashioned color action pamphlet-format miniseries. Their catalog solicitation crows that it’s their first foray into ‘mainstream’ comics. First-time writer and Top Shelf staffer Robert Vendetti originally intended to shop the book around to other publishers, but Top Shelf decided to keep it in-house. Artist Brett Weldele is a veteran of a good number of projects from several back-of-Previews mainstays, like the Brian Wood written Couscous Express for AiT/PlanetLar and the Antony Johnston scripted Julius from Oni. Plus: pinups! Just like a real live chest-thumping action pamphelt-format miniseries. It’s only $2.95 for full-color too, and I bet there’s next to no ads, save for the world-building fake ones. Not to mention the text pieces. The plot is something about futuristic cops fighting techno-terrorism in a ‘perfect future,’ but I heard it’s pretty good. I’ll probably check it out.

Albion #1 (of 6): Completely forgotten in the uproar following Alan Moore’s latest high-pitch confrontation with DC is this ongoing project, a possible series of miniseries reviving a slew of old IPC/Fleetway superheroes. Have a sneak peek. Moore only provides the plots, just as Watchmen co-conspirator Dave Gibbons tackles only the covers. The meat of the project is handled by writers Leah Moore and John Reppion (of the earlier Wild Girl, which at least started strong) and artist Shane Oakley, who apparently got the whole thing off the ground when a planned collaboration with the senior Moore on Tomorrow Stories fell through. I learned that latter bit on Leah ‘n John’s blog. Everyone has a blog, you know.

Planetary #23: Make your friends a holiday weekend present of Planetary now, and cause them to think of you every time the leaves change color. When the flavor of the air sweetens, when the children return to school, when the scrapes of shovels cease, so changes the number of Planetary. This edition, regarding the origins of that ontological timbre-savant rapscallion The Drummer, is guaranteed to prove an endless fund of amusement, scheduled to suit the appetites of both young and old - it’s the cheer-up book for this season’s hottest weeks. Planetary concedes inferiority only to the lingering sparkle of an eroding afternoon daydream. Do kindly surrender your $2.99, and do always keep in touch. (apologies to F. C. Ware)

Seven Soldiers - Shining Knight #3 (of 4): And with this, we’ll have officially hit the 1/3 mark for the project. Without a late book, might I add! Did I just jinx everything? Oh well!

City of Tomorrow #3 (of 6): Ha ha ha, the robots are gangsters.


Further thoughts on terrible comics.

*But why not enjoy some prior thoughts, even on some good comics in


Conan and the Jewels of Gwahlur #1-3 (of 3) (and thoughts on adaptation)

Hellboy: The Island #1 (of 2)

Flaming Carrot Comics #3 (#35 in a series)

LowJinx #2: Understanding the Horrible Truth About Reinventing Minicomics (very funny minicomic from 2000, from some great people; keep your eyes peeled)

And what's more, lurking in the depths of Comic Book Galaxy, we've got:

Winsor McCay Early Works: Volume V

Scobble it up, while I inquire as to the proper spelling of 'scobble.'

*Excellent Ideas Dept: I received a revelation from angels last night, on the topic of the upcoming southern-rock Ghost Rider movie. I have the perfect title sequence. It’s all black, and suddenly we’re hearing the sweet tones of If You Wanna Get to Heaven by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. We begin to see fragmented pieces of a mortocycle in operation via multiple split-screens. A grinding wheel here, a handlebar there, the road roaring by below; it’s like a motorcycle operating in abstract. All visuals are in 16mm, really faded and blurry. Views of details keep shifting as the preliminary credits appear. Then, a huge chunk of the upper screen wipes into a single wide view of Oscar winner Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze, roaring down the highway. Hopefully this will coincide with one of the harmonica bits. Overlaid across everything is a big solid yellow and red Ghost Rider title logo, just as it appeared on those 1973 early issues. Maybe a copyright notice on the bottom. Yeah.

That’s it. I saw it in my dreams and I will now tolerate no less. You’d better all congratulate me now, while I’m accessible; soon I’ll have disappeared for a swim into a money bin full of cocaine.

Sword of Damocles #1-2 (of 2)

Careful/frightening readers will note that I was recently at the shop where I buy most of my bargain comics. Every few weeks, I usually have a few more things to look for, just stuff that I’ve suddenly heard of. For example, this time around I began specifically looking for the Warren Ellis issues of the splendid 1996 Wildstorm crossover Fire From Heaven. I already spend too much space chatting about Alan Moore’s role (or lack thereof) in this little affair, but I still wanted to see how Mr. Ellis fared. Since it was only two bucks; I can justify pretty much any comics purchase for two bucks.

Ellis wrote one of the errant framing miniseries of the crossover, Sword of Damocles; you’ll recall Moore’s similarly structured Fire From Heaven framing miniseries neither framed anything nor actually formed a miniseries by any useful margin. Same here. You’ll also recall that Moore’s chapters of the story were so bound to the necessity of hitting assorted (likely pre-provided) overall plot points, that even the parts of it he actually wrote didn’t sound like him. Ellis actually does a slightly better job of retaining a semblance of his writerly ‘voice’ amid the din of Big Event noise, but it’s a mighty struggle.

Sword of Damocles was Ellis’ first work for Image. It’s also the first chapter of the 20-book Fire From Heaven event, much of which would cross over into regular Wildstorm titles, interrupting their current storylines. I was simply delighted to note, however, that the first issue of this lurching stitchwork of a storyline isn’t actually the beginning; by page 4, there’s already a footnote directing us to the first appearances of some of the cast in Gen13 Vol. 2 #1, and a helpful synopsis (yes, there’s a ‘Story Thus Far’ type text synopsis in the first book of the event) fills in the blanks of what I guess is a long-building plot, which naturally makes little sense to those not purchasing a wide variety of Wildstorm titles. This book in particular focuses mainly on the titular Sword, who’s an agent of the evil Damocles (ha ha - take that, metaphor!). Damocles is apparently the main villain of this event, although this is the only issue of the crossover in which I’ve seen him actually appear, and I’ve managed to amass six out of twenty chapters merely by following the career paths of Moore and Ellis. The Sword however is a white-haired psycho wearing a big inverted cross on his chest who goes out and kills stuff long with Damocles’ dumber henchmen. The plot (some awful thing regarding Gen Factors and inter-dimensional travel; I’m assured that the revelations herein were terribly major things that changed Wildstorm’s superheroes forever, but only if you‘ve been reading a lot of it) is basically set in motion, the Sword acts like a badass, and *GASP* a hero dies. Because the Sword is such a badass. Everything is always the same, forever.

The hero in question is back by the end of the crossover, by the way.

Ellis tries to work with the material, attempting to imbue the Sword with touches of individual cruelty and evil charisma, but he’s caught between summarizing bits of plot that have come before and setting up the rest of the story to come. But at least he has a fighting chance; by the time issue #2 rolls along, the third-to-last book in the event overall, it’s evident that there’s trouble. Another text synopsis is given; pretty standard-issue. But then, in addition, the first seven pages of the book itself are devoted to further plot summarization, followed by an issue-long fight scene between the Sword and Wildstorm hero Union, who’s obviously had some Shocking Revelations pop up in his own books in this crossover. Unlike Moore’s Fire From Heaven, at least there’s a consistent focus on something (the titular Sword), saving this ‘miniseries’ from being an isolated pair of info-dump issues. Similarly to Moore’s issues, however, there’s really no way this can be called a ‘miniseries’ with a straight face; there’s no self-contained plot, just points on the event timeline that are generally grouped around the Sword, which affords it slightly more structure. Slightly.

So the Sword and Union (who are, oh my word, inter-dimensional twins or something; keep the shocks coming, guys!) fight a lot, and Ellis tries to keep things amusing through the Sword’s incessant narrative captions, musing as to why his twin hasn’t yet castrated himself, or criticizing his girlish long hair. Ah, but it’s all for nothing. When Warren Ellis climaxes a fight scene by having the hero skewer the villain with the American Flag, with no discernible accompanying irony or comment (save for the presence of the very act itself), you know the event has gained the upper hand. “It may be a cold, lifeless chunk of rock. But it’s our cold, lifeless chunk of rock. Let’s take it back,” hollers mighty Union to the heroes assembled at the end of the book. He’s talking about the moon, but one could be forgiven for thinking he’s referring to the crossover itself. That fight is beyond Our Heroes’ power, though.

Oh, Randy Green does the art for both of these books. It’s ok; he has a more rounded style than the average Wildstorm pen of the day. Today it’d be sort of inching toward a manga/superhero fusion look. He’s a pretty clear storyteller, which was good for the fights.

So Ellis is a bit more successful here than Moore. But I’m only examining individual parts; how does the crossover work as a whole? Well, maybe we don’t want to go there. By the end of the event, books were starting to get late. Fire From Heaven #2, intended as the grand finale, wound up being the penultimate book due to scheduling upheavals. It directly followed Sword of Damocles #2. It even depicts some of the same events.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the books were late enough that they wound up being produced concurrently, without much in the way of inter-artist communication. Because that’s pretty much the only explanation for the sheer lack of basic continuity between these two consecutive chapters. Heroes are visible in the background early in the fight in Damocles #2 that are later shown just newly arriving at the same point in Heaven #2. Another hero is shown lying beaten on the ground in Heaven #2; in Damocles #2, he’s not so much as touched by anyone. The staging of the fight is different; in Damocles #2, the combatants are knocked across the moon, away from the watching crowd, so Union can grab Old Glory at that crucial moment. In Heaven #2, they stay in exactly the same place, the flag having apparently come to them. Even the goddamned conclusion of the fight is different: in Damocles #2, the Sword gets vaporized by his own energy sword (oh the irony!) after the big run-through. In Heaven #2, the Sword is simply punched unconscious. I really can’t believe that readers of this crossover wouldn’t be hopping mad at such rampant sloppiness, even if it all can be chalked up to extreme lateness. I mean, this is just silly. Stupid question, I know, but did people actually buy this crap? And does anyone look back on this fondly?! I think they do. Because stuff like this is back in style.

Fuck it. I don’t care about Infinite Crisis, but take heart, those who do. It can’t be worse that this. It can’t.


Ha ha ha, oh my. This is way too much...

*Today’s feature review was located atop a pile of random trades in the unofficial ‘miscellaneous’ section of a local shop, the one from which I purchase a lot of my bargain finds. Looking at the back, I noticed that a price tag had been ripped off. I wondered if the book was even for sale, or if some hapless fan had left it in the store by mistake somehow. Maybe it was deliberate. I don’t know.

ME: Hey… how much is this thing?

CLERK: Hmmmmm

[He checks the front cover. Checks the back. Runs his finger against the atrophied glue that once held the price tag. Flips through the book. Checks the inside front and back covers. Flips again. Looks up.]

CLERK: Seventy-five cents?

ME: Ok!

LowJinx #2: Understanding the Horrible Truth About Reinventing Minicomics

It’s normal to feel a little strange about running a review for a book that’s going to be pretty hard to find. I mean, Kid Eternity and Fire From Heaven may not be collected into trades and are certainly undercovered by the current critical thought (perhaps deservedly so in the latter’s case, though I think exploring a popular creator’s poorest woks can prove just as valuable as examining accepted triumphs), but ultimately they’re not going to prove too difficult to track down. Perhaps not so with this one, a 52-page minicomic from 2000. But it’s a fine little time capsule, and a damned funny work, and I think you all should know about it, just in case you run across a copy in a dusty corner of a store you happen to be visiting. This is a Yellow Alert review: keep yourselves on guard for this book.

LowJinx is a humor anthology, edited by Kurt Wolfgang, an interesting figure. His homepage offers few clues about him, though it does give one an impression of his level of visual acumen, filled with passes toward classic animation and newspaper comics, coupled with a creeping rubber landscape, and a pinch of Peter Bagge. This interview at Ninth Art from a year and a half ago provides a lot more information, though there’s still little known about the origins of LowJinx. I presume that an issue #1 exists somewhere, though there seems to be no record of it (unsurprising, I guess; we are talking minicomics here). But, as the Ninth Art interview suggests, this book, the second issue, is what put the title on the map. There’d be other successes. Issue #3 was released in 2001 at a big 100 pages. It bore an interesting premise: a list of contributors was provided at the beginning of the book, but nobody signed their strips. In addition, everyone provided a parody of another artist’s work (though the parodied artest did not need to be a fellow contributor). One expects that, if handled correctly, such a construction could turn one of the more annoying facets of design-centric comics anthologies into a pleasant game. The book seems to have been pretty well-received; Rich Kreiner gave it quite a positive summing in The Comics Journal’s pertinent Year in Review issue (#240). Of less researchable success was the fourth and most recent issue of the title, released in 2003 and devoted to presenting comics created by assorted creators when they were children, which Daniel Holloway of the Journal’s online Dogsbody review feature (and currently of the Journal’s Minimalism minicomics column in print format) blasted as “no more than a celebration of the cult of personality in an artistic community where publisher, artist, retailer and reader are all personalities.” Wolfgang has also produced a short, wordless book titled Where Hats Go, and has been working for years on a gigantic (also wordless) 400+ page adaptation of Pinokio for Top Shelf, which remains incomplete.

But our focus is on that name-making issue #2 of LowJinx, and it frankly deserves the attention, perhaps moreso due to the passage of a half decade’s time. Not only is it a genuinely funny book, but it captures a wealth of concerns among those in the ultra small-press scene at the turn of the century.

The book starts by offering apologies to Scott McCloud and James Kochalka, whose individual visual styles are appropriated for humorous purposes within, though the ultimate purpose of each appropriation is quite different, as we’ll see. The first chapter, titled “What the Fuck is a Minicomic” and written and drawn by Wolfgang himself, begins as a straight-up parody of McCloud’s familiar Understanding Comics lecture format, extolling the comparative virtues of the minicomics style. At least until five pages in, when it’s determined that nobody can come up with a satisfactory definition of ‘minicomics.’ The remainder of the chapter (11 pages) is spent suggesting increasingly unwieldy definitions for the term, only to have a disproving example brought up every time. Ah, but Wolfgang knows what he’s doing here; by offering up constant examples of what minicomics can be, he presents to the reader the breadth of the form, while suggesting several choice specimens along the way. The whole routine is also punctuated with little shots toward typical minicomic critics and other comics scene bugaboos: Liberty Meadows creator Frank Cho will provide a recurring target of mockery throughout the book. I’d not been around for comics in the year 2000, but tales of Cho’s ongoing criticisms of minicomics and other assorted small-press books continued to haunt the Comics Journal message board well into my own time. And hey! Did you hear that Ted Rall is litigious?! You could have heard it earlier today, and you’ll hear it in this book too. Some controversies are longer-lasting than others. One controversy that isn’t explored is McCloud’s own contentious statements made in the contemporaneously-released Reinventing Comics (maybe there wasn‘t time to read it?). Actually, there’s very little McCloud-centered satire, strange considering that the cover art depicts him being mauled by a gigantic stapler.

The book’s next chapter moves into more explicit lampooning, with Jef Czekaj’s “Donkey Boy Wipes His Ass,” a Kochalka spoof cum minicomics satire. It’s surprisingly pointed stuff, with the Kochalka stand-in character taking a huge shit, staring at it, then phoning Tom Devlin: “Hello, Tom. I just made the newest Highwater publication. And, oh yeah, it comes with a CD!” Donkey Boy then reviews the latest batch of Fort Thunder books, which gives the reader an interesting feeling today; it was only after Tom Spurgeon’s excellent 2003 Fort Thunder overview in the Journal (#256, the magnum opus of the Milo George administration) that a wider audience began picking up on this material. I think a lot of newer or less acclimated readers would be interested in seeing how these creators were received by their target audience (did they have one?) back in the heyday. In the absence of historical record, satire can suffice, as satire often reflects common criticisms of the day. It’s also interesting to note that many of the same criticisms may well apply today: “For example, this important, ground-breaking comic is about… well, it looks like it’s about some sort of monkey, uh, walking around. And this one… hmm. This one seems to be about a funny-looking monkey that walks around. This one is more or less illegible… but we can assume it’s about a pensive monkey.” Same as it ever was. Czekaj, it ought be noted, has since moved on to some nice work in Nickelodeon Magazine, and his lovely Grampa & Julie strips have been collected into a book from Top Shelf. Cute, attractive stuff.

And he’s not the only future success in this book. Chapter 3 is cut into four sections, each covering “Tales of Bitter Struggle.” You’ve gotta know who Sam Henderson is. Even at the time of this book’s release, Alternative Comics was already publishing his Magic Whistle book, a veritable cosmos of play. Here, he tells us about the difficulties in explaining what he does to his relatives. Tony Consiglio, whose Double Cross minis would eventually be partially collected by Top Shelf, tells a tale of frustration regarding apathetic copy shop employees. Minicomics mainstay Dave Kiersh gives us a page of whimsical poverty and twee commerce. Kiersh also provides the back cover art, which I initially though was supposed to be a parody of his own wispy style, but it seems to be largely indistinguishable from his ‘straight’ single-page work of the sort, at least as much as I’ve seen of it. But his approach is typical of the far more straightforward autobiographical drive of this chapter. Wolfgang returns to round things out with a chronicle of his comics career, stretching past his death to the disappearance of the art form (Wolfgang gives it until 2045).

And the final chapter, just to keep things from getting too self-effacing, provides “A Word on ‘Real’ Comics.” It’s by Johnny Ryan, just before his Angry Youth Comics was picked up by Fantagraphics. Two of Ryan’s familiar characters, crude Loady and nerdish Sinus are walking out of the comics store. Loady has picked up plenty of New Universe, Archie, and assorted superhero back-issues; what a bastard! Fortunately, Sinus is there to turn Loady on to the awesome world of proper independent comics (amusingly, James Kochalka pops up here too, solidifying his then-contemporaneous position as a wayfarer between the small and smaller presses). The criticism is particularly heated toward Artbabe creator Jessica Abel, whose profile has since lowered a fair amount (at least as far as I can tell): “Don’t be fooled by how incredibly boring the story is and how one dimensional the characters are and how everyone in it is drawn exactly the same! It’s actually very brilliant! The Internet told me so!” But Ryan then ends his story on a note of puffery disguised as modestly, as everyone agrees to reject Angry Youth Comix, and then they piss on it, a dog craps on it, a homeless fellow who resembles Ivan Brunetti vomits on it, etc. It’s tough being neither fish nor fowl, eh? You also might be wondering about the seeming kid-gloves treatment of the Big Two, but Wolfgang’s opening disclaimer will shed some light on that: “…this publication is not a fair representation of what this fine medium has to offer. In fact, most comic books are of a much more universal and mature nature, such as tales of grown men with magic powers, running around fictional urban areas, wearing snazzy outfits and beating up mean guys in equally snazzy outfits.” The feeling is clear: why even bother?

On the whole, this is a great document of a certain time in comics, with interesting creators perched between do-it-yourself and (as Wolfgang wryly puts it) “…the fast, dangerous and high-paying world of ‘real’ comicky-books.” You should probably keep your eyes peeled, should you ever run across it. And, if not, maybe you can click on some of the links I’ve provided throughout, and get yourself acclimated with the creators involved. They’ve done a lot in the ensuing five years, and it would behoove you to find out exactly what.


*I know, it’s not like me to issue more than one post in a day, but I’ve got some stuff here that really can’t wait. And even if most of you aren’t interested in the material I’m about to cover, I’d hate to get even one of you interested only to have the window of opportunity slammed down on your poor fingertips.

I just now finished watching this very curious short film (46:09) called Peep Show. It’s supposedly from 1965, put together by an ultra-obscure director by the name of J.X. Williams. Mr. Williams has apparently existed on the most documentation-free fringes of the film industry, crafting Mob-backed porno loops in the ’50s and ’60s, the latter portion of their illegal period (er, the pornos, not the Mob). He eventually went into exile in Europe, where he created many other interesting and little-seen films. Actually, nobody has seen these films. Except, apparently, for Noel Lawrence, editor of the lovely OtherZine and noted cohort of Craig Baldwin’s San Francisco-based Other Cinema, a documentary/stock-footage/avant-garde/experimental/multimedia showcase theater, which has run everything from live orchestra accompaniment of vintage porno (a la those musical performances in front of Buster Keaton films I’m sure you‘ve heard about) to chats by Rick Prelinger of The Prelinger Archives (AKA: the true justification for the internet) on the niceties of copyright law. They’ve also got a dvd label; I highly recommend Decasia for fans of rotting home-movie footage from the early 20th century set to throbbing industrial music (that’s all of you, I believe). And aside from his Williams fandom activities (oh he even erected a website, the darling!), Mr. Lawrence is also the only person in the world to have spoken with Mr. Williams. And is now the only restoration expert working on the only distribution of a Williams film to have ever appeared before the general public in all of anyone’s memory. I bet the appearances of patently contemporary visual fonts and too-smooth fades in the film are also a product of the ‘restoration’ (hey, maybe the originals were lost!), overseen by the reclusive Mr. Williams.

Ah, but all cynicism aside, this is a fun film, quite ingenious in its play with film history. There’s no original footage at all; the story is, Williams needed to get a ‘tell-all’ film about his days on the US fringe made, but didn’t have access to funds (too hot a topic) or actors (ditto). So, nestled in Copenhagen, he simply cut a bunch of stock footage together and slapped an original narration atop. Why, it’s almost the sort of thing a dedicated film archivist could do today, were he or she interested in creating a conspiracy-themed mash-up flick! And what a conspiracy! Set up as the confession of a mysterious figure riding in the back of a Chicago cab with a gun to his head, the film tells a twisted tale of smut, dope, and politics. Sammy Giancana and La Cosa Nostra figure in heavily, with cameos by President John F. Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, the latter having been hooked on smack by Mob figures in order to secure his influence on the former, also the star of a hidden-camera stag flick, allegedly shot by… J.X. Williams himself! Yes, Mr. Williams is a character in his own film, and we even get to see his JFK hardcore footage, which never quite cuts to the male performer’s face (of course!). I did mention there’s dabs of period hardcore sex, right?

That’s probably the least of this film’s worries in securing distribution; there’s also the classic Sinatra tune (I’ve Got You) Under My Skin, and a Saul Bass title sequence taken straight out of Otto Preminger’s The Man With the Golden Arm. The film also makes liberal use of drug-themed outtakes from the aforementioned Sinatra star vehicle, blended in with a slew of miscellaneous exterior shots, slices of stock footage, drawings (including one of a nun with telltale manga eyes, and I'm not talking ‘60s-era Tezuka), maps, photos (some of them rather clumsily doctored), and other fine things. There’s even some top-secret recorded telephone chats, in such a fortuitously scratchy and dim state that subtitles are needed and the period veracity of the audio quality cannot be ascertained. But, as I've said before, it’s a fun little piece, brimming with zero-budget ingenuity, at least a modicum of period-proper visual detail (not too tough to pull off with a stock-footage film purporting to be a stock-footage film from decades ago; the scratchy state of the various visual footages suspends an amazing amount of disbelief no matter how old the thing's supposed to be), some genuine wit (a random peep-hole blackmail canister is alliteratively titled ‘Mansfield Miscegenation Madness’) and a lovely, clever backstory. But even if you don’t give a shit about the backstory or the smoothness of the period simulation, it’s a nice little conspiracy picture, for those who just can’t resist hearing about the Mob’s partnership with the CIA in plotting Fidel Castro’s assassination, with the promise of lucrative tourist gaming monies dangled as the proverbial carrot. Also: graphic fellatio, and the triumph of art over humankind’s basest desires. Don’t tell the super surprise ending!

So yeah, I liked it, haphazard as the fact-within-fiction can be. And how can you see this fine short film? Well, normally you’d have to catch a rare showing at some bold theater, but for TODAY ONLY you can download a 5-day ‘rental’ (a big 300+ meg file) for $2.99 from GreenCine, which is hosting it as part of its Online Film Festival. It’s a one-time deal; you don’t need to sign up for their subscription rental service or anything. You will need to download the latest DivX player, which is free, and they’ve got the links. I just saw the film tonight, and unfortunately the series ends at midnight (I think) today, Sunday the 26th. Just wanted to give you ample warning, in case I’ve said anything that piqued your interest. I’d hate for you to miss your big chance.

But talking about stuff that’s been unavailable for a while? Oh, I never said I wouldn’t do that…

More later today.


Steaming inky evening...

*Working on stuff for tomorrow; should be neat.

*Haw haw haw! Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air asks the question of the year to Dan Clowes, in regards to the new Ice Haven:

Now there’s actually a character in your comic… he’s a very pretentious comic book critic named Harry Naybors. Are there actually comic book critics?


Clowes’ answer is really great, though, even alluding to the hints of self-aggrandizement surrounding the Naybors character, and later noting the fact that apparently no stranger he’s ever met in public has ever heard of Ghost World (movie or comic), allegedly his most widely popular work. It’s a good interview all around. (Never leave me, Comics Journal board, I get it all from you…)

Also worth noting: Gross introduces the Ghost World movie as “Starring Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch.” Oh, I don’t think that was the order of credit at the time of the film’s release. Man, Thora Birch faded out really quick, didn’t she? Sort of like the acclaim for American Beauty


No no, I'm the last one to cover this...

*So the ascension of such and such a popular writer to the position of caretaker of the company revamp pool has gotten every lip a flutter. But what might come of it? And how does the situation strive to fill a certain gap in the current Big Two superhero scene? That is the question asked and faithfully answered by this week’s column, which also gives me a rare opportunity to indulge in language like ‘Ratzi.’ I savored that. Please enjoy.

Flaming Carrot Comics #3 (#35 in a series) (oh, that makes sense)

Having built up quite a head of steam since its re-launch of a few months ago, Bob Burden’s indelible creation has just released a third recent edition, which is pretty great considering that there’s only been thirty-five of them in the past twenty or so years. Carrot’s got a new energy, though not everything here is actually new. For example, the cover art was finished in 2002; this makes the subsequent done-in-one story, 'Crouching Carrot Hidden Hotwing,' sound at least slightly less out of whack in terms of title. But then again, this perpetually ‘80s b&w boom child seems to need to remain a few crucial steps behind the zeitgeist, as if you’re getting the latest reprints of new comics from another dimension.

Burden (subject of a recent feature interview in The Comics Journal #268, which is advertised in the back of the book) is more transparent than usual this issue. A post-story essay lays his creative process out bare, as the Carrot’s latest adventure goes from a random piece of cover art to a nine-page prelude for a tale with no planned ending (or even a story direction), leaving the creator fifteen pages with which to wiggle his way out of the narrative straightjacket. Deleted scenes and omitted character motivations are duly explored. “Creativity is the fun part, the easy part. The engineering of the story is the real bear.” So it goes.

The story as it appears in comics form is one of the better recent Carrot yarns, which have been improving by the issue, an encouraging sign for such a long-dormant book. Carrot rescues a baby werewolf from an evil robot, and runs into a woman from his past: Dynamite Girl, scantly-clad teen(ish) heroine and Carrot’s female counterpart in terms of prodigious appeal to the opposite sex. She’s pursuing a truly dangerous foe: an eight foot long talking hot wing, garbed in the dangerous costume of… a hat. But as long as he’s got that hat, everyone is too polite to bother him. He’s also very sensitive and loves to flip people into the air with a mighty “WHOOOP!” Can Carrot stop this fiend(?), deal with Dynamite Girl’s parade of pathetic ex-lovers, and get to the comics store in time for his big signing with the Neil Gaiman of Earth 2?!

It’s a good issue, one that plays to Burden’s strengths. He’s getting more of a handle on how far his rough-and-ready visual style can take him, giving us infant lycanthropes that look like they’re being stiffly portrayed by midgets in ratty costumes, and anthropomorphic bar snacks that really don’t need to be anything more than a big curved tube (with a hat on top, of course). Even the fact that Dynamite Girl looks like pretty much every other Burden woman when she takes her aviator cap off seems to work in the story’s favor. While that essay in the back might be a conflicted paean to the interplay of improvisation and reaction in comics writing, the story itself is a testament of remaining aware of one’s limits, and knowing enough to stick inside them and turn them to your advantage.

And, in true Carrot style, next issue will see a radical format change, with the book temporarily shifting to full-color, as Carrot stars in his first fumetti. This, we are assured, will prove once and for all that Carrot is real, since photos obviously cannot be altered. The back cover samples look wonderfully cheesy, and it’ll be something to see if Burden’s signature style translates well to the world of Photoshop and live-acting. But then, knowing what you can do does not necessarily mean doing the same thing forever.


Ah, handy handy links...

*Dear me, I’m afraid that Outside Work is standing beside me right now, tapping its foot and making faces behind my back. And not the ‘oh Jog you’re such a cunning and handsome sort I do love you and I’ll wait forever’ sort of faces but ‘Jog, if you don’t attend to things right now I’m going to kick straight through your left kidney.’ And that’s my favorite kidney, so I have to hurry up.

*Good thing there’s stuff to link to…


This time around the new CBG we’ve got a review of the latest in Checker’s series of obscure Winsor McCay reprints, aptly titled Winsor McCay Early Works: Volume V. The quality of the reproduction varies wildly (and the lows are quite low indeed), but every fresh batch of heretofore unseen-in-decades material gives us a broader picture of that insanely prolific master cartoonist. Have a gander, or a goose if that’s your thing.

*Jeffrey Wells pointed this out: it’s the lengthy internet ‘first look’ trailer for the new Cameron Crowe film, Elizabethtown, his first since 2001’s underrated Vanilla Sky (sure it was a convoluted and sometimes extremely silly star-studded Hollywood remake, but I thought the air of ridiculousness aided the dream tone, and the excellent soundtrack often made it seem like an ode to those pompously amusing head films from back in the day, though admittedly at ten trillion times the budget - I’m probably in the minority here, seeing as how one of the friends I saw it with walked out about twenty minutes from the end and sat in the lobby, his disgust with the film was so plain). I’m of two minds. It’s put together really well; I liked how it started out as rough set footage, folks talking and laughing between takes, only to gradually transform into a 'proper' trailer. I loved the music, and how every so often the action on screen would synch up with the soundtrack, but not always. I totally forgot that was Orlando Bloom in the lead. There’s some lovely shots, quite a few of which would make for excellent trailer-enders; I liked the one they chose, though I’d have gone with the hand sticking out of the car, releasing the ashes. On the other hand, Kirsten Dunst displays about two facial expressions (three at the absolute max) through the entire eight-minute affair, there’s too many shots of whimsical dancing, there’s way too many shots of characters applauding performers (let’s not get too self-aggrandizing, folks), and the whole thing looks to be sort of twee. Twee is ok with me (as anyone reading this site for any length of time could probably detect), but only in either perfectly rationed slices or utterly heroic doses (I’m talking goddamned Magnolia); falling in the middle will make me annoyed. But, it’s one of the more compulsively viewable trailers I’ve seen recently.


Just a review of new.

Hellboy: The Island #1 (of 2)

Just to get it out of the way right at the top, even though I don’t even think it’s fresh news: this is the last Hellboy miniseries to be written and drawn by creator Mike Mignola for the foreseeable future, as he turns to focus his art on side projects and shorts. Subsequent Hellboy canon minis will feature art by Lee Bermejo, working off of Mignola’s layouts (Mike will still do the scripts and covers). I hadn’t remembered this news, if I’d ever heard it before at all. But I didn’t need to read it in the letters column in order to get a sense that this is an almost valedictory Hellboy yarn, at least in one aspect, as it’s summing up of the Hellboy art. This is a strange, hyper-atmospheric, downright stately book, incredibly handsome and headstrong in optic aplomb. Fun? Well, yes… though stripped of his supporting cast, Hellboy can’t help but look inward. As maybe his creator is doing as well.

Also in the rear area of the issue, editor Scott Allie dubs this miniseries “perhaps the most redrawn, rewritten comic of all time.” Originally conceived in 2002 as a one-shot, Mignola became sidetracked with the Hellboy movie after having completed a bunch of pages. Then he apparently fell ill, and radically revised the story via fever-dream inspiration while bedridden in Prague; all of the completed art was thrown out, and the story wavered between two and three issues in length, with pages constantly being created and destroyed, over and over. The work is complete now, as Mignola is well into laying out the first Bermejo story, the six-issue Hellboy: Darkness Calls (a sample page is included in the back as a bonus).

But for now, this week, we’ve got 28 pages of ad-free Mignola Hellboy story and art, a slightly larger than average haul, still only $2.99. And it’s particularly lofty, punching stuff. Mignola’s characters seem more rough-hewn than ever; usually his human eyes are little more than dark slits, but here almost every mortal face is a pattern of scratches and dabs of ink, the occasional white tooth shining through in the outlines and pools of the mouth. Seen in long-shot, Hellboy becomes little more than a stick assembly of jabs and shapes, dutifully filled in by colorist Dave Stewart, whose work veers from softly pallid whites and blues into more typical shadow and murk, then blasting through all expectation into yellow. A lot of yellow. There's a huge fight scene in all yellow against a giant monster. But it's not really a giant monster. It’s practically the idea of a giant monster rather than a fully discernible beast. And let’s not get started on the landscapes and details; Mignola’s tendency to zoom into assorted close-ups of statuesque faces and architectural excerpts very nearly reaches the level of self-parody. But it doesn’t. This is a Mignola ultra-focused, totally self-aware as to his visual vocabulary and its prospective limits. This is fugue state work.

As for the plot, it’s a mildly baffling head-on collision between the ever-inscrutable Hellboy background mythos and a renewed emphasis on choppily poetic interior mumbling, with Mignola’s omnipresent interest in pulp adventure and aged folklore spilling over into the dialogue. What else can explain a one and a half page sequence devoted entirely to men singing an old sea shanty while waving around mugs of pure rum, literally lit aflame? This scene leads into one of the most dazzling visual punchlines, a great shift in hue and narrative tone, as Hellboy foolishly glances out the window. There’s a lot of footnotes in this issue, used to point the reader to past Hellboy adventures, yes, but also to cite a few of Mignola’s favorite references. Even Hellboy himself gets into the act, throwing down an extensive quote from Gregory Peck’s performance in the 1956 Moby Dick film. Don’t worry too much; he also spits out lines like “Don’t mess with me, lady. I’ve been drinking with skeletons.” That little bon mot is lobbed toward a key character from several past Hellboy volumes; this isn’t a very good jumping-on point, in case you haven’t guessed, as the storytelling is almost as obsessed with intensifying the past as the art, though it doesn't reach quite the same level of wizened self-drive.

Ha ha. I started that last paragraph with ‘as for the plot,’ and I never got around to saying anything about it. That’s because there really isn’t one. You’re never totally sure how much of the goings on are a hallucination, but it appears that sometime in the past a mysterious magician was skewered to death by devout Christians (excellent use of color here too, handily playing off of the stereotypical ‘red = blood = death’ visual cue), and now he wants to tell Hellboy something, or maybe just possess him. It’s hard to tell. That giant monster fight I mentioned earlier? Almost an afterthought, something that happens because that’s what happens in a Hellboy book, and this is going to be the Hellboy book. But the captions keep calling Our Hero’s name, and skeletons and yellow recur, until the final page dissolves into a miasma of near-abstraction, Kirby energy dots and stone sculptured eyes all over, with suggestions of the heart and The Right Hand imbedded therein.

What will next issue have to say, near what seems like the end of all things?


Look here.

*Marc has written good on Seven Soldiers. Yep.

*There is something unspeakably beautiful about the comics linked to on this page; it’s all art by Golden Age artist Fletcher Hanks, who will be the subject of an upcoming collection from Fantagraphics. It’s incredibly awkward material, packed with bizarre visual choices and bodily contortions and flashes of unexpected grace. It’s fascinating. It really, truly is. Look at how Tabu is almost always hidden by bushes or panel borders, except for his head. Check out how the villains in the same story are constantly depicted in long-shot, as a collective. And all those silhouettes, and Stardust’s amazingly teeny head, and oh god the military men in those masks! “Stardust, whose vast knowledge of interplanetary science has made him the most remarkable man that ever lived, devotes his abilities to crime-busting.” Has Grant Morrison read this stuff?! “Space.” Wow. I wish I knew who wrote all this. These are awesome comics. Fantagraphics has just sold a copy of that book. (And I found it all at Tom’s)

*But what of those things that are coming out tomorrow? Look not to the far future, but to


Shuck the Sulfurstar #1: I’ve not read the prior issues of this series, collected into the Top Shelf trade Shuck Unmasked. I’ve heard only good things about it. I’ve also heard good things about this first issue of the new Shuck series; creator/artist/co-writer Rick Smith and co-writer Tania Menesse have big plans for this one, with issues through #10 planned out, a schedule taking them straight into 2007. This might be a swell jumping-on point. Look at all the stuff on their site. It’s neat.

Hellboy: The Island #1 (of 2): Will poor Hellboy still have his kick after an extended absence from the comics page (save for a trio of shorts in hardcover anthologies)? Preview images look pretty sweet; a lighter palate by Dave Stewart, heavy on the pales, and lots of jutting edges by Mignola. The atmosphere of Hellboy can seem overly familiar (even lulling) when a lot of it’s read at once, but seeing those carefully placed close-ups of statues and glaring figures after months and months of nothing like it - it’s like coming home.

Astro City: The Dark Age #1 (of 16): No, that’s not a typo (I neever make spelling or grammatical errors), this miniseries is planned to last longer than the average ‘ongoing’ X-Men spin-off. And it’s apparently going to reveal some big secrets about the Astro City past. Having only a passing familiarity with this stuff (I read the first trade and the recent Local Heroes mini), I think I’ll put off getting into something this huge for now, though I trust Kurt Busiek will make it friendly for new readers. Just not the right week for me, I think.

Shaolin Cowboy #3: But it’s definitely the right week for this book; in fact, every week’s the right week for Geof Darrow’s crazed mix of gorgeous violence, absurd humor, sing-song dialogue, groaning wordplay, and psychotic graphical trickery. Truly, this is a book where anything can happen. I don’t even know what’s scheduled for this issue. I don’t want to know. Something about a bone orchard. Here’s a preview of the Cowboy and his Ass shooting the shit. Moebius does a variant cover. Market realities.

Doc Frankenstein #3: So both Burlyman books arrive on the same day. This is the one the Wachowskis write by themselves, and boy oh boy was last issue stupid. Just imagine the laziest, shallowest sociopolitical satire you can, shot up good and high with bloated self-importance (a pretty impressive trick, seeing as how the star of the book is Frankenstein and he’s fighting an evil Pope), then grafted onto a totally generic action story, clichés flying everywhere. The only good part was that they mostly jettisoned the dire narration that stank up issue #1. And, well, Steve Skroce makes it look nice. This issue features an angry old cowboy kicking ass (though not an Ass), and there’s not a lot of words. That might be a positive sign, but I’d hate to get my hopes too high.

Flaming Carrot #3: You know what sounds like a Flaming Carrot plot? From the new DC solicitations:

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by Cameron Stewart

More must-see mysteries of the SEVEN SOLDIERS saga unfold as the GUARDIAN miniseries finale builds toward the epic conclusion in SEVEN SOLDIERS #1!

Is a broken, embittered Jake Jordan ready for "Sex Secrets of the Newsboy Army"? Who were Captain 7, Kid Scarface, Baby Brains, Ali-Ka-Zoom, Chop Suzi, Li'l Hollywood and Millions the Mystery Mutt? What was the vow they made as children outside the United Nations building? What did they do that was so wrong - and why will the entire world suffer in an alien hell if the Guardian makes the wrong decision this time?"

Seriously. Carrot is the seventh soldier from issue #0. You heard it here first!

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: Oh, so that’s what Glenn Fabry’s doing instead of the new Kev mini with Garth Ennis. It’s an adaptation of the much-loved (and already adapted to television) Gaiman prose novel. Or was it the other way around? Regardless, I’ve heard fans of the book express dismay that the female lead is now apparently a busty goth chick, with naked thighs and chest a flashin’. Who knows, might be good. Don’t think I’ll be there for it.

Batman: Jekyll and Hyde #3 (of 6):


Just a friendly reminder.


Loosing barbarians on the page, but only once.

*We talked about diamonds and drugs and all of those wonderful things but we were very mature in


The Black Diamond: On Ramp (first color presentation of AiT/Planet Lar... hope the upcoming book picks up the burden the hype is carrying)

Seven Soldiers - Klarion the Witch Boy #2 (of 4)

Cocaine Comix #1-2 (of 4) (in which Hollywood dads and the underground farm team try not to blow it)

And over at Comic Book Galaxy we've got:

Jenny Finn: Doom (writing by Mike Mignola, but Troy Nixey is the now-absent star)

We were very mature indeed.

*Well, I Guess We Sort of Expected It Dept: Apparently, Seven Soldiers will be nuzzling up to Infinite Crisis and tickling its belly, though I don’t think they’re ready to move in together just yet. Here’s a new Morrison interview (which means you might as well dump the whole shaker of salt into your mouth right now), in which he simultaneously plays coy about whether or not Seven Soldiers takes place in the DCU proper (er, I was always pretty sure it was… in fact I think I recall Morrison saying as much) while insinuating that events in later Seven Soldiers books will reference various points in the post-Infinite Crisis status quo. I think this only means much of anything to the heavy-continuity crowd, or folks who simply can‘t live without seeing every last strand of the DCU getting tied up into one of those delightfully complex knots you always see the sailors making in the movies. Unless, of course, Morrison simply starts having characters acting like idiots and throwing nonsense plot points around in an effort to tie everything in, a la the finale of Adam Strange (which had been assigned a similar character revamping task schedule for much of its page count; Andy Diggle, however, is not Grant Morrison). Which I trust he won’t. Do be sure to check out the comments afterwards, if only to be reminded that some folks are apparently still miffed over ‘the Seaguy incident.’

This does, however, probably limit the possibility of much creator-owned Morrison work in the foreseeable future, unless he's feeling extra prolific.

Conan and the Jewels of Gwahlur #1-3 (of 3)

I’ve a confession: if I were to ask you to name the top three greatest talents at translating works from other mediums to the comics page, I’d really expect the name of P. Craig Russell to show up somewhere (I don't even know who else to expect, honestly). Though Russell is certainly notable enough for his gorgeous, unmistakable mix of fine-line elegance and rigorously constructed sequences of square and rectangular panels, occasionally breaking off into borderless quasi-vistas or dripping out into liquid gutter jewelry. His is not a fixed line; his character art can become heavier, more burnished with the demands of the narrative, or it can lighten into frizzy, dancing caricature, manic simplicity. His look is always unquestionably his, and his people always unquestionably beautiful.

And there’s quite a lot of words in some of his work.

Not in all of it, of course, but a good portion of it. Russell has done more work than most in terms of sequential adaptation; he’s done a lot of fairy tales (Oscar Wilde) and short stories (Lovecraft, O. Henry), and he utilizes a lot of the original text. He often knows the best way of doing it; perhaps one cannot hope to escape a certain burden of prose to be added to typical comics fare when handed the task of incarnating a classic work of Form A to the home court of Form B. It's not just accepted classics or works by canonized wits: pulpier texts get this specialized treatment too, this preference for the word. Witness Russell’s 1997 work on Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Stormbringer, one of several Moorcock adaptations by Russell, of which I own exactly one issue (unless you count the excellent Neil Gaiman adaptation of One Life). Huge dialogue balloons. Seven rectangular panels across one particular page, each constricted window no less than half-full with words. Narration covers the landscape, like clouds. And yet - occasionally, perfectly placed wordless views. Geometric sound effects. Vivid, pulsing color by Lovern Kindzierski, and decent enough lettering by Galen Showman. It looks marvelous, and the pace crackles, text or no text, just another finely wrought page element.

That Elric book was co-published by Dark Horse, now sole publishers of a very successful revival of the aged Conan property, a very different sword-swinging fantasy epic. Surely it would make sense to unleash the very same team on this re-budding franchise; so it goes, Opus 61, for those keeping track on your handy dandy scorecards. But why does it suddenly feel so dry, so weighted?

Maybe it’s the fault of Robert E. Howard’s prose; it’s an easy target, considering how much of it seems to have ended up on the page. Or maybe it’s the use of it. This miniseries is an adaptation of the 1935 short story of the same title; Howard wanted his story to be titled Teeth of Gwahlur, after the colloquial title given to the eponymous precious gems in the context of the story itself, but apparently someone nixed that idea before publication. Did they think it’d be too confusing? I’d hope not; given the beasts lurking around within those pages, ‘teeth’ would make for a lovely double meaning. But no, a more direct name would win the day. And faithful to the end, Russell’s adaptation retains the simplified title. Along with much of Howard’s descriptive language.

Russell has his own language to work with; the language of sequential art. And yet there’s a surprising amount of redundancy here, tales told twice (once in word and once in picture), all of it detracting from Russell’s usually elegant styling.

To wit:

We see Conan searching a once-hidden alcove behind a mysterious throne in an abandoned palace, old rags having rotted away, revealing the secret spot. Conan then moves off to the left to look at a big door.

Behind the throne is a doorway, no doubt once masked by hangings. It leads into an alcove, empty, and with a low, narrow corridor leading off at right angles. To the left of the dais is another door… nor is it any common door.”

On the next page, Conan is seen tapping around at the wall.

He begins to tap along the walls and presently his taps ring hollow.”

Same page. Conan is looking through a cluster of peepholes. He looks satisfied.

But then, leaning into the niche, he sees a system of tiny holes in the wall and grunts understandingly.”

A few pages later, Conan falls down a pit is seen whisked away by a whirlpool.

With appalling suddenness, Conan drops down into utter darkness. Then icy black water grips him and whirls him away with breathless speed.”

Are you getting the picture? It goes on like this for the whole series, no tableaux complete without the helpful narrator piping in and explaining to us precisely what we can quite plainly see for ourselves, thank you. It’s inefficiency. It’s distraction. And Russell has done a bit of this in many of his prior works, but here it’s to the point of annoyance. Perhaps largely descriptive prose (and I’m no expert on Howard, so maybe Russell’s cherry-picking of passages is what’s really off) needs a less dominating presence in the already visually descriptive format of narrative comics, at least in terms of adaptation? There’s something to be said for fidelity, but there’s something to be said for smoothness of narrative as well.

As for the plot, it’s decent pulp material. You all know Conan. Here, he gets mixed up in court intrigue in a far-off barbarian kingdom, a land of religious superstition, as well as a massive treasure which Our Hero desires. Along the way there’s plenty of covert scheming, helpless dancing girls who need a strapping barbarian to help them out of tight spots, magics both real and fake, garish and subtle, and even a horde of flesh-eating man-beasts. It’s decent pulpy fun.

But telling the story twice does not equal twice the fun. For once, Russell’s approach saps the proceedings of energy, and his formidable visual powers can’t conjure up enough visual dazzle to compensate. Even Kindzierski’s colors seem slightly tired, the brown and slate of temple and cave walls dominating at first, then giving way to a film of subterranean green. It’s attractive, yes. But a little dogged.

There’s one moment in the third and final issue where everything suddenly snaps into place, and the book jerks to life on the operating table. A pack of monsters leap out and ambush a cadre of hapless priests; the creatures are rendered in a slightly off-kilter style, their eyes thin and blank, their teeth stubby and their mouths pure red. They’re almost like children’s book beasties. But then, in a large rectangular panel subdivided into fifteen small panels of varying size and shape, the creatures rip the priests to shreds. Some of it’s in silhouette. Some of it’s in extreme close-up. Some of it shows violent action in progress. Some of it only bears details of eyeballs flying or teeth gnashing. Unlike the rest of the surrounding story, this mosaic of gore is washed in bright crimson. There are two captions in this mass of panels.

On top:

“…and there is slaughter, grim and appalling.”

Near the bottom, though not quite at the end:

The massacre is short and devastating.”

As is the telling. For too short a while.


Early evening of quivering empty.

*Very interesting. If you’re registered at the New York Times (and if not, registration is free) you can read a spoiler-laden story on the V For Vendetta shoot (I’m gonna drop some spoilers now too, so watch out). Some will find it reassuring that director James McTeigue seems to recognize that moral ambiguity is a vital part of the story, and it’s nice to know that he seems ready to allow the audience to decide whether the hero’s actions are ‘right.’ Plus, there seems to be a somewhat decent grasp on V’s character at work. On the other hand Natalie Portman seems to think that the ending is ‘hopeful,’ which wasn’t the feeling I got from the story, and talk of a big climax with the people rising to overthrow their oppressors doesn’t sound nearly as interesting as the uncertain anarchy of comparable scenes in the book (indeed, seeing the people ‘wake up’ and follow V strikes me as a means of softening his character, making him more explicitly a ‘hero’ in the audience’s eyes). Still trying to decide if I want to see this; actually, I’m still trying to decide if I want to see Batman Begins.

The idea of copies of the book being forced into the hands of countless prominent officials, though? That tickles me.

(Found courtesy of John G, in a comments thread at Dorian’s)

*Working on a big Vimanarama thing, which will show up somewhere, at some point next week or so (punctuality: it's what we're all about here). For all of you who read the last issue, and if the sales trends are still going they way they’ve been going, there’s not many of you, what did you think of the pacing? I decided to read the entire series over from the start (it’s a quick read), and I thought that it worked pretty well as a whole unit. However, the final issue (when itself is viewed as a single unit) effectively reminds us that the project was intended as an original graphic novel, not as a miniseries; it’s not paced for three separate books at all. And while the balance between the action in issue #2 and the mystic introspection of issue #3 works quite nicely when read as a whole, I’d suspect that reading issue #3 alone after a two month plus wait would give the reader a feeling of anticlimax, of deflation. What do you think?

I liked the bits at the very end with the clothing. For the whole book Morrison and Bond have been depicting a generational/cultural through the characters’ mode of dress, and then the finale sort of resolves this in a fascinating way, with a totally alternate, pulp style joining everyone together, with a few differences preserved. I think reading the book as a whole makes its themes a lot clearer too: it’s not just the racial and religious and generational concerns that exist in the background, but ultimately the superhero-style immortal clashing too! And in the end, it’s all up to humanity and their petty romantic concerns to preserve the future...

Much more later.


What? You thought I was joking?

Cocaine Comix #1-2 (of 4)

How could I possibly blow an opportunity to discuss these delightful artifacts of the late underground period and beyond?! No, I proudly marched up to the counter at my shop and handed over these lovely puppies, and the girl at the register only sort of looked at me funny. Maybe she was used to it; for some reason, these books were pretty heavily ordered at my shop. Maybe there’s a strong underground/cocaine fanbase in my area that I’ve been heretofore unaware of?

These books appear on our local stands courtesy of the venerable Last Gasp, though I hesitate to call them ‘reprints.’ For one thing, there’s no mention in the legal indicia of exactly which printing we’re looking at. But more tellingly, Last Gasp has seen fit to affix stickers to each cover, obscuring the original price with an updated $2.95 fee. What’s the deal? Did they come into possession of a huge stack of unsold copies from back in the day? It’s very curious. What’s even more curious is how Last Gasp’s online catalog seems to think that S. Clay Wilson has participated in these books, when he quite plainly hasn’t. Actually, Robert Williams is only in issue #2, not issue #1. Very sloppy.

But matters of printing and advertising aside, these books make for a fitfully entertaining time capsule, a brief tour of the lower tiers of the late underground period. Issue #1 was released in 1975, basically a solo book for writer (and prominent underground distributor) George 'Yes, I’m Leo’s Dad' DiCaprio and artist Rich Chidlaw. DiCaprio had also contributed to the two-issue Forbidden Knowledge anthology series the same year, and would at some point edit the Pure Joy sex book, but I expect that Cocaine Comix will provide the most punchy title in his bibliography. I know little of Chidlaw, other than that he worked in some other minor undergrounds around the same time, but he appears to be the creator of the hero of this book, a shaggy-haired post-hippy called Wildroot, who lives for cocaine and kicks, man. William Stout’s cover depicts Wildroot bursting out from the book’s innards, yowling “Lemme out of Hollywood! Lemme outa this comic book!!” One is left to presume that the tales within will provide some dirt of the nasty happenings of ’70s Tinseltown.

Ah, but DiCaprio has a slightly more mellow stance than the cover would suggest. Wildroot basically wanders from place to place in the Red Light District, checking out the porno shops and scoring his shit. Through sheer happenstance he finds himself invited to a big party in an ominous castle, hosted by a strange being obviously modeled after Divine, star of several John Waters classics. An awful lot of the story is then taken up with random conversations between perverts and guests, as Wildroot makes his way around the place, a Family Circus-style dotted line occasionally marking his path. Eventually he befriends a Cocaine Falcon (a somewhat magical bird that’s trained to sweep away his master’s stash in the event of a police raid), inherits Divine’s secret supply, and stumbles into a strangely detailed plot to explode a group of thrill-seekers into a secret sex dimension by transforming their bodies into a Mobius band of erogenous zones. Or something. Also, I ought to mention that Wildroot becomes strong like Popeye when he snorts really good shit (“My strength is as the strength of ten ’cause my coke is pure!!”). Eventually, Divine and his/her friends break through to the sex dimension and Wildroot is actually kind of happy for them. There’s an obvious sense of affection for deviancy and strange sex about the piece, and Hollywood Sin is largely accepted with a smile, a winking eye. There’s little satire in the book, save for the occasional piece of chicken fat, like a withered, farting Lucille Ball shining her star on the Walk of Fame. But it mostly all kicks, man. All kicks.

DiCaprio’s name isn’t on the rest of the short stories, so I guess they’re Chidlaw solo bits. Foremost among them is have the extremely self-explanatory Godzilla vs. The Cocaine Monster, in which the Big G tussles with a giant anteater thing that’s developed a taste for all the world’s blow, pissing off rock stars and corporate executives the world over. Chidlaw’s art is pretty solid throughout the book, nicely mixing ultra-cartoon type characters with slightly more realistic caricatures. He’s got a Will Elder brand of storytelling, with background jokes sometimes threatening to overwhelm the main action. And while his perspectives needed some work, judging from this story, he does draw some nice giant monsters. Although the funniest part appears at the bottom of the last page: “Thanx to Toho Productions for loaning us Godzilla…” Ah. Of course.

Three more Wildroot stories, two of them one-pagers, wrap up the main part of the book. There’s also a really nice back-up story by Brent Boates, who’d later work in visual effects and art direction for films as diverse as Masters of the Universe, Die Hard, and Batman Returns. He’s also active in production illustration, having most recently worked on the upcoming Fantastic Four film. Here, he offers up a strange, amusing three-page story about an artist looking to do some life drawing in class. A melodramatic eruption of murder occurs in front of him, but he’s really only interested in getting it all drawn out. Nothing to do with cocaine, by the way.

The next issue of Cocaine Comix wouldn’t be out until 1980; after that, two more issues would be released in as many years. Issue #4 contributor Scott Shaw! reviews that final edition here, and you’ll note that the book now appears to be an anthology. That format change was in place with the book’s rebirth after its half-decade hiatus; issue #2 features a diverse crew of assorted post-underground talents, plugging away at the drugs and laffs just as companies like Fantagraphics were beginning to gain a bit of steam for their own original offerings. DiCaprio is listed as editor on Last Gasp’s site and in Shaw!’s column (for issue #4), so I’ll presume that he actually is an editor here, though no editor is credited in the book itself. DiCaprio and Chidlaw also return for a Wildroot short, in which he bumbles into a spiritual scheme by a vampire to steal the cocaine of Hollywood’s dumbest. But the fanciful cover by Rogelio (visible at the catalog link above), indicates a somewhat more unhinged focus for the book.

You’ll recognize some of the contributors: future Image founder Jim Valentino handles the art on a Bruce Sweeny story about assorted underground characters (Trashman, God Nose, etc.) playing cards and (unsurprisingly) tooting a few lines. As I mentioned above, Robert Williams offers a two-page piece on the glory of the female ass; it has nothing to do with cocaine, and frankly feels like it was sent in from the discard drawer just so the book could boast a ‘big’ underground name in its line-up. But the best stories are from Warren Greenwood and Pete von Sholly, who contribute a nice two-pager about engineering dorks who build a shrinking ray to allow them to frolic through their stash like it’s a mountain, and from Chris Statler and Palle Jensen, who present the comparatively lengthy (12 page) The Spawn of Cokethulhu about a hapless dope head (“Shit! I shoulda never come to England to sell dope to rich rock stars and start a heavy metal band with William S. Burroughs…”) who winds up teleported (via cocaine, natch) to a dimension outside of time, where famous drug-using characters and personalities from across history (Sherlock Holmes, Raoul Duke, Sigmund Freud, etc.) gather to confront the titular Cokethulhu, a shambling mass of tentacles, spoons, and coca leaves. Good fun.

I’d say that ‘good fun’ applies to both of these books on the whole, though they’re obviously benefiting from the march of time. Becoming ‘dated’ is only a negative way of saying that books like this reflect their times, and these books in particular offer a glimpse into a very uncertain time in comics, with the old underground giving way to a new breed of independent works, with trendy old nose candy the focus of the transformation. Apparently, the book became progressively harder on cocaine abuse as it went along, with the delightful fantasy fun giving way to a slightly more realistic view of things. This seems natural, given the tenor of the day in both a social and sequential sense. There one story in issue #2 here, by the aforementioned Bruce Sweeny and Gary Whitney, in which they pay homage to an olf Freak Brothers routine in which the cat eats their last bit of dope. Except with cocaine instead of pot.

It’s not quite the same. And it never quite would be again.


They can never see your face.

*In honor of Batman Begins having recently appeared in theaters to supple praise and warm reception, this week’s column covers matters of patience and reserve, and probably bald-faced skepticism. Apply these lessons to your weekly comics purchases today! Or another day, if that’s when you buy your comics! Print it out, then clip ‘n save! Carry your monitor around with you! Anything!

*There’s an awful lot of comics-related stuff in this week’s (and next week’s) double-sized special issue of Entertainment Weekly (#826/827), and you’ve probably already heard of some of it at Fanboy Rampage today. But just a peek at the cover will reveal even more, and maybe tell you a bit about the coverage of comics as a whole within the issue: future Superman Returns stars Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth are right on the cover, and take up slots #1 and #2 on the annual ‘Must List’ of things to love over the summer. I except that there’s no sort of qualitative ranking intended by one’s slot positioning in the feature; it doesn’t appear to be a Top 122 list. Indeed, the list is broken into subcategories, to separate the new from the young in all-important Mustness.

Which is maybe why it’s at least understandable as to why the comics-to-movies stuff appears far higher and more prominently than actual real-live comics professionals; of course the movies will get the bigger accompanying photos and longer explanatory articles. That’s what a wider audience in interested in. Sitting at #25 is Thomas Haden Church, whose entry is almost entirely devoted to his role in the new Spider-Man movie. “Let’s just say he’s an amorphous collection of protons, electrons, and neutrons, of different colors,” he says of his still-unannounced villainous part. Need I mention Jessica Alba of Fantastic Four at #3 and Mickey Rourke of Sin City at #61, both of their comics movie works prominently mentioned?

If you want authentic comics folk, you’ll have to flip down to #60 for Robert Kirkman’s piece, then over to #93 for Larry Young (in reference to subcategories, Kirkman is among the ‘establishment,’ while Young is one of the ‘up and comers’). I was a little saddened that neither man got to have a photo featured, like pretty much everyone else who wasn’t a product (the Must List accepts people, groups, projects, and finished creative works into its rank); I wanted to see Kirkman riding a motorcycle in black and white or Young sprawled across a leather sofa and holding a puppy or something.

But no, both men are represented by art from their comics, though the artists involved aren’t ever mentioned in EW’s write-ups (Ryan Ottley and Bill Crabtree for Invincible and Jon Proctor for Black Diamond are credited in teensy type over in the photo credits section). Kirkman (positioned on the same page as Coldplay) also gets to eat up 1/3 of his space talking about his favorite superhero movies (winner: Blade II). His work on the Invincible screenplay is duly noted. Young (located right across from The Arcade Fire) enthuses about talking monkey comics, and Brian Wood’s Demo, Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer’s Black Heart Billy, and Matt Fraction’s Five Fists of Science are also noted among Young-published works (all books, you'll notice, are identified by only their writers, save for the more mixed case of Black Heart Billy which simply omits Harper Jaten). Don’t worry; they ask Larry about movies too, specifically Universal’s interest in Wood and Rob G.’s The Couriers.

But hey, comics getting hyped next to Joss Stone and ‘The Women of Deadwood.’ You’ve gotta trade off to get the coverage, especially when others are editing your comments into what they think their readers want to hear about.

Elsewhere in the issue, just to close the circle here, Batman Begins gets an ‘A’ from Lisa Schwarzbaum, continuing the amazing streak of critical raves (even Jeff Wells liked that movie, and he hates superhero flicks). Also, the ‘Movies’ section sports a short interview with manga author Hayao Miyazaki, whose new film Howl’s Moving Castle is playing in a few US theaters now. He expresses amazement that any US distributer wants to release his movies since Japanese audiences find them baffling enough (obviously not too much, considering that Miyazaki is probably the most reliable box office hitmaker working in Japan today). He also keeps his chin up regarding the fate of 2D animation: “Once in a while there are strange, rich people, who like to invest in odd things. You’re going to have people in corners of garages [making cartoons] to please themselves. And I’m more interested in the people who hang out in corners of garages than I am in big business.”

And if that’s not quite enough, guess who pops up in the front-half ‘News’ section? Here’s a hint: he’s taken some much-discussed shots at a big-time producer who’s working on the film adaptation of one of his comics scripts…

Even with the requisite Hollywood connection, it’s kind of weird seeing Alan Moore becoming the focus of a half-page news story in a major entertainment magazine (no photos, just to continue my little theme here; we get art by David Lloyd, who’s never mentioned in the article, and snapshots of Sean Connery and Natalie Portman). Surely Rich Johnston is pleased with his work. Moore was newly interviewed for the piece, but there’s no information revealed that you couldn’t get from Lying in the Gutters. Still, there’s some nice quotes (since it is Alan Moore after all): “I’m a snake worshiper, so I wouldn’t want to make too big a point of how reasonable I am.”

And finally, like Johanna, I also got a little subscription card for Ultimate Fantastic Four, probably the most direct comics marketing out of everything in the issue. Except... for some reason, my card omitted the price of a subscription. Really. It tells my that I'm saving 44% off the newsstand price ('newsstand'?), and it tells me how much a 24-issue subscription will be (how many Marvel books even last for 24 issues?), and it tells me how much money to add if I'm outside the US. But it never tells me exactly how much a 12-issue subscription costs. And apparently, Johanna's card didn't have the problem. Weird...

*I sure wish I had something to review for you all, but I haven’t even had time to read most of my comics with the way my week has been going; still trying to get used to my new routines. Lots of huge catch-up to come over the weekend, I promise you that.


Luscious Attack!

*Memes: like a snow day from reasoned comment. Just what I needed. Dear Mike sent this to me. I will now live up.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? (Assume you also get baseline superhero enhancements like moderately increased strength, endurance and agility.)

Heh, I’m glad the author of this meme tossed in that parenthetical note about baseline enhancements; that shows that he or she is thinking like me, with an eye toward reality. I know that whenever I think about having superpowers (a contemplation as frequent and natural as the changing colors of the leaves… wait, that’s not very frequent) I tend to apply a little too much reality to the situation, since I’m relating everything to myself and my real-world experience. So I always wind up gravitating toward powers that probably won’t kill me too easily, as opposed to flight or super-speed. I’ll take ‘baseline enhancements’ as including ‘not liquefying one’s organs from high speeds,’ thank you very much.

But even after all that, I’ll still take Sue Storm’s powers. Provided that I don’t go blind from it (I know Warren Ellis has explained the biological implications of the Invisible Woman in at least three separate books). All I really want is the invisibility, but I’ll also take the force-field stuff. When you think about it, Sue’s pretty enormously powered; can’t she just conjure up invisible bubbles to appear in somebody’s brain with hardly any effort? That means she can pretty much kill people by thinking about it, which is perhaps a handy trait to possess. But I’d mostly like to be able to disappear and sneak into places like bulk retail warehouses without being a member. Now that’s imagination!

Which, if any, 'existing' superhero(es) do you fancy, and why?

Good heavens! Who do I ‘fancy?’ Bollocks to that!

You see, same problem here. I’m sure I’ve used a term like ‘fancy’ on this blog a few times in the manner which this question intends, but I use a different sort of ‘fancy’ in my non-internet life. It’s the sort of word I use when talking to my parents’ dog, actually. He’ll trot up to me holding a squeaky toy and I’ll bellow “You are a fancy beast, aren’t you? Yes you are! YOU are a FANCY beast! WITH A FANCY FEAST!” And he’ll just stare at me, wagging his tail as I launch into an hour-long dissection of how he’s verily the fanciest beast of them all, using no more than thirty-four unique words the whole time. He enjoys the presentation; it‘s a lot like the first chapter of Voice of the Fire, only far more challenging and troubling.

But there’s no way I’m saying Krypto or anything for my answer, because that would be sick. It’d be funny if I did it in a live-action setting; if I walked up to a clerk at the comics store and put my purchases down on the counter then conspiratorially whispered “I fancy Krypto, you know” into thin air as he tried to ring up my copies of Cocaine Comix, well that would be funny. But the internet is a serious place for serious answers.

Wait. ‘Fancy’ isn’t that sexual a term anyway. ‘Fancy’ is something Hugh Grant says in those romantic comedies while the scenic hills of England roll behind him. “Oh! I do fancy her!” I just know somebody said that in Love Actually. Fancy is a ‘cute’ thing.

So naturally, the answer is Tim Vigil’s Webwitch.

Which, if any, 'existing' superhero(es) do you hate?

Well, none I guess. Any superhero can be entertaining with the right writer behind him/her.

In practice, though? Captain Planet. Just a big stupid preachy deus ex machina whose show I always had to suffer through to get to wrestling when I was thirteen. And how was the power mine or yours or anyone else’s when those stupid kids kept having to call him to haul their asses out of the sludge factory or save them from ivory poachers or educate them about AIDS? And they had fucking power rings! No no, Captain, don’t you patronize me…

OK, here's the tough one. What would your superhero name be? (No prefab porn-name formulas here, you have to make up the name you think you'd be proud to mask under.)

Oh, easy.

‘Horse Dimension’

It just a perfect name. Chris Onstad has really raised the bar for awesome names with the introduction of ‘Circus Penis’ (found through Dirk), and I think there’ll soon be a trend for two-word double-noun names in the near-future. With ‘Horse Dimension,’ I will ride high on this wave.

But the name also makes perfect sense, given my Sue Storm-related powers. Whenever anyone would ask me where those invisible force-fields come from (being scientifically unexplainable and all), I’d just grin and say “Another dimension. The horse dimension.” Then I’d disappear.

I think I’d make a better guest star than lead.

For extra credit: Is there an 'existing' superhero with whom you identify/whom you would like to be?

I would totally want to be any third-tier superhero of moderate power. Someone whom nobody expects much from (maybe an Ultraverse character) but still has enough fanciful abilities to have more fun than the plain human. Although I’m sure I’d just wind up acting like Concrete anyway. He’s not too bad a ‘superhero’ to be, particularly if there’s no other superheroes joining me in my colorful play universe.

(and by the way, Mr./Ms./Mrs. meme writer, handing out extra points all willy-nilly will surely mess up the curve…)

Pass it on. Three people please, and why they're the wind beneath your wings.