CBABIH 5 - Show Notes

Being a series of comments on Episode 5 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast, from which something seems to be missing, by Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and myself.

00:00: Hey, can you guess which one of us has kids?

00:52: That's right! I was going to structure this note as a homage to the beloved children's programming of my early days, but all I ever liked was Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats, which is to say bouts of dubiously animated violence married to rampant consumerism, thus setting the stage for a life worthy of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell: Your Garth Ennis Source. I am, however, doing a behind-the-scenes ThunderCats tribute right now, in that it's the beginning of the post and I am fully nude.

01:11: This wonderfully succinct joke I'm telling is actually the story of the Warren comics magazine Blazing Combat, which was cancelled after four issues when Army PX (post exchange) locations declined to carry it, apparently due to the anti-war stance of the publication during the escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War; this wasn't a singular factor -- there were wholesaler concerns to deal with too -- but it gave Warren enough of a public reaction sample to decline to weather its considerable losses on the early roll out. Fantagraphics has since collected the entire run, which I understand did a little better than Willie and Joe: The WWII Years, a Bill Mauldin collection I think you used to be able to purchase from Amazon by blowing the right kind of kiss into your monitor.

02:42: "[T]he last Hitman collection" is vol. 7, Closing Time. It arrives just over 15 years after the '97 publication of the first trade, later subtitled A Rage in Arkham. We don't mention this, but the series was technically a spin-off of a prior Ennis superhero effort, his 1993-95 run on The Demon, which began toward the end of his Hellblazer tenure and terminated just as Preacher was starting up.

04:00: DC/Vertigo's Sandman Mystery Theater collections made it up to 8 volumes' worth of the original 1993-99 series, leaving 18 issues loose. Shade, the Changing Man only got up to vol. 3, leaving more than 50 issues of writer Peter Milligan's original tenure uncollected. Maybe they'll get to them later? My mention of a final Jamie Delano Hellblazer trade is an estimate; issues #34-40 of his run remain uncollected, which would add up to one more good-sized collection. That said, the newly-numbered reissues of the previously-collected Delano stuff should be up to date by November, which suggests the rest of the material may follow in 2013.

09:13: What I'm alluding to here is issue #34, Of Thee I Sing (in the fifth trade, Tommy's Heroes), in which the title character and Superman discuss the symbolic charge of the Superman concept in a basically straightforward manner. It remains maybe the most classic go-to example of Ennis writing 'straight' superheroes, which possibly makes it the highest-profile issue of Hitman by default, although I'm sure even the least of those issues outsold much of the current Direct Market mid-list on initial publication.

11:03: Specifically:

"The Shadow worked best, I judged, as something akin to a force of nature. Readers had to accept as a given that he was always right, at least about what was evil and what was not. He killed because he knew, to an absolute certainty, that his enemies deserved death. Which created a problem. Human beings, even fictional ones, are not capable of such godlike insight if they are to be believable. So we were not permitted to know The Shadow's thoughts, nor his motivations, nor his background. He was, period.... Unthinking obedience to a man is fascism; unthinking obedience to a deity is merely good sense."

Dennis O'Neil, from his introduction to The Private Files of the Shadow, 1989.

12:02: The Shadow, by Garth Ennis & Aaron Campbell, presently up to issue #4. Apparently, Ennis & Campbell will only be sticking around for a kickoff storyline; the creative team as of issue #7 is Victor Gischler & Jack Herbert. I'm not familiar with anything by those guys, but it's worth noting that similarly-positioned Dynamite stablemate Jennifer Blood has transformed completely into a bleakly comedic bloodbath melodrama (somewhat thematically reminiscent of the old '80s horror movie The Stepfather) under writer Al Ewing, so it's not like Ennis leaving is necessarily the kiss of death.

15:27: It doesn't come across all that well in this trailer, but my chief recollection of Highlander/Resident Evil: Extinction director Russell Mulcahy's 1994 movie of The Shadow is that it sort of managed to approximate the lushly artificial art direction of Warren Beatty's 1990 Dick Tracy while also (primarily) availing itself of a peculiarly late-'80s/early-'90s visual sheen I like to call "storybook noir," insofar as it marries obsessively detailed hats-'n-trench-coats period production design to a kind of glossy back-lighting or color correction scheme, as if to foreground the artifice of the visual data and place it in quotes. I'd even place the date of the style's death to a bit later in '94, with the calamitous release of Mel Smith's Radioland Murders; the obligatory hidden gem of the scene is Howard Franklin's 1992 The Public Eye, a genuinely strange Joe Pesci vehicle that spikes the mix with surprising gooshes of lollipop-red blood. (In contrast, Sam Raimi's pointedly Shadowesque 1990 film Darkman may have a similarly goofy tone, but it lacks this special glow.)

16:56: Fury: My War Gone By, by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov. Presently up to issue #5, maybe to run to #13, if publishing hasn't shifted beneath Tucker's comments. Technically, the series is a spin-off of Ennis' much-admired run on The Punisher MAX, which itself was arguably an adjunct to a 2001-02 Fury MAX series, although the continuity is a bit Judge Dredd - best not to focus on for very long. Listener "Frank" has observed that much of this stuff can be traced back to Ennis' 2006 Fury: Peacemaker miniseries, which Ennis did with Darick Robertson right before The Boys launched; it was firmly in the vein of Ennis' war comics, and somewhat more sedate than his MAX works at Marvel (it was in the Marvel Knights line), though it could easily function as 'his' Fury's true origin.

21:21: Further discussion of Ennis' James Ellroy fascination can be found here, and in the attached comments.

24:08: Black Kiss 2, by Howard Chaykin. A secret history of the 20th century in six issues. I'll cop to some personal involvement in this one; my very first-ever piece of published-and-paid-for writing was a short steampunk story I wrote as a teen, which concerned a somewhat similar sexually-driven 'movies as agents of physiological change' scenario, complete with the climactic intervention of a tentacle creature upon the worldview and anus of a hapless man. Seriously! Although mine had another dude in a steam-propelled jetpack, whereas Chaykin has ejaculations on the Titanic...

24:36: The original 12-issue, 1988-89 Vortex run of Black Kiss weighed in at 12 pages per issue, sealed in plastic. The same publisher then released three bumper issues in '89 under the title Big Black Kiss, and then a softcover collection in 1993 titled Thick Black Kiss. The Eros Comix softcover (now simply Black Kiss) dropped in 2000, followed by a Dynamite hardcover in 2010. I've since seen its lipstick smear spine, and I kind of like it; seems deliberate, which I can't say for many of the publisher's not-uncommon production gaffes.

31:22: Indeed, a male 'succubus' is properly called an incubus.

31:39: I wrote a little bit about Chaykin's 2009-10 Dominic Fortune here; the other comic I'm trying to remember the title of is Avengers: 1959, released 2011-12.

35:01: Detail from what I'm talking about (check the guy in the row between the front pair):

The term I keep grasping for is 'resolution[s].'

36:39: "... people who are saying Dark Knight Rises is 'supreme cinema art,' I don't think they know what the fuck they're talking about." - David Cronenberg

37:34: I swear to god Sucker Punch is genuinely underrated and Zack Snyder's best movie in a walk. That doesn't make it somehow not deeply flawed, but I do find it depressingly predictable that the contortions certain writers crunched themselves into to justify Snyder's bottomlessly awful Watchmen adaptation were nowhere to be seen once he put out something actually somewhat weird and embarrassing and personal and vaguely risky. Oh well, no more of that; every comment section of every movie blog prays steadfastly that Christopher Nolan will keep him on as short a leash as possible, though the results might still be something...
39:41: I realize I'm simplifying in terming The Dark Knight Rises as politically "right wing"; in fact, I'm conflating U.S. politics with those of an English-born-and-educated director/co-writer. Likewise, the Occupy Wall Street language I'm using is anachronistic, given the film's actual production schedule. Nonetheless, I continue to fail to see political ambiguity in the text itself; it is a paean to authoritative power as the very preservation of society against the ignorance of the populace, albeit a localized power brewed from individual accomplishment; how Robin spits the word "appeasement" at the black federal representative toward the movie's climax, prior to the man's capture and hanging(!!) at the hands of mobbish terrorist Bane. You could call it a certain strain of superhero Objectivism -- the utter adoration of the police in this thing is très Ditko -- though the little altruism subplot (note that the *only* effective charities in Gotham are privately-run) then jars.

Interestingly, there's a certain anti-libertarian bent to Bane's 'spread out the detonator' scheme, which is similar to triumphant plot flourishes in the anarchist/libertarian flavored likes of Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination and Paul Pope's Batman: Year 100; the excellence of Batman's brand of justice is as much in the security he represents as his personal aptitude, demonstrated via the classic, apolitical trope of the white dude who gets stuck in a foreign land, learns the ways of the inhabitants, and then totally bests their accomplishments, I mean of course! Anyway, what I'm saying is, when Robin (briefly) chews Gordon out for lying to the people of Gotham about the means by which he's stripped prisoners of the possibility of parole, the problem is only in the moral lapse insofar as it tarnishes the reliability of authority, which is all that keeps the fucking moron class from handing us over to international terror.

42:10: Tim O'Neil's writing on the film is here. Anthony Lane's writing on the film is here. A Bane vocal comparison is here. My spare time is laying dead there in the corner, but let's see if I can't get Episode 6 out a little faster, huh?