Building Stories - Suggested Reading Order

There had to be an asshole; it had to be me. Forgive the proof of concept-y nature of this skeletal post -- I'm hoping to expand this into an essay and thusly review the comic 'n shit -- and do enjoy this suggested navigation for your Building Stories experience. It's designed to preserve surprises, evade narrative tedium, and *totally make you cry, you baby* throughout the course of Chris Ware's fascinating, flawed toy box of anxieties and reminisce:


1. [THE LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK] - collecting the New York Times serial

2. [THE 'PRE-CHILD' ACCORDION FOLDOUT] - start on the side reading "I don't care..."

3. "The Daily Bee"

4. [THE THICKER BROADSHEET MAGAZINE] - starts with "god"


6. [THE 'POST-CHILD' ACCORDION FOLDOUT] - start on the side reading "Her laugh is..."

7. [THE DOUBLE-SIDED 'POSTER'] - start on the side reading "As a kid,"

8. [THE THINNER BROADSHEET MAGAZINE] - reprinting the Kramers Ergot 7 story (and more)

9. [THE GREEN HARDCOVER BOOK]- reprinting ACME Novelty Library #18, w' edits

10. "Branford - the Best Bee in the World"



13. "Disconnect"


More later, maybe...


Scenes from an Indian Summer

In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of renowned Craig Thompson fansite The Hooded Utilitarian, a phalanx of writers was corralled to write about comics they are not down with. I contributed a piece on Milo Manara's Fatal Rendezvous (or Rendezvous in B-Flat) in an effort to problematize the conversation surrounding an artist most often positioned winkingly as super-talented but, heh, a little *naughty* ya know? Give it a look, and thanks!


Three Points of Interest

1. I'm through with doing Show Notes, at least in their current form. They've clumped together magnetically and turned into a small millstone around my neck; I just don't have time anymore. Sorry to those of you that liked them. I liked them, I think some of my better short-form criticism has been squirreled away in bits and pieces, but - I just can't keep up!

2. Earlier today I made my Comics Alliance debut, through the good graces of Sean Witzke and Matt Seneca, and editor Andy Khouri. It's part of Sean's & Matt's comprehensive reading of DC's 2004-06 Solo anthology, specifically the issue (#8) dealing with Teddy Kristiansen. In case you're curious as to the European stuff Kristiansen's been doing, Image just released an English edition of his 2007 album The Red Diary, with a bonus flip-side alternate localization titled The Re[a]d Diary, in which Steven T. Seagle scripts the comic from simply 'reading' its visual attributes rather than consulting a textual translation. Anyway, thanks to Sean & Matt for having me on board for the discussion.

3. I also did a longform essay the other week, a tricksy thing I'm really happy with. It's a supplemental piece for the gaming webcomic Project: Ballad by Michael Peterson & Kevin Czapiewski, which necessarily (voluntarily!) brushes up against the strip's concerns, though I'll admit I conceived it primarily as a homage to a slightly older thing: the reflective (windy), personal (indulgent), searching (tedious) mid-'00s internet realm of the New Games Journalism -- a term coined, I believe, by also-a-writer-of-comics Kieron Gillen -- specifically invoking the style of infamous scene presence Tim Rogers. *Actually* though, it's an attempt to trace my own critical impulses back to certain traits of my youth, and talk about religion and shit; I think it's the first video game review of 2012 to reference St. Augustine of Hippo. I also hide a Eurocomics review in the middle. Thanks a million to Michael & Kevin for having (tolerating) me!      


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?


CBABIH 4 - Show Notes

Being a series of comments on Episode 4 of the now-established, faintly boring Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a *yawn* podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and myself.

00:00: It was really big of Philip Roth to do this introduction, despite his sore throat. He was played in this instance by Tucker. Wait, was I supposed to say that? Is that what people want to read in the show notes? The walrus was Paul, gang.

00:48: Somewhat unexpectedly, we (read: Tucker) managed to improvise a bookend joke around Tucker cutting me off when I'm trying to say my name. I wish I could say we were furiously pursuing this new frontier in comedy via texts while laying down the hottest (comic book review-style) licks around, but it sort of just happened. Now that I think of it, the true function of these notes is clearly to draw attention to stuff like that, as my houseplants can only take so much internet audio-related boasting.

01:12: This line of Pennsylvania reverie is strictly aimed at Chris; episodes 3 and 4 were recorded on Friday, July 20, a slightly irregular date for us, because (among other things) Chris had wanted to see Dawes that Sunday. Note that I totally fuck up my podcast kayfabe by referring to the concert as "this" weekend, as opposed to a temporal designation applicable to the episode's date of release. Apologies to any brokenhearted Dawes fans in the Lancaster area that only get their concert updates from comic book podcasts.

01:43: Phoenix, by Osamu Tezuka. Tucker wrote a little about vol. 5, Resurrection, here. Viz's 12-volume edition of the material contains a small readers' guide in the back of most copies filling you in on the circumstances of the series' creation. The earliest iteration of the project dates to 1954, although it didn't 'officially' (retroactively) debut until 1967, making Tezuka an early master of yet another vital comics skill set: the relaunch. The most recent storyline was completed in 1988, the year before Tezuka died.

04:54: Garo launched in 1964, COM in '67. Of course, by that time Garo had shucked off its initial incarnation as a vehicle for leftist education for Japan's comics-hungry youth and become more of a forum for less-commercial (or simply amateur) manga, although the recurring socio-political point(s)-of-view among the contributor base have been a matter of study.

05:24: To wit:

"For all his humanism and gentleness, Tezuka was an extraordinarily competitive person. Although he rarely faced serious intellectual competition in the manga world, fads in art styles changed regularly, and he constantly had to struggle to remain current. When gekiga... became popular among increasingly older readers, and when Tezuka's traditionally rounded, Disney-esque style fell out of favor, he began drawing more realistically. When young artists, such as the French-influenced Katsuhiro Ōtomo... became the darling of manga critics in the eighties, Tezuka had a hard time hiding his jealousy, for he had a burning desire to be at the top of the popularity list in all genres for all age groups at all times. It was certainly this competitive spirit, in addition to his talents, that allowed him to so dominate the manga industry for so long."

- Frederik L. Schodt, from Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (3rd ed. 2002)

06:40: The full title of the earlier Schodt book is Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, first published in 1983 and almost immediately deemed a foundational text for Japanese comics fandom in the English-speaking world. Copies are still fairly easy to come by, though the text is now as interesting for how utterly divorced it is from the aesthetic tastes of contemporary fandom as its still-relevant historical information.

07:01: Phoenix was also perhaps intended as a summary of Tezuka's life on the page; in his 2007 collection The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, Schodt notes that "[o]ne of the most intriguing rumors circulating in the Japanese manga industry is that Tezuka planned to merge the Mighty Atom [Astro Boy] characters into a final volume of his beloved life work, the Phoenix." This concludes my survey of the Frederik L. Schodt writing-on-manga trilogy, all portions of which are commended to your attention. The notion of the last Phoenix as a potential "autobiographical" comic is my own conjecture.

09:27: Not that I recommend watching entire feature films on YouTube, but the first reel or so of Phoenix 2772 (1980, dir. Taku Sugiyama) is worth seeing for its total absence of dialogue, in a rather Fantasia-like symphonic manner. Certainly the Disney influence had not dissipated from co-writer Tezuka's mind; the Firebird Suite sequence from Fantasia 2000 might also be read as a nod back, although famed Tezuka skeptic Hayao Miyazaki makes for a handier reference point.

10:04: The creator and director-for-life of the Armored Trooper Votoms television and OVA franchise is Ryosuke Takahashi, who adapted another vintage manga -- a war story by Leiji Matsumoto -- in vol. 3 of the 1993 OVA series The Cockpit. Link not in English!

13:33: Schodt also liked Resurrection quite a lot; a capsule review can be found in the aforementioned Dreamland Japan, if you're curious. You should read it anyway!!

14:18: Future, the second volume of Phoenix, is probably the easiest to track down, as Viz released a slightly different edition of it before the rest of the series, presumably gambling on the sci-fi content acting as a special draw. This earlier edition was much larger -- about the size of one of Dark Horse's Akira releases -- while later printings adopted the digest size of the remaining volumes. Second hand copies of Karma, the best of 'em all to my mind, is presently going for roughly $50.00 on Amazon, although some other volumes can still be had for under cover price.

17:00: You can enjoy some limited interaction between Tezuka and his studio assistants on the bonus dvd to Helen McCarthy's all-around excellent The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga; it's a mid-'80s NHK television documentary on Tezuka's day-to-day life that manages the fine trick of making the artist seem like the most endearing, loveable dude ever, while also not demanding too much reading-between-the-lines to convey how he could be an absolute terror to work with.

17:47: Thickness #3, eds Ryan Sands & Michael DeForge. The old Same Hat! blog (est. 2005, w' Evan Hayden) is still accessible. I remember when it was all Koji Aihara scans, sob cry! Matt & I discussed the first two issues with Tim Hodler on a 2011 episode of Robin McConnell's Inkstuds. Folk mentioned: Lamar Abrams; Edie Fake; Andy Burkholder; Sean T. Collins & William Cardini (it's Hyperbox); Gengoroh Tagame; Jimmy Beaulieu; Julia Gfrörer

23:11: This would be my primary criticism of the Thickness project as a whole (not a big criticism, I do love these things) - there's a lot of fantasy elements, a lot of comedy, mark-making, horror, genre riffs, etc., but not an enormous amount of tactility, or even verisimilitude to the sex, which is too bad. When I look at smutmaster supreme Guido Crepax's work, there's a lot of usage of the comics form to slow down tantalizing moments, to draw attention to crucial, erogenous contact to as to express the scattered thinking and feeling of sex, the little plumes of excitement and the honing in on specific touches, textures - granted, some of the Thickness contributors don't work in an anatomically solidified enough of a style to perhaps communicate this (and the expression of their marks is typically put to alternate use, like conveying absurdity or anxiety). It's not a matter of subject matter, at least, since Brandon Graham's Dirty Pair comic in issue #2 came closest to what I describe; query whether Graham's background in commercial comics porn didn't come into play. To be fair, though, there's some of this in Beaulieu's piece in #3...

24:03: The technical term for Tagame's type of manga is bara, which is sometimes used as a catch-all for adult manga aimed at gay men, although the understanding in North American readerships typically carries some suggestion of ruggedly masculine, muscular characters.

31:14: The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, eds Bill Blackbeard & Martin Williams. First published in 1977, in such quantities that you can still get "good"-graded used copies for under two bucks on Amazon (before shipping). It's 14.4" x 10.5", in sturdy hardcover. Charles Forbell was the creator of Naughty Pete, which ran in 1913; he was later a major contributor to the design of Pennsylvania favorite son Mr. Peanut. I forgot to mention that Chris Ware actually writes an essay about Naughty Pete in Sunday Press Books' completely awesome Forgotten Fantasy: Sunday Comics 1900-1915, which reprints the full run at 16" x 21".

37:14: Listener Jeet Heer notes that The Smythes creator Rea Irvin -- an OG at The New Yorker who developed the look of Eustace Tilley -- was, in fact, male.

38:41: Fantagraphics recently published a 14" x 18" best-of collection for Mr. Twee Deedle under the title Mr. Twee Deedle: Raggedy Ann's Sprightly Cousin - The Forgotten Fantasy Masterpiece of Johnny Gruelle; I suspect it'll wind up a real contender for 2012's 'thru the cracks' award for most sadly obscure release, although I haven't obtained it myself.

40:52: This was not planned. Tucker genuinely latched onto my wishy-washy Mort Walker joke-apology and on the fly transformed it into the episode's earth-shattering finale, which additionally calls back to his cutting me off waaay back at the beginning of the show. That is how you do it. We even tried to have a 'proper' ending afterward, and immediately decided that we'd happened upon our very own Gengoroh Tagame hook-down-the-urethra denouement, and that there was nothing left to do but just... end.



CBABIH 3 - Show Notes

Being a series of comments on Episode 3 of the all-new, all-shorter Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and myself.

00:00: Finally, the secret premise of this show stands revealed. Four men, standing alone against the forces of tyranny in an ashen, faceless society. Devils today, at home tomorrow! Pray we will never need --

Comic Books Are Burning In Hell

"We are the only people."

00:47: So anyway, we decided to slash 15 minutes from the runtime. Part of that's because it makes the whole galumphing mess a little easier to handle -- much easier to annotate, I've gotta say [DELETE IF THIS POSTS AFTER 7/29] -- though some of it's in recognition of the fact that podcast listeners don't always listen to a show all the way through, preferring to skip around the mass of content to get to the topics they know they'll find interesting. So, consider the next few weeks an experiment in moving against the grain. Like most comics podcasts, our content tends to track what we've been reading recently, though many shows tend to stop the recording when the conversation's over; we're going to try and hone it all down to encourage a more classically 'show-like' presentation, hopefully to create a more focused listen (perhaps so you'll be sure to catch exactly when the highway pileup begins). Or, if nothing else, we'll be asking for less of a time commitment, since it's absolutely fucking insane to expect people to have enough free space in their days to listen to all of the bloody comic book podcasts out there, much less #346,221 in prominence. 

01:22: Obviously, there is nothing funny about the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky. However, in ironclad proof of Antoine Lavoisier's law of conservation of humor, absolutely everything is funny about the Joe Paterno statue, from its jolly outstretched finger forever jostling a departed society for just one more word, to its abrupt shrouded removal in the manner of an overheated press conference concluding with the speaker hustled off the podium with a jacket over his head. My definite favorite, though, was the mystery villain issuing threats via the lost terror medium of airplane banner, because that's totally something that would happen in a Bob Haney script. John Wagner, in contrast, would probably have invented the minor subplot of Sandusky's memoir, had it not been real.

01:51: Part of what we're trying to do with the show is set up little schedules of topics to discuss, with space provided for particular books or general topics we can somehow spin out into discussion; we'd decided there was a little too much in the way of speech-making, not enough interaction, and the result was making fun of prospective Sandman prequel titles for almost a full minute. I am confident this breakthrough will launch us to #346,219 in e-prominence.   

02:51: Specifically, Warren Ellis wrote the script for an animated film titled Castlevania: Dracula's Curse; an official site still exists, although the project appears to have stalled at the animation production stage (Ellis did finish his role). The movie was supposed to be based on the 1989 NES game Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, although my favorite installment remains 1997's PSX Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which made good on the series' occasional proclivity toward mixing non-linear exploration elements in with the whipping skeletons in the face.

03:43: Gaiman has stated:

"I wanted to do a 20th anniversary story and it broke mostly because DC Comics would have loved me to do a 20th anniversary story at the same terms that were agreed upon in 1987 when I was a 26-year-old unknown. And my thought was, 'You know what guys, it really doesn't work like that.' I wasn't going to do a deal at the same terms we had in 1987 and they were not willing to do any better than that."

04:32: As a matter of fact, J.H. Williams III does have at least one spread of Batwoman issues drawn, beginning with the very next installment, #12. It should also be noted that the new Sandman stuff has been in production, apparently, for almost a year.

08:12: I can't recall when exactly I started reading Sandman; I was a timid boy in the '90s, and my first peek into that Mature Readers suggestion gave me a Marc Hempel vision of someone puking up a live stag in the midst of The Kindly Ones. By dint of sheer reputation, though -- and the fact that bookstores actually kept it in stock -- it was one of the few comics (along with Akira) I slowly pursued in book form in the late '90s once I had disposable income, so I actually wound up getting a lot of exposure to Neil Gaiman before his Brit comics forebears. I felt the series only really started to cook with A Game of You; it probably bears revisitation. Mike Allred's issue was #54; the colorist was Daniel Vozzo. Bryan Talbot did one of the Fables and Reflections stories (#30), part of A Game of You (#36), framing sequences for World's End (#51-56) and the crucial 1991 Special, along with the aforementioned 2001 Dead Boy Detectives spin-off with writer Ed Brubaker.

11:15: While I'm saying this I'm scrambling to recall how many issues of Miracleman Gaiman wrote; it was eight, #17-24, not counting the framing bits of the Miracleman: Apocrypha anthology series.

14:29: The Pact! appears in The New Gods #7, Feb./Mar. 1972. 

14:42: I had told Tucker this pants-shitter of an Armageddon 2001 joke a few days before, and you can tell he's just thrilled to hear it again, knowing it will be recorded and made available on iTunes to everyone from Anne Hathaway down to our parents.  

14:59: Specifically I wrote about Before Watchmen: Ozymandias for Tucker's column at The Comics Journal. My hope for the Before Watchmen project -- resigned as I became to the reality that the comics were really going to happen -- was that the new work would function in much the same way as the Moore/Gibbons book did to Steve Ditko's Charlton creations, i.e. as a learned, confrontational means of addressing the implications of the earlier text(s). Jae Lee sort of begins to do this in a purely visual capacity, but I can't say it goes anywhere lashed to such a completely lame script; but then, just as Tucker calls the the very idea of prequels like this "a way of attacking literature," they represent a sort of meta-textual 'confrontation' with Watchmen in terms of rejecting the very idea of a freestanding literary work in favor of burrowing themselves -- respectfully, of course! -- into the earlier work as a means of revitalizing it along the lines of the endlessly revisited, boundlessly 'relevant' superhero comics of today... the state of which, you'll recall, is due in large part to the reluctance of anyone involved to create original works out of legal worry or concerns for economic self-preservation.

16:51: Parker: The Score, by Darwyn Cooke, adapted from a novel by Donald E. Westlake. The previous volumes in Cooke's Parker series are The Hunter (2009) and The Outfit (2010); Tucker did a long interview with Cooke at Comics Alliance in the buildup to the second volume. The "point" Tucker refers to my making was via email in preparation of our all-important schedule, not in some deleted sequence or anything. The AV Club interview to which I refer is here; in all fairness, several people in the comments section do bring up the conspicuous absence of Parker (mentioned in passing in the piece's introductory text), which may well be due to some tacit or explicit urging on the part of DC's publicity folks to keep the chat on target; a review of the book was posted elsewhere.

19:11: Seriously though, I'm certain something exactly like this happened at some point in Cooke proving ground Batman: The Animated series or etc., and you bet your ass there's a blog post or an essay out there on some pop/geek culture site singing that episode's praises. Particularly if it's coming from the sort of writer that's decided that "real, legitimate, lasting work[s] of art" are nothing that's ever coincided with what they've found moving or profound or meaningful. You might even say that sort of impulse powered a lot of the earlier underground comics - an antipathy toward abstract expressionism and the accordant rejection of figuration prolific in institutional education. The irony's that the impulse has been turned toward benefiting corporate institutions - see how easily, intentional or otherwise, that AV Club talk turns the subject of Before Watchmen away from notions of ownership and toward the idea of 'strong' female characters, a real and virtuous discussion that nonetheless positions the corporate entity as less an assertive owner of IPs than the very inevitability of navigable terrain.

23:18: According to the title link above, Cooke is next planning to adapt The Handle, which jumps over an additional two books in the series. At this point the series might break format to do a small standalone (comic book?) version of Slayground, which jumps ahead five books, and possibly then Butcher's Moon, which is the second book after that, unless something else pops up in between.

26:09: HAW HAW HAW

26:51: The prospective Jason Statham vehicle is simply titled Parker. The Mel Gibson ("Porter") movie was Payback, the Lee Marvin ("Walker") was all-time classic Point Blank, the Robert Duvall ("Macklin") was The Outfit, the Jean-Luc Godard (Anna Karina as "Nelson") was Made in U.S.A. (not a faithful rendition), and the Jim Brown ("McClain") was The Split.

29:01: To wit:

Much is said in the transition from the girl's contented face in panel 1 to the naivete expressed through her simplified 'long shot' form in panel 2, to say nothing of the stolen glance in panel 4 - stolen, we can tell, both from her expression and her proximity to the panel border. Excellent stuff. 

33:04: I wrote a little more about the contrasting Jacques Tardi & Darwyn Cooke crime aesthetics here, in case the metallic tinge of my voice is driving your body wild.

33:40: Barry Sonnenfeld's Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, by Grant Morrison, Barry Sonnenfeld, Mukesh Singh and "Liquid Studios." The legal indicia does list the title as simply Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, though the publisher, as you can see at the link, files it under "B." I hope I don't sound too gratuitous detailing the catastrophic levels of tackiness involved in the packaging/promotion of this thing, but I honestly do believe it's contributed to the relative low profile of the release even beyond it being a twenty dollar unfinished graphic novel you can read in under 15 minutes - for an author as fond of going on about the "pop" of things as Morrison, he really is involved here with the geek culture equivalent of a Nickelback album. Merits aside, 'the kids' wouldn't be caught dead with such a gaudy-ass thing, and that's the first time I've ever felt the need to say that about a Grant Morrison comic.

35:55: No, seriously - Tucker blogged it.

 "I'm not a Perez Hilton fan, but no bullshit, he was the best host of one of these type of things I've ever seen, and while no, I haven't seen very many 'reunion' specials, he was in no way similar to those creepy freaks that host shit on MTV, he wasn't like Ryan Seacrest, he was a foul mouthed jackal intent on telling the girls he liked that he liked them, and even more intent on telling the girls he thought were whores things like 'You're a whore.' I won't be keeping up with his blog anytime soon, unless 'anytime soon' also means 'never', but well played sir. Well fucking played."

Hilton appears to be commenting on the cross-platform announcement itself on the back cover; I doubt he's even aware of the comic's particulars. Same goes for io9:

"Tired of X Vs. Y movies? Too bad! Now shut up and eat your awesome... are there any 'Versus' movies that can top aliens against dinosaurs?"


38:57: No, allow me.

41:14: I got my comics-format movie pitches mixed up here; Jeevan Kang drew the Garth Ennis/John Woo 7 Brothers, while Mukesh Singh did the Andy Diggle/Guy Ritchie joint Gamekeeper; none of these folks stuck around past the series' first storylines, btw. Aside from what I list aloud, Singh also did the first five issues of the Top Cow-ish pretty girl comic Devi, and *every* issue of the immortal Jenna Jameson's Shadow Hunter. For the record, 18 Days was a rendition of the Mahabharata, of which the Bhagavad Gita is part. Virgin also put out 16 issues of Ramayan 3392 AD, based on the other huge Sanskrit epic.

42:02: From this:

to this:

44:39: "Do they show them applying the war paint with their little arms?" Yeah, as much as I value imagination and metaphor - sometimes you just crash against the rocks of concept. I'll say no more tonight.


CBABIH 2 - Show Notes

Being a series of comments -- hopefully the final such set at this ultimately near-incapacitating length -- of Episode 2 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and myself.

00:00: As Robert McKee once remarked, nothing screams 'accessibility' quite like spoofin' & goofin' on Pennsylvania public radio institutions; worse yet, Chris and I had (unbeknownst to each other!) planned to do a gag opening exactly like this for weeks and weeks. Tragically, this will not be the final 'NPR'-related jest of the hour, although we did make sure that absolutely nothing we referenced is actually syndicated by National Public Radio - because we keep it real.

01:16: Tucker's "fast and loose" remark references the fact that -- unlike most episodes, even the preliminary ones -- we didn't have a set schedule of what to talk about. It was kind of an experiment in extremes for the July 8th block, as the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen episode was devoted entirely to one comic; here, we decided to race through as much as we could hit off a single amorphous list floating around multiple emails. We actually do hit everything besides Nicolas Mahler's Angelman (a pleasant enough bit of superhero industry satire from a very much non-industry artist, if exceedingly lightweight and unmemorable, especially if you read a lot of trumpeting on the internet).

01:36: Once again, we futilely attempt to draw the podcasting Excalibur that is banter from its internet scabbard; any week now we'll be hitting it as big as the SModcast line, and then we too will have our lives irrevocably validated by material success in the form of a cable television program - created in large part, admittedly, to piggyback off the success of a prior cable television program, albeit with a wacky 'geek culture' twist. In fact, I've concluded that the last bit is probably more important than even having a podcast, and so the reason why these show notes are (once again) late is because I've been feverishly wracking my brain for a way to hybridize ourselves with World's Worst Tenants. The details are still a little cloudy, but this is basically why I've been hitting the gym.

02:40: I'm almost certain this is the Octomom post to which Tucker refers. No, no - please, no roses, applause is enough! Hey, maybe we can do an on-air fleshlight ad...? But anyway: Jack Reacher; distressing lack of Werner Herzog Eurovillain footage.

03:45: Hero Worship #1 (of 6), by Zak Penn (story), Scott Murphy (story, script) and Michael DiPascale (art/color). Zealously detail-oriented listeners will note that I somehow never mention the comic's title. Many samples of DiPascale's visuals at the link; the interview I reference is an interview with him ("Zak Penn and Scott Murphy wanted something that they could reproduce for movies..."). Creators' rights wonks are hereby informed that the comic is trademark and copyright the writers and the publisher; cutting the artist out of such considerations is the general SOP at Avatar, so that, for instance, Crossed is TM & © Garth Ennis. Unsurprisingly, virtually all of the ad copy -- and, as far as I know, literally all of the semi-formalized conversation save for this goddamned show -- has focused on Penn's screenwriting credits on various Marvel-derived superhero blockbusters, up to and including a story credit on this season's bazillion-grossing The Avengers. So omnipresent is the specter of nerd media around the guy that (anecdotally) not a few people seem to assume that Herzog directed Incident at Loch Ness himself - although, given the heavily improvised nature of the project, it likewise cannot be said that Herzog didn't command considerable influence.

(And none of this is to say that Werner Herzog worship is not considered by certain connoisseurs to be a facile and geeky infantilization of the rich and varied project of the New German Cinema; Film Comment recently had a nice overview of Werner Schroeter, for instance, and obviously a world without Fassbinder is not one in which I'd care to live.)

06:14: Ferals, by David Lapham & Gabriel Andrade. Maybe nobody's interested in this stuff besides me, but Ferals appears to be a work-for-hire project, going by the legal indicia - it could be the publisher is hoping for another crossover horror hit. Dan the Unharmable, in contrast, is TM & © Lapham & Avatar, in a more typical Vertigo-ish 'creator participation' setup, if my reading is correct. Andrade is probably the most traditionally skilled of the present crop of Avatar artists, although the only prior work of his I know are a handful of issues of the Howard Chaykin-written Die Hard: Year One (#5-8). As I imply, Ferals #6 closes with a suitably ridiculous concluding image, which I sort of wish would permanently close the series, since I prefer the moments in these Avatar projects where Lapham throws up his arms and goes fuck it - Caligula was peppered with just enough such scenes to maintain my interest.

07:14: My diet has me hungry for burgers, I guess. Excluding everyone who does longform work for Marvel/DC superhero comics and any webcomics people, the Four Other Guys right now would be Brian K. Vaughn, Robert Kirkman, Brian Wood and the Atomic Robo team, which I will count as a collective Guy. Tucker's Age of Apocalypse thoughts are here, Matt's Young Liars thoughts are here (also recommended: this Mindless Ones chat with Lapham).

10:40: New York Mon Amour, by Jacques Tardi, Benjamin Legrand & Dominique Grange. Specifically, it is the eighth release in the present Fantagraphics Tardi series. When Tucker asks about the photo collage bits in Cockroach Killer and Chris goes "you're talking about the little coda at the end," that's a signal for me to stop flipping through my Cheval Noir back issues on the other end of the couch because I'm not going to find it; my comments are entirely off the cuff.

20:31: When Matt calls Eisner/Miller "vastly underrated," he's no doubt impliedly referencing a scalding 2006 critique by Gary Groth, whose name Chris raises in the background as we all bow our heads and sign the cross.

26:19: For more of Chris' Tardi preferences, you are directed to the most recent installment of his Comics College series.

27:35: Nestor Burma is the creation of crime writer Léo Malet, who detailed the detective's exploits in 33 novels and various short stories created from 1943 to 1983. There was also a tv show and some movies. Tardi's first two comics adaptations were Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge (1982), translated in Fantagraphics' Graphic Story Monthly #1-5 in 1990, and The Bloody Streets of Paris (1988), published in English by iBooks in 2003; the artist did three more in 1990, 1996 and 2000, although the '90 piece (Une gueule de bois en plomb) was actually a licensed fan fiction excursion that Tardi wrote himself in Malet's style.

30:24: Example:

Dig the blood squirt in panel one. No, the backgrounds aren't supposed to be solid black.

30:59: Monsieur Jean: The Singles Theory, by Philippe Dupuy & Charles Berberian. Humanoids' L'Association knockoff line was called Tohu Bohu. Regarding Tucker's question, Jean's specific in-story description of his own writing is "novels that draw from everyday life," although we might not want to take this as a particularly complete explanation, given that at this point in the story he has just accidentally killed a tiny dog to rib-tickling effect. Then again, I was just paging through Dark Horse's Creepy Presents: Richard Corben collection earlier, and there's this epically lame, overwritten, altogether flop sweat-drenched Doug Moench thing (The Slipped Mickey Click Flip) that not only humorously kills off a dog, but then stops the story and has the horror host narrator mock the reader for feeling bad over an animal getting killed, you ridiculous child; surely animal cruelty laffs have long been a punk rock staple of anxiously mainstream comic books. The interview to which Tucker refers is in The Comics Journal #260.

44:16: Gluyas Williams, Saul Steinberg.

45:02: That's Michel Rabagliati, also a Drawn and Quarterly veteran, and also now with a new publisher for his latest book-in-translation: The Song of Roland, via Conundrum Press.

45:28: Fallen Words, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Speak of the devil, and it doth publish something by some guy. Chris wrote a tiny bit more about it here. The Wikipedia entry for Rakugo utilizes the excellent descriptor "verbal entertainment," which is the standard we yearn for here at Comic Books Are Burning In Hell each and every week. Yonkoma manga is also known as "4-koma"; it's probably best known among NA readers as the format for Yotsuba&! creator Kiyohiko Azuma's Azumanga Daioh, although you can see examples in roughly every third back-of-the-book bonus section in manga.

54:27: Chris' review of Oji Suzuki's A Single Match is here. Be sure to read the comments for a valuable Ryan Holmberg post that further solidifies Shigeru Mizuki's position as a sort-of godfather to various early-ish Garo contributors, making his recent publication by Drawn and Quarterly all the more apropos.

56:24: Birdseye Bristoe, by Dan Zettwoch. For an alternate take, see Tom Spurgeon's mixed reaction. Matt has written a bit more about Zettwoch's style.

58:10: Holy shit, there's more than two dozen books in the Amelia's Notebook series, which has been going on since mid-'90s.

01:00:25: "...some pretty hardcore art comics...":

01:03:02: Tucker refers here to Amazing Facts... and Beyond!, which I don't believe any of us knew had posted its very last strip only four days prior to our recording. There's been five minicomics-format collections of the stuff, available here (look under "Dan Zettwoch" for easiest navigation).

01:04:39: Ha ha, joke's on me - A Prairie Home Companion is neither NPR nor PRI, but APM, American Public Media. Much of my perception of Garrison Keillor's unpopularity stems from his Good Poems series of poetry anthologies, which are quite widely popular among a casual readership as far as such things go, in addition to being absolutely loathed by literally every single dedicated poetry reader I have ever encountered with whom the subject has been somehow broached. Although I suppose another school of criticism hits at the very Midwestern feel (which Matt identifies) as a fundamentally noxious, elitist commodification of such, cutsied and filed smooth for bourgeois consumption with a sign of condescension. I'm pretty sure The Simpsons also made fun of him once, which basically the end as far as certain corners of the internet are concerned. I liked the Robert Altman movie. Lake Wobegon Days was 1985.

01:08:09: Tucker has AIDS.


A few things:

1. Directly below this post (right here) are the show notes for the official launch episode of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, another 3000+ word testament to the legacy of childhood obsessive-compulsive symptoms. I think the show went pretty well - it's a huge discussion of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with yelling and joking and everything. We're gonna be switching back to a multi-book format next week, though we're already planning future special episodes devoted to certain 'big' releases: Love and Rockets #5 and Building Stories, almost certainly. We hope you'll drop by every Thursday.

2. In case you're wondering what happened to the show notes for Episode 0.8, I wound up spending all of my scheduled show notes time working on this analysis of Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1, thus inadvertently forming an Alan Moore trilogy with my weekly column last Tuesday. It's just now that I'm realizing the show notes are essentially a second weekly column that's insinuated itself upon my life. Sorta nice to be writing so much again, though. Anyway, I liked how the Ozy piece turned out a lot; it's a weird comic, in that the art proves to be far more sophisticated in its interfacing with the original than the completely awful script (see, however, the most recent Silence!, starting at 01:20:30, where bobsy takes issue with my generosity). I expect it might well prove to be this project's The Kingdom: Offspring - an uneasy dollar bin charmer that outlives its origins in a high-profile, high-grossing, entirely unnecessary and now-forgotten follow-up to a vaunted superhero favorite produced in spite of the abject disinterest of one member of the original team. "Nothing ever ends."

3. I also interviewed Richard Corben for The Comics Journal, as a sort of official launch point for a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations he's working on. One bit of info I never found a place for in my introduction or the interview itself is that Corben is actually still working in animation, having most recently created sequences for the 2010 Windows/Mac game Darkstar: The Interactive Movie, a throwback of sorts to the '90s heyday of full-motion video computer adventure games. Boy, it'd be something if I just up and started writing about computer games, eh?

4. Oh, right - did you know today is the eighth anniversary of this site? I apparently made a bunch of pony jokes in my first post, which is ironclad proof of my precognitive aptitude and impeccable taste. I also recall a bunch of early cracks about the futility of starting a new comics blog at a time when the scene seemed tipping past oversaturation; now I'm part of a podcast, and experiencing exactly the same feelings. Ask me what I think about kids in five years. I might propose.

CBABIH 1 - Show Notes

Being a Jess Nevens-like modular exegesis of Episode 1 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and myself.

00:00: The goddess (or dæmoness) Smarra is the deity of choice for Oliver Haddo: W. Somerset Maugham creation, Aleister Crowley stand-in, and ultimately hapless primary antagonist of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, a three-issue squarebound comic book miniseries (2009-12) by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill, with colors by Ben Dimagmaliw and letters/design by Todd Klein. Note, however, that the character was actually introduced in the series' prelude, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, a 2008 original graphic novel from the same team, with additional lettering by the late Bill Oakley; given that Oakley died in 2004, we can fairly say that this project has been building toward completion for nearly a decade.

In contrast, this podcast has been building toward its debut episode for nine weeks, which is slightly less time than Zalman King gave Mickey Rourke - an early release, by our passion for you.

This is not creepy.

This is comics.

00:08: A new launch deserves a new theme song, so once again we give you the excellent Miss Nina Stone. I kinda liked the jazzy inflections of the first one, but I also think this new jingle (CBABIH OP2) fits the "burning in hell" theme in a manner that doesn't tacitly impugn the metaphysical standing of record collectors across the mighty history of alternative comics. I'm also a huge fan of title songs where the lyrics are the title; I'm watching the 1971 Lupin the 3rd anime right now, and they do the same awesome thing. I just hope that one day I too can be considered a nice man.

00:40: This episode was recorded on Sunday, July 8, 2012, in all the usual places: Brooklyn, NY (Tucker & Matt) and Elizabethtown, PA (me & Chris). We did it (once again) as the first half of a block with next week's episode directly to follow, but we actually wound up going way over our self-imposed time limit. I think Tucker cut about 10-15 minutes of material out of the final release - mostly dead ends, vulgar speculations and bad jokes, which admittedly is the primary draw of this show, but you folks only got the gold.

01:25: The final fate of Big Numbers -- a England-set 'literary' comic by Moore, artist Bill Sienkiewicz and prominent art assistant/eventual aborted replacement artist Al Columbia, intended to run for twelve issues, though only two were published, in 1990 -- is a matter of some conjecture; Eddie Campbell provides perhaps the most memorable account in his book How to Be an Artist (presently collected in the Top Shelf omnibus Alec: The Years Have Pants), although interested parties are further directed to Sienkiewicz's take, posted after a photocopy of the unreleased issue #3 appeared online.

01:32: I am no doubt simplifying Moore's motives here; the 'official' line, as it goes, can be best experienced through George Khoury's The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore, which is basically a book-length interview spanning Moore's entire career through 2008 (as of the latest edition). It was actually Moore's old The Saga of the Swamp Thing cohorts Stephen R. Bissette & Rick Veitch that established his relationship with Image through the six-issue miniseries 1963 ('93) (an added, concluding special issue was never completed), the production of which led, per Moore, to his writing Spawn #8 (also '93), and eventually a long attempt at writing for an audience concerned with "almost no story, just lots of big, full-page pin-up sort of pieces of artwork." Some of these comics were quite good, and some of them were Spawn/WildC.A.T.s or the notorious event miniseries Fire from Heaven, half of which, according to Khoury, was actually written by an unknown party working under Moore's name.

01:52: The ghosts of my childhood favorites demand I specify Moore's guest-dialogued issue of The Maxx as #21 (Jan. '96), and his Shadowhawk thing as a story in the Shadowhawks of Legend anthology ('95). I wrote a bit about Moore's Vampirella story here. The internet connection is a little weird for the first 1/3 of the episode, so I sound pretty metal at times, though I don't know why I'm slurring my words so much - I wasn't nearly as drunk as I get writing these notes.

03:05: The first six-issue The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen miniseries ran from March of 1999 through September of 2000; the second six-issue miniseries ran from September of 2002 through November of 2003; somewhat unsurprisingly, the Century miniseries adopted what's essentially the Franco-Belgian album schedule (if not the album format), seeing new 80-page issues released at greater-than one year intervals.

04:32: Of course, Paul Verhoeven fans know that biological warfare dates back to the dark ages, when you'd just launch a plague-ridden carcass over the walls and boom. It just occurs to me now, though, that Nemo is the thematically unifying force concerning the first two series' take on violence - he goes from ruthless and gleeful in vol.1 to utterly disgusted and horrified by the end of vol. 2, leading to his divorce from even nominally friendly contact with England. A descendant also shows up at the end of Century (elsewhere too, bear with me), but mostly to drop a potential Watchmen teetering-the-world-toward-collapse-for-its-own-good reference. Supposedly the next LoEG project is Nemo - Heart of Ice, a 48-page side-story set in the 1920s (due Feb. '13), so maybe a bit more connecting fiber will be offered.

05:01: Note, however, that the America's Best Comics line was maintained irregularly in Moore's absence, most recently via the 2010-11 Peter Hogan/Chris Sprouse miniseries Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom. Now that Wildstorm itself has folded, we can presume it's dead, and that forthcoming Top Ten sequels can be expected under the DC banner after the Watchmen cast is folded into continuity in a couple of years. Yeah, you're laughing, but you don't sell half a million comic books in five weeks and expect things to just end, do you? "Nothing ever ends." Here's Tilda Swinton.

05:49: In fact, Crowley's own stand-in creation was Cyril Grey, a bit character in the initial 1910 chapter of Century, although the conception of a "moonchild," Haddo's aim, is central to the plot of Crowley's 1917 novel Moonchild, in which Grey featured. Tucker helpfully edited out the part where I shout "I HATE MYSELF I HATE MYSELF" for 45 consecutive seconds.

08:11: Regrettably, that's not Chris' wife and children, that's a sound effect. Regarding Poppins, amypoodle of the Mindless Ones suggests that she might actually be Haddo's Smarra, or at least Smarra might be an aspect of her... omnibus divinity? Anyway, it's reductive to refer to Mary Poppins as God from the Bible, but I do try to keep up the mainline Abrahamic appearances suggested by this show's title.

08:48: Supportive of this point is Moore's 2010 minicomic Astounding Weird Penises, a pack-in with issue #2 of Dodgem Logic magazine (which Matt explains later) and the first longform comic in decades which Moore both wrote and drew; it's a far-out pastiche of vintage EC stuff, basically in line with a '70s second-wave underground comix rag.

13:44: Not that there's an exact correlation between the two writers' styles, but the presence of Iain Sinclair's Norton, Prisoner of London -- from his 1997 book Slow Chocolate Autopsy, composed in part with illustrations by Dave McKean, for a ready-made comics connection -- as a bridge between the time periods of Century perhaps gestures toward Moore's allusive intent; Sinclair was also a midwife of sorts to Moore's Unearthing project though his London: City of Disappearances anthology, and of course inspired all the really fun bits of From Hell through his 1975 work Lud Heat (reissued by Skylight Press just two months ago). And yes - as Matt notes later on, I did come to Sinclair through Moore, and I suspect I'm far from alone.  

14:40: Naturally, this morning I got an email explaining something I'd never even considered - the Harry Potter movies are a gigantic cash cow for Warner Brothers, of which DC Comics is a subsidiary, suggesting a certain potential for specific investment in the satire Moore is slinging. Mary Poppins, on the other hand, is popularly associated with Disney - you can see where this is going.           

18:37: Dickish as this sounds given how many errors I tend to make in a given show, I do believe Ben Dimagmaliw is from the Philippines, and resides in the United States.

20:04: This implicates the notion of widespread success/recognition/influence vs. general acclaim, I think; certainly there are a lot of hugely respected and honored prose/poetry figures in the UK today, although talk of this tends to bring me back to Tucker's suggestion a few shows back that the modern League should be comprised solely of uninspiring protagonists from contemporary literary novels. The type of comics Moore is making begs a certain breed of reference, although I guess a modern genre commentary like (say) Lev Grossman's The Magicians would suffice; but does it have the reach a man who's shrugged off millions upon millions in movie fees -- as rude and blunt a validation of mass cultural 'worth' as our times can summon -- must know he's got?

22:08: Indeed, if you take the well-bearded Allan Quatermain of Century's end as a stand-in for Moore himself, the series' ending can be read as an acknowledgement of the writer's irrelevance as a white male in directing the present cultural discussion in a beneficial way, his legacy of colonialism and paternalistic attitudes left dead and buried under the African sky. However, this potential is intermingled with a romantic appreciation for the value of right proper old-time heroics; query whether its offenses don't appear to dim before the overwhelming, purposeless banality of the contemporary age the women have inherited. As with Moore's superhero works, there's appreciation ground in with the devastation...

24:31: To expand on this marvelously succinct and crystal-clear lecture I have just somersaulted through, the "self-contained literary mechanism" I describe is probably what best separates Moore's usage of appropriated/analogized or corporate-owned characters from the typical continued serializations of characters that have outlived their creators, so that when Moore uses IPs from all over the DCU in The Saga of the Swamp Thing, it's to build up a literary statement on the absurdities and horrors and surprises of vastly different extra-normal entities occupying the same world. Likewise, 1963 is about the legacy of the early Marvel comics, Supreme is about the history of Superman, and Spawn/WildC.A.T.s is about 35 minutes you'll beg to have again while dying. I mean, it doesn't happen every time, but the general thrust of Moore's work is different than something like Before Watchmen, which not only acts as a simple adjunct to an earlier work, but actually paraphrases and quotes from the original extensively, so as to insinuate itself into the very fabric of the original, and thus become it.  

Shit, you can even call Moore a die-hard classicist on these grounds, since he's concerned with the agency of the author, while the windows-unto-virtual-reality setup of superhero continuity, per Grant Morrison, can be taken as a distinctly applicable means of navigating-by-analogy the extra-personal media sprawl of our wired age. It's also undoubtedly the wave of the future in terms of guaranteeing audience recognition in a time of massive blockbuster films and lackluster disposable cash flow among the potential audience.

Do note that when I say feminism in 'geek culture' has acted as a signatory to corporate-dictated terms, I'm not attempting to denigrate a very necessary discussion; I'm merely describing the shape of things in a scene where discussion itself -- even in the form of outrage -- is kept rolling by the steady flow of superhero comics released every week, so that even basic discussions of representation and femininity in comics are now typically couched in terms that emphasize the inspirational value of heroic figures, vis-à-vis their empowered and de-powered states. Such discussion affirms the cultural reach of owner corporations, insofar as decades-old, company-maintained superheroes are inevitably the most recognizable. Even if the outer parameters of comic book reading in North America encompasses only half a million people, these characters are licensed, packaged and disseminated at a level of visibility that alternative images can't hope to match.  In other words, superheroes 'matter,' not because comics are a thing of mass culture, but because they can, in this form, potentially expand into mass media. Alan Moore, while cognizant of of the extra-textual implications of stories and characters, no doubt sees himself in opposition to such machinations, and thus we have his problem.

This is not the only sort of conversation going on, I hasten to add, nor is concern with such levels of visibility irrelevant or unnecessary. Yet, a crucial aspect of today's superhero fandom in general seems to be the assumed validation that comes from the success of these properties in high-profile, record-breaking movies, so that the reader -- aware, of course, that his or her reading material is willingly accessed by 0.1% of the U.S. public at absolute best -- can imagine their idle activity as explosive experimentation at ground zero of tomorrow's thrills, riding shotgun in the cockpit of the giant robot that is American popular culture.

29:16: Cruelly, we are robbed of another exciting Comic Books Are Burning In Hell live reading (don't worry, we'll pick it up later), so, in two parts:


There's also a part earlier where Norton mentions that the above-pictured train "runs on sloppily-defined magical principles," although his subsequent "I'm sure you two can handle it" might be taken as either a reassurance as to the magical superiority of Orlando & Mina or a crack at their own suspect makeup. Less equivocal is Haddo's later condemnation of Harry as "a tremendous disappointment" and thrice "banal," although one might suspect the book's antagonist to be a bit of a dick and Aleister Crowley to be slightly elitist with the magic thing. Circumstantial evidence, though.

30:53: Oh god, Matt reminds me here that we didn't even get into the fucking Golliwog and fucking Alan Moore's attempt to do Django (fucking) Unchained in the text sections. This is a whole different issue, if again related to a Moore/O'Neill lack of due diligence in contextualizing their usage of the character. Instead, it's a facile attempt at reclamation, isolating the racist iconography inherent to the character and re-framing it in a positive manner, which is to say attempting to strip away the racist signal: he looks like that now because he's a way-cool (uh, escaped slave) from beyond the stars! And he's quite sexually virile too, but that's because sex is a good thing! The other heroes like to have sex too! (Not with the Golliwog.) Hooray!

Granted, Moore does at least try and present the character as the most unabashedly heroic force in the entire series, but the learned comics scholars among us know this to be The Ebony White Excuse. Frankly -- and this ties in with Tucker's awesome rant starting at 34:26 -- there's a bratty quality to the character's continued presence in the series that speaks more of a privileged amusement than anything else. What would probably be necessary is what I expect is in store with the actual Django Unchained: a construct that acknowledges the pervasive racism from which such tropes and images emerged at every turn. 

31:44: This is another connection between Black Dossier and Century, as the former was initially promoted as including a disc of 'period' songs, actually written and performed by Moore & co.; I believe it was nixed as overly expensive. Is now the time to plug Top Shelf's upcoming reissue of Moore's The Bojeffries Saga with Steve Parkhouse? Musical interludes in that, yes.

Y'know, Moore's own track was one of the better things on the Dodgem Logic mixtape... probably right behind this, which twisted me into an fetal position from praying so hard that Moore would drop a guest verse...

37:20: Overall I'd say the Kickstarter joke was by far the most current reference in 2009, enough so that I went scrambling to Wikipedia to affirm that the site even existed in some form three years ago (A: yes). Also: tank-top.

54:29: Here's Plok's take - much more eloquent than my summary, so please read it through!

58:12: LIVE READING. Chris' interview with Moore is online, although he's reading here from its anthologized printing in Alan Moore: Conversations (ed. Eric L. Berlatsky). Here's a slightly longer excerpt:

"What I was trying to say in my muddled, roundabout fashion was that of course the material that is purely in the mind, how can it be anything other than innocent? Especially when contrasted with the stuff that we’re seeing on our televisions every day of children being carried limp and bloody out of rubble. These are real children in a real world.

"With 'Lost Girls' we hoped to have a sense of perspective on this. There is nothing as terrible as war. And whatever our current moral panics might say, even child molesting is not as terrible as war. And the imagery and the concept of child molesting is certainly not as terrible as war.

"That is not to say the abuse of children is not terrible. Of course it is. The abuse of anybody is terrible. I don’t know if sexual abuse is more terrible than any other kind or whether it’s because we seem to apply a huge amount of power to the sexual realm. Like the whole idea of rape as a fate worth than death.

"I remember talking to Kathy Acker, the late, lamented Kathy Acker about that issue. I remember her saying that she had been raped and she says 'You go home, you have a wash, you feel kind of messed up for awhile but you’re glad that you weren’t killed.' There is no fate worse than death."       

01:01:53: Aww, there's my darlin'! That cry at the end was joy.

"Not creepy. Comics."


CBABIH 0.7 - Show Notes

Being a belated and somewhat smaller-than-usual series of comments -- owing to my present tenancy at the historic Overlook Hotel -- on Episode 0.7 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner and myself.

00:00: A hearty "welcome back" to our beloved Satan running joke, and [ASSIDUOUSLY NEUTRAL NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS v. SEBELIUS JOKE]! I hereby pledge not to allow my present circumstances to detract whatsoever from the quality of these notes!

00:14: This particular session was recorded on Sunday, June 24, with the crew again divided into teams of two, again split between a basement in Elizabethtown, PA, and a dangerous sweat box in Brooklyn, NY. Seriously, Tucker and Matt forgo even the distraction of air conditioning to better focus on top-notch comic book discussion content, much like the ascetics of old breaking down the Battle of Hastings action choreography on the Bayeux tapestry while podcasting into thin air (which is basically what Chris and I do anyway - no mics for these E-Town cats).

01:16: Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths and NonNonBa, by Shigeru Mizuki. Both published in English by Drawn and Quarterly, the former well over a year ago, hence my joke about everyone getting there before me. I get into the differing stories/narrative stances of each in the show, so I won't summarize them here.

01:33: The Bart Beaty review to which I refer is here. It actually took him eight days to choke down the book. Critical passage:

"Ultimately the problem here is that the book is simply its concept: an autobiographical work combining an element of the fantastic, a book that says 'hey, youth is a magical time of imagination'. Thanks, got it. NonNonBa really exists on a very shallow level where nothing further is made of that simplistic observation. Once you get past the obvious moral of the story, you realize that this big book is really paper thin."

This is the crux of my disagreement with Beaty; with all due respect, I think it's his reading that's shallow, insofar as he misidentifies the work's engine as a 'magic' inherent to childhood rather than a learned means of processing the often-mortal peril of same.

That said, I'm probably misstating Beaty's relative unfamiliarity with manga, in that he does specifically cite two other Japanese comics from the '07 Angoulême competition as superior: Kazuichi Hanawa's Doing Time (released in English by Fanfare/Ponent Mon) and Hideki Arai's Ki-itchi!! (not officially in English, although I recall his violent '90s seinen series The World is Mine becoming a minor thing on the scanlation circuit a few years back). I'd actually agree on the superiority of Doing Time, a dryly obsessive chronicle of three years the artist spent in prison on weapons possession charges.

(Also, the specific prize NonNonBa won was the Fauve d'Or, awarded to the year's best album.)

03:28: Beaty's review of Christophe Blain's Gus and His Gang is here (not as harsh as my crap memory made it out to be); I've linked to Matthias Wivel's opening salvo before, but here it is again.

04:06: I should have said I mostly know of Thomas Thorhauge's English-language criticism via the Metabunker, where he recently authored a scathing take on Kramers Ergot 8. Xavier Guilbert springs to mind through his work at du9. Bart Croonenborghs has done a lot of online work for The Comics Journal, although he mainly writes online now at Broken Frontier. Had I known Chris was going to bring up comments sections -- and were I equipped to react to things without prompting akin to the laserdisc playback on an arcade gunfighting game coming to full pause on 'easy' mode -- I'd have thrown out some mention of "Tony" from my own column at the Journal, who just recently dusted off an April thing I did on mangaka Kazumasa Takayama (of quintessential Studio Proteus/Dark Horse obscurity Chronowar) with some great new info

I also beg the forgiveness of Pedro Bouça for getting his familial name completely wrong. UGH.

05:16: It's always worthwhile to return to the source texts, such as François Truffaut's A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema, known as the traditional birthplace of auteur theory, but also significantly a political reaction to the anti-clericalism Truffaut noted in the so-called Tradition of Quality.

06:36: Full title - Unpopular Culture: Transforming the European Comic Book in the 1990s. From the University of Toronto Press.

10:31: Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths was 1973; NonNonBa was 1977. If you want to compare & contrast the art styles involved, sample images are here and here.

11:00: The Drawn and Quarterly release of GeGeGe no Kitarō (serialized 1959-69) will simply be titled Kitaro, once again revealing the New Age musical tastes of our neighbors to the north. I'm really glad the Mizuki books have done well for them. 

13:56: For more on the history of kamishibai -- which I appear to have confused with kamibashi string dolls, not that I even pronounced that right -- I'll recommend Abrams' profusely illustrated 2009 release of Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater, by Eric P. Nash. "The Lone Wolf and Cub guy" Tucker mentions is artist Goseki Kojima, whom we might also call an accidental godfather of the '80s superhero upheavals, owing to his influence on Frank Miller.

18:37: Not only did Mizuki indeed employ art assistants, one of them was none other than art manga legend Yoshiharu Tsuge, whose own visual approach in works like Screw-Style was directly influenced by Mizuki's example.

20:57: In Scott McCloud's limited defense, I've always read Understanding Comics as less an attempt at a definitive statement on the makeup the form than a necessary effort at collating various theories and suppositions into book form, perhaps as a means of bypassing the usual turnover in comics crit/theory - while comic book readers don't always flip themselves to some other area of interest to make way for the next reading generation every five years, as went the received wisdom, comics critics often do, forcing each new crew of obsessives to study up on the past and learn the same damn lessons over and over. That Understanding Comics is even still widely read is a major victory in that regard.

22:06: Tucker wrote a bit more about Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths here. For a more abashed take, I'll recommend Sean T. Collins' review, which raises an interesting potential problem with the book: that Mizuki's emphasis on the humanity-as-lived of his soldier cast renders the whole ethos of the honorable death somewhat inexplicable, and seemingly the province of a diseased few, a perspective that does not hold up to history. In response, I'd note that Mizuki's primary audience, however, was a Japanese readership a little over one quarter of a century removed from the events depicted, which would benefit more, perhaps, from a display of shared burden than any explication of an attitude most readers would be familiar with anyway - in this way, depicting the attitude as aberrational might be a deliberate artistic (or even political) goal, though query, of course, whether this doesn't stand as an elaborate excuse for the very real, prolific atrocities committed by the Japanese imperial machine in the time period.

29:34: Matt's mention of Kōbō Abe suggests the writer's (also 1973!) novel The Box Man, which brings to mind artist Imiri Sakabashira, who did a surreal manga also titled The Box Man, which Drawn and Quarterly released to booming silence in 2010. Like when a mangaka throws in a gigantic sound effect to indicate SILENCE in a cave or something? Such was the reaction to that book. I don't know how well Seiichi Hayashi's Red Colored Elegy did, but it's probably the single best thing in D&Q's entire manga line; here's an appreciation by Eddie Campbell.

34:48: I had a different Mizuki-to-Wolverine segue in mind, which I'm 99% sure involved some man/beast yōkai comparison, but I actually couldn't get it out when the time came, it was so ridiculous. As the philosopher put it: "You can write this shit, George, but you can't say it."

35:29: I really do find this shit interesting! The Comic@ mailing list was a private electronic thingy Comics Journal contributors (and others, I suppose) used in the '90s to chat casually and gossip, much like EVERYONE is doing RIGHT NOW about ME on SECRET FORUMS where they say I SUCK from behind PASSWORD LOCKS and their SMILES are all FAKE and

35:55: Weapon X, by Barry Windsor-Smith (serialized in Marvel Comics Presents #72-84). SYNOPSIS: The doctor was a disgrace, looking for a way out. The technician was pleased at first to find well-paying work. The professor spoke, sometimes, to voices nobody else could hear. The other men would prove expendable, though they surely would not have considered themselves as such over their idle chatter in the laboratory. Nobody knew Logan, the drunk who could heal himself. But they'd all learn something soon, down in that deep complex, far out in the snow.

(Uh, it's not the most plot-heavy superhero comic.)

38:33: Specifically, that was Wolverine #166, released in the unfortunate month of September, 2011, which is maybe why nobody seems to remember this brief BWS appearance. The colorist on the flashback was Raymund Lee. Frank Tieri's Weapon X ongoing lasted from 2002-04, with a short revival in 2005; truthfully, it was just another Wolverine comic, branded to match the switchover of Deadpool to Agent X and Cable to Soldier X as an attention-grabbing scheme (new #1s!) - those first eight Darko Macan/Igor Kordey Soldier X issues are terrific, btw.

42:47: At this point I'm hoping our frequent references to Wolverine as a religious character have already escaped their original context and just read like some weird belief we cherish.

46:19: Abhay Khosla initially directed me to Michael Peterson's Comics Column back in 2008; Peterson is presently writer of the webcomic Project: Ballad.

49:11: En Español, due to copyright claims.

49:30: Monsters is the title of Windsor-Smith's (perpetually?) forthcoming project; official site.

53:28: The Mark Millar reassessment was definitely going to redefine superhero criticism forever and make us into immortal kings, possibly blasting our readership well into the upper triple digits, but it unfortunately had to be cut short because, in Tucker's words, "I didn't expect you to go balls-deep in Weapon X." The extended Enemy of the State storyline ran from Wolverine #20-31 (obviously not the same Wolverine as the Frank Tieri run, this is the 2003 iteration). Also of note is Millar's issue #32, which is... let's say exactly the sort of X-Men Holocaust metaphor that Weapon X is not. 

01:01:00: I'd like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to Bart Beaty, as well as the nations of Canada and Japan. I hereby pledge we will never so much as mention a foreign land again. NEXT WEEK: Dutch comics - weird?