TEENS GONE WILD: Recent comics about killer kids set in 1993 - Part 1 (of 2)


*But before we get started: "Scott Pilgrim" - The Movie (scroll down a bit)? And the follow-up to "Shaun of the Dead" at that?! I recall the last rumor of this sort had Edgar Wright Jr. directing "The Filth" for the silver screen, but that's why the light is yellow after all...

Blue Spring

I clearly recalled Chris Butcher hyping this one up a while back, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about writer/artist Taiyo Matsumoto’s other works (“Black and White” and “No. 5” among the English-translated selections), so I snapped this up. It’s a stand-alone volume, a suite of seven short stories focusing on the disenchanted youths who fill the halls of Kitano High School. A film was created from this material in 2001, apparently mixing elements from several of these shorts, if I’m reading the plot synopsis correctly. The tone of each story varies, but there’s a consistent feeling of aimlessness and barely suppressed violence saturating everything, even as the stories themselves range from kinetic action to near-horror to characters just sitting around and talking.

The title refers to the feeling of sadness many high school students in Japan experience as the second half of the school year drags on; spring is allegedly a time for new growth, fresh life, anticipation. But it’s still a long way until summer (and the end of school) arrives, and these dog days of education only reinforce the dearth of options many of these kids have in store for their future anyway. In his afterward, Matsumoto mentions that these were the kids he hung around with in school in the early 80’s, “their front teeth rotten from huffing thinner,” and he emphasizes the importance of graffiti in the reinforcement of their identities. Tellingly, every inch of the dilapidated high school walls are coated with slogans and insults (all dutifully translated in teeny type at the bottom of the page, presumably by English adaptor Kelly Sue DeConnick). The stories appear to be set in the present day (the book was published in Japan in 1993), though many of these concerns are quite timeless.

Matsumoto’s art is chaotic but witty. Sometimes background details are filled in to the last scrap of grime and litter, with a cheery cartoon sun (or even just a simple symbol representing the sun) shining down in the same panel. Other times, buildings wobble and bend with expressionistic energy, as distant characters are filled in as little more than stick figures. Whichever storytelling situation Matsumoto encounters, he simply employs whatever style he feels is most appropriate, regardless of how much it clashes with the rest of the story, although once an attribute is selected for an individual character, it remains consistent. So we’ll have a group of students sitting around mulling over a lost baseball game, and one character will have huge round buggy eyes, which he will retain for the rest of the story, regardless of how serious or contemplative everything gets. The storytelling style can become convoluted; Matsumoto enjoys switching between parallel events in different locations while diving in and out of his characters’ imaginations with little warning or orientation provided to the reader. His page layouts can be cluttered, and his pacing gets very frantic during action scenes. But a lack of smoothness is overcome by atmospheric verve and a willingness to explode his characters’ interior feelings into their surrounding environs. The final effect is often funny while providing more than a bit of distress; it’s not a ‘realistic’ view of gritty street living, but its an authentic one.

The stories balance themselves between talk and movement, and run a gamut of saturating moods, although this Spring is always Blue at its center. I believe the film is largely based around the first story, “If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands”, which compares the high-risk rooftop clapping games of a gang of school toughs (you hang off a railing on the roof then let go and clap your hands then try to hang back on - the most claps crowns the leader of the gang) with the sexual exploits of the school administration (with hilarious black bars obscuring everyone’s eyes). Eventually, someone’s gonna fall off. The longest tale, “Revolver”, is based on an original story by a Caribu Marley, and relates the saga of three bored pals who uncover an illegal handgun (quite a sight in that area!) with three bullets loaded up. What they choose to do with these bullets will inform their future in explicit and metaphorical ways. Probably my favorite stories, however, are nearly polar opposites in immediate tone. “Suzuki-San” involves a friendless young small-time drug dealer who’s taken under the wing of an older yakuza boss. Basically, the two chat about life on the way to a small arms deal with a shady American distributor. Casual violence erupts, and we learn how brutality can lend definition to people who are otherwise grasping for some. The other story, the wonderfully titled “This is Bad! I Don’t Know What Love Is” relates the Big adventure of young Hiro, who’s on his way to meet Keiko, a girl he fancies (and the feeling is *gasp* mutual). But he giggles too much on the subway just thinking of her, prompting a nearby maniac (or perhaps his own self-doubt) to chase him all over town, destroying public property, killing police officers, carjacking businessmen, mowing down pedestrians, all while gentle Keiko is wooed by some rich bastard. It doesn’t end well, but it‘s damned perky and hilarious, all while retaining the core attribute of anxiety that all of these stories share.

Beyond defying the simple stereotypes that float around, blanketing ‘manga’ under whatever unflattering attributes that will boost the position of whomever is doing the criticizing, “Blue Spring” becomes a unique comics presentation across the breadth of what’s available in English in the US. It’s not quite magical realism, although it often veers into distinct unreality. It’s a genuine portrait of seething youths, but it rarely presents this portrait under one light. It doesn’t even attach itself to only gang members or only cycle racers or only drug dealers; the baseball team and the class clowns get their own chance to be Blue. And none of these groups are necessarily exclusive to one another either. It’s a long spring for everyone at Kitano High, as the haunting opening images demonstrate, as we glimpse a boy grasping his head, then another eating lunch, then another sneaking a smoke, then another in a fight, then another playing ball, then another riding the train, then another clutching a girl’s hand, and they leap from the roof of the school. And that is that.

*Tune in next time as 12-year old kids blow some motherfuckers' necks off in the name of good clean drug-running fun!


Oh! An endeavor!

*Standing by my window and listening to the folks milling around on the sidewalk, I’ve been hearing a lot about group blogs and multi-person efforts and the like. I’ve just updated my very very current blogroll (complete with links to Sean T. Collins and John Jakala) with a passage to The Great Curve, a rather large group blog, with some good contributors. And listening to these people and reading this blog, and following a long bout of self-examination and several shots of Jim Beam, I’ve decided to 'kick it old-school' as the popular crowd says (unless my slang is of the same aged character as my blogroll).

Which is why I’m now doing a weekly column at Komikwerks. Yes. It won’t affect this site at all; in fact, it’ll allow me some space for the ‘comics punditry’ (as Dave Fiore would put it) that usually doesn’t show up on this blog. In this way, I hope my column will have a unique appeal that compliments what I’m already doing with this site. The first edition went live yesterday titled “My Irrelevant Childhood (and What I Learned)”, and new installments will arrive each Friday morning. I hope you’ll all find it to be entertaining and succulent. Komikwerks is also debuting about seven other columns in the week ahead (check the right sidebar), some of which will be weekly, some of which will appear more irregularly. So keep on checking back!

*Another milestone was reached last night: I saw my first of the year’s Best Picture hopefuls, “The Aviator”, which I largely enjoyed. I find myself responding well to Glossy Epic Scorcese; surely it’ll be tough to find a more technically immaculate picture playing on today’s screens (unless “The Life Aquatic” is still hanging on). I particularly adored the use of period music; it’s not just period songs, but pieces of period film scores, applied in much the same way as they were in the actual pictures they were attached to, bubbling with b&w melodrama that contrasts with the all-color action on screen. Scorcese keeps everything gently artificial; stylized. In particular, Cate Blanchett’s performance as Katherine Hepburn walks straight up to the face of outright caricature and kisses it on the cheek, but there’s no naturalism = better paradigm in my film-going world, and the larger-than-life performances are more than fitting for this thundering pageant of godly characters, although they’re older gods, the sort that possess all of the awful faults of humanity, but on a grander scale.

It’s not really a ‘highlights reel’ sort of biopic; after jumping around a little bit through Howard Hughes’ Hollywood career (the collaborative directorial nature of his films is unfortunately played down) from the death of the silents to the reign of the Hayes Code, with the obligatory prologue concerning his formative childhood experiences, doubtlessly simplified to a huge degree, we basically get a recounting of Hughes’ adventures in developing aircraft with government money during and after WWII, as his relationships dissolve and his mental illness begins to take total control of his life. It’s a heavily sympathetic portrait, although Scorcese doesn’t skimp at all on the sickness, probably understanding that an audience weaned only on tales of Hughes’ reclusive later life might feel cheated without a few scenes of balls-out newspaper-coated microphone-screaming urine-in-milk-bottles Crazy Time, so we get a little of that, and the conflict becomes whether or not Hughes can keep his illness subdued long enough to Save Aviation from the villainy of Pan-Am, an airline that plays plenty of lip service to the glory of the Free Market while scrambling overtime to secure Congressional protection of their monopoly on overseas air travel. It’s absolutely not a balanced portrayal of things, with Pan-Am head Juan Trippe stalking around his personal office (designed like a veritable supervillain’s lair) puffing his evil pipe and plotting horrid schemes; at one point his entrance is even accompanied by Evil Music. He’s also played by Alec Baldwin, which naturally brings “Team America” to mind (as he crouches outside of Hughes’ screening room taunting him late in the film I half-expected him to whisper “You think you can out-act ME, boy?”). The Supporting Actor nom went to Alan Alda, though, playing a snide senator who’s in the pocket of Pan Am. All he really does is react to Hughes’ triumphant grandstanding in the big Senate Hearings finale, but he’s ok at it.

I ought to mention that the film is totally stuffed with some of the most gratuitous cameos I’ve recently seen, ranging from Gwen Stefani to Jude Law to Willem Dafoe to Rufus Wainwright, and it was sort of a distraction, but it also vaguely adds to the Classic Hollywood unreality of the whole enterprise (I’ve even read that scenes in different time periods were tinkered with in post to subtly ape the color film developments in cinema across Hughes’ lifetime). As for Leonardo DiCaprio, he sells the mental illness pretty damn well and generally acquits himself with the rest (full disclosure: I guess I’ve had something of a hidden soft spot for him ever since he teamed with William Burroughs to write an introduction to Last Gasp’s “The Collected Checkered Demon” in 1997, same year as “Titantic“).

It’s a nice portrait, not fawning (there’s an amazingly creepy scene of Hughes auditioning a 15-year old starlet for the role of his personal companion) but judiciously cut off before we make it into Hughes’ frothing anti-Communist hotel-based later life. I liked the film. I really liked its old movie stately artificiality, which might have more appeal to film nerds like myself (and the director, of course), but that’s ok for me, huh? I still want to see “Sideways” and “Million Dollar Baby” (my sixteen-year old sister saw the latter last night and bawled her eyes out for the concluding half-hour), but I won’t be annoyed if this one takes all the awards.

Oh, and they had the “Sin City” trailer playing before it; it looks a lot more impressive on the big screen than on my laptop. The audience seemed more confused than anything by it…

The Spirit: The New Adventures #1-2

Back in 1998, the soon to be defunct Kitchen Sink was the premiere publisher of Will Eisner’s graphic novels, along with various sketchbooks, anthologies, and miscellaneous projects. Among the miscellany was this ongoing series of tribute stories featuring Eisner’s classic costumed hero, laid out by some of the biggest names in comics. It lasted for eight issues, with talents like Paul Pope, Joe R. Lansdale, Paul Chadwick offering work, but these two early issues probably vibrate the most with comics star power, even if the stories themselves don’t add up to much more than attractive homage.

The entirety of issue #1’s original material is provided by none other than the “Watchmen” team of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, who provide three interlocking stories (originally created for but never published Overstreet Fan magazine). It all a rather fannish riff on the title character’s ever-changing origin story (as helpfully explained in an essay in the back), with different members of the cast disputing various accounts of events across the stories. But mostly it offers and interesting glimpse into Moore’s superhero thinking at that time, with “Supreme” still ongoing. Especially in the last story, largely presented as disconnected incidents on sheets of notebook paper, one can see Moore forming his ideas for “Greyshirt”, which he would later create with Rick Veitch for ABC‘s “Tomorrow Stories“ and the underrated “Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset“ (easily the best non-Moore ABC series), all cast largely from The Spirit’s mold. The effect is close enough that one can securely dub this issue a Greyshirt dry run, with even Gibbon’s art displaying a similar bright inventive cartoon style that Veitch would later demonstrate (though without the individualistic lumpiness that all Veitch characters possess).

Issue #2 features the interesting-in-theory teaming of Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campbell, as a nebbish screenwriter runs into The Spirit, all the time refusing to accept the reality of the situation because he’s too cynical to believe that heroism can exist. It’s sort of cute, but nothing more, and largely notable for Campbell employing what’s essentially a smoothed-out (and richly Steve Oliff colored) version of his “Bacchus” style. It’s Jim Vance and Dan Burr of “Kings in Disguise” who really provide some fun, presenting a largely straightforward humorous Spirit tale, aided greatly by Burr’s gorgeous 50’s “Mad” inspired art. “Judge Dredd” co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra offer up the final story, I pretty typical bit of paranoia and irony.

It’s an interesting series to examine, if not all that effective in execution. Still, issue #1 is definitely worth tracking down for Moore fans (he also has a story in issue #3), and it’s at least a good looking homage.


“Good dog. Clever little dog.”

We3 #3 (of 3)


I have no idea how or when the script to “We3” was written, but upon rereading the entire series (its three issues just now all released after beginning back in August of 2004), I can’t help but feel that this recently concluded Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely epic stands as something of a corrective force to Morrison’s earlier “Seaguy”. Simply put, “We3” acts as a smashing success on the most purely superficial levels as well as being an engaging story with some interesting notions about man and beast. The action is always up front here, you constantly know exactly what’s going on, the gore is red and beaded and flies everywhere, and Quitely is a master at staging brisk fights. Whereas “Seaguy” gave a considerable portion of its audience the superhero comics equivalent of an ice cream headache, “We3” can be successfully evaluated as nothing more than an outstanding action book, something that can be easily savored for its candy shell alone. This would be ignoring the depth the book possesses, and would perhaps gloss over Morrison’s superb characterizations; I would not recommend such an approach, but I could understand its appeal.

Really, the action this issue isn’t quite as fantastic as that in the last two, where Quitely seemed to be angling to top himself in visual aplomb over and over. There’s a great moment of Bandit (driven doggie) and Tinker (aloof kitty) charging into the appalling We4, their lethal and emotionless mirror image, and smashing him right through the back of the page’s bottom panel, along with a brick wall. There’s a sense of play to this work. I’d not noticed until this issue that the proximity mine weapons of Pirate (hyper and somewhat under-characterized bunny) were based off of nothing other than rabbit shit. Clusters of rabbit shit, each carrying an explosive payload, ruining a lot more than your shoes. That fits in well with the presentation of Our Heroes, highly intelligent talking animals, albeit with much of the ‘intelligence’ tied to the deployment of their fighting instinct. They don’t understand humankind very much, but we’re given little evidence that humankind itself is much better off.

The humans in this story always seem to have another swell idea up their sleeve, but there are misunderstandings at every turn. The purpose of the We3 project (along with the other animal weapons programs, We2 and We4) is decrease the interactions of human beings in war. Dr. Trendle (one of the more interesting characters by the end of the book) even mentions in issue #2 that the whole point of the project was to minimize the human cost of war. Quite a humanitarian there, eh? As Ian mentions in his own fine review of the series, it’s only a Frankenstein they’ve created, and now it’s time for the created to dish out some destruction, the great irony of Dr. Trendle’s intent. Dr. Berry makes several mistakes. From what I can gather regarding the book’s ’timeline’, the We3 animals were abducted housepets crudely hooked to strength-enhancing drugs and armor, who happened to last a lot longer in service than anyone anticipated. These animals recall their prior lives (well, at least Bandit does), and Dr. Berry keeps them going. Contrast this to the We4 project, apparently a (newer) group of identical mastiffs who’ve been bred only to kill. Dr. Berry seems to care for the We3 force, and even gives them the whimsical power of speech; I enjoyed the contrast to the voice of We4, a pure black word balloon with nothing inside, handily visualizing the gulf of empathy between the two divisions, with We3 showing their emotions through human speech, placing them closer to humankind in the reader’s minds.

And yet, Dr. Berry also expects them to kill her at the end of issue #1 (her second mistake); even she cannot understand what the animals truly want: not vengeance, but freedom and/or home. They (or, again, at least Bandit) care for her too, despite what she’s done. I paused when Dr. Berry gives her life for Bandit in this issue; isn’t this just another female character dying to provide a male protagonist (not a human male, mind you) with a reason to get angry and plunge into action? No, it’s deeper; she’s a kind human (in Bandit’s eyes), a force of love, and this becomes very important later on. Even the final battle is packed with a lack of human foresight; Our Heroes don’t kill We4, they lead it into a position where its human masters are forced to kill it for them, because they can’t stand the human (Dr. Trendle) or political (that military fellow) cost any more. Differing motivations, another barrier between the humans and their intentions. Keep your eyes on Dr. Trendle’s face throughout this final issue; it’s a subtle effect, but he gradually realizes What Must Be Done, as he realizes how far his actions have fallen away from his intentions.

All subtlety aside, Morrison also isn’t afraid to get a little cheesy. Or is it corny? I’m always getting my foodstuff metaphors mixed up. Whatever you call it, there’s a fine speech made by Dr. Trendle during the final inter-animal clash, worthy of a giant robot anime (“Look at him go. Even with damage. Bioengineered to emit ten times the normal levels of ‘Top Dog’ pheromone. Remote-controlled via neuro-optic link, steered into battle by trained operators. Targeting lasers to track motion and body heat. Bigger. Better. Stronger. Faster.”). A long-haired fellow slams the police as “Fascist pig assholes,” totally without irony. And what’s the end here? What’s home?

Love, of course.

I believe it was Morrison himself who alluded to this book as “Disney with fangs,” and the immediate moral of it all is certainly reminiscent of a Disney animal journey. Home is where the heart is, and all that. The thing is, the ending is well-earned here. It doesn’t feel like a cheat. There’s real power in seeing Bandit (who starts calling himself ‘Bandit’ for the first time, having learned his own name) stripping off his armor as he stumbles through a construction zone (his old home? did he find it?) declaring that he and Tinker nee to break free of their ‘coats’ and live on their own. And naturally (emotional button pushing ahoy!) it’s Tinker, the uncaring one, who finally declares that they’re ‘home’ when they’re together as themselves. I hadn’t even noticed the connection with the human guy who picks them up until Abhay pointed it out; he’s homeless, get it?

The denouement perhaps requires a bit of reader rationalization; I guess their voice hookups were crude enough that some guy with a toolbox could disconnect them without damaging their brains unto death (unless… and this is really stretching… when the bum is walking toward the police we suddenly see the same tilted panels we saw in issue #2 when Tinker used her super reflexes to leap around her foes; does this mean that the bum has advanced intelligence or perception or something and that he’s just as unassumingly special as the animals are at the end of the book? no, probably not). And there’s also the matter of the animals’ withdrawal symptoms from their drugs, which was supposed to kill them in a few days. The ending to the book has to have taken place at least a week or so after the rest of it, so either their 'sickness' was connected to their armor (maybe that 'Top Dog' stuff would overwhelm their bodies without medication and its no longer an issue without their abilities) or they’re just dying at a slower rate than expected (Bandit doesn’t look terribly well on the final page, I have to say, but that might be due to his going without much food).

But these qualms are small, while the book’s impact is fairly large. I’m glad the most immediate ’message’ is a simple one, because it fits in with the book’s success on the most simple action level as well. “We3” is an ideal ’pick up and read’ book, excelling in whichever way you want to approach it, offering substance as deep as you want to look, with a minimum of convolution, with emotions balanced with gore to a careful degree. I'm not sure you can call it a model for what fast actions comics in the 21st century should be, since this sort of thing can so easily go awry. But if "We3" must stand as a marvelous aberration, then let it be as it is.


A Few of Today's Editions:

*Not too too much time here. All sorts of rock and roll pending.

JLA Classified #3


Well, that’s a little better. I can usually trust Grant Morrison to bring about a decent ending, and it looks like this holds true even when the rest of the story is as under whelming as this one. It’s not near the top of the Morrison canon; in fact it’s not even near the top of the Morrison on “JLA” canon, but it’s a more satisfying ending than I was expecting, which counts for something.

You see, last issue, Morrison did some interesting playing around with the JLA hunting down the villain Black Death in the infant universe of Qwewq, which bore a striking resemblance to our own in that it’s filled with average (non-superheroic) problems and has nothing particularly fantastical about it. The point is raised that even the lousiest D-list supervillain could whip up a lot of trouble in such a world. It’s also suggested that the JLA are too big for this world, with panels focusing largely on details of their bodies and costumes, as if they have to be stuffed into a world of realism, with the grand universe of delightful super-adventure looming majestically over our own reader’s baby universe. This sort of idea fits in perfectly with Morrison’s ongoing rhetoric as to how superheroes must live in a larger-than-life world of color and danger, not a grim/gritty facsimile of our own little place. But a lot of these ideas were brushed aside last issue in favor of more antics involving the underwhelming Ultramarines Corps, who are filling in to battle Gorilla Grodd and the mysterious Nebula Man and their pack of simian terrorists and a fleet of mind control Mystery Cosmic Neuro-Parasites. The action wasn’t all that thrilling.

But perhaps that was the point. Needless to say, the JLA show up to save the day on all fronts, their names and introductory captions scattered throughout the story, as if each prior issue has been leading up to their (re)introduction. The action whips from scene to scene; my favorite was Green Lantern’s fight with a mind-controlled Ultramarine who has the power to change the story of reality by typing away at an invisible keyboard. He thusly reinstates Green Lantern’s old weakness against the color yellow, and the battle goes from there. But seeing as how there’s five or so fronts to this little war, there’s not much time to get more than a glimpse of what’s going on with each fight. Oddly, this sort of aids art team Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines, who get to keep the action contained to a few short bursts before relocating to a new area and starting a fight anew; a lot of their weakness that I’d been picking up in earlier issues seems to focus on longer action pieces . There’s still some burps; at one point Grodd is taunting Batman, who’s tied to a spit revolving over flame. Grodd is facing right, toward Batman, on the spit. Then (on the next page), we have a close-up of Grodd still talking, still facing right. Except he isn’t really facing ‘right’ spatially because we hear Batman’s voice behind him, and we later see the spit beside Batman; Grodd‘s actually turned around, but we’ve been given no indication of this, so I was left going over the panels again quickly just to see how the hell Batman escaped and got behind Grodd so quickly, when really Batman didn’t go anywhere as the presence of the spit indicates. It‘s confusing. But there’s less opportunity for things like this when there’s tons of quick-cut action in the air.

So there’s a nice twist regarding Nebula Man that I won’t ruin, the heroes save the day, and Superman makes a speech about how ‘dark’ heroes like the Ultramarines are going about this the wrong way (“These ’no-nonsense’ solutions of yours just don’t hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel”). So Superman suggests that they all ‘start small’, and we’re suddenly shown a whole bunch of panels of drugs and corruption and desert war, all familiar sights to us, and in walk the Ultramarines, the first superheroes in a tiny world in need of them. It’s the converse of last issue: if the lousiest supervillain can become a terror in a non-super world, then even a bunch of dodgy superheroes (like the ones we’ve spent the last few issues with) could make great strides toward good. Or at least a bunch of dodgy superheroes who’ve been educated as to the Morrison way; otherwise, we’d just be heading back to the gritty grindstone, and we‘ve had curious superheroes in the ‘real’ world a thousand times over; these curious superheroes have been made Better.

It’s a pleasant ending. It makes its point quickly, and it makes you smile. The look of it wasn’t great, and even a nice finale can’t quite crush the feeling that much of this story was just treading water (all those Ultramarine fights). But we’ve got a nice partial recovery here, which is ok.

Planetary #22

Good old “Planetary” formula. Mr. Snow (with or without company) encounters a person or area that prompts riffs on a certain area of 20th century pop culture, which Mr. Snow may take an active role in, or maybe he’ll just observe. The overall plot will advance incrementally. This issue is no different, so let’s break it all down like we're filling out a worksheet or a hospital questionnaire :

THE ENCOUNTER: Mr. Snow is interrogating one Mr. William Leather, the Human Torch element of the “Planetary” universe’s Fantastic Four-derived supervillain makeup. Leather just tells Snow (and us) the story of his grandfather and father and how their deeds led to his own path in life.

ALONE OR WITH THE TEAM? Snow is alone.

THE AREA OF CULTURAL FOCUS: Loner vigilantes, of both the western dime novel and the early 20th century pulp magazine. The capricious lottery of production delay has deemed that this story would pop up only a few weeks after the appearance of Ellis’ similarly pulp vigilante focused “Simon Spector”. But unlike the earlier one-shot’s intent to reinstate the pulp-style icon as a comic book protagonist without cutting the mix with superhero influence, this issue deals with the progression of violent vigilantism throughout generations, and the effects such activities have on the vigilante’s descendents. As it stands, the story here is clever and amusing, and John Cassaday’s art is suitably brutal and larger-than-life.

DOES SNOW PARTICIPATE OR OBSERVE? He observes the story only.

PLOT ADVANCEMENT: Not too much. Snow might have a mean of confronting the rest of the Four now. But more predominantly, we’re exploring the relationships between various cast members and cameo players, and their own relationship to the book‘s universe; there’s stuff in this issue that references material and characters introduced in issue #1. I pulled my trade from off the shelf and got flipping.

Given the emphasis on done-in-one pop culture explorations and the slow build of any overarching plot, I sometimes wonder if “Planetary” is the idea ongoing book to experience the sort of delays that it does. While I sometimes feel that more is ‘happening’ when issues are read in big chunks, I think that maybe the formula of this comic cushions it against a lot of distraction that delays can create. I need to sort through old issues to fit together the new nuggets of plot info, but I’m rarely confused when diving into each irregular installment. It’s when I’m out of the pool I need to get my bearings.


Oh what the fuck? Is this Jog - The Movies and Not Comics Blog now? Go to film school, asshole.

*Ah, the Oscars are my Super Bowl.

A bunch of absurdly overpaid folks taking each other on in contests of skill and strength (not physical in this case) for the title of Who is Best among a highly visible pack of ultra-rich celebrities followed by a horde of lesser-paid lesser-noticed workers, some of whom will have a chance to shine. Quite a few viewers don't agree with the list of competitors going in, and fewer still will like who won, and sometimes the event itself is of little real excitement. Certainly nothing is accomplished to impact my life. But it offers a chance for guesswork and pre-game analysis and parties and community gatherings.

See? Same thing. I just don't have much of a yen for sports, while I am secretly a weekend box-office junkie/compulsive review reader/sorry bastard (or maybe that last part wasn't a secret). I hope you enjoy my blistering comments in italics below each wonderful and carefully-chosen list of nominee selections, especially all the times when I haven't seen any of the films listed and I talk about other things.


Finding Neverland gets to enjoy the 'not a snowflake's chance in Hell' position of not having its director nominated, and I suspect that Ray won't provide much trouble (at least in this category), as one particular element of the film seems to have largely overshadowed the rest of it. That leaves a pretty close race between the remaining three, none of which I've actually seen. I'm tempted to pull the trigger on The Aviator simply because when given a close choice between a handful of films the Academy will usually side with the most 'epic', as silly as that sounds, but then again I trust we all understand that these things are rarely just about quality, at least up here in the 'major' awards. Sideways has a pretty big critical base behind it, and I'm getting no sense of a backlash building at all (as opposed to several prominant critics launching vigorous dissents against Million Dollar Baby, which will likely sink it given this close a race). It'll be a tough one to track though.

*Martin Scorsese - THE AVIATOR
*Taylor Hackford - RAY
*Alexander Payne - SIDEWAYS
*Mike Leigh - VERA DRAKE

Oh dear, Scorsese is going to do it. As cynical as this sounds, Eastwood is a past winner and Payne is frankly not enough of a visible (loud?) director to divert much attention, and the other two have little to no buzz behind their films in this sense (see my comments about Ray above). And voters will be sensitive to the many snubs of the past for this widely admired longtime director. The last he was up, he got confounded by Roman Polanski, a second well-regarded longtime director with several classics under his belt and no trophy. There will be no repeats this year.

*Annette Bening - BEING JULIA
*Catalina Sandino Moreno - MARIA FULL OF GRACE
*Imelda Staunton - VERA DRAKE

I liked Kate Winslet a lot in Eternal Sunshine. She has no chance; her performance, while well-liked, does not have enough buzz. There's a little more chat behind Moreno, who I also liked in Maria Full of Grace, although her performance probably won't be flashy enough to attract attention. I'd like an upset to happen wither way. Swank actually has a multi-nominated film behind her, but she's not the most talked-about part of it, plus she's a past winner. For some reason Annette Bening came out of nowhere to become one of the 'presumed' winners here, taking a Golden Globe, but most of the rapture I've been hearing centers around Imelda Staunton. I'm seeing Vera Drake, er, tomorrow actually; it looks like an interesting film, and I've heard nothing less than thrilled about her performance.

*Don Cheadle - HOTEL RWANDA
*Leonardo DiCaprio - THE AVIATOR
*Jamie Foxx - RAY

Yeah, my jaw will hit the floor if Foxx doesn't win. This is the biggest lock of the night. I never got around to seeing Ray; people I've talked to seem kind of mixed on the film as a film...

*Cate Blanchett - THE AVIATOR
* Laura Linney - KINSEY
*Virginia Madsen - SIDEWAYS
*Sophie Okonedo - HOTEL RWANDA
*Natalie Portman - CLOSER

For whatever reason, this is the one where upsets are usually likely to occur. Really could be anyone.

*Alan Alda - THE AVIATOR
*Thomas Haden Church - SIDEWAYS
*Jamie Foxx - COLLATERAL
*Clive Owen - CLOSER

Ditto, although there will be much hesitancy to hand Foxx a second award...

*John Logan - THE AVIATOR
*Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth - ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
*Keir Pearson & Terry George - HOTEL RWANDA
*Mike Leigh - VERA DRAKE

Wow, I'm really not feeling it for Kaufman and Gondry. It'd be nice, but I think if any of the non-Best Picture films are going to get it it'll be The Incredibles, which I've been hearing a lot about in regards to writing. I haven't been seeing many fireworks surrounding The Aviator's script, for instance. I think Bird has a shot.

*Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Story By Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan - BEFORE SUNSET
*Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor - SIDEWAYS

Sideways is well-regarded enough to take this one pretty easily, although I know there's gonna be support for both Before Sunset and The Motorcycle Diaries, and that one has the added advantage of not popping up in Best Foreign Picture, creating a sense of 'absence'... could be something there.


I've been suddenly hearing a lot about Downfall, which I don't think has opened in the US. It's about the final days of the Third Reich from inside Hitler's inner circle; the film was made in Germany, which seems to be drawing a lot of attention. The most visible ones here to US audiences are The Sea Inside and The Chorus (which has been getting some dire reviews along the negative edges of its critical reaction). Maybe a victory of sudden hype will be in order here...


I suppose there's an outside chance that Shrek... no. The Incredibles has won. The very presence of Shark Tale only confirms the Academy's reluctance to look outside the Big Studio system in choosing feature animated films, in the absence of significant critical hype. But then again, that's largely what these things are about anyway.

*Dante Ferretti (Art Direction); Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration) - THE AVIATOR
*Gemma Jackson (Art Direction); Trisha Edwards (Set Decoration) - FINDING NEVERLAND
*Rick Heinrichs (Art Direction); Cheryl A. Carasik (Set Decoration) - LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
*Anthony Pratt (Art Direction); Celia Bobak (Set Decoration) - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

What the hell? The faux Tim Burton circa-1990 look still attracts voters to stuff like A Series of Unfortunate Events? I'm pretty surprised at the number of nominations this one got; I though the film's design was drab and largely derivative, but hey. I'm betting on The Aviator since it's both a strong Best Picture contender and a period piece, which usually sews it up.

*Robert Richardson - THE AVIATOR

I really need to see House of Flying Daggers. Folks did seem to like The Passion's cinematography, but the likely pity win is coming later for that. Hmm. Surprises are possible, but it's always a good chance that the Best Picture contender will take this. This also goes to why The Aviator is a likely Best Picture winner, maybe a bit more than its two major foes; lots of flashy techinal nominations, as opposed to the quiet of the other two. Volume counts here.

*Sandy Powell - THE AVIATOR
*Alexandra Byrne - FINDING NEVERLAND
*Sharen Davis - RAY
*Bob Ringwood - TROY

Um, The Aviator? I guess Finding Neverland or even Ray can do it (lots of period pieces this year), but usually you just side with the likely winner of Best Picture. And there's several likely winners this year, but only one of them is showing up in the technical awards.

*Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski - BORN INTO BROTHELS
*Luigi Falorni and Byambasuren Davaa - THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL
*Morgan Spurlock - SUPER SIZE ME
*Lauren Lazin and Karolyn Ali - TUPAC: RESURRECTION
*Kirby Dick and Eddie Schmidt - TWIST OF FAITH

For the record, That Other Documentary was not submitted for consideration here, focusing totally on Best Picture. It still doesn't explain the distinct lack of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster or Control Room or some of the other high profile docs of the year. I saw Super Size Me, and it was a fun little movie, making its points fast and focusing largely on humor (probably a good idea). But the subject matter might not be considered 'weighty' enough. This'll be a tough one to predict, although Spurlock's film is certainly the highest profile of what's here. Although I noticed that Tupac film selling out a few theaters around where I live...

*Thelma Schoonmaker - THE AVIATOR
*Paul Hirsch - RAY
*Jim Miller and Paul Rubell - COLLATERAL

Collateral's presence is interesting. It may be a signal toward appreciation of the film's look, although its abscence from the Cinematography category is also telling. Maybe support wasn't strong enough? Well, probably The Aviator again. I predicting big technical wins for this one.

*Keith Vanderlaan and Christien Tinsley - THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
*Jo Allen and Manuel García - THE SEA INSIDE

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. This is where Let's Beat the Shit Out of Jesus has its moment to shine. Think about it? What have all the commentators been focusing on in regards to The Passion? The visceral power of the film, and how it relates to politics or theology or whatever. I don't agree at all; I thought way too much of the film was kind of silly (like every scene with Satan), and the grue was a tad over-the-top (I'm all for exaggeration for the sake of effect, but once the Three Stooges mugging soldiers pulled out the Massive Whip of Blades I starded to wonder "Shouldn't this be damaging his spine or something?"). But there's no real competition, and it's the perfect chance to give this ultra-popular (box office wise) film something, and it EVEN might provide a rationalization for critique: we agree that the violence was effective, and THAT'S the problem, but we are so kind and giving that credit goes where credit is due. PERFECT.

*James Newton Howard - THE VILLAGE

A less perfect shot for The Passion, but the other nominees don't seem to have any big guns among them. Maybe this one too?

*"Accidentally In Love" - SHREK 2
*"Learn To Be Lonely" - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
*"Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" - THE CHORUS

Oh lord not Conting Crows, not Counting Crows, not Counting Crows, oh please please please please...

*Michael Silvers and Randy Thom - THE INCREDIBLES
*Randy Thom and Dennis Leonard - THE POLAR EXPRESS
*Paul N.J. Ottosson - SPIDER-MAN 2

I'm thinking Incredibles, which had some really cool chances to show off sound design, and has the added benefit A 'Major' Nomination, unlike Spidey 2.

*Tom Fleischman and Petur Hliddal - THE AVIATOR
*Randy Thom, Gary A. Rizzo and Doc Kane - THE INCREDIBLES
*Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis Sands and William B. Kaplan - THE POLAR EXPRESS
*Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer and Steve Cantamessa - RAY
*Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Joseph Geisinger - SPIDER-MAN 2

Oh I'll be extra cool and predict an Incredible sweep of the sound awards. Haha. That was a pun! I get a star and a free hoagie!

*Roger Guyett, Tim Burke, John Richardson and Bill George - HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
*John Nelson, Andrew R. Jones, Erik Nash and Joe Letteri - I, ROBOT
*John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier - SPIDER-MAN 2

I think Spider-Man is gonna do it. It's liked well enough be people, including critics. So is Harry Potter, of course, but I'm gonna have to hand it to Spidey, if only so I can try to almost steer this disgustingly long post onto an off-ramp toward the township of Comics.

*Gerardine Wurzburg - AUTISM IS A WORLD
*Hanna Polak and Andrzej Celinski - THE CHILDREN OF LENINGRADSKY
*Hubert Davis and Erin Faith Young - HARDWOOD
*Robert Hudson and Bobby Houston - MIGHTY TIMES: THE CHILDREN'S MARCH
*Oren Jacoby and Steve Kalafer - SISTER ROSE'S PASSION

Remember, none of these picks of mine hit toward my individual analysis of a film's quality. So... shut your eyes and point?

*Sejong Park and Andrew Gregory - BIRTHDAY BOY
*Jeff Fowler and Tim Miller - GOPHER BROKE
*Bill Plympton - GUARD DOG
*Mike Gabriel and Baker Bloodworth - LORENZO
*Chris Landreth - RYAN

I like Bill Plympton. He ought to win. But there's something by Disney here, right? Lorenzo? Is there anything by Pixar?

*Nacho Vigalondo - 7:35 IN THE MORNING
*Taika Waititi and Ainsley Gardiner - TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT
*Andrea Arnold - WASP

I have seen all of these films and I know exactly who will win. But I'm not telling.

So it looks like another kicking year of fun and television ratings that does nothing but quietly devalue the notion of film as art by shifting the locus of conversation onto studio finagling and the arbitrary voting habits of a batch of several thousand industry insiders! See you tomorrow where we'll stride back to comics with our heads held high!



*Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!


An Introduction to the Mystical Union of Souls (minicomic/mini-album with Ron Rege Jr. on the drums and at the board)

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #5 (of 6), BPRD: The Dead #3 (of 5)

Epileptic (you want to experience this)


*Comics has decided to kick my ass this week, and I had it coming for a while. I will secretly cherish this ass kicking because it will make me a stronger and more worldly gentleman. Please comics, I await the strap.


We3 #3 (of 3): I hope people on the Internet talk about this!

JLA Classified #3: I hope people on the Internet are given a reason to talk about this!

Deadpan #2: I was totally unaware that Fantagraphics was releasing this, the most recent issue of David Heatley’s solo series. I was going to say that this’ll be an easy way to get yourself more acclimated with Heatley’s work, if you happened to like his stuff in “Kramer’s Ergot 5” or “McSweeney’s 13“, except that it looks like both of those stories will be reprinted in this book, which I imagine will eat up a good 1/3 of the 32 page length. And given that the book is $6 (though full-color and oversized), it’s going to be a more difficult purchase than average, especially considering that a lot of interested readers are going to be looking for this as based on their enjoyment of those high-profile anthology pieces, only to find exactly the same thing here. But there will be new dream comics too, the stuff that filled the first issue of this series which I liked a lot (review here). If you liked that “Kramer’s” story, than you don’t need me to mention that Heatley is utterly fearless in putting everything on the page, no matter what sort of material waltzes through his unconsciousness, and he has quite a talent for capturing the random mood shifts of nocturnal wanderings. I like Heatley’s work, but this is gonna have to be a maybe, given the price and my familiarity with some of the material.

King: A Comics Biography of Martin Luther King: I was also unaware that Ho Che Anderson’s three-volume biography of the famed civil rights icon hadn’t yet been collected into a single volume. Now it is, and maybe I’ll check it out; it’s one of those comics I keep hearing about off and on from various people, and I’ve never had the inclination to look into it (maybe because I always figred there’d be a collected edition to run across, which I never did). Anyone care to make a case for or against this work? I’m interested in your views.

Stoker’s Dracula #3 (of 4): The first issue of this stately, old-timey horror comics adaptation by Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano. Lovely b&w inks, and a good balance of captions and action (and the source material lends itself particularly well to such a style of adaptation). It’s probably my favorite book of Marvel’s at the moment.

Black Widow #5 (of 6): Chugging along. I just don’t have the grounding in this character to appreciate the twists on her history that appear to be popping up. I just like it as a good-looking spy story that kind of flirts with deeper themes.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #15: Yeah, after getting the entirety of the last arc plus all pre-existing issue of “Ultimate Nightmare” in a back-issue sale blowout (about 10 comics for under $15, like it’s meant to be!) I’m riding out the rest of Ellis’ run. I’ve gotta get my thought together on this (which won’t be a problem with the troubled “Ultimate Nightmare”: don’t read it). There’s some good characterizations, at least as good as possible given the editorially mandated Radical Teenage FF we're handed. Last issue had way too many space-chomping splashes of big machinery, but that’s no surprise at this point. It’s… it’s ok stuff. There’s a significant gulf of ambition between these Ultimate projects and Ellis’ “Iron Man” revamp, though, with the latter book feeling a lot more considered and thought through. This is almost designed as a throwaway.

Planetary #22: This, however, is always handled with care. It’s always a pleasure with “Planetary”, even I have to consult my archives just to fathom where we are in the plot.

Mighty Love (softcover): Finally, a somewhat less monstrously expensive version of Howard Chaykin’s recent graphic novel, although $18 for less than 100 pages is still pushing it. I need to pick this up eventually, but this is too crowded a week at that price point.

Vivid Girls Vol. 1: Golly, it really is a swell week! Now that Avatar is all finished with releasing those Warren Ellis Apparat books, they can get back to their 379 other backlogged projects, like this dandy little item, the much-delayed debut volume from their Vivid Comix porno imprint. At $15 for 48 color magazine-sized pages it’s way too expensive of course, but it’s notable in that Avatar managed to get a bunch of their regular contributors to work on this, like Steven Grant and Antony Johnston and Juan Jose Ryp; it‘s slightly reminiscent of Fantagraphs/Eros‘ “Dirty Stories“ anthologies, only with fully authorized corporate porno star likenesses scattered throughout. Honestly, if we had a Warren Ellis/Jacen Burrows short and a Johnston/Ryp sequential adaptation of some Alan Moore poem (a SEXY poem mind you), I might have considered looking into this. I wonder if there were any content guidelines handed out? With the ads largely focusing on the comics presence of assorted Vivid contract players, this looks to be just as much a license book as “Robocop” or “Stargate”, and I‘m curious if anything was off limits…


The system of the world.


It’s evident that words are going to fail me, and that this review won’t totally do justice to the detail and complexity of David B.’s “Epileptic”, its six volumes now finally collected into a complete edition by Pantheon after an aborted 2002 attempt at a two-book compilation by Fantagraphics (Fanta’s Kim Thompson retains sole translation credit, however). The present hardcover is somewhat smaller in size than the lone released volume of the Fantagraphics attempt, but the art remains clear and easy to admire. And besides, while there is significant force to the visuals, this isn’t the sort of book that relies on raw size for its impact; the reader is instead invited to explore the use of symbols, the interplay of graphic styles, and the layout of the page.

The basic concept of the book is easy to grasp; David B. was born Pierre-Francois Beauchard into an artistically inclined, stable family. He had an older brother, Jean-Christophe, and a younger sister, Florence. At an early age, Jean-Christophe begins to experience epileptic seizures, a malady that destroys the security of the house and permanently whisks everyone down a shadowed path of neurosis, desperation, crushed hopes, and jagged attempts at coping. One thing that should be immediately understood is that this is David Beauchard’s autobiography first, and a chronicle of his brother’s illness second; the reader is constantly escorted through the story only as David sees it, and all events are related in terms of what they mean to the book’s author, and he is not afraid to surrender total control of the narrative to his wandering mind, often lashing out at his brother, his parents, and himself. This is not a dispassionate report of events, though it is a largely unsentimental one; the emotional force of the work is largely conveyed through swirling, fanciful visuals and unwavering devotion to self-examination, with each event reflecting on the work’s narrator.

One should plainly expect some level of self-examination in an autobiographical work, but “Epileptic” takes things farther than any comic of this relatively straightforward sort in recent memory. And this book is fairly straightforward, as opposed to what has been seen of David’s ongoing “Babel”, which examines similar events with the authorial eye cast toward personal dreams, collective myth, and world-wide systems of communication. Here, we receive a largely chronological relation of events, though David constantly diverges to fill us in on the histories of various family members, acquaintances, prospective healers, and thinkers that have influenced the paths of the author’s family. This is done to clarify present motivations, as well as build a continuing theme of struggle against barely controllable forces; and just in case we couldn’t quite catch what that theme was, at one point David actually stops the story to explain it all to his parents in the present day, how his brother’s epilepsy is only one manifestation of a larger indefinite force that motivates humanity to struggle.

And struggle they do. After a chilly visit to an arrogant surgeon of somewhat questionable skill, the Beauchard parents decide to leap head first into the world of mystic and holistic cures, bringing the whole family to macrobiotic communes, where some good satire can be found as people engage in the same old power games and self-absorption, only on a more novel stage than average. An affection for the occult leads only to seriocomic self-delusion. Traditional religions are certainly of no help. David links these bleakly funny experiences to the revelations of the people who founded these fresh and endless ways of explaining the world, from Christianity to the most obscure quasi-science, all connected to the familial struggle against pain and hardship, all connected to Jean-Christophe. All is epileptic. Some of the ‘cures’ are temporarily effective. Many are not. The family begins to break down, the anchor of bodily security cut free. The parents become ineffective in aiding their other two children, with one of the pre-teen kids attempting suicide by binging on pills, and the other escaping to elaborate fantasy worlds in the garden. David takes his new name as one in a series of attempts to define himself, a seemingly impossible task when every minute is defined by his older brother. He creates violent comics, in a more obvious symbol of the bodily invasions occurring thrice daily. And he devotes himself to making sense of it all, and few escape his gaze smelling of roses, particularly Jean-Christophe himself, whom David comes to view as having given up on struggling, resigned to a sorry life of pain and anger.

But what of David B.? Cruelly taking his brother to task for a sickness he couldn’t control! Ripping into his parents, while constantly portraying himself as imaginative, a fighter, an intellectual! Rick Moody, in a review of this book published today in the New York Times (registration required, sorry to say), places the style of narrative here as outside the relatively simplistic focus of the American autobiographical form, of which “it is perhaps fair to say that the [US based] memoir is a triumph-over-adversity genre… the form, hemmed in by the need for a predictable epiphany and triumph, has become a pale shadow of the creative medium it might be.” He goes on to place “Epileptic” as part of an alternate style, “the great cultural and intellectual archeologies of French nonfiction of the last 100 years.”

And surely there’s few words more fitting to describe this book than “intellectual archeology”, particularly in the visual sense. I recall certain message board denizens expressing concern that the late-coming “Epileptic” would be unfairly viewed as derivative of Marjane Satrapi’s art in her two “Persepolis” books, when in fact Satrapi is plainly influenced by David‘s visual style. But such concerns frankly do a disservice to the art of “Epileptic”; David’s layered visuals, seemingly endless in their panel-contained inventiveness, are worlds away from Satrapi’s simple renderings, her own use of visual symbolism kept to the level of basic metaphor. The pages of “Epileptic” bulge with recurring dream-images, shadow friends from literature, icons from the uncovered past, insignias of the interior present. All of these appear over and over as the author grows, his intellectual searches accompanying him literally on his travels through life. In this way, the “intellectual archeology” that Moody mentions is also present on the comics page, transformed into a more literal means of reader identification. It’s quite like David stepping outside the story to correct us as to what the themes are, just less abrupt and explicit. And it fits in with his motivation as he presents it: while he seeks to understand the life surrounding, he honestly wants the reader to understand his points as much as possible.

This sort of authorial self-examination even extends to touch on my earlier qualm: what of David’s portrayal of himself, usually more controlled and certain and thoughtful than virtually everyone else? At certain points, characters (in the present day) remark on how David’s characterization of himself isn’t really ‘like’ him, how nobody seemed to notice him as such a contemplative sort. Just as all we see visually is intellectually laundered by David’s recollection, so is his very image of himself; it’s an intentional and considered view of the author as sitting alone in his apartment and scratching out panels on drawing board that we get here, not the author as he relates to other human beings. Perceptions in the book are toyed with. Near the end Jean-Christophe has a sudden change in character design, to reflect a new understanding him in the author’s eyes (the eyes of memory at least). And maybe it is this devotion to fluid perception that will carry the book past the charges of unfettered pretension and insensitive self-absorption and masturbatory exploitation that will doubtlessly appear shortly after the initial tide of praise recedes. I can surely see the potential for these arguments inside the book, just as I can surely see thoroughness of consideration batting them back.

I have still not quite explained the use of dreams in the book, their presence commenting on the changing state of the author (and we must trust David that these dreams are even authentic, not calculated or carefully altered, but he does inspire trust in the reader and that might be the key to the book’s effectiveness). I certainly haven’t gotten to the interaction of David’s private life (especially his later adult life) which co-exists on a more simplistic autobiographical comics plane than the rest of the book. I’ve done too much description here in general. But this book requires immersion, experience, to every really grasp its depth. I only hope I’ve adequately conveyed the strength of this book’s overarching theme, that the experience of one can be irrevocably connected to the experience of another, which is indicative of portions of the experience of the pair’s ascendants, which relates to the experience of the world, and the thoughts of the world.

The term ‘epileptic’ does not only refer to David B.’s brother.

Know that, and move on.


It is six degrees out.

*Well, first things first: the Highwater Books website is now officially gone. But don't hang your head and shuffle over to eBay just yet; a large portion of their comics stock has been moved over to a new site, Bodega Distribution. Just click on 'Shop' to stock up on all of the minis you've been meaning to accept into the warmth of your home. Note that the only way to get to Highwater's trade stock is to click on 'Books' at the top of the minicomics page. Looks like they're fresh out of "Shrimpy and Paul and Friends", but more are supposed to be arriving shortly...

*Over on the Comics Journal board, Dirk lays out some new plans for future issues. Contrary to what was printed in the back of the most recent issue (#265, just out this week), issue #267 will not feature a big Craig Thompson interview; it will instead focus on the late Will Eisner, featuring a collection of interviews and some essays. The Thompson stuff is now pushed back to issue #268, which will also feature a talk with Bob Burden of "Flaming Carrot" fame. This is on top of next issue's Bendis interview, plus an issue on shoujo manga a bit farther off in the future (and that's not counting the Journal's final Special Edition release, which will also teem with manga coverage). Big plans for that mag.

*I've got some things done that needed doing, and I'll have plenty of time to blog tomorrow seeing as how everything is going to be buried under heaps of snow. Luckily I've got everything I need to survive: my coffee bean grinder, my awesome new Harold Lloyd dvd (his last film "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock" directed by Preston Sturgess), and a gnawing sense of anxiousness. I also have a review of "Epileptic" about half-written so I'll get that up in the afternoon (and knowing me that'll actually mean the evening or October of 2005 or something).

*Hey, maybe other people will be snowed in tomorrow besides me! I should do something to help. Here's a Batman cartoon, although Superman is in it too; I think upcoming arcs of "Superman/Batman" will be using this film for ideas, so pay close attention. I think it will warm all of our homes.


Oh look at the time!

*It was a long day, but not as bad as I'd expected. Just draggy. Tomorrow is also stocked full of goodies, then over the weekend my whole area is primed for a pounding with snow and ice and maybe polar bears dropping from the sky on parachutes. I'm gonna hibernate. I have enough food for it...

*So anyone out there lay out the long green for the new "The Punisher" game? I think there's PC and PS2 and Xbox versions out. The reviews seem to be running from good to middling, but I've been hearing great things about the game's feel; it's written by Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, and supposedly feels mainly like a "Punisher MAX" arc that you can play. There's also been a bit of concern about violent content; the game sometimes shifts "Kill Bill" style into b&w during the goopier sequences.

So how well does it play? Does it live up to the glorious possibilities of of wandering around as a corporate superhero character in a Garth Ennis universe? Are the shootings satisfactory? I hear there's torture. Maybe that'll become the hot new option in gaming and it'll show up in the next Super Mario game...


What was today?

*The longest day, and tomorrow will top it.

*Big new issue of “The Comics Journal” today, and there’s a sudden proliferation of columns. Matt Silvie (who’s easily the funniest poster on the Journal’s message board, btw) fills in on the Minimalism minicomics column, making way for Daniel Holloway as the regular author in upcoming issues. Holloway used to write the Journal’s online minicomics review column Dogsbody, which had now been relaunched with Austin English at the helm. Meanwhile, former Minimalism columnist Tom Spurgeon (also blogger) debuts his superhero column Cape Fear, in which he gives some insightful reviews of recent stuff like “The Ultimates” and slightly older material like Grant Morison’s “Marvel Boy”. And yet another new column also launches, a webcomics section by Tim O’Neil (also blogger) titled Ctrl-Alt-Delete.


This is all in addition to Steven Grant’s Fun Fun Fun, this time covering the origins and evolution of misogyny in superhero comics, as prompted by recent “Identity Crisis” discussion, and Dirk Deppey’s Journalista, which revisits the old topic of the Direct Market creating an atmosphere suitable largely for one type of book then complaining when publishers of other types of books decide to focus their business elsewhere. It's ok, but nothing we haven’t heard from Dirk as a blogger, back in those golden-hued days of reverie. The rotating guest essay is filled by Noah Berlatsky, raising some valid and interesting points on how a critical focus on the moodiness and psychological depth of “Peanuts” has on one hand led to a critical underestimation of one of the strip’s primary virtues, its humor, and on another allowed a league of art comics snobs to subvert the strip’s fundamental characteristics to suit their own masturbatory literary/aesthetic agendas. All of this would be a good deal easier to take seriously if the essay wasn’t positively soaking in condescension and peppered with vehement if occasionally puzzling attacks (a solid 1/6 of the essay’s space is spent blasting Jeffrey Brown’s work, apparently because Chris Ware once compared him to Charles Shultz in an interview somewhere). By the time I got to Mr. Berlatsky’s About the Author blurb, which crows about how many folks were pissed off at his “In the Shadow of No Towers” review last issue, I couldn’t help but smirk; then I remembered how the same space in the review itself last issue was spent declaring how the author would be 'run out of town on a rail' for his Biting Words of Truth, and I giggled aloud at the sheer puffery of it all, and I asked myself: “Is this what non-readers think everything in the Journal is like?”

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #5 (of 6)

Gonna keep these quick, since there’s not a lot to say. I’m still enjoying this book, although it’s the sort of thing Alan Moore can do in his sleep at this point (Moore, of course, is only co-plotter here with Peter Hogan tackling the scripting duties). Basically, we have Superman analogue Tom Strange and Batman stand-in The Terror interacting in different situations throughout separate alternate realities, the result of time-travel gone awry. In one situation, they‘re Silver Age pals, in another they‘re aged retirees, in another mortal foes, and matters are doubly complicated by the fact that Tom himself is essentially an alternate version of Tom Strong, star of his own ABC book.

But it doesn’t add up to much beyond simple, familiar entertainment. There’s been some cute little notions of older characters being loaded into younger bodies (revamps, if you will) with all of the old neurosis and baggage added in, preventing any real development as characters. The framing sequence, with a particularly nasty consequence of history gone detached, is distracting enough. There’s some nice funny bits, like Tom’s paramour Pantha working in the kitchen with an apron over her jungle bikini in a certain alternate world. The art now sports three separate inkers, perhaps indicating where the delays on the book’s release originate from, but ti doesn’t add up to much visual distraction.

It’s a solid middle of the road superhero book, perfect for a light week like this.

BPRD: The Dead #3 (of 5)

Any readers itching for more dirt on the secret origins of Abe are just gonna have to wait until next time, although I’m getting the strong notion that not a whole lot is going to be revealed at the end of this series anyhow. Editor Scott Allie refers to this book (and connected volumes) in the letters pages as a “monthly” instead of a miniseries, and I noticed the legal type now contains a little statement reading “Number 15 in a series,” essentially confirming what most readers had been suspecting all along: that these “BPRD” one-shots and miniseries really comprise an ongoing series with a system of pre-planned 'breaks' implemented to allow the creative team to keep ahead. Miniseries titles are provided to make these breaks appear more natural. And thus it makes more sense for Abe’s origin to not be confined to this nominal miniseries; I expect little more than for him to escape his current dilemma with maybe a bit more information than before, while probably providing more entertainment than anything in the story‘s proper plotline.

Most of the action this issue takes place in the rusty steel environs of the team’s new digs. Dave Stewart’s colors are worn and aged, matching up well with Guy Davis’ wrinkly character art. There’s little of the pure reds and blacks of Mike Mignola’s smooth lines, but one can easily imagine this as an equally realized aternate perception of the same universe. It’s too bad that co-writers Mignola and John Arcudi seem to be pushing so hard to make the boring new semi-zombie team superior a dominant badass, even to the extent of having Liz largely just stand around reacting (ineffectively) to stuff and relegating Roger to comic relief. It might be my disconnect to the characters that’s keeping me from really getting into this arc. Good tie-ins to some older “Hellboy” arcs, though. It’s hard for me not to at least sort of enjoy this comic, as most of the ingredients for fun seem to be in place, but the mixing of said ingredients just isn‘t as effective as before.


America Demands Peeks!

*Wow! New solicitations! Right on!

*Note that Marvel’s stuff is here and everyone else is excluded from the cool kids’ clubhouse so their solicitations are here.

Indy Publishers (the first shall become last, etc.)

- Yes, I know what you’re thinking as you roll and writhe at night under your sweat-soaked sheets, unable to sleep, driving your significant other to anger with your thrashings:

Sweet Lord above, why can’t I read another 600 or so pages of Dave Sim’s exotic and delightsome prose?”

WAKE UP. THE SUN HAS RISEN. “Dave Sim Collected Letters 2004” is now your personal messiah. A 580-page long “Cerebus” letters column for $30. All new stuff. No more needs to be said.

- Lots of awesome stuff from Atomeka! First, we’ve got a 48-page collection of vintage “Mister Monster” shorts (some of them culled from his old Eclipse series) in “A1 Bloodmoon Special Mister Monster” #2. Then, we finally get the much-delayed “A1 Bojeffries Terror Tomes” #1 (of 3), which continues to collect Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse’s title series while presenting a bunch of other horror shorts from lots of big folks like Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, David Lloyd, and more.

- Seriously. You want Bud Plant’s $15 softcover version of Kitchen Sink’s “The Yellow Kid”, collecting the entirety of the famed Richard F. Outcault character’s starring appearances. Running for only a short time in US papers (1895-1898), the Kid, housed in strips of different titles (“Hogan’s Alley”, “McFadden’s Row of Flats”, “Around the World With the Yellow Kid”, etc), achieved an extreme level of national prominence before swiftly vanishing into the haze of war and progress. It’s glorious historical material, and Bill Blackbeard’s lengthy (100+ page) essay sets it all in its proper context. Full-color too. Get this.

- Drawn and Quarterly collects two short Joe Sacco comics about characters on separate sides of one conflict, in “War’s End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96”. I’ve not seen these works before, although I believe they have been previously published somewhere. I’m sure it’ll be good stuff.

- Fantagraphics, meanwhile, spews out all sorts of goodness. We’ve got the new “Meatcake” #14 from Dame Darcy. There’s “Seeing Things”, that Jim Woodring illustration hardcover collecting his images from his recent stage collaboration with musician Bill Frisell. And then there’s the new iteration of the anthology formerly known as “Blood Orange”, now called “Bete Noire”, a four-issue limited run series of 88 pages per installment, featuring shorts and continuing serials from the best of the European and Japanese scenes, with a few English-speakers like Ben Jones and cover artist David Heatley tossed in. Now that’s an adventurous lineup!

- Say, what’s this “20th Century Boys” thing Viz is putting out? I just know I’ve heard of this somewhere


- God. I make one “Venom/Carnage” joke yesterday and Marvel decides to punish us all by having Peter Milligan write a miniseries about some all-new alien symbiote named “Toxin”. Well, actually the solicitation text seems to think that we all know who dear Mr. Toxin is, although I certainly don’t and I’ve never heard anyone mention him before. Is this the “X-23”/”Arana” gambit appearing again, whereby if Marvel keeps pretending that everyone cares about a character and they close their eyes and wish and wish then magically everything will come true? Well I’m doing the same thing and I’ve not yet developed the power to transform Honey Smacks into precious rubies, so you’ll just have to call me a skeptic.

- In other news, a whole bunch of Spider-Man titles are tying into the recent “New Avengers” arc, in addition to an all-new Spidey miniseries, “Spider-Man: Breakout!”. This is apparently because April is 'Spider-Man Month'. Except, pretty much all of the special material seems hinged on “New Avengers” events, not Spider-Man specific stories. But Spider-Man Month is a lot catchier than Let‘s Hype Up Our New Book As Much As Possible By Dropping A Load Of Tie-Ins Onto A Popular Character While Pretending That We‘re Celebrating Said Character And Not The Aforementioned Book In Need Of Hyping Month. I learned things like this in my undergraduate Marketing classes between fits of narcolepsy.

- “Power Pack” has returned. You may all blow out the candles and get back to your daily lives.

- I should say something positive. Man, I was all ready to snark about the solicitation writer/transcriber’s inability to differentiate between it’s and its in the “Astonishing X-Men” text, but that would be low.



Unicorns Daisies Pancakes Happy Yellow Christmas POSITIVE!

Ah, Frank is fighting an 'ubergangster' in the next “Punisher MAX” arc. That sounds good.


- Oh wait: a reprint of Alan Moore and Alan Davis’ “Captain Britain” run! That’s nice; not the best work by either, even considering their relative youth, but it holds up pretty well as far as early-80’s superhero smashups go.

Dark Horse

- HOLY CRAP!!! They’re translating Hideyuki Kikuchi’s “Vampire Hunter D” prose novels! Or at least the first one. Two of these books were adapted into animated films: the marvelously stilted, badly-aged super cheese 1985 “Vampire Hunter D” and the sleeker, smoother 2000 “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” which admirably managed to retain a lot of the cornball sleaze charm of the first despite much more lavish production value. It’ll be interesting to see how much of that feeling is present in the original prose. Basically, the mysterious D wanders around a faux-medieval blighted future on a cyber-horse kicking the shit out of aristocratic monsters while his talking left hand (which even has a face) chatters away. With cover art and irregular illustrations by the great Yoshitaka Amano; that 1985 movie sported his character designs, and it was the first place a whole lot of American fans heard of him (either that or in “Final Fantasy”).

- In more bittersweet news, issue #6 of “Michael Chabon Presents the Amazing Adventures of The Escapist” features a crossover with The Spirit, in a story written and drawn by the late Will Eisner, the first new outing for the character in a long time, and now the last one under the pen of his creator. Also featuring art by Jason, Howard Chaykin, and Eddie Campbell, making it a pretty amazing line-up.

- And we get a third volume of those little Dark Horse hardcover anthologies, “The Dark Horse Book of the Dead”, with all of the usual suspects, like a new “Hellboy” short by Mignola, more of that neat dog series by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, and another Gary Gianni illustrated vintage prose short, this one by “Conan” creator Robert E. Howard (oooh, nice tie-in to another Dark Horse book). Plus, new stuff from Eric Powell and Guy Davis, which seals the deal for me. Can’t wait!


- LOL! Oh, DC, yer too much! You see, “Batman: Jekyll & Hyde”, a new six-issue miniseries, will be sporting art by Jae Lee on only the first half of its length. This is because Lee only ever finished that much work since the project was announced long ago and now he’s jumped ship to go exclusive with Marvel, right? Right? NO WAY! It’s actually an expression of the dual nature of Two-Face, the book’s villain! HAHAHAHAAAAAAAA, oh good one DC! I raise my glass to you! Sean Phillips will be filling out the remainder of the series.

- “Adam Strange” draws to a close, although probably not really since it’s leading into “a major miniseries later in 2005!” Well, I’m staying POSITIVE! HAMBURGERS AND SPARKLES! POSITIVE!

- In a curious shift from the status quo, upcoming issues of “Solo” will actually feature a single creator doing everything solo. Leave it to Paul Pope and issue #4’s Howard Chaykin to rage against the machine in such a way. Chaykin will be crossing genres (as every creator on this title has done), even into autobiography, so I’m all set.

- Very weird: Mick Gray suddenly vanished from Alan Moore’s “Promethea” in its concluding issues, leaving J.H. Williams III to ink himself. Now he resurfaces as half of the art team (with Ryan Sook) on Grant Morrison’s “Zatanna”, part of the “Seven Soldiers” project, which also involves… J.H. Williams III, but working alone on a different branch. Curious.

- For the Garth Ennis fans, good news: all of his and Glenn Fabry’s Kev material is getting traded in “The Authority: Kev”. Maybe now I’ll read it…

- Wildstorm also presents the new Howard Chaykin solo mini, the six-issue “City of Tomorrow”. The Navy SEAL son of a billionaire fights to free the artificial island paradise of Columbia from its own municipal authorities, who are really robots ravaged with a nasty computer virus. Good times; Chaykin is usually better when illustrating himself, and this month there’s a lot of that.

- Eek! A new $75 Absolute Edition of “League of Extraordinary Gentleman” Vol. 2! Featuring Alan Moore’s full script! Oversized art! Now the bookshelves of the wealthy will look more even, as I wail and gnash my teeth after my delicious supper of $1 Wal-Mart French bread. I should learn to save my money.

- Hmmm, Vertigo is releasing a hardcover comics adaptation of Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming movie “The Fountain” by Kent Williams (advance solicited for August). Looks to be much more upscale than the average movie-to-comics adaptation, particularly considering that the movie isn’t originally based on any comics. Aronofsky looks to be at least semi-involved with the production too; might be a fascinating comics project (I dearly hope that the film, Aronofsky’s first in half a decade, manages to tone down the self-absorbed flash that more often than not worked directly against the story content of “Requiem for a Dream“, creating a profoundly irritating cinema experience).


- FUCK. For a second I thought the creative team on the Nazi-fighting action mini “Iron Ghost” was Chuck Dixon and Sergio Aragones, not Sergio Cariello. That would have been so cool.

- Yeah, that’s it.


Five steps to an Internet comics blog posting:



The Mystery of Woolverine Woo-Bait (very cool Joe Coleman book, lots of mutant grit)

The Punisher MAX #16

Warren Ellis’ Simon Spector #1 (of 1), Warren Ellis’ Angel Stomp Future #1 (of 1)


*Very large “Street Angel” contest at the Galaxy, with nice prizes for you and your local shop, so others can also enjoy the magic of “Street Angel” and not just you, greedy sod that you are. Isn’t sod something in the earth? I should stop using British slang that I don't understand. Well, that’s not important; go check out this contest.


An Introduction to the Mystical Union of Souls

A new Ron Rege Jr. minicomic is always cause for celebration on this site, and imagine my delight when I discovered this little production available for sale from Buenaventura Press, soon to be publisher of a lot of interesting comics, including a new book by Rege himself. This is a smaller item, and frankly not ‘new’ per se, as it’s a fourth printing (limited to 100 copies), and it’s also not entirely comics, since a 3 X 5 inch cd is included, sporting 5 tracks for a total of fourteen and a half minutes of music by Rege and Becky Stark, ‘The Mystical Unionists’. Really, the focus of this production appears to the on the music, with the comic providing context for and rumination on this miniature album’s content. It’s unclear as to whether Stark contributed to the writing of the comic or if her work is only present on the disc; the art appears to be purely Rege’s work.

It’s a deceptively simple-looking book, rectangular in shape, its yellow cardboard cover stamped with red ink designs and dotted with flickers of white paint to simulate sparkles. The comic itself is 12 b&w pages, most of them featuring only one panel with a text caption on top. In the back is a green cardboard holding sleeve (itself decorated with Rege’s art), which houses a pull-out plastic case with the disc (title handwritten on its top), and a piece of purple cardboard with a bit of ‘cover’ art. Low-tech, but very attractively and efficiently put together.

Fans of Rege’s earlier works probably remember that he’s a drummer, so there’s no surprise that the music is pretty percussion-heavy. You’ll have to bear with me on this stuff; my experience with music production is limited to exactly one song I wrote and ‘sang’ for my brother’s garage outfit (I ought track down that MP3 and post it if I ever feel like driving away my entire readership), but I‘ll try to evaluate this material as best as I can. Most tracks on the album feature a simple ongoing sound or beat, punctuated by bursts of additional sound, usually Stack’s vocals or Rege’s drums; the underlying constant sound also gradually becomes more complex or heightened in volume as the track progresses. The first track, for example, consists of an unsteady electronic whirr with the occasional presence of both an overlaid drum beat, which fades in and out as the track progresses, and a last-minute inclusion of faded vocals. The lyrics are kept very simple and repeated often; in this way, you can perhaps draw connections between Stack’s vocals and the repeated drum work as Rege’s ‘voice’, both only occasionally breaking through and overtaking the constant sound. The same lyrics are repeated in the next track, but at a much higher volume, with (mostly) constant sounds of traffic and raindrops backing and occasionally drowning out the vocals. These two tracks take up most of the disc, at a total of over ten minutes; it helps immensely that Stack has a lovely voice, well-suited to the bouncing sing-song delivery of the lyrics. The third track features electronic bloops and burps with Stack’s vocals accompanying throughout; the fourth features layers of overlapping drum work. And the final tune joins the two streams, with Stack singing over a simple drumbeat. It’s all very minimal and simple, rather soothing in the contrast of Stack’s vocals and whatever happens to be accompanying them. Even the heavier drum bits seem decidedly non-aggressive, almost contemplative.

Which fits the comic, which basically illustrates scenes from the recording of the music, accompanied by musings on the purpose of life, which is to be happy and live in love, and the mission of the Mystical Unionists, “Inventors of peace, messengers of love, impulses of consciousness in an infinite field of light.” That last part, regarding the impulses in the infinite field, seems to match my impression of the music’s construction fairly well. It’s all very very earnest stuff (the entire project appears to be addressed to a newborn named Lucy), and mostly pleasant to experience, which I suspect was the point of the whole affair anyway. Rege’s art remains as crisp and inventive as ever, even stuffing a small panel with some numerical instructions on how he records his drumming. At $5, it’s a neat little music and comics combo, and Rege fans will surely want to look into it.


*I read Paul O'Brien's latest column at Ninth Art, painting a pretty bleak picture of of the relationship between different levels of fandom and critics, every one of them unlikely to respond to feedback from any level other than their own, due to a toxic mix of largely insular communication, casual arrogance, closed-mindedness, and a general difficulty with perception. Thus, critical acclaim, blog chat, etc. has little hope of ever aiding Direct Market books, leaving writers chatting impotently as favorite after favorite falls dead. The solution: critics must begin to change their own perceptions, and view comics with a mind toward engaging with superhero fans and non-comics readers, although O'Brien also suggests that superhero fans basically act like non-comics fans in relation to non-superhero genres, so I guess reviewers of non-superhero comics should just try to appeal to non-fans (without any anti-superhero blanket statements, I presume). And when covering superhero comics, critics need to become less sensitive to the mechanics of superhero formula, or they risk becoming 'neophiles', attracted to innovation, even at the cost of ignoring perfectly entertaining 'typical' works and boosting underwhelming books merely by virtue of their being novel. I suppose this line of thinking could be extended to other genres, but we run into a problem when we consider that a line has essentially been drawn between 'superheroes' and 'other genres', which sort of limits the criticism of critics being over-aware of storytelling mechanics to superhero critics. "...critics tend to read an awful lot of comics, even by the standards of the fan-oriented comics audience," writes O'Brien, but he only ever seems to be talking about superhero fans when he mentions 'fan-oriented' audiences.

Next, I read Ian Brill's analysis of why many popular (Direct Market popular) books hold zero appeal to him. He feels that superhero publishers are largely catering to a long-established cadre of hardcore fans, leaving non-fans in the dust. Major storylines exist largely to riff off of past adventures. "It is harder to get those of us who did not grow up with those characters to react so it seems like Marvel and DC have given up trying at all," Ian writes. He feels that the Big Two need to focus more on appealing to casual fans, rather than the continuity junkies who dominate publisher attention.

These two essays just happened to pop up on the same day. And I wonder: are the 'fan-oriented' audience that Paul mentions and the 'select few' that Ian describes one and the same? And what hope does the critic have to create change in such an environment?

I rather enjoy the 'flailing into the wind' approach myself.




And always talk to others, and always invite others to join with you in crossing genres.

I need to focus my thoughts on this. More later, in some format.



The Comics Journal #265: Hmmm. The Journal’s site has not been updated today, so the usual disclosure of this issue’s full contents has eluded us. I do know that there’ll be an appreciation of the late William Steig (“New Yorker“ cartoonist and children‘s book author), a feature interview with Eric Shanower of “Age of Bronze”, and an essay by Seth (of “Clyde Fans” fame) in appreciation of British cartoonist Chris Reynolds. The reviews and other things will have to remain a mystery.

BPRD: The Dead #3 (of 5): Just not getting much into this latest miniseries; the increase in comedy isn’t really helping (or maybe it just doesn’t feel like Mike Mignola’s humor much). It’ll look nice, since Guy Davis can do so little wrong.

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #5 (of 6): Haven’t heard from this title in a little while. Pretty decent ABC straggler mini, with some fun riffs on the old superheroes, and the idea of returning to the past with new(ish) characters. Simple attractive fun.

X-Men #166: This is the first issue of Peter Milligan’s run on the book, and advance word indicates that there will be no surprise killings of an entirely new cast anywhere to be found; it looks to be a very (some would indicate painfully) rote X-Book, which sadly indicates the needle swerving toward the “Venom/Carnage” end of the Milligan Marvel Performance Meter. Perhaps a flip-through on the stands would be in order to see if it’s worth taking the dive on? DC is also releasing a collection of Milligan’s “2000 A.D.” serial “Bad Company: Goodbye Krool World” as a bit of counter programming, so maybe your dollars will be happier there.

Wanted #6 (of 6): Hey, look! The hotly anticipated final installment of something I totally missed! I’m guessing that a long wait will be over for many readers this Wednesday, and I’ll be sure to enjoy the reaction from my Internet stadium seat…


Oh that daily news.

*HAW HAW, as the comics artists say. I woke up this morning and went to meet with some people and what was the first thing they told me?

"You know that bar we were at last night? Where you told me how everyone there looked seventeen?"


"Busted. There was a raid about fifteen minutes after we left."

Now that’s something. When I think of a ‘raid’ by Liquor Control or whatever organization it is I imagine ten to twelve heavily armored shock troopers in helmets and attractively-designed flack jackets crashing though doors, windows, setting charges to blow open the walls, all those deer heads (their eyes suddenly so concerned!) tumbling down to the good earth in which their bodies lay, red targeting dots from automatic weapons everywhere, their thin and intermittently broken trails visible through the tear gas, yells, shouts, etc. Actually I think it was a pair of middle-aged men in plain clothes standing up and yelping "OK, time to see some ID folks," with a few more blocking the exits. Bags of silver, neatly divided into thirty piece divisions, ready for handout like Halloween candy for the more cooperative souls. Many a trusted Friends Forever union smashed by some quick talking. Standard issue.

Oh hell. I shouldn’t be smirking at this. People lost their jobs last night, I’m sure. Kids dragged out by their friends only to be put in ridiculous positions they never desired while I stumbled home and tipsily cracked poo and wank jokes on my Internet page. Another unlimited victory!

*As you know, Tom Spurgeon has released a lovely Top 40 comics of 2004 type of list (I first heard of it from Alan); as you can imagine, I agree with quite a lot of it. I was particularly delighted by his inclusion of The Perry Bible Fellowship, which readers of this site have known about since October. It’s such a fine strip, and I don’t want anyone to miss out, provided that you won’t be dismayed by appalling humor.

*I'll be back to reviews and comments tomorrow afternoon at some time; I've been working on a lot of stuff lately, but some of it might prove interesting in the near future. Keep warm.