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…