Back in action!

*Well, I’m home now. The sun shone upon my return. Good!

*You know what else took a little vacation yesterday?


True Story Swear to God: This One Goes to Eleven

City of Tomorrow! #2 (of 6)

Voice of the Fire (a more complete look at the only Alan Moore prose novel, with links to prior writing on the subject)

And - at Comic Book Galaxy:

El Largo Tren Oscuro (the short new book from Sam Hiti, of "Tiempos Finales" fame)

Enjoy them forever.

*Did some browsing through books at the store which I didn’t purchase. I was quite happy to find a copy of St. Martin’s Griffin’s brand-new softcover printing of Robert Mayer’s “Superfolks”, positively bedecked with comics industry plaudits, some of which I think appeared on prior editions of the book. It’s funny to see this 1977 satire openly embraced by largely a slew of comics professionals rather than the ‘outside’ literary critical establishment, but comics is where “Superfolks” has had the most impact anyway. Kurt Busiek and Stan Lee have lovely quotes on the cover. Mike Allred provides a swank new cover. Grant Morrison writes the forward, and it’s really fascinating to see his usual invective against ‘gritty’ superheroes toned down, presumably to accommodate a wider, not necessarily comics industry literate audience. Here, he seems almost pleasant about the darker works of contemporary superheroes. He also calls the book “silly wine” and invites Mayer to make some additional contributions to the genre, this time in comics form.

There is one extremely noticeable absence from quotes and cheers: Mr. Alan Moore is nowhere to be found, though considering the huge influence “Superfolks” has had on works like “Marvelman” and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”. By ‘huge influence’, I of course mean ‘plot points directly transplanted’, like one particularly key twist near the end of the Superman book (granted, Moore goes in an alternate direction with the notion, tying things into Superman history with a literalist’s eye befitting the tribute nature of the work, while Mayer’s more ambiguous treatment points to the satirical nature of his own piece). I think the whole situation only strengthens my perception of “Marvelman” as a mirror image of Moore’s later run on “Supreme” (at least to the extent that it can, given that I've yet to read all of "Marvelman" - I'm also going on what critical analysis of the work I've read): both works involve Moore taking on a pre-existing character with origins as a chintzy commercial knockoff of a different established property (Captain Marvel and Superman, respectively). But the first work sees Moore taking the superhero into a realistic, gloomy, violent place, escorting the inherent themes of the genre to a logical conclusion. “Supreme”, on the other hand, features an older Moore seeking to revitalize the superhero genre with an injection of whimsy, a reflection on and embracement of the Silver Age past, truly the opposite direction of his examination of the House of Thunder (if you will). And both works liberally cite little-read works from the past! It's fitting that the citations of “Marvelman” would be from a satire from a different medium, while those fantasy sequences from “Supreme” would be straight out of Silver Age “Superman” books - the former knows the past and seeks to break it down, the latter desires to use the past to forge the new present.

But it would have been nice to hear Moore comment on the book.

*I also spent way too much time reading through “The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide”, written by employees and ‘friends’ of the famous video outlet, in popular capsule review format. It’s clever, opinionated stuff, although a huge chunk of pages are devoted to a difficult to navigate director-organized section, reviewing a bunch of selected films from noted directors in alphabetical order. Except, there’s no header to inform you as to when one director ends and another begins; you have to check the teensy text in the reviews themselves to fathom where you are (unless you instantly recognize every filmmaker’s work by title). And after that, the rest of the book is split up by genre. Good thing there’s a film index in the back, or the book would be an impossibly unfriendly reference guide.

Nice reviews though, including the occasional pair of conflicting takes, and sometimes a more sociological focus when warranted (the analysis of the perceived hypocrisy of the big “Titanic” backlash is particularly choice, positing that leagues of James Cameron fans, used to praising the man for creating somewhat dopey yet undeniably glossy fx-oriented blockbuster material, suddenly turned against him for putting out… somewhat dopey yet undeniably glossy fx-oriented blockbuster material, albeit stuff that then dared target young women as enthusiastically as young men).

Strangehaven #17

There’s much talk of lateness in this issue. Creator/writer/artist/publisher Gary Spencer Millidge mentions right in his opening editorial that many fans have come to expect (even look forward to) an explanation from him each issue as to why the book is so late. Indeed, that very notion is forwarded in the letters column, including one such missive from no less than Dave Sim, who writes of his own fear of reader backlash should he have fallen too much behind on the monthly schedule of “Cerebus”. Millidge reports that no backlash has appeared for him. Later, a different fan comments on how the ease with which he can slip back into the story given the yearly (or so) schedule acts as “a testament to how well this book is put together.”

I certainly agree that it’s surprisingly easy to slide back into the world of “Strangehaven”, that mysterious English village full of secret societies and personal drama and vivid characters and mystic conspiracy. This issue, protagonist Alex Hunter feels the fallout from his recent encounter with the ominous Knights of the Golden Light, perhaps the masterminds of some brutal murders, and learns quite a lot about the significance of the town itself, and of the factions vying for its control. If what we hear of this issue is to be trusted (and there’s no guarantee of that!), well, some major secrets have been revealed. There’s even a cliffhanger ending. With a real cliff!

And yet, you probably want to pull out your old issues of this book and re-read them before getting to this one. Not because comprehension will be beyond you; it certainly wasn’t beyond me. But “Strangehaven” benefits greatly from the build of power, the crescendo of little mysteries into big action and revelation. And you just can’t get that feel from reading one issue out of months and months in the desert. You need build. That’s the problem with this book’s release, though it’s simply resolved by just re-reading back issues. If you haven’t purchased any back-issues, I strongly suggest you simply dive in and order the first trade, “Strangehaven: Arcadia”, or at least pick out some other issue as your sampler; the information in this issue must wait for later. All of this is available at Millidge’s own online store.

Whatever you pick, it’ll be a good read (or re-read); Millidge has captured a distinctly eccentric English flavor for the setting and characters of this book, his scripting is tight and often funny, and the mystery is intriguing. His visuals, by this point, have managed to avoid many of the common pitfalls of heavily photo referenced art (stiffness, poor ‘acting’ in character expression), and the atmosphere is excellent. It’s just a lovely book, but one that needs to be taken in chinks, not the bites offered by the pamphlet format.

Issue #18 is due in July; that would be great. After that, in late summer, the book’s third trade will be released, collecting everything released thus far. In the meantime, go look at the first two collections, and see if you want to scarf up the five loose floppies. The rest of us will be waiting.


Happy Amazing Holiday Cookout Supreme.

*Three things.


Walking to the graveyard today, my mother is taken by nostalgia.

You know,” she says, “Years ago, cars would be lined all the ways up this street. Now there’s nothing. There’s no flowers by the graves up there. When I was a kid, people would be bringing lawn chairs out and they’d sit there all day. There’d be these men selling plastic American flags and Cracker Jacks...”

Drips of drizzle dropped down onto us.

Memorial Day isn’t what it used to be,” she declared.

We walked up a little bit further. My father paused.

They sold what?”


I woke up to screams today. A friend is way back in a different room, yowling and groaning. I opt for going back to sleep. Another friend goes over to him.

I CAN’T MOVE MY FOOT!!!” he screams. He’s pretty fucked up on assorted things, and he had tripped in a ditch earlier in the night/morning.

You wanna go get an x-ray?” the other friend says, “I can drive...”

NO... no no no no...” the first friend mutters, standing and hobbling around. I hear him thunking and muttering.

Why did I come back here? Why?


At the end of our holiday sojourn, my parents and I decided to inspect the older portion of the cemetery.

We had already seen the graves of a number of relatives, but my mother had the idea that some of our most venerable relations were napped away toward the ancient edges of the field; she was right.

Kneeling down before the headstones of my great great grandparents (mom’s side), we saw that palms had grown all around. We pulled them from the ground, and dug our fingernails into the crevices of the grave-rock, yanking free hay and dirt, so the text on the stones’ fronts was easily readable again.

You see the same names over and over in that cemetery, dispersed to different sectors of age. Entire extended families in the same area, kids and kids of kids and kids of kids of kids, all laying asleep according to era now.

In the oldest sections, the graves all speak Italian. The names remain the same from the more recent zones, but the words speak from a less English-literate immigrant day.

Morta. 1920.

Morta. 1929.

Morta. 1918.

Nobody seems to leave this place, says the same names from up the hill, Dead, 1984, Dead, 2001.

Walking out we spied a nice spread, a whole mausoleum in simulation, in miniature. There was (and is) a poem inscribed on a rock in the middle.

If tears could be a stairway,
And memories a lane,
I’d take them up to Heaven,
And bring you home again.”

Nobody ever leaves.

*Well, happy Memorial Day, if you happen to celebrate it.

*Speaking of memories, I had managed to remind myself to check out an interesting-looking magazine at the local Large Chain Bookstore around here; the same Large Chain Bookstore is in my usual area too, but they managed to not carry this particular publication. I picked it up yesterday, and I’ve been reading through it.

It’s the twice-yearly arts magazine “Esopus”, a striking-looking thing, certainly beautifully designed. It’s only on issue #4 right now, having launched in Fall of 2003. Following the link above will take you to an image of the front cover, a nice shot of a fallen blob of chocolate ice cream resting on a street, carved by whatever means to resemble a fist, as if bursting forth from some primeval comfort food bog, the birdshit-sprinkled streets of the city its volcanic birth planet (to offer a dissenting view, my seven-year old cousin glimpsed the cover as he sauntered by and went “Ew.”). A nice image. There’s all sorts of doodads and goodies inside, including a free CD. Having looked through it weeks ago I noticed it was ten bucks (bucks which I did not have), and I promised myself I’d get it later, which was yesterday. Upon reading it closely at home, it seems that Dan Clowes is on their advisory board. Consider that a comics connection for this portion of today’s entry.

Esopus is published by the Esopus Foundation Ltd., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide an unmediated forum through which artists, writers, musicians and other creative people can connect directly with the general public.” So goes the introductory language of the publication (‘Esopus’, by the way, refers to a creek up in the Catskills which zips around New York at its own dynamic pace, mixing diverse elements into a powerful force, and you know what - screw it because every last one of you knows where this is headed). In execution, the magazine focuses heavily on ephemera, offering such regular features as ‘Alex Shear’s Object Lesson’, presenting some bit of industrial/pop-cultural detritus (this edition, it’s a Support Our Troops license plate from the Vietnam era, presented two-sided as a full-sized cardboard pullout), and a continuing spotlight on assorted ‘found objects’ (here, we get the contents of a woman’s folder of employment rejection slips from 1930). It’s a wonderfully, lavishly produced enterprise, the reproduction quality picking up every speck of dirt on that plate, and every crinkle on those letters. Talk about memory. One cannot escape the feeling of voyeurism, maybe even the whiff of exploitation about the recontextualization of somebody’s personal effects into a straightforward display of art world edification (for delightsome mind games, compare this with the re-editing of home movie footage into avant-garde film, a la “Decasia” or the like). But I cannot deny how I enjoy such gazing into the unfiltered past.

Other presentations hew closer to the physically transformative, the filters explicitly applied in the contemporary. We get a bunch of old book covers with new titles painted or bleached onto them. I was unimpressed. We have a collection of miscellaneous ancient photographs with the artist having digitally replaced every set of eyes with her own. Subtle, but kind of neat, and beautifully integrated. And there’s what I suppose has been dubbed ‘American Folk Art’ too: a pull-free foldout presents wood carvings of every US President up to Bush I, made by a barber from Georgia. Nice looking stuff. And there’s a really lovely poster by one Ati Maier, included free in its own little folder, printed on delicate near-transparent paper: it’s sort of reminiscent of the cover to “Kramer’s Ergot 5", an explosion of color with representational forms mixing with swathes and blasts of feeling. Great stuff.

There’s text too. I enjoyed the short history of ice cream truck music (apparently 19th century ice cream parlors had music boxes that could play full movements of Wagner’s “Tannhauser” in limited timbre), as well as Jody Williams’ account of her apprenticeship with a chef in Italy (lots of nice pictures of cheese-making) and a one-page piece on the complete history of the year 1685 (lots of Catholic rulers cracking down on Jews and Protestants it seems, and it was very cold). The fiction feature, “For Emergency Use Only” by Ethan Rutherford, is a fair post-apocalypse piece, about a young couple driving around a post-war US, slowly dying from whatever fallout is appropriate, their relationship decaying and the past being reflected on and etc. This sort of thing feels awfully familiar to me, and I haven’t even read much literature on the subject; it needed more visceral kick to break through to me, and it felt to aloof, too reserved, too proper and respectable and cool about The End. But the focus on memory and the past ties it firmly to the rest of the book.

It’s a decent magazine, I guess. Not everything worked, but some of it was fascinating or entertaining. Looked beautiful; you’ll get your $10 worth of sheer production opulence. I didn’t even get to the CD, which features all-new commissioned music by assorted parties crafting songs around stories about the imaginary childhood friends of subscribers, sent in via e-mail. That’s the sort of interaction I like, though it constitutes yet another look back, another fit of Memorial.


Hoo hoo hoooo.

*What? Folks aren’t rampaging across the internet for their Memorial Day weekend?! That is unexpected and distressing!

*Well actually, neither am I. Just no time to sit down and concentrate on a good review. How is your Memorial Day going so far, everyone? I have had so much pleasure so far. Meeting the new 16-year old girlfriend of a college junior pal, driving through pea soup fog in the mountains on the way home from a remote restaurant, hearing the same OMG Top 500 Classic Rock Hits countdown on every classic rock station while driving in and out of station reach. Hopefully soon we’ll go stumble through the graves and be done with it.

*I actually bought that “Desperado Primer” though. The first story, an excerpt from Tony Harris’ upcoming two-book original graphic novel series “Roundeye” was pretty good. Harris’ art is looking a lot better than it does on “Ex Machina”, where it’s heavy on the photo ref to the point of occasional unintended humor. Here he looks almost like he’s channeling P. Craig Russell, with soft curvy lines and dripping panel structure. Very lush, liquid stuff. The story regards a big fat western samurai who cuts a foe’s legs off, then a raccoon runs up to him and calls him “Daddy” and he starts to cry, then launches into an ode toward the mole on a beloved woman’s foot. Interesting stuff; something to look out for. The other two stories are not too good, but the shorter, one-page previews look kind of cool. Looks like they’re going for some Dark Horse-style art book audience, with tomes on Russell and Brian Bolland.


Around the Joint

*Hooray for Memorial Day weekend! I traveled to my parents’ home yesterday to meet ‘n greet and shake hands and have dinner with relatives. Hopefully I’ll be able to convince them that I really am heading places with my life, since they will all be wondering. In the meantime, I’ll be meeting with lots of old friends from high school and college to have fun and evaluate how far some of them have fallen into narcotics abuse. Yay! At least they set up stands with free coffee at rest stops along the highway; of course, the cup for donations is always staring you in the face. I managed to cup my hand in such a way that they hopefully only heard the jingling of coins and didn’t notice that the First United Bible Church of the Virgin Birth was only four cents richer for my visit.

*Some comics stuff showed up in the new “Entertainment Weekly” (#823); they actually had a formal comics sidebar set up in the ‘Books’ section. An ‘A’ for “Elk’s Run” from Hoarse and Buggy, which has totally passed under my radar until now, ‘B+’ for the new “Little Lulu” collection and “Desolation Jones”, and a ‘B’ for the Image anthology “Four Letter Worlds” (writer Tom Russo cheerily refers to Image as “The House That Spawn Built”). The usual teeny-tiny word counts, as expected.

*In other, tangentially-related news, fired DC blogger Jessica Cutler gets a ‘D’ for her book, "The Washingtonienne", based on her salacious experiences. Her prose is dubbed “shamelessly bad”. Meanwhile, at Cannes, Lisa Schwarzbaum really liked David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence”, based on the Paradox Press comic of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke (also, judging from the included photos, Cronenberg and Jim Jarmusch appear to be sporting exactly the same haircut). But the most interesting bit in the issue had to be an interview of “Swingers” and “Go” director Doug Liman, who speaks frankly about the many rigors of shooting a summer star extravaganza with media stars like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Paparazzi had to be erased from crane shots via CGI, helicopters pursued Pitt to the set, Jolie discovered that one of Liman’s ex-girlfriends used to call him ‘Bunny’ and proceeded to disregard his direction during a sex scene because she thought him emasculated, both stars vetoed entire scenes because they thought the humor was dumb, and so on and so on. I’ve liked some of Liman’s prior films, he’s a funny guy, and it’s sort of piece that makes you wonder how Big movies with Big stars ever get made at all.

*Have to go be with folks now. More tomorrow.


It's Alan Moore day!

*Yes, apropos of absolutely nothing beyond sheer happenstance, I’m declaring it Alan Moore Day on this site; I’ll be pledging my state Senate to have this formally recognized via resolution in short order.

*First order of business: this week’s new column, on what Moore’s (most) recent exit from DC means, and why it means anything at all. Give it a whirl!

*And now…

Voice of the Fire


I’ve spoken of this book before, in the process of reading it, two times in the past. I think I picked up on a lot of the book’s running themes as I went through it, enough so that Moore’s final chapter acted largely as a confirmation of what I had suspected (aside from providing a nice little autobiographical sketch and some other fun stuff which I’ll get to in a moment). One thing that instantly strikes me: I’ve communicated with a bunch of other people who’ve read the book, and the topic of accessibility always comes up. Let’s be frank here: an awful lot of potential readers, an awful lot of casual Moore fans who’ve maybe liked his DC work and would like to see what he can do entirely on his own, are going to be intimidated right out of the store by that first chapter. Others, folks who stuck with it and read the whole book, found that it was easier to actually start at the final chapter, in which Moore explicitly considers many of the book’s recurring images and themes, and move backwards through the book, ending with the curious fantasy tongue of early man. Indeed, Neil Gaiman brings up the ‘circle’ image in his introduction, suggesting that you can really start pretty much anywhere.

I don’t really agree with this. I think it’s quite deliberate (having now read the whole thing) that Moore expends a third of the book’s space on the first two chapters, the only two in the B.C. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a complimentary motif going on for much of the action: a story of wicked witches as antagonists is matched with a story of somewhat less wicked witches as protagonists. A nun’s crazed visions of Catholic and pre-Christian mixings is followed by a knight’s enlightenment as to the errors of Christian dogma (or is he still only too gullible, on multiple levels?). A man disguised as a fowl wanders through the birth of the Roman occupation of Ham Town; the next chapter delivers us straight to the decline of that infamous empire, with the marginalized figures of Rome now our guide and narrator. Tit for tat, much of the way.

This is utterly true for the first two chapters as well, but on a much larger scale, one necessary for the cumulative impact of the work, in this reader’s opinion. Both chapters force us into a student’s role, learning about the world. The first chapter forces us, as I’ve written before, to re-learn how to perceive reality itself. When we can’t speak, when we can’t perceive objects in the distance as ‘distant’, when we can’t evaluate things like make-up. We need to see reality as it was at the dawn, as it was to a toddling mankind. It’s tough, don’t get me wrong; it’s slow reading. But it’s rewarding. And after it’s done, you really feel tuned into the environment, like you’re part of this place. It’s the language that does it. And then the next, complimentary chapter arises, and we get more of a geographical education. We’ll be spending much of the book in or around the Northern Ham Town, and thus we walk back and forth with our new narrator, seemingly the cunning opposite of our last guide, a conniver in disguise, just as our last hero was bamboozled by similar subterfuge. But she’s no brighter, ultimately, as she’s taken around by a man with the entire town literally mapped on his skin. He is the town, just as the stories of the people are the soul of the town. Moore gently introduces magical elements that will permeate through the book, offering a taste of explicit unreality; sometimes thee elements feel like they’re breaking the realistic, authentic mood of the book. But Moore’s point is that fiction needs no ‘pure’ realism, that realism in history is largely created by stories, and magic and the unexplained can aid our understanding of the ways of these people. In a way, this theme reminds me of Goddard’s “Notre Musique”, which I reviewed a few days back, and which carries along some similar concerns.

Having been exposed to all of the book’s major themes: religion, language-as-perception, geography-as-people, and fire-as-storytelling, we launch into the remainder of the work, a series of character sketches and little anecdotes. I was a bit wrong when I thought upon beginning the book that Moore would use language as a means of bringing us through time, of showing us human development. What Moore is really after is using language (the only means by which we can experience his work here, stripped from the visuals of the comics page - a fitting preoccupation for a famous comics writer’s first prose novel!) to both convey his characters’ personalities and force us to question their perceptions. After all, if the souls of the past are conjured through storytelling, we should be prepared to accept the fact that such stories may not entirely be accurate; our narrators through the book constantly mistake things, delude themselves, or prove to be utterly difficult. In a later chapter, “The Sun Looks Pale Upon the Wall”, we follow a poet who’s apparently lost his mind, and is keeping a journal of decidedly untrustworthy observations. But all of this only serves to bare his sorry romantic soul. And as always, the next chapter, “I Travel in Suspenders”, gives us a very different fellow: a salesman and lothario, always selling his sub-par wares and himself to clients. Or women. Or a jury. Or us. Of course.

And through it all there’s the ever-mutating presence of religion, which often leads to death and strife and violence; Christianity and its wars, yes, but pagan slaughters and witchery are far from off the hook. Violence permeates these ages, including our own (the news of shootings and cripplings, all around Moore’s Northampton home). There’s the fire, the shagfoals (dream dogs, more stories, connections), recurring images and characters seen out of the corners of perception. It’s far more than interlocking short stories here, if I may delve into authorial branding: the story of history’s procession in such a small place is a consistent, coherent one. This is a novel, a novel of stories, but Moore sees history, our collective novel, as a mass of unreliable narrators and spiritual mysteries.

Ah! And what of the bearded one himself? Famously (almost as famous as the first chapter), Moore ends the book with himself, literally now, as the final narrator. We instinctively trust him, being the author of the book and all, but why not extend the burden of perception to him as well? I presume that much of the ongoing action in this final chapter (largely centering on Moore taking walks and trips as he tries to think up a final chapter - a potentially disastrous easy choice) has benefited from editing, from focusing before the word processor. Moore even calls his own reliability into question: he makes reference to the prior chapter, which he has written, but it’s plainly an earlier version of said chapter, with an utterly different ending. Only trust the fire, folks, not the teller of the tale.

It is here where many concerns come to light. Moore explicitly points out recurring motifs in the book; it can feel like hand-holding, even ass-covering, but only at first. We enjoy a walking tour of (then-contemporary) 1995 Northampton. We learn the geography once again, this time how it is ‘today’. We must be told how the severed feet and heads relate to Moore; after all, someone has to tell the story! We visit girlfriend (now soon-to-be wife) Melinda Gebbie, plus Moore’s brother Mike, Daughter and “Wild Girl” co-writer Leah, and her sister Amber. We watch television with Moore, and go to eat with Moore.

And we create with Moore.

The final sequence is explicitly about writing (granted, the entire novel is about storytelling), and the typing out of the words you see on the page becomes magic. The air and history and thought and belief are solidified into Word, and now they are real in our heads, not the same way it was in Moore’s head, but that’s the reality of storytelling. I mentioned in an earlier post as to how some of this material hearkens over to prior and future Moore work. Surely the presence of Guy Fawkes’ Day in several chapters will put the too-visible “V for Vendetta” into everyone’s mind. Every last person who enjoyed this book must immediately go out and orderThe Highbury Working”, an album struck from Moore’s 1997 stage performance, doing very much the same for Highbury as he does to Northampton, only in miniature and with music. And who can ignore “Promethea”, the interplay of fictions and their creators as transmuted to the superhero form from which Moore’s popularity rose?

This is a key work in the Alan Moore bibliography. It informs his comics work, and in many aspects surpasses it. Every fan should give this a try.

And start at the beginning, where the Voice is at its most mischievous. You’ll be ready for its tricks later on.



*I'm entirely out of time today, but I do have an interesting query for all of those out in Internet City: given the most recent news of Marvel delving even farther into the past to revive a dead character and wring some storytelling material out of it, has there ever been a superhero comic explicitly about the impermanence of death in a superhero universe? Obviously we've all read a few comics where characters are killed off at a rapid pace, seemingly in defiance of the lack of change in superhero universes (I'm thinking "Savage Dragon" and the Milligan/Allred issues of "X-Force"). I'm sort of in the mood for something that embraces the necessary fiction (within fiction!) of death as a temporary state in a superhero world. I wrote about the 'death' of Northstar a few months back:

"Death is not nothing in the Marvel Universe; that would be over-limiting our grounds for argument. No, death is symbolism. Death in ongoing serialized fiction always carries some voice from beyond the boundaries of the fiction-reality, of course, and a different tenor from deaths in other fictions, close-ended works. But death, being death, usually carries a more pressing immediate concern in the operation of the fiction itself: the absence of the decedent from the ongoing plot. This primary attention is stripped away in Big Two superhero comics. Dead most certainly does not mean dead, it means ‘leave of absence’ or ‘vacation’ or ‘bon voyage until we need to act upon our copyrights’ or ‘we don’t recall who you are but we know how to make you Shocking’, but not ‘dead’. With the finality of death stripped away, the act of killing an established character reverts to symbolism as its primary projection; when it’s impossible to acknowledge death as death as applied to fiction, we acknowledge death as an indication of weather currents upon the fiction, of a certain make-up of rain clouds and pressures and temperatures. Popularity. In lieu of that, visibility or notoriety. Inter-title consistency (even in its current devalued state). Attitude among creative teams. Presumed effect on the readership, bearing in mind the absence of death’s primary purpose, factoring in the metaphor present in the killing, now the primary focus itself. These are the storm conditions of Mighty Marvel Murder, but the storm reads us as we read it. What does a character mean in death? What do we think it means when the character is ‘killed’? What does the writer think it means in terms of effect on us when the character is ‘killed’? These questions form the basis of our attentions when a superhero is killed, and provides the excuse for the very presence of said attention at the same time. Because without these questions, well…

Who fucking cares?

We know the bastard’s coming back."

And I stand by that. But isn't there some book out there that seems to agree? Something where maybe the characters take a cavalier attitude toward killing and dying, because they know that killing isn't killing when it's on the comics page? I'm not necessarily talking self-aware "Oh my! I'm a comic book character!" type post-modern stuff, but something that thematically relates, even moving some of these concerns into the plot (I'm thinking along the lines of Supreme visiting the dimension where all of his prior revamps live at the top of Alan Moore's run). If this sort of book doesn't exist, it ought to.

*Ha ha, oh look at that, reposting so much of a prior work. I'll be posting a lot earlier than this tomorrow, with more original content.


Keeping it short.

*Oh! Alan Moore and money! Sink yourself in information here and here and here! What a day!

City of Tomorrow! #2 (of 6)

Amusingly off-the-cuff type plotting in this issue, as more details of the current day situation are filled in. I think the best little joke in the series so far is that after changing from wholesome to criminal, the artificial populace of Columbia are still living out a fantasy world. Instead of a cheesy ‘50s industrial film vision of peace and neighborliness (I loved the senior Foyle’s telling comment on how nobody actually remembers the era of happiness he‘s shooting for), they’re all ultra-clichéd gangsters in pinstripe suits and sassy-talking prostitutes. Only pop culture can inform them, even when freed from the boundaries of morality (but are they really freed, or just programmed in a more hedonistic way?)

The whole tone of this book is becoming reminiscent of writer/artist Howard Chaykin’s work on “Time2”, only without the magical elements and lots more technology. The family lines, penetrating into the drama, aren’t quite as deep either. But the neon-soaked gangster aura brings Chaykin’s admitted favorite work straight back to mind. Atmosphere is good for this issue, since a lot of cheeky/silly world-building takes up much of the expected plot space, with the warring clans of the Doppelgangsters and the Cosa Nanostra (*groan*) recruiting dirty breeders to help them gain an advantage. Meanwhile, ghosts from our hero Tucker’s past show up to make some grave pronouncements about the outside world, though their threat doesn’t quite pan out as expected.

It’s an amusing book, eccentric in its throwback scenery tastes, and bizarrely modest in certain aspects; I know Chaykin’s working under language restrictions, but why all the use of ‘buttwipe’? Perhaps we’ve gone so far around the bend in the future that such terms are gross profanities? Still, hearing a hardened black-ops killer refer to his foes with terms best kept to “Salute Your Shorts” in the middle of a bloody firefight in a town of artificial whores and killers who dress like Jazz Age slicksters all in response to chaos in Walt Disney’s initial vision of Epcot taken to the nth degree - well, I guess it’s kind of fitting, though it can’t help but remind me of seeing %$@!& showing up in “Promethea”. Whatever; it’s a fun book.


Sorry folks, Blogger didn't think my site was cool enough to post for over an hour today.

*Well! Now that’s how you return to a column after an absence! The return of Rich Johnston, as every last person reading this by know no doubt knows, came fully equipped with exclusive comments from Alan Moore, forcing the entirety of the comics Internet news scene to follow Rich’s lead. And quite a few decent little nuggets were squirreled away in that story for determined readers, aside from the obvious; for example, there’s finally a confirmation that Moore is writing some sort of concluding “Tom Strong” story to wrap things up on that front. I’m almost certain that nobody knew that Moore and O’Neill were planning a “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” original graphic novel until it was mentioned there (although the title “Dark Dossier” sounds weirdly familiar). And apparently, Moore’s second prose novel is no longer titled “A Grammar” but shall be known as “Jerusalem”. And it looks like Moore has retuned to drawing, to do the cover art by himself. And he’s getting married again.

And that’s not even examining the real meat of the article, only the latest development in the saga of Moore and DC. I’ll have my thoughts out in a certain format on Friday, as I wait for further developments and try to parse things out. But let’s just say that the whole situation is truly a defining saga of modern comics. More later. And hey, maybe I’ll finally get to writing that stuff on “Voice of the Fire” by then, seeing as how there’s still not too much out in…


The Comics Journal #268: Not the shoujo manga issue, that’s next time. This one sees a brief return to typical Journal business: interviews and news and review, without a unifying central theme. Feature chats are with Craig Thompson, who’s made some interesting comments about the Journal in the past, hopefully making for a happening talk. But more importantly, to me, is the second interview - Bob “Flaming Carrot” Burden! The Journal’s site hasn’t been updated with the full contents yet, but give them time. EDIT 1 (5/25/05, 12:07 AM): Time's up! Here's the listings, including plenty of bonus interview stuff with Thompson (seven pages worth!) and some cut material from the Burden chat (with a focus on surrealism). EDIT 2 (5/25/05 1:53 AM): And according to Dirk Deppey, that online Burden material was mistakenly listed on the Journal's site as cut; it's actually an excerpt from the interview as printed. So now you all know.

Desperado Primer: And speaking of Mr. Burden, I believe I saw this little thing advertised in the very first Image issue of “Flaming Carrot”, months ago (‘Desperado’ is the imprint under which the Carrot and other books appear). I guess it’s not saying much for the line when the big introductory primer is as late as this, and costs $2 to boot. But I might be tempted by the presence of new Carrot. No, actually, I won’t. With the Journal and other things out, I really can’t be arsed with something like this. Maybe later. Ha ha. I said 'arsed'. OFF TO THE PUB, MATES!!!

Winsor McCay Early Works Vol. 5: Oh no, I haven’t even found a copy of Vol. 4 yet. Being as low as it is on my list of current purchase priorities, I haven’t been looking around online of course, which would solve the mystery in short order. Anyway, this installment presents the entirety of McCay’s “Phoolish Phillip” strip, the remainder of “Hungry Henrietta”, plus even more “Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend” and “A Pilgrim’s Progress”. According to Checker’s site, they’ve already got up to Vol. 8 planned out, so hopefully I’ll find time to catch up before I get totally buried. And if you didn’t catch Fantagraphics’ September solicitations, they’re bringing their own one-volume McCay odds-and-ends omnibus “Daydreams and Nightmares” back into print, so keep a look out for that.

Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Vol. 3: What the hell, Checker?! Dumping all the cool vintage material on the market in one week? This one collects further adventures of Flash by his creator, in lovely oversized hardcover landscape format. Checker is still being a little vague as to how long this series is going to go (likely the product of a pre-production format change, which altered the book’s dimensions and cut its page count), but I estimate that it’ll take up to Volume 6 or 7 to polish off the complete Raymond run, which ended with Raymond’s joining the Marines in 1944. Checker already has new reprints planned: “Theodor Seuss Geisel: The Early Works”, a hardcover series reprinting the good Doctor’s political cartoons and advertising art, along with assorted early drawings. Due to start in September.

Nightjar #4 (of 4): Actually, you know what the most fascinating and disturbing bit of that Johnston piece was? The little note that Avatar publisher William Christensen forwarded Moore a wad of cash to help him pay his taxes. Yikes! Didn’t Moore make over a million bucks on the “From Hell” and “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” movie rights? That was a little while ago, sure, but yow. Anyway, in return, Moore is writing his first-ever original material specifically intended for Avatar (unless you count the endnotes to “Yuggoth Cultures” or the afterward to “Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics”). Oscar Zarate has been mentioned in the past (by Johnston, actually) as artist for this book, so hopefully that’ll hold true. In the meantime, there’s plenty of tangentially Moore-related material to enjoy, like this long-delayed finale to a series that Moore and Bryan Talbot devised back in the early ’80s. Written by frequent Moore collaborator Antony Johnston, with art by Max Fiumara; it’s intended as a series of miniseries, but considering that it’s taken well over a year for just these four issues and a prose special to arrive, well, who knows when the rest of it might show up? It is pretty decent magical horror material, all things considered, and I’d like to see more of it in the future. And it’s not as if Avatar hasn’t conditioned us all to prepare for delay (so where’s issue #2 of “Yuggoth Creatures”? or the expanded “Yuggoth Cultures” trade? or the last two issues of “Frank Miller’s Robocop”? or the rest of “The Unfunnies”? and weren’t they planning to finish “Glory” at some point?).

The Golden Plates #2 (of 12): More Mormon action from Mike and Laura Allred! The first issue certainly looked great: Mrs. Allred’s colors really stood out, despite almost the whole thing taking place in a desert. But Mr. Allred’s sequential adaptation was maybe a bit too concerned with presenting as much text as possible, weighing the first issue’s initial half down with captions and chat. Things really loosened up by the second half though, allowing for some very pretty revelations. Obviously, if you’re allergic to Mormons or something (as are a surprisingly large number of people I talk to about this book) you’ll want nothing to do with this. And I’ll readily admit that it’s not the smoothest translation to the comics page either. But there’s something curiously compelling about this stuff. For some comments by Mike Allred himself on questions of faith and how it relates to his prior work, check this out.

Bolland Strips: Hey, I remember these things from “Negative Burn”! Short philosophic or just plain bizarre gag pages by Brian Bolland, who’s probably still best known in the US for that “Batman” book from years back and a bunch of covers. May be interesting.

Vampire Hunter D Vol. 1: Years back, when I was a voracious anime consumer, I was stunned to learn that unlike 90% of Japanese animated product, the 1985 cheeseball feature gore classic “Vampire Hunter D” was based on a prose novel rather than on comics. “Well, we’ll never be seeing that in the US,” I thought. Never, ever underestimate the power of a financial boom, because here it goddamned is, the 1983 first in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s popular 13-book series, with illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano, whose design work on the anime has become inseparable from Kikychi’s words. Certainly the most interesting release of the week on the manga-related front.

Billy the Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities #2 (of 4): Nice, even surprisingly effective first issue, and hopefully a good second issue on this Eric Powell-written mini, with lovely art by Kyle Hotz.

City of Tomorrow #2 (of 6): New Chaykin. Good first issue. All you need to know.


It's true.

*What can be said about...


Anywhere But Here (strange logic in these gag comics from Tori Miki)

Seven Soldiers - Guardian #2 (of 4)

The Flames of Gyro (Fantagraphics' first ever original comic; see how it all started with brave Valgar Gunnar and a most delicious-sounding inferno!)

Plus, if we want to broaden our scope, I also talked about Notre Musique, the most recent feature from Jean-Luc Godard. Because that's what really racks up the hits.

*And since we’re on the topic of reviews, now would be a good time to point out that I’m going to be contributing some original reviews to Alan David Doane’s lovely (and soon to be much lovelier) Comic Book Galaxy in addition to the stuff that appears on my site. I’ve had a review from this site represented at the Galaxy before, but this is all-new material I’m talking about now. I’m very pleased to be working with Alan on this stuff! Thusly, I shall be implementing a new feature on this site - ‘OVER AT THE GALAXY’ - which will announce whenever I have some new material up. Let’s try it out:


Today, we have a review of Sam Hiti’s brand-new graphic novel, “El Largo Tren Oscuro”, which is not the next “Tiempos Finales” book, but an expansion of a minicomic into a 100+ page landscape-format parade of grotesqueries, with a wildly simplified version of the spiritual-pulp iconography seen in his earlier work.


*There we go. Easy, and so much fun that I can barely pick myself up out of this chair.

True Story Swear to God: This One Goes to Eleven

One can never escape the evaluation of interplay between words and pictures in reviewing a comic: such is the very make-up of the art form. But often, this necessity leads readers to assume that balance between the two, some sort of equality, not too fat and not too lean in either department, is the ideal state for a successful work. But different strengths in different areas of comics creation may well suggest an alternate course to success.

True Story Swear to God: This One Goes to Eleven”, the second AiT/Planet Lar trade collection of issues from writer/artist Tom Beland’s self-published autobiographical series ($12.95 USD, in stores this Wednesday), is a very wordy book. Panels sometimes appear choked with word balloons, and when there’s little talking there’s plenty of narration to pick up the slack. Many times you’ll encounter a bottom wide panel, or a bottom series of panels, with nothing but a batch of small character heads against a white background, talk filling up the majority of the space, eight or ten balloons against the blankness. This is not necessarily a fault, though the work is far more text-reliant than the average comic. Beland makes it work.

His is an attractively sparse style. His character designs are simple and smooth, elegant curvy lines providing bodily shape, with quick dashes and bends to suggest features. It’s a classically sophisticated brand of cartooning, and Beland knows how to milk those pliable faces for instantly recognizable emotions, thus empowering his many words. His background art is often kept to a minimum; occasionally he drafts a raging storm or a maze of fallen trees, and his attention to detail and atmosphere is perfectly decent, but much of the book relies on those empathetic character designs squeezing out that dialogue, and that’s all that’s really necessary for the book to work, seeing as how it’s so thematically focused on interpersonal communications.

The seams of individual issues (#5-11 are present here; a #12 has been released in the meantime) occasionally show through in collected form, especially in the first few chapters; Beland’s narration repeats the same information twice at certain points, which seems redundant when the work is read as a whole. But beyond such quibbling, this is a remarkably complete work as a single unit; I’ll confess that I’d never read an issue of Beland’s work before this, and I found the book to be a satisfyingly cohesive piece, not just ongoing chapters of a serialized story. That’s valuable for a comic of this sort, and might even provoke a bit of surprise from folks who followed these exploits as individual pamphlets.

Basically, the plot follows Tom, our author, and his (very) long-distance girlfriend Lily, as they move into a new phase of their relationship. Lily is a radio personality in Puerto Rico, and Tom works at a newspaper in Napa Valley, California. The two seem to be managing their romance fairly well, but the book quickly launches into a major source of stress for the both of them: the 1998 arrival of Hurricane Georges, ripping through the islands as Tom can only sit by the phone and take his frustrations out on his coworkers. The title of this volume isn’t just a Spinal Tap reference and a joke about which issues the book contains (get it? 11?): the storm drives emotions and actions into a new zone of intensity. Tom, you see, has been living in Napa Valley for a long time, and has close relationships with his brother and sister. Both of these characters have presumably been introduced in earlier issues of the book, but what we see of them here is more than enough, and Beland plays off of their personalities (his brother’s comic-relief antics, his sister’s level-headedness) to mine some interesting emotional depths later in the story. The hurricane has thrown into relief the difficulties of Tom and Lily’s relationship, and changes will have to be made, not easy changes. And most of these changes will be presented to us as they are presented to the characters: either through Tom’s internal considerations or though conversation between people. There is very little here that is not presented as spoken in some form, regardless of moving lips.

Naturally, it’s a true story (says so right on the cover), but the selection of material to present is thoughtful, even clever. A discussion between Lily and guests in regards to Tom’s interests in comic books (“Does he draw you with gigantic breasts?”) pays off later in a visit to Comic Relief in Berkley and some self-publishing encouragement, the solidifying of Tom and Lily‘s relationship reflected in the very production of the book you hold in your hands. The brutal storm at the book’s beginning is matched by a flood near the end, both storms related to churning emotions. And of course, Tom’s occasional brusqueness with his co-workers only feeds the impact of the finale of the book. There’s much complimentary doubling of this sort throughout the book, indicating that consideration has gone into structure, allowing the overflow of feeling to register more accurately.

And there’s an awful lot of feeling in here. There’s humor, with Beland’s supple character art perhaps shouldering the burden for the verbal humor a bit more than average, in keeping with the general feel of the book. But mostly what one will remember from this book is the personal drama, the dwelling on ties to the past, the juggling of love of different types. All of this is present in Beland’s words; perhaps some readers will feel that he spells things out too much, that he chokes his story by spilling out every thought in his head (in fine melodramatic form) into those captions. But I thought the book worked well in its chosen style, its stylish characters walking and talking well. It’s a nakedly open book, characters weep a good deal, romantic angst swells at every turn, and there’s always those interhuman (interfamily, interworker) bonds. But there’s enough recognition of realism here to stave off a lethal shock of sentimentality; sometimes, people are just left in tears when you’ve got things to do. And that’s worth saying.

One final note on the presentation: Kurt Busiek offers a semi-decent non-intro about how he can’t quite write a proper intro for the book; really basic stuff. At one point he blurts out: “My job is to be pleasant and readable for a few pages, so Larry can put ‘Introduction by Kurt Busiek’ on the cover or back cover or somewhere.” Most amusingly, Busiek’s name appears nowhere on the outside of the book. I’m guessing Larry meant it that way, because it’s a nice gag.


Valgar Gunnar - Comics' Greatest Hero.

*So, you like those EC comics, do ya? You thought that Grant Geissman book was pretty cool, and you’re ready to drop some cash, but you just can’t find those gigantic b&w slipcase sets or any of those pamphlet reprints? Russ Cochran has some good news: a brand-new “EC Archives” project, targeted at chain bookstores and the mass market (as opposed to the fan market), in full color, in hardcover format, much like the Archives books that DC has been putting out. More on this as it develops (and I kind of hope it’ll be at a lower price point then those DC books).

The Flames of Gyro

A career retrospective is a career retrospective and censoring parts of that career show a contempt for the subject of the retrospective and its readership. I'd sure as shit publish Garbage Pail Kids in the Art Spiegelman retrospective (heck, and a page from "The Viper" too) and I hope that when Gary and/or I go, people don't sweep THE FLAMES OF GYRO, AMAZING HEROES and Eros Comix under the carpet.”

- Fantagraphics Vice-President Kim Thompson, on the Comics Journal Message Board, responding to criticisms as to the selection of reprint materials in the recent Will Eisner tribute issue.

No, don’t worry, nobody has died or anything. But I’ve decided that I simply have to spend the final waning moments of this sunny Sunday talking again about “The Flames of Gyro”, which according to my research (and Tom Spurgeon’s memory) was the first ever original comic published by industry heavyweight Fantagraphics, way back in 1979. Often, probably for the sake of simplicity or recognition, books like “Love and Rockets” are cited as the ‘beginning’ works of Fanta; but before all of that, there was this $2 magazine-sized b&w space opera from writer/artist Jay Disbrow. Seeing as how Thompson puts this on the same level as Fanta’s forays into superhero magazines and pornography, surely a closer look into these Graphics of the Fantastic is warranted.

As you can see from the cover art, Valgar Gunnar is a bold, blonde, old-school space hero, determinedly aiming his laser pistol at something off-panel as a throwback brunette balances on her right tippy-toe and kicks backward, the universal posture for Girl Distress. The evil fellow whose giant head is hovering over the titular flames is Wolfrung Zarocca the 40th, noted man-about-town, spy-master, beneficiary of some vague source of wealth (an intergalactic trust, mayhap?), and prospective Dictator of the Universe. His distant ascendant, the first Wolfrung Zarocca, actually was the terror of a thousand planets, his evil grip unbreakable, largely due to his enchanted medallion, which was forged in the deepest fires of Planet Gyro and charged with all of the darkest mysteries of the universe. “At last! The power of the universe is centered in my hands!” exclaims Zarocca, setting up the book’s peculiar style of dialogue, which generally feels like a fair-to-good translation of something originally presented in another language. Anyway, Zarocca gets way too hammered one night on Callium (the wine of the gods, we’re assured), and one of his subordinates steals the trinket, but the wicked power of the medallion is too much for him and he falls off a tower or something. Anyway, a whole bunch of years pass and now Emperor Flan Gammeron (Flan... what’s with the food motif?!) wants the heroic Gunnar to toss the medallion back into the Flames of Gyro, which is the only way to destroy it. I suspect you’re starting to feel the itch of familiarity here.

Yes, basically the book is Flash Gordon starring in an interstellar stock production of “Lord of the Rings”, except it’s only 32 pages long. It’s kind of tough to criticize; the book is so open and blatant about its many steals (again, your attention is directed to the Flash Gordon box on the cover) that it seems like kicking a puppy to complain about it. Gunnar even gets teamed up with a hazily-defined Fellowship, some of whom are traitors, though none of them get more than a few lines of dialogue each, leading to their inevitable deaths accomplishing just about nothing. Also, we get the world’s most unnecessary romantic subplot, as the lovely Princess Wendra tags along with the team despite being entirely useless and fretty. We’re told that she’s been hypnotically implanted with the directions to the titular flames, but why couldn’t someone a bit more competent be similarly implanted? Answer: because a pretty girl is needed, even though I quite explicitly recall Dale being able to at least fire a gun back in those “Flash Gordon” strips, but never mind!

Another thing I recall about “Flash Gordon” is clothing constantly getting ripped off, characters sweating and punching and groaning in pain. There’s also none of that here; I became unreasonably distracted by the fact that nobody’s clothing gets even remotely rumpled or dirty at any point in the proceedings. Coupled with the stiffness and awkward posing of Disbrow’s character art, every scene comes off as having been photo-referenced from action figures standing on planetary play-sets. And that goes double for the dinosaurs and monsters… oh! Did I mention that there’s dinosaurs? And that they look like plastic toys?

But all of this is irrelevant. I’m sure you know how this story ends already (hint: it involves a certain medallion-crazed villain following the bauble down into the inferno). It’s the little moments, the panels that feature Gunnar socking a villain accompanied by a caption screaming “With all the power in his mighty thews, Val strikes his opponent…” that make all the difference. It’s a silly book, a stiff book, an almost astonishingly derivative book, but a compulsively readable thing. Maybe a bit too much of the entertainment stems from the fact that, well, Fantagraphics got its start in publishing original comics in this way, and one can’t help but imagining Maggie and Hopey and Buddy Bradley and Jimmy Corrigan as the children of plastic, unsweating Valgar Gunnar, keeping the spaceways safe for twenty-six years of innovative comics without mussing his hair one bit. So why not spend a quarter (the princely sum I surrendered for this tome) or a dollar or whatever to enjoy the birth of a new era, rising up from the flames as the a medallion of old stores goes down, down into the pit.

And after that, there’s plenty of Monster Comics still to come!


A Saturday home viewing update:

*Yes Mr. Fraction, I am excited! That little puppy is going straight on my Christmas list. I refer of course (for those too wearly from their bustling Saturday to click the link) to the upcoming "Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film" seven-disc box set: over 17 hours of silent and early sound era films, all of them falling under an expansive 'avant-garde' banner. Quite extremely expansive, according to Bruce Posner (who heads this project along with film preservation powerhouse David Shepard): it seems that they're including everything from home movies to documentary footage of people suffering from epileptic seizures, intended for study by the medical community. The objective here is to grasp and present an avant-garde free of intent, "sufficiently advanced in content and form to establish new boundaries for early film aesthetics." Thusly, it appears that a lot of material produced by filmmakers still struggling with the uncertainties of a toddling medium will be included: one does not usually consider D.W. Griffith and Edwin S. Porter to be 'experimental' filmmakers, yet they most certainly conducted experiments in those early days. Posner seems to be aware that not every bit of this material is at all accepted as 'avant-garde', but the intent of the project isn't to provide strictly acceptable examples. "The juxtapositions conjured by the retrospective’s mix of experimental, documentary, and narrative formats provides a new light under which to examine these early experimental efforts," says Posner. Thus (despite the project's title), if not only avant-garde material is presented, then at least the interplay between the acceptable and unacceptable will afford us a greater understanding of the context that gave rise to the 'formal' works that the title suggests, and perhaps lead us to a finer appreciation of the ephemeral product of the early cinema, across the landscape of amateur and professional work. I love this stuff.

Judging from Matt's links, the dvd set will apparently be a refined version of the recent touring series of a similar name, which even contained a feature-length goodie: the design-crazed 1923 Alla Nazimova vehicle "Salome". I'll report back once some full specs have been released.

*I'm far too behind on my infant cinema purchases: I still need to get Kino's "Edison: the Invention of the Movies" box set (covering 1891-1918). And hey, if anyone out there missed out on the amazing "Treasures From American Film Archives" box from 2000, which soon went out of print, there's a brand-new Encore Edition just released the other week, presenting the same stuff over again for new viewers. I wrote about it way back when this site was nary a month old, and I stand behind everything. And that sequel set is great too, at least what I've gotten through so far.

*As as for some more, shall we say, mainstream silent releases: this Tuesday, Fatty is coming to get ya! A four-disc set from Mackinak Media, decently priced at under $50 retail (and for much less online), collecting a whole lot of work from Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. You may have seen some of this stuff playing on TCM during their April comedy programming. From the looks of the full specs it's heavy on his Keystone material, though we do get a sampling of his post-scandal output, including a sound short, directorial-only work, and the complete 1921 feature "Leap Year", which was never officially released in the US and banned in several European nations, entirely due to the media typhoon surrounding events at the time.

And hey! Mackinak's site is even hyping Fantagraphics' recent release of "Fatty Arbuckle and his Funny Friends", that Kim Deitch-covered collection of vintage English silent-era comic strips! Looks like this post has something about comic books after all! Whew!


Friday link and magazine barrage.

*The transition into weekend mode marks several inevitabilities, absolutely the least among them being my latest column. Everything in there is true, though names have been changed to protect the guilty; and that radio station doesn’t really call it the Wheel of Ecstasy, although that’s what I’ve always called it.

*Speaking of Carl Barks, I’ve been reading through that book I got in the column above, and I’m never less than impressed with the guy’s gift for comedy. There’s this one story about how, though some admittedly contrived circumstances, Donald has to face the coach of a rival group of Junior Woodchuck scouts in a boxing match, so his nephews and their friends can win some stupid medal in the Inter-Duck Environs Youth Games or whatnot. Unfortunately, Donald is completely addicted to drugs.

Oh, Barks doesn’t use the names of any popular narcotics, sure: Donald is instead hooked on Gurgleurp Soda Pop, a noxious green carbonated potion. I’d compare it Coca-Cola, back in the salad days when they’d actually dump the extract of coca leaves into the mix, except for the fact that Gurgleurp appears to be a tremendous downer. Donald lays sprawled over the soda counter, dilated pupils monstrous under blinking eyes, bags borne heavily. He’s become so frail he can barely pass through a spider’s web (“What did I hit - a wall of steel cables?”). In short order, he’s going through withdrawal, hollering “Gurgleurp! Gurgleurp! I’m thirsty!” Meanwhile, his opponent is exploding through brick walls, Kool-Aid Man style, and saving obese children from bears (er, non-anthropomorphic bears that is, the evolutionary caste system of the Disney universe always being somewhat disturbing). Eventually, Donald is wheeled to the ring on a stretcher, but he winds up triumphing anyway when his opponent’s wholesome yaks’ milk (vividly described by Donald as “bleached mud”) is ‘accidentally’ replaced with the Green Dragon. The story ends with the nephews, vaguely ashamed at the outcome of this little adventure (another soul lost to the bottle, eh kids?), sitting with Donald back at the soda counter, as a horribly contented smile crosses his face, the Gurgleurp flowing free once again. Actually, the nephews are also drinking the stuff; casual use right in front of his face isn’t gonna get Unca Donald cleaned up any quicker, boys!

*Flipping through the latest “Entertainment Weekly” (#821/822), I noticed a short (very very very short) interview with Grant Morrison in the ‘Books’ section. Apparently, “Seven Soldiers” got the ‘5 Reasons We Love…’ sidebar treatment. Most fascinating is reason #5, in which writer Jeff Jensen lets us in on the secret of Morrison’s success: a long-evolving technique called… er, ‘compression’. Naturally, seasoned comics fans will take one look at this as go “Oh, it’s a response to the grossly devalued comics buzz-term ‘decompression’,” but I wonder if the author of the article (and indeed, casual readers of the magazine) mistook such industry comment as a genuine technical innovation on Morrison’s part? I blame the language; to the comics reader, ‘compression’ is charged with a unique significance, rich with recent history and aesthetic politics. To the outside reader, Morrison appears to be applying an unattached term to comics technique, when he’s really exploiting an understanding of what a pre-attached term means to comics readers. But as far as this article understands it, ‘compression’ is a term of art developed by Morrison to describe his long-evolving personal style, which has apparently just now reached maturity (take that "Flex Mentallo"!). An interesting misunderstanding, one that speaks volumes about the insularity of language among those synched up to the latest happenings in an art form, particularly one as relatively marginalized as Direct Market superhero comics.

Also, Jensen names “Guardian” as the best of the books so far, and Morrison hints that “Klarion” will play a “pivotal” role in organizing the big picture. So there’s that.

Elsewhere in the issue (the double-sized ‘Summer Preview’ issue, largely focused on music), the upcoming paperback version of Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis 2” makes the cut for ‘25 Hot Summer Titles’, as far as books go. There’s also a nice summary of seven upcoming documentaries; I really can’t wait to see “The Aristocrats”, which features 101 comedians performing the same filthy improvisation-heavy joke. Troma fans, hearty breed that they are, already saw Trey Parker perform his version of this routine in “Tales From the Crapper”. Apparently, and much to EW's surprise, Bob Saget and Gilbert Gottfried bring down the house (not immeasurably surprising; I always find Gottfried to be pretty funny, even in the crappiest of contexts, and Saget did direct the perfectly decent Norm Macdonald vehicle “Dirty Work”, and his live shows seem to be the stuff of legend). Also looking great is Werner Herzog’s latest, “Grizzly Man”, assembled mostly (entirely?) from footage shot by environmental activist Timothy Treadwell, who spent 13 summers living with bears in the wilds of Alaska, before being mauled to death in 2003. This sort of eccentric, possibly quixotic lifestyle looks to be right up Herzog’s ally, and word out of Sundance was great.

*In case you haven’t been brushing up on the comments sections of this site (and why not - they’re half the fun!), Brian Nicholson pointed me to Fantagraphics’ September solicitations, with lots of great stuff (“The Stuff of Dreams” #3 YES YES YES). Most interesting is the launch of their new ‘Ignatz’ series of books: oversized, dust-jacketed, two-color comics, 32 pages and printed on high-quality paper for $8 a shot. If you own a copy of David B.’s excellent “Babel” #1 from Drawn and Quarterly (and if you don’t… well why don’t you?!), that looks to be approximately the format they’re shooting for. Deluxe presentation is great, but at that price point (and considering that all of September’s entries appear to be serializations of longer works, suggesting that further $8 purchases will be necessary in the future), I’m only going to be getting stuff I really think I’m going to like, and I suspect that most of the Direct Market (where I expect even such bejeweled examples of the pamphlet format to largely arrive for sale) will act in much the same way. Luckily, the aforementioned Mr. B and reliable favorite Kevin Huizenga both look to be contributing in the future, and I’ve liked stuff by Francesca Ghermandi and Anders Nilsen in the past, so maybe I'll look into them too.

*And finally, Heidi MacDonald reconsiders that essay of hers from "The Comics Journal" #200 that I examined a week or so ago, evaluating her comments from eight years prior as "both right and wrong," at least in relation to Event comics and their potential for sales growth, given the current climate. Read the whole thing, even if it breaks your heart: the third printings of assorted issues of "Identity Crisis", released months after the event ended, still handily outsold nearly every non-Marvel/DC book released in the month of April. Only sixteen non-Big Two books outsold "Identity Crisis" #3 (3rd Edition); of those, only half weren't licensed from movie, video game, or toy properties. And that's not even counting all the Wildstorm and Vertigo books that IC whomped the third time around. Dear old Direct Market, where are you taking us...


Dans l'éloge de l'incertitude

*Warning #1: Very little comics talk today.

*Warning #2: Instead, I’m going to be discussing Jean-Luc Godard.

*Warning #3: Hitting the ‘Back’ button on your browser too hard can eventually result in painful joint problems; take care of yourself!

*So yes, last night I went off to the theater to check out Godard’s most recent feature-length film, “Notre Musique”, which was made in 2004 but only crept into my local shoebox art house just now, the very same week it was released on R1 dvd, and the same week some other movie is monopolizing theater time in the desperate hope that it’ll yank Hollywood out of its current box office slump (speaking of which, the Internet has been telling me that folks are angry because Darth Vader apparently quotes Bush at some point; was that Tom Stoppard’s contribution? Was this planned back in 1977, like the rest of this finely-wrought saga? Now I’m going to be watching the film with an eye toward other bits of comment - does Jar Jar represent Tom DeLay? Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and potent allegory!). I’ll be getting to that film eventually; it helps immeasurably that I’ve never viewed the first trilogy as anything more than decent-to-good summer popcorn fodder, and I thusly saw the later two flicks as more of the same (albeit with a measured downturn in personality and spunk). But yesterday, I was all Jean-Luc’s.

Even at the age of seventy-four, Godard still has the power to provoke strong reactions from viewers, reactions like “He’s still alive?” or “Was he the one in Close Encounters?” or “Who?”. But I’ve found that a certain downturn in public consciousness hasn’t particularly hampered his skill; “Notre Musique” isn’t an easy film, but it’s a consummately individual one, and more often then not a thoughtful, crisply intelligent, good-looking one, a film for which only the weightiest themes will suffice: the nature of war, the role of the creative person in society, the futility of art in staving off violence, the perception of the Other.

The film is divided into three sections: Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. I expect that you all know where this sort of reference originates from. Of these segments, one is excellent, one is pleasingly thoughtful and ambiguous, and one takes up three-quarters of the film’s runtime. Tellingly, we spend most of our time in Purgatory, but let’s examine Hell and Heaven first.

Lasting about ten minutes, Hell is composed entirely of assorted stock footage depicting authentic and fictional wars. A piano accompaniment is provided, soft and brooding and periodically exploding into pounding chords. Every so often, a human voice will calmly read passages from philosophic texts or news reports (and at one point, a selection from The Lord’s Prayer, highlighting the bit about forgiving those who trespass against us while some particularly nasty stuff appears on screen). The presentation sounds similar to what I’ve read of a prior ‘found footage’ work of Godard’s, “Origins of the 21st Century”, which was commissioned in 2000 by the Cannes Film Festival and was barely shown outside of those hallowed confines. I’ve heard the content of that film was often difficult and explicit. The images here are frightful and at some times calculatingly cheesy. Footage of heaps of concentration camp prisoners being dumped into a mass grave shares space with shots of corny greasepaint Indians from old westerns. Godard has a predilection for severed heads, as both image and audio reflect. At times the gaps between fiction and newsreel are obvious, but gradually we become numb to the difference and we see scene after scene of marching men and flying planes, and it’s impossible to tell what is real and what is not. This will come up again later. Godard shifts his comment to a different level: the video footage is slowed down, the low quality of the image becoming blurry, and the fields of men are suddenly swirls of color, something close to the cinema of Brakhage. Even in abstraction, cinema carries the force of war. Or maybe cinema blurs the realities of war until they are beautiful, digestible. Perhaps everything is real (or fiction) in the projector’s light? It’s a great sequence, viscerally powerful and drunken with possibility. Hell is war? Hell is the aestheticizing of war? Hell is the breakdown between reality and illusion? Hell is distance?

Later in the film, we all go to Heaven (many of us doubtlessly relieved), and it relates nicely to its opposite sphere. This sequence is also ten minutes long, and follows a certain character (who’s just died in the film’s Purgatory segment), as she wanders through a gorgeous woodland setting. The image is clear and beautifully composed, the colors lush and bright. She follows a river, and encounters a fenced-in clearing, guarded by US military forces. Apparently, Heaven is under occupation. They check her out and usher her in, and she finds all sorts of artistic and thoughtful young people, just like her, reading and dancing and having a good time. It’s kind of a small area, but she sits down by the river by a handsome boy, who gives her an apple. One can’t help but wonder though: why all the soldiers? What are they guarding everyone from (the soldiers are all armed, but most of them are fishing or playing with children at their posts; they look kind of bored)? The girl bites her apple, looking awfully disconcerted. And that’s all.

So what does it mean? It’s good to keep Hell in mind here, as what we’ve seen there is the firing of such guns and the execution of such defense. Heaven seems happy and peaceful, but it carries the potential to become Hell at any point. And the image of content intellectuals herded into a glorified pen for protection from soldiers relates back to one of the Big Themes: what can a creative person do, in the face of necessary security, defense, fighting?

The answers may be found in Purgatory, in which we stay for an hour (the entire film clocks in at only an hour and twenty minutes, Godard perhaps recognizing a need for brevity in engaging such subjects). Unlike the stock-footage apocalypse of the beginning or the quiet pastoral of the ending, Purgatory is set largely in Sarajevo, at a Literary Encounters gathering; many prominent thinkers and writers appear as themselves, although the action is staged, the viewer observing the chats (J. Hoberman, in his excellent review, dubs the film “Olympian in its detachment," a fair analysis). Godard himself is also on hand, fluttering around and biding time before a big lecture he has to give to a bunch of young film students. In a purely superficial sense, this sequence evoked the feel of Goddard’s “Contempt”, with characters constantly followed around by translators, spitting the same (or maybe subtly different) lines out one after another in different tongues. Only some of this material is subtitled; indeed, more than a few times a huge block dialogue would be conveyed (summarized?) by only a few curt lines of English dialogue. I wonder how much of this effect is intentional, how much the audience is meant to be alienated by incomprehensibility. Certainly that’s one of the concerns of the film, with people constantly unable to understand one another. At one point a group of Native Americans deliver a speech (in English) about culpability of Europe in international suffering. Nobody seems to be listening. In the next shot, they are gone, as if they never existed.

There’s plenty of speeches in this segment, apparently a common motif among Godard’s later-period output (I’ve not seen much of it, I’m afraid), though the film remains keenly aware of its status as a film, as is always the way with Godard. Background music abruptly cuts out when certain characters speak, only to rise again, sometimes drowning out the words of other characters. Sharp cuts are made mid-scene, character movements jerking about. Sometimes, nearly mystic events occur. A lengthy, stagy, dreamy segment set in a ruined library pulls this off quite well. Other images, like that of leather-clad Native Americans sitting on horses in the middle of the city, only provoke unintentional laughter (perhaps Godard was referencing Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”?). And some moments are shockingly banal: the news of a character’s death sends our viewpoint cutting away from a garden of lovely flowers to a patch of, well, sad flowers, wilted or closed, away from the sun.

But the heart of Purgatory is in its conversation, as everyone discusses the nature of art and the role of the artist. One character mentions that writers really know nothing: Homer’s epic poems were heavily based on the witness borne by others, just as so much writing is only the chronicle of action taken by others. Reasonable people don’t start revolutions, we learn, they start libraries or cemeteries. A Palestinian writer nearly steals the show with an extended comment on why he feels the need to pose as a ‘poet of Troy’, a delayed representative of a vanquished people; the poems of the victors are what’s remembered, but they’re all so much fiction anyway, so why not become the voice of the defeated? Even the defeated may benefit from conflict - he notes that the problems facing Palestine would never have captured world attention had Israel not been their enemy. And this line of reasoning is taken even further in the segment’s centerpiece, Godard’s own lecture. Aside from taking shots at Howard Hawks (whom Godard claims could not tell the difference between men and women, judging from his compositional style), the director launches into the concept of the reverse shot (a basic of film grammar) as an extended and highly charged metaphor for all sorts of political confrontation. Israel and Palestine are reverse shots of one another, and like a good reverse shot, the composition differs on both ends. Walking toward a Holy Land, the weight of history and story and myth (maybe all the same) behind them, Israel has become Fiction. Palestine, meanwhile, has become Documentary. And everyone prefers Fiction to Documentary, as the latter suggests all the uncertainty of reality (which is different still). Film carries the power to illuminate such matters, to collect a multiplicity of viewpoints, to truly illuminate the Other. “Our music,” as the film’s title translates to, and as Godard dubs it. Amusingly, the crowd listening to Godard becomes more and more restless as his speech goes on, voices finally overpowering him, until someone asks him whether digital cameras will save the cinema. He is silent, not knowing what to say. Again, communication is defeated.

And that’s perhaps the true nature of Purgatory. A lot of terribly smart people saying awfully smart things, and few of them even able to reach each other, let alone anyone else. But what else is there to do but keep trying? That’s the dull sufferings of Purgatory. As I’ve said before, eventually one character orchestrates her suicide to become a symbol for peace, maybe the only way to really get through: to become a story, unalive (in a biological sense). Yet everything moves in a circle. Hell is combat, fiction and documentary indistinguishable. Purgatory is the discussion of Hell, the art of its prevention, and the nagging doubt that anything is accomplished, no matter what form the film takes. And Heaven is contentment, but the guns surround us and we realize that we can’t do anything to get rid of them. Maybe we want them ourselves. Heaven is only acceptance. And we are always capable of spiraling off the clouds, sinking back into the abyss. In Godard’s world, all of us can be fallen angels, and several times at that.


The new comic I bought this day.

Seven Soldiers - Guardian #2 (of 4)

Well, forget what I said in my "Shining Knight" review from two weeks ago, since it doen't look like the Seven Old Men will be making cameos as matched to the 'all headshot' cover scheme. So the anticipation goes in the land of extended stories.

Morrison smartly shifts the weight of the story onto the Subway Pirates this issue, leaving the dull title character to hit some people and strike Kirby-influenced poses and glower for the last few pages (which doesn't make sense at all - the attack on his family had absolutely no connection to his being the Guardian, as Mr. Floating Head notes). The script seems to liven up whenever the baddies are on the page, Morrison tossing out lines like "I prepared myself for this with a fiery cocktail of absinthe and crack," and setting up a near-mythical confrontation between opposing pirate captains, as everyone races toward the Foundation Stone.

A theme for this segment of the book is emerging: the superhero as reader surrogate in exploring alternate culture. This won't be a tough one to pick up, as Mr. Floating Head spells it out at the end of the issue. Naturally, the question then arises from the thoughtful reader as to why we need superheroes in particular to tell "stories about human dignity", but I get the feeling that Morrison is accepting the presence of superheroes as a given (after all, this is a DCU comic), and shifting the focus of the query onto what superheroes can do, considering that their presence is mandatory. Guardian plunges into danger, going places where normal people could not, to bring normal people stories. All fizzy and poppy stories (as the characters essentially acknowledged in issue #1), granted, but we are working in a superhero world.

Aside from spelling out the themes, Morrison also throws in some remarkably unsubtle references to "Klarion", and at one point everybody quite literally runs into a likely plot point from a different miniseries under the project umbrella. I presume that some of the more puzzling bits near the end of the subway chase will become clearer in time, though I must repeat that the final game of chance in that glowing pool does manage a sort of legendary swing, aided greatly through the fun Morrison has with the lines.

"Evens ye die, All-Beard! And odds, 'tis I!"

Artist Cameron Stewart does a decent job of hitting the right action beats, shifting his style gently in homage to the King. Everything is underground in this story, or under dull lights or rainclouds, so the colors are muted, and maybe a bit muddy. It doesn't hamper the action, though the visuals here largely draw their power from Morrison's script, its electricity charging the socks to the jaw. There's omniscient narration bookending the issue, explaining the first-page visual metaphor for the villains' character arcs, and filling in some gaps for the final page's reveal, but doing it all with verve. Hints are dropped in dialogue as to the larger culture that Guardian hastily explores. If he reports for the people of the city, Morrison reports for us, and he'd hate for anyone to miss a beat, hence the abundance of explanation. It's hard to tell quite where the book is going from here, but I doubt it won't be spelled out for us once we're there.


Two guides to upcoming things.

*First things first: anyone who’s been reading either this site or Comic Book Galaxy on a frequent basis knows that few upcoming books are more heavily anticipated by me than next month’s “Or Else” #3 by Kevin Huizenga. Back around Free Comic Book Day, Brian Nicholson informed me that Drawn and Quarterly’s entry in the promotional giveaway sweepstakes had offered some awesome clues as to what would be in this upcoming issue, including a piece on future Eisner Hall of Fame inductee Floyd Gottfredson. Well, I’ve finally managed to secure a copy of that free D&Q book, and I’ve pulled out a magnifying glass to examine the “Or Else” cover art provided therein, and I’ve uncovered some very choice info on Mr. Huizenga’s site.

Most vitally, here’s part of (or maybe the whole of) the Gottfredson piece, subject to revision. I don’t know if this has been published before; Huizenga even has a much rougher version from his sketchbook uploaded. I hope there’ll be more!

Almost everything in “Or Else” is a somewhat revised reprint of something that already appeared in Huizenga’s long-lived fourteen-issue “Supermonster” minicomic series. This pattern will continue into issue #3, and presumably issue #4. Huizenga has also noted, however, that he’s considering beginning a new series titled “Ganges”, named for his signature character Glenn Ganges. This material may, however, simply be folded into a fifth issue of “Or Else”. But why consider a split? Perhaps Huizenga is planning to produce brand-new material in pamphlet form, and wants to keep it separate from the wider-distributed revised “Supermonster” that is “Or Else”? It’s all speculation on my part, but here’s a piece of tentative cover art for the possible new series to delight you.

As for “Or Else” #3, the rest of the material listed on the cover (which I sadly can’t seem to find an online version of) seems to be coming from different issues of “Supermonster”, as it was in issue #1. “Al and Gertrude” hails from “Supermonster” #12; Huizenga has provided the entire story here, though (as always) he may be updating it for the new D&Q presentation. “March 6, 1999” is from the same issue. “I Stand Up for Zen” was the (sub)title story from “Supermonster” #13, and “Phone Story” may be a version of “Phone Story 3” from “Supermonster” #11 (which, along with issue #9, also provided material for “Or Else” #1). There’s one final story, the title of which I can’t even make out; might be all-new, might be from somewhere else. But for a sloth like myself who didn’t get on at anywhere near the ground floor, all of these reprints are causes for excitement, as those long-gone minis are totally out of reach.

Be sure to check out Huizenga’s online archives and current comics page; there’s tons of stuff there, including several full stories from all sorts of gigs and assignments, plus a lot of good sketchbook stuff!

*And, if you don’t want to have to wait for an established independent comics company to repackage some potentially great work, you should buy some minicomics online! And look: The Catastrophe Shop has updated their stock! And Poopsheet has an all-new store! Go get ’em!

*As for our dear Direct Market, well, there‘s once again quite mercifully slim pickings…


Strange Eggs #1: There’s some interesting pamphlet-format anthologies out this week. This first one is from Slave Labor, bearing a typically gothy cover, and featuring several of their mainstays. The premise of the book is that a pair of kids keep getting shipments of eggs, which hatch into different stories by different contributors. Very dark, nasty humor on display, apparently, but seeing names like Roger Langridge of “Fred the Clown” in the credits give me hope. Only four bucks too. May be worth a flip.

Drippytown Comics and Stories #4: Probably more enticing to me is the fourth installment of this somewhat-annual pamphlet-format anthology. As usual, some big names contribute pieces (Tony Millionaire and Marc Bell this time) to draw attention to lesser-known creators, with an emphasis on humor, if I recall correctly. Fifty-six pages for $6, full contributor list here. Good to see this thing is still kicking, as they haven’t had a release since 2003.

Dark Horse Book of the Dead: All of this isn’t to say that the deluxe hardcover anthology format is taking a rest, oh no. Here’s the third installment of Dark Horse’ horror-themed house anthology, complete with its largely-constant slate of artists. I’m sure there’s some of you out there willing to plunk down the fifteen bucks just for the new “Hellboy” story, but you’ll also get the latest installment of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s “Stray”, plus new work by Eric Powell of “The Goon” and the great Guy Davis, and a story by much-admired “Batman” and “Deadman” artist Kelly Jones, last seen working on some Steve Niles books. And for the obligatory prose selection, we get a Robert E. Howard short, illustrated (not sequentially adapted) by cover artist Gary Gianni. That’s a pretty damned strong line-up, and fifteen bucks for a 96-page hardcover is pretty damned good (if probably a bit beyond my means at the moment).

The Goon #12: Speaking of Powell, we also get the latest issue of his own book, continuing the saga from the issue prior, although last issue was actually pretty self-contained when you think about it. Anyhow, Dr. Alloy attacks the town, and the Goon defends it, and all of that. Robots will be hit!

Seven Soldiers - Guardian #2 (of 4): Of the four currently executing miniseries, this and “Zatanna” fall into the ‘underwhelming’ side of things, with “Shining Knight” and “Klarion” holding my attention much more. The last issue of this title in particular felt uniquely predictable among these books; it was an extremely run-of-the-mill superhero origin tale, though I guess the atmosphere of Kirby homage was enough to keep it humming for many readers. I just thought it was sort of dull, though not particularly deficient in any one area. Cameron Stewart’s art also felt oddly uninspired, though certainly far from displeasing. It’s the kind of book where I’m not sure how to articulate my feelings, as it’s plainly not bad. It’s just very uninspired. Maybe it’ll pick up this issue.