Time and its infernal passage.

*Ah, death! Nothing quite like the natural and inevitable decline of all humanity’s endeavors to put the seasonal snap in our oncoming fourth-quarter breezes. You’re all aware Fanboy Rampage is packing it in, right? Perhaps it’s put some of us in a reflective mood, sensitive to the turning of the colors, the drifting of the leaves.

Thus, to tardily join Tim O’Neil’s rumination on The Death of Comics Blogging (which itself was soon after amended to note that the perception of what 'comics blogging' was at a certain time was largely chimerical, thus rendering its ‘death’ to be necessarily illusory), we have two longstanding comics internet pros going over it again. Neilalien takes what strikes me as an expansion of Tim’s own stance, citing crossblog interactions as his point of focus, and musing on the reasons for its perceived decline. Alan David Doane, in the meantime, seems to focus on a decline in blogging quality in both a conversational and a self-contained sense, positing that many of the best writers of the past two or three years have either shifted their focus to other topics or jumped ship to alternate formats.

It always interests me to read pieces like these, if only because I got into ‘blogging’ (by whatever definition you want to apply to it) in 2004, so I presumably missed out on a lot of the Golden Age. Ah, to have entered that shining crystal city and supped from its silver plates and emerald cups! But then, I’ve never bothered to nail down any definition of what ‘blogging’ is supposed to be, and I’ve certainly never predicated the status of this site as a 'blog' on the existence of crossblog conversation. Indeed, I daresay that I agree with Tim’s later piece (and assorted comments from various other bloggers, Mike Sterling and Dorian Wright, among them) in that a lot of the grand conversation of days of yore tended to devolve into aimless shouting matches after not very long at all.

But what of us, the late-comers? Well, gather around younger bloggers, we’re here to evolve, I suppose, here to shepard the form-in-flux into whatever they want to call it tomorrow. And if you and I are to relax on our folding chairs, surveying the post-blog wasteland, gentle readers and writers, so be it, so be it.

*Filling in another gaping hole in my comics reference library, I picked up a copy of the swank new softcover edition of Gerard Jones’ acclaimed Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book. Do note how the back cover neatly divvies up the laudatory quotes between traditional sources (The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angles Times) and ‘respectable’ comics folk (Art Spiegelman, Alan Moore).

A lot of credit has to be given to the design; in many ways, its an ultra-typical contemporary Chip Kidd job, composed of blown-up comics panels and neatly mounted typography, but there’s a reason why Kidd has found success with this sort of thing. The art, all of it taken from the eccentric works of Golden Age wizard Fletcher Hanks, is flawlessly composed and thematically potent, the colors (in the interests of honesty, probably not by Hanks himself) positively radiating off the tome, the heat of the times launching youngsters into space, fire cutting through a night of ice and water.

Naturally, the text itself (updated, corrected, and slightly expanded) comes highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to digging in. Inattentive child that I am, I immediately turned to the pictures in the center, and was delighted by a 50th birthday card for Harry Donenfeld, depicting the DC Comics founder bending Superman over his lap and giving him a nice spanking, with the Man of Steel remarking “And I love it!” Good old comics history.

*Cinema Analysis Dept: I enjoyed the Tony Scott film Domino. It was fun, if very very silly. I think it gave a lot of people a headache though. That is all.

Electric Girl Vol. 3

Apparently, despite their enduring reputation as purveyors of wild action and high-concept thrills, Michael Brennan’s decidedly sunny, gentle Electric Girl is one of the perennial trade sellers for AiT/Planet-Lar (many of the single issues were released by Mighty Gremlin, though the most recent #10 was released by AiT/Planet-Lar itself), and it’s also quite popular in the ‘young adult’ sections of libraries too. It’s pretty easy to see why; with its amusing, easily pegged characters, soft, simple look, and good-heartedly antic slapstick plots, Electric Girl strikes me as similar in tone to an above-average animated cartoon for kids, the type that could probably make adults smile for a bit and not want to hammer on the remote.

But Brennan’s art is good enough for adult comics fans to savor as well, a winsome, curvy stylization, everyone’s eyebrows wavy and curvy, his characters’ dot and oval eyes scratched underneath with lines when they’re sad or frustrated, and his backgrounds sometimes lush, but often muted, to put more focus on his expressive cast. It’s very good-looking stuff, worth pouring over a few times.

Plot-wise, I suppose I ought to expand the animated cartoon comparison a bit further - these are episodic stories, often filled with light fantasy and sci-fi elements, as the titular electro-powered youth, Virginia, attempts to get through life with her special abilities. She’s followed by a mischievous gremlin, Oogleeoog, who’s taken a shine to her and constantly attempts to cause trouble, all the better for racking up valuable Gremlin Points. There’s also various friends, one of whom is a lifelike robot, and a cute little dog named Blammo. Together, they all get into various magic and sci-fi scrapes, including occasionally life-threatening danger, but everything is generally ok in the end, save for some mild property damage, the occasional mussing of hair, and much stress on the part of various adults.

What can I say? It’s a very sweet, very attractive book, light as a feather but genuinely charming and never quite saccharine. I’m not privy to the details of the series’ publishing history, but it appears that the ongoing pamphlet series is now defunct. This trade collects issues #9 and #10 of the series (both dating back to 2002), along with a whopping 61 pages of new stories (about two issues worth of stuff, bringing the page count to roughly that of the prior two volumes), so one presumes that future material will simply be going direct-to-trade. Also included is an early draft of a story from Electric Girl #1, some of the color pin-ups from Electric Girl #9 (reproduced in b&w), and assorted drawings and covers and the like.