CBABIH 0.2 - Show Notes

Being a series of comments on Episode 0.2 of Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, a podcast by Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone and myself.


00:00: The "0.2" episode designation is a tantalizing hint that we're still burning off material from the pilot run recorded two Saturdays ago; in fact, the material we're leading with was set down at almost exactly the stroke of midnight. It was not Satanic charms that led to this week's jump in audio quality, however -- at least, not to my knowledge -- but rather the intervention of one of the very charitable listeners described last week, Mr. Robin McConnell, who adjusted the levels in the source recording, edited the whole mess and hopefully sent your podcast experience rocketing toward the upward strata of tolerability. We're fresh out of material now, so mark down "new leaps in technological fuckery" for next Thursday in your Outlook calendar.

00:01: I think this song is a metaphor for podcasting.

01:10: The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) in New York City holds an annual fundraising event -- I believe its primary such thing -- in which tables are secured, talks are held, and attendees pay money to browse the wares of an unusually international jambag of funnies for the U.S. comics convention scene. Tucker and I first met in person at MoCCA '08, back when it held at the cramped but aesthetically delightful Puck Building and stood as basically the only 'arts'-minded comicon in the city; it's since been moved to the historically potent if disquietingly gymnasium wrestlefest-like 69th Regiment Armory and joined -- some would say supplanted -- by shows like the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival (BCGF), where I first saw Matt face to face last year. The "problems" to which Matt refers are best and most recently summarized by the publisher Secret Acres (read the comments).

01:58: Indeed, one of the more amusing facets of the MoCCA fest is that a whole bunch of the European exhibitors tend to get their tables together, so that a whole corner of the show functions as a miniature United Nations of comics, complete with designations like "Royal Norwegian Consulate General." Usually they'll carry artists' books from all over the continent, so you'd be browsing the Finland table looking for (say) Tommi Musturi shit, only to find one of his French releases with Le Dernier Cri. Like Matt says, lots of these comics are in English, and I've even noticed a growing trend of subtitling otherwise untranslated works along the bottom of every page, perhaps with an eye toward the international market. Or, maybe everyone's been doing that for years; like most U.S. readers, I don't have a lot of hands-on experience with these books outside of MoCCA.

02:28: Kolor Klimax: Nordic Comics Now, ed. Matthias Wivel and facilitated by Nordicomics. Also available at the show was the similarly dense Finnish Comics Annual 2012 sampler, ed. Reija Sann, which I unfortunately did not get, and probably will not see again until all the leaves have died (on the trees, not in the book).

02:40: Suicide Joe, by Peter Kielland, who is also featured in Kolor Klimax. I wrote a little bit about it last week, and Wivel hailed it here. Picked up from the Danish Consulate General. Contrary to what I say, I don't think the comic was actually published at the time of its composition in 1984, although Matt's later comments re: the ending are still potent.

06:17: Uh, spoiler alert? I don't think a comic like Suicide Joe is particularly dependent on plot surprises regardless, but do be aware that we tend to get into discussing the entire breadth of a comic, particularly if description of the work's effect is dependent in part on noting its circularity, as occurs here. We'll probably hold back on blabbing out the twists in particularly plotty comics -- especially if we obtain them at a convention or in some manner that precedes its wide availability -- but I can't guarantee anything, and certainly any comic that's been around for a few weeks is fair game.

07:14: Sadly, I'm not sure publisher Fahrenheit lets you buy it online. At least, I can't find a way to do it.

07:54: Wowee Zonk 4, eds. Patrick Kyle, Ginette Lapalme & Chris Kuzma. It's an anthology of Canadian artists, full of the kind of dirty raw drawing (interspersed with arch/gross comedy) I tend to associate with ye olde Paper Rodeo -- i.e. a post-Fort Thunder grot party -- although the production is nice enough to catch all the textures of whatever the compositional paper stock was, so I guess it's more of a better-realized and region-specific iteration of Fantagraphics' late, unlamented Blood Orange. By analogy; I'm doing nobody any favors with these generalizations. The Jesse Jacobs thing is By This Shall You Know Him, a big book of squiggly cosmic visions, very narrative. All are from Koyama Press, among Canada's leading sources for things I've just described. 
08:46: King Con -- another Brooklyn-based entry in the NYC sequential swap meet sweepstakes -- is due to return in November of this year, the week before the BCGF. An official explanation for its absence is under the About tab at the link.

09:30: The Michael Dean essay on the state of MoCCA is here. The comments are suggested for bold and hearty souls. Dan Nadel's most noted encounter with the museum is recounted here. The Secret Acres stuff is linked above.

11:31: Specifically, Tucker participated on the To Run A Comic Shop panel, where I believe he explained why Rorschach is the coolest superhero. "Gabe [Fowler]'s and Dan [Nadel]'s thing out in Williamburg" is the BCGF.

12:30: Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1-5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Tonci Zonjic (whose Twitter mocks humanity's pronunciation abilities), Dave Stewart and redoubtable, non-cover-credited letterer Clem Robins. Another offshoot of Mignola's Hellboy, along with B.P.R.D. and all the rest. The Zonjic-drawn Who Is Jake Ellis? is available collected from Image, although be warned that it basically ends on an advertisement for its as-yet unscheduled sequel (which, as I mention later, is kind of the Mignola procedure these days too).

14:27: Seriously:

POOM. There's other comics out there, but I just forgot 'em. Wait - the big monster fight issues of B.P.R.D. were #1-3 of The Long Death. Yes, it's all coming back...

16:36: When I'm saying "that kind of feeling in superhero movies," I'm flashing back to movie critic Matt Zoller Seitz's 2010 j'accuse re: the homogeneity and creative bankruptcy of the big-budget superhero genre; even if you accept the notion of the superhero movie as an extension of tradition summer tentpole action movie styles, I think there's something to be said for the idea of the aggravated branding and franchise-minded maintenance of these works as smothering even the smaller deviations in visual flair you'd get from the mid- to late-'90s Jerry Bruckheimer hands. Seitz does, however, noticeably omit the most heavily stylized and generally weird sample of the subgenre, Frank Miller's The Spirit, maybe because grappling with such a widely loathed picture could weaken his delivery, but do note that this is the only one of these movies directed by a hardened veteran of comic book creation (and compare, if you will, the idea of the writer-driven '00s superhero comic as reaction to the '90s artist dominance of the Image-derived superhero).

21:45: Tucker also gets into the revisionist quality of Lobster Johnson here; it didn't occur to me until he mentioned it, but this sort of long-game-plotting-as-soft-critique-of-'legend' is extraordinarily fitting for the Mignola comics, which traffic so heavily in reconstituted myth and folklore, to the point where the extended Hellboy cast is almost impossible to keep track of without external aid. Is this parallel superhero world turning inward? If so, it's the kind of continuity play I can go for - optional, and meaningful, because in the end, isn't Lobster Johnson just pitting the reality of reading The Spider -- or, as Matt suggests, Fletcher Hanks and the like -- against our constructed memories of classic pulp or a "Golden Age" of comics?

24:00: Action Comics #9, by Grant Morrison, Gene Ha, Art Lyon & Patrick Brosseau. My personal favorite part of this whole opening exchange is my asking Matt if he read the comic and his full second pause before going "noooo." I love it when podcast folk don't agree on things. Who wants consensus all the time? "That sounds completely fucking horrible."  THE SHIT. RIGHT HERE.

26:29: I understand why some people think this issue is a departure or a breakthrough concerning Morrison's interaction with DC, but really what we're seeing is the creators' rights discussion-saturated present context of the work shifting the focus on a rather familiar Morrison plot from the 'action' -- the evolutionary potential of fictive elements -- to the particularized environment the action plays through, i.e. the world of the shared-universe superhero. In Seven Soldiers, we accept the environment as given, because where else could this story take place? Now, because the ethical aspect of occupying that territory is in question, our focus travels to the very terrain the Supermen battle across: a world of fictions reliant on the ownership of an organizing, very non-fictional entity. And yet, just as the Final Crisis from which President Superman originated was at first a horror story of bad, sour, irresponsible fictions tainting the environment, so is this new comic a veritable sequel in seeing the President battle an uncontrolled, miscellaneous, perhaps authorless variant - a consuming idea, ironically destroyed by a man who can only process Superman as a (very bad) idea, and not a thing of humanity, i.e. a responsibly authored character with a firm point of view.

Hmm - on second thought, maybe the whole thing is about Obama-the-threat/disappointment vs. Obama-the-man. I would not call it a very deep investigation, though; Morrison doesn't interface with the particulars of Obama's politics any more than he questions the solidity of the ground on which his characters walk. Just as his fascination with the Sekhmet Hypothesis and its rewiring of the solar magnetic field suggests a sort of pop cultural efficacious grace touching the signposts of cool -- a central concept in his Supergods, which opens with a metaphor of political protest as paternal, self-flagellating 'realism' vs. the maternal, inspirational, imaginative quality of fiction, Ideas -- so do his thematics align with the discipline of action of his beloved Bhagavad Gita: characters behaving as functions in a (super-)system, but sometimes becoming enlightened to the structures surrounding them. Morrison is well aware of his own structure -- at one point in Supergods, he pointedly observes that even the stipend DC eventually awarded Superman's creators pales in comparison to the compensation awarded a prolific A-list superhero comic book writer of today -- but it's the ideas that navigate it which hold an interest that supersede their housing.

30:02: As of last October, at least, Frank Quitely was still working on the Charlton issue of Multiversity, although he's since become attached to Mark Millar's longform Jupiter's Children. I don't know where the project is, just as I obviously don't know what Morrison's rationale for turning down Before Watchmen actually was - he might have just been upset that his own comic got epically cockblocked and didn't want to participate in abnegation. Nonetheless, I see the situation as a matter of two things: ideas and property. I'm frankly sympathetic to the notion of continuing Watchmen as a hypothetical confrontation of ideas, just as Alan Moore confronted Steve Ditko's ethos with vigor, intellect, spite, emotion, mockery - the whole shebang. Sadly, everything I read about Before Watchmen suggests exactly the sort of dead-boring 'respectful' treatment we've all come to fear from Geek Property Management.

But, moreover - Watchmen has its own property aspect too, which is what renders talk of ideas hypothetical to me, because it was a freestanding work that was meant (and originally understood) to belong to its creators. Sometimes I wonder if this didn't somehow become attached to the idea of superhero comics as self-contained novels, constructs in Moore's god-looking-down sense (as opposed to Morrison's man-looking-up) - an idea that sank with the possibility that anything in the genre was not liable to be revived. But anyway, I wonder if Morrison doesn't eye a boundary here, of not treading onto Moore's & Gibbon's property while combating their ideas. And perhaps that is an older man's consideration... or a canny man's, given Morrison's on-page interest in directing 'his' characters toward an often futile evolution. "Failed," to use Tucker's word. His brand, rechargeable from his lack of hold in the mud of DC, where he again can wall himself off to pursue his obsessions.
35:02: I actually did have a local horror host on television when I was growing up in the '80s, but I'll be damned if I could remember his name. Some vampire theme. I think it might have been backed in part by this Allentown, PA comic book store called Cap's Comics Cavalcade, which sponsored re-runs of Star Trek and Doctor Who. If they're still around, they don't have a website.

35:22: The official Morgus website is here, ready to serve up a dvd of '80s (and a little '60s) material. The '62 theatrical movie can be purchased here. A sample of the Morgus comic is here. I don't even know if Frigid Wife still exists, but its wonderful trailer is here; that very well might be him emoting the title at the end. In fact, it'd better be.

(Apropos of nothing, my favorite total-entertainer-who-dabbled-in-cartooning remains silent movie megastar Larry Semon, whose lack of recognition today is perhaps as attributable to the vagaries of film preservation as the waves of time smoothing away the fads of the moment for the bedrock of genius. He also has a short activity drawing on the back of Mabel Normand and Her Funny Friends, a 2003 Fantagraphics collection of old silent movie-themed comics.)

39:31: Some results of Tucker's '60s Batman reading are here. Wait, I already linked to that. What time is it?

40:32: Here's the Charles Hatfield review I mention. In full:

"I don’t need to itemize the various bits of cleverness in 1969, or to point out the screamingly obvious, that 1969 is more intelligent and insinuating than most comic books. It is, after all, a book by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. But the taste of it sits like battery acid on the tongue, and, like 1910 before it, it reads like an act of vengeance against former pleasures."

Coming back to the idea of revised histories, eh? There's more circularity to come.

41:45: Three of Moore's musical collaborations are still available from Top Shelf. Unearthing is available from Lex Records (or iTunes).

45:38: The colorist is Ben Dimagmaliw.

46:16: And a passing comment by Matt ushers us into the best thing we've aired so far, a revisiting of last week's Fury: My War Gone By discussion and Tucker's exegesis on Garth Ennis' longing for virtue in the world, and how this informs his approach to genre storytelling. This kind of unplanned roll is what justifies the whole endeavor to me.

50:46: Last night, I had a dream I pissed in my boss' office. It wasn't a revenge thing; I like my job and I like my boss. Nor was it after hours; my boss was sitting in his chair, typing away on his computer, and I just marched right in and started pissing on the rug. I'd almost finished by the time he said anything, in a bemusement born of total disbelief: "What are you doing?" And I looked at him, suddenly feeling panicked. "I don't know," I said, "but I had a great reason when I came in."

This dream replicates, in parable form, the feeling I get when I spend close to a full minute babbling nonsense out of some infernal urge to hear my own voice before figuring out that I have absolutely nothing to say, as presented here.

And yet, we'll all be back next week. See you then.