Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Notable Links for 03/31

First, I'd like to apologize for any inconvenience that might have been caused by the fact that yesterday's link to the "Sartre and 'Peanuts'" article did not work as it was supposed to. The article can be found here, and is brought to you courtesy of Philosophy Now. Special thanks to Mike Sterling for bringing this to my attention - be on the look out for your "No Prize"... or rather, I wouldn't hold your breath.

And secondly, I have been remiss in my solemn duties - I forgot to mention that "Gone And Forgotten," just about the funniest comics-related site in the universe, has posted a huge update. In this pulse-pounding edition, GAF takes a brave look at the abject stupidity of "Wonder Woman" #211, the abject stupidity of The Legion of Super-Heroes' wardrobes, and also a brief look at the wonder and awe of Zombie Daredevil. It is must-read stuff, people.

* Ah, finally, the complete Reuben Award nominations, courtesy of Mike Lynch at the Journal board.

* Did I already mention Tokyopop going exclusive with Diamond? I can't even remember anymore. Anyway, the story is here, courtesy of ICV2. I wonder just how much indie distributers like Cold Cut were depending on manga? Not too much, I hope. In any event, the fact that Tokyopop's material is now non-returnable through the direct market could prove interesting... but as with many things, only time will tell.

* "Linktone Ltd., a provider of wireless media, entertainment and communications services in China, today announced that it has signed partnership agreements with two Chinese handset manufacturers, Bird Communication Technology Co. Ltd. and Eastern Communications (EastCom). Under the terms of the contracts, Linktone's wireless value-added services will be embedded in the handset vendors' products for end users' easy access. Beginning March 2004, handsets manufactured by Bird will have wireless access protocol (WAP) links specially created for three of Linktone's products, namely Mobile Pet (a proprietary virtual pet game), 'Tom and Jerry' (Cartoon Network's famous characters) comic strip and icon downloads, and Shin Chan (a popular Japanese cartoon character) comic strip and icon downloads." Read the press release here, courtesy of China Tech News.

* Relative newcomer ADV Manga has acquired the American publishing rights to 37 new titles. That's a lot. I'd remember that the next time you complain about how many titles Marvel publishes. The Pulse has the press release here.

* "eigoMANGA has succeeded in securing a distribution deal with the company Source Interlink to supply eigoMANGA’s comic book series, RUMBLE PAK respectively to Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Tower Books @ Records, Virgin Megastore, Waldenbooks, Musicland. A seconding edition of RUMBLE PAK will be available to chain bookstores throughout North America starting in the late Spring of 2004 while the comic book’s first edition published last February will continue its circulation in comic book stores nationally and in the UK which is distributed through Diamond Comic Distributors." Read the press release here, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

* John Jakala over at Grotesque Anatomy takes a look at the recent hubbub that saw Scholastic Books removing "Shonen Jump" from their catalog here - and foresees a possible crackdown on manga as possibly in the cards. I wish I could say he's being an alarmist... but American history doesn't work that way. Meanwhile, here's the Associated Press' version of events, courtesy of News4Jax.com.

* Planning on being in San Francisco this Thursday? Swing by the "Save Zippy" rally in front of the San Francisco Chronicle offices. Read all about the campaign at Zippy's own website (the pertinent page is here), and you can even read a letter of complaint penned by none less than the ever-reclusive Garry Trudeau here. (Thanks to Eric Reynolds at the Journal board.)

* The Dave Sim Fun Parade continues. First, it seems as if the Onion's AV Club finally got that pesky interview... and I have to say I think Ms. Tasha Robinson deserves the Purple Heart for Journalistic Bravery. I almost wish Ms. Robinson had let herself rise to his bait a bit more - but as it is she did an almost superhuman job of ignoring his condescendingly belligerent tone. Secondly, the Village Voice takes a look at the history and legacy of "Cerebus" here. Meanwhile, Salgood Sam does a brave job here of trying to fight the unfightable: the horendously tortured house of cards Sim calls his logic. I love "Cerebus" but I gave up on trying to fight this years ago... I never sent that letter because I realized it just would do no good. If you set yourself up as soul arbiter of all that is Good and Righteous, it's kinda hard to hold a rational debate.

* Meanwhile, here's a Village Voice review of Bob Levin's excellent "The Pirates and The Mouse."

* Courtesy of Thought Balloons - Underground Online has a talk with one of the true wild men of mainstream comics, Mr. Steve Gerber, here.

* Ah, it seems I missed this one yesterday. Jamie S. Rich talks about last week's Wizard World LA, and relates his monumental disappointment at the industry’s myopia. I feel his pain, I really do. Read it here, courtesy of Oni Press. Meanwhile, MJ Norton over at Miraclo Mile (love that title, by the way) has a reply to Mr. Rich here.

* Planning on being in Montreal this Saturday? Then check out "Comix: A Blue View," featuring R. Sikoryak's "Carousel" presentation, as well as appearances by "Dirty" Danny Hellman, Billy Mavreas, Marc Ngui, Bernie Mireault and Sherwin Tjia, Read more about the event and how to attend here, link courtesy of The Pulse.

* Courtesy of Ken Avidor at the Journal board, we get probably the best "dark" Peanuts tale I've ever seen, here. It's great, it really is... amazingly, he manages to keep everyone pretty much in character despite them all killing themselves.

* David Fiore continues his descent into the madness of Morrison's "Doom Patrol" here.

* "True to form, the launch of Graham Kirk's new show, Superheroes in Auckland, was brimful of characters to rival the greatest of comic strips. And not just on the walls. One gallery-goer, who likened the painting Rupert and the Westhaven Marina to a view from her apartment, wasn't fooling anyone; she was, in fact, The Vendor, a super-vigilante charged with keeping the real-estate industry in check. And Frank, who claimed his rough-housing at the hands of police and a television network had forced some kind of legal precedent back in the 80s, was none other than The Computer Pirate. At the eye of this heroic hurricane was, of course, mild-mannered Taranaki artist Kirk, working the room, keeping tabs on his super-cadre." Read more here, courtesy of The New Zealand Herald.

* "THE DURHAM TOWNSHIP FESTIVAL of the Arts will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Durham-Nockamixon Elementary School cafeteria with Marvel Comics' Spiderman illustrator Scott Hanna. Hanna will conduct a free hands-on workshop for children on storytelling through illustration." Read more here, courtesy of the Morning Call.

* Marc Singer replies to JW Hasting's recent - and very interesting - essay on the neoconservative politics Kirby's "New Gods" here.

* Jim Henley's essay here continues to spawn interesting debate. Ms. Eve Tushnet has some pretty interesting thoughts on the great debate here. Basically, she points out that superhero critics such as myself are being, well, too damn literal minded... which is not a label I would particularly dispute, at least in this matter. Critics such as Tushnet see superhero stories as vast tapestries of interlocking metaphor and allegory, as far removed from naturalistic narrative, in their own way, as Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress." To a degree, I can buy this, and also, to a degree, I can see how this has served some of the more intelligent superhero creators in good stead over the years. This is not an argument that is entirely barren of interest to me.

The problem is that, for one, this is an argument that is entirely barren of interest to the vast majority of fans and creators. Most superhero works are just not constructed to withstand this deep an examination. They exist to perpetuate trademarks and characters. You have to ask yourself after a certain point whether or not you're reading more into the works that actually exists. I mean, I went to college, I can wax poetic about the sociological significance of a can of Coke as well as the next guy - but there reaches a point where you are staring at the magic picture waiting to see the sailboat and you realize there might not be a sailboat, just abstract shapes and patterns assembled at seeming random intervals in an attempt to produce a pleasing aesthetic effect.

Second, the metaphor and allegory in superhero stories is usually very simplistic. Sure, there are a few dozen good works we can all agree on... but then you start doing stuff like analyzing the significance of the mid-70's "Avengers" line-ups in relation to Cold War politics or something like that. Sure, you could do that, but wouldn't it be more interesting to just write about Cold War politics? Similarly, while the metaphor and allegory inherent in the average spandex book may strongly appeal to the adolescent and juvenile instincts for self-aggrandizement, I believe there reaches a point where these metaphors should lose their efficacy in all but the most extraordinary cases (ie the proverbial "Animal Man") - and that point I estimate to be right about where most people get laid. I believe that most people, if they want to read a book about inner-city crime, would much prefer to read a book on inner-city crime than a comic book with a man in black tights and a cape musing sullenly about inner-city crime. The metaphor becomes uninteresting because anyone who's been around the block knows every trope they could possibly trot out at this point. By that same token, in most cases, if I want to read a nice adventure comic, I'm going to prefer one that doesn't make too many deep philosophical statements - because chances are, unless that adventure comic was written by Mr. Alan Moore or Mr. Grant Morrison, its going to come across as ham-fisted and hopelessly bad (there are a few others I will trust with my metaphorical well-being in the realm of spandex funnies, but not many). Rare is the writer who can find something interesting to say about a limited subject that has been turned over by hundreds of writers before him. When such a writer comes along I will gladly give him my well-earned money in exchange for an enlightening reading experience, but I will continue to believe that such reading experiences are few and far between, and I will also continue to believe that the reasons for this have as much to do with the genre's inherent limitations as any shortfall of ingenuity.

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