Friday, September 10, 2004


Well, howdy do - seems that I have been remiss in my duties here. If you recall, I sent my good pal Chinese Bizarro Spider-Man on a long and fateful trip. His first stop was Pmpknface’s Journal, and his first adventures, including an epic encounter with a turtle and a romantic rondevous with Batgirl, were chronicled here.

Well, that was a while back. The whole matter slipped my mind for a while (hey, I’m a bust man!) but I got to wondering just what the hell happened to my little buddy. Turns out he’s had some more adventures with ol’ Pmpknface here. Not only that, but CBS-M’s initial adventures were even "remixed" by the Mighty Mae Mai here. A splendid time was had by all! Where is our pal going to end up next? Last I heard he’s still in Boston chilling with Pmpknhead, but who knows where he’ll turn up next? Maybe here? Or here? What about here? Watch this space!

Now that I have a better webtracker, I am finding that some interesting people occasionally link to yours truly. In particular, a German site named Welt em Draht had something to say about yesterday’s Ditko post. I couldn’t understand exactly what he was saying, so my old pals at Babelfish translated it for me, and now it makes perfect sense!

Tim O'Neil, in whose headings R.E.M. weeks broke out, which personally very pleasant I find, are also further one of humans in Blogosphaere, which have to say really interesting things. Topic today: Steve Ditko, or more exactly: the kind as with is gone around its figures. Trip is the new The Question series and the guest appearance of The Question in the Justice League Cartoon. Tims position is that one not from the conservative characters, which Ditko in its objectivistic conception of the world created and for which clear property bad goods exist suddenly liberal of characters make may. It throws also a view of it, why the actually completely nice Doc Ock in the second mirror-image the one film Ditko in the grave would let rotate, if it would still not live.

Man, the wonders of modern technology know no limits, do they?

My good pal Dave over at Motime replied to my thoughts on his first Squadron Supreme post here. At the end of the day, I have to realize that Dave and I will probably never see eye to eye on this. I dislike formalists myself, but I also recognize the fact that I have some budding formalistic tendencies in my own thoughts on occasion. The fact is, I don’t think that I would ever judge a work of art "in the language of a dog show judge", but I can certainly understand why Dave might be so wary of this approach.

Dave is someone who is absolutely steeped in modern academia. I’ve had my own brushes with academia (dating back to my own college daze), and what I have seen of the formalist/structuralist (I realize there are subtle differences but for the sake of argument I’m conflating them) perspective on art and literature chills me to the bone. I remember very clearly a particularly galling Shakespeare lecture where my professor stated in no uncertain terms that it was a mistake to ascribe human psychological motivations to fictional constructs. I was stunned: this man was supposed to be teaching us about Shakespeare, probably the most uniquely human author who has ever lived, and he was trying to tell us that these wonderfully vivid plays were merely linguistic patterns and memes rearranged on paper? I remain deeply skeptical of anyone who comes at literature from this perspective. If you discount the essential humanity of art, than we are on a slippery slope that will only end when we judge all aesthetic achievement as a function of mathematical perfection.

That said, I have the highest respect for craft. I believe that craft is one of the most important tools an artist can use. Those who distrust craft usually have a shaky understanding of it, and it shows in their art. It shows in the fact that their artistic expression is limited by their limited artistic vocabulary. Craft without soul is meaningless, but when an artist of the first caliber is able to wield craft in the service of truly great art, the results are sublime. This is why Watchmen is so great. Form follows function: the meanings of the narrative, all the intricate layers and interpretations and themes and dialogues, are inextricably bound into Moore and Gibbons’ consummate use of craft to communicate their story. Gruenwald’s artistic collaborators on Squadron Supreme simply didn’t have the same level of skill, so their ability to communicate the story’s themes was stunted.

But if there is anything this discussion has convinced me, its that I need to go back and re-read on Squadron Supreme its been a few years . . . and by a few years I mean quite a while!

Oni Love Can Break Your Heart; Part VII

Hopeless Savages

Note: This isn’t the cover on my edition, its actually a pin-up.

I have to say that this was very disappointing. There are some scattered bits of cleverness here, but on the whole it is something of a hodgepodge mess.

The concept is this: a pair of punk icons, Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage, marry and raise a brood. The children (saddled with the hyphenated Hopeless-Savage moniker) are apparently all super-ninjas, or something. They don’t fight crime but they all seem to know how to kick ass.

I will admit that while I admire a lot of punk (need I say that I love the Clash and the Ramones and Black Flag and all that?), the rigid orthodoxy of certain old-school punk attitudes leaves me baffled. A lot of it strikes me as the same old sort of “be different from everyone else by being just like us” nonsense that has typified counter-cultures since the dawn of pop-culture.

The brood’s parents are kidnapped by paramilitary skinheads for nebulous reasons. In order to find their parents, the remaining three Hopeless-Savages have to find their missing brother Rat, who hadn’t been heard from in ten years. The thing that really rubbed me the wrong way was how this family regarded it as some sort of heretical sin when Rat decided to stop being a punk rocker and, you know, grow up. He gets a normal haircut, gets rid of his piercings, shows up in slacks and a button down shirt, and suddenly he’s not even a member of the family anymore. That hardly seems fair, and it comes of as repulsively chauvinistic. The fact that, after they do find Rat -- working a perfectly respectable 9-5 job -- and refuse to acknowledge him as their brother until he is back in full punk regalia and talking in a bad gutter-cockney, is simply abominable.

The story is very sloppily constructed. The kidnapping scheme is predicated on an unwieldy and rather daft idea, and plot revelations are parceled out at the very last possible moment. For instance, before the climactic action sequence, one of the characters announces that their band has a gig in three hours. This is just sort-of dropped into the story like the proverbial anvil, and the narrative runs with it. There’s no sense of pacing whatsoever, because the story regularly stops in its tracks to feature gratuitous flashback sequences.

I realize this is all intended with tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek, but I have a hard time laughing at what is, ultimately, a poor concept. I realize that the juxtaposition behind the undomesticated punk lifestyle and the suburban family motif is intended to be humorous, but throughout the book I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this is an extremely juvenile scaffolding on which to build a series (there are two more books so far in the series).

Christine Norrie’s art is competent, but there is a noticeable decline in quality throughout the course of the story. Chynna Clugston-Major (or is it just Clugston now? Didn’t I see that somewhere?) provides the art for the story’s flashback sequences. Her work is as charming as ever, even if I don’t care much for the story itself.

If it sounds like I’m being unduly harsh . . . well, I guess I am. But this book went out of its way to push every button in my book. I find myself repulsed by these characters and their selfish machinations, and I have no desire to have anything to do with them ever again.

A-1 Big Issue Zero

As much as I loathed Hopeless Savages, I absolutely adored the first issue of Atomeka’s new A-1 anthology. Most of these stories are reprints of features that have appeared elsewhere, but even taking that into account, this book is the most fulfilling comics reading experience you will have this month.

The book begins with seventeen pages of Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse’s fabled Bojeffries Saga. Every time you so a mention of this book, the analogy that is inevitably called to mind is “Charles Addams meets H.P. Lovecraft”. As much as I hate to agree with conventional wisdom, that is exactly what this is – and wonderfully so. The Bojeffries clan is essentially the Addams Family (the original New Yorker Addams Family, not the adulterated TV or movie versions) with Lovecraft’s post-Gothic sensibility grafted on. Even though these stories are – what, twenty years old? – they are still delightfully whimsical and precociously amusing in the way that only dreadfully, morbidly mordant can be.

There’s a five-page story by Steve Dillon that is about as beautiful as you would expect. This is obviously from early in his career (some original publication dates would have helped, guys) but his trademark clarity and gravity is still very much evident, even if his line is less sure than it would one day be. It’s a simple story about heartbreak, with no mystical or magical tomfoolery whatsoever. I’ve been a fan of Dillon’s for a long time – way before Preacher was so much as a twinkle in Garth Ennis’ pants – and his work is always a treat for me.

The one feature I’m not entirely sold on is Ronald Shusett and Steve Pugh’s Sharkman. This first episode didn’t really impress me, but Steve Hugh’s art has never looked better. They’re scanning this stuff directly from the pencils, and he has an extremely facile way with subtle gray shading.

The book finishes up with Dave Gibbons and Ted McKeever’s fabled “Survivor”. You’ve already heard about this story, I’m certain, and none of my praise will have any influence If you haven’t already read it. Leave it simply be said that its one of the very best things that either of these gentlemen have ever produced, and certainly one of the best superhero deconstructions, period.

The volume is rounded out with a wonderful four-page Flaming Carrot story by Bob Burden and Garry Leach. Hyperbole is useless: if I hype, you will assume I am merely exaggerating; and if I am demure, you will ignore. Leave it be said that this is a very smart and very satisfying package. Hopefully they will be able to continue this level of quality. If they can create as interesting a package every month (or quarter, or bi-month, or whatever) then the A-1 series should be thunderously successful, and deservedly so.

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