Monday, April 04, 2005

Strange Things That Should Not Be

If you've read this blog for any amount of time you know I don't usually do the whole "linkblogging" thing anymore - I'm content to leave that to more qualified folks, for the most part. But every now and again a few things just demand to be passed on... not passed on like herpes, more like the Happy Cancer.

You probably know that I'm very stingy with my links. I don't link to everyone who links to me - not because I don't love you all, just because I only link to those blogs that I think are really, really worth reading. There are very, very very few blogs that I feel strongly enough about to throw my endorsement - such that it is - behind. I have just found another, however, and it's a doozy: Dandy Don Simpson's The Less Said The Better. It seems like not too long ago I was bewailing the fact that nobody in comics seems to be want to write about the intersections and overlaps between the fine art and comics worlds - well, Simpson does just that. Not only does he do that, but he seems willing and eager to throw around the kind of muscular theory that I , personally, can't get enough of. I'm only a few posts in, and already Simpson's blog is an absolute can't miss for me.

That said, he also says a number of things which I think are, at the least, extremely ill-informed - he doesn't seem to really have a grip on the current "art" comics scene, for one, and still seems to susbscribe to the kind of "art/mainstream" dualism that went out of fashion (for lack of sustenance) a while back. He seems intelligent enough to qualify a number of his more inflammatory comments, however, and I'd be interested in hearing if he really thought works like Louis Riel, Love & Rockets and Teratoid Heights didn't stand up favorably to the best of whatever the creme of contemporary fine/popular arts might be. The fact that he still confuses the almost-exhausted autobio movement with the vanguard of current alt-comics tells me that his information is woefully out of date - but he seems smart enough that I'd honestly like to see him grow out of his few misconceptions and catch up with the current debate.

I actually found a few minutes to read an illicit scan of Countdown... and I have to say my criticism of the actual book boils down to a few simple points:

  • The book would maybe work if you had never before read a superhero comic in your life, and didn't know that Superman, Batman and Co. aren't really super-dicks to their supposed friends.

  • It seems to me like the theft of 100 pounds of Kryptonite would be, far from the "false alarm" the other superheroes treat it as, a really big fucking deal. If someone you don't know has 100 pounds of a weapon that can kill three or four of the strongest dudes on the planet, it hardly seems like something you'd need to apologize for getting Dr. Fate out of bed early about. "Excuse me, Dr. Fate, we realize you were oh so busy being a useless third-stringer over in JSA..."

  • A lot of the stupidity just seems to stem from the fact that someone at DC is really upset by tonal inconsistencies. Every DC book that every deviates from "the norm" has to be rigorously explained away so that no-one gets antsy with having funny superheroes in the same universe as serious superheroes. Like, you don't have to "explain" the Giffen/DeMatteis JLA - just go on and use the characters if you want to. Like, I personally have no problems with thinking that Captain Marvel's squeaky-clean fun adventures happen in the same world as something like Batman: Year One if I'm going to enjoy either, it's not something I can get worried about. I would rather you not soil both characters by insisting on some absurd middle ground wherein neither escapes being tarnished.

    You will notice that despite all the stupid things they have done over the years, they have never felt the need to have some sort of massive crossover to explain how John Byrne's silly She-Hulk, Joe Kelly's funny Deadpool and Garth Ennis' super-grim Punisher could all co-exist - they just sorta do. It's OK> We understand these things.

  • It's pretty obvious that everyone involved in making these comics is transfering the social anxiety from their high-school years onto the superhero hierarchy. There's just something ugly about superheroes having the same kind of caste system as a third-period gym class. Aren't super-heroes supposed to be, y'know, cool and stuff?

  • Finally, haven't they already done the "Maxwell Lord goes evil" story? I seem to recall that from somewhere.

    I will also note that the whole mystical scarab MacGuffin gives them a pretty cut-and-dried method to ressurrect the Blue Beetle as some kind of "Grim and gritty" avenger of the night. Also, there was at least a little hint that Lex Luthor migth actually have been behind the events of Identity Crisis all along, which if correct, would prove, for those still keeping track, that these comics "events" really are more predictable than an episode of Pokemon

    "Hey, who are those strange people selling ballons? They look strangely familiar, and I don't think they're really sherpas, but do we know anyone with long angular red hair and a fake mustache? Hmmm. I wonder."

    Ok, I like Seaguy more than should be legal, but man, after reading Ian Brill's two -part coverage of a recent Grant Morrison public appearance makes me want to never read another comic of his again. I mean, seriously, people. If you keep encouraging him to do this, he will keep doing it.
    “It’s just fiction, but it’s not just fiction. It’s not something you make up; it’s something you participate in. You can’t fuck with it, it’s a paper universe.”

    "Morrison said, when it comes to working with the 2nd Dimension, he’s like one of those higher life forms coming down to working with these life forms of a lower dimension. A fiction suit is an avatar that brings him into the world, like in the last issue of Animal Man or the King Mob character in Invisibles where pretty soon he couldn’t tell what events were fiction and which was real. It can be considered a way of outrunning karma by transferring these different experiences to different characters, but ultimately karma’s about not dying with too many regrets."

    "Making an extended storyline was his way of making a 'hyper-sigil' that handles a lot of psychic energy. 'All that is terminology for stuff that’s just happening,' Morrison told us. Now Morrison has his own house in the country with a sun god a top that says 'God is in all of us.'"

    Makes you wish they'd bring back the old stereotype of the artist as alcoholic. I'd rather deal with liver failure than pretentious twaddle... sounds like someone believes his own press releases.

    He and Alan Moore are notoriously catty (or at least he is towards Moore, don't know if I've ever heard Moore say anything one way or another), but maybe he's just envious of the fact that Moore knows how to say weird things and not make himself sound like an idiot. Every time Morrison opens his mouth about "fiction suits" or "hyper-sigils", my eyes roll back in my head and I want to bash my head with a brick.

    While we're tangentially on the subject, man, the more I think about it the more Seven Soldiers seems like the sophisticated-superhero version of bear-bating. It's been designed to divide the comics electorate between "cool kids" and not-cool kids, people who "care" about old continuity and the people who are too cool for that. I've seen a number of people commenting on the series with something to the effect that "nobody cares about these characters in the first place" - but the fact that some people do care pretty much kills that theory. The fact that some people do care means that whether or not you will enjoy the series depends on a "litmus test" of sorts, whether or not you remember the Guardian's long post-Crisis history as a member of the Superman supporting cast or the fact that Klarion appeared numerous times in Peter David's beloved-by-many Young Justice series. Even someone like the Shining Knight - almost the definition of a cipher - still inspires loyalty from reviewers who maintain that "this doesn't bear much of a resemblance of the Sir Justin I like".

    I don't necessarily agree that characters should be wed to continuity one way or the other, but man, any book that makes a political imperative of chosing one side or the other of the debate in order to enjoy it is just too aggressively cynical in conception for me to get concerned about. Both Identity Crisis/ Countdown and Seven Soldiers ask the reader to pledge alliegance to philosophical viewpoints that, while diametrically opposed, are both the kind of ideological tempests-in-teapots that make fandom so utterly repulsive a place to spend one's time.

    In other words, I'll be content to enjoy Plastic Man for as long as it's being published, thank you very much.

    While you're here, take a look at this beautiful painting by Achewood's Chris Onstad:

    What'd I say about retro-computing coming back? There's still time to bid on the painting here.

    New Rejected Cereal Mascot here. And I'm out, dogg.
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