Monday, May 30, 2005

Doctor Doom’s Mailbag

Doom takes pride in answering all of his personal correspondence.

Dr. Doctor Doom,

I’ve been wondering for many years – how did you acquire the title of "Doctor", which requires a PhD, if you were expelled from Empire State University after your lab exploded during an attempt to contact the netherworld?

Curious in Chronopolis

Dear Curious,

While usually Doom would upbraid an underling for such impertinence, this is a recurring question, so for once he will deign to answer. You are correct in your apprehension: the fools at Empire State did not recognize his absolute genius, so he was indeed asked to leave before his desired studies were complete. But ultimately it turned out for the best, as he had quickly reached the limits of what I could learn in such a torpid intellectual environment. Doom’s mind is matchless, and once he had absorbed what pitiful scraps could be gained from an association with that wretched university, he was only too happy too leave. Doom’s studies were ever destined to lead him into the harsh and deadly realms of outer experience – subjects which certainly do not appear on the syllabus of any accredited university!

But in terms of his actual title, Doom earned his PhDs from the fine folks at the University of Phoenix, whose distance learning programs allowed Doom to complete his proscribed studies in Astrophysics and Advanced Mechanical Engineering without leaving the comfort of his castle. Also, although it is not commonly known, Doom possesses an MA in English Literature, meaning that he is qualified to teach literature and composition at most high schools and community colleges, should the need occur.

Dear Doom,

Have you been reading the “Infinity Crisis” lead-ins? As someone who’s been involved in a number of crossovers, I wonder what your opinion on the series so far has been.

Wondering at Wundagor

Dear Wondering,

Doom has indeed been following the events of the “Distinguished Competition’s” latest crossover, and he is singularly unimpressed.

The most impressive feat these books have achieved is managing to turn the beloved Batman into the worst villain in the DC Universe. How many “contingency plans” has Batman created, only to see them blow up in his face? How many times have his arrogance and disdain caused death and destruction? There is an old American saying, “with friends like these, who needs enemies?” While Doom usually shies away from common colloquialisms, it is definitely appropriate in this instance. Were Doom a resident of the DC Universe (and believe him when he says he is most grateful not to be), all that would be necessary to defeat those fools in the Justice League would be to stand back and allow Batman to sow chaos and dissention in their own ranks. Considering that he is indirectly responsible for the Blue Beetle’s death, it is surprising that Superman has not already ripped his head off at super-speed and thrown his twitching Bat-corpse into the sun. It is what Doom would do, were he in that situation.

Doom read the first issue of the Return of Donna Troy series and got a serious migraine for his troubles. He would almost swear that the issue was written in a foreign language, for all its inscrutability. Doom is without a doubt the most intelligent person in the universe, and yet even he could not decipher just what is happening – do his eyes deceive him, or is this a follow-up to the execrable War of the Gods crossover from 1991? The only thing worse than that would be if the big villain turned out to be Monarch.

Dr. Doom,

I’m wondering what your thoughts on the forthcoming
Fantastic Four movie are.

Querying in K’un-L’un

Dear Querying,

Doom has seen the preview and seen an early draft of the script. Suffice it to say that the liberties taken with my origins are inconceivable, and have earned the filmmakers the personal attention of Doom.

That Doom would ever consent to work alongside Richards for any reason, or that his Eastern European accent has been conveniently dropped, are bad enough – but that doom should need the aid of any artificial “super powers” is unconscionable. Doom is a self-made man, and he needs nothing except his own indomitable will and peerless intellect. Even Richards, still far Doom’s inferior, was only ever to achieve what limited progress in the sciences that he had achieved as a result of his secret manipulations of his own brain with his elastic powers. Why else would a fool unable to even properly shield a space rocket suddenly gain the ability to create interdimensional portals and sophisticated chemical compositions such as the so-called “unstable molecules”, if he had not artificially boosted his own brainpower with his silly stretching abilities? What little he has achieved would have been impossible without these enhancements, while Doom’s faultless brilliance has never been boosted by anything more than hard work and diligence.

Examine the record: Richards has never actually bothered to build his own time machine, being content to merely steal mine. Richards has never been able to cure his friend Ben Grimm of his horrid condition (even going so far as to deceive Grimm when he learned the true cause of his mutation during the first “Secret War”), whereas Doom was able to cure Sharon Ventura’s similar condition in the space of an afternoon. If he is as smart as he claims, Richards could easily rule the planet, and yet to date he has only been able to occasionally meddle in the affairs of his betters, creating occasional setbacks but ultimately failing to do anything more than maintain the abysmal status quo of his unfortunate nation. Even the Leader, for all his useless arrogance, was able to accomplish more with his Arctic Coventry . . . even a dilettante like Tony Stark has been able to effect more of an influence on the technological advancement of the human race. Richards is a tyro, and it shall be Doom’s greatest pleasure to finally prove his matchless superiority before the audience of the world.

What was the question? Oh yes, the movie . . . well, leave it be said that Doom is hardly holding his breath. The fools could not even get Grimm’s brutish brow-ridges correct, so I should not be surprised that they would be unable to properly translate the majesty of Doom to the silver screen.

But, much to his surprise, Doom was impressed with the trailer for the forthcoming adaption of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - it looks as if it will go a great way towards erasing the unpleasant memory of the abominable BBC production from Doom's memory. Perhaps they will also escape the slightly soggy sensation which accompanied the viewing of Peter Jackson's imperfect Tolkein adaptions.

Bah! Doom has answered enough questions for today! Enjoy your holidays whilst you can, Americans, for soon you shall all bow before the indescribable might of Doom.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Son Of DIY Remix

Leave your funnies in the comments, folks.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

New Stuff

Anyone who cares about such things is kindly directed towards my reviews of Jeffrey Brown's Miniature Sulk and Rick Spears and Rob G's Filler. The former is supposed to have half a dozen preview pages courtesy of Brett Warnock @ Top Shelf, but sometimes things happen, I guess...

Anyway, enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Lo, There Shall Come . . . An Ending!!!

Well, it took a few years off my life, but the Crisis On Infinite Remixes is finally over. You can read the double-sized cataclysmic conclusion here.

And just in case you missed 'em, here's the first three parts:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Hurting's Weekly Out-Of-Context Mark Trail Panel

For the Week of 05/11/05

The foul stench of dismal despair / Hung over the cartoonist's dismal lair.

(Maybe if Elrod keeps saying this, someone, somewhere, may actually believe it.)

The Hurting's Special Random Judge Parker Panel

Thanks to Mr. Brad Reed

Do do-do doodle-oodle do-do doodle-oodle.

(This reminds me of nothing so much as a particularly desperate Benny Hill sketch.)

For the Week of 05/04/05For the Week of 04/27/05
For the Week of 04/20/05 For the Week of 04/13/05
For the Week of 04/06/05 For the Week of 03/30/05
For the Week of 03/23/05 For the Week of 03/16/05
For the Week of 03/09/05 For the Week of 03/02/05
For the Week of 02/23/05 For the Week of 02/16/05
For the Week of 02/09/05 For the week of 02/02/05
For the Week of 01/26/05 For the Week of 01/19/05
For the Week of 01/12/05

Monday, May 09, 2005

Thursday, May 05, 2005

If I Ran The Comics Industry, Part Five


Part Four
Part Three
Part Two
Part One

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Finally! Actually had to download a new program to run a recovery on a disc that got blighted during a rcent systems SNAFU... but here it is! I am confident that this is a far more cogent and reasonable look at the matter, much more reflective of my actual thoughts on the matter and hopefully devoid of any blatant bits of stupidity.

"Born under a bad sign / I've been down since I began to crawl." - Number Four in an Open-Ended Series of Thoughts on the Aesthetics of Comics

The Platonic ideal of the isolated and singular cartoonist is an enduring image - Charles Schulz at his drawing board, toiling for fifty uninterrupted years. Certainly, there can be no doubt that the majority of truly great works in the field have been the product of singular minds. But it would be unnecessarily reductive - not to mention erroneous - to dismiss the smaller but still substantial body of work created by cartoonists in tandem, or by writer / artist teams. This is the exact attitude adopted by many in thrall of the conception of the "cartoonist as auteur" - mostly cartoonists themselves, it bears adding.

The backlash against commercial compromise is a faulty foundation on which to build a working model of art. Comics encompass such an incredibly wide and varied field of work that it is only the height of pique to imagine any particular style or production method as being any more or any less comics. Perhaps some artists can legitimately make a claim to cartoonist as a specifically individual calling -- Ivan Brunetti did as much in his recent Journal interview -- but even then we're on shaky rhetorical ground, the kind used as a roundabout way of denigrating "illustrators" or "draftsmen".

Judging art as a political extension of the means of production has always resulted in exclusionary didacticism to the detriment of aesthetics. To announce, blanketly, that art cannot be made by committee is to invite a thousand dissents from defenders of the Hollywood studio system or jazz or architecture or Homer or the Bible. But similarly, to dismiss the effect of commerce on art as trivial is to misunderstand the ability of commerce to warp the critical - and artistic - vocabulary. Anyone who knows anything about the history of punk music can see how the constant paranoia against the Bogeyman of "selling out" can limit horizons and stifle possibility. If I had to listen to nothing but bands on the Dischord label for the rest of my life, it would be a pretty boring life.

Historically, the prevalence of assembly-line comic books and strips in the American mainstream was the source of much of the alternative world's identity. Just fact that they were designated as the "alternative" or the "underground" for so long implies that they were conceived in a disadvantaged relationship to another way of being - born under a proverbial bad sign. Maybe this was true at one point, but it need not be true any more – and there is no good reason why these attitudes need to be advanced to the next generation, not when there are for more important values to transmit.

It's easy to see that there are economic factors at work here. Most American alternative comics don't pay very well, and consequently most of the popular artists are driven by obsessions more powerful than money - as threadbare as Chester Brown looks now, imagine if he had to pay someone else to draw his comics for him. As rare as that kind of dogged obsession is in an individual artist, imagine how rare to find two people sharing the exact same obsession, to the point of devoting their entire lives to the execution of said obsession? I don't believe for a second that if two young artists or an established writer / artist team banded together and decided to create the next masterpiece of comic art, they would have any trouble getting it published almost anywhere they wanted. But the economics just aren't there yet, at least not in America - or we'd see it happening all over the place.

The most influential generation of living cartoonists is the post-underground generation that came of age, artistically speaking, in the 1980s. The cartoonists of the underground didn't feel the need to contrast themselves so inexorably against the mainstream - they were doing something entirely different. They weren't economically beholden to a limited direct-market system for their distribution, and they weren't in competition with Superman for their rent money. But the first generations of Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly cartoonists were by and large dependent on the direct market for distribution (although this only got worse as the 80s turned into the 90s and the market contracted), and they were in direct competition with piles of crappy superhero comics. It's easy to see the resentment in the work of artists like Chris Ware, Chester Brown, Seth, Dan Clowes and Charles Burns. The passive-aggressive relationship of these artists to the crappy superhero comics of their youth is absolutely essential to understanding major portions of each of their bodies of work. The fact that Los Bros Hernandez have escaped this passive-aggressive relationship, and have each even accepted checks from DC Comics at times, betrays the fact that both Jaime and Gilbert's attitudes would be far more at home one generation removed from their closest peers.

Although I've spoken many times about limiting the influence of cinematic metaphors on our understanding of the medium, the movies do offer a wonderful framework with which to shape our understanding of the question of collaboration. Cinema is by its very nature a collaborative form - it is almost impossible to create a movie without help, and any movie created in such a singular vein would be pretty solipsistic, having only one actor, one writer, one cameraperson, editor, cinematographer, costumer, musician, etc (which isn't to say that it hasn't been done, because I'm sure it has). Even the most rigorous auteur to ever walk a soundstage was still dependent on dozens or hundreds of underlings to cooperate on the execution of a singular vision that became, by dint of said execution, a plural vision. By contrast, writing is almost always a singular act. Collaboration is not unheard of but it is rare -- look at the inherent novelty of something like Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions series. It also goes without saying that anyone who works in "serious" literature goes it alone automatically.

Comics are neither cinema nor literature, but instead take parts of both, in addition to multiple other disciplines, in order to create something different. Similarly, comics can be created in the modes of cinema or literature -- with either multiple creators cooperating to craft a singular vision or a singular artist working in isolation. There is no objective standard that places the product of the one method above that of the other. The only real standard is that of the work itself: is it any good? The fact that truly compelling works of collaboration in the North American branch of the medium are relatively rare only makes them more precious. Hopefully, as comics expand outwards from their ghetto, the prejudices on the part of solo cartoonists, as well as the stifling economic factors that force them to toil in isolation and obscurity, will at least partially dissolve.

Monday, May 02, 2005

If I Ran The Comics Industry, Part Four

Distributed to bookstores by partnership with WW Norton.

Part Three
Part Two
Part One