Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Punisher MAX: Butterfly

This is a good comic. Anyone who says this isn't a good comic because it reflects the personal experiences of the writer is simply full of shit. I've seen a lot of glowing reviews and I've seen a few savage reviews, and I find myself rather bewildered as to the latter. Sure, it's hardly a reinvention of the four-color wheel . . . but it's a well-told story told from a perspective not often seen in superhero comics. Yes, the perspective is clearly the author's; yes, there are many elements which might veer (for some) uncomfortably close to "personal" on the part of the author - tough shit. After Brian Michael Bendis' wife almost died he wrote, like, four comics featuring people sitting in hospitals waiting for their loved ones to pull through. After Jeph Loeb's son died, it seemed as if every other story of his was about mourning dead children - hell, he did that just this week in New Ultimates. Let's not even start about Warren Ellis' never-ending stream of Wired-subscribing Mary Sues. Or Steve Gerber's "Dreaded Deadline Doom." So if Valerie D'Orazio wants to write a story about a woman in a male-dominated profession who is targeted for writing a dangerous tell-all; if she wants to give her character issues stemming from childhood sexual trauma and dissociative disorder - fine. Tell the story well and I'll be on board.

By all means use superhero comics as a vehicle for some kind of personal expression - not many people can pull it off. Some who do can do it well - Howard the Duck is a great example, and that's the reason why anyone else writing Howard besides Gerber, regardless of their best intentions, falls flat. There are certainly many worse creators to model oneself after than Gerber. Butterfly is a good book because it finds, within the context of another in a very long line of predictable and formulaic Punisher stories, a unique personal hook, and it uses that hook to craft a good character study. I admit I like D'Orazio: I don't see the big deal in saying I've been a more-or-less consistent reader since she published the first chapters of her "anonymous" memoir. I'm happy to see her finding some degree of success in a profession that has treated her so crappily - we should all be so lucky as to find any kind of validation, regardless how measured, after kissing off an entire industry in the most public way possible. That's enviable, more power to her. I'm definitely glad she blogs.

I've never understand the absolutely visceral negative reaction to her on the part of some people. Accusing her of shameless self-promotion hardly makes sense, since shameless self-promotion is the byword on the comics blogosphere, and it's worth pointing out that some of the most prominent "names" in our circle of the blogging world have essentially abdicated day-to-day blogging because their blogging has opened the doors to many other more remunerative or creatively satisfying careers. There's nothing at all wrong with that. People blog for different reasons. Go read Neilalien's excellent debrief from his first decade blogging right here for a good rundown on just why the Granddaddy of all comics bloggers does what he does. I don't have the same kind of blog Neil does, but I like to think we're fighting the same type of fight - doing what we do because we like doing it, no more and no less, trying to communicate something with people who might be interested in hearing what we have to say. It's easy to tell a ringer for all that. I've never got the feeling from D'Orazio that she was blogging for anything but the "right" reasons - because she wanted to say something that someone might be interested in hearing. If she has a side career writing comics now? Good on her. That, based on her first big mainstream debut, she appears to be halfway decent at it, with a strong personal voice and a thematic program besides simply mushing a pile of random "fuck yeah" moments together to make some kind of storytelling Dagwood - well, that's pretty good too. I look forward to reading what she does next.

SO, to sum it all up: Bloggers gotta stick together. I feel a bit of sympathy for other bloggers who might get some flack for letting their personality slip over into their writing about comics, who consciously avoid cultivating any kind of put-on personality filter between their real, honest-to-God opinions and their keyboards. Nothing against the Kevin Churches and Chris Sims of the world - God bless 'em, they've been able to turn their blogging avocations into something resembling a real vocation, and I certainly admire their hustle. I certainly don't want to imply that they're doing anything for the "wrong" reasons, they've got their blogging bona fides well sorted. Hell, even the folks involved in the Fake AP Stylebook thing - a group whose ranks include many well-known and respected comics bloggers - good on 'em. Lord knows I have tried, intermittently, to use this blog for commercial purposes, but that hasn't worked out too well - and honestly, I can't really feel too bad that a fabulous writing career hasn't materialized, since my attempts to market my book online have never been anything more than feeble and half-hearted (mostly because I've been so busy the past couple years I haven't had it in me for "the hustle" necessary to make a serious go of online handselling, but that's a different story). I sold a story to an Australian arts magazine based on some blog postings, but all things considered I've actively lost more writing jobs than I've gained in the last few years - mostly because I've been busy, but there have been other reasons as well, none of which are worth going into now. (Maybe some day I'll write about my health problems the last year, but not now.) I have a lot of respect for anyone who has been able to turn their blog into this kind of professional lever - I would be a massive hypocrite to resent anyone's hard-fought achievements.

But to return to the point: anyone who blogs for any amount of time - as in, more than just putting up a Blogger page and posting a dozen times before eventually forgetting the whole thing, actually sticking with it long enough to cultivate some kind of distinctive voice and personal narrative - gets my respect. I'm less sociable than many bloggers, but I like to think I've made a few good friends through this whole thing - people like Neil, Tucker, Milo, Martin, Mike, Dorian - folks whose writing I admire and whose insight I genuinely respect. I've never - that I can remember - exchanged more than a few words with D'Orazio, but I'm happy to consider her a part of our little blogging community, and wish her all the best success with her future endeavors. I can't help but think that, inexplicable hatred aside, anyone who seriously begrudges her so-far earned achievements (and obviously still measured - she's got all of one published full-length Marvel comic under her belt, for Goodness' sake) might just be sipping a bit too deeply from the sour grape wine. Green is never a good color on you.

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