Saturday, July 31, 2010

Podcast for the Week of 07/31/10

Untitled, by Keith Haring (1988)

Back to life, back to reality - back to our regularly scheduled tour of early 80s dance rhythms.

Download the mix at Sharebee and Sendspace.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Argument For Rules

It's an old argument, true, and not a new one for this corner of the blogosphere, but it seems to have picked up some fresh steam as a new "meme" coming out of the recent Nerdapalooza in San Diego. I'll let you catch up here.

In response to a question posed regarding the relative ages of the various Batmen and Robins in his current series, Grant Morrison stated:
We've already got the real world. Why would you want fiction to be like the real world? Fiction can do anything, so why do people always want to say, 'Let's ground this' or 'Let's make this realistic.' You can't make it realistic because it's not. So basically Batman is 75 years old, and Robin is 74 years old. They don't grow old because they're different from us. They're paper people.
I think there are two points that can be made from this quote:

First, Morrison is right to deride a certain strain of contemporary mainstream craftsmanship that consistently seeks to ground even the most seemingly fantastic narrative within mundane and realistically-stylized boundaries. It's not hard to detect some lingering polemical ire towards the architects of "Nu-Marvel," who successfully reoriented the core of the Marvel brand towards a style of hyper-banal studied conversationalism that Morrison found particularly alienating. A book like Brubaker's Captain America or Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man benefits from that kind of grounding, but this approach is temperamentally unsuited to more elaborate modes of fantasy storytelling.

In all fairness, however, that doesn't appear to be the main thrust of Morrison's critique. Earlier in the panel, he said:
Then you've got an adult, and adults can not tell the difference between fantasy and reality. You bring them fantasy, and the first thing they say is 'How did he get that way? Why does he dress like that? How did that happen?' It's not real. And beyond that, when you're dealing with characters, they exist on paper. They're real in that context.
What does Morrison mean by "fantasy?" There are two colloquial meanings of fantasy at use here, seemingly interchangeably: first, fantasy as something that is axiomatically "not real," a usage that could be used to encompass any variety of daydreaming or strictly impossible activity. "I wish that I won the lottery" is a common enough statement, and for most of us it is strictly fantasy - we haven't and we never will win the lottery, but it's OK to fantasize about having done so. In and of itself, notwithstanding its high improbability, there is nothing fantastic about the idea of winning the lottery: it probably won't happen to you or me, but it is a real thing that can and does happen to real people. Just like getting hit by lightning, or having a one-night stand with a gorgeous celebrity - unlikely, but statistically possible.

These daydreams are a type of "fantasy" but they aren't Fantasy. Fantasy is a literary genre, and like all type of storytelling it is dependent on rules. Storytelling can't exist without rules. I can certainly sympathize with the sentiment behind Mark Waid's later comment that "Super-hero stories are not about rules. They're about flying." But it is strictly untrue. A strong argument can be made that the conceptual impetus behind superheroes is directly related to the fantasy impulse mentioned above: instead of winning the lottery, you have power - you can fly, you can lift cars above your head, you can right injustices without any unpleasant consequences, you can effect positive change in the world on your own. But the moment you extract this daydreaming impulse - what we'll call small-f fantasy, fantasizing - and insert it into the narrative structure of capital-F Fantasy, you've already entered the realm of rules. You can't escape rules once you begin any kind of storytelling.

And let's be clear, we're not talking about rules that a creator should or should not feel beholden to obey, continuity or power charts or whatnot, we're talking about something deeper, something hardwired into the nature of the human mind as a function of being a creature who exists to make sense of his environment. (For those with an interest, Daniel Dennet's Breaking the Spell is a great, jargon-light introduction to this kind of basic cognitive theory.) In Narratology, Mieke Bal offers a great description of the processes that our minds experience when we're confronted with a narrative of any kind:
A structural correspondence was assumed to exist between the fabulas of narratives and 'real' fabulas, that is between what people do and what actors do in fabulas that have been invented, between what people experience and what actors experience. It makes sense if one realizes that if no homology were to exist at all, no correspondence however abstract, then people would not be able to understand narratives. Two arguments have been introduced against this homology. Firstly, it has been argued that the difference between literature or art and reality has been ignored. Scholars accused French structuralist CLaude Bremond, for example, of this error on the basis of the latter's 'logic of events.' However, it is not a question of concrete identity but rather of structural similarity. Pointing out correspondences does not imply that absolute equality is being suggested. Another objection to postulating the 'real-life' homology is that, in certain types of narrative texts - for example, fantastic, absurd, or experimental - such a homology is absent; in fact, these texts are characterized by their denial or distortion of the logic of reality. This objection can be addressed in two ways again. The denial, distortion, or, as is now often said, 'deconstruction' of a realistic story-line is something altogether different from its absence. On the contrary, there is clearly something worth denying. This objection can also be countered with the argument that readers, intentionally or not, search for a logical line in such a text. They spend a great amount of energy in this search, and, if necessary, they introduce such a line themselves. Emotional involvement, aesthetic pleasure, suspense, and humor depend on it. No matter how absurd, tangled, or unreal a text may be, readers will tend to regard what they consider 'normal' as a criterion by which they can give meaning to the text, even if that meaning can only be articulated in opposition to that normality.[Emphases mine.] Bal, Mieke. Narratology. Second Edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2004.
Readers will always seek a thru-line throughout whatever text is presented them, and their desire to create consistency and stability in even the most abstruse or seemingly unreal narratives will increase in direct proportion to their investment in said narratives. If someone likes a story, they've already invested a great deal into making that story "work" on some level; if someone likes a story a lot, they've got a lot riding on whether or not that story "pans out," and are likely to expend a great deal of effort to make the various moving parts move in a satisfactory manner.

To a large degree the reader creates his or her own rules as they read - interact with - the text. Artists can be as helpful or unhelpful as they desire, but an invested reader will work hard - consciously or no - to define the parameters of the fictional world in which they've become invested. To follow the metaphor: readers want a return on their investment. If a reader becomes really, really invested, they'll work hard to provide their own authentication, much in the same way a motivated investor with 10,000 shares in GM would refuse to buy any car but a Chevy. At a certain point the logic of the investment takes on a life of its own, and the premise becomes infinitely self-replenishing. Deriding this commitment seems, at best, petty, and at worst positively mean-spirited.

Every text provides its own authenticating devices - something as seemingly small as "Once upon a time" at the beginning of a fairy tale, or as big as the Official Handbook of the marvel Universe Deluxe Edition authenticating the parameters for an entire ongoing fictional construct like the Marvel Universe. Most authenticating happens in the area of setting, but a clever fantasy story unravels the "rules" of its setting as it goes along, allowing the reader to experience them as if they were an active participant in their creation - which, in the strictest sense, they are, because the rules of a fantasy world only work if the reader agrees to participate. To understand this principle, imagine the inverse. We've all had the experience of watching a sci-fi or fantasy movie with someone who has very little interest or understanding of the genre, and who keeps asking questions like, Why are they doing that? Why does that person look like that? Why does the monster want to eat people? Etc, etc. It's not a fun experience because your companion hasn't agreed to participate, they're a "hostile collaborator" whose refusal to understand the premise of the operative fantasy rules hobbles their ability to understand the most basic features of the narrative .

There's a tacit agreement between the audience and the author that both parties have entered into their transaction with good faith. The author, for their part, has almost infinite power to bend and shape the rules of reality to their pleasure. Especially in terms of explicitly fantasy narratives, the reader will extend their suspension of disbelief to the breaking point and beyond, if their investment is strong enough. How many deflating season-ending cliffhangers have Doctor Who fans endured these past few years, buoyed almost solely by the strength of their affection for the idea of Doctor Who and all the wonderful characters and ideas his particular fictional universe has to offer? As bad as New Who has occasionally been, I've rarely felt as if the creators weren't playing fair with me.

Rules in fiction are like spandrels in architecture: regardless of the author's intentions, they appear in the most inconvenient places. When you're dealing with superheroes you're dealing most importantly with narrative conventions that appear in many instances to actually be rules. The "idea" of the superhero may be pure fantasy, but superhero stories are themselves products of decades worth of laborious genre-building, the product of thousands of creators and IP harvesters working to define the whys and whyfors of this strange hybrid corner of the pulp universe. You can argue all you want about whether or not these rules and conventions are good or bad, but at the end of the day they simply are. Most creators figure out at some point that very good stories can be told through the selective circumventing of these rules: the "deconstructionist" superhero stories of the eighties and nineties made their mark precisely because those creators got the knack for building whole stories out of the act of selectively breaking rules. Writers like Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Morrison himself used the amassed corpus of established conventions as their "text," and their stories as the "readings" which dismantled certain established one or another of the myriad rules surrounding the genre. (Deconstruction is, most importantly, an act of reading which acknowledges the textuality of the object being deconstructed.)

Readers will always work to "ground" their fiction, because that's what readers do. For a creator to argue against this natural grounding activity is to argue against an active engagement with their own works, because it naturally follows that any involved reader will want to extend the benefit of the doubt to any text in which they become invested. You can't have it both ways: Fantasy literature is based on small-f fantasy, yes, but once you acknowledge the connective tissue between reader and text that creates the suspension of disbelief that creates emotional investment, you can't wave your hands willy-nilly and simply disregard whatever you like. Because disregarding out of hand the audience's strong tendency towards rationalizing their investment is, to put it bluntly, insulting.

(And this is, of course, where the line between real-world authors and the idea of the "Author" as a construct begins to blur - how fortunate for Homer that he died before he had to answer questions from fanboys. As much as we like to think we can keep our understanding of the two kinds of authors separate, it's increasingly hard for an invested reader to do just that - if an author like Grant Morrison is going to make sweeping generalizations, it's hard for me not to ascribe certain prejudices to the theoretical Author construct known as "Grant Morrison.")

Fiction is not just fiction, fiction is a set of rules by which the author and audience agree to cooperate. Audiences can be remarkably forgiving: in these long-term superhero universe constructs we have wacky things like "sliding timescales" and "retcons" and "reboots" which, while technically egregious violations of The Rules, exist to enable the stories to perpetuate themselves relatively free from noxious hinderance. Every once in a great while creators are faced with the unpleasant necessity of writing a story like "One More Day" - a story which can best be compared to the act of ripping off a Band-Aid as quickly as possible in order merely to get it over with. It might sting but eventually the red marks go away. As much as fans might dislike that particular retcon and its troublesome ramifications, it was - strictly speaking - a fair play. There was a large degree of hand-waving involved, but if fans ultimately judge that the benefits outweigh the cost - the immediate aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths was ugly and confusing, but few would argue at this late date that it wasn't a story worth telling for a goal worth achieving. It may have seemed ugly and mercenary, the definition of "checkbook storytelling," telling a story solely out of a desire to balance the books - but sometimes those are necessary stories to tell for the long-term health of a franchise.

So yeah, rules are important. Sometimes in these conversations it's hard not to detect a whiff of a straw-man here, as if there is a hypothetical nerd sitting over the creators' shoulder waving their precious copy of OHOTMU in the air and screaming about whether or not the Hulk is stronger than Thor. And it goes without saying that that hypothetical nerd isn't really very hypothetical, and all you need to do to prove that is to spend five minutes reading Tom Brevoort's Formespring account. But there's established practices in comics that involve a certain obeisance to mutually established guidelines - let's call them rules. Rules can and are broken, and you could even argue that without the ability to bend and break genre-specific expectations the genre - any genre - would wither and die. But you can't just say "Anything can happen in fiction and paper" and expect people to take your stories seriously.

People care about these stories, people become invested, precisely because there is a sense of expectation that the writers are going to play fair, and that when rules are broken they will be broken fairly. Animal Man is a great example because although it breaks a few huge and obvious cardinal rules of fiction - like, you know, the whole breaking-the-fourth-wall and meeting the author thing - it actually lays out the means by which it does so in a very methodical and satisfying fashion. If you read all 26 issues of Morrison's initial run, you see a very well-told story that is very conscious of how and why it's breaking the rules it's breaking, and how exactly the breaking of these rules allows the story to achieve its desired effect. The final confrontation between Buddy and Morrison is so effective precisely because we know that Superman never got to meet Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. But it's all there, from the beginning, that this was the story Morrison was telling and these were the parameters by which he was abiding - you may have been surprised when Buddy started talking to the reader, but it wasn't a cheat unless you were an unusually thick or literal-minded reader. A lot of Morrison's later work feels like a cheat, however - many of his latter-day stories feel, at best, sketched-out, and they leave a lot of room for interpretation. Denying the necessity of the reader's active interpretation, arguing against the readers' desire to make sense of their fictional surroundings to the best of their ability - that seems counter-intuitive. You can certainly say that "Fiction can do anything," and to a degree you'll even be right. But fiction can't undermine itself without ostracizing a large part of its readership. Morrison is a very popular writer, and I can't help but think that on some level - despite his protestations - he doesn't need me to tell him this.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Podcast for the Week of 07/24/10

(Scene from Robert Parrish's 1963 movie In A French Style)

This week we have a very special treat - our first-ever GUEST PODCAST, curated and chosen by none other than Violet. This week we're plunging into the heart of war-torn 1960s France, for a look at the strange phenomenon of yé-yé and the cute girls that sung it. Those unfamiliar with yé-yé might be interested in Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 film Masculin, féminin, the protagonist of which is Chantale Goya, a yé-yé singer in the movie as in real life.

Download the mix at Sharebee and Sendspace.

One track which did not make the cut for this week's podcast was "Le Vampire" by Stella, a good copy MP3 of which could not be located. But you can enjoy it anyway:

Stella Le Vampire
Uploaded by Leroidukitch. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Monday, July 19, 2010


X-Men: Second Coming #2

Has enough time passed for eveyone who cared to read the story and see what happened? Last thing i want to do is piss anyone off by spoiling the dramatic death of Forbush Man . . .

OK, ready?

Much to my surprise, I actually didn't mind this whole Second Coming foofaraw. I think, as someone who has spent way too much time thinking and writing about the X-Men, the story did a number of very necessary things in order to begin putting the franchise back on the tracks. Whether or not it succeeded is another matter which we probably won't be able to judge for a while - and perhaps most importantly, we won't be able to judge until we have the sales figures from the core books' imminent soft reboots.

One of the most fascinating bits of subtext for the last couple years' X-Men stories is the idea that the X-Men aren't the center of the comics universe anymore. Marvel as a whole hasn't really seemed to mind since the Avengers books are as ubiquitous now as the X-Men were at their height. (Of course, at its height Uncanny X-Men was selling three-quarters of a million copies a month whereas Bendis' Avengers sells an eighth of that and still manages to be #1 in an emaciated marketplace - but that's neither here nor there.) Considering how long the X-Books had coasted on their preeminence and sheer institutional mass, falling out of the #1 spot resulted in years and years of flop-sweat panic under the guise of odd storylines and off-kilter crossovers. Allow me to use one of my very rare sports metaphors: the Yankees have, historically, often been at or near the top of the MLB. Because of their eminence, they take their success for granted, and when the natural success evaporates they get pissy and downright sullen. So to did the X-franchise flounder terribly when it was no longer automatically #1.

The good news is that Second Coming actually, finally, does what everyone has wanted to see since House of M: undoes the more penurious effects of M-Day while still acknowledging the overall necessity of the deck-clearing exercise. I've said all along that M-Day was a great idea in theory, on the principle that what the books needed was a Scourge-level massacre to clear away the tons of dead weight clogging up the franchise since the early 90s. (A few other people in my comments mentioned Scourge the last time I discussed the X-Books, and they were right to do so: that should have been the model all along.) If the books were no longer the #1 franchise in comics, they needed to be leaner in order to accommodate this reality. I think, over the course of this crossover, we've seen a solid picture of just what the leaner status quo should look like: a somewhat pared-down cast, action-centered plotlines, more actual soap-opera. I could still do without every story being a referendum on the books' central metaphor - when was the last time the X-Men fought Moses Magnum, for goodness' sake? - but now that Bastion is out of the way and there are no major existential threats on the immediate horizon, I think the books should be a tad lighter from here on out. If they just manage to lighten the tone coming out of this era, than I think we can call Second Coming a success purely on those grounds.

As for the story itself? Pretty good, if you can manage to avoid a few potholes. Pothole #1: the X-Men have a healer with pretty miraculous abilities named Elixir. People lost hands and legs and got impaled left and right - where the hell was Elixir when all this was happening? For that matter, where is he now? He's been portrayed as sufficiently powerful enough in the past that regrowing Xian's leg shouldn't be too difficult. Now, obviously, having Elixir in the storyline robs it of a great deal of potential impact, but if you're going to have a character like Elixir, you need to give us a damn good reason why he's not healing everyone left and right. For that matter, it would have been nice if he had been able to heal Magneto's exhaustion and get him out of the sick bay.

Pothole #2: You pretty much knew that X-Force was going to come back through Bastion's portal from the future even -especially - after they took the effort to make sure we knew that organic matter couldn't pass through it. So . . . Cable sacrificed himself how, exactly? Letting the techno-organic virus take over his body somehow made him a bridge for the other members of the X-Force team who were regular organic? Hunh. I guess when it comes to these things, "comic book science" is all the hand-waving we should need. But still! How exactly does that work?

One thing that bugs me is Cable's death: I admit, I like Cable. He is such a pure and unadulterated product of early 90s superhero culture, a total reflection of the power fantasies of late 80s adolescence, that as a character he remains strikingly pure. His contrived, contorted origins, his enigmatic and constantly shifting motivations, his unimpeachable authority as a CLint Eastwood-esque fantasy father-figure for a generation of latchkey nerds - it's so much of a piece with a certain era of comics history that now, in the early 2010s, he's like a living coelacanth. But I also know he won't be dead for long. Resurrection is one of Cable's powers just as much as telekinesis: off the top of my head he's probably had more on-screen deaths than any other X-character, ever. (Magneto has maybe had more, I'm not sure, but do villainous, "I suspect we haven't seen the last of him!" deaths count in this derby?)

Pothole #3: Not so much a pothole as a pretty obvious and annoying "TO BE CONTINUED." What exactly is Hope? If you read the last battle at the Golden Gate bridge carefully, she is actually just copying a number of other mutants' powers - Armor's armor, Colossus's steel arms, Cyclops' eye blasts, Iceman's ice. Only at the end of her battle with Bastion does she appear to actually go "full Phoenix" - and then again at the very end of Second Coming #2, she manifests as Phoenix very briefly for Emma Frost. (Although Hope herself seems blissfully unaware of any of this.) I have no idea if the people currently writing the books read Alan Davis' run on Excalibur - which pretty definitively answered many questions regarding the Phoenix - but it seems as if the Phoenix as it is currently conceived is primarily concerned with ensuring the continuation of the X-gene after it was expunged from the human genome by the Scarlet Witch. (It will be interesting to see - if they ever get around to writing the story - what will happen when Rachel Summers finally returns from space to find that the Phoenix has taken up with a new host after abandoning her in the run-up to War of Kings.) Whether or not this means that Hope is actually the reincarnation of Jean Grey remains to be seen, and it is somewhat annoying that these questions were not resolved at all by the end of this storyline. This just means we know what the next big X-over is going to be about, and it's somewhat annoying when these things are so darn predictable. (They usually are, but that's part of "the fun.") Are you ready for War of the Phoenix? Or how about The Return of the Phoenix? Coming Summer 2011!

Birds of Prey #3

"Don't think I'm not keeping score. Don't think I'm not going to make someone pay that tab."

"They're rogue cops, Dinah. They shoot to kill."

"What's happening is we're finishing this. . . . We're done playing."

"I always thought there were few problems of this nature that a bullet couldn't cure."

"Your families? I will void my bladder on their broken corpses!"

Avengers Academy #2

This is a really good book and I hope it lasts for years and years.

I like the way they've established two different levels of plot: you've got the actual kids in the Academy, a group of dysfunctional powder kegs adopted by the Avengers because of their potential to become dangerous super-villains, and then you've got their tutors, Avengers with checkered pasts like Hank Pym, Quicksilver, Tigra and Justice, all of whom are themselves potential loose-cannons with plenty in their pasts to regret. I like these books that focus on the also-rans and never-weres - they seem to crop up a lot now, books comprised of secondary and tertiary characters that appear to be designed specifically to rehabilitate and refurbish these old properties by attaching them - however peripherally - to a recent event or popular crossover. When the bigger books rewrite and ignore continuity with impunity, it's nice to have these smaller corners of the mainstream superhero universes where us old-timers' can appreciate the pleasurable interplay of decades' worth of continuity and accumulated characterization without having to worry about it being ignored or underplayed for no discernable reason.

This is an example of creative types taking advantage of a seeming bug and turning it into an effective feature: everyone knows that new books are always spun out of crossovers, so you might as well use the phenomenon to put lesser-known characters in the spotlight instead of just the umpteenth Wolverine spin-off. When the creative teams actually appear to have some interesting ideas with which to play - as is the case of this, the new Thunderbolts, Secret Avengers - the results are gratifying and can be far more interesting than the usual stock shenanigans of the top-tier books. Two issues in I actually like these characters and am interested in seeing where they go. I've read enough Avengers stories that even the most charitable part of me can't get too worked up over Bendis' umpteenth variation on a theme. (Seriously, it doesn't help that I just reread Avengers Forever last month - Avengers time travel stories have a pretty big bar to leap, and the new Avengers relaunch just ain't cutting it.) But this? This is a nice little curveball of a book that slipped in under the door when everyone was paying attention to the far higher-profile relaunches, so it can afford to be a bit more interesting. Everybody should go read this right now.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Podcast for the Week of 07/17/10

My best friend from high school is getting married today. This has provoked some pondering on my part over the last few days. Longtime readers of this blog probably remember that I've been married - was married for quite a while actually. I'm uncomfortable around other peoples' weddings because my own ended poorly. I eloped the first time I got married and when I get married again it will undoubtedly be another radically small affair: my family has never been big on ceremony in any way shape or form. But my friend is going the whole nine yards, sending out RSVP cards and online gift registries and everything. It seems almost impossibly idyllic, at least in theory. Kind of alien, I confess, to my own experience and preferences, which is probably the major reason I feel out of place in these situations. I guess I should wish them well but I don't really need to, I think they're going to be just fine.

Oh well, I'm babbling. Here's the mix in Sharebee as well as Sendspace, since I have received complaints that neither site works 100% for all computers.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Amazing Spider-Man #637

Oh my god it's been so fucking hot for weeks now, I haven't been able to concentrate enough to do jack or shit, let alone both jack and shit at the same time. But there's always comics - dear, sweet, slutty comics, always good for a jerk off in the back of a sweltering Oldsmobile, even when you can barely focus your thoughts through the haze of red heat enough to remember to drink enough fluids to keep from dying.

What's this, again? The culmination of a years' worth of stories and subplots? Really, Marvel? This is your "final answer"? You go to all the trouble of bringing back Kaine - pleasing those folks with misguided fond memories of all things clone - only to fake us out with a really gorey on-panel death. It has all built - towards what? A Julia Carpenter relaunch? OK, I don't mind, I always liked her when she was a West Coast Avenger, even though she hasn't done shit all since then. Maybe someone has an idea for her? Where was the Shroud when all this was happening, or did they break up off-panel?

Here's the deal, it's an old rule from improv class, you should never say "no." Saying "no" closes off possibilities, saying "yes" leads you in unexpected and potentially fruitful directions. Sometimes it reads as if the people who write these comics have a hard time saying "yes" to anything, because every plot ultimately leads towards something much smaller and more banal than anyone expected. It's like, how many story possibilities did they leave on the table by the time Dark Reign wrapped up in Siege? You don't say "no," you say "yes." The Gauntlet seemed at the outset like it was going to be a classic epic slobberknocker - but ultimately, it fizzled out without any real through-line, just a bunch of soft reboots of old villains, all of which were only as good as the responsible creators. There was that pretty great Mysterio story by Dan Slott, a poor Electro story by Mark Waid, an unbelievably crass and sleazy Lizard story by someone I can't even remember. In between somewhere there was a pretty awesome Juggernaut story that they didn't even bother to tie into the Gauntlet even though there was really no reason it was any more or less connected to the overarching "theme" than any of the other pieces. All building up a big wet fart of an anti-climax, where Spider-Man almost CROSSES THE LINE and stabs the man who killed a bunch of people and almost killed him a number of times - but boy, if you cross the line and kill a horrible mass-murderer, it's only one step away from become an outcast pariah murderer so awful that even famed serial murderer Wolverine will personally point the accusing finger of morality at you as they kick you out of the Avengers. Because it's not like Thor hasn't killed probably thousands of people over the centuries just because, you know, he got drunk in Svartalfheim that one time and decided to flood Denmark or something. Point being, all these comics know how to do is to paint themselves into corners and just scream "NO NO NO NO" as loud as they possibly can.

Shadowland #1

Speaking of moral hypocrisy, there's this big fat piece of shit. Pardon my french.

I guess the Heroic Age means that superheroes get to be moral coward hypocrites, now that they're not living in the shadows and being hunted by the government anymore. Has no one at Marvel or DC ever read Lord Jim? I don't mean to harp on this same note, but Jesus H. Christ they keep strumming this same tune over and over again long past the point of it making any sense whatsoever: if you ever find yourself in the position of being able to kill a mass-murderer - even a mass-murderer in the process of carrying out another act of mass-murder - you can't actually kill him without becoming no better than a mass-murderer yourself. Those are The Rules. All of which is just - well, the problem is that the moment they started having villains kill indiscriminately, they kept the heroes arms' tied to the Hoyle's Rulebook. Simple solution: don't have villains kill so much anymore. Be creative. When was the last time a superhero had to bust his ass to stop a jewel heist? Or how abotu kidnapping a foreign dignitary? All good ideas. But no: it's all ninjas and dark murder cults, no wonder the kids don't give a shit. I can barely give a shit and I get off on bad comics for a living.

But this isn't bad fun, like The Room by American Auteur Tommy Wiseau, this is bad boring, like watching some late-night Cinemax original movie - not one of the porn ones that are at least slightly interesting because, hey, is he performing cunnilungus on her belly button, because that angle is really not right - but one of those movies where Tom Berenger's second cousin plays a former cop out for revenge because the mob framed his kid brother for selling dope to crippled Eskimaux. You've seen all the bits before, only this time they don't even bother to try and mask it with something besides frank contempt for their audience. First of all, Daredevil building an Evil Dojo in the heart of Manhattan - OK, I think I already see a problem in your story. Second, and here's the clincher, we're supposed to think that Daredevil has finally CROSSED THE LINE by shanking Bullseye. Come on, I'm sorry - if you had Daredevil killing, I don't know, the Matador or Stilt-Man or something, that would be CROSSING THE LINE. But Bullseye? The same Bullseye who's got a body count somewhere in four or five digits? I'm sorry, folks: if I came across a mass-murderer with that kind of body count walking free on the streets, and I had a sai in my hand . . . look, let's not beat around the bush, let's go right to the heart of the matter. Someone like Bullseye, in these comics, has a body count somewhere in the vicinity of Osama Bin Laden. If you saw Osama walking around downtown New York and you had the opportunity to stab that fucker, wouldn't you? I mean, really - I'm a goddamn pacifist, never thrown a punch in anger in my whole life, but if you had the shot for Osama and you didn't take it, you'd never be able to look yourself in the eye again for the rest of your life. But Daredevil, nope, he can't possibly ever kill someone who up-close-and-personal murdered not one but two "loves of his life." I'm sorry, this is just moronic - if they can't write a story that doesn't insult my common sense so aggressively, then they don't deserve my money, and I'll be damned if being able to buy and read this turd SAME DAY AND DATE on my iPad will make this turd seem any less stinky. (Note: I do not have an iPad.)

The Thanos Imperative #2

One of the problems with living in the internet age is that pretty much every whim can be satisfied immediately. Like, years ago I remember hearing about how the RZA's instrumental soundtrack to the movie Ghost Dog was released only in Japan, and was entirely different from the rap tie-in soundtrack they released in the states. I tucked this info into a distant corner of my brain, thinking I might see the Japanese version used somewhere at some random point in the future, but unable to bring myself to pay who knows what kind of ungodly tariff to order the disc new from across the Pacific Ocean. Fast forward to earlier this week: I've been going through a mini-Wu Tang phase since I rediscovered how awesome Liquid Swords is, so I remembered about that RZA disc I never got the chance to hear back in the day. Short story short, I went online, found a torrent and the complete album was on my hard drive within five minutes. What's the moral? Basically, the album is OK but it's not as great as my mind had imagined for all those years. If I had found a used copy in a dusty record store somewhere in the last decade, would I appreciate it more than now, when I was able to easily find the music for free with no effort whatsoever?

That's a question I can't answer. I can say, however, with no small degree of confidence, that you are unlikely this year or the next to see anything cooler than a giant Lovecraftian centipede starship built out of Galactus' skull. That is exactly what this comic has to offer, it's beautiful, I didn't know I even wanted it but now that I have it I know for certain I've never wanted anything more.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Podcast for the Week of 07/10/10

What the hell let us do this thing.

EDIT: Due to popular demand I've also went back and will continue to offer Sendspace downloads for those whose machines can't do Sharebee. Here's this week on Sendspace.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Twinkie Kid

One-two one-two
Huh, one-two one-two one-two
That one fronts
Braggin' on the stunts
Cream in your cake
Eat up your yellow cake
That one fronts
Braggin' on your stunts
Cream in ya cake
Eat up your yellow cake
Here comes a Chocodile
Look good in that magazine
Spider-Man ad
They look after I
Ding Dongs and Ho Hos
Got me like Jesus
Ding Dongs and Ho Hos
Got me like jesus
Sno Balls and Zingers
Those'd be my first sins
Chewing on this creamy filling
It's a Hostess page
It's a new age
As long as you're tasty
Let you be all fat and pasty
We eat everything
Always and ever
Has been has been
Heard there's fruit pies and donuts
With tiny holes
Same as it ever was
Tell me what the filling is
It's surreal
They're not real
I put them on my mouth and chew
They used to call me Twinkie Kid
I had the cream inside me hid
I had the cream, and golden cake
Now they call me superstar
Tell'm where you at baby ahhhh!
They used to call me Twinkie Kid
I had the cream inside me hid
I had the cream, and golden cake
Now they call me superstar
Are you disturbed? I'll be with . . .
Everybody wants to know where my cream is
I'll tell you everything
Tell your life
Look deep into my creamy fill
Tell me what you see
Tell me what you see
Tell me what you see
When you look into this creamy fill
Fuck it the deal
Everybody wants to be yellow and creamy
Yellow and creamy
And everybody wants to be yellow and creamy
Yellow and creamy
And everybody wants to be just like me
The Twinkie Kid
And creamy
Check it
They used to call me Twinkie Kid
I had the cream inside me hid
I had the cream, and golden cake
Now they call me superstar
Are you disturbed? i'm on with . . .
Everybody wants to know where my cream is
I'll tell you everything
I tell you lies
Look deep into my creamy fill
Tell me what you see
Check it
What do you see?
If you chew and swallow the cake
We're gonna get cream filling
And we're starting to unwrap your wrapper
And everybody who got a Hostess deal
And everybody wants to be yellow and creamy
Everybody's got a Hostess deal
And everybody wants to be yellow and creamy
Yellow and creamy
Everybody wants to be just like me
The Twinkie kid
And famous
Ha ha
And everybody wants a Hostess deal
And everybody just wants to be like me
I'm the kid

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Podcast for the Week of 07/02/10

No complaints about Sharebee, so we'll continue with them for the time being. No real preamble this week - here's the mix!

EDIT: Due to popular demand I've also went back and will continue to offer Sendspace downloads for those whose machines can't do Sharebee. Here's this week on Sendspace.