Thursday, December 30, 2004


New remix is up - and that's right, it's the very LAST "Identity Crisis" Remix - ever! Hope you enjoy.

Why Comics?

The other day I overheard another conversation relating tangentially to the topic of just why people talk about comics to begin with. Of course, the big argument these days seems to be the same old argument about scope and breadth: do you cover all of comics, or just a small-sub category? Are you honest about what you cover/don’t cover? Do you make your prejudices known? Are you even aware of your prejudices?

These are important questions for every person involved in this pundit/blogger/bloviator game to ask themselves occasionally. But the more important question is: why the heck are we talking about comics in the first place?

Well, the answer that immediately comes to mind is that the only possible reason you would have to be blogging about comics in the first place is the fact that you have a special interest in comics above other arts. In all seriousness, why would you bother writing about comics if you didn’t really care for them and about them, or liked them far less than you did, say, movies or novels? Why not just write about movies or novels or poetry or pottery or whatever, if that’s what holds your interest?

So the assumption is that if you’re writing about comics at all – especially with the low signal to noise ratio inherent to the medium and the extremely low rewards involved – you must hold comics in a special place in your heart. If not, well, why bother?

I read a lot, I hear a lot, and I like to think that I’m open to just about anything. But at the end of the day, nothing gets me excited as much as comics. Anyone who’s spent anytime here knows how seriously I take my music writing, and that is very important to me – but as much as I love music, that is an affair of a relatively recent vintage (at least, like most people, I didn’t really get going in music until high school or thereabouts, early interests notwithstanding). Comics, however, are a pre-liminal fascination for me. My earliest memories – literally, my very first memories – are inextricably bound with comics. I’ve always been fascinated with the medium, in one way or another, and oftentimes to the exclusion of all other mediums.

Like everyone else, I didn’t spring from the womb reading Chester Brown and Jim Woodring. I had to live a while and learn some things before I could come to embrace everything that comics represented. I hope to live a while longer and hopefully I will have the time and resources to experience everything I want to in the field – which would be practically impossible in any other medium but comics, where it is merely improbable.

There’s something about the medium that exerts a pull which I cannot really comprehend. I have extremely low tolerance for crap in most other mediums, but I love crap comics. I try to keep an open mind in most other mediums and genres, but in comics I can’t help but be fascinated by everything. There are a few genres I’m just not very fond of – westerns, say, and crime fiction – and getting me to sit down and watch or read anything but the most spectacular example of these genres in any other medium is just pulling teeth. But I love comics more than I dislike any genre, so for some reason I don’t have a problem with these genres when they’re presented in the form of picture stories. If something like “Lone Wolf & Cub” were presented (as it has been in the past) in a movie, say, and unless it had some incredible pedigree like Kurosawa or some such, I would probably be bored stiff. But in comics, I can’t get enough of it.

Of course, we are all limited by our resources. If I had the money, I’d spend all day reading all the great new manga volumes and imported French albums I could get my hands on, along with all those old strip collections that cost an arm and a leg, and those DC Archives that never seem to get any cheaper. But, alas, despite my enthusiasm I am forced to hew, for the most part, close to a few rather well-trod paths.

I am thrilled by the possibilities represented by publishers like AiT/PlanetLar and Oni, publishers who seem to offer the best possible hope for creating a “new Mainstream” of American comics publishing, their limited resources notwithstanding. Of course, all this could change if Marvel and DC ever figured out how to make and sell non-superhero OGNs to a mass audience. Whether or not they will ever do so – will ever effectively counter the domestic domination of manga - is one of the big stories of the next few years, and everyone who loves comics is already watching to see what happens next. The future of our medium has never looked better, but the future of our industry remains a rather awkward enigma.

Nothing excites me like comics. I may have my personal favorites – I think there’s very little being published that of comparable worth to the current crop of Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly books, for instance – but that doesn’t mean that I can’t and don’t read just about everything else in the field, from some of the crappiest superhero books, to the newspaper pages, to whatever is exciting online. I would be happy to spend all day reading Manga if someone at Tokyopop or Viz was as generous as Larry Young. I want to read it all, and I think that if you value comics like I do, you would probably agree.

Comics is very important to me. I think, since this is the New Year, that a little bit of honesty is called for. I have all year to be depressed and cynical, but let’s just try and remember why we do this in the first place, eh?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Strange Connections

With a tip of the ol' Hurting cap to the ever-inebriated Johnny Bacardi:

You ever notice that:

Alex Chilton


Minus Gary Groth

Drinking Budweiser!

Equals Scott Bakula

Ziggy says I gotta stay naked for how long?

I don't make up the facts, I just report 'em.

(PS - Everyone have fun with my Year In Review.)

Jamaica is beautiful in January.

The fat man was enjoying his hard-earned vacation, lounging in the tropical sun and feeling the fine sand between his toes. He was drinking one of those deceptively strong fruity drinks that was designed to get you drunk with the minimum of fuss. Sometimes the little umbrella got stuck in his long white beard, but that was an easy price to pay.

A lonely figure in a trench-coat came trudging across the beach carrying a large burlap sack. He was overdressed for the delightful weather and seemed somewhat pained. In addition to his duster he had on a wide brimmed hat and a pair of dark sunglasses. He made hoofprints in the sand.

“Ruprecht”, the fat man yelled, “I’m glad you finally made it.”

“Yeah, I’m here”, the new figure grunted. He sat down on a chair next to his companion and peeled off his coat, flinging his hat to the ground below. His skin was dark and ruddy, and covered with harsh bristles, like the hair on a boar or pot-bellied pig. His face, seen in close up, was hideously distended into gruesome, almost devilish features.

“How was your trip?” the fat man asked.

“Shitty. The movie was some Sandra Bullock piece of shit that just made me want to gouge out my fucking eyeballs with a spoon.”

“You always complain. Why can’t you be happy? It’s over, we don’t have to do anything for months.”

“Ugh.” Ruprecht grunted as he pulled his legs onto the chair and tried to relax. A waiter came over for his drink order and he asked for a scotch and soda.

“The hard stuff already? You just got here.”

Ruprecht pretended not to hear his friend. “It just gets harder every year. I swear I lost all feeling in my elbow somewhere around Cincinatti this year.”

“Don’t you have an appointment with that orthopedist in Spain? I gave you his card --”

“Yeah, I made the appointment. But I know he’s just going to tell me to lay off work. But what can I do? I can’t exactly hire a substitute to beat the children of the world with switches every Christmas. I’ll just have to lay off tennis this spring . . .”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I know you were looking forward to playing in the Easter Bunny’s invitational this year.”

“Oh well, shit happens.”

They sat for a moment in silence, enjoying the cool tropical breeze wafting across the foamy waters. After a moment, the fat man began to notice that his friend’s sack was moving, and there were muffled whimpers coming from within it.

“Who’s in the sack this year?” he asked absentmindedly.

“Who do you think? Comic book editors. Same as every year.”

“You would think they would learn,” the fat man said. “How do they run their companies like that?”

“I dunno. But it’s pitiful, I tell you. I come every year, you’d think they would remember me . . . they know they’ve been bad but no-one has a special folk dance for me or anything. No-one even fucking remembers who I am.”

“Well, it does give you the element of surprise.”

“Element of surprise my ass. Everybody knows who fucking Santa Claus is, but I pop up in their living room and they think I’m a burglar. You would think people would get the hint when half the children in their neighborhood get kidnapped and replaced with Halflings every damn year.”

“So, what are you going to do with these editors?”

“I dunno. I’m running out of room at my place. You know, I’m sick and tired of this whole shtick. This year, whenever I took an editor, I just left large sacks of rocks in their place. I’m not wasting any more Halflings on these bastards.”

“Do you think anyone will notice this year?”

“Are you kidding?” Ruprecht said with a chortle. “Have you read these comics lately? I think the rocks will represent a marked improvement.”

The waiter brought his drink and the Krampus proceeded to get very drunk. Christmas was still 362 blissful days away.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Oh, Henry!

Through an odd set of circumstances, I found myself watching 1998's Jack Frost on the TV recently. This was the one where Michael Keaton dies and gets brought back to life as an animate snowman, in order to be the best dad he can be before winter ends and he melts and dies. This is as opposed to the 1997 production of Jack Frost, in which Scott MacDonald dies and gets brought back to life as an animate snowman, in order to be the best serial killer he can be before winter ends and he melts and dies.

Can you tell which is which?

I honestly don't know which one is more horrifying...

IMDB quote: 'I don't understand the people who didn't like this movie - it seems like they were expecting a serious (?!?!?) treatment! C'mon, how the hell can you take the premise of a killer snowman seriously?'


I'm sort-of half paying attention to this piece of crap when, what do my wandering eyes should appear, but Mr. Henry Rollins, in a small roll as a youth hockey coach.


Now, I am not one of those people who idolizes Rollins - I've always found his spoken word a bit pretentious - but the fact is that he is still a cool fellow. He was in BLACK FLAG, which is just about the closest thing we white folk have to NWA. You would think that once you were in BLACK FLAG, you'd have enough cool to coast for life.

How is it possible to go from this:

Someone forgot to call Geico and he's a little upset about it.

To this?


Oh yeah, I forgot... the same way you go from this:

Straight outta Compton, a crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube, from a band called Niggaz With Attitude...

To this.

I understand you gotta eat, guys, but c'mon... let's have some dignity here.

(As an aside, and since I'm already in a Captain Corey mode, I should point out that I have somehow managed to see Jack Frost 2 without actually seeing the first. Somehow I don't feel the loss.)

It's like the big snowman ate the little snowman.

Sometimes this blog is just the gift that keeps on giving. You might recall a while back we had a discussion on the relative merits the Question, and whether or not subsequent interpretations of Ditko's character were legitimate or offensive to his creation. My first post was here, with subsequent follow-ups here.

I had just about forgot about all this because, as you know, I have the attention span of a flea. But then I got a very interesting letter in the mail from Mr. Eric Kleefeld:

Having read the original Ditko material, and somewhat familiar with what came later, I agree with your protests. The Question was created, fundamentally, to be a hardcore objectivist, living in a world of black and white, experienced rationally. His very name, the Question, implies that there is an answer, and he is meant to provoke that search in the reader’s mind. What O’Neil did was in violation but not intolerably so, as it still preserved a philosophical search rooted in the world, and begins his new philosophical search with a definite event triggering it, the failure of his starting philosophy. The cartoon treatment, while odd to say the least, nevertheless presented a man frustrated with some controlling the lives of many through subterfuge. It worked because it was different but not in direct opposition to the original. What Veitch is doing, however, is sheer mysticism. It seriously diminishes my opinion of the writer, especially considering how much I love his Swamp Thing run.

The real problem here, to my mind, starts with Rorschach, and overall reaction to him over time. Watchmen is a philosophical dialogue between the characters: Rorschach’s objectivism, Comedian’s nihilism, Ozymandias’s moral relativism, and Dr. Manhattan’s detached determinism, with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre set as the “bystanders” having to follow all this and find an answer. No definite answer to the questions asked is really given; the reader has to figure it out for himself. Moore’s being unable to use the original Charlton characters themselves actually made it better, because Watchmen became a self-contained novel, independent of the material that came before it, and Moore was able to more fully construct his own universe. Nevertheless, it’s clear that he would have played the Question straight according to Ditko’s original intensions. Walter Kovacs is a different man from Victor Sage in terms of his background and everyday behavior, but the philosophical core is the same. Rorschach’s moral vision is measured against what Moore sees as an ambivalent world, and the flaws that in turn produced a man like Rorschach. Rorschach’s reaction to Veidt’s crimes, that we must never compromise our honesty and people must be told the truth however ugly it might be, is a serious idea. Even if Rorschach loses the argument (and his life), his own motivations are still treated seriously. Even if he’s judged to be wrong, he himself remained solid, and there’s something admirable about that. One need not be an objectivist to write an objectivist character respectfully.

However, there are two views to take of Rorschach, and I’m afraid more people took the negative one. Some saw the traumatic life of Rorschach, and viewed his philosophy as a psychosis, rather than a legitimate reaction. People saw a man who would treat his mother’s death as good news simply at that level, rather than a consideration of his mother’s abuse and a sense of justice formed in opposition to it. Rorschach called his mask “a face I could bear to look at in the mirror” (if I remember the quote correctly), clearly explained as applying to a viewpoint of pure black and white, no matter what shifts might happen. Too many people looked at the line as sheer shame at humanity and life in general, a desire to escape. That’s the Comedian’s viewpoint, not Rorschach’s. The world of Watchmen sees Rorschach as a psychopath, which is actually appropriate of world treatment of a Randian hero, so in the end readers walked away with that strict verdict on him, rather than placing themselves in his shoes and considering his philosophy among the others.

With that kind of widespread view of Rorschach, it all was reapplied to the Question. Rorschach died to preserve Ozymandias’s victory, so his philosophy had to die with him, and the Question had to find a new one. Rorschach had a traumatic childhood; the Question’s childhood was never explored, so a variation of Rorschach’s was shoehorned in. Rorschach was treated as the last story of the original Question, so the new version had to discover ideas like relativism and mysticism; Adrian Veidt wins. Rorschach is viewed as a psycho, so the Question is a psycho, and apparently now he hears voices!

The overlooked element here is that if Moore had been able to use the Charlton characters, then Watchmen would have been the last Question story, or at least written to be such at the time. But if the Question was to be re-launched later, then it would be hard to continue him after his philosophical outlook was defeated in such a seminal work. So drastic changes were made to make him into a totally different character. There was an alternative route: respect what Watchmen did, but ignore its verdict insofar as it would change the character. If anything, uphold its presentation of the character: take the Rorschach who would not bend even if it risked Armageddon, and write a Question with that same moral certainty. Even if they wrote it with a dramatic irony of the reader judging Vic Sage’s morality as being wrong, a certain level of Ditko-style polemic still could have worked. The Question could have encountered different philosophies, judged them as evil, and walked away unchanged, but the philosophical discussion still would have lasted in the reader’s mind.

The bottom line here is that the Question’s treatment was bungled post-Rorschach. They thought they were writing a post-Watchmen Question, informed by Rorschach, when in fact they were writing someone completely different from Rorschach, someone new and unrecognizable. Just my two cents. Thanks for your time.

Eric Kleefeld

And thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I have to say, of all the different viewpoints I've seen on this issue, this seems to be the most rational. I think this is a pretty succinct explanation, one with which I would tend to agree.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Dark Side of the Lorax

Remember the Trees, Dammmit!

I used to like the Lorax. Dr. Seuss's classic first Lorax book was a timeless and effective parable on ecological conservation, a perfect example of Seuss' later period. Seuss' later works, such as The Lorax and The Butter Battle Book, featured the traditional Seuss wordplay and fanciful illustrations offset against serious allegorical themes. The books were especially effective because of their narrative efficacy on multiple levels: younger children could enjoy the books based simply on their colorful content, while older children and even adults could marvel at the simplicity and soft-spoken moral eloquency of his metaphors.

Of course, things started going downhill when Seuss (Theodor Geisel) continued the Lorax's adventures. Pretty soon the Lorax started teaming up with Horton the Elephant to fight pedophiles and drug cartels. The colorful characters, who had once served as universally recognized emblamatic figures whose metaphorical quandries were readily appreciated by millions, became vehicles for an increasingly baroque variety of complex and increasingly unsettling adventures. Most of Seuss' general audience abandoned the books, but a small coterie of older Seuss aficianados became rabidly supportive of the stories. It was soon obvious to most that the once-beloved childrens' characters had been hijacked in the service of Geisel's increasingly myopic rants against women who had spurned his advances in high school. Most of his remaining fans, it later turned out, were single men who had had similarly unpleasant experiences with "shrewish harradins" during their public school education.

Most parents, if you asked them, would probably never share a Dr. Seuss book with their children now. Of course, they don't remember wonderful books like The Cat In The Hat or How The Grinch Stole Christmas, what they remember is the lurid headlines followign the publication of The Lorax Says That All Women Are Either Sluts or Immaculate Saints. Most people would like to forget the lawsuits that followed, as Geisel was sued for inserting photos of Colleen McDonald, who had refused Geisel's offer to take her to the Prom in senior year of high school, into his book as an insane murderer named Mollie McGoodlesnarp, who killed the Cat in the Hat's wife in a thinly-veiled attempt to win the Lorax back. It became obvious that Geisel, and everyone involved in the publication of his later books, had serious issues, but they weren't the kind of serious issues that had made his earlier books almost universally accepted classics of children's literature.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Notes on a Missing Mystery

In my long association with that friend and colleague who has so often been the subject of these modest bulletins, I have seen many things which I would perhaps, in a younger life, have deemed impossible. There is nothing stranger, or more ingenious, than the hideous depths of the human mind in the throes of criminal perfidy.

With that said, I am also continually amazed by the great detective’s ability to remain nonplussed in the face of this very same capacity for evil. Not only evil, perhaps, but also the extremely profound disassociation that exists between the exigencies of the improbable and the impossible. How many times have I been stunned into silence by a seemingly freakish turn of events, only to have him smile slightly and explain the physics of the event as an occurrence of the sheerest, most uncomplicated simplicity?

Many of our adventures will never be recorded, either because of still-vulnerable circumstances requiring our discretion, or on account of their singularly disinteresting nature. There have been many cases which seemed interesting on the outset, but which soon resolved themselves in most a disappointingly banal fashion. There have also been many, many more cases where Holmes and myself played secondary or even tertiary roles: cases in which my friend was called in for a cursory consultation or corroboration. Sherlock Holmes does not possess many true peers, but there are many who would seek to pick his brain for the purposes of their own cases, and in most of these instances Holmes is loath to turn away an honestly beseeching comrade in arms.

The incident which I am about to relate is therefore of little interest on the basis of our limited involvement, but for the peculiar circumstances surrounding a particularly bizarre consultation on fine May afternoon, during the years following Holmes’ presumed demise and preceding his eventual retirement. It was a clear day, and there were no clouds to be seen anywhere as the evening made its lazy approach.

I digress into the weather in the interest of including two important details which serve to punctuate this brief incident in my remembrances. In the middle of the afternoon, despite the clear skies and clear lack of any storm activity either overhead or on the horizon, there were two enormous thunderclaps, both deafeningly loud, loud enough to mark them in a very close proximity to our Baker street apartments. I recall very clearly my momentary bafflement at these strange noises, but I also remember Holmes’ perking up immediately following the first explosion. He had been in his customary doldrums following the conclusion of his latest caper, and, as was his unfortunate custom, was lounging around our rooms in his robe and slippers, with almost the expression of a hound-dog at times. So great is the effort required of his mind for cogitation during the course of his exertions that the lull between adventures can sometimes seem infinitely depressing. His frequent usage of distasteful stimulants such as cocaine during this slack periods serves, to my mind, as further proof of the greatness of his ability: so great were his mental faculties that their forced disuse caused him a sensation almost kin to physical pain.

But in any event, his demeanor improved greatly after he heard the first of those horrendous thunderclaps. Although I expressed my puzzlement as to why we should be visited with thunder and lightning on a clear day, Holmes assured me that the explosion, while strikingly similar in volume to a natural thunderclap – certainly enough so to fool a lay person such as myself - was actually a decidedly unnatural phenomenon, and one with which he was passing familiar. He refused, for the moment, to elaborate further on this mystery, and instead instructed me to inform Mrs. Hudson, our housekeeper, that we would soon be receiving guests, and that we would appreciate some tea.

Sure enough, just a few moments after Holmes had risen from his sofa and struck a match in his pipe, the doorbell rang and two uniquely strange visitors were ushered into our apartments. I had never seen them before, although my friend assured me that he had made their acquaintance a few years earlier, during a prolonged escapade wherein the crowned heads of Europe were collectively threatened by our old foe Professor Moriarty and another remarkable villain, a Mr. Vandal Savage. This is one of those aforementioned adventures which, I fear, I will never be able to record in detail for public digestion, for the reason of a number of extremely sensitive subjects pertaining to the machinations of this particularl escapade.

I had personally served on the periphery of that hoary campaign, and had never the pleasure of encountering these two gentlemen. They were both American, and dressed conservatively, in dark colors. The first was almost shockingly handsome, with short black hair and a broad, muscular frame. He carried himself with a quiet, commanding reserve. The second man deferred slightly to the first, and one sensed very distinctly that despite the fact that they were ostensible partners in this endeavor, the darker one was accustomed to command. The second one, while less obviously muscular, was no less imposing, in his own way. He had a shock of bright red hair and an almost preternaturally long nose. His mood seemed lighter than that of his companion, despite the fact that, as he and his friend explained, he had been through a rough patch the previous few weeks.

The matter which they had come to consult my friend upon had actually began with the death of the second visitor’s wife. I subsequently learned that both gentlemen were in fact detectives themselves, and had apparently had many long and colorful adventures in their native land. I inquired, in the course of the conversation, why I had never heard of either of these gentlemen, if – as I surmised – they were detectives of such obvious merit. The first one would merely answer, by way of a cryptically terse response, that he and his companion hailed from an extremely distant quarter. It is not often that Holmes encounters a detecting acumen anywhere near his own, so the great respect he ceded towards these gentlemen did not fail to impress me; but I maintain that I did not like that dark fellow, with his damnably cryptic responses. Holmes may be terse and short-tempered, on occasion, but he is never, in my experience, needlessly condescending.

The second visitor seemed far more approachable, if still shadowed by grief. He was prone to juvenile wisecracks, even in his reduced state, I suspect as a means of allaying the tension native to his profession. Also, I must make another note of the fact that he possessed the most unique nose I have ever seen. I would almost swear that during our short conversation I had seen it wiggle, imperceptibly, as if it had been an artificial appendage made of India rubber.

The case on which they consulted my friend seemed simple enough in principle, if devilishly ticklish in the details. The case began with the murder of the second detectives wife, after which their whole society had been pulled into a morass of questioned loyalties and increasingly complicated circumstances (I learned, incidentally, that these two gentlemen were actually members of a secret league of like-minded law-enforcers). Old, long-closed cases were called into doubt, old wounds between the long-time comrades had been reopened, and an almost infinitely wide series of complications subsequently arose. I will confess that I understood little of their conversation, although Holmes absorbed their details with no little fascination. There were many people mentioned with whom I was not familiar, and many situations described which seemed frankly impossible on the face of them. But again, the stride with which Holmes accepted their story caused me to stifle my doubts and simply try to follow the thread of the narrative for as long as I could.

Finally, they finished their story and presented the case to my friend for his opinion. The adventure had ended on an unsatisfactory note after it had been supposedly discovered that the wife of another of their comrades, a Mrs. Loring, had organized the initial murder as a way of winning back her estranged husband. Holmes openly scoffed at this explanation, expressing a dissatisfaction with such a roundly pat conclusion which the visitors obviously shared. While it became obvious over the course of our conversation that there were also buried resentments between our two visitors, they were both primarily motivated by a pure desire to solve the mystery, and glad to see Holmes come ot the conclusion which they clearly shared.

“On the face of the facts as you have presented them”, Holmes began after a long moment of deep contemplation, “this case is not yet concluded. While certain superficial clues could circumstantially point to Mrs. Loring as the murderer, there are too many other factors involved for us to accept this as a reasonable answer. No, this seems to be a very concise case of redirection, but without further input I am afraid I will be of little use to you.

“As it stands, this case is almost singularly strange in the seemingly random way that so many of your previous cases were dredged up by the events, almost as if someone had designed the entire event merely as a means of fueling conflict between the members of your league. I fear that I can only conclude that Mrs. Loring is a patsy, and that someone else, someone with a dark grudge, must have organized these events with foreknowledge of the consequences.

“If this were a mystery story in one of those dire magazines that Watson follows, I would say that this was a spectacularly poor piece of plotting, with a badly-concocted "twist" at the end designed merely to stymie the readership’s expectations for a sensible and competently-executed piece of crime fiction. There are merely too many coincidences, too many loose-ends left over, for you to consider this case anywhere near concluded. In order for any of these events to make sense – and they must make sense – it remains for you to tease out the common thread between these disparate occurrences.”

Our visitors nodded their assent. The first one - the dark, unpleasant fellow - voiced his opinion that he had suspected as much all along, but wished to consult with "the one expert whose opinion he valued above his own" before continuing further with his investigations. The second detective did not seem particularly surprised by Holmes’ verdict either, but his visible dread at having to undergo further investigations in the matter of his wife’s demise left him visibly shaken – and, I should note, his strangely elongated nose seemed to visibly shake as well.

They exchanged brief pleasantries with Holmes and myself before they left. After the door was closed Holmes seemed uncharacteristically taciturn. In a few more moments after our visitors left, there was another large booming thunderclap, strangely identical in sound and volume to the noise that had proceeded our visitors’ arrival just an hour or so previous. The sky was still clear.

“They are gone now, Watson”, he sighed, clearly relieved. “You can rest assured of that.” He walked to his sofa and resumed his previous, indolent pose.

“There are many things I don’t quite understand, Holmes.”

“Of this”, he said slyly, “I am certain. But what about this case particularly troubles you?”

“Well, if they were really so "stumped", why didn’t you offer to accompany them back to America in order to help them? You could be on a steam vessel for America by the morning if you wished.”

“I would have to go a lot further than America to help them with their mystery”, my friend answered. “And that is something, I am afraid, I have no wish to do. When we met before, in Europe, the offer was tendered for me to return with them, but I declined. There are some things which, even in the face of high improbability, I still wish to regard as impossible.”

With that he sank back into his previous malaise, and I was left alone with my thoughts.

(PS - The new remix is up here.)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Time Enough For Love

Not enough time to resuem regular blogging - not with this crappy dial up for the next half-week - but we do have a new remix up, featuring New Avengers #1. Retailers take note of this one, because this one takes a special look at the next ordering incentive variant heading your way.

The sidebar has been updated as well, so take a look. I review the recent Nirvana box here, and take a rather jaundiced look at a new Elliott Smith biography here.

Carry on, then.

Monday, November 29, 2004

No Time For Sergeants

Oh, snap. We seem to be moving. I guess I forgot about that.

Carry on, then.

Friday, November 26, 2004


Hmmm. The blogging was basically thwarted by my computer having an odd episode involving the usage of images, meaning that for some odd reason I couldn't even access the massive Breakfast Mascot Archive (heretofor known as the BMA) for a visual posting. So, you will all just have to satisfy yourself with this week's Special Holiday Edition of the Remix, featuring a famous covers gallery... which basically means, here's a bunch of comics I was able to think of one (or, in some cases, less than one) joke for, so instead of doing a 6+ page remix around one joke, here's one joke per cover.

That's a little peak into my creative process. I'm practicing for my Xeric grant proposal, entitled "Give Me Munney To Sribble Funny Werds On Old Comical Books".

Next Week: More Marshall Law, and hopefully a metric shitpile of Oni reviews, time allowing. And of course, more fan-favorite Cereal Mascots!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Superhero In The Age of Genocide:
The Adventures of Marshall Law Part One

Jesus Christ, this guy looks pissed.

I love Kevin O’Neill and Pat Mills’ Marshall Law. Of all the great deconstructionist superhero books of the 1980s, it is the only one that has resisted canonization. It’s been out of print for most of the years since it was originally published, but even if it had been steadily available, it could never have achieved the universal acclaim and popularity that Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and Squadron Supreme all enjoy to greater or lesser extents.

The reason for this is very simple: Marshall Law is a wonderfully, irredeemably nasty book. Whereas all of the aforementioned books skated around the core concepts behind superheroic fiction in a very deliberate fashion, Marshall Law makes a point of bursting through the window and breaking the rhetorical furniture.

If you’re a superhero fan, its easy to love Watchmen. Sure, it ably deconstructs the genre, parsing the individual components until the resulting archetype was a rather frightening departure from the norm. And, of course, as with The Dark Knight Returns, at the end of the book the heroic status quo is pretty near restored. The moral imperative of the masked men is ultimately redeemed, and even if they are flawed, with feet of clay and giant batches of neuroses, they are still heroes. Everything that is so ably taken apart in the course of the narrative is symmetrically restored - for the most part - only without the nagging moral ambiguity that served as a crucial element of the plot’s catalyst. For all the talk of deconstructionism, none of these books really take the superhero as far as he could go: all of the above works end with the hero(es) moral imperative reinstated relatively intact.

There is no moral ambiguity in Marshall Law. The heroes in the book are flawed and corrupt, almost totally reprehensible. The title character is a violent thug who seeks out extreme pain because the ability to feel was taken from him in the same procedure that gave him his powers. He’s a super-hero too, you see . . . or, at least, a recovering super-hero.

Marshall Law is definitely a product of the 1980s. Whereas Watchmen’s political content seems, in retrospect, kind of moldy (Richard Nixon still president?), O’Neill and Mills had their eye very keenly on the very pressing issues of their day. The problems began when the government began creating their own superheroes for the purpose of carrying out their miniature “secret” wars in South America. This, as you can imagine, quickly got out of hand. The individual moral prerogative that has traditionally provided guidance for superpowered characters was totally absent. These were soldiers, many of them driven insane by their awesome power, and all of them complicit in any number of terrible, terrible deeds during wartime.

You figure out pretty quickly that you’re in virgin territory when the book opens in the ruins of San Francisco, patrolled by murderous gangs of sadistic “super-heroes”. Marshall Law is the only cop patrolling the earthquake scarred ruins of the once-great city, dispensing a very violent breed of justice to anyone who wants it.

Marshall Law has a mad-on against superheroes because he bought into the super-hero’s myth of moral prerogative hook, line and sinker. He signed up for combat in The Zone, volunteering to become a superhero for Uncle Sam, because he believed in the righteousness of his personal idol, the Public Spirit. Of course, the things he saw and did in The Zone scarred him horribly, and left him with an unshakable conviction that great power exerts an inexorable corrupting tendency. Just because you’re powerful doesn’t make you right, and the most powerful heroes have the greatest potential to go terribly, terribly wrong.

More than anything else, Marshall Law wants to believe in the moral absolutism of his heroes. He has been let down and disappointed in a profound manner, and his boundless rage is the frustration of the inescapably betrayed. When he sees the opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the Public Spirit, he falls on it like a drowning man grasping for air. His feelings of personal betrayal can now be validated by the society at large.

I’m a cynic, I acknowledge this. I distrust power simply by virtue of the fact that it is powerful. History has proven time and again that this is a remarkably healthy impulse. The United States Constitution was even designed with the idea that that an independent and powerful government is a thing to be feared, which is why we were granted the concepts of the checks and balances and freedom of speech, and why our government remains blessedly inefficient in regard to certain manners. Problems in the American system almost always stem from instances where federal powers are used indiscriminately and without regard. This is why our history of extra-legal South American military “adventures” in the 1980s is a persistently disturbing national shame.

Of course, in the world of Marshall Law, the ability of American power to operate indiscriminately and without any check has been codified by decades of aggression. The super-hero has been reshaped by the government as an instrument of war, as immoral and as unstoppable as a bullet in a gun. These “heroes” don’t have origins where their terrible responsibilities have been explicitly laid out with defining moral boundaries. They were told to go and to kill, so is it any wonder that when they got home they were still wearing their necklaces of human ears?

The first Marshall Law is basically Chinatown with superheroes. There’s a series of crimes that eventually leads to a deeper rot in the status quo. Marshall Law isn’t particularly bright or particularly strong, but he is tenacious. He is the last honest man in a world gone upside down, where power is exercised indiscriminately and the privilege of ability is the perception of incorruptibility. Marshall Law can’t change the status quo, because the decay is set too deeply in society’s foundation, but he can certainly spend the rest of his life trying to expose every last hypocrite.

Hey, lookie who he caught...

Rejected Breakfast Cereal Mascots
(Number 11 in an ongoing Series)

Ice, Ice Baby.

Melvin the Methamphetamine-Addled Manatee

. . . >gasp< . . .

The kids liked Melvin until the focus group accidentally saw footage of him attacking three off-duty police officers outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Maryland. It took five officers to subdue him, and his collarbone was broken in the tussle.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Exigencies of Crap

Dave over at Motime has posted an interesting response to my recent review of the so-called “last” Thor storyline. As usual, he makes a very cogent and interesting point, even if I couldn’t disagree with him more. But in this case, I think I can easily understand where our opinions diverge.

I like Thor. Since I was a kid, its been one of my favorite titles. Keeping that in mind, I’ve read so many bad Thor stories over the years that it hurts – we’re talking, literal, physical pain whenever I think about that last Roy Thomas run in the mid-90s.


Dave has made a point of saying, on numerous occasions, that he doesn’t follow many modern comics. I do. I don’t buy a lot but I buy some. I like to keep my toe in the water, and I like to keep abreast of what’s going on with some of my favorite characters of yore. I realize that I am a gold-plated sucker. This means that I end up experiencing a lot of bad comics. These days, I have a much lower tolerance for crap than I used to have, but still: sometimes I get suckered.

I wouldn’t mind if they wrote a conclusive ending for Thor for the very basic reason that I think that the character has been subjected to steadily diminishing returns, story-wise, for the last two decades. I liked the Tom DeFalco run, but it was nowhere as good at the Simonson run. The Thomas run was horrible. The Ellis run made the best of a bad situation. The Jurgens run was great for as long as Romita Jr. stuck around. When he left it got really bad. The last part with Thor as the Allfather was surprisingly good. But, if you had to create a line graph for the quality of Thor comic books since the 1980s, that line would be a inexorable slide downwards, with occasional peaks and valleys throughout, but generally pointed down.

I will reiterate that I like Thor a lot. I love the Kirby Thor, the Simonson Thor, even the DeFalco & Frenz Thor ( even if that's hardly a popular run). This doesn’t have anything to do with any kind of existential or epistemological struggle: it has to do with the fact that the Thor comics they make now are not as good as they used to be, and have been getting progressively worse for a long time. If a TV show had the same kind of consistently bad performance as Thor the comic book, the show would have been cancelled years ago.

So, Dave, here’s my point: sometimes you think too much. That stuff about “narrative stasis” was something of a canard, I admit, because at root my point was that Thor as a character has been handled pretty roughly down through the years. Sometimes when something doesn’t work it needs to be put away. A bad comic book that no-one buys needs to be cancelled, and for the majority of the past decade, and many times previous, Thor was just that: a bad comic book that no-one bought. I liked this story because it didn’t suck and granted the characters a dignity in their inevitable passing that perhaps a lesser creator would not have had the wherewithal to imbue.

Sometimes comic books are cancelled. There is an unwavering and deserved finality to that.

Travels With Larry

1000 Steps To World Domination

I’m a sucker for books and movies on the subject of writer’s block. It’s a particularly juicy topic for anyone who makes a daily habit of sitting in front of the computer screen. I’m not going to try to tell you that its some romantic quest, however, any kind of great existential crisis. What it is, for me, is laziness. The struggle with inertia and sloth is real and never-ending. It’s not something that ever seems to get better: it’s a constant struggle. Every day is a new battle.

This is Rob Osbournes’ predicament in 1000 Steps To World Domination. Basically, he wants to become a successful cartoonist, so he sets himself an impossible goal: conquering the world through cartooning. He writes down the 1000 little steps he needs to do in order to accomplish this goal. The people around him perceive this to be an understandably odd preoccupation.

I liked this book a lot. It’s small, almost a trifle, but there is a sense throughout that not only does Osborne recognize his weaknesses, but he is actively working to overcome them. In a very real way, that is what this book is about: trying to surpass a lack of “divine inspiration” through discipline and ingenuity.

I can understand how other critics could have been distracted by the book’s deadpan tone. The tone could almost be phrased as a throwback to the 90s, when having no ambition and no direction was simply an accepted and expected attribute. Osborne reminds me of someone who might have spent his twenties listening to Pavement and wearing used flannel shirts. Of course, he’s older now, and maybe a tiny little bit wiser, in that he knows what he wants to do. Of course, knowing what to do and having the wherewithal to do it are two different things.

He makes the most of his format. He knows how to throw out side-tracks without losing his momentum or thematic cohesion. Things that are touched upon early in the book are paid off near the end. Despite the book’s aggressive smallness (both literal and figurative), there is a satisfying wholeness. It won’t take you very long to read but it will put a smile on your face.

Best. Week. Evar.

So. Started new job. It’s pretty tiring. I’m not one to get too excited about jobs one way or another – it’s a job. I’ll do my work until I don’t have to, and then I get to go home. Hopefully it won’t last too long.

But there were other things this week besides lots of boring meetings with Human Resources people and safety training. Such as:

  • The Honda corporation deciding, in their magnanimity, to do about $2,000 worth of repair work on our CRV – for free – even though the vehicle was about 30,000 miles past warranty. Put a brand new head on the engine block because of defective valves.
  • Getting that new Nirvana box set in the mail for free to review. I’m not even that big of a Nirvana fan, but its cool to get $60 box sets in the mail.
  • Signing a lease for a new house that has heat, insulation, and a bathroom - which is three things more than we have now.
  • My wife’s strange but persistent goal of becoming a reality TV star has come one step closer to fruition. She doesn’t even like reality TV, but for some reason she wants to be on a show . . .
  • I dreamt I met Steve Ditko, which was very cool.

As the old saying goes, “when it rains it snows”. Doesn’t it just?

Still waiting on The Wife to sort through the contest entries. It’s been a rough week – be patient.

New remix up: this week we take a look at DC’s new Space Ghost #1, only presented in magnificent Coast To Coast-vision.

The Mighty Thor #80-85

There’s been a lot of talk recently in certain circles on the concept of narrative stasis as it applies to superhero comics: i.e., the ongoing, never-ending cycle of soap-operatic melodrama that fuels most modern mainstream titles. Some critics see this as a function of the genre’s inherent virtues, whereas others see this is a definite – and defining – limitation. I was very pleasantly surprised, as I sat down to read this recent, “final” Thor storyline, to find that a relatively straightforward engagement of these ideas was also wrapped tightly into the thematic core of what could easily have been an egregiously inauspicious Avengers Dissassembled crossover.

Most superhero concepts are predictably open-ended. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and all of their ilk can, in theory, keep on going until doomsday (as long as they are periodically updated). Marvel’s Thor is the notable exception. Because of the fact that Thor is at least somewhat accurately based on actual Norse myths, he also comes with a built-in expiration date, the fabled Ragnarok, twilight of the gods. I don’t have to tell you, however, that as grand as all this is in the mythological literature, it has become exceedingly mundane in the world of the Marvel Universe, where Ragnarok seems to occur with the frequency of every editorial change. Very rarely has a new creative team ever come to the book without having their very own Ragnarok – or near Ragnarok - story to tell.

This, as you can imagine, got pretty old a long time ago. You know that Marvel has no intention of permanently offing one of their most well-established (if least successful) perennial characters, so the threat of absolute cosmic devastation every few dozen issues is just laughable. How many times has Asgard been repaired by almighty Odin with just a wave of his royal scepter? I lost count a long time ago.

The difference here is that this story actually reads like an ending. Of course, I am not stupid: I know full well that Thor will be back in just a few months whenever they can figure out a satisfactory way to bring the character back. But that’s the thing: after this, they are actually going to have to work pretty hard in order to do that. Whomever is charged with bringing the character back this time might actually have to – gasp – do something a bit different. Considering how consistently unpopular Thor has been the past few decades, allowing only for moderate periodic spikes, tearing everything down to the ground might be the only way to ensure the character a viable future.

Thor is probably the hardest character out of the classic Marvel pantheon to do well. Just look at how many mediocre-to-bad Thor comics have been published in the many decades since Kirby left Marvel. Walt Simonson’s run is almost twenty years old. I am happy to report that Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea DiVito have produced the best Thor story since Simonson left the book all those years ago.

The key to their success has been a whole-hearted embrace of the icky mythological elements that compose the character’s backbone. Instead of playing up the superhero aspect, they chose to accentuate the character’s cosmic fantasy elements. That, as much as anything, grants the character a semblance of dignity that many of his peers could never hope to evoke. Sure, most of the fantasy elements in Thor are silly on the face of them, just as with the superhero elements – but when done well, they carry the imprimatur of Kirby’s indefinable cosmic grandeur as well as the source myths’ historical pedigree. Tellingly, this story stays closer to the actual myths than most Marvel interpretations of myth, including some of the gruesome depictions of Odin’s trials and death.

And there’s a lot of death here. This is pretty much the final ending, the last Ragnarok. Everybody, even Thor, dies in the end (I’m not giving anything away by saying that – the how if it is much more important than the what). This story actually tackles the recurring nature of Ragnarok, attempting to explain why their apocalypse kept happening, and why every time the Asgardian building blocks were put back together the results were always just slightly less convincing than before. You can only survive the end of the world so many times before people start to get suspicious.

In a very real way, this story is definitely evocative of Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomoorrow?, albeit with a starkly different tone. Every element of Thor’s forty-year history is systematically deconstructed, from his relationship with the Avengers to Beta Ray Bill to Warren Ellis’ brief tenure. But, if this makes any sense, despite the fact that everything is being taken apart and smashed into pieces, their intent is not to demean but to ennoble the character.

Thor has been taken apart and put back together so many times throughout the years, in the interest of keeping him relevant and attempting to gain traction in an increasingly hostile market, that the character was damn near broken. Sometimes the only way to save something is to allow it to die with dignity. Although, I must stress, this is undoubtedly not the last Thor story, it would be a very satisfying ending if in fact it was the character’s true swan-song.

There’s a danger for Marvel in writing such a good ending to a signature character. There is a dignity to endings that serial fiction characters can only experience vicariously: perhaps it would be nice if someone decided to actually let a character sleep the sleep of the just for a change.

Rejected Breakfast Cereal Mascots
(Number 10 in an ongoing Series)

Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli, Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti, Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti, Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

Arthur the Antidisestablishmentarian Armadillo

“The keys of the One True Church were given to Peter by the Lord, and it is not the prerogative of Man to abridge this Holy Covenant with Divinity . . . but it is the prerogative of man to eat Wonder Whoopie Crispers in a bowl of creamy milk. So let it be written, so let it be done!”

There was some confusion among tots about whether or not Wonder Whoopie Crispers were properly transubstantiated.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Steve Dallas

Blogging will be very light for the foreseeable future. I'm starting a new job and moving, pretty much both at the same time, which means that any computer time I get will be extremely limited for the next little while.

By "little while", I probably mean just a few days, but you never really know about these things, now do you?

In other news, The Wife will have the contest results sometime in the next few days. Hopefully we can get those packages off in the mail before things get super crazy. I was happy to see that a number of people took advantage of my amnesty and decided to enter... if no one had bothered after I added another five days onto the deadline I would have felt like a total tool.

Thanks for being so understanding. When everything finally gets straightened out, expect the blogging to resume fast and furious. I've got a big pile of wonderful books here to review, and I am eager for the time to sit down and give them all a good ass-whupping. Oh, well, maybe not all of them, just the sucky ones.

Remixes will continue to be posted as per usual.

Carry on, then.

Friday, November 12, 2004


This week's remix, featuring the brand new Iron Man #1, is up here!

And as for Willie Horton... I love how every conservative who argues that Willie Horton wasn't a racial talisman automatically assumes that we must be totally ignorant of Horton's heinous crimes. You don't have to be an apologist for violent crime to see the Horton case as a textbook example of race-baiting. I can promise you that, contrary to what Jeff Jacoby says, if Willie Horton had been caucasian it wouldn't have been anywhere near as big an issue, and it certainly wouldn't have carried such weight in the south.

I'm not trying to refigth Campaign '88. Dukakis was by all accounts an inneffectual and regrettable candidate, actively despised by many in his own party and loathed by a large percentage of citizens in his own state. But Republicans who refuse to awknowledge their party's extensive and unapologetic history of race-baiting politics - and hey, that's about all of them - and wonder why the black vote stays mostly in the Democratic column, I have no pity for you.

Billy and the Boingers

Hey, you know how I said I'd be doing the Political thing for the muckety-mucks i nthe newspaper strip world? Well, I guess I lied, because its just about 5 AM and I have to get to sleep sometime soon, and I sure as hell ain't pulling another hour out of my ass right now.

This has been a fun series to do. There's no greater agenda at work here, other than the fact that I think its endlessly fascinating. Of course, if someone wanted to think of something useful to do with this data, that would be fantastic, but as it is, its really just fun to see how many people in the undustry are either apathetic, poor, or both. I honestly expected to see some bigger donors on the Marvel board, since I know that there are some fat pocketbooks thereabouts. There was one far-left Hollywood type but besides that, not a lot. I was also surprised to see that Stev Geppi was a centrist-Democrat, supporting Dick Gephardt, of all people. I didn't think anyone supported Dick Gephardt.

It was also interesting to find that Richard Parsons, the chairman of Time/Warner is a far-right Republican... makes sense considering his socio-economic status, along with some of his cryptically Libertarian public comments, but still. Perhaps its my good Liberal breeding, but I still get confused when I see a black Republican. Did I miss the part where the Republicans apologized for using Nixon's "southern strategy" to get white Southern votes by appealing to that region's worst impulses well into the 1980s? I must have missed the press conference where Bush Sr. came out and apologized for Willie Horton, and Reagan apologized for the "welfare queen" remarks, et al. At least the Democrats publically expunged their Dixiecrat "heritage" a long time ago, whereas the Republicans still have people like Trent Lott walking around. Oh well. I guess they think we'll just forget these things.

Anyway, you should remember the contest, and if you live in Boston you should stop by the Common Ground tonight to meet The Hurting and Wife. As I said, I'll be the dude behind the chick with purple hair.

Ah hoy hoy.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Lola Granola

Well, tonight is technically the end of the Hurting's first contest. I say "technically" because, well, as of this evening I've still only received ten entries to the damn thing. I swear, someone offers a few free comic books, you'd think people would come running. I mean, people like Johanna and the folks at Peiratikos do it all the time, and they supposedly get a fair turnout. What's with me? Am I not a good promoter? Sure, I may have forgotten that I was running the damn thing myself a couple times, but seriously... what is not to like about a contest with almost $80 worth of prizes? There's even free shipping, for the love of God.

OK, I'll give you all one more chance. The contest is officially extended until Sunday evening at midnight, after which time, I'm serious, submissions will no longer be accepted. Put the word out, people. I'm disappointed. Everyone gets up on their chairs and barks like a hyena every time DC decides to rape G'Nort, but try to give people swag? Might as well be crickets churping, I tell you! And I was so proud of myself for this contest... I though this was just a killer idea. Well, it killed alright...

And oh, to the dude who mentioned it, the new masthead quote is actually from an Ed Wood movie, one of those rare softcore porn flicks he made towards the end of his life. Just to let you know.

Everyone in the Boston area must heed my call, and come meet The Hurting this Friday in Allston, where my wife is performing at the Common Ground from (roughly) 10-1:30. The last couple times she played were kind-of abrogated by sports, but there's no baseball game this time around to interfere. Check out the details here, and look for me behind the chick with the purple hair.

Politics In Comic Books, Part Three

I recently decided to take a look and see what political causes and candidates the various men and women (but, lets be honest here, its mostly men) who run comics decided to support financially. This information is actually relatively easy to find, thanks to two independent websites dedicated to shining a light on non-confidential political contributions: Political Moneyline and Fundrace Neighbor Search. In all cases the attempts to verify the identity of the officers in question have been completed to the best of my ability, and the officer’s spouses have been searched as well, when that information has been provided where available.

This is a purely unscientific and obviously cursory examination. All names were verified twice according to both websites – but to the credit of the webmasters in charge of their respective sites, there was rarely any light whatsoever between the two groupings of results. These results are only as accurate, however, as the information provided by these sites, so caveat emptor. All of this information is readily available and in the public domain, so if you want to do the legwork yourself it’s fairly easy stuff to verify.

Misc. Comics

Todd McFarlane - Co-Founder, Image Comics; creator of Spawn - No Contributions Listed, (Spouse Wanda McFarlane - No Contributions Listed)
Erik Larsen - Co-Founder, Image Comics; creator of the Savage Dragon - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Marc Silvestri - Co-Founder, Image Comics; creator of Cyberforce - No Contributions Listed, (Spouse Bridget Silvestri - No Contributions Listed)
Jim Valentino - Co-Founder, Image Comics; creator of Shadowhawk - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Rob Liefeld - Co-Founder, Image Comics; creator of Youngblood, Cable - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse

Note: Image Co-Founder Jim Lee was covered in rundown of DC Comics executives.

Mike Richardson - Founder, Dark Horse Comics - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Gareb Shamus - Founder, Wizard Entertainment - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Mark Alessi - Founder, Crossgen Enetertainment - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Denis Kitchen - Founder, Kitchen Sink Press; Literary Agent - No Contributions Listed, (Spouse Stacey Kitchen - No Contributions Listed)
Kevin Eastman - Co-Creator, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; owner, Heavy Metal magazine - No Contributions Listed, (Spouse Julie Strain - No Contributions Listed)
Peter Laird - Co-Creator, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; beneficiary, Xeric Awards - No Contributions Listed, (Spouse Jeannine Laird - No Contributions Listed)
Chris Staros - Publisher, Top Shelf Comics - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Brett Warnock - Publisher, Top Shelf Comics - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Jeff Mason - Publisher, Alternative Comics - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Larry Young - Founder, AiT/Planet Lar - No Contributions Listed, (Mimi Rosenheim - No Contributions Listed)
Gary Groth - Co-Founder, Fantagraphics - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Kim Thompson - Co-Founder, Fantagraphics - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Dirk Deppey - Managing Editor, The Comics Journal - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Tom Spurgeon - Comics Gadfly, Celebrated Author, Man Of The World - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Milo George - Freelance Humanitarian - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Chris Ware - Cartoonist - No Contributions Listed, (Marnie Ware - No Contributions Listed)
Art Spiegelman - Cartoonist - No Contributions Listed, (Francois Mouly - $250 for Howard Dean on 11/28/03)
Dan Clowes - Cartoonist - $250 for John Kerry on 6/27/04), (Erika Clowes - No Contributions Listed)
Jaime Hernandez - Cartoonist No Contributions Listed, (Meg Hernandez - No Contributions Listed)
Gilbert Hernandez - Cartoonist - No Contributions Listed, (Carol Hernandez - No Contributions Listed)
Steve Geppi - Owner, Diamond Comics Distributors - $1,000 to Dick Gephardt on 3/12/03, $1000 for Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Congressional Democrat, Maryland District 2), $1,000 to Ameripac, (Melinda Geppi - $1,000 to Dutch Ruppersberger)
Chuck Rozanski - Owner, Mile High Comics - No Contributions Listed, (Nannette Rozanski - No Contributions Listed)
Rory Root - Owner, Comic Relief - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse

Tomorrow: Newspapers!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Politics In Comic Books, Part Two

I recently decided to take a look and see what political causes and candidates the various men and women (but, lets be honest here, its mostly men) who run comics decided to support financially. This information is actually relatively easy to find, thanks to two independent websites dedicated to shining a light on non-confidential political contributions: Political Moneyline and Fundrace Neighbor Search. In all cases the attempts to verify the identity of the officers in question have been completed to the best of my ability, and the officer’s spouses have been searched as well, when that information has been provided where available.

This is a purely unscientific and obviously cursory examination. All names were verified twice according to both websites – but to the credit of the webmasters in charge of their respective sites, there was rarely any light whatsoever between the two groupings of results. These results are only as accurate, however, as the information provided by these sites, so caveat emptor. All of this information is readily available and in the public domain, so if you want to do the legwork yourself it’s fairly easy stuff to verify.

DC Comics

(As provided by

DC, as a fully owned and operated subsidiary of Time/Warner (formerly Time/Warner/AOL). As such, it must be noted that their various executives are merely mid-level bureaucrats within the T/W megastructure and not independent corporate officers, as with Marvel. Assumedly, Paul Levitz is the highest officer within the DC superstructure, and he answers in turn to T/W corporate officers.

Paul Levitz - President & Publisher - $3,500 to the Time/Warner Political Action Committee (PAC) on 3/24/03. T/WPAC seems to target a number of parties on both sides of the isle, mostly incumbents. However, if you step away from the individuals, the PAC seems to have given about $20,000 dollars more to Republican congressional groups than to Democratic:



(Spouse Jeanette Levitz - No Contributions Listed)
Georg Brewer - VP-Design & Retail Product Development - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Patrick Caldon - SVP-Finance & Operations - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Chris Caramalis - VP-Finance - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Terri Cunningham - VP-Managing Editor - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Dan Didio - VP-Editorial - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Alison Gill - VP-Manufacturing - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Rich Johnson - VP-Book Trade Sales - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Hank Kanalz - VP-General Manager, Wildstorm - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Lillian Laserson - SVP-General Counsel - Two contributions to John Kerry (made on 5/25/04 and 7/29/04), totaling $750, and one contribution to the DNC for $254. No available name for Spouse.
Jim Lee - Editorial Director-Wildstorm - Too common a name for accurate query. (Spouse Angela [Angie] Lee - No Contributions Listed)
David McKillips - VP-Advertising & Custom Publishing - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
John Nee - VP-Business Development - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Gregory Noveck - SVP-Creative Affairs - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Cheryl Rubin - VP-Brand Management - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Bob Wayne - VP-Sales & Marketing - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse

DC Miscellaneous

Richard Parsons - Chairman and CEO, Time/Warner - A total of $25,000 to the Republican National Committee, $2,000 to George W. Bush, $2,000 to Arlen Specter, $1,000 to the, $10,000 to the aforementioned Time/Warner PAC, and $1,000 to the Magazine Publishers of America PAC.
Brad Meltzer - Mystery novelist, writer of “Identity Crisis” - $2,000 to John Kerry on 7/27/04.

Tomorrow: Indies and More!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Politics In Comic Books, Part One

I recently decided to take a look and see what political causes and candidates the various men and women (but, lets be honest here, its mostly men) who run comics have decided to support financially. This information is actually relatively easy to find, thanks to two independent websites dedicated to shining a light on non-confidential political contributions: Political Moneyline and Fundrace Neighbor Search. In all cases the attempts to verify the identity of the officers in question have been completed to the best of my ability, and the officer’s spouses have been searched as well, when that information has been available.

This is a purely unscientific and obviously cursory examination. All names were verified twice according to both websites – but to the credit of the webmasters in charge of their respective sites, there was rarely any light whatsoever between the two groupings of results. These results are only as accurate, however, as the information provided by these sites, so caveat emptor. All of this information is readily available and in the public domain, so if you want to do the legwork yourself it’s fairly easy stuff to verify.

Marvel Comics

(As provided by

Marvel Corporate Officers

Allen Lipson - President and Chief Executive Officer – No Contributions Listed (Spouse Cheryl Lipson - No Contributions Listed)
Avi Arad - Chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Kenneth West - Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse

Alan Fine - President and Chief Executive Officer of Toy Biz, President and Chief Executive Officer of Publishing - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Tim Rothwell - President, Consumer Products Group – No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Bruno Maglione - President, Marvel International – No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
David Maisel - President and Chief Operating Officer of Marvel Studios – No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
John Turitzin - EVP and General Counsel – Turitzin is an active donor to the PAUL HASTINGS JANOFSKY & WALKER LLP POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE (PAC), w/ his wife Barbara. This appears to be a small PAC established by partners at the PHJ&W law firm. With contributions spread across the political spectrum – albeit primarily for incumbents

Marvel Corporate Directors

Morton E. Handel - Chairman of the Board - No Contributions Listed (Spouse Irma Handel - No Contributions Listed)
Isaac Perlmutter - Vice Chairman of the Board - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Avi Arad - Director - See above
F. Peter Cuneo - Vice-Chairman of the Board - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
James F. Halpin - Director - Multiple contributions for James Halpin, but none of them confirmed as the Halpin on Marvel’s board. No available name for Spouse.
Sid Ganis - Director - Multiple Democratic contributions – specifically two contributions totaling $2,000 to John Kerry (on 3/31/ and 6/23/04), one contribution to Howard Dean for $2,000 on 9/9/03, and one contribution to Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer’s re-election campaign for $1,000. Wife Nancy H. Ganis contributed thousands of dollars to multiple Dem causes, including, Friends of Family Planning, as well as Dem. Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s re-election fund. Unsurprisingly, gossip maven Army Archard has concluded here that Ms. Ganis is Pelosi’s strongest ally in Hollywood. Interestingly, the Ganis’ optioned the distribution rights to Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary on George W. Bush, "Journeys With Geroge", filmed by Pelosi on Bush’s tourbus during the 2000 campaign.
Richard L. Solar - Director - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse

Marvel Miscellaneous

Joe Quesada - EIC - No Contributions Listed, (Spouse Nanci Quesada - No Contributions Listed)
Bill Jemas - Exiled President - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse
Stan Lee - Figurehead - Too common a name for a useful search.
Jim Shooter - Dark Prince - No Contributions Listed, No available name for Spouse

Tomorrow: DC!

Monday, November 08, 2004


Remember to enter the contest! Wednesday is the last day!

Rejected Breakfast Cereal Mascots
(Number 9 in an ongoing Series)

Absorbant and yellow and from the north of England is he.

Spongebob Squarepusher

"I Live In A Pineapple Under The Sea /

Let Me tell You Girl That For Sure /

I'm Gonna Give You All I've Got /

I'm Gonna Fuck You In My Red Hot Pineapple.

Apparently General Mills overestimated the tots' enthusiasm for the music of the Warp Records label, and Nickelodeon subsequently sued.

Friday, November 05, 2004


New remix up here - this time its a special Avengers: Dissassembled crossover featuring Firestorm and Donald Duck.

Don't forget about the contest.

I have finally established a sister site for the Hurting - yes, the Official Rejected Breakfast Cereal Mascots Archive. There you can find all the wonderful Rejected Breakfast Cereal Mascots without having to look through The Hurting's voluminous archives. Enjoy!

We're going to be in Boston tonight, easting chocolate for charity. Nice, eh?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Soul Fire, I Ain't Got No Water

Well, I just don't have the strength to talk about anything political. All the hope, rage, fear and pain has been beat out of me. I have to say, however, that of all the things I've read today, the two best were my friend Slote's succinct encapsulation, and our good buddy Composite Superman's more involved and emotional response.

Quite frankly, I could have lived without that whole World Series thing if I knew there'd be a downside...

Don't forget to enter the Hurting's first ever contest here. As of now, there have been only three entries - so if the contest closed today, everyone who entered would get a prize. As it is, I know more people want to enter - I mean, for God's sake, aren't those some cool prizes?

Just one thing: I can assure you that we're in no mood for political entries. I think yesterday's events proved quite succinctly that a majority of Americans already think I'm quite full of shit politically, so I don't need help on that issue. Thanks.

Because I care:

And lo, there was hope.

Arrrg, its a pirate sketchbook! Oh, wait, no it isn't.

The Acme Novelty Datebook - Part Two

The Acme Novelty Datebook is the most intimate and revealing work in Chris Ware's bibliography. Although there can be no denying the brilliance of Jimmy Corrigan or Quimby the Mouse, the Datebook is, for me, a much more satisfying work because of the multiple layers of emotional rapport available to the reader. Quite frankly, this book reveals a lot more about Chris Ware than he is probably comfortable with revealing, and because of that it is an absolutely invaluable work for the insight it gives to the cartoonist's mindset.

Formal considerations are intrinsically more valuable to the field of comics criticism than that of literary criticism. There is, for instance only one correct way to spell the word "hand" in the english language. There are, however, as many different ways to draw the hand, or to paint, sculpt, or carve the hand, as there are artists. Every artist draws differently, and the way that every artist draws, as any student of fine art will tell you, is the key to understanding how the artist thinks, feels and comunicates. This fact is infinitely important in the world of comics, where we are not dealing with one static image in a painting, but a series of images in a narrative. Every line, every distinct visual element, means something, and the astute reader can learn how to read all of these infinitely subtle visual cues in such a way as to give them a deeper understanding of the medium. Even mediocre or poor artists betray quite a bit through their deficiencies - and if you don't believe me, just look at any recent issue of Rob Liefeld's X-Force revamp. The comics medium is quite powerful, and the cumulative force of a thousand tiny lines can add up to a devestating totality.

Although Ware's typically monomaniacal hyper-realized style can sometimes seem as willfully sui generis as an airline safety brocure, browsing through his sketchbook will easily shatter that perception. He's a chameleon, easily able to approximate just about any style he comes across, from Crumb-esque manic cross-hatching to Byrne Hogarth's dynamic figurework to Rube Goldberg's floppy, energetic Vaudeville line. As the years progress in the pages of the book, and Ware becomes more assured (at least on a subconscious level - his self-loathing never abates). he becomes far more adept at taking what he needs from the styles he appropriates. Every journeyman artist copies the work of their influences. It is through tracing and copying the work of one's betters that the artist begins to understand how and why these things work the way they do.

New characters are introduced throughout the book, such as the Walt Disney-influenced Quimby, Jimmy, and Ware's semi-autobiographical stick-limbed bean person, and they become the stock performers in Ware's nascent exepriments into comics structure and design. You can see a hunger in his constant formalistic experimentation, a palapable desire to lay bare the raw mechanical underpinnings of the cartoon form in order to understand how things work. What emotional impact does a thin and shaky ink line have, as opposed to a strong and bold line? How does the eye react to the mixture of dichotomous styles, such as a hyper-detailed drawing of a monstrously unrealistic figure, or a jolly cartoonish drawing of a pitiful old man? You can see the echoes of Ware's affection for the shaky, impressionistic figure work of the early Golden Age on display in his evolving style, as characters such as Jimmy and the Superman/God proxy take on definitive forms and distinctive lives on the page. The untapped emotional potential of these simple ideograms is flayed by Ware, exposed and exploited as grist for his ever-more ambitious mill.

Of course, irony is the most useful tool in Ware's repertoire. The disassociation between content and image is one of the strongest motifs in his work, be it the rounded, pleasing figurework of the despair-filled Jimmy Corrigan, or the manic invention of the melancholy and existential Quimby stories. These are some of the most sophisticated and effective uses of deceptive imagery in modern cartooning, and a deep understanding of the medium's visual vocabulary is absolutely necessary to understand and appreciate the application.

The Acme Novelty Datebook is perhaps the most essential book to date from one of our most essential cartoonists. Don't be fooled by the fact that this is a "mere" sketchbook: this book is nothing more and nothing less than a complete master class in modern cartooning. The medium's recent evolution can be traced through Ware's evolution: the story of the art in finely-crafted miniature.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Rejected Breakfast Cereal Mascots
(Number 8 in an ongoing Series)

Screw on cap, gimme some of that - if its got a cork, throw it out the back.

Deirdre the Drunken Dolphin

“Man, I Am So Ripped Right Now. My Whole Body Feels Kind Of Tingly, In A Good Way – Kinda Warm. Where Are You Sleeping Tonight? Man, I Like Booze, But Not As Much As, Uh, What The Fuck Are These Things Called? Tootlie-Oot O’s? Uh, OK. Do I Get To Eat After I’m Done?”

This marketing campaign was sadly aborted after Deirdre entered a 12-step program in Seattle, WA. She later became Born-Again and hasn’t had a drop of liquor since 1997.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Bad Tim, No Donut!

Well, I swore I'd never blog political, and by God I sure broke that oath, didn't I? I'd like to thank all the people (OK, maybe all two of you) who said nice things to me, and I'd like to also thank the ten thousand of you who didn't castigate me for my infernal ignorance.

I have this idea - and you can call me strange if you wish - that unless you're actually, you know, an expert in a certain field, you should avoid making uneducated proclamations in that chosen field. I read a lot on politics and current events, and yet I know I am nowhere near as informed as your average poli-sci PhD. I get pissed off when someone who knows absolutely nothing about comics starts spouting off about comic aesthetics, and on a similar token I try to guard against spouting off on politics because I realize that I am no expert. By that same token, I am not qualified to teach you how to solve differential equations or how to install a new transmission for your car, and I could say that I have an opinion on these things but invariably those opinions would be wrong. I realize that politics are for more of a grey area than the hard sciences, but still, I try to be very conscious of my limitations, and try my level best not to inflict them on others.

But the flip side of that coin is that, modesty aside, I'm still better informed and more knowledgable than probably 90-95% of the electorate. However, unlike your average Joe down at the bar, I try to operate on the assumption that my uninformed opinion on any issue on which I am not an expert is actually worth less than an informed opinion. I realize that's not very egalitarian, but hey, them's the breaks. What a fucking concept.

So, um, yeah. How about them comics?

Believe it or not, someone actually asked for more Alf covers - happy I am to oblige.

Hey, its them purty pichers...

The Acme Novelty Datebook - Part One

Every now and again I come across the idea that comics art must by necessity be split for consideration into two separate categories: story and art. Obviously, on a very basic level, comics are a hybrid genre, in that elements from multiple mediums are used interchangeably on the page. But to try and separate these inextricably bound elements, to try and interpret the structural interplay of the page as diametrically opposed elements in dynamic conflict - i.e., specifically “narrative” or “lyrical” elements working towards parallel purposes - is to misunderstand the nature and strength of the comics medium. Comics work best when the narrative, such as it is, is almost indistinguishable from the art, and vice versa. The unconscious collision between disparate visual elements to create a sense of narrative cohesion is vital to the act of reading comics, and trying to separate them after the fact makes for scattershot interpretation.

I have long felt that compiled artist sketchbooks represent one of the most adventurous and satisfying horizons in comic art. If you were to ask me what I believe Robert Crumb’s greatest achievement in the medium to be, I would not answer Zap or Weirdo or any of the usual suspects – I would answer that his sketchbooks represent the single purest distillation of his talent, as well as perhaps his greatest conceptual endowment to the medium. Certainly, it probably never occurred to him for the books to be published when they were originally created. I imagine that if he is anything like his profoundly abstruse public persona, he probably finds the idea of thousands of art-crazy fanboys poring over his private doodles absolutely mind-boggling, South of France or no. But the fact remains, these books are an absolute treasure trove of knowledge for anyone with the patience to study them (and the wherewithal to look past the big booties).

This is comics narrative at it’s rawest form: the progression of singular images to create a cumulative effect in the mind of the reader. Certainly, two separate pictures, if taken on separate terms, can have no relation. But if you create the perception of continuity, then the mind will automatically work to create connections between the disparate visual stimulus. It works on simple levels, such as Scott McCloud’s infamously simple two panels with the stick figure lifting his hat:

Yeah, the guy’s got dandruff, what of it?

And it also works on more complex levels as well. Certainly, most long-form comics works are structured as traditional narratives, hence the “graphic novel” appellation. It’s always tricky to read too much into accidental syntax, but in this case the phrase betrays quite a bit about the structural focus of most traditional comics narrative.

If you look at something like Crumb’s sketchbooks, you have a multi-volume work composed of sketchbook excerpts arranged in chronological order. There is obviously no “story” in any conventional sense, but there is narrative, and a narrative of the type that only comics could create. There’s emotional and intellectual progression (replete with perceived crises and equilibrium), recurring thematic motifs, stylistic exploration and even continuing characters, in the form of Crumb, his family and his fictional creations. When the Crumb sketchbooks are printed in their entirety (or, the entirety that he and his estate will allow), they will collectively represent one of the most towering and singular masterworks of our medium.

The first in what will hopefully be a long series of Chris Ware’s sketchbook volumes was one of last year’s most beautiful releases. By taking a closer look at the mechanics of Ware’s sketchbook, not only can we gain infinitely illuminating entry into the mind of one of our greatest living cartoonists, but we can also learn a great deal about how and why the medium works the way it does.