Thursday, April 08, 2004

Notable Links for 04/08

Man, for some reason the hits have really jumped these last couple days. Mind you, I'm hardly complaining. The more the merrier. Maybe someday someone important will read this and offer me a job writing "Mary Worth" or something.

(Not that you're all not very important.)

* "An artist who survived the Rwandan genocide is marking the mass killing's 10th anniversary this month with a comic book that details his experiences. Montreal-based Rupert Bazambanza's Sourire malgré tout, or Smile Through the Tears, tells the story of the Rwanga family -- his friends who were killed in Rwanda a decade ago. Creating the book, which he began two years ago, has been a way for the artist to honour their memory." Read more here, courtesy of the CBC.

* "Zippy The Pinhead is back!

"Three weeks after the San Francisco-native comic character was banished from the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, The Examiner, San Francisco's hometown paper, has reintroduced Zippy into the five-day-a-week free tabloid.

"'As part of our continued product enhancement growth at The Examiner, I am proud to announce the return of the popular comic strip, Zippy,' President and Publisher P. Scott McKibben said. 'We believe the San Francisco and Bay Area readers of The Examiner have a connection with the strip and will enjoy seeing Zippy every day.'" Read more here, courtesy of the San Francisco Examiner.

* "A California judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit that could have cost Walt Disney Co. hundreds of millions of dollars from Winnie the Pooh product sales, saying Disney's foes lied and stole evidence. Stephen Slesinger Inc., the family firm suing Disney, 'is dishonest and shows no remorse,' Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy wrote in his decision. He ruled that Slesinger's actions threatened the integrity of the legal system and the 13-year-old case should be dismissed as punishment." Read more here, courtesy of Reuters.

* "The Independent Women's Forum (IWF) condemns the latest 'Doonesbury' comic strip, depicting a dialogue between President George W. Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, which has President Bush calling Ms. Rice 'brown sugar.' 'As a black woman, I'm particularly offended and believe this is old- fashioned plantation racism,' says Michelle D. Bernard, Senior Fellow of the Independent Women's Forum. 'Gary Trudeau shows us that a tragic race and gender-based antebellum view of black women continues to haunt American culture.' The Independent Women's Forum calls on Mr. Trudeau, creator of 'Doonesbury,' to apologize and pull this cartoon from any future publications. IWF urges all newspapers that carried this strip, to apologize and pull it down from their websites." Read more here, courtesy of Yahoo! Finance.

* "A controversial cartoon in a college newspaper is causing some trouble. The student paper at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh printed a cartoon in an April Fool's Day edition. It showed a goat bragging to a mouse about how he had hit a black person on a bicycle. The cartoon in The Tartan angered readers and provoked an official review of the paper. School officials say the cartoonist has been fired and that two editors resigned." Read more here, courtesy of KPVI.

* "Being funny without being offensive is tough to do, which is why college newspapers that publish April Fools' Day editions often end up paying for it.

"Three student publications that put out spoofs this year — those at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and the University of Nebraska at Omaha — know all too well.

"Carnegie Mellon's paper, the Tartan, voluntarily shut down for the rest of the semester after publishing a racially charged cartoon in its 12-page spoof edition. The cartoonist lost his job, and the editor in chief — who blamed fatigue for clouding his judgment — is taking a leave of absence until the fall.

"University of Scranton officials closed the Aquinas for parodying Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ,' college administrators and Georgetown University, a fellow Jesuit institution.

"The Gateway, the Nebraska paper, apologized for its four-page edition titled the Ghettoway. One story, with the headline "Gateway cameras stolen during weekend," was written by Ono Udidn. Another fake byline: Mindjo Bidness. The news editor, who is black, told the Gateway for a story Tuesday that she thought the content was representative of pop culture in general." Read more here, courtesy of the Washington Times.

* "A significant collection of 1930s comics has surfaced in upstate New York, where they were found in the insulation of an old house. The 21 books included such rare issues as Detective Comics #2, of which less than ten are know to exist; Tip Top #1; New Comics #1; Star Ranger #1, the first western comic; and The Comics Magazine #1. New Comics #1 is the oldest book, published in December of 1935; despite its age, it was in the best condition of the lot. New Comics was later retitled New Adventure, and eventually Adventure Comics, the long-lived DC Comics title." Read more here, courtesy of ICV2.

* Rich Johnston talks to Image bigwig and "Savage Dragon" impressario Erik Larsen here (link courtesy of Dynamic Forces).

* The Pulse interviews "Invisibles" and "The Filth" artist Chris Weston here.

* The Sydney Morning Herald profiles DJ/cartoonist Kid Koala here.

* Courtesy of loyal reader Mason Adams, we have an interview he conducted with current indie comics "Golden Boy" Nick Bertozzi ("Rubber Necker") here (link courtesy of Mr. Adams' zine, There's Nothing To Do Here).

* Ira Glass and Chris Ware are going to be doing some sort of live collaboration at UCLA this Saturday - I don't really understand what all it entails but it sounds fun. Read more here, courtesy of the San Bernardino County Sun.

* "Editorial cartoonist Matt Davies was thrilled to win a Pulitzer Prize yesterday for himself and for his paper -- The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y. 'If this newspaper were anywhere else, it would have huge respect,' he told E&P today. 'It puts out really good, top-notch stuff. But we're in the shadow of The New York Times. One thing the Times doesn't have is an editorial cartoonist. My publisher [Gary Sherlock] said to me, 'That's one of our biggest trump cards.' And it was, because Davies' Pulitzer was the first ever for the Journal News, owned by Gannett Co. Inc." Read more here, courtesy of Editor & Publisher.

* "The year was 1983 and teenagers Matt Davies and his sister Talitha were uprooted from their London suburban life with the transfer of their banker father to a U.S. job. They ended up in Westport going to Staples High School. 'It was a bit of a shock,' recalled Davies, now 37, who Monday was named the 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner in editorial cartooning for his work at The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y." Read more here, courtesy of Westport Now.

* Variety's "Bags and Boards" talks to Milestone Media honcho and all-around animaiton gadfly Dwayne McDuffie here. (But the real quesiton is - will we ever see more Damage Control???) Link courtesy of Thought Balloons.

Good God, but I sure loved that series.

* Courtesy of Artbomb, we have Mondaq's round-up of the Gaiman v. McFarlane legal battle here (registration is required... I know, I know...)

* Thanks to Mr. Neil Gaiman we have Peter Sanderson's lovely euglogy for Julie Schwartz here (link courtesy of IGN Filmforce).

* So, apparently Darwyn Cooke and Mark Millar got into a fight. They were really going at it down in the schoolyard and it's a good thing Miss Molloy was there or they would have got hurt something fierce. Sean T. Collins think that Cooke is in the wrong, and I would tend to agree with him myself. Christopher Butcher thinks Cooke is right, but he muddies the water in my book by insisting that respect is a desirable thing. Doesn't the fact that these characters are still around in 40 and some cases 60 years after their creation mean that folks like Millar have some respect for the creators? Dave over at Intermittent has some interesting things to say on the subject here (he's right, they're not mutually exclusive viewpoints!) (Link courtesy of Millarworld, where al lthe good fights seem to get started these days [I got the link from Dave who got it from Graeme, incidentally.])

* Over at Newsarama, Patrick Neighly takes a look at Slave Labor's "Street Angel" as well as Stephen Buell’s "Video" here.

* "In Germany they call him Tim, in Dutch he is called Kuifje, the Greeks call him Tentén and in China he’s known as Dingdong. Who am I talking about? Tintin! For 75 years the reporter with the distinctive quiff hairstyle and the small white terrier has been trotting around the globe, but now he is visiting the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, South East London. Marking his 75th birthday, the exhibition The Adventures of Tintin at Sea, running until September 5, is a collection of original drawings by Belgian Cartoonist Georges Remi – more commonly known as Hergé, the francophone pronunciation of his reversed initials – and some of the artefacts and models that inspired him." Read more here, courtesy of the 24 Hour Museum.

* "No one could call the yen Mickey Mouse money, but in one struggling Tokyo neighbourhood it is about to come up against a rival currency inspired by another popular cartoon character with a high-pitched voice. From tomorrow, shoppers in Takadanobaba will be able to buy their groceries with notes bearing the unmistakable features of Astro Boy, the most popular Japanese animation hero of all time." Read more here, courtesy of the Guardian.

* Silver Bullet Comics' weekly "Panel" discussion takes a look at just why comics aren't advertised on TV here.

* Also at SBC - Zack S. calls manga readers sheep. Man, I bet he likes getting pelted with potatoes when he appears in public.

* "It's hard to know just what to call Dennis Webb's Alexandria shop. The plants, some as unusual as a bonsai schefflera, don't quite define it, though they're the first thing a customer sees. The dozens of boxes of old comic books don't tell the whole story, either. And the used books and videos on scattered shelves, from romance novels to 'Dr. Who,' take up a lot of space, but they're not the reason most people visit this well-established hole in the wall. Truth is, the one-room store has two names -- Card & Comic Collectorama and Exotic Planterium -- but they don't begin to describe Webb's 30-year-old business at 2008 Mount Vernon Ave., in the Del Ray section of Alexandria, in an up-and-coming block that he shares with purveyors of fine wines and Thai food." Read more here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

* Pop Matters has updated their Comixs Reviews with new looks at DC's "The Monolith," Image's "Rex Mundi," as well as Dark Planet's "Rogues!" and "2 To The Chest." (Links courtesy of Kevin at Thought Balloons.)

* Steven Grant reviews a shitpile of new books and answers reader mail this week. Nothing too earth-shattering, but stil lworth reading. Link courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

* "SINGAPORE fans are getting their comics at a fraction of the American price - thanks to an American publishing house. Gotham Entertainment Group, a publishing house with offices in India and the United States, obtained the rights to publish DC Comics and Marvel regionally seven years ago. It started printing comics for the Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei markets in August last year. In Singapore, the $10 'specials' are a slightly smaller size. Some contain a collection of short stories featuring a comic-book character but most carry the same content as American trade paperbacks." Read more here, courtesy of the Straits Times.

* John Jakala over at Grotesque Anatomy reviews that recent big hit video game, "Avengers/JLA." (PS - Thanks for giving away the ending, jackass. [I keed, I keed.])

* "Brian Mead is a lithographer at VonHoffman Graphics in Eldridge, who moonlights as a coloring book artist, creating fill-in-the-space designs that encourage both creativity and learning. 'I look at coloring books to be the original interactive books. It's a throwback to before kids could sit in front of the TV,' observed Mead, a father of two young girls. '(Coloring) can buy a parent several hours of peace and quiet, without having to worry about setting them in front of the electronic babysitter.'" Read more here, courtesy of the Eldrige North Scott Press.

* "A Dundurn Street South man who buys and sells comic books and other collectibles has admitted involvement in a sophisticated fraud that siphoned more than $130,000 from the Royal Bank. The case appeared headed for trial yesterday but ended in a plea bargain for Douglas Kisko, 37, who was facing charges of uttering a forged document and fraud over $5,000. Ontario Court Justice Don Cooper reluctantly agreed to sentence Kisko to just one day in jail and ordered him to repay the bank. Cooper ordered restitution, which is a legal judgment in favour of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) that will follow Kisko for life or until the debt is paid." Read more here, courtesy of the Toronto Star.

* David Fiore finally gets to the good stuff: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Brotherhood of Dada.

* Meanwhile, the other Dave, over at Intermittent, gets it. It may look like he's poking a hole in my argument, but really, I think he's proving my point perfectly. What if every book about Columbia had to be filtered through magical realism - it'd get old real quick, wouldn't it? Wouldn't most people get pretty tired of that? Then you'd have a small, infinitely loyal but slowly dwindling coterie of Columbia-fanboys who refused to read any stories about Columbia but ones that involved magical-realism, and instead of even a diversity of magical-realist titles we'd have all these Macondo spinoffs and we'd have Rob Liefeld drawing the Buendia's with tiny feet and huge thighs... well, you get my idea. Good job, Dave.

* "John McPherson, whose cartoon 'Close to Home' is featured in newspapers around the world, will be inducted into Bucknell University's Association for the Arts Academy of Artistic Achievement. The ceremony will take place during the academy's annual Association for the Arts dinner in Lewisburg on April 17." Read more here, courtesy of WGAL.

* "One of the first things they teach you in higher level English composition school courses is how to find an audience. Who will care about your writing, and why? How will you establish credibility with this audience, and how will you appeal to them? What's the 'so what?' of your work? While the guidelines in that situation were clearly geared toward expository writing, the same concept goes for comics. Perhaps, since comics is a commercial medium as well as an artist medium, especially in comics." Read more here, courtesy of Silver Bullet Comics.

* I wasn't going to post to Legomancer's Previews rundown - really, aren't these things kinda boring? But it's worth reading just to learn about the Brotherhood of the Mite. Inspired.

* Mike Sterling at Progressive Ruin finds the weirdest things...

Travels With Larry Part III

Codeflesh TPB

I think I finally got Joe Casey figured out.

There’s always been something a bit . . . off about his work, and I know I haven’t been the only one to feel this way. He’s consistently scored high-profile gigs but has also consistently alienated his core constituency of superhero fanboys. In all honesty, I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about these things until I read his recent Comics Journal interview with Tom Spurgeon.

Now, I must confess I was a bit surprised when I saw that the Journal was going to interview Casey – mostly because, as I said, I had never really devoted any thought to the matter before. But once I sat down and read the interview, I could definitely see why someone as bright as Spurgeon would be interested in talking to someone like Casey. I had never really grokked his work before, and as I read and absorbed the interview a whole bunch of pieces fell into place in the back of my mind. The notion percolated that perhaps I needed to give Casey another try.

Then, thanks to AiT/Planet Lar, I got a copy of the “Codeflesh” trade, reprinting the eight original Codeflesh stories Casey did with Charlie Adlard. The stories were originally published in a little heralded Image flip-book called “Double Image.” I imagine no one “got” it, which is why the last three issues of the series were renamed “Double Take” and published by Funkotron instead of Image. But, thanks to the perspicacity of Larry Young, the stories are now in print for good under one cover. In a lot of ways, I think this might be the most interesting bit of Casey's work I've ever read. Reading “Codeflesh” makes me think that perhaps Casey really is one of the genre’s rare geniuses, like Grant Morrison with less flash.

Actually, if a comparison must be made, I think that Casey might just be the Jane Austen of superhero comics. People who have read little or none of their actual output often deride both Austen and Casey. Sometimes people who do read them still misunderstand them. But when it comes to craft and style, neither of them can be beat. And certainly when it comes to plumbing the dark thematic depths which underlie their respective genres – the Regency romance and the modern superhero tale - neither of them can really be matched for their biting satirical insight.

Under Casey’s watch, “Wildcats” was about a superhero team that falls apart and decides that the real power behind the world is money, and that the real engines of change are multinational corporations, not glorified Circus acrobats and strongmen. “Cable” was about a man out of time, a soldier in a time of waning peace who wanted desperately to have a chance at normalcy. And “Codeflesh” is basically about a man who likes to get the shit beat out of him on a regular basis for no other reason than he likes it.

The book’s protagonist – I’m not going to say hero – is a man named Cameron Daltrey. He’s a man with anger management issues. He’s a bail bondsman who specializes in the super-villain community – the type of felons who almost always run out on a bond. This means he has to bring them back in, usually in a very violent manner. He doesn’t have superpowers or magic weapons, he’s basically just a mean S.O.B. in a fright mask. The judge told him he couldn’t be a bounty hunter anymore so he took to wearing the mask, because he couldn’t face the prospect of life without the constant adrenaline rush of getting the crap beat out of him by third-rate super-crooks.

It’s an ugly book, a brutal book. There are no deeper issues of truth or justice at play here, just rivers of subtle masochism and not-so-subtle sadism. It’s the kind of book I honestly can’t imagine very many conventional superhero readers enjoying, because it says some unpleasant things about the concept of the superhero vigilante. It’s all well and good to claim you fight crime out of a deep sense of moral responsibility, but at the end of the day, how many of your favorite superheroes just kinda get off on beating the tar out of lame-o super-villains?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the ethical nature of superheroes. Some think that dismissing the concept of vigilante behavior because of deeply moralistic qualms is to miss the point of the stories, that they’re metaphors for universal ethical and metaphysical questions. Well, that’s not the kind of superhero book that I think Joe Casey has any interest in writing. Furthermore I believe that “Codeflesh” is perhaps the most nakedly vicious attack on this train of thought that I have yet encountered. Casey has to be one of the most naturalistic writers in comics, because I just don’t think that it’s possible to apply overarching metaphors to his work without it ringing false.

To put it bluntly, Codeflesh is a fucking maniac, and reading this book makes you feel dirty. Furthermore, this feeling of repulsion tends to corrupt your perceptions of more conventional superheroics.

It’s not a perfect book. The worst part about it is that damn mask. It’s such a brilliant visual – a barcode where the face should be – but there’s no real thematic explanation for it in the story. Rorschach’s mask has a great little story of its own, there’s a reason that he wears it and those reasons can be traced back to his character and his milieu. But Codeflesh’s mask is just something he picked because it was there. I almost wish they could go back and change the face, in order to give that visual to someone like Grant Morrison, someone with more of an instinctive feel for visual metaphor than Casey.

The book suffers in places because of the transition to black and white. Drawing in black and white is a challenge that not every artist can meet. Most mainstream artists, especially, are conditioned to use color to balance their pages – giving their colorists the leeway to tweak the ebb and flow of their storytelling with contrasting and complimentary color schemes. In black and white, the artist doesn’t have this crutch, and it shows in “Codeflesh” whenever you have trouble picking the foreground from the background and are confused by the action in certain scenes. Busy lines look great when they’re colored in and you can easily discern the narrative, but sometimes more is less when you work in greytone.

Charlie Adlard’s art has improved by leaps and bounds since his days on Topps’ “X-Files” adaptation (that’s the last place I remember seeing his work). His art is a lot looser and his lines are much more evocative – undoubtedly a byproduct of not having to follow tight licensing restrictions regarding the characters’ faces.

So, while “Codeflesh” is not a perfect book, it’s a damn good book. I think that there are a couple stylistic choices that ring false – the last story in particular hinges on an Eisneresque gimmick you will either love or loathe. But an overriding spirit of formal experimentation and thematic iconoclasm carries the book successfully. If it’s not there already, “Codeflesh” deserves a place on your bookshelf.

(I have no shame.)

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