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.