plainly and simply parasitical on the obvious or univocal reading

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Sandman Mystery Theatre #49, Part Two: How Cute, It Thinks It's Better...

One of the things I’ve been coming back to while reading this book again and again is the strange conversation happening between this comic itself and the pulps that serve as a set piece. Now, obviously, plot-wise, pulp magazines figure prominently in this issue. So I think it’s fair to examine a stance that I think this comic takes regarding its relationship to the pulps (which, I think it makes sense to say, were very much the precursor to and inspiration for this series): namely, it thinks it’s better.

In a scene on page 5, Dian and Wesley walk past a newsstand, where Dian looks for a new issue of something called The Black Mask. Wesley’s response is to ask if that’s “one of those silly crime pulps,” prompting Dian to do a defense, of sorts, of the pulp-lit form. Now on the first couple of readings this just struck me as a nod to the history of the Sandman and of the genre, I guess you’d call it “neo-pulp crime fiction” or something, that Sandman Mystery Theatre itself belongs to. After all, Wesley is likely serving in this scene as the smug and snobbish cultured fellow who needs to be educated, and Dian as the intelligent-but-adventurous, open-minded one, showing him the way. Of the pulp mags, she says, “The language is so raw, so vibrant. Some of these stories are brilliant.” Is that all? The language? This was my first clue, really. It just seems like a bone tossed to corny ol’ granpa pulpy. It sends the message, “well, sure they’re dumb, lowest common denominator, unchallenging junk, but the language is great!” And this may or may not be true of the pulps, but it also may or may not be true about this comic (well, part of my problem is that in the comic, the language isn’t that great, and more on that below). Either can certainly be read that way if the reader so chooses.

Where is this raw, vibrant language to be found in the comic itself? Well, there is a bit in printed “excerpts” of the fictional pulp, and it’s played partially for chuckles, I think. Which is a shame, because there’s really something there. For example:

“The Sandman was picking at bones. Chalky white, brittle grinding bones dropped in a trench at the edge of the city. Human bones dyed red with human blood, they bent themselves in wrong directions. Finger bones stretched for the cover that no longer wrapped them in their skintight coffin.”

And this:

“As Stolt continued to struggle, bony fingers tore private pages into kindling. The Ghost forced the tattered remnants up into Stolt’s damp dress shirt, Stolt screaming for any reprieve. Next, cold sloshes of gasoline from a nearby can soaked through Stolt’s clothes in rude splashes.

‘Please! Don’t! I’ll do anything!’

‘You’ll leave me your bloody bones,’ was the whole answer from the Ghost.

But miracles were on tap this evening as a cool cloud of spreading relief, the mystery fog of the masked marvel known only as The Sandman began to spread and fill the Ghost’s secret lair.

‘Fire season is over, Ghost. Now drop the torch, pronto. And not on Mr. Stolt, either, or it’s curtains for you, you cardinal colored ghoul.’”

The language is exaggerated for effect here, but it’s also exaggerated for the purpose of creating a distinction between the pulpiness of old and the neo-pulpiness of the current, or in this issue, real version.

Going back to page 5 for a bit, there’s an exchange between Wes and Dian about—get this—The Sandman pulp magazine. In it, they mock the pulp version of the hero, and all the silly conventions, saying his mask looks like “the grille of a Cadillac,” and when Dian reads an excerpt, Wesley’s reaction is a knowing, “Please! Who makes this stuff up?”

On page 16, when the Sandman visits Hubert Klein, a contact in the morgue, Klein is reading the Sandman pulp. When Klein begins to comment on the difference between how the pulp version makes an appearance and how the real-world version makes an appearance, the Sandman is moved to assert sharply, “That is fiction, I am reality.” Well, as it turns out, there is a murder victim in the morgue who was killed in the same manner as one described in the pulp magazine, so Klein thinks there might be a connection. When Wes later shares that suggestion with Dian, she says, “How silly!” But is it? I mean, even in the real world of this comic, the Sandman deals with strange murders all the time.

And in the end, that’s what strikes me about the issue. While embracing a subject that is not unlike the pulps in any way, its heroes wink and nod and mock them, and the author takes every opportunity to show that this comic, and this version of the character, is not the same thing. It just seems to say, “Look how much better we’re handling it than they did in that old-timey schlock. Our version is all serious and whatnot, our villains are real people with plausible explanations. But, uh…we still think the language in those books is raw and vibrant, even though we eschew its use and make fun of it.” And like I said, the attitude toward the pulp books may or may not be well-founded, but it doesn’t make the comic any more sophisticated than those books. In either case it’s a guy in a suit and mask who is armed with a fog gun, who runs around at night solving grisly murders. It would be nice if the comic could embrace and revel in the elements of its ancestral medium rather than trying to distance itself as though it’s something to be embarrassed about.

I may revisit this relationship again in a future post in terms of the real/hyperreal relationship created by having a character who is, within the story, at once real and fictional, but I believe that part three will deal with Dian and the phenomenon of SGS: Superhero’s Girlfriend Syndrome (which is not always as unhealthy as it sounds…).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Sandman Mystery Theatre #49, Part One: The Meaningless Distinction Between the Leisurely and the Worthwhile

How are we to rank the activities of our lives in terms of importance, relevance? Well, hold on. Must we? Perhaps, in terms of setting priorities, we must. However, do the low-priority endeavors define who we are any less than those of higher priority? Can they be dismissed, and is diversion truly dispensable? These are the questions that Matt Wagner and Steven Seagle ask us to grapple with in Sandman Mystery Theatre issue 49.

After opening with an excerpt of flowering faux-pulp prose, we are presented immediately in the first panel with a tone-setting string of dialogue balloons.

Colm Petty: “…would again come face to skull with the Scarlet Ghost.” That’s a good one, ain’t it there, Petey? “Face to skull.”

Petey Petty: Jump ahead to the good parts. Ain’t there some skull crushin’ this month, Colm?

Woman Passing: Come along, Wilbur. You don’t need to be listening to this trashy talk.

Wilbur: Aw, gee, Ma.

These two exchanges encapsulate one of the primary themes of the issue. Where Colm is taking the time to revel in the descriptive language of the pulp rag that he’s reading, Petey wishes things to move along to the action, the “good parts.” The passing woman dismisses talk of the story as “trashy,” insisting that her son doesn’t need to be listening to it, though judging by his response he would like to. So there is on the one hand a sense of wanting to linger over things of beauty (in a sense), things that are diversionary, that seem to serve no utilitarian purpose (seem being an important term here, I think), and on the other hand the desire to stress purpose, function, usefulness above all things. But during the course of the issue (and perhaps the whole story arc, though I haven’t read it—maybe they’ll get traded someday) this split is shown to be meaningless, or perhaps slightly meaningful but unnecessary, or perhaps slightly necessary but misleading if applied as a hard and fast rule.

On page eleven, we are treated to the following captioned monologue:

“There are few burning issues in the lives of men. Certainly there are many
things that divert our attention—ways we find to fill our time—essentially
meaningless pursuits that we accept as meaning—vocations that serve to either
provide for our basic needs—or as some philanthropic contribution to the society
we choose to perpetuate. We fill our days, then, distracting ourselves from the
burning issues—with the smoldering embers of existence—the attractive, but
ultimately hollow rewards of hobby—pausing only occasionally to take stock of
our true needs and concerns—the matters that deserve our closest
attention—happiness—satisfaction—love—and family. The rest of life’s trappings
and constructs, no matter how seemingly important they may be, are in
actuality—misguided folly.”

This monologue is delivered over a montage of Wesley working on his Sandman mask and gun, as well as Dian reading, attempting to write, taking pills, and sleeping. What is most interesting is that the caption about vocations and the caption about hobbies are both contained in panels with Wesley working on his Sandman equipment. This suggests that being the Sandman may be interpreted, in one way, as being a hobby, an escape, a diversion. In another way it can be seen as his job, his primary constructive contribution to society. Rhetorically, in the above passage, work and hobby are treated as being equal to each other, in that they are equally meaningless. Kind of bleak, but it provides a counterpoint to the split between the leisurely and the worthwhile asserted in the first panel on page 1.

The character of Mike Petty, the young comic book artist, is also an embodiment of the meaninglessness of the distinction between the worthwhile and the diversionary. He earns his living by illustrating the trash entertainment that distracts others from their worthier pursuits. Both must be present in equal measure in order for his character to even exist. In his case, there is no division between the serious and the trivial.

The final scene, on pages 22 and 23, has the Sandman and Mike Petty meeting. The following passage is contained in various captions on the two pages:

“Our follies are what make us attractive to ourselves—as well as of interest to
others. The man who spends his entire life lost in the great pursuits, with no
time for the lesser—is the man who would go through life enlightened—but

A succession of character interactions, monologue captions, and even a couple of characters in themselves attempt to assert the common importance of the diversionary and the worthwhile as defining elements of personality and as ways of spending time. Thus, even as they are going about their murderous business, the Petty boys are quoting their favorite pulp magazine—and can’t wait to get home to finish up the story. Dian seeks to invigorate her literary career by writing for the pulps—even as she laments not being able to do anything about the war in Europe. But rather than creating a push-pull situation on the lives of the characters, these ostensibly competing concerns blend into each other, pressing the point that distinguishing between them is unnecessary.

With any luck I’ll be able to get part two up next week.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Rare Political Post--On Voting

It's like being in a long play in which you only have one line and it's close to the end. So you have to be there through the whole thing, and when you're done, you still have to hang around through curtain. But it's still nice to be involved.

So get to those polls and vote. And just this once, whether you vote or not, feel free to complain. That's my gift to you.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Out of my Depth, and Paddling Furiously

As everyone likely already knows, Tom Spurgeon has his own comics site now. And yes, as all my fellow comics bloggers are saying, it is likely the new Journalista in terms of how essential it is to the online comics commentary community. He makes a fantastic start with some excellent posts, particularly his response to Dirk Deppey’s articles about the recent changes at Marvel. I find Spurgeon’s perspective to be incredibly insightful, and Deppey has already promised in a thread on the Comics Journal message board that he will have a reply. I’m riveted to this discussion already.

Also of note on Spurgeon’s site, and the reason behind this post, is a link to a Newsarama interview with Jeff Smith. There was apparently a bit of controversy at the San Diego con regarding Smith’s choice to sell the single-volume Bone trade himself at his booth and to debut it at the con prior to offering it up for sale on the direct market. A few retailers were upset at that decision on the grounds that it directly competed with them after they had spent the last ten years carrying the single issue Bone comics as well as the trade paperbacks in their stores. Newsarama columnist and comics retailer Brian Hibbs even wrote a column addressing the issue (it’s only a small section of a longer and broader column, but he does have some things to say on the subject).

All of this raises questions about small-press convention etiquette, as well as broader questions about the responsibility of the small-press publisher to a system that is, more often than not, indifferent at best to the small publisher. I realize that there are shops out there that really make an effort to stock and sell small-press and self-published material. I live in a city where there is more than one such shop. However, the majority of direct market stores don’t support the small-press creator or publisher. They probably couldn’t afford to even if they wanted to. The large company publishers’ policies and the mechanism of distribution are both very good at making life difficult for the retailer. In such an environment, any shop that carries a small-press book of any kind is really sticking its neck out. This is something that should be appreciated. These retailers should be graciously thanked at every opportunity. However, does this mean, when it comes down to it, that the small publisher owes these shops first go-round on any new product they put out, or that publishers are obligated to refrain from selling their own product at conventions?

It’s hard enough right now in the direct market for books published by the first four publishers in the Previews catalog to find a sustainable audience. All of those publishers filed under miscellaneous, as it were, have an almost impossible task in getting noticed, capturing the attention of retailers and then maybe a reader or two in a given shop. Conventions provide an opportunity to deal with consumers directly, and give consumers a chance to actually look through the products rather than guessing based on Previews solicitations whether or not they’ll like something. The average small-press creator or self-publisher can sell more books in this way in a single weekend than in months of having one or two books sitting unnoticed on the shelf of a comic shop. To not take advantage of such an opportunity would be unnecessarily stupid. Further, to be able to sell a book directly, at cover price, with no one else (such as Diamond) taking a cut is great for publishers, and again, to not take advantage of that situation is stupid.

Now, things are messed up all around, but retailers and small publishers have the toughest go of things. If the readership was unsatisfied with the product that’s currently available, they wouldn’t be buying it, and if the big companies were unsatisfied with their audience I would suppose that they’d try to diversify their product lines or impose some sort of quality control. So yeah, it seems that the smaller publishers and retailers are getting the bad end. But what to do? The ideal thing would be to grow the audience for comics in general, but it seems that inasmuch as that’s being done right now it’s not being done in the direct market. This isn’t the fault of retailers, of course. I think it’s more of a structural problem with the direct market itself. What the DM seems to do best is selling single issue comics week in and week out. At this point I want to make it clear (if it isn’t already) that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’m really going from memory to a large extent. So if any retailer-bloggers out there can help me out with some info on how this works, that would be great. I guess what I want to know at this point is, what are the benefits to the small/self-publisher in selling through retailers as opposed to directly to consumers when at a con? And in the case of longer-form work, this would apply even when not at a con. And if there is no benefit, then is it reasonable to expect a small/self-publisher to act against self-interest and sell through a retailer purely out of a sense of loyalty to the direct market (or for whatever reason, I just grabbed the first one that came to mind. And I don’t mean to trivialize loyalty, either)?

And by the way, have I said how much I love my retailer? Heh heh…

Oh boy.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Getting There, Getting Distracted

Folks, my upcoming series on SMT #49 is proceeding, I assure you. Alas, it's moving a bit more slowly than I thought it would due to some things coming up. I have an exam in less than a week, my wedding anniversary is coming at the middle of the week, I've started working on some comics, and I just got the new issue of the Journal which is keeping me from the work I should be doing on all the other things. If I'm feeling feisty I'll post tonight. As it turns out some of the things I've been thinking about recently anyway are tying into the Sandman Mystery Theatre comic I've been reading. Of course, you might say that the fact that I was thinking about those things has influenced the way I've been reading it, and you'd be correct. So yeah, I'm sorry to all those people who are checking up on me. Both of you can expect to see something shortly (a guy can always count on his wife and his mom!). In the meantime, go out and buy the new issue of The Comics Journal. It's packed with all kinds of great reading, probably enough to keep you chewing on for six weeks until the next one comes out. The Journal: it's not just for guys like me anymore!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Progress so far, such as it is (the pressure, man)

I've read through SMT #49 a couple of times, and even read it backwards, in fact. I've chosen not to do a plot synopsis because the nature of this experiment is such that the plot isn't the main thing I'm looking at in terms of things to think about, and also because this is part one of a four part story and so it's all kind of out of context, again by design. In other words, I'm dealing with just this single issue rather than the whole story. The reason for this is that I'm trying to find things that aren't necessarily related to the context of the story. Certainly some of the stuff is part of the story, but other stuff is just me going off on a tangent. So anyway, here are some of my notes so far, and topics I expect to touch on whenever I have the time to do so:

Transition from pulps to comics…publishers are mob front

Beginnings of WWII, reference to Justice Society not being able to stop it, just as they didn't... sort of a way that real-world events work their way into a world where the costumed crimefighter exists...

Sandman of real world, Sandman of the pulps--how do they play into each others' expectations?

Pulps influencing real life behavior, but not in children…widely read by adults

Dian…author, blocked, going to write for pulps

“Dames don’t write adventure stories” ooh, sexism in the industry. Fun.

“While it is intellectually appealing to regard life’s adjunct activities as inherently inconsequential—it must also be noted that much of who we are is found in what we do.”


“Our follies are what make us attractive to ourselves—as well as of interest to others.”

As captions in panels featuring a cartoonist. Follies? Just what are we saying here?

And then this:

“The man who spends his life lost in the great pursuits, with no time for the lesser—is the man who would go through life enlightened—but unnoticed.”

Great? Lesser? Enlightened?

“And no amount of personal enrichment—makes complete anonymity desirable.” As the pencil falls to the floor…

“No! Don’t shoot—I’m just the artist!”

And this one has some pulp excerpts too.

Oddly enough, I really don’t know what to say about the dream sequence as it relates to this issue. I’ll have to let it stew a bit more.

“—the attractive, but ultimately hollow rewards of hobby—“

Someone is clearly trying to come to terms with a love of the diversionary, no?

And this mob dude is trying to halt the publisher that his brother’s doing artwork for…

A creator getting shafted regarding treatment of his own character?

Much to ponder here… I’ll update this list soon, I’m sure.

Monday, October 11, 2004

And the Winner Is...

I have chosen the comic that I'll be subjecting to my jeweled criticism experiment. Through the careful process of sticking my hand into a long box in my attic and pulling out whatever I grabbed, I have narrowed down the list of candidates from one And that book is:

Sandman Mystery Theatre #49!

I'm glad that it turned out to be a company comic, and I can tell just by looking at it that I'll be able to find lots of wonderful Reading material inside. I'll give it a couple of reads and then proceed with documenting my findings here. Don't worry, I'm sure it'll still be a fun read when I'm done with it. I don't expect to ruin it for anyone.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A New Experiment: Jeweled Criticism

Something Jon posted in my comments down below got me thinking about something. We were talking about the assumed primacy of text in reading (he was talking, I was injecting pointless nonsense here and there...), and alternative modes, or lenses through which a critical apprehension of an art object may be obtained (in addition to, not instead of, the text itself, just so I'm clear) came up. A link to a published discussion between a neurologist and a mathematician sent me off on a mental tangent from which I was destined not to return, and I started thinking about the apprehension of the universe through use of mathematics. I started thinking about the way that mathematical models change every time something in the universe or in the realm of theory manages to fall outside of the established models, thereby not invalidating previous models, but expanding on and enhancing them (and I don't really know what I'm talking about, but I'll forge ahead for a bit anyway), and allowing the same thing to be looked at in a whole other set of ways.

I am interested in applying that to the way that I read comics. I want to try to examine a book through a variety of different approaches and schools of thought, to see what kind of understanding I can come to regarding the work. And because I like to make things difficult for myself, I will choose a comic that is generally regarded as not meriting such a close look. I haven't chosen it yet, but my guess is that I will be able to get a nice series of posts on the subject in the coming fill-in-the-blank period of time. And in case anyone wonders, yes, the quality of the work itself will be considered, but it will be considered along with everything else I can see in it as well. I hope to go into a great amount of detail and cover a broad range of topics. It's a completely insane and useless thought experiment just for times that I get bored, but I invite everyone to come along with me. I might find something really cool.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

R.I.P. Jacques Derrida

Cancer has claimed the life of Jacques Derrida. He was one of the people who most influenced my aesthetic sense and critical views, as well as my view of the world in general. Fittingly, words cannot express my gratitude to the man and to his influence on western thought.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Unpacking the Tidy Packages

In my previous post addressing realism and respectability, I must admit that I decidedly did not have in mind the superhero/autobio dichotomy that seems to surface every time there is a discussion about realism and respectability in comics. I don't think that I have to remind everyone that there is a vast amount of content that exists apart from those two subjects, as well as a vast amount of content that exists within them. The typical reaction I read when someone notes that many superhero comics are poorly written and/or cliche ridden is that autobio comics are equally so. And it happens in spite of the fact that the person being critical of the superhero work did not ever explicitly hold up autobio as a contrary example. This is of course true in reverse as well. And it underscores a real problem with serious discussion of comics. The idea that there is one kind of reader or the other kind is such a nonsensical illusion and it does no good to allow discussions to continue to be framed in that way. There is simply too much content, too many creators who want to create in multiple ways, and too many readers who want to read whatever they want to read in whatever ways they want to read it for such tidy packaging of types to have any meaning. And it leads to all sorts of meaningless value assessments like "transcendence of genre" and such. What that kind of packaging amounts to is allowing the terms used to market a product to set the tone for critical discussion of an artwork.

I hope that I'm not just making something out of nothing here, but I'm still mulling things over from yesterday's Parker article and the reactions to it that I have seen. Upon thinking about it, I realized that if I were to say that I prefer (X) type of comic, I would have to attach such an extended list of qualifiers to it that the (X) would lose its meaning and become unnecessary. So I might as well abandon it altogether. What good has it done me? Even if I deign to evaluate a specific comic in terms of work that has come before, it will still be work of my choosing, and may not even be of the same type. That also goes for the critical lens through which I am evaluating it as well, and even then I may use multiple critical lenses simultaneously. What I'm saying is that the work at hand is related to all of the things that I relate it to simply by virtue of the fact that I am able to make a convincing case that it is so. That is my prerogative and yours, as a reader.

In truth, even now as I evaluate weblog discussions of comics, I am doing so from one of my preferred critical lenses, feminism, though I am replacing gender essentialism with generic essentialism. After all, as most folks point out, the similarities between superhero and autobiographical comics far exceed the differences. And they are also, as I said, far from the only options. In fact, by way of example, I'll list the best comics I've read recently: Louis Riel, The Fixer, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Blackhawk, Wigwam Bam... none of those books fits particularly tidily into a nicely packaged description. But even if they did, what good would it do to limit them thusly? I find that if I allow myself to unpack various different meanings from each of them, they come to remind me more of each other, and then play off of each other, inform and enhance my understanding of each other.

Now, as you may have guessed, I am not a casual reader. These sorts of intellectual/academic exercises are my idea of a good time (I can hear you weeping for me now). What I'm getting at is that I'd think that a casual reader would care even less than I do about these boundaries of generic identity. But the comments that I read on blogs and messboards suggest otherwise. I find that odd. Ah well, these are the things I think about at 4am I guess...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Realism, Respectability, Whatnot

What a time to be blogging! Any number of topics from around the comics blogging world are swirling around in my head, and I will attempt to bring some of them together here in this post and see what I come up with. I anticipate that this will be a rambling, meandering post, and it would be more succinct and would make more sense if I had the time to go back into it when I'm finsished. But I don't, so here we go.

John Parker, fellow Kansas City area guy and friend of mine, has a new Ninth Art article up (incidentally, these are occurring more frequently lately and I say well done, John) giving voice to the idea that comics with realistic plots are most often just as average as those with fantastic plots. Fair enough. I would argue that there is no such thing as a realistic plot, because a plot is an artificial construction, but that would be meaningless here as John wasn't the one who used that language, I was. Anyway, John refers to them as realistic-slash-autobiographical, which is distinct from simply saying "indy" (lest we inadvertantly turn this into a company vs. indy thing) inasmuch as a good many indy books are also fantastic, absurd, surreal, or really anything they want to be.

John's point in the piece is that the ambassadors-in-comics-form to the large mass of people who don't have a history of reading comics tend to be middle-of-the-road in content and quality. I guess what I would ask is: why wouldn't they be? That's the type of culture product that most people consume. Film, television, music, novels and even restaurants tend to be exactly that. We would do well to remember that hype, even in the form of those "comics are actually worthy of your time, whodathunk" articles, is primarily about marketing. It stands to reason that the comics that most resemble the other cultural artifacts people consume are the ones that will receive the biggest push. John makes a lamenting remark to the effect that more interesting work is ignored in favor of the mediocre stuff, but doesn't say what the more interesting work is, so I can't say whether I agree or not.

Anyway, that's really all tangential to what his article really got me to thinking about (so I guess technically, I'm the one who's going off on a tangent here), namely realism. Now, trying to identify realism in artifice is a rather dicey proposition. What is it that makes one work realistic while another is not, and what makes one work more realistic than another? In order to determine those things, we'd have to first determine what the works are about, in every sense of about-ness that can possibly be gleaned--including perhaps the ones we ourselves might miss but that someone else can kindly point out. And even supposing that was possible, we'd still have to then connect what we find out to some sort of greater truth about life or whatever, and then do some kind of audit between the works to determine which one has more of that. Whew, what a lot of trouble! An unread work of art is like an incomplete circuit; it does nothing at all until connected to something that it can output to. That's the reader, who also has an effect on the content. There are things that readers will see that authors may not know they put there, and yet there they are. Yeah, so what is realism? Did we perhaps mean to say genuineness, or maybe honesty? Or do we mean simulacrum (I would bring in Baudrillard, wouldn't I)? All things considered we could just be talking about drawings of cars that look like cars (except they don't look like cars, they look like drawings of cars), or conversations written the way people talk (except that they're not conversations, they're carefully chosen written words), or situations that mimic situations that might happen in real life (except with discernable beginnings, middles, and ends). So yeah, it seems to me that striving for realism is a useless endeavor.

With that in mind I can see why Dave has so much difficulty with respectability. Now I'm admittedly making a leap here that might not necessarily be able to be made. I'm assuming that there is some link in the imaginations of a large number of folks between perceived realism and respectability. This might in some way explain the ruinously stifling influence that striving for respectablity has on a work. And I'm not talking about genuinely good works here; I'm more talking about work that over thinks and over extends itself, where the author creates with the audience too much in mind. In my experience the best creators are the ones who allow the work to function as a buffer between themselves and the readers, who focus on the work itself and allow the reader to do the same. In other words, creators who realize that that's all they can do, and so they don't try to manipulate/control the audience so much. Yes, of course this gets back to power. For what is respectability if not a relationship of power and approval? Do you remember all of your embarrassing attempts to write essays that impressed your professors? How did that work out? Did you over-reach? See how the art gets lost in all the manipulation? Writer tries to assert power by controlling the reader to receive the reader's approval. The reader asserts power by setting the conditions by which approval is given to the author. The work itself is, in this case, not what really matters. I wish that I could come up with specific examples in comics, but I try not to presume that that's what's going on in most of what I read. I really don't know and am in no position to judge. I assume that if I find something interesting to chew on, then the work itself was, on at least some level, of primary importance during its creation.

Okay, so I'm tired and really starting to ramble. I'll probably have to come back to this subject later, so enjoy this and let me know if anyone has anything to add.

Friday, October 01, 2004

I Still Exist

Sorry, folks. I know that the blogging has been light, but it's because my son has been sick. So just a couple of short points.

1. To men: please, please, please, if you are out walking around and see a woman walking toward you or sitting on a bench somewhere and she's looking a bit forlorn, down, preoccupied, whatever, do not tell her to smile. In fact, don't say or do anything. It's creepy. I know you probably want to be a nice and friendly guy, but trust me, the nicest thing you can do is to just keep walking. Women only get swept off their feet by that kind of thing in fictional fantasies written by men. In real life, unsolicited flirtations ('cause let's be honest here) freak people out. Well, how would you feel?

I apologize to all the men who didn't need to be told this, by the way.

2. You must all now go to The Hurting and read Tim's story about Tupac vs. the Kitties.

3. Can anyone tell me about the new Adam Strange series? Is it any good? I'd like to buy it, but I usually won't buy anything without a recommendation.

4. I'm adding some new links because I've found some neat stuff. There's RebelDad, about a stay-at-home father doing his thing and being critical of so-called "parenting" media that is so obviously slanted toward women. That's an issue that is naturally going to interest me (as you can probably tell by the feminist sites on my sidebar there), and he always has some interesting posts.

Also, I'm putting up a link to Rob Schamberger's new blog, 22, Three Sixty-Five, in which he uses Wally Woods "22 Panels that Always Work" and recontextualizes them using his own writing. Updated daily, so I'll want a link to check it out.

That should be it until this weekend.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I'm Back In Town

And since I'm feeling lazy/uninspired at the moment, I will defer to your five questions, folks. Make them difficult, please. I'm in a mental stimulation funk. I don't mind having to do research to answer them. I'm a new guy in blogtown, so someone must be slightly curious what I think about things. Right? No? Okay...

I'm just about done reading Jar of Fools. I'm reading it through once for enjoyment, then I'll look it over again to see how it works, and iff I find something iteresting I'll post about it here. McCloud made enough references to it in Understanding Comics to get me curious, so I suspect I just might find something.

Meanwhile, Amp has an awesome post about plagiarism in academia that he, being as awesome as he is, brings right back around to comics and work for hire.

I'll be back later tonight, so get the questions brewing! Brewing? Yeesh...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Trash is Not a Dismissal

I just realized that in the post below I referred to a comic as trash. I just wanted to make sure that I clarified myself. While it is true that trash refers to cast-off waste, filler, disposable entertainment and a host of other things, it is also in many cases ripe for a bit of cultural dumpster-diving. The rewards of getting down in the muck for a bit are often immense, and often subtle-but-satisfying. Don't get me wrong; the canon is great. I'm lit-comics guy after all, that's what I make, that's what I usually read. However, with those books, you generally know what you're getting. You don't have to work as hard to find what's rewarding about them. I'll tell you what, finding satisfying flavor in old EC books and 70's and 80's company comics can take some work. It needs to be unearthed, unfolded from the juvenilia and/or hackery in which it is embedded. It takes an eye. I probably come off as a company comics/superhero apologist on this, and that's not exactly my aim here, but I'll just have the grace to shrug and be okay with it.

Also, I notice in todays Basement Tapes, Casey and Fraction discuss hidden treasures found in the cheap boxes, which sort of relates to what I'm saying. Among my great finds:

A bunch of Morrisson's Doom Patrol

Several issues of Concrete from way back

Ted McKeever's Junk Culture

Milligan/Fegredo's Enigma in paperback

I'm sure there's been more, but those were the best, and had the biggest effect on me at the time. There will be light to no blogging ahead for the rest of the week due to a death in the family. I should be back at it for the weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Defenders Fun, Continued

As I mentioned last night, I didn't see number 113 in the discount box, so I have to skip directly to number 114. Coninuing the story:

The story opens on the moon, where the entirety of the previous issue apparently took place. At some point, the Overmind lost control of the Squadron Supreme, Kyle Richmond was assassinated, and the true mastermind behind the whole operation made itself known: Null, the Living Void. About ten issues prior to this one, the Defenders defeated Null in its younger state on the regular Marvel U earth. It then wandered the world where it fought the Ghost Rider and was beaten, deciding that it was too underdeveloped to destroy all of creation, as it wanted to do. It decided that it needed to make use of a pawn to realize its goal. Null reached out mentally and contacted a kindred spirit, the Overmind. The Overmind had been banished by the Stranger to a microverse. He was contacted and released by Null, only to find that he was not in the regular Marvel universe at all, but rather the one inhabited by Earth-S. The Overmind decided that he didn't care, and would destroy the universe anyway. Working under the influence of Null, the Overmind proceeded with the plan detailed in issue 112.

Having established all that, everyone hangs out and talks to Null for a bit. Null alludes to something special about Nighthawk (the Marvel U version, not the dead one), but before it can finish its thought, the composite telepathic entity Mindy (Mindy is an old girlfriend of Kyle Richmond's who is telepathic, and is just one of several telepaths making up the composite entity. I use the name Mindy here just to make it easier) shows up and insists that the fight get started. They start to fight, and the Defenders/Squadron team gets pretty thoroughly schooled. Mindy then reveals that Null is not quite fully mature, and that it is drawing its energy from Overmind. The only way to stop it appears to be a psychic union of all the heroes. After a bit of exposition and bickering, they do all join together within Mindy, and a big fight ensues between Mindy and Null. It's positive vibes versus negative vibes, but creeping doubt threatens to dissolve the union of the heroes' minds. Meanwhile, August Masters, the man who shot Kyle Richmond (of Earth-S), is wracked with guilt and goes to where Richmond's body is. He watches in horror as richmond's face melts right away.

Mindy makes one final strike against Null, and after the impact the heroes are all in their separate forms again. They reason that since they are still alive, then Null must be as well. Null does indeed get back up, and it begins to ready for its final attack by absorbing the last of the remaining energy from Overmind. As it does so, however, it destroys itself. Everyone is super confused, until they hear Overmind speak, and recognize the patronizing tone of Mindy. It turns out that she entered Overmind's empty body, and psychically entered Null, amplifying the small shreds of positivity hidden within Null's soul, thereby destroying it.

As everyone recovers, Nighthawk wanders off to where August Masters is standing over the melting body of what he thought was Kyle Richmond. Upon seeing this, Nighthawk freaks out for a bit as he realizes that he is, in fact, the Kyle Richmond of Earth-S, and therefore is Nighthawk of the Squadron Supreme, and also President of the United States. And then it's over.

What occurs to me about these issues is that, by today's standards, they contain about twelve issues' worth of comics (maybe more). All quality considerations aside, I think that this was quite an amazing ride. It's certainly puerile trash, but if it weren't I don't think I could enjoy it as much as I do.

Incidentally, these issues were written by J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Don Perlin.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Some Great Finds

Half Price Books has been having a sale for the past few days. Books are 20% off of the already reduced prices. I had hoped to find some remaindered or used Marvel Essentials titles, but no luck. I did find a copy of Jason Lutes' Jar of Fools, so I expect that I'll have a review of that up here soon. A few years behind the curve, certainly, but I won't let that stop me.

Speaking of a few years behind the curve, I also unearthed, in the 10-cent boxes, a couple old issues of Defenders from the early 80's. These issues were definitely the gems of my excursion. The numbers were 112 and 114. 113 was missing, but largely irrelevant as its details were woven as seamlessly as a Frankensteinian limb into the narrative of 114, likely at the behest of then-EIC Jim Shooter. Man, what a ride. I will believe a Void can live!!!

The gist, if I may:

There is a party at the Brownstone where the Defenders dwell. It takes place in the evening, although the establishing shot is of a daytime scene. Even though the team members are just hanging out, they are in full costume. You don't see that kind of preparedness in today's superhero.

Some team members are there, others aren't. In addition, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch have turned up for the party, and to muse on love. This is their conversation on page 2, panel 4:

Scarlet Witch: I'm so happy Hank invited us for dinner. I've missed him since we left the Avengers--haven't you, Vision?

Vision: I have felt a sense of loss, Wanda. But with you beside me, I am always...complete.

Silver Surfer, standing beside them: To be near two so deep in love--makes me feel complete as well.

With all this completeness, it's a wonder someone brings up the fact that Dr. Banner, Daimon Hellstrom, Prince Namor and Dr. Strange are all missing, but thankfully Gargoyle's on the job--after having forgotten for a second. After a bit Dr. Strange astrally crashes the party from a different dimension, and before anyone can object he magically transports them to the world that they will soon come to realize is...Earth-S! And everyone is there... including Nighthawk, who they thought was dead. Once everyone is done freaking out for a second they go to another room and see Hyperion, the Superman analogue of the Squadron Supreme. Then they freak out some more. They watch a tape to get up to speed on the world-threatening danger, as high above the planet a bunch of telepaths merge their consciences into somebody called Mindy. I think. Anyway, Hyperion explains that his world's version of Nighthawk is the President and he has come under the control of a particulary nihilistic alien composite being called the Overmind. Together they manufactured a red scare, because this is a parallel universe where things like that happen, and then proceeded to beat down and subvert the wills of the whole Squadron Supreme except for Hyperion, who flees to the planet only to find that his name has been smeared and his fortress has been razed. Drag. So he flies into space, but the upper atmosphere is being bombarded with argonite radiation. He has to smash the Squadron's headquarters to shield himself, then he uses their equipment to send a distress signal to the regular Marvel earth (616, I think the kids are calling it). In the process Nighthawk, Hellstrom, Namor, Hulk and Dr. Strange were pulled to Earth-S, where they could nurse the helplessly irradiated Hyperion back to health.

Once everyone's up to speed, Hyperion makes the final reveal that the Overmind and the mind-controlled Squadron are on the moon building rockets to be employed to take over the universe. The Defenders are clearly glad to have been partying in-costume.

That's all I have time for tonight. I'll do issue 114 and a general assesment of the storyline tomorrow.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Happy New Year

Well, it's time once again to celebrate the real new year, as opposed to the arbitrary one that begins in January. And I promised myself I wouldn't make another shofar shogood joke. Luckily I've managed to squeak by without doing that this time. Be well, everyone.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Editor-Author and the Product-Oriented Approach

For someone who claims not to read company comics, I sure do like to talk about them quite a bit. You all know that guy who purports to not be interested in mainstream comics, but who seems oddly enough to know a great deal about them? Hi, I'm that guy. The thing is that I'm not uninterested as a matter of principle so much as I'm uninterested in a very specific way. That is to say that there is nothing currently available that I find interesting enough to get into, although there has been in the past and almost certainly will be in the future. I've been trying to figure out what it is that gets and/or keeps me interested in those kinds of titles, and it got me thinking about something that I guess you could call tangential to that subject, but something that's been nagging at me enough that I want to blog about it a bit.

It all started with a thread on the Comics Journal message board. Many of you may have read it or commented on it. It is the "Good 'Bad' Artists" thread. As the other nerds and I gushed about the hacks we love, stalwart craftspersons who could churn out the pages and do so with grace and dynamism nine times out of ten, it occurred to me that the comics that really captured my imagination as a youngster and later as a teenager were not so much the personal artistic visions of hotshot auteurs. Rather, they were the result of a product-oriented approach helmed by editor-authors who were interested in sucking in and holding onto readers, and who knew exactly what notes to hit in order to accomplish just that. It was formulaic dreck, and I couldn't get enough. And you know, in my more crackheaded moments, I sort of miss it.

See, the editors knew how to move the units. Focus on the issue. Sure, there was serialization, but things weren't so broken up into rigid arcs the way they are nowadays. There were main plots, background plots, long-term character arcs, and nothing was ever resolved all at once. Tying up one plot just forced one of the many background plots to the foreground (in, and I want to make this perfectly clear, the most ham-fisted and melodramatic way most of the time). Under the right editor, even the most pedestrian writer could produce a comic that, if not exactly a masterpiece, was a compelling read on a sustained basis. Hackwork that was comfortable with its hack-ness, if you will.

Nowadays it seems that such a thing isn't even an option, and I think that's a real shame. Now, I'm not an all or nothing sort of guy. I'd like to see an environment in which company comics could produce a whole range of work, including the personal vision type of comic. But come on. The personal visions of hacks, unfettered by any editorial guidance, are going to be a mess. Combine that with artists who basically set their own schedules and you've got what appears to me to be the bulk of the output of company comics today. Spelling and grammatical errors, plotlines that don't make sense, characters whose motivations change radically and inexplicably from one moment to the next, and story arcs that drag on and on for no reason end up being the result. These books need editorial guidance. They need to become more comfortable with their hack-ness. They could benefit immensely from being treated as mindless product. The personal artistic vision approach only works when the visions are good, and when the creators have the skills to back them up. Everyone else needs a good, benevolent but forceful editor to shepherd their product to some semblence of an entertaining, cohesive serial narrative. And where are those editors?

I'll cop to being pretty much out of touch with the bulk of what's going on in company comics right now, and simply ask that if anyone could suggest titles to me that embody what I'm getting at, that they please do so. I would love to read them. And I would love to review them.

These ideas have been kicking around in my head for some time, and I just wanted to get them down somewhere so that I can start to make sense of it all, and I'd love to know what people think so that I can come to some sort of resolution, even though it's ultimately useless. Anyway, as I've said, I welcome all reading recommendations. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Review--Warlock #1

Writer: Greg Pak

Artist: Charie Adlard

I'm not a big reader of company comics these days, preferring to stick to the creator-owned books about more banal subjects. But it would be dishonest were I to adopt the posture of never having taken an immense interest in the doings and goings on of the company universes and their characters. I particularly enjoyed Marvel's cosmic-themed characters, and during the early 90's when I bought the largest number of company titles those characters took center stage just about every summer, with the consequences lasting through the year just long enough to spark the next summer's cosmic saga and renew the cycle. I've long since lost interest in that sort of story, but because I liked it so much when I was younger I've always been willing to at least give the new titles of these characters a chance should they start up again as they always do. Also, I'll take a chance on any book that I don't have to pay to read, as was the case with Warlock #1.

This is a book that has left me with a great deal of questions. First and foremost is, why the revamp? Was the character of Adam Warlock so encumbered by prior continuity that the only option was to start over? I'm not complaining or anything. It may well be in Marvel's interest, and it's certainly their prerogative, I just don't know why someone would feel that all of that complicated and interesting history is actually a detriment rather than an interesting platform from which to build up, and maybe to clarify a little bit. To me, that would seem to be crammed with possibility. So I can only assume that there was a sound creative reason to scrap all that and start over, but from reading the issue I can't tell what that is.

Our way into the story of Adam's (re-)creation is through his visual designer, Janie Chin. She so far doesn't seem to have much of a distinguishing personality. I can read that in a couple of different ways. Either no attempt has been made to endow her with a personality of some sort in this, the introductory issue of the title, wherein there were twenty-some pages where it could have been done, or this is realism of a profound order. I'll explain. Most attempts to create a personality for a fictional character result in the writer amassing layers of cliched quirks and schticks with a little reified stereotyping and wish-fulfillment thrown in the mix. Most people, however, don't have much of a distinct personality at all by comparison. People would all sound remarkably similar if we read the things they said instead of hearing it. And even when we hear it, the content doesn't vary much from person to person. So, maybe it's a good thing and maybe it's not. Personally, I'm willing to put up with a certain amount of cliche if it results in the emergence of a distinguishable character, which means that the bland approach loses some points for me. Yes, it's only the first issue, but these things don't take long to establish.

I had the same problem with the scientist guys. They're pretty much several iterations of the same character. They're all deeply cynical, but they all really want to save the world at the same time. And this is where the story starts to get really confusing for me. The scientists want to save the world by creating a perfect ruler and protector for it. Is this the conclusion that a mix of cynicism and altruism would bring about? Does it not occur to these incredibly well-educated men that maybe part of the reason for the trouble in the world is the over-reliance on paternalistic, forceful, charismatic leader types to make the big decisions for everyone? Because, in essence, that's the solution that they're proposing. Well, not so much proposing as forcing on the world for its own good. Maybe this will be addressed in future issues, but again there is nothing contained in the first issue to suggest that it will.

On a sort of formal/thematic level, I also wonder at the costume choice. I mean, if this hero is supposed to be based on classical, ideal, mythological hero types, then why bring in the art deco look? I don't want to come across as freaking out about the costume change, because clearly the old designs were equally pointless and not much better looking. But when the reason for Janie's involvement is the design, and she explained her reasons for things like skin color, build and all that, why would she choose something as seemingly specific as art deco to influence the clothing design and not have a reason for it? Maybe I'm thinking too much about that one. Maybe the resemblance is coincidental.

I don't get a sense of any real conflict driving the plot. The wars and pollution seem like background details for the most part. The boyfriend is abandoned as soon as the scene shifts. When Adam appears there isn't any sense of urgency to it, he just says hi and introduces himself, then it's over. There really isn't anything there to compel me to seek out the next issue. Maybe Pak's just getting his comic legs, I don't know. It's just not quite coming together here.

Monday, September 13, 2004

How About That? It's My First Meme.

I'm doing my small part to contribute to the Brilliant But Canceled lists that are spreading through the comics blogs, originated by Casey Parkman and ADD. Honestly, most of the work I consider brilliant wasn't so much canceled as it just ended. But there are a few things, and actually probably a few more that I'm forgetting, that I could stick into that category. So here's my list, with some hopefully brief justifications.

American Century--Howard Chaykin writes good trash. I can't be sure with this series how much is him and how much is this Tischman guy, but overall I like what I've read. The adventures are complex and tense-but-funny. And I like that the book is usually a little bit low-key on the whambam action in favor of quietly setting up intense situations.

Let's face it: the concept of a suburban Jewish guy in the '50's leaving his life behind to go off on pulpy adventures is pretty much a non-starter in the direct market. Somehow AC still managed to last 27 issues. But it was doomed from the start, and met its end barely selling at all. At some point soon I'll acquire the issues that I don't have for a quarter apiece, though, so I can't stay mad forever. And soon enough Chaykin will be writing the same book with different details, and I'll buy it because I'm a sucker for the stuff.

Orion--I have to say I'm a little shocked not to have seen this on anyone else's list. I am referring to the Simonson series that ended a couple years ago. Man, that was an exciting book, done by the one true heir to the Kirby legacy. Another series I'll purchase in its entirety for a quarter apiece, I'm sure. People for whatever reason were just not interested enough in this title to keep it going.

Firearm--Yes, I am aware that the Ultraverse was just unbearably awful. But the people working on the books tended to be talented, and James Robinson was easily the best writer working on an Ultraverse title. Firearm rose above the rest of the garbage to be not only the best of the Ultaverse titles, but also one of the few books I remember actually enjoying in that early to mid '90's period. In the midst of a poorly conceptualized superhero universe was dropped an English take on American detective fiction, and it worked. When the non Marvel/DC superhero universes started dropping like flies, Firearm was in with that lot and met its end I believe when Malibu was acquired by Marvel.

Conan Saga--Wha--? A reprint series? Yes, a reprint series. Here's why. Not every story printed in Savage Sword, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the King was particularly good. Conan Saga did the kind work of taking all of the best of the Thomas/Buscema Conan work, as well as some of the old Barry Windsor-Smith illustrated stories and putting them all in one series so that one need not wade through the useless work. When I was in my Conan phase, I personally preferred the reprints of the '70's stuff to the new '90's stuff. And why wouldn't I? I'm not entirely sure why or when this series ended, but it was an excellent way to get much of the best Conan comics from the golden age of the...Hyborean...age...yeah.

The Nimrod--Trondheim is without a doubt one of the world's greatest cartoonists. It's a shame that more of his work is not available in English, though it's not much of a surprise. This was Fantagraphics' contribution to the Anglification of his oeuvre, translated by Kim Thompson himself. Well, needless to say, a French comic about a guy living his life, drawn with animals and published in black and white was not going to sell well enough to justify the work of releasing this in the US, and so it ended. To this day I am mystified by the idea that comics about regular people doing regular things are the ones that are considered to be impenetrably artsy.

Crime Does Not Pay--Pure trashy delight. This series began in 1942 and ran crime stories from the point-of-view of the criminals, always ending in the death of the protagonist. It was pulpy, melodramatic, garish, well-illustrated and a hit on the stands. Indeed, this is the only comic on my list that ended because it sold too well--so well that rival publishers had to destroy it and others like it through devious means. Yes, this book, like so many others in its day, was a victim of...the Code! Dah Dah Daaaaaaaaaaah!

So there's my list. Thanks for indulging my nerdy side a bit.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

A Politics-Free Patriot Day

That is my promise to you, oh nonexistent reader. Instead, it's a little dad-blogging.

I went to the library with my wife and my son yesterday. While we were there Micah(my son) found some puzzles over in the children's area and proceeded to dismantle and then solve every last one of them. This only amazes me because he's had puzzles at the house for over a year now and has seldom expressed an interest in them beyond taking them apart and leaving the pieces all over the house. When trying to solve them, he always lost patience quickly with trying to put the pieces in the appropriate places.

Now out of nowhere he's solving puzzles he's never seen before in his life like a pro. So it makes me wonder, what's so terrible about two-year-olds? Aside from the occasional refusal to eat despite the fact that I have prepared up to five options, it's been a breeze. Maybe I'm just lucky. After all, he loves Indian food, he rarely acts up when we're out, he naps at the same time every day and usually goes to bed without complaint. It's quiet... too quiet.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Following the Commenty Footsteps of My Forebears

I have installed the Haloscan comment feature because I've thought it was mighty slick on other sites. I hope it works this time.
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Still setting things up around here...

I've added a few links, just the usual suspects. I'm a member of the Comic Creators' Network (well, since membership is no longer exclusive and doesn't cost anything I guess we're all members in our own way) and they are my people and they will be at the top of my list. Check 'em out, and maybe you'll find some common ground with the folks there. I also put up the Comics Journal. I'm going to assume I don't have to explain why. I'm on the snobbier side of the comics blogging world. So what? I linked as well to Comic Book Galaxy. It was the first comics related website I discovered when I actually started looking around for those kinds of things years ago, and it's still one of the best. I've also linked to a couple columns I enjoy every week, Steven Grant's Permanent Damage, and Fraction and Casey's Basement Tapes. Matt Fraction is a fellow Kansas City guy, and generally has insightful things to say about comics and trash culcha.

I promise not to explain every link that goes on my sidebar.

The More Things Stay the Same, the More They Change?

Tim O'Neill at the Hurting is the latest to tackle the issue of characters in company comics being fundamentally changed to suit the whims of the current creator. His argument is that it is disrespectful to the original creator to alter the character at its most defining level. He does say that change is okay on certain levels, as long as it does no damage to the narrative consistency of prior work. On the new Question series (which, to be fair, is not yet available for reading), he writes:

One of Steve Ditko’s greatest contributions to the field of comics – if not his single greatest contribution – is the strident and consistent marriage of art and polemic. You can’t separate a Ditko creation from their moral underpinnings without changing the characters beyond recognition. To do so, as DC has consistently done with the character of The Question for almost twenty years (including another well-regarded run with the character by Denny O'Neil) , is an artistic insult of the most egregious caliber.

I would argue that the moral absolutism that defines the Question’s world is as vital to Ditko’s original conception of the character as the mythological trappings behind Thor. Take away Asgard and Odin and all that, and Thor’s just another strong man with a hammer. Take away the Objectivist philosophy, and the Question is just another mentally-ill costumed vigilante.

My sight-unseen opinion on this is that Tim is right in this specific context. While there are probably very few comic readers or creators who agree philosophically or politically with Objectivism, there are still ways to keep characters who do embody that philosophy while at the same time addressing any disagreements that might exist. For example, put the Question through some kind of situation wherein he is forced to acknowledge an ambiguity of some sort. There are any number of ways to logically dismantle Objectivism in a narrative fashion, I'm sure.

But it seems to me that in this case, it's not so much that Veitch disagrees with Objectivist thought, or at the very least he doesn't claim to. It's more that he doesn't seem to address it at all. It doesn't even enter into consideration. Veitch says that the character needs "tinkering" to help him stand out on his own. But why? How many Objectivist comic characters are there? The Question, Mr. A, Rorschach (perhaps, though it isn't so explicitly stated)... the list doesn't exactly go on and on.

So yes, that to me is more the insulting thing. The history and motivation of the character aren't even being considered. It's just the name and the visual being kept, because in the end, that's all that matters to an intellectual property house.

Again, though, I would like to say that these are thoughts I am having prior to even reading the book, and I may be proven completely wrong once it is released.

What, Another One?

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Boys and mother--

Wait, I'll start over.

Welcome to A Blog Found on a Garbage Heap. In case you were wondering, the title and the url, burningbronte, are references to the greatest film of all time. I'll leave it for everyone to google about to find out what exactly that film is, but it is truly one of the great cinematic achievements of the twentieth century, and in many ways it has all been downhill from there.

Anyway, this is my foray into actual blogging after having spent so much time commenting on the blogs of others. This will primarily be a comics blog, but I reserve the right to go into issues of politics (which will be marked, lest you, dear reader, are not a member of the choir to whom I am preaching) and to go on and on about how awesome my son is. Let's not pretend that this blogging business is some kind of service that I provide to others. This is about me.

Now, while I mention that this is primarily a comics blog, I should note that I do not currently read many comics. I don't read any monthlies because I haven't the time or money to commit to that, even if I could find one I liked. I have a profound love for the medium and its finest works, however, and I think that sufficient. In regard to company comics, well, I find it more interesting to read about those than to actually read them, and so I do, and I will participate in any sort of cross-blog discussion about anything regardless of whether I have read it or not. So there. So here we go, here's my intro. I'll be doing the usual adding of links and blogroll and the like as the weeks go by, but I may just get into the content stuff right away if no one minds.

Thanks for reading.