Grotesque Anatomy
Friday, October 31, 2003
  Future Comics: "Tokyopop Who?"
Is it just me or is this Pulse interview with Future Comics' Bob Layton really surreal?
  Blogs Run Amuck!!
Just as Matt Brady speaks out against the dangers of rampant blogging, several more comic-focused bloggers spring up, as if to cruelly mock the venerated newshound:  Kevin Melrose, Rick Geerling, and Ron Phillips.  They're all fairly new, but they look pretty strong so far.  Welcome to the ever-growing club of those who wouldn't listen to the voices, guys.  (Links via poking around Grim's Fanboy Rampage!!)

Also added a link to a site I hadn't run across before -- Diverging Comics, whose Mission Statement (a site with a Mission Statement?  I'm having flashbacks to bad "brainstorming sessions" for various college volunteer groups) is to champion the issues of Diversity of Genre, Comics as Art, Public Perception, and Gender Balance as they pertain to comics.  All issues worth tackling, and a snazzy site design to boot.  (Link via Thought Balloons.)
  Comics Grab Bag: Around the Dial
While I search for more challengers to pit against the Manga Stack of Intimidation, here's some other stuff I noticed at various sites: Finally, how did Dirk Deppey know that I photoshopped a box of Wheaties to make it look like Total?
  More Measures of Manga
Yesterday's comparison between manga and American comics led to requests for some other matchups.

Manga vs. Essentials
12 issues of Shonen Jump vs. 4 Marvel Essentials (4 @ $15 = $60)

Manga vs. HCs
12 issues of Shonen Jump vs. 2 Marvel hardcovers (2 @ $30 = $60)

Manga vs. Total
12 issues of Shonen Jump vs. 1 bowl of Total (100% Daily Value of 12 Vitamins & Minerals)

Not pictured:  12 issues of Shonen Jump vs. 8.6 issues of The Comics Journal.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
  The Weak American Conversion Rate
After the last couple long posts, I figured I'd do something light.  So here's a comparison of what $60 will get you in manga versus American comics:

1-year of SHONEN JUMP vs. $60 worth of American comics

Gee, I wonder why young kids are flocking to manga?

(In case you're wondering, that's 12 issues of Viz's manga anthology Shonen Jump (with a $4.95 cover price) on the left and 24 issues of various American comics at $2.50 a pop on the right .)

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
  And Now For Something Completely Same-Sex
Well, as promised, Eve Tushnet has organized her thoughts on same-sex marriage into a more readable form on her blog, so I suppose I'd better keep my promise and address her arguments.  First, here are links to her blog entries on same-sex marriage in order:
I'm not sure I'll address all of Eve's points.  In fact, given how much she's written on this topic, there's no way I can cover her entire output in one entry.  But I will try to hit on what I consider the major features (and major flaws) of her position.  And even if I don't fully do justice to Eve's thoughts on this issue, I hope that responding to her writings will at least allow me to set out my position on SSM, something I haven't tried to do in writing for quite some time.  (Or in other words:  Thanks, Eve:  Your blogging serves as motivation to articulate my own position!)

I suppose I'll start out where Eve ends -- by laying out my own background and/or biases.  Eve, responding to emails asking why she spends so much time thinking and writing about SSM, reveals that one reason is because she's queer (bisexual) so perhaps people who would otherwise dismiss an opponent of same-sex marriage will listen to her.  Eve also reveals in the queer link that she's Catholic and chaste.  So going by labels at least, Eve and I differ on pretty much every score:  I'm a straight, married atheist (although I was raised Catholic, including eleven years of Catholic school and several years of service as an altar boy).  I'll let the reader decide if these identifications render my position overly partial.

With that out of the way, I'll turn my attention to Eve's actual arguments.  One of the first things that struck me about Eve's arguments is that they rely very heavily on what I'd consider macro-level considerations:  How would SSM affect the societal institution of marriage?  Would SSM weaken any of the state's interests in promoting marriage?  Would marriage become a less effective method for raising children?  On the one hand, I can certainly understand why one would want to focus on the larger societal ramifications of a change in public policy.  On the other hand, it seems strange that so little attention is given to micro-level considerations:  What about individuals' rights to self-determination, personal autonomy, and the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness?  Eve appears to brush aside such concerns in her post on her basic position:  "Americans still think the debate over same-sex marriage is about gay people.  We still think it's about your best friend who's just said she's a lesbian, or your son who's just come out. We still think it's about whether homosexual acts are sinful.  It's not.  The same-sex marriage debate is about marriage, above all else."  I agree that the SSM debate requires that we spell out just what it is that we mean by marriage.  And I'll gladly agree that we should be at the point by now where we can assume homosexuality is not sinful.  But I also think the SSM debate is about equal rights, above all else.  True, as Eve states, marriage is itself a kind of "special right":  Something that, as Eve puts it, "a relationship earns because of what it gives society."  But access to that right should be granted equally, and denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates that principle. 

The debate over same-sex marriage is about equal rights.

So what is it about marriage that confers special societal status on that arrangement above all others?  My take on the matter is that marriage is privileged because it's seen as providing stability, which in turn benefits the state.  The types of stability are varied, but certain ones stand out in my mind:  Married couples are able to support each other in times of financial difficulty or hardship.  Marriage stabilizes a man's sexual drive by focusing his efforts and energy on one partner.  Finally, for those couples who chose to start a family, marriage provides a stable framework in which to raise children.

Eve answers the question a bit differently, but I think there are some similarities in our approach.  Here's Eve's take:
Why do we give marriage more societal honor than we give these other, often deeply important, relationships [best friends (which many women will recognize as the closest relationship they've ever had); mentors; grandmothers; beloved teachers]? Because we recognize that marriage has evolved to do more than these other relationships do for society. These relationships do less (not nothing, just less) to nurture children; to bind the young to the old; to corral the often destructive forces of desire into productive and loving channels; to bring people from youth to adulthood; and to align the interests of parents and children, rather than forcing tragic choices between the two. Marriage gets "props" from society because it does all these things more than any other institution does, or could.

Marriage developed over centuries to meet several specific, fundamental needs: children's need for a father. A couple's need for a promise of fidelity (and consequences for breaking that promise). Young people's need for a transition to manhood or womanhood. And men's (and women's, but mostly men's) need for a fruitful rather than destructive channel for sexual desire--a way of uniting eros and responsibility. In other words, marriage developed to meet the needs of opposite-sex couples. Why would same-sex couples expect that this institution would meet their very different needs?
In Eve's view, same-sex marriages would fall short in meeting these specific, fundamental needs:
At best, marriage only addresses one need of homosexual couples: sexual fidelity. Even there, it should be obvious that same-sex couples will be less likely to insist on physical fidelity than heterosexual couples. If your man might make babies with someone else, you're more likely to see the point of restrictions on male sexuality. If you can get pregnant, you're more likely to see the problems that might result if the father isn't legally tied to you. So the connection between sexual fidelity and the institution of marriage is a basic consequence of the fact that when men and women--but not same-sex couples--have sex, babies often result. When the institution is no longer responding to opposite-sex couples' needs, we can expect the emphasis on sexual fidelity to weaken.
I think one of the reasons SSM scores so low on Eve's scale is because of the way in which she weights the original measurements.  Because she builds the premise as "children's need for a father" of course same-sex couples (particularly lesbian ones) will fall short.  But what if the salient detail in marriage isn't children's need for a father but children's need for two supportive parents?  Just as couples support one another during times of financial strain, married couples can balance and support each other in parenting:  When one parent is too lenient, the other can be more of a disciplinarian, regardless of each parent's sex.  Simply to assume that children need a father seems to beg the question at hand.  (To be fair, Eve does return to the point of children needing fathers later in the section titled "Heather Has No Daddy" but I fail to see the force of her position.  Again, she simply seems to posit that children need daddies without really arguing for it.  I suspect that much of her position has to do with her more general point about humans seeking to be defined in terms of gender, something I'll try to address later.)

Next on Eve's list is marriage's role in fulfilling a couple's need for a promise of fidelity.  Eve grants that same-sex marriage would satisfy this need for same-sex couples, but, at the same time, she assumes that same-sex couples will be less likely to insist on physical fidelity than opposite-sex couples, mainly because pregnancy is not a possibility when same-sex couples have sex.  Although I understand how pregnancy can play a part in expectations of sexual fidelity, I fail to see how this neatly resolves the matter.  Yes, women have reasons for wanting to be married when they are pregnant.  But this doesn't mean that pregnancy will always result in increased demands for physical fidelity, or that pregnancy is the only factor which can influence desire for monogamous arrangements.  A woman may have gotten pregnant by one man but have no desire to marry him; she may chose a spouse other than the biological father.  In fact, legally a woman could conceive a child with a man other than her husband, but her husband would still be the presumptive father.  In both cases, the woman may want marriage and the support/stability it brings, but she may not want to marry the biological father of her child.  Further, once married, a woman may not require physical fidelity from her spouse, so long as she has the stability provided by marriage.  (I'm not making any claims about the relative likelihood of such scenarios, only pointing out the logical possibility of divorcing the benefits of marriage from the act of procreation.)

Coming at the matter from another perspective, I can imagine same-sex couples insisting on physical fidelity just as strongly as the most devoted opposite-sex couples.  As I see it, the degree to which any couple demands (and honors) fidelity depends on the beliefs of the individuals in the relationship.  I can imagine same-sex couples who remain faithful to each other just as much as I can imagine opposite-sex couples who are lenient on this matter, so long as the marriage is preserved.  But these thought experiments all revolve around the character of my hypothetical couples.  Aren't there any "real" reasons for homosexual couples to remain faithful?  I think one of the most obvious reasons a same-sex couple (or an opposite-sex couple, for that matter) would have to insist on martial fidelity would be the threat of sexually-transmitted diseases.  And I'm not trying to insinuate that AIDS is a "gay disease" or anything like that.  I just think that this is a factor that would encourage monogamous couples to remain faithful.

Another important function that marriage serves for Eve is acting as a marker for a young person's "transition to manhood or womanhood."  Eve doesn't seem to think that same-sex marriages would fulfill this role, but it's not clear why:  Couldn't marriage serve as a rite of passage into adulthood regardless of one's sexual orientation?  Wouldn't straights and gays alike start assuming all of those adult responsibilities traditionally (but not essentially) tied to marriage, such as paying the mortgage, opening shared financial accounts, and arguing over whose family to visit for the holidays?  I'm guessing that Eve wouldn't dispute these points.  Instead, she would worry that allowing same-sex marriage would weaken the gender-specific concepts of manhood and womanhood.  But this takes us into Eve's views on gender identity, and I'd like to postpone that discussion until later.

The final point in marriage's favor according to Eve is "men's (and women's, but mostly men's) need for a fruitful rather than destructive channel for sexual desire--a way of uniting eros and responsibility."  By this I assume she means a way of channeling (mostly) male sexual drive into a more stable framework than simply having sex with as many partners as possible.  I think similar points can be made here as made above in the "fidelity" section:  Yes, women have reason to want their mates to stay with them and devote their resources toward raising their offspring, rather than siring more offspring with other women.  And presumably society breathes a collective sigh of relief whenever an individual man outgrows his wild "sowing oats" days and decides to settle down to mow the lawn and fix the faucet.  But wouldn't society also benefit from this "calming" influence of marriage on its homosexuals? 

Well, one of Eve's worries appears to be that the flow of influence will backfire and non-monogamous (but married) gays will weaken not only the institution of marriage but straight men's confidence in their masculinity as well.  Let's consider these in order.

First, how would the existence of same-sex marriages where the spouses sleep around weaken the institution of marriage?  Eve's answer:  "SSM will change the cultural ideals of what it means to be a good husband. If you tell men that husbands who sleep around with other men are a-okay, you lose an important self-image tool (I won't do this because I want to be a good husband) that societies have used for centuries to rein in tempted men."  This answer bothers me for several reasons.  One, I don't think straight guys need to see gay guys engaging in adultery to get the idea about cheating on their wives.  I think straight guys have pretty much figured out the concept of cheating, even without gay guys to show them how.  In fact, married men cheating on their wives is a fairly constant staple not only in fact but in fiction as well.  I still remember being introduced to the concept of unhappy marriages by watching old Hitchcock films, and there cheating wasn't even the worst that could happen when a husband lost interest in his wife.

Two, I'm not sure why Eve seems to presume that SSM will tell men that it's OK to sleep around.  Although the same-sex marriage debate is a topic that interests me, I'll admit that lately I haven't been following it that closely.  Perhaps I missed the part where gays stated they want the right to marriage "but without all that stuff about monogamy and fidelity."  Perhaps I'm reading Eve uncharitably here, but her arguments seem to paint same-sex couples in a bad light while opposite-sex couples come across as as basically good but struggling to resist the evil forces threatening to tear them apart.  I think the truth of the matter would be considerably more complicated than that.  I think both types of couples would end up representing the range from wonderful relationships to horrible failures, with all the messed-up but sticking-at-it marriages in between.

I think Eve may be worrying that more radical camps within the GLBT community may push for more expansive definitions of what marriage is.  Perhaps there are activists arguing that gays should not wed themselves to a "straight" concept like monogamous marriages.  Even if this were true, so what?  Heterosexual couples went through periods of sexual experimentation in the Sixties and Seventies (key parties, wife swapping, "open" marriages, etc.) but marriage as an institution survived these "threats."  As Eve notes, monogamy and fidelity are becoming "hip" again.  I think marriage would be able to withstand the challenges its new members might bring to the concept.

Moving on to Eve's concern that seeing homosexuals marry will queer straight men on the whole concept of marriage, we finally begin to touch on Eve's theories of gender identity.  As Eve sees it, the problem is that "[s]ame-sex marriage is unisex" so "[m]arrying a woman is significantly less proof of one's manhood when a woman can do it!"  How exactly this would work is unclear.  Reading it, I pictured grade-school children on the playground squealing in disgust, "Ewww!  I'm not marrying a girl if a girl can do it!  That's so gay!!"  And perhaps young children would react in such a manner to news that same-sex couples could marry, but hopefully the passage of time might allow for the eventual maturation of such an opinion.

Actually, I'm probably being unfair.  I think I can see what Eve is trying to get at; it's just that it strikes me as so crude that I have a hard time holding it my mind in order to respond to it seriously.  I'll attempt to set out why Eve's position (as I understand it, which may be part of the problem right there) rubs me the wrong way:
Honestly, I find it a bit surprising that someone like Eve -- whose identity as a gay, chaste Catholic opposed to SSM is pretty non-traditional -- seems to favor such rigid, standardized concepts of identity.  I would think she'd have an appreciation for the endlessly possible permutations of identity.  And I'm not sure how advocating greater flexibility in identities equates to "fewer role models and ideals."  Wouldn't such an advocate be offering more role models, not fewer?  Eve seems to think that more possibilities will lead to more confusion on the part of married couples looking for guidance on how they're supposed to act.  See this entry, for example, where she rails against Michael Kinsley for suggesting that married people "set their own rules" regarding children and finances:  "How could anyone look at marriage in America today and think it needs to become more ad hoc, more centered on the individual contracting adults and not on the children and the wider society, more do-it-yourself?"  I can sympathize with the concern to an extent:  Even something as mundane as choosing a digital camera can feel overwhelming when presented with a multitude of options.  But I guess that if I had to choose, I think it's better if people are able to pick the marital methods and models that work for them rather than forcing everyone into the same "one size fits all" structure, ignoring individual needs or preferences.  I know married couples who have individual financial accounts (checking, savings, credit cards, etc.) and while it may seem strange to me, if it works for them...

Oh, god -- there's so much more:  So much more to address; so much more to write.  But this is already getting so long that I fear no one will read through it all.  I'll end by tossing out a couple points I wanted to make but didn't get to yet:
In closing, I think that Eve is right to wonder about the difficulties extending marriage to same-sex couples might raise for society.  It's certainly wise when changing public policy to think about the impact to society at large.  I just happen to think that none of the difficulties Eve raises are insurmountable deal-breakers.  I understand that the uncertainty surrounding such changes can be unsettling.  I don't think we should be blind to such complexities, but I don't think we should let our worries blind us either.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
  Loading The Canon
About a week ago I wrote an entry discussing Steve Higgins' call for a Comic Book Canon.  Since then, Steve has gone on to take a stab at putting together his list of recommended classics (not a permalink).  I haven't made any progress in assembling a list of my own, but a couple readers did point out several resources that might prove helpful:  Sequential Tart's Recommended Reading Lists; Friends of Lulu's Recommended Reading Lists; Comics Worth Reading's List of...Comics Worth Reading; and the Artbomb site (thanks to Jason Kimble and Johanna Draper Carlson for the links).  One book that seems to pop up on almost everyone's list is Watchmen.  In fact, Eve Tushnet suggests Watchmen is worthy of inclusion in "not solely the comics canon, which is boringly obvious, but the ultimate canon where all art forms converge."  I guess if there's one book that's sure to make everyone's list, it would be Watchmen, right?  Well, maybe not.  I recently stumbled upon this review of the comic book classic from Steven Berg.  Unlike most comic readers, Steven does not appear to be an unqualified fan of Moore's work (Steven does like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen considerably more than Watchmen, and From Hell even more than that, so it's not as though Steven is a simple Moore basher, either).  Although I count myself among the legion of Watchmen fans, I thought Steven raised some interesting points, so I'll reproduce his "bullet-list review" (yes! bullet points!!) and respond to his criticisms in bold.  I've reproduced the main body of Steven's criticism below, but I've touched up some misspellings (it's Dr. Manhattan, not Manhatten) and I've replaced all nongendered pronouns with their more traditional counterparts:
Is this a mark of a classic–to be generating commentary and controversy years after it was written?  Or are we only proving Jess Lemon's point for her? ("Find something new to analyze to death, you blasted fanboys!")  I'll have to find something else–something recent–to pore over...
Monday, October 27, 2003
  Marvel's New Year's Resolution: More Crap
Marvel has finally released their solicitation info for comics coming out in January 2004.  Comments:
EDIT:  In case anyone was wondering, like me, what the heck MARVEL PREVIEW PRESENTS #2 and MARVEL SUPER ACTION #1 are, here are the covers courtesy of Mile High Comics:

Marvel Preview Presents #2
Marvel Super Action #1

According to this site, the Punisher stories in these mags were reprinted in something called Classic Punisher back in 1989.
  Return of the Patron Saint of Grotesque Anatomy
Now I know how late-night comics must have felt when Schwarzenegger announced he was joining the recall race for California's governorship.  From today's Lying in the Gutters:
I also hear that Rob Liefeld is to take full creative reins on a new "X-Force" title, as Marvel outsource the entire creative and editorial responsibilities on the book to him. Liefeld will also be responsible for producing a range of one-shots and mini-series associated with the project. Expect the return of a number of his New Mutants and X-Force characters. Liefeld declined to comment.
Yeah, because the last time Marvel outsourced a comic to Liefeld that went swimmingly.  Either way this is great news for me:  Either Liefeld will make excuses for missed deadlines, thereby providing material for mockery; or Liefeld will produce actual artwork, thereby providing material for mockery:


Grotesque genius.
Saturday, October 25, 2003
  Mainstream Magazine Mentions of Comics
The latest Entertainment Weekly (#735, October 31, 2003) has a review of Mythology, the Alex Ross art book.  It gets an A.  (ADD also reviewed the book and gave it a grade of 4.5/5.)

And I forgot to mention this earlier, so I might as well do so now:  The October 20, 2003 issue of The New Yorker (the "Making Movies" issue) refers to two Marvel movies, The Punisher and HulkThe Punisher is mentioned in an article on stunts ("The Art of the Crash") and the scene in which the Punisher's family is killed before his eyes is dissected in detail.  The character of the Punisher is described as "the darkest character in the moral universe of Marvel Comics" and "a gun-toting vigilante superhero" whose simple philosophy is "'I kill only those who deserve killing.'"  Hulk is discussed in an article about how writing credits are arbitrated for movies ("Credit Grab").  Two earlier, rejected plotlines are mentioned:  "The earlier plotlines ranged from having Bruce Banner, the Hulk's mild-mannered alter ego, hang out with a delinquent teen-age sidekick in Las Vegas to having him undergo experiments for a mission to Mars."
Friday, October 24, 2003
  No Adrienne Barbeau??
Guess it's time to start stockpiling lame blurbs and bad puns to mock the more-than-likely flop known as Man-Thing:
Also fun:  Anticipating the inevitable odd-sounding quotes, such as this one from Artisan Entertainment Executive Vice President Patrick Gunn:  "We feel this film impressively introduces MAN-THING in a manner that will really thrill the viewing public.” 
  [Need Cute Alliterative Title Using Letter M]
Saw this article over on Folio thanks to Dirk Deppey's link:  It's a piece titled "Mighty Manga Mags" and it looks at how manga magazines are doing here in the U.S.  The main focus is on Viz's Shonen Jump, but it also mentions Gutsoon's Raijin Comics and the possibility that Del Ray may be looking at launching a manga mag.  A couple things that raised questions in my mind:
Shawn Fumo also shares his thoughts on the short piece.  Shawn is particularly impressed with news that Viz has signed a distribution deal with Scholastic's book club (the article isn't clear on whether the deal is just for Shonen Jump, the Shonen Jump collections of select series, or Viz books in general).  And even though it really has nothing to do with the topic, here are some old reviews I wrote for early issues of Shonen Jump and Raijin Comics over at Anime News Network
Thursday, October 23, 2003
  Mreow! Catty!!
Ladies and gentlemen, the real costume Halle Berry will be wearing in her upcoming Catwoman movie:

Wanted #2 Cover

  Marvel Comics for January 2004
Marvel's solicitations for January 2004 still aren't up at any of the usual sites, but Diamond has uploaded its new order forms for Jan. 2004 (warning: big-ass text file).  Here's the Marvel section (minus the backlist):
AVENGERS #77 (Note Price)    $0.50                           
AVENGERS #78    $2.25                                           
ULTIMATES #13 (RES) (Note Price)    $3.50                   
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #2    $2.25                           
FANTASTIC FOUR #509 (#80)    $2.25                           
INCREDIBLE HULK #65    $2.25                                   
INCREDIBLE HULK #66    $2.25                                   
SILVER SURFER #5    $2.25                                   
HULK NIGHTMERICA #5 (Of 6) (RES)    $2.99                   
CAPTAIN MARVEL #18    $2.99                                   
CAPTAIN MARVEL #19    $2.99                                   
HAWKEYE #4    $2.99                                           
THANOS #4    $2.99                                           
THANOS #5    $2.99                                           
CRIMSON DYNAMO #6    $2.50                                   
THOR #73    $2.99                                           
IRON MAN #76    $2.99                                           
ULTIMATE SIX #6 (Of 7)    $2.25                                   
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #52    $2.25                                  
SPIDER-GIRL #68    $2.99                                          
SPIDER-GIRL #69    $2.99                                          
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #503 (#62)    $2.25                           
SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #1    $2.99                                  
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #9    $2.25                           
SPIDER-MAN DOC OCTOPUS  OUT OF REACH #3 (Of 5)    $2.99           
NEW X-MEN #151    $2.25                                           
NEW X-MEN #152    $2.25                                           
ULTIMATE X-MEN #41    $2.25                                   
UNCANNY X-MEN #437    $2.25                                   
UNCANNY X-MEN #438    $2.25                                   
NYX #4    $2.99                                                   
X-STATIX #18    $2.99                                           
X-TREME X-MEN #40    $2.99                                   
X-TREME X-MEN #41    $2.99                                   
EXILES #40    $2.99                                           
EXILES #41    $2.99                                           
WOLVERINE #10    $2.25                                           
WEAPON X #19    $2.99                                           
DAREDEVIL #56    $2.99                                           
ELEKTRA #31    $2.99                                           
ELEKTRA #32    $2.99                                           
MARVEL 1602 #6 (Of 8)    $3.50                                   
CAPTAIN AMERICA #22    $2.99                                   
HULK GRAY #5 (Of 6)    $3.50                                   
ANT-MAN #2 (Of 4) (MR)    $2.99                                   
SUPREME POWER #6 (MR)    $2.99                                   
PUNISHER MAX #1 (MR)    $2.99                                   
PUNISHER MAX #2 (MR)    $2.99                                   
DEATHLOK DETOUR #1 (Of 4) (MR)    $2.99                           
DEATHLOK DETOUR #2 (Of 4) (MR)    $2.99                           
RUNAWAYS #10    $2.99                                           
MYSTIQUE #10    $2.99                                           
EMMA FROST #7    $2.50                                           
VENOM #10 (Note Price)    $2.99                                   
NEW MUTANTS #10 (Note Price)    $2.99                           
INHUMANS #9    $2.99                                           
INHUMANS #10    $2.99                                           
SENTINEL #11    $2.99                                           
NAMOR #11    $2.99                                           
HUMAN TORCH #9    $2.99                                           
BORN HC (MR)    $17.99                                           
PUNISHER VOL 3 HC    $24.99                                   
ESSENTIAL PUNISHER VOL 1 TP    $14.99                           
UNCANNY X-MEN VOL 4 THE DRACO TP    $15.99                   
ULTIMATE X-MEN VOL 7 BLOCKBUSTER TP    $12.99                   
X-TREME X-MEN VOL 6 INTIFADA TP    $16.99                         
EXILES VOL 6 FANTASTIC VOYAGE TP    $17.99                   
ELEKTRA VOL 3 RELENTLESS TP    $14.95                           
EARTH X VOL 5 PARADISE X BOOK 2 TP (RES)    $29.99           
Stuff that catches my eye:
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
  Is It Really Time For A Nineties Revival Already?
Finally, Sandman done right
  Bill Jemas, Senior Citizen
Mark Millar steps up to defend friend and former boss Bill Jemas from the trolls on the Newsarama board.  It's a sentiment I can certainly respect, and I do get sick of fanboys attacking Jemas for everything they dislike about Marvel (or NuMarvel or M*rv*l or however the Jemas era at Marvel is designated).  But this line really irked me: the Spider-Man title that formed the basis of the 800,000,000 dollar movie
Bill Jemas co-wrote Amazing Fantasy #15? 
  Small Press Short Bus?
Quote of The Week:  "The problem isn't that the bookstore market is being held to some Olympian standard of sales, but that in the Direct Market, anything that doesn't feature superheroes or hard genre trappings is held down to a Special Olympian standard."  - Dirk Deppey, discussing the relative merits of the bookstore market and the Direct Market with retailer Brian Hibbs. 
  CrossGen: All Infinite Things Must Come To An End
Bill Rosemann, recently promoted from Director of Marketing & Communications to Senior Vice President of Publishing, addressed (among other topics) the cancellation of most of CrossGen's "Sigilverse" titles, which includes all of the titles from the company's initial lauch (Meridian, Mystic, Scion, Sigil, and the previously-cancelled The First).  I found these two bits from the interview amusing:
BILL ROSEMANN: First, since the launch of CrossGen, Mark Alessi and the creators repeatedly talked about how each of the series, while they would last longer than a four-to-six-issue miniseries, were, in fact, finite stories.

ROSEMANN: The intention for each of these titles to last indefinitely was sincere -- just as it is with any publisher who launches an ongoing title.
While I realize the two statements aren't outright contradictions, they still struck me as incongruous:  "We'd sincerely hoped we could milk these series indefinitely, even if the stories we actually had to tell were limited." 
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
  DC's New Year's Resolution: Stay The Course
DC's solicitations for January 2004 are up.  Not much that excites me.  New Frontier and Superman: Secret Identity were projects that sounded interesting when they were first announced (which seems like years ago), but now I'm thinking that I'll (all together now) "wait for the trade."  About the only new project that catches my eye is the Vertigo romance mini-series, My Faith In Frankie.  In terms of my usual stuff, the 200th issue of Wonder Woman sounds nice:  I'm enjoying Greg Rucka's run so far, and I like that DC is working in a couple shorter tales reflecting the history of the character.  And the description for H-E-R-O #12 sounds promising, but I also realize that it could easily devolve into an exercise in the very exploitative trends it claims to be parodying ("This manly man is now an electrifying, beautiful babe, complete with a revealing costume and the figure to fill it.").

In terms of stuff I used to get, I certainly picked the right time to drop JSA:
Writer Geoff Johns has thrilled fans and critics alike with his groundbreaking work on JSA (featuring art by Don Kramer & Keith Champagne) and HAWKMAN (featuring art by Rags Morales & Michael Bair), mixing the high adventure of classic comics with a modern cutting edge. Now, these two titles come together to shake these hallowed characters to their very core in a 6-part weekly crossover running through JSA #56-58 and HAWKMAN #23-#25: “Black Reign!”
A six-part weekly crossover with Hawkman?  Ugh.  So glad I decided to drop JSA with this month's order.

And, damn, Tomer Hanuka can design a cover:

Midnight Mass
  Are Zombies The New Ninjas Monkeys Pirates?
What is it with zombie comics lately?  Lone, Walking Dead, several recent issues of Metal Hurlant.  All have featured plots with human surviviors forced to deal with zombies in post-apocalyptic futures.  Is it something to do with a general sense of unease
Monday, October 20, 2003
  First-Ever AC/GA Crossover!
Steve Higgins calls for the establishment of a Comic Book Canon in his most recent "Advocating Comics" column (not a permanent link, so search through the archives if the link turns up some different topic by the time you click it).  I was going to respond with my thoughts on Steve's column on his message board, but I figured since Steve namechecked me in his column (but not my blog, the bastard), it was only fair that I return the favor here.  Plus, I promised him a crossover before I read his article.  [Gratuitous Aside:  I was tickled at the way Steve described me in his piece as "former reviewer for Broken Frontier and fellow comics advocate."  While these are both fine and true descriptions, I wondered if people might read this and come away with the impression that Steve and I first met while on staff at BF.  If I recall correctly, our association goes back a little further than that:  I believe I first met Steve on the old DC message boards where he and I would argue over which series was better–DOOM PATROL or POWER COMPANY.  Eventually we both lost, but we continue to disagree on other topics on other boards to this day.]

Although Steve's column was apparently inspired by my disagreeing with his word choice in an earlier column, I do agree with Steve's general point about establishing "a literary canon of sorts for the graphic narrative."  I know some people bristle at the term 'canon' but I've always understood the concept in the sense of "a group of literary works that are generally accepted as representing a field."  For me the important qualifier is "generally."  I think there will always be disagreements about what works are most representative of a given class, but I do think it's worthwhile nonetheless to have a shared frame of reference one can point out to people interested in learning more about a medium (or genre, or author, or whatever the topic in focus happens to be).  When I dabbled in Film Studies back in college, for example, I was glad to cover "the classics," even if I'd already seen them or ended up thinking they were terribly boring.  By looking critically at important films, I gained an appreciation for why particular films were considered essential, and I learned the basics of film criticism in the process.

Another issue that surfaces when trying to piece together a canon is that certain works can appear problematic from a modern perspective.  Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is a perennial target for charges of racism, for example, yet most courses in American Literature leave it in the canon.  Personally, I think works that are historically important should be acknowledged as such, even if they are controversial for various reasons.  Just because something is included in the canon doesn't mean it's a flawless work or worthy of moral approbation.  In Film Studies, both Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will were shown, mainly for their historical and technical significance, but the discussion also covered why the films were reprehensible.  So important comics such as Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27 could be included in the Comic Book Canon and still acknowledged as "dumber than a bag of hammers."

If we agree that a shared frame of reference can be a useful thing to have, then the task turns to setting out just how large that frame should be.  Not everything can be included, of course, and this is where disagreements inevitably spring up:  Why was such-and-such a work included?  Why wasn't such-and-such a work included?  Because there's no way to satisfy everyone with one list, I think it's important to view the lists as starting points, both in terms of a starting point which can lead enthusiasts to discover new works and in terms of a starting point for discussions about the criteria behind the lists.  ("Why does this list leave off European or Japanese comics?"  "Well, we wanted to limit the scope of our overview to North American comics, but that isn't to suggest that there aren't worthwhile comics from those regions."  "Oh, OK.")

So, what works would I nominate for inclusion in the Comic Book Canon?  I haven't even started to think about that yet.  There's a thread in Steve's forum taking suggestions about what should be considered "Essential Works of Sequential Art," and Steve has promised to reveal his picks in next week's column.  I'll mull over it myself, but I consider myself pretty bad at coming up with lists like this.  It's a cop-out, but I'd probably like to start by looking at other people's lists (and then criticizing their picks in true blogger fashion), and even then I can only think of one serious attempt to establish a list of canonical comics, The Comic Journal's list of Top 100 English-Language Comics of the Century (and the accompanying lists that fed the final list).   Does anyone else know of other attempts to list some of the best comics ever?  (Anyone who suggests any of Wizard's endless "Top 100 X-Men Comics of All Time!!" rankings will be dealt with appropriately.) 
Friday, October 17, 2003
  Things Looking Grimmer, But In A Good Way
Damn, more competition in the comics blogosphere.  I mean, how about a nice warm welcome for longtime comic book reader, 10-month-old columnist, first-time blogger, Graeme McMillan, whose new comics blog Fanboy Rampage! just debuted this week.  Looks like it's going to be focused on Graeme surfing various comic book sites and message boards, then reporting back with his special blend of cynicism and love.  Or as he puts it, "I read comics websites so that you don't have to."  (One suggestion, Graeme:  Add a comments feature as soon as possible!)

Fun Facts about Mr. McMillan:
Also added some other links to the right, including: Franklin Harris, Joey Valdez, and Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag.  And I've rearranged Johnny Bacardi to be listed under his real name, David Allen Jones.  My apologies for taking so long to add these great sites to my blogroll. 


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