Grotesque Anatomy
Thursday, July 29, 2004
  Gone Fishin'
Jesus Christ!  I knew there were a lot of new comic-related blogs popping up lately, but the Comic Weblog Updates page now lists over 130 of them!  Granted, a good number of them at the very bottom are now inactive, and many of them aren't exclusively (or even primarily) comic-related, but that still leaves a lot of comic blogs out there.  Plus, I'm sure there are a lot of them that aren't showing up on the site for whatever reason, such as Matt Maxwell's new comics blog, Highway 62.  (Wow, two plugs in as many days.  Those bribes really do work.)

Anyway, this is all a long, rambling lead-in to my announcement that I'll be out of town this weekend starting early (oh god, so early) tomorrow, so no blogging until sometime next week.  So why not try out a new blog if you're missing the Grotesque experience?  Here's a sample from a new blog I've been enjoying (and just added to the blogroll) this week, Jog The Blog:
What else came out today… a “Venom v. Carnage” mini (why don‘t they just start putting random years from the 1990s in the copyrights too while they‘re at it?), a new “Rogue” ongoing (I’ll just have to catch up around the anniversary issue #50 that it will no doubt reach) and some huge “Avengers” thing. They are now Disassembled, which is a bad sign because they will need organization to compete in today’s fast-paced superhero world, and messiness is a killer. Captain America should make a flowchart or something. Maybe they’re saving that for the climax of the story: a lacerating Powerpoint presentation. That would be really cool, and it would beat the pants off of whatever is planned for the end of "Identity Crisis" like putting Ace the Bathound to sleep or Dr. Light reuniting with Dr. Wiley and getting Gutsman to bugger The Flash.
Given Marvel's Disassembled Deathwatch Chart, the idea of an Avengers PowerPoint tie-in doesn't seem too far-fetched.  Hmm.  Just imagine...Marvel and Microsoft, two of the world's most market-share-obsessed companies, coming together on a joint project of unspeakable evil that just had to be called...Excel-sior!  (And with that horrible pun, I am outta here.  Have a great weekend, everyone!)
  Big Brain Hits Big Time
Big Brain Comics

Speedy blogger Kevin Melrose has already linked to this, but I wanted to give a shout-out to local comic shop owner Michael Drivas, who gets a nice write-up today in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  The article does a good job describing what sets Michael's shop Big Brain Comics apart from the stereotype most non-comic-readers probably envision when they think "comic book store."  For one thing, Michael's not afraid of the "Geek" label; in fact, he embraces it, stamping bags and T-shirts with the reclaimed insult in big red letters.  (I have one of the "GEEK" T-shirts and I always get a lot of curious looks when I wear it out in public.)  I have yet to visit the new store (it just recently relocated from one side of Downtown Minneapolis to the other), but the description in the Strib sounds appealing:  "Giant wooden bookshelves outline Big Brain's exposed brick interior, while metallic air ducts and a mix of sophisticated and retro lighting fixtures hang overhead."  Furniture isn't mentioned, but I'm sure Michael will have some comfy chairs for customers to plop down into at the new shop.  That was one of the things that most impressed me about the old Big Brain:  Who'd ever heard of a comic shop owner encouraging customers to lounge around and read comics?  What did he think his shop was -- a library??

Anyway, congrats to Michael on getting such positive coverage in the local media -- complete with a sequential art story featuring him as the lead character, no less!  (Unfortunately, the short comic isn't included in the online version of the story, but maybe I'll try to scan it in later if I have time.)  And I look forward to visiting the new shop soon.  The article said Big Brain doesn't deal in back issues, but I'm sure Michael will want to look through my collection of old Spider-Man comics.  I have a feeling this one comic titled "Maximum Clonage Alpha" is really going to be worth something someday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
  The Tortured Manga/Western Comics Connection
Many others have already picked out their favorite lines from Grant Morrison's latest interview, but for me the money quote was this [emphasis mine]:
The threat is multi-fold in “Island of the Mighty,” using the supercompressed Western manga style I’m trying to develop - mad flesh-eating Gorilla Grodd has hijacked Superbia, the floating city of the Ultramarine corps and plans on using the captured heroes as unstoppable terror weapons in a war against civilization. To do this he enlists the aid of a cosmic monster - a killer of superheroes named Neh-Buh-Loh the Hunter, who ties directly into the upcoming Seven Soldiers stuff...and finally there's Black Hand, the old Green Lantern villain, who's invaded an experimental micro universe very much like our own, where superheroes don't exist and he's the only supervillain. It all happens very fast and very hard and leaves lots of damage.
Grant Morrison Gets It.

In other manga/Western comics crossover news, "Your Manga Minute" columnist Troy Brownfield apparently Doesn't Get It when he considers why some fans might not like Identity Crisis.  Now in fairness to Troy, I should note that the closest he gets to naming any specific source he's responding to is when he refers to "several ill-conceived posts on the DC message boards," so perhaps Troy's weak rejoinders are a result of only considering weak arguments.  That said, I think Troy's column would have been much stronger had he attempted to address more sophisticated criticisms of Identity Crisis.  (For additional criticism of Troy's piece, see David Welsh's thoughts here.)

Finally, in news that's difficult to fit into this post's manga/Western comics rubric, Broken Frontier columnist Matt Maxwell has joined the comics blogosphere with Highway 62!  I think the fact that comic columnists are taking on blogs in addition to their regular writing responsibilities is a sure sign that the comics blogosphere is reaching critical mass.  When Augie De Blieck starts his own comic blog, I'll really be worried.  Anyway, Matt's wondering what he'll write about without cannibalizing column topics for "Full Bleed," so I'll offer a suggestion:  Once I send you the second volume of GYO, blog your thoughts on how the story would have different if Ito had used birds instead of fish, had set the whole story in a quiet American coastal town, and had cast Tippi Hedren as the lead.  Discuss!
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
  Make Mine Burlyman!
I'll admit it.  I'm really looking forward to the Burlyman books.  That sample page from Doc Frankenstein by Steve Skroce is amazing.  And the slaughter scene from Shaolin Cowboy by Geoff Darrow is very...Geoff Darrow.  I'll be checking these out.  The concepts sound so gleefully over-the-top that I've already started to think of these as "American manga," if that makes any sense.  The Burlyman books certainly seem packed with more head-exploding insanity and innovation than this, at any rate.
Monday, July 26, 2004
  Put A Shirt On, Fer Crissakes
Spotted in Marvel's October solicitations:

Spidey vs Doc Ock

It's Fat Elvis Doc Ock versus Sixties Animated Spider-Man.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Dave Lartigue, we've managed to obtain a special sneak peak at the variant cover for SPIDER-MAN/DOCTOR OCTOPUS: YEAR ONE #5:

Spidey vs. Doc Ock's Thong

I believe Marvel is referring to this version of the cover as the "Subtle But Sexy" variant.
Friday, July 23, 2004
  Here's Something More Cheerful
To counter the last post, here's a lovely manga-esque image courtesy of Jill Thompson:

Deadboy Detectives

For more info on upcoming Vertigo projects, check out The Pulse's SDCC coverage
  WARNING: This Post Contains 3000% Of Your Daily Offensive Humor Limit
Sean Collins considered what would happen if the Marvel Universe went rape-crazy, and now the V handle the DCU in a thread that had to be called DCU: CRISIS ON INFINITE RAPES [WARNING:  Humor in extremely questionable taste follows]
Each time a DCU character is raped, they consume their assailant via the orifice in which they were receiving unwanted congress.

They then go on to rape another DCU character and a similar process continues until the only three superheroes remaining in the DCU are Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in a Good, Bad & Ugly stand off.
Or spitroast (Batman and Wonder Woman either end of Superman obviously.) This will be written by Chuck Austen and Kurt Busiek.

Meanwhile in the Vertigo universe, John Constantine is leading Swamp Thing around the USA and getting him to change into a series of increasingly uncomfortable vegetables to be inserted into unwilling members of the DCU magick (sic) community. This will be written by Alan Moore and Rick Veitch.
Throughout this massive crossover series, Constantine tells Swampy the "Death by Mau Mau" joke. This will be written by Grant Morrison.

In the end, huh uh-huh huh, Constantine tells Swampy and Batman that the only way they can save the world is for them to insert a hand each into his behind and shake hands like at the end of the American Gothic arc, but with anal sex. This will be written by Brian Azzarello.
Ads in the crossover will also be rape-themed:
New Hostess pie adverts with the crooks schemes being foiled after being raped by the heroes with delicious apple, cherry, and blueberry Hostess pies.
The V also consider what the porn version of Identity Crisis #2 might read like:
I think the scene in ID Crisis #2 should have been written as thus:

DOC: I am going to rape you.

SUE: With what? There's a reason we call you Dr. 40 Watt Light Bulb behind your back.

DOC: Turn around and bend over. Bitch.

SUE: Puhleeze. I'm married to the Elongated Man. Eeeeloooongaaaated Man. He has a schlong the size of the Empire State Building.

DOC: SHUT UP! Unngh.

SUE: Are you in yet? I don't feel a thing.

DOC: I'll show you. I'll whip up a light dildo the size of the WTC. Bitch.

SUE: Now we're talking.

DOC: My god, you're like the Grand Canyon down there.

SUE: Ooh, dirty talk.


SUE: Awww, your light blew prematurely. Now I'm all hot and bothered. I wonder if Plastic Man is still around.

I was going to ask who would cover the Image Universe's mega-rape crossover, but then I remembered that Mark Millar and Rob Liefeld still have a couple issues to go on Youngblood: Bloodsport.

Finally, in another thread, the V construct a joke guaranteed to offend everyone (well, except perhaps Milo George and his pal Gojira).  Countering the suggestion that rape has become writers' new choice for Worst Crime Imaginable since "terrorism is off limits and no-one can top the real-life horror of 9/11," John Fellows lets slip news of DC's next big project::  "So you haven't read the solicits for TOWER CRISIS which lovingly depicts the twin towers being destroyed in issue one, but flashes back to years earlier in issue two where Godzilla raped them both?"
  Doing My Part To Keep The Identity Crisis Controversy Raging
In case anyone cares, here are my thoughts on Identity Crisis #1 and #2 (reprinted from this monster thread on the Grotesque Rampage forum):

Identity Crisis #1

Thanks to David Welsh, I was finally able to read IDENTITY CRISIS #1 last night. (Thanks, David!)

First reaction: Well, I'm sure glad I didn't blow four bucks on that.

Second thought: Perhaps my perception is tainted by the fact that I've heard all the discussion already, but Jesus Christ was this the most heavy-handed writing job ever in comics? How much more obvious could you have made things? "Let's all reflect on all the death and misery we heroes have suffered, conveniently timed within minutes of Sue Dibny's brutal murder."

Third thought: Good god that Turner cover is ugly. And it doesn't even appear to be properly finished. It looks like the cover to an ashcan edition or something.

Identity Crisis #2

Thanks to Johanna, I was finally able to read Identity Crisis #2.  Perhaps because everything was so much worse in my imagination, the actual comic wasn't as bad as I'd thought.  Don't get me wrong, it was still pretty bad, but it wasn't the atrocity I'd pictured.

Some of the still bad stuff:
Some of the stuff that's mainly troubling from a geeky fanboy perspective:
Some of the not-so-bad stuff:
In all, I thought it was pretty bleh but not as bad as I had built it up to be in my mind.  Still glad I didn't blow four bucks on this (esp. considering it's only a couple pages longer than a standard comic).
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
  CMX: "We Will Sell No Manga Before Its Time"
Don't know if this is already common knowledge or not, but there's a CMX mini-site over at DC now.  It's pretty sparse at the moment, consisting mainly of descriptions of the three previously-announced titles (complete with interior preview art), but there's also a little more info on some of the upcoming books, such as Swan, Musashi Number Nine, The Devil Does Exist, Gals!, and Phantom Thief Jeanne.  There's also the standard comic company hype:
CMX is putting the extra time and energy into getting it right. We're working with the best translators, some them hand-picked by the creators themselves! We're using the latest hi-tech digital production techniques and putting it all in a great package, because we care as much about these books as you do.

In fact, some top manga creators — ones who haven't let anyone near their work before — trust our dedication to their vision so much they they picked US to bring you the first-ever authorized editions of their work anywhere outside of Japan. Now, that's cool.

Whether you're a die-hard manga fan, a casual reader, or a first-timer wondering what the heck you've got in your hands, we think you'll see the difference.
Not only that, but CMX manga is so fine, so pure, so sublime -- we think you'll be able to taste the difference as well.  So EAT IT, Tokyopop, Viz, and all you other inferior manga publishers!  CMX is like a well-aged sake that delights the palate, while your manga dishonors not only you but your ancestors as well.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
  Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Cares?
Brilliant or crass?  Marvel, ever mindful of the confusion their mega-crossovers generate, has created a little chart to help fans track which hero bites it next in the upcoming "Avengers Disassembled!" event:
Keep track of who lives, who’s hurt, and who gets the one-way ticket to that Avengers mansion in the sky with our handy Disassembled watch list.
Remember, it's all story motivated.   It's not just shock for shock's sake.  It is about the characters.

That said, I do love some of the descriptions of the fates suffered by various characters:  "Valkyrie - FELL OUT OF THE SKY"; "Warrior's Three: Fandral - SHREDDED - WHERE'S HIS FACE"; "Warrior's Three: Volstagg - MISSED A FEW MEALS, FOUND STARVED IN CAVE"  I'm already trying to guess how the Marvel staff will describe Ant Man's demise once Avengers #500 hits the stands:  "Ant Man - HUGGED CORPSE OF FELLOW MALE AVENGER, OBLITERATED BEFORE NERVOUS FANBOYS COMPLAINED ABOUT POSSIBLE HOMOEROTIC/NECROPHILIC OVERTONES"

Now we just need DC to set up a similar checklist for all the indignities heaped upon Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis.
Monday, July 19, 2004
  Eat It, Jakala!
Well, the artwork isn't exclusive anymore.  Go check out Newsarama for lots 'n' lots of preview art from AiT's upcoming books.
  This Old House: Special Liebermania Edition!
I've got a lot of house improvement projects that have to be finished by the weekend, so I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing this week.  I'm tempted to say that I'll be taking the week off, but every time I announce something like that I immediately contradict it.  So...I may or may not be blogging this week.  How's that for helpful?  (If I do end up not blogging, this is probably a good week to do it, since I haven't read the comics generating all the discussion / controversy / "backlash" in the blogosphere right now.  (But I will be reading them eventually, although Eightball #23 won't arrive until early August.))

But before I go, here are some quick mini-reviews for two great mini-comics, both illustrated by the underrated Steve Lieber:

Me and Edith Head (Cold Water Press • 16 B&W Pages • $2.00 postpaid) is a story about an awkward teen learning to feel comfortable in her own skin. Katrina Lansdale yearns to snag a starring role in her high school's production of A Midsummer's Night Dream, but instead she's stuck with the unglamorous job of costume design.  This story could have easily veered into schmaltzy "After School Special" territory, but thankfully writer Sara Ryan crafts a story that's subtle and understated, while artist Steve Lieber keeps things grounded in a simple but satisfying style that reminds me of a cross between David Lapham and Carla Speed McNeil.  My only quibble would be that Katrina looks much older than her classmates, so at first I was a bit distracted wondering what her age was supposed to be.  But then I remembered that I'm a horrible judge of how old people are in real life, so my being unable to tell Katrina's age shouldn't count against the book.  Plus, it's nice to see a female high school student who doesn't look like all the usual clichés.

Family Reunion (Small Beer Press • 8 B&W Pages • $1.00 postpaid) is a short interlude in the life of William "Dead" Kennedy, a down-on-his-luck thirtysomething Texan who can see dead people.  While attending a family reunion, DK has to try to figure out what's bothering a dead relative.  If it sounds a little too "Sixth Sense," don't worry:  Instead of simply going for shock or surprise, Sean Stewart's story deals with less fantastic elements, such as the tendency of families to gloss over, distort, or entirely rewrite unpleasant incidents from the past.  And it's all rendered in a wonderfully appealing style by Lieber.  I'm not quite sure how to describe the style, but it's very different from his work in Edith Head (aside from the completely believable "real people" characters in both books):  It's much softer and more shaded -- as though it were done in charcoal.  The faces of characters are more modeled and three-dimensional; I was reminded of the depth Kevin Nowlan's inks often add to other pencillers, but even that doesn't quite get at the look Lieber delivers here.  I guess the only way to see what I'm talking about is to buy the mini-comic.  (How's that for a subtle pitch?)

Finally, I should also point out that Steve Lieber is offering both mini-comics together for only two bucks.  Why not skip one of the double-shipping Marvel comics and spend the money on something different this month?  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with these charming short stories.
Friday, July 16, 2004
  Overdue One-Line Reviews
For Graeme:  "Skidmarks is...a cute slice-of-life tale of actual ethical dilemma...told with charmingly loose art."
Thursday, July 15, 2004
  "Are Puny Humans Laughing With Hulk Or At Hulk?"
So everyone's reading the Hulk's diary, but I haven't seen ol' Jade Jaws address this embarrassing moment from his past.
  Eat It, CWN!
That Larry Young is such a sweetie to us bloggers.  Not only does he shower us with lots of comics to review (even when some of us aren't exactly quick at turning around reviews -- Jakala, I'm looking at you!!) but he also sends us other goodies as well, such as this EXCLUSIVE preview artwork from Brian Wood and Toby Cypress's upcoming work THE TOURIST:


Check out the rest of AiT/PlanetLar's 2004-05 publishing schedule for more info on THE TOURIST and other books.
  Identity Crisis Crisis
Given the controversy that's sprung up around Identity Crisis (especially the second issue), I'm interested in reading it, mainly so that I can be better informed when I wade into discussions about how the series might alter underlying assumptions about the DCU and its heroes. The thing is, I really don't want to shell out $3.95 an issue ($3.95 an issue??? Didn't DC say that after #1 "Subsequent issues are 40 pages at $3.50"? Guess they wanted to squeeze a little more money from hardcore fans) just to research the latest corporate comic crossover gimmick. So I'm wondering if there's anyone out there who's willing to work out some kind of arrangement whereby I can read the first two issues. Obviously, I'm hoping to get these as cheaply as possible, but I'm willing to swap for them or pay up to half cover price. I am not interested in the collectible value of these comics (which, let's face it, will be nil) so please don't offer to sell me a lot of 100 copies. Please contact me via email or in the comments thread below if you can bear to part with these comics. Thanks!

UPDATE: David Welsh has kindly offered to send me his copy of Identity Crisis #1, so now I'm just looking for #2 if anyone who really hated it is looking to get it out of their house.

UPDATE ONCE AGAIN:  Johanna is sending me a copy of Identity Crisis #2, so soon I'll be able to join in the outrage and be informed while doing so!  (Thanks, David and Johanna.)  
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
  "And In This Corner, Weighing In At Approximately 7.35 x 10^22 Kilograms..."
My favorite part of this image is the implication that the moon is somehow a dark version of the Martian Manhunter:


And how do you pick a winner in that match-up?  What are the moon's powers, other than its size and gravitational pull?  If it can burst into flames, I might just have to go with the moon over J'onn J'onnz..
  Marvel Solicitations On Crack
The Marvel solicits are incredibly bizarre this month.  Graeme has already caught many of the most outlandish ones on his blog, but here are some other snippets that amused me:
And in general I just love how everything's suddenly an anniversary:  WOLVERINE'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY, MARVEL’S 65th ANNIVERSARY, MARVEL KNIGHTS 5th ANNIVERSARY.  What, no celebration for ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR's 1st ANNIVERSARY???
  And There Was Much Ambivalence
Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney are the new regular team on JLA.  Or they will be, once another rotating creative team's arc is over (following Busiek and Garney's own upcoming arc featuring the Crime Syndicate of Amerika).  I'll admit I have mixed feelings about the news.  I'm generally a fan of Busiek's work, but some of his stuff leaves me cold, including his Avengers run, as well as his JLA/Avengers mini, which the Crime Syndicate of Amerika storyline is spinning exploding out of.  (And before you suggest that I should just avoid Busiek on superhero team comics, I liked his Power Company and Thunderbolts.)  I'm also skeptical that Busiek can do a proper Morrisonesque take on the CSA, even if Busiek is working from a pile of character notes from Morrison himself.  Finally, has Garney been able to maintain a regular schedule on a monthly book recently?

So while I can imagine half a dozen ways this could go wrong, I'm still curious enough to check it out.  Plus, I can always hope that Kurt will have some of his Power Company cast join or interact with his JLA.  (Between this and the upcoming Manhunter series, I figure there's a pretty good chance of seeing the Kirk DePaul character again.)

(I am wondering what will become of the JLA arc by Gail Simone and José Luis Garcia-Lopez, but it sounds as though there might be a "Legends"-type spin-off for JLA in the works, so presumably that's where the arc would see print.)
  "Watch Out, Boy - She'll Chew You Up"
CBR has an interview with Marc Andreyko, writer on DC's upcoming Manhunter series.  It sounds as though Andreyko has some interesting plans for this series, including a focus on different conceptions of justice.  (Jim Henley alert!)  I realize that Manhunter is still going to be a mainstream superhero book, so I'm not going to get my hopes up for a nuanced examination of Rawls' Theory of Justice, but quotes like this still sound promising:
One of the predominant themes in the series is a discussion of "real" justice, something not seen in most superhero comic books and Andreyko says the issues is one close to his heart. "It's important to me to explore the concepts of justice, punishment and retribution because we all feel the need for these things whether it is on the terrorists who felled the WTC, the bully from grade school, or someone like Jeffrey Dahmer or Manson.

"Why hasn't this issue been explored in more comics? Well, it's not a black and white issue. It is incredibly complex and, even within my own opinions, I find myself torn between being pro-capital punishment in theory, but against it in its actual... Ahem.... execution. So, exploring the moral ambiguities and nuances of justice, along with the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, is a challenging and, I think, exciting journey."
I also liked Andreyko's remarks regarding the problems of costuming female superheroes:
Female protagonists are generally hard sells for comic fans, unless there's an instant visual sex appeal or a long-standing history, but "Manhunter" is a series in which Andreyko hopes to buck the trend. Kate's costume is practical, not sexual; realistic not titillating and there's a good reason for that. "Not having Manhunter in some chain-mail, T&A costume was something that was agreed upon during the conception of the series. I wanted to write a complex female lead and was wholly supported, and advised/guided, by both Dan DiDio and Joan Hilty.

"That, and being a gay man, I tend not to ogle women in thongs and push-up spandex costumes [laughs]."
Maybe we need more gay men writing female comic book characters so we're not subjected to idiotic costumes like this:


(And I know Gail Simone has said she's planning on changing the costume at some point, but it still boggles the mind that Jim Lee thought this was a good design for a non-powered urban crimefighter.)
  Pessimistic Previews: Street Angel #3
STREET ANGEL #3Well, that was...different.

Fans of Street Angel might be a little let down by the third issue, due out in September.  The story marks a departure from the manic, madcap tone of the earlier issues, and while the experiment is daring, it's ultimately disappointing.  In place of the goofy ninjas and pirates that served as Street Angel's opponents in the past, this issue sees Jesse battling Satanic cultists who kill their victims in gruesome fashion.  (One panel showing a priest's throat being torn out is especially ghastly.)  There are still some humorous moments (such as a scene where Jesse throws the cult leader off balance by preemptively refusing his marriage advances) but overall the mood is decidedly darker.

Which raises an interesting question:  Is it a flaw in a work if it doesn't deliver what its audience has come to expect from it?  I'm not sure there's an easy answer.  The first example that comes to mind is the old truism that Spider-Man comics work best when he's fighting street-level bad guys rather than cosmic-level or mystical threats.  (Give me a break:  I've been reading the surprisingly intriguing "Life of Reilly" series about the fiasco that was "The Clone Saga" so the example is still fresh in my mind.)  I've seen this criticism leveled a lot against Straczynski's run on Amazing, which is probably fair.  Spider-Man doesn't really work when it's all-mysticism, all the time.  But I always liked the occasional story where Spidey would team up with Dr. Strange, if only because it was fun to see Spidey so out of his element.

So how does this apply to Street Angel?  Well, part of the problem might simply be that it's too early in the series' run to change gears so drastically.  The audience hasn't settled in enough to be ready for a study in contrasts.  (To follow the Spider-Man example, Spidey didn't meet Dr. Strange until the second annual.)  Plus, much of Street Angel's appeal was that it was designed to make comics fun again, so readers may feel somewhat misled by the sudden shift in tone.  In fact, bringing back a sense of fun was practically trumpeted as a mission statement of sorts by creators Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca in an early interview.  Yet with the third issue things have already become more "grim 'n' gritty":  Jesse has been thrown out of a window and lies battered and bandaged as the Satanists attack.  (To return to the Spider-Man comparison, the sight of Jesse bruised and bloodied reminded me of Mark Millar's "hyper-realistic" take on Spidey, a take that's very far from being fun.)  True, in the same interview Rugg and Maruca indicated their desire to experiment from time to time, and I certainly don't want to pigeonhole them or the book.  But just because something's different doesn't mean it's successful, either.

Perhaps it comes back to something David Welsh touched on in one of his reviews:  Mastery of tone.  In previous issues, everything "fit" no matter how odd or insane it seemed.  In this issue, however, the humor feels out of place given the horrific elements that permeate the tale.  In addition, there are other, more specific flaws that keep this issue from being as strong as what's come before:  Narrative captions introduce a new character when that character remains off-panel for another page.  The opening scene of Street Angel crashing through a window is never fully explained.  (Who threw Jesse through that window?  We can make an educated guess, but the writers could do more to integrate this isolated scene with the rest of the story.)  Finally, the ending (which I won't spoil) is frustratingly ambiguous.

If it seems like I hated this issue, then I should clarify that I'm only being hard on it because I've come to expect so much from the series.  If I gave out scores with my reviews, this would probably rate a solid 7 out of 10.  (Heck, taking into account this issue's inside cover squid battle -- easily my favorite so far -- I might even be tempted to bump it up a notch.)  Street Angel -- even when it's not up to its usual standards -- is still better than 90% of the comics out there.
Monday, July 12, 2004
  DC in October
Kevin Melrose has spotted DC's solicits for October.  Some items that caught my eye:

Finally, Ed Brubaker is writing a two-part arc on Tom Strong, which might just be enough to get me to pick up this series again.  (The fact that the two-parter is illustrated by Duncan Fegredo certainly doesn't hurt.)  But I'm afraid even Brubaker isn't enough to make me interested in The Authority again.
  Oh My
I don't think I've seen this announced anywhere else yet, but it looks as though Mike Bullock (whom I know from the time I was a staff member at Broken Frontier) has not only launched his own site-slash-company but also written and created his very own comic.  It's called "Lions, Tigers & Bears" and it reveals that Disney's Scar and Shere Khan were actually mutants with spooky glowing eyes:

Lions, Tigers & Bears

Just kidding.  Actually, the premise sounds pretty interesting.  Here's how it's described on the Runemaster site:
A child’s instinctual need for the comfort of a stuffed animal is rooted in a reality long forgotten by the adult world. The hidden truth is that these companions have been defending children since the dawn of time. Follow young Joey on the adventure of a lifetime as he travels through the Stuffed Animal Kingdom, a journey that puts the fate of all the world's children in his hands and brings him face to face with his destiny.
Sounds reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh, The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Chronicles of Narnia, but with a darker twist à la CrossGen's Abadazad.  It also sounds like a concept that would work well as a manga, so I'm interested to see how this is formatted.  Will it be released as traditional floppy single issues, a thicker OGN, or smaller manga-sized digests?  Is it being self-published, or will it be released through Dabel Brothers Production, where Mike is PR Director as well as a staff writer and editor?  If it's the latter, how will DBPro's recent disputes with Devil's Due impact the series?  Guess I'll just have to wait until more info is released.

Anyway, best of luck to Mike and everyone else involved in this project.  It's certainly interesting to see smaller publishers step in to fill the gaps left by the Big Two when it comes to children's comics.
Friday, July 09, 2004
  Marred Manga
Wonded Man 1 Wounded Man Volumes 1 & 2 - Wounded Man is a manga with a lot of potential, but that potential is marred by an ugly incident that occurs early in the first volume:  Reporter (or "pure-as-white reporter" as ComicsOne's summary puts it) Yuko Kusaka, who has traveled to Brazil in search of a big story, is raped by Keisuke Ibaraki.  Keisuke stops raping Yuko only when he discovers that she is (well, was) a virgin (a recurring element in manga illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegame; cf. Sanctuary and Offered).  Keisuke is surprised by this discovery because Yuko didn't strike him as the virginal type with her determined, driven attitude.  Nice.  So not only does Keisuke rape Yuko, but he then goes on to insult her with a variation of the "you were asking for it" line of thought.  ("If you had carried yourself demurely like a proper Japanese woman, I never would have raped you.")

Keisuke then attempts to apologize to Yuko, explaining that he only raped her so that she would go back to Japan and leave him alone.  You see, Yuko is in Brazil to investigate reports that Japanese expatriates are mining for gold.  And as it turns out, Keisuke is not only one of those gold diggers, he just so happens to be the most successful miner of them all--the rumored White-Haired Demon.  Keisuke is stockpiling as much gold as he can find so that he has enough money to take on his dreaded nemesis, the all-powerful pornography company, GPX.  (Incidentally, GPX stands for God's Pornographic X-rated Film.  Not the pornographic films God watches, but pornographic films so pornographic they may as well have been made by God.)  So why does Keisuke have such a hard-on for GPX?  Well, it seems that GPX attempted to recruit Keisuke to star in their films, but he refused because of his devotion to then true love Natsuko, who died while she and Keisuke were captives of GPX.  Now Keisuke has vowed to destroy GPX, but he needs lots of moolah to bring them down since they're so influential in the worlds of politics and business.  (Apparently porn really does make the world go round.)  And what does any of this have to do with Yuko?  Who knows.  The story never makes it clear.  Perhaps Keisuke feared that her investigation would draw attention to himself.  But if Keisuke is trying to avoid attention, then committing a violent crime seems incredibly stupid.  What if Yuko had reported the rape to the local authorities?  Then he'd be the subject of a police investigation in addition to Yuko's journalistic investigation.

Wounded Man 2It's too bad that the series is tainted by Keisuke's rape of Yuko, as it otherwise has a lot to recommend it.  There are many themes worth exploring in Wounded Man:  Can one sustain one's drive for revenge if one finds happiness later in life?  Can one be faithful to the memory of a departed lover when one finds new love?  Is it unfair to a new partner to remain too attached to an old love?  Do puritanical societal attitudes toward sex create a harmful black market for pornography?  Even without such meaty topics underlying the narrative, Wounded Man would still be a entertaining read because of its charismatic characters and the over-the-top scenarios they find themselves in.  The interplay between Keisuke and Yuko is fun, playful, and believable.  In fact, if we ignore the rape, Keisuke and Yuko actually have an enviable relationship.  But we can't forget the rape.  It looms over the entire book, since that's how Keisuke and Yuko met.  Every time you get caught up in the story, it's there nagging at the back of your mind:  Keisuke raped Yuko.  How can you give yourself over to the series after that?

Perhaps that's another theme the creators intended to deal with in the series:  To what extent does a horrible past event color everything after it?  However, the fact that Yuko's rape is quickly forgotten within the story argues against such a charitable interpretation.  True, at first Yuko tries to enact "revenge" on Keisuke by getting him aroused but denying him the opportunity to satisfy his urges, but that quickly ends after the two engage in an act of consensual love-making midway through the first volume.  After that, Yuko can't proclaim her devotion to Keisuke often enough, insisting that she would gladly die for him.  I certainly don't mean to suggest that life and happiness end after rape, but I simply can't wrap my mind around the notion of someone falling in love with her rapist.  It might have been interesting to show how Yuko carried on with her life after being raped, but having her fall so quickly and completely for her rapist trivializes the impact of the violence committed against her.  She treats her rape as some insignificant slight, something no more meaningful that Keisuke forgetting her birthday.

Even worse, the creators attempt to portray Keisuke as some noble soul who deserves Yuko's deep and utter adoration.  After all, wasn't Keisuke willing to die for True Love?  Perhaps, although it should be noted that this account comes from Keisuke himself, who doesn't exactly seem to be the most modest individual around.  Perhaps he's engaging in a little self-serving revisionist storytelling?  At any rate, even if Keisuke was once as high-minded as he says he was, his actions in the present call into question his current character.  This is a man who is willing to leave Yuko tied up to a tree to serve as bait for his enemies.  This is a man who tells Yuko to satisfy herself with a corpse's artificially-induced erection.  And, of course, this is a man who raped a woman in order to scare her off his trail.  Any man who could contemplate that as a proportionate course of action is permanent damaged goods in my book.

The disturbing thing is, as much as I actively dislike Keisuke, I still want to continue reading the rest of this series.  Not because I care about Keisuke and his self-indulgent quest, but because I've grown to care about Yuko (despite her abominable taste in men--"Smart Women, Foolish Choices" is an incredible understatement in her situation) and want to see what happens to her.  Perhaps this is the greatest trick writer Kazuo Koike (yes, that Kazuo Koike) pulls off:  He crafts both a character so engaging and a character so repulsive that readers stick around to see if the former will ever escape the latter.  With any luck, Keisuke will reach his demise and Yuko will be free of his loutish charms.

UPDATE, Sunday 7/11:  $#%@!  Talk about jinxing things...
  Sequent And It Looks Like Art
While I wasn't looking, the site Continuity Pages revamped itself as Sequart.  The site's design leaves much to be desired, especially that ghastly front page, but what the site lacks in aesthetic appeal it more than makes up for in quality content.  One of the best columnists so far is Jeff Chon (and I'm not simply saying that because Jeff just emailed me to ask if he could quote one of my brilliant insights on manga in a future column; really, I'm not), whose column "Arbiter Of Good Taste" is a snarky delight.  Some sample segments:

On superhero comics' continued move from goofy silliness to grim 'n' gritty seriousness: 
Green Arrow used to be a guy who shot plungers and boxing gloves from a bow.  Now he’s an earnest tough guy with an acute social conscience who no longer shoots arrows with whoopee cushions and chattering teeth attached to them.  Why forsake one for the other?  Why suck out all the charm and the one thing that distinguishes him from Hawkeye?  Why can’t Green Arrow be an earnest social crusader who shoots arrows with wax lips as tips?
On the similarities between recently departed former president Ronald Reagan and now-inactive comic book activism site Savant
I wrote for a site that was like Reagan in many ways -- it polarized the public, certain people wanted it to die, and it also was involved in an arms for hostages deal.
On the behemoth that is Previews:
As you may or may not know, a gigantic mountain of crap is released every month and there are a lot of great comics you may have missed in Diamond Previews while reading about the lunchboxes and Zippo lighters.
Jeff, in a long aside leading up to his review of Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, also has skeptical thoughts on the effectiveness of American comic publishers repackaging their works to resemble manga:
Some people view manga as the new “starter comics,” in that kids will read Dragonball Z or Inu Yasha and then graduate to something more sophisticated like Micronauts ... in theory.  Manga will save the mainstream comics industry in less than two generations because of the new readers it will bring on board ... in theory.  So, since manga is so popular, what American comics need to do is repackage their comics to look more like manga ... iiiiinn theory.
From the context, it appears that Jeff is mainly addressing attempts to draw characters such as Superman and Spider-Man with "big eyes, speed-lines, and spiky hair," but I wonder what he thinks about efforts to reformat existing Western works in the more bookstore-friendly manga digest size?  I know Sean Collins has been a big advocate for this move, but Jeff's comments make me wonder if it'll really make any difference to fans of Detective Conan that Sin City is now going to be manga-sized.

I also loved Jeff's description of Nausicaä's elite pedigree:
I could be wrong, but this is the only comic in the marketplace written and drawn by an Academy Award winner.  OK, fine -- two-time winner Diane Wiest (Best Supporting Actress:  Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets over Broadway) wrote something called Badrock Vs. the Bride of Robotjox, but until Rob Liefeld finishes drawing it, it’s merely a comic solicited by an Academy Award winner and nothing more.
And for those of us who weren't ga-ga over Spider-Man 2, we've found another like-minded soul in Matt Martin:
Apparently Spider-Man is basically just a super-powered firefighter.  2 for 2, Spidey!

Glad to see Doc Ock hit Magneto’s garage sale when he went looking for a fusion reactor…

Doc Ock is apparently either a master detective or an utter fuck-up.  Harry sends him to convince Peter to give up Spider-Man’s identity.  How does Octopus get Peter’s attention?  By throwing a car at him when his back’s turned.  So either Octopus knows that Peter is Spider-Man (and hence, his Spider Sense will save him) or he’s trying to kill him.  And neither choice makes any damned sense at all.

Was there anyone in that movie that Peter DIDN’T take his mask off for?

Like lifting scenes (and sets) from the first movie for the second wasn’t bad enough, it looks like the third flick is setting up to be a straight remake.  If you didn’t know it was a Marvel production beforehand, you sure as hell do now.
OK, that's probably enough shameless shilling for the site, right?  So you'll make me look good when you quote me, right, Jeff?  Jeff??
Thursday, July 08, 2004
  Last Month's Comics...Today!!
Slowly making my way through the big box of last month's comics that arrived yesterday:

Spectacular Spider-Man 15-16:  I ordered this "two-parter" for all the wrong reasons:  Because I liked the Steve Epting covers.  Because I always enjoyed the old Marvel Team-Up series.  Because I always thought Spidey and Cap were a funny match up.  Well, at least the Steve Epting covers were nice.  Other than that, these two issues were dismal.  The chemistry between Spidey and Cap was off; Spidey's humor felt forced; and Spidey acted very out-of-character.  (Having Spidey refer to a woman--even a villain--as a "skank" is just wrong.)  Even worse, although this was billed as a two-part story, nothing is resolved by the end of issue #16.  There's even a little "Continued..." caption at the end of "part two."  (I think I'd like to suggest an addendum to Scott's S.C.R.U.B.S. system+5 if a multiple-part storyline does not conclude with part X of X.)

Adventures of Superman #629:  Not much to write about either way.  Lt. Leocadio's attempts to seduce Superman (and his continued rebuffs) were somewhat interesting, but otherwise there was nothing that made me want to return next month.

Wonder Woman #205:  Yes, Circe is still resurrecting Medousa.  I think this sub-plot has been going on for the past half-year.  I'm glad this was the final issue I pre-ordered.

After being so disappointed in the super-powered spandex comics offered by the "Big Two," I turned to Sgt. Frog Vol. 2 as an antidote.  As the flowchart in the front (or back, depending on how natural the right-to-left formatting of unflipped manga feels to you) of the book indicates, this series has become an amusingly complicated soap opera featuring unconventional attractions:  A hard-boiled alien male frog falls for a human teenage girl; a male soldier longs for his male superior; and a young boy feels his heart race every time an androgynous boy with wings and magical powers is nearby.  I'm sure it's not for everyone, but Sgt. Frog continues to delight me.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
  Duds and Discounts
Yipes!  So that's what things look like when I don't turn on my PC for three days -- my Hotmail account is nearly full, and there's way too much to read throughout the comics blogosphere.  Much of the blogging seems to revolve around a little movie called Spider-Man 2, which I did manage to see yesterday.  So far Sean's take probably best sums up my own feelings, but I've still enjoyed reading Jim Henley's thoughts on the movie.  I agree with Jim that the themes he discusses are in the movie, but that's part of my problem with SM2:  The themes are in, around, under, and on top of this movie in such a painfully hammered-home way that it's impossible to get lost in the story.  Everyone's speechifying their laughably inane thoughts in the most stilted manner possible.  Perhaps this is the Ditko influence by way of Ayn Rand?  We can't have moments that are subtle or nuanced; everything must be made obvious and tedious, preferably by having the characters pontificate philosophies at the audience via long-winded soliloquies.

I did think the filmmakers managed to make Doc Ock a much cooler villain than he ever was in the comics.  Loved the idea of the arms controlling him, especially with the visual of the pincers as a dinosaur head whispering in his ear.  The sound effects also went a long way toward establishing the alien-ness of Ock's tentacles without overdoing it.  (Perhaps the movie would have been better if the special effects crew had also been responsible for reining in Maguire's and Dunst's performances.)

Back in the realm of actual comic books, I've been reading a lot of trashy, pulpy manga lately.  My local Half Price Books has stacks of what look like remaindered books from ComicsOne, all reduced to the low, low clearance price of two bucks apiece.  So I picked up full sets of Offered, Goku: Midnight Eye, and Kabuto, as well as the first two volumes of Wounded Man.  (As further evidence that these books were remaindered, ComicsOne is unloading sets of these and other series at half-off on their website.)

Finally, DCBS has this month's specials up.  Fans of Mark Millar should be happy, as both the Ultimates hardcover and the first MK Spider-Man collection are offered at 50% off.  Myself, I'm more excited about the Russ Manning Magnus Robot Fighter HC (50% off), Andy Diggle and Pascual Ferry's Adam Strange #1 (75% off), and the first two volumes of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol (both 50% off). 
Friday, July 02, 2004
  Fanboy Associations
"This guy starts thinking about superheroes at a level where most writers leave off."
- Sean Collins, on the genius of Brian Bendis coming up with the novel idea of killing off characters and having things blow up in "Avengers Disassembled"

For some reason, Sean's quote made me imagine Bendis referring to himself in the third person like Dr. Doom:  "Who but Bendis would have the vision to slip a tamer version of 'Fuck, Marry, Kill' into an Avengers script?  WHO BUT BENDIS WOULD DARE?!  Other men would leave off with the Avengers fighting three, maybe four Ultrons, but such paltry threats are for lesser writers.  For Bendis is BENDIS, and only HE could conceive of a level where the Avengers fight five Ultron robots!!!!"
Thursday, July 01, 2004
  To All The Links I've Loved Before
Eve Tushnet reads more manga.  She enjoys "so-good-you-won't-believe-it's-manga" Planetes but is less enthused about Gyo.

Johanna links to the Grotesque Rampage Forum's discussion of the "Avengers Disassembled" preview at Newsarama, thereby saving me the trouble of reworking my snark into a blog entry.

ADLO! is at it again, dissecting the hidden meaning behind two recent covers.  And they've even provided helpful English translations of everything, including the annotated cover art!  (Love the "creative origami" newspaper shield.)

Graeme (the best there is at what he does, but what he does isn't very pretty) links to two especially disturbing threads.

Johanna and Laura Gjovaag have gone crazy and are reviewing every single free comic coming out for FCBD.  Start at the linked threads and work your way up.

Everyone else has already seen Spider-Man 2, but I probably won't get to it til this weekend.

H at the Comic Treadmill has a looooooooong look at The Golden Age Spectre Archives.  I thought the collection was frightfully dull, but H gets a lot of mileage out of it.  I particularly liked his "Wrath Watch" feature, where H tracks whom the Spectre killed and how.  (And the crack about each 10-page tale in the Archive being equivalent to a trade paperback collection today was funny, but I'd still rather read most stretched-out modern storylines than the tightly-packed but painfully written comics of yesteryear.)

David Welsh's description of a single throwaway gag in Sgt. Frog Vol. 2 convinced me to break down and order the book online since I couldn't find it anywhere locally.  I can picture the “Please… keep horseplay to a minimum” sign David describes and I'm already laughing, which I think is a testament to creator Mine Yoshizaki's strong, distinctive style.

J.W. Hastings has a very nice discussion of the Intentional Fallacy Fallacy.  After reading this essay, I realized there's really no point in my ever trying to write that follow-up piece on reviewing I once promised.

Barbar compares Dark Knight Strikes Again and Planet of the Capes.  Personally, I think he's giving DKSA too much credit, but the two-in-one review is still an interesting read.

And in case I don't blog again before then, here's wishing everyone a Happy Fourth of July and Free Comic Book Day!


Powered by Blogger

Listed on Blogwise

Weblog Commenting by

Like Unto A Thing Of Irony!

Iron Fist

by John Jakala

WWW Blog

Site Feed
Comments Feed

Delphi Forum


Comic Book News & Opinion
Broken Frontier
Comic Book Galaxy
Comic Book Resources
Comic Readers
Comic World News
Comics Worth Reading
Digital Webbing
Diverging Comics
Fourth Rail
Hero Realm
Indy Magazine
Ninth Art
Previews Review
Sequential Tart
Shotgun Reviews
Silver Bullet Comics
Slush Factory
Tony's Tips

ADLO! (Mangled English Translation)
Bill Sherman (Pop Culture Gadabout)
Brian Hibbs (Savage Critic)
Bruce Baugh (Out of the Darkling Wood)
Carlo Santos (Tales of a Grad-School Nothing)
CBG Blog
Chris Hunter (Panoramically Challenged)
Chris Puzak (Distorting the Medium)
Christopher Butcher (
Comic Treadmill
Comics Waiting Room
D. Emerson Eddy (Don't You Hate Pants?)
Dave Lartigue (Legomancer)
Daves Intermittent & Jon (The Intermittent)
David Allen Jones (Johnny Bacardi)
David Fiore (Motime Like the Present)
David Lawson
David Welsh (Precocious Curmudgeon)
Ed Cunard (The Low Road)
Elayne Riggs (Pen-Elayne on the Web)
Erin M. Schadt (The Comic Queen)
Eve Tushnet
Franklin Harris (Franklin's Findings)
Graeme McMillan (Fanboy Rampage!)
Heidi MacDonald (The Beat)
Heidi Meeley (Comics Fairplay)
Howling Curmudgeons
Insult to Injury
J.W. Hastings (Forager 23)
James Schee (Reading Along)
Jason Kimble (Trickle of Consciousness)
Jeff Chatlos (Otto's Coffee Shop)
Jennifer de Guzman (Sandwich Bars and Barbed Wire)
Jevon Phillips & Tom McLean (Bags and Boards)
Jim Henley (Unqualified Offerings, Full and Fanboy Versions)
Johanna Draper Carlson (Cognitive Dissonance)
Ken Lowery (Ringwood Ragefuck)
Kevin Melrose (Thought Balloons)
Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag (Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog)
Marc Singer (I Am NOT The Beastmaster)
Marc-Oliver Frisch (POPP'D! - Supercruel)
Matt Maxwell (Highway 62)
Matt O'Rama
Mick Martin (Daily Burn)
Mike Sterling (Progressive Ruin)
Milo George
Monitor Duty
Nik Dirga (Spatula Forum)
Paul O'Brien
Polite Dissent
Postmodern Barney
Rick Geerling (Eat More People)
Rodrigo Baeza (Comics Commentary)
Ron Phillips (Pitiful Bastard)
Salgood Sam (Sequential)
Sean Collins (ATF)
Shane Bailey (Near Mint Heroes)
Shawn Fumo (Worlds Within Worlds...)
Simply Comics
Steve Pheley (Gutterninja)
Steven Berg & Rose Curtin (Peiratikos)
Steven Wintle (Flat Earth)
Teresa Ortega (In Sequence)
Tim O'Neil (The Hurting)
Tony Collett (Mah Two Cents)

Brian Wood
Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
James Jean
Mercury Studios
Steve Rude

AiT/Planet Lar
Alternative Comics
Dark Horse
Digital Webbing
Drawn & Quarterly
Lightspeed Press
Raijin Comics
Top Shelf

Anime News Network
Democratic Underground
Human Rights Campaign
Marriage Debate
The Onion
The Raving Atheist
Savage Love

September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
September 2006

eBay Auctions (Give old comics a good home)