June 8th, 2015
Beast Wagon #1, by Owen Michael Johnson, John Pearson, Colin Bell, and Gavin James-Weir (Changeling Studios, 2015)
I have no idea what this comic is. I cannot it read it. It renders reading impossible. What is that smell? No, that’s too kind a word for it. Stench is too florid, too learned. This comic doesn’t smell, it hums. Is it glue? My mind tells me that it must be, glue or something like it, some aspect of the binding.
It’s not the staples though, staples could never smell like this. It’s the glue. That’s what my brain tells me, but there’s another reaction, a deeper one. Probably just a different function of the brain. Definitely that. And yet it also feels like it’s a function of the body. I know, I know, all parts of the same system, but it’s like hearing a lion scream at you in the zoo: you know there are physical and social constraints preventing the brute from eviscerating you but part of you is still howling to run!
It’s only a comic, just a mess of words and pictures on the page, just paper and ink. Ink doesn’t smell like this, does it? Probably not even if you use it wrong. No, I can’t read it, I want to get rid of it, I need to get it out of my house, need to wash the smell of it off me.
I think this comic is planning to kill me.
June 5th, 2015
A few thoughts on Dan Clowes’ Ghost World, as previously presented as part of this extended discussion of what that comic is and how we should read it:
I’m going to side step this fascinating discussion of formalism/post-structuralism/intentionality because otherwise I’ll either get so bogged down in it that I don’t find time to talk about Ghost World or I’ll say something stupid about being a “post-structuralist intentionalist” or spam the world with idiotic diagrams I’ve just thrown together on Paint or whatever…
Let’s talk about a grubbier aspect of what we’re talking about when we talk about Ghost World, namely the packaging, how it’s been sold and re-sold, whether it’s got a picture of Thora Birch on the cover (I don’t think any such edition exists, but maybe I’m wrong). The stuff you’re not supposed to judge it by, basically, despite the fact that this but into all that good “literary” stuff about intention, reception, and interpretation in a tangible way.
After all, the sort of intentions and expectations you read a comic with will be different if you read it as one strip amongst many in Clowes’ Eightball than they are if you read it as a graphic novel, or as the source material for a movie that left you slightly unsatisfied but curious enough to read more.
It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that all of the critiques of the comic that were raised during the London Graphic Novel Network’s examination of the series relate to its failure as an extended narrative, but that does seem to be a recurring theme, and I think that’s pretty fair. There are notes of epiphanic ambiguity that seem to be aspiring towards the status of the literary short story, just as there were in various other Clowes strips from that era, but these are too rote and underdeveloped to hold much appeal in themselves.
June 4th, 2015
June 4th, 2015
Fight Club 2 #1, by Cameron Stewart and Chuck Palahniuk (Dark Horse, 2015)
Dear Mister Attack,
You will be unsurprised to hear that WOLF EMOTIONS was giving the new Fight Club comic the hard sell in the shop the other day. Apparently Cameron Stewart is coming in for a signing, in theory he’s only going to sign copies of Fight Club 2 but I’m sure we could get him to stretch to some Batman underpants if we ask nicely.
Probably best to take them off and wash them before we make the request, mind.
Anyway, the comic itself is pretty much as you’d expect given who’s involved. If the book worked like a generational confession that was just novelistic enough to cast doubt on its own world view, and if the movie existed in a more open sort of conflict with itself due to the fact that it couldn’t help but try to sell you Brad Pitts by the box-load, then this represents the final triumph of Fight Club as product.
It’s a sequel so that might seem like a statement of the obvious, but just like Buzzfeed and Vice are made more evil by the fact that they publish some genuinely worthwhile stuff, the fact that this is an actual comic – worse, that it threatens to turn into a genuine collaboration – just makes it worse and more obvious. I could feel Eddie Campbell getting eggy over my shoulder while I read it, the pair of us getting increasingly fucked off with the surface level tricks, the scattered pills and petals that obscure faces and dialogue throughout.
You could even argue that the comic acknowledges its readership, gives them a twisted identification figure in the form of Marla, so horny for the destructive thrills of the source material – because this does not feel so much like a continuation as it does part of an extended universe, like Kieron Gillen writing what Darth Vader did on his holidays – that she doesn’t give a shit what feeding that monster brings, GamerGate: The Musical, Before Fight Club, the immolation of her own flesh and blood, whatever.
It’s still all very cleverly done, of course, but even that calls back to one of the movie’s more resonant exchanges:
June 2nd, 2015
SHE LOOKS LIKE EVE MARIE SAINT, IN ON THE WATERFRONT
“So like with this second album we really wanted to just totally get away all the stuff that everyone associated with that first album y’know? Like, we really wanted to strip out a lot of the poppy stuff and just really let the tracks just like find themselves y’know? We’d been listening to a lot of Can, Neu! y’know Krautrock stuff but also like a lot of Italo-disco y’know? And that just totally informed the epic, spaced out grooves we kind of ended up with. And like we were really getting pressured to come up with a hit single, like something that the label could totally pitch to, I don’t know Radio 6 or something, but we were so totally against that, because like really we felt we’d really done that whole three minute thing y’know and Gavin was trying out this weird singing style, kind of trying for that Liz Frazer ethereal stuff y’know but with this real kind of screechy falsetto y’know, and he’d totally just given up with traditional vocals and moved into some kind of impressionistic moaning and shit y’know? Really pushing the boundaries. And Tiny Darren was just totally entranced with all that Bollywood soundtrack stuff so he was really into just bringing that vibe into the rhythm section and then Kath was really intent on everyone swapping instruments on the final track cos she’d been using Eno’s Oblique Strategies and wanted to get like a sort of Tortoise jamming thing going, but much more primitive and skronky y’know. Really bold, challenging stuff. And we were really really pleased with the way the whole album hung together, even though the label were really nervous about the fact that we sacked Terry Nuggins and ended up producing the whole thing ourselves, which I actually think really kind of brave actually, considering that Terry had just produced the Brontosaurus album, but we like knew that we’d done the right thing, the honest thing, y’know. And when the reviews came in they were mixed and kind of sometimes terrible and a lot of our fans like tuned out, like a lot, and we got fully dropped, but I still totally stand by the record. Y’know?”
“Listen mate, can I just get my burger?”
<ITEM> It’s an extra big portion of SILENCE!, the only podcast to have started in the Elizabethan era. ZOUNDS! Peppy new recruit Bobsy joins those grizzled street veterans, who are gettin’ too ol’ for this shit, The Beast Must Die & Gary Lactus.
<ITEM> Admin, get yer fresh admin! Only £50 a portion! Sponsorshizzle, Blue Peter, the Harmontown documentary and Big Hero 6? They’re all here and ready to please
<ITEM> Reviewniverse? Why yes I will, and and I’ll go large as well! Material, Providence, Necronomicon (film), Insufferable, Millar Vs Morrison, Resident Alien, Convergence, Secret Wars, Shazam!, Optic Nerve, Swamp Thing, Kitchen, Wytches and oh so much more.
<ITEM> Y’know what that sound is? the smallest violin in the world playing just for you cos the podcast’s OVER! Boo Hoo!
June 1st, 2015
As part of the London Graphic Novel Network’s roundtable on All Star Superman, Ilia put forward the following suggestions about the book’s ultimate meaning:
My sense is that there’s a religion to science move in the final issue – Lois believes that one day Superman will return, while Leo Quintum goes off to try and solve the problems of the universe on his own. Maybe Quintum isn’t just Luthor (first time I’ve seen that theory and like it a lot!), but the Superman of the future. That is to say: the representation of our collective 21st century aspirations.
The Quintum/Luthor angle has been played to death round my way, but the idea that the last issue represents a move from the religious to the scientific is genuinely intriguing. For me, the question is how we square that with Lex Luthor’s pantomime performance of smug, materialist arrogance, as captured perfectly by Marc Singer here:
The second half of the series highlights Superman’s capacity to inspire people, even (especially) as a purely fictional character. It’s the only power he has in our benighted world, and Morrison believes it’s the most important one he’s got. In fact, he says that if Superman did not exist, we would have to invent him (simply returning a favor, since Superman thoughtfully created us back in issue #10, March 2008; mark your calendars). That’s why the finale pits him against an antagonist who disputes the very idea that fictions and abstractions can hold real power, as seen in this exchange from issue #12:
WHITE: The truth sent you to the chair, Luthor!
LUTHOR: Is that right, Mister White? Funny, I don’t see the truth anywhere around, do you? I mean, what color is it? Can I touch it?
Luthor mocks White’s dedication to abstract principle, confronting him with the truth’s immateriality, because he’s a materialist to the extreme. He says the priest at his execution “stinks of the irrational” and his niece proclaims “This is Science Year Zero!”–next I suppose they’ll be rewriting the calendar. This scorn for idealism confirms Luthor’s stature as the series archvillain, especially since a hallucinatory Jor-El (himself part of “the field of living, fluid consciousness”) has just told his son he has given us humans ”an ideal to aspire to, embodied [our] highest aspirations.
Thankfully, I think Ilia has already suggested the answer to this question by noting that Quintum is both Superman and Luthor – a figure capable of aspiring to ideals and in working in the world to attain them.
As sneering, Kryptonian hard cases Lila and Bar-El note in issue #9, Superman is a scientist’s son, a curator of wonders who thinks his way around a problem as often as he smashes his way through it, leaving his many stand-ins (be they brawny, like Hercules and Sampson, or brainy like Lex) in the dust. Hell, for all his self-aggrandisement, Luthor spectacularly fails to see what’s right in front of his face when he gives Clark Kent a tour through his prison, and it’s hard to imagine his nemesis making the same mistake.
What to make, then, of Quintum as a replacement Superman?
What’s his purpose?
So, this is a serious item. Material is, what’s it coming out fortnightly? I could look, sometimes it’s fun to have a conversation like you’re not a robot, too. It doesn’t look like something that belongs in comic shops, it just doesn’t.
May 20th, 2015
A few thoughts about working for Marvel/DC, as stolen from a Canadian friend who was trying to add a bit of clarity to my rant about Chip Zdarsky’s inability to say the name of Howard the Duck‘s “original creator”:
(1) In corporate comic, everyone is a scab because there is no union.
(2) In corporate comics, no one can be a scab because there is no union.
(3) Join the union.
What to make, then, of Grant Morrison’s dedication to superheroes, his attempts to imbue them with some sort of positivist power of their own, to try and find transcendent meaning in a series of commercially dictated genre tropes and characters that were sacrificed to them? When presented straight, in Supergods, this stuff feels as silly and desperate as it is, like an attempt to put a fresh golden frame around a thrice-stolen turd in the hope of selling it on eBay again. But in All Star Superman? Not so much. The sales pitch here is a lot more successful.
I’m was being dumb and scatological there, for sure, but the emphasis on framing is appropriate. This is Grant Morrison’s most carefully crafted book, the one he says that he “wrote for the ages”:
It’s the one that comic fans really like. They like that, you know, that architecture… It’s literary, it’s not like a live performance. Like, you read The Invisibles a hundred times and it’s different a hundred times. If you read All Star Superman a hundred times you just understand it more.
In other words, as I think he’s said elsewhere, it’s his Alan Moore comic: twelve issues, immaculately constructed as a hall of mirrors instead of Watchmen’s inkblot test, with Superman wrestling with other versions himself issue after issue as he works hard to deal with the aftermath of his own murder.
May 19th, 2015
I am the traveller. I have…travelled.
Out into the rocky, jagged cobalt blue terrain of Ferronar, where the sky-narwhals drift by like bloated rain clouds, the luminous krill-spore on their skin igniting their blubbery hides in a neon lightshow, fragmentary fire in the sky. Through the time-wastes of Norgg, where I saw my life spiral out in front and behind me, a chrysalis of confinement. My infant mewl and death cry joined each other in a note of pure harmony, ringing in my ears. The destiny web. Further now, further into the Unknown Territories where time becomes a fragile, lacy thing buffeted by the storms of Un-life, where celestial bodies of unimagined scale frolic and twist together in the heavens, while the Silent Wind blasts the landscape below, a mosaic of broken lands beyond belief. Further..further on…until.
A door. Before me, a door.
“Yeah mate, you should’ve been here an hour and a half ago, yeah? Thing’s probably fuckin’ cold now anyway. Take it back mate, not interested. Fuckin’ clown. Do one.”
Welcome yet, me hail, hairy hearties, to this new edition of the internet’s one and only comics lifestyle magazine show review podcast…SILENCE! With the Statler and Waldorf of comics podcasting, The Beast Must Die and Gary Lactus. Or are they Piggy and Kermit? Or Bunsen and Beaker? Two Pigs in space? The Swedish chef and his favourite chicken? Big Bird and a scared child? The answer is yes.
<ITEM> Let me take you down, cos I’m going to, Spo-oh-ohnsorship. Nothing is free. No superhero busts to get hung about. Spo-oh-ohnsorship with Gary (and The Beast). Lamb chops, Shaky Kane, Tugs O’ War and Tofu!
<ITEM> Reviewniverse Sir? Why yes sir I will! Secret Wars 2, Thor, The Auteur: Sister Bambi, Saga, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, JLI, Ms Marvel, Walking Dead, Zero, Mythic, Injection, Space Riders? Yes please!
<ITEM> One last little bit of Community Season 6 chat (KEITH DAVID!)