October 28th, 2015
A few thoughts on Material, a prematurely cancelled comic by Will Tempest, Tom Muller, Ales Kot and Clayton Cowles that feels like it’s worth not just reading but talking about – and maybe even continuing?
!) IT’S ABOUT TIME
Like so much contemporary mass media, Material seemed aware of its readers’ ability to act as biocapitalist broadcasting stations, trusting that they would work harder and smarter than Image comics’ marketing department – that its readers would talk about it on podcasts, write essays, send enthusiastic tweets, anything to try and share the experience of it. Its methods of going about this was somewhat obvious but effective: the comic lectured you, provided prompts for further reading, tried to link scenes in the comic to other texts, be they topical text pieces in the back of the comic or the names and references scattered in the margins.
Even while it was still being published, then, Material seemed to revel in its status as an incomplete text. The art echoed this approach, with with Will Tempest’s none-more-loose linework held together almost entirely by the carefully coded block colouring. It looked and felt like work-in-progress, and with the action currently suspended, its characters’ lives have that feeling too.
Everything in this book is material for the reader; the question is, how much work do you want to put in? How much do you want to let Material work with you?
As I’ve already said, by publicly engaging with the comic we become part of the marketing scheme, “self-facilitating media nodes” or some such Barley-bollocks. Is that all there is to it though? Value is fundamental to the idea of currency of course, and when you’re offering up cash on the promise of receiving a worthwhile experience it’s doubly hard to disentangle financial motives from your response, but that doesn’t mean that we should give in to the tautological worldview that says since everything can be sold it is best judged by its commercial worth.
Material‘s current status gives us pause to consider this question, temporarily free from questions of cash money and how to spend it. It brings the other questions of trust – is this going anywhere? is it just wearing the raw tragedy of the moment like a shiny new suit? – into the foreground.
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.
August 24th, 2014
Secret Avengers #7, by Ales Kot, Michael Walsh, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles
They’re re-writing the TV show again, remaking their little models fit to play the parts occupied by [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] on the screen, picking up tips and characters from [REDACTED], letting the characters get all cute cute cute on the black ops beat, all limber on the page, unbothered by caption chatter, the disconcerting mix of [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], the whole functioning in defiance of the fact that it’s been divined like Frankenstein, realizing Borgesian phantoms. Is the whole thing ectoplasmic, even the brand management, even the [REDACTED] approved implication that we secretly (Secret Avengers) need/crave dangerous spooks like these? This is subversion but the question of who or what is being subverted is as hard to grasp as the figures on the page, sleek in the shadows, smooth like cartoons – is the mechanism being made more likeable here, or more ridiculous? Are these positions necessarily opposed? Or are we on the third path, Dark Starring the bomb to light another day? You will of course interject that here be monsters, but is that not always the case when one is pre-writing history?
Regardless, this is the most effective use of an affected guest star in a [REDACTED] comic since [REDACTED], a triumph of affect over the constant cries of “THIS IS AFFECT!” There are too few contemporary comics that make intrigue feel this easy.
March 17th, 2014
Über #0-10, by Kieron Gillen, Caanan White, Joseph Silver, Kurt Hathaway and Digicore Studios
Kieron Gillen let the mask slip a little at the start, when he positioned this comic as the anti-ASS, as a refutation of Superman’s central place in 20th Century history, in a spiel designed to mark Über out as being a comic free of the sort of self-commentary that defines so many modern superhero comics. “It’s probably the least ironic book I’ve ever written,” he said:
It has nothing to say about superhero comics. In fact, its utter negation of that genre-criticism may be the closest it comes to commentary. I’ve read many books which seem to labour under the delusion that the conception of Superman was the most important moment in the 1930s. This isn’t one of them. My only interest is in how I can use this genre’s conceit to create metaphors to explores aspects of WW2…
This comment, buried as it was in the mix of metatextual soul searching and historical gamesmanship of Über #0′s backmatter, provides the key to understanding the uncanny dynamics of this comic. In attempting to ward off irony and meta-commentary, Gillen negated any possibility of this comic escaping the superhero meta-conversation. Which, it turns out, is actually quite fitting in the end. Carefully researched as Über might be, with everything from troop movements to weather conditions having been taken into account, this WW2 with superheroes fantasy is still a superhero fantasy, and as such it manages the odd trick of destroying both history and genre conventions and reinforcing them at the same time.
In contrast to the carefully composed alternate reality of All Star Superman – with its suggestion of a world where greed, imperialism and mortal panic exist but are never the only options – Gillen and White present an alt-modernity in which the foundational horrors of the mid 20th Century era are all there but louder.
November 28th, 2013
Hello there, Gary Lactus here. Welcome to the recorded scraps of our weekend at Thought Bubble 2013. We had a lovely time, the highlight of which was probably our SILENCE! LIVE! special talk time with Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing, Brandon Graham, Ales Kot and Stan Lee. The Beast Must Die and I were proper touched by the amount of warm, responsive bodies that came to watch our hideous shambles. Those of you who were actually there are particularly blessed as the recording didn’t come out too well I’m afraid. I have done my best to give you the best possible audio representation here but malfunctioning mics and a reverberant room mean that you may have trouble hearing all of it. Consider it a collector’s item for SILENCE! completists. There’s still some magic moments to be had here. There’s pictures in the gallery below too.
Four days later I still feel broken but happy. CHEERS EVERYONE!
July 11th, 2013
EXPOSITION: From the first few pages onwards it’s clear that this is one of those LA stories, an everyday apocalypse in which a strung out and savvy cast of screenwriters, rappers, astronauts, agents and cultists collide against a genre-mashed backdrop; the prophetic screenplay that drives the story is modeled on The Last Boy Scout, but Richard Kelly’s media-frazzled sci-fi meltdown Southland Tales seems the more fitting tonal counterpoint for this story of a city stuck on an apparently endless cycle of destruction.
The main characters in CHANGE are lost and ambitious souls, tilting after people and projects like a set of modern day Don Quixotes, struggling to find their way to an imaginary elsewhere that might just resemble home if they can stick the landing.
If there’s a criticism to be raised here it’s perhaps that the women in this comic tend to be framed at the centre of the madness, while the men are given more active roles as explorers. Richard Doublehead (“the Virginia Woolf of screenwriters”) and rapper turned movie producer W-2 and find themselves instigating the plot and exploring it respectively, and in their dueling roles both men are spurred on by the loss of their partners. Charlie Kaufman style maverick screenwriter and surprisingly competent car thief Sonia has a more active role than either of the female love interests, but her ability to write what’s about to happen still positions her as being somehow in tune with the madness where her fellow protagonists affect and are affected by it:
Thinking about Sonia’s character, I keep coming back to Angela Carter talking about her experience with the surrealists:
…I had to give them up in the end. They were, with a few patronized exceptions, all men and they told me that I was the source of all mystery, beauty, and otherness, because I was a woman – and I knew that was not true. I knew I wanted my fair share of the imagination, too. Not an excessive amount, mind; I wasn’t greedy. Just an equal share in the right to vision.
If Sonia has anything, it’s vision, but somehow her goals seem less tangible those of her male counterparts; for all that her voice is the most purely entertaining one in the comic, I still can’t help but feel that her arc is also the least satisfying. Even the astronaut, who spends most of his page time cut off from the other characters, finds himself on a journey to be reunited with them and with himself:
December 12th, 2012
CHANGE is… coming soon! In fact, it’s possible that it’s already here. Perhaps you’ve already read the comic, and are looking for more information on the people who made it. Or maybe you’ve been here before, and have found yourself stuck in a loop, struggling to get out. Regardless of your circumstances, I’m glad you’re here.
CHANGE is… a bracingly modern pulp adventure comic, set in Los Angeles, in which an astronaut, a screen writer/car thief, and a rapper caught midway through a transition into a Hollywood afterlife find themselves entangled in the tendrils of a plot that mixes showbiz horror with Lovecraftian glamour. Or is that the other way round?
CHANGE is… a stylish, ambitious comic that makes perfect sense as part of of Image’s attempt to make popular genre comics that aren’t totally stylistically and thematically inert. Comics that read like they were made with care, energy, enthusiasm, and maybe even that earth element you call… love.
As such, I’m happy to present to you with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style interview with two of the creators involved in this comic, Ales Kot and Morgan Jeske.
If you don’t think you’ve got the heart for this sort of postmodern gambit, you can click here to read the interview straight.
November 19th, 2012
August 25th, 2012
What a joy it is to dance and sing…
…or so I seem to remember anyway. This bloggy vessel has now entered the fourth decade of its journey towards oblivion, so you can look forward to it trying out its new “all whinging, all the time” persona as its mechanics starts to fail and its withered captain feels the need to overcompensate in a tragic bid for immortality.
From New X-Men: Riot at Xaviers, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
But before I lose myself to that delightful journey, there’s Ales Kot and Riley Rossmo‘s Wild Children, a comic book that couldn’t feel more like a jolt from the nineties if it had come wrapped in a pair of novelty Spice Girls underpants and been delivered by a reformed Lee and Herring. Except that it’s actually a lot more specific than that, because what Wild Chilren feels like is a a jolt from my nineties - if you can imagine a version of Grant Morrison and Philip Bond’s Kill Yr Boyfriend that tries to encompass all of The Invisibles, you’ll probably be imagining something quite like Wild Children. Like The Invisibles, Wild Children is clearly built to be read in a circle, and if the first line of dialogue – “I still don’t understand” – doesn’t get this point across, there’s another line on the third page to make the design even harder to ignore: “Some of you may think we’re evil, but I don’t think you’ll miss the point this time.”
From The Invisibles #1, ‘Dead Beatles’, by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell
All of which is typical of Wild Children’s approach. Part story, part lecture, Wild Children is a swaggering, talky comic that positions its readers as adult hostages, drugged and held at gunpoint by the titular teens. Weapons are brandished that may or may not be weapons, speeches about the nature of reality are given, tragedy ensues.
Some people might object to being positioned this way - former wild children with fluff-encrusted blank badges in their sock drawers might find themselves wanting to be the ones giving the lecture, for example – but while I would have probably have got more out of the comic if Riley Rossmo had been given more action to draw, the loose, unfinished quality of his line was enough to get me through a couple of reading cycles. And like I said, there’s plenty of swagger in Wild Children’s design. From its carefully combusted cover on in, this is clearly the work of a couple of people who want to start something.
The only question is, what is it that they want to start, exactly?