September 22nd, 2016
Botswana Beast: So the central arc of Punisher MAX, which I think really begins in Mother Russia and ends in Valley Forge, Valley Forge, is all based on this plan, post-9/11, causing terror in order to provoke more foreign interventionism. It’s something to do with the Soviets — well, the Russians, not the Soviets, because it’s not 1989 –
Maid of Nails: But it is framed very much as “the Soviets,” because, you know, General Zakharov from Man of Stone is old-school.
BB: He’s a great character, but he also does horrible things like throwing a baby off a cliff.
MoN: Yeah, he herds a bunch of people off of a cliff and this one woman who’s about to go over gives him her baby to try and save it. And he lifts up the baby like it’s The Lion King or something, and then he throws the baby over the cliff.
BB: That’s literally one of the most shocking things I’ve ever seen, certainly in a Marvel comic.
MoN: So it’s okay that the Punisher’s trying to kill him.
BB: I can’t actually remember the intricacies of this general’s plan, but it’s to provoke war. And of course these are not real soldiers like Frank Castle, like the other respectable Special Forces –
MoN: Or the SAS.
BB: Ennis has a fucking erection for Special Forces guys. In the story they’re just pen-pushing dirty motherfuckers that never saw a day’s combat in their lives. It’s just an ant farm; it’s a game to them, and they’re total shitlords. And they get killed as well.
MoN: That’s very satisfying, though, because they’re not cool like the SAS or Frank Castle.
BB: He doesn’t actually kill the SAS guys, does he?
MoN: No, because they’re too cool.
BB: Well, they’re not SAS guys in this story. They’re American Special Forces.
MoN: But Yorkie’s in there. He’s SAS. Anyway, Rawlins is the guy who’s going around stirring up shit on behalf of the American government, and he’s just the worst person in the entire world.
BB: He is a gigantic piece of shit.
MoN: If someone has completely no feeling for fellow human beings at all, then I can see how they might end up in something like human trafficking. But Rawlins — he has passions, at least, so it’s even worse. O’Brien, you know, the one who wants to bang the Punisher, is his ex-wife. There was some kind of attraction there. Then there’s the thing with Nicky Cavella, when Rawlins comes in to see him like, “Heyyyy, remember me?” and then goes down on him.
I really hate torture scenes, but when he got his, I was like, “YEAH! Fuck you, Rawlins! I hope they take your OTHER eye out!” This comic kind of makes you want horrible things to happen to people.
There’s a bit where he pays off a bunch of Middle Eastern guys to fly a plane into something and make a giant deal out of it –
BB: And the CIA do do things like that. He makes a fake jihadi cell, because that’s his job and there’s essentially profit in war. Frank Castle ultimately gets to the top of the fuckin’ tree and kills these bitches with the help of Good Soldiers, as opposed to the bad soldiers.
MoN: The bad soldiers, who are bureaucrats.
BB: Middle-class soldiers.
MoN: Rawlins is a really good contrast to the Punisher, though.
BB: A lot of characters are set up that way. Like the Russian general, Zakharov. They are all sort of counterpoints: men who have broken in different ways — well, broken to the civilized eye.
MoN: See, “civilized” — people like Rawlins are the ones who make civilization, and the implication is that it’s kind of always been like that. But Frank didn’t know that when he was in Vietnam, although he probably learned while he was there how bad it could get.
BB: I think there’s certainly an issue with his origin, that this bureaucracy isolates his encampment, which would be overrun but for –
MoN: His awesomeness?
BB: Essentially, although it does kind of delve into this slightly fantastical thing where he makes a deal with Death. Which is his totem, after all, with the skull.
MoN: How many of those shirts does he have, do you think? Is it like how cartoon characters have an entire closet filled with just the same outfit?
BB: 40 or 50, anyway. He’s got the T-shirt versions, he’s got the versions where you suspect there may be clubs held in the skull’s teeth.
MoN: That seems like it would make it really hard to bend over, because they’re right up against his stomach. They’d be in the way. It’s one of the few things that is slightly unrealistic about the Punisher.
April 6th, 2016
Or: We are all of us in the shadow of the dicktree – by Kelly Kanayama/Maid of Nails
“Imagine out of all the gigs in town, right? You’re thinking — how hard can it be to stare up at the stars every night for a living?”
Those are the opening lines of Nameless, the most unsettling comic I’ve ever read (including a bit of Crossed, which didn’t unsettle so much as rub garbage all over your soul).
With the introduction of an astronomer who murders his family and scrawls mysterious words on the wall in their blood, we soon find out exactly how hard it can be to stare up at the stars every night. The stars, where J’onn J’onzz made his home, where the guardians of Oa hold court, from which Superman crashed into our world to help us believe a man can fly. Staring up at the stars is an act of hope, and in Nameless, for the most part, there is none.
You think, for instance, that people are dismembering each other with their bare hands, faces smeared with blood and human filth.
The doctors explain it was only a dream; it was all in your head.
What happened outside your head — when you were outside your head — is much worse.
April 3rd, 2016
Back in February, I appeared on a panel at the London Graphic Novel Network’s S.M.A.S.H. event. There were a lot of great speakers at those events (including our own Maid of Nails, friend of the website Kieron Gillen, America’s next top comics critic J.A. Micheline, Mazin off the Kraken podcast, and Jam Trap poet Chrissy Williams), staggered across three panels focusing on MEANING, ART and REPRESENTATION in comics.
The plan was to write series of posts inspired by these talks, but then this happened.
Trying to appear big and clever on the internet has never felt less important to me than it did in the aftermath.
Anyway, I spoke on the art panel at S.M.A.S.H. and as a comics critic in the company of artists/editors, I figured I would be the least qualified person to talk about the subject so I did what I always do: I overcompensated. Only Mister Attack will ever see the first draft of my introductory talk, the charmingly titled “COMICS ARTISTS ARE WASTING THEIR LIVES”. In the end, I settled for a slightly less arsey approach that focused on different modes of reading, and how we might want to develop our understanding of our own biases so we can better make them fight to prove which opinions are best.
You can listen to what I actually said and the subsequent panel debate here (headphones recommended, audio’s a but quiet!), read the version of this pitch I submitted here, or if you fancy getting the right mix of depth and brevity you can now read the text I brought with me on the day below.
None of these versions are quite the same. None of them quite get across what I thought I was trying to say. I wouldn’t have it any other way.