Booze, Broads, & Bullets was not going to be a week at first. It wasn’t going to have posts by other people, either. No, I had the great idea of reading Frank Miller’s entire collected body of work and doing a post on every single book over the period of– well, I don’t know how long. I know I own almost all of his trade paperbacks, save for things like Bad Boy and his ’80s charity/one-off stuff, and that’s like 19 or 23 books. At that point, writing that much over a short period of time, essentially doing with Tim Callahan did with Grant Morrison: The Early Years, would leave me dead, depressed, or worse. I think a book on Miller’s work like Tim’s book would be fantastic, but not writing it myself over a short period of time. So, instead, I drafted some friends, turned it into a week, and we went at it. Booze, Broads, & Bullets speaks for itself, I think. What you see is what you get. We had a team-up. You were great.
About three weeks before BB&B, I began the process of rereading every Miller book I owned. I put my already sizable to-read stack on pause, making occasional breaks particularly enticing new purchases, and breathed Frank Miller for a few weeks. At some point during this process, I think during the first week, Tucker Stone emailed me and told me that I absolutely had to read James Ellroy’s American Tabloid trilogy. I quote: “This was made for your brain.” He was right. Tucker is a guy who knows good books. He takes bad ones to task, yes, but when it comes to recommending books, Tucker doesn’t steer you wrong. And he didn’t this time, not even close.
My days were Frank Miller. Lunch breaks at work, that week I had to ride the bus because it was raining too hard to bike, and a bit of the evenings were dedicated to reading about hard men and harder women. That hour I usually spend in bed staring at the ceiling before I fall asleep was given over to James Ellroy, Kemper Boyd, Ward Littell, the Beard, and Jack Kennedy. I knocked out American Tabloid in two weeks, longer than I usually take for real books, and moved on to The Cold Six Thousand. I’m about halfway through it right now.
I’m addicted to Amazon. I’ve got Prime and I make an obscene number of orders a year. I made an order during BB&B, round about halfway through the week. I pick up One Piece 24-27 (four for three? shoot, I’ll take advantage of that all day), the beginning of the Skypiea arc, and Usagi Yojimbo volumes one through three. It wasn’t until I got them and looked at them that I’d realized what I’d done. I’d ordered four violent children’s books and three violent rabbit samurai books, but ones with an all-ages kind of violence.
I needed a break from crime, bastards, and brutality, apparently. And those are pretty much my favorite ingredients in fiction.
The same kind of thing happened last year. I was doing regular reviews of Lone Wolf & Cub from spring to summer. I made it almost exactly two months in, writing up six volumes of Lone Wolf & Cub, one of Path of the Assassin, and then a few miscellaneous posts that weren’t focused on anyone book, before quitting. I own at least nine of these books, and I was burning through a book a week or so, so I know I read several I didn’t write about.
The thing about Lone Wolf & Cub is that it is very… dry. It’s fairly formulaic, you can guess story beats once you make it to volume three or so, and it is just a miserable read. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but absorbing all of that in a short period of time? It’s not very pleasant. By the end, I didn’t even want to think about the series again. Ogami Itto was too perfect, and his setting too horrible. It was a Debbie Downer, is what I’m saying. So, I took a break. I found something else to do. I took a few days off and came back talking about Asterios Polyp.
I was actually talking about detoxing from comics to Esther the other day. She’s frustrated with the direction of DC in general, with a specific focus on the Green Arrow family. DC has several books that have been piling misery upon misery for years at this point. The Teen Titans franchise, whether Teen Titans proper or the grown-up and trashy Titans, has been toxic since long before Geoff Johns left in 2007. The Green Arrow titles have been tripping from tragedy to tragedy ever since Green Arrow and Black Canary got married.
It gets old. At some point, you’ve got to have some kind of a release for all the misery and pain. I’ve read that Ian Sattler and Dan Didio have been saying that Cry For Justice “worked” because people are upset about the book. And well, no, it didn’t work. People are mad at the book and what happened in it, but not because it’s sad. They’re mad because it’s just another body on the pile. Ted Kord’s death was sad. Lian Harper’s death was pointless, cheap theatrics meant to shock you, rather than make you actually feel anything. But hey, yell “BOO!” at someone often enough and they stop caring.
Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret: the several dozen dead or maimed bodies underneath it. Lian’s chilling with Gehenna, the girl who was tortured and killed so that Black Firestorm could live in White Firestorm’s head in a bunch of comics I’m not going to ever read.
Daredevil’s life has sucked for years. Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Daredevil helped draw me into reading monthly comics again, but I quit the series sometimes during Brubaker’s run. I got tired of watching Daredevil’s life spiral into misery, over and over and over again. I’m tired of that story. I’m numb to it. No, that’s not right. I don’t care. Spider-Man’s life sucks. The writers throw him curveballs every couple of months to shake things up. But, there are issues where he hangs out with his friends. There are horribly sad issues. There are happy issues. There are bittersweet issues. There is a mixture of content, which makes sure that each punch to the gut actually feels like a punch to the gut.
I got my first tattoo back in March. I was asking about how much it’d hurt, and the guy told me that after a certain amount of time (or trauma), the body goes into a kind of shock and you barely feel anything. That didn’t happen with the tattoo, but it absolutely happens with comics.
I’m supposed to feel bad for Roy Harper when he’s imagining his daughter screaming and crawling and dying slowly in the rubble of her house. But hey, guess what! I don’t. I don’t care at all. I’m more amazed/offended/appalled at how blatantly emotionally manipulative and inept all of it is, like the comics had been written by and for people who only had superhero comics as a reference point and had never seen a good movie or read an actual book. Hysterical melodrama-infused superhero decadence in the worst way. It’s a sob story, only the person telling it doesn’t know when to pull back and stop layering in unnecessary details.
But hey, wack writers tell wack stories.
Storytelling is essentially lying. It’s making up a new truth and hoping people believe it. The trick to being a good liar is to keep it simple and effective. When Crossed, Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows’s incredibly violent and obscene zombie miniseries, treats the death of a child in a more reasonable and mature way than a DC Comics-branded comic book, you’ve got a problem. Your emperor has no clothes. We don’t believe in you or your stupid stories.
You want to know my review of Cry For Justice and Blackest Night and all these other comics that keep banging that one drum and then go “GOTCHA!” when you go “Ew, what is this?”