Archive for November, 2010


Fourcast! 68: What’s It All About

November 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Ever disagree with someone and be like, “Wow, [that idea] is totally way off kilter and crazy!”
-I totally thought that when Esther wrote this post in response to a lightly NSFW post I wrote about Flex Mentallo and supersex.
-Why not do a podcast about our competing and almost definitely irreconcilable views on superheroes?
-So, we’re hashing it out on wax, and Esther realizes it before I do…
-But we don’t disagree very much at all, do we?
-Like I ever let something like that stop an argument.
-Regardless, I’m inflicting this conversation on you, dearest reader, so click play and tune in.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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This Week in Panels: Week 62

November 29th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

This week we have entries from the usual crew in Space Jawa and Was Taters, but also an addition by Luis, who gave me something from Amazing Spider-Man. When I discovered who that’s supposed to be holding the decapitated head, I let out one hell of a sigh.

Amazing Spider-Man #649
Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

Avengers & The Infinity Gauntlet #4
Brian Clevinger, Lee Black and Brian Churilla

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Punisher Streaks the Marvel Universe

November 26th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

This week brought the end to one of the more enjoyable Marvel miniseries of the year in Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet. Written by Brian Clevinger (of Atomic Robo and 8-Bit Theater fame) and Lee Black with art by Brian Churilla (the Anchor), it’s a very fun and all-ages reimagining of the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. Rather than have a bunch of heroes run headfirst into a gruesome death by Starlin’s second favorite character, only so that Starlin’s first favorite character can be the one to stop him, Clevinger goes a different route. The group of heroes sent to figure out what’s wiped out half the universe is made up of Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Wolverine, Doctor Doom and US Ace. Yes, that space trucker from the awful US-1 comics of yesteryear.

The real star of the comic is Dr. Doom, mainly because of his dynamics with the rest of the cast. He hates Spider-Man for his lack of respect and penchant for annoying humor. He hates Ms. Marvel for daring to give Doom orders. He hates Hulk for being an imbecile. He hates Thanos for being one level above him in the megalomaniac game. He hates US Ace for being a ridiculous space hick. He hates Wolver… actually, he sort of almost seems to respect Wolverine just because they see eye-to-eye as the straight men of the group.

It’s a fun four issues and I can’t wait to check out Clevinger’s Captain America: The Fighting Avenger in January. But that’s not what this post is about. You see, Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet has this subplot about the Skrulls and Kree joining forces to destroy Earth (long story). There’s a sequence that shows the people of Marvel Earth from all over the globe responding to this. Nick Fury, Mole Man, civilians trying to stay alive, etc. One panel shows the Punisher trying to fight back against the alien invasion. He’s surrounded by flame and… er… the bad choice of coloring hit me by surprise.

Hey, now! Hm… Then again, the guy’s already killing people on the streets. It’s not like public indecency is going to add that many years to his 329 back-to-back life sentences. Still, be warned: if you mention “Micro” around Frank Castle, you BETTER make sure he knows you mean his hacker sidekick.

I jabbed Clevinger about this and this is what he had to say about the Punisher’s Naked Kill:

:D Lee and I never got to see a color proof for issue 4, so this panel came as quite a surprise. Looking at it now, I’m not sure if we’d have said anything or not. I mean, we got to include the phrase “meanest mother trucker” and show Wolverine killing a guy on panel in an all ages book. Why not go balls out and have Punisher, uh, go balls out?

It’s nice to see him taking it in stride like this. Since he’s been so cool about me poking fun at Frank’s exposed shotgun and grenades, I thought I’d do him a solid. Right here, right now, you’re getting a 4thletter! exclusive. Cross your fingers, but I’m hoping Marvel could use this for the cover for the Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet trade.

What courage. I would never allow that thing anywhere near Wolverine’s claws!

…what? I meant the beach ball.

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Buying From Amazon Today?

November 26th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

If you’re getting your Black Friday shopping done at home on Amazon, you’d help us out if you bought via our referral link. Blah blah blah hosting, etc etc. If not, cool. If you want a recommendation, Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son Of Chico Dusty is two bucks.

Me, I’m not waking up til the afternoon. Shopping can wait, there’s sleeping to be done.

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The Survivor Series Countdown: Day Eleven

November 25th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Sorry for the lateness. I was planning on finishing this baby up yesterday, but I was exhausted. Exhausted from MARKING! Why was I marking again? Oh yeah…

Right! Miz winning the title. Good times. But I’m sure I’ll be forgiven for finishing this list off a couple days late. Posting it on Thanksgiving sort of works, right? You’ll forgive me, won’t you, Miz Title Win Reaction Girl?

Oh. Never mind, then.

As for the PPV? I thought the first half was brilliant and the second half was below average. The Kane vs. Edge match especially. That’s a shame, since I like the angle.

Now for the top three Survivor Series!

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The Cipher 11/25/10

November 25th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

new york is killing me
-Hopped a train (or series of) to another leg of my vacation today.

-Amtrak is like Greyhound, only all of the ex-cons and creeps have been replaced by old people and preppy college kids.

-As I speak, there’s a young girl insisting that her parents better get her a laptop.

-There was one dude with a chihuahua, an LV bag, and a stuffy demeanor that reminded me of dude from Silence of the Lambs. “Put the lotion in the basket.”

-I’ve spent most of the trip listening to new music and a few albums I recently bought that I’d been putting off. It’s interesting, hearing new stuff. I like a lot of stuff that I normally wouldn’t expect myself to like.

-Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM? I bump that like it’s an MOP record. “Take a picture, what’s inside?”

-I keep calling her “Charlotte Gainsborough.” I can’t figure out why.

-The kid J Cole’s Friday Night Lights mixtape is pretty straight. He doesn’t knock my socks off, but he’s got real potential. Blow Up is a hot song, and so is that single he had with the marching band.

-Lil Wayne: I think I’m over him.

-Nicki Minaj: Yeah, done with her, too. Dumped. Somebody needs to pull her card. Trump.

-I paid four bucks for Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I would’ve paid four dollars for “Hell of A Life” alone.

-Who expected Kanye to go in on race relations in porn? “She said her price’ll go down if she ever fuck a black guy/ Or do anal, or a gangbang/ It’s kinda crazy it’s all considered the same thing.”

-“How can you say they live their life wrong?”

-The only thing I’d change about Kanye’s album would be to flip the first few bars of Ye’s verse on “Runaway” with the clean version. He uses this sample I’m really fond of–a lady going, “Hey!”

-You’ve undoubtedly heard it on the radio, but maybe that went out of style in the ’90s. I like the way it sounds in the song, though.

-“She find pictures in my e-mail/ I sent this girl a picture of my HEY!/ I don’t know what it is with females/ But I’m not too good at that HEY!”

-Taking champion music like “All of the Lights” and flipping the script entirely–that’s all too well done.

-I forgot that Gil Scott-Heron dropped I’m New Here this year. “New York Is Killing Me” goes super hard, and I’d forgotten how much I was feeling it when it leaked earlier this year. There’s one with Nas, too.

-It’s this raw, dusty, dirty, Otis Redding sounding joint. Blues plus. Soul on wax.

-Speaking of Otis Redding–five bucks for The Very Best Of Otis Redding. I like those odds. The version of “Sitting By The Dock of the Bay” is different from the one I usually get down with on Rock Band. I managed to pick up on that before I even looked up the titles. The RB one is “Take Two.” The one on the album sounds different, fuller maybe. Less raw.

-The new Sade is two dollars today, wow. Glad I wanted before buying.

with the lights on
created: I dropped a monster baby with this four thousand word piece on digital comics. People seem to like it. Tell your friends. Also: ten Marvel comics worth reading, a roundtable review of Nick Spencer and CAFU’s THUNDER Agents, and a Moviefone piece on a few comics Harry Potter fans will like. Vimanarama!

consumed: Nine or ten hours of travel time gives you a lot of time to read. Not sleeping the night before halves that reading time. Regardless, I read:
-Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond, Vol. 9 (VIZBIG Edition): This one is a six hundred page series of fight scenes, give or take a hundred pages, and makes a whole lot of cape comics look stupid in the process. “This ends now!” sort of fights, where you go and go and then your SECRET RESERVE OF ENERGY wins the day, are old and busted. Musashi coming down off the mountain and out of the shadows is the new hotness.

-Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library #20: This is my first ACN, and hey! This was pretty impressive. It was also a surprise birthday gift from my buddy Lauren Davis, who is good people.

Gorillaz: Rise of the Ogre: Fantastic, duh. Thanks to Sean Witzke for pointing out where I could get a cheap one.

-Mike Carey & Marcelo Frusin’s Hellblazer: Red Sepulchre: This is the start of their run, and I read up through a couple volumes after this. I haven’t read this run in a couple years, and it’s still pretty good. I like how Carey put his puzzle pieces together.

take a picture, look inside
David: Detective Comics 871, King City 12, New Mutants 19
Esther: Definitely: Action Comics #895, Batman and Robin #17 Maybe: Batwoman 0, Detective Comics 871
Gavin: Batman and Robin 17, Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet 4, Captain America 612, Deadpool 29, Deadpool Pulp 3, Deadpool Team-Up 887, Incredible Hulks 617, Namor: the First Mutant 4, Secret Avengers 7, Secret Warriors 22, Shadowland: Power Man 4, Ultimate Comic Avengers 3 4, Incorruptible 12

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When what you want will destroy what you want

November 24th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Let me start by saying, “All hail Paul Cornell.”  Between Action Comics and Knight and Squire he is rocking books set on both sides of the pond.  Each book takes an unconventional look at superhero comics.  Knight and Squire looks at a superhero team set in the English country side.  Things are incredibly civil.  The heroes and villains hang out together at a bar protected by a kind of truce magic, and both sides enjoy it.  Everyone in town knows who Knight and Squire are, but no one says anything because that would be rude.  It’s a relaxed look at an adventuring team. 

Action Comics, which chronicle’s Lex Luthor’s quest to get the black lantern ring, is definitely not relaxed.  It follows the most brilliant, driven man in the world, and that man has a chip on his shoulder.  It’s a great read because Lex Luthor achieves real grandeur in his quest.  His intelligence shines through, as does his moral code, which is a very primitive and appealing one; he has to be in control, and he won’t ever stop fighting to get control.  He won’t back down.  While it’s clear he’s not actually a good person, he has a greatness that lets you understand why people would follow him.

I just wish he’d stop killing people.

But he won’t, because he’s Lex Luthor.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the character could be spun so enough that there is a comics series about how he’s just trying to do good and the conflict with Superman is a grudge match fueled by unfortunate misunderstandings.  It’s just that stringing those misunderstandings together will result in making this character – the embodiment of strength of will – look ineffectual, and Superman – the embodiment of kindness – look petty.

I mean, I’ll still buy it.  For crying out loud, I’m still checking out Green Arrow solicits trying to see some sign that they’ll bring Conner and Mia and Dinah and even Lian and Roy back.  I buy comics long after they make me miserable.  Pretty much every fan does.  It’s just that sometimes we’re the cause of our own misery.

Deadpool started small and climbed up to multiple titles per month.  People noticed a quality drop and didn’t like it.  So Marvel started a poll to cut a Deadpool title and people didn’t like that either.

Batman was the lone vigilante in the night.  Unwavering and infallible, he was a solitary soldier.  But people liked that solitary soldier, and so he was put on team, in charge of teams, as an adversary or backer to teams.  His world was crowded with followers and sidekicks and lovers and old friends, because people wanted to see more of him.  And through it all, the writers struggled for that same, solitary, infallible persona.  Eventually it got ridiculous, and it’s a good thing that Grant Morrison is ushering a Batman who embraces the group dynamic, because that “I am the night” thing wasn’t cutting it any more.

Comic mentality is often junkie mentality.  People want more, faster, more intense.  And then when they get a steady stream of stories artificially twisted around a marketable concept instead of one or two new takes, it’s never as satisfying as it should be.  Everyone ends up frustrated.  Fans because they aren’t getting what they want, and creators because they’re giving people exactly what they always said they wanted.

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.

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Gamble A Stamp 04: Why Didn’t They Stop My Mum and Dad Fighting?

November 24th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I want to talk about this, from what’s probably the best single chapter of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (#6, “A Funeral In Smallville”):

(Words by Grant Morrison, art by Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant)

But I need to talk about this before I come back around to it:

(Morrison/Quitely/Tom McCraw)

I may get lost along the way, because this is probably actually about a lot of things I’ve been working through over the past few months that I still don’t have a handle on, but follow along and maybe we’ll get there together and in one piece.

I’ve read Flex Mentallo a ton of times. Dozens, even. Every time I do one of these posts, I end up flicking through the series as a whole two or three times while writing. This panel (and a caption in the panel before it that reads, “Why didn’t the superheroes save us from the fucking bomb? I feel so sick.”) kept sticking in my head every time I ran through the book. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it.

The rest of Flex is pretty clear and easy to understand. It’s easy to figure out how the idea of superheroes intersects with and brushes up against real life. Most of the questions posed in the book, like the point of comics about broken heroes or the soft and mutable nature of comics in the Silver Age, are answered explicitly or implicitly in the text itself.

“Why didn’t they stop my mum and dad fighting?”, though. There are no captions or glimpses of superheroic life to give it a deeper context. There’s just a guy dying in an alley, wondering why love doesn’t last forever. For my money, it’s the saddest scene in the book. If you want cape comics with gritty realism, you don’t need rape backstories and heroes moping on rooftops. All you need is something basic going wrong with no easy answers to be found.

The word choice stuck with me, too. It’s not “Why couldn’t they stop my mum and dad fighting?” It’s not “Why wouldn’t they?” It’s “Why didn’t they stop my mum and dad fighting?” The superheroes had the will and the way, but they didn’t do it. That implies a choice, maybe even a conscious one, to let the fighting happen.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find an answer in Flex. There’s not even a hint, near as I can tell. It’s just dropped into the narrative, this drop of real-life despair in the middle of the fantastic, and then left there.

I had a few guesses about what it meant. None of them were very good. It could have been tough love. It could have been not wanting to interfere in the lives of humans too too much, like in JLA: New World Order (by far my worst guess, considering the rest of the book). Maybe they just simply couldn’t interfere due to… something something.

All-Star Superman 6 put it into better focus, though. I was rereading the series in prep for a different post (maybe GAS05) and the solution leapt out at me. ASS 6 is about failure and what superheroes cannot do. It features Superboy, rather than Superman, and is a flashback/time travel episode.

One more digression. Way back when DC let John Byrne revamp Superman, he did a story where Superman killed General Zod and the Phantom Zone criminals and cried a little bit. The purpose of this story, according to an interview I read forever ago and now cannot find, was to show exactly why Superman doesn’t kill. So, to show why Superman doesn’t kill, Byrne had him slowly kill three people.

Get it?

Byrne got it wrong, but when Morrison went to show Superman’s first failure, and thereby introduce a certain limit to the character, things turned out much better. Superboy chose to do the right thing without even thinking, against great odds, and in doing so, lost his chance to save his father. Three minutes of his life were taken, and in those three minutes, his father died. Superboy’s scream that he “can save everybody” speaks to a certain youthful invincibility, but also to what Superman will one day become. His scream of defiance as a child becomes a foreshadowing of his modus operandi years later, as he does his level best to save everybody.

But what’s important here is what Superboy did not do, which is save his own father. One of the other Supermen in the story explains that “his heart just ran out of beats.” He goes on to say that if Jon Kent hadn’t died, Clark Kent might have stayed in Smallville, “and none of us would ever have been born.” Put differently: “This had to happen.”

A few pages earlier is another key scene. While walking and talking with the Unknown Superman, who is actually the modern day Clark Kent in disguise, Jon Kent asks, “He’ll be okay, won’t he? The boy.” referring to his son. Kent clearly knows both that the Unknown Superman is not who he says he is and that his time is up. He wants to be sure that his son ends up okay, considering the amount of power he has. Superman’s response is “It all comes out right in the end.”

There’s a vein of fatalism there, isn’t there? In other hands, it would be “it is what it is.” Here, it’s an admission that even though this is a hiccup, that this will not work out like Superboy wants it to, things will work out in the end. This is just something he needs to learn before he can grow.

So, there are two answers here to consider. One is that Kent’s heart “just ran out of beats.” The other is that everything “comes out right in the end.” What that puts me in mind of is inevitability. You can’t fight certain things.

I think Byrne’s logic was atrocious (I haven’t killed anyone and don’t currently plan to, and I didn’t need to kill anyone to come to that conclusion) and his execution worse, but he was at least cognizant of the fact that there have to be limits. By forcing the hero to make a choice, though, Byrne shot himself in the foot. Morrison’s method, where the hero is forced to confront a shortcoming, seems much cleaner.

If superheroes can do anything, then you don’t have a story. There have to be things that superheroes cannot or will not do. Sometimes these limits are there to preserve the reader’s suspension of disbelief. Other times, it’s to maintain a profitable brand. Batman can’t kill the Joker and Superman can’t use his technology to make the world a better place. Flash can’t just end every fight in half a second.

These limits often tend to line up along real world lines, too. Tony Stark can never eliminate poverty and Superman can never battle racism. Those two things will just make the readers aware that they’re reading a comic book and that, hey, life still sucks.

I’m beginning to think that “Why didn’t they stop my mum and dad fighting?” is the one spot in Flex Mentallo that’s a rejection of the “Clap your hands if you believe in superheroes!”/”They will show us the way to a better life” philosophy that makes Flex such a strong and vital work. The rest of the book is about the glory of superheroes, the way we can become them, and how comic books are just a reflection of the cultural (un)consciousness.

Real life is the only inescapable hole in the philosophy. Yes, you can use superheroes as a model for life, and yes, in a certain way, we did create them to save us from ourselves, but they only go so far. They’re still fictional. They can’t stop your mum and dad fighting, they can’t stop the bomb, and they won’t actually save your life. Superheroes cannot stop real life–they can only delay it. Even Regan, the girl who Superman stopped from committing suicide, is going to die one day, and Superman can’t stop that.

There’s a Kanye West line I’m fond of from the 808s and Heartbreak era. It’s from Young Jeezy’s “Put On,” a song that banged before Kanye came in with some emotion. “I feel like these butt niggas don’t know he’s stressed/ I lost the only girl in the world that know me best/ I got the money and the fame and that don’t mean shit/ I got the Jesus on the chain, man, that don’t mean shit.” Since the death of his mother, all the stuff that brought him happiness and gave him peace, the money and fame and fancy necklaces, are worthless. Real life struck and they hit their limit. Kanye was at a point where they couldn’t serve their purpose.

Pulling back again. “Why didn’t they stop my mum and dad fighting?” makes sense to me now. It’s speaking to the fact that superheroes are wonderful, wonderful things, but even then, there are some things they can’t do. Taken alone, it’s a question without an answer. In concert with All-Star Superman, though, it makes much more sense.

When a little boy asks “Mommy, why don’t I have a daddy?” Superman can’t swoop in and give a little speech or solve that problem. That’s stupid. It doesn’t work. It’s pushing the idea of a superhero too far, and at that point, the idea breaks.

It’s interesting to me that it took All-Star Superman for that one line to click. It’s like if expanding upon it in Flex would’ve broken the story, but freed of the restraints of proselytizing the superhero, Morrison is much more free to demonstrate where capes fall short.

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Is this Damian?

November 23rd, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

The DCU blog has a preview of Teen Titans #89, when Damian joins the team. 

Here is some sample dialog:

“The only joke that I see is Beast Boy.  My first order of business will be kicking him to the curb.  We’ll call him if we ever need a talking chipmunk.”

“Should have left it alone, One-Eyed Jackie.”

“You’re funny.  Look even funnier when I take out your other eye.”

List of things Damian should not be saying:

1.  Nicknames.  This is a kid who calls Alfred ‘Pennyworth.’

2.  Sentences with dropped articles.  This is a kid who calls his dad, ‘Father.’

3.  Contractions.  I don’t think Morrison’s Damian ever really used them.

4.  The phrase ‘kick him to the curb’ or any slang that would be seen before the turn of the last century.

Renting Damian out to various titles is good.  He’s a funny character and an obnoxious little snot.  They’ve got that part down.

One of the main reasons he’s funny, though, is the fact that he’s a child who speaks like an 18th century vampire.  The kid was raised by a family of functionally immortal aristocratic ninjas.  Having him talk like that smart-ass kid from around the corner doesn’t work on any level.  This character has one of the most recognizable ways of speaking in the DCU.  The only character easier to single out through speech alone would be Bizarro.  A few obnoxious remarks just don’t cut it.

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“I’m living in that 21st century, doing something mean to it” [Kanye West]

November 22nd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Kanye Tudda’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy comes out this week, and Amazon’s got it for four bones.

I like this album a lot, but getting to pay just four bucks for it? That’s a steal.

Do yourself a favor, though. Use this album art instead of that wack painting he has on the official joint.

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