Archive for June, 2011


Annotating CM Punk

June 29th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

WWE has been in a major rut lately. They have all the talent in the world and yet they’ve spent the last several months mismanaging themselves. So much time and effort has been spent on shoving Cena and Orton in our faces as overly dominant heroes that everyone else looks like shit. This is even worse when they bring in older top guys like Triple H to tell everyone that he and the Undertaker have to have a big, high-profile match because everyone in the back smells and none of them are on their level. Most attempts to build up new talent screeches to a halt because they’d rather see how said wrestler would react on a professional level if they started looking like a joke day in and day out.

I can only hope they hit rock bottom (no pun intended) over the past few months because the company should know better than to be this lousy on a regular basis. Luckily, they’ve started to get enough forward momentum in the last couple months. R-Truth has taken his character to another level. Christian and Orton are having good matches. Good wrestlers are still having good matches when nobody’s watching.

A major happening came from this week’s Raw. The next PPV, Money in the Bank, which is in Chicago, will have John Cena defending the WWE Championship against CM Punk in what is billed to be Punk’s farewell performance. The writing was on the wall with this one if you follow the backstage hijinx of the company online, but Raw’s ending added a new level of interest in it.

In a tables match between Cena and R-Truth, Punk interfered to help Truth win. With a weakened Cena selling something for the first time in maybe a year, Punk sat upon the entrance ramp and had this to say.

Was it legit? Of course not! Like they’d have him talk that long and choose only then to cut him off. But it was cool! It was really, really cool and does a good job of building up the PPV as a situation where something intriguing could happen. It was shocking and buzzworthy.

Some of the more hardcore fans (or “smarks”) out there have said that the promo alienates the casual fans because they don’t know what he’s talking about. Too many inside references. That’s bullshit, of course. Anyone can pick up what he’s talking about and figure out what they don’t get. Still, the smarks get some extra flavor from Punk’s remarks as it speaks for the most of them. The response reminds me of a lot of Grant Morrison’s recent DC Comics work, only even more straightforward. Just because you haven’t read decades of Jack Kirby work doesn’t mean you can’t read through Final Crisis.

That got me thinking. David Uzumeri has been annotating Grant Morrison’s comics for the past few years. Maybe I could annotate CM Punk’s speech and give the casual fans something to go with an already fantastic rant. Let’s give it a shot.

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Create, Consume, Recycle 06/27/11

June 27th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

stuff i made

I got quoted on HuffPo about Green Lantern

Writing about Akira for ComicsAlliance, making all you other websites look bad

something something captain american movie stand for france

something something hal jordan bomber jackets

somethings something bomber jackets part one point five

who let all these frigging bomber jackets into my digital comics

something i like

This is a minor aspect of the text, perhaps, but I say it is still significant because this is my blog and my Akira website. (Join the webring.)

I’m about 9500 miles too far away and twenty years too late to want to wear most of the clothes in Otomo’s Akira, but I do enjoy his sense of fashion. Characters tend to be grouped into demographics and dress accordingly–twentysomething men rock button-ups and ties, military men wear suits, and teenagers dress casually or for biking.

It’s sort of a throwback, but the billiards scene up there? That makes sense to me. It’s a bunch of guys who are fresh off the job and looking to de-stress after a long day. Loose ties and rolled up sleeves, right? The man still wearing his jacket still has his collar buttoned up and tie straight. He looks out of place, doesn’t he? He does. And later, in another bar, he’s figured out how to blend in. Big smile, sleeves up, jacket in hand.

I like this bit, too. Otomo’s good at picking outfits that make you think, “Yes, this character would wear that.” You can’t see it, but Kai’s polo is tucked in. It’s partially buttoned, too. Kaneda’s isn’t, and when we first see him in that green shirt, he’s working on his motorcycle. What’s the point of tucking in your shirt if you’re doing work? It’s just going to come out, anyway. And Yamagata, delinquent to the core, is rocking a cut-off sweatshirt over a cut-off t-shirt. Nah, son.

Kei is interesting. I like this jacket and black on black outfit she has. It’s sensible, but the glasses make sure that it’s still a little secret agent-y. Her halter top fits her personality, too, in the same casual way that Kaneda’s shirt fits his.

The Colonel has an interesting progression. He’s in very severe suits for the majority of the book, and then the apocalypse hits. His gear becomes much more obviously military in nature, despite the ragtag and piecemeal appearance of it. While others are wearing ripped clothes and pants, the Colonel’s got clothes that let him hold things. They’ve got pouches and pockets, they’re heavy, they’re thick enough to hide stuff…

But yo, check out what the Colonel wears when he gets a late night phone call. Look at that robe, man. What a classy dude. Nobody should answer a video phone shirtless. (He throws a suit on before leaving the house later that night.)

Otomo is the king because panels 1.1 and 1.4 on these two pages. Tetsuo is putting on these clothes. How often do you see that, man? It’s not even a cool “SUITING UP FOR ACTION RARRRR” joint. He’s just chilling in the background, puttin’ on some pants.

Tetsuo is… he’s not pretending, exactly, but he’s definitely playing a role for the majority of the story. “This is what a man is, this is how power should be used,” etc etc. Does that make sense? Viewed in that light, his various outfits click. He wears heavy riding gloves (which he doesn’t even use) and a tank top while leading a motorcycle gang. He wears this all white thing with a red cape for a decent portion of the book, sort of as a symbol of his #2 nature to Akira. His outfit is plain, while Akira gets a nice blue.

And this tactical vest and pants… he’s got no reason to wear that. They just look good. They’re a symbol of conquest and power, since he’s taken the outfit off a soldier he killed. This is just some straight up Arnold Schwarzeneggar swag, something that lets you show off what makes you strong and look ill at the same time.

It’s also an expression of humanity, because Tetsuo is teeter-tottering between complete and total ego death due to his powers and holding it together, but that’s a post for another day. (Wednesday?)

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Fourcast! 89: Don’t Call It A Reboot!

June 27th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-DC’s doing a reboot thing.
-Maybe you’ve heard about it?
Here’s the list of upcoming books.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-Here comes a new challenger!
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
Podcast Alley feed!
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This Week in Panels: Week 92

June 26th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Welcome back to another week of panels of stuff that didn’t happen. This week I’m joined by Was Taters (who thought the Lois Lane book had some good concepts buried under miles of gratuitous cleavage and thongs), Space Jawa (who has a lot to say about why Ultimate Spider-Man’s death doesn’t work, but that’ll wait for later) and naktekh (who agrees that War Machine does a whole lot of nothing in a series that’s supposed to be about him).

In other news, my brother directed yet another music video. This time for Selena Gomez, which is both a pretty big deal and is being linked to instead of embedded onto 4L because I have my e-cred to worry about. Of course, if Selena Gomez isn’t your thing, you can always watch that nightmarish video he made about the ventriloquist dummy made of raw meat. They kind of offset each other.

Now the panels.

Batman: Gates of Gotham #2
Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy

Captain America #619
Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice and Chris Samnee

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Batgirl #22 Play-by-Play

June 26th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Ah, it looks like we won’t get too many more of these.  It is a bittersweet play-by-play indeed.

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A: “!”

June 24th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

There’s the temptation to take this day and deliver a real deal conclusion. Wrap the whole series up in a bow, explain why it’s so great, and do it in such a way that everyone who reads it finishes the post with tears in their eyes and their credit cards in their hands. There’s a part of me that wants to finish it, in the Mortal Kombat sense of the term, so that I can put it into a box and say “I did that.” “Here’s points one, two, and three, and now you understand everything you need to know about Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Go forth, and spread the word.”

Instead: four consecutive pages from book one.

Panels generally take place in one moment in time. They don’t really show progression so much as a frozen instant. The word balloons in panel five, though, suggest a progression, and a quick one. A narrowing of the eyes or confusion (“What is that?”) and then vague realization (“Wait!”) which then bleeds into panel six, which has full recognition (“Tetsuo!”). You can see it on Kaneda’s face, can’t you?

I always liked the use of punctuation as an entire word balloon. Or no, that’s not right–punctuation as speech. (If you’ve ever instant-messaged me, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.) I first came across it in Metal Gear, and I thought it was pretty clever. What you say when you’re surprised doesn’t really matter, because a simple ! lets us fill in the blanks. “What the!” only goes so far, right? I like ?, too. “Wha?”/”Huh?” are kind of… obvious? Is that the word? They’re concrete. You always say them aloud, or just under your breath. ? is a good way to get unspoken confusion or surprise on the page. When you wake up and there’s a big object on the wall that might be a big ol’ spider, you don’t always go “What the heck is that?” Sometimes you just narrow your eyes and cock your head and look. That’s ?.

Kaneda back-handing that dude and then getting off his bike while it’s still in motion is basically the smoothest thing I’ve ever seen.

WHAM to SMUSH, do you see that? Man.

Tetsuo is beating the bone marrow out of this guy, and I like how it picks up with the beating already in progress. The first two panels say a lot about Tetsuo (look at his face, and the way he stays up on the guy–those two panels take place a split second apart). The full page says a lot about our cast, from how casual Kaneda is during the beating to when he’s finally had enough of it.

Look at the tension here. Just three word balloons. Wolverine was never as much of a loose cannon as Tetsuo is right here, and all it takes is one motion, two word balloons, and a hard look.

Every page is a delight. I didn’t even talk about the scene where Neo-Tokyo catches a bad one when Akira loses it.

Maybe that’s the conclusion I didn’t want to write. “Every page is a delight.”

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R: “Woo-oo-oo-ooh”

June 22nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

It’s easy to forget how funny Akira can be. It’s a deadly serious manga, concerned with questions of power and control and other weighty subjects, but there’s a strong playfulness to it, too. Most of the cast is young enough for jokes to be believable in their situation, and all the humor is this sort of broad, really traditional comedy. There are pratfalls, dick jokes, vomiting… all this stuff is universally funny. If it isn’t universally funny, it should be. Penises and their associated mental hang-ups are hilarious.

Anyway, there are these bright, shining spots of comedy in Akira. It’s not fall down laughing funny. Maybe smirking funny, or “heh” funny. Regardless, the spots break up the tension a little bit, for both the characters and us. Comedy is supposed to heal, right? We laugh when things get uncomfortable, and stand-up comics is like cultural therapy. We use jokes to bond with each other and feel better about ourselves.

For the characters, it’s a suggestion that maybe things have gone apocalyptic, but deep down at the foundation of things, they’re still the same. They’re still human, they still have their relationships, and everything might just turn out okay. On top of that, there’s a power element, too. Joking or being casual in a tense or dangerous situation is a way to claim control over that situation. “Yes, this is bad, but it’s not so bad that I can’t handle it.”

I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like to laugh. It’s almost an absurd idea, isn’t it? Everybody’s got a sense of humor. Sometimes it’s awkward or off-putting, sometimes it’s skin crawlingly vile, sometimes it’s just regular funny or wry, and if you share it, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

This is a nice reminder that the story stars people, not machines. It’s sort of like how we rarely see people going to the bathroom or eating in adventure stories. That stuff, and jokes, humanizes characters. You mean to tell me that Batman doesn’t have a sense of humor as black as his cape? The only people I remember writing a particularly funny Batman are Brian Azzarello and Grant Morrison, and both of them had him working this really mean style of gallows humor.

The importance of characters doing things normal people do–jokes, poops, foods–was invisible to me until someone pointed it out. But once you start thinking about it, it becomes really, really obvious. I mean, look at how poor Batman or Superman comics generally are without Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. You need that human hook. You need to be able to look and unconsciously say, “Yes, this is a human being.”

Jokes are a good way to do it. I really like the one at the bottom of this post. It’s so simple, and such an old idea. It’s almost definitely as old as I Love Lucy or the Three Stooges, yeah? But it’s good. It’s–I don’t want to call it a comfort, but it sort of is. It’s right there on Kei and Kaneda’s faces.

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“things are so passionate, times are so real”

June 22nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Bullet points, this time.

Read this essay by Chris Sims about the content of Superman 712.

-Long story short, Chris Roberson’s story about an Arab Muslim was turfed in favor of a Krypto story by Kurt Busiek that was shelved years ago due to lawsuit problems. Read the post.

-Essentially, DC joined Marvel in telling the world, “Yes, we are sorry for our stories, we will not stand behind our stories or their creators, and yes, you can tell us what to put in our comics. We just want to make you happy.”

-The most DC deserves here, the absolute most, is what Jay-Z said at the end of “Takeover.” I don’t normally curse on here, ’cause my grandmom reads this sometimes, but this is warranted, and a sentiment from the bottom of my heart:

-“You only get half a bar – fuck y’all niggas.”

-If I were a better man, that would be it. No explanation, no further dissing, no nothing. Just a cold, “Fuck y’all niggas.”

-But, I want to talk this out in public so that someone hopefully gets why this is a stupid decision and so unbelievably heinous.

-My littlest brother just turned three. I got to spend a week with him when I went back home earlier this year. He’s a bright, stubborn, playful, energetic, smart little kid who looks just like I did when I was his age.

-He’s my twin. He’s also half-Arab, on his father’s side. (Our mom is regular American black.)

-I try to police myself pretty hard, in terms of thoughts. What do I believe, why do I believe it, is it the right thing to believe? How did I come to that conclusion?

-Having a little brother who is Arab, whose father is Muslim, forces whatever theoretical ideas or feelings I have or had about how I feel about Arabs or Muslims into the light of cold, hard reality. “How would I feel if?” becomes “I feel like this.”

-And basically, point blank, end of story, Yousef, and his father, are blood. Every inch of them. That’s concrete facts, more serious than cancer.

-And blood is the most important thing in the world. It’s love. Blood should dissolve all imaginary ideological barriers.

-So whatever prejudices I had before he was born? I didn’t have many, but sure, I had some? They’re dead. Forever. Because he’s here, and he is me. We’re the same blood.

-I’m taking this personally for that exact reason. What’s good for me is good for him, and what’s bad for him is bad for me. Especially when it concerns an industry I love and support with my dollars. I have a responsibility to him to make this world a better.

-DC made this decision after being spooked by catching the ire of the Fox News crowd twice in one year. They don’t want their flagship character, who has already been associated with anti-American activities a couple times over the past few years (after that last dumb movie, earlier this year), to be seen hanging out with terrorists.

-Except, Sharif isn’t a terrorist. He’s a hero. Who is Arab. And was inspired by Superman to do good in his community.

-I don’t think DC is a racist company. I think they’re a bit clueless, but they have made great strides in terms of being better about race, for whatever “better about race” may mean to you personally. They’re trying.

-I do think that this decision is racist, or, at best, sympathetic to racists. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this story as described, and no reason to be suspicious of a fictional character.

-This is cowardice, pure and simple. DC doesn’t want a bunch of fat, bigoted, big-mouthed cornballs saying mean things about them.

-Instead, they’d rather bow down and go, “Oh, well, we don’t want to poke that hornet’s nest. Maybe we should back down and not bother to represent people of Arab descent in our flagship comics.”

-They aren’t saying, “Oh, maybe he is a terrorist!”, but they sure are sending the message that, when forced to choose between pissing off a blowhard know-nothing who doesn’t even read their books, and supporting a culture of Americans that has been unjustly and unfairly maligned for years now, including in comic books, they will pick the angry old white dude who’s looking to line his pockets off the back of nothing more than racism and fear.

-“Our comics aren’t here to challenge you or uplift you. They are here to sustain the status quo and deliver bland platitudes about power and responsibility masquerading as knowledge. Be easy, dear reader, the world is fine.”

-If your comics are supposed to be this utopian garbage about the power of a single man fighting against evil, what type of message do you think this sends?

-You don’t bow down to scum, and you don’t bow down to tyrants. You shouldn’t be bowing at all.

-The world’s a big place, and at this point, I’d be fine with DC Comics being left in the dirt.

-Grow a spine, you unbelievable fucking cowards.

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I: “You’d better fasten your seatbelt, sir.”

June 22nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I get bored easily. (Maybe you’ve noticed.) That’s one of the reasons why comics are my favorite story delivery system. Books are cool or whatever, but I’m not really going to discover a new way to read a novel at this point. My friends aren’t going to start telling avant-garde stories at parties. Movies still have some room to grow, I think, but comics have kept it moving. Constant evolution. I know that if I open a comic–a good one, mind–I’ll see something that might just blow my mind.

This is largely a visual thing for me. Storytelling and execution counts for a lot, but what I really, really want is something to look at. Spider-Man’s after images, Flash’s speed (particularly when drawn by Doug Mahnke), and the violence in David Aja’s Iron Fist were all things that really caught my interest and kept me hooked.

Near as I can tell, comics is the last place where you can expect serious visual storytelling innovation as a general rule. There are thousands of artists out there, and a thousand possible styles. To not be surprised or impressed with comics art requires… I don’t even know, the worst luck in the world and awful taste?

Here’s a surprise:

See it? It’s in panel three.

Okay, again. Panel five this time.

That streak of light entertains me every time I see it. Conveying motion is such a weird thing in comics. There’s a ton of ways to do it, and coming across new ones always sorta makes me grin. I first saw that in the Akira movie, and it was just one of several things that impressed me. Seeing it in comics only made me like comics even more. It’s a versatile little technique, and fantastic at implying the motion of something without obscuring it or being overbearingly obvious. It works similarly in the film, though I believe that they wavered and faded out, rather than being a solid-ish streak like these.

It’s a very small thing, though it appears dozens or hundreds of times through the manga, but it adds a lot to the experience. It makes it easier to believe in the world that Otomo is creating. You start to discover and accept the rules of this fictional world, and how it is translated when we view it through the lens of the comics panel. It adds realism, and that results in verisimilitude.

This is exactly how a moment looks in the world of Akira. Moving lights (of sufficient speed, which is something else this evokes that I just realized right now) hang in the air for a full moment before fading away. From that, we can estimate how fast the car is moving, where Kei is looking… Akira starts to fall into place. We accept something minor, and then expand. And then you see this and it looks as real as anything:

For my money, you can’t beat comics for stuff like this. Sometimes I get caught absolutely flatfooted when I come across something new and just have to read the scene a couple of extra times, just to see how and why it works. The reaction’s almost always “Oh, but that makes perfect sense,” too. Because that’s what this stuff has to do, and because that’s what makes you believe in stories.

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K: “Right on time.”

June 21st, 2011 Posted by david brothers

This is Chiyoko.

So is this:

She may or may not be Kei’s aunt, but she calls her Aunty Chiyoko, so sure. She’s part of the same resistance movement (terrorist group) that Kei’s in. She’s astonishingly direct, almost to the point of rudeness. She doesn’t spend any time at all dealing with the metaphysical aspects of Akira. She’s strictly go there, do this, let’s go and do that. At one point, sure, she tells one character to just admit their love, but that’s as deep as it gets when she’s there. Chiyoko is all about real life.

The funny thing about Akira is how often the cast goes up against the military. Early in the series, the military is essentially the main antagonist. And the cast? They’re basically high school kids and young adults at best. Kei’s clearly had some gun training, and Kaneda is scrappy and cunning, but as far as being soldiers goes? They aren’t. They manage to kill their fare share of enemies, though, and they don’t really react like someone unused to violence would. They get by off luck and recklessness, by and large.

Except Chiyoko.

Frank Castle, The Punisher, is a character that’s tough to like. Garth Ennis’s version is my favorite, and on top of that, the one that Garth Ennis draws and Goran Parlov draws, the one from Valley Forge, Valley Forge and a few other tales. He’s this big gorilla of a dude, formidable and invincible all tied up in one package. You look at him and know that he could carve a path through you and your crew with ease.

Chiyoko, in demeanor and depiction, puts me in mind of Frank Castle. She never really says too much. She’s so direct that conversations are near pointless. There’s not a lot of back and forth to be found when one person is completely assured of what she needs to do. She’s the tallest person in the cast, save for the Colonel, and she’s broader than he is. She’s got the same flat, sour demeanor as Castle, and a single-mindedness that’s positively admirable. She’s got a job to do and people to protect, so she does it. She has a purpose.

That purpose is wrecking an absolutely astonishing amount of people. She has an amazing aptitude for tearing through entire groups of grown men with ease. She’s resourceful and inventive. If she’s too far away to get her hands on you, she’ll either close that distance quicker than she should be able to or hit you with something from far. She barely gets a scratch until late in the series, even.

It’s implied that she’s ex-military, though no other female soldiers are shown in the series. But: she knows how to drive a tank, she’s good with a gun, she’s got major ordnance, and she’s even willing to get down and dirty with an armful of rockets, whether that means caving in a man’s skull or firing a rocket directly into his chest. She demonstrates an aptitude in this area that no one else in the book can match.

No one else in the comic wrecks people like Chiyoko. Tetsuo has a bigger body count, maybe, but half of his were accidental or fits of pique. Chiyoko is the one who wins battles intentionally and gracefully. She’s this perfect killing machine in an apron that was just dropped into the story. It’s reasonable to believe that Kei’s resistance group really is an effective terrorist organization if she’s counted as a member.

She’s great, man. She always gets a moment or two to destroy somebody, and she shows more heart than pretty much everyone but Kei and the Colonel. She’s not in the movie, unless there was a quick cameo that I’ve missed all these years.

This is probably my favorite bit:

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