Archive for December, 2011


a quick look at comedic comics

December 8th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I was listening to The Roots’s undun on the way home. On the song “One Time,” Dice Raw ends his verse with “to make it to the bottom, such a high climb.” It’s one of those lines that kicks your feet out from under you. It’s not just something intensely sad. It’s something where the implications are horrible. It’s despair that sticks to your ribs. It got me thinking about other things in media that are sad like that, and I think there’s a post in it. I have to work through it a bit more before it’s go-time, though.

It’s a huge downer of a subject. (“Why didn’t they stop my mum and dad fighting?”) That got me thinking about the funny parts of comics, the gags that are the polar opposite of the things that kick your guts out. They make you pause in place to collect yourself, you show them to your friends, and you do a really poor job of retelling the joke at your earliest convenience. The good jokes are ones that break the flow of the comic, but not necessarily in a bad way. I mean, on a certain level, anything that takes you out of the book is bad, but I don’t think that enjoying something so much that you get pulled out of the work is bad by any reasonable standard. I bought a couple books this week with good ones.

I started writing this and realized I was just explaining jokes. That’s dumb. Here’s a list of stuff I thought was pretty funny, and hopefully I’m not ruining the jokes with my words.

Zeb Wells, Joe Madureira, Ferran Daniel, and Joe Caramagna create Avenging Spider-Man, and it’s definitely a worthy book. Wells writes the best Spider-Man in the business right now, and the series plays to Joe Mad’s strengths. He actually draws a pretty great Spidey, but it’s J Jonah Jameson that he really goes to town on. Wells, too. The second issue dropped this week (four dollars, ugh), and I really liked this exchange:

Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece is still basically the best comic. I read volume 60 and it was pretty great. One thing Oda excels at is smart dumb humor. Monkey D Luffy is an idiot, at best, and a lot of the jokes come from that. The best jokes come when Oda plays up the Looney Tunes absurdity that’s lurking beneath his art. He does a great job with people pulling faces, but his comic timing is pretty great, too. He likes to throw in a beat before the joke starts. You aren’t quite sure what’s gonna happen, maybe he’ll play it straight, and then bam, there’s that punchline. First bit, read it right to left:

It reminds me of another, similar joke earlier in the series. In volume 53, Boa Hancock, the most beautiful woman in the world is taking a bath. Luffy drops in out of the sky, sees her nude, and she attacks him with her attack that uses the dirty thoughts in men’s minds to turn them to stone. Luffy mistakes it for something else, another attack that slows you down. He gets caught in the blast, slows down, and then pauses. Nothing happened. Hancock looks at him in shock, does it again, and Luffy stands there awkwardly before trying to get away. He’s too stupid for dirty thoughts. (Later, Hancock falls in love with him. He remains oblivious.)

One more:

That three panel sequence of the monkey trying to use spit to fix his wound kills me. It’s so dumb.

One more one more, because I like this, too:

The puns on Luffy’s shirts are great. It’s not fall out of your chair funny, but I appreciate the fact that Oda puts that much effort into things that are really hard to see.

Next week: sad songs.

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The Top 60 Wrestling Matches That Surprisingly Happened (60-41)

December 7th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

While in the midst of dropping the ball on their epic CM Punk story, WWE put together a match between John Cena and Rey Mysterio for the WWE title with no prior advertisement on free TV. Now, while Cena and Mysterio are not my favorite guys in the company, I can’t help but think that they screwed up by not trying to siphon money out of what could have been a major money match. Not only is Cena – the guy who claims to be an underdog – taking on someone who is actually an underdog, but the whole thing is like Hogan vs. Warrior for this generation of wrestling-watching children. More than anything else, it’s one of the few fresh matches.

I looked into it and found that prior to this, they had clashed years earlier on Smackdown for a tournament. That got me to thinking about the surprising nature about wrestling’s history. There’s always plenty of trivia to be found, no matter how long you follow it. Who knew that the tag team the Blade Runners would each go on their separate ways to become two of the most popular names in the late 80’s/early 90’s as Sting and the Ultimate Warrior? At a Tribute to the Troops show, when Steve Austin entered the ring and delivered a Stone Cold Stunner in response to John Cena giving him the “You can’t see me!” gesture, who knew that this would be such a significant footnote?

There are a lot of matches in wrestling history that fit this bill. Dream matches that aren’t in the right time frame to be labeled a dream match. One man might be in the twilight of his career, facing a new up-and-comer who’s yet to prove himself but one day will. Maybe a classic matchup will take place a decade before either man is worth knowing. Two men regularly separated by story and company may have mingled ever-so-briefly on a TV match that nobody truly remembers.

With the help of Something Awful’s Punchsport Pagoda sub-forum, I’ve put together a list of the 60 matches that make me lift my eyebrow and say, “Wow. That match actually happened.” Jobber matches, house shows, C-level shows, forgettable Raw segments and more that look more interesting in retrospect. Today we’ll start with 60-41.

I should note that while I’ve been watching wrestling forever, I don’t know enough about Japanese wrestling to include it. Granted, I have some matches that take place in Japan and even a few with Japanese wrestlers acting as tag partners, but I’m too out of my element to measure matches like Inoki vs. Sid and Great Sasuke vs. Bob Backlund. For that, I apologize.

Let’s get started.

WWF, 1997/1998

Vader vs. Rock isn’t an overly rare match as it happened three times on Raw over the course of 97/98, but there’s a generational changing of the guard that makes it feel unique. The first time around, it was Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia defending against the big heel Vader, who had Paul Bearer and Mankind in his corner. The match appeared rather even until Mankind needlessly interfered and hit Rocky with an urn, getting Rock the DQ win.

Later that year, the two faced off again, this time with Vader as the face and Rock as the heel. On one hand, Rock was distracted by Steve Austin watching the match on top of a monster truck with AC/DC blaring. On the other hand, Vader was constantly attacked behind the ref’s back by the Nation of Domination and the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust. Vader completely no-sold the People’s Elbow to the point of throwing Rock off of him and then took after Goldust, getting himself counted out.

Once again, they fought, this time as a qualifying match for the King of the Ring tournament. This time, Vader got taken out by interference by Mark Henry, who splashed him on the outside and made him easy pickings for a Rock Bottom. Rock won, making it 3-0.

Read the rest of this entry �

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how to make it in america and die trying

December 7th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I’m really, really fond of Ian Edelman’s How to Make It In America (Amazon VOD at $16 bucks for eight eps or Blu-ray for $22). It’s… not difficult to explain so much as any brief summary won’t really get to the meat of why I enjoy the series. It’s not high concept friendly. Here’s the summary off Amazon, presumably given to them by HBO:

An aspiring designer and his free-spirited best friend plot to achieve the American Dream on their own terms in Season One of this HBO comedy series.

It’s technically accurate, though I’d probably argue against the “free-spirited” bit. Ben Epstein, played by Bryan Greenberg, is certainly an aspiring designer, Cam Calderon, played by Victor Rasuk, is definitely his best friend, and it is a comedy series that comes on HBO. But that’s a bland description for something that’s really more of a fairy tale.

You know how when you’re a kid, your parents told you about growing up? You’d go to college, graduate, and get to do something you liked to make money. You’d date someone who is handsome or beautiful or whatever, and life would just be real cool. The tough times would be dramatic, but doable. You’d be pretty, all your friends would be pretty, and life would be pretty okay as long as you have them. Here’s the cast of How to Make It In America:

Not an ug-mug among them, right? There’s something for everybody, particularly once you break it out to the supporting cast. The result is a cast that’s ethnically pleasing (like Martin Luther King’s dream woke up and took hold of real life by the throat and whispered “or else” in its ear), attractive, and living in the greatest city in the world. They’re all good at something, they have their little careers that let them scrape by, and they go to incredible parties.

I hesitate to call it a soap opera, because the majority of my experience with those was as a child before GI Joe and as an adult while getting my hair braided, but it’s sorta soap opera-y, except you know nothing too bad is going to happen. There’ll be tension and release, tension and release. It’s comforting, in a way that feels very much like a fairy tale. “It’s all going to out. Look, see?”

I’m super into this show, and here’s the bit where I try to explain why.

The Theme Song

The theme song is a version of Aloe Blacc’s “I Need A Dollar.” I loved this thing that my man Jamaal Thomas wrote about the song. It’s a little stripped of context when it’s laid over the show’s opening credits, which actually works out for the better. It lends the song a more universal feel.

I say universal because the song is stripped to its barest essentials. What’s it about? It’s about needing a dollar and needing help. It’s about talking to people. In short, if you look at How to Make It In America as a guide, the opening credits tells you everything you need to know. How do you make it in America? You need dollars and you need people.

How to Make It In America is about people in search of dollars and people. Ben and Cam date, screw up, and date again. They’re trying to get their clothing line off the ground. Rene, played by Luis Guzman, is trying to turn his life around by way of small business. Lake Bell needs to keep her job, but also sorten out her relationship issues. In essence, they’re us. We can relate to the need for money and how good it feels to have people around you.


If you are working in America and trying to maintain a life that includes health insurance and some level of comfort, then the odds are good that you’re hustling. A forty-hour work week is just a starting point. You have side hustles like writing online. You have dream hustles like firing your boss and working for your self. You work because you need money to make anything come true.

But in certain cases, sometimes you work because you believe in it. You put in the extra time and the blood, sweat, and tears that’ll make that gig a success, something you can use as a building block, something that’s fulfilling. A lot of people have creative hobbies. Whether it’s whittling wood or ballet, everyone has something they’re good at and something they’d love to be able to do for a living. That’s just how it is.

In How to Make It, Ben and Cam cover both bases. They need money because they’re tired of not controlling their lives. The one informs the other, feeds into the other, and multiplies the effect. Ben and Cam work hard.


Ben and Cam play hard. One of the best parts of being in your twenties is the fact that people throw house parties. You can talk to incredibly interesting women, get super drunk or high for basically free, and make a whole lot of bad decisions.

In How to Make It In America, these parties are bursts of pretty people doing pretty things while less than sober. You can see glimpses of the goofy and/or stupid things people do at parties, boys desperate to impress girls, and a bunch of sexy young folks generally enjoying life. It’s a fantasy, and a fun one. It’s aspirational. “One day, you could meet a cool chick with a purple mohawk at a party and make out with her while you think no one is looking!” It’s why people watched all those movies in the ’80s about being horny high school or college students. There’s a thrill.

But what’s really cool is how the How to Make It In America gang captured what those nights out feel like once the next day dawns. They’re blurs of motion and strange tastes and things you hope you didn’t actually say aloud. Clarity comes when you get up and check Facebook or Twitter to find snapshot after snapshot of last night’s debauchery. Nowadays, everything gets documented, twitpicced, and tagged, whether you want it to or not. How to Make It In America nails it.

Stay CRISP, Ponyboy

The other thing about How to Make It In America is that it isn’t about the shirts. It’s about the life and trials of Ben and Cam. The shirts are a part of that, sure. They’re a way out. But the show is really about how a little bit of success, or a little bit of any variable, really, changes things. Once you get a taste of hope, you aren’t just going to give it up. You’re going to fight for it.

So we watch as Ben and Cam navigate the streets of New York and try to dodge snakes. Season two features my favorite snake. This character is the type of snake that seems like a blessing, but is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. (Metaphor status: a little muddled.) This character is a poisonous influence on one of our two main dudes. The snake preys on his lack of confidence in his talent and lives by the rules of realpolitik.

The problem then becomes figuring out how to stay balanced. Once you get a little bit of something, someone else will want a piece. How do you avoid the snakes without burning your bridges? How do you succeed and still keep your circle sacred?

Basically, how much compromise are you willing to suck down before your dream doesn’t belong to you any more?

Brothers & Sisters, Rebuild Your Lives

Luis Guzmán plays Rene Calderon, who the How to Make It In America homepage describes as “once the most feared gangster on the Lower East Side.” He’s an old thug who has finally realized that he can’t sustain that life. So, he’s going to change. He’s bought into a small business and he’s going to try to make money the right way. He wants to find a nice lady to settle down with. He wants a paycheck. He wants to stay out of jail.

Old habits die hard. Push Rene, and you might catch a bad one. “I don’t fucking fight. I shoot.” Try as he might to reign in his former self, his old life was easier and this new life involves eating a whole lot of crow. He has to convince his girl that he’s gone straight, he’s got to dodge prison, and he’s got to make sure his business gains a foothold in the community.

While Ben and Cam are finally trying to invent themselves, Rene is working on reinvention. And changing is hard. You can’t just instantly right your ship. That takes work. That takes drive. Rene is hustling doubletime, and he’s doing it in two areas that are entirely foreign to him.

Everybody Needs Something

Ben is the kind of guy who’s talented, or at least he seems pretty talented, but secretly wonders if he isn’t. He needs that support from friends to keep his confidence up, but at the same time, he’s open to manipulation. He wants to be liked, so he’ll go along with you if you let him.

Cam is in it to win it. He’s down for anything because, frankly, he’s got very little to lose. He’ll holler at girls at parties, fast-talk his way into clubs, and do whatever he’s got to do to make his life one worth living. He can’t live with his grandma forever; that’s just not happening.

Rene is more than ready to fix his problems, and has a concrete plan on how to get the job done, but his nature just leads him toward messing up. He’s got a temper and he’s got a rep, and that rep is one of those things that spikes his temper. He’s different now, he really is, but don’t test him.

David “Kappo” Kaplan just wants to be down. He’s got a high-paying job and a ridiculous apartment, but no girl and no game. He has some cool friends, but he’s a little lost. He wants to be like Ben and Cam.

Rachel has job security, but she has no idea what she wants to be when she grows up. So she dabbles. Journalism here, interior decorating there, and then traveling to Africa out of nowhere. She’s flighty, but that type of flighty that wants to be grounded. She just can’t figure out where she needs to be yet.

Domingo is that guy who’s getting by. He’s happy. He’s real happy, in fact, but his future consists of right now and what party he’s going to tonight. Tomorrow? That’s tomorrow’s problem. But even then, that sort of free-wheeling life only goes so far. Sometimes you need a solid foundation to come home to.

The Music

There’s a lot of music in How to Make It In America, and they post setlists after every episode. I may not like every single track, but this is a show that sounds good, and when it occasionally goes for a pointed song choice, as in Bobby Womack’s sublime “Across 110th Street” or Smif-n-Wessun’s “Sound Bwoy Bureill,” it’s deadly.

New York, New York

I love New York like somebody who grew up hearing about New York loves New York. It’s real, because I’ve been there several times, but it’s still a huge deal. It’s a fantasy of a city. It’s where magic happens and everyone is lovely, rich, or becoming both.

New York is the city, the only city. The only city even remotely on par with it is maybe Paris. (Los Angeles is different.) This is a show that features a lot of NYC. Subway signs, cross streets, brownstones, everything from the mythical NYC is in here.

It’s not Illmatic New York. It’s not a grim and gritty place where foreigners get their green card ripped up. It isn’t Life After Death, either. Nobody’s rich… well, one dude is rich, but he’s a square. There’s nobody dancing in puddles of expensive champagne on a speed boat with a swimming pool. It’s more like A Tribe Called Quest or Camp Lo’s New York, where you’ve got at least one friend or connect of every race, all the girls are real pretty, and you might fall on some hard times, but things are generally pretty okay.

wrap it up, this is over 2000 words already

I didn’t really think of How to Make It In America as a comedy until I saw that description on HBO’s site. It’s funny, yeah, and dramatic. But there’s this thing about it that makes it feel very low-stakes. I mean, these guys are definitely put into do or die situations, but I never really felt like they would collapse under the pressure. They might lose, but they’re not going to be destroyed by that loss.

Which is pretty much why this feels like a fairy tale to me. It’s a little too perfect, and things work out pretty well in the end. That’s far from a complaint–it’s nice to watch and see these guys make their way toward a better life. It’s entertaining and charming in all the right ways.

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undun is out, Back to Love is coming soon

December 6th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

undun, by The Roots, drops today. I bought it before I went to work just so I could have it to listen to today. You can stream it for free on NPR, but personally, it’s an album worth owning. It’s four dollars on Amazon right now, which is a steal. It was eight when I bought it this morning, but I don’t regret it at all.

I wrote a little about undun here and here. There’s an iPad app that includes all of the music videos and a lot more promo besides. There are interviews with people who knew Redford Stephens, lyrics, a few photos… it’s good stuff. It’s a great way to do promo, really. It’s something that adds to the experience.

Now that undun is out, what’s next? Well, next week, Anthony Hamilton, basically my favorite soul sanger, releases his sixth album, Back to Love. Great title, right? You can stream it on NPR, too. “Pray For Me” knocked me out of my chair the first time I heard it. Saddest joint he’s done since “Comin’ From Where I’m From,” easy.

Here’s the video for “Woo”:

I think this album’ll be a good chaser for undun. I’m probably gonna buy the deluxe edition of Back to Love for the bonus tracks.

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“industry shady, it need to be taken over”

December 5th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I hate writing about writing, because it is the most stereotypical and annoying thing a writer can do, but I’ve become what I’ve forsaken and the irony’s wild.

I haven’t written about comics on here in a month. I wrote about comics on ComicsAlliance a total of eight times in November, roughly twice per week. I did this Judge Dredd thing with Douglas Wolk that was actually a whole lot of fun, since I rarely collaborate and Wolk is one of the sharpest dudes around. (This week’s dance partner is Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress, who completely outshines me.)

I haven’t done it at all this month. I burned out. I needed a break. I’ll be back in a while. Maybe a week, maybe less, I dunno. Hopefully this post doesn’t come off too self-pitying or whatever, but it’s been bugging me and if I don’t write about it it’ll keep bugging me so… reap the whirlwind, I guess.

I quit because comics journalism, or criticism, or whatever you want to call writing about comics, is essentially free advertising. Which is fine, I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. When I write about something, be it Brandon Graham’s King City or Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman’s Hulk, it’s because I want you to buy and read it. Well, first and foremost it’s because I wanted to talk about it, but the buying & reading goes right along with that. I want to talk to people about these books. It’s not hand-selling, but it is recommending, yeah?

And I quit because every time I saw a review of Grant Morrison and Rags Morales working on Action Comics, I wanted to scream. The thought of Marvel caking off Fantastic Four 600 and dedicating it to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee makes my skin crawl. I can’t pretend like a comic set in the Congo featuring child soldiers and a warlord named Massacre is something adults should take seriously. Batman is already a dumb idea, but it has seventy years of inertia behind it. (“Massacre?” Negro please.) Or a million other things. “Check out this cool Tony Daniel preview!” “Matt Fraction is breaking new ground in the Defenders! What if Hulk… had a Hulk!” Pshaw.

I felt complicit in something I hated, and I decided not to write about it any more, barring my obligations at CA, and I eventually sent Laura a sad sack email begging off those, too.

(I didn’t quit reading comics, mind. I bought Thickness #2, a porn comic, and it’s grrrrrrrreat. I finished Twin Spica 10 over lunch today and it had a twist that I saw coming that still knocked me off my feet with its finality. I bought comics online and in stores. I just quit blogging about them for a while.)

A lot happened in that month, personal and otherwise. I had a hilariously awkward conversation with a PR person after I wouldn’t play the game. I spent a lot of time thinking about this post about Black Panther and War Machine. I wondered if I’d screwed up somehow, but I read it and reread it and reread the reaction to it and… I’m appalled that people came at me like I was calling Marvel a bunch of racist scumbags. I don’t even imply it, not even close. But you know, mention that two black characters share a thing, and speak of that thing negatively, and suddenly you’re… I don’t even know, bizarro David Duke or something. (I can’t think of a famous black racist right now. Sorry.) That got me to thinking about how insular and toxic comics culture is, how Team Comics has people thinking that we’re all in this together and leaping to defend corporations that don’t care about them, how comic shops actively hamper digital comics, how people claim to ignore Rich Johnston but hang on his every word…
November was a month that seemed hellbent to make me hate everything, including comics. I thought about every encounter with pushy PR people, every time I got someone in trouble because of something I wrote that some PR person didn’t like, the gross quid pro quo of maintaining access, passive-aggressive emails from Bluewater’s president because I told him I wasn’t interested in his ugly, stupid comics, and years of beating my head against the wall. Everything I don’t like about comics, I ended up processing alone or with a group of close friends, all of whom have been remarkably okay with me being such a Debbie Downer about some dumb old comic books.

I realized that I didn’t need any of that. I don’t depend on comics. I have a job. Life is short. Why should I do anything I don’t want to do, within reason? So I’ve been trying to figure out how I can keep writing about comics and entirely avoid, shun, or ignore the business side of things. I’ve gotten books early or for free, which is nice, but not necessary. (It also makes me feel really guilty. Friends make friends pay retail, yeah?) I can talk about comics I love at any point. I’m on a ’60s manga kick right now, so I’ve been buying used copies of Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009. I can (and will) write about that at any time! (It’s wild racist, if you like/hate when I point that stuff out, but totally awesome, too.)

November was “How can I continue doing this thing I like doing when I’ve managed to surround myself with almost every aspect of it that I hate?” Sales figures, that thing where you read bad comics because you want to get your two-minute hate on or self-harm or whatever, paying attention to reviewers you don’t actually like in the name of… well I guess that’s masochism, too.

I ended up being The Digital Comics Guy somehow. Or A Digital Comics Guy, I figure. I think Brigid Alverson is the only other person to have really written repeatedly and at length on the subject. I’ve made some mis-steps (regarding believing sales charts, even!), but I’ve spilled tens of thousands of words on the subject. Maybe a hundred thousand, even. (Terrifying thought.) I’ve got a google alert for digital comics news and I’m on a bunch of mailing lists.

I saw an announcement that made me really happy. “Dark Horse Delivers Day & Date Digital Comics Same Day As Print!” They’re one of my favorite companies, they publish at least three of my favorite ongoing series (Usagi Yojimbo, Hellboy, and BPRD), and I own a bunch of their stuff. I’ve actually given away a bunch of DH stuff, because I had friends who I thought might dig it. Share the wealth, spread the word. I was really happy about this announcement, shot off a couple of quick questions to DH, forwarded the news to Andy at CA so he could write it up (being on my “oh poor me i hate writing about comics right now but am still gonna read comics news” vacation) and felt good.

On Sunday, Rich Johston reported that Larry Doherty of Larry’s Comics was refusing to shelf Dark Horse Comics over the price point. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is a crybaby punk move. Digital comics aren’t physical comics. Digital books provide a different experience than print comics. This stupid “print vs digital” thing is a smokescreen, a garbage talking point. They aren’t direct competitors, and they certainly won’t be as long as the prices are so high.

But this guy Larry, this actual racist, this person who sent a friend of mine a picture of a woman with a bunch of hot dogs stuffed in her mouth after she rightly called him out on requesting DC do a XXX video fo Batwoman and Question “banging each other” because “chicks doing it is awesome,” this scumbag who two different people I know personally–and I live a few thousand miles from dude’s store–have been like “Oh yeah, Larry? I used to live around him, he’s a disgusting punk,” this guy, the last guy anyone should be listening to or hanging out with or associating with, period, is the one who’s banging the “WHAT ABOUT US POOR RETAILERS YOU OWE US” drum the hardest.

I read the news, rolled my eyes, had a few conversations about it, and moved on.

Today, I assume in response to Larry’s bleating on Twitter, Dark Horse caved. More specifically, they caved and said this:

Unfortunately, there has been a bit of miscommunication regarding our pricing strategy, and we would like to clear that up here. In our initial announcement, we did not come forward with any pricing information on our upcoming releases. However, some assumptions were made based on our current pricing model.

Earlier today, in response to some dumb DC news I shouldn’t have read anyway, I said “these could conceivably not be lies.” I instantly felt bad about being so cynical and skeptical, did a little more research, and proved to myself and a couple friends that the things DC said weren’t lies. Which is pretty screwed up, but that sort of shows you where I’m at with comics marketing. I’m conscious of the fact that it’s poisoned for me, and I’m working to correct it. But dang, man, almost every bit of news I read seems like more and more garbage. It’s not healthy.

But that thing up there, the quote? It’s, at best and at my most charitable, a falsehood. It’s a falsehood that offloads blame onto the press, onto the people who reported the news. Maybe there was some miscommunication, but there definitely wasn’t on my side. I was sorta surprised at how much I resented reading this, as if it were personal almost. But I take writing very seriously, even if I’m just doing research for someone else, so it is what it is and he said what he said.

And now I’m like… this is an industry where Mark Millar runs wild with comments about shooting people who don’t deserve it, wondering if black people can have Down’s Syndrome, telling people not to buy digital comics, and plotting “The Rape of Wonder Woman” for yuks. This is an industry where Alan Moore talking about comics he hasn’t read, and says he hasn’t read, and proceeds to talk about anyway, is front page news every single time. It’s an industry where people complain up and down the street about how inaccurate sales figures are, except when their own books sell out. Rushed events are blockbusters. Sub-par fill-in artists are something publishers pooh-pooh and downplay as necessary.

It’s where one of the best publishers in the industry publicly bows down to someone who has consistently been an embarrassment to what passes for the comics community.

And I’m having some serious trouble figuring out why I should even want to support this industry with my time and words. It’s not like I have a lack of stuff to talk about, things that don’t make my skin crawl. I’ll get past it, obviously–I want to talk about Cyborg 009 and Wonder Woman and everything else I’m reading and enjoying, and getting paid to write is really really nice this time of year, and a month is probably long enough to get over it, especially after this post–but right now, I’m seriously not feeling it at all. I hate it.

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Move Damn You!

December 5th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I started working out earlier this year. I’m not particularly out of shape or anything. I’ve been skinny to slim all my life, but a youth spent slaving for my grandfather, cutting down trees, knocking down walls, mowing the lawn, and working on interminable home improvement projects means that I’m fairly fit. I get by. I bike a few miles each day, with a stiff hill between my crib and job. I wouldn’t make the cover of Men’s Health, not topless at least, but my calves are so toned from a couple years of biking around San Francisco that women fall into hysterics, the old-fashioned kind, when I reveal them. It’s pretty awkward, actually. I feel pretty guilty. Anyway.

I know how to exercise, anyone who’s had phys ed knows how to exercise, but I was smart enough to know that I did not know what I needed to do. “I should exercise!” was the beginning and end of my thoughts on the matter. I asked a friend of mine, Larry Leong, for advice. I’ve known Larry for probably ten years now? Maybe a little less, I don’t know. Here’s a video I found of him by googling his name:

Larry’s in shape. He does stuntwork, he shot and produced his own (very funny) martial arts flick, he mastered a one-arm pull-up, and he deadlifts some absurd amount like 2.5 times his weight or something. I hate him. He’s the kind of fit that makes people who are in okay shape but don’t exercise feel guilty. But all that aside, he’s got focus. He sets a reachable goal and he knocks it down before moving onto the next goal. I know this because I’ve talked to this guy on a regular basis for years, so I’ve seen him do exactly that while I sit on my couch and seethe while shoving cinnamon rolls down my gullet. That focus is valuable. It’s a problem-solving tool.

I went to Larry when I decided I wanted to start working out on a regular basis because of that focus, and also because he was around and I knew I could scam free advice off him. I told him what I was thinking about doing (“I dunno, lift weights I guess?”), what I was capable of, and what I owned (“A floor I can do pushups on.”). He gave me a five-day regimen that was composed of around 30-45 minutes of lifting, cardio, and other things. Every day worked a different part of the body, and it was the sort of stuff I could do in my tiny San Francisco apartment with no trouble (barring the jump rope). His combination of educating and guilt tripping me worked, and I picked it up pretty well.

I’ve kept up with it, for the most part. I always cheated on the abs, though. Lunges were incredibly tough, but abs were the one thing where I was like “Ehhhh… I’ll do double next week to make up for it.” I recently asked Larry for some abs-specific stuff to help rectify my abs situation. He told me to do Ab Ripper X, which is part of the P90X series, twice in a row. Now, our friendship is going to end in a murder/suicide.

Larry’s started up this new online effort called Move Damn You!. Instead of showing you how to work out, it’s teaching you why and how you should work out. You always hear that you should “get in shape” or someone’s “gotta get to the gym,” but no one really talks about the benefits or how to do it. Not the step-by-step how to do it–I mean how you should approach it, what mind state you should be in, what you should expect to get out of it, and all of that. “Lose weight!” or “Get muscles!” is… it’s small, yeah? It’s vague. It’s easy to fail with goals like that. Specificity counts for a lot, especially when you’re doing something like working out. You have to have a goal in mind or else you’ll just get tired and quit.

Here’s episode 18, featuring my friend Ching Chow:

Larry’s show approaches working out as a holistic exercise. It’s not just curl twenty times, break, curl eighteen times, break, curl sixteen times, break, curl til failure. You have to work toward a goal and you have to commit yourself. Why are you curling? Why are you doing one hundred push-ups? How is your form? Is it worthwhile? Are you seeing results or do you just use your one hundred push-ups story to impress girls at bars?

I like that he talks to people about how they approach exercise. I especially liked episode 3, featuring Karuna Tanahashi. She spins poi and fire dances, which isn’t something I would normally think about as being exercise, but totally counts. It takes focus, concentration, and physical control. If she wasn’t comfortable with herself and her body, she couldn’t do it. Exercise, being fit, whatever, is about moving and the good feelings that come from moving, directly or indirectly. You might feel better because your beer belly turns into a six pack, or because suddenly your thighs look amazing in that pencil skirt. Or maybe it’s because you work out hard enough that you get that really nice burst of endorphins and feel good for a couple hours. (It’s magical before biking to work, let me tell you that for real. Someone cuts you off in their Benz and you just smile and say “thank you.” You don’t even hope they rear-end a bus or anything.)

The thread that runs through the videos is how important and life-affirming it is to use your body. You’re pretty much stuck with the body you have, so why not really explore and test your limits? Why not push past those limits and risk heinous bodily harm? Being really comfortable in and familiar with your body is a really, really good feeling. It feels like the root of confidence sometimes. If all you have is your body, and you’re proud of it, then you’re gonna be fine, yeah? I dunno, maybe that’s just me.

Here’s a paraphrase/edit of what Larry told me when I asked him what the point of MDY! was:

Well, the purpose of it is to promote exercise, that everyone can/should find a joy in using their bodies, that prolonged inactivity is a waste of your life/a thoroughly irresponsible way of living, and that there’s always something out there for you to excel at, as long as you take the time to look and put the time in. The biggest obstacle anybody has is just getting started in the first place, which is not that hard.

I guess that point about “always something out there” has a lot to do with the interviews because basically everyone I’ve talked to has had some problem they needed to work with or push through, even if it is just getting older, but that persistence is what counts. Strength of character. Moving forward. Fear of failure is bullshit. Failure is a speed bump, not a roadblock.

Actually, I guess the main point is that anybody can improve the quality of their life as long as they’re willing to start. There’s always options, there’s always something you can find that works with your body. You just need to persist and be intelligent enough to question what you learn and understand it. People are too quick to buy into products or routines without putting in the effort to understand WHY things work.

The variety of stuff that he goes over in his videos and that his interviewees discuss was/is really helpful to me. Everybody’s good at something. You just have to find it. I’m going to be taking a dance class at the top of the year. I rarely dance, rarely meaning “hardly ever in public” basically, but I decided that I want to learn how to salsa. I know that I don’t have the footwork to do it right now, but I would like to add that footwork to my repertoire. I think that’ll be a good feeling. So: I’m going to learn how to salsa. Pick a goal and knock it down. Exercise is bigger than bench pressing and sit-ups. (I hate sit-ups.)

Also, I mean, Larry’s got jokes and viking hats along with all of that advice. So there’s that, too. Move Damn You! is great motivation for getting off your butt and into motion. It’s not about turning into a steroid nut or whatever so much as it is all about just being understanding why you should move your body.

Check out his Youtube page here or visit Move Damn You!. These are good videos, maybe five minutes max, and really solid motivation. Well worth watching and considering.

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This Week in Panels: Week 115

December 4th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Once upon a time, there were three little comic readers who went to the police academy. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them all away from all that and now they work for me. My name is Gavin.

Borderline microscopic week this time around, what with DC taking a siesta due to there being five Wednesdays for the month. I’m joined by the usual crew of David, Was Taters and Space Jawa.

Before I forget, I’d just like to congratulate David on being quoted (as “4thletter”) on the back cover of BPRD: Plague of Frogs Volume 2. Not only that, but he got higher billing than IGN and the other cherry-picked reviewers. Good going, man!

He did get quoted for the first volume too, but that was as “Comics Alliance” so I don’t give a flying fuck. :colbert:

Daredevil #6
Mark Waid and Marcos Martin

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz #3
Eric Shanower and Skottie Young

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An Elf’s Story: Elf on the Shelf is Watching Me Watching Him

December 1st, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Working in the retail book business for so many years, I’ve seen my share of weird stuff. I’ve seen cookbooks written by Coolio. I’ve seen Twilight‘s popularity reach such an apex that we have a “Teen Paranormal Romance” section. Not only are there Nascar romance novels that come out two per month, but every year we get at least one Nascar Christmas romance novel. Still, few aspects are as head-scratching as the book/kit known as Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf is deemed a new holiday tradition and makes enough money that they may not be kidding. When it first hit the scene, we underestimated it and sold out immediately. Over the past few years, we’ve sold hundreds of units. But what is Elf on the Shelf, you ask? Created by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, the kit comes with a smiling and leering toy elf. There’s a book that explains the backstory and has a space for you to write the elf’s chosen name. Rather than play up the idea that Santa is omnipotent and knows if you’ve been naughty or nice through his… crystal ball… or Professor Xavier telepathy or whatever it is, it’s shown that he gets the intel from his elves. This disturbing little creature vacantly stares at your children all day in the weeks leading up to Christmas and when nobody’s looking, he tells Santa what the score is. The kids are also meant to tell the elf what it is they want. The parent is supposed to move the elf around every day to give the illusion that he’s in some way sentient while the children are warned NOT to touch him else it might remove his magic powers. In other words, don’t touch it or you will realize this is a rickety sham.

The whole concept bewilders me because of the hoops one has to jump through to make it work. The Santa myth has just enough inventive magic and reasonable doubt that a kid can go for years without questioning it. I can’t really understand how most kids don’t call BS on this one if they’re old enough to even talk. The holes in logic are legion. If it’s only checking up on kids between the end of November to the end of December, does that mean you’re allowed to be a total bastard in July? If mom and dad just brought home Elf on the Shelf for the first time, how did this whole Santa thing work before this? What’s the point of having kids tell an inanimate object about what they want if the parents won’t hear it? Santa is at least represented as a talking human being at malls, which holds more water to the immersion than a doll that doesn’t even have joints.

And more than anything else, it’s creepy. Both in concept and appearance. I’ve even had a parent return the item a couple weeks ago because her children found it creepy. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I hold no ill will towards the product for the same reason I hold no ill will towards Twilight or Jeph Loeb comics or any other book I’m supposed to look down on. It’s the retail business. These little guys pay the bills for me and my extended family. Just existing doesn’t raise my ire.

It’s the promotional video that does it. Elf on the Shelf is such a big deal that during the holidays, we have a DVD player set up to hype it. The video lasts three and a half minutes, is annoying and changes tone in the audio enough times that it’s impossible to mentally redirect it into background noise. Just hearing that thing on loop again and again is enough to drive anyone insane after a couple hours. Make it a month during the most stressful time to work and you’re in even worse shape.

This year, the boxes feature an ad for Elf on the Shelf Presents An Elf’s Story, a brand new animated movie featured on CBS on the night of Black Friday while at the same time released on DVD and blu-ray. After all the mental trauma this thing’s caused, I knew somebody at the store had to sit down and sit through this. That man had to be me. And so, a couple days after it aired, I mentally prepared myself the way one does to clean the cat’s litter box when they know they’ve waited a couple days longer than they should have and I pressed play.

The thing to know is that I didn’t go into this set on hating it. I never do for these kind of reviews. I may set my standards low, but I’m open to being wrong. Plus I love Christmas specials in general. Unfortunately… this is not a very good Christmas special.

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