Archive for May, 2012


Reading Comics: Donner + Blitzen

May 21st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I’ve liked this bit from Milestone’s Heroes 04, by Chriscross, Matt Wayne, and Julia Lacquement for ages. I like Static, obviously, but Donner & Blitzen are a great duo. I love speedsters in general, but I like the idea of the brawler and the speedster on the team being involved even more. They had this playful, honest relationship that I enjoyed reading about as long as they lasted, and it was very cool that they were out lesbians without being portrayed in an ultra male gaze-y way at the same time.

Anyway, in this scene, Static is a huge nerd and Blitzen isn’t as smart as she thinks she is. I can’t even pick a favorite part. I love the banter between Static and Blitzen, the panel of her skipping across the water, and all the gross water flooding out of her mouth while she chastises Static.

Heroes was a good comic. Hit them back issue bins. It was just six issues, and they’re probably cheap now.

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This Week in Panels: Week 139

May 20th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Hey, paisanos! It’s the This Week in Panels Super Show!

This week, I have Jody, Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa and Was Taters helping me out. Gaijin Dan threw me some manga panels last week, but it got eaten due to an email mishap, so here they are this week.

In one panel, Hulk sets himself up as an enemy to both Daniel Bryan AND CM Punk.

Amazing Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth
Rob Williams, Brian Clevinger and Thony Silas

Avengers Academy #30
Christos Gage and Tom Grummett

Avengers vs. X-Men #4
Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman and John Romita Jr.

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Blood’s A Rover: Audience Control

May 18th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I’m not one of those guys that’s all, “Oh, I wish I could write like so-and-so!” That always seemed backwards to me. If anything, I want to write like me, but I want to be as talented or as in control of my talent as another, more popular writer. Usually, when I read something that really knocks my socks off, it makes me want to up my game so that I can give that feeling to somebody else. That type of skill is jealousy-igniting. Like this bit from James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover, which I have helpfully liberated of context. All you really need to know is that Scotty has 18s on his tie where he once had 16s, and Scotty is a cop. Read:

Crutch gulped. Scotty always loomed. He carried two .45’s and a beaver-tail sap on a thong. Bobby and Phil guzzled beer and snarfed pizza. They turned the backseat into a zoo trough. Crutch pointed to Scotty’s tie.

“You had 16’s last time.”

“Two male Negroes robbed a liquor store at 74th and Avalon. I just happened to be in the back, holding a Remington pump shotgun.”

Crutch laughed. “It’s the record, right? Fatal shootings in the line of duty?”

“That’s correct. I’m six up on my closest competitor.”

“What happened to him?”

“He was shot and killed by two male Negroes.”

“What happened to them?”

“They robbed a liquor store at Normandie and Slauson. I just happened to be in the back, holding a Remington pump shotgun.”

This probably reads very differently when it isn’t bookended by Ellroy’s rapid-fire jab-jab-hook prose style, but it got me good when I read it. I went back and read it again, I liked it so much. I like how Ellroy stacks meaning upon meaning without ever really coming right out and saying what he’s talking about. It’s there in the bit about Crutch gulping as Scotty looms. The droll repetition of “two male Negroes,” the implied shadiness on his closest competitor’s death… there’s a story lurking around back here, and Ellroy’s hinting at the barest edges of it and making you wish you knew more.

It’s good writing, basically, and I feel like that sort of writing only comes from when you’ve learned to both respect your own talent and your audience.

I’ll have more to say, I’m sure, as I make my way through this book. Ellroy’s one of those guys who makes me mad/jealous/amazed/entertained when I read his books.

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“My life dope? (straight cocaine)” [On Killer Mike]

May 16th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is a series of twenty focused observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. This is the eighteenth. Spending some time writing about what I don’t like about the political music of dead prez got me thinking about what I do like in terms of political music. One name came to mind almost immediately: Killer Mike.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places, Mellowhype’s Blackendwhite, a general post on punk, a snapshot of what I’m listening to, on Black Thought blacking out on “75 Bars”, how I got into The Roots, on Betty Wright and strong songs, on screw music, on Goodie MOb’s “The Experience”, on blvck gxds and recurring ideas

If you want my personal gold standard for political rap, it’s gotta be Killer Mike, and more specificaly, his I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II. “Pressure” is extraordinarily hard and as blatantly political as Mike gets on this album:

Here’s the intro to the album:

This is not your regular rap album. This is meant to be a soundtrack to your success, brother. A soundtrack to your success, sister. This is right now, real-time music, what the fuck is happening. What ain’t happening is the bullshit lies you been going through. What ain’t happening is the bad examples you been following. You see, the Grind believes in you because we know you believe in us, therefore we don’t bullshit you. Nuh-uh. I wanna see whoever’s buying this record win right now and do great things. But the only way you gonna do that is if you get up off your ass and get about the act of doing something. Grind Time Rap Gang, fucker, bang bang bang. You can never lead if you only follow. What I mean is, if you sit around, and you look at people, and you wait for them to give you permission to do something great, you will never do anything, so get up, brothers! Get about your grind! If you have a boss, maybe you should fire your boss. Maybe you should change your life. Your work ethic will determine your worth, meaning whatever you get is determined by how hard you work to get it. You understand what I’m telling you right now? What I’m saying is there’s nothing in the world that can stop you from achieving whatever it is you wanna achieve. And I want you to let I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind Part II be a soundtrack to your success. Until we meet again on that path of getting to the money… it’s Grind Time Rap Gang. Bang. Bang. Bang. C’mon, let’s go!

What I like about Pledge II is that I can hear a lot of Tupac in it. Pac is still probably my favorite rapper, just because he got it so well. He got it better than anybody else. He understood that you can play a role and still kick knowledge. Son didn’t have a criminal record until he rapped about having one. But he still managed to kick rhymes that had everybody relating to him. He was an everyman, in a way. I don’t mean that he was himself just like the rest of us — he clearly wasn’t, for better or worse — but he understood the value of theater and played a lot of roles. He made “Dear Mama” and “Wonda Why They Call U Bitch.” He rapped about living the fast life and being so depressed he wanted to kill himself. He was everyone, and that’s why he clicked so hard. It’s not that he was conscious or a thug or loved his mom or could spin a sex song. It’s that he was all of that in one.

Mike stepped into that role for me. I’ve liked Mike for years, ever since he hit the beat running like Randy Moss on his feature on OutKast’s “The Whole World,” and I love that he’s grown into this quietly revolutionary figure. Pledge II runs a range of subject matter. He pretty much hits every rap cliche but how much he loves his mom, I think. No, that’s not true: “Grandma’s House” counts there. Civic pride (“2 Sides”), fly rides (“Big Money, Big Cars”), drug dealing (“Good-Bye (City of Dope)”), and on and on. He glorifies drug dealing, stripping, big cars, education, looking out for your family, protecting yourself, and self-esteem. He touches on the power, occasional hypocrisy, and shortcomings of religion. He’s running through a wide range of experiences.

But what makes this political for me is that it’s an entire album not about how ill Mike is but how important it is to grind and get your own. It’s about being self-actualized, loyal, honest, and willing to do what you need to do to survive. On a very fundamental level, it’s about loving yourself because society hates your guts. You have to look out for yourself, your family, and your community.

His point of view is pointedly black southern and post-Reagan, too. The mistrust of authority, the matter-of-fact approach to the way crack ravaged the black community, an emphasis on money but a conscious knowledge of the evils that come from chasing it, and black power themes present on the album all scream that at me. Even the Grind Time Rap Gang stuff is part marketing and part motivation. You’ve gotta make money for yourself if you ever want to have anything of your own.

That’s the sort of political music I can get behind. It’s honest, direct, and if it came down to it, you could dance to it. Throw some elbows or groove, whatever you want. Killer Mike has demonstrated growth in his sound, but also in his politics and prejudices. I listen to Mike and I hear somebody who knows the game and is working to both fit in where he can get in and make things better, which sounds like a lot of people I know and look up to.

I go back to this album regularly. It’s motivation music. I went and checked to see if I could see how often, and came up with this image:

I was actually surprised to see “Grandma’s House” at number one, but I do love that song. (“If she catch me serving hard, it’s gon’ break my nana’s heart, so I take them bricks, I cut ’em quick and hit the boulevard,” whooo) I figured that “Pressure” would be number one, but I’m okay with this result. It’s a powerful album, and there’s something that I can take away from every song. It’s intensely political without being in the dead prez or Immortal Technique vein of things. Mike is just talking about what he believes and what he knows. It’s real life rap, like Tupac used to kick, and I appreciate that. I feel like if I can’t apply your revolutionary or progressive or conservative or whichever philosophy to my real life, then it’s worthless. It’s not even hot air, because hot air actually has a use. Theory doesn’t do me any good.

“Burn” is a joint off Killer Mike’s Pl3dge. It’s sort of a sequel to “Pressure,” like how “Pressure” was sort of a sequel to “Bad Day/Worst Day.” If I had to use a song to pin down how I feel about a lot of stuff going down in America over the past few years… it’d probably be this joint.

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Conclusion

May 16th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday went from the early-mid 00’s to the beginning of this decade, meaning we’re just about done.

As WWE hit the 2010’s, it became pretty hard to endure for two reasons. One, it became more and more apparent that their storylines were written on an hour-to-hour basis instead of being agreed on in advance. This is mainly due to McMahon being a mentally questionable dude. The sloppy storytelling had led to such promising and exciting storylines as the Nexus – the contestants from the first NXT season, who had become united against the Raw roster – petering out into a mess of bad ideas. Or Sheamus, a badass and dominant heel who became champ in record time and then went on to become a coward at the drop of a hat, ruining much of his appeal.

The other reason, which was arguably worse, was the idea of turning commentator Michael Cole heel. It started with the first season of NXT, which involved the debut of Daniel Bryan, who as I mentioned before was a big name in the indies. Cole would constantly rag on him for being worthless in every way possible. It’s hard to say if this was punishment for being semi-famous elsewhere, a way to set up Bryan giving Cole his comeuppance or a mix of both. Either way, it didn’t matter because comeuppance means very little when it’s a wrestler attacking a non-wrestler unless it’s an authority figure of some kind. Especially when this non-wrestler has an hour a week to rail on you verbally. Cole went from just hating Bryan to hating everyone on the roster other than a select few. This was entirely problematic. He rarely ever got his much-needed retribution and it didn’t stop him from going off on everyone on the roster for 4-7 hours a week. They seriously had a guy making fun of everyone to the point that WWE’s forcing you to hear about how they’re a company of worthless jokes. He was the antithesis of hype and outright made watching WWE a chore.

Eventually, they realized their folly and gradually brought him back to being a kind of okay commentator. Bryan himself endured several losing streaks, Cole’s constant barrage of insults, a temporary situation where he was fired for a really stupid reason and the issue of being a small man in a big man’s business. He won one of the two major championships, turned heel and slowly began to show how much personality he really had. He’s reached the point where McMahon seems to respect him for tolerating his mistreatment without a single complaint and the crowd has embraced him as a huge heel who’s fun to hate and even more fun to like.

As for Punk, he never got to be much more than a punching bag for whatever major face they were trying to push. He spent about a year or so losing nearly every major match and Punk himself was getting pretty tired of it. His contract was coming up and he wasn’t intent on keeping on. Since the general rule of thumb is for the guy leaving to go out defeated, WWE set up Cena (champion) vs. CM Punk at the PPV Money in the Bank 2011, which was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. Punk publicly brought up that he was on his way out and threatened to leave the company with the championship, thereby making it a callback to his exit of ROH, only this time he was threatening to leave WWE for ROH. He even MENTIONED ROH on WWE TV during a planned segment where he got to get a lot of genuine opinions on the company and its fans off his chest. The story became huge and behind-the-scenes, agreements were made that Punk wouldn’t be leaving after all, despite appearing to in the storyline. He ended up winning the title and skipped town, leaving the company without a champion.

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neither revolutionary nor particularly gangsta

May 15th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I used to really bang dead prez songs, especially their RBG: revolutionary but gangsta tapes. But as I got older, I realized that there’s a serious disconnect between what they profess to be (conscious rappers, whatever that means) and what they put on wax (half-examined garbage and conspiracy theories). I have the same problem with Immortal Technique, too. It’s like these dudes fused bland, freshman idealism with like… obnoxiously libertarian-infused realpolitik and came up with revolutionary rap. Even worse, they stay complaining about the more pop rappers, like what they do is somehow more valid than somebody rhyming about their cars or whatever.

Case in point: “Hell Yeah (Pimp the System).” What I like about this song is that it’s probably the purest example of how high school dead prez’s philosophy is. The song’s a banger, don’t get me wrong, but it’s stone stupid. The title makes it seem like it’s all about pimping the system because you’re broke, turning the man’s methods against him, but in terms of actual content, it’s about robbing a pizza delivery man, pulling a credit card scheme so that you can buy fancy stuff, pulling a different scheme so you can get food stamps (???), and robbing whatever store you work at because “doing dirt is a part of living.”

I hate the first verse. I can’t even tell you how much I loathe it. Their big idea of getting a break from poverty is robbing a pizza delivery man. Now, I dunno if y’all have met any pizza deliverymen, but these cats are not the 1%. Not even close. They’re regular people working a crappy job where people regularly try to cheat them out of cash and short them on tips. A pizza delivery guy is a dude that’s sitting exactly one rung higher on the ladder than the characters in the song.

Robbing that guy is a sick idea. First, son is going to have sixty bucks on him, max, plus maybe three pizzas. Good haul, dunny. Second, it’s poisonous and stupid to attack someone who’s basically on the same level as you. If you’re going to rob anyone, you need to be running up in a rich man’s house or pulling Bernie Madoff into a dark alley or putting a gun to a celebrity’s back or something, not robbing somebody who makes six bucks an hour plus tips. The rest of the song isn’t much better. The credit card scam isn’t a way to escape poverty so much as to buy fly clothes and ruin your friend’s credit while he ruins yours. How is that pimping the system?

dead prez has got a few genuine bangers. “Hip-Hop” and “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop” still go (trivia: Kanye to the West produced the latter). “The Pistol” is pretty okay, and that last verse is pleasantly cold. But a lot of their stuff, stuff like “Mind Sex” and every time they talk about running up on white folks just because and whatever… it’s good agitprop, but it isn’t good philosophy. It’s not workable. It’s not real. It’s terrible, in fact, and for it to be positioned like something to emulate, as something that’s more real and important than Scarface serving cocaine to the geeks is just… dishonest. At least these dudes pushing jiggy or crack raps have a coherent position. “I like money more than I like my fellow man.” dead prez has a chaotic assortment of overcompensatingly militant Black nationalist rhetoric, and precious little of it is applicable to your life.

I mean, look at the video for “Hell Yeah.” You rob a white family, steal their video camera, and throw a party? What part of the game is that? That’s revolutionary? That’s J Edgar Hoover’s wet dream.

Every time somebody is like “Do you know dead prez????” I basically react the same way I do when someone asks about Ron Paul/Ayn Rand/Johnen Vasquez/Charles Bukowski/MIA. I know that I’m in for a painful conversation that’ll probably be about black helicopters and how school exists to brainwash you into being a robot and la-di-da. And I mean, I went out and got “uhuru” tattooed on my actual body. I’m down for the cause or whatever, but having a cause or claiming to be a socialist or vegan or feminist or whatever is no replacement for actually having ideas that can be applied to real life and have a possibility of causing change.

“Rob a white family, throw a party” isn’t going to cause any change I want a part of. “Stick up a pizza delivery man to feed your folks” is a shortsighted and stupid plan. And dead prez’s music is rife with this stuff. It gets to the point where my eyes are rolling while my head is nodding. It’s frustrating.

I think it’s awful that Jay-Z, of all people, got on the remix to “Hell Yeah” and had more compelling content than these conscious rappers, when all he was doing was biting The Eminem show-era Eminem. Ice Cube’s “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” is more sound and honest than any dead prez song you care to name:

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Method Man, Spaceghostpurrp, and Blvck Gxds

May 15th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is a series of twenty focused observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. This is the seventeenth. It started as a simple post to make you go watch the new Spaceghostpurrp video, with a few things to watch for, but somehow turned into some lengthy remarks about Method Man’s horror phase and how that relates to 2012. You know how I do.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places, Mellowhype’s Blackendwhite, a general post on punk, a snapshot of what I’m listening to, on Black Thought blacking out on “75 Bars”, how I got into The Roots, on Betty Wright and strong songs, on screw music, on Goodie MOb’s “The Experience”

There’s this bit from Method Man & Mary J Blige’s “All I Need” video that’s stuck with me for years. No lie, ever since I was a kid. It’s a brief burst of strange horror in a video that’s set to a love song. If you start around 3:10, you’ll see it. Mef peeks up over a ledge. His eyes are whited out, the fronts in his mouth give his jaw a weird shape, and then he taps his fingers and disappears. There’s something alien about it. It didn’t scare me, but I recognized that it was scary, if that makes any type of sense. There’s a creepy, unsettling aspect to that specific image. It’s the beginnings of a horror movie.

Method Man’s Tical gave me the same feeling as that video. It’s an album that teeters on the edge of being uncomfortably dark. It definitely doesn’t sound like the other Wu joints from that first wave. It’s hazy, obviously, and the layered samples and ad-libs give it a haunting feel at times. The female vocalist on “Biscuits” isn’t harmonizing so much as wailing (which is different from a scream, mind you). His token love song has a deep, bass-y, and very un-love song sound, not to mention Streetlife salting Method Man’s game. It’s a down album, not quite as down as Pac’s Me Against the World, but it sounds and looks like it was recorded in a dungeon by an old black dude who used to be a slave and is wild upset about being in chains again.

Tical having such a horror influence is sorta funny, actually, because Method Man is by far the most fun-loving and charismatic member of the Wu. He was the crossover champion, the dude who rocked fly clothes because he could. He’s still classically handsome, even twenty years later. You can hear that charisma on “Release Yo’ Delf” more than anything else, I think. It’s strange that Tical was so dark, because if anything, Mef should’ve dropped a Ready to Die or like… I don’t even know, an “Ain’t No Nigga” (which “All I Need” eventually became once they drafted Mary J) instead of “Meth vs Chef.” Remember when he did “The Riddler” for that Batman Forever soundtrack? That’s no pop song. But: here we are. He should’ve been on songs with Blackstreet or whoever.

Meth doubled down on the dark image on Tical 2000, which I remember as being a lot of smoke and not enough fire. It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older (everything from “Shaolin What” to “Spazzola” goes, and “Play IV Keeps” is no joke), but it’s still no Tical. But he made the subtle apocalyptic subtext of Tical into text, full stop. It was an interesting choice, and while how loyal he is to that sound meanders around (“Sweet Love” is out of place and off-tone, and the entire last quarter or so of the album are pop joints), it’s an album that puts the thought of the end of the world in your mind. I honestly haven’t gone back to listen if he’s Behold A Pale Horseing it, like a lot of rappers were doing around ’99. I don’t think so, for the record — I think he’s pulling from Mad Max, Cyborg (both of which are explicitly shouted out in the lyrics), and other pop-apocalyse films rather than conspiracy theories and secret societies. Secular apocalypse, rather than religious. The fall of man, and then the fall that comes after. Nuclear winters, poverty-stricken ghettos, whatever.

But Method Man’s steez around then (“around then” being like six years I guess) stuck with me, in part because precious few people were in the same lane of occasional horror rap (Company Flow is another highlight of this era, Bone Thugs was another, Three 6 Mafia of course, Geto Boys on occasion) and in part because it’s such a departure from his aboveground work. Somewhere out there lurks Method Man with the white eyes and the grill, waiting to pop out of a dark alley and hit you with a grin that chills the soul. In the meantime, we’ve got the laughing, cooldude stoner and family man.

The video for Spaceghost Purrp’s “The Black God” dropped the other day. It took me a minute to get into his sound for whatever reason, but Ray the Destroyer’s review over at Мишка got me pointed at the right project. I like God of Black volume 1 quite a bit, especially “The Black God.” Baow:

What’s crazy is how SGP reinvigorated and reinvented Meth’s ’90s lane. The grill and glasses, the Lee Bermejo-style skeleton, and a host of near-faceless black men in hoodies… it feels cultish, almost, like there’s a secret here and you’re not invited, even though that secret will definitely destroy your soul. “When you think of us, think of pyramids and pistols, and shimmering gold teeth that shine like crystals,” right, like dead prez said? This is that. It’s the barest hint of a face in the dark and a shine you can’t quite make out.

(Sidebar: consider the monsters in Attack The Block. Think of their shapes and their teeth.)

I wrote “faceless horrors” in my notes as something I wanted to talk about. I can’t fit it in here in a natural way, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The focal point of the video shifts and blurs as people move in front of the camera and change clothes. The only distinct figure is son in the white t-shirt, isn’t he?)

“The Black God” puts me in mind of The Nation of Gods and Earths, too. The idea that the Asiatic Blackman is God, Allah representing Arm Leg Leg Arm Head (a human body, keep up), the 5% knowing the truth while the 85% remain ignorant and self-destructive… all of that is in here. SGP talks about how he’s “no longer a black man,” meaning he evolved past that. He’s The Black God, and the song is all about self-improvement laid over a spooky piano melody and deep drums.

And I mean, SGP is obviously not biting Wu-Tang or whatever here. I doubt there’s many 5%ers in Florida, for that matter. But SGP in 2012 and Method Man in 1995 were both definitely working out some of the same ideas on wax and aesthetically, and even using some of the same language — whether that’s visual language or spoken language — to do so. I like that a whole lot. Grab The God of Black here. Amazon’s got Tical and Tical 2000: Judgement Day if you’ve somehow not heard them before now.

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 4

May 15th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Last time, I went from the dying days of WCW to the beginning of John Cena’s seemingly endless run as WWE’s top guy.

A big name I haven’t talked about in a while is Triple H. While Austin, Mick Foley/Mankind and Rock left the company in the early 2000’s, Triple H continued to rise to the top. A storyline marriage to Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie led to the two getting together and becoming married for real. Triple H spent most of these years as a heel and became rather unbearable as a top name. He was champion for most of the time, would drone on for about 20 minutes at the opening of every show and when tasked with feuding against rising faces who really needed the big win to make them superstars, Triple H instead used his backstage pull to stay on top and win the matches. The most notable is his match against Booker T at Wrestlemania 19, where the lead-up featured Triple H heavily insinuating that black people don’t get to become champion. Logic would dictate that Booker would HAVE to win in the end, but Triple H beat him rather decisively and Booker’s career never really recovered. Other people who have feuded with Triple H and had their careers hurt in one way or another include Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Chris Benoit, Kane, Randy Orton and Sheamus. When confronted about this in interviews, Triple H would reflect on how much he was buried due to his Ultimate Warrior match and the year following the MSG Incident and still became a top guy despite not having to beat anyone major… willfully ignoring everything Mick Foley did for him. Triple H was sneaky like Hogan, but smart enough not to ever let it bite him on the ass, while also a far better performer. Hogan burned too many bridges while Triple H is set to run the WWE when McMahon steps down for good.

Speaking of Hogan burning bridges, I have to hit a tangent and mention one of his funnier moments. Hogan made the occasional appearance for a special feud now and again as he and McMahon were still under good terms from the post-WCW run. Shawn Michaels had returned from a lengthy back injury after four years and a story was set up where he begged Hogan to come out of retirement for one last match. They teamed up a couple times and Michaels attacked Hogan out of nowhere so set up Hogan vs. Michaels. The idea was that they’d have two matches as faces with Michaels winning one and Hogan winning the other. Once it was in motion, Hogan nixed the plans and used his political power to make it so that Michaels was the heel so that Hogan didn’t have to worry about a crowd that would either be split or even booing him. Then he finagled it so that there would only be one match, taking place at Summerslam 05, and he’d win before leaving for another year. The thing about Michaels during all that time he was injured is that he had found God and became a better man, working to undo the asshole he was during the 90’s. He’d eventually even make peace with Bret Hart over their mutual hatred and the Montreal Incident. That said, based on what a turdburglar Hogan was being, Michaels went back to his old ways when the match happened and in this case, two wrongs made a right. Sometimes a wrestler would mess with an opponent he outright hated by going off-script and acting unaffected by the offensive attacks. Michaels went the other direction, acting as if everything Hogan did to him was equal to being hit by a speeding truck. He flew all around the ring and flopped across the mat like a fish at every punch and kick, making Hogan look like a complete fool.

The John Cena backlash increased the more his endless title reign became unbearable, coming to a head when conniving heel Edge won the belt off of him through an unfair-yet-amusing way. The ratings suddenly spiked in reaction to this momentous shift, but it was quickly smacked back down. The company was insistent on setting up John Cena vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania 22, so they almost immediately had Cena win back the belt. Amusingly, Triple H was very critical of Kurt Angle, who feuded with Cena months earlier and couldn’t get the fans to boo him over Cena, even when he referred to himself as a Jesus-hating racist. Despite Triple H’s criticisms, he too ended up getting cheered like crazy at the show despite being the heel. With Edge no longer in the title picture, the ratings dropped back down to normal.

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Reading Comics: “Don’t Curse”

May 14th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

There’s a Louis CK bit that I like a lot. It’s about how he hates “the n-word.” He goes on to say, “Not ‘nigger,’ by the way. I mean ‘the n-word,’ literally.” It’s a great bit because it’s funny, first of all, but it’s funny because it’s all about taking responsibility for the stupid things you want to say. A wise man once said “They wanna live in the house but don’t want no grass to grow.” People want to get the impact of having a curse word in their text, but they don’t want to take responsibility for the coarseness. They want all of the benefits and none of the downsides. And that’s weak.

Basically, know your outlet and your audience. I can’t curse on ComicsAlliance. Any expletives I might care to use would be turned into —- or f*** or ****** or whatever. I care a lot about how my writing flows and looks, and that looks stupid in text. ASCII’d out or asterisked to death curses in comics drive me crazy. Especially when they spell out the cusses in ascii characters like @$$ because… dude, who are you kidding? It’s having your cake and eating it, too. You’re a writer… figure out some way around it.

There are a couple of exceptions, of course. I’ve always liked the Milestone squiggle, because they used it for… I don’t know, high cuss words? The really bad ones? It can be seen here in Dwayne McDuffie, Ivan Velez Jr., and Trevor von Eeden’s Blood Syndicate #1:

and Adam Warren’s black bars in Empowered, this one taken from Empowered Volume 6 (Empowered Volume 7 is due out soon, get some):

The squiggles and boxes feel more like bleeps than trying to have it both ways. Maybe it’s because the squiggle is art, rather than text standing in for other text, and I read that differently.

I started reading 2000 AD recently. There’s a strip in there called Grey Area that did something cool. Here’s a page from the chapter in prog 1767, pictures and words by Karl Richardson and Dan Abnett, that shows what I mean:

And I mean, I hate fake cuss words. Legion of Superheroes comics look stupid. Or silly. Maybe both. But this right here made me laugh. I like “grawlix” as a swear, because it’s both clever and explained in the story.

Grawlix is a bit of obscure comics terminology. It was coined by Mort Walker (the Beetle Bailey guy) in the ’60s, and he used it to refer to the faked up cusses you’d see in comics. Abnett here is using grawlix as a safe curse for men and women in uniform. When they step out of line and use real curses, they’re told to “Grawlix that.” It becomes about decorum in the text, which is much, much more interesting than being polite outside of the text.

Here’s another page, this time from prog 1770. Art by Lee Carter this time:

Anyway, cuss, don’t, or be clever about it. That’s all.

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 3

May 14th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

In yesterday’s installment, I told the tale of how WCW took over the wrestling industry with their triad of successful ideas: the New World Order, the concept of a heel Hulk Hogan and the rise of Bill Goldberg. They ended up squandering all of this through a whole lot of hubris and ego. I can go on and on about the stupid mistakes WCW made, but you might as well just read the book Death of WCW by RD Reynolds and Brian Alvarez. WWF fell on its ass and got itself back up by finding its new identity and putting everything behind Steve Austin and the Rock. Their head writer Vince Russo, fed up with a lot of stuff, decided to take a hike and become WCW’s savior.

A lot of Russo’s success in WWF came from having a filter to take out some of his worse ideas or reshaping them into something better. With no filter and a bit of an ego trip, Russo’s time in WCW can best be described as a Dadaist dream that involved professional wrestling. Nothing made sense and stories would simply vanish completely with no explanation on a weekly basis. Worst of all, he had an obsession with trying to cater to fans who followed backstage goings on (like guys who write overly long history of wrestling blog posts), which was only a small fraction of the audience. He’d write the show so that everyone was just about admitting it was fake, except from whatever they were doing. Like during a match, Goldberg would leave and the commentator would scream about how he’s going off-script. Russo tried to add some kind of meta realism that instead came off as faker than the regular stuff. He ended up getting fired after the brass found some of his ideas too stupid for even them.

In the transition, wrestler Chris Benoit won the WCW Championship on a PPV. Benoit was a staple of sorts in WCW as a shorter guy who could wrestle an incredible match, but wasn’t so good at talking or showing charisma. Basically, he was the anti-Hogan and represented everything that original WCW fans loved. It’s just that with Russo out, the new head writer was Kevin Sullivan. Kevin Sullivan, a former WCW wrestler himself, was the head writer during Hogan’s initial WCW days (would it surprise you that Sullivan made himself the top villain against Hogan during that time? No?). Back when he was writing, Sullivan put his wife Nancy in a storyline with Benoit and decided that they needed to travel together and share hotel rooms on a regular basis to really drive home that on-air chemistry. Long story short, she left Sullivan and went on to become Nancy Benoit. Damn. Benoit and his friends were understandably afraid of what it would be like to have the scorned ex-husband writing the storylines, so they wanted out. Luckily for them, the guy who temporarily replaced Bischoff in terms of being in charge of WCW had no clue about the business and was fine with letting them go with no strings attached. Even though Benoit just won the title hours earlier! The four of them – Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko – showed up on Raw very shortly after and each went on to shine in that company to different extents. Just like other misused talent in WCW like Chris Jericho and the Big Show. Little by little, WWF was siphoning away WCW’s potential.

WCW was also able to bring in an underutilized mid-card wrestler from the competition and push him to the top. When Russo made the jump to WCW, he brought his good friend Jeff Jarrett with him. Jarrett could never break into the upper echelon of the WWF’s names and he spent his days in WCW being shoved down everyone’s throats as a big deal, winning the championship multiple times with few caring. No matter what they tried, it still showed that WWF was right. He wasn’t a big deal. But on the subject of bad choices for world champion…

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