Archive for July, 2013


We Care About Journalism

July 31st, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Joe Lynch directed this sweet-ass short film called Truth in Journalism. In a fake documentary in the style of Man Bites Dog, a trio of filmmakers follow around disgraced newspaper reporter Eddie Brock. Obsessed with showing his side of the story and what he’s all about, Eddie appears to be a little unhinged, low on scruples, lower on compassion and he’s definitely hiding some kind of secret. Eddie’s played by True Blood star Ryan Kwanten.

Definitely watch it past the credits.

He’s just a smidge too scummy in parts for my taste as an Eddie Brock fanboy, but it’s still a damn fine little movie.

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Moodbuilder, Worldbuilder: Tite Kubo & Chapter Pages

July 30th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I liked Tite Kubo’s Bleach a whole lot until I suddenly didn’t. Y’all know how that goes. You get into it, you give it a lot of rope to hang itself, then you get comfortable, then you let it coast a little bit, and then you realize you’ve just read 38 volumes of a comic and haven’t liked anything about these stupid Arrancars but every one of the last ten or so volumes have had exactly one REALLY GOOD chapter or scene near the end, just good enough to convince you to pick up the next volume and—enough. And then I ended up with a Weekly Shonen Jump subscription and now I get it for basically free. Life! I recommend it, though. If you like this kinda story, Bleach is the real deal for a good while.

Two things I never stopped enjoying about Bleach, though, are Kubo’s way of rendering fashionable clothes and the chapter pages. The fashion’s got obvious appeal, but it’s a bit harder to explain the appeal of the chapter pages. That sounds a little stupid to even type, mainly because the short version is “Kubo has a great sense of fashion, design, wonder, and that shows on his chapter pages, especially as the series goes on and he becomes more daring and creative with the layouts and art.” That makes sense, and I imagine you’d agree if you saw a few of them. Luckily, I happen own a lot of Bleach and I picked twelve of them that I like from the first few volumes of the series, plus the first three so you can see how soon Kubo started doing interesting things.

tite kubo - bleach chapter pages - 01

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“Violate the Dead” is surely the result of some kind of confusion. Bleach isn’t really that type of series…

But you can see the appeal of these, I think, particularly if you’re into this kind of story. These early chapter pages are cool, but par for the course for series like this. There are cool costumes, interesting What Ifs, some good humor (I especially like numbers seven and twenty-six), and they’re honestly just very strong images. They work.

Part of the reason why they work is Kubo’s choice of titles. There’s some musical-sounding phrases like “Binda Blinda,” which is cool, and straightforward titles like “The Gate of the End,” which is also cool. Kubo does most of his chapter titles in English, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by both the poetry and quality of the titles. I love Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece and Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond more than most comics, but they don’t have memorable chapter titles. Bleach does.

Once chapter nine hits, Kubo gets a lot more inventive, playful, and melancholy with the titles. The titles for 1-8 aren’t bad, but they aren’t full of potential like “Wasted but Wanted” or “6/17 op. 2 Doesn’t Smile Much Anymore” or “Paradise is Nowhere”/”Paradise is Now Here.” There’s a playfulness or sense of foreboding in some of these, and that carries through to the stories, too. A good title is legendary. “Valley Forge, Valley Forge.” “This Man… This Monster!” “Lonely Place of Dying.” “Tommy’s Heroes.” “First Shot, Last Call.” “Days of Future Past.” “How to Murder the Earth.” “A Game of You.” “Rake at the Gates of Hell.” “The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin.” “The Great Cow Race.” “Anything Done for the First Time Creates a Demon.” (I asked friends for some memorable names so this list wasn’t just my own, and now we are off at the races naming great titles, even the ones with so-so stories. Could do a post on those alone, easy. Comics!)

Here’s a few more chapter pages, but from volumes 34-38, and then later still in the series, from middle/late 2012 through middle 2013 Weekly Shonen Jump.

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The first thing to notice is that the covers in a pin-up style have gotten better. Kubo’s a pretty talented artist, and it’s cool to see the leaps in quality that he made over the years. The characters feel rounder, his storytelling choices are more confident, and there’s a sense that Kubo wants to push the limit of the chapter page.

It’s not obvious here, because these chapter pages are stripped almost entirely of context, outside of a loose chronological progression (the negative numbers are flashback chapters). You don’t know where the pages fall in the chapter, what the story’s about, or anything like that. But what makes so many of these chapter pages so great is that Kubo treats them as a cold open rather than anything dedicated to purely saying “This is chapter three hundred and eight-six of Bleach, a comic series by Tite Kubo.”

The chapter pages hit at the end of scenes, on the last page of the chapter, two pages before the chapter, and pretty much anywhere, including occasionally the first page. Instead of using them like American comics use recap/credit pages, Kubo uses them as just another storytelling device. It’s like watching a tense scene in Breaking Bad and feeling yourself surprised by the fact that you unconsciously exhaled as soon as that music twanged up, or feeling that split-second of dead air before Justified‘s theme kicks in.

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It’s a mood-building breather, and it’s something that is rare in my comics-reading experience. Story titles are often included in comics often as a matter of fact, something to sit atop the credits and define the arc. It’s cool when they’re worked into the art, but they never actually feel like part of the story. They’re just an accessory, if that metaphor makes sense. But when the chapter pages, and titles, are used like this, it really, really adds to the story.

I can see how people would think it’s wasteful, since comics only get a few pages. But Kubo is spending one or two pages telling several pages worth of mood. It helps. It’s an enhancement.

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I read a lot of comic books. Part of what keeps me coming back to the comic book as a format, be it stapled or glued or digital-only, is seeing fresh things like this, things no other medium could really do properly. I like to be surprised and entertained, and even when Bleach is busy disappointing me, I know that Kubo’s got something up his sleeve that makes checking in on Bleach worth it, almost every single time. Weekly Shonen Jump makes that easy, of course, but even when I was binging and not particularly enjoying it, this held true.

You can get Bleach and Weekly Shonen Jump on your tablet or computer monitor of your choice. Five bucks a volume makes it easy to dive in, and honestly, the early stuff is really good, and there’s flashes of great moments throughout. But when the quality of the writing declines, the art stays strong and gets stronger. The chapter pages are just one manifestation of that.

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Wrestling with Reality

July 30th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

The other day, E! started airing Total Divas, a new reality show depicting the lives of the female WWE roster. I mean, considering they’re only allowed three minutes per match on any given show, they might as well get their own showcase somewhere. This show is just the latest in a lengthy relationship between wrestling and reality TV, creating an Inception-style look at what’s real through a show that is just as fake. We’ve already had Tough Enough and Hogan Knows Best while reality shows have introduced us to the likes of the Miz and David Otunga.

Friends of mine Bob and Vinny started discussing all the other future wrestling-based reality shows we might one day see. Soon I got involved, as did other buddies Marc, John and Jesse. As a complete waste of time, here’s our list of 50 Reality Shows to Expand the WWE Universe:

The Amazing Harley Race
America’s Nexus Top Model
Ass Men
Ax and Smash Plus Eight
Big Steiner Brother
The Biggest Jobber
Brother of Love
Celebrity Fit Finlay Club
CM Punk’d
Dog the Hunter Hearst Helmsley
The Evan Bournes
Extreme Championship Makeover
Fatu Nightmares
The GI Bro Schmo Show
The Iron Man Matchelor
The Jersey Triad Shore
Johnny B. Badd Girls’ Club
Junkyard Dog Whisperer
Kid Kash Cab
Kitchen Snapmares
Legion of Room Raiders
Mankind vs. Food
Master Chefs of the Powerbomb
Miami Inkface
Mr. America’s Got Talent
The Mr. Kennedy Experiment
MTV’s Word Life: I’m a Master of Thugganomics
The Next Food Network Starrcade
Project Greenmist
The Real Horsemen of New Jersey
The Real World’s Strongest Man
Ryback Road Rules
Sunny Boo Boo
Super Crazy Nanny
Survivor: The Series
Teen M.O.M.
Todd Grishams in Tiaras
Total Kama Island
The Ultimate Warrior
Undercover Boss Man
Uso Think You Can Dance
White Castle of Fear Factor
Who Wants to be a Superhero in Training?
Who Wants to Marry a Million Dollar Man?
Wife-Edged Swap
The X-Factor

And that’s my limit of puns for the day.

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This Week in Panels: Week 201

July 29th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

You said it, Spidey. But Sunday is Sunday, so let’s get to it.

My crew this week includes Gaijin Dan, Matlock and Space Jawa. I don’t have anything else to really add to this white noise of an intro, so here. The theme to Pacific Rim. Listen to it as you skim the rest… or as you hit a monster in the face with a battleship. Either way.

With that out of the way, panels away!

All-Star Western #22 (Matlock’s pick)
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Moritat

All-Star Western #22 (Gavin’s pick)
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Moritat

Aquaman #22
Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier

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This Character in Panels (3 of 3)

July 26th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

All right. Yesterday we stopped right at Nick Fury. Also, that Kieron Gillen guy showed up in the comments and that’s rad as all get out! Let’s continue to the end.

Chosen by: Mr Wind Up Bird
Empowered #4
Adam Warren

Chosen by: SilverSupernova
Nova #2
Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Sean Chen

Chosen by: Brobe
New Gods #9
Jack Kirby

Chosen by: Gavin
Secret Warriors #8
Jonathan Hickman and Alessandro Vitti

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This Character in Panels (2 of 3)

July 25th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday, we made it to G. Let’s continue from there and hit N.

Chosen by: Darth Nat
Glory #27
Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell

Gorilla Man
Chosen by: Gavin
Agents of Atlas #1
Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk

Green Goblin
Chosen by: prezbuluskey
Thunderbolts #120
Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr.

Chosen by: Space Jawa
Guardians of the Galaxy #8
Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Brad Walker

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This Character in Panels (1 of 3)

July 24th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

The other day, my regular series This Week in Panels hit the glorious Week 200. In preparation, I asked for assistance in putting together this special article This Character in Panels. Well, you guys didn’t disappoint. I got a shitload of entries from all around. It was overwhelming in the sense that a job I thought would take just a couple hours instead took me until today. Also, because of the many images involved, I’ve decided to split this into three parts, posting one a day.

The basic idea is to showcase one panel of a character’s history that best sums them up. It might be serious. It might be funny. It might not even have them in the panel at all! I got a lot of stuff from readers and people at the Something Awful forum and even had to ignore a bunch of entries because either they gave me splash pages (which I never use for these) or the complete lack of issue information.

Hell, I wanted to use that infamous, “PUNISHMENT DAY!” panel of Punisher 2099, but I have no idea which issue it’s from, so I passed. Regardless, thanks to everyone who helped out.

Oh, and I’m not listing the volume information for any of these. I have enough headaches as is.

Let’s start it off from A to G.

Alana and Marko
Chosen by: Gavin
Saga #10
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Animal Man
Chosen by: LtKenFrankenstein
Animal Man #26
Grant Morrison and Chaz Truog

Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady)
Chosen by: Gavin
Thunderbolts #131
Andy Diggle and Roberto Delatorre

Chosen by: Gavin
Aquaman #1
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

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This Week in Panels: WEEK 200!

July 22nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yikes! I never thought this would ever last this long. Started as an exercise in keeping me on some kind of deadline, This Week in Panels has been going strong for the last two hundo weeks. The idea is simple. Take the new comics me and my calvary have read over the week and chop them down until there’s one panel that best sums up the issue. It’s fun and people seem to like it, which is why it’s lasted so long.

My crew this time includes Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa, Matlock and Jody. Buddy Dickeye tried to toss me a panel for Avengers, but it kind of doesn’t work.

Yeah, Space Knights (sans Rom, the only one anyone cares about). Those are cool and all, but they have barely anything to do with anything. They’re in there for one panel and are never referenced. Still, I posted it here anyway because I didn’t want my first panel for ThWiP 200 to be whatever the hell that nightmare is in Animal Man.

No, seriously. What the fuck is this thing?!

Animal Man #22
Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh and Francis Portela

Avengers #16
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and Stefano Caselli

Batman ’66 #3 (Gavin’s pick)
Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case

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Those are Some Achewood Mashups I Have

July 19th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Despite petering off due to a bevy of different reasons (including the possibility of an animated series), Achewood has been a major staple in the internet for well over a decade. The webcomic about some cats, an otter, a couple bears, a tiger, a squirrel and some robots has entertained many with its weird adventures and memorable dialogue. Every now and then, I’ve found myself editing certain comic books to fit the scene and essentially recreate key Achewood strips.

So here comes a special batch of Achewood/other comics mashups.

Transmetropolitan vs. Can I has Cheezburger

Infinite Crisis vs. Fluff My Hog

Killing Joke vs. Chicken Allergy/Bubble Boy
(by Maniac Clown)

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Time Goes By…

July 19th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I’m at San Diego right now, chilling in a hotel room. It’s busy, it’s nice, I’m digging seeing the show from this direction. But I need to write, and so I’m writing this:

I love weed songs, from Bone thugs~n~harmony’s “Buddah Lovaz” to Kid Cudi’s “Marijuana.” I’ve had OutKast’s “Crumblin Erb” stuck in my head for a couple weeks now, particularly Sleepy Brown’s work on the chorus, which is one of my favorite of his performances:

There’s only so much time left in this crazy world
I’m just crumblin’ erb
I’m just crumblin’ erb
Niggas killing niggas they don’t understand
What’s the master plan?
I’m just crumblin’ erb
I’m just crumblin’ erb

I’ve been thinking about this song, mostly by mulling over the lyrics as best I can remember. Andre’s “splish/splash/of blood” bars stick out, Big Boi’s first four bars or so are stupendous, “sprinkle sprinkle motherfucker, don’t be crying on me” is one of those things I’d love to say in real life, but what I only just realized now–and please believe by “now” I mean 8:00 on Friday morning, July 19–is that this isn’t a song about the joy of getting high. It’s a weed song, but it’s not a weed song.

I love Meth & Red’s “How High.” It’s an OG weed song as far as I’m concerned, and it’s basically just a regular rap song with tight lyrics that talk about weed. “Crumblin Erb,” like a fistful of other references to weed in rap, isn’t about how being high feels good in and of itself so much as how being high feels good because it pushes back against the pain. It’s melancholy, not exuberant. It’s a coping mechanism.

I feel like I knew this before now, because I’ve honestly listened to pretty much every OutKast song a hundred and fifty-eleven times, the joints on Idlewild included, and they’re one of my favorite groups, so they occupy a lot of space in my head. But I didn’t know it in relation to, say, Tupac’s “Krazy,” which has this for a chorus:

Time goes by, puffin on lye
Hopin that it gets me high
Got a nigga goin cra-zy
Oh yeah, I feel cra-zy

Before segueing directly into these four bars:

Last year was a hard one, but life goes on
Hold my head against the wall, learning right from wrong
They say my ghetto intrumental detrimental to kids
As if they can’t see the misery in which they live

Or this verse from Deck on “CREAM”:

Though I don’t know why I chose to smoke sess
I guess that’s the time when I’m not depressed
But I’m still depressed and I ask what’s it worth?
Ready to give up so I seek the Old Earth
Who explained working hard may help you maintain
to learn to overcome the heartaches and pain
We got stickup kids, corrupt cops, and crack rocks
and stray shots, all on the block that stays hot

Or even Layzie and Krayzie Bone’s couplet toward the end of “Buddah Lovaz”: “It’s a Bone thang how a nigga like me smoke and maintain/ Maintain, maintain.”

“I’m maintaining” is a phrase I love and have used myself, the rap version of “I’m fine.” I can only hear it in El-P’s pitched-down voice from “Tasmanian Pain Coaster” now, part of the first verse on the song. I bit & edited these lyrics from OHHLA but they seem pretty right:

Bumped into this kid I knew, he often would walk strange
So I ignored the blood on his laces so this cat could save face
The dunks and the gaze stayed in an off-grey haze
And the lump in his pocket talked to the ox that he clutched safe
So I saluted him there, waiting for the A
Trapped on the empty platform without the option to escape
Gave him the standard: “Yo, what up man, how you landing?”
And the hypnotized response was no surprise: “I’m maintaining.”
“Yeah, we all do, that’s the standardized refrain
“But on some really real man, good to see you, really, what the dealy deal?”
Oops, fuck, screwed the pooch, asked too much, knew the truth
On the train now, a caboose
In his brain now, no recluse
80 blocks to uptown spot, destination vocal booth
MetroCard like: “You get what you pay for, stupid!”
No excuse
He pulled his hoody off his cabbage, rugged practical
And began to fancy the words I mistakenly jostled loose
The stogie he brazenly lit where he sit looked legit
But when the flame touched to the tip I could smell it’s of another nit
He leaned his head back and inhaled the newpie dip and said:
“The whole design got my mind cryin’, if I’m lying I’m dying.”

Even Kid Cudi’s “Marijuana” leans melancholy. “I-I, I be on it all day like my nigga Big Boi said/ That’s the only thing that keep me level up in my crazy head.”

Lauryn Hill is the queen of this, though. Remember “Ready or Not”? How ill of a way is this to open a verse: “Yo, I play my enemies like a game of chess/ Where I rest no stress if you don’t smoke sess.” I love it so much. Rap music!

I don’t have a point or big revelation here for you at all. I already knew that weed is an amazing coping mechanism, and I knew that rappers sang about that aspect of it regularly. But I was struck by how “Crumblin’ Erb” took root in my head recently and that I never made the obvious connection that the song made between weed and melancholy, between weed and what we like to call The Black Condition.

This is what people mean when they say rap is real or the CNN of the streets. This is rap reflecting life reflecting rap reflecting life.

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