Marian Churchland is Beasting

September 4th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Marian Churchland is the real deal.

I hadn’t heard of her until Sean Witzke started talking her up and I began following Brandon Graham’s livejournal. I haven’t read anything else by Churchland, though she’s done some Conan and Elephantmen work this year.

beast_ogn_coverHer original graphic novel “Beast,” which hits comic shops on September 23rd, is an amazing introduction to the woman and her work. It’s the tale of Colette, a young sculptor, who ends up being hired to sculpt a piece of flawless white marble for a client. In return, she’ll get enough money to pay her rent for a year, if not more. The issue is that she has to live in the house with the block until she’s done, and her client is something other than human.

As with any good story, that is just where it begins. Beast veers off into something else entirely very quickly. Within the first dozen pages is a very good horror turn, one of the best in recent memory. A slasher doesn’t jump out of the bushes while Colette runs away in her underwear, or anything even remotely as obvious, but the book takes a hard left where I was expecting something else.

It instantly made me re-assess what I thought the book was about. I wondered if the book was about the Apocalypse, and that the titular Beast was the Beast of Revelation. If she finished the sculpture, was the end of the world going to begin? Was she going to fight back somehow?

The idea floated around in my brain while Churchland slowly revealed the secrets of the marble and Beast and eventually debunked what was, in hindsight, a cockamamie theory. That vague sense of ambiguity about the story enhances the work, though, turning it into a tale that’s occasionally melancholy, always compelling, and, as a first work, simply amazing. It isn’t a horror comic, it isn’t a romance comic, it isn’t a weepy depresso comic. It’s just the kind of comic you should read. You don’t get to prejudge it and put it in a little box.

Churchland wrote and drew the story, and her art is full of those useless details that count for so much. The tag sticking up from Colette’s boxer shorts, the way her vest rides up a little, and her messy hair bun– all a lot of nothing, but very important in terms of building atmosphere and character. The art has a bit of Geof Darrow about it. Couches aren’t just the platonic ideal of a couch. They’re ripped, rumpled, and torn. Clothes shift and bunch, and faces turn from sleepily tired to worried and don’t need words to express it.

When the art goes from the soft tan tone and clean line work to the gritty and messy pencilwork that is the first appearance of Beast, you feel uncomfortable. When Colette wakes up, the world is different and she’s a little off. The art, too, is different- a different shade of color. That shade soon gives way to grey, as Colette finally meets Beast, and when she shivers and bursts into tears while an uncaring woman stands behind her, well– it works. It works really, really, really well.


The details are what stuck with me the most, I think. The dried smudge of leftover tears on Colette’s face, the way Beast is defined (but not really), the disarray of the house, and the way the marble looks. All of it looks great. The colors change fairly often, but it always works within the story. It happens when a new day appears, or Colette’s perspective changes, or Beast reveals something new.

Beast is a mature and wonderfully paced work. It’s melancholy, wistful, maybe a little magical (for lack of a better term), and the character interaction is what makes it work. It can be a little rough around the edges, but never in a way that’s distracting. In fact, I never felt like the story was dragging, and I breezed through all 140-ish pages in one sitting. There are a few things I don’t quite buy, but that’s pretty much water under the bridge. I’m genuinely impressed, and I can’t wait to see what she’s doing next. If she can hit us with one of these a year, I’d be happy. Really, I think I’d be happy to read whatever she wants to work on.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Ultimatum Edit Week 5: Day One

August 2nd, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Here we are in the latter half of 2009. Finally, the five issue series they were hyping in 2007 — when they first started soliciting Ultimate Power #8 — is coming to a close. Through Ultimatum, we see the Ultimate line giving birth to the Ultimate Comics line, only it’s the kind of childbirth that horrifically kills the mother and gives us a baby caked in blood.

But where were we? Magneto attacked the entire world and now the surviving heroes are out to stop him. With one arm left, he stands defiantly before those who would slay him.

Thanks to ManiacClown for coming up with whatever it is Wolverine is ranting about. We’ll be back tomorrow to see Magneto’s rebuttal.

Day Two!
Day Three!
Day Four!
Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Fun with Street Fighter 4 Mods

July 27th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Recently, Street Fighter 4 came out for the PC. Because of that, people have been able to hack into the game and change the character appearances. For some it means giving Akuma a pink gi and Dan’s moveset. For some it means nuding up the female cast. For one awesome guy, it means making Zangief into Mr. T. But for now, check these out.

I also saw Sagat as John Stewart GL (when we all know Sagat would be a Red Lantern) and Cammy as Psylocke, Arachne and Harley Quinn.

On a similar note, hopefully sometime tonight I should have a new article up that’s also about comics and videogames. No, not Street Fighter or any of its ilk. Rather, it’s something more mainstream and yet far more out of left field.

Plus Ultimatum #5 comes out this week. We all know what that leads to.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


The Top 70 Deadpool Moments Day 5: Enjoy Some Madness for a While

April 30th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Welp. Thirty more to go. Let’s do this!

30) Submissive Blind Al
Deadpool #15-17 (1998)
Writer: Joe Kelly

Deadpool’s relationship with Blind Al is completely weird, but it goes from being wacky on the outside to disturbing on the inside. Despite being Deadpool’s prisoner and a victim of plenty of abuse, we see the Wade/Al dynamic as little more than slapstick. It’s shown to be so cartoony that we aren’t even supposed to care that Deadpool – for whatever impaired reason – has an old woman held in his house against her will.

The seriousness doesn’t truly show itself until Deadpool’s breakdown, which as some of you can figure, is going to be popping up later on the list. The short of it is that Deadpool did some horrible stuff to Blind Al and we got a better scope of the dark history of their relationship. After a couple issues, Deadpool gets over what he’s done and tries to sweep it under the rug, much like he handles many of his mistakes, but Blind Al won’t let him.

Deadpool comes home from his latest meeting with LL&L, high off of his good guy potential, only to find that Al has cooked and cleaned. She closes the door to her room, saying nothing more than, “Good night… master.” Deadpool remembers how much of a tool he’s been.

He tries what he can to get a rise out of her and maybe get her to joke around like they used to, but all she does is act completely submissive to everything he says. She acts like his servant and refers to him as the master and herself as the prisoner. He knows he has to apologize, but like the Fonz, he just can’t bring himself to saying he was wrong.

Jayce Russel also loved this whole bit.

The entire situation with Blind Al is just full of awesome bits, but issue #17, the scene that starts with, “Will you shut up and talk back to me already?!,” and the two pages that follow of Blind Al beginning her elaborate plan to attack Deadpool with kindness kills my ass. The neatly hung Deadpool outfits, the alphabetized ammunition, the grating way she drops “master” in constantly, they’re all the slap in the face that Pool spent the whole series working his way towards. I honestly might prefer Al to DP, and this is one of those moments that explain it. The way an old blind lady gets under the skin of one of the world’s best mercenaries is well-written, amusing and, maybe most of all, kinda tugs at the heart. She obviously thinks somewhat fondly of Deadpool, or she’d not bother with trying to save him, and watching him stubbornly trudge past all hope for redemption until almost the bitter end? Now that’s a motherfucker.

When Deadpool receives Montgomery’s predictions on the future, he’s seemingly inspired to do the right thing. Al hears Deadpool hammering on a wall and finds that he’s been boarding up the Box – the room he’d use to torture Al – and that he genuinely is sorry for what he’s put her through lately. She snaps out of her ruse and embraces him, saying that this is a good start towards forgiveness. Deadpool tries to grant her freedom from this life he’s forced her into, but he’s cut off when Ajax teleports him away.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


The Top 70 Deadpool Moments Day 1: Stranded in the Combat Zone

April 26th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

(I should probably first mention RIP Bea Arthur because… well, you know. It’s on-topic)

Wade Wilson. Deadpool. The Merc with a Mouth. The Deathstroke the Terminator knockoff. Cable’s reluctant sidekick. The would-be mutant. The febrile-minded man who has to deal with outrageous moral quandaries. The man who shot Liberty Valance. The… you get the point. These days are pretty lucrative for the yellow-bubbled anti-hero of Marvel. The character, who as of this writing has been around for 19 years, has gone through many twist and turns in his fictional existence. Enough that I can write up 70 of his best moments. Why 70? Because it’s a week-long series and ten per day is a round enough number on its own.

First appearing in New Mutants #98, created by the team of Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, Deadpool would follow the cast as the series became X-Force. There, his character, though with attempts at humor, was mostly pretty bland. His appearances usually involved him talking about how great the mysterious Mr. Tolliver was paying him followed by Wade beating the crap out of his girlfriend Copycat. So yeah, not very fun.

Then he got his own miniseries. It wasn’t all that great, though the ending showed that he wasn’t a total piece of shit. Then he got another miniseries and it was better. Then he finally got his own on-going series, which had a great run by Joe Kelly. Once he left, it went for about two and a half years of different writers that made the whole thing seem like a big step down. Luckily, prior to being cancelled at #69, Deadpool’s final issues were a huge breath of fresh air and put some life back into the character… except for the fact that they killed him off.

But then his Japanese Ben Reilly self got an on-going series, which ruled until the original creative team was kicked off. Then it eventually turned lousy and got itself cancelled. Thankfully, Marvel brought the original team back for three issues to both explain the mystery of the main character’s identity and bring Deadpool back from the dead. Hurray!

From there, Deadpool shared a comic with his blood enemy Cable. In a series that played the two off of each other brilliantly, it went on for a respectable run. Unfortunately, Cable joined the X-Men at one point and the series, though still very readable, had jumped the shark. Even worse, Cable “died”, thus making it all about just Deadpool again and robbing the magic of what made the series fun. But hey, 50 issues isn’t bad.

After a memorable stint in Wolverine Origins, Deadpool has returned to form in yet another solo series. Plus a recent one-shot. And a new miniseries. And a role in Messiah War. And a spot in the animated movie Hulk vs. Wolverine. And a Thunderbolts crossover. And a SECOND on-going series coming up in a few months.

Oh, and Ryan Reynolds is playing Wade Wilson in a movie that’s coming out, but apparently has little to do with what made people like the character in the first place. Like Movie Deadpool’s lack of mouth for one.

Now, then. Let’s get this countdown underway.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Ultimatum Edit Week 3: Day Four

March 24th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

As we last left our Ultimate heroes, Yellowjacket bit off the Blob’s head out of revenge and Wolverine found Nightcrawler lying amongst the poo-gas. Now we continue with the X-Men and see what Thor and Captain America are up to.

Those X-Men sure don’t give a shit about the millions of other people who died. Muties are so elitist. Yeah, I said it.

Thanks to ManiacClown for the usual assistance. I really only mention his name and bold it out out of habit these days. Maniac Clown, dudes.

Tomorrow we’ll get more Thor fun as well as Multiple Man.

Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Ultimatum Edit Week 1: Day Two

November 8th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday was literally the calm before the storm, as we got to briefly check in with the Fantastic Four, the Ultimates, as well as Spider-Man and his amazing friends. You know, that’s pretty rare for a Loeb comic. We got FIVE single pages without the sudden, blatant two-page spread. It’s a start.

Now let’s push forward.

Huh. I didn’t intend this, but if you look at those thumbnails, it looks like Thor has suddenly transformed into a big, bald guy.

Thanks to ManiacClown. The second page was more or less his baby. Now it’s stuck in my head.

Tomorrow it’s time for the tragedy to begin. I mean tragedy in terms of the story. I mean… You know what I mean!

Day Three!
Day Four!
Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Late for the Party: Endangered Species and HoM Avengers

September 4th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to buy more than I can read. I have mountains of books lying around for forever that I just can’t find the time to finish off. Who knows when I’ll be able to crack open Essential Frankenstein’s Monster? Finally, I was able to make some time for myself to get to reading.

First I read X-Men: Endangered Species. I had that one lying around for a while and I really needed to read through it just so I could segue myself into Messiah Complex. Complex was pretty rad, no doubt. Endangered Species was different, though.

hermanos told me how he and just about everyone else considered it to be a dull flop of a story. I disagree. Everyone has been looking at it the wrong way. I figured it out, see. Endangered Species isn’t truly about Beast and Dark Beast trying to rekindle the mutant population through every possible means until giving up. No, not at all.

Endangered Species is a comic book retelling of Super Mario Brothers. God, it’s so obvious.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Review: Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?

June 11th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

Over the past few years, with all the various comic mega-events shoved down our gullets, the idea of the tie-in comic has been make-or-break to the main series. House of M seemed to do it the best, where all the tie-ins were completely unnecessary to the main series, but were mostly well-written and made for a good expansion to what was going on. Annihilation dodged the bullet by having seemingly no real tie-ins at all. Infinite Crisis became a huge mess where you had to know a lot about what was going on in the smaller books to truly get the story. Civil War, as far as I’m concerned, is the worst offender. The main series was competently-written, if a little convoluted, and Millar wrote very fair versions of Captain America and Iron Man. Then you look at all the tie-ins where Captain America is the perfect god of morality and Iron Man is the king of all assholes. The only truly good tie-ins were the two Captain America/Iron Man one-shots.

With Secret Invasion, the issues of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, whether good or bad, are in a class of their own. After all, Secret Invasion is Bendis’ big cumulative storyline tying together a lot of loose ends from those series. They’re more like extended scenes and extra issues to the miniseries than anything else. Discarding those, I honestly haven’t read too many of the Invasion tie-ins. Yes, Captain Marvel was completely amazing and Hercules is a blast regardless of what story it’s linked to, but I’m not a regular reader of Ms. Marvel and I haven’t picked up Captain Britain yet, so I can’t comment on them.

That brings us to Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? This one-shot, based on five different stories, gives us more details on certain characters and their roles in the series. The five writers, Brian Reed, Mike Carey, Christos N. Gage, Zeb Wells and Jeff Parker keep things extremely competent and diverse in topic, while staying true to the series.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Guerilla Grodd, Three Years Later

March 17th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Check it, it’s like…
My man Jus used to keep an ox between his teeth
Said he could spit it with pinpoint accuracy if there was beef
We chuckled out loud… Still the thought of it intrigued me, (right)
So now I keep a jackal under my tongue to spit with related reasoning

–Aesop Rock, “Nickel Plated Pockets”

(an ox is a razor)

If he talkin’, he a target
–Royce da 5’9″, “Politics”

I missed my third year comics blogging anniversary by a just under couple months, looks like. I’ve been preoccupied, I figure.

Anyway– three years of blogging. Wow. I think I took a break of a few weeks at some point in 05, where I relaunched 4l after being a little less than enthused with both online and offline things, but it’s been more or less weekly ever since. Hopefully more than weekly. Maybe thrice weekly. Maybe a bit more, I don’t know.

I was mulling this over and thinking about what I’ve learned and seen. Interacting with people via blogs, message boards, and emails has been interesting. What have I learned? Let me boil it down to 13 things.

1: Don’t expect e-fame. Three years on and I’d consider myself small time. A few people who run popular blogs know my name, and that ended up in me running another comics site (and what a ride that is!). We’ve got a grip of readers, but 4l was never about hits anyway. It was about me listening to the sound of my own voice while I talk about comics with other people who may or may not agree with me. It was about learning, listening, and laughing.

If you’re blogging to get famous, you’re probably not doing it right. Do it because you like it.

2: Timeliness helps. If you want readers, you have to attract them. Part of that is being timely, whether that means meeting a daily deadline or talking about current comics events. Doing 29 days in a row for Black History Month was a beast, but I felt good when I finished and I felt like I’d learned something. Even better, I felt like maybe somebody else had their thoughts provoked a little bit.

4l has been not quite daily in varying degrees of “not quite” since forever. We’ve added a considerable amount to our visitors ever since we started doing “almost daily” rather than “not quite daily.” Timeliness helps.

3: Timeliness doesn’t matter at all. Honestly, if your content is good, people are gonna tune in. One of my favorite blogs is Not Blog X, a review blog for X-Men comics that were coming out in the 1990s. Each post is a trip down memory lane for me, but the most recent comic reviewed on the blog is basically 14 years old. Fourteen years old. Regardless– it’s awesome. Each post reminds me of something from when I was a kid, and G. Kendall is a pretty dope writer. He’s got a format, a good hook, and a site that I immediately added to my RSS feeds.

4: Blogger is terrible. Seriously, I switched to using WordPress and bought my own domain a few years back. It’s been pretty much smooth sailing ever since. My site only breaks when I break it, rather than when Blogger goes down and freaks out. I have total control, and that is a wonderful thing. 100 bucks a year isn’t a lot at all. RSS feeds, RSS comment feeds (I can’t describe how much I love those), plugins, all of that. It’s golden. Livejournal and blogger are dinosaurs. Make your own site.

5: Don’t name your site after yourself if it’s a group blog. For some reason, the exclamation point in my site’s name always ends up left out and a space gets added in between 4th and letter. However, 4thletter! means one thing– D. As in David. As in me.


It’s catchy, though, and 4l/fourel is kind of a cool abbreviation.

Sorry Gavok and Hoatz! It’s all about me-me-me-me-me. We’ll have another 7thletter! and an inaugural 8thletter! day sometime in 2009 when I finally stop talking about black people in comics.

6: Don’t be afraid to use your real name. When I asked Gavok if he wanted to do some work at PCS for me, I also asked him if he wanted to be credited as Gavok or Gavin. He said Gavin, ’cause PCS was a different kind of site than 4l. Here, a nickname is gravy. It’s a fansite, it’s a place to make stupid posts about Jubilee or What Ifs.

I can see where he’s coming from, but I took it a step further. There’s only one place online where I still use a pseudonym, and that’s more due to laziness than anything. Plus, “hermanos” is a really, really crappy secret identity.

Using my real name is just taking away that (thin) veil of anonymity that the internet gives us. It’s saying, “Yeah, you can’t see me, but I’m here and my words matter.” No one can use that “Oh, you’re hiding behind a fake name” excuse when you call them out.

7: If you’re talking, you’re a target. This is step one is basic discourse: don’t open your mouth if you aren’t ready to back up what you say. This is the internet– someone is gonna argue with you on whether or not the sky is blue today. What makes you think they won’t call you out when you’re wrong?

I think about every blog post I write. I’ve had posts checked out by other people when I’m really worried. This is because I’m not the type of person to pop off at the mouth with something half-cocked. You have to think if you’re going to blog, and you have to be prepared to be disagreed with. Expecting everyone to fall in line behind you like you’re Pollyanna is dumb.

I once wrote a love letter to Joe Quesada. Joe Q is a guy that half of the fans out there want dunked in acid for “ruining Spider-Man forever.” I did it and got away with it because I backed up what I said. I thought it through and argued my points. Looking back, I could’ve done better, but that’s any post I’ve ever made. Some may not agree, but they can’t say I didn’t try and didn’t make sense.

8: Controversy sells. The flipside of the above is that the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. The loudest blogger gets the hits. Going off half-cocked and shouting at people is going to get you attention. Being a jerkbag is going to you even more attention, as people who should know better will come to try and set you straight or debunk your points. Don’t be afraid to troll a little bit. Call that blogger worthless. Call that creator as a pedophile. Put out that hit piece on a popular comic and how overrated it is and all its fans are racist ageist sexist misogynist misandrist flat-footed pot-bellied balding imbeciles who probably eat babies for lunch and senior citizens for dinner.

However, all of this will make you look like a jerk to everyone ever. At least, I hope so. Anyway, don’t do this one. Controversy doesn’t sell, it just makes you look dumb.

9: Everything has a funny side. Learn to laugh at yourself. Taking yourself too seriously is for, I dunno, action figure bloggers (do those exist?), not comics bloggers. We’re talking about funnybooks here, and while there are Issues to be solved, you cannot take this too seriously. It’ll kill you.

Seriously. Your blood pressure’ll get up and then you’re screwed. Semi-famous comics blogger dead at 27 of a fatal heart explosion due to reading the internet, news at 11.

Don’t be jealous, either. Sure, there’s an idiot of a blogger with crap opinions who has higher hits than you, but screw that. Do your thing. They’ll self-destruct eventually, right? If they don’t, uh, pretend like I never said that.

10: Comments count. I’ve had some of my best conversations in comments. That’s part of why I love WordPress’s Comment Feeds feature. It’s brilliant.

There are three kinds of blogs out there. Ones with comments, ones without comments, and ones with moderated comments.

Ones with comments are wonderful. You get to dig in, debate, question, answer, troll, reply, and figure things out with others. If things get out of line, the blog owner can step in and shut things down. In my mind, this is the perfect blog. It’s like a mini message board or classroom. It also turns the blog into a two-way street– if you’re going to make a stupid post, someone out there is gonna call you an idiot for it.

Ones without comments are less wonderful, but still good. Nine times out of ten in this case, you can toss an email at the blogger and get into private conversations with them. In a way, this is a better thing for the blogger, ’cause you’ve got to the space to make your point clear and you don’t have to worry about commenters getting things twisted up. It’s all about you. No distractions.

Ones with moderated comments are worthless, nine times out of ten. I feel like moderated (as in approval first) comments just lead to commenters toadying up to the blog owner, neutering your point so you don’t offend, and a culture of yes-men playing greek chorus in each post. It’s lame. The temptation is too strong to just leave out the negative posts. After all, who wants to be told that they’re wrong? Who wants to be questioned?

I want to be called out when I’m wrong or lazy or intellectually dishonest with my points. I’m in this to learn, not to have my feet rubbed. Yes, Virginia, that’s why this blog has comments– so that I can be called an idiot when I need to be.

11: Any idiot can be a blogger. And sometimes, that idiot is you. Or me. Or a friend. Make an effort to not be that idiot.

12: Make some friends. I hesitate to call them allies, mostly because that sounds corny and terrible, but go out and find semi-like-minded people and chat. Discuss things over email. Keep in contact. I’m hitting New York Comic-con again this year and I’m easily supposed to meet over a dozen people who I only know via the internet. All of these are online friends that I’ve been talking to.

This includes the iFanboy (though I met them at Wondercon), Funnybook Babylon, and PCS gangs. Not to drop names or anything.

I wonder if I can convince Pedro that the FBB/4l! alliance should be called F-Unit. Funnybook Babylon, Four(4)thletter!…

Anyway, knowing people is great. It’s a huge plus to blogging, and gives you even more people to talk shop with. If someone writes a post you like, drop them an email. It’s more personal than a comment, but less personal than visiting their house. Give it some thought. All of my e-buddies are e-cool.

Also, you can use your friends to bounce ideas off of, or check to see if you’re out of line.

13: It’s just comics. If blogging isn’t fun, you aren’t doing it right.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon