The Cipher 12/29/10

December 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls
created: Not a whole lot, but I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got.

-We’re in the home stretch of Digital December. Two more pieces this week and done. To catch up, peep my interview with Fantagraphics about their run up to digital publishing. You can also check out seven things you want to see in digital comics, where I pull reax from Twitter and talk about them. Finally, I look at spin and call it out in terms of ownership and digital books. Non-digital–here are ten Marvel books to read in 03/11.

and I’m too tired to care about it. can’t you see this in my face, my face
consumed: Still on comics hiatus while I’m on vacation, which is somehow simultaneously grind time (bang bang bang). I got through a few things, though.

-I’ve been burning through Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump. I knocked out the first four volumes over the course of four days. Good bedtime reading, and so densely packed with jokes that each page is great. There’s a chapter early with a joke that revolves around Arale being a robot without a vagina, and Senbei is like “I didn’t put one on because I haven’t seen one before! All the magazines are censored!” Weird reading a comic for kids that’s like, “Dirty magazines? Yeah, our main dude reads them constantly and is a huge pervert. Also this chapter is about vaginas.”

-Sort of makes, “Hey kids! Comics!” look stupid in hindsight, don’t it? I vote we all stop saying that.

-I read Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy’s Shang-Chi: The Hellfire Apocalypse. I’m trying to wrap my head around Gulacy still. His art style doesn’t quite appeal to me, but I like the way he does fight scenes. He can dip into the T&A well a little too much, but his camera angles and staging are good. More on this guy later, I’m sure, as I figure out who he is and how he came to be.

-This is what happens when we allow moe to run wild:

-Speaking of moe:

-I’ve been listening to a lot of The Beatles this past weekend. Just on a whim, really. I’m not very familiar with their catalog, so I asked around to see where I should start. That ended up meaning listening to Revolver about ten times from what, Thursday to Monday? Then I switched to Rubber Soul. I like a lot of it. Deeper thoughts as I continue my trip through their library. A post of its own.

-“Eleanor Rigby” is fantastic, though. I had no idea that that’s where Bobby Ray got the chorus from “Lonely People” from, but that’s another song I dug. I bet this pissed off however many Beatles fans listen to southern rap when it came out, huh? Video’s mildly nsfw, I guess, though everything is blurred out.

-Marty over at TFO didn’t like it much, I don’t think, and apparently I did know that it was a flip of “Eleanor Rigby,” because I’m in the comments down there. I just didn’t know that it was “Eleanor Rigby” from The Beatles, is all, I guess.

-More Marty: His review of Das Racist’s Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man is great. I liked Shut Up way more than Sit Down, but this is the kind of review that makes me want to go back and bump them back to back to back to back. He pulls out what works about the music, provides context for the albums, works in the sociopolitical context, too… this guy is good. Das Racist is good, too.

-The Deborah Solomon interview he mentions is here. She’s completely out of her depth. This is the best bit, though:

Like most musicians, you dislike the process of categorizing your work. That said, how would you categorize your work?
Suri: It’s a realist painting of a collage. Vazquez: I would say we are proto-postworld pop.

Ha. Is that capitalized?
Vazquez: It’s all capitalized! Suri: All caps everything!

-“ALL CAPS EVERYTHING.” I think Jay-Z once said, “I might type in all caps for a year straight, I might bring back Cazal shades.” Look it up.

Here’s Witzke on the Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach:

Gorillaz is a 21st century project as it is larger than just songs on wax, and how much work/knowledge the audience brings to their time with it. If you are a Jamie Hewllet fan, who’s been reading all his comics for years, Gorillaz is a completely different experience if you’ve never heard of the him before this. There is a matrix of “if, then” questions that determine what you can and will take away from Gorillaz as a project, most of them are deliberate on Albarn and Hewlett’s part, some of them aren’t (consider – this is the first Gorillaz project without any overt George Romero zombie or Exorcist references – did you know that? Do you care? Do I?).

Basically, you should be reading that.

-Listen to these while you do so. “Rhinestone Eyes” (dig those Jamie Hewlett storyboards) and “Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach” with tha Doggfather. (“Helicopters fly over the beach/ Same time everyday, same routine/ Clear target in the summer when skies are blue.”

I love his letters (BOOM!) and how he draws De La and the other guests of Plastic Beach.

-Some idle thoughts on Plastic Beach: Murdoc is the villain of the Gorillaz. That much is true. Noodle and Russ are pretty self-sufficient. Russ has his mental issues, but he knows better than to trust Murdoc farther than he can throw him. Noodle, though, is 100% in control, with Demon Days being her Jean Grey in New X-Men moment. 2D, however, just kinda follows along. He’s been stuck with Murdoc for years, and at this point, Murdoc’s kidnapped him and taken him to Plastic Beach. That makes 2D the damsel in distress, doesn’t it?

-2D and the clown mask–is it a coping mechanism? Intentional dissociation? Transference? There’s an interview someplace where he talks about wearing the clown mask in the “Stylo” video and how it got shot up. Did I imagine that? Maybe it was on the iTunes Sessions EP. He’s terrified of Cyborg Noodle, though. Does that make his participation in “Doncamatic” a cry for help? “Talk to me talk to me talk to me” while wearing an outfit that Murdoc clearly picked out for him.

-Jack Sullivan agrees with me. “If you invert the island it’s like he’s trapped in a tower, and the whale is like a dragon, so pretty much yeah.”

-What’s “Doncamatic” mean? Nonsense word?

-What’s it mean that Murdoc made such an extremely pop-sounding album that’s actually kind of sad and foreboding once you get past the sound?

-Here’s Gorillaz covering The xx’s “Crystalised.” You can see Daley in this one. Also “Doncamatic” and “On Melancholy Hill”. “Empire Ants” on Letterman.

-I should stop. There’s a ton of official live Gorillaz on Youtube, and turning youtubes to mp3s is easy and I should stop now before it’s 3am.

-The time between me writing that “I should stop” bit and actually stopping watching youtube: enough time to save like eight or nine fresh new live Gorillaz tracks, including the entire Letterman sessions.

-I have a problem.

i got my head checked by a jumbo jet. it wasn’t easy, but nothing is, no
David: New Mutants 20
Esther: Action Comics 896, Tiny Titans 35 Possible: The Dark Knight 1, Detective Comics 872
Gavin: Green Lantern 61, Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine 4, Avengers 8, Captain America 613, Carnage 2, Daken: Dark Wolverine 4, Deadpool Team-Up 886, Hulk 28, Secret Warriors 23, Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 5, (maybe) Ultimate Comics Thor 3, What If 200

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The Cipher 12/01/10

December 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

if you smoke a dime, then i’ll smoke a dime
-I bought Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here last week and finally got around to listening to it (that’s what happens when you go on vacation, you don’t do things). It’s nuts, totally worth whatever it was I paid for it.

-Scott-Heron is gravel-voiced, astute, and clever. The production is tight, a lot more modern hip-hop than I expected, but with an eager nod toward the black blues/soul tradition. It sounds like what I want this kind of music to sound like.

-He hooked me from the first song, honestly. “On Coming From A Broken Home Part 1” opens with a few bars that are like a shot directly to my dome:

I want to make this a special tribute
to a family that contradicts the concepts
heard the rules but wouldn’t accept
and women-folk raised me
and I was full grown before I knew
I came from a broken home

-Even better: it’s over Kanye’s “Flashing Lights.”

-I listened to it twice in a row, took a break to wrap up this music countdown thing I’m working on with my TFO family, and now I’m on listen three.

-I finally broke the spell Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had over me. Listening to it twice a day, minimum, had to stop. I put on OutKast’s ATLiens and Aquemini, two of my most favorite albums ever, back to back. I ended up running through Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Big Boi’s solo record, too. Feels like I just replaced one addiction with another.

-The new Gorillaz single, Doncamatic featuring Daley, dropped last week.

-I hadn’t heard of Daley before this song, but he seems pretty dope. I thought he was a she before I saw the video, to be honest. Apparently he’s an amateur gone pro, and that’s kind of cool.

-I like the song, but I don’t like every part of the song. The horns (though they’re probably from a keyboard, come to think of it) that sit on top of the drumbeat don’t quite work for me. It puts me in mind of circus music, or the guys with the accordion and a dancing monkey.

-The rest of the song, particularly the vocals (the “Talk to me talk to me talk to me” on the hook is pretty great). It’s laid back, and it fits well with the tone of Plastic Beach, or rather, a return to Plastic Beach.

-Doing a zillion things at once right now, and I’m New Here has switched over to Ski Beatz’s 24 Hour Karate School. I picked it up the other day, and the first track is pretty straight.

-Curren$y on the first track is reminding me that I need to pick up Pilot Talk II. I thought Pilot Talk was just aight. Spitta stayed in his comfort zone, which is fine, but a little boring on an LP. I like him enough that I’ll give him a second try, though.

-More on Ski Beatz: Is it just me or was the Dipset breakup the best thing that could have happened to Jim Jones? It forced him out of his comfort zone, which was being a voice in a crowd of many, and into something resembling the limelight.

-Jones was never the most lyrical dude in Dipset, or even the most interesting flow-wise, but he’s got an ill voice that’s just made for rap. That rasp really works.

-Having to go solo, or something like solo, has led to him linking up with Dame Dash, Joell Ortiz, and other cats who have pulled some good work out of him. He feels hungry again. I like that. He’s not great, but he’s interesting enough at this point that I’ll check his work out just off GP.

/*-~~JETS~~-*/ fool

-There were two songs dedicated to weed this year that were just called “Marijuana.” Yelawolf did one on Trunk Muzik 0-60, and Kid CuDi had one on Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. Remember when we used to get at least one weed smoker’s anthem a year? Bone Thugs alone had that subgenre on lock.

-Cripes, remember when the phrase “Bone: Thugs-n-Harmony” wasn’t embarrassing on any level? When they fell off, they fell all the way off.

-Back to Ski Beatz: six tracks in and I’m well pleased. Production is on point.

-A larger post on music coming soon, I think.

-Pac-Man Championship DX CE on PlayStation 3 is hotter than the surface of the sun. They completely turned that game out.

but in the middle we stay calm, we just drop bombs
created: A couple joints this time… Marvel is already trying to screw up the digital comics market like a bunch of clowns and Dark Horse has their head on so straight it’s scary.

consumed: I didn’t do much reading over the past week. I was in Los Angeles and had other priorities. Despite that, I ran through:

-Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite: I bought the digital comic off iTunes by accident like four months ago and finally got around to it. This was my second time through the series, and I liked it. I do think that the art way outclasses the script, which is just sorta okay. I’ll read the sequel for the first time next year when Dark Horse drops its digital store.

-Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches: This was fantastic. Longer post next week, since I get some other stuff done first, but: yes, you want this. I let it sit for a couple months after reading the first twenty pages or so for some reason, but reading it all in a shot was a great experience.

-I picked up New Mutants 2: Necrosha by Zeb Wells and a whole gang of artists, including David and Alvaro Lopez, who I haven’t seen since their days on Catwoman with Will Pfeifer. In a way, this book is the best example of what I like and don’t like about corporate comics. Wells is telling a pretty good story and bam, a fairly crap X-Men crossover pops up. He treads water through that, managing to do some cool stuff with Doug Ramsey in the process, and then gets back to his ongoing plot. Except! After Wells gets two issues in and introduces his big bad villain and scripts a particularly fun issue for an old X-Force fan like me, we get a crossover with Siege that’s written by another writer entirely. And then, after that issue, is a three issue detour into X-Men: Second Coming. That’s gross. And yet, Wells is holding his head through all of this, and he’s created the only X-Men comic I’m even really interested in right now. Dude is good. I just wish Marvel would give him room to breathe, but I guess working with the X-Men comes with certain expectations.

nigga, I’m feelin’ better than ever, what’s wrong with you? you get down!
David: Heroes for Hire 1, King City 12
Esther: Yes: Action Comics Annual 13, Secret Six 28 Maybe: Batman: 80 Page Giant
Gavin: Secret Six 28, Ant-Man & Wasp 2, Chaos War God Squad 1, Heroes For Hire 1, Ozma Of Oz 2, She-Hulks 2, Taskmaster 4, What If Iron Man Demon In An Armor, (maybe) Wolverine Best There Is 1, Irredeemable 20

King City 12 this week? My my my.

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The Cipher 11/25/10

November 25th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

new york is killing me
-Hopped a train (or series of) to another leg of my vacation today.

-Amtrak is like Greyhound, only all of the ex-cons and creeps have been replaced by old people and preppy college kids.

-As I speak, there’s a young girl insisting that her parents better get her a laptop.

-There was one dude with a chihuahua, an LV bag, and a stuffy demeanor that reminded me of dude from Silence of the Lambs. “Put the lotion in the basket.”

-I’ve spent most of the trip listening to new music and a few albums I recently bought that I’d been putting off. It’s interesting, hearing new stuff. I like a lot of stuff that I normally wouldn’t expect myself to like.

-Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM? I bump that like it’s an MOP record. “Take a picture, what’s inside?”

-I keep calling her “Charlotte Gainsborough.” I can’t figure out why.

-The kid J Cole’s Friday Night Lights mixtape is pretty straight. He doesn’t knock my socks off, but he’s got real potential. Blow Up is a hot song, and so is that single he had with the marching band.

-Lil Wayne: I think I’m over him.

-Nicki Minaj: Yeah, done with her, too. Dumped. Somebody needs to pull her card. Trump.

-I paid four bucks for Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I would’ve paid four dollars for “Hell of A Life” alone.

-Who expected Kanye to go in on race relations in porn? “She said her price’ll go down if she ever fuck a black guy/ Or do anal, or a gangbang/ It’s kinda crazy it’s all considered the same thing.”

-“How can you say they live their life wrong?”

-The only thing I’d change about Kanye’s album would be to flip the first few bars of Ye’s verse on “Runaway” with the clean version. He uses this sample I’m really fond of–a lady going, “Hey!”

-You’ve undoubtedly heard it on the radio, but maybe that went out of style in the ’90s. I like the way it sounds in the song, though.

-“She find pictures in my e-mail/ I sent this girl a picture of my HEY!/ I don’t know what it is with females/ But I’m not too good at that HEY!”

-Taking champion music like “All of the Lights” and flipping the script entirely–that’s all too well done.

-I forgot that Gil Scott-Heron dropped I’m New Here this year. “New York Is Killing Me” goes super hard, and I’d forgotten how much I was feeling it when it leaked earlier this year. There’s one with Nas, too.

-It’s this raw, dusty, dirty, Otis Redding sounding joint. Blues plus. Soul on wax.

-Speaking of Otis Redding–five bucks for The Very Best Of Otis Redding. I like those odds. The version of “Sitting By The Dock of the Bay” is different from the one I usually get down with on Rock Band. I managed to pick up on that before I even looked up the titles. The RB one is “Take Two.” The one on the album sounds different, fuller maybe. Less raw.

-The new Sade is two dollars today, wow. Glad I wanted before buying.

with the lights on
created: I dropped a monster baby with this four thousand word piece on digital comics. People seem to like it. Tell your friends. Also: ten Marvel comics worth reading, a roundtable review of Nick Spencer and CAFU’s THUNDER Agents, and a Moviefone piece on a few comics Harry Potter fans will like. Vimanarama!

consumed: Nine or ten hours of travel time gives you a lot of time to read. Not sleeping the night before halves that reading time. Regardless, I read:
-Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond, Vol. 9 (VIZBIG Edition): This one is a six hundred page series of fight scenes, give or take a hundred pages, and makes a whole lot of cape comics look stupid in the process. “This ends now!” sort of fights, where you go and go and then your SECRET RESERVE OF ENERGY wins the day, are old and busted. Musashi coming down off the mountain and out of the shadows is the new hotness.

-Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library #20: This is my first ACN, and hey! This was pretty impressive. It was also a surprise birthday gift from my buddy Lauren Davis, who is good people.

Gorillaz: Rise of the Ogre: Fantastic, duh. Thanks to Sean Witzke for pointing out where I could get a cheap one.

-Mike Carey & Marcelo Frusin’s Hellblazer: Red Sepulchre: This is the start of their run, and I read up through a couple volumes after this. I haven’t read this run in a couple years, and it’s still pretty good. I like how Carey put his puzzle pieces together.

take a picture, look inside
David: Detective Comics 871, King City 12, New Mutants 19
Esther: Definitely: Action Comics #895, Batman and Robin #17 Maybe: Batwoman 0, Detective Comics 871
Gavin: Batman and Robin 17, Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet 4, Captain America 612, Deadpool 29, Deadpool Pulp 3, Deadpool Team-Up 887, Incredible Hulks 617, Namor: the First Mutant 4, Secret Avengers 7, Secret Warriors 22, Shadowland: Power Man 4, Ultimate Comic Avengers 3 4, Incorruptible 12

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You’ve Got A New Horizon, It’s Ephemeral Style [Gorillaz]

November 9th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I’ve been pretty well obsessed with the Gorillaz lately.

I rediscovered them earlier this year when “Stylo” leaked, and I thought it was pretty okay. Later, after buying Plastic Beach late, I got into the habit of listening to all three of their proper albums every couple of weeks. I’ve been through the wikipedia pages explaining the meta-story, watched the videos on Youtube, and spent a lot of time thinking about the band.

It all comes down to fiction, I think. Telling stories and how you tell them. Each album is accompanied by a series of videos, background pieces, and text explaining its story. Each album, then, represents, or is part of, a story. The characters begin in one place and end up in another, for good or for ill, and each album evokes a specific mood or style. The narrative isn’t always clear just by listening to the album, the way the narrative in a comic isn’t crystal clear if you just have the art, but when you add in the other media, the picture becomes more filled in.

It’s modular storytelling, isn’t it? You can enjoy the Gorillaz on their own, just listening to the music and buying the albums every few years, and stop there. That’s how I did it until earlier this year. Gorillaz hit while I was in high school and got a lot of spins. I liked the joint with Del on it, even though I wasn’t even really a Del fan, because there was rapping. Demon Days was college, and I think I gave it short shrift at the time. I forget what song I bumped on that one… these days, it’s “Feel Good, Inc.” I feel like I dug “Dare,” but I can’t call it. Regardless, I love it now. But that’s how you consume music, isn’t it? I listened, I liked the tracks I liked, and I kept it moving on to the next one.

You can also begin absorbing the other media info–the DVDs, music videos, website info, and so on. They fill in the picture around the album, expanding upon the mood and vague hints found on the albums. Why does Demon Days sound so dark? What is a “Plastic Beach?” If you wanted just the story, not the music, you could use Wikipedia, Youtube, and fan sites to get the job done. I think the music is an integral part of the narrative, personally, but whatever floats your boat.

Together, all the parts make one whole. You don’t need all of it to get the job done. Each individual piece has merit on its own, whether it’s as marketing or art. But together, you have something really interesting. You have a genuine narrative. It’s told in a fractured way, but you can track forward motion.

The Gorillaz themselves are fictional, the product of Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and whichever musicians they’re working with at the time. In the world of the Gorillaz, those musicians are used as in-story personalities. Del the Funkee Homosapien is turned into one of the spirits inside Russel’s head. De La Soul are malevolent forces in “Feel Good, Inc.” Shaun Ryder is a giant severed head turned music box.

Even their live band features other, standalone musicians operating under the umbrella of Gorillaz. Everything is subordinate to the story. Sure, we know that Albarn or members of The Clash are there, but while they’re on stage, they’re Gorillaz, which suggests a certain style or sound.

Look at the group, too. A young Japanese girl (20 years old this year). A black guy from the US. Two Brits. They don’t exist. They’re fake. And yet, they have detailed histories on Wikipedia. You can point out what they were doing on specific dates. They aren’t real, and yet, they are. Just like Batman.

This kind of thing is really interesting to me. I think most of what I’ve written about on 4l! is all about fiction and narrative. You can even look at the race stuff as pointing out things where storytelling got it right or wrong. It’s all about the telling of stories.

Everything is. That’s why I read comics, play games, watch movies, listen to music, and everything else. The rappers I like, the ones I come back to, paint pictures with their words. Sometimes it’s an entire story in one song, sometimes it’s evocative of a certain mood or emotion, or something it’s just a song about how they’re the best ever. It’s all creating something new, whether from the ashes of something old or entirely from scratch. Create and innovate.

I like the multimedia approach of Gorillaz a lot. It’s 2010, and I have more information available to me after a five second Google search than probably every person combined two hundred years ago. Coincidentally, my attention span is exponentially shorter than what people were working with two hundred years ago. I need a lot of information in varied formats and styles and I need it two weeks ago. The Gorillaz fulfills that need in some way by giving me a lot to absorb, and most importantly, whenever I want to absorb it.

Honestly, though, I’d kill for a Gorillaz comic. I need more Jamie Hewlett in my life.

(There’s this strange connection in my head between the Gorillaz and Jet Set Radio Future, the classic Xbox joint. I’m not sure if it’s because they share Miho Hatori [and maybe Dan the Automator?] or if they both were working in a similar flat kind of art style around the same time or what. They’re both fairly global in scope, too. JSRF and the Gorillaz have a multi-ethnic that synthesizes myriad and sometimes obscure influences to create something fresh.)

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