Wait, What’s This About DC Killing Damon Wayans?

March 5th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

“Tell the others it’s over, Alfred. Batman. All of it. This madness is over.” – Bruce Wayne, Batman Incorporated #1

The big news of the week is the death of Damian Wayne, latest Robin and son of the Dark Knight himself. Created in an Elseworlds story in the 80’s, the idea of “Bruce and Talia’s kid” showed up in a couple other alternate realities. My favorite of which is Kingdom Come where under the name Ibn al Xu’ffasch, he didn’t do anything of note. They don’t even outright spell it out that it’s Bruce’s kid until the sequel, but like with much of that comic, there’s miles of details to be found throughout. For instance, despite being a part of Lex Luthor’s little cabal against metahumans, it’s strongly suggested that Ibn is a mole working for his father all along.

His subtle storyline leads to one of my favorite little moments in that book. During the end, there’s a page that shows Batman walking through the Batcave, now transformed into a hospital for people affected by a nuclear bomb. All of Luthor’s league are forced to wear control collars as they tend to the sick, except for Ibn. Off to the side, there’s a sequence that tells its own story. Ibn drapes a sheet over a body. He appears broken up over this loss of life, but Bruce stops by to give him a reassuring look.

Ibn also had a mullet. That was a plus.

Anyway, the fully-realized Damian has become a focal point of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman. He appeared as something of a villain in the very first story, gradually turning into something a little less evil. He faded into the background for much of the early run and remained a complete bastard, especially towards his “brother” Tim Drake. Also, there was that look to the future in Batman #666 that showed a reality where he would become Batman after supposedly selling his soul to the Devil.

Damian wouldn’t begin to show any real change until Bruce’s supposed death. Battle for the Cowl gets a lot of warranted criticism for being an unnecessary miniseries meant to cash-in on Batman being dead, but there is one sequence I kind of like. Damian steals the Batmobile and takes some unidentified teenage girl for a joyride. Shit goes down, they get split up and Damian finds out that she’s been killed by Killer Croc. It’s actually kind of shocking to see Damian have a horrified reaction to this. By this point, any moments of him working on the side of good has been self-serving, trying to get Bruce’s approval or simply just fighting for the sake of fighting. It’s the first reassuring moment in the character’s history as there’s something resembling humanity being shown.

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Grant Morrison & The Fan Entitlement That Wasn’t

September 18th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Coming to the end of a five-year run on various titles starring the caped crusader, the Batman brand has cemented Morrison’s reputation as one of the top writers in his field. That fame though has come with the price of becoming a figurehead for the industry, a responsibility that he is happy to escape when he steps away from superheroes next year. Morrison stresses again and again that he sees himself as a “freelance writer” rather than a cog in the corporate publishing machine, yet his words are pounced upon, dissected and recycled by fans and critics alike.

“They try to find some hidden darkness or something like that,” he sighs, “or ‘this proves, this proves!’ – naw, it just proves I said something that day, you know, which either I still agree with or don’t. Why do I have to defend all of this? I think people just want to be mad and want to fight all the time, so I’m gonna join in now!”

New Statesman – Grant Morrison: Why I’m stepping away from superheroes

From my position as someone who has gone from stannish to uncomfortable to frustrated and on down to fed up with Morrison’s public persona, this is an utterly gross interview on both sides. The interviewer, Laura Sneddon, is clearly a fan of Morrison, which is fine. I interview people I’m a fan of, too, and I don’t hammer them on things. Not every interview has to be hard-hitting, obviously, but there’s a difference between a friendly, fun interview and one that puts the subject over at the expense of everyone else.

Sneddon, when asking about contentious points, minimizes and turns complaints against Morrison into easily-dismissed strawmen. She mentions that it seemed “like many of the detractors were coming from a distinctly middle class perspective” and Morrison agrees with her and goes on about middle class prejudices against the “trappings of high privilege.” (what?) Earlier in the interview, she writes: “Is it a slightly classist thing, I wonder, the idea that you can just drop your job at work as a protest?” (what?) She asks Morrison about comics critic Matt Seneca grilling and eating (part of) a copy of Morrison’s Supergods. Instead of Seneca’s weird performance being an act with some type of point, it’s used as evidence that “Fans are crazy and cynical and stupid.” Dissent is never treated as reasonable, only as aberration, and a de-fanged aberration at that.

This approach is tainted to me, because it’s a journalist once again taking (sometimes) reasonable dissent and painting it as babytown frolics, instead of something people actually care about. The Seneca point is an extreme example, of course, but that feeling permeates the piece. “These guys are dumdums, aren’t they?” instead of “So what’s up with this?” It feels like whenever fans or critics are mentioned, it’s about how they’re hurting comics or doing terrible things to a nice old comics writer.

The most aggravating part of the interview is the quote at the top of the post. That is a grown man asking why people believe the things that come out of his mouth. He wants to know why, after he says things, people care about them and hold him to his word. “Why can’t I just say things willy-nilly without having people look at my position?” he’s essentially asking here.

That is laughable, because he has built a career, in part, on people paying attention to, falling in love with, and believing his words. He set himself up as a counter-culture type of guy by producing works that embraced the counter-culture and drew on classic counter-culture subject matter and authors. He’s given at least one rock starred out speech at DisInfocon, and his letters pages let interact with a specific subset of comics readers.

He built this personality, this image of Grant Morrison-as-King Mob. That didn’t come from the fans or critics cruelly picking apart his words. No, we took him at his word and at his work, just like we’ve done with everyone from Stan Lee to Frank Miller to Dave Sim to Alan Moore. When confronted with the fact that King Mob prefers to defend a corporation over creators, describes a certain subset of fans as “voluminous Goth girls, victims of some unspeakable abuse,” and generally isn’t who he sold himself to be, I (and others, sure, but this is all about me-me-me-me-me) reacted with surprise, and then frustration.

It’s my fault, of course. I believed the hype. I believed in what Grant Morrison said and wrote, so I just set myself up for disappointment. Judging by this interview, what I should have done, were I not a weary cynic ready to burn down the temple (“the temple!”), was to assume that Morrison was just a cog in the machine and not take him so seriously, I guess.

But the thing is, I’m not a weary cynic. I’m a fan. I’m a fan who followed Morrison’s writings in comics and elsewhere, looking for and generally receiving knowledge jewels or great laughs. I’m not a cynic or critic that’s just aching to throw a sacred cow on the rack. I’m disappointed that the persona this guy sold me was a smokescreen, and that the real guy is someone I disagree with on a lot of different things. I feel played, if anything.

Later in the interview, Morrison says that he “still feel[s] the same way I do about the monarchy, the class system, about everything I’ve ever written, about everything I will write.”


We don’t believe you. You need more people.

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“The superhero is Western culture’s last-gasp attempt to say there’s a future for us.”

April 26th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

If Morrison’s personal history includes magic, wild experiments with consciousness-tweaking substances and reported alien visitations, why does he keep writing about square-jawed guys with capes? “We’re running out of visions of the future except dystopias,” Morrison says. “The superhero is Western culture’s last-gasp attempt to say there’s a future for us.” Sitting in his drafty house overlooking Loch Long, an hour outside his hometown of Glasgow, the 52-year-old writer smiles. “The creators of superheroes were all freaks,” he says. “People forget that—they were all outcasts, on the margins of society.” And then, inevitably, he shifts from the third person to the first. “We’re people who don’t fit into normal society.”

–Grant Morrison, Playboy, 2012

One minor point: it’s sort of weird to say that the creators of superheroes were freaks when that is pretty much factually not true. It’s the same line of thinking that suggests that “sex-starved geeks,” so described by IGN, created all the sexy ladies in comics. I’m not sure what your measure for freaks is, but I’d guess that Morrison’s is so low as to be meaningless. Here’s a quick sample that I used to debunk IGN:

Sue Storm: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and Jack Kirby (married since 1942)
Mystique: created by Dave Cockrum (married)
Jean Grey: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and Jack Kirby (married since 1942)
Mary Jane: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and John Romita Sr (his son JRjr was born 08/1956)
Elektra: created by Frank Miller (married to Lynn Varley in the ’80s, divorced now)
Rogue: created by Chris Claremont (has a wife and kids) and Michael Golden (can’t find any info on him)
Storm: created by Len Wein (married twice) and Dave Cockrum (married)

Siegel was married, and I can’t find anything on Shuster. Bob Kane was married. Jack Kirby was married, had kids, and served in the military.

And I mean, a lot of these guys were Jewish, and a handful of them probably drew porn comics at some point, but I think freaks is a bit much. Anti-semitic prejudice definitely factored into their lives, but a lot of people deal with prejudice without being turned into freaks. These were regular dudes who had lives and families, not freaks. Freaks makes for a good narrative (Superheroes as outsider comics! The freaks will lead the way!) but all of these dudes fit into normal society in just about every way, other than the (at the time) less-than-distinguished job of drawing funnybooks. I mean, if you called Robert Crumb a freak, sure, okay. But like… Jerry Siegel? Jack Kirby? Freaks? Ehhh.

Anyway, my bigger point (which is rougher than I’d like) regards my thoughts on this:

“The superhero is Western culture’s last-gasp attempt to say there’s a future for us.”

Me and Morrison differ pretty drastically on the subject of the superhero. From my perspective as a dude who grew up on capes under the shadow of Reagan and later Bush, I don’t see much difference between, say, westerns, cape comics, crime movies, and those dystopias that Morrison thinks are a cynical depiction of the future.

There are a few things that I feel like are an integral part of American (pop?) culture. We prize the individual who chooses to go his own way, at least up to a point or within certain accepted standards. America is built on a mistrust of authority, whether we’re talking about the Revolutionary War or the pervasive paranoia that infested films noir. We prize violent solutions not because we are bloodthirsty, but because they are permanent, and there is safety in permanence. There’s a certain beauty and honor in being an outlaw, and while we dislike when outlaws enter our life, there’s a vicarious thrill in watching them work.

I once tried to describe film noir to a lady I know as “the most American of genres” for a lot of these reasons. She thought I was being jingoistic, but I mean it in as genuine a way as it gets. That distrust of authority, wresting control of your life from those who control it, and having a driving need to uncover the truth even if it destroys you… There’s sort of a siege mentality there, like you have to protect yourself and repel the invaders at all costs, because you’re the last righteous/honest man, no matter your sordid past. Redemption and destruction, over and over again, shifting shape a little each time.

This is a story that has repeated itself throughout American culture, whether it’s Malcolm X transforming himself from a street hustler into a truth speaker or corporate whistleblowers or film noir or westerns or crime flicks. It’s all about being your own man and making your own way.

Dystopias are just another way for us to exercise our will. The dystopias are usually not the fault of the main character, but that main character is often the last of the righteous, or at least one of the last willing to stand up and fight back against the darkness. I really liked The Book of Eli, with Denzel Washington, for those reasons. In the world of the lawless, one last man holds tight to the law and lives his life accordingly. Or the Punisher — in the ’80s, he was explicitly a ripped from the headlines revenge fantasy. He went after fake versions of Norieaga, the dude who was poisoning medicine, gangsters… he fought against our fears on his own, because no one was strong enough to shoulder that burden but him. We excuse Rambo’s violence because he’s getting things done. We celebrate Ripley because she’s a problem solver, and John McClane because he knows how to not just get things done, but be charming and relatable while he does it. I mean, “Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?” and “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” isn’t just a cool one-liner.

(I think it was Dennis Culver who pointed out that Hans is a form of John, which shifted that movie a little bit for me, thematically. I haven’t quite quantified how, yet, but it’s something that’s going to run through my mind next time I watch Die Hard.)

So I think Morrison is wrong when he says that capes are the last-gasp at a future. I think that’s extremely myopic. We have a future. That future is that there will always be some rugged individualist willing to stand up and say, “No” or “Not in my name” before blowing the head off whatever scientist or priest or politician or cop put us in such a terrible condition. It doesn’t matter whether that future is dusty and barren or colorful and filled with costumes. It’s rap music and Scarface and rock music and The Godfather and Blade Runner and all the rest.

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swing anna miss, big frank [holy terror]

September 26th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

(this is long, sorry, but i guess i have FEELINGS :rolleyes: )

In between NBA 2k11 (and soon 2k12) games, I sometimes write about comics. It’s just a thing I do, you know, keep the lights on and the Hawks on my TV. I reviewed Frank Miller’s Holy Terror, his big 9/11 getback novel. If you’ve talked to me for more than thirty seconds, you probably know I really enjoy dude’s work, and was looking forward to Holy Terror with more than a little trepidation. Maybe more excitement than trepidation, but I definitely knew 1) how bad this could get and 2) that Miller doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body. Which makes the fact that Holy Terror is as bad as I expected it to be all the more depressing. Read the review–it’s two thousand words, and I spent a long time writing it (more on that in a bit). People are going buck wild in the comments, I bet.

Here’s a quote for something I want to talk out:

There’s a line from a poem that’s been running through my head ever since I finished Holy Terror: “When she was good, She was very, very good, But when she was bad she was horrid.” It applies very well to Holy Terror. The last page is a stinger as good as anything ever seen on The Twilight Zone. The rest of it? It’s depressing. It feels almost like a betrayal. Miller has done many things that were forward-thinking or intelligent, whether exploring the ideals of black beauty in Sin City or blowing the hinges off what comics could be with Elektra Assassin. For him to do something like this, which is stupid at best, is… let’s call it disappointing. He’s punching far below his weight class. I’m still looking forward to the 300 sequel Xerxes, but my desire for it has definitely been tempered, if not nearly annihilated, by Holy Terror.

And “betrayal” feels like one of those things that the comics fans I hate would say in a review, in-between sentences about how this portrayal of the Vision is something something continuity joke. That got away from me, but you get my point. I wrote it in the review yesterday and then stopped. I erased it, rewrote the sentence, and then put it back, because that’s what it feels like. Not a dramatic, everything-you-know-is-wrong, GOTCHA betrayal. Just a minor one. Something I thought was true was revealed to be false.

I’ve talked incessantly about how The Big Fat Kill pretty much completely rewired my head and is probably the thing that led to my love of straight up crime fiction. I grew up and read more and realized that Miller was bigger than hardboiled books. I was pleased to see that his body of work was not only diverse, but groundbreaking. I mean, count ’em: Daredevil, Wolverine, Born Again, Year One, Elektra Assassin, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, A Dame to Kill For, 300, and Hard Boiled, to name his more inarguable examples of classics. He’s been in comics for 33 years, so… what is that, around a one hot book every three years average? That’s pretty great. He’s a legend for a reason.

And so, the “whores whores whores” stuff online bothered me a whole lot. If you’re pulling that card, you’re ignorant of Miller’s body of work. There’s really no other way to say it. I did/do a lot of eye-rolling at that stuff and try to correct it when appropriate. Miller’s back catalog is way deeper than that criticism suggests, and I guess because of my attachment to his work over the years, it’s my pet bugaboo?

I expected Holy Terror to be pretty bad. I was hoping for ASBAR bad, where there are these glorious shining spots of fantastic storytelling mixed in with the inexplicable nonsense, instead of The Spirit bad, which was mostly bad except for those parts where I kinda sorta got what Miller was trying to do. Back in July, I said “boy do i hope this isn’t super racist when it drops.” And I kept doing that. I kept making jokes about how it was probably gonna be pretty offensive or racist with each new bit of news. I think it’s because I knew, deep down, that it would be terrible, but hopefully if I joked about it, it would somehow become less racist or something. Denial, son.

G Willow Wilson posted this on her Twitter:

“As a Muslim comics creator, seeing an icon like Frank Miller write a book like Holy Terror is like getting punched in the face. Just sayin.”

And ugh, man! I like Wilson a lot, though I don’t follow her on Twitter, so this was the written equivalent of somebody punching you in the face while you’re asleep. You’re gonna feel it, and you’re gonna remember it for a long time. It will cold ruin your day until you finally man up and take care of it. What she said crawled all the way up into my brain, and it sat there asking me why I was being stupid. I knew better, I always knew better, so why the hesitance and dumb jokes instead of facing up to what Holy Terror was shaping up to be? I knew that I needed to recognize wisdom and do what I should have done ages ago.

So I canceled my preorder. No, really. I did it the same day, a couple hours later:

’cause I mean, I’m a smart guy, but I was being a smart dumb guy by fooling myself into thinking that Holy Terror was something that I would possibly be able to like and still respect myself. I’m a fan–not a stan. Or so I’d like to think anyway.

I got a PDF galley of the book the very next day. I laughed at the timing and read it as soon as I got home. And on the first read, I was stunned. Or not stunned–more like blank. I read every page, some twice, and at the end, I was empty. I didn’t hate it, but I was completely devoid of anything to really say about it. That was it? I read it again and everything fell into place. That blankness was me working through the cognitive dissonance of someone I’d thought was a modern, progressive person doing a book that was filled with wall to wall hate for people I respect a great deal. I mean, no way, no how does that happen.

Except it did, it’s real, and man, yeah, I’m glad I canceled the preorder. I would’ve been furious. I would’ve felt terrible. I would’ve felt a lot of things, probably. Even with not having put money into it, I felt bad about it. I felt gross. Holy Terror was everything I was hoping it wouldn’t be. I was a fool for thinking otherwise.

It took me three hours to write that review. That’s an extremely long time for me to take to write anything of that length. (embarrassingly long.) I spent the whole weekend thinking about Holy Terror, despite going to a Hong Kong cinema film festival, and wrote it on Sunday. Writing the review wasn’t working for me at all–and maybe this is melodramatic but whatever, it’s true–until I put on Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. It came out on my ninth birthday and a gang of my family all drove to Macon as a group to see it. It was genuinely life-changing for me, like a watershed moment or Paul waking up on the road to Damascus. If I had to make a chart of things that have had a huge influence on my life, Denzel Washington as Malcolm X would be one of the top five biggest things. It’s that real to me. I don’t watch it near as often as I should, but every time it’s as good as it ever was. (I forgot about the children saying “I am Malcolm X” at the end this time around, and they caught me completely flat-footed. Long story short, FYI, I got a lil choked up.)

(My man Pedro from Funnybook Babylon also hooked me up with a Kindle copy of the new Malcolm bio while I was watching the movie. Very X sort of day.)

I dunno why, but that made the review flow easier. Writing alongside something I knew and loved, and that was in a very real way directly relevant to what Miller was writing about, worked. I got that I needed to make it more of a personal essay than a “Buy this book/don’t buy this book” review, and I wanted to do it from the perspective of someone who loves Miller’s work in general and was disgusted and disappointed. “Betrayal.” I was surprised when I wrapped up the review a little bit before the credits rolled, but there’s something weirdly fitting there. I dunno. Serendipity. It is what it is.

I don’t hate Frank Miller. I’m entirely more disappointed than I expected to be, but I’m still kinda sorta looking forward to Xerxes. I dunno.

I threw some shots Grant Morrison’s way last month, and I didn’t even bother buying (or bootlegging) Action Comics. I’m just not interested any more, and that’s a feeling that’s been growing for a while. I don’t need his books and I don’t think I’m missing all that much these days. I haven’t written Miller off like I have Morrison, though I think that Holy Terror and what it represents are an objectively bigger sin than “has stupid opinions about Superman and needs to openly rep for the Siegels and Shusters or quit comics.” I liked Morrison a lot at one point, but he’s never been as fundamental to me as Miller was. Is that why I haven’t entirely quit his comics? I dunno, but that feels like the correct answer.

But even then, I’m giving a lot of thought to Xerxes. The comic is one of his best, and the movie felt offensive in ways the comic didn’t. Vagaries of the medium, maybe. I don’t think that’s stannery. I feel like that’s probably true. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of it, but I’m still thinking about it a lot. I dunno.

The Miller and Morrison things are sort of identical, in that both situations involve a creator I respect proving that my faith was misplaced. We build up these pictures of others in our heads, and we fill in the blanks based on what we know or what we want to believe. Seeing those differences made as plain as day is always a shocking, surprising thing. It’s unfair, maybe, but we still do it.

I have a hard time separating the art from the artist once I become aware of something I would personally find loathsome about the artist. Sure, they’re still talented, but there are SO many things to take that I can live my entire life experiencing new things before working my way over to them. Other people are better at it than I am, and I’m a little jealous. But I don’t like the idea that my money would go to supporting someone who represents something I hate. And it’s disappointing when people you like give you reasons not to like them.

Every time I see their name, I’ll think of what they did. I dunno if that’s being an informed, responsible consumer or just thinking too much about comics or both.

But you know, whatever whatever. I’m glad I got to see a dozen or so brand new and genuinely incredible Miller pages, despite the words that were on them. You speak of “love and hate.” This is it in a nutshell.

This post is around ten words longer than the actual review and took me around an hour to write. (More words now.) Sorry. I’m kinda bummed out.

Y’all probably shouldn’t buy Holy Terror though.

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Fourcast! 95: The New 52

September 12th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-DC’s in the process of releasing 52 mostly-new comics!
-We’re talking about the first full week.
-Esther picked up Action Comics, Stormwatch, Green Arrow, and Batgirl
-I picked up Static, Justice League, and Animal Man
-I also bought Swamp Thing, but didn’t manage to discuss it. It was fine–I just don’t think I’m much of a Swamp Thing fan is all.
-We have a conversation about whether or not people from the Midwest say “ain’t” in casual conversation.
-I think they do, because I assume all farmers talk like Southerners, and back home, we say “ain’t” like ain’t nothing wrong with that
-Esther says they don’t
-It turns out I have feelings about how cool Superman breaking chains on homage covers are
-Those feelings amount to “Ugh, why?”
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-Here comes a new challenger!
-See you, space cowboy!

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we don’t believe you, you need more people

August 23rd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I was reading some Alan Moore Marvelman for some reason today. I found one in the back there and I couldn’t believe. I pick it up and there are fucking two rapes in it and I suddenly think how many times has somebody been raped in an Alan Moore story? And I couldn’t find a single one where someone wasn’t raped except for Tom Strong, which I believe was a pastiche. We know Alan Moore isn’t a misogynist but fuck, he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!

Grant Morrison, Rolling Stone 2011

From Grant Morrison, Richard Case, Stan Woch, Daniel Vozzo, and John Workman’s (very good) Doom Patrol 56, part of the lead-up to a big betrayal of the team:

Alternate options: the extended child gangrape in The Invisibles, Lord Fanny’s origin story in the “Sheman” arc of The Invisibles, and probably a few other things that I’m forgetting. I don’t remember whether or not that the monstrous moonchild from that series was the product of consensual sex, but I sorta doubt it.

My point being: get real. Stop believing your own hype. It’s cool you hate your wizard dad Alan Moore or whatever Oedipal thing you got going on, and he’s almost definitely written more rape scenes than you have, but you haven’t made it thirty years in comics without any rape, Chris Ware isn’t a nihilist, superheroes are not here to save us all, and no, Superman is not the greatest idea of the combined human species. It’s the idea of Siegel and Shuster. These soundbytes are absurd.

More Morrison that’s been bugging me enough to not even want to give Action Comics a chance:

You look at the people who created those characters, and they’re all dead. But the characters will still be around in 50 years probably – at least the best of them will. So I try not to concern myself with that. These are deals made in times before I was even born. I can say from experience that young creative people tend to sell rights to things because they want to get noticed. They want to sell their work and to be commercial. Then when they grow up and get a bit smarter, they suddenly realize it maybe wasn’t so good and that the adults have it real nice. [Laughs] But still, it’s kind of the world. I wouldn’t want to comment on that because it was something I wasn’t around for. I can’t tell why they decided to do what they did. Obviously Bob Kane came in at the same age and got a very different deal and profited hugely from Batman’s success. So who knows? They were boys of the same age, but maybe some of them were more keen to sell the rights than others. It all just takes a different business head.

Grant Morrison, Comic Book Resources, 2011

This was the exact moment I went from “Aw yeah, Grant Morrison! (as long as the artists are good)” to “Wait, really?” in terms of how I see this guy. He’s still one of the best writers in comics, but cripes, shouldn’t the best of them also stand up for the ones who got screwed over? Isn’t that what prestige and riches are for? I mean, yeah, do all of the drugs, have sex with all of the women, and I dunno, buy a castle in Scotland when you’re 25 after having made more money off Arkham Asylum than Bill Finger probably ever saw, but once you reach that elder statesman position, once you reach a spot where people look at you with respect and listen to the things you say because you’re viewed as an intelligent and worthwhile creator… shouldn’t you start saying intelligent and worthwhile things? “Well, you know, kids like to get noticed!” is garbage.

You know what Frank Miller did when he got a platform? He repped, and he repped hard. For Jack Kirby, for Bill Finger, for Steve Ditko, and for other creators who deserved to get their art back or to own their creations. For those who got screwed in the name of profit and cheap labor. Sin City letters pages are littered with shots fired at Marvel over how they treated Jack Kirby. The Big Fat Kill (#5, I think) was where I found out that Marvel screwed Kirby. He built a platform and then he used it for good. Is he perfect? Nah. Bill Finger’s name isn’t on DKSA, though it might have been shouted at as a street name or something. But he tried. He got an acknowledgement to Finger and Jerry Robinson into DKR. He didn’t hide behind mealy-mouthed corporate speak to justify two guys getting screwed so that he could write Action Comics with a clean conscience. Two guys who jumpstarted the genre that he loves so much, at that.

It took Abhay to point out that quote to me, and he ethered Morrison over it. King Mob went from counter-culture terrorist to corporate world-changer. Why did Morrison skip straight from counter-culture icon to stooge?

Creator’s rights count. They count more than whatever stupid looking superhero is your favorite. Without the people behind the comics, we wouldn’t have the comics. This sort of callous, blinkered disrespect should be inexcusable.

But sure, keep telling us that Superman is who we should all aspire to be, instead of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko or Curt Swan or Todd McFarlane or Jim Lee or Frank Miller or (yes, even now) Stan Lee or Adam Warren or any of these cats who have made the works we love. I don’t want to fly. I want to be able to point at something and say, “Yes, I made this with my own two hands and I’m proud of it.”

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here’s some interviews i read and liked

July 6th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Mindless Ones interview Grant Morrison:

Bobsy: So obviously you can’t walk down the high street without seeing someone in a Batman t-shirt or a Superman t-shirt , but why are there no domino masks? Why no capes? Why no trunks on the outside? What is it that’s topping the fashion world from being hungry enough to go that extra mile?

Grant: I don’t know, because I thought super-fashion would look more like Zenith: Fashion clothes but with a little mask on. But that hasn’t happened. It’s just really hard to say where all this is going. The Internet offers up the idea that everyone is a superhero, every life story is a saga, everyone has a style, every love story is a magnificent adventure. We’ve all got our pages of our likes and dislikes. There’s osmething about the symbol of the superhero and what it represents… Clearly something is happening. People are trying to unite the imaginary and the real in a way using the Internet, so we might yet see the masks.

I just like the idea of this, how the internet is infecting real life with the idea that everyone is a superhero and important. Superhero as seductive meme, right?

I also like how it contrasts with this from Morrison’s DisInfo speech from around 2000:

“Beyond that, I find that we’re deluding ourselves in the worst way of all by believing in the individual. Stay with me on this. Kafka, Orwell, Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, everyone told us the individual is the most important thing you can be. Everyone is fucking quirky these days. Every shit in the window of MTV is quirky. Everyone’s cool, everyone’s smart… it’s not true.”

My main man Sean Witzke interviews Brandon Graham:

SW: When you talk about the idea of comics that haven’t been done – that’s kind of hard to actually achieve. Branching out of the moves you know work , and the idea that everything has been done – is it possible to actually make something new in comics? Not just in the “webcomics are the future” way, but just in paper comics – from page layouts to subject matter – is it possible to keep finding new ground?

BG: I can’t say with certainty what has and hasn’t been done since there’s so much unseen out there but there’s a hell of a lot that I’ve never seen tried in comics.

Emily Carrol just put out a set of zines with each one showing one page moments from a different member of a family’s life leading up to a big fire. and you get different sides and different clues deepening on which zine you read. Or there’s that Pat McEwan short in the back of Weasle #1 where each panel is a room and you don’t read left to right — you follow individual characters. I think that idea could be pushed even farther. — you could combine both those ideas and have choose your own adventures that read what direction the reader chooses to look and have it jump books or have pages fold out like posters in it.

I had this idea for a book that starts as a Scott McCloud how to draw comics or how to do perspective or draw manga book– hosted by a guy and his beautiful assistant. 3 chapters in to a standard how book to the assistant is found dead and then the learning comics part gets dropped and it switches to a murder mystery.

Or like, I’ve never seen a serious comic showing the life cycle of a fungus

Even if stories come from the old roots I think doing them in new ways creates something bigger than just the root idea. plus as a reader or an artist I feel like you have to have hope for undiscovered country. You can’t be an explorer that already expects every mountain to have a flag planted on it– there are still mountains on mars.

Longer quote than I wanted to post, but I wanted to get Sean’s question in there, too. There’s plenty more to read, including a great bonus round.

“There are still mountains are mars” is so good, because it then makes you wonder why so many comics are content with climbing Everest over and over again at best. Other than Morrison’s Batman & Robin (specifically the Irving/Stewart/Quitely trinity), which has definitely had its share of crap art, are there any visually challenging major books at Marvel or DC? Brian Bendis got Chris Bachalo for an Avengers comic and wasted him on a bunch of talking heads. Sure, Bachalo draws great heads, but is that really what you want him to do? I mean… that’s like getting Brendan McCarthy to draw your crime noir story, or Jack Kirby to do an adaptation of High & Low. I mean, sure, it’d look nice, but seriously: who cares? Who wants that? Work to these people’s strengths and show us something new instead of throwing all these square pegs into round holes. Figure out a new way to do talking heads or Batman standing on a gargoyle or Daredevil crying about his crappy life like a big fat baby on a rooftop in the rain.

Eric Wallace on DC’s upcoming Mr. Terrific:

Michael’s entire supporting cast will be new. One of the most important figures in his life is ALEEKA OKAFUR. Black and brilliant, Aleeka keeps Michael on the straight and narrow while running a billion dollar corporation, Holt Industries. When Michael makes mistakes and everyone else is afraid to speak up, she’ll be the one who tells it like it is. She’s the “heart” to Michael’s “head” when it comes to business affairs, and together they make quite a team. Another new character I’m excited about is JAMAAL, a sixteen-year-old intern at Holt Industries, who also just happens to have an I.Q. of 192. Needless to say, Michael sees a lot of himself when he was a boy in Jamaal, which makes Jamaal’s life really tough, really fast. Yes, he might be a genius, but Jamaal still has a lot of growing up to do. The problem is that Michael often forgets this fact.

I like the sound of Mr. Terrific the more I hear about it, and Eric Wallace acquits himself well in this interview, some bizarre phrasing featuring the word “diverse” aside. I mean, you’ve got a cape comic with a high tech angle, a supersmart protagonist who’s going to be going on dates, and what sounds like an actual supporting cast, a rare creature in modern cape comics. A black lady, too! How rare is THAT, I ask you?

The setup, what little info we’ve been given thus far, puts me in mind of McDuffie and Cowan’s Hardware, which in turn made me realize that Hardware and Terrific are basically perfect rivals. Brilliant and idealistic vs Brilliant and gruff? Easy conflict right there. Wallace teases a surprise cameo in issue one, and it’s probably Steel, but Hardware would be fun, too.

Not to mention their approaches to technology. Holt always struck me as a soft, sensitive dude–he can speak to electronics and finesse his way to innovation. He’s got a subtle touch, like a three pointer with half a second left, nothing but net. Hardware is rougher, with armor that looks cobbled together and is clearly a weapon. You turn the corner and run into Hardware and you aren’t even scared. You’re in awe, and then you’re scared when you realize exactly how many different ways he has to kill you. Hardware is that slam dunk that ends the game and posterizes somebody for eternity.

Like, basically, after you and your crew go up against Hardware, your grandkids would come at you like “I saw that picture of the time you got away from Hardware, granddad, and that’s what you call winning?”

“I’d hate to see what you call losing.”

Mr Terrific looks good, though. DC just needs to tighten up its PR game.

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What I Don’t Know About Comics Art Could Fill Oceans

May 2nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I thought this fight scene from Batman Incorporated 5 was pretty straight. Art by Yanick Paquette, inks by Michel Lacombe, colors by Nathan Fairbain, words by Grant Morrison, letters by Pat Brosseau:

It’s not really as elegant as some of the stuff Quitely did in his run on Batman & Robin (digital, trade), or as visceral as Cameron Stewart (digital, trade) got when Batman and Robin visited London. Taken as a series of discrete moments, it works, and it’s pretty easy to animate this in your head. I only have trouble on page 2, panel 5 leading into panel 6, but it’s clear more time passed between those panels than it did between, say, panel 2 into panel 3. I do like how those twin rocks in 2.3 serve as reference points for how the fight moves around in space. That’s a great idea.

The money panel is page 3, panel 5. It’s the only real moment of pain in the entire fight scene, I think. The other panels were very give-and-take, this sort of playfighting kinda thing. 3.5 is crucial, though. Paquette captured that moment in time perfectly, with a painful looking awkwardness in Scorpiana’s posture and surprise in the body language of El Gaucho and The Hood. Even the shock lines–what are they actually called?–are dead-on, and Scorpiana’s helmet coming off is the icing on the cake. While the fight isn’t all the way there for me, that bit? 3.5? It makes the scene for me. The only thing I would do is swap the “Ouch” for a balloon coming from Scorpiana that’s either empty, filled with squiggles, or a breath mark. I always liked how that looked, and it’d sell the interruption of the action even more.

Okay. Here’s the thing.

I’m not an artist. Well, not any more–I spent some time in high school putting together a portfolio so I could go to art school, but then I discovered I could write, blah blah blah who cares. I’ve got no training beyond binging on books and art theory online. I don’t know near enough about comics art.

Here’s the proof.

Over on his Twitter, Adam Warren posted a link to an old DeviantArt post about how he draws Empowered (digital, trade). This is the sort of thing I eat up, because it’s the real nuts and bolts of comics art. It’s behind the behind the scenes. I was really interested for the first few paragraphs, because it’s all about format and readability. This is basic, basic stuff, but it’s the building blocks of comics. “You have a blank page. What is your first step? How does that step affect your work?”

(I think about format a lot, both in other people’s work and my own. Especially my own; I struggle with the way I use images. Ask me how pleased I am with that (digital, trade) stuff up there. No, don’t, because the answer is “it sucks and is ugly but I don’t know how else to massage that data into the post, barring an even uglier list at the end of the post.”)

It’s the fourth paragraph that blew off the top of my skull, though. Here’s the relevant bit:

Note that there’s one more step I could take to make EMPOWERED even more readable… Namely, I could use “manga gutters” on its pages. In manga, the vertical gutters between panels are very thin and the horizontal gutters are VERY thick (usually in a 1:3 vertical: horizontal ratio), in order to ensure that the reader’s eyetrack stays on a particular (horizontal) tier of panels and doesn’t stray down to an out-of-sequence panel below.

Got any manga nearby? Pick it up, flip to a random page, and look at it. That’s what I did immediately, and since I live in a fire trap, I did it a couple more times, too. If you can, find one of those pages that has three panels that take up the top half of the page–two squat panels stacked on top of each other and one tall panel beside them. Or here, look at these images I pulled from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira ages ago:

Do you see this? Isn’t it unbelievably obvious? It’s the kind of obvious that makes you feel dumb. I own a ton of manga. I almost don’t want to move because it probably weighs an actual ton, and I never noticed this. Look how huge those horizontal gutters are. The panels are swimming. It’s such a little thing, the sort of thing you’d never spot unless you were looking for it (or good at your job), and it means so much.

It got me thinking. I grabbed Barbucci and Canepa’s Skydoll: Spaceship, a collection of short stories, and flipped through. It was a mix of manga gutters, regular gutters, and gutters that were irregularly applied. Some gutters were pencil thin, while others were super chunky. I opened up one of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat volumes (specifically Krazy and Ignatz 1916-1918). The gutters there weren’t as clearly defined as in more modern work, but still obvious. Some panels were boxed off, while others were separated by an inch or so of whitespace. Vertically, it looks packed, but horizontally, it had room to breathe.

This is part of why I like writing and reading about comics. There’s so much that goes into the page, and it’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. I used to have (maybe still do?) this slim Italian volume of Hirohiko Araki’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. My mom got it for me after she went overseas for a bit. This was forever ago–1997? 1998? I don’t remember, but it wasn’t the Jojo series that eventually made it over here. I couldn’t read it, so instead, I just looked at it, trying to discern the story just from the art. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, but I remember liking it.

Now, I do the same thing, but on purpose. Reading a book in a language that you don’t understand can be really eye-opening sometimes. I own an armful of untranslated manga that I just pull out and look at sometimes. I want to know how things are put together and what makes them tick. Analyzing makes good things better and mediocre things worse, and I’m 100% okay with that. I’m thankful every time I learn something new. It turns out that the new thing this time was something that I’ve seen thousands of times before, but never recognized. I was too busy looking at what was in the panels, instead of what was between them.

I keep kicking around this idea of doing a comparison on how we read digital comics versus print (or standard) comics. It’s a very different experience, especially if you use a guided view. There’s a zoom in Dark Horse’s digital version of Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf & Cub that cracked me up. It’s straight out of a ’70s-era kung fu movie, and so appropriate to the story it’s telling. I can’t replicate it, but here are the two relevant images. Imagine a sudden and jagged zoom from the first panel to the next. If your taste in movies is at all like mine, you’ll understand.

Here, fast forward to about 0:30 and pay attention to the camera. It’s the same effect.

That type of transition doesn’t, and cannot, happen in comics. It requires real motion, and it raises a lot of questions about where digital comics are going to go from here. Are they gonna be just simple transplants, or is someone gonna take advantage of this way of reading comics to the fullest extent? That transition is something new and entirely accidental. It was inconceivable when Koike and Kojima created that page, and I doubt Dark Horse went through and set up the zooms for dramatic effect. One day somebody ill is going to dig into digital comics and leave everybody else behind in the dust. Real, raw comics with next-level storytelling, no gimmicks.

As much as I’d love to explain why the different between digital and print is interesting, I don’t have the vocabulary for it yet. I’m not Frank Santoro. Not even close. I’m just a guy who reads and likes to talk about what he read. Sometimes my reach exceeds my grasp. Sometimes I miss things.

But it’s nice to think that I could one day learn enough to be on that level. There’s so much to learn. It’s exciting, like putting together a puzzle. There’s unlimited potential. Being better than some wack writer on another site isn’t enough. I need to be better than I am right now.

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The Cipher 04/27/11: “Lees and shell toes like it’s Black History Month”

April 27th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

picture me, lampin’ in the company car

created: blahhhhh

-New milestone: I did a piece for Publishers Weekly on First Second’s digital strategy. I don’t do much actual journalism type stuff, so this was pretty neat.

-I liked Wilfred Santiago’s biography of Roberto Clemente. 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is cheap on Amazon, just about fifteen bucks. I liked it quite a bit, so check out that review.

-You can read Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s Afrodisiac for free.99. You absolutely should. Big fan.

Moebius is your favorite artist’s favorite artist. True.

Here go five digital comics you need to get up on. Comic Book Comics, Dwayne McDuffie’s run on Fantastic Four, Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits, Catwoman: Dark End of the Street, and Marineman.

-Here’s video of the iFanboy vs ComicsAlliance panel at Wondercon:

rims like tibetan prayer wheels

consumed: Today sucks like days haven’t sucked in forever, so I’m going to keep this short. Longer next week, I promise.

-Music… I’ve been spinning this mix of David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars and Saul Williams’s The Inevitable Rise and Liberation Of Niggy Tardust. Is it a yin/yang thing? I dunno. The transition from “Rock’n’Roll Suicide” to “Black History Month” (ain’t on youtube, look elsewhere) is pretty crucial. On Twitter, I said “the transition from David Bowie’s Rock’n’Roll Suicide to Saul Williams’s Black History Month is like dying and waking up in the apocalypse.” I dunno. I wish I could set up like a 15 seconds crossfade from one song to the other in iTunes, but not between songs on both albums.

-Black Avengers–Graeme pulled out some quotes from a Brevoort piece on CBR that made some waves on Twitter. I don’t care, but I don’t care in that way that I get mad that other people care.

-It reminds me of the chromatic casting meme from last year (year before?). It’s begging for scraps off the table instead of demanding a seat at the table. I don’t want to buy Black Avengers. If I had to choose, I want to buy some fresh new comics with black characters. I don’t need the Avengers to validate my race or the characters I like.

-Screw the Avengers.

-This sort of thing tends to pop up once or twice a year–somebody gets it into their head that in order to be EQUAL black people need to be the same thing as white people. We need a Black Spider-Man! That’s diversity, right?!

-Black Spider-Man can get deez nutz. I don’t want him at all.

-The worst part about Black Avengers, and I’m using Black Avengers as a term to stand in for the thing I’m talking about, is that it’s so unbelievably short-sighted. It just ends up propping up the old, clumsy, ugly, poisonous, and rotten paradigm that everyone claims they want to get out from under. Let them people have the Avengers. Make something better.

-Oh, you want rock’n’roll? That’s cool, ’cause we’ve got rap.

-Sometimes I seriously hate corporate comics.

-And I said this would be short, but that was a lie, because I wanted to get that poison out of me. I’m not mad about the Black Avengers. I just think it’s a stupid idea (and, like all stupid ideas, one that would work under a talented team) and hate that it became, however briefly, a talking point with regards to race and capes.

-Think it through in both directions, front to back–where did it come from? Where will it lead? What does it mean? Black Avengers thinking is poisonous.

-Crap, what do I like so this isn’t completely composed of me blacking out on dumb ideas…

-JTabon on Twitter made the mistake of Twitting this: “Did a watercolor sketch of Jubilee in a hoodie as a warmup today. @hermanos puts terrible ideas in my head.”

-I think I’d twittered something about girls in fur-lined hoodies, but I don’t feel like looking.

-I called his bluff and told him to post it. Look:

-Dude is dope. Follow him on Twitter if you twit, and if you don’t, check out his website. The top post right now is a really interesting inking practice thing.

I liked this Tim Callahan piece on comics media.

Blu dropped some predictably cryptic liner notes for his new album, in addition to the track list. Really looking forward to No York over here.

-I saw Hanna. I liked it. Too frustrated to write about it right now, though.

It Ain’t No More To It is an attempt to better my writing. I give myself a time limit (15 or 30 minutes) and I don’t allow myself to edit. Once a paragraph is finished, it’s locked in stone, typos and all, and I move on. I barely even edit once I finish a sentence, barring deletion. It’s the raw unfiltered. My sword needs to be sharper, and this seems like an effective way to do it. Think faster, think better.

-Oh yeah, the African Batman has a few pages in Batman Inc 5. His name is David and he has a jetpack. I approve.

-I hope Donald Trump gets punched in the stomach on live TV. How unbelievably disappointing.

nigga, what, i’m a star

David: Power Man and Iron Fist 4, Xombi 2
Esther: Oui: Action Comics 900, Batman Incorporated 5 Peut-être: Xombi 2, Detective Comics 876
Gavin: Batman Inc. 5, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 9, Justice League: Generation Lost 24, Avengers 12.1, Captain America 617, Deadpool 36, FF 2, Incredible Hulk 627, Namor: The First Mutant 9, Power Man and Iron Fist 4, Secret Avengers 12, Secret Avengers 12.1, Venom 2, Incorruptible 17

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“Have you returned to Khera to commit SUICIDE with me?”

April 15th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Lotta talk about Wonder Woman on Twitter recently, I figure due to the TV show, but she’s a character I could never really get into. My eyes just kinda glaze over. There have been bits and pieces (JLA Earth 2 by Morrison and Quitely, JLA Classified: Ultramarines by Morrison and McGuinness, sometimes the cartoon), but overall? I dunno, never clicked.

When it comes to women from an isolationist Amazon culture turned superhero who has a dopey blond-haired military dude for a love interest and a little sister who is also a hero, Zealot will always have my heart:

She’s basically Wonder Woman + All The Good Parts of Wolverine + Aristocracy + Guilt-free Violence. Wonder Woman’s always felt a little fluid to me, like people couldn’t ever decide what she was beyond “She’s in the Trinity, and sometimes she kills people I guess. Oh, no, wait, killing is wrong, so all of this awesome armor and her armory is uh ceremonial.”

Izza shame there’s only been something like three and a half readable Zealot stories ever, though. Great in theory, mumblemumble in execution.

Words on that one by Grant Morrison, pencils by Jim Lee, inks by Scott Williams, colors by Alex Sinclair. Wildcats #1. #2 is undoubtedly lost and gone forever.

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