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“Your mind right now — reeling!” [Godland]

February 7th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

What I like most about Joe Casey & Tom Scioli’s Godland is just how unbelievably happy it is to be a comic book. I remember reading the first trade years ago and not really getting it. The Kirby influence put me off, I think, and I wasn’t quite a full-fledged member of the Joe Casey Fanclub yet. I read the series front to back recently, though, and greatly enjoyed it.

A big part of the reason why Godland is so delightful is stuff like this from issue 18:

Casey’s dialogue pretty much never stops being straight out of the modern comics industry. The inconsistent censorship makes me think of that first wave of Image books back in the day. For the most part, he’s putting a 21st century spin on concepts that have their roots in things like Stan Lee’s verbose and tortured Silver Surfer or Kirby’s remarkably petty Darkseid.

The captions keep drawing my attention, though. Sometimes, he plays it straight Stan Lee, with a lovable huckster nudging you in the ribs and pointing out how genius he is. At other points, he goes straight Jim Starlin, throwing cosmic language at you and expecting you to keep up.

And then, right here, he splits the difference between the two and comes up with something sublime.

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Villains Reborn Part 3: Eyes of a Hawk, Ears of a Wolf

February 3rd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

When we last left our sorta heroes, Hawkeye stepped into the room to alert the Thunderbolts to his presence… and to let them know that he clogged the toilet. Thunderbolts #21 follows up on that with the team making a joint effort in trying to take Hawkeye down. Much like any given Garth Ennis protagonist, the guy with no powers proceeds to clown everyone. Not just with his trick arrows, but with his ability to make the Thunderbolts trip over each other.

The deal is that if he could last five minutes, the team would have to hear his pitch. And what a pitch! He’s talked it over with Henry Gyrich and the government bigwigs and wants to lead the Thunderbolts. Sure, he was annoyed by the whole Masters of Evil façade, but was he really all that different before joining the Avengers? Suddenly the Black Widow flashback story from the first year seems like less of a throwaway issue as it’s really there to seep Hawkeye into our reader consciousness.

The team is open to this idea, except for Songbird. She desperately screams that this is all a trick and flies off. MACH offers to go talk to her and it’s a good thing, since she’s having a very public tantrum that’s brought the National Guard into this. He gets her away from the battle, but his shoddy armor starts to fall apart and they crash into a condemned building. Songbird makes a sound-based shield to keep the authorities out and MACH finally mans up and talks to her about her recent personality shift.

Songbird goes into her life. Between her parents, her first love, the Grapplers, the Masters of Evil, her relationship with Angar the Screamer and the emotional twisting that came from Zemo’s Thunderbolts plan, her life has been nothing but a series of hope leading directly into soul-crushing failure and she can’t take it anymore. Hawkeye’s idea sounds nice, but she knows it’ll only kill her on the inside yet again. MACH promises that despite her attempts to push him away, he’ll always be there for her. Which is all nice, but they also have that whole National Guard situation to deal with. Luckily, Hawkeye and the rest bail them out. This does lead to there being footage of Hawkeye working with the Thunderbolts and the media isn’t so sure how to handle that.

Read the rest of this entry �

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It Ain’t No More To It: On My Superman

April 26th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

started about halfway through David Bowie’s “Soul Love”. 2205 on 04.25.11. i cheated and edited in a correction toward the end at 0011 on 04.26.11, but it was a really dumb mistake. i’ll do better next time.

I read through the last year of Joe Casey’s run on Adventures of Superman the other day. It’s one of the few works of his I haven’t read, and this was the infamous “Superman is a pacifist” segment, so I figured I should. I came away pretty impressed–Casey had a lot of good ideas. Most of them were well-executed, and the ones that weren’t were still very strong. My favorite part of the run was a small scene from Adventures of Superman 610 that was unrelated to the rest of the issue. They’re spread throughout this post.

I really liked that Casey’s Superman refused violence as a way to solve problems, and I felt like this was another take on what Ann Nocenti was exploring in Daredevil all those years ago, the idea that resorting to violence is a sign of failure, rather than triumph. It takes one of the central tenets of the superhero, that muscles can beat anything, and says, “This is untrue.”

Casey having a specific take on Superman, like a mandate, was really interesting to me. Most writers tend to go with “Superman is all that is good,” which is okay, but not very interesting sometimes. It got me thinking about what I like about Superman, a character I wasn’t into much as a kid, but suddenly seem to have a lot of opinions about now that I’m an adult. I don’t really care to argue whether Superman is a Jesus figure or Moses (because he’s Moses, frankly), but I’m going to try to pin down what’s “my” Superman.

I figure my first, biggest tenet is that Superman doesn’t cry. If you take for granted that Superman is Superman, the one hero that everyone loves and respects, then seeing Superman cry would be like seeing your dad cry. It’d be horrifying, a big fat ball of ugly, crawling dread dropped directly into your hindbrain. When he’s Superman, when he’s got that costume on, he should fearless. He can be sad, sure–that’s fine. But Superman doesn’t cry. The only people he cries in front of… that’s Lois Lane and his parents. He’s strong for everyone else, but since he knows that his family is there for him, he can bring the wall down.

Superman’s got Lois Lane. She’s the one he goes back to when times get rough, and she’s the one whose the Mary Jane to his Peter Parker. She’s where he goes to be normal. I never like it when writers come up with infidelity, fake or otherwise, plots, because Lois married the actual best person on Earth. Cheating doesn’t even enter into his mind. It’s positively absurd, like Mother Teresa strangling a child on live television. Lois isn’t jealous because she knows exactly what her husband is. She knows she’s got nothing to fear.

I think Superman’s biggest feature is his compassion. He’s an idealist at his foundation, and he tries to serve as an inspiration. He can’t save everyone, and he knows that, but he hates it. He’d rescue balloons out of trees just to see a kid smile, and he spends more time silently helping people than sleeping. I like this scene with Emilio for exactly that reason. He doesn’t know this kid at all, but he’s so unbelievably compassionate that he came to see him, despite knowing that he couldn’t save the child’s mother. He just wanted to be there, to provide a shoulder.

I figure that at least 75% of what Superman does to help people has to be non-violent. Crime-stopping is okay, but that’s treating the symptom. Superman is going for a better world, not a “pretty good today.”

Because of that compassion, Superman has to be a pretty melancholy dude. He’s more aware of his failings than anyone else, and considering exactly how powerful he is, his failings are huge. There is a lot he can’t do, and those would be the things he wishes he could do the most. Like, when his parents died, Batman learned that the world only makes sense when you force it to. You reach out, you make a fist, and you pound the world into shape. Superman’s a little different. Superman’s about coping, rather than control. He’s battling a chronic disease as best he can.

Another thing I hate is when people suddenly distrust Superman. That’s stupid. He’s Superman. The whole point is that you’re supposed to trust him, that he’s hear to save us all. I think it’s interesting when people appear who point out where he’s gone wrong, though I can’t think of a time that story wasn’t smarmy and condescendingly awful. But he’s the one guy who is bigger than politics. He’s Michael Jackson, or Mickey Mouse.

Casey’s pacifist take was supremely interesting. Superman has violence at the core of his character. That’s how he solved problems when he first appeared, and for the past however many years. I’m not one to deny the power of violence as a problem solving tool, but I enjoy the idea of the strongest man in the world actively rejecting that power, and what’s more, treating it with scorn. It’s a statement: “I am better than this. We can do better than this.”

Rejecting violence also lets Superman tackle problems that would be otherwise tacky in cape comics. Superman fighting a super-strong straw man of a black militant is ugly and stupid, an attempt to boil down an endlessly complex quagmire into black and white. A Superman who sits down and says, “Let’s talk,” though, is a way to create much more personal and powerful stories. Sure, it doesn’t make for exciting fight comics, but we’ve had seventy years of fight comics. Go read those. Embrace something else.

I like the idea that Superman reads all his fanmail.

I’m not reading Superman comics right now. I don’t think I’ve read them since Geoff Johns and Eric Powell did that Goon story (I’m cheating, but I definitely meant Bizarro, not Goon). The Krypton stuff did nothing for me, the War With Krypton sounded excruciating, and at this point, JMS has managed to compromise the line. I’ve never been a huge Superman fan, but I like him in bursts. Superman: Birthright is great, as is The Death and Return of Superman. The Death was actually my entry into Superman, back in the day. He died on my birthday, in fact.

I think Superman is a good character. I don’t much care for the bulk of his comics, or really the movies, but he was cool on the cartoon. I wish I liked him more, but I do like seeing how other heroes play off him or are inspired by him. I think he’s too often played as a Boy Scout, full stop, to be truly interesting. There’s a lot of wiggle room in him, just like there is in most cape comics characters, but not a lot of experimentation.

Superman is one of the strongest characters in comics. I think it’d be cool to see how far he can bend before he’s not Superman any more.

finished about fifty seconds into David Bowie’s “Rock’n’Roll Suicide”. 2235 on 04.25.11

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The Cipher 04/06/11: “Imagine if this was the last rhyme I ever wrote”

April 6th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

i say, one, two, three, four, five, really wanted you to be my wife

created: I read a Wiki article the other day about Impostor syndrome. It’s an interesting read, and I’m pretty sure I waffle between that and a sense of absolutely delusional entitlement regularly.

-Ten panels you should’ve seen at Wondercon

-A really obvious April Fools’ Day post

-X-Men blah blah event blah


and i say six, seven, eight, nine, ten, really wanted you to be my friend

consumed: I went to Wondercon and got sick. I was wrecked yesterday and am only slightly better today, but I should be good to go tomorrow. I hardly ever get sick, so each time is like the end of the world. (What a crybaby.)

-Jay Potts got his book funded! I’m really happy that this happened. Black comics, baby! Congrats to Jay. Looking forward to seeing the book.

-How Slavery Really Ended In America is an interesting read. I’m only a couple pages in, so maybe it goes south at some point, but thus far? Super interesting.

-Zom of the Mindless Ones takes a swing at Frank Miller, Lynn Varley, and Klaus Janson’s Joker, with an eye toward David Bowie. I liked this read. It’s a pretty interesting examination.

-I got the new Fantagraphics catalog in the mail, and guess what’s in it! Michael Kupperman’s Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010! Kupperman is one of the funniest dudes in comics (it’s him, Kyle Baker, Sergio Aragones, and ???), and his Mark Twain post was super funny. Here’s an excerpt from Tales Designed to Thrizzle 6, one of the funniest comics ever:


So, yes: I’m buying this one as soon as it drops.

-The Daily Crosshatch had a good interview with Stan Sakai of Usagi Yojimbo fame.

-Coming via Cheryl Lynn is this bit of dopeness:

SOUL MAN™ Teaser Guillaume Ivernel (Blacklight Movies) from Blacklight Movies on Vimeo.

-Sean Witzke is back to writing about comics, and wow, he’s making my days. On Dan Slott, Marcos Martin, and violence in cape comics:

You want to do the story where Spider-Man saves everyone, makes sure that no one dies, gets some new armor with some cool magnetic webbing, outsmarts the bad guy and rubs it in J Jonah Jameson’s face? Do it without talking about it. Calling all this attention to death, it makes the entire endeavor feel awkward, it consistently points out that this is a problem with reading a superhero comic with real world consequences. If you want to do something old school and tell classic Spidey stories, WHY NOT JUST DO IT? This is caught in the middle and satisfies neither side.

On Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, and action in comics:

This isn’t nostalgia comics, it’s a job for these guys – almost in the mode of the shittiest Batman comics that come out – it has Wolverine and Deadpool in it, and it comes out in 6 weeks, do whatever you want. And Remender and Opena, they want to do a comic with some great fight scenes, and for me that’s always been something undervalued as a reason to make a comic. Especially in a place where comics are now, where real action is now much more of an idea you play to (which I think happens in all kinds of comics, from the Fort Thunder indie stuff to huge Marvel/DC crossovers, action is a pose more than anything). Giving a shit about things like fights and chases always makes me feel a bit silly, but it’s what I care about and I enjoy seeing it done right and hate when it’s paid lip service to. Uncanny X-Force is a comic that understands what it is, and then goes about being the best dumb fight comic it can be.

On Charles Burns’s X’ed Out:

So I bought it, I thought the idea of Tintin traveling through Interzone sounded far enough away from coming of age and the 70s and Baby’s First Body Horror Reader. I bought it, because I am an idiot who actually listens to people, and the preview art looked great. I paid $20 for this. Those Tintin books that have 3 reprints in one are only $18.

-Some scrub on Twitter (retweeted here) called Sean’s work “Not the type of criticism the world needs.” Hahaha. Get real, homey.

-I can’t think of anyone who writes about comics like Sean does. The way he blends cinema theory (is that a word? “the way movies work”) and comics theory is endlessly fascinating to me, because I like movies, but I don’t know them. Sean can spot directors swiping other directors, which is basically magic, as far as I’m concerned. That’s a voice that I need to be reading, and that’s just the most obvious touchstone for his work.

-It’s cool to not like people, but to pitch it as “Oh, this guy is hurting the form,” like there’s some objective way to grade criticism? You need a dummy smack for that one. If somebody sucks, say they suck. Don’t get all bougie about it and try to justify your dislike.

-I always find discussions of what criticism is or should be to be pointless, but hey, I’m home sick from work and doped up, so let’s get it in.

-People are gonna believe what they want to believe about your work, according to their own interests. I’ve had people tell me that I’m too negative online. That’s funny, because I posted about 25 times in February for Black History Month, and one post about a dumb Gorilla Grodd comic came close to getting more comments than everything I wrote in February combined.

-I’m negative? C’mon, b. I spent the latter third of last year depressed out of my head and still managed to give sloppy kisses to dozens of comics I loved. Check the rhime if you don’t believe me. Do your homework.

-The internet’s backwards. People pay attention when you savage (or lightly insult or even ignore, at this point) something, because 1) controversy (intended or otherwise) brings in hits and 2) everybody likes a chance to tell you you’re wrong. Post about something you like more than most people you’ve met? Deafening silence. It should be the other way around.

-That’s the secret of why every site does top ten lists. They invite hits and angry comments.

-I could post tomorrow on that dumb looking American Panther thing, with some very well thought out and reasonable points, but I’d rather do what I’m doing right after I finish this point: write about Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo and figure out some way to explain Moebius to a general audience.

-The more I think about it, the dumber I think “not the type of criticism the world needs” is an incredibly stupid thing to say. It’s just–there’s this layer of elitism in there, an implicit statement that criticism needs to be a certain way to be valid, that valid criticism exists, and all of this other garbage that I hate.

-It reeks of stuffy academia, where knowledge is only kept by those who have been properly trained or let into a special criticism club. It’s rockism for comics, and I hate it. Maybe that’s my lack of education and public school upbringing, I dunno.

-But I do know that me and mine could eat people who think like that for lunch.

-There’s no right way to do criticism. It’s anything goes martial arts. You can savage books all day long, talk around them, new games journalism them, dissect them, or recap them. If it’s good, it’s good. No one “needs” any type of criticism, either.

-We’re all nobodies, baby. “I just wanted to talk about the comics, see? All those shitty, amazing comics…”

-It’s a good time to be a comics fan. Heroes for Hire went a little soft in the art department this week, but, man, was that a good issue or what? Misty Knight uber alles, dang.

-I need to figure out what I should write about Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston’s Butcher Baker. I’m feeling it, though.


and i say eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, can’t think of nothing that rhyme with fifteen

David: Heroes for Hire 5
Esther: Esther’s comics purchases for today have been called on account of bad plots and crossovers
Gavin: Axe Cop Bad Guy Earth 2, Secret Six 32, Irredeemable 24, Deadpool Family 1, Herc 1, Heroes For Hire 5, Marvel Zombies Supreme 3, Ozma Of Oz 5, Ultimate Comics Captain America 4, (Maybe) Fear Itself 1

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3 Formative Works: Wildcats

August 5th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

(with a tip of the hat to Morgan Jeske for this week’s gimmick)

It was Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane that hooked me. McFarlane was on Amazing Spider-Man, and later Spider-Man, around the time I was getting into comics. Jim Lee made a huge impression on me with X-Men #1, to the point where I even still have my issue with the crazy gatefold cover after jettisoning most of the old stuff I owned.

It was only natural that I followed them over to Image, though that was as much a happy accident of trading comics as anything intentional. I stuck with Spawn for a couple of years, inadvertently reading my first Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison stories in the process. WildC.A.T.s… I’m not sure how long I stuck with it. I definitely read it off and on, like I did everything I was into back then, and I definitely read it because a) I loved Jim Lee’s art and b) Grifter had the best mask in comics, outside of black costume Spider-Man.

Years pass. I quit comics at the height of Onslaught and the Clone Saga. I pick up a couple of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira hardcovers on the cheap in 98 or 99, fifteen a piece, and I occasionally browse the racks at my local BX, but I’m not exactly buying anything. I buy my next comic in Madrid, in late 2000, early 2001. It was Norma Editorial’s Spanish language edition of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s 300. I move back to the States in ’02, discover the graphic novels section at Booksamillion in what, early-mid ’03? I pick up Wildcats: Street Smart because, hey, I liked WildC.A.T.s back in the day! I know Scott Lobdell’s name! The art looks pretty neat! In the end, though, it was just okay in such a way that I didn’t bother looking for more.

I picked up Wildcats 3.0 at some point, I think partway its run. I don’t know why–at the time, Joe Casey and Dustin Nguyen were both completely unknown to me. But it knocked my socks off from top to bottom, from the covers to that weird Wildstorm angular lettering, and I was hooked. A few issues in and I backtracked to Wildcats again, this time pushing past the completely lackluster opening arc and picking up Wildcats: Vicious Circles.

And look, Lobdell and Travis Charest are gone, replaced with Joe Casey and Sean Phillips, with a short assist by Steve Dillon. It’s a dramatic change, as the art went from weird and realistic to a fault to being… ugly. I mean, there’s no flash in Phillips’s work, Wildstorm FX was unusually subdued, and cripes, man, there’s barely even any costumes. The panel borders were super thick, too, what is that about?

It took some getting used to, but once it clicked, it clicked hard for me. I got what Phillips and Casey were doing. Wildcats wasn’t a superhero comic, not in the traditional sense. WildC.A.T.s was about a Covert Action Team fighting a war. Wildcats, then, was about life during peacetime. The war that gave all of the Wildcats their reason for being is a distant memory.

Like Winter Men, Wildcats is about what happens next. The answers varies from person to person. Grifter drifts from place to place and job to job, desperately trying to regain old glories and remaining obsessed with Zealot, his former lover. Priscilla is running from life by drowning in leisure. Jeremy’s trying to prove his love for Pris by “fixing” her. Hadrian, always the soldier, stepped into the shoes of his former boss and attempted to run a company in a forward thinking way. Maxine Manchester… well, she’s more or less the same.

Rather than being about any particular bad guy or conflict, Wildcats is more like the chronicles of an estranged superhero family. Hadrian is the father, but he’s distant and troubled. Jeremy is trying to overachieve and win the approval of others. Pris wants anything but to be part of the family, but doesn’t realize that she has no idea how to be anything but part of the family. Grifter needs a cause, and he’s worthless without one.

At this point in my comics reading career, I’d picked up Ultimates and Authority. I was regularly reading Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca’s X-Treme X-Men, Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men, and I think I was just getting into Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. Wildcats, at the time, was the most “out there” book I was into. It starred superheroes, but actively avoided superheroic action. When it came time for one of the big bad guys to have his big showdown, he’s finished off with a bullet in the back of the head. There was plenty of X-Men-style drama, but very little of the accompanying continuity-heavy action and violence.

Wildcats was necessary for me. It was definitely part of the process that opened me up to different kinds of storytelling. Phillips is a personal favorite now, and reading comics about regular people doing regular things doesn’t seem so weird any more. Wildcats is story driven, maybe to a fault, and running into it face first while getting back into comics was definitely did me a favor. Of course, it’s all out of print now, though easily available used. DC’s printing Wildcats Version 3.0 Year One later this year, which collects the first twelve issues of that run, but I can’t really see them reprinting the run where Casey found his legs and setup 3.0.

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Fourcast! 30: Last Week In Comics

January 25th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Chad Nevett on the intro
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music
-Review show! We haven’t done one of these in a while.
-Joe Casey and Ardian Syaf’s Superman/Batman #68
-Ed Brubaker and Luke Ross’s Captain America #602 & Sean McKeever and David Baldeon’s Nomad backup
-Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner’s Power Girl #8
-Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s Joe the Barbarian #1
-Sholly Fisch, Robert Pope, and Scott McRae’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13
-Art Baltazar and Franco’s Tiny Titans #24
-And out!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
-Podcast Alley feed!
-RSS feed via Feedburner
-iTunes Store

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Fourcast! 01: Saved by the Cowl

May 25th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

We took the plunge and recorded the inaugural 4thletter! Fourcast! this weekend. Esther and I sat down in my apartment and talked about comics for a while, and our gift to you is thirty-four minutes and five seconds of good stuff. I’m not 100% happy with the mix, as there are a few audio peaks spread throughout, but we can work those out as we go along.

We’re looking at a biweekly schedule for now, and bringing in a few surprise guest stars down the line. We also need to rope Gavin into the mix, but that’s a problem for another day.

We begin the first of many Fourcasts with a talk about Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance starring the Super Young Team, and what character really hooked us into comics.

If you want to subscribe, hit up the podcast-specific RSS feed or grab the normal one. Tell your friends, give us an iTunes review or three, and drop us some comments. If you want to subscribe on iTunes, click here! If you have suggestions or want to donate some music… drop me an email.

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Being Broke Is Something I Can’t Afford To Be

May 15th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

FCAD Cv1DC’s The Source blog put up a preview of the new Joe Casey/Chriscross joint, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance.

FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: DANCE #1
Written by Joe Casey
Art by ChrisCross
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Japan’s Super Young Team wants nothing more than to be seen as heroes in the eyes of their adoring public. Unfortunately, their adventures during FINAL CRISIS have gone unnoticed, and they’ve been reduced to performing at public appearances and on various TV shows literally dancing for their livelihood. But the appearance of a new American teammate and a deadly threat complicates the motives of the team as they try and find what truly makes somebody not just a hero, but a sensational hero. Discover the path to greatness in this exciting 6-issue miniseries!

Even better, Brandon Thomas interviewed Joe Casey about the book and his other work. Casey is off Youngblood, so I’m off that book, too. Plus, he says something I agree with 100% on Obama comics:

JC: No way. That move is so played out. Let the guy be the President now, for chrissakes. I think he’s all through being a cheap marketing ploy, a shortcut to making a quick blast of cash in the Direct Market, don’t you?

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