The Cipher 05/04/11: “A meeting in progress.”

May 4th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

(retooling this some.)


New rules for comic book movies! Watch people get mad at me for saying The Dark Knight is not perfect!

Five digital comics you should buy!

Dark Horse has a digital comics app and I take a look!

David Hine and Moritat make The Spirit good!


-Two things about Frank Miller’s work on Sin City: Family Values.

-This page is pretty nuts. A lot of what I read are mainstream comics, superhero or otherwise, which means that they’re colored, sometimes garishly (in both good and bad ways). Spotting blacks is something that feels pretty rare. I can’t remember the last time I looked at a page like, “Wow, look at all that black.”

-Miller’s pretty good at making black and white play well together, though, isn’t he? I love how he minimizes certain things (the barstools), suggests other things (Peggy’s legs), and then throws a bunch of detail onto the man’s pants and Peggy’s sweater. What’s really striking is how that big drop of black that’s Dwight’s chest really sets off his figure.

-I like the feathery fur on Peggy’s jacket, and the fuzz on Dwight’s coat. What material is that supposed to be? Like a light fur? Dwight’s really into his role. Shame about him sitting on his coat, though.

-There’s this piece Miller did of Miho for some magazine or another. It’s in The Art of Sin City, at any rate. It’s sparse, hardly any details but Miho’s face and pubic hair. It sounds perverted, but it really doesn’t come off like that way. It’s sexy, but not like… gross.

-I couldn’t find the image online. Found a whole bunch of other stuff, though. Here’s a slightly dirty Sergio Aragones Sin City illo, instead:

-Miho is probably my favorite character out of Sin City‘s cast. She’s sorta the height of Miller’s Elektric woman worshipping. She’s an invincible killing machine, stronger than everyone around her, and only subordinate to a man when she wants to be, which isn’t really submission at all, is it?

-Miller writes and draws her as a sort of ethereal, angelic figure. Her thoughts are closed to us, barring commentary from other characters, so we can only judge her actions.

-She’s entirely free of shadows in this tale. She’s the only pure character in the entire book. It’s an effective visual choice, because she either fades into the background, like a ghost, or really pops off the page.

-Miho spends all of her time in Family Values killing and maiming some thugs. It’s great.

-It’s great because Miller’s actually pretty good at action scenes. I like how casual this whole sequence is, how Miho’s just an efficient killing machine that catches everyone by surprise.

-The best bit, though, is that last page. Perfect picture of one moment in time, in that moment right before confusion turns into surprise.

-Has anyone ever looked at how Miller portrays people in mid-air? There’s this sublime bit in Elektra Lives Again where Matt Murdock just steps off a balcony and falls, before hitting a wire. Miller & Lynn Varley left the snow on the wire in place while the wire fell. There’s something about the way Miller shows people leaping and falling that’s different. I’d have to reread a whole lot more of his stuff specifically looking at that, though.

-Copped two new albums this week, both of which are actually old: Misnomer(S)’s American I(s) and Hard Nips second EP, I Shit U Not. One’s this sorta… punk-y thing, lots of heavy guitars. The other’s violin-inflected hip-hop.

-I really like the idea of violins and rap. There’s no real reason why one doesn’t belong with the other, and I’ve liked that mix since the intro on Hip Hop Respect (scroll down, hit listen). Misnomer(S) is two sisters, Knewdles and Sos. Knewdles kicks raps that feel sorta Native Tongues-y in terms of flow (I hear a lot of Queen Latifah in her voice, but she’s got De La’s playfulness) and Sos is the violinist half.

American I(s) is a pretty fun record, but that type of fun that flips between rapping about rapping to rapping about real life issues, like racism or broken relationships. I like the way it sounds, though I’ve only listened to it a couple of times thus far.

I Shit U Not… I like how this sounds. I don’t really know much about whatever microgenre this is probably supposed to be, but it’s good music to bike to. That mix of higher-pitched vocals and deep guitars (what’s the word for this type of guitar sound? somebody help me out) makes for an aural mix that’s new to me. The songs feel almost… abstracted, with the music and vocals playing basically the same role to my ears.

-Is that weird?

-I’m pleased with both albums, though. Hard Nips goes onto the workout mix, Misnomer(S) into boom-bap-rap.



David: Heroes for Hire 6
Esther: Yes: Superboy 7 Maybe: Secret Six 33
Gavin: Axe Cop Bad Guy Earth 3, Secret Six 33, Irredeemable 25, Avengers Academy 13, Deadpool Annual 1, Fear Itself 2, Herc 2, Heroes For Hire 6, Marvel Zombies Supreme 4, Ozma Of Oz 6, Uncanny X-Force 9

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Fourcast! 82: Fourcast! Uncut

March 28th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-We’re freestyling a show this time.
-No set subject, just talking and seeing where it takes us.
-It is surprisingly coherent, but impossible to describe.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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Fourcast! 61: Exploitation!

September 13th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Good news!
-If you’ve ever wondered how often we can say “boobs” or “pornography” in sixty seconds, this is definitely the show for you.
-If you’ve ever wanted to hear David and Esther debate the use of exploitation in comics and media, this may be the show for you.
-I mean, what’s the difference between porn and exploitation cinema?
-(The answer is probably “narrative.”)
-Is exploitation ever okay?
-If you’ve ever wanted a show that has a debate that ends in consensus, or even a point, then you should probably listen to some other podcast.
-Fifty minutes, whoo.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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Booze, Broads, & Bullets: Sin City: The Big Fat Kill

April 15th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

You should probably go and read Chad Nevett on That Yellow Bastard and then make your way back here. Peep the index. This one is about the book and about me and my relationship to the book, so, y’know, pull up a chair.

My first comics were Amazing Spider-Man 316, 317, 321 and 322. The first two were the return of Venom, while the latter two were part of the Assassin Nation Plot, with art by Todd McFarlane and words by David Michelinie. I read them til they fell apart, and up until getting screwed over in a move a few years back, they were the oldest comics I owned. I think the first I bought with my own money, or traded for or whatever, was X-Men 1. That set the tone for my comics habits for the next few years. I was reading Marvel, mostly out of the X-office, almost exclusively. I picked up the odd books via trading– Warriors of Plasm, Spawn, Shadowhawk, Robin–but my world was fairly limited. Until Sin City: The Big Fat Kill.

I only ever had chapter five of The Big Fat Kill when I was younger, but I read it dozens, if not hundreds, of times. It’d be years, and I’d be grown, before I read the full story. I’d read plenty of comic books before it, but none like it. The cover alone was different. There was an explosion, a guy jumping, and then some striking text: “Sin City.” More text: “We gotta kill every rat-bastard one of them.” Still more, off to the lower left: “The Big Fat Kill.” This book was different. This was designed. It wasn’t just disparate cover elements tossed onto a gaudy, garish pinup.

Inside was a revelation. Comics come in black and white? And I mean literal black and white. There were no shades of grey, like in flashbacks. People cursed, people died, guns went off, and it was all rendered in two colors. Architecture flip-flopped colors and appeared only in contour. People didn’t have figures so much as vague outlines, and their shadows were all weird. Some pages were half empty, there were panel dedicated to sound effects, and the lettering was uneven and weird. I didn’t know back then, but I now recognize that Miller was playing with negative space, pacing, and contrast. It was just striking. It was amazing.

And the ending– it was murder. “We gotta kill them because we need them dead.” No nobility, no heroism, no moral, and no cause. These people gotta die because Dwight and the girls need to prove a point. Quite a difference from Wolverine pulling his claws or Bishop shooting people with energy bullets.

Past the ending was a letters page. “Keynote Speech by Frank Miller To Diamond Comic Distributors Retailers Seminar.” It was a speech about something entirely new to me. I didn’t know about Jack Kirby, or William Gaines, or the Comics Code Authority. Royalties? What? Creator-ownership? Making fun of Marvel? Past the letters page were pinups. Sergio Aragones, who I knew from Mad. Walt Simonson, who I didn’t know at all.

I would’ve been twelve, but more likely eleven, when I first read it. I don’t think I even really got that the girls were hookers when I first read this. I knew they had actual nudity, rather than the fake nudity of superheroines. It just never clicked. I was out of my depth. The Big Fat Kill was bigger than anything I’d read before, from front to back. It left my brains on the wall.

I didn’t see it at the time, but The Big Fat Kill came along at the right time. I already liked mystery/adventure books. I dug Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, and Sherlock Holmes more than the Hardy Boys, and I blazed through Frank Peretti’s Cooper Kids books. But, reading and re-reading and absorbing The Big Fat Kill was like the end of The Usual Suspects. Tumblers clicked into place, and I was introduced to what would later become my favorite thing. This hard-boiled, ugly, jarring, nasty bastard of a book was a virus. It rewrote my brain.

It was that last scene that did it for me. The calculated murder, the callous way they went about it, and the pithy line Dwight drops when the killing starts (“Where to fight. It counts for a lot. But there’s nothing like having your friends show up with lots of guns.”), all of that had a huge effect on me. Now, I love crime fiction more than anything else, couldn’t really care less about sci-fi/fantasy if I tried, and old movies where women grip cigarette holders, breathe out clouds of stylish death, and send men off to die with a glance and a false smile are some of my favorites. The only thing that even comes close to my attraction to crime stories are stories about feudal Japan, and guess what Frank Miller flirted with in Ronin?

The Big Fat Kill is one of those books I can’t accurately judge. I’m too close to it, it’s too entwined in my DNA. If I had to pretend to be objective, I’d say that Chad has it down pretty well. It’s a short story, not trying to do a whole lot beyond show some manly men, violent women, and dangly earrings. There’s nothing righteous or noble about it. It warps a young mind.

“We gotta kill every last rat-bastard one of them.”

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Portfolio Review: Frank Miller

April 9th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Frank Miller, ably assisted by Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley.

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Frank Miller on Geeks

March 23rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

One thing that really bugs me when I’m signing comics for folks at a shop or convention is how some of you all refer to yourselves as “fanboys” or “geeks,” calling yourselves all kinds of bad names and making it sound like loving comics means being something less than human. I’ve met a lot of you, thousands of you, over the years. You’re a smart bunch, a literate bunch. You’re fun to talk with. The bad eggs, and the much-mentioned crazies, are few and very far between. I’m lucky to have the readers I have, and I’m grateful for your attention and loyalty.

A self-contempt, even a self-hatred, suffuses our amazing little field, expressed as often by publishers and writers and artists as by readers. The origins of this industry-wide inferiority complex are historical and foolish. Yes. We are a bastard industry, much maligned. Ours is a story form considered by many, even most, as juvenile and unworthy. So was the novel, once. So were the movies. And maybe people in my position, writers and artists, haven’t yet produced enough superior work to make the rest of the world think better of us. But superior works have been done, and more are in the pipe. The field is rich, very rich, in talent. The art form is unique in its capabilities. Our best days are ahead of us. Comics readers are likewise ahead of public perception. You know you love this stuff. Give the rest of them time to catch up, sure, but don’t think you’re a geek because you love good drawing or a good, dramatic story told well.

We must admit our love for our crazy little business of comic books. Screwy as our history is, unjust and splattered with the lifeblood of our best as our history is, we must move forward, unashamed, even a bit proud. Only that history can drag us back, and down. Only old, bad habits. Only that old, stupid self-contempt.

We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

-Frank Miller, from the letters pages in the fifth chapter of The Big Fat Kill. (That issue also included this excellent and NSFW Sergio Aragones pinup.)

I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with the way comics fans embrace nerd and geek as descriptions of a subculture. It feels a little self-loathing and a little high school. I don’t know that I can eloquently articulate why I feel this way, just that it rubs me in a weird way. I think Miller hits it closest when he mentions the self-contempt. Maybe that’s my issue.

Anybody have thoughts?

(While we’re talking Miller, The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century, the Miller/Dave Gibbons satirical future epic with one of the best black females in comics, is getting a softcover release in June. 600 pages. 20 bucks. You do the math.)

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“Smoke ’em if you got ’em, kids.”

May 5th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

tto_frontIn 1997, Frank Miller did this book called Tales to Offend. It was an extra-sized one shot, rather than a graphic novel, and featured three stories. One of the stories was Daddy’s Little Girl, a Sin City tale about a sadistic couple and brutal violence. The other two were about Lance Blastoff, Frank Miller’s take on Buck Rogers.

It isn’t exactly a straight take on the character at all. Lance is brash, loud, and offensive. He’s Buck Rogers after making his way through a crooked mirror, eight or nine packs of smokes, and probably homelessness. The two stories are ’90s-era pop psychology and political correctness versus an unbelievable level of super tough guy machismo. Think of every role Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Clint Eastwood ever did being ground up into bits and reformed as one being, and then that one being being force fed a diet of trashy movies and old EC books.

tto_backI don’t think that it’s Miller’s best work, but it is one of the relatively few times he’s done an out and out humor book, so it’s pretty interesting to see. It’s also one of the things he’s done that I can’t seem to find reprinted or collected. Daddy’s Little Girl made it into “Booze, Broads, & Bullets,” a collection of Sin City one shots, but Lance has faded into the ether.

I hadn’t even actually read the story until last week, despite having heard about it off and on for years. I love that Miller’s space ships still look like big body Cadillacs. Also nice is how the story is told in pages of two panels a piece until the last two. The “CHOMP” on the next to last page is a total cartoon bit, and I mean that in the best possible way. Lance Blastoff would fit right in on [adult swim] nowadays, I think.


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Who Will Be Shocked By The Watchmen?

August 27th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Watchmen will be coming out in March and, no doubt, the first few screenings will be almost entirely packed with comic book fans. The book, to comics fans, has a status somewhere between The Catcher in the Rye and the moon landing. It not only changed their lives, it marked a turning point for comics in general, taking a more critical and nuanced look not only at superhero characters, but at the concept of superheroes in general. Alan Moore presented a deeply cynical vision at the way the world would look if it had to interact with a group of dangerously powerful people with big egos and flexible morals. The book made every fan who ever fantasized about the fourth wall dissolving consider that it might turn the world darker and more dangerous rather than more exciting and fun. Watchmen wasn’t a book, it was an event, and so I’m guessing that the first few screenings will alternate between awed silence and wild cheering.

What about the screening after that? If the movie had come out a year or two after the novel’s publication, it would have knocked the socks off of people whose standard for superhero movies was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, but will today’s audiences be aware of it as anything more than another film that is ‘based on a graphic novel?’

The color scheme is from The Dark Knight and 300. The sense of the alienation of powerful beings from everyday people is from Superman Returns. The idea of a superhero as something the public is afraid of is in movies from Hancock to The Hulk.

As for the public being right to fear superheroes, even Peter Parker turned to the dark side for a while, and he was played by Tobey Maguire. From outright immoral supers, like the ones in Wanted, to the heroes of Sin City, who had the welfare of the downtrodden at heart, but whose skills tended towards being able to quickly dispose of bodies, to the neurotics of superheroes being milked for comedic value in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, to Batman, one of the most straight laced of superheroes, being tangentially involved in the deaths of super villains, it’s more difficult to find a superhero movie in which the superheroes are unquestionably good than it is to find one that looks at them through more jaundiced eyes.

I’m not saying that Watchmen shouldn’t be made or that it has nothing to contribute. That would be like arguing against the filming of an Elmore Leonard story because the world already has enough heist movies. If anything Watchmen deserves more acclaim for originality, since it was one of the books that pioneered the more skeptical view of superheroes that has become the standard.

However, there is no denying that that view has become the standard. It’s odd that the innovation and influence of Watchmen in the medium of comics will probably lessen its impact when it becomes a film. Success has a price.

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Instant Replay: Blitzkrieg

August 8th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

I’m in the middle of a huge project at work, so posting from me may be sparse this week! I want to post every day, but we see how that’s gonna go…

Anyway, I’ve got another Pre-Crisis 4l post for you, this time over one of my favorite stories. Hunter Zolomon, Zoom, is easily Geoff Johns’s best idea and this covers his origin.

This was originally published 05/03/05, back when I was still using Blogger (yuck). It’s actually shorter than I expected! Edits only made for spelling and to take out the word “pervert suit” because I hate it now and I was high on Warren Ellis back then.

Flash’s villains are probably the best DC has to offer. They just make more sense than a lot of DC’s other villains, seems like.

Even if one of them is a talking Gorilla.

Flash’s supporting cast is pretty cool, too. From left to right are Joan Garrick, Iris Allen, Bart (Impulse) Allen, and Jay (Flash) Garrick. It’s kind of cool how four Flash generations are represented in the book. In the foreground are Linda Park-West and Wally West. Not pictured are Morillo and Chyre, who are a couple of cops. It’s worth noting that Chyre is basically Marv from Sin City.

Another member of his supporting cast is Hunter Zolomon. He was what they call a “rogue profiler.” Think of him as a serial killer profiler for super villains. If Flash needed some info on a rogue, Hunter had it. He was very good at his job.

They became fast friends and both respected the other equally. Wally respected Hunter because he was very reminiscent of Barry Allen (Barry was in forensics, Hunter is more into the mental disciplines, but both work toward the same goal) and Hunter respected Wally because Wally was a true blue hero. Then, Gorilla Grodd crippled Hunter Zolomon and everything changed.
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300: Hace apenas seis años…

March 12th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Too long, didn’t read version: 300 was a pretty rocking movie, but I still like the book better.

Short story long version:
I think that I may have mentioned this here before, but Frank Miller got me back into comics five or so years back. I usually attribute it to the Daredevil Visionaries and Dark Knight Strikes Again, but I’d totally forgotten that I’d read a different Frank Miller book a year or two before I’d read those.

This would’ve been back when I was in Madrid. Me, my mom, and little brother were at Hipercor, Supercor, or whatever the crap our local grocer was called. I was in the arts & crafts/books section (it was kind of jumbled) and I saw a book there. It looked familiar, and I realized it was by the Sin City guy! I probably begged Mom to buy it for me so I could read it.

It was the Norma Editorial edition of 300 and it was completely in Spanish.

That book is probably why I still remember so much Spanish nowadays. I’ve easily read that book a dozen, maybe a couple dozen, times. More than any other comic I own. I now own it in English and Spanish, but I remember all the good lines in Spanish. “Stumblios” is “Storpios,” “Barely a year ago” is “Hace apenas un año,” that sort of thing.

I’m just trying to set the stage here. I’m a big fan of the book, and though I haven’t read it in a while, I’ve read it enough that I basically have a lot of it memorized, which probably colored my opinion of this movie.

I’ll sling this behind a cut, since there’ll probably be some (fairly light) spoilers.
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