Station Identification

March 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I’m taking a couple days break now that BHM is over, so it’ll be a few days before I get back to calling DC stupid and Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass racist. In light of that fact, now’s as good a time as any to remind you who we are and what we do!

4l! turns five years old this month. The anniversary is later in the month, and hopefully we’ll have some cool business going on. Five years, though, dang. If you have anniversary stuff you want us to do, drop a comment down below.

4thletter! is
Gavin: Funny stuff and wrestling
Esther: Batman and Batman
David: Black people and exasperation

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The Family
Blog@Newsarama: Psyche.
Cheryl Lynn: Cheryl likes to send me links that are to either funny animated gifs or are meant to get me writin’ mad. She’s also the maintainer of The Ormes Society.
The Factual Opinion: TFO is the home of Tucker and Nina Stone. Nina’s just looking for somecomic to love while Tucker’s handing out two-fisted reviews. Both are worth reading.
Funnybook Babylon: Chris, Pedro, Joe, Jamaal, and David U bring some tough talk for funnybooks.
Julian Lytle: Creator of Ants and dope artist. Check out his reviews and miscellany on Ignorant Bliss.
Ron Wimberly: Dope artist, creator of Gratuitous Ninja, jet-setting dude who does a whole lot.
Sean Witzke: Sean is the kind of guy who brings up something you’ve seen a million times and completely dismantles it, forcing you to look at it in a new light. You don’t get it, boy. Supervillain isn’t his blog. It’s an operating table. And he’s the surgeon.

If I forgot you… I forgot you. Peace!

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Fourcast! 29: Talking About Comics Internet

January 18th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Ooh, welcome to Name Drop City, where the comics are good and the girls are pretty!

-Noted comics critic David Uzumeri of Funky Babylon gives us an intro
-Theme music: 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-What’re we talking about? Comics internet! Who we read, what we like, what we dislike, and so on.
Twitter is David‘s favorite comics site, and at recording time, David Uzumeri‘s open letter to DC Comics was the big thing.
-Peter David and Gail Simone: sometimes they get into heated arguments with people on the internet. Here is Jim Halpert from The Office doing an impression of what Esther does when things like that happen:
Read the rest of this entry �

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David, where have you been?

December 22nd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Mommy, where David went?

I’ve been everywhere but here over the past week and change. Where was I? I was at work, mostly, trying to button up a project before the holidays. That stopped me from posting here, but it didn’t stop me from contributing, in one way or another, to three other sites. Oops!

Comics Alliance has been doing it’s end of year Best/Worst lists. I contributed a blurb on Pluto for the number six spot on the Best list. On the Worst side, I talked a little about Spider-Man: One More Day.

-I helped Friend Graeme hash out a couple of his picks for ten of the decade’s best sci-fi comics.

-Tucker Stone and The Factual Opinion gang are doing their music countdown and I pitched in with the voting and writing up. The intro is here, and I wrote up Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s “Dance the Way I Feel” and the Clipse/Kanyeyo collabo “Kinda Like A Big Deal” for the first half of the top fifty list. I’ve got a couple in the top 25, I think. Spoilers! I also dug up sixteen mixtapes you shoulda heard, ranging from Jeezy to Ice Cube to Michael Jackson.

I’m going to be posting pretty regularly over the next two weeks, I think, but nothing like what I’m planning for my writing in 2010. We’ll call it “Operation: Suicide By Blog” for now. Look for it January 4th.

Now you’re all caught up and I have over two thousand unread items in Google Reader. Hustler for death, no heaven for a gangster.

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Klock On the Lameness of the Mainstream

December 8th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Geoff Klock has a bit on the Callahan/Nevett Splash Page I mentioned and briefly remarked on yesterday.

Between the ages of 15 and 20 I read all the X-Men books for five years — right after Claremont left: Age of Apocalypse, and Generation X and Onslaught, and Stryfe. Then I matured by moving beyond the brand and to the writers. I was in a new decade and the shift made sense. Suddenly I did not care who the hero was: I wanted Morrison's JLA, Miller's Batman and anything by Alan Moore. And I just couldn't invest in the X-Men like I used to.

Good reading. I’m going to have to move my response up a bit, I think, because suddenly it is relevant!

Related: Tucker and Jog totally made out on top of a pile of comic books.

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I Got My Uzi Back Linkblogging

December 1st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

-I liked this post by Euge of War Rocket Ajax. It’s not about comics- instead it’s about the Clipse and their place in rap culture. Preorder Til The Casket Drops here, ten bones. It leaked this weekend, it’s dope, get on that.

-I talk about The ‘Nam Volume 1 TPB and a little bit about war comics history over at Comics Alliance.

-Tom Spurgeon wrote a holiday gift guide. Everyone else should just go ahead and bow down, this is extra thorough.

-Matt Thorn discusses manga translation and man, I pretty much agree with him. I’ve had my issues with overly faithful translations, and he does a pretty good job of explaining why. I think approaching a translation project as simply transplanting the language word for word is a huge mistake. There’s something exoticizing about that, too, which makes me a little uncomfortable.

This shirt is dope.

-Nina Stone’s Virgin Read is no more!

Look at all these Marvel characters Kurt Busiek co-created!

-Brandon Thomas wraps his New X-Men retrospective.

-Timothy Callahan is basically correct in his look back at Dark Knight Strikes Again.

-Jog talks about manga and Manga. Good thing to wake up to.

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“I have a few problems, the comic is fine.”

November 20th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Tucker Stone, the hands down nicest guy in comics, takes on last month’s books in Advanced Common Sense Episode 6 on comiXology. Click through to see what he has to say, or just press play below. Who knew last month was so awesome?

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Thought-provoking Linkblogging

November 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Brendan McCarthy Spider-Man. Click or else.

-I have a hate relationship with horror movies, but this essay by Lauren Davis over on io9 about what makes great horror is excellent.

I have to confess, it’s very hard for me to watch horror movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional scare, and it’s not that I’m worried about ghosts and monsters following home (although I will confess to a mild fear of zombies). No, it’s just that when the body count starts rising, I start feeling, well, sad. I don’t come out of the theater pumping with adrenaline; I’m too distracted thinking about the people who died and the loved ones they’ve left behind.

Absolutely a must-read.

-You know what’s more exciting than Marvel joining Disney or whatever it was that happened to DC? The Comics Journal reorganizing. Good interview at CBR:

Groth: I see this is an opportunity to create a true web version of “The Comics Journal,” to in effect combine the virtues of both the web and print as I understand them, which is to say, a single “place” where readers can come and expect a consistently intelligent, idiosyncratic, combative, and occasionally clashing conversation about comics and cartooning. Over the past few years I’ve noticed smarter critical commentary on the Net, but it’s scattered all over the place, buried in the usual mountain of frivolous, tepid, dimwitted, unreadable fanboy drivel. There’s no single website you can visit and anticipate a range of interesting sensibilities on an equal footing, so one of my goals is to distill the best criticism and journalism we can into a single site.

I’ve never actually read an issue of TCJ, though I’ve kinda always meant to. I expect to be alternately infuriated at and elated with the content they come up with. Don’t let me down, guys! (Also if you could make past issues, like TCJ 298 for example, available as PDFs for people who don’t really have room in their tiny San Francisco apartments, that’d be great. Muchas smooches.)

-Savage Critic doubleheader! Jog goes in to great effect on the art in the Greg Rucka/JH Williams III Detective Comics (and JHW3 is the coolest initials in comics since edex), and David Uzumeri drops some bombs on the writing.

My own feelings on ‘Tec are complicated. I like the art more than the story, which feels a little pat, so I don’t buy it monthly. However, once the hardcover drops? Ooowhee. I’ll be on Amazon like a shot.

-Tucker Stone looks at comics criticism and kicks some knowledge:

Comics doesn’t have Tastemakers, maybe they did once, but that time is gone. It’s always been a fractured landscape anyway–initial chunks of comics criticism doled out in fanzines or fan clubs, with the occasional academic polemic turned out for audiences in the low hundreds–and the Internet was able to finish the job of fracturing quicker than it’s been able to on music and film. We all do it, you, me, the guy at the store–reading only those who agree with us up until they say something we don’t like, we burn bridges, blog ourselves, trusting no one. After all, That Guy likes Guggenheim’s Blade series–what’s he know? That Girl’s favorite comic last week was some manga about dating–all the smart kids know it was the GI Joe/Cobra Special!

His point about controlling the critique that exists is a good’un.

-Keeping it in the family, Nina Stone has a beautiful slash brutal takedown of Gotham City Sirens.

Mr. Gag Reflex is apparently not over being dissed by Joker, and so the plot is about him taking his breakup feelings out on Harlequin, the Joker’s ex-girlfriend. I don’t know how this completely relates to the issue before, but maybe it means that the Joker and Harlequin aren’t actually over. To be honest, I don’t really care if I ever find out. It took too many pages of overwhelming art to tell this story. Let me explain.

Really, it’s good. Click thru.

-The Funnybook Babylonians want you to call in and leave obscene messages listener mail. Ask question, share an anecdote, and they might just play it on the show. Tell them I sent you.

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On Obligatory Critical Discourse

October 5th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

When the topic of “feeling obligated to contribute to the critical discourse” came up during the SPX 2009 Critics’ Roundtable, I rolled my eyes a little. If you’re feeling obligated, you’re doing it wrong and you should probably chill out a little. However, discourse that occurs organically, out of respect for the work or the emotions it caused in you, is a great thing. It’s nothing you can force into being.

Two of my favorite bloggers are Tucker Stone and Matthew J Brady. Maybe it’s because we share sensibilities. Maybe it was that night we had to bury a body in Juarez. Whatever the reason, I tend to enjoy reading what these two guys come up with, even if I don’t agree.

Critical discourse is what happened when all three of us reviewed Pluto at different points in time, from different perspectives, and found different things to enjoy about it. Matthew recently posted a review that praises the emotional investment Urasawa instills in his readers by way of some well-executed facial expressions and pacing. Tucker juxtaposed it with the maturation of American comics, or rather the immaturatization, kind of like I did a while back. At the same time, I fell in love with the fact that one of the central conceits in the book, whether or not robots count as human, is a smokescreen, a purely surface level reading that is quickly proven to be a falsehood.

You can read Pluto’s first volume and get everything you need out of the series. It could be that robots can be people. It can be that Urasawa is a master artist. It can also be that Pluto approaches comics for adults in a way that American comics generally don’t. Compare the treatment of death in Blackest Night, DC’s All-Zombies All-Death All-the-time crossover and in Pluto 1-3. Look at which one treats death like it matters, and which treats death as overwrought melodrama. (Blackest Night is a bad crossover full of bad comics.)

All three of our takes are valid interpretations and all three are ripe for discussion. What’s nice is that I don’t think any of this came about because we felt like Someone Had To Discuss Pluto. We weren’t trying to prove that we’re real critics, or writers, or whatever, by contributing opinions because we felt like we had to. That’s a stupid and self-centered way to approach things. “I’m smart, smart people do this, so let me do this, too, to show that I am smart.”

Post-script: Tucker was right when he said that Pluto “is better than you heard it was.”

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Pull Quote Linkblogging

September 14th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Pull quote link-blogging! I read some good things this past week, and I am here, sharing them, because I love you.

Here’s how it works. Sarting on the 16th, there will be a form field on this site where you can enter your name, address and age. Choose what general type of manga you want (shojo, shonen, seinen, yaoi, etc.), submit the form, and you’ll be entered for a random drawing. Each day, one person will receive 5 graphic novels. A winner is only allowed to win once… BUT! Post a photo of yourself with your manga, and send me the link at “jason@sonic.net”, and we will cross-post it on this blog and send you 5 more graphic novels.

Jason Thompson, author of Manga: The Complete Guide, is giving away a gang of manga. That’s all there is to it, really.

Gonzo’s “There’s not a word yet, for old friends who just met” is an absolutely gnostic maxim. You are old friends because the spark of god comes from the same ancient source, but you have not yet met in the fallen world.

Geoff Klock examines gnosticism and The Muppets? I was skeptical when I saw the title, but dang if he doesn’t convince me over the course of the essay. It’s a fun read, and a nice way to look at a classic.

Third, there is no such thing as a “universal” canon. This is what I call the “Gershwin” rule. From the perspective of an American historian, George Gershwin is a canonic composer, profoundly influencing the development of American music with his distinctive marriage of black vernacular styles to European art forms. But from a Russian or Italian perspective, Gershwin is a local anomaly, a decent American composer who enjoys a far greater reputation among his fellow countrymen than in the international community. (Translation: he ain’t no Stravinsky or Verdi.)

Kate Dacey takes on the question of what belongs in the manga canon, to great effect. She approaches it from an angle I never would’ve expected, in depth, and wow– it’s totally worth the read. Also, she’s in it for the long haul down in her comments. Good golly. One of my favorite reads from last week.

The women on vintage and even contemporary mystery covers are, more often than not, busty blondes that generally fall into one or another simple category: Victim or Vixen. You’d think you’d be able to tell the V-Blondes apart by how scanitly dressed they are, but another pattern is that both types are often pretty disheveled in the clothing department. (Who knew ghosts and murderers loved fabric so much!) The true way to tell if they are a Victim or a Vixen is by their gaze. If they are looking directly at the reader they are a Vixen and are not to be trusted.

Colleen AF Venable at First Second goes in on one of my favorite things: book design. She discusses a few tropes of old school book covers, approaching the design for a new book, and has generally written a piece that’s absolutely worth reading if you care about things like “how books look.”

I’m just glad to find out that I’m not the only person who will spend an hour or two poring over old book covers.

The simple answer is that it is often necessary to emphasize immediate sales in an industry with tight profit margins, and that’s understandable. But if you have the financial backing to shift your priorities slightly — which is the question Quesada was asked — why wouldn’t you? If you could afford to invest in the best creators up front and give them the creative freedom that original graphic novels offer, or allow yourself gauge the success of more monthly comics as longer-term investments, why wouldn’t you?

Laura Hudson, czar of AOL’s Comics Alliance blog, digs right into Joe Quesada’s position on why Marvel doesn’t do OGNs. Another great read, and when I say “digs right into” what I really mean is that she “obliterates his wishy-washy answer.” C’mon Marvel, you got to do better.

It just makes it another crappy Big Two super-hero comic. It will sit on the shelf for awhile, eventually go out of print, and someday exist as little more than a reminder that yes, this is what they thought we’d want. A repellent, juvenile product–lazy in design, ignorant in preparation, and blind to the response it would create.

Tucker Stone looks at the online reaction to a certain comic book, and the comic book itself, and comes to a few conclusions. Which comic? JLA: Cry for Justice #3. He puts a few things into perspective, and wraps it up very well. Some whiny jerk shows up in the comments, too, having clearly missed the point of the editorial, but hey kids! Comics writing!

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I Know Blog People Linkblogging

August 27th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

-Over at the Factual, I make jokes about interracial dating and Nina Stone delivers the best review of Batgirl #1 thus far. Nina’s POV is great, and she wrote up a pretty funny review, too.

-IDW Publishing is releasing Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Parker: The Hunter on iTunes. Five chapters, first hit’s free. Haven’t seen this news anywhere? You should watch more iFanboy. Ron Richards interviews him and he drops the bomb like it was nothing. Here’s the embed, as the interview is hilarious and full of true facts.

They’ve got a good (but quick) interview with Adam Warren, too.

-If you don’t think digital comics are the future… well, have fun with your phonograms, horse & carriages, and that dying from tuberculosis thing. Print will undoubtedly stick around, but all the smart money is on digital comics that aren’t based around tights and fights. I like superheroes as much as the next man, but it’s time for some diversification, and I’m not talking about putting some chocolate sprinkles on your vanilla ice cream or a wise latina on the Supreme Court. I’m talking about comics about vampires, nurses, fast food, slice of life, lies, World War II, science fiction, detectives, and everything else that’s not, or poorly, represented by the Direct Market-focused comics industry.

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