Re: Free Comic Book Day

1

don't have the same connection that dudes do

Nor I.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:28 PM
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I can't believe I left too early to see the post-credits awesomeness. I'm going to need to go back.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:28 PM
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"Dudes" is the worst word in the Generation Awesome vocabulary. Hearing it immediately transports me back to the unwashed 70s; I don't know why.

Like Apo, not a comic book guy. But, at least recently, it seems like an astonishing number of pretty interesting guys are. The whole phenomenon is mysterious to me, like the tattoo thing.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:31 PM
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3: Me.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:31 PM
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1: Then how did you father three kids?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:37 PM
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I suspect there are as many answers as there are comic book fans, not all as contemptuous as "adolescent male power fantasies" (right back at you, Neil Gaiman).


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:38 PM
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I think a lot of traditional comic-book collecting has something to do with the masculine desire for mastery and completion (that is, one can get complete knowledge of the Superman multiverse or whatever in a way that one can't of, say, the real world), and also a harmless subject matter for a homosocial community of rhetorical discourse. The latter, I think, is a particularly important social function of certain kinds of popular genre fiction. In the late 18th-early 19th centuries, gothic novels functioned for young women in this way. You could meet someone for the first time and immediately talk and argue about something passionately without the awkwardness of having to get to know one another first. And, just as women do read comics but are often somewhat excluded from the homosocial comics-discussion sphere, men who read gothic novels were somewhat excluded from that discussion-sphere.

Pop genre fiction, especially the less-artsy kind (you're not going to find hordes of dudes sitting around dishing about the details of Lost Girls, even if they've all read it), is an important part of community-building and self-discovery for young people, I think. Plus, the obvious sexism and exploitation of women in comics is often a de-faggifying factor that allows young men to read about often-complex emotional and moral problems without looking too gay.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:40 PM
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Then how did you father three kids?

As I understand it, the relationship between reading comic books and having sex is inverse.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:40 PM
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8: AMTF.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:42 PM
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Dear Becks:

Don't use that language near Baltimore.

Sincerely,

Will


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 2:47 PM
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This topic has been covered extensively at Unfogged. Thank you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:03 PM
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11 - I had a whole other post about comic books planned and then the joke's setup fell through. I'm improvising.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:05 PM
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I like good comics because they're good. I don't know what to say beyond that. Why do we like music, or film?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:14 PM
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Males respond to visual stimulation? I was thinking about videogames as another area.

Don't try to tell me about plot or character. I was in at the Golden Age, early to mid-60s, and I moved to SF at 13.

I have been very casually curious about this for a few years, about the different ways imagination plays with text versus pictures, and whether there is a gender difference.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:20 PM
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If w-lfs-n and I had a baby.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:21 PM
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and whether there is a gender difference.

It's obviously socially constructed, beauty industry, etc etc.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:21 PM
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Yeah, women would be more visually stimulated if there were more images created by and for women. (And I don't mean those goofy sexist "Porn for Women" books with pictures of guys washing pots and stuff. Just things that a woman might want to look at, rather than girls on all fours, etc.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:26 PM
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I think it was Delany, somebody, described how much the reader fills in when reading fiction:"Top hat, white cane, leather briefcase" and we create a picture.

What is left out is at least as important as what is on the page.

I am presuming that graphic novels are also pleasing for what is omitted...the reader gets to imagine most of the action and movement. So reading comics is like playing with dolls action figures.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:29 PM
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17 to 15, obviously.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:31 PM
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11: This topic has been covered extensively at Unfogged. Thank you.

Yep, 30 comments, 7 of them by Farber (wtih well over 1/2 the word count), 2 redacted and about 12 unique commenters, what more could possibly be left to be said?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:33 PM
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Ogged in the other thread:

"But you say that comics are more like books than like music videos, and I believe you--so if you had to name a couple for me to read, which would they be?"

I've no idea what kind of books or movies you like, so I'll justr assume you're a person of exquisite taste.

Epileptic by French cartoonist David B. A memoir of his childhood. The early parts of Persepolis is clearly influenced by David B, who is more highly regarded by comics critics.

Heartbreak Soup, Human Diastrophism, and Beyond Palomar by Gilbert Hernandes. Interlocked stories about people in a central american village. Absolutely amazing.

Maus by Spiegelman. You've probably heard of it.

Alec: the King Canute Crowd by Eddie Campbell. Scottish, autobiographical vignettes. Plus sequels.

Ghost world by Daniel Clowes.

The Frank book by Jim Woodring


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:34 PM
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17:IIRC, for instance, "Romance comics" have been written, and are nowhere as successful as the romance novels, even for younger age groups.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:35 PM
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I like(d) comic books because they had words and pictures right there, together, working in unison.

I like(d) superheroes because they have lasers and armor and crap.

I like(d) reading words and seeing pictures where superheroes kicked the shit out of people because violence is awesome.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:36 PM
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Don't believe people who tell you there are good superhero comics aimed at adults, or that the Sandman is any good.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:38 PM
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23 cont'd: I like(d) stories with fantastical or science fictional milieus because my life was boring and lame.

None of this seems very complicated, but I am optimistic we can get this thread out to 500 comments.

Here, I'll help: if you look at the course of my life in the (oh, say) 15 years after I stopped reading comics there's a plausible case to be made that my actions were those of somebody who had less than fully given up on the idea of actually becoming a superhero.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:39 PM
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Comic books like those, David, seem to me entirely out of the realm of comic books qua comic books. Like, I have a bunch of Ware stuff, and have been meaning to read Lost Girls, but it's not the same as being "into" comic books. Just like it seems to me there's a difference between being into Margaret Atwood or early Lethem and being "into" sci-fi. There are some on the borders, sure, but true genre-nuts are not into it for the great high-literary epiphanies. They're in it to complete the series, partly.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:39 PM
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From the other thread: Or you don't like books because you're dyslexic and never found books worth the bother

This is how I feel about comic books. It takes a lot of mental energy to decode the images for me. I don't like reading ALL CAPS and I find it terribly hard to shift back and forth between pictures and text all the time. It's really burdensome to read, in a way plain text absolutely isn't for me.

I actually love comic books and graphic novels (as a medium) for just this reason. If they're this hard for me, then books must be that hard for a lot of people, and isn't it fantastic that we have this explosive growth in another medium to fit their needs? It's kind of like how awesome it was when all the baby boomers started to need reading glasses and all of a sudden books-on-tape came out of the ghetto and became mainstream.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:40 PM
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Comic Books are silly-nilly, but the movies they inspire occasionally reach the level of greatness. (see: Batman returns)


Posted by: bend | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:42 PM
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"Don't believe people who tell you there are good superhero comics aimed at adults"

OK, I suppose there are exceptions. But it's not a path worth pursuing for a neophyte (assuming they have exquisite taste).


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:43 PM
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Part of the appeal of comic books has to be the subject matter of some of them: save the universe, be a hero, get the girl. Girl almost always has anti-gravity boobs and long shiny hair. Oftentimes there's a pretty good world-creation going on, too, which makes it very rich imaginative play.

(We can go the whole 'ah, my graphic novels are just like having taste in film or music or art or written literature, let us not interrogate our preferences' route, but I'd rather skip the kneejerk geek defensiveness.)

Sometimes, though, it's just a good story told with pictures. Watchmen stands out to me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:47 PM
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22: All I'm saying is you can't look at any particular body of evidence and say women's and men's "brains" work differently w/r/t visual stim. (a) Women are socialized not to respond to images. (b) Images, even those created by women, retain some smack of the masculine gaze, which is inherently a part of image-making in a society in which men do most of the gazing. (c) Romance comics sound like shit, especially given what the romance genre of novels does. (d) Maybe if the women in comics were less tits-and-vag, and a little less likely to be brutalized, raped, weakened, sidelined, and pitied, and if comic-reading communities were a little less yuk-yuk sexist, women would read more adventure comics.

On point (d), I'll just say I think this is unlikely to change, in part because the adolescent homosocial environment requires some measure to keep women out. Homosocial environments are important for social development. But you could also ask why men don't spend more time reading fashion magazines. Just like women might read high-end comic novels, some men do show an interest in high-end fashion. But openly reading Cosmo would be, for a young man, ridiculous. Sure, there are interviews with men in Cosmo, and it's largely about men and their desires. But no man is going to read that shit because it's not for him, just like low-end adventure comics are not for women.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:47 PM
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26: But I was answering Ogged, not Becks.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:49 PM
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I have no problem in principle with a series on narratively connected paintings or drawings being fine art; I was going to link to the "Cupid and Psyche" series at the Hermitage or the late 18th century French Catholic mystic series about the "Story of a Soul" but my memory isn't working for the artists.

And many paintings worked somewhat on a narrative level:Every "Susannah & the Elders" or "Judith with the Head of Holofernes" are one panel from a missing comic book.

But if you try to talk to me as if comic books are or are like pure-text novels...they aren't. They are less and more.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:51 PM
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Not a comics fan, but I find the early '50s congressional witchhunt extension to comics kind of fascinating (sadly echoed in the video game lunacy of today—fear, destroyer of sanity thenand now). Mad magazine founder Bill Gaines setting them straight during testimony:

Senator Estes Kefauver: Here is your May 22 issue. This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman's head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?
Gaines: Yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.
Kefauver: You have blood coming out of her mouth.
Gaines: A little.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:54 PM
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By the way, while the comics Becks mentioned is less highbrow than mine, they're not superheros (and what else is comic books qua comic books supposed to mean?). Two of them are even quite good.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:56 PM
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It takes a lot of mental energy to decode the images for me.

It takes a lot of mental energy for me to remember to look at the pictures.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:56 PM
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Point of Pedantry: comic books are a medium. What most people on this thread are referring to is a genre, specifically the superhero genre. Jim Woodring, Tony Millionaire and Jason all do comic books; none of them do superheroes.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:58 PM
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I find that a bit surprising when I hear things like that, because I've never heard of anyone not being able to read sunday comic strips.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 3:59 PM
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32: 26: But I was answering Ogged, not Becks.

Holy fucking shit! We're caught in a time loop!
(From the prior thread.)

"Gary, you're aware that the post was mine, not ogged's, right?"

Quite. And the question I quoted and responded to was by Ogged.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:00 PM
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Two of them are even quite good.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is okay, but nothing special. Sandman is okay in parts and mediocre-to-poor in others. Preacher is absolute shit from front to back.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:01 PM
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comic books are a medium. What most people on this thread are referring to is a genre

Farber totally said that years ago.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:01 PM
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Oops, 36 is more what I meant. I look at the image as a whole -- a mishmash of words and pictures -- and my eye just gets tired trying to sort it all out. So I default to the text, which although in caps is at least just text, and give up on the pictures.

I couldn't handle the Griffin and Sabine books either.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:01 PM
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Women are socialized not to respond to images

Is the movie audience mostly male?

I would also be interested in a gender breakdown at museums and the large art repository sites on the internet.

I don't know that is about images per se, and it may indeed be socialized. I am saying it is about what the genders do with images. A fashion shot in Cosmo is usually not intended as part of a narrative, and I would posit the viewer doesn't create one.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:02 PM
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41: Farber totally said that years ago.

I concede Ogged, why did I ever doubt you?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:03 PM
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Speaking of Farber, he could use some cash apparently.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:03 PM
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Caroline and I went to free comic book day at the nearby store, and she was thrilledthrilledthrilled to discover that there was a Tron comic. It was pretty good, too. They did a good job replicating the visual style of the movie, although i bet they would have done better if they had limited themselves to the technology available at the time.

Comics have the exact same appeal as movies: the combine words, pictures, and story. The advantage to comics over movies is that the audience controls the speed, so you can linger over some panels, looking for visual jokes and admiring design, or just charge ahead to see what happens next. It encourages more complexity, because the authors can count on some people taking the work in slowly.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:04 PM
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I found Preacher entertaining, and Sandman medocre-to-poor all the time. Was it maybe the whole John Wayne rightwing texan swagger thing that got to you?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:08 PM
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League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is okay, but nothing special. Sandman is okay in parts and mediocre-to-poor in others. Preacher is absolute shit from front to back.

The sky is orange. The grass is loud.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:08 PM
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What's with the hating on Sandman? The time for anti-trendy Sandman backlash was 1999.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:10 PM
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I think it's fair to say that being "into" comic books is often coextensive with being enthusiastic about superhero titles and collecting--or if not superheroes, then heroic or supernatural-themed manga, or other genres with plenty in the way of thrills, broad strokes, and wish fulfillment, plus the fun of collecting. The appeal of this kind of reading is also surely attributable in part to the larger appeal of all serial narratives. Serials are really great. They go on and on and provide the opportunity for a certain scope of world-building, characterization, and other kinds of fun stuff that self-contained narratives don't have.

I read comics sporadically these days, and almost always in collections now, though when I was younger, I did read some stuff in a collector way, buying each issue as it came out, buying up back issues to get a complete set, mostly things by Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. The appeal for me was almost exactly the same as what I feel now when I get into watching a really good TV show, downloading the episodes and doling them out ep by ep, then waiting for the next season to start.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:10 PM
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Bill Benzon at the Valve kinds gets it, but I read Holbo on comics and mostly he discusses them as if they were illustrated text-novels:plot, character, etc. This is like talking about movies without discussing editing, camera angles, set design.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:11 PM
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Also, I do not think that Ogged would enjoy Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. I suspect he would find it both ugly and offputting.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:12 PM
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47: What got me was the lack of any character development, the sheer arbitrary pointlessness of the plot, a contemptuously reactionary, near-fascist politics marketed as free-spirited liberalism by throwing crudely drawn boobs in every few pages, and Garth Ennis's apparent belief that anal rape is the funniest thing in the world.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:14 PM
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What's with the hating on Sandman? The time for anti-trendy Sandman backlash was 1999.

I think Sandman is the kind of thing you have to read when you're in high school and go like "whoooooa! Like, Death isn't some nasty boney dude, man, he's like, a hot goth chick. It really makes ya think!" And to be fair, I really liked Sandman when I read it in high school. But I also listened to Rush a lot back then.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:17 PM
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So I default to the text, which although in caps

This is not universally true, in fact. I actually prefer all caps in standard/traditional comics lettering, but Marvel titles all (I believe--I suppose there could be exceptions) use upper- and lowercase these days, and plenty of other comics do too.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:18 PM
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53 - You're leaving out Arseface.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:18 PM
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The appeal for me was almost exactly the same as what I feel now when I get into watching a really good TV show, downloading the episodes and doling them out ep by ep, then waiting for the next season to start.

This is exactly what I can't stand about comic books---and TV, for that matter. I want to read the whole thing at one swoop, and then reread it a couple of times, just in case I missed anything. The idea of having issues or episodes missing is not okay to me---or, in the case of tv, it changes entirely the attitude I bring to watching: I become much, much less invested in the characters and the mood.

However, I also hate spending money, so collected box DVD sets are out of the question, and so are collected graphic novels. Somewhere along the way I lost the knack for reading and looking at pictures simultaneously and witht pleasure.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:19 PM
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Ah, but Preacher only have the cultural attitudes (and doesn't endorse them so much as take pleasure in them). Ellis himself may well be a lefty.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:21 PM
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This is exactly what I can't stand about comic books---and TV, for that matter. I want to read the whole thing at one swoop

I should say, I am actually also sort of like this. The way I watch these tv shows is to download them a season at a time and then watch episode after episode. I certainly can't bear to miss any. But still, something about the episodic rhythm is very pleasing to me.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:22 PM
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Another word on media & gender:

Should Smart Men Prefer the Fiction of the Past

One of the reasons contempo fiction seems weak to many people is that ... well, to be frank, book publishing is one of the most feminized industry around. Back in, say, 1970, the editorial side of book publishing was probably 80% male, and many of them were hetero. These days, the editorial side of book publishing is probably 75% female, and many of the guys are gay. Good for them, of course, and they bring many virtues. Unfortunately, the ol' rampaging-male-stallion energy is not one of them. Book publishing is a bit like Vassar or Smith these days. Guys sense this, and they avoid the field -- red-blooded yet arty types tend to go into music, or TV, or movies instead. Same holds for creative types. The more outgoing, dynamic creative guys are writing TV these days, or creating webseries, not trying to put their thing across in book publishing.

Comment by Michael Blowhard. I used to be a regular at his art & architecture site, until I got furious and unsubscribed. We could of course check to see if he is correct.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:24 PM
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Ennis. At least the first few trades, which I read at the library in 00-02, and might like less now for all I know.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:24 PM
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These days, the editorial side of book publishing is probably 75% female

Hell, I think 75% of the authors are women. And probably 75% of the readers as well.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:27 PM
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LaVGCiI is worth it just for the panel with the guy with shrimp in his eye sockets.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:27 PM
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Dave's list in 21 is good, by the way. To that I'd add Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey, Cathy Malkasian's Percy Gloom, and Jason's SSHHHH! as decent starting points for folks interested in non-superhero comics (or "graphic novels," as I'm supposed to call them).


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:28 PM
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I'm down with the idea that there are no good superhero comic books that are targeted at adults -- it's an essentially adolescent medium, with all the good and bad that that entails -- but that hardly means that there are no superhero comic books that are enjoyable for adults. Romance novels or thrillers aren't going to replace Proust in any sane person's mind, but that doesn't mean that well-executed ones aren't a readerly pleasure.

And then, of course, there's the completely indefensible appeal of something like Helen Killer, in which Alexander Graham Bell designs powe armor for Helen Keller, enabling her to engage in a knock-down drag-out brawl with Leon Czolgosz. Lives there a man with soul so dead?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:31 PM
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Are "graphic novels" comic books for people who want to distance themselves from people who read "comic books"?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:32 PM
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60: Books threaten the conservative penis.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:32 PM
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66: More or less, at least as far as the marketing goes. Neither is to be confused with "comix," which is a comic book whose nonstandard spelling denotes its superior hipness and street cred.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:34 PM
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It's hard to nail down the appeal of comics because they can succeed in so many different ways. Watchmen doesn't have great art or even a particularly great plot, but its writing and characterization are fantastic. The Hellboy books, on the other hand, would fail completely if not for Mignola's foreboding graphic style (and in fact frequently do fail when someone else is handling the inks). I think that's why comics can be so popular: they can hook you with nostalgia, artwork, story or world-building.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:36 PM
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I read Marvel superhero comics intensely for about two years, '65-'66-'67, when I was thirteen through fifteen. A few years ago my daughter started to get interested in superheroes, exactly the galaxy of interests Rfts outlined in 50. We got to talking about them, and I found to my amazement that I remembered entire panels and sequences, so that I could draw schema from memory, after about forty years. They sure have a hold on the memory.

Now I would study them back then, read them over many dozens of times, and sometimes copy, ink and color a particularly striking panel, but still: it's liking opening a trunk after all these years, with no activity or much memory of this for any of the period in between.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:37 PM
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Epileptic is utterly fantastic, but a real downer -- people who want to spurn red-blooded American comics but not be led to drown themselves afterwards may prefer David B's fellow French artist, Joann Sfar, particularly The Rabbi's Cat. Joe Sacco's nonfiction comics (notably Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde is also worth mentioning).

The last comic book graphic novel I bought was late-period Jack Kirby gibbering madness, so I recognize that I have no credibility on what authentic grownups might enjoy.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:37 PM
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Not primarily, it's basically an industry term, which cartoonists loathe. Since, absurdly, you Americans decided to call what used to be called comics magazines "comic books", there was a need for a term for books of comics. I suppose "graphic novels" won out because it matched "comic books" in being absurd and misleading.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:39 PM
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Are "graphic novels" comic books for people who want to distance themselves from people who read "comic books"?

I think technically a graphic novel is what a whole bound series of comic books is called. But if someone is talking about comic books and then says 'please, graphic novel', it's a safe bet it's someone hasn't made peace with his inner geek.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:44 PM
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69: That's very true, although I think you're being a little unfair to both Dave Gibbons's art on Watchmen - which nicely blended an even-then-retro look and feel with a kind of grisly realism - and to Mike Mignola's writing, which can sometimes be pretty hilarious (I'm thinking of not just something like "The Amazing Screw-On Head," but Hellboy stories like the one with the corpse and the leprechauns, which is creepy in all the right parts and funny in quite a few others).


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:44 PM
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I think technically a graphic novel is what a whole bound series of comic books is called.

Actually, in the business I think they just call this a "trade paperback."


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:45 PM
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"I'm down with the idea that there are no good superhero comic books that are targeted at adults -- it's an essentially adolescent medium, with all the good and bad that that entails -- but that hardly means that there are no superhero comic books that are enjoyable for adults. Romance novels or thrillers aren't going to replace Proust in any sane person's mind, but that doesn't mean that well-executed ones aren't a readerly pleasure."

Well, I haven't found a lot of superhero comics aimed at adults enjoyable. Not that I've read a lot of them. If you like them, that's cool with me.

I should be clear, also, that there are some great, classic superhero comics aimed at children, which of course can be enjoyed by adults too.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:46 PM
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OTOH, my first reaction:"Robert Downey jr, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow are doing Ironman ?" as in like saddened and embarrassed for them, tho I am sure the money compensates. I watch some of them, but I would be pleased if the comic-book movie just disappeared.

This was pretty decent today, and the kind of thing I prefer. Three generations of actresses.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:47 PM
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38: It's just a matter of complexity and knowing what to look for in the artwork combined with an irritating post-grad school habit of reading to suck information out of a text rather than slowing down enough to notice the words, let alone the pictures.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:47 PM
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When I was little, I collected hundreds and hundreds of books that were collections of comic strips. Somewhere I have a whole truckload of Peanuts books from the 60's through the 80's. I thought those were "comic books" for a long time, until I realized that the kind of comic books you can use to make friends were the kinds with superheroes in them.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:47 PM
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When I was a lad, I pretty much only read fascist comics -- Punisher, G.I. Joe, with a leavening of procedural liberal hero books like Fantastic Four. Then, just as I was giving up on comics for good, everybody else started reading Sandman and the like. (Of course, this "everybody else" is consanguineous with LARP vampire nerds, so...)

But nowadays I mostly just read Castle Waiting, Berlin, Hey Mister and the Twisted Toyfare Theater section of Toyfare.

One of my closest friends, who is also the friend who is most into comics, who is also the friend who is most into hero books, is a lesbian radical. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:48 PM
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I know that basically nothing comes out under CCA these days, but given the standard treatment of women in comics, I love this clause in the "Comics Code":

Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:50 PM
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Well, I haven't found a lot of superhero comics aimed at adults enjoyable. Not that I've read a lot of them. If you like them, that's cool with me.

I think actually Snark was saying that superhero comics aimed at adolescents could be enjoyable for adults, while quite possibly none that are intentionally aimed at adults succeed, because of the fact that such a project is at odds with some fundamentally adolescent features of superhero stories.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:51 PM
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Stupid html.

I too think that Joe Sacco is very good, and that he doesn't get the recognition he deserves.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:51 PM
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No, trade paperback usually refer only to collections of comic books (ie pamphlets).

The terminological confusion here is pretty extreme. Graphic novel can refer to (1) a book of comics, longform fictional story (2), (3) any longform comic, or (4) something more vague and subjective or (5) something else.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:52 PM
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Castle Waiting

Oh yay, Castle Waiting! I haven't read that in ages and ages. Berlin is also very good, and so meticulously beautifully drawn.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:54 PM
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I too think that Joe Sacco is very good, and that he doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

Sacco's awesome. He's apparently working on another book about Gaza right now, and I'm pretty eager to see it.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:55 PM
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I think Sacco does get the recognition he desrves, even if it took 20 years. He's done stuff for the NYT and other newspapers, and Palestine just got an anniversary hardcover editionrelease.

Actually, maybe I think he'soverrated. I thought neither Gorazde or Palestine was that insightsful or moving. Those Iraq things I read in the NYT was actually the best thingof him that I've read.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:59 PM
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I think technically a graphic novel is what a whole bound series of comic books is called.

The term is muddled, as is its origins, but they it seems to have originally meant "published as a single story, not as a serial". Will Eisner (of Blackhawks and The Spirit, who's probably just below Kirby, Lee, and Ditko as a shaping force of the industry) is often credited with having been the first to use the term in his A Contract with God, about the Jewish experience in Brooklyn, but this doesn't seem to actually be the case.

I should be clear, also, that there are some great, classic superhero comics aimed at children, which of course can be enjoyed by adults too.

Pwned by rfts, but I'll post anyway having written this out. What you said is more what I meant -- outside of explicitly self-referential stuff like Watchmen or Peter Milligan's Enigma (which I think Jonathan Lethem fans would like), superhero comic books for adults usually fail the test of being both good and plausibly for adults. Part of it is the completist thing Rfts mentioned -- it's hard to a comic book about being the one guy who can fly in the whole world*, so I think the genre is kind of forced into the Procrustean of world-building, supervillains, etcetera, and things invariably end up silly and tied to remembering the origins of that one guy, Doctor Vicious from issue 18, and why exactly his secret weakness is his fear of birds. There's a series called Sleeper that Ed Brubaker, who also writes a straight noir comic book, Criminal, did, but even though it's really more a spy comic about the life of a double agent than anything else, I don't think I could really recommend it to anyone uninterested in the superhero genre because there are all these trappings. It would be like if someone kept forcing these really great, sensitive novels about the terrors of adolescence and emerging sexuality on me and I couldn't get over the fact that they were all Harry Potter fanfic. This would not be, contra what my fellow comic book nerds sometimes say, a strange reaction.

* Eisner did one, in fact.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 4:59 PM
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OK, then we agree.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:03 PM
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Sorry, but no one collects comic books any more. The industry went through a bizarre bubble and a huge crash in the early 1990s, as anyone who bought somewhere on the order of a dozen variant covers of the latest X-Men reboot remembers. I was just reading an article in Wizard about how Geoff Johns actually bought 40 copies of Eclypso #1 (which had a costume jewel stuck onto the cover) thinking he could resell them back to the comic book shop the next month for massive damage but, of course, could not and after that would find copies tucked among his things for years.

Anyway, nowadays comics come pre-collected in trades. Trade paperbacks are such a successful format that artists and writers are asking for contracts with trades in mind—they argue for an uninterrupted and cohesive six-issue run, so that their work will be collected in one volume by the end of it. Book stores have told comic creators that the six-issue runs sell best, so that's what creators are making now. It's totally conceivable that the endless serial runs could disappear entirely and the notion of a Detective Comics issue #543 will be ridiculous.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:04 PM
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Seconded on Brubaker's and Phillips' Sleeper and Criminal. The prequel to Sleeper, Point Blank, is decent.

Of course, I paid Ebay prices for Absolute Authority and Absolute Planetary, so my judgment may be faulty.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:04 PM
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Also, it was Eisner that invented the shop system in the early 40s, so that alone arguably makes him the most influential person in the history of the industry, and a pretty influential person in the history of the artform (an extremely bad influence.)

Then in the late 70s, early 80s, he played a fairly big part in making the bookshop a place for comics, and popularizing serious comics for adults (though less so than others like Spiegelman), and so finally undoing some of the damage he had done.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:11 PM
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Re: all those trappings, the virtues of serials are also often their downfall. On the one hand, those titles that go on and on and ON and on forever, and have reams of back story trailing back so far that almost no normal human has read every scrap of it, have an amazing store of material for new writers to draw on. They have characters and settings that have seeped into the fabric of the culture in a way that is quite amazing and impossible to reproduce from scratch.

But these stories also have an unbelievable amount of baggage on account of the fact that their canons include piles of terrible, slapdash, sexist, racist, idiotic crap from the past. And because the whole back catalog of material is so big, it's not possible to interact with it in a normal text-consuming way, where you go to the start and read it through. This is why I prefer comics with shorter runs. Self-contained arcs within some Big Superhero title can be enjoyable to me; wholly new stories that run for only a few years are generally more enjoyable; ordinary issues of some very long-running title, much much less so. Who can keep up? Not me. And when stories get split over multiple titles, as both Marvel and DC like to do, I say FUCK THAT in a big way.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:11 PM
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I was just reading an article in Wizard

HSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! The yellow face, it burns us!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:12 PM
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And what is this, Making Light? All these people telling you to read Sandman this or black-and-white-stapled-together that fail to address the question. If you want to read good super-hero comics go to the store and ask the guy to give you the better Hal Jordan/Spectre books (that's Green Lantern), some Batman/Superman showdowns, anything with Galactus in it, and Ultimate Spider-Man. (Confidential to Becks: You have all these things in your living room.)

For advanced-placement reading within the super-hero genre: the first two volumes of The Authority, Grant Morrison's Invisibles (he's done lots of great stuff with super-heroes, too, see his runs on X-Men and Superman), omg Powers, Y: The Last Man, and 100 Bullets—all cool.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:14 PM
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I don't think you have to be super interested in the superhero genre to enjoy Sleeper, just not profoundly uninterested in it. I'd think anyone who's seen a few superhero movies and enjoyed them could like it just fine. Stuff like Top Ten is much more dependent on a fondness for and relatively detailed familiarity with the genre.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:14 PM
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Hey, Ogged, if you're still reading, did you end up reading any comics after that last thread?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:14 PM
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I was just reading an article in Wizard

So what does it mean if I roll a 15?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:14 PM
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And what is this, Making Light?

LOW BLOW.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:15 PM
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the better Hal Jordan/Spectre books

Excuse me, the Hal Jordan Spectre? You totally blew your geek cred there, 'Smash.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:17 PM
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did you end up reading any comics after that last thread?

Nope. (Well, Persepolis.) But keep in mind that I basically don't read offline anymore. Maybe the library next to my place has some of these things.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:18 PM
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Hey, Ogged, if you're still reading

This thread is to Ogged what Ogged's swimming threads would be to everyone else if we actually talked about swimming on them.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:19 PM
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I love love love Powers. I would argue that most people who aren't already interested in reading comics are going to have a hard time jumping into Green Lantern, because it's so part of the general bolus of DC titles. You're just constantly running up against references to this and that thing that happened with the JLA or that person who Hal used to date or whatever.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:19 PM
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Invisibles is awesome.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:20 PM
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I just saw Iron Man with my roommates. I guess it was ok, but a movie like that is more entertaining with less attention to machine-building and more fighting (or at least better attention to the non-fighting, that is to say, the plot). Engineers might think differently, though.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:21 PM
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100: Bring it, straws. Of course there is no title titled The Hal Jordan Spectre; there was a Spectre and then later there was the Spectre that was Hal Jordan. In brightest day, in darkest night, no continuity detail shall escape my sight.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:22 PM
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Invisibles is awesome.

...until volume three, when it goes completely off the rails, breaking my young heart forever.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:22 PM
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Grant Morrison's Invisibles

Only if people forcibly make you put it down before it gets all pointless and wanky midway through Volume 2. Just a terrible, terrible letdown. I'm really enjoying Brubaker's current Iron Fist run -- it's hard to go awry with a white kung fu dude fighting in a mystical martial arts tournament in Shangri-La?*

I was just talking up Denny O'Neil's R'as al-Ghul stuff (Tales of the Demon, etc.) from the '70s Batman the other day. I think the big guys -- Superman, Batman, Spiderman (recent blogosphere furore notwithstanding) -- are good jumping off places because they're part of America's national canon now, the way Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are. Otherwise, I think people are best dipping a toe in with Hellboy or Powers, which are self-contained. And Powers stars foul-mouthed cops, so you can pretend that you're watching The Wire, only with people in capes instead of heroin dealers.

Also, it was Eisner that invented the shop system in the early 40s, so that alone arguably makes him the most influential person in the history of the industry...

Harry A. Chesler, wasn't it? Otto "Shazam" Binder's first boss? I've got Men of Tomorrow around here somewhere to check, although I vaguely remember someone telling me the research in that is shoddy or one-sided in some way.

* Seriously, why on earth don't people take comic books more seriously? What screams "Art" more than "mystical martial arts tournament"?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:23 PM
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Fables serves as a pretty good introduction to the format. It's a book that plays on a complicated back history that everyone already knows because these are characters like Jack (from Bean Stalk fame) and Little Red Riding Hood. In every respect, though, it's a straight up 00s super-hero book.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:26 PM
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Invisibles is terrible. It's exactly the comic you'd come up with if you took a bunch of teenage LARP nerds slowly coming out of their goth phase, gave them their first-ever copy of "Never Mind The Bullocks," and asked them to create a universe where morality is entirely defined by superficial displays of coolness.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:27 PM
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I know I've read that Eisner/Iger was the very first one, but it was probably someone on a message board who sounded very authoritative, but didn't really know his ass from his elbow. IE like me in the last comment.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:28 PM
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Several months ago I was writing a review of a Fragonard exhibition the catalog for which was written by an art historian with an unusual name. On a whim I googled it and learned that in his spare time he made comics and even participated in online message board devoted to them. I had to read some of it, and found a thread devoted to his announcement of the publication of the catalog. I was delighted to see that it swiftly degenerated into some of his fellow comics fans telling him that Fragonard sucked while he tried to argue that no, really, Fragonard was really good, he was even like comics!

(The only comic, or graphic novel, or what you will, I've ever bothered with since above the age of 10 is this one, because it's very funny.)


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:28 PM
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Yes, I read the first two chapters or so of Invisibles in the library and thought it was the worst shit I ever read - until I read Kill your boyfriend. But I've never read anyone who didn't think it was briliant, and I frequent the freaking tcj message board. So thank you, Stras.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:31 PM
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110: Dude! It's a sigil! Grant Morrison was totally kidnapped by super-hippies from outer space in Katmandu and given a tour of their secret hash bar in the reality trapped like lint between the accordion-like folds of space-time!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:32 PM
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Ha ha! I also adored Kill Your Boyfriend. Absolutely perfect for swoony, self-absorbed, 19-year-old me.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:32 PM
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106: Smasher, if there are any other lonely Green Lantern geeks in America who actually liked Hal Jordan's years as The Spectre, I submit that they are too embarrassed to reveal themselves.

If you want the Spectre, you want the Jim Corrigan Spectre, specifically the Ostrander/Mandrake run. It gives you all the Old Testament-level horror and carnage you want in a Spectre story, while fully acknowledging that the entire concept of the Spectre is really creepy and fucked-up.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:32 PM
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Well alright, fine, Grant Morrison isn't everyone's cup of tea, please note that I suggested Green Fucking Lantern first.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:33 PM
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54: Well, if that isn't a deep critical analysis of a 7-year, 1500-page illustrated novel on the themes of Mythology and Change, I don't know what is. I'm convinced!


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:34 PM
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I basically don't read offline anymore

Me neither. I'm a little embarrassed by that.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:35 PM
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Yeah, Andrei. The TCJ boards have completely gone to the dogs lately, unfortunately.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:35 PM
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Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman (with Frank Quitely) is worth even more hype than it has received, though.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:36 PM
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I also adored Kill Your Boyfriend.

Oh god. Kill Your Boyfriend is, without hyperbole, the worst-ever comic book I've ever read. It manages to be simultaneously cynical, self-important, derivative, and dumb. When a story can be summed up as "like Natural-Born Killers, but with worse writing, and more poorly thought-out," you have a problem.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:37 PM
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I should say at this point that I don't hate absolutely everything Grant Morrison has ever done. Seaguy and We3 were both fantastic, and I've really liked what I've seen of All-Star Superman.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:38 PM
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It manages to be simultaneously cynical, self-important, derivative, and dumb.

My adolescence in a nutshell!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:38 PM
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Stras, the horrific trainwreck that is the last third of The Invisibles is related to the fact that for the first two-thirds of it, Morrison gave every impression that he was aware of those very flaws you cite and was writing something introspective about transcending the desire to be the baddest motherfucker on the block while simultaneously appealing to people who liked comic books about a bunch of hott mystical anarchists doing drugs and shooting people. I guess it's hardly surprising that he failed to execute that particular triple Lutz and ended up doing neither.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:38 PM
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Actuaaly, Morrison seems to be universally respected, thoughnot universally deified, except by me and Michael Moorcock. And I wouldn't be surprised if I at least sorta liked some other comics of his. I found some comic he did with Jon Muth OK.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:39 PM
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124: See, I really shouldn't have read it, and Invisibles, at age 23.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:39 PM
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Michael Moorcock doesn't like Morrison? Why not?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:40 PM
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That was me.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:40 PM
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You're Michael Moorcock? I really like Elric.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:41 PM
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There's really no Guam thread? Racists. All of you.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:42 PM
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Is it true, by the way, that Morrison is going to make sequels to Seaguy? Because I'm one of the six people who really, really liked Seaguy, and I thought it ended more or less perfectly the way it did, and am now nervous that he'll kind of fuck it up.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:44 PM
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Yeah, Andrei. The TCJ boards have completely gone to the dogs lately, unfortunately.

The sad thing is, I couldn't entirely disagree with them: the exhibition wasn't very good. I adore Fragonard, the installation was well-done, the scholarship sound; but most of the paintings were simply bad. They tried to beef it up with a gallery of his better, early work, but the late paintings that were the reason for the show were generally saccharine and weak.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:44 PM
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There's really no Guam thread? Racists. All of you.

GUAM DOESN'T COUNT, ARI.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:44 PM
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No Louisiana thread either. That can't be good for the Cazayouxs.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:44 PM
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He thinks he ripped him off. Jerry Cornelius. Morrisson apparently often rips off concepts wholesale rather than tweaking them, and likens it to sampling in hip hop. I think he also is generally pretty influenced by Moorcock. I've read neither much Morrison nor Jerry Cornelius, so I can't tell you who's "right", or guarantee my summary is correct.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:46 PM
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132: He mentioned something about sequels in the New York Comic-Con panel that is available as a podcast via iTunes, but I don't remember exactly what.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:46 PM
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136: The Invisibles makes explicit reference to Jerry Cornelius a few times, but my familiarity with those works of Moorcock's is minimal at best.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:48 PM
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I love love love Fragonard, but I haven't seen any of his better pieces for years. Now that I think about it, not since I left France and the Met disappeared its little "billet d'amour" painting.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 5:56 PM
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"Oh god. Kill Your Boyfriend is, without hyperbole, the worst-ever comic book I've ever read. It manages to be simultaneously cynical, self-important, derivative, and dumb. When a story can be summed up as "like Natural-Born Killers, but with worse writing, and more poorly thought-out," you have a problem."

Preach it, my brother.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:00 PM
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Watchmen stands out to me.

So, so good. There was a guy reading it for the first time in line to vote today.

Remember, Becks, despite the various hipsters trying to present their plumage, that taste is subjective and a lot of comics readers are quite like music scenesters in that anything widely appreciated or enjoyed is automatically barely worthy of scorn. A lot of the comics I read, I read because they're just fun or the art is good or I want to see if they find their legs and run with it in months to come. Fuck, one of the best comics on the shelf right now is Grant Morrison's Superman. One cannot possibly find more generic and commercialized an overall franchise than Superman and yet Grant Morrison's is really fun and (I think) quite good.

There are enough genres and enough titles and enough weird little one-offs and major brand-name heavies for it to be impossible for anyone to explain the connection or try to forge it for you. If you want to know if it's possible for you to have that connection, I would simply advise you to go spend fifteen minutes browsing the shelves of a comic book shop. Some of my favorite titles I picked up solely on the strength of an interesting cover, browsed in the store and figured what the hell, for $3 it's worth a shot.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:11 PM
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with worse writing, and more poorly thought-out

Better acting though!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:17 PM
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Reading 140 comments makes me think that comics are a tiring topic of discussion. There are too many caveats need to be added to any comment, and such a cultural minefield with all of the well documented misogyny of many comics.

So, thoughts off the top of my head.

Two comics that are well within mainstream conventions of their genre, but that I would highly recommend are the Nausicaa: Vally of the wind trade paperbacks and Terri Wood's Wandering Star. The first 4 issues are available for download but both the writing and art get much better as the series goes on.

Oh yes, and Dykes to Watch Out for, but that's a comic strip not a comic book.

As for the appeal of comic books, I think they do archetypal narratives well. For me the combination of art and words allows for a very stripped down narrative to still be emotionally powerful. There are obviously many examples of comic books that are good for other reasons, but I think that is the appeal of genre comics.

The most recent comic I've read was Locas: The Maggie and Hopey Stories. I'd never read any Love and Rockets before, and I was interested in it as historical work. It ranged from good to very good. It is decidedly amateurish in a variety of ways, but a good example of the virtues of amateurism.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:22 PM
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It's decidedly not amateurish, though he's still figuring things out in the earlier stories.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:25 PM
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The new three paperbacks would be better though, because his stuff is (purposely) fragmentary even without removing like a third of it. Also easier to read, strictly physically than the huge tome.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:28 PM
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It's decidedly not amateurish, though he's still figuring things out in the earlier stories.

How so? That may not be the perfect word, but for me captures many of the strengths and weaknesses of the book.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:30 PM
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Because he's a master in complete control of his medium? How is it amateurish?


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:31 PM
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The new three paperbacks would be better . . .

Oh, sure, tell me that now.

I liked having one big book that covers that much of his career. It's good to be watch the evolution over time.

I would certainly be up for reading more Love and Rockets after that, but perhaps not immediately.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:32 PM
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You already own I think 60-70% of the the three paperbacks, unfortunately, if that wasn't clear.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:34 PM
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a lot of comics readers are quite like music scenesters in that anything widely appreciated or enjoyed is automatically barely worthy of scorn

I haven't found this to be true at all. Everyone reads Watchmen, but there's never been a massive anti-Watchmen backlash (in the way that comic readers sometimes dismiss or express embarrassment about Sandman). For that matter, Maus and Understanding Comics are highly regarded by comic snobs of all stripes, even though they're probably the most widely-read comics among comic snobs.

Comic readers are tribal, and often defend their subjective opinions with an absurd degree of absolutism (I know, I know - sounds totally bizarre and unfamiliar), but the scenester-esque need to profess that "X isn't cool anymore" isn't that prevalent among comic-reading types. Fans of lesser-known books will often express resentment that Indie Comic X isn't as well-known as Spandex Dude Y, but this stems more from tribalism and earnest boosterism than from a belief that reading a lesser-known comic makes you cool. Comics are still considered pretty geeky by the public at large, and no one who isn't totally delusional would think that reading a cool little graphic novel is considered by one's peers to be on a level with knowing the next hot band.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:34 PM
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I love love love Fragonard, but I haven't seen any of his better pieces for years. Now that I think about it, not since I left France and the Met disappeared its little "billet d'amour" painting.

Easy solution: go to the Frick.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:39 PM
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Am I right in thinking that titles like Elfquest and A Distant Soil had a disproportionate number of female readers, in something like the way that many female geeks tend to go more for fantasy than science fiction?

I don't know how superhero comics fit into that distinction; I guess they tend to use elements of both? But for whatever reason, I do think of them as more like science fiction, despite some surface similarity between superpowers and magical powers.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:42 PM
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Because he's a master in complete control of his medium? How is it amateurish?

Let me try to defend that. Contrast "amateurish" with "professionalism." What does professionalism mean? It implies, at least, a constant ability to satisfy the basic demands of the craft and of an audience, regardless of the level of artistic inspiration in a specific project.

To my reading, the book was both noticeably inconsistent in it's level of attention, and creative inspiration while, at the same time, begin happy to ignore the standard expectations of the comic book audience and craft.

Again, I mean this less as a criticism than as a way to frame the strengths and weaknesses. Professionalism is not necessarily a virtue and amateurism is not a problem.

I could go into more detail, but hopefully that makes sense, and at least explains how I'm using the term.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:50 PM
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Rather than offer any generalizations, I'm just gonna point at comic book creators whose work I like and whom I haven't seen mentioned yet.

P. Craig Russell, first of all, a one-man beachhead of pre-Raphaelite beauty in the midst of comics. The link here is to a fan site with well-chosen scans of some of his art, on this page including his two-volume adaptation of Wagner's Ring cycle, and other stories I like. Russell's work is (to my eye) uniquely beautiful - there's nothing I know of very much like it coming out from anyone else these days, and he's an immensely thoughtful adapter of prose to illustration.

(The effect can be really weird sometimes, as it was when he illustrated Killraven, a sci-fi series set in the wake of a successful second War of the Worlds. But sometimes that's fun too.)

Anthony Johnston, a writer who's worked well with a lot of different artists. Each of the volumes here is a self-contained story except for Wasteland, a very well-down post-apocalyptic not-quite-a-Western. Julius is Julius Caesar as gang war in modern London, with the eponymous mob boss speaking Shakespearian amid the dialectical thugs. Closer is what looks like an sf story about weirdos working on teleportation with a crunchy fantasy core rather like some of Tim Powers' novels.

Stan Sakai, author and illustrator. Either you're the sort of person who may really like warm, often humorous, sometimes dark and tragic tales of a wandering samurai in semi-fantasy feudal Japan all done with anthropomorphic animals, or you're not. You may know which sort of person you are already. If not, go take a look.

The creators of The Red Star, a real ensemble piece. This is distinctive stuff: high-tech magic in a sort of alternate Soviet Russia, with the literal soul of the nation at stake behind the scenes along with the conflicts visible to the characters at the outset. The artwork is a fascinating mix of CGI and traditional illustration, the story seeped in an appreciation for heroic revolt.

Hawaiian Dick, the creation of B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin. This is fun: semi-hard-boiled private eye fiction in '50s Hawaii, rendered in a cartoony style with a sense of design informed by '50s pop art.

Okay, one generalization: Superhero comics have the noisiest fans, at least in the English language, but in terms of sales they're not even close to dominating. Discussion of comics that takes supers as the norm is sort of like talking about the New York Times' #60-75 bestsellers as representative of the whole of popular fiction.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:53 PM
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You already own I think 60-70% of the the three paperbacks, unfortunately, if that wasn't clear.

I say again, just in case anyone is having their eyes glaze over at this discussion, that I was very happy to read the collection that I did, I would certainly recommend it to other people, and if there are better collections out there that's even better, and you should read them.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:56 PM
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I don't know how superhero comics fit into that distinction; I guess they tend to use elements of both? But for whatever reason, I do think of them as more like science fiction, despite some surface similarity between superpowers and magical powers.

Superheroes in the 30s and 40s were actually mostly magic-themed with a couple exceptions (Wonder Woman was an amazon from Greek myth, the Spectre was this crazy ghost who killed people, Green Lantern's original magic ring was literally a magic ring, etc.), but since the 50s and 60s superhero comics have been pretty solidly scifi oriented.

The gender split between fantasy and scifi is interesting to me. I haven't read much of either in ages, so I can't really speculate as to what would make fantasy a more hospitable genre to female readers; both the fantasy and scifi I read as a kid seemed very much geared toward the pimply male teen demographic, though.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 6:59 PM
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The fantasy genre fic I read as a kid had lots of hot sex scenes in them, with princes in disguise as peasants seducing lovely local maidens in totally hott and flirty ways and then getting in on to her exquisite ecstasy and whatnot. I figured that's why ladies read them.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:01 PM
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getting "it" on, of course.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:02 PM
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Merganser: Yes, the Pinis and Colleen Doran do have a lot of female readers. This is deeply unsettling to a certain kind of comics fan. :) (But not to others. Wendy Pini is one of those creators who influences others a lot, sort of like Heinlein with engineers - a whole bunch of the people now making livings with anime and manga production/importing/etc. credit her artwork as inspiring their curiosity, leading them to discover the works she cited as influences on her style, and one thing leading to another after that. Given the scale of these things now in American entertainment, she's genuinely important in American mass culture.)


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:02 PM
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she's genuinely important in American mass culture.

That makes me happy to hear.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:05 PM
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"To my reading, the book was both noticeably inconsistent in it's level of attention, and creative inspiration while, at the same time, begin happy to ignore the standard expectations of the comic book audience and craft."

Don't think so. Even in his comparatively weaker moments, I don't think it has to do with letting his attention wander or whatever.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:06 PM
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I have always read a lot more science fiction than fantasy. The fantasy I encountered as a kid did not feature lots of softcore excitement, but I don't think I'd have found it more enticing if it had.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:07 PM
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"but in terms of sales they're not even close to dominating."

But they dominate comic books, ie periodicals sold in speciality shops, which was what Becks talked about.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:09 PM
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SF is historically more a guy thing than fantasy partly because of the emphasis on rules and definitions. An sf setting likely has parameters to its fictional milieu which you can lay out, tabulate, and discuss while ignoring things like plot and characterization. There's a long streak in sf fandom of being more interested in the stories as sort of notional laboratories than as fiction.

(This is a "yes, and" supplement to some of the things A White Bear has already said about fantasy and comics, which ring true to me as a long-time reader of all this stuff.)


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:12 PM
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This is interesting -- I'm generally exactly the sort of geek to have been into comics in a big way, but I never was (barring the semester I was dropping out of MIT, which I spent in the basement of my coop reading X-Men and Spiderman out of a locker full of them that was down there for some reason.) But both of my kids are fascinated by the superhero comics -- Sally's drawing them, they're both reading them -- and I'm looking forward to parasitically catching up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:14 PM
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Easy solution: go to the Frick.

Oh, of course! I have seen those, but the ultra-finished paintings aren't my favorites: I like the gestural ones, the portraits, and the interior scenes.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:19 PM
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Even in his comparatively weaker moments, I don't think it has to do with letting his attention wander or whatever.

Would it be fair to say that there's are moments of experimentation that don't work and that, rather than try to homogenize them, he's happy to leave it in as inconsistent experimentation?

LB -- if you don't have the Nausicaa trade paperbacks you should plan on getting them.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:19 PM
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Weman: Ah, this is true. The specialty shops do give a view that gives exciting new meaning to "skewed".


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:25 PM
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119:

I basically don't read offline anymore

Me neither. I'm a little embarrassed by that.

AS YOU SHOULD BE.

Carry on. Sorry.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:25 PM
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the ultra-finished paintings aren't my favorites: I like the gestural ones, the portraits, and the interior scenes.

Ah. While I love the Fragonard room at the Frick, I tend to agree with you. Among the positives of the exhibition I mentioned was that the Clark has one of his great fantasy portraits, which are all about brilliant, fast, paint handling. They also borrowed a few of his small racy paintings, which also use gestural brushwork to evoke the proper mood. The examples of his drawings were also impressive, beginning to end, from his careful early studies through the famed Tivoli red chalk works to The Kiss, now in the Albertina's collection. These alone would have made a better exhibition than the paintings that were the actual focus.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:49 PM
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There is an Elfquest digital archive.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 7:53 PM
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Preacher is absolute shit from front to back.

Invisibles is terrible. It's exactly the comic you'd come up with if you took a bunch of teenage LARP nerds slowly coming out of their goth phase, gave them their first-ever copy of "Never Mind The Bullocks," and asked them to create a universe where morality is entirely defined by superficial displays of coolness.

Stras is 100% on the first and maybe 1000000% right on the second.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:25 PM
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So on this very special of days, maybe you can explain what makes comic books so great to me.

You know wire-fu action movies? Action movies? Nurse novels? Same shit, different day.

Superhero comic books get looked down upon ('Whoa! Tights! Fantasy fighting! But you read it instead of watching it on TV?! YUCK!'), which is basically wrong, since it isn't any worse than most of the crud peddled here, there and everywhere. But no better.

People get a narcissitic boost from temporarily retreating into fantasy... that is, it's not any different than watching Buffy. It just requires more of a suspension of disbelief, since vampyres have street cred and She-Hulk does not.

I've dabbled a bit (read the entire Sandman series and a few others here and there, like Preacher and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)

LEG is a superhero comic book. Dull. Preacher was over the top in all the right ways.

But, you must read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and Transmetropolitan and From Hell and Love & Rockets and so on... or not. It's not like they don't produce enough crap in the world.

max
['Of course, if you want to read a superhero comic once, and then never feel the need to read another superhero comic again, you should read Grendel.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:46 PM
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Grendel had some really, really glorious moments. I am passionately fond to this day of several of its storylines.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 8:54 PM
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I can't decide if the existence of manga decisively proves AWB's point, or refutes it utterly.

Sometimes I'm periodically reminded that I slipped in here from an alternate universe. When I was in college, I knew a bunch of women who read comics obsessively. I ended up reading them just to find out what the fuck they were talking about. (And I'm not talking Sandman, either. I had to read fifty issues of X-Men, X-Factor, and New Mutants each to catch up.)

When the first X-Men movie came out, people were asking me about the back story of various characters, and I found myself launching into an hour long lecture on Rogue's mom, and how Storm eventually switches to a mohawk, and blah, blah, blah. I had no idea that all that was still rattling around my brain. It was like the end of Manchurian Candidate.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:38 PM
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Becks, did you ever see the movie Army of Darkness? Did you have the same reaction to the ending?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:41 PM
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(someguy kicks manga)

Thus I refute AWB!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 9:46 PM
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There is a series. Or was. About 2002, says my memory, judging by the boyfriend I had when I read the first bit. There was some sort of meteor or supernova and all these children conceived during that time in this small town ended up having superpowers of sorts.

But some of the powers were not as good as they sounded. The kid who was invulnerable couldn't feel any pain, but that wasn't good because he couldn't feel anything else either, and wasn't a good athlete so he just ate a lot just for the sensation. Another kid was molested at summer camp and set fire to his counselor (with his brain) and discovered a curious problem being able to create fire in your mind and going through puberty. And another girl had the ability to make any man see her as their ideal. The whole thing strived for realism, what it would be really like to have a power.

And they all grew up. One guy turned into a Captain America look-alike. And then someone started murdering them because... well, I don't know. They killed the invulnerable kid with a plastic bag (couldn't feel it until he was already suffocating); and there's a character named Joseph. And a girl who didn't have any powers who turned out to have multiple personalities, and the personality with the powers was insane, and called herself Critical Maas. To the death, to the death, etc.

Does anybody know what the hell the name of this title was?

(Y: the Last Man is pretty good, too, but I'm only two issues in.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:02 PM
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Ooh, that sounds good, Cala. Kind of like X-Men except with more social realism. (I found it hard to believe such a high percentage of people with rad mutant powers grow up to be such ideologically coherent hotties.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:10 PM
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Cala, that was Rising Stars, written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by several different artists; credits and info via the usual.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:10 PM
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Yeah, that was what was cool about it. Instead of saying 'wow, you're invulnerable, that must be awesome' it said 'what if you're invulnerable, everyone knew it, and you were an unathletic loser instead of a god?'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:11 PM
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Did you watch The Lost Room mini-series on the Sci-Fi channel, Cala? I was sort of obsessed with it. In it, there are all these normal-looking objects that grant the bearer certain powers, some of which are really stupid. The umbrella makes the bearer seem familiar to strangers, the bus ticket makes you reappear outside a town in New Mexico (very frustrating), the comb makes you disappear for a couple of seconds and then throw up, the clock sublimates brass, the nail file makes you pass out when you look at it... Anyhow, there was a great story behind the objects, where they came from and the cults devoted to collecting combinations of the objects, which they thought would either kill God or bring him back from the dead.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:13 PM
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Wow, thanks! You know how annoying it was to remember most of the entire story and not the title? Lots! (Apparently a John and not a Joseph, though.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:14 PM
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182: I didn't, but I remember shivbunny going on about some thing with a bus ticket in New Mexico.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:15 PM
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Rising Stars is excellent. I am only sad that Bruce Baugh got to tell you the title before I did!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:16 PM
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And then someone started murdering them because... well, I don't know.

The answer to this is one of maybe three main plot points in the comic. Cala, if you liked that, you might like Supreme Power, the same writer's reimagining of Squadron Supreme, which was in turn basically Marvel's copyright-skirting clone of the Justice League (there's a Superman analogue, a Batman, a Flash, a Wonder Woman, a Green Lantern, etc.). Straczynski does a pretty good job explaining how it is, exactly, that all those superhero book trappings show up. (Among other things, George Bush I deploys the last son of Krypton Hyperion, who totally is an original Marvel character, to destroy the Republican Guard during the Gulf War.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:20 PM
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Did anyone else here read these books?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:23 PM
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186: From what I remember from what I read, the more that were killed the more power for everyone else who was afflicted. And the government kept tabs on how to kill them.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:27 PM
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187: Ha, we were just talking about those chez nous, not two minutes ago.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 3-08 10:33 PM
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187: Yes! I thought I was the only one and have always been mildly embarrassed about it. You mean to tell me I could've been making Yeoman and Dr. Tachyon allusions?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 6:33 AM
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I read those too, or at least the first couple. After a while the fun to just kind of depressing ratio got out of whack. But I did like the bit with Buddy Holly as a shaman.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 7:35 AM
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I also wanted to ditto the hatred of Preacher, which I kept thinking had to get better but instead got worse and worse.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 8:33 AM
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The Wild Cards series had a good strong start, then lost its way, then found a way really not worth taking, then went to hell. But some years back they relaunched it with a renumbering, and it's been interesting reading ever since, with a recurring interest in the long-term consequences of the virus - what humanity's going to be like in 500 years, for instance.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 12:54 PM
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Late to the party, but:

Understanding Comics is the most enjoyably intelligent work of art criticism I have ever read.

Charles Burns' Black Hole and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home are the two most recent graphic novels I have enjoyed. Phoebe Gloeckner's Diary of a Teenage Girl is a neat multimedia work, but also has substantial prurient interest going for it. Sorry, officer? I said empathic characterization. Don't know what you're talking about.

"Blankets" by whosit was a bit emo for my liking.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 4-08 1:29 PM
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"The fantasy genre fic I read as a kid had lots of hot sex scenes in them"

I'm curious whom you are referring to: can you give some names of actual writers, perhaps?

As an explanation for why more women read fantasy than sf, this seems to fail on the bqsis that, in fact, relatively few fantasy genre books have, or have ever had, lots of hot sex scenes in them, unless the field has drastically changed in the last five years or so while I wasn't looking much, which isn't the time frame you'd be referring to, anyway.

Although I half-wonder if you read Mercedes Lackey.


Posted by: Gary Farber | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 2:28 PM
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I remember posting a moderately amusing two-line summary of Lackey on here once.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 2:30 PM
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196: the Star Wars novelization summary is better.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 2:32 PM
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Xanth?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 2:35 PM
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Epileptic is undone by the plot. His brother is epileptic? Maybe if he was epileptic, or if his brother was a mass murderer, I could see it. Some people just lead boring lives and shouldn't write autobiographies.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 3:16 PM
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I addition to those mentioned above, Chester Brown's Louis Riel is pretty excellent.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 7:24 PM
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I addition to those mentioned above, Chester Brown's Louis Riel is pretty excellent.

Oh, sure, epileptic French teenagers are boring, but M├ętis revolutionaries who think they're Jesus and are betrayed by the Canadian government are interesting. Bigot. (It's a very good comic, and I'm not that into Chester Brown.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 6-08 7:28 PM
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