Issue #167

Meanwhile, in the spirit of the season, go buy lots of my books, especially THE LAST HEROES (art by Gil Kane!) and the TOTALLY OBVIOUS .pdf. T'is the season, after all. You wouldn't want Western Civilization to collapse, would you?

1) What's your favorite comic of 2004?

"FABLES. It would be REX MUNDI if it came out more often, but I don't know if it counts."

"I know what I read, I know what I loved, but I'm not really sure I can tell the difference between the comics I love out of long time respect and admiration, or those comics that have just simply blown my mind. That said, I think the interlude issues of LUCIFER by Mike Carey were very moving - these stand alone tales that fall in between each major story-arch, he had one last year, a Christmas story with an evil demon who saves a man from Cancer, and this year had one about a new voice in hell, preaching of a better after life. Also Gail Simone's run on BIRDS OF PREY; not only is it refreshing to have a female voice writing a girl-power type book, but I don't think any of those characters have really clicked for me until now."

"2000 AD."

"EX MACHINA, with little hesitation. Very few people do the 'it's part of a story but still reads like an interesting monthly book' thing than Brian K. Vaughn. Runner-up is THE WALKING DEAD from Robert Kirkman, another title that excels at ratcheting up the monthly tension while still maintaining a strong ongoing plot."

"DEEP SLEEPER by Phil Hester & Mike Huddleston. Man, Phil Hester is too good a writer for his artwork on GREEN ARROW to be the majority of his comic book output. Why isn't Ait/Planet Lar or someone knocking down his door, asking him to do some OGNs for them? This comic was 4 issues, but completely satisfactory, with a descriptive power that I normally see in novels, not comic books, as most writers tend to let the visuals speak for themselves (which Mike Huddleston is more than up to the task, of course, but still...) or they overwrite and destory the mood. Just great, adventurous, and has a punchline ending, which I wish more writers would do; it's like the cherry on top."

"WE 3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It helps that I'm a sucker for animal stories, but it also helps that this reads like nobody has told them how you're supposed to tell a mainstream comic book story. (It's become my new litmus test for comic book reviewers: if they describe the first issue as containing pointless pages full of security camera shots, I lose interest in anything they have to say.)"

"If we are talking comics I bought: ORBITER OGN. For an aeronautical/astronaut buff, there was nothing better. As to my favourite comic published in 2004: Going to go with SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY. Easily one of Kurt Busiek's best works, and career best art from Stuart Immonen."

"NEW FRONTIER, especially the last issue and JFK's speech. Made me wish for real leaders again and not the crap Bush and Kerry pretended to be."

"Tough question. There are a couple vying for top spot, but I have to say Brubaker and Phillips' SLEEPER has been my favourite book this year."

"IDENTITY CRISIS. It has kept me guessing, and it's also a good topic of conversation among other fans. It, thus far anyway, has lived up to the hype."

"TEEN TITANS and JSA (tie). Nothing but good, solid super-hero team stories. Geoff Johns seems to do not wrong as far as these titles are concerned, and I congratulate him on using as many issues as he feels he needs to tell his story."


"Must be a draw between WE3 and FALLEN ANGEL."

"'Bill Savage' in 2000 AD or Harvey Pekar's AMERICAN SPLENDOR, I don't know if you would count that but it was a new discovery for me."

"I'm assuming you mean a comic that started during or after January '04. In that case, I'd have to say it's a tie between THE MONOLITH (DC) and THE BALLAD OF SLEEPING BEAUTY (Beckett). MONOLITH has been consistenly excellent, both story- and art-wise. Too bad it's already been cancelled, it was far beyond most DCU books. As for BALLAD, it was a complete and utter surprise to me – it came out of nowhere with an original concept, gorgeous art and high-quality production. I love it when an underdog publisher comes out with something excellent and unexpected..."

"It's hard to pick a single comic - and even harder to pick a comic bought in 2004 that was actually *published* this year, thanks to the irritatingly healthy paperback and OGN market. So many fat books, so little cash... Paul Grist's JACK STAFF album, EVERYTHING USED TO BE BLACK AND WHITE, is about the best superhero novel of the last five years, mixing a healthy dose of nostalgia for old British anthology comics with a modern aesthetic and wry humour. It leapt straight onto my list of the top ten greatest superhero novels ever. And no mean feat. In terms of experimentation with the medium and the format, then DEMO has to be at the top of the Best Of list. Let me put my Reviewer Hat on for a moment and say that DEMO has put the "novel" back in "novella." Wood and Cloonan have produced twelve discrete and distinct stories of quite staggering high quality, from the X-MEN-shaming "NYC" to the poignant "Mixtape." The central premise of the series, that the characters would have more or less recognizable supernormal abilities, has revealed itself to be a mere sop to the monthly comics market's superhero fanbase, with the series' real strength coming from Wood's depth of characterization, and Cloonan's breadth of talent. And no experimental comics list would be complete without PROMETHEA, by far the most visually stimulating and exciting comic on the shelves at the moment. The density of information and the vividness of the imagery has left me a bit trippy on occasion - sort of like the time I watched 2001 with a case of mild hypothermia - but it's a credit to the creators that the cosmic brainmangle is grounded in some very normal characters. I'll miss it when its gone. The mainstream comic I look forward to most, of course, is ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. Despite a couple of odd tangents this year, Ultimate Spidey revives the humour, drama and action that made the character so popular in the first place - and amazingly, it does it without simply rewriting the original Stan Lee stories."

"I'm picking DC's THE NEW FRONTIER for it's reinterpretation of Silver Age characters in terms of 1950's American society and politics. It also made the Challengers of the Unknown exciting without changing their premise. Runner-up is EX MACHINA, but only because it's only 5 issues old."

"Hands down, it's DEMO. Such a great series, I hate to see it end. Maybe if we're all really nice, Brian and Becky will churn out at least an additional issue or three a year from here on down the road. Yeah, it was an experiment, but it was a really good experiment, so keep working, you two!"

"JACK STAFF. In my eyes, this is the perfect use of comic book storytelling techniques on all levels and it's always engrossing. Always worth the wait between issues. (A close second, for the same reasons, is THE GOON.)"


"BUDDHA v1-4 by Osamu Tezuka. DEEP SLEEPER #1-4 by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston. EX MACHINA #1 by Brian Vaughan and Tony Harris."



"Salgood Sam's REVOLVER #1 surprised me, an intoxicating mix of experimental storytelling and a clear passion for drawing. Can't wait to see more."

"Favorite New Comic of 2004 - SHE-HULK, by far. Favorite Overall of 2004 - still SHE-HULK, but closely followed by the continuing LUCIFER and EMMA FROST."

"Easy answer: HARD TIME. Steve Gerber's drama is the best thing to come out of DC in years."

"LOCAS, by Jaime Hernandez; the One-Cover Bone was close."

"As far as trades or graphic novels go, I'll go off the beaten path and say EGG STORY, OWLY, and B. KRIEGSTEIN COMICS really floated my boat. Also the fine manga, REMOTE. As far as floppies go, Peter David's MADROX and Mark Waid's underappreciated EMPIRE both gave me much enjoyment."

2) What's your favorite comics-related moment of 2004?

"It happened on screen. Batman singing for the life of Wonder Woman in the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED cartoon. Paul Dini's sly and hilarious middle finger to the people who take Bats way too seriously, as he slipped out the door to write for the excellent LOST."

"Meaning a moment that took place in a comic book? The end of EX MACHINA #1, with the one tower still standing, was pretty cool."

"I mean this in full sarcasm, but I can't get away from Marvel getting press for having a Latina superhero - wasn't it just a year ago they were getting hype for real controversial stuff? It says a lot about where the publisher is today that it made news out of this, and it's sad to think the only reason they've backed this character is for the hype. I guess it's my favorite comics related moment, because it's a great example of the small minded practices that have crippled the majors and brought more light to smaller, independent books that have been writing outside of White America for years."

"There's a page in a recent LOVE AND ROCKETS where a dog gets up on its hind legs and starts walking towards Maggie that's just beautiful. My second favorite is probably this panel with Rena Titanon walking through a town. Good Jaime year."

"Devlin Waugh showing up on the last page of "Bite Fight" in JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE 223."

"The CATWOMAN movie proving to be an unredeemable piece of total ****. Movies will not save us."

"The announcement of Peter Milligan replacing Chuck Austen on X-MEN."

"If you're talking about in a story, I think the end of Grant Morrison's "Rock of Ages" storyline in JLA was most memorable. I mean, Connor Hawke, the Green Arrow no one really liked, and the Atom, the guy who can become really tiny, taking on Darkseid of Apocalypse...and winning!?!? I know it's geeky, but even in the comic, the characters were saying to each other, "Can you believe it!? It's us two versus Darkseid?!" That's why I loved Morrison's run on JLA, for those kinds of moments. And yes, I'm a much younger guy than most of your readers, my memory is much shorter than yours, so in my limited experience, this is it. If you're talking about outside the stories themselves, I think meeting Carla "Speed" McNeil at The 2004 Baltimore-Con was great (she remembered me and my sister from 2 years ago, that's really cool). Also, being asked to start a war between David "Deep Fried" Yungbluth and the "Arsenic Lullaby" guys was nice, though it hasn't seemed to happen yet."

"Personally--if I can say this without sounding like a suck-up--listening to you, James Hudnall, and Bill Willingham talking to the kid at the Enterprise Library about who his favorite comics characters are, and why. (Bill's story about spilling chili all over his art comes a close second.) It brought back fond memories of being that age and loving superhero comics in a way that, say, reading the latest adventures of the Teen Titans can't quite manage."

"Comic Book Galaxy re-opening."

"Seeing Adam Strange back in action."

"Do you mean this year? Or ever? I can't think of one for this year. Ever, it would have to be during Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN arc, "The Kindly Ones." Man, I couldn't wait for the next issues! And when the Corinthian took Loki's eyes? Un-freakin'-believeable!"

"Mr. Majestic handing over the GL ring to Kyle (I believe it was in the MAJESTIC mini). I'm a huge Kyle fan/supporter, but even I had a chuckle at the scene. It was implausible for the situation to even happen (Kyle put in a fail safe if his ring ever left his hand), but it was funny nonetheless."

"It probably has to be the resurrection of Colossus. Although not for the fact that Colossus is back, I would have continued on living either way. What I find fascinating is the fact that Joe Quesada made a huge deal about dead is dead and nothing was going to change that. I thought it was entertaining how quickly he went back on his word when a "hot" creator wanted to do the same old thing everyone else does. Now, suddenly this is the story that had to happen because it was just so good. Please, the old body switcheroo? That was the bold and innovative storytelling that just had to happen? That, more than anything, shows you who's really running the show at Marvel."

"THE O.C.'s comic book plugs."

"The excellent sales regarding manga titles."

"The AMERICAN SPLENDOR film for making me discover Harvey Pekar's comics."

"Probably this year's SIN CITY panel at Comicon. It was awe-inspiring to see The Man Himself, Frank Miller, in person and get a sneak preview of what will be the most faithful comic-to-film adaptation in history. Couldn't have happened to a more worthy guy, or a more worthy comic. And the best news: Frank's planning to do some new SIN CITY comics--yes!"

"My favourite comics related moment is talking *about comics* to people who have probably never *read* comics (as adults, at least) at two art exhibitions that I took part in this year. My second favourite comics related moment is the following line from SPIDER-MAN 2: "I've always been standing in your doorway." IT NEARLY MADE ME CRY, GODDAMNIT. If only Marvel would ape the emotional content of the Spider-Man movies, instead of the piddling minutiae of how the webs are made. Oh, and an anthology I was involved with was banned from sale in a prominent London comic shop. That's a feather in the cap, and no mistake."

"San Diego, getting drunk with some even-more-than-they-usually-are out of place Klingons."

"Attending SPACE. It was the only convention I went to this year, and the only one I ever really enjoy. I blew off the Pittsburgh Con, and I live in the city! I drove 4 hours to Ohio to see the likes of Dave Sim and Matt Feazel, and buy books I'll never hear of again. Always a good time."

"This trend of sucking all the fun out of Big 2 superhero comics in order to make them more "mature" or "meaningful." It's like the late 80s when everyone wanted to do "their WATCHMEN " all over again."

"News of reprints of AMERICAN FLAGG! and GRIMJACK."

"After about 10 years of online friendship, meeting a family of comic fans face to face."

"Marvel & Cockrum come to a compensation agreement regarding his service to the company."

"Going to a Borders bookstore and seeing the Graphic Novels aisle packed with kids reading, and not just the manga."

"Oeming's wrapping up of THOR."

"The comics blogosphere rising up and calling attention to STREET ANGEL, the year's other noteworthy debut."

3) What's the worst thing to happen in comics in 2004?

"Marvel is beginning to flood the market again. Stupid, stupid, stupid."

"Two recurring themes: the continued rise of the "trade paperback story arc" and Marvel's ridiculous "first issue" obsession. I love trade paperbacks, but it's annoying that everything is tailored to them these days. Get rid of the monthlies all together if that's the way you're going."

"The manga boom's effects on the mainstream. I can't say how sick I've gotten of seeing semi-manga styled art dominating the spandex books, and I'm simply baffled that a lot of these one trick pony artists have gotten such praise for it. I think it's sad that the big publishers missed the point that manga shows us diversification, and variation. The reasons for manga's successes go far beyond just the art, they represent an iceberg of subject and content, one that major publishers are too frightened of exploiting."

"Idiot publishers playing short-term market share games instead of ploughing their resources into sustainable long-term growth, particularly in the direct market, via hot-shotting the top 20 and publishing too many comics that have almost no chance to succeed."

"Scarlet Witch being the bad guy(girl)."

"Free Comic Book Day on Fourth of July Weekend. Very much a "defeat snatched from the jaws of victory" moment."

"Jim Lee's art being wasted by Brian Azzarello's tediously boring and heavy-winded "For Tomorrow" SUPERMAN arc."

"Was "Hush" this year? That storyline ushered in an era of recycling old stories to appease the fanboys as the norm, and I know comics have been doing this as long as they existed, but this is getting ridiculous. I like what Morrison said recently, talking about his SEVEN SOLDIERS project for DC, to the effect of how people seem to be in love with "the greatest hits" method of storytelling, which is fine once, but you can only do it once, and then you have to start making things up again. I want the new, the imaginative, but it seems that the industry is eating it's own tail."

"I just read the worst thing in comics in 2004 last night. Dave Gibbons pencilled the new issue of JSA, and it's an IDENTITY CRISIS tie-in, and Gibbons – the experienced, acclaimed artist of WATCHMEN and MARTHA WASHINGTON and just about everything else – has drawn Doctor Mid-Nite and Mr. Terrific performing the autopsy of Sue Dibny wearing their costumes. With surgical masks over their mouths. Mid-Nite is even wearing his cape. And it just looks so stupid, and makes me feel more than a little ashamed to be reading superhero comics, if this is the sort of thing they're going to do. (I mean, there are plenty of examples of lame, amateurish, embarrassing moments in superhero comics. But when you find one committed by Dave Gibbons, that's head and shoulders above the rest.)"

"In chronological order: a) the loss of WILDCATS 3.0 and STORMWATCH:TEAM ACHILLES; b) The Micah Wright debacle; c) THE NEW INVADERS #1."


"The demise of CrossGen, a place where more creator-controlled comics such as ABADAZAD had a chance to succeed. A close second is the continued policy of the Big 2 to have crossover events such as "War Games." Dammit, they even dragged in GOTHAM CENTRAL!"

"'War Games.' The framework for this "event" was amateurish and the writing was poor."

"The insistence on using the 6-part storyline that is geared toward the eventual collection and re-release in trade paperback format. There were so many series started this year that I never bothered to pick up for just this reason. There are, maybe, two writers who I trust with this format that I will continue to buy their stuff, but for all the rest...no thanks. I'm already paying too much for comics as it is, I don't need you to take a 2-3 part storyline and fill it with pages of drawn-out and padded scenes that end up making it twice as long as it should have been. More often than not, the writer ends up losing his way and has to cram in all of the actual plot in the last issue because he was too busy padding along the story for the first five issues."

"How comics seemed to be pushed to the side at the big San Diego con."

"The return of grim'n'gritty applied to characters that doesn't function this way. "Avengers Disassembled," IDENTITY CRISIS and "Sins Past" (in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN). Horrible storylines, exploitative concepts, cheap shock tactics and bad characterization."

"That Warren Ellis had to start working in work for hire comics, not just that a writer can't make a living without doing superhero comics but can't make a living writing fresh ones such as PLANETARY or WILDCATS."

"I'd have to say the death of CrossGen (or was that late last year?). Sure, they weren't perfect, but they represented a whole new model of how to produce comics (a studio system), and many of their properties (NEGATION, EL CAZADOR, ABADAZAD) were extremely well-done examples of non-superhero genres. Glad to hear Disney just bought most (if not all) of these properties."

"The worst thing to happen to mainstream comics this year is a combination of the return to sensationalism - IDENTITY CRISIS, "Avengers Disassembled" - and the resurgence of the Linus' Blanket of nostalgia. The return of the X-Men's costumes (and Chris Claremont), the rebirth of boring old Hal Jordan. It's holding pattern comics: it keeps the characters ticking over, and offers little in the way of new experiences. The worst example of this that I've read (and subsequently binned) is the Gwen Stacy storyline in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, which piled contrivance upon contrivance upon out and out bull**** in order to pull teeth from a thirty year-dead corpse. What's the point? The worst thing to happen to comics as a whole? That comics can't make the mainstream press without having to show Norman Osborn's "vinegar face.""

"So many deaths of comics legends."

"The CATWOMAN movie. Seriously, the bankruptcy of Crossgen Entertainment means the only company making serious attempts to reach non-comics readers with imaginative and original, non-superhero comics sent the wrong message to other publishers. It reinforces the prejudice that only cape books from the big two can succeed in the shrinking direct market."

"This trend of sucking all the fun out of Big 2 superhero comics in order to make them more "mature" or "meaningful." It's like the late 80s when everyone wanted to do "their WATCHMEN" all over again."

"Off the top of my head, I'd have to say CrossGen's collapse. Bad blood and bad moods all around it seemed."

"Variant Covers."

"CrossGen goes bankrupt. The industry needs more viable second tier publishers."

"The bankruptcy of CrossGen. Very few of its books were interesting to me (at the end it was only ABADAZAD, but RUSE was good in the beginning). However, the creativity coming out of that studio was pushing the other companies, particularly the coloring. The company represented a hope that comics could be successful in other genres. The stories were escapist, but so is most of the manga."

"'Avengers Disassembled.'"

"The huge popularity of cynical junk like "Avengers Disassembled" and IDENTITY CRISIS, both of which are huge creative missteps that devalue corporate comics even further, no small accomplishment."

Next week we get to the year 2005 answers. So if you want to put your two cents in, there's still time. The questions:

1) What's your most fervid hope for comics in 2005?

2) What aspect of comics in 2005 are you most looking forward to?

3) What's your worst fear for comics in 2005?

As always, e-mail answers to me at this address. If you have any comments on these responses, feel free to share them as well. For more responses, the Permanent Damage message board and over at Millarworld.

  • Interesting new show showed up without much fanfare on Fox last week: HOUSE M.D., with Hugh Laurie as a semi-crippled doctor whose forte is diagnosis, and who heads a team of doctors who mostly buffer him from the patients he can't stand. Laurie's perhaps best known as the comedy foil on a couple of the BLACKADDER series; as a matter of fact, I watched an episode of BLACKADDER GOES FORTH about 45 minutes before I saw the Friday night repeat of HOUSE M.D.'s first episode, and seeing the younger, slapstick English Laurie and the older, serious Laurie with one of the best fake American accents in TV history was disorienting, especially when his long putty face twisted and strained in smarter-than-thou response to patients' ridiculously uninformed medical questions exactly the same way thickies like his Prince George used to struggle mightily to form any response to a Blackadder barb. It's hilarious either way. A sort of medical version of CSI – scenarios reply with variances as the doctors develop new theories about the nature and origins of mystery diseases – the show's also the medical show for those who think ER is too tame and tasteful; the camera highlights bloody surgical incisions with quasi-pornographic Ballardian glee. The show's pedigree is distinguished – HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS creator Paul Attanasio and director Bryan Singer are involved – and the other actors are generally pretty good, particularly the underrated Omar Epps and the first episode's equally underrated guest star, Robin Tunney. It's still got some bumps to work out, but the main problem with HOUSE M.D. is its Tuesday 9P timeslot, which it shares with the very good VERONICA MARS (UPN, and worth checking out; Ed Brubaker hipped me to it), SCRUBS (about the last decent sitcom NBC has left), and the now-returned AMAZING RACE on CBS. The only reason I caught HOUSE M.D. at all was a repeat on Friday. Just move the thing, Fox. Monday, Wednesday or Friday will do.

    Because, while HOUSE M.D. is entertaining enough, at least in that single dose, AMAZING RACE 6 is terrific fun, the show to watch in that time slot. Last week's double-length opener introduced this year's eleven teams on a leg from Chicago to Iceland, and, unlike most "reality" shows, had real tension and excitement, and is so far gearing up to be one of the best seasons yet. Downside has them with more pretty young teams than usual, but the upside is fewer sequences of out-of-shape olders gasping their way through strenuous physical tasks (but, for some reason, more shots of young adults unable to read maps). As usual, catch it.

    The other show to catch is the English predecessor to CBS's COLD CASE, WAKING THE DEAD (BBC America, Monday 9P), featuring a cop forensic/investigation team re-opening unsolved (or, in some instances, cases previously thought solved) dormant cases. This third season is six episodes long (previous seasons were four) and it's far superior to its closest American relatives, COLD CASE and CSI. Don't miss it.

  • Ain't it a bitch when foreign police comes back to bite you in the ass, especially when you can't afford it. When we can't afford it. Colin Powell's exit volley against a purported Iranian nuclear program – more WMDs, anyone? – was greeted abroad and at home as though he were crying wolf, which possibly he is. Powell's accusations against Iran are peculiarly similar to accusations leveled against Saddam Hussein, and, whatever the reality of Iran's programs (certainly it's easy enough to believe they're at least interested in such a thing), are mostly based on the same sort of "evidence" underlying official rationales about Iraq: the testimony of dissident groups. In this specific instance, an Iranian dissident group on our government's own list of terrorist organizations. Not surprisingly, our foreign "friends" (most of our former "allies," like Germany and New Zealand, have now been downgraded to the status of "friends") are looking a bit askance on what seems our government's overly pragmatic tendency to collaborate with terrorists when it suits their purposes, while continuing to proclaim a "war on terror." As things continue to seesaw in Iraq (the "pacification" of Fallujah was offset by more widespread and increasingly violent resistance elsewhere; who could possibly have seen that coming, at least without opening a book about Vietnam?) and wallow in Afghanistan, further military incursions, particularly of the mass necessary to pre-empt a country like Iran, are problematic at best, but that's not stopping the calls on right-wing talk radio for a military strike against "the Iranian menace" (which, we apparently mustn't forget, is part of the "Axis Of Evil," though that phrase is rarely used anymore). What happens if the administration decides such a thing is as necessary and inevitable as the invasion of Iraq?

    Interestingly, the greatest obstacle to such a thing may be the Republican-held Congress, which, in recent days, has shown increasing tendencies to challenge HP. It's a strange sight when the Democrats present no resistance to Presidential desires, waving the flag of bipartisan cooperation as their rationale, but you can depend on the Republicans to do the right thing, even if it's for the wrong reasons, as with the recent determination of House Republicans to scuttle "intelligence reforms" the White House has promoted in the aftermath of the 9-11 Report. There's no doubt reforms are necessary (even if many House Republicans doubt it), but the administration plan (hated by Donald Rumsfeld, of all people, who has been accused of goading House Republicans on) of making the intelligence community even more of an adjunct to the already highly secretive White House than it already is is about the worst "reform" imaginable. (Not that new CIA director and HP acolyte Porter Goss isn't intent on doing that with the CIA, legislation or no legislation.)

    Of course, the real news of the week is Federal Reserve Board chief Alan Greenspan, who spent all election season sugarcoating the American economic outlook so "Red America" could vote assured that things had brightened considerably under HP's stewardship, is suddenly alarmed by the state of the American economy. I guess now he can afford to be. The bottom line: we're in debt. We're in debt up to our eyeballs. In fact, our eyeballs were left behind miles back. The USA is now in debt past the point (the percentage of their totally economy) that we've previously insisted other, smaller nations completely restructure their economies. (Argentina, for instance.) Our current crushing debt load, after a long stretch under Clinton when it seemed possible the national debt would be paid off entirely, is due to a number of things: HP's gratuitous "tax cut" that basically re-amped up the national debt as a sop to his rich campaign contributors; Greenspan's own policies that drove interest rates to the rock bottom to stave off any hint of inflation and keep economic concerns to a minimum, at least on the surface; new government spending under the current administration to the tune of over half a trillion dollars; and numerous other factors that now make, as Greenspan "warned" this weekend, the United States a shaky investment for foreign money. Foreign nations, specifically Japan and Russia, have with no luck asked the current administration to address the decline in the American dollar, to which their own economies are tied. How's the government responding to this? The House is voting to increase the debt ceiling to over eight trillion dollars, ten times the current $800 billion. (House Republicans, in this case not doing the right thing, have taken to mocking anyone who suggests that making the next couple hundred years of Americans pay off today's debt might not approach common, let alone fiscal, decency.) The only financial reform on the administration's current agenda is Social Security reform, basically meaning convincing people to invest in the stock market instead (ignoring that Social Security was invented so people could have a retirement fund without risking and possibly losing everything in the capricious stock market; anyone remember 1929?) Of course, Social Security is a promise along generations; if your kids don't pay into the fund, there's nothing there for your retirement. Well, guess what? There's already nothing there because the Feds have been using it as their own private piggy bank, most recently to fund the Iraq invasion. The point of "reforming" Social Security is to keep anyone from finding out they can't put it back. When this sort of thing happens in the real world, it's called embezzling from retirement funds and people go to jail for it, unless the Ashcroft Justice Dept.'s overseeing the case.

    So what's got Greenspun's panties in a bunch? Well, it's like this. If the dollar continues to fall – and there are suggestions a falling dollar is exactly what the administration wants right now, for various reasons mostly having to do with hindering the Euro (it's complicated; I'm not remotely sure I understand the thinking behind it) – investors, particularly foreign investors, will pull out of US markets. There are a lot of economies out there tied to the dollar, but the Euro's an increasingly attractive alternative, and if other countries start linking to the Euro instead, boom goes our economy, the stock market teeters and possibly collapses as foreign money pulls out, the dollar stops sliding and goes into freefall, our trade balance becomes impossibly untenable, interest rates skyrocket, and, well, things here are going to look an awful lot like Russia c. 1993.

    Greenspan's proposed solution? At some point in the unspecified future the government should stop adding to the national debt. One may assume that translates into dumping anything that even remotely smacks of social programs. Welcome to the future.

  • Due to personal reasons (nothing terribly important or dramatic, just personal), have to cut things short this week, but I did want throw in one comics review: Matt Howarth's SAVAGE HENRY: PUPPET TRAP (Aeon; $2.95). Howarth's on something of a roll lately; this b&w one-shot follows fast on the heels of his SAVAGE HENRY: POWERCHORDS miniseries, and it looks like a BUGTOWN series featuring, finally, Those Annoying Post Bros. (am I the only one who suspects DC's Lobo was based on Ron Post?), the most delightful homicidal sociopaths in comics history, against an alien invasion. Anyway, this is a tongue-in-cheek, fang-in-neck vampire tale pitting hero Henry and the revolting Boche against an otherdimensional vampiress who turns an entire music festival into... ahem... hand puppets, while Henry's being pursued by militant anti-creativists. Howarth moves light and fast, filling every page with clever, quirky humor, with a very amusing twist at the end. Comics the way comics were meant to be, along with music recommendations from Howarth, who has always been motivated by music. Get it.

    Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They're no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don't really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

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    I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at

    Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage

    2657 Windmill Pkwy #194

    Henderson NV 89074

    so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

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