Issue #79

Alan Moore has become a cottage industry. First Avatar makes a push releasing some of Alan's more obscure works and adapting his prose to comics form, and now DC Comics is getting in on the act with a trade paperback, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: The DC Universe Stories Of Alan Moore. Alan had a lot of goofy little items floating around DC in the '80s. Worth collecting.

¡Journalista! is still the best comics news site currently on the web, but even they've been struggling for anything resembling real news lately. They've got a story about how Doubleday Books is shutting down their graphic novel division. Or maybe not. ¡Journalista! also links to a Publisher's Weekly story on the same subject that goes into a little more depth, but neither plays up something I mentioned back when the Doubleday plan was first announced; back then, the Doubleday line seemed to be tying its own hands by focusing on "art" books rather than dropping in more populist material that could maybe be marketed beyond the growing but still fairly narrow market of "graphic novel enthusiasts." I'm glad to see projected releases make up for that to some extent (Will Eisner's FAGIN THE JEW; Don Lomax's long out-of-print VIETNAM JOURNAL) but will it be enough to save the (possibly shaky) line? I've yet to see a major publishing house's graphic novel line actually demonstrate a marketing strategy any more than I usually see them from comics publishers. At any rate, now that Splash has wandered off into the sunset, ¡Journalista!'s the only game in town for this level of comics news. If you want to know what this plot of next month's SUPERMAN is, you can pretty much get that anywhere.

Let's see... what else...?

SPIDER-GIRL is cancelled. (It was still being published?) AGENT X is cancelled. Media, media, media. Warren Ellis is doing a deal with the Sci-Fi Network. Marvel has a GARGOYLE movie project going, in addition to the thousand or so other Marvel movies. It looks like someday someone will make another SUPERMAN, and someone will eventually be cast in the role. Maybe. (Ditto with BATMAN.)

And that's pretty much what's going on. Aside from 1000 other items that all kind of blur together. (Oh, yeah: Marvel's financial situation will improve if they can keep their stock price up for another couple days. The race is on.)

I know all this stuff is supposed to excite me, but most of it just makes me shrug, and I can't believe I'm the only one. The Moore news is kind of cool, and I'm glad Warren's getting some media action (even if increased media success will almost certainly draw him away from comics, which really need him. The rest of it is business as usual, and that's the last thing I want to see when business is bad. (Oh, wait, we're not supposed to talk about that... never mind...)

  • BADLANDS II, Pt. 1b. Everyone seemed to like the first eight pages last week, so we'll be running a few pages per week here. The scene so far: It's Alabama, 1965. Juke Alton has been released from a two-year juvenile detention, and has taken back up with his old girlfriend, Liddy Rogovo, who's due to be married. This doesn't sit well with her father, who has sent for a fixer named Burl Wendell, who has his fingers in all sorts of crooked pies. Pages 9-12:
    Page 9Page 10Page 11Page 12
  • BADLANDS II, story by Steven Grant, art by Sean Clauretie, is ©™2003 Steven Grant & Sean Clauretie. All rights reserved. This material may not be reprinted in any form without written permission.

  • Here's a funny one. You probably never heard of Dr. Helen Caldicott, but she's an Australian doctor (and Nobel Peace Prize candidate) who's been a longstanding advocate for world piece and particularly for nuclear disarmament. You'd think this would be just the sort of person Marvel Comics would enlist to write something for their forthcoming peace broadside, 411.

    And guess what? Turns out they did!

    Guess what else? You'll never read what she wrote, at least not if you're waiting to read it in a Marvel comic. But Caldicott incorporated it into a speech recently published online. Here's a sample:

    I wrote an article for Marvel Comics recently; they're doing a book on non-violence. Marvel comics are read predominantly by men between the ages of 24 and 35. I just sat down to write this article and it just poured out of me, I didn't even have to think about it. So I thought I would read it as an introduction to what I have to say today and to what's happening at the moment in the world.

    (The publisher won't publish it. When he read it, he got so angry that he threw it away and he refused to publish it. He said it's because I'm angry.)

    The latest batch of films coming out of Hollywood are epic tales of noble battles complete with blood-chilling computer-simulated battles. The financial success of GLADIATOR stimulated producers and studios to realize that there is big money to be made in re-enacting the lives of great heroes such as Alexander the Great. But all epic tales are of violence and bloodshed.

    What is the attraction of killing?...

    Read it and try to figure out what was so offensive in it that Marvel refused to publish it. I'm not sure I can. But I have my suspicions. It's a bit surprising, though; Marvel's been so eager to court controversy the past couple years it's a bit startling to watch them run from it.

    On the other hand, it is true that Dr. Caldicott is angry. But who wouldn't be? (Thanks and a tip of the hat to Buzz Dixon.)

  • I finally figured out who's really behind the impending War On Iraq: The National Rifle Association! Think about it. First, it's not like they don't have their tentacles deep into the Hand Puppet's administration; if nothing else, Heinrich Himmler wannabe Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft has made it abundantly clear that the only Constitutional amendment he holds absolutely inviolate (perhaps the only one he considers valid at all) is the 2nd, which covers "the right to bear arms." To the point where he has pushed to make it easier for felons to buy and own guns, perhaps to make it easier for various members of the current administration to keep their guns when the whole thing collapses in a flurry of scandals. (You don't think the Hand Puppet is emulating only the positive aspects of Nixon and Reagan/Bush, do you? If you can find positive aspects...) VP Dick Cheney, for instance: turns out, that, against all rules, he's still getting paid one million dollars per year by his corporation Halliburton (you know, the one that ignored UN sanctions in the '90s to do business with Iraq) which, absolutely coincidentally, got the concession to cap any oil wells set afire by Saddam Hussein during the coming invasion. However, the Vice President knows nothing about either of these things, and we know this because the Vice President's office told us so. Hell, if you can't trust the second highest ranking official in the country, who can you trust, right?

    So what's this got to do with the NRA? It's been a longstanding NRA tenet – an absolute truth, actually – that freedom extends from the barrel of a gun, and that absolutely unfettered gun ownership is what keeps America free. Various NRA members have put forth the argument over the years that if every American went around armed no one would dare commit a crime, and certainly the government would never consider trying to tyrannically put down a well-armed population. Considering an American government gone insane enough to try to control a population of 275,000,000 or so by brute force probably wouldn't have any problem dropping some tactical nukes on highly organized, well-armed pockets of resistance, this is quite a leap of faith, but that's beside the point. The main NRA point is this: no well-armed country with a desire to be free would ever fall to tyranny.

    Recently the New York Times (if you can believe the New York Times, which has become an increasingly dodgy proposition) let slip an interest factoid: nearly every Iraqi household owns a gun! But wait: if independent gun ownership is the last defense against tyranny, but a tyrant oversees a nation of gun owners... Is there any doubt as to why the NRA wants Saddam Hussein gone? Isn't it obvious now how his mere existence threatens the security and liberty of the USA? If he's allowed to remain in power, isn't it only a matter of time until some despot decides widespread American gun ownership is no obstacle to dictatorship.

    [PRIME MONSTER?]Could the NRA have been the source of the forged documents used by British and American intelligence as the basis for their assertion that Saddam Hussein was on the mad track to develop nuclear weapons? The recent exposure of the forgeries has caused red faces at the CIA and MI6, which are no longer sure where they got them. (The two major intelligence operations of the western world don't know what their own sources are?!!) In fact, they claim to know only two things for sure: a) it came from a third party nation, and b) that nation wasn't Israel. But if they don't know where it came from, how can they be certain of either? My guess is the NRA forged the papers, now that we know the NRA has the most to lose if regime change in Iraq is not effected, and very soon...

    Kidding aside, over the last couple weeks I've noticed a trend among war advocates, their other rhetoric having consistently stumbled over the messy ground of actual facts, to fall back on the ultimate bit of rhetorical nonsense: we must support "the troops." Making "supporting the war" and "supporting the troops" synonymous is the sort of right-wing blather once prominent during the Vietnam War, when the main effect of keeping our troops in Vietnam was to get them shot up, either by bullets or addictive drugs. "Supporting the troops" does not mean "supporting the war" or "mindlessly backing the President's intentions." It means keeping the welfare of our troops of paramount importance at all times, and I'm not convinced hurling them into mortal danger in an unnecessary war for suspect reasons shows much concern with their welfare. It's one thing – I'd even call it a noble thing – to serve in the military to defend America against aggressors. It's another thing to use that same military in geopolitical ploys that put our servicemen at risk like they were toy soldiers on a game board. I don't currently see much "supporting the troops" among war supporters; I see only people chomping at the bit to put our troops in harm's way in the first place. I was going to say it's cynical of them to launch a war and then try to stifle criticism of it with a call to "support the troops," but it's beyond cynical. It's cheesy.

  • I wrote the above on Monday afternoon, before the Hand Puppet's latest speech. Sometime this afternoon (Wednesday) American troops will be rolling into Iraq, and this morning (Tuesday) my day was brightened by a charming e-mail that said, essentially, "Haha, you didn't stop the war, you stupid hippie." (Frankly, I'm sort of flattered he took time out from his presumably busy schedule of inanely renaming French fries and French toast.) That's true enough, but did anyone really expect to? The decision to invade Iraq was made years ago, as I've documented in recent weeks. While only last weekend, administration officials were talking on pundit shows about how we could afford to wait for months before the invasion, they must've finally figured out the rest of the world was never going to get behind the expedition, and, in fact, momentum had swung badly against a UN rubberstamp of US plans, which is probably what the Hand Puppet meant when he said "diplomacy has failed," "diplomacy" in administration-speak being synonymous with giving the White House what it wants, period. The administration's handling of the whole affair so far has been marked by a monofocus that coped with stumbling on their "facts" by saying "uh-huh" to the corrections and then reiterating the original statements like they had never been contradicted, so all that was left to do was give a speech full of reiteration. What was that part about Saddam leaving the country about? If our goal is to strip Iraq of "weapons of mass destruction," why would Saddam's departure stop the invasion?

    About all that's left to say now is that I hope I'm dead wrong about the government's real intentions for Iraq, and that all of the Hand Puppet's supporters are dead right. I hope we're going to absolutely minimize civilian casualties, though it's hard to figure out how the planned carpet bombing campaign can manage that. I hope we go in, root out the "weapons of mass destruction," bask the Iraqi people in freedom and get the hell out, rather than use Iraq as a new base via which to impose our will on the Middle East. (At least the Kurds seem better protected than they looked a month ago, when it seemed Turkey was going to base American troops and flood their own army across Northern (Kurdish) Iraq, and I suspect it was the impending second failure of Turkey to vote the Americans in that convinced the White House there was nothing more to be gained by waiting.) I hope "the war" won't be used as an excuse to make this country a more repressed and repressive culture. And I really hope we don't do a lot of stupid, arrogant things that reinforce the now widely held international view that America is attempting to dominate the globe by force in the 21st Century, and I hope our main focus is on getting our troops back to safety as quickly as possible.

    I really want to be wrong. Honest. But now that the Hand Puppet has set the doctrine of going anywhere and doing anything to stop any potential threat before it can become a threat, the whole world is fair game, and that's a scary proposition, because the whole world is not going to just sit there and take that.

  • Speaking of e-mails, normally, when I collect my e-mail each day, I use a program called Mailwasher to get rid of all the junk mail (not to mention the attached viruses, which Mailwasher seems to pick out of the pack very nicely, though I wouldn't give up using Norton Antivirus as well). I've talked about Mailwasher before, and I wouldn't do without it. On any given morning when I log in, I've got maybe a dozen personal messages, twice that many notices about messages left to me on various bulletin boards, and maybe fifty or sixty junk e-mails. It's pretty easy to sort out the junk just by checking the return addresses or the subject lines. Mailwasher downloads these from your server, and notification of attachments, without downloading the message bodies.

    Once in awhile, though, I like to check of what's actually being sent. Just out of sheer mundane curiosity, to see if anything interesting's slipping past me.

    This morning I got: A means to rebuild my credit and reduce my debt in just three minutes for free! My kids ages 7 and up can learn to read with the new Hooked On Phonics Master Reader. (I always wondered if that was some sort of drug reference.) I can get free sex on the web (three times), and meet singles in my area (or elsewhere!). Life insurance rates are at an all time low. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low. $860 in matching gambling funds have been set aside in my name by an online casino! (Wow!) For only $20/hour, a company will help me meet my IT needs. I can enlarge my breasts without surgery. I now know who to call if I need a profitable home business. A simple pill will stop my snoring. I can buy the world's smallest digital webcam for only $39.95. But, over here, I can claim a complementary digital camera for free... if I just join a buying club. I can get a free vacation worth $1800, including hotel and airfare... just for joining a buying club. My mortgage or refinance is approved. I can stop paying high prices for inkjet cartridges. Here's how to profit from the Iraqi war (apparently, the President's declaration has triggered a "post-bull" market). Someone in Nigeria – several people, actually – need my help getting huge sums of money out of that country, and they're willing to kick me a little back. (Wow!) Oh, here's a stock I should invest in, a lot. And there are at least six safe and easy ways to enlarge my... um... "male attribute" – no surgery necessary! – because the anonymous women in the e-mails assure me that Size Does Matter. But my favorite spam of all is the spam advertising the software that stops spam.

    The question I have about this deluge of garbage is: does anyone ever actually respond to any of this rubbish? Have any of you ever been enticed to give all your financial information away to total strangers who come without any more reference than an e-mail they wrote themselves? (If you have, please e-mail me your stories, whether good or bad; I'll run them anonymously.) Even at low, low Internet rates, doesn't having all kinds of different e-mail addresses and websites run into real money after awhile? Is there seriously enough money in spam to make it worthwhile to anyone, esp. when it's the exact same thing day after day after day? Can anyone illuminate me on the dubious economics of spam?

    (On a related note, if you've been tempted to buy one of those TeleZappers that you hook to your phone lines to kill annoying spam phone calls – I get those all the time too – you've missed the window of opportunity. Those clever telemarketers have developed a system that responds to a TeleZapper signal, which responds to an incoming telemarketing call by sending back the phone company's tone indicating the line is no longer active, by calling the phone company to check billing on the number in question. So telezapping no longer achieves anything. The wonders of modern technology...)

  • Y'know, P. Craig Russell's not my favorite artist of all time, but for a classical style somewhere between Michelangelo and the Pre-Raphaelites, it's hard to beat him. Dark Horse Comics (10956 SE Main, Milwaukie OR 97222) just released ISOLATION AND ILLUSION: Collected Short Stories 1977-1997 ($14.95) and it's a pretty sweet package: 118 pages of Russell's original stories and literary adaptations (Lovecraft's "From Beyond"; Cyrano deBergerac's "A Voyage To The Moon"; the O'Henry chestnut "Gift Of The Magi"). Some of the work is more stylistically experimental than Russell's usual neo-classicism. Curiously, the division of the book into black/white and color shows how much more effective Russell's work is in the latter than in the former, though he occasionally goes in for photorealistic shading in black/white, as in the opener, 1985's "Dance On A Razor's Edge." If his adaptation of Wagner's RING CYCLE didn't firmly establish Russell's standing in the business, ISOLATION AND ILLUSION goes a long way toward it. There's also a brief bit of fluff I wrote in it, cribbed from an issue of X that I'd completely forgotten about, but you can enjoy the art anyway...

    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.

    Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should click here.

    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.

    My old personal webpage – the one with all the information – has finally vanished, and it's about time, since I left that server almost a year ago. The new one isn't up yet, but keep watching this space for details.

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