LETTERS, I GET LETTERSIt has become painfully evident by the letters I've received in the past week that there are people laboring under several common misconceptions about this column, both in general and in the particular points raised in last Friday's edition.
Sit down, class. The teacher is in. Any question?
(I'm tempted to title this one "The Young Bastard's Manifesto," but don't feel like cutting Warren Ellis the check to use that. After he sees my review of X-MAN #64 Tuesday, he may not be so giving, either. ;-)
IS ERIK LARSEN REALLY BETTER THAN WILL EISNER?Beats me. I've said in this very space before that I've not read much of Will Eisner's work, if any. I've also said that it's something I had plans on correcting:
David Gallaher, from the forthcoming THE COMIC READER magazine, writes:
"I didn't see Will Eisner on your list - yet you included Scott McCloud. Nothing against Scott, but shouldn't Will get Kudos at least for his endurance?"
Yes. Absolutely. If McCloud is on there, then Eisner deserves it, too. The truth is just that I've never read much of Eisner's stuff. I plan on correcting that this year.
In combination with Eisner's absence from my original column, Pipeline's Biggest Fan took that to mean that I believed Erik Larsen was a better comics creator than Will Eisner. I later played with that in the Eisners portion of the column, awarding Erik Larsen with the best writer/artist. To quote Foghorn Leghorn, "It's a joke, son. Try to keep up, boy."
ISN'T PIPELINE TERRIBLY BIASED?Yup. Absolutely. Unlike many places, though, I'm completely open and honest about it. Pipeline is written from a first-person point of view. That's me. When something may have affected a review, I'll admit it. I don't try to hide behind enigmatic third-person neutral language. That's appropriate for scholastic and journalistic pursuits. Pipeline is gladly neither. This is more water cooler talk than anything.
Ah, let's face it: Pipeline is my last, best chance at developing my very own cult of personality. You people will worship me before I'm done with this. (See, that's another attempt at humor. ;-)
AUGIE, SHOULDN'T YOU BROADEN YOUR READING?No. I read what I enjoy and I enjoy a whole lot. This isn't to say I don't "take chances" every now and again or try new stuff. But what I'd like to know is this:
Shouldn't you try new things?
It's all well and good to despise the mainstream and to hate super-heroes and to loathe anything a major company puts out in favor of the latest modern black and white tripe from no-name publishers or Fantagraphics. But you know what? Life's too short to be snobbish about comic books. I like four-color superhero yarns. SAVAGE DRAGON is a lot of fun. AVENGERS is really cool. Variations on a theme: BIRDS OF PREY, THUNDERBOLTS, GENERATION X, TOM STRONG, and TOP TEN. They're all enjoyable reads.
I've also enjoyed Brian Bendis' entire output, CLAN APIS, ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE, THE COPYBOOK TALES… I'm about quarter of the way through the so far amazing FROM HELL. None of those are super-hero books in the least. Where else am I supposed to go?
Some comics are just too pretentious to bother with. Some of their fans are, too. Quite honestly, I have no idea why they'd be reading this column. From day one, it's been pretty obvious where my biases lie. Why do you have such a problem admitting yours? Stick your nose back in Gary Groth's latest nose-in-the-air diatribe and leave me alone. I'm having fun. Take your "woe is me" and shove it somewhere else.
(OK, I'm on a roll now. If I start insulting your mother further down in this column, please accept my apologies in advance.)
SO WHY DISCUSS THE EISNERS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THEM ALL?Have you? I'd guess that 90% of you have not read all the books nominated in any single category. Yet, when you read the nominations, you found yourself rooting for certain favorite books. Is that wrong? Is that a horrible thing to do?
I don't think so. And that's all I was doing with last week's column, which I thought I made painfully evident. If I were an Eisners voter, I could understand why some of you might be worried. But I'm not. I'm just another fan who wanted to discuss some of the selections and let the world know which ones he was rooting for, which ones he thought would win, and which ones deserved to win. That's all I did. I didn't pretend to do anything else. If you'll note the language in the column, I was very careful about that.
HOW CAN YOU BAD MOUTH THIS STUFF IF YOU HAVEN'T READ IT?Here's another false assumption. I don't review stuff I haven't read. Period. Never have, never will.
From time to time, I do dip my toe into the indy waters. Usually, it's chilly and I jump back out. Let's take two recent examples:
ACME NOVELTY YAWNChris Ware's ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #13 (I think) is one of the prettiest comic books I've ever read. It's well designed. Its choice of colors is outstanding. Its art is well composed and consistently drawn.
It's also one of the longest, most boring things I've attempted to entertain myself with since watching the movie HEAT. (Yeah, you L.A. types love it a whole lot, I know. To me, the whole movie was an epic yawner, with but one or two good scenes to try to save it. Most parts are clearly telegraphed and then dragged out for an hour and a half until they come through. You mean, Robert DeNiro is going to eventually hook up with that woman? Didn't see that coming from the first endless conversation they had. No.)
ANL, though, is just a depressing story that takes about three times as many pages and ten times as many panels as are necessary to convey a story. The lettering is so small that my neck ached the morning after reading it from cramming my face close enough to read it. (Oh, and the white lettering on the black panels is about the easiest thing to read. The black lettering on the bleak backgrounds can be really fun, too)
Really, Chris Ware's art can be beautiful, and his coloring sense really shines. It's a similar color palette to the one used on the covers of Andi Watson's GEISHA. I like it a whole lot. Ware has architectural renderings down pat. The buildings at the World's Fair are gorgeous to look at. The composition of those pages near the end could and probably should be studied. The coloring is used really well to model the buildings, although they're all flat colors, not even a gradient to be seen. It reminds me a lot of the kind of artwork you in see in the super-hero books only with Rob Haynes/David Self doing them. (See this week's DAREDEVIL #12.) Panel composition is really cool, too, and only lost me on a couple of sequences.
But, in the end, you're better off watching a DVD or something.
The first person to write me to remind me that ANL is part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian will get my treatise on government waste.
(After this review, I'll never be an Eisner judge or a COMIC JOURNAL reviewer now for sure. I can see several of you sighing in relief behind your monitors.)
BROCCOLI WITH YOUR DINNER?David Yurkovich's THE BROCCOLI AGENDA is just perhaps a tad bit too surreal for me. It seems to start off as a straight mystery with one particularly strange characteristic -- the protagonist has broccoli for hair. But then it veers off somewhere else into mythology and super-heroes and all sorts of weird stuff. In the end, it's just not my thing.
Yurkovich draws this graphic novel in black and white with plenty of tonal values and gray washes. It's done completely as three widescreen panels per page, which is an interesting choice. It makes for a consistent looking book, but makes pacing particularly tricky for the writer. In this case, I don't think Yurkovich backed himself into any corners with it. The pacing doesn't suffer. It's almost a movie storyboard, in fact.
If you're looking for something off-the-beaten-path and extremely weird, this is the book for you. It's priced right, though -- $8 for more than 80 pages' worth of story. The paper is glossy. The binding is square. It's very well put-together.
It's just not my thing.
IN THE PIPELINE FOR TUESDAY
We have at least four first issues from this week up for discussion - POWERS, F5, ORION, and RUMBLE GIRLS. All that and more coming your way on Tuesday. In the meantime, please don't piss me off this weekend. I don't want to have to write another of these columns. =)