NARCISSISM DEPT: Today at our sister blog Robot 6, I sit in as the guest on What Are You Reading? I assume they asked me because Jon Hamm was too busy appearing everywhere else. Of course, I’m writing to you from the distant past of Friday, so for all I know Mr. Hamm found a spare half hour in his schedule and I have been pre-empted. Damn you, Hammmm!
BRAVE AND THE BOLD DEPT: “Plague of the Prototypes!” Written by Dean Stephan
So Adam West returns to the show as the voice of Proto, a well-meaning but not-very-bright robot prototype that hangs out with Ace the Bat-Hound in the Batcave, but is called into action when Black Mask turns all the other Batbots bad. If you’ll recall, however, Adam West previously played Thomas Wayne on the show, which means Batman programmed a robot with his father’s voice and hid him away in the basement. In addition to that, Stephan sets us up with the heroic sacrifice of GI Robot in the teaser for another heroic robotic sacrifice in the climax, but it’s just a fake-out. And that’s all I’ve got to say about this one.
AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST DEPT: I forgot to watch this again. Oops.
ARBITRARY PONDERMENT! Terriers is the best show on television. Wednesday nights, 10 o’clock Eastern, FX. Watch it. I demand a second season. Give Donal Logue an Emmy.
SPONTANEOUS MUSING! When JMS says he thinks graphic novels are the future and he’s going to focus on writing those from here on out, he really means “I can’t keep to a monthly schedule and I quit. Deal with it.” C’mon, son.
ITEM! Nate Cosby, now-former-Marvel-editor-but-current-gadabout, is writing a series of weekly comics about the vertiginous descent to madness that is comics editing. (I kid, I kid). The first three installments are up, featuring Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Agents of Atlas, and World War Hulk:
We NEVER need to see Pete change into Spider-Man. That’s the POINT. It’s the most genius part of the book. If there were any reader left on earth that didn’t know Peter Parker & Spider-Man were the same person, they’d NEVER find out from reading Mary Jane. They didn’t need to. It wasn’t Spider-Man’s story. Spider-Man was Sean’s Trojan horse, sneaking his intentions in under the guise of just another Spidey tale. He was gunning for relatable pain, anguish, hope, misunderstanding. Peter was just a kid that felt a massive amount of guilt over his uncle dying and decided to try and help people without anyone (including MJ) knowing. Seeing Peter change into Spidey meant showing us something that MJ has never seen. If SHE doesn’t know it, then WE shouldn’t either. It’s a subtle thing that speaks volumes to me.
NEW ABHAY DEPT: Always worth reading, Mr. Khosla’s latest begins as a review of the Immonens’ Moving Pictures graphic novel before segueing into a treatise on the depiction of WWII in comics (as compared to other wars) and the dwindling effectiveness of Nazis in fiction:
I’ve killed roughly 5.2 zillion videogame Nazis over the years. I’ve seen Nazis stabbed with knives and flags, exploded by grenades, rockets, and mortars, shot by pistols, machine guns, and tanks, melted by Arks of the Covenant. I’ve watched Jim Brown pour gasoline and grenades onto Nazis while Telly Savalas butchered Nazi hookers. If you include Illinois Nazis, I’ve also seen Nazis get into some pretty damn hilarious car accidents.
How much of my reaction to MOVING PICTURES was tainted by that? Can I still have a reasonable reaction to a serious drama with Nazis in it? Can I take those characters as characters, instead of just signifiers of Ultimate Evil?
But Mr Johns can also choose to use those page-closing panels in a far less typical way too. He often writes closes pages in a way that causes the reader to pause rather than read onwards. It’s a trick that he tends to use in “Blackest Night” when he wants his audience to pay attention to a key character moment, and in particular, a character moment which emphasizes the major themes of the book. And so, where the traditional final panel on a comic book page encourages the reader to move on, Mr Johns is often demanding quite the opposite. In the first chapter of “Blackest Night”, for example, page 8 closes on Damage’s admission that he “can’t face anyone”, that he’s been traumatized by the loss of his comrades in the Freedom Fighters. But Damage himself isn’t even in that closing panel, and while the scene of mournful statues may foreshadow a grim future, the art doesn’t compel the reader to turn the page at all. Instead, the audience is encouraged to stay where they are and think about what they’ve been shown, to stay in the moment as its been subliminally suggested that they do.
ITEM! Kerry Callen asks, “What if Marvel’s Silver Age was like DC’s Silver Age?” Hilarity ensues:
ITEM! The Comic Twart guys get all minimalist. Here’s a piece each by Mitch Breitweiser, Ron Salas, and Tom Fowler:
ITEM! The Mindless Ones annocommentate Batman & Robin #16 but don’t tell me what they say because I haven’t read it yet but I still know how it ends because that was all over the internet in thirty seconds but you know
ITEM! David Brothers reads all of the Thor comics Marvel’s currently publishing and lets you know which are worth your time (hint: buy The Mighty Avenger).
THE OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS plays a weird fanmade X-Men prostitution RPG.
ITEM! Thanks to Mike Sterling, I have now discovered Our Valued Customers, a site in which a comic book store employee draws cartoons of all of his ridiculous encounters with customers. These folks? These are my people:
REMAKE/REMODEL at Whitechapel this week is Jeff Hawke, space diplomat hero from bygone days of comic strips. Here are entries by Art Grafunkel, Craig Payne, and Fred Greiner (click to embiggen):
TANGENTIALLY RELATED TO COMICS DEPT: Leonard Pierce of the AV Club discusses the necessity, or lack thereof, of interactivity in our art and entertainment:
If you are, as I am, an advocate of reader-response theory, you know that the reader has always been part of the creative process. The meaning of a text isn’t delivered by unidirectional pipeline from the writer to the reader; it’s a circuit, begun by the creator’s intent and design, and finished by the reader’s understanding and interpretation. All art, good or bad, is made through a vast process of criticism, collaboration, and creation between the people who make it and the people who take it. All interactive technology does is make that idea more immediate and explicit.
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