Sunday Brunch: 4/18/10

Looking for TV reviews? We all know you're not, but if you were, you wouldn't find them in this post! I haven't seen them yet, because I am writing to you from beyond the grave before the weekend has yet commenced. They will probably show up later in a Midnight Snack. What you will find in this post, however, is the usual conglomeration of links to insightful and/or snarky articles and cool bits of art from the world of comics. I won't steer you wrong, internet!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What single comic book, when unearthed by archaeologists in the far future, will best represent the comics medium as a whole, and the society/civilization from whence it came? Show your work. (My answer at the bottom of the post!)

BOOZE, BROADS, AND BULLETS DEPT: It was Frank Miller Week across the blogosphere, apparently, thanks to the 4thletter, our own Chad Nevett, witty Sean Witzke, madman Tim Callahan, and The Hurting's Tim O'Neil. Here's Tim O'Neil on the Tao of Miller:

After decades of reading Miller, I do not believe that the man possesses so much as a single grain of insight into human character, more than a thumbnail understanding of politics or society, or even a base theoretical comprehension of women and their interior lives. His worldview is customarily infantile, occasionally rising to the level of juvenile. His preoccupations are, therefore, those of infants and juveniles: I am tempted to say violence, sex and masculinity, but those neutral words imply far too much in the way of gravitas in reference to what are mostly merely stories about guns, babes and tough guys. But his limitations - which are many - in themselves say little as to why exactly his work has struck such a long and sustained tone in popular culture. It's easy to dismiss a polarizing figure like Miller, harder to grapple with why exactly his work remains perennially popular and enduringly influential.

It's good readin'!

ITEM! Marvel has switched book distributors, and The Rack has the scoop on the fallout at Diamond.

ITEM! I love when Colin Smith thinks too much about his comics. This week, he takes a look at Jack Kirby's Fourth World, stewardship of comic book creations, and the constant attempts to revamp or revitalize the properties, and cries, "Leave it alone!" Plus: his thrilling new direction for Robin Hood!

The problem is that DC editorial over the longterm has rarely proven itself capable of taking a responsible, long-term view of any property they can exploit. (Anyone who saw the two-page spread of a dozen returned-from-the-dead characters in the recent "Blackest Night" # 8 must surely have been less relieved and touched by their return and more appalled at how any publishing house could have killed off so many wonderful, and potentially lucrative,. characters in the first place!) But short-termism and golly-gee-wow-isms rule in comic book editorial land. And where we might look for at best some stewardship, and at worst some basic knowledge about how stories work and how characters function, we get an endless headlong rush towards attention-getting and sales-figures feedback. (It never goes well.)

CHAD NEVETT VS. THE WORLD: Kyle DuVall writes a piece at the Newsarama Blog on comics, auteur theory, and how mixing the two at the Big Two leads to things getting broken, and widows lamenting:

Civil War was Mark Millar’s chance to pen an epic story about superheroes at war with themselves and their government , but it not only wreaked havoc with the Marvel Universe during its run, it also polluted the very identity of several longstanding characters to such an extent, writers ever since have been scrabbling to patch up the damage.

Chad Nevett responds, and takes no prisoners:

Fuck the characters, give me stories from auteurs. Why would I (why would anyone) want to read some middling bullshit that's too afraid to step out of line that I can't remember what the story was about three minutes after putting the book down? I wouldn't. I don't. The only problem with auteurs in corporate-owned mainstream comics is that there aren't enough of them. Obviously, you're not going to like everything, but I'd rather see stuff like what Geoff Johns write on the shelves than toothless, bland comics. At least Johns has his vision and he sticks to it. It alienates readers like me, but I can respect it.

I don't quite agree with either of them. I dislike continuity and the status quo as much as any blogger, but there are certain fundamental tenets that should be maintained in terms of characters and core concepts. You can still tell brilliant auteuriffic stories around those, however (New X-Men). Geoff Johns is more like a Bizarro Auteur, though; his "everything new is old again" approach makes the boulder the hero, not Sisyphus.

RANDOM THOUGHT! Every time I flip through the channels, MTV has "16 and Pregnant" on. I'm pretty sure that's the entirety of their programming.

AXE COP MOMENT OF THE WEEK: You know that old saw. Cop meets Lincoln, Cop likes Lincoln, Cop uses magical unicorn horn to turn Lincoln into wife material... what? Yes.

It only gets better from there!

THE HORROR! Chris Eckert does his civil duty in reminding everyone just how terrible Identity Crisis was:

“Oh no! It appears that my untrained walking on Sue’s brain has caused her to die! Who knew? Good thing I had the foresight to bring along a flamethrower, “just in case” I end up murdering her. I can burn her corpse! I don’t know why I think that will mask my footprints on her brain, and it’s also completely illogical that none of my actions were detected or recorded by the most advanced security system in the universe. But hey, I guess today is my lucky day because the flamethrower I USED FOR NO REASON implicates Sue’s old rapist in the murder, even though I didn’t know about the rape! Oh, and my husband was half an hour late, leaving me plenty of time to wipe the blood and soot off my clothes. Good thing I’ve got such a solid gameface, he doesn’t suspect a thing!”

It gets better from there. Better? I mean worse. Seriously, worst comic book ever printed. (DC has also published the best comic ever printed, so it all averages out.)

ITEM! I suppose I would have had a better chance at winning the Afrodisiac art contest if I'd actually entered. Oh well. The winners have been announced! But really, everybody's a winner. A lot of great stuff there.

KICKING KICK-ASS'S ASS: The A.V. Club interviews Mark Millar, and it's not as self-congratulatory as you would think! Meanwhile, Roger Ebert eviscerates the Kick-Ass movie, giving it one star (in comparison, the crappy new Death at a Funeral remake gets three-and-a-half) and calling it "morally reprehensible":

Big Daddy and Mindy never have a chat about, you know, stuff like how when you kill people, they are really dead. This movie regards human beings like video-game targets. Kill one, and you score. They're dead, you win. When kids in the age range of this movie's home video audience are shooting one another every day in America, that kind of stops being funny.

ITEM! CBR's Augie De Blieck versus "the tracers." No holds barred!

Those who do this kind of work best are those that use the reference as just that: a reference. It's the bones of something that they then can abstract out to create a comic book. They're not trying to make their drawings look "real." They just want to make sure the anatomy makes sense at a given camera angle or during a specific movement. They're checking for lighting, so their black areas make sense. But when the reference is taken too literally and becomes the art, I have a problem. Characters become stiff. Artists, it seems, begin to doubt their own ability to draw and come to rely on the pictures to get through the pages. In an effort to have more appealing art, they use more appealing photo swipes, right down to "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition" pages. It's a nasty downward spiral from there.

OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS DEPT: Over at ComicsAlliance, Chris Sims digs into the recently re-unearthed Jack Kirby designs for Ruby-Spears, and picks out the Ten Designs That Need to Happen. I'm quite partial to "Skanner," myself, because "OMAC meets Magnum, PI" is the greatest high concept of all time. Sims also gives us Five Unlikely Marvel Noir pitches, but I have to say, I would definitely buy a few of these. Especially SuperPro. Also also: Young MODOK Romance. And then Sims says everything about Brightest Day that needs saying. The hits just keep on comin':

Because that’s what Brightest Day is: Pages upon pages of alarmingly stupid navel-gazing that underscores the fact that right now, with the exception of a few islands of good work, the DC Universe is experiencing a creative bankruptcy the likes of which the company has never seen.

ITEM! Rich Johnston demands we acknowledge Steve Bissette's new-- yes, new!-- and upcoming Tales of the Uncanny graphic novel. Yep, it's a sequel to all the Bissette bits from 1963 (written by Alan Moore), and in lieu of being able to reprint that series (because of Alan Moore), Steve's just gone ahead and made new stuff. I'm totally going to buy the hell out of it:

ITEM! This week's theme at Comic Twart? Jonny Quest! Here's Chris Samnee's:

ITEM! The Action Age, the world's most bombastic webcomics collective, has launched Danger Ace #1. Why should you read it? Well, it's free, and it's got Nazis teaming up with ant-people. Also, the art's pretty damn great. So, yeah. Read it.

REMAKE/REMODEL: Ellis bring it back to basics this week, challenging his cronies to redesign Tiger Hart of Crossbone Castle! Some good entries this week, though sadly, no Tiger Beat parody as of this writing. Here's David Bednarsky and Andrew Nixon's entries comin' atcha:

ANSWER(S) OF THE WEEK: I'm torn between two particular comics; you might think them obvious, coming from me. The first is New Gods #6 by Jack Kirby, brazenly titled "The Glory Boat!" It serves as the epitome of Kirby's work in the field, a perfect storm of his favorite themes. It features humans caught in a clash between gods; it advocates change over destruction; it exhibits political undertones, acting as a nutshell example of the horrors of war; it includes and transcends man's mythologies; and it's a kickass, gorgeously drawn action book.

My second choice is Watchmen #11, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I expect many of you to cheat and say all of Watchmen, but I'm going with this particular, climactic issue. It features and deconstructs the superhero, mankind's latest mythological creation; frought with political fears, it portends humanity's eventual self-assured destruction.

What do you think?

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