…Which question is otherwise known as being a list of my Emotional Reactions to my Wednesday Comics, God how I love them so…
But I apologize, Bloggers. Here I am, back in town for a day or maybe two, and I really should be attempting to polish off my voluminous Seaguy post. I really should be writing the post called “Throwing Out The Laundry List”, about what it’s like to be a lazy third-generation TV writer. In fact I really should be doing all sorts of things. I could write a little something about the Denzel Washington/Robert Townshend vehicle “The Mighty Quinn” (for example), and how televisual doors that were opened practically instantly by “The Big Easy” took ten years longer for “The Mighty Quinn” to open, and by that time it was all fucked up anyway…because in the first instance the tenor of the times demanded that the slice of American oneirogeography commonly referred to as “New Orleans” be populated by intelligent black people, who were full of individual agency, while in the second instance it seemed much easier to corral good-looking white people for the purpose of having them recite to the viewing audience things that the audience ought to’ve been able to see for themselves anyway…
If there weren’t so many goddamn tourists clogging up the joint…
And to be honest, I think it was, straight-up, a failure of will.
I speak, of course, of the shows called (respectively) Frank’s Place and Going To Extremes…gak, what an awful title that last one’s got, it’s like naming a child Car Payment or Kevin Costner Movie…but as I said, I won’t speak of them at length today. Just don’t have the energy. On the other hand…well, I suppose I’m a bit of an unreliable narrator on this blog, surely you all have picked that up by now (wanna know how I got these scars?), so maybe my reluctance to talk about these shows is sort of belied by the way I bring them up in the first place. Maybe I do have something to say about my Wednesday Comics that does involve them slightly.
But I still won’t be long about it. Frank’s Place was the only successful program to come out of the long-forgotten and rightly-dreaded Dramedy Belt of American television…the only one that was artistically successful, that is. You may recall an awful show called thirtysomething out of that time-period…if you’re very unlucky you may recall the goddamn show about Mr. and Mrs. Hippie-Bear waking up one morning and deciding they’re really yuppies after all, and having a giant Big Chill party in the guise of a TV show to celebrate their rather stupid attachment to their own cultural and personal stasis. The Waltons was a more relevant show; heck, even thirtysomething benefited by comparison with this solipsistic monster. Shoulda been called Griffith Observatory…
Really awful. I suppose I could try to sum it up this way: that it was to the Molly Ringwald/Lauren Graham/Jenna Elfman program Townies, as Townies was to the movie Mystic Pizza. Or, am I being too obscure? I hate to tell you all: Townies was a thousand times better than Mystic Pizza, and it came along at the right time too: just at the final trailing boundary of the Dramedy Belt, the ship almost out of danger. But dear God that Lauren Graham used to annihilate well-made shows! I was beginning to think she was cursed.
Until Gilmour Girls came along and proved me RIGHT. Wow, what impressively pointless and ultimately somewhat creepy worldbuilding that show indulged itself in! I honestly thought Green Lantern was going to show up one day and free them all from their Black Mercy. Rip Hunter was going to collapse out of nowhere in the town square one day, and Lorelei was going to take him in, and then oh what would come of it. Like every TV movie about an amnesiac girl with a stalker starring Yasmine Bleeth, Gilmour Girls suffered from never being able to deliver the Big Twist that it was constantly teasing…like Grosse Point Blank with the guts out, like indeed Northern Exposure, it never had the courage to say what it bloody well HAD to say, to be a fully-formed sentence in the end, with a proper period on it.
Still, I was happy for my girl Lauren G. You can’t say she killed that show, anyway…!
But where was I. Oh yes.
In the Dramedy Belt, waiting for Hari Seldon to show up…but when he did, we didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
So this is what happens when a very large artistic enterprise spawns a great number of extremely clever fans-turned-pros…the talented ones yearn to shake off the yoke and truly free themselves to operate on the past they came from — they would free themselves from mere “cleverness” if they could — but very large forces are constantly operating on them, to make sure that they don’t actually get the chance to be innovative in the way they combine their ideals, with their influences, with their talent. And it isn’t really anybody’s fault. It’s just the way things work. The Dramedy Belt was an awful and soul-destroying expanse of American TV production: it’s where geniuses went to ruin their careers for all time. No Fred Silverman ever bet so much, and lost so badly, and looked like such a punk, as the once-future Steven Spielbergs who pissed away their credibility on crap shows that weren’t about anything else but kind of HATING the characters.
For every Frank’s Place, ten Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd…for every Townies, a thirtysomething…one might suggest, for every Hooperman a Cop Rock…and it was unfair how they all blended together, all tangled one another in the same ropes, that sank towards the bottom of the ocean at the same speed…but it happened.
Flash forward and sideways to the world of comics. You all know my pal Andrew Hickey — he wrote a review of “Wednesday Comics” that was answered — very civilly and good-naturedly! — but answered! — by a lot of the artists and writers who’d worked on “Wednesday Comics”. And this is the thing, that the Big Two comic companies might occasionally pretend to want to be popular in a strict sense, in an old-timey sense, but in fact they really do not want to be. If they wanted to be in 7-11s they could be. They don’t want that.
But, that’s where all the — as they would call them — “content creators” come from, and that’s where THEY’D like to be! Kurt Busiek will never now be allowed to write a DC comic for five million kids to buy at general stores…Brian Azzarello will never get the chance to write a Sunday Supplement Batman for real. Not going to happen.
But they get “Wednesday Comics” as a temporary dream, a temporary fulfillment. I honestly don’t know why they get it. It doesn’t make particularly fabulous business sense for them to get it.
Unless for some strange reason DC Comics wants me to buy things they print again (but aren’t they just a copyright farm for Time-Warner? Isn’t that what we all believe?), there’s no reason to make this “Wednesday Comics” thing.
But I bought two copies of it today. I’m going to buy two copies of it for the next twelve weeks. Maybe I’m just like Kurt Busiek or Dave Gibbons or Kyle Baker or Mike Allred, but this is what I want, this is what I love, I could commit to this, give me all you want of this, I’ll take all you can make. This is Frank’s Place, and it can’t last for long, but while it’s here it delights me. I’m giving my extra copies to the library. I’m giving them to some kid on the street. I’m wallpapering my bathroom with them. I’m HAPPY.
…But before I review “Wednesday Comics”, I just wanted to talk about what else I bought today.
The Phantom #1, from Moonstone: I am not sure I want to support Moonstone, as a publishing company. I know, I know…I’m old and tired. Go to bed, Grandpa! Yes, I’m aware. But as some of you may know, The Phantom is my weakness. I think The Phantom is just about the coolest idea ever to be made into a comic book or strip. And hardly anyone does it right.
This one was really not too bad. There were questionable bits, to be sure. But Phanty was badass and proactive (as the kids say), the Phantom mythology was well-addressed, and elliptically-addressed — which is how it oughtta be — there were pirates, in these days where piracy is once again topical — in these days when piracy is once again seen for what it is, by the rich folk of the Fortunate Lands — and yet there was a fictional mystery as well that was bound up with it. I don’t particularly care for the nature of the mystery. But that it is one is something terrifically desirable. As time goes on, Phanty’s job gets tougher, that’s an idea that’s built right into the original concept. And as time goes on, who he is gets to be a weirder and weirder role…and it’s weirder and weirder to be a person who can commit to it. Let’s face it, this is a character who’s infinitely updatable, except the one key thing about him is that he can’t escape his origins...so just to make me even care at all, wow. There have been a thousand Phantom reboots, just like there have been a thousand Shadow and Doc Savage reboots…all I want is for one of them, just one of them, to work.
And this one could work…!
The new Buck Rogers I didn’t buy. I don’t know, Buck is a problematic figure. I fear a new Buck Rogers strip. I mean it could be done…after all, Roy Thomas and Gil Kane made a John-fucking-Carter strip worth reading in the Seventies…
But man, I just don’t know. It’d be a helluva trick, really.
So I passed it up. I wuz scared, I’ll tell you frankly. What’s Buck Rogers without the racism? Like Wonder Woman without the bondage. But it’s pretty goddamn hot stuff to handle.
Do you see a pattern developing, here?
I bought the J.H. Williams Batwoman. I had to buy it! As Sean says, this is the Steranko of NOW, there’s every chance we might not see this guy’s work in genre fiction again, he is taking extraordinarily slight matter and whipping it up into something that just needs to be seen. Care about Batwoman. Don’t care about Batwoman. What in the world is happening to DC Comics, it’s like they’re decided to have a segment of WE CARE in their business. Williams could do anything, of course. He’ll be Alan Moore one day, in the sense that he can just go to some company and say “I want to do a Western” and they’ll say “holy shit, we can’t believe you’re asking US. For God’s sake YES. Flo, call the bank, tell ’em we’re gonna be making a deposit.” He’s that good. Of course a lot of people are good, very good, and have you gone out and bought your Army@Love yet? Shit, Veitch just freaks me out, everything’s a dream…
But only Williams is Williams, and he’s really fucking SOMETHING. Just on a visual basis, I give a shit about fucking BATWOMAN. Now that is some magic straight out of Ideaspace, don’t tell me it isn’t. The Dracula thing, the tits-as-fangs, the hair-as-blood…that all sounds so stupid when you say it, but MAN it comes together in an adventurous page layout. It’s serious business, this stuff. This guy’s a Jack Cole-level talent, and it’s a fucking honour to be able to buy a stupid superhero book he’s working on. No offence to Rucka. I like Rucka. And a comic book’s a collaborative enterprise. But we’ve got another Ditko here.
Also bought LOEG Vol.I again, since Ed has the original floppies. And can I ask you this, Internet? How does Alan Moore manage, with his insane scripts, to get such a fantastic simpatico with his artists? I mean has the man ever worked with anyone who didn’t flip expectations inside-out, who didn’t put a big-ass thumbprint on the reader’s imagination, that’s pretty well indelible? Grant Morrison’s had hellishly good luck too — The Invisibles is an excellent example of how a passionate writer puts fire into collaborators, in its way as good an example of that as Sandman is. But, for the most part Grant seems to need a…
Whoops, my apologies: anticipating another post.
Let’s get back to this one. I also bought Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp, for three big reasons.
One, it really wasn’t that expensive.
Two, I was thinking about how you cannot get “Rubber Blanket” for love or money…and yet Derik Badman put the love of that thing into my heart for real. Maybe when I’m a millionaire.
…I made the mistake of flipping through it. COULD NOT get it out of my head.
…And, a further report later, but let’s see if we can unboil this water with a bit more heat. WEDNESDAY COMICS.
Here’s my review:
Contra Andrew, I love the Batman piece, because it had such great understated menace to it. You can’t possibly have Two-Face’s origin in this modern time, but you can have Batman and Gordon failing, you can have the simple execution of a pinched nose…to me this breathes Batman. 1940’s Batman. I’ve seen good and bad from Azzarello, but his good is really quite quite good, and I suspect this will be one of those. It’s one page, and it’s a cliffhanger. I would judge it excellent. And of course Risso’s art — well, this is all about getting great art, right? So I shouldn’t say any more about it.
Except I will have to, because he really delivers. Is it possible that this isn’t a pure labour of love for any of the artists involved? Surely that’s amazingly and irruptively what it is, and it shows. And now, here, Kamandi: Ryan Sook’s already a favourite, and he doesn’t disappoint here. This is grabby stuff: did I mention the passion of artists before? There is some subtle and joyous shit in his page of Kamandi: sure, the drowned world, the birds taking flight, the door into the bunker. I’ll spend a while looking at this, it’s really terrific, and the whole Prince Valiant thing, why it couldn’t have been planned better in a million years. Also, as a writer one has to admire the freedom here: there is simply more space to use lettering as a graphic device on a page this size, and Dave G. I think lets his artist flag fly in this respect. Just look how the lettering controls the reading, the way the eye falls through the images. And it’s casual, it’s normal, it’s just another part of doing the job…but man what fun it must be!
Deadman is so unbelivably sweet I can barely find a thing to say about it. I care about Deadman for the first time ever, and it isn’t because he has this great amazing character, it’s because he’s a Chandleresque detective, only with a slight superheroic tinge in that the source of his special powers is his special ethicity: the two are one and the same. Now, by God, this is how to do it right! Because I truly don’t give a damn about who the character is, I only care about what the character goes through…and I confess I never understood it before, but that’s what Deadman’s best at.
The Superman strip I’m going to wait on. Andrew feels the art is too static, and that the story’s too decompressed, and possibly too trite. I’m going to admit freely that I’d be over the moon if Andy Kubert was drawing this thing, but to me coming upon the Superman story here, I don’t hate the look of it at all, it is not my personal preferred look, but it’s got a certain Richard Corben-ness to it, and I find that funny and perky. In fact I’m not sure it isn’t brilliant — I do believe it’s going to move very swiftly from “Superman as world’s greatest puncher” to “Superman as Nazarene negotiator of ethical conflict”, which I must say isn’t a Superman I always like (I’m primarily a Jerry and Joe fan, myself), but sometimes I like it, sometimes I really do…and the glossy super-rendering, Heavy-Metal-style, could explode into some trippy Kirby/Starlin shit…I think…
But anyway it isn’t my favourite, but it’s mighty far from being something I dislike, and I’m eager to see where it goes. Andrew might end up being right about the decompression. The triteness I don’t mind, though. If it’s done right.
But then I’m a Phantom fan!
There’s really only one story!
Pardon me, now I have to talk about Green Lantern. And look at those colours, for God’s sake, eh? I think if I had that kind of art backing me up, even I could be Kurt Busiek. I said the word passion, obviously — Jesus, reading this thing is like watching Top Chef. “Here are your ingredients, peanut butter, pomegranates, olive oil, blood oranges…now build a car out of them!” No problem, if you love the ingredients enough, if you fall asleep counting pomegranates. God, and if Green Lantern isn’t essentially a strip that’s about how COLOUR IS AWESOME, I’ll eat my hat. Look how we start out super-chummy here: we’re part of the action. We’re part of the fun time of the Ferris Aircraft employees. Listen, we’re brought into it. For a reason, too. I think this is very fine scripting by Kurt, that will blossom into something really swell, a great and potent transition of perspective on every page, a flip-around at the geometrical centre of the page…
…And hey, who’re these Quinones and Brousseau guy, anyway? You flippin’ well HAVE TO LOVE the deep reds here. This is somebody thinking it through, creating backgrounds for a reason. Terrific job. But of course it’s the passion…
Metamorpho I have nothing to say about except that it is exceptionally brilliant already, note-perfect in every respect, Allred is of course jaw-dropping on this, Neil absolutely excels…I mean what can you say? I crave a sight of Element Girl, I imagine we we will see what really happens to her to put her hiding in her room and wanting to die, but we’ll see it as it looks in the Allredverse. Holy Joe, I just don’t know how that one’s going to shake out. Mike has a deceptive style, he can get heavy…and Neil can trick you that way too, at the speed of sound. But oh man, so long as Metamorpho can turn his leg into iron chains for a shark to bite on…
I want this to be the new Sandman. Just Bob Haney adventures knitted together by Neil, given wonky emotional oomph by Mike. Lovely stuff. Not one thing wrong.
Teen Titans. I liked the art a lot, I liked the colour, I like how it draws you in and looks different, lighter, more like ice cream than the other strips…but I absolutely detest the rah-rah mythologizing of the corporate property, I don’t like the “Friends” aspect of it all, “they became a family”, I never did, this is just my personal and visceral reaction and I know this writer didn’t make it up, but…God, it beggars the suggestion of comic-book danger, doesn’t it? “I am finally the serious villain, and I will KILL the Teen Titans.” Well, heck, I could kill them, to kill them doesn’t take a supervillain, just an asshole, and to be frank Teen Titans has become way too much of a home for the “what if the villains got serious” kind of villains, way too much of a home for the “in the future I’m a bad guy!” semi-plot, I mean even teenagers aren’t going through a fucking Breakfast Club experience all the time, I mean come on, I think I’m really going to hate this, I want to like this, but YOU SAY IT YOURSELF…!
They should’ve grown up and drifted off.
I can’t see a kid — any kid — reading this story more than once. And isn’t that exactly the problem with the Teen Titans?
Adam Strange: It’s Pope. ‘Nuff said.
Supergirl: It’s okay, and I like it. No joke. Miss Amanda can DRAW.
Metal Men: Oh my God, it’s a little boring! Because the tension’s defused at the end of the page, duh. Doc putting his hand to his head and saying “yeesh” does not a cliffhanger make. And I don’t like the interpretation of Mercury. But…
The Metal Men disguised as human beings, always wanting to get involved, and Doc doesn’t want them to, their uncontrollably heroic nature…and especially the silliness of them going to a bank on a field trip, gee whiz…! These fundamentals are sound, and the art’s (once again) just plain swell. I’m down.
Wonder Woman: Absolutely great idea, the art is crazy, how many panels are there here…? I’d read this story, except parts of it are so hard to read…! I honestly don’t know what to advise. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I really love the one-page story. I think this may be a Wonder Woman I can care about. But jeez.
I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it’s just too beautiful and too perfect. [EDIT: and too goddamn hard to read!] But we’ll see next Wednesday.
Sgt. Rock. DC Comics, just give this trademark to the Kubert family. They do it better than anybody. I don’t have questions, I don’t have opinions. This is the land of Kubertism. Although if it were me, I would’ve had ’em do Weird War. How fun would that have been? “Okay, Dad, see if you can draw THIS, you old so-and-so…!” “Oh, g’wan little man, sure you can do better than THAT…!”
God, I truly love those Kuberts.
Flash: it’s all I want in a Flash story. Angles and perspectives. Everybody living inside their thought-balloons. Can we just have this, DC? And a wee bit of Grade Nine science class. I don’t know what to say. I’m extremely happy, and isn’t that what you want from Flash readers? Scipio will tell you Iris is a horrible person. Actually I like the way her horribleness is acknowledged here…she said goodbye, she left a note, but she don’t remember what she wrote. Then she realizes “Christ, maybe I was a bit of a bitch, there, oh no!” MUCH more interesting when a character like that discovers her husband’s the Flash. This story bloody well INTERESTS me.
The Demon and Catwoman. No, just stop. Honestly, this one stuns me just to look at it, this IS bloody well Prince Valiant, my God. THIS. IS. AWESOME. Just keep this one going, please. I don’t even know what to say, it’s a genius idea, it’s goddamn GORGEOUS to look at, I don’t understand how such an intense Brave And The Bold comic as this doesn’t already exist. My hat’s off, gentlemen!
Hawkman: looks great and is DEEPLY ANNOYING. Sigh. I’ve never read 300, and I haven’t seen the movie either. I gather “we flap” is a whole 300 thing? I never thought I would have to say this to Kyle Baker, of all people…
But Kyle: honestly I don’t care at all about 300, and truly honestly don’t give a flying fuck. And what is all this insular communication shit, anyway? I thought you hated that. Okay, you were making a joke. Well…such is my esteem for you, I don’t care.
But MAN, this is the best Hawkman comic I’ve seen in thirty years, even if you were making a joke I don’t get. It’s Hawkman as the Phantom of airplanes and airspace, right? And Great Creepy Christ you make it look good. My my.
Hey, just in case anyone’s reading this: I plan to buy two copies of this per week.
I would, wouldn’t I?
And here’s the big sheep-shank of it. In comics, the idea of appealing to a mass audience, though people pay lip-service to it, is outmoded and counterproductive. However, to let the talent go apeshit every once in a while is fine, and in fact necessary. These horses can be bridled, but every once in a while they gotta run free! And the comics company is just the trademark farm, but every once in a while you get a Luthor, every once in a while you get a Venom…I mean I simplify, and also it’s a vexed matter in more ways than one, but…that’s the thing, no one ever knows what people are going to like. You never know when you’re going to stumble upon a new trademark that might work for you. Or just a new approach to something that people like. Or a new Iron Man script-in-the-making. Or indeed just an idea, fleeting fugitive idea, will o’ the wisp IDEA…! You never know, it might mean something, or resonate with somebody. Well, you don’t know.
I think this Wednesday Comics thing is the most perfect idea DC’s had in a while. But here’s my question, Bloggers…
Do you think, maybe, just slightly, that we had anything to do with it? Us with our memes. “If There Could Only Be Fifteen Comics Titles tout court, what would they be?” “What Characters Don’t Have A Series Now, That Should?”
I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
But we’re into third-generation comics-makers now.
And a lot of our best talents grew up in the Dramedy Belt. Free Traders; well, just really people who’ve spent their lives thinking Hari Seldon would show up, and approve them.
Imagine their shock!!
But perhaps it’s something you and I should think about.
…Aaaaand, I’ll fix this later, but for now I deeply want to hit “publish”, so I will.
Hey, Internet: more later from me.