Sunday, March 28, 2010
I'm a Neal Adams fan and specifically a Neal Adams-when-inked-by-Dick Giordano fan. It's difficult to separate the two; Giordano's own pencils and inks often resembled his work with Adams to my untutored eyes. Their Batman is far and away my favorite of all the Batmen I've seen.
What gorgeous lines. What well-proportioned, dynamic figures, alive on the page. Adams art inked by Adams is a fine thing indeed, but Giordano's inks gave Adams's work an extra oomph. Their collaborations have influenced practically every superhero comic book artist since.
George Perez's pencils looked especially tasty under Giordano's inks, too. And I always enjoyed Giordano's "Meanwhile..." columns. I know little or nothing about how his role in the creator's rights battles back in the day, unfortunately. Wikipedia cites his "hardline stance on behalf of DC," with some footnotes at the end of the article to various letters in publications like The Comics Journal. But unless I can find a primary source, I reserve judgement.
What I do know is practically everyone into American comics has already posted about this, but since 60s and 70s era comics are a special love of mine, and since I've derived so much enjoyment from Dick Giordano's work over the course of my own life, I just thought I should post something about his passing.
Thank you, Mr. Giordano, and good afternoon. And good night.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Saturday's events include a screening of a new 3D movie, Garo-- Red Requiem, something called Kaicho ha Maid Sama (no idea) plus the "Battle of the NHK New Anime Titles." Sunday sees Mayoineko Over Run! (cat-girls in a box), a musical Minky Momo cast talk show (again, no idea) and some sort of Mobile Suit Gundam deal. And that's just a sampling. All that, plus an untold number of exhibitors.
Untold because I don't feel like counting them.
This would be a great way for you to help me celebrate my birthday. Would be. Because I can't go. But don't let that stop you. Whether you're already in Japan with time to kill or just some sort of international, jet-setting manga/anime fan with millions of dollars to lavish on your obsessions, join the frenzied crowds at Tokyo Big Sight this weekend. Enjoy it for me!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Look, the point is, you-- yes, you, Mr. and Ms. Lonelyhearts-- can learn a lot from Hopey. Why sit around, idly masturbating while waiting for the phone to ring when you can get out there and make things happen? Just take a few tips from La Hopita, as written and illustrated by Jaime Hernandez in his 1997 classic Maggie and Hopey Color Fun #1, soon to be reprinted sans color in Love and Rockets Library (Locas Book 4): Penny Century from Fantagraphics.
How does Hopey do it?
1. Set the stage. Identify your target. Begin flirtation. Make yourself useful in some way. For example, as Hopey demonstrates, it may be necessary in some cases to set yourself up as the positive alternative to some lesser choice. With ulterior motives, Hopey opens her bid for some sweet lovin' from the heterochromatic-eyed Janet Polo by pointing out what a mistake it'd be for her to marry a scumbag. In this case, the scumbag in question is Hopey's own little brother, Joey. Joey Glass's big flaw? Being as big a horn-dog as his sister Hopey.
2. Direct approach. Flirting is fine. However, the problem with most people is, they tend to shrink from contact, or are too shy to make their intentions truly known. Consequently, they confuse things with mixed signals and are quickly consigned to the dreaded "just friends" category. Yes, "just friends" is fine, a wonderful thing indeed, and Daffy Matsumoto would be happy to give you tips on being bestest pals with someone. But we're strictly talking hook-ups here, the physical, one-nighters, short term, long term, you name it. Gettin' it on. Doin' the wild thang. Good clean, natural, nekkid, dirty, nasty, filthy, perverted, degenerate fun. Sexual congress between consenting adults.
Hopey, holding an advanced degree in Love Doctorology, has long since conquered her fears and consistently favors the direct approach early in the flirtation stages. While cupping someone's breast and licking her face may not be for everyone, feel free to choose a method that works for you.
Especially note how Hopey stops when she realizes she's getting nowhere. Learn the signs of non-responsiveness before attempting this method. Unless you're as skilled as Hopey and use your perceptiveness to identify the correct stopping point, you may soon find yourself receiving a well deserved open-handed slap to the mouth. So develop advanced skills by practicing alone as often as possible.3. Compliments. Hopey knows we all want to feel sexy and desired. And she further knows the best way to accomplish this is to drop a few sincere compliments into the conversation. The key word is sincere. Choose something you genuinely appreciate about your potential mate and let him or her know it. For some people, it's that special person's wit, intelligence, style or a laboriously developed skill such as playing the piano or dancing. For Hopey, it's awesome tits.
4. Reveal yourself. You know what goes a long way towards engendering sympathy and like-feelings? Telling personal secrets. In emergency situations, it can soften people's perceptions of you as possibly narcissistic or egotistical by adding a winning hint of vulnerability. And it helps bond you and your potential partner via shared experiences.
5. Enlist allies. Accept that you can't always do it alone. Talk your friends into helping you score. Are you gutsy enough to ask an ex-lover to help you get with someone new, as Hopey does here? If you are-- Damn, what do you need advice for? You should be teaching me!
6. Beg. Sometimes you have to grovel. It's best not to beg the person you're interested in. No, instead, take a cue from Hopey and use this tactic to convince those around you to aid your cause. When it comes to matters of love or sex, there's no shame in begging.
7. Be persistent. Stalking isn't cool, but persistence is. Don't just give up and walk away with slumped shoulders the first time someone snubs you. Some people like to play hard to get, and some people simply don't recognize your winning qualities right away. You have to sell yourself a little. Make yourself available, physically and emotionally. Know when to push, know when to back off. And yes, sometimes, you must know when to quit. Few people will flat-out tell you "No!" because they don't want to hurt your feelings, so it's up to you to learn when no is strictly implied and escape with your dignity-- and clean legal record-- intact. Hopey is a love artiste on a par with James Bond and Madonna, with a psychologist's keen understanding of the human mind and sexual behaviors. With hard work, you can be, too!
8. Keep trying. You got the final brush off, huh? Even super-studs like Hopey fail on occasion, as seen here. But Hopey knows-- and now you do, too-- love is a numbers game. The more often you play, the greater your odds of winning. So do what Hopey does: hit on anything or anyone that strikes your fancy. And if he or she says no, shake it off and move on to the next person. Never give up, never let rejection get you down.
And win one for the Hopester!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Let's take a look at ur-Dani, from her first appearance in Marvel Graphic Novel No. 4: The New Mutants. Here, young Dani's beloved grandfather has just told her he's sending her to Professor Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters:
Right away writer Chris Claremont and artist Bob McLeod set up a lifetime of stimulus response for Dani. Input situation A, output incandescent rage. And the stronger stimulus, the stronger the response. Bad news makes her snappish. Murder a loved one and she turns downright scary:
Drunk Mel Gibson scary. Married to Madonna scary. Making Naomi Campbell and Liam Gallagher nervous scary:
Did I lay-diagnose Dani with Situational Anger Disorder? This is more like Situational Anger Disorder with Aggression. After the graphic novel came the regular series and writers cycling her through all kinds of funky powers, including a bizarre stint as a Valkyrie from Asgard. As opposed to a Valkyrie from Brooklyn Heights, I suppose. She joined a pro-mutant terrorist group, turned double agent, became a teacher, lost her powers. And now she's back with her original friends, the New Mutants, in the ongoing New Mutants series.
After all of this insanity, Wells still manages to write a recognizable Dani Moonstar. She's grown up and still angry after all these years:
This is what happens when Dani finds herself thrown in jail. She's so embittered by it, she can't even accept visitors with good grace. Of course, her first visitor is a particularly self-involved, murderous personality inside a powerful mutant with plans to rub out her angry ass. Obviously, he's not going to slip her a cake with a metal file inside.
I think even I would get a wee bit upset in a similar situation, and I'm as meek as a teeny-tiny passive-aggressive church mouse.
Her next visitor also does nothing to improve Dani's mood:
Jesus! Look at those eyes! In this case, it's her old pal, Sam Guthrie, who has pissed her off. Sam, compassionate soul that he is, decides Dani is safer behind bars-- or maybe it's the rest of the world he's worried about-- while the team fights Legion, the reality-bending mutant with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Apparently, multiple personalities versus a scaldingly angry Dani Moonstar would not a happy ending make. Sam's idea pleases Dani about as much as the existence of Barack Obama pleases Glenn Beck. Yes, I think we can definitively rule out Situational Anger Disorder Without Aggression at this point:
Poor Sam. He means well, but try telling Dani that. Actually, you'll probably just keep your fool mouth shut if you know what's good for you.
Another Dani personality trait Wells gets right is her determination. She's the unstoppable force of the New Mutants. Even though she no longer has her mutant powers, she retains command of hard-won tactical knowledge and unarmed combat skills, plus the wherewithal to put them to use. Did I say "unarmed?"
The damned T-800 Terminator packs less heat than that. What destructive maniac thought it was a good idea to teach this volatile young woman how to handle firearms? Weren't we all a lot safer when she only had Black Eagle's war knife to bury in our craven hearts? Giving Dani access to police weaponry is like giving Andy Dick the keys to your car at 3:00am; nothing good can come of it, but whatever happens is bound to be spectacular.
And that's just Dani in Wells's first storyline. Obviously, once the team settles into their comic, Dani will accept setbacks with a charitable...
In this panel, from New Mutants 5, Dani reacts to a series of slights against her by the hapless Sam Guthrie. Earlier in the issue, she learns from Cyclops Sam left her off the New Mutants roster. Right cross! Interestingly, Wells then has her goad Sam into hitting her back. That's all it takes to reestablish mutual respect between these two old friends... and sometimes rivals.
And later, during another mission, with her team status established, Dani finds that inner calm, right?
Special note-- Notice how many of these panels show Dani as a lefty. Yes, her right hand seems to be her craven-heart-stabbing/rifle-holding hand, but she appears use her left as her angry-fist-shaking/Sam-punching, pistol-shooting/door-control-smashing hand. I'm going to assume the single right cross is a clever tactic to throw Sam off, the same way Mickey had Rocky train to fight right-handed in order to protect his bad eye and fool the champ, Apollo Creed, in Rocky II. Do you think Dani's a southpaw? Is there perhaps a correlation between left-handedness and Situational Anger Disorder With Aggression?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
...and this one from Batgirl (v. 2) 50...
...with this one from Batgirl (volume two) 1:
Actually, I'm just being melodramatic. It's not that difficult. These scenes are the work of three different writers several years apart, with Kelley Puckett and Dylan Horrocks dealing with a purer characterization and Bryan Q. Miller taking over after the character had been warped and "developed" and pretty much ruined by editorial fiat in the interim. Writers bring their own ideas about a character to their stories; in Cassandra Cain's case, some of these writers have been less than competent and some have been the victims of terrible decisions beyond their control and did the best they could with damaged goods.
Miller also had the responsibility of getting Cass out of the new Batgirl book as quickly as possible without accidentally setting up gaping plot holes for other writers to have to fix; we've already seen what happens when lazy writers do that to Cass.
As a fan, it's disheartening to see such a driven character get beaten down to such a lowly, dispirited state. I hesitate to call this character development, but you get to the point where you have to accept this is who Cassandra Cain is, for now. A depressed namby-pamby.
She was bound to get watered down eventually. Cass had to learn to talk and once she learned that, her language skills were bound to improve, which meant writers had to make her motivations more overt; unfortunately they seemed invariably to choose the "I want a boyfriend/to be a normal girl" schema. She began her series with plenty of psychological issues relating to her abusive father and a serious death wish due to guilt; eventually she worked through all of this by repeatedly beating Daddy up and killing Mommy. Finally, Bruce Wayne literally took over the parental role he'd been symbolically filling by adopting her. At that point, writers had to find other raisons d'etre for Cass.
And that's how Cassandra Cain became a mopey quitter after Puckett set her up as a fierce little badass in her earliest stories, unconcerned with her own wellbeing to the point of frightening those around her, including Batman.
So all of that, I completely understand. I don't like it, but I understand it. But what I truly can't wrap my head around is how this character could just vanish from the Bat-family narrative as if she never existed. Not a single castmember makes any effort to locate her or see if she's all right; no one as much as thinks her name. And now there's this new "Return of Bruce Wayne" storyline brewing and here we have a young woman who apparently shifted her personally loyalties from whatever it is Batman stands for to the man himself... and yet she's nowhere to be found now that his closest friends, allies and family members seem actively to be looking for him.
Hmm... Does this mean we're not going to get Grant Morrison's take on Cass? And we're not going to see her drawn by the likes of Chris Sprouse and Ryan Sook? I call that a missed opportunity, at least for Cass-fans.
Still, I suppose there's a slim chance the next writer who takes a crack at Cass might do something that excites her few remaining fans and reminds everyone of what a cool character she used to be.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
In fact, this is the kind of comics criticism I enjoy most, and now I have a new blog to read. It also helps there's a Pixies video as well as a review of Katherine Dunn's grotesque yet touching novel Geek Love. But if you're offended by erect zombie penises, you probably shouldn't go there.
The Ramones and Dan Clowes go together like a velvet glove cast in iron in this video for "I Don't Want to Grow Up." Clowes's visual signature-- a view of the back of someone's head. Symbolizing alienation? A way to disassociate the reader/viewer from the character, to discourage identification? A song about a kid nervous about getting older and turning lame like the rest of the world is the perfect match for Clowes's edgy visuals.
And the original:
Books changing hands included Bongo Comics' Free Comics Day Free For All book from 2009, Bleach volume 18, Marvel's Essential Tomb of Dracula volume 2 (declared by its amused recipient to have "A lot of words!"), Mike Allred's The Complete Madman Comics Volume 2 with an introduction in his typical sexually-crude-yet-sentimental style by Kevin Smith and a guest appearance by the Big Guy. This last book went to a lawyer who asked, "Which do you recommend?"
"This one," I told her and slid the book down the table.
When asked directly, I always recommend Mike Allred's work. Unless the question is about food or automobiles. Then I only frequently recommend Mike Allred's work.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
"Did you take X-Men?" I asked her, because the book seemed to have suddenly vanished.
She grinned. "Yes, because I love the art!"
Not that I blame her. Those books are lovely to look at, and Unstoppable has Cassaday's handsome versions of practically every major Marvel character. It also has a tremendous image of an inverted Spider-Man high above Manhattan. Who wouldn't love that? It should be a freakin' poster already. So rest assured, John Cassaday-- you have at least one fan in Japan now. Well, two for now and one after I leave in May.
The other student, a high school girl, decided to choose between Batgirl: Silent Running and Batgirl: Death Wish.
"Which one is better?" she asked.
"They're both pretty good," I told her. "But Silent Running is the first one. I think. Or is it Death Wish? Yeah, Silent Running is the first one."
She wisely chose Silent Running. Later, I gave Death Wish to a woman close to my age and filled her in on the whole Cassandra Cain saga, then told her, "But after that, they ruined her." She smiled because she knows I'm a fool.
"Who is the writer?" she asked.
I pointed to the names on the cover. "Puckett... Scott... Those are their last names. In America, comics are written by one person, pencilled by another, then another person inks it and one more colors it. Oh yeah, then someone else puts all the letters on it."
She nodded and glanced down at her comic-by-committee. In Japan, a lot of comic artists use teams of assistants, but the books themselves are credited to a single author. And then there are creators like Yazawa Ai who work themselves sick turning out hundreds, even thousands of pages of art and story themselves.
I also gave away volumes one and three of Miyazaki Hayao's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (to two different people), Will Eisner's Best of the Spirit (to a woman who recently learned she's pregnant with twins), Mike Allred's Madman Volume 1 (to the college student already reading and enjoying John Byrne's Compleat Next Men) and Tokyo Days Bangkok Nights (cringing after I realized how much nudity it contains).
Sharing comics is fun.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
His recent commission sketches of old time Marvel characters like Gwen Stacy in all her early 1970s glory accurately capture the feel of Gil Kane and John Romita without swiping; some of them look as if a staffer at the House of Ideas opened a forgotten file cabinet and hit the Bristol board jackpot.
And as he says: "Make an offer on anything! Covers, pages, more. Going, going gone!"
If I weren't in the middle of a trans-Pacific move and hard up for cash at the moment, I'd snag some original pages for myself. I highly suggest you do what I cannot.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
[Gary] Groth said his reluctance to publish manga was due to his perception that commercial manga lacked "literary worth."
I was all set to rip this quote to shreds, but then I decided he probably has a point. Commercial manga. I think he's trying to position Fantagraphics' manga output in opposition to things like One Piece and Naruto. Hopefully he's since become aware "commercial" manga includes almost all of Tezuka Osamu's output, the brilliant Pynchonesque sci-fi epic 20th Century Boys and Nana, the writer-artist of which Journalista! writer Dirk Deppey called "the Gilbert Hernandez of Japan" on an Onion A/V Club message thread last year.
It's just more than a little amusing to see the publisher of material that challenges the mainstream comic book fans actually shares-- or shared-- their same cloistered, paranoid response to Japanese comics. The difference is he was able to couch his in lofty aesthetic terms rather than the usual complaints: All those big eyes! No noses! Not enough cross-hatching! This stuff can't be any good... it's... gasp... foreign.
Scratch a literary comic reader and find a... comic reader?
Guess I couldn't resist after all.
Anyway, knee-jerk reactions should last only as long as it takes... you know... the knee to jerk. So welcome to the club, Mr. Groth. Might I suggest you take a gander at the works of Ito Junji while you're still in the learning stages of manga acceptance? And I'm looking forward to seeing what Japanese comics Fantagraphics deems literary worthies fit for publication for the perusal of pretentious comic snobs like myself. Oh yeah-- I'm still introducing anyone and everyone to Love and Rockets here in Japan.
The kids thumbed through the books for a while, not sure of what I was doing; their English is improving all the time, but they're still fairly new to the language. Finally, I forced the issue by addressing each by name and asking for a selection. One girl chose Batman and the Outsiders, another chose Teen Titans 2 and the guy picked Teen Titans 1. Later, we had time for some free discussion.
"Why did you choose this book?" the high school boy asked the Teen Titans girl.
She did a quick mental translation, then shyly answered while looking at me for reassurance: "I don't like... horror." Her voice was practically a whisper.
"How about you?" I asked the other girl.
"I don't like horror, too," she said and smiled.
"And why did you pick this book?" I asked the guy.
"I don't like horror also," he said.
Well, they picked some fun books, and you can't go wrong with the likes of Neal Adams, Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo and George Perez. But they're still missing out on Alex Toth and Nestor Redondo. And I've learned giving comics away is incredibly fun. And if I help build a bridge across the cultural gap between American and Japanese comics, so much the better. So far the students seem fascinated by the differences between our storytelling approaches.
I also believe reading comics is an excellent way for students to improve their English skills. I've often recommended manga because of it familiarity, but I like exposing people here to characters I enjoy from my own country as well.
Monday, March 15, 2010
As in Guevara, the revolutionary. Not the stadium that bears his name. Just kidding. I stole that joke from The Rutles.
A friend of mine posted this link to me on Facebook, telling me, "Right up your alley." And he's right. I love these old underground artists, and while I've long been acquainted with Spain Rodriguez by name-- which is spectacular, by the way-- I hadn't seen a whole lot of his work. I'm also deeply interested in 60s counterculture and political movements and have been since childhood.
Time to look into getting a copy of Che: A Graphic Biography.
But before adding to my comic book collection, I still need to give away dozens of books. Today, I handed over John Byrne's nifty The Compleat Next Men, Volume 1 to a shaggy-haired, good natured college dude. Later in the evening, I gave some trades to a class of high school students. The young man got the kickass Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 3: Torn by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, while the two young women received the cleverly titled yet lackluster (putting it kindly) Batgirl: Kicking Assassins and the wildly uneven New Mutants Classic, Vol. 2 by Chris Claremont and Sal Buscema. And for my last giveaway of the day, I gave a young woman-- also a college student-- a choice of the first two generally awesome Batgirl collections or the adorable Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, Marc Hempel and Sonny Liew.
"What kind of... stories are these comics?" she asked cautiously.
"Well, these are action-adventure," I told her, pointing at the Batgirl books. "And this one is kinda like shojo manga," I said, tapping Re-Gifters.
She snatched up Re-Gifters and said, "Thank you so much for giving this to me!"
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I gave her a double shot of Fantagraphics's wonderful Love and Rockets series: The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S. and Perla la Loca. I would have given her Maggie the Mechanic, but I couldn't find it. Next time.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Because I've got way too many books to take with me on the plane, I'm giving away just about everything. One student came away with three Hellboy and BPRD trades, plus some monthly comics and an entire class received the first four volumes of Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne. One of my best friends is going to get the three softcover Locas books from Fantagraphics and I'm planning on giving a class of high schoolers some retro DC Showcase books-- Teen Titans and Batman and the Outsiders. A very special someone will get my beloved copy of Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's sublime Skim. Another student who bought the Japanese-language edition of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's classic Watchmen will soon own the English version as well. And I know the perfect person to give my Coraline with its too-pretty P. Craig Russell artwork a good home.
I plan to keep very little. Mostly things that are out of print. But now that I've started giving stuff away, I may keep on until I have nothing left. It's such a joy to see people's faces light up and to hear them promise to work very hard on their English so they can read these books. Some are even a little intimidated.
If you ever feel the need to lighten your own load, donate your old books to libraries or give them to random strangers. It feels good.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Of course, it's Peter Parker, whose life is something of a soap opera tragedy. Not really the guy you want to identify with, but one whose life probably eerily echoes his readers' from time to time. I myself have the proportional speed and strength of a spider, for example. And this storyline actually seems like an especially clever and timely story development from the House of Ideas, and if the press releases are supposed to pique people's interest, they've succeeded in my case. I won't buy it, natch, but I will be following its development via the Internet from time to time.
But I have some questions because I haven't read a current issue of Amazing Spider-Man since approximately 1988. Plus I live in Japan where I have to make trips all the way to Tokyo to even look at a Marvel comic. So maybe some hardcore superhero comic fan passing by can help me out here:
1) Hasn't Peter Parker been fired before? Multiple times?
2) Isn't J. Jonah Jameson the mayor of New York City? Is he still publisher of the Daily Bugle as well? Isn't that a conflict of interest? Do you mind if this question is actually four questions?
3) For those of you who have been fired-- I never have-- do bosses actually scream your name, then "You're Fired!" as in, "PETER PARKER, YOU'RE FIRED!"? Seems in-character for Jameson, but don't companies usually do this stuff by e-mail or Skype these days?
4) Isn't Peter Parker a high school teacher, or did they do away with that via magic along with his marriage to Mary Jane?
I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd put a link to an article in the New York Post here. And I guess Peter Parker won't be buying one of these now.