Thursday, June 28, 2012

Luthor, you poisonous snake!

If you think wrapping my hand in a plastic baggie is going to stop me from mopping up the floor with you and your henchmen then soaring into space and causing the Earth to rotate backwards, thereby reversing time and allowing me to stop your warped real estate scheme and save Lois Lane, you're sadly mistaken!

The Hot Toys Superman figure is the most fun thing ever created.  Well, one of the most fun things.  Okay, so it isn't quite up to the level of amusement parks or family vacations to amusement parks or kissing your partner on the ferris wheel at an amusement park, but it does have its charms.

I wish I had a Muhammad Ali action figure to go with him to recreate the classic Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali cover, minus all the other celebrities.  I know there's a statue, but I already have half the equation.  Acceptable alternatives include figures of Gene Hackman and Ned Beatty as Lex Luthor and Otis, respectively, or an Adam West Batman.  The various Christian Bale Batman and the Michael Keaton Batman figures from Hot Toys are impressive as well.  You know, a Tobey Maguire Spider-Man wouldn't be half bad, either.  And a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman.  Lemme think about this and get back to you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What a super weekend!

I watched Superman the Movie, the 1978 big screen epic starring Christopher Reeve as Superman and also received a couple of fun little items.  One is the trade paperback collection Superman: the Greatest Stories Ever Told and the other is the Hot Toys Superman the Movie 1/6th scale Christopher Reeve as Superman action figure.

The book has a nice Alex Ross cover featuring his version of Superman looking stern and appropriately heroic, spit curl, narrowed eyes, lantern jaw, big red and yellow emblem on his chest.  The stories inside feature a wide array of writers and artists, but a more appropriate title is Superman: Some Pretty Good Stories.  Alongside the origin story from Superman #1 (June 1939) and the John Byrne revamp "The Man of Steel" from The Man of Steel #1 (June 1986) there are some curiosities like the 1940 short story "What If Superman Ended the War?" written and drawn by Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster for  Look Magazine and an otherworldly pin-up by none other than Moebius himself.  It's amusing to see the rudimentary yet compelling storytelling of Simon and Shuster as they pit Superman against the real world menace of both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.  All it takes is a quick trip to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and Superman deposits both dictators in Geneva, Switzerland where they're judged for crimes against humanity and the world enters a utopian age of peace and scientific progress...

"Must There Be a Superman?" by Elliot S. Maggin explains why such a scenario probably wouldn't have occurred.  In this story, reprinted from Superman #247 (January 1972), the Guardians of the Universe save Superman's life in deep space then perform a kind of brain washing on him to make him question his stunting effect on human evolution.  This story comes closest to being "great," an interesting attempt at answering a question the question posed in its title.  Should Superman solve everyone's problems?  And if so, would that set back our advancement?  It's illustrated by the legendary art team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson and it's a marvel of old school storytelling-- heroic anatomy that isn't overly exaggerated, easy to follow layouts and migrant workers shouting, "VIVA SUPERMAN!" as he rebuilds their shacks like a one man slightly-slower-than-lightspeed Habitat for Humanity.

My second favorite is Byrne's story borrows a few bits from classic Superman comic book lore, a little from the first movie and presents a sci-fi reworking of the planet Krypton into a barren world that looks like Monument Valley painted a sickly green, where its completely hairless population live without concepts such as love and react with shock at the sight of raw, shirtless Kansas farmhands via some kind of holography device.  Always one of comics' keenest minds for explaining away the ludicrous, Byrne invents a Clark Kent who didn't come into his powers all at once-- lest he rip his adopted parents apart and perform who knows what other horrors a la Rick Veitch's The Maximortal-- and uses body language and actor's tricks to convince people he isn't his charismatic alter ego.  Byrne's artwork looks like he's doing his best Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez impression-- very DC merchandising style, but with the characteristic Byrne cross-hatching and keen story sense.  There's a poignant moment where Clark, having performed his first miracle, broods in the dark of his boyhood bedroom after finding the resultant media scrutiny terrifying.  Byrne locates both the god and the man inside the superhero, but the story suffers from too much condensing.  We'd like to linger a bit, but Byrne disposes of entire reams of Superman legend in just a few pages-- and a lot of this stuff would be ripped off later in Lois & Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman and Superman Returns.  Not too shabby, Mr. Byrne.

I wasn't all that impressed with "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way," though.  The late, unlamented Wizard Magazine declared it the greatest Superman story ever, but apart from its central conceit-- quaint ol' Superman versus the British Invasion of smart but cynical and thoroughly dark characters, and by extension, the whole aesthetic of their writers-- but it's too choppy and fragmented.  The Elite just come out of nowhere with little build up and as a result, there's no rising suspense before the final confrontation.  Even the manner in which Superman defeats the Elite is left a little unclear, as if writer Kelly glossed over it because he was so entranced with the philosophical confrontation he never got around to working out the actual plot points.  In fact, he's way too oblique throughout most of the story and sacrifices impact.  He's not helped by some incredibly ugly art.  Some contrast between a Curt Swan-type Superman and some Frank Quitely/Steve Dillon-style enemies would have reiterated and reinforced the story's theme, but no such luck.  The pages look murky and unfinished.  You can't even tell what's happening half the time.  Someone apparently explodes at one point, but it's so awkwardly composed with the person's head partially cropped by another panel-- I suppose to direct our attention to the characters commenting on it in an oblique, nonsensical fashion who, for some reason, the artist has relegated to the background-- you wish it had just happened off panel and we'd only seen the reaction shots with a bit more explicit dialogue.  Speaking of which, Superman's final speech to a blubbering Manchester Black doesn't deliver the goods.  Sorry.

To be fair, I didn't read this story when it first came out in Action Comics #775 way back in 2001 and in the years since we've had rapes and murders, Identity Crisis making the regular rank-and-file of DC's caped marvels almost as nasty as the Elite are supposed to be and Wonder Dog devouring Wendy, so maybe I'm just jaded, so beaten down by the banality of all this caped decadence I can no longer feel Kelly's intended impact.  You really want a Superman who's a beacon of restraint and decency, and Kelly attempts to give that to us while scoring points off guys like Warren Ellis-- who's actually a damn fine writer-- and even DC's own Vertigo line, but when you turn all your heroes morally ambiguous and then pat yourself on the back for it, ironically it turns out Superman won the battle but lost the war.  This Superman doesn't even exist anymore.

There are some Silver Age amusements to be had, with Al Plastino well represented but Wayne Boring unfortunately absent.  And where's Bizarro?  They couldn't find an excuse to include even one single Bizarro story? Well, I guess one shouldn't complain too much when Jim Steranko and Mike Mignola make appearances.

Even at their best, none of these stories approach the magic of Superman the Movie, a relic of time when movie makers told stories.  The Hot Toys Superman is every bit as fun as the movie itself.  It doesn't scream "I'm from the 70s!" at you, though.  They've accurately reproduced Christopher Reeve from the movie and managed to create a timeless image of the first and still greatest of all the super-people.

But it's a little scary, too.  I showed it to my girlfriend via Skype and she freaked out over the eyes.  Too intense, too real.  The Reeve likeness is as close to perfect as you're likely to get, but it's got the same uncanny valley feel you'd expect to encounter in a Hollywood wax museum.  The uniform is spot on, a tiny reproduction of what was already an iconic visual-- the classic blue suit with red cape, undies and yellow highlights.  I paid a ridiculous amount of money for this figure but I had to have it.  I've been looking for the best representation of Superman in toy form for the past few years.  This is it.  By Jor-El's shade, this is it!  I also believe Reeve's performance as Superman to be the most perfect iteration of the character in any medium and this figure is a triumphant celebration of the role.  Part of the proceeds go to Reeeve's charitable organization, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and the interior box lid features a poignant dedication to Reeve.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Conan the Barbarian #1 and #2: a comic review!

Conan the Barbarian #1 and #2
Publisher:  Dark Horse
Script:  Brian Wood
Art:  Becky Cloonan
Colors:  Dave Stewart

 Conan gets run out of town and signs on as bodyguard for the merchant crew of a small trading galley.  Well, he actually bullies his way into the job to save his own skin.  It doesn't take the young barbarian long to befriend his sailing companions, especially Tito, their boss, but there's troubled waters ahead.  The pirate queen Belit haunts these waters and Conan's dreams.  One day Conan, Tito and the other sailors sight black sails on the horizon and two who were destined to meet join battle on the open waves.  And so scripter Brian Wood and artist Becky Cloonan open this new Conan series from Dark Horse, called, cleverly enough, Conan the Barbarian.  They're adapting Robert E. Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast" into comic book perfection.

To continue this nautical theme, there's a typhoon headed our way here in Japan.  We're sending our kids home early because many of them have to take buses and trains to outlying communities along the coast.  If we didn't, and the winds and rains lash us hard enough, these kids would be spending the night here at the school or at the train station.  And w would be in a lot of trouble.  And what thrills me almost as much as the darkening skies and quickening winds and an afternoon that looks suddenly like twilight?

Becky Cloonan's arwork!  I have to admit I'm partial to this kind of expressionistic linework a la Guy Davis, Paul Pope, Joe Kubert.  But it's not simply personal preference for a particular drawing quality or style.  Rendering style aside, Cloonan shocks me with how boldly inventive she is in visualizing her action sequences.  In the second issue, Conan jumps from a ship and kills a couple of pirates underwater.  Cloonan pulls back from the the aftermath into the watery depths to give readers a glimpse of couple of sharks looming for a quick and easy meal.  Truly gruesome!

This she follows with two bravura pages where Conan surfaces then cuts his way through some almost inhuman pirates.  Cloonan uses stacks of skewed wide panels for a dizzying effect, emphasizing movement then freezes time at the climactic moment with a full-page splash.  Why do so many artists refuse to take full advantage of these tricks, rather than relying on static, "widescreen" layouts with inset panels for close-ups and splashes seemingly at random just to show off their detail work?

Cloonan also excels at acting.  This is how you make your characters really live in breathe within your story.  She doesn't rely on stock poses and her characters never have the same expression from panel to panel.  Her young but scarred Conan looks back over his shoulder at his pursuers early in the story and there's a look of pure enjoyment on his face.  Later, he and Tito share more sober quiet moments, and they look at each other with manly seriousness.  Belit, however, is something else entirely.  More on her in a moment!

As strong as Cloonan’s art is, she’s working from a ripping script by Brian Wood.  I’ve enjoyed Wood’s work on DMZ, at least until I finally lost the narrative thread of the strong early issues, but I was so caught up in this Conan yarn I almost forgot he was the same guy.  From a war-torn New York City to the pre-historic Hyborian Age?  Quite the reach this Wood fella has.  And he’s not intimidated by the material.  He’s done no straight lift from Howard’s original, preserving it to the detriment of surprises and fun.  Because of Belit’s supposed significance in Conan’s life—as near as I can tell, she’s the only woman he ever fell truly in love with, although he slept with hundreds, virile barbarian was he—Wood introduces the idea of her earlier than in the short story and gives Conan a foreshadowing dream that appears nowhere in Howard. 

I’ll have to give Wood the benefit of the doubt when he waxes philosophically about war-time archery.  That’s not from Howard, either, but then Howard’s sea battle—while descriptive—is truncated compared to the wild fight found in the comic.  That’s some snazzy expansionist stuff, Wood taking an adapter’s liberty with the material and actually doing Howard one better.  Certainly when you adapt, you change and if you change, by all means you try to improve on your source.  Of course, it helps that Wood has some of Howard’s meatiest prose to build from, and, again, the unforgettable Belit.

Belit isn’t unique, at least in Howard’s work.  A little Internet digging turns up references to others and an image of paperback with the unfortunately generic title Sword Woman.  She's not even the only female pirate to cross Conan's path.  There's also Valeria from "Red Nails," but she's not a patch on Belit.

I’m not about to dig to see if Belit was the first of Howard’s warrior women, but she’s certainly—especially as envisioned by Wood and Cloonan—the fiercest of any I’ve encountered in years of reading Conan stories, including the previous adaptation of this particular one by Roy Thomas, Mike Ploog and John Buscema.  Howard had a tragic fixation on his mother, but I’m not about to engage in pop psychoanalysis.  He created at least two swordswomen—or, if you prefer “sword women”-- for other stories, one of which Thomas transfigured into Red Sonja while imposing some retrograde sexism on her origins and abilities, but I’m not about to make a case for Howard as an early feminist or 1930s Texas version of Joss Whedon.  He wrote this stuff for money, characters had to fit audience demands as interpreted by the editors buying the stories for publication.  Despite the often tossed-off nature and even the racist strains that unfortunately run through the original short story and more than a few of his others, Howard repeatedly shows his knack for making up compelling characters that elevate his better stories above those of his peers or consideration as mere hackwork.  

Whatever inspired Belit, wherever she came from in Howard’s imagination, thanks to the gang at Dark Horse, she prowls the seas again as one of Conan’s most formidable lovers, with a vitality and complexity that’s largely to Howard’s credit as a writer.  And this fresh take by Wood and Cloonan makes the Marvel version do a quick fade for her own safety’s sake.  According to the Conan Wiki, Conan and Belit spend “1000 days” together.  Howard telescopes that into a couple of short paragraphs limned in legendary language.  Poul Anderson also gave Belit completely detailed and completely extraneous backstory with the obligatory “out for revenge after a rape” cliché that I could have, in all honesty, done without.  That trope is moldy now and it was probably pretty moldy when Anderson slapped it on Belit with Howard too dead to protest. 

We all know action men seek vengeance for the murders of their girlfriends, their wives, their families, their soon-to-retire partners on the police force.  Action women go through arranged marriages and then get raped.  Alan Moore’s use of rape as an inciting element in an action woman’s life reaches its apogee League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1910 with the whole Jenny Diver/Pirate Jenny section.  I wouldn’t have cared if Pirate Jenny/Janni killed all those people simply because they were drunk assholes.  Whether or not she would be justified is beside the point because as Captain Nemo’s daughter she had it in her anyway.  Her inspiration, Berthold Brecht’s Jenny Diver, certainly dreamed about it enough without having been raped.  Or maybe it was Polly Peachum.  Whoever.  Howard didn’t see fit to introduce it into this story and hopefully, if he decides to flesh out Belit’s past, Wood will leave it out as well. 

In fact, let’s all agree to retire this bullshit forever already.  In my mind, Belit grew up wild and untamed—holy terror of her hometown, scared her parents and playmates half to death on a daily basis-- and when she was ready, she left home to explore the world because she’s a hot-blooded seeker of wealth and adventure.  Everyone was glad to see the back of her and they still have nightmares she’s going to show up at the door one stormy night with a severed head in every hand.  If it’s good enough for Conan, it ought to be good enough for Belit.  I have no idea if Howard put much thought, or any at all, into Belit’s backstory.  When you read the story or this comic, you see he just throws her at Conan at a time when she’s already a mythic figure, a near-goddess to her crew.  She sees Conan has a hot bod and likes to kill—he’s damn good at it, in fact—so she does her mating dance, and off they go!

John Milius and Oliver Stone would later loot then soften elements of Belit’s personality and ultimate fate for the character Valeria in the Arnold Schwarzeneggar-starring Conan the Barbarian.  While Sandahl Bergman cuts a dashing figure in that movie and steals scene after scene from the stolid Schwarzeneggar, she’s more a late 70s/early 80s southern California surfer-girl hedonist than untamed pirate queen.  Better Howard’s fully-formed Belit with her rage, her greed, and her lust for life, a singular figure flashing in and out of Conan’s life, the one Wood and Cloonan present in their Conan the Barbarian.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to educate myself on Becky Cloonan's comic book career.  That is, if this typhoon doesn't blow me to Crom's mountain first.*

*Written during Typhoon Guchol, which I seem to have survived.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I love me some Kuberts!

Amy Kuperinsky profiles legendary comic book artist Joe Kubert and his talented son Andy for the Star/Ledger-- an online news aggregator?-- with a name-check for Adam.  I'm shocked Andy and Adam are in their 50s.  I really thought they were younger for some reason.  But I should have known or guessed.  Both sons are seasoned pros with huge bodies of work.  I've just telescoped their careers because time really does fly.

My inability to understand chronology aside, there aren't any big revelations in the story.  Joe Kubert is one of the all-time greats, his sons adore him as a father and an artist, they have a school that's graduated a number of highly-thought of professionals in its almost 40 years of operation.  It's nice to read about a family that does comics together and it comes with a nice slide show, however.

Joe Kubert's garnered praise and awards throughout his long career, but even so as a comic book fan-- especially one who appreciates the old guard, the prime movers, the influences-- I feel any time of the day is the right time to think about him and the thousands of amazing pages he's drawn.  That he's in his mid-80s and still doing vital work is a wonder.  Most artists rise, peak and then decline, but Joe Kubert's charted his own curve that seems to have plateaued at a nose-bleed inducing level and just stayed there, decade in and decade out.  Not many artists get even a rocky little spike to that altitude of greatness and there sits Joe Kubert, a kind of mountain range unto himself.  Appreciate him and feel lucky we've been able to enjoy the view for so long.

The Kubert Mountains.  I thought to scale them when I was a kid copying his Sgt. Rock covers with a yellow #2 pencil into my school notebook.  I got about halfway up one of the foothills before pooping out.

How to do horror magazine covers the right way!

Now that I'm on a 70s horror jag again and because I damaged our imaginations with that Classic Horror Tales monstrosity-- so bad it looks like something I'd do as a joke-- I think it's only fair to share some truly beautiful covers.  I found a neat-o post at Retrospace about Skywald's entries into what soon became a glutted field (thanks to Marvel, who loved to flood markets and squeeze out other publishers).

Skywald never penetrated our market as far as I know because all of these are completely new to me.  Psycho?  I guess if you can have a Creepy or an Eerie, you might as well go whole hog with a Psycho.  It's as though Warren's books promised something slightly off, like that one guy at the comic shop who awkwardly starts a conversation with you but then won't shut up and he's trembling slightly the whole time and won't make eye contact, while Skywald's offerings were more like the guy running around downtown butt-naked who eventually got tazed to death by the cops.  While they're strongly reminiscent of Marvel's B&W line, Skywald's covers have the gothy cheesecake of contemporaneous Warren books along with similar eye-catching gore-- including one called Scream with what appears to be Peter Cushing after having part of his face ripped off in an auto accident.  Because ordinary Peter Cushing just wasn't scary enough.  Behind our disfigured Cushing a woman in a torn negligee looks on in dismay.

"You promised you'd stop fondling skulls after our honeymoon," she seems to be thinking.  It's upset her enough she's about to write Dan Savage who will advise her to "dump the motherfucker already."  She's been GGG enough but Cushing has an obligation to meet her needs, too.

Anyway, that's how you do horror magazine covers.  Your typography can be garish as all get-out, but your illustrations must have strong, uncluttered, well-balanced compositions.  You've got rotten corpses and semi-nude bodies galore, but they're pretty rotten corpses and pretty semi-nude bodies.  I want to read these.  Classic Horror Tales just makes my head hurt.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Give Me Back My Brain!

Since I was an over-imaginative extra-sensitive wuss of a kid, my parents rarely let me have B&W horror magazines.  After all, even a single panel from a Marvel/Curtis Planet of the Apes could give me a screaming fit at bedtime for two or three nights running.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced their objection was mostly about the price tag.  My parents were, for lack of a better word, cheapskates and 75 cents was a ridiculous amount to pay for a funny book, magazine sized or not.  On the other hand, my mom never practiced literary censorship in the home.  I read John Irving's World According to Garp with its descriptions of masturbation and marital infidelity before I was old enough to masturbate or get married-- remember, I grew up in the Deep South-- myself.

The kid across the alley, on the other hand, had stacks of B&W mags.  All those Marvel zombie and Exorcist-inspired stories, the science-fiction ones, the kung-fu ones.  Every once in a while when we weren't playing with Hot Wheels cars or plastic army men, we'd have a reading session and out would come the financially forbidden magazines of doom and I'd give into the feelings of curiosity inspired by the invariably lurid cover paintings.  I vaguely remember something about astronauts trying to land on Venus and ending up on the sun only to suffocate to death, a story of claustrophobic and apocalyptic despair that depressed me all afternoon.

The one that really scared me, though, was something called "Give Me Back My Brain!"  The plot is your standard EC zombie comeuppance tale.  I think it'ss about some jerky doctor type who removes another guy's brain for reasons I no longer remember.  Why do these comic book characters do the things they do?  Usually there's some sort of gain involved, romantic or financial.  Maybe the doctor just had a thing for brains, a fetish.  Maybe he saw a CAT scan and thought, "Wow, that is one hot brain.  I gotta take it home and do things to it.  Wild, erotic things!"  Probably not.  His motivation wasn't all that clear to me at the time, either.  Just the horrible end result-- the dead man with his skull cap flopping open showing up at the doctor's mansion and demanding, "GIVE ME BACK MY BRAIN!"

That was the story's hook.  The doctor is all, "Wait, dude, I ain't got your brain and even if I did, you're dead and got no use for it no more!" and the zombie is all, "GIVE ME BACK MY BRAIN!"  There was a chase through the tastefully appointed rooms of the doctor's mansion and finally a scene where the zombie shambles back to his grave.  Cut to the dead doctor, his own cranium opened and emptied of its brain.

Jumbo Size!  For jumbo-sized crapitude!
Come to think of it, I'm not even sure the villain was a doctor.  Whatever he was, why ever he did what he did, it's one of those stories that practically write themselves.  You could come up with all sorts of variations, too.  Give me back my sternum/my tattoo/my ear hair.  Creep victimizes sucker, is outcreeped in turn by sucker's corpse.  Satisfied, the corpse lumbers away.  Shock panel ending, lots of gore.

Today I started thinking about "Give Me Back My Brain!" again and decided to use my valuable work time doing a little research.  The story didn't appear in a Marvel magazine, which were relatively classy if not quite as visually compelling as anything from the prime years of Creepy or Eerie-- despite sharing a few name artists like Tom Sutton and Neal Adams.  Instead it appeared in a cheap knock-off apparently called Classic Horror Tales, and it wasn't even an original.  It was a re-write of an older story from Harvey's Chamber of Chills #6 (1952).  Checking the info on GCD, almost all the stories in this mag are re-worked or re-printed from Chamber of Chills.

The cheapness extends to the cover.  Pure ugly.  Why bother to paint figures that will only be covered by copy and inset panels?  It's a poorly planned composition, indifferently executed.  I'd love to find a copy and see if the interior art measures up to my memories, but looking at this cover I have my doubts.  This is one case where my hyperactive imagination must have done a number on my brain.

Give me back my brain, you stupid horror magazine!

Friday, June 15, 2012

When Returns... the Internet!

Face front, True Believers!  We've got plenty of pulse-pounding posts in the mighty When Comic Books Ruled manner flying at you like Thor and Iron Man after a round of espressos down at the superhero kaffeeklatsch.  Jarvis brews 'em just that strong, almost as strong as our line up of lively and lilting literary laff-em-ups!  You can bet the fine folk over at the Distinguished Competition are shaking in their fuzzy bedroom slippers* while we trip the light fantastic in ties-n-tails and those ol' dancing shoes we shined up extra special just for the occasion!

What occasion, you Faithful Ones ask?  And we Hard-working Ones answer:  The return of our Internet connection, which means a never-ending stream of scintillating stories and never-trivial trivia here at When Comic Books Ruled!  To wit:

ITEM!  How many lovers has Hopey Glass had?  Sources say it's more than a few!
             Let's count them!
ITEM! Professor X once orgasmed Dani Moonstar into betraying everything she
            stood for!
ITEM!  Serial harrasser Changeling fell hard for a lass out to do him and his
             idiot friends no end of harm-- and he wooed her with tentacles!
ITEM!  It's time for a close reading of the early days of our mutant merrymakers,
             the X-Men!
ITEM!  Alex Toth-related books are even now winging their way to Japan for our
             perusal and discussion!
ITEM!  An issue-by-issue study of the Cassandra Cain Batgirl series!
ITEM!  More Creepy, Eerie and possibly EC appreciation!
ITEM!  Marvel Star Wars!  It existed!  I like it!
ITEM!  They canceled the Terror on the Planet of the Apes reprint series!  We're
             going to have to do our part to keep the dream alive!
ITEM!  Stale jokes, sloppy art and more than a few surprises in store!

Who says this isn't the When Comic Books Ruled the Earth Age of Bashful Blogging Buffoonery?  Until Xi'an Coy Manh replaces her metal leg with the lamp from A Christmas Story...  MAKE MINE WHEN COMIC BOOKS RULED THE EARTH!

*Hey, fellas, just a little friendly ribbing!  We love you guys, natch, and we'll see you on the fabled softball diamond this summer at the Big Showdown!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hulk NOT confused: A guest editorial

By The Incredible Hulk

Hello!  This Hulk!  Keyboard puny not good for Hulks fingers and Hulk careful not to smash but Hulk find it difficult.  But also Hulk has important thing to tell reader of this blog.  Hulk hear one person read this blog.  Hulk sorry for this person.  Hulk want say find better use for your time but Hulk know not everyone have taste in reading material.  Why adult read picture book for little kid then write about it for all to see instead of hiding fact in shame?  Hulk think he must have screw loose!

Dont worry Hulk not snob.  Hulk read Stephen King on toilet.  King no artist with words but can tell story. Hulk once read part of Tom Clancy book but put it down because bad dialogue.  Point is Hulk was willing to try and not pass judgment before reading.  Puny blogger here can only run puny mouth about things blogger only guess at and not know.  Hulk hate blogger!

Ok now Hulk have to explain something.  Recently big movie with Hulk in it come out.  There have been other movies with Hulk. Eric Bana he good in Chopper.  Edward Norton he good in Fight Club.  Hulk think human can make good Hulk movie with them as Banner.  Hulk wrong.  But Hulk get no money from them.  Hulk get no money from this one.  Hulk think to smash movie producers but Hulk too busy.  So much smashing so little time.  It old story one Hulk sure you understand.  Hulk like Mark Ruffalo though.  Did you see Zodiac?  Hulk enjoy Zodiac where Ruffalo play police man.  Hulk often fight police army navy air force what have you.  If it wear uniform and have gun Hulk fight it.  Always puny humans in uniforms hound Hulk with their weak guns.  That is why.  But Ruffalo okay guy in Hulks book.  So Hulk think this movie okay.

Hulk lose train of Hulks thought.  What Hulk mean to talk about here is this drawing stupid blogger human make of Hulk.  Hulk hear of this from Thing during fight where Hulk and Thing wreck part of Yancy Street.  Hulk interested.  Hulk beat Thing!  HULK ALWAYS BEAT THING!  THING NOT SMART CHALLENGE HULK!  THING NOT SMART TO MAKE FUN OF HULK USING BAD PICTURE BY PUNY HUMAN!

Where Hulk?  Oh yeah.  Hulk beat Thing senseless with Things own foot then leave Thing remember what Thing tell him about picture  smash open Internet cafe look online and find this stupid blog.  Who this person think Hulk?  Hulk know who Maria Hill is stupid worthless human!  You are puny!  Hulk find person.  Hulk say why you make stupid drawing?  Person say I dont know.  Hulk say you stop lying about Hulk!  Humans always lie about Hulk!  Wont leave Hulk alone!

Hulk say Maria Hill work for SHIELD.  Maria Hill important in many events happen to Captain America and Iron Man.  Blogger say it news to him.  He not know that when he make drawing and not know why he kept thinking of name.  See?  Stupid blogger not know who Maria Hill is try to pin ignorance on Hulk.  But Hulk strongest there is!  Make Hulk angry and Hulk gets stronger.  Make blogger angry and blogger turns red in face and wets pants.  It almost make Hulk laugh but really it sad.  Hulk wonder what happened to human discourse.

So Hulk tell person he should feel bad for lying about Hulk and for fooling people who look for good picture of Hulk.  Hulk say you tell them not to look at your picture!  There better pictures of Hulk for them to look at.  Looking at pictures of Hulk is good thing good for the heart.  But not this one.  It bad for Blogger persons health.  Blogger person say Hulk you tell your side of story.  One person read blog.  Chance this person have family or maybe talk to other puny humans at some point in the future.  Maybe even have job where maybe talk about Hulk sometime even if no one listen it still get in their brains.  Hulk think.  Thinking not Hulks strong point but finally Hulk decide puny human blogger have good idea!  Now Hulk finished telling Hulks side.  HULKS SIDE ONLY SIDE!

You go outside.  Enjoy day.  Dont read picture book for little children.  If you do dont write about it like this person.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

That's Montgomery Cliff, honey! Chip Kidd's unique "casting" in "Batman: Death by Design"

DC, you're at it again!  Hot on the heels of your possible Katana series comes ace designer Chip Kidd's graphic novel Batman:  Death by Design, and I feel like Michael Corleone.  A wimpy, geeky, not very threatening Michael Corleone.  DC.  Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.  Or maybe I'm Sal Tessio.


Can you get me off the hook, DC, for old times' sake?

DC (shakes head)
Can't do it, Sally.

Tell Didio it was only Cassandra Cain.  I always liked him.

(DC gangsters lead him away to a comic book shop)

As a failed graphic designer, I've always had an attraction to Chip Kidd's work with book cover design.  I wanted to do that myself for the longest time, but the highest level I could achieve was designing the alumni magazine for a forestry school.  It's not false modesty.  I'm a decent enough illustrator, but I don't have the talent or the discipline for Kidd-level design.  If he'd merely designed this book I'd have been intrigued enough to check it out the next time I'm in Tokyo.  But his role as writer really adds some interest.

That's not what has me jazzed about this book, though.  It's not the story, which sounds smart;  DC's got a lot of these architecturally-based Bat-stories these days and that's usually an approach that hooks me because architecture is endlessly fascinating.  But no.  And it's not the artwork by Dave Taylor, which looks spectacular-- at least in the image accompanying the PW article about it.  It's not even that I truly prefer stand-alone graphic novels to monthly continuity and would prefer it if DC got out of the magazine business altogether and published books like this exclusively.  It's none of that junk.  It's something stranger and more personal.

What has me almost trembling with excitement and the determination to buy this book despite my on-going love-hate relationship with DC? This quote:

Okay, what if Fritz Lang was making a Batman movie in the ‘30s and had a huge budget and could cast Montgomery Clift and Grace Kelly in the starring roles?

Montgomery Clift's life has held a strange fascination for me for as long as I can remember.  It's such a tragic story, one of those things that just got stuck in my head at an early age, possibly from having seen Judgment at Nuremberg one day when I was home sick from elementary school.

Then the Clash mocked him and REM eulogized him in songs, which sent me into my deep research mode, a strange state where I'd mole my way into the reference section of whatever library happened to be handy and doggedly track down whatever facts I needed to know.  Kind of like a junkie looking for a hit.  Seriously.  When I become curious about something I'm that intense and the need is almost the same as an addiction.  These days I do the same thing on the Internet, only it's a constant processing of information.  And I remember this crap.  As a result, I can, in the same conversation, adequately discuss pre-dreadnaught battleships and then tell you more than you want to know about the NBC television series C.P.O. Sharkey starring Don Rickles, Harrison Page and Richard X. Slattery.

I learned all about Clift, his early successes, his avoidance of the Hollywood scene, the supposed rivalry with fellow method actor Marlon Brando, his disfiguring car crash and subsequent decline, his friendship with Elizabeth Taylor, his early death.  So Montgomery Clift is an exhibit in the Rod Serling's Night Gallery of my mind.  So is Grace Kelly.  And Richard X. Slattery, for that matter.

In the forward to one of his Batman books, Neal Adams once cast Ted Danson as Batman.  Tim Burton bizarrely yet successfully gave us Michael Keaton in the cape and cowl.  I think Adam West's biggest role was as a guy who dies in the opening reel of Robinson Crusoe on Mars before he took the role.  But Montgomery Clift?  That's pretty darned original.

All this by way of telling you I want to see Montgomery Clift as Batman.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Giant-Size X-Men #1: A retrospective look back in anger at a remembrance of things past!

Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum create
a classic image!

Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975)
Publisher:  Marvel
Story/Script:  Len Wein
Art: Dave Cockrum

This is where it all began.  The X-Men legend.  This is where the title began its rise from obscure Fantastic Four knock-off to Marvel’s flagship franchise.  Hugely influential and source material for a lucrative film series that helped jump-start the idea of “superhero movies” as we now know the genre--  yet its characters remain fairly obscure outside the comic book world.  We insiders—damned as we are-- may know how Banshee lost his sonic scream and chuckle knowingly at the strange concept of Nightcrawler’s being able to turn invisible in shadow yet have a face that’s always shadowed, but our moms and dads probably couldn’t tell Wolverine from tangerine if you spotted them a tree, a juice squeezer and six Hand ninja.

But hoooo baby, they love that singin’, dancin’ man Hugh Jackman!

Anyway, here we are at the beginning at last.  Giant-Size X-Men #1.  Years ago I bought a run of early X-Men from a friend for the grand total of 20 dollars and the use of my left-handed outfielder’s glove one day in P.E.  In return I had X-Men numbers 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 101, 107 and 112.  And I read them.  I took them to school, passed them around to my friends and we read them until they were wrinkled and puckered at the staples.  Take that, graded mint collectors!  But I didn’t have Giant-Size X-Men #1 and by the time I realized what I had that foolish friend of mine was on drugs and would rather trade his back issues for white powder and green leaf, neither of which I could easily obtain and transport back into the States despite possessing diplomatic clearance through customs thanks to a childhood spent overthrowing Communist-friendly regimes in Central and South America.  I was a precocious child and I will soon publish my memoirs detailing my cover story as a violin prodigy on a perpetual world tour that just happened to intersect certain geopolitical hotspots.  That is, if I’m not assassinated first!

I digress.  Eventually Marvel reprinted this story and I’ve since read it too many times.  And last night, I read it again.  The cover—by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum—is a classic image, one copied and homage many times.  Led by—of all things—a filthy, atheistic Red made entirely of metal, including his filthy, atheistic genitalia, the new internationally stereotyped X-Men burst through the old homogenously white American X-Men.  The cover copy promises something it calls “Deadly Genesis!” but the title page introduces a story calling itself, “Second Genesis!”  What the hell?  Can’t you people get it together?  Plus, that title sounds a little like a new herbal shampoo, superior to the previous formulation.

Herbal shampoos—I mean, getting it together is what this story is all about.  I’m speaking of the super-team.  With the original X-Men missing after an ill-advised trip to a tropical island in search of an all-powerful mutant, Professor X travels the globe and recruits his new students.  There’s Nightcrawler, who finds himself pursued by angry Germans—the inverse of what my great-uncle did to the lousy Hun with one of Patton’s tanks during the Big One.  There’s Storm, who flies around topless with her startling white hair conveniently covering her breasts no matter how many howling thunderstorms of wind and rain she calls up with her magical mutant abilities.  There’s the aforementioned Red, a beefy simpleton from a collective farm.  He’s later called Colossus and wonders aloud if his powers are everything Professor X claims, shouldn’t they belong to the State?  Not on my watch, Pinko!  Professor X also recruits a trio of ringers, three characters who had already appeared in Marvel continuity.  I’m referring to the Impossible Man, Flash Thompson and Irving Forbush.

Okay, okay.  He signs Sunfire, Banshee and Wolverine.  We all know Banshee thanks to the many movies made about him in the last few years, but Wolverine remains an obscure piece of comic book trivia.  Sunfire is one of those arrogant, angry, ultra-traditional “I hate the West” Japanese guys beloved by American comic book writers.  Because you can never have too much racial animosity in your superhero group where teamwork is at a premium and cooperation can mean the difference between life or death in heavy combat, Professor X also brings in Thunderbird, an Apache who beats up buffalo with his bare hands, feels “ashamed of his people” and has to be persuaded with the old reverse psychology trick.

This is probably my favorite storytelling moment in the entire book, because artist Dave Cockrum has Thunderbird walking away in a huff, only to stop and rub the back of his neck with his hand.  It’s reminiscent of my beloved Billy Jack movies, one of those moments I used to anticipate with my little heart all a-flutter where Billy Jack finally has had enough redneck bullshit and prepares to lay aside his pacifism in favor of kung fu mayhem.  Wein’s dialogue—Thunderbird says, “Ho-kay… that does it!” and you can almost hear his slow, husky, exasperated voice—only makes the moment more Billy Jack-ish.  Billy Jack-ish? 

Anyway, the Professor’s mind game works on the proud, angry Thunderbird and soon the petty squabblers find themselves at the X-Mansion where Cyclops shows up and starts barking at them like an army officer and addressing them as “people” in a clipped voice. People, the X-Men are missing!  Only you can save them!  Cyclops is curt and snappish because he’s a professional and time is of the essence.  But despite sharing a flashback with the newcomers, he fails to explain why they should care about his problems, much less participate in them. 

Take Colossus, for example.  Two days ago, Colossus had never heard of X-Men or capitalism or honkytonk music or Peyton Place.  Suddenly, he’s expected to go off on some dangerous, possibly lethal mission with a group of strangers, all of whom appear to despise each other and aren’t exactly shy about expressing it, to risk his metal neck for another group of strangers who, to hear Cyclops explain it, are just as hateful as the ones he’s with.  If I were him, I’d be heading back to the land of vodka and women with five o’clock shadows.  If I were Storm, I’d take off my shirt and go flying back to Africa where people worship me as a goddess.  Sunfire has that sweet castle and kimono-clad wife to go home to, Banshee can score sweet seats to the Tom T. Hall concert at the Grand Ol’ Opry.  If I had their lives, I wouldn’t be mucking around with this junk, either.  As for Nightcrawler and Thunderbird…

Well, if I were either of those guys, I guess I’d be stuck because their lives seem to have the least purpose, unless being chased by angry mobs or manhandling buffalo while seething with contempt for your own tribe count as purposes.

Len Wein was and continues to be a fine writer and editor—I point you to his run on the original Swamp Thing, various stories in DC’s horror titles and hundreds of fantastic stories over the years plus his editorship of Watchmen, but reading Giant-Size X-Men #1, I’m struck by how shrill and unpleasant he makes his cast.  Character conflict is one thing—the Fantastic Four used to bicker a lot-- but having Professor X deliberately court this particular group of truly unpleasant people is quite another.  There’s no reason for their snappish behavior other than the transparent mandate they flaunt “individuality,” and because conflict adds interest.  With almost 40 years of comic book reading hindsight, I can’t think of a reason why Wein couldn’t have used a little subtlety or at least balanced out the nastiness with a little sympathy. 

In the classic days of Marvel, Human Torch would needle the Thing until they came to blows or at least fireballs and angry threats, but there was always sense of brotherly love beneath it all.  And they were likable.  You could go to the movies with them, if you could ever get them to agree on what picture to see.  Human Torch has always favored those Judd Apatow comedies, while the Thing prefers anything with Steve McQueen in it.  At this point in the X-Men narrative we barely know any of these jokers, but I can’t imagine spending more than a minute listening to their lame cracks and randomly vicious insults, if even that long.  It’d be like hanging out with the Let It Be Beatles without ever having experienced A Hard Day’s Night.

Because she only throws one fit—and off-panel at that-- Storm retains the most dignity, despite wearing a cape, a monokini and thigh-high go-go boots.  By the time they’re all fighting for their lives against the menace of a living island that calls itself Krakoa— Shocking twist!  The ISLAND is the mutant, thanks to that catch-all explanation for anything that doesn’t other make any sense, magi—er—radiation— I was just sick of them as individuals and collectively.  By the end, I was rooting for the island.

Dave Cockrum’s art on this job isn’t as slick as the guy he’s imitating, Neal Adams.  Cockrum’s characters pose dramatically but stiffly, lacking the Adams fluidity.  Adams’s superpeople might run around with every muscle in their bodies tensed, but they’re flexible and sinuous.  Cockrum’s figures here are dynamic but awkwardly constructed.  They also seem to be shouting a lot, even when they’re alone—as Cyclops does when he finds himself on the X-Jet minus his teammates and his powers, or Sunfire when he’s flying along outside the very same jet well beyond earshot of whoever it is he’s supposedly addressing.  That’s probably due to their being a bunch of jerks.  Cockrum confines himself to traditional panel shapes for the most part, and the result is a bit cramped.  He didn’t really hit his artistic stride until the regular series, especially #94 where he and Bob McLeod teamed up to produce one of the sweetest superhero art jobs I’ve ever seen, the one that made me want to draw superhero funny books for a living way back when before life sent me off on a more punk rock filled course that led me to Japan for some reason.

On the other hand, Cockrum shows the one thing that really matters—artistic charisma.  Appeal.  You want to look at these pages.  And you have to admire the man’s effort.  He even manages to draw the impossible.  There’s a very strange moment where Cockrum has to depict magnetic waves descending to the ocean floor as the team finally comes together with a typically silly comic book solution to the the Krakoa situation.  Who knew islands actually float, kind of like icebergs?  In Cockrum’s defense, it’s easy for a writer like Wein to describe this kind of thing.  I just did it, and I’m a complete idiot. 

But as an artist, I can’t think of another way to depict visually one of the prime forces of the universe which is difficult enough to account for in physics theories, much less as the work of a team of superpowered human beings.  It’s best to think of this panel as symbolic, like an editorial cartoon where the inner workings of various congressional committees are turned into a visual metaphor so the kind of idiots who still read newspapers, much less their editorial pages, can understand how they’re getting shafted this week.  Unless you disagree with the artist’s politics, of course, in which case you need to know enough to write an angry blog entry about it or at least comment on a political message board thread about it.

No one can see magnetic force itself, only its effects, and no one really knows what goes on in committee.  It’s all guesswork on the artist’s part.  I don’t know what Cockrum’s politics were at this time.  Perhaps a kind of pro-mutant, anti-sentient island stance that manifested itself in that remarkable panel. 

He certainly made the ridiculous look ridiculously cool.  I miss him.

DC's Katana to star in her own book?

He's either in there or he's not!

I've read some articles, or items, speculating that DC has a Katana #0 coming at us in September with a cover by David Finch.   Okay, it's the same rumor twice and then referred back to.  That doesn't change the fact I read all three of them and it's yakuza, not yakusa (unless yakusa is simply an acceptable alternate spelling in which case good for you).  Oh, and the old Katana really did have her husband's soul in her sword.  I'm not so sure about the new one.  This rumor seems all the more likely when you consider Katana will be co-starring in Beware the Batman, the new "cutting-edge" CGI animated series coming next year from Cartoon Network.  You know how these media companies love to create synergy.  Which is just a fancy way of saying they like to advertise their other products within their products.

DC occasionally does things that seem aimed directly at getting me—specifically me—to buy their product.  Of course this is solipsistic thinking.  DC’s plenty happy with the 100,000 or so regular readers they have.  They’re not about to aim a title at any one person, especially not a person who spends half his blogging time telling their editors, writers and artists how to do their jobs—although I do know best-- and the other half ignoring them.  And they do just as many things to alienate me however inadvertently.

But sometimes… sometimes… 

I’d love to see a Katana book.  My reasons?  Even though no one at DC cares in the least, I’m going to share them here.  Because it is my blog and because it is bitter.

As an American living in Japan, I’m endlessly fascinated with how the folks back home view my adopted home.  I’ve liked Katana since her Batman and the Outsiders days and she’s by far the most visually appealing character DC’s got at the moment.  I’m also a huge fan of katana-slicin’ action a la Lone Wolf and Cub and Lady Snowblood—to name a couple of books infinitely superior to just about anything either Marvel or DC has done with their Asian characters.  Or in most cases, their North American characters. 

Not every comic can attain those heights.  Kazuo Koike is a genius and there aren’t many around who can operate on his level.  But more funny book writers need to aspire to that instead of aiming for Michael Crichton.  Or Brad Meltzer.  And don’t bother reading Memoirs of a Geisha.  A smart Katana book that balances ultra-violence with moments of great beauty and perhaps some mono no aware as well would hook me.  Don’t make it resemble a cheap Rush Hour knock-off.  Ignore the Hollywood influence.  Stop trying to cram Michael Bay nonsense onto the printed page.  Instead, go for the nastiness of Takeshi Kitano with the humanism of Akira Kurosawa.

I have the feeling—cynic that I am—they’ll do it and it’ll be full of shallow characterization and a setting influenced more by secondhand info and The Last Samurai clichés.  And it’ll be as disappointing as that god-awful Kato series I foolishly gave a shot for some of the same reasons I’m willing to take a chance on a Katana book.  I mean, it’s DC.

Still, I can’t help hoping this rumor turns out to be true…

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Last Son of Krypton: the paperback that wasn't a novelization

Marlon Brando gratefully and
humbly accepts his
Academy Award for playing
Superman's dad.
Remember the first Superman movie, titled Superman the Movie so we wouldn't confuse it with Superman the Comic Book, Superman the Restaurant Chain, Superman the Performing Stunt DogSuperman the Automobile and Mr. F.G. Superman?  Of course you don't! Few bother so why should you? And yet Christopher Reeve made the perfect Superman and somehow or other the producers talked Marlon Brando into wearing a Charlie Rich wig and a dress made of aluminum foil to play Jor-El.  They couldn't convince Gene Hackman to shave his head, but they did stick a bald cap on him for a scene near the end.

Well, I remember the movie even if it wasn't much of an earner and soon lapsed into obscurity, remaining a mere midnight cult oddity for assorted weirdos who like to dress in blue tights and red capes while shouting back at the actors on the screen and riffing on the movie's absurd dialogue and situations. I also recall using my allowance to buy Elliot S. Maggin's paperback Last Son of Krypton. I read the first chapter and almost threw it away. What the heck was this thing? It was nothing like the movie, which was confusing and infuriating because there was Christopher Reeve right there on the cover! I mean I  had already read the novelizations of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, respectively.  Who knew those two were such fantastic writers?  Plus they stuck fairly close to the movies, which wasn't surprising considering they also directed them.  But what was this Maggin character trying to pull with his non-movie story?

A few months later I actually read the entire book during consecutive dinnertimes and decided I liked it.  The sequence near the beginning with Albert Einstein taking an incognito trip to Smallville left me confused, though.

 Not because it's poorly written. It's not. Revisiting that chapter today, I found Last Son of Krypton positively Vonnegutian, minus the melancholic humor.  What makes me think of Vonnegut is Maggin's economy of language in explaining characters and action.  In fact, as I read the first few chapters, I kept thinking about Breakfast of Champions.   Einstein plays the role of Maggin's Kilgore Trout.  In Breakfast, Trout inadvertently sends another character off on a violent spree, while Einstein chooses to help midwife a heroic legend.  I suppose Vonnegut would ultimately reject guys like Superman and even Maggin isn't above poking a little fun at the Man of Steel himself-- Martha Kent pointedly refuses to expose her adopted son to Tom Sawyer prematurely, favoring the Bible and Horatio Alger.  Vonnegut might have poked the Kents with a sharper stick, but Maggin's approach is a bit more affectionate.

His prolific, mostly comical alien races also anticipate Douglas Adams's epic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series with a sequence in which Superman and Lex Luthor team up, travel to an a distant world and meet various bizarre alien species-- some of which happen to be biologically predisposed to careers as clerks.  At times, Superman's story gets lost in all the cosmic digressions, but they do tend to make you feel it's all taking place in a densely populated universe teeming with goofy beings.

No, the writing quality is more than adequate for what at first glance appears to be a cheapie movie tie-in.  I only failed to comprehend what was going on because I was only 10 or 11 when I originally read it. Yeah, yeah, I knew who Albert Einstein was; I just didn't understand his purpose in taking another name or walking around Smallville borrowing money, dealing in secondhand tractors and eating ice cream.  I remember thinking to myself, Why didn't he just use Einstein?  Oh, because he did, ya dummy!

Albert Einstein.  Did you know he and Leo Szilard once tried to invent a safer refrigerator for home use?  Instead of a nice metal box to keep our veggies and and sandwich meats fresh and our Sunny D cold without poisoning us with chemicals, they managed to help us create the means for the mass extinction of all life on earth with radiation.  Szilard later turned against nuclear weapons proliferation.  Einstein did other things, too.  In Last Son, it turns out the greatest mind of the 20th century wasn't simply spending his last years making sure Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins met cute and had genius sex, Hollywood-style. He also took a break from his work on the Unified Field theory to ensure the Kents were in the right place at the right time for a little sci-fi stork delivery.

Pretty clever, but the bit about the philtrum is what most impressed me as a kid and continued to linger in my mind even after I'd completely forgotten the book's plot.  Apparently there are only two places outside a certain part of the galaxy where the intergalactic tourist will find them and only those who have them are capable of smiling.  Is this true?  I used to quote it to friends and acquaintances as if it were, so I kind of have an interest in finding out after all these years.

Anyway, the book's online if anyone cares.  It's one of the better Superman stories and really deserves a wider audience.  I've been secretly reading it at work today!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vandalized Namihei statue's trademark single strand of hair replaced | The Japan Times Online

Vandalized Namihei statue's trademark single strand of hair replaced | The Japan Times Online

Someone really likes Sazae-san. Or single strands of hair. Well, whatever the case may be, even here in Japan if there's something fragile about a statue, someone's going to break it or steal it.

I've been meaning to read Sazae-san. At my old school here we had a copy of The Wonderful World of Sazae-san in the lobby but I never picked it up. Reading about it just now has intrigued me. Created by Machiko Hasegawa, one of Japan's first female manga-ka, Sazae-san debuted in a local paper before launching in the Asahi Shinbun. Hasegawa wrote and drew the strip-- apparently considered leftist thanks to its feminist themes-- from 1946 to 1974. It became a TV series in 1969 and continues in production to this day, making it old enough to be The Simpsons' mother. Pretty cool, if Wiki has its facts right. I could research a bit more and report back, I suppose. That gives me yet another reason to pick up this series.