COLUMNS

Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

Topical Reference To Clint Eastwood Designed To Appeal To Target Audience


Eat More Bikes! Nate has been on fire lately. You know what else has been on fire? The comic book internet, ladies and germs!

ABHAY KHOSLA HAS THE SCOOP.

So then in a Lookwellian turn of events, Mark Millar decided to use his comic-book fortunes to fund the battle against Rape Culture…?

This step in Millar’s career-long transformation into a character from a Terry Southern novel was triggered by a Twitter-Troll with a variety of noms de plume, most famously @mistere2009 (presumably after a DC character Wikipedia describes as a “psychotic and dangerous fanatic” driven mad after having seen his father’s “degrading and sexual” photographs of his mother and sister; p.s. yikes).  @mistere2009’s m.o. included tweet-stalking mostly female comic creators and comics journalists, usually intimating that they should be raped, tortured, violated, etc.; example: “He told me my children should die of cancer and I ‘need a raping.'”

Apparently, comic creator Ron Marz (author of the stripper superheroine title Voodoo and other less tasteful comics) was responsible for informing Millar of this Twitter feed. Upset by what he saw, Millar hired private investigators to track @mistere2009 down and identify him. Wait, sorry, I’m legally obligated to rephrase that… Millar hired A-list Private Investigators (who are household names because they are very famous) to track @mistere2009 down in a most blockbuster-ish manner. (I feel unclean now; how does he do it??).

According to Millar and his posse, @mistere2009 is a married man in his 50s living in San Diego. (“That figures,” I said when I heard he lives in San Diego, but that’s what I would have said if he lived basically in any city whatsoever because that’s just how I am and what my journey through life is like.) @Mistere2009’s various Twitter accounts have been shut down, and some legal action is presumably being contemplated against him. But misanthropic ghouls need not worry: in a show of hydra-like “cut off one misogynist troll and twenty more will grow in his place” solidarity, Robot 6 commentators have leaped to his defense and taken this story as the opportunity to mansplain why, according to them, he didn’t really do anything that wrong (example: “Big girls know Twitter has a Block function”).

But… but yeah:  Mark Millar is the Charlie to a Charlie’s Angels team of Private Dicks whose mission is to make comics a more inviting place for women. Sure. Who didn’t see that coming?

WELL! NORMALLY, WE’D MOVE ON TO THE REGULAR REVIEW PORTION OF THE COLUMN BUT INSTEAD THINGS SEEM TO BE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT?

EXPLANATION: This week, your columnist was unable (due to some unwelcome tomfoolery on the part of the United Parcel Service) to get his mitts on the latest installments of Hawkeye and The Shadow. In honor of the last-minute deadline punchers that built this industry, the decision was made to make the best of a bad situation, and clear the shelves. What follows are the books that would have ended up getting Serious And Thoughtful reviews, either over in what’s affectionately known as the “Clough n’ Collins Corner” of this very website, or over at comiXology, a website I don’t have any lame attempts at humor to describe. Don’t worry yourself into angry mobbery: things should be right back to normal next week.

By This Shall You Know Him
By Jesse Jacobs
Published by Koyama Press

An 84-page comic detailing a series of disagreements between world-building, life-creating Gods who treat an Earth stand-in as both a laboratory and arena for score settling, Jesse Jacobs never met a panel he couldn’t pack to the edge. This is a very easy comic to flip through and chortle at, with its goofy looking “bags of meat” characters, garbage-bag deities, and frank depictions of bodily functions, but the story is worth attention is well. It’s a laundry bag of cosmological concerns and Biblical stories, mixed with image repetition and the most immediate kinds of humor –a poop joke, for example–and what it might lack in conclusion is more than made up for in its unwavering commitment to style. As with everything else that I’ve seen from Koyama, this comic is eminently likable, reading less like a product for consumption than a direct-to-user present, a thing that Jesse Jacobs made for you, and you alone.

New York Mon Amour
By Jacques Tardi, Benjamin Legrand, Dominique Grange
Published by Fantagraphics

There’s four stories in this collection, but the majority of the page count is given over to the opening “Cockroach Killer”, a conspiracy thriller that reads like a ’70s New-York-Is-Hell movie if the movie was made without a stock Hollywood protagonist to focus on. (There’s a movie from the ’80s called Defiance, made by the same director who did Rolling Thunder. The first chunk of this movie, where Jan-Michael Vincent refuses to help anybody or to even participate in the neighborhood and speak to people at length, has a similar weightless quality.) All the visual shorthand is there, but the lack of some kind of questing agent gives the story a queasy, uncomfortable feeling, which adds to the level of confusion that our exterminator lead naturally brings with him every time Tardi draws his stupid, shlubby face. It’s not hard to see things going badly for Walter, and in Tardi’s unforgiving depiction, it’s hard not to welcome that badness when it finally arrives. He’s too much a victim to be a desirable hero. The later three stories are all excellent installments in the various ways the city can grind you into oblivion, and if that’s a bit of Krigstein in the excellent “Hung’s Murderer”, it’s a welcome connection.

Johnny Red: Red Devil Rising
By Tom Tully & Joe Colquhoun
Published by Titan

There probably aren’t enough people in the United States deeply in love with Titan’s reprints of ’70s war comics to make up a regulation volleyball team, and considering that even the most dyed in the wool war freak has been heard to say, “Jesus, how do you get used to this lettering?”, that probably isn’t going to change. It is, however, in keeping with the martyrdom of the comics publisher, and Lord knows my arms aren’t tired from saluting Titan and their commitment to making Garth Ennis (who writes almost all of the introductions for these oversized and underpriced hardcovers) and the other six of us happy. This volume of Johnny Red sees more of all the wonderful shit that showed up in the first volume of Johnny Red, only this time the story has turned our hotblooded criminal, guilty as hell, into a hotblooded criminal, framed as all get out, thus making his impossible to believe adventures that much more fun to believe, because now our improbable hero is fired by rage and honor, which is far more entertaining than guilt could ever be. Johnny Red’s constant improvisation saw the story through multiple shifts in continuity, his origin being only the most obvious example, but all of these changes were for the good, streamlining the character and his supporting cast into a well-oiled machine, intent on the delivery of brute entertainment. Coupled with Colquhoun’s essentially incomparable depiction of aerial combat, this volume is unashamedly extreme, perfect war comics that know how cool everything it’s doing must seem to its assumedly young audience. It’s less like Garth’s war comics (the most obvious comparison) and more like Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon–a cool thing that never winks, and cannot age.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Volume 1
By Various, Mostly Jim Aparo & Bob Haney
Published by DC Comics

This is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of Batman comics drawn by Jim Aparo. And while most of the stuff in here has been reprinted before in a series of excellent (and cheap) black and white Showcase editions focused on the Brave & The Bold series, it’s not hard to see why DC felt like going back to the well again. People who grew up during the reign of Aparo are now the reigning target market for a fifty-dollar hardcover collection of the comics of their youth, much like five years from now will see an explosion of interest in fancy editions of The Maxx, and maybe those issues of Hulk that Peter David did with Dale Keown. But don’t let the visible seams of capitalistic manipulation turn you away from the guaranteed pleasure that is this book: it is as promised, a veritable Bible of why Batman comics will always be the Platonic ideal, the very fiber of a man’s soul, the superhero comic that bests them all, even ones that are arguably more important or even provably “better.” Every story in here is a base hit, especially the first, which sees Batman taking an oath to protect a mother and son at the deathbed of a dear friend, only to then throw the kid in a burlap bag and kidnap him after becoming convinced he is the son of Satan himself, a story that reaches its macabre conclusion when the mother (now revealed as a murderous concubine of evil) and the child end up going over the staircase banister while Batman watches, plummeting to a grisly death. Like all good superhero comic books with some nostalgic connection to the reader’s youth, these can’t be overpraised: and these are legitimately excellent substitutes for the majority of human interactions.

The Furry Trap
By Josh Simmons
Published by Fantagraphics

There’s been a solid amount of recommendations already for this volume, and there’s not going to be any contrarian tut-tutting to be found here: this is worth reading, owning, and possibly gifting, especially if this political climate has got you hankering for a way to upset an uncle who doesn’t refuses to understand your “UNSUBSCRIBE” responses to his endless string of e-mail forwards regarding “our Muslim-in-chief.” You may think that your MOME subscription and wildfire Paypal transactions have earned you all the Josh Simmons comics this book contains, and that very well may be true, but trust The Weak, popular teen: having this much nasty in one hardcover is a reading experience like no other, and one you’d do well to deny not one minute longer. It does get funnier than this, but nothing funnier gets more harrowing. Lock it down.


28 Responses to Topical Reference To Clint Eastwood Designed To Appeal To Target Audience

  1. D. Peace says:

    Too bad about UPS as Hawkeye is legit cool, the kind of comic so confident in its steeze it’s a shock Marvel published it. Aparo is a real trip down memory lane – his Batman comics were, next to Severin’s movie parodies in Cracked, the first comics I ever read. (Even today, I consider both Severin and Aparo complete fucking masters of genre comics but that might just be my own personal nostalgia talking… there, see, you’re right!)

    Regarding New York Mon Amor, the “hero” so on the edge of pathetic that they’re almost impossible to root for is a mainstay of noir, you either love it or hate it. Tardi’s inky, sinewy depiction of New York is too excellent to argue, however.

    You’re winning me over on the Titan war comics. If they’re good enough for Ennis, they’re good enough for anyone. Speaking of Ennis, did you ever do a proper write-up of Battlefields (Dynamite)? I’m curious what you thought of that series of mini-series. I actually bought the omnibus editions! This fool and his money are happily parted!

  2. Jayhawh says:

    Them comic pix for the cyberbully story are so perfect. Not because they’re like OH WOOPS LOOK AT HOW CONTRARY THIS IS, but because it almost tells a story of what didn’t happen. “He said, ‘time to see what evil dick tastes like,’ so I was all, suit yourself, and watched him become a hot girl who threw his bra onto my head, even though he’s a guy, and I’m a lady who now suddenly has mirror shades and stubble.” And then somehow, not shown in the panel, is Millar making a quiet phone call to secret agents, possibly Emma Frost, who used her psychic powers to ALREADY KNOW about all of this, and switch the genders of the parties in question, teaching that troll a lesson by debasing himself with the sexy strip tease.

    Clearly, if a comic of this story were made, this is what should happen in it.

  3. James W says:

    I got a few of those Keown/David Hulks off ebay: completely terrible. I suddenly felt bad for all the ire I’ve pointed at Jeph Loeb – by writing unreadable garbage to go over appealingly-drawn monster fights, he was actually working in a Beloved Hulk Tradition.

  4. ant says:

    I think there’s at least one unpublished story in The Furry Trap.

    And…Joe Colquhoun is an amazing, amazing artist. Although Tardi comes close NO-ONE can depict the Great War like he can….His work on Charlie’s War is unsurpassed, such a beautiful tight-but-expressive brush-line, fantastic “acting”, wonderful compositions and an unerring eye for detail and mise-en-scene…why he isn’t mentioned in the same breath as, I dunno, the Trigan Empire guy who’s name escapes me or Frank Hampson, even Al Williamson!, is beyond me.
    Never seen the Johnny Red stuff before; anyone know which comic it originally saw print in?

  5. Don Druid says:

    I wish I, like, had that much acid.

  6. Tony says:

    Back then, Dale Keown was the perfect comic-book artist, insanely talented, before the corrosive US comic industry got to him. Re-reading those issues now is like seeing Kirstie Alley in a Cheers episode or Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, if you know what I mean.

  7. Scott Grammel says:

    If Dale Keown was ever really “insanely talented,” I for one would be extremely grateful to see some visual evidence to back up the claim. Because I pretty kinda strongly doubt it, as it is.

  8. Iestyn says:

    Those comics are really worth reading. My favourite episode of Johnny Red was the one where the russains captured a nazi pilot and killed him by tying him naked to a pole and then throwing a bucket of water over him. The caption box explained that the water would freeze and he’d slowly die of hypothermia.

    Now that’s comics AND education on the cruelty of war!!

    But really, Charlie’s War isbthe actual masterpiece.

  9. Iestyn says:

    It was in Battle, which eventually changed to Battle action force. One of the old square newsprint comics put out by Fleetway.

    The action force was the briish version of GI Joe. Eventually battlevwas cancelled and completely replaced woth a colour actioon force comic reprinting the american GI Loe stuff, but with different names.

    Sad if you ask me.

    So many stories in Battle were worth reprinting – The Rat Pack was cool and there was one called something like invasion where the drawings made evertone look like they were falling apart and might just blow away on the wind.

  10. Iestyn says:

    Great link!!

  11. Tony says:

    They’re reprinting Rat Pack, and Major Eazy and Darkie’s Mob, besides of course JR and Charley’s War.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Picture_Weekly#Collected_editions

  12. Briany Najar says:

    Don Lawrence drew/painted the best part of Trigan Empire. It was in Ranger and then Look and Learn.
    Joe Colquhoun: yes! Top notch, and Charlie’s War is absolutely the big one. Written by Pat Mills, so it’s definitely not in the G.I. Joe end of the spectrum. It’s grim, harrowing, and really much better than it needs to be to suit the demands of the weekly kids’ adventure comic it was in, just like most of Mills’ contributions to IPC/Fleetway were.

  13. Briany Najar says:

    On a side note: Joe Colquhoun did do the odd bit of humour work, such as The Goodies (based on the TV program) which is very nicely drawn and all, but I’m not sure if I find the pictures to be silly enough. The Goodies, in particular, strikes me as more suited to someone like Frank McDiarmid, but still, it’s good to see a bit of stylistic range. (Conversely, McDiarmid’s adventure strips pale next to Colquhoun’s and his own humour work. Horses for main courses.)

  14. Tucker Stone says:

    Darkie’s Mob already came out, it’s a really nice book.

  15. mateor says:

    I am pretty sure your eyes are broken. So, sorry for you.

    Dale Keown was Will EisnerGreg LandMoebius before there was Moebius!

    I bet you hate Archer & Armstrong too.

  16. Scott Grammel says:

    Tony, none of those links worked for me. “Server Error. ” “File Or Directory Not Found.” I had checked Google images for Keown and was completely unimpressed, but perhaps I missed out on the good, earlier stuff.

    Call it a draw then.

  17. TimR says:

    Boy, you concede defeat easily. Maybe you’re just being diplomatic, but I wouldn’t take no busted links as evidence of anything.

    FWIW, my memory of Keown’s Hulk is sort of neutral, leaning toward unfavorable (but with affection because it’s crap from my era of crap.) The prediction of hardcover David/Keown Hulk comics to come does make me chuckle. I’m curious about the insanely talented early Keown now too.

  18. Scott Grammel says:

    A draw isn’t a defeat; it’s more like a shrug.

  19. mateor says:

    Yeah, those dead links were a tease. I had my pants off already and everything!

    Although the links that did work weren’t the best stuff.

    Dale Keown also, in bonus proof, looks just like Ted Nugent.

  20. TimR says:

    To my thinking a draw is more than a shrug. Not defeat, clearly I spoke too loosely there. But I would still say to call it a draw is to give a lot of ground very easily, considering how you entered the ring and his (so far) nonexistent rejoinder.

  21. TimR says:

    None of the links worked for me.

  22. Briany Najar says:

    Kirstie Alley (Rebecca) was the downfall of Cheers – her and Frasier.
    It’s all about the tertiary harmony of Diane/Coach/Sam with grace notes from Norm, Cliff and Carla.
    Bold strokes; broad angles; yards of negative space.

  23. mateor says:

    As a big fan of Keown’s Hulk, I have to say you didn’t miss much. Black and white line-work, to be sure, but seemingly chosen at random. There is a page that solely consists of Bruce and Betty standing around arguing.

    Not exactly the dynamism I was hoping for when I took off my pants.

  24. Joe Williams says:

    You guys hating on Dale Keown’s Hulk need to go back in time (do it- I’ll wait) to the early 90s or whenever the hell it was and compare that book’s art to everything else Marvel was putting out then. It was damn good work in that it was taking some of the extraneous style of the guys who had/would become Image but doing it in a style that still had some cool elements of classic John Byrne and Alan Davis- clean superhero art in the modern style, if you will.

  25. TimR says:

    That’s interesting, I’ll keep that in mind next time I come across his stuff. I’m not really that familiar with his work.

    ps. I enjoyed the interview linked at your site. I too put a comic on IndyPlanet a year or so ago and have probably sold 0 issues (other than, a friend ordered one.) In fact, I recently tried to log in to check on it and the site didn’t recognize me at all, but my comic is still listed. And yet, I don’t imagine it’s because the comic took off and now they’re hording all the profits..

  26. Tony says:

    I’d hate to think that Keown 90-92’s only line of defense amounts to “compared to the awful crap everywhere else he was not so bad”. I think his work stands on its own merits as damn fine cartooning, regardless of the context. I agree though with the Proto-Image + Byrne/Davis equation, that’s (was) him in a nutshell, but the final product was better than the sum of its parts.

    Of course, 2 different sets of eyes can look at the same piece of art and come to opposite conclusions. I mean, the page with “Bruce and Betty standing around arguing” was Exhibit A in my pro-Keown argument. That’s why I put it in the first position. That’s Keown at his finest in my book. The facial expressivity, the body language, the nuance, the melodrama, the pitch perfect delivery of the layout and storytelling, it’s all there:

    http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=427605&GSub=66997

    But if you want dynamism, with equal panache he can deliver a majestic THE HULK vs THE BLOB sequence chock-full of all the stylized violent operatics and believable physicality that such a banal superhero spectacle demands:

    http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=472437&GSub=74186
    http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=472439&GSub=74186
    http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryPiece.asp?Piece=472442&GSub=74186

    Now, if you consider that first page wouldn’t be too out of place in a romance comic, I leave you with a quote from David Roach, comic-book artist, speaking about José Luis García López:

    “Fan-favourites are all about big statements, movement, action, speed and exaggeration. In romance comics there’s far more subtlety. The best artists are more concerned with body language, in the arrangement of shapes and patterns playing off each other to create a certain rhythm, a visual dynamic on the page. It’s so much harder to convincingly draw someone drinking a cup ot tea than an explosion or a fist fight.”

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