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Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

AVX 2NITE, AVX 4LIFE

Cerebus #51
By Dave Sim
Published by Aardvark-Vanaheim

The problem with using the expression “talking heads” as shorthand criticism for shitty comics is that a comic consisting mostly of conversation, built around static, repetitive close-up panels of people yakking doesn’t have to be a terribly boring way to spend one’s time, even if it always seems to be, always, every single time. Why, here’s this issue of Cerebus—which takes place between the High Society and Church & State story lines and is thus found in neither of those collections—serving as a decent example of the form’s usefulness. It’s not a great comic–well, it is comparatively, but if we were really speaking “comparatively,” all we’d be talking about right now is how The Raid: Redemption is so much better than absolutely every form of time-burning outside of intercourse, at least since that last issue of Ganges came out–but it is good one, and it speaks to what a delightful writer Dave Sim could be when he was seeking to tell a good joke, as opposed to now, when a joke is all he has become.

Avengers Versus X-Men #0
By Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Frank Cho, Jason Keith
Published by Marvel Comics

This is the second comic featuring a robot crying in a three-week period, so if you guessed that it was time to start the Summer Event portion of super-hero comics before April has crested the horizon, you should be pretty pleased with yourself: Lord knows I am. There’s going to be a lot more fun to be found in the upcoming weeks, as it’s hilariously clear that Marvel is planning to turn up the dial on the whole “Cyclops is a Zionist” thing while, in the same issue, featuring scenes with a robot crying because his wife (the Scarlet Witch, who still wears an outfit that would exhaust the notoriously indefatigable Nikki Dial) showed up at the clubhouse the super-heroes live in and tried to come inside and hang out for a little bit, which totally hurt the robot’s feelings! Thankfully, Jason Aaron is there in the second story to remind us of the alternative to being a crybaby, which is when a character gets so lost punching an unconscious bank robber over and over and over again in the face that somebody has to pull them away, and that’s when you see that close-up panel of the character’s ravaged, blood drenched knuckles and realize that Feelings are the REAL final frontier, and learning to manage them is what being a hero is all about. Dude, this is Marvel comics, we’re grown-ups in this motherfucking house, and we’ve got freedom, and comic-book Israel, and there’s some crying robots, look at all these chicks who wear thongs outside, the Jesus stand-in is over there punchingsomefuckingbitchassskullzin, this is the real shit, it’s the AVX. Trick or treat, asshole.

The Flash #7
By Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Published by DC Comics

There’s no titty, no racism, and you’ll find a much higher violence quotient watching a preschooler play make-believe: but believe it or not, this is a contemporary DC superhero comic. It follows the exploits of DC’s absolute worst character (and that’s a competition that encompasses Voodoo and Sergeant Rock’s idiot son), Barry Allen. Liked by no reasonable human being under the age of…oh, let’s say death, that’s a wide enough net, Barry is a cop with a crew cut so yellow it could only have descended from the most Aryan of stocks, brought back to life in the DC Universe by Geoff Johns in a force of selfish editorial will that does a finer job describing the man’s feelings about comics better than any of the hundreds of stories he’s ever written: Geoff likes Barry Allen the best, and these shine boxes belong to him. However, due to circumstances beyond his control (actually, circumstances he created that were totally within his control), Johns had to hand the actual chore of writing Barry’s adventures to his artist partner, Francis Manapul. And with the assistance of his colorist Brian Buccellato, Manapul’s Flash title has become an intermittently entertaining read, albeit one with plots built to showcase Manapul and Buccellato’s consuming passion for the eye candy aspect of what a super-hero comic can be. Over and over again, the comic strives mostly to stun, and they’re able to manage a solid bit of visual quirkiness every few pages, like panels built out of rivulets of tears, tiny fractures of ice spreading in the wake of speed, or a melodramatic language built mostly from the way Manapul renders eye movements. It’s a display of skill that’s remarkable mostly in how it’s being so totally wasted–here, after all, is a comic that might appeal to children, right when DC has fully mastered the ability to keep those sorts of people outside in the rain, along with all the fucking girls.

Archie #631
By Dan Parent, Rich Koslowski & Digikore
Published by Archie Comics

This is the beginning of a follow-up story to a previous “Archie gives it to Valerie” story, which was popular in some sense, sure, maybe. (It’s impossible to gauge the success of an Archie comic book, as the only people who could tell anyone the actual sell-thru numbers have such a tenuous grip on the truth that it would be only mildly surprising if one found out that half of their employees regularly deny the earth’s roundness.) The comic itself is one of those things that publishers occasionally toss out amongst the public, a story carrying with it some distinctly good connotations; in this case, a healthy interracial relationship in a medium that barely has any, with prominent, Archie-level physical contact, all while pretending that they aren’t doing it to court controversy, despite the fact that they are, of course, courting controversy so hard that they’re practically dripping ejaculate out of their nostrils at the thought that some sexless woman in Kansas might just fall upon an Archie comic where he’s kissing somebody who isn’t white and will then proceed, with all the pent-up energy of an underfucked racist, to do them a solid bit of free advertising. We’d love to go to bat against her with a bat made of words, but the Journal has a long-standing tradition of refusing to stick up for comics that look this fucking horrible. And if we’re being totally honest, us liberal East Coast homosexual art snobs have been trying in vain to put Archie to sleep for years: it might be time to let the book burners give it a shot.

Let’s take an Eat More Bikes break with Nate Bulmer:

That was fun. But it would also be fun to look at the time when Batman comics crossed over with the words Walking Dead:

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #1
By Dennis O’Neil, Jim Aparo, Keith Giffen, Joe Quesada, Joe Rubenstein, Malcolm Jones III, Tom Lyle, Ty Templeton, Dan Spiegle, James Blackburn, Michael Golden & Steve Oliff
Published by DC

This is one of those basic stories that’s probably been done enough times that you can rest assured some dime-store lunatic has burned off some shut-in hours documenting the framework’s origin: call it a hallucination tale, if it’s a category your personal diagnosis requires. The song sounds like this: we meet our protagonist (in this case, a Jim Aparo Batman so badly colored you’ll swear this comic had been drawn by Hugo Pratt) dragging a laundry bag up a snow-covered mountain. From there, our hero battles his way through a series of dream sequences, all of which are only engaging insomuch as some of them are less horrible than others. Batman is able to conveniently break himself out of the trance right at the moment when Adolf Hitler and The Obeah Man start calling upon Germany’s finest to rise from their graves and get back to camping, and then the comic ends with the realization that Batman got hit in the head pretty hard and that bag he’s been dragging has the Joker in it. In your face, expectations!

Crossed Badland #2
By Garth Ennis, Jacen Burrows, Digikore
Published by Avatar

Whereas Garth’s first Crossed mini-series made rough stabs at having a plot when it wasn’t picking on Robert Kirkman or testing the limits of what savagery Jacen Burrows is willing to draw (the answer seems to be that Burrows has no limits whatsoever), the writer’s three-issue stint on Badlands isn’t even bothering. Instead, you’ve got this: a graphic bit of violence, an anecdote explicitly ridiculing some of the Walking Dead’s accepted conceits (don’t miss Rick in the bottom left corner), and a blunt climax that serves mostly to prove that the only reasonable faith left is one cast in the blackest cynicism. You can argue with him if you’d like, but only after you’ve read The New Deadwardians, which is a recent Vertigo comic that depicts upper class vampires in straw hats trying to solve murders amongst their maids and butlers while avoiding the gaping maws of lower-class zombie hordes in post-Victorian England: otherwise, we’ll all know that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Young Blueberry Moebius 6
By Charlier & Moebius
Published by Graphitti Designs

This is a signed-by-Moebius hardcover limited to 1500 copies and published by Graphitti Designs in the early ’90s; hopefully they’ll be able to sell all of them someday. Unlike most of the other Graphitti Blueberry collections, this one isn’t a straight reprint of the Epic collections. Instead, it focuses on the Young Blueberry books that Comcat put out, which are somewhat difficult to find, overpriced, and poorly bound. Then again, there’s a lot of unusual information to be found in the hardcovers, which might be why Graphitti has had such a hard time finding a home for these books over the last twenty years–comics fans are, after all, notoriously uninterested in Moebius, Moebius interviews, unpublished Moebius art, and this book is packed to the gills with that kind of irritating, unwanted bullshit. Suffice to say: Westerns of any kind > all fantasy literature ever published.


43 Responses to AVX 2NITE, AVX 4LIFE

  1. Matt Kish says:

    Jesus, a Nikki Dial reference? Damn.

  2. DerikB says:

    You should add dates (at least years) to these, so I can understand which are “new” comics and which aren’t. Obviously Cerebus 51 is pretty damn old now, but the rest…? That will perhaps (or not) increase my enjoyment, or at least help me better understand, how sad I should feel about the pitiful state of the comics “industry.” Are these new comics recycling old, empty ideas, or are they old comics recycling old, empty ideas?…

    I guess it really doesn’t matter.

    Sim was a master at comics where nothing happened, or where the only thing happening were conversation (be they internal or external).

  3. dude, you totally ruined the end of that batman comic I was never going to read!

  4. and how do I get a cool little picture next to my name like these other guys? Do I have to join some club? or just not be ignorant of teh internet?

  5. RickV says:

    Website has a profile, profile has a spot for an image usually.

  6. Tim Hodler says:

    Great column, but you’re crazy if you think Westerns aren’t just another form of fantasy.

  7. DerikB says:

    Try: http://en.gravatar.com/ I’m pretty sure that’s why my icon appears.

  8. thanks guys!
    jeez, my site is google, hosted, you’d think my google profile pic would appear. whatever. maybe I’ll try that gravitygun thingie when I have time.

  9. Joel says:

    “You’re crazy if you think Westerns aren’t just another form of fantasy” is the sound of impotence. Tucker, the Comics Journal is not good enough for you.

  10. Tim Hodler says:

    Big fan of cowboys, eh? Sorry I killed your boner.

  11. Mike Walker says:

    Maybe Graphitti is still sitting on those hardcovers because there is no description on their website as to what is in those hardcovers. OH HEY there it is on Amazon for 100 – 125 bucks, still no description of the material it contains, or that it’s autographed. OH HEY Stuart Ng books has a description of it! And they only marked it up $30!

    Yep, I hate Mobius, that has to be what’s going on here. The people selling these books have been doing Mobius so many favors that it’s really the only explanation.

  12. Tony says:

    Any Western fan should never miss Doug Wildey’s RIO, coming in May from IDW in a big 300 page hardcover collection with all the known stuff and never before published stories.

  13. Iestyn says:

    Any comic fan full stop should get that Doug Wildey book. He did a licensed title in the eighties about a boy – based on a cartoon. The artwork and particularly the colouring were so beautiful.

  14. KenParille says:

    I’d also like to see the years listed

  15. Joe McCulloch says:

    Not that anyone asked, BUT:

    Graphitti Designs presently stocks the latter six of their nine Moebius hardcovers – presumably vols. 1 through 3 have sold out, as they collect all of the really popular SF material. Confusingly, the Graphitti Moebius books — signed and numbered hardcovers all — do not correspond to the identically titled Marvel/Epic Moebius series of softcover albums, nor do they restrict themselves to only collecting material published by Marvel/Epic.

    Here’s a rundown – all volumes are available for purchase at or (owing to dust jacket damage) below cover price from Graphitti’s site.

    Graphitti Moebius 4: Blueberry: Collects the Marvel/Epic albums Blueberry 1 (1989) and Blueberry 2 (1989), which — delightfully — also do not present the series in precisely chronological order, as it was decided by somebody in charge to begin the reprints with somewhat newer material from 1973-74. There’s also a long essay in front (The Life and Times of Lieutenant Blueberry) by Charlier, which I don’t believe was in the Marvel/Epic volumes, although I don’t own any of them to know for sure. (It did eventually show up in Mojo Press’s 1996 The Blueberry Saga: Confederate Gold, which reprinted the comics content, at least, from all five of Marvel/Epic’s initial Blueberry albums at a reduced size in purportedly crummy b&w, along with an otherwise untranslated piece culled from a portfolio set.)

    Graphitti Moebius 5: Blueberry: Collects the Marvel/Epic albums Blueberry 3 (1989), Blueberry 4 (1990) and Blueberry 5 (1990), which follow up directly from the prior two albums, so you’ll want to read them in order. This is material from 1975-86.

    Graphitti Moebius 6: Young Blueberry: I.e. the book Tucker reviews above, collecting the Catalan/Comcat albums Young Blueberry 1: Blueberry’s Secret (1989), Young Blueberry 2: A Yankee Named Blueberry (1990) and Young Blueberry 3: The Blue Coats (1990). Owing to its origins, I’m thinking, this volume is printed on a non-glossy stock (much nicer, in my opinion), in contrast to the Marvel/Epic-derived volumes. The Young Blueberry series is set chronologically before the main series, although the comics were produced from 1975 through 1979, re-formatted from their 1968-70 serialization in a digest-sized quarterly iteration of Pilote. Note that Giraud writes and draws one of the stories himself. There’s even a little guide to the re-formatting, along with (as Tucker indicates) a bunch of neat bonuses like ’50s and ’60s Giraud comics — one of them written by Pierre Christin — and little essays by Jijé and Jean-Claude Mézières.

    Graphitti Moebius 7: Collects the Marvel/Epic album Moebius 7 (hey!) (1990), being the third part of Giraud’s The World of Aedena cycle, The Goddess, which has some nice images but kind of comes off as an attempt to re-do The Incal in a third of the space without Jodorowsky. Also included are the Dark Horse album Moebius 0 (1990), collecting pre-Métal Hurlant stuff like The Horny Goof and a tiny short colorized by Joe Matt, and Graphitti’s own Moebius ½ (1991), collecting early ’60s Hara-Kiri shorts and assorted rarities, including a b&w deleted bit from The Incal which later figured into Jodorowsky’s The Metabarons.

    Graphitti Moebius 8: Blueberry: Collects the Marvel/Epic albums Lieutenant Blueberry 1 (1991) , Lieutenant Blueberry 2 (1991) and Lieutenant Blueberry 3 (1991). Having almost run out of stuff to reprint — save for 1990′s Arizona Love, which would eventually show up in issues #46-50 of Dark Horse’s Cheval Noir comic book anthology — the series reaches back to 1970-71. A bunch of the yet earlier albums were published in English by Egmont/Methuen and Dargaud in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

    Graphitti Moebius 9: Blueberry: Collects the Marvel/Epic albums Marshall Blueberry (1991), closing in gap in these editions with content from 1972 (which is to say, bringing us up to Blueberry 1/Graphitti Moebius 4), and Moebius 8 (1991), collecting the original Charlier/Giraud Jim Cutlass western from 1979, as seen in last week’s Comics of the Weak. FULL CIRCLE, MOTHERFUCKERS!!

  16. Charro says:

    I wouldn’t denigrate Dave Sim like that. It seems unfair, given the inspiration, insight and absolute integrity he’s provided so much of and still does. Though I like much of what TCJ has to say, this is very unbecoming and undignified. I’m not surprised of course, looking back, but maybe someday, some good sense in this area, can prevail among this infantile impulse of put-downs.

  17. Joel says:

    Wow, man. You went back and edited that comment? Is that what you serious, erudite comics types do with your time? This is why you’ll never be a real man, Tim. You will never craft the perfect dick-based retort.

  18. Kim Thompson says:

    Who’s denigrating Sim here? Tucker called his writing “delightful” and said the issue of CEREBUS under consideration was a “good” comic. Even most of those who of us who think the first decade-plus of CEREBUS was often amazing (I remember there were months in the 1980s when I thought the current issue of CEREBUS was better than the current issue of LOVE AND ROCKETS) and Sim was a genuinely great cartoonist (see Tim Kreider’s overview in CJ #301) have to agree that he’s gone on to become a joke in many ways. But a shitty late career doesn’t mitigate the rest of it. I think you’re responding to what you think the “COMICS JOURNAL attitude” toward Sim is, not what’s being said here. Chill.

  19. Tim Hodler says:

    You’re right, I edited the second line thirty whole seconds after I published it the first time. I thought the tone was off, and didn’t feel like deleting the comment and starting again. Sorry about that, anonymous internet tough guy! But please teach me more about being a Real Man. I want to be one so bad!

  20. Mike Hunter says:

    ————————
    Tim Hodler says:

    …Sorry about that, anonymous internet tough guy! But please teach me more about being a Real Man. I want to be one so bad!
    ————————-

    Check this video out: http://www.kino.com/video/item.php?film_id=995&affiliate=vfyo&kino_promo_code=GADWPP11&gclid=CIiQjLyLka8CFQid7QodBSHwQg

  21. Charro says:

    Tim Hodler,

    Some ingredients here to get you started: confidence, civility, tact and respect.
    Also, your reply is no way to open a dialogue, unless you want to resort to name calling. Kim Thompson at least had an articulate response.

  22. Charro says:

    Hi Kim,
    It’s a simple point I was trying to make. A good analogy might be someone like, Miles Davis, who’s 80′s albums aren’t as inspired as the many brilliant albums he made over the years, but I still think someone after so many years, who has made so many contributions to the art form, plus an unwavering dedication/EFFORT to the cause independent comic publishing, might be excluded from being designated as a joke. I may be over-reacting, though after reviewing some of Dave Sim’s more recent output, I still think it’s a harsh call.
    I mean he has published some really good, informative interviews in, Following Cerebus and has exposed many to the history of ‘photo realists’ in comics for Glamourpuss, not to mention a valid expose of the holocaust. Given these aren’t of the usual narrative form comic art is judged by, I still feel there’s dedication and integrity in these efforts.

  23. Kim Thompson says:

    I don’t disagree (much). I think it’s very sad that some genuinely extraordinary work of his has been overshadowed by some of his subsequent lunacy. But Sim’s sociopolitical views (and attendant paranoia) are still demented to all but those who think Rick Santorum is too liberal, and the last many years of CEREBUS at least are for the most part unreadable. And I really don’t know what to make of the fashion portions of GLAMOURPUSS. (The photorealist-cartoonist stuff is genuinely fascinating, including his apparent intense dislike of Caniff.)

    Congratulations to Sim for swimming against the current of popular opinion and bravely arguing that the Holocaust was bad and fashion models are stupid, in any event.

    Not to end on sarcastic note, I would never argue that Sim doesn’t have plenty of talent, dedication, and integrity.

  24. ant says:

    WOW as if IDW is reprinting Rio!!! Doug Wildey, a truly under-appreciated master of the form. Thanks Mr. Walker.

  25. A tremendously horrid comic like Crying Robot Chronicles (pictured above) can have a gravitational effect of drowning out and negating better work.

    Daredevil was nice this week and BPRD was fairly compelling (fairly) but blown out of the water by the absurdity of a crying robot. Good comics don’t stand a chance.

  26. Charro says:

    My apologies, Tim, I thought your response was related to my comment. I should have read the earlier threads more closely.

  27. Charro says:

    I do have more important things to do, it’s stupid, but I got to say, this Vision, Scarlett Witch coupling is one of the more ridiculous things going in comics and pisses me off.
    I missed their mini-series but still, how is it that she could even decide to fall in love with a machine?

    Also, way back somehow, she had some children with ‘him’, right? I didn’t follow all the details, but I guess they have a sex life? Marvel could at least redeem themselves and, at least talk about these things. I mean, were their children half android? Also, the obvious question, why is it that the Vision has to cry? Is this a Philip K. Dick statement of some sort? Why this silly melodrama? Although this is escapist entertainment, does it have it to be completely stupid/annoying. Are the comics in other countries, this silly?

  28. Tim Hodler says:

    No worries. I was more baffled than offended. Thanks for explaining.

  29. Allen Smith says:

    I suppose the Scarlet Witch fell in love with the Vision the same way some people fall in love with their sex toys. Maybe if Marvel had advertised the comic as an X rated comic on that basis, they would have had a runaway hit on their hands.

  30. RegularSyzedMike says:

    What’s hilarious is that Vision crying garbage was listed as one of the “best panels of the week” or whatever on a fanboy site. I could never get into Avengers even at my height of super hero comic consumption in my early teens simply because of how Soap Opera it was…even by super hero comics standards.

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  32. The truly sad thing is that Marvel is putting out some stellar comics such as, “Wolverine and the X-Men,” but this Avengers Versus X-Men business will suck in all the comics, forcing them to tie-in and dragging them down to the level of a crying robot. I still love mainstream comics though, I can’t help it, even if so many are kind of wretched!

  33. James W says:

    Just found out New Deadwardians is a real comic. Wow.

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  35. Mike Walker says:

    Thank you, Joe! I appreciate your hard work. Graphitti ought to be cutting you a check.

  36. Lugh says:

    It’s good to see that indie people can be as childish and petulant about their idols as mainstream comics fans.

  37. Lugh says:

    I too am mad about developments in superhero comics from the early 80s.

  38. Lugh says:

    It is written by Dan Abnett though, so I’ll at least give it a chance despite the ridiculous premise!

  39. Adrian Johnson says:

    Bless you, sir! You’ve answered my Moebius Blueberry prayers.

  40. Tom Spasic says:

    Oooh, i really really shouldn’t. Not here at TCJ of all places. But I’m going to.
    The Vision is not a machine. He is an artificial human. He is the recorded brain patterns/function/something of a dead man, in an artificial brain.
    He is a human being’s mind/brain in an all-prosthetic body. No flesh at all but a more or less normal human consciousness.
    Now, before we all roll our eyes about how stupid that is, bear in mind it’s in a superhero comic and you seemed to have no issues with him walking through walls or altering his density or firing solar energy from his eyes. So don’t start in with the eye rolling or I’ll turn the internet around and nobody gets to see the apocolypse. Is that what you want? Is it? Is it?
    *ahem*
    So that’s how she fell in love with him, ‘cos he’s as much a human person as anyone else in that fiction. It’s also why he blubs. Cos that’s how people roll. Lovin’ an’ blubbin’.

    And ham fisted though it all is, and under explored though it all is, he’s been used to raise some questions about identity, humanity, prejudice and some other vaguely interesting stuff. Once every thirty years or so, anyway…

    Oh, and the kids were even more of a stretch. Original version had Wanda alter probability so that one un-fertilized egg became fertilized (Vision not having all the necessary sperm producing bits, apparently), so while not a virgin birth it was sort of parthenogenesis. Later retcons about the kids birth were somehow even more stupid than everything I’ve already typed.

    Sorry for the eminently mock-able knowing of all that, but you did sort of wonder…but probably now wish you hadn’t.. or that I recognized rhetorical, sarcastic questions. Well, I don’t.

  41. Paul Slade says:

    I have to know: What’s the even stupider version?

  42. Tom Spasic says:

    There are some things man was not meant to know…
    It involves fragments of the soul of a West Coast Avengers villain called Master Pandemonium being bound by Wanda to be the souls of her children, who were somehow “imaginary” and would disappear whenever she wasn’t looking at them, or thinking of them, because she was a crazy woman who could not control her “reality warping powers”.
    It’s hard to believe that there was a time in my life where I somehow took some pride in knowing all this. Now it just seems symptomatic of some tragic mental illness on my part….

  43. Graham says:

    I didn’t cotton on to Moebius until after he passed, but I’m stoked that I was able to get these great editions at a price which is incredibly reasonable when everything else is going for insane prices. When I emailed Graphitti designs I made a comment about how hard it was to find them and know what was in them, they responded saying that they prefer to make the books available to fans rather than sell them to those who want to just buy it to sell on at a profit – which is already rife. I for one am glad they’ve taken that stance – many other fans probably aren’t but then again part of the fun is the hunt.

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