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Cherish Our History

Tucker's on semi-vacation in Florida right now, but before he left, he arranged for today's posts, including an interview with the longtime comics critic and scholar Marc Singer, about his new book, Breaking the Frames: Populism and Prestige in Comics Studies.

You argue that critics are often too quick to read in a critical stance or a critical perspective in the works they write about. So, for example, to use an example you don't directly address, people argue that V in Alan Moore and David Lloyd's s V for Vendetta is a repudiation of terrorist violence, rather than a glorification of it. Why do people want comics to have a critical perspective? And why are you certain in some cases that they don't, when so many other readers see that in them?

To the first part of the question about why people, I think that it becomes a passport to intellectual credibility for the comics themselves.

There's a common formula in criticism, not just in comics criticism by any means, where if you can show that the work itself is participating in a kind of cultural critique, then you've justified its place in the academy, you've justified its place in the academic journals. And you've justified your own work, because essentially at that point all you need to do is draft along behind it, and say, "Well, this work is criticizing terrorist violence, or this work is criticizing any other ideology we don't care for, and I can just sort of expose the critique and ride along behind it, and I've done some critical work as well."

I don't think that stance is always wrong. I think there are lots of comics that do perform that kind of critical work, and it's worth exploring it when they do.

Matt Seneca is here, too, with a review of Ruppert & Mulot's erotic comic, The Perineum Technique.

French cartooning team Ruppert & Mulot (whose mamas named them Florent and Jerome) are tough to put a label on. Setting aside the fact that "their creative partnership has grown so organically as to obscure the individual contribution of the work of either hand," per this book's press packet, their published efforts range as far and wide as any more familiar name that I can think of. Their first two offerings to the US market, an enigmatic short in Kramers Ergot and the bizarre metafiction Barrel of Monkeys, positioned them as hardcore avant-gardists, makers of work so full of sharp angles and jagged edges it could cut itself - literally, Barrel of Monkeys invites readers to employ the blade in rendering a magic lantern-type device from its pages at one point. I was genuinely shocked at encountering Le Grande Odalisque, the duo's frothy action-girl series with Bastien Vives, which shows that Ruppert & Mulot have another gear - or a whole different set of them. Odalisque's impactfully staged melodrama plays as well to the multiplex as Barrel of Monkeys does to the gallery space.  

The Perineum Technique, which is the first Ruppert & Mulot work you're at all likely to encounter in a regular comic store, squares the circle. This is a very heady comic that's fun and easy to read; unusual to say the least. On the surface it's smooth and sleek, about as far from "experimental comics" as can be, but much swims in its depths. One is compelled to turn its pages over again and again, scrutinizing the smooth shell in search of a chink or flaw that might explain why this fun, easy book also feels so strange.  

The Perineum Technique is unabashedly a romance comic, a new entry in a genre that's spent the past half decade poised for a big comeback that hasn't materialized. Romance is a genre comics has always done well, and one where new ground is currently offering itself up begging to be explored. Maybe it's symptomatic of the fact that comic books are mostly made by unlaid losers that the 2010s have delivered so many great comics about Being Online but so few about the way it's impacted modern romance? Regardless, Ruppert & Mulot are on the case with this baldly put tale of a love affair that starts on the apps and spills out messily into rl. 

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Slate and CCS have announced the nominees for their annual Cartoonist Studio Prize.

—Interviews & Profiles. Henry Chamberlain talks to Bill Griffith.

In 1976, Zippy began to appear in about 50 alternative weekly newspapers–syndicated only by me. From ’76 to ’85, Zippy was a weekly strip that I syndicated alone. In 1985, the San Francisco Examiner, a daily Hearst paper, was given over to a new generation. Will Hearst III called me into his office and offered that I do a strip for the paper. I thought he meant weekly. No, he wanted daily. That was a huge shock. I remember telling him that I’d have to think about it. I came back with a proposal for six months of backlog, running my weekly archives daily to help give me time to get into the flow of doing new material. He agreed so there I was in 1985.

Then, in 1986, one of the vice presidents at King Features came down to visit me in San Francisco and proposed that King Features take on Zippy as a daily comic strip. Once again, I was very surprised. This was not something I’d sought. Right away, I didn’t think the material was going to work around the country in places like Kansas City. King Features said to let them worry about that. I thought I’d try to kill the deal by asking for a lot more money than I’d been getting from the Examiner and King Features agreed instantly. They agreed to not censor me too. Suddenly, I was in New York signing a contract and trying to show salesmen how to sell Zippy. A couple of them got it and the rest looked like they wanted to be somewhere else.

At Popula, Shuja Haider interviews Eli Valley about his recent online encounter with Meghan McCain.

Do you see monsters in the right-wingers you draw, just when you look at them, or does it emerge as you draw them?

You’re asking if I see them in—what’s that film noir word?

Chiaroscuro?

Yeah, thank you, no, I’m not quite a dog who sees things in, such, whatever. But I do see them as monstrous personalities, and ethically beyond the pale of what we’re supposed to be when we’re acting with empathy towards other humans, and I try to convey that in my art.

But I’ll be honest with you, it’s my personal aesthetic, I like drawing this way, even when I’m drawing friends. I find the art to be aesthetically appealing, but others might find it offensive.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Brevoort tries to glean as much info as he can via a close examination of the original art from Amazing Fantasy #15.

Even the logo for AMAZING FANTASY was redone from the version on the original Ditko version. This is due in part to the fact that, despite what legend has often said about it, AMAZING FANTASY #15 was not intended to be the final issue of the magazine when it was being put together. In fact, researcher Will Murray was able to lay out a compelling case for what the contents of AMAZING FANTASY #16 would have been, working off of the story job numbers written on each story’s splash and used for accounting purposes.

—Misc. Bill Frisell's got a new guitar with Jim Woodring art.

 

Mr Body

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share the opening salvo from Marc Singer's recent release with The University of Texas Press. If you like what you see--or you don't, either response is fine in a click-based economy--make sure you're here tomorrow for Marc's interview with us on the project.

My aim is not to belabor this or that point in an online dustup over a comic book, nor to choose sides between Wilson and Lepore. Instead I want to highlight the telling divergences between their critical approaches, but also the surprising convergences—for the only thing that was at all strange about this exchange, which followed well-worn formulas for criti­cal discussions of popular culture, was that both parties held one principal but unspoken assumption. Lepore’s review is indicative of the approach taken by many academics who are unfamiliar with comics: she doesn’t engage with the actual comic in any detail, doesn’t place it in the contexts of its publication or its genre, and doesn’t seem to think it merits any more sustained critical argument. Wilson’s response is equally indicative of the approach taken not only by fans and creators but by many academics who identify as fans and who are intimately familiar with the world of comics: defensive, anti-intellectual, and adamant that good criticism should be aspirational, Wilson also exempts comics from sustained critical argument if that argument should prove too unsympathetic. What one rules out in her offhand dismissal, the other rejects in favor of populist resentment. Neither approach is adequate to interpreting even the most mundane comics, particularly in an academic context. This book attempts to chart another course, showing how comics studies can benefit from more care­ful engagement with comics texts and their many material, historical, and cultural contexts.

Extending this debate to the academic study of comics requires an important caveat. It’s one thing to criticize Harvard scholar Jill Lepore for her breezy indifference, even when she’s writing for a popular magazine, but G. Willow Wilson is not an academic. This doesn’t indemnify her from criticism either, but it complicates any attempt to cast her comments as representative of the populist tendency in comics studies. However, many academics who work in comics studies share the same assumptions and make the same arguments, including the celebration of unreflective reading and the suspicion of academic scholarship. Sometimes they even take the opportunity to prescribe these values for the field as a whole.

Today's review comes to us via Leonard Pierce--and it's of James Sturm's Off Season. He's into it, friend.

Did the election split open new wounds in our psyches, or did it just expose the damage that was already there? That’s the question that shades every panel of James Sturm’s moving, disturbing, magnificent new graphic novel, Off Season. Politics doesn’t intrude in the narrative in any obvious or arbitrary way; it simply crowds into the lives of its characters in the same ways, big and little, that it does to us all. Off Season isn’t a book with a political axe to grind, in which ideology stands in for our personal problems; it’s a book that illustrates how politics is inextricable from our emotional lives, and functions as both an influence on and a reflection of our interior lives.

Over in Florida, a state I am flying directly towards, probably at the exact moment you are reading this, ReedPOP has continued its expansion: they took over the Florida Supercon. ReedPOP is the part of Reed Exhibition that handles a bunch of geek culture conventions, some of which have healthy comics components. I don't go to any of these shows, and i've worked professionally in comics longer than many of them have existed. It gives me great pleasure to ignore them on a near permanent basis.

One thing you shouldn't ignore is the Comics Journal Newsletter: the new one came out today. If you're a daily reader, well God bless you, but if you're not, the weekly Newsletter is the best way to keep up with what's happening here.

 

 

Composition Problems

Today on the site, we have a report from the new Naoki Urasawa exhibit in Los Angeles.

The Japan House gallery is accessed through its storefront, which is filled with a range of tastefully made, lovingly displayed Japanese housewares, decorations, and books. “This is MANGA!” features some elaborate installations, such as a “tent” of banners bearing series of striking Urasawa panels, as well as a map showing where he’s been published throughout the world. There’s a mannequin wearing the costume of “Friend,” the cult leader villain of 20th Century Boys, from the Japanese movie trilogy adaptation of the comic. A table out front has laminated recreations of notebooks Urasawa kept when he was young, which show off his early artistic progression.

But the show’s main element is a series of three-sided displays throughout the gallery, each of which is dedicated to a specific Urasawa series. With manga-style arrows helpfully telling visitors where to start and how to read, each side follows the process by which a manga page goes from concept to completion. This is illustrated via original art from Urasawa, with a wealth of nēmu (storyboards) provided for the show. There are around 400 pieces of such art in the exhibition, giving patrons a detailed look at the nuances of comic art, and helping laypeople understand how things like layout and framing play into one’s understanding of a scene.

Nathan Chazan is here, too, with a review of Michel Fiffe's licensed GI Joe comic.

Blessed with the opportunity to tell his own stories at whatever pace he wants, Fiffe reanimates the cliches and visual licks of the comics that clog the quarter bins (and our hearts). Whether in the '80s superhero analogizing COPRA or the continuity calculus of Bloodstrike: Brutalists, Fiffe’s artistic exuberance doesn’t just make good comics, it makes for comics that make you want to read comics.

With GI Joe: Sierra Muerte, Fiffe continues his foray into personalized expansions of the quarter stack with an official tie-in comic from IDW, the patron saint publisher of glossy new toy commercials. Unlike previous works in this vein from Fiffe, there are some serious constraints on what he can do in this book. COPRA had the benefit of being an original story, albeit one populated by familiar faces with serial numbers filed off, and even Bloodstrike was continuing a narrative that honestly few people remained attached to (at least not moreso than Fiffe). GI Joe is not the media force it was in the mid-'80s, but it still is one, and Fiffe has both fan and publisher expectations to bear in mind on this title. There are genuine external constraints on this book - he can’t push the formula too far. And besides which, Fiffe is a diligent fan himself in many respects, and the house style of GI Joe is not quite as outlandish as some of the material he’s riffed on in the past. As such, there is something of a ceiling on the excitement of this comic that I haven’t really felt before in his comics. The storyline is captivating, but a little boilerplate, and the parade of characters tossed by the reader in issue one are entertaining but it’s hard to have much attachment to them without the excitement of prior familiarity. Even the visual flair seems a little tampered down in comparison to other Fiffe books, although still wildly experimental in comparison to anything else on the Wednesday racks.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. At Smash Pages, Alex Dueben interviews Cathy G. Johnson about her new YA comic, her work as a teacher, and her podcast, among other things.

Drawing a Dialogue is a comics scholarship podcast that I do with my friend and peer e jackson, and it’s about putting comics into historical and educational contexts. So we’ll take a topic that pertains to comics, such as transgender identity or autism, and then we will share academic research with our listeners to broaden our collective understanding of comics. My segment of the podcast is particularly about education. I am part of the equity and inclusion committee at the school I work for now, and it’s something that we talk about a lot, that people’s knowledge about subjects limits us and can gatekeep others. This is also true in publishing and the art world. So our effort with the podcast is to take knowledge out of the ivory tower and change the conversation around comic books, to hopefully create a more equitable future.

The New Yorker has an ultra-brief interview with Jaime Hernandez.

Nadja Sayej at The Guardian has a brief profile of Robert Crumb to go along with his current exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York, images of which have been posted over at The Paris Review's site.

—Reviews & Commentary. I usually try to avoid spending much time covering superhero movies, but because this is an issue that also bleeds into comics, I thought I'd link to two recent articles on complaints that Captain Marvel demonstrates a too-cozy relationship between Marvel and the United States military.

Behind the language of representation and inclusion, some critics see evidence of a problematic relationship between Captain Marvel and the Air Force, which had an active role in the film’s production, received numerous plugs throughout its promotion, and assisted in publicizing the movie. The film comes at a time when the Air Force faces a severe shortage of pilots (especially women), a recent “readiness” crisis due to its fleet of aging aircrafts, and a worsening epidemic of sexual misconduct. Even with all this baggage, the Air Force plans on expanding back to Cold War-levels, making public opinion more important than ever.

Over the course of the production, the Air Force gave the film access to Air Force historians, Edwards Air Force Base, and Air Force-operated F-15Cs, according to Lt. Col. Nathan Broshear, director of the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, who was the project lead officer for Captain Marvel. During the film’s pre-release marketing, the Air Force performed at least two flyovers to publicize its opening, one at Disneyland and another at the Hollywood premiere. Broshear says that “all costs are passed on to the production company.”

Derik Badman writes about a recent Sam Glanzman collection.

[The] first issue is just totally crazy. The Admiral of the submarine has this long vision of the destruction of New York City due to the effect of what “the Enemy” has done in the Mariana Trench to cause sea levels to rise. In a most unusual move, throughout all four of these issues the antagonist is always just referred to as “the Enemy”, never seen, never named, never explained in the even the slightest way (are they aliens? is it a they or a single individual? why do they keep trying to destroy the world via created natural disasters?). I do notice on rereading a panel that shows a mysterious looking clawed glove crumbling a map of the United States, but the sketchy panel borders on that image make it read like another vision not a glimpse of the actual Enemy (oddly, it reminds me of the gloved antagonist in the Inspector Gadget cartoon).

—Misc. Eli Vally and Meghan McCain had an interesting exchange on Twitter last week.

Monster Brains has a great gallery of Gahan Wilson cartoons up right now.

 

Pew Pew Pew

Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to share Oliver Ristau's take on an exhibition of Émilie Plateau and Jul Gordon's work, which is taking place until March 23rd in Bremen, Germany. 

Serving as a model was also a point brought up while I was talking to dessinatrices Émilie Plateau from France and Germany's Jul Gordon during an exhibition of their creative work, which wasn't limited to the showing of drawings alone. After years of publishing fanzines – Gordon with the Tiny Masters bunch consisting of the likes of Anna Haifisch or G.W. Duncanson, Plateau with the collective Nos Restesfounded by Belgium's conscientious objector to mainstream comics Jérôme Puigros-Puigener – both now share first-time releases of their comics in hardback editions. You can read this as another manifestation in terms of reification by emerging from the world of self-made zines and their fleeting nature.

And here we are at Day Five of Jesse Reklaw's Cartoonist Diary, where things get meta, and he reads...Cartoonist Diaries, here at TCJ? I did not see that coming.

Today's review comes to us from Tegan O'Neil--she's fallen pretty hard for Julie Delporte's This Women's Work.

I’ve always loved books assembled from artist’s sketchbooks: there’s no more exciting version of comics to me than something small and intricate made by hand and reproduced in such a way as to not merely preserve but to lionize the format’s material limitations. It’s hard to forget that we are supposed to be reading someone’s personal narrative when the story comes in the form of a personal scrapbook or illustrated notebook. A few years back I noticed that more and more books I was receiving from women artists seemed to be going for a raw and studiously rough presentation in terms of medium and execution - specifically, directly reproduced colored pencils seemed to be multiplying. Eventually I came to see the move - a widespread gesture with clear roots in Lynda Berry’s nonfiction comics, among many others - as a studied turn away from the hyperfocus and discipline of the masculine-coded industrial precision of turn-of-the-millennium comics auteurs, to say nothing of the pervasive slickness of most computer-based commercial art in 2019. There’s room to breathe here. Negative space isn’t bound by tight panel grids. She mentions Louise Bourgeois at a couple points throughout the narrative, and you can actually see the influence, with swaths of minimal, almost primary color set as stark central design motifs at various points.

In the streamlining services department, Image has shut down a subscription service called Image Direct. Based off the laziest form or research--looking at the reactions in the two places that acknowledged this news initially, which was Bleeding Cool and reddit, it doesn't seem like this was a very well-used service that Image offered, and should not be used as proof of any one particular argument or theory about the future of the direct market. Unless you really want to, of course.

Heidi MacDonald watched Fox & Friends so that you don't have to, and she's got the tapes to prove it. Ben Marra's team up with Joe Casey--six years in the making, you're welcome--featuring our Lord and Savior in full hyperviolent regalia was the current topic du jour on that television show. Please to enjoy!

 

On the Margins

Kim Jooha returns today with a look at the work of Stefanie Leinhos, which Jooha considers to be a kind of "conceptual comics" akin to conceptual art.

The impression of eternity generated by the repeated image appears again in The Long Goodbye (2014, Printed by Stephan Rosentreter & Photo by Peter Hermans). The "long" in the title acknowledges the endlessness. The forever departure has another conceptual meaning in addition to the appearance of the work. According to the artist:

The drawings … were made directly on the zinc plates and only existed for the time being of the printing process itself. The plates were washed out afterwards and handed over to the next user.

Say Goodbye to the original drawing and Hello to the original print!

The original is destroyed, and the reproduced becomes (the nearest to) the original. In The Long Goodbye, Leinhos literally erases the privilege of the original.

And we have day four of Jesse Reklaw's week contributing our Cartoonist's Diary.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. Wiley Miller has issued an apology for the anti-Trump message found in a recent strip, which led to a number of newspapers cancelling Non Sequitur.

Remorse is an understatement. I'm gutted by my own poor judgment.

"Non Sequitur" has been my pride and joy, as well as livelihood, in a cartooning career that has spanned 42 years. The strip has been in print 27 years, and garnered many awards. During that time, I've drawn just shy of 10,000 strips, and not a single one contained such a vulgar, foolish, unprofessional "venting."

CRNI has written a letter to the Supreme Court of California defending Ted Rall in his recent case against the Los Angeles Times.

Of course we recognize that Mr Rall’s case differs in the scale and gravity of the alleged criminality at its heart, (neither jaywalking nor the allegedly exaggerated blog post are acts of sedition) but the intent and effect of the ensuing events have produced alarmingly similar results. That a freelance cartoonist could be expected to pay the legal fees of one of the country’s largest and most powerful news outlets seems an injustice so skewed as to be clearly intimidating to other writers and artists. That the incident involves the police could be construed as a further warning against challenging the authorities. Those in positions of power have seized upon an opportunity to silence a critic and serious, perhaps irreparable, damage has been done to the career of a popular and acclaimed cartoonist.

—Interviews. I missed this recent interview with Yoshiharu Tsuge at Zoom Japan.

Starting in 2019, your work will be translated into both French and English. It was quite a long wait, though.

T. Y.: You wonder why it took so long?… It’s hard to explain… For a long time I tried to escape other people’s attention. I’ve never liked to be put under the spotlight. I only wanted to lead a quiet life. In Japan we say ite inai, which means living on the margins, not really being engaged with society, trying to be almost invisible if you like.

 

Beginnings

Today at The Comics Journal, we've got another go round with Josh Kramer--today, he's speaking to James Sturm about all the various life experiences that ended up getting poured into the creation funnel on the way towards the creation of Off Season, his most recent graphic novel with Drawn & Quarterly.

This is kind of a different mode for you to work in. So many of your books are set in the past, in America or Eastern Europe. How did it feel to be working in a contemporary setting?

I liked it. I liked that it reengaged me to my surroundings. That car that Mark drove, I’ve sold it since then, but it was my car at the time. That house that he’s doing construction on is basically my house. The snowstorm, the streets, those are all Upper Valley. The tire place, etc. I really enjoyed that.

I remember, within a week or two of the election, talking to the cartoonist Summer Pierre and both of us expressing a visceral need to just draw things in front of us. That was that big question after the election: why weren’t we paying attention? And it was my big question, after being conned. This need to just kinda ground yourself, as opposed to all the online stuff, and even doing historial stuff, you are pulling resources offline and looking in archives.

For another taste of contemporary life, we've got Jesse Reklaw with the second day of his Cartoonist Diary. Today, he's using one artform to describe another!

My apologies for today's late and abrupt blog entry. It's my daughter's sixth birthday, and we have brownie sundaes to eat.

 

How to Make God Laugh

Today on the site, Greg Hunter concludes his two-part look at how the character of RoboCop was used in comics, and whether or not the satire and social commentary of the original film survived its adaptations...

After departing Dynamite, RoboCop found his next home at Boom!, which adopted an approach similar to Avatar’s, bringing in Steven Grant to adapt Frank Miller’s unused screenplay for the third RoboCop film, this time with artist Korkut Öztekin. The result, the RoboCop: Last Stand mini-series (2013), is a diminished work, even by the measure of Frank Miller’s RoboCop (Avatar). Whereas Miller’s original screenplay for RoboCop 2 managed to approximate RoboCop’s post-human manneredness, the Miller script Grant uses for Last Stand gives the character stock noir dialogue. The story’s take on a corroded Detroit is also more perfunctory; when readers see a commercial for something like the forced reprogramming of rude children, it has a direct link to Last Stand’s larger plot. The work here resembles The Spirit (2008), a film in which unchecked Millerisms smother the identity of its source text.

Last Stand begins with RoboCop in hiding, framed for a series of murders but committed to protecting Detroit’s most vulnerable. The city’s police force has collapsed, and RoboCop is effectively at war with OCP, aided by a rogue engineer and RoboCop super-fan named Marie Lacasse. Battles rage within OCP as well, allowing Faxx, a scheming researcher, to rise to the top. Faxx, whose work involves “molding [a person’s] existing personality to a more socially acceptable matrix,” is a character nearly identical to Margaret Love of Frank Miller’s RoboCop, down to Last Stand’s irony-free attempts at titillation. These resemblances occur often throughout the series; it’s a wonder Boom! had any confidence Last Stand might stand on its own. The comics read not just like an echo of the film RoboCop 3 or Grant’s Miller adaptation at Avatar but also of Miller’s other works.

Jesse Reklaw is here, too, with the second day of his Cartoonist's Diary.

And Josh Kramer has a review of Lucy Knisley's pregnancy memoir, Kid Gloves.

Before I get into reviewing Lucy Knisley’s new book, Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, I need to own up to something. Until giving Kid Gloves a serious read, I thought of Knisley solely as a memoirist. Her five autobiographical graphic novels recall the mostly charmed twenties of a middle class American white woman.

Knisley has long acknowledged her privilege. "I am lucky. I am aware of that," she writes in 2014’s An Age of License. "Yes, I make work about food and art & travel BUT THERE IS MEANING IN IT if to no one else but me."

And clearly others have found meaning in her work as well. Knisley is an award-winning and New York Times best-selling author. She attended both the School of the Art Institute and The Center for Cartoon Studies. [I did also but we did not cross paths.] Six books by age 34 is no small accomplishment. But here’s the thing — I was wrong about her.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. This weekend brought the announcement of one of our greatest living cartoonists, Gahan Wilson, is suffering from dementia, and in need of help with funds for medical care. His stepson has set up a GoFundMe site here.

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother's passing, the facility is about to discharge him. We must find him a memory care facility immediately.

—Interviews & Profiles. The most recent guest on RiYL is Mimi Pond, and the most recent guest on Virtual Memories is James Sturm.

 

No Ledge

Today at The Comics Journal, we're starting up another Cartoonist Diary--this time, it's with Jesse Reklaw. His week starts off with Tai Chi! I'm already at superfan level.

That's not the only thing we're launching--today also sees the first installment of Greg Hunter's two-part study in Robocop comic books. Young people may only have heard of Robocop via a series of Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials featuring the character, but prior to those appearances, the character was featured in multiple comic books. Mr. Hunter, please to enjoy:

Numerous iterations of RoboCop after 1987 exist outside of comics: two film sequels, a reboot, and multiple television series, none of which benefited from Verhoeven’s black humor or the push into the grotesque he gives eighties action-violence. Even a couple of the non-comics spin-offs have a notable sequential connection: Frank Miller. Coming off the success of The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Miller turned to Hollywood, with mixed results. Although he received a story and a co-screenwriting credit for RoboCop 2 (1990), the final film is far afield from Miller’s vision for the sequel. Miller returned to work on RoboCop 3 (1993), again receiving a story and a co-screenwriting credit, with the finished movie again disappointing him. “Don’t be the writer,” Miller later said of the experience. “The director’s got the power. The screenplay is a fire hydrant, and there’s a row of dogs around the block waiting for it.”

The experience may have slowed Miller’s cinematic rise, but it did not mean a break with the RoboCop character. Before the release of the third film, Miller scripted perhaps RoboCop’s best-known comics appearance, the RoboCop Versus the Terminator mini-series (Dark Horse, 1992). At this stage, Miller maintained much of his deftness as a comics writer. He neatly combined the two franchises through the premise that RoboCop’s merger of human and machine supplied the self-awareness necessary for the eventual robot takeover of the Terminator films. (At first, the story’s Terminator machines seek not to destroy RoboCop but to defend him from a time-traveling revolutionary.) Miller also writes for his artist, Walter Simonson, a heavy hitter in his own right.

Our review for the day is of the first volume of Mob Psycho 100, courtesy of Tom Shapira. He's on the fence, but leaning pleased.

ONE’s other major effort is Mob Psycho 100, which ran from 2012 to 2017 and is just now being published in English translation. Looking at the surface it would be easy to criticize Mob Psyco 100 as derivative of the author’s previous work; the focus of the first volume is on ghosts and psychic powers instead of superheroes but otherwise much is the same: like Saitama the protagonist of the story, Shigeo Kageyama AKA Mob (as in ‘one of the mob,’ not a gangster) is overtly powerful in a way that allows him to end any conflict easily; like Saitama his biggest issue is his passivity which allows the danger to flourish until he finally arrives to deal with it; just as in One Punch Man there is a con-man who uses the hero’s powers to advance his social statue. Both series seem to exist as an inversion of popular shonentropes – in series such as DragonballBleach and Naruto the hero must become stronger through a series of fights, life as endless struggle that demands constants self-improvement. Both One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 start with hero already the strongest one there is and work from there.

Yet despite these similarities it would be wrong to brush aside Mob Psycho 100 as a case of second album syndrome. First, because even if it operates within the same perimeters they are narrow enough to make it feel unique compared to other works; second, because we often allow beloved creators to offer a corpus of work that is undeniably of similar bent; and third, because Mob Psycho 100 is just good; which probably trumps all other arguments. 

RIP Keith.