Hey you! Nate’s back! And I went to a farm! There was a cow, a bunch of chickens, there was even a fox that comes and steals the chickens for killing–old beds, wooden stuff, all that shit. I read comics at night because I’m from the CITY, and we stay up late but the farm people don’t. I read so many things! Most of the comics I read in these last few weeks were read while I was on a plane or in an airport. I mention that because one might find that I’m rather pleased by everything, and that isn’t always the case. Airports must make me happy.
This is a new Michael DeForge comic. It’s not a mini, but it’s still kind of short. It’s about a couple of people and a body, and fucking, and following the rules. It’s mostly told in a nine-panel grid, which is a big deal to a certain type of person, and sometimes I’m that person and sometimes I’m not. I liked this fine, but reading it so close to Lose 5, which I liked about as much as I’m capable of liking anything, it felt a little abbreviated. Parts of it felt to me like DeForge was doing the Alex Kim version of a Jesse Jacobs comic, but I’ll be honest: I hated myself for having that kind of reaction, even mentally. “Ah, like person imitating person doing another person’s thing.” Really, Tucker? Kill yourself.
Sunny Volume 1, by Taiyo Matsumoto
I didn’t feel let down by the story, but I did feel like I was missing something, and I’m not sure whose fault that was–does that make sense? Probably not. This is a gorgeous comic either way, so attractive to look at that I had to go back at times because I’d forgotten to read the actual text. I like living in a world where something like this is popular. That shouldn’t matter, but it does nevertheless.
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind 1 & 2, by Hayao Miyazaki
A lot like Miyazaki’s Dune, right down to the gigantic insects that communicate with our main character, who just so happens to be the young (and inexplicably amazing) child of royalty forced to grow up and take control at a time of massive planetary upheaval due to ecological catastrophe and bloody conflict. It’s also extremely addictive, with characters so well defined that you buy them immediately. As exceptional as the actual drawings are, there’s quite a few instances here where what happens from panel to panel isn’t totally clear. Miyazaki’s pacing and dialog get you through those points with room to spare, but it’s not hard to see why he found the creation of this thing to be such a personal struggle. None of what he’s doing here looks easy.
Billy Burkert (Noise, 2 Many Nitrous) turned me onto Cornella’s comics, and while much of what is in this book can be found on his website, I’d still be willing to make a claim for this short book being worth the hunt. One-page comics with their feet firmly planted in that horror/comedy hybrid, populated by smiling, murder loving freaks, this works on me the way that drugs work on junkies. I’d go back in time and postpone losing my virginity if it meant I was the guy responsible for the page where all the guys in pink jumpsuits dog-pile on the dying hobo.
Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus 1 by Koike and Kojima
About six months into Douglas Wolk doing that Dredd Reckoning website, I started fantasizing about doing something similar for Lone Wolf and Cub. Talking with everybody who’d be willing about each individual story, interviewing everybody who was still alive and willing, paying somebody to murder my wife in childbirth to see what that felt like–really going for it, you know? Dedicating my life to talking about Lone Wolf and Cub. That’s what was in my head. This is a good comic.
Green Lantern #20 by Green Lantern
I didn’t really like this myself, but I was blown away by this page of praise for Geoff Johns, who has been writing these Green Lantern comics since 2004, and who can attribute the lion’s share of his initial success to the fact that he was able to convince a large segment of the comic reading population to take Green Lantern so seriously that they’d go so far to dump millions of dollars into making a movie out of the character despite the fact that he’s a drunk fascist who dresses and behaves like a cosplay MASH character whose only power comes from A) having a green ring and B) being a huge fucking asshole all the time. Johns built his career and set the mold for contemporary DC Comics with the way he took Green Lantern’s entire stupid, shitty history and turned it into one long nasty, blood soaked epic laced with heavy dollops of Joseph Campbell and wish fulfillment audience worship, turning an obnoxious and unpleasant comic book into an obnoxious and unpleasant Saga of Graphic Novels, and now, for the final bow of a nearly ten-year run, the best the guy can muster is an eight-dollar comic that resolves almost nothing but includes a page where his personal assistant and his boss tell him he’s special? That’s awesome.
I Saw It, by Keiji Nakazawa
This comic, on the other hand, is tremendously upsetting.
Scorched Earth and Other Stories, by Tom Van Deusen
I’d read some of this in the free Seattle comics newspaper that this guy and his road dogs put out, and while you’re supposed to love everybody in an anthology equally because of some dumb joke that I don’t remember, I always loved this guy’s comics the most, because this character is such a tremendously awful jerkoff, and Van Deusen really nails everything about him. Cringe comedy on television and film has gotten old–mostly because the people putting it out are essentially actual racists doing some fake version of satire–but Scorched Earth is guilt-free and perfect.
Fury My War Gone By #12, by Ennis, Parlov & Loughridge
If real Vietnam was half as frustrating as Vietnam is in Call of Duty, those guys really should’ve been allowed to kill a couple babies, just to blow off some steam.
Cerebus #4 by Dave Sim
Some people don’t mind that no-pupil thing, à la Orphan Annie, and some people like it. It bugs me, so I was a little peeved off on this one. But for the most part, this is a long Foghorn Leghorn joke, and that’s okay with me. It does make you miss the part where the other guy (who was the other guy in Foghorn cartoons? Was it different every time?) finally blows his lid and starts yelling, but what are you gonna do? Form a committee? Cry?
Daredevil Dark Knights #1, by Lee Weeks and Lee Loughridge
This read like Lee Weeks had ignored every Daredevil comic that came out after Frank Miller’s initial run–a lot of noir-y posturing, Catholic iconography, rugged self-sacrifice. Weeks doesn’t seem capable of unnecessary flashiness, which makes the whole thing feel somewhat dated and workmanlike, but in a way that feels classic instead of old. This is a lovely, somewhat pointless, exercise–but it isn’t like this genre is drowning in those right now.
Underworld 1-2, by Robert Loren Fleming and Ernie Colon
An 80’s DC miniseries about a small collection of New York cops that couples some of the most overwrought and undercooked dialog you can imagine with an Ernie Colón art style best described as let’s-fuck-around. That thing where people say comics can do anything? Well, they can, but Underworld is a great example of things so much better served by television that it’s humiliating.
This deserves more attention than this column is capable of giving it right now, if only because it seems like Van Sciver is somewhat taken for granted, and yet I’m only going to add to the choir–everything in here, even the mildly mawkish break-up story that includes a panel where the narrator holds his side and cries over the one-that-got-away, is good, and most of it is even better than that. It’s a confrontational comic–lots of stories, all of them steeped with an intensity that bespeaks a level of surety that’s increasingly rare in what’s traditionally labeled alt comics. Noah may back off when he has to do the obligatory self-promotion, casually dismissing his Hypo graphic novel as being of little interest, hitting a false note on his “football fans won’t like this”, but there’s no casualness with his stories. A chicken with a crucified friend and they’re maintaining resentments in hell is presented as seriously as a girl breaking into her old apartment to wallow in some nostalgic bed smells, as is the story where some ’80s hardcore punks fight future dinosaurs for revenge. I don’t think the “primitive” tag that Van Sciver’s been saddled with particularly works–that word makes me think of a more crude attempt to capture some id-level thinking, and I think that ignores the poise and detail in these panels–but whatever you think of his stuff, this is definitely him going from strength to strength. An excellent comic.
Prince Valiant Volume 1, by Hal Foster
Then, we found out that DC Comics is creator-unfriendly…?
Paul Jenkins has quit working for The House That No One Ever Built, and has shifted his creative output to Boom Studios, giving exit interviews and writing open letters in the process about how “DC is in the toilet” due to a “culture of dishonesty,” bullying, unprofessionalism, and, presumably, pooing. Jenkins, whose long career in comics included working on Big Numbers (a comic book whose artist chopped its pages up and turned them into a Sebadoh album cover rather than deliver them to Jenkins for publication), stated, “I encountered more lies and veiled threats – more attempts to justify dysfunctional behavior and systems – [at DC] than I have ever encountered in my career.”
Jenkins doesn’t name specific editors or DC personnel responsible for the <i>toilet-ous</i> state of DC. Some reckless types might suggest that mere common sense says Dan DiDio should have been showed the door in 2008/2009, and Bob Harras never allowed near a comic book again let alone the steering wheel of a comic company. However, as set forth above, Jenkins failed to name either person or anyone in particular, so it’d just be pure, unwarranted speculation on my part to suggest that putting those two together in the room is like the first act of the Usual Suspects if Keyser Soze’s goal was to publish terrible, terrible comics in a bad, massively-creator-unfriendly way. Paul Jenkins has given me absolutely no basis to describe the idea of both men together as being like some kind of Editorial-Shitiness Wonder-Twins. <i>”Shape of Miasma of Incompetence!” “Form of Revolving Door Creative Teams!” “Bland references to pop culture instead of writing jokes out of laziness and total disinterest in this story! Activate!”</i> Paul Jenkins also didn’t mention what I had for breakfast, therefore I have no way whatsoever to definitively confirm or deny that it was a hard-boiled egg.
While commenting on his own Bleeding Cool interview, Jenkins gave an example of the kind of interference he’d experienced at DC: “I would like to relay an editorial comment that I received near the end of my time writing the Dark Knight New 52 series. In one scene, I had written that Batman is sitting on a rooftop during an intense conversation, close to a person who has been injured. The editorial comment: ‘We’re not sure you are ‘getting’ the character because it’s common knowledge that Batman never sits down.'”
Fans were thus denied getting to read a comic book featuring The Batman sitting on a roof with lots of word balloons pointed at him. My condolences for your tragic loss.
Jenkins’s other examples of editorial interference also included a gore-show Superman comic: “Eddie Berganza tried to gauge my interest in writing the Superman title. I told him he would be unlikely to let me do what I thought had to be done: Lex Luthor holds a gun to Ma and Pa Kent’s heads, asks Superman if he is ‘faster than a speeding bullet,’ and then blows their brains out. The idea being that the only way to get this untouchable, invincible character is to drive him crazy. Eddie blanched, of course, and said no.”
Some day, I hope comic creators and comic editors can hold hands, and drink Coca-Cola, and make comics about deranged superheros having intense conversations after all their loved ones had their brains violently blown out, in the loving spirit of brotherhood and unity and nobody in comics having mirrors. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I really think it’s extremely possible.
Luckily, some mainstream comic creators still persevere and are still doing what they do best: comics about women being butchered, women getting butchered, and also, women getting butchered. Really, it’s a just common sense that Batman doesn’t sit down– a mainstream comic creator might mistake him for a woman, and have him butchered.