COLUMNS

Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

John Updike Said It Best When He Started Screaming Obscenities at a Parked Car


IMG_1057

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.

The Boy In Question by Michael DeForge             tcj_0014

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

tcj_0013

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

tcj_0012

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.

Mox Nox, by Joan Cornellatcj_0011

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

tcj_0010

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

tcj_0009

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

tcj_0008

This comic, on the other hand, is tremendously upsetting.

Scorched Earth and Other Stories, by Tom Van Deusen

tcj_0007

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

tcj_0006

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

tcj_0005

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

tcj_0004

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

tcj_0003

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.

Blammo #8, by Noah Van Sciver tcj_0001

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

tcjI like the parts where he murders people.

OH. Abhay?

tumblr_mnizvrHwzD1qbipv3o1_500

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.


39 Responses to John Updike Said It Best When He Started Screaming Obscenities at a Parked Car

  1. caleb says:

    That’s Batman never sits has gotta be a joke, right? Because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen something in the neighborhood of 1,000 panels of Batman sitting down, most often in the Batcave, looking up at a the bat computers. I like the insistence that realizing never sits is, like, an essential part of his character. Like, if you think Batman sits, you just don’t “get” Batman. Batman is a character who, at his core, never sits. That’s what Batman is, that’s why people like him, and that’s why people buy his comics.

    Waitaminute, Batman was sitting down when that bat flew in his window, perched on the bust of his father and he was all, “I shall become a bat!” SITTING is right there in his origin story!

    • Joe McCulloch says:

      I presume what they were getting at is that Batman doesn’t sit in public, which is to say he communicates a looming, urban legend-y mythic guardian image as part of his superhero persona… he does not empathize, he defends, which strikes me as basically in keeping with the character’s maintenance over the past few decades… maybe the problem we’re seeing here is one of communication skills.

      • Ayo says:

        Joe is correct in his assumption but still the editor of that Batman comic is wrong. Batman occasionally sits while “in the field.”

        Anyway, I would like to be a DC editor. I’d be the one who lets writers put Batman in chairs, just leaning back and whistling a Lady Gaga tune, which is in step with the character’s traditional depiction.

      • Scott Grammel says:

        I’m with Joe and the editor-in-question here, basically. Yes, at home, as Bruce, or in the Bat Cave (ha!), it would be fine, but I think that when portraying Batman in the field one would ideally maintain a focus on him as an active, powerful, and dynamic force. The wagging finger aspect about Jenkins not “getting” the character, on the other hand, was pretty righteously obnoxious.

      • Zack says:

        i was thinking the same thing, but i think a major issue with that is that DC is not interested in letting a character grow; this to me sounded like an instance where Batman has a chance to empathize with an injured character (mind you, i never got to read the scene as it didn’t get published) and rather than start showing new facets to a character’s personality, DC is happier letting everything continue on it’s way, as it has for so many years. even the Superman instance, which is admittedly maybe a bit extreme sounding, would give a new outlook to an old character, and would even make for some great interactions and conversations with The Bat; the fundamental difference between Batman and Superman, and the reason the could never truly relate to each other, is because of loss. Superman’s homeworld thing notwithstanding, he was too young to remember it, and save for some dumb writing things over the years where he “virtually” experiences it’s loss and destruction, his sense of loss comes secondhand, like being sad when someone told you you had a puppy and it died, though you were too young to even remember it. Batman’s psychosis is based on his loss, and it would be interesting to see a grown-ass-man experience a similar loss, only this time he has the physical powers to do something about it.

      • Jaz says:

        Maybe they meant “The” Batman LITERALLY cannot sit down, now that everybody’s wearing armor/leather instead of spandex!

    • http://batmansits.tumblr.com/

      Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

    • Allen Rubinstein says:

      If Batman never sits, how does he drive the Batmobile or the Batcopter?

    • Suddenly this became a thread like something you find on IGN with us debating if Batman sits…except I think we’re doing it tongue-in-cheek and/or sarcastically? Right? Because, I was joking when I wrote that long essay I mailed to DC about how Batman should be allowed to sit…yeah, that was a joke.

  2. Tex says:

    How did I know that Jim Lee was the type that misuses the word “literally”…

  3. Tim says:

    Weird to see something as delicate as Nakazawa’s I SAW IT brushed off with one sentence, in between random reviews of comparatively meaningless works. It’s like mentioning Anne Frank’s depressing diary when you’re in the middle of a hilarious conversation about show wrestling or something – kind of inconsiderate?

    • Martin Wisse says:

      Unless you’re going to do a proper, meaty review/analysis of it, what else can you say about it? The deliberate understatement of it being “tremendously upsetting” works for me.

      • Tim says:

        Sure, “tremendously upsetting” is pretty accurate. I just wonder why someone would bring it up in this context at all. It seemed kind of ignorant to include a one-sentence-review of the memoirs of a Hiroshima survivor into this conglomerate of mostly silly arguments (which naturally are fine per se). It’s also really irritating because it presents the book as a sort of dollar bin curiosity – I used to think I SAW IT (1972) was considered THE predecessor of books like MAUS (1980 – 91), which is also one of the very few comics that actually hold a candle to Nakazawa’s book btw. I just would expect more from the Comics Journal.

  4. DrGunn says:

    Don’t think for one second that we don’t know why you chose that particular Lone Wolf and Cub page. We know.

  5. Geoff Johns got a full page where people gave him a verbal tug-job for writing some Green Lantern comics that went horribly downhill after the admittedly-fun Sinestro Corps War. Alan Moore wrote books that are still making DC millions and they reward him with years of insults and the cluster-fuck that was “Before Watchmen”. Clearly, you want to write stuff that DC considers good, but not TOO good.

    Also, I couldn’t tell if this article was on Paul Jenkins side or making fun of him. Am I bad at picking up the tone of text or is meant to be unclear? I myself have enjoyed enough of his stuff that I would say he falls in the “I like this writer” category.

    Lastly, Garth Ennis should be the only person allowed to write any war comics for Marvel, especially if they involve Nick Fury, The Punisher, or both. Anyone else just doesn’t measure up.

    • Juhawh says:

      My absolute favorite part of any Green Lantern anything, and perhaps even favorite part of the whole NEW 52 FUN, was in Green Lantern #1, Sinestro complains that Hal Jordan called him a fascist.

      I guess on Sinestro’s planet, and in his language, that’s a total sick burn.

      I was hoping in #2 Sinestro would call Hal Jordan a sneexbloam. And then we get to deal with 10 pages of Hal Jordan trying to quell his uncontrollable rage, and like one of them red rings comes up and is like “woa, face, right up in yo greeyul, might wanna try me on come on I know you want to, that’s why I’m here, that’s how rings work” and Hal reaches for the ring and he’s like HRRRN I MUSTN’T BUT SO TEMPTING SO MUCH POWURRRUHURURURURR and then clenching his fist like in the Zero Wing intro and going NO, I AM STRONGER THAN THAT and Sinestro goes NO IT CANNOT BE AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA and vaporizes instantly in a puff of being so told.

      But instead they just team up and shoot green laser beams at yellow dudes. :(

      • You need to delete that story idea before DC steals and it claims it was their concept all along.

      • Juhawh says:

        I’m sure in the actual DC version, the hawt alien green lantern girl will be ground up into hamburger and Hal will accidentally cook her at a BBQ that all his pals show up at. The green lantern with the popped collar will say to black green lantern, “something seems odd about my burger, BRO” (he talks cool to his black friends) and they’re like “but what?” and then RING ANALYZE BURGER and oh no it’s the girl and they are filled with mad, and it just goes on from there.

        And then the planet green lantern molests alternate universe Hal Jordan’s future children and etc.

        Yes hello pizza place I want a giant pizza, I don’t have money but I did make the new Green Lantern story arc that DC ripped off from me.

        WELL IN THAT CASE WE’LL SEND TWO PIZZAS

        Pepperoni arranged in the shape of the green lantern logo.

        Just a matter of time. 8)

    • acabaca says:

      “Also, I couldn’t tell if this article was on Paul Jenkins side or making fun of him. Am I bad at picking up the tone of text or is meant to be unclear?”

      Both, I’d presume, cue the mention of mirrors. Jenkins’ description of DC editorial is undoubtedly accurate, but in the same breath he fails to acknowledge his own terribleness. That “let’s have Luthor shoot Superman’s parents” thing is like a parody of the kind of idea comic book writers have when they have no real ideas left.

      • Andrew Taylor says:

        “That ‘let’s have Luthor shoot Superman’s parents’ thing is like a parody of the kind of idea comic book writers have when they have no real ideas left.”

        That about lines up with my personal belief Jenkins has been burnt out since his first Spider-Man run. From time to time, he does something kind of interesting, which suggests he’s got something left to offer, but it’s in between several stints of scripting David Finch Batman comics or crossover tie-ins where Captain America is lectured for not having a MySpace account.

      • His Penance mini-series featuring Speedball during that time he was in the horrible costume was actually quite readable, which surprised me because it was about mother-fucking Speedball in a masochist outfit.

    • Lightning Lord says:

      The best part is that it’s all people nobody cares about. Aside from Jim Lee, who aside from a few deluded hold-outs, has actually turned himself into a figure that nobody cares about. Not one quote from somebody like Dave Gibbons, who actually made enjoyable Green Lantern comics, no it’s all from the Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development for DC Entertainment, a figure much revered by superhero comics enthusiasts. Diane Lane’s quote is incredible.

      Also like acabaca says, it’s both, much like how I hate this website and all it’s writers, I still often agree and comment on it.

      • Jay says:

        That’s because Dave Gibbons’ compliments were on another page.

        What, you only thought that was only limited to one page? There were NINE pages.

      • Lightning Lord says:

        Holy christ

      • Paul Slade says:

        I love the fact that they use Johns’ own executive assistant for the final quote. Presumably, the next step would have been his mom.

      • Dominick Grace says:

        It makes one begin to wonder, “Is this some sort of subtle joke?”

    • Adam Farrar says:

      Correction: “Geoff Johns got eight full pages…”

  6. Juhawh says:

    No one eats a hard boiled egg for breakfast. Except for one man.

    Abby Coleslaw. Even your name is a dimestore joke. 8(

    *takes the pleasantly slow elevator to hell*

  7. David Groenewegen says:

    To hell with a story arc, that sounds like the elevator pitch for the exciting new movie – Green Lantern II: The Eating

  8. Maxy B says:

    *obligatory reminder that I SAW IT!, fucked as it is, comes from an anthology for young teenage boys, and lead to Barefoot Gen, the also-completely upsetting series that only lifts from Nakazawa’s life a large amount instead of entirely, ran in the same book shortly after*

    • Tim says:

      Right. I just think there’s a difference if an author decides to publish a story like this in a place where it’s likely to reach a large audience of young readers as to a reviewer wasting it on a tongue-in-cheek article. Anyway, I guess it’s not the end of comic criticism, I just found it strange. But maybe Nakazawa wouldn’t even have bothered …

  9. Raised Cows and Sheep and Chickens and Goats and Ducks and Stuff says:

    As a guy in a small town who loves the comic format but who generally hates modern comics but with a really pretty great comic shop that really does try to accommodate special requests and to whom I give too much of my monthly “fuck it” budget:

    If buying Blammo #8 and Lose #5 from Amazon.com is wrong I don’t want to be right.

  10. DBay says:

    I’m coming to this a month later but I was wondering if anyone had posted the pics of Geoff Johns and Hal Jordan yet

  11. Oliver_C says:

    Always preferred the short, sharp ‘I Saw It’ to the much more hammy (if also more horrifying) ‘Barefoot Gen’ myself.

    • Tim says:

      I feel the same. BAREFOOT GEN seems to be one horrifying episode after the other and it goes on forever (~ 2500 pages), so it’s hard not growing numb after a while. I haven’t even finished reading it yet. I SAW IT on the other hand is like a punch in the face, and I’ ll never forget the day I read it first. Also the colouring aggrevates the whole experience, since it creates an even more disturbing contrast between the terrifying story and the ‘naive’ artwork (sort of similar to some of Chris Ware’s candy-coloured work).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>