I am the absolute worst at remembering song lyrics, but man do I remember the song lyrics to “Un-Break My Heart”. A lady named Diane Warren wrote it, she also wrote songs for Michael Bay movies, “Rhythym of the Night”, a bunch of stuff. The Braxton track is the one that gets me. It’s been in my head longer than I’ve been sexually active. I’ve probably run through it silently in my head while doing other things more times than I’ve told my mother that I love her, and I was a very verbal, very needy child. Why am I telling you this: because I thought of those lyrics over and over again whenever I read comics over the last few weeks, to the point that I finally looked up who it was that wrote the song, and I have no idea why and absolutely no theory whatsoever. I’m vaguely convinced that I didn’t even realize how often I think of Toni bawling
Un-cry these tears
I cried so many nights
until this last month, or like that thing with the quantum mechanics or the invisible cat in the (German?) [Ed.: Austrian] guy’s box, maybe it was just a weird couple of weeks aggravated by hilarious tragedy and little sleep and bad nutrition and weird, deeply problematic intimacy choices and I don’t think of the lyrics that often, because I looked it up and this
Come and kiss this pain away
I can’t forget the day you left
Time is so unkind
doesn’t seem familiar at all, I’m sorely tempted to listen to the song, which honestly hadn’t crossed my mind until this very second, because I cannot for the life of me even imagine how those words sound, which is, again, why I’m never going to be regarded even by my most charitable friends as a good rememberer of song lyrics, because I can at best remember the chorus (I believe that’s the word you use for the part of a song that gets repeated), and even then it’s questionable if my obsessively, mentally unstable manglings are even memories in the first place, and not more accurately described as a form of mantra that I use to relax, as I often find myself taking extremely shallow breaths when I’m left to my own devices, and by own devices I mean imagining past slights as being worse than they actually were in a vain, masturbatory attempt to be included in all possible situations.
Anyway. I bring this up to say hello, because this column is different than the last one, which was weeks ago. I have only taken a cursory glance at the new superhero comics, which is what this column is usually focused on, so instead I will steal a page from those old Nick Hornby book columns in The Believer, which I always liked until I felt for some reason that I needed to dislike them because I no longer wanted to read his novels. Foolish of me? Absolutely. Here’s what I read since we last spoke:
Detective Comics 434, 1973
Cerebus 1-2, 1977
The Comics Journal 91-92, 1984
Video Jack 1, 1987
Love and Rockets 18-20, 1987
The Shadow 1-2, 1987
X-Factor 16, 1987
Daredevil 239-243, 245, 247, 1987
Batman Incorporated 9, 2013
Crossed Badlands 25-26, 2013
Copra 4-5, 2013
Red Team 2, 2013
Fatale 13, 2013
Fury 10, 2013
End of the Fucking World 16, 2013
Battlefields 5, 2013
Donald Duck: A Christmas In Shacktown
Nemo: A Heart of Ice
Comics Journal 302
So it’s been that. A lot of bad Garth Ennis comics, a lot of weird Ann Nocenti Daredevil comics, some straight up classics, nothing that read like a drill to the brain. That old Batman comic, the Detective issue from 1973 is just a pretty mediocre comic about a guy who essentially sells Get Out Of Jail Free cards, and it’s a multi-part story to boot. Most of the ’80s comics are interesting if they have interesting art, although Keith Giffen doing his Muñoz heist in Daredevil is way more interesting than when he does it in the first issue of Video Jack, because in Daredevil he doesn’t have it at all figured out, and there’s all these random disconnected images of beanpole people with inset close-ups of teeth and fists as result.
Video Jack probably gets better after the first issue. At least, I’ve heard that it does from people who share my interest in Giffen’s Muñoz-swiping period (which is way, way more interesting than his Kirby-swiping period has turned out to be), but I have a hard time seeing Cary Bates (Video Jack‘s writer) turning out something as weirdly perfect as Nocenti’s script for this issue of Daredevil turned out to be. It’s a twisted, off-key riff on Miller’s Nuke character in Born Again (the 3rd of such riffs, and Nocenti’s 2nd), far more interesting by its very strangeness than any of the issues surrounding it. They aren’t bad, they’re just regular comics. This one is something else entirely, and I couldn’t get it out of my head.
That could also be because I’ve started reading Andy Helfer’s Shadow comics again. I’m not sure how far I made it into these comics the first time, but this time I plan to take the train all the way to the cybernetic conclusion. These have to be some of the best comics Bill Sienkiewicz ever made, they’re without peer amongst DC’s output. Gnarled, nasty, incredibly funny comics.
What else? Those Comics Journals were okay, one of them has a photo cover… Is there a single photo cover the Journal has ever had that doesn’t now look dated and terrible? Maybe the Eisner tribute issue. I’ve never read it, but the Bendis issue? Horrifying cover. The one where Marv Wolfman has a target on his face? So bad. This one is just low end cheapsville, but based off the editorial in a later issue, that was because the issue was put together when most of the team was moving to California and/or getting wasted in Mexico. Which makes sense with the content as well, most of the issue is just transcripts of convention panels. The new issue of the Journal is pretty good; the Tardi interview is great. It’s kind of odd to talk about it even abstractly here though, so never mind. I can’t really talk about Copra anymore either without feeling a little sleazy. Obviously, I think it’s great and that you should buy it as often as possible. I think you would love it and it should replace gift cards and scented candles as your go-to present for those you love. It’s a better comic than that ’80s X-Factor thing.
New stuff… What to say about Ennis? Red Team isn’t horrible, it’s just bad and dumb. Battlefields is scattered and ugly, Crossed is just ugly, and Fury 10 is the talk issue that introduces the ultimate violence issue. It’s not my favorite of the series so far, but it’s still light years ahead of his Dynamite paychecks. Nemo: Heart of Ice was good, although–and I’m sure 8 billion people have already said this–it would have been way fucking better if it had been published as a cheap n’ pulpy paperback. All League comics would be, it’s how they’re spiritually supposed to exist. A 15 dollar hardcover? And it’s not even a well-made 15 dollar hardcover? Splendid decisions. The Incal, End of the Fucking World, Carl Barks–these are all good times, but they were also the comics that I most often found myself thinking of that Toni Braxton song while reading. Why? I don’t know.
Anyway. I’m back. So is Abhay. Let’s fuck around and get married.
ABHAY KHOSLA, WITH THE NEWZ
Here’s something totally normal and sane and not at all weird: Image used to publish comics about this “bad girl” character named Angela? She was an angel-from-heaven/bad-girl who hunted hellspawns, while wearing a metal bikini. Hellspawns were the subject of a 1990s Image comic called Spawn, named after salmon-fucking.
This made more sense in the 1990s. It made total sense back then. That was a different time for us all though. Something like 20 years ago, this month.
The Spawn comics were made at first by a guy named Todd McFarlane– he was one of the cartoonists who founded Image Comics. He’d been working for Marvel Comics, but Marvel didn’t let creators own anything they create. So, he very dramatically quit the company, and formed Image, which is still where people in mainstream comics mostly go if they want to own what they create.
But McFarlane ended up in lawsuits. Lawsuits with all these people: a hockey player; a guy with the same name as Spawn; and a writer named Neil Gaiman, a writer popular in the 1990s for writing comics about alternative people having dreams, mostly dreams about other alternative people. And arguably more popular since thanks to success in print, on television, and in Hollywood.
Gaiman claimed to have created Angela, and, after the dust of the various ensuing lawsuits cleared, Neil Gaiman indeed owned at least 50% of Angela. So, this month, he’s turned around and licensed Angela back to Marvel comics. The company Todd McFarlane had made a big whole point of quitting in the first place. Marvel Comics had famously stolen all of their good characters from Jack Kirby, back in the 1960s; stole some other stuff, too, though– Blade from Marv Wolfman; Howard the Duck from Steve Gerber, etc. But gosh, it had been a while. It had been too long– too, too long.
Good news, though: Marvel can now say not only that they have their hands on an Image comic character, but that best of all, it’s against the obvious wishes of one of its co-creators, too!
Yay! Neil Gaiman has finally struck a real blow for… revenge?
This is all in the context of a Marvel comics crossover named The Middle-Age of The Ultron, which I think is about an evil robot, wearing a leather jacket and hitting on high-school girls at Denny’s? The crossover is only about half-over, but the Wall Street Journal or JAMA or whoever have already reported that the top-secret, ultra-secret, “no-one will guess” secret finale three or four months from now is, apparently, that an angel from heaven in a metal bikini will show up to hunt the 1990s Image Comics character Spawn? Sure, sure: exactly how a Marvel comic about a g-damn robot should end.
The crossover is written by Brian Michael Bendis, as is a subsequent issue of the new Guardians of the Galaxy series which will be co-written by Gaiman, and is said to feature Angela. Fun-fact: Bendis himself started his work-for-hire comics career working for Todd McFarlane … before also having a falling-out with McFarlane.
Marvel, Gaiman, and Bendis’s collaboration will ship in an airtight plastic baggie, to better keep the erotic stink of their revenge-fucking away from the deteriorating effects of oxygen presumably. Gaiman and Bendis are then expected to team up to place a paper bag filled with a dog’s feces in front of Todd McFarlane’s front door, light it on fire, ring the doorbell, and watch from the cover of night (so goth!) expecting Todd McFarlane to run onto his porch and stamp out the fire, with hilarity to ensue. But McFarlane will not be at home that night, and it is expected that they will instead watch Todd McFarlane’s home catch fire at a surprising speed. As they watch the bonfire that ensues, each man will feel a single tear roll down his cheek. They will hug, exchange briefcases, and walk away from each other, never to see one another again. The briefcase given to Neil Gaiman will contain a copy of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” with a tender, grammatically-horrifying inscription from Bendis. The briefcase given to Bendis will contain half of a shrimp-salad sandwich that had gone bad on the Tuesday of the week before.
It’ll be like a dream. Or at least an alternative person’s dream. Congratulations, Kennedy.
This was all hinted at by Rich Johnston in an article where the first letter of every sentence of his article spelled the word ANGELA. Similarly, every letter of the second paragraph of what I’ve written also forms a word, as well. Solve the code– a treasure awaits you!