COLUMNS

Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

Wake Me Up When You’ve Impressed Somebody Who Doesn’t Want Something From You

The best thing about this installment of Nate Bulmer’s Eat More Bikes is how it paints a picture of a beautiful future, one we can hope for, where those who constantly get in line to exploit themselves will eventually end up lurking, alone and unmourned, in the cold vastness of space. Think about it: has their ever been a better time than now to bronze the lessons of the comics industry so as to stave off future injury? Everyday, the Lucys of tomorrow are appearing online and proclaiming their allegiance to pulling away every football of opportunity they can find, and they’re signing off with their names and corporate address. On the other side of reality, take a look at this:

Okay, so there’s some stinkers in this little cabal, but at least they’re stinkers in terms of you-just-don’t-like-em, they aren’t the stinkers who sit around endlessly bitching and moaning about how hard it is out there to get a gig drawing corporate mascot characters and then pulling you aside so they can say, seriously, between us, why do you think I don’t have an Avengers title, that Bendis guy has five, and you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to get these editors to listen to my can’t-miss high-concept idea about zombies & hitmen teaming up to fight a Superman pastiche. You think there was a panel in Chicago where Chris Ware complained about the “death of comics journalism”? You think Lynda Barry had to ask people to repeat shit because she was too distracted checking her iPhone to see if the people at Archaia had written back yet regarding her pitch ideas for a Dark Crystal ongoing?

Nope. There was a room full of people hanging out at some high end school who make comics because comics is what they wanted to make, and none of those people are going to have to go begging for Batman one-shots when their liver medication doubles in cost, they aren’t going to have to sign autographs for 10 bucks in a concrete-floored trench alongside Stinky Pete’s Bargain Shack of Baseball Cards n’ Racism, and they got where they wanted to go by making shit they wanted to make over and over again, and after they did that they went ahead and did it some more, and while they all probably have had a dark couple of moments, they all still get to claim membership in the Highfaluting Serious Elite Cartoonists Society, the one whose only barrier to entry is neither talent, intelligence, or perseverance, but the ability to SHUT THE FUCK UP ON TWITTER.

Anyway. COMICS. Let’s get back to those. Here’s an old one.

Raw Volume 2 #3
By You Either Know Already or You Don’t Care On Purpose
Published by Penguin, 1991


Nostalgia for the ’90s: will we ever have bigger boners? Kids today say it’ll happen online, but kids today are too young to understand how much more of a nuisance the desire to compulsively masturbate becomes as the years go by: god knows we don’t need to hear what kids today have to say about shit, because we already know, because it’s always the same. And yet, the alternative is to listen to the olds, or at least the olds whose hearts haven’t leaped from the plush, concave finery of those pillows of fatty tissue their bad habits have created, and to believe that it was better before. That’s possibly true, except that “before” was a time when we had to take a trek to Bill Blackbeard’s garage to read George Herriman’s “Tiger Tea”. Now? Now, we have to give money to some asymmetrical beard-having asshat with the design sense of a young Wal-Mart cashier. But back in 1991, you could sup at the teat of Herriman’s only long-form story arc in the privacy of your home, in a one-volume presentation alongside comics from the likes of Ware, Deitch, and Munoz. Progress? Progress, like the bus, is for peasants.

2000AD #1781
By Wagner, MacNeil, Blythe, Mills, McKay, McCarthy, Ewing, D’Grady, Worley, Davis-Hunt, Grant, Yeowell
Published by 2000AD

My understanding of the situation is that Wagner and Co. try not to use the Dark Judges (that would be Judge Death’s road dogs, Fear, Mortis and Ghost Rider), but if that were true, I’m sure that the comics blogosphere would be making a bigger deal out of this issue than they are. Instead, they’re either talking about J. Michael Stracynski’s precious feelings or how Drawn & Quarterly has found another female cartoonist whose most fervent wish was that their hard work might someday share catalog space with an overpriced collection of what looks like a five-year-old’s drawings of leaves. Beyond that, the drama of this issue’s Dredd installment is somewhat low–which will undoubtedly change soon enough–leaving it up to Brendan McCarthy’s Zaucer to make up for the general lousiness of the rest of the issue. However, there is a great set of panels where a woman punches a guy with an old-school bear trap right in the genitals, thus ending what initially seemed to be a fistfight with so high a level of overkill that the creative team chucks a giant swastika into a later panel just to make sure you remember that the dude was a real piece of shit who certainly deserved to die in the worst possible fashion you could have imagined, outside of that thing that just happened in Florida that I’m too much of a baby to even look up properly.

Injury #4
By Ted May, Jeff Wilson, Mike Reddy
Published by Ted May & Alternative Comics

In the other cool comics thing that has been overshadowed by the big news that a guy who has always and only said stupid shit went ahead and said more stupid shit is this, a great comic book that can only suffer by a plot description, because nothing much happens and it costs six dollars and the thing that seems to concern people most these days is “is it free?” and then “well, what’s the cheapest way I can get it” and on down to “if you don’t make it cheaper, I’m going to have to steal it, because that’s how freedom works,” and all of that stuff becomes particularly intense when you’re dealing with a plot like some dudes get stoned before detention, and then there’s another story, but hey, part of being better than everybody else–and this comic will do that for you, guaranteed, it will absolutely 100% make you better than every other person you will ever meet, unless that person bought their copy before you did–is being into really, really awesome shit that completely ignores the rules of commodification that so much of Today’s Comics travel in. Injury, as its spastic cast might put it, kicks some serious ass.

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AND NOW, IT IS TIME FOR A COMICS NEWS BULLETIN BREAK WITH ABHAY KHOSLA

Tongues were wagging in comics this week. Or at least… finger wagged at keys on a keyboard, which keys were wagged upon in the right timing and order to spell words that were then cyber-inserted into comment-boxes and tweet-gashes and various electronic receptacles of the impulse to communicate that once was the province of the wagging tongues once spoken of so fondly in the sayings of the olden times. But… if there had been actual talking this week in comics, it would have been whimpering, and it would have been about the Wall Street Journal.  Yes, the Wall Street Journal, everybody’s second favorite Rupert Murdoch newspaper (or third favorite, if you prefer your right-wing propaganda mouthpieces to hack into the voice mail of murdered 13-year-old girls).  And as usual, the Wall Street Journal has turned its editorial might towards blaming the failures of big business upon the undereducated, underpaid working poor, or as they’re humbly known in the comic book industry, “creators.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, mainstream comics are “clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology,” an opinion devastatingly unfair to those of us who think comics are also miserably colored and hastily lettered.  It takes a village, WSJ. Most surprising, the article violates the fan community’s long-standing aversion to Specific Examples. Watchmen 2 punchline J. Michael Stracynszki is referred to as a “former He-Man scripter” and the “rough equivalent” of “Z-movie director Uwe Boll,” while “industry powers like Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Grant Morison and Dan Didio … are the men most responsible for the failure of the big publishers to take advantage of the public’s obvious fascination with men in capes… contemporary superhero creators [who] tend to come off as pretentious autodidacts or failed cult leaders.”

In other words, it’s another installment in “Bam! Pow!  Mainstream comics Aren’t Just For Kids or Adults or Really Anybody with Any Sense Anymore.”

So far the most vocal push-back has been from writer J. Michael Stracynszki who insists that he became a better writer since working on He-Man, presumably referring to the screenplay for Ninja Assassin. Certainly, an opinion shared by those who worked with him in comics– for example, artist Marko Djurdjevic who quit working in the comics business altogether after collaborating with Straczynski, whom Djudjevic said wrote “like toilet paper.”  Defenders of Stracynszki were extremely upset that the Wall Street Journal had opted to use as an example of Stracynszki’s poor work in comics a set of Spider-Man comics that Stracynszki had disowned, rather than the Superman run he started and then quit, or the Wonder Woman run he started and then quit, or the Thor run he started then quit, or et cetera. Oh, Straczynski had put his name on those Spider-Man comics, and Marvel was thereby able to trick his fans into buying those comics under the belief that they’d get a product he believed in, but as everyone knows, in comics, no one’s name means shit because everyone is a mercenary with no values that is completely for sale. Crossover comics that are only ads for other comics? Put your name on it. Selling people trailers for stories rather than stories? Put your name on it. Cash-in sequels created over vocal wails of betrayal by their true creators?  Put your name on it. Comics whose content you will later attempt to disown because you have no belief in their creative worth? Put your name on it. To not put your name on such a comic, you’d have to give a shit about those silly human beings who care enough to use their hard-earned money to purchase things with your name on it because they believe in you, believe in you enough to want to generously spend the limited time they have on this miserable planet with your art, out of all the art that has ever been created. Or as they’re called by the comic industry, “fanboys.”

So, yeah, that’s exactly the kind of behavior the Wall Street Journal should be celebrating from Straczynski, because after all, if he didn’t grab at his fans’ money for work he in no way believed in, he’d have to get by on his paycheck as a, let’s see… “Hollywood screenwriter.” So. Yeah. He-Man’s really got a point….

Finally, others have complained that the WSJ article fails to identify the true culprit for why comics are not more successful. They argue that comics’ lack of success with wider audiences is not caused by the fact that mainstream comics are a pit of misery that wastes the creative lives of its mediocre “talent” on a death march of diminishing return gimmicks and creative dead-ends, but because there are other reasons why comics are struggling, other hobbies dominating the attention of the target audience: video games, apps, slaps, the screenplay to B*A*P*S, etc. The argument goes that even if mainstream comics were to quit looking at its audience as a pool of suckers to be ripped off and drowned in endless hucksterism, and reward its most reputed creators by incessantly mischaracterizing them as angry, uncreative old cranks fit only to have their life’s work shit on by venal half-wits, then they would still have a hard time finding an audience. Are those people right? The long answer is we’ll never have to find out.

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AH, WHAT A TIME YOU CHOSE TO BE BORN. AND HERE’S ANOTHER COMIC REVIEW!

Dorothy and the Wizard in OZ #7
By Eric Shanower, Skottie Young, Jean-francois Beaulieu
Published by Marvel

There’s this thing that happens all the time, even more so now because of the Internet, where websites toss up cover images of the particularly salacious variety as a way to remind their readers that most (all) depictions of ladies in Big Two comics are handled in a pervy, embarrassing manner. In the case of CBR and Newsarama, this is usually done so that their commenters can preen and primp themselves in the light of tits, glorious tits, while in the case of Hooded Utilitarian or Comics “Run By Lesbian Monsters” Alliance, so that their commenters can freak out about how horrible everything is and wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all just read dictionaries (Hooded Utilitarian) or made top ten lists of the various snack foods that most remind us of the time period when we still had legitimate sexual prowess (Comics Alliance). Both sides of the argument have their place, but like all fundamentally meaningless arguments that affect a quantitatively infinitesimal part of humanity, the most mature response would have been to have been drowned in a bucket by one’s mother, preferably right after she barfed you out of her vagina.

That’s the lay of the land, but right now, let’s focus on a specific tree. See, every time one of those “hey, a good portion of this industry is dependent on dudes with very specific masturbation fantasies” articles goes up, there’s always somebody who shows up and says something about equality of depiction, something about how Dudes Are Being Exploited Too, because … actually, I don’t know why they always say that shit. But there’s always somebody who crawls out of wherever it is that they teach people that Jack Kirby is trying to take away their iPads and talks about how it has never bothered them to look at dudes in skintight costumes flexing and suplexing, and maybe all you “GALS” need to “take the tampon out so that you can put it back in,” “but this time in your face-hole,” because something-something horrible-creepy. And see that’s where those dudes got it wrong! It ain’t about dudes in spandex. Go grab a lady, and make her look at this:

Yeah, you hear that? That “awww” noise she just made. You feel that electricity in the air? That same kind of electricity you feel when you see a super-hero comic with Star Sapphire on the cover? That electricity is très natural, it’s a common human response, you see it when you see the female form, and she sees it when there’s a little baby kitten drawing with big eyes like that, it’s the feeling that will make the two of you want to go and MAKE babies, even if it’s probably not the best time in your life for that, even if you’re still “working through some stuff about your family of origin,” even if you know, you’re married, and she’s some teenage girl you met on Twitter who really liked all the stuff you did at AiT/Planet Lar. It’s life, and it’s happening. Inside your pants.


15 Responses to Wake Me Up When You’ve Impressed Somebody Who Doesn’t Want Something From You

  1. Tim Hodler says:

    I haven’t looked at the D&Q trees book you reference, but Leanne Shapton is actually a pretty interesting artist/writer. Her 2009 book, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris…, was easily the most innovative photo-comic I’ve seen in years.

  2. Houston P says:

    This weeks column, way too short.

    Just finished reading all of the previous columns after just discovering the column yesterday and I thank you. You shall become bookmark number four in my internet browser (right after XVideos, TubeSex and Freeones.com).

    • Jayhawh says:

      I agree about these being too short, they seem long until I finish them, then I wish they were longer. And like posted every single day (by magic somehow).

  3. Ken Parille says:

    Love Ted May. Haven’t seen #4, but the first three are great.

  4. Published by Alternative Comics?

  5. Kristine says:

    A+.

  6. Daniel Werneck says:

    I was in need of someone throwing an entire bucket of rational honesty about the comics world right in my face, and I just got it reading this article.

  7. I really think dictionaries have gone downhill catastrophically in the last thirty years or so. The audience has aged and become increasingly insular, and the result is that they’re now just about endless cross-ref porn rather than about telling a story or entertainment.

    Hopefully the internet will eventually kill them. It’s past time.

    • R. Fiore says:

      Yeah, it’s getting so they’re nothing but an alphabetized list of the definitions of words. The plotting is simply atrocious. And so predictable. I peek at the last chapter and I see words beginning with the letter Z, I just throw the damned thing out.

    • The only dictionary ever worthy of the name was a Basque dictionary published in 1974.

      Also: “my can’t-miss high-concept idea about zombies & hitmen teaming up to fight a Superman pastiche”

      Does anyone else remember the call for “new mainstream” comics back in the 2000s? Congratulations guys, you got exactly what you wanted!

  8. Jules Zaag says:

    Ninja Assassin is the crowning achievement of What’shisnames career. I’m not even joking, that movie had a ninja who was an assassin. That makes him a double ninja. You can’t argue with that math.

  9. Andrei Buters says:

    “In the other cool comics thing that has been overshadowed by the big news that a guy who has always and only said stupid shit went ahead and said more stupid shit…”

    Hee hee hee. Doesn’t this happen every week?

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