Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

We’ll Go Back To Mourning Moebius When Alan Moore Tells Jason Aaron That He Didn’t Mean To Hurt His Feelings

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #9
By Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, Justin Ponsor, & Allan Heinberg
Published by Marvel Comics

This is the conclusion of a nine-issue mini-series that started in September 2010, featuring a plot that is focused mostly on the events of a comic that was published in the summer of 2005. It’s a relatively decent installment in the search to find the most representative contemporary super-hero comic, as the previous issue was the one where all the fighting and violence happened, making this issue the one that involves lots of super-heroes crying (including a personal favorite, the sight of a robot, in love, crying) while a man holds his dead daughter’s corpse the same way Jack Bauer did right before he said the telling phrase, "Don’t fight it." After that portion of the comic, which also includes the hyperventilating robot lashing out and murdering an uglier, gloomier robot that he's somehow robot-related-to, the comic delivers on all the hard-hitting narrative strands demanded by the readers of 2012, i.e. you find out who will date whom, who is throwing away their costume, while generally hinting at the plot of the next event comic (Avengers Versus X-Men) that is right around the corner. There’s a throwaway moment where some of the characters try to stop crybaby robot from using its time powers to save the dead girl by arguing that this one step (using one's super power to save a girl who died in some arbitrary “just cuz” fashion) will result in crybaby robot becoming the darkest force of evil the world has ever seen, but you can tell even the guy writing it realizes that argument stopped working when Marvel comics fans no longer had a median age of twelve years old, so it’s really tossed off. If I remember correctly, and I always do, Captain America and Wolverine are even smirking the whole time this “don’t shoplift or you’ll turn into John Wayne Gacy” line of argument is being delivered.

At the same time, if you actually are that special someone who waited five full years for the privilege of waiting another two just to find out what happened to the Scarlet Witch and the Young Avengers, this comic would probably have to staple breast cancer directly onto your mother's areolas before you're going to dislike it.

Gantz 21
By Hiroya Oku
Published by Dark Horse

Gantz is a long-running manga series where people die and then come back to life due to a circular machine that contains a living person inside it. (Twenty-one volumes in and the series has yet to really do anything with these coma-machine-people. That’s not a criticism! One of the worst mistakes comics makes is when they burn up page time explaining their precious fake science. Example: Warren Ellis comics.) After coming back to life, the people have to kill aliens (sometimes aliens are dinosaurs!) to earn points, and after they earn points, blah blah blah blah blah. The real draw here is (or was, as early adopters as diverse as the Journal’s own Jog AND Northlander’s own Brian Wood seem to have bailed on poor old Gantz) that the series was a particular noxious blend of turgid sleazeball nekkid lady pleasures finely cut with explicit speedballs of violence . . . until quite recently, when the series irritatingly turned its lens to focus on plot, to which everyone with sense has quite quickly said GAG and excused themselves from the table. While that direction leaves violence as an option, said violence has become less and less unruly, forcing the stories into ones where only the assholes die, and nobody masturbates about their adventures when they go home. In a series where a wetsuited old lady was once murdered in front of her six-year-old grandson in between hardcore porn sequences, reverting to American action movie rules reads like unscrambling eggs.

By Michael DeForge
Published by Secret Headquarters

Like every other comics blogger that isn’t that Derik Badman guy, I will certainly make up a reason to claim this as one of my books of the year in December, but right now I don’t have a fake explanation prepared for what I think it means, although I bet somebody (COUGH COUGH ROB CL-OUGH) does. Right now I just like to think it’s DeForge riffing on the way artists have to burn off the parts that are too indebted to whatever they came up being obsessed with (which in this case is Charles Shulz) or else they won’t be able to find their own shit. Alternatively, you can just draw lines all over your favorite old comics like Santoro and Seneca do, that seems to help like a ton. If DeForge had hand drawn each of the little Snoopy silhouettes on the interior covers, you might be able to make an argument that he was joshing with Craig Thompson’s Look At How I Spent All My Summer Vacations insanity in those Habibi panel borders, but since he didn’t, you can’t.

Vigilante #39-40
By Tod Smith, Rick Magyar, Greg Brooks, Liz Berube & Paul Kupperberg
Published by DC Comics

This is a two-part story from an '80s DC Comic that sees the Vigilante (think of the Punisher, but less effective and a total crybaby) facing off against the kidnapping of children for sexual slavery, which the comic tastefully refers to as "white" slavery. It must have been a subject that Paul Kupperberg had just read an article about, because man alive, this comic is angry with a capital P, which stands for Pedophile. These comics are a pure gold mine for any budding What-The-Fuckologist, page after page after page of children being grabbed from their actual front yards or their actual fishing holes, thrown into actual station wagons and driven away to be passed off to actual Middle Eastern oil sheikhs—because back in 1987, we couldn’t be too sure that those Arab palaces weren’t filled to the brim with heavy metal child rapin’. By the close of this two-parter, Vigilante has killed quite a few pederasts, beat a woman so bad that she ends up in a fucking coma, and yet the story still makes a distinct, unsubtle point of concluding on the image of yet another child being abducted while an oblivious Vigilante congratulates himself on the fact that he “really made a difference in the world.” I’d say I don’t know who this is for, but considering that millions of people took a break from watching Law & Order SVU so that they could buy millions of copies of Steig Larrsson’s “Women: There’s Just So Many Ways To Violate Them” trilogy, the truth is that Kupperberg and company were just way ahead of the times.

Fairest #1
By Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Andrew Dalhouse & Bill Willingham
Published by Vertigo

This is the first of four new ongoing series from the rapidly dwindling cache of ideas that was once DC’s most thriving imprint; in keeping with their new “let’s be horrible” business model, it’s the second spin-off from Bill Willingham’s i’ll-go-away-when-the-Palestinians-do Fables mothership, unless you’re counting mini-series and shitty novels, which would in case make Fairest the 9000th Fables spin-off. The Adam Hughes cover is a surprisingly chaste affair, depicting some of the series' female characters doing the various idiotic things that Willingham has assigned them so that they can have something besides a name and hair color to distinguish them in a line-up. For example, Rose Red is drinking and smoking, because she likes to get the most out of her life. Sleeping Beauty is yawning, which seems like cheating. The comic behind that cover ends up barely touching upon those characters, choosing instead to focus on a conversation between Ali Baba and a flying blue character that is neither a flying Smurf nor a naked Guardian, which seems like a mistake on Willingham’s part. Both of those things have a fan base who probably doesn’t know that Fairest exists, and yet they could totally be suckered into buying this thing simply through their mention. As it is, this is the sort of comic that people who hate super-hero comics should be forced to read, because they really do they not have any idea how much deeper into terrible these things can actually go. Green Lantern ain't got shit on Willingham.

Orc Stain #7
By James Stokoe
Published by Image

It's been one full year since issue 6 was released, and Orc Stain is still the best single-issue comic or whatever else you want to call it. It looks great, it's really funny, and Stokoe seems to be getting better at every creative aspect as the series plods forward. Sure, there's the small hint of depression that comes from realizing that all that talk about the "Year of Image" is referring to juvenile Hollywood pitch scripts and those tacky Robert Kirkman comics and not the explicit could-exist-nowhere-but-here comics work that a guy like Stokoe is delivering, but that's a depression born purely out of another kind of juvenilia: the idea that life is fair, and that hard work gets rewarded. It doesn't, and that will never change. But to those of you who are already on board: holy shit, this issue. The two-page spread that venomously laces Vietnam War tropes into the frame while making official the video game ancestry of the contemporary villains, all proudly displaying cutesy living weapons? The second two-page spread that lays out its gigantic penises in plain sight, steals the old (and still unsurpassed in transport excellence) spaceship that '80s Brainiac humiliated Superman in, repurposing it as earth-quaking land boat transport? The venom-dripping antagonism of a gigantic living hairball that would prefer to live as a snarky, biological cape? This was career best, right here. It even had a fart joke.

Spaceman #4
By Eduardo Risso, Brian Azzarello & Patricia Mulvihill
Published by Vertigo

While it wears the trappings of a science fiction story (the protagonist is an ape-human hybrid bred for space exploration, the story is set in the near future), Spaceman is actually a crime story, even more so after this issue. This time around, the requisite flashback sequence reveals that Orson (the ape-man the reader spends most of his time with) was once involved in some kind of off-world gold smuggling adventure. Something obviously went awry--Orson now lives as a low-end scavenger, no gold in sight--and he has now entered the Grudgingly Attempting To Do Something Decent portion of his life, much like protagonists always do when they get to a certain age and are thrust between criminals and innocent victims. While the presence of Eduardo Risso combined with Azzarello’s love-it-or-hate-it dialog certainly elevates the project past most of the Luc Besson movies that mess with this sort of plot (The Transporter films, Leon, the unjustly derided Kiss of the Dragon, etc), it’s hard to ignore the similarities. Actually, that's only going to be a problem if you don’t like Kiss of the Dragon or that Korean movie where the dude cuts his hair so that he may more sexily murder all of those people who had something to do with kidnapping the precocious little one who lived next door to him. But hey, that's why they have things like comas and Nicholas Sparks books, so that people like you can go to sleep forever.

Crossed: Badlands #1
By Jacen Burrows, Garth Ennis & Digikore
Published by Avatar

By simply surviving and sticking to their revolting taste, Avatar has become a respectable publisher in a way that seems to forever escape Dynamite and the like. Avatar’s output is, by and large, completely fucking disgusting, the sort of comics that serve as prime exhibits for the case that anti-censorship fights in comics might just be horrible mistakes, as even pornographers have got more shame than comics publishers. And yet? You have to give it to them on one thing: they refuse to have it both ways. It’s all about making as much money as possible off of blood, guts, and nudity, all the time, it’s the only game they're interested in playing. Nobody’s fooled about what Ennis is doing here. His initial run on Crossed didn’t need a sequel. In fact, having so many has sort of ruined the whole “look how fucking dumb I think the Walking Dead is” joke that made that last issue such a treat. Nope, Garth is back because the money is back, and he deserves a slice of it as much as the next guy. He won’t be around long--Jamie Delano takes over with the fourth issue--but while he’s here, he looks to be back in randy form, plucking all the old Garth-strings. A Bill Hicks reference on the second page, a tragic relationship that defines a loser’s existence, and a member of the British royal family: this is as Ennis as it gets, brah.

Thief of Thieves #2
By Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer, Shawn Martinbrough & Felix Serrano

Peter Panzerfaust #2
By Tyler Jenkins & Kurtis Wiebe
Published by Image Comics

Here's how small and fucked up the audience for comics is nowadays: Thief of Thieves and Peter Panzerfaust. These are comics of interest to one type of person, and one type of person only--the type of person who wants to write comic books for Image Comics to publish. They don't want to draw comic books, because that part is hard. They just want to write comic books that some guy they talk to on the Internet, preferably one in a foreign country far away from legal representation, draws for them, and then they want to go to conventions and tell the people they were in line with last month how to break into comics. Do they want to write short stories? No. Do they want to write movies? Maybe, if it's easy enough, sure, yeah okay. Why? Do you know somebody? That seems like it could be okay! That kind of thing. That's who Thief of Thieves and Peter Panzerfaust is for, and that's it. The funny thing about these comics is that the last thing they want to be is actually successful, because that would ruin the game--it has to seem like what you're seeing isn't that much different from what's on your MacBook, that what you're reading is the same thing that will happen to you if you can just wrangle up a few hundred more Twitter followers. Thief of Thieves: it's the story of a thief who wants to get out of being a thief so he can become a regular family man. Peter Panzerfaust: hey, what would happen if Peter Pan was running around during World War II, jumping over the Nazis with some Lost Boys? Could he be an irritating piece of shit while doing so?

Those aren't stories, they're elevator pitches. They're what got written in the fill-in blanks of a how-to book, and they result in the sort of comic that appeals only when the reader thinks they might be able to do something like this, you know, but probably with a vampire, or an Asian girl who hates her parents. Maybe it could be set in Seattle! Don't you dare mention webcomics to me, I swear I'll just die.

Winter Soldier #3
By Butch Guice, Stefano Gaudiano, Brian Thies, Bettie Breitweiser, Jordie Bellaire & Ed Brubaker
Published by Marvel Comics

If you’re a conspiracy nutjob--which you more than likely are, because A) reading comics and B) reading the Comics Journal website are just a couple of items that the data miners consider “peak traits”--you could probably make a comfortable argument that Marvel’s double shipping of comics is not, in fact, something that the consumer “demanded”, but is more of Marvel & DC’s continued onslaught on artists (as well as customers who might still care about how these things look, although that group is so infinitesimal a percentage as to not even exist). See, the only way for Marvel to get as many books out as they’re currently releasing is to swap out the creative teams rapidly, thus ensuring that the artists themselves live and work under a banner that reads “interchangeable,” while also ensuring that the audience is built out of people who consistently accept an expanding bench team (uncredited pencil assists, “inkers,” and the growing-in-power colorists). There’s all kinds of reasons why it’s a smart idea for Marvel to do so, if one is willing to accept the simple truth that Marvel is in the business of making money, selling brands to zombies, and dismantling the very creative spirit that built them into such a powerhouse so many years ago. The first that comes to mind is this: if your audience only cares about the writer, and is willing to accept any art whatsoever, no matter how Frankensteinian the current process becomes, then you can turn the most labor intensive part of the super-hero process into a fractured assembly line, and each cog will be forced into a bidding war with their peers for the lowest possible salary. They won't be able to call upon fans anymore (for the purpose of conjecture, let's kindly assume that they ever could), because they won't exist as individual entity anymore. They're just one of the seven people who ink Winter Soldier, and the comics industry is at a place nowadays where they'd beat Alan Moore's teeth in with the femur of Kirby's granddaughter if they could just roll a natural 20. Overall, this is all just a very comics-specific version of the dehumanization process that haunts all forms of popular entertainment--you're supposed to call this stuff "art" around these parts, but my mother raised me to never be a fibber--it's just so noticeable in comics because there's only about fifteen of us in the room at any given time, and what else are you going to talk about? Roy Crane? Who you gonna talk about Roy Crane with, granddad? You gonna also talk about cardigan sweaters and why you're so much better off now that the ex-wife is banging the meter reader? You gonna throw the term "meter reader" around, you old piece of wet carpeted shit? Why don't you re-order all the Conan stories for us chronologically, you Nixon-remembering tub of guts, and if you do a good job we'll all pretend that we think it's hilarious when you joke about what "the Hip Hopper music sounds like," I swear to God they should keep you people in a camp until we need your organs to protein up the fruit smoothies. Of course this is what we talk about: we still got the fire in our bellies. We'll give up and Crumb out to French cowardice just as soon as these pills stop working.

37 Responses to We’ll Go Back To Mourning Moebius When Alan Moore Tells Jason Aaron That He Didn’t Mean To Hurt His Feelings

  1. Rob Clough says:

    Though I do have a filing cabinet filled with fake explanations, you flatter me by saying that I have my act together enough to do a “best of” list in December. If I get one done by February, then I’m a happy man.

  2. Rob Clough says:

    Also: “Clough” as in “plow”, not “cough”–but a worthy effort.

  3. Matt Shoelace says:

    Oh my god, your Thief of Thieves/Peter Panzer review is dead on.

  4. ant says:

    I can’t even believe someone put out a comic called Peter Panzerfaust.

  5. Merkle says:

    Yeah, no one wants to read Thief of Thieves or Peter Panzerfaust — which is why they both sold out, from lack of people wanting to read them. Those second printings? Even less people want to read those.

  6. bkmunn says:

    Remember back during the Nixon administration The Comics Journal ran a review of Dr. Seuss’s The Tough Cloughs as Plows the Dough? I think deForge will eventually make a name for himself in children’s literature. (Could have bee the same issue with an RC Harvey Roy Crane essay. Is it cold in here? Where’s my cardigan?)

  7. Kuky says:

    How’s your comic script coming, Merkle?

  8. Jim Kingman says:

    I appreciated the Vigilante review, but obviously you won’t be hitting your stride until you reread and comment on Justice League Detroit.

  9. David says:

    This is a convenient arrangement, as a column that I try to remember to read is now featured on a website that I always remember to read. And nice work as always, Mr. Stone. I can’t imagine that anyone enjoys reading these comics (the bad ones) as much as I enjoy reading your reviews of them.

  10. Allen Smith says:

    I want to thank Marvel and DC. In a shitty world, they’ve made me acquire an appetite for eating shit and liking it.

  11. Phil Stooling says:

    TWO printings? Holy shit! What is that, 11,000 copies?

  12. inkstuds says:

    Selling out means absolutely nothing, since they pretty much print to order now, so most titles are sell outs, regardless of how many of them there are. if you print 3 copies of a comic, sell them all, you have a sell out, doesnt mean lots of people are reading, just that all the printed copies are sold out.

  13. That is actually a lot of copies. Not defending those books but considering how hard it is for even totally established comics to sell, 11,000 is a silly number to bat around as weak.

  14. Jon says:

    Although I agree with some of the writer’s opinions his rageful attitude and snobbish criticism make this article unenjoyable and I will remember not to waste reading his work in the future.

  15. Andrew says:

    Seconded. If they find comics so loathsome, they might as well spend their time staring in the mirror for all the joy that obviously gives them.

  16. P. Angel says:

    Not going to lie, the most thrilling thing for me about moving Comics of the Weak to TCJ is that it promises more terrible malformed comments like this one from people who don’t seem to understand jokes. Or the truth.

  17. Congrats Tucker!

    And that stapling breast cancer gag reminded me of Johnny Ryan. Kudos to you, sir.

  18. “… they’d beat Alan Moore’s teeth in with the femur of Kirby’s granddaughter if they could just roll a natural 20.”

  19. DerikB says:

    “Alternatively, you can just draw lines all over your favorite old comics like Santoro and Seneca do, that seems to help like a ton.”


  20. patrick ford says:

    I loved Tucker’s interview with Tom Spurgeon, but I’m a little concerned his column here is going to attract a lot of comments from highly offended super hero fans; and with the way the comments side-bar works interesting information from Kim and others might get lost in a black blizzard.

  21. Chris Jones says:

    Same here. I think it’s phenomenal that Tucker’s writing is being exposed to a whole new spectrum of frothing malcontents.

  22. Frank Santoro says:

    Highly controversial…

  23. Darryl Ayo says:

    Patrick, aren’t superhero comics…in a sense at least…a kind of comic? If they are in fact so, perhaps it wouldn’t be bad if some superhero comic readers came to this site, The Comics Journal. Perhaps? Perhaps!

    I am almost certain of it: superhero comic readers may find this site, The Comics Journal, of some use and perhaps this site, The Comics Journal can make use of inbounding new readers.

  24. Tony says:

    “It’s all about making as much money as possible off of blood, guts, and nudity”

    Blood and guts sure, but nudity?

    Interview with Raúlo Cáceres, artist of “Crossed: Psychopath”:

    “The funniest thing is Avatar Press’ self-censorship. I could never figure out American morality. You can draw the most horrendous mutilations and huge quantities of blood and guts, but don’t even think about showing a boob on the cover. For instance, I did a cover for Crossed where a baby was placidly suckling from his mother’s breast, but the mother had being beheaded by some crossed children who were playing soccer with her head. The exposed breasts were a no-no, so I finally drew the child asleep and put a sweater on the mother’s busom.

    On another cover there was a half-naked woman, legs wide open, but with her genitalia hidden behind the light of a candle. In this case they told me to cover the girl’s crotch with guts and entrails instead.

    On another cover I wasn’t allowed to show a crossed posh girl cutting her pony’s cock, even thouh she just had chopped her best friend to pieces. In a Captain Swing cover I had to put a bra on a wooden mermaid carved as a ship’s figure head.

    In the interior art for Crossed boobs are allowed and even penises, but never in erected form, and penetrations could never be shown. On the other hand, violence and gore, all you want, knock yourself out”

  25. Joe Williams says:

    Love seeing this column here. Love even more the offended sensitive types who love to trash shit they don’t like when they’re in their own insular circles but get all “harumph” when their sacred oxes get gored.

  26. Pingback: Random Thoughts! (March 20, 2012) | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources

  27. Kenny Cather says:


    Hasn’t that always been The Comics Journal’s steez? To trash stuff they don’t like but have an inner circle and get all “harumph” when their sacred oxes get gored?

    I can’t say I’ve read every issue of TCJ ever or every column since the Comics Comics gang took over, but that certainly seems to be the way they operate…upholding the long-standing Comics Journal tradition of hating anyone who doesn’t like the exact stuff they like.

  28. Kenny Cather says:

    I gave up on Stone’s columns a long time ago, but I read this one because I check out often out of habit and saw something I recognized. I think he’s *really* wrong on Thief of Thieves. Is it good? Hell no, it was middle of the road safe stuff…no different than Criminal Minds or CSI or whatever other TV show people watch when they want to unwind after a long day by watching people pretend to be clever. And is there anything wrong with that? Does everything have to be super high-brow art? I don’t think it does. And really, that’s all Thief of Thieves is…just some boring, mediocre, by-the-numbers TV show.

    Why do I care? Because Tucker is a retailer and that’s the worst kind of contempt for comic readers retailers have. It’s not, “you’re a moron because you’re buying Wolverine thinking it’s Optic Nerve,” it’s judging them for liking something totally harmless and ordinary. It would be like a book seller saying, “You know who the worst customers are…the ones buying JD Robb books. They’re just doing that because they want to write their own murder mystery/romance books some day.” When honestly…they mostly just want trashy fun.

    My problem with Thief of Thieves, and I’m guessing Peter Panzefaust is the same, I dunno, haven’t read it, is it just aims for middle of the road. There wasn’t any creative ambition anywhere to be seen. It was just a technically competent story from people who haven’t been doing anything except treading water for years. It’s like watching someone who once aspired to run marathons turn in 5K after 5K with reasonable, not great, times.

    But really, there’s nothing wrong with turning in reasonable 5K times. It’s more than most people do, get reasonably good at something and hold there. Sometimes my brain is just in the mood for mediocre, easy to digest TV and I have to admit, it was kind of nice reading a comic not trying to be anything more than that.

    I dunno…I already know the Comics Comics/Hooded Utalitarian/ mindest is “if you don’t agree completely with us, we hate you and we’ll insult you and make fun of you,” so I don’t know why I’m bothering. Stone’s comments just really struck me as a new level of contempt, even from this crowd.

  29. Brian Hibbs says:

    I love Tucker in a deep and special way that’s not even slightly disturbing, but he’s certainly not “a retailer” — he’s “a guy who works at a comics shop”, unless I misunderstand something deeply about how Bergen Street operates.

    You’re not “a retailer” until you’re paying for the rack copies with the same money that would otherwise go to feeding your children.


  30. Under the hood: 

    i buy my comics from Bergen Street and have chatted about comics with Tucker upon occasion. His selling style is …inspired. He doesn’t let what he likes get in the way of what the customer likes and that’s a big deal. 

    Everybody has opinions, and nobody can honestly think the world of every book, series, writer or issue. That’s legit.

  31. Graham says:

    11,000 would be pathetic sales for the amount of money that goes into the production of a book. That’s barely keeping your head afloat and paying your writers and artists more than pennies. It’d be good for a self-published fanzine you ran off your photocopier, but for an Image comic?

    Sadly, Peter Panzerfaust sold 4,850 copies.

    Thief of Thieves did better at 17,877, but those are still not numbers to be proud of from a sales perspective. That’s less than the neigh illegible Hawkman comic DC’s putting out.

    (numbers according to

  32. Tucker, you ignorant slut: The Vision is a SYNTHEZOID. Uh, you were talking about the Vision, right? I didn’t read TATCCPTAVX.

    Liked the Music Man reference.

  33. Mateor says:

    “… If you’re a conspiracy nutjob–which you more than likely are… You gonna also talk about … why you’re so much better off now that the ex-wife is banging the meter reader?”


    (Just b/c u no hu I m, duz n0 meen I wunt stand outsyde yr shop w/ a running copi of FIRESHEEP AND [b]OUT[/b] YOU TO YOUR FRIENDS&FAMILY)

    – someone who isn’t Azzarello. Seriously.

  34. Jayhawh says:

    About Gantz, I’m not sure if I’m remembering right, but I think it’s either the next volume, or the one after that, where the story finally gets back out of its rut. Or rather it goes back to being weird, instead of this long stretch of typical and boring.

    Wish I could say the same about Berserk.

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  36. Ryan Hamilton says:

    I’m pretty sure the plural of ‘sacred ox’ is ‘sacred oxen.’

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