Things Don’t Look So Bright And Chummy Round Here

Nathan Bulmer, doing the dirty. He's doing these every single day, people. My dad is a dentist, so you'd think I should send him this cartoon, right? I'm not going to. He wouldn't look at it, and the disappointment of his disinterest to even click a link would bring up what some might call "the original wound." I've learned it's best not to request that kind of pain. Some people keep going back to the well. Take a look at this, it's from Abhay's Tumblr.

Fun, right? Abhay went on to point out that "the word masterfully gets 58,500 hits." I love this little image. One response I liked a considerable amount was when someone said "we get exactly what we deserve," something I'd furiously shake my head in agreement with. That is also, in part, why it's perfectly fine that CBR and the rest of its peer group read the way they do. If a bunch of adult men want to make My Little Pony comics a sales bonanza, why pretend that the industry deserves a Pauline Kael or a Gay Talese? Wizard's leftovers will work just fine, that's about all the intelligence we can handle.


By Joe Daly
Published by Fantagraphics, 2005
An anthology of shorter works by the Dungeon Quest cartoonist compiled alongside a wordless 70-pager called "Prebaby" that reimagines procreation and birth in Daly fashion. Healthy range of humor on display--weed buddy comedy, nudity and sex humor. Daly is a much more interesting cartoonist than most of the names that are brought up during the comedy conversation, he's also an actual artist to boot.

Pope Hats #3
By Ethan Rilly
Published by Adhouse
I'd love to dislike this comic, to use it as an example of the empty sterility of design porn comics, but it refuses to fit into that category, allowing the worst aspects of its fans to slide off. Its general plot and character concerns couldn't be more slight--list them on paper, you've got a feminized version of one of the male character arcs from The Good Wife; from another angle, it's indistinct from parts of that Keanu Reeves movie where Satan is a lawyer. And yet, Rilly is able to burrow around in the lives of his two protagonists enough to make stale tropes his own, ultimately using these worlds--of a lawyer, of an actor--to insert a bit of richness into the black and white alt-genre, while being its prettiest as well.

Black Lung
By Chris Wright
Published by Fantagraphics
Oversized pirate comics, the big, trippy brother to Drew Weing's Segar influenced Set To Sea. Marketed well by the dropping of the name Peckinpah as compliment, Wright can unnerve and terrify with the best of them, and there's multiple passages within the page where the panels seem about to seep into the gutters. Gore saturates this comic, and while it ends up more Young Guns than Wild Bunch--entertaining, but pointlessly so, with its aimless tripped out sections going on way too long--the experience still leaves a mark. Brutality for its own sake is the point of some entertaining movies, no reason it can't be the point of some entertaining comics as well.

By Joe Kessler
Published by Breakdown Press
One of the best looking comics to emerge out of the UK that isn’t from Nobrow, Windowpane is a mixed up collection of one off stories, some of the standard young people talking variety, some from the here’s-a-real-story. Joe Kessler’s use of color is what holds the whole thing together, there’s a sense of composition and thought that, when contrasted with the vaguely crude fluidity of his unpredictable line, results in a comic that seems like its construction crowds out narrative. This isn’t a book that reads, it moves, and Kessler’s variety of style is the beating heart. This is a great comic.

Daredevil #20
By Mark Waid, Chris Samnee
Published by Marvel Comics
It turns out that the bad guy Daredevil has been fighting for these last few issues runs a gigantic slavery ring (one that covers both sex slaves and regular-old-slaves) by decapitating the slaves with teleportation radio and keeping their still living heads in an underground cell while their bodies are used for sex and/or harvesting type duties. Chris Samnee--who apparently can’t turn off “cute” even in a situation like this, when turning it off would help tremendously--goes ahead and delivers the goods, and the whole thing is as gross as it sounds. This one’s a stinker, folks.

Orion The Gates of Apokolips
By Walt Simonson
Published by DC Comics, 2001
Certain superhero comics read as fan fiction, no matter how extraordinarily well made they are, and there's bits of these Orion comics that fall deep into that trap. Maybe the love is just too strong, but whatever it is, these are more like the documents of an exercise than they are a pulsating story, and while Kirby's characters have never looked better than they do here, they still come across exactly the same. It's a great try, nonetheless...

Copra #1
By Michel Fiffe
Published by Copra Press
I like this more than anything else. Comics are a constant disappointment, their failings so rarely spectacular, their banalities so consistent and indistinguishable. True successes are rare, and to make it worse, those successes are often ignored, wasted on an audience bred in the fields of disinterest and stupidity. I hate you so much more than you could possibly imagine. Copra for life!

The Libertarian
By Nick Maandag
Published by Nick Maandag, 2012
Definitely on the short list for funniest comic, so good one wishes there was a nasty comedy industry bent on ignoring it so that one could praise this work by lambasting the lack of attention Those People have paid it. No worries--Maandag found his audience with his Streakers comic, he'll have no problem finding one again with this. While it's his script that will receive deserved praise--you could film this thing without changing a word and what you'd have would be better than the last five years of televised sketch comedy--it's the way Maandag draws his fervid lead, chomping on his knuckle to stifle a scream, that you'll remember best.

Batman Special #1
By Mike W. Barr, Michael Golden, Mike DeCarlo
Published by DC Comics, 1984
A mediocre idea--a young boy's parents are killed by a young James Gordon the same night Bruce Wayne lost his parents; one orphan became Batman, the other a cop-killer in a lookalike costume--stretched to 40 pages, the main point of interest with this mostly forgotten miscellany is the art by Michael Golden, one of those influential '80s artists condemned for the sin of working at his peak when all the interesting writers were in cold storage. This wasn't his best, some panels don't look like him at all, but there's a glimpse or two of a man enjoying himself.

Batman Incorporated #5
By Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn
Published by DC Comics
The last great Batman comic that Grant Morrison wrote was Batman #666, and while this issue of Batman Incorporated--which is as close to a sequel as that issue is ever to receive, thematically --could coast on ones fond memories of 666, the truth is that there's actually enough here to please even the most jaded of the Morrison Batman readers ... assuming, ridiculously, that the most jaded Morrison Batman readers are still around, when in reality they are, to a man, long gone. This isn't a comic for dilettantes or drop-ins, but Morrison can't be lambasted for that too harshly (unless you want to talk about Action Comics, the title where he was supposed to write for a fabled casual reader, a task which he proved himself hysterically incapable of), because nearly all superhero comics operate in place where the casual passerby is viewed with a mix of contempt and hostility that's basically no different from racial or gender hatred in terms of its bewildering unexplainability, which is why it so often appears like some form of religious mania, complete with ritual, xenophobia, and tremendously fucked up attitudes about sex. Batman Incorporated is a mix of all kinds of the same self-referential crimes that Morrison's contemporaries build languages out of--there's even a bit of meta-victimhood in the way the entire story is about a solitary genius, guilty of ethical shortcomings only because he's the only true believer left, living in a giant playpen populated by things his strength and intelligence give him mastery over, under siege by morons and maniacs, all of whom wear the same face and probably wouldn't change if they could--but, like the Morrison of old, the mixture works here, and his partnership (one of the most rewarding ones Morrison has had) with Chris Burnham results in a comic that, compared to the rest of the character's recent appearances, is almost as entertaining as watching one of the movies.

Prophet #31
By Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, Joseph Bergin III
Published by Image Comics
Although the continued slide in quality of the BPRD has made it somewhat easy for Prophet to slip in as the one pop genre comic that non-genre fans like, the ease of that explanation ignores how good this series has become, and how much better at writing Graham has gotten, even since the beginning of the series. In this issue, the growing cast (each member growing more engaging as the pages mount up) fends off the hoariest of sci-fi tricks, with Graham withholding the gravity until after the situation reaches conclusion, and that's only a few pages of what's on offer. Everyone is permitted a favorite, for this reader nothing tops the panel where a headless trashcan informs the young female that she's wearing an alien's jock strap on her face. No one matches the deft, miniscule touches with which Milonogiannis displays the emotions of these bizarre, inhuman characters--it's flash totally without ego, and one of the best looking books available.

Fatale #10
By Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart
Published by Image Comics
Previous issues of this have seemed off, but this one worked out fine, simply because Brubaker accepted one of life's general truths: there is no character less interesting to follow than one who obsessively follows another, and it gets even worse when the one being followed doesn't particularly enjoy the process. What first seemed dull--he loves her unreservedly, insanely, but boringly--became irritating when she didn't enjoy the process. The sequence of events that concluded this issue--begun when the fatale of the title embraced what she is, what she can be, and used it--were the first time in this arc when we were witness to active purpose, instead of the treacly whining of the desperate.

Thor God Of Thunder # 2
By Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Ive Svorcina
Published by Marvel Comics
“Ive Svorcina”--if there’s a name that belongs on a Thor comic, it’s totally that name right there. Most of the Marvel Now stuff is relatively fine, harmless bullshit, few of them are as incompetent as what DC started the New 52 line with. This one is the best of the bunch, and it deserves stronger praise than that.

Silver Surfer #18
By Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Herb Trimpe
Published by Marvel Comics, 1970
The centerpiece of a particular strong paragraph in Sean Howe's gleefully populist look at the underbelly of Marvel Comics, this Silver Surfer issue's real conclusion is in "Stan's Soapbox", where Stan announces Kirby's resignation with the same air of oh-well, what-a-drag that he probably whipped out when the breakfast man ran out of donuts. The comic itself is pretty thin gruel, even by the low standards one extends to the Surfer title, but Howe's right: a Kirby drawing yelling at the reader for disrespect is a pretty stirring experience.

Metabarons: Ultimate Collection
By Alexandro/Alejandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimenez
Published by Humanoids
This isn't the best edition of a comic Humanoids has published--its so similar to a high school chemistry textbook that it doesn't hesitate to smell like one--but it's still a brilliant way to read the Jodorowsky/Gimenez Metabarons comics, one drunkenly after the other. Incest and bloodlust, bad jokes and foot-stamping galactic-encompassing misanthropy. Going through these comics more than once is the best way to find out how good Gimenez is, the first time through, the main thing that registers is how in touch with the lizard Jodorowsky can get.

By Osamu Tezuka
Published by Vertical, 2010
To those unable to make it past the opening line "Ayako is a must-read for comics connoisseurs and curious literati"--no worries, that kept me from sitting down with this book for nearly two years--go for it, question mark? Ayako is well sold as being like a Russian novel, not because it's as good as a Tolstoy or Dosteovsky, but because it's like those things in a vague, categorical way. It's long, and it's about a family, and the ending isn't particularly happy. But despite its length, Tezuka is never really able to make you care about any of these people, and they never do anything without it seeming like they are characters under the control of a intermittently malevolent force. For those who only read comics, Ayako might be a big deal, but if you've had any exposure to a torrid television miniseries set on a giant estate, or if you've ever tripped over a doorstopping bit of lurid historical fiction, you've seen this type of thing before. The aforementioned "comics connoisseurs" will be able to find some excitement in Tezuka's occasional experiments with thick-lined abstractions for action, but the human race--a group that Ayako fails to represent with any real consistency--will find that this experience nothing more than a clock-killer.



Over the Thanksgiving holiday, while those of us in the U.S. were busy attending elementary school plays about the Nativity of the Baby Thanksey, Grant Morrison finally dropped his latest Internet Spectacle, after having almost gone an entire lonely week without internet drama in his life. "The internet is so terrible-- it's like the Phantom Zone," whispered Grant Morrison to his LiveJournal.

This time: Morrison-- whose mainstream superhero comics are frequently the subject of annotations-- is now himself annotating articles about Grant Morrison. The specific articles are about his relationship to Alan Moore.

The annotations began with an introduction by Morrison hagiographer Laura Sneddon: "While Moore has previously spoken out about his thoughts on Morrison in various interviews, Morrison has generally kept quiet on the issue." Among many other things, this utter horseshit overlooks the sizable portion of the article that follows recounting the time Grant Morrison, in the documentary film of his life story, spoke at length about Moore. Specifically, Morrison claimed Moore sent him a sinister letter threatening to end his comics career (and which story was wholly unaccompanied by visual evidence of the actual letter in question, the specific text therefrom, corroboration from any other people who had seen the letter, and so on).

But except for the part where his feud with Moore was prominently explained by Morrison in Morrison: Under the Cherry Moon, mum has been the word-- mum, not the bird, mum is the word, the word is not bird. "Grant Morrison has been so quiet about Alan Moore," Laura Sneddon declared, forgetting her own interview with Morrison from the distant mists of September 2012 in which Morrison defended his corporate benefactors at DC Comics from Moore's criticism of their handling of Watchmen: "I don't understand how you could get yourself into the position where you don't own [a comic] and you're angry about it."

Still, to be fair, Morrison has only talked about his feelings about Moore on paper and on screen, but as of time of press, has yet to mount a Broadway musical about his feelings about Alan Moore featuring Julie Taymor African headmasks. This is basically the same exact kind of silence that let AIDS kill so many people, so it's a good thing it's finally over.

Morrison then began a super-slow-motion nitpick tour through a quotation of an Alan Moore webchat. Morrison's nitpicks, condensed as best as I can, are as follows:

1) Moore recalls having met Morrison while the latter was an "aspiring comics writer."

Morrison angrily retorts that he was not an aspiring comic writer because he first began working in comics in 1978, before Moore's career had commenced; that he had a comic strip in three whole newspapers, and thus was hardly aspiring; that yes, Alan Moore "galvanized" him but that's he grown tired, tired of this idea that Alan Moore was influential because he was just merely galvanizing not... Galvanizing is not a big deal because, like... Hey, Peter Milligan would have had a career even if Alan Moore never existed, and Bryan Talbot would have, and George Bailey could have had booze and hookers galore in Pottersville, and-- and-- Grant Morrison was submitting ideas for crossovers to DC in 1982, and... Billy Jean King beat Bobby Riggs, she beat him, so this whole male privilege can go and... And Mister Gorbachev, tear down that wall, and ... And yeah, it's already torn down but in 1981, Grant Morrison made a mini-comic about the wall coming down, which is really the foundation of Alan Moore's whole ... And five other things!

Note: in addition to that comic strip in three newspapers, Wikipedia lists about nine stories Morrison had published from 1978 to 1985, none that include the work he is remembered for at the moment. Alan Moore's bibliography during that time period is too long for me to sit and count.

2) My favorite part of the "Grant Morrison Vs. The Word Aspiring" section was Morrison declaring, "I was even a guest on panels at comics conventions", referring to a UK comic convention that took place somewhere between 1979 and 1982. We've all lived long enough where admitting you attended a comic convention in the UK between 1979 and 1982 is a strategy for winning an argument, and not character evidence being used against someone accused of interfering with preschoolers. Bam Pow. 

3) Moore mentions that he recommended Morrison to Karen Berger, but part of the transcript is garbled with the person preparing the transcript inserting a word he believed might be appropriate.

Morrison then begins a lengthy section on the garbled section and discusses how he is "insulted" by the word that maybe very well possibly might have been in the garbled section, potentially. This goes on and on, doesn't really have a point, and is not entertaining. (That's also my review of Morrison's Batman comics-- one stone, two birds! Only the one stone! I have achieved maximum stone efficiency).

4) Moore states that Morrison wrote some nasty things about him in fanzines.

Morrison angrily denies that he wrote nasty things about Alan Moore as a career move. This is contradicted further down where a portion of Morrison's book Supergods is quoted at length where Morrison write about how he started his career with "trash talk" which "helped me carve out a niche for myself as comics’ enfant terrible."

3) Moore mentions that he finds Morrison's writing deriviative of his own.

Morrison then angrily, angrily admits that he spent a part of his career imitating Alan Moore. He insists he did so because that's what comic companies were buying at the time: "I was trying to sell to companies who thought Moore was the sine qua non of the bees knees."

Note that this is somehow immediately after angrily ranting that Alan Moore is delusional for perceiving Vertigo as being comprised of people imitating Alan Moore. So: yes, Morrison imitated Alan Moore and Morrison worked for Vertigo but how dare Alan Moore think that people who imitated Alan Moore worked for Vertigo? That son of a bitch!

2) Morrison claims that Moore's unidentified "former collaborators" have told him that Moore reads Grant Morrison comics. 

So: Alan Moore is a terrible liar, a scoundrel, a stain on his industry, a misery of a human being and also he definitely reads Grant Morrison comics. So ... quite an endorsement! Hey, by the way, what was the Green River Killer's favorite Wu-Tang Clan song, do you think? Was it "Mystery of Chess-Boxin'"? That's a good one-- I could sure see how the Green River Killer would like to hear that one while he's dumping strangled prostitutes into the Green River.

1) Fish learn to walk. Monkeys become Man. Man learns to make fire. Jesus buries Dinosaur bones all over the place to fuck with us. Morrison continues to go on and on. At no point does it become entertaining. It just goes on and on until... Dave... Dave? What are you doing, Dave? I'm not going to open the pod bay doors, Dave. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going...

0) Morrison angrily complains he met Moore on more than one occasion, so we now know that surely, Alan Moore's entire life is a lie because who could ever possibly forget having met Grant Morrison for a few minutes at the Quids Inn in Scarborough in 1981.

-1) Morrison angrily complains that Alan Moore has omitted from a webchat response the fact that Morrison handed Alan Moore a copy of a zine Morrison had made, or to put it another way, Morrison angrily complains that Alan Moore didn't talk about the time he acted as a bridge between Grant Morrison and a trash can.

-2) Then, we came to the Red Meat for Shitheads part of the thing, the quote that really lit up the parts of the internet that care about this kinda shit and also generate revenue from getting hits plus have comment sections: the Alan Moore isn't Nice Enough section. This is the part where Morrison, to the delight of meatheads, bemoans that Alan Moore isn't nice enough to the comics industry in public, a sentiment expressed for about the 9 billionth time just this year alone. This is not news: fans of industrial comics-- a broken septic tank on a good Wednesday-- wishes Alan Moore would be its dim-witted cheerleader and regard his failure to do so as a betrayal. Everyone must be thrilled by "the generally improved standard of writing in all comic books" (which is apparently something that happened sometime, maybe in one of the Avengers Versus X-Men spin-offs about Nick Fury's move-tie-in love baby or whatever, I didn't read those).

And why wouldn't Moore want to speak well of comics? His relationship with almost all of his former collaborators are in tatters, comic companies that he believes have exploited him are spraying graffiti over his artistic legacy, the mistreatment of the industry's great artists is the subject of multiple history books at this point, and that industry's dominant commercial strategy is to find one, single, super-rich, taste-free continuity obsessive who hates women, surround him in the bed he's confined to, sink their teeth into his femoral artery, and drink deeply. What's not to love?

-3) Morrison then talks about how the structure of his book Supergods is Qabalistic because he hadn't talked about himself enough in a while and/or thrown himself a comic convention about himself in, like, a whole month.

-4) After a whole mess, Morrison finally states, "As I’ve said, it’s far easier to make the argument that Moore, along with powerful allies like Michael Moorcock, continues to indulge in clear, persistent, and often successful attempts to injure my reputation, for reasons of his own." Morrison's thoughts on what he believes the  "reasons of his own" are, which might be the only possible thing of interest here, are of course, never described, and no noticeable attempt is ever made to ascribe any motive whatsoever to Alan Moore for the nearly four-decade long vendetta Morrison has described at nauseating length. So what was the point? The finale of Seven Soldiers made more sense to me than this.

-5) Then at the end a random space vampire that hadn't been mentioned in any of the rant up until that point shows up and it doesn't make any fucking sense at all but it turns out you had to read a 3D rant from Grant Morrison that was sold separately.

And that was Thanksgiving.

I look forward to Christmas. I'm calling it now: Grant Morrison dick-pics on a MySpace blog with Colonel Mustard scrawling "Eat this, Alan Grant" on them. Toldja!