Archive for the ‘Bring the hate’ Category

This is why we can’t have nice things

August 5, 2012

This is what happens when you view the entire history of comics through the lens of one very small genre which has, thanks to various accidents of history, become the dominant entry-point for a particular type of reader. You get asinine questions like this, about Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse:

One of the things that blew my mind was how those strips feel so much more modern than your average Golden Age super-hero comic, even though they started eight years before Action Comics #1.

That’s right, kids. We’re in a decade that had, inter alia, Prince Valiant, Krazy Kat, Terry and the Pirates, Popeye in Thimble Theatre, Wash Tubbs/Captain Easy, Alley Oop, Dick Tracy, Li’l Abner…and we’re asking why another canon-level comic strip seems modern compared with Action fucking Comics #1.

Comics!

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There really is no accounting for taste

May 23, 2012

Original version:

Recoloured:

Original version:

Recoloured:
…and so on, for 140 or so pages.

I find it — no exaggeration — genuinely hard to read Laura Martin’s recolouring of Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer, as it appears in the 2011 reprint volume from IDW. I cannot understand how anyone could possibly look at something like this:

and decide that what it needs is a bunch of slick, plastic-looking colour gradients to muddy up Dave Stevens’ linework.

My critical motto has become “different strokes for different folks”, but I look at this reprint and my mind just boggles. The people who published this — and according to the internet, Laura Martin was hand-picked by Stevens himself to recolour the work — thought this was an improvement? Some readers prefer it? Fuck it, any readers prefer it?

Are you shitting me?

Kuhn was right: I literally live in a different world from these people; it is impossible for us to understand one another.

[Images pilfered from: IDW preview art, Chris Sims — one of the readers who, mirabile dictu, actually prefers the recolouring, and Wil Pfiefer]

This post is flawed because it doesn’t contain several paragraphs on Norbert Weiner

December 19, 2011

So the great psychologist, and “Nobel” laureate, Daniel Kahneman has written a pop science book summing up his prodigious life of research — good for him. If he’d started his research career thirty years later, he would have written a dozen such books by now; so much of his research lends itself to the genre of  “Title/Subtitle: How One Half-Baked Idea Based on Other People’s Research Can Sell a Million Books”…except that Kahneman himself did all the research (with collaborators, of course), and his ideas are so very, very far from half-baked. We can only be grateful that we have the one pop book that he’s given us now. I hope he sells a zillion books.

Anyway, Freeman Dyson has a review of Kahneman’s book in the New York Review of Books, and his big criticism is…Kahneman never mentions Freud!

Not even in the footnotes!!!!!!

Shit, man, what about Skinner??? Does Kahneman have nothing to say about the humoral theory? Where my Robert Burton at, homeboy? I thought A Brief History of Time should have had at least two chapters on Ptolemy; The Selfish Gene, two on Georges Cuvier.

On the other hand, Dyson’s review doesn’t name-drop Malcolm Gladwell or David fucking Brooks, so there is that. (Speaking of “Title/Subtitle”…)

PS: Bonus points for Dyson for repeating the furphy that William James and Sigmund Freud were not scientists. Just because a lot of their theories were false, doesn’t mean they weren’t scientists — they were just unlucky!

You got your superheroes in my international espionage/No, you got your international espionage in my superheroes

October 9, 2007

Like my mum always told me, if you can’t say something nice, then say something extremely mean-spirited instead.

Checkmate: A King’s Game. Greg Rucka, Nunzio Defilippis, Christina Weir, Jesus Saiz, and a cast of thousands. DC, 2006. $14.99, 168 pages.

Grown adults enjoy this comic book?

Really?

I can understand people reading juvenile, poorly crafted nonsense about Batman or Superman or whatever just because they really dig the characters.

Well, “understand” may not be the right word.

But I’m aware that such people exist, just as people exist who will pay money for a sequel to Pride and Prejudice or Hamlet because they want to know what happens to Prince Fortinbras and Horatio after everyone else dies. And I’m aware that such people will shell out their hard-earned, regardless of whether the product embodies even the most basic level of craft, talent or intrinsic interest. Personally, I can’t see myself doing it, but whatever floats your boat. Different strokes for different folks. It’s all good.

And obviously I can understand people buying the occasional good superhero book produced when someone with some actual talent dips their toes in the shallow end of the genre pool. Stuff with genuine moral and thematic complexity, and intellectual depth, like that Moore and Gibbons adaptation of Citizen Kane that everyone’s always talking about.

And let’s not forget that someone might buy a superhero book for the art. Let’s face it, the only reason to buy, say, Showcase Presents Hawkman* is for the one-two punch of Kubert and Anderson. If you’re buying it for the stories, you need professional help.

But Checkmate? What the hell? It’s nowhere near goofy enough to work purely as genre nonsense; it’s resolutely determined to highlight D-grade characters whose last appearance was in some guy’s online continuity-porn slashfic; and, worse of all, the “adult” stuff that author Greg Rucka is clearly most interested in serves, at best, as a baffling distraction from folks in tight spandex fucking shit up.

For the unenlightened, Checkmate follows the adventures of an international superhuman task force, led by such heavyweights as Amanda Waller, some old guy who used to be Green Lantern eighty five years ago and looks like an Aryan Nick Fury, and the updated Mr Terrific. Who is now totally cool because his motto “Fair Play” is written on a leather jacket, rather than a badge on the front of his costume.

Plus, he’s, like, totally black.**

In their first mission, their black ops team infiltrates nefarious terrorist/evil-genius cult Kobra while the diplomats debate UN resolutions about zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Remember those issues of The Avengers or Justice League International that centred around whether the team would get their security clearance revoked? Now imagine how awesome they would have been if they’d spent issue after issue following the drafting of various resolutions by each member of the security council. Now imagine no more, because you can just read Checkmate instead.

Greg Rucka is not a completely retarded comic book writer. He did some nice work on the police procedural Gotham Central (co-writing with everyone’s current favourite superhero-writer-whose-surname-doesn’t-start-with”m”, Ed Brubaker), even if that book was hampered by the need to pay obeisance every now and then to the “shared universe”.

Even better was Rucka’s work on the downbeat espionage sort-of thriller Queen and Country, now apparently on indefinite hiatus while he writes scripts about Chester from Swamp Thing and Max Mercury teaming up to lobby the UN to censure Quraq for blowing up Rocket Red (the one that was in JLE). Queen and Country was a well crafted, refreshingly low-key genre piece that constantly defied genre expectations–the spies were low budget, their interventions ended in failure as often as not, and they spent more time fighting hostile bureaucrats and red tape than they did blowing up shit and having crazy Jason Bourne-style car chases.

This is material that Rucka writes exceedingly well: bureaucratic, political and diplomatic tensions that constrain and shape the lives and careers of his tough-but-flawed protagonists. It also appears to be what he’s most interested in, which should be rewarding for the reader.

Unfortunately, Rucka’s strengths just don’t work in the demands of the superunderwear genre. The end result in Checkmate, as it was in Gotham Central, is middling at best, dull and jarring at worst. Maybe there is a great comic to be written from mashing up, I don’t know, Greatest American Hero with The Wire.

But Checkmate ain’t it.

Recommended: Buy Queen and Country instead. It was a good series, plus the art was better.

* For mine, the best of the Showcase volumes in terms of art, although the Infantino/Anderson pairing in the Flash volume is pretty sweet, too, as is Jonah Hex.

** Not that Rucka was responsible for the new “Mr Terrific”.