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Thursday, August 22, 2002

Excuses, Excuses -- I'd love to make some sort of an excuse for why I haven't updated the weblog in a couple of days, but I can't really think of one off the top of my head. I have been writing a few reviews, which is part of the reason, but mostly yesterday got derailed because our daycare provider was ill and I had to stay home and do some parenting.

The good news there is that while I was parenting, the kids watched some cartoons, and I got to do some reading, including a massive preview copy of Bob Fingerman's Beg the Question, collecting his Minimum Wage #1-10. My review of that will appear on the site tomorrow.

I also received some other wonderful items in the mail -- I've been getting a lot of those the past few days, but I don't get to keep any of them. Isn't that sad? If you're wondering how such circumstances could come to pass, well, take a look at your calendar and consider where you are and -- that's all the hint you get. The Big Reveal should be in a few more days once I have the final details hammered out over how these wonderful items will be distributed.

As for my parenting and why I put the word in italics, well, some people have been known to refer to it as "babysitting" when a man watches his kids.

It's parenting.


Saturday, August 17, 2002

The Quality to Crap Ratio -- A regular visitor to the Comic Book Galaxy message board said:

"Top Shelf [is] a publisher whose standards are leaps and bounds above most other companies out there."

That got me to thinking about the ratio of quality to crap, and it reminded me that just because you're in the top ten or top 50 or top 100 sales chart every month doesn't mean you're any damned good at all. Hey, I remember when Wham! had a shitload of top ten hits -- every one of them shit.

Top Shelf, Absence of Ink, Drawn and Quarterly and Fantagraphics are the true "Big Four" of quality comics. They don't put out as many books as, say, DCMarvelImageDarkHorse, but look at the quality to crap ratio. For every 100 books from Top Shelf, Absence of Ink, Drawn and Quarterly and Fantagraphics, how many will be entertaining, thought-provoking and move the artform forward rather than back? Now, how many out of 100 from DCMarvelImageDarkHorse will be able to say the same? How many of those, in fact, will be any goddamned good at all? How many of them will even be readable?

We live in a time when some of the best comics ever published are coming out at a blinding rate. Anyone who can't see that is being distracted by the flurry of shit regularly dumped on the market to deceive you into thinking comics are only about superheroes and cape fetishizing and zombie meat and lining the pockets of self-deluded business executives living out their bizarre and perverse childhood fantasies and calling women sluts.

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Saturday, August 10, 2002

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan -- Got the STII Special Edition DVD yesterday and spent some time watching it last night and this morning. I haven't yet just sat and watched the actual film, as such, all the way through. I've seen the movie so many times that it's almost an afterthought. I'm sure I'll watch it sooner or later, but the story itself, yeah, I know it pretty well.

Even this director's cut. Because the local ABC affiliate has been showing that version (with the revelation about Scotty's nephew and a couple other scenes) for years, and I have a pretty good quality tape of it that I made a couple of years ago. I'm glad they chose to include that stuff on the DVD, though -- I think it makes it a better movie, and on the commentary track, I learn director Nick Meyer feels the same way.

Meyer himself comes off a little icy and deluded in his commentary. The funniest part is how he's evidently still in denial over having Merritt Butrick wear a jaunty sweater tied around his neck in one crucial scene. Meyer spends about ten minutes defending the decision, which was obviously a bad one as long ago as the time of the film's initial release. Despite Meyer's claims that all films are somehow dated and anchored in their own era, a good director will endeavour to excise obvious fads and slang that will make the film even more of its time. Meyer goes on and on -- and on about the fucking sweater on the commentary track until you want to punch him in the mouth. Clearly he's taken a lot of heat over that sweater over the past twenty years, and he kind of, sort of concedes that if the audience is taken out of the movie by an anomalous element (which the sweater does do, in spades) that the director has failed. Then he defends himself some more. It's as funny as it is annoying.

Another amusing element is the way William Shatner's hubristic excesses are sort of taken for granted. No one bothers saying Shatner is a pompous ass all out of proportion to his minor gifts -- it's taken as a given and then the discussion proceeds from there, with multiple references from Meyer and writer/producer Harve Bennett touching on how Shatner's ego affected the film and his performance. Probably the funniest moment from Shatner is when he takes credit for the Spock death scene. Shatner loves taking credit for things, and yet the one time he actually is justified in taking credit -- the fifth Trek movie -- well, I for one can't wait to see his interviews on that DVD.

Ah, Star Trek. I said recently that selected Next Generation episodes and this movie, the Khan movie, are about all the Trek you need. Watching Khan last night with my wife, I said "You know, Star Trek never got any better than this." And I believe that. A few TNG and one DS9 episode may have been nearly as good, but the high point of Star Trek was 1982, and this DVD proves that definitively. The bad decision was not giving the franchise to Leonard Nimoy to oversee when Roddenberry died. Michael Pillar and Rick Berman were made wealthy men ass-raping Roddenberry's child for years and years, and the sad, sorry excuse for Star Trek that is on today ("Enterprise") is just a pathetic reminder that there was once life in the franchise. This DVD is a much better reminder, and again, really, all the Star Trek anyone needs.


Thursday, August 08, 2002

Sweatpants -- My wife and I have been together nearly 11 years. You'd think after over a decade of seeing that, in general, I am often right about things, she might place some credence in my opinions when I express them.

Last night after a nice dinner of grilled swiss cheese and portobello mushroom sandwiches on gourmet cracked wheat bread (man, I am still kissing my own ass over what a good idea that was), she told me she had found a "three bedroom place," that she was going to go look at.

"Place?" I asked her if it was a house or an apartment. We definitely need a bigger place, and I've told her that she has carte blanche to look anywhere she wants, because frankly I hate looking for places to live and generally (ah ha!) trust her instincts after a decade together.

After some heming and hawing, it was revealed that the place in question was a trailer. A mobile home. Now, not to be elitist, but I agree with Tom Leykis that living in a trailer is a lifestyle choice, not a financial necessity. Most trailers cost the same or more than a decent apartment when you factor in lot rent and all that, they don't have a frigging foundation, and generally, to my way of thinking, are dangerous and impermanent by nature. Like George Costanza in sweatpants, I believe that moving into a mobile home is a signal to the world: "I give up!".

My wife argued with me a bit, her main points being that my feelings about trailers are irrational and that since this was a "newer model," it could be very nice. A newer model, by the way, that she then informed me was built in 1992. A decade ago.

She and my daughter went to look at the place, my son settled in front of Nicklodeon and I delighted myself with a stack of mini-comics sent to me by my pal Jason Marcy. I'll probably be writing about those in a few days.

An hour or so later my wife called from her cell phone to inform me, short version here, that the trailer was a dump. Well, yeah.

Man, those sandwiches were good.


Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Image Ten years On (and On) -- The debut of Image Comics ten years ago marked one of the lowest creative points in comics history, as a mostly talentless but flashy batch of comics "superstars" plus Jim Valentino (who certainly got the last laugh) left one vacuous, ethically and creatively bankrupt company to go and form their own vacuous, creatively bankrupt company with at least two partners with serious ethical failings (yes, Todd and Rob, I am glaring right at you two).

Surprisingly, many, many good things have come out of Image despite its uninspired beginnings: Powers, Fused and Bastard Samurai are always at the top of my reading stack, and other acclaimed titles regularly issue forth from Image as well. Savage Dragon has been a mostly-entertaining superhero book with a unique point of view and an impressive ten year run by creator Erik Larsen. Jim Lee's Wildstorm imprint started at Image, so without it we wouldn't have had Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Laura Depuy's The Authority, even if it was published by DC. I wonder how different things would have been if the later Millar/Quitely run had been published by Image? Astro City was originally issued forth from Image as well, before moving to DC. Hmm, do I sense a pattern here?

Image still publishes junk like Witchblade and some of the current heinous nostalgia-trend books, but I definitely depend on them for some of my favourite reads. A new news story at The Pulse outlines some of Images upcoming publishing plans, and as with the past ten years of history, it's a mixed bag.

Icons is the name for Image's new superhero line of books, and from history we know that most of these books will be mediocre at best and perhaps one or two of them will be any damned good at all. Dominion is by Keith Giffen and Claude St. Aubin, and we know that Giffen books are often fascinatingly iconoclastic, and rarely sell well in the long run; its survival is unlikely at best. Jim Krueger and Matt Smith offer up The Clockmaker. Krueger's one of the guilty parties involved in Marvel's Outhouse X series of books designed to keep Alex Ross from doing anything good, so we'll see if it's at all readable. Smith is a good artist who deserves a quality title. Venture by Jay Faerber and Jamal Igle and Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker don't excite me, mostly due to my being unfamiliar with any of the names attached. The silliest news so far is that Shadowhawk is returning. Here's a character that no one has ever made interesting, and most of the books he appeared in were quite awful. But I suppose if they keep the name and throw out everything else, something could be done with it.

Image is also planning to hop on the expensive hardcovers bandwagon, and such titles as Mister X and Torso definitely merit the format. Brian Bendis's entire Image library is promised in hardcover, and I hope that includes Powers, as an affordable HC collection is long overdue. As is the overpriced one that was solicited long ago, too, come to think of it. My big hope is that Fortune and Glory is included in the hardcover plans -- it's Bendis's best, most personal work, and also the first thing by him that I ever read.

Creatively, artistically, Image is troublesome. Any company that has moral idiot Todd McFarlane in its executive ranks will never really be able to claim any sort of high ground for long. On the other hand, they do a lot of cutting-edge and otherwise wonky stuff (Age of Bronze, say) that is way too over Bill Jemas's head to ever have a chance at the even more vacuous Marvel. So I'm happy to see they have some exciting plans for the months ahead -- and I hope that we're already seeing the ass-end of the nostalgia craze, because the idea of an Alex Ross-variant-covered Care Bears 2002 #1 is just about more than I can take.

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Saturday, August 03, 2002

Some Days -- Some days just blow. Today, on balance, wasn't nightmarish -- but it featured one really depressing moment. My car failed its inspection to the tune of $500.00 worth of needed repairs to make it legal again. Now, I've had the car for three years and put nearly 100,000 miles on it without any major repairs, so amortizing it out over three years it isn't that much, but this is not a time when I can easily pull $500.00 out of the ether. I was going to say "out of my ass," but I decided that would be too coarse. Also, no one would want the money, then.

The car is definitely worth keeping, though. Barry Windsor-Smith called it "Zippy," when he rode in it not long after I bought it, and then James Kochalka called it "Shiny," during his ride in the Doanemobile. Yes, two famous and scary-talented comics superstars have put their asses in the passenger seats and entrusted their lives to me and my nigh-terrifying driving skills. Well, they're still around to tell the tale, right? So in a sense, the car is a collector's item! I wonder if I could get CGC to "slab" it?


Thursday, August 01, 2002

Human -- I had two horrible moments yesterday, that I really should write about here. The dilemma is always, of course, how to relate the horribleness without making myself feel so horrible that I realize that you really ought to find something nicer to read.

The first came when I saw someone I used to work with. We'll call her "Heidi," since that's her name. I hadn't seen her in 11 months, since I quit my last job. We worked together there for two years, and were quite close; friends, even. In nearly twenty years of full-time employment, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of real friends I've made at work. James Doohan's hand, at that.

Anyway, there we were, yesterday, meeting again after 11 months, and I of course said "Hi," and everything you say in a situation like that and then there was this endless, eternal and awkward pause and then --

And then she did, like, the "I'm going to hug you now," body language thing, and I hugged her back, but it was just a weird moment. We had been friends and worked closely together for two years, and while a hug seemed appropriate in my head I wasn't quite sure. In some way, I was denying something basically human and I am quite sure, in some way, Heidi must have sensed this and wondered what the fuck was wrong with me. Or, even worse, her. I don't know, it probably seems small and inconsequential, but I feel like I did something horribly wrong in that moment, like something was lost. A piece of my humanity.

The second incident was even worse. I'm realizing now that it was so horrible that I can't even write about it yet. Just a moment that I wish I could go back and prevent.

This past 24 hours, really, has been quite awful.

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